Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of BEN IS BACK

Ben is Back, rated R
** ½ 

Ben is Back is an intense and emotional film about the love of a mother for her drug addicted son. The film is directed and written by Oscar nominee Peter Hedges (About a Boy), and features a strong cast.
The film opens with Holly, played by Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), and three of her children pulling into their driveway near Younkers, New York on Christmas Eve. They are returning from a rehearsal for Christmas Eve Mass.  As she pulls in, Holly has to slam on the brakes when she sees her 19-year-old son Ben, played by Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Boy Erased), son of the film’s director/writer, standing nervously in the yard. Ben, an opioid addict, and has been sober for 77 days. Ben says that he is home for Christmas, courtesy of a pass from his sponsor, though we don’t know if that is true or not. Ben’s return is sudden and unexpected, catching the family off guard. This may be Holly’s Christmas miracle, and her two young children are thrilled, but Ben’s teenage sister Ivy, played by Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), thinks accepting Ben back will be a mistake, having seen the damage Ben’s addiction has done to the family in the past. But Holly tells her that this time it will be different. Continue reading

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My Review of WONDER

Wonder, rated PG
***

Wonder is a heart-warming, family friendly film with good messages, based on the best-selling novel that features a strong cast. Stephen Chbosky, who directed the film version of his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, directs this version of R.J. Palacio’s 2012 young-adult best-selling novel, which may remind some of the 1985 Oscar winning film Mask, about a teenager with craniofacial deformities.  Chbosky writes the screenplay along with Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne. The story is told from the perspective of multiple characters.
The film is about one year in the life of ten-year old Auggie Pullman, played by Jacob Tremblay, who was wonderful in the 2015 film Room. A congenital disorder (mandibulofacial dystosis, which is known as Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS),has badly deformed Auggie’s face.  (Note: it actually took 90 minutes each day during filming to apply the facial prosthetics he wore for the role.) The disfiguration was so severe, that even after 27 surgeries, Auggie’s face is still badly deformed to the point that when he ventures out of his home he wears a large astronaut helmet on his head to hide his face from others.
Auggie lives in New York with his overprotective parents, father Nate, played by Oscar nominee Owen Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums), and mother Isabel, played by Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), along with sister Via, short for Olivia (Izabela Vidovic), who is neglected by her parents as they focus all of their attention on Auggie. Auggie has been home-schooled by his mother, but as he is to enter the fifth grade, they decide to send him to Beecher Prep School, where Mr. Tushman (played by three-time Golden Globe nominee Mandy Patinkin) is the kind principal.
The film follows Auggie, who displays a good sense of humor, during his first year at Beech, where we see him bullied and teased, make friends, etc. But the film is also about Via and how she deals with being neglected by her parents.
The film is told from the perspectives of Auggie, Via, Via’s best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), and Auggie’s classmates Julia (Bryce Gheisar) and Jack (Noah Jupe).  Three-time Golden Globe nominee Sonia Braga portrays Grans, Via’s and Wonder’s grandmother, in a small role.
The film is well-acted, and Wilson and Roberts have good chemistry on-screen. I really enjoyed Mandy Patinkin’s portrayal of the wise and kind principal, Mr. Tushman. The top performance though has to be by 11-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who follows his excellent performance in Room with another strong performance asAuggie.
Themes include acceptance, bullying, friendship and family.  My wife loved the father’s strength that was portrayed.  Mom wants to protect Auggie and keep him in her ‘nest’, while Dad wisely boots the little ‘eaglet’ out of the nest to teach him to fly.  The film is truly family friendly, with no objectionable content, which is really refreshing these days. And oh yes, you might want to bring a Kleenex with you to the theatre for this heart-warming film.


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Movie Review ~ Mother’s Day

Mother's DayMother’s Day, rated PG-13

Zero Stars

It’s been a while since I’ve given a film zero stars, but this one certainly deserves it. It’s not worthy of a full review and certainly not worth your hard-earned money.

This is the third ensemble film for director Garry Marshall (following Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, neither of which we saw). Among the many actors and actresses in this film are Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis and Timothy Olyphant. But the writing here is truly dreadful, certainly not worthy of the cast assembled, and giving the standard faith-based film a run for their money in the worst script category.

The writers (four are listed in the credits) tell us about the following situations – a divorced couple in which the former husband marries an attractive woman much younger than him; a single father with two daughters trying to move forward a year after his wife and their mom died; two sisters, one who is married to an Indian but has lied to her parents  about him and about them to him; the other sister is in a lesbian relationship but has lied to her parents about it and a young unmarried couple who have a child together. The writers try to pull every trick to emotionally manipulate the viewer, but the film is just a mess. All of the stories are based around the theme of Mother’s Day.

This is a truly bad film with no moral compass. The only reason for posting this short review is to warn you to run, don’t walk away from this film. With any luck, this film will be mostly forgotten by the time Mother’s Day rolls around next week.