Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of MIDWAY

Midway, rated PG-13
***

Midway is a well-made, fast-paced war film about the naval battle that is considered to be the turning point in World War II’s Pacific Theater. The film, released on Veteran’s Day weekend, is directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) and written by Wes Tooke. The two hour and eighteen-minute film sticks to the historical details (no unnecessary fictional love stories etc. added), and had a budget of approximately $100 million.
The film takes us through the events in the first months of the war in the Pacific beginning with Pearl Harbor and culminating in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. The surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor and the resulting devastation is powerfully and soberly depicted. Continue reading


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My Review of HARRIET

Harriet, rated PG-13
*** ½

Harriet is a well-made and acted film about Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and her work with the Underground Railroad. The film is directed by Kasi Lemmons. Lemmons co-wrote the film with Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the Titans). Lemmons has indicated that she wanted to make a freedom film, not a slavery film. As such, there are no beatings or lynchings depicted in the film.
The story is told chronologically, beginning in Maryland in 1849. Araminta “Minty” Ross, played by Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), is married to the freeman John Tubman, played by Zackary Momoh. Tubman has obtained legal documentation to verify that under the terms of a will left behind by the great-grandfather of Maryland plantation owner Edward Brodess, played by Michael Marunde, Minty, her siblings and their mother should have been freed more than a decade ago. But Minty is denied the freedom that she’d been promised, and when she is to be sold to slave owners from the deep South, she escapes and runs away, landing in Philadelphia after a treacherous 100-mile journey. Continue reading


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My Review of DOWNTON ABBEY

Downton Abbey, rated PG
***

Downton Abbey, a well-made and acted big-screen version of the popular television series that includes some content concerns, takes place in 1927. The big news is that the King and Queen of England will be visiting Downton Abbey. King George V and Queen Mary will be spending a night at Downton during a royal tour of Yorkshire. While that is the main story, there are numerous subplots in the film.
The film is written by Oscar winner Julian Fellows (Gosford Park), and directed by three-time Emmy nominee Michael Engler (Downton Abbey, 30 Rock, Sex and the City). It features all that was loved in the television series – the beauty of the English countryside, the costumes, the abbey (Highclere Castle in real life), and most of all the characters; the nobility and the servants.
Mr. Thomas Barrow, played by Robert James-Collier, is now the butler, replacing Mr. Carson, played by four-time Emmy nominee Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), who is now retired.

***SPOILER ALERT*** Continue reading


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My Review of THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON

The Peanut Butter Falcon, rated PG-13
***

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a well-acted and heartwarming film, though it is somewhat marred by adult language. The film is co-directed and co-written by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz.
Zac, played by Zack Gottsagen, is 22 years old and has Down Syndrome. He lives in a retirement home since his family abandoned him. He has never had any friends, and would like friends that he could call family. Zac repeatedly watches old wrestling videos from Salt Water Redneck, played by Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), and wants to attend the wrestler’s school advertised in the video. As a result, Zac repeatedly tries to escape forcing Eleanor, a compassionate worker who works at the facility, played by Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Gray), to label him as a flight risk. Continue reading


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My Review of BLINDED BY THE LIGHT

Blinded by the Light, rated PG-13
***

Blinded by the Light is an entertaining, emotional and heartwarming drama/comedy/musical, inspired by the life of British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love of Bruce Springsteen’s music. It is based on Manzoor’s book Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll. Manzoor, who has seen Springsteen in concert more than 150 times, co-wrote the script with director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), and Paul Mayeda Berges (Bend It Like Beckham). The film’s title is from a Springsteen song that was included on his 1973 debut Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., which Manfred Mann’s Earth Band took to number one in the U.S. in 1977.
The film is set in the town of Luton, north of London in 1987. Manzoor’s character in the film is Javed, well-played by Viveik Kalra. Javed is a 16-year-old Muslim whose parents came from Pakistan. We see Javed and his family experiencing racism. Luton is facing a tough economy and job losses. Javed spends his day writing in his diary – poetry, and lyrics for his best friend’s band – and wants a career as a writer, and to get out of Luton and away from his strict and controlling father Malik, played by Kulvinder Ghir (Bend It Like Beckham). Javed’s father works at an auto plant, before losing his job, and wants Javed to focus on his studies and to be a lawyer or accountant. He tells him to stay away from girls because he will find Javed a wife when the time comes.
Things change for Javed when his classmate Roops, a Sikh from Pakistan, played by Aaron Phagura, gives him two Bruce Springsteen cassettes (Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born in the U.S.A.) and tells him to guard them with his life.  He tells him that he can thank him later. We can see the light come on for Javed at listening to his first Springsteen songs, “Dancing in the Dark” and “The Promised Land”, perhaps ourselves remembering the first time we heard a song from “The Boss”. The latter song comes up several times throughout the film.  Springsteen’s lyrics, which are creatively projected visually, give Javed the inspiration he needs to follow his dreams. Soon, Javed even begins to dress like Springsteen.
Kalra is excellent as Javed, and the film also features a solid supporting cast. Eliza, played by Nell Williams, is Javed’s likeable politically active love interest. Golden Globe nominee Hayley Atwell (The Pillars of the Earth, Captain America), plays Ms. Clay, Javed’s junior college creative writing teacher and mentor who encourages him to follow his dream as a writer. Screen Actor Guild nominee Deen Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones), plays Javed’s best friend Matt, a member of a punk rock band. Javed’s mother Noor, is a hard-working seamstress, played by Meera Ganatra.
The film does a good job capturing hairstyles and clothing from the late 1980’s. Seventeen Springsteen songs are included in the film, including the previously unreleased “I’ll Stand By You Always”, which plays over the ending credits. Some of the songs are played out in entertaining big dance numbers, Bollywood style.
Unfortunately, the film goes out of its way to connect racism with Margaret Thatcher, not unlike Spike Lee when he tried to connect David Duke with President Trump in BlacKkKlansman.
Themes in the film include following your dreams, hard work, a tense father/son relationship, politics, and racism. Content concerns include a small amount of adult language and racist violence.
Blinded by the Light is an entertaining film that has both serious and light-hearted moments, and is based on the story of a British journalist who was inspired to follow his dreams as a writer after hearing the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. I enjoyed the film which had an excellent message at the end, but was marred by trying to connect the racism against the Pakistanis with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.


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My Review of THE LION KING

The Lion King, rated PG
** ½

The Lion King is a remake of the popular 1994 animated film, which is also a successful stage musical. The film, being referred to as “live action”, is entertaining and the computer-generated imagery (GGI) is incredible. However, the film comes across as a bit flat, without emotion or as much of the humor of the original. In addition, there are scenes that are dark and violent that will be scary for young children.
The film was directed by Emmy nominee Jon Favreau (Dinner for Five, The Jungle Book, Iron Man, Chef). The screenplay was written by Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can). The film had a budget of approximately $250 million, and had an opening weekend gross in the U.S. of $191 million.
This film basically follows the storyline of the original film. Simba is the King’s son and future king of Pride Rock. JD McCrary voices the young Simba, and Golden Globe winner Donald Glover (Atlanta), the older Simba. Simba wants to grow up too quickly, and as a result, doesn’t always do what his father Mufasa, voiced by Oscar nominee James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope), wants him to do, which inevitably gets him into trouble. Nala, voiced by Beyoncé, is Simba’s best friend.
Scar, voiced by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), is the King’s jealous brother, who wants to be King. We see him mislead Simba on a few occasions because has a plan to make himself the tribe’s leader, which calls for collaborating with a pack of hyenas.
I enjoyed the film, but there was just something missing from making it a truly special film. For one, there was not as much humor in this version as there was in the original. The exception was Timon, voiced by two-time Emmy nominee Billy Eichner (Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street) and Pumbaa, voiced by Emmy nominee Seth Rogan (Da Ali G Show). The music, even the songs you loved from the original film, seemed to fall flat. And perhaps most of all, the film seemed to lack in emotion.
The musical score is by Hans Zimmer, ten-time Oscar nominee and winner for The Lion King, with songs by Elton John, Tim Rice and some new music as well.
Content concerns in the film include dark and violent scenes that will be too scary for young children. Themes include the relationship between a father and a son, sacrificing for others, deception, and guilt.
The Lion King is a beautiful and entertaining film, but falls short of being truly special. The CGI is incredible, as is the cinematography by six-time Oscar nominee Caleb Deschanel (The Natural, The Passion of the Christ), and the film is probably worth seeing just for those reasons.


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My Review of SPIDER-MAN:  FAR FROM HOME

Spider-Man: Far from Home, rated PG-13
*** ½

Spider-Man: Far from Home is an entertaining sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film includes comedy, romance and some of the usual Marvel action/violence, along with some relatively light adult language.
The film is directed by Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming), and written by Emmy nominee Chris McKenna (Community, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), and Emmy nominee Erik Sommers (American Dad!, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). The film had a budget of approximately $160 million.
The film picks up after the end of Avengers: Endgame. Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) is mourning the loss of his mentor Tony Stark/Iron Man who died at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Peter’s aunt May, played by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny) hosts a benefit for the those returning from “the Blip”, Thanos’ finger snap of destruction that eliminated half of the population. They have returned five years later, just as they were, but everyone else has aged five years.
Peter is hoping to just be your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man by night, and a normal high school student in Queens by day along with his best friend Ned, played by Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers). Peter is excited about a trip with his science class to Europe, where he plans to tell M.J., played by Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman) his feelings for her. Peter doesn’t even pack his Spider-Man suit for the trip. Continue reading