Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

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 MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Murder on the Orient Express, rated PG-13
***

Murder on the Orient Express is an entertaining film with an all-star cast that will challenge viewers with moral issues around justice and vengeance. The film is directed by five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh, and is a remake of the 1974 film version of Agatha Christie’s 1934 mystery novel. The 1974 film received six Oscar nominations, and Ingrid Bergman won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The screenplay is by Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049, Logan) and the film features an all-star cast (Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Jr., Tom Bateman, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Coleman, Willem Defoe, and Judi Dench).  Dench and Cruz are Oscar winners, while Branagh, DeFoe, Preiffer and Depp are Oscar nominees.
Branagh also stars in the film as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot, who sports a large and distinctive mustache and has his own quirks around balance played for humor, is perhaps the most well-known detective in the world (well, at least according to him). The film is set in 1934. After an opening which is unconnected with the rest of the story, but serves to introduce us to Poirot’s detective skills and his quirky behavior, he realizes that he desperately needs a vacation. Unfortunately, he is needed in London for a case. Bouc (Tom Bateman), a friend and director of the famous Orient Express, books him on the luxury passenger train for what he promises will be three days of relaxation and time away from crime on a trip from Istanbul to Calais.
Early in the trip, the shady art and antiques dealer Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp) approaches Poirot and asks that Poirot serve as his bodyguard since Ratchett has been receiving threatening letters he assumes are from Italians to whom he sold fake oriental rugs. Poirot refuses, indicating that he detects, not protects, criminals. That night, an avalanche stops the train atop a dangerous trestle, leaving everyone stranded until they can be rescued.
The next morning Poirot finds out that one of the passengers has been murdered in their bed, having been brutally stabbed a dozen times. Poirot is asked by Bouc to investigate the case. He reluctantly agrees, and asks Bouc to be his assistant. After confirming that none of the passengers have left the train, Poirot considers all of them as well as the conductor, to be suspects in the murder.
As Poirot investigates the murder he finds that none of the characters are really as they seem, as they regularly lie to him. A kidnapping and murder, based on the actual Lindbergh baby case, plays a role in the film. Flashbacks are used extensively to tell the story.
The film’s music score is by two-time Oscar nominee Patrick Doyle, and the cinematography, featuring some beautiful outdoor scenes is by Haris Zambarloukos, who worked with Branagh on Cinderella.  I enjoyed the unique camera work, including several uses of the camera looking down on the actors or through beveled glass, and the costumes and set designs depicting the 1930’s.
Content concerns include the bloody body of the victim, racial slurs and the abuse of God’s name a few times. There is not any adult language to speak of, nor any sexual content, both of which were refreshing.
Themes in the film are racism, vengeance, justice, deception and conscience. The film includes some Christian content and references (Penelope Cruz plays a Spanish missionary, there is talk of sin and judgement, etc.)
Having not seen the 1974 edition (though I plan to), I can’t compare this version to the Oscar winning film. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and thought that Branagh was excellent as detective Hercule Poirot.