The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story [2019] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Manav Banerjee only wanted to be a successful journalist in the late 1990s India, when the country was full of social unrest due to religious persecution and restlessness. Thus, when Banerjee was given a chance at big story – finding a reason to arrest American missionary Graham Staines – he jumped at the chance to infiltrate the Christian cell who cared for the leper outcasts in order to trap Staines with Indian religious laws. However, the longer he knew Staines, the more perplexed Banerjee became, and he inadvertently set off a chain of events that would change both of their lives forever.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Least of These is a production that was a long time coming, and the finished product was definitely worth the wait as the on-location filming location paid off. This gives it an air of authenticity that there wouldn’t otherwise be in an international film. Video quality, camera work, sets, and props also live up to these high standards set by the hard work put into it. Audio quality is also mostly adequate, and the soundtrack is culturally appropriate, even if it is a bit loud and invasive in some scenes. The only other minor error to point out here relates to some quick cuts and abrupt scene transitions, but the editing is overall good, including some artistic overlays that are executed well. As a whole, as we kick off 2019 in the world of Christian entertainment, The Least of These is an almost-perfect production in the new era of Christian film that demands higher quality productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

It’s definitely clear why this true story was chosen for a film, and it’s refreshing to see a unique, non-Western perspective on white missionaries coming to a third world country, which can be attributed to the Indian creators of this film. We’ve had plenty of films told through the eyes of the ‘benevolent’ white missionaries, so seeing a culturally authentic perspective on this true story makes this plot very worthwhile. However, there are still some pitfalls of freshman story-telling to note here, such as the heavy-handed narration that doesn’t allow the plot to unfold naturally. Nevertheless, for the most part, character development appears to survive mostly intact, which can likely be attributed to their being based on real people. A good use of effective flashbacks also aids in this effort. Further, the Christian message is presented very well without being too forceful. Unfortunately, while the beginning and middle of this plot are quite good, it tends to lag at the end and to not discover the dynamic feel that it needed to push it onto the Hall of Fame. There are one too many abstract scenes that don’t have enough meaning attached to them. Nevertheless, this is still a great film about an excellent real-life story that is definitely worth your time.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It seems like there were better cast members to cast for Australian roles than non-Australian cast members Stephen Baldwin and Shari Rigby, whose Australian acting accents are either non-existent or extremely inconsistent. Despite these obvious errors, however, Baldwin and Rigby do well in fulfilling their DVD-cover roles by being in less than half of the film’s run time. They are definitely overshadowed by the excellent cultural casting for all of the other characters, which is a refreshment. Not only do the Indian cast members fit into their roles very well, but they are also skilled in line execution and emotional delivery. Further, costuming throughout the film is authentic and culturally accurate, which rounds out an overall above-average effort.

Conclusion

While The Least of These didn’t go as far as it could have been, this is absolutely a great start to a film-making career for all of those involved. Not only did Stephen Baldwin show that he can actually pull off a semi-normal role, but Aneesh Daniel and his team have showcased great skill and talent that will hopefully be applied to even better movies in the future. While we can’t wait to see what they have next, this film is definitely worth your time.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

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The UnMiracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of teens, under the prompting of a college student, becomes involved in illegial drug use, the community is rocked after one of them overdoses herself into a coma.  The police are pressured to find the culprit, but the kids run and hide, except for one brave Christian boy (who was at the drug party that night for some reason) who wants to help his friends (?).  As family is being torn apart by destructive choices, only the power of God can save them from themselves.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The UnMiracle (strange title indeed) is an extremely unique film in many ways.  For starters, the beginning of this film is a different sort of experience, mostly due to some strange and dizzying special effects.  There is also some shaky camera work for drama’s sake.  Also, at first, there is some weird audio quality and odd sound effects, as well as some strange lighting in some scenes.  However, for the most part, these quirks improve throughout to make for a mostly average production.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, and the soundtrack is at least creative in some ways.  Though the editing can be confusing at times, this production is basically fine and just needs a little tune-up.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the get go, The UnMiracle has a clear agenda that is pushed through obvious dialogue and messaging.  While there are many pertinent and realistic issues portrayed here, they are not presented very well.  The characters are very flawed, which is great, but they tend to only be one-dimensional in order to represent the issues that are being pushed here.  At first, there are some strange undertones to the film that are mostly driven by the creepy Stephen Baldwin narration.  It seems like sometimes this film is trying to tell us something deeper that it never quite conveys properly.  Yet these cryptic factors are not all bad, as they also include some intriguing psychological elements, as well as a relatively fair portrayal of mental health issues, even though it could use a little deepening.  But this does not make up for the confusing and disorienting sequences throughout, as well as the trite and simplistic approach to problems and the very easy fixing of characters’ struggles by throwing Bible verses at them.  There are also tons of characters and subplots here with very little focus.  Thus, there is too much going on that needs severe organization, yet there it still potential even in all of the confusion.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin pulling Eric Roberts roles (very brief and small appearances) in this film, the remainder of the cast is hard to figure.  For one, there is a lot of strange and loud makeup throughout.  At first, a lot of the acting is unsure and amateurish and even lethargic and passive at times.  The drug acting is odd and needs work.  However, emotions are mostly realistic, and there is concerted improvement throughout, which is enough to make this an average score.

Conclusion

This film is mostly a hot mess and needs a major remake or rework.  It could potentially be a series if done properly.  But this would mean serious acting coaching (and possible re-casting), way more focus in the storyline, fewer ‘fancy’ production tricks, and some education and research on mental health and substance abuse issues.  In the end, it could be done, and this creative team has some potential, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Scarlett [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chase and Scarlett and two architects who are in love and are engaged to be married.  They love God and want to help people, which is why they open their home to a pregnant victim of domestic violence on the run from her evil husband.  But their lives are also changed when Scarlett discovers that she has an aggressive form of cancer.  Will they be able to hold on to what they believe despite tragedy?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though Scarlett has a smaller budget, it shows that Strong Foundation Films has finally learned how to put money to good use by having a semi-professional production.  Video quality and camera work are on standard, and audio quality shows marked improvement.  The soundtrack is also better as it flows more smoothly.  Sets, locations, and props demonstrate more professionalism than in the past.  The only negative to discuss here is the bad editing that keeps this production from being all that it could be.  Yet nevertheless, Strong Foundation has finally found a good production style.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though there is some heavy-handed narration and though this story is just another repackaged downtrodden character plot, there is some better dialogue throughout that keeps this plot from being as bad as past efforts.  Yet the characters still need further development as they are only halfway there.  There is a lot of melodrama surrounding the disease plot and there are laughable product placements for The Prophet’s Son.  Yet it seems like the Strong Foundation team is trying, even though they suggest of a lot of childish fixes for problems.  There is at least some hope for this team.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The creative team did find some better case members and better coaching for this film, yet Josiah David Warren’s unsure performance is still front and center, and is thus distracting.  The presence of Stephen Baldwin is also an automatic detractor.  Some emotions are believable while others are not.  Line delivery is mostly okay.  In the end, this rounds out of a much-needed improvement.

Conclusion

We would much rather see a company start with a 4-point movie and progress beyond that, but it’s better late than never for Strong Foundation.  They have certainly had an odd existence, but perhaps they are finding their way now.  Josiah David Warren still needs to look over his past performances and see how he can improve so he doesn’t keep doing the same thing every time.  They also still might want to consider hiring a different writer.  Who knows where they will go as a company next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Walk With Grace (in progress)

Currently being filmed

Facebook Page

Website

 

Writer(s): Nick Kellis

Director(s): Nick Kellis

Producer(s): Nick Kellis, Lance Paul, Chris Carson, Drew Evans, April Kennedy, Brian MacGillivray, Austin St. John

Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Austin St. John, Joe Estevez, David Lee Smith, Nicole Dambro, Ashley Bratcher, Ian Grey, Brenna Sherman, Garrett Pace, Bret Aaron Knower, Lance Paul, Jenni Kennedy, Mishka Calderon, Jenni-Kate Deshon, Chris Minor, Yorke Fryer, Manu Aggarwal, Samir Patel, Jaylee Kennedy

 

Plot Synopsis:

When his mother dies a week before Easter, a widowed hotshot LA exec, Nate Lassiter, is confronted with heart-tugging responsibilities. He must finally return, with his daughter Chloe intow, to his hometown in Ohio. There, he faces the daunting task of signing away his family’s factory. Nate must also confront: a spitfire cousin, unhappy Nate left her to run the factory years ago, a labor-strike lead by his high school wrestling buddy, and a legal battle over the impending sale of the factory– brought on by his high school sweetheart, Grace. Nate’s biggest challenge, however, will be the realization that accepting things you feel you don’t deserve, and giving freely to those you believe aren’t deserving, is giving into God’s grace. Forced to search his soul and embrace his past, he just might reconnect with his God – and fall back in love with his Grace. Once lost in Los Angeles, Nate Lassiter is about to be found in Middle America!

The Genius Club (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a madman takes the White House hostage with a complex nuclear bomb he has built, he demands that the Secret Service assemble the world’s highest IQ achievers to solve the world’s problems in the President’s bunker before the time runs out on the bomb.  The madman poses a series of philosophical dilemmas and questions for them to solve so they can gain enough points for him to turn off the bomb.  Will they be able to play the game to win before time runs out?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike later productions from Timothy Chey, The Genius Club actually has average production quality rather than negative production quality.  Video quality is good and camera work is good, but there is some randomly poor lighting.  However, audio quality is unprofessional, although the soundtrack is interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are also somewhat interesting and creative.  However, the editing leaves something to be desired with some confusing cuts and transitions.  Overall, this is a middle-of-the-road production that is better than negative but is not what it should be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though The Genius Club has some shades of Timothy Chey wackiness, it also includes some thought-provoking philosophical concepts.  It has an interesting suspense storyline but it lacks flow and tends to jump all over the place in attempts to cover a lot of ground and information, even if it does so in an isolating way.  There are some typical philosophical regurgitations, but there are also some interesting and surprisingly well-thought-out points raised.  However, the characters, even though there are some interesting backstories, and the dialogue are not good enough to sustain a full-scale story as the conversations only seem to be used to fill time.  Finally, as with many suspense ideas, this story has a paint-yourself-into-a-corner ending that is hard to reconcile properly or creatively without being predictable.  But at least this was a reasonable attempt.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is very inconsistent, especially with the over-the-top villain constantly manically tirading.  Stephen Baldwin is always a lazy actor, but his role somewhat fits him.  Other cast members post over-the-top performances, but others are realistic and meaningful.  Overall, like other parts of the film, this is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Timothy Chey remains to be an enigma.  He is extremely hard to figure, except for the fact that he clearly hates lawsuits, noises, war, and oil companies, as these are constant themes throughout his films.  Yet despite his zaniness, there are some interesting thought-provokers throughout The Genius Club that actually make you think.  However, they are not enough to overcome the inevitable unprofessional elements that are almost always found in his films.  But this one is at least worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

I’m in Love With a Church Girl (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Miles Montego has everything money can buy, but he is restless and is under investigation by the federal government.  When he talks a Christian friend of his, he is inadvertently introduced to a girl he cannot stop thinking about.  The only problem is she is an outspoken Christian while Miles hasn’t been to church since he was a kid.  But in order to pursue her, he begins to play the part of a Christian, all the while running from his past as a drug dealer.  Eventually, it will all catch up to him so what choice will be make?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though there was a modest amount of money behind this project, it doesn’t seem like it was spent very well.  Camera work is fine, as is video quality, but there are one too many poorly lit scenes here.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is very standard and typical.  Sets and locations are fairly cheap and limited and have room for improvement.  There are too many product placements in this film, which make it seem plastic.  Finally, the editing is not the best as there are too many montages and wasted scenes.  In the end, while there is some good here, it simply isn’t up to standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this film was based on a true story, this story is not necessarily portrayed well.  There is too much narration that serves as a crutch to move the plot along.  Dialogue is mostly okay, but characters tend to be too one-dimensional and need further depth.  There is also some suggestive content that could have been avoided.  The purpose behind this film is also questionable—the idea here could send a wrong message about ‘missionary dating’.  It doesn’t really seem like the seriousness of the issues presented here are really grasped.  Though there is a somewhat good message of redemption, its conclusion and quite forced and rushed—it’s very hard to appreciate what is going on here because it all seems too surface.  Unfortunately, this was not the best way to portray a true story.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a ‘big name’ cast, and though there are some bright spots, there is too much over-acting and there are too many awkward performances in this effort.  A lot of the cast members seem forcibly cast to the point where they don’t seem real.  Of course, Stephen Baldwin is as ridiculous as can be expected.  Also, costuming and makeup is largely overdone in most of the cast members.  Essentially, this film is a case of too much of the wrong thing.

Conclusion

True stories are great in film—they can portray real people that audiences can connect with and learn from.  However, I’m In Love With a Church Girl crafts an unusual message that can confuse Christians when it comes to dating.  We certainly aren’t about to get into a debate over this topic in this forum, but we definitely have to be very careful when it comes to becoming emotionally involved with non-Christians.  Besides this, the gospel is presented, perhaps unconsciously, as a quick-fix method for problems and is thus cheapened.  But maybe next time this team will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

The Apostle Peter: Redemption (Movie Review)

A creeper

Plot Summary

The Apostle Peter followed Jesus zealously once he was called, but when faced with the darkest hour in history, Peter fell away and denied that he even knew his Lord.  Yet after His Resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and made him the head of His church.  All his life, Peter sought to never forsake Christ again, so when faced with martyrdom, he only wanted to please his Lord and witness to those around him—even a skeptical Roman soldier who was seeking the truth.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Productions PureFlix has had a hand in are usually average or above, as is the case with The Apostle Peter: Redemption.  However, we can’t help but feel that there could have been more here.  While all the typical elements—camera work, video quality, audio quality, and soundtrack—are okay for the most part, it feels like this production isn’t going the extra mile.  This is mostly demonstrated by fake looking sets and locations that are actually quite limited.  Some historical authenticity is present, but it seems too plastic.  The editing is fine, but leaves sometime to be desired.  In short, this is just a standard production that seems slapped together; it could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

With themes similar to Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, this plot is very slow to develop and hard to follow.  Not much happens as unfeeling characters have boring and stiff conversations filled with stilted theatrical dialogue and discourses on obscure Roman politics.  We can’t feel like these characters are real or relatable people since they act like they stepped out of one of those horrid 1980s Bible movies.  They don’t really do anything except ramble on and pretend like things are happening.  The only redeeming qualities here are the okay use of flashbacks and the interesting end that is slightly meaningful if you make it that far.  Otherwise, this story is a big disappointment.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This film is poorly cast, and even though it stays away from the BRITISH errors, the cast members are still not historically authentic.  The costuming also seems fake and cheaply made.  The actors and actresses are stoic and robotic in their line delivery and unfeeling in their emotions.  John Rhys-Davies is the only exception here, as he is always the same in every movie he’s in.  As a side note, Stephen Baldwin seems like he’s in his natural habitat, since he’s as creepy as ever and exhibits random unwanted outbursts.  But basically, this is a mess.

Conclusion

It’s commendable to create Biblical films, but once again, this is not the way to do it.  This is an interesting look at the latter life of a Bible character, but the storyline simply does not hold the attention and seems disingenuous.  It’s hard to believe that this wasn’t just a movie thrown together for the sake of having a Bible movie.  We implore film makers to put effort into their work and to not create half-measures.  It is simply not worth it.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Midnight Clear [2006] (Movie Review)

Hold on, it's another movie calling
Hold on, it’s another movie calling

Plot Summary

Lefty is a drunken no-account who has been fired from his job, is living in his car, and is going through a divorce.  Desperate for money, he begins planning a robbery.  Eva is a shut-in widow who feels like no one in the world cares about her or would miss her if she died.  Kirk owns a convenience store but feels like he’s not making a difference in the world.  Mary is left raising her son alone when her husband has a car accident that leaves his brain permanently damaged.  Mitch is a youth pastor who is tired of going through the motions and wants to impact someone’s life for God.  All of these stories intersect at Christmastime and learn valuable lessons.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

With just under a million dollars spent on this work, there is no reason why it is so poor, but it is.  The video quality is grainy and the camera angles are awkward.  The audio quality is poor and the soundtrack is stock Christmas stuff.  The sets and locations are cheap with nothing special about them.  With so many subplots to juggle, the editing is not very good as it chooses to waste time on blank and empty scenes.  Essentially, there is really not much to say here because the production is so empty and disappointing.  This should have been way better than this for the money spent on it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, there are too many subplots in this storyline, therefore they are disjointed and do not flow together well.  They are all just crammed into the film for the sake of making the film long enough.  Due to the number of them, character development is left by the wayside; we barely get to know any of these people as the movie jumps from one subplot to another.  This leaves the characters flat, supported by uninspiring and boring dialogue.  Also, to connect some of the subplots together, odd coincidences are employed to give it that Christmas-miracle-feel.  While there are some slightly interesting ideas here, there is no heart behind them.  There are too many off-the-wall elements present that come off as abrasive.  The ending is predictable and leaves much to be desired.  In short, Midnight Clear was a half-idea forced to happen because Christmas, of course.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With a small cast of people that have at least an average amount of talent (not sure about Stephen Baldwin), Midnight Clear is supported entirely by its actors and actresses.  However, with no acting coaching, this is not a good thing.  While there are no glaring acting errors, everything about the acting is just like the rest of the film: flat and boring.  There are little to no believable emotions and line delivery is pedestrian.  I suppose that description pretty much sums up the movie.

Conclusion

Of all the Jerry B. Jenkins stories to bring to the big screen, one of the most obscure and boring was chosen.  There are better choices that have nothing to do with holiday cheer.  While the message behind Midnight Clear has some substance to it, this is not conveyed properly in the film.  This one either needed a serious rework in pre-production or it needed to be abandoned altogether.  Just having another cheap Christmas movie on the market is not what this world needs.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

God’s Club {Holy Warrior} (Movie Review)

As you can see, they spent a lot of time on that sign

Plot Summary

When his wife dies tragically in a car accident, Michael Evans falls into a funk.  In order to find new meaning and life and try to keep his wife’s memory alive, he decides to return to teaching and start an after-school Bible club, something she had always wanted to do.  But he is shocked when he is met with extreme resistance both from school authorities and parents.  As the pushback goes from bad to worse, Michael considers just leaving it all behind (after all, there’s no churches in his city).  But his daughter reminds him that her mom would never have wanted him to give up, so Michael sticks with the fight (literally) and doesn’t back down.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

It feels like we repeat ourselves all the time.  There are simply too many Christian productions that are all the same.  God’s Club offers nothing new—clear video quality along with a host of errors.  Between nearly every scene is an awkward fade to black moment that requires a fade-in for the next scene.  In many scenes throughout, especially outdoor scenes, there is shaky camera work, which seems to indicate that someone is holding the camera, which infers that the budget was too small to pay for any other equipment.  The limited funds are also evident in the few cheap sets that there are, as well as in the prop usage.  It seems like the only reason this film is ninety minutes long is because of excessive use of slow motion throughout.  Also, in an attempt to be ‘cool’, the creators crafted a weird soundtrack that sometimes covers for their lack of better sound.  In short, God’s Club commits all the usual production sins, just in different ways than usual.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In an attempts to frame a religious freedom conflict, God’s Club portrays an all out school war, complete with fistfights, brawls, vandalism, arson, and sabotage, all because of a silly after-school activity called God’s Club, also known as Bible Club or Bible Group.  The worst part is that Christian characters aren’t even able to be sympathized with because they deserve half of the treatment they get, as they either pick fights or continue them.  The Christian perspective is also very empty, lacking meaningful depth and espousing odd Christian philosophies as they try to shove the Bible down your throat.  There are very few characters in this plot; some of them we are supposed to appreciate without even getting to know them.  ‘Bad’ characters are very evil in every possible way until they are randomly fixed up.  Dialogue is in-your-face, leaving nothing to the imagination.  God’s Club also sports a growing trend in offbeat Christian films: a disdain for proper counseling and psychology.  Basically, if you are to believe the worldview of this film, churches are disappearing (the town in this plot has no churches), Christians are being persecuted for having after-school activities, it’s okay for Christians to fight back (literally), and reciting Bible verses will fix your life up.  In our experience, none of these things are true in reality, so why portray them in a film?  Because you’re trying to make some kind of quick buck by preaching to the choir.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Why do movies consistently cast Stephen Baldwin in major roles he’s not suited for?  He’s downright creepy in this movie, and when he’s not creepy, he’s lethargic.  It’s beyond me why Corbin Bernsen consistently involves himself in these sorts of messes.  The few other cast members that there are either make no positive impact or remind us why they’re not in any other notable films.  In short, there is clearly no coaching for this cast, thus obvious problems go unchecked.

Conclusion

Was there any thought during the making of this film to attempt to make it realistic and down-to-earth?  We highly doubt it.  At least the persecution subplot of God’s Not Dead is somewhat realistic.  God’s Club is a trumped up preaching-to-the-choir load of nonsense only designed to further inflame Christians against ‘the world’ and give them a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality to approaching non-believers.  None of this movie is reality and it’s a total sham and embarrassment to portray people in this way.  As Christians, our time would be better served using movies to actually reach people for the Gospel and to encourage Christians to go deeper in their faith by using meaningful and realistic plots combined with professional production and acting.  Until Christians are stronger in their faith and until more people are reached with the saving power of Jesus Christ, we have nothing else we need to be discussing.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Six: The Mark Unleashed (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a film market far, far away, before the birth of PureFlix Productions, David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Stephen Baldwin (with a cameo from ‘Logan White’) all teamed up to create an apocalyptic film to remember.  This movie was unlike any other and focused on the hard-hitting topic of…the daily ins and outs of a futuristic men’s prison?  Caught in the grip a dictatorial international government and threatened with death in three weeks if they don’t take the Mark of the Beast, the men of the prison are…allowed to walk around however they please and write Bible stuff on the walls?  Busted for smuggling illegal stuff like painkillers and old movies to Eric Roberts and for stealing a pizza, Downes and White are forced to spend their three weeks in a cheesy looking set with a group of Christian prisoners who draw Christian-themed stuff on the walls of the prison without punishment.  Will they ever escape or will they be forced to take the Mark?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Watching Six: The Mark Unleashed is a surreal experience.  We can’t even believe this thing exists.  Everything about it feels like one big joke.  The fingerprints of Downes and White are all over this one, from the cheesy sets to the poor camera work to the bad lighting.  They went so overboard trying to look futuristic that it comes off as a Star Trek knockoff.  Are we really supposed to believe that the future of the world is peppered with Star Trek wardrobes and buildings?  What’s more, there is no coherent thought to the editing, as a vast majority of the ‘plot’ takes place in a giant concrete box billed as a prison.  Any other elements are completely isolating, as will be discussed next.  In short, this is nothing short of a production disaster, one that should have never been funded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As Downes and White bumble their way through this ‘plot’, many characters are introduced and then quickly discarded with no explanation.  Vague concepts are constantly referred to that isolate the audience.  After being arrested and spending tons of time in the prison reading stuff off of darkly lit walls and talking to mysteriously creepy Baldwin, Downes and White employ absurd tactics to escape the freakishly bald Brad Heller, such as hacking using Tommy Blaze keyboard gymnastics and calling on an enigmatic figure to help them get to ‘the walled city’.  But never fear, for Brad Heller’s ‘spiritual bloodhounds’ are quick on their tails.  Do you get the picture of how ridiculous this ‘plot’ is?  By the end of the movie, there are more questions than answers.  What’s the deal with that one prisoner who sometimes acts as a double agent?  What ever happened to Eric Roberts’ smuggling business?  How did the people in the tent city escape the dictatorial rule?  Who’s Rahab and where did she come from and why do we care?  Why is Brad Heller wearing so much eye makeup?  Yet in the wake of all of this, the prologue and the epilogue of the film actually demonstrate a stroke of creative genius; they are likely the reason why this horrifying mess was even made in the first place.  It’s just too bad that they get lost in the swamp of nonsense.  In short, it is extremely unclear what type of message is supposed to be conveyed in this film, as the plot is very disjointed and schizophrenic.  Stuff like this makes you wonder how White and Downes ever made it anywhere in filmmaking.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s no surprise that the acting of this film is just ridiculous.  Emotions are extremely awkward and too many cast members are trying to be mysterious action heroes.  No coaching is employed as line delivery is forced and disingenuous.  Some lines are horribly slurred and annunciation is inconsistent.  Basically, no effort was put into acting, just like the rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Is any movie viewer supposed to take this film seriously?  It’s so absurd and out of touch that I would be embarrassed to recommend it to someone or even admit that it is supposed to be a Christian film.  What is gained from this level of immaturity?  Are we supposed to applaud the effort lest we be condemned for persecuting Christians or for not standing with ‘our own’?  Are Christian films allowed to be however poor quality they wish yet still be promoted in Christian circles?  We say no.  The line must be drawn somewhere.  Someone must hold filmmakers who claim the name of Christ to a higher standard if we ever expect to impact the field for Him.  Otherwise, we’re just talking to ourselves about the good things we do and making money off of it while the world looks on in disgust and\or confusion.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

Hoovey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jeff and Ruth Elliot are living their ideal life on a Midwestern farm with two great teenagers before everything starts to change for them.  Their lives are forever altered when their son Eric “Hoovey” collapses during basketball practice, thus leading to a medical examination revealing a brain tumor.  Hoovey is not given long to live at first, but he is given a second chance by having the tumor removed, leaving him a fraction of what he used to be.  Unable to play basketball anymore due to danger and having to relearn motor skills, Hoovey and his family are also suddenly faced with possibly losing their dream farm to the bank.  As a family, they will have to pull together in order to face the challenges ahead.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Echolight Studios has a commitment to producing quality Christian films, and Hoovey is no exception.  The camera work is clearly professional, along with the video and sound quality.  Disability plots are difficult to pull off because they require unique props, but Hoovey does it with ease.  The only negative points to raise here are slightly isolating editing and some generally inauthentic surroundings.  For the most part, the editing is good, but there are some parts that are confusing.  The same goes for the surroundings—sometimes it seems like this film is taking place in a realistic Midwestern setting, while other times it does not.  But in the end, there are only minor issues and Hoovey passes the production bar.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Stories based on true events are almost always more complex than an average inspirational plot.  Hoovey proves this.  Believable events happen to the characters and unexpected twists occur.  Not everything turns out neat and tidy.  However, since this is a character-based plot, the deepening of the characters throughout the film is important.  Unfortunately, this does not occur to the extent it needed to.  Dialogue is pretty good, but it rarely delves below surface conventions into deeper character development.  The plot uses narration as a crutch far too often.  Also, the Christian message is not very clear—in the end, the audience is just left with a feel good story rather than a life-changing message.  In summary, the plot of Hoovey is average—it started out with a lot of potential on its side, but it only found part of all it could have been.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is clearly a professional cast and they are coached fairly well.  Emotions, for the most part, are believable.  However, sometimes line delivery is slightly lackadaisical.  Some of the casting choices don’t seem to fit very well.  But these are just small issues—the important thing is that Echolight followed through on their commitment to produce quality Christian films.

Conclusion

Every Christian studio should be committed to rolling out quality movies on a very regular basis.  Some are willing but not able, while others are able but not seemingly not willing.  Hoovey broke into mainstream markets, which makes it even more of a shame that it did not carry with it a stronger Christian message.  Had it delivered a meaningfully obvious but not preachy Christian message, Hoovey likely would have made it in the Hall of Fame.  But regardless, it is still an enjoyable film and is worth a watch.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Faith of Our Fathers [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John Paul George always wanted to know about his father and his experiences in Vietnam, but he could never learn any detailed information about him.  Now, on the verge of getting married, he stumbles upon a misplaced box of his father’s things and discovers a lone letter that could clue John Paul in on some more information.  He begins to search for the sender of the letter, but is unsuccessful until he accidentally reaches a cryptic character that interests John Paul just enough to make him go and see him in person.  Once he finally meets his new acquaintance, the two decide to embark on a redemptive journey to reconcile both their pasts and their fathers’ memories.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

PureFlix has improved over the years on production quality.  The camera work is decent and the sets seem pretty good.  The war scenes are the strongest parts of the movie, as they are actually not done in a cheesy manner.  The soundtrack is just average. However, the editing tends to be confusing.  Some scenes are wasted and drag on too long.  This is an improvement, but not quite there yet.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This plot would have been improved with more inclusion of Vietnam War scenes.  The historical characters needed to be better developed and the present-day characters needed to be less-emphasized.  The present day plot is erratic and random; one subplot is introduced and then discarded with no real explanation to its purpose.  Some dialogue and subplots seem to just fill time.  None of the characters are believable, especially Wayne.  Perhaps the worst of all is that one character uses the same actor over a nearly forty year timespan, without aging appropriately.  In short, as far as PureFlix movies go, the plot is business as usual.

Acting Quality (1 point)

PureFlix needs acting coaching, plain and simple.  David A. R. White’s attempt at comedy falls flat.  Kevin Downes is not cast into the appropriate character.  Candace Cameron Bure and Rebecca St. James seem like Christian celebrity tack-ons, with neither one serving any real purpose.  Stephen Baldwin is passable, as are the historical characters, making them the only possible elements here.

Conclusion

In summary, PureFlix has improved a hair from the usual ways.  The production quality has improved, but that’s about it.  A potentially meaningful plot was once again wasted and the acting was once again sub-par.  Fatherhood is an important topic, as is the Vietnam War, but both seem like extra additions rather than the main points.  Maybe next time things will improve.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points