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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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 12 STRONG

My Review of 12 Strong, rated R

12 Strong is based on the true story of a military operation in Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. This intense film shows the courage of the “Horse Soldiers”, a Special Forces team against incredible odds in very difficult conditions.
The film is directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, in his feature film debut. The screenplay is written by Oscar winner Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Town) based on Doug Stanton’s 2009 book Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. The film had a budget of $35 million.
Captain Mitch Nelson, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), had recently accepted a desk job at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. However, after the attack on the World Trade Center, he pleads with his superiors to reassemble his 12-man Special Forces team, which includes chief warrant officer Hal Spencer, played by two-time Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Revolutionary Road), Sam Diller, played by Michael Pena (American Hustle, Crash), and weapons expert Ben Milo, played by William Fichtner (Moonlight). Nelson’s orders are given by Colonel Mulholland, played by William Fichtner (Crash, Black Hawk Down), and Lieutenant Colonel Bowers, played by Emmy nominee Rob Riggle (Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice). Told that the mission could be completed in six weeks, Mitch tells his superiors that due to the upcoming winter weather, it will need to be completed in half that time. Their mission is to partner with the Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, played by David Negahban, to capture the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a Taliban stronghold, to prevent another attack on U.S. soil. General Dostum has his own reason for taking on the Taliban. They will be taking on an enemy that has many more men and resources than they do.
When Operational Detachment-Alpha 595 (ODA 595 for short), gets to the base of operations, called the Alamo, the war lord gives them just six horses.  Mitch’s team has to get close enough to the enemy to give the U.S. bombers accurate coordinates to drop bombs from 35,000 feet. We see several of these bombs dropped throughout the film and many battles until the final battle which takes place in a large valley, in which Mitch, General Dostum and their men on horseback take on the enemy equipped with tanks and rocket launchers.
The dry mountainous region of Afghanistan is captured well by the cinematography work of Rasmus Videbaek, and the Emmy nominated Lorne Balfe (Genius, Restless) provides a powerful musical score.
Themes in the film include courage, teamwork and patriotism. Content concerns include a significant amount of war violence. In addition to several intense battles, we see a suicide bombing and a woman executed in front of her family. The film also contains a significant amount of adult language, including many abuses of both God’s and Jesus’s names.
12 Strong tells the incredible true story of the Horse Soldiers, one of the first groups sent into action to retaliate after the bombing of the World Trade Center. They go into battle against incredible odds, including having to travel on horseback over the difficult terrain, the number of enemy combatants, a lack of resources, etc. The war violence depicted in the film is to be expected. Unfortunately, the film is marred by many abuses of God’s and Jesus’s names. In addition, the film is too long at 2 hours and 10 minutes.  The film does a good job of personalizing the characters, and we see the Captain with the weight of the lives of 12 men on his shoulders.  He shows leadership courage, strategic decision-making and wisdom under intense pressure.

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THOR: RAGNAROK, the latest film from Marvel Studios and the third Thor film is an enjoyable action-packed Marvel film with a great cast that contains a lot of humor.
The film is directed by Oscar nominee Taika Waititi (Two Cars, One Night) and written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. The film has a different feel than previous Thor films, more like a Guardians of the Galaxy film. It includes a lot of humor and some classic rock music by Led Zeppelin. The soundtrack is done by co-founder of the New Wave band Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh. The film has a loose feel, with an amazing 80% of the dialogue being improvised. The film had an estimated budget of $180 million and opened at $120 million in its first weekend in the U.S.
As the film opens, we see that Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, known as the “God of Thunder”, has been captured by a large demon named Surtur, voiced by Clancy Brown. Thor steals the crown Surtur is wearing, which is the key to Ragnarok (an apocalyptic battle in Norse prophesy) being unleashed on Thor’s home Asgard, which will result in total destruction. As Thor returns to Asgard, he finds that his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating his father King Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins, four-time Oscar nominee and winner for Silence of the Lambs, who Loki has sent to Earth. Thor is furious with Loki, and the two go to Earth to find Odin. There they encounter Doctor Strange, played by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) who directs them to Odin, who is in Norway and near death. Before he dies, he tells the brothers that they have an older sister, Hela, played by six-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, The Aviator). Hela is known as “The Goddess of Death”.  At one time she teamed with Odin before he became a man of peace and goodness. Odin tells his sons that upon his death, Hela will return to Asgard and take control; and that is just what she does. Blanchett is excellent as the villain Hela.
Skurge, played by Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings) joins Hela in the takeover of Asgard.
Thor is sent to a planet called Sakaar, where he is captured by Valkyrie, a former Asgardian warrior who is now a bounty hunter who drinks a lot, played by Tessa Thompson (Creed).  Valkyrie takes Thor to the Grandmaster, played well by Oscar nominee Jeff Goldblum (Little Surprises). The Grandmaster uses Thor to compete in his arena against his reigning champion, none other than the Hulk, played by three-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo, who also plays Bruce Banner. The Hulk has been on Sakaar for two years, and likes it there.
Can Thor, Hulk and Valkyrie get back to Asgard to save it from Hela and annihilation? They will be assisted by Heimdall, played by Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom).
Content issues include some totally unnecessary adult language, the expected Marvel action violence, and brief rear male nudity, which is played for laughs. The film includes themes of family, sacrifice, friendship and forgiveness.
I thoroughly enjoyed THOR: RAGNAROK. It was a fast-moving, well-acted, entertaining and funny film.