Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of LITTLE WOMEN

Little Women, rated PG
****

Little Women, based on the much-loved novel by Louisa May Alcott (published in two parts in 1868 and 1869), is a delightful film, one of the best I’ve seen in 2019. The film about the Marsh sisters is set in 19th century New England, has an excellent cast, and is well acted and directed. The film is written and directed by two-time Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), and has been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards – best actress for Saoirse Ronan and best original score by Alexandre Desplat.
Gerwig chooses to tell the story of the four March sisters switching from scenes between when they were younger women and more mature women. This approach takes a bit of time to adjust to. Much of the film is told through the eyes of Jo. The film begins seven years into the future with Jo (the Alcott character), played by three-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Roman (Brooklyn, Lady Bird, Atonement) residing in a boarding house in New York, pursuing her dreams of being a novelist. We see her meeting with publisher Mr. Dashwood, played by Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, August: Osage County, Ford v. Ferrari). It is in New York that she meets Professor Bhaer, played by French actor Louis Garrel. Sister Amy, played by Florence Pugh is in Paris learning how to paint with her Aunt March who is played by three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Sophie’s Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer).
Laurie (though Jo calls him Teddy), played by Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Beautiful Boy, Lady Bird), is the grandson of the March’s wealthy neighbor Mr. Laurence, played by an unrecognizable Oscar winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation). Continue reading


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My Review of MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Mary Poppins Returns, rated PG
****

Mary Poppins Returns is a delightful live-action/animated film free of any content issues that the entire family can enjoy. It’s one of my favorite films of the year (and my wife’s favorite!) The film is released 54 years after 1964’s Mary Poppins, which won five Oscars. The new film is directed by Oscar nominated Rob Marshall (Chicago). The film is written by Marshall, two-time Oscar nominee David Magee (Life of Pi, Finding Neverland), and two-time Emmy winner John DeLuca (Tony Bennett: An American Classic), based upon Mary Poppins stories by P.L. Travers. The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners – Colin Firth and Meryl Streep – and three Oscar nominees – Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The all-new music is by five-time Oscar nominee Marc Shaiman (Sleepless in Seattle, Patch Adams, The First Wives Club, The American President, Hairspray) and three-time Emmy nominee Scott Wittman (Smash, The 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Hairspray). Cinematography is by Oscar winner Dion Beebe (Memoirs of a Geisha). Marshall chose to use hand drawn animation in the film to go along with the live action sequences.  The film has received four Golden Globe nominations – best performance by an actress, best performance by an actor, best picture and best original score.  The film had an estimated budget of $130 million. Continue reading


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My Review of THE POST

The Post, rated PG-13
*** ½

The Post is a well-acted and directed film based on true events and intended to deliver a message about the freedom of the press.  It is the first acting collaboration of Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and the first major collaboration between Streep and acclaimed director Steven Spielberg, who rushed the film into theatres just ten months after initially reading the script. The film received six Golden Globe nominations (Best film, director, screenplay, actor, actress and musical score). The film is directed by three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List), and written by Liz Hannah and Oscar winner Josh Singer (Spotlight). For the purposes of this review, I will assume that Hannah’s and Singer’s script is historically accurate, though Ted Baehr of MovieGuide.org in his review of the film calls it “very one-sided, false, superficial left-leaning”.
The film tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg (Mathew Rhys) and his theft of thousands of pages of classified and confidential documents about Vietnam. The papers were the result of a study commissioned by Robert McNamara, portrayed by Bruce Greenwood.
We are told that the U.S. government, spanning four presidential administrations, has been lying to the American people about our involvement in Vietnam. At first, the “Pentagon Papers” were given to Neil Sheehan of the New York Times, who published them before a temporary injunction stopped them from doing so. However, during the injunction, Ellsberg gives the papers to The Washington Post as well.
Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Sophie’s Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer) portrays Katharine Graham, who assumed the role of publisher of The Washington Post after her husband’s suicide. Sadly, Katharine Graham’s son shot himself to death just two days before the national release of this movie— and in a manner eerily reminiscent of his dad’s suicide more than 50 years ago.  Graham was the first woman to run a major daily newspaper in the U.S. and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.   Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Philadelphia) portrays the paper’s editor Ben Bradlee. This is Hank’s fifth collaboration with Spielberg.
In possession of the documents that the courts have ruled couldn’t be published, Graham and Bradlee have a decision to make. If they run a story using the information, they could go out of business, as the paper had just gone public and their financing could be pulled from them. Or worse yet, Graham and Bradlee could be arrested. Five- time Oscar winner John Williams (Fiddler on the Roof, Schindler’s List, Jaws, Star Wars and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial), does the musical score.
Streep is superb as the under-appreciated female publisher. The film does a good job to show how little she was thought of and almost invisible at times. Hanks was also excellent as the paper’s editor, Ben Bradlee, who later oversaw the publication of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s stories documenting the Watergate scandal. There is also a solid supporting cast, including three-time Golden Globe nominee Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) as Ben Bagdikian and Sarah Paulson (American Crime Story) as Tony Bradlee.  
Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. In addition, there is some brief war violence at the beginning of the film. Of course, we need to also take into account that the actual “Pentagon Papers” were stolen by Ellsberg in the first place.  We have the moral dilemma of potentially putting people in harm’s way by revealing government and military secrets.
The Post is a well-acted and directed film based on true events that is intended to deliver a message for today. It was interesting to see the social connections and friendships between political figures and the press at that time.  We hear Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee state that the press must hold government officials accountable. In this time of “fake news”, Edward Snowden and Wikileaks, however, some viewers might also want to ask who will hold the press accountable.


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Movie Review ~ Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the FlashRicki and the Flash, rated PG-13
**

If Meryl Streep isn’t the greatest actress of our generation, I don’t know who is. The 66 year-old three-time Oscar winner returns as the leather-clad Ricki Rendazzo (formerly Linda Brummel), who abandoned her husband, daughter and two sons years ago to pursue her dream of rock and roll stardom.

The film is directed by Jonathan Demme, who won the Oscar for directing 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. The film is written by Diablo Cody, who won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for 2007’s Juno. The story is loosely based on Cody’s real-life mother-in-law who has been singing rock and roll for many years.

The film also stars Kevin Kline as Ricki’s ex-husband Pete, who won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda. While the film includes plenty of star power, it doesn’t add up to a great movie.

Ricki has not been a part of her children’s lives for years. She is fronting a bar band – Ricki and the Flash – featuring guitarist and sometime boyfriend, the likeable Greg, played by rocker Rick Springfield. She works as a checker at Total Foods in California, is broke and has declared bankruptcy. She is called home to Indianapolis by Pete (now remarried to Maureen, played by Audra McDonald), when daughter Julie (Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) is dumped by her husband for another woman. Julie is depressed and suicidal when Ricki re-enters her life. Although Julie accepts Ricki’s re-entry into her life fairly quickly, her sons are not so welcoming. One son is engaged to be married and was not planning to invite his mother to his wedding, and the other son, the obligatory gay character in the film, is not at all happy to see his mom.

The film contains far too much of Streep singing with Springfield and the rest of the Flash. It’s not that her singing is bad, it really isn’t. But there is far too much of it included in the film. Overall, though the film has some good messages about the importance of family despite making bad decisions, it is mostly a downer and overall disappointing.

The film contains some sexual activity outside of marriage and adult language, including the abuse of God’s name several times.

Note: Streep and Kline previously appeared together in 1982’s Sophie’s Choice, while Streep was pregnant with daughter Mamie, who portrays Streep and Kline’s daughter Julie in this film.