Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Movie Reviews ~ McFarland USA and Kingsman: The Secret Service

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McFarland USA movieMcFarland USA, rated PG
*** ½
This film is based on the true story of the 1987 McFarland High School cross-country coach Jim White, portrayed well by Kevin Costner. The film is directed by Niki Caro, who directed Whale Rider, a film I saw back in 2002.

Coach White’s passionate temper has gotten him fired from football coaching jobs and he is down to his last chance at underfunded McFarland High School in California, where he takes a job teaching science and Physical Education, while also serving as the assistant football coach. The school is in a poor agricultural community which is home to Mexican-American farmers and produce pickers. When White, his wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and their two daughters move to McFarland, they are definitely outsiders. White has initial conflicts with the head football coach and high school principal (Valente Rodriguez). It is only as he sees his students, who refer to him as “White”, running to get to their after school jobs as produce pickers that he gets the idea of forming a cross-country team at the school, something only more wealthy schools have.

We see White getting involved in the lives of his students, who work in the fields before and after school each day, running from and to the fields to school. We get to know well the members of his cross-country team, especially Thomas (Carlos Pratt) and the chunky Danny (Ramiro Rodriguez), who is only on the team because they needed seven runners. Danny Mora is excellent as the local store owner, who hasn’t closed his store in years. We see a very close-knit community that White and his family eventually become very close to and an important part of.

Although White’s faith doesn’t come through in the film, it did in a February 18 story in USA Today where the Church of Christ minister now in his 70’s stated “God’s been an important part of my life”. Though the film only shows one prayer, White states “I wanted to be a godly man, and I wanted to be a godly example for the kids”.

I very much enjoyed this family-friendly, well-acted and inspirational film from Disney, and highly recommend it. It will show you the true meaning of “home”.

Kingsman: The Secret Service movieKingsman: The Secret Service, rated R

This film is based on a comic book by Mark Miller and Dave Gibbons, and certainly has references to the James Bond 007 series. After seeing the trailer for the film I was looking forward to seeing it, as it gave the feel of a Marvel film. When I saw that it was rated “R” I was surprised. It turns out that the rating is quite appropriate for the over the top violence, language and a seemingly tacked on nude scene at the end of the film. The film is directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class and a few others, none of which we have seen.

Kingsman is portrayed as a small tailor shop in London. In actuality it is a secret spy agency inspired by King Arthur and his knights. Michael Caine stars as Arthur, the Kingsman leader. Colin Firth stars as Harry Hart (code name Galahad). The spy agency is in need of a new recruit and Harry suggests Gary “Uggsy” Unwin, played by Taron Egerton. Uggsy is not your typical Kingsman material. Rather than attending Oxford or Cambridge, he is living an aimless life. He loves his mother, who lives with her abusive boyfriend. But Eggsy’s father, a former Kingsman, saved Harry’s life, and so he takes a chance on the boy, who will need to go through an intensive training and vetting process under Merlin (Mark Strong), to see if he is indeed Kingsman material.

Ohm SymbolSamuel L. Jackson stars as Valentine, the film’s lisping villain, who wears a Hindu ohm symbol throughout the movie. He is an internet billionaire who plans to use technology to control and take over the world. We see one particularly brutal scene in a bigoted church (most likely modeled after Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church).

The film, is set up for a sequel and a franchise. It includes some creatively filmed action scenes and a good cast. However, the violence, language and completely unnecessary (brief) nudity at the end of the film ruined for me what could have been a fun film to watch.


Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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