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What Can We Watch Tonight? A Family Guide to Movies

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In-depth reviews of movies from 1990-2001—the best, the worst, the most influential.

When you're looking for a great movie to watch, how do you sort the treasure from the trash? What Can We Watch Tonight reviews movies from a sound moral perspective, giving you the facts you need to make informed decisions about which movies to see and which movies to avoid.

Based on author Ted Baehr's popular Movieguide® reviews, What Can We Watch Tonight ...

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Overview

In-depth reviews of movies from 1990-2001—the best, the worst, the most influential.

When you're looking for a great movie to watch, how do you sort the treasure from the trash? What Can We Watch Tonight reviews movies from a sound moral perspective, giving you the facts you need to make informed decisions about which movies to see and which movies to avoid.

Based on author Ted Baehr's popular Movieguide® reviews, What Can We Watch Tonight analyzes the moral, political, and spiritual content of the most popular and influential movies produced between 1990 and 2001. Using a comprehensive approach to reviewing that analyzes movies in light of clear-cut standards, each review covers language, sex, violence, worldview, theology, and entertainment value, as well as for which audience the film is appropriate.

This trustworthy resource also takes into account the stages of childhood development so you can make wise movie and video selections for your children at every age level. Its Christian worldview helps families of faith make value-based entertainment choices.

This book doesn't just keep you away from poor movie choices, it points you to good films you might never have seen otherwise! Take it to your local video store and discover the best movie entertainment value for your rental dollar.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Conservative Christians who are worried about finding appropriate films for themselves and their children will appreciate this comprehensive guide to all of the major movies that have been released in the last decade. Baehr's reviews are carefully explicit, and many parents will be thrilled with the precise "content analysis" appended to each review, detailing how many profanities are used, what the violent scenes entail and whether there are any sexual situations or nudity. The book's ratings system is based on a movie's moral and political suitability for evangelical Christians as well as its artistic merit, resulting in one score for quality and one for "acceptability." Strangely, though, critic pans like Left Behind, Jurassic Park III and Kate and Leopold get high marks for artistic quality here. Some Christians may also disagree with Baehr about what is and is not morally acceptable; the first Harry Potter movie, for example, gets the worst-possible acceptability rating for its "occult, pagan worldview." The reviews are current up through the first half of 2002; for more recent reviews, Baehr suggests logging on to his Web site, www.movieguide.org. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310247708
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 7/18/2003
  • Pages: 624
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 1.69 (d)

Read an Excerpt

What Can We Watch Tonight?

A Family Guide to Movies
By Ted Baehr

Zondervan

Copyright © 2003 Zondervan
All right reserved.


Chapter One

Learning to Have Media Wisdom

STORYTELLING AND MYTHMAKING

Telling stories is at the heart of much of our entertainment media. It is the essence of the mass media influence in today's culture-the most powerful genre of mass communication. Jesus told stories called "parables" in order to help people understand the kingdom of God. Hollywood tells stories through film, television, video, CD-ROMs, radio, and other modes.

Our Movieguide editor, Dr. Tom Snyder, notes in his book Myth Conceptions,

Stories matter deeply. They make a profound difference in our lives. They bring us laughter, tears, and joy. They stimulate our minds and stir our imaginations. They help us to escape our daily lives for a while and visit different times, places, and people. They can arouse our compassion or empathy, spur us toward truth and love, or sometimes even incite us toward hatred or violence.... Different kinds of stories satisfy different needs. For example, a comedy evokes a different response from us than a tragedy. A hard-news story on page one affects us differently than a human interest story in the magazine section or a celebrity profile next to the movie listings.... Although different stories satisfy different needs, many stories share common themes, settings, character types, situations, and other recurrent patterns. They may even possess a timeless, universal quality.

Many stories focus on one individual-a heroic figure who overcomes trials and tribulations to defeat some kind of evil or to attain some positive goal. By looking at the differences among stories, we can examine the motifs, meanings, values, and principles that each story evokes. And in observing their common patterns, we can gain insights into truth, reality, human nature, and the spirit of the imagination.

Every story also has a worldview-a way of viewing reality, truth, the universe, the human condition, and the supernatural world. A story can have a Christian worldview, which shows people's need for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, or it can have a secular, humanist worldview that explicitly or implicitly rejects the Christian worldview. By examining the worldview of a story or film, we can determine the moral, philosophical, social, psychological, spiritual, theological, and aesthetic message that the story conveys. We can also examine in this light the emotions that the story evokes.

This leaves us with an important question: How are we to judge whether a particular movie or television program is appropriate for our families or children? By what standards do we select a film? Furthermore, how can we protect ourselves and our families from destructive influences in the media while at the same time view what is good and helpful?

THE PROBLEM

Thousands of scientific studies and case studies have shown the powerful influence that the entertainment media has on people's cognitive development and behavior-especially on children, teenagers, and young people, who represent the biggest audience. By the time he or she is seventeen years old, a child will have spent at least 40,000 hours watching movies, videos, and TV programs, playing video games, listening to music, and reading popular books and news stories. In contrast, he or she will have spent only 11,000 hours in school, 2,000 hours with his or her parents, and 800 hours in church, if attended! That's about 2,353 hours of media consumption per year for the average child. Of those 2,353 hours each year, current figures indicate that only 20 percent of these-about 471 hours-will feature a solid, strong, or very strong moral worldview, and up to 7 percent-about 165 hours-will feature a solid, strong, or very strong redemptive or Christian worldview. Just who is teaching our youth is demonstrated in the following chart:

Early in 2001 the surgeon general of the United States agreed with four top medical groups-the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry-as well as with countless psychological and neurological experts, that violence in the mass media is contributing to increased violent behavior among children and teenagers. In addition, many scientific studies from other sources, such as education professor Diane Levin, author of Remote Control Childhood? Combating the Hazards of Media Culture, and psychologists such as Dr. Victor Cline, Dr. Stanley Rachman, Dr. Judith Reisman, and Dr. W. Marshall have found that viewing sexual images in the media leads to increased sexual activity among children and teenagers and increased deviant behavior, including rape. A recent Dartmouth Medical School study of New England middle-school students, reported by the National Cancer Institute, found that viewing drug use in movies and TV programs leads to increased drug use among children.

A new, long-term study released in 2002 demonstrates the negative effects of today's popular visual media on children, teenagers, and young adults. Published in the journal Science, the study found that teenagers and young adults who watch more than one hour of television and/or videos daily are more likely to commit violent crimes and other forms of aggressive behavior. The study, led by Jeffrey G. Johnson of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, followed children in 707 families in northern New York State for seventeen years. Adolescents and young adults who watch television for more than seven hours per week are 16 to 200 percent more likely to commit an aggressive act in later years. The study found a link between violence and viewing any television, not just violent programming. "The evidence has gotten to the point where it's overwhelming," Johnson reported.

These studies demonstrate that movies such as Hannibal, From Hell, Scream, American Pie 2, Jason X, Queen of the Damned, and the Harry Potter series, and television programs such as The Sopranos, The West Wing, Temptation Island, and Will and Grace can have a tremendously negative impact on the lives of children and teenagers, as well as their parents, families, friends, and teachers. These types of movies and programs are nothing more than visual terrorism.

POWERFUL EMOTIONAL IMAGES

Movies and television programs are powerful tools of communication. They plant emotional images in our minds, influence our purchases and our lifestyles, and direct our hopes and dreams.

Gary Smalley, president of Today's Family, a nonprofit counseling center, has pointed out that while altering a person's actions or attitudes has always been difficult, a 1942 Walt Disney release demonstrated the power of movies to change people's lives and the world around us. Disney's animated movie Bambi created an image that went straight to the heart of its viewers, including grown men who hunt. Almost overnight this film nearly bankrupted the deer-hunting industry. Smalley notes,

The year before the film was released, deer hunting in the United States was a $9.5 million business. But when one particularly touching scene was shown-that of a yearling who sees his mother gunned down by a hunter-there was a dramatic change in men's attitudes. The following season, hunters spent only $4.1 million on tags, permits, and hunting trips!

We may applaud this use of the emotive power of film to save wildlife, but we cannot overlook the power of film to negatively affect people and our civilization as well. The heinous power of photographs was dramatically brought to the world's attention by Dr. James Dobson's television interview with Ted Bundy, just hours before Bundy was executed in Florida's electric chair. During this interview, Bundy acknowledged that pornography had played a critical role in leading him to murder as many as twenty-eight young women and children. Reflecting on the many years he'd spent in prison with violent criminals, Bundy observed, "Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved with pornography-without question, without exception-deeply influenced and consumed by an addiction to pornography. The FBI's own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography."

What is even more disturbing is David Scott's vast compendium of scientific information entitled "Pornography: Its Effects on Family, Community, and Culture," which shows that rapists report a preference for "soft-core" films before seeking out a victim. R-rated feature films often fall into this category (for example, Fatal Attraction and Skin Deep).

Dr. Victor Cline's research has shown that the exposure of randomly selected male college students to sexually suggestive theatrical movies increases their aggressive behavior toward women, and decreases both male and female sensitivity to rape and the plight of the victim. Both males and females, after viewing this type of material, judge a female rape victim to be less injured, less worthy, and more responsible for her own plight.

Furthermore, Dr. Cline has found that pornographic and violent images are locked into the viewer's brain by the release of the adrenal chemical called epinephrine when the viewer is emotionally or sexually aroused. These images are almost impossible to erase. So conditioned, the susceptible viewer seeks aggressively to act out these images in his or her own life to fulfill his or her desire to experience the release that comes with arousal.

The key word in Dr. Cline's findings is "susceptible." Studies conducted by the Annenberg Institute at the University of Pennsylvania have found that the majority of people viewing a violent or sexual television program or film seem to be unaffected by what they see. Twenty to thirty percent of those viewing the same television program or film become paranoid, depressed, and see themselves as the victim. However, 7 to 11 percent of those viewing the program or film are mainlined by what they see in that they want to go out and replicate or mimic the actions of the protagonist in the program. The 1987 Attorney General's Commission on Pornography carefully details the conclusive research demonstrating that sex and violence in films and on television leads to rape, child abuse, and increased divorce rates in our society.

This breakdown into three types of responses seems to hold true whether the program in question is an advertisement selling beer, a religious program seeking to make conversions, or a violent program depicting rape. Most who view it will be unaffected, but a significant percentage will be "mainlined," in the sense that they will want a beer if they are susceptible to beer, they will convert if they are susceptible to the religious message, or they will want to rape someone if they are susceptible to that message. These categories often overlap, although sometimes they are mutually exclusive.

The most definitive studies on this mainlining effect of television programs and movies relate to teenage suicide. Studies conducted at Columbia University and the University of California at San Diego conclusively demonstrated that movies, television programs, and even news reports involving teenage suicide led to a 7 percent increase in the number of teenage suicides during the week following such programming.

Soon after these findings appeared in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, several movies and television programs came out focusing on teenage suicide. This is irresponsible behavior, which frequently hides behind a specious distortion of the constitutional right to free speech-a right that has clear constitutional limits. For instance, you are not allowed yell "fire" in a theater, joke about bombs at an airport x-ray machine, or advertise cigarettes on television.

In fact, those who yell the loudest about free speech have yelled the loudest that Christians do not have a right to teach biblical principles in public schools or pray before a high school football game. How Christians have come to accept this perverse worldview-that it is all right to show women being mutilated in the name of free speech while it is forbidden to proclaim the Good News in strife-ridden schools-exemplifies the cunning of the adversary and the passivity of the church.

WE CAN'T IGNORE MOVIES

No matter what we do, we can't ignore movies or any other products of the mass media. If we avoid movies in the theater, they will soon be on broadcast television.

Even the films we would most like to avoid because they are violent or sexually suggestive have a way of confronting us directly or indirectly. Many Christians confide that they have seen some of the worst films that the industry has to offer. Some who try to protect their family find that their children see such films at a friend's house, in school, or somewhere else where parents have little or no control. One friend confided that he had home-schooled his children and thoroughly insulated them, only to discover that they saw an X-rated movie at a friend's house.

In his powerful death-row television interview with Dr. James Dobson, Ted Bundy confessed, regarding his addiction to pornography,

We are your sons and we are your husbands, and we grew up in regular families. Pornography can reach out and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home twenty, thirty years ago.... As dedicated as my parents were-and they were diligent in protecting their children-and as good a Christian home as we had-and we had a wonderful Christian home-there is no protection against the kind of influences that are loose in society.

Bundy's statements can also be applied to movies. There is no way to retreat into a secure, insulated environment.

INSATIABLE

David Puttnam, former president of Columbia Pictures and producer of Chariots of Fire, noted in an interview with Bill Moyers that once people are exposed to the spectacle of blood and sex, they want more and more as they become hardened to the titillation of the last violent or sexual act they saw. Just as a drug addict, whose body becomes less and less responsive to a drug, keeps looking for the rush he experienced during his first use of that drug, those who are addicted to the sex and violence in films seek increasing doses to appease their lust. This is one aspect of man's sin nature.

Since the days of the bloody sports in the Roman Colosseum, people have demanded increasing decadence with each voyeuristic exposure to the violation of moral taboos. In reference to the Colosseum, Mr.

Continues...


Excerpted from What Can We Watch Tonight? by Ted Baehr Copyright © 2003 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

What Can We Watch Tonight?....................................................7
Part 1: Before Reading the Movie Reviews
Chapter 1: Learning to Have Media Wisdom......................................13
Chapter 2: Because Children and Adults See It Differently.....................31
Chapter 3: Asking the Right Questions.........................................53
Chapter 4: Glossary and Explanation of Review Ratings.........................83
Part 2: A Decade of Movie Reviews
Including Lists of the Best and Worst of Each Year
1990..........................................................................91
1991..........................................................................123
1992..........................................................................155
1993..........................................................................191
1994..........................................................................229
1995..........................................................................267
1996..........................................................................305
1997..........................................................................343
1998..........................................................................383
1999..........................................................................423
2000..........................................................................463
2001..........................................................................505
The first half of 2002........................................................547
Conclusion....................................................................569
Epilogue......................................................................571
Acceptability Index...........................................................573
MPAA Rating Index.............................................................581
Genre Index...................................................................589
Movie Titles, Actors, and Directors Index.....................................599
Acknowledgments...............................................................621
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