Sacred [2017] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Barrett Lenox, despite his dark past, aspires to succeed in the boxing ring. However, the pressures of helping his wife, Danielle, build their life together, are weighing on him. Her father, who is training him, also pushes him to do better. Will he ever measure up to who he needs to be before more time has passed him by?

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At the beginning of the film, the opening sequence is intriguing and shows promise of creative potential. Also, the soundtrack is effective, and video quality and audio quality are at least average. For the most part, camera work and lighting are good, even if there are some unnecessarily dark scenes throughout. Unfortunately, the editing is somewhat flat, which puts a drag on things, but these efforts were overall good for the tiny budget the production team had to work with. In the end, this is at least an honest attempt.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Since Sacred is only based on a handful of characters and is basically an extended short film, it would have been good to see more depth from both the storyline and the characters. Working with only one subplot requires a lot of refinement, yet there are good attempts at flashbacks throughout this film, which definitely help things. Even so, there needed to be more substantial character-building dialogue to make it easier to get to know them as real people. As they are, the conversations are a bit too matter of fact and flat, and there are a lot of sports training montages for a less-than-an-hour film. Thus, there is a lot of wasted time that takes away from better possibilities. Moreover, there are a lot of interesting concepts and ideas throughout the movie that make it more worthwhile than it would have been, even if the Christian message needs some refinement. The ending is certainty unexpected and slightly creative though it needed a better lead-up than it had. In the end, Sacred has a non-typical plot structure that shows a lot of potential but didn’t quite go as far as it could have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of this film is average since it has some good scenes and some poorly executed ones. At times, emotions are overdone, and sometimes, lines are forced. Some cast members appear to be trying too hard, but there are also a handful of good performances. Also, some of the makeup work is fairly low quality, and there’s an unusual insinuation (without hard evidence) that a Caucasian cast member is playing an African-American character, but it’s difficult to know. In the end, this section rounds out a passable effort.

Conclusion

The creators of Sacred were onto something, but it’s possible that they didn’t quite know how to convey it. With such limited resources, it was wise for them to choose a shorter-than-usual runtime though it could have been better utilized by delving deeper into character development. Because of this, the story concept could use a remake, or the creative team could use this film as a foundation to build on for better ideas in the future. Either way, it will be interesting to see what they produce next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Run the Race (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

It seems like Zach and Dave Truett have always been dealt a bad hand in life. Their mother died, and their father soon after fell into alcoholism. Dave suffers from a medical condition, so when Zach tears his ACL at a party, his chances of a football scholarship, their only clear way out of their small town, are jeopardized. This forces Zach to do the soul-searching he had always avoided since their mother died, and it leads the brothers to unexpected places.

Production Quality (2 points)

As the first production funded and facilitated by the Tebow brothers, they have definitely shown that they can aggregate funds and put them to fairly good use. For the most part, this production is quite good and hits all the right notes, including good video quality, effective camera work, professional audio quality, and a great soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also adequately used and constructed. While the music is good, one drawback is the many dizzying sports montages that seem to eat up most of the runtime. Because of the time spent on this part, other scenes in the film are awkwardly and abruptly cut off with poor transitions. However, on the whole, this is an above-average production that is great for a first time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the money put into the production didn’t reflect well in the plot department. While something good is trying to be portrayed in this story, it doesn’t come through well at all, mostly due to the quick, clipped scenes that leave little room for proper development. Much of the dialogue refers to off-screen content or is very punctuated; this makes for awkward conversations that are inadequate in building characters effectively. While there are some attempts to take a real look at issues facing small towns in America and the people in them, too much time is spent on sports and training montages, which makes for a fairly choppy story presentation that doesn’t flow very well at all. There are too many missed opportunities as mindless sequences crowd the runtime, and many of the characters are too basic and one-dimensional. Difficult topics are mishandled with cliches, and unexpected time jumps leave the viewer disoriented to the story’s progression. Besides a handful of good scenes near the end of the film, this movie mainly talks about things without really showing them to you and fixes things without any heart behind them. In better screenwriting hands, this could have been a great exploration of relevant issues facing ordinary people, but we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

On the whole, the acting of this film could have been good, and while there aren’t any glaring errors, it’s still a bit thin. Better coaching would have likely brought out the potential in the cast members, and even so, it’s not as bad as it could have been. However, it’s not really dynamic either, which makes this an average section that rounds off a middle-of-the-road film.

Conclusion

In summary, Run the Race is fine for a freshman film effort, but with higher standards being set in the Christian entertainment market, new film makers will need to aim higher if they want to make their mark. Good productions have become more of a benchmark than they once were, and acting should at least be above average. The films that will truly set themselves apart moving forward are those that have dynamic plots and effective storytelling techniques. Perhaps in the their next attempt, the Tebow brothers can wield their fundraising skills to support a truly talented screenwriter.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

On Wings of Eagles [2016] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Olympic gold medalist, an accomplished educator, and a dedicated family man who was called to take the Gospel to China in the 1930s and 1940s. He faced hardship and persecution from the Communist government, but he never gave up in his mission to run, to educate children, and to share the Gospel with whoever he came in contact with. Though he died in captivity, he left a lasting legacy with all who knew him and beyond.

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s apparent that good effort was put into making this production professional, which is evidenced by great video quality and camera work, as well as a good use of international sets and locations. The props are culturally authentic, and the soundtrack is very effective. However, this production is kept from being perfect because of some inconsistent audio quality and some fake-looking special effects that should have been better. Further, the editing is fairly poor as there are some awkward cuts and transitions and since there is a lot of content that is not handled very well. Even so, this is a good production that is above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Due to taking on a large amount of content from the life of one person, this plot relies too heavily on time jumps and excessive, unnecessary narration that short-circuits any hope for actual character and plot development. While this is a great true story with a lot of potential to be an epic, we have a hard time understanding who the characters are beyond historical bios. Any hope of dialogue is mostly rushed and choppy due to the storyline jumping all over the place. There are also too many wasted and drawn-out scenes that could have been maximized to fuller potential, but they cause the story to not flow well at all. However, there is still a lot of good content here due to the fact of it being based on a real story, and the ending likely makes it worth a watch, even though it could have been much better.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this cast is fairly culturally authentic and professional as each cast member does a good job assuming his or her respective character role. If they had more lines to work with, things would definitely be even better, even if there is some inconsistent line and emotional delivery in some places. Though there is some over-acting, this section is overall above average, which rounds out an average film that could have been much better.

Conclusion

On Wings of Eagles had so much going for it: a well-funded production, culturally accurate casting, and an excellent true story that had the makings of a real epic. Nevertheless, this great potential was seemingly forgotten as half-measures were settled for. Just fixing one of these elements listed would have likely qualified it for the Hall of Fame, but it unfortunately fell short of the mark. Even still, many audiences will still enjoy this film, and it can serve as a blueprint for how to take things one step further into greatness.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Shifting Gears [2018] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Tom has worked hard to become a regional manager, which is why he’s so disappointed when his self-absorbed boss lets him know that he needs a four-year college degree to achieve this position. Frustrated, Tom quits on the spot and decides to look into the property he inherited from his recently deceased father. His wife convinces him to take on his father’s old gas station business as their new source of income. Will they be able to handle the new business while patching up hidden family issues?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

One thing that can be said for newer Christian films, especially those in the last few years: no matter how forgettable or lame the plot is, the productions are absolutely getting better. Shifting Gears has a fine production without many issues, as evidenced by good video quality and camera work. For the most part, audio quality is fine, even though there are some loud portions of the soundtrack and some annoying sound effects, but these are the only issues with the production. It’s clear that time is spent on all aspects of the production, especially the sets, props, and locations that make this movie better than it would be without it. Overall, since the editing is also respectable, this is a high-quality production that unfortunately went wasted.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As such, it’s very hard to understand the actual purpose of this plot as it meanders around peppered with head-scratching cliches and under-developed characters. It borrows a lot of elements from a typical sports underdog plot combined with a return to hometown plot, which implies that there’s nothing creative going on here. The forced and cringe-worthy comedy elements and asides waste valuable time that could have been used to craft better dialogue, but we are only left with cheesy half-measures. The story is based on too many coincidences, and the Christian message comes off as plastic and manufactured. As many of the scenes are downright eye-rolling and funny for all the wrong reasons, it goes without saying that there is little to no point in making this movie with a plot this bad.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members are fairly over the top with their performances, they aren’t all bad since some of them are somewhat professional and seasoned in their work. However, some of the cast members are trying way too hard to be funny most of the time, and many emotions come off as painfully forced. Even so, despite the awkward and unsure moments, there are also plenty of good moments that make up for these, and this overall makes this an average section, which rounds out a below-average film.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to see all this good production go to waste when films that have better plots have worse productions. This is the plague of independent Christian film: if one thing works, another thing doesn’t. The cause of this is obviously a lack of proper collaboration. The writers need to be the writers, and the directors need to be the directors. Until creative-minded Christians lay down their differences and begin working together more, nothing much will change, unfortunately.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Christmas Ranch (Movie Review)

What?? A horse movie without the horse’s name in the title??

Plot Summary

Lizzy is a bad teenager girl whom her parents can’t handle during the holiday break, so they sentence her to live with her aunt on her remote and rural horse farm during the Christmas break.  Her parents are always busy with work, and Lizzy hates being somewhere that doesn’t have good cell phone coverage.  To make matters worse, Lizzy discovers that her aunt is about to default on her mortgage, which is due for payment for Christmas Eve!!!!!  Thus, Lizzy suddenly makes a miraculous behavioral change and teams up with a local country boy to save the day!

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, it appears as though thought and effort were put into this production, which is evidenced by fine video quality, audio quality, and camera work.  The sets, locations, and props are fine, although they could be a bit more engaging.  However, the soundtrack is fairly generic, and there are constant Christmas chimes sound effects that litter the listening experience.  Further, editing is just average, which rounds a good production on paper, but it simply doesn’t do enough to be truly transformational.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Has this plot seriously never been done before?!?  This is seriously one of the worst plot stereotypes featuring one of the worst character stereotypes as a bad teenage girl is forced to live in the country on a horse farm with no cell phone coverage, where she meets a local country guy.  Said teenage girl hates everything until she’s magically fixed by the horse and the guy, and there’s also a save-the-farm-with-a-racehorse plot to boot.  Seriously, since when are mortgages due on Christmas Eve?  Besides the fact that this story has been done before and has no potential, the dialogue is extremely uninspiring, which causes the characters to be flat and cardboard.  Since the plot always has everything going wrong with it, the best a screenwriter can do is at least attempt to craft good characters using engaging conversations, flashbacks, and motives, but, of course, this is not done.  On top of this, the corny Christmas premise of this plot is forced, as if they decided to add it in at the last minute; further, the Christian messages are awkwardly inserted into the film.  ‘Bad’ characters are magically fixed when the plot needs to them to be without any real arcs, and the runtime is filled up with training montages until everything is perfectly fixed in the last 10-15 minutes.  Basically, there’s not much good to mention here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members in this film are fine, others are drab, and this movie has some of the worst teenager acting ever.  Emotions are extremely forced, and line delivery seems very unnatural.  However, there are enough okay portions of this section to warrant an even score, but it isn’t enough to save this movie from itself.

Conclusion

What is truly gained in films like these?  Rehashing and reusing same-old, worn-out story ideas is a drag on the industry.  Rather than force and rush through another half-baked idea, we need future Christian film makers to give us truly dynamic entertainment that’s rooted in high quality productions, engaging storylines, and authentic acting.  Otherwise, we’re not making any difference at all.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

A High School Story (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Faith High is a seemingly ordinary private Christian high school with all the typical high school issues, but one student is intent on forcing the daily events she sees unfold around her into some kind of Biblical parallel so that she can have an interesting end-of-the-semester school project to talk about.  A new kid comes to town as the backup quarterback and falls in love with a mostly silent ballet dancer, so this is naturally the stories of David and Esther mashed together.  The vain and self-impressed starting quarterback is obviously Saul, and you can see how this keeps going.  With this movie in the works for so long, you would think some better content was created.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Ever since 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight Studios has been committed to crafting more professional productions than A Perfect Chord.  Thus, A High School Story has a mostly average production that’s fueled mainly by good video quality, find audio quality, and professional sets, locations, and props.  However, the soundtrack is sometimes too loud, and there are some odd camera angles and wild camera work, especially in the poorly filmed sports action scenes that feel like nothing is really happening even though you’re supposed to think there’s an actual game going on.  Scenes like these show the true genius of Facing the Giants in the independent film world (A High School Story even has a discount version of Bobby Lee Duke).  Elsewhere in A High School Story, there are too many stupid slow-motion scenes, as well as self-serving product placements and unwarranted self-love for A Perfect Chord.  In the end, this is a mostly average production that could have done better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From start to finish, annoying narration decides to explain things to us that we should be about to figure out on our own if the dialogue was any good at all.  We apparently have to be told who the characters are instead of letting them develop on their own through actual conversations.  There are also plenty of weird attempts at cringe-worthy bad comedy as ‘bad’ characters are over the top bad while ‘good’ characters are too perfect.  As is commonplace in cheap sports films, training montages displace opportunities for plot and character growth, as do ridiculous high school nonsense and predictable love triangle stupidity.  There are too many cheesy attempts at ‘young people’ dialogue, and we mention the beyond-cheesy attempts to force Bible stories into this modern-day plot?  This seriously needs to stop.  In the end, this plot contributes nothing to the film’s score.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With mainstay Kingdom Sight cast members, this acting job is another average one as there are some fine moments that are cancelled out by other moments of awkward and forced acting.  When some cast members attempt their own brand of comedy, it’s quite bad.  It goes without saying that some cast members seem desperate to advertise their horrid local comedy act throughout the film.  Essentially, while these often-used Kingdom Sight cast members are definitely gaining experience with each film, there’s just not enough coaching present here to sustain a higher score.

Conclusion

There’s one thing Kingdom Sight is getting right: releasing films directly to PureFlix On Demand and Amazon Prime in order to get them out there rather than to waste time and money on limited screenings no one will go see and DVD’s that will end up in the $5 Walmart bin.  However, 3 points is basically the ‘best of the worst’ score according to our review scale.  After 2nd Greatest, Kingdom Sight likely hit their ceiling of potential with their current model, so it’s time for them to take the next step in movie making.  They seem committed to trying different things, and their production model is mostly fine.  Thus, with their next film, they need to take a bigger step towards greatness by employing a better screen writer and a better acting coach (plus maybe some new cast members).

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Born to Win [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leon Terblanche was always told by his father that he would never amount to anything.  When he and his mother fled the abuse of his home only to abandon him at a hotel, Leon found himself as the only white child in a segregated African community during apartheid in South Africa.  However, the government discovered him there and took him away to be passed from home to home before he was able to strike out of his own and begin working for the railroad.  During his whole life, Leon was always angry and resentful towards his father, even after he married and began a family of his own.  He medicated this anger with alcohol, but when everything hit a breaking point, he was forced to choose between his own ways and the ways of the God he always pushed away.

Production Quality (2 points)

Despite their landmark production Faith Like Potatoes, Global Creative Studios did not have as much production success in Born to Win.  The video quality, camera work, and action shots are fine in this film, and the audio is fairly good, but there are several other issues to contend with.  While sets, locations, and props are sometimes fine and realistic, there are some very obvious fake backgrounds that put a damper on things.  Plenty of time and effort was put into this production, including a good soundtrack, but there are a handful of small things that hold it back from being all it could be.  The most glaring problem that hurts the film is the severely choppy editing, and this is also related to the plot problems.  Moreover, this production is mainly above average, but it’s still a letdown after the success of Faith Like Potatoes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Frans Cronje and his team have always been committed to telling the great and true stories of real people with real struggles, and this commitment is still evident in Born to Win.  However, despite the great source material, the presentation of it is quite poor.  This is most notable due the extreme amount of heavy-handed narration that greatly hurts character growth and plot development.  The narration is mainly used to plug up the plot holes created by the breakneck time jumps that are present in the story.  These two factors combined make it nearly impossible for characters to develop as the dialogue is stunted and choppy.  Despite the little time available, there are still lots of wasted scenes, and though there is plenty of content to work with in the real story, there is little to no story organization as it jumps from one thing after the next.  Too much ground is attempted to be covered without the effective use of flashbacks or actual dialogue.  The lack of substantial dialogue and character development makes it very difficult to appreciate the otherwise meaningful struggles of the characters due to the wasted time and large gaps, and viewers are told things that are hard to believe due to poor development.  Unfortunately, it all boils down to a flat ending with little meaning because of this.  It’s too bad because there was tons of potential here for a great message to be shared.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though the acting appears to begin well, it tends to get worse as the film goes on, especially as cast members are forced to play multiple age brackets that they are not exactly suited for.  Line delivery and emotions can be awkward at times, and there is an overall need for more coaching.  There are times when emotions are lines are too forced, and there are one too many scenes of poorly executed yelling and screaming.  Overall, this caps off a mostly disappointing effort that had so much going for it.

Conclusion

The Cronje creative team has definitely shown the height of their potential, but it’s possible they tried to do too much on their own in Born to Win.  Faith Like Potatoes obviously had a better collaborative effort behind it, which is an important lesson to learn in film making.  One success does not equal constant success; it’s something has to be continually worked for, and it’s definitely not easy.  However, it’s totally worth it in the end, especially when you have good stories that need to be told.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Shake Off the World (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Austin is a talented football player, but his coach has it out for him for no particular reason, which has forced Austin to stay on the bench for most plays.  Whenever he gets a chance, Austin makes big plays, but when some off-the-field issues begin to change and move him in a different direction, Austin isn’t sure if he can live without football or his girlfriend.  However, Austin discovers a new group of friends who introduce him to Jesus, and his life is never the same after that.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a fairly new production, Shake Off the World has a good enough production to get by.  This is evidenced by clear video quality and fine camera work, including good sports action shots.  Audio quality is okay throughout, but there are too many moments where the soundtrack is simply too loud to hear anything.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly fine, but there are quite a few scenes that are randomly dark for no good reason.  Further, there are too many quick fade-outs and transitions that appear to interrupt the flow of the film at times.  Overall, this production does just enough to get above the average mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

While Shake Off the World appears to begin as a slightly interesting true story, it quickly devolves into a big nothingburger.  Predictably present are all the typical sports story elements, but it still lacks an effort to be interesting.  In between the expected sports montages are very dry and drab conversations between characters that do nothing to develop them as people.  They aren’t accessible, and the empty dialogue makes them come off as wooden and stiff.  Thus, they are hard to relate to, and they appear to be swept along in random plot circumstances that have no continuity, logic, or feeling.  Due to the high amount of time spent in montages, the story line is rushed and actually quite short and small in scope.  Most scenes and subplots come off as disconnected from the others, and by the time the film ends, it feels like it barely got off the ground.  When a film feels like it’s over before it began, something went horribly wrong in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite not having many lines to work with, the acting is actually just average.  The cast definitely means well even though they are underwhelming at times.  Some lines are mumbled, and some emotions appear to not reach their full potential.  However, they did enough to keep this area at the middle mark.

Conclusion

It’s quite hard to understand why this film was made and what it was going for.  If the creators meant well, their messaging was totally lost in translation.  They either cut too many scenes or didn’t plan enough to begin with.  While it was a good idea to make a film based off of true events, the true story definitely did not come through, and this frustrates many audiences.  Maybe this creative team will have better luck next time.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Healed By Grace 2: Ten Days of Grace (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jessie really wants a horse, but her mom hates horses, so it’s probably not going to happen.  However, her father decides to send her to horse camp for the summer while her mother secretly gets treatment for the cancer she’s hiding from Jessie.  Unfortunately, the summer camp is full once her father gets there, which causes him to divert his plans to asking his wife’s long-lost father, Gauff from Healed by Grace, whom he has never met, to watch Jessie for a while.  Will their family be able to reconcile because of this?

Production Quality (.5 point)

For a 2018 production, Healed By Grace 2 is a major letdown and is actually a decrease in quality from previous Blended Planet films, with the exception of Disconnect Reconnect.  The poor production of Healed By Grace 2 is manifested in very poor audio and weird sound effects, as well as poor lighting and strange video quality.  The camera work is mostly fine, however, which is the only positive element in this production.  A lot of the audio seems overdubbed, and there are weird sequences of dead air, as well as a generic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly limited and uncreative.  There are also a lot of awkward and strange cuts and transitions, including unexplained portions that may or may not take place in the minds of the characters.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where the first installment of this ‘series’ had a tiny amount of potential, this sequel bears little to no potential at all.  The dialogue therein is extremely vanilla and pedestrian thus creating empty characters.  A lot of the plot elements seem to completely disregard the previous film, as if it really matters.  Some characters seem purposely off-the-wall or even ‘magical.’  There are also a collection of cringe-worthy ‘comedy’ sequences that are like fingernails in the chalkboard.  As this plot meanders with little to no purpose, there are also other odd elements included, such as odd suggestions about people getting cancer due to lacking forgiveness.  Overall, there is very little content to work with in this extremely forced and basically purposeless sequel, which suggests that it was misguided from the beginning.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The acting from the original movie was partially awkward in its own right, but the acting of this second film is much worse.  There are many very awkward moments, as well as blank emotions and half-hearted line delivery.  Many cast members appear to be trying far too hard to make their mark, and there is basically no coaching present.  Unfortunately, there was really little to no point in making this film.

Conclusion

Do we really need another horse film?  Until somebody produces a substantial, creative, and non-regurgitated film in this genre, we really need to have a moratorium on inspirational horse movies.  Besides this fact, productions and acting this bad are no longer acceptable in this era of Christian film, so it’s more than likely that Healed By Grace 2 will soon be forgotten.

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Extraordinary [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Nail 32 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Buck Livingston was a sport cowboy who always ran from God, but when a tragedy leaves him lost and confused, he finds himself turning to God, even though he is told there’s no such thing as a Christian cowboy.  Even so, Buck gives his life to God and to service in the church.  However, he always had a passion for the cowboy sports, and he wrestled with how he could serve God there.  In the end, Buck’s life had a great influence on all those around him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Unlike previous JC Films projects, Nail 32 has a mostly respectable production.  This includes good video quality and camera work, especially in the action sports scenes.  However, there is some odd lighting throughout as this film is trying to have an unusual vintage look.  Nonetheless, the sets, locations, and props are great and demonstrate good historical authenticity.  Moreover, this production is mainly held back by the use of awkward fadeouts, choppy editing, and lagging scenes.  In the end, however, this production is still above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This intriguing true story was meant to be presented as an epic, but it unfortunately fell flat due to a large amount of unnecessary hand-holding narration.  This allows the plot to just hit the high points of the main character’s life without developing enough substance or true-to-life characters.  As the story jumps from one thing to the next, the characters are stunted due to flat and rushed dialogue, and there is far too much content shoved into this short time span.  While this could have been an interesting movie, we are not given the opportunity to learn about who these characters are as people as time speeds by in route to the conclusion.  Though there was potential here, it was not met.

Acting Quality (2 points)

However, this section does have plenty of positive as the costuming is realistic and there are plenty of good performances here.  While the acting is sometimes underwhelming due to some mumbled lines and muted emotions, this cast is mostly fine, and some are better than others.  Emotions and line delivery are adequate, which overall rounds out an average film.

Conclusion

Movies like Nail 32 are very well-meaning, and they have a lot of good things going for them, especially the true story elements.  However, in order to be the epic type of movie that they want to be, they have to go the extra mile in all categories, especially plot.  It’s very difficult to handle this much content in a balanced way while at the same time developing all of the characters adequately.  Thus, sometimes it’s better to focus on a portion of a character’s life, if possible.  In the end, Nail 32 is a fine movie, but it could have gone further.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Brandon Burlsworth always wanted to play football at the top college level, but he was always told he was never cut out for the sport due to his size problems.  However, Brandon defied all odds by adapting a strong work ethic that helped him train to become fit to walk-on and play SEC football at the University of Arkansas.  His life affected all of those around him as he made the football team better with his faith and his work ethic.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Greater is clearly a well-funded production as it is very professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The action sports scenes are filmed very well, and the sports props are highly realistic.  The soundtrack is adequate, and sets and locations are great.  The only small nitpicks to raise here pertain to some small editing issues, such as some lagging scenes and seemingly unnecessary content.  Otherwise, however, this production is top-notch and checks all the right boxes.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this film is based on a great true story, there is a lot of content that is covered in this plot.  Thus, character development suffers as the characters tend to only be pawns in the storyline.  The dialogue primarily serves to move time forward rather than to develop the characters as people.  There are also a lot of typical sports clichés and training montages.  With so much content to handle in one film, there are too many wasted sequences like this that could have been used to build the characters.  However, not all is bad here as this is a great story to tell with a worthwhile message.  Moreover, it had a lot going for it and definitely could have been better.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is perhaps the strongest section of this film.  This is a very professional cast with no glaring errors committed.  Emotions are believable and realistic, and line delivery is on point.  In the end, this section brings this movie close to the fullest potential it could have had.

Conclusion

Greater had many key elements and advantages in its corner, but it didn’t quite get the job done.  I can help but think that in different hands, this film would have been a Hall of Fame epic.  With some slightly deeper characters and dialogue, along with a less choppy presentation, it would have breached the Hall of Fame threshold.  Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable film that many audiences will enjoy.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

A Mile in His Shoes (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Arthur Murphy manages a minor league baseball team, and he is obsessed with discovering the best talent no one else has discovered yet.  Thus, when he stumbles upon Mickey Tussler, a young adult with autism, and sees his raw pitching skills, Arthur tries to recruit him immediately.  After convincing his fundamentalist and over-protective father to let Mickey try, Arthur takes him back to the team, where Mickey makes a difference in each of their lives, even Arthur’s.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The Nasser brothers have had an unusual film career, but they usually are committed to fine production quality.  A Mile in His Shoes is no different, as it has good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is adequate, and a commitment to historical authenticity is evident in the good use of sets, locations, and props.  The only issue to point out here is the fairly choppy editing that hampers the plot presentation.  However, in the end, this is not enough to hold this production back from being above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

A Mile in His Shoes is another one of those sports movies that is based on a good true story, yet it is not handled as well as it could have been.  This is mainly because the characters therein are too shallow and not realistic enough.  They tend to just be stand-ins for plot points rather than real people with real lives.  Elsewhere, the storyline presentation is too pedestrian and standard.  Also, the Christian message is too vague.  As usual for sports films, the plot is replete with montages, and the story is framed as an against-all-odds plot progression.  However, although there are a few too many unnecessary asides that waste time, there are plenty of realistic life circumstances in this plot that keep this section from being zero, even if the ending is too predictable.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While Dean Cain is usually a damper on the casts he’s involved in because of his annoying demeanors, pretty much all of the other cast members of this film are fine.  For the most part, this cast shows emotions and delivers lines appropriately and adequately, and each cast member is cast well.  In short, this rounds out an overall average effort.

Conclusion

All in all, the average rating fits this movie well.  It is easy and safe to choose an inspirational and true sports story to make a pedestrian film out of, especially one made for TV.  However, it takes greatness and dynamic creativity to make these sorts of stories into truly memorable films.  Otherwise, they are just too easily forgotten.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Breaking the Press (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Conagheys could never have children, so they decided to adopt a pair of twin boys who was in need of a home.  As proud members of a small community in Texas that greatly valued high school basketball, the Conagheys encouraged their two boys, Josh and Matt, to get involved.  However, one became better than the other and became tired of being stuck in the small town team.  Instead, he wanted to play for the better team in the next town.  The Conagheys decide to let him live with his aunt so he can attend the other school, but at what cost will is come at?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Breaking the Press has a fairly professional production with no glaring errors.  The sports filming is definitely great, include good action shots and camera work.  Video quality and audio quality are what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit generic, but it is adequate.  Sets, locations, and props are on par with what they should be.  The biggest issue to point out here is the poor editing, including abrupt cuts and transitions, as well as musical montages.  But this is not enough to derail this section, which is nearly perfect.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, the storyline of Breaking the Press is not very creative at all.  For starters, there is too much narration, which of course stunts natural character and story development.  The time jumps certainly don’t help this either.  The whole thing is just a typical and formulaic sports storyline mixed with a predictable prodigal son storyline.  There is really no creativity here, and the characters come off as plastic and manufactured.  Also, sports montages are commonplace, along with a random Christmas inclusion in the middle of the film.  Edgy content is not handled very well either.  On the whole, this just seems like someone trying to pander to Christian audiences.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Yet this cast is mostly professional and is definitely above average.  The only thing holding back this section are the overdone moments and overly practiced lines.  Yet for the most part, emotions are realistic.  This rounds out an overall average film effort.

Conclusion

It’s hard to get more formulaic than movies like Breaking the Press.  Throwing a prodigal son story into the inspirational sports genre does not exactly excite.  Creativity is very minimum here, and it seems like this is a low-effort attempt to grab some quick cash from a Christian audience.  If you are going to make a typical story, the least you can do is to craft realistic and accessible characters.  But once again, a film is left wanting.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Reggie’s Prayer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Reggie Knox is a successful professional football player, but he feels the call of God to leave the league and go to make a difference in the lives of struggling inner city teenagers.  He feels like he can make more difference in the world by coming down the world of real people rather than insulating himself in a professional sports bubble.  Thus, he and his wife move to Oregon to work at an inner city high school, where they find many opportunities to impact the lives of young people who desperately need the love of Christ.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1990s production, Reggie’s Prayer has a lot of raw moments.  This include some dizzying camera work and some inconsistent audio quality.  There are also some odd sound effects and weird special effects in certain parts.  However, video quality is fine throughout, and the aforementioned areas show good improvement as the film goes on.  The good thing is that sets, locations, and props are well-used and well-constructed throughout.  Yet there are some moments of disorienting editing, even though this area also shows some improvement throughout.  In the end, this production is a mixed bag, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While this is a good story idea based on true events and realistic and believable circumstances, there are still some issues here that hold it back from being all that it could be.  One such area is the confusing and isolating psychological elements near the beginning of the film.  Also, while characters are somewhat accessible, they could still use some better development through deeper and more meaningful dialogue, even though the dialogue is fine as it is.  There is also a lot of content that needs to be further explored as there are plenty of under-developed subplots throughout this storyline.  Also, while there is a very good message in this plot that many audiences will enjoy, the villain that somewhat dominates the plot is cheesy.  In the end, this is an enjoyable plot, but it seems like it could have gone further.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s likely that the casting and acting of this film is its strongest point.  Though there are some moments of over-acting, there are also plenty of great moments that make this section above average.  With the exception of the villain character, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  Most cast members are cast appropriately.  In the end, this film has plenty of good in it.

Conclusion

If this film had been slightly modernized and refined in some of the rough areas, it could have been way better.  Even so, many audiences will still enjoy this film, and future film makers can learn from its desire to portray real people with real struggles.  The core concepts of this plot can be used in the future to ensure sports plots do not become so formulaic.  The important thing is to capture the accessible struggles of characters audiences can relate to.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

1500 Steps (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jobe O’Brien has never been treated right by his drunken father, but he finds an outlet for control and energy when he takes up track and field.  However, even there, he finds himself plagued by cruel bullies.  But he keeps on working to become the best runner he can be.  Along the way, he seeks to discover what Christianity really means as he pursues the prize and a girl he is falling in love with.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As an indie, likely under-funded production, 1500 Steps is a bit raw at times.  Camera work tends to be random and there is some poor lighting and odd video quality throughout.  Audio quality is fine except for the very loud soundtrack and some obvious background noises.  However, not all is bad here as the outside scenes are mostly filmed well and props are used well.  It’s hard to pinpoint what the editing plan here was, because there isn’t really much to speak of.  On the whole, it’s clear that funding was stretched for this film, but it’s hard to know if they did the best with what they had.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, this film is very aimless in its storyline and mostly consists of mindless sports montages.  The first half of the film especially has no clear purpose or direction.  A majority of the dialogue is quite empty, thus creating vague characters, except for the strawman villain character.  Other characters tend to be off-putting and annoying.  The Christian message is very vague as it tends to focus on a lot of dumb and fruitless high school subplots.  The rest of the story focuses on a predictable sports redemption arc that leaves us without the ability to appreciate the characters and their struggles.  While there are attempts at realism here, the presentation doesn’t do enough to make the film interesting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast is mostly inexperienced, it seems, but they are at least trying to be realistic.  A lot of the time, they are quite drab in their performances, while some cast members tend to be loud and uncouth.  However, not all is bad here, and further coaching would help some of the cast members show more emotion.  Unfortunately, there was a lot in this film that just didn’t come through properly.

Conclusion

It’s really hard starting out in the indie film world, but even when funding suffers, you can always amplify your plot to make your work stand out in the sea of ambitious film makers.  This is what we really need anyway: dynamic plot writing to transform the Christian movie field.  Once this happens, the entertainment world will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Checkmate [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Aaron Carlson has a dreamt to go to law school, but he feels like this will never happen because everyone keeps telling him he’s not smart enough or rich enough.  However, one night, when a secret chess society visits him, he is inspired to take up the riveting sport of chess in order to somehow win admission into law school or something.  It doesn’t have to make sense, so just sit back and watch the exciting chess montages.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like many films PureFlix has enabled over the years, Checkmate has basement-level production quality.  Camera work is inconsistent, but video quality is mostly fine.  Audio quality is also fine except for those scenes that are obviously overdubbed and except for the loud soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly cheap and limited.  Also, editing is not really present as those chess montages and other boring sequences tend to dominate the runtime, while some scenes are cut very short.  Basically, this is not a production that should have been approved.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Between the laughable seriousness that is portrayed in this riveting tale and the overly dramatic moments with no justification, it’s very hard to put your finger on this ‘story.’  Are we supposed to believe this plot is based in reality?  Not only is it incoherent and pointless, but it’s also dominated by snore-inducing activities of daily living and you guessed it: chess montages.  It has a juvenile portrayal of life through the eyes of eccentric and weird characters.  In the end, this story is so inept and pointless that I can’t even imagine what the pitch for it was.  I guess it didn’t matter back when PureFlix was rolling out movies like Twinkies.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though there are some okay moments that keep this movie from acting purgatory, this cast is still dominated by stiff and robotic performances.  Many cast members are overly practiced with their lines, while others appear to be making a joke of the whole thing (for good reason).  Emotions are almost nonexistent.  Essentially, this rating doesn’t reflect how useless this movie is.

Conclusion

The only thing left to say is to offer another plea to future Christian film makers to work extra hard to make sure these sorts of films are no longer commonly found in the Christian movie world.  Take cues from films like this to check, re-check, double-check, and triple-check your ideas and production before sending them to distribution.  Please give us quality over quantity.  We desperately need it.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Carman: The Champion (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Orlando Leone is not in good health, but after inheriting his father’s gym, he finds himself with mounting debt and not enough income to cover his bills.  His only choice is to re-enter the boxing scene and win a high-stakes prize fight in order to earn the money he needs to save the gym.  However, the fight will be against his gravest rival.  Will Orlando’s medical condition keep him from being the hero?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For an early 2000s film, Carman’s self-titled ego trip is not a bad production all around.  This means, as usual, that video quality and camera work are good, even in the sports action scenes.  Audio quality is adequate, even though there are some minor background noise issues and the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  Yet there are plenty of good sets, locations, and props, especially pertaining to the sports elements.  However, there are also some editing concerns, mostly pertaining to the sports montages and the slightly choppy presentation.  But on the whole, this is an acceptable, above-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While there is some potential in this story, mostly pertaining to the realistic circumstances portrayed in this plot, there are also a lot of formulaic elements here.  This film is basically your average sports redemption arc combined with a predictable save the farm with an impossible sports feat subtext, mixed with a dash of the medical complications subplot.  Thus, the characters are too shallow as they mainly function as pawns in the plot’s circumstances that are inevitable regardless of what they do.  Things happen because they need to and mostly consist of typical scenes and sports montages, as previously mentioned.  The romantic subplot is cheesy and rushed and the villain is a strawman.  There are also some unnecessarily edgy elements just because.  Basically, while this was a nice try, it’s not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite Carman being a lead in this film and putting a damper on things, the other cast members aren’t really half bad in this film.  However, there are moments of emotion that are too dramatic and forced.  The villain cast member is basically annoying.  On the while, this is just one of those films that has good elements but is mostly forgettable.

Conclusion

Carman the Champion was a part of an early 2000s push from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others to bring a diverse collection of Christian films to the big screen, but the effort was not entirely successful.  While this movie was sort of the first of its kind in Christian circles, replicating the basic Rocky plot using Carman isn’t really worth doing.  Christians should be more creative than this, so maybe future film makers can take cues from this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Goal [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After athletic enthusiast Steve George has a cycling accident that leaves him a quadriplegic, he feels like his life is over.  He doesn’t like the therapy he is forced to attend and he doesn’t like his family fussing over him.  He wants to be free, but is trapped in his wheelchair.  However, one day, his grandmother gives him new hope by introducing him to quad rugby, which he can play in his wheelchair.  This opens up a whole new world for him and allows him to touch the lives of others, as well as discover the faith his family always tried to share with him.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

This film has a relatively low budget, so it’s a fairly good production considering the circumstances.  Yet it seems like some of the issues could have been avoided, regardless of the funding amount.  The odd hazy video quality can be forgiven, as can some of the audio issues, which include some obvious overdubs.  However, the soundtrack is too generic and sometimes too loud.  There are also some odd camera angles throughout, but this area is mostly fine.  The best part of the production pertains to the high quality sets, sports and medical props, and outdoor locations, which are difficult to accomplish on this small budget.  Yet the editing is too choppy to be able to understand the story very well.  In the end, this is an average production, which is good considering what they had to work with.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, while this is obviously a good true story, it is presented in a very poor fashion.  Where the characters should be accessible, especially in their struggles, they are not.  This is likely due to the large amount of underdeveloped characters that exist in this plot.  Also, the dialogue is often too straightforward and unsubstantial.  There is also too much melodrama that makes the otherwise poor circumstances of the characters seem too out of reach.  Besides this, though there is an attempt to craft a predictable sports redemption plot, it doesn’t even accomplish this as the story falls flat and completely lacks any arcs or twists.  This is just face-value information presented in an unintentional documentary form without any real interest evoked.  It’s a shame, because this could be a good film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With a relatively large cast, there is a lot going on here.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all.  Yet most of them are too matter-of-fact and emotionless in their delivery.  However, there are plenty of good moments here and there is some amount of coaching present here.  But overall, this caps off an underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

Low funding for production is one thing, but this crew handled this issue pretty well.  The issue comes in when you have a plot written for you and you are unable to present it in a way that makes sense.  It’s clear that this creative team meant well with this film, but some consulting was probably in order so that it could be as good as it could have been.  It’s frustrating to see films like this, but perhaps it will lead to further improvement in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Basketball 3:16 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Calvin Nichols never thought he would be able to find God on the basketball court, but God sent someone to share him the Gospel, and his life turned around for the better.  He began trying to get his life in order and became involved in the local church.  When a man comes to the church whom everyone thinks is a hopeless, lost cause, Calvin talks to him and share his story of conversion in the hopes of bringing him to Christ as well.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, like many small church films, Basketball 3:16 suffers from lack of funding.  This is evident in the cheap and limited sets, locations, and props, as well as the marginal audio quality.  Though the video quality and the camera work are fine, there is not enough substantial soundtrack in this film.  Also, in keeping with most movies of this level of funding, the editing is relatively poor and amateurish.  Thus, while films like this can mean all the best in the world, it’s just not enough to overcome the low production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 points)

This story seems to mean well and tries to portray real people in real circumstances, but it also projects a deception that everything is automatically fixed when you become a Christian.  Yet it does also try to show the need for making amends, so it’s not totally lost.  The characters are quite realistic, perhaps even too realistic, yet the dialogue is lazy and unengaging.  The Christian characters are too perfect and the non-Christian characters are too ‘bad’.  Overall, since this story is rough around the edges, it needs some refining and deepening in order to be successful.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Too often in this small cast, the cast members are overplaying their characters and trying too hard.  Other times, the line delivery is mumbled and lazy.  There are some good moments, however, but not enough to overcome the negative.  All in all, this statement tends to describe the movie as a whole.

Conclusion

Small church films are a tough sub-genre to review because funding is always going to be a problem.  For this reason, the plot and the characters need to be outstanding to show what the creative team can do with better funding.  There are always meager beginnings in independent Christian films, so it’s what you do with what God has given you that counts.  Most of the time, unfortunately, we feel like the best as not been done with what is provided.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Journey to Grace: The Hansie Cronje Story (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hansie Cronje was one of the world’s best and more famous cricket players, and he used his sports platform to glorify God.  He was passionate for the game and for his family, but the pursuit of a better retirement for him and his wife consumed him.  He always wanted to do better and wanted his game to be better, but this got the better of him as Indian bookmakers relentless pursued him to pay off his team in a match-fixing scheme.  Hansie continually refused them until he could do so no longer.  In the aftermath of things, will he accept God’s grace for what he did?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is an early 2000s production focused on international locations, it is very well done.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are what they should be.  The soundtrack is culturally appropriate.  Sets and locations, though difficult to construct and capture, are executed well.  Also, sports props are well presented and constructed.  The only issue to raise here, of course, is the editing, as too much content—almost an entire life story—is shoved into this seemingly brief runtime.  But in the end, this is a production to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This account is a great true story and one worth bringing to the big screen.  Though the characters are mostly realistic, due to the rapid passage of time and the large amount of content dealt with here, they are hard to get to know very well.  They are accessible as people, but there are a lot of side characters that get left by the wayside.  Also, lots of otherwise important sidebar topics are introduced briefly and then forgotten about.  Yet this story is historically authentic and accurate and certainly has a lot to offer as a lot of complex ideas are woven together.  Epics are very hard to make, so this effort is commendable, and most audiences will enjoy it.  In the end, the story is very realistic and leaves an important lesson to be learned.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This historically and culturally authentic cast can hardly be faulted.  There are no glaring errors here as great care was taken to make sure each character was cast appropriately and realistically.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are impeccable.  This is a casting job to be proud of.

Conclusion

It seems like this creative team did everything they could do to make this movie the best it could be, yet they fall just short of the Hall of Fame, only due to amount of content that is taken on here.  Yet we know that a longer runtime was probably out of the question due to budget constraints.  In the end, however, is this an enjoyable movie that will be well-liked because the creators definitely put their full effort into making it quality.  It is definitely worth your time.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Ultimate Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff Warner is now a street pastor, but he wasn’t always that way.  He grew up in an abusive home and found solace in being able to hustle people on the streets.  He became involved with dangerous gangs and eventually entered the wrestling scene to make some extra cash.  However, the sport soon consumes him and his family.  Only because of the prayers of his wife does Jeff ever find the redemption he always needed, so he can in turn help others find the same.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it’s clear that the team behind this film meant well, it’s also clear that they definitely had low funding for it.  This is evident in the random nature of the production.  It has some good elements and showed slight improvement throughout.  However, lighting is too inconsistent throughout, as is the video quality.  Audio quality is fine even though it is sometimes too loud, and the soundtrack is average.  Some portions of the film are randomly black and white or sepia for no particular reason.  Sets, locations, and props are mostly realistic.  The editing is slightly confusing, but it is mostly okay.  That really tells the tale of this production: mostly okay.  They really did mean well in making this, I believe, but they might should have waited for better funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The true story behind this film was definitely worth telling, but the full arc of redemption is blunted by the flat presentation.  Though characters and the circumstances they endure are realistic and believable, they still need some more development and deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  There is not enough focus in the plot as it is quite disorganized.  What the writers are going for here can be seen somewhat, but the impact of what they are trying to do is not as much as it could be due to some rookie plot-writing mistakes.  However, there is definitely potential here that hopefully will be used in even better ways in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

It’s interesting to have the main character played by the real person.  Though this cast is amateurish and somewhat inexperienced, they are clearly trying to post good acting performances.  Though there are some lagging issues with forced emotions and some unsure line delivery, this cast is mostly good and demonstrate a lot of potential for the future.

Conclusion

Sometimes it’s better to wait for more funding, but other times you just have to get your movie out there to start somewhere.  This is a hard call to make and there is a balance somewhere in between to be found.  Yet sometimes better funding only comes by putting yourself out there.  Ultimately, you have to do what you feel like God wants you to do with your film.  Films like Ultimate Redemption join a long list of Christian movies that are close to being great and show potential for the future.  The question is, which ones of these will rise up and make a movie that improves upon what they already have.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Potential Inside (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Carmik is a successful professional cyclist and is an extremely competitive athlete.  However, his great success on the track has caused his family life to suffer.  His wife and daughter barely know him or see him.  But one night, a tragedy changes their family forever and leaves them reeling in the aftermath.  With the rise of a new cyclist who wants to be trained by Chris, will he be able to pick up the pieces and turn back to God before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As usual for Scotty Curlee and the Liberty University team, production is certainly not a major issue in their early film The Potential Inside.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate, especially the sports scenes.  The biggest issue to point out here, as usual, is the fairly choppy editing job.  It’s difficult to follow the story due to this fact and makes the experience uneven.  In the end, while Curlee and team are masters of production quality, they often get lost in film school and forget about real plot content.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Potential Inside is the same song, different verse for the inspirational sports genre.  This story follows the rock bottom journey of a typical downtrodden and troubled athlete character who needs a comeback to save his career and his family.  All the typical melodrama ensues, even though these characters are circumstances are mostly believable.  Yet it’s difficult to get to know these characters as real people rather than as cardboard cutouts.  As the story jumps all over the place and wastes lots of time, there are way too many sports\training montages to pump the runtime.  Due to this fact, the message of this film is fairly unclear, even as it introduces unwarranted quick fixes to patch things up in the end.  Unfortunately, there’s really not much good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Liberty University team usually assembles semi-professional casts, coaching isn’t their forte.  The performances of this cast are mostly okay and passable, but there are some forceful emotions and yelling sequences that get annoying.  Line delivery is mostly on point.  In the end, a lot of parts of this film seem to be checking boxes.

Conclusion

This film was early in Curlee’s career, so perhaps he will only grow from where he has been.  He and his team have all the potential in the world—as well as an amazing amount of resources that some film makers only dream about.  Now it’s time for them to marshal these resources properly and to truly make a film that can turn the industry on its ear—because they definitely have the ability to do so.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Remember the Goal (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Courtney Smith-Donnelly, an inexperienced coach, is given the job as the new cross country coach at Orange Hills Christian Girls Private School, many parents are skeptical of her ‘unusual’ training methods.  She insists on not wearing the girls out, but the parents want a winning team.  Under the threat of being fired, Courtney pushes forward and encourages her girls to remember the goal no matter what.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

At least since they have been making films for nearly two decades, the Christiano brothers have learned how to craft a professional production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  The soundtrack is a bit silly at times, but outdoor locations and indoor sets are on market standard.  The only real issue to point out here is the slightly poor editing job, which manifests in too many sports montages.  But in the end, at least the production quality of this film is fine.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, after all these years, the Christiano brothers have not been able to figure out how to craft a plot that relates the real people and real circumstances.  They still demonstrate a trite and sometimes childish outlook on life, which includes a silly and plastic handling of otherwise important issues.  The characters are also extremely thin and one-dimensional due to mindless dialogue.  There is hardly any content in this plot except for sports sequences and lingo and there are a lot of disjointed subplots.  But perhaps the most memorable part of this plot—for all the wrong reasons—is the forced and confusing parallels between Christianity and cross-country, as well as the ridiculous persecution the main character undergoes for training her team in a supposedly controversial fashion.  This component dominates the film and is downright laughable, not to mention all of the quick fixes in this film.  Basically, there is still nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though the Christianos mostly departed from their usual cast in his film, there are still issues here.  The lead actress is often overly practiced yet unsure of herself at the same time.  Other cast members are fine, but emotions often seem forced.  Overall, this is an average performance.

Conclusion

Remember the Goal is a departure for the Christianos in that they have finally allowed a female character to take a lead role in a plot that does not involve them being confined to the house.  Yet it still contains a lot of their typical shallow elements and their limited outlook on life and faith.  Unfortunately, they’re not going to improve until they learn how to relate to real people and stop thinking that everything is a persecution ploy.  But after all this time, why would they change?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Prayer Never Fails (Movie Review)

Make a serious face Eric

Plot Summary

When Aiden Paul is fired from his job as a public school teacher and basketball coach, he feels like God wants him to hire a troubled agnostic lawyer to help him win a case against his former employer.  But the school district prepares to throw the book at Aiden and make an example out of him, so he soon finds he will have to fight for his rights and for the team that loves him.  Will he be able to prevail over the odds that are seemingly stacked against him?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Prayer Never Fails begins as a very rough and raw production with very shaky camera work and strange camera angles.  The lighting also begins very poorly.  Audio quality is relatively stable throughout.  Moreover, sets and locations are consistently realistic throughout.  The good thing is that the camera work and angles do improve later in the film, if you make it far enough.  Yet the editing is confusing throughout and leaves too many dead sequences intact.  In the end, though the production ends up average, it’s a very rocky road to get there and certainly doesn’t help this film’s already-shaky cause.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is very low-key and slow to develop at first, it is based on an absurdly unrealistic religious freedom premise that would never stand up in the real world.  This is combined with a typical downtrodden legal premise and several other confusing and disjointed subplots.  However, the agnostic lawyer character is one of the best we have ever seen in these sorts of films and should be transported to a different movie where his flawed characteristics can be more professionally explored.  Yet other characters are not nearly as well-developed, including the downtrodden lead and the strawman villain lawyer.  Furthermore, like certain other ‘persecution in the courtroom’ stories, this film fails the test of realism and boils down to an easily patched-up and fixed ending.  This story needs to be scrapped and started over with the agnostic lawyer character only.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they begin in a very underwhelming fashion.  The lead actor is especially unsure of himself and cannot carry the leading role.  However, there is potential here and the acting, especially the emotional delivery, does greatly improve in the second half of the film.  Overall, this rounds out a very roller coaster experience of a film.

Conclusion

It’s great to write a legal plot, but why does it automatically have to be about religious freedom and so-called persecution that’s not even believable in the real world?  Also, why leave production and acting to be so shoddy in the beginning?  It’s never worth just slapping a movie together just for the sake of having a movie, especially in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality.  We’ll never begin to understand movies like this.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Fight Within (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Logan Chandler has been too scared to fight in the boxing ring ever since his father died right in front of him while he was training Logan.  Logan and his brother and struggling to keep their dad’s boxing gym afloat, but Logan’s emotional turmoil and his constant conflict with one of the main customers is wreaking havoc.  Nothing in Logan changes until he meets Emma, a girl at college who changes his perspective on life and makes him want to change.  Though it’s not easy, Logan is still fighting the fight inside himself with the hopes to be one day free.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a first-time production, The Fight Within is highly professional in many ways.  Video quality is on standard and camera work is excellent, especially in the action scenes, which is very difficult to achieve.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is quite creative.  Sets, locations, and props are very realistic and appropriate.  The only nitpick to raise here are some small editing errors, such as one too many montages and blank scenes.  But in the end, this is a very encouraging and respectable effort that gives great hope for the future of New Life Cinema.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though this story is a somewhat stereotypical troubled character sports redemption plot and though it contains characters that fit into predictable molds, at least this plot and its characters are developed well.  They feel like honest and authentic people with real dialogue, which is all we can ask of a typical plot.  The flashbacks included are good and help the audience to understand the motivations of the characters.  The circumstances they experience are accessible and realistic.  However, there is still some heavy-handed sermon messaging and training and sports montages that fill time.  Overall, the story has a predictable progression, but at least the viewer can relate to what is happening and feel like it’s a real story.  This is the best someone can do with this sort of plot without any twists, so doing the best thing with what you have is all that matters for freshman film.

Acting Quality (3 points)

For an ‘amateur’ cast, the performances in this film are excellent.  Line delivery is on point, and the presence of coaching is evident.  Emotions are believable and realistic.  Each cast member fits their character well.  Thus, this is an awesome job for a creative team new on the scene.

Conclusion

All that matters when you make your first film is that you do the best with what God has given you, and New Life Cinema has done this in The Fight Within.  The production and the casting are nearly flawless.  Therefore, next time, if they employ a slightly more creative plot with the same realistic characters, they will strike gold.  It’s really encouraging to see new companies like this doing the right thing from the beginning and it will be great to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

The Investigator [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sergeant James Buanacore loved his job as a leader on the police force, but when he got caught up in a street fight that ended with a gang member shot to death, he is pressured to retire from his post to mitigate bad publicity.  At the same time, tragedy strikes his family and blindsides him, which causes him to lose his faith in God.  Thus, James’ brother gets him a job as a baseball coach and criminal justice teacher at a local private Christian school to help him find new meaning in life.  But what James finds there is students searching for hope and a corrupt leadership, so he sets out to use his investigative skills to determine whether or not Jesus was a historical figure.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For a slightly unknown independent Christian film, The Investigator has a surprisingly good production.  Video quality is great, but the only issue in this production is the odd camera work that is sometimes employed.  Otherwise, audio quality is professional, as is the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are well-funded and appropriate.  The editing is quite good and is successful in most ways.  If it weren’t for the unusual camera usage, this would have been a perfect production.  In the end, this is an excellent example of how an independent production can succeed.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Investigator has a lot of interesting ideas and takes big risks in breaching less-discussed topics such as corruption in private Christian schools.  However, the story is all over the place and is somewhat disorganized as a lot of ground is attempted to be covered.  The circumstances portrayed are realistic and honest, and the characters are actually quite believable and realistic, but the organization of this story is greatly lacking.  The creativity here needs some serious honing and better development.  Too much time is wasted on sports montages and unrelated scenes.  In the end, this is a very unique plot, so it’s a shame it couldn’t have been better.  Yet it does show potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a semi-professional cast, and they post mostly good performances, but emotions tend to be too extreme at times.  Line delivery is nearly perfect and it’s evident that acting coaching is present.  Only a few minor problems hold this portion back.

Conclusion

There is a lot of good content packed into this film, but there is perhaps too much that is included here.  It’s great to deal with the issues of tragedy, corruption, and apologetics, but in this disorganized fashion, it’s difficult to follow.  Yet the production and the acting successes show that independent films can be professional if the proper resources and effort are put towards them.  Regardless, it should be interesting to see what this creative team comes up with next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Break Away [2012] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Francois is a hard worker, but when he suddenly loses his job in the struggling Johannesburg economy, he is at a loss as to how he is to provide for his family.  He feels like God gives him an idea to start his own bicycle delivery business, and he does so, aided by a friend.  But as his financial situation goes from bad to worse, out of desperation, he decides to enter a cycle race in the hope of winning money.  Will he be able to recover what he has lost and keep his family from poverty?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though a lot of good efforts were made with this production, there are still some pesky errors that hold it back.  Camera work and video quality are good, especially in the actions scenes, even though there are some odd camera angles throughout.  However, audio quality is sometimes poor, including a random soundtrack and outside noises.  Yet sets, locations, and props are quite good and authentic.  Also, the problem areas do tend to improve throughout, which is a plus.  The editing is also a mixed bag, with some good moments and some poor moments.  Overall, this is a good first-time independent production and something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Break Away is based on a realistic and interesting story, even if it is somewhat boring at times.  There are unfortunately too many montages that fill up the runtime, thus hurting the development of the characters and causing dialogue to be shallow and stunted.  There are quite of few interesting subplots besides the main plot that warrant further explanation.  It’s difficult for this plot to hold the attention as it is, even though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated on some level.  Though it’s sometimes overly dramatic, it’s clear that this creative team meant well in writing this.  Once again, this is something to build off of.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As a semi-amateur cast, these actors and actresses do a decent job, even if they are a little stuffy and robotic at times.  Sometimes lines are mumbled, but emotions are mostly believable.  In the end, this is an average performance to round off a decent effort.

Conclusion

It’s never easy to make a movie of your own, especially since funding is hard to come by for international films.  Regardless, all that matters in this sort of situation is that you do your best, and it seems like, for the most part, this was done in Break Away.  It always feels like plots are suffering in Christian film, however.  Sometimes it’s better to use a plot that’s already written, but perhaps one day, the stories that are told in Christian movies will be more creative and engaging.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Redemption Ride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Colter Reese tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, he thinks his professional cycling career is over forever.  His son is dying of cancer and he has seemingly no purpose in life, so he begins to train again in the hopes of earning enough money to pay off his hospital bills.  Will he be able to find redemption in his cycling?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Redemption Ride is a relatively cheap production.  Though video quality is fine, there are some odd camera angles and shaky camera work.  As for audio, there is too much dead air and not enough soundtrack except in musical montages.  There are also a lot of loud outside noises.  Sets and locations are quite limited and props leave something to be desired.  Finally, as usual for films this low quality, the editing is poor and adds nothing to the film.  In the end, it’s hard to see the justification for this movie.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Redemption Ride really just boils down to a formulaic story about a troubled athlete character returning to his hometown, and this is only combined with a sick child plot and a sports redemption plot.  There is also a typical romance rekindle subplot to pad the runtime.  Besides this, there are tons of dead scenes and empty sports montages.  The characters are very quirky and the dialogue is too full of dry attempts at humor or nothing substantial at all.  Overall, this story is incredibly boring and little to no point at all due to its predictable nature.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is definitely not the strongest cast.  A lot of the time, their performances are very flat and seem unmotivated and lazy.  Yet other times, they are overly demonstrative and over the top.  Overall, this is not a very good casting or coaching job, which tops off a disappointing and empty film.

Conclusion

Movies like this likely mean well, but it’s difficult to understand how they came to be.  With a such a low budget, one would think films like this wouldn’t make it to even limited distribution, much less become a feature-length film.  The Christian film field really needs a lesson in quality over quantity.  Please don’t make a film just for the sake of having a film—it’s just not worth it.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Frontier Boys (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a tight-knit group of high school basketball players and fans is directly affected by a seemingly random drive-by shooting, they band together to discover the truth behind the evil deed.  However, unbeknownst to the others, one of them is holding a terrible secret that would affect his very life if he disclosed it.  But as the trail grows cold, will be speak the truth and risk it all to save his friends?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys starts off as a very raw and rough production, which is not characteristic of Echolight Studios.  Camera work is quite shaky at first and video quality is inconsistent.  However, audio quality is always good and the soundtrack is creative.  Sometimes lighting is randomly poor, but this and other productions elements at least improve as the movie goes on.  Sets, locations, and props are stable throughout the film, but for some reason it takes until the middle of video quality, camera work, and lighting to improve.  However, the editing is bit odd as it leaves too many lagging scenes and unexplained sequences.  Overall, this production is a roller coaster and probably should have been redone.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Frontier Boys is a rare circumstance in which the creative plot saves the film from total mediocrity.  Though it begins in a confusing fashion, the story becomes more interesting as it goes, even though it does take a while to get to the point.  Regardless, the characters are surprisingly well-developed through unique dialogue and realistic circumstances.  However, there are some typical sports and mystery story elements and sometimes it seems like the creativity of this suspense idea is not reaching its fullest potential.  It feels like this film was just a beta test because a lot of factors are too downplayed and not taken seriously enough.  Had they been taken more serious, this would be a whole different ballgame.  But in the end, though things tend to be fixed too easily in this plot, it is still a commendable effort and one that demonstrates story-writing talent, which is hard to come by in the Christian movie field.  Perhaps this talent will be utilized further in the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is some off-putting and unusual at first, they work well together and assume their roles very well.  Line delivery is on-point and emotions are believable.  This is a professional casting job and one that should be replicated in the future.

Conclusion

There’s really not a movie out there that’s like The Frontier Boys.  It actually follows a non-typical plot structure and dabbles into an untapped genre.  If the production were upgraded and the plot even slightly improved, this would have been a Hall of Fame film.  Perhaps with the backing of Echolight, this creative team has a chance to really make a difference in the field, if they put their mind to it.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

Pitching Love and Catching Faith {Romance in the Outfield} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Heather and Tyler meet on a softball field in the heat of a game and of course don’t like each other at first until they are randomly thrown together in a quirky relationship in which Tyler doesn’t want to kiss her until the right time.  Heather makes it her goal to kiss him, but she soon discovers that his faith is more important than she realized.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a freshman production, this confusingly-titled movie is pretty good.  Video quality is professional, as is the camera work, even though there is some unnecessarily poor lighting.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets, locations, and props are fine but slightly limited.  Finally, the editing is too amateurish, including very choppy cuts and transitions that make the viewing experience confusing.  But in the end, this is fine for a first-time effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It seems like this film with the long title was pitched (haha) to Hallmark, UP, INSP, or even the abysmal ION in the hopes of a TV deal, but there were no home runs (lol).  It has all the trademarks of Hallmark cheesiness, including a cheap Christian message and the most juvenile romantic plot ever.  Every romance cliché and conversation in the book of stock romances is used in this film.  The plot progression is so predictable that it seems like someone wrote it in their sleep.  Their nothing new or creative here as two empty and cardboard characters are inevitably thrown together into a plastic romance full of forced drama, fake breakups, and an unhealthy obsession with kissing.  Maybe even Hallmark was tired of this.  Then again, maybe not.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Though this cast is not all bad, it is a small cast, thus amplifying the errors.  Most cast members are very awkward and flat.  Many of them are unsure in their line delivery, while emotions are forced and stiff.  This is definitely not a good way to top off a textbook romance movie.

Conclusion

It seems like a Christian message was slapped onto this film just to sell it to a certain market.  There’s really no other reason why it should be considered Christian.  Regardless, there is nothing whatsoever creative about this movie.  Thus, there is zero justification for its creation as it clutters an already-crowded field and genre.  The last thing we need is more of these plastic romances.  But last time I checked Hallmark, there’s still plenty more to come.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

The Playbook [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Thomas family is successful and seems to get along on the surface.  However, they struggle with as many issues as anyone does.  They are involved in their community, including local sports, and are well-liked, but when tragedy strikes one of their own, they all find themselves struggling with forgiving those closest to them.  Will they ever be able to reconcile and find healing?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Although The Playbook is a somewhat rookie production, it is mostly good and is at least average.  Video quality is fine, but some of the camera work is shaky, especially in the sports action shots.  Lighting is sometimes inconsistent, but sets, locations, and props are all above board.  Finally, as usual for films of this caliber, the editing is lacking the necessary push.  Yet in the end, this is a respectable production is something to build off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though the idea behind this plot is interesting and has potential, the story gets too lost in melodrama at times.  There is too much wallowing in self-pity and anger without any real plot focus or meaningful redemptive elements.  Rather than developing the characters so we can appreciate their struggles, this film spends a lot of time on sports montages, musical montages, and other useless sequences that really put a drag on the viewing experience.  Stuff just happens but nothing holds the attention or is enough to sustain a full story because the characters are under-developed due to poor dialogue.  The Christian message is also a little bit too vague.  In the end, it’s likely that this creative team meant well—they just need some help with their execution.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is ‘amateur’, they do a decent job without any real errors early on the film.  Yet their performances tend to digress in the middle due to extreme emotions and poor drama acting.  However, by the end, they have righted the ship again.  Despite the errors, this is a good model for amateur casting.

Conclusion

Tragedy plots are notoriously difficult to pull off without stepping into common pitfalls.  The same goes for sports plots.  When combined together, there are all kinds of issues that can come up.  Yet despite the rocky road plot, this movie isn’t all that bad, even though it may not have mass appeal.  It shows raw talent and could be a stepping stone for future work.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Midrange [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Damon Sharp, a new college graduate, must leave his glory days of playing college basketball behind and return to his hometown to live with his mother and brother while he waits to be drafted into the NBA.  However, he returns to find the same old things being done at home.  His brother quickly pulls Damon back into the partying lifestyle as he awaits a big sports contract.  However, Damon is constantly nagged by his newfound faith, wondering how he is supposed to live it out as his brother tries to lead him astray.  Will he find the path that God wants him to take before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Midrange is another typical freshman production that looks good but has a collection of errors that drag it down.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is inconsistent.  Audio quality is also poor, but some effort was put into the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are commendable but they are slightly limited and cheap.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of in this film as it progresses unimaginatively from one thing to the next.  In the end, this is forgivable as a first-time production and hopefully this team will grow more in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this story is based on loosely interesting idea about the struggles of Christians and their families of origin, it is packaged in a very flat and linear presentation that has no real twists or creative elements.  Everything is given at face value, including the stiff dialogue and the descriptions of vague off-screen content that might have been helpful to include.  Though they mean well in presenting the struggles of a new Christian, the Christian message is too cheap and plastic to be accessed by the audience.  In the same vein, the characters are not deep enough or realistic enough to be related to, even though their struggles are real.  Thus, this story just boils down to a formulaic and predictable storyline that reaches an inevitable conclusion in which everything is fixed.  It would be one thing if the viewers could be taken along for an accessible experience, but this did not happen.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Another mark of an amateur film is an amateur cast.  While this is not inherently a problem, these cast members sometimes seem unsure of themselves.  They are often too robotic and measured and seem like they performed everything in one take.  This is more evident due to some obvious line mistakes.  Though there is some good here, they need a lot of more coaching than this.

Conclusion

Meager beginnings should never be frowned upon, but there are certainly ways budding film makers can learn from their past mistakes.  Without good funding, story writing skills need to showcased to prove that the film maker has something to offer the field.  Amateur casts can be difficult to deal with, but it is possible to make something out of it.  Overall, what we always look for is improvement, so we will see what happens next.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Find a Way [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a locally popular high school football player and role model is taken to the hospital with sudden medical complications, the entire small town finds themselves lost and confused.  The head coach’s family is having hidden problems and other families are suffering from hidden secrets and sins.  The school counselor tries to help wherever anyone will let him, but most people will not let him into their world.  However, slowly but surely, walls begin to come down so that healing can start.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, Find a Way is a professional production.  Camera work is mostly good, even though there are some random moments of shakiness.  Audio quality is in the same boat, with some inconsistency and a stock soundtrack.  Yet sets, locations, and props are highly professional and well-constructed.  Editing is also fairly good, which is a change from the norm in independent inspirational films like this one.  Overall, this is a respectable effort that could be a stepping stone to greater things.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, Find a Way does fall into the typical pitfalls of independent film making when it comes to its plot.  This story is somewhat limited from the start, but it contains interesting ideas and realistic circumstances that need further development.  It sometimes has a one-track mind and wastes a lot of time on trite asides, which stunts character development and makes them one-dimensional.  Sometimes it is difficult to discern what this story is supposed to be about due to the multiple under-developed subplots presented here.  There are important issues explored here pertaining to broken families, but they are not handled very well due to lack of real focus.  Also, all the problems are basically solved in unrealistic fashions, which teaches the audience nothing.  It’s sad to see reality cheapened because this story could have been really interesting.  But once again, we are left wondering what could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though sometimes lines are mumbled and some actors and actresses are awkward, this cast posts mostly professional performances.  Emotions are believable and each cast member seems to fit their character well.  This is another respectable effort that could be a sign of greater things to come.

Conclusion

Find a Way is one of those frustrating movies that contain s creative and realistic ideas that will likely never really be seen by a wide audience because it will be lost in the endless swirl of independent Christian films that are constantly being produced.  It is not bad enough to be remembered for its badness and it’s not good enough to truly make a difference.  But perhaps this is only the beginning of good things still to come from this creative team.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

23 Blast (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Travis Freeman is a popular and upstanding high school football player who everyone in the small town of Corbin looks up to.  However, when tragedy strikes him and leaves him suddenly blind, he loses his purpose in life and retreats into seclusion.  He gives up on life and his parents are a loss as to what to do until his mobility coach breaks through his protective walls and lights a fire under him to get back up and find his new purpose in life.  With the high school football team struggling to find identity and success, the coach decides to put in Travis as center in the hopes that the whole team will rally around him and save their season.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

23 Blast has a respectable production with only small errors.  Video quality is professional and camera work is great, especially in the sports action scenes.  Audio quality is fine, even if the soundtrack is a bit pedestrian.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic.  There is little negative to point out here except for some slightly poor editing that allows confusing leaps in time to hurt this film.  But otherwise, this is a professional effort that we don’t see enough of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Though 23 Blast presents an interesting story that contains honest characters, it commits a huge error by crafting a very rapid progression of events that keeps this plot from being all that it could be.  Massive time jumps leave too many unanswered questions and stunt characters and plot development.  There are too many vague ideas that are not well explained and there are typical sports montages, along with other predictable sports elements.  There are some moments of dry comedy, but we would really have liked to get to know these characters better through deeper dialogue and more personality-forming circumstances.  It’s a shame this plot could have been better because it’s a good story.  Even so, it’s probably still worth a watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is only semi-professional, they post some good performances.  Blind acting is difficult, yet one of the cast members pulls this off well.  Though sometimes lines are mumbled, emotions are mostly believable.  This is another respectable effort.

Conclusion

23 Blast is an enjoyable sports film that many audiences will find interesting and fun to watch.  Though there are some plot issues, the production and the acting are good enough to make this film fine on the surface.  It’s always frustrating to see a story that does not reach its full potential, but this movie shows that this creative team can do greater things in the future, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Adrenaline [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Joseph Jenkins is a hotshot drag race car driver, but when he is suddenly crippled in a wreck, he feels like his life is over.  As he sulks in a hospital room, he doesn’t want to see anyone, but his roommate pulls him out of his shell and gives him a new purpose in life.  Then Joseph suddenly reconnects with an old friend of his father, whom he never knew.  Joseph soon finds a new lease on life and a chance at redemption, but will he be able to make his newfound faith his own?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Adrenaline is overall a mixed bag, including the production.  Video quality is fine, but camera work is too shaky, including a lot of odd camera angles.  Lighting is poor at first, but it improves as it goes.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is sometimes too loud.  However, sets, locations, and props are very professional.  Yet Adrenaline commits a common error of indie films—imperfect editing.  Cuts and transitions are very confusing and even sometimes spastic, thus making for a lot of choppy editing.  In the end, this is a good production effort, but some kinks still need to be worked out of it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, though it has some good messages, Adrenaline is a formulaic sports redemption plot with a predictable sequence.  The characters are somewhat stereotypical, though attempts are made to develop them.  However, it would be better to see them deeper because they are intriguing characters.  This can be done by making the dialogue more creative and complex.  Elsewhere, there are too many (unfortunately expected) sports and training montages, as well as a lot of wasted time.  It’s too bad because it feels like this plot has a lot of potential that it doesn’t reach.  Perhaps things will improve next time.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Even as a slightly amateur cast (except for John Schneider), the acting isn’t really that bad.  Even John Schneider is better than he has been in the past.  The cast members embrace their characters well.  The only issue to point out is some overdone emotions, but that’s easily fixed.  This shows great hope for the future.

Conclusion

With some experience working under the Kendricks, this creative team did pick up on a thing or two that they will likely be able to use to get even better in the future.  First movie mistakes can easily be forgiven, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.  With some better production funding and a more creative plot, as well as a continuously good cast, this team will be going places.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

One Hit From Home (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Jimmy Easton gets injured and gets into trouble, he is under scrutiny from his team and from the law.  Though all he wants to do is sit at home and feel sorry for himself, this not an option as a friend of his pulls some strings with the judge to force Jimmy to coach a failing college baseball team as part of his penance.  Jimmy agrees only because he wants to give no effort to coaching, but a passionate player makes him change his mind.  Will Jimmy be able to rediscover the love and faith he once had?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

One Hit From Home is one of those stereotypical PureFlix-distributed productions that looks good on the surface.  Video quality is fine and camera work is professional.  However, the audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is odd.  Yet sets, locations, and props are very realistic and professional.  Moreover, this production commits the common sin of choppy editing.  It feels like this film is just slapped together just to force it to happen—which probably isn’t that far off, knowing what PureFlix did in the 2007—2013 era of film making.  Essentially, One Hit From Home is a churned out, run-of-the-mill production that is made to be sold easily.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The production is not the only thrown-together aspect of this film.  The storyline borrows from every other troubled drunk sports character plot ever made (and return to hometown plot) and is easily confused with Home Run.  In One Hit From Home, things happened because they need to and the story is based entirely on coincidences and moments of necessity.  Each character fits a neat little yet one-dimensional mold and employs pedestrian dialogue.  The romantic subplot(s) boxes are checked.  Sports and training montages are present, which checks another box.  Furthermore, the Christian message is forced and time speeds by at a rapid progression as problems are fixed too easily and too quickly.  Essentially, this plot was bought from a stock plot supplier and repackaged for the Christian bookstores.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is not all bad, though they are sometimes unsure of themselves.  Most the time they are flat and seemingly uninterested, but some cast members post good performances.  Overall, the acting is not terrible, but it’s certainly not very memorable.

Conclusion

Do we need plots about troubled characters?  Absolutely.  Do we need sports plots?  Sure.  Do we always need the two of these ideas mashed together in films that do nothing whatsoever to make us interested in the characters and their struggles?  Most definitely not.  Films like this one reek of not even trying to be interesting in the pursuit of making a quick buck off of unsuspecting Christian\inspirational audiences who are desperate for any wholesome entertainment.  Give us something wholesome, creative, and dynamic—something that will actually make a difference, not just another carbon copy.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Slamma Jamma (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Michael Diggs was a college basketball star before he was dragged into a crime and framed for the murder.  After spending six years in prison, he has come back home to find his brother wayward and his mother in poor health.  His former girlfriend has also moved on.  Thus, Michael sets out to make an honest living and try to put his family back together, but he meets a group of street basketball players who convince him to try out for a slam dunk competition.  Michael decides to go for it, especially when a crisis hits home that forces him to rely on his faith to make it through.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

In a shocking break from Timothy Chey’s past production disasters, Slamma Jamma, though less funded that train wrecks like Final: The Rapture or David and Goliath, is on par with industry standards.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack is effective, though it is sometimes too in-your-face.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic.  The only real issue holding this production back is the terrible editing.  There are too many disconnected scenes and sequences that make for a very choppy viewing experience.  Sometimes scenes abruptly and unnecessarily transition to another, even if it seems unfinished.  Needless to say, some editing kinks still need to be worked out, but this is a huge improvement for Chey and makes us wonder how this even happened, given his history.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Slamma Jamma is a typical marketable true story sports plot where all of the characters fit into perfect molds and follow predictable trajectories.  While this is a pedestrian idea for the market, it is an extreme departure for Chey, which suggests a need for funding.  Gone are constant bizarre and manic references to Chey’s wacky worldview as they are replaced with stereotypical inspirational sports constructs.  However, it is an interesting and engaging true story, even though its large amount of content is crammed into a confining runtime that likely does not do the original story justice.  While the characters are somewhat accessible, they are not developed enough as time speeds by.  The whole storyline is too neat and pre-planned, which is completely uncharacteristic of Chey.  But hey, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Unlike past psychotic casts (see Suing the Devil), this cast is actually semi-professional and seems to know what they are doing.  Some acting coaching is present, even though there are still a handful of very over-acted sequences.  But on the whole, emotional and line delivery are very respectable.  One thing is for sure: you never know what’s going to happen next with Chey.

Conclusion

When compared to past Chey works, Slamma Jamma is a major improvement, which shows just how bad it was for him at one point.  Now he needs to move away from market predictability and flex those creative muscles he claims to have.  It’s time to do something different, only the right way, and without blowing millions of dollars on north African field trips.  If Chey can harness his creativity responsibility, mute his worldview, and surround himself with a good team as he did in Slamma Jamma, he might become the most surprising film maker yet.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

25 Hill (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Trey Caldwell’s father is tragically killed overseas while serving in the military, Trey feels like he will never fulfill the dream his father gave him—the dream of racing their soapbox car in the derby.  But then, Trey’s kind school principal introduces him to Roy Gibbs, a troubled fireman who would like to forget the death of his son.  The two of them find that they have something in common: a passion for soapbox derby racing.  As Roy trains Trey, they develop a unique bond and inadvertently find healing from their wounds.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As Corbin Bernsen’s first foray into the inspirational market, 25 Hill demonstrates his typical high production quality that he likely learned in the mainstream sector and is unfortunately not commonplace in the Christian field.  Beginning with an effective opening sequence that tells the story without narration, this film checks all the necessary boxes for production quality.  Video quality, camera work, audio quality, and soundtrack are all professional and effective.  Sets, locations, and props are also above standard.  The only complaint to raise here is the high number of sports montages, which are too typical of this genre.  Otherwise, this is a very respectable production that many Christian film makers can model after.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Before Bersen decided to develop his own zany brand of satire, he decided to create a grief plot that has a commitment to taking jabs are stereotypical plot elements.  His take on this predictable plot structure is enjoyable, yet like Bernsen’s other films, 25 Hill still includes too many formulaic elements that are commonly found in sports\grief plots.  Yet his continual pointing out and exposing of typical movie clichés is a fun experience nonetheless, as is his satire on product placements.  With good dialogue and character development, this story demonstrates a better version of the Bernsen brand, which later devolved into silliness and insanity in Christian Mingle, 3 Day Test, and In-lawfully Yours.  The biggest thing that holds 25 Hill back is its predictability, as Bernsen does his typical flirting with creativity but doesn’t really follow through.  Yet in the end, this will be an enjoyable story for most and is certainly worth a watch.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Bernsen and his team completely nailed their casting work.  Each actor and actress fits their characters comfortably as they deliver their lines and inflections flawlessly.  Emotional performances are highly effective, thus making this a perfect score.

Conclusion

We definitely understand where Bernsen is coming from—sometimes.  He wants to make quality inspirational films while at the same time exposing where many films in the genre go wrong.  He always thinks about doing something different with his storylines, but in the end goes back to the typical, safe ending.  Nonetheless, 25 Hill will be liked by most audiences, and it is certainly worth a watch.  Perhaps eventually, Bernsen will finally hit the home run he has been searching for all these years.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Birdie and Bogey (Movie Review)

EVERYBODY’S HAPPY!!!!!!!!

Plot Summary

Pro-golfer Danny O’Connor loves his daughter Birdie, which is why he makes the unorthodox decision to make her his caddy in a tournament.  She begins to have a positive effect on his game, and he inches closer to his dream of playing on the PGA tour.  However, their dreams are tested when a disease threatens their relationship and puts their faith to the test.  Will they be able to withstand the trials before them?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

It is very confusing as to why this film was ever produced, because despite the big names behind it, the quality is quite low.  Video quality is grainy, especially in bright outside scenes, and camera work is shaky.  Audio quality is medieval, including loud outside sounds and a clanky soundtrack.  Sets and locations are underwhelming.  When it comes to the editing, there are far too many sports and scenery montages.  It seems like hardly any effort was put towards this production due to its cheap quality, which begs the question, was this film a necessity to make?

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Birdie and Bogey follows the predictable storyline of a typical sports plot and is saturated with golf content that isolates most audiences.  Other than golf references and training sequences, not much really happens in this story.  The premise of the film is very thin and flimsy, and the Christian message is very plastic and shoehorned in.  What little dialogue there in in this movie is very childish, and the characters therein are so over-the-top happy and sappy it’s enough to make you sick.  The end is very predictable and anti-climactic, if you make it that far.  Basically, we are unsure of what this film’s creators were really trying to convey here, but whatever it was, it never came through in a way that made any sense.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Just like the overly sappy characters, these cast members also act as fakely Hallmark as they can.  Their performances are very juvenile and over-the-top, obviously lacking in proper coaching.  Emotions are plastic and overly enthusiastic.  Also, the makeup jobs are atrocious.  In short, this is another example that causes us to ask why.

Conclusion

There are simply too many films on the Christian market like this one that have already been forgotten by most audiences and remain forever locked in the basement of Christian film.  We’ve said this before and will unfortunately continue saying this: making a film for the sake of making a film is never a good idea.  Just because you have a little bit of funding doesn’t mean you need to use it up on a knee-jerk movie.  Take your time, think about what you’re doing.  Make sure you have a good plot and the proper equipment and a cast who can at least be coached.  It’s simply not worth it to rush things.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Movies That Are So Bad They’re Not Even Worth Our Time, Part 6 (MTASBTNEWOT 6)

In our vast Christian entertainment viewing experience, we sometimes come upon films that we can hardly justify writing a full review for.  Therefore, for your convenience, so you don’t have to go watch those free films that invade your suggested watch list in on-demand video services, we’ve provided a quick overview here.  Someday we might post more, if we’re fortunate enough to find more.

 

There’s a map on the back of Georgia’s state constitution

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure

Oh, Mickey Matson.  Why does this series exist?  I guess someone pitched the idea of a juvenile young-adult patriotic secret society action adventure suspense secret codes National Treasure concept copycat film to PureFlix and they liked it because they don’t usually have any standards (see Divine Will).  So they found the most redneck characters ever to play the villains and wrote out a bunch of mumbo jumbo about secret codes to make the story look interesting.  Then they thought it would be cool to throw in some kind of cockamamie machine invention doohickey that does alchemy or something.  Basically, this sort-of-non-Christian action adventure film is just too far over our heads to warrant a full review, especially since we can’t make heads or tails of what we’re supposed to learn from it.

 

The secret lies with Charlotte

Pirate’s Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson

Oh, there’s another one?  To think they meant to make more of these like PureFlix’s own version of a poor man’s young adult film franchise.  Seriously, is this all they could come up with?  More redneck villains and stupid props!  More devices, doohickeys, and junk science!  More secret societies and secret codes and secret secrets!  More terrible special effects!  If a non-Christian saw this, they would laugh you out of the room.  This non-franchise should have been left at the storyboard.

 

Road to the Open

This isn’t really even a Christian film at all, just another random cheap inspirational film that PureFlix endorses.  It was so boring to watch and the only reason we did was so we could see John Schneider and Eric Roberts play an alpha-male star tennis team.  They were barely in the movie as it was, which was a real bummer, and they weren’t even that funny, even though they tried.  Oh well.

 

Well that’s all for now!  Maybe we’ll post another one someday…maybe not…

One More Round [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Taylor is a down-on-his-luck former boxer who is plagued by a mistake from his past that cost him his boxing career.  Ever since then, he has been struggling to hold down a job, his marriage is a mess, and his house is about to be foreclosed on.  When it seems like everything is about to fall apart, he suddenly stumbles upon his old trainers again and decides that his only shot at life may be through picking up the gloves again to fight.  Will Jake be able to fight through one more round to save his family and his finances?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In One More Round, Rossetti Productions has taken on more than it can handle in a production.  Though camera work and video quality are mostly fine, many other production elements are not.  Audio quality is very poor, as background noises and echoes are very loud.  The soundtrack is also loud and out of place, sometimes covering up dialogue.  Sets, locations, and props are quite cheap-looking and seem like they are just slapped together.  Finally, the editing is poor as scenes awkwardly cut and as they abruptly transition between each other.  In short, though sports productions require extra effort to make them quality, this effort was not present in One More Round.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This plot unfortunately falls into the trap of a typical sports premise depicting a down-on-his-luck former athlete that has to get back into the sport in order to save something in his life, usually for financial reasons.  The troubled athlete is usually hated by some people and is typically having relationship problems and struggling with his identity.  The athlete has an epiphany moment that causes him to get back into the sport of choice, usually under the guidance of his old trainer, and training montages ensue.  The climax is always the ultimate showdown between the troubled athlete and his arch-nemesis, which the athlete wins against all odds and reclaims glory and his broken relationships.  All of these clichéd ideas are present in One More Round, except that this story also slaps a trite Christian message on top of this to make it marketable in Christian circles.  Thus, in this one-track-mind plot produces flat, one-dimensional characters that are based on empty and forced dialogue.  As the plot jumps from one thing to the next, trying to cover all of the high points, the audience is easily lost in the shuffle.  In the end, unfortunately, this story was not really worth forcing to become a movie.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is a very poor casting job that leaves the cast members with no real assistance or coaching.  A lot of the performances are juvenile and childish, with some being over the top.  Line delivery is very punctuated and stiff and emotions are not very accessible.  Some cast members look very fake.  Needless to say, the Rossetti team has not had much success with casting.

Conclusion

There’s not really much else to say that hasn’t been said.  One More Round is based on a worn out idea and is not even executed properly.  It would be one thing if the idea was unoriginal and the execution was positive, but this is not even the case.  The Rossetti team is decent at marketing their films, but at what cost?  Their reputation is becoming very disappointing and this will hurt their future work.  The main lesson that can be learned from their films is always focus on quality over quantity.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Champion [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Weathers is an up and coming dirt track racer who is obsessed with becoming the best and doing whatever it takes to do that.  He feels like he is close to becoming the top dirt track racer, but when one rival stands in his way, Sean does the unthinkable to secure his position.  However, tragedy sends Sean spiraling out of control as he begins to lose his sanity and everything he holds dear.  The only path forward is to face the pain he is trying to avoid and to seek forgiveness in the hardest places.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a student of the Kendrick film model, Judd Brannon and his team have mastered professional productions skills early on in their careers, which will be a major advantage for them down the road.  All aspects of Champion’s production are excellent—video quality is superb and camera work is very good as difficult action shots and outside scenes are executed nicely.  Audio quality is also on par and the soundtrack is reminiscent of a Kendrick soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are highly professional and appropriate, thus enhancing the film’s overall quality.  The only minor issues to raise here are some editing mistakes that cause for a small amount of viewing confusion, but this is something that will be rectified with more experience.  Overall, you can’t ask for a better production start than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Judd Brannon and his team have also taken a page from the Kendrick playbook when it comes to plots, as they used a non-linear plot structure with interlocking subplots.  This is mostly a good thing, yet there are a few too many unnecessary tangents that hamper with the storyline’s focus.  The characters therein are realistic and the circumstances they encounter are also believable.  However, they could use a little bit more deepening through better dialogue and more complexity.  It is clear that a lot of thought and effort was put into this plot, and there is certainly great messaging that many audiences will enjoy.  Yet this story is held back by its predictable progression and reliance on coincidences.  But in the end, like the Kendricks, Judd Brannon and his team are making the most of the inspirational genre plot structure and have great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a professional cast, and for the most part, each cast member is appropriately placed in their roles.  Andrew Cheney and Robert Amaya clearly know what they are doing.  Yet some other cast members are not very convincing in their roles and sometimes come off as disingenuous.  But overall, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  This is a great cast to begin with.

Conclusion

The good news for Christian film is that the bar is being raised by new film makers entering the field.  Although hardly anyone can make a freshman blockbuster like October Baby or Priceless, films like Champion certainly make for a great start in the field.  You can’t argue with this type of beginning, especially since most viewers will enjoy it.  We firmly believe this team has the ability and the resources to take that next step, as long as they add a little more complexity and creativity to their plots and make sure to avoid pesky acting errors.  Regardless, Brannon and company are well on their way to greatness and will find great success in this debut, as it is certainly worth your time to see.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Ride {Rodeo} [1997] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Smokey Banks was one of the best bull riders in the field before he became consumed with alcohol and gambling.  After he finally hits rock bottom by getting himself in trouble, he will have to decide whether or not he wants to go to jail or if he wants to work at a troubled boys ranch teaching the residents how to be cowboys.  One of the boys, much to Smokey’s chagrin, becomes very attached to the fallen athlete and convinces Smokey to teach him how to ride a bull.  Little does Smokey know that his life will be forever changed as a result of coming to the ranch.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For a late 1990s production, in keeping with usual Worldwide Pictures quality, The Ride is at least average, which was good for the time period.  The opening sequence is effective and seems like the most effort was put into it.  Camera work is good for the genre, though video quality is slightly grainy.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is generic.  Sets, locations, and props clearly had a lot of time put into them to make the film look realistic.  Yet the editing of The Ride is an issue as the film jumps around too much and confuses the audience.  Overall, this movie is passable and will be enjoyable to some audiences.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot is a slightly typical fish-out-of-water plot featuring a spoiled and famous ‘city’ character being forced to live in the ‘wilderness’, yet it is fairly well done.  The characters therein are quite stereotypical, however, and fit into predetermined molds.  There is also not enough plot content as time is used on too many filler scenes.  Nevertheless, most of the dialogue is good and there are attempts to be meaningful.  But in the end, the plot progression is quite predictable, including many expected scenes and a silly romantic subplot.  In short, this is a fine effort, but it comes off a little bit lazy and phoned in.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For a supposedly professional cast, these performances are not what they should be.  There is far too much yelling and emotions are too extreme.  Line delivery is forceful and robotic throughout.  However, performances do improve in the second half of the film, although it is a little late.

Conclusion

Worldwide Pictures had stronger films than The Ride.  This one was perhaps before their prime and before they had fully honed the skills of quality film making.  The good thing is that they did not stay at this lower quality for very long.  But it’s a shame that they stopped making films after Last Flight Out, because, as pioneers in the field, they could have continued to adapt and change and still be a force to be reckoned with.  Perhaps they will once again take up film making as a mode of evangelism one day.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Cutback [2010] (Movie Review)

Dude…

Plot Summary

Luke Harris and his friend Casey have one thing on their mind as they finish up their last year of high school: surf!  But Luke’s parents are constantly pressuring him to grow up and choose a college for him to further his education.  Luke is focused on making the local surf team and beating out a new ‘popular’ guy—not to mention getting the attention of the girl he likes—but little does Luke know that despite his own plans, God has plans for him that he could never imagine.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Cutback is different from most Skipstone films, in that it is less artistic than usual.  Video and audio quality are on par, yet the soundtrack is far too loud and tends to be too ‘surf’ oriented.  There is also some shaky camera work in the action scenes.  Outside scenes are otherwise relatively fine, and the sets and locations are acceptable.  However, the editing leaves something to be desired as it falls into the sports film trap of including too many musical sports action montages.  The good news is that the Skipstone team’s production skills did improve after this effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Though Cutback is mostly a formulaic high school sports plot, there are some interesting twists and turns in the middle of the film that we did not see coming.  At first, the dialogue is far too ‘cool’ and ‘surfer-dude’, almost to the point of embarrassment, and this creates very cheesy characters.  However, this subsides as the movie goes on and they actually become believable characters.  As usual, Johnny Remo and team deal with realistic life circumstances that really make the viewer think.  The messaging of this story is quite good.  However, though everything overall improves by the middle of the film, issues tend to be resolved too easily.  Yet in the end, despite some errors, Cutback becomes a somewhat meaningful film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This cast is fairly professional, though sometimes they seem unsure and\or lazy.  They also tend to play the whole ‘dude’ thing too much, but they are mostly fine.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is average.  Thus, an average score is warranted.

Conclusion

Like many Johnny Remo movies, we would like to see a remake of Cutback.  It has the tools for success, even if they are not always applied properly.  Remo always demonstrates a special creativity and ability to craft different types of films, but he is often hampered by a collection of small errors and some poor execution.  We believe he and his team have great potential for the future as they continue to become better film makers.  We anticipate what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

For the Glory [2012] (Movie Review)

Your guess is as good as ours

Plot Summary

Kurt Kuykendall is a highly gifted basketball player who has it all, including a possible Olympic future.  But his home life is a wreck, which leads to tragedy and his being cut from the basketball team.  He feels like his life is over, but all is not lost, because God opens up a new door for him—playing soccer—that he would have never thought was possible.  The only question is, will Kurt seek God or remain bitter about the past?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

While some measures were taken to make this production good, too many corners were cut here.  Video quality and audio quality are on par, though the soundtrack is pedestrian, but there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the sports sequences.  Speaking of the sports sequences, they are too repetitive and redundant, including some unnecessarily recycled footage.  Thus, there are too many sports montages, which reflects poor editing and a general lack of content, even though this film is supposed to be an epic about a real person’s life.  Sets and locations are also fairly limited.  Therefore, though this production looks good on the surface, it does not do enough to warrant more than one point.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This is an interesting true story to depict in movie form, but it overall lacks focus and causes too much confusion for the audience.  For the Glory commits the amateur epic mistakes of creating too many time jumps and referring to off screen content too often.  Besides the constant sports montages, there are too many head-scratching sequences and random occurrences that do nothing to help us get to know these characters at all.  Time is not spent wisely, thus making it hard to be able to relate to the struggles of these characters.  Dialogue also meanders and is generally hard to follow, which creates cheesy and empty characters.  In short, while For the Glory highlights some true-to-life issues, it does so in a very lazy fashion that will unfortunately have no real impact.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, cases that include Jason Burkey and Richard Swingle that have no connection to the Erwin Brothers do not fair well.  They are their usual awkward selves, as are other cast members.  Emotions are over the top and forced and line delivery is sometimes hesitant.  This cast would have benefited from coaching.

Conclusion

In the grand scheme of things, films like For the Glory are very easily forgettable and fall into the massive heap of Christian movies that just blow over your head after you’ve watched them.  There is nothing particularly good or bad to remember about this category of films—you just watch them and then you’re done and never watch them again.  What we need is greatness in Christian film, not more failed attempts like this one.  Perhaps movies like this one can serve as reminders of how film makers can improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Perfect Summer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jake and his mom move from Chicago to Hawaii to start a new life with her father, Jake is less than thrilled about the change of pace.  He has to adjust to new surroundings and new people who do not always accept him.  He also has to endure his eccentric grandfather, who tries to rebuild their relationship.  Jake is ready to give up when he discovers that he has a thing for surfing and that his grandfather can teach him.  Perhaps the worst summer ever for Jake will turn into the perfect summer.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Perfect Summer is such a clean, stock made-for-television film.  From the opening sequence to the loudest soundtrack ever to lots of nature footage, this movie checks all the boxes of mediocre production quality.  While the video quality and camera work are fine, the poor audio quality is very distracting as it picks up all kinds of unwanted sounds.  However, the sets and locations are fairly professional and interesting.  Finally, the editing is standard and moves the plot along at a predictable pace.  In short, this production is average, but we’ve come to expect more from professional television channels.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Perfect Summer is a predictable inspirational cookie-cutter plot depicting a city character moving to a remote location and having to adjust to a different culture with limited internet access.  The constant jokes about the internet and other forced comedy gets really old.  The local characters are stereotypical; none of the characters are developed enough for there being so few of them.  This film’s premise is a fairly thin sports\training story complete with lots of music videos, empty conflicts, and a typical romantic subplot.  Unfortunately, the Christian message seems manufactured and plastic.  However, this story has a slightly realistic ending and sort of redeems it to a point.  But otherwise, if you’ve seen this kind of movie before, you’re probably not missing anything.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This cast is actually the best part of the film, even though Eric Roberts is involved.  He is strange and overdone as usual and singlehandedly holds this section back.  His presence poisons the entire film.  But the rest of the small cast is okay, though there are some slightly over emotions and cultural stereotypes.  In the end, this is a good effort, but we would have liked to see a little more from this professional team.

Conclusion

This plot has really been done before, may too often.  Channels like UP and the like need to be brave enough to take a risk with a different plot.  What’s it going to hurt?  They have the resources to make pretty much any kind of inspirational plot they want, so why not go for broke?  The Perfect Summer is one of those forgettable movies that you might watch while flicking the TV channels and then forget about in a few days.  With the money and abilities companies like this have, they need to set the bar higher for themselves and do something original and memorable.  It’s fine to make clean entertainment, but why get stuck in mediocrity?

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Texas Rein {The Ride Home} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Cassie Roberts receives word that her father is having medical complications, she is forced to return to the small town of Texas she grew up in, the one she tried to get away from.  While back in town, she is reminded of her horse riding days and reluctantly agrees to help her father and his young trainer to train her old horse for a reining competition.  Will she be reminded of what she left behind and of the new life she can start anew?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

While Texas Rein has good standard production elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, there are still some other issues to raise.  The soundtrack is very stock and uninspiring.  The sets and locations are quite limited to a few houses and outside areas and don’t even give off that small town feel.  Finally, the editing is quite poor and causes the film to be very choppy and confusing—just a collection of random scenes.  There are also too many musical montages.  In short, while this movie looks good on the surface, it’s really just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

So a character returns to their hometown they don’t want to be in because of some extenuating circumstance and finds a reason to stay (usually a horse is involved) and meets a significant other and so on and so forth.  We’ve seen this plot before and this is a 2016 movie, so why are we seeing it again?  Besides the predictable plot structure, the characters therein are extremely juvenile and simplistic.  The dialogue is typical and full of small town statements.  Nothing really substantial happens as the passage of time is hard to follow.  We can’t feel like these people are real or are doing real things as their unrealistic high school dramas are resolved too easily.  Basically, there’s really nothing good to say here.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is really a very poor casting job.  The actors and actresses are awkward, wooden, and robotic in their line delivery.  They don’t express any believable feeling or emotions.  On the bright side, this is possibly Erin Bethea’s best role to date.  But otherwise, this is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

It’s great to want to make a movie, but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if it really is worth marking.  Texas Rein probably would have done better as a short film, to work as sort of a springboard for better things.  With no creative plot content and very weak characters, this was unfortunately not a story worth telling.  Also, it’s great to have production elements down, but having such a poorly coached cast is unacceptable.  Perhaps things will improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Milltown Pride (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Will Wright loves to play baseball, even if it means playing with the ‘poor kids’.  Even though this gets him in trouble with his father, Will never gives up on his dream to play baseball.  As he grows older, he joins the local mill league along with his ‘country’ childhood friends.  But when he gets discovered by a scout, Will finds himself following the wrong crowd and doing things that go against the religion he was taught by his parents.  Will he ever find his way back to the religion he grew up in?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For Bob Jones University and Unusual Films, this is a respectable production.  The camera work and video quality are pretty good, and the audio quality is okay, although the soundtrack is very annoying.  Sets and locations are mostly historically authentic and fairly diverse, though since this is supposed to be an epic, there really should have been more.  Also, there is far too much content that is not very useful and there are too many wasted scenes.  Epics are supposed to concisely portray a period of a character’s life or the lives of a group of characters.  This is definitely hard to do, but the Unusual Films crew shouldn’t have attempted this genre if they weren’t going to follow through.  But all in all, this is an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of Milltown Pride is based on a strange and over-the-top class warfare conflict between white people, and the writers do not appear to completely condemn looking down on poor people.  Besides this, this films contains the usual fundamentalist and isolationist religious principles that are baked into the fiber of Bob Jones University, including creating a ‘worldly’ strawman out of sports.  As previously mentioned, everything in this failed epic is dragged out and plenty of time is wasted on endless baseball sequences and juvenile conversations.  The plot barely holds the attention as it follows a predictable progression with no twists and turns.  The characters therein are plastic and turn people off to whatever Christian message this movie is trying to convey.  In short, while this could have been interesting, it just wasn’t.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Unusual Films can’t seem to get away from casting awkward white people in their movies.  This cast is very wooden and lacks proper coaching.  Their emotions seem fake and their line delivery is either unsure or forced.  This rounds out a mostly disappointing effort.

Conclusion

We lost count of the time a character says ‘town boy’ in this movie—it got old really fast.  We are also confident that the Unusual Films crew once again just wanted another outlet to propagate their fundamentalist worldview—not that many people are paying any attention.  It’s films like this one that further turn people off to the concept of Christian movies because this is what too many people think Christians are: isolated, prejudiced, backwards, fundamentalist, patriarchal white people.  If we ever needed a major trend reversal, it’s now.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Hometown Legend [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a struggling small town in rural Alabama, a high school is struggling in many ways, not only financially, but also emotionally.  But now that a famous football coach is back in town to revive the team, locals have a new reason to hope.  A teenager running from home finds sanctuary in this town as he uses his work ethic to get onto the football team in route to turning his life around via a university football scholarship.  But when trouble strikes again, the townspeople will have to decide whether or not they will give up or rise up.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With a modest budget behind it, Hometown Legend certainly spent the money pretty well.  Sports movies have to be able to nail the action shots and the outside scenes, and this film does that, including respectable camera work.  As usual, the video quality and audio quality both pass the test.  The soundtrack is a bit too pedestrian and borderline Hallmark; this is something that needed a change.  Another common theme in these types of films is weak editing, and Hometown Legend also has this attribute.  A movie like this one needs a strong edit, and this simply does not happen, as some scenes carry on longer than they should while others are underdeveloped.  In short, Hometown Legend is a very average film in pretty much every way.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

While Jerry B. Jenkins’ original novel is memorable, the film adaptation does not capture its authenticity.  Where the characters are down to earth in the book, they fail to be in the movie.  The underdevelopment of these characters is likely due to the number of flat scenes throughout the film.  The storyline of Hometown Legend is neither cheesy nor dynamic—it’s very static and safe.  A plot like this one needed to have an abstract yet down-to-earth feel to it, but it does not.  It’s too generic and does not stand out in a crowded genre.  There aren’t enough plot twists and the ending is anti-climactic.  In short, where this plot could have been great, it falls short.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This movie is cast fairly well; people are placed in appropriate positions.  Emotions are fairly believable and line delivery is pretty good.  However, in keeping with the other aspects of this film, there is really nothing dynamic here, even though there could have been.  This is really the theme of the movie.

Conclusion

Hometown Legend portrays the simplicity of small town life in Alabama—with a stereotypical diner and a high school football team to cheer for.  It lives up to its simple message in every way, with a simple production, a simple storyline, and simple acting.  There’s nothing wrong with simple.  In fact, simple can be groundbreaking and profound.  However, this movie is a little too simple and does not touch the authentic thread that it needed to.  Many will find it enjoyable and it’s not half bad, but we would love to see a remake, because it can definitely be greater than this.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points