Malibu Dan the Family Man, Season 1 (Series Review)

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Plot Summary

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 BreaksMalibu 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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 14 points

 

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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

Me Again (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Richie Chaplin is a mess.  He’s struggling to convey meaning in his pastoral ministry.  His wife has separate from him due to his depression and sleepwalking, taking their three children with her.  His two younger children don’t even know who he is.  His older daughter is messing around with a boy.  Basically, Richie doesn’t want to be himself anymore.  He wants somebody else’s life because his life stinks.  He’s forgotten the original purpose God created him for, so he’s about to embark on a wild journey outside of his control to remind him why he is living the life he is living.  In the end, he will have to decide whether or not he likes the life God has given him or if he is going to make one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

To their credit, at least PureFlix invested in better camera quality than usual for this film.  The sound quality is also fine, but these are the only positive aspects of the production of Me Again.  Throughout this zany drug trip into the creative faculties of David A. R. White and Tommy Blaze, the camera angles can get dizzying, confusing, and downright amateurish in their attempt to be dramatic or comedic.  Cheesy horror effects are inserted randomly and out of context.  Low-quality special effects are overused and invasive.  The surroundings are painfully obviously reused from Marriage Retreat, suggesting that this movie was borne out of that film’s B-rolls.  Finally, all editing sense is thrown out the window as the plot tosses hither and fro with no system or consistency, like they’re just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what happens.  Overall, Me Again feels like an experimental film that either accidentally got released or was released to try to glean desperately needed funds.  Either way, it doesn’t work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Few screenwriters venture to create a psychological comedy, and Me Again may stand as a testament as to why.  The plot of this film is extremely hard to nail down.  After watching an unusual sequence on television two nights in a row, David A. R. White is suddenly transported into an alternate universe in which he gets to become a random rich guy, a model he saw on TV, a goldfish (?!?!), an infant, a housemaid, the teenage boy trying to date his daughter, and finally his own wife.  The only real explanations that are offered for this potentially interesting psychological journey are vague and trite inspirational quotes from an offbeat angel character he should have already known about (more on that shortly).  The leaps from one impersonation to the next are not only painfully horrible at trying to be funny, but also leave no room for real character development.  The dialogue is horrifically childish and often feels adlibbed and impromptu.  Yet somewhere in the midst of histrionic displays from A. R. White, including a fake (or not) heart attack, a purposeful makeup disaster, voiceovers for a goldfish and an infant, generally idiotic behavior, self-parodies, and an epic conversation with himself in the alternate universe (perhaps his acting dream), there is some interesting meaning hidden here.  If someone was able to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’, then they would view life a lot differently.  But this potential meaning is covered up due to time wasted on downright stupidity.  This goes without saying that, in keeping with usual White themes, everything is too black and white.  ‘Good’ characters are obviously perfect and wise while ‘bad’ characters are complete over the top strawmen, bringing more disgrace to how people think Christians view ‘worldly’ people.  Also, solutions to problem are far too easy, trite, and shallow, and offer no real help for people struggling with the real issues presented.

But perhaps the worst element of this entire plot is found in the unusual sepia tone flashback prologue and epilogue.  It’s so devastating that it warrants a Box Office Revolution first: a separate paragraph of discussion.  The prologue and epilogue are presumably supposed to depict Richie and his wife as childhood sweethearts drinking honeysuckle tea (whatever that is).  The epilogue completely undermines the purpose of the plot and suggests that it’s all one big joke.  Either that or PureFlix is full of incompetence (probably a little of both).  Richie’s wife, as a girl, tells him that she knows they’ll be married one day because the specific angel he later sees on television and has a conversation with in the midst of his psychological adventure told her so.  If this is the case, then he should have known what was happening when he recognized the name of the angel.  Another alternative possibility is that the entire middle of the movie is just part of the girl’s dream, which suggests that the entire movie is useless.  Whatever the case is, this plot is so slipshod and incompetent that we can’t make heads or tails of it.  All we know is that it’s an experience we’ll both never forget and never wish to repeat.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As usual, the Whites and their comrades have no restraint or direction in their acting but are content to blurt out lines in ‘funny’ fashions and lazily act their way through another cheap movie full of one-take scenes and adlib behavior.  No emotional meaning can be felt here because the acting is so absurd, especially David A. R. White’s zany impersonations of other characters and Tommy Blaze’s generally bizarre behavior.  In short, another zero point acting job is business as usual for PureFlix.

Conclusion

If anything was accomplished through this unique experience, it was that a movie like this has never been made before and should never be made again.  Unfortunately, any attempt at deeper meaning is so shallow that’s easily washed over with a tide of absurdity.  Many elements of this movie seem to suggest that the Whites and company have no grasp on the real world, as they treat important issues too lightly and portray people has completely good or completely bad.  It seems like the only purpose of Me Again is to make fun of everything, including themselves, and to waste another good idea.  The one merit PureFlix has is an acceptance of creating different types of movies, but in most cases, like this one, they ruin the reputation of Christian movies in unique genres.  This is not to mention the fact that Me Again is just another film that makes the name ‘Christian film’ more of a laughingstock.  At some point, the creation of this type of nonsense must end and Christian filmmakers must get serious about generating quality content if we are ever going to make a true difference.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 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