Friday, July 6, 2018

The Cameraman

Silent film / Comedy
1928 / 76 minutes
RATING 7/10

Buster Keaton is a down on his luck tin-type cameraman. The film takes place in the 1920s, when photos are still a rarity and Buster makes his money taking portraits of passersby on the street for ten cents each. The story begins when Buster has a chance encounter with Sally, the receptionist at a newsreel company's office. To impress her he trades in his tin-type camera for a hand-cranked motion picture and heads off to find some news to film.

It takes Buster a bit of time to get the hang of things but his failures are entertaining, and Sally appreciates the effort. However, just as she's warming up to him, and Buster is figuring out how to run his camera, the villain of the piece – an already established news cameraman – arrives to break up the not-yet-a-couple. Nothing is ever easy for Buster!

CAUTIONS

There are a few cautions for this film that make it less than ideal viewing for the youngest viewers.

Buster first encounters Sally when a huge crowd crushes them into each other, with Buster stuck behind her, his nose buried in her hair. This takes the ridiculous love-at-first-sight trope, and turns it into a slightly creepy love-at-first-smell. Fortunately this is only a brief bit.

There is one "naughty" joke, involving Buster and Sally on their first date to a public swimming pool, Buster ends up in an oversized swimsuit. To impress Sally he heads to the diving board and, of course, ends up diving right out of his suit...though he doesn't immediately realize. To solve his dilemma he divests a woman in a large of swimsuit dress (right down to mid-calf) of her accompanying swim-pants, which he then wears on his way out of the pool. It's best not to think just how he pulled off that stunt (and the film doesn't spend any time on it).

Younger viewers might be shocked at the sudden apparent death of a small monkey that Buster falls on (but later we discover the little guy is okay). A scene in which a police officer tests Keaton's reactions by hitting his knee – and Buster returns in kind – might also be distressing to younger viewers who know that's not how you treat policemen!

CONCLUSION

MGM loved this film so much it was required viewing for all its comedy filmmakers. And no wonder! Like Keaton's other films, this one abounds in stunts and visual jokes, but it probably has the very best – though most abrupt – ending of them all.

So my take is, The Cameraman is a fun film but recommended only for older family members who understand that Buster Keaton is not always to be imitated.

 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Spirit of St. Louis

Family / Biography
1957 / 135 minutes
RATING 7/10

Charles Lindbergh's 1927 flight wasn't the first to cross the North Atlantic. That was accomplished 8 years earlier, in May of 1919, by a crew of United States Navy aviators flying in a biplane equipped with floats. The floats were so it could land on the water, which it did a number of times to give the crew time for repairs and rest. Their flight, from New York State to Lisbon, Portugal took 19 days.

That flight has largely been forgotten because it was eclipsed, just two weeks later, by a pair of British aviators, John Alcock and Arthur Brown, teaming up to make the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. They took a far shorter route, flying from Newfoundland, to Ireland. Their biplane managed the journey in just under 16 hours, crash-landing in a bog the pilots mistook for a suitable landing field. Both men were unharmed.

So why is Charles Lindbergh's crossing the one best remembered? One reason was the $25,000 Orteig Prize for the first successful non-stop flight from New York to Paris. It had been offered since 1919, but despite a number of efforts over the next 8 years, no one had yet managed to claim it. Another reason was that Lindbergh's flight was the first solo flight across the Atlantic. And the third reason is related to the first – by flying between two major international cities, New York and Paris, Lindbergh's flight showed the world that commercial aviation was a real possibility. Just a dozen years later the first commercial transatlantic flights began.

But enough history, how was the film?

Well, if you like Jimmy Stewart, or appreciate biographical films, or enjoy learning even as you're entertained, or have wanted to know more about Charles Lindbergh, or wanted a nice family film, then you're sure to enjoy The Spirit of St. Louis.

The film is named after Lindbergh's plane, and the story begins on the night before his journey begins. Even as "Slim" is tossing and turning, trying to catch some sleep before he begins what could be a 40-hour flight, he starts remembering what led him to this point. We see, in these flashbacks, and others that take place during the flight, how Lindbergh first bought his first plane, how he handled his job as a mail aviator in terrible weather conditions, how he convinced a group of St. Louis businessman to back his transatlantic attempt, and how the Spirit of St. Louis was designed and built.

Some of these recollections are told to a stowaway – a fly who comes along for the first part of the flight. It's a charming device, which our kids really enjoyed - Lindbergh points out to the fly where they are on the map and how long they've been flying. I was even a little disappointed when the fly decides he'd prefer to stay on this side of the Atlantic, and takes his leave out the open cockpit window.

For some kids and adults, used to more frenetic action, the pacing might strike them as a bit slow. The film is also long, at more than two hours, and I suspect it might have lost our kids' attention if we hadn't watched it in two separate chunks. But broken up that way, it kept the attention of our whole family from 4 to 46.

CAUTIONS

The topic matter of the film raises a few issues that could be worth talking about with the kids. The first is hero-worship. Lindbergh had drive, skill, and charisma – we can't help but root for him. But what the film doesn't get into is his failings – he had several affairs. Of course, our kids don't need to know all about that, but it is good to remember that our heroes have feet of clay, so we should not put them on a pedestal.

Another topic worth a discussion is, what sort of risk is appropriate? Lindbergh was probably not a Christian and likely an agnostic, so he wasn't assessing risk from a Christian perspective. But we can. And in light of the other pilots who had died earlier trying this same flight, was it a good and worthy thing for Lindbergh to attempt? Or was he treating carelessly the life that God had entrusted to his stewardship? Questions worth discussing.

Finally, Lindbergh's religious views do come up, briefly in the film. Lindbergh was a private man, so his religious views seem hard to nail down, but he wasn't an orthodox Christian. However it's said he flew combat missions in World War II with a New Testament, and later spoke of the importance of Jesus' ethics. In the film his muddled thinking about God comes up in a few brief scenes. First, Lindbergh notes that when he flies he doesn't ask God for help. A Roman Catholic priest tries to set him right, and later on a friend superstitiously sneaks a St. Christopher's Medal on the flight for good luck (the medal is thought, by Catholics, to ask the saint to bless a traveler's journey). Finally, as he is at the end of his flight, sleep deprived and unsure he can land it, he tries to recall one of the priest's prayers, and ends up simply crying out to God for help. This confusion about God might be surprising to very young viewers, and worth a discussion.

CONCLUSION

The 49-years-old Jimmy Stewart was playing a man 24 years his junior, and if Lindbergh seems a little older than 25, Stewart still pulls it off. This is an interesting bit of history, charmingly acted. Another good one for the whole family.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The absent-minded professor

Black and White / Family
1961 / 96 minutes
RATING: 7/10

The classic begins with a bang – a lab accident blows up Ned Brainard's garage and leaves the professor knocked out cold.

The good news? This explosive experiment has produced a wondrous new substance - a rubbery material that when rolled up in a ball and dropped gains height with each bounce. It's almost like this rubber can fly so, of course, the professor names it flubber. And what's the first thing he does with flubber? Why, use it to create the world's first flying Model T of course!

The bad news? While he was out cold the professor missed his wedding...for the third time!

Betsy Carlisle is his long-suffering fiancee. While she loves her Neddy, this is it – she doesn't want to hear any more excuses. "I say, three strikes and you're out!" To make the situation that much more difficult for Ned, he has a rival for Betsy's attention. Professor Shelby Ashton is egotistical and even more self-absorbed than Ned but he has one thing going for him – he knows how to shows up on time.

To get Betsy's attention Ned puts his flubber to use and this is where the fun really begins. When the college's basketball team is losing badly, Ned secretly irons flubber on to all of the players' shoes. When the second half starts the Medfield team is now able to jump, not just over the other team, but right over the gym rafters!

While this stunt doesn't impress Betsy, Ned and his flying Model T do catch the attention of all three branches of the US military and a particularly unscrupulous businessman. Car chases and hijinks soon follow.

CAUTIONS

As children do sometimes do as they see, the biggest concern might be language. One of the villains – businessman Alonzo Hawk – calls people "idiots," "stupid," or "tells them to shut-up."

There is some violence – a shoot-out in which no one gets hit, and two thugs unsuccessfully trying to get Professor Brainard – but this is of the comic sort and even our six-year-old knew everything was going to be okay (but our four-year-old had to be reassured).

Oh, and at one point Hawk gambles on a basketball game.

It may be worth pointing out to younger viewers that the "hero" of this story, Professor Brainard, is not a good example at the beginning – he's prioritized science over his bride-to-be! Thankfully, by film's end he's learned the error of his ways.

CONCLUSION

This classic spawned a sequel and two remakes but they never improved on the original. A flying car, a villain who can leap buildings in a single bound, a damsel who's in distress because her bumbling knight has left her at the altar again – this is fun that everyone will enjoy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sgt. Stubby: an unlikely hero

Animated / Family
2018 / 84 minutes
Rating: 8/10

I read a review by a parent who arrived at the movie theater with his four-year-old and picked this film based solely on the smiling ever-so-cute doggie he saw on the movie poster. One problem: while this is about a charming, incredibly clever dog named Stubby, it's also about life in the trenches of World War I. And that's not 4-year-old material. Why oh why don't more people read movie reviews!

But, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the "Great War" this is a movie that many a ten-year-old and up will enjoy and should watch.

It's based on the true story of Sgt. Stubby, the most decorated dog in American history. The story begins with the homeless dog attaching himself to a unit readying itself to be shipped overseas. First he charms his way into the heart of one Private Robert Conroy, the main two-legged character in the film. Then, one by one, from the lowest private to the general in charge, he wins over everyone. Well, not everyone. Some folks just aren't dog people, and Private Elmer Olsen just doesn't understand what's so special about Stubby.

When the unit heads overseas, Stubby manages to sneak aboard the ship, and he too is heading to the fight.

From this point onward there's one perilous scene after another, but to make it appropriate for (nearly) the whole family, the filmmakers decided to make this an entirely bloodless film. Even as bullets are whizzing, no one gets shot. German bombardments send both soldiers and dirt flying, but the soldiers get dug out and emerge both unbruised and unbloodied.

While parents will appreciated the nonexistent blood and gore, by muting the violence and death the film ran the risk of also muting the sacrifice that these soldiers made. But as the film draws to a close there is one death - to a secondary character - that drives home, even to the younger audiences, what these men risked and what they lost. Without giving it all away, I'll note that the death happens off screen and we don't even see the body. It is the soldier's absence that is noted – while his friends are looking for him after the last big battle, Stubby brings them his helmet. That'll get some kids crying, and even moisten the eye of many an adult. But it is necessary. And it is done with great care and restraint.

As you'd expect with an energetic pooch as its star, there is a lot of fun in the film. Kids are sure to enjoy Stubby training along with his fellow soldiers, getting chased by the cook, and winning over the Colonel after Conroy teaches his little buddy how to salute. In another treat, Gérard Depardieu makes an appearance as a large, wise French soldier, who along with Conroy and Stubby is tasked to spy out German positions. These "three musketeers" become fast friends, saving each others' lives.

Cautions

There are only a couple of concerns, including a little bit of language. The worst of it includes one character saying "What the devil?" and another exclaiming "I'll be darned."

There is also just one bit of "naughty" comedy as the drill sergeant lectures his men on they should imitate the never-complaining, always-ready-to-roll Stubby but he makes this speech just as Stubby decides to lick his nether regions. That gets a laugh out of the sergeant and his men as they are presented with proof-positive that Stubby has some traits that aren't worthy of imitation.

The big caution would concern the near constant peril. This is not a film for four-year-olds. But most ten-year-olds will be sure to enjoy it.

Conclusion

This was such a pleasure to discover. Before this I couldn't have imagined a war film that would be appropriate for the very young and yet still be a treat for their parents. This would be a great one to watch with the family for Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, or Anzac Day.

It doesn't seem to be available on DVD (as of June 28, 2018) but should be soon.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Beyond is Genesis history?

Documentary
2017 / 400 minutes
RATING: 7/10

In Del Tackett’s 2017 documentary Is Genesis History? he interviewed PhD-holding scientists with various areas of expertise, all of them happy to share why their field of study backed a literal understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis.

It was among the best creationist documentaries ever made, and it left viewers wanting more. We wanted more with geologists Steve Austin and Andrew Snelling, and more with paleontologist Kurt Wise, and more with the many other experts consulted.

So that’s what Tackett’s given us. In Beyond Is Genesis History? Tackett shares 20 interviews – all of them 18 to 21 minutes – with six of the experts he consulted for the feature documentary. I loved the documentary, but I thought, at 400 minutes, this follow-up was too much of a good thing, and I gave it a pass. But then my dad saw it, loved it, bought me a copy and told me I really needed to see this. And boy was he right!

This isn’t something you’ll watch straight through – anything more than an interview or two at a time is going to be intellectual overload – but it is spectacular! Much more than talking heads, this is heartfelt, concise, deep discussion! Anyone who enjoyed Is Genesis History? will be sure to love this too.

Check out the trailer below, and for a dozen clips from the documentary, click here.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

School shootings: the cause and the cure

Documentary
2018 / 20 minutes
RATING 7/10

Ray Comfort’s new 20-minute movie is worth watching for the first few minutes alone. Comfort interviews young people and asks them if they can call a school shooter evil…and they can’t! Our culture doesn’t want to condemn evil because then they would have to own up to the evil in their own hearts.

Comfort understands that, so we get to watch as he coaches and encourages these young people to own up to what they already know – that this was wicked, that sin is real, and that they themselves are sinners too.

When they own up to that, then, and only then, does Comfort tell them about the Jesus. As he puts it in one of his books, there is a need to first bring people to “Moses” – to God’s Law and to a realization we are sinners – before bringing them to Jesus, who saves us from sins.

Cautions
The only caution I’d offer is that at one point Comfort makes it sound as if the reason we should turn to God is to reduce school shootings. But, of course, we don’t worship God for the purpose of combatting school violence; we worship God because He is good, just, gracious, and our both our Creator and Redeemer, deserving of all praise.

Conclusion
Like every Ray Comfort film, this has an evangelistic intent, that becomes explicit about halfway through. Most Christians could benefit from seeing Comfort in action, confronting and encouraging a world that doesn’t believe sin exists, to own up to the fact that they themselves are sinners.

Watch it for free at livingwaters.com/school-shooting-movie or below.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Calvinist

Documentary
89 minutes / 2017
RATING: 8/10

Calvinist is the story of a generation of young men and women who went searching for answers and found them in Reformed theology.

I found this a fascinating film because what they discovered is what I've always had as my birthright. I grew up in a Reformed home, attended a Reformed church, and went to a Reformed school, and it was the same for most of my friends and family. What was so very fun about Calvinist was the opportunity to see through new eyes, the knowledge of God that I had taken too much for granted.

The "young, restless, and Reformed" were a product of the late 90s and early 2000s – they had questions, and the Internet gave them access to all sorts of answers. When they googled "How do I know if I'm saved?" or "How do I know the Bible is true?" the best answers they found were by Reformed theologians like R.C. Sproul, John Piper, John MacArther, and more.

So this documentary serves at least three purposes:
  1. It is a history of how God steered this questioning generation towards just what they needed to know Him. 
  2. Calvinist also shares many of the answers these seekers were after. Producer Les Lanphere went to today's biggest name Reformers and and hit them with some of the biggest questions. So, in addition to learning some recent history, the audience learns timeless biblical truths. 
  3. The film also introduces us to a host of solidly Reformed teachers. In addition to Sproul, Piper and MacArther, Lanphere talks to:
    • Michael Horton
    • Tim Challies
    • Robert Godfrey
    • Joel Beeke
    • Paul Washer
    • James White
    • Carl Trueman
    • Jeff Durbin
    • ...and many more
That's an impressive, long list; Lanphere has put in the time and effort needed to make this a very special film.

That extra effort also comes out in all the slick transitions and special effects – this looks good! One fun bit is running gag of sorts. Lanphere used 80s-era computer game style graphics to animate and illustrate some points. So, for example, when discussing Roman Catholicism's "faith plus works" position, we see what looks like an old arcade game, and scroll through some possible "fighters" until the selection stops on Martin Luther.

An interesting tangent that's briefly explored is the impact Reformed Rap had on these young seekers. I watched this with a group of 20-somethings who had never heard of Timothy Brindle and Shai Linne and they were amused and maybe even a little shocked that "Rap" could be paired up with "Reformed." But is it really so surprising that a medium which gives primacy to the word would be a great one for communicating the deepest truths about God?

CAUTIONS

While all the Reformed teachers we're introduced to are quite conservative, they do have some differences among them that aren't ever discussed. The most notable concerns baptism – there's a roughly 50/50 divide among the speakers, with half believing in credo-baptism (Piper, MacArthur, Durbin, White, Challies) and the other half, infant-baptism (Sproul, Horton, Trueman, Beeke, Godfrey).

Other differences also exist, so while a discerning student can learn much from these men, discernment is indeed needed.

CONCLUSION

I've shared this film with two different sets of friends and everyone has really enjoyed it. This will be a hit with anyone 18 and up who has an interest in Reformed Theology. It probably won't convince a non-Reformed friend, but it will probably give the two of you a lot to talk about and explore further.

If you use it for a group movie night, consider having an ice cream and brownie break at maybe the one hour mark. There's just so much packed in here, that a break is needed to allow folks to think through and discuss what they've been seeing and hearing.

You can check out the trailer below, and further down you can see two YouTube videos that are featured prominently in the film because of the impact they had on the young, restless and Reformed generation.

You can buy Calvinist here.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

150 movies King David might watch


Great mind think alike, and this month those two great minds were a missionary in Brazil and an evangelist in California.

The evangelist, Ray Comfort, passed along a story, first told by Jeremy Archer, about a man who invited all sort of folks into his house to meet his family. Often the visitors would talk crudely and angrily with each other, teaching his children words he'd rather they not know. But they could also get his whole family laughing so the man decided to focus on the good they did, rather than the bad.

Over time the man could see the visitors were having an impact on his family, and it wasn't a good one. He found that his own children were now using crude language and making coarse jokes. What was worse, the visitors were behaving outrageously, even taking their clothes off right there in front of his family!

That's hard to believe, isn't it? Why didn't the man just kick them out? Why didn't he protect his family from their influence? Well, it turns out this man had some sense, and as the visitors started getting naked the man acted. Together, with his family, the man finally "turned off the television."

That same month, and it might have been the same week, the missionary, Rev. Ken Wieske expressed the same concern another way, titling a Facebook post "David vows to get rid of his TV." Underneath he included the text of Psalm 101 which reads (in part):
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
The pastor's point was clear: most of what's on TV is worthless and if King David were here on earth today, he might well pitch his TV right out of the palace. Of course, it isn't quite as easy as that. Today we also have computers, and smartphones, so getting rid of the TV isn't going to restrict out access to fluff and filth that's so readily available.

So let's take this a step further. Yes, much of what's on TV (and on YouTube, Facebook, etc.) is pretty much worthless. But some of it isn't. Some of it is quite good. Excellent even! So if we were to make the same promise King David makes in Psalm 101, to put away all that is worthless, what sorts of film and videos might he still watch?

I've got some suggestions, and I've listed them under 10 categories, with 15 movie recommendations in each category. My hope is that this list can help families find something worthwhile to watch. With over 150 suggestions I'm also hoping there will be something for everyone.

Title, year, and length, are included, and, if there's a review available on ReformedPerspective.ca, or my movie review blog, ReelConservative.com, then I've indicated that by making the title all caps and clickable.

I've also included an entertainment rating. This is out of 10, and in my books a 7 is a solid mark, while 8 is something special, and 6 is still watchable, but that indicates there is some notable flaw (maybe corny writing, or a bad bit of acting, that sort of thing). The only reason I've included a few films that rate as low as 6 is because they have educational value.

One other note: none of these take God's name in vain. That's important. While a degree of violence and even sexual content of some sort (kissing, hugging) can be appropriate on screen, the way God's name is abused on film never is.

ANIMATED VIDEOS
This mix of shorter videos (the longer ones are made up of several parts) can be ideal when mom wants to take a nap, but doesn't want the kids sitting in front of the TV forever

Anne of Green Gables, Vol. 1-3 – 2003, 150 minutes – 7/10
Adventures in Odyssey: The Knight Travelers – 1991, 27 minutes – 7/10
THE GRUFFALO  – 2009, 27 minutes – 8/10
Horton Hears a Who – 1970, 30 minutes – 7/10
JUNGLE BEAT – 65 minutes – 10/10
Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space – 1999, 30 minutes – 7/10
Lord of the Beans – 2005, 52 minutes – 7/10
Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride – 2014, 60 minutes – 7/10
The Pond
   – THERE'S SOMETHING FUNNY IN THE WATER – 2005, 27 minutes – 8/10
   – The Little Things – 30 minutes – 7/10
   – The Rise and Fall of Tony the Frog – 30 minutes – 7/10
   – Alligator Hunter – 30 minutes – 7/10
   – Big Mouth Bass – 32 minutes – 7/10
Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures – 1989-1995, 85 minutes –  7/10
THE WAY THINGS WORK – 2001, 300+ minutes – 8/10

ANIMATED FILMS
Looking for something good for a family "dinner and a movie" night?

THE BOXCAR CHILDREN – 2013, 81 minutes – 7/10
Chicken Run – 2000, 84 minutes – 8/10
Curious George – 2006, 88 minutes – 8/10
Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle – 2015, 81 minutes – 7/10
Finding Nemo – 2003, 100 minutes – 8/10
Fox and the Hound – 1981, 83 minutes – 8/10
LOST AND FOUND – 2013, 24 minutes – 8/10
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 1977, 74 minutes – 8/10
Meet the Robinsons – 2007, 95 minutes – 7/10
Monsters Inc. – 2001, 93 minutes – 9/10
THE PEANUTS MOVIE – 2015, 88 minutes – 8/10
SGT. STUBBY – 2018, 84 minutes – 8/10
Tangled – 2010, 100 minutes – 9/10
Up – 2009, 96 minutes – 9/10
Wall-E – 2008, 98 minutes – 9/10
WINNIE THE POOH – 2011, 63 miinutes – 8/10

BASED ON A BOOK
It's always hard to live up to the book, but some of these get awfully close!

The Adventures of Robin Hood - 1938, 101 minutes – 8/10
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 1939, 82 minutes – 7/10
Animal Farm – 1954, 72 minutes – 7/10
THE GIVER – 2014, 97 minutes – 8/10
Ivanhoe – 1952, 107 minutes – 7/10
THE HOBBIT – 1977, 77 minutes – 7/10
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1979, 95 minutes – 7/10
Little Women – 1949, 121 minutes – 8/10
Little Women – 1994, 118 minutes – 9/10
THE LORD OF THE RINGS – 1978, 133 minutes – 7/10
POLLYANNA – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10
The Prince and the Pauper – 1937, 118 minutes – 8/10
Pride and Prejudice – 2004, 104 minutes – 8/10
Sarah Plain and Tall – 1990, 98 minutes – 8/10
SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – 1960, 126 minutes – 8/10

BLACK AND WHITE CLASSICS
These have all stood the test of time and are still being watched again and again.

12 Angry Men – 1957, 96 minutes – 8/10
The Absent-Minded Professor – 1961, 96 minutes – 7/10
Adam's Rib – 1949, 101 minutes –  8/10
CASABLANCA – 1943, 103 minutes – 10/10 
Citizen Kane – 1941, 119 minutes – 7/10
High Noon – 1952, 85 minutes – 9/10
I Remember Mama – 1948, 134 minutes – 7/10
It Should Happen to You – 1954, 87 minutes – 7/10
The Man in the White Suit – 1951, 85 minutes – 7/10
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – 1962, 123 minutes – 8/10
Meet John Doe – 1941, 122 minutes – 7/10
Mr. Deed goes to Town – 1936, 115 minutes – 7/10
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939, 129 minutes – 8/10
Sea Hawk – 1940, 127 minutes – 8/10
The Shop Around the Corner – 1949, 99 minutes – 9/10

BIOGRAPHICAL
Some of these are great, others only okay, but all are education.

Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace – 1999, 90 minutes – 7/10
The Case for Christ – 2017, 113 minutes – 7/10
End of the Spear – 2006, 108 minutes – 7/10
Final Solution – 2001, 102 minutes – 7/10
God's Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale – 1988, 93 minutes – 6/10
Hellen Keller – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10
John Hus – 1985, 55 minutes – 5/10
Martin Luther – 1953, 105 minutes – 7/10
The Miracle Worker – 1962, 106 minutes – 9/10
THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS – 1957, 135 minutes – 7/10
Torchlighters:
   – THE CORRIE TEN BOOM STORY – 2013, 34 minutes – 7/10
   – THE JIM ELLIOT STORY – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10
   – THE MARTIN LUTHER STORY – 2106, 34 minutes – 7/10
   – THE RICHARD WUMBRAND STORY – 2008, 30 minutes – 6/10
   – THE WILLIAM TYNDALE STORY – 2005, 32 minutes – 6/10
THE WRIGHT BROTHERS – 1996, 27 minutes – 7/10

CHILDREN
This is fare for younger children – not a lot of tension here. And that means, while the kids will probably like it, mom and dad might not.

The Adventures of Milo and Otis – 1989, 76 minutes – 7/10
Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures:
   – ALASKA – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10
   – EXTREME CAVING – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10
   – I DIG DINOSAURS – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10
   – SWAMP MAN – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10
Tintin: Destination Moon – 1992, 83 minutes – 7/10
INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I – 2006, 47 minutes – 8/10
A JURASSIC ARK MYSTERY – 2001, 45 minutes – 7/10
Lassie Come Home – 1943, 90 minutes – 8/10
A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10
MISTY – 1961, 91 minutes – 7/10
THE NEWTONS' WORKSHOP – 1997, 226 minutes – 7/10
The Runner from Ravenshead - 2010, 81 minutes – 7/10
The Wild Brothers
   – WELCOME TO OUR WORLD – 2015, 28 minutes – 7/10
   – PARADISE LOST – 2015, 28 minutes – 7/10

ON CREATION, EVOLUTION AND DESIGN

ALIEN INTRUSION – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10
DARWIN: THE VOYAGE THAT SHOOK THE WORLD – 2009, 55 minutes – 8/10
EVOLUTION'S ACHILLES' HEELS – 2014, 96 minutes – 9/10
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed – 2008, 95 minutes – 8/10
FLIGHT: THE GENIUS OF BIRDS – 2013, 63 minutes – 9/10
GENESIS: PARADISE LOST – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10
Icons of Evolution – 2002, 52 minutes - 7/10
INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFINE DESIGN – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10
IS GENESIS HISTORY? – 2017, 100 minutes – 8/10
LIVING WATERS – 2015, 69 minutes – 8/10
Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies – 2011, 64 minutes – 8/10
MOUNT ST. HELENS: MODERN EVIDENCE FOR A WORLD WIDE FLOOD – 2012, 36 minutes – 7/10
NOAH'S ARK: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX – 2008, 35 minutes – 8/10
THE PRIVILEGED PLANET – 2005, 60 minutes – 8/10
REVOLUTIONARY – 2016, 60 minutes – 7/10

DOCUMENTARIES
The very best documentaries pack books worth of knowledge into a short hour or two. And these are just that sort.

Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson – 2009, 93 minutes – 9/10
Cool It: Are We Saving the World or Just Burning Money? – 2010, 88 minutes – 8/10
DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER – 2008, 56 minutes – 7/10
THE FREE SPEECH APOCALYPSE – 2015, 89 minutes – 8/10
HOW TO ANSWER A FOOL – 2013, 85 minutes – 8/10
EXPEDITION BIBLE: JERICHO UNEARTHED – 2010, 34 minutes – 8/10
INDOCTRINATION – 2011, 102 minutes – 8/10
LOGIC ON FIRE – 2015, 102 minutes – 7/10
THE NARNIA CODE – 2009, 59 minutes – 8/10
NOTES FROM THE TILT-A-WHIRL – 2011, 51 minutes – 10/10
THE RECKONING – 2006, 96 minutes – 7/10
RESCUED: THE HEART OF ADOPTION – 2012, 62 minutes – 7/10
UNPLANNED – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10
WAITING FOR SUPERMAN – 2010, 111 minutes – 8/10
WAIT TILL IT'S FREE – 2014, 82 minutes – 9/10

FAMILY FUN
These are films that mom and dad can enjoy too, but that does mean that some of them have action or drama that may be too intense for younger children. So be sure to research age-appropriateness.

THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR - 1961, 96 minutes – 7/10
BEYOND THE MASK – 2015, 103 minutes – 8/10
CITY OF EMBER – 2008, 95 minutes – 7/10                                               
CONDORMAN – 1981, 90 minutes – 7/10
The Court Jester – 1956, 101 minutes – 8/10
Greyfriars Bobby – 1961, 87 minutes – 9/10
Hangman's Curse – 2003, 106 minutes – 8/10
Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates – 1962, 90  minutes – 7/10
Love's Long Journey – 2005, 88 minutes – 7/10
The Last Chance Detectives – 1994, 47 minutes – 7/10
Old Yeller – 1957, 84 minutes – 9/10
Seasons of the Heart – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10
Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D – 2005, 93 minutes – 7/10
STORM: LUTHER'S FORBIDDEN LETTER – 2017, 105 minutes – 7/10
THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND – 2007, 91 minutes – 7/10
Time Changer – 2002, 99 minutes – 7/10

FOR MOM AND DAD
Films to kick back with your better half...and sometimes the older kids too.

ALLEGED – 2011, 93 minutes – 8/10
Anastasia – 1956, 105 minutes – 7/10
The Caine Mutiny - 1954, 124 minutes – 7/10
COURAGEOUS – 2011, 129 minutes – 7/10
THE HOBBIT TRILOGY
   – An Unexpected Journey – 2012, 169 minutes – 8/10
   – The Desolation of Smaug – 2013, 161 minutes – 8/10
   – The Battle of the Five Armies – 144 minutes – 7/10
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – 2001-2003 – 10/10
LIKE DANDELION DUST – 2009, 104 minutes – 8/10
Rear Window – 1954, 112 minutes – 8/10
Roman Holiday – 1953, 118 minutes – 8/10
The Second Chance – 2006, 102 – 7/10
The Song – 2014, 116 minutes – 9/10
TO SAVE A LIFE – 2010, 120 minutes – 8/10
The Ultimate Gift – 2006, 114 minutes – 7/10
A Vow to Cherish – 1999, 84 minutes - 7/10

BONUS #1 - 5 SUPER SILENT FILMS
If you've never gotten into silent films, be sure to start with the comedies – there the overwrought acting just adds to the funny. And Buster Keaton is the best!

The General – 1927, 80 minutes – 8/10
The Gold Rush – 1925, 96 minutes – 7/10
Seven Chances – 1925, 56 minutes – 8/10
SHERLOCK JR. – 1924, 44 minutes – 8/10
THE CAMERAMAN - 1928, 76 minutes – 7/10

BONUS #2 - 10 ON WORLD WAR II

The very best World War II films were made during the war...or shortly after.

Bataan – 1943, 114 minutes – 7/10
Decision Before Dawn – 1951, 119 minutes – 7/10
Destination Tokyo – 1944, 135 minutes – 8/10
THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 1940, 120 minutes – 7/10
Objective Burma! – 1945, 142 minutes – 7/10
Sahara – 1943, 98 minutes – 7/10
THE SILVER FLEET – 1943, 88 minutes – 7/10
They Were Expendable – 1945, 135 minutes – 7/10
To Be Or Not To Be – 1942, 99 minutes – 8/10
Twelve O'clock High – 1949 – 8/10

Monday, April 16, 2018

Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception

Documentary
2018 / 109 minutes
RATING: 8/10

Can we dismiss UFO sightings as just a bunch of hysteria, or perhaps as misidentification? Is it a matter of weather balloons being mistaken for visitors from another planet?

Before you answer consider this: millions have reported UFO sightings, including American former president, Jimmy Carter. And while some of those might be weather balloons, tricks of the sun, or other optical illusions, what are we to think of the many who claim that have had a "close encounter of the fourth kind" - who claim that they've actually seen aliens themselves?

This fascinating documentary, produced by Creation Ministries International, doesn't offer the answers you might expect from a Christian creationist organization. Early on it seems as if they are making the case that at least some of these sightings and encounters are, in fact, real. They share reports from former air force officials, the findings of researchers, still unexplained film footage, and other evidence.

But are these encounters with actual aliens...or is there something else at work here? Even as a case is made that some of these encounters must be real, we're also told why they can't be aliens. The distances in space are simply too vast, the speeds required too high, to the point that physics seems to rule out the possibility that we are encountering visitors from far distant galaxies.

So what are they?

SPOILER ALERT: author Gary Bates and others argue that these are, in fact, spiritual beings - demons - masquerading as aliens.  It's quite the intriguing premise!

The film offers lots of evidence for this position, with one particularly interesting bit being how the shape of UFOs seems to "evolve" to match up with people's expectations. As Gary Bates notes:
"...UFOs seem to appear within the understanding of the culture of the time. UFOs in the late 1800s appeared like airships. The ancient Romans and Greeks have stories of flying shields with occupants on board. American Indians have legends of flying canoes with people on board. And as we approached our rocket age...[they] started to take on the silver, shiny type of shapes."
Similarly, "aliens" used to claim to be from Mars, Venus, and Saturn. However, now that we know those planets are not hosts to "massive civilizations of extra terrestrials" the aliens no longer claim to be from Mars or Venus. Instead they say they are from other systems or galaxies.

There's also the correlation between UFO belief and occult experimentation – many "abductees" have dabbled in the “dark arts.” In asking for contact with demons, did they unknowingly invite these encounters? It is worth noting, too, that the messages “aliens” pass on are often direct attacks on the Bible, portraying Jesus not as the Son of God, but merely as some advanced alien. Even more interesting, several people who have been plagued by alien encounters, report that these encounters were very different after they became Christians. When they rebuked these "aliens" in the name of Jesus, they would leave!

Cautions

The only caution I can think of would be concern age-appropriateness. The nature of "talking head" documentaries is that children aren't usually interested. But just in case they are, parents should be aware there is a brief discussion lasting a few minutes concerning claims some abductees make regarding sexual violations by aliens. It is far from lurid, with Dove Foundation describing it as "clinical, clean talk."

Conclusion

This is will be an intriguing documentary for any and all who are fascinated by UFOs, by science fiction, and by aliens. While the primary audience is meant to be Christians it would also be a great conversation-starter with unbelieving friends about how the Bible offers explanations for all of life...even including alien encounters!

One important note: there is another DVD, also featuring Gary Bates, called Alien Intrusion that is simply a powerpoint video lecture. It has a different subtitle (one it shares with the Gary Bates' book that inspired them both) Alien Intrusion: UFOs and The Evolution Connection. The documentary is called Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception. While the powerpoint lecture is interesting too, what you really want is the documentary, so be sure to check the subtitle and get the right one!

It is available at Creation.com under the "Store" tab at the top of the page.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Genesis: Paradise lost (part 1)

Documentary
109 minutes / 2018
RATING: 8/10

There have been some very good Genesis-related resources coming out in the last few years and this is another. The intent with this one is to provide a visually stunning introduction to creation science. It's going over the basics, but along with the expected talking heads laying out Creationism 101, there are impressive computer animations of the goings on for every day in the Creation Week. There's even a 3D version of the film that, on a big-screen TV, makes this quite the immersive experience!

So who should see this? The target audience is Christians and interested unbelievers who want to learn what creationists believe about the opening chapters of Scripture. There is a lot packed in here – perhaps too much because the sheer volume of material only allows the producers to cover topics in big and broad ways. They simply don't have the time to offer any sort of nuanced evolutionary counters to their own points.

A CAUTION

Now, that's fine; it just means this isn't a film to give to the hardened critic. It also means there is one danger Christians have to watch for: anyone new to creationism, after seeing the film, might be left with the impression that there are no compelling arguments, and no evidence of any kind, for evolution. That would be a dangerous sort of naïveté.

While that's an important caution, this is a fantastic film. There is so much to love here, starting with the narrator Voddie Baucham – if you've ever heard this Reformed pastor and professor speak you'll know he's just perfect for this role. Fun guests include Ken Ham and Ray Comfort. The professors include some familiar names like Dr. Georgia Purdom, Dr. David Menton, and Dr. John Baumgardner.

The topics covered include:

  • an answer to the distant starlight problem
  • fossils on the top of mountains
  • carbon-dating
  • intricate complexity
  • reasons to believe the universe is young
  • the Law of Biogenesis
  • finding soft tissue in dinosaur bones (said to be millions of years old)
  • the pepper moth fallacy
  • the many human "missing links"
  • how if natural selection can explain the survival of the fittest, it doesn't explain the arrival of the fittest
  • and much, much more!

CONCLUSION

One of the film's strengths is the sheer width and breadth that it covers. That is also its most notable weakness: there is just so much information! I was already familiar with most of what was presented and I still found it on the overwhelming side. But, as faults go, that's a wonderful one to have – it just means this is an excellent candidate for repeated viewings, and well worth buying!

The other strength is all the computer animations. If they are just a shade from being perfectly life-like, they are perfectly gorgeous. The Creation Week had been rendered with respect: God is never depicted, and naked Adam and Eve are only shown at extreme distance, or only in parts (their feet, or hands, or faces). Of course depicting the Creation Week visually is going to involve a lot of imaginative interpretation to fill in all the missing details; these folks have done so with the tact and care.

So, again, who should see this? I think the many talking heads means that Genesis: Paradise Lost isn't for children – it would probably have to be older teens and up. But for anyone who's interested in learning about our origins, and about how we should understand the opening chapters of the Bible, this is going to be a treat!