Thursday, September 15, 2016

Biology 101

Curriculum / Documentary
2012 / 277 minutes
RATING: 9/10

Solid high school science curriculum resources that aren't tainted by evolutionary assumptions are hard to come by. That's why it was so wonderful to find filmmaker Wes Olson's Biology 101 DVD series.

It proceeds from a young-earth 6-day-creation perspective, but this isn't so much a specifically creationist resource as a solidly biblical one. Olson isn't always talking about creationism and evolution, but is instead in awe of what God has done. That awe shows up in all he says.

Now there are time when matters of creation do come up. For example, in talking about genetics he throws in the quick comment that there are only three people who have not come about by the combination of their parents' DNA: Adam, made from the earth, Eve, made from Adam, and Jesus, made from Mary's DNA and the Holy Spirit. The creationist perspective also comes out in how this look into earth's various lifeforms is broken up. Olson has ordered the segments by what day in the creation week that the organism was made. So, we start with plants on the third day, then look at aquatic and avian creatures which were made on the fifth day, and so on.

It looks good

Production values are solid throughout. There are piles of pictures and film clips of the creatures being discusses, and Olson, as narrator, has a delightfully dry wit. This is evidenced in the many short extra bits of information he includes, such as this:
"Ostriches are the largest birds, standing over eight feet talk, and the fastest two legged runner, sprinting nearly 45 miles per hour. Roadrunners, on the other hand, have a top speed of only 17 mils per hour, chasing lizards and snakes. Coyotes have a top speed of nearly 30 miles per hour, almost twice the speed of a road runner. Just in case you were wondering."
And sometimes it is the extra bits of trivia that serve to make his points more memorable. In talking about recessive and dominant genes he noted how dark hair was dominant over light, and,
"...incredibly the gene for having 6 fingers on one hand is dominant over the gene for having only five fingers on one hand, but practically everybody carries two copies of the five-fingered gene, which is why you almost never see someone who has six fingers on one hand."
Six fingers is dominant? I'm going to remember that. And in remembering it, I'm going to remember the difference between recessive and dominant genes.

Contents

This is meant as a high school biology course. However, it is only 4 and a half hours long, and while it comes with a 118 page textbook (on pdf, stored on one of the DVDs) it is less comprehensive than a high school biology course would need to be. So this would make a wonderful foundation for a course, but other materials would be needed to supplement it. The 9 episodes vary in length from as short as 15 minutes to as long as 44 minutes.

DISK 1
1. Introduction: Defining life and an explanation of organism classification systems
2. Plants

DISK 2
3. Aquatic creatures
4 Avian creatures

DISK 3
5. Land animals
6. More land animials
7. Mankind
8. More on Mankind

DISK 4
9. A brief history of the study of biology, the origins of genetics, and the moral questions involved in remaking our own genome

Audience

The course material is for ages 15 and up, but the content is appropriate for all ages. This focus on all-ages appropriateness does mean the discussion of our reproduction system is done in the broadest of strokes. We learn about how children are a combination of their mom's and dad's genes but no mention is made of exactly how those genes get mixed.

I'd highly recommend this to any Christian high school science teacher – whether they use it in whole or part, there's sure to be lots of it they will want to show their classes. It would also be an excellent supplement for any Christian child attending a secular high school; this is the perspective they'd be missing.

Families with an interest in this subject matter might also find this worth buying. I should note that while I gave this an 9 rating, that was for how it rates as an an educational resource – I can't think of any better. But from a solely entertainment focus, this would only score a 7. If you want to learn biology, this a wonderful method. If you want to be entertained, there are many more entertaining films out there.

You can find out more at the Biology 101 site and check out the 14 minute first segment and introduction down below. The 4-DVD Biology 101 set is $70 US on the website, but seems to be cheaper at Christianbooks.com and Amazon.com.

Chemistry 101 is even better

Wes Olson has also produced a Physics 101 series and a Chemistry 101 series. I haven't seen the Physics 101, but have had a chance to look at the Chemistry 101 series. I thought it was even better. Olson's approach to teaching chemistry is to lay it out as it was discovered – we go through it historically, learning about one discovery after another. I was rather surprised about how much of our knowledge of chemistry has only been discovered in the last 150 years.

This historical approach is brilliant and fascinating. I watched this one simply because I couldn't stop. But at 11 hours long it is a little over twice the material of the Biology 101 series....so I'm not done it yet.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jungle Beat - fun for the kids that will have the adults laughing too

Family / Animated
65 min
RATING: 10/10 

I'm always on the hunt for films or shows my kids will enjoy that I'll enjoy too. There aren't many that fit that bill, but Jungle Beat sure does. This is comic genius at its best!

The videos are all 5 minute stand alone pieces featuring one jungle creature. Our favorite is probably the giraffe, or the turtle, but the bee, monkey and hedgehog are popular too.

While the videos do have sound, they remind me of the very best silent film comedies from Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, because they are entirely dialogue-free (after all, animals don't talk, right?) so all the humor is physical. Let me give you an idea of some of the scenarios:
  • What's a poor turtle to do when it gets an itch, but its shell won't let it scratch? Maybe it should just slip off its shell? But like a pair of tight pants, his shell comes off easily, but doesn't go back on nearly so quickly. This leads to some hi-speed hijinks when the turtle has to surf on his shell to evade an eagle that wants to eat the now-exposed turtle.
  • What's a poor firefly to do when it wants to catch some sleep, but its own light is keeping it awake?
  • What's a poor giraffe to do when he accidentally head-butts the moon and knocks it to the ground, where it breaks to pieces?
Each of the stories has a creative set-up, and all come with a happy ending. I don't know if Jungle Beat's creators are Christian, but I suspect so, because they've gone to great lengths to make sure this is family-friendly. So far there are more than two dozen short videos in total, which amounts to more than two hours of viewing, so gather round the family - you are in for a treat!

SEASON ONE

The producers have collected all 13 Season One episodes into one 65-minute video that they've made available for free on YouTube (and which you can watch below). From our two-year-old on up to mom and dad we all love them. We just wished there were more...



SEASON TWO

...and now there are! A second season, of another 13 episodes has been produced, and also made available as a 65-minute compilation, here below.




SEASON THREE

A third season is also available, but not on YouTube yet. So far as I can tell, only Americans can access it online at Amazon.com by clicking here, where the season (mislabeled as Season One) can be purchased for $8.99 (or watched for free if you have Amazon Prime).

You can also check out some screen saver downloads, and a trailer for a very fun-looking Jungle Beat game app (I haven't played it, but think we might buy this one - it's just $2.99) at their website: www.junglebeat.tv

I can't say enough good things about this series. It is so very clever, and other than a few moments of peril, which might have our two-year-old a little nervous, it is entirely safe. Two thumbs very enthusiastically up – I give this a 10 out of 10!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Peanuts Movie

Animated/Family /Children
2015 / 88 minutes
RATING: 8/10

This is the happy ending we were all waiting for.

Peanuts was always a little hit and miss for me. I liked Linus and Snoopy and PigPen and Marcie, but found it downright depressing when once again Lucy would get good ol' Charlie Brown to fall for her disappearing football trick.

That's why this film is better than comic. It has the strip's funniest bits (we even find out how the Red Baron first became Snoopy's nemesis) minus the melancholy. Sure, Charlie Brown still has more than his share of misfortunes, but he also has good friends – including a far more loyal version of Snoopy – to help pick him back up and push him to keep on trying.

The storyline revolves around a new kid who has just moved across the street. She has red-hair and very good judgment, and from the moment Charlie Brown sets eyes on her he wants to figure out a way to go talk to her. That proves to be a very difficult, largely due to the difficulties Charlie Brown sets up for himself. But with some help from Linus, Snoopy, Marcie and others, our hapless hero learns how to bravely go where Charlie Brown has never gone before.

Cautions

Our family isn't up for anything all that scary, so I was wondering how the girls would react to the scenes where Snoopy finds the Red Baron. It turned out that the comic setting made it very clear to our little ones that this was not at all real, so they weren't phased at all.

The only cautions I can come up with would be of the most minor sort. Charlie Brown falls in love at first sight and continues to obsess about a girl he has never even talked to. But of course, he's also 6, and kids do dumb things sometimes.

Also, near the end of the film Charles, frustrated by how circumstances were conspiring against him. seems to say a little prayer: "I'm just asking for a little help once in my life." Afterwards he gets what would seem some Divine intervention – he gets tangled up in a kite which pulls him up and over the crowd that was blocking his way. Now God is never specifically mentioned, so Charlie Brown might just be talking to "the Fates" but considering the many (but muddled) references to God in the original strip, it would seem more logical to conclude Charlie Brown is actually talking to God here. If so, his "Don't I deserve a break?" plea shows that Charles is not a Calvinist. At the same time, it doesn't get anywhere near being blasphemous.

Highlights

While Charlie Brown has always been a man of persistence, here his many positive qualities are finally recognized. (SPOILER ALERT) One of the key scenes in the film has Charlie Brown having to choose between being honest and being popular, and the really refreshing take here is that our good ol' Charles doesn't even hesitate before doing the right thing. There's lots of material here that would make good fodder for discussions about caring for our siblings,  standing up to peer pressure, and also recognizing our own gifts.

Conclusion

The producers have made a wonderful homage to Schulz's work, and, in fact, actually improved on it. A Charlie Brown who doesn't have to wait 50 years for a little happiness is a wonderful step up on the original!

Friday, July 15, 2016

City of Ember

Post-apocalyptic/Family
95 minutes / 2008
ENTERTAINMENT RATING: 7/10

The world is ending and we don’t know why. In Ember’s opening scenes we learned for humanity to survive they have to hide underground for 200 years. That’s why a group of engineers and scientists – the Builders – have crafted a city, the City of Ember, and buried it deep underground so the residents can survive the apocalypse that is presumably killing everyone who remains above.

But now, after 200 years have passed, no one alive remembers there is another world out there – they only know of Ember, and the only light they see is provided by light bulbs powered by their mighty generator. However the generator – their whole city – was never meant to last forever, and now everything is starting to break down, and they’re running out of food too. The biggest problem? No one will admit what’s happening.

So to the rescue comes Doon Harrow, a teen with a knack for fixing things who wants to have a go at working on the generator. But to get at it he has to break rules and venture where he’s not supposed to go. When Doon’s friend Lina uncovers some long-lost and only partially intact instructions from the Builders the two of them have to piece together all the clues to figure out how they can save their family and friends before all of Ember’s lights go dark.

CAUTIONS

The film has no language or sexuality concerns at all.

However, there are a couple scenes involving a gigantic mole, roughly the size of a Volkswagon Beetle (the original, not the modern version) chasing Lina and Doon. This mole can tunnel through floors and walls, and seems intent on eating them. One moment in particular gave my movie-watching companion the shivers when the Lina reaches for a box just out of reach at the very same time as the mole’s slimy pink tentacle-like feelers also reach out for the box. This could be a bit too creepy for any kids under 10, or just anyone who has an aversion to icky things (spiders, octopuses, rats, etc.). While Lina and Doon escape the mole does seem to eat someone else, though this isn’t shown onscreen.

There are also a scuffles and such, but nothing graphic gory or all that violent.

The more notable caution would be the religious aspect of the film. God is never mentioned, and His absence in a movie about a coming end to the world is glaring. Instead of Christianity the citizens of Ember have oaths of loyalty to the city, and a quasi-cult that holds the original Builders in high esteem, expecting them to come back when they are needed to set everything right.

One more note: one of the villains has a club foot, and while it is common movie shorthand to have disabled or misshapen people as villains – Jack Elam's wandering eye got him typecast as the bad guy in every Western he was ever in – it’s important to point out to our kids what’s going on here, lest they unknowingly accept as true something that just isn't so. The moviemakers are showing us a villain's inner deformity by giving him an outer one - that's the movie shorthand. But they are making a connection that just isn't so. That's why this needs to be a point in the film where we hit the pause button, and help our kids spot the lie being told.

CONCLUSION

This is another film by Walden Media, the folks behind the Narnia films, and the owner of the company, Philip Anschutz is a professing Christian who has stated the intent of the company’s films is “to be entertaining, but also life affirming and to carry a moral message.”

Some of this Christian influence is evidence in the complete lack of language and sexuality concerns. This is so rare as to be astonishing.

But a post-apocalyptic tale is not your typical family fare. And a story in which the kids get something the adults are too dumb to understand promotes an all too common and entirely unbiblical disrespect for elders.

So this is an entertaining movie, and one with no sex or language concerns, and only a moment or two of violence/creepiness. But it is also a movie that shouldn’t simply be swallowed whole as simple entertainment – it needs to be discussed.

Friday, July 1, 2016

CITIZENFOUR

Documentary
113 minutes / 2014
RATING 7/10

In 2013 Edward Snowden let the world know that their emails, phone calls, text messages, and everything they were doing online, was being tracked by the US government and, often times, with the help of their local government. This was the surveillance of private citizens who had committed no crime, and for whom no search warrant had been granted.

And even as this surveillance was being done, the leadership of the National Security Agency (NSA) told the US Congress that no, they were not spying on Americans.

Were they lying? Well, it all depends on what they meant by "not spying."

As the documentary recounts, in May of 2013, Snowden fled to Hong Kong with a computer full of classified NSA documents that proved this surveillance was going on. He showed some of them to journalist Glenn Greenwald and to the director of this documentary, Laura Poitras. It was only after they helped the story go public that the NSA then admitted they were recording and collecting all sorts of data on US citizens. But they insisted that while they had it, they weren't actually looking through it.

The NSA said they were collecting and storing citizens' information so that it would be available should they ever want to take a peek at it, which, they assured the public, would only happen after they got permission from a judge. In other words, collecting everyone's data wasn't spying on them because, according to the NSA, they weren't looking at it...yet.

Snowden was celebrated by many as a whistleblower – that's how he thinks of himself – but condemned by others as a traitor. This film has some amazing strengths, the biggest being that Poitras was right there in his Hong Kong hotel room to capture Snowden's determination and anxiety as he became front-page news the world over.

But it has a notable weakness: you have to be a detective to figure out, from what's shown, why anyone would think Snowden a traitor. One key scene that gives a hint as to why occurs in a newspaper office where an editor and reporters are debating what of the information Snowden gave them is safe to release to the public. In other words, Snowden gave out classified materials that were dangerous to US interests, and he left it up to a bunch of journalists to decide what was and wasn't safe to release to the public. That's crazy!

But whatever we think of Snowden, it's clear we should be upset with the US government. Now, it is hard to find a clear biblical basis for a right to privacy, so on that front it may be hard to condemn what they have been doing. But it takes no effort at all to find a warning about government intrusion (1 Samuel 8:10-19). We also know men are not angels, and so it is best not to entrust them with tools that can only be used properly by angels. It's naive to think the very same government group that lied in the first place about collecting our information can be trusted not to look through this information without a warrant. Even if they do go the legal route, Snowden noted that whenever the NSA goes to a judge to ask to look through someone's data the judge always grants approval. So that is no check on abuse at all.

One of the more common Christian responses to the government surveillance states is to wonder why, if we've done nothing wrong, we should make a fuss about the government watching everything we say and do? That's a question best answered with another: have you ever done anything that might, if seen in the wrong light, seem wrong? Harvey Silverglate makes the case that the average ordinary American citizen arguably commits Three Felonies A Day inadvertently, due simply to the sheer tonnage of laws on the books. So we're already in a situation in which the government can, if it wishes, convict any one of us. Do we really want to entrust them with a permanent record of all our activities?

And if they insist that this is no big thing, then Pastor Douglas Wilson has a proposal predicated on the biblical notion that the government should only subject others to what they would gladly subject themselves (Matt. 7:12): 
I have a proposal. We need a law that says that there will be no surveillance of the American people that has not first been test-driven for five years at the Capitol building and its environs. You tell us the drink is not poisoned, so you drink it. Sweeps of phone records, busting into emails, targeted review of IRS records, tracking of movements through security gates, and surveillance drones overhead. All such records gathered will be open to Freedom of Information Requests, and will be provided to primary challengers free of charge, and with no names redacted. Why do I want to do such a thing? National security, ma’am.
CAUTIONS

CitizenFour is rated R for language, and that is primarily for the use of the f-word which pops up a dozen or so times. But there are two instances of God's name being used in vain.

I don't normally recommend films that take God's name in vain. In fact I earnestly avoid doing so – this website exists largely to recommend excellent films that don't misuse God's holy name.

As Christians we're also worried about the violence and sexual content in a film, but we know that in both those cases there are depictions that fall "in bounds" – we aren't concerned with couples hugging or with heroes punching out villains. But there is seldom any excuse for taking God's name in vain. You want viewers to know your character stubbed his toe? Have him say "Ouch!" Does the protagonist need to express frustration? Then have him say something with some volume. But there is no need to use God's name as an expletive.

So why the exception in this case? Because this is not entertainment.

While this documentary would be better if it didn't include these two instances, the information found here is information we need to know. That makes it very different from a film we watch only for entertainment. When our viewing is simply for entertainment's sake then there is no need to tolerate blasphemy. But when we are watching something for education's sake, then we may have good reasons to sit through some sinful depictions, including those of blasphemy and violence.

We don't watch footage of violent protests and war carnage to be entertained, but rather to be informed. So too, in this case as well. We need to understand what our government is up to, and there is really nothing comparable to this film as far as giving insight and clarity. So, for the sake of being informed, this is still worth watching. (In very rare instances there is even a reason for some people to endure sinful depictions of sex – for example, a vice cop who needs to watch illegal porn videos to rescue victims and find perpetrators.)

One last caution: a brief kiss is shown between reporter Glenn Greenwald and his homosexual partner.

CONCLUSION

At movie's end Snowden and Glenn Greenwald are in the same room, sitting side by side, but making use of a pad of paper to carry on parts of their discussion.  Why? Because it's the only way they can be sure the government isn't listening.

This is a film everyone should see to learn about our governments' surveillance capabilities – as citizens the only way we can rein in government abuses is if we understand what they are. This is also a move to be shared and discussed. To help you carry on that discussion I've included a couple links to helpful articles that look at Snowden and the NSA from a Christian perspective.

http://blog.acton.org/archives/55830-can-whistleblowing-be-biblically-justified.html
https://dougwils.com/books/to-a-chair-in-the-basement.html

You can buy a copy at Amazon.com by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Condorman

Family
90 minutes / 1981
RATING: 7/10

When comic book creator Woody Wilkins gets the chance to help out the CIA he jumps at it. But he gets a little too into the role, telling his Russian contact – his beautiful Russian contact – that he is a long-time secret agent with the code name "Condorman." When some toughs try to grab the Russian, Woody makes use of his quick wits and astonishing luck to fight them all off. That so impresses the Russian agent that when she later decides to defect she tells the CIA she'll only go if they send their "top agent" Condorman to come pick her up.

Woody is willing to help again...but with a few conditions. He'll go, so long as the CIA agree to give him a few special tools he's dreamed up that come straight out of his superhero comics!

Condorman came out in 1981 and got some horrible reviews. But those were from people who misunderstood what sort of film this really was. As the film's tagline reads, this is "an action adventure romantic comedy spy story" and to that you could add, "Cold War, superhero parody!" If you take it seriously, yes, this is dreadful. But you aren't supposed to take it seriously. As a parody it is hokey, cheesy, goofy, slapstick fun – the sort of film any ten-year-old boy would love, with lots of gadgets, explosions and cardboard cutout villains.

CAUTIONS

This is a kinder gentler superhero film than most anything you can find being made nowadays. The only cautions are of a minor sort.

The beautiful Russian agent wears a rather clingy dress on the poster above, but that is more risqué than anything in the film. In one scene she changes clothes behind a dressing screen and is shown naked from the shoulders up.

There are a lot of fist fights, car chases, boat chases, and explosions. All of it is of the comic variety, with no blood seen. Ten-year-olds wouldn't be impacted but younger children, particularly those under 6, may find it too much.

CONCLUSION

One reviewer, John Corry of The New York Times called Condorman "painless and chaste" and for adults that's exactly what it is – painless. But for kids, particularly preteen boys, this is one rousing action adventure.

You can check out the trailer and rent it online at Amazon.com by clicking here or buy the DVD here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Jurassic Ark Mystery

Family / Children
45 min / 2001
RATING 7/10

The Creation Adventure Team is out to discover when the dinosaurs died, how they lived, and whether there were any on the Ark. This video features non-stop action, impressive special effects, a number of clever spoofs, and a robot dinosaur sidekick named Proto. Renown dinosaur sculptor Buddy Davis, his teenage friend Ivan, and of course Proto, explore a dinosaur museum and show how these “terrible lizards” did indeed fit on the ark.

A Jurassic Ark Mystery is put out by the Answers in Genesis group and is one of the most entertaining creationism videos available for children. The only video that might be better is the sequel: Six Short Days, One Big Adventurer.

Caution

The only one I can think of is that, as is pretty typical for a Buddy Davis production, the action here is a little on the frantic side of things. Davis is clearly focused on keeping the kids engaged, but I've heard a parent or two complain about just how hyper this all seems.

Conclusion

This is a video that would be fantastic for a school or church library – it is informative and entertaining! But for parents who can't deal with too much hyperactivity on the big screen, you'll want to steer clear.

You can buy a copy at Amazon.com by clicking here. But Answers in Genesis has also made it available for free online viewing (though it is broken up into 6 separate chapters) here. The sequel, Six Short Days, One Big Adventure can be watched at this link.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Maccabees: The Story of Hanukkah (Animated Hero Classics)

Animated/ Children
28 minutes / 2005
RATING: 6/10

This is a quick, simple depiction of an Intertestamental tale that most Christians don't know

The way the story is most often told, in the second century BC a Greek king by the name of Antiochus ruled over the Seleucid Empire, and that included Judea and Samaria. Jews were being pressured to adopt Greek culture. Antiochus went so far as to outlaw Judaism, and ban circumcision. Then in 167 BC he ordered that a statue of Zeus be erected in the Jewish Temple and pigs be sacrificed on the Temple's altar.

His desecration of the temple so outraged the Jews that they rebelled. In this animated account the rebellion is depicted as being led by "Judah the Hammer" but that is an abridgment of the traditional tale. The rebellions was led by Judah's father, Mattathias, along with all five of Mattathias' sons, including Judah. Judah would become the leader only later, after his father died.

Two years after the rebellion began victory was won! The statue of Zeus was quickly destroyed and then the Temple was rededicated. The Temple menorah was relit, but, according to the Talmud, only enough oil for one day's worth of burning could be found, and yet the menorah remained lit for eight days until new oil could be brought in.

Caution

There is some minimal violence, as you might expect in a story of armed insurrection. But it is basically bloodless. And children of school age would likely be able to handle this.

How much of the story is true and how much is legend we can't quite be sure. The miracle of the eight day oil supply is found only in the Talmud, where it was written down about 600 years after the event. However the Maccabee rebellion itself is described in 1 and 2 Maccabees and in the works of historian Josephus, giving us good reason to think the core of the story is true. A eight day festival of lights, also called Hanukkah, commemorating the rededication of the temple, is still celebrated by Jews today.

Conclusion

This is a good but not great video  – 28 minutes simply doesn't leave enough time to do this story justice. But for children, and parents too, who have never heard about Hanukkah's origins, this will grab their interest.

The depiction of the Greeks' persecution of the Jews is clearly meant to parallel the action of the Nazis – particularly when Greeks soldiers are going house to house, busting down doors, looking for orthodox Jews. So another reason to watch would be as a gentler way to introduce students to the sad reality of Anti-Semitism than could be done with anything Holocaust-related.

You can buy your own copy of Maccabees: The Story of Hanukkah at Amazon.com by clicking here.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures: EXTREME CAVING

Family/ Kids
58 minutes / 2013
RATING: 7/10

While Buddy Davis and the Tennessee Caveman Robbie Black are the hosts of this episode, the real stars of the show are the Cumberland Caverns themselves. This is one of the longest cave systems in the world, running at least 30 miles. If you've ever wondered what it's like to hike and climb and descend through caves that are hundreds of feet below the ground, you're going to love this!

Davis, and his professional camera crew, takes us through passages and caverns that vary in height from dozens of meters to tight squeezes that are just a matter of inches. We get to see flowers made of gypsum, popcorn made of calcite, and translucent "cave bacon." We go stoop-walking and belly-crawling, pit-crossing, butt-sliding and even scuba diving into parts of the caverns that people don't normally go. We go so deep down that for a while even our guide loses his bearings!

While Davis is normally an energetic, even hyper, host – all in an effort at keeping kids' attention – the physical demands of this episode mellowed him out some. That might be why I liked this one a little bit more. It's still a show for children, but the more restrained Davis is a little easier for adults to enjoy in an adult way. There is still lots of fun for the kids though, with animated scene transitions, a fun song about a skunk, lots of peppy bouncy music, and a close look at a cute furry fruit bat.

This is one of four videos in the "Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures series" and is produced by the creationist group Answers in Genesis and their creationist worldview is evident throughout. For example, in one short interlude we learn about how many caves may have been formed by the Flood.

Cautions

The only caution I can come up with is that at least a couple of the Scriptural references Davis shares are on the random side, not particularly relevant to what he is trying to relate them to. But this is only a minor quibble in this remarkable video.

Conclusion

As far as children's productions go, this is a longer video at just about an hour long – if you have young children you might want to watch this in two parts. What I most appreciated about it is it is something the whole family can enjoy, with lots of fun for the kids, and lots of amazing sights to see for the adults. Shucks, this has me think of checking out the Cumberland Caverns for myself!

You can buy this at www.answersingenesis.org/store/ (just search for "buddy davis amazing").


Friday, April 15, 2016

The Wright Brothers (Animated Hero Classics)

Animated
27 minutes / 1996
RATING: 7/10

As an educational tool, this is amazing. In just the first 15 minutes we get to see the history of aviation develop from disastrous first attempts at gliding to the Wright brothers' first successful powered flight.

But it doesn't stop there. In the second half we see aviation take its first faltering steps - the Wrights continue to refine their design, but others are flying now too. And because the Wrights are content to do their work in private, their achievement is disputed. Even the American press doesn't believe they've flown. And when the Brazilian-born Alberto Santos-Dumont gets his own plane up in the air, he claims the title "first man to fly." It seems as if the Wrights "have lost their place in history." 

It's all here: tension, amazing inventions, and loads of historical detail packed tightly into just a half hour package. 

On top of all that, this is entertaining too. Our whole family loved it, though for different reasons. My wife and I were fascinated by the history, and our children, from 2 to 6, were swept along by the story. This would be an unmatched resource for schools, and it's also good fun for the whole family. 

The Wright Brothers is good enough to send parents and teachers looking for others in this "Animated Hero Classics" series so I wanted to add a warning. Not every film in the series is good: other gems can be found, but stinkers too (we were all quite bored by the one on Leonardo da Vinci). So don't buy others without doing your research (especially since they are quite expensive). 

If you want to get your own copy of The Wright Brothers you can find it at Amazon.com by clicking here.