Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming, rated PG-13
*** ½  

Spider-Man Homecoming is an action-packed, humor-filled Marvel film with a new Spider-Man that is enjoyable.
After two films in which Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, Silence) played Spider-Man, we were introduced to the high-school age Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Tony Stark/Iron Man, played by two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder, Chaplin), had recruited him to help stop Captain America. This film picks up eight months after the action in that film.
Peter Parker is a 15-year old high school student from Queens. In addition to fighting minor crime in his neighborhood, he’s dealing with the usual high school issues. His best friend is the likeable Ned (Jacob Batalon), and he has a crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), a senior who is the captain of the High School Academic Decathlon. Peter lives with his Aunt May, played by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), from whom he hides his after-school Spider-Man activities. He tells her, and others, that he has an internship for Stark Industries.
The young Parker is a somewhat awkward superhero in training, and wears a suit that his mentor and father-figure Tony Stark has designed for him. He is in the process of figuring out his powers. He waits for a call from Happy Hogan, (Jon Lavreau, Chef), who plays Stark’s assistant, to take on the type of criminals that the Avengers do battle with.
The villain in the film is Adrian Toomes, played by Oscar nominated Michael Keaton (Birdman). Toomes is a disgruntled city contractor, who decides to sell stolen alien weapons on the black market. As a villain, he goes by the name of Vulture, and wears a costume with large wings. Peter encounters him and tells Tony Stark about him and is told not to get involved with the Vulture, but to concentrate on smaller crimes in his neighborhood. In other words, he is to be your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But Peter doesn’t follow that direction.
The film is directed by Jon Watts, who also writes the film with five others (Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers). The film has an estimated budget of $175 million budget.
I enjoyed the humor in the film and thought Holland was excellent as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Downey Jr. was good in a small role and Keaton was good as the film’s villain.
The film has less violence than the usual Marvel film as it focuses just as much on Parker’s high school life as it does on him as a super hero. There is also a twist in the film that I didn’t see coming. In addition, the film includes some good music, both original score and other songs.
Unfortunately, the film includes some adult language that is completely unnecessary, in addition to some abuses of God’s name. Scenes that took place at the Washington Monument and on the Staten Island Ferry were excellent. I also enjoyed Spider-Man getting to know all of the features of the suit that Stark had made for him.
And of course, being a Marvel film, don’t forget to sit all the way through the ending credits.

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My Review of The Founder

the-founderThe Founder, rated PG-13
***

The Founder tells the true story of the founding of McDonald’s, but it is a less than positive portrayal of Ray Kroc as a man.
The low budget film (just $7 million) is directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), and written by Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler). Oscar winner (Birdman) Michael Keaton stars as Ray Kroc. The film begins in 1954. Kroc is a traveling milkshake-mixer salesman in the Midwest for Prince Castle. It’s a hard job and we see him repeatedly getting turned down for sales while he eats at drive-in restaurants.
He then receives a call from his secretary that will change his life. A restaurant in San Bernardino, California wants to buy an unheard of eight of his large mixers. He drives across the country to the restaurant owned by the likeable brothers Maurice “Mac” (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald. There he sees something he’s never seen before – a fast-food restaurant, selling just hamburgers, fries and drinks.

***SPOILER ALERT***
The brothers are honest businessmen, and though not rich, are satisfied with the success they are having. Kroc however, sees much more potential. His vision is to take the restaurant that the brothers developed to the rest of the country. Although they are initially hesitant, they eventually agree to partner with him, a decision that they will soon come to regret.
Laura Dern stars as Kroc’s wife Ethel. She tries to be supportive of Ray, as she lives a lonely life by herself at their home in Arlington Heights, Illinois, as he is on the road most of the time. Ray will divorce her for Joan (Linda Cardellini), a younger woman, the wife of a restaurant owner who would become one of his franchise owners.
********************

Themes in the film are betrayal, trust, regret, greed, deception and theft. The film is rated PG-13 for a small amount of adult language and the abuse of God’s name.
Keaton is outstanding in his portrayal of Kroc. I’ve read about the story of McDonald’s in John Maxwell’s book 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership as he discusses “The Law of the Lid”. The Law of the Lid is that “Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness”. Maxwell writes “Leadership ability – or more specifically the lack of leadership ability – was the lid on the McDonald’s brother’s effectiveness”.  The film clearly shows that Kroc had vision and leadership, which resulted in McDonald’s being what it is today. The McDonald brothers may not have had the leadership ability that Kroc had, but they had much more character, and I would prefer to have that.


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Movie Review ~ Spotlight

SpotlightSpotlight, rated R
****

This powerful film is directed by Tom McCarthy and co-written by Josh Singer and McCarthy (who has an Oscar nomination for writing Up), and is about the Spotlight team from the Boston Globe. They are an investigative reporting arm of the Globe who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Roman Catholic Church’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests in Boston. The film opens with a brief scene from 1976 where we see a priest being whisked away in a long black car. The film then fast forwards to 2001 when Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who is Jewish, becomes the new editor of the Globe in the predominantly Catholic city. He asks Water “Robby” Robinson” (Michael Keaton, in his follow-up to his Oscar nominated performance in 2014’s Birdman), the editor of the Spotlight team, to look into the archdiocese’s handling of child abuse cases.

Robinson’s excellent Spotlight team consists of Michael Rezendes (two-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo in another Oscar worthy performance), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). They are fully committed to this story, to the point that they don’t really have any personal lives. But this story is not just about a few priests, or even 87 priests who have abused children, but an entire church organization/system led by Cardinal Law (Len Cariou). That’s why Baron pushes Globe Managing Deputy Editor Ben Bradley Jr. (John Slattery), Robinson and the Spotlight team – to pursue and prove Cardinal Law’s knowledge and cover-up of the abuse.

Along the way we meet a few of the abuse victims and their recollections which are at times graphic and always heartbreaking. We also meet attorneys on both sides of the issue Eric Macleish (Billy Crudup) and Mitchell Garabedian (Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci) who are aware of what has been going on. Jim Sullivan (Jamey Sheridan) and Pete Conley (Paul Guilfoyle) are part of the church machine that strongly encourages Robinson to look the other way. We are told of the significant power the Catholic Church has in Boston including the close relationship the church has with the legal, law enforcement and media, highlighted by an uncomfortable “meet and greet” Cardinal Law has with Baron.

What makes this film significant is the story – the cover-up that the Globe successfully exposed in more than 600 stories. What makes the film great are the strong acting performances, led by Ruffalo. McCarthy’s direction and the excellent script from McCarthy and Singer keeps things moving and I found myself emotionally pulled into the story and injustice that had been allowed to go on. Along the way we see what the abuse and cover-up does to the Catholic faith of Rezendes and Pfeiffer.

The film ends with a list of the cities in the world in which significant abuse has been uncovered, including one 45 minutes from my home.

The film is rated “R” for adult language and the subject matter of sexual abuse of children. It is quite simply one of the best films of 2015.