Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of THE MULE

The Mule, rated R

The Mule was inspired by the story of Leo Sharp, a World War II Bronze Star veteran and horticulturist, who in his late 80’s became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel headed by El Chapo. It is a well-acted and directed film that has some content concerns. The film is directed by the legendary four-time Oscar winner, 88-year-old Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). The film is written by Nick Schenk (Gran Torino) and Sam Dolnick, based on his New York Times Magazine article. Though the film is set in Illinois and Texas, it was actually shot in Georgia.
Clint Eastwood portrays Earl Stone. It is Eastwood’s first credited acting role since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve (he had a non-credited appearance in 2014’s American Sniper). This film is the first time he has both starred in and directed the same film since 2008’s Gran Torino. Continue reading

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Ant-Man and the Wasp, rated PG-13
*** ½

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is an exciting, action-packed summer film with plenty of humor. It is the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man. The film is directed by Payton Reed (Ant-Man). It is written by Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Chris McKenna, (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; Spider-Man: Homecoming) Erik Sommers (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; Spider-Man: Homecoming), Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari. Christophe Beck, who composed the music for Ant-Man, again handles the music. The cost of the film was approximately $150 million.
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) returns as ex-con Scott Lang. He is starting his own security business in San Francisco and is under monitored house arrest by FBI agent Jimmy Woo, played by Randall Park, for secretly helping Captain America in Captain America: Civil War. The creator of the Ant-Man suit Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas (Oscar winning producer for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and best actor in Wall Street), and his daughter Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man, The Hobbit, Lost) have gone into hiding from the FBI, and are using an office building as their secret lab.
For thirty years, Pym’s wife Janet, played by three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liaisons, Love Field) has been lost in the Quantum Realm. Hank raised his daughter Hope with the assumption that Janet was dead. But when Scott receives a message from Janet in a dream, there is hope that she is actually alive.
Meanwhile, Scott is trying hard to balance his responsibilities as father to Cassie, played by the adorable Abby Ryder Fortson (Ant-Man), with that of being a super hero. His ex is Maggie, played by Judy Greer (Ant-Man), who is married to Paxton, played by two-time Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale (Will & Grace, Boardwalk Empire).
Hope needs a part to complete the tunnel needed to reach Janet. She agrees to buy it from Black Market technology dealer Sonny Burch, played by Emmy nominee Walton Goggins (Justified). But Burch double-crosses her and wants to sell Hank’s lab.  Ava/Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen (Black Mirror), also wants to steal the lab as a cure to relieve her constant pain resulting from a childhood accident.
Oscar nominee Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do With It?)  plays Dr. Bill Foster, Hanks’s estranged former S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague. Lang’s “X-Con” security crew team Kurt, played by David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man), Dave, played by T.I. (Ant-Man), and Luis, played by the hilarious Michael Pena (Ant-Man), provide comic relief.
The film is visually appealing, especially with the size changes of the Ant-Man, Wasp and secret lab. This leads to some good laughs as well. There are some exciting car chases, which feature excellent scenes of San Francisco.
A key theme in this film is the importance of family. We see that with Scott and Cassie, and also with Hank, Hope and Janet.
Content concerns include some completely unnecessary adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names, as well as some super-hero violence.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a pretty-much self-contained Marvel film. After the depressing ending of Avengers: Infinity War, I found this film to be a fun and exciting experience.
As with all Marvel films, don’t forget to sit through the ending credits.

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My Review of 12 STRONG

My Review of 12 Strong, rated R

12 Strong is based on the true story of a military operation in Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. This intense film shows the courage of the “Horse Soldiers”, a Special Forces team against incredible odds in very difficult conditions.
The film is directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, in his feature film debut. The screenplay is written by Oscar winner Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Town) based on Doug Stanton’s 2009 book Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. The film had a budget of $35 million.
Captain Mitch Nelson, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), had recently accepted a desk job at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. However, after the attack on the World Trade Center, he pleads with his superiors to reassemble his 12-man Special Forces team, which includes chief warrant officer Hal Spencer, played by two-time Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Revolutionary Road), Sam Diller, played by Michael Pena (American Hustle, Crash), and weapons expert Ben Milo, played by William Fichtner (Moonlight). Nelson’s orders are given by Colonel Mulholland, played by William Fichtner (Crash, Black Hawk Down), and Lieutenant Colonel Bowers, played by Emmy nominee Rob Riggle (Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice). Told that the mission could be completed in six weeks, Mitch tells his superiors that due to the upcoming winter weather, it will need to be completed in half that time. Their mission is to partner with the Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, played by David Negahban, to capture the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a Taliban stronghold, to prevent another attack on U.S. soil. General Dostum has his own reason for taking on the Taliban. They will be taking on an enemy that has many more men and resources than they do.
When Operational Detachment-Alpha 595 (ODA 595 for short), gets to the base of operations, called the Alamo, the war lord gives them just six horses.  Mitch’s team has to get close enough to the enemy to give the U.S. bombers accurate coordinates to drop bombs from 35,000 feet. We see several of these bombs dropped throughout the film and many battles until the final battle which takes place in a large valley, in which Mitch, General Dostum and their men on horseback take on the enemy equipped with tanks and rocket launchers.
The dry mountainous region of Afghanistan is captured well by the cinematography work of Rasmus Videbaek, and the Emmy nominated Lorne Balfe (Genius, Restless) provides a powerful musical score.
Themes in the film include courage, teamwork and patriotism. Content concerns include a significant amount of war violence. In addition to several intense battles, we see a suicide bombing and a woman executed in front of her family. The film also contains a significant amount of adult language, including many abuses of both God’s and Jesus’s names.
12 Strong tells the incredible true story of the Horse Soldiers, one of the first groups sent into action to retaliate after the bombing of the World Trade Center. They go into battle against incredible odds, including having to travel on horseback over the difficult terrain, the number of enemy combatants, a lack of resources, etc. The war violence depicted in the film is to be expected. Unfortunately, the film is marred by many abuses of God’s and Jesus’s names. In addition, the film is too long at 2 hours and 10 minutes.  The film does a good job of personalizing the characters, and we see the Captain with the weight of the lives of 12 men on his shoulders.  He shows leadership courage, strategic decision-making and wisdom under intense pressure.