Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Thank you Vertical Entertainment for sending us a screener DVD to review!

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero is inspired by the true story of Bilal ibn Rabah. Though Bilal was one of Muhammad’s most trusted companions, this movie focuses more on slavery and equality than religion. Bilal’s master, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, was a wealthy man who made his fortune by selling idols in the town of Mecca. His son, Safwan ibn Umayya, treated Bilal and his sister very poorly. Bilal protected his sister even if it meant getting beaten later on for defending her.

Though whippings, beatings, and warfare is shown in this film, there is very little blood seen. This film is rated PG-13 due to the violence and warfare in it. Religion is watered down with a few references to a singular creator God and a prayer ending in amen. There is no mention of Allah and the only hint of Islam is that you see gamepeices with crescents representing the new movement versus the idol worshipers on a strategic game board. The idol priests are depicted as powerful and able to sense people’s needs and desires. I like how they’re associated with snakes.

The quality of the film is exceptional with top notch visuals and voice acting. The overall message of equality is great and I like how they reinforce that true strength is in the mind and not weapons. Bilal’s mother taught him that a great man is not bound by internal chains of anger, vengeance, or fear. Even though Bilal seeks to be a free man physically, he realizes that even his master is a slave to greed. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that Bilal does speak his mind and stays true to his convictions and beliefs.

Though this film was originally made in 2015, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero will be coming to theaters worldwide on February 2nd, 2018. Hopefully it will do better in the Western box offices than it did in the MENA region despite its positive reviews. It’s definitely worth checking out if you don’t mind some harsh imagery and violence.


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Halo: The Complete Video Collection

Thank you Shout! Factory for sending us this six-disc Blu-ray set to review!

Back in 2015 we enjoyed and reviewed Halo: The Fall of Reach. Since we only had access to a low-resolution screener it’s nice to have a higher quality Blu-ray disc of it now. I have enjoyed the first two Halo games and my kids have been playing the original game, so we have a little bit of an understanding of the franchise. Thankfully, each of the discs features different characters and stories and don’t require an in-depth knowledge of the game to enjoy them. With that said these films are dark, bloody, and have some language in them so they’re not for younger children.

Aside from Fall of Reach, there are two other movies, Forward Unto Dawn and Nightfall. The first disc, Halo Legends, has all seven of the short animated films. If that’s not enough Halo lore for you to enjoy, there are also two discs worth of bonus content. This set is sure to please any Halo fan.

Each of the Halo Legends episodes is different in art style and storytelling. The history of the war with the Covenant and the Flood is retold from varying perspectives, including Cortana’s. Other side stories are told as well including some somber ones and light-hearted tales. Since the episodes are pretty short, I won’t spoil any of the details here. This disc is nearly two hours in length.

Forward Unto Dawn tells a ninety-one minute story of some fresh recruits that hope to be Spartans one day. Each of the cadets have their own viewpoints on the war and reasons for enlisting. Many of them have family members that will be hard to measure up to. Taking orders does not come naturally for the main character, Thomas Lasky. All of their sweat and training will come in handy when their academy gets attacked by the Covenant. Do they have what it takes to survive?

Nightfall stars Mike Colter who I recognized from the Luke Cage series. His character, Locke, is an ONI soldier on a mission to save the planet from a biochemical warfare attack from the Covenant. The fate of the planet relies on a handful of soldiers who must endure the harsh atmosphere of what’s left of the Halo ring. Humanity's acts of selfishness and selflessness are both shown in this ninety-eight-minute film.

While my family and I enjoyed these films and short movies, they are not for younger kids due to language and intense violence. There is plenty of blood and alien worms eating people alive. Pretty good nightmare material for young ones. Those who are old enough to enjoy the games will find a lot to like in this set though.


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All Saints

Thank you Affirm Films for sending us this DVD to review!

All Saints tells the true story about the recently ordained pastor, Michael Spurlock, who takes over a church slated for closing in a few weeks. Michael used to be a corporate salesperson and he has a history of clashing with his bosses. After getting to know the twelve church members, he realizes that the All Saints church is a big part of their lives and closing it down may hurt them spiritually. On top of that, some Karen refugee farmers have started attending and their growing numbers quickly fill up the pews in the chapel.

Michael must again clash heads with those in authority over him as he refuses to cooperate with the building appraisers. To keep the church afloat, Michael proposes that they use the land for farming and the expertise of the refugees for maintaining it. The diocese reluctantly agrees to keep the church off of the market until after the first harvest.

The church members work together to plant and tend the fields. Farming is hard work and requires a lot of time and water and both of them are in short supply. Friendships, marriages, and people’s faith are tested and strained throughout this journey. I’ll leave the rest of the details for you to watch in this 108 minute film.

The credits show some neat pictures and stories of actual All Saints church members. It’s also great to see that some of them are in the film. This movie is rated PG and shows a bit of blood and violence. Most of the movie is family friendly and I recommend checking it out. The Blu-ray is available for less than $20 and the DVD is $16.99 on Amazon.


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All I Want For Christmas Is You

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

All I Want For Christmas Is You features Mariah Carey’s song with the same title and she is the narrator of this cute Christmas themed story. The main character is a little girl named Mariah (big surprise!) who has been asking for a puppy for many years without any success. While her father is allergic to dogs, he also struggles with saying “No” to her and would rather come up with an excuse to leave rather than give her a response. This year is a little different from before as Mariah agrees to be in a doggie fashion show without the required dog. Her friends are still okay with it since Mariah assures them that she’s getting one this Christmas.

Mariah’s grandmother is in her corner and tries to get her parents to reconsider after seeing a cute hypoallergenic poodle-bichon hybrid puppy at the local animal shelter. Mariah sets her sights on getting this female puppy that she names Princess. Her father, on the other hand, has different plans. He brings home a troublesome puppy named Jack and promises that if she can take care of this wily dog, then they’ll consider getting Princess for her.

Jack is quite the troublemaker, destroying many items in the house, and even manages to tarnish Mariah’s impeccable reputation at school. Because of some of his hijinks, she is forced to trespass into her neighbor’s yard to “borrow” Mrs. Claus’ outfit since Jack destroyed the one she needed for the fashion show. Unfortunately, her grandfather trespasses into their neighbor’s yard all of the time out of jealousy to interfere with their obnoxious Christmas decorations.

While there is justification for lying and jealousy in this film, it does have a good message about love in the end and how it does not require perfection to thrive. I won’t spoil any more of the story or the ending, but I recommend checking out this film if you’re a fan of dogs or Mariah Carey. All I Want For Christmas Is You sells for less than $15 on Amazon.

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The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

Thank you Team Click for sending us this movie to review!

Life isn’t easy for a squirrel. Everything is out to get them: cars, bikes, gum, and humans. They had the easy life in the closed down nut shop, but good things don’t last forever. Sadly, it exploded and the easy life is now gone for Surly and his friends. Surly’s love interest, Andie, wants him to go back to the park and live as a wild animal again. However, the greedy mayor wants to remove Liberty Park since it’s not generating any income.

Instead of going back to the park, Surly and his friends decide to steal their meals from humans. Their life of crime is short lived after discovering that it’s not worth the hassle. Aside from stealing, there is some alcohol consumption and a spoiled rotten child being given her way when she throws a temper tantrum. Some gross humor is also shown when it comes to dogs and vomit.

The comedy begins when the ground breaks in the park to construct a new amusement park. The animals team up to stop the construction team from making any progress. The mayor brings in reinforcements and things get serious when Precious the dog gets taken by the mayor’s daughter. The daughter’s dog loves Precious but the feelings are not mutual.

During Precious’ rescue, Buddy gets injured and the animals rally together once again. With the renewed comradery, the animals vow to take down the newly opened amusement park. The animal exterminators come in full force and capture everyone but Surly. Does he run and take the easy way out or does he save the park and his friends? I’ll leave the rest as a mystery as you should see this movie firsthand.

My kids and I enjoyed this movie and recommend picking it up. The Blu-ray/DVD combo can be yours for less than $20.

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Cars 3

cars swag

Thank you Disney for sending us a Blu-ray, board game, Cruz Ramierez plush, Miss Fritter toy, snack cups, plates, and napkins!

My family has enjoyed and owns Cars 1 and 2 on Blu-ray. Though we enjoyed the first movie more than the sequel, we had high hopes for the third entry (if you don’t count the Planes movie). Cars 3 is a solid film despite its predictable ending.

In the beginning, you see Lightning McQueen at the top of his game with several adoring fans in the audience sporting his number 95. The banter and pranks between the top three performers is quite entertaining and fun to watch. The racing season starts off good for Lightning McQueen, until a younger, high-tech model racer named Jackson Storm starts winning the races. It doesn’t take long for many of Lightning McQueen’s friends to see the writing on the wall and start retiring one by one. Lightning McQueen doesn’t want to throw in the towel so easily, but a bad car accident gives him plenty of time to reflect on his situation and think back to the good advice that Doc Hudson gave him during his training.

Despite being at a disadvantage against the modern cars and their hi-tech simulation training machines, Lightning McQueen decides to continue on with his career. He soon befriends a personal trainer who constantly makes cracks about him being old, needing naps, and leaking oil. As someone who is pushing forty I can relate to feeling insecure to the threats of younger and more efficient models out there.

The overall story is good and the heartwarming ending isn’t a total surprise. My family enjoyed watching this film and highly recommend it to any Cars fan out there. People of all ages can enjoy this film and its lessons of pushing yourself to try harder and thinking smarter than your opposition. Sometimes things are not as hopeless as they seem. Currently you can enjoy this movie digitally and on November 7th it will be available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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Thank you JGPR for sending us this film to review!

Supergirl is a 78-minute documentary about Naomi Kutin who is a record setting power lifter. The catch is that she started breaking national and world records when she was eight years old! Her first national record was set for lifting 148lbs at eight years old. In this documentary, you’ll see her living out her Orthodox Jewish faith and lifting over 230lbs while weighing less than 100lbs. In fact, she has to maintain a strict diet to keep her weight at 97lbs or less. As she grows up physically, she’ll have to change weight classes to adjust to her adolescent body.

It's pretty neat to get a glimpse into the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. When traveling for events they cannot operate gas or electric powered tools like elevators at hotels on Saturdays. Seeing her become of age and watching her Bat Mitzvah is pretty exciting as well.

Despite all of the excitement, there are some somber moments in this documentary which should be considered before showing this to children. Naomi reads some comments on her YouTube and Facebook videos and many of them are rude and laced with profanity. Her adoring brother has autism and her mother was a victim of sexual abuse as she was growing up. With Naomi’s many successes come failures and she doesn’t win all of her competitions, but she does learn from them though.

One of the biggest trials in this film is the migraines that she experiences for months on end. Per doctor’s orders she has to take a break from lifting. This is a pretty tough blow because she loves lifting and her parents encourage her and don’t force this upon her. Once some progress is made, she resumes lifting and I’ll leave the conclusion of whether or not she makes a comeback for you to watch! Supergirl became available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, as well as DVD and Blu-ray on September 28, timed to coincide with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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The Atoning

Thank you Roberson Public Relations for sending us a screener of this film!

While I’m not typically into horror movies, the trailer looked interesting for The Atoning. My husband laughed at me for getting startled while viewing it. Like many horror movies, this one revolves around a haunted house and deals with spirits that have not crossed over to the “other side”. While unbiblical, it does provide decent entertainment.

Vera and Ray’s marriage is on the rocks and their son Sam is trying his best to keep them together. His attempt at cooking breakfast for them resulted in black and crispy pancakes and a huge mess to clean up. Vera is a loving mother while the father seems a bit distant. One thing that the family can all agree on is that their house seems to be haunted. Between doors opening and closing for no reason, objects moving around without explanation, and water turning on sporadically, this family is legitimately creeped out. The oddities seem to escalate at 9:45 every night as well.

Ray knows the name of the inhabitants of the house and their son Sam has seen their daughter who is about his age. The ghosts are not welcome and a medium is consulted to help remove the spirits. Unfortunately, the ghosts need to resolve their conflicts before moving onward. This involves a marital affair with an underage girl, drunkenness, and murder. To help figure all of this out, Ray consults a book that discusses occult topics like Neo-purgatory and Necrostasis. God is mentioned and quickly dismissed as soon as He’s brought up. During some flashbacks, Vera mentions going to church, but later doubts that God existed.

There’s a bit of a story twist, but this film’s main focus is on scaring it’s viewers. The demon like creatures are very creepy with their black bodies and bright eyes. After being startled from the trailer I was on guard for the movie and didn’t get freaked out while watching it. In all honesty I wasn’t very entertained either and have no desire to watch this film again.

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Pup Star: Better 2Gether

Thank you Air Bud Entertainment for sending us a screener link!

After losing to Tiny in the first Pup Star movie, Bark isn’t taking it lying down. In his local singing club, The Bark Easy, there’s a small dog with a big attitude named Scrappy that just so happens to look a lot like Tiny. Bark comes up with the plan to replace Tiny with Scrappy and have her take the fall to Bark in the upcoming season of Pup Star. Scrappy isn’t keen on this plan at first, but once her back alley home gets destroyed she’s onboard with it.

With the help of a skunk, the dog switch happens and those closest to the two dogs immediately detect the personality differences. Lots of hilarity ensues as the little dogs adjust to their new roles. Tiny’s human family considers a vet visit, holy water, and possibly an exorcism to bring back the dog they’re used to.

Many characters return including Lady Paw Paw, Simon Growl, and Dog Marley. Some new characters like Jimmy Kibble and Katty Purry are introduced. Like the previous movie, there is a character that’s extremely flamboyant. Even with the theme of deceit running throughout the movie, the pursuit of integrity and forgiveness is promoted. One final nitpick is that one of the dogs says OMG.

My kids enjoyed this movie and its over-the-top humor that adults will see coming from a mile away. Without spoiling the story, this film is heartwarming and shows the importance of family, friends, and acceptance. If you enjoyed the first movie, chances are that you’ll like this one too. This movie will be in theaters on August 29th. If you enjoy the music the soundtrack is available for purchase on Amazon.

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The Passion of Augustine

Thank you EG-PR for sending us a press screener of this movie to review!

The Passion of Augustine is a Canadian film that was originally released in 2015. Since this film takes place in Quebec, the native language is French. There is English closed captioning which doesn’t kick in until ten minutes or so into the film. The beginning of the movie starts off in Latin and the nuns are waking the girls up in Latin and attending a church service conducted in Latin. Had I not known that Catholic services used to be conducted in Latin, I would have assumed that the subtitles were misconfigured. Thankfully, we stuck with it and enjoyed the rest of the film that we were able to understand.

The rest of the film is fairly easy to follow if you don't mind subtitles. Later in the movie there is a scene where a student is singing a love song in a foreign language and I wish I knew what the lyrics were. Despite the language barrier the story is worth sticking around for. It’s based in the ‘60s and tells the tale of a struggling convent. Between the Vactican II changes and the state’s push for public schooling, the mother superior, Augustine, is doing what she can to keep the all-girls school running. Unlike the public schools, this convent focuses a lot on music theory and has won a silver medal award at a prestigious piano contest.

With the rising cost of heating oil, and the need for better musical instruments, the mother general is not fond of music and thinks that mother Augustine is too proud of her school and its students. One of the recent transfer students is Augustine’s niece, Alice, who gets into trouble and sometimes it’s not even her fault. Other times it is and Alice and another fellow classmate get in big trouble for sneaking out to a “Love in” dance club.

Mother Augustine is protective of Alice because of mistakes that she has made when she was younger. There is a flashback scene that isn’t very clear of a medical procedure being done to Augustine when she was younger. Given some later conversations in the movie, I believe that it was an abortion.

Because of the religious backdrop, there isn’t much cussing in this film. You do see some kissing, but nothing more. Part of the Vatican II changes included modernizing the church and that involves changing the attire of the nuns. There are scenes of them changing their clothes, but like the rest of the film, it is done in good taste and nothing is seen.

We viewed this movie using Vimeo which usually provides good service, but we ran into several buffering delays and had to set the quality to auto instead of the 720p maximum. Even on auto, it still had buffering issues.

Overall, we enjoyed The Passion of Augustine and recommend checking it out when it goes to video on demand. The DVD is available on Amazon but the $40 asking price is pretty hefty. Hopefully the paid rental service is more reliable than the method we used to watch this film.

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Power Rangers 2017 Movie Review

Go Go see a different movie. That's all I can say about the 2017 Power Rangers movie. It was truly an odd experience for the ages. I want to make a few things clear before I write why it was so awful to me. Power Rangers has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, so I guess you could consider me a fan of the series. This includes what Power Rangers is based off of: the Super Sentai series in Japan. I would also like to make it clear that I am working with a slight bias: while things like the Power Rangers should be meant for a younger audience first, this doesn't mean I can't enjoy things not targeted towards me. So let's rush to the command center; this is a Power Rangers movie.

Power Rangers starts with Zordon, leader of the first team of Rangers on Earth 65 million years ago. His Green Ranger, Rita Repulsa, has betrayed her team and she is ready to rip out the source of Earth's life, the Zeo Crystal. After Zordon hides the power coins, he calls on Alpha 5 to send a meteor crashing down to Earth. We then fast forward to years later when our first protagonist, Jason, is caught stealing the football mascot of a rival school. As punishment, he loses all opportunities given to him and is forced to attend detention every day as a troubled student. Along the way he meets the four other future Rangers. The characters Billy, Kimberly, Trini, and Zack end up in the same spot the coins are hidden. When they try to escape gold mine security, they end up getting hit by a train. Though it seems this is the moment they die, they wake up at home faster, stronger, and better. Eventually they meet Zordon and Alpha 5, who warn them Rita Repulsa will return. If they can't learn to morph and work together within eleven days, the world shall end.

So first let me give thoughts on the two elephants in the room. Billy is made to be an autistic kid, and they let you know very earlier on how different he is. Speaking as an autistic man, it seemed more like they were playing autism like it was down syndrome. He would constantly remind the movie audience that he was autistic. He would also have a lot of strange quirks that replaced character. Not only was he token, he was a poorly developed character. Trini, the lesbian character was a much bigger token. I'll hate myself later for putting it this way, but she was a “millennials'” version of coming out. In the scene where she admits to her team she's gay, she says, “My family is just so normal, all they care about is labels.” This story arc doesn't go anywhere and it seems to be just thrown in for brownie points. While it seems people on different sides got worked up over these characters, the controversy wasn't worth it. They used these things to replace actual character. The theme song could have been "Go Go Token Rangers anyway". Jason was token jock, Zack was token smooth talking loner and Kimberly was token cheerleader brat. 

The Rangers might as well have been a super hero retelling of the Breakfast Club without any real character development. Despite a scene around a bonfire sharing their deep dark secrets, none of them really have any reason to work together and the audience doesn't really know them. Like I said early, they go through the movie as character traits, not characters themselves. By trying to make these Rangers more “realistic and relatable” they come off as more fake and unrelatable. They hate their town right until they face Rita Repulsa. Most of their time as Rangers are spent training in montages. When they can finally work together, they spend about 5 to 8 minutes of time fighting in the suit while the rest of the climax is a long zord battle. The only two characters that at least tried to be a little fun was Zordon and Rita. I actually found it quite interesting that they tried to set Zordon up as a previous Yed Ranger. While Rita was slow in the beginning, she became a corny, over the top and insane villain, and that's what a Power Rangers villain should be. Yet Zordon's potential was thrown out when you realize they set up this idea of him being revived only for him to sacrifice himself so he could revive Billy when Rita drowns him. Rita’s monster, Goldar, did not look threatening at all; living molten gold doesn't look good no matter what you do. 

The cinematography didn't do anything for the movie. If it wasn't just shaky cam, they had a lot of close up shots to the face during emphasized dialogue. Someone must really hate lighting in this movie as well. The colors of the movie seemed to have had to fight to really stick out from all the grays and dark lighting of the movie. It seems modernizing a story means trying to force it to be dark and edgy without reason. Not every superhero has to have a miserable background before becoming a hero. Inspiration can come from the top.

Morality wise, aside from the implied homosexuality of the Yellow Ranger, this movie has low brow humor and a lot of rage and hatred that border between teen angst and blind rage. You're constantly reminded until the very end of the movie how much they hate their town and their own situation. This idea of being a bad kid, an outcast in detention is slightly glorified as well.  They push that whole 'it's cool to be different from the crowd' ideology in the wrong way. It's sad this is being pushed so hard towards kids. I say the movie earned its PG-13 rating at least.

This movie definitely has the crowds divided. Critics hate it and most audiences adore it. Its opening weekend scored the movie a strong $ 40.5 million. All I ask is for readers to remember that high sales does not equal quality. Some of that old Power Rangers camp might have actually made this movie better. For this writer, I give it a 3/10. Effects are cool the first time you see it but the rest of the movie is a shallow cash grab banking on nostalgia and ”relatable teen” story tropes. Go Go far away from this movie.

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My Many Sons

Thank you Well Go USA Entertainment for sending us this DVD to review!

My Many Sons tells the true story of Don Meyer (played by Judge Reinhold), the “winningest coach that nobody knew.”  In 2009 Don Meyer passed Bobby Knight’s NCAA winning record and held it until 2012.  Coach Meyer’s dedication and work ethic helped put Lipscomb University on the map and because of him, they were able to move up to division one basketball.  Despite the university offering to double his salary, coach Meyer refused to coach division one basketball since he was investing more into the students than basketball skills.  

Besides teaching the students valuable basketball maneuvers, he taught them to be accountable, respectable and to clean up after themselves and to pick up litter.  Like many coaches, Don threw verbal taunts like calling them numb nuts. No other foul language was used in this film though.  On a few occasions he got physical with them and had to apologize for his actions.  He was not an easy man to get along with and was known for culling the weak links from his team relatively quickly.  After his first month at Northern University in South Dakota, Don only had seven players left on his team!  

Though his team didn’t lose very often, they found out that coach Meyer took to their losses pretty well. He didn’t rub it in any further since they did a pretty good enough of a job to themselves.  Don promised to be there for his students when things got rough and he kept his promise.  During his near fatal car accident, his students return the favor and visited while he was recuperating in the hospital for nearly two months.  When he was released, he showed up at work the next morning! 

While not perfect by any means, Don Meyer was a faithful and self-less man that wasn’t shy about his faith and work ethic.  He has touched the lives of many and his story is a good one that’s worth seeing.  Even though I’m not into basketball, I enjoyed this sports-themed movie that tells a great story of perseverance.  This ninety-eight minute film can be yours for less than $12 on Amazon.

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In-Lawfully Yours

Thank you Cinedigm for sending us a DVD to review!

In-Lawfully Yours is a Christian themed romantic comedy that stars and is produced by Corbin Bernsen.  Not only does it have a unique love story, there’s a positive message about God’s love and redemption.  This is another Christian movie that pleasantly surprised us with some funny moments and a good story.

Upon receiving the news of her father-in-law’s illness, Jesse went to inform her husband, Charlie.   Once she tracked him down, she caught him in the arms of another woman.  Divorce paperwork and the death of his father soon followed.  Charlie’s mother, Naomi, takes the loss pretty hard as she lost her daughter six years prior.  Packing up and moving out of her mostly empty house is not something she’s looking forward to, but her son is pushing her so she can move in with him.  Prepping to leave this small town behind she starts packing her things with Jesse’s help.

Jesse is from New York and is not familiar with how quickly rumors spread around small towns.   Besides the humorous and unwelcome treatment she gets at the only restaurant in town, Jesse is also treated rudely when visiting the local church for the first time in her life.  She has many faith questions and learns the hard way that it’s not proper to interrupt the pastor during his sermon to ask them.  The pastor, Ben, is her widowed ex-brother in-law who still wears his wedding ring. 

At first the relationship between Ben and Jesse is awkward, but it doesn’t take long for them to realize that it has some potential.  However, before things get too serious Charlie comes back into town stating that he wants to fix his marriage.  Is Charlie truly changed, jealous, or is he up to no good?  To find out Charlie’s true intentions and the future of Ben and Jesse’s relationship, I recommend watching In-Lawfully Yours which can be yours for less than $15 on Amazon.

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Pup Star

Thank you Air Bud Entertainment for sending us a screener link!

Reality singing shows like American Idol and The Voice are enjoyed by many humans.  With the help of Evolution treats, dogs have gained the ability to talk, sing, and enjoy competing in their own singing show titled Pup Star.  The contestants must sing original songs and are judged by canine judges with similar names and personalities of their human counterparts.  The judges’ names are Blake Sheltie, Dog Gnarly, Lady Paw Paw, and Simon Growl.  There’s plenty of silliness in this tale of love, revenge, and perseverance.

Tiny is a Yorkie who loves her owner, Lou.  Sadly, Lou lost her mother recently.  Lou and Tiny sing together and encourage each other to follow their dreams.  Tiny competes in Chicago’s audition’s for Pup Star and gets the golden bone and a chance to compete in the finals that take place in New York City.  Lou has to get her father’s permission to take her there though.  Sadly, the trip planning gets postponed due to Lou running into a truck and breaking her arm and Tiny getting dognapped by Roland, the greedy owner of Happy Ranch kennel.  

In the kennel Tiny learns that Roland only releases dogs that have a reward on them and that if they’re not claimed within a year they’ll be put down.  A dog named Charlie is nearing his execution date but has an escape plan and begrudgingly takes Tiny along with him.  As Tiny and Charlie travel to New Orleans, New Jersey, and New York they learn about love, friendship, and infusing their experiences into the songs that they sing.

Charlie has a bone to pick with the current Pup Star champion, Bark, and wants to pay him back for stealing his music without giving him proper credit for it.  Along the way Tiny gets to meet Charlie’s love interest and her personal idol, Emily Rose.  With all of the help and support of friends Tiny has what it takes to dethrone Bark, but needs to get past Kano the bounty hunter that’s after her.  I’ll leave the rest of the movie a surprise as it’s worth checking out.

The music is cute and has many different styles ranging from country, rap (performed by Juicy J), to rock and roll.  The lip syncing/special effects are well done and the dogs do a nice job of dancing while performing.  

While Pup Star is family friendly, it’s worth noting that there are references to Hinduism, Buddhism, and one of the dogs has homosexual characteristics though it's not expounded upon. With that being said, there’s a far more positive message about rescuing dogs and loving them unconditionally.  

Currently Pup Star is available on FandangoNow and we highly recommend checking it out!  We double dog dare you!


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Peter: The Redemption

Thank you Cinedigm for sending us this DVD to review!

Many of us have lied or made mistakes before.  Fortunately for us, our misdeeds are not recorded in the Bible.  Luke 22:54-62 recounts Peter denying that he knew Jesus three times, just as Jesus predicted.  After Jesus’ resurrection He restores Peter by having Him affirm him three times in John 21:15-19.  The movie Peter: The Redemption depicts Peter living his final months in a Roman jail and refusing to confess to burning down the city under Nero’s rule.  Despite being given several opportunities to recant his faith, Peter holds firm and refuses to deny Jesus any more in his lifetime.  Unfortunately, several other Christians are persecuted and tortured as a result.

There are many bloody and uncomfortable scenes as Christians are seen getting beaten and bloodied.  For this reason, younger children should probably refrain from seeing this film.  Fortunately, the scenes with them being set on fire are not shown, but the screams of torture still hit home.  Many popular actors are in this ninety-minute film including John Rhys-Davies as Peter and Stephen Baldwin as Nero.  

Besides the story of Peter’s strong faith, there is a budding romance between a dedicated Roman soldier named Martinian and a palace servant, Suzanna, who is tending to Peter’s many wounds.  Suzanna is a Christian and is treading on thin ice as Nero detests Christians and enjoys using them as torches to illuminate his garden.  To make matters worse Nero takes a liking to her and his wife is extremely jealous.

I won’t spoil this movie, but unlike many Christian films out there, Peter The Redemption tells a good story about faith, love, forgiveness, and perseverance.   Not all of the believers keep their faith as some of the prisoners recant to regain their freedom.  However, others die for their faith and those strong Christians inspire unlikely individuals to become saved and get baptized in Jesus’ name.   

For less than $10 for the DVD, Peter: The Redemption is worth picking up.  Though there doesn’t seem to be a Blu-ray version available, the visual quality is surprisingly good for a DVD.  My husband and I were pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of this film and highly recommend it to believers and non-believers alike.


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Last Days In The Desert

Thank you Broadgreen for sending us this DVD to review!

The fourth chapter in the book of Matthew mentions Jesus going into the wilderness to be tempted and fasting for forty days and nights.  The Bible tells about three of the temptations, but the movie Last Days In The Desert uses some artistic license to add many more.    The beginning of this hour and thirty-eight minute movie is a bit slow starting as it shows the “Holy man” as He’s referred to wandering aimlessly in the desert.  You’ll see Him sleeping and hear Him praying for guidance to His Heavenly Father and even laughing at the wind blowing sticks around.  Later on in the film He laughs at a fart too.

While He’s never called Jesus, Satan who is also played by Ewan McGregor (He's Jesus too) refers to Him as Yeshua.   Satan takes on many forms, but is most often identical in appearance to Jesus.  One of the forms Satan takes on is that of a topless woman whose hair covers the otherwise  would be seen nipples.  

During Jesus’ fasting in the desert He happens upon a nomad family that is struggling emotionally.  Their mother is deathly ill while the adolescent son and father barely communicate and cannot relate to one another.  The father is a skilled carpenter and wishes for his son to live in the desert with him, but the son longs to set his own destiny in Jerusalem.  The mother wishes for him to fulfill his dreams as well, but the family cannot afford an apprenticeship for him.  

Satan offers a wager to Jesus to fix this family and even tells Him of their future had Jesus not crossed paths with them.  I found it odd that Satan could see the future, but Jesus couldn’t in this film.  Jesus was able to foresee many events including His own death (Matt 26:2), betrayal (Matt 26:21), resurrection (Matt 16:21), coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), and even the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:43-44).  Even though Jesus is perceived as weak (despite eating) and doubting of His abilities, there is a decent story about humanity, family, and relationships in this film.  Just don’t expect much Biblical content because much of it goes against God’s word.   


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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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