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Family, Movie Reviews

The Wild Brothers: 8-episode DVD series (+ free vlog series)

Reality / Documentary Each episode is 28-30 min / 2015-2016 Rating: 7/10 Everyone in our family enjoyed this DVD series, from our 2-year-old all the way up to mom and dad. At series start, the Wild family lives in the deep jungles of Papua, Indonesia, where dad is a missionary to the Wanu tribe. The four Wild brothers are the sort of boys who collect pets in their pockets, and who love to explore the jungle with a butterfly net in one hand and a slingshot in the other. In their first adventure, titled Welcome to our World, we get introduced to the family, and the boys introduce us to God’s creation. We go hunting with them, we’re introduced to their best friend, a native Indonesian child named Pu, and we get to watch their facial expressions as Pu introduces them to a local delicacy, raw echidna brain. A fun extra is the boys skinning a ten-foot python that even after it has been dead for an hour is still moving! The second in the series, called Jewels of the Jungle, follows the family as they go butterfly and moth-hunting. Our girls wanted to buy butterfly nets of their own after that one. Then in the third, Paradise Lost, the family is on vacation with another missionary couple, the Browns, and their three girls. My own girls love this series even though it is all about boys, but I think they appreciated how the girl-to-boy ratio was upped for this adventure. The two families head from the inland missions to on the coast of a beautiful island. From this home base they head out each day to explore reefs and bays and check out sea turtles, manta rays, and sea snakes and so many gorgeous fish. Some misadventures also occur, some painful, like mom getting stung by a jellyfish, and some hilarious, like the boys contending with a large snake (8-12 feet long) that decided to take up residence in their cabin roof. As they do in each episode, the boys bring a solid Christian perspective to their exploration: when they come across an old bone deposit – a burial grounds where skulls are haphazardly stacked by each other – they take the opportunity to talk about how despite the beauty of this world, it is still fallen, and waiting for restoration. There are five other episodes, and each is just as interesting as the next. The only disappointment is maybe in the way the series concludes. In the last two episodes they are make preparations to sail across the ocean in a giant canoe. It is fascinating, as they carve the boat out with local help, and point out parallels to what Noah had to do. But because this is real life, and because in real life sometimes plans get upended, the finale doesn't end on the triumphant note we might have wished for. Cautions There are no cautions to note. While it isn’t clear what denominational background the family is from, the Christian reflections the boys and their parents share with viewers are thoughtful and solid. In one episode a brief shot of some human skulls is seen, and an encounter with a snake in the extra features of one episode was just a tiny bit scary for my little ones. That said, my girls, at the time 2 though 6, enjoyed this immensely – that little bit of tension didn't scare them away! Conclusion The Wild Brothers are very adventurous boys, the sort who play with bugs, and even eat the odd one now and again...at least when they are properly cooked! And they are very godly boys too, very aware of how God makes Himself evident in the creation all around us. And while they are boys, this was exciting for me girls too – I don't know that they fully appreciate bugs yet, but this did move them in that direction. I'd recommend this as great viewing for families with young kids from 10 and under. Mom and dad will enjoy it too, but there might not be enough action for the teenagers. You can buy the series on DVD or via download at AnswersInGenesis.org and as DVDs at Amazon. The trailer below is for the first episode, Welcome to our World. Addendum: free vlog series The Wild Brothers also now have a free vlog series, called "Highlands to Island" that you can find here. While you should watch the first episode, my daughters and I found the later episodes, from maybe 8 onward (there are 30 so far) more interesting than the first few. The vlog isn't quite the DVD series, but until new DVDs come out, this sure is a nice way to reconnect with this wonderful missionary family. https://assets.answersingenesis.org/vid/prod/etc/trailer/30-9-507_wild-brothers-1-trailer.mp4...

Family, Movie Reviews

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Family / Classic 127 minutes / 1954 RATING 7/10 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is a childhood favorite that I've been looking forward to sharing with my own kids. However, it's been so long since I'd watched it, I wasn't sure it would live up to expectations. I am happy to say it did! The year is 1868, and it is a time of both sail and steam on the high seas. When rumors of a gigantic sea creature stop ships from venturing out onto the Pacific, the US government asks if oceans expert Professor Pierre M. Aronnax and his assistant Conseil will join a Navy expedition. The goal is to either disprove the creature's existence or, if they find it is real, kill it. To that end, harpooner Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) is also invited along for the expedition. However, Ned's harpoons are no use against the creature's hide because it is not flesh and bone but is, instead, made of iron and steel! What's been destroying the ships turns out to be a submarine. When the sub destroys the Navy's ship, only these three – the professor, Conseil, and Ned – survive. They end up being taken on board. So who created this sub, and why is it being used to destroy ships all over the Pacific Ocean? I won't give it away but as you might imagine, the submarine's Captain turns out to be more than a little disturbed. CAUTIONS While there are some fantastic action scenes in the film – including a prolonged fight with a giant squid – even my timid 6-year-old managed to make it through them...though we did turn down the sound at that point, to help her out. So the only caution I’ll share is in regards to the good guys’ morality – the three shipwreck survivors don’t agree on much, including what they think about the psychotic captain holding them captive. For any kid used to films where the good guys wear white, and where right and wrong are very easy to distinguish, this will be something quite different. Mom and dad should hit the pause button now and again to discuss how everyone is acting, and how that lines up with how God might want them to act. CONCLUSION Our whole family enjoyed this. It has action, but also some calm and wonderful underwater scenes where we get a peek at what it would be like to live always under the seas. I'd recommend it for ages 5 to 95, but I'll add that this being an older film, the pacing is a little more patient than modern fare and, for an audience new to the classics, that might take some getting used to Still, it a classic for a reason – this definitely stands the test of time! ...

Economics, Movie Reviews

Wait till it's free

Documentary 2014 / 82 minutes Rating: 9/10 Why would Canadians be interested in watching a Scotsman take a look at the American healthcare system? Because this examination, of how capitalism and socialism impact healthcare costs, is very relevant for us too. The film’s director and producer, Colin Gunn, is Presbyterian and consequently a capitalist. If that seems an abrupt connection, then consider that we Reformed folks know that the heart of man is wicked. So we are well aware that if an economic system needs men to be angels, laboring for no personal benefit, then that is an unworkable economic system. So we know better than to be socialists. But for some reason, we don’t seem to think that holds true for healthcare. This comes out most strongly when Canadians, even the Reformed ones, start talking about healthcare with their American cousins. Then we seem to be quite proud of the socialistic nature of our healthcare system, which “costs us nothing, and is free for everyone.” But, of course, that isn’t really so. It certainly isn’t free – the costs are simply not seen, paid out in taxes, so that Canadians have very little idea of how much their healthcare really does cost. And that everyone is covered doesn’t distinguish it all that much from American healthcare, where everyone can get emergency care, and where more and more of the population is covered by the government-run Medicare. As Gunn points out, the American system is almost as socialistic as the Canadian. Gunn’s main argument is that a good dose of capitalism would be good for what ails the American system. His most telling observation was that in the American system no one knows what the costs will be beforehand. There is no public pricing chart, and so no way of comparing what one hospital might charge versus another. And without an awareness of how much things might costs, there is only a pretense of competition. You won't have innovation if you don't have competition so if we want to reform healthcare, this might be the first place we need to start: make all the prices public! I highly recommend this documentary – it is a brilliant argument by a Christian filmmaker who has perfected his craft. The content is superb: Gunn has assembled an impressive cast of experts from around the world to make his case. And the presentation is even better: there are fun little animated bits, and great narration, and a wonderful story arc – this is packaged up nicely, and tied up at the end with a bow. Who should see this? Anyone who thinks socialism is the answer to our healthcare needs. You can watch the trailer below, and watch the rent the full film by clicking on the "$4.95" link in the trailer below. The Wait Till It's Free YouTube site has a lot of extras that are also worth checking out. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

Flying Tigers

Drama / War / Black and White 104 minutes / 1942 RATING: 7/10 On January 3, 1942, just one month after Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of three American fliers staged a daring attack on a Japanese base in Thailand. The three were not members of the US military, but were, instead, part of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) – they were civilians hired by the US government. The AVG was going to be an unofficial group that could help the Chinese fight the Japanese, even as the US remained officially neutral. But delays in the group's initial organization meant they only saw action after war had been declared. Flying Tigers is about the 1st AVG, the group that led America's first daring response to the Japanese attack. But as movies do, there are some liberties taken with the facts. In the film version Capt. Jim Gordon (John Wayne) and the 1st AVG have been conducting attacks on the Japanese long before his country's official entry into the war. What isn't a liberty is how successful the Flying Tigers are shown to be. On film and in real life the 1st AVG was constantly and often massively outnumbered, and yet never lost an air battle (they are credited with at least 296 kills, while only 14 of their own pilots were killed). Still, as the fighting continues, the casualties do come, and Capt. Gordon has to take whatever pilots he can find, even if some of them are troublemakers. And the biggest troublemaker of them all is Capt. Gordon's independent and down-right self-absorbed buddy Woody Jason. This film has a message and it's the same one that Woody Jason has to learn: to win this war that independent streak that's so much a part of the American make-up will need to be restrained. Yes, individual ambition helped make America prosperous, but ambition unrestrained is simply selfishness. What Woody learns can be summed up in biblical terms: we need to govern our ambition with the Second Greatest Commandment. Selfish ambition makes Woody despised; ambition and a love for his neighbor makes him remarkable. Cautions There is very little blood shown – a Japanese pilot will get hit, throw his hands up to his face, and then, for a moment, we will see blood seeping between his fingers before the scene cuts away. That happens a half dozen or so times. The only other warning would concern the portrayal of the Chinese and Japanese.  They only make brief appearances, but when they do they come off as a little bit silly or simple. That can be credited in part to the language barrier - anyone speaking a language they only partially know is going to sound a little simple. But there's also likely an element of racism here, which parents might want to point out to their kids. Conclusion A modern audience might find the pacing in the first 30 minutes slow, up until Woody Jason shows up. So some patience is required, but this is a fascinating look at the earliest of America's action against Japan. It would be a good one for John Wayne fans, and for a family with kids who are 10 and up who have an interest in World War II...and who haven't had their attention span ruined by constant video and TV watching. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Curious George: Royal Monkey

Animated / Children's 2019 / 86 minutes RATING: 7/10 In this homage to The Prince and the Pauper, our monkey friend George accidentally switches places with his simian look-alike Philippe, the kingdom of Simiana's "royal monkey." While the two could be twins, they couldn't act more different: George is all fun-loving and childish irresponsibility, and Philippe is reliable and downright somber. This is the fourth Curious George feature film (though there is no number, the events take place right after Curious George 3) but it's second only to the original in charm. The one criticism I'd have is pacing. It is a bit slower than some of the other films, so even as my kids absolutely loved it, I would have enjoyed seeing George get himself into a few more tight spots. However, even a relatively calm George is a very fun George, making this one that the whole family, young and old, will be sure to enjoy. As they often explain in the also charming TV series, George is a monkey so sometimes he does things we shouldn't. That's a good way of letting kids know they better not do what George does, but our youngest will still sometimes get quite stressed at George's antics because she understands that, well, if she were in George's shoes, what he's doing would be quite naughty! So I appreciated how in this film the writers managed to so arranged things that the trouble George gets into isn't his fault (at least for the most part). While watching TV, George spots a commercial for a new theme park called "Castleland" where every guest is "treated like royalty" and the man in the yellow hat tells George that if he's good, he'll arrange for a visit. So when, after the monkey mix-up, George ends up with the Simiana royal family, he isn't surprised that people start treating him like royalty. And he isn't at all naughty going off with this other family, because he thinks this is the visit that the man in the yellow hat had arranged. If you know the Prince and the Pauper then you might be thrown just a bit by the one-sidedness of the lessons learned here. George teaches the royal family to be less uptight, and the man in the yellow hat teaches Phillipe to be less uptight too. Was there a lesson for George to learn? If there was, our monkey friend missed it. Oh well. I guess that just means there'll have to be a Curious George 5. I'm looking forward to it. For a preview of the film's first ten minutes, check out the video below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Indoctrination: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America

Documentary 102 minutes; 2011 Rating 8/10 Two interviews with public school teacher Sarah Laverdiere serve as stunning bookends for Colin Gunn's investigation into the anti-Christian roots of public education. LaVerdiere is a Christian who has a hard time reconciling her job with her faith - she doesn't know if she should be making parents feel good about sending their children to a public school. At about the 26-minute mark LaVerdiere is asked, "How long would your career last, if were to start teaching Scripture from the front of the classroom?" Laughing, she answers, "I'd probably be out of here that day! Those were prophetic words. An hour further into Indoctrination we meet her again. Since her first interview, LaVerdiere had decided that she could not remain silent about God in the classroom, so she'd offered her resignation. She was initially supposed to teach another two weeks, but after she wrote a letter, at her principal's request, explaining her decision, she was asked to resign immediately. What was in her letter? LaVerdiere noted that she could not continue to teach where Christianity was not welcome, and where homosexuals, radical environmentalists and atheists were encouraged to pervert the minds of the students. When the principal saw her letter LaVerdiere was asked to resign that same day. And she was escorted out of the school like a criminal: "I did return to the elementary school that day. And the principal supervised me as I cleaned out my classroom. They has the students go on a back playground and they had me go around a different way than I normally do so that the students could not see me while they were on the playground... when all I had done was tell my students I was leaving because I was a Christian." That, in a nutshell, summarizes the state of public education in America: it is at war with Christianity. There is much more in this documentary. The narrative for the film is the Gunn family's trip, in a big yellow school bus, across America. They travel from place to place visiting educational experts and Reformed theologians, and uncover the radically anti-Christian roots of public education. It is no accident that God is now unwelcome in the classroom. As Gunn shows, for many of the most pivotal figures in educational history, that was the plan from the beginning. In addition to the specifically Reformed influence in this film, another attractive feature is the filmmaker and narrator, Colin Gunn. His Scottish accent is charming and I can't imagine a more pleasant voice to listen to as the dire and dour state of public education is explained. Then add in clever animated illustrations and engaging interviewees, and this is as enjoyable as it is educational. While the focus here is on the US public system, Indoctrination is highly relevant to Canadians as well, as this is an exploration of the public education philosophy that pervades schools on both sides of the border. To sum up, this is not only a great production it is a very important one too! You can watch the first 30 minutes below, or stream the full 102-minute film for just $2.50 US at Vimeo here. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

C.S. Lewis onstage: the most reluctant convert

Biographical drama 76 minutes / 2018 RATING: 7/10 Imagine having the opportunity to go back in time and visit with C.S. Lewis, and not just at the local Eagle and Child Pub, but in his home, the Kilns, sitting across from him amongst his books and papers as he pulled on his pipe and shared thoughts from his latest literary efforts. If that idea excites you, then you are in for such a treat! Max McLean’s one-man theatre production, C.S. Lewis Onstage is still touring across North America, but a filmed version is available on DVD and can be streamed on Amazon.com (Americans with Prime can watch it for free here). Mclean is Lewis, and we are his guests as Lewis recounts the story of his conversion. He shares how he rejected God as a school boy, and grew more adamant as a young man. He voices the atheistic arguments he relied on – arguments that are still in use today. But, as Lewis explains to us, if one wishes to remain an atheist, you can never be too careful about your reading. God used the talents of a diverse cast of writers to bring this prodigal back, from George MacDonald to G.K. Chesterton, and Tolkien too. Lewis explains how he was drawn back in stages, and only bent his knee because he couldn’t do anything else. His was a grudging bow; he was “the most reluctant convert.” I absolutely love this film, but I can also see how this would be dreadfully dull for anyone who isn’t already a fan of Lewis’ non-fiction. It is, after all, just a man talking and talking and talking. I should also admit that as much as I enjoyed this, I also fell asleep several times as I made my way through it. That was due in part to the complete lack of action (no explosions here to wake me back up again), to the charming but decidedly calm manner of the man himself, and due also to the demand the film put on my brain – it requires complete attentiveness or else you just won’t follow the train of thought Lewis is laying out. However, even if it did get me nodding, each time I started watching again I rewound to long before I winked out. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed a bit of it. This really is something to savor…even if that savoring should be done in chunks, spread out over a few nights. As to cautions, I can’t think of any. Lewis was no 5-point Calvinist, but his conversion story makes him sound almost like one: the account he shares is of God grabbing hold of him. Lewis takes no credit for it himself. So, who'd love this? Well, if you don’t already know Lewis, this is not a good way to first get introduced – it'd be overwhelming, which might well make it seem boring. But for anyone who wishes they'd had the chance to meet Lewis, well, this is the next best thing! ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

CitizenFour

Documentary 113 minutes / 2014 RATING 7/10 In 2013 Edward Snowden let the world know that their emails, phone calls, text messages, and everything they were doing online, was being tracked by the US government and, oftentimes, with the help of their local government. This was the surveillance of private citizens who had committed no crime, and for whom no search warrant had been granted. And even as this surveillance was being done, the leadership of the National Security Agency (NSA) told the US Congress that no, they were not spying on Americans. Were they lying? Well, it all depends on what they meant by "not spying." As the documentary recounts, in May of 2013, Snowden fled to Hong Kong with a computer full of classified NSA documents that proved this surveillance was going on. He showed some of them to journalist Glenn Greenwald and to the director of this documentary, Laura Poitras. It was only after they helped the story go public that the NSA then admitted they were recording and collecting all sorts of data on US citizens. But they insisted that while they had it, they weren't actually looking through it. The NSA said they were collecting and storing citizens' information so that it would be available should they ever want to take a peek at it, which, they assured the public, would only happen after they got permission from a judge. In other words, collecting everyone's data wasn't spying on them because, according to the NSA, they weren't looking at it...yet. Snowden was celebrated by many as a whistleblower – that's how he thinks of himself – but condemned by others as a traitor. This film has some amazing strengths, the biggest being that Poitras was right there in his Hong Kong hotel room to capture Snowden's determination and anxiety as he became front-page news the world over. But it has a notable weakness: you have to be a detective to figure out, from what's shown, why anyone would think Snowden a traitor. One key scene that gives a hint as to why occurs in a newspaper office where an editor and reporters are debating what of the information Snowden gave them is safe to release to the public. In other words, Snowden gave out classified materials that were dangerous to US interests, and he left it up to a bunch of journalists to decide what was and wasn't safe to release to the public. That's crazy! But whatever we think of Snowden, it's clear we should be upset with the US government. Now, it is hard to find a clear biblical basis for a right to privacy, so on that front it may be hard to condemn what they have been doing. But it takes no effort at all to find a warning about government intrusion (1 Samuel 8:10-19). We also know men are not angels, and so it is best not to entrust them with tools that can only be used properly by angels. It's naive to think the very same government group that lied in the first place about collecting our information can be trusted not to look through this information without a warrant. Even if they do go the legal route, Snowden noted that whenever the NSA goes to a judge to ask to look through someone's data the judge always grants approval. So that is no check on abuse at all. One of the more common Christian responses to the government surveillance states is to wonder why, if we've done nothing wrong, we should make a fuss about the government watching everything we say and do? That's a question best answered with another: have you ever done anything that might, if seen in the wrong light, seem wrong? Harvey Silverglate makes the case that the average ordinary American citizen arguably commits Three Felonies A Day inadvertently, due simply to the sheer tonnage of laws on the books. So we're already in a situation in which the government can, if it wishes, convict any one of us. Do we really want to entrust them with a permanent record of all our activities? And if they insist that this is no big thing, then Douglas Wilson has a proposal predicated on the biblical notion that the government should only subject others to what they would gladly subject themselves (Matt. 7:12): "I have a proposal. We need a law that says that there will be no surveillance of the American people that has not first been test-driven for five years at the Capitol building and its environs. You tell us the drink is not poisoned, so you drink it. Sweeps of phone records, busting into emails, targeted review of IRS records, tracking of movements through security gates, and surveillance drones overhead. All such records gathered will be open to Freedom of Information Requests, and will be provided to primary challengers free of charge, and with no names redacted. Why do I want to do such a thing? National security, ma’am." CAUTIONS CitizenFour is rated R for language, and that is primarily for the use of the f-word which pops up a dozen or so times. But there are two instances of God's name being used in vain. Reformed Perspective doesn't normally recommend films that take God's name in vain. In fact, we earnestly avoid doing so. When it comes to violence and sexual content in a film, we know that there can be depictions that fall "in bounds" – we aren't concerned with couples hugging or with heroes punching out villains. But there is seldom any excuse for taking God's name in vain. You want viewers to know your character stubbed his toe? Have him say "Ouch!" Does the protagonist need to express frustration? Then have him say his dialogue with some volume. But there is no need to use God's name as an expletive. So why the exception in this case? Because this is not entertainment. While this documentary would be better if it didn't include these two instances, the information found here is information we need to know. For mere entertainment's sake there is no need to tolerate blasphemy. But when we are watching something for education's sake, then we may have good reasons to sit through some sinful depictions, including those of blasphemy and violence. We shouldn't watch footage of violent protests and war carnage to be entertained, but it can be important to do so to be informed. And to understand what our government is up to in the area of surveillance, there is really nothing comparable to CitizenFour. So, for education's sake, this is still worth watching. One last caution: a brief kiss is shown between reporter Glenn Greenwald and his homosexual partner. CONCLUSION At movie's end, Snowden and Glenn Greenwald are in the same room, sitting side by side, but making use of a pad of paper to carry on parts of their discussion.  Why? Because it's the only way they can be sure the government isn't listening. This is a film everyone should see to learn about our governments' surveillance capabilities – as citizens the only way we can rein in government abuses is if we understand what they are. This is also a move to be shared and discussed. To help you carry on that discussion I've included a couple of links to helpful articles that look at Snowden and the NSA from a Christian perspective. Can Whistle-Blowing be Biblically Justified? To a Chair in the Basement You can watch the trailer below, buy it on DVD anywhere, and stream it on Amazon.com (Americans with Prime can do so for free here). ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

2081: Everyone will finally be equal

Drama 2009 / 25 minutes RATING: 8/10 “The year is 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law you see; they were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else…" In 2081 a “golden age of equality” has been ushered in by the “Handicapper General” whose job is to assess everyone’s abilities and, if they have any advantages, to then assigns them “handicaps” to take them away. In the film’s opening scene we meet George who, being a little stronger than most, is sunk down in his easy chair by the heavy weights he’s been assigned to sap his strength. He’s also outfitted with earphones that hit him with piercing sounds to make it impossible for him to use his higher than average IQ. Meanwhile, his wife Hazel sits comfortably on the couch, knitting. She hasn't been outfitted with any handicaps because she's been deemed to have no advantages. So they are equal. But is it an equality we want to have? Hazel and George are now just as fast, just as strong, and just as able to do math as one another. But this is an equality of the lowest common denominator. To bring this equality George's gifts had to be diminished until he was at Hazel's level. And for the government to bring about this type of equality, it had to treat them quite differently: Hazel is free, while George is in chains. Surely this isn't what we mean by equality, is it? There must be some other, better sort? While the film doesn't really direct us to the equality that is worth pursuing, the Bible does. In passages like Leviticus 19:15, Ex. 23:3, 1 Timothy 5:21, and James 2:8-9 we're pointed to a type of equality that involve treating all alike, not favoring the less advantaged over the rich, or the rich over the poor. Instead of endorsing 2081's equality of outcomes, God tells us to extend an equality of treatment. 2081 is so short I don't want to give any more of the plot away. But if you're looking for a great conversation starter, this is a fantastic film to watch and discuss, though be sure to do so with a Bible in hand. You can watch the trailer below, and to watch 2081 for free, follow this link (you do need to sign up to their email list, but they won't spam you, and you can always unsubscribe). Questions to consider In 2081 equality is said to have been achieved. But has it really? Are Hazel and George and Harrison equal to the Handicapper General? Can you think of any historical examples where governments brought a form of equality to the masses, that they didn't want to share in themselves? Does the Bible support an equality of outcomes or an equality of treatment (aka. an equality of opportunity)? See Leviticus 19:15, Ex. 23:3, 1 Timothy 5:21, and James 2:8-9. How is Hazel’s situation improved by George being handicapped? Why would she hate it if he removed his handicaps? How does Ex. 20:17 apply here? Is income inequality (2 Chronicles 1:12; Ex. 20:17) something that God calls on Christians to fight? Is poverty (Prov. 19:17)? What was Harrison Bergeron hoping to accomplish? If no one remembers his speech then did he die for anything? If we take an unsuccessful stand for what is right why could that still be worth doing? In what way is our measure of success different than that of the world's? In 2081 the government controls every aspect of people's lives. Why do governments grow? Who is it, that's asking them to do more? What are the dangers of governments that get too big? (1 Samuel 8:10-22) ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Flight: the Genius of Birds

Documentary 63 minutes, 2013 Rating: 9/10 I watched this with my three-year-old daughter and we had the exact same reaction: “Wow!” Flight takes a look at the design of birds and focuses particularly on hummingbirds, starlings, and arctic terns. All three have their wow moments: the hummingbird with how its tongue works the starlings with how thousands of them can come together in giant, flexing living clouds – this was awesome! the arctic terns in how they can migrate from one end of the planet to the other every year I decided not to include the trailer with this one, because it somehow manages to make this remarkable film look almost boring (if you really want to see it, you can find the trailer here). That just isn't so – this is amazing, a documentary you will watch again and again! So, instead I've included a clip from the film about the wonder of the starling clouds. While the hour-long film did tax the interest of my daughter – about half way through she returned to her Lego – the next day she was asking to see the rest of it. The impressive computer graphics, and the continuous close-up, slow-motion, and wide-angle shots make this a visual feast. It is intended for adults, but suitable for, and enthralling for, children too – unlike some nature documentaries, this has no violence; no predator and prey shots, so it really is child-friendly. I really can’t imagine anyone not loving this. The thesis of Flight is that the intricacies involved in birds’ ability to fly gives evidence of a Designer. But the producers don’t specifically name the Designer; they don’t specifically give God the credit He is due. But what the producers don’t do, viewers are sure to – you can’t watch this without praising God! This review first appeared on ReelConservative.com. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Evolution's Achilles' Heels

Documentary 2014 / 96 minutes Rating: 10/10 I’ve watched this at least 5 times now, and many sections many more times than that. This is the best, most succinct, most content-dense, anti-evolution presentation I’ve ever seen. That said, my first go-through didn’t leave me all that impressed. I was watching it while doing some paperwork, not giving it my full attention, and what I saw just seemed to be a bunch of interviews, lots of talking heads. It didn’t seem all that interesting. But when I gave it another go and actually paid attention…. Whoah! What the folks at Creation Ministries International have done here is, in one hour-and-a-half presentation, boiled down all their very best arguments into the shortest possible form. That’s why I’ve watched it so many times already – I had to keep stopping, rewinding, and then listening to sections again because so much of what these interviewees say in just a sentence or two is something that others have written articles and even whole books on. For example, here’s a line from Dr. Donald Batten: “The survival of the fittest does not explain the arrival of the fittest.” At first listen, this struck me as a great turn of a phrase, and it certainly is. But let’s hit the pause button and just think about all that’s being said here in just this one line. Survival of the fittest (AKA natural selection) is supposed to explain how species adapt and change: those with advantageous mutations will prosper, while those without will eventually die off. But survival of the fittest is a selective process – it picks the best out of the group. How then, does it work before there is a group to pick the best and brightest from? Natural selection is a key mechanism for evolution, but it doesn’t offer any explanation for how animals come to be in the first place! This one, short, ever so quotable line, points out a gigantic problem with evolutionary theory! In addition to Dr. Batten, the documentary features 8 other PhD scientists, and together they highlight, as the title puts it, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. They cover a wide range of problems, grouped under categories like the Fossil Record, Genetics, Natural Selection, Cosmology and Radiometric Dating. I really can’t praise it highly enough: from beginning to end this is brilliant, and as good an introduction to the problems with Evolutionary theory as you will ever find. If an evolutionist friend was willing to watch one video of my choosing, this is definitely the one I would pick. And if you like this video, be sure to track down the book of the same name which, while also concise, has the space to dig even deeper. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution I

Documentary 47 min / 2006 Rating: 7/10 As narrator Dr. Jobe Martin explains, he was once an evolutionist and only became a creationist after getting challenged by one of his students. While he was a professor at a dental college, he gave a lecture on the evolution of the tooth – he taught his class that fish scales eventually migrated into the mouth and became teeth – but two students didn't agree, and they encouraged him to investigate creation science. He'd never heard of creation science but was willing to take a look. And the closer he looked, the more he realized that much of the evolution he believed in was based on not on fact but assumptions. His study led him to investigate animals and other creatures, and in this short documentary he shares some of the most incredible features of some pretty incredible creatures that forced him to acknowledge that there was a Master Designer behind all this. For example, did you know: ...the bombardier beetle repels attackers by shooting a fiery liquid out of its rear end? ...the giraffe's heart pumps blood powerfully enough to blow out its own brain? The giraffe heart has to be strong to get blood all the way up to its head but what happens to all that power when, instead of pumping against gravity, the giraffe dips its head to take a drink? Then the same strong stream of oxygenated blood will now be traveling with enough pressure to create some serious brain trauma....except for the amazing shut-off valves in a giraffe's neck that kick in when it lowers its head! ...the woodpecker has a barbed gluey tongue that sticks to bugs but doesn't stick to its own beak? And, just as amazing, it has a skull that is designed to do the work of a jackhammer without giving the poor fellow a headache. Dr. Martin shows us why we should be amazed by many other creatures including: the beaver, the Australian incubator bird, the platypus, the chicken egg, the chuckwalla lizard, the gecko, and us humans. My preschool daughters were amazed, and while this is a video primarily intended for children, my wife and I were also engaged. We were floored by just how creative God is. It is good family viewing, with enough pictures and film footage to keep the attention of the very young, and for parents, there's a narrative that highlights God's sense of fun and His genius. It's important to note this is just a children's video, and not intended as something you'd hand your harden-nosed evolutionist friend. Incredible Creatures isn't meant to offer an overly detailed or complete argument against evolution, and adult critics would likely seize on that lack of depth to dismiss it entirely. So get it for your own family or your Christian school. And if you know someone dead-set on evolution, then consider Evolution's Achilles' Heels and its more mature, thorough anti-evolutionary argument. There other two films in this films in this Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution series are all good, but this first one is the very best of the bunch. You can buy it many places online, and for a four-minute peek, check out the trailer below. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

John Hus: A journey of no return

Docudrama 2015 /55 minutes Rating: 7/10 This docudrama covers the last months of Reformer Jan Hus's (1369-1415) life when he was imprisoned and awaiting trial on charges of heresy. His "errors" were of the sort that Luther would preach 100 years later: Hus had a problem with indulgences, and with the corrupt clergy, and he wanted the Bible translated into the Czech language. And, like Luther, he would not back down. It's important to understand that the film is a fictional account based on historical facts. The biggest embellishment is the character Robert Tallio, who is portrayed as an inquisitor – a torturer – who has been brought by his cleric brother to report on Hus. But instead of getting what he wants from Hus, he gets what he needs – Tallio hears the Gospel and becomes increasingly troubled by it. Tallio isn't a complete embellishment – he is based on a sympathetic jailer named Robert that we read about in Hus's letters. Hus even wrote a tract on marriage for him, so their relationship seemed to be a close one. But other than his name, occupation, and his apparent need for advice on marriage, we don't know anything else about this Robert. But it is through this bit of fiction that we get to see a more human face to Hus. We don't just see his courage, but also his compassion, even for his jailer. CAUTIONS The only content caution I can think of would be in regards to Tallio and his love interest, who begins the story as a prostitute. We don't see anything sexual or revealing – I mention it only to alert parents that her occupation is discussed. And, as mentioned it is important to remember that this blending of fiction with fact can't be relied on to give more than an impression of the man. If you want more than a brief, albeit intriguing, overview of the man, it'd be best to turn to a good book about him. CONCLUSION So who would like this? If you have any interest in Church history, this will be an enjoyable hour's viewing. The production values are lavish, the acting solid, and the dubbing from the original Czech, decently done. This looks good! However, if you have no interest in Church history, well, this dialogue-driven movie likely won't be exciting enough to change your mind. That said, why not give it a try? You can watch it for free below. Another, older, production, 1977's "John Hus," is widely available, but while just as educational, it is far less professional. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, Watch for free

Babies are murdered here

Documentary 2014 / 54 minutes Rating: 8/10 This must-see is first and foremost an encouragement for anyone sitting on the sidelines to get active and start saving the unborn. Where the film gets controversial is in the producers' argument that we must name the sin that is going on behind clinic doors. They want Christians to start using stark, clear terms, like "murder" and "murderer" to clearly and accurately identify these shameful deeds. As one commentator in the film explains early on: We want to go into these neighborhoods – if we go into these neighborhoods – and whisper and invite and plead. And what we need to be doing is shaming this behavior. We need to be showing people what's going on... Friends I've spoken to who are actively involved in pro-life activism have questioned whether using the word "murderer" will shame women, or simply make pro-lifers look hateful, condemning and graceless. That's a good question, and good reason to watch this film. The men and women we see witnessing are carrying large signs that read "Babies are Murdered Here" but there isn't a hint of self-righteousness about them. They are clear, and generally pretty winsome too; truth is being coupled with grace. I find their approach comparable to pro-lifers who make use of large graphic pictures and pair that with soft-spoken words. There are many other ways we can present the Truth, so we don't have to use the words "murderer" or "murderer." But the film makes a convincing case that we must not shy away from these words, or deny their accuracy. According to the conventional pro-life presentation, abortionists are murderers, and the mothers are victims. That's a lie we have to stop repeating. It's a lie that obscures the crime these women are setting out to do. As RC Sproul Jr. explains: It is, perhaps, the most heinous crime I can imagine. It is the most "against nature thing" I can imagine, for a woman who has been gifted by God and called by God to nurture and protect her children to instead turn around and murder that child. It is not just an ordinary murder. When we commit an ordinary murder the other person can fight back. When we commit an ordinary murder it's notthe very fruit of our own bodies. It is a wicked, wicked, vile thing and we need to say so... without diminishing the depth and the scope and the power of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We need to be clear about the crime we hope to prevent. We want to save these mothers from becoming murderers. We want to save those who have already become murderers. This is why they need the Gospel. And this is why we need to be there sharing it with them. You can watch Babies are Murdered Here for free below or at BabiesAreMurderedHere.com. Since this film was released in 2014, one of the commentators interviewed, RC Sproul Jr., had to resign from his position at Ligonier Ministries, related to two public sins. However, the points he makes in the film stand on their own....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Riot and The Dance

Documentary 2018 / 83 minutes Rating: 8/10 Biologist Gordon Wilson is excited about God's creation, and it's catching! In The Riot and the Dance, Wilson explores locations both exotic and familiar, showing us how amazingly the Lord has made his creatures in his awesome world. Nature films are most often spoiled by the Darwinian approach of their makers; we're accustomed to using the "pause" button while we remind our children and ourselves that it's God who made all the beauty we are watching, not random chance. How refreshing to hear Scripture quoted, and God's creative hand praised, in these beautifully filmed scenes. Wilson starts in ponds near his home in the northwestern US, finding the familiar in water striders dancing across the water's surface, and the less familiar in giant water bugs. He pauses in Montana for bison, in Manitoba for a snake den, and in California for comical but dangerous elephant seals. He dives across gravel paths in the Sonoran desert of Mexico, catching snakes and lizards to bring their beauty right up to the camera, and ends his world tour in Sri Lanka, marveling at elephants and water buffalo. Wilson believes Christians can and should find out more about the Creator by exploring what he made. "If we wanted to study someone like Michelangelo, we would want to study all his works, his art. The way you get to know God, you study everything He wrote, and made, His living creation, His creatures. They are not only paintings but sculptures!" Wilson does not ignore the brokenness of creation: "Life is not a basket of kittens... and there's all this death, and predator-prey relationships, and parasite hosts. But even in the midst of a fallen creation, the glories of God are still very present. Man needs redemption, and so does creation." Thus he includes some brief moments of gore – as a water buffalo is devoured by warthog and other scavengers – though there are not a lot. There is much to commend in this beautiful film. Give this one a viewing; you'll find yourself ready to dive into that field or pond, eager to explore your own corner of God's handiwork. Americans with Amazon Prime will be able to watch this there. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

I can only imagine

Drama 2018 / 110 minutes Rating: 8/10 This is the life story of MercyMe singer Bart Millard, or, more specifically, it's the story of what drove him to write what might be the most popular Christian song of the modern era, I Can Only Imagine. It begins with 12-year-old Bart in 1985, listening to ELO tunes on his Sony Walkman, and crafting a cardboard Star Wars fighter helmet. He's a creative dreamer, but his home life is a nightmare. When he gets home that evening his father burns his helmet, and when Bart heads to bed early his Walkman only partially drowns out his parents' yelling. So is this a story about a man succeeding despite a difficult childhood? It's more than that. The focus isn't as much on Bart's transformation from troubled kid to successful singer, as it is about God transforming his abusive father. As Bart tells Amy Grant: "My dad was a monster. I mean that's the only word for it. And I saw God transform him from a man I hated into the man I wanted to become. Into my best friend....I guess I didn't realize God could do that. And so I wrote this song." That's the central story, and added in the mix is the sweet but certainly not simple story of Bart and his childhood sweetheart. Cautions Millard's father is abusive, both physically, which we mostly don't see, and verbally, which we do. While the violence takes place primarily off-screen there are a few brief moments that are scary because the viewer has no reason to presume they are going to be just brief. One example: Millard's father breaks a plate over his head. It's shocking; however, it doesn't escalate. There's nothing here that would scare an adult, but these early scenes of Millard's family life are one reason this film, despite its PG rating, is not appropriate for children. Another reason? Not only is Millard's father abusive, his mother abandons him. Abuse and abandonment aren't thoughts we want our children worrying about. Conclusion This is a remarkable film and a good part of it is J. Michael Finley, a good actor, and an absolutely fantastic singer whose version of I Can Only Imagine got me looking for the film's soundtrack. But every movie has a message, and it's the moral of this story that makes it so special. In Romans 8 the apostle Paul tells us that God works all things out for the good of those who love Him. But so often we have to take that on faith. When a loved one gets cancer, or we lose our job, we're left wondering, "How is God going to turn this to good?" In Millard's story we get a glimpse, almost a look behind the scenes, to see how God can do it and is doing it. We still don't know how He's going to work it all out in our own lives, but this glimpse helps us imagine. While the film is quite true to Millard's story, some dramatic license has been taken in the climactic singing scene. If, after watching the film, you want to know how it really happened, click here and here. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants

Animated / Family 2014 / 89 minutes Rating: 7/10 In this utterly unique film, a lost ladybug teams up with a colony of black ants to fight off a horde of red ants who want their sugar stash. A couple of things set this film apart. First, it seamlessly meshes animation and gorgeous nature footage, with the overall look more like a Planet Earth episode than a kid's cartoon. Another unique element is the lack of dialogue – other than  20 seconds of scene-setting narration, no one speaks. Or, rather, when they speak, it is only in Antish and Ladybuguese (I had the English subtitles on, but shucks, no translation was provided). Our kids had to decipher the storyline from strictly physical cues which had them paying very close attention. It also meant that their Dad had to occasionally "narrate" the action to help them figure out what was going on. Cautions This is G-rated film, free of any language, sexuality, or violence concerns (there is a big battle scene but no injuries are shown, and the rest of the "violence" is of the slapstick variety). But while the action was muted compared to many an animated film, Miniscule's brilliant use of sound and music really amplifies the tension. If you have younger viewers – maybe 9 and under - you can help them through these sections by either turning down the sound (minimizing the music's impact) or, by doing what we did. While we were still early in the film, we ended up showing our girls the last ten minutes of the film so they could know that it all turned out alright. They still sometimes forgot so we'd have to remind them, but each reminder helped a lot. Their response reminded my wife of how when we as adults have our own tense moments, we're also comforted by knowing a happy ending awaits – that's one reason why God has "given away the ending." It might also help youngsters to know that the only actual bad guys in the film are the red ants and, briefly, a large fish. Any other seemingly villainous sorts turn out to be friends. Finally, the music also adds impact to the Ladybug's wistful recollections of his lost family. Early in the film, as a young bug, he gets separated from his parents and siblings, and in two brief recollections afterward our 6-year-old was in tears feeling bad for him. Conclusion This is film kids will appreciate for the story and mom and dad can enjoy for its beauty and the brilliant way it tells a story without words. I've spent a lot of space warning about how some particularly sensitive or very young children will find the tension troubling, but overall this is quite the gentle movie. Our family really enjoyed it, even with the tense moments. Americans who subscribe to Amazon Prime can watch it for free. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Audacity: Love can't stay silent

Drama 50 minutes / 2015 Rating: 8/10 I once thought that the main flaw with so many Christian movies was that they were sermons disguised as dramas. I’ve recently realized that the actual problem wasn’t that they were sermons but that they were bad sermons… and paired with bad acting and worse writing. In Audacity Executive Producer Ray Comfort has done something different. This is still a message movie – it’s for Christians about why we need to, and how we can, spread the Gospel to homosexuals – but it's one in which pretty good writing and adequate acting have been paired with an absolutely fantastic sermon. The end result is something every Christian needs to see. The story begins in a typical office setting. When attractive Diana aggressively challenges bike messenger Peter to defend his biblical beliefs about gay marriage he heads to the Internet to do research. How can he present the truth winsomely? Fortunately, Peter finds YouTube videos from street evangelist Ray Comfort in which homosexuals are interviewed and challenged, and yet seem to appreciate the exchange. How does Comfort pull it off? By focusing on what we all – heterosexual and homosexual – have in common: our sinful tendency towards sexual lust. Just that quick, Comfort shows that the tendencies we are born with can’t be our guide to what is right or wrong. His is an inclusive approach. He doesn’t approach homosexuals as someone above or better than them, but rather as someone in a similar situation, also in need of a Savior. And he explains that because he believes the Bible to be true, if he loves his homosexual neighbors then he has to speak up. In total Comfort’s witnessing videos amount to about 15 minutes in this 50-minute production, but they are the crux around which the whole film revolves. In the dramatic sections we get to see how “everyman” Peter ends up putting into practice what he has learned. It’s believable enough that most viewers will be able to imagine themselves in Peter’s shoes and learn right along with him what it means to speak the truth in love. We can’t stay silent. We need to share what Jesus has done for us, and what he can do for homosexuals too. To learn how to do it well, consider gathering a few friends together to watch and discuss Audacity. It’s available for free viewing online at www.audacitymovie.com (and the DVD can be had for $5 there) or you can click on the video below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story

Documentary 88 min / 2019 Rating: 10/10 "I feel like I'm a little girl at a party whose Dad is asking her to leave early, And I'm throwing a fit. I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to go." – Kara Tippetts ***** Kara Tippetts started Mundane Faithfulness intending it to be a "mommy blog" that would encourage moms to just love their littles and be there every day for them. But it became something very different when the young mother of four and pastor's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The blog went viral as Kara, bluntly and beautifully, explained her treatments, shared her doubts, and showed how their family was trying to treasure every moment. In posts that were read by tens of thousands, she explained: "I want to be able to share this story that suffering isn't a mistake, and it isn't the absence of God's goodness...because He's present in pain." In Psalm 90 the psalmist pleas with the Lord, "teach us to number our days" (Ps. 90:12) and with her diagnosis, Kara was confronted with a truth the rest of us most often evade: that our days are numbered. She showed us what we should all do: find joy in the moments where they can be found. "Cancer was this gift that exposed to us what is important and what is valuable. Parenting with kindness. Loving your husband. Living well." Then, over the course of the next two years as it became increasingly clear that a cure wasn't likely, Kara showed the world what it looks like to die to God's glory. I gave this the highest rating I could because everyone should see it, and would be greatly benefited by it. Not only will Kara's story remind us to number our days, she teaches us to really think through what our purpose is. The only caution I would offer is that I can't quite imagine what sort of viewing party would work best, as there are just so many scenes here that will have everyone bawling. It's the mix of brokenness, beauty, truth, and God's goodness that'll ensure no one in the room has a dry eye, so if you don't like bawling in public, you won't want to watch this with friends. But you do want to watch it with friends because it will prompt some fantastic discussions about what really matters. So maybe the best approach is to gather a group, turn the lights down low, distribute Kleenex boxes generously, and know that your tear-stained face won't stand out from anyone else's in the group. "The Long Goodbye" can be purchased on DVD or streamed online for a few bucks at innumerable places around the Internet. Kara has also written a The Hardest Peace which I review here. After you've seen the film, you may want to check out this speech by Nate Wilson that makes the same points Kara does, but from a very different direction. Jon Dykstra also blogs on films at ReelConservative.com. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

Unbroken: Path to Redemption

Drama / Christian 98 minutes / 2018 RATING: 8/10 Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand's 2010best-selling biography of Louis Zamperini was so good two movies have been based on it. The 2014 adaptation was a major motion picture that made more than $100 million. It was titled, simply, Unbroken. It focused on Zamperini's World War II heroics, and his career as an Olympian. That film shared how he survived getting shot down, and how he spent 47 days on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean only to be rescued by the Japanese. They then imprisoned him in a camp staffed by sadistic guards who tortured him for the rest of the war. What was missing from this Hollywood production was Zamperini's conversion, which gets only a passing mention right as the credits roll. Director Angelina Jolie didn't see it as a significant part of his life. But for Christians who've read his biography, Zamperini's conversion is the obvious climax to his story. The Hollywood production was only half the story, with the best part still untold. In Unbroken: Path to Redemption we get that second half. While this is a sequel of sorts, picking up where the other left off, it stands up well on its own too. The focus here is on what happened after the war when Zamperini returned home, got married, and had to wrestle with nightmares, despair, unemployment, marital troubles, and alcohol addiction. Maybe this is why the first film stopped where it did: Hollywood didn't know what to do with an unbreakable man who gets shattered. But this Christian production does. While the special effects aren't at the level of a major motion picture, the acting is very good. And what makes this the superior adaptation is that it gives God his due. How was Louis able to survive it all? Only because God was there, every step of the way, protecting, pursuing, and forgiving. Some Christian critics have noted Path to Redemption doesn't go far enough into Zamperini's brokenness and as a result, mutes some of what God does for him. That's a fair critique, and I think some of my appreciation for this film is because, having read the book, I was already fully aware of that aspect. So this might be a better film when viewed as a follow-up to the book, rather than as a replacement for it. CAUTIONS There are a few cautions to share. First, Louis has some nightmares about his Japanese torturer. While these scenes aren't gory, they are intense and would scare children under 10 (and maybe some over 10). During another nightmare, Louis imagines that in his sleep he's mistaken his wife for a prison guard and has been choking her. It's all just a dream, but we get a glimpse of it. Also, one scene takes place on the beach with everyone in beach attire, but these are 1940s era bathing suits, so it isn't risqué. Finally, if you're watching this with teens, you might want to mention that this is not a how-to on dating, as it shows a good Christian lass letting herself be unequally yoked to the lapsed Catholic Louis. CONCLUSION This is the film we wanted to see in the first place, telling the full story of the broken man made whole. If you enjoyed the book you'll love this film. And if you saw the Hollywood production then you really need to watch Path to Redemption to get the rest of the story. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

Gosnell: the trial of America's biggest serial killer

Drama 2018 / 93 minutes RATING: 8/10 "Are you going to be the first prosecutor in American history to charge an abortion doctor with murder?" **** There are some great lines in Gosnell. But it was a film I almost didn't watch. I knew it was the true-life story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist who in 2013 was convicted of killing three babies after they were born. I'd thought it an important story to get out into the public eye, so a few years ago I'd been one of the 30,000 who'd contributed more than $2 million to its Indiegogo campaign. But now, with the DVD in hand, I found myself thinking, "I'm already pro-life so do I really need to sit through a 90-minute film detailing the horrors of abortion?" I'm glad I did, for two reasons. First, the film wasn't the unrelentingly depressing drama I had expected. This felt more like a Law and Order episode, with a mystery that needs solving, and dedicated men and women trying to deliver whatever justice they can. There were some talented people involved in the production, from director Nick Pearcey, who also stars as the defense attorney, to the Daily Wire's Andrew Klaven who had a hand in writing the script. There's no clear star in this ensemble cast, but it might be Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) who is his regular personable self in the role of Detective James Wood, the man who first uncovered what was going on behind the closed doors of Gosnell's clinic. Second, the film is a much better pro-life tool than I ever expected. Gosnell killed thousands so this could have been as hard to watch as Schindler's List (Schindler is in everyone's top 100 list, but has anyone watched it twice?). But by hiding almost all of the gore, and by keeping a quick pace, not lingering in the clinic too long, audiences aren't confronted with the full horror of what Dr. Gosnell did. That makes this a film that can be shared with the undecided; if they can handle network TV, then there's nothing here that'll be too graphic for them. Now, there is a method behind the muted visuals. A gory film would have undecideds walking out or staying away. But the producers didn't intend to pull any punches – they've just been clever enough to lay out their argument in a way that'll be the most likely to reach and sway their intended audience. When Gosnell was being tried, both the prosecutor and the mainstream media emphasized that the case wasn’t about abortion – this was about the murder of already born babies. But in his defense, Gosnell’s attorney shows that what Gosnell did to these babies after birth was not significantly different from what other abortionists were – with the law’s blessing – doing to babies before birth. His reasoning was sound, even if it wasn't enough to get his client off. And seeing an abortion defender make the case that killing an unborn baby differs not a whit from killing a newborn baby is an argument that is sure to hit viewers right between the eyes. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

CONNECT: Real help for parenting kids in a social media world

Documentary 70 minutes / 2018 RATING: 8/10 Connect offers “real help for parenting kids in a social media world” and the host, Kirk Cameron, starts things off by scaring parents with the story of a boy who was Internet-stalked by a “grown adult man.” The dad intervened in time… but it was a close thing. I watched this with 30-or-so other parents and this opener certainly grabbed our attention. But now, what can we do to protect our kids? Cameron makes clear, it isn’t just the creeps that we need to watch out for. We need to teach our children to see through a number of lies that social media fosters, including: “I deserve to be happy all the time” and “I am the center of the universe.” Our children need to know God is the center of the universe, and instant gratification is not only not a right, but not even healthy. More important: parents need to correct their own addiction to social media, and then get actively involved in their children’s lives. We are all busy, but we cannot be, as one of the experts put it, “mentally-absent parents.” There was a fantastic discussion starter for all the parents and teens who attended our viewing. One caution: there is some topic matter – about pornography addiction and suicide – that is not appropriate for the very young. It can be rented via online streaming, or purchased via DVD here. Americans with Amazon Prime can watch it here. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Swallows and Amazons

Drama / Family 2016 / 96 minutes RATING: 7/10 I remember my older brother reading Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons to me when I was very young, and being charmed by it. It was a story of four children - two brothers and their two sisters – making up their own adventures during a summer holiday on the lake, fighting off imaginary pirates and pretend sharks. It was a gentle book. That's why I thought it would make for a gentle movie to share with the family. But while a lot of the book's charm made it to the silver screen, the filmmakers decided that in addition to the children's imagined peril, they had to add some of the real kind – spies! The four Walker children are on a lake for the summer, in 1935 Britain, and they have their parents' permission to take the Swallow, a small sailboat, out to explore a densely wooded island and camp there. But they are not the first to land on the island: a sign, surrounded by animal bones, warns that it belongs to the "Amazons." This is all loyal to the book – the Amazons are a couple of girls with a sailboat of their own, and the two groups get to pretend to be rival pirate gangs. But the island is also home to a real life spy. And there are a couple of other suspicious sorts following him. For a small little island, there's quite the population on it! The additions of the spies adds to the excitement, but brings tension to a story that didn't really have that before. So, if you like the book, you probably aren't going to appreciate this adaptation – it's like adding a couple of spies to Winnie-the-Pooh. Exciting, yes, but not at all in keeping with the spirit of the original story. However, if you don't know the book, or can at least forget it for a bit, this is quite the adventure. There are chases scenes on the water and through the woods, and even through and on top of a train. We see spies following each other, Walkers following spies, and spies following the Walkers. I don't want to give the impression this is all action – there's also the calmer fun of the Walkers learning how to camp, create fire, and catch and cook their own food. It still has the charm of the book. Just with tension added. CAUTIONS There is a bit of language, with one spy saying "Damn it" in his native language, and the movie not so helpfully subtitling the translation for us. The siblings also call each other various names including "duffer" and "idiot." And one girl says, "shut up" a number of times. The only other concern would be some behaviors that we wouldn't want our own children to model. There are a few times where the children do something hazardous (like sailing a boat at night) against their mother's expressed wishes. So mom and dad might have to pause the movie here and there to ask what the Walker children should have done. CONCLUSION While Swallows and Amazons was far too scary for my 8 and under young'uns, I think some 10-year-olds and anyone 12 and up would find this just the right level of exciting for them. It's great movie night material for families with older children, and it's bound to inspire either a camping or sailing request. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at ReelConservative.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....

Drama, Family, Movie Reviews

The Seahawk

Drama / Action 109 minutes / 1940 RATING: 8/10 While The Seahawk is set in 1585, and pitches Spain against England, this film was all about the politics of its day. Spain is clearly a stand-in for the Germany of 1940, and King Phillip could only have been more Hitler-esque if they had given him the small patch mustache. The story begins with Phillip laying out his plans for world domination. He demands from England that they refrain from building a fleet and offers his friendship, if they give in to his demands. Queen Elizabeth does her very best Chamberlain imitation, refusing to prepare for the clearly hostile Spain. She chooses to appease the tyrant, even as Phillip is building an armada. Then there is Captain Thorpe (Errol Flynn) with his own stand-in role. He has his own ship, which is part of an English privateer fleet, the Seahawks. Even as Elizabeth appeases Phillip, the Seahawks raid Spanish towns and sink Spanish ships. Thorpe is channeling at least a little Churchill, urging the queen – and through her, the nation of England – to prepare for war. That makes this film fascinating on two very different levels. It is a fantastic swashbuckling film all on its own, and it is also a wonderful bit of anti-Nazi propaganda, intended to rally the nation to resist. Queen Elizabeth concludes the film with a speech that is a clear call for America to come join the war. "When the ruthless ambitions of a man threaten to engulf the world, it becomes the solemn obligation of all free men to affirm that the earth belongs not to any one man, but to all men." Cautions There is a lot of fighting, with folks getting stabbed and shot. But there is no gore. Conclusion I had an opportunity to watch The Seahawk with a group of friends who, as a general rule, don't watch black and white films. A few exchanges struck them as a bit corny – acting in the 1940s did sometimes take a melodramatic turn – but the swashbuckling action and the self-sacrificial hero, the Second World War subtext, well, it swept away all their resistance. They simply couldn't help themselves: they had to love it! Jon Dykstra also reviews movies at ReelConservative.com where some of these reviews first appeared. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Born free

Family / Drama 1966 / 95 minutes RATING: 8/10 When a man-eating lion has to be shot, and his mate too, three little cubs are left as orphans. Game warden George Adamson takes them back to his wife Joy, and their home. As you might expect, three wild lion cubs can get into all sorts of hijinks when they're kept inside. Seeing Elsa, Lustica, and Big One bound on the furniture, and on the Adamsons will be a favorite part for many younger viewers. The Adamsons raise the triplets until they are too big to manage, and then send two to the Netherlands Rotterdam Zoo. But Elsa, the runt of the litter, ends up staying with them....until it become impossible to keep her too. But how can they send Elsa off to a zoo when all she's known was the wide spaces of the game reserve? The couple hatches a plan to teach their Elsa how to hunt and survive in the wild. Cautions The story begins with a woman, busy washing her clothes in the river, getting attacked by a lion. We see only the lion charging, the woman shriek and put up her hands, but not the attack itself. Afterwards a shot of the river shows blood flowing by. While this opening scene is too scary for young children, if parents fast-forwarded that bit (explaining, rather than showing, what happens) the rest of the film could probably be viewed by most children 8 or 9 and up. A 1-minute scene (in the last 10 minutes of the film) of one lion fighting another might also be too intense for young viewers. Language concerns include one instance of "damn it" but nothing else. Conclusion In children's entertainment, whenever Nature or the environmentalism is addressed, Man is most often portrayed as a curse on creation rather than as a caretaker of it (think Bambi, Ferngully, The Lorax, etc.). But in Born free the Adamsons are games wardens, responsible for the care and management of creatures. We might question some of their priorities (when the Elsa stampedes an elephant troop into a village that should have been reason enough to send her away to a zoo). But overall, in Born Free Man's management role is assumed - the Adamsons are exercising dominion (Genesis 1:28). That makes this film a counter to some of the unbiblical environmental propaganda children will encounter, particularly if mom or dad use it as a conversation starter. Based on a true story, Born Free is simply enchanting. Some of that is due to the on location shooting in Africa, as well as the Oscar-winning score. But the scene-stealers are the lions, especially when the three sisters are all cubs getting into laugh-out loud mischief. Whether you are a cat person or not, watching these beautiful creatures jump and play and hunt will have you in awe of the Creator who crafted them. Born Free is a film that all ages will enjoy...so long as parents note the warnings above. *****...

Family, Movie Reviews

The absent-minded professor

Family 1961 / 96 minutes RATING: 7/10 The classic begins with a bang – a lab accident blows up Ned Brainard's garage and leaves the professor knocked out cold. The good news? This explosive experiment has produced a wondrous new substance - a rubbery material that when rolled up in a ball and dropped gains height with each bounce. It's almost like this rubber can fly so, of course, the professor names it flubber. And what's the first thing he does with flubber? Why, use it to create the world's first flying Model T of course! The bad news? While he was out cold the professor missed his wedding...for the third time! Betsy Carlisle is his long-suffering fiancee. While she loves her Neddy, this is it – she doesn't want to hear any more excuses. "I say, three strikes and you're out!" To make the situation that much more difficult for Ned, he has a rival for Betsy's attention. Professor Shelby Ashton is egotistical and even more self-absorbed than Ned but he has one thing going for him – he knows how to shows up on time. To get Betsy's attention Ned puts his flubber to use and this is where the fun really begins. When the college's basketball team is losing badly, Ned secretly irons flubber on to all of the players' shoes. When the second half starts the Medfield team is now able to jump, not just over the other team, but right over the gym rafters! While this stunt doesn't impress Betsy, Ned and his flying Model T do catch the attention of all three branches of the US military and a particularly unscrupulous businessman. Car chases and hijinks soon follow. Cautions As children do sometimes do as they see, the biggest concern might be language. One of the villains – businessman Alonzo Hawk – calls people "idiots," "stupid," or "tells them to shut-up." There is some violence – a shoot-out in which no one gets hit, and two thugs unsuccessfully trying to get Professor Brainard – but this is of the comic sort and even our six-year-old knew everything was going to be okay (but our four-year-old had to be reassured). Oh, and at one point Hawk gambles on a basketball game. It may be worth pointing out to younger viewers that the "hero" of this story, Professor Brainard, is not a good example at the beginning – he's prioritized science over his bride-to-be! Thankfully, by film's end he's learned the error of his ways. Conclusion This classic spawned a sequel and two remakes but they never improved on the original. A flying car, a villain who can leap buildings in a single bound, a damsel who's in distress because her bumbling knight has left her at the altar again – this is fun that everyone will enjoy. ...

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  ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Swiss Family Robinson

Drama/Adventure 126 min/1960 RATING: 8/10 Based on the classic 1812 Johann Wyss book, Swiss Family Robinson tells the tale of a family of five that gets shipwrecked on a tropical island after being pursued by pirates. Life on a tropical island can be fun, with ostrich and elephant races, but work is involved too. The family has to struggle together to build a treehouse that will keep them safe from the island's tiger. But what will keep them safe from the pirates, who are still looking for them? The big concern in this film would be violence. While most of it is softened (a tiger, rather than maul its victims, sends them flying high into the air) there are intense scenes near the end of the film, as the pirates attack, that would scare young children. There is also a snake attack that may have parents rolling their eyes (the actors seem to be grabbing the boa constrictor, rather than the constrictor grabbing them) but it had my daughters' eyes bugging out. We played some of these scenes with the volume down low, so the dramatic music wouldn't have the same effect. That seemed enough to make the scenes palatable for even our four-year-old. This is a good old-fashioned classic with lots of gallantry on display – it's a great film to teach boys to look out for girls. It's also a good one to get your kids appreciating older films. Some of the acting is a little wooden, but as a family film that's fine – this was never going to win an Oscar, but there is a reason it's still being watched 50 years later. All in all a great film. The trailer below, at 5 minutes long, will give you a good feel for what the film is like though it might give a bit too much away. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

City of Ember

Adventure/Family 95 min/2008 RATING: 7/10 For humanity’s remnant to survive they have to hide deep underground for 200 years in a specially prepared city – the City of Ember. But when 200 years pass no one alive remembers there is another world out there. The only light they know is provided by light bulbs powered by their mighty generator. The bigger problem? The generator is starting to break down. The biggest problem? No one will admit what’s happening. To the rescue comes Doon, and his friend Lina who uncover some long-lost and only partially intact instructions from the city’s original Builders that they need to piece together to save their family before all of Ember’s lights go dark. The film has no language or sexuality concerns at all, but does have a mole the size of Volkswagen whose tentacles are a bit too squirmy for my tastes. The more notable caution would be that God is never mentioned, and His absence in a movie about a coming end to the world is glaring. A post-apocalyptic tale is not your typical family fare, and a story in which the kids are smarter than the adults is all too common fare. So Ember is a film that shouldn’t be treated as simply mindless entertainment – it is entertaining, but it should be discussed. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at www.ReelConservative.com where longer versions of some of these reviews can be found. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Condorman

Action/Adventure 90 min/ 1981 RATING: 7/10 When comic book creator Woody Wilkins gets the chance to help out the CIA he jumps at it. But he gets a little too into the role, telling his Russian contact – his beautiful Russian contact – that he is a long-time secret agent with the code name "Condorman." He so impresses the Russian agent that when she later decides to defect she tells the CIA she'll only go if they send their "top agent" Condorman to come pick her up. Woody is willing to help again...but with a few conditions. He'll go, so long as the CIA agrees to give him a few special tools he's dreamed up, that come straight out of his superhero comics! The only cautions are of a minor sort. The beautiful Russian agent wears a rather clingy dress on the DVD cover but that is more risqué than anything in the film. In one scene she changes clothes behind a dressing screen and is shown naked from the shoulders up. There are a lot of fistfights, car chases, and explosions, all of the comic variety, with no blood seen. Younger children, particularly those under 6, may find it too much. This is an action-adventure, romantic comedy, Cold War, spy, superhero parody. If you take it seriously this is dreadful…so don’t. As a parody it is hokey, cheesy, goofy, slapstick fun. ...

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! ...