Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of THE WAY BACK

The Way Back, rated R
** ½

The Way Back is about a former star athlete returning to his high school to coach the basketball team. The film, featuring a strong performance from Ben Affleck, deals with serious themes and contains a significant amount of adult language. The film is directed by Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant), and written by Brad Ingelsby (Out of the Furnace).
Jack Cunningham, played by two-time Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Argo), works on a construction site. He pours alcohol into his coffee mug on the site and stops at a bar on the way home each night. His sister Beth, played by Michaela Watkins, is concerned with his drinking as we see him being often helped home by the same old man who used to carry his father home drunk from the same bar.
Jack was once a star basketball player at Bishop Hayes, leading his team to the state championship and being named player of the year 1993-1995. But he turned down a college scholarship, and hasn’t touched a basketball since.
Out of the blue, Jack gets a call from Father Edward Devine, played by John Aylward, the head priest at his alma mater. The basketball coach has had a heart attack, and will not be returning. Father Devine asks Jack if he would take over as the coach of a team that is quite frankly not very good. In fact, the last time the team made the playoffs was 25 years ago, when Jack was playing. Jack’s immediate response is to turn the priest down, but Father Devine asks him to think about it, and let him know in the morning as the team has a game in a few days. On a painful night to watch, we see Jack drink a 12 pack of beer as he repeatedly rehearses his call to Father Devine, but then surprisingly he accepts the position. Continue reading


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My Movie Review ~ The Accountant

the-accountantThe Accountant, rated R
***

This film is directed by Gavin O’Connor (Jane Got a Gun). The screenplay is by Bill Dubuque (The Judge). It features a strong cast, including two Oscar winners, Ben Affleck (Argo and Good Will Hunting), and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and two Oscar nominees Anna Kendrick (Up in The Air), and John Lithgow (Terms of Endearment and The World According to Garp).

The film features a complicated plot with a number of flashbacks and surprises. Ben Affleck portrays Christian Wolff, who is a highly functioning autistic.  His parents break up after disagreeing how he is to be treated. Christian’s controlling military father (Robert C. Traveiler) is extremely hard on the young Christian (played by Seth Lee) and his brother Brax (played as an adult by Jon Bernthal). Christian’s father wants him to be able to defend himself, as he knows he will be picked on throughout his life.

We see a grown-up Christian working as a freelance accountant in an office at a strip mall in Plainfield, Illinois. He is a loner who has incredible abilities with math, and is uncomfortable socially.

Ray King (played by J.K. Simmons) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury Crime Enforcement Division, begins to investigate Christian. He blackmails Marybeth Medina, an analyst played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson to track down Christian.

Christian takes on a legitimate client Living Robotics, led by Lamar Black, played by John Lithgow. He is contacted by Black’s sister Rita Blackburn, (Jean Smart) to track down the $61 million discrepancy found by accountant Dana Cummins (Anna Kendrick), just before the company is to go public. This puts the lives of both Christian and Dana in danger.

The film is rated “R” for a significant amount of violence and adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. Ben Affleck delivers a strong performance as the violent autistic Christian, and the other cast members give solid performances. The multiple plotlines made this a film that you need to pay close attention to, but I thought there were too many plot holes.


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My Review of the Movie ~ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v. Superman PosterBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, rated PG-13
**

Some may ask how many times will we need to see a new Batman or Superman film. Well, since 1943, this is the tenth time Batman has been portrayed, and the sixteenth time for Superman since 1939. And based on the large crowds in the theatre last night when we saw the film (the film is projected to make $160 million this weekend in the U.S. alone), pairing the two superheroes (along with Wonder Woman) in the same film is a welcome idea. A good idea perhaps, but poorly executed in this (estimated) $250 million hot mess of a film.

It’s not for lack of effort. The film, loosely based on the graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller, features a strong cast – Ben Affleck is good as the new Bruce Wayne/Batman and Henry Cavill returns from the disappointing Man of Steel as Clark Kent/Superman. Kevin Costner makes a cameo as Superman’s father while Diane Lane has a larger role as his mother Martha. Amy Adams, one of our better actresses, returns as Lois Lane. We have Jesse Eisenberg, excellent as Lex Luthor, Laurence Fishburne rather irritating as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince and Wonder Women.

**SPOILER WARNING! **

The film is directed by Zack Snyder (who also directed 2013’s Man of Steel), but ultimately the script by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer is disorganized and confusing, beginning with a flashback to when a young Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot to death outside of a movie theatre. We then see another flashback (there are many of them in the film) of the alien invasion of Metropolis eighteen months ago by General Zod (Michael Shannon).  Bruce Wayne has been closely watching the now controversial Superman since the attack. Clark Kent now lives with girlfriend Lois Lane.   Note:  I guess Superman’s morals have slipped a bit, and Batman is no boy scout in this film either.

Superman has become a deeply polarizing figure, leading to a Senate committee led by Senator Finch about Superman not being above the law.  While Wayne seeks to bring Superman under control as Batman, Luthor heads up Lex Corp and wants to get his hands on kryptonite and create his undefeatable monster Doomsday and dominate the world.

Luthor, and the film, portray Superman as a Jesus-figure who has come from above to save the world. Luthor is a devil figure, and is provided with dialogue right out of the Christian liberalism playbook (“If God is all powerful, he cannot be all good. If God is all good, then he cannot be all powerful”).

The film serves to introduce us to the upcoming Justice League franchise. Affleck is planned to portray Batman in several forthcoming films – Suicide Squad (2016), The Justice League Part One (2017), Untitled Batman Reboot, Justice League Part Two (2019), and possibly 2 sequels to the Untitled Batman Reboot. I hope the following films are much better than this one.

This dark and violent film is overly long at two and a half hours. Although the action scenes were generally done well, a shorter better-edited version of the film with more focus on the storyline would be more satisfying.  An “R” rated version of the film is planned for DVD. The film includes a small amount of unnecessary adult language, including a few abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, and a bathtub scene with Adams and Cavill.