Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of SPIDER-MAN:  FAR FROM HOME

Spider-Man: Far from Home, rated PG-13
*** ½

Spider-Man: Far from Home is an entertaining sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film includes comedy, romance and some of the usual Marvel action/violence, along with some relatively light adult language.
The film is directed by Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming), and written by Emmy nominee Chris McKenna (Community, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), and Emmy nominee Erik Sommers (American Dad!, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). The film had a budget of approximately $160 million.
The film picks up after the end of Avengers: Endgame. Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) is mourning the loss of his mentor Tony Stark/Iron Man who died at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Peter’s aunt May, played by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny) hosts a benefit for the those returning from “the Blip”, Thanos’ finger snap of destruction that eliminated half of the population. They have returned five years later, just as they were, but everyone else has aged five years.
Peter is hoping to just be your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man by night, and a normal high school student in Queens by day along with his best friend Ned, played by Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers). Peter is excited about a trip with his science class to Europe, where he plans to tell M.J., played by Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman) his feelings for her. Peter doesn’t even pack his Spider-Man suit for the trip. Continue reading


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My Review of GLASS

Glass, rated PG-13
** ½

Glass is a psychological thriller and the finale of a trilogy from two-time Oscar nominee director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), who also wrote the screenplay for the film. The film brings together super hero characters introduced in his 2000 film Unbreakable and his 2016 film Split, the latter a surprise success after a few very disappointing films.
In Unbreakable, we met comic book expert Elijah Price/Mr. Glass played by Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction). Elijah was born with a birth defect which left his bones very brittle and susceptible to breaks. As a result, as a child, he was mockingly called Mr. Glass by his peers. David Dunn, played by Golden Globe winner Bruce Willis (Moonlighting), is a security guard at a football stadium in Philadelphia with a troubled marriage and young son. He is the sole survivor of a terrible train crash. In fact, he didn’t even have a scratch on him. Elijah tells Dunn that he has been searching for him, someone who is special, indestructible. The film ends with Price, known as Mr. Glass, admitting to being behind several tragedies, including the train crash. He is put into an institution while Dunn begins to serve the public as a hooded vigilante.
In Split, we met mentally ill Kevin Wendell Crumb, played by Golden Globe nominee James McAvoy (Atonement), a man with 24 different personalities and sole survivor Casey, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who was forced to discover her strengths while being held captive. The film ends with a surprise connection to Unbreakable, setting up the new film. Continue reading


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My Review of INCREDIBLES 2

Incredibles 2, rated PG
*** ½

Incredibles 2, released fourteen years after The Incredibles, is a family friendly treat. It is action-packed, visually stunning and very funny. There were more laughs in the theatre for this film than I can remember for quite some time. The film is once again directed and written by two-time Oscar winner Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles). The delightful musical score is by Oscar winner Michael Giacchino (Up), the seventh Pixar film he has scored. The animation is excellent, as you would expect from a Pixar film. At nearly two hours in length, this is the longest Pixar film to date.
The film picks up right where the 2004 film left off, with the Incredibles battling the Underminer, voiced by two-time Emmy nominee John Ratzenberger (Cheers).  Soon, the Incredibles are back to living their lives under the superhero relocation program in the Safari Court Motel. The family is led by Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr, voiced by four-time Golden Globe nominee Craig T. Nelson (Coach) and Helen Parr/Elastigirl, voiced by Oscar winner Holly Hunter (The Piano). The rest of the family is made up of 14-year-old daughter Violet, voiced by Sarah Vowell (The Incredibles), 10-year-old son Dash, voiced by Huck Milner, and infant Jack-Jack, voiced with archival recordings by Eli Fucile (The Incredibles), who is starting to display some superhero powers.
The government ban on superhero activities continues. Winston Deavor, CEO of the Telecommunications giant DevTech, voiced by three-time Golden Globe nominee Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), is a superhero fan. He and his scientist sister Evelyn, voiced by two-time Oscar nominee Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich, Capote), want to change the public’s perception of superheroes. Winston meets with the Incredibles and Frozone, voiced by Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction). He chooses Elastigirl, rather than Mr. Incredible, to be their public face, and so with a new costume and the use of a body cam to record her good deeds, they are off with their plan.
Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible takes over the stay at home Dad duties, which leads to some funny moments, as he deals with Violet’s dating life, Dash’s math homework and Jack Jack’s newly developed super powers. There is no doubt that Jack Jack was the favorite of those in attendance.
Edna Mode, voiced by Brad Bird returns from the first film. A new cyber villain is Screenslaver, voiced by Bill Wise. Screenslaver hypnotizes digital screen users to do whatever he says.
Themes include family, parenting, supporting each other, doing the right thing and fighting evil.
Content issues include superhero action violence and is the first Pixar film to contain some light profanity.
Although an animated children’s film, the movie does include messages about women, technology, and law enforcement (body cams).
Incredibles 2 is a family friendly film that is well-written, action packed, visually stunning and very funny.


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My Review of I Am Not Your Negro

i-am-not-your-negroI Am Not Your Negro, rated PG-13
***

This Oscar nominated documentary uses the words of James Baldwin to tell the story of the Negro in America. It is directed by Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson’s excellent narration is comprised entirely of words from novelist, playwright and essayist James Baldwin.  At the time of his death in 1987, Baldwin was working on a book entitled Remember This House, about the lives and deaths of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, three men he knew personally. But when he died, he had completed only 30 pages of the book. In this film, director Peck envisions what the finished book would have looked like, as he looks at the Black experience in America, in part by looking at those three men.
Peck includes a lot of footage of Baldwin in this film (from The Dick Cavett Show, etc.), along with historical news footage, clips from classic movies and even recent footage from the Obama inauguration, from Ferguson, Missouri and of President Trump. We often see the film compare African Americans to Native Americans.
Baldwin says that the story of the Negro in America is not a pretty story, and it is also the story of America. I would disagree with him when he states that at the end of their lives Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were essentially the same.  My wife thought that Mr. Baldwin had a stereotypical view of white people, based upon movies, TV, advertising and the news.  On the other hand, he had some very thought-provoking comments.  I would also say that as a white man I couldn’t fully understand some of the points made in the film, which was attended by a large mixed-race audience, that broke into applause several times during the film and when the film ended.
Racism should never be tolerated by Christians. We are all made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27). The film made me wonder just how much racial issues have really changed in America. We are more politically correct today, but have hearts truly changed?
This would be a good film to watch and discuss with friends.


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MOVIE REVIEW ~ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-childrenMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, rated PG-13
***

This film, directed by two-time Oscar nominee Tim Burton, is his first since 2014’s Big Eyes. It is based on the popular 2011 young adult novel of the same name by author Ransom Riggs. Riggs has released three books in the series. The screenplay is written by Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kingsman: The Secret Service).

The film is about a teenage boy, Jake Portman, who is played by Asa Butterfield (Hugo, Ender’s Game). He lives in Florida, and doesn’t have a close relationship with his parents, played by Chris O’Dowd and Kim Dickens, but is very close to his grandfather Abraham, played by Oscar nominee (for 1963’s Billy Budd), Terence Stamp.

Jake has long heard his Grandpa’s stories about a house with “special children” just before he joined the British army for World War II. He has shown Jake mysterious old photographs, but doesn’t really want to talk too much about them. When Grandpa mysteriously dies, Jake’s father takes him to an island off the coast of Wales, the site of Grandpa’s stories, so that Jake can put those silly stories to rest and move on with his life. The house used in the film is an actual house, and can be found near Antwerp, Belgium.

The house that Grandpa told Jake about was hit by German bombs on September 3, 1943. When Jake and his Dad arrive, they find only the bombed out shell of the building remaining. However, when Jake sneaks back to the home on his own, he is able to enter a portal, or a loop, that takes him back to 1943. It’s there he finds the incredible place that his Grandpa told him about. It is run by Miss Peregrine, played by Golden Globe nominee (for Penny Dreadful), Eva Green, who worked with Burton on his 2012 film Dark Shadows. Burton has described Miss Peregrine as “a scary Mary Poppins”. She has the ability to turn into a falcon and to manipulate time via time loops. This allows her to keep the house and children safe. No one ages, and they are always in the same day of the same year.

There are also monsters, called Hollows that hunt down the peculiar children in the house for their eyes. The leader of the Hollows is the scary Barron, who is well-played by Samuel L. Jackson.

Miss Peregrine’s house has an interesting and odd collection of children, including Emma, played by Ella Purnell, whose peculiarity is air, and who needs to wear weighted boots to keep from flying away; and Enoch, played by Finlay MacMillan, who can bring things to life. Jake falls for Emma, who ironically also had a relationship with Jake’s Grandpa before the house was bombed some seventy years ago.

One of our best actresses, Dame Judi Dench, seven-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner, plays Miss Avocet. Unfortunately, she has a very small role, and her vast talents are largely wasted in this film.

The film is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril, which will be too scary for young children. Director Tim Burton effectively uses special effects to show the peculiarities of the children, and a late in the film clash with the Hollows had the most Burtonesque look. There was also one completely unnecessary abuse of God’s name included in the film.