Believe: The Misfit Pawn (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Julian is stuck in a job he doesn’t like, so he and his buddy decide to start recording their own songs and doing their own shows.  They get popular locally and gain some ground in the local show business.  Julian meets his new girlfriend at a bar, and she introduces him to a ‘big’ record label producer that puts Julian’s gig on the map.  However, they fall on hard times and Julian is forced to get a day job to support him and his girlfriend after she gets pregnant.  Julian soon finds out the hard way what the show business really expects from him, and he’s not sure if he’s willing to make the hard choice he has to make.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Believe: The Misfit Pawn is a mostly cheap production; it seems like it was filmed in people’s houses and yards.  Camera work is low quality, and video quality is inconsistent.  There are one too many dark scenes, and audio quality is marginal at best.  The ‘original’ soundtrack is vanilla and too loud at times.  As previously mentioned, sets, locations, and props are fairly limited and uncreative.  Finally, the editing is okay, but it’s really nothing to write home about.  Overall, this production is just one of those throwaway pieces that will easily be forgotten.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s very difficult to quantify the true purpose or point of this so-called story.  The plot summary is written as incoherently as the movie is written.  The Christian message is very muted, and a lot of the elements included are just offbeat.  The characters are very empty, and dialogue is extremely uninspiring.  Many of the scenes appear to be filler content, and there are no real attempts to engage the audience in a meaningful way.  As mentioned before, the storyline muddles around without explaining why we should be watching it or what we are supposed to be getting out of it.  The underlying worldview is a bit unusual, and the ending really doesn’t make much sense at all.  In the end, this story is purposeless and not worth your time.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With such a small cast, every little error is more obvious.  While there are some good moments with this cast that keep this section from being zero, there is very little acting coaching evident in this film.  Some lines seem off-the-cuff, and most of the seems appear to be one-takes.  Emotions are average, and this section is basically vanilla and boring.

Conclusion

What is there to do with movies like Believe: The Misfit Pawn?  What does this title even mean?  Why did I watch this movie?  Actually, I watched it because I had some Amazon credits to use up before they expired.  I wanted to check it off the list, so I did.  There’s really no other reason to watch this sort of garbage that’s called a Christian movie.  All we can do now is look forward to the day when movies like this are no longer being put out.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

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The Visual Bible: The Gospel of John (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

The Apostle John wrote his Gospel to show that Jesus came to change the world, but He was also a man Who could relate to each person He came into contact with.  He performed miracles unlike the world has ever seen and changed many lives, all in route to laying down his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  The religious leaders nearly always opposed Jesus’ work, but His work is still alive and well today.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The Gospel of John follows in the footsteps of the other Visual Bible films by having a high-quality production, but it’s possible that John is the best production of the group.  This is evident through great video quality, camera work, and audio quality, including a culturally authentic soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are excellent in demonstrating authenticity and realism.  The only minor issues therein pertain to some odd and sometimes cheap special effects, such black and white flashbacks and unnecessary ‘flashy’ elements.  However, this aside, this is a top-notch production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Where the production succeeded, unfortunately, the plot did not.  Where other portrayals of Jesus in The Visual Bible saga are fair and interesting, the portrayal of Jesus in this version of The Gospel of John is not very inviting.  Instead, the Jesus in this film is a throwback to the 70s and 80s ‘zen’ portrayals of Christ.  Sometimes, he comes off as lofty and even a bit crazy at times.  Other characters come off as too dramatic, and some sequences are too sensational.  Like the other Visual Bible films, John has narration by design, which does not give us many good opportunities to get to know the characters very well.  However, there are a handful of positive elements here that keep this section from being zero, such as the opportunity to see some less-focused on portions of the gospel.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While other Visual Bible casts tried to include more culturally authentic cast members and less British ones, John does not always succeed on this front.  There are too many obviously non-authentic cast members, besides the fact that there are a lot of dramatic and theatrical performances.  In situations like this, where narration is built-in, acting is very important since there are limited opportunities for lines.  However, though there are some moments of overplaying, there are plenty of good sequences throughout this film that are enough to make this section average.

Conclusion

While The Visual Bible projects are commendable and ambitious, John does not seem like as helpful of a resource as the others, especially since it tends to take a turn for the dramatic and sensational.  Portrayals of Jesus are hard to pull off, but there’s no need to make them more difficult with ethereal loftiness.  Still, there are plenty of good parts to The Gospel of John, and many audiences will enjoy it.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Squad 77 (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Allen Davis is a former military special forces operative who is pressed by a friend to train a squadron consisting of a random collection of young adults from churches in order to pull off a dangerous mission to deliver Bibles to missionaries in a harrowing location.  Though he is not completely honest about the mission’s true nature at first, he trains them hard to prepare for the worst.  Will they be able to make it through the mission alive?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Squad 77 is a classic example of biting off more than you can chew.  Action adventure and suspense films, especially in international contexts, need well-funded and responsibly-allocated budgets to meet expectations.  Unfortunately, though Squad 77 is trying to fit into these genres, it fails miserably in the production department.  This is evident in the wild and dizzying opening sequences, as well as the crazy camera work and poor video quality.  Audio quality is equally bad, with loud background sounds, dead air, overdubs, cheesy sound effects, and a generic soundtrack.  There are also dumb special effects used throughout, not to mention the poor lighting and horrific editing.  Essentially, if you don’t have the money to make it good, don’t make it all, unless you have a game-changing plot idea.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

However, Squad 77 does not have a game-changing plot idea.  The premise is silly and unrealistic, and basically half of the film boils down to endless training montages.  The plot throws a bunch of faceless and empty characters together for a vague mission of unrealistic proportions.  There is basically no substantial content to work with here, and what little dialogue there is comes off as very hollow.  Thus, there are no attempts to develop the characters.  It goes without saying that this story is not believable as the action premise is very forced and disingenuous.  Basically, this film really doesn’t have any positive elements.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Though this cast of random people does not show any substantial acting skills to their bland and blank delivery, it’s not like they were given many chances to act or to be coached properly.  Emotions are too awkward and robotic, but again, there was little to no support in the acting department.  In the end, this punctuates a disappointing effort.

Conclusion

If the creators of this film meant well, it doesn’t show.  It feels like this film was misguided and mishandled from the beginning.  With a small budget, it’s better to start out with a small production and a truly creative plot.  Unfortunately, Squad 77 joins a long list of independent Christian films that failed on this front, among others.  Perhaps future film makers will learn from these mistakes.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

Joshua [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a mysterious young man named Joshua suddenly appears in the small town of Auburn, the entire town is astir, especially when he begins rebuilding the Baptist church.  The local Catholic priests are disturbed at his coming, however, especially after he spends time with the ‘sinners’ and even performs a few miracles.  However, those who are impacted by the work of Joshua are changed forever, even those who least expected it.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Although this production looks slightly old at times, it is still a good production.  It checks all the right boxes, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The original soundtrack is fine.  Sets, locations, and props are all what they should be.  However, this production is held back from perfection by some avoidable continuity errors, as well as some cheesy transitions and awkward cuts.  However, on the whole, this is a fine production with no obvious errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Based on a novel, the plot of Joshua has some obvious issues that come with the territory of stories that attempt to transpose Biblical events on top of modern day settings.  Using these conventions is almost always mind-bending and problematic for a number of reasons.  In Joshua, it is impossible to know whether or not this is supposed to be a retelling of the original historical account of Jesus, or if this is supposed to be some kind of modern day reappearance before the Second Coming.  The story tries to convince you it’s the latter, but why include all of the repeat miracles in this case?  Even so, there is very little conflict in this tale as useless narration tries to spoon feed the plot to you.  There are also too many characters that are under-developed and one-dimensional due to the narration and the shallow dialogue.  The story jumps from one thing after the next with no real continuity.  Unfortunately, this section is a disappointment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

However, the acting is the best part of this film, as there are only minor errors to contend with.  For the most part, this cast is professional and on-point in their line delivery and emotional delivery.  Costuming and makeup are also appropriate.  Overall, this section punctuates a mostly average film.

Conclusion

We definitely need more Christian novels made in movie form, as we have said before.  However, this really isn’t the sort of thing we’re looking for.  There’s nothing truly dynamic about this movie.  While it is fine and pedestrian with no obvious goofs, is it really going to make a difference?  Making more cute little Christian films isn’t good enough anymore.

 

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

 

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

 

Judas: Close to Jesus (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Judas Iscariot did not always intend to betray Jesus Christ, but he was always hungry for Jesus to begin a revolution to overthrow the Roman Empire.  Inspired by radicals and shunned by his well-to-do Jewish family, Judas felt he had no other options except for Jesus to fulfill his biggest dreams.  Yet when this does not happen, Judas allowed Satan to take control of his life and thus became the betrayer of the Savior of the world.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Lux Vide and the Trinity Broadcasting Network have always been committed to good production quality, especially when it comes to historical authenticity.  Video quality and camera work are good, and audio quality is also fine except for a sometimes loud soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are as usual the strongest point as they reflect at least some degree of historical authenticity.  There are really no glaring errors here except for the usual editing concerns, but other than that, this is a respectable production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Lux Vide and the Trinity Broadcasting Network did push new frontiers with their Bible movie ambitions, but Judas commits the same errors others did in the past, such as Jeremiah, Esther, Paul the Apostle and The Apocalypse.  While this installment is an interesting and unique look at a different Bible character than usual, for the most part, the characters are still too lofty and inaccessible.  This is especially true of the Jesus character.  It’s like they took cues from the 1970s Bible movies again.  There is also a cheesy romantic subplot to boot.  However, not all is bad here as there is an interesting Judas character arc and there are some realistic happenings in this story that keep it alive.  Yet this overall too-dramatic presentation keeps this story from being all that it could be.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Like the other Bible films from these creative teams, the cast is also too dramatic and theatrical.  Line delivery is sometimes too breathy and even archaic.  The cultural authenticity of the cast is random and inconsistent, even including some BRITISH people.  Yet at least not all is bad here, even though this film overall does not live up to its full potential.

Conclusion

It was certainly good of TBN and Lux Vide to try to bring different Biblical accounts to the big screen, but audiences want and need Biblical characters that can be related to, not more lofty play actors.  It’s unfortunate that a lot of these otherwise well-funded efforts went to waste, because there was so much that could have been done with these films.  But perhaps someone can use these as a blueprint of what to do and what not to do in the future.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Saint John: The Apocalypse [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a Roman soldier is exiled to the island of Patmos for insurrection, he does not expect to meet the infamous and fabled Theophilus, who happens to be the aging Apostle John.  A group of Christians whom the Roman solider knows also comes to the island in search of the mysterious Theophilus, all the while John is experiencing the visions from God that later became the Book of Revelation.  All of their lives intersect in a way they could not have previously believed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot going on this early 2000s production from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others.  Though there are plenty of attempts to create historically and culturally authentic sets, locations, and props, there are some other issues here that hamper the production.  These include some randomly poor lighting and wild zooms for dramatic effect, as well as some unnecessarily overdubbed audio.  The voice of God that echoes throughout the film is also a bit annoying.  A lot of the special effects used are very obvious and poorly done—if you are making a production about the Book of Revelation, you’d better have some well-funded special effects.  Yet on top of this, there are plenty of realistic gritty elements throughout, as well as good video quality and average editing.  Essentially, this is a very unique production and is a mixed bag at that, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot writers decided to consult The Robe and the old Ben-Hur for how to make a first century Roman\Jewish story and cast of characters most like a soap opera.  This includes a cheesy romantic subplot and a lot of overly dramatic dialogue.  All of the characters are impossible to access due to their lofty and inhuman demeanors.  However, there is a very realistic historical context portrayed here, as well as a lot of good plot ideas that are basically wasted.  Yet these elements save the plot from being a total loss.  There is a lot of content here, and in the right hands it could have made a great two-part movie or miniseries.  They needed a better writer to be able to handle the complex content from the Book of Revelation properly.  But unfortunately, anything that involves TBN is guaranteed to be overly dramatic.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The same can be said for the casting and acting, as nearly every cast member uses a breathy line delivery reminiscent of Nicholas Cage and the actresses from the old Ben-Hur and The Robe.  Thus, line deliver is too measured and drawn out, like a Bible soap opera.  However, though the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, the costuming is at least historically accurate.  There are also some good acting moments that save this section from being a total loss.

Conclusion

One thing can be said for this film: it’s not your run-of-the-mill cute\boring Christian film.  It’s ambitious, but perhaps too ambitious for the resources the creators had at their disposal.  It’s very difficult to depict the visions of Revelation properly—this requires state-of-the-art special effects, which usually do not exist in Christian films, unfortunately.  Yet there is no excuse for having acting this bad, even though it’s not BRITISH.  This plot needed a total rewrite, but the idea definitely needs to be retained for future reworking and improvement.  Maybe one day it will be remade.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Paul the Emissary: A Biblical Epic (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Paul was called out by God to become a world-shaking Apostle for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God took him from being Saul the persecutor of Christians to becoming Paul the Emissary.  He took the Gospel to the furthest reaches of the Roman world and literally turned the world upside down.  His work for God still has a lasting impact on Christianity today.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a 1997 production, Paul the Emissary is fairly good, but it still comes out at average.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine, as they should be.  The soundtrack is also okay, but it is somewhat generic.  Sets, locations, and props are surprisingly well-constructed and realistic, but most of the good elements in this production are marred by the most ridiculous special effects you can imagine.  If you don’t have the funding for professional special effects, just don’t do them at all.  Furthermore, the editing of this film is horrific, as tons of content was shoved into a short runtime, as will be discussed next.  Basically, this is another run-of-the-mill Bible production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s simply not possible to condense the entire life of Paul in fifty minutes.  Paul the Apostle couldn’t even do it properly with nearly two hours under their belt.  There is little to no point in trying to accomplish this impossible task.  Why not focus on one element of Paul’s life, like in Saul: The Journey to DamascusPaul the Emissary is way too condensed, which causes the story to jump from one high point to the next with no continuity or flow.  It’s basically a collection of random scenes about characters that are lofty and inaccessible.  There’s no way to get to know them as the dialogue is too theatrical.  Essentially, there’s no way you can call this movie an epic when it’s less than an hour.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this isn’t an overly BRITISH cast, most of the cast members sport weird fake accents that off-putting.  Besides this, most line delivery and emotional delivery are overly dramatic and theatrical.  However, the performances are not all bad and there is some authentic costuming to save this section from the abyss.

Conclusion

If you only have fifty minutes to make a film, do not try to make an entire life epic about a Biblical character with a lot of known content.  Either focus on one aspect of their life, or choose a different character.  Also, don’t use any special effects if you can’t use them properly.  In the end, while there were some good elements in this film, it simply wasn’t enough.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Karla Faye Tucker: Forevermore (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Karla Faye Tucker was formerly a drug addict and a prostitute who ran with the worse possible crowd and soon found herself convicted of cold-blooded murder.  Sentenced to death row, she had finally hit rock bottom until a prison chaplain introduced her to the God she had been running from all her life.  Karla underwent a dramatic transformation and became a sold-out follower of Jesus.  Through a divine set of circumstances, another prison chaplain falls in love with her, even though she is sentenced to die, and he decides he wants to marry her.  Against all odds, their story was broadcast for all to hear about.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Forevermore is another one of those early 2000s Christian movies carried by PureFlix that had very cheap production quality.  Video quality is okay, but there are a lot of odd camera angles and weird soft lighting throughout.  Audio quality is somewhat echoey and the soundtrack is archaic, though likely realistic for the time period.  Sets, locations, and props, though attempts are made to be authentic, are quite cheap and limited.  The editing has some potential, but it’s too amateurish.  Overall, this is a below-average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this is another interesting true story and historical account portrayed in movie form, it is presented in a very odd fashion.  This is mostly due to the off-the-wall dialogue, which creates eccentric characters.  There are too many head-scratching moments that are unclear whether or not they are supposed to be comedic.  There is probably a good message in here somewhere, but very few audiences are going to be interested in the archaically unusual way this movie is presented.  It’s very difficult to connect with the characters since they are hard to see as real people.  In the end, this is another half-idea that needed more thought put into it.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

It’s really nice that Karen and Kenneth Jezek like to star opposite each other, as they also did in Come What May, but they seriously need some real acting coaching.  They come off as extremely over the top and forceful.  They are trying way too hard, as are the other cast members in the small cast.  Like other elements of the film, the cast is, of course, eccentric.  It’s hard to know what exactly this film was going for.

Conclusion

Movies like this are unfortunately a dime a dozen.  There are many, many interesting true stories that are portrayed and should be portrayed in Christian film, but the follow-through is rarely what it should be.  Perhaps future film makers can continue to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before them and will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 3 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

With the new cast of the 7th Street Theater finally settled down, the team begins to face new challenges that they must face.  New social issues are in desperate need of being addressed by the cast through their bland skits.  But more importantly, a new threat arises to their business model as a disgruntled rival theater owner seeks to destroy their work.  With the 7th Street Theater be able to survive the onslaught?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The newest and final (?) season of the 7th Street Theater has really no unique or surprising elements.  The only notable difference is some slightly improved camera work.  Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.  Video quality and audio quality are typical.  The Jasper Randall soundtrack is still intact.  There are still no locations and the same old limited sets are utilized.  Furthermore, there is really no editing to speak of.  In the end, if this is the end of this series, it’s an anticlimactic one.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Another season of this series brings another one full of forced drama and fake conflicts as everything in this universe centers around the happenings of the theater with no care about what the characters do outside of it except for a lot of references to off-screen content.  This third season continues to grasp for content as it constantly exhibits the limited and isolationist worldview of the Christiano brothers.  Even more so this season, they adapt a Christians versus the world approach and complain about common cultural problems rather than offering real solutions.  They are still lost in their own world in thinking this concept is actually interesting or even sustainable.  The ending really makes no sense, yet it appropriate for this saga, which remains empty and wanting.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As the same cast members continue to phone in their performances, there is really nothing new to mention here.  Emotions are still plastic and line delivery is still lazy.  There are fewer cast member changes this season, yet it’s really hard to believe that they were able to keep at least half of this cast together for so long.  What were they really getting out of this?

Continuity Quality (.5 point)

It’s very hard to believe there are over sixty twenty-minute episodes in this saga.  That’s a lot of dedication for not much return.  Yet this season’s continuity quality has slightly improved due to some slight attempts at continuation and arcs.  However, it’s not really enough to make any real difference.

Conclusion

It seems like this series is now over, and it has done so in the most non-dramatic fashion.  There is truly no way to understand how and why this series was made for so long except for the fact that it was extremely easy to make.  It’s very difficult to see the true benefit of this saga due to its out-of-touch portrayal of people and apparent lack of understanding of real life and real people.  If a Christian series is ever to be successful, that’s a big if, then reality needs to be portrayed in a way that engages audiences rather than bores them.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 2 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

Though the cast of the 7th Street Theater is constantly changing, their messages are still the same.  They continually create plays about Christian topics over and over again and present their plastic worldview to supposedly sold out shows.  Since they are committed to doing the same things all the time, the only drama they have to contend with is constantly changing cast members.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The production of the second season of this series is more stable than the first, but it basically comes out the same.  Video quality is fine and camera work is regular.  Audio quality is also fine, despite a pedestrian Jasper Randall soundtrack.  There are once again no locations to speak of and the same old severely limited sets are utilized in this lazy production.  Editing is mostly off the table as well.  Basically, as if the first season of this series was pointless enough, this second season is even more so.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is literally nothing new about this season that hasn’t already been discussed.  The same old one-dimensional characters are paraded around—even when the character changes due to cast changes, it makes no difference.  Every episode feels like a repeat of an old one as they constantly repeat the same ideas, sequences, and conversations.  Still the biggest plaguing issue in this saga is the fact that it lacks true connection to real people as they spin their wheels and grasp for content.  A series can only be sustained through top-level characters and realistic circumstances—it would be nice to have some arcs too.  However, 7th Street Theater lacks all of these skills.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the only difference with this bland cast from the first season is the fact that they are constantly switching some of them around.  However, it doesn’t help the fact that these cast members, though they may mean well, are too overly practiced in their delivery.  Emotions are hardly ever believable.  Essentially, there is not much unique to say about this season.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

Once again, there is no continuity in this season as each episode is presented with no real relation to the others, except for a few lame attempts at ‘cliffhangers’ that no one is interested in.  There are still no character arcs and no story arcs.  There was little to no point in making season, much less this series.

Conclusion

While in some way the Christianos might mean well in what they do, they are still not good at communicating the messages they want to communicate.  However, some of the things they do communicate are off-putting and paint an impossibly perfect view of Christians who have no real struggles.  This series doesn’t exist in reality and thus is never going to make any real difference.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

7th Street Theater, Season 1 (Series Review)

Plot Summary

When a Christian businessman decides to invest in a Christian drama theater, he hires a stage director, Rudy, an office manager, Johanna, and five cast members, Travis, Jon, Jamie, Kelly, and Andi, to put together weekly plays centered around Christian themes.  As the actors and actresses write the shows and rehearse them to perform them, they learn life lessons that they intend to teach their audiences.  They also do life together and form a community with each other.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Since this series is entirely based on a bunch of people sitting around in two to three theater sets, you can imagine how cheap and limited these sets are.  There are no locations to speak of, and props are kind of silly, although this concept is also embraced as normal.  A lot of production shortcuts are taken and are justified by the format.  Early in this season, video quality is blurry, but this improves throughout.  Camera work is relatively stable.  Audio quality is fine throughout, but Jasper Randall delivers his same old silly soundtrack that can be found in any given Christiano production.  Finally, editing is almost nonexistent as most scenes drag on way too long to pump the runtime.  Every episode also ends with an annoying freeze frame.  Basically, though this is an average production, it has a lot of work to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Christiano brothers have never been known for their subtlety, and the 7th Street Theater saga is the most obvious messaging ever.  This series is a venue for them to push their forcefully fundamental ideas through extremely scripted and childish dialogue.  It’s full of typical goody-two shoes Christian characters who don’t make any ‘bad’ mistakes, as well as a few strawman non-Christian characters and allusions to ‘bad’ things that can’t be talked about.  This series overall demonstrates just how much the Christiano brothers live in their own little world, especially with the priceless episode that serves as apologetics for that horrid thing called Pamela’s Prayer, which is an entirely different topic that space does not permit a full analysis of.  Basically, this series is everything you can imagine from the Christianos, and worse.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With a severely small cast, over 400 minutes of runtime is too much to see them over and over and over again.  They are extremely bland and overly practiced in their delivery.  They come off as fake, plastic people and even have weird racial undertones.  Though there is some improvement throughout the season, this is a very poor job.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

This saga is allergic to continuity.  As one thing after the next happens, there is an extreme amount of redundancy and repetition.  There are zero story arcs and absolutely no character arcs—everything stays relatively the same throughout this pointless season.  Thus rounds out an unfortunately unsurprising failure.

Conclusion

Though there is probably some part of the Christiano brothers that means well in their entertainment, they have no idea how to subtly communicate a Christian message or even how to relate to real people.  In their world, Christians are goody-two-shoes plastic people who are insulated from ‘bad stuff’ and exist in a bubble where they all tell each other how good they are.  But when you think about it, this is probably just another day in the life for most Christian film makers.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 14 points

 

The Ten Commandments [2006] (Series Review)

Another crazy young, white, British Moses

Plot Summary

Moses, a Hebrew, grew up in Egypt, raised by the royal family, but after being driven from the land for committing a crime, he was forced to live in the desert among the Midianites.  He though his lot in life was to live among the Midianites forever, but God had other plans as He called Moses to go back to Egypt to free His chosen people, the Hebrews, from slavery.  Reluctantly, Moses went back to be the deliverer of his people and to witness God’s wonders.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s clear that a lot of time and money was put into this made-for-television miniseries.  Video quality and camera work are professional, as are audio quality and soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and historically authentic.  However, there are some cheap special effects throughout that put a damper on things.  Also, although this miniseries is nearly three hours long, the editing is still poor as some content is cut off while other content is given too much time.  However, overall, this is a respectable and well-funded effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, that’s where the complements end.  It seems like anytime a mainstream company, even when they are joined by a Christian company, tries to make a Bible production, it fails miserable.  There are obviously exceptions to this (The Passion of the Christ and Nativity Story), it happens a lot.  This rendition of The Ten Commandments is filled with incessant heavy-handed narration that tries to force the audience to get to know the characters too quickly.  Narration also serves as a bridge for the plot, which speeds by at breakneck pace, while at the same time committing unnecessary historical and Biblical inaccuracies.  Though it’s ambitious to take on so much content in a miniseries, it’s almost too much content to handle, especially when time is spent on strange and seemingly useless portions of this story, in addition to all the unnecessary extra-Biblical content.  Besides these issues, there is a lot of cheesy sensationalism through this series, including a strange portrayal of God.  Thus, historical truth is freely edited and added to as the writers see fit.  Basically, where this could have been an interesting series, it fails.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Once again, this series is another instance of culturally inauthentic casting, including blatant BRITISH cast members and actors with ages that do not match the historical character they are plating.  Besides these issues, line delivery is quite poor, even though these are supposed to be professional actors and actresses.  Sometimes they are too dramatic and forceful with their emotions.  Makeup is also a huge problem as it is mostly overdone.  In the end, this is another disappointing section.

Continuity Quality (1 points)

Though there are some interesting character buildups throughout this series, their age progression is not historically correct.  Some success is found here in using the series format to create character arcs, even as the story arcs are already written for them.  Time transitions are also intriguing, but as previously mentioned, they usually move way too fast to try to cover too much time.  In the end, this miniseries leaves a lot of potential behind.

Conclusion

There is little to no point in trying to rewrite history in order to sell entertainment, whether it’s on the big screen or the TV screen.  When you already have the story laid out for you in a historical document, what’s the point of altering it?  What would someone think if a creator altered a different historical account that’s not in the Bible?  The Bible is not something to play with and change for convenience.  But don’t get too cocky, Christian film makers—you’ve done it too.  Perhaps one day we will have a high quality Biblical series or miniseries that will be worth celebrating.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 14 points

 

Virtuous [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Simone Burner is attacked by the grandson of a powerful man, she is arrested for the grandson’s murder and mostly everybody in the city turns against her for no particular reason.  Therefore, she has to seek out the help of an estranged attorney who doesn’t really like her as her last resort.  Meanwhile, there are tons of others subplots are all going on at the same time as other random characters are briefly introduced who have very loose connections to the original point.  With so much going on, the question is not what will happen, but will anyone understand what is happening?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Virtuous has a professional and adequate production, as evidenced by clear video quality, good camera work, acceptable audio quality, and an intriguing soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are professionally chosen and presented.  On the surface, it seems like Virtuous checked all the necessary boxes to receive a passing score.  However, the major detractor here is the horrific editing.  Somewhere in post-production, someone needed to sit down and have a serious talk with the JC Films team about whether or not it’s justified to have a 150 minute film that has next to no continuity.  This was the editor’s job; however, this was not done, and thus, it leaves a gaping hole in this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this perhaps the most convoluted and non-continuous plot in all of our viewing days.  With hundreds of subplots that have very little connection to one another, there is no way to make sense of what is going on as the story hops from one random thing to the next.  There’s all kinds of intrigue with this local judicial and law enforcement system and how corrupt businessmen are trying to control stuff, plus some stereotypical down-on-his-luck who takes on a seemingly impossible case that has some ties to a non-profit involving Erin Bethea, and this doesn’t even cover the random guy in the hospital and the nurse who takes care of him who also has a questionable position on the jury of the original trial.  This previous run-on sentence doesn’t even cover all the points Virtuous tries to expand on.  It’s like twelve different people all had ideas and decided to shove them all together into one bloated film.  With so much going on, there is no hope for character development as dialogue is stunted and all over the place.  The only characters that stand out are strawmen villains, unfortunately.  Yet despite all of this massive blending of concepts, there is a really interesting idea somewhere lost in the fray that would be better served in a miniseries format.  It’s disappointing to see good ideas go to such waste, especially when it’s like this.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

With so many cast members, it’s really hard to keep up.  This is an unusually large cast for a Christian film, thus making the performances inconsistent and random.  Sometimes line delivery and emotional delivery are good, while other times they are not.  Overall, it comes out as fairly average.

Conclusion

When you’re in the process of making a film that is over two and a half hours and you actually have the budget to make a film this long, perhaps you need to stop and consider: with so much content, I should make this a series!  People love series: just look at the unexplainable success of When Calls the Heart.  Why not, instead of making a cumbersome film like this one, try something different and create an interesting genre-busting Christian series.  It would be a huge hit.  Yet once again, we are left wondering what could have been.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Omega Code 2: Megiddo (Movie Review)

Just wait until I turn into a monster…

Plot Summary

Stone Alexander always craved power and always knew that he was meant for something bigger.  As he grew up and rose through the ranks of the military, he was ruthless and unfeeling.  His own family never understood him, especially his brother.  The older he became, the deeper he became involved in darkness and evil.  Stone quickly became a raving, power-hungry madman committed to do anything to achieve world domination.  Ultimately, it comes down to the differing choices of the two brothers and how they affected humanity.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Needless to say, The Omega Code 2: Megiddo has better production than the previous installment, The Omega Code 1.  Sets, locations, and props are all fairly professional and camera work has improved.  Video and audio quality are also improved, and the soundtrack is intriguing.  However, there are still cheesy special effects and confusing crossfades.  Editing is overall okay, but there is too much useless footage that drags down the film.  In the end, this is just an average production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though it portrays an odd view of the Thousand Year Reign, this story shows an interesting side to the development of the antichrist.  Thus, it jumps back in time to before the first movie ever began and works its way up to where the first film left off.  However, it does fill in missing parts from The Omega Code 1, which becomes sort of a crutch to ‘fix’ the first film.  Also, this filling in is not done in the best way as it relies on information dump dialogue, time jumps, and of course, over-dramatization and sensationalism.  There is, as usual, an addiction to creepy and weird spiritual elements and a fixation on the demonic.  This story gives tons of attention to Satan and barely any to Jesus and Christianity.  Finally, similar to the first one, as this movie goes on, it gets stranger and stranger until it boils down to a very bizarre ending that leaves you scratching your head.  When all is said and done, the plots of the two Omega Code films are the same—ridiculous.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Acting somewhat improves between the two films, but there are still problems here.  Lines are sometimes overly practiced and emotions are often over-the-top and extreme.  However, not all is bad here and there are some bright spots.  In the end, this portion is also just average.

Conclusion

What was ever to be gained from The Omega Code series?  Megiddo barely has any reference to the original dubious premise of printing out codes supposedly hidden in the Torah.  It’s highly unlikely anybody but white evangelical Christians will ever see these disasters, but if anybody else did, they would probably find a good laugh and then forget about them.  The creepy obsession with the demonic in these films does nothing but fuel sensationalism and the messaging only preaches to the choir.  In short, these films are utterly useless and have no part on Christian entertainment.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Omega Code 1 (Movie Review)

There’s these codes, see…

Plot Summary

Gillen Lane is a genius who has a massive following as a motivational speaker.  He believes in some form of spirituality, but when he is recruited by the powerful Stone Alexander to work for his new world empire, Gillen doesn’t know what to think.  Times are becoming stranger on earth, especially as someone as discovered that the Torah supposedly holds a secret code that predicts major world events.  With everything spiraling out of control, is there anywhere safe to turn?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

For an independent production created in 1999, The Omega Code 1 is ambitious yet misguided.  While it’s clear that effort was put into the international sets and locations, many other production elements fall by the wayside.  Video quality and camera work are average, but audio quality is quite poor.  The soundtrack is also annoying.  The film is filled with cheap and obnoxious special effects, not to mention the fact that the CGI is cheesy.  Finally, the editing is very choppy as the story attempts to cover too much ground at once.  In short, trying to attain this level of production was not really the best idea in this situation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The entire premise of this film is that the Torah supposedly predicts key events through a secret code of moving letters around or something, and this plot device is used to move the plot along.  However, this convention isn’t even necessary as the plot does plenty of jumping all over the place without needing printouts from a primitive computer to aid it.  The plot actually focuses more on the inner workings of the antichrist, who is a highly cheesy and sometimes wacky character.  There is no plot continuity as time speeds forward at a breakneck pace in an attempt to cover the entire traditional evangelical Tribulation period in the span of 100 minutes.  No, seriously, it goes from Rapture to Second Coming in less than two hours.  What’s more is that TBN inserts its typical obsession with spiritual sensationalism into the story, which causes things to get weirder and weirder as it progresses.  By the time it’s all over, the audience has either abandoned the film, is laughing at the attempts to portray demonic activity, or is extremely confused as to what they just experienced.  In short, there was little to no justification for this film being made.

Acting Quality (0 points)

A majority of this acting is bizarre and overly dramatic, which shows more TBN influence.  Emotions are sensational and line delivery is lazy.  There are also some inconsistent accents that make it clear several cast members are trying (and failing) to fake them.  Unfortunately, there is really not much good to say here.

Conclusion

I would have liked to hear the rational behind the creation of this disaster.  Was it similar to Timothy Chey, who wanted to “scare people into being saved” with that horrid thing called Final: The Rapture?  Or was it just a sales pitch to try to sell sensationalism to white evangelical Christians who all talk to each other about how the end of the world is near?  Whether it was juvenile evangelism or preaching to the choir, The Omega Code 1 is a train wreck from start to finish.  But guess what!  There’s still a sequel to watch!

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Child (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Davenport loved his adoptive parents, but he always wanted to know who his real parents were.  So when his adoptive father dies and Jack finds a clue in his belongings that could speak to Jack’s biological parents, he decides to go to a small town in Texas that could hold some answers for him.  He and his wife have grown distant from each other, so she lets him go without telling him that she is carrying their first child.  Jack hopes to find what he is looking for, but that he doesn’t know is that the answers he is looking for are not what he thinks.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Christmas Child is a fairly respectable production.  It sports good camera work and professional audio quality, though the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets and locations are engaging and realistic.  However, there is some low video quality throughout.  The editing is also an issue as some scenes lag longer than they should while others are understated.  Overall, this is an average production that seemingly could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Max Lucado is well known for his poignant plots, but Christmas Child was probably not the best one to choose to make a movie out of.  It’s basically just a typical small town plot filled with stereotypical characters that fit into molds.  However, the characters are at least down-to-earth and believable and their struggles are accessible.  There are some interesting elements and portions of dialogue, but the plot is reliant on too many coincidences.  Overall, this is very safe and pedestrian plot with no real plot twists than many will find enjoyment in.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The casting and acting is this film’s strongest suit.  The cast clearly knows what they are doing and have been coached well.  However, there are some lackluster lines and emotions that keep this section from being all that it could be.  Yet this should be an example of the baseline for acting in Christian films.

Conclusion

Many people love Max Lucado and will enjoy this movie.  There is nothing glaringly wrong with the movie, but we feel that Lucado has more to offer than this.  It’s always nice when movies portray people as regular and realistic, but Christmas Child as a whole is perhaps too slow for some audiences.  In short, as we have said before, this sort of movie should be commonplace in Christian film, not the exception to the rule.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

One Night With the King {The Call of Destiny} (Movie Review)

 

This costume is awfully heavy
This costume is awfully heavy
Quick! I need more eyeliner!
Quick! I need more eyeliner!

Plot Summary

The story of Esther is a Cinderella story of the ancient world.  Ordered by the king to audition to be his new queen, the young Hadassah, a devout Jewess, is reluctant to go.  Her uncle Mordecai encourages her to go in the Lord’s strength, but to conceal her Jewish identity for her safety.  Forced to undergo a year of beauty treatments before seeing the king, Esther forms a bond with the eunuch in charge of the process, who quickly discovers that she is different from the other girls.  But little does Esther know that she is about to be swept up into a bigger plan to save her people—a plan that only Yahweh could orchestrate.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

In the era of Fox Faith, money was certainly spent on some aspects of production, such as camera work and video quality.  The audio quality is also passable, and the soundtrack is slightly intriguing.  However, there are many other negative production elements that detract from this, such as weird special effects.  While time is obviously spent on the sets, locations, and props, there is an air of great extravagance in every part of this production.  Everything is taken to an ornate extreme; over-decoration clutters the sets.  This is a unique problem as they spent their money in the wrong ways.  As for the editing, it is also overdone in an attempt to be very dramatic.  Some scenes are replayed over and over again from different angles, just for dramatic flair.  Many scenes drag on too long, trying to drive a theatrical point home.  As will be covered next, time is spent in all the wrong ways.  While the funds were obviously present to make this a great production, they were grossly misappropriated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

For starters, narration is used far too much to fill the gaps of this plot that the writers did not feel like filling with substantial content.  As previously mentioned, some portions of the storyline are rushed while others have too much time spent on them.  The historical account of Esther is altered in some ways for the convenience of the plot, even though the two-hour runtime proves they have no time constraints.  Instead, the writers crowd out real content with embellishment and the frivolous pursuit of meaningless subplots.  Trivial asides that have nothing to do with the original story are given far too much screen time.  Though there is some positive to find here in the complexity of the storyline, it is far too complex to the point that it cannot be easily understood.  Petty and unimportant events are portrayed as extremely dramatic as the writers squeeze forced drama out of everything.  The dialogue is empty and confusing, thus creating bland and mindless characters.  This is such a disappointment because the resources were here to make a truly great movie, but they were greatly squandered.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

We are all for casting unknowns, but with the money this team had to spend, couldn’t they have found a more professional cast?  The acting is very empty and it seems like no coaching is present.  Some lines are over-pronounced and over-enunciated, while others are mumbled.  Emotions are not believable but instead are over-dramatized.  But the money was spent on other things, of course, such as over-the-top makeup jobs.  Most of the main characters have a different extravagant costume for every scene.  The one positive to note here is that at least the cast is mixed-race rather than all British, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

Branded as a Biblical epic, One Night With the King had the tools available to it to be truly great.  Had the money been spent properly, we could be placing this film on the Hall of Fame.  Had the complex plot been honed better and the historical elements been properly handled and portrayed, we would be applauding this effort rather than denouncing it.  The lesson that can be learned from this experience is that it’s not the money you have, it’s how you spend it.  Just throwing money at a production doesn’t cut it.  It takes true talent to spend money wisely and know when to stop.  Yet frugality was not a word in this creative team’s vocabulary.  Next time, stop trying to impress us with shining objects and focus on substance.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Second Glance [1992] (Movie Review)

Jesus man!
Jesus man!

Plot Summary

Back in the Dark Ages of Christian film, when David A. R. White was a fresh new face on the scene and when the Christiano brothers competed with Bob Jones University and WorldWide Pictures for control of the market, this movie was borne.  Depicting the iconic struggles of a perfect Christian teenager in an evil fallen high school world, Second Glance has been called ‘the best Christian film ever’ by dubious critics.  This teen feels like he’s not making any difference at all, so he wishes the unthinkable—that he wasn’t a Christian anymore.  He wakes up with this wish come true, so guided by a creepy angel, he is forced to take a second glance at his life.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

In this barely one-hour length extended short film, production errors are aplenty.  Camera work is bad, including a lot of awkward tight shots, and video quality is very poor.  The audio quality is replete with background noises that often drown out dialogue.  Also, a stupid soundtrack blares constantly.  The sets and locations are severely limited, and characters are awkwardly placed in them.  Editing is virtually nonexistent, since they basically cut nothing from this film.  They needed all the wasted time they could get to stretch this glorified skit into an hour-long ‘movie’.  In short, there is nothing positive to highlight here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This movie might as well be called Randy’s Party, because that’s the focal point of the entire plot.  This illustrious event, and that creepy King-James-Version-only angel that keeps following David A. R. White around are the highlights of the film.  In this character-based coming-of-age biopic, the characters are extremely shallow.  The high school kid White plays is extremely perfect and holds his universe together while everyone else is either beholden to his wisdom, neutral, or obviously wicked.  This makes the entire premise of this film absurd and unrealistic.  The dialogue that can be discerned is uninspiring.  There’s really nothing else to say here except that this It’s a Wonderful Life plot concept has been thoroughly worn out at this point.  Next time, please think through your idea before forcing it to happen.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, easily half the lines are unable to be deciphered, partially because of background noises and partially due to mumbled delivery.  Emotions are awkwardly delivered, as with most things involving David A. R. White.  Behavior is extremely obvious and forced, trying to drive home concepts that should be subtle (gee, that sounds familiar).  As with everything else in this film, there is nothing good to note here.

Conclusion

This is such a half-baked idea that it doesn’t even warrant creation.  Couldn’t they have just dumped this one in the early stages?  But no, Christian movies must be made at all costs!  If you stand in the way, you are a persecutory extremist humanist atheist propaganda machine bent on controlling the minds of children.  The world in this movie is portrayed as very bad and oppressive to Christians (an early David A. R. White concept), and Christians must stand up against it or something.  Second Glance could almost be a prequel to Holyman Undercover.  There is really nothing learned from this work, so unless you just want to watch the infamous final scene (depicted above), don’t waste your time.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points