Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of THE CALL OF THE WILD

The Call of the Wild, rated PG
***

The Call of the Wild is a well-made, family friendly film (for ages 8 and above), is written by Oscar nominee Michael Green (Logan) and based on Jack London’s classic 1903 novel. The film is directed by three-time Oscar nominee Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon, The Croods, Lilo & Stitch), and is the first live action film he has directed.  The film is narrated by Oscar nominee Harrison Ford (Witness, Indiana Jones and Star Wars films), who also plays John Thornton.  The film is set during the 1890’s Klondike Gold Rush.
Buck is a cross between a St. Bernard and a Scotch Shepherd, the same mixed breed as was in London’s book. He lives in a northern California community, where he is the spoiled pet on the farm of Judge Miller, played by three-time Golden Globe nominee Bradley Whitford (The West Wing). But Buck’s life changes when he is captured and taken to the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush, where sled dogs are needed. Continue reading


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My Review of JUDY

Judy, rated PG-13
** ½ 

Judy tells the story of singer Judy Garland as portrayed by Renee Zellweger, who recently won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. The film was directed by Rupert Goold. The screenplay was written by Tom Edge (The Crown), based on the stage play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter. Jeremy Woodhead (Stan & Ollie, Doctor Strange), received an Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.
The film does not look at Garland’s entire life, but instead chooses to tell her tragic lifestory story in two places, bookending her short life (she died at age 47). First, we see her in 1939, at the beginning of her career, (the young Judy is played by Darci Shaw), filming the classic The Wizard of Oz, in which she starred as Dorothy. Judy worked up to 18 hours a day, was not allowed to eat much and was given diet pills to maintain her weight, as well as pills to stay awake and to fall asleep. She is controlled, threatened and verbally abused by MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, played by Richard Cordery (The Wife).
The film then takes us to the last year of her life, eventually leading to Garland, played by two-time Oscar winner Zellweger (Judy, Cold Mountain), performing five weeks of sold out concerts at the “Talk of the Town” nightclub in London in the winter of 1968. Continue reading


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My Review of JOKER

Joker, rated R
**  (2 out of 4 stars)

My wife Tammy and I have been watching Oscar nominated “Best Motion Picture” films that we had not already seen. We have watched The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story, Parasite, and most recently Joker, which received eleven Oscar nominations, the most of any film this year.
Joker is a very disturbing film about the beginnings of the character that will become an enemy of Batman. The film is superbly acted by four-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix, who has received a “Best Actor” nomination for his role as Arthur Fleck. But the film has significant content issues, including adult language and violence, and thus is hard to recommend.
The film is directed by four-time Oscar nominee Tom Phillips (Joker, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). It is written by Phillips and two-time Oscar nominee Scott Silver (Joker, The Fighter). The film, which had a budget of approximately $55 million, has grossed more than $335 million in the U.S., and more than $1 billion worldwide. It is the first “R”-rated film to gross a billion dollars. Continue reading


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My Review of PARASITE

Parasite, rated R (subtitled)
***

My wife Tammy and I have been watching Oscar nominated “Best Motion Picture” films that we had not already seen. We have watched The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story, and most recently the subtitled Parasite, which received six Oscar nominations. The film is directed and written by three-time Oscar nominee Bong Joon Ho (Parasite).
When we first meet the working-class Kim family – patriarch, Ki-taek, played by Kang-ho Song, his wife Chung-sook, played by Hye-jin Jang, his attractive young adult daughter, Ki-jung, played by So-dam Park, and his college-age son, Kim Ki-woo, played by Choi Woo-sik they are living in a basement level apartment in the slums of a large South Korean city. Though they are poor, they have cell phones and are trying to use the WIFI from the apartment above them, because they can’t afford their own. Father Ki-taek’s businesses have gone under, and as a result, the family is poor and now make a small amount of money by folding pizza boxes for a local business, but they don’t do that very well. As they fold the boxes, they often see men urinating on the street just outside their apartment.
The family’s fortunes change when Ki-woo’s friend offers to recommend him as an English tutor for Park Da-hye, played by Jung Ziso, the high school sophomore daughter of the affluent Park family. The friend has been tutoring the girl but has to go out of the country for a while. Ki-woo’s friend likes the girl and plans to ask her out when he returns, and doesn’t want anyone he can’t trust tutoring her. Ki-woo isn’t qualified, so he has his sister forge some documents for him. Yeon-kyo (Mrs. Park), played by Jo Yeo-jeong agrees, and Ki-woo, now known as Kevin, begins tutoring Park Da-hye. Of course, they immediately fall for each other.
This leads to my favorite part of the film. Continue reading


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My Review of MARRIAGE STORY

Marriage Story, rated R
***

My wife Tammy and I have been watching the movies which received “Best Film” Oscar nominations which we had not already seen. One of those films was Marriage Story, an interestingly titled film, as it is less about a marriage than it is about a painful divorce. The film received six Oscar nominations, and features outstanding acting performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. It is also a very difficult film to watch and hard to recommend. The film is directed and written by three-time Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story, The Squid and the Whale), and is based on Baumbach’s own divorce.
The film tells the story of Charlie, played by two-time Oscar nominee Adam Driver (Marriage Story, BlacKkKlansman), the owner/director of a theatre company in New York, his wife Nicole, played by two-time Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit), who is the star of his plays, and their young son Henry, played by Azhy Robertson. Continue reading


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My Review of DOLITTLE

Dolittle, rated PG
***

Dolittle, based on the children’s books of Hugh Lofting, is an enjoyable film, starring Robert Downey Jr. in his first non-Iron Man role since 2014’s The Judge. The film is directed by Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic), who wrote the screenplay with Dan Gregor (How I Met Your Mother), Doug Mand (How I Met Your Mother) and Thomas Shepherd. The film had an estimated budget of $175 million. The film’s release date has been delayed a few times, and it had 21 days of expensive reshoots after poor test screenings. The film is getting pummeled by the critics (getting a score of “16” on Rotten Tomatoes.com as I write this), but we enjoyed the film.
The film begins with an animated prologue that gives us the backstory of Dr. John Dolittle, played by two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man films, Tropic Thunder, Chaplin), and his beloved wife Lily, played by Kasia Smutniak in live-action flashbacks. They presided over Dolittle Manor, a large sanctuary in the English countryside where they cared for – and communicated with – animals. But one day Lily, a master explorer, went out on a voyage at sea while Dolittle cared for the animals, and her ship wrecked in a storm and she died. After Lily’s death, Dolittle closed the doors of the sanctuary and fell into a deep depression.
Seven years later, Dolittle is living as a recluse in Dolittle Manor, avoiding all contact with humans while surrounded by a small band of loyal animal friends: Continue reading


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My Review of THE AERONAUTS

The Aeronauts, rated PG
***

The Aeronauts is a beautifully filmed and well-acted movie inspired by true events (see “Spoiler Alert” below on the “true events” claim). Just out of the theatres, the movie is now showing for free on Amazon Prime.  The film is directed by Tom Harper. Harper wrote the film with Jack Thorne (Wonder).
The film is set in September, 1862 in England. James Glaisher, played by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl, Fantastic Beast films) is a scientist who believes that it is possible to predict the weather. For this claim, he is laughed and scoffed at by his peers. Amelia Wren, played by Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) is a widowed balloon pilot.
The film uses flashbacks to flesh out the main character’s back stories. Glaisher and Wren eventually agree to team up to attempt to go higher than the previous 23,000-foot altitude record, and we see them take off in front of a large crowd.
The film, which includes a lot of CGI (computer generated imagery) would have best been seen on the big screen. We see amazing shots of London as the balloon climbs through the clouds. There is then a terrifying scene as the balloon is tossed violently as it goes through a thunderstorm. Continue reading