30 Day Promise (Movie Review)

30 Day Promise (2017) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Heather Winslow’s life has gone from bad to worse. In a short amount of time, she receives news that her husband wants to divorce and that she has cancer. However, she convinces her husband to wait 30 days to see what happens. During this time, Heather must have faith that God is still in control.

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite fine video quality, this film contains on overall cheap production. Audio quality is very inconsistent, including background noises and hard-to-hear lines. Camera work is mostly acceptable except for some moments of shaky cam. Sets, locations, and props are fairly limited, and the screenplay is full of disorienting montages and the use of split screens. Editing is poor, but there is a tiny bit of improvement as time goes on. Nonetheless, it’s not enough to warrant any more than a low score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Due to stock and vanilla dialogue, the characters of this narrative are simply pawns in whatever scheme that the writers want to use them in. Bland conversations do nothing to aid character growth, and the creators give no real reasons for why the characters do what they do. Expository dialogue takes the place of scenes that show the audience what’s happening, and mentions of off-screen content are annoying. Events just happen randomly throughout the plot, and the viewing experience is confused by unnecessarily large time jumps. Lacking regard for realistic divorce proceedings and medical facts, the writers elect to advocate for unusual methods of getting a married couple to love each other again, demonstrating how little they understand about real relationships. In the end, with no potential in this aspect of the movie, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is actually the strongest aspect of 30 Day Promise. Although the performances are generic, they are neither horrible nor dynamic. In some scenes, it feels like the cast members are awkwardly standing around and reciting lines. However, some actors and actresses are better than others. The finished product is enough to justify an average score.

Conclusion

It’s possible that the creators of film meant well. However, it’s hard to tell based on their portrayal of Christian relationships. 30 Day Promise is essentially a half-finished idea that needed a lot more fleshing out before it was released to the public. In the end, there’s really nothing memorable about this creation, relegating it to the stockpile of forgotten Christian entertainment.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Promises to Keep [2020] (Movie Review)

Promises to Keep (2020) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Jonathan and Evelyn were engaged when they were young, but mistakes drove them apart. Now that they are both older and widowed, they have come back into each other’s lives because their children have fallen in love. Will they be able to heal the old wounds while looking to the future???

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite a mostly acceptable production, including fine video quality and camera work, the beginning of this film is quite rough. Audio quality leaves something to be desired, such as an in-your-face soundtrack. Flashbacks have an unnecessarily weird quality to them. Also, sets, locations, and props are slightly limited. Further, editing is incredibly choppy and disorienting. However, there is some improvement as the production goes on, which is enough to warrant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Throughout this narrative, there is a generally odd tone as the writers try very hard to force their specific doctrines onto the viewers, which include some very unusual beliefs about Christian behaviors. As such, the dialogue is very obvious, creating perfect characters that are inaccessible as they spout Christian platitudes at the other characters. Besides this, some of the characters make really weird decisions for no reasons at all, and in general, events occur simply because the creators wanted them to happen. The “bad” characters are ridiculous stereotypes while the “good” characters push the lie that becoming more religious fixes all one’s problems. Nearly every scene is either about imposing the writers’ worldview or an exploration of edgy content. Basically a long monologue of propaganda, this plot has no potential and is thus awarded no points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting in Promises to Keep is very sub-par. The performances are quite matter-of-fact, including overly practiced and forced emotions. Some scenes have over-the-top drama, such as yelling and screaming. Though line delivery is mostly acceptable, this isn’t enough to keep this section from receiving a low score.

Conclusion

As has been said many times before, when the creator of a screenplay intends to push propaganda in their movie, there’s no way that the film can ever be good. Two main goals of Christian entertainment should be to invite the audience to think and to responsibly present the writers’ worldview without shoving in down viewers’ throats. It’s unbiblical and un-educational to force agendas on audiences, which is why the reputation of Christian media is so poor today. The only way to fix this problem is to focus on quality over quantity as we move forward.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Romance in the Outfield: Double Play (Movie Review)

Review: Utah-made 'Romance in the Outfield: Double Play' strikes out in the  rom-com department — The Movie Cricket

Plot Summary

Kenzie and Tyler used to be in love, but after their falling out, they haven’t spoken for years. However, a string of coincidences has now thrown them back together, and they’ll have to decide what they’re going to do about it. Also, Tyler’s sister has her own relationship issues to sort out.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, this film’s production is acceptable, including fine camera work and good video quality. Lighting is okay throughout, but there are some background echoes along with an inconsistent soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited in scope, but the editing is at least average. As a result, these factors produce a run-of-the-mill score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As a sequel to a movie that no one can remember, Romance in the Outfield: Double Play expects the viewers to understand what’s already happened in this narrative. However, this is poorly communicated, leaving the plot purposeless. It feels like every scene is constructed to happen just because the writers want them to, therefore producing blank characters with vanilla and cardboard dialogue. Lots of time is wasted on long and meaningless sequences that use the characters as pawns in a stupid romance agenda. Ridiculously fake conflicts fuel the romantic tug-of-war, and extremely convenient situations force strangers into baseless relationships with each other. The most absurd romance tropes are presented in the most infantile ways until the story mercifully ends, leaving the audience without anything substantial or useful. Thus, no points can be awarded here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

On the whole, the acting in this screenplay seems unsure although it’s not all bad. Oftentimes, line delivery is too muted, and the emotions are quite mechanical. With nothing truly dynamic yet some potential, only a point is warranted in this section.

Conclusion

Romance in the Outfield: Double Play is essentially a follow-up just for the sake of it. There was nothing in Pitching Love and Catching Faith that justified a sequel, especially when the sequel just rehashed the same narrative while still somehow leaving the audience mostly in the dark as to what the first installment was about. This failure was difficult to pull off, but this creative team did it effortlessly. In the end, a lack of effort is this film’s biggest downfall and the reason why it didn’t need to exist.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Charity [2012] (Movie Review)

Watch Charity | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Megan and Jake were happily married with six children. However when Jake is suddenly killed in a military training accident, Megan the the kids are almost immediately thrust into poverty. Megan is forced to scrape by on a tiny income while she worries where her family will live. Will anyone come to help them? Does God still care about them?

Production Quality (.5 point)

There are many problems in this production, beginning with the very poor audio quality, which is evidenced by echoes, loud background noises, and an invasive soundtrack that overtakes the audio and doesn’t fit with the scenes. While camera work is pedestrian at best, the lighting is quite random. For the most part, sets, locations, and props are generic, but some of them don’t adequately represent what they’re supposed to portray. Elsewhere, the editing is inconsistent, which rounds out an underwhelming effort only worthy of a meager score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As this story jumps around without much coherent thought, some scenes drag on too long despite the fact that they’re totally lifeless. It really doesn’t make much sense for a military family to suddenly fall into total poverty after the father was killed in training…logically, there would be other extenuating circumstances that would lead to the economic downturn. Besides this plot hole, there really isn’t any character development due to very bland and procedural dialogue. Narrative focus and themes are lacking in the first half of the film, but this surprisingly changes in the second half as the movie actually presents some slightly interesting ideas using a unique storyline structure. Nonetheless, this doesn’t make up for the fact that the characters are lacking in development, which doesn’t change later in the screenplay. As such, just a small amount of potential reflects a low rating for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite some poor costuming and bored acting, the performances of Charity tend to improve as the film goes on. Although there aren’t any truly dynamic cast members, none of them are terrible either. Emotions begin somewhat flat yet become more realistic with time. Thus, due to this mixed bag, only an average score is warranted here.

Conclusion

This movie is basically a short story idea that needs to be repackaged into a more complex series. The plot concept needs more buildup because it’s interesting but requires more background than we’re given in Charity. Though the final rating is quite low, there was a surprising amount of potential here, so maybe, in future projects, this creative team will improve with increased collaboration.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Divine Decision {The Tribunal} (Movie Review)

Divine Decision (2016) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Tony wants to marry Emily, but before he can do this, he has to annul his first marriage. However, the Catholic Church will only allow Tony to annul the marriage if Tony’s friend Joe will testify about this. The problem is that Joe used to date Emily, so this could make for an awkward love triangle. Will they all do the right thing in the end?

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite acceptable camera work and video quality, this production contains many pitfalls. One of these is the audio, which is mostly uneven and contains a horrific soundtrack. Lighting is also a problem as there are too many dark scenes. Sets, locations and props are okay, but stupid special effects detract from the viewing experience. Further, editing poses problems due to the fact that some scenes drag on while others cut off prematurely. In the end, the negatives outweigh the positives, leading to a below-average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

This plot is completely dominated with high amounts of legalism and fundamentalist propaganda. The issues that are raised by the narrative are only painted in the light that the writers want the audience to see, so alternate perspectives are not considered. This makes for a very awkward story presentation that’s filled with obvious and canned dialogue. Nearly every conversation is designed to force the intended worldview upon the viewer, which leads to cardboard characters who are tools for brainwashing. Further, an obsession with edgy content doesn’t help matters. Thus, due to various offensive elements, this aspect of the film garners negative points.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With extremely forced and dramatic performances, the acting of Divine Decision leaves much to be desired. Most of the cast members come off as very stiff and lacking in emotion. Many of them are too theatrical and overly practiced, and there’s a lot of yelling and screaming throughout. Any other acting is just awkward, so there aren’t any positives to note here, leaving this section with zero points.

Conclusion

It’s evident that the creators of this movie only wanted to push their agenda on the audience. When this is the central goal of a screenplay, it never ends well. The purpose of Christian entertainment is not to try to force people to believe what you believe. Everyone is tired of religion being shoved down their throats, so showing, rather than telling, is the only way forward.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

6 Hearts 1 Beat (Movie Review)

Watch 6 Hearts 1 Beat | Prime Video

Plot Summary

A man and woman fall in love with each other, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that she already has four children. Although people try to talk him out of marrying her, he’s intent on doing so. Together, the man and the woman will have to strengthen their faith as they move forward.

Production Quality (.5 point)

This production commits many unforced errors, such as loud background sounds, some obvious overdubs, and a cheap soundtrack that annoyingly invades the viewing experience. A handful of spoken lines can’t be heard, and the lighting is quite inconsistent. Camera work is also uneven, sometimes being shaky and other times using tight shots and weird angles. Despite clear video quality, which is this section’s only positive, the sets, locations, and props are very cheap. Further, the editing is atrocious as quick and abrupt cuts disrupt the film’s flow. Thus, due to all these concerns, only a tiny score can be awarded here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite being tied together with unnecessary narration that short-circuits character-building dialogue, this plot still meanders all over the place without any clear purpose. Most scenes just kill time, and many sequences are totally pointless. Characters are thrown together because the story requires them to be, and they constantly talk about the same things over and over again as their conversations go in circles. The narrative espouses a bizarre view of women and romantic relationships in general while mixing in silly Christian antidotes. At times, the story is very vague and confusing, including black-and-white flashbacks to events that just happened in the movie. As the screenplay concludes, the writers try to derive meaning from their work without earning anything, and they fail to craft any meaningful resolutions. Therefore, because of these combined problems, no points are merited in this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest aspect of this film. However, it’s only because this section is average. Some line delivery and emotions are forced, and a few cast members seem unsure or disingenuous in their performances. Others overplay their roles. In the end, this rounds out an underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

It’s still hard to believe that movies like 6 Hearts 1 Beat are still being made. It’s incredibly difficult to create entertainment, so why not aim for quality over quantity? Nonetheless, the Christian market has been intent on quantity over quality for over a decade now. This corrosive effect will take a long time to fix, but perhaps future creators are up to the task.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Beyond the Vows (Movie Review)

Image result for beyond the vows movie

Plot Summary

A newly married couple loves each other and is trying to heal after their relationship began with a rocky start. However, situations continue to arise that complicate their marriage, which leaves both of them searching for answers. Will they find redemption under the grace of God before it’s too late?

Production Quality (1 point)

Despite being a 2019 production, Beyond the Vows has many pitfalls. These include inconsistent audio quality, with some lines not even being audible, little to no discernable soundtrack, and loud background sounds. Although video quality and camera are acceptable, the sets, locations, and props are very cheap and limited. Further, the editing is full of continuity errors and abrupt transitions that sometimes completely cut off scenes. As such, though there were some acceptable parts in this production, it can’t receive a very high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

This film offers a strange mix of odd fundamentalist Christianity and unusually edgy content. Weird conversations both reinforce rigid gender stereotypes and fixate on questionable topics that do nothing to uplift the audience. Besides these obvious concerns, the dialogue fails to do anything for the characters except make them mindless, strawmen, or unrealistically perfect Christians. It’s hard to understand the actual point of this plot as it meanders around with no purpose except to explore weird relationships, demean women, force legalism upon the viewer, pass judgment on certain people, talk down to young adults, or make marriage all about having kids. Using wild time jumps, the story spins in circles, rehashing the same things over and over again and relying on ridiculous coincidences to keep the narrative going. Finally, when it’s mercifully over, nothing is accomplished save for the creation of an offensive project that warrants negative points in this section.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While the acting starts out as generic and average, it definitely gets worse as it goes. Some cast members are better than others, but a handful of them seem quite unsure due to poor coaching. Many of the emotions are either muted or forced. A couple of cast members seem uninterested in being on set, which can’t really be faulted given the low quality of this movie. In the end, this section does nothing but keep this screenplay from being negative points overall.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to try to create a plot that depicts the realistic struggles of married couples, but Beyond the Vows simply goes too far. It’s possible to be too realistic to point of turning off the audience, which prevents anything from being learned. Besides this, this film’s narrative isn’t even engaging, not to mention the fact that the production and acting are sub-par. All of these factors combined together spell a recipe for disaster, which is why this movie should have never been made.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Our Rose Garden (Movie Review)

Our Rose Garden - BMG-Global | Bridgestone Multimedia Group | Movie & TV  Distribution

Plot Summary

A married couple is struggling due to the wife’s psychosis, which makes their lives unpredictable. However, despite his son’s desire to place his mother in a mental health facility, the husband wants to remain faithful to his wife because she was there for him when he was unfaithful to her.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Because this production stays within its financial and logistical boundaries, it is very professional. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all on point, and the soundtrack is quite good. Sets, locations, and props are all well-utilized. The only slight concerns relate to some choppy editing and awkward transitions, but these aren’t enough to prevent his section from receiving a high score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Our Rose Garden uses a very creative story presentation that mixes past and present subplots to develop character motive. It’s an authentic look at realistic problems that many people face even if the dialogue is a little thin and under-developed. It was better to make a short film rather than long and drawn out movie with no meaning, but this didn’t leave much time to completely develop the characters to their fullest potentials. Also, the narrative could have had a stronger premise rather than a vague one as well as more concrete messaging. Throughout the screenplay, some scenes oddly mix with each other and cut off as another invades, which confuses the audience. The story concludes with a somewhat abrupt ending that seems to easily fix the problems at hand. Nonetheless, there was a enough potential in this plot to justify a meager rating.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The cast of Our Rose Garden definitely showed that they were trying hard in their performances as they acted in meaningful ways. Despite some very small moments of robotic emotions and line delivery, these cast members demonstrated good skills. Another drawback of this section was beyond their control: the fact that the past and present cast members didn’t really look like each other. However, as a whole, this area was above average, which rounds out a good effort.

Conclusion

This creative team obviously has tons of potential for the future due their knack for analyzing people without creating stereotypes or being too heavy-handed with message-pushing. They also avoid wasting resources on an unnecessarily long film. With a little more character and narrative depth, as well as slight acting upgrades, these creators will be well on their way to greater things.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese (April 2021)

All That Really Matters  -     By: Nicole Deese

Release date: April 6, 2021

Author: Nicole Deese

Plot summary: Molly’s trendy fashion and beauty advice gains her a substantial social media following and an audition to host a makeover show for underprivileged youth. One problem: she has zero experience with kids in need! So she volunteers for a transitional program. Silas, the director, isn’t impressed. Can she win him over—and discover what matters most in life?

The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Joanna Davidson Politano’s latest novel is a live coal among so much ash in the Christian romance world. While the story and characters have two small flaws, the beauty and depth of the story is more than enough to render it worthy of the big screen. Willa Duvall is an ambitious, outspoken, big- hearted young woman whose dream is to shake up the 19th century medical field by being one of the first female doctors. The problem is, her physician father and society are desperate to marry her off. After yet another refused marriage proposal, Willa’s father has enough. Just before he puts his foot down, Willa finds a mysterious love letter whose words hold the power to change someone’s fate. After signing an involved contract with her father, Willa chooses to prove her ability to care for a patient alone by choosing the head of the very house to which the mysterious letter belongs. Golda Gresham is a hardened, wealthy socialite who rules her home, Crestwicke, and its inhabitants in a cold, controlling manner. When Willa answers her call for a private nurse, both women will find that there is much more to one another than meets the eye. Gabe Gresham found his true love years ago, the problem is, she’s afraid of marriage. This being so, he waits patiently to be chosen by her, and tries to help out wherever he can in the meantime. As the story unfolds, Willa discovers that Crestwicke is a house with many secrets, and that nothing turns out the way she expects.

The strengths and weaknesses of the novel are as follows. The Love Note has very timely, well-thought out storyline that holds the attention all the way through. Additionally, the plot contains enough twists to keep things interesting, and enough depth to set it apart from nearly all Christian romance novels. The well-crafted twist 2/3 of the way through is particularly notable. Moreover, its consistent themes that build on one another support the strong spiritual message without being preachy. Creative analogies and metaphors are used to deepen the plot and the characters, and the dialogue is excellent and meaningful. Lastly, the first person narrative style is a breath of fresh air for this critic. As for the weaknesses, there is only one in this area. The ending is somewhat rushed and could be expanded on the big screen in a multi-season TV show. This being said, the novel’s plot and storyline score culminates as being just shy of exceptional.

Character Development (4 points)

Politano’s characters are realistically flawed, relatable, and astonishingly deep. Each one has a clearly developed personality, realistic tendencies, and strong ties to the past and present that are built through well-placed flashbacks. Willa is arguably one of the best female protagonists I have ever seen in Christian fiction. Golda is also an excellent character whose arc unfolds in a surprisingly strong way. On the whole, Golda and Willa’s stories are beautifully woven into the fabric of this tapestry using atypical but brilliant methods. In comparison, Gabe could be stronger than he is. To put it frankly, he’s too good and could have used a few relatable flaws. However, he is still an excellent character. Burke and Willa’s father are also great characters. Clara, Aunt Maisie, Essie, and all the other minor characters are exceptional because they all have a memorable role in the story. In summation, this area also receives a perfect score because the minor flaw mentioned above does not affect the overall quality of the cast of characters.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

It was amazing to see an entire cast of characters with both motive and realistic beliefs/fears/life experiences that drive their choices and reactions. I was also incredulous and happily surprised to see real love portrayed in a Christian novel, not to mention the wisdom of waiting for it indefinitely being promoted. For these reasons and more, this novel earns a full point in creativity and an x factor point in originality. Thus, we here at BOR believe that The Love Note would make an excellent Christian series. Very little content would need alteration, as the dialogue and storyline are already excellent. Christian moviemakers, look no further than this novel for fresh inspiration, and a lesson in proper character development.

Wish List Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland (Movie Review)

Movie – The Farmer and The Belle

Plot Summary

Belle Winters is a model who’s been told that she’s aging out of the business. Thus, she decides to revisit a place from her childhood to find the secret to true beauty, which she believes was found on a bracelet she left behind. However, when she returns, she once again crosses paths with the pen pal she thought forgot about her. In seeing him again, what Belle finds is unexpected.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Despite being average, The Farmer and the Belle isn’t quite good enough for a 2020 production. Video and audio quality are good, and sets, locations, and props are acceptable. However, camera work is randomly shaky at times. The generic soundtrack is sometimes too obvious for the situations it’s played in. Editing is quite choppy as some scenes cut off prematurely. Nonetheless, there’s some improvement as the film goes on, but it’s still just run-of-the-mill.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Surprisingly, this plot begins with good attempts to develop character motive via a flashback prologue. Though the often-expository dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, there’s actually a basic narrative focus, including obvious themes albeit slightly juvenile ones. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is sometimes funny and sometimes not. At times, things happen simply because the writers want them to, and convenient turns transpire simply to suit the story’s purposes. The middle of the plot wastes a lot of time, seemingly kicking the can down the road, and a few sequences seem too staged and forced to exist. Overall, there is some potential in this section, but the contrived nature of the narrative and the lack of strong characters holds it back from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Due to the back and forth nature of this section, the final score comes out as average. At times, the acting is professional while other times, it isn’t. Line delivery and emotions are overall inconsistent. Some scenes are more dramatic than others, but it’s not all bad. In the end, this mixed bag caps off an mostly underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Movies like Saving Santaland are neither bad enough to be remembered nor good enough to be upheld. In the end, this screenplay is likely to fall into the same bin with other forgettable Christmas offerings that clamor for the attention of audiences. It’s definitely possible that holiday films are more likely to be viewed, so why not give the watchers something to remember rather than forget?

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

If You Really Love Me (Movie Review)

If You Really Love Me

Plot Summary

Three sisters want to support each other in their life, love, and faith, but sometimes, expected circumstances get in the way. Thus, they’ll have to decide if they’ll rely on each other and on what they believe about God or if they will go their own way.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unfortunately, this production isn’t all that it could be. Video quality and audio quality are acceptable, but the camera work is all over the place, including shakiness and mid-shot zooms. The soundtrack is generic, and the special effects are cheesy. Sets, locations, and props are very limited, but the editing is at least average. Though there’s some improvement throughout the film, it’s only enough to give this section an average rating.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s difficult to grasp what this narrative is going for since there’s really not much quantifiable content to base it on. The plot is basically the portrayal of stereotypically one-dimensional character doing random things without good reasons. This story is essentially a collection of long, dry conversations that lack purpose or focus. There’s hardly anything noticeable to discuss, and any half-hearted conflicts that are introduced are unrealistically fixed in the end. Thus, with no potential in this section, zero points can be awarded.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though not all cast members post bad performances, some aren’t very good. Emotions are over the top at times, and a few actors and actresses appear to be trying too hard. Line delivery is mostly even throughout, and this mixed bag warrants an average score in this area.

Conclusion

It’s hard to put one’s finger on movies like If You Really Love Me. It seems like an attempt to explore the authentic experiences of some, but it’s done in such a way that it’s not relatable in the real world. Without realistic characters and dialogue, it’s nearly impossible to do this type of screenplay the right way.

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Love Me [2020] (Movie Review)

Watch Love Me | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Reggie and his friend Sam live in a tent and run a soap-making business. Sam makes the products while Reggie tries to sell them door-to-door. One day, Reggie happens to visit Charlotte, who loves butterflies and won’t go outside without her headphones due to sensory overload. Without Charlotte’s brother knowing, she and Reggie fall in love and begin to date. Will the two social outcasts be allowed to have a life together?

Production Quality (1 point)

In usual Faith House (Inspiriter) style, camera work is shaky in Love Me, sometimes zooming in during shots. Audio quality is all over the map, include a very loud and shocking soundtrack, cheesy sounds effects, and annoying background sounds. Video quality is acceptable, but lighting is sometimes poor. Sets, locations, and props are cheap, and editing is fairly choppy. The only saving grace here is that the production quality tends to improve with time, but it’s not enough to keep this section from being subpar.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Of all the ridiculous films previously put out by this team, Love Me actually centers around an interesting idea: how special needs adults are treated in our society. It’s actually Inspiriter’s best idea ever and has the most potential of anything they’ve ever come up with. However, like many intriguing concepts in Christian entertainment, some of the good possibilities are wasted on frivolous scenes, like pointless musical montages. Dialogue is passable, though, which helps the characters become more accessible and less over-the-top. This narrative unfortunately lacks central focus and purpose, and it would have been good to see more backstory from the characters. Also, the conclusion is very abrupt and lacks logic as it depicts on character changing their mind for no particular reason. This alteration is only invented to unnaturally fix the story’s conflicts. Therefore, due to slight potential but inadequate presentation, this section only receives a meager rating.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although not perfect, the perennial FaithHouse cast members that once again appear in this movie actually found their acting niches in Love Me. Their performances are mostly authentic, despite some mumbled lines, and demonstrate realistic emotions. As such, this is the screenplay’s strongest area and makes us wonder if Inspiriter has finally hit their stride this late in the game.

Conclusion

Imagine if FaithHouse/Inspiriter had saved all the money from their previous absurd offerings and put it toward this film, which is the one interesting idea they’ve put forth. What if they took a quality over quantity approach, beginning with a raw character-based drama with subtle Christian messaging? Unfortunately, we may never know, but this is definitely a lesson for future creators: don’t settle for less because one good movie is always better than ten bad ones.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Love 101: Freshman Class (Movie Review)

Love 101: Freshman Class – Defender of Truth

Plot Summary

Based on complicated relationship webs from the book of Genesis, a collection of high school students is forced decide what they truly believe about love. As they navigate the complex landscape before them, the choices they make will impact them for the rest of their lives.

Production Quality (.5 point)

This production has a lot of terrible aspects to it, such as the loud soundtrack that often overpowers audio and the weird aspect ratios. Camera work is often shaky, and video quality is sometimes blurry. The sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap, and some unnecessarily tight shots cut things off. Outside scenes are too bright at times, and flashbacks have weird sepia tone quality to them. Very slight improvement as the film progresses is the only thing keeping this section from zero, but it’s not enough to bring the movie out of its nosedive.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Love 101: Freshman Class continues the worn-out trope of modernly repurposed Bible stories and makes things especially awkward by throwing them into a high school setting and mixing them all up. Besides the weak premise, however, the plot relies on unlikely and random things occurring just to suit its means, which creates unclear direction and purpose. Otherwise, characters stand around in scenes to stiffly recite lines and participate in empty conversations. Mindless dialogue leads to aimless characters, including perfect characters who constantly spout Scripture and talk down to all the “bad” people, trying to force them to act right in their own strength. Some characters are magically fixed after well-timed sermons that contain a lot of in-your-face, things-are-much-worse-these-days messaging. Events in the narrative move very quickly to rush toward a desired conclusion and even present a laughable portrayal of criminal procedure that only exists in play acting. In the end, the bizarre ending has the audacity to suggest that more of these awful movies could be made, which we hope never happens.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s evident that this cast was poorly coached as most performances are robotic. Line delivery is quite unsure, and emotions are awkwardly forced. There’s also a lot of squinting in outside scenes, and the makeup work is low quality. Thus, this rounds out another terrible effort in the Christian entertainment world.

Conclusion

It seems like one has to try really hard to make a film this bad. Aside from the obvious budget problems, the central message of this screenplay is that a Christian teenager just needs to try harder to act right and that those who “act bad” just don’t listen to enough sermons. This is legalism at is core and isn’t something we need to see in Christian movies. Therefore, we hope that the advent of these types of offerings has come and gone.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Ruth: The Musical (Movie Review)

Ruth the Musical (2019)
Just what you always wanted…a British musical rendition of Ruth!

Plot Summary

Imagine if Ruth was a British woman who liked to sing! What kinds of songs would she sing? What would other people around her sing about? Would they choreograph their lyrics and dances as if they had practiced them beforehand? Most importantly, would they be able to solve the age-old question of musicals: when a character is singing by themselves, are they really singing out loud, or are they just singing in their head?

Production Quality (-1 points)

The production of Ruth is among the worst, including very shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. Despite acceptable video quality, the sets, locations, and props aren’t historically accurate if that’s what the creators were going for, which is highly unclear. If it matters, the music is out of place for the historical time period of the the real Ruth account. However, other aspects of audio contribute to the negativity, such as the loud background noises in outdoor locations, the invasive out-of-place nature of the soundtrack, the obvious lip-syncing, and the painful overdubs. The songs are just terrible, getting worse and worse as the experience drags on. Flashbacks have a blurry quality to them, and editing is a nightmare. In the end, there’s so much bad here that a negative score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The fact that the time period that’s supposed to be portrayed here is unclear also impacts the plot, depending on whether the story is supposed to portray a modern-day version of Ruth or a historical one. If historical, why are there obviously modern objects present? If modern, why do the farms used antiquated equipment? Besides this total confusion, the songs are surprisingly and awkwardly inserted into the narrative, and the impromptu dance routines don’t fit the film’s tone. These asides waste time and gloss over actual conversations. This lack of dialogue creates empty characters who can’t be related to despite the inclusion of flashbacks. Although there are few tiny nuggets of potential in this screenplay, such as the themes of foreigners and low-income individuals being discriminated against, there are just too many unusual aspects of this section that warrant a negative rating.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

Again, is the costuming intended to reflect the modern day, or is it supposed to be set in a historical time period? This lack of clarity confuses a section’s score once again. Is the movie supposed to be a British rendition of the biblical account, or is this just another in a long line of BRITISH BIBLE productions? Despite the acting beginning in a slightly acceptable fashion, it actually devolves as time goes on, mostly due to the interruptive musical sequences. Thus, this puts the lid on a terrible creation.

Conclusion

Another day, another embarrassing piece of Christian entertainment that’s based on a Scriptural narrative. What are audiences supposed to do with this utter nonsense? Can we really expect people to like this sort of thing? The days of mindlessly accepting a film just because it’s labeled Christian are long gone. There are much higher standards in the current market, which are helping to bring it back from the terrible position it was once in. Therefore, the best we can do is look forward to what future creators have in store that can help us to forget debacles like Ruth: The Musical.

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

The Saint Tammany Miracle {Heavenly Hoops} (Movie Review)

The St. Tammany Miracle (1994) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Father Thomas Mulberry hired Lootie to coach the girl’s basketball team for the small Episcopalian college he was the chancellor of. He didn’t want her to change anything about the team, but she did anyway and, in the process, won the hearts of the girls on the team. Nonetheless, as time went on, Thomas found himself growing fonder of Lootie, but he would have to learn to open up to people if he expected to move forward in life.

Production Quality (1 point)

The Saint Tammany Miracle has unnecessarily blurry video quality even though the camera work is acceptable. Audio is a problem, however, as the loud and annoying soundtrack covers up talking and other sounds. Sets, locations, and props are fine, but the editing is by far the production’s worst element. Some scenes shockingly begin in the middle of others, and many sequences are abruptly cut off. Needless to say, there’s too much negative in this section for it to earn a score higher than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Because this story jumps all over the place, it’s very unclear what its actual purpose is. There’s basically no continuity between the scenes as the screenplay is like a collection of unrelated skits lacking an actual storyline to connect them together. Full of clunky dialogue and meaningless conversations, the characters are generic, blank, and based on ridiculous gender stereotypes. What’s more, they make unusual decisions that lack logic and consistency, including perpetuating a nonsensical love triangle that has no basis in reality. Aided by an extremely vague plot development, the narrative races to a mindless ending scene that easily fixes whatever half-baked problems it created. In the end, with no clear point or direction, The Saint Tammany Miracle flounders at a score of zero for this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite the other problem areas of this film, the acting is actually its strongest element. However, it’s still just average. Emotions and line delivery are just run-of-the-mill as the performances are neither all good nor all bad. Thus, this middle-of-the-road section rounds out an overall underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

The good thing is that we’re (hopefully) long past head-scratchers like The Saint Tammany Miracle. When production quality is so low and the story is so empty, there’s really no point in moving forward with the idea until something substantial can be offered. Making something just for the sake of it is never a good foundation.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Only One Way (Movie Review)

Only One Way Movie - Josiah Warren, Michael Maponga, Suzee Rodetis ...

Plot Summary

Paul was homeschooled all his life, but now that he’s in college, he feels persecuted by all the students because he lives with his parents and never wants to party with them. Thus, due to the prodding of his girlfriend, Paul moves into his own apartment and starts partying with her so-called friends. Will Paul be able to find his way back to the faith of his childhood???

Production Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with all previous patterns of Strong Foundation Films, Only One Way (not sure why it’s called that) has a horrific production. It contains poor background audio, loud noises, extremely obvious overdubs, and a loud, generic soundtrack. Though video quality and camera work are fine except for some shaky moments, the lighting is inconsistent. Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and limited, and there are a number of glaring continuity errors. Further, this movie has one of the worst editing jobs on record as there are incredibly abrupt cuts and very quick transitions between sequences. Sometimes, scenes are completely cut off, and most of them seem completely disconnected from the others. However, this section is surprisingly the best one of the whole film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This absurd storyline is presented one scene after the next with absolutely no continuity between them; no scene seems connected to the others as the narrative just blurts out random content however it wants. Needless to say, the content is full of mindless dialogue and conversations that build totally blank characters who act different ways at different times in the plot. Some of them are total strawmen non-Christians while others are impossibly perfect Christians. Many occurrences suddenly happen without proper lead-up because the writers simply wanted them to transpire. The screenplay drags on and on as the same things happen over and over again until it all crashes down in an incredibly bizarre ending. In the end, Only One Way is just another awful offering from the Strong Foundation team, which is unfortunately nothing new.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This section is also full of typical Strong Foundation stuff, such as mumbled lines and grossly uncoached acting. It seems like none of the cast members are really trying or are even motivated to perform well. None of the actors and actresses are believable or realistic in their offerings. As a side note, the injury acting is horrific. Thus, this part also receives no points and rounds out another ridiculous creation from this team.

Conclusion

What else is there to say? Time and again, Josiah David Warren and the rest keep rolling out pathetic excuses for movies with nothing to really stop them. They continue to contribute to the already-cluttered Christian entertainment landscape. All anyone can learn from this is how not to do it.

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Upside (Movie Review)

Upside (2010) - IMDb

Plot Summary

Solomon White was a successful high school lacrosse player until a concussion knocks him out of commission. What’s more, the head injury also causes him to see everything upside down. This puts his lacrosse scholarship in jeopardy as he does his best to recover. Part of this rehabilitation is attending a sight impairment support group. At one of these meetings, he meets a blind girl whom he falls in love with. However, with his new complicated life, what path will Solomon take?

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite some instances of shaky camera work, such as dizzying action shots, other camera elements are fine, and the video is consistently clear. Audio is acceptable even though the soundtrack is a bit generic and too loud at times. Additionally, there are some loud sound effects and confusing special effects. However, the sets, locations, and props are great, as is the lighting. Also, all aspects of the production get better as they go, and it should be noted that the camera work depicting the protagonist’s medical condition is creative. Thus, an above-average score is warranted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In the beginning, Upside tends to waste time with sports and musical montages, along with basic, vanilla dialogue that leaves characters as somewhat vague. Nonetheless, the narrative contains a good exploration of disabilities even though the characters tend to represent the issues rather than actual people. Also, the first half of the plot meanders as it lacks focus and wastes good ideas, but the psychological elements are notable. Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand how some characters know certain things, and there’s an arbitrary application of character motive. As the storyline celebrates unearned victories that lack basis or lead-up, it’s mostly a collection of random scenes that lack consistency and major themes between them, which causes the movie as a whole to lack a focused purpose. At times, it’s hard to understand why certain things transpire except for the fact that the writers needed them to happen at specific moments. Even with all of these concerns, there’s some potential to note, such as the interesting ending that applies some creatively relevant themes although it takes too long to get to and lacks adequate build-up. In general, there are just too many things going on, and integration of themes throughout the narrative is greatly lacking as some portions of the movie unnecessarily fall by the wayside. The character arcs are just too steep for what the creators wanted to do, and in general, Upside needs a full rewrite.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though some of the acting in this film seems unsure and like it was done in one take, things do tend to improve as they go. Despite slightly robotic emotions and line delivery, some cast members appear to be trying harder than others. As a whole, however, the improvements are enough to warrant an above-average score, which rounds out a basically run-of-the-mill screenplay.

Conclusion

We definitely need more films like Upside that explore the everyday struggles of people who have disabling conditions, but writers have to always be careful not to only treat these characters as representations of disabilities. The only way important issues are presented in movie form is when each character is treated like a real person with believable motives and backstory. When a screenplay is reduced to simply presenting a cause, it doesn’t have anything meaningful to offer even though there may be other positive aspects.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Destiny Road (Movie Review)

Destiny Road (film) - Wikipedia

Plot Summary

The lives of three people may all take different turns, but one way or another, they are destined to meet up with each other. A young couple who met in church, a successful megachurch pastor, and a poor boy from the slums may not have much in common, but they all have common lessons to learn. Will they find their true purposes before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of Destiny Road is acceptable, including good video quality and camera work. Sets, props, and locations are also fine, but the audio is quite uneven throughout the film. Sometimes, it’s too quiet, and other times, there are obvious overdubs. However, there aren’t that many notable issues to note here save for the poor editing, which can be explained away by the sheet amount of content included in this movie. Thus, this section earns an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Destiny Road, from start to finish, is determined to be full of confusing interlocking subplots, which causes the film to try to cover too much ground in one creation. As such, it may have been better suited as a series or as several movies, especially since there is plenty of potential to note here, including characters that are realistic at times, authentic looks at secret problems within ministries that put on shows for their congregations, and believable sequences of dialogue that demonstrate church fakeness, expose soft legalism, and establish relatable character backstories. However, narration absolutely decimates any hope of having better characters as it sometimes unnecessarily covers up conversations and just never stops. Besides this, there’s tons and tons of scenes that show many things happening all at once and include far too many concepts shoved into one screenplay. Additionally, there are very bizarre, creepy, and trippy content that’s very much out of place for the rest of the narrative and may frighten some audiences. In the end, it all leads to a confusingly vague ending that’s hard to grasp and leave the viewer feeling lost. Therefore, despite some potential, Destiny Road mostly gets in its own way.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, the acting of this film is average since it’s sometimes unsure and sometimes acceptable. In parts, line and emotional delivery are fine while in other portions, they’re not. Nonetheless, there are plenty of good parts to balance out the bad. Therefore, this section earns an middle-of-the-road score.

Conclusion

Despite being based off of source material, Destiny Road hurts its cause by crowding itself out and overwhelming the audience with too much content to focus on. In doing this, it falls in line with with so many other screenplays that have something to offer yet ruin their chance in one fashion or another. Perhaps, one day, as we see a possible increase in writing quality among Christian entertainment, we’ll no longer have unfinished disppointments like this one.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Runnin’ From My Roots (Movie Review)

Runnin' from My Roots (2018) - IMDb

Plot Summary

After country music star Faith Winters receives some bad publicity for a bad decision of hers, she’s obviously forced to return to her hometown, where she happens to reconnect with her high school sweetheart, also known as the local pastor. Coincidentally, the church is about to go under from lack of funds, so it’s possible Faith might be able to help there. However, she’s being stalked by her sort-of boyfriend and will have to rediscover the way she used to be in order to move forward or something.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Runnin’ from My Roots has a mixed bag for a production, including very shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting. Some of the audio is fine, but some of it is quite over-driven, echoed, or too quiet. The soundtrack is also random and sometimes conflicts with itself, yet the sets, locations, and props are acceptable. Further, the editing leaves something to be desired as there are awkwardly abrupt cuts and transitions. Even still, there’s some slight improvement as the film goes on, which is enough to warrant an average score for this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As if Runnin’ from My Roots wasn’t already basically the most typical plot ever, invasive narration interrupts whatever flow it could have had. Even still, since the storyline is so chock full of predictable small town stuff, stock dialogue, and generic stereotypes, it’s basically a fruitless effort. One random thing happens after another, and it all seems surprisingly disconnected from itself, such as the vague, unexplained conflicts and the very fast pace that the narrative moves at. Due to the speed, things are forced on the viewer without them naturally developing or having a basis for occurring. Besides this, there are too many confusing subplots that don’t fit together, and what the characters claim to experience doesn’t realistically translate to what the audience feels. Conversations are full of stupid one-liners and nonsensical big city/small town dichotomies, which makes the entire movie seem unserious and phoned in. In the end, without a little dose of save-the-church elements, this story really has something for everything in the category of lame screenplays and nothing for points that matter.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are times when the acting of Runnin’ from My Roots is average, a lot of the time, it’s quite forceful. An example of this is the myriad of fake accents and overdone makeup work. Also, some cast members try to draw a lot of attention to themselves with over-the-top drama and pageantry. Elsewhere, line delivery and emotions are too deliberate and pronounced. While it’s not all bad, this section rounds out a very low-quality effort.

Conclusion

There’s no longer a place in the market for films like Runnin’ from My Roots. Run-of-the-mill, half-baked offerings like this one are unacceptable and easily forgotten. It’s an unfortunate waste of resources, and hopefully, Christian audiences will continue to ignore movies like this so that they are no longer made.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Worth Fighting For [2017] (Movie Review)

Amazon.com: Watch Worth Fighting For | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Alex has made a name for himself as an underground prize fighter, which has attracted the attention of the local mob. Thus, when Alex agrees to be one of their enforcers, he doesn’t realize how much he’s agreed to do. This seems to jeopardize the relationship Alex wants to have with Lilly, a girl he met at a local diner. Because of his decision, Alex will have to confront both his past and his present in order to be free.

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of Worth Fighting For is likely its weakest area, with wild camera work in action scenes, loud background sounds, and inconsistent lighting. For instance, some outside scenes are too bright while some inside scenes are too dark. Also, there are very obvious overdubs throughout the film, and the live audio sounds quite cheap. Video quality also leaves something to be desired, but the soundtrack is one of the bright spots. Further, some elements of the production do tend to improve as the movie goes on, such as the video quality, so this section overall does enough to warrant a point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the beginning, Worth Fighting For contains surprisingly well-constructed dialogue that makes the characters mostly believable. However, there are also some drawbacks here, such as cheesy conversations that unnecessarily reinforce gender stereotypes and build thin romantic subplots. Nonetheless, it’s good that the viewers are able to slowly learn about the characters rather than all at once, and most of their dialogue is authentic and organic, which develops realistic character struggles and motives. Even so, there were plenty of chances for the characters to be a bit deeper and to drive the plot with their choices. As it is, the storyline tends to sweep the characters along with some head-scratching coincidences, including the slightly forced romantic relationship. Unfortunately, the narrative tends to worsen as it goes, including a lot of patriarchal messages and things happening without enough precedent, which all culminates into a cheesy against-all-odds sports climax that’s paired with a very forced and rushed conclusion that leaves things too empty. However, the first half of the screenplay is enough to warrant an average score, which is encouragement for the future.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the acting sometimes comes off as a bit blank and vanilla while some performances are a bit stiff, there are moments when the acting is better. Despite some dramatically forced lines, for the most part, emotions are believable, and the cast members definitely appear to be trying to do their best. At the very least, this is Alan Powell’s best performance to date, and the cast as a whole does enough, even though there are some rocky moments, to warrant an average score for this section.

Conclusion

Films like Worth Fighting For are complicated because they have something to offer, but it’s usually packaged in the wrong way. This is almost always due to some shortcoming within the movie-making process, and it’s typically poor screenwriting. However, that’s not the case in this screenplay; a lack of adequate funding is to issue this time. Nonetheless, all a film maker can do is put their best foot forward and let God take care of the rest. Thus, perhaps we’ll see more from this creative team in the near future.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Father’s Love (Movie Review)

The Father's Love | Christian Movies On Demand

Plot Summary

Sarah has always wanted the perfect relationship with a man, and for a while, it seems like Reece can fulfill this role for her. However, when things unexpectedly take a strange turn, Sarah is left asking questions about her real purpose in life. She’s spent most of her time trying to make relationships work so that she can escape previous pain, but how will she react when it’s all taken away from her and she’s forced to confront her past?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, The Father’s Love sports a professional production, including good video quality and mostly fine camera work, even though there is some slight shakiness at first. Audio quality is also similar as there are some unnecessary background sounds though other aspects are fine. The soundtrack is good, but it sometimes covers up spoken words. Further, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized, yet the editing leaves something to be desired with some very quick cuts and awkward transitions throughout. However, on the whole, the production gets better as it goes and does enough to get past the halfway mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Father’s Love is a rare look at the fake, surface-based dating scene and at how the family of origin affects adult relationships. Creative symbolism, implied scenes, and effective flashbacks are used to portray the narrative without narration and in a non-linear plot style. Dialogue is also effectively used to build character personality and motive, and conversations properly apply themes even though there is some slight sermonizing and message-pushing therein. Moreover, there are some concerns in this storyline, such as some filler scenes and sequences that tend to waste time. In a similar vein, the passage of time is a bit vague in the film’s middle third, and some time jumps are hard to reconcile with the plot’s flow. The ending is also a bit discombobulated as a handful of random scenes are tacked onto the conclusion, which finishes in a way that isn’t very logical. Nevertheless, this movie still possess a great idea and a very meaningful message about finding identity in relationships.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, the acting is the strongest factor in The Father’s Love. Though there are some slightly awkward moments, the cast members overall assume their respective roles very well. Emotional and line delivery are on point, and the culturally diverse casting is refreshing. In the end, this rounds out an above-average effort.

Conclusion

It’s a shame that films like this one, which have high amounts of potential, fall just short of the Hall of Fame, but it still provides great potential for the future. The Father’s Love would benefit from either a remake or a similar project that provides deeper characters, more substantial backstories, and clearer connections between the movie’s themes and the events of the narrative. Nonetheless, many audiences will find enjoyment in this screenplay.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Little Notes to Heaven (Movie Review)

Watch Little Notes To Heaven | Prime Video

Plot Summary

Kyle and Amelia met in a seemingly chance encounter and quickly became friends despite the less-than-desirable circumstances around them. The more time they spent together, the more they fell in love. However, the closer they grew, the more complicated things became as they discovered that there was more holding them back than they previously realized. When it all finally comes to a head, they discover valuable lessons that will stay with them forever.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite an under-funded production, Little Notes to Heaven does enough to get past the middle mark, such as having clear video and artistic camera angles even though the camera work is sometimes shaky. Audio quality is on point except for a few obvious overdubs, and the original soundtrack is excellent as it flows with the scenes and mixes were creatively edited overlays. Though the sets, locations, and props are slightly cheap, they are overall okay, and the same can be said for the editing save for a few lagging scenes. In the end, however, this is a great first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Surprisingly, the plot is the strongest element of Little Notes to Heaven. Combining artistic tone and voice-over with a creative non-linear storyline, the writers use great conversations and flashbacks to establish the narrative’s philosophy and the characters’ motives. As such, the characters are extremely accessible and realistic via their believable personality and backstories. Psychological elements are also a plus since the creators demonstrate a profound understanding of what some people experience and secretly endure, such as complex family systems concerns and emotional struggles. It all reaches a slightly unexpected conclusion that carries a lot of weight and drives home awesome messaging. The only factors keeping this section from being perfect are the fact that some characters appear to have vague existences at times and the tendency for some events to happen because the story needs to reach a certain conclusion. Otherwise, from start to finish, this film demonstrates an excellent integration of concepts throughout its progression and serves as a great example for how to write a plot that’s driven by relatable characters.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though the acting of Little Notes to Heaven is a bit awkward at first, for the most part, the cast members do well with assuming the roles of the characters. Emotions can be a bit extreme at time, but as a whole, line delivery is professional. By the movie’s end, the acting is nearly perfect, which is enough to make up for the earlier shortcomings. Thus, this caps off a very encouraging freshman offering.

Conclusion

It’s very clear that the creative team behind this screenplay did the best they could with what they had, which is really all we can ask as reviewers. However, it’s a shame that Little Notes to Heaven couldn’t take that final step onto the Hall of Fame due to a handful of rookie mistakes. Nonetheless, many audiences will enjoy this film, which is a great way to begin and shows that its creators have a lot of potential for the future. With better funding and collaboration, they could easily make a bigger impact and find their place in the Christian entertainment field.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Someone Like You by Karen Kingsbury (May 5, 2020)

Someone Like You: A Novel (The Baxter Family) by [Kingsbury, Karen]

Release date: May 5, 2020

Author: Karen Kingsbury

Plot summary: Kingsbury’s latest Baxter family novel takes on a popular pro-life issue. Maddie Baxter West is shaken to the core when she finds out everything she believed about her life was a lie. Her parents had always planned to tell her the truth about her past: that she was adopted as an embryo. But somehow the right moment never happened. Then a total stranger confronts Maddie with the truth and tells her something else that rocks her world—Maddie had a sister she never knew about. Betrayed, angry, and confused, Maddie leaves her new job and fiancé, rejects her family’s requests for forgiveness, and moves to Portland to find out who she really is. Dawson Gage’s life was destroyed when London Quinn, his best friend and the only girl he ever loved, is killed. In the hospital waiting room, London’s mother reveals that London might have had a sibling. The frozen embryo she and her husband donated decades ago. When Dawson finds Maddie and brings her to Portland, the Quinns—her biological parents—welcome her into their lives and hearts. Maddie is comforted by the Quinns’ love and intrigued by their memories of London, who was so much like her. Is this the family and the life she was really meant to have?

The Power Couple, Season 1 [2019] (Series Review)

Image result for the power couple penavega

Plot Summary

Gabby and Vince Powers are both superheroes with the same goal of saving the people around them from certain evil. However, they can’t seem to keep their marriage out of trouble. Thus, in order to be ready for their toughest assignment, the couple decides to attend marriage counseling, but it only seems to make things worse. Will they be able to settle their differences before it’s too late?!?

Production Quality (1 point)

Although not all of the production qualities of The Power Couple are bad, such as okay video and audio, there are also quite a few other concerns to note. For instance, cheap special effects are used throughout the series, and camera work is inconsistent, including some unnecessarily tight shots. Similarly, the sets, locations, and props are fairly limited, and the soundtrack and its accompanying sound effects are beyond cheesy. It also goes without saying that many scenes seem like there aren’t enough people in the shot to adequately support the number of individuals the scene is supposed to represent. Further, the editing leaves much to be desired, which, along with the other problems, overall contributes to an underwhelming performance in this category.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Despite The Power Couple‘s childish premise, the dialogue is surprisingly not all bad as this story attempts to do something different and tries to present real issues. However, it’s simply not enough as the superficial nature of the narrative overtakes any small amount of potential there might have been. This is evidenced by too many very poor attempts to be funny and lots of surface conversations that prevent us from properly understanding who the characters are. Additionally, many biblical and possibly substantial concepts are awkwardly shoehorned into the plot; these ideas are improperly used to magically fix the characters’ problems in illogical and unrealistic ways. Then, before the viewer is prepared, the storyline abruptly ends and expects the audience to beg for another season. In short, though there was a very slight amount of potential in this idea, it wasn’t enough to rescue the narrative from triviality and lazy writing.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, the acting in The Power Couple is pedestrian and sometimes a bit worse. Emotions are usually forced in unrealistic ways even though line delivery is mostly fine. Some cast members are better than others, but all of the costuming is horrible. One positive note is that it’s good to see a husband and wife (Carlos and Alexa PenaVega) star alongside each other, but this section is overall a disappointment.

Continuity Quality (1.5 points)

While this series has a basic amount of continuity, as evidenced by continuations between episodes and consistent subplots being focused on, it’s still not as good as it could be. For one, each episode is extremely short, which raises the question of this even needing to be a series at all. Further, all character and story arcs are basically predictable and expected with no real twists and turns. Therefore, this rounds out a very underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

It’s very unclear how and why The Power Couple was made, but it’s unfortunately a squandered idea that could have been better in different hands. For one, this type of concept requires higher amounts of funding and a lot of writing collaboration to ensure cheesiness is avoided. In the end, it seems like whatever was spent on this series would have been better used in a different way, such as being saved for higher quality productions.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 14 points

Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews (BTSNBM)

Image result for isaiah's legacy

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Andrews’ latest novel, Isaiah’s Legacy, takes a different turn than many of it’s counterparts by thinking outside the box regarding Biblical narratives, but falls a bit short in several areas. Manasseh is a young boy who lives mostly in his own little world and struggles to cope with noise and crowds – two things that are very prevalent in the life of a future king. Zibah, his mother, fears for his future and feels helpless to teach him how to cope. Hezekiah, whose is living on borrowed time, doesn’t fully share Zibah’s level of concern about their son, but knows that something must be done if he is to rule Judah successfully. Shebna is a jealous man of Levite heritage who has been scheming for an advantageous political position for many years. On a visit to his brother Haruz’s home, he meets his niece, Shulle, and learns that she has a way with people society rejects. Shebna brings her to the palace under the guise of being a companion for Manasseh, but is secretly training her to influence the future king as he sees fit. As Shulle grows older, Shebna and his servant Belit, a sorceress, lead Shulle astray; and as Manasseh grows older, Shulle leads him astray. By the time Shulle and Manasseh are adults, they are fully immersed in the cuttthroat world of politics and surrounded by bad influences. Will they choose Yahweh’s way before it is too late? As previously mentioned, this story contains both strengths and weaknesses. On a positive note, the latter half of the novel has strong Biblical themes of redemption and forgiveness. Additionally, it is clear that the bad decisions Manasseh makes in this depiction are not related to his disorder, but his bitterness against his Maker. In contrast, the plot and storyline contain four central flaws. First, the storyline starts out on shaky ground with an information dump from Shebna that seeks to give the reader a historical background for coming events – it would have been better to divide the vast content in this novel between it and a sequel. Second, the last third/fourth of the novel tries to cover over ten years of content, which makes the ending a bit rushed. Third, there is too much page time spent explaining how pagan rituals were carried out, and author also dwells on sensual scenes between Manasseh and Shulle (before they follow Yahweh) for a bit too long. Lastly, though it is a noble idea to portray one of Israel’s kings as having Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD], it is not clear why Andrews chose to do this. As a special ed major, I wholeheartedly affirm the inclusion of people who have special needs in literature, and think that they should be represented more than they are. However, every good story needs one or more specific reasons for why it’s characters exist as they do, and great stories will use these reasons as pivotal parts of the plot. If Manasseh having ASD does not directly tie in with the plot somehow, why does he have it at all? The answer to this question is never made clear. In summary, Andrews earns slightly below an average score in this section for numerous plot and storyline errors.

Character Development (2 points)

Comparatively, Manasseh is a fairly good protagonist who has realistic responses to change and tragedy. Shulle is a good secondary main character who makes realistic wrong decisions based on duty and the desire to protect her father. (spoiler) However, at times it is hard to know what her role in the story is, outside of calming Manasseh down and trying not to have children. As for the rest, Zibah is a relatable, flawed mother figure who wants her son to follow God and make good choices. Isaiah is a good minor character, but comes off as a bit too saintly at times. Shebna is a weak antagonist who is usually angry at someone or plotting…something. Lastly an additional error to note here is that Shulle’s father basically disappears shortly after the author introduces him, then reappears at the end of the novel with no explanation. This creates a plot hole. Overall, character development is mixed, which leaves Andrews with an average score here.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is not really anything creative or original to note in this novel that has not been done before in varying forms. Needless to say, this was not our favorite book by Andrews. As such, we do not recommend that it be made into a film or series. Early on in Andrews’ career, she had a rare talent for crafting original characters and deep, meaningful dialogue – see Love Amid the Ashes for an example of this. Because of this, we believe that she still has the potential to be a great author, and maybe even a screenwriter. But she, like many other authors, needs to consider collaboration as the key to future writing success.

Wish List Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

I Still Believe [2020] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Jeremy Camp didn’t grow up with much, but he always had the love of his family, which is why they supported him in his dream to pursue a music career. When he attended a Christian college to fulfill this goal, Jeremy unexpectedly met Melissa Henning, who he quickly fell in love with. However, as Jeremy and Melissa grew closer together, they embarked on a harrowing and arduous journey into the unknown as Melissa battled cancer. Through the twists and turns, they discovered that God is always present in the midst of suffering and that there’s always a purpose to pain.

Production Quality (3 points)

It’s no surprise that, after the success of I Can Only Imagine, the Erwin brothers and their team have crafted yet another perfect production. I Still Believe hits all the right notes in every aspect of production, including video quality, camera work, audio quality, sets, locations, and props. Many camera angles are creatively artistic, and the soundtrack is a huge plus as it enhances the audience experience in all portions of the film and seamlessly integrates Camp’s music without turning it into a product placement. Further, the editing professional handles a story that is obviously difficult to properly present due to its scope. In short, there is nothing negative to note in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

The Erwin Brothers, along with Jon Gunn, have no doubt mastered the art of the biopic as they have wisely chosen to focus their movie-making efforts on adapting real life stories into feature films. Though I Still Believe is a slight departure from the traditional Erwin brand since it zeroes in on a very small collection of characters, there are still no concerns with this storytelling adjustment. This narrative may signal a new era of Erwin creations, but it’s still another installment in their history of reliably quality offerings. In many ways, I Still Believe is almost two different movies as the first and second halves are quite different in tone, but these talented screenwriters correctly applied their God-given skills to weave the source material into a life-changing plot that will resound with many viewers from diverse backgrounds. Based off of real people, the characters therein are very poignant and relatable via realistic and profound dialogue that brings the story to life. Musical montages are responsibly used and don’t encroach upon important conversations that build characters; similarly, creative overlays effectively aid the complex plot presentation. Further, there are clear themes that are used throughout the film and serve to tie the major points together. Essentially, there are no issues to note in this section either.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Once again, in I Still Believe, the Erwin collective proves that they take great care in their casting and acting coaching work. Even though some of the cast members don’t entirely represent the real people they are portraying (which is one of the movie’s only flaws), every performance is professional. Line delivery and emotional delivery are very good as the audience is able to easily experience the characters’ feelings. Though this is a relatively small cast compared to previous Erwin projects and could have been a bit more dynamic, it still shines nonetheless and rounds out another blockbuster hit for the brothers.

Conclusion

Jeremy Camp’s compelling backstory was absolutely worth bringing to the big screen and will no doubt lead to further success for Kingdom Story Company. Despite some slight acting missteps, many viewers will enjoy this film, and it’s likely to leave lasting impact on the Christian entertainment market. However, no matter what, we still highly recommend this film for all Christians and always look forward to future Erwin productions.

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Home Sweet Home [2020] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

What Victoria mostly cares about in life is going from one relationship to the next so that she can be whoever she wants to be without having too much commitment. However, when one of her attempts to get a guy’s attention doesn’t quite go as she planned, she stubbornly decides to do whatever it takes to make him ask her out. Thus, she volunteers at the non-profit her prospect, Jason, heads up and finds herself suddenly building a house for a single mother and her family. Little does Victoria know that she’s about to gain a surprisingly new perspective on life that she never considered before.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, Home Sweet Home is a near-perfect example of what a 2020 production should look like for freshman Christian film makers. Not only did they wisely use their budget without over-extending themselves, but they also made sure that key production elements demonstrated good quality, such as video, camera, audio, and music work. The sets, locations, and props are also efficiently used, and overall, there are really no negatives to highlight here save for some minor editing concerns. However, some of these issues can be attributed to the plot; in the end, this is a very solid production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the get-go of this plot, it’s very clear that the writers were inspired by very strong and worthwhile themes of people living behind false exteriors versus being comfortable with who God created them to be. Also, Home Sweet Home isn’t afraid to shine a light on fake romantic relationships that may exist in a Hallmark view of the world as well as the ease of finding identity in “scoring” relationships in the Western world. In doing so, the creators gave a lot of attention to detail to produce a truly funny comedy based on mostly good dialogue. However, while many of the characters are spot-on, some of them, such as the male lead, leave a lot to be desired in the personality and motivation departments because it’s hard to get to know him as a person. Elsewhere, secondary characters and subplots could have been a bit deeper than they are had they been provided with more adequate screentime. To make room for them, some romantic comedy cliches, such as the returning ex-love interest, could have been cut out. In the end, even though the narrative follows a basically predictable progression toward a somewhat forced and convenient ending, Home Sweet Home demonstrates tons of potential for future projects because the writers clearly know how to properly integrate themes into their stories.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite the small cast, there are not many acting problems to note in this film. One of the biggest drawbacks, however, is the lack of adequate coaching for the lead actor as he seems lost a lot of the time, but then again, his role isn’t very expansive. Elsewhere, Natasha Bure posts an above-average performance while Sarah Kim is also a standout. In the end, like the movie as a whole, there are just small problems that hold this section back from taking the next step.

Conclusion

The 5×5 Productions team is clearly onto something with this unexpectedly refreshing release. With just a few minor tweaks, Home Sweet Home would have easily made the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, the themes of this film make it worth your time and give us great hope for the future of this creative team’s work. With a bit more funding and collaboration, they could be going great places with their next project.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

A Child of the King (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Wesley King and his late wife were called to the jungles of South America to aid the needy and those who were considered to be hopeless. However, after his wife died, Wesley became lonely in his mission. In the states, a woman named Donna began following Wesley’s story via the letters he sent back to his home church. Then, Donna feels called to join Wesley in his overseas mission field, and God brings them together to minister to the least of those in South America.

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there are virtually no good aspects to this production as the audio quality is poor, including echoes in the background, a random soundtrack that sometimes interrupts lines, and some invasive outside noises. Similarly, the video quality is not quite what it should be, and there is some very poor lighting throughout the cheap sets and locations. Props also leave something to be desired, and the camera work is inconsistent at best. To top things off, the special effects used therein are very bad, and the editing is extremely choppy as some scenes drag on while others awkwardly or abruptly end. In the end, any small positives in this production are outweighed by the very obvious negatives.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From beginning to end, the storyline of A Child of the King is very hard to follow since it’s filled with blank conversations between characters and lacks an overall focus or purpose. The stiff and awkward dialogue between characters makes it very difficult to relate to them as people, and the main character is basically perfect. The plot essentially meanders around without the viewer being able to easily follow its progression, and it’s really nothing more than an informational video or mock docu-drama about overseas missions. While there may be some good ideas lost in here somewhere, people who can relate these concepts to the real world are needed to bring them to life. Further, the narrative just randomly ends in an unexpected place without any warning or resolution because that would require something to resolve in the first place.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of A Child of the King is its strongest point even though it’s mostly pedestrian, generic, and boring. There’s neither anything special nor horrible about the cast members’ performances, despite the fact that they have little content to work with. One bright spot is that the cast, for the most part, is culturally accurate with real accents and dialects, which is unexpected based on the remainder of the movie. Nonetheless, this average section isn’t enough to save this failed effort from itself.

Conclusion

An international film should very rarely be made in conjunction with other projects due to the time and financial freedom it requires. However, 2019 was an indicator of how committed the JC Films team was to producing as much content as they possibly could. The result of this is even more low quality Christian films to crowd out the market. Hopefully, however, the tides are still turning since Christian audiences want and deserve better than half-baked ideas.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

When Silence Sings is a very creative novel that displays a refreshing Biblical worldview and an openness to diversity that is rarely seen in Christian fiction; however, the novel is a mixed bag that had the potential to be much better than it is. Colman Harpe is a young man caught in the middle of a clan battle between two prominent mountain families – the McLeans and Harpes. He feels called by God to be a preacher, but isn’t quite sure what to do with that calling…until God tells him exactly what, Tell the McLeans about Me. Colman resists this message because he believes the McLeans don’t deserve forgiveness and love, and when he does, one disaster leads to another until he’s lost in the mountain caves with no hope of escape. On the outside, Serepta McLean is a hardened, bitter middle-aged woman who enjoys establishing control and dominance over everyone and anyone she comes in contact with by any means necessary. At least, that’s what she wants everyone to see. On the inside, Serepta is a hurting, vulnerable young girl who has never been able to escape her past. When Colman and Serepta find their carefully constructed lives shaken by the One who loves them most, will they choose to withdraw or look up? This novel is an interesting mix of excellent characters and a creative storyline and too great of an emphasis on physical attraction paired with some unusual elements. It was a creative idea to parallel Colman’s character arc with the prophet Jonah’s, but while the author seems committed to making this an allegory in the beginning, the Jonah themes fade away and she turns to other Biblical illustrations as the pages go by. Thus, plot inconsistency is the first major error here. The second major error is harder to explain, but is in existence. The author writes in a whimsical, mysterious tone that is not inherently bad, but leans towards sensuality during conversations between characters and their love interests. In contrast, the plot contains several strengths. First, her messaging is very good. The way she illustrates the absurdity of treating so-called different people as such through her dialogue and mental imaging is excellent. Finally, her unique take on both the Gospel message and God’s grace is very meaningful. In culmination, Thomas earns an average score for a plot that had roots but no blooms.

Character Development (2.5 points)

In comparison, Thomas’ characters are her biggest writing strength. Colman is a very human prophet who has just as many strengths and weaknesses as the next person. Serepta is an excellent antagonist whose backstory – while incomplete – gives clear reasons for her behavior. (spoiler) Additionally, the fact that everything in her life isn’t fixed at the conclusion of the tale is much appreciated by us here at BOR (which now stands for Box Office Razzmatazz😎). The minor characters are also slightly above average because their character arcs are unpredictable and each one has at least a partial backstory. However, there are a few flaws here as well. First, the romances between characters are portrayed as being based mostly on physical attributes, and some of the same relationships display some unusual behavior. Lastly, while each character displays consistent themes, it is hard to get to know them because of how many there are. This novel would have been better if the content in the same was broken up in a series – we could get to know the characters better if they had an individual voice. Likewise, the third-person narrative style of writing makes all the characters seem a bit impersonal. In spite of these flaws, Thomas shows much potential for future novels and or screenplays because her spiritual foundation is strong. Therefore, she earns a slightly above average score here for making an effort to include substance alongside whimsy.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Thomas earns a full point in originality for her obvious grasp on good character foundations, and for her effort to portray diversity as being multifaceted – as not only involving race inclusion, but acceptance of behavioral, cultural, and other factors that make all people unique. For this reason, we here at BOR feel that Thomas has the potential to be a great screenwriter and recommend that she collab with other good authors like Francine Rivers and Susie Finkebeiner to create scripts based on her novels and creative ideas.

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Joseph, Close to Jesus {Joseph of Nazareth} (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Joseph never chose to be the earthly stepfather of the Messiah, but by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he accepted his role to take care of Mary and the Christ Child for as long as God wanted him to. Joseph was there before, during, and after the birth of Jesus, so he had a unique perspective on Yahweh’s plan to save humanity from sin.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Like many other Lux Vide\Trinity Broadcasting Network biblical presentations, the production of Joseph, Close to Jesus is typically fine. It has authentic sets, locations, and props, along with good video quality and audio quality. As a whole, it seems realistic even though the action scenes sometimes employ wild camera work and though some shots are unnecessarily close. The soundtrack is a bit generic and dramatic at times, but most aspects of this production are acceptable. The editing sometimes leaves something to be desired due to some lagging scenes and quick cuts, but on the whole, this is at least an average effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, Joseph of Nazareth adopts a very quick and forceful plot progression as the story is forced forward at a breakneck pace that doesn’t let things naturally develop or allow time for characters to be deepened. Besides this poorly constructed premise, Joseph comes off as a basically perfect and all-knowing character even though he appears a bit crazed at times. In focusing on his inaccessible qualities, some key biblical scenes are brushed over or portrayed in extremely vague ways, which confuses the audience. Other scenes are very muted and blank, and dialogue in general leaves much to be desired. Elsewhere, there are a handful of fantastical and ethereal elements that cause spiritual themes to be painted either in a magical light or as untouchable. In summary, the combination of the speedy storyline and the general oddness of some of the characters and plot points prevents this section from having any points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While some cast members appear to be culturally authentic, many of them, especially the lead ones, are not and obviously belong to cultures other than those who lived in first century Judea. Moreover, while the costuming of all characters is fine, the acting is extremely theatrical and dramatic. It feels like many of them are putting on a play rather than trying to become the characters, which further gives this film an air of elitism and other-worldliness. Further, emotions are inadequately depicted, and some lines are very forced, which rounds out a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

Joseph, Close to Jesus had a lot going for it since it promised to provide a unique perspective on the Nativity and on Jesus’ early years. However, it committed many unforced errors and was more devoted to making the Bible seem like a Shakespearean experience rather than a Spirit-inspired historical account that still has profound application for us today. Unfortunately, this was the case for most Scriptural entertainment prior to The Passion of the Christ. Thankfully, in recent years, God has provided the market with better options for accessible biblical depictions of the First Christmas on both the big screen (The Nativity Story) and the small screen (The Chosen). These offerings are much more interesting for your family to enjoy this holiday season.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Fat Chance [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Allison has always struggled with her weight, but she doesn’t know what to do to change herself. She feels ostracized by other people, and when she feels like she might be interested in a guy from her church group, she feels like she has no chance due to her image. Thus, she decides she needs to find love on the internet…by using her roommate’s picture on her online dating profile. However, things don’t go as she originally planned them to go, and everyone learns a hard lesson about self-esteem and being themselves.

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Fat Chance has a fine production, including good video and audio quality. The soundtrack is intriguing, but some of the camera angles are a bit odd at times. Similarly, lighting is good throughout even if the sets, locations, and props are a bit limited. Even still, they are mostly used well, and the editing is adequate. In the end, this is essentially an above average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Fat Chance definitely isn’t afraid to explore some very relevant body image issues, but this film may not have gone about it in the best way. This is a difficult topic to tastefully portray in a movie, and some of the attempts to highlight the weight of the main character are questionable at best. There are also quite a few distasteful jokes about being overweight, but there are also some other areas of comedy that are actually somewhat funny because they poke fun of silly societal trends. Elsewhere, the writers definitely had some good intentions with character development (since the characters are intended to be based on real people), yet there are also some very poorly designed “bad” characters who are basically really obvious strawmen. However, the dialogue throughout the film is pretty good despite the somewhat strong messaging, and these worldviews are agreeable since they explore important topics of how people paint themselves on social media, how some Christians act fake, and how it’s better to be yourself. In a similar vein, while Fat Chance also includes a lot of typical dating service plot elements (two characters are virtually dating and know each other in real life but don’t know that the other one is the virtual date), it does present a realistic parody of the problems these services can cause. In the end, this storyline is a mixed bag of missed opportunities and potential for the future. With deeper characters and subtler messaging, this plot could have gone a lot further.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Despite having a partially “amateur” cast, Fat Chance has a handful of bright spots among its cast members. Many of them definitely make good attempts to become the characters, and while some are a bit awkward at times, they are mostly good at exhibiting emotions and delivering lines. Thus, this rounds out a basically average effort.

Conclusion

More Christian movies and series need to explore the unpopular opinions and topics found in Fat Chance, but there are obviously better ways to go about this particular concept. Self-worth and self image are both important and sensitive issues to look at, which is why they must be done in consultation with people who have struggled with them and in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the creators of this film demonstrated potential for the future by making Fat Chance, so it will be interesting to see how they build off of this movie in their potentially upcoming projects.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

When Hope Calls, Season 1 (Series Review)

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It’s like When Calls the Heart on an obscure streaming service!

Plot Summary

When Lillian and Grace, two orphan siblings, agreed to travel to a new town to run an orphanage, they had no idea what would be in store for them. Of course, they probably could have made an educated guess since they went from Hope Valley to a basic copy of this fantastical borough. This new town has equally important aspects as Hope Valley, such as the obligatory town doctor, the expected general store, and of course, a predictably hair-gelled Mountie just waiting to get hitched. What else could fans of When Calls the Heart want besides another series on the cable channel rather than on a streaming service nobody uses?

Production Quality (1.5 points)
The budget for When Hope Calls (WHC) is clearly lower than When Calls the Heart (WCTH), and this is most strikingly obvious in the poorly constructed town set that looks like a bunch of clapboard buildings plopped in the middle of a mowed-over field. The structures’ false fronts are also too much. This aside, must like WCTH, WHC is limited to just a few select sets, props, and locations, and there are some cheap special effects on top of this. Nonetheless, the production is aided by typically fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work, even if the soundtrack is pedestrian and boring. The editing tends to lag at times, such as leaving scenes running too long, but this production is overall just average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
Much like its parent show, not very significant happens throughout the course of the WHC “plot.” The only remotely interesting elements are used up by the third episode as the series devolves into typical small-town romance nonsense. If it’s possible, the characters are much more blank and cardboard in WHC than in WCTH even if they are less sappy in the former. This is created by a lot of stiff and awkward attempts at conversations as some characters seem to be mysteriously concealing things that are never revealed while others seem to wonder why they are even there. The dialogue is very stock and phoned-in, which creates wooden characters, and the so-called comedic elements are beyond cheesy. Any struggles the characters experience can’t be adequately related to because they seem so plastic and forced. Elsewhere, the town setup is shockingly unrealistic on a historical level, and the Christian themes are very shoehorned in. In the end, with no driving purpose or actual point, the first season’s story is basically just a lot of trumped-up drama with nothing substantial to back it up.

Acting Quality (1 point)
In keeping with Michael Landon Jr.’s common practices, the cast of WHC appears to be as fake as WCTH’s (except not as over the top). This includes how they interact with each other as well as what they look like. On appearances, none of them look historically accurate except for some slight attempts at realistic costuming. When it comes to acting, line delivery seems laborious for some cast members while others seem bored with their roles. Emotions overall seemed forced and unnatural. Some cast members show potential in different roles but don’t live up to their full potential. In the end, this section’s rating is basically expected.

Continuity Quality (.5 point)
As previously mentioned, the best potential for engaging continuity is quickly discarded in the beginning and replaced with drab procedural recurrences. In the middle and at the end of the season, many of the episodes run together and feel like the same thing is happening over and over again. Then, this is culminated with an awkwardly forced climax and alleged cliff-hanger ending in the final episode. Basically, this season doesn’t have much going for it.

Conclusion

What else is there to say? Shows like When Hope Calls have a specific purpose in mind and do whatever it takes to fulfill that purpose. The storylines are predetermined, the production is as cheap as possible, and the cast is as pageantry as expected. All of these criteria are tailor-made for a reason, so we have to commend MLJ and company for at least being consistent in their poor novel adaptations. Why not try to capitalize on the success of a series like When Calls the Heart? However, what is it ultimately accomplishing besides creating more sub-par Christian entertainment?

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

Sacred [2017] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Barrett Lenox, despite his dark past, aspires to succeed in the boxing ring. However, the pressures of helping his wife, Danielle, build their life together, are weighing on him. Her father, who is training him, also pushes him to do better. Will he ever measure up to who he needs to be before more time has passed him by?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At the beginning of the film, the opening sequence is intriguing and shows promise of creative potential. Also, the soundtrack is effective, and video quality and audio quality are at least average. For the most part, camera work and lighting are good, even if there are some unnecessarily dark scenes throughout. Unfortunately, the editing is somewhat flat, which puts a drag on things, but these efforts were overall good for the tiny budget the production team had to work with. In the end, this is at least an honest attempt.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since Sacred is only based on a handful of characters and is basically an extended short film, it would have been good to see more depth from both the storyline and the characters. Working with only one subplot requires a lot of refinement, yet there are good attempts at flashbacks throughout this film, which definitely help things. Even so, there needed to be more substantial character-building dialogue to make it easier to get to know them as real people. As they are, the conversations are a bit too matter of fact and flat, and there are a lot of sports training montages for a less-than-an-hour film. Thus, there is a lot of wasted time that takes away from better possibilities. Moreover, there are a lot of interesting concepts and ideas throughout the movie that make it more worthwhile than it would have been, even if the Christian message needs some refinement. The ending is certainty unexpected and slightly creative though it needed a better lead-up than it had. In the end, Sacred has a non-typical plot structure that shows a lot of potential but didn’t quite go as far as it could have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of this film is average since it has some good scenes and some poorly executed ones. At times, emotions are overdone, and sometimes, lines are forced. Some cast members appear to be trying too hard, but there are also a handful of good performances. Also, some of the makeup work is fairly low quality, and there’s an unusual insinuation (without hard evidence) that a Caucasian cast member is playing an African-American character, but it’s difficult to know. In the end, this section rounds out a passable effort.

Conclusion

The creators of Sacred were onto something, but it’s possible that they didn’t quite know how to convey it. With such limited resources, it was wise for them to choose a shorter-than-usual runtime though it could have been better utilized by delving deeper into character development. Because of this, the story concept could use a remake, or the creative team could use this film as a foundation to build on for better ideas in the future. Either way, it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Reliant (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When the American dollar literally collapses overnight, a family is attacked by desperadoes and is forced to take their gun supply and survival gear into the woods behind their house in order to fend for themselves in the elements. However, the men who gunned their father down are still in pursuit (for some reason), which forces the family to either band together or tear each other apart as they try to defend themselves and survive in the brave new world of looting and living off the land. What will become of them all?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s clear that the money that was donated by people (so that they could be listed as executive producers on the credits) was mostly well-used and not only spent on guns and weaponry. Video quality and audio quality are good, and since the film is mostly filmed in the outdoors, this definitely helps things. The soundtrack is also passable. However, much of the camera work is shaky and dizzy in the name of being action-oriented. Also, most of the indoor scenes are unnecessarily dark and poorly lit. Further, the editing is extremely choppy, which makes things hard to follow, but there are likely other factors to this problem, such as the plot.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

From the get-go, the story makes zero sense. There’s no reason why the world would immediately descend into chaos basically in one day due to the sudden collapse of the dollar. How did it happen? What led to this extreme result and knee-jerk looting? This idea is too big and expansive to focus ninety percent of the plot on a collection of characters wandering around in the woods with guns. Did we mention that this movie is OBSESSED with guns? It holds nothing back in being outright propaganda that’s desperate to both create further political divide and garner the attention of powerful lobbying organizations. These concerns aside, there are tons of characters in The Reliant, and while flashbacks are used throughout, it’s not enough to make up for other problems, such as awkward conversations about vague things that are occurring in the world outside the forest, shoehorned Christian concepts, cheesy survival concepts, and outright fundamentalist messaging. Much like Unplanned, there was much fake outrage about The Reliant‘s so-called undeserved MPAA rating, but once again, the rating was actually justified due to the high amount of needless violence without proper balance. Regardless of this, the characters of The Reliant have extremely steep arcs and lack proper motivation for their actions as things just randomly happen one after another, and the plot lacks clear direction or purpose other than to shove certain worldviews down viewers’ throats. Hence, this section’s negative rating is given due to propaganda and due to total pointlessness.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Throughout nearly every scene, the cast members of The Reliant are coached to exhibit extreme emotions, including a lot of yelling and screaming. Though there is some potential despite these annoyances, dramatic and tense scenes are totally butchered either with awkward line delivery, off-beat emotional delivery, or general uncomfortability with the given roles. In the end, there is little good to highlight in this movie.

Conclusion

After the screener was provided for this film, one of the creators strongly requested that they be given the chance to “approve” this review before it was publicly posted. Surprisingly, this was the first and only request we’ve ever received for this to happen. Moreover, it further shows the amount of control that’s surrounding this movie and reflects the mentality behind its creation. Films like The Reliant have a clear agenda to push on their audiences and purposely make themselves lightning rods for controversy with the hopes of garnering attention from certain groups. There were no attempts in this movie to craft a meaningful plot based on accessible characters, so even if the creative team had the best message in the world, it’s still not correctly packaged. In the end, there are just too many issues here to discern any amount of potential there might have been in this half-baked idea.

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

China Cry (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Sung Neng Yee was glad when the Chinese Communists rose to power in her homeland to drive out the occupying Japanese, but she never anticipated the ultimate consequences this would cause. First, it cost her father his wealth and respect as a successful doctor, and then, the Communists began to tighten their grip on every aspect of Chinese life. However, she and her fellow people adjusted and went forward. Moreover, after beginning a family of her own, Sung Yeng Nee was accused of consorting with Westernizers and Christians. In the darkest moment of her life, she reached out to the God she had always shunned for the help only He could give her.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 1990s production, China Cry has a handful of concerns with it, such as a loud, outdated soundtrack and odd soft lighting at times. Video quality is also sometimes blurry even though the camera work is overall fine, including good establishing shots. For the most part, audio quality is average, and the sets, locations, and props are very realistic, culturally accurate, and historically appropriate. Although the film overall seems outdated and has a lot of quick cuts and awkward transitions due to time jumps in the plot, the production does enough to achieve an average rating, especially considering the time period it was made in.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Right out of the gate, unnecessary narration tends to hurt the plot development, but once it ceases, things begin to unfold naturally without hindrances even though the narration does pop up here and there afterward. Had more substantial and qualitative flashbacks been employed to replace the narration, this plot would have been even better. This would have better helped to bridge the large time jumps throughout the story (non-linear plot structure is the only way to effectively handle lots of content), yet on its face, this narrative is still engaging and very intriguing due to the obscurely interesting portions of history it explores. Key themes are subtly introduced in order to let the character feel more authentic and real than they otherwise would be; the writers definitely did a good job at presenting people at face value rather than trying to push messages via strawmen. Even still, there are some lagging scenes that could have been better re-purposed to improve character growth even more, especially since the second half of the story tends to rush through a lot of content that would have been better explored slowly. This is why a non-linear plot style centered around the weak explanation for the narration would have been appropriate. In the end, China Cry still packs a very powerful message that’s still relevant for all Christians today. It’s too bad that’s is hidden behind poorly designed storytelling, but this true account is nonetheless engaging for all audiences.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although many of the cast members tend to be dramatically stiff, the lead actress and lead actor are standouts for their comfortably real line delivery and believable emotions. Others tend to lack natural flair for acting, but it’s refreshing to see a culturally authentic cast. Costuming also reflects this commitment to cultural accuracy. In the end, the acting improves enough by the second half of the movie, and the lead acting carries it most of the way.

Conclusion

China Cry definitely deserves a remake, possibly in a miniseries form to further explore alternate subplots and to present the story in a more comprehensive and non-linear fashion. In the end, this film was made very early on in Christian entertainment, but it was onto something we don’t see in many newer movies: a poignant message about relying on God during difficult times and witnessing His miraculous intervention. Thus, many audiences will enjoy this movie, and maybe, new film makers will be inspired to try something outside the norm.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Bonhoeffer, Agent of Grace (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t want to get involved as the Nazis rose to power in Germany and demanded absolute submission from all institutions, including churches. However, after taking time away in America, he sensed God calling him back to his homeland. Then, the Nazi regime hit home as his twin sister and her Jewish husband had to escape Germany for fear of Nazi nationalism. Thus, when a close friend invited him to get involved in the underground working against Nazi power, Bonhoeffer felt he had to do something to stand against tyranny. Nonetheless, he never anticipated how far he would have to go and what he would experience as a result.

Production Quality (2 points)

For an early 2000s production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Agent of Grace to make it historically authentic, which is evidenced by a great use of realistic-looking sets, props, and locations. Also, the video quality is mostly good except for some outdated-looking portions, and the camera work is standard. Audio quality is on the mark, but it would be nice if there was a more substantial soundtrack to enhance the emotional experience. At the beginning of the movie, the editing is commendable as it uses an overlaying style with effective out-of-order storytelling, yet this is discarded in the last two-thirds of the film and replaced with a very standard linear style. There are also some abruptly awkward cuts that put a damper on things, but overall, this is a respectable production, especially for the time period, and is good enough to be above-average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

There’s no doubt that the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an excellent and worthwhile one to tell, and in this endeavor, this storyline makes good attempts at character development via adequate dialogue. Where the beginning and the end are interesting, the middle of the story tends to sag a bit as it’s not very engaging and merely presents a collection of isolated and disconnected scenes where things sometimes happen without much lead-up. The good thing is that narration, while it would have been easy to lean on, is entirely avoided, and the conversations between characters are realistic enough. The quick passage of time in the narrative is often difficult to deal with, so it might have been better to frame the entire story as a flashback from the ending sequence since bridging large time gaps while also keeping audience isn’t an easy feat at all. Even still, many sequences are quite good and make the movie worth your time although the amount of off-screen content shows there’s too much in this story to cover in one film. In the end, Agent of Grace is a great effort and is one that was rarely seen in the early 2000s, so at the very least, it makes for a good historical experience.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The best part of this movie is the culturally correct acting and the culturally authentic casting. The costuming is also historically accurate. Besides this, the actual acting quality is very professional, including line delivery and emotional expression. There are very few errors to note here…there are just a few lapses, but this may be due to other elements. Overall, this strong section is enough to push the film past the halfway mark.

Conclusion

This historical account would definitely work better as a miniseries, especially since there are many side plots that didn’t have a chance for exploration in Agent of Grace. There’s a lot of interest and intrigue surrounding this period of history, so more time would have been good. Unfortunately, this film was made before Christian series were even considered outside the children’s entertainment realm; thus, a remake of Bonhoeffer’s narrative and the related elements would be pertinent. Nevertheless, this movie is still worth your time as it portrays a highly important tale that’s still relevant for us today.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Crave: The Fast Life (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

For years, Max has resented his father for leaving them. Now, this anger boils beneath the surface as he endeavors to make a big name for himself as a club promoter in the LA night club scene. However, when he’s faced with a lucrative offer he can’t refuse, little does he know that he’s sinking deeper into pride and arrogance. He refuses to turn to God as things seem to be falling apart around him, but a series of events begins to change his heart and remind him of his mother’s faith.

Production Quality (2 points)

Since it is a 2018 production, Crave: The Fast Life should have exhibited a bit more of a dynamic nature. As it is, the video quality is grainy at times, even though the camera work is mostly fine. At times, there is odd lighting throughout, but all production elements do get better as they go. Subtle camera angles throughout reveal well-placed recurring props, and settings are overall realistic and authentic. The soundtrack is also effectively integrated throughout, and the editing is mostly average. In the end, the production does enough in the second half to achieve and above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

From the get-go, it seems like the screenwriters have a fairly interesting story to share in Crave, which is evidenced by an effective beginning that contains a key character flashback. Other flashbacks are also well-done throughout the course of the plot, yet this technique isn’t used to its fullest potential as the storyline tends to jump around in time using only time stamps to keep the audience oriented. This method of storytelling isn’t the best, even though there are some good attempts to gradually develop character personality and motive. Even so, the time jumps can be a bit disorienting at times, and while the avoidance of narration is commendable, it’s still somewhat confusing for character continuity. Sometimes, dialogue tends to be a bit forward and forced, and the Christian message-pushing seems off-base as it’s portrayed as primarily a church-going habit combined with some behavior modification. There’s some sermonizing done by ‘perfect’ Christian characters who seem to assume that giving people verses without getting to know them is sufficient for a life change. However, one of the plot’s central themes is a hard, realistic look at how generational patterns repeat, which is good, but it tends to wade into some too realistic and slightly edgy content at times. The middle of the story lags and loses some focus and creativity as dynamic storytelling is exchanged for Christian platitudes and quick fixes. The character arcs in the last third of the film are too steep to be believed, and it all culminates in a very quick and rushed ending that easily fixes things with little to no consequences. In the end, there was a lot of potential here, so hopefully, next time, this creative team will be able to work out the kinks of their otherwise good storytelling.

Acting Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the acting in Crave is mostly average. It starts out a bit slow but improves with time like other elements of the film do. Some scenes can feel a bit awkward and have a one-take tone to them while others come off as quickly filmed. Moreover, emotional scenes can seem forced at times, but in the big picture, there is enough good here to outweigh the inexperience. The cast members appear to mean well and want to do their best, so this is a good way to approach things. In the end, this film has some positive marks, and it’s a good start for this creative team.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that Christian entertainment creators are trying to expand the horizons of the genre with films like Crave that would have never been considered just under a decade ago. This progress is encouraging, so we hope to see more forward motion in this area. However, as creativity grows, we also need to see production, acting, and plot qualities grow with it, especially storyline and character growth. We’re just now getting to the point where Christian entertainment is depicting ‘flawed’ characters in the world outside the church, so now, as Christians, we need to get better at telling captivating stories that will truly reach people for Christ.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

To Save a Life (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is one of the most popular kids in school: he’s a basketball star on track for a big scholarship, and he has the girlfriend everyone wanted. He seems to have friends everywhere, but he’s chosen to ignore the only friend he had in middle school because it’s not cool to hang around him anymore. However, this appears to lead to his old friend becoming suicidal and bringing a gun to school one day in an apparent last-ditch attempt for help. In the fallout of the tragedy, Jake and his friends try to get back to normal, but they seem to sink deeper into their vices as a response to the trauma. What is the true purpose of life, and is it possible for high school to have meaning?

Production Quality (2 points)

As an early 2000s production, To Save a Life is good despite some minor missteps. For one, the flashback sequences, while great to include, sometimes come off as a bit disorienting and invasive as they tend to jump back and forth too much and use disruptive flashing effects. In a similar vein, some montages are a bit confusing and protracted in length, especially since they take up time that could have been used on other things. However, there are plenty of positives to note about this production, For one, the soundtrack is fairly good, and the camera work is professionally artistic even if there is some wild zooming and cutting during suspenseful scenes. Nonetheless, much of the production elements improve as time goes on, and video quality, sets, locations, and props are all great in each part of the film. As a whole, the editing is good enough considering how much content is in the story and how many characters there are, so overall, this is an above average production that’s mostly on the mark and improves with runtime.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Even in the beginning, Brian Baugh was always a master of capturing the real human experience, especially of Millennial coming of age years, as he weaves complex storytelling via raw, realistic topics, effective flashbacks, and accessible characters. To Save a Life is a real and honest look at authentic problems facing teenagers both in high school and in the church. It’s a hard but necessary look at the factors leading to teen suicide and teen substance abuse, among other vices; in doing so, the plot unfolds fairly well without dumping too much information onto the audience in the beginning as plot points are developed gradually. The relationships among the characters are very easy to believe as they feel like real people who do real things with real motivations. The psychological material therein is used in very great ways, and the hard look at problems within the church is refreshing. To Save a Life has a very complex cast of characters that makes it feel more like a series than a movie; because of this, some of the characters arcs are a bit too steep due to lack of adequate development time. Even still, the dialogue is well-constructed as the subplots weave together, but the number of storylines is also the slight undoing of the film as we’d like to see some more backstories and more explorations of the issues rather than trying to cover too much in one film. Because of how many ideas are in one movie, the epilogue and the lead-up to it tend to fix things too quickly and easily without many tangible character consequences. The climax scene is also slightly contrived just to have one and only leads to expository dialogue designed to finish things off. In the end, To Save a Life is a massive mixed bag of content that is both rewarding and disappointing, yet Brian Baugh’s talents are still undeniable in his first movie attempt.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

At first, the acting can come off as a bit awkward, but this also tends to work in the film’s favor. This is really the only nitpick to point out since the cast is overall really good despite its large size. There are quite a few standout roles…even Randy Wayne posts a good one. Due to the sheer number and diversity of cast members, they would have done so well in a series, but alas, this film occurred before the era of Christian streaming. Nevertheless, perhaps something similar to To Save a Life will be crafted in the future.

Conclusion

We would definitely love to see Brian Baugh make a series either like this movie or about something else because some creators are just too big for the big screen. Some creators (see Dallas Jenkins) are better the small screen because series provide much better forums to explore complex characters and subplots. No matter what, Baugh is consistently showing today that he has a profound understanding of people, and with two Hall of Fame entries after To Save a Life (I’m Not Ashamed and The World We Make), the sky is the limit for his creative potential.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

The World We Make (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

The Grove family has had their share of heartache over the past few years, but family friend Jordan Bishop has always been a constant support for them. However, the dynamics begin to shift when Jordan and Lee begin to develop a relationship after the grief seems to settle. Many discourage them from getting involved, and the small town seemingly works against their being together. Together, they experience unexpected prejudice and bias while discovering that they had more hiding below the surface than they previously realized.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2019 film, The World We Make is the type of respectable production we should be seeing time and again. There are very few flaws to point out here save for the slightly awkward editing near the end of the film (likely due to large story scope). Camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all basically flawless even though most scenes are filmed outdoors. The sets, locations, and props are extremely authentic and well-utilized; on-location shooting is definitely a big plus. Although the soundtrack could be a bit more than it is, this is a very high-level effort for a partially low-budget film, which goes to show what a little experience and proper collaboration can do for a movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Brian Baugh has always been committed to developing raw and real storylines based on accessible characters (I’m Not Ashamed). While The World We Make is one of his calmer tales, it’s nonetheless refreshing and believable. While the scope of this story may be a bit narrow, it’s nonetheless true-to-life and demonstrates great understanding of real people. The central romance is deeper than what we usually see in these types of films because it feels more believable and everyday. There are some very important themes explored, including grief avoidance, small town prejudice, and racial ostracizing. Characters make realistic decisions based on personality and motive rather than on plot necessity, and the storyline has a few slightly unexpected turns. As a whole, this is a very enjoyable plot to witness, and while it could have been a bit better since the ending is fairly rushed and somewhat cutoff, it’s still great as it is, which is enough to push this film over the top and onto the Hall of Fame.

Acting Quality (3 points)

There are virtually no flaws in the acting department. Caleb Castille owns another starring role, and Kevin Sizemore adapts a unique character that suits him. Gunnar Sizemore is a supporting role, but he could be a new rising star. Further, Gregory Alan Williams demonstrates a much more effective role than he’s played in the past. Overall, there is clear acting coaching present here as emotions and lines are authentically delivered, which rounds out a very commendable effort.

Conclusion

Although The World We Make could have been a bit more dynamic than this, it mostly reaches its fullest potential as a film. There are a few nitpicks, but in the grand scheme of things, Brian Baugh is continually setting himself apart as a master of characters, which seems to give him a better proclivity for series writing rather than movie writing. Indeed, not counting this year, we’ve had a longstanding drought in Christian series, so with new opportunities coming available (VidAngel), we may be poised to seeing a breakout in creators like Baugh directing their talents toward series rather than only films. Regardless of what happens, The World We Make is another good addition to the Hall of Fame and is one you’ll definitely want to make time for.

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

When Calls the Heart, Season 6 (Series Review)

We don’t speak of her anymore

Plot Summary

And once again we return to the fake small town known as Hope Valley for another fruitless season of people living in the dream world crafted by the series creators. Hardly anybody remembers Jack the Mountie anymore except for the fact that he and Elizabeth were married long enough to produce an instant child who’s coincidentally named after him. While Daniel Lissing willingly left the show, which was last season’s biggest news, Lori Loughlin was literally handcuffed, removed, and totally scrubbed from the show. The shadow of her scandal looms over the sixth season, especially with how Hallmark mishandled the whole ordeal and drew unnecessary attention to the problems. As a whole, Abigail’s awkward exit from the show and the subsequent complete rewrite of the show is the most interesting things that happened, but why are we not surprised? Michael Landon Jr. always planned to subject Erin Krakow to his favorite young-widow-starts-sort-of-dating-again treatment as he always has, so there’s nothing left to do but once again point out the same old flaws this series commits and count down the minutes for the Hearties to descend on my little blog post to vehemently defend all things wholesome in the face of such heartless (lol) criticism.

Production Quality (2 points)
What’s a Hallmark production without the same carbon-copy lineup of good camera work and video quality, acceptable audio quality, and that predictable, nauseatingly bubbly soundtrack? When Calls the Heart part VI checks all the proverbial boxes in this category, and it’s getting very difficult to differentiate any of the seasons from each other (except for the first two). Hope Valley still consists of the same old sets, locations, and props that are no doubt re-purposed for other Hallmark productions and are designed to make the audience believe this is a real Western town. Also, there’s still that tiny forest area Bill goes to dramatically reveal another part of his vastly complex yet noticeably cagey backstory. The only complaint for this section (besides their doing the same thing with no noticeable changes or improvements) is that we still don’t have a set for the beauty salon where the female characters get their hair done (although we might have gotten a quick glimpse at it in the finale).

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
As we’ve said before, ever Hamilton took over Hope Valley, nothing has ever been the same. We just get the same old helium-infused characters spinning in circles as they retrace old plots steps over and over again. The only chances we have to get outside of the Hope Valley crossroads are Bill’s forest trips to tell us another part of his ever-fluctuating history, but now that we have a new Mountie, I guess we’ll have some trips to that bridge or something. Elsewhere, Elizabeth keeps us wondering why she’s even still in the series as her heart (lol) is passed around like a football and only exists for Michael Landon Jr. and company to continue their fetish of pairing a woman with a law enforcement character just long enough for her to get pregnant before killing said man near the end of the movie\series or even in between installments. Seriously, how is Elizabeth and Lucas vs Nathan any different from Charles vs Jack (except that Marcus Rosner was an essential addition to the show yet was stolen from us)? Elsewhere, the town is littered with many empty-minded side romances that they desperately want us to care about (although Aren Buchholz is quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of the entire series). Even Rosemary is losing her luster as a satirical comic relief who reminds us how un-serious the whole ordeal is as the writers are muting her character to go all dark and brooding because of [WHOOPS SPOILER]. And then there’s that whole situation with Abigail. Ironically, just before Lori Loughlin was led away by the police, her character made a hilariously funny reference to how Bill needed to bring some random bad guy to justice, and this is definitely the defining moment of the entire season. Loughlin’s scandalous shadow looms large over the poor town; even after the writers awkwardly tried to erase her from the universe’s memories, everything was clunky following the hiatus. Subplots awkwardly start and stop with no real conclusions. Scenes between Elizabeth and Lucas seem directly copied from Beauty and the Beast (yes, he gave her a library). Gowen is as uneven as ever (seriously, what do the writers expect from him at this point?). They all seem lost without Abigail to guide them in their everyday lives, but alas, she and Cody (awwww he left too!) has bigger fish to fry in court “back east.” Thus, with nothing really new to say here besides the same garbage we’ve seen from the past two indiscernible seasons, Hearties only have this incoherent stream of consciousness to parse through as they rush from Facebook to “own” the author of this post with zingers better suited for a clickbait news site.

Acting Quality (0 points)
For the most part, the acting of this season is as sappy as ever, but there are a handful of instances, especially near the end, that feel very muted and more scripted than usual. This is no doubt that this is due to some of the redone footage after Loughlin’s untimely exit, and the cast members were likely just emotionally distraught over her absence. Overall, there’s really nothing new to write home about (although Elizabeth does quite a bit of writing these days), and this section is award no points because we expect better than this after six seasons.

Continuity Quality (0 points)
As previously mentioned, some of this season’s subplots seem to disappear from the writing with no warning, which is a likely byproduct of the rework done following Loughlin’s arrest. Otherwise, it’s just typical plug and play romances as the writers introduce one after another to the point where you can’t hardly tell the different between them. Also, as a side note, at least a third of the subplots in season six relate in some way to the upcoming summer spinoff show When Hope Calls, which is possibly where many characters will escape to once When Calls the Heart finally runs out of steam.

Conclusion

Oh yeah, so there’s a seventh season coming up. MLJ has at least two more seasons to use Elizabeth’s indecisiveness and lack of personality as a carrot to dangle in front of his rabid fans, but sooner or later, they’ll get tired of this song and dance. With Loughlin’s scandal-ridden exit, this series is already running on fumes and has only been sustained by constant romance bait-and-switch. I mean, is anybody the least bit annoyed with how they treat Elizabeth? Anyhow, this has been another WCTH review from your favorite reviewer in which I didn’t talk about much substantial and just sort of rambled on about random things I thought of while I binge-watched this season. Begin commenting now……………………….

Final Rating: 2 out of 14 points

God Bless the Broken Road (Movie Review)

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I need a loan from the pawn shop!

Plot Summary

When Amber’s husband is killed in an overseas bombing while on tour in the Middle East, her entire life seems to come apart piece by piece. She struggles to support her and her daughter in a small town because she obviously didn’t get any military benefits from the government. She also pushes everyone away and doesn’t go to church anymore, but thankfully, a semi-bad-boy race car driver has crashed in town because he needed some time off from doing whatever it was he was doing before. This gives him time to do stuff with all the kids in town, which is where he becomes obsessed with Amber’s daughter and eventually Amber herself. However, Amber still is struggling financially to the point where she needs an old-fashioned loan from the pawn shop. Will the madness ever end?

Production Quality (2 points)

As per usual for most recent Harold Cronk and PureFlix productions, God Bless the Broken Road has a fine, generic one to offer with nothing particularly special or negative about it. The sets, locations, and props are somewhat limited, but camera work, video quality, and audio quality are all fine. The vanilla soundtrack leaves something to be desired, and the editing is poor because of the nature of the story, but on the whole, this is a fine attempt. However, this brand of production is also becoming very common place in Christian entertainment, so it’s time for deep-pocketed outfits like PureFlix to show us a little something more.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2 points)

Regardless, any good this film has to offer is totally negated by the total nonsense of this plot. At times, it feels copied from a Karen Kingsbury novel since this idea has been done so much before, but it’s actually worse because of the logical inconsistencies and flimsy premise. Too many unrealistic things happen that don’t appear to be rooted in reality, and this makes a mockery of real problems people may face in life. Most of the scenes are cheesily forced to convey a certain point in typical PureFlix Obvious style. An example of this is an old standby: awkward sermonizing of lessons they want the audience to be force-fed. Another instance is shown through the most generic dialogue and conversations that were surely purchased (or stolen) from Acme Stock Dialogue, Inc. The characters are just pawns in the inevitable progression of the plot as convenient turns happen to drive home certain agendas. Perhaps the worst part of it all is the fact that every horribly overused inspirational cliche is car-crashed into this one epic fail of a film…an exploration of how this is done would require a completely separate analysis. As a whole, God Bless the Broken Road is just another example of PureFlix Drama wherein every scene has to be an emotional climax as the characters are just extremely stereotyped caricatures designed to represent issues rather than people. If you’re looking for a corny Christian movie all-in-one deal, this one will be worth your money and time. Otherwise, avoid it like the plague.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While plastic white people take center stage to bore us with bland performances (in their defense, they weren’t given much to work with in the line department), better cast members are forced to take backseat as they watch the madness unfold before them and likely wonder when they’ll ever make a big enough break to no longer be trapped in PureFlix World. Main cast members come off as dead-faced and emotionally blank a lot of the time, which makes the forced emotional climaxes of the plot even worse. In the end, there’s some good here, but this sections rounds off an overall unacceptable effort in today’s Christian entertainment world.

Conclusion

If we wanted the sappiest, most unrealistic Hallmark film we could find, we would watch this film because it at least isn’t constantly interrupted by drug commercials. But who’s got that kind of time? Instead, let’s hope films like God Bless the Broken Road will become less and less commonplace as Christian audiences demand more quality from Christian entertainment creators. We’ve finally gotten to where above-average productions are commonplace, so it’s time to let the writers be the writers when it comes to screenplays.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Heart of a King by Jill Eileen Smith

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a review copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Jill Eileen Smith’s newest novel is unique in many ways and is overall a great portrayal of the life of King Solomon. While the novel is imperfect, it stands out among many works of Biblical fiction for being both honest and relatable. The opening chapters introduce the reader to Solomon, a young man who lives in his father’s shadow and longs to be named co-regent. In the midst of his struggle to climb the political ladder, he runs into a young woman named Naamah who he has not seen in five years. Naamah is a somewhat spoiled and willful Ammonite woman whose one desire is marriage to Solomon. Despite her flaws, Naamah worships Yahweh rather than the gods of Ammon, and believes that love can overcome all obstacles. Solomon and Naamah are wed and soon have a child together – Rehoboam. However, Solomon’s increasing desire for political alliances leads him away from his first love and in many different directions. Abishag is a young virgin who cared for King David until his death. She is devout in her worship of Yahweh and seeks peaceful relationships with others. Now a king, Solomon marries her for reasons both of love and political advantage. Following this marriage, he goes on to wed Siti, princess of Egypt, the queen of Sheba, and many other women. Will Solomon’s wisdom prove to be a blessing or a curse? To answer this question, read the book!;) This plot holds the attention quite well from beginning to end, and is punctuated with creative musings of The Teacher that became the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes (King Solomon). Smith tastefully weaves passages from Song of Solomon into the story and uses them to shape Solomon’s personality and relationship choices. Furthermore, Solomon’s chaotic personal life and wrong choices are portrayed in a realistic manner. The main flaw here is that the five main characters – each with their own story – make for a bit of a choppy read, especially in the second half of the novel. Additionally, the ending, although well done, feels a bit rushed. However, this remains the best fictional work of King Solomon’s life that I have read to date, therefore earning the storyline an above average rating.

Character Development (3 points)

Smith’s character development is the strongest part of her novel because it demonstrates her clear understanding of different personalities and tendencies among people. Solomon is the best character because his arc slowly develops throughout the novel and is punctuated with a creative look at poetry and philosophical musings he actually wrote. Additionally, his rationalization of disobedience and distrust of God’s promises are relatable and add much to the storyline. Naamah’s character is quite good at first, as is Abishag’s, however, both women feel left unfinished. In contrast, Siti has a clearly defined personality, and Smith’s queen of Sheba is unique and realistic. The only other flaw to mention here is that Naamah and Abishag have a somewhat choppy arc. In spite of these flaws, Smith’s portrayal of court politics and royals using one another is quite good and would make a great Bible miniseries. Therefore, Smith earns an above average score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Smith earns a full point in creativity for weaving Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon into her story in such a way that the Biblical accounts and her fictional story are interdependent upon one another. The flaws that exist in this novel are mainly a result of it being a standalone work. It is my opinion that these errors could be corrected on the big screen by breaking the novel up into a miniseries. This series should focus on one character at a time and eventually tie their stories together to make for better continuity. It is our hope that Christian filmmakers will recognize unique Christian novels such as these for their potential, and act on this realization soon. Good job Ms. Smith! Your creativity is much appreciated!

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

The Horse Dreams Series by Stephen Bly

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Author’s Note: We were provided with free copies of the books in this series in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Stephen Bly’s distinctive writing style really comes to life in this eccentric, yet charming series. While it is not perfect, it is above average, and as always it is not your typical Western novel. In all three books Bly demonstrates a keen understanding of everyday people and an openness to other cultures that is rarely seen in his generation. The first novel, Memories of a Dirt Road Town, is a little bit slow to get started, and the first half will likely leave the reader scratching their head. However, it all comes together in the end to create a unique and humorous beginning to the story of Develyn Worrell. Develyn, or Dev as she prefers, is a middle-aged divorcee/schoolteacher who is unhappy with her life. She is weary of trying to mend fences with her daughter, and still upset with her husband for having an affair with a high school student. Dev is desperate for a change, which is why she decides to clear her summer calendar and travel to the Wyoming back-country – namely, her hometown. Leaving her best friend in charge of her home and spoiled cats, she packs everything she thinks she’ll need in the back of her Jeep Cherokee and sets off. Several noisy hotels and one midnight heart-to-heart in a diner later, Dev arrives in Wyoming to find that she is much more of a city girl than when she left. She makes friends with a rather unlikely candidate, a multiracial woman named Cree-Ryder who claims to have at least four different cultures in her family heritage. It takes Dev a little while to get used to Cree-Ryder’s rough and tumble ways, but not quite as long to get used to a gaggle of cowboys drooling over her at every turn. As one thing leads to another, Dev finds herself questioning her life choices in the silence of the open country, and gaining friendships she never expected. The plot in the first book is a bit slow to develop, but the well-placed humor and wit found in the second half, along with the simple yet well-crafted plotline, make up for this minor flaw. The second book starts a bit abruptly, but is quicker to gain the reader’s attention than the first novel. Furthermore, Bly delves into deeper and more meaningful content in this one. This novel is arguably the best in the series. Finally, the third book is equally predictable and unpredictable, but has good character arcs. All of this rounds out to a book series that is above average and worth reading. The Horse Dreams Series has been and will be loved by fans of Western fiction for years to come.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Stephen Bly was always known for his unique and multifaceted character models. This series is no different. His ability to portray male and female leads with equal pathos is a rare quality indeed to find in an author of Western action plots. Dev is well-developed through the creation of a raw and well-made backstory. Quint (her eventual love interest) is also realistic, however, in the end the reader is left wanting a little more from his character. Additionally, Dev’s daughter is well-crafted and relatable, however, she is barely existent in the first novel. Finally, Cree-Ryder is tied with Dev for the best character of the series. Her brutal honesty and natural humor add much to all three of the books, and her backstory is quite good. As always, Bly’s strength is character development. For this reason, he earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 points)

Finally, Bly earns a full point in originality for proving that all Westerns do not have to follow the same template. He manages to establish a sub-genre, so to speak, within Western fiction. Not only does he find subtle ways to include the message of the Gospel, but he also proves that female leads have a place in this genre. For this reason and others, I believe this book series would make a great TV series. The characters need no altering, the screenwriter should stick with what is there. The plot could use a few twists and smoke screens, but this is optional depending on what direction the filmmakers want to take. I feel that these characters could be brought to life on the big screen, and that the message of the story could be better communicated through this tool. To conclude, this was another job well done by Stephen Bly.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

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Amazed By You {The Faith Club} (Movie Review)

This has basically nothing to do with this movie

Plot Summary

When Christian Andrews gets a call to attend the funeral of a friend in an obscure New Mexico town, he has no choice but to immediately hitchhike his way there.  However, when he arrives, he finds that someone told him the wrong day of the funeral, so he’s actually too late.  Nevertheless, he decides to take the opportunity to go and stay at the ranch where his friend once lived, even though he has never met the ranch owners before.  He meets the family who owns the ranch and inevitability becomes immediately interested in dating the oldest daughter and decides he wants to start building a chapel on the ranch.  Other than tangling with two drunk convicts who work on the ranch in close proximity to teenage girls, not much else happens in this story.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a newer Christian film, about the only thing going in the favor of Amazed By You is its mostly average production quality.  However, by today’s standards, this should be a given.  In this film, the video quality and camera work are fine, as are the sets, locations, and props, but there are other issues to contend with, such as the stereotypical soundtrack and the audio that is often very quiet and sometimes hard to discern.  Also, there are a lot of awkward cuts and fadeouts and seem to cut scenes short, which also relates to the choppy editing of this movie that makes it difficult to follow at times.  As a whole, this production is average and looks good on the surface, but it leaves a lot of be desired.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Exactly, what is the plot of this movie?  From start to finish, the story is hard to follow as odd things appear to just happen for no particular reason.  It really isn’t rooted in reality very well, and the plot has no clear flow or purpose other than a predictable romantic subplot.  Each character comes off as plastic, empty, and unfeeling as they just spout uninspiring lines.  Any hope of character development is definitely subverted by the many montages that fill this movie’s run time.  It goes without saying that the view of women in the film is unusual, and as a side note, the ‘villains’ are extremely cheesy.  Overall, this is mostly a half-hearted movie effort with no clear direction and no concerted attempts to make characters into real people.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Although there weren’t substantial lines to work with in the first place, the acting of Amazed By You is awkward and wooden.  Emotions come off as forced, and line delivery is not convincing as there is a definite need for more coaching.  Unfortunately, this movie really don’t have much going for it.

Conclusion

It feels like Amazed By You was slapped together and forced to go into production without even deciding upon the messaging of the film.  It’s so vanilla that it lacks the typical worldview-pushing of a fundamentalist Christian film and the predictable elements of an inspirational horse film, even though on the surface it looks like it is both of these.  It’s hard to find a movie that’s so bland and empty that there really isn’t much to comment about.  If this was an attempt to make some quick cash off of inspirational audiences, the marketing really wasn’t that great.  In summary, in nearly every aspect, it’s impossible to understand how this film came to be or what it was even going for.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Unbroken: Path to Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After surviving months being stranded at sea and being tortured in a cruel Japanese prison camp, Louis Zamperini was finally returned home as a war hero.  His family celebrated his safe return, but little did anyone know that the war still raged in Louis’ mind.  His lead torturer, The Bird, never left his dreams, and hate burned inside of him.  Louis decided to drink to cover up the madness in his head, but this got him into trouble, so he was given a chance to start over on a vacation in Florida.  It was there that he met his future wife, and he felt like his life was finally in a good spot.  They married soon after, but the war did not cease in Louis’ mind as it continued to rage and push his marriage to the brink.  There was only one way to end the war–only if Louis was willing to surrender.

Production Quality (3 points)

Harold Cronk has had decent productions in the past, but he and his team really went all out for this one.  They obviously put a lot of time and effort into crafting extremely authentic and historically accurate sets, locations, and props.  This is not just another cheesy PureFlix ripoff because time and money were spent on attention to detail and one making it look real.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also extremely professional, but these should be a given in higher budget films like this one.  Further, the soundtrack of Unbroken: Path to Redemption is very impactful as Cronk made a wise decision to depart from the typical Will Musser soundtrack PureFlix films usually have.  Finally, the editing in this film is very good as it handles a large amount of content very well.  In summary, this is a rare find as a perfect PureFlix production, and it is definitely a breakout film for Cronk and his team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Despite what some critics may say, it was an excellent idea for this film to pick up where the Hollywood version left off because this second half of the story is much better than the first.  Hopefully, this film launches Christian entertainment into a new era of effectively using source material to produce great films.  The time jumps in Unbroken: Path to Redemption are handled very well without narration, and the dialogue is very well-crafted and well-constructed in order to build the characters into real, accessible people.  It goes without saying that the psychological elements in this film are exquisite and are perhaps the best in Christian film to date.  The use of flashbacks is wonderful, and the portrayal of PTSD is very accurate and on point.  Further, the plot progression is handled well, and the messaging is effective without being too over the top.  The only issues to raise with this plot relate to some slightly wasted time at the beginning of the film that is felt later when the ending comes off as a bit rushed, but this is really nitpicking because the story is presented very well and is definitely a breath of fresh air to Christian entertainment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It was absolute genius to cast Will Graham as Billy Graham in this film, and this is the sort of expertise we need to see more of in Christian films as we hopefully progress to a new era of Christian entertainment.  Elsewhere in this film, the acting is slightly awkward in the first few scenes, as if they were test scenes, but the acting quickly and dramatically improves as time goes on.  Samuel Hunt has a surprise breakout role as Zamperini, and he does a great job playing multiple different roles as the same character.  Conversely, Merritt Patterson cements a great role as the lead actress in this film.  Overall, each cast member owns his or her respective role very well and seems very comfortable in it.  This rounds out an excellent movie that is definitely worth your time.

Conclusion

Unbroken: Path to Redemption earns an x-factor point for portraying psychological elements very well and for having re-watchability qualities.  Much like Jon Gunn did in The Case for Christ, Harold Cronk and his team have found a new voice by effectively adapting source material into Christian film.  This is exactly what we need to be seeing more of by letting someone else take the screenwriting duties.  Building an authentic production and casting great actors and actresses is also key to success.  Unbroken: Path to Redemption will have far-reaching effects and is definitely worth your time to go see.

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 points

Forever My Girl (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Liam and Josie were in love all throughout high school, and many felt like they were destined to be together forever.  However, when they were on the verge of pledging their lives together forever, Liam experienced several life-changing moments.  First, his mother died suddenly, and Liam was discovered as a country artist and became successful almost overnight.  Thus, Liam left Josie behind without saying goodbye.  Now, after several years of fame and success, Liam has gotten into trouble with his drinking habit and has been advised to lay low for a while.  Thus, he returns to his hometown to live with his father, who is a pastor, and Liam is shocked at who he finds waiting for him there.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a modern, standard inspirational film, Forever My Girl checks all of the right production boxes.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit generic and uncreative, but the sets, props, and locations are all realistic, appropriate, and professional.  The only other minor issue to point out here is the fact that the editing isn’t the best it could be, but as a whole, this is a very high quality production that we have come to see as commonplace in recent Christian films, and it’s a trend we definitely need to see continue.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though it is based on a novel, Forever My Girl unfortunately follows a predictable and stereotypical storyline that has been done many times before.  The return-to-hometown plot has many different iterations, and this one is just the star-returns-to-the-hometown version.  However, the presentation of this predictability is not entirely annoying and does make some good attempts at being realistic, such as a good attempt to explore family systems and some general efforts to create believable characters and situations.  Even so, the characters need to be a bit deeper through better dialogue, and the main character’s inevitable arc is a too steep.  Nevertheless, the message of the movie is fine, and many audiences will find it to be a good movie.  It’s definitely ten times better than your average Hallmark throwaway.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though the lead actor and the lead actress seem confused and uncoached a lot of the time, the rest of the cast members make up for their deficiencies.  It’s unclear whether or not their characters are meant to be written that way, but it seems like the lead cast members could have contributed a bit more than they did.  However, the other members of the cast demonstrate great line delivery and realistic emotions, which is enough to bring this section over the average mark.  As a whole, this movie is good enough to be watchable.

Conclusion

It is definitely good idea to model movies after novels; if a film like this had not had a story written for it in a book, it likely would have been much worse.  This is definitely a practice we need to see more of on the coming days.  Hollywood has already figured out that using source material is the key to successful entertainment, so it’s time for Christian film makers to follow suit because if they put their minds to it, they can definitely do it better.  There is plenty of Christian source material to use, so it’s a great chance to keep using it.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Summer of ’67 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the years of the Vietnam War, families faced many different unique challenges posed by the international conflict.  Milly and Gerald have recently been married, but they have been forced to live with Gerald’s eccentric mother due to financial challenges.  Milly’s sister Kate is torn between the pro-war and anti-war efforts due to her mother’s past suicide.  When Gerald and Kate’s on-and-off boyfriend Peter are called to the war front for various reasons, Milly and Kate must both live with Gerald’s eccentric mother Joanna as the world around them seems to be falling apart.  Together, they must rekindle the faith they were always taught in order to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Sharon and Fred Wilharm of Mainstreet Productions have always had a commitment to building authentic productions.  Summer of ’67 is no exception, as they demonstrate a clear attention to specific historical detail in the props, sets, and locations.  Video quality and camera work are also quite professional.  Audio quality is mostly fine as well, although the soundtrack can sometimes be too loud and somewhat out of place.  As they are still transitioning from making silent films, some adjustments like this can be expected.  Also, the editing can be a bit choppy at times, which can cause the story presentation to be confusing.  Overall, with just a few more tweaks, the Wilharms are very close to mastering professional productions, especially those in need of historical authenticity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as Mainstreet Productions used to only make silent films, the plot of Summer of ’67 is not really what it could be.  It comes off as a loose collection of ideas that need better synthesis and organization.  The good thing is that the story does unfold without narration, but some of the dialogue is slightly expository.  Outside of a few interesting conversations, unfortunately, the dialogue does not do enough to build the characters as people.  Some scenes are too short and not explained very well, and time seems to jump from one thing to the next without very clear coherency or organization.  Thus, a lot of the characters come off as shallow, even though they have potential, and a lot of story ideas seem unfinished.  While the ending is very interesting and realistic, the lead-up is not quite enough to hold the attention of the audience.  Overall, it’s clear that the Wilharms really care about trying to making great films; they are just not quite there yet in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another adjustment from making silent films is obviously going to be acting coaching.  While this cast is mostly fine and has a lot of potential, there are one too many scenes where the cast members don’t appear to know what they are doing.  Some of the acting is too stilted and robotic in both line and emotional delivery.  As a good note, this might be Mimi Sagadin’s best role, but she needed a bit more screen time than she was given.  On the whole, this section is mostly average.

Conclusion

We know that the Wilharms really do mean well in their films, and the historical authenticity of this production has great value.  It’s definitely going to be an adjustment to move from silent to non-silent films, so growing pains are to be expected.  However, since the Wilharms have always been committed to improving however they can, we believe that Summer of ’67 is something that can be built off of for future improvement.  Perhaps next time, if a more substantial plot is crafted, the next Mainstreet film could be Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Love That Hurts (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Chris and Samantha are newlyweds who can’t wait to start a family.  However, their dream ends in heartbreak as their first child miscarries.  This tragedy pushes them apart as a couple and causes them each to seek fulfillment in all of the wrong places.  When another tragedy strikes their family, they will have to make a choice: will they grow apart or seek God to save their marriage?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

A Love That Hurts has a surprisingly above-average production for such a small budget.  Although there are some moments of echoed audio and some disorienting special effects, video quality and camera work are quite good.  Sets, locations, and props are slightly limited, but they are good considering what the creators had to work with.  Further, there are some abrupt cuts and transitions throughout, but as a whole, this is a very good production considering the tiny budget that was allotted for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there are some good attempts to portray accessible characters with realistic struggles, the characters of this story really need to be deepened, not only because this is a character-based plot, but also because it would make the story more meaningful.  As it is, a lot of the dialogue is too obvious and forces the plot along.  Some characters are too robotic as they appear to be pawns in the plot, only serving the purpose of spoon-feeding the audience an obvious message.  This message comes off as a somewhat plastic version of Christianity, including an odd portrayal of women.  Also, some characters are ‘overly Christian’ or become perfect through quick resolutions and easy fixes to problems.  However, not all is bad here as the writers at least demonstrate a care for realism, even if the plot is sometimes boring and slow.  The ending is a bit forced and rushed, as well as somewhat vague and abrupt.  In the end, it’s clear the writers meant well here, even if the delivery was misguided.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is an ‘amateur’ church cast, the cast members show a lot of potential and desire to do well.  There are plenty of good acting moments as real effort is evident.  The main issue to point out here is that sometimes the cast members appear to be overly practiced in their lines and emotions.  Some cast members could use a little more natural emotion, but as a whole, this film is an applaudable effort.

Conclusion

It’s rare to find a movie this highly rated with such a small budget.  Further, it is clear that this creative team was putting their great effort into making this a good project.  However, it seems like more could have been done in the plot department.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if they produce any more content in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

No Lost Cause (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After BethAnn is the victim of a car wreck, she is left paralyzed and angry at the world.  She feels like God hates her, and she definitely does not want to go live with her Christian father.  She is also angry that she is now behind in school.  BethAnn feels like her life has no meaning, but her father and his farm hand help her see otherwise.  Only when BethAnn is able to forgive the man who put her in the wheelchair will she be able to move to a new place in life.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a whole, No Lost Cause has a mostly average production.  This is evident in the fine video quality, yet the camera work and audio quality are inconsistent, including a generic soundtrack and some echoing audio.  Sets, props, and locations are somewhat limited to a few options.  However, there is improvement to these issues as the film goes on.  Editing is fairly standard, which overall rounds out an overall average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While this film is an interesting attempt to develop realistic characters with realistic struggles, it definitely does not go deep enough.  Dialogue stays around the surface rather than showing character motives, back stories, and personalities.  The premise is also somewhat limited and needed deeper characters to sustain it.  This is a nice idea with a slight amount of potential, but it needed definite upgrading.  Also, the romantic subplot is too predictable and shallow.  The characters arcs that are created are far too steep and suggest that being a good person will automatically heal you of physical ailments.  Further, the ending and resolution of problems are too rushed and unrealistic.  Thus, this idea could really use a rewrite.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are some moments of over-acting, including some forced emotions and lines, most of the members of this small cast are trying to be realistic and interesting in their characters, even if they didn’t have much to work with.  There are some awkward moments and a few random outbursts, but on the whole, this is an above average effort.

Conclusion

No Lost Cause is a good first-time film as it keeps things simple and doesn’t try to go too far outside of its bounds.  Even still, since this is a character-driven plot, it would have been much better to see deeper characters through more substantial dialogue and clearer character motivations.  However, perhaps this creative team still has better things in store.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points