Hell and Mr. Fudge (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In 1970s Alabama, Edward Fudge endeavored to answer the complex theological question of whether God torments people in hell after they die without salvation or if He simply removes them from existence. Fudge’s search for the truth was not well-received by local legalistic church members, including those in the pastor’s own church. In response to Fudge’s questions, a hardline fundamentalist movement made it their mission to discredit the young preacher at every turn. However, Edward and his family never gave up until they found answers.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, Hell and Mr. Fudge has a professional production despite its odd choice of a fake docu-drama set-up. At times, this premise seems to excuse shaky perspective camera work. Nonetheless, video quality and audio quality are both up to industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are realistic and well-used. One of this section’s main drawbacks is its choppy editing, but on the whole, this area of the film does enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 points)

This plot raises many unique and intriguing points even if the theology is sometimes a bit extreme. The writers raise legitimate concerns about legalism and over-theologizing as the narrative highlights a very real disconnect between church insiders and church outsiders. However, many viewers will find the chosen topic to be a bit isolating and even slightly controversial although there may be a nugget of truth somewhere in it. Elsewhere, the docu-drama format of the story is lazily used to take the story all over the map, causing the characters to get lost in the story presentation. Moreover, despite these obvious flaws, the movie makes good use of flashbacks that develop believable character motives. The dialogue is also quite authentic and thought-provoking. In the end, this plot had a lot more potential than it realized, which is why it can only be awarded a meager score.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a more mainstream offering, Hell and Mr. Fudge presents professional acting with very few errors. Emotional and line delivery are on point and costuming is historically authentic. The only small drawbacks to note here are some brief instances of over-acting. Nonetheless, this rounds out an average project.

Conclusion

This screenplay is hard to figure in a lot of ways. It has some interesting ideas to offer, but it tends to get confused as to what direction it wants to go. Does it want to be a docu-drama? Does it want to initiate a serious discussion on legalism in the church? Is it trying to disprove hell or simply attempting to change the traditional definition of hell? Most of this is unclear as the film refuses to commit to anything solid, which is its biggest drawback. As such, it falls short of making any real difference.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

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Why We Breathe (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Carrie Hicks just wants to catch a country music break in Nashville, but her relationship with her current boyfriend consistently complicates things. However, things escalate when he inadvertently paralyzes Carrie’s daughter, leading the aspiring artist to flee town and seek shelter with her great uncle, who she’s barely spoken to in years. Carrie wants to get back on her feet and move on with her life, but her daughter’s new disability often halts her in her tracks. In the end, Carrie will have to not only come to grips with her new reality but with the faith she’s been running from all these years.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite a limited budget, it’s obvious that great care was taken to maintain mostly good production quality in Why We Breathe. This is evidenced by acceptable video and audio elements. Though there are some random moments of shaky camera work and some obvious overdubs, there is enough positive in the film’s first half to keep this section above the average line. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized throughout the movie. Unfortunately, however, the editing tends to become more choppy as things progress, which prevents this area of the movie from being all that it could be. Nonetheless, this is acceptable for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning of the narrative, the ideas are creatively presented without the use of narration and through the eyes of believable characters with realistic struggles. In the plot’s first half, the dialogue is authentic, and the use of subtlety is commendable. However, by the film’s middle point, things tend to become more abrupt as some montages waste valuable time while a handful of conversations reference off-screen content that would have been better to see. Not a few scenes feel like they’re unfinished or cut off as the storyline unnecessarily rushes to an inevitable conclusion that is fairly cheesy. Unfortunately, in this pursuit, the previously positive elements lose their value as the story’s progression becomes more and more rapid. In the end, since the movie’s premise was mostly typical with some predictable elements, it needed deep character development and a more natural conclusion instead of ending with unrealistic fixes and unfinished ideas. The effort is notable, but more fleshing out was needed before it went into production.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, the acting in Why We Breathe is mostly professional. Line delivery and emotions appear natural as the cast members seem comfortable in their roles. Though there are some slight moments of robotic and awkward performances, for the most part, the actors and actresses are definitely working to be earnest. Thus, this rounds out an above-average attempt that could develop into better things in the future.

Conclusion

The creative team behind this film definitely had a lot going for them, and they began very strong. However, somewhere at the halfway point, it seems like the process became rushed in a possible desire to quickly release the movie. It’s a shame because with a little more collaboration and a slight amount of fleshing out, Why We Breathe could have scored much higher. Even so, it’s highly possible that the lessons learned from this project could lead to better things in the coming days.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

A Place in the Heart [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jason Burkey’s heart is broken by a girl he thought he would spend the rest of his life with, he gives up a basketball scholarship (as he is frequently reminded) and does the most natural thing anyone would do: run away to live on a remote island with his reclusive father, Kevin Sorbo.  But seven years later, Kevin Sorbo get tired of the island and decided to buy a sombrero and live the rest of his days on a boat.  So Jason Burkey is forced to go back to the hometown he bitterly left behind and finds everything very similar to the way he left it.  He’s still angry at Ben Davies and won’t talk to him, but he slowly finds that the plans he originally had may not have been the best for him—including that basketball scholarship!

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, like many productions, A Place in the Heart seems fine.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  Sets, locations, and props are acceptable.  However, audio quality is inconsistent—sometimes too loud and other times too soft.  The soundtrack is regularly too loud and is at times juvenile.  As for editing, there are too many awkward transitions and there is too much choppy content as the film jumps from one thing to the next.  In the end, this production is just average, but it seems like it could have been much more than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Loosely based on The Great Gatsby, A Place in the Heart has a mild amount of complexity, yet this complexity is detracted from by a lot of amateur elements.  Narration used as a crutch to fill in the missing parts of the plot that are due to unnecessary time jumps, even though it is a stereotypical return-to-hometown style plot.  Parts of the premise are forced, unrealistic, and based too much on coincidences, while there are tons of manufactured dramas and childish sequences.  Dialogue is very stiff and stilted, including very unusual statements and asides, thus creating very awkward and wooden characters.  However, despite all of these issues, the second half of the film is slightly better than the first half, and contains a partially interesting message and point if you make it that far.  But in the end, the only reason for any plot twists is the fact that this plot is borrowed from other sources.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Any small amount of good that is accomplished in this film is totally derailed by this awful casting job.  Any cast that includes Jason Burkey, Kevin Sorbo, and Ben Davies without coaching is sure to be a disaster.  Every character is represented by a very awkward cast member that exhibits mumbled lines, fake emotions, and generally poor line delivery.  Unfortunately, this film shows that good intentions can be greatly hurt by poor casting.

Conclusion

Romance is a very difficult genre to write because it can very easily become a high-school-level of cheesy.  Regrettably, A Place in the Heart commits almost every common romance error all at once.  On top of this, the production isn’t what it should be and the casting is deplorable.  Movies like this are painful to see because they are so prominent in Christian film.  This is not what the face of Christian film should look like, as we have said time and again.  Yet hopefully, slowly, this trend is changing.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points