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Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Life's Story 2: the reason for the journey

Documentary 2006 / 107 minutes Rating: 6/10 This is the sequel to Life Story: the one that hasn't be told, and once again there's loads of gorgeous nature footage, and lots of fascinating information shared. There's ongoing commentary about how each animal's abilities show the impossibility of evolution. And the whole film is a Gospel presentation using the animals as illustrations of God's amazing handiwork, and their predatory abilities as evidence of a broken world. The documentary is divided into two roughly equal parts, with the first exploring life under the oceans. A strength of the film is how many different animals are covered, but a weakness might be that it goes so quickly from one to the next. We get to see the octopus's astonishing ability to camouflage right before we jump to the goatfish to learn about their special whiskers that serve as a tasting tongue and probing fingers. Then we're on to turtles and how they can navigate the vast distances of the ocean to lay their eggs back where they were first hatched themselves. And on it goes, for at least a dozen sea creatures. The second part starts off with monkeys, and touches on springboks, zebras, millipedes, elephants, rhinos and more. The anti-evolution commentary here focuses especially on the supposed link between monkey and Man. Caution The way the narrator describes evolution you'd have to conclude only small children and complete morons could ever fall for it. Evolution is foolish, but what this film doesn't acknowledge is that some very smart people hold to it, and the Devil is also quite clever, which means there's been some serious brainpower at work for a good long while now to come up with some creative just-so stories. And they can sound really good. The objections to evolution that the film raises are valid, but they aren't slam-dunks, mike-drops. As an evolutionary takedown, this is only good for the already convinced. One other caution would be if you're watching this with young children, there are a few brief shots of animals eating animals, and a second-or-two long clip of elephants mating, though shown from a distance (I don't think kids would even know what's going on, except that the narrator is talking about "reproduction" at the same time). Conclusion Life's Story 2 is at its best when it's highlighting cool bits of information about the various animals, and thankfully there is a lot of that. The reason this rates only a 6 out of 10 is because, as a nature film there's too much anti-evolutionary commentary, and as an evolutionary takedown there's too little. And what's said is too simplistic. However, for a younger audience, especially if this is their first exposure to evolutionary thought, Life's Story 2 might be the simplified introduction they need. So this could be a good one for a family movie night. And one big mark in its favor is you can watch it for free below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, RP App, Watch for free

Incredible Creatures That Define Design

Documentary 62 min / 2011 Rating: 7/10 The folks who brought us the 3-film series Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution are back, and with a fun new twist on the incredible design we can find in God's creation. This time they are looking into the field of biomimicry – this involves engineers applying the innovations and creativity they find in the natural world to help them solve challenges they face in the civilized world. So, for example, a fan manufacturer looking to make a more powerful, but quieter, model decided to look into the way that an owl can travel quickly but silently through the air. The closer they looked at the design of its wings, the more they found there was to learn and imitate! Other examples of brilliant design in creation that the documentary explores include: sticky burrs spirals found everywhere in nature the glue used by mussels the aerodynamics of the boxfish and the strange way that butterflies can give off such beautiful colors even though some have no pigment in their wings. In one instance after another, even as engineers use Nature as their inspiration, they're forced to admit that their best efforts can't match the genius they find there. CAUTIONS Unlike the Incredible Creations The Defy Evolution series, in this film God is never given the credit that is His due. Instead, this is more like an Intelligent Design presentation, in which the genius found in creation is celebrated, without any specific mention made of Who that Genius is. The only other caution concerns a scene in the section on mussel glue. Here we see a brief enactment of a man having a heart attack at a restaurant. He then presumably receives care using glue, rather than stitches. It's not all that shocking, but more so than anything else in the film, and might alarm some small children. CONCLUSION This is one that will most intrigue the science geeks among us. I think families with older kids – maybe 12 and up – could enjoy this together, particularly if they have watched documentaries together before. But it does require some knowledge to fully appreciate what's being explained – younger children simply won't know enough about aerodynamics, or about how loud fans can be, or what pigmentation is, to really appreciate how "Nature" – God! – has done it all so much better than even our best and brightest can do (even after being given an example to imitate). You can watch it below for free (with some commercial interruptions). ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Curious George

Animated / Family 86 min / 2006 Rating: 8/10 George is a monkey whose curiosity always gets the best of him. And in this, the first film and lead-in for the (fantastic!) TV series of the same name, that curiosity gets him his first meeting with the Man in the Yellow Hat, and then gets him transported from the jungle right across the ocean to the United States. And that’s only the start of the adventure! While many a children's animated film has humor that only an older audience will understand, there is no deeper level in this one. But mom and dad can appreciate the beauty. I first watched this with 5 other adults, and we all enjoyed it in large part because of the bright gorgeous visuals. In the TV show, we’re told repeatedly that “George is a monkey and he can do things that you can’t.” George can swing in trees and climb buildings, which we can’t, and he can also get into certain sorts of trouble and not actually be naughty, which we can’t do. For example, in one scene George paints the walls of an apartment with a jungle scene. He didn’t have permission. But as a monkey, he didn’t know he needed it, so it isn’t nearly the bad thing it would be if a person had done it. Parents can make the point the film misses: don’t imitate monkeys, even cute ones. Another caution: the Man in the Yellow Hat briefly talks a little evolution in his role as a museum guide. More notable: our “hero” agrees to go along with a lie that’ll trick the public into believing a 2-inch statue is actually 40 feet tall. Parents will need to hit the pause button to explain that the hero is failing the test here…and so much so that the villain of the film is the one protesting that lying is wrong! I’ll add one more caution even though it isn’t directly related to the film. If this gets your kids interested in Curious George books, parents should know the original stories, by H.A. Rey, often portray George as not simply curious but flat-out disobedient. That changes the nature of his hijinks from being simply a misunderstanding, to being rebellion. There are newer books based on the TV show that are good, but the originals have this nastier version of George that isn’t nearly as fun. While there are some cautions to consider, this is, overall, a gorgeous, gentle, sweet film that children will want to watch multiple times. Teens? Maybe not. But mom and dad won’t mind coming along for the ride, if only to appreciate the visual feast. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Free film: The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

Family / Drama 96 minutes; 2008 RATING: 6/10 In the summer of 1970 three boys develop a friendship with an elderly man, Jonathan Sperry, who teaches them about the necessity of living out, and spreading God’s Word. The first time I watched The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry I stopped about ten minutes in. The three principal child actors weren’t great –not horrible, but awkward enough to get in the way of the story. But when I shared my thoughts with a friend, he encouraged me to give it a longer watch, and appreciate it for what it had to offer. I'll say it did pick up a bit at the 15 or 16-minute mark. And it does have something else to offer - this is a “message film” that uses storytelling to teach Christian morals. The lessons the three boys learn from Mr. Sperry include: how important it is to share the Bible with everyone we know how we should look to older godly people to mentor us how a gentle word can turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1). how we should respond to bullies by using Matt. 5:38-42: “If your enemy takes a piece of your pizza, offer him two.” In a particularly illuminating conversation, Mr. Sperry teaches the boys that God’s love is evidenced in the Bible’s laws and restrictions. Mark: “The Lord is interested in the girls we like? Mr. Sperry: “Absolutely The Lord is interested in everything in our lives!” Albert: “Yeah, I know the Bible is always saying, don’t do this, don’t do that” Mr. Sperry: “I never look at it that way. Now the bible says not to steal. Would you like anyone stealing from you Mark? Mark: “No” Mr. Sperry: “Well, I guess that’s a pretty good thing, isn’t it?” This lacks some in “believability” – Mr. Sperry is a bit too nice, and the bully in the story has a change of heart that happens a bit too quickly – but there is a value to these sorts of "message" films when we take them for the parables they intended to be. Now, some of Mr. Sperry's lessons are forced but that'll make them easier for kids to catch. Others have Arminian overtones that parents should point out. But there's good fodder here for discussion. Viewers might be confused by the film's closing, which gives the impression that these were real people by noting what the boys grew up to be. But, as the opening of the film states, these are entirely fictional events. I'll also offer a spoiler because I think parents will appreciate the heads up that Mr. Sperry dies suddenly and unexpectantly near the film's end. That also teaches the boys an important lesson about God, but a harder lesson than the others. Overall, I'd give it a 5 out of 10 if it was just for the entertainment value, but I'm bumping it up one for the use parents can put it to. If you like this, the same director has a better "message" film called Time Changer. But this could make for a nice evening with younger kids to watch, hit the pause button, and discuss. Watch it for free below (with some commercial interruptions). ...

Articles, Movie Reviews, RP App

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 films and videos might we still watch? I've got some suggestions, and I've listed them under 10 categories, with 20 or more movie recommendations in most categories. 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. There's just one documentary included here, but you can find a whole bunch more in our list of "100+ documentaries that make learning a joy." 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 some 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 something about them that makes them valuable viewing – oftentimes their educational value. I'll note also, that a 7 for a children's film means that this target audience will think it a 7, and not adults. The same is true of a black-and-white classic. If you hate anything B&W, then you probably won't like one with a solid 7 rating (though maybe you'd be swayed by one with an 8, 9, or 10). 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 can be appropriate on screen, the way God's name is abused on film just isn't. More than 35 of the films below have the tag "FREE ONLINE" and can be viewed for free by clicking on the link provided. ANIMATED VIDEOS (11) This mix of shorter videos (whether standalone or TV series) 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 – 1991-2003, 27 min x 17 episodes – 7/10 Curious George – 2006-2021, 30 min x 170 episodes – 8/10 THE GRUFFALO  – 2009, 27 minutes – 8/10 Horton Hears a Who – 1970, 30 minutes – 7/10 JUNGLE BEAT – 537 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE LIFE AT THE POND – 2004-2009, 30 min x 5 episodes – 8/10 LOST AND FOUND – 2013, 24 minutes – 8/10 VEGGIETALES – only some are recommended – 7-8/10 Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures – 1989-1995, 85 minutes –  7/10 THE WAY THINGS WORK – 2001, 300+ minutes – 8/10 ANIMATED FILMS (25) It seems like cartoons used to be safe for kids, though boring for adults. Today, with the appearance of obscene animated fare like “South Park” and “Family Guy,” many cartoons are unsuitable for children, and for that matter, adults. But there has been a change for the better too – movies like “Curious George” and “Meet the Robinsons” show that some animated fare can keep the kids happy, and entertain their parents as well. AN AMERICAN TAIL – 1986, 87 minutes – 9/10 BALTO – 1995, 78 minutes – 7/10 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 Dory – 2016, 97 minutes – 7/10 Finding Nemo – 2003, 100 minutes – 8/10 Fox and the Hound – 1981, 83 minutes – 8/10 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 1977, 74 minutes – 8/10 Meet the Robinsons – 2007, 95 minutes – 8/10 MINISCULE - 2014, 89 minutes – 7/10 Monsters Inc. – 2001, 93 minutes – 9/10 Monsters University – 2013, 104 minutes – 8/10 PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE – 2021, 86 minutes  8/10 THE PEANUTS MOVIE – 2015, 88 minutes – 8/10 SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO - 2018, 84 minutes – 8/10 Tangled – 2010, 100 minutes – 9/10 TOY STORY 1, 2, 3, and 4 – 1995-2019, 81-103 minutes – 8/10 Up – 2009, 96 minutes – 9/10 Wall-E – 2008, 98 minutes – 9/10 WINNIE THE POOH – 2011, 63 minutes – 8/10 See also "The Secret World of Arrietty and Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa in Foreign Films. BASED ON A BOOK (25) It's always hard to live up to the book, but some of these get awfully close! 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – 1954, 127 minutes – 7/10 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 BOXCAR CHILDREN – 2013, 81 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN: SURPRISE ISLAND - 2018, 82 minutes – 6/10 THE GIVER – 2014, 97 minutes – 8/10 THE GOSPEL BLIMP - 1967, 38 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE 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 THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK – 1939, 113 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH – 1970, 89 minutes – 7/10 POLLYANNA – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – 2003, 104 minutes – 8/10 The Prince and the Pauper – 1937, 118 minutes – 8/10 Prince Caspian – 2008, 154 minutes – 8/10 Rascal – 1969, 85 minutes – 7/10 The Silver Chair – 1990, 155 minutes – 6/10 SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS – 2016, 96 minutes – 7/10 SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – 1960, 126 minutes – 8/10 BLACK AND WHITE CLASSICS (24) These have all stood the test of time and are still being watched again and again. 12 Angry Men – 1957, 96 minutes – 9/10 THE AMAZING ADVENTURE – 1936, 62 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR – 1961, 96 minutes – 8/10 Adam's Rib – 1949, 101 minutes –  8/10 CASABLANCA – 1943, 103 minutes – 10/10 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 – FREE ONLINE Mr. Deed goes to Town – 1936, 115 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939, 129 minutes – 8/10 SEA HAWK – 1940, 127 minutes – 8/10 THE SIGN OF ZORRO – 1958, 90 minutes – 8/10 The Shop Around the Corner – 1949, 99 minutes – 9/10 The Tin Star – 1957, 92 minutes – 7/10 As a subcategory here are a half dozen silent film selections. 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 GRANDMA'S BOY – 1922, 56 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Seven Chances – 1925, 56 minutes – 8/10 SHERLOCK JR. – 1924, 44 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Steamboat Bill, Jr. – 1928, 70 min – 7/10 BIOGRAPHICAL (26) Most of these are Christian biographies, and being true gives them a leg up on fictional Christian fare that too often concludes with “happily ever after” endings, more fairytales than our one truth faith. It’s simply a fact that here on earth bad things often happen to good, faithful Christians. I will also note that while many of these are great, others are merely okay (ranking only a 6), but are still included here because of their educational value. THE CASE FOR CHRIST – 2017, 113 minutes – 7/10 C.S. LEWIS ONSTAGE – 2018, 76 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE C.S. LEWIS: THE MOST RELUCTANT CONVERT – 2021, 93 minutes – 9/10 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 – FREE ONLINE GOSNELL: THE TRIAL OF AMERICA'S BIGGEST SERIAL KILLER – 2018, 93 minutes – 8/10 Hellen Keller – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY – 1950, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE JOHN HUS: A JOURNEY OF NO RETURN – 2015, 55 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE MARTIN LUTHER – 1953, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Miracle Worker – 1962, 106 minutes – 9/10 Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi years – 2022, 115 minutes – 7/10 THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS – 1957, 135 – 7/10 TORCHLIGHTERS: There are about 20 videos in the Torchlighter series, and our family has been impressed with the 10 we've watched, with the exception of St. Patrick. While legends abound, little firsthand material on Patrick's life exists, making it hard to separate fact from fiction. That difficulty should have been acknowledged. – THE CORRIE TEN BOOM STORY – 2013, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE ERIC LIDDELL STORY – 2007, 31 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE HARRIET TUBMAN STORY – 2018, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JIM ELLIOT STORY – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN BUNYAN STORY – 20o6, 30 minutes – 8/10 –FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN NEWTON STORY – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE MARTIN LUTHER STORY – 2106, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE RICHARD WUMBRAND STORY – 2008, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE WILLIAM TYNDALE STORY – 2005, 32 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE TORTURED FOR CHRIST - 2018, 77 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION – 2018, 98 minutes – 8/10 THE WRIGHT BROTHERS – 1996, 27 minutes – 7/10 CHILDREN (23) 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. Because children often watch their favorite videos repeatedly, even dozens of times, it’s all the more important to make sure what they do watch is the good stuff. The Adventures of Milo and Otis – 1989, 76 minutes – 7/10 BACK OF THE NET – 2019, 86 minutes – 7/10 BUDDY DAVIS' AMAZING ADVENTURES: – I Dig Dinosaurs – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – Swamp Man – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10 – Extreme Caving – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10 – Alaska – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10 – Ice Age – 2017, 25 minutes – 7/10 – Safari – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 THE CREATION ADVENTURE TEAM – 2001-2002, 40 min x 2 episodes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE DEFENSE OF NEW HAVEN – 2016, 82 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE HANS BRINKER OR THE SILVER SKATES – 1962, 90  minutes – 8/10 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 ODD SQUAD: THE MOVIE – 2016, 67 minutes – 7/10 PATTERNS OF EVIDENCE: YOUNG EXPLORERS – 2020, 190 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RUNNER FROM RAVENSHEAD – 2010, 81 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SPARKY CHRONICLES – 2003, 28 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE SPACE BUDDIES – 2009, 84 minutes – 7/10 Tintin: Destination Moon – 1992, 83 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2020, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 FAMILY FUN (27) These are films that mom and dad can also look forward to watching. But that does mean that some of them have action or drama that may be too intense for your youngest children. So be sure to research age-appropriateness. BABES IN TOYLAND – 1961, 105 minutes – 7/10 A BEAR CALLED WINNIE – 2004, 90 minutes – 7/10 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 DUDE PERFECT: BACKSTAGE PASS – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Emil and the Detectives – 1964, 98 minutes – 7/10 THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL – 1966, 110 minutes – 7/10 GOING TO THE MAT – 2004, 82 minutes – 8/10 Greyfriars Bobby – 1961, 92 minutes – 8/10 Hangman's Curse – 2003, 106 minutes – 8/10 THE HORSE IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT – 1968, 113 minutes – 7/10 THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY – 1963, 89 minutes – 8/10 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – 1952, 83 minutes – 7/10 The Last Chance Detectives – 1994, 50 min x 3 episodes – 7/10 Old Yeller – 1957, 84 minutes – 9/10 OVERCOMER – 2019, 119 minutes – 7/10 THE SECRETS OF JONATHAN SPERRY – 2008, 96 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D – 2005, 93 minutes – 7/10 STORM: LUTHER'S FORBIDDEN LETTER – 2017, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SWORD AND THE ROSE – 1953, 92 minutes – 7/10 THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND – 2007, 91 minutes – 7/10 TIME CHANGER – 2002, 99 minutes – 7/10 UNITARDS – 2010, 107 minutes – 8/10 Who is Simon Miller? – 2011, 85 minutes – 7/10 "HALLMARK-Y" (7) Before they got woke, Hallmark made a lot of films appreciated for being generally safe, if not great. Here's a few of their better efforts... or films that seem like they could be theirs. EXTRAORDINARY – 2017, 86 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE HIDDEN PLACES – 2005, 86 minutes – 6/10 Love's Long Journey – 2005, 88 minutes – 7/10 A ROYAL CHRISTMAS – 2014, 87 minutes – 7/10 Sarah Plain and Tall – 1990, 98 minutes – 8/10 Seasons of the Heart – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 The Ultimate Gift – 2006, 114 minutes – 7/10 FOR MOM AND DAD (17) There are films intended for an adult audience, movies and videos to enjoy with your better half...and sometimes with 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 FREEDOM – 2014, 94 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT TRILOGY – 2012-2014 – 7/10-8/10 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 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 A VOW TO CHERISH – 1999, 84 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE WOODLAWN - 2015, 123 minutes - 9/10 WAR FILMS (18) The Second World War might have been the first major conflict in which film could play a role, presenting stories intended to encourage those on the frontlines and at home. The most inspiring World War Two films show ordinary, average people doing extraordinary, heroic things (many of whom were our parents, grandparents or great grandparents, hiding Jews or otherwise put themselves at risk simply because they knew it had to be done). Many of the best World War II films were made during the war – they have a completely different feel, because no one at the time knew what the war’s outcome would be! BATAAN – 1943, 114 minutes – 8/10 Decision Before Dawn – 1951, 119 minutes – 7/10 DESPERATE JOURNEY – 1942, 107 minutes – 7/10 Destination Tokyo – 1944, 135 minutes – 8/10 Edge of Darkness – 1943, 119 minutes – 7/10 The Fighting Seabeas - 1944, 99 minutes – 7/10 FLYING TIGERS – 1942, 104 minutes - 7/10 THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 1940, 120 minutes – 7/10 Hail the Conquering Hero – 1944, 101 minutes – 7/10 Objective Burma! – 1945, 142 minutes – 7/10 Run Silent, Run Deep – 1958. 93 minutes – 7/10 Sahara – 1943, 98 minutes – 7/10 Sands of Iwo Jima – 1949, 100 minutes – 7/10 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 Twelve O'clock High – 1949, 132 minutes – 8/10 Why We Fight – 1942-45, 417 minutes – 7/10 See also Sgt. Stubby (Animated Films), Belle and Sebastian (Foreign Films), and Sea Hawk (Black and White Classics). BONUS - FOREIGN FILMS (8) Part of the pleasure of watching films set in foreign locales is that they provide a peek into unfamiliar cultures. Most of us will never be able to visit Mongolia or Iran but we can get an insight into the cultural life of those communities by watching their films. ANTBOY - DENMARK – 2013, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Belle and Sebastian – FRANCE – 2013, 99 minutes – 7/10 Children of Heaven – IRAN – 1997, 87 minutes – 7/10 LEO DA VINCI: MISSION MONA LISA – ITALY – 2020, 82 minutes – 8/10 NOT ONE LESS – CHINA – 2000, 106 minutes – 7/10 THE RED BALLOON – FRANCE – 1956, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY – JAPAN – 2010, 95 minutes – 8/10 The Story of the Weeping Camel – MONGOLIA – 2003, 87 minutes – 7/10 This post first appeared on www.ReelConservative.com. RP has also done an issue of the magazine on movies you can find here....

Family, Movie Reviews

Unitards

Family / Comedy 2010 / 107 minutes Rating: 8/10 The producers bill this as "High School Musical meets Napoleon Dynamite" but I'll have to take their word for it, not having seen either. I do know it is laugh-out-loud, tears-in-your-eyes funny in parts. When the vice principal charges Lewis Grady with building up school spirit, he decides to start a guys-only dance...thing (he isn't quite sure what it is, but he knows it isn't a dance team because that's what girls do). His two quirky friends are happy to help, even if they've got some misgivings about dancing in front of the whole student body. The three buddies bribe, beg, and bargain their way through the recruitment process, ending up with a group of a dozen or more. But it's one thing to get a group together, and another to get that group dancing together, especially when the guys have more than their share of left feet. But with a little help from mom and some friends on the school's award-winning girls' dance team, they start figuring things out. Right before their first public performance, Lewis rallies the troops with an inspirational speech that is comic gold. He reminds them of the dream most every student has had, of showing up to school in nothing but your underwear. "This is that day," he tells them: "The majority of the kids out there feel like they're showing up to school half-naked every day. Today is for the nobodies, for the average, I-don't-even-matter kids." Lewis wants his group to be an inspiration to the ordinary guys and girls out there in the audience, showing them you don't have to be awesome at something to do it, you just have to be willing to ignore the peer pressure and embrace the joy. The villain of the piece is the teacher who runs the girls' dance team. She thinks the boys are making a mockery of dance, and she wants them shut down, and she's used to getting her way. While that adds some drama to the story, this is mostly just goofy dance numbers, and quirky friends, showing how fun can be had when you ignore the mockers and set out to be encouragers. Cautions The biggest caution would just be the film's name. Unitards are a one-piece garment that dancers (especially ballet) often wear, but there is also an implicit, never made explicit, reference here to "tard," short for retard, with the joke being that any boys in a dance group are sure to have that word directed their way. It's in bad taste, but that it isn't made explicit makes it easier to overlook. While the dancing is modest by worldly standards, there is a lot of it, and it isn't the formal sort you might see in a "Pride and Prejudice" film. This is more the jump and bounce and shake and wiggle type of dancing toddlers through teens do. That includes some butt-wiggling moves that are a brief part of one or two of the dance productions. It's slightly sexually suggestive, but incidentally, rather than provocatively so. And when paired with the students' generally modest dress, it is quite tame. Conclusion Director Scott Featherstone combined elements of his own school experience with what his son Sam (who plays Lewis Grady) and friends were experiencing to come up with the script. Then he held auditions at his son's school to get all the actors. That's why the acting is solid enough, even though these are not professional actors. What they are is high school students playing high school students so it's not a stretch. And because the director and scriptwriter was a parent who knew the actors, some of these kids are almost certainly playing versions of themselves. What makes this worth watching is just how sweet it is. High school can be a tough time for many, and what we have here is a prescription for how your kids can make it better for others, and maybe themselves. Lewis Grady's friends poke fun, but they don't tear down. The guys do look goofy dancing, but they're also being brave, and some of the school's girls are smart enough to appreciate and encourage that bravery. This is high school as we wish it could have been, and would still like it to be for our kids: full of challenges, yes, but not full of naysayers, mockers, and killjoys. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Incredible Journey

Family 1963 / 80 minutes Rating: 8/10 What do Elsa and Anna, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Pollyanna, and even Huey, Duey and Louie all have in common? If you said, they'd all been featured in Disney films, you'd be right, but that's not the answer I was looking for. They all lack, and what many a children's story protagonist lacks is, parental supervision. Dead or otherwise departed parents are pretty common in children's fiction and films, and it isn't as nefarious as it might seem. Parents need to be out of the picture because otherwise the story would end before it even got going. How could Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and Susan have explored the wardrobe if they'd been back in London with mom and pop? Parents still home when the Cat in the Hat stops by? He'd never make it past the front door. And Jack and Jill would never have tumbled if their mom had been there to tell them: "You're not old enough to climb the cliff face– it's dangerous! How many times do I have to tell you to use the path on the other side of the hill?" In The Incredible Journey the parents are once again missing, but this time there is a twist: the Hunters aren't so much parents, as owners, and their "children" are two dogs and a cat. While the Hunters are heading to Oxford, where dad is going to teach for a semester, family friend John Longridge has volunteered to take care of their pets back at his own cabin, some 200 miles away. But then he leaves too, heading out on a long hunting trip, and entrusting the animals' care to his housekeeper Mrs. Oakes. Then, when the note he leaves her falls into the fireplace and gets burned up, she thinks he has the animals. The result: when the trio head out on their own, no one is missing them. Luath, a Yellow Labrador, is the leader of the group. He wants to go back to their family, and convinces the other two, Siamese Cat Tao, and Bodger, an English Bull Terrier, to start off with him. While Luath knows the right direction, he doesn't realize that home is more than 200 miles, and a mountain range, away. That's the set up for their incredible journey. On the way, they have to contend with hunger, whitewater, bears, a lynx, and, unfortunately for Luath, a porcupine! Cautions The big caution here would concern the tension. At one point it seems like that cat has been swept away by the river to her death, and the two dogs are left mourning. The only way my kids could get past that was with the reassurance that the dogs were wrong and the cat would actually be okay. Conclusion There's a 1993 remake, where the animals are voiced by big-name celebrities. I like this version better, where a narrator explains what's going on in the different animals' minds. It's a more realistic approach, almost akin to a nature documentary, where we're observing something that could really have happened. Despite what you might read elsewhere, this didn't happen – it is not based on a true story. There's been some confusion on that point because the author of the book that inspired the film said the pets were based on her own – they are based on true pets – but her pets never went on any such journey. What makes this such a wonderful film is the loyalty the animals have for one another. Bodger is old, and a drag on the group, but that only means that he gets to set the pace – Tao and Luath would never think of leaving him behind. Our whole family, from 8 on up really enjoyed it. The appeal for the kids is the pets – our girls love pretty much any story with dogs or cats in it – while the appeal for the adults was the uniqueness of it. This is an old-school Disney film, so it was easy to predict that everything would turn out fine in the end, but these animals took us on quite the journey with twists and turns that weren't so easy to predict. And that sure was fun! ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Odd Squad: The movie

Children's / Family 65 minutes / 2016 Rating: 7/10 Odd Squad is an organization founded to correct the "strange, the weird, and most especially the odd" wherever they might occur around the world. The organization itself is odd in that it is run entirely by children. While there's an educational vibe, with basic math and logic used to solve most problems, this is all about the fun, and not just for the kids. In a nod to James Bond, there are agents, cartoonish villains, gadgets galore, the science types who invent them, and a leader known only by her letter, "Miss O." But, thankfully, there isn't any of Bond's violence and sex. Odd Squad, the TV show, has been in production for 8 years, which has resulted in child actors aging out of their roles. So since 2014, there have been three "seasons," each with its own set of agents. Odd Squad: The Movie involves the first and second sets teaming up for the first time (which was very exciting for our girls). So who do they have to battle? Well, it turns out, nobody. A new rival adult-based agency, the Weird Team, is also dealing with all things weird and odd, and fixing things so quickly that Odd Squad doesn't have any cases to solve. So the film begins with Odd Squad disbanding. How's that for an unexpected twist! However, Weird Team may not be quite as effective as they first seemed. Their fixes are coming unfixed... or maybe they were never really fixed in the first place! Whatever the case may be, it's clear the world still needs Odd Squad. Cautions There aren't any notable cautions for the film, so the only quibbles would be about the TV show that spawned it. In the 20 or so episodes we've watched so far (out of more than 100) one dealt with the number 13 and bad luck. The story was actually about addition – they were finding all sorts of ways that basketball players' uniforms could add up to 13 – and the bad luck was of a goofy sort. Still, we hit the pause button so we could discuss the idea of luck with our kids. In a couple of other episodes, there was passing mention made about the organization being around for millions of years, which presumes the evolutionary time scale. But, so far, that's really it. Conclusion The film is goofy and creative, and especially fun because it had the two teams working together. While the target audience is in the 6-10 age range, it'll be a great one for a family movie night. You can watch the movie trailer below, and to get a feel for Odd Squad you can watch a full episode from the show by clicking here). ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Sword and the Rose

Family / Drama 1953 / 92 minutes Rating 7/10 When I first found this film and read in the description that the hero was Mary Tudor, that was too much for me. Mary Tudor was a Roman Catholic queen of England in the year 1553 to 1558 who gained her nickname, Bloody Mary, for her vicious persecution of the Protestant Church. This was the Hollywoodization of history gone too far, and I had no interest in watching a film about her romantic life. But then I realized that this Mary Tudor wasn't that Mary Tudor. This film was about the sister of Henry VIII, rather his devilish daughter. And so I took a look. As the sister to the king, Mary has some gumption, and is much admired by all the young men of the court. But as the sister to the king, her marriage prospects are tied up with her brother's political machinations, and there's no advantage to him, to marry her off to an Englishman. He wants her to marry the aged King of France. She, however, is a very stubborn lady, so it's an open question as to whether she'll do as he says. It's only when she falls in love with the Captain of the Guard, and tries to sail off to the New World with him, that the king gains the upper hand. The couple is caught, and her knight in shining armor is going to be hung for treason... unless she submits to her brother's wishes and marries the French king. There are some exciting twists and turns in the plot that I won't give away, but I will note there is, ultimately, a happy ending for all. Cautions The broad outlines of the story are based on history, and if that is how the film is enjoyed – as very loosely based on a true story – then it is quite a tale. But for those who are more concerned with accuracy, they may object to Henry VIII being portrayed as a rascal more than a rogue, or to the unsympathetic portrayal of his first queen, Catherine of Aragon, who was later treated shamefully by him. There are some sword fights, but this is an old-fashioned Disney film so there is no blood or gore. Conclusion Our whole family quite enjoyed it, though our youngest, at 7, needed the film to be paused at times, so we could explain the historical context of what was going on. (She didn't get how a brother could decide for a woman who she would marry.) This is a "Disneyfied" version of history, and that is both its strength and weakness, suitable for all ages, but kinder and gentler than the events really were. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Fighting Prince of Donegal

Drama / Family 1966 / 110 minutes Rating: 7/10 Halfway through The Fighting Prince, I figured out why I was enjoying this so much, and why it was also so familiar: this is Robin Hood, but with Irish accents! Irish prince Hugh O'Donnell takes the Robin role as leader of a rebellious and yet righteous band, alpha males every one of them, but willing to unite under this one man. Like Robin, Hugh's dispute isn't so much with the English crown, as with those who have usurped the crown's power. As the newly installed Prince of Donegal, Hugh offers a treaty to the English Queen, but the local English representative, Captain Leeds – in a Prince John/Sheriff of Nottingham role – won't even pass it along. Instead, he imprisons Hugh. And when Hugh escapes (he's a clever one... just like a certain famous bowman) Leeds occupies the O'Donnell castle and holds Hugh's mother hostage. Holding a man's mom hostage? How low can you go? Of course, that only sets the scene for the hero to make his triumphant return. Cautions If historical accuracy matters to you, then this is not a film for you. As near as I can figure the only resemblance this has to actual events is that they got some key names right. But this is as accurate an account of Irish history as Robin Hood is of England history. This is very tame, despite the many sword fights, with more people punched out than stabbed. Still, stabbings do occur at least a couple of times, and we also see a dozen or so soldiers get hit by arrows, though all of this is entirely bloodless. However, for small children, it might be too much. Conclusion I had never heard of this film before watching it and didn't know what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised. I'd have probably given it an 8, except that it starts a little slow. But so long as you give it 10 minutes this is a film that everyone in the family, ten and up, will really enjoy. You can check out a scene from The Fighting Prince below. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Torchlighters: the Eric Liddell Story

Animated / Family 2007 / 31 minutes Rating: 6/10 Eric Liddell is best known for the stand he took to not compete in the 1924 Olympic 100-meter race. He was among the United Kingdom's best chances at a medal, but he didn't want to run because doing so would require him to run in a heat on Sunday. Despite enormous pressure to compromise for the sake of his country, he still refused, pointing to the 4th Commandment's call to "remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy." His country was important to him, but it came a distant second to his God. Eventually, a different sort of compromise was struck, which had Liddell run in the 200 and 400-meter races instead, winning a bronze and a gold. His firm convictions, and his outstanding athletic performances, were the subject of the 1981 film (and Oscar winner for Best Picture) Chariots of Fire. However, Hollywood indulged in a bit of artistic license. They made it seem as if Liddell only found out about the Sunday heat on the boat ride to the Paris Olympics, but the truth, as shown much more accurately in this animated video, is that Liddell knew months before. While both film and video cover Eric-the-athlete, this video covers his later years too, as Eric-the-missionary. Liddell was born in China, to Scottish missionary parents, and while educated in Scotland, actually spent most of his life in China. He returned there after the Olympics, serving as a missionary from 1925, until 1943, which is when the Japanese invaded. He could have fled, and he did send his family away, but Liddell stayed to continue telling the Chinese about God. That cost him, as he ended up in a Japanese internment camp, but even there he remained a faithful witness until his death in 1945, likely due to a brain tumor. Cautions This would have gotten at least a 7/10 if not for the choice the creators made to have Chinese characters speak broken and stilted English – their inarticulate language skills make them look a little dumb. Liddell was raised in China, which means his Mandarin was likely excellent, and for important conversations, they likely would have all used the language they all knew well, and his Chinese friends could have been shown speaking clearly and articulately in their native language. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they were all trying to learn English, and so that's the language they all spoke all the time, some better, and many worse. But I doubt it, and that's why I knocked a star off what is otherwise a solid account of a faithful and fascinating man. Also, as noted earlier, Liddell does die in a Japanese camp, and while that is not depicted, if you have some sensitive younger souls, you might want to give them a heads up early on, so that ending doesn't come as a shock. Conclusion This is more educational than entertaining, but I think families could enjoy watching this together – that it is a true story does make it compelling. To say it another way, this might not be the sort of video your kids will ask mom and dad to put on, but if you start it going, and the whole family is watching together, I don't think there will be many complaints. So sit back and be inspired by a man who knew that God was worthy of all honor, and most certainly came before fame and before his own safety. You can watch The Eric Liddell Story for free below, with commercial interruptions. For an ad-free presentation, you can sign up, also for free, at RedeemTV.com. ...

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Sparky Chronicles: The Map

Family / Children's 28 min / 2003 Rating: 7/10 When their beloved Sparky is dognapped by the infamous international criminal known only as "The Clip," three college-age friends – Ethan, Jeffrey, and Christina – vow to find their pooch, no matter how long it takes. We join up with the search three years in – that's 21 doggy years! – and despite a Volkswagon van full of advanced tracking technology they still seem no closer to finding their four-legged buddy. Sparky Chronicles is a Christian spy spoof, with sting operations, tranquilizer darts, explosions, and one chase scene after another. These aren't high-speed chases, mind you – and at one point the villain gets away by walking at a brisk trot – but that's the point. The pounding music, the quick cuts between the determined pursuers and their frantic prey, and then the shots of the speedometer needle slowly edging past 35: as spoofs go, they're pretty much nailing it. So what makes this tweenish tale a Christian one? Well, during their long fruitless search the three friends come to realize it would be really helpful if they had some sort of guide to help them know which way to go. And when they happen upon a map that The Clip has left behind, Christina makes mention of how the Bible is the same sort of thing for life: a guide that tells us what's right and true. That's the lesson being taught, but unlike what happens in many a Christian production, this is an almost subtle presentation. Sure, they explicitly spell it out, but they don't beat kids over the head with it. I'd recommend this for tweens, but younger kids might enjoy it too. And while this isn't going to be mom and dad's favorite, it'll be more interesting for them than some other children's fare. The only real downside is that while things are set up for a sequel, there isn't one. You can watch it for free below, with some commercial interruptions. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates

Family 90 min / 1962 Rating: 8/10 When Hans’ father is hurt repairing a dike, young Hans drops out of school to take care of his family. But the Netherlands in the 1860’s were a hard place to find work and try as he might Hans can’t find enough work to pay for both his family’s food and the medicine his father needs. He is fast though, and when he hears that the prize for the annual 26-mile skating race is 300 guilders, both he and his sister Gretel enter in the hopes of winning the money his family and father so desperately need. Like the book that it is based on, this is a non-Dutch look at the Netherlands, and that comes out most noticeably in the accents, which are Scandinavian rather than Dutch. (The book’s American author Mary Mapes Dodge did her research, but mistakenly gave her characters German-sounding names rather than Dutch). But overall, this is a great family film, showing how we should love our neighbors in need. It’s also a wonderful sports movie without the typical sports movie ending. But be sure you get the 1962 film, as there is also a shorter, black and white, 1958 version that it is often confused with....

Family, Movie Reviews

Jack and the Beanstalk

Children's 1952 / 83 minutes Rating: 7/10 Bud Abbott and Lou Costello star in their own version of this classic tale. The story begins with the desperate-for-work pair signing up for a night's work as last-minute babysitters. We get to the fairy-tale part when Costello asks the boy they are sitting to read him a story. Then, when we shift from the real world to the fairy tale, the film switches over from a sepia-toned black and white to full color, like happens in The Wizard of Oz. And also like Oz, the people populating this fairyland look awfully familiar. While the story continues on in the usual way, there are some wrinkles, including Jack (Costello) getting a buddy to come along for the adventure – Abbott is the village butcher who wants to retrieve his stolen cow. A princess and prince are two more addition, both of them kidnapped by the giant and held for ransom. This is the romantic angle, the two of them starting as strangers, unable to see each other in their adjoining cells, but falling in love as they talk and sing to one another through the bars. When we meet the villain of the piece, parents might be surprised to see that he's only 7 or 8 feet tall – big, sure, but are we calling that a giant? But that only shows this is intended for children, more than families. Sure, mom and dad can come along for the ride, and they'll like lots of bits of it too, but this is meant for the undiscerning younger viewer who isn't going to find fault with a short giant, a singing harp whose lips don't move, or duels done with bending rubber swords. They'll laugh the first, second, and third time that Jack trips or gets bonked on the head, even as mom and dad will get their main enjoyment vicariously, watching their kids. I should mention one joke that parents will have to explain. At one point Costello inadvertently mixes some gunpowder into the chicken feed, and while I won't give away what happens, kids who have never seen a powder horn will have to be clued into what just happened if they are going to get the joke. Cautions A minor caution would be that the boy they are babysitting is uppity...but mom and dad can point that out. The main caution is with the physical humor. The fights with the giant are all played to comic effect, and I think today's kids will get that. The only scene I found off-putting was in the black and white conclusion, where Abbott slaps Costello for sleeping on the job. Costello seems to feel no ill effects, but I mention it only because it happened in the "real" world and isn't the kind of thing you'd see in today's children's films – this is the slap in slapstick, and it just struck me as mean, not funny. Conclusion This is a good film for the kids, but in need of some parental guidance because of the slapstick. For the parents, it is a little slow, and a little too silly, but still enjoyable overall. The film's copyright has expired which has allowed all sorts of publishers to put out their own tweaked versions. That means you kind find copies that are entirely black and white, and the different versions vary in length from 78 to 83 minutes. So be sure you find a good one. You can watch Jack and the Beanstalk in low resolution for free down below, but better quality versions are widely available on all sorts of streaming services. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Babes in Toyland

Family /Musical 1961 / 105 minutes Rating: 7/10 Babes in Toyland stars all your children's nursery rhyme favorites. There's Little Jack Horner, Simple Simon and the pieman, Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep and her sheep, and of course, Mother Goose herself. That might make this the perfect way to introduce your little ones to the musical genre. Our story begins with preparations for a wedding. Tom (as in, "Tom, Tom, the Piper's son") and Mary (quite contrary) are going to get married and the whole village is so excited they just have to dance and sing! There has to be a villain, of course, and the black-hatted, black-caped, black-elevator-shoe-clad Barnaby Barnacle is such an over-the-top meanie that only the youngest of children might be scared by him. He knows something Mary doesn't – that when Mary is married, she's going to inherit a large sum, so Barnaby wants to marry Mary, instead of Tom! To that end, he hires two henchmen – the very large Gonzorgo, and the entirely silent Roderigo – to, first, kidnap Tom and throw him into the sea, and then steal Mary's sheep so that, impoverished and alone, she'll be forced to marry Barnaby. Crooks that they are, the two henchmen instead sell Tom to the gypsies so as to get paid twice. And that sets the scene for Tom's eventual return. But there are still sheep to recover, and that leads to an almost "second chapter" for the film where Tom and Mary head into the ominous "Forest of no Return" to search for the sheep. There they find "the Toyman" who is a Santa-like figure, making toys for girls and boys. Further hijinks ensue, with Barnaby still trying to marry Mary, but this time using all sorts of toys and gadgets from the Toyman's workshop to try to put an end to Tom. When he gets his hands on a shrinking ray he thinks he can finally cut Tom down to size. It turns out, though, that even pipsqueak Tom, with the help of a toy army, is more than a match for Barnaby! Cautions Not much to note here: the talking trees in the Forest of No-Return were the only truly scary characters for my sensitive 7-year-old, and it helped to assure her that they turn out to be not so bad after all. Also, Tom briefly plays the part of a gypsy fortune-teller, and that might have been problematic if it wasn't all just a prank on Barnaby. Conclusion The acting is over-the-top and the characters are all from nursery rhymes so the target audience is clearly children. But there's so much color and energy and action that older kids and parents will enjoy it too. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Sign of Zorro

Family / Drama 1958 / 90 minutes Rating: 8/10 Is Zorro a Spanish version of Robin Hood? The Spanish California of the 1800s stands in for medieval Sherwood Forest, but both men are outlaws who rescue the oppressed, and both frustrate the local tyrannical authorities even as they remain loyal subjects to their king. There's also a dose of Scarlett Pimpernel, with the young Don Diego disguising himself as a fool, an academic with his nose buried so deeps in his books, that no one would ever suspect him of being the brave and brilliant Zorro. As the story begins, Diego has been away in Spain for three years, studying at university. Now he's on his way home, summoned by his father because a new Commandant is making life miserable for poor and wealthy alike. It's on the long sea-voyage back that Diego decides to play the part of absent-minded egghead. He commits to the charade, staying in character even when meeting his own father, who is disappointed to find that the son he'd summoned is no man of action, but a foppish fool! Only Diego's loyal manservant Bernardo knows different. There is a lot going on in this film and it's all great fun. We have a mute pretending to be deaf, a hero pretending to be a fool, a villain impersonating the hero, and a tyrannical commandant who might be despicable, but he isn't stupid. And Diego, while playing his eggheaded academic part, has to figure out how to survive a swordfight without giving away that he does actually know which is the pointy end! Cautions I'll note that while there is violence – a whole lot of sword fighting! – no blood is shown and no one dies. The other caution concerns a couple of Spanish dancing scenes, where one dancer swishes around her dress such that we can see a few flashes of her underwear. However, any immodesty here is comparable to what would be shown by a grandmotherly bathing suit. More off-putting is the dance itself. It is not graceful or beautiful, but almost violent, with the dancer whipping her long dress back and forth so aggressively she could put out an eye! The men at the local pub are clearly meant to find this alluring, but I am mystified as to why. Conclusion This is one the whole family could enjoy. It is black and white, which might make some younger viewers skeptical, but if you can get them to commit to watching for 15 minutes, it's sure to grab and keep their attention. I can't imagine too many kids – at least those who have watched TV at all – finding this too scary. Zorro could be fodder for some good family discussions about what it means to live in submission to the proper authorities. When Diego defies the local corrupt Commandant, is he doing so in defiance of authority, or in submission to a greater authority? However, it isn't simply the educational possibilities that make this a great film; The Sign of Zorro is a classic worthy of the label, with enough action, twists, and turns, for two films!  ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Lost and Found

Animated / Family 24 minutes / 2013 Rating: 8/10 This short film made my girls cry and that's okay. It is a classic boy meets penguin tale, a tale of loneliness felt, and friendship found, and a beautiful tale throughout. This is what made my girls cry – the beauty of it – and that gave mom and dad an opportunity to explain to these two little misses that crying is not always linked to sadness, and that beauty can indeed by tear-inducing and then it is something, strangely enough, to be enjoyed. This lesson wasn't entirely lost on them and also not entirely understood but it was a good first exposure to this curious truth. The story itself is simple. Lost penguin arrives on boy's doorstep. Boy briefly tries to get others to help penguin, but then decides to do it himself. He builds boat and rows to the Antarctic, where he then drops off the penguin and heads back home, only to realize that the penguin wasn't lost after all, but had shown up at his house because he was lonely. Boy returns to the Antarctic, penguin hops in boat, and the two head together for what looks like the beginning of a wonderful friendship. The only caution would be that a storm scene may be a bit scary for the under 6 set. Our whole family loved it. I would recommend it for anyone 6 to 106. You can stream it – rent or buy – from Amazon (or ask your public library to pick up a DVD copy). ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Two Martin Luther animated shorts

If you're looking for some longer Martin Luther-related films, check out our "Martin at the movies" post on three films that are all currently available for free online. But for something shorter, here are two kid-friendly Martin Luther shorts. The Story of Martin Luther (5 minutes) The very clever Playmobil animation is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian. And if you want to see how this film was made you can with this 5-minutes behind the scenes peek. Martin Luther - The Animated Movie (11 minutes) If you have any friends in or from France, Quebec, or Sweden, this is also available in French and Swedish....

Documentary, Family, Movie Reviews

A Lego brickumentary

Documentary 93 minutes / 2015 Rating: 7/10 If you have kids who are too young to watch anything with tension then that limits your viewing options. Yes, there are lots of shows they can watch, but very few that mommy or daddy will want to sit through too (I can feel my brain cells dying whenever Daniel the Tiger is turned on). But here's something different: a documentary the whole family can enjoy. The basic building blocks of the Lego story are simple. The Denmark-based company has been making these little bricks for 65+ years. They got off to a rocky start, with the first three factories getting burned down, and in the late 1990s lost their way as they started producing sets that had more and more specialized pieces and less and less actual building involved. The buying public didn't like this new direction, and sales took a plunge. But this shocked the company straight, and they returned to what made them great: selling a simple toy whose infinite combinations sparked the imagination. The film itself is a hagiography of sorts, looking at the company with the wide-open eyes of a fan. This is sure to get your kids building, but the target audience for the film is as much adults and children. In fact, the majority of the builders we're introduced to are adults, including both the "master builders" who work for the company, and the legions of AFOLs – Adult Fans Of Lego – who craft their own creations and show them off online and at Lego conventions. These creations are astonishing, including a full-size X-wing fighter (from Star Wars) and reproductions of classic artworks like the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo's David. CAUTIONS The only cautions for this G-rated film I can come up with is that there are about 10 to 20 seconds of evolutionary nonsense, accompanied by a depiction of primordial life emerging from the sea and turning into man (primordial Lego life turning into a Lego man). There is also a short 5 second clip Lego mini-figure recreation of the shower murder scene from the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. That sounds worse than it is - in both cases my kids didn't even catch what was going on. I'll also add that while there is a role for adults to play Lego with their kids, the obsession shown by the the AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) was disconcerting. Hobbies can be fun, but God calls Christians to balance, and any hobby that takes over your life is not a healthy one. Instead of encouraging our young men to hold on to their childhood we should be preparing them to put off childish things (1 Cor. 13:11). So Mom or Dad might want to raise the issues of balance and maturity after watching this. CONCLUSION A Lego Brickumentary is a fun film for the whole family. I liked it because I could watch something entertaining and kind of educational without worry about my children being traumatized. Our kids liked it because it was inspiring and the host, a Lego mini-figure, is charming and often funny. So far we've watched it twice, and I could see us watching it again, so if you can get it for a good price, this might be a documentary worth owning. Otherwise, it makes for a great streaming rental, or might well be at your local library. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Space Buddies

Children's film 2009 / 84 minutes RATING: 7/10 If the sequel is never as good as the original, then what kind of expectation should we have for this, the eighth in the Air Bud film series? They should be low...if you're an adult. But my 6-year-old was laughing out loud! In this adventure five puppies end up stowed away on an incredibly advanced spaceship – so sophisticated even a dog could fly it – but which is short on fuel. To get back home they have to refuel at a Russian space station where they befriend a Russian dog, Sputnik, and have to contend with a crazy cosmonaut. The pups are the offspring of Air Bud, the dog that started it all back in 1997 when he showed some surprising skills on the basketball court. In the four Air Bud films that followed the star was incredibly clever, tackling a different sport each time, but he was still a pet, not a person. However, the old dog learned a new trick in the Air Buddies spin offs – now everybody and their dog can talk. If you read any other reviews you'll find the critics groaning at the pups' stock personalities: the only girl, Rosebud, likes pink, Budderball never stops eating, Mudbud always gets dirty, B-dawg is a rapper, and Buddha is a peacenik. But the critics aren't six-years-old. Sure these are cardboard cutouts, but that simplicity makes them easy to tell apart, and easy to understand for the preschool-aged target audience. Cautions The only notable concern would be a handful of dog fart jokes, one of which you can see in the trailer below. Conclusion This is not a film mom and dad are going to love but they likely won't mind it either. And if you have kids aged 5-8 who find most movies frightening, what might make this a treat is that it has some tension – there is a bad guy – but it isn't too scary. And then five cute puppy stars only add to the fun! I've taken a peek at the other Buddies films, and this strikes me as the very best of the batch. That's why, even though our youngest really enjoyed it, I've concluded this one is enough for us. ...

Animated

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? There is a sequel, The Gruffalo's Child, about the title character heading off to search for the "big bad mouse" that so terrified his father. But it loses the charm of the original because now it is a father who lies to his child, rather than, as in the original, a mouse lying to predators. While we can justify lying to predators it is quite another thing for a parent to lie to their child. Also, the moody music, and the uncertainty about who we should be cheering for (the Gruffalo child, all on his lonesome searching through the woods, or the mouse that he is, basically, hunting?) make this one a good bit scarier than the original. That's why our family is going to give it a miss. ...

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