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Sole to Soul

Thank you to Westbow Press for sending us this book to review!

Eleanor MacLellan and her husband, Ig, were out of options when their son Patrick began having problems. From bad grades to school suspensions, Patrick was on a road to nowhere fast. During his junior year in high school, Patrick totaled the family van in an unauthorized road trip. The breaking point, however, was when he was caught for shoplifting and thrown in jail. The end result was a change of scenery for Patrick. He was sent out of state to repeat his junior year at an alternative school for at-risk youth. 

At Hyde School, not only were students expected to perform with high standards, but parents as well. While a senior project is normal for any student entering their last year in high school, his parents learned they also needed to complete one. The goal of the senior project was to operate beyond your comfort zone while doing something worthwhile to help your community. Ig decided on a community service trip to El Salvador. Eleanor, on the other hand, embarked on creating a large canvas labyrinth to donate to her church. As Eleanor reflected on her life leading up to this as well as researching the project, she discovered the labyrinth was symbolic of life itself as there are no straight paths or dead ends such as with a maze; all the surprising twists and turns carry you on a walk towards the rose center, which represents the soul. 

With one family crisis after another, Eleanor's passage also led her to become more confident and stronger as a Christian. She didn't do it alone however. Obviously, she had her family but she also had a group of close friends who helped her with funding, designing and creating the labyrinth. Together these special companions journeyed through life's toughest battles including many hardships, pain, loss and grief. 

The author cleverly wrote each chapter chronologically in "circuits" to coincide with the labyrinth path from the entrance to reaching the center. For example, Circuit One is primarily the beginning of the story and upon entering the labyrinth, a brief description of the path is provided. Accompanying each chapter also includes a small diagram of a labyrinth. This has two shades of gray. The darker shade displays the previous path taken while the lighter shade displays the current path the chapter is about.

While the intro was interesting, admittedly, it took awhile to really get into this book. At first I found the story dry. There are small anecdotes about Eleanor's family including divorce from a previous marriage and then having to manage a blended family, her work as a trial lawyer, and church service. Although the book follows a labyrinth path, I kept wondering to myself, "Well what about the creation of the labyrinth itself?" The labyrinth is discussed in greater detail in Circuit Five. As Eleanor gets painfully honest with herself and realizes she needs help, she reaches out to five church members and bares her soul. These five women not only became her closest friends but also become known as the Labyrinth Ladies.

Although a large portion is written about Patrick's triumphs and struggles, his story becomes vaguer as the book continues. Patrick is eventually kicked out of Hyde School two months before graduation. At one point there is an occurrence of an ethics violation early on, however, no clear reason is provided for getting kicked out and not allowed to graduate. I found it odd that the author skimped on providing more information about this particular detail. 

The only other issue I had with the book is Eleanor went to a New Age book store in order to find out more about labyrinths. It is no secret that New Age and Christianity oppose each other. The memoir occurs in the early 2000s. She could have looked in traditional bookstores and even the library. It's not to say that a labyrinth is strictly tied to New Age spiritualism. Many churches, including orthodox and nontraditional, have labyrinths on display. However, with information about any subject easier to obtain nowadays, why research in a nontraditional method especially for a Christian? 

Returning to the review, I admire her group of friends. To have close friends who you can share secrets with yet won't abandon you when you're struggling through the darkest of days is something each person hopes for but very few have. 

As with many, the completed labyrinth was a marvel to behold. It is a thirty-six foot square of purple canvas. The path was hand-painted not only by the Labyrinth Ladies but by church and Hyde School volunteers. It was a concerted effort that reinforced the concept of community. In fact part of the actual labyrinth made serves as the cover of the book. 

Probably one of the reasons I struggled with reading the book is it's not a straightforward memoir. There is so much detail to digest here. It's not only Eleanor's struggles with her family but her friends are given a fair amount of time as well. Each person you read about is real and walk their own labyrinth path, which is skillfully depicted in the book. 

If you are looking for an in-depth memoir that encompasses the many paths people take towards their own God-inspired center, please give Sole to Soul by Eleanor MacLellan a try.  It's available on Amazon for $3.99 electronically or for $24.95 on paperback. (Affiliate Link)

 

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Odd Squad: Dance Like Nobody is Watching

Thank you PBS kids for sending us this DVD to review!

The Odd Squad is a government agency that’s run by kids.  Their mission is to investigate and rectify strange occurrences and to keep everyone safe.  All of the agents have names that begin with the letter “O”.  Field agents Otto, Olive, and their boss Miss O., are in each of the six episodes on this 90-minute DVD.  As the title suggests, each episode is musically themed and most of them use math logic to solve the perplexing mysteries in their neighborhood.

Here’s a break-down of each episode:

Dance Like Nobody is Watching – The agency is under a lockdown as their alarm system got triggered.  Their scientist, Oscar has put many booby traps in place and has long forgotten their patterns.  Otto gets to show off some of his dance moves while de-activating a tricky laser trap. 

Sound Check – There’s a hot boy band called Sound Check and all of the townsfolk and agents (except for Olive) are digging their new single – “Take Away 4.” The problem is that whenever people hear the song, four of their items disappear!  

Sound Check Part Deux – Sound Check is back, well at least one of the members is.  The Odd Squad has to help put the band back together by locating the missing three members.

Case of the Sing Alongs – The mayor has developed an unusual habit of singing and dancing at public events.  The Odd Squad has been called in to figure out why and to put a stop to his strange behavior.

O is not for Old – The agency wants to throw a surprise birthday party for Miss O.  Everything is set up except for the forgotten present and birthday cake.  Oscar can produce them quickly if the group can decide on what type of cake and present to give her.  Olaf’s suggestions for potatoes for both are not very helpful. 

Mystic Egg Pizza – The pizza delivery girl and egg sandwich delivery guy have discovered that pieces of their products show up missing after they are placed into their delivery boxes.  The Odd Squad is called in to follow some leads and crack this tricky case.

My kids enjoyed this show and its wacky humor.  Besides entertaining, it teaches logic and math concepts like fractions and graphing/charting.  I highly recommend this DVD which sells for less than $10 on Amazon (Affiliate link).

 

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My All American

Thank you Anthem Productions for sending us this Blu-Ray to review!

My All American is based off of the book Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story written by Jim Dent.  Both the book and movie are based on a true story about a young man who lived for playing football.   Freddie wasn’t very tall for a football player, measuring in at 5’ 9”, and as a result not many colleges responded to his applications for scholarships.  Some of his taller friends had no trouble hearing back from prestigious colleges.  Freddie compensated for his height with speed and strength and was a very talented safety.

His high school coach saw his potential and worked him pretty hard.  After school’s training, Freddie’s father worked him even harder!  Freddie was very disciplined physically, academically, and spiritually by praying and attending mass daily.  Due to financial constraints Freddie’s family was relying on his football skills to land him a scholarship to pay for his college tuition.  Despite the lack of responses from colleges, Freddie and his family did not give up.  

Freddie’s high school coach put in a good word for him and one of his taller friends to University of Texas’ coach Royal.  Freddie was finally given a scholarship and a chance to show his prowess on the field.  Instead of taking the credit, Freddie said it was an answered prayer.   Getting the scholarship was half the battle, maintaining it is even harder.  Freddie survived the cuts that weeded out half of the prospective players.

Despite having some leg pain, Freddie didn’t let it stop him from achieving his goals.  His dedication and skills set him apart on the field and his efforts made the 1969 Texas Longhorns national champions.  Once they won the “Game of the Century” that was attended by Richard Nixon, Freddie got his leg examined by a doctor and the diagnosis was startling.  

I won’t be spoiling the end of this one hour and fifty-nine minute movie for you.  I will however highly recommend it while cautioning that it’s probably not suitable for younger children and earns its PG rating.  There is language from the coaches as they give the team pep talks.  One scene shows one of the teammates streaking in his jock-strap which shows off his butt cheeks.  Other than those issues, this movie is very well done and shows a good example of courage and sportsmanship.  


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Thank You For Playing

box

Thank you Falco Ink For sending us a screener of this movie!

When Joel Evan Green was a one-year-old, he had brain tumors and was only given four months to live.  His parents had a choice.  They could distance themselves and prepare for his death, or celebrate each day of his life.  While the tumors came and went with chemotherapy, Joel lived a few more years and was showered with love each and every one of those days.  Throughout Joel’s treatment, his parents documented their journey for this documentary and their game immortalizing Joel’s battle with “That Dragon, Cancer”.  

Both the film and the game capture the struggles and testing of the family’s faith and hope for saving their son’s life.  Lots of emotions are shown and they’re all genuine.  A couple of swear words are said so keep that in mind for younger audiences.   

It was really neat to see the behind the scenes discussions and work put into the making of “That Dragon, Cancer.”   Ryan and Amy Green worked together on the script and their sons lended their voice talents in the game as well.  While the laughs in the game are Joel’s, the crying is not.  

Though the characters in the game are expressionless, this movie leaves nothing to the imagination and has lots of footage of Joel and his family.  Many videogames promote violence but not too many tell an emotional story.  Too many families have been impacted by cancer and they don’t talk about their struggles.  One of the goals of this game is to break down those barriers and allow people to share, uplift, and mourn together.  At its PAX appearance, many gamers who play tested “That Dragon, Cancer” were moved to tears.  Both the film and game are powerful and worth checking out.  Just keep some tissues handy.

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Dynamic Studies in Hebrews

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

The book of Hebrews is not one of the easier books in the Bible to read.  Fred A. Schreeren, who wrote Dynamic Studies in Hebrews, goes over each and every verse in this thirteen-chapter epistle.  The Bible study is broken down into twenty sessions that are designed for weekly Bible studies.  Even though snacks are usually a given at a Bible study, I thought it was amusing that this study says to “assign refreshments for next week.”  

Most of the sessions are around ten pages in length and involve referencing and comparing verses from both the New and Old Testament to those in Hebrews.  Some of the sessions recommend assigning someone to read and summarize other books (God’s Appointed Times, Christ in the Passover) for the next session.

I like how each study gives you a warm up question that will set the tone for the current study.  I have to admit that I changed my point of view from the start to the end of the study on at least one occasion.  One question that I changed my mind on was: How do you normally respond to someone who gets in trouble?  While my initial answer was “Not much pity if they deserved it”, after reading and studying on how much Christ suffered on our account, I was convicted about how I’m lacking in the compassion department.  

There are some great Old Testament comparisons to Jesus being the high priest of the New Testament to the Old Testament’s Melchizedeck.  This Bible Study also goes over the necessity of the new covenant.  The author also makes the case that Paul is the author of Hebrews since he was longing to see Timothy, references believers in Italy, and last but not least, it has his signature ending: “Grace be with you all. Amen.”

For anyone who is looking for an in depth look into Hebrews that is easy to understand, I highly recommend checking out Dynamic Studies in Hebrews which sells for $23.95 on paperback or $3.99 digitally.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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God’s Club

Thank you Cinedigm for sending us this movie to review!

Does a Bible Club belong in a public school?  That’s the premise of the movie God’s Club.  Christine Evans was getting pushback from launching God’s Club at the Echo Grove high school in Vermont.  This small community has a number of outspoken (and often jerkish) atheist families who are trying to stop the club from launching.   Her husband reluctantly supports her efforts, but doesn’t get too involved until she dies suddenly. 

Michael Evans (Stephen Baldwin) takes his wife’s death pretty badly and holes himself up in his house for twelve weeks (often wearing the same shirt).  His nearly angelic teenage daughter tried to get him out of the house without much success.  One of his colleagues (Corbin Bernsen) pays him a friendly visit and reminds him that he could lose his job altogether if he doesn’t return to work soon.  To inspire him, he suggests that Michael launches the Bible club in his wife’s honor. And he does so, not anticipating the uphill battles ahead.

At first the Bible club has a few members and a couple of them joined up just to heckle the teacher.  Other students are positively impacted by the gospel and it stirs up trouble with their non-believing parents.  One of the parents is a lawyer (Lorenzo Lamas) and is looking for any creative way to shut down the club for good.  Some of the students resort to vandalism to let God’s Club know that they are not welcome as well.

With so much stacked against them, Michael and his daughter press on with the club realizing that their lives, jobs, and reputations are on the line.  But their faith is strong and unwavering as Psalm 62 proclaims.  Other verses quoted include Mark 11:25 and Romans 8:28.

While a bit corny and stereotypical at times, there were some enjoyable moments in God’s Club.  I’m in no rush to see it again nor am I eager to loan it out to fellow believers telling them that it’s a “must see.”  Overall it’s a decent film. However, I certainly won’t be handing it out to non-believers because of how they are portrayed in it.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Glimmer Girls: London Art Chase

Thank you Zonderkids for sending us this book to review!

Glimmer Girls: London Art Chase is written by Natalie Grant who many know as a four-time Grammy nominated singer.  She is now using her creative talents toward writing books that pre-teen girls will like.  As an 11-year old, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In London Art Chase, twins Maddie, Mia, and their little sister Lulu are going to London for their mom's concert tour. They have a nanny named Miss Julia who takes are of them while their parents are gone. Their mom is named Gloria Glimmer, and she is a famous Christian pop star.

While their family is packing to go to London for Gloria's concert tour, the sisters decide to hold a fashion show, as many young girls enjoy playing dress up.   Once packed, the family heads to the airport and flies off to London.  Unfortunately, Lulu's suitcase with her toys didn't make it there.  While Lulu hoped to investigate the matter, they were re-united with it after a few days.   Later in the book the whole family will embark on a case regarding a stolen painting.

In London the family gets to stay in a really nice hotel and visit the National Gallery during their free time.  They also got to visit Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London, where they were awestruck by the jewels that belonged to many princes and princesses over the centuries. On their trip the family also learned that their great-great-great-great-great grandfather founded the London police force and was knighted as a result.  Besides learning about their lineage, the girls also learned a thing or two about  solving mysteries. I won't spoil them, so you'll have to read the book to find out more!

I enjoyed this 205 page book so much I finished it in a day! It is kid-safe with no foul language and a few references to God and the Bible. It has some black and white illustrations as well. Most of them are at the beginning of the chapter, but there are some that are at exciting parts in the story. I would highly recommend this book and it sells for less than $8 on Amazon. 


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Buyus Colored Pencils

Buyus Colored Drawing Sketching Pencils
Developed by: BuyusDirect
Price: $12.95
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Highlights:

Strong Points: Very durable pencils; sturdy container; hex-shape makes them less likely to roll
Weak Points: Faint colors unless you press hard

Thank you, BuyusDirect, for sending us a set of these pencils to review!

We were approached at Christ Centered Gamer to review a set of colored pencils from a company called BuyusDirect – not normally a product we cover, but we don't mind being experimental. It's good to branch out now and then!

The pencils came quickly from Amazon, and contain 36 pencils in a wide variety of shades. The container is a sturdy cylinder, made of yellow-covered cardboard and topped with a durable plastic cap. The writing on most of the container appears to be Chinese, and what little English that is on the container makes little sense. There is a picture of some sort of bear wearing sunglasses in the middle – presumably the "Mr. Cuya" that appears below the picture. Around the portrait of the bear is the odd phrase "CUYA STORY – They love each other and happy every day." Underneath the title of "Mr. Cuya" is another peculiar phrase, "Cool is a kind of life is also a kind of attitude." 

case

Despite the odd use of "Engrish" on the package, the pencils within are of fine quality. Each pencil is six-sided, which means they are less prone to roll off the table than your typical colored pencil. The colored lead within each is durable, and not prone to snapping or crumbling over heavy use. My daughters have enjoyed using them quite a bit, and I've even used them to try and sketch out a quiet, nature scene (which also told me that my drawing skills are sorely out of practice). The colors aren't terribly bold, though, unless you press hard. Fortunately, the lead is durable enough to withstand this kind of pressure. Unfortunately, when my wife tried to use them, it led to her having cramped fingers after just a few minutes of coloring.  

 Another thing that we found odd was the price. The Buyus pencils have a list price of $49.99, but we've seen them on sale for around $12. However, when you compare them to Faber-Castells – one of the premium names in artistic pencils – you can get a set of 48 pencils, and an eraser, for $30.79, also from Amazon. Another thing to consider – Faber-Castells often have the name of the color stamped on the side, while the Mr. Cuya pencils don't. It's a minor point, though – the hue of the paint on the outside of the pencil is going to be the hue you get when you touch it to paper. 

Buyus coloring pencils

All in all, these pencils have a very good quality, but require a bit of effort to really make the colors stand out. They can be a good deal if purchased on sale, but at their full price, you may be better off looking to one of its competitors.


(Amazon Affilate Link)

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Noah’s Ark (2015)

Thank you Cinedigm for sending us this DVD to review!

Our family has watched many faith-based movies and most of them show the biblical figures as upright, holy, and serious.  While those films don’t stray from the Bible and teach valuable lessons, they are often hard to relate to in modern times.  Noah’s Ark (which originally aired on BBC television) changes that formula by telling a well-known story with a modern twist and personable characters.  Although Noah was close to 600 years old (Gen 7:6), he is shown as being a fit man who joins his sons (Ham, Shem, Japeth) in diving, swimming, rough housing and some joking around.  

Besides the added dialog, there are some new characters brought into the story including an adopted son named Kenan.  Ham, Shem, and Japeth are all married though having grandkids is a little challenging for them since everyone is all living and sleeping in close proximity.  Some of the couples are discussing the lack of privacy and the need to move out to start their own families.  Kenan is nearly eighteen and falls in love with a non-believing girl in the nearby town.  He sneaks out to go partying with her almost every night.

The townspeople are shown as evil with implied pedophilia and valuing science over an all-powerful and loving God.  Some of the arguments made by the townspeople are the same as those used by modern day skeptics.  Instead of being told directly by God (Gen 6:13), an angelic messenger is sent to Noah to build an ark for the upcoming flood.

I love how this film depicts his family’s (realistic) reactions to such a bold mission.  Having not seen rainfall in over a year, the family is doubtful to say the least.  Noah keeps his faith and embarks on building the ark on his own.  His family slowly comes around, but when Noah tries to warn the townspeople, they nearly kill him.  Some do come around and join him on the ark before the storm comes. A couple of Bible discrepancies include Genesis 7:7 stating that it was only Noah’s family onboard, and God shut the ark’s door (Gen 7:16) instead of Noah.

The actual flood and gathering of the animals takes a backseat to the storytelling and portrayal of Noah’s family.  Despite some artistic license taken with this Biblical event, my family enjoyed watching this movie.   This 92 minute film has a faith friendly 12+ rating and I think that's fair given some of the bedroom discussions.  I wasn't familiar with any of the British actors, but they all did a fine job.  I highly recommend the 2015 Noah's Ark movie if you’re looking for a different spin on this great story of faith.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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The Great Video Game Music III – Choral Edition

Thank you Shore Fire Media for sending us a digital version of this CD to review!

As a proud owner of the first two Greatest Video Game Music CDs I’ve been very happy with their symphonic renditions of many video game songs that I hold dear to my heart.  I can even appreciate songs from games I have yet to play.  The first two CDs were performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and they did not disappoint.  The third entry features the Oprhei Drangar, an 80-piece Swedish choir and the female vocalist, Myrra Malmberg.  

The track list spans though several popular game series including Assassin’s Creed, Dragon Age, Final Fantasy, God of War, Minecraft, Portal, Skyrim, The Last of Us, and World of Warcraft.  There are thirteen tracks in total and some games have multiple tracks like Final Fantasy X and Skyrim.

My favorite song on the CD that I’m already familiar with is Skyrim – Dragonborn.  I was also familiar with Portal’s Still Alive, but I’m still a fan of the original rendition (though the choral version is still nice.)  Even though I haven’t played Dragon Age: Inquisition, the theme is really well done and is a pleasure to listen to.    The choir is very prominent (and rightfully so!) in most of the songs, but I couldn’t tell if they actually sang in the Minecraft song, Sweden.  The symphony did an excellent job and my kids enjoyed that song the most on the CD, but the choir was either not performing in it or were drowned out by the orchestra. 

Gamers who have played any of the games mentioned in this review should check out this CD and its predecessors.  The audio CD sells for $11.99 on Amazon or in digital form on iTunes for $9.99.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

 

 

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Monkey Up

Thank you Airbud Entertainment for sending us this DVD, shirts, a mini barrel of monkeys game, some coupons for free rice and a monkey bag to carry it all in!  

My kids were excited to see this movie, especially after meeting its star actor, Crystal, the monkey who plays Monty in Monkey Up.  Crystal is 22 years old and has been in several movies including Dr. Dolittle 1&2, Night at the Museum, Zoo Keeper, George of the Jungle and many of the Buddies movies including Treasure Buddies, Spooky Buddies, and Super Buddies.  Monkey Up is her first movie where she takes the lead role.

Monkey Up is about an egotistical talking monkey, Monty, who is full of himself and wants to become a big time movie star instead of being the spokesperson for Monkey Up, a sugary energy soft drink.  Monty hears about an upcoming movie role, but the director would rather use a CGI monkey instead of one that’s full of himself and doesn’t know the first thing about family.  Instead of heading back to his trainer to do more commercials, he runs away and hides in a doll house.  

The doll house is delivered that night to a girl named Sophie whose family is a bit dysfunctional with her father switching jobs and her mother putting her career above her family’s needs. Her brother Ethan is nice to her, but is more interested in getting to know their new neighbor girl than spending time with her.  

Sophie can really use a good friend and she’s been asking for a pet monkey for a while. Needless to say that when she found out that her dollhouse had Monty as a tenant, she was thrilled.  Of course Monty only wanted to stay there for a little while, but as he started to get to know the family and help them out, he started to love them and learn what it’s like to put other’s needs before your own.

Monkey Up is a heartwarming movie that promotes family values and has a lot of silly humor that my kids enjoyed.  Adults may not be impressed with the action stunts, but this movie has a good message and it reminds me as a parent to pay attention to my kid’s needs.  It was fun watching Crystal the monkey doing her own stunts and our family looks forward to seeing her in many more movies to come!


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Waves '98

Thank you Brigade Marketing for sending us a screener of this short film to review!

Waves ’98 is a short film (15 minutes in length) that takes place in Beirut in 1998. Omar is a teenager that is depressed with all of the somber news, his parent’s financial situation, and the rundown neighborhood he lives in.    One of his methods of escape for him is to sit on top of his school’s rooftop to view the parts of the segregated city that he has never seen before.  While he’s outside he’s seen smoking a cigarette, though the vision he sees later makes me wonder if it was just tobacco.

Later Omar is shown riding a scooter and I like how the real life images are blended into the animated environment. The scooter scene is primary real time footage and for once, the animated scenes take a back seat.  The animation becomes front and center again when Omar comes face to face with a giant golden elephant.  Omar enters into the elephant and is joined with a few other teenagers who are looking for a similar escape. 

The friends get to experience fun times at a beach and witness sea creatures swimming in space?  Their time together is short lived as reality creeps back in.  The ending isn’t very clear and had my husband and I scratching our heads and wondering what the overall message was.  Despite the confusing elements and subtitles (the default language is Arabic), we were captivated by the story and neat visual effects.   

If you like short animated films Waves ’98 is worth checking out though I’m not aware of any way to view it in its entirety.  The trailer can be seen at its website.   At the Cannes Film Festival, it was given the Palm D’or which is the highest tier prize awarded.

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Bridge of Spies

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

Bridge of Spies takes place during the Cold War in 1957 and is based on true events.  A Soviet spy has been captured and needs to be tried for his crimes.  The people are afraid of nuclear warfare and want swift and deadly justice to keep our country safe.  But who wants to defend this war criminal?  An insurance lawyer, Jim Donovan, gets the patriotic privilege of being Rudolf Abel’s legal counsel.

Despite his family’s concerns for their reputation and safety, Jim accepts the job and represents Mr. Abel honorably.  In fact, the cards are stacked against Rudolf and some legal shortcuts were taken to get him into court.  Even when the legal discrepancies are brought forward, they are disregarded by the judge.  Jim Donovan doesn’t give up and stands his ground and pleads for the court system to spare Rudolf’s life as a good gesture towards Russia.

While the arraignment proceedings are taking place, a top secret U.S. pilot is shot down in Russia and a U.S. student is captured while being on the wrong side of the newly erected Berlin wall.  Jim Donovan goes above and beyond the call of duty of simply representing Rudolf Abel, and is instrumental in negotiating his safe return to his family.

Without spoiling any more details from the movie, I will say that it’s well worth watching for yourself. When I saw that Bridge of Spies was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Tom Hanks, I had my expectations set pretty high.  I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed and highly recommend it.  Bridge of Spies is rated PG-13 due to strong language (a few SOB’s and F-bombs) and violence.  There are some emotional scenes with people losing their lives trying to reunite with loved ones on the other side of the Berlin wall.  Anyone who likes movies about war or justice should definitely check out Bridge of Spies.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Lyfe’s Journey

Thank you Falco Ink for sending us this DVD to review!

David Lyfe had a good life, a nice house, a great job, a pretty wife and daughter, and a baby on the way.  He was a wonderful dad and a loving husband.  Things couldn’t get much better until he found out that his company was merging with another bank.  He detested having to fly out to California to lay off the people he personally hand-picked for that location.  To make matters worse, once that was handled, he was given the same lay-off spiel by his boss! To cope with the news David decided to drown away his sorrows at the hotel bar.

It’s there that he meets a lonely housewife named Amy and they share stories about each other’s life and spouses.  David is happy in his marriage, but Amy is not since her husband doesn’t pay much attention to her and her desire to have kids.  I’d like to say that they parted ways but instead David makes a mistake that will cost him his family, house, and job opportunities.  

When David hits rock bottom, he meets up with a pastor and starts to stay at their homeless shelter.  The pastor’s daughter took an interest in David since she sensed her deceased mother’s “presence” around him and knew that he deserved a second chance.  Can David repent of his sins and regain his wife’s trust and earn her forgiveness?  You’ll have to watch this eighty-two-minute film that has earned Dove awards for yourself.  It’s recommended for audiences that are twelve and older and I agree with that rating.    Although intimacy is not shown, it is implied and there are alcohol references.

Overall I found the movie enjoyable, but predictable.  The acting is decent and the main character is a good guy who makes one mistake and pays dearly for it.  The wife is rightfully hurt and her mother (who was cheated on numerous times) is pushing for her to divorce him.  As a Christian I like the message of redemption, but I’m not so fond of the spiritual sensing that the pastor’s daughter had with the local homeless residents. 


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

 

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Beyond the Comfort Zone: The War That Never Ends

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

The author Frank Wilkins was an agnostic that was seeking factual evidence that God exists.  There have been many documented miracles in recent history and numerous “coincidences” that have impacted our world’s development in a huge way.  Did you know that a mysterious fog settled in the Battle of Long Island that let George Washington evacuate his 9,000 men without being detected and with no loss of life?  Without this “providential fog” as history books describe it, America’s history could have been altered severely.  

Another interesting historical figure is Joan of Arc, an insignificant peasant girl that was guided by visions and helped Charles VII recover France from English rule.  Her leadership and military victories as a mere teenager are unheard of and leave little explanation other than divine appointment. As a side note, the game Jeanne d’Arc covers much of the same events!  

The author also talks about a personal encounter with demonic possession and how he has found faith in God through Catholicism.  While many Catholics may appreciate the accounts of apparitions describing themselves as the “perpetual virgin” or the “lady of the rosary”, other Christian denominations will disagree with those titles.  I was also turned off by the author’s recommendation to pray daily to St. Michael the Archangel.  1 Timothy 2:5 states that we have one mediator between God and man and that is Jesus. 

More recent miracles mentioned in the book include the visions and predictions given by the "virgin Mary" to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.  The apparition predicted and described World War 1,2 and that two out of the three children would not live long lives while the third died in 2005.   All three of the children were given a glimpse of hell and their whole town got to witness and document the sun dancing in the sky on October 13, 1917.  While these events are well documented, these visions could very well be demons rather than Mary.  After all, Satan can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).

While I was fascinated by the historical accounts of God’s providence on various civilizations, I don’t share the author's religious views.  Because of the dark spiritual revelations and mild language, I don’t recommend this book for young believers or young children.  If you do find this book interesting the paperback sells for $20 and the digital version goes for $4 on Amazon. 

(Amazon Affiliate Link) 

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Love Finds You in Charm

Thank you Anchor Bay for sending us this DVD to review!

Love Finds You in Charm is based on the book Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio by Annalisa Daughety.  It’s about a young Amish woman named Emma Miller who fantasizes about living outside of the Amish community and doesn’t feel like she belongs.  To make matters worse, Emma feels that she is failing as a role model for her younger sister with her reading habits and longing to explore the world before deciding to join the Amish community.  

If Emma chooses to become a member of the Amish church, she has a marriage offer from Jacob who cares for her more than she does for him.

While she has a good life ahead of her in Indiana, Emma can’t help but wonder what the outside world has to offer.  Sensing her discontentment, Emma’s father sends her to her cousin’s farm for the summer to lend a hand during the tourist season.  Her cousin is a recent widow that lives in another Amish community in Charm, Ohio.  Without much hesitation, Emma packs her bags and hops on a train.

In Ohio Emma meets Noah, a young, handsome, and well-read man that understands much of her struggles.  She also befriends Kelly, an outsider (Englisher as the Amish call them) who is retreating to Ohio to live a more peaceful life.  Another outsider named Andy takes notice of Emma and her award winning goat cheese.  As a blogger of wine and cheese, he’s well-travelled and offers to take her along with him.  

With so many temptations and men interested in her, Emma must discover the right path and decide which man she wants to spend her future with.  My husband (despite making some chick flick cracks) and I enjoyed watching this film together and recommend it for anyone fascinated with the Amish or love triangles in general.  


(Amazon Affilaition Link)

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Full of Grace

Thank you BH Impact for sending us this DVD to review!

Most Christians agree that Mary played a crucial role in bringing our savior into this world in His human form.  His conception was divine since Mary was not yet married and a virgin.  When she was visited by an angel, she accepted God’s will without thinking about the social stigma that would be placed on her or the emotional suffering that was to come.  She is truly a role model of humble submission. 

With that said, there are arguments in Christian circles that some denominations put too much emphasis on Mary believing that she can mediate between Jesus and mankind, that she too was sinless, and remained a virgin after marriage.  The Bible clearly states that Jesus is our mediator (1 Tim 2:5), all have sinned (Rom 3:23, Luke 2:24), and that Jesus had earthly siblings (Matt 12:47).  

The movie Full of Grace does not show any of her offspring caring for her towards the end of her life.  Instead, a (presumably fictional) woman named Zara is shown tending to her.   Sensing that her time on earth is dwindling, Mary sends word to Peter that she would like to speak with him one more time.

Meanwhile, Peter is being pressured by members of the early church seeking permission to interpret scriptures to teach the spiritually hungry new believers.  With issues like denying the trinity, not believing that Jesus was fully man as well as God, and believers picking and choosing Christ’s teachings, the early church is already harvesting seeds of discord.  Peter doesn’t want to spread false doctrine and is not sure how to proceed, so he welcomes the diversion of tending to Mary before giving the church elders a decision.  

Mary and Peter talk about their time together with Jesus and Mary implores him to go back to the beginning to understand the end.  Peter is soon accompanied by Simon and John who question him on Paul’s ministry and his rejecting the Old Testament ways.  Many good topics like law versus tradition, and limitless grace are discussed.  While this movie is slow-paced, it’s interesting to see how the early church struggled with its rapid growth and human failings.  

On her deathbed Mary shares with Jesus’ disciples and friends her earthly memories and wisdom.  She refers to the people there as her children and reminds them that she will always be with them.  Before passing, she has communion with them and has oil placed on her head. Her body is shown being carried away and buried instead of ascending to heaven like some denominations believe. 

Even though I didn’t recognize any of the actors, they played their roles well.  The background music and singing set the tone and the scenery was authentic, beautiful, and gloomy when it needed to be.  It lacks some of the triple A movie special effects, but the message of the movie is made clear without the need for unnecessary fanfare.     

I won’t spoil what Peter learned in case you wish to see this one hour and twenty-three minute film.  My mom, step-dad and I found it somewhat interesting while my husband managed to fall asleep.    If you want to see a movie portraying the possible struggles of the early church, than look no further than Full of Grace.  Just make sure you're well rested beforehand. 


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

 

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War Room

Thank you Sony Pictures for sending us this DVD to review!

The Kendrick brothers have been upping the ante with each film they have released.  I have enjoyed their previous entries including Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous.  While I have heard good things about War Room, I wasn’t familiar with the movie’s premise.  I assumed it took place in strategy room during a major war.  While I wasn’t completely off-base, this movie wasn’t what I anticipated at all and it exceeded my expectations.  I think it’s safe to say that the movies from the Kendrick brothers get better with each release.  

War Room begins with Clara Williams by her husband’s grave forty years after his passing.  He was a decorated war strategist and was very good at his position.  She realizes that war is a part of life, especially when it comes to spiritual warfare.  Clara is a devout Christian and spends much of her day in her bedroom closet praying for her family and friends.  While her closet is lacking clothes, its walls are covered in Bible verses and prayer requests.  At first glance it does look like an old fashioned war room.    

When it comes time for Clara to put her house up for sale she meets Elizabeth Jordan (played by Priscilla Shirer), a real estate agent whose marriage is falling apart. Their biggest issue is that they are putting their careers over the needs of each other and their daughter, Danielle.  Their romance is gone and Danielle is growing more distant and feels neglected each day.  

Clara pushes Elizabeth beyond her comfort zone and insists that she puts God at the throne of her heart and to start letting God fight her battles for her.  While her marriage currently seems hopeless, nothing is impossible for God!  It’s not an easy change for Elizabeth, but she perseveres even when things continue to crumble.  

Without spoiling the story, I will say that there are many emotional moments and a few humorous scenes as well.  I watched this film with my life group and kids.  It’s family friendly and the women in the room immediately recognized Beth Moore’s cameo in the film.  I recommend this movie for anyone whose prayer life can use a booster shot.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

 

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Susie’s Hope

Thank you Greenleaf and Associates for sending us a screener to watch!

Susie’s Hope is based on a true story about the origin of North Carolina’s House Bill 1609 (dubbed Susie’s law) that authorizes up to ten months of jail time for people found guilty of cruelty to animals.  The movie begins with Donna and Roy Lawrence playfully bickering over the gender of their first unborn baby.  Since they don’t have kids yet, their gray poodle named Baby Girl is treated as one.   She is quite pampered and is dressed up in unique outfits with tiaras for various events.  

Despite it annoying her husband, Donna has a soft heart for animals that are neglected in her neighborhood.   Donna and her friend Ramona started taking care of a pit bull nearby that was malnourished and tied to a tree for several days.  After days successfully caring for it, Donna was brutally attacked by this dog and barely survived.  Thankfully she was able to break free and managed to meet Ramona who took her in the hospital in the nick of time.  The wounds were severe enough for Donna to lose her baby and any chance of getting pregnant again.

Both Donna and her husband mourned the loss of their unborn child, but Donna wished that her life was taken as well.  She wondered why God spared her and what the purpose of her life was.  Donna found her answer at a playground when she was taking a walk with Ramona.  In the grass was a mangled puppy that they thought was dead.  Surprisingly, it was still alive and was taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter where they worked around the clock to treat the third degree burns, broken jaw, and hundreds of maggots found on the puppy.  

Putting the puppy out of its misery would have been easier and less expensive, but Donna sensed that this pit-bull mix puppy was a fighter and deserved a chance at a better life.  Without talking to her friend or husband first, she volunteered to pay for the $17,000 medical expenses to save the dog and was convinced that God would provide a way to have it funded.  

Donna named the puppy Susie and she made headlines in the papers and was on the evening news.  Generous donations were made to the animal shelter to help offset the medical costs.  The next step was to bring justice to the man who beat and burned this puppy alive.  Although he was brought to court, the North Carolina laws at the time were not strict enough to enforce jail time.

While the man responsible was put in jail, I’ll leave the details out so you can enjoy this family friendly movie for yourself.  No animals were injured in the making of this film and the budget is low enough where you can tell that the injured puppy is an animatronic.  It is cool that Susie does star in this movie as herself.  The rest of the cast is relatively unknown with the exception of Jon Provost who played Timmy in Lassie.  All of the cast did an excellent job in telling this story about faith, hope, and love.  It’s available on Amazon for $15 on blu-ray or free to watch with your Prime membership.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Sound of Redemption – The Frank Morgan Story

Thank you Brigade Marketing for sending us a screener to review!

Sound of Redemption – The Frank Morgan Story was successfully Kickstarted in July of 2012.  It’s a documentary about the jazz saxophone legend who spent a good majority of his life in and out of San Quentin’s maximum security prison.  While Frank was in prison he was in a band that put on paid performances and was treated well by the warden.

Many of Frank’s incarcerations were drug or theft related.  To finance his heroin addiction, he often fenced stolen property.  In fact, he once stole some recording equipment in front of Stevie Wonder while he was practicing in a music studio!  

Frank Morgan rubbed shoulders with many legends including his inspiration, Charlie “Bird” Parker.  Despite his dad being a guitarist for the group Ink Spots, it was Charlie Parker’s smooth saxophone playing that swayed Frank to follow in his footsteps.  By the tender age of fourteen, Frank was good at playing the alto saxophone and played in various clubs in California including the one his dad owned, Casablanca.

When Frank was fifteen he auditioned and won a Freddy Martin talent contest in 1948, but because of his color, he never got to redeem his award for playing on live TV.  Besides discrimination, Frank had a rough life with his grandmother, mother, and father involved with and running brothels.  He didn’t spend too much time with his family and spent more time with his music friends who turned him onto heroin in the 1950s.  

Frank attended some wild parties in his lifetime and some of the images in the movie show painted and photographic nudity.  There is also drug and tobacco imagery.  Because of these issues and strong language, this film not to be viewed by younger children.

Despite all of the trouble Frank got himself in, he spent the latter half of his life out of prison and making a big impact in the jazz scene in the 1980s and beyond.  In his lifetime Frank released twenty CDs that earned him praise and recognition in various media outlets on television and in magazines.  My husband is really into jazz music and will be on the lookout for Frank Morgan CDs to add to his CD library.  He found the music to be very moving.

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Umaima
good post. http://www.google.com
Friday, 11 December 2015 21:10
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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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