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movie review

Current Affairs Parenting

The Star – A Holiday Movie Review

Looking for a fun movie to take your kids to this Holiday Season? One that promotes loyalty to friends, forgiveness, courage and being open to the dreams God has for your life. Then this movie is for you.

In “Sony Pictures Animation’s The Star, a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.” http://www.thestarmovie.com/site

While the animation is not quite up to Pixar standards, it is still well done and compliments the voices and action quite nicely. The story is above average, however it takes some liberties in the actual Biblical story in order to convey the narrative from an animal’s perspective. I don’t worry too much about this because as your kids grow, under your influence, they will become aware of the accurate Biblical details, (remember, contrary to most contemporary versions, even those acted out in children’s plays at church, the wise men did not actually appear on the night of Jesus birth, etc.).

If you take advantage of it, this movie will give you the chance to talk to your child about several important topics:

  • Loyalty between friends, as Bo and his sidekick Dave come to a point where their loyalty to each other is tested.
  • Forgiveness, as seen in the closing moments with Thaddeus and Rufus.
  • Courage to press on under difficult circumstances and apparent setbacks in life, as Bo struggles to follow his dream throughout the movie.
  • Wisdom in following God’s lead, as Bo ultimately chooses to help Mary.
  • Trust in God’s plan, as Mary and Joseph discover their new life that begins with the conception of Jesus.
  • Passion to move forward with your dreams, with the awareness that God may move you in a different direction that will, in the short or long run, be better than any dream you could possibly imagine.

I and my family enjoyed this movie and I think you will too. So, scoop up your kids for an afternoon or evening movie this coming weekend. When you do, you will give them a fun outing that will produce discussion opportunities long into the future!

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Miracles From Heaven – The Movie

Recently I was asked to review the upcoming movie Miracles from Heaven set to be released on March 18, 2016. The movie is based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl named Anna Beam living in Burleson, Texas. In the movie, Anna is suffering from a physical abnormality where her intestines are unable to digest food properly. Because of this, she relies on feeding tubes to keep her alive and active. Without giving away the full plot (see the trailer here), Anna falls into a large, hollowed out tree and has a near death experience. When she awakens she discovers that the fall has cured her from her disease. This is a story about faith in God and the many ways that He moves in the life of the Beam family as they live with the diagnosis that is given to Anna by her doctor.

The film stars some big names in the film industry including Jennifer Garner (Television series Alias and various movie roles), Kylie Rogers (The Whispers), Martin Henderson (Off the Map) and comedienne, Queen Latifah.

I must admit that as I began the movie I was doubtful about its direction (it begins with a church service that didn’t feel quite right. I think maybe it was the unrealistic congregation that responded in a way that was just a bit off). However, after the first 10 minutes the movie quickly gained momentum and I was thoroughly moved throughout the film by it’s touching, and often heartbreaking, story line. The film is directed by Patricia Riggen (Disney Channel’s original film Lemonade Mouth) who does a fantastic job keeping the emotions stirred by focusing on:

  • The faith struggle of Anna’s mom, Christy;
  • The strong belief by Anna that Jesus is with her throughout her struggles (especially in a very emotional scene between Anna and a cancer-ridden little girl in the hospital);
  • And the strong belief of Anna’s father, Kevin, who’s faith in God assures him that somehow, everything will work out.

In the last 15 minutes or so, the movie touches very briefly on Anna’s experience where she goes to Heaven and sees some of the wonders of what Heaven will be like. The primary focus of the movie, however, is on the emotional bonds shared between a God-fearing family (primarily between Anna’s mom Christy, and her) who deal with a real-life crisis that defies a worldly explanation as to its purpose.

I would highly recommend this movie. Miracles from Heaven provides a dignified, real world look at how Christians struggle with life’s difficulties and, in the process of these difficulties, see God move in miraculous ways. I left the movie feeling inspired with the hope of Heaven, assured of the goodness of God, and filled with a renewed passion for my faith. A faith that tells me that even though God moves in ways that I often do not understand, I can be assured His ways will ultimately bring glory to Himself and will bring light to a lost world.

Oh, and by the way, don’t go into the theater without a healthy supply of tissues. You’ll need them!

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Moms' Night Out – The Movie

Last night my wife, two daughters, and parents sat down and watched a pre-screening of the movie Moms’ Night Out. I’m not sure what is happening in Hollywood as of late, but three great Christian family films have hit the theaters recently. Heaven is for Real, God’s Not Dead, and coming Mother’s Day – Moms’ Night Out. To me the most exciting part is that, like Christian music, there are finally some high quality, faith-based films entering into the mainstream genre. And, with the success of Heaven is for Real debuting as the top new release this past weekend and number two movie overall, I hope that the trend will continue.

Here are my thoughts on Moms’ Night Out:

When I looked at the cast of the movie and saw that my favorite hobbit, Sean Astin, was going to be in it, I was immediately impressed. Add to this Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Sarah Drew (Gray’s Anatomy), and Trace Adkins (Country Music star) and this had the making of a top-notch film. I have to admit however, that when I sat down to watch, I still had a lingering doubt…is this just going to be a Hallmark movie gone to the big screen? Is there a way that someone is still going to mess this up?

What I discovered from start to finish was a well thought through plot and a hilarious story line. The verbal and slapstick humor caused all of us in the room to laugh out loud more than most comedy movies we’ve seen (we just watched the Secret Life of Walter Mitty a couple of nights earlier, and although we did laugh quite a bit throughout, it wasn’t near as much as we did during Moms’ Night Out.) Just for the fun factor alone this movie will be well worth the price of a movie ticket, both for you and all the members of your family. However the greater thing about the movie is that there is a deeper purpose to it than just making you laugh. The message is a heartwarming story of a discovery that we all should put aside our expectations of what we think a successful life looks like and just live the life that God has given to us, to the best of our ability, and look for the joy that can be found within it’s design.

In Moms’ Night Out the main character, Sarah Drew, feels like a failure, she has everything that she’s ever wanted in life and yet she still feels like she is not as happy as she thought she would be, or should be – her life is crazy. But, by the end of the movie, and a night of hilarious antics, she realizes that although her life will never be perfect, if she can keep the perspective that what she is doing is exactly what God wants her to be doing, she will find joy in whatever situation she find herself in.  That sounds like a message we all could learn from.

Moms' night out movie trailer

Take Home and Application:

1- Husbands take your wife, and your mom, to go see Moms’ Night Out, and then take a moment to affirm in them that they are very, very important.

2- Parents, take your kids to this movie and afterwards talk to them about the fact that our lives on this earth will never be perfect. Don’t set expectations on how you think your life should be, take your life as it is and do your very best to enjoy the many wonderful moments that come along with it. Teach your kids that if we only look at the negative things of life and the failures that come with them, our Christian life will fizzle. But, if we instead thank God for the life that we have, looking for and treasuring the positive things in it, our Christian life will be a sure success.

I highly recommend Moms’ Night Out. Go out and support it and let Hollywood know we want more of the same…the cool thing is, if that happens, it will only get better and better as it goes.

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Heaven is for Real – The Movie

A month or so ago a good friend of mine, David Almgren, asked me to do a preview screening for the upcoming movie “Heaven is for Real”.

I’m sure by now many of you have seen this movie trailer at the theater and when you saw it you probably said to yourself, “Hey that looks like a pretty good movie…I wonder if it’s done by Christians?”

Well no, not necessarily, and yes, that’s okay!

The movie, directed by Oscar-nominated Randall Wallace, is being released by Tri-Star Pictures and contains some pretty heavy hitting actors such as Greg Kinnear (also Oscar Nominated) and Kelly Reilly (of Sherlock Holmes fame). The movie has been given a hefty advertising budget which Sony has used wisely (unless you haven’t heard of it – then for you, not so much).

Heaven is for Real - Official Movie Trailer

For those of you who may be unaware, “Heaven is for Real” is about a little boy (Colton Burpo) who went to Heaven and came back to tell about it. Here is a brief rundown:

Heaven is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small-town Nebraska pastor who experienced Heaven during emergency surgery. This boy, Colton Burpo, talked about looking down to see the doctor operating on him and he also saw his dad who was praying in another room. The family didn’t know what to believe, but soon the evidence was clear.

In Heaven, Colton met his miscarried sister whom no one had ever told him about. He also met his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. He shared impossible-to-know details about each. Colton went on to describe the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.

Told by Colton’s father, often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is that Heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and to be ready because there is a coming last battle.

The book “Heaven is for Real” has sold over 8 million copies and has spent numerous weeks as #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Recently I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with Todd and Sonja Burpo and I came away thoroughly impressed with both of them (they’re Elevate users by the way!). Their genuine heart for getting this message out is very inspiring. After talking to them, I came away renewed and refreshed by their passion for Jesus that has survived amidst the negativity from some within the Christian body. I can honestly tell you that they are great people, with a great heart, and a great love for reaching others with the love of Christ. They are REAL people with a REAL story and I was honored to meet them both.

Now on to the movie itself – here is what I wrote as a review:

     “Heaven is for real is a gripping movie regarding human doubt and the ultimate reconciliation of belief with every day life. From the pulpit, Pastor Todd Burpo has preached on Heaven his whole career. However, when his son, Colton, makes a claim that he actually went to Heaven, there comes a gut wrenching reality check as to whether Todd believes in Heaven enough to make an alteration in the way that he lives. Once he does, he must then convince his congregation to do the same.

    I believe this movie will cause each person in the audience to think more about Heaven in his or her day-to-day life. I also believe that it will bring the viewer to a realization that everyone needs to have an eternal perspective on their life; to understand that there is life beyond the grave, found in Jesus Christ, and that our actions on this earth will ultimately affect our eternity.”

Movie Review – Mike Johnson

Would I recommend this movie? Absolutely! “Heaven is for Real” is a wholesome movie that will open up dialogue within your family about Heaven and the joys that await us when we get there. When you arrive at the theater don’t expect a Salvation Message, because you won’t find it. However, you will see Jesus Christ clearly presented as the Son of God.

As a parent I would use this movie as an opportunity to talk to your child about the glorious gift that Jesus gives to us when we accept Him as our Savior, and that gift is Heaven. Also, be sure to ask them questions about what they think Heaven will be like and what they want to do when they get there. Let their imaginations fly, and listen carefully, because after all, children in their innocence may know more about the Kingdom than any of us.

In closing, take a look at this clip of Colton singing (he’s got a great voice). I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.