Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Ready Player One, rated PG-13
*** ½

Ready Player One, the latest film from Steven Spielberg, is an entertaining science fiction film based on the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline. It is filled with pop culture references (characters, music, etc.) from the 1970’s and 1980’s, action violence and some adult language.
The film is directed by the legendary three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), and written by Zak Penn (The Avengers, X-Men), and Ernest Cline. The musical score, which is supplemented by pop hits from the 1970’s and 1980’s, was by two-time Oscar nominee Alan Silvestri (The Polar Express, Forrest Gump), due to scheduling conflicts that Spielberg’s longtime collaborator John Williams had. The film’s title is a phrase used from the days of classic video games.
The film is set in 2045 in Columbus, Ohio. Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) lives with his aunt and her latest boyfriend, in a depressing area called “the Stacks”, old trailers piled high on top of each other. Life is difficult. To escape their miserable lives, Wade and most others enter the OASIS, a virtual universe. In the OASIS, you can do anything, go anywhere you please, and be whoever you want to be. In the OASIS, Wade takes on the avatar of Parzival. His best friend is H, or Aech in the OASIS, played by Emmy winner Lena Waithe (Master of None, Dear White People).
The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, played by Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Dunkirk), was worshipped until his death some years back. His early partner in business was Ogden Morrow, played by Simon Pegg.
Before dying he created a competition within the game. If anyone finds a hidden “Easter egg,” they will receive a great fortune, about $500 million, and perhaps even more importantly, have complete control of the OASIS.  Players must find three keys that each give a hint to where the egg is. So far, no one has found even one key.

While trying to get the first key, Wade meets Samantha, played by Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), who uses the avatar Art3mis. Samantha is known for being a very good player. Wade is instantly attracted to Samantha. They both get the first key. Samantha reveals to Wade that she has a personal reason for trying to stop the greedy corporate villain, Nolan Sorrento of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), played by Golden Globe nominee Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) who is also trying to find the hidden egg.

T.J. Miller portrays i-R0k, a virtual mercenary hired by Sorrento to do his work for him. Wade, H, Samantha and two other friends, must work together to beat Sorrento and his army, to save the world.
Throughout the film, we follow the main characters as they jump from one challenge to the next. They receive clues from movies, music and video games that Halliday loved.
Themes include friendship, competition, self-sacrifice and living in a virtual world vs. living in the real world.  (This is reflected in our world by how many people have their faces in their phones vs. having face-to-face dialogue with their friends and family.)  Content concerns include some adult language, including a few abuses of God’s name, a brief scene of partial nudity and action violence.
I saw the film in IMAX, and it was visually stunning, with a good use of computer generated imagery (CGI).  (It should be stunning because they spent $175 million in production costs.)  Humor was effectively used throughout the film. Ready Player One is a visually stunning and entertaining film that unfortunately includes some adult language that adds nothing to the film.  This would be a good film for older children and adults to enjoy together.


My Review of Dunkirk

Dunkirk, rated PG-13

Christopher Nolan’s tense and inspirational World War II film Dunkirk is my top movie of 2017 thus far.
This film, with an estimated budget of $150 million and clocking in at just 106 minutes, is written and directed by acclaimed three-time Oscar nominee Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar, Memento (which I re-watched this past week), The Dark Knight Batman trilogy, The Prestige). This is the tenth feature film he has directed, and his second shortest.
This time Nolan takes us to the beaches of Dunkirk, a small coastal town in France in May and June, 1940, for a decisive moment in World War II. The coast of England was nearly visible from Dunkirk, just 26 miles across the English Channel. More than 300,000 Allied troops (British, French and Belgium) were trapped on the beach by the Germans. The harbor was so shallow, that a water rescue with large British ships wasn’t possible. Nolan puts the viewer in the center of the battle from a British point of view.

This is a very “visual” film, as Nolan uses a minimum of dialogue. That’s probably not a bad thing, as the dialogue and accents are difficult to understand. Credit goes here to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who worked with Nolan on Interstellar. It appears that very little of the film was computer enhanced. We didn’t see the film in IMAX, but this is a film that you would probably want to see in IMAX, if possible.
The action takes center stage over character development. Nolan tells the story of what Winston Churchill called Operation Dynamo – an all-hands call to civilian sailors, asking that they steer any vessel they can across the English Channel to rescue as many of the stranded soldiers as possible – through three interlocking stories, timelines and perspectives – land, sea and air, complete with flashbacks and revisits. He introduces each story with title cards. “The Mole” (land) takes place over a week. The “mole” is actually an 8-foot-wide, half-mile-long breakwater wall, extended off the beaches of Dunkirk, France, that served as a makeshift dock for British leaders trying to evacuate the troops. Five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh, portrays Commander Bolton, the highest ranking British naval officer on the beach. He is worried about getting his men home. We see Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) grab the stretcher of a wounded man, pretending to be medics in the hope of getting on a ship and saving themselves. They encounter Alex (Harry Styles from the band One Direction in his acting debut).  “The Sea” takes place in a single day and features Oscar winner (Bridge of Spies) Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson, a civilian entering into the rescue effort with his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his best friend George (Barry Keoghan). The third story, “The Air”, takes place in a single hour. Oscar nominee (The Revenant) Tom Hardy portrays Farrier and Jack Lowden portrays Collins. They are Royal Air Force Spitfire pilots engaged in a tense battle with German planes.
Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack (in his sixth collaboration with Nolan), plays an important role in the tense film, mixing music and sound effects (ticking clock sound using Nolan’s pocket watch). The film is intense from beginning to end. It is rated PG-13 for intense war scenes and some adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ name.
Themes in this inspirational film include sacrifice, heroism, courage and fear.
A final note. Despite this being an excellent film, it’s a disappointment that the crucial National Day of Prayer for Dunkirk was completely left out of the film. Read about it here.


Everyone should see the Movie “The BFG”

The BFGThe BFG (Big Friendly Giant), rated PG

This film is based on the 1982 children’s book by Roald Dahl. Dahl, who also wrote “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach” which were also made into films, wrote “The BFG” in the last decade of his life and said it was the favorite of his books.

The new film (there was also a cartoon version of the book in 1989), is directed by three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg. The screenplay was written by the late Melissa Mathison who was nominated for an Oscar (for 1982’s ET), and to whom the film is dedicated. John Williams does the music score, the twenty-fourth time he has done so for a Spielberg film.

Ruby Barnhill portrays the ten year-old orphan Sophie who doesn’t sleep well. One night about 3:00 am Sophie sees the lanky twenty-four foot giant played by Mark Rylance (Oscar winner for the 2015 Spielberg-directed Bridge of Spies), outside of the orphanage. The BFG is afraid that she will expose him to others, so he takes her to Giant Country where he lives.

Sophie is initially afraid of the BFG, but a friendship begins to grow with this gentle giant. She finds out BFG puts dreams into the heads of children and other “human beans”, and that he is regularly bullied by the nine much larger giants. You will love how he humorously mangles the English language.

Sophie gets an idea to travel to London to visit Queen Victoria, voiced by Penelope Wilton (of Downton Abbey) for assistance with the mean larger giants. And oh yes, BFG also has quite an issue with flatulence when he consumes a certain drink, which are referred to as “whiz poppers”.

The CGI (computer generated animation) in this film is just amazing, especially the facial expressions and the enormous ears of BFG. The film contains themes of loneliness, love, friendship and family. It might be a bit dark and scary for wee ones.  Mark Rylance as the BFG and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie have great chemistry and they are perfect in their roles. I highly recommend this film for “children” of all ages, my favorite movie of 2016 thus far.