Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of 21 BRIDGES

21 Bridges, rated R
***

21 Bridges is an intense thriller about a police chase of two murderers of multiple police officers through the streets of Manhattan overnight. The film is well-made and exciting, but does include a significant amount of adult language and violence. The film is directed by Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones, Luther), and written by Adam Mervis and Michael Carnahan. The film had a budget of approximately $33 million.

The film begins with a young boy, Andre Davis, at the funeral of his policeman father who was killed in the line of duty. That young boy, played by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, 24, Marshall), would grow up to be a police detective in New York City, because it was “in his DNA”.  The film then moves forward nineteen years to the present day.

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My Review of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Avengers: Infinity War, rated PG-13
***

Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that has been ten years in the making. This is a big movie in every way, being released on the franchise’s tenth anniversary of the first film, 2008’s Iron Man. The nineteenth film from the Marvel Universe comes with a budget of approximately $300 million, is about 160 minutes long, includes about 64 main characters, and has multiple plotlines. Although the film is well made and entertaining, with a good deal of humor, there is almost too much going on here. We lose some character development to the almost constant action violence battle scenes.
The film is co-directed by Emmy winners Joe Russo and Anthony Russo (Arrested Development, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier).  The film is co-written by Emmy winners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
The villain in the film is the formidable Thanos from the planet Titan, played by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk). Thanos is the step-father of Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana (Avatar), one of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos towers over his enemies. He believes that the universe is suffering from over-population. His goal is to destroy half of life in the universe. To do this, he needs to obtain six powerful Infinity Stones, and place them in his large glove. With each stone he gets, he will become more powerful.  If Thanos gets all the stones he will be unstoppable. Thanos is assisted by Ebony Maw, played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. The film is about the Avengers trying to keep Thanos from obtaining those stones.
The film includes the Marvel superheroes we’ve been introduced to over the past ten years, as well as some new characters; from Iron Man, played by two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Trophic Thunder, Chaplin) to Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman (Marshall, 42).
The film includes some excellent humor – for example from Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (12 Strong), continuing to call Rocket Raccoon, voiced by four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), a rabbit, and a great exchange between Thor and Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt (Jurassic World).
Content issues include a small amount of adult language and like all Marvel films, several intense battles scenes. Themes in the film include the abuse of power, self-sacrifice, perseverance, teamwork, courage, love and friendship.
Avengers: Infinity Wars is a well-made entertaining and intense film that also includes some well-placed humor. The ending may disappoint some viewers, who will have to wait for the next Avengers film, shot at the same time, which will be out in 2019. And with all Marvel films, don’t forget to stay in your seats all the way through the ending credits for a final scene.


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My Review of BLACK PANTHER

Black Panther, rated PG-13
****

Black Panther, the latest film from Marvel, is a triumph and an exciting, well-acted and directed introduction to a new super hero. The film is directed by 31-year-old Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) and written by Coogler and Emmy nominee Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story). Coogler uses cinematographer Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison (Mudbound), production designer Emmy nominee Hannah Beachler (Beyonce: Lemonade), and composer Ludwig Goransson, all who worked with him on 2013’s excellent Fruitvale Station. Two-time Oscar nominee Ruth E. Carter (Amistad, Malcolm X) handled the costume design.
The film has an all-star cast, and an estimated budget of $200 million. This is the eighteenth film released by Marvel Studios for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This one is different from other Marvel films however, in that it is a pretty much self-contained world, though we did hear about the death of the King of Wakanda in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman (Marshall, 42) is the son of the king. After the death of his father, he returns to the mysterious land of Wakanda to take his place as king. Wakanda is a beautiful African nation that has never been colonized by White settlers that hides its riches and technology, powered by the rare and extremely valuable blue metal vibranium, from the rest of the world. Vibranium has many valuable uses.
T’Challa assumes the title Black Panther, with an impenetrable black battle suit, developed by his sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, who also provides the vibranium-based weapons. Okoye, played by Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) leads Wakanda’s elite female warriors. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) plays Nakia, T’Challa’s former girlfriend that he still has feelings for.
For centuries Wakanda has kept its great wealth to itself and T’Challa wants to keep Wakanda isolated from the rest of the world. But Nakia sees how Wakanda can help other nations with their vast resources.
A challenger to T’Challa and the throne of Wakanda is Erik Killmonger, a soldier played by Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Creed).  Because of an event that occurred in his childhood, Killmonger has motivation to destroy T’Challa. Killmonger also wants to steal the technology of Wakanda and use it for evil purposes. Ulysses Klaue is a South African arms dealer, played by Andy Serkis (Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings) and is a partner in crime with Killmonger.
The all-star cast also includes Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got To Do With It), Golden Globe nominee Martin Freeman (Fargo, The Hobbit, Sherlock), Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown (This is Us, Marshall) and Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out).
Coogler used experts in African history and politics as consultants on the film to work on defining Wakanda, a nation where three out of every five people go barefoot. The fighting in the film is based on African martial arts. The powerful musical score is by Ludwig Goransson and features new original songs from Kendrick Lamar.
Themes in the film include loyalty and tradition, and transitioning from barriers to bridges.  The film is visually stunning, particularly the costumes and how the African nation of Wakanda is portrayed. Parts of the closing battle scene will also remind you of Star Wars.
Content concerns include a significant amount of intense superhero violence, as is expected with any Marvel film. There is also some adult language. The king’s power is said to come from the panther god, Bast by way of a glowing flower. We hear people pray to ancestors and to Bast.
Black Panther is an achievement not only as a very entertaining film with a good story, but also culturally. It features strong women in key roles. The Black Panther is Marvel’s first African American super hero and the cast, director and supporting crew is largely African American.
Reminder: as with all Marvel films, don’t forget to wait through all of the ending credits.


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My Review of MARSHALL

Marshall, rated PG-13
****

Marshall is a well-acted film inspired by true events. It primarily tells the story of a 1941 case that future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther, 42, Get on Up) tried for the NAACP. The film is directed by Oscar nominee Reginald Hudlin (Django Unchained) and written by the father/son screenwriting team of Michael and Jacob Koskoff.
Marshall is sent by the NAACP to Connecticut to defend Joseph Spell, played by Sterling K. Brown (This is Us). Brown is a chauffeur that has been accused of raping and attempting to kill his employer Eleanor Strubing, played by Oscar nominee Kate Hudson (Almost Famous). Because Marshall is from out of state, he asks Jewish insurance lawyer Sam Friedman, played by Josh Gad (Frozen), to take the case and have Marshall join the defense team. However, Judge Foster, played by Oscar nominee James Cromwell (Babe), has a personal relationship with the father of prosecuting attorney Loren Willis, played by Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), and will not allow Marshall to speak in court, indicating that only lawyers licensed to practice law in Connecticut can argue in his courtroom. This unexpected turn of events results in Friedman, who has never tried a criminal case, having to do the work in the courtroom, with Marshall preparing him to argue before the all-white jury. Note: the real Friedman was an experienced criminal lawyer.
Marshall is not sure he believes Brown’s story, and tells him that he will not defend someone who is guilty. Brown has a checkered past to say the least, while the woman he is alleged to have attacked is a wealthy, respected, church going member of the community.
The film focuses a lot on the relationship between the black Marshall and the Jewish Friedman. I especially appreciated the scene in which Friedman quotes Scripture and realizes he’s acting as Aaron to Marshall’s Moses.
We see how Marshall’s important work as an attorney for the NAACP, which results in frequent absences from home, has an impact on Marshall’s wife Buster, played by Keesha Sharp.

The film is rated PG-13 for adult themes (rape), some adult language, including the “n-word”, and several abuses of God’s name. There is also some sexuality included, though nothing explicit is shown.
Marshall is a well-acted film about a small part of Thurgood Marshall’s life.  (Chadwick Boseman should receive an Academy Award!)  The film portrays that Marshall, who would go on to become the first Black Supreme Court justice, was friends with poet Langston Hughes and author Zora Neale Hurston.
Near the end of the film Marshall is sent to Mississippi to defend a 14-year-old boy accused of killing a policeman. At the train station he’s greeted by Z. Alexander Looby (Benjamin Crump), and the boy’s parents, played by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin’s parents. Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old boy, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in February 2012.