Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of YESTERDAY

Yesterday, rated PG-13
***

Yesterday is an entertaining summer romantic comedy, but it does include some content issues. The film is directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and the screenplay is written by Oscar nominee Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and Funeral, Love Actually).
Jack, played by British actor Himesh Patel in his feature film debut, a former teacher, is a struggling musician when he’s not stocking shelves in a retail store.  He usually plays to very small audiences, and has just played his last concert, a disaster, in Suffolk, and is ready to give up on his career short of a miracle.  His manager when she’s not a high school teacher, longtime friend, roadie, and only fan is Ellie, played by Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella, Mama Mia! Here We Go Again), tells him that miracles can happen.
On his way home that night, there is a 12 second worldwide blackout. During the global blackout, Jack on his bike is hit by a bus. He is injured and wakes up in the hospital, with his face bruised and cut and his two front teeth missing. Ellie tells him that the accident is a message from God.
When Jack plays the Beatles song “Yesterday” to Ellie and a few of their friends after he gets out of the hospital, they have never heard it before, and are amazed that Jack wrote it. Jack insists that it was written by the Beatles. Jack soon realizes that since the blackout nobody has any recollection of the Beatles (or Coke, Harry Potter or cigarettes for that matter). We see him search the internet and find no reference to the band, or John, Paul, George or Ringo. He decides to take advantage of this, and he fills his bedroom walls with Post-It notes of every Beatles song that he can remember, and frantically tries to remember as many lyrics as possible. Then, he begins to play the Beatles’ songs, taking credit for writing them. Continue reading

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My Review of DARKEST HOUR

Darkest Hour, rated PG-13
****

Darkest Hour is one of the top films of the year, led by an Oscar worthy portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman. This is the second film of 2017 based on the “Miracle at Dunkirk” during World War II. Darkest Hour nicely complements Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (see my review). While Dunkirk focused on the action around the Dunkirk rescue, and had minimal dialogue, Darkest Hour focuses primarily on the politics involved with the Dunkirk issue, and particularly the role of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The film is directed by Golden Globe nominee Joe Write (Atonement) and written by two-time Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything). The musical score is by Oscar winner Dario Marianelli (Atonement), and the incredible cinematography (note the final scene with Churchill powerfully leaving Parliament with paper floating in the air), by four-time Oscar nominee Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).
The film takes place in 1940 when Hitler’s German troops have begun an invasion of France. Churchill, played by Oscar nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), is the newly named British Prime Minister, after Neville Chamberlain has lost the confidence of Parliament. We see Churchill as a great orator, making several powerful speeches in this film.  Initially he delivers a radio address to the English people portraying that the situation is much more positive that it actually is. Then he hears that there are more than 300,000 British troops trapped on the beach at Dunkirk.
This film is primarily the story of two conflicting political and military approaches to the Dunkirk situation. Former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup, The Crown, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), who is dying of cancer, and the Earl of Halifax (Stephen Dillane, John Adams), believe that Britain should begin peace negotiations with Hitler to save British lives. Churchill on the other hand, wants to move forward with a risky plan to rescue the British soldiers from the beach at Dunkirk.  We see Winston Churchill carrying the weight of leadership on his shoulders and also using his influence to its greatest advantage.  He is a good leader in that he listens to wise counsel, but also is willing to take the hard stands when necessary.

***SPOILER ALERT***
At his lowest moment Churchill hears from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt that the United States will not be providing any assistance to Britain when he most needs it. The conflicting plans (negotiate peace vs. rescue) are brought to King George VI, played by Golden Globe nominee Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline).
We see Churchill conflicted as the reality of the Dunkirk situation sinks in. Earlier in the film we hear him tell his driver that he has never ridden a bus. In a key scene, we see him on the way to Parliament, but in the middle of traffic, he hops out of his limousine and heads toward the underground train. There, the initially shocked riders eventually open up to him and voice their support for his approach.
********************

Oldman is unrecognizable as Churchill – the hair and makeup work done on him is flawless. He drinks a lot and often has a cigar hanging out of his mouth. He delivers a brilliant performance, the best acting performance I’ve seen this year. Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) delivers a strong performance as Churchill’s wife Clemmie, and Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) is very effective as Churchill’s loyal secretary Elizabeth Layton. We see Elizabeth working closely with Churchill, typing his speeches, whether he is in bed, in the bathtub, car, etc. The film contains a small amount of adult language, including a few abuses of God’s name.
Darkest Hour is a well-written, acted and directed film. Gary Oldman delivers a performance that may earn him the Oscar for Best Actor, a performance that has already been honored with a Golden Globe nomination.   Bruno Delbonnel should win an Oscar for best cinematography.
For those wanting to learn more about the events portrayed in these two films, I would recommend the book The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo by Walter Lord. (see my review).  


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My Review of Baby Driver

Baby Driver, rated R 
***

Baby Driver is a creative, high energy and exciting summer film that has some content issues.
This film, which takes its name from the catchy 1970 Simon and Garfunkel song and is set in Atlanta, is directed and written by Edgar Wright (Ant-Man). It features a strong cast, including Oscar winners Kevin Spacey (American Beauty and The Usual Suspects) and Jamie Foxx (Ray). This is one of the highest rated major films of the year with an impressive 97 rating from critics on RottenTomatoes.com.
Baby is played by Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our StarsDivergent). He was in a bad car accident as a child, in which his parents were killed. He now lives with his foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones), who is deaf. The car accident left Baby with continuous ringing in his ears. He almost always is listening to music to drown out the tinnitus. In fact, how director Wright uses music is an important part of this film, synchronizing the action of the film with the music.
We are told that Baby had stolen one of Doc’s (Kevin Spacey) Mercedes. Doc is a mastermind thief. He is having Baby pay off his debt by serving as his getaway driver on his jobs. And make no mistake about it – Baby can drive, and we see plenty of his driving through the streets of Atlanta in the film.
Baby has one more job to work for Doc before his debt is paid off. He plans to end his work with Doc at that time. He meets a waitress named Debora (Lily James, Cinderella) and they plan to start a new life together, away from crime.
For Baby’s last job Doc hires an ex-con, Bats (Jamie Foxx), who doesn’t trust Baby. Bats joins married couple Buddy (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) and Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) as part of the team.
I enjoyed the first half (four stars) of the film better. It was more creative. We get to see Baby’s relationship with Joe, dancing to music, etc. The latter half (two stars) descended into more pedestrian car chases and gun fights.
As far as content issues, the film contains a significant amount of adult language, including the abuse of God’s name, and strong violence (gunfights and car chases). Those concerns may keep many from this well-acted and directed film.