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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: April 11, 2019.

Top pick family movies from 2018 have recently earned top nominations and awards. Many of these movies continue to prevail in theaters in the first week of March 2019.  In box office order they include the following : animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG), for older children through adults, Mary Poppins Returns (PG) for all ages, and Ralph Breaks the Internet (PG) for all ages.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG), which is suitable for older children through adults, is an animated comic book adventure, various manifestations of Spider-Man from other dimensions team up to stop a crime boss from destroying reality.  This movie is a fun movie with action, heart and faith; but there is intense action violence which warrants caution for young children. It has been awarded the 2019 Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the year. Further, at the recent Movieguide ® Gala it has earned the award for one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families.

Ralph Breaks the Internet (PG) for all ages is a hilarious and heartfelt sequel to Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, in which the arcade villain wants to be the hero rather than the villain. In this sequel, Ralph and his best friend Vanellope go into the world of the Internet after a missing piece for Vanellope’s arcade game. The movie has good moral themes about friendship, adoption, family, self-sacrifice, and courage (there are a few intense scenes). The characters and adventures in the movie appeal to all ages. It has been nominated for the 2019 Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the year. Further, at the recent Movieguide ® Gala it has earned the award for one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families.

In Mary Poppins ReturnsMichael Banks and his sister Jane are now adults and Michael has children of his own, who are in desperate need of a nanny because they have lost their mother. In addition, Michael is distraught with overdue house payments. The movie is full of delightful entertainment with spectacular dance numbers and sweet, endearing songs. This lovely movie encourages the value of family and the importance of imagination. It features Emily Blunt delightfully as Mary Poppins, along with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, and more. awarded the 2019 Oscar for Best Animated Feature film of the year. It has been nominated for the 2019 Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Production Design of the year. It also at the recent Movieguide ® Gala has earned the award for one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families.

Some other top pick 2018 family movies now available on streaming and DVD that have also earned Oscar nominations include: Black Panther for Best Picture and Best Sound Mixing, At Eternity’s Gate for Best Leading Actor (Willem Defoe), Incredibles 2 for Best Animated Movie, and Christopher Robin for Best Visual Effects, and Solo: A Star Wars Story for Best Visual Effects.  See my articles and interviews for these movies and more top pick family and redemptive movies on Sonoma Christian Home.

There have been many wonderful family movies in theaters in 2018 and many more to anticipate in can be found in on various streaming platforms and/or on DVDs: The Grinch, Peter Rabbit, Buttons, Christopher Robin, Black Panther, Show Dogs, and Incredibles 2,  See this list on IMDb.

The Grinch (PG) is a charming, innocent movie and more about the true meaning of Christmas and how it triumphs over alienation and materialism. It includes classic Christmas carols and hymns that focus on Christian themes. It gives a sympathetic back story for Grinch. It presents role model family members. It is a sweet movie with delightful humor and funny characters. All ages will enjoy this entertaining movie. At the recent Movieguide ® Gala, this movie has earned the award for Best Movie for Families.

Peter Rabbit deals with discovering what is true to resolve conflicts and find reconciliation. It is about the mischievous and adventurous Peter Rabbit, who leads his animal friends to battle against the McGregors. This movie is PG-rated and is appropriate for children through adults. This charming film is based on Beatrix Potter books and is full of delightful British humor.

In the film, Peter’s battle with Old Mr. McGregor, keeper of the vegetable garden, takes a turn when the old man dies. When his great-nephew, Mr. Thomas McGregor inherits the place, Peter realizes that the struggle for control of the vegetable garden – and the heart of their next-door neighbor, Bea – has only just begun.  To help, Peter is enlisting his family and friends – sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, cousin Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and other characters author and illustrator Beatrix Potter created in her original tales.

For the animation, Will Gluck, co-writer/director, and fellow producer Zareh Nalbandian partnered with Nalbandian’s Animation and VFX studio Animal Logic, whose previous credits include The LEGO® Movie, Happy Feet, and other films, for a film that would combine animation with live action.  “We wanted to use as many of the Beatrix Potter characters as possible to honor what she created,” continues Gluck. “We’re all familiar with the beautiful watercolor paintings – if they were to come to life in the real world, we hope this is what they would look like.” This live-action movie is a delightful animation marvel.

The look of the film was only one part of maintaining the integrity of the characters – just as important was ensuring that Peter behaved as Peter – a character who takes risks and enjoys a good prank, but one whose good heart shines through.

“Peter is told not to go into McGregor’s garden because his father was put into a pie for going into the garden. What does he do? He goes into the garden. That’s who Peter is – there’s nothing more you can tell someone who’s like that,” Gluck explains. “He has that impishness, but also a bold confidence and a self-delusion that he’s always right, when he’s actually often wrong. He’s never in doubt, though, so he keeps charging forward until he realizes he’s gone too far.”

But even as Peter faces reality when daring bullheadedness goes too far, his true character emerges. “He comes to realize that he has to take care of his cousin and his three sisters, and although he wouldn’t admit it to himself, he realizes that there might be shades to Thomas McGregor,” Gluck continues. “Peter is an adolescent who starts to appreciate that things aren’t always black and white.”

Susan Bolsover, director of licensing and consumer products for Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd, says, “Beatrix understood the importance of talking to children on their own level and created a story, set in the natural world that all children would recognize with themes that would be universally appealing.”

Peter eventually teaches his animal friends to find healing coexistence with their human friends and his readers to find the same with each other. Recently at the Movieguide ® Gala, this movie has also been selected as one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families.

Buttons, is a delightful, musical tale about two guardian angels (Dick Van Dyke & Angela Lansbury), who rescue orphans during the period of robber barons, mills, and children in workhouses. This project has supported efforts to serve the autistic, especially the non-verbal autistic. See my special interview with creator, composer, director, Tim Janis.

The film is narrated by Robert Redford and Kate Winslet.  It also features actors Abigail Spencer, Jane Seymour, Roma Downey, Ioan Gruffudd, Katie McGrath, Robert Picardo, Charles Shaughnessy, Paul Greene, John de Lancie, and “Nova” a song written by Sir Paul McCartney.

Childhood innocence comes alive in Christopher Robin. Disney’s live-action and realistic CGI movie Christopher Robin celebrates the rediscovery of the joy, innocence, and value of childhood for all. In Christopher Robin (PG), a top pick movie for all ages, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit and Owl make their first appearances in a live-action film as charming three-dimensional characters. In this delightful, heartwarming movie, the grown-up Christopher Robin, who as a boy has encountered many adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with his merry band of lovable stuffed animals, has now lost his way. Christopher has become an overworked husband and father, who is missing out on family events because of a demanding boss. To the rescue, Christopher’s childhood friends come into his grown-up world to help Christopher Robin remember and reclaim the world of the loving and playful boy who is still inside him.

Because of the efforts of Winnie-the-Pooh and company, Christopher Robin, begins to see things from a fresh perspective and comes up with a plan to save his company as well as his job. He also rediscovers the joys of family life, the value of friendship, and remembers to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again. Christopher Robin has recently been honored by an Oscar 2019 nomination for Best Visual Effects.

Our Lord Jesus said that we must become as little children to enter the kingdom and that the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven are as little children.  What are the qualities of children that enable us to enter the kingdom of heaven? Children are humble, honest, open and most importantly, have the kind of faith and trust we need to enter and experience eternal life now and forever. Children have wonder, joy, and awe with much that adults take for granted, dismiss, and miss altogether.

Christopher Robin also addresses the importance of protecting childhood innocence for the well-being of us all.  See my interview with Brigham Taylor, producer for Christopher Robin on Sonoma Christian Home.

Addressing hope for reconciliation, Black Panther picturizes how to avoid, thwart and prevent evil through sharing and coordination of technology with good leaders. In the dangerous world in which we live, superhero movies with heroes with good moral character, integrity, and self-sacrifice are popular partly because audiences want to see heroes who enable good to prevail over evil. This movie is rated PG-13, due to the violent struggles between good and evil. It is appropriate for middle schoolers-adults.

Black Panther (PG-13), is about Wakanda, an African nation, which has developed “vibranium,” an invaluable metal from a meteorite. Vibranium has helped Wakanda produce extremely advanced technology and civilization, which they have kept hidden from the world, as they pose as an impoverished country.

Wakanda struggles with the following universal questions and dilemmas:  Should they share what they have with those in need? If they share, will they lose control of their resources? Will those with whom they might share use their technology for evil? Is the king’s highest loyalty and duty to his nation or to humanity? If Wakanda refuses to help those they can, how will it affect Wakanda? Can Wakanda use its power and technology for the good of all, as well as for their own country?

Where the earlier American Black Panther group used power for militancy, this latest Black Panther uses technology and power for the Good of All. Recently at the 2019 Oscar Awards this movie was honored with nominations for Best Picture and Best Sound Mixing.

Show Dogs (PG) features a charming and lovable cast of talking canines. Max the hero (voiced by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) is a rugged, loner Rottweiler NYPD police dog. Max and his human FBI partner (Will Arnett) are investigating the kidnapping of a baby panda by an underground network of illegal animal traders. They get a tip that the crime ring is planning to sell the panda at the prestigious Canini Invitational Dog Show. To go undercover and thwart the plot, macho Max must undergo a makeover with the help of a seasoned trainer (Natasha Lyonne) that includes mud baths, ballet lessons, and a Brazilian waxing. As he works with human handler Frank, Max gets in touch with his inner show dog.  He learns that trusting the help of others can sometimes be more rewarding than working alone.

Show Dogs (PG) is entertaining and comical with positive moral lessons. Themes in this movie include the following values: rule of law, loyalty, choosing right over wrong, friendship, teamwork and more. This movie first came out with some scenes which have now been removed due to protests concerning their danger to children. In its final version, this movie is appropriate for older children through adults.

Incredibles 2 (PG) is a sequel to Pixar and Disney’s classic animated movie, The Incredibles, in which the family protects civilians when a supervillain hypnotizes them to harm them. Incredibles 2 is another fun, exciting, family superhero movie with humor, heart, and overall moral value (there are a few inappropriate words). It is a movie for the whole family with themes of challenges of parenthood and family life; making good moral and courageous choices; and overcoming screen addictions and harm. At the recent Movieguide ® Gala it has earned the award for one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families.

Beginning largely with the impact and success of The Passion of the Christ, in recent years we have seen an ongoing Reformation and Renaissance in movies produced for theaters and then available for home use. In 2018 there have been also many fine redemptive movies for families of older children through adults. They included the following top picks: I Can Only Imagine; Unbroken:  Path to Redemption; God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness; Samson; Paul, Apostle of Christ; The Miracle Season; Beautifully Broken; God Bless the Broken Road; Indivisible; and An Interview with God. Many of these good movies are now available on DVD or through various forms of streaming. They are excellent picks for libraries: personal, church, public and more. See this list on IMDb. See other top pick lists by year on IMDb. See reviews, interviews, trailers and more for these movies on Sonoma Christian Home.

I Can Only Imagine is the highly popular, number one inspirational movie of 2018. The uplifting story demonstrates the power of forgiveness and redemption through its strong performances. The film tells the story behind the highly successful song by that same title is now available on digital download, on demand, and Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD from Lionsgate and Provident Films.

This engaging movie is directed by the Erwin Brothers (Woodlawn) and written for the screen by Jon Erwin & Brent McCorkle. It tells the amazing true story behind Christian band MercyMe’s iconic, history-making song I Can Only Imagine. Starring in the film are up-and-coming Broadway star J. Michael Finley (Les Miserables) and Golden Globe® nominee Dennis Quaid (2011, Best Actor – Limited Series or Television Motion Picture, The Special Relationship; 2003, Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, Far From Heaven), as well as Trace Adkins (The Lincoln LawyerTraded), Priscilla C. Shirer (War Room), Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture ShowSpanglish), and Madeline Carroll (Flipped).

Dennis Quaid and Trace Adkins star in this inspiring true story behind MercyMe’s beloved hit song. Dennis Quaid gives one of his most powerful performances on screen in this movie. Recently at the Movieguide ® Gala, this movie was selected as one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families and received the Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring Movie of 2018.

Running from a troubled home life and a broken relationship, Bart Millard (Finley) found escape in music. Hitting the road in a decrepit tour bus, Bart and his band MercyMe set out on an amazing journey none of them could have ever imagined, in this uplifting, music-filled movie that beautifully illustrates the power of forgiveness and God’s love.

Now Bart Millard has also written a book, I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard, which W Publishing Group has released.

Bart Millard, best known as the front man of award-winning Christian group MercyMe, is an acclaimed songwriter and artist. The iconic song I Can Only Imagine, written solely by Millard, made history in 2014 as it surpassed 2 million digital downloads, making it the first song in Christian music to go platinum and double-platinum in the digital domain. A major motion picture titled I Can Only Imagine depicting Bart’s story behind the song has been released, as well as a book based on this story.

In 2009, Billboard named MercyMe’s “Word of God Speak,” co-written by Millard, the No. 1 Song of The Decade in both the Christian Songs and Christian AC Songs categories. The songwriting talents of Millard and his fellow band members have made MercyMe a radio mainstay, yielding 28 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles and four consecutive mainstream hits. Not only has MercyMe won numerous GMA Dove awards, several American Music Awards, and received multiple GRAMMY® and Billboard Music Award nominations, but Millard himself received a GRAMMY® nomination for his solo project Hymned Again, a follow up to his first successful solo outing, Hymned. MercyMe released their ninth studio album, Lifer, in March 2017 which includes yet another chart-topping hit “Even If.” See my wonderful, hope-filled interview with Bart Millard and  insightful interview with producer Kevin Downes on Sonoma Christian Home.


Unbroken, Path to Redemption begins where Angelina Jolie’s 2014 movie Unbroken ends. It presents Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini’s intense struggles and journey in finding faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ when he returns to the U.S.  This is a heart-grabbing movie with good production values, good acting, and a strong ending.  After Zamperini’s return from imprisonment in Japan during World War II, he struggles with symptoms of PTSD that lead him to alcoholism, but he finds faith in the Christ and transforming victory over intense struggles.   The movie is dedicated to late Billy Graham, portrayed by his grandson, Will Graham. See my interview with Louis Zamperini’s son and producer. Movieguide ® recently named it as one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Mature Audiences.

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, is especially strong with its compelling, timely story with a powerful, unexpected ending. It also deals with critical issues for today and encourages forbearance, forgiveness, and redemption.

This movie starts a critically needed dialogue.  In the marketplace of ideas today there are many loud, opinionated voices. Many of these monologues we hear today seem more about one-sided forcing of ideas and winning arguments than about collaborative problem-solving. Discussions and disagreements about faith seem especially sharper and more divisive than ever today.

“In our society and culture right now, we have a lot of darkness,” explains David A.R. White, who returns to the role of the Rev. Dave in God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness and again serves as a producer. “There’s a lot of anger; there’s a lot of fighting. You can’t turn on the news for even a second without seeing something that’s really disturbing. This is a time in our society when it seems like we have so much tension … – we have the left, we have the right, and nobody can agree on anything. This movie really brings that out. It’s a movie about hope, about love, about healing, and, ultimately, forgiveness.”

David A.R. White again plays the role of Rev. Dave, who takes on the central role in this movie after being a supporting player in the two previous movies. When his St. James Church burns to the ground in a suspected act of arson, a conflagration of different sorts rages up in town. The public university on whose land the church resides attempts to use the tragedy to keep it closed for good. Rev. Dave commits to fighting that effort even as growing public opinion questions whether a college campus is the proper location for a house of worship, and even if the church is a necessary part of such a diverse community.

The questions being asked, notes Ted McGinley, who plays Ellsworth, Hadleigh University’s dean and Rev. Dave’s close friend, are legitimate: “Does this church represent everyone on campus? Can this church be for everyone on campus? Are we allowed to put money into a church, because when you do, you take away from other areas?”

However, the way those questions are being debated by most of the movie’s characters, including Rev. Dave, are part of the problem.

“Many of us are so protective about our own views…that we stop listening,” McGinley says. “The reality of this movie is that these are all people who may be right in their own groups. This movie is not about ‘the Christians’ versus ‘the villains.’ It’s about everyone. There are a whole bunch of people in this movie who aren’t incorrect. They’re just two different sides, and they’re not listening to each other.”

Into this contentious environment comes Pearce Hill, Rev. Dave’s brother, a big-city lawyer who drifted away from his family years earlier, when he drifted away from his Christian faith. The siblings’ reunion is rocky on multiple levels, but Dave has nowhere else to turn in his fight to rebuild his church.

“Pearce is reluctant to help, but Dave is his brother, so he decides to help,” says John Corbett. “But, there’s also something about returning home and breaking through those walls they put up after drifting apart. As it turns out, we find a greater love and understanding when we find a common denominator of leaning on each other. I come alongside my brother to conquer something that was insurmountable.”

That breakthrough, at the micro level, is what God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness hopes to be at the macro level.

“This film allows conversation to be OK,” White added. “It says, ‘Hey, let’s talk about this,’ instead of just beating you over the head with what I believe is right or what your parents believe is right or what your friends believe is right. Let’s just open up and talk about it.”

Jennifer Cipolla, who plays Sydney, one of the college students who brashly challenges the wisdom and relevance of having a church on her university’s campus, says the way in which the film encourages dialogue is “going to get audiences’ heads turning.”

“It’s not about trying to sway their ideas or make them think a different way, but just think in general,” she said. “And, most of all to come together. The idea of this movie isn’t you have to think one way or the other. The idea is that all of us can come together, and we can all have our different opinion – and that’s OK.”

“In our culture right now,” White noted, “there is a lot of fighting. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, left side, right side, nobody seems to be able to get along and there’s a lot of dissension. So, we wanted to shine a light on this, but in a God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness way:  filled with hope and healing and forgiveness.”

Actor Shane Harper, who returns as Josh Wheaton, the role he popularized in the original movie, said, “My hope is that the overarching narrative of this story would bring light into people’s hearts – feelings of unity and compassion as opposed to anger and frustration. I want people to be encouraged that we’re in a time that we need the church to be the church and reach out and be loving and be gracious. This film is called A Light in Darkness for a reason:  There’s a lot of darkness in the world right now, and we need to focus on grace and compassion and unity rather than division.”

“The message of this movie is how do we as Christians, as individual believers, relate to others? How do we be a light in darkness?” White said. “The biggest thing I hope all believers will take away is that Jesus was about love. How do we relate to those in need? How do we encourage them? Uplift them? Care for them?

“Ultimately that’s what this film is about. I don’t think it’s exactly what people will expect. I think it’s more than what they will expect.”

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (PG) is suitable for teens through adults. Recently at the Movieguide ® Gala, this movie was selected as one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families.

I also spoke to Ted McGinley and Shane Harper at the Los Angeles Premiere for God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness.  See the entire interview with Ted McGinley and Shane Harper for God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness on Sonoma Christian Home.

In the film by the same name, Samson is a Hebrew man with an unusual gift of strength, who must respond to the call of God on his life to lead his people out of enslavement. After his youthful ambition leads to a tragic marriage, his acts of revenge thrust him into direct conflict with the Philistine army. His brother mounts a tribal rebellion and Samson becomes involved with a Philistine seductress. However, Samson’s final surrender to the Philistines and most importantly to God turns his imprisonment and blindness into a final victory.

Samson is a powerful, timely new movie, which arrived in theaters February 2018 and is now available on DVD. It is based on the Biblical epic of a champion chosen by God to deliver Israel. In the movie Samson is captured and blinded by his enemies, after being betrayed by a wicked prince and a beautiful temptress.

Although the movie has fictional elements like the corresponding new novel, Samson – Chosen. Betrayed Redeemed by Eric Wilson (a New York Times best-selling author and recipient of the Retailers Choice Award), the film also is based on Biblical records in Judges 13-16.  See my interview with actress Caitlyn Leahy (God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness) who plays Delilah in Samson.

Paul, Apostle of Christ, another top pick, has the theme of how to defeat evil with good with lack of retaliation and revenge. Although the acting is strong with Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) as Luke and James Faulkner as Paul (Downton Abbey), the movie is somewhat slow, especially at the beginning. The dialects are varied and not especially believable. The theme of overcoming evil with good without revenge and retaliation is the strongest aspect of this inspirational movie that picturizes Christ’s love in His people even in the face of horrendous persecution.

Based on biblical scriptures and historical accounts, this movie picturizes the context of Paul’s last days in the Mamertine Prison in Rome where he has been imprisoned and horribly condemned to beheading. Luke comes to visit Paul and starts to write about the Book of Acts under Paul’s direction. Luke also brings some money to a hidden group of Roman Christians suffering under Nero’s persecution. It is not clear how the two storylines of the Roman Christians and Paul are connected until the end.

The movie begins in A.D. 67 in Rome at the time that Emperor Nero has blamed Christians for starting the fire in A.D. 64 that burned much of the city, although it is suspected that he is responsible for the fire. Nero has been killing Christians in the arena. He has also fed them to lions or wild dogs and used their bodies as human torches on the Roman streets.

Although Roman troops are looking for Christians to imprison and kill in A.D. 67, Luke, who has been Paul’s companion during his missionary trips, has secretly entered the city to visit Paul in prison and to bring money from the churches in Asia Minor to help a small community of Christians who are hiding from Nero’s fury.

Aquila and Priscilla (beautifully performed by Joanne Whalley of A.D. The Bible Continues) lead this group of hiding, persecuted Christians.  Originally from Rome, Aquila and Priscilla had helped Paul to establish Corinthian and Ephesian churches. They returned to Rome with Paul to serve the Christian community there.

While Luke is visiting in Rome, he learns that Aquila, Priscilla and the Christian community is debating whether to stay in Rome or try to secretly leave. This debate is not resolved until the end of the movie.

Luke bribes a guard in the prison to talk with Paul and to pick up another letter for the Christians in Asia Minor or Rome. Paul is still haunted by the brutal persecution he led against Christians before he converted, although he knows Christ has forgiven him. Together, Luke and Paul decide to write a book about Paul’s missionary work. When the prison warden finds out about the book, he also imprisons Luke.

When a Christian boy, serving as a messenger, is caught and brutally murdered by Roman soldiers, a young Roman Christian convert wants to lead a violent revolt and free Paul and Luke from prison. Priscilla and Aquila remind him and the Christian community that Jesus taught His apostles and disciples that love is the right Christian response to persecution.

Paul, Apostle of Christ (PG-13) is most suitable for teens and adults, due to Roman violence and the slower pace of the movie. Recently at the Movieguide ® Gala, this movie was selected as one of the Ten Best 2018 Movies for Families and Jim Caviezel received a Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance in Movies in 2018.

The Miracle Season is another inspirational, redemptive family movie in theaters in 2018.  After the tragic death of star volleyball player Caroline “Line” Found, a team of dispirited high school girls band together under the leadership of their tough-love coach to win the state championship.

The Miracle Season is a true-life drama, in which one girl story leads her team and town to victory in volleyball.  In Iowa, the girls’ volleyball team, from Iowa City West High School, brings their community together, and Caroline Found – or “Line,” as she nicknamed herself – is their inspiration for the season.

The 17-year-old Line is a role model who is vivacious, life-loving, compassionate, and caring. She makes sure kids don’t eat alone in the lunchroom and that everyone gives their all at volleyball games. Line is the captain of the girls’ volleyball team’s captain. She helps coach Kathy “Coach Brez” Bresnahan (played by Oscar winner, Helen Hunt) rally everyone together to repeat their championship win from the previous year.

Then, as her senior year is about to begin, Line is in an accident that leaves her team, her school, and her father, Ernie (performed by Oscar winner William Hurt), heartbroken by their loss. Two weeks later, Ellyn, Line’s mother, succumbs to cancer and the grief for all seems overwhelming.

But when the team starts to wonder if they can move forward, Ernie’s strength and faith encourage them. Caroline’s best friend, Kelley Fliehler, won’t let down the girl she loved since childhood. Kelley also encourages her classmates, Coach Brez, and even the opponents the City West team faces across the net to “Live Like Line” – to never back down, never stop smiling, and always give 100 percent, even against seemingly impossible odds.  By the time their miracle season wraps up, the Iowa City Trojans help Ernie, Coach Brez, and the whole community find the strength and spirit to live like Line, which makes it The Miracle Season.

Ashes transform into beauty and pain is transformed into passion to help others in Beautifully Broken. This movie is based on a true story that shows real and powerful redemption. Beautifully Broken is an amazing, heart-grabbing movie with scope and universal Truth about the authentic story of the convergence of a refugee’s escape, a prisoner’s promise, and a daughter’s painful secret.  In this touching, hopeful movie, as three fathers fight to save their families, their lives become intertwined in an unlikely journey across the globe. As ashes in their lives turn into beauty, they learn the healing power of forgiveness and reconciliation. These three fathers (one American and two Rwandan) stop at nothing to protect their children. In this true story, a child sponsorship through Compassion International changes real lives of real people, who include the giver and the recipient.

The story begins with William Mwizerwa who is a father who, with his family, are fleeing the Rwandan Genocide. William, his wife, and his daughter narrowly escape death from soldiers’ machetes and guns. In a Kenyan refugee camp, William learns that he can participate in a program that can take him to America where, once he establishes residency, he can bring his family.

Despite the hardship of leaving his family, William goes to America and meets Randy Hartley, who is facing challenges with his family. Randy’s daughter Andrea is becoming increasingly rebellious due to a secret assault that she shares only with a child sponsorship pen pal, a Rwandan girl, Umuhoza, whose family has also been affected by the Rwandan genocide.

Out of a growing friendship, Randy and William inspire and help each other to work to keep their families together and eventually develop an outreach center to assist refugee families from war-torn countries, which also brings William’s wife and daughter to America. Randy asks William to guide his family to Rwanda for Andrea to see her Rwandan pen pal. Randy and William’s family go to Rwanda where more trials, but amazing redemption awaits. William learns that if everyone believed in the concept of “an eye for an eye” the whole world would go blind.

Randy Hartley, a financial advisor from Nashville, had his life changed after a chance connection between a Rwandan refugee and the Rwandan girl his family sponsored.  The connection and journey of an American and Rwandan families has been produced into a major motion picture, Beautifully Broken.  See my inspiring, exclusive interview with Randy on Sonoma Christian Home.

God Bless the Broken Road tells the timely, inspirational story of a young mother who loses her husband in Afghanistan and struggles to raise their young daughter without him. The film focuses on many significant topics:  surviving grief and loss; the importance of the support of family and friends; the camaraderie of soldiers; the bedrock of faith and more. The movie honors the sacrifices of soldiers and families in the United States Military.

In this engaging movie a devout, loving, young mother struggles to do the best she can on the home front in the wake of her husband’s death.  This is an uplifting film for the whole family. It tells the heartfelt story of a young widowed mother who, in the wake of losing her husband finds the strength and courage to love and believe again. See my interview for this inspiring movie.

Indivisible is based on a true and honest story of Army chaplain Darren Turner during the Iraq War. When Darren is deployed to Iraq for fifteen months, his wife Heather cares for their three young children, home, and other military moms. During his overseas tour, Darren counsels and supports soldiers in Iraq; but when he returns home, he has been changed by the horrors and stresses of war and suffers from the same emotional issues and marital problems as the veterans he counseled. He and his wife fight to save their marriage and family.  Indivisible has universal themes of brokenness, forgiveness, and redemption.

An Interview with God is a timely, engaging, thought-provoking movie with excellent actors. In this film, journalist Paul Asher has covered the war in Afghanistan with some of the best stories of his young career. However, this experience has also cost him much more than he ever could have anticipated.

When Paul deals with the aftermath of his experiences, which includes a failing marriage and dying faith, he accepts an interview with a mysterious man claiming to be God. Over the course of three life-changing days with this mysterious man, Paul finds himself answering as many questions as he asks. While wrestling with that of which he is sure and unsure, Paul grapples with who God is and with some of life’s biggest questions.

An Interview with God is a well-performed movie that is best understood as a parable that picturizes important elements of faith, prayer, and a personal relationship with God that we have through Christ (See John 1:18 and Hebrews 1:1-2) and whose voice we hear today primarily through His Word, the Bible. (See Romans 10:17 and II Timothy 3:16).

An Interview with God, a Giving Films movie, features Academy Award® nominee David Strathairn (Temple Grandin, Sensation of Sight and much more) and Brenton Thwaites (Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales).

An Interview with God addresses the reality that with faith we believe we are talking to the maker of the universe: the one who controls all things, the one who provided payment for our sins on the cross, and the one who knows our paths before we do. The basis for our prayers is that we pray because we have faith.

At the movie’s conclusion, viewers will experience an engaging panel discussion based on the film’s inspiring themes featuring nationally syndicated radio host, Eric Metaxas, faith & culture writer Jonathan Merritt and Inside Edition correspondent, Megan Alexander.

See my interview with Harrison Powell (executive producer on Paul, Apostle of Christ featuring Jim Caviezel) who manages Giving Films, a company that funds life-giving films and donates the profits to charity. He is co-producer of An Interview with God.

Although dates can change, here is what is known about the “what and when” of some of the most promising family and redemptive movies for a range of ages yet due in theaters in 2019:  3/14, 16, 19- Patterns of Evidence-Moses; 3/15 – Faith, Hope, and Love; 3/22- The Islands; 3/22 – Unplanned; 3/24-To Kill A Mockingbird;  3/29- Dumbo; 4/1- My Brother’s Keeper;  4/12- Breakthrough; 4/18-Pilgrim’s Progress; 4/19-Disneynature’s Penguins; Tolkien- 5/10; 5/24- Aladdin; 6/7- The Other Side of Heaven 2;  6/21– Toy Story 4;  6/7– Secret Lives of Pets 2;  7/29– Lion King; 8/2 –Dora the  Explorer; 8/23-Overcomer; 12/31- Finding Grace; and more.

Other promising movies in various stages of development and production for the future include: Passion of the Christ 2: The Resurrection; One Nation Under God; The Penitent ThiefEast Oil TexasThai RescueRoe V. WadeGigantic; CATS; Heavenquest:  Peter Pan;  The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair;  In God’s Underground; Palau the Movie;  Do You Believe 2; The Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew; The Ten Commandments; King David; Pontius Pilate; Butterfly Circus; The Adventures of Tintin 2; West Side Story, You are My Friend, God Calling, Walking with Herb; Heavens to Betsy; Let Go and Let God; The Wake of Light; The Breaking PointThe Follower; Our God is Good; and more.

Further, many Disney projects are in development:  TinkSnow White (musical); Oliver Twist (musical), and a Jesse Owens project. Some live-action Disney remakes of classic animated family movies continue in development, as well: Pinocchio 1The Little MermaidLady and the TrampFantasiaChip ‘n’ DaleGeniesJames and the Giant PeachNottingham & HoodLilo & Stitch, The Hunchback of Notre DameThe Sword and the StoneXD Big Hero 6 animated series and more. Watch for updates, interviews and insightful stories for these movies on Sonoma Christian Home.

Please continue to search for and support the best movies for your friends and families. Be aware that the titles and trailers of some movies make them appear to be family-friendly when they are not. More and more Hollywood studios and independent ones are making better and better family movies, but there are also movies that may seem family-friendly that have politically correct themes with subtle messages that you may find incorrect or blatant language and situations that you find disturbing.

Some movie publicity makes some movies seem family-friendly; but when they are seen at a theater end up marred by foul language and other crass, inappropriate elements. All seemingly family-friendly movies are not equal in terms of family values, including superhero movies! It is critical for movie viewers who want uplifting, entertaining, and wholesome experiences for themselves and those they love to research movies written by trustworthy sources before they see them. Further, all movie review and recommendation sources are not equal. Make sure you read reviews by those you respect who have previewed movies you are considering. All movies that glitter are not gold even with cute, seemingly innocent characters or with light humor.  Buyer beware.  Make careful, informed choices. The best family movies can be entertaining, educational, and edifying.

The best is yet to come when we continue to support the ongoing reformation in content and renaissance in artistry in media and movies. As audiences continue to see good family and redemptive movies in theaters, keeping them at the top of the box office, more good movies like them are being made. Watch for many top picks this year of redemptive movies that continue to improve in the ongoing renaissance of artistry and reformation of content in movies. Remember that the teams of good family and redemptive movies include consumers, who determine the success and wide global distribution of good family, redemptive movies. We are making good progress in encouraging major Hollywood studios to produce good family and redemptive movies, as well as supporting independent studios to do the same.

Here’s to a blessed 2019!

To learn more about this author, please visit Dr. Diane Howard

See Dr. Howard’s top picks lists on IMDb.

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