Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of NO TIME TO DIE

No Time to Die, rated PG-13 
***

No Time to Die is the pandemic delayed 25th film in the James Bond series, and the fifth and final film with Daniel Craig starring as 007 James Bond since 2006’s Casino Royale. My all-time favorite actor playing Bond is Sean Connery, but Craig is a close second. The film was directed by Emmy winner Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) and written by Fukunaga, Neal Purvis (Spectre, Skyfall, Quantum of Solace, The World is Not Enough, and Casino Royale), Robert Wade (Spectre, Skyfall, Quantum of Solace, The World is Not Enough, and Casino Royale), and Emmy winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), based on characters developed by Ian Fleming. The film, which features exotic locales, great cars (especially the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera), car chases and gun fight battles, as well as numerous nods to previous Bond films, was entertaining, but did seem long at 163 minutes.
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My Review of LOGAN LUCKY 

Logan Lucky, rated PG-13
**

Logan Lucky is an off-beat heist comedy that is slow and has too few memorable moments.
This film is directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) who also directed the Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen films. The writing is credited to Rebecca Blunt, who is actually suspected to be Soderbergh’s wife Julie Asner, who is from West Virginia, a location central to this story, as is a certain John Denver song.
The film is about the Logan family from West Virginia – brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum, Magic Mike, Foxcatcher), and Clyde (Adam Driver, Star Wars, Silence, Paterson) as well as their sister Mellie Logan (Riley Keough, the eldest grandchild of Elvis Presley). The family is known for their bad luck, and some feel that they are cursed. Jimmy was a football star and homecoming king in high school, but a leg injury changed that. Now he walks with a limp and is divorced with a young daughter; Clyde lost his arm in the war in Iraq. He has a prosthetic hand and wrist, and now tends bar where Jimmy is a regular.
Jimmy works a construction job beneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. The speedway has a sinkhole problem and he is part of a team of ex-coal miners brought in to fix it. He needs the job to pay alimony to his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) and provide child support for his daughter Sadie (Farrah MacKenzie). Sadie is preparing for a Little Miss West Virginia beauty pageant, and Jimmy has promised her that he will be there for her pageant.
But when management sees Jimmy limping, they fire him because he didn’t disclose the injury on his employment application. Jimmy then comes up with a plan to change the family’s luck. He and Clyde used to pull small heist jobs years ago. From his work at the speedway, Jimmy has knowledge of a series of underground tubes that run from the speedway’s concession stands to a central bank vault. He sets up a plan to rob the speedway. But he and Clyde need the help of safe cracker and explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, James Bond) and Joe’s two brothers, Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish (Jack Quaid). But there’s just one small problem: Joe is in prison.
Adam Driver and Channing Tatum are effective in their roles as the Logan brothers, and have good chemistry. Daniel Craig was excellent playing the blue-collar criminal Joe Bang.  Other notables in small roles include Dwight Yoakum as the incompetent prison warden Burns, two-time Oscar winner Hillary Swank as FBI Special Agent Sarah Grayson, Seth MacFarlane (Ted) as Max Chilblain and Katherine Waterston as Sylvia Harrison, who knew Jimmy from high school.
The film pokes fun of the hillbilly culture of West Virginia. But we didn’t find the film very funny, and didn’t hear many “laugh out louds” in the theatre. There were some parts of the film – particularly the carrying out of Jimmy’s plan – that were creative, featuring excellent writing. But those parts were a relatively small part of the film, and for the most part, the film dragged.
The film included some adult language and abuse of God’s name. The product placements in this movie were as prevalent and prolific as a NASCAR driver’s uniform.   A positive aspect of the film was the positive relationship Jimmy had with daughter Sadie.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPzvKH8AVf0 


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Movie Review ~ Spectre

SpectreSpectre, rated PG-13
****

This is Daniel Craig’s fourth film in which he plays 007 James Bond. This is also his first film role since 2012’s Skyfall. He’s my favorite Bond, behind Sir Sean Connery of course. This was the movie I was most looking forward to this year, and despite being overly long at 148 minutes, it did not disappoint.

The twenty-fourth Bond film is full of all that we love in a Bond film – a great opening scene, cars (Bond’s new car is an Aston Martin DB10), scenery (shot in five countries – England, Austria, Mexico, Morocco and Italy), “Bond girls”, incredible stunts, good use of special effects and that distinctive Bond music by 6-time Grammy winner Thomas Newman.  Sam Smith sings the movie’s theme song “The Writing’s On The Wall”.

The film is directed by Sam Mendes (Oscar winner for American Beauty), and who also directed the previous Bond film, Skyfall. The screenplay is not from a novel written by Bond creator Ian Fleming. The film was rumored to be well over-budget, costing approximately $350 million to make, and is projected to make $80 million in the U.S. its opening weekend.

The film opens with Bond on a rogue mission in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead parade, leading to an incredible opening scene in typical Bond fashion. He will then head to Rome, where he meets Lucia (Monica Bellucci), newly a widow of an infamous criminal. At fifty years of age, Italian actress Bellucci is the oldest actress to play a leading Bond Girl role. Bellucci had screen-tested for one of the two leading Bond Girl roles, as Paris Carver, in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.

We then see Bond infiltrate a secret meeting and uncover the existence of the criminal organization known as SPECTRE, led by Franz Oberhauser (also known as Ernst Stavro Blofeld from You Only Live Twice). Oberhauser is played by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (for Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained).

The first James Bond film to feature the SPECTRE criminal organization was 1962’s Dr. No.

Back in London, Max Denbigh or C, the new head of the Centre of National Security, questions Bond’s actions and challenges the value of MI-6 led by M (Ralph Fiennes). He has his own secret motivations for doing so. Andrew Scott portrays C/Max Denbigh (James Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis in the PBS series Sherlock).

Bond works with Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, who portrayed Nelson Mandela’s wife Winnie in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Q (Ben Whishaw), to help him seek out Madelein Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr. White (Jesper Christensen, who also appeared as the character in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace), who may be able to help him with SPECTRE. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy (Christoph Waltz) he seeks.

Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy) and the fourth actor with a professional wrestling background to play a Bond villain, portrays the imposing Mr. Hinx, who pursues Bond in an exciting Rome chase scene between Bond’s Aston Martin DB10 and Mr. Hinx’s Jaguar C-X75, and in a fight scene on a passenger train.

The film allegedly pays homage to all of the previous films. While I can’t confirm that, I know that the ski resort setting in Solden, Austria reminded me a lot of the Piz Gloria mountain peak hideout of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which we visited earlier this year on a trip to Switzerland.

The film is rated PG-13 for a relatively small amount of adult language (based on current PG-13 standards), including some abuses of God’s and Jesus’s names, typical Bond-style violence (gun fights, explosions, car chases) and some sexuality.

We felt that the film was about 30 minutes too long. Despite that, Spectre is my favorite film of the year thus far.