A slew of worthwhile movies have recently become available for home and family viewing. Take a look.

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How to Train Your Dragon– Dreamworks brings its A-game to challenge Disney/Pixar.

Now that’s more like it! Last July, after I heralded Inception and Toy Story 3 as rescuing 2010 moviegoers from a year otherwise bereft of great storytelling, I received an email from a Dreamworks animator pointing me in the direction of How to Train Your Dragon. Word of mouth had been positive, but I had yet to check it out. Dreamworks Animation (Shrek, Over the Hedge, Monsters vs. Aliens) is known for targeting the funny bone of children and adults alike, but with the exception of Kung-Fu Panda, making films with heart and a spirit of adventure to match the humor hasn’t seemed to be their priority. With How to Train Your Dragon, however, Dreamworks has raised their standard, making the race for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars much more interesting. Combining truly stunning visuals with well-rounded characters, Dragon doesn’t insult the intelligence of young viewers. It is moving and uplifting, thrilling and funny, and uses its fantasy story to explore profound themes of prejudice, searching for personal identity, and longing for acceptance by a parent. If this sounds heavy, don’t worry: you’ll have a great time, and the action is pretty terrific. Listen for a great turn by Gerard Butler as a Viking father.

 

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Life Lessons From Fathers of Faith– Simple but effective

Covenant Communications new documentary (to accompany its book) combines some reenactments, truly vintage archival photographs and footage, and interviews with the children of Latter-Day Saint fathers who exemplify Gospel-centered parenting. Some of the fathers are well-known (Gordon B. Hinckley, Jeffrey R. Holland, David O. McKay), others less so, but every 5-minute story tells of a principle, or a virtue that righteous fathers pass on to their children. There are miracles, inspiring stories, and examples of selflessness, kindness, and faith throughout. Would perfectly accompany a study of D&C 121: 41-46. This is excellent for fathers (and families) of all ages. Available for purchase at LDS bookstores or online.

 

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Doctrine & Covenants and Church History Visual Resource DVD’s– Best DVD set ever?

This is a no-brainer. Easily the best “bang for your buck” DVD set I’ve ever come across, this four-disc set would be worth the $4.50 for the inclusion of the 70-minute Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration alone. That’s right, the movie about Joseph Smith from Temple Square (and other visitor’s centers) that replaced The Testaments in 2005 is finally on DVD to share with your family, friends, and neighbors. In terms of emotional power, filmmaking talent, storytelling, and acting, it just may be the best film the Church has ever produced. Like a travelling salesmen, I want to cry out: “But wait, there’s more!” This set follows the basic construction of its recent Old Testament Visual Resource DVDs, complete with high-quality short films, video selections from general conference talks, paintings, quotes, and learning activities to supplement the study of the scriptures at home and at church. Don’t miss The Restoration and The Great Apostasy, two of my favorite short LDS films. The third disc is the Holy Grail here, containing five excellent faith-promoting films, including the aforementioned Joseph Smith film, Legacy, The Mountain of the Lord (another must-see, this one about the construction of the Salt Lake temple), and two T.C. Christensen gems, Treasure in Heaven and Only a Stonecutter. You can purchase the DVD here.