Posted in movie reviews

Movie Monday: Finding Father Christmas

Movie Monday

Based on the book by popular author, Robin Jones Gunn, Finding Father Christmas takes us into the life of Miranda, a real estate agent who struggles each year with the Christmas season because her mom died suddenly during that time 20 years ago.

Miranda never knew who her dad was, but when some of her mother’s belongings are discovered at the theater where she performed, Miranda finds some clues. One of the clues, a photograph, takes her to a small Vermont town. Could the photo hold the key to who her father is?

Staying at an inn and seeking the help of the handsome son of the inn’s owners, Miranda embarks on a search for not only her father, but also a search for a the kind of Christmas she’s always dreamed of. Can those longings she’s held in her heart since she was a little girl and lost her mom be realized? Will Miranda disrupt the lives of an unsuspecting family with her discovery?

Finding Father Christmas is a heartfelt story of hope and love. It’s a story of realizing that people who are giving and kindhearted truly do exist in a world, where we so often hear otherwise. It’s the perfect movie for the snowy winter days preceding Christmas.

[Possible spoiler alert] There is no objectionable material in Finding Father Christmas, and I recommend it for tweens and above. However, as a Christian reviewer and a mom myself, I do need to bring up the fact that there is the question of Miranda’s mother’s and father’s relationship and how it intersects with the relationships of others and the fact that they were not married. These are not details that are dwelt upon in the movie, but they are excellent discussion topics for families.

Erin Krakow (When Calls the Heart) and Niall Matter both give commanding performances. All in all, I recommend Hallmark’s Finding Father Christmas and give it a Christmasy 4.5 stars out of five. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Movie Monday – Unbroken: Path to Redemption

Movie Monday

Due to popular demand, Movie Monday is back! This week, I’m reviewing a movie that was recently shown in theaters across the country. Based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: Path to Redemption is the true story of Louis Zamperini, the patriot, World War II hero, and Olympian, and shows us a glimpse into how no one is beyond God’s amazing redemption.

First off, if you haven’t had the opportunity to see this movie, I would highly recommend it. Estimated release date for DVD and Amazon video is in December.

Unbroken_Poster (2).jpg

I personally couldn’t wait for the release of this movie into theaters. So when our small local theater decided to show it, I rounded up the gang, and we made a family night out of it. Complete with a big bag of buttered popcorn (yes, it’s one of my weaknesses, and yes, I did eat the entire bag, but we’ll just let that be our secret!). 😉

The movie opens with Louis Zamperini returning home after being presumed dead during World War II. We see the loving and close-knit family that rejoices when he walks through the door. Finally, all is well.

Or is it?

Little by little, we are shown how being a tortured prisoner of war affected Louis. Nightmares, flashbacks, alcoholism…will he ever be able to forget the affliction he faced at the hands of enemy?

He is given a break from his speaking circuit and heads to the beaches of Florida. It is there that he meets Cynthia. They have a whirlwind romance before marrying shortly after meeting. What will Cynthia do when she discovers the “real” Louis? A lost man with a severe alcohol problem?

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that this movie is ultimately the story of God’s love for us. He never gives up on us, no matter how far we stray. He stands there always, with arms wide open, welcoming us. Through Jesus, we have the assurance of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life with Him.

It’s also a story of true love between husband and wife. Marriage isn’t always easy. But by the grace of God, true love does triumph.

There was one instance of minor foul language and some cleavage. Other than that, this is a clean movie. Because there are “memories” of the severe torture (nothing graphic) Louis experienced, this is definitely not a movie for young children. However, for teens and adults, it’s a memorable movie that begs for a second viewing.

Pureflix has created another phenomenal movie complete with forgiveness, redemption, and love; I’m proud to give this a strong five stars out of five.

Below is the trailer:

Join me a couple Mondays every month (in addition to my regular weekly blog posts) for movie reviews, from new releases to old favorites, from a Christian point of view.

Have you seen Unbroken: Path to Redemption? What were your thoughts?

 

 

 

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Movie Monday – Seasons of Gray

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

Today’s Movie Review Monday Movie is Seasons of Gray.

IMG (29)Seasons of Gray is a modern re-telling of the story of Joseph in the Bible. We are introduced to Brady, who deals with his older brothers’ vicious jealousy on a constant basis. The fact that he is their father’s favorite son only fuels the fire, as does Brady’s gift of being able to interpret dreams. When Brady receives a new truck for his birthday, his brothers decide they’ve had enough and take matters into their own hands.

Their ruthless decision forever changes the course of Brady’s life.

But does God still have a plan for Brady’s life despite the horror of what is to come?

Later sentenced to prison based on the words of his boss’s wife, who dishonestly accuses him of assault, Brady is faced with a decision. Does he turn his back on God, or grow in his faith?

That’s not the only major decision of which Brady faces. He’s also faced with yet another dilemma regarding his brothers.

Seasons of Gray has many great discussion points, including:

God’s plan for our lives, even when things go awry (Jeremiah 29:11);

Forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:22);

Being a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17); and,

What was intended for bad, God can use to accomplish His purposes (Genesis 50:20).

While Seasons of Gray is a family film with nothing objectionable, it does contain thematic elements appropriate only for those 13 and older. There is some violence, but it is tastefully done and not of the typical “Hollywood” variety. Regarding the scene with Brady’s boss’s wife, the issue of sexual assault is also discussed, although not explicitly shown.

Everything about Seasons of Gray is well done. The acting is top-notch, the plot engaging, the story line realistic, and the scenes vivid.

Some movies are “downloads” or “rentals.” And some movies are “to purchase.” Seasons of Gray falls into the latter category. With a clear presentation of the Gospel and must-watch bonus features, I highly recommend it as one of the best movies of 2014.

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

Posted in movie reviews

Movie Monday – The Mighty Macs

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

IMG (26)Today’s Movie Review Monday suggestion is The Mighty Macsa movie inspired by the story of basketball coaching legend, Cathy Rush.

Take a trip back to 1971 when women’s college basketball was just beginning. Not many women tried out for the sport, and it was far from being taken seriously.  The Immaculata, a small Catholic college, has just hired a new basketball coach – Cathy Rush – to coach the Macs. Cathy’s goal is to turn the inexperienced women’s team with a losing streak into a #1 team. However, there isn’t much hope. The college gymnasium recently burned to the ground. Most of the players lack experience. Cathy’s unorthodox ideas aren’t exactly embraced by the Nuns at the college, and financial problems abound threatening to close Immaculata. Old uniforms and a lack of funds to purchase shoes and travel to games add to the troubles. Can Cathy, along with her assistant coach, a Nun named Sister Sunday, turn things around for the flailing team?

There are many great moments in this movie. One of the girls comes from a poverty-stricken home. When pictures are taken, she wears her only outfit – a pair of ratty overalls and old boots. The result is an act of compassion that, for me, was a tearjerker moment.  Another great moment is when Cathy has the chance to confront her former basketball coach and does so with grace toward someone who had caused her much pain.

There are some humorous moments throughout this movie as well. Viewers will want to be sure to watch The Mighty Macs ESPN segment at the end of the movie, which shows coverage from the real games and highlights some of the real-life players,  as well as, the real Cathy Rush.

I enjoyed this movie. It’s a heartwarming and touching story for the entire family about an underdog team and the value of teamwork.

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

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Movie Monday – Safe Harbor

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
This week’s Monday Movie suggestion is Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor MovieSafe Harbor is the true story about an amazing couple, Doug and Robbie Smith, who found a ministry to take in troubled teenage boys. Their ministry came by accident.  It wasn’t Doug and Robbie’s intention to help the boys, who would otherwise spend time in prison.  They had quite different plans after retiring – to take a cruise in their boat and spend their days relaxing at sea.

Approached by a judge in their town, who asked the couple to take in three boys, the Smiths found it difficult to deny the judge’s request.  After all, it was this same judge who gave Doug another chance years ago when he himself was a troubled teen.

Cramming everyone into the tight living quarters of their small boat, Doug and Robbie devote their time to nurturing and guiding the boys who come from a variety of troubled backgrounds.  It isn’t easy, and at times the Smiths wonder if they’ve made the right choice. However, they never give up hope that they can truly make a difference in the lives of those who need them most.

This was an excellent movie of hope, second chances, and sacrifice. There are two minor swear words and viewers are shown the sad reality of severely dysfunctional homes and the result such homes had on the teenage boys. Due to some thematic elements including an attempted suicide, I would recommend this movie for those ages 12 and older.

My favorite thing about this movie is that it’s based on a true story. The Smiths are a phenomenal couple, and I enjoyed seeing the real-life Doug and Robbie during the CBN bonus feature at the end of the movie.  This movie will warm your heart and I highly recommend it!

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

Posted in movie reviews

Movie Monday – Silver Bells

Penny Zeller, Christian AuthorThis week’s Movie Monday family movie suggestion is Silver Bells

IMG (22)Bruce Dalton works for a local TV station as the sports anchor. With an inflated ego and impatience to match, Bruce expects everyone everywhere he goes to recognize him and the nightly tagline he uses after reporting the latest sports news.

Bruce is a man with a family – a wife, a daughter in law school, and a son named Jason who has lately been distancing himself from his father. Bruce’s selfishness is portrayed in many ways, from “fighting” for a parking spot at the local Kmart to putting his job above the needs of his family.

So what happens when Bruce takes his self-centered attitude too far? What happens when, in his anger and lack of self-control, a ref is injured at his son’s basketball game?

Will Bruce’s punishment finally show him what’s really important in life?

Silver Bells is a great movie on so many levels. When Bruce has to commit to community service as part of his punishment for injuring the ref, viewers get a glimpse inside the Salvation Army and how hard the bell ringers and other volunteers work to serve the less fortunate. Discussion questions abound, including:

  • The importance of family and their needs and why that should come first, after our relationship with the Lord. Bruce is not a Christian, but his son shows an interest in Jesus and church. Bruce wants nothing to do with either.
  • The importance of carrying out God’s command to serve others and care for the less fortunate. Bruce has no desire to ring the bell for the Salvation Army and finds himself in a bind many times regarding his attitude.
  • The importance of listening to wisdom, rather than focusing on ourselves. Major Lowell, the Salvation Army leader and pastor is a Godly man with much foresight. Will Bruce bother to listen to his gentle answers to the problems Bruce is facing in his personal life?
  • The importance of not sinning in our anger and keeping keeping our self-control in check.

Silver Bells has ingredients of a great movie. It has drama, humor, a wonderful plot, and a touching ending. Expect to laugh throughout the 88 minute movie, shake your head at Bruce’s shenanigans, and rejoice in the hope and redemption offered.

Bruce Boxleitner plays Bruce Dalton and gives a commanding performance as a versatile actor who can effectively play either the “good guy” or the “bad guy.”

I highly recommend this movie for all ages. A Christmas classic for years to come, this movie has quickly become one of our family favorites.

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

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Movie Review Monday – Duma

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
This week’s Movie Monday family movie suggestion is Duma

Once in awhile, I come across a little-known movie that is, in my opinion, a “must-see.” Duma is such a movie.

IMG (10)Set in South Africa in the present day, 12-year-old Xan and his father nearly run over a baby cheetah while driving home on an empty stretch of highway one evening. They take the animal back to their South African farm and raise it as a pet. Xan mentions that when you give something a name, it then becomes your friend.  After trying to decide on a name, Xan finally decides to give his new pet the name of Duma, which is “cheetah” in Swahili. It isn’t long before a wonderful friendship begins between Xan and Duma.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this movie is the portrayal of Xan’s closeknit family. Xan’s dad, Peter, is sure to teach his son all he knows about building things and taking care of a farm (which comes in handy later in the movie). Peter spends a considerable amount of time with Xan and, together, they test Duma’s speed by racing alongside the animal with a stopwatch.  There is also a strong love and devotion between Xan’s parents, even when they are in the midst of tragedy.

Duma is void of anything objectionable (there is a situation with “cultural” medicine practices, but nothing explicit); however, there are several intense scenes that will frighten younger viewers. When Xan embarks on an adventurous journey and a promise he made to his father to return Duma to the wilds where he belongs, Xan encounters the harsh elements, wild animals, a stranger, and near death due to a lack of water and food. Parents will also want to discuss Xan’s choice to leave on his own to help Duma find his way back to the wilds, rather than solicit his mom’s help.

Duma is one of those movies that I hadn’t heard much about, but that I am glad I purchased. Themes of family unity, forgiveness, loyalty, loving your neighbor, and grief all play integral roles in this movie. I highly recommend it for everyone ages 12 and over.

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

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Movie Review Monday – Grace Unplugged

Penny Zeller, Christian AuthorGrace Trey, the daughter of one-hit-wonder, Johnny Trey, has a gift for singing. Having partnered with her dad for years in the church worship band, at 18, Grace longs to take her singing career a step further, maybe even someday living her dream of being like secular singing artist Renee Taylor.

GU_Avatar1_smSo when Mossy, her father’s manager from the past approaches Johnny about recording a new album after all these years, Grace eavesdrops and can’t believe it when her dad rejects the idea. How can her father turn his back on an opportunity for him to return to the spotlight?

But Johnny Trey sees things differently. He’s not the same man he was during those days he sang his song “Misunderstood.” He’s no longer the man that could be found drunk and passed out and living for himself. No, Johnny has since found a greater purpose in his life. To follow Jesus and devote his life to Christ.

Grace decides to contact Mossy about the singing opportunity, after all, what does she have to lose? This might finally be her chance to live out her dream. However, in the midst of her decision, she breaks her parents’ hearts and turns her back on all she knows in her small Alabama town. Will the fame and fortune that is sure to follow be worth it? Will Grace also turn her back on the Lord? Will the temptation Grace finds herself in at every corner change her life forever?

I was thrilled when Grace Unplugged came to my local theater. This is a story of love, sacrifice, loyalty, and second chances. It is a story of redemption, forgiveness, and the realization of what matters most in this life.  There were lessons to be learned and tissues to be used.

Yes, I admit. I was the sniffling mom in the fifth to the last row. 🙂

Many discussion points abound in this movie, such as, devotion to the Lord, the change in our lives through Jesus’ mercy and grace, teenage rebellion, resisting temptation, parenting concerns, and the darker side of stardom.

If you only see one movie this year, make it Grace Unplugged.  While there are some issues for discussion, there is none of the typical “fare” seen so often in Hollywood movies, such as language and violence.

I highly recommend it for ages 12 and over.

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. My goal is to update this page on a regular basis to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

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Movie Review Monday – You’ve Got a Friend

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

IMG (6)This week’s Movie Monday suggestion is the recently-released movie You’ve Got a Friend.

The movie opens with Bobby Graham traveling to his Aunt Gayle and Uncle Jeff’s small-town home in 1976. His parents have died and he’s reeling from the loss.  To compound the pain, Bobby’s dad and his Uncle Jeff, who are brothers, haven’t spoken in years and Uncle Jeff inadvertently allows the animosity to trickle down to Bobby.

Uncle Jeff warns Bobby not to have anything to do with the reclusive, strange, and potentially dangerous Vietnam Vet Jim Klecan (played by John Schneider). All is fine until Bobby wants to build the soapbox derby racing car he and his late father had planned to build before his father’s death and enter it in the local contest. It is then that Bobby discovers that reclusive Jim Klecan was a national soapbox derby winner. Can Bobby convince Jim to help him build his own soapbox derby car? Will Jim allow someone into his life? What will Aunt Gayle and Uncle Jim do when they discover that Bobby has been lying about his whereabouts after school? Bobby isn’t at softball practice, but instead is building a soapbox – something Uncle Jeff views as a waste of time.

This is an enjoyable movie with no objectionable material. There is a lesson to be learned about lying, however it’s not specifically stated how important it is to always be truthful. Many good points abound – loyalty, not judging others, grace, and second chances. I highly recommend this movie for entire families (ages five and up).

I’ve been impressed recently by the movies that “Faith & Family Films” has produced, including You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Join me next week when I review another of their recent movies – The Woodcarver.

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

Join me each Monday for a new movie review. Until then, have a blessed week!

Posted in movie reviews

Movie Review Monday – The Confession

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

My suggestion for this week’s Movie Monday is The Confession...
IMGFollowing on the heels of The Shunning based on the book by Beverly Lewis, The Confession again takes us once again into the life of Amish woman Katie Lapp. This time we watch as Katie desires to find her biological mother, Laura, and seeks to build a relationship with her before Laura dies of a terminal illness. Will Katie’s search be successful?
And if Katie does find Laura, there are just two problems.  Another woman is posing as Katie Lapp and Laura’s husband is doing all he can to inherit Laura’s money. What will Katie do?
While The Confession starts off a bit slow, it does gain momentum and provides for its viewers a satisfying story with many great discussion points including:
The loyalty of friends (Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.);
Why lying never pays (Proverbs 26:28 – A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin);
and lack of forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you).
While this movie is not an overtly Christian movie, it does make mention of Scripture and Katie’s faith is a part of her life.
There is nothing objectionable in The Confession and I would highly recommend it to those ages 11 and older as the subject matter, including adoption, the shunning of Katie from her Amish family, deceit, and possible adultery are complex. So if you’re on the lookout for a good “chick flick” The Confession fits the bill. A spoiler warning: it does leave you hanging at the end and opens the script for the third book in the series to be made into a movie. All in all, a great suggestion for your next movie night!
For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.
For a listing of all mom-approved movies, go here.

Join me each week for a new movie suggestion of recommended movies suitable for the entire family with reviews written from a Christian worldview.