Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Movie Review ~ Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2Now You See Me 2
***

The sequel to the 2013 film Now You See Me finds the Four Horsemen – Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), (who replaces Isla Fisher’s Henley Reeves from the first film as Fisher was pregnant when the film was being made)  laying low a year after their Robin Hood-style heist. The “Fifth Horseman”, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) gets direction for the Horsemen from the mysterious The Eye organization, while pretending to his FBI bosses to be trying to bring in the Horsemen, to the doubts of some in the organization.

The Horsemen plan to come out of hiding at the launch of a new mobile phone that will be able to steal the privacy of those who use it. Instead, a trick is played on them, and they end up in Macau, China, “the Las Vegas of China”, having been kidnapped by billionaire Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who the public assumes has been dead for a year. Mabry needs them to use their skills to steal a priceless computer circuit known as “the stick”, which can de-encrypt any computer on the planet, for him.  Merritt’s irritating twin brother, also played by Harrelson, is out for revenge and is assisting Mabry.  To prepare for their assignment, the Horsemen visit the world’s oldest magic shop, run by Li (Jay Chou) and his mother Bu Bu (Tsai Chin).

The film centers on a thirty-year connection between magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) and Rhodes, who Rhodes put in prison at the end of the last film. Michael Caine, the group’s patron in the first film, returns as billionaire Arthur Tressler.

The film contains much to enjoy, including the Macau and London locations, the dialogue and chemistry among the Horsemen and magical sleight of hand aided by excellent camera work and computer generated imagery (CGI). There is much going on in the film and it contains a lot of twists and turns. Like the best magic acts, things are not always as you think they are based on what you have seen with your eyes. There are certainly holes in the script, and I was particularly disappointed with the ending, but still found the film to be entertaining overall.

The film features a strong cast with two Oscar winners (Freeman and Caine) and three Oscar nominees (Eisenberg, Ruffalo and Harrelson). It is directed by Jon M. Chu (Louis Leterrier directed the first film), and is written by Ed Solomon, who also wrote the screenplay for the first film.

Content concerns include some adult language and some abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names.

We will see the Horsemen again, as Now You See Me 3 has been announced.


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My Summer Reading List  

Summer Reading PhotoI love to read! I think I got that love from my parents. Fortunately my wife also loves to read. As a norm, I’m working on two books at a time – reading one on my Kindle and listening to one audiobook. I only read a physical book these days if the book is not available in a digital or audio format.  I read books in a number of genres – theology, biography, leadership, sports, professional development, etc. As we head into the summer, here are 12 books I hope to read:

  • Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I’ve long wanted to read this book, and now is the time. However, due to the length of the book (560 pages), I may opt for the abridged audiobook version, which is still in excess of eleven hours in length.
  • A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by John Piper. This book on the Bible is Piper’s first major book in a few years. I’ve read several positive reviews of the book.
  • For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton. This is a new biography of the man featured in the 1981 Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire.
  • J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain Murray. I’ve read several books by Iain Murray, but know relatively little about J.C. Ryle. I look forward to reading this new biography from Banner of Truth (book is not currently in a digital format).
  • The New Man by Dan Doriani. I enjoyed two courses with Dr. Doriani at Covenant Seminary. This is a revised and expanded edition of Doriani’s 2001 book The Life of a God-Made Man.
  • Working for Our Neighbor by Gene Veith. I enjoyed Gene Veith’s book God at Work and reading his blog, so I’m looking forward to this new book.
  • Lead Like Jesus Revisited by Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges and Phyllis Hendry. This is the follow-up to Blanchard and Hodges excellent 2005 book Lead Like Jesus.
  • The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges. This is the final book by Bridges, one of my favorite authors, who died March 6.
  • From the Mouth of God by Sinclair Ferguson. This is an updated and revised version of an early book on the Bible by Ferguson, one of my favorite authors/preachers.
  • H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle by Brad Lomenick. I enjoyed Lomenick’s book The Catalyst Leader and reading his blog, and am looking forward to his latest book on leadership.
  • The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Steven Lawson. I can’t read enough by or about “The Doctor”. Plus, I always enjoy Steven Lawson’s short biographies in The Long Line of Godly Men series he oversees.
  • Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls. I’ve been waiting to read this book by Scott Sauls for some time now. I’m always challenged by his blog posts. This is the next book my wife and I will be reading together and discussing.
  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton. I was introduced to Ian Hamilton at the 2016 Ligonier National Conference when he gave three wonderful messages.

These are books that I hope to read or listen to this summer. What’s on your reading list?


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Movie Review ~ Love and Friendship

Love & FriendshipLove and Friendship, rated PG
***

This delightful film, set in the 1790’s in England, is based on a little-known and unfinished early novella by Jane Austin which wasn’t published until nearly a century after it was written. The film is directed and the screenplay written by Whit Stillman. The film features an outstandingly wicked performance by Kate Beckinsale as the deceptive and manipulative widow Lady Susan Vernon.

After the death of her husband, Lady Susan, known as “the most accomplished flirt” in 18th century England, has moved into the home of Lord (Lochlann O’Mearáin)  and Lady Manwaring (Jenn Murray). As the film begins, she has been caught having an affair with the Lord and is kicked out by Lady Manwaring.

She then shows up at the Churchill estate of her brother-in-law, the likeable Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) and his wife Catherine (Emma Greenwell), a place she had previously had no interest in visiting. It is there she meets Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), the handsome young brother of Catherine.

Soon, Lady Susan’s late teen daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) shows up at Churchill, having run away from the school she had been sent off to. For purely financial reasons, Lady Susan wants Frederica to marry the bumbling but rich Sir James Martin, hilariously portrayed by Tom Bennett. But Frederica has no interest at all in Sir James.

Throughout the film, Lady Susan shares her scheming plans with her American friend Alicia Johnson (Oscar nominee Chloë Sevigny), who has been forbidden to see Lady Susan by her husband (Stephen Fry), with punishment resulting in being sent back to America.

There are many references to Christianity, some quite humorous, in this film. The acting, costumes and set designs of this film make it worth seeing.

The book of Proverbs offers warnings about women like Lady Susan, such as Proverbs 5:3-4:

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.