Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of The Christmas Chronicles

The Christmas Chronicles (not rated, but would be PG)

The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix is an entertaining and heart-warming family-friendly holiday film. The film is directed by Clay Kaytis (The Angry Bird Movie) and written by David Guggenheim (Designated Survivor) and Matt Lieberman.
We meet the Pierce family through a series of family videos filmed during Christmas over a period of several years. We see the children, Teddy and Kate, growing up as the videos go through Christmas 2017. But on Christmas Eve 2018 it’s obvious that their father Doug, played by Oliver Hudson (Nashville), has died. Mom (Claire), played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Nashville), is a nurse and she’s doing her best to keep the family together. Continue reading

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My Review of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, rated PG-13
*** ½

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is visually stunning, funny, surprisingly emotional, and has some great messages about the importance of family. Oh yeah, it has some good action scenes and music as well.  Overall, it’s a lot of fun.
I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed the first movie in this Marvel series. If you enjoyed that film you will enjoy this one as well. It is directed by James Gunn, who also directed the first film in 2014. Gunn shares the writing credits with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who also wrote the first film. We saw the film in IMAX 3-D so the film was visually spectacular thanks to cinematographer Henry Braham. The IMAX sound system was helpful as the film includes a lot of 1970’s music from Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens, Sam Cooke, George Harrison and others.
Filmed in the Atlanta, Georgia area, the film had a budget of about $200 million, and is projected to open this weekend at more than $140 million in the U.S. alone. A third film has already been announced.
The film takes place three months after the end of the first film. As the opening credits roll, Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, Fate of the Furious) is dancing to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” from the Awesome Mix Part 2, seemingly unaware of the space battle going on behind him. That battle has Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World), and the other Guardians – Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Racoon (voiced by four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper) – defending valuable batteries from a monster called the Abilisk for people known as the Sovereign, led by a golden woman Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki, The Night Manager). Their payment is Gamora’s evil sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), who the Guardians plan to turn in for a substantial bounty.
After the Guardians successfully complete their mission, Rocket decides to steal some of the batteries from the Sovereign. Ayesha hires the blue-skinned Ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker), who had abducted Peter from Earth as a child and raised him, to pursue the Guardians and bring them back for punishment.
The Guardians escape, but their ship is badly damaged when they have a crash landing. There they meet Ego (Golden Globe nominee Kurt Russell) who tells Peter that he is his real father, and has been looking for him for years. In ancient Greek “Ego eimi” means “I am”, which is how God identified Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14: God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Ego identifies himself as a god with a “small g”, a celestial. He has his own planet, that he created over millions of years. Peter, Drax and Gamora decide to go with Ego to visit his planet. There they meet Ego’s assistant/companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Mantis can read the emotions of others and is even able to change them. She is able to help Ego sleep.
We see Yondu shunned by Stakar Ogord (three-time Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone), who appears in the film in two brief scenes. Stakar tells Yondu that he has betrayed his people. Then, Yondu’s men rebel against him when they complain that he has gone too easy on Peter. He is imprisoned along with Rocket while they try to get Baby Groot to rescue them. Meanwhile, Ayesha hires Yondu’s men to go after Peter, Drax and Gamora, to kill them. There is a lot going on. To tell you more would reveal spoilers.
I really enjoyed the characters in this film, how they are developed and interact with each other. The film includes some excellent humor and a lot of fun. The music from the 1970’s is used well, as it was in the first film. Mostly, the film is about family – Peter dealing with two fathers – his biological father Ego, and Yondu, the one who raised him. Then there is the relationship between sisters Gamora and Nebula, and Nebula’s own father issues. And mostly, it shows the Guardians, though they had originally come together by accident, are their own type of family.
I felt that the first half of the film was superior to the second, primarily because the ending scene went on for way too long.  This is certainly not a children’s film, though I did see some young children in the theatre. It includes some adult language, some of which is of a sexual nature, and some of which abuses God’s name. There is a good deal of violence in the space battles as well, which is to be expected.
And, as with all Marvel films, don’t forget to sit all the way through the closing credits, as there are five scenes included throughout the lengthy credits.
The Guardians of the Galaxy will return in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War.

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MOVIE REVIEW ~ Deepwater Horizon

deepwater-horizonDeepwater Horizon, rated PG-13

This film is directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor and the upcoming Patriots Day, about the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, which both also star Mark Walhberg).  It is based on the well-publicized actual events that occurred on April 20, 2010, about 40 miles off of the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. A special oil rig was built just for this film, located in Chalmette, Louisiana where filming mostly took place. It is considered to be the largest set piece ever constructed.

Mark Wahlberg portrays Chief Electrical Engineer Mike Williams. He’s a loving husband to wife Felicia (Kate Hudson, whose stepfather in real life is Kurt Russell. This was their first time working together), and daughter Sydney (Stella Allen). We see Mike say goodbye to his family for a 21-day tour on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. Kurt Russell plays “Mister Jimmy”, the respected General Operational Supervisor.  Once Mike and Mister Jimmy reach the Deepwater Horizon, they encounter British Petroleum (BP) executives, including Donald Vidrine, played by John Malkovich. The drilling operation is already 43 days behind, and thus an important concrete test is not completed. We also see many items on the ship (phone system, etc.) not working properly. Early in the film there is a lot of technical talk related to drilling that most viewers will not be familiar with. But quickly we get the feeling that Vidrine and BP are all about the bottom line, and there is little concern for safety. This will soon have disastrous effects.

We are also introduced to other characters, such as Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), but much of the film focuses on the heroics of Mike Williams as we see him put other people ahead of his own personal safety.

This is an intense disaster film with an estimated budget of $110 million.  The depiction of what goes wrong on the Deepwater Horizon is realistic and terrifying.  There is water, mud, oil and then quickly fire everywhere. Even though the plot is predictable and shown in the previews, this movie kept our interest and is worth seeing for the depiction of teamwork, courage and self-sacrifice.  There is a significant amount of adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ and God’s names included in this PG-13 film, but it could easily be rated R. The film also includes a scene where the survivors kneel and recite the Lord’s Prayer together.

Most will already know that this disaster resulted in 11 people losing their lives and was the largest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Over the course of 87 days, about 200 million gallons of crude oil would flow into the Gulf. It’s estimated that British Petroleum’s (BP) cost for the clean-up, environmental and economic damages and penalties has reached $54 billion.   So much for cutting corners on safety due to concerns for the bottom line.

You may also be interested in director Peter Berg’s article The ‘Well from Hell’ – My Fight with BP to Film Deepwater Horizon, on what he went through to make the movie.