Shake Off the World (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Austin is a talented football player, but his coach has it out for him for no particular reason, which has forced Austin to stay on the bench for most plays.  Whenever he gets a chance, Austin makes big plays, but when some off-the-field issues begin to change and move him in a different direction, Austin isn’t sure if he can live without football or his girlfriend.  However, Austin discovers a new group of friends who introduce him to Jesus, and his life is never the same after that.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a fairly new production, Shake Off the World has a good enough production to get by.  This is evidenced by clear video quality and fine camera work, including good sports action shots.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but there are too many moments where the soundtrack is simply too loud to hear anything.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly fine, but there are quite a few scenes that are randomly dark for no good reason.  Further, there are too many quick fade-outs and transitions that appear to interrupt the flow of the film at times.  Overall, this production does just enough to get above the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While Shake Off the World appears to begin as a slightly interesting true story, it quickly devolves into a big nothingburger.  Predictably present are all the typical sports story elements, but it still lacks an effort to be interesting.  In between the expected sports montages are very dry and drab conversations between characters that do nothing to develop them as people.  They aren’t accessible, and the empty dialogue makes them come off as wooden and stiff.  Thus, they are hard to relate to, and they appear to be swept along in random plot circumstances that have no continuity, logic, or feeling.  Due to the high amount of time spent in montages, the story line is rushed and actually quite short and small in scope.  Most scenes and subplots come off as disconnected from the others, and by the time the film ends, it feels like it barely got off the ground.  When a film feels like it’s over before it began, something went horribly wrong in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite not having many lines to work with, the acting is actually just average.  The cast definitely means well even though they are underwhelming at times.  Some lines are mumbled, and some emotions appear to not reach their full potential.  However, they did enough to keep this area at the middle mark.

Conclusion

It’s quite hard to understand why this film was made and what it was going for.  If the creators meant well, their messaging was totally lost in translation.  They either cut too many scenes or didn’t plan enough to begin with.  While it was a good idea to make a film based off of true events, the true story definitely did not come through, and this frustrates many audiences.  Maybe this creative team will have better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

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

 

The Last Straw [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The McDonald family is full of screaming kids, and now they have taken on a trouble making relative for the holidays whose family doesn’t care about her.  As the kids perform all of their silly escapades, the shunned relative tries to fit into the neighborhood and meets a random boy next door whom she automatically likes, of course.  Then Mrs. McDonald, at the end of her rope, decides to institute a contest to see who can do the most deeds so they can put straw in their nativity manger.  It’s just another holiday tale.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Rob Diamond and his team know how to put together a respectable production.  Video quality and audio quality are what they should be, even though the soundtrack is fairly generic.  There are some random moments of shaky cam, however.  Yet sets, locations, and props are fine, albeit somewhat limited.  There are also some minor editing concerns, but there are really no glaring errors.  On the whole, this is an above average effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the plot.  Besides being an extremely limited idea full of silly asides and manufactured drama, it is mostly eccentric.  The characters tend to be overdone yet not well developed, even though they spend a lot of time sitting around and talking.  With no clear purpose or direction, sometimes it seems like this story is a joke.  The ‘struggles’ of the characters are impossible to appreciate.  There is also a cheesy forced romance.  Overall, this is really not a complete enough idea to make a full-length film; the priorities of this film needed to be reevaluated.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Besides being very awkward at times, the cast members have a tendency to be overly happy and loud in most scenes.  Emotions are very plastic and laughably fake.  There is far too much shouting and yelling throughout, especially from the child cast members.  However, there are plenty of good moments, as well as improvement throughout, which saves this section from being zero.

Conclusion

In summary, it’s very hard to justify the making of this film.  It is based on a very thin idea, and it seems like it was rushed into being made without stopping to think about where this plot was even going.  Stories like this need to be seriously slowed down and evaluated for necessity and quality.  Until this happens on a consistent basis, we will keep having films like this put out.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Sacred Vow (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Doug and Amber married when they were young, in college, and hopelessly in love.  However, as they grew older, they slowly but surely grew apart.  Then Doug does the unthinkable: he becomes involved with another woman who makes him want to get out of his current marriage.  But Amber refuses to sign the divorce papers until they both give their marriage a chance.  With secrets between them and their faith in tatters, will they ever be able to repair what is broken?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Sacred Vow is good.  Video quality and camera work are on par.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, which seems out of place in this production.  The soundtrack could also use some work.  Sets and locations are acceptable, but the reality-television confessional style presentation seems counter-intuitive.  It’s very odd to have characters tell you things like this—it would be better for these things to be shown rather than told.  Thus, editing is somewhat lazy and relies on these odd confessionals.  Overall, this is an average production, but it feels like it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The confessionals also hamper with the plot structure.  Are we supposed to pay attention to the characters telling us about the story or to the story itself?  The “interviews” serve as a crutch for actual dialogue and character development.  Besides the interviews, there are also flashbacks that are fine but need more development to make sense rather than constant voiceovers.  Though this story has a good message and point, it is sometimes too shallow and simplistic, and at other times, it is too edgy.  It’s really hard to know who these people are outside of their interview spots.  There are also a few too many cheesy elements that hold this idea back.  In the end, what started as a likely good idea became too clunky to work well.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, this cast screams amateurish.  Sometimes their performances appear to be overly practiced, while other times they are quite awkward.  Some line delivery is too breathy and measured.  Also, costuming and makeup are very odd and off-putting.  Overall, though it seems like they meant well, it’s not really good enough.

Conclusion

Films like Sacred Vow start off as something interesting but all too quickly and easily fall short of their original intentions.  Though some decent money was spent on this film, it wasn’t applied in a way that makes it worthwhile.  The story is too underwhelming and the cast is not adequate enough.  In the end, unfortunately, Sacred Vow is just another one of those random Christian films that easily gets tossed aside and lost in the shuffle.  What we need is more dynamic films, not more five-dollar-bin fodder.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Uphill Battle (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Erica Stratton wants to move on from her divorce and from the wounds it caused, but she is struggling to connect with people and to guide her teenage children in life.  She has taken up cycling as a pastime and is trying to spend more time with God, but she has mostly shut herself off from other people, except for her coworkers.  But when a fellow cyclist takes interest in her and pursues her, she doesn’t know what to do.  She is also preoccupied with trying to keep her kids out of trouble so that they do not end up like her husband.  In the end, she will have to decide if she wants to move forward or keep looking back to the painful memories of the past.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a film of this caliber, the production of Uphill Battle isn’t really that bad.  The video quality is mostly clear, but the camera work is somewhat amateurish.  Some of the angles are awkward, while others are not.  The sound quality is inconsistent, but most of the outside scenes are filmed fairly well.  The sets and location aren’t very creative or professional.  There are flashbacks that are presented in a cheesy fashion.  In this same vein, the editing is all over the place.  In the end, the production is just average—not horrible nor great.  Unfortunately, this cannot be said about the remainder of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Somewhere, there is a good idea hidden in Uphill Battle.  Divorce needs to be explored on the big screen, as do addiction and post-divorce scars, but Battle just muddles all the issues.  Characters are portrayed as black and white, as either perfect or evil.  Erica is almost a mockery of women, as she seems empty and air-headed, always forgetting things and hiding from people.  Her ex-husband is over the top and unbelievable.  Other characters are mindless.  The plot meanders along with no real direction—things just happen randomly, characters talk about things without engaging the audience, and then the movie just ends awkwardly.  It seems like this was an idea that never really panned out and needed to be re-thought at the storyboard.  The good message is lost in another poorly made Christian film.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast needed some serious coaching that they do not get.  They show potential that is not tapped.  Emotions aren’t believable and line delivery is either lackadaisical or overdone.  In short, this film wouldn’t have been nearly as bad with better coached actors and actresses.

Conclusion

Another film review, another wasted idea.  There are countless Christian movies like Uphill Battle that take a vague interesting concept and run with it, forcing a movie to be made without any real thought or effort put into it.  The end result is a continuously flooded movie market that further defames the title ‘Christian film’.  If you have a great movie idea, then take your time to make it great so that you can truly make a difference in culture.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Stand Strong (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matt Webster and his family are more wealthy than the average American, and they make sure everyone knows it.  However, they don’t even like to be around each other and are always trying to find ways to cover up the emptiness inside each of them.  But when a series of adverse financial events begin affecting them, they are faced with the choice to live differently or lose everything.  Unfortunately, they do not curb their lifestyles and instead are forced to vacate their immaculate home, sell most of their possessions, and move in with Matt’s brother and his family, who do not share their lavish ideals.  In order to truly fill the emptiness inside, the Websters will have to be willing to learn and to live differently.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The one good thing about Stand Strong’s production is the video quality—at least it’s clear and professional-looking.  However, there is really nothing else good to say.  The sound quality back and forth depending on the type of scene that is being filmed.  The sets and locations are very limited, mostly taking place inside of the two Webster houses, even though other locations are unsuccessfully attempted.  Due to the confusing editing, sometimes the viewer has to guess what is actually happening.  The camera work is only good when the camera is obviously stationary.  In short, it seems like more could have been done here, but nothing materializes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is a profound point somewhere buried in this amateurish plot: people with a lot of money and not enough character often have disjointed family lives and unstable emotions, even when things seem good on the outside.  However, this point is communicated somewhat too obviously—dialogue is over-the-top and extreme, thus creating characters with lots of mood swings.  On the other hand, the ‘good’ characters are perfect robots with schedules and basements full of canned goods.  Stand Strong has the components to be a creative non-typical plot, but it is reduced to unwatchable due to poor planning.  Some parts are over-stated while others are understated, almost like this script underwent different cuts and edits at different times.  The end is not necessarily neat and tidy, but the ‘bad’ characters become replicas of the ‘good’ characters, forming their own robotic dialogue.  In the end, the idea behind Stand Strong needed to be given to a more thorough crew that wasn’t going to just throw something together to have a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast seems like a collection of random people were chosen to play parts and then given no help in this endeavor.  The actors and actresses are not necessarily cast inappropriately, but no care is taken to make them palatable to the audience.  There is potential in each one of them if it is mined properly.

Conclusion

Like we have said many times before, Stand Strong is one of those movies that desperately needs a re-work and a re-write.  This idea doesn’t have to go to waste; it is interesting enough to help us overlook this movie’s negative elements to a point.  It is unfortunate that the team behind this film was not given more help or did not seek out help when making this movie.  If important messages are to be properly communicated, they must be done so in a way that people will listen.  We feel that this is done through a professionally made movie, something that Stand Strong is not.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points