Thursday, February 4, 2021

Dismantled

A scientific deconstruction of the theory of evolution 
Documentary 
2020 / 93 minutes 
Rating: 8/10 

The Creation vs. Evolution debate is sometimes portrayed as being the Bible vs. Science, but Dismantled wants us to know that while creationists certainly stand on the Bible, they aren't conceding on Science. Flipping the script, the documentary begins by asking if evolution should be considered scientific.

"Is it proper to equate evolution with science? Does science have the ability to address questions regarding past events that we were not there to directly observe or verify – events like the spontaneous origins of the universe, the origin of life from non-life, and the evolution of the earliest life forms into mammals? Or might we be giving science a power that it does not have? To answer this, it is important that we accurately define science, as well as its limitations."

Evolution has street cred because it's supposed to be scientific – it claims to come from the very same source of knowledge that gave us rockets, microwaves pizza, smartphones, and self-driving cars. But as Dismantled notes, evolution has little in common with that sort of science. A quote from the film, taken from a biology textbook, explains that:

"Scientific inquiry is a powerful way to know nature, but there are limitations to the kind of questions it can answer. These limits are set by science's requirements that hypotheses be testable and falsifiable and that observations and experimental results be repeatable."

It is precisely the testable, repeatable, falsifiable nature of operational science that got us a man on the moon, and it is precisely those points that evolution's historical science doesn't share. Our origins involve events that happened long ago and aren't repeatable, making these events hard to test, and these theories hard to falsify. So the origins debate isn't about the Bible vs. Science, but more about one historical account vs. another... with the notable difference that one of those historical accounts is thousands of years old and unchanging, and the other is a recent creation and constantly being revised. That's the film's lead-off point, and it takes the first 20 minutes to make it. 

From there, they go on to assess which of these two historical accounts seem a better fit with the world we observe around us. That's the bulk of the film, and this 70-minute tour takes us through topics including:

  • the micro = macro fallacy which assumes, without evidence, that small changes can add up to bigger ones
  • genetics including the limits of supposed "beneficial mutations," and the problem of genetic entropy – that we as a species are breaking down faster than natural selection could ever build us up – and the supposed genetic similarity between man and apes
  • the fossil record including Man's supposed ape-like ancestors, and the humanity of Neanderthals
  • radiometric dating and its problems

Dismantled is a slick production – the visuals are fantastic! – but its strength is in the scientists consulted. Whether it is Jason Lisle, John Sandford, Georgia Purdom, Rob Carter, Andrew Snelling, Nathaniel Jeanson (PhDs one and all), they all know how to explain big ideas to the rest of us who may not have been in a science class for decades. That doesn't mean this is all easy to understand, and I think most of us will have to (and be happy to) watch this twice, just because there is so much here to chew on.

Cautions

The one caution I'll note regards a mistake the film could, indirectly, encourage: believing the Bible only when the evidence says it is reasonable to do so. It is important to remember the evidence discussed in Dismantled wasn't available 100 years ago, and yet God's Word was just as true then. We need to know the Bible isn't true because it syncs up with the evidence; rather, the reason the evidence syncs up with the Bible is that the Bible is true. If that doesn't seem like much of a difference, its significance becomes apparent when the evidence doesn't seem to fit with the Bible. In those circumstances, if our trust is grounded in the evidence rather than the Bible, then we will side with it, against God's Word. But if we trust God, then we'll always stick with the Bible, trusting that any apparent conflicts will be resolved in time.

Conclusion

Dismantled is superb, summarizing important foundational concepts even as it presents the most current findings. I'd recommend it as a purchase, rather than a rental, because you'll want to watch it again to be able to properly digest all that is on offer. The target audience is high school and up, and for those who want to dig in even deeper, a great place to start is the recommended resources list available on the film's website. You can check out the trailer below, and then rent it on Amazon.com or buy the DVD or Blu-ray at Creation.com.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Facing Darkness

Documentary
99 minutes / 2017 
Rating 8/10

In early 2020, when New York was hit with a surge of serious Covid-19 cases, Samaritan's Purse set up a mobile field hospital to relieve the State's overwhelmed health services. Running towards danger was nothing new for this Christian group – they'd already been busy helping in Italy.

And back in 2014, when West Africa was faced with an ebola outbreak, they led the way there too, despite the risk. Facing Darkness is a documentary about that 2014 outbreak, and Samaritan's Purse's courageous response to it. This is certainly not a film for everyone, but it might be great viewing for anyone feeling overwhelmed by our current Covid situation. Here are Christians facing risks many times greater, and while they are afraid – terrified even – it isn't a contradiction to say they were not fearful. They kept working. They kept helping, even when one, and then two, of their own staff became infected. As Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham detailed, when he first got the news, it was devastating:

"My phone rang...and Ken Isaac said, 'Franklin, one of our doctors, Kent Bradley has ebola.' I didn't even know how to pray. I just kept saying, 'Lord, why? We were there to save life. We are there in your name. Why?'"

And, of course, they weren't the only ones impacted by the outbreak. The film begins with a young man sharing, one after another, the names of his aunts, uncles, his mother, brother, sister, nephews, and other relatives, who were all taken by Ebola. It is heartbreaking!

So why should anyone see this film? Why would anyone want to? Because, at a time when the world is overwhelmed with fear, here are Christians who were certain God was with them, and trusted He would provide for them even in the face of sickness and death. These are people who live out the promise God has given, that whatever the here and now, He has a treasure stored up for them in heaven. That makes this such a hope-filled film. It is wonderful!

Caution

Death is an ongoing topic, which means that even as the visuals here are pretty safe, this is not a film for children.

Conclusion

Facing Darkness tells an amazing and encouraging story – brothers and sisters in the Lord showing what it means to trust Him with our all – and that's an example that we can all benefit from.

Check out the trailer below, and watch the documentary for free (with ads) at Tubi, or rent it at Amazon, Vimeo, and elsewhere.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Free film: The Marks of a Cult

Documentary
2005 / 115 minutes
Rating: 8/10

How would you define a cult? Some think of them as being deadly, like the 900 followers of Jim Jones who, in 1978, committed suicide en masse by drinking cyanide-laced kool-aid (this is the origin of the phrase “drinking the kool-aid“). What this documentary focuses on are religious groups that have some connections to biblical Christianity, but which have departed so far from it, that they are worshipping another God.

OVERVIEW

One of the film’s objectives is to give Christians an easily understandable way of spotting those departures. And to make it memorable, host Eric Holmberg uses the four common math symbols: + – x ÷. As he explains it, “A group can be classified as a cult when they:

  1. Add to the 66 books of the bible…
  2. Subtract from the triunity of God by either denying the personhood or the deity of one or more members of the Godhead
  3. Multiply works necessary for salvation
  4. Divide the loyalties of their followers from God…”

These math symbols are then used as the documentary’s four “chapters” and serve as logical breaks for any who might prefer to digest this 2-hour documentary in chunks.

1. Additions (starting at 24:50)

Holmberg explains that the first sign of a cult is that it will add to God’s Word, “relying on some new, so-called revelation. either new scriptures, or by the discovery of some new interpretive key to the Bible that has somehow been hidden from the historic church.” But why would such additions be needed? As Dr. Curtis Crenshaw notes: “If anything is contrary to Scripture, it is wrong. If anything is the same as Scripture, it is not needed. If anything goes beyond Scripture, it has no authority.”

2. Subtraction (starting at 47:30)

Cults will also subtract from the “triunity of God.” Sometimes this involves denying the Holy Spirit’s deity, but more often, it involves a denial of Jesus as being fully God.

3. Multiplication (starting at 1:11:35)

Another sign of a cult is that they multiply the works needed to be saved. This springs directly from the subtraction or undermining of Christ’s deity because, as Jerry Johnson highlights, when Christ is no longer God (or at least fully God), then his sacrifice will no longer suffice. And then Man will have to step in and do his own “share.”

“To downplay the divinity of Christ is to ultimately to surrender the doctrine of justification. Now, why is that? We must remember that God is holy, holy, holy. He is a thrice-holy God. Our mildest sin offends Him greatly….God doesn’t wink at our sin. God is offended by it. He doesn’t even want to look on us because we are not reflecting the character of being made in His Image. And when we think about that, and think about the fact that Christ came as deity to die in our place, that’s because our sins are an infinite offense to the infinite nature of God, and therefore an infinite payment had to be made, and we couldn’t make it. So to take away the deity of Christ does what? It opens up the door. You have got a satisfaction that isn’t a full satisfaction. It’s a partial satisfaction. And therefore, something else has to be added to it. And that’s what the cults always do. None of them believe in justification by grace alone through faith alone. They always add some works to salvation. Christ’s work is not complete, because Christ is not diety.

4. Division (starting at 1:35:40)

A fourth sign of a cult is that they will divide their followers from God so that their first loyalty belongs to the group or to the group leader, rather than to God.

CONCLUSION

The Marks of a Cult is a lot of things: a history of how some of the biggest cults began; a rebuttal to some of their aberrant theology; an explanation of how they have different definitions for key theological terms like grace and justification; and a primer on the beliefs that Christiandom hold in common. It is also entertaining – this is education made, if not easy, then at least engaging.

But it’s also important to mention what this is not: this is not a film you’d show your Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness friend to convince them they are worshipping a false god. This is a film for Christians, intended to clarify the conflict more than argue for the historic Christian side. That makes it a great introduction to the topic of cults. Those who want to go deeper can turn to the resources suggested throughout the film, including the likes of Dr. James White’s The Forgotten Trinity and Dr. E. Calvin Beisner’s God in Three Persons.

Overall, The Marks of a Cult is an outstanding documentary, and what’s even better, you can watch it for free below!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Song

Drama
2014 / 116 minutes
RATING: 9/10

The Song destroys all the expectations we have for Christian films. It has great acting, a great script, an even better soundtrack...and also infidelity, abortion, suicide, drugs, and more infidelity. It's far better than most any Christian film you've seen, but also much grittier.

It is based on, but does not pretend to be, the story of King David and Solomon. The setting is, instead, Nashville, with Jed King an aspiring country singer, who hasn't yet measured up to the status of his superstar father. But he also hasn't fallen into any of his excesses either. 

When he meets Rose, the manager of a winery, he writes a special song for her that turns into his first major hit. From there we see him rise to spectacular heights. Like Solomon before him, he has it all. And like Solomon (and his superstar father) before him, he falls to the temptress, in his case the lead singer of his opening act. 

That doesn't really do it justice, because if you imagine how a story based on the Bible, however loosely, typically turns out, there's just one word for it: lame. That's why it's important to emphasize just how unusual and exceptional The Song is. Two things make it remarkable. The first is the perfect pairing of story, with song, and even with narrated voice overs. All the "Solomonic texts"– Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon – are quoted regularly, and impactfully. Jed is learning some hard lessons through the film, and he shares them, warning us of the ways of the adulterous women, but also the futility of having it all when it is all going to turn  to dust in the end. 

Remarkable too, is the music. It's another fantastic pairing of story and song: the musical performances are worth the price of admission right there!

While praising it as highly as I can, I will add that this was a hard film to watch the first time, since, being familiar with both David and Solomon's story, my wife and I knew that at some point the Jed's happy story was going to take a devastating, self-sabatoging turn. We actually ended up watching it in two nights, the first with all the fun romantic joking and giddiness between him and Rose. We shut it off right before Jed was set to make his stupid devastating decisions (it wasn't hard to tell when that was going to happen). Then the next evening, we could start off with that short bit of ugliness, and then ride out the end of the movie where we got to see his life impacted by undeserved, but gratefully recieved grace. 

CAUTIONS

Even though we don't really see anything, the mature topic matter means this is not a film for children. Underscoring that point, it begins with a two-minute overview of the lowlights of David King's life. We see Jed's father singing on the Grand ol' Ole Opry, and later catching his bandmate's wife swimming naked in a lake (paralleling David seeing Bathsheba). They try to cover up the pregnancy that follows by getting her husband drunk. While King David kills Uriah, in the film the husband, upon learning of his friend's and wife's betrayal, commits suicide. Thankfullly that is all over and done with in a quick montage in the opening minutes. 

CONCLUSION

Some films are gritty for the sake of being gritty. This is gritty for the sake of being true. But it is also funny, romantic, rousing, thought-provoking, and toe-taping for the same reason: because that's what life is like too. I feel like I didn't give this film the pitch it deserved, so I'm going to link to a few other reviews so you can get a second and third opinion. 

Variety (a secular publication)

If you want to dig into the film further, here's a list of some of the biblical references throughout the film. You can check out the trailer below, and rent it online at Amazon and other online streaming services.


Friday, November 13, 2020

The Man in the Iron Mask



Drama 
1939 / 112 minutes 
Rating: 6/10

Based loosely on the Alexander Dumas story of the same name, it takes place 20 years after Dumas' more famous The Three Musketeers novel. The opening is the French palace, where the Queen has just given birth to son Louis. The King now has an heir so his court and the whole country are caught up in celebration. However, back in the Queen's chambers the doctor and nursemaid are still at work because, so it turns out, the Queen was carrying twins. When the younger prince Philippe is delivered, the news is kept secret, for he presents a problem: so long as Philippe lives he is sure to become a tool that unscrupulous sorts will use against his older brother. The King and his closest advisors all agree, this boy will be the cause of civil war. 

So what's to be done? Baby Philippe is packed off with the King's most trusted friend and the greatest of the musketeers, D'Artagnan, to raise as his own son. The boy is never to know who his true father is. 

Fast forward twenty years and the older Louis has been king since he was five. Indulged since that young age he has grown to become a wicked tyrant, so much so that he thinks nothing of arresting his father's closest friends, including D'Artagnan. When Philippe gets arrested too, the king discovers their startling resemblance. Knowing no reason for it – the birth of his brother has been kept a secret from him too – he decides to use Philippe as a body double. He's learned his unhappy subjects are planning to assassinate him, and he sees in Philippes's appearance an opportunity to redirect the danger to this other! However, there are now two in the palace playing the part of the King, and that is one too many. As the title shares, there's an iron mask involved at one point, but I'll stop here lest I give away too much.

CAUTIONS

The twists and turns caused by one actor playing two roles confused our youngest. But hitting the pause button to get her back up to speed was all it took to help her. There is some swordplay, but of a near G-rated sort. At one point a man is whipped, just off-screen. We see the whip hit him, not directly, but in the shadows on the wall, and our sensitive girls wanted to know if the whipping was actually happening...and we could assure them it was not. 

Another consideration is that the King has both a wife-to-be and a girlfriend on the side. His lasciviousness is never shown on screen – the most anyone does in this film is get kissed on the forehead – but parents will have to explain how her presence tells us what kind of flawed character the King is.

CONCLUSION

I don't think anyone in our family would give this two thumbs up, though I think we'd probably all give it one – all of us found bits of the film we quite enjoyed. My wife likes to learn about historical settings, and appreciates being exposed to a famous story she hadn't heard before. The kids were intrigued by the whole identical twin angle with one actor playing both parts. All of us loved the sword fights. But I'll also add, my girls were a bit freaked out by the scenes with the man in the iron mask, and my wife was really disgusted by the evil Louis. So this isn't the sort of black and white film you should pitch to people who aren't used to black and white films. However, for those of us raised on such fare, this is a solid outing. 

While there doesn't seem to be a movie trailer available online, the clip before will give you a feel for the film's quite tame, cartoon-like violence. You can watch it for free by clicking here (though it might have commercials).

Friday, October 16, 2020

Free film: Genesis Impact

Docudrama
68 minutes / 2020
RATING: 7/10

This is a very good...something. The topic matter is plain enough – human origins – but what's less clear is whether this is a documentary or drama.

The beginning is standard documentary: apologist Ray Comfort, just off camera, interviewing college students about their views on evolution.

But when the camera pulls back we discover these interviews are actually a smartphone's 3-D holographic projections being viewed by a teen boy sitting on the edge of his couch (presumably a decade or two into the future seeing as there's no app for that quite yet). When mom wanders by to put away groceries, he shares his doubts about whether God really did create in just six days. "What if they're right, and we're wrong?" he asks, "I mean, the scientific evidence for evolution is pretty overwhelming. What if God...used evolution?" To answer his questions, mom takes us through another scene change, shifting back 20 years to modern day when she was still in school, listening to an origins lecture at a Natural History museum. When the speaker concludes and most of the other students leave the auditorium, the young mom-to-be stays behind to question, and eventually debate, the scientist/lecturer. That's where we stay, along with a few student stragglers, listening to a well-reasoned critique of the lecturer's evolutionary presentation. While Genesis Impact hardly has a plot, it still has plenty of drama as evolution and creationist go head-to-head over the next hour.

Genesis Impact shouldn't be evaluated as a drama though. The acting is fine – solid enough not to get in the way, and better than many a Christian drama – but the young lady is far too knowledgeable, and the evolutionist lecturer far too reasonable (readily conceding her every good point) to be realistic. Fortunately, the filmmakers' goal isn't realism. They wanted to present a challenging, highly educational lecture on a pivotal topic, and they wanted to deliver it in a really unique and entertaining manner. Mission accomplished!

Caution

While the topic matter is the sort you might want to share with an atheist friend, that this is a staged debate – an acted out debate – provides the "out" any skeptic would take to dismiss it entirely, arguing that a real evolutionist would have had better responses, or wouldn't have conceded so many points. So one caution would be that this isn't one to win over an unsympathetic or hostile audience.

Conclusion

What makes it valuable is that the creationist critique is a really good one. Evolutionary proofs aren't so overwhelming as it seems, with guesses built on assumptions, stacked atop beliefs. Secular science presents their conclusions as being unassailable, though sometimes the hype is as much the fault of the media as the scientists. Even when researchers couch their guesswork with phrases like "could be" and "might" and "probably" the media is likely to trumpet "Evidence of life has been found on Mars!" in 36-point front-page headlines.  Still, the same sort of unwarranted certainty can be found in Natural History displays, and in university classrooms, so evolutionary arrogance isn't simply a mainstream media invention.

Who should see Genesis Impact? It's best suited for bible-believing Christians who are interested in, or troubled by, evolutionary accounts. It'll be an encouragement and could serve as a leap-off point for further study. The depth of the material discussed also means this is best suited for college-age and up.

You can watch it for free below, and visit the film's website to dig deeper: GenesisApologetics.com/Impact.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Uncle Tom: An Oral History of the American Black Conservative

Documentary 
2020 / 106 minutes 
Rating: 8/10 

"Uncle Tom" is an insult thrown at blacks by other blacks for supposedly being too eager to get approval from whites. It's leveled at Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Candace Owens, Allen West, and the many other black conservatives who aren't willing to unquestioningly back the Democratic Party and the policies that it pushes. 

This conservative group is a small minority – in the US, blacks are a cohesively liberal voting block, with 9 out of 10 casting their ballot for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last election. But, as this documentary shows, the conservative minority is willing to wear insults as a badge of honor. They aren't going to stay silent about the damage that's been done to their black communities by government welfare policies and by a victimhood narrative that tells blacks they can't succeed because the system is stacked against them. 

Uncle Tom is conservative commentator Larry Elder's project, and offers his perspective which is, ultimately, a very hopeful one. Yes, he details the bigotry that has existed and continues to exist but he also notes that real progress has been made, and that "this is not your grandfather's America." President Obama is shown echoing that point, speaking of Martin Luther King Jr. and his generation as being "the Moses generation" that "took us 90% of the way" and the task for today's "Joshua generation" is to work on that last 10%. 

Elder contrasts that hopeful message with the scaremongering Democrats (including Obama) are running with now, where Republicans are caricatured as so racist that electing them will threaten black voting rights. The argument Elder makes is that it isn't a racist system, or racist boogie men that are blacks' biggest enemy, but the victimhood narrative. And he counters that narrative by showing and celebrating the successes of a broad assortment of black entrepreneurs and leaders.

Caution

Some of the exchanges we see are not polite ones, so there are language concerns, including the uses of the n-word (from blacks directed at other blacks), and quite a number of f-bombs, as well as some other words that we might not want our young children to know. 

Another caution concerns how this film might seem unfairly biased. Many of us have grown up in the church, read God's Word daily and heard it expounded each Sunday, and that has equipped us with fairly reliable sniff detectors – even when we aren't able to put it exactly into words why we don't trust what's being presented, we can still sniff out lies. But in this case, I suspect some folk's sniff detectors might register a false alarm. The alarm will go off because there is a clear Republican conservative bias here, but just as offering a Reformed perspective is a bias too and doesn't preclude a fair treatment of opposing views, I'd argue the bias in Uncle Tom doesn't get in the way of a generally fair presentation. The Democrats are given plenty of screen time, and while their clips usually don't show them in a good light, these are the real positions Democrats hold and there is nothing deceptive about sharing what they actually believe. So yes, there might be too generous an appraisal of Donald Trump, and other points that we shouldn't be swallowing whole, but the overall argument against the victimhood culture is a solid one.

Conclusion

While there are Christians in the film, and some Christian perspective is offered, we never really get a concise summary of why the victimhood narrative is sinful (though lots of clues are offered). Parents watching this with their older teens might want to discuss:
  • Is the victimhood narrative about raising victims up, or about assigning blame and guilt? Can any forgiveness be found in a victimhood culture?
  • The victimhood narrative is sometimes used to justify shameful behavior – the current rioting is supposed to be understandable because of systemic racism. But do two wrongs make a right?
  • How is blame being assigned? Is it based on actual sins committed, or is it on the basis of skin color? What does the Bible say about that?
  • Are the charges leveled about specific instances of wrong or are they often generalized accusations of systemic racism? Can we right unspecified wrongs? How about specific wrongs?
  • How does the hope offered in this film – that if you work hard you can get ahead – deliver, and how does it fall short?
Uncle Tom offers a conservative perspective that, even as it doesn't always line up with the Christian perspective, still offers genuine insight into much of what's going wrong in race relations. I'd recommend this for ages 13 or up, based primarily on language concerns. But it is a film that demands discussion afterwards – it has to be unpacked and cross-examined to be of any use. 

You can watch the trailer below, and rent the film for $8 US here. And if you enjoyed it, you can get a closer look at two of these black leaders in their own documentaries: Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools and the upcoming Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story

Documentary
91 minutes / 2012
Rating: 7/10

This is the amazing story of how a one-armed young man beats the odds to make it onto a Division 1 college basketball team. His disability alone would make Kevin Laue a "long shot" but then he also lost his dad at age 10. What the film celebrates is Laue's determination, but what it also captures is the enormous hole left when a father is missing. So much of what Laue does and wants to do is an effort to make his late father proud.

Laue does have a father figure in the film, a fantastic high school coach in Patrick McKnight who was willing to just invest in the young man, and "put a foot in his butt" when Laue needed it. He also has a family that loves him, including a grandmother who calls him her "chickadee" and has to be in the running for his #1 fan.

Cautions

Language concerns would be a couple of f-bombs dropped by players and one "gosh." We see Kevin in the shower, shot from the other side of the somewhat opaque glass door so we don't see any details, but enough flesh-color to know he is naked.

While the trailer below makes this look like more of an explicitly Christian film than it is - the Laues' trust in God only comes up in spots. And that's maybe the more notable caution: while the film highlights how important a father can be for a son, God isn't portrayed as nearly as significant, which prompts a great discussion question for our kids: who do you think is the "god" – the most important person or thing? – in this film? Is it dads or God?

Conclusion

This is a fascinating film about young man who is admirable in many ways, and yet not so idealized here that he becomes fake and distant. It's one that any sports fans will enjoy, and both teens and parents will enjoy equally. Check out the trailer below, and watch it for free here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Free film: Flight of the Butterflies

Documentary
2012 / 44 minutes
RATING: 7/10 

Equal parts detective story and nature documentary, Flight of the Butterflies tells the story of "Dana" and her offspring, beautiful monarch butterflies making their way across the United States. It also showcases the investigative work of biologist Fred Urquhart and his wife Norah, who spent their lives trying to discover where the butterflies were going on their yearly migration. 

The nature half is simply stunning, and deserves a widescreen TV viewing – you'd lose so much watching it on your phone. We get to follow Dana as she flutters from plant to plant, laying her more than 300 eggs, and get to tag along, too, as she flies as much as a mile up into the heavens. Then, when we eventually see one of Dana's grandchildren form her chrysalis, we get a peek inside:

"Fed oxygen by hundreds of fine breathing tubes. her brain, heart and digestive track change shape and size. New powerful flight muscles develop, and compound eyes form. Long legs and steady wings complete the transformation."

The caterpillar to butterfly transformation is astonishing – one creature becoming something else entirely! But it gets even crazier: while Dana didn't live all that long, and her daughter didn't either, they somehow manage to spawn a granddaughter that will look just like them, but be another sort of creature once again: Dana's granddaughter is a "super butterfly destined to live eight times longer" than either of the two previous generations! 

The mystery half is fun too. An actor familiar to many Canadians, Gordon Pinsent (Beachcombers, The Red Green Show) plays Fred Urquhart who recruits the help of regular folk – "citizen scientists" – all over the United States to help him tag, and then track the flight paths of monarch butterflies. After gathering this information for decades he can tell they fly south towards Texas, but where do these millions of butterflies go afterward? I won't spoil things: you'll have to watch it to find out.

Caution

The documentary opens with a quick nod to Darwin, with biologist Fred Urquhart declaring, "It has been said since Darwin's time that evolution has been written on the wings of a butterfly. I know my life has." Another similar sort of "nod" happens elsewhere, but the brilliant design evident in the monarch's lifecycle and remarkable migration far outshine these little mars. 

There is also a few mentions made of man-caused environmental issues that might impact the monarch, including a passing mention of global warming. But these are very brief, and the film is not any sort of anti-man screed. As with many a secular nature documentary perhaps the most notable caution is simply that in a film about a creature whose beauty and amazing lifecycle screams out the glory of its Creator, the film never gives God His due. But we can make up for this deficiency.

Conclusion

Fred and Norah Urquhart spent 50 years learning all about the monarch, and in this remarkable film we get to come along for that journey of discovery. 

This is a quiet film – there are no explosions to be found – so it isn't going to be to everyone's tastes. But maybe it should be – if the brilliance of the monarch butterfly doesn't fill us with awe at God's genius, maybe it's time we stopped watching so many car chases and superhero battles and sharpened up our sense of awe. Regardless, for the nature lover in your family this will be something special. You can watch the trailer below, and watch the film for free here.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Larryboy and the Fib from Space

Children's / Animated 
30 min / 1999 
RATING: 7/10 

Larry-Boy is no ordinary hero: first off, he's a cucumber, and secondly he's got super suction cup ears. And to complete the Batman spoof, he also has his own Larry-mobile, Larry-cave and asparagus butler named Alfred.

In this, his first adventure, a tiny alien named Fibrilious Minimus ("You can call me Fib for short") encourages a kid named Junior Asparagus to lie to get out of trouble. But one lie quickly leads to another and before he knows it Junior finds that his little friend Fib is now 20 stories tall. Can Larry-Boy stop the Fib from outer space?

Actually, no. Bumblyburg's resident superhero is completely confounded by the giant Fib. In the end only Junior can stop the Fib, by finally confessing to all his lies – a good message wrapped in great jokes.

If you like this video you may like a number of other "Veggietale" videos as well: Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed, Madame Blueberry and Sheerluck Holmes. But not all the episodes in this Veggietales series are as admirable, with some tackling Bible stories in a way that just doesn't show the respect due God's Word.

You can get a taste of Larryboy by watching the official theme song video below.