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Cheryl Gress Editor-in-Chief

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

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

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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

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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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Nature: Super Cats

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

Cats are fascinating creatures and truly show God’s handiwork in their design. This series covers cats of various sizes and from around the world. In total, there are three parts that are an hour long each. The first episode is Extreme Lives and shows how ferocious and daring various cats are. For example, you’ll get to see a jaguar take down a caiman crocodile. It’s well known that cheetahs are fast, but I had no idea that the stress they put on their body during a chase would cause a human’s bones to break! Out of all of the cats in the world, the leopards thrive in the most environments. Sadly, that’s not the case for other cat species like the tiger and the Iberian lynx, which are in danger of extinction.

Episode 2, Cats in Every Corner, features felines thriving in unexpected environments. Many house cats (mine included) hate water, but the fishing cat literally lives in it and spends its life in a swamp environment living up to its name by hunting and eating fish. Swamp tigers also don’t mind getting wet. The bay cat has very little footage and information on it and there’s a scientist who has spent over a decade of his life researching this elusive animal.

The last part, Science and Secrets, shows how technology has been aiding in studying the lives of cats and even saving them from extinction. Out of all of the cats, lions are argued to be the most intelligent since they are social by living in prides. It was neat watching a female lion figure out how to open up a box with meat inside while having another female watching in the distance and learning from her experience and opening the box faster.

As cool as the big cats are, seeing some of the world’s smallest felines hunting is truly a sight to behold. The rusty-spotted cat is only 3 lbs and is every bit of a killing machine as its bigger relatives. The desert native Black-footed Cat is around 4 lbs and has a 60% success rate when it hunts, which is pretty impressive.

If you find cats fascinating, Nature: Super Cats is worth checking out. The visuals look great in the Blu-ray version, and it’s worth the extra $2 on Amazon. The series can be yours in high definition for less than $19.



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Illumination Presents: Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

Thank you Universal for sending us this 4K Blu-ray to review!

The story of Dr. Seuss’ Christmas-hating Grinch has been told many times before. Those who are familiar with the tale will already know that his heart is three sizes too small and that a girl named Cindy-Lou Who will get him to change his views. But this movie develops the characters further and even shows how awesome of a companion the Grinch’s dog, Max, truly is.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch begins with the Grinch and Max running out of food and a trip to Who-ville is necessary for their survival. As his name suggests, The Grinch is a misanthrope and despises socializing with the people of Who-ville. However, during Christmas time he really does not want to be near them with their caroling and joyous celebration of Christ’s birth. Though the town is decked out in candy canes, wreaths, snowmen, and Christmas trees, Christ is clearly mentioned and honored in the Christmas carols (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Silent Night) sung by the villagers.

There are many funny interactions between the grumpy Grinch and the overly cheery townspeople. Out of all of the villagers, Cindy-Lou and her family get the most screen time. Cindy-Lou is the oldest sister of twin baby brothers. There is no mention of a father figure, and as a result, the mother is working a night shift and struggling to attend to the needs of her children during the day. Unlike other children who ask Santa for toys, Cindy-Lou wants to talk to Santa in person to ask him to help make her mother’s life easier. Unfortunately, her method of reaching Santa isn’t exactly orthodox.

I like how the Grinch’s background is shown and how he comes to hate Christmas. It’s easy for him as an outsider to detect the greed displayed during the Christmas season. To pay back the town and to take away their fake joy he plans on stealing their Christmas from them, but in the end discovers what it’s really about: kindness and love.

Though I’m familiar with the book, I haven’t seen other film renditions to give a comparison. I will say that the voice acting by Benedict Cumberbatch, Angela Lansbury, and Pharrell Williams is well done. The visuals are astounding and vibrant, especially in 4K! The computer animation by Illumination is top-notch. The three mini-movies are worth checking out too. One of them, Dog Days of Winter, further develops Max’s character and devotion to the Grinch. The other two shorts, Yellow Is The New Black and Santa’s Little Helpers, feature the Minions and their typical silliness. There is some potty and crude humor which earns the PG rating awarded to the film.

In the end, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch is worth watching with your family around Christmastime. It just might be a new yearly tradition for us.

 


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Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Thank you Fun Academy for sending us this DVD to review!

Sergeant Stubby is the most decorated dog of World War I and is also the only canine to be promoted to a sergeant through combat. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is based on his heroism and legacy that saved many French and American lives on the Western Front.

The story begins with Stubby being an ever-hungry stray dog on the streets of Connecticut. During a march through town, a newly enlisted Robert Conroy takes notice of Stubby and throws a cookie his way and the dog follows the soldiers back to boot camp. At first, the higher-ups are not keen on having a dog among the ranks, but once Stubby learns how to salute them and shows his dedication, they allow him to stay by Robert’s side. Stubby became the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment.

When the soldiers are dispatched to France, Stubby sneaks onboard and again is welcomed for his perseverance. The film depicts Robert having nothing to do with Stubby’s travels; however, internet sources claim that he was the one who smuggled him aboard. In the end, it’s good that he was there because many lives were saved as a result. On the battlefield, Stubby helped locate wounded soldiers along with warning of incoming artillery shells and gas attacks.

Since this ninety-minute computer animated film is geared for children, the violence is toned down quite a bit. There is no blood shown and many of the close combat encounters end in surrendering and not death. The battlefield is still depicted as grim with many soldiers being shown as sick and/or wounded. There is a death towards the end of the movie that brought some teary eyes among my family. Yes, I was one of them.

Overall, my family enjoyed watching this movie together. Though it’s based on a true story, some artistic liberties were taken. I’m not really sure if Stubby really got to meet George S. Patton, but he did get to sniff presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. Sgt. Stubby was quite the war hero and I highly recommend this movie for any dog or history lover.



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Music Box Classics: Mario

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

I have been enjoying the Mario Bros. series since the Atari and Super Mario Bros. series on the NES. While the Atari 2600 version of the game lacks music, the NES version has quite the memorable soundtrack and it’s great to see it get the lullaby treatment in the Music Box Classics: Mario collection.

This digital album has ten tracks from various games through Mario’s 30+ years in existence. The first track is the Super Mario Bros. overworld music and is the slowest of the bunch. I honestly think it could have benefited from higher beats per minute. The rest of the tracks are a little bit more upbeat. The underwater music from the first Super Mario Bros. game is a welcome addition as well.

The most represented games are Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy with each having three tracks dedicated to them. You’ll find the following Super Mario 64 songs: Inside the Castle Walls, Bomb-Omb Battlefield, and Dire, Dire Docks. The songs from Super Mario Galaxy Include: Rosalina’s Observatory, Luma, and Gusty Garden. The overworld music from Super Mario Bros. 2 brings back pleasant memories as does Princess Peach’s Theme from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. I wish that Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Sunshine had tracks included in the collection, but they’re absent.

Overall, this is a great collection of classic gaming music in music box form. It’s great lullaby music so make sure you’re not too comfortable when listening to it or you may find yourself sleeping before you know it! The total length of this album is a little over thirty-one minutes. It sells for $8.99 on Amazon or for $7 on Bandcamp which provides the tracks in MP3, FLAC and more.


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The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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

The House with a Clock in Its Walls takes place in 1955 and is about a 10-year-old boy named Lewis who loses his parents in a tragic car accident. His closest relative is his uncle Jonathan who lives in a haunted mansion in Michigan. The previous owner of the house was a warlock named Izard. This warlock is responsible for placing a clock within the mansion, and Jonathan, along with his best friend and neighbor, who is also a witch, are trying to find and destroy the clock within.

Lewis is out of place in his new school and the goggles that he wears all of the time are not helping matters. There is a girl who is fascinated with insects that takes a liking to Lewis, but he is more interested in impressing a popular boy named Tarby. His uncle Jonathan is pretty lenient and lets Lewis eat whatever he wants and go to bed whenever he feels like it. His only rule is to not open the locked cabinet. If you’re familiar with Genesis 3, you know what happens when humans only have one rule to follow.

Without spoiling the story too much, I must say that this movie is very anti-Christian and heavily promotes magic use. Lewis wants to become a warlock like his uncle and that involves studying various texts, runes, and spells. There are many occult symbols like pentacle, pentagrams, and upside-down crosses shown throughout this film. Some of the spells require the castor to offer their blood in order to complete the ritual. Necromancy (while frowned upon), is also practiced. One of the characters makes a pact with a powerful demon in exchange for some forbidden knowledge. The occult issues aside, there is also language (hell, d*mn), and gross humor involving puking jack-o'-lanterns' and a topiary griffin that refuses to use a litter box.

If it wasn’t for the heavy-handed occult content, I would have enjoyed The House with a Clock in Its Walls. I haven’t read the book that this film is based on so I’m not sure how descriptive it is with the spell casting and symbolism. It’s a shame since the acting by Jack Black and Cate Blanchett is exceptional and the characters and story are well done. If you’re a Christian and interested in seeing this film, I recommend renting it first.



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God Bless the Broken Road

Thank you Lionsgate for sending us this Blu-ray, soundtrack CD, pot, and toy car to review!

God Bless the Broken Road is about Amber Hill, a wife and mother who tries to make ends meet after the loss of her husband in the Afghanistan war. Before his death, she was very active in church and led their worship ministry. Two years after his passing, her house is behind on the mortgage payments and working 7 days a week is straining the relationship with her daughter, Bree.

A dashing young racecar driver named Cody arrives in town and is instantly told that Amber is out of his league, but that makes her all the more appealing to him. After wrecking his racecar in the big leagues, he’s sent back to this small town to learn from one of the greats, Joe Carter. One of Cody’s first assignments from Joe is to work with the children at the town’s church. Bree takes a liking to Cody and enjoys making a pink camouflaged go-kart there.

While Bree is getting more active in church, her mother is becoming less so. Though Amber is working many hours at the diner, she’s still unable to make ends meet and resorts to pawning off possessions instead of pursuing a job offer from her mother-in-law. The relationship with Bree’s grandmother is strained and Bree wishes that she could spend more time with her. Amber’s walk with God is also deteriorating as she is relying on herself and not Him during her times of financial hardship.

One trait that Cody and Amber share is stubbornness. This film teaches a good moral lesson about listening to and relying on God. It’s Dove approved for all ages and there is little to be worried about morally. In fact, the war violence is bloodless which is contrary to most war films I’ve seen recently. The overall story is moving but predictable at times. While I’m not in a hurry to see this film again, I did enjoy it.



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Elliot the Littlest Reindeer

Thank you Screen Media for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

There are many Christmas songs about Santa and his hard working reindeer that fly his magical sleigh. Unfortunately, Blitzen suddenly retires and favors running a juice bar instead of helping deliver presents to well-behaved boys and girls around the world. With only a few days before Christmas, the elves are scrambling to find a suitable replacement who can win the North Pole tryouts, which lasts three days.

In a warmer climate is a petting zoo that is struggling to pay its bills and its former minor-league baseball owner is considering a sales offer from a woman that seems more interested in eating the animals than caring for them. However, if their promising reindeer, DJ, makes Santa’s team, they may not have to sell.

There’s another hopeful at this petting zoo named Elliot. The only problem is that Elliot is a pony and not a reindeer. I’m all for having dreams and aspirations, but this movie is promoting the agenda anyone can be anything and that’s not necessarily a message I want to instill into my children. I believe that there is a place for boys and a place for girls which is contrary to today’s society that lets “transgender” boys compete (and unfairly win) on girls’ athletic teams and even partake in Miss Universe competitions.

Aside from the obvious agenda, there’s not much to say about the story in this 89-minute movie. Santa and some of the elves are cast in a negative light or even as villains in this film. The voice acting is top notch and has some notable cast members including Josh Hutcherson, Martin Short, and John Cleese. There are some positive messages about putting your friendship first and being selfless. A lesson is also taught about cheating. Given the overall moral of the story, I would still give this film a pass or recommend renting it before purchasing it for your family.


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Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: It's a Beautiful Day Collection

Thank you PBS for sending us this 4 DVD collection to review!

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968-2001 and has 895 episodes (excluding specials). It’s hard to select just thirty episodes from such a large collection, but this sampling is pretty good. My only complaint is that they’re not sequential, so the trips to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe are not always coherent as they often have multiple segments that need to be played in order to get the complete story.

The last disc has the very first episode which is in black and white. Mr. Rogers looks so young and his hair was mostly dark back then. Some of the same actors appear in the colorized episodes, but there were many changes since then. The later episodes still have the same puppets in Make-Believe, the same house set, and even the same fish tank. It's great to see that some of the final episodes are also present in this collection.

Many great memories returned when viewing these episodes again later in life. I wish that this collection was available when my kids were younger. The positive and encouraging messages and lessons are timeless. Kids should definitely know that they’re loved just the way they are.

Throughout the fourteen-and-a-half hours of content, you’ll get to see many famous writers, musicians, and singers showcase their talents in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I was impressed with the musician who played Amazing Grace on a saw! You’ll also be able to accompany Mr. Rogers on many exciting field trips. During a trip to the zoo, Mr. Rogers gets to help feed a panda.

With the way Mr. Rogers encourages and talks to your kids through the television screen, your child will be engaged and feel good about themselves. Programs this wholesome are few and far between these days. The normal price for this set is $19.99 but I have seen it on sale on PBS’ website for $12.99. Amazon sells it too for even less.



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Anne of Green Gables - Fire and Dew

Thank you PBS for sending us this DVD to review!

Fire and Dew is the third installment from the Anne of Green Gables PBS movie series. It picks up a year after the previous movie where Gilbert vowed not to speak to Anne again after she chose her friends over him. Anne is not pleased with his behavior and finds it difficult to ignore him as they are academically equal and both selected to attend an advanced class to prepare for and apply to Queen’s Academy.

Anne is quite studious and applies for the Avery scholarship along with Gilbert and her friends hoping to earn it as well. Though Matthew and Marilla have budgeted for Anne’s education, they did not plan on their bank with all of their funds to be investigated and in danger of closing.

At Queen’s Academy, Josie is flirting with all of the boys and especially with Gilbert. Other emotions come into play as a character dear to Anne dies in this movie. All of us watching the movie got misty-eyed during that part.

As a result of the loss of a loved one, Anne has to make some difficult choices regarding her future education and employment. Anne is growing up fast and has many accomplishments to be proud of at the tender age of fourteen. I like the theme of forgiveness and sacrifice and hope to see more installments from these classic books. If not, I’ll have no choice but to read all nineteen of them to see how it ends.

Like the other movies, Anne of Green Gables - Fire and Dew is available to stream for free for Amazon Prime members. The DVD is also available to purchase from the PBS website for $14.99.


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Anne of Green Gables - The Good Stars

Thank you PBS for sending us this DVD to review!

Anne is settling into her new life and is acclimating to school and her household chores, though she’s not too fond of geometry or chickens. Out of all of the girls in school that Gilbert tends to tease, he seems to fancy Anne the most. She’s not too keen of his antics, but eventually she warms up to him. As she spends more time with Gilbert, her friends are a little upset and feel neglected.

Upon turning thirteen, Anne feels that she has some difficult choices to make and seeks the council of the adults in her life. Marilla urges Anne to be sensible while Matthew wants her to pursue romance. Anne also learns that loyalty is more important than honor and makes a difficult decision as a result. Unfortunately, the movie ended before we could see the impact that it made. Thankfully, there’s still one more movie left in the series for us to watch.

It’s pretty safe to say that my kids and I are hooked on this series. So much so that we’ve decided to do like Anne did and bake an apple pie from scratch for Thanksgiving this year. However, we’ll be mindful of the time and not let it burn. Like the previous movies, there are several funny mishaps that Anne must learn from. As usual, most of her mistakes are innocent ones and she tries to right any and all wrongs that she has done.

This film is family friendly and even has some Bible stories told by the newly married pastor’s wife. Forgiveness is a strong theme in this ninety-minute film. Like the rest of the entries, it’s only available in DVD format. It’s a shame since this island is so beautiful and can really benefit from Blu-ray visual enhancements. Either way, it’s still worth checking out for free on Amazon Prime or buying for $15 on PBS’ website.



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2019 Gaming Calendars

Thank you Abrams Books for sending us five calendars to fight over…I mean review!

2018 is coming to an end and with the new year fast approaching we must decide on a calendar to use for next year. Gamers may want to look into the following calendars from Abrams Books:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Pokémon
Splatoon
Super Mario
Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Each calendar has four mini-calendars from September-December of 2018 in case you want to swap it out a little early. Holidays are noted for various countries around the world. I now know that Australia Day is on January 26h and observed on the 28th. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand will be celebrating Mother’s Day with us on May 12th. Australia and New Zealand don’t celebrate Father’s Day until September though. Religious days like Diwali, Kwanzaa, Purim, and Ramadan are also shown. All of the Christian religious days are accounted for.

Many of the holidays that my kids' schools shut down for are also listed along with various bank holidays that are observed in other countries. The beginning and end of daylight saving time is also noted so I can adjust my clocks accordingly. The only thing missing that my current calendar provides are the phases of the moon. I can live without that feature though.

The calendars are nice and big with smooth glossy pages. The artwork is exceptional and any gamer will be pleased with the images chosen for their gaming calendar choice. My family was debating on who should get which calendar and the samples that were sent to us made us do some serious decision making. As the writer of this review, I get first dibs.

The calendars sell for $14.99 on abramsbooks.com which is a reasonable price. They’re still selling similarly themed 2018 calendars so make sure you’re getting the 2019 version of the Pokémon, Splatoon, Super Mario, or Zelda ones. Whichever one you decide on, I’m sure you’ll be happy with it.

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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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