Brother’s Keeper [2015] (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Andy and Pete Goodwynn are twin brothers and always have each other’s back, even when they do not see eye to eye on things.  However, when one of them is falsely accused by a powerful man in town who can have whatever he wants, neither twin brother knows what to do.  Though it seems like there will never be justice, little do they know that they will be challenged to grow closer to God as a result of the adversity they face.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It is clear that a lot of work was done in Brother’s Keeper to have a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is very engaging and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and realistic for the time period.  There are really no glaring errors to point out here.  The only caveat to raise pertains to some minor editing issues, since a large amount of content is being handled here.  But on the whole, this is nearly a model production and one we should see more of in the days to come.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The storyline of Brother’s Keeper is one of the most interesting yet most frustrating plots to witness.  It depicts an unfortunately realistic corrupt small-town premise filled with believable characters that each have their own flaws.  The plot writers were not afraid to be real in their depiction of people and thus have crafted some good dialogue here.  However, despite this plot’s many positives, it is hamstrung by a very disjointed structure that includes large and seemingly unnecessary plot holes and time jumps.  The portions that are chosen to be time jumps really make no sense as to why they couldn’t have been included.  Due to the other plot elements, one would think that the story could have more continuity.  Yet nonetheless, this is an interesting story that is at least worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a relatively professional cast, and it even has an excellent villain cast for Ray Wise.  There are only minor errors to speak of here, mostly pertaining to some overdone emotions.  However, there are plenty of good moments to highlight, and line delivery is on point.  Though there are some small areas for improvement, this is a great example of good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Due to the scope of this idea, the movie either needed to be split into two parts or it needed to be made into a miniseries.  There is enough content and character development here to sustain at least a two-part miniseries or movie.  Even though this film falls short of the Hall of Fame, there are plenty of positive elements in it that can be applied to other films, such as a non-typical, complex storyline, as well as professional production, casting, and coaching.  It will be interesting to see if this creative team makes anything else in the future.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

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Letters to God [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tyler Doherty is fighting for his life against the cancer inside of him.  But rather than feel sorry for himself, he seeks to reach others for God by writing letters to God and sharing them with other people, especially his new mail carrier, who has a troubled past he is running from.  As Tyler’s family wrestles with what is happening to him, little do they know that God has great things in store for all of them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a more ‘mainstream’ Christian film, Letters to God has good production quality, demonstrating that time and money were spent on it.  Video quality is clear and camera work is professional.  The opening sequence is interesting and grabs the attention well.  Audio quality is standard, but the soundtrack is slightly generic.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The biggest drawback to this film’s production is the choppy editing that tends to only hit the high points of the storyline.  But overall, this is a respectable effort and one that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As another cancer film based on a true story, Letters to God does better that most in its genre at being realistic.  Though the plot is simplistic, it has a meaningful message that it presented by believable characters that endure realistic struggles.  However, there is some information dump dialogue and there seem to be one too many silly\filler scenes that tend to waste time.  Thus, the plot is somewhat incomplete.  Though the characters can also tend to be heartwarming, we wish we could get to know them a little better through deeper dialogue.  As it is, some of their arcs are too steep and simplified to be appreciated.  However, on the bright side of things, flashbacks are utilized well.  In the end, this plot left a lot on the proverbial playing field that could have made it far better, yet many viewers will enjoy this story and its message.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional cast, these cast members are mostly good when it comes to line delivery and emotions.  There are a few head-scratching moments and awkward displays that detract from the overall score, yet there is not much to complain about here.  This is a demonstration of mostly good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Letters to God checks the necessary boxes for being marginally successful in the Christian entertainment world: spend time and money to make your production look good and make sure you have a professional cast that makes minimal or not too noticeable errors.  If you can accomplish these two feats in a Christian movie, you are unfortunately far ahead of the game.  Being average is great, based on the low standards that have been set by and myriad of basement-dwelling films on the market.  But we still want movies to take that next step into greatness rather than hover around the middle.  When high quality becomes more widespread in Christian film, then the entire movie industry will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

In the Name of God {Name in Vain} [2013] (Movie Review)

Eric Roberts trying to conduct group counseling without screening clients

Plot Summary

When Mason, a troubled foster teen, comes to live with the Lewis family, he thinks that it will be just like all the other foster families he has stayed with.  But unlike the families before them, the Lewis are committed to setting him on the straight and narrow and teaching him RESPECT at all costs.  Even when he vandalizes a hardware store and is sentenced to ‘group’, the Lewis family sticks by him.  In the end, Mason will have to learn about RESPECT in order to move forward in life.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If KKO Productions have anything going for them, at least they have figured out how to have clear video quality.  Otherwise, there is little else we can say positive for this film.  Camera work is inconsistent and some scenes are darker than others.  Audio quality is also a tossup, as some lines are indistinguishable while others are too loud.  The soundtrack is cheesy, as usual.  KKO appears to be severely limited in sets and locations, as there are really only three main sets used in this film.  This causes the editing to suffer as well, since many events take place off screen in places where they obviously could not acquire a set.  In short, old news is new news for KKO when it comes to cheaply produced Christian films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Framing an entire film as a sermon illustration is hardly ever a good idea.  It gives the writers a springboard to shove an obvious message down the viewer’s throat and is generally lazy.  Thus, In the Name of God overuses theological concepts and oversimplifies them by having characters repeat them over and over again.  Rather than showing and demonstrating Christian virtues lived out, they are talked about and impressed upon the audience with no meaningful actions to back them up.  Coupled with this overreach are empty and mindless characters, who are driven by petty and silly dialogue.  None of them seem like real people, just players in an obvious church play designed to teach second graders the Ten Commandments.  The subplots therein are very random and lack continuity, not the mention the fact that they contain highly unrealistic occurrences, such as a small church pastor placing children in foster care and a ‘counselor’ sharing confidential information with random people.  If you want to include such things in your films, please research them first.  As it is, In the Name of God makes a mockery of important issues that could have been presented in a meaningful fashion.  But alas, we can find no real potential with this movie, thus warranting no points for the plot.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As is the usual custom of KKO, otherwise talented actors and actresses are fed lines without any real coaching or guidance.  Most of the scenes in this film seem like they were one-take only.  John Ratzenberger has certainly had much better acting jobs than this one.  Eric Roberts always plays the same weird character, but that’s beside the point.  It seems like the ‘no-name’ cast members have potential that is not being brought out.  Thus, no points can be awarded here.

Conclusion

So apparently this was intended to be a movie series about the Ten Commandments.  Can you imagine ten movies like this one?  If this was supposed to be about the fourth Commandment, it completely went over our heads.  Basically, In the Name of God, or whatever it’s called, is another embarrassing low budget production that carries an in-your-face theological message that is unlikely to convert or inspire anyone.  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: before making a Christian movie, please make sure you have the funding for what you want to do.  Then please make sure you actually have a plot.  These two things can make such a difference when your movie is completed.  Because seriously, who’s going to watch this garbage?

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points