Friday, May 25, 2012


107 minutes; 2011
Rating: 7/10

A highlight in Captivated is an epic rant by Professor Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans. When asked what he would say to his students caught up in the digital age,  his answer is worth the price of the DVD:

Do something different with yourselves. That means reading books. Know a little bit about history…. You’ll encounter people [there] who actually faced real stakes in their lives. [They] didn’t sit around and say, “Oh, my girlfriend dumped me. I feel so terrible; let me go talk to my friends. I’ll go change my facebook page.” The trivia of youth are amplified by these digital tools! What is the motto of YouTube? Broadcast yourself. Well, guess what? Yourself may not be that important. That may not be such a great subject to focus so much time on. One of the most dismaying things about you guys is you get together and all you talk about is yourselves and what you do. You don’t talk about anything else. Do you know how boring you are?

The self-absorption of youth is not the film’s only target. Parents are liable to feel pretty uncomfortable when their own enslavement to digital media is highlighted. Captivated asks, how can we use media, and use these tools without becoming enslaved to them? It promotes moderation, but in what is surely the most controversial segment, suggests a one-month media fast can help families connect, and better regain balance in their lives.  One father, Erik Engstrom, notes that it can’t be “just about taking away – if all you do is take away something from your kids, and leave them with nothing, they’re in no better spot.” So the fast also has to involve feasting – feasting on family board games, on biking together, shooting hoops, conversations with mom and dad about the books that kids are reading, and much more.

There’s much more to this DVD, and all of it challenging and thought-provoking. For those who are familiar with, and fans of Colin Gunn's work, I should note that he was one of the directors for this film - it's another home run by Mr. Gunn.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Act Like Men

45 minutes; 2012
Rating 8/10

This documentary uses the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic as the means of teaching us about manliness.

On the night of April 15, 1912, this “virtually unsinkable” luxury ocean liner struck an iceberg and quickly started taking on water. There were lifeboats for only half the people aboard, so the captain gave the order that, with the exception of able-bodied men to row, the boats would first be filled with women and children. The end result was that 75 per cent of the women and children were saved, but just 20 per cent of the men.

Several Christian pastors – most of whom seem to be Reformed – are interviewed and they establish a firm connection between the example of the men on the Titanic and God’s call for all men to be sacrificial leaders (Ephesians 5). As the filmmakers tells us more about these men who willingly gave up their lives, they also start contrasting them with men of today, many of whom aren’t even willing to give up their X-box for their loved ones. As one pastor, Scott Brown, explains:

Fathers today have too many diversionary activities. They have too many sports, too many interests, too many hobbies. They have things that just get in the way of the discipleship of their children.  If a man is going to obey the biblical commands he has to lay aside lots of lawful, interesting, fantastic, fun, engaging kinds of things or he will never be able to be a shepherd of his children. 

This is another well-made, thought-provoking production by Reformed filmmaker Colin Gunn. My only critique would be that it goes a tad overboard, tracing most every evil in the world to the lack of godly manliness. That said, lack of male leadership is a pressing problem, and this is a challenging presentation that the men in our circles would benefit from seeing and discussing. You can purchase it at

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Free online film: The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon

66 minutes
Rating: 8 /10

This is an engaging, well-produced and well-argued comparison of these two texts - the Bible, and the Book of Mormon - done by a Christian ministry based in Brigham City, Utah. This is a hotbed of Mormonism so their documentary takes care to speak with tact about Mormons, since many of the people involved in making this film are ex-Mormons, with friends and extended family members who are still Mormons.

The film contrasts how much archeological evidence there is for the Bible, with how little - none! - there is for the Book of Mormon. A Mormon friend has noted that absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, or, in other words, just because they haven't found evidence yet, doesn't prove that there isn't any to be found. True enough, but the sheer weight of evidence on the biblical side is a stark contrast when compared to the absence of archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon - we've found tons (literally) of evidence that support the Bible, and nothing that supports the Book of Mormon. This is so good, you’ll want a copy for your church, even though it is free online - you can watch the entire thing below, and find other films by its producers at