Reviews: family entertainment, documentaries, resources, books, music
AFA Staff
AFA Staff
AFA Journal staff reviews movies, books and other resources

March 2008 – Think movies
Intense and emotional, this line-up of films is not for the faint of heart. Each movie dives into serious issues ranging from a troubled childhood to near-death experiences. Some are intended to entertain while others are intended to expose, educate and inspire. Not all will appeal to the whole family, but all of them will challenge you to think about the life you live and the reason you live it. 

Martian Child
From New Line Home Entertainment comes the DVD release of Martian Child, a story of unconditional love as told through the relationship of David, a widowed sci-fi writer, and Dennis, a boy who thinks he’s from Mars. 

Two years after the death of his wife Mary, David decides to adopt an eccentric little boy to fulfill the adoption plans he and his wife had prior to her death. Dennis believes he is a Martian on a mission to figure out “human beingness.” But that doesn’t stop David who sees a lot of himself in the child. 

Despite difficulties, David and Dennis are drawn together by an unexplainable force called love. 

Martian Child is rated PG for thematic elements and mild language. The topics of death and rejection are addressed. There is one use of the “d”-word and one use of God’s name in vain, as well as the use of “bloody,” “stupid” and “dumb.” Alcohol is shown at a party, and there are two references to eastern religions. The film also contains immodesty and some slightly sarcastic references. Viewers may question the adoption of a child by a single parent as well as a scene where Dennis and David break things in the house and have a ketchup fight as a means of letting go of insurmountable hurt. There are some references to Martian powers and a sexual innuendo and kiss. 

While some of the content is questionable, the message of Martian Child is a redeeming one that will leave the heart smiling.
Review by Rebecca Grace

The Final Inquiry
In A.D. 33 a Roman officer is sent on a mission by Emperor Tiberius to find out what happened to the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The assignment is portrayed as having a political rationale, since the followers of this new religion are spreading Jesus’ message. But there is also a spiritual reason, since Tiberius wants to know what will happen to him after he dies.

While this film obviously has good intentions, it is an uneven, clichéd and sometimes improbable storyline with acting that is fair at best.

Since the story takes place during the time of the earliest chapters of the Book of Acts, there are a few moments that will prove problematic to students of the Scripture. For example, Mary Magdalene implores Stephen to deny Christ as a false prophet in order to save his life from martyrdom, a scenario not in the Bible.

There are several scenes of fighting, which involve little blood but obvious sword thrusts into combatants, and there is one instance in which a Jewish girl takes God’s name in vain.

Many Christians will no doubt applaud the attempt to treat their faith and the Scripture with respect – which this film does overall. However, believers also appreciate a good story, compelling acting and quality production values. In striving to reach these standards, The Final Inquiry fails in the final analysis.

The Final Inquiry is rated PG-13 and is available on DVD.
Review by Ed Vitagliano

The Genius Club
The Genius Club is a mind-boggling movie that attempts to solve the world’s problems by picking the brains of seven geniuses, all with IQs over 200, from all walks of life.

These individuals’ lives are put on the line when they are forced to become part of a national emergency on Christmas Eve. The group is at the mercy of a madman named Armand who threatens to detonate a nuclear bomb if they don’t earn 1,000 points in a game he forces them to play. 

As part of the game, the group discusses solutions to world hunger, war, cancer, terrorism and corporate America, among other issues. There is a logical debate about the existence of God and his role in the universe and in life. There is also a discussion about Christianity and how it has been reduced to politics. 

But it all boils down to the question: “What is the meaning of life?” The answer: “[W]hen you finally realize who you are and why you’re here,” which is rooted in love and forgiveness.  

The Genius Club concludes that the world’s problems can be solved through self-discovery, for it is in one’s self that one understands the meaning of life.

It is rated PG for thematic elements and some disturbing content. There are a number of emotional outbursts as well as some violence and gore. Old clips from news reports and war scenes are shown.

There is no overt profanity in the film, but there are several abbreviated uses of insulting language, as well as numerous uses of words such as “stupid,” “dumb” and “fool.” 

There are discussions of death, a Planned Parenthood sign in the background, and comments about reducing the world’s population as a possible solution to world hunger. However,  writer and director Tim Chey, who is overwhelmingly anti-abortion, claims that the sign was not an intentional part of the film. 

The Genius Club is available on DVD. 
Review by Rebecca Grace

Rebellion of Thought
This provocative film produced by brothers Brad and Kent C. Williamson is marvelous in what it does right but frustrating in what it fails to do – and what it does wrong.

As an explanation of the knotty issue of postmodernism, Rebellion of Thought does a magnificent job unraveling the complexities of this dominant worldview of our age. Questions, such as the following, are presented in an intriguing manner: Is there absolute truth? Are we responsible for our own actions? What is evil, and does it exist? 

The experts interviewed – D.A. Carson, Gene Edward Veith, James Spiegel and others – are articulate and insightful. Man-on-the-street interviews conducted by the Williamsons are likewise fascinating, and stylistically the film is engaging.

But in reality, Rebellion of Thought is two films, and that’s what tarnishes the end product. When the Williamsons turn to the challenges facing the church in a postmodern age, the documentary not only turns preachy, it seems to fall into the postmodern ditch itself.

“Is the church broken?” is a question the filmmakers ask and answer in the affirmative, and it’s pretty heavy-handed viewing. Church life in the West is “not what God intended,” they assert. Things like going to church, an emphasis on discipleship and personal growth, even the preaching of the Gospel on TV and radio come in for rough treatment. 

Rebellion of Thought deteriorates into a rage against “big buildings, fancy worship centers, carefully scripted and choreographed worship services” and a litany of other complaints.

These may very well be legitimate complaints, but how would we know? Suddenly the phalanx of experts who were marshaled in the first part of Rebellion of Thought virtually disappears. They are replaced by scenes of the Williamsons chewing the fat at restaurants or in motel rooms.

After leveling serious charges against what they consider to be a failed institutional church, all we get are the personal opinions of the Williamsons, as if they are allowed to construct their own reality out of thin air. How postmodern is that?

There are some images of a gay pride parade that might prove offensive to some. There is one minor profanity and one use of the “f”-word, which is bleeped but still perceptible, by a man interviewed on the street. 

Rebellion of Thought is not rated. The DVD and an accompanying study guide are available.
Review by Ed Vitagliano

Underground Reality: Vietnam
Join The Voice of the Martyrs and a group of eight teens from America and Australia as they travel to Vietnam where they experience the underground church first hand. 

Their ultimate mission is to smuggle Bibles. The outcome is life changing.

The teens’ journey is documented in four episodes, titled Underground Reality: Vietnam, that highlight the group’s visits to youth camp, Bible College and a tribal village in the communist country of Vietnam. What they are doing is illegal, so their visits often end abruptly once authorities get wind of their presence. 

The teens come face to face with harassment and persecution as well as the courageous faith of the Vietnamese believers who must worship in secret. God is at work in Vietnam, so the DVD is a profound documentary that leaves quite an impact. 

However, it is of some concern that the documentary treats a God-ordained call to missions as an awesome adventure full of cool adrenaline rushes and a feel-good sense of accomplishment. Plus, there is some immodesty as well as discussions of harsh conditions and depictions of violence. A sick child and a near-death experience are shown as are the raw emotions of the teens who are touched by their experiences in Vietnam. 

Underground Reality: Vietnam is not rated and is available on DVD. 
Review by Rebecca Grace

Still Standing: The Stonewall Jackson Story
American history buffs of all ages, particularly those drawn to the Civil War period, will appreciate Still Standing: The Stonewall Jackson Story. The 48-minute documentary was produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Ken Carpenter. It features narrative by noted historians as well as scenes from locations in Jackson’s life.

Based on the book The Black Man’s Friend by Richard G. Williams, Jr., the film offers a portrait of contrasts – the rock-ribbed battlefield general on one hand, and the compassionate, principled Christian on the other. Special attention is focused on Jackson’s commitment to a Sunday School class he taught in Lexington, Virginia, which was composed of slave and free Blacks.

Carpenter’s admiration for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is obvious as he retells the story from his tragic childhood through his death at age 39. The account includes the death of both parents; the harsh upbringing at the hands of an uncle; the close relationship between young Jackson and the slaves owned by his uncle; the friendship of Joseph Lightburn, who himself would become a Union general; two marriages; and Jackson’s military career.

The producers honor the life of Jackson with this first-rate production and passionate presentation. Adults and children will find the documentary engaging, entertaining and educational. Still Standing is available on DVD.
Review by Rusty Benson