Movie Renovation: A Cross to Bear

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Obviously, the portion of A Cross to Bear that suffers the most is the production.  The production quality is very low, and this is manifested in poor video quality, below-par audio quality, and unprofessional camera work.  Though the sets, props, and locations are mostly good, the overall feel of this production is very low-budget and indie.  Thus, it is easy to point to these production elements that need to be improved and how to improve them.  Basically, a higher budget, combined with good stewardship, would have gone a long way to possibly making A Cross to Bear a Hall of Fame film.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

While the plot is surprisingly the strongest point of this film, there were a few things that could have been done differently, such as deeper character development.  More opportunities for dialogue could have been taken in exchange for removing a few of the ‘training’ montages.  The struggles of these characters were clear and easy to relate to, so a little more work in this direction could have gone a long way.

Acting Improvements

The acting of this film also has a higher rating than the production, even though there are a few amateur elements here.  There is some coaching evident, but there are a few moments that seem over-acted and some that seem under-acted.  As a whole, with a few small tweaks, this cast could have been nearly perfect.

Conclusion

Movies like A Cross to Bear are extremely rare in that their plot and acting quality are better than their production quality—this is a total role reversal from most Christian films.  What it comes down to is that A Cross to Bear needed a higher budget to succeed past its original rating.  Had it had the budget of some films half its rating, it could have a place on the Hall of Fame now.  Nonetheless, perhaps the ideas of this film could be translated to an upcoming feature.  Also, as we mentioned before, Lecrae needs to be in more films!

 

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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

 

The Carpenter’s Miracle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Though John Camdenis is just an average carpenter who doesn’t think much of himself, when his touch appears to bring a dead boy back from the dead, the small town he lives in immediately becomes ground zero for media attention and controversy.  He appears to perform more miracles, but he has no idea what to do with his newfound abilities.  John wants to go back to the way things were, but now it’s no turning back for him or the boy who came back to life.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this is a made-for-TV production from UP, there are some surprising production errors here.  While video quality is fine, there is a high amount of shaky camera work throughout this film, probably for dramatic effect.  However, it doesn’t come off right.  There are also some awkward camera angles that give off a feel of the camera being moved around manually.  Nonetheless, there is a lot of great attention to detail when it comes to sets, locations, and props, especially the medical elements.  The soundtrack is also very interesting, as the audio quality is also good.  Finally, the editing is mostly fine, and overall, this production is above average, despite the odd oversights.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

At first, the plot of The Carpenter’s Miracle is hard to understand, but it doesn’t get much better from there.  The plot is presented in a very confusing fashion, and it is very unclear what is meant to be learned from this story.  It is only very vaguely Christian as the underlying message is mostly unknown, except for several obvious Easter themes.  Sometimes it seems like the story is hiding some great secret from you, but no clarity is ever offered.  Is the main character supposed to be Jesus or not?  Did he perform miracle or get involved in coincidences?  Besides these unanswered questions, the characters are too one-dimensional due to stilted and under-developed dialogue.  Furthermore, the ending is very head-scratching, thus completing a very unusual experience of a film.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast tends to be professional and mostly means well, there are a handful of awkward moments, especially in the beginning.  However, there is a lot of potential here, and the acting overall improves as the film goes on.  Emotional delivery is particularly believable and realistic.  In the end, however, this punctuates a unique experience that is difficult to quantify.

Conclusion

One can understand why UP would want to make another made-for-TV film to tap into a Christian audience, but this is an unusual choice.  Why not make the message more obviously Christian or at least try to offer some clarity as to what the underlying point of this story is?  Instead, we are left with more questions than answers, yet many people probably won’t ever know this film exists.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

A Cross to Bear (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

One day Erica is an extravagant girlfriend of a top music executive, and the next, she is a pregnant homeless woman struggling with addictions with no one to take her in.  After facing tragedy time and again in the hard life of the streets and not being able to break her addictions, Erica finally finds Joan, a strong woman who left her nursing career behind to open her home to women on the streets.  As Erica struggles to keep from going back to her old ways, she befriends one of the other residents, Tina, who has health problems due to her being a crack baby.  In the end, Erica will have to choose between her old destructive path and a new path that has been offered to her.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

A Cross to Bear is a very frustrating movie, mostly due to its obviously cheap production quality.  The video is grainy, the sound inconsistent, and the camera work amateur.  This film obviously suffered in the financial department, yet it does not fall in line with the usual cheap Christian films.  The editing is mostly good, but it needs to be refined.  The strongest point of this movie’s production is its authentic surroundings, settings, and locations.  This is a gritty subject accompanied by gritty elements that make it believable.  This is the key redeeming quality of this otherwise poorly produced movie.  It’s unfortunate that the budget was so low; other movies with higher budgets than this are far worse.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Based on true events, A Cross to Bear is a realistic and accessible story that could occur in any given inner city in America right now.  The movie wrestles with homelessness, infant mortality, drugs, alcohol, and advocacy all while presenting an engaging plot.  Despite the low production quality, the plot is enough to keep one’s attention.  The dialogue is realistic and the characters are believable.  The story does not turn out as expected and there is a major twist at the end that makes this movie all that it is.  The only caveat that can be raised here is the fact that the characters could have been a bit deeper, since the plot depended heavily on them.  Otherwise, A Cross to Bear proves that using real events as a plot basis almost always pays off and makes for a mostly watchable movie.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is not a star-studded cast, but they do the best they can with what they have.  There is a presence of acting coaching—the actors and actresses put most Christian casts to shame.  Emotions are believable and line delivery is good.  The only things keeping this section from being better is a generally and evidently under-experienced cast, but this is nothing to be ashamed of, because there is a lot of potential here.

Conclusion

A Cross to Bear joins the ranks of Christian films that desperately need remakes.  This plot is far better than many more popular films on the market and needs to be elevated to its proper status with a higher budget and a good production team.  Every now and then, a rare nugget with potential is found in a vast landscape of B-grade movies.  A Cross to Bear is one of these.  Even if a remake is never to be made, this movie can serve as an example of how basing movies on true events is better than spinning out another cheap inspirational flick.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points