Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of US

Us, rated R
**

Us, is the follow-up to Jordan Peele’s surprise 2017 hit Get Out. It is a horror film that has significant content issues, particularly an extreme amount of violence and adult language. The film is written, directed and produced by Oscar winner Peele (Get Out). While the messages in Get Out were obvious, what Peele is wanting to communicate with Us is more of a head scratcher. Some reviewers have pointed to Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining as an influence, and that viewers will get more out of the film after each repeated viewing, something I don’t plan to invest the time nor money in.
As the film opens, we read a few sentences on the screen about the miles and miles of tunnels underneath the surface of America, many of which have “no known purpose at all.” We are taken back to 1986, where we see an ad on television for the “Hands Across America” event. Young Adelaide, played by Madison Curry, is at a Santa Cruz amusement park along the beach with her parents. Her father has won her a Michael Jackson Thriller t-shirt which is much too big for the little girl. When her mother goes to the restroom, her father is to watch her, but he is consumed with playing a whack-a-mole game, so Adelaide wanders off along the boardwalk toward the beach.  Along the way she sees a homeless man holding up a sign reading “Jeremiah 11:11” (“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them”). That man and verse will show up later in the film.  Adelaide wanders into what appears to be an abandoned house of mirrors attraction named Shaman Vision Quest which has a sign on the outside indicating that you will find yourself inside. Adelaide soon wants to leave, but when she heads to the “Exit” sign, she just runs into a mirror. It is then she sees her exact double (a doppelgänger), who is even dressed just like her. She is terrified.
The film then moves to the present day. The Wilson family – Adelaide, played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), her husband Gabe, played by Winston Duke (Black Panther), daughter Zora, played by Shahadi Wright Joseph and young son Jason, played by Evan Alex are heading for a vacation at their lake house, Adelaide’s childhood home, located not far from the Santa Cruz beach where the terrifying incident took place. When Gabe suggests that they meet friends Josh Tyler, played by Tim Heidecker, his wife Kitty, played by two-time Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), and their twin daughters at the Santa Cruz beach, Adelaide is visibly upset. On the beach, we see Jason, who Adelaide is especially protective of, wander off and head toward the same house of mirrors attraction (now named Merlin’s Enchanted Forest).
That night back at the lake home, Adelaide tells Gabe about her terrifying childhood experience for the first time. She tells him that she wants to go home. Then the power goes out and everything is dark. They notice that there are four people standing motionless at the end of their driveway. They won’t respond to Gabe, who initially is friendly. Eventually they charge the home and despite Gabe’s efforts, they enter. What the Wilson family sees is stunning – the people on the driveway are their doubles, just like the little girl was that Adelaide saw back in the house of mirrors in 1986. Although they look similar, these doubles have difficulty communicating, some grotesque features, wear red jump suits and even worse, hold large scissors as weapons. Only Adelaide’s double speaks, and then only in a labored manner. It’s clear that this is not a social visit.
Who are these people, who are known as the Tethered, and why do they want to harm the Wilson family?
Content concerns in the film include a significant amount of adult language, much of it during a rap song about the police by N.W.A. God’s and Jesus’ names are both abused several times. There is a significant amount of violence and blood in the film, which turns into a disappointing survival slasher film, after a promising beginning. Themes include caring for others, fear, and deception.
The film includes some humor, especially from Gabe, who comes across as a likeable dorky father. The musical score by Michael Abels (Get Out) is effective in building suspense. Cinematography is by Mike Gioulakis (It Follows).
As you would expect, the Wilson’s doppelgängers are played by the same actors/actresses that play the Wilsons. Of particular note is the outstanding performance of Nyong’o as Adelaide and Red.
After a promising beginning, Us turns into a common slasher survival film with significant content concerns. The film is getting excellent reviews from the critics, and I’m sure Peele had messages he wanted to convey, but they were lost on me. If you see the film and think differently about it, please let me know.

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My Review of FIVE FEET APART

Five Feet Apart, rated PG-13
** ½

Five Feet Apart is an emotional film about two teens with cystic fibrosis who fall in love. The film has some content issues, but also has many positive elements. The film is directed by Justin Baldoni (My Last Days) based on the young adult novel written by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, the latter two of which also wrote the film’s screenplay.
Stella, played by Haley Lu Richardson (Columbus) was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). As the film begins, she is checking into St. Grace Regional Hospital to deal with an infection, and not able to go on vacation with her friends. At St. Grace she is treated well by the compassionate nurse Barb, played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who is skilled in treating Stella and the other CF patients on the floor, including Stella’s best friend Poe, played by Moises Arias.  Stella is very well-organized, sticking to her medical routines and exercise. She maintains a “To Do” list, and loves crossing items off of it. One of the items on her list is to study about the afterlife. She has her own YouTube channel, through which she shares her journey with others. Still, she tries to maintain a positive attitude as she waits for a lung transplant, which will buy her another five years.
Will, played by Cole Sprouse (Riverdale), is another teenage CF patient in the hospital. He is entering an experimental drug program, but even if it is successful, he is not a candidate for a lung transplant. As a result, he has lost hope and is not faithful in following his treatment program. Stella encourages him to stick with his treatment. Will begins to fall for Stella, and she agrees to spend time with him, and to let him draw her as he requests, if he will follow a prescribed routine that she organizes for him.
As CF patients are vulnerable to infection, Will and Stella are not allowed to touch. In addition, they must stay at a distance of six feet apart. One of the ways they stay in touch is by Face Timing with each other while in their rooms doing their treatments. As their relationship grows, Stella decides that CF has taken enough from she and Will. As a result, she takes one foot back, and uses a five-foot pool cue to measure the distance that she and Will have to stay apart. The two fall in love, knowing that the odds are against their relationship. How will things turn out?  Will Stella get a lung transplant? Will the experimental treatment help Will?
The acting performances from the four leading characters are all solid and realistic. Themes in the film include risk, love, death and dying, responsibility, caring for others, hope, human touch and forgiveness.  Content concerns include some adult language, including the abuse of God’s name, and some language of a sexual nature. Poe is a homosexual, who talks about his multiple sexual partners and his love for his boyfriend. It seems that relationships with parents are not close and loving.  Though one of the items on Stella’s “To Do” list is the afterlife, there is no mention of God.  We only see a Hari Krishna symbol on Stella’s hospital room wall and see her meditating.
Five Feet Apart is an emotional film that has some content issues but also many positive elements.  With so many people in the audience under the age of 25, it was refreshing to see love, friendship and intimacy being portrayed without a sexual relationship.   To see Will delight in Stella because of who she is and not her appearance was great.
So… for those of you who have read the book, was the book better than the film?


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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles, Cartoons & Quotes

  • Is Eternal Punishment in Hell Fair? Watch this short video clip from Ligonier Ministries’ 2016 National Conference in which R.C.Sproul explains that God is infinitely perfect, so even one sin is a heinous crime against Him.
  • Is It OK to Be Angry with God over Difficult Things? Randy Alcorn writes “Sometimes we legitimize being mad at God, and we need to start by correcting that. There’s a difference between being profoundly disappointed, discouraged, or even depressed by a bad situation, and being mad at God about it. Being mad is blaming God, and saying, “It’s your fault.” And blaming God is a dead-end street, because in doing so we turn away from our greatest source of comfort.”
  • My Girlfriend Affirms Homosexual Love – Is This a Deal-Breaker? On this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, a listener states that his girlfriend, who he wishes to marry, has told him on several occasions she doesn’t believe homosexuality is a sin. He asks if this is a deal-breaker for their relationship.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More interesting article links
  • Great cartoons
  • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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My Review of RUN THE RACE

Run the Race, rated PG
***

Run the Race is a sports-themed faith-based film, for which Tim Tebow and his brother Robby served as executive producers. The brothers appear briefly in the film. The film is directed by Chris Dowling (Priceless), who wrote the film with Jake McEntire and Jason Baumgardner (Samson).
Dave Truett, played by Evan Hofer and his brother Zach, played by Tanner Stine (Indivisible), are high school seniors in Bessemer, Florida. Their mother died from cancer two years ago.  After that, their father Mike played by Kristoffer Polaha (Get Shorty, Castle) abandoned the boys and turned to alcohol to deal with his pain. The boys are very close and deeply care for each other. They live alone in a rundown home in their depressed town, but are cared for by their godmother Nanny, played by Frances Fischer (Unforgiven, Titanic).
Dave is recovering from a bad football injury, though still experiencing occasional seizures, and is a strong Christian. We see him going to church on a few occasions, where Mario Van Peebles (Heartbreak Ridge), portrays Pastor Baker.
Zach is a popular and good-looking All-State running back on the football team.  He is hoping for a college scholarship to the University of Florida (where Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy and was a two-time national champion), and take Dave with him to get out of Bessemer. Former Tennessee Titans star Eddie George plays a small role as a recruiter from the University of Florida. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Sing! Psalms: Ancient + Modern (Live At The Getty Music Worship Conference) – Keith and Kristyn Getty
****

This album was recorded live at the second annual Getty Music Worship Sing!  Conference at the Nashville Music City Center and historic Ryman Auditorium, September 10-12, 2018. I attended this conference, and can attest that the singing of the 7,500 attendees, along with a 300-person choir, was a foretaste of Heaven. Keith Getty and his incredible songwriting partners had written several new songs on the Psalms for the conference, many of which were included on the Getty’s EP The North Coast Sessions, which was released just prior to the conference. Five songs from The North Coast Sessions are included on the new live album. This recording features Keith and Kristyn Getty, their amazing band and several special guests.

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  • More of this review and a review of To The Kindness of God by Michael Card
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Grand Central Publishing. 321 pages. 2017
****

This heartfelt book is about a friendship between two people who were in some ways very different from each other. The author, one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game, writes of his nearly fifty-year friendship with John Wooden, arguably the greatest basketball coach ever, who died in 2010 at the age of 99. Wooden was white, a Midwesterner and a devout Christian, while Abdul-Jabbar is Black, from New York City and a devout Muslim.
The author states that Wooden was much more than a basketball guru. He was also his teacher, his friend, and, though he never told him, his role model. Their relationship had been born over basketball, but eventually that became the least important aspect of it. The author writes that among those things that he and Wooden had in common was the belief that playing basketball wasn’t the end, but rather the means to make our lives more fulfilling.  He states that their legacy as friends would be one of the most important and rewarding accomplishments of his life.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Shaped by God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms by John Piper
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading