Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Avengers: Endgame, rated PG-13

Avengers: Endgame, a highly anticipated film, brings to an end the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) storyline that began with 2008’s Iron Man, and has continued now through 22 films and all of those mid and post-credits scenes that we have sat and waited for. The three-hour film will satisfy MCU fans, as it looks back on the previous films and characters, but it does contain some content concerns that you will want to be aware of.
The film is directed by brothers and Emmy winners Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Arrested Development) and written by Emmy winners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers). While the film had an estimated budget of approximately $400 million, it made a record-setting $350 million in the U.S. opening weekend, and an incredible $1.2 billion worldwide.
2018’s Avengers: Infinity War ended somberly with the formidable villain Thanos, voiced by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk), finally possessing all of the six Infinity Stones that he had been seeking. Thanos, who says he is Inevitable, then used the power he gained from the stones to snap his fingers and wipe out half of all existence, including superheroes such as Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and many more.
Avengers: Endgame opens with a family picnic scene in which the family of Clint Barton/Hawkeye, played by two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (The Town, The Hurt Locker), suddenly disappears due to the snap. The film then moves forward about three weeks after “the snap”. Continue reading

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Ready Player One, rated PG-13
*** ½

Ready Player One, the latest film from Steven Spielberg, is an entertaining science fiction film based on the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline. It is filled with pop culture references (characters, music, etc.) from the 1970’s and 1980’s, action violence and some adult language.
The film is directed by the legendary three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), and written by Zak Penn (The Avengers, X-Men), and Ernest Cline. The musical score, which is supplemented by pop hits from the 1970’s and 1980’s, was by two-time Oscar nominee Alan Silvestri (The Polar Express, Forrest Gump), due to scheduling conflicts that Spielberg’s longtime collaborator John Williams had. The film’s title is a phrase used from the days of classic video games.
The film is set in 2045 in Columbus, Ohio. Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) lives with his aunt and her latest boyfriend, in a depressing area called “the Stacks”, old trailers piled high on top of each other. Life is difficult. To escape their miserable lives, Wade and most others enter the OASIS, a virtual universe. In the OASIS, you can do anything, go anywhere you please, and be whoever you want to be. In the OASIS, Wade takes on the avatar of Parzival. His best friend is H, or Aech in the OASIS, played by Emmy winner Lena Waithe (Master of None, Dear White People).
The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, played by Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Dunkirk), was worshipped until his death some years back. His early partner in business was Ogden Morrow, played by Simon Pegg.
Before dying he created a competition within the game. If anyone finds a hidden “Easter egg,” they will receive a great fortune, about $500 million, and perhaps even more importantly, have complete control of the OASIS.  Players must find three keys that each give a hint to where the egg is. So far, no one has found even one key.

While trying to get the first key, Wade meets Samantha, played by Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), who uses the avatar Art3mis. Samantha is known for being a very good player. Wade is instantly attracted to Samantha. They both get the first key. Samantha reveals to Wade that she has a personal reason for trying to stop the greedy corporate villain, Nolan Sorrento of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), played by Golden Globe nominee Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) who is also trying to find the hidden egg.

T.J. Miller portrays i-R0k, a virtual mercenary hired by Sorrento to do his work for him. Wade, H, Samantha and two other friends, must work together to beat Sorrento and his army, to save the world.
Throughout the film, we follow the main characters as they jump from one challenge to the next. They receive clues from movies, music and video games that Halliday loved.
Themes include friendship, competition, self-sacrifice and living in a virtual world vs. living in the real world.  (This is reflected in our world by how many people have their faces in their phones vs. having face-to-face dialogue with their friends and family.)  Content concerns include some adult language, including a few abuses of God’s name, a brief scene of partial nudity and action violence.
I saw the film in IMAX, and it was visually stunning, with a good use of computer generated imagery (CGI).  (It should be stunning because they spent $175 million in production costs.)  Humor was effectively used throughout the film. Ready Player One is a visually stunning and entertaining film that unfortunately includes some adult language that adds nothing to the film.  This would be a good film for older children and adults to enjoy together.