The Islands [2019] (Movie Review)

Image result for the islands christian movie

Plot Summary

John Thornton felt called to be a missionary on the remote island of Hawaii in the early 1800s, so he took his wife, Mary, and went with their friend Hiram to the unknown place. Once there, the missionaries met Chiefess Kapiolani and those her were in her tribe. Although the chiefess was familiar with the English language and American customs, many of her people were suspicious of the Caucasian visitors and preferred to practice human sacrifice to their pagan gods. However, one fateful day, as the island’s volcano raged, they all came face to face with what it truly meant to believe in a god.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, it’s clear that this production was well-funded with money that was mostly responsibly spent. All the standard elements are up to par, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations. However, there are a few pesky issues that hold this section back from being perfect, such as some cheesy sound effects that were obviously added on top of the normal audio and a generic soundtrack that never stops playing. Further, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are some abrupt cuts and transitions that cause some scenes to end without natural conclusions. Nonetheless, this production does enough to stay above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get-go, The Islands‘ plot is nearly crippled by immediate narration that continues throughout the narrative and is sometimes substituted with information dump dialogue, which seems to serve as some type of history lesson. To make matters worse, there are far too many characters for the viewer to keep up with much less for them to have time to be properly developed. Time jumps also complicate matters and make the story seem like just a collection of random scenes strung together as the film goes from one high point to the next and even seems to repeat itself on several occasions. Several interactions between characters feel like they’re on repeat and are simply designed to waste time until the climax. A lot of the conversations and situations seem very contrived just for the sake of the plot-line, and there are no clear or consistent themes that underlay the idea and give it true purpose. Nonetheless, all of these problems aside, Timothy Chey and his team did stumble upon a very intriguing true account that still shines through despite the poor storytelling. This fact is most evident in the famed final sequence that actually demonstrates some potential, which is why this section isn’t zero points. However, it’s too little too late and makes for a disappointing experience.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

One of The Islands‘ strongest points is its encouraging commitment to assembling a diverse and culturally accurate cast, even if the costuming is a bit cheesy at times. However, this main strength is slightly weakened by the fact that much of the acting is fairly robotic at times, and emotions are sometimes difficult to believe. While it’s good to see the proper foreign language being applied in this setting, there is a lot of fight-acting throughout the film that is poorly executed and coached. Moreover, in the end, there is enough positive in this section to keep in at the average mark.

Conclusion

The historical narrative behind The Islands appears to be a very interesting and potentially powerful story that could and should have received better treatment. It’s one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another to successfully execute it, and it’s definitely a difficult feat to accomplish. Nonetheless, the experience Chey and his team bring to the table is enough to ask more of them, and the amount of potential for engaging concepts and overarching themes that was left on the table in this film was simply unacceptable. However, Chey is still on an upward trend in his career when compared to his earlier days, so perhaps his true success is just around the corner.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Freedom [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Samuel Woodward and his family escape a cruel Virginia plantation one night, they are aided by Christians on the Underground Railroad.  However, they are also pursued by cruel slave bounty hunters.  When Samuel wants to give up on his faith because of what they are going through, his mother tells him the story of his great grandfather, who was a boy on board one of John Newton’s slave ships.  The two lives parallel as they each face their own struggle for freedom and discover faith in God.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With a hefty budget and cable television backing, Freedom had many positives going for it from the get go.  For the most part, the money is well-spent, including great video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Obviously, the standout feature of this film is supposed to be its historical live soundtrack sung by the characters like a musical, but this is an area that needs some further refinement.  There are also some lingering small issues in this production pertaining to some fake backgrounds and some slightly rushed editing, yet on the whole, this is a very respectable production that was helped by the money behind it.  The one caveat to point out is that with this kind of money, Freedom *should* have been flawless and likely would have been in the right hands.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Freedom is an attempt at a historical musical epic, and it succeeds on some fronts, even though it fails on other fronts.  For one, there is a lot of unnecessary narration throughout that hurts natural character growth.  Characters are also not helped out by the fact that there are so many of them.  Also, the parallel subplots from two different historical time periods is an interesting touch, yet it is not handled very well as time tends to jump all around.  The sheet amount of content that is being handled here may just be too much for one film, and the dialogue is not substantial enough for the epic style this movie is trying to adopt.  However, this is a mostly realistic and touching story that has a lot of historical backing and interest.  It is extremely important for more Christian movies to be made about history, especially the Underground Railroad.  However, Timothy Chey makes a mistake in portraying most, if not all, the pro-slavery characters as atheists, which is not entirely accurate.  Nonetheless, the second half of Freedom does show improvement, even if the better parts tend to be squeezed out by the wasted time at the beginning.  In summary, Freedom is a good film, but it is frustrating to see the higher potential that it did not reach.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

With professional cast members and fairly good coaching, Freedom had a successful acting run.  Line delivery is on point, and emotions are effective, except for some minor moments of unnecessary drama.  Also, the costuming is very authentic and historically accurate.  There is some odd makeup work in some parts, but as a whole, this is a job well done.

Conclusion

As a side note, John Newton died almost 70 years before the hymn “It is Well” was ever written, so there’s no way his fiancée was able to sing it in church.  Also, it’s also highly unlikely John Newton sang “Amazing Grace” at his own wedding since he wrote it almost 15 years after he got married.  This isn’t the first time Timothy Chey has disregarded historical facts in his films, but his ambition to create a Christian historical epic\musical is noted, even if it is misguided in the beginning.  Nonetheless, there are a lot of positive elements in this film, likely because Chey had assistance from other sources.  However, there were definitely areas it could have been improved in, especially since this was a rare chance for a film with a Christian worldview to show that it was a great historical epic on a cable television channel apart from it being a Christian movie.  There was so much going for this film, especially the budget, so it really should have achieved a higher rating.  Even so, many audiences will still find enjoyment and meaning in it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Final: The Rapture (Movie Review)

Making international calls on a deserted island

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions disappear in what Christians call the Rapture.  This leaves the planet in total chaos and unrest.  The lives of four people are followed as they experience the fallout from this cataclysmic event.  A rich football player in America wrestles with the fact that his wife has disappeared.  An atheist professor finds himself stranded on a deserted island after his plane crashes.  A girl from Argentina cannot remember what happened to her as she tries to piece the events of her life back together.  A businessman from Tokyo wonders if his Christian friends were right about the end of the world.  They will all have to struggle to survive in this new world.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

It’s hard to remember the last time we saw a production this annoyingly horrible.  For starters, the camera work and video quality are medieval, like the whole thing was recorded on a flip phone.  The audio quality is perhaps the worst we have ever heard, from a loud soundtrack, to audio constantly cutting in and out, to distorted screeching dialogue, and to incessant background noises and cheap sound effects.  The sets, locations, and props are very amateurish and cheap-looking.  Finally, whoever edited this disaster should have quit to save their reputation since they had virtually nothing to work with.  The film is very choppy and jumps all over the place, sometimes recycled old footage and sometimes using black and white footage randomly.  The viewer is constantly reminded of the location and time through subtitles since there is no other way to understand what’s going on.  In short, this is likely one of the worst productions in the all-time history of film making.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The plot can do nothing to redeem this trainwreck, since there is very little real content to speak of.  Filled with obvious dialogue and stiff, robotic characters, the storyline has zero continuity as random subplots jump all over the place and meander aimlessly.  The characters are either obnoxious strawmen or cultural stereotypes.  There are many bizarre asides, moments of unintentional comedy, and random things that just happen.  Also, as expected, Final copies the typical apocalyptic plot progression but makes it their own by zooming through it at breakneck speed before crashing with a nonsensical end that is somehow supposed to be continued.  In other words, this is Left Behind 2014 on steroids (or is it actually the other way around?).

Acting Quality (-1 points)

As these amateur cast members screech, squeal, and scream their way through this disarray, they either come off as lackluster or singsong.  They are generally very obnoxious and over the top, obviously lacking coaching as they forcefully deliver their lines and emotions.  We are unsure who is to blame for their ear-piercing delivery—the audio quality or the cast members themselves.  Any way you cut it, it’s a mess.

Conclusion

With such low quality everything, what possessed the creators to make this garbage?  Did they really think that they were going to make more of these, as this is presumably the first in an obligatory unfinished apocalyptic series?  This is hands-down one of the most absurdly low quality films of all time, to the point that it should have been made it through post-production.  The entirety of this wreckage should have been scrapped and never used again.  It’s things like this film that drive us crazy.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points