Samson [2018] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Samson was chosen to be a judge of Israel by Yahweh, but he did not always do as he was supposed to do.  He was anointed by God with superhuman strength when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, but when he disobeyed, there were serious consequences.  God used Samson to deliver His people from the oppressive Philistines, and He used an imperfect man to accomplish His will in the most extraordinary ways.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

PureFlix has clearly come a long way since the abysmal production days of The Book of Esther and the half-hearted production of movies like Apostle Peter and the Last Supper.  This newer rendition of Samson boasts a surprisingly high production quality, which is manifested in gritty and realistic elements that are not afraid to make the characters get dirty.  Action scenes are filmed very well with good camera work.  Video quality is crisp, and sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and culturally authentic.  The editing is also good, but this production is held back from being all that it could be by weird cuts and dramatic zooms that are reminiscent of Revelation Road and by very obvious CGI architectural shots.  However, on the whole, Samson is a huge step forward for PureFlix Bible productions.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Right off the bat, the plot of Samson is hamstrung by immediate and unwanted narration.  Accompanying this story crutch is a typically PureFlix ‘creative license’ that they give themselves to do whatever they want with historical narrative.  As this film was shamelessly pushed as a ‘Christian superhero’ flick, it is full of mostly mindless action scenes and is actually quite violent for a Bible film–even rivaling The Bible miniseries for gory content.  With so many battle scenes and bodies flying around, there is no room for character development as dialogue is instead used to fill time, dump information, and force the story along in the direction the writers wanted it to go in.  In molding the story however they wanted, the PureFlix collective whitewashed the obvious mistakes of Samson the historical figure and made this movie into some kind of romance-revenge plot.  However, in some ways, they made some interesting connections between the true events of Samson’s life, which keeps this section from being zero, but they took too much ‘creative license’ with historical fact to be acceptable.  Regardless, we have no idea who Samson is as a character due to massive time jumps, and the recurring villain character is beyond cheesy.  In the end, plot was basically tossed by the wayside in the making of this pandering film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Somewhere out there, there is a Christian movie consultant who constantly advises film makers to cast BRITISH people as Middle Eastern characters.  Sure, Middle Eastern cast members can be somewhat difficult to find, but what is the idea behind casting people with such obviously culturally inauthentic accents?  I’m sure with this budget PureFlix could have found some authentic cast members.  This consistent problem aside, the acting of this film is mostly fine except for the overly dramatic moments and forced emotions that are apparent here.  Also, it goes without saying that PureFlix consulted with Timothy Chey on how to give PhilistIne characters the worst possible makeup jobs.  On the whole, this section is average.

Conclusion

What to do with another Bible film?  Samson fulfills the gritty category, and the production is fine, but the other categories are greatly lacking in what is needed.  With a budget this big, better cast members could have been employed and better screenwriters could have been retained.  Then again, it’s doubtful that PureFlix actually cares about making a truly quality film.  Samson was just another attempt at a cash grab–PureFlix adapts with the times as needed to do the bare minimum to get enough audiences to pay for a ticket.  Now most people have forgotten this film even happened.  Oh well.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

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Open My Eyes [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul Sanders was a successful and arrogant model photographer before a car accident took his sight away from him.  After this, he locks himself in his house and refuses to have anyone over except his personal assistant and whichever restaurant employee brings his daily meals.  But when a new employee comes, little does he know the secrets she holds and to what extent he actually knows her.  She treats him differently than anyone else, even though he is still rude to her, which begins an unexpected change in Paul’s life.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Though this is a lesser-known production with somewhat limited funding, it still has a lot of professional elements in it.  The only real issue to point out is the unexplainable shaky camera work throughout, even there are really no other issues with it.  Video quality and audio quality are great, and the soundtrack is very creative and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are relatively well-constructed and realistic.  Editing is also surprisingly good, which is a plus for this type of film.  Overall, this is a very impressive effort that shows great promise for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak were likely held back in their PureFlix days, so it’s probably better that they were able to write this film out from under the iron fist of Byron Jones and company.  Open My Eyes demonstrates an interesting non-typical storyline that’s not afraid to deal with ‘worldly’ characters, even if they still need a little more refinement.  Sometimes the ‘bad’ characters are too bad and the ‘good’ characters are too good.  When a character switches between these two options, their arc is often too steep.  However, the situations and circumstances they experience are realistic and can be related to.  Dialogue is pretty good most of the time, but there are some lapses here nonetheless.  The plot progression is somewhat typical and expected, and there are one too many quick fixes at the end, but it’s clear that this writing team meant well with this story.  It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been better, because it certainly had a lot of potential.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is not as well-known as other casts, they are still mostly professional in their performances.  The biggest issue to point out here is some overdone emotions and forceful line delivery on the part of certain cast members some of the time.  Yet in the end, this is a commendable effort that demonstrates potential for the future.

Conclusion

Open My Eyes is another one of those films that just misses the mark of greatness due to a few key errors that hold it back.  However, it’s definitely worth a watch and would certainly be worth remaking one day.  Sean Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak certainly have a lot of untapped talent and definitely have experience.  Hopefully they will continue to be able to progress in their work unhindered by the controlling hands of PureFlix.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

The Encounter, Season 1 [2016] (Series Review)

With this creepy look, who doesn’t want an encounter?

Plot Summary

When someone is going about their everyday activities, they never know what is about to happen or who they are about to meet.  They all have struggles and secrets that they don’t want anyone to know, but they would be free if they just knew someone they could trust them with.  But people never know when they are about to meet Someone Who will change their life forever.  They never know until they have their own Encounter with Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Encounter series follows a typical production formula that PureFlix has been using for years.  They check the boxes for making the production look good on the surface, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations.  The soundtrack is sometimes engaging but mostly standard.  Sometimes there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the poorly shot actions scenes.  The biggest issue here is that large amount of wasted time throughout the series.  Most episodes are 25-28 minutes long, but the plots are usually so thin that this is too much time.  The exception to this is of episodes one and four, which will be discussed later.  But in the end, this series demonstrates an overall typical and average production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For eight episodes, The Encounter rehashes the same types of ideas, concepts, and conversations over and over again, just with different characters.  Outside of episodes one and four, there is no creativity here, as the opening sequence tells you what’s going to happen in each episode.  Besides being predictable, these stories are also very quick and punctuated, like they’ve been made in a quick plot factory.  While there are some good issues raised in the series, there are too many quick fixes and easy solutions based on creepy and plastic Jesus dialogue.  Thus, the messaging is quite shallow.  However, there is some potential here, as the first episode is very interesting and should have been the focus of the whole series so we could have gotten to know these characters better.  Also, the fourth episode would have made an interesting movie, if done properly.  But overall, this series just hops from high point to high point and discards substance and realism along the way.  It’s a good idea done very poorly.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are bright spots in this large scale cast, there are also plenty of issues.  For one, it seems like Bruce Marchiano, who has done well portraying Jesus in the past, has lost his touch. Other cast members are typical PureFlix standbys and rejects who seem to be lazy and phoning in their performances.  But as it is, it just comes out as average.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same ideas repeat over and over again in each episode and new characters are constantly being introduced, there is no chance or hope for continuity in this season.  There are no story arcs or character arcs.  We need to see what happens to these characters after their initial encounters, which is why it would have been great to have the characters from the first episode be the main focus of this series.  Yet the way it has been done is shallow and lazy, thus warranting no points here.

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with having Jesus intervene in everyday situations, but spitting out a whole bunch of episodes that are all basically the same doesn’t accomplish anything.  It’s easy to create a bunch of surface characters and then leave them; it takes true skill to craft meaningful characters that we can connect with.  It’s also a great idea to create a Christian series, but we need something better than this.  We need sustainable ideas that make people want to follow a set of characters across an arc.  PureFlix has the resources to do this, but will they?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 14 points

 

Sarah’s Choice (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sarah wants a big executive break like her boyfriend has, that’s why she sees an opportunity when she gets interviewed for a temporary job.  The only catch is that in order to get hired, she has to prove that she’s not pregnant.  But after she takes a test, she finds that she is pregnant and is faced with a serious decision: pursue a career and abort her child or give up her career and have her child.  Sarah will have to decide how real her faith is and what direction she wants her life to go in.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing PureFlix usually has going for them is that they can put together a respectable-looking production.  Sarah’s Choice is not an exception.  Notwithstanding an odd opening sequence, the camera work is at least above average.  The video quality is good, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack could use some improvement, but the sets are respectable.  Also, the editing is mostly average, though there are a handful of unnecessary scenes that put a damper on this production.  But overall, despite their obvious flaws, PureFlix can usually put together a semi-professional production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Leave it to PureFlix to take an important social issue and mutilate it with over the top messaging.  As a plot filled with typical White-style extremist characters, Sarah’s Choice sports a ridiculously unrealistic premise that is designed to force the issue of abortion on the audience.  As usual, pro-abortionists and other people who disagree with the PureFlix worldview are portrayed in offensive ways.  The dialogue is very obvious and forces the plot along, even though there is plenty of time wasted on bizarre asides.  There is also a silly shoehorning of the Christmas story into this plot, along with some odd ‘magical’ Christmas elements.  While the psychological parts are intriguing, they are not enough to offset the onslaught of nonsense in the remainder of the storyline.  As can be expected, the end is neat and tidy with no real justification for it ending up that way.  Basically, every horror story regarding the combination of PureFlix and the issue of abortion comes true in Sarah’s Choice.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While some cast members, including Rebecca St. James, post moderately respectable performances, this is probably Andrea Logan White’s most obnoxious role to date as she attempts to caricature a vain (well this mostly true) pro-abortion feminist.  There are some bright spots here that keep this category from being terrible, but there are still too many unrealistic emotions and drama moments.  Line delivery is fairly average throughout.  Overall, this is just average, despite Andrea Logan White.

Conclusion

In a PureFlix Christmas movie about abortion, what could go wrong?  Well, a lot, actually.  The Whites and company continue their addiction to portraying non-Christians as heartless ogres and construct an unrealistic framework designed to shove a social issue down your throat.  Do they even have any regard for reality or are they just trying to sell movies?  Movies like Sarah’s Choice are exactly why people tire of legalistic Christianity.  Unfortunately, while this blog is unashamedly pro-life, this is not the type of film we can support.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Captured by the Romans, the Apostle Peter is held for questioning and possible execution.  As he awaits his earthly fate, his mind wanders back to the early days, when he followed Jesus on earth.  As he is interrogated by a young and inquisitive soldier, Peter recounts his experiences with Jesus, including the painful moment when he disowned his Lord.  Tormented by evil spirits, Peter wrestles with his past as he tries to convert the man in front of him.  In the end, each man has his own battle to fight and they must decide which side they will choose.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

If you endeavor to create a Bible film, please, please, please invest in good sets and props.  Apostle Peter and the Last Supper suffers from the affliction of having only three or four sets, so it fills in everything else with very obviously cheap CGI.  They’re not even good sets at that.  The one good thing here is that at least the video quality is clear and the audio quality is find most of the time.  The camera work is commendable, but the soundtrack is not.  There are too many bizarre special effects that seem out of place and isolate the viewer.  Finally, the editing is blasé and seems to only focus on the sensational parts, as will be discussed next.  In all, Bible productions seem to always fall into a poor category all to themselves, and this one is no exception.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

While it is commendable to include spiritual themes in a Biblical film, the ones included in this one are only sensational and sometimes downright creepy.  The smallest things are overly dramatized—as usual with anything David A. R. White touches, nothing can be subtle, all must be obvious.  Dialogue is very pedestrian and theologically scripted; it doesn’t feel like real people are talking.  When dealing with the Biblical narrative, it is obviously out of order for some reason, probably for convenience.  Jesus is portrayed in a very odd way, like He’s constantly obsessed with reading everybody’s minds.  The plot being split between the past and the present does not allow for good character development in any form.  Basically, the only positive aspect of this plot is the interesting idea of incorporating the spiritual battle, even though it is pulled off very poorly.  Essentially, this plot is The Encounter with Peter—some slight potential but too much sensationalism and mediocrity.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Time and again, we have seen Biblical movie casts with an inordinate number of British actors and actresses and Apostle Peter is no exception.  What is it about Bible films that cause creators to believe that Biblical characters are very white and British?  Accents aside, the acting is mostly dramatic and sensational, like the rest of the film.  Bruce Marchiano, in his typical role, seems creepier than usual.  Line delivery is very theatrical rather than conversational.  Emotions are not believable.  However, the acting is not bad enough to warrant zero points.  Overall, everything about this film is just a mess.

Conclusion

Oh, what we would pay somebody for a worthwhile Bible film.  Stories from Scripture need to be properly and accurately portrayed and presented on the big screen.  Such films should have a historical bent rather than an otherworldly feel.  Spiritual elements are great to include, but do them correctly, not in a way that turns people off.  Unfortunately, the majority of Biblical films on the market misconstrues the historical truths and spiritual realities of the Word of God, thus contributing only negative content to the field.  Who will stand up and turn the tide?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Holyman Undercover (Movie Review)

The Split Personality of David A. R. White
The Split Personality of David A. R. White
Nobody believes that stupid beard is real
Our reaction to this movie

Plot Summary

When Roy, a ‘young’ Amish man, supposedly turns 18, it’s time for him to go on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, the time when all Amish ‘young’ folks go out into the world to hopefully discover how evil the world is and come running back to their drab lifestyle.  But Roy is determined to not only find his long-lost uncle, who disappeared to Hollywood on his ‘Rumma Shpringa’, but also to witness to the heathen of the world about Jesus Christ.  But what he finds instead is a cold world with no care for the things of God.  Roy finds his uncle, who advises him to jump into the show business in order to covertly share the gospel.  Roy runs into all sorts of odd characters along the way, including a producer he’s attracted to, who entices him to play Satan on a daytime soap opera.  But the further he does into the showbiz game, the more Roy finds himself compromising all he has been taught.  Which set of values will prevail?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If Holyman Undercover has anything going for it, it does have pretty good video quality.  But that’s where the positivity ends.  Camera work is all over the place, obviously trying to be ‘funny’ and ‘comedic’.  Audio quality is fairly consistent, but cheesy sound effects interrupt it.  The sets and locations are purposely cheap-looking, and the surroundings are clownish, like they’re from a comic book.  I could go on about how the editing is poorly done, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all purposeful.  This film was purposely created to be ridiculous, and that’s exactly what it is.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Watching Holyman Undercover is a surreal experience unlikely to be replicated by anything else—expect for Me Again.  From slurs against the Amish to blatant and rude Hispanic stereotypes to gigantic strawmen of Hollywood insiders, this film really takes the cake.  As the split personality of David A. R. White, manifested in his two-character acting role, jumps from one random schizophrenic scene to the next, the audience can only laugh and look on at this train wreck of a creation.  Yet if you look past the zany madness that is this storyline, you can see truth emerging from the cracks.  This is a wild and embellished retelling of how the Whites began their film careers.  Coming from a strict Mennonite upbringing, David A. R. White must have felt like he was confined and not allowed to create, yet his stint in Hollywood has given him a chip on his shoulder the size of Kansas (pun intended) that makes him feel like the entire world is against Christians.  But in his usual extreme black and white thinking, the false dichotomy between overly strict Christians and hopelessly evil ‘worldly’ people is far outside of reality.  There is nothing real about this plot, and we believe that it was never intended to be real.  This is a sick satire, borne from the damaged emotions of David A. R. White, yet it is a window into what makes him tick.  But in the midst of trying to be over-the-top hilarious, there is zero coherency to this madness.  It would certainly be one thing if this creative wonder had a consistent thought across the continuum, but it does not.  There is no understanding of what and why goes on, or what is coming next.  It’s basically an embarrassing failed attempt at parody.  On the flipside, it’s a shame that a drug commercial satire idea got wasted in this movie.  Otherwise, Holyman Undercover can be seen as nothing more than a big joke that wasted over a million dollars.

Acting Quality (-1.5 points)

This clownish bunch of cast members is only lacking in Tommy Blaze, Morgan Fairchild, and David Blamy.  The actors and actresses have obviously been instructed to act as zany and stereotypical as possible, from the mentally ill ‘uncle’ David A. R. White, to the robotically mindless Andrea Logan White, to the histrionic Jennifer Lyons, to the egotistical Fred Willard, etc., etc.  Also, nothing beats Carey Scott trying to be a European maître d’.  David A. R. White has basically let himself out of the box in this one and acts as maniacal as he possibly can.  There is truly no seriousness here and a lot of lines seem adlibbed.  Emotions are blown out of proportion and line delivery is either lazy or forced.

Conclusion

The mind boggles as to how and why the Whites acquire so much money for films like this one.  Just think—what if the million and a half dollars blown on this train wreck was put toward a film that actually needed it, one that could have actually used the money for something good.  This is perhaps the real travesty with this film and with PureFlix in general.  Sinking millions of dollars into dead end films designed to make fun of stereotypes is a terrible use of God’s blessings.  This is why we continue to call the White and PureFlix out: wasted money and wasted potential.  Hopefully, one day, the tide will finally change and Christian movies will be something to be proud of.

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

The Encounter [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Nick, Melissa, Hank, Catherine, and Kayla are all strangers to each other until they are forced to meet up at a quaint diner due to road closures one stormy night.  Each has their own story and hurts, but the last thing they expect is to meet the mysterious owner of the diner, who calls himself Jesus.  He knows many things about them that no one else knows but he actually demonstrates true care for them, something many of them have never experienced.  Each of them must make the most important choice of their lives—will they listen to the words of Jesus or will they turn away?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The production pretty much derails this movie from the get go.  For starters, the movie is purposely designed to have extremely limited sets—the movie only takes place a very small amount outside, partly inside vehicles, partly inside flashback locations, mostly inside the makeshift diner, and yes, inside the diner’s bathroom.  The video quality is quite grainy and the camera work shaky.  The sound quality is inconsistent.  The only redeeming production quality is the editing, even though there is very little content to work with.  In short, it would have done this movie wonders to have better production quality.  With such a small cast and so few sets, there are no excuses to have such poor production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Although the encounter with Jesus in modern times is not really a new plot, there is nothing inherently wrong with this particular rendition.  The characters are pretty good and the flashbacks effectively enhance them, but once again, with so few characters, there was more time to develop them, yet this was not done.  This sort of small scale plot depends entirely on the characters, and since the characters are just average, it’s not good enough.  We needed to know more about these characters besides their favorite foods, their occupations, their parents, and their surface struggles.  Again, the flashbacks are great, but more is needed.  The spiritual\psychological elements in the plot are interesting, but the devil character is very cheesy.  In short, this plot concept had a lot of potential—especially if more psychological elements had been explored—that was not brought to the surface.  The final result is just a stock plot.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast seems better than a lot of PureFlix casts; even though there is really no acting coaching, the actors and actresses do a pretty good job by themselves.  However, like the rest of this movie, more is needed.  Similar to how the characters carry this sort of small scale plot, the actors and actresses are vital.  Unfortunately, there is just not enough positive here.

Conclusion

Though David A. R. White is the director of The Encounter, he does not insert his usual cheesy flavor.  But at the same time, dynamic elements are not present.  The tools are there, but they are not picked up and used.  The Encounter had the possibility to showcase a unique movie genre, but it was left hanging.  This film likely joins a group of Christian films that deserve a remake.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Brother White (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stuck in a long line of pastoral succession at a megachurch headed by the popular Johnny Kingman, James White is desperate to make his mark and to stand out from the crowd.  But doing so only gets him into further trouble.  After nearly ruining a children’s Sunday school class and an expensive painting and disrupting a church service, Kingman send James on a probation to pastor a struggling church in Atlanta.  So James, his wife Lily, and their two children make a cross-country move to the Peach State and find themselves thrust into a multicultural world they have never before experienced.  Not only must James find a way to save the struggling church, but he must come to grips with the fact that he is not invincible and must rely on God and his family for help.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Compared to other PureFlix productions, Brother White is not horrible.  It actually has a lot of potential.  The camera work is pretty good, as is the video quality.  However, the sound quality is inconsistent and some outside scenes are covered up with musical montages.  The editing is decent, but the sets and locations are obviously cheap.  There are some slight excuses for this, but it still could have been better.  Probably the worst production element is pretending like certain characters are singing when they are obviously not.  In short, the production of Brother White is just average—neither horrible nor dynamic.  There was a lot of potential here that was not brought to the surface.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Unlike many PureFlix plots, Brother White is slightly interesting.  Exploring racial relations by inserting an affluent white (White?) family into a predominantly African-American church has a lot of potential, if stereotypes are avoided.  For the most part, they are.  There is plenty of satire in Brother White that is actually funny, such as tongue-in-cheek swipes at prosperity gospel churches.  But there are also elements that are just trying too hard.  Too much comedy falls flat and some lines leave you scratching your head.  There are plot holes that are glossed over and some humor is way too obvious, such as the name ‘Lily White’.  The plot boils down to a simplistic save the farm storyline and seems to lose its original purpose in the end.  James’ character arc is commendable, but the whole movie just leaves you wanting more substance.  In short, Brother White is not so awful that it’s unwatchable, but it’s also frustrating to watch because there was obviously a lot of creativity left untapped.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is probably David A. R. White’s best lead role, it still leaves much to be desired.  The presence of more professional actors in this cast keeps it from sinking to the depths of most PureFlix casts.  However, there is still a lack of acting coaching.  Were all the actors up to par, this movie would have improved.

Conclusion

This is probably the closest the Whites and Tommy Blaze will ever get to true comedy.  But were this plot in different hands, we can’t help but feel it could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  It contains a unique plot on a good topic and as it is, has some humorous elements.  In the end, Brother White is the highest rated White comedy and unfortunately, it is hard to believe that it will get any better than this.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Hidden Secrets [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the death of a common friend, Gary, Jeremy, Michael, Harold, and Sherry all gather at his house for a long weekend of repairs and catching up on the good old days.  However, all is not well among them.  Jeremy discovers that he still love Sherry, his former girlfriend, even though his current girlfriend is staying with them.  Michael is guarding a dark secret from his past.  Gary and Harold’s wife constantly clash over his Jewish background and his atheist beliefs.  In the end, they will have to come to grips their hidden secrets in order to face the future.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

There is literally nothing good to say about this film’s production quality.  The video is grainy and the sound quality is all over the place.  The camera work is unprofessional.  Everything about the production has a very cheap identity.  The sets are severely limited, mostly taking place inside one house or on its roof (yes, seriously).  The editing is terrible, but it’s not like there was much to work with.  Roof repair scenes, standing around and talking scenes, and thrift store dress-up scenes litter the landscape.  But nothing can beat David A. R. White mouthing a Building 429 song and pretending like he’s singing it.  As previously mentioned, there is nothing positive here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

There is only one positive element to discuss from this entire film, and that is its slightly interesting exploration of the various types of secret sins many Christians harbor.  Otherwise, the remainder of this film is utter nonsense.  The dialogue is almost written purposely ridiculous.  One character is an over-the-top, obnoxious, legalistic Christian who is the only one, in her mind, who can interpret the Bible properly.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so unwatchable.  The atheist character is equally annoying.  Other dialogue is absurd and overly obvious, shoving issues down viewers’ throats.  There is also no clear plotline to this movie except for repairing a roof, hanging around talking and arguing on various controversial topics, reminiscing about the good old days, playing dress-up in a thrift store, and pretending to sing in a cheap restaurant.  Any good intentions there were in making this movie are buried beneath a mound of insanity.

Acting Quality (0 points)

No acting coaching is employed in Hidden Secrets.  Actors and actresses are allowed to basically run wild with the material with no quality control.  Line delivery is forceful—several actors and actresses are clearly trying to draw attention to themselves.  Emotions are also extreme and unbelievable.  Once again, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

There is a base idea in Hidden Secrets that should have been given to another film.  Unfortunately, Carey Scott, Sean Paul Murphy, and Timothy Ratajczak have not demonstrated that they are good stewards of movie ideas.  To make this sort of movie shows one of three things—they either do not care about making quality movies, they do not fully know how to make quality movies, or they are purposely making low quality movies.  What type of audience is supposed to derive meaning from this sort of movie?  For many reasons, this movie receives a very low score.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points

 

The Book of Esther (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the banishment of Queen Vashti from the royalty of Medo-Persia, King Xerses, lonely and confused, takes the advice of his closest advisors and decrees that all the young women be brought to him, given beauty treatments, and then displayed before him so that he can choose a new queen from among them.  Among them is a Jewish girl, Hadassah, who had been admonished by her cousin Mordecai to hide her cultural identity from those in the palace.  Against all odds, she is chosen to succeed Queen Vashti, just as the wicked advisor Haman is plotting to destroy the Jewish people from the face of the earth.  Queen Esther must decide that she must live up to the calling God has put in front of her in order to save an entire race from extinction.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The Book of Esther commits every Biblical movie error in every category, beginning with production.  The sets and costuming are very cheap, like this is a children’s church play.  It would be one thing if PureFlix did not have the funding to put on a better production, but this is not the case.  The camera work and video quality are passable, but the sound quality is very inconsistent.  There is really nothing to comment on regarding the editing, either good or bad.  In short, the first rule of Bible movies is to create a realistic and high quality setting, including backgrounds, sets, props, and costumes.  The Book of Esther does none of this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

The story of Esther is overused in movies, probably because it is easy to replicate and the plot suits most audiences.  But this film is not even a good adaptation—it misrepresents Biblical and historical events and includes unnecessary parts.  It seems like the viewer is being insulted and being treated like a child in a bad Sunday school class.  The film contains ridiculous over the top characters, more so than usual for a Bible film.  The dialogue is overly dramatic, like most Scripture screenplays.  There are also creepy undertones and insinuations regarding Haman and his eunuch.  A lot of content takes place off screen and this plot generally has no real potential and is even offensive is some ways, thus warranting negative points.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

As a whole, line delivery is horrible and emotion is absent.  The acting is either absurd or too theatrical.  The only exception is some small acting potential from Joel Smallbone and Jen Lilley, as their talents seem to be wasted on this nonsense.  Otherwise, there is unfortunately nothing positive to say.

Conclusion

Needless to say, The Book of Esther is another ruined Bible movie.  The audience will learn nothing worthwhile from it except that they probably don’t want to watch anymore films based on Scripture.  This movie is the embodiment of why Box Office Revolution feels the need to speak out for quality Christian films and against low quality ones.  It feels like PureFlix isn’t even trying when they make movies like this, which further warrants a very low score.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

Marriage Retreat (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Mark and Claire Bowman, James and Donna Harlow, and Bobby and Melody Castle are all close friends, but they are also all struggling in their marriages.  Mark has unresolved issues with his father, James is gone all the time, and Bobby has a gambling problem.  That’s why they decide to take advantage of a marriage retreat sponsored by their church.  They go into the experience with the wrong intentions and quickly find out that they are not all they thought they were.  They will have to dig deep in order to save their marriages from disaster.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

To begin, the camera and sound quality are pretty good, but that is the extent of the positive elements.  The sets are very cheap and limited.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to pinpoint how this film could have been edited better, since it is hard for us to quantify its actual plot.  There is little else that can be said about Marriage Retreat’s production since much of the movie appears to be mostly impromptu work.  One other thing that should be noted is that some of the wedding photos used in the beginning credits are obviously photo-shopped, but when the rest of the movie is considered, this should not be surprising.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As mentioned, there is little to no plot in this film, not only because it is very limited in scope, but most of the dialogue is very impromptu.  A majority of the scenes do not appear to have a clear script, so they meander along a path of horrific attempts at comedy, replete with clownish dialogue.  Therefore, the characters greatly resemble the actual actors themselves.  This plot’s one small redeeming quality is that it has a good message, but it is lost in a sea of cheap and ridiculous attempts at humor.  There is plenty of potential here to showcase different marital issues among Christian couples, but it is reduced to a C-grade cable channel movie that will never make any impact in Christian culture.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It is noble and notable to cast married couples together in this sort of movie, but like everything else potentially positive in this film, it is washed away.  There is zero acting coaching for this small cast, which seems to indicate a certain amount of overconfidence on the part of the actors.  With coaching, some of the comedy could have been actually funny, but alas, it is just another item on the list of lost potential.

Conclusion

True comedy is needed in Christian movies, as are movies that take on the struggles of Christian marriages.  However, Marriage Retreat only serves to further make a laughingstock of Christian films.  Instead of quickly spinning out more and more movies, PureFlix crews need to stop and think on the implications of quantity over quality.  It is not worth it to simply make movies about good topics—we cannot stress this enough—care and attention must be given to production, plot, and acting quality.  Otherwise, the valuable message is completely lost.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points