A random small town is apparently falling apart due to the local factory closing down, and this decimates a Christian private school’s basketball team and sends the coach spiraling. When he already doesn’t even know what he’s going to do about a team, his superior, the principal, forces him to coach a one-girl cross-country team even though she has asthma! Along the way, he stumbles into a random hospital room containing someone who has surprising connections to the plot! Will he ever learn who he really is in Christ beyond just being a coach?
Production Quality (2 points)
Okay, so, what exactly was this $5 million budget spent on? Much of the production is fairly uninspiring. As usual for the Kendricks, it’s fine and mostly professional-looking, but for reals…all we get from this dollar amount is a bunch of vanilla sets, props, and locations mostly pertaining to people’s houses, a school campus, and lots of running\training footage? The decade-plus career of the brothers who brought Christian film out of the dark ages culminates with this? Besides the overall blah-ness of the layout, tons of time is wasted on nothing special in this film, and the editing seems very disjointed and disorganized. However, much of this could be due to the lack of any substantial plot content…
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
…which makes us wonder what the story actually is here. What are we supposed to focus on? The less than half-an-hour treatise on small towns falling apart? Five minutes of basketball footage? Alex Kendrick getting angry and throwing things? A runner with asthma? A random guy in a hospital? In all actuality, the blind man in the hospital bed is the most worthwhile subplot of the entire film, and it keeps this section from being abysmal, yet we only hear this part of the story through spoken word rather than via effective flashbacks. The only way to fix this film would be the focus entirely on this part of the story (the past and present narratives of the blind man and his interactions with other side characters) through a non-linear plot style. However, we don’t get this in Overcomer as we’re instead left with a very disjointed and disorganized storyline that gives us no opportunity to get to know the characters except that Alex Kendrick’s character is an almost-perfect white guy who has to save a non-white girl. Therein, there are many disturbing themes, such as the white family being overly good as they help the ‘bad’ African American girl; it goes without saying that a very disturbing plot point involves the school principal telling the coach to aid said minority minor in going around and lying to her legal guardian in basically illegal fashions. These actions are painted as good and never receive any consequences because the white characters can do no wrong. It’s too bad that the cross-country athlete character never stood a chance with the poor dialogue written for her character…she’s essentially programmed to respond to the prompts of her Caucasian helpers with little thought of her own. Elsewhere, old Kendrick humor is dying a slow and painful death as cringe-worthy attempts at comedy litter the already-confusing landscape of this storyline. In the end, it’s very difficult to think this plot had any other goals besides pushing propaganda and some kind of weird suburban version of Christianity.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
The Kendricks can choose literally anyone to be in their films; some cast members would do it for free, yet Alex insists on continually casting himself in lead roles he can’t pull off. He and Shari Rigby crowd out the runtime of Overcomer with bland and forgettable performances that drown out better skills from supporting (non-white) cast members who are barely given a chance to do anything. For instance, Priscilla Shirer and Cameron Arnett have plenty of acting skills, but we don’t see them as often as we see awkward white people. Aryn Wright-Thompson probably has something to offer if she was ever given a shot to do something besides robotically repeat stale lines. In the end, this section is fine, but it punctuates a surprisingly bad effort from the Kendricks.
Minus the unusual racial undertones and the bizarre condoning of illegal actions, Overcomer is basically a run-of-the-mill church film with a sports twist. Even without the glaring issues, however, this still wouldn’t be acceptable based on where the Kendricks are in the careers. They are basically at the pinnacle of success, coming off their most successful film (War Room), so their budget and advertising resources are clearly vast. They can hire and cast whoever they wish, including actual screenwriters, yet they decided to settle for a well-produced version of Flywheel combined with the worst racial stereotypes found in Courageous to create a blandly vague idea that focuses on forcing messages down the audience’s throats. In the end, it appears as though their refusal to reach out and try different collaborations is causing them to fade into the background of an industry they helped save from the brink.
Manav Banerjee only wanted to be a successful journalist in the late 1990s India, when the country was full of social unrest due to religious persecution and restlessness. Thus, when Banerjee was given a chance at big story – finding a reason to arrest American missionary Graham Staines – he jumped at the chance to infiltrate the Christian cell who cared for the leper outcasts in order to trap Staines with Indian religious laws. However, the longer he knew Staines, the more perplexed Banerjee became, and he inadvertently set off a chain of events that would change both of their lives forever.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
The Least of These is a production that was a long time coming, and the finished product was definitely worth the wait as the on-location filming location paid off. This gives it an air of authenticity that there wouldn’t otherwise be in an international film. Video quality, camera work, sets, and props also live up to these high standards set by the hard work put into it. Audio quality is also mostly adequate, and the soundtrack is culturally appropriate, even if it is a bit loud and invasive in some scenes. The only other minor error to point out here relates to some quick cuts and abrupt scene transitions, but the editing is overall good, including some artistic overlays that are executed well. As a whole, as we kick off 2019 in the world of Christian entertainment, The Least of These is an almost-perfect production in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality productions.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
It’s definitely clear why this true story was chosen for a film, and it’s refreshing to see a unique, non-Western perspective on white missionaries coming to a third world country, which can be attributed to the Indian creators of this film. We’ve had plenty of films told through the eyes of the ‘benevolent’ white missionaries, so seeing a culturally authentic perspective on this true story makes this plot very worthwhile. However, there are still some pitfalls of freshman story-telling to note here, such as the heavy-handed narration that doesn’t allow the plot to unfold naturally. Nevertheless, for the most part, character development appears to survive mostly intact, which can likely be attributed to their being based on real people. A good use of effective flashbacks also aids in this effort. Further, the Christian message is presented very well without being too forceful. Unfortunately, while the beginning and middle of this plot are quite good, it tends to lag at the end and to not discover the dynamic feel that it needed to push it onto the Hall of Fame. There are one too many abstract scenes that don’t have enough meaning attached to them. Nevertheless, this is still a great film about an excellent real-life story that is definitely worth your time.
Acting Quality (2.5 points)
It seems like there were better cast members to cast for Australian roles than non-Australian cast members Stephen Baldwin and Shari Rigby, whose Australian acting accents are either non-existent or extremely inconsistent. Despite these obvious errors, however, Baldwin and Rigby do well in fulfilling their DVD-cover roles by being in less than half of the film’s run time. They are definitely overshadowed by the excellent cultural casting for all of the other characters, which is a refreshment. Not only do the Indian cast members fit into their roles very well, but they are also skilled in line execution and emotional delivery. Further, costuming throughout the film is authentic and culturally accurate, which rounds out an overall above-average effort.
While The Least of These didn’t go as far as it could have been, this is absolutely a great start to a film-making career for all of those involved. Not only did Stephen Baldwin show that he can actually pull off a semi-normal role, but Aneesh Daniel and his team have showcased great skill and talent that will hopefully be applied to even better movies in the future. While we can’t wait to see what they have next, this film is definitely worth your time.
Dr. David Horton is known as a great professor in Lynchburg, and his ‘running’ class is extremely popular. His reputation is that he helps all of his students by connecting with them on a personal level. Dr. Horton is also a marathon enthusiast, but his passion often takes away his time from his family, which is something his wife greatly struggles with. Much to her chagrin, David embarks on a dangerous cross-country marathon for two months, even though he is secretly battling health problems. Will his health and their marriage survive the trek?
Production Quality (2 points)
Liberty University has all of the toys and resources an independent film maker could dream of, yet they consistently settle for just above average productions. There’s no doubt that Extraordinary has some great cinematography, even if it’s mostly a collection of American landmark shots. Nevertheless, camera work is excellent, and video quality is great. Sets, locations, and props also make this production a mostly good experience. Editing is standard, and on the surface, this is a well-produced film. However, beneath the surface, there are some head-scratching inclusions, such as silly production gimmicks and weirdly bad special effects. These elements are reminiscent of film school professors playing around to see what they can do with what they have. However, most audiences will likely look past these issues and see the above-average production that it is.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Based on a true story, the Liberty University team had a lot to work with, even though they have struggled in the past with storylines. However, in Extraordinary, the Curlee\Schultze team continued their issues with very thin and empty plots and characters. Though this is based on real people, they clearly had no idea how to craft realistic characters as the story does not translate well at all. The characters are empty due to dialogue that is full of title-dropping, pedestrian platitude-pushing, and repeated content. Many scenes are basically filler with no substantial contribution to the overall plot. There are one too many ‘funny’ scenes, and the majority of the movie is packed with musical montages and dramatic moments that have no meaning. In the end, though the basic idea behind this story was great, the film version leaves the audience with no real focus or purpose as it tried so hard to drive the point home that it fell flat.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Acting coaching and casting is another area the Curlee\Schultze team struggles in, which is a shame since they claim to be prodigies of the Kendricks. The lead actor of this film is particularly weak and awkward, and several supporting cast members are annoying. Kirk Cameron is beyond obnoxious, and Shari Rigby struggles without better directing. However, there are enough good areas here to make this section at least average; one has to consider that this cast didn’t have many substantial lines to work with. Nonetheless, the Liberty University team continues to disappoint.
Scotty Curlee and Stephan Schultze have the film world at their fingertips, yet they constantly settle for half-measure and expect you to deal with it because at least it’s a Christian movie or something. Unfortunately, they are consistently wasting the time and money of Christian audiences as all of their marketing is for nothing but a quick cash grab. Extraordinary is another example of a squandered opportunity because Curlee and Schultze refuse to retain a truly talented screenwriter (like Sean Morgan) and have demonstrated time and again their lack of regard for improvement. Now we can just wait with bated breath for their upcoming Trump film.
Much like other movies that need renovations, Wildflower has a very professional production. As expected, the only issue that needs improvement here is the editing, as it is quite choppy. However, this is related to the plot, so if this had been rectified, the production would have been nearly perfect.
Plot and Storyline Improvements
Wildflower is one of the most frustrating plots to witness. It is billed as a unique psychological thriller, and at first, it seems like it has a lot of potential. However, the more it goes on, the more disappointing it becomes due to narration and overly obvious elements. The mystery factors and intended elements of surprise are crippled by the poor presentation of the story. It tries to become too complicated and involved without properly developing the characters or even what the psychological concept behind this plot is trying to convey or model. For example, the flashbacks\dreams of the protagonist are intriguing, but what about other elements of trauma? In a similar vein, the antagonist of the story is too obvious, and the scope of the psychological elements are too limited. Also, the artistic elements of this film are creative and interesting, but there are times when the plot gets lost in them. This plot could have been greatly improved with a more well-charted psychological journey without narration, in order to preserve the element of surprise in the plot twists. A more pertinent study of the effects of trauma and causes of dissociation would have made this movie a lot more realistic. Of course, allowing the characters to develop naturally through substantial dialogue and flashbacks is always a must in a psychological plot. Finally, the actions and motivations of the characters need to be better explained without so much reliance on coincidences and vague ideas. There was tons of potential here; it just needed to be better developed.
For the most part, this cast was very professional, even with a fairly difficult script to work with. Much like the plot affecting the editing, improving some of the dialogue would have likely improved some of the lines that the cast members didn’t have much to work with. However, there were some underwhelming moments that could have been improved, as well as some overly dramatic sequences.
We absolutely need more psychological thrillers in Christian film, but they need to be well-constructed, well-thought-out, and well-researched. Trauma and dissociation are great topics to explore, but they need to be grounded in reality and not vaguely presented. Also, narration rarely helps a movie, and the motivations of characters need to be demonstrated through deep dialogue and engaging flashbacks. Moreover, we believe that Nicholas DiBella has tons of potential as a film maker and will continue to improve in his career.
Malibu Dan and Holidae Sinclair run the southern California early morning show Good Morning Malibu. Dan is always getting himself into comedic scrapes, while Holi is always looking for a better media offer. They work with a goofy but likeable crew, but most of all, Dan considers himself to be a devout family man. What else could go wrong in Tommy Blaze’s latest zany comedic endeavors?
Production Quality (1.5 points)
Much like Hitting the Breaks, Malibu Dan the Family Man is a sitcom with an average production, which means it comes with that annoying laugh track again. There are also other sound effects used now, however. Another annoying aspect of the sitcom genre is the use of ridiculously fake backgrounds and cheaply limited sets, as well as a total lack of actual locations. Props are fine, however, as are other standard production elements, such as camera work and video quality, which keep this production from being totally worthless. However, the editing also suffers from lack of creativity as it is quite choppy. In the end, however, these few production positives are the only ones that exist in this unnecessary series.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
If Tommy Blaze and company were so desperate to make another sitcom, why not just make another season of Hitting the Breaks? Malibu Dan is really no different—just some rearranged characters and different cast members. Who would have noticed if some cast members changed for a new season of Breaks? As it is, Malibu Dan includes the same old tired and ridiculous messages Blaze and David A. R. White have been hanging out to dry for years, such as an absurdly stark gender divide, their patronizing view of Generation Y, and the endless pursuit of media fame and stardom. As usual, David A. R. White is the bemused husband\father who gets himself into a comedic venture that solves itself in twenty minutes or less. Everything is the same, and there is nothing new in PureFlix.
Acting Quality (0 points)
With the same old egotistical PureFlix cast members—the Whites, Brad Heller, Kevin Downes, Gregg Binkley—Malibu Dan throws in a few more, such as comedy staple Victoria Jackson and Erik Estrada with a few more plastic surgeries since the last time we saw him. Regardless of the changes, the zaniness and the over-the-top non-subtlety is still present and still makes for an eye-rolling experience as the leadership of Blaze continues to push ‘Christian’ comedy to the limits of absurdity. The other cast members are swept along in the wave of nonsense and must wonder how they got stuck with this crew.
Continuity Quality (0 points)
Sitcoms are not made for continuity. There are no story arcs or character arcs as each episode exists within its own twenty-minute bubble in which all conflicts introduced are promptly and easily solved in time to tack a trite Christian antidote onto the end. Thus, no points can be awarded here.
As long as the PureFlix faithful continue to garner funding for these frivolous projects, they will keep making them to satisfy their longings to parade themselves around like idiots in the name of Christian entertainment, ever in the pursuit of fame and stardom, just like the characters they portray. They are as shallow as the comedy they create, but as un-ignorable as David A. R. White’s bombastic displays of idiocy. They project themselves as the leaders in Christian film and the saviors in a dark world of Christian persecution, but if this is all we have to lead us, it’s no wonder so many people scoff at Christian media.
Melinda was always told that she was an illegitimate child. Her mother is superstitious and has a secret she is trying to hide as she is under the thumb of the ruthless Maddox, Melinda’s stepfather. When Maddox sends Melinda away to Melinda’s grandmother, Melinda sees a whole new outlook on life, including insights into who her father really is. She discovers that everyone in the small western town of Boonville is hiding a secret, and only courage and faith will help them to disclose what they need to disclose.
Production Quality (2 point)
Since there is a lot of mainstream experience on the production team, the production of Boonville Redemption is understandably professional. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be. The soundtrack is pedestrian, but the sets and locations are historically realistic. The biggest errors to highlight here pertain to editing, as there are a lot of abrupt transitions and choppy sequences. There is too much content that has been crammed into the 100-minute runtime of this film. Basically, this film is professional on the surface, yet it lacks the necessary substance to be any better than it is.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
Though Boonville Redemption attempts to explore a unique plot style and genre, it does so in all the wrong ways. Constant narration from the unnecessarily omniscient Pat Boone doesn’t leave anything to chance and makes sure the ending is obvious in the beginning. Pretty much every character is a cheesy stereotype, especially the ridiculously monologuing villain. The characters that have potential to be good are barely given any screen time, probably due to the large number of characters in general. Though there is a lot of content, as previously mentioned, time is frivolously wasted on very unnecessary sequences. Any good parts are very rushed and are drowned out by too many quirky elements. Everything culminates in a gag-inducing “it’s my diary” climax sequence that really just puts the icing on this rotten cake. Unfortunately, while this could have been a creative and interesting story, it falls very much short of expectations.
Acting Quality (2 points)
The good news is historical costuming is realistic, although there are some minor shades of Michael Landon Jr. frontier makeovers present. The acting is mostly professional with only some minor errors, such as some overly dramatic moments. If Edward Asner, Richard Tyson, and Pat Boone were removed from this cast, it would have been perfect. But at least this casting job is somewhat palatable.
Boonville Redemption demonstrates mainstream professionalism in the production and acting departments, but the plot severely suffers from lack of creativity and forceful delivery. Throwing a bunch of big name cast members into a well-funded production does not equal a good movie. The story seems like it had too many writers in the story room, but that isn’t really the case. Essentially, writers need to trust their audiences to figure things out rather than have Pat Boone tell them what to think about stuff. Also, the last thing we needed was the Pat Boone credits number, but who really cares at this point?
Chloe has a dark secret that haunts her, but she doesn’t quite know what it is. She is plagued by nightmares and flashbacks of something that lurks below her consciousness, but she cannot quantify it. She also does not want to talk to anyone about it except her trusted friend Rebecca. Chloe has pushed everyone away, including her mother. But when she is faced with something she cannot reconcile, she will have to reach out to someone before it’s too late.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
The Faith Street Films team has consistently shown a commitment to quality productions—this is evident again in Wildflower. Camera work is professional, as is video quality. Audio quality is error-free and the soundtrack is superb and enhances the experience. Sets and locations are good as well. The only problem to point out here is editing. Some scenes are unnecessarily long while others are cut too short. As will be discussed next, too much of the same thing happens. But overall, this is a great production that shows great promise.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
Wildflower is a much-needed Christian psychological thriller, but it’s extremely frustrating to watch, knowing all that could have been. For starters, the heavy-handed narration throughout doesn’t allow the plot to develop naturally. Great issues are raised here, but the characters are stunted by too much narration and not enough dialogue. Though there are excellent psychological elements and flashbacks, the plot is based too much on coincidences. Overall, we know that the creators mean well and is was great to try something different, but without deeper development, the storyline and its characters are left only halfway finished. We would love to see this concept remade in some way.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Though this cast is relatively small, they do a fairly good job pulling this off. They are mostly believable, but there are some underwhelming performances that seem to hold this film back from being all that it could be. Emotions are mostly realistic, but there are some overdone elements that distract from the story. In short, this is an above-average effort that had the ability to be better.
It is always disappointing to see a downgrade from Hall of Fame, especially since King’s Faith was enjoyable. We love psychological thrillers, but Wildflower left us wanting for more. The issues portrayed in this film are important and need to be discussed, we fear the way they are packaged in this film will turn people off. We sincerely wish this plot could be reworked so that it could reach its full greatness. Nonetheless, Nicholas DiBella and his team are certainly talented and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.
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
Caden is a spoiled teenager who thinks he owns the world and can do whatever he wants. So he decides to try to convince his mother and stepfather that he and his friends need to go to India to “experience the world.” Surprisingly, they agree, so Caden sets out to discover what he is looking for to satisfy his empty soul. All the while, his mother prays tirelessly for him in the hope that he will come to his senses. Little does she know God’s plan for him as Caden stumbles upon the dark world of child trafficking and slavery and determines that he must do something about it.
Production Quality (1.5 points)
Not Today is a highly unique production, to say the least. At the beginning of the film, there are tons of odd special effects and captioning drawn on top of the screen to try to enhance the story, but this thankfully subsides as the movie goes on. There is a professional use of international on-set locations, but some of the camera work is shaky, seemingly on purpose to try to create some kind of documentary effect, even though this isn’t a docu-drama. Video and audio quality are both clear, however, and the original soundtrack is effective. Yet there are issues with editing, including choppiness and abrupt scene transitions. But the production improves in the middle as a whole and some of the minor issues fade away. However, it’s not enough to make this production above average. It’s a good effort, but it could have been better.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Though this premise is slightly forced, it is no less important to discuss in film. Unfortunately, too much of the film relies on the issue the writer is trying to present, namely human trafficking, and leaves other things undone at first. For example, the characters start out as very empty and stereotypical, but improve through the film through intriguing character arcs. Though things are rocky at first, the story improves in the middle and carries a powerful message. Similarly, the dialogue begins amateurish but becomes deeper and more meaningful as the plot goes on. There is a lot of content here, along with some interesting psychological elements, but we would have still liked to see more development from some of the characters and less wasted time at the beginning. Also, the ending is quite rushed and patched up, so we can’t really appreciate what’s happening. In the end, this is an average plot that we feel could have been better, but it ends up meaningful.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Like other elements, the acting starts off juvenile and forceful, but improves as the movie goes on. The character arcs seemingly cause the line delivery and emotional delivery to become more realistic. Nonetheless, international casting is realistic and effective. The frustrating thing is that this was a professional cast, so they certainly could have been better. But like the rest of the film, this portion just comes out as average.
Though Not Today is a slight advertisement for the human trafficking non-profit behind it, it is still an effective messaging tool and drives its point home in the end. No doubt a lot of effort was put into the international casting and filming, so this could have detracted from other parts of the movie. For the most part, many audiences will find this film enjoyable, and it may be worth your time. It’s not one of the horrible films out there—we just feel like it could have been better. Nevertheless, you should still probably give it a chance.
Hannah Lawson grew up a fairly normal girl with some slightly unusual health issues, but she adjusted fairly well and had an enjoyable albeit sheltered family life. However, everything changes when she has another onslaught of health issues while performing a college play. This only exposes her silent struggle with depression and a secret her parents have kept from her all her life—that they adopted her as an infant because she is the survivor of a failed abortion. This revelation leads Hannah to confide in her childhood friend Jason, which prompts him to help her find her birth mother, who might live six hours away from her. Against the advice of her overprotective father, Hannah embarks on a spring break trip with Jason and his friends in order to discover her origins. However, a fight with Jason’s girlfriend causes Hannah to strike out on her own, prompting Jason to follow her. Together, they not only discover Hannah’s past, but also the feelings they have kept hidden from each other.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
For a pilot movie, the production of October Baby is top notch. The camera work, including angles and shots, is exquisite with an artistic flair. This is not a cheap production. Filming is not contained to buildings, and outside scenes are not cheaply produced. Lighting and video quality are very professional. The soundtrack is excellent and enhances the movie; audio quality is exquisite. The only caveat here is that some scenes seem too long; some editing might have been prudent. But besides this, October Baby is very refreshing.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
October Baby has a simple linear plot, but it is a deep plot. The Erwin Brothers did everything they possibly could to do the best with what they had. There are some slight plot twists that are not overstated. The characters are well-developed through believable dialogue and are very authentic. There is even dry humor that is pulled off well and is not cheesy. The plot is not entirely about forcing the pro-life message, but it still offers a poignant true-to-life expose on the importance of valuing all human life. This is a truly meaningful plot that could convince someone to become pro-life.
Acting Quality (3 points)
Casting is perhaps a special talent of the Erwin Brothers. Every actor is cast perfectly with their part. The less experienced actors are as well coached as the more experienced actors. In the opinion of Box Office Revolution, this is the best movie John Schneider has ever acted in, and it can be credited to the expertise of the Erwin Brothers. The story behind Shari Rigby’s casting is a divine appointment.
October Baby receives an extra point for having an x-factor of dealing with the sensitive issue of abortion in a superb manner. Issues like this can come off as too pushy or preachy, but not so with the Erwin brothers. Instead, the issue is woven throughout the plot through believable characters. This movie’s only weakness is some scenes that appeared to last longer than they should have. The production is excellent, as is the acting. In short, October Baby is the Erwin brothers’ huge entrance into the Christian movie scene—signaling even better things to come.