Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of BREAKING

Breaking, rated PG-13
***

Breaking is an intense film based on true events that took place in 2017 about a veteran, who feeling that he is out of options and at his breaking point, goes to a Wells Fargo bank in Atlanta with a bomb. The film features a solid cast and a powerful acting performance by John Boyega (Star Wars films), who portrays Brian Brown-Easley.
The film was written and directed by Abi Damaris Corbin and co-written by Kwame Kwei-Armah. It is based on the 2018 article “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him” by Aaron Gell.
Brian Brown-Easley is an honorably discharged Marine veteran who has fallen on tough times. He is living in a cheap motel and separated from his wife, but stays in touch with his young daughter when he has enough money to buy minutes for his phone. We don’t know what has led him to this situation, but it appears he is suffering from PTSD, and does not have money for the medicine he needs. Continue reading


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My Review of Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, rated PG-13
***

Where the Crawdads Sing, based on the bestselling novel by Delia Owens, is a well-made and acted film that has some content concerns. For those who have not read the book (as myself), the film includes a few surprising twists.
The film is directed by Olivia Newman and the screenplay is written by Oscar nominee Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild).
The film, primarily set in the 1950’s and 1960’a, is about Kya Clark, played well by Daisy Edgar-Jones. Daisy and her family live in the marshes of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. When she is young (the young Kya is played by Jojo Regina), she meets a boy on the marshes named Tate Walker. Kya’s father (played by Garrett Dillahunt), is an alcoholic with a bad temper. He eventually drives Kya’s siblings and then her mother to leave the home, leaving Kya with her father, who eventually abandons her as well.
Kya has to survive on her own, and becomes known as the “Marsh Girl”. She is helped by the friendly Christian couple – Michael Hyatt as Mabel and Sterling Macer Jr. as Jumpin’ – that run the country grocery store.
When Kya is older, she meets Tate again, played by Taylor John Smith, and he teaches her to read and write. Kya has a real talent for drawing the animals, insects and trees she encounters in the marsh. Continue reading


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My Review of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, rated PG
****

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a delightful film that we thoroughly enjoyed, starring Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread). The film was directed by Anthony Fabian, and the screenplay was written by Fabian, Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson and Olivia Hatreed, based on a 1958 novel by Paul Gallico.
The film is set in London in the 1950’s. Ada Harris, played by Manville, is a hard-working and good-hearted cleaning lady who has not heard from her Air Force husband who has been missing in action for twelve years. Vi Butterfield, played by Ellen Thomas, is a fellow cleaning lady and Ada’s good friend. Ada still holds out hope that her husband will one day walk back into her life. But then that hope is shattered when she receives a package containing his ring in the mail.
Ada sees a Dior dress that has been purchased by one of clients, and immediately falls in love with it. She decides to save up for a Dior dress of her own. She takes on sewing work to help raise the money for the trip to Dior in Paris and the dress.


SPOILER ALERT: After foolishly losing a good amount at the dog races, despite being encouraged against the bet by the kind-hearted Archie, played by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films), and not being paid by one of her customers, she loses hope that she will ever get her dream dress.
But then Ada receives a surprise visit indicating that she should have been receiving a widow’s pension all of these years. That unexpected money will help her get to Paris where she can buy her dream dress.
In Paris she is looked down upon and invisible by Dior’s manager, Claudine Colbert, played by Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert (Elle), but befriended by Marquis de Chassagne, played by Lambert Wilson, who lets her attend the exclusive by invitation only fashion show as his guest. Ada is overjoyed by the dresses she sees. She falls in love with a red dress named “Temptation”.
It will take a few days for her dress to be fitted and made, so the young accountant Andre Fauvel, played by Lucas Bravo, lets her stay at his home as his sister is away. The “Face of Dior”, model, Natasha, played by Alba Baptista, gives her a ride to the man’s home. Marquis de Chassagne also begins taking a liking to Ada. Ada will build a friendship with the two during her short time in Paris.


The film features beautiful costumes, a bit of romance, scenes of Paris and a very good cast, all led by a wonderful performance by Manville.
In a time in which woke film studios are adding as many “messages” into their films as possible, it was a joy to watch this film, which was heart-warming and had no content concerns.


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My Review of ELVIS

Elvis, rated PG-13
***

This film looks at the relationship between Elvis Presley and his long-time manager Colonel Tom Parker, told from Parker’s perspective. The movie condenses Elvis’ life into a 159-minute somewhat fictionalized biopic. The film is well-made and features solid performances by the two leads actors – Austin Butler as Elvis and two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Philadelphia), as Colonel Tom Parker. The film was directed by Oscar nominee Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!), and written by Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, and Craig Pearce (Moulin Rouge!).
As the film opens, we see Presley as a boy being influenced by both Blues music and Gospel music. Parker calls himself a “snowman” because he likes to “snow” or con people. He works with carnivals, and manages the country music artist Hank Snow, played by David Wenham (Lord of the Rings trilogy).
We find out later that Parker was born in the Netherlands and was in the U.S. illegally. He meets Presley, a White man who sounds Black, at the Hayride, just as Presley’s first single “That’s All Right Mama” is taking over radio. His live show is filled with sexuality, as he blends Black Blues music and White rock and roll. When Presley’s popularity exceeds that of Snow, Parker dumps Snow and focuses all of his attention on Presley. Continue reading


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My Review of Jurassic World: Dominion

Jurassic World: Dominion, rated PG-13
***

The film Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg, was released 29 years ago in 1993. Jurassic World: Dominion is the sixth film in the series. The film brings back some characters from the first film. Despite multiple plotlines and locations – very little of which had to do with dinosaurs – and being overly long, I still enjoyed the film.
The film was directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) and written by Trevorrow, Emily Carmichael and Derek Connolloy, based on characters created by Michael Crichton. The film had a budget of approximately $185 million.
The film opens four years after a volcano destroyed the Jurassic Park Island where the dinosaurs were first cloned. The dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world. A large biotech corporation, Biosyn, has established a sanctuary for dinosaurs in an isolated valley in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. Continue reading


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My Review of Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick, rated PG-13
****

The long-delayed (due to the pandemic) Top Gun: Maverick, is an exciting action-packed sequel to the 1986 film Top Gun. The film, whose release was delayed five times, and has plenty of nostalgia from the first film, was directed by Joseph Kosinski (Only the Brave) and written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, Peter Craig, and Justin Marks. Only Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer return in their roles from the 1986 Top Gun film.
As the film opens, Maverick, played by three-time Oscar nominee Tom Cruise (Magnolia, Jerry Maguire, Born on the Fourth of July), is a test pilot pushing himself and an experimental aircraft to Mach 10. This is against the wishes and order of the program’s Rear Admiral in charge played by four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris (The Truman Show, Pollock, The Hours, Apollo 13), who is ready to shut the program down.
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My Review of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledorerated PG-13
***

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, is the third film (out of a planned five), in the Fantastic Beasts series, a prequel to the Harry Potter series, taking place decades earlier, and based on characters created by J.K. Rowling. The film was entertaining, with creative production design, music by James Newton Howard, good special effects, some magic, and of course the beasts. However, the biggest of Dumbledore’s secrets (that he is gay) will not please some filmgoers. In addition, there were perhaps too many characters and subplots to keep track of.
The film was directed by Emmy nominee David Yates (The Girl in the Café). Yates has directed all three of the Fantastic Beasts films and also directed the last four of the Harry Potter films. The film was written by J.K. Rowling and Oscar nominee Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys). Kloves was the screenwriter for all but one of the Harry Potter films. The film cost approximately $200 million.
The film opens with magical zoologist Newt Scamander, played by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl), witnessing a mother qilin (pronounced chillin), a rare deer-like animal, giving birth. The qilin are valuable for reasons we will find out later in the film. Immediately, there are those who try to steal the qilin baby.
Then we see Albus Dumbledore, played by two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law (Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley), meeting Gellert Grinderwald played by Mads Mikkelsen in a restaurant. Mikkelsen replaces Johnny Depp as the Grinderwald character. They refer back to a romantic relationship they had years ago. Grinderwald has plans to take over the magical world and wage war on the Muggles (non-wizards), and tells Dumbledore, “With or without you, I’ll burn down their world”. Continue reading


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My Review of FATHER STU

Father Stu – rated R
** ½

Father Stu is an at times inspiring faith-based film that is based on a true story. The film features an excellent cast, but moves along slowly at times, is extremely sad and contains pervasive strong adult language. As a result, it may be hard to find an audience for the film. Those normally interested in a faith-based film, may find the pervasive adult language too much to overcome. As a result, it’s hard to recommend the film, which was written and directed by Rosalind Ross, Mel Gibson’s real-life partner.
Two-time Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, The Fighter), delivers a possible Oscar worthy performance as Stu Long. Stu is the son of Bill, played by two-time Oscar winner Mel Gibson (Braveheart), and Kathleen, played by two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook). Bill lives away from the family in California, working a blue-collar job, and is an alcoholic. A younger son of Bill and Kathleen died when he was only six.
Stu is an amateur boxer, who eventually has to quit boxing after jaw surgery. He then decides to go to Hollywood to try to become an actor.  He secures a job in a grocery store at the meat counter to pay the bills until he gets his big break. It is while working there that he sees the beautiful Carmen, played by Teresa Ruiz. He is able to find out that she is active in a local Roman Catholic Church, so he pursues her there. Initially, Carmen wants nothing to do with Stu, but he will do anything for her, and agrees to be baptized. Continue reading


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MOVIE REVIEW of CODA

CODA, rated PG-13
****

CODA is a delightful film about a fishing family in Gloucester, Massachusetts in which only the daughter is not deaf. The film, a remake of a 2014 French film, and directed by Sian Heder, recently won three Oscars, including Best Motion Picture. Heder won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and Troy Kotsur won for Best Supporting Actor. In many, if not most years, I would not agree with the Best Film selection. This year however, I am in hearty agreement. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The film’s title comes from an acronym that stands for Child Of Deaf Adults.
The close-knit Rossi family is comprised of father Frank, played by Oscar winner Troy Kotsur (CODA), mother Jackie, played by Oscar winner Marlee Martin (Children of a Lesser God), brother Leo, played by Daniel Durant, and the music loving Ruby, played by Emilia Jones. Frank, Leo and Ruby support the family by fishing, beginning their days at 3am. The family particularly depends on Ruby as the only speaking member of the family, as she has spent her whole life interpreting for them. Much of the film utilizes subtitles, depicting the dialogue of the three deaf members of the family.
Jones as Ruby is the heart of this film. She is a bit of an outsider at school. She is shy and is made fun of – first for the way she spoke when she first entered school and now for the way she smells like fish, as she leaves the fishing boat and rides her bike directly to high school. Continue reading


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My Review of UNCHARTED

Uncharted, rated PG-13
***

Uncharted, based on a Play Station game, opens with a breathtaking scene featuring Nathan Drake, played by Tom Holland (Spider-Man films), foreshadowing what is to come. The film is fun and exciting, though it contains quite a bit of adult language and violence.
The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), and written by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum (Iron Man), Matt Holloway (Iron Man), Jon Hanley Rosenberg and Mark D. Walker.  The film had a budget of approximately $120 million.
After the exciting opening, the film goes back to show us that Nathan and his older brother Sam were obsessed with finding the lost gold (estimated to be worth $5 billion), hidden by explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s men 500 years ago on his trip around the world. When they are caught trying to steal a valuable map which Sam believes gives clues to the hidden treasure, Sam escapes from the Catholic orphanage to avoid juvenile detention. In the coming years, Nathan will only receive postcards from his brother.
The film then moves ahead and we find Nathan working as a bartender and stealing jewelry from his customers. Victor “Sully” Sullivan, played by two-time Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, The Departed), meets him in the bar and tells him that he got close to Magellan’s treasure with Nathan’s brother Sam. Sully needs Nathan to help him steal a gold cross which is going to be auctioned off. Sully needs two of the keys to lead them to Magellan’s treasure. Continue reading