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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of PADDINGTON 2

Paddington 2, rated PG

Paddington 2 is a funny, entertaining, and delightful family friendly film.  The film is well-written, features an excellent cast, and may be the rare sequel that improves on the first (2014) film. The film is directed by Paul King (Paddington) and written by King and Simon Farnaby, based on characters created by the author Michael Bond. The film is dedicated to Bond, who died in 2017 at the age of 91.
The film opens with a flashback that takes us “Many bears ago” in “darkest Peru”. We see a young Paddington, digitally animated and wonderfully voiced by Ben Whishaw, and the kind older bears that raised him. He remains dedicated to both Aunt Lucy, voiced by Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) and Uncle Pastuzo, voiced by Golden Globe nominee Michael Gambon (Path to War), even though he now lives far away in the Notting Hill area of London with the Browns.  In the Brown family home are parents Henry, portrayed by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and Mary, portrayed by Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine). Their children have grown up since we’ve last seen them. Steam engines are no longer cool for Jonathan, played by Samuel Joslin, who now wants to be known as J-Dawg. Daughter Judy, played by Madeleine Harris, after a broken relationship, has now started a newspaper on her own printing press.  Mrs. Bird is portrayed by two-time Oscar nominee Julie Walters (Billy Elliot, Educating Rita).
Paddington fits in well with the Brown family and the neighborhood, and is loved by all, except for the hostile neighbor Mr. Curry, played by Oscar winner Peter Capaldi (Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life).
Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Iris) plays Paddington’s friend, the kind antiques dealer Mr. Gruber.  He has a rare pop-up book in which Paddington’s beloved London comes to life, thanks to production designer Garry Williamson.

Paddington sees the book as the perfect birthday present for his dear Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, who had always planned to come to London, but never got the opportunity. But the book is rare and expensive, and Paddington doesn’t have the money to purchase it. So, he decides to get a job to earn the money to purchase the book. We see him work at washing dogs, as an attendant in a barber shop, and when that doesn’t work out so well, he decides to go into a window washing business.
The pop-up book is also desired, for other reasons, by the film’s villain Phoenix Buchanan, well portrayed by Golden Globe winner Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral). Buchanan, a former star actor, is now more well-known for doing dog food commercials. He finds out about the book from Paddington when the two meet at a local carnival that Buchanan has been hired to open. Grant leads a strong cast and is excellent as the villain Buchanan, taking on multiple disguises.
When Buchanan breaks into Gruber’s shop to steal the book, Paddington pursues him, but when Buchanan disappears, Paddington finds himself arrested, and soon after sent to prison, for the theft. In prison, we see Paddington befriend prisoners, such as the crusty cook Nuckles McGinty, played by three-time Golden Globe nominee Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges). Meanwhile, the Brown family, who knows Paddington has been falsely accused, tries to solve the mystery of who stole the book from Mr. Gruber’s shop so they can free Paddington.

King creatively uses slapstick, animated sequences, and plenty of funny moments in this enjoyable film. I also loved the many scenes of London portrayed in the film. The film has many positive themes including the importance of family and friends, hard work, thinking of others before yourself, and seeing the best in everyone.   Paddington lives his life thinking about what his Aunt Lucy would do in various situations, and often sharing something that he was taught by her, such as “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right”. A good thought indeed.
Content concerns are minimal in this delightful film, with just a brief indication that an unmarried couple has spent the night together.  This might have been included to get the PG rating vs. a G rating.  When other children’s films stoop to including double entendres, sexual innuendo, swearing and bathroom humor for cheap laughs (seen in the preview for the upcoming film ‘Sherlock Gnomes‘), this film is well-written and includes great messages.
I can’t remember when I’ve had more fun watching a movie. Paddington 2 is that rare film that will be enjoyed by both adults and children. Highly recommended!


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My Review of Maudie

Maudie, rated PG-13
*** ½

This film features some strong acting performances.  It is newly available on video and based on the true-life story of Maud Lewis, one of the most beloved folk artists of 20th century Canada.
It opens in the late 1930’s and is set in Marshalltown in rural Nova Scotia, a beautiful quaint little town (the film was actually partially shot in Ireland and other parts of Canada). The film is visually stunning as we see the seasons change thanks to the cinematography work of Guy Godfree.

Maud Dowley, played by Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, stemming from childhood rheumatic fever. As the film opens Maud is living with her Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose). Maud’s brother Charles (Zachery Bennett) is paying Ida to look after Maud. He tells Maud that she is not coming home. As a matter of fact, there is no home to go to, as he has sold the family home. Maud is devastated. Charles then leaves, saying good-bye to Maud, for what appears to be the last time.
We then see Maud, who uncomfortably walks with a limp and with difficulty, sneak out of Ida’s home late at night to go a local club – to listen to music, drink beer and smoke. Ida refers to something that has happened to her in the past; we eventually find out that Maud once had a baby out of wedlock. At the time, Maud was told that the baby was badly deformed and died while she was asleep.
While in the local dry goods store, Maud hears Everette Lewis, a crusty fish peddler played by four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke, indicate that he is looking for a live-in house maid. Maud decides to make the long walk out to Lewis’ small home, which has no plumbing or electricity, to apply for the position which pays 25 cents a week plus room and board. This begins the uncomfortable relationship between Maud and Everette, who can be verbally and physically cruel to her (once telling her that his dogs and chickens were higher in the pecking order than she was).  He usually communicates via grunts.
We eventually see Maud cleaning up and making changes in the sparse one-bedroom home, basically a shack with a bed in an upstairs attic. She starts by painting birds on the walls. She makes dinner for the hard to like Lewis and eventually shares his bed with him. When he tries to have sex with her, she states that they should get married, which they eventually do in a local church. We then see these two people, both orphans and societal outcasts, slowly begin to find comfort in their relationship together.
Maud’s paintings come to the attention of one of Everett’s customers, the likeable and kind Sandra (Kari Matchett), a rich neighbor from New York, who is the first to want to buy Maud’s paintings and small cards. The word eventually spreads about Maud’s paintings, in large part due to a magazine article, and she even receives a request for a painting from then Vice President Richard Nixon. We later see many coming out to the small home to buy her paintings, including brother Charles.
The film is directed by Aisling Walsh and written by Sherry White. Hawkins is incredible in her portrayal of Maud, doing an amazing job portraying the physical challenges of her character, which only increase as she ages. Hawke portrays Lewis well, as a man who is much harder for us to like and who finds it hard to show his love for Maud.
The film is rated PG-13 for brief scenes of sexuality (nothing explicit is shown). In addition, God’s name is abused once.
Check out this well-acted and sweet film about the unconventional love story of Maud and Everette Lewis. You won’t regret it.