The Messenger’s Box (Movie Review)

It’s magical!

Plot Summary

Jake Casper is just a random teenager who stumbles upon a magical box while cleaning out his late grandfather’s attic.  He discovers a magic nail inside that was used to piece the hand of Jesus.  Since it’s Christmastime, Jake decides to go around and heal people with the magical power of the nail, even the most evil bully in town, who’s dying in a hospital bed.  But will Jake and his friends be able to get past the security guards to save him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Messenger’s Box has plenty of issues, but at least the production is mostly average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all mostly fine.  However, the soundtrack is generic, and sets, locations, and props are somewhat cheap, even though there is definitely effort here.  Some flashbacks have an odd quality about them, and there are some cheesy special effects.  The most obvious error here pertains to the very abrupt scene chances and transitions, like this film was chopped together in post.  Basically, though there is effort here, it still only comes out as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This film has one of the dumbest magical Christmas device plots ever.  Everything about it is extremely juvenile and overly dramatic.  Even with all of this, there is still not much content to speak of as not much happens outside of the magical elements and the awkward forced comedy sequences.  Most of the dialogue is very forced and scripted, and a majority of it focuses on the magical plot device and other insignificant asides.  Thus, this creates characters that are all fixated on either the magical ‘thing’ or on the dumbest sidebar topics.  Besides this, they come off as uninspiring and flat rather than accessible and realistic.  Essentially, whoever dreamed up this stupid idea of a film needs to seriously revamp their movie making process.

Acting Quality (0 points)

To match their characters, this cast is very robotic, stiff, wooden, and empty in most of their performances.  Emotions are basically non-existent as everything is either very dramatic or very matter-of-fact.  Line delivery is overly practiced.  Unfortunately, there is very little positive to say about this extremely cheesy film.

Conclusion

Gary Bosek and his team obviously did not think this one through very well.  Using Crystal Creek people as cast members is one thing, but basing your entire plot on a stupid ‘Bible’ magical device in a Christmas context is a completely worn out idea and is so juvenile that it has no place in Christian film.  This is just all wrong as a movie and should have been scrapped from the beginning.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

A Horse Called Bear (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Ethan’s mother dies in a car wreck, he inherits everything she owned, especially her horse, called Bear!  Therefore, he decides to forsake all of his other possessions and his college scholarship to learn ‘computers’ and go to live with his aunt and uncle so he can be near his new horse.  As he wrestles with his life’s purpose and meets new friends, Bear is always there to bring them all together.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

This is likely one of Crystal Creek Media’s best productions, as it has good video quality and professional camera work, although some of the camera work tends to be too artistic.  Audio quality is fine, though the soundtrack is incredibly boring.  The same old sets and locations from all the Crystal Creek films, with some exceptions, are used again.  Finally, there are a lot of editing problems, including too many lagging scenes and not enough fluff being edited out.  There are too many repeated and useless sequences, as well as scenery sequences, that just fill time.  Basically, though they have made some strides, they still have some work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s extremely difficult to grasp the purpose of this film.  The plot summary above is basically it, sans a few extra rabbit trail subplots that never seem to come to anything.  There are too many meandering and disconnected elements, thus causing the story to overall lack focus and direction.  From one scene to the next, it is hard to tell what is really happening or what the viewer is supposed to focus on.  Dialogue is extremely formal and empty at the time, thus creating cardboard characters.  There are too many trite and plastic Christian platitudes with no substance or meaning behind them.  Next time, the Crystal Creek team needs to give better scrutiny to their plots before letting the movie go to production.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Utilizing the same cast members over and over again can be cheap and easy, but it doesn’t pay off unless you have some serious acting coaching.  With this many films under the belts of these cast members, they should be getting better with experience, but they’re not.  There is a severe lack of emotion among this cast and too many lazy performances.  Unfortunately, this is another disappointing effort.

Conclusion

We still believe that the Crystal Creek team has good intentions—they just need a lot of direction and deepening.  They certainly persevere as they continue to put out film after film.  Since they have this drive, we ask that they use each film as a learning opportunity to get better and better.  Their production skills have slightly improved over time, but other areas are still suffering.  Perhaps as they continue to truck along, they will keep learning how to get better.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Courageous Love {Rather to Be Chosen} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Alex Shelby inherits his father’s real estate investment company, he feels like he is in over his head because he does not know how to lead.  But he decides to trust in the experienced people who assisted his father all of his career.  However, when he is faced with an impossible situation involving accusations against an employee of his that he is falling in love with, Alex will have to make hard decisions as he tries to discover who is really trying to sabotage his company.  Will love win out in the end?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Courageous Love is an improved production effort compared to the track record of Crystal Creek Media, it is still just average.  For example, video quality and camera work are fine, but inconsistent audio issues still plague this film, which is an error Crystal Creek has yet to rectify in their films.  Also, the soundtrack is very stock.  In this film are many of the same limited sets from Unexpected Places, especially the office sets.  Finally, the editing of Courageous Love is very sloppy, with very confusing and abrupt transitions and cuts.  Overall, while this production looks better than the past ones, there are still commonly recurring issues that plague it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unlike past plots from this studio, Courageous Love has an interesting and slightly complex idea behind it, even though it gets severely covered up by incompetent writing.  There is really no way to follow what’s happening as the audience is presented with a dizzying amount of unconnected and underdeveloped subplots.  From one scene to the next, there is little continuity or understanding of what is happening.  Many sequences and scenes are empty and wasted, doing nothing to deepen the story.  This story’s characters are one-dimensional, act disingenuous, and demonstrate no real purpose or personality as they are driven by mindless dialogue.  Finally, the plot rests on unrealistic yet extremely convenient occurrences in order to make the story go where it ‘needs’ to go.  In short, while we believe the Knudsens and company have good intentions, their messaging is all wrong.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While this is another film filled with the same old under-coached Crystal Creek cast members, there is still some potential here.  Tim Kaiser seems to be improving with time.  However, there are still many errors that plague this section, including useless fake accents and overdubs and the usual emotion and line delivery problems.  This group may mean well, but they are in severe need of coaching.

Conclusion

After a handful of movies under their belt, has the Crystal Creek team really made it anywhere?  Following such poor productions like Unexpected Places, Indescribable, Christmas Grace, and Creed of Gold, they are just now getting the hang of a proper production, even though they still have a ways to go.  But what of their writing?  We sincerely implore the Knudsens to reach out for help in this area, because whatever good ideas they have are being wasted as they are lost in translation.  Furthermore, please find some new cast members or at least try to coach the ones you have.  Movies like Courageous Love are easily forgotten for all of the previously listed reasons.  If you want to make an impact, aim for quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Polycarp: Destroyer of Gods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Polycarp was a great Christian who led the church at Smyrna in the second century just as the Roman Empire was becoming more radicalized and hostile towards Christians.  When a couple in his church rescues a young slave girl named Anna, Polycarp takes a personal interest in her, as he was also rescued as a slave boy.  As times become tumultuous for Christians, Polycarp seeks to lead his flock to always be strong in the Lord and to stand firm in the day of trouble.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is evident that the Henline Productions team cares about historical authenticity, as a great amount of time, effort, and resources were put into the realistic sets and props of Polycarp.  This is difficult for an independent film to pull off, yet they did it anyway.  Camera work is highly effective and professional.  Video and audio quality are also top-notch.  However, the soundtrack needs an upgrade, as it rarely can be heard.  Also, the editing needs to be worked on, since some scenes drag on too long and there are too many seemingly unnecessary or repetitive sequences.  But in the end, this is an excellent place to begin for a freshman production and gives great hope for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The plot of Polycarp starts out with an excellent historical idea, however, it wastes too much time getting to the point.  The first half struggles to hold the attention and we fear many viewers will give up on it halfway through.  However, once the second half of the movie begins, the real meat of the story is finally uncovered and things become interesting.  The characters are pretty good throughout, especially at the end, but we would have liked to see more development and deepening.  There is plenty of interesting and meaningful dialogue, but not all of it builds the characters as it should.  But as everything progresses, the ending sequences are very effective and drive the point home well—we hope the audience will stay until the end, because it is worth it.  In the end, though we can’t help but think what could have been, this is a formidable effort and shows potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a largely amateur cast, most of the cast members deliver solid performances with few errors to speak of.  Line delivery is on point and emotions are believable.  The main thing that drags this score down is very over-the-top acting by one or two cast members that perhaps took their parts too seriously.  But overall, like the rest of this film, this is an excellent start to a budding career.

Conclusion

The story of Polycarp the bishop and martyr is a long and complex one, and the Henline team obviously did not have the resources to fully capture it in an epic, but it still may be worth doing in the future.  There are so many things the Henline team can do with more resources, so we pray that they are provided with what they need to take that next step into greatness.  With slight production upgrades, a more complex plot, and slightly better acting coaching, they are going to go places.  We know they have the ability to do so and can’t wait to see what comes next from their studio.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

Christmas Grace [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gary is a local toy shop owner, but when a rude rival toy shop owner comes to town and tries to sabotage Gary’s business, Gary suddenly has to close down and look for work elsewhere.  He knows that he shouldn’t be angry so he trusts God for the next step in his life.  As his wife has their first child, Gary suddenly has an idea for a business venture and decides to pursue it.  But little does he know that the rival toy shop owner is still miserable inside…

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

There’s not much to get excited about with this production.  The only positive thing to mention is the clear video quality.  The camera work is poor and some scenes have bad lighting.  The audio quality is quite inconsistent, including an annoying Christmas soundtrack and sound effects.  The sets and locations are limited and seem amateurish.  Furthermore, the editing is quite choppy—some scenes are too long while others are too short.  In short, there is really nothing much good to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In an attempt to include more plot content, the writers had to also include large time jumps, spanning from one Christmas to the next (since everything has to happen at Christmas time).  While there are slight attempts to be spiritually meaningful, there is too much heavy-handed messaging.  There are also some slightly interesting flashbacks that attempt to build characters, but a majority of the characters are still cheesy stereotypes.  This is mainly because the dialogue is very pedestrian and stock.  This is not to mention the fact that the entire premise of the film, which is warring toy shops, is absurd and unrealistic.  There are other happenings that are equally unrealistic, created for the sole purpose of the plot.  In the end, this plot is quite predictable and needs to be reworked.

Acting Quality (0 points)

The casting work, unfortunately, brings out the amateurism of the creators.  The acting is extremely wooden and stiff and line delivery is quite forced.  There are really no emotions to speak of.  Perhaps the worst part is the makeup, especially the eye makeup, which makes some people look like they have black eyes.  Basically, there’s nothing good to say here.

 

Conclusion

The creators of Christmas Grace seemed like they meant well, but they needed to choose a more realistic premise for their plot.  Honestly, in the advent of online ordering, nobody shops at toy stores anymore.  Yet the provision of God during hard times could be communicated in a different way that is less cheesy and more realistic.  At least there was some slight justification for this being a Christmas movie, and it definitely could have been better.  This creative team has some potential in them, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Unexpected Places [2012] (Movie Review)

Is that another Christian film group calling?

Plot Summary

Pam likes to control her life.  She likes to persuade her boss to give her more power in the workplace and she likes to control the lives of her sons, even though she doesn’t agree with all their choices.  One son, a delinquent druggie, is sent to live with her and her husband so that he can begin to turn his life around.  The other son is living with his girlfriend and their child, with another on the way.  Pam wants her life to look nice and neat on the outside, so she takes steps in her own strength to make this a reality.  However, she quickly discovers that she cannot do everything and that she needs to look to God for her strength.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to point out in this film.  From low quality video to terrible audio quality to shaky camera work, this one is a doozy.  Lighting is bad in a majority of the scenes, and the sets are very cheap-looking.  An annoying Hallmark soundtrack clanks the entire time, sometimes louder than the dialogue.  Transitions between scenes are very abrupt and some scenes appear to be missing.  This horrid editing job is basically just cut and paste—even if it means key information is cut off or left out.  It really seems like this crew had no idea what they were doing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

We’re at a loss as to what this movie is even about.  With confusing dialogue filled with abstract figures and workplace lingo, it’s like the characters are malfunctioning robots.  The protagonist herself comes off a very dense and not connected to reality, even though she’s very serious about what she does.  The subplots are disjointed and appear pasted together from multiple different movie ideas.  The conflict therein is mindless and isolating; audiences are not able to connect with the struggles of the characters.  With no focus or main point, the storyline comes down to an empty ending that teaches a dangerous half-truth, which will be discussed at the end of this review.  Essentially, there was little reason for this idea to be approved for filming, let alone release.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Crystal Creek Media has a penchant for casting very wooden actors and actresses.  There is nothing wrong with using amateurs and they can certainly be coached, but coaching does not exist in Crystal Creek Media’s budget.  Cast members are emotionless throughout the film, delivering uninspiring monotone lines, like they’re reading from cue cards.  I’m sure they meant well, but it doesn’t show.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, Unexpected Places simply does not properly deliver whatever message it is trying to convey.  What’s worse, the ending preaches a very dangerous idea: that when someone becomes a Christian, their life is automatically turned around in every aspect.  There is no question that when someone is saved by surrendering to Jesus, their life is totally transformed.  Yet this film appears to suggest that salvation takes away all of a person’s sin struggles; this is something that may confuse and frustrate those new to the faith.  In the end, few will find this film even fully watchable, which is just another testament to the sad state of Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points