Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Death on the Nile, rated PG-13
** ½

Death on the Nile is a disappointing film that takes far too long to get to the murder mystery. The film is directed by eight-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (Belfast, Henry V, My Week with Marilyn), who also stars in the film as the world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot. The screenplay, with many changes from the original Agatha Christie novel, was written by Oscar nominee Michael Green (Logan).  Branagh and Green had previously collaborated on Christie’s 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express.

After an unnecessary opening scene from World War I in 1914 designed to provide Poirot’s backstory, we see him in 1937 in a London nightclub where he sees blues singer Salome Otterbourne, played by Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda), performing on stage. Continue reading

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Hotel Mumbai, rated R

Hotel Mumbai is an intense film about the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India that lasted four days. The film is well made and acted, but has a significant amount of violence and adult language (much of it appearing in subtitles). The film is directed by Anthony Maras, and written by Maras and John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Happy Feet). The film is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors and witnesses of the attacks.
We see ten Lashkar-e-Taiba (a Pakistan based terrorist group) Muslim jihadists approach Mumbai in small boats. Armed with assault rifles, grenades and improvised explosive devices, the young men split up in taxis and begin to carry out their twelve planned shooting and bombing attacks across the city, that will eventually last three days. They get their direction via earpieces from their handlers in Pakistan and are told that Allah awaits them in paradise. The Mumbai police force is completely unprepared to deal with an attack of such magnitude, and backup forces are 800 miles and hours away in Delhi. Continue reading

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the-birth-of-a-nationThe Birth of a Nation, rated R

This powerful film about Nat Turner is written, directed by and stars Nate Parker. He wrote the screenplay based on a story he wrote with Jean McGianni Celestin. Parker worked on the film for seven years, which was shot on location in Savannah, Georgia over just 27 days. This is the first film he has directed, and it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.  Parker put up $100,000 of his own money toward the budget of approximately $10 million.  Parker takes the title of the film from a 1915 KKK propaganda film of the same name.

Turner was a Virginia born slave. In an early scene we see him as a young boy being referred to as a prophet. We see scenes of his childhood on a cotton plantation in Southampton County, owned by the white Turner family, from whom Nate took his surname. Unlike most slaves, when he was young, Turner (the young Turner is played by Tony Espinosa) was allowed to read and play with the Turner heir Samuel (the young Samuel played by Griffin Freeman, later played by Armie Hammer). Elizabeth Turner, his female slave owner (Penelope Ann Miller) cared for him and allowed him to read only the Bible. As he grew up on the plantation Turner became a preacher to the slaves.

As an adult, Nat continues his friendship with his now master Samuel. He convinces Samuel to buy a young slave Cherry (Aja Naomi King), who Nat will fall in love with, marry and have a daughter. Of note, the real-life Turner never mentioned having a wife in his writings.

Amid rumors of insurrection and violence, the less than respectable Reverend Walthall (Mark Boone Jr.) convinces the financially struggling Samuel to rent Nat out to other plantation owners as a visiting preacher, with the intent to show the slaves that the Bible teaches a gospel of peace and that they should obey their masters.  Samuel, who is in fear of losing his farm and drinking heavily, shamelessly takes up the Reverend on his offer.

The film contains a noteworthy amount of positively portrayed Christian content and also shows how Scripture can be misused and distorted by evil people. It includes a significant and graphic amount of violence, especially the last part of the film. It also includes several uses of the word “n-gger”, the abuse of God’s name and two brief scenes of nudity.


Nat never strays from his strong belief in God as he sees and experiences physical and sexual abuse of slaves – including his own wife; in reading the Old Testament about the wrath of God he is driven to revenge/taking justice into his own hands.

With the ongoing racial issues in our country now 185 years after the events in this film, this is undoubtedly a very important film, especially given Cherry’s statement to Nat “They’re killing people everywhere for no reason at all but being black”. The brutality of the violence depicted will certainly be enough to keep some away, and that’s a shame. Parker’s acting performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination. I don’t know how accurate his depiction of Turner’s story is; that’s worthy of further research. The 1831 rebellion Nat Turner led over a 48-hour period resulted in the deaths of more than 60 white slaveholders and their families. But in the hysterical climate that followed the rebellion, close to 200 black people were murdered by white mobs, some of whom were already free and many of whom had nothing to do with the rebellion.

Despite the fact that this is a brutal film and a difficult one to watch, I believe that this is a film that everyone should consider seeing.

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MOVIE REVIEW ~ The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from UNCLEThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., rated PG-13

This film is based on the popular 1960’s (1964-1968) television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), starring Robert Vaughan and David McCallum. It can be looked at as a prequel and sets up the possibility of a new series of films. The film is directed and co-written by Guy Ritchie.

The film is set in the early 1960’s during the Cold War. It starts out with an exciting opening scene featuring Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill of Man of Steel) meeting auto mechanic Gaby (Alicia Vikander of Ex Machina) in East Berlin. Victoria’s father, who she hasn’t seen for some time is a nuclear bomb expert. As Solo tries to get her out of East Berlin, they are chased by Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer of The Lone Ranger), who has incredible strength and tenacity.

After Solo and Gaby escape, they soon find out that they will be partnering with Kuryakin to save the world against a Nazi-like organization led by Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). As they go undercover, Illya portrays a Russian architect and Gaby is his fiancée.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film which includes some good action scenes, deception, beautiful scenery and clothing, music, cars and technology from the 1960’s. Cavill and Hammer often did their own stunts in the film. Hugh Grant is effective in a small role in the film as Waverly.

The film is rated PG-13 for action violence and one scene of partial nudity. There is some sexual content, though nothing explicit is shown. For a PG-13 film there is minimal adult language, which was refreshing. I enjoyed the humor between the two main characters.

The film will inevitably be compared with Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, released just two weeks ago. Ironically, Cruise was originally cast to play Napolean Solo, but chose to make the Mission Impossible film instead. Cavill, who was at first considered for the role of Illya, was then cast as Solo. This film, though not nearly as good as Mission Impossible, is still an entertaining summer film, and worthy of a sequel to further develop these characters.