CATI: Christians And The Internet

Discussion of various matters of interest related to the Internet, particularly from the perspective of conservative, Reformed (or Presbyterian) Protestantism.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Best Movies: A Guide to Film Reviews

The following atticle is based on an article which I wrote for the "CATI" newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 9:

"It is not the reading of many books which is necessary to make a man wise or good, but the well-reading of a few, sould he be sure to have the best."
     --Richard Baxter

Although there is a scarcity of good Christian films (compared to good Christian books), the principle holds true for books and films in general.

Are you accustomed to turning on the television (or "boob tube" or "idiot box" or "plug-in drug"), sitting down, and switching from channel to channgel to channel, looking in vain for something worth watching? You don't have to do that. Read a good book instead. Or watch a good film!

First, let me say that there are Christians who as a practice avoid watching films (unless they were made by Christians for a Christian audience), and I respect that choice (just as we respect some good friends who have chosen to get rid of their television set). Our time is limited, and each person must decide for himself or herself how best to use that time. And,most people would admit, many or most movies may not be worth seeing.

Still, there are many Christians who have chosen to include watching films among their activities, and the Traver family is included in that number. There are many reasons for this. For example, like art, music, and literature, films display man's creativity. In the beginning God created mankind in His own likeness, and part of that likeness is that man was created not to be a mechanical robot but to have the ability to be creative. (Yes, man is still a creature rather than the Creator and man cannot create ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing, and yet man can in a real sense create a populated world, and that is true in film even more than it is in literature.) A good film is a work of art, from which we can derive enjoyment and instruction.

Even when done by non-Christians, films can display certain "common grace insights" (universal Scriptural truths) from which we may benefit (although the Christian will want to test everything by Scripture). For example, the film "A Simple Plan" powerfully demonstrates the reality that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (see 1 Tim. 6:10). In addition, movies often not only reflect our culture (or at least reflect the "media elite" of our culture), but also greatly influence our culture. Thus it is to our advantage to be informed about what people are watching if we want to interact with them in an informed and intelligent way.

But that's our perspective, and your situation and calling may be different. My wife and I, for example, teach high school students, so it helps to know what our students are watching. In addition, watching films is something we enjoy doing, just as some other people spend their time watching sports events, an activity we avoid. But whether you choose to watch films or not (or to allow your children to watch or not), you can find lots of helpful information about films on the Internet. (As a parent, for example, you may need to make a decision on whether one of your children will be allowed to see a particular movie.)

So let's take a look at some Christian sites (and some other sites) where useful film reviews can be found.

One good starting point is Christian Spotlight on the Movies, which claims to offer the "Latest Christian Movie Reviews":

     Christian Spotlight on the Movies

Suppose you have a particular film in mind, say, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch,and the Wardrobe." One way to find it is to click on the "C"or the the "L" in the alphabet that lets you find it "Movie Reviews by Title." When you get to the "C" page or the "L" page, look for the name of the film. You'll see that Christian Spotlight on the Movies gives the film a "moral" rating of anything froms "Extremely Ofensive" to "Excellent" a "moviemaking" rating from 1 (Terrible!" to 5 (Excellent). The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) "G" (GEneral Audiencews") to "NC-17" ("No one under 17 admitted"). The Narnia film got a "Good/" rating, and is a "PG" ("Parental Guidance Suggested") filme. Click on the film title and be taken to a review of the movie.

You'll find more film reviews at a Web site of Focus on the Family (Dr. James Dobson):

     Plugged In: Film Reviews

Click on "C" and then "Chronicles of Narnia" to see a review of the film.

Although the following site is not specifically a Christian site, parents
may find it to be worth a look:

     Kids-in-Mind: Movie Ratings That Actually Work

The site provides helpful information on the sex, violence, and profanity a film may contain, telling it by the numbers. The alphabet at the top of the home page lets you find a film by title. Click on "C," and you'll see that "Tjhe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is rated 1.6.1 (that is, on a scale from 0 to 10, 1 for sex, 6 for violence, and 1 for profanity). Click on the film title, and you'll get the details, as well as some other brief comments.

If you're not so much concerned about whether a movie is suitable for children and are more interested in its value for adults, here is a Christian movie review site that I find especially worthwhile and thought-provoking:

     Hollywood Jesus

The site is very professionally done, and very "visual" (in comparison with most other movie review sites). Do not expect to agree with all of the comments, but do expect a stimulating experience. You have to search the site a bit to find it, but discussion of the Narnia film is at the following address:

     Hollywood Jesus: Narnia review also has Christian movie reviews:

     Crosswalk.Com Movie Remives

It's not easy, however, to find a review of a particular film at that site. Nevertheless, I did find a Narnia review here: Narnia Review

Here are some other movie and video review sites that you may find helpful:

     FamilyStyle Movie Guide

     Parent Previews

     Screen It!: Entertainment Reviews for Parents

If you are interested in reviews of a particular movie, you'll probably find links at the following site to more reviews than you'd ever want to read:

     Rotten Tomatoes

Again, whether or not you go to the movies is your choice, but either way, if you want useful reviews of movies and videos (either for the benefit of your family or your own benefit), there are many Web sites that should be helpful, and I hope that I have suggested some of value to you. Don't bookmark them all, but decide which particular ones you may like to check in the future.

Barry Traver


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