Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of AVENGERS:  ENDGAME

Avengers: Endgame, rated PG-13
****

Avengers: Endgame, a highly anticipated film, brings to an end the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) storyline that began with 2008’s Iron Man, and has continued now through 22 films and all of those mid and post-credits scenes that we have sat and waited for. The three-hour film will satisfy MCU fans, as it looks back on the previous films and characters, but it does contain some content concerns that you will want to be aware of.
The film is directed by brothers and Emmy winners Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Arrested Development) and written by Emmy winners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers). While the film had an estimated budget of approximately $400 million, it made a record-setting $350 million in the U.S. opening weekend, and an incredible $1.2 billion worldwide.
2018’s Avengers: Infinity War ended somberly with the formidable villain Thanos, voiced by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk), finally possessing all of the six Infinity Stones that he had been seeking. Thanos, who says he is Inevitable, then used the power he gained from the stones to snap his fingers and wipe out half of all existence, including superheroes such as Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and many more.
Avengers: Endgame opens with a family picnic scene in which the family of Clint Barton/Hawkeye, played by two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (The Town, The Hurt Locker), suddenly disappears due to the snap. The film then moves forward about three weeks after “the snap”. Continue reading


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My Review of WIND RIVER

Wind River, rated R
** ½

Wind River is a well written, directed and acted murder mystery, but due to the subject matter and content issues, it is not necessarily one you will want to see.
This film, based on actual events involving the Wind River Indian Reservation, was written and directed by Oscar nominated screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water). The movie was filmed on location in Park City, Utah over 40 days in blizzard conditions. The Wind River Indian Reservation, located in Wyoming, is the seventh-largest Indian reservation in the United States, and larger geographically than the state of Rhode Island.
Cory Lambert, played by two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (The Town, Hurt Locker), is an agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is known for his expertise as a hunter and tracker. On one of his hunting expeditions, Lambert comes across the frozen corpse of a young woman. Lambert knows who the girl is, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille). Natalie was the best friend of Cory’s own daughter, Emily, who was murdered three years earlier. That tragedy ended his marriage to Wilma (Julia Jones), with whom he shares a son, Casey (Teo Briones). Some reports show that up to 80 percent of marriages end in divorce when there is the death of a child.
Cory contacts Ben, the Tribal Police Chief, played by Oscar nominee Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves). Since a murder is involved, the FBI is called in. New FBI Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olson, Captain America: Civil War,
Avengers: Age of Ultron
), is called in from Las Vegas. She is not equipped for the blizzard conditions, which are well depicted by cinematographer Ben Richardson, and asks Cory to partner with her on the case.
Gil Birmingham (Hell or High Water) portrays Martin, Natalie’s grief-stricken father. The film includes some powerful scenes between Cory and Martin, two fathers who have tragically lost teenage daughters who were themselves best friends. Cory wants justice for Martin and his wife, and in a way, for himself as well. He and Jane relentlessly pursue leads in an attempt to solve the murder.
The film contains a significant amount of adult language, include the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. In addition, the film includes a lot of violence, including a brutal rape scene. Read this article about why Christians should avoid watching rape scenes.  The film is difficult to watch as it depicts the overwhelming hopelessness at Wind River – poverty, crime, alcohol and drug abuse and a significant amount of violence.
Again, based on a true story, Wind River is a well-made film with a strong cast. However, the subject matter and content issues may make this film one you will want to stay away from.    We went to go see it because it was getting outstanding reviews from both critics and viewers alike – not sure why it received such glowing reviews.  The movie was paced to move very slowly and the characters didn’t draw you in.


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My Review of the Movie “Arrival”

arrivalArrival, rated PG-13
** ½

This science fiction film is directed by Denis Villeneuve (2015’s Sicario, and whose next project will be 2017’s Blade Runner 2049). The script is written by Eric Heisserer, adapted from Ted Chiang’s 2000 short story “Story of Your Life”, which was the original title of the film. The wonderful cinematography is by Bradford Young (Selma and A Most Violent Year) and the powerful music score by Johann Johannsson adds a great deal to the film.

As the film begins, we are told that twelve large egg-shaped ‘shells’ (alien spaceships) are suspended over the earth in seemingly random locations. The stock markets go crazy, and around the world panicked people take to the streets rioting and looting. Every eighteen hours, a doorway at the bottom of these shells opens and allows scientists to come aboard. Government and military personnel around the world have questions about these creatures they’ve named heptapods. Are they intending to attack the Earth? What is their purpose for coming? Why are they here? But they are unable to communicate with these mysterious creatures.

Forrest Whitaker (Oscar winner for Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland) portrays Colonel Weber. He makes a visit to university professor and linguistics expert Dr. Louise Banks (five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams). She and physicist Ian Donnelly (two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner) are assigned to board one of the alien ships in Montana to see if they can figure out how to communicate with the heptapods who are covered in mist, smoke and shadows, and hold off a global war.

The film shows us in the beginning that Louise suffers a personal tragedy. We see this portrayed in numerous scenes that correspond with what she is going through in her efforts to communicate with the heptapods, who are separated from the humans by a white wall or window, giving the effect like they are inside of an aquarium.

Time, particularly non-linear time, plays an important role in this film as Villeneuve and Heisserer continuously jump from time and place. I had a hard time seeing what they were trying to accomplish with that. Although the film leads you to believe it is about the heptapods, their purpose for coming and a possible global war, it isn’t truly about that at all. Although the film has some stunning imagery and effects, it instead focuses on language and communication. It is a film that you will want to talk about as you leave the theatre as you think back on the film trying to complete the puzzle and consider the morality of decisions made.

There is brief adult language, but overall a refreshing minimal amount of language or other content issues for a PG-13 rated film. And, despite the threat of a global war, we don’t see anyone praying or crying out to God. God is completely absent in this film.

Amy Adams is one of today’s best actresses and she carries the film. She is in almost every scene, and we see her go through a variety of emotions. Is her performance worthy of a sixth Oscar nomination? I think it is. I also believe the film may get consideration for Oscar nominations for best film, direction, cinematography and music. Jeremy Renner, Forrest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg were also solid in their roles, but the film belongs to Adams.

A rating for a film is always a personal choice. It is based on quality, worldview, content issues, what did I think of the film and how did it move me. My rating for the film is lower than most are giving it. But Arrival didn’t come together for me as a film as much as the individual elements (Adam’s performance, visuals, music, etc.) did. The total movie wasn’t as good as its individual parts, and I came out of the show and said to my wife, “Explain to me what I just saw”.  If you see the film, let me know what you think.