Monday, August 26, 2013

Double Movie Review: An American Tail and Fievel Goes West

An American Tail

The Story: A mouse family heads on a voyage to America to escape oppression by cats in their homeland. Along the way, the boy mouse is washed overboard and feared dead by his parents and sister. However, he manages to stay afloat in a bottle and make it to America, where he struggles to survive in this strange land. While searching for his family, he will face many dangers, including discovering that even America has cats.

My Thoughts: This was one of my favorite movies as a small child, and as I watched it again recently, there were many brilliant scenes that are the equal of Pixar’s best. The characters were vivid and the songs were memorable. The unusual depth of this film is sometimes credited with making people realize, in a time when animated movies were languishing, that animation was not just for children.

Some of the scenes, however, are creative but don’t quite work, such as a scene where waves in the ocean are perceived as water monsters. The story has as many holes in it as Swiss cheese, and this mostly ruined the movie for me. While the enormous amount of brilliance in this film was enough to dazzle me as a child, the lack of a solid story to hold it all together left me feeling disappointed in the film as an adult.

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

The Story: After the events in the first film, more cats have moved into the area to oppress the mice who have immigrated to America. One particularly villainous cat decides to trick mice into believing that cats and mice are friends out in the West, so he can get mice to go there and use them as laborers, then eat them. However, the young mouse from the first film catches on and sets out to stop the evil scheme.

My Thoughts: This is the only An American Tail sequel that I’ve seen, and like the first film, part 2 was a childhood favorite of mine. Unfortunately, like the first film, the many brilliant scenes and vivid characters can’t save it from its story holes. The most memorable thing about the film is that James Stewart voices a dog sheriff.

Content Overview: Due to the menace of a variety of cats and other threats in both films, there is a lot of mild violence, as well as some scary scenes. Rebellious attitudes and romance among some of the young mice might bother some parents. In An American Tail, a sleazy mouse ogles and then tries to grope a female mouse, but she slaps him away. In Fievel Goes West, several characters dress immodestly, and this is used at least once in a bad attempt to be humorous.

Have you seen any of the An American Tail movies? If so, what did you think of them?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Is That Celebrity A Christian?

As a child, I enjoyed wondering if my favorite actors, musicians, and other celebrities might be Christians. Then I grew up and learned the Biblical principle that you will know them by their fruit (Luke 6:43). It became pretty clear which celebrities were saved and which weren’t.

Many Christians do not seem to grasp the principle that the actions of celebrities will generally show what is in their hearts. They haphazardly claim various celebrities as one of their own, while refusing to look at the actions of the celebrities.

What does their life revolve around?

Imagine a young pop star who sings about fornicating, fornicates in real life, and who poses with few clothes on in magazines. But if she occasionally goes to a church that hasn’t preached the Gospel in twenty years, many people will decide she’s a Christian.

Or imagine an actor who regularly stars in R-rated movies filled with extreme foul language, sex scenes, nudity, and gratuitous violence. But if he sometimes makes vague spiritual statements about Jesus in between “f” words in interviews, many people will decide he’s a Christian.

I’m not saying for certain that such people aren’t saved. All I’m saying is that, if they keep living the same way without a change, the evidence starts mounting that they aren’t saved. An encounter with God will change how you live.

Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:21). This doesn’t mean that we will keep them perfectly. We’ll fail sometimes. But if peoples’ entire lives revolve around sin, a bit of superficial spirituality does not change the reality of their lack of repentance.

Who should be called by God’s name?

I’m not sure why people frequently try to claim obviously unsaved celebrities as fellow Christians. Does thinking that they have their favorite celebrity on their side make them feel cool and like they fit in? Or are they just naive?

Whatever the cause, it is foolish for Christians, including those in the Christian media, to cling desperately to every wearing of a cross, mention of God, prayer, Bible reading, and other similar activities among Godless celebrities.

There are indeed some celebrities who claim to be Christians and whose actions show that they are seeking to live out their faith, and it’s fine to be interested in them. They can use our encouragement, and we can often learn from them, including from their mistakes.

We must be discerning, however, about what celebrities we consider Christians (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). If they are not living as children of God, then we have no reason to believe they are saved. Only those who are truly trusting in and seeking to be like Jesus should be called by His name.

Do you agree?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: A Summary of Christian History by Robert Baker

As the title indicates, this book summarizes Christian history from the time of Christ to the present day. It is meant to give readers a basic understanding of the history of Christianity in a relatively short amount of time, and from this foundation they can explore the fullness of Christian history in other books if they so desire.

While the plain style this book is written in took a little while to get used to, I soon found it pleasant to read as it carefully laid out the facts in an easy to understand manner. At less than four hundred pages long, I expected to finish this book quickly, but the amount of detail crammed into each chapter caused me to have to read slowly to take in as much information as possible.

I had not read a full account of church history in a long time, so many of the details were hazy in my mind, including how the major denominations came to be. Reading this book helped me better understand the light of the spread of the Gospel and righteousness, as well as the darkness of persecution and erroneous theology throughout the past two thousand years.

The book ends its summary of Christian history in the 1950s, and some big things have happened to Christianity since then, but its record up until that point is fascinating to read. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about Christian history, either to give them the basics they need to know, or to help them begin a deeper exploration of Christian history.

There is an updated version out now which I assume goes to the present day.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Movie Review: Robin Hood: The Disney Animal Version

While I had never wondered what the tale of Robin Hood would be like if the characters were portrayed by animals, Disney apparently decided that people would be interested in such a twist on the legend. After seeing Robin Hood and Maid Marian as foxes, Little John as a bear, Friar Tuck as a badger, and other similar animal versions of characters, I have to admit that their experiment was a success.

This gimmick would not have been nearly enough to sustain a movie in and of itself, but the animals are given various adventures to go that are just as entertaining as the characters. Many of the scenes are brilliantly crafted, and the music is good. All of it adds up to make this a Disney classic. A few random anachronisms and plot flaws distract from the story, but otherwise this is a fun animated film that is far more amusing than the strange premise might suggest.

There is a bit of cross-dressing and related humor, some of it mildly inappropriate. Violence is minor and often more silly than realistic.