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Cheryl Gress Editor-in-Chief

Married to IBJamon since 1999. Spawned two girls and a boy.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Thank you Sony Pictures for sending us this 4K Blu-Ray to review!

If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame you’ll want to hold off on seeing this film. Spider-Man: Far From Home opens up with a touching tribute to the Avengers that gave their lives in the showdown with Thanos. The world is still reeling from the aftereffects of those who have re-appeared at the same age they were after “the blip” happened. Those who have survived Thanos' judgement have aged five years. As you can imagine, this really messes with high schoolers who are not too keen on re-taking a year of school and suddenly being surrounded by kids that used to be way younger than them.

Although Peter Parker likes being a neighborhood hero, he does enjoy his teenage life and has plans to express his feelings for MJ during their European school trip. Unfortunately, the world needs saving and the bad guys just so happen to be where the high schoolers are touring.

Though Peter Parker is young and naive, he really made an impression on Tony Stark who gave him some powerful eyewear and put in a good word with Nick Fury. Given that Nick Fury is one of those who has blipped back, he’s not as familiar with his surroundings as he needs to be. He needs intel from Peter, wants him to commit to either being a student or an Avenger, and most importantly, he wants Peter to answer his phone when calling.

With the attacks from huge elemental monsters happening in Europe, Spider-Man needs to assist. Can Peter keep his alter-ego a secret with all of his classmates nearby? Will he win over MJ? To answer those questions, you'll have to see the film for yourself.

Spider-Man: Far From Home does earn its PG-13 rating for blood, violence, language (b*tch), and sexual references. There are some “caught with your pants down” scenes that are innocent but taken in the wrong way. Blackmail and revenge are also referenced.

Overall, I enjoyed this entry and am warming up to Tom Holland’s rendition of Spider-Man. I’m still partial to the Tobey Maguire movies though.


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Abominable

Abominable
 

Thank you 4DX for sending our family tickets to see this film!
 
Abominable tells the story about a teenager named Yi who stumbles upon a Yeti on her rooftop. The Yeti escaped from some bounty hunters and longs to go back to his home on Mount Everest. It’s quite a trek since Yi and her family are from China. At first, her cousins Peng and Jin were not on-board with escorting the yeti they dubbed Everest back home. As it turns out, they have quite the magical adventure along the way.
 
Everest has the ability to alter nature and can cause plants to bloom and yield fruit at his will. The 4DX effects definitely enhance the experience as well. While they are soaring in the sky on a giant dandelion the theater seats swayed back and forth. The scents were also used and I couldn’t place the fragrance they were going after. It wasn’t bad nor good.
 
There’s plenty of action scenes and it was cool to see the theater lights flicker and flash with lightning and car headlights. Water misting is another 4DX enhancement that you can expect to experience in this film as well. Last but not least are the smoke effects which were very fitting. Out of all the 4DX films we have seen so far, Abominable has benefited the most from the 4DX enhancements.
 
My family enjoyed this film and it’s very heartwarming. It teaches the value of family and is safe for all ages. There are some instances of tranquilizing and Everest is injured in the beginning of the film. There are some references to Buddhism and the characters believe that their ancestors watch over them from the stars.
 
Unfortunately, we were the only ones at the 6:40PM showing on opening weekend. Hopefully more people check out this film as it’s definitely one worth watching.
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Bokksu Japanese Snack Delivery Service

Thank you Bokksu for sending us a Classic box to review!

Bokksu is an authentic Japanese subscription plan that partners with centuries old snack makers to deliver sweet and savory treats to your doorstep. Looking at their website’s previous box themes, they seem to have started in 2016. Each monthly box has a theme that inspires the treats within.

Currently, there are two subscription plans available: Tasting and Classic. The Tasting plan has 10-14 snacks/tea pairings while the Classic plan provides 20-25 items. Each box comes with a 24-page Culture Guide Magazine that explains the origin, ingredients, and description of each of the goodies inside. Unless you can read fluent Japanese, I highly recommend looking through the magazine to figure out what everything is.

The booklet explains the box’s theme, and which region of Japan the snacks came from. You’ll also learn a few Japanese words and a recipe! Each food item is broken down by several categories: Manufacturer, Common Allergens, Region, Sweet/Savory flavor, and if it’s Vegetarian. Preparation instructions are also included as some of the teas are a little unique. The Kuromame tea consisted of black soybeans. The Full Moon Tea came with a paper cup mounting drip system that’s more intricate than your typical tea bag. Both teas were good and I tried them with and without sugar/honey to sweeten them to my liking.

I love Mochi ice cream so I looked forward to trying the Mitarashi Mochi. This treat didn’t survive the shipment process very well and was quite smooshed, but it still tasted good. The Usagi (rabbit) Chocolate Balls tasted good and seemed like good quality chocolate. The Rich Baked Chocolat lived up to its name and was quite flavorful. I also enjoyed the Chocolate Azuki Beans: Black Sesame Kinako and wished they came in a bigger package. They were all gone before I knew it!

If you’re not into chocolate, have no fear as there’s more than just chocolate sweets. The Hakata Mitsuki: Delicious Cheese Financier treat has a nice cheese and coconut taste that is quite delicious. Though peanuts are not listed as an allergen on the Funwari Meijin MochiPuffs: Kuromitsu Kinako, they reminded me of peanut butter. The Black Sesame Taiko: Kumamon Design is a sweet blend of seeds and tree nuts that blend together nicely in a thin wafer cookie. The Okashinai Cheese Manju is a cheese and bean-filled cake that is absolutely scrumptious!

On the savory side, there were lots of interesting flavors offered by this month’s box. The Barbeque Flavor Scones reminded me of Chex Mix, it was quite tasty. The black pepper was too overpowering for me to enjoy the Usuyaki Shokunin Chibisuke: Consume Black Pepper Flavor chips. The Gudetama Golden Pack: Tamago Kake Gohan Flavor reminded me of a big cheese puff. The Ofu: Fukairi Shichimi peanut and smoked crackers (salty Kix balls) was good. The Black Sesame Genmai: Honey Soy Sauce Flavor have the honey drowned out by the soy sauce to have a salty flavor to them. Lastly, the Nure-Agesen: Katsuo and Ume Flavor rice crackers reminded me of sushi Nori (seaweed).

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the selection of food offered. Given that I have a sweet tooth, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the sugary items more than the savory ones. The teas were interesting as well. If you really fall in love with an item, you can order it individually on Bokksu’s marketplace. Shipping is included in both of the plans. If the price is little too steep, you can find 10-15% off coupon codes with a little search engine digging.

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The Secret Life of Pets 2

Thank you Universal Pictures for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

The Secret Life of Pets 2 takes you back into the lives of your favorite animals while you’re not at home with them. Many of the same funny and lovable characters are back with most of the same voice acting talent. Patton Oswalt now provides the vocals for Max who is well adjusted with his fellow canine roommate, Duke. At the park, Max gets rather annoyed with the rambunctious children there and enjoys his peaceful life. As fate would have it, his owner soon falls in love, gets married, and has a son named Liam. Though Max still does not like children, he is over the moon and overprotective of Liam. Keeping a toddler safe in this world is a lot of work and stresses out Max. Due to his nervous scratching, he soon gets fitted for a cone of shame and is not too happy about it. Things look up when his family is planning a vacation to a farm.

Meanwhile, Snowball the bunny is taking his superhero costume seriously and gets enlisted in a rescue job by a cute dog named Daisy. It’s up to Snowball and Daisy to save a young white tiger named Hu from a cruel Russian circus owner named Sergei. Hu is guarded by several black wolves and a feisty little monkey.

Gidget is on a quest of her own: to become like a cat in order to rescue Max's favorite toy. While under the influence of catnip, Chloe agrees to assist her. As you can expect, hilarity ensues on all three of these adventures. As funny as this film is, there are some moral issues worth mentioning.

Sergei is quite mean and threatens to harm the animals and is shown wielding a gun, cattle prod, and whipping Hu. There is some gross humor involving cat and dog poop and some mild language (p*ssed). My older kids enjoyed this film, but this may be too much for younger children. If you enjoyed the first movie and don’t mind the language and animal cruelty, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is worth checking out!


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Alternate Endings: Six New Ways To Die In America

Thank you HBO for providing us with a screener to review!

Other than taxes, death is the other certainty with life. With the increasing number of cremations, traditional funerals are on the decline and many funeral homes are predicted to close down if they don’t embrace technology and new ways to mourn the loss of loved ones. One funeral home was shown offering “drive-thru viewings”. Attending funerals has always been a little awkward, but that’s still bizarre to me.

Alternate Endings: Six New Ways To Die In America features six individuals/families who have recently lost or are in the process of departing into eternity. There’s a family who lost their young son to terminal cancer and per his wishes, had a celebration of life with five bouncy houses, fireworks, Batman, and face painting because funerals don’t have to be sad and boring. Another family threw a “living wake” for their terminally ill father. He appreciated being able to tell people in person how much he loved and appreciated them in his life.

For an ocean-loving father, his daughter mixed his ashes into some concrete used in making a memorial reef. Besides offering housing to aquatic life, man-made memorial reefs replenish the dying coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. A space-loving grandfather had his ashes blasted into space and his family enjoyed watching the rocket launch for that.

Green burials are also an option. In a green burial, the body is placed in a shallow grave without a coffin to give nutrients back to the Earth. The lady shown that chose this option was buried along with a tree she wished to nourish. California is one of the minority states that allow people with terminal illnesses to die with dignity (suicide). One gentleman wanted to die on his terms and set a time and date to drink a medical cocktail that would place him into a coma after a few minutes of consumption and meet his maker within thirty minutes. Although this man did not seem to be religious, he did request a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace to be played at his funeral.

There are lots of ways to honor and remember the passing of loved ones. This documentary was definitely somber, but informative. I just wish it showed the price ranges of some of these options. Not that I’m planning on having my remains scattered into the ocean or outer space, I’m a little curious how much those options cost.

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Avengers: Endgame

Thank you Marvel Studios for sending us this Blu-Ray to review!

Note: Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War follow!

After spending a lovely day with family on Mother’s Day in 2018, I thought I would end it with seeing Avengers: Infinity War with my husband. I didn’t expect such a downer of a movie! Not all of the Avengers are down for the count and they want to undo the devastation that Thanos caused to our beloved planet. With the help of the over-powered Captain Marvel, they have a slim chance of setting things right in Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame begins with Hawkeye spending time with his family before they literally blow away in the wind. Earth is reeling from the chaos that Thanos caused. The remaining Avengers are not taking it well and are bickering more than getting along. Even five years after the event, people are still mourning and the world is a dump. After Ant-Man's return, they find a new, high risk approach they can take - if they survive.

As good as this film is, it’s not without some moral issues. Like any comic book themed movie violence is a given. There’s a fair amount of language and blaspheming. Even Captain America says S.O.B. Other words used include *ss, sh*t, p*ss, and d*ckhead. Last but not least is a scene where a homosexual man is talking about his dinner date with another man. Please exercise caution if showing this film to a child.

On the standard Blu-Ray disc, you’ll find 7.1 DTS-HD Master English audio, descriptive English, French, and Spanish along with subtitles. Commentary and an intro from the directors is also available. Also, like other recent Marvel releases, you have to purchase the 4K UHD Blu-Ray in order to get the Dolby Atmos mix, which is the highest quality mix available. The bonus disc contains featurettes (Remembering Stan Lee (my favorite), Settings the Tone: Casting Robert Downey Jr., A Man Out of Time: Creating Captain America, Black Widow: Whatever it Takes, The Russo Brothers: Journey to Endgame, The Women of the MCU, Bro Thor), deleted scenes (with minimal CGI). and a gag reel. For $25 or less, you can add one of the highest-grossing movies of all time to your collection.

 


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Kingdom Heartbeats

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Kingdom Heartbeats features ten electronically remixed tracks from the popular Kingdom Hearts franchise. This album has been produced by Roborob and features some excellent vocals in some of the tracks.

The album begins with a nearly two minute shorter version of the intro song: Simple and Clean. Though the original tracks fall under the electronic dance music category, these remixes kick it up a notch. Tension Rising from Kingdom Hearts II is the second song and the remix amplifies it but stays true to the original battle music. The 13th Struggle from Kingdom Hearts 2 has also been tweaked for this album and it too sounds true to form and is nicely done.

Most of the tracks are from Kingdom Hearts 2 and Sora’s Theme has not been neglected. You’ll find a longer and tweaked version on this album. I have no idea what the Japanese singers are saying in the song Passion, but it sounds great. The menu music Dearly Beloved is so beautiful and should have been left alone. Although the remix is good, I still prefer the original.

Kingdom Hearts 3 gets some representation with Face My Fears. After that opening song, the first game is re-visited with some enhanced theme music from Traverse Town. Kingdom Hearts 2 takes the spotlight again with the upbeat battle music, Sinister Sundown. The album concludes with a much faster and dubstep version of one of my favorite tracks, This Is Halloween. Although interesting, I still prefer the original version.

Fans of Kingdom Hearts and electronic dance/dubstep music should definitely check out Kingdom Heartbeats. This album is available digitally for $10 and can be yours in MP3, Flac, and other lossless formats. A limited-run physical edition will be available in September for $20. If MP3 format is good enough for you, it’s also available on Amazon for $8.99.


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The Lion King

Thank you 4DX for providing my family with tickets to see this film!

The animated classic version of The Lion King was released in 1994. I owned it on VHS (later on Blu-ray) and bought the Hans Zimmer & Elton John soundtrack too. The voice acting talent from James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rowan Atkinson is top-notch and hard to beat for this live-action version. Out of all of that talent, James Earl Jones was the only one to reprise his role as Mufasa in this remake. Seth Rogan voices Pumba and John Oliver is now Zazu and they both did a great job.

My biggest complaint about this film is that it’s not much different than the animated one. At least in the other live-action remakes there were some new characters and back-stories added. This film is almost frame by frame the same as the original. Again, with the other film setting the bar so high it’s hard to top it, but to not bring anything new to the table makes you wonder why they bothered remaking it in the first place.

The music sounds the same but has different singers so there’s not much deviation in that department either. Out of all of the songs in this film, Timon and Pumba’s rendition of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ is my favorite.

The visuals are quite impressive and the animals look quite realistic though expressionless. Their lips move, but their eyes don’t convey as much emotion as the animated version does. With the lions all being the same color, it’s hard to tell them apart. Compared to Mufasa and Simba, Scar seems to appear sickly. In the heat of battle, it’s still hard to tell which is which. Like the original, there is some violence, but some blood is shown in this version. The shaman monkey is still present along with references to the "Circle of Life."

We were blessed to see this film on opening night and the theater was packed as a result. It was nice to see how the audience reacted to the 4DX enhancements. The first time water spritzed the audience everyone in the room reacted (positively). It was neat to experience the savanna riding motion with the seats swaying as the birds were soaring in the air. Feeling the rumble from the stampede made you feel like you were in danger too! Scents were added at times too and I’m still not sure what fragrance they were aiming for. I’m just glad that they didn’t make us smell Pumba’s flatulence.

Like the other Disney remakes, I still have to give the nod to the original. Instead of a remake this film felt more like a rerun. The 4DX experience is still fun and I highly recommend checking it out if you have a nearby theater.

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Let's make ChristCenteredGamer faster!

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I see this error message almost every day.  I'm sure many of our readers do too.  Even without the error messages, the site's loading times are not the greatest.  As a 501(C)3 Non-Profit we rely on tax-deductible donations to cover our minimal operating expenses. We're blessed to have our own dedicated web server that we share with other sites to offset the costs, but that server is several years old and having a hard time keeping up with our traffic.  We currently pay $35/month for a 2.27GHz Xeon 5520 with 16GB or RAM and 2 1 TB HDDs.  Finances permitting we would like to rent out a $89/month server that's 2.66-3.06GHz turbo Xeon with 72GB or RAM and 2 480GB SSDs.  The SSD drives alone would make this site much quicker, but the faster CPUs and increased memory would also help out tremendously.  

Though the site still has a few volunteer reviewers (including the founders!), we've been blessed with many great paid reviewers who receive $25 per written review.  Given that our monthly income is less than $600 on average and our reviewer payouts take up a big chuck of that, we're not in a position to take on a significant expense unless we can secure more funding. 

We have some regular donators who contribute via Paypal.  We also have an active Patreon page.  For those who don't like those two options, we have a Subscribestar site that has yet to get a backer on it. If we can get $100/month via any of those platforms, we can afford to upgrade our server and use any additional funding to pay our reviewers. Thanks for reading our site, this appeal, and for your support.

in Him,
Cheryl

 

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Belong To Us

Belong To Us

Thank you Rappstar Entertainment for providing us with a digital screener to review!

Belong To Us tells a story about a German Shepherd who escapes a dogfighting ring and chooses a broken family as his own. The father, Travis, is a businessman who bonds with his teenage son over baseball, but has no idea on how to raise his nine-year-old daughter, Paige. The father almost became a major league baseball player, and hopes that his son can make it to the big leagues in his stead. Paige feels neglected and quickly bonds with the stray dog that wanders into their yard.

With her sassy grandmother’s help, Paige and her brother, Decklin, get permission to keep the dog and name him Duke. Unfortunately, the fighting lifestyle leaves behind some emotional scars on the dog. To make matters worse, the criminals that ran the dogfights are looking for their champion and endanger this family.

Throughout the movie, there is violence, and some blood is shown. In fact, when the dogs are fighting you’ll only see their legs and human violence is shown through shadows (no special effects or stunt doubles needed). Smoking, drinking, and drunkenness is also seen. The grandmother sometimes uses colorful language (sh*t), and hand gestures. Not surprisingly, this film is rated PG-13.

Though there are some rough patches and acts of defiance, the overall messages are positive in this eighty-four minute movie. Dogs can be a wonderful part of our lives, but sometimes they come with some baggage. Family needs to love and support each other at all times and keep their promises.

This film should be releasing on DVD soon and I don’t see it available for purchase anywhere quite yet. When it does come out, it’s worth renting or buying if the price is reasonable.

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Toy Story 4

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Thank you 4DX for providing my family with tickets to see this film!

Hearing that Pixar was revisiting the series made me skeptical, especially with how well the previous film concluded the series. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed this film quite a bit.

The story begins nine years in the past on a rainy night when Woody and Bo Peep get separated because he wouldn’t follow her and stayed behind to be with Andy. The water and rain effects look amazing and the visuals are way more detailed and advanced in comparison to the original Toy Story film from the 90s. I like how the 4DX experience has flashes of light in my peripheral vision when lighting strikes and fireworks pop. The gusts of air blowing in the theater definitely add to the experience as well.

After Bo Peep’s departure, the film resumes the story present-day with Woody and the gang with their new child, Bonnie. Unlike Andy’s room, Woody isn’t in charge - that role is delegated to a purple-haired doll named Dolly. In fact, Woody isn’t played with much anymore as Bonnie prefers playing with Jessie the cowgirl more. Despite feelings of neglect, Woody is still loyal to Bonnie and wants to help her adjust to kindergarten.

During orientation, Woody sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack despite her father not wanting her to bring toys to school. Thankfully, Woody tagged along so he could cheer Bonnie up without alerting her to his presence. That day, she literally made a new friend, Forky, out of a spork, googly eyes, popsicle stick feet, and pipe cleaner arms and hands. Unfortunately, Forky has a desire to be trash more than a toy. Woody has to keep bringing him back to Bonnie as he’s her new favorite toy.

On a family road trip, the toys get separated for various reasons and have some tough choices to make as a result. Bo Peep and Woody are reunited and work together to rescue Forky from some creepy toys at an antique store. If you’re easily startled, you may not like the multiple jump scare scenes. There are some lessons about love, sacrifice, and loyalty. Some humorous bad examples are in this film as well.

Overall, my family enjoyed this movie. Because of some technical difficulties, we did not get to watch the previews or Pixar short. We did get free movie passes for the inconvenience though. The 4DX experience was excellent, especially during the skunk car scenes. If you’ve enjoyed the previous Toy Story movies, be sure to check this out (in 4DX if you have it nearby)!

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Captain Marvel

Thank you Marvel Studios for sending us this movie to review!

Captain Marvel begins with a touching tribute to Stan Lee who filmed his final cameo for this movie. The funny history about Captain Marvel is that both DC and Marvel comics have them and Marvel’s version used to be a male character. Instead of Carol Danvers being a side character, she ultimately becomes an over-powered super hero that makes quite an appearance in Avengers: Endgame.

Captain Marvel begins with Vers suffering from amnesia and nightmares on the Kree Empire’s capital planet, Hala. Her mentor, Yon-Rogg trains her and urges her to keep her emotions in check and to control the power that’s been graciously given to her. The Kree Supreme Intelligence threatens to take away the power if she cannot harness it.

Shortly after meeting with the Supreme Intelligence, Vers gets tasked on a covert mission which goes sideways. Her memories are scanned by an alien race that can shapeshift into any being they see with complete DNA accuracy. Telling them apart from their target takes some clever questioning. Both Vers and these Skrull aliens land on Earth, in the 90’s.

I appreciated the 90s nostalgia with Blockbuster, payphones, pagers, as well as music from Nirvana, Garbage, and No Doubt being featured. Seeing younger versions of S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Coulson and Nick Fury is cool too. If you’ve ever wondered how Fury lost his eye, you’ll get your answer in this film that’s 124 minutes. Just like the other comic book themed movies, you can expect to find blood and violence in this film. I don't recall any strong language so young Marvel fans should be able to enjoy this movie too.

I don’t want to spoil too much so I’ll just say that Vers finds out that she's been to Earth before and discovers that there’s more to the Skrull than the Kree have let on. Captain Marvel must decide on who to align with and how to be the best version of herself. Like most Marvel movies, you’ll want to stay after the credits roll for an added bonus. In the end, I did enjoy this movie despite feeling that Captain Marvel is a bit over-powered. I guess female super heroes can kick some serious butt too.

 


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Aladdin 4DX Movie Experience

4dx

Thank you 4DX for providing my family tickets to see this film!

This is my second 4DX experience with my first being Disney’s live-action Dumbo movie. Disney has been reproducing many of their classic animated films as live-action movies. Though the live-action movies I have seen so far were good, I continue to favor the animated ones.

Aladdin is a musical and I’m still not used to people suddenly switching from conversation to singing at the drop of a hat. Naomi Scott does an excellent job as Jasmine and her singing is incredible. Robin Williams’ genie left Will Smith some pretty big shoes to fill in, but he does a great job despite reusing many of his predecessor’s jokes.

The 4DX effects are amazing with the seats moving up and down during the ship and magic carpet riding scenes. While traveling through the streets of Agrabah, you’ll get an aroma experience that I’m guessing is based off of various spices. It wasn’t a bad smell, just not recognizable to me. With Dumbo taking place in a circus environment, I’m glad they did not reproduce the farm-like fragrances!

There are some moral and political issues worth noting in this film. The importance of honesty is stressed as Jasmine and Aladdin’s relationship begins in deception. Though Aladdin steals to survive, he does share his “loot” with fellow impoverished citizens. Jasmine cares deeply for her people and would make an excellent ruler. However, as a female she is told to be silent and to find a good husband who will rule over her and Agrabah.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I did find it satisfying.  My family enjoyed this film and its 4DX enhancements.  We’re blessed to have a 4DX theater near us and if you do too, you should check it out!

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Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like

Thank you PBS for sending us this DVD to review!

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968-2001 and has 895 episodes (excluding specials). Many kids and families have grown up watching his show that encouraged kids to love themselves for who they are and discussed topics like debt, divorce, birth, death, and anger. Mr. Rogers sang many catchy tunes that often talked about feelings and how to accept and manage them.

Though Mr. Rogers passed away in 2003, his legacy lives on as his show still runs on many stations and has been overhauled in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood. In 2018, many musicians, comedians, and actors contributed to the documentary, Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like.

Michael Keaton begins the documentary by talking about his job at WQED where he helped on the set of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. John Lithgow’s son (as with many of us!) grew up watching Mr. Rogers. Parents appreciate how Mr. Rogers introduced music to their kids. The show featured many greats like Tony Bennett and Wynton Marsalis (Whoopi Goldberg and Joe Negri’s favorite). Even child and teenage musicians like Niki Hoeller (pianist) and Hilary Hahn (violinist) were also featured on his show. Mr. Rogers was no stranger to music as he had a degree in music composition. Yo-Yo Ma’s appearance on Mr. Rogers' show inspired Esperanza Spalding to play music. If it wasn’t for Yo-Yo Ma’s son, who was a fan of Mr. Rogers, he may have never gone on! Itzhak Perlman was also on the show and got to speak about how polio impacted his life but how his musical abilities overshadow his disabilities. Jeff Erlanger and his electric wheelchair was Mr. Rogers' most treasured moment throughout his many years of broadcasting.

Out of all of the episodes, the one with Koko the gorilla who knew sign language was Mr. Rogers' favorite. Along with showing how music was made, Mr. Rogers often visited factories and showed children how things like crayons, dolls, wagons, and instruments were made.

Mr. Rogers both taught and learned a lot. He wasn’t afraid to show that mistakes are a part of learning and he didn’t edit them out of the show. Mr. Rogers was also a civil rights activist. One of the African American recurring characters, Officer Clemmons, made his debut by soaking his feet in a pool with Mr. Rogers and he let him dry his feet.

I’m thankful for the many wonderful lessons that Mr. Rogers has taught us. We can all still learn many great lessons of love and acceptance from him. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can watch this documentary for free. It’s also available to purchase for $13.99 on DVD.


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The World Is Square

Thank you Scarlet Moon Productions for sending us this digital album to review!

The World Is Square began in 2003 and took over fifteen years to complete by Mustin who is best known as one of the founders of OneUp Studios/The OneUps. This album features classic Square Enix music from hit games like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, VI, and VII. The eight tracks are given an electronic jazz twist and sound great. There is some creative license, but the songs are still very recognizable.

The songs range from three to over six minutes each. It takes a little over thirty-seven minutes to hear the whole album and I’m always looking for more when it’s finished. The calm and relaxing tracks would make excellent hold music; I certainly wouldn’t mind listening to it while waiting.

The first track is Fear of the Heaven from Secret of Mana. I have to confess that I have not played this game (yet), but the song, acoustic guitar, and vocals are good. Thankfully, I have played all of the Final Fantasy games represented on this album. Final Fantasy IV’s main theme is the second track. One of the most popular songs from Final Fantasy IV, Theme of Love, is the third song. The violin work on this track is exceptional.

Chrono Trigger fans will enjoy Forest Butterflies and From the Bottom. William Carlos Reyes provides the guitar playing for From the Bottom and does an excellent job. We’ve previously reviewed his album Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV.

The remainder of this album features Final Fantasy tracks from VI and VII. The sixth track is Coin Song followed by Terra from Final Fantasy VI. The acoustic guitar sounds great in Terra’s theme. That final song, Serenity, is Final Fantasy VII’s main theme.

Final Fantasy fans should definitely pick up this soothing album. Even though I have yet to play Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger, I still enjoyed those songs. (Chrono Trigger is on my bucket list!) The album can be yours for $7 and is available in MP3, FLAC, and other formats. Physical CDs are available for $10.

 


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A Dog’s Way Home

A Dog’s Way Home

Thank you Sony Pictures for sending us this 96-minute Blu-Ray to review!

We get sent quite a few pet-themed movies and A Dog’s Way Home is a live-action movie with the main dog's thoughts being narrated throughout. A Dog’s Way Home begins with a young pit bull puppy being born under an abandoned house. Along with the puppy’s siblings are a bunch of cats and kittens. That is, until animal control arrives and takes away most of the animals. The young puppy is separated from her mother and is fed and raised by a motherly cat instead. A kind young man that lives across the street stops by and feeds the cats. During one of his visits with his friend, Olivia, he meets the puppy and gives her a home.

The puppy is named Bella and enjoys playing with Lucas and comforting his mom, who suffers from PTSD. She also enjoys games such as “stop” and “don’t chew shoes.” The voice narration by Bryce Dallas Howard is really well done and quite entertaining. For a short while, things go well, and Lucas and his mom successfully manage to hide her from their landlord, who does not allow pets. Thankfully, the landlord announces his visits so Lucas can sneak her into work on those days. However, hiding a pit bull in a VA center is no simple task.

Other challenges arise when Lucas gets on the bad side of animal control; Denver, Colorado, is not tolerant of pit bulls, and threatens to euthanize her if caught. In an attempt to keep Bella safe, she is put in the care of Olivia’s family, who lives four hundred miles away in New Mexico. Bella’s stay there is short-lived as she is determined to “go home” as it’s one of the tricks that Lucas taught her.

This trick takes a couple of years to complete. It’s a tough journey as Bella has several brushes with death and makes some unusual friends along the way. Bella meets an orphaned cougar and becomes her mother. Although Bella is a live-action dog, the cougar is obviously computer animated.

Bella also gets some temporary human caretakers like a married homosexual couple that put a rainbow collar on her. Although they treat her well, she belongs with Lucas and parts ways with them. In the end, Bella does find Lucas and Olivia who have started living together in her absence. They didn’t flash wedding rings around like the other couple did so I’m not sure if they were married or not. One other thing worth mentioning is the blaspheming with the term OMG used in its full form.

In the end, A Dog’s Way Home is a heartwarming story and the kids and I enjoyed watching it together. One of them even cried at the end. If you like narrated pet movies and/or pit bulls, A Dog’s Way Home won’t disappoint.

 


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Dumbo 4DX Experience

Thank you 4DX for sending our family tickets to see this film!

The animated classic, Dumbo, was originally released in 1941. At sixty-four minutes, it was one of Disney’s shortest films. Tim Burton’s live-action version is quite a bit longer at one hour and fifty-two minutes. There’s more characters and backstory in this version.

The story still centers around a traveling circus, but this one is struggling financially and has sold all of their horses. They still have their elephants and one of them, Jumbo, is expecting. Unlike the animated version, the animals don’t talk in this film. The story is mostly told through two young kids who lost their mother to influenza. Their father returns from the war missing an arm and is out of touch with his kids and is struggling with relating to them. The boy, Joe, wants to continue the family tradition of working in the circus, but his sister, Milly, wants to pursue a career in science.

In both movies, the baby is initially named Jumbo Jr. but is dubbed Dumbo as people make fun of his enormous ears. The defensive mother does not take kindly to her son being ridiculed and gets locked away as she is considered dangerous. Needless to say, the animated version is a little more lighthearted in this regard. Other than death, the live-action movie has some minor language (hell). Surprisingly, both films have alcohol and drunkenness.

As charming as the animated version is, the 4DX effects in the live action film are quite astounding. This was my first 4DX experience and I was taken aback by the seat rumbling as the firecrackers exploded during the opening Disney logo. I then got to experience the seats moving up and down frequently during the train sequences. There were quite a few of them as the circus was on the move quite often. My husband wanted to hold my hand but it was a bit uncomfortable with the theater seats going up and down repeatedly.

The gusts of wind blowing through the theater added to the immersion as well. The breeze was strong enough to flip the pages on the notepad I was using to take notes! Water misted from the seat in front of me which happened at key moments in the film too. I’m told that some 4DX films have scents and I’m glad that this one didn’t with the elephant poop humor.

Overall I must say that I’m still partial to the original movie. However, the 4DX effects made the live action film one to remember! I’m blessed to live close to a 4DX theater and I highly recommend experiencing a 4DX film if you’re able to do so. Just don’t expect to be able to hold hands with a loved one while doing so!

 


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Atari to launch an inexpensive streaming console for non-broadband internet users

atari

There’s been a lot of talk about game streaming services for the masses. What about those who don’t have fiber, cable, or DSL internet? Atari hasn’t forgotten about them! In fact, they have the perfect streaming console solution that runs games great for those with dial-up internet access! The 8GB of storage is plenty of space to hold the entire game library of the 2600, 5200, and 7800 systems combined! Cloud saves are a standard feature as well so your progress in E.T. will not be lost!

There are three affordable subscription plans available and the same stylish console can be used for any or all of the plans:

  • For $26.00 a year you get access to all 565 of the 2600 series games.
  • The $52.00 annual plan gets you access to the Atari 2600 titles plus the official 69 from the 5200 series. The number pad controller is also included in this bundle.
  • For $78.00 a year you get access to the 59 7800 games as well as all of the titles of the 5600 and 2600 systems. Durable metal reinforced joysticks are included in this bundle.
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The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity

Thank you Blue Sparrow for sending us this book to review!

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity is written by Matthew Kelly who is an author of books translated into twenty-five languages, acclaimed speaker, and business consultant at his company, Floyd Consulting. This book is fifteen chapters long and only 128 pages. It’s a pretty quick read if you want to learn how modern culture is robbing billions of people of happiness.

If you’re looking for the answer to the title’s statement, you’ll have to read through the first few chapters of fluff. In fact, much of the book is filled with statements that I was already aware of. For example, the second chapter discusses happiness and the author shares insights like “Lying never makes me happy” and “It is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time.” The fifth chapter discusses various lies about Christianity including: Jesus did not exist, the resurrection is a myth, Christianity preys on the weak and ignorant, Christianity is anti-intellectual and anti-scientific, and Christianity is anti-sex.

The biggest lie is uncovered in chapter six, claiming that holiness is not possible. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 is referenced and used to state that “God wants us to live holy lives, grow in character and virtue, and become the-best-version-of-ourselves.” I bet you’re wondering how this is possible! Through what this book calls holy moments. Everyone else knows them as pay it forward. There are some nice examples of kindness like a guy taking care of his neighbor’s lawn while recuperating from a broken leg or nurses agreeing to take on an extra shift for years to cover the salary for their co-worker who is battling cancer. Those are some significant tasks that surely make God proud and bring joy to others, but even simple things like recycling are holy moments according to the author.

Even if I don’t see eye to eye with what qualifies as a “holy moment”, I do agree with the author that our world does indeed need changing and we as Christians should get off of our collective butts and do something about it. The thirteenth chapter uses some fascinating math on how if we impact three people that can multiply to one billion people if each of the three people we inspire bring three more and continue the cycle. In the end, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity has some good stories and ideas, but I’ve already heard them all before.

 


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MENU: An Homage to Game Title Themes

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Many video games are known for their great soundtracks and some catch your attention at the menu screen before embarking on your adventure. MENU: An Homage to Game Title Themes is a collection of over fifty theme songs and menu tracks from various games in the past three decades. Most of the songs are true to their origins and others like the Mega Man 2 and Minecraft themes have rap and/or lyrics added to them. While I didn’t mind the “enhancement,” the rest of my family preferred the rap-free songs.

Not surprisingly, this collection has five songs (nearly 10%) from Final Fantasy games. There’s music from Final Fantasy Tactics, IX, XIII, XIII-2, and XV. There are three songs from the Mario franchise including tracks from Mario Kart 64, Paper Mario, and Super Mario 64. Elder Scrolls fans will enjoy the songs from Oblivion and Skyrim.

Belmont Overture from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is probably one of the oldest tracks in this collection as this game originated in 1989. Listening to this song brought back pleasant memories from my childhood and my NES. Other familiar songs include Geralt of Rivia from Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Doki Doki Literature Club, Main Title from Deus Ex, Happiness from Sims 3, and Myst’s theme.

There are so many songs from games I have yet to play including Limbo, Celeste, Cuphead, Horizon Zero Dawn, Stardew Valley, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Katamari Damacy, and FTL: Faster Than Light. Although I haven’t played Ninja Gaiden II, I really enjoy its menu music now! Mass Effect: Andromeda has good title music too and that series is on my bucket list.

Even if you haven’t played many of the songs in this collection, it’s exceptionally made. The asking price of $16 on Bandcamp is very reasonable. If you order it through there you can get the files in MP3 or in lossless formats like FLAC.

 


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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