The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Gavin Stone, a washed-up child star, is trying to find his next big break when he gets himself in big trouble with the law.  As a settlement, the judge offers him a deal that includes required community service hours at a local church.  Gavin accepts the deal and returns to his hometown to stay with his father, whom he has not spoken to in years.  While working at the local church, Gavin stumbles upon a church play they are planning for Easter and decides to audition for it.  However, in order to get the part of Jesus, he has to pretend that he is a Christian.  But the longer he pretends, the more he becomes interested in what his new friends have to offer.  He will have to decide how long he’s going to keep up the charade and whether or not he wants the real thing.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

With an adequate budget, wise spending, and clear talent, the production team of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone proves that churches can make high quality productions.  There are no errors to point out here—camera work is professional and video quality is crisp.  Audio quality is flawless and the soundtrack is adequate.  The sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  There are also no editing problems; everything flows perfectly.  In short, Vertical Church and the rest of this team set their minds to making a top-notch production, and it paid off.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Throughout her writing career, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has always shown that she has a knack for writing real-life comedy, especially church satire—Gavin Stone is no exception.  Though this passed-around plot is formulaic and predictable, Nasfell takes it to its furthest potential, which is all we really ask of a writer.  Though this appears to be a stereotypical small town setup, it’s really not of the Hallmark brand (which actually gets a subtle jab at one point).  The characters are not plastic and cheesy, but instead are realistic and believable.  Dialogue is highly effective and drives the plot, as it must in a predictable comedy.  While the plot follows a stereotypical progression and this fact keeps it from being a higher score, this is the best anyone can do with this sort of idea.  Nasfell has always had a lot of writing talent, and Gavin Stone showcases this once again.  We can’t wait to see her break out into greatness one day.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Like the production team, the casting team went all out to make this portion quality.  One character even says “Acting is about being yourself through the character.”  This acting philosophy is reminiscent of the Kendrick\Erwin school of thought and is desperately needed in all of Christian film.  Actors and actresses do not need to be who they are not, but instead need to act naturally and professionally in their character.  Anjelah Johnson-Reyes demonstrates this extremely well in her first headlining role—she might be one of the best Christian actresses of our time.  All other cast members also demonstrate poise and professionalism in all ways, thus warranting a perfect score.

Conclusion

Dallas Jenkins, Andrea Nasfell, and the rest of the team demonstrate in this film that it really isn’t that difficult to make a quality Christian film.  With the right funding, a wise allocation of funds, a plot taken to its fullest potential, and a professional cast, anyone can make a Hall of Fame movie if they put their mind to it.  With creators like these, there is hope for the tide of Christian entertainment to continue to turn.  Now we ask Jenkins, Nasfell, Vertical Church, and everyone else involved in to use Gavin Stone as a springboard to even greater entertainment.  They are on the verge of the upper echelon and we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

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Voyage of the Dawn Treader [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Left in England while their parents and siblings settle in their new home in America, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are restless and not interested in continuing to be under the same roof as their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb.  But it seems as though Aslan has other plans when he unexpectedly calls them back to Narnia, along with Eustance, for a unique mission—accompany King Caspian and the crew of the Narnia ship Dawn Treader in a quest to see what is beyond the Lone Islands and to retrieve lost friends of Caspian’s father.  Edmund and Lucy are sure that their past Narnian experience will help them excel, but what they do not realize is that the mysterious enemy they face on the high seas is unlike any enemy they have ever faced before.  In order to win, they must protect their minds and come to grips with who they really are as people.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

This movie franchise’s breakup with Disney was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to it.  However, since they retained Walden Media for this installment, the production quality remains high and even improves.  The video and sound quality are excellent.  The camera work is masterful.  Difficult action scenes are filmed with skill.  The editing is flawless.  The special effects are very professional and do not show any hints of being cheap.  In short, there is nothing negative say about Dawn Treader’s production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

The original plot of C. S. Lewis’ work of fiction was honestly not that great on its face, but this film adaptation dramatically improves upon the book without losing the original message.  In fact, a more powerful message is provided.  The same plot elements are used and are rearranged in a better order so that they each serve a better purpose.  Another improvement from the both the book and the first two Narnia movies is that the character development is bettered through more creative and interesting dialogue.  Too many fantasy stories treat the characters as pawns to move around with imaginary elements, but Dawn Treader defies this trend.  There are plenty of plot twists in this film, along with cool psychological elements.  The end is not exactly predictable, even if you have read the book.  It is rare that you find a book adaptation film that actually improves upon the novel, but Dawn Treader changes up this narrative.  In summary, we could not find anything negative here.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is the best cast Narnia movie to date.  Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, and Ben Barnes reprise as their former roles and are each better than in their previous films.  Will Poulter is a masterful casting choice for Eustace; he becomes the very essence of the original character.  Once again, there are no errors to point out.

Conclusion

This movie receives half of an x-factor point for having a meaningful and little-mentioned underlying worldview.  Unfortunately, it cannot receive the full x-factor point because it is not explicitly Christian, even though there are plenty of redemptive elements.  However, this is the only negative thing that can be mentioned about Dawn Treader.  After a success and a misfire at the beginning of the new Narnia franchise, Douglas Gresham and company have finally arrived with their third installment.  It brings the whole package and stands as a unique sort of movie that has the ability to reach many different types of audiences.  Christian film-makers everywhere can learn a lesson from Dawn Treader about reaching multiple audiences at once, bridging new movie genres, and creating a high quality film that is worth elevating to Hall of Fame status.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

Amazing Grace [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Wilberforce, always a crusader for social justice at all levels, had never considered the evils of slavery in the British Empire until his friend William Pitt introduced him to a group of anti-slavery activists, or abolitionists.  After learning about the horrors that occurred on slave ships and on plantations in the West Indies, Wilberforce began using his influence in the House of Commons to put a stop to the evil practice through legislation.  What he did not anticipate was the pushback from the pro-slavery lobby.  After exhausting all his options, the source of Wilberforce’s motivation suddenly comes from an unlikely source—a blind pastor with a song that was destined to change cultures everywhere.

Production Quality (3 points)

Amazing Grace has obviously been produced by a top notch crew.  Many crews are wary of historical movies, likely because it is difficult to achieve the proper level of professionalism and to acquire the props, costumes, sets, and locations needed for an authentic film.  Amazing Grace accomplishes all of these very well, bringing this historical story to life without committing the usual errors.  The camera work is excellent, as are the video and sound qualities.  There is nothing negative to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

Adapting a historical plot can be difficult, depending on how much content the writers want to cover—sometimes they can bite off more than they can chew.  However, it can also be a far better plot than most fictional plots, since it is based on true events, and both of these things can be said about Amazing Grace. Though it covers a lot of time, the character development is efficient and believable, which is very difficult to pull off.  This is due to great dialogue an a poignant message of social justice.  Sensitive elements are dealt with handily without sugarcoating reality.  Great care is given to historical accuracy while balancing effective storytelling.  This film has the true feel of a historical epic that has transformational application for us today.  Overall, this is a great historical narrative to adapt into a movie, and the end result is still masterful.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Since this is a professional and mainstream cast, we should not expect anything less than great.  As a side note, it is unfortunate that this cannot be said about predominantly Christian casts.  In Amazing Grace, each actor or actress fits their role very well—each has been cast very appropriately.  Line delivery is excellent, as is emotional expression.  Also, the costuming is historically accurate.  While there were a lot of potential acting pitfalls, none of them were fallen into.

Conclusion 

More movies need to be made on important historical topics such as the different facets and time periods of the abolitionist movement.  Though historical films often require sizable budgets and subject matter experts, this rendition handles these complications without blinking.  Amazing Grace needs to serve as a constant reminder of the types of movies that Christian film makers should be consistently rolling out.  Therefore, Amazing Grace receives an x factor point for re-watchibility and joins the ranks of perfect Christian films.

Final Rating: 10 out of 10 points

Prince Caspian [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rejected by his uncle due to the birth of a new son, Prince Caspian is forced to flee for his life from his Telmarine countrymen, who are ruling Narnia and who have forced the true Narnians into hiding.  But Caspian finds himself taking refuge with these renegade creatures now that he has a common enemy with them.  In trouble, Caspian blows the legendary Susan’s horn and inadvertently calls the Pevensie siblings back to Narnia, although it has been hundreds of years since they left.  They immediately find themselves thrust into a conflict between the restless Narnians and the disillusioned Telmarines.  Although they believe they have the power they need to win, the High Kings and Queens of Narnia must remember the former days and call on Aslan for help in order to survive.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the production quality of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian is well-produced and well-funded.  The camera work is great.  The sets are well-constructed and the costuming remains professional, which is key in fantasy movies.  Action scenes are filmed with skill.  The only small caveats to raise here are that there is some slightly obvious CGI and the editing is confusing at times.  Otherwise, there is nothing negative here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the original plot of Caspian is not adapted as well as the first installment.  Though Douglas Gresham was still involved, Box Office Revolution feels that the core message of Narnia was lost in this movie.  Disney takes over Caspian and inserts empty action sequences, drab dialogue, and bland characters.  Granted, the original plot of the book was not much to work with, but Disney adds a darker tone to this film that was not intended.  All the characters seem perpetually angry about abstract things.  Some scenes leave the viewer hanging with no real explanation.  The end is pretty good, but it has a strange romantic subplot is suddenly forced upon the audience.  Needless to say, both avid Narnian fans and professional plot critics cannot find much to be pleased about here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The professional acting style is mostly maintained from the first movie, but in the sophomore installment, it seems like the cast isn’t really trying.  At times, actors seem bored and passive.  But it is not all bad and there is certainly worse acting to be seen.  In short, the acting keeps up with the rest of the film—good, but not good enough.

Conclusion

Prince Caspian is a natural sequel to the infamous The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but its plot could have been improved.  Where there was potential for improvement, nothing materialized.  It probably should not be surprising that Douglas Gresham pulled the franchise from Disney after this movie—it needed to be done.  The bottom line is that the Chronicles of Narnia remain to be great books to adapt into films, if done properly.  Larger production companies have a tendency to coast after success, and this is not something Box Office Revolution respects.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Torn from their parents and hometown due to the rage of World War II, the Pevensie siblings must make their new home in the mansion of an eccentric elderly man and stay out of the way of his picky housekeeper.  Little did Lucy Pevensie know that choosing to hide in a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek would give her entrance to a mystical world called Narnia.  After meeting a new friend, Mr. Tumnus, Lucy soon discovers that all is not well in this land where winter is year-round.  After being mistreated by her brother Edmund, who also found his way into Narnia, the four siblings are forced to enter through the wardrobe, and are surprised to find that the creatures of Narnia have been awaiting their arrival, along with the coming of a legendary lion named Aslan.  Together, the siblings must band together and dig deep in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy and to save an entire land.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As is to be expected from the production crews involved, the production is professional and obviously well-funded.  The classic children’s series from C. S. Lewis was long awaiting a high quality rendition, and it was providence that his stepson Douglas Gresham was allowed to be an executive producer, so to preserve the original intent of Lewis’ work.  The camera work is great, as are the video and sound quality.  Fantasy productions are expensive and hard to do well due to difficult sets and costuming, but this one pulls it off well.  The only issue to raise in this film is some obvious green screens and CGI in some parts, but it is not glaringly obvious.  In short, this is finally a quality film based on the timeless work of Lewis.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

The book’s plot is adapted very well, even enhancing the original plot without losing the allegorical message, which is surprising with Disney involved.  Douglas Gresham can be credited for this preservation.  The character development is decent and the dialogue is both realistic and character-building.  The twists involved are true to the book; no extreme creative license is taken here.  The one issue to raise here is that some parts of the plot tend to be overly dramatic, no doubt a Disney contribution.  But the bottom line is that this is a solid plot that does not compromise the novel’s purpose.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The funding paid off—the acting is overall professional and well coached.  Though it is largely a mainstream cast, they demonstrate great acting skills, taking on the book’s characters well.  One caveat to bring up is that a few lines fall flat in an attempt to be sensational.  But this is not really a big issue and is easily forgotten.

Conclusion

A lot of things could have gone wrong with this film: Disney could have run away and destroyed the plot, the acting could have been deemphasized in favor of action sequences, or it could have been another cheap puppet production like so many Narnia movies before it.  None of these scenarios occurred, and thus, this movie lands in the Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame.  It is not a perfect film, but it was a great start to the unique Narnia movie saga and must be recognized for its strengths.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points