Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of American Underdog

American Underdog, rated PG
*** ½

American Underdog tells the incredible story of Kurt Warner, from backup quarterback at Northern Iowa University to the Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl. The film is directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin (I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe, Mom’s Night Out). The screenplay is written by David Aaron Cohen (Friday Night Lights) and Michael Silver and is based on Warner’s 2000 book All Things Possible.
The film shows how Warner, played by Zachary Levi (Shazam!), begged Coach Allen, played by Adam Baldwin, his Northern Iowa University coach, to give him a chance. Despite doing well when he got his chance, he was not drafted in the National Football League (NFL). Later, he was signed to the Green Bay Packers, but was quickly released.
While at Northern Illinois University, Warner meets Brenda, played by Oscar winner Anna Paquin (The Piano), a divorced mom of two, at a country music bar. Brenda, a Christian, has trust issues, as her husband had cheated on her when she was pregnant with their second child. Brenda’s son Zach, played by Hayden Zaller, is disabled and nearly blind, because of an accident.
The film takes time to show how Kurt’s relationship builds with Brenda, her children and her parents. The love story between Kurt and Brenda and her children is a major element of the film, while his faith in Christ is not emphasized.
Not hearing from any NFL teams, and needing to make money to support Brenda and the children, Kurt takes a job stocking shelves at the local Hy-Vee. He is then approached by the Arena Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers Coach Jim Foster, played by Bruce McGill (Lincoln, Waiting Game). After leading the Barnstormers to the Arena Bowl, Warner was signed by the St. Louis Rams of the NFL. The film shows how Rams head coach Dick Vermeil, played by Dennis Quaid (The Rookie, I Can Only Imagine) believed in him, even if offensive coordinator Mike Martz, played by Chance Kelly, didn’t.
This is a well-made film that blends some scenes of Warner’s real-life football highlights with football scenes filmed for the movie. Warner was my all-time favorite football player, and it was a joy to watch this inspirational film based on his life story that everyone can enjoy.


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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 I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

I Can Only Imagine, rated PG
*** ½

I Can Only Imagine is the story behind MercyMe’s song of the same title, the most- played Contemporary Christian song of all time.  It is one of the best faith-based films that I have seen. The film is directed by Andrew and John Erwin (October Baby, Woodlawn, Mom’s Night Out), and written by Alex Cramer, Brent McCorkle (Unconditional), and John Erwin.
We first meet Bart Millard, played as a young boy by Brody Rose, living in Greenville, Texas. His home life isn’t good, as his father Arthur, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Dennis Quaid (The Special Relationship, Far from Heaven), is physically and verbally abusive toward Bart and his mother Adele, played by Tanya Clarke.

***SPOILER ALERT ***
Arthur has never gotten over his failure to achieve his football dreams.  Bart’s mom sends him to a church camp where he meets a girl named Shannon, played by Taegen Burns. But when Bart returns home, his Mom has left the home, abandoning him to live alone with his father. The older Bart, played by J. Michael Finley, tries to earn his father’s approval by playing football. But a crushing tackle results in both of Bart’s legs being broken, thus ending his football playing days and his hopes of fulfilling his father’s dreams.
Shannon, now played by Madeline Carroll, encourages him to take the Glee Club as an elective, led by Mrs. Fincher, played by Priscilla C. Schirer (War Room). It is there that he finds out that he can sing and is given a lead role in the musical Oklahoma!, a role that he accepts reluctantly. But Bart’s relationship with his father continues to deteriorate, and so he decides to leave both his father and Shannon.
Bart leaves for Oklahoma City and eventually becomes the lead singer for a then struggling band, MercyMe, named for Memaw’s favorite expression. He asks a famous music manager Brickell, played by actor and country music artist Trace Adkins, to attend one of the band’s shows. Brickell is supportive of Bart but tells him that the band isn’t quite ready. After a promising showcase at the Gospel Music Association doesn’t result in an expected record deal, Bart decides to return home to deal with his relationship with his father. But Bart is not prepared for the father he returns home to.
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Michael Finley is excellent in the lead role of Bart Millard as is Dennis Quaid as Arthur Millard, Bart’s abusive father. Nicole DePort portrays Amy Grant in a twist to the story that I didn’t see coming. 91-year-old Oscar winner Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show), portrays Bart’s Memaw in a small role. Themes in this emotionally powerful film include family dysfunction, fear, abuse, core lies, pursuing dreams, forgiveness, repentance, faith, redemption and reconciliation.
I Can Only Imagine is an emotional, well-made and acted film, and one of the best faith-based films I’ve seen, although due to the subject matter, parts of the film are difficult to watch. If you want to read more about this powerful story, check out Bart Millard’s new book I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir.