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

Above, from A.D. Kingdom and Empire, Paul (r), played by Emmett J. Scanlan, defends his apostleship to Peter, played by Adam Levy.

April 2018 – Bible series now on Netflix
A.D. The Bible Continues ran originally as a limited series in 2015 on NBC. Renamed A.D. Kingdom and Empire, it is now available on Netflix in 12 episodes, each 1 hour. Under the original name, the series is also available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video.

The series begins with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Using Acts 1-12 as an outline, A.D. loosely traces the early years of the struggling, persecuted Christian church. It is fictionalized drama, apparently intended to provide a context for the period and not to share the gospel. Thus, viewers are advised not to assume the accuracy of historical details or doctrine portrayed in the series.

On the other hand, the storyline postulates an otherwise believable scenario that largely focuses on the political and social conflict between the Roman governor, Pilate, and the Jewish high priest, Caiaphas. The movie’s strength lies in a script that may help viewers appreciate the complicated and nuanced interactions of the various players and cultural tensions at the time.

Husband-wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey produced the series.

Rusty Benson

undefinedI Believed in ’Issa, I Met Jesus
In this autobiographical account, Dr. Jamel Attar shares his dramatic conversion from firm commitment to Muhammad to steadfast and genuine love for the Jesus of the Bible.

Even as a young boy, he took his faith seriously and determined to serve Allah with everything he did in life. After leaving his Moroccan family home to attend university in France, he encountered Christians for the first time.

His faith journey is gripping, and he tells of the pivotal point in his conversion when Jesus appeared to him during the night. I Believed in ’Issa, I Met Jesus is a quick read (102 pages). “Issa” is the Arabic name for Jesus. Dr. Attar now pastors a church in Caen, France.

Available at saltandlightbooks.com and online booksellers.

Randall Murphree

undefinedIce Dragon
A new faith-based animated movie, Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies, is an action-packed musical allegory.

In a tiny mountain village, Melody and her grandfather Nicholai are the only ones who still worship the Giver of Gifts. Tending the abandoned Sanctuary, Nicholai discovers a hidden mural telling about the village’s precious blue daisies and the evil Ice Dragon, once an angelic Guardian of the Song, sworn to serve the Giver of Gifts.

Imprisoned for trying to steal the Song, the Ice Dragon is awakened from his icy sleep by the village’s lack of faith. Melody and her friend Leif learn that singing the Song of thankfulness to the Giver of Gifts is their only hope for defeating the Ice Dragon.

The movie debuts six original songs; some are Scripture based. The last song, “Living in the Light,” beautifully teaches of the freedom found in God’s light.

Parental caution: The dragon’s evil characterization might scare some children. But all in all, Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies is an excellent family film.

Learn more at icedragonmovie.com.

Joy Lucius

undefinedNorman Rockwell's Faith of America
Art has the power to conjure innumerable emotions and feelings. Few artists have the ability to draw out nostalgia and optimism as well as Norman Rockwell (1894-1978). Just his name evokes images of his idyllic paintings of a people who accepted and lived by moral principles articulated by our founders.

“As I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfectly pleasant place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that if it weren’t an ideal world, it should be, so I painted only the ideal aspects of it,” the painter
once said.

Fred Bauer captures this optimistic and idealistic mindset in Norman Rockwell’s Faith of America, a biography of the American treasure liberally peppered with his masterful paintings.

Bauer also sees beyond the brushstrokes and tells the stories behind Rockwell’s paintings – the couple getting ready for the prom, the young boy who ran away from home, the old man taking a break from work to dip in the swimming hole. The book is as pleasurable to read as it is to peruse for the art.

Available at online and retail booksellers.

Teddy James

undefinedI Can Only Imagine
A beautiful picture of the transforming power of the gospel is coming to theaters nationwide March 16. I Can Only Imagine, the newest film from the Erwin Brothers (October Baby, Mom’s Night Out, and Woodlawn), tells the true story behind “the most-played radio single in Christian music history.”

Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe and writer of the beloved song “I Can Only Imagine,” lived a troubled childhood that he ran from until the Lord did a work of restoration and redemption in his life and in the life of his father.

Abandoned by his mother and abused by his father, Millard tried to escape the pain and make it big as a singer/songwriter. But it was not until he confronted his past – and his dad – and accepted the gifts of repentance and forgiveness that the Lord began to use Millard’s music to touch millions.

It is the depiction of the gospel in this film that makes it so appealing. It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s good.

I Can Only Imagine is rated PG for thematic elements including some violence. The film is an emotional one, and scenes of abandonment, abuse, and illness are shown.

Learn more and find a theater at icanonlyimagine.com.

Rebecca Davis

undefinedTortured for Christ
In honor of its 50th anniversary as a ministry to persecuted believers worldwide, Voice of the Martyrs has produced Tortured for Christ, a feature-length cinematic retelling of founder Richard Wurmbrand’s autobiographical book by the same title. Releasing for one night only in select theaters March 5, this docudrama details the remarkable testimony of Wurmbrand’s torturous imprisonment by brutal Russian captors.

Parents should be aware that it is sometimes graphic. But that realistic portrayal of Wurmbrand’s torture starkly contrasts his humble, compassionate love for his atheist captors and those suffering persecution alongside him. Indeed, Wurmbrand was a man willing to risk everything to share the gospel of Christ.

Likewise, viewers will come away with a deeper understanding of the price paid by many modern day believers who, like Wurmbrand, are persecuted merely for loving and serving the Savior. Tortured for Christ is a life-changing film. Learn more at torturedforchrist.com for future availability.

Joy Lucius

undefinedThe Riot and the Dance
Nature documentaries are some of the most intriguing, beautiful, and mesmerizing films available today. They can leave one in awe of God’s creativity and artistry. But all too often, the narrator begins explaining how all this diversity, all this color, all this beauty came about by evolution. Not this time!

Dr. Gordon Wilson is a biologist who loves to discover and share God’s artistic talents in His creation. The author’s passion emerges through every frame of The Riot and the Dance. The new nature documentary begins in Wilson’s own backyard and ends on the other side of the globe, exploring how God has revealed Himself in creation.

The Riot and the Dance will be released March 19 in a one-night theater event. Learn more and find a theater at riotandthedance.com.

Teddy James

undefinedShaped Notes
The lofty tenor of Larnelle Harris (photo, left) is one of a small chorus of soaring voices that pioneered contemporary Christian music in the 1970s and ’80s. Now, in Shaped Notes, with the help of author Christine Schaub, Harris shares his remarkable and engaging story.

“I may have been looked upon as just another poor black kid from the back roads of Kentucky,” he writes. His bridge out of poverty was his voice – an obvious gift even at a young age.

“My dad was a bootlegger,” he says. “Believe it or not, bootleggers go to church.” And, as it turns out in his family, they go to prison as well. The family’s challenges were predictably many.

As a Christian artist, Harris has accumulated a long list of firsts, but one greater purpose in writing his story is clear in the subtitle of his book, Shaped Notes: How Ordinary People with Extraordinary Gifts Influenced My Life and Career. Teachers, neighbors, friends, fellow musicians, role models – he puts them all in the spotlight, a reflection of humility and recognition that no one achieves success alone.

Available at online and retail booksellers.

Randall Murphree

undefinedundefinedA Day in the Life of the Vice President  (See story here.)
Marlon Bundo, also known as BOTUS, the official first bunny of the United States, has released his first book.

Written by Charlotte Pence and illustrated by her mother, Second Lady Karen Pence, Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President is a fun-filled, informative story about their family’s pet rabbit and the nation’s second-in-command.

Marlon, one of several Pence family pets, is definitely the alpha pet, according to Mrs. Pence. And Charlotte says Marlon has always been quite the ham.

Charlotte crafted Marlon’s tale in the form of narrative poetry in order to engage young readers. An accomplished artist, Mrs. Pence painted 24 watercolor illustrations to accompany her daughter’s work.

Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President provides the perfect opportunity for American students to learn about the constitutional duties of the vice president. But readers of all ages will fall in love with Marlon Bundo and his sidekick, Vice President Mike Pence.

Available at online and retail booksellers.

undefinedPhoto left is one of Karen Pence’s watercolors from the book.

 

 

Joy Lucius