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DVD: Star Trek

PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence and brief sexual content

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The Story

In J.J. Abram’s reboot of the original “Star Trek” series, Kirk (Chris Pine) is born on the day his father is killed in an attack by a massive Romulan mining ship from the distant future. He eventually joins Starfleet Academy, where he meets Dr. Bones McCoy (Karl Urban), communications expert Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the half human/half Vulcan Mr. Spock (Zachariy Quinto).

The cadets join Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) on the maiden mission of the Starship Enterprise in response to a distress call from the Vulcan home world. Upon arriving, they find the planet under attack by the same Romulan Captain Nero (Eric Bana) that killed Kirk’s father years earlier and now seeks revenge on both current Spock and his future self—as well as the whole Vulcan race.

Before they can defeat Nero, though, Spock and Kirk will have to work out which of them is in charge. They find help from some surprising sources.

Content Issues

The rating comes mostly from action violence, which includes some blood and onscreen deaths, as well as an enormous off-screen body count. Also, Kirk is building his rep as a womanizer; we see him in bed shirtless with a green lady and see a couple of women in their underwear. God’s name is used for swearing, along with a few milder profanities.

Worldview Talking Points

If you are even a nominal fan of the “Star Trek” franchise, you’re as likely to enjoy this well-reviewed reboot at least as much as your teen son or daughter. Director J.J. Abrams and his team succeed in making an excellent actioner that manages to satisfyingly reference all things “Trek” while also building in a lot of new fun.

“Star Trek” creator Gene Rodenberry’s overtly humanistic, evolutionary worldview perspectives get very little mention here. Instead, Abrams focuses what little moral perspective there is on the character choices of Kirk, Spock, and the villain Nero.

We hope a few of the questions below might transport you into a helpful conversation with your son or daughter.

Surrogates

PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, language, sexuality and a drug-related scene

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The Story

In the not too distant future, humanity has become completely dependent on robot surrogates to do nearly every physical activity for them in the world outside of their homes. Sitting in a chair and plugged into the network, people view, hear, and touch the world through their better-looking, stronger, and more capable robot selves.

Humanity is far safer than ever before, but all of that is about to change. When fired at a surrogate, a new weapon also kills the surrogate’s human operator—and someone is trying to use it to kill the Dr. Cantor (James Cromwell), the human inventor of surrogates.

Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and his partner (Radha Mitchell) try to track down the killer and recover the weapon, which eventually falls into the hands of The Prophet (Ving Rhames). The Prophet is the de facto leader of the “meatbags,” people who believe the use of surrogates is evil and want to stop it however possible.

With his own surrogate disabled—and his relationship with his wife (Rosamund Pike) on the brink after the accidental death of their young son—Greer chases down the bad guys as his aging, human self.

Content Issues

Robot surrogates that look like people get bashed, shot, run over, and blasted in the eyes by that super-weapon. When that happens, their operators back home also die with lots of blood from their burned out eye sockets. Willis gets pummeled repeatedly, contributing to his tough-but-vulnerable older guy look. One character commits suicide. It is strongly suggested that the surrogates are used for all kinds of sexual activities and many are revealingly dressed. God’s and Jesus’ names are used for swearing, along with other harsh language.

Worldview Talking Points

“Surrogates” didn’t clean up at the box office, but its proven sci-fi action premise and even its aging action star will likely draw the interest of many students. And though the execution of that premise veers dangerously close to silliness and eventually runs completely off the path of internal logic, it does dabble in some of the big questions we face about the onward march of technology and the Internet.

We hope a few of the following questions will provide an opportunity for you to have a productive conversation with your student about some of those ideas if they and/or you see the film.

Fame

PG for thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language

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The Story

“Fame” follows 10 students at a rigorous, high-pressure high school for the performing arts as they make their way from freshman year auditions all the way through to their senior year graduation. Punctuated with musical performances, the crowded story is told in a series of vignettes from each of the students’ four years.

Jenny (Kay Panabaker), an uptight young actor, draws the attention of Marco (Asher Book), a natural and easygoing singer. Angry young actor/rapper Malik (Collins Pennie) notices that classical pianist Denise (Naturi Naughton) is secretly the best singer in the school. Victor (Walter Perez) plays keys and DJs and has eyes for gifted ballet dancer Alice (Kherington Payne).

That still leaves dancing Kevin, acting Joy, and film directing hopeful Neil to keep up with. But wait, there are also a lot of teachers played with great restraint by former sitcom stars like Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, and Charles S. Dutton.

A few students will land work before they even reach graduation. Others will discover the limits of their talent and realize they’ll never be as successful as they’d hoped. Will any of them find stardom?

Content Issues

The film landed a PG rating, but it does include some harsh language, along with uses of God’s name for swearing. Students drink, and one gets drunk for a video to “expand her life experience.” Students kiss; dancers and performers move provocatively and wear skimpy clothing.

Worldview Talking Points

Thirty years ago, the original “Fame” was nominated for a slate of music Oscars for it’s unique and memorable songs and score. It spawned a TV series or two and the idea that fame could be found by building on natural talent until you became so fantastic as a performer that the world just had to notice.

It’s an idea that almost seems quaint these days, as the number of people famous for everything but being talented continues to expand. In addition, popular shows like “American Idol” have taught us all to size up the fame-potential of performers of every level of talent and star quality.

From that perspective, this reboot of the “Fame” franchise is encouraging in that it focuses on a group of students who are actually working at being good at something, not just trying to justify themselves for the sake of praise and a big payday.

But the movie doesn’t really go far enough in showing the hard work it takes to be the best as a performer—or in dealing with the consequences of living for fame and stardom. Very few of the actors are believably driven for glory or believably talented enough to earn it.

Still, the idea of a school built to make its students better artists—and then famous ones—brings up all kinds of worldview ideas worth kicking around, especially with your stage-minded kids. We hope a few of the following questions will help.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

PG for brief mild language

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Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is a would-be inventor with a lot riding on his latest gadget, a machine designed to turn water into food. He needs a win to reverse his reputation for failed and destructive experiments. He hopes to live up to his late mom’s faith in him and finally hear his tough fisherman dad (James Caan) say he’s proud of Flint.

Accompanied by his faithful monkey sidekick Steve—given the gift of unremarkable speech by one of Flint’s inventions—Flint risks big and plugs the machine in, immediately igniting it into a rocket that nearly destroys the town before disappearing into the clouds. Everyone is mad at him, including Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), the cute and smart weather girl Flint falls for on sight.

But then it starts raining food, and Flint becomes a hero. Liberated from their slavery to a diet of endless sardines, the locals can’t get enough of Flint’s made-to-order sky food. Sam is impressed with Flint’s smarts. And the mayor quickly begins rebuilding the town into the ultimate tourist destination. But Flint’s dad still isn’t sure anything good will come of all of this.

Content Issues

Very mild harsh language and lots of crazy, non-lethal, food-related violence contribute to the film’s PG rating.

Worldview Talking Points

Based on the popular kids’ book, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is a hit with critics and a box office winner. Though it includes elements of the book, the film is very much its own animal. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller flesh out the story with some conventional and familiar characters and then do everything they can to surprise the audience by subverting most of our expectations about animated kids’ movies.

The result is less artful, perhaps, than Pixar’s slate of great films, but it is every inch as fun—and plenty funny. We laughed at a lot, anyway, and even teared up a bit unexpectedly during the story’s final moments between father and son. “Cloudy” is just a good time for the whole family.

It also includes some broad messages for kids and parents, messages that could serve as a launching point to a decent conversation after viewing the film. We hope a few of the following questions might help with that.

 

I Can Do Bad All By Myself

PG-13 for mature thematic material involving a sexual assault on a minor, violence, drug references and smoking

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April (Taraji P. Henson) is a lounge singer who can barely take care of herself. She drinks too much and lives in a crumbling house with a man who is married to another woman. She’s not the most obvious choice to raise her late sister’s three kids, but she’s the only option they have left—especially after they get caught trying to rob the house of Madea and her brother Joe (both played for comic relief by director Tyler Perry).

April’s life gets more complicated when her pastor asks her to take in another boarder. Sandino (Adam Rodriguez) is a good man, and he’s willing to fix up her place in exchange for a bunk in her basement. April reluctantly agrees, a decision that slowly leads her back to church and to a new awareness of how she can meet the needs of someone besides herself.

But she still has to figure out what to do with her abusive boyfriend and the kids.

Content Issues

Mature themes including child and sexual abuse are the biggest reason for the PG-13 rating, including the near rape of a teenage girl and a tense stand-off involving electrocution. Profane language is kept to a minimum (though God

9

PG-13 for violence and scary images

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This post-apocalypitic animated tale follows the adventure of a collection of “stichpunk” rag dolls mysteriously alive and trying to survive after a war between the machines and the humans has wiped out any other known life. All that remains are these little burlap-bodied creatures with mechanical eyes, hands, and feet hiding in a bombed out cathedral and occasionally hunted by a vicious red-eyed robot “cat.”

Each “doll” has a number drawn on its back that is also its name. When 2 (voiced by Martin Landau) is captured by the cat, 9 (Elijah Wood) disobeys the orders of 1 (Christopher Plummber), the self-annoited leader of the group, and takes 5 (John C. Reilly), a fearful mechanic, with him to follow the cat and try to rescue 2. (This is all much less confusing within the film.)

Joined by several other dolls they once thought were dead, including 7 (Jennifer Connelly), a warrior, 9 and friends accidently awaken a great, evil machine and must find a way to stop it. They must also discover the secret of their own existence in order to try to save the last remnant of humanity.

Content Issues

“9” contains no sexual content or harsh language, but it is definitely not a kids’ animated film. It is set in a world in which all of humanity is presumed dead (including some corpses still lying around). The violence is not bloody, but it is scary and fatal in a few places, and the story is built on some “dark science” (magic?) that has to do with the violent transport of unwilling souls.

Worldview Talking Points

“9” began as an 11-minute short film by UCLA animation student Shane Acker. It was visually inventive enough to earn him an Oscar nomination, the attention of animation legend Tim Burton, and the funding to turn 11 minutes into 79 and a feature-length story.

Students interested in animation and/or science fiction may be drawn to this wildly original story. It is stunning to look at and tells a creative story, but it is also dark and not intended for younger kids. It’s not a Pixar film.

The story is also built on a very spiritual framework that raises heavy questions about what it means to be human, the nature and destiny of the human soul, and our complicated relationship with technology. It will definitely be worth talking about with your child if he or she sees it. We hope a few of the following questions will help guide that conversation, if so desired.

All About Steve

PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos

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The Story

Mary (Sandra Bullock) is a crossword builder for the “Sacramento Herald” newspaper, and she’s known for her oddball personality. She talks way too much, and she’s obsessive about words, and she lives with her parents, and she wears these red boots all the time. In an effort to be more normal, she agrees to go on a blind date set up by her mom.

After one look at Steve (Bradley Cooper), she changes into some revealing clothing and jumps him in his car before they even pull away from the curb. Steve is all for that until Mary starts talking, and then he fakes a work emergency to get away from her.

Clueless, Mary is in love. She hits the road to follow Steve on his job as a TV news cameraman. He is terrified that she is stalking him, but the on-air reporter he works with (Thomas Haden Church) uses Mary to mess with Steve, telling her that Steve really loves her and wants her to stay no matter how much he tells her to go away.

So with the help of a couple of equally odd personalities (DJ Qualls and Katy Mixon), she follows the news team to a storm in Texas and then to a crisis in Colorado where some deaf children are trapped in an abandoned mine.

Content Issues

The early scene in which Mary jumps Steve in his SUV includes some significant sexual dialogue and touching (really) for a PG-13 comedy that is otherwise not about sex. Harsh language includes uses of God’s and Jesus’ names for swearing. The film also uses the vulnerability of deaf children as kind of a joke.

Worldview Talking Points

In spite of the fact that lots of lousy movies get made every year, very few pull a rating of less than 10 percent positive reviews from RottenTomatoes.com on opening day. “All About Steve” is currently at 5 percent. In spite of a likable cast, it’s safe to say its not a great film.

Teens attracted to the cast might still end up seeing it sooner or later. If they do, maybe a few of the following questions will provoke a helpful conversation about “Steve’s” worldview perspective.

500 Days of Summer

PG-13 for sexual material and language

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The Story

It’s not easy to tell a romantic comedy from a new perspective. Director Marc Webb and his team use a non-linear timeline and lots of indie quirk to pull it off in this examination of 500 days in a relationship between Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a writer of greeting cards and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), an assistant hired at his company.

We jump back and forth between their significant moments on Day 1, Day 325, Day 267, Day 489, Day 10, etc. It’s like one of those games where you remove the squares covering a picture, one at a time, to slowly reveal the whole image underneath.

Tom is a real romantic, looking for “the one.” Summer is a realist who says that kind of love is a fantasy. She’s not looking for anything serious, but she’s happy to go furniture shopping and have sex with him. In spite of her warnings, he falls deeply, emotionally in love with her.

Content Issues

Tom and Summer start having sex immediately after agreeing not to get serious. They watch and try to imitate a porn video, but nothing explicit is shown. Tom and Summer and their friends drink a lot of alcohol. God’s and Jesus’ names are used for swearing, along with quite a bit of other harsh language.

Worldview Talking Points

This film has done well by indie standards are received overwhelmingly positive reviews from secular critics. Its good buzz, likable stars, and “sophisticated” 20-something subject matter is likely to draw the interest of older teens.

And that subject matter is worth talking about if with them if you get the chance. The story is driven by all the old questions: Does destiny lead you to your true love? Is there someone out there for everyone? Can you miss him/her? Can you find him/her? What if you find her and she just wants to be friends?

Over the years, we’ve made a point on PlanetWisdom to try to encourage students to reject the culture’s greeting card view of love as an external a force that happens to you when destiny fates it to be so. The Scripture doesn’t say a lot about how two people wind up married, but once there it’s clear that love is a choice based on an active commitment to another person—not a feeling that comes and goes over time.

We hope a few of the following questions will help you to have a productive conversation with your child about love, sex, marriage, and “500 Days of Summer.”

Ponyo

G

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The Story

When a special fish sneaks away from her sorcerer father (voiced by Liam Neeson), she meets and makes a connection with a human boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas). Sosuke lives on a seaside cliff with his mom (Tina Fey) and his rarely home ship captain dad (Matt Damon). Sosuke knows the fish is special and names her Ponyo (Noah Lindsey Cyrus), but soon loses her when Ponyo’s formerly human dad finds and recaptures her.

Determined to live as a human, Ponyo uses her own magic to sprout arms and legs and escape once more to land. In doing so, though, she unleashes a powerful amount of magic, enough to wipe out humanity and restore the ancient order of the ocean. Ponyo’s mom, the goddess of the sea (Cate Blanchett), must return to help set things right.

In the meantime, Ponyo and Sosuke are forming a powerful bond while navigating the rising ocean tides and a facing a cosmic test that will decide, once and for all, if Ponyo will be allowed to become a normal human girl.

Content Issues

“Ponyo” is rated G, though some parents of little kids will be concerned about “scary parts” (like the rushing flood and the children being left alone and crying for mom). Others might be concerned about the spiritual implications of all the magic and Eastern religious influences.

Worldview Talking Points

Master animator Hayao Miyazaki built his latest film on the structure of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic story “The Little Mermaid.” But the story exists within a world uniquely Miyazaki’s, complete with wild, breathtaking, organic animation and large doses of spirituality and magic (though not nearly as dark as in his other films).

Very much intended for children, “Ponyo” is a fantastical ride—both in its look and in the tale of these two star-crossed children who really, really want to be together. There’s no questioning Miyazaki’s sense of spectacle or storytelling, but some of the elements of the film are a little hard to digest. And those will be worth talking over with your kid(s) if they end up seeing the film.

We hope a few of the following questions will help.

Post Grad

PG-13 for sexual situations and brief strong language

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Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) faces the after-college malaise that comes with trying to figure out what to do next with your life. Jobless, she’s forced to move back home with her off-the wall family, including her wacky dad (Michael Keaton), wackier grandma (Carol Burnett), even wackier little bro (Bobby Coleman), and perfectly sane mom (Jane Lynch).

Turned down for every serious job she pursues—and clueless to the fact that her best friend Adam (Zach Davies) is in love with her and waiting to see what she does before deciding to go to law school—Ryden flirts with her older Brazilian neighbor, tries working for her dad, and eventually realizes she’s going to have to make some hard choices for herself.

Content Issues

Ryden, 22, nearly has sex with the neighbor, 34, before her family walks in on them; both are shirtless, she’s in a bra. There’s a little sexual dialogue and some harsh language in the film, including the use of God’s name for swearing. A cat gets squished.

Worldview Talking Points

“Post Grad” is unlikely to make much of an impact at the box office—or on those who make the time to see it. It’s an unusually bland movie trying really hard to be warm and wacky. Students, though, may be attracted to the stars in the cast, including Bledel (“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” “Gilmore Girls”) and Davies (“Friday Night Lights”).

The worldview issues raised by the story are particularly relevant to older teens and college students facing an unpredictable future. Whether you see the film or not, it might be worth bringing up a few of the questions below if your child is closing in on the sometimes difficult transitions that come with moving into adulthood.

Bandslam

PG for some thematic elements and mild language

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Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), a new kid in his New Jersey high school, is not used to being popular. So he’s confused when two cute girls take an interest in him. One is a quiet outsider who calls herself Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens and “the 5 is silent”). The other is Charlotte (Alyson Michalka of “Aly & AJ”), a beautiful and popular senior who connects with Will over a shared passion for punk and alternative music. She practically forces Will to become the manager of her fledgling band.

Will turns out to be a band-managing genius, pulling together diverse kids from every corner of the school to form a group for a regional battle of the bands that awards a record contract to the winners.

As the band’s sound improves, though, all the relationships get tested. Will’s protective mom (Lisa Kudrow) doesn’t trust Charlotte. Sa5m, who Will likes as way more than a friend, is pretty sure he’s really in love with Charlotte and not her, and Charlotte’s ex-boyfriend (Scott Porter from “Friday Night Lights”) goes looking for secret dirt on Will to break up the non-couple. But the band must rock on.

Content Issues

This PG film is way tame compared to most teen flicks. A few kisses are exchanged. God’s name is used for swearing a few times.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality

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Based on a best-selling book by Audrey Niffennegger, the film describes the involuntary time-travel experiences of Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) and the impact of his jumping and back and forth through time on his life and marriage with Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams).

Since he was six, Henry has been a victim of “chrono-displacement disorder,” disappearing without warning from his own “normal” timeline to other times and places—often arriving in moments or locations with some connection to the people in his life—and then eventually vanishing just as unexpectedly back to his own right place in time. And he always shows up naked, forcing him to quickly scramble to find clothes.

One day he meets Clare, who already knows all about him because he’s been “visiting” her from his future for years. They fall in love, marry, and attempt to build something of a normal life together. But that’s tough to do when your husband can vanish and return at any moment without warning.

Content Issues

Henry and Clare engage in premarital sex and live together before being married. In a twist, Clare

G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra

PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout

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James McCullen/Destro (Christopher Eccleston) is a powerful arms dealer who has created a microscopic biological weapon that can literally eat away any substance in seconds. NATO soldiers Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) have been assigned to guard the suitcase holding the “nanomites

Julie & Julia

PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality

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Working from books by each of the title characters, writer/director Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail”) tells the side-by-side stories of Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and Julia Child (Meryl Streep) as each finds joy and success through cooking and writing about cooking.

In 2002, Julie Powell works as a government secretary and has just moved into an apartment in Queens with her husband Eric (Chris Messina). She feels life is passing her by and decides to do something about it by starting a blog in which she will describe her attempt to prepare all of the 500-and-some recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a single year.

Meanwhile (or “prewhile,” I guess), Julia Child has just fallen in love with Paris in the late 1940s, where her U.S. diplomat husband Paul works at the embassy. Unsure what to do with her time, she eventually follows her love of eating French food into a love of cooking, taking classes at the famed Cordon Bleu cooking school.

The story flips back and forth between Julie’s growing success as a blogging writer and stressed out cook and Julia’s unending success at being Julia. Julie’s quest stresses her marriage to the point of breaking. Julia’s marriage to Paul is her rock, though her efforts to publish her cookbook and constant moves around Europe often challenge her life-loving spirit.

Content Issues

Some harsh language is used, including God’s name for swearing and the f-word. Married couples make out, but not explicitly. Much wine is consumed. Lobsters are boiled (steamed?) to death.

Worldview Talking Points

It seems like more and more kids are digging cooking and food. It might be that Food Network programming is mostly safe and fun family viewing, or it could be that cooking is something grown up that kids can jump in and try for themselves. Without a doubt, exploratory cooking can be a creative, servant-oriented, life-giving, and challenging hobby.

I don’t know if that will be enough to attract young foodies to this dual biopic of Julia Child (in the 40s and 50s) and Julie Powell (in this decade). It’s got the flavor of a romantic comedy/drama, but most the action involves talking and relationship issues, along with the foodstuffs. Having said that, Meryl Streep’s Julia Child is someone easy to hang out with.

The film does present some interesting worldview perspectives. We hope a few of the following questions might engage your child in a helpful conversation if he or she sees the film.

Aliens in the Attic

PG for action violence, some suggestive humor and language

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A vacation with the extended family turns into a mash-up of “Home Alone” and “Die Hard” as a group of kids and knee-high aliens inside a big lake house hunt and hide from each other without adults ever having a clue.

Tom (Carter Jenkins) isn’t thrilled to be stuck on vacation with his older sister Bethany (“High School Musical’s” Ashley Tisdale), his sister’s boyfriend Ricky (Robert Hoffman), his kid sister Hannah (Ashley Boettcher), or his cheery parents (Kevin Nealon and Gillian Vigman). Throw in Nana Pearson (Doris Roberts), divorced uncle Nathan (Andy Richter), Rambo cousin Jake (Austin Robert Butler), and Jake’s younger twin brothers—and there’s just too many people to deal with.

But then the wise-cracking aliens land on the roof and announce they’re here to enslave or destroy the humans. They quickly shoot a dart of some kind into college-aged Ricky and take over his body with what looks like a video game control pad. The kids learn that only adults can be controlled in this way and immediately decide to battle the aliens themselves to save their parents from harm.

They’re helped by one of the four aliens—the cuddly one, nicked-named Snuggles by Tom’s little sister—and the race is on to keep the remaining three from summoning the alien horde or killing any of the adults.

Content Issues

Lots of comedic violence earns the PG-rating here. Bethany’s annoying boyfriend gets the brunt of it, as he is abused throughout the film with hard falls, punches, slaps, and kicks. The CGI aliens get their share, too. Bethany (Ashley Tisdale) wears a revealing bikini and her boyfriend likes to strut shirtless (which she clearly enjoys). He obviously expects to get physical with her, but she resists him when he asks for an aggressive kiss. God’s name is used for swearing, and the kids brazenly and repeatedly deceive their parents.

Worldview Talking Points

With no major stars or significant marketing tie-ins, this lightweight kids sci-fi film didn’t make much of a dent at the box office on its opening weekend. It’s only mildly entertaining as a kid’s film, but it does have some fun elements, including some broad physical comedy and a “kids can handle it” sense of adventure.

It’s not a hardcore message movie, but “Aliens in the Attic” does reveal some worldview ideas that kids are likely to notice. Those include the intentional (“Don’t hide your smarts!”) and the implied (“Sometimes you’ve just got to lie to your parents.”).

 

G-Force

Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor

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Yes, the guinea pigs can talk. And so can the mole (voiced by Nicolas Cage). They’ve been trained as not-quite special agents by a smart human guy named Ben (Zach Galifianakis) to serve the United States government as high-tech spies. But an FBI honcho (Will Arnett) has just pulled the plug on the program after the team apparently failed to steal the right secret document from corporate bad guy Mr. Saber (Bill Nighy).

Now guinea pigs Darwin (Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz), Blaster (Tracy Morgan) and Hurley (Jon Favreau) must work together to escape from a local pet store and from the feds in order to stop Saber’s dastardly plan to take over the world using the secret computer chips in all his appliances in homes and stores around the globe.

Content Issues

Rated PG for lots of non-lethal action, a few mild poop and fart jokes, and a few uses of God’s name for swearing. There are also several colorful phrases that will remind older viewers of swearing (“yippee-ki-yay, coffee maker”) though no swear words are actually used.

Worldview Talking Points

Just to be clear, all of the talking critters are CGI, but they live in a world of live-action actors and surroundings. The results—cute and chuckle-worthy, but not remarkable—were enough to dethrone Harry Potter in that film’s second weekend. Animated, family-friendly talking furballs with jokes and adventure is almost a guaranteed win at the box office, for some reason.

None of the film’s worldview perspectives dig very deep, but the “G-Force” team does live in a world of values worth talking about, especially with younger fans of the film. They include ideas like “family is important—even if it’s not your biological family,” “your specialness comes from what you do, not who you are,” and “animals are pretty much people, too—sort of.”

We hope a few of the following questions will help you to talk through some of those ideas with your kid(s) if you and they have seen the film.

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality

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The Story

“Half-Blood Prince” picks up a few weeks after the end of the previous film. Voldemort, the villain who killed Harry Potter’s parents, is still plotting his return to life and world domination. The Death Eaters are getting bolder, creating carnage in the human (Muggle) world and scheming as warriors in Voldemort’s army. Nearly everyone now gets that Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is the Chosen One, apparently destined to defeat Voldemort when the moment arrives.

Until then, Harry and his friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are all still teenagers coping with another term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and an ever more complicated set of relationship issues. Harry is crushing on Ron’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright), who has a boyfriend of her own. A popular athlete is crushing on Hermione, who has strong feelings for Ron, who has been snogging (kissing) another girl entirely.

Meanwhile, the gang has learned that Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has been tasked by Voldemort with some evil mission, a mission Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) has sworn himself to help Draco complete. And Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has tasked Harry with getting close to Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), a returning, old professor of potions. Dumbledore wants Harry to convince Slughorn to release a key memory about young Tom Riddle, the child who grew up to be Voldemort.

All of this serves to move the story along toward the final two films coming in 2010 and 2011.

Content Issues

Although there’s lots of darkness behind the story, everything about “Half-Blood Prince” feels a touch less violent and dark than the last two films—and the PG rating reflects that. The story includes very little rough language, some teen drinking, and lots of kissing—in addition to some scary and mildly violent confrontations, plenty of supernatural magic, and the apparent death of a key character.

Worldview Talking Points

In it’s first five days of release, the sixth Harry Potter film in the incredibly successful book and movie franchise earned more money domestically and globally than any of the films that came before it. Exit surveys show that 40 percent of the audience was younger than 18 years old. All this in spite of a two-year gap since the previous film and another two years until the series finally concludes its decade-long run at the cineplex.

The controversy over the books and films has cooled over the years. Some parents remain committed to their stand against the stories, expressing dismay that Christians would willingly entertain children with tales in which wizards are heroes and witchcraft is fun. Others have opted to see the magic in the stories as merely a fictional setting in which a classic good-versus-evil story unfolds, often with positive messages along the way.

Our messages to students over the years can be boiled down to these:

1. The Bible teaches that there is a real supernatural world of good and evil. The evil side is populated by Satan and demons. Real self-described witches and wizards in our world sometimes attempt to contact or harness power from those dark sources. The Bible strictly warns Christians to have nothing to do with those things. At all. In any way.

2. In the real spiritual world, supernatural power can come only from God or Satan. In Harry’s world—as in Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and many classic Disney kids films—that power is not necessarily shown as coming from either source. All of those stories reflect a view of a “neutrual” supernatural power as being available to be accessed either for good or evil purposes. That’s a false reflection of reality from a biblical point of view.

3. It is possible to take a story about supernatural things and accept it as mere fiction. In other words, Rowling may be promoting some of the values represented in her stories without necessarily suggesting that people should dabble in real wizardry in the real world—though some undoubtably have followed their fascination with Harry Potter in that direction.

4. If people can enjoy the books and films in good conscience before God—and with the blessing of their parents—then they should be free to do so. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

5. From our observation, the Potter phenomenon has been a problem for some kids in a similar way to the Jonas Brothers phenomenon. It can become an unhealthy obsession or an idol that occupies way too much energy, time, and thought. Parents and students need to keep an eye not just on the content of the entertainment kids consume, but also the level of passion kids devote to fandom, in general. Nothing should take the place of Christ in the center of our lives.

If you’d like to follow these thoughts more closely, feel free to check out our PlanetWisdom.com reviews of Harry Potters one, two, three, four, five, and six.

With that out of the way, Episode 6 of the franchise touches on several big worldview ideas of its own, including things like cheating to help a friend and submitting to authority even when it doesn’t feel right to us. We hope any of the questions that follow might encourage a productive conversation with your child if he or she has seen “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

 

I Love You, Beth Cooper

PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence

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The Story

With the goal of leaving nothing unsaid, high school valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) uses his graduation speech to proclaim his love for the girl he could never bring himself to talk to. He also mockingly calls out the school bully, the school queen bee, and Beth Cooper’s angry army boyfriend. Finally, he announces that his best friend Rich (Jack Carpenter) is gay, something Rich vehemently denies.

That sets into motion a wild graduation night which starts with Denis’s dad (Alan Ruck) encouraging Denis to have fun and use lots of condoms. After an awkward non-party, Denis and Jack end up on the run from Beth Cooper’s homicidal, cocaine-addled boyfriend in Beth’s car.

Beth (Hayden Panettiere) and her two friends Cammy (Lauren London) and Treece (Lauren Sorm) turn out to be up for just about anything, including a lot of drinking, reckless driving, group showering with the guys, hitting a lavish party, saving the boys from big fights, discovering Denis’s parents having sex in a car, and finally a sexual threesome between two of the girls and Rich to test his alleged homosexuality.

Crammed between all the action are a few tender moments between Denis and Beth ripped straight from an 80s John Hughes movie screenplay.

Content Issues

This PG-13 rated teen comedy continues the recent trend of forcibly moving the envelope for what’s allowed under that rating. Sexual content includes the items listed above, plus a quick side shot of Beth naked, a boy and two girls in bed together, and lots of sexual situations and dialogue. Rough language includes uses of God’s name for swearing, along with other profanities. Teen drinking is coupled with teen driving. Older characters are said to be high on various drugs. Fighting leaves no permanent damage, but results in some bleeding.

Worldview Talking Points

We are absolutely not recommending that teens catch “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” In addition to all the obvious objectionable content, it is also painfully unfunny, panned by 92 percent of secular critics at the time of this writing.

Even so—or maybe because of that—some teens will be interested in the film. Fans of the Larry Doyle novel on which it is based and fans of “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere may be especially drawn to the movie.

If you find that your teen has seen it, we’d encourage a conversation about the film. Maybe a few of the questions below will lead to a helpful talk about the worldview issues on display.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

PG for mild humor and peril

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The Story

Seeking a family to call his own, Sid the Sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) becomes a “mom” after the three large eggs he finds hatch, giving birth to baby T-Rex dinosaurs. Angry, the real mom shows up to claim her kids and hauls Sid off with them to a tropical lost world under the ice.

Sid’s “herd”—Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), his pregnant mate Ellie (Queen Latifah), sabertooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and Ellie’s two possum “brothers”—head deep into the underground jungle to rescue him. They are quickly joined by Buck (Simon Pegg), an adventuring weasel driven mad by his isolation and an obsession with a great white dinosaur/dragon known as Rudy.

Armed with a tooth from the beast, the one-eyed Buck guides and protects the group from killer plants and dangerous dino’s. As they close in on Sid—who has made peace with the T-Rex mama—Ellie closes in on giving birth to Manny’s baby at the worst possible moment of their adventure.

Content Issues

The PG rating comes with a little potty humor and a few, mildly crude over-the-kid’s-heads jokes. The film does include life-threatening peril for all involved, though everyone survives. Some of the action might be a little too scary for the youngest kids, judging by the one that kept crying and had to be taken out of the screening I saw.

Worldview Talking Points

Kids who have seen the first two “Ice Age” films might be eager to catch up with Manny and the gang—or they may have grown out of the target demo. The strangely titled “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is getting less love from secular critics than those films, but the franchise continues to offer silly and diverting family fun without an avalanche of potty jokes or preachy political messages.

It would have been natural for the “Ice Age” movies to camp on worldview issues involving global warming and evolution. But all three films mostly skirt those topics to focus instead on what it really means to be a “herd.”

The impending arrival of Manny’s and Ellie’s baby briefly threatens the security of their extended “family.” Diego considers becoming a loner in hopes of recapturing some adventure in his life. Sid seeks out children of his own. But in the end, the tight-knit group reestablish their commitment to each other as being more valuable than simple friendship.

We hope a few of the following questions help to promote some helpful conversation with your kids if you see the movie.

My Sister’s Keeper

PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, sensuality, language and brief teen drinking

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The Story

When parents Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian (Jason Patric) discover their daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) has a rare form of leukemia, they agree to an “off the record” recommendation from their doctor to create a “test tube baby” specially selected to be a perfect match for their sick daughter so the new can donate the blood, morrow, and other cells Kate will require.

Flash forward 11 years: Kate is alive, but often suffers the symptoms of her disease in spite of the many and painful donations she has received from her sister Anna (Abigail Breslin). When it becomes clear Kate will soon need a new kidney, Anna accompanies her brother Jesse (Evan Ellingson) to the office of a prominent attorney (Alec Baldwin) and announces that she wants to sue her parents for the rights to her own body—starting with the right to keep her kidney.

In flashbacks and touching family scenes, two things are clear: The Fitzgerald family is close and loving, but they have also been deeply tested by Kate’s illness. Sara and Brian struggle to maintain their marriage. Kate’s short-lived teen romance with another cancer patient (Thomas Dekker) ends badly. Anna describes herself as having been created as “spare parts” for Kate. Jesse, the middle child, is often simply forgotten or set aside.

Now the family must endure a trial presided over by a compassionate judge (Joan Cusack) as Kate slowly succumbs to her cancer and her failing kidneys.

Content Issues

This is a frank movie about a girl dying from cancer. We see lots of nose-bleeding and vomiting (including throwing up blood), as well as various medical procedures. A little rough language includes the use of God’s and Jesus’ names for swearing. Though it apparently does not happen in Picoult’s novel, Kate does end up in bed and seemingly naked with her boyfriend, having done some sexual “stuff,” we’re told.

Worldview Talking Points

The family and worldview issues available to discuss together after watching “My Sister’s Keeper” are almost too many too list. They include dealing with the ethical issues surrounding family planning options like in-vitro fertilization, genetic selection of children, and using those tools to create life with the intention of using it to treat other life.

In addition, the film deals very frankly with the role of parents in managing their children’s illnesses—and the impact of those decisions on the rest of their children. Mom Sara is a rough saint, attacking as often as she is nurturing—all in the interest of her sick child’s well-being. Forgotten Jesse wrestles with resentment. Anna is both gracious and wounded.

Finally, of course, the story opens the door to conversations about death and the afterlife. The film is nearly silent about the issue of God or any kind of formal theology of heaven or hell. Instead, we hear Kate hopefully suggest she’ll see a loved one on the other side and promise her sister to wait for her at a beloved family vacation spot in Montana if she passes.

We hope a few of the following questions will generate some helpful conversation for you and your child if you happen to see the film.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material

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The Story

To get your head back in the game: Autobots are good. Decepticons are bad. They are metal robot aliens with the ability to transform into any kind of machine, and they’re locked in a civil war because the Autobots believe it’s wrong to harm other races and the Decepticons really like to do that—especially to humans.

After helping the Autobots defeat the Decepticons two years ago, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is off to an East Coast college, hoping to become “normal” by leaving behind his colorful parents and the robot wars—but still maintaining his relationship with motor-loving girlfriend Mikaela (Meagan Fox).

But then the few surviving Decepticons manage to steal the remaining piece of the “allspark” and reawaken their fallen leader Megatron from his watery grave. At the same time, Sam finds another shard of alien technology that implants in his brain visions of ancient symbols. He is quickly attacked by the Decepticons (including one in the form of a human co-ed that apparently wants to have sex with him).

Soon, Sam, Mikaela, Sam’s new college roommate Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), and Sam’s trusty Autobot buddy Bumblebee (a yellow Camaro/giant robot) are on the run for their lives again, looking for answers to stop the Decepticon plot to destroy the earth before it’s too late.

Content Issues

Writer/director Michael Bay is known for his cinematic excesses, and he has amped up both the sex and violence for this sequel. That includes lots of swearing and crude sexual humor, as well as constant action violence with a huge human and robot body count (though not much blood). Two sex-object girls in skimpy clothes are used as set decoration for guys to look at when the robots are off-screen; both girls get physical with Sam, especially the one that straddles him twice before revealing herself as a killer robot with a lethal 6-foot-long metal tongue. Finally, Sam’s mom gets high on pot, talks about hearing him have sex with Mikaela to a group of college girls (“He just got his cherry popped!”), and says other gross stuff for laughs.

Worldview Talking Points

Michael Bay’s first “Transformers” film back in 2007 was well reviewed by critics and did huge box office around the planet. His new film will probably draw an even larger audience, though critics are gleefully dismissing it. “Revenge of the Fallen” is louder, longer, more sexual, and much less fun (in our view). But teens and some tweens who haven’t already seen it will likely be eager to do so, especially guys looking for a summer event outing with their buddies.

Worldview issues within the storyline are big and obvious, but may still be worth talking about. Other discussable issues could involve the philosophy of the film itself, especially its obvious use of sexual images to attract guys and its obvious use of ad placements as a marketing effort.

If your child sees “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” we hope a few of the following questions might help to pull a little productive energy from the film in the form of a conversation with your child that will have benefits after the hype has faded.

The Proposal

PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language

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  • The Story

    In a kind of role reversal, Sandra Bullock plays Margaret, the hard-nosed boss who abuses her employees, and Ryan Reynolds plays her long-suffering assistant Andrew, who endures in hopes of one day becoming a book editor at their successful NYC publishing house.

    When Margaret is threatened with deportation to Canada and the loss of her job, she strongarms Andrew into agreeing to marry (and then quickly divorce) her, even though it requires lying to the INS and his loving, wacky, wealthy family back home in rural Alaska.

    But when the pair are forced to pretend to be romantically involved during a long weekend in Andrew’s home, the arrangement turns out to be harder than it looks—especially when they begin to have genuine feelings for each other.

    Content Issues

    The filmmakers try to pull funny from some crude humor, including a gross-out “exotic dance” for the ladies by Oscar Nu

    Year One

    PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence

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    The Story

    It’s a road trip buddy comedy set in cave man days and the book of Genesis, featuring a couple of early humans who talk and act like regular guys from the 21st century. And it’s a comedy that seems eager to make fun of key elements of the Old Testament.

    Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are booted from their tribe when Zed willfully eats what looks like a golden apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and accidently burns down the village. On the run, they happen upon two brothers named Cain (David Cross) and Able (Paul Rudd), just as one kills the other. At dinner with the rest of Adam’s family that night, the patriarch offers his lesbian daughter Lilith for Zed to “be fruitful” with and a sheep-obsessed son to sleep with Oh.

    Next, Zed and Oh stumble upon Abraham (Hank Azaria) about to sacrifice his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Taking their intrusion as God’s intervention, Abraham spares the boy and later warns them not to go to evil nearby Sodom because God is going to destroy it. When invited to be circumcised along with Isaac, the pair head straight for Sodom to sample the sin and rescue two women from their village back home.

    After becoming unlikely palace guards in Sodom, Zed gets conned into going into the “holy of holies” of Sodom’s gods by Princess Inaana (Olivia Wilde), who wants to see if he’ll really die as she has been taught. Oh is favored by the priest of the gods (Oliver Platt) and made to rub hot oil on his fat, hairy torso.

    Content Issues

    In addition to quite a bit of harsh language, the film includes a whole catalog of crude and sexual humor from onscreen poop-eating, vomiting, and upside-down urinating to numerous, constant jokes about all the obvious sexual body parts, sexual acts, and sexual orientations.

    Worldview Talking Points

    Students who are fans of the cancelled-but-esteemed sit-com “Arrested Development”—and those lured by reviews like this one pointing out all its objectionable content—may be interested in “Year One.” The cast includes “Arrested” alums Michael Cera, David Cross, and others, along with Jack Black and several actors from the comedy troupe of popular filmmaker Judd Apatow.

    Even most secular critics agree, though, that it’s just not that funny. Writer/director Harold Ramis seems to have given his actors lots of room to improvise in hopes of making big comedy, but for whatever reason these funny comedians don’t seem able to come up with the right material to be funny here.

    Worse—and the most obvious point of discussion with any kids who have seen the film—Ramis and co. seemed intent on generating comedy by mocking stories from the Bible, along with the idea of faith in God or gods. They make a joke out of Cain’s killing of Able, Abraham’s faith in a God who talks to him (including God’s covenant promise), and the many sins of the people Sodom which God chose punish by destroying the town—something that never happens in the film.

    Obviously, we’re not recommending the film to anyone. It manages both to mock God’s Word and be dull at the same time; a whole row of younger people walked out in the middle of the screening I attended. But if your son or daughter did see the film, we hope of a few of these questions will generate some productive conversation about it.

    • What did you think of this movie? Who are some of your favorite performers from the cast?
    • Do you think the idea of the movie was good, to set a couple of modern-sounding guys in the middle of ancient history?
    • Lots of critics hated the movie. Why do you think they disliked it so badly?
    • Were you surprised by how crude the film was? Why or why not?
    • Does it bother you when movies seem to be mocking the Bible or faith in God?
    • Do you believe those stories shown in the film—Cain and Able, Abraham sacrificing Isaac, God’s judgment of Sodom—really happened historically? Why or why not?
    • What is the danger of making jokes about things that God’s Word shows He takes very seriously?
    • To the best of your memory, what really happened between Cain and Able?
    • The movie got a lot of the details of Cain’s story right, in a way. Why do you think someone who knows it so well would think it’s funny to make fun of the story?
    • The film almost makes Abraham seem like a crazy person who thinks that God talks to him, telling Him to kill his son, circumcise people, and making big promises about lots of land. Do you remember anything God’s Word says about Abraham’s faith? (Parents: Think about reading about Abraham’s faith in Hebrews 11:8-19.)
    • Why do you think so many people in the world think of faith in God as a joke?
    • Why do you believe in God? Do you think your faith in God is reasonable?
    • Do you think it’s dangerous to mock God’s Word or belief in Him? Why or why not? (Parent: Think about reading Galatians 6:7-8 with your student.)
    • Do you remember what the Bible says really happened to the city of Sodom and why? (Parent: Think about reading Genesis 19 together.)
    • Why do you think God takes sin so seriously?
    • Do you think we take sin seriously enough, given how big of deal it is to God?
    • We all sin. Why doesn’t God destroy us for our sin? (Parent: Be sure to emphasize God’s punishment of our sin through Jesus on the cross—as well as God’s grace and forgiveness to those who trust in Jesus.)
    • Do you think it hurts anything for us to watch movies like “Year One”? What’s the danger of being entertained or laughing along with stories that seem to be mocking God and faith in Him?

    Imagine That

    PG for some mild language and brief questionable behavior

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    The Story

    Murphy plays Evan, a divorced, workaholic dad who can barely bring himself to focus on his young daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi) during their weekends together. She entertains herself with her imagination and her goo-ga, a cherished security blanket.

    When Olivia’s imaginary friends start making accurate stock picks, though, Evan becomes a believer in Olivia’s world and selfishly uses their time together to get ahead at work. But eventually it becomes clear that Olivia needs more from him than just business conversations with her and her magical friends.

    Content Issues

    Some mild language (including a few uses of God’s name for swearing) is the only obvious issue in this PG-rated family film. The story also involves Olivia’s supernatural “imaginary” world—something a wanna-be Native American business associate unsuccessfully tries to tap into using American Indian spirituality, his own young son, and large doses of Red Bull—but the real source of that power is never really addressed.

    Worldview Talking Points

    The workaholic parent story has been told many times before, so there’s nothing really new going on here. But “Imagine That” does include some real humor and some sweet moments between father and son.

    The most obvious worldview message is the one directed at parents: “Care more about your family than you do about making money.” It’s rarely that simple, of course, but if your kids happen to see the film it might offer an opportunity to bring the issue up with them.

    We hope a few of the following questions might lead to exactly that conversation.

    • Did you like “Imagine That”? Why or why not?
    • Do you remember having imaginary friends or a special blanket when you were younger? If so, do you think that was a good thing?
    • In the movie, the dad is a workaholic. He wants to provide for his family, but he also just loves working. Do you ever feel like anyone in our family is a workaholic?
    • The dad in the movie didn’t have enough time for his daughter. Do you ever feel like we don’t have enough time for you? Do you ever wish one or both of your parents wouldn’t work so much?
    • If we could spend more time together, what are the kinds of things you’d like us to do?
    • Do you understand why we have to work so many hours sometimes?
    • What are some ways that we could make better use of the time we do have to spend together?
    • What are some of the things we’ve done together in the last few months that you’ve really enjoyed?
    • Do you feel like you ever get so obsessed with something that you just can’t get enough of it?
    • When does an interest in something, even a good thing, become unhealthy?
    • Jesus told His followers that it’s impossible to serve both God and money. (See Matthew 6:19-24.) How do you think we tend to do in our family at serving God first?
    • One of the ways parents serve God is by making enough money for their families to live on. Another way we serve God is by spending time with our kids. How do you think parents should find the balance between work and family?
    • What are some things in your life you wish you could keep a better balance in? Does it ever bother you to have to sacrifice one thing you care about to do another important thing? How do you choose?

    Land of the Lost

    PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and for language including a drug reference

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    The Story

    In this re-imagining of the beloved 70s kids show, Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) is scientist whose dream of finding a pathway to other dimensions is reawakened when a british grad student (Anna Friel, “Pushing Daisies”) urges him to continue his work.

    While seeking a gateway to a “time warp” at a rundown amusement park in the desert, the pair and their rundown tour guide Will Stanton (Danny McBride) are sucked into a swirling vortext. Deposited into a tropical/desert region full of artifacts from other times and dimensions, they are quickly befriended by local monkey boy Chaka (Jorma Taccone) and hunted by a T. Rex they nickname Grumpy.

    To return home and gloat at skeptic Matt Lauer, Dr. Marshall and the gang must find his lost “tachyon amplifier” and help stop an alien villain from destroying the universe.

    Content Issues

    Far from being a family film, “Land of the Lost” has been repurposed as a PG-13 comedy full of sex and potty jokes, as well prolonged, unfunny drug sequence in which Ferrell, McBride, and the monkey boy get high together on some kind of alien flower juice. A repeated joke involves Chaka putting his hands on Holly’s breasts. While high, Dr. Marshall tells Chaka he loves him a million times more than Jesus loved the world when He was dying on the cross. (Why go there?) God’s name is also used in vain, along with various other harsh language.

    Worldview Talking Points

    Most parents of teens are about the right age to remember watching the low-fi sci-fi kids show “Land of the Lost”—or at least to have seen the reruns over the years on TV. Many carry a bit of nostalgia for it.

    A remake starring Will Ferrell sounded like comedy gold, but even most secular critics have panned the film for missing the funny. Some have pointed out that the audience for the film has become pretty narrow, since it’s clearly not for kids and isn’t likely to appeal to the grown-up fans of the show.

    Some teens, however, might be attracted to the absurd, trippy nature of the film or Ferrell’s presence in it.

    Worldview messages don’t play a significant part in the silly story—and the ones included are played for laughs—but one or two of the questions below might help get you into a conversation with your son or daughter about the movie.

    • Did you think “Land of the Lost” was funny? Why or why not?
    • If you’ve ever seen the TV show, did you like it?
    • Do you normally like Will Ferrell movies? What are some of your favorite Ferrell films?
    • “Land of the Lost” is a silly movie. Do you think it made any serious points about truth?
    • Why do you think Dr. Marshall stopped working on his project after Matt Lauer made fun of him on national TV?
    • Who are the skeptics in your life? Who is ready to make fun of you for what you believe or think you can accomplish?
    • Does being mocked for those things make you feel like giving up—or like trying harder to prove that person wrong?
    • Although it’s all for laughs, Holly is the person who convinces Dr. Marshall to keep trying, to keep believing in himself. Who in your life encourages you to believe you can accomplish what you set out to do?
    • Do skeptics sometimes do us a favor when we’re wrong? Can a good skeptic wake us up and get us to let go of something that was a bad idea to start with?
    • How do you know what to keep believing and what to let go of?
    • Should you always believe in yourself? Why or why not?
    • Who encourages you to keep believing in God and that He can do anything in your life that He sets out to do?
    • Is it ever a bad idea to believe in God and His mission for you? Does anyone in your life criticize you for believing that?

    Drag Me to Hell

    PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language

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    The Story

    When bank loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) rejects an old, gypsy woman’s pitiful, weeping request for an extension on her home loan, the woman (Lorna Raver) takes her revenge by placing a powerful, demonic curse on Christine, dooming her to hell.

    The manifestations of that curse include gruesome, disturbing attacks by the old woman, what may be her ghost, and a powerful demon. Unable to escape the curse or initially to convince her boyfriend (Justin Long) that it is real, Christine seeks help from a medium who guides her in a seance and sacrifice in an attempt to appease the demon.

    As Christine runs out of options, she must decide who she is willing to hurt and what she is willing to attempt to escape the consequences for her wrong choices.

    Content Issues

    Although this horror film is rated PG-13, our reviewer at PlanetWisdom.com doesn’t believe it should be seen by anyone under 16. In additions to uses of God’s name for swearing and other harsh language, the film intends to gross viewers out and succeeds with highly disturbing imagery. Demonic forces and spirits violently attack people both externally and by possessing them, leading to violence that is pervasive, genuinely scary and, yes, really really gross.

    Worldview Talking Points

    Obviously, we’re not recommending that kids and teens see “Drag Me to Hell.” However, we’re aware that will make many students want to see it all the more strongly. Adding to the excitement of their friends, “Drag” is one of the best-reviewed horror movies by secular critics in a long, long time.

    Director Sam Raimi is best known for helming all 3 of the popular “Spider-Man” films, but he got his start with horror movies like “Evil Dead.” Secular critics are hailing the film’s effective scares, technical achievements, sense of humor, and all-around storytelling.

    But it’s still a movie about a demonic curse, demon possession, sin, repentance, and hell. Those are big theological issues that warrant serious discussion with your child if he or she happens to see the film. Most at stake any time a fear of hell is generated is a clear understanding of the gospel.

    Maybe a few of the questions below with help to kick off that conversation. One goal is to evaluate and support your student’s confidence in the effectiveness of God’s grace to save us from hell.

    • Did you enjoy “Drag Me to Hell”?
    • Does it make sense to be entertained by a story about someone doomed to hell and cursed by a demon if you really believe in an actual hell and real demons? Why or why not?
    • Are you a fan of director Sam Raimi and any of his other movies?
    • Raimi said this about the movie:

      Up

      PG for some peril and action

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      The Story

      Reeling in grief over the loss of his wife and lifelong best friend Ellie, Karl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), 78, decides to finally go on the trip they’d dreamed of taking together since they were kids watching newsreels of globetrotting adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). So he fills thousands of balloons with helium, strings them through his old house’s fireplace, and lifts off into the blue sky—with an unwitting stowaway named Russell (Jordan Nagai).

      Looking to earn his final Wilderness Explorer badge for helping the elderly, the boy gets the chance when the unlikely duo somehow succeed in finding Paradise Falls and landing just short of it. Together, they start marching toward it, towing the still-airborn old house by the still-attached hose.

      Soon, though, they are befriended by a large, rare do-do style bird who likes Russell’s chocolate and a goofy dog with a specially-designed collar named Dug (Bob Peterson). Carl tries to ditch the animals and keeps marching toward the falls until the whole group is apprehended by a small army of mean, talking dogs and taken to their mysterious leader, a dangerous man willing to kill the adventurers to capture Russell’s new bird friend for himself.

      Content Issues

      The movie might be a bit scary in place for younger tots and sensitive kids might feel the movie’s deep sense of sadness, but the PG rating is mostly just for exciting adventure danger and the threat of deadly peril.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Up” is a fantastic movie and a natural addition to Pixar’s library in every way we’ve come to expect. The stylized animation is still breathtaking; the characters are well-developed; and director Pete Docter’s storytelling is engrossing. From the moment the house is lifted into the air, you can’t imaging where this film will land.

      “Up” is also laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s built on a foundation of grief and loss. The opening sequence, nearly dialogue free, tells the sweet story of Carl’s life with Ellie, including as touchpoints the discovery of their infertility, their plans to travel to South America, and how those plans are regularly thwarted by the unexpected expenses of life. The grief that accompanies their final parting in death is not only sad, it’s what the story is about.

      Yes, that’s far from the basis of your typical kids movie, but younger ones won’t likely care too much when the house starts flying and the giant bird starts pecking and the talking dogs start flying airplanes. But Carl’s struggle to deal with the loss of his wife—and young Russell’s obvious pain at the absence of his dad—are perfect conversation starters for using a film like “Up” to talk about the deeper truths of life from a biblical perspective.

      A few of the questions below might get that conversational ball rolling.

      • What are some of your favorite Pixar movies? How does “Up” rank for you in that list?
      • Which was your favorite character in the film?
      • What were some of the funniest moments in the movie?
      • What kinds of things do you think a dog would really say if it could talk?
      • Were you surprised how sad the movie was in the beginning? Did you expect that from an animated movie like this?
      • Do you know anyone who has not been able to have kids or who has lost a husband or wife or a dad? How do you think people deal with that kind of sadness?
      • How does being a Christian change or help us in dealing with sadness like that?
      • How important is it that we try to make our dreams come true in this life?
      • Do you think God owes us the right to have any of our specific dreams come true? What does it mean to give our dreams to Him and to let Him give us a new calling?
      • How important is it that we see our everyday lives as a gift, a kind of adventure of their own, provided for us by God who loves us? Do you think our family usually looks at life that way? Why or why not?
      • How are people who believe in Jesus able to find love, hope, and joy in the middle of our everyday lives?
      • What is our greatest hope in life, as followers of Jesus?
      • Russell is a funny kid. Do you know anyone kind of like him?
      • Russell carries a deep sadness about his dad being gone so much. How important are dads in the lives of their kids?
      • How important is it for other men to step up to help meet some of that need in the lives of kids who don’t have dads nearby?
      • How do you think our church does at providing for the needs of women without husbands and kids without dads?
      • What could we as a family do to help that?
      • Do you think being a Christian means we shouldn’t have any suffering in our lives? How can suffering be a good thing for a Christian, even if it’s still very painful? (See Romans 5:3-5.)
      • How has God given our family comfort during some of the sad moments of our life? Did any of that comfort come through other people in our lives?
      • How can we give comfort to people who are hurting? Does it matter that we try to do that? (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
      • What’s the greatest comfort we could offer to someone who doesn’t have a relationship with God through Jesus?
      • How interested are you in seeing next year’s Pixar movie, “Toy Story 3”?

       

      Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

      PG for mild action and brief language

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      The Story

      Some time after the first “Night at the Museum” movie, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) finds unlikely success by starting his own business selling lame inventions on infomercials, but the money doesn’t make him happy. Back at the Museum of Natural History, all of the exhibits are being packed up and shipped to the Smithsonian Museum for long-term storage, replaced by computer-generated holographic displays.

      Then Larry gets a call from Jedidiah Smith (Owen Wilson). Apparently the villainous Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), brother of the benevolent Ahkmenrah from the original, is trying to steal the magical tablet that brings museum artifacts to life and unleash a horrible army from the underworld.

      Larry springs to action, sneaking into the Smithsonian to find the tablet and rescue his friends. Along the way he picks up a sidekick, the infectiously peppy Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams). The misadventures abound as half the Smithsonian comes to life, including gangsters, items from the Air and Space Museum, and all kinds of art.

      Content Issues

      God’s name is used as profanity a few times, and there’s lots of mostly slapstick adventure violence. Larry and Amelia do some kissing, and we hear a couple of silly over-tots-heads sexual references. Also, the tablet is based on some kind of Egyptian magic, and the bad guy wants to call forth an “army of the damned” from the underworld.

      Worldview Talking Points

      The first “Night at the Museum” movie was a big hit with families back in 2006, and we’d expect this one to do well with kids, as well, though it might be a tad less fun for parents.

      It’s largest worldview message has to do with Larry’s realization that he was happier as a night security guard hanging out with all of his historical friends than he is as a rich and successful businessman. It forces him to question what being successful really means.

      Of course, all of the history coming to life in this story may open up some opportunities for conversation about history, art, and science. Our hope is that a few of the worldview questions below would also lead to a chance to talk to your son or daughter about issues of treasure.

      • Which did you like better, the first “Night at the Museum” or this one?
      • Which of the characters, current or historical, was your favorite in this film? Do you think there were too many characters?
      • Do you have any favorite museums that you’ve been to in person?
      • Of the museums you’ve seen with your own eyes, what artifacts or people would you want to see come to life? Any you would definitely not want to see come to life?
      • How important is it that we learn about and understand history? Do you think it’s fun to study history? Do you think it matters today?
      • In the film, Larry has become a successful businessman, but he’s not happy. Why is that?
      • Do you think it’s possible to be poor or have a low-status job and still be happy? Why or why not?
      • Jesus told his followers not to make their lives about getting “treasures” on earth. How much of our lives do you think should be about making money?
      • Jesus said we should store up our treasures in heaven. How do we do that? Do you think our family is investing in any treasures for ourselves in heaven? How so?
      • Do you think Larry will still be happy a month or two after the end of this film? Why or why not?
      • Jesus said that where our treasure is, our hearts will be also. Where would you say your treasure is? Where do you think my treasure is?
      • In the movie, Amelia was all about having fun—even sometimes when it cost her something valuable. How much should we care about having fun in life?
      • It’s good to have fun, and sometimes having fun is a choice. Do you think our family works hard enough at having fun together? Do you think we ever worry too much about having fun?
      • How can we have fun together and still work at serving others instead of ourselves?

      Terminator Salvation

      PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and language

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      The Story

      After donating his body to science, convicted murderer Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is executed in 2003 only to wake up in 2018 with no idea that most of humanity has been wiped out in a nuclear holocaust perpetrated against humanity by Skynet, a global network of supercomputers and robots.

      Looking for answers, Marcus meets a teenage boy and a young mute girl. The boy is Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who will go back in time as a man to fall in love with and impregnate Sarah Connor. Their son John (Christian Bale) will grow up to become the leader of the human resistance in 2018.

      But that reality is threatened when Kyle is captured by Skynet robots and taken to their headquarters in San Francisco, leading both Marcus and John Connor to plan desperate rescue attempts to get Kyle and the little girl out alive before its too late.

      Content Issues

      Explosive and hand-to-hand action violence takes a serious number of lives in the gritty future of 2018. All of it is intense and some of it is bloody and bone-cracking. In one scene, a woman is threatened by 3 potential rapists/attackers (though they don’t succeed). Harsh language is heard, along with uses of God’s name for swearing.

      Worldview Talking Points

      As you might suspect with a movie called “Salvation” set in a time after “Judgment Day,” the “Terminator” worldview is built on biblical themes in the largest sense of the word. The first 3 time travel action movies (and 1 brief TV series) ask the question, “Is there anything we can do to avoid the apocalypse?”

      But “Salvation” director McG and his team mostly skip dealing with that bigger idea in this 4th film. For one thing, the story is set after the apocalypse has already happened. Instead, any worldview ideas tucked in between the nearly non-stop action have to do with what it means to be human.

      The film’s answer is that is has a lot to do with self-sacrifice, courage, compassion, and patience—that we must work at “being human” in order to bring meaning to our lives with or without machines.

      In our PlanetWisdom review for students, we pointed out that God’s Word describes being human both as being made in God’s image, but also as being fully corrupted by sin and unable to provide our own goodness, meaning for life, or—certainly—our own salvation.

      If your son or daughter sees “Terminator Salvation,” we hope a few of the following questions might help provoke a productive conversation about some aspect of the film.

      • How do you feel about “Terminator” as an action movie series or a TV show? Would you say you’re a fan?
      • Do you think the movie was a letdown or worth the time to see it?
      • After seeing the film, why do you think it was called “Terminator Salvation”?
      • Why do you think the humans refer to the initial nuclear attack by the machines as “Judgment Day”? Who was being judged and for what?
      • The movie doesn’t really say anything about God. Would a biblical worldview fit into this story? Why or why not?
      • Do you think our growing dependence on technology is healthy thing? A dangerous thing? Either way, is there anything we can do about that?
      • Do you think some people have more respect for or fear of technology than they do of God? Does God seem less impressive in our high-tech age?
      • The Bible teaches there will be a “Day of the Lord” or a Judgment Day. Who will be judged on that day and for what?
      • In as few words as possible, how would you explain where salvation from that Judgment Day really comes from?
      • If you could go back or forward in time, where would you go and why?

      Angels & Demons

      PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material

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      The Story

      The Pope has died, four cardinals in line for the vacancy have been kidnapped, and the bad guys have left a clue. It’s an ancient symbol of the Illuminati, a super-secret organization of powerful “scientists” formed and driven underground in the middle ages by the Catholic Church. Now they’ve risen again to take their revenge.

      That includes a threat to blow up Vatican City and half of Rome with a little, newly created vile of “antimatter.” One of the scientists who helped to create it, Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), arrives at the Vatican just as Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) shows up, as well.

      Yes, in spite of the whole deal in the last movie of uncovering evidence that proves Christianity is basically a big, fat lie, the Vatican still needs the world-renown expert in symbols and Christian history to help them figure out who the Illuminati are before they kill the four missing cardinals (one each hour) and blow up the Vatican (at the stroke of midnight).

      Content Issues

      Lots of brutal violence punctuates this PG-13 rated film. It includes images of dead, dying, and mutilated bodies, including more than one in flames, and multiple onscreen and offscreen murders. God’s names is also used for swearing, along with several profanities.

      Worldview Talking Points

      The movie sequel to “The Da Vinci Code”  arrived with a fraction of the controversy generated by that book and film. For one thing, Ron Howard’s take on Dan Brown’s novel is careful to avoid directly attacking the heart of Christian theology this time around. Instead, he offers a more straightforward and grisly little thriller built around solving some ancient clues to find secret locations in the heart of Rome.

      The worldview issues that remain have to do with Robert Langdon’s stated lack of faith in God, the science/religion debate, and the tendency for power to become corrupt even in religious settings. After an official Vatican paper called the film “harmless entertainment,” any remaining heat about the film was mostly media-fueled or generated by Christians pointing out obvious factual problems with Dan Brown’s body of fictionalized theology.

      More information about the film’s historical and scientific factual errors can be found in this quick ChrstianPost story. For a thorough exploration of the book and film from a Christian perspective, click over to The Truth About Angels & Demons. (And if interested in Brown’s other work: The Truth About The Da Vinci Code.)

      Is it worth discussing with your teen? Perhaps, if they see the film or are drawn to it, talking about it may provide a teachable moment or two about truth and fiction, the deity of Jesus, and the history of the Catholic church. One or two of the following questions may help.

      • Have you read either “The Da Vinci Code” or “Angels & Demons”? What did you think of them? Are you looking forward to his new book coming out in the fall?
      • If you read the book, how did this film compare? Do you think the filmmakers and actors did a good job bringing it to life?
      • Do you remember what “The Da Vinci Code” said about Jesus, God, and the Bible? Were you surprised how many people took seriously a fiction story about finding evidence that Jesus was not really the Son of God? Do you think a novel like that is really hurtful to what people believe about truth?
      • Does it really matter if we believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that He was crucified, that He was resurrected, that faith in Him is the only path to being in heaven forever with God?
      • Do you have any friends that read and believed either of these books to be true, even though they were fiction?
      • According to surveys, many people who read these books did believe them to some extent. Why do you think some people may be eager to believe that Jesus is not the Son of God, that Christianity is essentially a lie?
      • Does it bother you that Dan Brown’s books and films seem to enjoy attacking Christianity and the Catholic Church?
      • Did you enjoy the shots in and around Rome? Would you ever want to go there and explore the city, especially to discover some of the roots of biblical Christianity?
      • The movie tries to make a big deal about the disputes between science and religion, eventually saying the two should not be opposed to each other. Do you think science and biblical faith have to be opposed to each other? Why or why not?
      • How do you think Paul’s words in Romans 1:20 should influence how we think about science from a biblical point of view?

      X-Men Origins: Wolverine

      PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity

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      The Story

      “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” takes us back before the 3 “X-Men” films to hear the backstory of the one with the pointy retractable claws and the anger issues. Turns out Logan (Hugh Jackman) was just a pup on the day in 1845 when his father dies and he discovers his powers, including the fierce-looking bones that protrude from his fists and the fact that it’s really hard for him to die. He also discovers a brother, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), with pointy teeth and lethal fingernail claws.

      The pair become a never-aging fighting force, lending their killing power to the Civil War, WW I and II, and the Vietnam War—until recruited by Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston). Stryker adds them to a special ops team of other mutants for black ops missions around the world. Logan leaves the group—and his brother—over their treatment of innocent civilians.

      Flash forward a few years: Logan’s quiet Canadian life with his girlfriend is disrupted when first Stryker, then Victor, track him down and drag him into a growing conflict between the mutants. Before the story is done, Logan will find his bones fused with an indestructible alien alloy—making him even less likely to die—and a new mutant named Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) will have been formed with the combined deadly powers of several other mutants to force an inevitable showdown.

      Content Issues

      Not only is there lots of action violence in the film—some of it brutal, yet strangely bloodless—there’s also a high body count that includes innocent bystanders and mutant combatants. Logan and his lady live together unmarried; we see both in bed, in revealing attire, and later him nude from behind running for his life from bad guys. Harsh language is constant and includes uses of God’s and Jesus’ names for swearing.

      Worldview Talking Points

      The first big blockbuster of the “summer” kicks off with plenty of hype and a nearly guaranteed teen audience, especially guys. Those hungry for the rewarding storytelling experiences that came with last year’s “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” may be disappointed, but the action and special effect deliver enough heat to make it feel like summer.

      This “X-Men” outing worries less about the big worldview issue of evolution, though that’s foundational to the “X-Men” universe in which mutant powers are the result of the next step in the forward advancement of the human species. In fact, “Wolverine” offers very little satisfying worldview meat to chew on, at all.

      It borrows heavily from “Dark Knight” in its tone, killing off innocent and major characters one after another without much of a second thought. But it doesn’t follow the Batman, Spider-Man, or even Iron Man films in dealing much with issues of right and wrong, good and evil, or justice and forgiveness.

      Logan is the only character who appears to be motivated by moral choices, at all. And even his right choices come across as mostly self-serving. He certainly doesn’t often stand up against evil in a heroic way. And the evil he does fight—especially that of his brother—is also watered down. What do the bad guys really want?

      We hope a few of the following questions will provoke some good conversation with your son or daughter about any big ideas that emerge from watching “Wolverine.”

      • How would you rank “Wolverine” when compared with the other “X-Men” movies? How about when compared to recent superhero movies like “The Dark Knight,” “Iron Man,” and the Spider-Man films?
      • Is Wolverine your favorite of the “X-Men”? If not, who is?
      • How would you describe the film’s main message or big ideas?
      • What assumptions does the story make about evolution and natural selection? Does the world of the X-Men seem to suggest that mutations generally result in favorable change in species? In the real world, such mutation usually leads to illness or disability. Does it ever result in beneficial change for the human species?
      • Do you think Logan should have been held accountable for his killings over the years? How about Victor/Sabertooth? Are both of them criminals by legal standards? Why or why not?
      • Do you think Logan’s choice to walk away from Stryker’s group was a moral choice? Was he standing up for what he believed in or just getting away from something he didn’t want to be a part of? Do you think he should have accepted some responsibility for stopping Stryker’s group (and his brother) from hurting others?
      • Logan is drawn into standing against bad guys by his desire for revenge. Is revenge ever a valid motive for taking action? Why or why not?
      • What would you say is the difference between a desire for justice and an appetite for revenge? Does Logan ever seem to be motivated by providing justice?
      • Do you think people with more power are more responsible to stand for what’s right and against what’s wrong?
      • What kind of power do we have as Christians and what can we do with that power? (See Ephesians 2:18-20, for starters.)
      • Peter Parker likes to talk about the great responsibility that comes with great power. Did anyone in this film see their power as a responsibility?
      • What does your power—whatever form it takes—make you responsible for? (See Luke 12:48.)
      • What other superhero movies are you looking forward to seeing in the next year or two?

      Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

      PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference

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      The Story

      Photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) specializes in shooting and having sex with lingerie models and starlets. He feels the same way about love and commitment that Charles Dickens’ miserly Ebenezer Scrooge felt about kindness and charity; they’re worthless. He’s not a good guy.

      While at a weekend wedding for his younger brother, Connor’s behavior is especially deplorable. After trying to talk the couple out of getting married, since love is only for the “weak and uneducated,” he tries to seduce the mother of the bride and generally proceeds to ruin the wedding—much to the dismay of his childhood sweetheart Jenny (Jennifer Garner).

      Soon, though, he is visited by the ghost of his dead, playboy uncle (Michael Douglas), who correctly predicts the Dickens-style visits of the ghosts of girlfriends past, present, and future. Will these glimpses provoke the self-addicted player to change his ways?

      Content Issues

      Sex, sex and more sex. The characters talk about it, joke about it, and stand around half-naked while talking and joking about it. Thankfully, we’re spared seeing any of it acted out (though we do see before-and-after scenes). There’s also plenty of alcohol consumed, mild profanity, and at least a dozen instances of God’s name used as swearing.

      Worldview Talking Points

      Your child may or may not be interested in this PG-13 rated mash up between a sex comedy and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”—and you may or may not be interested in letting them see it.

      If they already have seen it, though, you might want to use the occasion to talk about some of the worldview issues on display in the film. A few of these questions might help. (You’ll see that some of the questions are pretty frank. Like the film, they may not be appropriate for all kids—or all parent/child relationships.)

      • Do you know anyone who seems to care only about sex? Why do you think someone would make that the point of their whole life?
      • Do you think it worked to use the plot of Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” for a romantic/sex comedy? Why or why not?
      • After being visited by the ghosts, Connor changes his mind about love and marriage. He seems to agree that love is more important than lust. Does that mean that the movie has a good message? Why or why not?
      • Does a film that shows so many sexual images—and makes so many crude jokes about sex—really “mean it” when it tries to say at the end that love and marriage are better than lust and one-night stands?
      • At the beginning of the story, Connor’s sexual worldview seems to be that everyone should have as much sex as they want without having to worry about love or commitment. How would you describe his sexual worldview at the end of the story?
      • Do you think he would say that sex should be saved for marriage? Why or why not?
      • What would you say is the Bible’s sexual worldview?
      • Why do you think God and His Word make such a big deal about sexual purity? What is God’s motive for His commands about sex?
      • What would you say are some of the benefits and negative consequences of having sexual experiences with people you’re not married to?
      • We believe that God forgives sinful choices. Do you think someone who has gone against God’s instructions can start again?
      • What do you think are the odds that someone with Connor’s sexual history will be able to be faithful to just one woman, especially without seeking help from God?

      Fighting

      PG-13 for intense fight sequences, some sexuality and brief strong language

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      The Story

      After seeing Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) throw a few punches in a street fight, small-time NYC hustler Harvey Boarden (Terrance Howard) introduces him to the underground world of street fighting for money with big spenders betting on the action. Fresh from Alabama, Shawn is hungry to make some money and is content to let Harvey manage him and even put him up in his small apartment. A few surprisingly successful fights later, the unlikely pair find themselves beginning to attract serious dough.

      Most of the story unfolds away from the fights, as Shawn falls for a pretty waitress (Zulay Henao) and Harvey starts working angles to capitalize on his new fighter. Harvey longs to gain some of the status he lost years earlier to rival criminals like Martinez (Luis Guzman), a man who once broke Harvey’s leg for a loan shark for $100.

      All of the new relationships are threatened, though, when Shawn’s refusal to back down comes up against Harvey’s instinct to go for a big score on the night of a showdown fight with one of Shawn’s fiercest rivals.

      Content Issues

      Regular harsh language includes many uses of the s-word, especially, along with uses of God’s name for swearing. Every bout is fought until one fighter is unconscious. For all the bare-fisted pummeling and sleeper-holds, though, there is surprisingly little blood or obvious damage or broken spines. Sexual content includes several revealingly dressed women, as well as an extended scene in which Shawn and his girlfriend begin to have sex. He is seen with his shirt off in bed afterward.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Fighting” is very much a naturalistic, low-budget, grittier “Rocky”-style genre picture, but it is somewhat artfully made and features good performances from the talented Terrance Howard, as well as the up-and-comer Channing Tatum. Teens who have seen Mr. Tatum in the “Step Up” films or “She’s the Man” might be curious, in spite of the more violent nature of this film.

      It’s another movie that gets us rooting for a couple of likable, down-on-their-luck criminals. Both are outwardly sweet-natured guys—especially in their setting—and the film’s worldview is that their success flows from believing in themselves more often than not.

      We challenged the film’s idea of success, to a point, in our review for students at PlanetWisdom.com. Some of the discussion questions below might provide helpful teachable moments if you and/or your teen have seen the movie.

      • Did you like the fight scenes in “Fighting”? Why or why not?
      • Do you think it was realistic that nobody got hurt worse than they seemed to during those fights?
      • How dangerous do you think it would really be to participate in underground, no-rules fights like these?
      • Was the story and acting better or worse than you expected? Were you surprised by how gritty the filmmaking was?
      • When the movie was over, who had succeeded? How did they get there? What made their success possible?
      • Do you think any of the ways that Harvey and Shawn made money in this story were legal? Does that matter?
      • What makes someone good? Can a person be called good if he makes his living off illegal activities and/or stealing from people who are also criminals?
      • Partly, the movie seems to reward especially Shawn’s confidence in himself. Does it really make sense to “believe in yourself” if you’re also a criminal?
      • If you succeed as a criminal—and make lots and lots of money and win all of your fights—could you really say that you’ve succeeded in something that matters in life?
      • If not, how would you define success?
      • Which is a better question: “Am I getting what I want out of life?” or “Is God getting what He wants out of me?”
      • If you could actually achieve one or the other, which do you honestly think would make you happier? Why?
      • How is the world’s kind of wisdom that tells us to go for whatever we want out of life different from God’s kind of wisdom? (See James 3:17-18.)

      Obsessed

      PG-13 for sexual material including some suggestive dialogue, some violence and thematic content

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      The Story

      Life couldn’t be better for Derek (Idris Elba), a successful young business man with a beautiful wife (Beyonce Knowles), a great son, a big promotion, and a brand new house. But Lisa (Ali Larter), the new secretarial temp in his office, is about to change all of that.

      Determined to steal Derek for herself, the unbalanced Lisa manipulates her way into the role of his assistant, subtly sabotages his relationship with his wife Sharon, and finally corners him in the men’s room at an office party to try to seduce him.

      Derek resists, but his hesitation to fully disclose everything to his wife threatens their relationship and all of Derek’s formerly happy existence. That little bit of secrecy is all Lisa needs to make her next move.

      Content Issues

      This is a movie about sexual infidelity, so we see plenty of sexual situations and hear lots of talk about it. Violence includes one brawl to the death, and strong language includes uses of both God’s and Jesus’ name for swearing.

      Worldview Talking Points

      This predictable little thriller might draw in a few teens because of the cast. Everyone knows Beyonce, and some will be curious to see “Heroes” star Ali Larter and “The Wire” star Idris Elba on the big screen. Others will just be curious about the sexual content played up in the trailer.

      The film’s central message comes across as a warning to men to run away screaming when cornered by an eager adulteress—and to tell the truth about it to your wife, the police, maybe the newspaper.

      That perspective is echoed in the Bible, of course, in the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, as well as in Proverbs 7 where Solomon warns young men that death waits for them on the other side of the adulteress’s door.

      A few of the following questions might help to stir up some conversation with your teen about these issues.

      • Did you like the story told in “Obsessed”? Do you enjoy Beyonce more as an actress or a singer?
      • Derek never really gave in to Lisa completely, but he could have made some much better choices. What were some of his mistakes along the way?
      • What did it cost Derek not to take seriously the danger posed by Lisa’s advances and manipulations?
      • Why do you think he didn’t make better choices or take the threat more seriously?
      • Can you make wrong choices about sex and dating relationships even if you don’t give in fully to sexual temptation? How can “just flirting” or “just making out” lead to trouble? What’s the point of flirting or making out if you’re not going to have sex with that person?
      • How would the story have been different if Derek had just refused to lie, period? Does lying ever make anything better? Why do you think God hates lying so much?
      • Do movies like this really work as a warning to people to take the dangers of sexual temptation more seriously? Why or why not?

      The Soloist

      PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language

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      The Story

      Based on true story from a book by “L.A. Times” columnist Steve Lopez (played by Robert Downey, Jr.), “The Soloist” explores Lopez’s relationship with a homeless man he first encounters on the streets of Los Angeles skillfully playing a violin with just two strings. Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is a once-promising cellist who bombed out of the famed Julliard music school due to his encroaching mental illness.

      Lopez is fascinated by Ayers and writes a column about him, but he also begins to care about the man as a friend and wonders what he can do to help him. One of Lopez’s readers donates a cello for Ayers, who is appreciative to Lopez. But even as the pair begin to bond, Ayers’ disability remains.

      How far should Lopez go to interject himself into Ayers’s life? Should the homeless man be forced off of the streets and into a facility? Should he be made to take drugs? Can performing music really heal his mind, in a way? None of the answers are easy or obvious.

      Content Issues

      The film is rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, and drug use. The language is pretty strong for a movie with this rating, with several uses of God

      State of Play

      PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content

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      The Story

      Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), a rumpled old-school newspaper journalist, faces pressure from his editor (Helen Mirren) to use his friendship with a congressman (Ben Affleck) caught in a breaking sex-and-suicide scandal to get to the bottom of the story.

      When the story seems to be connected to a shooting he is also covering, Cal starts digging in earnest. Working with a young blogger for the paper (Rachel McAdams), Cal starts to put the pieces together on what looks to be a giant conspiracy involving a Blackwater-style security corporation under investigation by Congress.

      Navigating his complicated relationships with the congressman, the congressman’s wife (Robin Wright Penn), and a local police detective, Cal gets caught in the crossfire of bullets and lies in his search to help his friend, get the story, and sell some papers.

      Content Issues

      Regular harsh language includes uses of God’s and Jesus’ names for swearing, as well as some crass sexual dialogue. Pictures show people in underwear and sexual situations, and the whole case revolves around an adulterous affair. Several characters are shot and killed on camera; lots of alcohol is consumed.

      Worldview Talking Points

      Based on a 2003 BBC miniseries, “State of Play” may not appeal to many teens, other than those naturally interested in complex political thrillers or someone in the cast. It’s a 70s-style journalism-and-corruption film with just enough action to provide a fairly satisfying diversion for the right audience.

      Still, it raises several interesting worldview questions: What is the value of journalists in our modern era, especially those of the old-school investigative newspaper variety? What are we losing as the resources disappear to keep those kinds of journalists doing their jobs?

      And maybe the larger question: Is anybody above corruption, either in government or working in journalism? Is anyone trustworthy? If not, how can we know what or who to trust in the mountain of media that falls on us every day?

      If your teen has seen the film and is interested in these questions, a few of the talking points below might produce some teachable moments about truth, wisdom, and credibility.

      • Did you like “State of Play”? What other movies is it like that you’ve seen? What are some of your favorite Russell Crowe films?
      • Were you surprised by any of the plot twists in the film? Did you ever get lost with what was really going on?
      • Why do you think so many newspapers are losing money and closing their doors? Do you think that’s a bad thing—or just the logical next step because of the Internet?
      • What do you think is really valuable about a good journalist? Why is it important for society that we have journalists with integrity out there doing a good job finding and telling the truth about news events?
      • Would you have any interest in ever working as a journalist? Why or why not?
      • Do you think most journalists are trustworthy? What are some reasons journalists might “shade” a story in one direction or another?
      • Is there any way that we can really know what’s going on in the world? How can having God’s kind of wisdom help us to figure out what’s true and what’s not?
      • How do we get wisdom, discernment, and understanding?
      • Why do you think so many politicians end up doing corrupt things? Why is that temptation to lie and break the rules so powerful with people in government office?
      • Do you think any politicians are completely trustworthy? Why or why not?
      • Would you ever be interested in becoming a politician with the goal of keeping your integrity serving others? Why or why not?
      • What would be the value of becoming a journalist or politician of real moral and ethical integrity?
      • Who do you personally trust to understand what’s going on in the world and tell you about it?
      • Who do you personally trust to never, ever lie to you?
      • What would it take for you to build a reputation as a wise, understanding, discerning person who would not lie, no matter what? Why would it be valuable to have a reputation like that?

      17 Again

      PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying

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      The Story

      On the night of the biggest basketball game of his life, high school senior Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) learns two things—there’s a college scholarship riding on his performance and his girlfriend is pregnant. Mike impulsively ditches the game to “be there” for her, leaving college and basketball behind.

      Flash forward 17 years, and we learn that noble Mike (Matthew Perry) turned into a resentful jerk always half-blaming Scarlett (Leslie Mann) and his now teenage kids for ruining his life. That’s why she’s divorcing him and they can’t stand him. Oh, and he lost his sales job, too. And he’s now living with Ned (Thomas Lennon), his best friend from high school, an uber-dork/major sci-fi fan who is also a software millionaire.

      Then a mystical janitor shows up and Mike is sucked into a muddy portal and suddenly he’s “17 Again.” With Ned’s help in all things sci-fi, Mike decides his “spirit guide” wants him to go back to high school to start his life over—only to quickly change his mind and decide that maybe he’s supposed to help his kids and get his wife back, instead.

      Content Issues

      Some harsh language includes uses of Jesus’ and God’s name for swearing, along with some sexual dialogue. Mike’s daughter makes out repeatedly with her goony boyfriend. More disturbing, she comes on hard to Mike (not realizing he’s her dad) when they’re alone in a bedroom—which is more gross than young Mike romancing his adult wife while she think he’s a teenage boy and several high school girls openly lusting after young Mike.

      Worldview Talking Points

      In addition to reflecting (sometimes poignantly) the common “what if” game played by grown-ups everywhere, “17 Again” works out a couple of big worldview ideas that might resonate with students.

      On the one hand, it’s an object lesson that the choices we make in high school can profoundly impact the rest of our lives. In a sex-ed class with his daughter, the 30-something and regretful Mike (in the body of his 17-year-old self) makes a passionate case for sexual abstinence. And it’s not just because he doesn’t want his daughter to have sex with her condom-clutching boyfriend.

      Mike realizes that he could have avoided a lot of heartache by waiting on sex. Not only would it have given him a better shot at college, but he might have been a better husband and father with a little more maturity.

      On the other hand, the film ultimately expresses that our past choices—right and wrong—create our current selves. We can’t really go back and undo them; what matters is what we do today, right now. What kind of dad and husband will Mike be today, even the body of a teenager?

      Don’t get me wrong; “17 Again” is mostly just a silly comedy that only plays around with these big ideas. But a few of the following questions might lead to some productive conversation with you teen if they’ve seen it.

      • Did you like Zac Efron better in this film or in the “High School Musical” movies?
      • Can you ever imagine yourself wanting to jump back or forth in time or into different ages/versions of your own life? Why?
      • Were you surprised that Mike knew so little about his own kids, that his son was getting picked on or that his daughter had a mean boyfriend she really liked?
      • Do you think there are things about your life that your parents would be surprised to learn? How could we do better at knowing what’s going on with you? Would that even be something you’d want from us?
      • Mike had a chance to really get to know his kids as “just another student.” He used his own confidence and life experience to help them to do better. Do you ever wish someone could step into your life and help you like that?
      • Do you ever see yourself doing for your friends the kinds of things Mike did for his kids?
      • Mike’s choice to have sex as a teenager had a huge impact on his life. Do you think you’ve made any choices, yet, that will change what your life is like 17 years from now? Do you ever wonder about that?
      • In the sex-ed class, Mike makes a big deal out of his belief that teens should wait to have sex until they’re in love or even until they’re married. Were you surprised by that scene? Why or why not?
      • Do you think it’s believable that other students would respond to the kind of speech Mike made by giving back condoms and deciding to wait for sex? How much influence do you think you have with people in your school just by saying what you believe with confidence? [Parent: Stress that most teens have way more influence to spend than they realize.]
      • How long do you think teens should wait before having sex? Why?
      • Given the chance to make different choices as a high school student again, Mike does somethings differently and other things the same. Did any of his choices surprise you?
      • Before his magical transformation, Mike seems to live in regret for the choices he made in high school. Do you know anyone who seems to get stuck in regret for past choices?
      • What do you think matters most—the mistakes you made in the past or the choices you make today? How did Mike’s outlook change for the better by the end of the story? What had really changed? What gave him a better perspective?
      • [Parent: Talking about a movie like this is a perfect opportunity to be honest with your child about things you might wish you had done differently in high school—and/or how God has used even your wrong choices to show His love, grace, and kindness to you.]

      Hannah Montana: The Movie

      G

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      The Story

      If you’re unfamiliar with the long-running Disney Channel show, you’ll need to know that Miley Cyrus plays Miley Stewart, a “regular girl” who moves with her family from Tennessee to Malibu, California. However, Miley is also the international pop star Hannah Montana, a secret carefully guarded from all her civilian friends at a school. Her dad/manager Bobby Ray Stewart is played by Miley’s real-life dad Billy Ray Cyrus.

      This movie follows the hugely popular 2007 concert tour and hugely successful 2008 concert film. It’s features Miley/Hannah singing several old and new songs, as well as celebrity guest cameos, including Rascal Flatts, Tyra Banks, and Taylor Swift. At times, the constant slapstick comedy and down-home country music sing-alongs give the film a bit of a teen “Hee Haw” flavor.

      Anyway, when dad Bobby Ray decides Hannah’s fame is going to Miley’s head, he drags her back to their tiny country hometown in Tennessee for two weeks of “Hannah detox.” At first unwilling, Miley warms up and starts to enjoy life on her Grandma Ruby’s (Margo Martindale) farm. It helps that she’s crushing on good-looking hired hand/cowboy Travis (Lucas Till) and sleeping in her late mom’s childhood room.

      But when she agrees to have Hannah come to town for a big charity concert to raise enough money to save the town from a greedy land developer, Miley’s old identity crisis and all the secrets that come with it threaten to ruin her budding relationship with Travis, as well as her dad’s new connection with a local woman. And a determined tabloid reporter is in town to uncover Hannah’s big secret.

      Content Issues

      The G rating means things stay squeaky clean. A few parents might care about a little cleavage and some short skirts. Hannah goes swimming down at the creek with a boy and later kisses him.

      Worldview Talking Points

      None of the information above will be any news to you if the global sensation that is Hannah Montana has swept up your daughter. Her 2007 concert dates sold out with in minutes of the tickets going on sale as parents spotted an opportunity to give their kids a huge and wholesome treat. And this film just broke the opening weekend box office record for a G-rated live action movie.

      If your daughter is not interested in Ms. Montana, you’ll likely know that, as well. There’s a bit of a backlash against the franchise even among some of the tweens who formerly loved it. And older girls may have left it behind as a “childish thing.”

      For fans, though, the movie may provide parents with some real teachable moments. Worldview issues include escapist fantasies of talent, fame, and fortune. Should we steer our daughters away from the stardust or encourage them to “follow their dreams”?

      Other questions arise from Hannah’s multiple identities. We hope a few of the talking points below will lead to some good conversation about these big ideas with your own daughters/pop stars.

      • Was the movie as good as you’d hoped it would be? Could anything have made it better?
      • Do you ever wish you had a secret identity as someone famous and rich and talented? Or would that just be way too much trouble?
      • If you could be famous for anything, what would it be? Do you hope to try to succeed doing that someday? Why or why not?
      • Do you think it’s a good goal to be famous? How about to be rich? How do those desires—that everyone seems to feel sometimes—fit with being a Christian and follower of Jesus? [Parent: See Philippians 2:3-11, where Christians are told to “make ourselves nothing” and serve others, as well as 1 Timothy 6:9.]
      • Do you think it’s a good goal to be really good at what you do and to have people recognize that and enjoy it? [Sure, it is.] Can you use talent and fame and money to serve God? [Sure, you can.]
      • Miley and her dad have to tell a lot of lies—or, at least, deceive a lot of people—to keep the secret that Miley is Hannah (and visa versa). Why do you think it’s so important to them to keep that secret?
      • Is there ever a good reason to lie about anything, according to the Bible?
      • Do you ever feel like you have to keep part of your true self hidden from your school friends or church friends or even from your parents? Why is it sometimes hard for all of us to be honest about who we really are?
      • Why is it so important that we learn to be honest with everyone in our lives? Can we be honest and still keep some thoughts and feelings private? [Sure we can.] Do you think being an open person is a harder or easier way to live?
      • Even though Miley/Hannah is a huge pop star, incredibly rich and famous, and will probably be out on her own in just a few years, she still has to obey her dad. Do you think that’s hard for her to do?
      • It won’t be long before you graduate and move into your own life. Is it hard for you to keep obeying and honoring your parents while becoming more and more independent? [Parent: Be ready to be honest if it’s hard for you to let your son or daughter have more independence. Talk a little about why that’s a hard transition for all parents and teens.]
      • This movie is rated G, but Miley Cyrus is 16 now. Are you worried that she’s going to start to do things and get a wild reputation like some of the other Disney stars did when they got older? How can someone avoid making unwise choices as a teenager? Do you think it is harder for pop stars than “regular kids” to avoid being foolish?

      Fast & Furious

      PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.

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      The Story

      The fourth movie in the “Fast & Furious” franchise reunites the original cast. Like this one, that film was also an unexpected box office hit. In that story, FBI agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) infiltrated a ring of street-racing truck hijackers by becoming buddies with star racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and dating his sister Mia (Jordanna Brewster). In the climactic moment, he chose to let Dom go instead of arresting him because he respected the criminal’s “code.”

      Eight years later, Brian is back with the FBI hunting a major drug trafficker named Braga. When Dom, still a fugitive, learns that one of Braga’s men killed his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), he returns to L.A. and competes/cooperates with Brian to hunt the bad guys down in their very fast cars.

      Content Issues

      The whole “Fast & Furious” franchise uses women the same way hot rod magazines have done for decades, dropping them into scenes throughout the movie in revealing clothing and posing them in provocative positions while the camera zooms in on everything but their faces. This outing takes it up a notch by including several instances of these random girls making out with each other. What will they have these women doing in the next film?

      The violence is mostly about car crashes, explosions, and near misses. Several deaths (and presumed deaths) happen on- and off-screen. Some blood is seen. Vicious punches are delivered. Bullets fly but rarely seem to land. The steady swearing and harsh language includes uses of God’s name.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Fast & Furious” is a huge hit, scoring an opening weekend for April that is nearly $30 million more than the previous record. Many teens will definitely be seeing it—or wanting to. Whether they do or not should be up to you.

      If your teen does see the film, you might benefit from asking them a few questions about one of the film’s central worldview ideas. Brian is a federal agent chasing down drug lords, but he doesn’t seem to know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. His heart is with Dom, who is clearly an unrepentant criminal. And Brian always defies both the law and his authorities if he thinks his actions are warranted.

      At the end of the film, Dom takes a step in the right direction by turning himself in. But when a judge decides to actually send him to prison, both Brian and Dom decide that obeying the law is optional once more.

      A few of the following questions might lead to a productive conversation about the film with your child:

      • Have you seen any of the other “Fast & Furious” movies? Which one is your favorite? How does this new one compare?
      • Be honest: What’s the fastest you’ve ever ridden or driven in a car?
      • Does is bother you that movies like this seem to “use” girls’ bodies to attract guys to watch them? Do you think it’s healthy for your relationship with God to watch many movies where girls pose and kiss each other as obvious sex objects for guys? What would be the problem with it?
      • If you liked the cars, what was your favorite one in the film? Do you like the smaller, modded Japanese cars better or the American muscle cars?
      • Are you a fan of Paul Walker or Vin Diesel? Have you liked them in any other movies?
      • Do you think it was right for Brian to let Dom go in the first film? Why or why not?
      • Do you think Brian’s choices in this film to break the law and defy his bosses at the FBI are justified? Is it ever right to do a wrong thing to try to make a right thing happen?
      • Moral relativism means that people decide what’s right for them in any given situation. Moral absolutism means that some things are absolutely right and others are absolutely wrong all of the time. Which of those big ideas is closer to what you believe?
      • Who do you think sets the standards for right and wrong?
      • Can someone be a “good guy” if he does bad things like stealing, killing in revenge, or intentionally letting criminals go free?
      • If so, what’s the difference between good guys and bad guys? What makes anyone in this movie good or bad?

      The Haunting in Connecticut

      PG-13 for some intense sequences of terror and disturbing images.

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      The Story

      In 1987, a teenage son’s experimental cancer treatments at a distant hospital force a family to move into an old rental house close to the facility. The son, Matt (Kyle Gallner), begins seeing horrific things in the basement of the house and exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior.

      At first convinced Matt is having hallucinations as a side-effect of the cancer treatments, his mom Sara (Virginia Madsen), dad Peter (Martin Donovan), and siblings try to comfort him. But they begin to suspect something more is going on when they learn the house was once a funeral home with a violent history.

      A fellow cancer patient and minister (Elias Koteas) tries to help Matt and his family sort out the truth. Is Matt really experiencing an evil presence, or is it his medication? Is he losing touch with reality, or is he in touch with a reality of a different kind?

      Content Issues

      This is not a movie for children or young teenagers. The spiritually twisted content, grotesque images, language (including Jesus

      12 Rounds

      PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.

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      The Story

      Miles Jackson (Aiden Gillen), a ruthless Irish terrorist escaped from prison, holds New Orleans police detective Danny Fisher (John Cena) responsible for the death of his girlfriend during Miles’ arrest. In revenge, he kidnaps Danny’s girlfriend (Ashley Potter) and forces Danny to race back and forth across New Orleans completing 12 dangerous tasks (“rounds”) to keep her alive.

      Content Issues

      “12 Rounds” is kind of a throwback to the muscle-bound action movies of the 90s, but with far less brutal violence, sex, and language than in those typically R-rated films. Still, the PG-13 brings lots of explosive action violence, including several deaths. Blood doesn’t gush, but it is visible a few times. Danny and Molly live together unmarried, and some sexual dialogue is included. Harsh language is heard, along with uses of God’s and Jesus’ name for swearing.

      Worldview Talking Points

      As you’d expect, this movie isn’t full of big worldview ideas to chew on with your student. The emphasis is on the action; it’s probably better, in fact, not to try to work out the logistics of the plot.

      Still, there is one sizable question right in the middle of it: Should Danny risk innocent human lives to keep playing Miles’ game in a doubtful effort to save his girlfriend?

      The film’s answer is A) yes, he will do anything he can to save her, and then B) by continuing the game, Danny will get to Miles and stop him from hurting others once and for all.

      In the real world, though, the question can be a dangerous one used to get us to pit one human life against others. In truth, we believe that all human live is valuable, and we trust God to be in charge with when it starts and ends, while we do everything we can to save and preserve life.

      We would like students not to put themselves in the shoes of detached ethicists weighing lives against each other, but in the shoes of heroes ready to sacrifice themselves to save others. That’s what makes our hero, Jesus, so amazing. He died for us while we were still His enemies. (See Romans 5:6-8.)

      We hope a few of these questions might spur some productive conversation with your child if he or she sees the movie.

      • Have you ever watched John Cena as a wrestler? Do you think he did a good job in “12 Rounds”?
      • Did you think this was a good action movie? Did you figure out how the film was going to end ahead of time? Can you think of any other movies that use a similar plot device of having the bad guy force the hero to run around to save someone?
      • Did you notice anything in the plot that didn’t seem to make sense by the time the story was over?
      • What did you think of the argument the two FBI agents had in the middle of the movie about whether Danny should keep playing the bad guy’s game? Do you think it was right for Danny to risk innocent lives to try to save the life of one person, his girlfriend?
      • Danny was definitely willing to sacrifice himself to save his girlfriend and other innocent people. Have you ever wondered if you’d be willing to sacrifice yourself for others?
      • You might be willing to die to save someone you love or even a stranger. How about an enemy? What would you have thought about this movie if Danny had sacrificed his life to save Miles, the bad guy?
      • Did Jesus die for people who loved Him or for people who were His enemies? (See Romans 5:6-8.)
      • Why would Jesus die for His enemies?
      • Does knowing that Jesus died for you before you cared about Him make you more or less likely to follow Him now? Why?

      Monsters vs. Aliens

      PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language.

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      The Story

      Drawing from the well of all those old, campy 50s and 60s sci-fi movies, “M v. A” tells the story of Susan (Reese Witherspoon), a woman hit by a meteor moments before her wedding. Before she can say “I do,” she finds herself 50 feet tall and then, quickly, locked up in a military facility for monsters.

      Fellow inmates include gelatinous, indestructible, brainless B.O.B. (Seth Rogen); genius, man-sized Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie); the lizard/ape-like Missing Link (Will Arnett); and a 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus.

      The group is given a shot at freedom when they agree to do battle with a giant menacing robot from outer space, but Susan soon realizes she’s lost her near-husband (Paul Rudd) and her old life. Worse, an alien mastermind has just arrived to drain her of her newfound power and take over the planet.

      Content Issues

      The PG-rated content includes some very mildly crude elements and one or two uses of God’s name for swearing, along with lots of animated action violence, some of it a little scary for younger tots.

      Worldview Talking Points

      Unlike nearly every digitally animated Pixar film and even the recent, dark “Coraline,” the more jokey, sitcom-ish Dreamworks Animation movies don’t offer many worldview issues to chew on.

      Having said that, parents might find room to use the film to talk to younger teens about feeling different and out-of-place in the world. Such feelings are a big part of puberty, obviously. For some teens, it’s also natural to sometimes feel like their Christian faith makes them a kind of alien amongst their friends.

      Of course, God’s Word calls all believers to stop fitting into the world’s culture and be transformed into something new and useful to God. (See Romans 12:1-3). And Peter called Christians aliens and strangers, encouraging us not to get too attached to life on this planet. (1 Peter 2:11)

      Those ideas and a few of the following questions might provoke a bit of conversation after taking in this silly, 3D sci-fi goof.

      • Did you like “Monsters vs. Aliens”? What are your 3 favorite animated movies?
      • Which character was your favorite?
      • Silly question: Which of the five monsters would you pick if you had to be that character for a whole week?
      • What was your favorite moment when something seemed to jump out of the screen at you?
      • Is there anything about you or your life that sometimes makes you feel like you don’t fit in? Are there any ways that thing can make you stronger or help you to do things other people can’t?
      • Would you rather blend in or stand out in a crowd? Why?
      • Why do you think the Bible tells us not to conform to the world? How are we supposed to “stick out”?
      • What do you think it means when the Bible says that Christians are aliens in this life? Where is our “real” home?

       

      Knowing

      PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language.

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      The Story

      John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) and his young son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) are grief-stricken after the accidental death of their wife and mother in a hotel fire. As a professor of astrophysics at MIT, John has rejected the Christian beliefs of his pastor-father and a sister named Grace, giving up hope that there is any meaning in life beyond random chance.

      His lack of faith is challenged when a 50-year-old piece of paper containing the dates of key disasters—and the resulting number of deaths in each—is unearthed with the opening of a time capsule at his son’s elementary school. When John witnesses the first of three remaining disasters listed on the paper, he realizes he must find the girl who wrote the numbers and try to save himself and his son from the coming catastrophes.

      Content Issues

      For a film with serious and catastrophic violence, including brutal and disturbing plane crash sequence, “Knowing” shows a lot of restraint within it’s PG-13 rating. Aside from several uses of the s-word, harsh language is minimal and there’s no sexual content.

      Worldview Talking Points

      The most interesting thing about “Knowing” is it’s apocalyptic worldview and the ideas and potential discussion it generates. For parents looking to talk about ends-time issues with their students, the film provides ample opportunity to break down exactly what your family believes God’s Word to teach about humanity, sin, judgement, and eternal life.

      Warning: We’re about to give away the end of the film to arm parents with enough details to talk about these issues with their kids. Don’t keep reading if you don’t want to know!

      Until the last act, “Knowing” feels like a somewhat standard spooky, sci-fi story in which the hero races to figure out the secret in time to save himself, his family, and possibly the world. Only it doesn’t turn out that way.

      Instead, we eventually learn that the strange men whispering into the minds of John’s son Caleb and another little girl are either aliens or angels warning of a coming global disaster that will wipe out life on Earth. The beings are there to take select (elect?) children off of the planet in their Ezekiel’s-wheel-style spaceships and deliver them to a kind of “heaven” or “Eden” planet complete with a prominent tree-of-life looking tree in the middle of it.

      John, who is not allowed to go, urges his son Caleb to “choose” to go with the aliens by himself, promising that they will still end up being together forever. It’s a heart-wrenching and emotionally manipulative scene for parents.

      John, with his apparently Christian faith fully restored, drives to his parents’ house where he is reunited with them and his sister Grace just in time for a contented embrace and the CGI-realistic fiery destruction of all life on the planet.

      Do the screenwriters and director Alex Proyas intend to provide a Christian-style end-times narrative? Are they just hoping to make their story resonate with people of many different faiths? Are they echoing the teaching of Scientology or Mormonism, as some have suggested? Or are they providing an alternate alien theology to replace traditional Judeo-Christian religious teachings?

      Who knows? No matter what they’re up to, the film might provide a teachable moment for you to talk about your understanding of the Bible’s teaching about future judgement and redemption, God’s grace and forgiveness, heaven and hell, and eternal life in heaven.

      A few of these questions might help:

      • Did the ending of “Knowing” surprise you? Did it make the movie better or worse for you?
      • In the film, John was convinced of the reality of “something out there” by witnessing prophesies coming true first hand. Do you think fulfilled prophesy would be enough to convince most people that God is real and active?
      • How many prophesies about the Messiah can you think of (if any) that came true in the life and death of Jesus? [Parent: Maybe have some on hand to bring up.] Do you think that’s good evidence that Jesus is really the Son of God?
      • Did you catch the verse sprayed in a graffiti on a car toward the very end of the film? It was from John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ “
      • Do you think John’s parents and sister were Christians? Do you think they believed everyone would be “saved” after death—or only those who believe in Jesus?
      • Do you think the beings that took the kids away were aliens or angels? Why?
      • How were the events in the movie similar or different to what you believe God will do on Earth in the future? [Be prepared to share what you believe the Bible to teach.]
      • John talked about two ways of believing about life in the universe. One was that everything exists by the randomness of evolutionary processes. Another is the all of life is pre-determined and following the plan or pattern of some kind of intelligent being. Which idea do you think the movie described?
      • Do you think those two big ideas are the only two choices? Why or why not?
      • H
      • ow does our belief in a God who created and controls the universe fit with teaching about evolution and human free will? [Again, you’ll need to be prepared to share what you believe to be true from God’s Word.]
      • Did you expect a Nicolas Cage sci-fi movie to open up all these questions about God, the universe, and the end of the world?

      Duplicity

      PG-13 for language and some sexual content

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      The Story

      He’s a former MI-6 agent; she was CIA when she burned him for some national secrets during a one-night stand. Now Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts) are corporate spies working together (maybe) to steal the secret of a breakthrough new product from one corporate CEO (Tom Wilkonson) to deliver it to another (Paul Giamatti).

      They’re also trying to build a relationship based on lots of sex and their mutual mistrust (maybe), as well as both following probable angles of their own in this pretzel-twisty romantic spy/caper/con/heist flick from writer/director Tony Gilroy.

      Content Issues

      Both Ray and Claire have sex with people while working undercover. Couples are seen in bed, as well as seen undressing in surveilance photes. Brief female nudity is glimpsed. In addition, swearing is harsh and frequent and includes the use of Jesus’ name. Lots of alcohol is consumed.

      Worldview Talking Points

      The worldview of “Duplicity” is that while the spy game might be challenging and fun, to a point, it is also costly. Relationships for liars are extremely difficult. And by the end of the film, writer/director Tony Gilroy seems to be making a point that maybe we should not be rooting for the people who lie and steal for a living.

      The following questions might generate some helpful conversation with your student if he/she happens to see the film:

      • Do you like spy movies or caper films where a bunch of people work together to try to pull of a big heist? If so, what are some of your favorites?
      • What’s your favorite Julia Roberts movie? Clive Owen flick?
      • Did you figure out what was really going on in this film before it was over?
      • On a scale from 1 to 10, what would you rate this movie?
      • Do you think people need to tell each other the truth all of the time in order to have a good relationship? Why or why not?
      • Do you think a good relationship can be built on two people having lots of sex and then thinking about maybe becoming a couple? Why or why not?
      • Do you think there’s an ethical difference between spying for a nation (like a CIA agent) and spying for a corporation? What would be wrong with spying for a corporation to try to steal secrets?
      • Do you think a person could live in obedience to the Bible and still be a good spy?
      • Do you think it’s wrong to lie all of the time, even if it’s part of your job?
      • Do you think God would ever lie? (See Titus 1:2.)
      • How do you think God feels about our lying? (See Proverbs 6:16-19.)
      • Do you think it’s ever okay to lie? If so, how often would that kind of exception come up in real life?
      • What’s the cost of a lie, even if you don’t ever get caught? What did lying cost the characters in this movie?

      Race to Witch Mountain

      PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements.

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      The Story

      Seth (Alexander Ludwig) and Sarah (AnnaSophia Robb) are two alien teenagers who crash land their spaceship on earth and team up with a Vegas cabdriver (Duane “The Rock” Johnson) to help them find their ship so they can get back home and save their people.

      Jack Bruno, the driver, must protect the kids from both an alien assassin and men in black from the Department of Defense led by Henry Burke (Ciaran Hinds). They eventually team up with astrophysicist Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) to rescue the ship from a government facility located inside Witch Mountain.

      Content Issues

      Aside from some action violence and a few potentially scary moments for little kids, “Witch Mountain” mostly skips objectionable content.

      NOTE: “Race” is free of any witches or other overt occult content. It is based on Disney’s 1975 “Escape to Witch Mountain,” which allowed viewers to believe the two kids might in fact be witches until revealing at the end of the film that they were aliens with special powers.

      Worldview Talking Points

      The worldview issues on display in witch mountain are mostly just tucked in and around all the action and chase sequences. One obvious point it makes is the unimaginative one that the U.S. government is always abusing its power when it comes to alien conspiracies. The script also takes a swipe or two at global warming and the Patriot Act.

      It’s most overt messages have to do with what it means to be a good person. As we said in our review for students on PlanetWisdom.com:

      “Sarah, especially, seems interested in helping Jack to stop defining himself by his criminal past, but by his current choices. When Jack feels inadequate to help, Seth quotes Earth’s Buddha: “You are what you think you are.” In other words, think of yourself as strong and capable and good and you will be able to do the right thing at the right time and in the right way.

      The Bible teaches a very different message, asking us to understand that we are not good, no matter how we imagine ourselves. Our sinful choices make us weak, and we are hopeless to change ourselves. Instead, goodness and power is available through faith in Jesus. His goodness is placed on us when we trust in Him (His death and resurrection) for the forgiveness of our sin.

      Sarah also explains that her abilities to read thoughts and move objects with her mind are available on earth; we just haven’t figured it out how to use our entire minds, yet. Dr. Alex declares her faith in the universe to bring things together, though she makes clear that it is science that does it (specifically “chaos theory”).

      God’s Word also teaches that our minds must be renewed for our lives to be transformed. The goal, though, is to understand and live by God’s will, not to make ourselves more powerful. (See Romans 12:1-2.) Our hope is to trust Him more, because He is the one who causes all things to work together for good for His those He loves and has called. (Check out Romans 8:28.)”

      Some of these questions might provoke a worthwhile conversation about the film if your student sees it:

      • Did you like “Race to Witch Mountain”? Why are why not? Who were your favorite characters?
      • Do you ever wish you had any of the powers Seth and Sarah had in the movie? If so, which powers would you like to have?
      • What do you think about the quote from Buddha in the movie that “you are what you think you are”? Do you think that’s true?
      • Do you think humans beings can just decide to be good? Are we basically good or basically not good? (See Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 64:6.)
      • What does it take for a human being to be changed from sinful to good? (See above.)
      • If we are “good” in Jesus, why do you think we still do bad things?
      • In the movie, Sarah says that humans have not yet learned to use our entire minds. Do you think human beings have a problem with our minds? How has sin caused our minds to be broken?
      • How can we renew our minds? What is a sign that our minds are working well? (See Romans 12:1-2.)
      • Dr Alex in the movie believes that the universe scientifically makes things come together sometimes through something called “chaos theory.” What do you think of that idea?
      • Do you think God can make things come together even though they are statistically unlikely? Why or why not?
      • What do you think it means in Romans 8:28 when it says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose? Can we trust Him to make unlikely things work out?
      • What are your three favorite movies about aliens from other planets?

      Street Figher: The Legend of Chun-Li

      PG-13 for sequences of violence and martial arts action, and some sensuality.

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      The Story

      Trained in the fighting arts as a child until the sudden disappearance of her father (Edmund Chen), Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) grows up in a life of privilege to become a concert pianist. Years later she receives a mysterious message summoning her to a Bangkok to continue her training under a fighting master named Gen (Robin Shou) and to perhaps rescue her missing father.

      She joins Gen in the Order of the Web, an organization dedicated to fighting injustice. With the help of Interpol agent Charlie Nash (Chris Klein) and local detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood), Chun-Li must stop the evil Bison (Neal McDonough), head of the criminal organization Shadaloo.

      Content Issues

      Sexually-charged content includes plenty of skin revealed and an entire scene shot in a strip bar. The female detective is little more than a sex object, and Chun-Li and a female assassin engage in an erotic same-sex dance.

      Although you expect violence in a movie called “Street Fighter,” the violence towards women is especially disturbing. In one scene it is obvious Bison has just beaten a woman to death; in another, he tears a baby from his pregnant wife’s belly. The sex, the violence, the language, drinking, drug use, profanity, and regular use of God’s name in vain push “Street Fighter” beyond the expected boundaries of its PG-13 rating.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Street Fighter” didn’t set any box office records, but it is aimed squarely at young action fans, including those who have spent time with the video game franchise and/or might know star Kristin Kreuk as Lana from TV’s “Smallville.”

      As with most martial arts stories, this one offers a mix of vaguely dark spirituality, along with an obvious good-versus-evil narrative. It’s also a good example of the hero’s journey that we talk about quite a bit here at PlanetWisdom.

      Chun-Li answers a call not only to adventure, but also to great sacrifice of herself in service to others. She leaves behind a life of wealth and privilege to accept a great challenge and a noble calling. Her adventure, though, is a lousy example of the life Jesus calls your student to follow: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39)

      We’re certainly not recommending this film to anyone, but if your teen saw “Street Fighter” a few of the following questions might stir up some helpful conversation.

      • Have you ever played any of the “Street Fighter” games? If so, which character have you most often played? Were you very good at the game?
      • Did you identify with any of the characters for any reason?
      • How did the game compare to the movie? Which do you like better?
      • Were the action scenes good? How could the film have been better?
      • Were you surprised at all by the amount of sexual content and violence in the film? Did you feel like any of the scenes went too far?
      • The movie talks about the character Bison no longer having a conscience and not feeling badly about any of the evil things he does. Do you think that can happen in real life (even if the person doesn’t become a killer)?
      • What can we do to keep from getting hardened and losing our sensitivity to hurting other people? (See 1 Timothy 4:1-2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19.)
      • The movie shows a little of the real-world poverty of Bangkok. Aside from becoming a “street fighter,” is there anything we can do to help with the hunger and injustice in places like Bangkok? (See ijm.org for ideas.)
      • Chun-Li sacrifices a pretty easy life in order to go to the streets and fight for justice and her father. What kinds of things in the real world would be worth sacrificing an easy life to help with? Why?
      • What kind of life has Jesus asked us to follow?
      • Do you think it is healthy or helpful to watch movies like “Street Fighter”? Why or why not?

      Madea Goes to Jail

      PG-13 for mature thematic material, drug content, some violence and sexual situations.

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      The Story

      Tyler Perry’s latest film really tells two stories that only occasionally overlap. The first follows his most famous creation: Madea (played by Perry in drag and a fat suit) is a feisty, strong 6’ 5” older lady who always speaks her mind and always gets even. That lands her in trouble with the law again, and this time she’s headed for prison.

      On the drama side, Assistant DAs Josh (Derek Luke) and Linda (Ion Overman) are engaged, but their relationship is tested with the appearance of Candace (Keshia Knight Pulliam of “The Cosby Show”), a woman arrested for prostitution who Josh once knew in college. He wants to help her; Linda wants him to have nothing to do with “those people.”

      Content Issues

      The PG-13 rated “Goes to Jail” includes some rough language and uses of God’s name for swearing. Madea’s brother Joe (also played by Perry as an old man) smokes a lot of marijuana. Candace and other rough-looking prostitutes are seen in revealing clothing and high on drugs. Candace wakes up apparently naked under a pimp after he’s choked her into unconsciousness (his body somewhat hides her nudity). She looks like she’s been beaten and probably raped, and we hear stories of similar experiences from her past.

      Worldview Talking Points

      Teens aren’t exactly the target audience for Tyler Perry’s growing film library. He makes movies that combine crass comedy, melodramatic stories of redemption, and loose biblical themes for mostly black audiences. But he is experiencing more and more crossover success, and “Madea Goes to Jail” had the biggest opening weekend of any of his films.

      Perry’s movies are always packed with big worldview issues. His characters talk a lot about going to church and doing what the Bible says, but they don’t always connect the dots between what they’re quoting and what they end up doing.

      In “Goes to Jail,” his focus is on forgiveness. A female street minister preaches to the women in the prison that when they refuse to forgive others, they only end up hurting themselves while the object of their anger goes free. One character is freed and radically changed by this teaching. Madea echoes the idea, but she is committed to a lifestyle of getting even at all costs.

      These questions might help provoke some valuable conversation with your teen if he or she sees the film.

      • Do you like Tyler Perry’s movies? Can you think of anyone in our lives who is kind of like Madea in some way?
      • Were you surprised that Josh (Derek Luke) would not stop trying to help Candace, even when it threatened his relationship with Linda?
      • Do you think guilt is a good reason to try to help someone? Is it a good reason to do anything? What would you say is the difference between good guilt and bad guilt?
      • How far do you think you should go to try to help someone who may or may not want to be helped?
      • Why do you think Candace ended up being a prostitute and a drug addict?
      • Madea talked about forgiveness, but she also told Dr. Phil that she always gets even when people “get” her. Do you think it’s always wrong to get even? [See Romans 12:19.]
      • Candace made a choice to forgive, and it seemed to change everything about her. Do you think that not forgiving people can make us suffer even more than the person we don’t forgive?
      • God tells Christians to forgive each other. Why do you think that’s such a big deal to God? [See Ephesians 4:32.]
      • The movie didn’t really say much about our need to be forgiven by God, but almost everyone in the film did wrong things. If you met someone like one of these characters, how would you briefly explain your understanding of how we can be forgiven by God for our sin?

       

      Fired Up!

      PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, partial nudity, language and some teen partying.

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      The Story

      High school football stars and buddies Shawn (Nicholas D’Agosto) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) decide to skip summer football camp in order to join their school’s cheerleaders at cheer camp. Why? To have sex with as many of the 300 cheerleaders there as possible before ditching the big end-of-camp tournament to get back for a football party.

      The downside of their scheme is having to take cheerleading seriously enough to participate, but the guys get into it enough to convince everyone of their enthusiasm. After a few days of sleeping with girls from other schools, Shawn starts to fall for Carly (Sarah Roemer), a cheerleader from his own school who wants nothing to do with him. Nick sets his sites on seducing Diora (Molly Sims), the wife of the cheer camp’s head coach Keith (John Michael Higgins).

      Content Issues

      The buddies make out with a dozen or so girls onscreen and have sex with more off screen. Lots of crass verbiage is used to describe various sex acts and body parts. The girls are offered for ogling and groped in skimpy clothing, and the guys have an extended nude scene in which they barely cover themselves with pom-poms. One guy’s naked backside is in full view.

      Homosexuality is openly mocked as one of the girls is secretly gay and repeatedly fondles another clueless cheerleader. Two of the other guys at the camp are gay, one stereotypically so. The other gives Nick a sex toy as a kind of invitation. Lots of swearing is heard, including uses of God’s and Christ’s name and repeated cheers of “F.U.”

      Worldview Talking Points

      Fans of cheerleading movies like “Bring It On” and the “High School Musical” series might be drawn to “Fired Up!” It is a teen cheerleading movie, but it is NOT in the same category as those high school films. This movie’s closest cousin might be the R-rated Owen Wilson sex comedy “Wedding Crashers”—only carefully built to barely nab a PG-13 rating and draw in teens.

      Like that film, this is a sex comedy about two fast-talking buddies who value women only for sex and use deception to manipulate as many as possible to sleep with them. Teen girls are seen as willing participants just waiting for the next guy to bed them. The worldview of the film is to normalize that view of guys as dogs and girls as near-mindless objects—until one or the other is in a “relationship” that miraculously changes them into monogamous and loving human beings.

      The movie’s other worldview is that homosexuality is both normal and weird, both okay-if-that’s-what-works-for-you and an open target for mockery and derision.

      If your student has seen the film, the following questions might help to generate some productive conversation about these worldview issues.

      • Did you think “Fired Up!” was funny? Which parts of did you like or not like? What did your friends think of the movie?
      • It’s a comedy, so the movie is supposed to exaggerate things and go too far with them. But what would you say is the film’s view of teen guys?
      • Do you think the guys you know would have sex with any good-looking girl that was willing? Are there teen guys who control themselves sexually—or at least believe that they should try?
      • How does the movie describe teen girls? Do you think most girls would willingly have sex with guys like these? Why or why not?
      • How does the film picture homosexual teens? Do you think it’s ever okay to mock people for being or acting gay, even if the Bible teaches that participating in homosexual acts is a sin?
      • Overall, what would you say is the movie’s worldview about teen sex and/or sexual morality?
      • What would you say is the Bible’s perspective about sexual morality? How is that different from what the movie is showing about right and wrong when it coms to sex?
      • Between this movie and the Bible, which ideas about sex are closer to what your friends believe?
      • What do you think about watching movies like this for entertainment? Should we just laugh along and forget it or should we skip movies with this kind of content? Does it matter?
      • Does a movie’s rating even matter these days? What’s the real difference between a PG-13 rating and an R rating?

      Confessions of a Shopaholic

      PG for some mild language and thematic elements.

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      The Story

      Young, vivacious journalist Rebecca Bloom (Isla Fisher) has maxed out a dozen credit cards in support of her high-fashion shopping habit. To the dismay of her supportive roommate Suze (Krysten Ritter), Rebecca shops compulsively on while ducking collection agents and looking for work.

      Instead of landing her dream job as a writer for her favorite national fashion magazine, Rebecca stumbles into a position with “Successful Saver,” a financial magazine about making good financial choices. While falling in love with her editor Luke (Hugh Dancy), Rebecca’s everywoman column becomes an unlikely hit, making it harder and harder for her to keep the secret that she has never kept her own advice and is drowning in a sea of debt.

      Content Issues

      Swearing includes several uses of God’s name. Rebecca and her roommate also live with the roommate’s boyfriend. Rebecca shows quite a bit of cleavage. Rebecca and Suze get drunk together. And the prices Rebecca pays for her clothes are obscene and disturbing, especially if you’re the parent of a fashion-minded teenage girl.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Confessions of a Shopaholic” may be an average romantic comedy brightened by the Lucille Ball stylings of Isla Fisher, but it is built around some refreshing worldview ideas:

      Spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need will eventually catch up to you. Shopping and spending can become a powerful addiction for those momentarily buzzed by the thrill of the purchase then emptied upon leaving the store. Painful consequences follow unwise financial choices.

      It’s always the right time to look for opportunities to talk with your child about being wise with money. Our consumerist society sets financial traps for all of us, but teens and college students can be the most vulnerable—and the most easily spared by some preventative wisdom.

      Sometimes parents are hesitant to talk to kids about money because of the mistakes we ourselves have made and may still be working through. But that’s all the more reason to start pointing our students to God’s wisdom about finances.

      If you’re looking for a resource for your kids, Mark Matlock’s Wisdom On . . . Time and Money is a great little book. Offer to read it with your student, and if he or she sees this film look for a chance to ask some of these talking points questions:

      • Did you think “Confessions of a Shopaholic” was funny? Do you like Isla Fisher? What else have you seen her in?
      • Is there anything that could have made the movie better?
      • Would you describe any of your friends as compulsive shoppers? Why do you think some people have trouble with spending more money than they should?
      • How does our culture set people up to fail in the area of spending?
      • What do you think is the right age for someone to start using a credit card? What are the dangers of using credit cards?
      • Do you have any kind of a plan for how you spend money? Do you think you need one?
      • Do you think there’s anything wrong with spending money to get something you like if you actually have the money? When does spending cross the line from being wise to being foolish?
      • In the movie, could Rebecca’s parents have done anything differently to help her learn to be wise with money? What do you think I could do to help you do better with money?
      • What is the opposite of being wise with money?
      • Is there any area of your life that could be moving towards becoming addictive or compulsive? What other kinds of things do some of your friends seem to have trouble stopping?
      • How can your relationship with God help you to be wise with money? Can He help you to overcome other forms of addictive behavior?
      • How would you describe the characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22-23) of self-control?

      [Note: Sharing your own hard-learned lessons about money and debt is a great way to help your child begin to take this issue seriously.]

      Coraline

      Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor.

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      The Story

      Based on a popular children’s horror novella by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman, “Coraline” has been adapted for the screen by stop-motion animation director Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”).

      Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a young girl with blue hair who discovers a portal to another dimension through a little door inside her family’s old rented house in rainy Oregon. In the Other World, she discovers everything is the same as in the real world except that it’s wonderful.

      Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) and Other Father (John Hodgman) have all kinds of time to spend with her, listen to her, and make her wonderful meals—unlike her own parents. So what if they have buttons sewn where their eyes should be? The place is downright magical.

      But when Other Mother demands that Coraline replace her own eyes with buttons, the girl begins to realize she’s been lured into a witch’s trap just like three other kids before her. Can she save the souls of those kids, save herself, and protect her parents from the powerful, needy, and deceptive Other Mother?

      Content Issues

      Should younger kids see “Coraline,” which is pretty much billed as a children’s horror movie? That’s up to you. It would have freaked me out for a week or forever if I’d seen it when I was 10 or younger. The very expressive tyke behind me at our screening went absolutely still about halfway through the film and didn’t say a peep until the credits. Then he couldn’t stop talking about how verrrrrrry scary it was.

      And the story does involve a witch and three sweet ghost children who are dead but stuck in an alternate reality and parents that are trapped behind a mirror and an evil Mommy double who wants Coraline to sew buttons on her eyes. Also, in Other World, two old, rotund actresses put on a show in which one gets pretty much naked and flies around on a trapeze singing a song about the size of her bouncing breasts (covered in pasties). The only swearing is Coraline’s use of God’s name a couple of times. As visually amazing as it is, “Coraline” doesn’t feel like a kids’ movie to me.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Coraline” raises two broad areas of potential discussion with your kids. One has to do with contentment and gratitude. The other has to do with the nature of evil to use our lack of gratitude against us.

      Coraline attracts the attention of the evil Other Mother because she is so deeply unhappy with her life, but nearly losing everything helps her to appreciate her overworked parents and their loving rules for her.

      Additionally, the nature of temptation is revealed. We mentioned in our PlanetWisdom review for students that even Satan clothes himself as an angel of light to draw people to himself. (See 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.) Other Mother’s world starts out looking like the answer to every problem and desire Coraline has—until it’s nearly too late for her to escape the trap.

      The following questions might help in starting a productive conversation with your son or daughter about learning to value our families (including Mom and Dad!), as well as learning to be wary of evil packaged as fun.

      • Did Coraline have a bad attitude at the beginning of the movie? Did that attitude make her vulnerable to the Other Mother’s temptation to leave her family?
      • How would Coraline’s story have changed if she had been choosing to be thankful instead of to be discontent?
      • Coraline’s parents were always working and never had time for her. Do you ever feel that way about our family?
      • Are there things that you wish were different in our lives? How do you handle it when we can’t find a way to change those things?
      • How does God provide for you when your parents or other family members are not always available?
      • Do you think God tells kids to honor and respect their parents because parents are always right? Of course, we’re not, so why does He tell you to do that? (See Ephesians 6:1-3) [Be sure to let your kids know that learning to obey, honor, and respect you even though you’re not perfect is how they learn to obey, honor. and respect God.]
      • “Coraline” is just a story, but there is real evil in the world. What are some things you would describe as evil?
      • Do you ever feel tempted to do something you know you shouldn’t because you think it will make you happy?
      • How did Other Mother build her magical world to try her best to trap Coraline?
      • If someone was going to try to trap you, what kinds of things could they use to get your attention and try to make you believe they could make you happier?
      • How can you tell when someone is trying to trick you by offering you something that seems too good to be true?
      • Did the darkness in this movie bother you? Where do you think Other Mother’s supernatural power came from? Where did the old actresses’s power to read tea leaves and use charms come from? Where did Coraline’s power to use a divining rod come from?
      • In the real world, where does supernatural power come from? [Be sure to emphasize that the Bible teaches that real supernatural power comes only from God or Satan. So if it doesn’t come from God, it can only come from one other source—and we should get away from it.]

      He’s Just Not That Into You

      Rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language.

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      The Story

      Based on a best-selling 2004 self-help book and featuring an all-star cast, the movie is actually a collection of loosely connected stories about likable 20- and 30-somethings struggling to find, maintain, and leave honest relationships.

      Romantic Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) receives it as a gift when bartender Alex (Justin Long) unlocks for her all of the ways in which guys are really saying they’re not interested in you. Janine (Jennifer Connelly) and Ben (Bradley Cooper) find their marriage tested by Ben’s attraction to an eager younger woman (Scarlett Johansson), while Beth (Jennifer Anniston) and Neil (Ben Affleck) find their 7-year relationship suddenly tested by his longstanding commitment to never get married.

      Content Issues

      Wow, there’s a lot of PG-13 swearing in this movie, including the use of Jesus’ name for cursing along with about 12 dozen s-words. There’s also a pre-sex scene in which Scarlett Johansson’s character is explicitly groped onscreen in her underwear (right before the groper has sex with another character seen in her underwear on his lap). In addition, Drew Barrymore’s character works for a gay newspaper, and we see somewhat explicit ads for gay massage parlors.

      Worldview Talking Points

      All of the characters in “Just Not That Into You” seem to share a modern secular view of love, sex, and marriage. In our Planet Wisdom review for students, we suggested they would describe as “normal” this path to marriage: attraction, sex, love, trial-commitment, and then marriage-commitment (optional).

      For comparison, even in our modern world, the biblically-mandated path is much different: attraction, marriage commitment, sacrificial love and respect, then sex.

      With that understanding, the self-help book and the movie do offer a helpful idea: Women need to get real about what the men they’re interested in are really thinking and stop torturing themselves into believing he cares more deeply for them than he has communicated.

      The following questions might spur some conversation with your student on issues of relationships, love, sex, and marriage.

      • Have you noticed that girls sometimes obsess over guys who are just not interested in them? Why do you think girls, especially, tend to do that?
      • Why do you think some guys lie to women about being interested in them even though they really aren’t?
      • How does our culture’s modern approach to dating and sex make this whole thing so much worse, emotionally?
      • What can you do to guard your emotions from getting out of control when you’re interested in someone of the opposite sex?
      • As Christians, we try to obey the Bible’s teaching about attraction, sexual contact, love, and marriage. How would you describe what limits God asks us to place on ourselves in those areas?
      • Were the people in this movie following any limits for themselves in terms of emotional involvement, sexual contact, or marriage? What would you say were their “rules” for rights and wrong in relationships?
      • Which view of dating, sex, and marriage is closest to how most of your friends look at it?
      • How would you expect the choice to have sex outside of marriage (or outside of any real commitment) to impact a relationship in the long run? Do you think people will tend to be happier or sadder or about the same? Do you think the relationships will tend to last longer or not as long?
      • The movie is all about people trying to find the right person for them. What would you say are the qualities you should be looking for in the opposite sex?
      • What are the qualities you should be developing to become a good husband or wife?
      • What would you say is the point of dating for you right now, if there is any point?

      Hotel for Dogs

      PG for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor.

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      The Story

      With the help of some friends, orphans Andi (Emma Roberts), 16, and Bruce (Jake T. Ausin), 11, turn an old, abandoned hotel into a refuge for dozens of stray dogs from all over the neighborhood. Bruce, an inventive genius, creates a kind of theme park of contraptions designed to entertain and feed the dogs and dispose of their waste. But the adventure is tainted with sadness as Andi and Bruce desperately try to turn the dog hotel into a substitute family for their own lost home.

      Content Issues

      Rated PG, “Hotel for Dogs” includes some uses of God’s name for swearing, along with quite a bit of comic canine destruction. The kids break a lot of rules and the law to protect the dogs, attacking and running from mean animal control authorities. A few (kind of gross) scenes focus on the problem of dealing with all the dog poop and pee.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Hotel for Dogs” is surprisingly poignant, as the two orphaned kids desperately try to stay together and protect the stray dogs as representatives of their own lost home and family life. All that emotion gets released in the end when adoption plays a major roll in the film’s final, triumphant scene.

      The following questions might spur some conversation with your student on issues of orphans, adoption, family, and the church.

      • Why do you think Andi and Bruce felt so passionately about protecting all of those dogs?
      • Do you think they felt as if they’d adopted those dogs as their family?
      • How important is it to be part of a family?
      • What would you be willing to do to keep your family together?
      • How did you feel when you found out that Andi and Bruce were going to be adopted by Bernie and his wife? Is it better, do you think, to be adopted than to be in a foster family? Why?
      • Do you ever seriously think of God as your Father? Do you understand what the Bible means when it says that God adopts us into His family? (See Romans 8:15-25.)
      • Do you ever think of our church as a kind of family? Have you noticed all the different “breeds” of “strays” at our church?
      • Is it important to belong to a church family? Or is it not that big of a deal to you?
      • Would you ever want to stay at a hotel for dogs?

      Paul Blart: Mall Cop

      PG for some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor, and language.

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      The Story

      Things haven’t been going well for hefty mall security guard Paul Blart (Kevin James, TV’s “King of Queens”), who lives with his mom and daughter and can’t pass the state trooper test due to his chronic hypoglycemia. But his chance to shine arrives when the mall is taken over by an acrobatic team of bank robbers who threaten several hostages, including the pretty girl Blart has fallen for. The time has come for Blart’s “Die Hard” moment of glory.

      Content Issues

      The PG-rated “Blart” skips the crude content that comes with most films from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. God’s name is used for swearing a few times, but very little other harsh language is heard. The action violence is often played for laughs. Bathroom humor is mild and limited.

      Worldview Talking Points

      Blart is mocked for taking his role as a mall security guard too seriously, and he does overdo it. That’s part of the joke here. But Blart’s best quality is that he refuses to treat his job like a joke. That commitment is undervalued until the moment when someone really needs him.

      The worldview section in our PlanetWisdom.com review of the film focused on how Blart’s unwillingness to treat his own lightly paid off when the moment of truth came.

      You won’t find a lot of meat to chew on with your student after viewing the silly “Paul Blart,” but here are a few discussion questions that might kick off a decent conversation about respect, personal responsibility, and making the most of our opportunities.

      • How do you treat security guards at stores, school, or the mall? Do you think being a security guard would be a hard job?
      • Do you ever feel like something you have to do—a job, an assignment, a chore—might not be worth trying too hard to do well? Why or why not?
      • What would you say are some of the jobs and responsibilities you have right now? How hard would you say you try to do those things well or right?
      • Do you think it matters to do everything that’s ours to do as well as we can?
      • Do you have friends or know people who don’t take their work or studies seriously enough? What are the consequences of that?
      • Why does it make sense to do the best you possibly can, even on a “dead-end” job or mindless chore? (See Luke 16:10.)
      • How can doing our best at “little things” lead to opportunities to do bigger and bigger things?
      • If you get the opportunity, tell your student about your own experience with doing little things well (or not) and the consequences of those choices.

      Bride Wars

      PG for suggestive content, language and some rude behavior.

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      The Story

      Best friends Liv (Kate Hudson) and Liv (Anne Hathaway) have dreamed very specifically of their perfect NYC wedding day (June at the Plaza)  since they were little girls. Now all grown up and simultaneously engaged, a scheduling mix up leaves that both booked into the same date and time.

      Neither tough-as-nails Liv or usually supportive Emma is willing to move her wedding. Instead the gloves come off as both find ways to creatively sabotage each other’s special day. Can they resolve the feud before the wedding bells ring?

      Content Issues

      Some swearing is heard, including several uses of God’s name. Lots of alcohol is consumed. Lots of cleavage is bared. A bachelorette party features male strippers, with Emma and Liv joining in a sexy dancing contest. And both ladies live (and sleep with) their guys well before considering marriage.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Bride Wars” wants to be a wacky screwball comedy about the lengths to which wedding-crazed best friends will go to hurt each other, but it shines a light on modern ideas about marriage in the process.

      Emma and Liv have placed a far higher priority on the wedding day than on the idea of marriage itself. After years of living with their perspective guys, they joke about being behind schedule on their first divorce. It’s clear that for them, marriage is an eventual formalization of relationship between two people who have proved their commitment by living together.

      By the end, one bride gets around to asking herself whether she actually wants to be married to the guy she’s been with for a decade.

      In the Worldview analysis on PlanetWisdom.com, we looked the ultimate wedding day between Christ and the church

      Bedtime Stories

      PG for some mild rude humor and mild language.

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      The Story

      While watching his sister’s kids for a week, hotel handyman Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) discovers that any parts of their mutual bedtime storytelling that the kids come up with comes true in real life (e.g., gum ball rain and angry little people). Skeeter begins manipulating the stories to try to get the kids to describe his character as getting his dream hotel job, getting rich, and getting the girl. But the kids keep steering the fantastical stories in crazy directions.

      Meanwhile, Skeeter is falling for the kids’ other babysitter Jill (Keri Russell) and discovering that he cares about being a better man, not just beating out snooty Kendall Duncan (Guy Pearce) for the big promotion.

      Content

      Intended as a movie for kids, the PG-rated “Bedtime Stories” is the least crude Adam Sandler movie ever. Still, God’s name is used for swearing; some cleavage is prominently featured; a 6-year-old boy is encouraged to get a kiss from an 8-year-old girl he thinks is “hot;” and a little boogers-and-bathroom humor is celebrated.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Bedtime Stories” isn’t a big message movie, but it does play with the idea that good stories encourage us to be good people. While telling stories together, Skeeter learns from his niece and nephew that they expect a good guy/gentleman character to do the right thing without expecting to get rewarded for it. Skeeter later practices that in his real life.

      The Worldview section in our review for students on PlanetWisdom.com focused on how we can use our imaginations in ways that are powerfully positive or powerfully destructive.

      If your student saw the movie, a few of these questions may provoke some good conversation and provide a teachable moment or two:

      • Was “Bedtime Stories” what you expected it to be?
      • What was your favorite storytelling/fantasy sequence in the movie?
      • If you could tell a story about your life that would come true, what kinds of things would you describe?
      • Did you notice how the kids described the way the gentleman or hero in a story should act?
      • Do you think Skeeter made different choices in his real life after thinking through the choices his character in a story would make?
      • Do you think imaging scenarios or stories is always a good thing?
      • Part of being a Christian is allowing Jesus to transform our minds and the way we think about the world. (See Ephesians 4:23 and Romans 12:1-3.) Do you think He also transforms the way we imagine?
      • Do you think we should be careful what we feed our imaginations? (See Philippians 4:8.)
      • Jesus used imagination to tell stories that helped people. What are some ways that stories have helped you to make better choices or understand truth better?

      Valkyrie

      Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.

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      The Story

      Based on actual events, “Valkyrie” stars Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a German officer during World War II who believes Hitler must be stopped. Recruited by a group of highly-placed conspirators, von Stauffenberg spearheads a complex plot to kill Hitler and take over the German government in an effort to save “sacred Germany” and thousands of lives. But once put into motion, the plan quickly begins to unravel.

      Content

      The wartime violence portrayed is mostly bloodless, but it does include images of men being shot, caught in an explosion, and hanged. God’s name is used for swearing once or twice, but little other rough language is heard.

      Worldview Talking Points

      “Valkyrie’s” worldview is clear and very positive. Von Stauffenberg and the other conspirators believe that doing what’s right is worth the risk of their lives and the lives of their families. Cruise’s character realizes he cannot serve both Germany and Hitler and sees his mission in the war as saving human lives, not winning Hitler’s war.

      Our worldview breakdown for students on PlanetWisdom.com focused on the tension between God’s call to submit to our authorities up to the point that someone in authority directs us to violate God’s Word.

      If your student saw the movie, a few of these questions may provoke some good conversation and provide a teachable moment or two:

      • Was it right or wrong for Tom Cruise’s character and the other conspirators to try to kill Hitler and take over the government? Why?
      • Was it right or wrong for others in the military NOT to try to kill Hitler?
      • As a Christian, does God tell us we should do what those in authority tell us to do? (See Romans 13:1-7)
      • If we’re supposed to do what people in authority say, why did the men God used to write the Bible spend so much time in jail? Why were so many executed by the government?
      • Under what circumstances would you think it would be okay to NOT do what the government or the church or even your parents say?
      • Have you ever had to say no to someone in authority in order to do the right thing?
      • Can you ever imagine that happening?
      • Do you think you would have the courage to risk your life to do what God has asked you to do in the Bible? Why or why not?
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