Rated: PG for action violence and scary images (US) / PG (Canadian Home Video Rating)
Starring: Jason Michas, Andrew Francis and Scott McNeil
Released: September 16, 2003
|Bionicle: Mask of Light: What started as a set of blocks for kids to play with has turned into a media empire. Between theme parks, computer and video games, and films such as this, Lego is big business these days. I had one set of Legos as a kid, but wasn't too into them because my poor coordination made it hard for me to manipulate the pieces properly; however, I have the utmost respect for those who can make masterpieces with those little blocks. It may sound strange that I would watch a movie such as this, but I love kiddie entertainment, especially of the action/adventure variety, so, I figured, why not?|
However, the movie wasn't quite as good as I hoped it would be. The animation was great, and the voice work was pretty good, too. However, a weird story that seemed a bit hard to follow hurt the overall experience. Still, any Lego fan who hasn't already seen this probably should, as they would probably understand it better than I did.
Content Concerns: Explosions, fights, and battles involving fantasy weapons appear throughout the movie. The film starts out with an alternate creation story, and, though Mata Nui and Teridax have similarities to God and Satan, the usage of healing spells in Mata Nui's name sort of nullifies that. Mata Nui's name is also used as an interjection. Some of the scenes could be a bit scary to kids.
Rated: PG for action violence (US) / PG (Canadian Home Video Rating)
Starring: John Payne, Lisa Ann Beley, and Michael Dobson
Released: September 14, 2004
|G.I. Joe: Valor Vs. Venom: Aside from playing a tie-in game on my Commodore 64, I didn't do anything with G.I. Joes as a kid. Maybe it was because the military didn't hold much of a fascination for me, but, the whole universe was pretty much new to me upon reading the novelization of The Rise of Cobra (yes, there really was one.) Still, as someone who can appreciate a well-made action story, I got this DVD on the cheap at my local MovieStop. Most viewers probably don't care, but this movie was written by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who have also authored some amazing novels, both action/espionage ones and books within the Star Trek expanded universe. The story itself is great, but the animation was also surprisingly good for a direct-to-video film. The voice work is pretty good, even if it was by a bunch of no-names. Even the story kept me involved until the end. If you thought that the two Michael Bay movies were all visual flourish and no story, you should check out this one, where the graphics don't overpower the narrative.|
Content Concerns: Plenty of explosions, gunfire, physical fights, airplane battles, etc. Robots are regularly ripped apart, much like in The Phantom Menace. The transformations that some people undergo within the film are slightly creepy. "Jeez" is used once or twice.
Rated: PG for thematic material, some violence, sensuality, and mild language (US) / PG: Mature Theme (Canadian Home Video Rating)
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, and Bobby Coleman
Released: March 30, 2010 (theaters) / August 17, 2010 (DVD/Blu-ray)
|The Last Song: Based on a novel by best-selling, lovey-dovey writer Nicholas Sparks, this movie is a more dramatic role for Miley Cyrus than that secret identity pop star Hannah Montana. Some have complained about her acting, but, I felt that she did a serviceable job. Not being a big fan of romance, however, I did feel that the movie, though well-made, was a bit pokey. Sure, it triggered some emotions--I just finished it, and my eyes are slightly heavy--but it still took some endurance for me to finish it. Having not read the book, I can't comment on the similarities and differences, though the screenplay for the celluloid version was co-written by Mr. Sparks himself. Parents of young children might want to read the below section before letting their kid see this, no matter how much they like Miley's sitcom on the Mouse network.|
Content Concerns: The reasons for the "PG" were a bit lengthy, and watching it makes the reasons obvious: A guy makes advances on a girl, and, though she refuses, another female gets the idea that they were engaging in sexual activity. Several scenes have girls in bikinis and/or shirtless guys, and Ronnie (Miley's character) is seen wearing some immodest outfits at times. Two guys engage in a fistfight, and not only does one guy threaten the other with a crowbar, but one of them ends up with a bloody face. There are a few misuses of God's name, d-words, and h-words contained in the film.
Rated: PG-13 for violence (Dove approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Kirk Cameron, Brad Johnson, and Chelsea Noble
Released: October 29, 2002 (DVD)
|Left Behind II: Tribulation Force: This second installment is to the Left Behind movie trilogy what Attack of the Clones is to the Star Wars prequels: the middle, and weakest, part. Though there is some action, much of the film pokes around. It's not terrible; I kind of wish I had seen it before seeing World at War, because that would have helped me understand it a bit better. Still, your opinion of this movie will likely depend on how much you like the entire series, even if you've only seen the first movie.|
Content Concerns: There are a few violence sequences, including one where kids are shot, and another where people burn to death. An affair is suspected, but it proves to be untrue. A man's bloody face is seen. Some insults, such as "Bible thumper," are tossed around.
Rated: Not Rated (US) / G (Canadian Home Video Rating)
Starring: January Jones, Logan Bartholomew, and Dale Midkiff
Released: November 20, 2004 (TV) / February 22, 2005 (DVD)
|Love's Enduring Promise: The second of the celluloid adaptation of Janette Oke's historical/romantic fiction saga, it is as well-made and enjoyable as one would expect from a TV movie (other than Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, of course). The talent and craftsmanship here is great, but, that's to be expected when you have names such as Katherine Heigl (The Ugly Truth), January Jones (Mad Men), and Kevin Kiner (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) attached to the project. Some may find it slightly slow-moving, and it is, but those who feel that a movie can be good without superhumans and/or gunplay will definitely like it.|
Content Concerns: A man is accidentally wounded, and blood is seen coming from his injury. Later in the film, his wound and another character's beat-up hands are seen, the former more than once. The death of a child is part of the storyline.
Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Erin Cottrell, Logan Bartholomew, and John Savage
Released: December 3, 2005 (TV) / March 14, 2006 (DVD)
|Love's Long Journey: This sequel to Love's Enduring Promise--see above--has a different sort of feel. Though some of the same characters appear, Erin Cottrell's Missie is different than how January Jones played her. Still, it's another well-crafted historical/romance movie with positive mentions of Christian faith, likable heroes, despicable villains, and even a little intensity. Anyone who enjoyed Love Comes Softly and Love's Enduring Promise will find plenty to like about this third flick.|
Content Concerns: Shots are fired, two people are slightly bloodied, and one person is killed. The word "injun" is used in regards to Native Americans.
Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Jaclyn Smith, Lyndsy Fonseca, and C. Thomas Howell
Released: May 7, 2005
|Ordinary Miracles: It's rather by-the-numbers, but this Hallmark-produced telefilm has a somewhat involving story and a positive moral base. The production values aren't exactly high-scale, but those who enjoy low-budget, mostly clean dramas will find plenty to enjoy about this movie. Unless you can find it super-cheap, though, I can only recommend a rental.|
Content Concerns: The whole story involves a girl whose parents abandoned her. The teenage female lead and a apparently older young man kiss a few times. She also drinks, and has a sort of hallucination; whether or not the alcohol caused it is left to interpretation. The two female leads wear tops that are slightly low-cut or high-rise. God's name is misused a time or two. In the finale, guns are pulled out, a store is robbed, and there is right much reckless driving and screaming.
Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Daniel Hugh Kelly, Matt Carmody, and Drew Powell
Released: September 9, 2001 (TV premiere)
|The Ponderosa: Actually the series premiere for a single-season TV series that aired on PAX over a decade ago, this flick has a lot of emotion packed into its eighty-five minutes. Though the production values are good, it isn't as exciting or thrilling as it could have been. Western fanatics will probably devour it, but others should look elsewhere.|
Content Concerns: Though this may have been made for a family-oriented network, it's edgier than one would expect from PAX. There are two fights that involve both physical attacks and weapons; one of them ends with a fatal wound. An explosion kills someone whose hands are seen bloodied as she dies. People shoot at a man just for giggles, though he is not fatally wounded. Drinking gets plenty of screen time, and smoking gets a little, too. Language includes one h-word and a misuse of God's name, albeit in French. Some of the intense emotions displayed may be a bit much for sensitive viewers.
Rated: Not Rated (US) / PG (Canadian Home Video Rating)
Starring: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Sara Ballantine, and Roscoe Lee Browne
Released: June 7, 2005 (DVD)
|Spider-Man: The Venom Saga: Over the past few years, I have seen several direct-to-video superhero animated films, both within the DC and Marvel universes. There were one or two that were better than normal--Superman: Brainiac Attacks, for one--but most were either mediocre or, in the cases of All-Star Superman or Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, terrible. Well, I'm here to tell you that Spider-Man: The Venom Saga creams all of them. Even though it's merely a pastiche of five different episodes from the 90's Saturday morning 'toon, the intensity is ramped up so much that, aside from taking two brief breaks, I watched it all in one sitting. It helps that the focus is on one villain, and that the movie has a continuous story; Spidey's other animated flicks didn't have that trait, and it hurt them. Even if you weren't a big fan of previous titles in the series, such as Daredevil Vs. Spider-Man, this is at least worth a rental for any fan of the webslinger.|
Content Concerns: Plenty of fantasy violence throughout, though none of it is bloody or graphic. Potentially scary content involves the symbiote, which behaves much like a demon, and the stealing of people's "life-forces" in the final episode. Name-calling includes "freak" and "fool," and three different guys are seen shirtless; one in his underwear. Madame Web, a psychic sort of character, appears twice towards the end.
Rated: PG for mild action and brief smoking
Starring: Forrest Landis, AnnaSophia Robb, and Lea Thompson
Released: March 1, 2008 (theaters) / January 20, 2009 (DVD)
|Spy School (aka Doubting Thomas): For once, I don't know exactly what to say, but I'll give it my best shot: This kiddie spy flick combines elements of Agent Cody Banks and Big Fat Liar. It also ranges from cute to zany to disturbing, all in only eighty-six minutes. It made for mediocre viewing, however; I'm sure most families can do better.|
Content Concerns: Violence is the main issue here; adults threaten kids, and kids act in self-defense. Seeing a teacher point a gun at two kids may be disturbing, in light of recent events. Elsewhere, some girls wear short skirts, and a performance by the band Huckapoo--who?--is a bit sultry. Language is limited to one misuse of God's name.
Rated: 14-A (Canadian Home Video Rating)
Starring: Kim Delany, Dean Cain, and David Cubitt
Released: 21-23 May 2006 (TV premiere) / August 1, 2006 (DVD)
|10.5: Apocalypse: Right from the get-go, 10.5 Apocalypse has destruction and people in peril. Though the story itself is great, the cinematography is not, and the special effects look like graphics from an old-school video game. Also, there are some significant content issues, as listed below.|
Content Concerns: At least half of the movie depicts destruction and death, and many people are seen bloody or dead, if not both. Other deaths are implied. At least ten or fifteen profanities are present, mostly d-words and h-words. A few women are seen in everything from a sports bra and shorts, to a lacy bra, to Vegas showgirl attire. A husband and wife are seen passionately kissing, though they are interrupted before they can go any further. Gambling gets mentioned, and plays a bigger part than it should. Smoking and alcoholism are present.
Rated: PG for thematic elements (Dove approved for all ages)
Starring: D. David Morin, Gavin McLeod, and Jennifer O'Neill
Released: October 25, 2002 (limited theatrical) / October 7, 2003 (VHS/DVD)
|Time Changer: A Christian movie involving time travel, with elements of a fish-out-of-water comedy, that makes a rather sobering point about the state of the world in which we live? I'm all for it! Seriously, this has to be one of the best Christian movies I've seen that wasn't by the Kendrick brothers. Sure, the special effects are a bit cheesy, but the excellent point outweighs any negative factors. This movie may be a decade old, but the points it makes, especially the chilling ending, seem even more timely eleven years later given recent events. If there was one little-known Christian film I would recommend to my believing friends, this would be it, hands down.|
Content Concerns: Not much to speak of here. Two girls mention getting drunk, though they are vilified for it. As bad as the language gets is one usage of "gosh," albeit by a Christian character. The scene where the protagonist goes back in time, as well as the ending, could be a bit freaky for some kids.
Rated: PG for mild thematic elements
Starring: Ray Walston, Ashley Peldon, and Diane Ladd
Released: September 14, 1997
|The Westing Game (aka Get a Clue): Based on a classic children's novel written by Ellen Raskin, this movie is as good as any no-name kiddie telefilm. The plot is engaging and has a surprise ending, but one or two characters are annoyingly weird, and the computer that is used to find clues is aggravatingly unrealistic. On the positive side, Christian faith and a handicapped person are both portrayed in a positive light.|
Content Concerns: The beginning is mildly scary. Some insults are tossed around. The protagonist kicks a guy in the leg more than once. A father lies to his daughter. All in all, it's about as mild as what you're likely to see on the Disney Channel.
Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Phil Vischer
Released: December 6, 2011 (DVD)
|What's in the Bible? with Buck Denver: Volume One: In the Beginning: What was supposed to be fun edutainment about God's Word ended up being annoying, silly, and nothing but a big waste of time. Though there are some facts to be learned from this DVD--and, one would guess, its sequels--the weird accents and lame jokes from the puppet characters make it hard for viewers to take much of anything from it. Little kids might love it, but everyone else should stick to watching VeggieTales or The American Bible Challenge.|
Content Concerns: Two ladies criticize the show, just like Statler and Waldorf did to the Muppets; however, it ends up coming off as mean-spirited and not very funny. A bet is made.