Summer of ’67 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In the years of the Vietnam War, families faced many different unique challenges posed by the international conflict.  Milly and Gerald have recently been married, but they have been forced to live with Gerald’s eccentric mother due to financial challenges.  Milly’s sister Kate is torn between the pro-war and anti-war efforts due to her mother’s past suicide.  When Gerald and Kate’s on-and-off boyfriend Peter are called to the war front for various reasons, Milly and Kate must both live with Gerald’s eccentric mother Joanna as the world around them seems to be falling apart.  Together, they must rekindle the faith they were always taught in order to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Sharon and Fred Wilharm of Mainstreet Productions have always had a commitment to building authentic productions.  Summer of ’67 is no exception, as they demonstrate a clear attention to specific historical detail in the props, sets, and locations.  Video quality and camera work are also quite professional.  Audio quality is mostly fine as well, although the soundtrack can sometimes be too loud and somewhat out of place.  As they are still transitioning from making silent films, some adjustments like this can be expected.  Also, the editing can be a bit choppy at times, which can cause the story presentation to be confusing.  Overall, with just a few more tweaks, the Wilharms are very close to mastering professional productions, especially those in need of historical authenticity.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, as Mainstreet Productions used to only make silent films, the plot of Summer of ’67 is not really what it could be.  It comes off as a loose collection of ideas that need better synthesis and organization.  The good thing is that the story does unfold without narration, but some of the dialogue is slightly expository.  Outside of a few interesting conversations, unfortunately, the dialogue does not do enough to build the characters as people.  Some scenes are too short and not explained very well, and time seems to jump from one thing to the next without very clear coherency or organization.  Thus, a lot of the characters come off as shallow, even though they have potential, and a lot of story ideas seem unfinished.  While the ending is very interesting and realistic, the lead-up is not quite enough to hold the attention of the audience.  Overall, it’s clear that the Wilharms really care about trying to making great films; they are just not quite there yet in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another adjustment from making silent films is obviously going to be acting coaching.  While this cast is mostly fine and has a lot of potential, there are one too many scenes where the cast members don’t appear to know what they are doing.  Some of the acting is too stilted and robotic in both line and emotional delivery.  As a good note, this might be Mimi Sagadin’s best role, but she needed a bit more screen time than she was given.  On the whole, this section is mostly average.

Conclusion

We know that the Wilharms really do mean well in their films, and the historical authenticity of this production has great value.  It’s definitely going to be an adjustment to move from silent to non-silent films, so growing pains are to be expected.  However, since the Wilharms have always been committed to improving however they can, we believe that Summer of ’67 is something that can be built off of for future improvement.  Perhaps next time, if a more substantial plot is crafted, the next Mainstreet film could be Hall of Fame.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Good Book [2014] (Movie Review)

The Good Book (2014)

Plot Summary

The Bible is a powerful book that has been changing lives for centuries.  A group of people in a small town individually face struggles and circumstances that lead them searching for fresh help, the Word of God comes to them and helps them understand exactly what they need to do.  Each situation is difference and each struggle is unique, but the same Book shows each one the way to go.  This Good Book can do the same for your life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As an ambitious silent film, The Good Book boasts many professional elements.  The fundamentals—camera work, video quality, and audio quality—are all excellent.  In a silent film, the soundtrack is key, and this one delivers.  An original instrumental soundtrack is very effective with this type of movie.  Sets and locations are also realistic and down to earth.  The only real problem to point out here is the editing, as it is hard to follow where the movie is going.  But overall, this is a high quality production that shows great potential for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s not easy to integrate unrelated multiple storylines in a way that is engaging and makes sense.  However, The Good Book does this fairly well, even though we would have liked to see a little more plot continuity.  There is always going to be a ceiling for silent plots, as dialogue is absent and can only be implied.  Yet this story is understandable and powerful all the same.  The situations experienced by the characters are realistic and relatable.  The ending of the story is powerful and could almost be a movie in and of itself.  In the end, this is a great effort and shows true talent.  When Sharon Wilharm and her team make a non-silent story, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Silent acting is sometimes better for some cast members (coughcoughJennGotzoncoughcough).  With silent acting, coaching is always needed and thus, the cast members have to work to show emotion, and this usually pays off.   Though silent, what this cast is trying to convey is mostly understandable.  The main caveat here is that it seems like some cast members are trying too hard to express themselves.  But otherwise, this is a good effort.

Conclusion

The Mainstreet Productions team was wise to begin with silent films like this one and ProvidenceThe Good Book has a powerful and undeniable message and is certainly worth a watch.  We believe Wilharm and company are talented and have a lot of offer to Christian film, so it will be exciting to see what they do next.

 

Final Rating: 6 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

 

Interview With Sharon Wilharm, Creator of Providence

Briefly tell us about your faith journey.

I grew up in a Christian home where we were at church every time the doors opened. I was very involved in missions and assumed that God would call me to a life as a missionary or as a minister’s wife.

When I was in college at a Baptist Campus Ministries retreat, the speaker called for individuals to commit to a life of Christian service, and I remember feeling then that God was calling me to serve, but in a way that wasn’t even on my radar yet.

 

When was the first time you wanted to make a Christian film?

It seems like so many people nowadays are chasing after the filmmaking dream. That was never me. I call myself a reluctant filmmaker because I came into it kicking and screaming.

It all started when I married Fred. As I said, I assumed I was going into ministry. I got a degree in education and was registered for seminary. Then God put me together with Fred who was a businessman with a chain of coin laundries. I figured I must have misunderstood God. But what I didn’t realize then was that Fred’s passion was filmmaking, and even though he wasn’t pursuing it when we married, he had gone to college with that purpose.

So about ten years into our marriage Fred decided to make a local history documentary. Then, as he listened to all the stories, he decided that it would be fun to put them together into a narrative story. Then we stumbled upon a local Christian artist, and we thought her music would be great as a soundtrack. Since I was a writer (newspaper and magazine journalist), Fred asked if I wanted to write a script. I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing, but I wrote a script. Then, since I was also a church drama director and loved acting, I ended up directing and starring in it. It was awful because again, I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing. I told Fred never again. I meant it, but God had other plans.

 

What makes you interested in creating Christian entertainment?

After fighting God for many years, I finally accepted that this is what He has called me to do. This is my mission field and so it’s important that I give Him my very best efforts.

What I love most is the way God has taken our movies to places I’ll never go and used them to speak to people I’ll never meet. Our movie The Good Book has made its way around the world and is used by missionaries to help spread the gospel. Providence screened in AMC theaters including Times Square and L.A. All our films have aired on television channels nationwide. Now I’m working on our latest script, getting it ready to film this summer, and our desire is that God will take it even further than our previous movies.

 

What do you ultimately want to do in the field of Christian movies?

I want to create movies that speak to souls and that continue to speak long after I’m gone. I want to create works of art that draw people to Christ, movies that bless people and ultimately makes them better individuals as a result of seeing God in a new and personal way.

 

Do you think that Christian entertainment needs more quality productions?

I am a firm believer that Christians should be offering our very best fruits to God and not just serving up stale leftovers. I know that everyone has to start somewhere and that we are limited oftentimes by our resources. But it hurts my heart to see all these filmmakers throwing together projects,  not bothering to put any real effort into making them. And then they complain that the critics are picking on them because they’re Christian.  Critics desperately want life changing works of art, and if we listen to what they say, we can create movies that will truly impact the world in a positive way.

 

How hard is it for a new Christian film maker to make it in the business?  What is the level of support like?

Honestly, it’s not that difficult to get your movie out there. Distributors are hungry for quality content and there are plenty willing to give newcomers a start. There’s also film festivals and organizations who strive to help support new filmmakers.  And, of course, my blog Faith Flix helps spread the word about upcoming films and filmmakers.

The biggest thing that filmmakers need to remember is that it is our responsibility to promote our movies. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the responsibility of churches to promote your movie, nor is it the responsibility of distributors. Ultimately, if you want your film to go places, you’ve got to work, work, work to let people know about it.

Finally, if people come in thinking they’re going to get rich and famous making Christian movies, they’re going to be sadly disappointed. There’s always someone higher up the food chain than you, and the money is slow to trickle in. But if you look at it as a ministry and your goal is to get it out to the people, God will help get it to the people who need it.

 

Do you have plans for a non-silent film in the future?

For the past eight months I’ve been working on a new script, this time a “talkie”. The reason we initially started doing silent films was because  we discovered that we were better at telling a story visually than with words. But even though the response to our silent movies has been surprisingly great, they’re still limited in how far they can go. The average moviegoer expects dialogue and so in order to reach the masses, that’s what we’re doing. However, we are taking all that we learned from our silent films and applying it this one. So even though the characters talk, the story will still be primarily shown rather than told.

 

What can we expect next from you?

Be watching in the next month for our casting notices and then as we begin filming this summer. This latest movie is a period piece, very ambitious, and definitely our biggest project yet. We’ve been studying and preparing and can’t wait to see where God takes this one.

 

Thanks for participating!

Providence [2016] (Movie Review)

Image result for providence movie 2016

Plot Summary

As Rachel Cartwright and Mitchell Little grew up in the small town of Providence, Tennessee, they each took different paths until finally meeting up.  Though they were together for a while, they lost touch as they grew older and went different paths again.  But even as life takes them in their different directions, they are destined to meet up again no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s very interesting to take a risk by creating a silent film, and as it turns out, it’s better to have no audio than bad audio.  Additionally, it was wise to fill the sound with an original soundtrack, even though it is sometimes incongruent with the time period the plot is trying to portray.  However, we would have liked to hear more instrumental tracks.  Silent films rely heavily on camera work and video quality, and both of these elements passed the test of professionalism.  There are also historically realistic sets, locations, and props throughout.  The main caveat to raise here is that some scenes tend to lag too long—we would have liked to see more content, but it’s a good start.  Regardless, Sharon Wilharm and Mainstreet Productions demonstrate the ability to engineer high quality productions, and we can’t wait to see them reach the next level.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Due to the silence, there is no audible dialogue, only implied dialogue.  This is both good and bad because it limits the mistakes and the rewards.  Nonetheless, the viewer can figure out fairly well what is going on in the story.  However, the storyline is somewhat simple and typical.  Some sequences are too long while others are too short, but there is far more plot content in Providence than in many non-silent films.  We would have liked to know these characters a little better than we do, but that’s just a limitation of silent plots.  In the end, the plot is okay, yet we feel that this plot could have been a little more complex than this.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It is definitely difficult to act and to acting coach in silent films, yet both are pulled off well in Providence.  These cast members show better emotions than some non-silent films—for the most part, we really know what is going on, and that’s a huge accomplishment.  While there is some historically inauthentic costuming, most of it is good.  In short, this is a professional performance.

Conclusion

We were wary of silent films before seeing Providence, but it seems like having no sound makes everyone, especially the cast, try harder to improve quality.  While silent movies may not be the future, this is definitely a good place to jump start from and to use to improve into greatness.  The good news for Christian film is that after an extended wilderness of the early 2000s, movie makers are finally moving to the point of higher production quality.  Providence is an example of this trend.  Mainstreet Productions shows great promise for the future and we look forward to 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