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Animated, Movie Reviews

PAW Patrol: The movie

Animated / Children / Family 2021 / 86 min Rating: 8/10 While our kids had never seen the TV series this is based on, we'd all seen enough of the PAW Patrol lunchboxes, toys, and commercials to understand the premise: talking puppies, each with their own expertise, team up to help whenever there's an emergency. Puppies meant our daughters were sure to like it, so the only question was whether this was going to be good enough to keep the parentals awake. It turned out, yes – there was more than enough action and intrigue to keep me bright-eyed the whole way through. It even opened with a bang (and a screeeeeeeech, and an "oh no!"): a semi-truck driver narrowly misses a baby turtle crossing the road, but his emergency maneuvers cause him to veer all over the road and crash right over the edge of a bridge, leaving driver and truck dangling precariously over the bay hundreds of meters below. It's as tense as a G-rated film can be, and had our daughters on the edge of their seats waiting for the rescue pups to spring into action. What I most appreciated was when the story headed to Adventure City where a new cat-loving, dog-hating politician had just won the mayor's race... but only because the other contestant had to drop out. There's some political satire here, as the power-mad Mayor Humdinger tries to transform the city into his own vision of utopia, which, of course, goes disastrously. I don't know if the writers were purposely trying to mock big government but, regardless, they did a good job, as everything the arrogant mayor touches goes comically amuck. A major subplot has PAW Patrol's top dog, Chase, struggling with a crisis of confidence after he makes a mistake during a rescue – that's the story's drama. Comic relief comes from all directions, maybe most notably in the form of a sassy new Patrol member, named Skye. Caution A heads up if you have an adopted child: Chase's struggles are due in large part to a traumatic experience in the city right before he was rescued and then adopted by Ryder, the team's only human member. So if your son or daughter had traumatic experiences before their adoption, this might hit them too close to home. I'll also note, this is an action-packed movie, which makes it exciting, but maybe also a bit much for some younger kids. Other than that, the only caution would concern a "wedgie drone" as seen in the trailer below. It's just 15 seconds of questionable silliness, the end result leaving the mayor pantless, though wearing long boxers. There's nothing indecent in this scene, but the film could have been improved by its absence. Conclusion I was pleasantly surprised by just how much good old-fashioned fun this film was from beginning to end. I've read a review where this was said to come out of a "lightly Christian" worldview/morality, and I get why they would think so. I don't know if the producers were Christian, but they sure could have been. While this is just fluff – there's nothing all that deep here – there's also no poison pill mixed in with the cotton candy. It's just fun fluff all the way down. I'd recommend this for the 8-11 crowd – it is a children's film. But for a first viewing, this could be one for the whole family. Older teen children won't like it nearly as much as their younger siblings, but even if the film doesn't grab them, they should get a kick out of all the little ones' giggles and gasps. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Raised on Porn: The New Sex Ed

Documentary 37 minutes / 2021 Rating: 8/10 This is not pleasant to watch, and for parents, it might be downright scary. But the story it tells is one we all need to know. As Jean Kilbourne says in the film, "The Internet has made porn not only accessible, it's really made it inescapable." What that's meant for today's teens and preteens is that they're turning to online pornography for their "sex ed." The terrifying part of this is that it isn't just what you teach your children and when you allow them access to the Internet and smartphones, but also what kind of access their friends have, and what kind of videos those friends have been watching. Another expert, Gail Dines, explains, violent porn is now the norm. "If you want more soft or less violent porn you're going to have to spend a good 10 to 15 minutes looking for it. And don't tell me that the average 12, 13-year-old boy is going to start looking for that for 10, 15 minutes. He's going to go to that which is the most accessible ." Former FBI agent Jim Clemente spells it out in more detail: "...kids who were sexualized early actually act out on that because they don't have the inhibitions or the knowledge of what the sexual acts are, or what they mean. ...The more time they spend reinforcing that arousal pattern, especially if they are looking at violent porn, ...that's the worst possible thing they could look at, because what it will do is trip wires in their brain that make them feel really good about this stuff, and it will overwhelm reason in their brain. And they could go down this road where they find they don't have the willpower to stop themselves from doing it, and it could surprise them how quickly that could happen." Raised on Porn includes interviews with men who were first caught up in porn as children, when they weren't seeking it out, and didn't understand where porn would take them. One went to jail, another nearly destroyed his marriage, going from porn to tracking down a prostitute. We also hear from leading psychologists and neurologists telling us what porn does to the brain. We hear from addiction therapists who have seen the demand for their services skyrocket. As reviewer Justin Sarachik put it, "This film shatters cultural myths about the 'harmless' nature of pornography." Cautions We don't normally recommend films that take God's name in vain, but make an exception here (it happens at least once) in large part because this isn't simply light entertainment, but an important educational tool for parents. While there is no nudity in the film, there are a few brief video clips of clothed men and women, which have been taken from violent porn videos. One clip shows a man grabbing a woman by her throat, another shows several men carrying a woman away. We're shown these to give us an understanding of the violent nature of today's porn, so even though nothing explicit is shown we know what's coming next, and that is disturbing. We're also shown, as evidence of this same violent trend, partial titles of these videos. They flash by very quickly, but this too is not for children's eyes, and may not be helpful for some adults to see either (1 Cor. 10:12). A different sort of caution: while I wouldn't be surprised if the producers are Christian, what they present here is a secular argument, entirely free of any mention of God and His views on sexuality. The argument it is making is against what the culture is doing, but nowhere are we told what we should be for. In accompanying promotional materials there is a push for age verification on all pornographic sites, which Christians can certainly agree to – that might protect some children. But what of the adults being damaged by porn? What's missing here is a presentation of God's intention for sex. Christians may be able to fill it in, as the facts that the neurologists shares about excitment and neural pathways aligns perfectly with Solomon's advice to "rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Prov. 5:15-20). As we focus on our spouse, God has so made us that we can have those neural pathways align to our best beloved. Because God is left out, what's also missing is hope. Yes, the film features addicts who have now left porn behind, but we're not told exactly how that happened. We can presume it involved some of the therapists featured. But what can parents do to help their children steer clear? What's evident from the stories is that many of these men were missing an active parental presence. Christians know that parents have been charged with guiding and teaching our children, so, to start, it's vital that your child knows they can always go to you if they get in trouble. Parents can further educate themselves about dangers on the web at ProtectYoungMinds.org. Another helpful resource is the Christian organization CovenantEyes.com which has monitoring software for a fee, but some incredible resource for free, including a great blog and, maybe most helpful of all, free fantastic e-books you really need to check out. A specifically Reformed, though not free, resource can be found at SetFreeCourse.com. The film's producers offer their own list of resources here. Conclusion With the prevalence of smartphones, it would be crazy for us to think our children will never see any of this violent pornography. The danger this poses to our boys is how it can enslave them and how the Devil can use that addiction to undermine their service to God in the future too. Girls aren't immune to porn addiction, and also face the danger of what this pornography can make the young men in their lives expect of them. It shouldn't be so in the Church, but sin happens here too. So who should watch this? Parents, and after they watch it on their own, they can consider what age is too young, and whether they should watch it again with their older teens. We need to talk about this with our children, one way or another. Watch it for free below. ...

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Patterns of Evidence: Young explorers

Docudrama 190 minutes / 2020 Rating 7/10 This didn't grab me on a first viewing but as I wasn't the target audience, I thought I would still test it out on my kids. I'm glad I did: what's good-but-not-great for dad turned out to be downright funtastic for the younger set! This 5-episode series is based on filmmaker Timothy Mahoney's full-length documentary Patterns of Evidence about his search for evidence of Israel's captivity in Egypt. The original was part mystery, part biblical history and my wife and I both enjoyed it immensely, which is why I ordered this sequel of sorts. But what initially put me off of the Young Explorers version was the added element of a whole gang of kids helping Mahoney investigate this mystery. This is now not simply a documentary, but a docudrama, with fact and fiction, education and entertainment, all mixed together. The kids were decent actors but still kids, and while I enjoyed the gags and dry humor, it all struck me as just a bit...cheesy. However, after testing it out on my daughters, I realized what I was bristling against wasn't cheese so much as enthusiasm, and though the greybeard that I am should know better, I still sometimes succumb to that weird teenage cynicism that believes enthusiasm is the opposite of cool – I was actually faulting Mahoney's junior investigators for being eager beavers! But watching this with my own kids, then the gangs' enthusiasm became a key feature of the film: here were 10 keeners sharing their passions, and no one was getting mocked for gushing about this or that. It was a whole group of geeky kids encouraging and cheering each other on. Would that my own kids can be like that (would that I can be like that!). So yes, a cynical, edgy, or critical audience will find plenty to mock here, and consequently won't be interested in the gang's big adventure. But if you've got geeky kids of your own, then they may just love it! There's a lot of love in the more than 3 hours of content. One highlight is the "Exploration Chamber" – a fictitious holodeck that the group can enter to then see and explore Egypt as it once was. Adults will appreciate how we hear directly from the horse's mouth, with Mahoney often interviewing the very critics he is trying to rebut. On my second viewing with the family I caught how there is humor on two levels here, with pratfalls for the kids, and dry humor for the adults - there are some snort-worthy moments! The five episodes in order cover: The adventures begins when the kids hear about Timothy Mahoney's work and are eager to help They learn that we may know where Joseph lived in Egypt The team searches for signs of captive Israel's population explosion The Young Explorers go search for signs of the 10 plagues The search continues on into Israel, where the team now investigates the fall of the walls of Jericho Caution There are no real content concerns so the only caution I'll offer is not to take Mahoney's conclusions as the final word. Mahoney isn't the only one trying to solve these mysteries, and while his answers are especially compelling, there seem to be some other creationist contenders. Conclusion While this isn't something for dad to watch on his own, it could be some great viewing for the family...if your teens aren't going through that overly critical phase. Or skip the teens altogether and watch this with your elementary ages kids: they love it...and mom and dad will too. The one downside? It is pricey, running between $30-$45 US. You can buy it for online streaming at Christian Cinema, and Christianbooks.com, or buy it on DVD at PatternsOfEvidence.com. You can also watch it for free (you will have to register an account) at RedeemTV.com here. To get a feel for the series, check out the trailer below and find other sneak peeks here. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Dismantled: a scientific deconstruction of the theory of evolution

Documentary 2020 / 93 minutes Rating: 8/10 The Creation vs. Evolution debate is sometimes portrayed as being the Bible vs. Science, but Dismantled wants us to know that while creationists certainly stand on the Bible, they aren't conceding on Science. Flipping the script, the documentary begins by asking if evolution should be considered scientific. "Is it proper to equate evolution with science? Does science have the ability to address questions regarding past events that we were not there to directly observe or verify – events like the spontaneous origins of the universe, the origin of life from non-life, and the evolution of the earliest life forms into mammals? Or might we be giving science a power that it does not have? To answer this, it is important that we accurately define science, as well as its limitations." Evolution has street cred because it's supposed to be scientific – it claims to come from the very same source of knowledge that gave us rockets, microwaves pizza, smartphones, and self-driving cars. But as Dismantled notes, evolution has little in common with that sort of science. A quote from the film, taken from a biology textbook, explains that: "Scientific inquiry is a powerful way to know nature, but there are limitations to the kind of questions it can answer. These limits are set by science's requirements that hypotheses be testable and falsifiable and that observations and experimental results be repeatable." It is precisely the testable, repeatable, falsifiable nature of operational science that got us a man on the moon, and it is precisely those points that evolution's historical science doesn't share. Our origins involve events that happened long ago and aren't repeatable, making these events hard to test, and these theories hard to falsify. So the origins debate isn't about the Bible vs. Science, but more about one historical account vs. another... with the notable difference that one of those historical accounts is thousands of years old and unchanging, and the other is a recent creation and constantly being revised. That's the film's lead-off point, and it takes the first 20 minutes to make it. From there, they go on to assess which of these two historical accounts seem a better fit with the world we observe around us. That's the bulk of the film, and this 70-minute tour takes us through topics including: the micro = macro fallacy which assumes, without evidence, that small changes can add up to bigger ones genetics including the limits of supposed "beneficial mutations," and the problem of genetic entropy – that we as a species are breaking down faster than natural selection could ever build us up – and the supposed genetic similarity between man and apes the fossil record including Man's supposed ape-like ancestors, and the humanity of Neanderthals radiometric dating and its problems Dismantled is a slick production – the visuals are fantastic! – but its strength is in the scientists consulted. Whether it is Jason Lisle, John Sandford, Georgia Purdom, Rob Carter, Andrew Snelling, Nathaniel Jeanson (PhDs one and all), they all know how to explain big ideas to the rest of us who may not have been in a science class for decades. That doesn't mean this is all easy to understand, and I think most of us will have to (and be happy to) watch this twice, just because there is so much here to chew on. Cautions The one caution I'll note regards a mistake the film could, indirectly, encourage: believing the Bible only when the evidence says it is reasonable to do so. It is important to remember the evidence discussed in Dismantled wasn't available 100 years ago, and yet God's Word was just as true then. We need to know the Bible isn't true because it syncs up with the evidence; rather, the reason the evidence syncs up with the Bible is that the Bible is true. If that doesn't seem like much of a difference, its significance becomes apparent when the evidence doesn't seem to fit with the Bible. In those circumstances, if our trust is grounded in the evidence rather than the Bible, then we will side with it, against God's Word. But if we trust God, then we'll always stick with the Bible, trusting that any apparent conflicts will be resolved in time. Conclusion Dismantled is superb, summarizing important foundational concepts even as it presents the most current findings. I'd recommend it as a purchase, rather than a rental, because you'll want to watch it again to be able to properly digest all that is on offer. The target audience is high school and up, and for those who want to dig in even deeper, a great place to start is the recommended resources list available on the film's website. You can check out the trailer below, and then rent it on Amazon.com or buy the DVD or Blu-ray at Creation.com. And now a half-hour clip of the film can be viewed for free. ...

Movie Reviews, Sexuality, Watch for free

In His Image: Delighting in God's Plan for Gender and Sexuality

Documentary 2020 / 104 minutes Rating: 8/10 One of the most serious challenges that the Christian church is currently facing is in the area of gender and sexuality. When the church holds fast to the Biblical teaching that God created us male and female, that God is the one who defines our gender, and that marriage is a sacred, lifelong bond between one man and one woman, then we are placing ourselves distinctly outside of the mainstream of our society. What's more, the challenge to the Bible's teaching on gender and sexuality comes not only from outside of the church, but also from within. Because of the importance of this issue, it is essential that Christians be prepared. First of all, we must understand what God's Word teaches about sexuality and human relationships, in order to personally stand firm on that solid foundation and not be led astray by the latest cultural trends. Secondly, we must be prepared to lovingly stand up for that teaching, in the face of often virulent opposition. Finally, we must be ready to serve, help, and love those who are struggling in this area. In a world in which abuse and disorder have affected the lives of so many, the church needs to be ready and willing to serve as a beacon of hope, a place where the healing truth of the gospel can be found. The church is where that life-giving and hope-giving message must not only be proclaimed, but also lived out! A resource that can help In His Image: Delighting in God's Plan for Gender and Sexuality is a valuable resource for Christians who need to be equipped to understand and apply the truth of Scripture in their personal lives, in their relationships, and in their interaction with our culture. This documentary was released in 2020 by the American Family Association, and is available online as well as in a DVD set, for use as a group study resource. As a full length film, this is not a shallow treatment of the issues, and it would be a worthwhile resource for several weeks' worth of small group study and discussion. The documentary features a number of personal stories, including that of Walt Heyer, who lived for eight years as a woman before having his "sex change" reversed. A number of pastors and theologians also contributed to the film, including Kevin deYoung, Sean McDowell, and James R. White. It starts with the Bible In His Image begins with a discussion of that foundational Biblical teaching, that every human being is created in the image of God. Beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve in God's image, the documentary bases everything that follows on the teaching of Scripture, emphasizing the sufficiency and the authority of God's Word. From those very important starting points, the film goes on to address other means of addressing the issues. As Robert Gagnon, Professor of New Testament Theology at Houston Baptist University, emphasizes, we begin with Scripture, we make use of philosophical reasoning and scientific evidence, and finally, we turn to personal experience. Sadly, the tendency in our culture is for personal experience to take precedence over everything else. In His Image, while using a number of personal stories that really make an impact, gets things right by focusing first and foremost on the Word of God as the ultimate source of wisdom. I highly recommend In His Image as a very powerful and useful resource that will help to strengthen Christians in their commitment to God's Word in the face of ever-increasing pressure to conform our thinking with that of the world. The message of Scripture is proclaimed boldly and without compromise. But importantly, this is done in a way that emphasizes the Good News of Jesus Christ, and how we can show genuine love for our neighbour by proclaiming, and living, that truth. You can watch the trailer for In His Image below, and see the film for free at InHisImage.movie. Rev. Jim Witteveen blogs at CreationWithoutCompromise.com....

Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Free film: Genesis Impact

Docudrama 68 minutes / 2020 RATING: 7/10 This is a very good...something. The topic matter is plain enough – human origins – but what's less clear is whether this is a documentary or drama. The beginning is standard documentary: apologist Ray Comfort, just off camera, interviewing college students about their views on evolution. But when the camera pulls back we discover these interviews are actually a smartphone's 3-D holographic projections being viewed by a teen boy sitting on the edge of his couch (presumably a decade or two into the future seeing as there's no app for that quite yet). When mom wanders by to put away groceries, he shares his doubts about whether God really did create in just six days. "What if they're right, and we're wrong?" he asks, "I mean, the scientific evidence for evolution is pretty overwhelming. What if God...used evolution?" To answer his questions, mom takes us through another scene change, shifting back 20 years to modern day when she was still in school, listening to an origins lecture at a Natural History museum. When the speaker concludes and most of the other students leave the auditorium, the young mom-to-be stays behind to question, and eventually debate, the scientist/lecturer. That's where we stay, along with a few student stragglers, listening to a well-reasoned critique of the lecturer's evolutionary presentation. While Genesis Impact hardly has a plot, it still has plenty of drama as evolution and creationist go head-to-head over the next hour. Genesis Impact shouldn't be evaluated as a drama though. The acting is fine – solid enough not to get in the way, and better than many a Christian drama – but the young lady is far too knowledgeable, and the evolutionist lecturer far too reasonable (readily conceding her every good point) to be realistic. Fortunately, the filmmakers' goal isn't realism. They wanted to present a challenging, highly educational lecture on a pivotal topic, and they wanted to deliver it in a really unique and entertaining manner. Mission accomplished! Caution While the topic matter is the sort you might want to share with an atheist friend, that this is a staged debate – an acted out debate – provides the "out" any skeptic would take to dismiss it entirely, arguing that a real evolutionist would have had better responses, or wouldn't have conceded so many points. So one caution would be that this isn't one to win over an unsympathetic or hostile audience. Conclusion What makes it valuable is that the creationist critique is a really good one. Evolutionary proofs aren't so overwhelming as it seems, with guesses built on assumptions, stacked atop beliefs. Secular science presents their conclusions as being unassailable, though sometimes the hype is as much the fault of the media as the scientists. Even when researchers couch their guesswork with phrases like "could be" and "might" and "probably" the media is likely to trumpet "Evidence of life has been found on Mars!" in 36-point front-page headlines.  Still, the same sort of unwarranted certainty can be found in Natural History displays, and in university classrooms, so evolutionary arrogance isn't simply a mainstream media invention. Who should see Genesis Impact? It's best suited for bible-believing Christians who are interested in, or troubled by, evolutionary accounts. It'll be an encouragement and could serve as a leap-off point for further study. The depth of the material discussed also means this is best suited for college-age and up. You can watch it for free below, and visit the film's website to dig deeper: GenesisApologetics.com/Impact. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Uncle Tom: An Oral History of the American Black Conservative

Documentary 2020 / 106 minutes Rating: 8/10 "Uncle Tom" is an insult thrown at blacks by other blacks for supposedly being too eager to get approval from whites. It's leveled at Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Candace Owens, Allen West, and the many other black conservatives who aren't willing to unquestioningly back the Democratic Party and the policies that it pushes. This conservative group is a small minority – in the US, blacks are a cohesively liberal voting block, with 9 out of 10 casting their ballot for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last election. But, as this documentary shows, the conservative minority is willing to wear insults as a badge of honor. They aren't going to stay silent about the damage that's been done to their black communities by government welfare policies and by a victimhood narrative that tells blacks they can't succeed because the system is stacked against them. Uncle Tom is conservative commentator Larry Elder's project, and offers his perspective which is, ultimately, a very hopeful one. Yes, he details the bigotry that has existed and continues to exist but he also notes that real progress has been made, and that "this is not your grandfather's America." President Obama is shown echoing that point, speaking of Martin Luther King Jr. and his generation as being "the Moses generation" that "took us 90% of the way" and the task for today's "Joshua generation" is to work on that last 10%. Elder contrasts that hopeful message with the scaremongering Democrats (including Obama) are running with now, where Republicans are caricatured as so racist that electing them will threaten black voting rights. The argument Elder makes is that it isn't a racist system, or racist boogie men that are blacks' biggest enemy, but the victimhood narrative. And he counters that narrative by showing and celebrating the successes of a broad assortment of black entrepreneurs and leaders. Cautions Some of the exchanges we see are not polite ones, so there are language concerns, including the uses of the n-word (from blacks directed at other blacks), and quite a number of f-bombs, as well as some other words that we might not want our young children to know. Another caution concerns how this film might seem unfairly biased. Many of us have grown up in the church, read God's Word daily and heard it expounded each Sunday, and that has equipped us with fairly reliable sniff detectors – even when we aren't able to put it exactly into words why we don't trust what's being presented, we can still sniff out lies. But in this case, I suspect some folk's sniff detectors might register a false alarm. The alarm will go off because there is a clear Republican conservative bias here, but just as offering a Reformed perspective is a bias too and doesn't preclude a fair treatment of opposing views, I'd argue the bias in Uncle Tom doesn't get in the way of a generally fair presentation. The Democrats are given plenty of screen time, and while their clips usually don't show them in a good light, these are the real positions Democrats hold and there is nothing deceptive about sharing what they actually believe. So yes, there might be too generous an appraisal of Donald Trump, and other points that we shouldn't be swallowing whole, but the overall argument against the victimhood culture is a solid one. Conclusion While there are Christians in the film, and some Christian perspective is offered, we never really get a concise summary of why the victimhood narrative is sinful (though lots of clues are offered). Parents watching this with their older teens might want to discuss: Is the victimhood narrative about raising victims up, or about assigning blame and guilt? Can any forgiveness be found in a victimhood culture? The victimhood narrative is sometimes used to justify shameful behavior – the current rioting is supposed to be understandable because of systemic racism. But do two wrongs make a right? How is blame being assigned? Is it based on actual sins committed, or is it on the basis of skin color? What does the Bible say about that? Are the charges leveled about specific instances of wrong or are they often generalized accusations of systemic racism? Can we address unspecified wrongs? How about specific wrongs? How does the hope offered in this film – that if you work hard you can get ahead – deliver, and how does it fall short? Uncle Tom offers a conservative perspective that, even as it doesn't always line up with the Christian perspective, still offers genuine insight into much of what's going wrong in race relations. I'd recommend this for ages 13 or up, based primarily on language concerns. But it is a film that demands discussion afterwards – it has to be unpacked and cross-examined to be of any use. You can watch the trailer below, and rent the film for $8 US here. And if you enjoyed it, you can get a closer look at two of these black leaders in their own documentaries: Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools and Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World. ...

Documentary, Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

FREE MOVIE: Dude Perfect: Backstage Pass

Documentary 84 minutes / 2020 RATING: 8/10 In 2009 some college friends, calling themselves the "Backyard Stuntmen" videotaped each other trying crazy basketball shots – behind the back shots, roof shots, hitting-a-hoop-driving-by-in-the-bed-of-a-pickup-truck shots – with each guy trying to outdo the last. Then they posted all their makes to YouTube, shared the link with family and friends, and then headed off to bed. They woke up the next morning to find out they had been featured on Sports Illustrated's website and their video was getting hits by the tens of thousands. So they followed up that one with another. Ten years later the five friends, now called Dude Perfect, are still making videos and their viewers number in the tens of millions. In this documentary the Dudes are giving their fans, old and new, a peek backstage at their 2019 live tour. And, in segments interspersed throughout, we also get the backstory on the ten years that preceded it: how the Dudes first met, why they all clicked, and even how they almost stopped before they really got going. All five Dudes – Tyler, Garret, Cody, Coby, and Cory – are professing Christians, and while that isn't as obvious in their trick shot videos (except, maybe, in how family-friendly they are), it comes out clearly in Backstage Pass. One example: as the Dudes are about to head out on tour their family and friends come together to pray for them. The very same ingredients that make their videos so popular are all on display in the documentary: amazing trick shots, over-the-top excitement, loads of humor, and good friends enjoying each others' company. Cautions The only content-related caution worth sharing relates to the "Rage Monster" that Tyler plays in a number of the videos, and on the the live tour too. The joke is that sometimes Tyler just can't control his temper and then he will, usually in a creative way, destroy something big. It might involve taking a pick axe to a skidoo, or throwing a 4,700 piece LEGO Star Wars Imperial Destroyer off a second-story landing. Adults will be able to deduce that when the Rage Monster rampages, what he is destroying is likely already headed for the garbage heap. But when the Rage Monster destroys the Dudes' hardwood basketball court kids won't know water damage meant there were already plans in place to pull it up – they'll just see an adult acting like a child having a tantrum. So, even though the Rage Monster only has a limited role in the documentary, mom or dad might want to hit the pause button to let kids in on his backstory. The only other caution isn't one I'd want to make too much of, but will still mention. These five Dudes show a lot of admirable traits in this documentary: they love their wives and their children, show respect to their parents and grandparents, and show love for each other. They also demonstrate industry, creativity, and hard work. But to some of their young fans they might seem to be five adults who have never had to grow up – the so-called "Peter Pan" syndrome. If any of our kids are under the impression they can play their way into millions, that's a course we want to correct. Fruitful work is a way to glorify God, and we should share with our kids that while the Backstage Pass shows some of the behind-the-scenes work, there's a lot more that gets left out because, like a lot of hard work, it would be boring to watch. But whether seen or unseen, our children need to know that hard work is key to the Dudes' success. Conclusion This is really all-ages viewing, keeping the attention of kids as young as 4 or 5, and while I haven't tested this on anyone over 50, I really can't see anyone disliking it. If you want to kick back for a dinner-and-a-movie family night, this should fill the bill. You can watch Dude Perfect: Backstage Pass for free below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Riot and the Dance: Water

Documentary 2020 / 84 minutes RATING: 8/10 Biologist Gordon Wilson has produced another beautiful ode to God's creation. The Riot and the Dance: Water explores how gloriously the Lord has made life in the lakes, rivers, oceans and ponds of the world. Wilson's narration is at times playful, at times serious, but always joyfully awestruck at what God has made. "Water is full of death. Water is full of life. It forms another world inside our own..." "…we will enter the liquid world and we will reemerge a little bit changed, with eyes that see this creation differently, with a little more knowledge of the artist who made it all." Wilson swims with sharks, snorkels with manatees, scubas with alligators, and wades in a slimy swamp, all in the quest to chronicle life underwater. Off the coast of Oahu, he finds green sea turtles, Galapagos and sandbar sharks, moray eels, and spinner dolphins. Why do spinner dolphins spin as they playfully leap from the water? "Because it's fun. Because it's fantastic. Because it pleases God." Another leaper found off the California coast is the humpback whale, expending tremendous energy to push its massive, 60,000-pound body out of the water in a display of power and joy. While exalting the beauty of created life, Wilson also explores the horrors of death, which is such a part of our fallen world. Chum salmon by the thousands die as they flail and flop on their journey up freshwater creeks and rivers. A giant water bug captures a much larger frog, pierces its victim's skin with a sharp beak, and literally sucks the life out of its prey (yes, this scene is pretty chilling, and perhaps a bit too graphic for youngsters). The biologist also muses on what nature will be like in the next life: "We see that all of creation is going to be redeemed, and some of the greatest threats that we see in the animal kingdom... they are going to be redeemed, and they can be redeemed without becoming tame. I'm not even going to guess what it's going to be like, but it's going to be glorious!" The camera work is wonderful, the vistas and scenery are inspiring, and Wilson's thoughtful narration brings a sense of wonder and adventure. It is very refreshing to watch a nature documentary without having to ignore secular commentary on evolution and billions of years. We can heartily recommend this film to Christians of all ages… although some might wish to skip the giant water bug scene! You can check out the trailer below, or rent it for just $1 here. And be sure to check out Marty VanDriel's review of "The Riot and the Dance: Earth." ...

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Brain, Heart, World – a fantastic, free, 3-part documentary on pornography's harmful impact

Documentary 90 minutes / 2019 RATING: 8/10 Fight the New Drug is an anti-poverty group that's come up with an impressive 3-part documentary called Brain, Heart, World about what pornography consumption does to your brain, what it does to your relationships, and what it does to the world. Each part is half an hour, and while you do have to give them your email address, it's well worth doing (and they won't spam you). They've packaged up important psychological insights with compelling personal accounts, making this must-see TV. Maybe what's most impressive is that they're having a very open conversation about pornography, even as they keep that conversation very PG-rated...at least for the first two episodes. With Episode 3, The World, since it is tackling sexual trafficking via first-hand accounts, there was really no way to keep it from being PG-13-ish. That said, this is as careful and delicate a presentation on this topic as I've seen. (Parents, if you're considering sharing and discussing this with your kids do be sure to preview it). This is an eye-opening presentation, but it is an entirely secular one. Fight the New Drug is "a non-religious and non-legislative organization" that teaches about the harmful effects of pornography "using only science, facts, and personal accounts." That means they operate from a materialist worldview that ignores the spiritual, and seemingly denies it. They don't speak to the repentance Jesus offers and in passing ways even minimize the need for it – at one point a girl says: "I realized it wasn't me that was bad; it was the porn that was bad." She gets close to the truth here, even as she completely misses it: the porn is irredeemable, but she isn't. Another example: in the Heart episode they share that researchers have found relationships the key to happiness such that "happiness is love." Now, understanding as we do, that relationship with God is the key to everlasting happiness, we might be tempted to say that here again they got it almost right. But seeing as they aren't actually pointing us to God, they also got it awfully wrong. In this way the series shortcomings are enormous; we can't fix a sin problem like lust and adultery without acknowledging it as a sin problem. That said, Christians can benefit enormously from watching series, because the series' shortcomings are the sort that we can fix with what God teaches us, and its strengths and insights can be a help when stacked on top of God's firm foundation. You can watch the series trailer below, and access the series itself here. ...