Posted in review, theology

Short Reviews: Books, Documentaries, and Movies

By Elizabeth Prata

During this short school break I managed to finish my book and watch a couple of movies. Here are some short reviews of them. In my opinion they are clean and good material, safe for Christians. Some of the diseases the explorers in the Amazon had were described – ahem – realistically…and in the three movies I do not remember any language and certainly no sexual situations. In The Booksellers one seller specializes in fringe books and a cover of a salacious book was briefly shown.

Book: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, By David Grann

“In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called “The Lost City of Z.” In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann interweaves the spellbinding stories of Fawcett’s quest for “Z” and his own journey into the deadly jungle, as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century.” Amazon synopsis

Grann is a superlative writer, and a fantastic researcher. HOW he got access to as many of the hidden, lost, and protected primary materials, I’ll never know. Some non-fiction writers don’t want to let go of all the research they did and cram it in, bogging down the story (as happened with my book on Jesse James). Others leave out too much of the research and the reader deals with gaps of information or lack of context. It’s a delicate balance. Grann nailed it. His engaging style and the wealth of information wrapped in great storytelling made for a rollicking book. I was fascinated from start to the fantastic ending.

He seamlessly switched between Fawcett’s expeditions of the past, and his own research expedition. I was fascinated with Fawcett’s life as well as Grann’s own increasing curiosity about what happened to Fawcett. All the while gaining insight into the beginnings of the Royal Geographic Society and the early expeditions by these brave and sometimes foolhardy men. A good old fashioned story, just the way you like it. Recommended.

Of similar interest: these incidents in the Amazon were mentioned in Grann’s book, Movies Fitzcarraldo, Burden of Dreams (even better than Fitzcarraldo), and Aguirre Wrath of God. Similar adventure books are Out in the Cold: Travels North, by Bill Murray; and book The Lure of the Labrador Wild, by Dillon Wallace.

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Documentary: The Booksellers. A behind-the-scenes look at the rare book world. I enjoyed this documentary so much. The rare book sellers are smart people, they use articulate words to fervently describe their passion, in bookish way, that is. The peek at selling books, fads in book collecting, the passion behind these important social artifacts, the history of book selling…was all touched on but in a personal way, through the eyes of people new to the profession all the way to third generation sellers. Stay on past the end credits, where Fran Liebowitz’s apparent dispassion for books is unwittingly revealed to be just as a heated passion for her books as everyone else’s, lol. Here is a review of the documentary from Variety. On Amazon Prime.

For more on the subject- Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books. (Book)
Midnight In Paris, Movie (must watch).

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Movie: Ride Like a Girl. Based on the true story of Michelle Payne, first woman to win the Melbourne Cup. Beautiful scenery, a good story, Sam Neill as the father was terrific. Michelle’s younger brother Stevie, with whom she is very close, is a Down’s Syndrome child, and he appeared as himself in the film. I think he stole the show. A clean, good, normal movie, made all the better because it is a true story. I hadn’t realized the emotional build-up until the end when the catharsis left me in tears. On Netflix. Hollywood reporter review.

Of similar interest: Walk Ride Rodeo, another film based on true events, and the series Free Rein, all also on Netflix.

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Movie: Enola Holmes. Adding to the ever-present canon and satisfying an apparent audience clamor for more Sherlock Holmes stuff, comes this Netflix original. Adding a younger sister to the known family of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, the plucky gal has been raised by her eccentric mother (Helena Bonham Carter) who nurtured Enola’s brilliant brain as well as training her physically for challenges of a life of independence. Which is just as well, because when the mother goes missing, Enola sets off to find her. She outsmarts even her brilliantly deductive brother Sherlock, and saves a Viscount in the process. Aside from the usual feminism (women can do anything a man can do…we can change the world…yadda yadda…) the movie was attractive, interesting, rollicking, and felt Disneyesque (in Disney’s earlier more innocent days). Enola’s rated PG 13 for some mild violence (a man tries to drown Enola, she’s stabbed but survives due to the whalebone corset, etc). There is no language I remember and nothing sexual at all. I enjoyed Enola breaking the 4th wall, and loved all the interstitial slides of Victorian ephemera. It is a visually sumptuous movie. I liked it, and I went into it expecting not to like it. 🙂

Of similar interest: movie The Journey of Natty Gann, series Anne of Green Gables.

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I like working in an elementary school mainly because I love kids, but also because these short breaks come up every so often. I’m looking forward to the week off at Thanksgiving. I hope to put it to good use both with applying myself to spiritual things- I want to finish Saints and Sectaries (About Puritan Anne Hutchinson) and begin a book Blood Work by Anthony J. Carter, about the blood of Christ. And make progress in my The Masters Seminary course The Doctrine of Salvation with Mike Riccardi teaching.

But I also want to read and enjoy good movies and documentaries. My next book will be Out in the Cold, the travel adventure by Bill Murray I mentioned above. I plan to watch My Octopus Teacher soon or during the next school break, as well as The Social Dilemma (if I dare). I’m also interested in Joan Froggatt in Dark Angel, a story of the infamous Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton.

I hope the above suits your entertainment needs and you enjoy!

Posted in review, theology

The Babysitters Club: Netflix Review

By Elizabeth Prata

Netflix rebooted the 1990s book series and movie The Babysitters Club into a 2020 series.

The Baby-Sitters Club (also known as BSC) is a series of novels written by Ann M. Martin and published by Scholastic between 1986 and 2000, that sold 176 million copies. There were 213 books published over the course of the series (not all written by Martin) and the books’ success eventually led to a television series in the 90s. Thirteen episodes were made and aired on HBO, with reruns continually on Disney and Nickelodeon between 1994 and 1997. (Information Source Wikipedia).

It was hugely popular, let’s say. Continue reading “The Babysitters Club: Netflix Review”

Posted in apocalypse, end time, it's a disaster, review, the war game

Two apocalyptic movie reviews: The War Game, It’s A Disaster

The War Game, 48 minutes. So shocking to the BBC, who commissioned it, the film was banned for over 20 years.

IMDB synopsis:

The War Game is a fictional, worst-case-scenario docu-drama about nuclear war and its aftermath in and around a typical English city. Although it won an Oscar for Best Documentary, it is fiction. It was intended as an hour-long program to air on BBC 1, but it was deemed too intense and violent to broadcast. It went to theatrical distribution as a feature film instead. Low-budget and shot on location, it strives for and achieves convincing and unflinching realism.

IMDB user quotes:

‘Threads’ is good, but ‘The War Game’ is still the best portrayal of a nuclear attack on Britain ever made. It should be shown more often.

I reviewed Threads here, titling the essay, “The most unrelentingly horrific and unsettling apocalyptic movie you will ever watch that comes the closest to what the Tribulation will be like”. And it is unrelenting and horrific. Threads follows a pregnant woman for 13 years during and after the bombs fell. In that circumstance, a generation. The War Game shows the bombs falling and follows the survivors about ten months. The War Game unstintingly shows the effects of nuclear bombs on flesh. It harshly reveals the immediate truth. It shows unpreparedness physically and mentally and depicts societal collapse. Threads is slightly less graphic at the outset but the effects of nuclear war build in the mind as the years pass. It shows civilization’s collapse, and how humans are reduced in body and mind because of it. Both movies are unrelenting, but from different vantage points. I’d say that both are the most horrific for different reasons. Back to The War Game imdb.com user quotes:

Although this film clocks in at a mere 48 minutes, not a scene, second or frame is put to waste. A level-headed and all too analytical examination of civil preparedness versus the yield of nuclear weapons

This film is too important to ignore, and too powerful to dismiss.

Even though the subject matter is dark and bitter, The War Game is a compelling watch and I highly recommended it for everyone.

Close to forty fifty years after it was made, it’s still one of the most powerful and disturbing documentaries you’ll ever see.

It’s a brilliant film made by the BBC which was banned for many years because of the fact it was too real… In most cases it’s re-released because films from the 60’s tend to date somewhat compared to modern cinema standards. But the War Game is still as hard hitting as it was the day the BBC decided they couldn’t put it on television.

My reaction:

It shows in unvarnished truth the realistic picture of what those left behind will face. And as realistic as it was, the horrors of the upcoming wars will be worse. The population on earth now has doubled since 1965. Then, it was 3.3 billion. Today it is 7.2 billion. We have hydrogen bombs now, chemical means of tortuous deaths, and the supernatural prophecies of demons afoot and satan furious coming to earth.

Even without all that, the show was almost unwatchable. This was partly due to the juxtaposition of the realistic effects of a thermonuclear bomb upon a population with the recounting of the emotionless narrator’s data and facts. It was jarring and horrific. A British movie site says,

Shot on location, the wholly harrowing depiction of what could happen immediately before, during and after a nuclear attack on rural Kent; The War Game is filmed in pseudo-documentary style and is disturbing in its verbal realism.

So why put ourselves through such movies, such tension and torture? A few times a year, I watch one of these types of movies for specific purposes. At least four reasons I can think of:

1. This understanding of a post-nuclear world overlaid with our knowledge of the additional atrocities of the coming antichrist not shown in the movies should give us more urgency in witnessing about the glory of Jesus as Savior.

2. The movie showed how utterly we cannot rely on anything of this world. Man made protections, sandbags, guns, shelters, self-sufficiency, grit & determination, governments, they all fail, and right away, too. For Christians watching this movie, it should give us courage and power knowing we have all-power in us and He will never fail.

3. Though it is a movie showing complete hopelessness, that is its redeeming quality. Stripping away all of the above; self-sufficiency, infrastructure, government, pride, etc., the movie shows us how completely without hope we are without Jesus. We are craven, sinful rebellious children who will always come to a bad end. Without Him, nuclear war and extinction are the only futures for mankind. The starkness of the movie highlights the eternal hope we have in Jesus!

4. Whatever I’m going through is nothing compared to the horror of nuclear war. It puts my troubles in perspective. And even though there is no nuclear war gong on right now, there are rockets in the Middle East, atrocities and coups and beheadings of the brethren. There is starvation and disease and strife. I look around me and I’m grateful.

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Now on a different vein, I also watched an apocalyptic movie called “It’s a Disaster.” Usually, apocalyptic movies feature bombs or aliens and explosions. I wish very much they would make a movie out of William Forstchen’s book One Second After, a book I discussed here, about the devastating effects of a detonated EMP over the central US. There are some apocalyptic events that occur that are not visible and less explosive and are more like carbon monoxide- colorless, odorless, and undetectable. Life seems to go on, and yet the reality is, life has ended.

It’s A Disaster is a movie about the latter. Several couples gather for Sunday brunch at one of their suburban homes. They chat, argue, passively-aggressively jab each other, all the while dim sirens in the background go unnoticed. Apparently a series of chemical bombs were detonated on their city 12 miles away and in many other cities too. The dirty bomb contained VX gas, the most deadly weaponized nerve gas known to man. Life outside looks exactly the same, yet within hours, all will be dead.

It is that which is hardest to comprehend. When a nuke falls, one knows a nuke fell. The mind can’t comprehend the effects, but it knows it happened. With a dirty bomb or other near-extinction event like EMP, the first problem is getting the mind to accept the new reality. In one moment the couples were arguing over a divorce, and the next a neighbor in a hazmat suit arrives to tell them the news and advises them to tape the windows shut. Is life the same?? Will we really die? Is it really over? The champagne in the mimosas is still bubbling and the quiche is still on the stove…how can it be that we are already dead?

The opening credits in black and white are brilliant and shall I say it again, brilliant. The director used the backdrop to illustrate in graphic visual juxtaposition the mundanity of extinction.

The opening scene where two of the characters, on their third date, discuss the 1812 overture as it plays in the car continues this theme. As the famous overture nears its climactic moment, the man pulls up to the curb and turns off the ignition. The woman, who is listening, asks why it didn’t bother him to turn off the music in the middle of the crescendo. The abrupt ending of the music was jarring. Why not finish the crescendo out? How can you just turn it off like that? It is a metaphor for the suddenness of end of life. It’s over, but it’s not finished.

This reviewer sums it up:

What’s funny is that, apart from acknowledging the whole impending death thing, they do exactly what most people do all the time: They lapse into denial and retreat into the familiar patterns of behavior they’ve become accustomed to, as if stubbornly determined to act just like themselves even under the most extreme of circumstances. It’s easier to get outraged over some newly discovered relationship betrayal than it is to wrap your head around a possible alien invasion or nerve gas attack, which you can’t really do a whole lot about with a single roll of duct tape, anyway.

As they scoured the basement ot find duct tape, they have an argument about whether it is really duck tape or duct tape. They need the duct tape to make a likely vain attempt to ward off death in the form of VX nerve gas, but as humans, they still argue about inconsequential things. That was the kind of humor.

Now, the movie is not for everyone. Though The War Game was so gripping, I do recommend everyone see it. It’s A Disaster has two things that will likely turn off a great many. First, it is a sly, witty, dialogue driven, black comedy. It is hilarious. The end is perfect, no matter how many complaints about it you read on forums and websites. But the comedy isn’t for everyone. Many people hated the end. The director utterly pierced the selfish thirty-somethings by highlighting their lack of commitment. Lots of people wanted a more demonstrable ending. And not everyone liked the black humor.

Several scenes in the middle drag a bit, but the wonderful thing about Hulu is that you can fast forward.

Secondly, there are swears. The f-word us used about ten times as well as sh– and a few others. References to sex and adultery.

For a disaster film, it is offbeat and thought-provoking.

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For Further reading:

Wikipedia entry on The War Game

Director Peter Watkins essay on how The War Game came about 

Posted in apologetics, discernment, god's not dead, review

Movie Review: God’s Not Dead

Here are two excellent reviews of the God’s Not Dead movie. Both are selective about where and how to reprint, so here are the links and intro only:

The first is from Roger Patterson of Answers in Genesis:

Here is his introduction:

A film set for release in late March 2014 has been receiving a lot of attention in Christian media. God’s Not Dead weaves the stories of several students on a college campus, an outspoken professor, a local pastor, and several other characters together into a very interesting film. The storyline is one of conflict on a college campus where worldviews collide from multiple angles

Worse, though one of the key characters meets a demise, Mr Patterson says the scene does not include the Gospel elements as outlined in the bible. His review is succinct and clearly outlines the multiple unbiblical issues within the film. His review concludes with a “not recommended.” Please read Mr Patterson’s review by clicking on the link below.

God’s Not Dead Movie Review

Here is another review by two folks at Creation Ministries International, Scott Gillis and Lisa Cosner

God’s Not Dead movie review
A ‘feel-good’ movie that sadly did not make us feel good at all!

Here is GotQuestions’ very good treatment on the background of the saying “God is Dead“, which they rightly say is a rebellion against the authority of God in our lives.

Apologist Ravi Zacharias Ministry presents a 5-minute video by Oxford Philosopher Vince Vitale discussing  God’s Not Dead, which doesn’t refer to the movie but is timely apologetics anyway.

I know we become so excited when we hear reports of a new movie or television show coming out which claims to present our Jesus and His word in a God-honoring way. But we live in a fallen world, and those who are not saved cannot present anything but lies. Even those who are saved and who use these important media outreaches to share the Gospel often stumble because it is a time of apostasy, lack of discernment, and many won’t endure sound doctrine. Compromises are the order of the day. Please, in our love for Jesus and eagerness to share Him with the lost, let’s remember it is equally important to retain strict standards regarding His Gospel and His word. The best apologetic I’ve come across regarding the mantra ‘Even if it is flawed, let’s use it anyway, God can do anything’ is Sunny Shell’s, regarding the event that started all this last year, The Bible miniseries on The History Channel:

“Even though there’s a lot of error in this movie, still, don’t you think it’s a great way to show people who God really is, I mean, can’t God use anything to save someone?

A. No, I don’t think this movie is a great way to reveal the truth about God since it’s filled with lies about God. And yes, I realize God can use anything to save someone, but He only chose to use the message of the true Gospel to save all men (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Nowhere in Scripture does God command or allow His children to use the work of Satan to proclaim His truth. And God is clear, anyone who denies Him and defiles His holy character or word, works for the devil, not for God.
Since the beginning of time, the devil has attempted to minimize and blaspheme God’s holy character by lulling us to disregard His holiness, justice and righteousness. God has never called His children of light to partner with the works of darkness (2 Cor 6:15-16). As God’s children, we are commanded to pursue holiness, rather than try to find a way to compromise the glory of Christ in order to “reach more people”.