Interview With Sean Paul Murphy, Screenwriter

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Box Office Revolution: What inspired you to first get into making Christian entertainment?

Sean Paul Murphy: I don’t know if anything inspired me to get into making Christian entertainment. I just wanted to tell stories that resonated with me. Since I was a Christian, the stories I told often reflected my values and faith. I was writing so called faith-based films before it became an established genre in Hollywood.

I find it interesting that you call it Christian entertainment. Years ago, most of people would have shied away from that term. People would say that they were making films to reach people for the Lord, not entertain Christians.

BOR: What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of movie making?

SPM: My underlying philosophy is to tell a good story well.

BOR: What do you think we need to see more of in Christian entertainment?

SPM: Since practically everyone who watches Christian films are already Christians, I would say we should make films that meet the needs of the church, and about challenges in the Christian walk, rather than just continually retelling the sinner comes to Christ story. I deal with this issue in a long post on my blog called Building the Faith-based Ghetto.

BOR: What do you think needs to be improved in Christian entertainment as a whole?

SPM: I think we desperately need to increase the level of professionalism. This hasn’t happened as a whole in the independent Christian film business because our consumers value the message over artistic quality. They would quickly have both if they stopped supporting bad films. And I’m speaking as a guy who realizes that all of his films are flawed in one way or another. I’m not just pointing a finger at others.

BOR: How do you feel about Christian entertainment creation being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?

SPM: The Christian film business is cursed with far too many one-man bands.  No one person is equally gifted in writing, producing, directing and acting, and a film will only rise to the level of the weakest of those skills. Also, I tend to be suspicious of people who say “they’re doing it for the Lord” when they feel the need to write, produce, direct and star in their own films. If you’re doing it for the Lord, you would seek the most skilled and experienced people available for every job on the film. Personally, I prefer to be the dumbest person on the shoot. I want to be surrounded by people more experienced than me so that I can learn.

BOR: How has Christian entertainment improved during the time you’ve been involved in it?

SPM: The theatrical releases, like those from Affirm, are getting better every year. I liked “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” and “I Can Only Imagine.” They were both a step forward. However, technically, they were still only on the level of cable movies. We are not competing one on one with even the average Hollywood product yet. And it’s not just budget. I think the difference is that the average Hollywood filmmaker is more devoted to the craft of filmmaking. Christian filmmakers tend to think of themselves as evangelists first.

BOR: Is working on Christian movie sets any better or worse than working on ‘secular’ movie sets?

SPM: I have been working on sets since my days as an advertising producer back in the late-1980s. I haven’t noticed a real difference between secular and Christian movie sets. On the behind the scenes videos of Christian films, I always see people saying how they pray on the set all the time, but I never saw that on any of my films. Then again, I’m a writer. I never have an early call time. Maybe everyone got prayed up before I arrived.

To me, the biggest difference is between union and non-union shoots. When I was an ad producer, I was not a fan of the unions. Now, however, I am a strong supporter of them. Too many unscrupulous filmmakers would take advantage of the cast and crew if the various unions didn’t protect them. Not only that, I think crews work better when they know they are in a safe environment and that their rights are protected.

Most of the Christian films I worked on were non-union, with the exception of the Screen Actors Guild.

BOR: What are your future plans for new Christian entertainment (movies, series, etc.)?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?

SPM: My script. “I, John,” a 2012 winner of the Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays, is currently in development. I am not working on any other faith-based scripts now. I have turned my attention to books. Touchpoint Press published my memoir “The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.” It was a great experience. I was able to discuss my faith and how it affected my life without having to filter it through the egos of producers, actors and directors. It was much more honest and refreshing. I have just finished a novel called “Chapel Street.” It is a horror story, inspired by some events in my own life, which has a strong spiritual message. You can read some samples of both books on my blog.

BOR: Thank you for your time!

SPM: Thank you!

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Open My Eyes [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul Sanders was a successful and arrogant model photographer before a car accident took his sight away from him.  After this, he locks himself in his house and refuses to have anyone over except his personal assistant and whichever restaurant employee brings his daily meals.  But when a new employee comes, little does he know the secrets she holds and to what extent he actually knows her.  She treats him differently than anyone else, even though he is still rude to her, which begins an unexpected change in Paul’s life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is a lesser-known production with somewhat limited funding, it still has a lot of professional elements in it.  The only real issue to point out is the unexplainable shaky camera work throughout, even there are really no other issues with it.  Video quality and audio quality are great, and the soundtrack is very creative and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are relatively well-constructed and realistic.  Editing is also surprisingly good, which is a plus for this type of film.  Overall, this is a very impressive effort that shows great promise for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak were likely held back in their PureFlix days, so it’s probably better that they were able to write this film out from under the iron fist of Byron Jones and company.  Open My Eyes demonstrates an interesting non-typical storyline that’s not afraid to deal with ‘worldly’ characters, even if they still need a little more refinement.  Sometimes the ‘bad’ characters are too bad and the ‘good’ characters are too good.  When a character switches between these two options, their arc is often too steep.  However, the situations and circumstances they experience are realistic and can be related to.  Dialogue is pretty good most of the time, but there are some lapses here nonetheless.  The plot progression is somewhat typical and expected, and there are one too many quick fixes at the end, but it’s clear that this writing team meant well with this story.  It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been better, because it certainly had a lot of potential.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is not as well-known as other casts, they are still mostly professional in their performances.  The biggest issue to point out here is some overdone emotions and forceful line delivery on the part of certain cast members some of the time.  Yet in the end, this is a commendable effort that demonstrates potential for the future.

Conclusion

Open My Eyes is another one of those films that just misses the mark of greatness due to a few key errors that hold it back.  However, it’s definitely worth a watch and would certainly be worth remaking one day.  Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak certainly have a lot of untapped talent and definitely have experience.  Hopefully they will continue to be able to progress in their work unhindered by the controlling hands of PureFlix.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Sarah’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah wants a big executive break like her boyfriend has, that’s why she sees an opportunity when she gets interviewed for a temporary job.  The only catch is that in order to get hired, she has to prove that she’s not pregnant.  But after she takes a test, she finds that she is pregnant and is faced with a serious decision: pursue a career and abort her child or give up her career and have her child.  Sarah will have to decide how real her faith is and what direction she wants her life to go in.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing PureFlix usually has going for them is that they can put together a respectable-looking production.  Sarah’s Choice is not an exception.  Notwithstanding an odd opening sequence, the camera work is at least above average.  The video quality is good, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack could use some improvement, but the sets are respectable.  Also, the editing is mostly average, though there are a handful of unnecessary scenes that put a damper on this production.  But overall, despite their obvious flaws, PureFlix can usually put together a semi-professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leave it to PureFlix to take an important social issue and mutilate it with over the top messaging.  As a plot filled with typical White-style extremist characters, Sarah’s Choice sports a ridiculously unrealistic premise that is designed to force the issue of abortion on the audience.  As usual, pro-abortionists and other people who disagree with the PureFlix worldview are portrayed in offensive ways.  The dialogue is very obvious and forces the plot along, even though there is plenty of time wasted on bizarre asides.  There is also a silly shoehorning of the Christmas story into this plot, along with some odd ‘magical’ Christmas elements.  While the psychological parts are intriguing, they are not enough to offset the onslaught of nonsense in the remainder of the storyline.  As can be expected, the end is neat and tidy with no real justification for it ending up that way.  Basically, every horror story regarding the combination of PureFlix and the issue of abortion comes true in Sarah’s Choice.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members, including Rebecca St. James, post moderately respectable performances, this is probably Andrea Logan White’s most obnoxious role to date as she attempts to caricature a vain (well this mostly true) pro-abortion feminist.  There are some bright spots here that keep this category from being terrible, but there are still too many unrealistic emotions and drama moments.  Line delivery is fairly average throughout.  Overall, this is just average, despite Andrea Logan White.

Conclusion

In a PureFlix Christmas movie about abortion, what could go wrong?  Well, a lot, actually.  The Whites and company continue their addiction to portraying non-Christians as heartless ogres and construct an unrealistic framework designed to shove a social issue down your throat.  Do they even have any regard for reality or are they just trying to sell movies?  Movies like Sarah’s Choice are exactly why people tire of legalistic Christianity.  Unfortunately, while this blog is unashamedly pro-life, this is not the type of film we can support.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Holyman Undercover (Movie Review)

The Split Personality of David A. R. White
The Split Personality of David A. R. White

Nobody believes that stupid beard is real

Our reaction to this movie

Plot Summary

When Roy, a ‘young’ Amish man, supposedly turns 18, it’s time for him to go on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, the time when all Amish ‘young’ folks go out into the world to hopefully discover how evil the world is and come running back to their drab lifestyle.  But Roy is determined to not only find his long-lost uncle, who disappeared to Hollywood on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, but also to witness to the heathen of the world about Jesus Christ.  But what he finds instead is a cold world with no care for the things of God.  Roy finds his uncle, who advises him to jump into the show business in order to covertly share the gospel.  Roy runs into all sorts of odd characters along the way, including a producer he’s attracted to, who entices him to play Satan on a daytime soap opera.  But the further he does into the showbiz game, the more Roy finds himself compromising all he has been taught.  Which set of values will prevail?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If Holyman Undercover has anything going for it, it does have pretty good video quality.  But that’s where the positivity ends.  Camera work is all over the place, obviously trying to be ‘funny’ and ‘comedic’.  Audio quality is fairly consistent, but cheesy sound effects interrupt it.  The sets and locations are purposely cheap-looking, and the surroundings are clownish, like they’re from a comic book.  I could go on about how the editing is poorly done, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all purposeful.  This film was purposely created to be ridiculous, and that’s exactly what it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Watching Holyman Undercover is a surreal experience unlikely to be replicated by anything else—expect for Me Again.  From slurs against the Amish to blatant and rude Hispanic stereotypes to gigantic strawmen of Hollywood insiders, this film really takes the cake.  As the split personality of David A. R. White, manifested in his two-character acting role, jumps from one random schizophrenic scene to the next, the audience can only laugh and look on at this train wreck of a creation.  Yet if you look past the zany madness that is this storyline, you can see truth emerging from the cracks.  This is a wild and embellished retelling of how the Whites began their film careers.  Coming from a strict Mennonite upbringing, David A. R. White must have felt like he was confined and not allowed to create, yet his stint in Hollywood has given him a chip on his shoulder the size of Kansas (pun intended) that makes him feel like the entire world is against Christians.  But in his usual extreme black and white thinking, the false dichotomy between overly strict Christians and hopelessly evil ‘worldly’ people is far outside of reality.  There is nothing real about this plot, and we believe that it was never intended to be real.  This is a sick satire, borne from the damaged emotions of David A. R. White, yet it is a window into what makes him tick.  But in the midst of trying to be over-the-top hilarious, there is zero coherency to this madness.  It would certainly be one thing if this creative wonder had a consistent thought across the continuum, but it does not.  There is no understanding of what and why goes on, or what is coming next.  It’s basically an embarrassing failed attempt at parody.  On the flipside, it’s a shame that a drug commercial satire idea got wasted in this movie.  Otherwise, Holyman Undercover can be seen as nothing more than a big joke that wasted over a million dollars.

Acting Quality (-1.5 points)

This clownish bunch of cast members is only lacking in Tommy Blaze, Morgan Fairchild, and David Blamy.  The actors and actresses have obviously been instructed to act as zany and stereotypical as possible, from the mentally ill ‘uncle’ David A. R. White, to the robotically mindless Andrea Logan White, to the histrionic Jennifer Lyons, to the egotistical Fred Willard, etc., etc.  Also, nothing beats Carey Scott trying to be a European maître d’.  David A. R. White has basically let himself out of the box in this one and acts as maniacal as he possibly can.  There is truly no seriousness here and a lot of lines seem adlibbed.  Emotions are blown out of proportion and line delivery is either lazy or forced.

Conclusion

The mind boggles as to how and why the Whites acquire so much money for films like this one.  Just think—what if the million and a half dollars blown on this train wreck was put toward a film that actually needed it, one that could have actually used the money for something good.  This is perhaps the real travesty with this film and with PureFlix in general.  Sinking millions of dollars into dead end films designed to make fun of stereotypes is a terrible use of God’s blessings.  This is why we continue to call the White and PureFlix out: wasted money and wasted potential.  Hopefully, one day, the tide will finally change and Christian movies will be something to be proud of.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After a twist of fate throws a collection of strangers together, trapped in a Thailand resort during a storm, strange things begin to happen.  A wanted international criminal and his sidekick and wife, the two owners of the resort, and a ‘drug enforcement’ agent are all faced with the reality of their lives as they meet Jesus Christ face to face.  They are all forced to ruminate on the choices they have made in the past in order to determine how they are going to move forward.  Will they cling to their bitterness, rage, and vices, or will they turn to Jesus and accept the free gift He offers to each one of them, regardless of their pasts?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a change from the norm, The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost boasts above-average production quality.  The camera work is professionally presented and the video quality is better than not.  The audio quality is consistent across the board.  The sets and locations are diverse and fairly realistic, with a few exceptions.  The surroundings have an interesting feel, but it seems like more could have been done here, especially since many scenes seem borrowed from Escape.  On the down side, David A. R. White brings with him to this film a cheesy action feel that includes waste-of-time sequences and unrealistic elements.  Furthermore, the editing of Encounter 2 is all off.  The film begins with a time lapse presentation and then randomly abandons it.  The passage of time in general is hard to follow and a lot of content is crammed into a small window of opportunity that is squeezed out by philosophical monologues and unrealistic fight scenes.  But in the end, this is definitely an improvement for PureFlix and shows what they can do, even though it also shows what they could be doing better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

As mentioned before, too much is shoved into the nearly 110-minute runtime, thus isolating the important aspects.  The few main characters that are presented are given a lot of screen time, yet by the end, we only see half of them.  By the end of the film that focuses on the struggles of five key characters through the use of flashbacks and philosophical dialogue, we should feel like they are real people, but this is not completely true of this film’s core characters.  There’s nothing wrong with having a small cast of characters, but they need to be deep, complex, and realistic.  The Encounter 2 doesn’t make it all the way on this front.  Yet there are many interesting and creative elements to this storyline.  The flashbacks, as mentioned, are a good touch.  The issues presented are believable, but some of the ‘solutions’ to the issues are not.  Some ambiguity exists in the plot, but not enough.  Bruce Marciano’s philosophical monologues are better this time around, but they still can become draining.  The spiritual elements that underlie the plot are very intriguing and commendable, but the totally-not-obvious Satan character is over the top.  In the end, the plot of The Encounter 2 is a mixed bag with a creative ending, but it doesn’t do quite enough to lift this film out of average-ness.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Robert Miano demonstrates in this film that he has the ability to be an excellent villain, which does not explain why he acted so mysterious and lofty in his Biblical roles, The Book of Esther and The Book of Daniel.  Yet Miano is the best actor in this cast.  Bruce Marciano is always fine, but at some point, his roles become extremely predictable.  Elsewhere, David A. R. White is his usual cheesy action hero self and other actors and actresses either overplay or underplay emotions.  Line delivery is overall inconsistent, but costuming is fine.  Overall, the acting work is just average.

Conclusion

The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost is a huge improvement on The Encounter.  The creative idea of having Jesus show up in the flesh in the middle of a hostage situation is very commendable.  The psychological\spiritual elements throughout are also noteworthy.  But this film is tripped up by its large amount of content and low amount of overall quality.  The plot is spread too thin and the characters are too shallow for the time spent on them.  In the end, this is an enjoyable film, but it’s also another one of those frustrating movies that we wish could be remade.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Revelation Road 3: The Black Rider

Plot Summary

Two years after the Rapture, the enigmatic Josh McManus has a mission to do good and to right wrongs, even when it seems like evil is winning.  His latest mission takes him to a strict and legalistic settlement that tolerates no crime in order to gain medical attention for an injured girl.  In exchange for both of their lives, Josh must carry out a dangerous mission: search for a mysterious and troublemaking vagrant known as the Shepherd and bring him back so the settlement leader, Drake, can exchange him to his superiors for more life saving supplies.  In route to searching for the Shepherd, Josh and his unwanted tagalong, Sofia, must battle multiple villains and come to grips with what they truly believe about Jesus and His plan for the world.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite previous production struggles, Bradley Dorsey and Gabriel Sabloff have greatly improved this franchise.  The camera work improves dramatically in The Black Rider, as does the sound quality.  The surroundings and sets are innovative and creative.  Gone are ridiculous special effects, including that weird lightning!  This would have been a stellar production were in not for a collection of small issues—no doubt White influences.  For example, the CGI that is used is very amateurish.  Action scenes are overall not produced well, and there are too many of them, which is an editing problem.  The scope of the plot is so vast that precious time does not need to be wasted on silly fight scenes.  Yet these such portions squeezed out the deepening of plot creativity.  Nonetheless, this is the type of production that Pureflix has been trying to stab in the dark for years.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The abysmal non-plot of The Beginning of the End seems like a distant memory after viewing The Black Rider.  There is a unique psychological edge to this plot and creative concepts that give the film deeper meaning beyond car chases and gunfights.  An entire new cast of characters is introduced, and it actually works.  A new world is introduced two years after The Sea of Glass and Fire, and it’s better than before.  But this new world is a double-edged sword—it’s too big for the scope of this film.  If more of this world had been explained in The Sea of Glass and Fire, we would have a framework to understand, but this did not happen.  Foreign plot devices such as the ominous ULC are forced upon viewers without explanation.  However, the city-state government system works well in this apocalyptic setting and gives the movie that epic backdrop David A. R. White has been searching for.  Moreover, there are other speculative concepts that are introduced and not fully explained.  Yet the gospel message is philosophically communicated far better than ever before in a Pureflix movie, and all without forcing the message down the audience’s throats.  There is unfortunately still wasted time on childish fighting scenes.  The escapades of Josh McManus, a surprisingly good character, border on unrealistic and sometimes coincidental.  Some of the many villains in this movie are laughable, while others are believable.  Each character is crafted through mostly effective dialogue.  The ending of this plot is also a double-edged sword: it both introduces a key psychological element and confuses the audience.  It both isolates the viewer and makes them want more.  Any further discussion is beyond the scope of this review, but the bottom line is Dorsey and Sabloff really have something going here, something that needs to be continued.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Hands down, The Black Rider is David A. R. White’s best acting work to date.  Bradley Dorsey also contributes an excellent role to the film, perhaps his best.  Unfortunately, there is still some cheesy acting from certain cast members.  Kevin Sorbo in a thrift store disaster getup and sporting a fake insert-ethnicity-here accent is just too much to bear.  Action acting is still B-grade.  Other small issues plague an otherwise great casting job, such as that dumb sheet the Shepherd wears.  Otherwise, costuming is fairly responsible.  Line delivery is sometimes effective and sometimes forced.  Emotions are mostly believable.  In short, everything about this film is give and take: for every cheesy element, there is an excellent element, and vice versa.

Conclusion

The Revelation Road saga is a cinematic freak of nature—a film franchise with a redemption arc of its own that closely mirrors the rise of Josh McManus, the surprising crowning achievement of David A. R. White’s acting career.  Nonetheless, The Black Rider is a constant tug of war between the C-grade action of The Beginning of the End and the psychological creativity of The Sea of Glass and Fire.  The third installment suffers from the wasted time of the first two installments, where this time could have been used to build a better backstory instead of shoving in all into one movie, intending to fix a broken series in one stroke.  But The Black Rider is proof that broken sagas can be fixed.  Therefore, we are surprisingly anticipating the release of Revelation Road 4.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After witnessing the Rapture, Josh McManus sets out on the road trip of his life to discover the whereabouts of his family, whom he is unable to contact.  But making the trek back won’t be easy with a crazed biker gang on his tail, bent on revenge for how he stole their pride.  Josh is joined by Beth, whose grandparents were taken in the Rapture.  As they travel across the desert, navigating the strange new world they live in, Josh will have to come to grips with who he really is and what he has done in the past.  Not only him, but Hawg will also have to reconcile with the person he has become.  On a collision course, Josh and Hawg will both have to determine how they are going to change who they are.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Believe it or not, production quality improves from the first series installment to the second.  Video quality remains the same, but sound quality also improves.  Special effects are used more responsibly.  The weird lightning is still there, but it’s a step in the right direction.  The camera work is strange at times, but not nearly as bad as the first film.  The editing is still a work in progress, but there seems to be more effort put into this installment.  Overall, that’s the story of Revelation Road 2—the thought is there, but the execution is only half there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The Beginning of the End was obviously driving to something, as that non-plot continually delayed the inevitable next film.  Thankfully, that something was actually worth waiting for.  Who knew that Pureflix would begin using flashbacks to develop characters?  Since when do the Whites and company create character backstories?  Stranger things do happen, and they happened in The Sea of Glass and Fire (whatever that title’s supposed to mean).  The core idea behind Josh’s character is very innovative, and seemingly beyond the reaches of the Pureflix creative realm.  Even Hawg is turned into a somewhat believable villain through flashbacks.  And Cat…oh wait, never mind.  But pitfalls still exist in this film—mindless violence rivals B-grade Hollywood action flicks and time fillers litter the plot.  Dialogue is better in the flashbacks than in the present plot.  The ending inevitably leads to another film, but we have to wonder if this is really necessary at this point.  Overall, this plot is a huge step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Mostly due to the flashbacks, the acting slightly improves from the previous movie.  This is probably the best David A. R. White, Andrea Logan White, and Brian Bosworth will get when it comes to action acting.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are blasé, making this an overall underwhelming cast performance.  But hey, they got one point!

Conclusion

Revelation Road 2 is one of the rare Pureflix movies that really had something, but never found it.  The overarching idea behind the series, if you ignore the strange eschatology, is very creative and breaks genre barriers in Christian film.  Yet under all of this is a sad storyline, and this is the fact that four points is a monumental accomplishment for this creative team.  The Sea of Glass and Fire stands as an example of how good even this crew can be when they put their minds to it, but it also makes us hunger for more.  Unfortunately, that more is probably not going to happen, if history is any indication.  Basically, if this idea were put into the hands of another team, it would have been Hall of Fame and beyond.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Josh McManus is a confused man.  As a traveling self-defense product salesman, he is used to meeting new people on a daily basis, but he is not comfortable with the secret man inside of him.  While travelling across the western America desert, strange things start to happen.  Pursued by mysterious biker villains and plagued by weather anomalies and electrical failures, he is finally forced to face off with his pursuers.  Hawg is a troubled biker gang leader with an agenda to take over random small towns in the western United States.  His disgruntled mentality tends to cause discontent in his gang, but they ride on, bent on destroying the mysterious Josh McManus.  All of the characters involved must not only come to grips with who they are, but with the strangely changing world around them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Where to begin?  Let’s start with the positive.  The only reason this film’s production is not zero points is because there is at least clear video quality.  Otherwise, there is nothing good to discuss.  The camera work is obnoxious, with random dizzying cuts and zooms for faux-dramatic effect.  To ‘enhance’ action sequences, the camera jerks all around, getting weirdly close to important characters.  While we’re on the topic of action scenes, they are either very poorly executed or far too long, eating up huge chunks of the movie’s runtime.  Watching a David A. R. White action scene is usually dizzying, and Revelation Road is no exception.  Speaking of dizzying, the sheer overuse of special effects in this movie makes us wonder if it’s safe for epileptic viewers to watch.  Topping things of, the soundtrack is deplorable.  Therefore, as you can see, this is another horrific Pureflix production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

With this movie packed so chock full with useless action sequences that add nothing to its overall purpose, whatever that is, actual plot depth is squeezed out of the picture.  The intended plot can be summed up in a nutshell: random guy drives to a random desert town to sell self-defense gear (does anybody really do that?) and gets caught in the middle of a store holdup, uses secret military training to defeat mindless biker villains, hangs out with the store owner and his family, observe strange weather anomalies with eccentric local policemen, calls his worried wife about stuff, plays vigilante with local deadbeats, and observes a strange ‘rapture’ from a local motel.  Elsewhere, we are shown the life and times of a bizarre desert biker gang led by a grunting leader and his sidekick, plus Andrea Logan White in a makeup disaster.  No character development occurs as the ‘plot’ jumps from one explosion and gunfight to the next.  Dialogue has a typical cheesy, off-the-wall Pureflix feel.  We are unsure what is trying to be communicated here except for another offbeat Christian apocalyptic concept.  This movie might as well be a commercial for the next one, as it delays the viewers any real substance for over ninety wasted minutes.  Finally, the ending is extremely confusing and isolating.  In short, Revelation Road is the story of the White action films: toss out convention and common sense and exchange it for cheaply constructed action sequences.

Acting Quality (0 points)

What more is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  With the same old Pureflix actors and actresses recycled in the Revelation Road saga, their acting skills do not improve.  When a collection of cast members is kept in such a bubble, there is no reason for them to improve when there is no constructive criticism or filter.  Through this film, emotions are forced and unbelievable.  Action scenes are sloppily acted and line delivery is lazy.  Unfortunately, there is nothing unique or surprising from this cast.

Conclusion

We promise we are really not out on some kind of Pureflix warpath, but when a company so consistently generates such low quality and bizarre content in the name of Christianity, they must be called out.  Revelation Road may be the pinnacle of the Whites’ action movie career.  It involves every possible element of a C-grade action flick.  With creations like this, only two conclusions can be determined: either Pureflix does not know how to make a good movie or they do not care to make a good movie.  Apocalyptic movies are usually bad enough, but this motorcycle madness takes things to a whole new level.  The end result is just another ridiculous Pureflix creation.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

The Encounter [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick, Melissa, Hank, Catherine, and Kayla are all strangers to each other until they are forced to meet up at a quaint diner due to road closures one stormy night.  Each has their own story and hurts, but the last thing they expect is to meet the mysterious owner of the diner, who calls himself Jesus.  He knows many things about them that no one else knows but he actually demonstrates true care for them, something many of them have never experienced.  Each of them must make the most important choice of their lives—will they listen to the words of Jesus or will they turn away?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The production pretty much derails this movie from the get go.  For starters, the movie is purposely designed to have extremely limited sets—the movie only takes place a very small amount outside, partly inside vehicles, partly inside flashback locations, mostly inside the makeshift diner, and yes, inside the diner’s bathroom.  The video quality is quite grainy and the camera work shaky.  The sound quality is inconsistent.  The only redeeming production quality is the editing, even though there is very little content to work with.  In short, it would have done this movie wonders to have better production quality.  With such a small cast and so few sets, there are no excuses to have such poor production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Although the encounter with Jesus in modern times is not really a new plot, there is nothing inherently wrong with this particular rendition.  The characters are pretty good and the flashbacks effectively enhance them, but once again, with so few characters, there was more time to develop them, yet this was not done.  This sort of small scale plot depends entirely on the characters, and since the characters are just average, it’s not good enough.  We needed to know more about these characters besides their favorite foods, their occupations, their parents, and their surface struggles.  Again, the flashbacks are great, but more is needed.  The spiritual\psychological elements in the plot are interesting, but the devil character is very cheesy.  In short, this plot concept had a lot of potential—especially if more psychological elements had been explored—that was not brought to the surface.  The final result is just a stock plot.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast seems better than a lot of PureFlix casts; even though there is really no acting coaching, the actors and actresses do a pretty good job by themselves.  However, like the rest of this movie, more is needed.  Similar to how the characters carry this sort of small scale plot, the actors and actresses are vital.  Unfortunately, there is just not enough positive here.

Conclusion

Though David A. R. White is the director of The Encounter, he does not insert his usual cheesy flavor.  But at the same time, dynamic elements are not present.  The tools are there, but they are not picked up and used.  The Encounter had the possibility to showcase a unique movie genre, but it was left hanging.  This film likely joins a group of Christian films that deserve a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Brother White (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuck in a long line of pastoral succession at a megachurch headed by the popular Johnny Kingman, James White is desperate to make his mark and to stand out from the crowd.  But doing so only gets him into further trouble.  After nearly ruining a children’s Sunday school class and an expensive painting and disrupting a church service, Kingman send James on a probation to pastor a struggling church in Atlanta.  So James, his wife Lily, and their two children make a cross-country move to the Peach State and find themselves thrust into a multicultural world they have never before experienced.  Not only must James find a way to save the struggling church, but he must come to grips with the fact that he is not invincible and must rely on God and his family for help.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Compared to other PureFlix productions, Brother White is not horrible.  It actually has a lot of potential.  The camera work is pretty good, as is the video quality.  However, the sound quality is inconsistent and some outside scenes are covered up with musical montages.  The editing is decent, but the sets and locations are obviously cheap.  There are some slight excuses for this, but it still could have been better.  Probably the worst production element is pretending like certain characters are singing when they are obviously not.  In short, the production of Brother White is just average—neither horrible nor dynamic.  There was a lot of potential here that was not brought to the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike many PureFlix plots, Brother White is slightly interesting.  Exploring racial relations by inserting an affluent white (White?) family into a predominantly African-American church has a lot of potential, if stereotypes are avoided.  For the most part, they are.  There is plenty of satire in Brother White that is actually funny, such as tongue-in-cheek swipes at prosperity gospel churches.  But there are also elements that are just trying too hard.  Too much comedy falls flat and some lines leave you scratching your head.  There are plot holes that are glossed over and some humor is way too obvious, such as the name ‘Lily White’.  The plot boils down to a simplistic save the farm storyline and seems to lose its original purpose in the end.  James’ character arc is commendable, but the whole movie just leaves you wanting more substance.  In short, Brother White is not so awful that it’s unwatchable, but it’s also frustrating to watch because there was obviously a lot of creativity left untapped.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is probably David A. R. White’s best lead role, it still leaves much to be desired.  The presence of more professional actors in this cast keeps it from sinking to the depths of most PureFlix casts.  However, there is still a lack of acting coaching.  Were all the actors up to par, this movie would have improved.

Conclusion

This is probably the closest the Whites and Tommy Blaze will ever get to true comedy.  But were this plot in different hands, we can’t help but feel it could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  It contains a unique plot on a good topic and as it is, has some humorous elements.  In the end, Brother White is the highest rated White comedy and unfortunately, it is hard to believe that it will get any better than this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Hidden Secrets [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the death of a common friend, Gary, Jeremy, Michael, Harold, and Sherry all gather at his house for a long weekend of repairs and catching up on the good old days.  However, all is not well among them.  Jeremy discovers that he still love Sherry, his former girlfriend, even though his current girlfriend is staying with them.  Michael is guarding a dark secret from his past.  Gary and Harold’s wife constantly clash over his Jewish background and his atheist beliefs.  In the end, they will have to come to grips their hidden secrets in order to face the future.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

There is literally nothing good to say about this film’s production quality.  The video is grainy and the sound quality is all over the place.  The camera work is unprofessional.  Everything about the production has a very cheap identity.  The sets are severely limited, mostly taking place inside one house or on its roof (yes, seriously).  The editing is terrible, but it’s not like there was much to work with.  Roof repair scenes, standing around and talking scenes, and thrift store dress-up scenes litter the landscape.  But nothing can beat David A. R. White mouthing a Building 429 song and pretending like he’s singing it.  As previously mentioned, there is nothing positive here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only one positive element to discuss from this entire film, and that is its slightly interesting exploration of the various types of secret sins many Christians harbor.  Otherwise, the remainder of this film is utter nonsense.  The dialogue is almost written purposely ridiculous.  One character is an over-the-top, obnoxious, legalistic Christian who is the only one, in her mind, who can interpret the Bible properly.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so unwatchable.  The atheist character is equally annoying.  Other dialogue is absurd and overly obvious, shoving issues down viewers’ throats.  There is also no clear plotline to this movie except for repairing a roof, hanging around talking and arguing on various controversial topics, reminiscing about the good old days, playing dress-up in a thrift store, and pretending to sing in a cheap restaurant.  Any good intentions there were in making this movie are buried beneath a mound of insanity.

Acting Quality (0 points)

No acting coaching is employed in Hidden Secrets.  Actors and actresses are allowed to basically run wild with the material with no quality control.  Line delivery is forceful—several actors and actresses are clearly trying to draw attention to themselves.  Emotions are also extreme and unbelievable.  Once again, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

There is a base idea in Hidden Secrets that should have been given to another film.  Unfortunately, Carey Scott, Sean Paul Murphy, and Timothy Ratajczak have not demonstrated that they are good stewards of movie ideas.  To make this sort of movie shows one of three things—they either do not care about making quality movies, they do not fully know how to make quality movies, or they are purposely making low quality movies.  What type of audience is supposed to derive meaning from this sort of movie?  For many reasons, this movie receives a very low score.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Marriage Retreat (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mark and Claire Bowman, James and Donna Harlow, and Bobby and Melody Castle are all close friends, but they are also all struggling in their marriages.  Mark has unresolved issues with his father, James is gone all the time, and Bobby has a gambling problem.  That’s why they decide to take advantage of a marriage retreat sponsored by their church.  They go into the experience with the wrong intentions and quickly find out that they are not all they thought they were.  They will have to dig deep in order to save their marriages from disaster.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

To begin, the camera and sound quality are pretty good, but that is the extent of the positive elements.  The sets are very cheap and limited.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to pinpoint how this film could have been edited better, since it is hard for us to quantify its actual plot.  There is little else that can be said about Marriage Retreat’s production since much of the movie appears to be mostly impromptu work.  One other thing that should be noted is that some of the wedding photos used in the beginning credits are obviously photo-shopped, but when the rest of the movie is considered, this should not be surprising.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As mentioned, there is little to no plot in this film, not only because it is very limited in scope, but most of the dialogue is very impromptu.  A majority of the scenes do not appear to have a clear script, so they meander along a path of horrific attempts at comedy, replete with clownish dialogue.  Therefore, the characters greatly resemble the actual actors themselves.  This plot’s one small redeeming quality is that it has a good message, but it is lost in a sea of cheap and ridiculous attempts at humor.  There is plenty of potential here to showcase different marital issues among Christian couples, but it is reduced to a C-grade cable channel movie that will never make any impact in Christian culture.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It is noble and notable to cast married couples together in this sort of movie, but like everything else potentially positive in this film, it is washed away.  There is zero acting coaching for this small cast, which seems to indicate a certain amount of overconfidence on the part of the actors.  With coaching, some of the comedy could have been actually funny, but alas, it is just another item on the list of lost potential.

Conclusion

True comedy is needed in Christian movies, as are movies that take on the struggles of Christian marriages.  However, Marriage Retreat only serves to further make a laughingstock of Christian films.  Instead of quickly spinning out more and more movies, PureFlix crews need to stop and think on the implications of quantity over quality.  It is not worth it to simply make movies about good topics—we cannot stress this enough—care and attention must be given to production, plot, and acting quality.  Otherwise, the valuable message is completely lost.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points