During World War II most able-bodied American men were volunteering to defend freedom by fighting the Nazis, including Steve Rogers. But Steve was too small and thin for the armed forces to accept. Then a scientific experiment turned him into “a new breed of soldier” called Captain America. With a larger body and super-human strength, Steve Rogers gives the world’s meanest bullies what they deserve. This sometimes funny, sometimes inspiring action film affirms the priority of being a good man over being a dangerous warrior.
Ryan Gosling stars in a quirky yet touching story about Lars, a man who isolates himself from everyone. He fears human touch and panics when anyone tries to draw close - even those he loves most. His brother and nurturing sister-in-law live fifty feet away yet feel like strangers. But one day, to the shock of his family, Lars introduces his girlfriend: a life-sized doll. He ordered her online, apparently unaware of the perverse reason such dolls are made. He instead treats her with affection and the kind of respect a lady deserves: a woman who may become his bride. Those closest to Lars fear he has lost his mind. But they go along with his delusion, hoping "the real girl" might just play a redemptive role in Lars's life. (Heads up: you might want to fast-forward through one or two brief scenes involving a male co-worker who talks about pornography and views women as sexual objects.)
This 2005 films is based on the true story of James Braddock, a heavyweight boxer who lived in New York during the great depression. After an early rise to the top of the boxing world, Braddock hits on hard times – including an injured hand that prevents him from fighting, taking away his only real source of income. A devoted family man, Braddock and his wife enter the greatest fight of their lives – trying to keep the family together against tremendous odds. (Heads Up: James’ manager (Joe) frequently uses offensive language, including pervasive use of the Lord’s name in vain. Also, much of the boxing violence is very realistic and intense.)
The 1998 film version of Les Miserables stars Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as the unforgiving Inspector Javert. Valjean is a former convict who has been rescued to God’s grace by a benevolent priest. The priest challenges Valjean to become a new man and provides the means to start again. Despite his best efforts, however, the relentless pursuit of an unforgiving law keeps a Valjean on the run and disrupts his efforts to care for other victims of a society dominated by cruelty and injustice.
This wonderful 1946 classic has become a Christmas season tradition for many families. Take a few moments after watching to discuss the implicit message of George Bailey’s life experience. After a lifetime sacrificing his own dreams and ambitions for the sake of others, George encounters a crisis which pushes him to the end of himself. Wishing he had never been born, the angel Clarence gives him what he asks for by showing George what life for others would have been like if not for him. In the end, George realizes just how wonderful life is - all thanks to a little perspective.
This 2006 independent film won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and several other awards. Jose is a man with a heartbreaking secret in his past. Nina is a woman with no hope for her future. They become friends and help one another discover the healing power of family relationships and sacrificial love.
This 1996 film tells a touching story of two sisters, Bessie (played by Diane Keaton) who has been caring for her bed-ridden father (Marvin) and eccentric aunt for twenty years; and Lee (played by Meryl Streep) who has spent the same twenty years messing-up her life and the life of her two sons. Bessie lived a life of self-sacrifice in order to care for others - experiencing love and true meaning in the process. Lee, on the other hand, ran from responsibility - only to discover that it led to a shallow, conflicted existence. Marvin's Room is about their forced reunion after discovering Bessie has leukemia and may soon die. Have a hanky ready as you watch love break through the conflict to make a powerful statement about the dignity and value of every human life - and the meaning that comes from loving those difficult to love.
This 1999 film tells the story of death row prison guard (played by Tom Hanks) and a gentle giant named John Coffey who has been falsely accused of rape and murder. John Coffey turns out to be a Christ-like figure as he takes upon himself the suffering of others, heals those in pain, and eventually dies taking the punishment for another man's sin. (Caution: This film is rated "R" for strong language and disturbing violence.)
Use this chat guide for a date-night with your spouse. Select a favorite romantic film to buy or rent. (For best results, let her choose!) Get the kids to bed and then slip into something "comfortable" before watching the movie in the privacy of your bedroom. Then take turns answering the following questions. Before going to sleep give one another a very long kiss goodnight!
In this disturbing yet profound story a group of well-educated, well-behaved boys from an elite school find themselves stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. With no adults to take charge, the boys must establish a system of order so that they can work together toward survival. As the story unfolds, they become ill-disciplined and violent. Ralph, the kind and natural leader, is rejected and attacked. The chubby outsider (Piggy) fears for and eventually loses his life. This group of well-behaved children turns into a pack of savages by subverting order, embracing cruelty and killing the weak. If not for the timely intervention of a rescue team, they would have continued toward eventual self-destruction. The message at the core is one of evil in our world - and more troubling - in our hearts. Please note that the 1990 version is rated "R" for intensity and language. The 1963 is closer to the original novel if you can track down a copy.
Most little girls love the Disney Princess movies. And for good reason. They all reflect part of the ultimate love story found in the gospel and emphasize important themes on what it means to be a child of God and Christ's beloved. Use the following questions and scriptures to point your little princess toward God after watching the princess movie of her choice.
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series is considered the greatest fantasy series ever written. It bubbles over with themes that grow out of the author's devout Christian faith. While Peter Jackson's film trilogy doesn't capture all of the depth or charm found in the books, they do provide a launching point to discuss themes important to believers. The central story features Frodo Baggins, a good natured hobbit thrust into a grand adventure to destroy the ring of doom in order to free Middle-earth from domination by the forces of evil. He encounters many challenges along with way, including the addictive allure of the ring itself. In the end, Frodo and his faithful companion Sam overcome overwhelming obstacles to fulfill their part in a grand story. Find episodes from Kurt Bruner's podcast about Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
All seven Narnia stories by C.S. Lewis are essential for helping shape a child’s spiritual imagination with Christian themes. Reading the books or listening to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre versions are the best way to experience the full series. The Walden/Disney film version of the The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe can also be used as a launching point for great discussions. In this story, four English children enter the world of Narnia through an old wardrobe in the professor’s attic. They meet many mythical creatures in a world ruled by a cold, heartless “Queen” known as the White Witch. There is a rumor that the great Lion (Aslan) is on the move and that the children have arrived to fulfill an ancient prophecy that Narnia will be freed from slavery to the Witch. As the story unfolds, one of the four children (Edmund) betrays the residents of Narnia and Aslan offers himself to pay the boy’s penalty – which leads to a wonderful surprise in the end. Find Kurt Bruner's podcast titled "C.S. Lewis Interview Part One" discussing Narnia HERE.
Based upon a true story, this film shows a minister on trial after trying to help a college-aged girl (Emily Rose) break free of what appears to be demonic possession. The clergyman is accused of negligent homicide because he used spiritual intervention in place of psychiatric treatment. His defense attorney, an unbeliever, faces the difficult challenge of proving the existence of demons. (Caution: This film is NOT appropriate for younger viewers as it deals with a true story involving possible demonic activity. This is not a feel-good movie for casual viewing and should only be viewed with older teens mature enough to discuss the reality of Satan vs. the power of Christ.)
The Golden Compass is about a pre-adolescent girl name Lyra living in a world similar to ours but different in many ways. She stumbles into an epic battle between those on the side of her Uncle Asriel (the academic and scientific world) and a powerful group called “the Magisterium.” As the adventure unfolds, Lyra becomes embroiled in a battle against those who claim allegiance to the “Authority.” This film is adapted from the first of three books in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, an author who claims the goal of undermining Christianity.
This epic film tells the true story of William Wilberforce – an 18th century British politician who led a very unpopular movement to end the slave trade. Wilberforce was motivated by a deep Christian faith and spiritually mentored by John Newton – a former slave ship captain turned minister and author of the famous hymn Amazing Grace. During his long battle Wilberforce overcomes many obstacles including powerful political enemies, the economic might of the slave-trade industry and failing health.
The 2009 Disney 3D animated version of A Christmas Carol is a bit scary for small children, but a wonderful experience for the rest of the family. There is more message in this story than we often realize. It is not just about a guy who didn’t like Christmas. It is a tale of repentance and redemption. Ebenezer Scrooge is a powerful symbol of the choice each of us must make in life - either to follow our selfish, sinful nature or submit to God and reflect His image in our attitudes and actions. (If you wish to use a radio drama rather than film version of this story, the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre adaptation of this story is excellent!)
In this film, the main character (played by Jodi Foster) is a scientist on a quest to find intelligent life beyond earth. Once contact is made, the people of earth create a machine which allows her to travel across the galaxies and communicate directly with alien beings. There is a scene in the film while the main character is traveling through space and becomes overwhelmed with the beauty and majesty of space - to the point that she can’t even speak. Zero in on this scene and ask the following discussion questions...
Truman (played by Jim Carrey) is unaware that he is living on a giant television set and his every action is being broadcast to the world. Every person in his life is an actor or actress, every scene a prop, every discussion a scripted set-up to see how he will respond. As Truman begins to realize that there is something wrong with his world he seeks to discover whether or not there is a world beyond the one in which he is trapped. Another key character is the producer of the Truman show (played by Ed Harris) who manipulates Truman’s surroundings to make him think it is reality - when in fact it is all a grand deception. To find an episode of Kurt Bruner's podcast about this film go HERE.
Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) is a wonderful teacher who uses unconventional methods to awaken his student’s minds to poetry, beauty and a passion for life. But he does so based upon a view of the world which says that we should pursue life to the full while we are alive because when it’s over, it’s over. His primary theme is “Carpe Diem - Seize the Day!” One young student named Neil fully embraces Mr. Keating’s philosophy, giving him the courage to defy his overbearing father. But doing so ends in tragedy when Neil’s Carpe Diem dream is taken away. Hear Kurt discuss highlights of this film on his podcast HERE.