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Cheryl Gress Editor-in-Chief

Married to IBJamon since 1999. Spawned two girls and a boy.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Thank you DreamWorks for sending us a cape, tiara, pins, and glitter to decorate it all with!

She-Ra has been around since the mid-eighties. He-Man was geared for boys and got a motion picture. Over thirty years later She-Ra and the Princesses of Power gets its own animated Netflix series courtesy of DreamWorks.

The series begins with Adora, a hard-working Senior Cadet who quickly advances in rank because of her efforts. She’s an orphan and has some close friends including the troublemaking Catra. In order to cheer up Catra who is jealous over Adora’s new rank, they take a “borrowed” ship for a spin and crash it into a forest. In the forest, Adora sees a sword that’s calling for her to fulfill her destiny and fight for the honor of Grayskull.

Adora doesn’t hold a high regard for princesses; little does she know that she is one herself! When Adora uses the sword that has been calling for her, she transforms into She-Ra, a very powerful princess and a force to be reckoned with. It’s nice to see a princess that can hold her own in battle without needing the help of some wandering prince or plumber brothers.

The episodes are twenty-four minutes in length and are action packed. The characters are likeable and often have funny lines. Their voice acting is well done too. The animation is simple but nice.

My kids, including my son, enjoyed watching this show. If you have Netflix and younger kids, you should definitely look into this series. I didn’t pay much attention to She-Ra growing up so I can’t say how true to her story this series is. My brother grew up playing with He-Man so I’m familiar with some of the characters and I look forward to getting reacquainted with them.

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Incredibles 2

Thank you Disney for sending us this Blu-Ray to review!

It’s been fourteen years since the original Incredibles move was released. Incredibles 2 takes place shortly after the first film where performing heroics is still illegal and has been for fifteen years. It was just a regular day for the Parr family when a villain rose up and robbed a bank in broad daylight. The Incredibles took it upon themselves to stop this criminal and to save the city from his out-of-control drilling vehicle heading towards City Hall. Even though that crisis was averted, much damage was done to other buildings and all superheroes were further chastised and told to stay out of the crime fighting business. In fact, the agency that has been helping the Incredibles is shutting down due to this incident.

Though most of the public are against superheroes, not everyone is. A very rich entrepreneur wishes to reverse this law and uses Elastigirl as his ideal example. She was chosen for her performance and lack of damage caused to personal property. Her husband’s ego is shattered, but he wants his wife to succeed as it will benefit all superheroes in the future.

While Helen is fighting crime and making televised appearances, Bob is taking care of the kids at home. He has to learn “new” math, cope with his daughter’s dating drama, and discover Jack-Jack's multiple new powers. I won’t spoil any of the story, but I will say that the whole family must work together to untarnish the reputation of superheroes.

For a film geared towards families, I was surprised at the language in it. Hell, d*mn, and the Lord’s name taken in vain can be heard in this two hour and five minute film. Cartoon violence is a given. If you don’t mind that you’ll probably enjoy this film despite its predictable ending.



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Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Final Fantasy games are known for their extraordinary music and my husband and I have had the pleasure of seeing multiple live symphonic performances of Nobuo Uematsu’s masterpieces. As a result, we own several compilations of Final Fantasy music and managed to get one of our daughters sick of it. Our other two kids love the music so they turned out alright.

Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII focuses on a title with many great songs and the music box treatment works well with these melodies. J-E-N-O-V-A is a little too fast paced to be included, but there are plenty of other great songs in this collection. There are lots of theme songs including the Aerith’s, Tifa’s, and the Chocobo song. Of course, the game’s title song is on this album as well.

I love the battle music in Final Fantasy VII and the Fighting song and One Winged Angel are both included. Another welcome addition is Cosmo Canyon though I have to say that I still prefer the version from the game’s soundtrack.

There are fourteen songs in total and they range from a minute and forty-seven seconds to six minutes and forty-one seconds. All of the tracks are great and I highly recommend this $7 digital album to all Final Fantasy VII fans. The songs are available in MP3 and lossless FLAC formats.

As for my daughter who is sick of Final Fantasy music, I have a plan. After she gets married and has a child, I will give it a stuffed animal or a music box with Aerith’s theme. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but I’m sure the kid(s) will love it.


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Solo: A Star Wars Story

Thank you Lucasfilm for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

Solo takes place before Star Wars IV: A New Hope. As the title suggests, it’s about the reluctant hero, Han Solo, and even shows how he gets his surname when he enlists in the Empire. Han and his girlfriend Qi’ra grew up on the streets in Corellia. Like many street kids, they are forced to steal and bring their loot to Lady Proxima in exchange for food, shelter, and their lives. In attempt to escape Corellia, Han makes it out and promises to come back for Qi’ra.

In order to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot and reuniting with Qi’ra, Han enlists with the Empire. Instead of flying, he’s put on the front lines where he meets some thieves who have infiltrated the Empire's army. Han has a nose for sniffing out trouble and likes to hang around fellow troublemakers. He also meets Chewbacca and the two become inseparable.

The Millennium Falcon's original owner, Lando Calrissian, is also introduced. Lando’s co-pilot is an independent and sassy droid named L3-37. She’s hilarious. Both Han and Lando are fond of gambling and one of them is a cheater. Like other Star Wars films, you can expect to find spaceship violence, blood, and death. There is some language (d*mn) and it’s implied that Han and Qi’ra have been intimate. Kissing is shown, but nothing else.

The Rebellion is in its infancy as the Empire is getting stronger and more hostile by the day. Something needs to be done about them and Han must choose his alliances carefully. I enjoyed this 135-minute film and recommend it for any Star Wars fan. It’s rated PG-13 and I agree with that rating.



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Secrets: Jonah and the Whale

Thank you Smithsonian Channel for sending us a screener to watch!

The Secrets TV series is in its fifth season and since we don’t watch much television around here, this is the first time I’ve watched an episode from it. This season premiere caught my attention, as I love watching archaeology reinstate what the Bible has written. Sadly, the title is a bit misleading as there isn’t much evidence or talk about the whale in this episode other than the possibility of it being merely “symbolic.”

The rest of the episode is pretty informative and interesting. On July 24th, 2014 in an attempt to cover up history, ISIS bombed what is believed by many to be Jonah’s tomb. Instead of erasing history, they exposed more of it! Under the tomb are many tunnels which are dangerous to explore due to possible bombs and collapsing. The tunnels are also prone to flooding so the chance to recover the many relics buried within is fleeting.

Inside of the tunnels are various inscriptions and ancient Assyrian Lamassu sculptures. The tomb is located in Mosul which was Nineveh 2,500 years ago. The archaeologists are convinced that Nineveh’s leader was Esarhaddon who claimed his throne by conspiring with his mother to kill his father. He definitely fits the bill of being an evil king and with Nineveh being Assyria’s capital, it would make sense that it was a sinful city. Though references to Esarhaddon are found within Jonah’s tomb, not everything adds up.

In II Kings 14, Jonah gives counsel to Jeroboam II who died in 742 BC. Esarhaddon died in 669 BC. While other sites claim to be Jonah’s resting place, this show assumes that the Bible is errant by the verbal transcription process that took over 250 years to complete instead of summarizing that this tomb may not actually be Jonah’s. Given Jonah’s disdain towards the Ninevites, I doubt he would want to be buried among them. There are many possibilities and explanations. I’ll leave the rest up to you if you wish to watch this episode and TV series.

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Music Box Classics: Castlevania

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

The iconic Castlevania series made its debut in 1986 and I enjoyed playing the first three on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). While I didn’t own the first two games, I have played them at friends’ houses on several occasions. The game I’m the most familiar with is Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse of which there is one track, Beginning, on this album.

Six songs including the 11-second prologue are from the first game. Simon’s Quest has four songs devoted to it. Symphony of the Night has four songs and while they’re good, I didn’t recognize them since I haven’t played any Castlevania games since the NES era.

As the album title suggests, all fifteen tracks are in a lullaby music box style. Each of the songs are exceptionally done despite being a little slower paced than the originals. The longest song is nearly four minutes and most of the tracks are a couple of minutes in length. Many of them bring back good memories of playing this classic series. The soothing music is very relaxing, but I would recommend exercising some caution as they may be too relaxing to listen to when doing long driving stretches late at night! Having this album shuffled in with the rest of your music library is highly recommended though.

This album is ideal for any Castlevania fan who is familiar with the first few games. The asking price on Bandcamp is a reasonable $7. These songs would be great for conditioning a baby to appreciate awesome game music at a tender age. Additionally, these songs would go great in a crib mobile or perhaps a Build-A-Bear. I wish these albums were around when my kids were babies. I guess I can indoctrinate my future grandkids in the not-so-distant future.

 


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We Are Alright

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Thank you Borys Nieśpielak for sending us this digital film to review!

Making a video game that’s fun and stands out from the crowd takes a lot of time and effort. Many indie games remain obscure and don’t get insanely popular like Mojang’s Minecraft. In fact, many game developers get discouraged and quit once their game releases and fizzles shortly afterward.

We Are Alright is a sixty-four minute documentary about Lichthund’s founders Bartek and Rafel and the preparations/launch of their first title, Lichtspeer. The audio is in Polish, but thankfully, it’s subtitled. The film begins five months from release day and continues on though the game’s launch on Steam and PS4.

Until the launch, there are several bugs and issues that need to get sorted in order to get Sony’s approval. Time and money are tight, as the composer is seen asking for his money and in order to break even the developers are hoping to sell 10,000 copies or 300 a month to make ends meet.

Lichtspeer has a lot going for it with some great looking merchandise and highly praised gameplay feedback at the PGA conference. Both of the developers quit their jobs to finish working on Lichtspeer, which has been in development for two-and-a-half years.

After many trials and tribulations, the launch date drew near and it was time to get influencers to check it out and spread the word. Sadly, many of them did not respond. Our site was too niche to be contacted but I can see the importance of launch day coverage after watching this film.

I won’t spoil the ending or divulge the sales numbers as I recommend checking out this film if you have any interest in developing games. It will give you some valuable insight into the struggles of game development and getting coverage for your title. If you don’t mind drinking and strong language, you can rent this film for $2.99 or own it digitally for $9.99 on Steam.

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Garfield’s Halloween Adventure

Thank you PBS for sending us this DVD to review!

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure contains two twenty-five minute cartoon episodes with only the first one being Halloween related. The first episode begins with Garfield being rudely awakened by Binky the Clown’s TV show. Surprisingly, Garfield joins him in doing a few jumping jacks before getting annoyed with him. As he shuts off the television he realizes that it’s Halloween and looks forward to collecting a lot of candy with Odie as his sidekick. The duo dress as pirates and even sail across town in hopes of getting more candy, but they find themselves in a haunted house on a deserted island instead.

The second episode isn’t Halloween themed but it does involve everyone dressing up for a pet talent show competition. Jon, Garfield, and Odie won a local talent contest that gave them $1000 and a chance to compete in Hollywood. The local competition was a pushover compared to what was waiting for them in Hollywood. In order to increase their chances of winning, Garfield devised a plan that would remove Jon from their group. Unfortunately, this plan involved destroying some of his personal property.

The luxurious Hollywood lifestyle made an impression on Jon, Garfield, and Odie. While Garfield embraced it, Jon didn’t want them to be overtaken by it. Jon’s advice to Garfield was very wise and he said, “No matter the outcome, they will still have each other.” I won’t spoil the results of the contest.

This DVD sells for $6.99 on Amazon and it’s worth picking up for Garfield fans. If you don’t like ghosts and celebrating Halloween, you may want to skip this DVD. The sound and visual quality isn’t the greatest, but my kids enjoyed these classic episodes regardless. The songs in the episodes are catchy and Garfield’s antics are funny as always.


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Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Fourth Season

Thank you Click Communications for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

Star Wars Rebels takes place fourteen years after Revenge of the Sith and tells the story of the origin of the Rebellion as the Empire slowly takes control of the galaxy. This series is in its fourth season and it has already been announced that it will be its last. This Blu-ray set contains two discs and 353 minutes of entertainment. In total, there are fifteen episodes and some exclusive extras.

The fourth season begins with Sabine Wren, a Mandelorean trying to rescue her father who is a captive of the Empire. She has the help of Ezra Bridger, a Jedi, and his Jedi Master Kanan Jarrus. The Mandeloreans wear Boba Fett style armor which has significant sentimental value as well as defensive properties. The armor is passed down for generations and is being targeted by a prototype weapon being used by the Empire. Despite the risk of being incinerated, the Mandeloreans continue to wear the armor regardless.

While the Rebels have a common enemy, they are not unified by much else other than bravery. The main characters tend to go above and beyond what’s required of them. For example, instead of stealing just the flight recorder from the latest Tie Fighter Prototype, Sabrine steals the whole ship! Different Rebel parties have different tactics and they often conflict with one another and usually complicate the missions further.

There is plenty of humor and a little bit of romance. Kanan has difficulty trying to kiss his alien girlfriend, Hera Syndulla, without getting interrupted. Other than kissing, you can expect to find epic lightsaber and spaceship battles. No blood is shown, only destruction.

The characters are likeable and each of the twenty-five minute episodes kept the interest of my son, daughter, and me. If you’ve enjoyed the previous seasons, then you should definitely check out this finale.


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Big Hero 6: The Series: Back in Action!

Thank you Click Communications for sending us this DVD to review!

Judging by how many times it's been watched, Big Hero 6 is hands down my kids’ favorite Disney movie to date. Although Big Hero 6: The Series: Back in Action! has a little bit of a recap in the first episode, I still strongly recommend watching the movie before embarking on this series. The main characters are still present including Hiro Hamada, the younger brother of the deceased renowned science student, Tadashi Hamada. Hiro is a newly registered student at his brother’s school, San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. Although younger than them, Hiro quickly becomes buddies with his brother’s friends who happen to do super hero work on the side.

Fred is the founder of Big Hero 6 and lives in a huge mansion. Fred’s father was also a superhero and is played by none other than comic book legend Stan Lee. Honey Lemon has a unique purse that can produce helpful beads with different abilities. In one episode her purse gets stolen by a villain and becomes quite a formidable threat. GoGo is pretty fast and good with razer blades. Wasabi is a big guy who uses some powerful laser slicers when he’s going through an adrenaline rush.

Baymax is Tadashi’s unfinished loveable medical robot who will assist anyone in need, friend or foe, if they simply say “ouch!” Baymax’s helpfulness and honesty often leads to some funny moments in this 175 minute DVD. There are seven episodes and some shorts that are bound to bring out some laughter.

I like how the episodes deal with the problems and consequences of lying, stealing, and procrastinating. There is also a message of hope and not giving up on people. If you don’t mind some cartoon violence and poor decisions that teach good life lessons, this DVD is a wonderful addition to any Big Hero 6 fan’s library. My only complaint is that it’s not available in Blu-Ray format. The 2D art style wouldn’t look much different though. This collection can be yours for less than $10 on Amazon.


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Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV

Thank you Scarlet Moon Records for sending us this digital album to review!

Of all the Final Fantasy games I’ve played, IV and VI have the most memorable music and stories though there are some other runner-ups in the series as well. Nobuo Uematsu is a talented composer and my husband and I have had the privilege of seeing him in person and conducting a live orchestra performing many of his masterpieces. We have also seen live performances of string quartets playing his works too. I’ll also confess to owning every CD from the Black Mages and Earthbound Papas. I also have the overclocked remixes from Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI (hands down better than IV).

Upon hearing about the Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV album, I was hoping for a chance to check it out and I’m glad that we were able to do so. William Carlos Reyes from The OneUps does an exceptional job playing the classical guitar and does these songs proud with his performance. I’ve only been playing the guitar for a couple of years and it will be a while before I can consider myself worthy of attempting any of these songs.

In total, there are twelve tracks and my favorites from Final Fantasy IV made the cut. The Theme of Love and iconic Fight Song are both done beautifully. Of course, Rydia’s song and the main theme are present too. If you enjoy the town music, you’ll be happy to know that it’s on this album as well. The final track is an original piece titled The Crystals which is inspired by Final Fantasy IV.

This album sells for $8.99 on Amazon and $10 on Bandcamp and it’s worth picking up if you enjoy Final Fantasy IV and its music. They’re planning on making a Guitar Collections Final Fantasy series and I’m definitely looking forward to future releases.

 


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Reducing Your Cancer Risk (A Holistic Approach)

Thank you Carl O Helvie for sending us this book to review!

Carl O Helvie is currently eighty-five years old and a forty-three year lung cancer survivor. When Carl was diagnosed, he was only given six months to live. He has incorporated many holistic lifestyle changes and techniques and has shared them in this 152-page book. Not only is the advice for quitting smoking mentioned but steps of how to do so successfully are also shared. Along with Carl’s advice and sixty years of nurse practitioner experience, several interviews with doctors, and case studies are also provided. Although I normally prefer hard copies of books, because of the amount of links to interviews, products, and websites, I would recommend the digital format which is nearly half the price of the paperback edition.

As new case studies come out, the author plans on revising the book and the digital version is easier to update than the physical copies. Hopefully, future revisions will fix a couple of the typos I spotted. Aside from the typos and drawn out doctor bios, this book is easy to read, informative, and hard to put down.

Most of the advice I was aware of such as avoiding sugar substitutes, pesticides and GMO enhanced produce. Avoiding excess minerals like fluoride requires some changes like switching to a toothpaste without it. I like how this book recommends several brands and where to purchase them. Avoiding EMF waves is trickier since I doubt my family will be up for disabling the WiFi at night. When possible the claims are backed up by case studies and interviews with physician specialists. There is some safety lingo stating that this book is not meant to be used in lieu of visiting a doctor and so on.

One bit of advice was a bit contradictory. It’s well known that fish, especially larger ones contain a lot of mercury. It makes sense to avoid eating too much salmon yet the book recommends eating it twice a week in another section.

I like how faith, serving others, prayer and meditation are all recommended for a healthy lifestyle. Many faiths are represented and there are quotes from the Dali Lama and President Monson from the church of Latter Day Saints. Many Bible verses are referenced in the prayer section so I was happy to see those there.

Overall, Reducing Your Cancer Risk (A Holistic Approach) has some great advice and lots of information and web links to check out. Reading the interviews takes more work in the physical format, but it’s not impossible. Most of the information can be found at the author’s website: www.HolisticCancerFoundation.com.

 


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String Player Gamer: Rebirth

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Ever since String Player Gamer’s rendition of Undertale’s music, I’ve been a fan of his work. The Rebirth album has a wide variety of songs, instruments, and source material. Not all of the songs are based off of video games either. Light of the Seven from Game of Thrones makes an appearance. There are some songs from the movies Wonder Woman and Star Wars: A New Hope too. Other than those few songs, the rest of the tracks are from classic video games from the past couple of decades.

In total, there are thirty-two tracks and they are all exceptionally done. Most of them are instrumental though there are some with vocals like Pokémon’s Magikarp Song and the Song of Mana from Legend of Mana. There’s even an acapella version of Star War’s throne room song. Along with the instrument playing, the vocals are fantastic.

There’s a lot of Nintendo representation with songs from Kirby's Dream Land, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Land, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. There are quite a few Pokémon songs including battle and town music. Chrono Cross has a couple of songs in this album. Retro gamers will enjoy tracks from Mega Man 3, Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Tetris Reggae. Some other songs come from games like Animal Crossing, Assassin’s Creed II, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I was happy to see some Final Fantasy (XV) representation on this album too.

In the end, this album has something for every gamer and fans of superhero and Star Wars movies. The price is a reasonable $12.99 and you can listen to it before buying it on Bandcamp and other digital resellers. While it is available digitally on Amazon, it’s a little more expensive there.


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The Rational Bible: Exodus

Thank you Regnery Faith for sending us this book to review!

Dennis Prager has studied and taught the Torah for fifty years and has hosted The Dennis Prager Show on radio. This book is written for people of all faiths or lack thereof. According to the author, “The Torah either has something to say to everyone or it has nothing to say to Jews.” The Rational Bible: Exodus is 520 pages long and goes through each verse and adds commentary to explain them further as needed.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a chapter in Exodus and the longest chapter by far is the 20th one which focuses on the Ten Commandments. That chapter alone is over fifty pages long. Along with the verse explanations are various essays that are thought provoking. Some of the major topics covered are slavery, abortion, and the “eye for an eye” concept.

When the Bible was written, slavery was much different than slavery during the Civil War. Most of the slaves in Bible times were slaves by choice or circumstance and not by kidnapping/stealing. In fact, human trafficking is punishable by death according to the Bible. Many Jews became slaves to pay off debt and they had many rights that American slaves did not have. Along with guaranteed food, clothing, and freedom after seven years, they were not required to work on the Sabbath, and even had marital rights.

While not tolerated or recommended, slave abuse is also covered in Exodus. Any injury that involved the loss of a tooth, limb, or an eye, freed the slaves from their abusive master. If a slave was killed by their master, their death must be avenged and treated as a murder. Beatings are not harshly punished though they are counterproductive and if done too severely, sets the slave free.

Many controversial topics are covered in this book and I cannot recommend it enough. I only wish that a thorough verse by verse explanation book was available for each book in the Bible. The $25 asking price is very reasonable and worth considering if you want an in-depth explanation of the Ten Commandments and the reasoning behind them.


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Little Women

Thank you PBS for sending us this Blu-ray collection to review!

The book Little Women was originally published as two volumes in 1868-1869. It was written by Louisa May Alcott and is loosely based on her and her three sisters. As popular as this book is, I still have yet to read it. I am, however, glad to have seen it in the recently released television series.

There are three episodes that are roughly an hour long each. My family was hooked after the first one and we watched an episode a night until it was finished. Even though the main characters are girls/women, my husband and son enjoyed their stories and felt for Laurie who had his love advances thwarted on several occasions.

Each of the sisters has a different personality yet they generally get along pretty well with the occasional spat here and there. Meg is the oldest sister and is quite social and beautiful as she attends various balls and festivities in town. Jo (Josephine) is rather tomboyish and wishes that she was born male. She’s strong willed and an excellent writer. Beth is gentle, sweet, and great at playing the piano. Amy is the youngest sister and is a good artist.

The March family is blessed but they still have their struggles. In the beginning of the series, the father is away at war and later becomes quite sick. The mother is good at keeping peace in the house and instills charity and other valuable lessons to the girls. I like how they tend to a family in need by offering their Christmas meal to them. When the mother gets word of her husband’s illness she leaves to tend to him. The girls fare pretty well but have some serious health hurdles of their own to contend with.

I won’t spoil any more of the story in hopes that you check it out on your own. The acting is well done and Angela Lansbury does well at contrasting her Ms. Potts role in Beauty and the Beast for a cranky old aunt in this series. The characters are likable and relatable in this film. I could relate with some of the sisters more than others though. I highly recommend this series for those like me, who have been meaning to read the book. The DVD sells for $15 and the Blu-ray can be yours for a little over $22.


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Scripture T-shirt Club

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Thank you Scripture T-shirt Club for sending us a review sample!

T-shirts are comfortable, attention getting, and often stylish. If they have words on them, people will usually take the time to read what your shirt says. What better way to spread God’s Word than wearing a comfortable, stylish, and easy to read t-shirt? The best part is that the t-shirts from scripturetshirtclub.com come directly to your mailbox! Along with your t-shirt are cards with the same verse on them to share with others. Spreading God’s Word has never been easier!

The t-shirts are available in men’s or women’s styles and the material is a 50/50 cotton polyester blend. Though the verses are the same on the men and women’s shirts, the female version has a fancier font. The material feels nice and comfortable, but I can’t vouch personally for it since the sample sent to me was too small to try on. My daughter on the other hand was eager to take it off my hands.

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The verse on the shirt and three cards I received was Isaiah 40:31 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength”. That’s a great verse and certainly one worth sharing with others. The price isn’t shown on the website yet but it will be close to $20 a month which is very reasonable. A fresh and fashionable verse to memorize and share would be a great blessing for any Christian.

There’s a newsletter available to join and if you sign up you can get 20% off and a chance to get a free t-shirt. The first winner will be chosen on their launch date of July 1st. If you’re looking for some new clothes to wear or a fresh way to share God’s Word, check out the Scripture T-shirt Club!

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Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

Thank you Quarto for sending us this book to review!

My kids have been playing Minecraft for several years and have spent countless hours chatting and building impressive creations with others online. Minecraft can be a great learning medium and we have reviewed several Minecraft books that incorporate learning and crafts with the popular game. The Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids has both in-game and family projects that teach concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

My son, Aaron, completed all of the in-game projects and enjoyed doing them. Like dominos, he enjoyed the chain reaction projects and showed them to his sisters and friends. One of the projects has you recreating the solar system in game. Creating an ecosystem inside and outside of Minecraft is also covered in this 114-page book. What science project book would not be complete without a baking soda and vinegar volcano eruption? You’ll be able to cause a volcano to erupt in and outside of this game.

One of my daughters, Amber, likes making slime and appreciated the glowing goo recipe found in this book. It should go without saying that some of the projects are messier than others. The only complaint is that according to my son, one of the tutorials asks the reader to craft an elytra cape which is not a craftable item. You can obtain elytras from End ships or cities. Other than that nitpick, this book is highly recommended.

This title is available digitally for $11.99 and in a physical format for $19.99. The flexible binding is sturdy and has survived the wear and tear of a ten year old completing it cover to cover. If you have multiple Minecraft lovers in your household, it should be able to withstand several read-throughs.



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GameChangers: Dreams of BlizzCon

Thank you FilmRise for sending us this DVD to review!

Before watching this documentary by John Keating I was aware that eSports were big and getting more popular every year. I also knew that Koreans dominated it. I just didn’t realize how huge eSports are or what it takes to make a living as a professional gamer. I’m also now aware of the dedication and commitment required to pursue dreams of competing in BlizzCon someday.

This documentary follows two professional gamers, MC and MMA, as they rise up the ranks to compete in Blizzcon 2014. MMA is twenty-six years old and nearing retirement. He’s considered ancient in terms of professional gaming as many of the rising stars are teens and older gamers cannot match their reflexes. Seeing these guys play StarCraft 2 for hours on end and clicking away at their keyboards and not even looking at their fingers is super impressive. I have no doubt that they would kick my butt in a matter of seconds as I use my mouse to issue orders instead of keyboard macros.

I like how the documentary goes into the family backgrounds of MMA and MC. MMA’s father is a preacher and wishes for his son to follow in his footsteps. MMA takes care of his family by providing them with fresh fruit that his mother loves and by donating his paychecks to their church/ministry. MC’s father died when he was very young and he was raised by his mother. To make ends meet his mom had to work a lot and suffered from depression as a result. MC is one of the highest paid professional gamers and his paychecks go towards caring for his mom.

I won’t reveal any spoilers as to which of these pro gamers made it to BlizzCon, but I highly recommend watching this 89 minute documentary for yourself. You’ll be amazed at the dedication and sacrifices required to succeed in the pro gaming world. With eSports having more viewership than the NHL and the US Golf Open, it’ll probably be around for a while.  If you're interested in seeing what eSports is all about, GameChangers: Dreams of BlizzCon will be available for purchase and rental on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu on June 12th.

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Samson

Thank you Pure Flix for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

Samson’s story in the Bible is an incredible one about a man who had God-given strength as long as he kept the Nazarite vows. Since his birth, he was forbidden to cut his hair and abstain from grapes, raisins, and wine. Samson was a judge and was supposed to lead the tribe of Dan, but he was too busy womanizing. Instead of settling down with a nice Hebrew girl, he preferred Philistine women. The Philistines were oppressing the Hebrews so it was difficult for Samson to get his parents' blessing on marrying the girl he fell in love with. In the movie, the Philistine slave he proposes to is named Taren though her name is not revealed in the book of Judges.

While this one hundred and ten minute movie is rated PG-13, it’s for the violence rather than sex scenes. Intimacy is only alluded to and not seen. Samson is shown taking down a lion with his bare hands, killing thirty Philistines for their tunics, and using the jawbone of a donkey to slaughter one thousand Philistine warriors. Tying ignited twigs on three hundred fox tails is also seen though I doubt that any animals were harmed while filming. The special effects are pretty good though not as high tech as many big budget films out there.

Though this film portrays Samson in a positive light, it does deviate from the scriptures a bit. The Philistine woman Samson married is given to Prince Rallah instead of the best man. Rather than being a harlot, Delilah is Rallah’s wife. True to the scriptures, she does entice Samson to reveal his weakness, but the movie only shows two out of four attempts.

If you’re familiar with the book of Judges, you’ll know how this film ends. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say that Samson was definitely used by God to reveal his power to the Philistines. My husband and I enjoyed watching this film and its fresh take on one the Bible’s strongest men. On Amazon the Blu-ray sells for less than $18 and the DVD edition is under $15.

 


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Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies

Thank you PBS for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

I didn’t think I’d be showing my children a movie with sex in the title anytime soon, but I did. This film is aptly titled as it goes into detail about the mysteries and impressive feats of caterpillars morphing into beautiful butterflies. A caterpillar spends its time eating and once it becomes a butterfly, its primary purpose is to mate. Butterflies are shown reproducing as well as aiding flowers in pollination. Since these events are part of nature and can be seen out in the open, I consider this film safe for all audiences despite its PG rating.

Christians should be cautioned, as there are references to evolution throughout this movie. The scientists discuss the butterflies originating from moths and adapting over millions of years. Scientists also marvel at how the butterflies and flowers are designed to complement each other, but if you believe in an intelligent Creator, the answer is simple.

Another marvel is the distance that some species of butterflies travel. The Painted Lady butterflies travel from Africa to the Arctic Circle. Despite their wings taking a beating, they still continue their impressive 9,000 mile journey. Monarch butterflies are known for travelling long distances too, but Painted Ladies go twice as far.

While the Monarch and Pained Lady butterflies are eye catching, there are lots of beautiful butterfly species out there. In fact, there are approximately 20,000 different species fluttering around in the wild. Not surprisingly, many of them have similar coloring. This can be exploited as a survival technique as non-poisonous butterflies mimic the appearance of poisonous ones.

With the vibrant colors and zoomed in details, the Blu-ray format is highly recommended. This fifty-three minute educational film can be yours for less than $18 on Amazon. I highly recommend it for any caterpillar and butterfly lover out there!

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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