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Animated, Movie Reviews, Remembrance Day

Sgt. Stubby: an unlikely hero

Animated / Family 2018 / 84 minutes Rating: 8/10 I read a review by a parent who arrived at the movie theater with his four-year-old and picked this film based solely on the smiling ever-so-cute doggie he saw on the movie poster. One problem: while this is about a charming, incredibly clever dog named Stubby, it's also about life in the trenches of World War I. And that's not 4-year-old material. Why, oh why, don't more people read movie reviews! But, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the "Great War" this is a movie that many a ten-year-old and up will enjoy and should watch. It's based on the true story of Sgt. Stubby, the most decorated dog in American history. The story begins with the homeless dog attaching himself to a unit readying itself to be shipped overseas. First, he charms his way into the heart of one Private Robert Conroy, the main two-legged character in the film. Then, one by one, from the lowest private to the general in charge, he wins over everyone. Well, not everyone. Some folks just aren't dog people, and Private Elmer Olsen just doesn't understand what's so special about Stubby. When the unit heads overseas, Stubby manages to sneak aboard the ship, and he too is heading to the fight. From this point onward there's one perilous scene after another, but to make it appropriate for (nearly) the whole family, the filmmakers decided to make this an entirely bloodless film. Even as bullets are whizzing, no one gets shot. German bombardments send both soldiers and dirt flying, but the soldiers get dug out and emerge both unbruised and unbloodied. While parents will appreciate the nonexistent blood and gore, by muting the violence and death the film ran the risk of also muting the sacrifice that these soldiers made. But as the film draws to a close there is one death - to a secondary character - that drives home, even to the younger audiences, what these men risked and what they lost. Without giving it all away, I'll note that the death happens off screen and we don't even see the body. It is the soldier's absence that is noted – while his friends are looking for him after the last big battle, Stubby brings them his helmet. That'll get some kids crying, and even moisten the eye of many an adult. But it is necessary. And it is done with great care and restraint. As you'd expect with an energetic pooch as its star, there is a lot of fun in the film. Kids are sure to enjoy Stubby training along with his fellow soldiers, getting chased by the cook, and winning over the Colonel after Conroy teaches his little buddy how to salute. In another treat, Gérard Depardieu makes an appearance as a large, wise French soldier, who along with Conroy and Stubby is tasked to spy out German positions. These "three musketeers" become fast friends, saving each others' lives. Cautions There are only a couple of concerns, including a little bit of language. The worst of it includes one character saying "What the devil?" and another exclaiming "I'll be darned." There is also just one bit of "naughty" comedy as the drill sergeant lectures his men on they should imitate the never-complaining, always-ready-to-roll Stubby but he makes this speech just as Stubby decides to lick his nether regions. That gets a laugh out of the sergeant and his men as they are presented with proof-positive that Stubby has some traits that aren't worthy of imitation. The big caution would concern the near constant peril. This is not a film for four-year-olds. But most ten-year-olds will be sure to enjoy it. Conclusion This was such a pleasure to discover. Before this, I couldn't have imagined a war film that would be appropriate for the very young and yet still be a treat for their parents. This would be a great one to watch with the family for Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, or Anzac Day. You can find out more about the film at its website: StubbyMovie.com. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island

Animated / Children 82 minutes / 2018 RATING: 6 out of 10 My kids loved this - we rented it for two nights, and they asked to watch it twice. So why give it just a 6 rating? Because what makes it attractive to gentle, easily scared, children is also what makes it a below average film: there is no conflict. Summer vacation has arrived, and Grandfather Alden wants to take his four grandchildren to an island their family owns. He leaves them there, and with the exception of a couple minutes when the children are trapped in a cave just as the tide comes in, this is an entirely calm film. Grandfather Alden leaves them on the island alone, but the only other "danger" they have to deal with is a leaky roof. This is a sequel to the slightly better 2013 film The Boxcar Children. Both movies are based on the beloved 150+ book series originated by Gertrude Chandler Warner way back in 1924. According to the bonus features on this DVD, Warner set out to make a story for Grade 1 and 2 students that would use the 100 most important words for them to learn. I found that rather telling – it makes the books out to be more about learning vocabulary than presenting kids with a rip-roaring adventure. And if that was her intent, she has succeeded. CAUTIONS The only caution I can think to include is that the movies make no mention of God (Heaven comes up once, but not God) and on such a beautiful island, where it would be hard not to break into song and shout His praises, this is a glaring absence (kids might not notice God's absence, but mom and dad can bring it up). In the series a brief reference to evolution pops up in every second or third book, and that, along with God's absence in the books and films, makes me suspect that author Gertrude Warner was probably not a Christian. CONCLUSION So far I'm not exactly singing the praises of the book series, or this, the latest film based on them. So why recommend the movie at all? Because younger kids, particularly those who are familiar with the Boxcar Children already, will absolutely love it. My critique of the book and this movie is not that there is anything wrong with them; it's only that there is nothing remarkable about them. The acting is okay, the animation is middling, and the story, from a parental perspective, is on the boring side. But on the other hand, there are no language, violence, sexuality, or other concerns. And young children, up to maybe 8 or 9 years old, will enjoy the familiar characters and the cozy comfy safety of this no-conflict story. It is a nice safe film for your family movie night. Kids should learn to endure story tension – their own life's story will not be free of it – but when they are young a small dose of fluff every now and again won't hurt.  Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....

Lists, Movie Reviews

200 movies King David might watch

Great minds think alike, and this month two of those great minds belonged to a missionary in Brazil and an evangelist in California. The evangelist, Ray Comfort, passed along a story, first told by Jeremy Archer, about a man who invited all sorts of folks into his house to meet his family. Often the visitors would talk crudely and angrily with each other, teaching his children words he'd rather they not know. But these visitors could also get his whole family laughing so the man decided to focus on the good they did, rather than the bad. Over time the man could see the visitors were having an impact on his family, and it wasn't a good one. He found that his own children were now using crude language and making coarse jokes. What was worse, the visitors were behaving outrageously, even taking their clothes off right there in front of his family! That's hard to believe, isn't it? Why didn't the man just kick them out? Why didn't he protect his family from their influence? Well, it turns out this man had some sense, and as the visitors started getting naked the man acted. Together, with his family, the man finally "turned off the television." That same month the missionary, Rev. Ken Wieske, expressed the same concern, titling a Facebook post "David vows to get rid of his TV." Underneath he included the text of Psalm 101 which reads (in part): I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. The pastor's point was clear: most of what's on TV is worthless and if King David were here on earth today, he might well pitch his TV right out of the palace. Of course, it isn't quite as easy as that. Today we also have computers, and smartphones, so getting rid of the TV isn't going to restrict our access to fluff and filth that's so readily available. So let's take this a step further. Yes, much of what's on TV (and on YouTube, Facebook, etc.) is worthless. But some of it isn't. Some of it is quite good. Excellent even! So if we were to make the same promise King David makes in Psalm 101 – to put away all that is worthless – what sorts of film and videos might we still watch? I've got some suggestions, and I've listed them under 10 categories, with 15 or so movie recommendations in each category. My hope is that this list can help families find something worth watching. With over 200 suggestions I'm also hoping there will be something for everyone. Title, year, and length, are included, and, if there's a review available on ReformedPerspective.ca, or my movie review blog, ReelConservative.com, then I've indicated that by making the title all caps and clickable. I've also included an entertainment rating. This is out of 10, and in my books a 7 is a solid mark, while 8 is something special, and 6 is still watchable but there is some notable flaw (maybe corny writing, or a bad bit of acting, that sort of thing). The only reason I've included a few films that rate as low as 6 is because they have educational value. One other note: none of these films and videos take God's name in vain. That's important. While a degree of violence and even sexual content of some sort (kissing, hugging) can be appropriate on screen, the way God's name is abused on film just isn't. More than a dozen of the films below have the tag "FREE ONLINE" and can be viewed for free by clicking on the link provided. ANIMATED VIDEOS (15) This mix of shorter videos (the longer ones are made up of several parts) can be ideal when mom wants to take a nap, but doesn't want the kids sitting in front of the TV forever. Anne of Green Gables, Vol. 1-3 – 2003, 150 minutes – 7/10 Adventures in Odyssey: The Knight Travelers – 1991, 27 minutes – 7/10 THE GRUFFALO  – 2009, 27 minutes – 8/10 Horton Hears a Who – 1970, 30 minutes – 7/10 JUNGLE BEAT – 65 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space – 1999, 30 minutes – 7/10 Lord of the Beans – 2005, 52 minutes – 7/10 Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride – 2014, 60 minutes – 7/10 The Pond – THERE'S SOMETHING FUNNY IN THE WATER – 2005, 27 minutes – 8/10 – The Little Things – 30 minutes – 7/10 – The Rise and Fall of Tony the Frog – 30 minutes – 7/10 – Alligator Hunter – 30 minutes – 7/10 – Big Mouth Bass – 32 minutes – 7/10 Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures – 1989-1995, 85 minutes –  7/10 THE WAY THINGS WORK – 2001, 300+ minutes – 8/10 ANIMATED FILMS (20) Looking for something good for a family "dinner and a movie" night? THE BOXCAR CHILDREN – 2013, 81 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN: SURPRISE ISLAND - 2018, 82 minutes – 6/10  Chicken Run – 2000, 84 minutes – 8/10 Curious George – 2006, 88 minutes – 8/10 Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle – 2015, 81 minutes – 7/10 CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY – 2019 / 86 minutes – 7/10 Finding Nemo – 2003, 100 minutes – 8/10 Fox and the Hound – 1981, 83 minutes – 8/10 LOST AND FOUND – 2013, 24 minutes – 8/10 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 1977, 74 minutes – 8/10 Meet the Robinsons – 2007, 95 minutes – 7/10 MINISCULE - 2014, 89 minutes – 7/10 Monsters Inc. – 2001, 93 minutes – 9/10 THE PEANUTS MOVIE – 2015, 88 minutes – 8/10 The Secret World of Arrietty – 2010, 95 minutes – 8/10 SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO - 2018, 84 minutes – 8/10 Tangled – 2010, 100 minutes – 9/10 Up – 2009, 96 minutes – 9/10 Wall-E – 2008, 98 minutes – 9/10 WINNIE THE POOH – 2011, 63 minutes – 8/10 BASED ON A BOOK (16) It's always hard to live up to the book, but some of these get awfully close! The Adventures of Robin Hood - 1938, 101 minutes – 8/10 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 1939, 82 minutes – 7/10 Animal Farm – 1954, 72 minutes – 7/10 THE GIVER – 2014, 97 minutes – 8/10 Ivanhoe – 1952, 107 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT – 1977, 77 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1979, 95 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – 2005, 125 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1949, 121 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1994, 118 minutes – 9/10 THE LORD OF THE RINGS – 1978, 133 minutes – 7/10 POLLYANNA – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 The Prince and the Pauper – 1937, 118 minutes – 8/10 Pride and Prejudice – 2004, 104 minutes – 8/10 Sarah Plain and Tall – 1990, 98 minutes – 8/10 SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS – 2016, 96 minutes – 7/10 SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – 1960, 126 minutes – 8/10 BLACK AND WHITE CLASSICS (14) These have all stood the test of time and are still being watched again and again. 12 Angry Men – 1957, 96 minutes – 8/10 THE AMAZING ADVENTURE – 1936, 62 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR – 1961, 96 minutes – 7/10 Adam's Rib – 1949, 101 minutes –  8/10 Citizen Kane – 1941, 119 minutes – 7/10 High Noon – 1952, 85 minutes – 9/10 I Remember Mama – 1948, 134 minutes – 7/10 It Should Happen to You – 1954, 87 minutes – 7/10 The Man in the White Suit – 1951, 85 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – 1962, 123 minutes – 8/10 Meet John Doe – 1941, 122 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Deed goes to Town – 1936, 115 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939, 129 minutes – 8/10 The Shop Around the Corner – 1949, 99 minutes – 9/10 BIOGRAPHICAL (21) Some of these are great, others only okay, but all are educational. Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace – 1999, 90 minutes – 7/10 THE CASE FOR CHRIST – 2017, 113 minutes – 7/10 C.S. LEWIS ONSTAGE – 2018, 76 minutes – 7/10 End of the Spear – 2006, 108 minutes – 7/10 Final Solution – 2001, 102 minutes – 7/10 God's Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale – 1988, 93 minutes – 6/10 GOSNELL: THE TRIAL OF AMERICA'S BIGGEST SERIAL KILLER – 2018, 93 minutes – 8/10 Hellen Keller – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 JOHN HUS: A JOURNEY OF NO RETURN – 2015, 55 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE LONG GOODBYE: THE KARA TIPPETTS STORY – 2019, 88 minutes - 10/10 Martin Luther – 1953, 105 minutes – 7/10 The Miracle Worker – 1962, 106 minutes – 9/10 THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS – 1957, 135 – 7/10 Torchlighters: – THE CORRIE TEN BOOM STORY – 2013, 34 minutes – 7/10 – THE JIM ELLIOT STORY – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 – THE MARTIN LUTHER STORY – 2106, 34 minutes – 7/10 – THE RICHARD WUMBRAND STORY – 2008, 30 minutes – 6/10 – THE WILLIAM TYNDALE STORY – 2005, 32 minutes – 6/10 TORTURED FOR CHRIST - 2018, 77 minutes - 8/10 UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION – 2018, 98 minutes – 8/10 THE WRIGHT BROTHERS – 1996, 27 minutes – 7/10 CHILDREN (17) This is fare for younger children – not a lot of tension here. And that means, while the kids will probably like it, mom and dad might not. The Adventures of Milo and Otis – 1989, 76 minutes – 7/10 Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures: – ALASKA – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10 – EXTREME CAVING – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10 – I DIG DINOSAURS – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – SWAMP MAN – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10 The Creation Adventure Team – A JURASSIC ARK MYSTERY – 2001, 45 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – SIX SHORT DAYS, ONE BIG ADVENTURE – 2002, 38 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Defense of New Haven – 2016, 82 minutes – 7/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I – 2006, 47 minutes – 7/10 Lassie Come Home – 1943, 90 minutes – 8/10 A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10 MISTY – 1961, 91 minutes – 7/10 THE NEWTONS' WORKSHOP – 1997, 226 minutes – 7/10 The Runner from Ravenshead - 2010, 81 minutes – 7/10 Tintin: Destination Moon – 1992, 83 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2016, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 ON CREATION, EVOLUTION AND DESIGN (18) Evidence of all sorts, to the genius of our Creator... ALIEN INTRUSION – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 DARWIN: THE VOYAGE THAT SHOOK THE WORLD – 2009, 55 minutes – 8/10 DRAGONS OR DINOSAURS? – 2010 / 84 minutes – 7/10 EVOLUTION'S ACHILLES' HEELS – 2014, 96 minutes – 9/10 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed – 2008, 95 minutes – 8/10 FLIGHT: THE GENIUS OF BIRDS – 2013, 63 minutes – 9/10 GENESIS: PARADISE LOST – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 Icons of Evolution – 2002, 52 minutes - 7/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFINE DESIGN – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 IS GENESIS HISTORY? – 2017, 100 minutes – 8/10 LIVING WATERS – 2015, 69 minutes – 8/10 Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies – 2011, 64 minutes – 8/10 MOUNT ST. HELENS: MODERN EVIDENCE FOR A WORLDWIDE FLOOD – 2012, 36 minutes – 7/10 NOAH'S ARK: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX – 2008, 35 minutes – 8/10 THE PRIVILEGED PLANET – 2005, 60 minutes – 8/10 REVOLUTIONARY – 2016, 60 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RIOT AND THE DANCE: EARTH – 2018, 83 minutes – 8/10 THE RIOT AND THE DANCE:WATER – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 DOCUMENTARIES (26) The very best documentaries pack books' worth of knowledge into a short hour or two. And these are just that sort. 180: FROM PRO-CHOICE TO PRO-LIFE IN SECONDS – 2011, 33 minutes – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE MURDERED HERE – 2014, 54 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE STILL MURDERED HERE - 2019, 102 minutes – 7/10 - FREE ONLINE THE BIBLE VS. THE BOOK OF MORMON – 2005, 66 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE CALVINIST - 2017, 89 minutes - 8/10 Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson – 2009, 93 minutes – 9/10 Cool It: Are We Saving the World or Just Burning Money? – 2010, 88 minutes – 8/10 CITIZENFOUR – 2014, 113 minutes – 7/10 DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER – 2008, 56 minutes – 7/10 EXPEDITION BIBLE: JERICHO UNEARTHED – 2010, 34 minutes – 8/10 THE FOOL – 2019, 65 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE THE FREE SPEECH APOCALYPSE – 2015, 89 minutes – 8/10 HOW TO ANSWER THE FOOL – 2013, 85 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE INDOCTRINATION – 2011, 102 minutes – 8/10 IRREPLACEABLE - WHAT IS FAMILY? – 2015, 104 minutes – 8/10 LOGIC ON FIRE – 2015, 102 minutes – 7/10 March of the Penguins – 2005, 80 minutes – 8/10 Microcosmos – 1996, 80 minutes – 8/10 THE NARNIA CODE – 2009, 59 minutes – 8/10 NOTES FROM THE TILT-A-WHIRL – 2011, 51 minutes – 10/10 THE PURSUIT – 2019, 77 minutes - 7/10 THE RECKONING – 2006, 96 minutes – 7/10 RESCUED: THE HEART OF ADOPTION – 2012, 62 minutes – 7/10 UNPLANNED – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 WAITING FOR SUPERMAN – 2010, 111 minutes – 8/10 WAIT TILL IT'S FREE – 2014, 82 minutes – 9/10 FAMILY FUN (18) These are films that mom and dad can enjoy too, but that does mean that some of them have action or drama that may be too intense for younger children. So be sure to research age-appropriateness. BEYOND THE MASK – 2015, 103 minutes – 8/10 BORN FREE - 1966, 95 minutes – 8/10 CITY OF EMBER – 2008, 95 minutes – 7/10 CONDORMAN – 1981, 90 minutes – 7/10 The Court Jester – 1956, 101 minutes – 8/10 Greyfriars Bobby – 1961, 87 minutes – 9/10 Hangman's Curse – 2003, 106 minutes – 8/10 Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates – 1962, 90  minutes – 7/10 Love's Long Journey – 2005, 88 minutes – 7/10 The Last Chance Detectives – 1994, 47 minutes – 7/10 Old Yeller – 1957, 84 minutes – 9/10 Overcomer – 2019, 119 minutes – 7/10 Seasons of the Heart – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D – 2005, 93 minutes – 7/10 STORM: LUTHER'S FORBIDDEN LETTER – 2017, 105 minutes – 7/10 THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND – 2007, 91 minutes – 7/10 Time Changer – 2002, 99 minutes – 7/10 Who is Simon Miller? – 2011, 85 minutes – 7/10 FOR MOM AND DAD (22) Films to enjoy with your better half...and sometimes the older kids too. 2081 – 2009, 25 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE ALLEGED – 2011, 93 minutes – 8/10 Anastasia – 1956, 105 minutes – 7/10 AUDACITY: LOVE CAN'T STAY SILENT – 2015, 50 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Caine Mutiny - 1954, 124 minutes – 7/10 COURAGEOUS – 2011, 129 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT TRILOGY – An Unexpected Journey – 2012, 169 minutes – 8/10 – The Desolation of Smaug – 2013, 161 minutes – 8/10 – The Battle of the Five Armies – 2014, 144 minutes – 7/10 I CAN ONLY IMAGINE - 2018, 110 minutes - 8/10 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – 2001-2003 – 10/10 LIKE DANDELION DUST – 2009, 104 minutes – 8/10 Rear Window – 1954, 112 minutes – 8/10 Roman Holiday – 1953, 118 minutes – 8/10 The Second Chance – 2006, 102 – 7/10 The Song – 2014, 116 minutes – 9/10 TO SAVE A LIFE – 2010, 120 minutes – 8/10 The Ultimate Gift – 2006, 114 minutes – 7/10 A Vow to Cherish – 1999, 84 minutes - 7/10 Woodlawn - 2016, 123 minutes - 8/10 BONUS #1 - SUPER SILENT FILMS (4) If you've never gotten into silent films, be sure to start with the comedies – there the overwrought acting just adds to the funny. And Buster Keaton is the best! The General – 1927, 80 minutes – 8/10 The Gold Rush – 1925, 96 minutes – 7/10 Seven Chances – 1925, 56 minutes – 8/10 SHERLOCK JR. – 1924, 44 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE BONUS #2 - WORLD WAR II FILMS MADE DURING WORLD WAR II (12) The very best World War II films were made during the war... BATAAN – 1943, 114 minutes – 8/10 CASABLANCA – 1943, 103 minutes – 10/10 DESPERATE JOURNEY – 1942, 107 minutes – 7/10 Destination Tokyo – 1944, 135 minutes – 8/10 FLYING TIGERS – 1942, 104 minutes - 7/10 THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 1940, 120 minutes – 7/10 Objective Burma! – 1945, 142 minutes – 7/10 Sahara – 1943, 98 minutes – 7/10 SEA HAWK – 1940, 127 minutes – 8/10 THE SILVER FLEET – 1943, 88 minutes – 7/10 They Were Expendable – 1945, 135 minutes – 7/10 To Be Or Not To Be – 1942, 99 minutes – 8/10 BONUS #3 - WORLD WAR II FILMS MADE AFTERWARDS ...though there were some good ones made afterward too. Decision Before Dawn – 1951, 119 minutes – 7/10 Twelve O'clock High – 1949 – 8/10 BONUS #4 - FOREIGN FILMS This is a chance to see a different slice of the world. Children of Heaven – 1997, 87 minutes – 7/10 NOT ONE LESS – 2000, 106 minutes – 7/10 The Story of the Weeping Camel – 2003, 87 minutes – 7/10 This post first appeared on www.ReelConservative.com....

Movie Reviews

4 fun family-friendly films

Don't know what to watch with the family tonight? If you have some younger children, here's four possibilities that might just fit the bill. (And you can find family film recommendations for a slightly older age group here.) Winnie the Pooh Animated / Children 63 min, 2011 Rating: 8/ 10 Our favorite silly little bear starts his newest adventure in bed, waking up only at the insistence of the narrator. Winnie-the-Pooh "has a Very Important Thing to Do" today, so he simply must get up! Once out of his little house Pooh proceeds to have a series of adventures. The first involves Tigger and a balloon, and the second, a fearsome beast (or as fearsome as a Pooh cartoon can be) named the Backson. The longest adventure of all is a search for Eeyore's tail... or for some substitute that could serve in that role. This is a gentle family-friendly gem. Disney has produced a score of Pooh films but this is the first since 1977's The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh to fully capture the charm of the books. Adventures remains the best of all the Pooh films, with this a very close second. One caution to note concerns the language, but happens after the films’ ten minutes of credits have run. There is one final, very short scene in which the word "gosh" is used twice. The other caution is about Pooh who is a little more self-absorbed and selfish than usual. As an example, when the group sets out to trap the Backson, Pooh is content to let his little friend Piglet do all the work while he supervises. Pooh's shallowness (including his obsession with honey) is the central "conflict" in the story, and one that parents should point out to their children – the "hero" of this little story is not being a good friend right here. Of course, Pooh does gets his priorities figured out by the end of the film. When faced with the choice of finally getting some honey, or bringing Eeyore his missing tale, Pooh chooses friend over food. The story concludes with Christopher Robin congratulating Pooh for the "Very Important Thing" he did today: "Instead of thinking of your tummy you thought of your friend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbFz--GCkOM   The Gruffalo Animated / Family 27 min / 2009 Rating: 8/10 How can a mouse meet up with a hungry fox, snake, and owl, and live to tell the tale? It helps that he has a monstrously big friend who is just about to meet him. And a fox, or a snake, or an owl, wouldn't dare eat a small mouse who has such a big friend! But...what if they found out what the mouse knows: "There's no such things as a Gruffalo"? Or is there? This short film, based on the book of the same name, is a clever tale about a mouse who thinks his way out of trouble. It is beautifully rendered, visually and musically, with the only concern being that everyone wants to turn this little mouse into a little morsel. So in our household the pause button had to be used a few times to calm some anxious viewers. For those under eight, especially if they don't watch much TV, there is a little bit of tension here. In fact, kids under three might find it just too scary. But it does all work out in the end, and reassuring any little ones of that might help them make it through. So, two thumbs up for this short, fun, and clever story. Who could ask for more? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVkj4McR1Fo Pollyanna Family 2003 / 99 minutes Rating: 8/10 Aside from a change of setting – from Vermont, to England – this is a faithful adaption of the source book (and far more so than the 1960s Disney version). Pollyanna is a poor but cheerful girl who, after becoming orphaned, is sent to live with her very rich, and very strait-laced aunt Polly. The two have very different ways of viewing the world, with the joyful Pollyanna seeing nothing but wonder, despite the losses she's faced, and aunt Polly seeing nothing but the problems, despite the riches that surround her. So whose worldview is going to win out? Is Pollyanna going to stop giving out hugs, or is her aunt Polly going to get over her reluctance to be touched? Something has to give! The only caution concerns one shocking/sad moment that will cause young viewers distress – Pollyanna gets seriously injured. It all happens in a flash, so nothing gory is shown, but our girls needed to be reassured that Pollyanna would recover. Young ladies are going to love this one, and I think young lads may even be up for it, with a little encouraging. And if mom and dad can get past the British accents, they, too, are sure to love this well-acted, authentic adaption of a timeless classic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI52WZqMA5w The Boxcar Children Animated / Children's 2013 / 81 minutes Rating: 7/10 The Boxcar Children is the first title in a popular and still expanding children's series of books. And just like the book, the film is about four children - three brothers and one sister - who have lost their parents, and have been told they will have to live with their grandfather. But Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny don't know their grandfather at all, and imagine that, because he never came to visit, he must be a cruel man. So they run away. The first part of the story is about how they get by, all on their own. It's when they find a long abandoned railway boxcar that things start looking up for them. Then the older brother can go into town to do odd jobs, and the other three can start setting up the boxcar as a real home for them. Of course it has a happy ending and I don't think I give away too much to say it involves their cruel grandfather not being cruel at all. The only cautions would concern language: in one instance a character says "holy mollie" and in another someone utters "oh my gosh" but that is the extent of it. There are also a few moments of tension – a chase scene early on – but this is quite a gentle movie. It’s something that kids will love, and parents won't mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TVLHl98y1E These reviews first appeared on ReelConservative.com where longer versions are available....

Movie Reviews

Martin at the movies

Torchlighters: The Martin Luther Story 2016 / 34 minutes The strength of this film is its short length. At just 34 minutes, it can be shown in the space of a single school period. For the pre-teens this is intended for, that might be just the right length, with the quick pace, and colorful animation sure to grab most students’ attention. But the biggest weakness of this short film is….its length. It is far too short to tell this story with the gravitas it needs – Luther’s spiritual wrestling is dealt with in just 7 minutes! It also ends abruptly, with Luther busy translating the Bible into German in Wartburg Castle. The narrator then spends just a single minute summing up the whole of the second half of Luther's life. And then the credits role. I should note a couple of inclusions that might have been better left out. Luther is told that the very night he nailed up his 95 Theses, his long-time protector, Duke Frederick, had a dream about a monk writing on a church door with a quill that was so long it extended all the way to Rome "where it toppled the crown off of a lion." This is presented as the reason Frederick was willing to defend his rebellious trouble-making monk: God had told him ahead of time that his monk was going to topple the pope. But while the movie portrays this as fact, there is reason to think this might just be a popular myth. Also, at the film's conclusion, there is a passing, two or three second shot of a title page illustration from one of Luther's books depicting Christ on the cross, with Luther and John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony kneeling below. I make mention of it, for any who consider this a violation of the Second Commandment. That said, this is a great film for children who don't yet have the attention span for a longer Luther film – it will certainly keep most children engaged, and does give a good overview. Check out the trailer below https://youtu.be/GPTazLGftJ8?t=16s   Martin Luther 1953 / 105 minutes What sort of film is Martin Luther? The sort that gets produced by a church, and yet gets nominated for an Oscar – solid theology paired with high production values. How often has that happened? It does get off to a slow start; the first couple of minutes are more documentary than drama. But when we get introduced to Niall MacGinnis as Luther, his brilliant portrayal sweeps us into the story. We follow along, starting with his tormented time in the monastery, and continue all the way through to his marriage to an ex-nun. MacGinnis captures all the contradictions of the man – even as the Reformer stands before the Diet of Worms strong and defiant he is distraught and trembling. This is certainly among the best Christian films ever made. As a caution I will note that while there is nothing graphic in the film (it is G-rated), some scenes are psychologically intense. I think that would just go over the heads of most children, but for some young sensitive sorts, Luther's spiritual turmoil might be too much. This is a black and white film, which is a mark against it in many minds. But if you're considering showing this to your class or to your family, here's the secret to helping them get into it: make the sound your priority! In a dialogue-driven film it's the sound, much more than the visuals, that really matters. I still remember watching this with my Grade 6 classmates, years ago. The screen was small – minuscule by today's standards – but this big box TV had great speakers. There was no fuzziness, no straining to understand what was being said – we could all follow it. And after 30 minutes or so, we were all hooked. There are quite a number of films about Martin Luther, with at least a half dozen dramas, and more than a dozen documentaries. The best known is probably the 2003 Luther that played in major theaters, and starred Joseph Fiennes (of Shakespeare in Love fame). It is a wonderful film (and in color!) but marred by an instance or two where God's name is taken in vain. As well, it focuses a little more on Luther's external struggles with the powers that be, and a little less on his own internal struggles. That makes for more action, but less of a theological focus – more about Martin, but God somehow fades into the background. So the 1953 Martin Luther is the better educational film. This would be great for a family movie night. I've seen kids as young as 7 enjoy it, though with younger children you're going to want to break it into a few "chunks" so it's spread out over two or three nights. But for those 12 and up, so long as they are "forced" to give it a half hour ("No, you can't check your smartphone while watching this") it will grab them and give them a good understanding of the amazing work God performed through this man. Watch the trailer below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqqplZ-JYQI  ...

Animated, Family, Movie Reviews

The Peanuts Movie

Animated 88 min/2015 RATING: 8/10 The comic strip Peanuts was always a little hit and miss for me. I liked Linus and Snoopy and PigPen and Marcie, but found it downright depressing when once again Lucy would get good ol' Charlie Brown to fall for her disappearing football trick. That’s why the film was so much better than expected: it has all of the strip's funny, minus the melancholy. Charlie Brown has his misfortunes, but he also has good friends – including a far more loyal version of Snoopy – to help pick him back up and push him to keep on trying. Cautions are minor, but parents might want to note that Charlie Brown is silly to obsess about a girl he has never even talked to. At one point he offers up what might be a one-line prayer, and if so his “Don’t I deserve a break?” plea shows that Charles is no Calvinist. Highlights include how (SPOILER ALERT) when the often lonely Charles has to choose between popularity and honesty, he doesn’t even hesitate before doing the right thing. This boy is a man of character. Our whole family enjoyed this, from two on up. A Charlie Brown who doesn't have to wait 50 years for a little happiness is a wonderful improvement on the original! ...