Silver Twins (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When Larry and David Silver each find Christ while attending separate colleges, they have no idea how they will tell their Jewish parents when they both return home for fall break. Once back home, things don’t go as planned, and they find themselves at odds with some of their family members. However, just as God brought them into a new faith in the true Messiah, the twins discover that He will also provide what they need as they follow Jesus.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, Silver Twins has an average production; it has fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work, but there are some obviously overdubbed lines. Also, there are times when the soundtrack doesn’t adequately fit the mood of the scenes. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly good and realistic, some of them seem slightly cheap and poorly utilized. Further, a handful of scenes are sometimes prematurely cut off, and there are some quick transitions that tend to hamper the viewing experience. In the end, the mixture of positive and negative leaves this section as middle-of-the-road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It’s usually a good thing to base a film off of a true story, especially an interesting one like this account. However, although the use of flashbacks is commendable, they sometimes unexpectedly invade the narrative and don’t always relate to the plot’s flow. Similarly, though the exploration of realistic family issues is a plus, the character arcs are too steep and lack believable explanations for why the people change as rapidly as they do. Also, while non-linear storylines can be a very good addition to the movie, the constant criss-crossing of Silver Twins‘ timelines is quite confusing and disorienting for the audience. Further, much of the dialogue is full of platitudes and cliched statements rather than substantial lines that reveal character motive and personality. In the end, the film ends seemingly before many of the subplots come to logical or meaningful resolutions; it was almost as if they intended to make a second part but never did. Thus, although there was some potential here, it just wasn’t enough and was weighed down with avoidable problems.

Acting Quality (1 point)

There are also a handful of unforced errors among the acting, such as obviously manufactured accents that come off as too fake. Also, some cast members trying to play multiple age brackets in the same film properly translate to reality. As a whole, many of the performances are a bit stiff and awkward in parts, and some of the emotions feel very forced and wooden. Certain instances of line delivery seem off point and somewhat robotic, like there are scenes that were done in one take. However, not all is bad here as there are some positives in each of these subcategories, but it’s just not enough to keep this movie’s proverbial head above water.

Conclusion

Films like Silver Twins tend to rely too much on the ideas behind them rather than the execution of the concepts. Dramatic conversion stories are intriguing and noteworthy to portray on the big screen, but in order to truly make a difference and to effectively engage the viewer, it has to be adequately represented. For potentially good narratives like this one, it’s typically better to wait until a good team can be assembled and an adequate budget can be applied. Later-released, quality content always beats quickly created and rapidly distributed movies.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Season of Miracles (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In the year 1974, when an autistic player joins a local baseball team, the transition is not as smooth as it could have been because the old team wanted to keep things the way they were. However, the coach intends to make the situation work, so the boys must learn to accept each other’s differences and unite against a common foe: their closest rival team. In the end, the season turns out in a way none of them could have ever dreamed.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Season of Miracles is a mixed bag in the production category. While there is some odd lighting in the indoor scenes, as well as randomly blurry video quality, the outside scenes are actually better in these areas. Even still, many scenes have an odd vintage look to them, which may or may not be purposeful. There is also some inconsistent audio quality throughout film, including some overdubbed parts, and action shots have shaky camera work. However, with the exception of the soundtrack, which remains generic throughout the movie, the production overall improves as time goes on, especially when it comes to the filming of action shots. By the end of the film, the production seems right on par with standard, which is why it did enough to achieve an average rating.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As a whole, it’s unfortunately hard to discern the actual purpose behind Season of Miracles. It’s commendable to explore the treatment of special needs people in previous decades, but this intention doesn’t really come through very well since the plot is mostly filled with lots of baseball montages and tons of random characters that the audience can’t really relate to due to the lack of adequate dialogue. Deciding who and what to focus on as the story progresses is a difficult feat to accomplish since it’s tough to differentiate between some of the characters. There are many, many stock sports scenes and training\game sequences that steal valuable time away from the central storyline, whatever it may be. Further, the Christian message feels extremely forced and entirely based upon awkward platitudes while the non-Christian characters within the plot are total strawmen. In the end, despite the potential this story has with the special needs subplot, there just isn’t enough here, and the overall experience is too vague to justify a higher rating.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting in Season of Miracles is average, but there are some oddly awkward moments with the adolescent and child cast members that probably required further coaching than they had available. The younger actors and actresses seem too earnest at times, but by far the worst element of the acting is the fact that a Caucasian cast member appears to be playing a Hispanic character, which comes off as very offensive. However, there are some other good performances that balance out these concerns and bring the score up to par.

Conclusion

In the end, there may be a lot of good intentions behind films like Season of Miracles, but there are too many pitfalls that comes with them. There are a handful of issues that could have been easily solved through more collaboration, which is truly the tale of Christian entertainment. Lack of purposeful cooperation across multiple different creative teams is what keeps potentially interesting movies like this one from being all that they can be. There have been many missed opportunities like this one in the recent years, but hopefully, we are entering a new era of Christian creativity where collaboration and following God’s plan for what should and shouldn’t be made are the guiding lights.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Badge of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bryan Lawrence was a well-respected police officer who was caught in an unfortunately violent situation that ended with him becoming paralyzed.  However, through this very difficult situation, he fought to keep his optimism up as his family came around him and supported him.  Though it was deemed impossible, Bryan sought to walk again with the goal of walking his future daughter-in-law down the aisle.  Times were hard and sometimes he and his family felt like giving up, but his faith in God always kept him grounded.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Badge of Faith is clearly a well-funded production with professional caliber video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic but is respectable.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic and appropriate.  There is little negative to speak about here, except for the fact that the editing seems unfinished in that some scenes seem abruptly cut off before they’re done.  However, despite this issue, this is a nearly perfect production that the creators should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This story is a very inspiring real-life story, but one has to question how it is presented in this film.  As it is, the storyline is fairly boring and somewhat flat, even though there is a lot of potentially interesting content here.  For instance, there are too many montages that stunt character development.  Even though there are some good attempts at developing the characters through realistic dialogue, since there are not many characters and since this is a character-driven plot, we would have liked to see further development.  Though there are many pertinent and accessible issues explored in this film, the storyline overall lacks the necessary continuity and driving purpose that would make this movie dynamic.  Though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated, it feels like this is just a string of random sequences.  In the end, Stone Table Films knows how to find a realistic story and make a movie out of, but like Touched by Grace, the plot of Badge of Faith leaves something to be desired.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is definitely the strongest point of this film.  The cast is highly professional and well-coached.  Each member is case highly appropriately.  Emotions are very realistic and line delivery is on point.  There are no errors to point out here.

Conclusion

It is certainly enjoyable and refreshing to watch the movies produced by the Stone Table team, but it is also frustrating to see the potential they left behind.  If Touched by Grace and Badge of Faith had slightly better plot improvement, each of these films would be on the Hall of Fame.  Yet the Stone Table team is continually improving, so there is great hope for their future.  We firmly believe they will keep trying until they finally get that blockbuster release.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

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

Plot Summary

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

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

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

Acting Quality (0 points)

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

Conclusion

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

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Love Covers All (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Michael goes on a business trip and leaves his very pregnant wife at home, he never anticipated the series of events that would occur.  The business trip turns out to be something he never expected to happen and this is compounded when his wife goes into labor and begins having complications.  In route home, Michael becomes stranded in the middle of nowhere and feels like all hope is lost until he begins to remember the faith he has easily forgotten about.  Will he be able to reconcile his past hurts and help those around him before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though the budget and the team were limited in what they could do with this film, it’s obvious that they were trying to create a quality production with what they had available.  The highest marks go to the excellent video and audio quality.  Camera work is also highly professional and the soundtrack is adequate.  The sets and locations are limited, but they are utilized fairly well.  However, some scenes have poor lighting and there are generally not enough extras.  Yet the editing is fine and rounds out an overall above average production effort.  It’s clear that this team cares about what they are doing, so it will be interesting to see what they create in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The biggest downfall of Love Covers All is its simplistic storyline, though it does have a meaningful message.  The writers did the right thing with a limited and pedestrian storyline: craft authentic and believable characters built on great developing dialogue.  The dialogue is one of the main saving graces of this film—without it, the story would be nothing.  The life circumstances the characters experience are very realistic and accessible, and the Christian message hits home.  However, we would have liked the plot to be a little more complex and creative than this.  But still, this is a non-typical storyline that deserves recognition.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

This is a very strong casting job that lifts the film away from total mediocrity.  With recognizable Christian actors and actresses, each character is cast very well.  There is clear acting coaching present here as they deliver their lines and emotions with only minor errors.  This is a job well done.

Conclusion

The Praise Pictures team, like many budding creative teams, it poised to take the next step.  They have the production and casting skills necessary to create a top film—now they just need a bigger budget and more complex plots.  As a side note, the Christian message of Love Covers All is quite profound and we hope it is transferred to another film.  In short, there is so much potential here that is just waiting to be brought out, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Lukewarm (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Luke Rogers is struggling to be the Christian he says he is.  He’s living with his girlfriend and works a questionable bartender job with his friend.  What’s more, he can’t shake the fact that he always had an unhealthy relationship with his father and that this still affects him today.  Luke sees his outspoken Christian neighbor always doing good things and being made fun of for it, and wishes that he could be like him.  Luke and his girlfriend will have to learn that choices are important and that real Christianity doesn’t come easily.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In nearly all aspects, Lukewarm is cheap.  While the camera work, video quality, and audio quality are okay, they are not wowing.  The soundtrack is cheesy and pedestrian.  Perhaps the most draining portion of the production quality is the cheesiness of the sets and locations.  While they are slightly diverse, they scream amateur movie makers.  Things don’t look like they are supposed to and props are very B-grade.  The surroundings have an odd feel that makes the entire movie feel manufactured.  Finally, the editing is sloppy, just throwing scenes together with no rhyme or reason to them.  In short, though there was a limited budget, no care was taken by the creators to try to be tasteful, thus making it another silly Christian attempt at a movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lukewarm makes a commendable effort to portray important issues facing American Christians, yet they are portrayed in a strawman fashion.  Whatever good ideas exist in this plot are mismanaged and turned into trite asides that blow over the audience’s heads.  As for the plot itself, it is full of too many disjointed subplots that do not work well together and lack continuity.  One character does something, and then another character does stuff, and then they all meet up in an unlikely way.  Characters are too black and white—‘good’ characters are completely moral and tend to condescend on the ‘bad’ characters, who become ‘good’ very quickly after empty inspirational experiences.  Despite its title, not much about this film is ambiguous.  Issues are resolved too quickly, and dialogue is either obvious or petty.  While we usually encourage the use of flashbacks, the ones used in Lukewarm are very cheesy.  To top things off, besides the neatly fixed ending, the film includes one of those obnoxious credits photo montages showing you what the characters did afterward.  In summary, Lukewarm started with a good idea of showing how Christians easily become sidetracked on useless and potentially dangerous activities and how broken family systems effect people later in life, but it quickly descended into another giant laughable strawman.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

With a cast of supposedly talented actors and actresses, Lukewarm demonstrates the importance of acting coaching, especially with an amateur script.  When some actors and actresses are better in some movies but not in others, this is the reason.  In Lukewarm, line delivery is forced and awkward.  Emotions are too obvious.  Only a handful of good acting moments save this score from being zero.  To sum it up, Lukewarm is pretty much a disaster on all fronts.

Conclusion

A word of advice: before making a movie, especially a movie with the Christian tag, make sure you have a great plot and deep characters before proceeding.  Creating a film based off of a mere idea is not good enough and only further contributes to the sagging quality of Christian media.  We find ourselves saying this over and over again, but the fact remains that the Christian film market is wrought with ill-advised low quality productions that continue to give Christian creativity a horrible reputation.  Ideas are great and should be turned into realities, but movies need great teams behind them; otherwise, nothing will change in Christian film making.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Decision [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the tragic death of her husband, Ilene Connors struggles to maintain her current financial situation and to keep her delinquent teenage son, Jackson, under control.  At the end of her rope, she agrees with her father’s plan to take Jackson to his remote cabin in the woods in order to teach him some tough life lessons.  Resistant and frustrated, Jackson suddenly finds himself liking the structured atmosphere.  However, he forced to face what he truly believe in when his grandfather’s medical problems leave Jackson having to man up and make some tough decisions.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, we have really nothing positive to say about this film.  We tried to find something, and we sort of did, but it does not pertain to production.  The camera work is very cheap, showcasing poor angles and a general camcorder feel.  The video quality is grainy and the sound quality is spotty, especially in the outdoor scenes.  The sets and locations are extremely limited.  The props are cheesy and the editing looks like it was done on a cheap computer program.  There is really nothing good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Now for the movie’s only positive factor: it clearly presents the gospel message to anyone who happened to be forced to watch the remainder of the film.  That’s all we could find.  The plot is extremely simplistic and very linear.  If this was meant to be a simple gospel presentation, then the characters should have been fleshed out and it should have been marketed that way, not as a direct to DVD movie.  The dialogue is pretty good when it comes to sharing the gospel, but otherwise, it’s high school grade.  The few characters that are in the plot are stereotypical.  Events that take place in the plot are not even believable, such as the survival and outdoors parts.  The grandfather has an undisclosed heart condition that is magically healed every time he pops a pill.  Otherwise, the one hour run time is filled with useless filler, like cleaning out a barn and talking on the phone.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, can top the end of the film.  It is painfully obvious that either someone made a huge editing blunder or the money simply ran out, since the movie cuts off in the middle of someone’s dialogue.  You have to see it for yourself to believe it.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Mike Rosenbaum is obviously older than the Jackson character he plays, which adds a whole new element to this movie.  While it is noble of Natalie Grant to attempt to act while pregnant in real life, it doesn’t really work.  Overall, the cast is not coached at all.  So many times, we see actors and actresses thrown out on the set with no help, and Decision is one of those instances.

Conclusion

Every day we ask ourselves why movies like this are made.  The clear gospel message should have been lifted from this movie idea and inserted into another more worthwhile plot that someone can actually appreciate.  After watching Decision, you get the feeling that Christian movies have reached new lows.  Christian film-makers are not meant to simply churn out cheap productions for the sake of making them.  We strongly believe that God expects Christians to try their best in every area of life—including creating movies.  Decision does not meet these standards.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Alone Yet Not Alone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Recent immigrants from Germany to colonial America in order to find religious freedom, Barbara Leninger, her parents, and her siblings did not expect to come face to face with the violence between the Native Americans and the settlers.  In a shocking raid, Barbara and her sister Regina are separated from their mother after witnessing the deaths of their brother and father.  Barbara and Regina are forced to become Native American girls in every way, including attire and behavior.  They band together with other captive children, keeping each other morally afloat by singing the Leninger family hymn, Alone Yet Not Alone.  But when Barbara and Regina are separated, their true faith in God is tested to the limits as they risk their lives by attempting to escape in order to find each other again.

Production Quality (2 points)

For a first time filmmaker, Alone Yet Not Alone has above average production quality.  The camera work is good, as multiple complex action scenes are filmed relatively well.  The editing is okay, considering the large amount of content and the passage of time in this movie.  One drawback is that some of the makeup work and costuming show indie qualities, but this does not cause irreparable harm.  In short, this is a good start for production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This movie is based off of true events, so realism in the plot cannot be argued with.  There are realistic twists, turns, and disappointments throughout.  As previously mentioned, a lot of time is covered, and this is pulled off fairly well.  However, the characters are not developed as well as they should be as the dialogue is just average. Additionally, some cast members do not appear to be culturally authentic. Regardless, inaugural film projects should tend to be based on real events, and this criteria is met.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a cast of allegedly inexperienced actors, there are not too many glaring errors.  Some movie-makers commit grave errors with casts of allegedly professional actors.  Sometimes it is difficult to cast multiple actors for the same character in a plot that requires age differences, but Alone Yet Not Alone does not make this a problem.  Some negative elements should be examined however, such as the poor acting of some of the supporting actors and the fact that not all of the Native American characters were played by true Native Americans.  Box Office Revolution realizes that it is difficult to acquire so many Native Americans for a movie, so this may be a moot point.  In summary, more is made out of this little-know cast than is made out of casts that are supposedly star-studded.

Conclusion

Alone Yet Not Alone is a good start for the team behind it; it is definitely something to build off of.  It contains a believable plot that can relate to most audiences, highlighting a little known historical period well.  In short, if more Christian movies were of this caliber instead of so many unwatchable movies in the Christian genre, the movement as a whole would have a greater reputation than it currently does.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points