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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My Review of Gifted

Gifted, rated PG-13

Gifted is a pleasing film about self-sacrifice and the importance of family.
This film is directed by Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and written by Tom Flynn. It features a solid cast and some strong performances. Although set in Florida, it was actually filmed mostly on Bull Street in Savannah, Georgia.
Frank Adler (played by Chris Evans of Captain America films), is a former university professor who now repairs boats in Florida. When his sister, a genius mathematician, took her life seven years ago Frank took the responsibility to raise her infant daughter Mary (Mckenna Grace). The two have a great relationship, living in a small home with their one-eyed cat Fred. In one touching scene, Mary asks Frank if there is a God and whether Jesus is God.
But Mary isn’t happy at all that Frank is making her go to public school (first grade) after home schooling her. Mary also has an excellent relationship with their neighbor Roberta (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer).
It doesn’t take Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) long to realize that, like her mother, Mary is extremely gifted in mathematics. The school principal offers Frank a scholarship for Mary to go to a school where Mary would be challenged, but Frank refuses, saying that he only wants Mary to have a normal life.
Then Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan, Sherlock) Frank’s manipulative mother, shows up from Boston. Frank and Evelyn are not particularly close and we hear about Evelyn’s contentious relationship with his sister. This all leads to a custody battle between the two over Mary.
I enjoyed this well-acted film. There were strong performances from Evans, Grace and Duncan; Spencer delivered her usual solid performance in a small role.
The film does include some adult language, including the abuse of God’s name. Frank and Bonnie have a relationship, and it is inferred that they have sex (nothing explicit is shown).


Movie Review ~ Captain America:  Civil War

Captain America  Civil WarCaptain America:  Civil War, rated PG-13

The film is directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: The First Avenger).  We saw this film in IMAX 3-D in a packed theater with an enthusiastic audience who reacted to each amazing scene they saw (watch for the scene with Captain America and the helicopter, or a great stunt with a motorcycle, for example). In fact, even before the film started, some shouted out “Team Cap!” to be responded with “Iron Man!” And the audience was not disappointed.

The latest Marvel film is a long one at 2 hours and 26 minutes. It is rated PG-13 for the standard super hero violence, some adult language (and unfortunately the abuse of God’s name). We really enjoyed the humor in the film. Some films get distracted with the fighting and violence (think of the recent Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), but this one never lost track of the story.

As the film opens, we see some of the Avengers – Captain America (Chris Evans), the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) – in Lagos, Nigeria trying to stop the theft of biological weapons. Unfortunately, a casualty of their heroic actions is the death of several innocent people. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and now the Avengers are told by Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), that 117 nations will soon be approving the Sokovia Accords, and all the Avengers will need to sign it. The agreement will provide oversight for the superheroes; they will no longer be able to enter into situations worldwide without approval. Many of the Avengers, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sign the Accords, but a few, notably Captain America, do not.

As King T’Chaka (John Kani) addresses the representatives before the Accords vote, a bomb goes off. Many are injured and some are killed, including King T’Chaka. We see his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) kneeling over his father’s dead body. Soon news reports flash a photo that show the bomber as being Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was at one time Captain America’s best friend. As the manhunt begins for the Winter Soldier, Captain America seeks to protect him, putting him on the opposite side of his Avenger friends that signed the Accord, notably Iron Man.  That sets up the Avengers “Civil War” – betrayal is a key theme in this film along with standing your ground to do the right thing. Team Iron Man consists of Iron Man, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow, War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Spiderman (Tom Holland), while Team Captain America consists of Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant Man (Paul Rudd).

Not all of the Avengers are in the film (notably absent were Thor and the Hulk), but many are, in addition to some new characters (Black Panther and Spiderman, for example.) The strong cast also includes Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, and Alfre Woodard.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable film with excellent stunts, computer animations, and screenplay.  As with all Marvel superhero films, don’t get up when the film ends, but stay through all the credits to see two brief previews for future Avenger films.