Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, rated PG
****

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a delightful live action film from Disney that the entire family will enjoy. It is directed by three-time Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules) and Oscar winner Joe Johnson (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Johnson directed 32 days of reshoots written by Tom McCarthy when Hallström was unavailable, while Hallström oversaw the post-production. The screenplay is written by Ashleigh Powell, based on E.T.A Hoffmann’s 1816 short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Ballet by Marius Petipa. The film, which has a strong cast, had a budget of approximately $133 million.
Clara, played by Mackenzie Foy (Twilight films, Interstellar) is a teenage girl who has excellent mechanical skills; her mother has recently died. The film is set on Christmas Eve in Victorian London. Her grieving father, played by Matthew Macfadyen, gives her and her brother and sister gifts from their mother. Clara’s gift, a mechanical silver egg, can only be opened by a key, which she does not have.
Later that evening, the family goes to a Christmas Ball at Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer’s estate.  Drosselmeyer is played by Morgan Freeman, five-time Oscar nominee and winner for Million Dollar Baby. Drosselmeyer gives each of the children a gift. As Clara goes after hers, she is transported to a magical world. She sees the key to her egg, but a mouse steals it from her. As she chases the mouse, she meets a Nutcracker Guard named Captain Phillip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight (Ready Player One). Phillips tells Clara that in that world, her mother was Queen Maria, making her a Princess.
After the mouse who has taken her key gets away, Phillip takes Clara to the palace, where she meets the leaders of three realms – the Land of Snowflakes, led by Shiver played by Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park), the Land of Flowers, led by Hawthorne, played by Eugenio Derbez (Overboard), and the Land of Sweets, led by Sugar Plum, played by Kiera Knightley, two-time Oscar nominee (Pride & Prejudice and The Imitation Game). She has also been looking for the same key that Clara has. Sugar Plum tells Clara about a fourth, dark and evil realm, governed by Mother Ginger, played by Helen Mirren, four-time Oscar nominee and winner for The Queen. Mother Ginger had stolen the key that Clara has been looking for. Clara must get the key from the evil Mother Ginger to save the land from disaster.
The film, which contains very little ballet – just one scene, and the closing credits, with American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland – is visually stunning and has a good plot twist. The makeup is outstanding. The production design is done by two-time Oscar nominee Guy Hendrix Dyas (Passengers, Inception), and the costume design is by eight-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road, A Room With a View). The outstanding musical score is by eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard (Defiance, Michael Clayton), and incorporates much of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. The film features strong acting performances particularly from Knightley, Foy and Fowora-Knight.
Themes include being self-reliant, working as a team, courage, sacrifice, forgiveness and family. Very young children may be frightened at times.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an entertaining film that the entire family will enjoy.

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My Review of Going in Style

Going in Style
**

New on video, Going in Style is a disappointing waste of talent that also has some content issues.
This film is a remake of a 1979 film that was directed by Martin Brest and starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. That film was about three elderly friends who decided to rob a bank because they were bored. The new film is directed by three-time Golden Globe nominee (Scrubs) Zach Braff and the screenplay is written by Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), based on the original story written by Edward Cannon.
The film stars two-time Oscar winner (Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules), Michael Caine, (who most recently starred as an uncredited air radio communicator in Dunkirk) as Joe, Oscar winner (Little Miss Sunshine) Alan Arkin as Al, and Oscar winner (Million Dollar Baby) Morgan Freeman as Willie. Joe has taken his daughter and granddaughter into his home. Al and Willie live across the street. Willie will soon need a kidney transplant and Al supplements his income by giving music lessons.
The three friends worked at Wechsler Steel Company, and are barely making ends meet with their social security and pension checks. They enjoy spending time together, watching television and spending time with friends at the Hudson Lodge. The friends also spend a lot of time in a diner (the same diner featured in the film Goodfellas), and have a good relationship with a favorite waitress Mitzi (Siobhan Fallon Hogan).
The film opens with Joe pleading for mercy with an unrelenting bank employee who tricked him into a bad mortgage and is threatening to foreclose on his home. While they are talking, masked gunmen rob the bank. When Joe gets home, he gets his foreclosure notice. He will be evicted from his home in 30 days.
On top of that, the three friends are told in a meeting that Wechsler Steel Company is closing down their U.S. operations, and will no longer honor their employee’s pensions. The same bank that is threatening to foreclose on Joe is involved with the pensions.
Joe, desperate to keep his home, floats the idea of the three friends robbing the bank. Initially, they are resistant, but they warm up to the idea. They agree that they will only steal an amount equal to the pensions that are being taken from them. They reach out to Jesus (John Ortiz) to teach them how to rob a bank.  A particularly funny scene takes place in a grocery store, and features a store manager played by Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson in a small but effective role.
Two-time Oscar nominee Ann Margret stars as Annie, a grocery store employee. She openly flirts with Al, who though finding Annie attractive, says he has no interest in a relationship.  Oscar nominee Matt Dillon portrays FBI Agent Hamer.
Unfortunately, the film contains some content issues with adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. It also features some sexual content, though nothing explicit is shown.  On the plus side, positive themes in the film include the importance of friends and family.
Overall, however, a talented cast is wasted in this film which, while having some positive aspects, isn’t all that funny, is extremely predictable and has some content concerns.  Don’t even waste your money renting it.