DVD Parties
by Phil Boatwright

Everybody needs a bailout, it seems.  Everybody but Hollywood.  Theater business is actually up.  As in the days of the real Depression – you know, the one with the hobos and the soup kitchens, when people scrounged up a nickel or two to go see Shirley Temple’s dimples or Busby Berkeley’s spectacles – this generation also seeks solace from the bleakness of troubled times via the world of cinema’s make-believe.

Alas, movies cost more than two nickels these days, and old folks, anyone over thirty, find the multiplex an unwelcoming amusement park.  Designed for those whose main income is in the form of an allowance, there are exceptions, of course, but most comedies are crude, the romances are bawdy and the dramas seem to dwell in dysfunction.  But, you still want to get away from the pressures, right?  Well, here are a couple of suggestions.

Renting DVDs is cheaper than purchasing tickets at the mall’s cineplex, no one’s going to kick the back of your seat, and the choices are more varied at the video store than even the biggest Cineplex. And to top it off, at home you can get real butter on your popcorn!  (I’m guessing that oily gunk at the confection stand is left over tank tread lubricant from the first Gulf War.  ‘Course, that’s just my guess.)

So let me suggest – DVD parties.  Once a month, send out a note to friends telling them of a video, excuse me, DVD you have chosen to run the following Saturday evening.  Pick out a favorite of yours, making sure it is one that both entertains and edifies.  After all, you will be seeing many of the previous night’s guests seated on your church pew the following morning.

When selecting a favorite, give the film’s synopsis and some trivia about the movie.  On your computer, print the invitation in a special font, or with artwork.  Make the presentation part of the event.  When they RSVP, ask each invitee to bring a munchy.

We read in Ecclesiastes 3, “There’s a time for everything…a time to laugh… and a time to dance,” which I interpret to mean, a time to be amused or diverted.  But God’s Word also instructs us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).  So, Know Before You Go.  Know Before You Rent.  And give DVD parties a try.

Now, for those of you who are more sports buffs than cinephils, allow me to be of assistance. You should find this an eclectic list. Click on the links to go to our reviews.

Children pleasers – you can enjoy as well:

The writers and artists have embraced moviegoers of all ages with this animated girl-and-her-movie-star-dog-who-thinks-he-has-real-superpowers adventure. G

A mighty mouse saves a princess. I was sent a pre-release DVD copy. So I sat down with a mix of age ranges, nephews and nieces (ages 3 through 10), their great-grandmother (aged 86) and me, the uncle (aged, well, still young at heart). Upon the ending titles, the consensus of the group was that Despereaux, the little mouse with the big heart, not to mention the Dumbo-like ears, was one cool dude.

Inspired by a true story about a 12-year-old and the Pinto pony she befriends.  Convinced that the horse has champion potential, she enters him in a jumping tournament otherwise reserved for thoroughbreds.  Okay, it’s not in the league with National Velvet, but the locations are beautiful, the story-telling is done with regard for family members of all ages (in other words, it’s clean), and positive messages abound.  Stars Don Johnson, Kay Panabaker and Lori Loughlin. G

For a decidedly more adult group:

Through the lens of an 8-year-old boy largely shielded from the reality of World War II, we witness a forbidden friendship that forms between Bruno, the son of a Nazi commandant, and Schmuel, a Jewish boy held captive in a concentration camp. Looking for a delightful caprice? This isn’t it. But it is sophisticated, nuanced and heart tugging. PG-13

Don’t want anything quite that heavy, then try:

THE PARTY (1968)
Peter Sellers (terrific) stars as a good-hearted bumbler who accidentally destroys a movie set, and then manages to do the same to a fancy party given by the film’s producer.  There are a few risqué moments, but it is pretty tame by today’s standards.  Not rated

A funny standup concert – with Christian comedians.  Not only do these Christian performers cheer without crudity, but their work also illustrates that the inclusion of spiritual pronouncements give their routines more substance.  (The first two installments are the best.)

Here are a couple of uplifting entries:

This incisive documentary features the accounts of the surviving members of the Apollo teams who walked on the moon. At one point, we hear Charles Duke from the Apollo 9 mission give his testimony.  My fellow moviegoers were moved, realizing that there is something far bigger than man, or even space itself.

Coach Jim Keith (Jeffrey Donovan) became a legend in high school sports by inspiring girls to believe in themselves. It’s filled with both tender moments and humorous ones, with an uplifting ending.  Reverence is paid as we see the main cast members attend church and the team in prayer.  PG for a couple of obscenities, a few minor expletives and one misuse of Jesus’ name.

Something exciting?

STEEP (2007)
Documentary about extreme mountain skiers. Best moment:  Three skiers are photographed from a helicopter while getting caught in an avalanche.  Not only a thrilling, armrest-grabber of a moment, the aftermath also shows a camaraderie known only to those who risk their lives together.  Now, that’s awesome, dude. PG

How about something with a religious theme:

tells the true story of South African farmer who suffers a series of seemingly insurmountable losses, only to discover that God has big plans for his life. Rated PG for thematic elements, the DVD also includes the gripping God’s Farmer, a 54-minute documentary on the real life of Angus Buchan.