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Family, Movie Reviews

My friend Flicka

Family 1943 / 89 minutes Rating: 7/10 All Ken wants is a colt of his own, and seeing as his dad raises horses, that doesn't seem an unreasonable ambition. But all Ken's father wants is for his son to start using his head, and he's not sure when or if that's ever going to happen. The boy's fifth-grade report card is impressive in the worst possible way – Ken managed to get a zero in English. He daydreamed his way right through the hour-long test and never even got started. So it's against his better judgment that stern poppa does indeed give his underachieving son his choice of a colt. But dad is left shaking his head once again when his son picks Flicka, a colt from the most "loco" mare on the ranch – Ken has picked a colt that may not even be tameable! And shortly after getting picked, Flicka proves just as wild as the father feared, running straight into a barbed wire fence. There is a silver lining – the injured colt needs attention, and Ken shows himself both willing and able. Might this daydreaming boy be on the way to becoming a young man? Cautions Parents will want to know that one of the horses, a wild mare named Rocket (Flicka's mom), dies suddenly midway through the film. I was surprised – I figured the horse was just stunned, and even reassured our kids it would recover. But nope. This was shot in World War II so I think the times may have resulted in kids then that were made of a little sterner stuff, so one horse getting killed might have been no big deal to them. But it might be a bit of something to some of our sensitive ten-and-under kids, who have grown up on children's fare where the peril never results in anything permanent. Rocket's death makes Flicka's own brush with death – at one point dad gives the order to put him down – much scarier than it otherwise would have been. Shucks, it seems like there's no guarantees in this movie about who is going to make it to the end. But parents can reassure their kidlings that Flicka will indeed make it. Language concerns are limited to a few "doggone it" and "gee whiz"s. Conclusion One modern-day reviewer celebrated this as a "great movie for kids with no... sex, drugs or cursing." It is that. But it is also an older film that doesn't have the frenetic pacing of most of today's kids' stuff. That means it might test some children's attention spans, but that could be a very good thing. I'd suggest it for 10 and over, but I'm not quite sure whether its hundreds of horses might make this a great one for horse-crazy girls, or whether the death of Rocket might mean they'd be the worst possible audience. I'll also note that in our family of five, three quite liked it, one fell asleep, and one was quite distraught over poor Rocket. So, if you're looking for a sure-fire bet for family movie night, this might not be it. But if you want something from a more decent time, this could fit the bill. It's full of characters with character, whether that's a stern but loving dad, a compassionate capable mom, respectful ranch hands, or even the son, a kid who isn't measuring up but wants to. Check out a brief clip below. ...

Articles, Movie Reviews

Our Top 10 movie reviews of 2023

Here are our most popular movie reviews for 2023, ranked in reverse order – this is what our online readers checked out most often over the last 12 months. Click on the titles for the longer reviews and, in some cases, links to watch the film for free online. (For more movie recommendations, be sure to check out our list of "200 movies King David might watch.") 10. Storm and Luther's forbidden letter This children's movie has the 12-year-old son of a 16th-century printer getting chased about by authorities when the family's print shop agrees to print one of Martin Luther's letters. A good bit of fun that can be watched for free online. 9.  2081: Everyone will finally be equal In another free film, we get a peak 50 years into the future in which everyone's outcomes are exactly equal. How is that achieved? By weighing down the strong, and distracting the smart, and marring the beautiful. 8. The Lord of the Rings animated "trilogy" Long before Peter Jackson first thought about filming the live-action version, there were three animated Lord of the Rings movies. And two of them are worth checking out. 7. Incredible creatures that defy evolution  The giraffe’s 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 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! This free film series shows all sorts of animal design features that give testimony to God's engineering brilliance! 6. End of the Spear A true story about five missionaries who wanted to bring the gospel to the Aucas tribe in Ecuador and died trying. It is, however, through their witness that this "Stone Age" tribe was first introduced to God. 5. Sound of Freedom This true story is the film everyone seemed to be talking about was also popular among RP readers too. Tim Ballard once had the disturbing job of hunting down pedophiles, and in the course of his career he busted almost 300 of them. But when his partner challenged him, “And how many kids have you saved?” he couldn't answer. So he set out to start freeing the children instead. 4. Jungle Beat A variety of animal friends try to solve ordinary problems, but do so without being able to communicate via words (animals can't talk, after all). So this is part miming, part explosive action, and it is a whole bunch of good clean innocent fun! With more than 10 hours of it, broken up into 5-minute little skits, parents will enjoy sharing this with their kids again and again. And you can watch it for free! 3. On Earth as it is in Heaven Another free documentary, this one tries to make the case for post-millenialism. You be the judge for how well it does so. 2. The Essential Church John MacArthur's church defied government COVID closures, and it was eventually vindicated in the courts. Here MacArthur and other church leaders try to make that same case – that the Church is essential – but this time to their fellow Christians. 1. The Hiding Place This is Corrie Ten Boom's true story of her World War II role in hiding Jews. Or, more so, it is the story of her family's trust in God, even when the going got very tough – all of them ended up being sent to Nazi concentration camps. But did we need another Corrie Ten Boom movie? Isn't there already a great film version? I needed to find out, and based on the review's popularity, a whole bunch of RP readers need to find out too....

Drama, Movie Reviews

The Great Dictator

Drama / War / Black and White 1940 / 125 minutes Rating: 8/10 Long before Hitler adopted it, Charlie Chaplin made the "toothbrush mustache" famous. Once Hitler adopted it, you might wonder why Chaplin still kept it. Might this 1940 film be the answer? Chaplin had been planning to take on Hitler even before World War II began, and his mustache helped him manage a fantastic impersonation of history's most infamous dictator. Chaplin plays two parts here, the hero and the villain. Adenoid Hynkel, the "Phooey" of Tomainia, a satiric take on Adolph Hitler, the Führer of Nazi Germany, The Jewish barber who fights for Tomainia during the First World War, and then loses his memory for the next 20 years When the barber leaves the hospital to finally return home, he opens up his barbershop, not knowing two decades have passed. He also doesn't understand why a man is painting the word "Jew" on his shop window, and goes outside to stop him. The barber was a soldier just yesterday in his own mind, so he won't stand for this! But two stormtroopers against one barber isn't a fair fight. Thankfully, the fight stops underneath the heroine's apartment window, allowing the beautiful Hannah to make good use of her frying pan, applying a solid "bong" to each stormtrooper's head. This being a Chaplin film, the poor barber gets a misaimed blow too, resulting in a hopscotching staggered dance up and down the street. From the moment we see Chaplin playing both parts, we know that the barber is going to save the day by replacing the "great dictator." But what a ride it is, getting there! Hitler isn't Chaplin's only target either. Benzino Napaloni, the Diggaditchie of Bacteria (think Benito Mussolini, il Duce of Italy), comes by for a visit, and the two compete to see who can be the more self-important. That this comic takedown came out right when Hitler seemed to be unstoppable says something about Chaplin's bravery and his outrage. He wanted the world to know who Hitler really was, even if he needed to use a fictional country, title, and name to do so. It might be worth noting that while Chaplin is best known for his silent films, this is a "talkie." Cautions The only caution would be the topic matter: war and the murderous megalomaniac who started it. But this is also black and white, and satire rather than drama, so some of the most shocking material has been muted by the format. Still, this could be a bit much for the very young. However, if kids know anything at all about the Holocaust, they'll likely be old enough to see The Great Dictator. Conclusion My daughters aren't the target demographic for a 1940s black and white World War II film that stars a talking 1930s silent film star. I was so sure they wouldn't be up for this one that, instead of trying to foist it on them for a family movie night, I decided to watch it on my own while they were busy with friends. But a few minutes in our youngest, 9, wandered by, sat down, and never left. The other two and my wife showed up midway, and after a bit of recap to clue them in, they all enjoyed the second half. So, a good film for the whole family? Maybe... if they're an adventurous bunch. My youngest told me that it helped a lot that I was there to explain some the World War II references being made. She already knew about the Holocaust, so she wasn't surprised that the Jews were mistreated, but to see it, even in this muted manner, did get her indignant. It's one thing to hear about people being picked on and singled out for persecution, and quite another to see even a bit of it. Overall, I would give this two very enthusiastic thumbs up! The film is available in both clear high resolution, and also in a variety of cheap knock-offs, so be sure to get the good one. There's even a colorized version that looks intriguing. Most libraries will have a version on DVD, and you should be able to rent it from places like Amazon. Check out the trailer below. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Back of the Net

Sports / Family 2019 / 86 minutes Rating: 7/10 Cory Bailey is an American teen science nerd whose next stop is a semester-long trip on a research ship departing from Sydney, Australia. But after arriving at the Sydney Airport, she boards the wrong school bus, and ends up on the wrong campus. Now instead of spending a term studying aquatic life, she's at a soccer academy. And she's never played before in her life. Adults are going to be able to predict where this is going right from the get-go, but no worries mate, because they aren't the target audience. And the pre-teens this is aimed at are going to enjoy Cory's fish-out-of-water experience. This is really just a light, feel-good film, with Cory going from friendless to gaining a bunch of bosom buddies. There's also a charming jock who doesn't really get science, but can appreciate Cory's passion. The Australian accents and scenery also add to the appeal. There is a villain, of course, but even rich girl Edie isn't all that nasty. She's really just misunderstood, don't you see? Cautions The cautions here are mostly of the too-good-to-be-true nature of the story. Cory might have been a fish-out-of-water to start, but by film's end, everything has turned up roses, and in every possible way. Adults will know this isn't realistic, but the pre-teens might need a reminder that even as confidence can often be key, "believing in yourself" isn't some kind of miraculous guarantee of victory. Another concern is the budding romance between Cory and a very nice boy. While there's just one peck on the lips exchanged (and another attempted kiss), Cory's friends do a fair amount of "ooooh"ing to tease Cory. Sure, it's funny, but parents may want to point out that it's also just plain silly: these kids are too young to be thinking of marriage, so they don't need to (and shouldn't be trying to) contend with all the drama that comes with dating. The other cautions include three instances of "Oh my gosh," and a beach scene in which two boys are shirtless (though in long shorts). Conclusion Back of the Net strikes me as a cross between one of the better Hallmark films and an old-school Disney TV movie, or in other words, a sweet if predictable story, with decent production values and pretty good acting. Pre-teen girls will love it, and the rest of us won't mind it. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Legend of 5 Mile Cave

Western / Family 2019 / 90 minutes RATING: 7/10 The Legend of 5 Mile Cave begins with a bang, a fleeing cowboy being shot right off his horse by an eagle-eyed sheriff. And it begins with misdirection too: the sheriff looks kind of scary, his posse pretty mean, so are they the heroes? Or should we be rooting for the guy lying at their feet? It doesn't get any clearer when we cut forward 20 years and see an escaping prisoner evade pursuing guards and their bloodhounds. Again, it seems like we're supposed to be siding with the bad guy. What's going on? The main story is about a young farm boy, Tommy Tilwicky, and his widowed mother, Susan, who are taking in boarders to balance their budget. The first to arrive is the escaped prisoner, though now in a decent set of clothes. He can't pay much, but he's willing to help them break in their horses, to get them ready to sell. And he's also willing to tell stories of the West as it was to a boy who can't get enough of pulp-fiction Westerns. Those novels don't get the facts quite right, says the man. And he proceeds to tell Tommy, in bits and pieces, the true story of the infamous "Shooter Green," a gunslinger infamous for a $200,000 stagecoach holdup in which the gold was never recovered. Much of the movie is told in flashbacks, Tommy seizing every opportunity he can to hear more about Shooter. We cut back 20 years again to see Shooter Green doing trick shots to earn some money. We get to watch this boastful young man get his comeuppance when a beautiful young lady bets against him, and the flustered Shooter Green misses for the very first time. It's a cute scene, but had me wondering yet once more, is this film expecting us to root for the criminal? I needn't have worried: Legend has us cheering for the right guy all along, and the mystery is how he could seem so bad at the beginning and be a hero at the end. Cautions For a Western, there ain't much gunplay. Shooter Green does get shot off his horse in the opening scene, and when the stagecoach is held up, three men are quickly shot, however, with little blood seen. There is also a brief bit of gambling, as the trick-shot Shooter is making money off of people betting against him. And that's about it. So this isn't an all-ages family film, but it could be good for everyone 12 and up. Conclusion I've reviewed a few hundred films, and it was fun coming across one I couldn't properly compare to anything I'd seen before. The best I can liken it to is one of the better old Disney movies (think Swiss Family Robinson) crossed with one of the better and funnier Hallmark films. I'm not pitching this as a great movie, just as a solid evening's viewing. It is well-produced and well-acted – kid actors can sometimes ruin things, but the fellow playing Tommy does a decent go of it. It is maybe a teensy bit long, which is why it gets a 7 and not an 8. Check out the trailer below. You can stream it on and elsewhere. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Mountains after the Flood

Documentary 2023 / 102 minutes Rating: 7/10 The folks who brought us Is Genesis History, have crafted a sequel of sorts. Host Del Tackett is back, and just as inquisitive as ever. Mountains after the Flood looks at areas of the Grand Canyon, and exposed layers around the world, including in our mountains, to show how quickly they were formed. The conventional evolutionary thinking is that all these layers took eons to form. However, there are folds in these rock layers... and how could that be? If these layers took so long to form then they would have been hardened and unable to fold – any bending would have resulted in cracks and fracturing instead. So these smooth folds serve as evidence against the prevailing "long age" dating of the Grand Canyon. But what if, instead of forming over hundreds of thousands of years, the folds were formed quickly in the cataclysmic aftermath of the Flood? Then the layers wouldn't be the result of millions of years, but would have been rapidly formed as the sediment settled during the Flood. And the bending could have happened while the layers were still soft. Under these circumstances we would understand how these still soft layers could have been bent over on themselves without cracking. Mountains after the Flood is more technical than the previous film, and that's part of the point. In addition to exploring the evidence for the Flood, Tackett and his crew are also trying to show what doing good creation science really involves. They want to show its rigor, and highlight its credibility – what they are doing here is following well establish scientific protocols to produce findings that can't be dismissed and need to be contended with. While there's loads of information for anyone already interested in the subject, this is not a film I’d show anyone, kids or adults, to try and get them interested. For that I'd point to the original Is Genesis History (which is reviewed, and can be watched for free at this link). Find out more about Mountains after the Flood at, including how to rent and stream it, or buy the DVD. Finally, check out a clip from Mountains after the Flood or watch the trailer below. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

Sound of Freedom

Drama 2023 / 131 minutes Rating: 8/10 Roberto Aguilar has two beautiful children. The charming woman at his door, Giselle, knows it too. In fact, she believes that his 11-year-old daughter Rocio, and his cute-as-a-button 4-year-old son Miguel, might have what it takes to be in the entertainment business. So when she invites Roberto to bring them both by for a photo shoot, the Honduran welder is willing to take the long bus ride into the city, to give his children this special opportunity. When he knocks on the apartment door, the children are invited in, and Roberto is told that parents aren't allowed to stay. He can come back at 7 pm to pick them up. Except, when he returns, they are gone. The charming woman is no talent scout. Giselle has just kidnapped another dozen children for her sex trafficking business. And that might be the last time Roberto ever saw his children, but for one Homeland Security agent. Tim Ballard has the disturbing job of hunting down pedophiles, and in the course of his career he's busted almost 300 of them. But when his partner challenges him, "And how many kids have you saved?" he can't answer. He's had to look through the filth these 300 guys have collected, seen child after child abused, even had to catalogue it for the trials, and he's not been able to save even a single child. But for his own sanity, he needs to start now. "This job tears you to pieces," he tells his boss. "And this is my one chance to put those pieces back together.” What follows is an undercover operation that has no sanction from the US government. Ballard is a highly capable Homeland Security agent, but the children he wants to save are mostly out of country, where his department has no jurisdiction. His boss helps him as much as he can, but in the end Ballard has to cut ties with his government and he goes in with just a couple of new friends who have their own reasons to risk their lives for these children. Sound of Freedom isn't an explicitly Christian film – Roman Catholic Jim Caviezel plays the part of Ballard, who in real life is a Mormon – but there's a reason it appeals to us. What drives Ballard, even still today, is that these children are made in the Image of God, and "God's children not be for sale." Christians will also recognize the Scripture verse Ballard cites when he is about to arrest a pedophile he's had to pretend to befriend in his undercover work. Ballard tells the man: “Better a millstone be hung around your neck and you be cast into the sea than you should ever hurt one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2). Cautions Filmmakers don't tell their audience what's happening; they show it – that's the power of a visual medium. However, some topics are just too grim to show: the real-life Ballard has been left scarred by what he's had to see, and we, as the audience, don't need to share in that misery. Thankfully, the filmmakers were very intentional about educating their audience about child sex-trafficking without exposing us to the full depravity of it. For example, the film's creepiest scene might be the initial photo shoot with Miguel, Rocio, and the other dozen children who have been left with Giselle. The pre-school Miguel has the top two of his polo shirt buttons undone, and the preteen Rocio is seen having red lipstick applied. The children are told how to stand, how to purse their lips, tilt their head, and smile just so. That's already creepy, but what makes it much more so isn't what we see, but rather what we know about how these pictures are going to be used to market the children to "buyers." There's violence, the most graphic of which is a fight scene a minute or two long with two men equally intent on killing each other. Here, too, some "muting" is going on, as we watch the fight through the eyes of a child who has been told not to look. So we hear it, but don't always see what's going on. While there is restraint in what is shown, this is still a film about the sexual trafficking of children. That means lots of people should steer clear. That this is a true story means if you have a soft heart, this could break you. I also wouldn't suggest it for anyone under 16. It is gripping, it is well-acted, it is important, but it isn't really entertainment – this is a film you watch to have your eyes opened. Conclusion As the credits rolled, I was left wondering, Now that I know, what can I do? In a short, post-film plea, actor Jim Cavezial tells us we can help end sexual trafficking by raising awareness. How can we do that? By getting more people to watch the film. That might be a really good idea, but it still has me wondering, what's next? After everyone knows, what do we do then? The film doesn't offer an answer, so I'll pitch a few thoughts: Put the danger in a context - It's good to teach our children to be aware of their surroundings, and good also for parents to be aware themselves. But while some of the real-life footage shown in Sound of Freedom involves drive-by abductions, those are a rarity in the US, and likely Canada too. More often the children are steered into this life by people they trust, or who have some sort of relationship with them. Parents should be more concerned with Giselle-types trying to create bonds, perhaps over social media, than random kidnappings. Stop the sexualization of children – We've got crazy people saying little girls should be able to handle seeing male genitalia in the locker room, and that kids should go to Pride parades even if they have "public nudity and kink." We might be able to shelter our own kids by sending them to Christian schools, but let's not forget about the children who are getting subjected to public school sex-ed, or who are borrowing the books our governments are putting in the teen section of the public library. Lots of fronts in this battle, but closest to home I suspect it might begin with delaying when our own kids get phones and the access that phones bring to the dark side of sexuality. Wait til Grade 8 is a good idea, but I sure wouldn't mind 9 or 10, though any later and parents risk sending their kid out the door at 18 with no guidance on how to use a phone responsibly. Support Christian organizations like SA foundation (Servants Anonymous) that seek to "provide a way out for young women (and their children) that are able to escape the sex trade." Find out more at You can view the trailer below... ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Never Give Up

Family / Sports 2023 / 79 minutes RATING: 6/10 This is great family viewing for the peek it offers into the very different world of the deaf. Never Give Up is the true story of Brad Minns, left deaf by a high fever at the age of three, back in 1968. His parents made the unusual decision at that time, to teach Minns to lip-read and have him try to take on the challenge of a regular school, instead of going to a deaf institution. While his classmates and even his teacher aren't all that welcoming, the game of tennis becomes an outlet and a refuge. Here his hearing loss doesn't make him all that different. It's still not an even playing field – deaf players can't hear how the ball sounds coming off their opponent's racket – but as Minn's first instructor tells him, he can use his eyes and his heart to make up the difference. When Minns beats his big brother, he starts realizing he could become great at this. One of the more unlikely tennis comebacks serves as the backbone to this film – it opens with Minns down two sets, and down five games to none in the third. In flashbacks throughout the match we learn about how he got here and how those early life challenges and triumphs gave him the perseverance to keep fighting even when he's that far down. CAUTIONS The only caution to note would be a hazing scene. When Minns tries out for the US national deaf tennis team, someone hides his rackets right before his first match. Then, after he wins and heads to the showers, they hide his clothes. With no other option, Minns comes to the team meeting "wearing" nothing but a two-foot by three-foot sign which reads "Used tennis balls here." That sounds worse than it is – the signage has him covered more modestly than even the biggest pair of shorts. CONCLUSION I wanted to give this a 7, because our whole family enjoyed it. Who doesn't like a family-friendly, sports underdog story, that teaches you a bit about a different world, and even acknowledges God with a few quiet and respectful nods? But I give 6s for good films that have something notably subpar, and that's the acting here. It's just not very good. It's not so bad that it's annoying, but it is in the range of what you'd find in a low-end Hallmark movie. I'll add that there are some nice production touches too, including the soundtrack featuring Huey Lewis' The Power of Love (playing when Minns was down 40 to love), and some unique "sketched" opening titles. The tennis match itself is solidly shot – believable if not all that suspenseful. So, a 6, but significantly, a 6 that everyone in our family enjoyed. Never Give Up is in theaters across the US starting on Sept. 1, and will be available to stream in Canada some time after. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Long Way North

Animated / Family 81 minutes / 2015 RATING: 7/10 It's the 1880s, the North Pole has yet to be reached, and a Russian explorer dreams of doing so. But when his expedition disappears, along with his unsinkable ice-breaking ship, the Russian Tsar offers a million rubles for anyone who can find them. No one does. Two years later, the explorer's 15-year-old granddaughter, Sasha, discovers his notes and realizes that everyone has been searching in the wrong area. When she can't convince anyone to listen – and when her prodding angers a Russian prince and harms her family's social status – Sasha steals away on her own to discover what really happened. With the lure of the Tsar's reward, Sasha manages to convince an ice-breaking ship to take her on board. Cautions Sasha is the only one who knew where her grandfather's ship is; all the adults should have listened to her! This "the kid knows best" is a staple in children's movies. but fortunately it isn't pushed all that hard here. And Sasha is also shown being rescued by adults who are cleary wiser in these other areas. The only other caution concerns the moment when Sasha finds her grandfather. He's dead, his body frozen and looking more ice sculpture than corpse, so it isn't all that scary. And it's almost as if everyone knew he couldn't still be alive, so the scene is sad, but not weepy. Conclusion This is a sweet story about a granddaughter's love and respect for her grandfather. What makes it unique is the hand-drawn animation, and the starkly beautiful arctic landscapes. This French/Danish production is drawn in an often lineless form – a carriage in the distance is just a block of color – that's very different from anything you're familiar with. While the first 15 minutes might test the patience of some younger viewers, the director's leisurely pacing gives the barren ice and waves and wind time to entrance us. This could be a wonderful family film for a quiet night when the snow is blowing up against your own front door. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Seven Chances

Comedy / Silent 56 min / 1925 Rating: 8/10 This Buster Keaton classic is a silent film, so instead of asking my kids if they wanted to see it, I just popped it in and started watching on my ownsome in the family room. And, as I expected, it didn't take long for them to sit down beside me. I think it was the otherworldliness that got them. This is unlike anything they've seen before, from another time, all black and white, with dialogue you read and music that's so well matched to what's on-screen that it's almost like they can talk. Keaton stars as Jimmie Shannon, a down-on-his-luck businessman who has long wanted to marry his sweetheart, Mary Jones, except he doesn't have the money to support them. And, to make matters worse, his boss has been tricked into "a financial deal that meant disgrace – and possibly prison – unless they raised money quickly." So Jimmie is as down as down can be. That's when the lawyer shows up with news that Jimmie's grandfather has given him seven million dollars... on the condition that Jimmie is married by 7 pm on his 27th birthday! Jimmie's problems are solved: he can marry his girl and keep everybody out of jail! But today is his birthday, so off he rushes to propose. Sadly, poor Jimmie muffs it, making it sounds like the reason he wants to marry Mary is just so he can get the money. She refuses! The distraught Jimmie has no interest in marrying anyone now, but is pressured by his partner to marry someone, anyone just to keep them out of jail. The partner makes a list of seven names – seven chances – for Jimmie to try. And when Jimmie foolishly does, he gets laughed right out the door. But that partner isn't finished: he tells the newspaper about the story, and effectively takes out an ad for ladies interested in marrying a millionaire to meet him at the church. When several hundred show up, the chase is on, and for the next ten minutes we get to watch as Keaton jumps, leaps, slides, and runs, runs, runs for his life! Cautions This is an old film and with that comes a couple of concerns. With Jimmie seemingly willing to propose to just about anyone, we see him approach a woman from behind, only to veer off when he discovers she's black. It's a quick few seconds and kids may not even notice the racism here, but if they do, then you can talk about the way things were back then. The bigger caution is the film's premise: marrying for money. This was remade in 1999 as The Bachelor, and it bombed, probably because. by adding color, sound, lots more dialogue, and a star who gave a restrained performance, they made it almost believable. And this is only funny as a farce. If anybody would actually marry someone for money, that'd be a sad creepy story. The original remains hilarious precisely because it stars a clown no one could ever find believable. Conclusions I encourage you to rent this, or get it from your library, even though many free copies can be found online. It is so old it's in the public domain, free for anyone to republish, but most of those free versions are grainy or have a soundtrack that's nothing more than random selections of classical music. The very best version is KINO's, which pairs a crisp picture with music that matches the action perfectly. It makes a huge difference! So who would like this? I've tested it on pre-teens and skeptical 20 and 30-year-olds too, and while it took them all a few minutes to warm to it, by the end everyone was giving it the thumbs up. They appreciated the hijinks and some also enjoyed the education: this is what film was like way back when, and Seven Chances is one of the rare gems that still hold up today. You can watch the trailer below. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The 3 worlds of Gulliver

Family / Children's 1960 / 99 minutes Rating: 7/10 The film manages one upgrade on the book. In the original Gulliver's Travels, Dr. Lemuel Gulliver is all on his lonesome, but in this 1960s film version, he now has a love interest. And she's got spunk; when Gulliver decides to sail away to find his fortune, his fiancee Elizabeth stows away to go too! By the time she's discovered, the ship is already underway, and a storm ensures they can't just turn around. Still, Gulliver wants to send Elizabeth back to England, so the two go topside to argue it out. That's when a wave sweeps Gulliver right off the ship, and into his first adventure. When next we see Gulliver, he's clawing his way up a beach, calling for help from the people he sees further up the shore. He collapses, only to wake up with his arms and legs all tied down. It turns out those people down the beach weren't so far away – they were quite close, but also quite tiny, and very scared of him. Gulliver has arrived in Liiliput, a land where the people are only 6 inches tall! Gulliver quickly charms the Lilliputian emperor into letting him loose and shows his value to the ruler when he promises to help him win his war. But when Gulliver won't kill the enemy, the emperor conspires against him, and Gullliver has to flee. He's back on the water again. If you know the story, you know what happens next. And if you don't, I won't spoil it for you, but I will assure you that the second chapter is every bit as good as the first. A big part of the fun here is trying to figure out how they managed to have an enormous Gulliver interact with the tiny people around him. There was nothing computer generated back then, so this had to be done with rear screen projection, claymation, gigantic props, and I can't even imagine what else. Cautions There's just a smidge of adult sexuality here. When Gulliver finds his fiancee, he kisses her quite passionately. She interrupts, noting that "We aren't married yet," and runs off to her room and locks the door. To answer her objection, Gulliver arranges with the ruler for a lightening quick marriage ceremony! That's it – nothing untoward shown – but Gulliver's ardour did strike me as a bit PG-ish. The action scenes are generally tame, but children under 8 might be frightened when Gulliver is unexpectantly grabbed by a giant squirrel. The squirrel's weird screech also adds to the tension. Conclusion Parents familiar with Jonathan Swift's book may notice just a bit of his satire still evident in some of the dialogue. But for the most part this is a children's film, enjoyable for the spectacle of seeing a giant man interact with a pixie-sized nation. There have been more recent movie versions of Swift's classic, but this is the very best one for young children. Even if the special effects aren't as slick as the new CGI stuff, there's something very appealing about the 1960s movie magic too. Overall The 3 Worlds of Gulliver rates as a fun, fairly tame film for kids ten and under, but it's also one that mom or dad might enjoy for the old-school effects. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews


Drama 2011 / 129 minutes Rating: 7/10 Like Fireproof, Facing the Giants and Flywheel before it, Courageous is a sermon wrapped up as a film. But unlike those earlier Kendrick brothers’ efforts – where the message took precedence over the moviemaking – this time the sermon has been wrapped up in a really good film! The moral of this story is that fathers are vital to their kids, and consequently to the whole country. We follow five fathers, four of them police officers, only one of whom seems to be doing a great job as a dad. Another, Adam Mitchell, will seem quite familiar to most of us – he isn’t a bad father; he just isn’t as good as he could be. Or to put it in his own words, “I’m doing about half of what I should be.” Courageous begins and ends with a pair of chase scenes which give the Kendricks a chance to show just how good they have become at staging action sequences. These are basically police chase scenes, and they are intense! In the middle of the film we have some comedic scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny, and of course plenty of edifying conversations about the challenges of fatherhood. Cautions Two cautions: the comedy and action make this a film that most of the family would enjoy, however there is one tragic event that makes this too emotional for children, and might make it quite unpleasant for some parents too. Without giving too much away, one of the five families is struck by tragedy, which is what gets that father to reassess just what he’s doing as a dad. It is a necessary plot element, but it turns this from a start-to-finish feel-good movie to one that will take viewers through the full range of emotions. The second caution would only be not to expect too much from the film. If you're looking for depth and nuance and Academy-Award-winning acting, then this isn't for you. The acting's not remarkable but it is solid. And while the biblical model of godly fatherhood is given a compelling presentation here, it certainly isn't a comprehensive one - there isn't time for more in a 2-hour film. Conclusion What you will find here is an encouraging, inspiring plea for fathers to get on with the task and privilege of raising their children. If you don’t mind being challenged as you are being amused, you’ll enjoy it. Edifying and entertaining – it’s a rare combination, but the Kendricks have pulled it off! ...

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Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi Years

Drama 2022 / 115 minutes RATING: 7/10 The opening scene shows Nazi soldiers at the end of World War II fleeing for their lives, and a Jewish woman, Sabina, willing to risk her life to hide them from the new regime. That's quite the beginning! The Nazis don't understand why she's doing it, and even as they turn to her for help, the soldier in charge demands an explanation. So Sabina tells them the story of her life. As the title indicated, this is a sequel of sorts to the 2018 Tortured for Christ about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s courageous and faithful stand against the Soviets when they took over Romania. Like the original, this is a true story too, and this time the focus is on Wurmbrand's wife Sabina, beginning before they were even married. As she shares, you would never have guessed back then that she'd become a pastor's wife, or that her husband-to-be would ever become a Christian. So the whole film is told as a flashback, cutting to and away from Sabina's conversation with the Nazi soldiers. What she is explaining to them is why someone such as her – persecuted by soldiers just like them – is still willing to forgive. It is because she has been forgiven first by God. Cautions While there are some shots fired at the fleeing soldiers, no one is hit. And at one point a despairing Sabina attempts to drown herself. It's a few tense moments like this that make Sabina too much for the under-10 set. But teens and up will have no problem with it. Conclusion This is very well done, with believable characters, wonderful scenery, and solid acting. It is an excellent Christian production. If I was going to pick nits, I'll say at nearly two hours it may have warranted just a bit of trimming, and that's why I rated it a 7 rather than an 8. You can watch the trailer below, and see the film for free at RedeemTV (though you will have to sign up for a free account).  ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Three Investigators in The Secret of Skeleton Island

Family / Drama 91 minutes / 2007 Rating: 7/10 The Three Investigators started as a book series that ran from 1964-1987 and included more than 40 books. I own many of them, and hope to pass them on to my kids, so when I discovered there was a movie, I knew I wanted to see this one. It lived up to my expectations. Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews are a team of juvenile detectives that "have never lost a case." Jupiter is the "Sherlock Holmes" of the group, always able to put the pieces together. Pete is the athletic, fearless "muscle" (or, at least, as much as a 13-year-old can be) while Bob is the researcher extraordinaire, their very own version of Google, always ready with a pertinent fact. The team has their headquarters secreted away in Jupiter's aunt and uncle's salvage yard, complete with secret entrances and research materials and old case files. When Pete's dad invites them to come visit him at his new job site building an amusement park on an island in South Africa, the Three Investigators set out on what they think will be a nice vacation. But, like the book series, events quickly take what seems to be a supernatural/mystical turn - a fearsome mythical beast appears to be haunting Skeleton Island. But, again like the books, there turns out to be a logical explanation, and it is up to Jupiter Jones and his team to figure out what sort of beast it might be, and what secrets it is hiding. Cautions In films starring children, parents are mostly absent, and that holds true here too. While the Three Investigators are only 12 or maybe 13 or 14, they are portrayed as smarter and more capable than the adults around them. And because they are smarter this gives them a reason to ignore parental authority - Pete's dad orders them home, but they decide they have to keep investigating instead. So this is a not-so-subtle challenge to parental authority, and authority figures overall. There is minimal violence (some folks get scratched by the beast and a man is hit in the head with a flower pot) but there is enough peril and tension to make this a film that would scare children. I would recommend it for 11 and up. Conclusion This will be enjoyed by anyone who grew up reading the Three Investigators series and now wants to point their kids to it. The feel and spirit of the books is captured quite effectively, even if the film doesn't have that much to do with the book of the same title. ...

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Forever Strong

Drama 109 min / 2008 Rating: 7/10 This one begins with a fall from grace: teen rugby star Rick Penning crashes his car, injuring his girlfriend, and gets sent to juvenile detention for his second DUI. He also loses the affection of his rugby coach father who only seems able to relate to his son as a coach and not as a dad. Even behind bars Rick is hardly repentant. A prison chaplain of sorts starts setting him right by, first, having him scrub a lot of latrines, and second, by introducing him to a very special rugby coach. Larry Gelwix's Highland club has won the US nationals 15 of the last 20 years, but as he puts it, he's more about creating championship boys, than winning championships. He invites Rick on his team, which of course, the pig-headed Rick declines. But when he finds out he can get out sooner if he plays, Rick changes his mind, and shows up, though still grudgingly. This is a sports movie, so of course, we know Rick is going to turn it around in the end. But this one is also rooted in reality – Coach Gelwix and the Highland team are real, and Rick's character is based on a real person too – and it's those facts that keep this one fresh. Cautions As part of Rick's bad-boy life, the film opens with scenes of partying, and brief shots of bare-chested guys and bikini-clad girls. Rick is also shown drinking while driving his car off the road. He hurts himself, but the real damage is to his girlfriend who got thrown from the car and is shown strung up on a barbwire fence. It's shown only for a moment, but it is the film's most disturbing image (I thought she was dead, and only learned later she wasn't). Another caution would concern the bloody cuts from the rugby action (and from a few fist fights). A topic for discussion with your teens is how the Highland team is at times overtly Christian, and then not. The team prays before games, asking for protection for both themselves and the opponents, but then the player leading the prayer also asks God to help them all "feel the mana, the power of family." Family is a big part of the film, and there is an ancestor-worship vibe going on at times. So family could be the central "god" of the film. Conclusion This is otherwise a pretty amazing movie: well-shot, solidly acted, and you'll feel the rugby hits right through your TV. The action is too intense for preteens, but it might be a fun one for mom and dad and the older kids. And what's cool is you can watch it for free at (though you will have to sign up for their free membership). ...

Articles, Movie Reviews

Top 10 movies from RedeemTV

Redeem TV is a free Christian streaming service with hundreds and hundreds of films. While a lot of it is older content that's quite middling by today's expectations, they do have some shows, movies, and documentaries that are sure to appeal. What follows is a Top 10 list of their very best. For longer reviews, including age appropriateness and any cautions, be sure to click on the title. While the service is free, to use it you will have to sign up for an account. You can do so at Sue Thomas F.B.Eye Drama / TV series 41 min / 57 episodes / 2002-2005 Rating: 8/10 Based on the real life of deaf F.B.I. agent Sue Thomas, it combines the intrigue of police investigations with the unique comic pairing of the courageous but somewhat naive Sue and her lovable but not-always-so-well-behaved hearing dog Levi. The shows are generally tame, but not lame: a Christian series where the acting might not be Oscar-worthy, but is never cringe-worthy either. Final Solution Drama 102 min / 2001 Rating: 8/10 This is the true story of Gerrit Wolfaardt, a church-going, Mein Kampf-reading young man who was taught from the pulpit that white South Africans were God’s new chosen people. And the nation’s blacks? Gerrit saw their existence as a problem that could be solved with some inspiration from Hitler. He offers up his own diabolical “final solution”: if black townships could just be stirred to violence, that could be used as the excuse for the white government to come in force and wipe them all out. And then God uses a girl, and a black pastor, to break him down completely. This is first and foremost the story Gerrit’s transformation, but it's also the story of how a black pastor can befriend the man who wanted to kill him. One man repented, but reconciliation wouldn’t have been possible without forgiveness being given. Flight: the Genius of Birds Documentary 63 min / 2013 Rating: 9/10 When I watched this with my three-year-old daughter 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 and all three have their wow moments. Metamorphosis: the Beauty and Design of Butterflies Documentary 64 min / 2011 Rating: 8/10 Did you ever stop to reflect that beauty is not essential to the survival of creatures, that it is an optional extra? But who chose to confer beauty on so many creatures (and on nature in general) and why? In Eccl. 3:11 we read: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Indeed He has! And there are few groups of organisms that demonstrate this as well as butterflies do. Spectacular photography, computer animation, and magnetic resonance imaging complement beautiful scenes shot in Ecuador’s rain forests, in Mexico’s transvolcanic mountains, and in the north-central US and southern Ontario. The discussion features several biologists with a wrap-up by Dr. Paul Nelson who focuses on how strikingly these creatures bear witness to their Designer. Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth Documentary 69 min / 2015 Rating: 8/10 This is one part nature documentary and one part evolutionary takedown. Illustra Media understands that a great way to expose evolution is to take a close in-depth look at some of the creatures that God has made, like dolphins, sea turtles, Pacific salmon, and humpback whales. My preschool children weren’t always able to follow the discussion, but the close-up videos and computer animations kept their attention. Meanwhile, their mom and I were stunned by the sheer brilliance and creativity of our God! Sabina Drama 115 min / 2022 Rating: 7/10 Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand went on to start Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a group that helps the persecuted Church around the world. But before they began VOM, they were persecuted themselves. Their life story has been told in two films now, the first about Richard, called Tortured for Christ (also available at RedeemTV), and now this one, about Sabina, and how she was able to forgive the Nazis that killed so many of her Jewish family. Freedom Drama 94 min / 2014 Rating: 7/10 Like many a film “inspired by true events,” this isn’t good history but it is pretty decent cinema. Freedom is really two stories in one, the first loosely based on the life of John Newton. He’s the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and while the film gets the broad details of his life right – he was the captain of a slave trade ship, he did have an encounter with God on his ship, and he did turn his back on the slave trade – the timeline of those events has been greatly compacted. In real life, his rejection of the slave trade was a gradual shift over years and even decades, while in the film it seems more a matter of weeks. The second story takes place 100 years later, and is a fictional account of a family of slaves fleeing Virginia via the Underground Railroad. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as the father, Samuel. Wings of an Eagle - A Musician's Journey into America Documentary 98 min / 2017 Rating: 8/10 Winnipeg’s favorite singer-songwriter Steve Bell gets his own documentary. Bell’s been a traveling man for decades, crisscrossing the country, doing thousands of gigs, winning a couple of Junos, and even performing with symphonies across Canada. He’s also headed south regularly and traveled the world. But he’s never really “made it big.” This is the story of both his contentment with the success God has given him, and the many friends who, encouraged by his music, want him to reach that larger audience and are doing what they can to help. Forever Strong Drama 109 min / 2008 Rating: 7/10 This one begins with a fall from grace: teen rugby star Rick Penning crashes his car, injuring his girlfriend, and gets sent to juvenile detention for his second DUI. He also loses the affection of his rugby coach father who only seems able to relate to his son as a coach and not as a dad. Even behind bars Rick is hardly repentant. A prison chaplain of sorts starts setting him right by, first, having him scrub a lot of latrines and, second, by introducing him to a very special rugby coach. Larry Gelwix's Highland club has won the US nationals 15 of the last 20 years, but as he puts it, he's more about creating championship boys, than winning championships. It's a sports movie, and we all know he's going to eventually change things completely around, but it has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Parents should be aware that as part of his bad-boy life, there are scenes of partying with brief shots of bare-chested guys and bikini-clad girls. Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent Animated 29 min / 12 episodes / 2017-2018 Rating: 7/10 These are the animated adventures of a secret agent... and his mom. Ryan is new to the spy game, and while he has a lot to learn what's really holding him back is that he's not so good at listening to others, including his mom. Hijinks ensue. I will note that while our kids enjoyed every episode that we watched, my wife and I found that a little Defrates was better than a lot of it. The way he ignores others' advice gets a bit annoying after a half dozen episodes. An interesting bonus: you can watch these with Dutch subtitles on. Others If you do sign up with you may also want to check out some of these that are also available there (click on the title for reviews): DRAMAS: Vow to Cherish / The Gospel Blimp / Martin Luther (1953) / John Hus: A Journey of No Return CHILDREN: Patterns of Evidence: Young Explorers / Storm / The Defense of New Haven / The Runner from Ravenshead / Torchlighters DOCUMENTARIES: Captivated / Rescued / The Reckoning / Hidden Heroes / Making Choices / How Should We Then Live? / Whatever Happened to the Human Race? / C.S. Lewis Onstage ...

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 assign 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) ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

A Royal Christmas

Drama / Romance 87 minutes / 2014 RATING: 7/10 How would you react if you found out that the wonderful, thoughtful, fun, quiet someone you were dating was secretly royalty? That's the premise, in this fun-for-the-whole-family Hallmark outing. Emily Taylor is a young talented clothes designer, who comes by her skills from growing up in the family's tailor shop. Leo James is her long-time boyfriend – it's been almost a year now! – who suddenly reveals that he is actually the crown prince of the tiny kingdom of Cordinia. And he's inviting Emily to come visit the kingdom for Christmas. The one hitch? Queen Isadora (played by Jane Seymour of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) is dead set against her son marrying a commoner. So will Emily win over the frosty queen? Will she find a way to fit in with dukes and countesses? Can she learn the ways of royalty without losing the spark that makes her special? And will the lonely queen find someone to love? If you've seen any of these kinds of films before, you can already answer all of these questions. But that doesn't make it any less fun to watch. Caution The one caution would be a passing mention that years ago the prince once went skinny-dipping with a duchess. It was a weird inclusion, and totally not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film (maybe it was something innocent when they were just little kids?). The only other concern is that this is yet another movie with "Christmas" in the title that makes no mention of the reason for the season, Christ. Not surprising from Hallmark; still disappointing. Conclusion When I came up with my own film rating scale, what I had in mind for a 7 was a typical Hallmark film, one that was entertaining, but where the acting wasn't all that noteworthy in either a bad or good direction. That's exactly what we have here. A Royal Christmas was enjoyed by all in our household, from 9 all the way up to mom and dad. Shucks, if grandma and grandpa had stopped by, I'm sure they would have liked it too. It's not amazing, but it sure is nice. ...

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