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Showing posts from December, 2010

A Look Back at 2010, the Movies

This is my final post of the year, and I saved the best of my countdown lists for last. Usually I write a Top 10, Bottom 5 column for the newspaper, and did so this year, but for the Blog I thought I would expand to 15, and 10. This year I finished with 126 trips to the theater, an average of 10.5 per month, and let me tell you — they weren't all gems. This is a list of the movies I liked best and least during the last 12 months.
The Top: 15 — Devil This entry, based on a screenplay from M. Night Shymalan, was probably the biggest surprise of the year for me. Shymalan's other film, "The Last Airbender," was poor, and his last film before this year was also marginal. I didn't have high hopes for this, but what I got was a story that really made me think. It has a powerful message about forgiveness that was probably the most unexpected aspect of the film.
"Devil," rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including se…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week. With no new releases coming out this week, it's a good time to catch up with some award nominees. This could easily be called the award nominee review... Stay tuned to tomorrow's post for my top 10 and bottom 5 films of the year.
Black Swan Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, and Barbara Hersey Synopsis: This is certainly one of the strangest films of the year. It is well made and well told, but it can be hard to watch. Portman gives an incredible performance in the lead role in this film, and will likely be a front-runner for the Academy Award. This film has some substantial sexual content, and it's nothing if not dark, but director Darren Aronofsky does a great job of putting the film together. This film received a Best Picture nomination from the Golden Globes and will likely receive the same from the Academy Awards. Rating: R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug …

A Look Back at 2010, the TV shows

With the year winding down, I'm recapping my favorite moments, songs, shows, and movies of the year. Today it's a look at my Top 10 favorite shows of 2010. To be eligible, the show simply had to air at some point in 2010. So here's the list in ascending order.
10. LOST, ABC This was the final season for "LOST." Though it wasn't the greatest season, "LOST" went out strong and wrapped up it's story well. Though the narrative didn't always make sense and season six wasn't my favorite — that honor belongs to season 4 — "LOST" still finished as a memorable show. It's too bad that it hasn't received any attention from the Awards shows.
9. House, FOX This hasn't been as strong a season for "House," but with the way it wrapped up last spring and some of the early episodes this year it was still a strong 2010 for "House." Last year's season finale was the best episode in several seasons.
8. The Pacific, HB…

A Look Back at 2010, the Music

So, it turns out it's really hard to remember what came out in 2010 and what came out in 2009, especially since stuff doesn't catch fire on the radio for a little while. When I first made a list of songs I listened to a lot this year it was different than the list that will appear below. That's when I discovered many of them were 2009 songs, so that seemed like cheating. Anyway, here's the songs released in 2010 I liked the most.
10. Compliments, Band of Horses The new Band of Horses album, "Infinity Arms," isn't as good as some of their older stuff, but I like this single. It was apparently the 18th most played song in my iTunes. It has an interesting message and it's pretty listenable.
9. My Chick Bad, Ludacris Feat. Nicky Minaj I think a lot of Ludacris songs are funny, and this was probably the funniest one of the bunch. His work on the track is alright, but it's Nicky Minaj that pushes it to another level. Not for everyone, but I liked it.
8. Magi…

A look back at the year that was

With 2010 fading away this week, I have decided to fill my blog with a list of Top 10s, including my favorite songs, TV shows, and, of course, films of the year. Today I'm kicking it off with my favorite moments of 2010. I decided to go in chronological order.
January 5, Boise St. upends TCU I didn't have many college bowl games I cared about, in fact with Alabama playing for the title I didn't even watch the National Championship game. But this bowl game between two little schools that were shut out of a run at the year-end title was worth watching. It was fun watching with friends, too, as Boise State kept it's unbeaten streak alive in the Fiesta Bowl, kicking off a year-long run for the NCAA title that came up just short in late November.
February 9, The Blog Begins It's hard to believe it's only been 11 months of blogging, but it's been a blast. On Tuesday, February 9 this odyssey began and it's been a blast ever since.
February 17, Ash Wednesday Service …

Stepping out of our tents

Today it was fun to get a unique perspective on the Word. I get to spend a lot of time with Katy during the week and I'm always moved by her energy and heart for the Lord, and I think everyone got to see that today as she offered the message.
And it was a topic that hit home for me too. I think there are a lot of times in our lives when we question what the plan is for our lives, and whether God is really moving. Sometimes we just have to step out of our tents — as Katy said — and realize how big God is.
I have had a few times in my life when I felt like I was locked in on the "one" plan for my life when I got knocked off track. The biggest time was probably as my junior year in college was ending. I had worked for years toward the goal of becoming editor of my college paper. Everything I'd done was in preparation for that path, but it didn't happen.
I was devastated and didn't know what I was going to do. I thought about leaving college early, but mostly I was …

A Savior is Born

Merry Christmas!
After a few whirlwind days, it's hard to believe Christmas Day is here. Of course, it's also funny to think how some traditions changed. When I was little, I used to practically wake up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning so that I could run out and go through my stocking — always my favorite part of the Christmas experience because that was where the good stuff was hidden. (And the stocking was giant).
This year, after getting home a touch after midnight and getting to sleep at about 1:30 a.m., all I wanted to do was sleep until my alarm went off. Welcome to adulthood, I guess...
Still, it's good to know that some traditions remain. Perhaps my favorite Christmas tradition is the Christmas Day trip to the theater with my family. It was born when I was in high school and we saw the film "Amistad." Ever since, it's been an annual tradition. Sometimes the movies are good, sometimes not, but it's always a fun part of the day.
Of course, the…

Christmas Eve

I wrote in an earlier post about my favorite Christmas movies, with the top spot on that list going to "A Charlie Brown Christmas." That's the one Christmas-themed show or film that I have to watch every year as the big day approaches. I think it's because I identify with Charlie Brown and his struggles with aspects of the season.
My favorite part is near the end, when an exasperated Charlie Brown wonders if anyone can explain the reason for the season to him. That's when his friend, Linus, steps in.
Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
[moves toward the center of the stage]
Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus]
Linus Van Pelt: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round …

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
The Fighter Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams Synopsis: This is one of the strongest contenders in awards season. Based on the true life story of boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his crack-addicted brother Dicky (Bale), this film is blessed with a strong cast and an engrossing story. Director David O. Russell does a great job in bringing the story to life and getting the most out of his cast and story. Wahlberg gives a great performance as does the incredibly talented Bale, who undergoes some interesting transformations to bring his character to life. Leo and Adams, both past Academy Award nominees, bring a lot of fire and intensity to the role of the central women in Micky's life. This is a well-made film that deserves plenty of praise and recognition this awards season. Rating: R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality. Verdict: Four stars out of four.
How Do You Know Starri…

Christmas slogans

This time of year you can't walk through stores without being barraged by slogans telling you how you should feel about the holiday, or what you should feel during the holiday. I subscribe to "Entertainment Weekly," and four about three issues in a row the Gap had an ad on the back page with a different celebrity wearing its merchandise and one simple word in all caps — WANT. I guess that pretty much sums up what our culture wants to tell us about Christmas.
Another of my favorite slogan locations is Target. I like Target; I shop there frequently, but the holiday headers have been absurd. It started with save merrily. I guess we're all supposed to feel great about buying gifts because we're saving on the prices that were marked up for the holiday season. Somehow, it didn't quite translate.
Then there's the most absurd slogan, "Give Jolly." Give Jolly?!!! How am I supposed to give an emotion — do I put on a Santa suit and chant ho, ho, ho? Someone …

The Season of Giving

At this time of year, we always hear the epitaph that it's better to give than receive. When we're young, we process this information but don't really embrace it.
I can remember when I was in elementary school the happiest day of the fall was the day the Christmas catalog arrived at Grandma's house and she called us to "make our lists." It was like my own version of "Sophie's Choice" flipping through the pages to see what was available, crafting the list, and marking items in order of importance. Then, of course, came the weeks of dreaming and anticipation followed by the Christmas Eve assault on packages bearing my name. That was Christmas.
But as I've gotten older, the focus continues to shift. When it comes time to "make a list" now, it's hard to think of things. Actually, I'm usually more interested in coming up with cool ideas for my family than with trying to figure out what I'll get for myself.
Not that I'm tota…

The Tebow Era Begins

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." — Psalm 23:4
I loved watching Tim Tebow play in college. I actually like the Florida Gators — I have for as long as I can remember — so I saw him play a lot. Then I started reading about his story, his life, and what he stands for, and I was even more impressed. One of my favorite things about watching Tebow in college was the Bible verses he would put in his eye black.
The NFL isn't big on those kind of things, so thankfully we have Facebook. Yesterday, prior to making his first start for the Denver Broncos, Tebow wrote Psalm 23:4 on his Facebook page. It was fitting since he was making his first start in the Black Hole in Oakland.
Those that watched the game for Tebow likely weren't totally disappointed. In the first quarter he had a 40-yard touchdown run and a 33-yard touchdown toss. He breathed life into a limp franchise…

The year of 3D

It's fair to say that 2010 has been the year of the explosion of 3D films. It seems fitting that the year would end, then, with a 3D film like "Tron Legacy."
Back in 1982, when "Tron" was released, it was a futuristic idea that was ahead of the technological capability of the times. The film looks pretty awful by today's standards, and considering it was mostly supposed to be about visuals, that's not a good sign. There is little story to it and the visual effects leave a lot to be desired.
In comparison, the new film is light years ahead of that mark. But that doesn't make it a great film. Though it was released in December of 2009, it's fair to say "Avatar" kicked off this new 3D craze. That wasn't my favorite film either. While I thought the visual style, particularly the use of 3D, was outstanding, there wasn't enough to the story in "Avatar" to make it worthwhile. I thought it was one of the most overrated films to…

Favorite Crime Dramas

On Friday one of the best crime dramas of 2010, "The Town," was released on DVD. I love the way writer-director-actor Ben Affleck put "The Town" together, and will certainly have it on my Top 10 list for the year.
That got me thinking about my favorite entries in the genre. I decided to continue my look at my favorite films by genre with a look at Crime Dramas. With these series, films only appear on one list. That means that if a film has appeared on another list, I removed it from contention. I try to assign films to the lists I feel fit best.
Here are my five favorite Crime Dramas in ascending order.
5. The Kingdom (2007) This film, directed by Peter Berg, was largely overlooked. It was my third favorite film of 2007, and in fact all three of my favorite films from that year are on this list. Apparently 2007 was a good year for crime dramas. This film features an amazing cast — Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman, among them — and an interes…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new films I saw last week. Also, as the Golden Globe award nominees were announced this week and the Academy Award nominees will be announced in January, more award contenders are coming to local theaters in the coming weeks. This week, "The Fighter" comes in wide release. On Dec. 22 "Black Swan" and "True Grit" will come in wide release.
I will have my traditional top 10 films (I saw) in 2010 on Friday, Dec. 31. For now, here's this week's selection.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Starring: Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes, Ben Barnes, and Liam Neeson Synopsis: At one point there was hope that "The Chronicles of Narnia" series could pick up where "Lord of the Rings" left off in terms of capturing a target demographic. While the first film in the series was decent, the series has lost significant steam. This third installment is a slight improvement — and I emphasize slight — over &q…

A hail of bullets and a red V

It's a sad fact of life in America in 2010 that shootings are commonplace, even shootings at high profile locations. Such was the case yesterday as an angry, disturbed individual took out his frustrations on school board members and administrators in Florida.
By now many will have seen the video footage, moved by the heroism demonstrated by those that tried to reason with a gunman that defied logic. But there was another moment of the footage that stood out to me. Prior to shots being fired, the gunman grabbed a can of red spray paint and plastered a V surrounded by a circle on the wall. The symbol was made famous by the graphic novel and film "V for Vendetta," a piece I covered during my Faith in Film class this summer.
When the film was released in 2005, I was appalled by the content of the message the film offered regarding the appropriate response to a government that doesn't please you. At that time I wrote, "The film’s ‘hero’ isn’t motivated by anything admi…

Fantasy Goats

My first season of fantasy football is coming to an end. I called my team Bronco Glory, finished as the No. 2 seed and advanced to the playoffs. I figured at least on Bronco team deserved a short at glory this season.
Then the playoff week happened. If my miraculous Michael Vick cover was the highlight of the fantasy season, last night was the low point. I have a tendency to over analyze to the point of going against my gut instincts. This was one of those weeks.
I looked at my players, looked at their games, read every piece of news about them, and decided I needed to make some strategic benchings. Good call....
As I looked on in horror, my fantasy starters fell face first to the turf (metaphorically speaking). Of course part of that is because I started way too many real life Denver Broncos, a team that got crushed in Arizona. So I had accepted that I would trail heading into the second week of the playoffs.
Then, as I watched the games last night, I realized how bad my decision-making …

Biblical Perfection

We looked at the idea of perfectionism yesterday and I have been thinking about it this past week. Yesterday I shared some thoughts about how it relates to examples of sports, today I thought I would share how it pertains to the way I think about the Old Testament.
Graham talked about the idea that only God is perfect yesterday, and I think that is something supported by the Bible. In fact, I think the Old Testament shows us how we fall short of perfection and it is only through Jesus Christ that we can bridge that gap.
The central part of the Old Testament is the law. We get the 10 commandments and the entire book of Leviticus is devoted to giving us the law. In the Old Testament, you saw how people offered sacrifices to God to make atonement for their shortcomings in relation to the law. Jesus came to be THE atonement sacrifice for us all.
You see, the Old Testament offers us a standard of perfection we can't possibly meet. Jesus even ups the ante with the Sermon on the Mount, sayi…

The quest for perfection

This week we talked about the Grinch of perfection. When I think about the quest for perfection, my mind nearly always turns to sports. It seems like sports, as a microcosm of our lives, is a place where all these grinches are personified. You certainly see that with expectation and a great parallel can be drawn with perfection.
In 2007, we nearly saw a quest for perfection completed. In 1972, the Miami Dolphins finished the season unbeaten, a perfect 14-0 i n the regular season and winning both playoff games to go 16-0 and earn an NFL championship. Since then, many have tried to match that mark but none has.
But in 2007, the New England Patriots sought to match that mark. Of course, to be perfect, New England had to go 19-0. Early in the season, that didn't look like a problem as the Patriots destroyed the competition. But as the season wore on, the pressure began to mount and cracks began to appear in the exterior.
Still, New England played tough, finishing the regular season 16-0 …

Faith in Film 2

Well, less than a month now until I begin the second installment of my class. I am excited and busily working on presentations for this second 12-week run. I'm proud to say that the list has been approved and includes a majority of weeks based on suggestions and feedback I received from attendees during the first run.
The second round will kick off on Wednesday, January 5. The class will move to Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. Below is the list of the 12 weeks, including screenings, with accompanying dates.
Week 1: “Superman Returns.” Wednesday, January 5 Week 2: “Bruce Almighty” Wednesday, January 12 Week 3: Screening “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” Wednesday, January 19 Week 4: “Narnia” vs. “Lord of the Rings” Wednesday, January 26 Week 5: “The Invention of Lying.” Wednesday, February 2 Week 6: Screening “The Blind Side.” Wednesday, February 9 Week 7: “The Blind Side.” Wednesday, February 16 Week 8: “About Schmidt” Wednesday, February 23 Week 9: Screening “The Ultimate Gift.” Wednesda…

Expectations and faith

This past week I have been thinking a lot about the idea of expectations, which we looked at last Sunday, particularly as it pertains to God. I couldn't help but think about the topic when the song "One of Us" came on while I was driving.
Originally performed by Joan Osborne, "One of Us" always bothered me. Actually, at times, I loathed the song. Recently it was covered by the cast of "Glee," and included on their latest anthology, which is why it came on in the car as I was driving. Instead of hitting fast forward — which was my initial thought — I decided to listen to the words. A funny thing happened, I kind of agreed with some of the ideas.
I still don't really like the song, and I think the chorus is a dumb idea, but there are things in there that I think resonate with ideas seekers have when they are first considering faith. It is about those baby steps you take toward faith when you come from a certain perspective. I realized what bothered me…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the movies in theaters I saw this week, including an early contender for Best Picture and Best Actor.
127 Hours Starring: James Franco Synopsis: This film is based on the true story of Aron Ralston (Franco), who in April of 2003 headed out alone in the wilds of Utah and ran into serious problems. Many will probably remember the description of how Ralston survived (he was trapped and, after days of struggle, cut off his own arm with a pocket knife) even if you don't remember his name. Co-writer/director Danny Boyle — who won Best Director for his work on "Slumdog Millionaire" in 2008 — does a great job of bringing this story to life. This film could have been a tedious slog through the time Ralston spent trapped in the wilderness, but instead Boyle and company — including co-writer Simon Beaufoy — work to make the film something of an exploration of the mental trauma of an incident like that. Through flashbacks and visions, we see the regrets and dreams …

Yule Tide Cheer

This week has been filled with holiday episodes and specials. Sitting through a couple last night, it got me thinking about my favorite Christmas movies. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I would share.
Obviously, if you want a Biblical take on the importance of the season, "The Nativity Story" (2006) is an awesome representation. It makes it even more impressive to consider it was brought to us by the same director who gave us "Twilight."
This list is more traditional (or less traditional depending on your view) Christmas fare. So here's my picks in ascending order.
5. Love Actually (2003) This film is a British comedy that is set on and around Christmas. It's a patchwork of stories, not all of which are great. But I love the comedy and many of the vignettes. This is kind of a fun, sweet Christmas film.
4. Elf (2003) There aren't many Will Ferrell films I like, but you'd have to be a cotton-headed ninny muggins to avoid laughing with this holida…

Documenting the World

One of the best series that I saw in 2010 was ESPN's "30 For 30." The series is a celebration of the biggest sports stories of the last 30 years. The series is a set of documentaries in which ESPN allowed filmmakers to tell one of the biggest sports stories from the 30 years ESPN has been on the air. The first half of that collection, which includes some incredible films I've chronicled in past blogs, will be released on DVD today.
That got me thinking, what are the best documentaries I've seen. So I thought I would continue my look at my favorite films by genre with a genre that's often overlooked, documentaries. This list includes films from 2009 and older, otherwise I think I'd have "Waiting for Superman" on this list. It's an incredible film that was released this year and will, likely, earn an Academy Award nomination. But as I wanted to make these films that have been out at least a year, sadly it does not qualify for this list. However…

Mid-point in the TV season

So, with the holiday break nearly upon us and starting to come upon most of our favorite shows, I thought now would be a good time to go over shows I'm liking and shows that missed the mark during the first half of the season. Below are my five favorite shows based on this season and three that were disappointments.
First the good:
5. House, Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX The show hasn't quite paid off on the way it ended last season. That being said, it remains a compelling hour of television. I like the way they've attempted to add some growth and focus to the main characters. One growing concern for me is the fact the show continues to belittle belief. I hope it is going somewhere with this, but the last new episode was more than a little offensive. Still, there are at least a couple solid laugh lines per episode and I think the show has found a decent rhythm.
4. Friday Night Lights, Wednesdays at 6 and 9 p.m. on DirecTV 101 This is the final season of the show that continues to h…

The Messianic Secret

As part of the message today we talked about the idea of the "Messianic Secret." Up until a couple weeks ago, I had never heard that term. But roughly it is the term given to the fact that Jesus repeatedly asked people not to tell others who He was or what He had done for them.
When you think about the fact that a big part of our call as Christians is to reach the world with the Gospel and Jesus came to be the savior for us all. But in the passage we looked at today — Mark 8:27-30 — Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is and when Peter responds that Jesus is "the Christ," he tells him not to tell others. I have two theories.
First, Jesus wanted to manage expectations. I remember when I first saw "The Matrix." It was an incredible cinematic experience, unlike anything I had ever seen before. So I, like most of the world, was pretty excited for the sequel. As time drug on, the weight of expectations became enormous. I still remember seeing the first tr…

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Have you ever faced an impossible situation? Aron Ralston has. The new movie, "127 Hours," chronicles his real life struggle to survive after being trapped, alone in a canyon in Utah.
As I watched, I couldn't help but wonder what I would do in that situation. Aron was a guy who thought he was self-sufficient. He thought all he needed was himself, that he could survive anything on his own, so he didn't bother to tell anyone where he was going.
Then a boulder was literally placed in his path. The rock dislodged from its perch and pinned Aron's right arm to the side of crevice. There he sat, one free hand and a day pack all he had to think of a way to get out of a jam.
Two thoughts occurred to me while watching the movie — first, and I can't stress this enough, this is why I've never been an "outdoors" type. Listening to stories of people lost in the wilderness, practically freezing to death, and having to fight their way back to civilization make com…

Sharing is Frustrating...sometimes

It's become a cliche to hear parents say "because I said so," "that's just how it is," or "we're not discussing it anymore." As kids, we don't understand because we expect our parents — probably most adults in general — to have all the answers and to be able to explain them. When you become an adult, you realize you don't have all the answers. Worse yet, you realize it can be really hard to answer kids questions.
This week I was reading over an paper for someone when I read an analysis of a passage of Scripture that wasn't right. I marked it and tried to offer a different explanation. Then I doubted my memory a bit, so I looked up the passage and read two surrounding chapters to get some context. Then I re-read what was written and my critique and changed my mind again. Then I went back, re-read, paused to consider, and formulated my analysis. One paragraph written by a junior high student led to 30 minutes of personal reflection. T…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new films I saw over Thanksgiving weekend. With a crowded slate through the end of the year, there's plenty of films to take in for people of all ages.
Faster Starring: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen Synopsis: This is not a complicated film. While The Rock (I refuse to call him Dwayne Johnson) spent the past few years making family films and children's comedies, he's back to his action roots here. I can almost picture the pitch — "Hey, Rock, in this movie you get to drive a car, look tough, shoot people, and there's only 25 lines of dialogue. I'll say it again, only 25 lines of dialogue." OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. The Rock mostly looks tough, grunts, drives in a ridiculous fashion no matter what the situation (his character name is Driver), and seeks revenge for his slain brother. Thornton — whose career seems to have fallen off a cliff — plays a dr…

Woe is 'Glee'

The term sophomore slump applies to shows that were breakout hits in their first season and fell off in the second season. A prime example would be "Heroes," which was a huge hit in year one and fell off sharply in the second season. "Heroes" never recovered, but I have higher hopes for "Glee."
You really couldn't say anything other than "Glee" is in a sophomore slump. It isn't as funny; it isn't as compelling; and it isn't as good. But, with a prime post-Super Bowl slot and half a season left to go, there is still hope. But so far, there have been a scant number of signs that the show is changing direction.
I think the low-point, for me as a fan, came during last night's Sectionals competition episode. Already on the verge of boredom, I finally came to the realization that the characters were behaving so badly I didn't want them to win. I texted this to a friend who was watching and got some similar sentiments. Never a goo…