Category Archives: Movie Reviews

An Enjoyable Voyage

My family and I have been looking forward to the latest Chronicles of Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for months. We read the book last week, and then watched the movie on Saturday.

For those who haven’t read the Dawn Treader, here’s the story. Lucy and her brother Edmund are forced to stay with their aunt, uncle, and dreadful cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb, a name he “almost deserved,” while the rest of their family travels to America. As Lucy gazes at a “Narnian” painting of a ship at sea that hangs in Aunt Alberta’s guest room, the three children are pulled in and find themselves in a Narnian ocean. They are promptly rescued by the crew of the Dawn Treader, which happens to be the ship of King Caspian himself. The rest of the story tells of their adventures at sea as the crew searches for the seven missing lords of Narnia.

The movie follows the book fairly well. The changes are mostly not for the better, but a few help the movie along. Following are some examples of each. Beware: possible spoilers lie ahead.

In the book, the mission of the Dawn Treader is to find the seven lords and seek adventure. In the movie, the crew has the same purpose, but the focus is on defeating an evil green mist that originates from Dark Island. Dark Island is in the book, but not the evil green mist. The mist is always lurking about, especially while people are sleeping or looking in the other direction. And it’s evil indeed. Not only can it tempt Lucy to vanity and Edmund to greed, but it swallows entire boatloads of people. Even the white witch herself appears in the green mist, making her a rather green, but still temptingly beautiful, white witch.

In this film, Lucy is overly concerned with her looks and longs to be like her older and more beautiful sister Susan, while Edmund is tempted again by the green white witch. And it is he, rather than Caspian, who is drawn by the water that turns lords into gold. This, though minor, is a change that is quite disappointing to me. The Edmund of the book had not forgotten his lesson and was too wise for such a temptation.

Our favorite mouse Reepicheep is still great. He’s more patient with the Eustace of the movie, perhaps because this Eustace doesn’t swing him about by the tail.

A few of the changes make for a more exciting film. Lucy, while reading the magician’s book, calls down snow which covers the room. And Eustace remains a dragon for most of the trip, which makes him quite useful. In fact, it is Eustace the dragon who defeats the sea serpent. This scene, where a really terrifying monster of a serpent attacks the Dawn Treader until it gets roasted by a fire breathing Eustace, is probably too much for young children.

The Christian imagery, though toned down, is still present. The children don’t find Aslan in the form of a lamb offering them roasted fish on the beach as they do in the book, but he is still there, humble and fierce, telling them that he will always be with them. Reep’s voyage into Aslan’s country, from where he will never return, but where the children will someday go, causes a lump in my throat. I’m reminded of the end of the Pilgrim’s Progress, and I find it the perfect ending of a very enjoyable voyage.

The Stoning of Soraya M.

The Stoning of Soraya M.

Director: Cyrus Nowrasteh

Release: 2008

Spoiler Alert!

To most of us, execution by stoning belongs to a past, ancient age. But in some parts of the world, it is still a reality.

The Stoning of Soraya M. is based on true events that happened in a rural Iranian village in 1986. Soraya is a faithful wife, a loving mother, and a kind and helpful neighbor. But she makes one fatal mistake. When her husband of 20 years wants a divorce so that he can marry his 14-year-old girlfriend, she refuses. So the husband, with the help of the local religious leader, finds another way out. He falsely accuses Soraya of adultery and, through intimidation, manages to get a witness. The unwanted wife is convicted and sentenced to death by stoning. When she finally dies after a long, drawn out execution by a celebrating crowd that includes her father, husband, and two sons, the gleeful husband runs off to “lawfully” claim the object of his lust.

This is the most powerful, and most disturbing, film that I have watched in years. It is hard to imagine the brutality and cruelty of the stoning scene without seeing it. The viewer truly gets a glimpse of man at his lowest depths of depravity.

This film is well done. The acting is good, and the scenes are rich in imagery and emotion. It’s not appropriate for children of any age, and it may not be for certain adults. But I highly recommend it. We need to be aware of the injustice in our world. I can think of few examples of injustice that equal this oppression, abuse, and murder of women that takes place under the pretense of religion. If you want to be aware of the evil that pervades our world, watch this movie.

For more information about The Stoning of Soraya M., go here.

Review: Toy Story 3

In Toy Story 3, Andy has to decide what to do with his toys as he prepares to leave for college. Woody, Buzz, and friends end up at Sunnyside, a dark and notorious daycare center ruled by the evil stuffed bear Lots-O. Their attempt to escape and get back home results in the most dangerous and thrilling adventure of their lives.

Though just as hilarious as the first two, Toy Story 3 is more serious. In fact, I concur with Michael Medved’s opinion that it could be rated PG rather than G. There are some very scary parts, one of which caused several children in the theatre to cry out loud. There are also some very touching, even sad, parts, as the film deals with the theme of growing up and moving on.

I mentioned the humor. Though most of it is great, there is some potty humor. And some of the scenes with Barbie and Ken (who plays a major part in this movie) were over the top (for a preschooler, anyway).

Overall, Toy Story 3 is a terrific movie. The animation is amazing, and some of the scenes are breath-taking (or heart stopping). You won’t find a better movie for the little ones or the grown-ups this weekend.

You can read other reviews or watch the trailer here.

Hermie & Friends: Antonio Meets His Match

Antonio Meets His Match is the newest of Max Lucado’s Hermie & Friends DVDs.

Antonio is a brave and athletic ant, the most respected in the garden. One day a new neighbor moves in—an annoying and challenging neighbor. Antonio’s first response is to want to throw the pest and his friends out, but God changes his course by telling him to love his neighbor.

The lesson (love your neighbor as yourself) is strong and clear. Unlike many Christian cartoons, it is the main theme rather than an afterthought. And both before and after the main feature, Max Lucado explains the concept of loving your neighbor. For that reason, I appreciate Antonio Meets His Match.

The computer animation is another positive. But the characters are not very likable. Nor is the plot entertaining. It is, for our children, hard to follow.

Having three little ones under six years old, we watch lots of children’s DVD’s. Our girls are not overly impressed with this one. Bonnie, our oldest, watched it with a frown. When it was over, I asked her how she liked it. “I think…not very much,” she said.

The athletic contest, the boisterous ants, and the conflicts all make Antonio a movie that boys between the ages of 5-7 would probably enjoy. But my family found the DVD much like Antonio’s new neighbor—annoying.

I received this DVD through the Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger Program.

Movies for a Snowy Day: Two Great Classics

A few weeks ago a friend of the family sent us a box. It was packed full of DVD’s of  classic movies along with a typed description of each. So, lately we have been watching some classics together.

I’m not a big movie fan. Many of the new, popular movies are not worth the time. And many of the old ones are silly. But this week we have watched two that moved directly into my top five favorites. Right up with Life is Beautiful, which is my favorite.

The Cranes are Flying  

The Cranes are Flying (1957) is one of only two Soviet films to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

This beautiful film is set during World War II.  A noble young man named Boris leaves his family and girlfriend, Veronica (the main character),  while he goes to fight for his country.

What do I love about this movie? It is realistic. Life doesn’t always go the way we think it should. It is also full of warmth and humanity. The characters are ones we sympathize with. And the movie is thought provoking. The imagery, scenery, and music in this film top it off to make it a true work of art.

This movie is safe for the family. Boris and Veronica’s relationship is entirely pure. And there are no war scenes depicting violence or gore. Our five-year old daughter watched it. Other than the English subtitles (the dialog is in Russian), she enjoyed it, too.

The Cranes are Flying is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips  

In Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), Robert Donat plays a painfully shy and humble school teacher named Mr. Chipping.

Mr. Chipping comes to Brookfield school as a 22 year-old Latin teacher. His early years are marked by awkwardness and unpopularity. While on a walking tour of Europe with a friend, Chipping meets Kathy, a beautiful and lively younger woman played by Greer Garson, whom he marries. Kathy’s outgoing and lovely personality  endears her (and Mr. Chipping) to the students at Brookfield.

Chipping stays at the school for over 60 years (1870-1933).  He becomes a favorite of the school, loved by generations of students (all by the way, whom it seems he remembers).

Mr. Chips, as he is affectionately called, is a character who it is hard not to admire. He is full of sincerity, love, and faithfulness. It shows in his unselfish devotion to his students and his kindness to others.

Robert Donat won best actor for his role in this film, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

I thoroughly enjoyed every second of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. It is one of those films that leave you a better person for watching.