Wednesday, August 15, 2012

3 helpful movie review sites

When I'm trying to get a good read on a film currently in theatres there are three websites I go to:

Kids-in-Mind doesn't do age-specific rating like that G, PG, PG-13 and R rating done by the Motion Picture Association of America. Instead they assign 1-10 ratings for three distinct categories:

1) Sex & Nudity
2) Violence & Gore
3) Profanity

So a film with a 1-8-5 rating will have minimal sexual content, but lots of violence and quite a bit of profanity. A great site for parents looking to get the lowdown on the movies their kids want to see.

Plugged In

This Focus on the Family site’s strength is in the sheer amount of valuable, detailed information it packs into film, DVD and even CD and video game reviews. Its weakness? While reviews are written from a generally conservative Christian perspective some films (Hellboy, Dark Knight, etc.) are treated far too charitably – having a self-sacrificing hero, or “Christ figure” in a film doesn’t mean the film has anything to offer Christians.

Movieology describes itself as "your ticket to engaging the spectacular world of film from a bedrock of biblical truth." These guys are Reformed, amusing and they will make you think. The site is now longer being updated, but the reviews they have there, and more importantly the presentations they include on how to think about films are well worth checking out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Every movie has a moral

…whether we realize it or not

I recently came across an article in which Hollywood scriptwriter Doug Tennapel spent some time outlining what it takes to write a good movie script. The first step he outlines is a surprising one – the best way to begin, he says, is by picking a moral for your story.

“Why does it have to be moral? Because a story without a moral isn't much of a story... unless you're in France and you're trying to celebrate that there is no such thing as morals…. Stories preach.”

Every film has a moral, he says, and he’s one who knows. But do our kids know that? Do they have the discernment to notice when a secular point of view is being preached at them through the silver screen?

Million Dollar Baby wasn't
subtle about pushing euthanasia
Sometimes a movie’s moral is so obvious anyone can catch it. For example, in The CiderHouse Rules a doctor who won’t perform abortions meets a poor young girl who’s pregnant from incest. What moral does the audience learn by the end of the film? That abortion is good. Hardly subtle, but the presentation was compelling enough to win the film multiple Oscars.

Movie morals are not always that obvious. The kid’s film Brother Bear was praised by many Christian movie reviewers as a gentle family-friendly treat – it was, after all, a Disney film, animated, hardly violent, and clear of objectionable language. But Tennapel summarizes the moral of Brother Bear this way:

The Indian boy chooses to be a [expletive] BEAR at the end instead of a human. You may not know it but the author is preaching to you saying that ‘Indian mysticism or animism is a valid worldview.’”

In other words this film was very family-friendly film… except for its moral. The Christian reviewers focused on the films trappings, and ignored its core.

The moral is always there. Sometimes it’s overt, like in the euthanasia promoting Million Dollar Baby, in which a paralyzed boxer asks her coach to kill her. Sometimes it is a bit more subtle, such as in the sci-fi X-Men III where persecuted mutants defend their minority rights by shouting out slogans borrowed directly from homosexual “rights” movement.

But either way, the moral is always there, and more often than not the moral of a film, even of a nice G-rated Disney film, is not going to be “family-friendly.” May God grant us the discernment to see which films truly do, and do not, honor Him.