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Showing posts from September, 2011

Coming Soon in October

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With September drawing to a close, we plunge deeper into the fall movie season with some incredible gems in October. Here's a preview of what's coming the next four weeks.
Friday, Oct. 7 Real Steel — This looks like a typical action/sports movie for the 21st Century. Boxing just isn't what it used to be, and the filmmakers here seem to recognize that and have gone a different way, adding a robot component. This really looks like a father-son bonding kind of story, and Hugh Jackman is a decent leading man. There has been a huge marketing push for this movie, but it's hard to tell if it will be good or merely passable.
Ides of March — The last time George Clooney directed a film, it ended up as a Best Picture nominee, and one of the best films of the last decade. That film was "Good Night and Good Luck." His newest directorial effort, "The Ides of March," boasts a great cast, including Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti. Th…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I've seen this week.
Abduction Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, and Sigourney Weaver Synopsis: The quest to turn Taylor Lautner into a star continues with this film. It boasts a ridiculous plot and some questionable action sequences. On the up side, it probably provided the most relevant moment for PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, this year. But that's not saying much. This is a by-the-numbers action film, and it's not that great. Director John Singleton has made some interesting films, but this isn't one of them. Lautner just doesn't have a lot to offer and Collins ("The Blind Side") didn't do a lot to help matters. There are some decent veteran actors in the film — Maria Bello, Jason Issacs, Molina and Weaver, among them — but they are given little to do. The story isn't that compelling or believable, and neither is the screen action. Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence a…

Faith in Film 3, Doubt

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Tonight we tackle a fascinating and challenging film in "Doubt." I love this film. I love the dialogue and the performances. I love the way John Patrick Shanley puts this film together. And I love the challenging ideas presented in this film.
"Doubt, a Parable" was a stage play that Shanley wrote in the early 2000s. The play had 525 showings, opening in 2004 and closing in 2006. In 2005, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. In 2008, Shanley adapted his own play into a film, directing it himself. The film earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress for Meryl Streep, Best Supporting Actor for Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Best Supporting Actresses Amy Adams and Viola Davis, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Shanley. It didn't win any awards, but I think it should have been a Best Picture nominee and, three years later, I feel like "Doubt" is a film that stands up and endures more than other films that wer…

Faith in Film 3, Week 2

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Here's a look at the worksheet for tomorrow's class.
Title: “Doubt” (2008)Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Viola DavisSynopsis: “Doubt” was one of the finest and most over looked films of 2008. In a crowded class of contenders, the film was recognized for its performances. “Doubt” earned five Academy Award nominations, winning none. However, Hoffman was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Street for Best Actress, Adams and Davis for Best Supporting Actress, and writer/director John Patrick Shanley was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.For Shanley, making “Doubt” was very personal. It is based on his stage play, which had a long and successful run on Broadway. The play opened in 2004 and ran for 525 performances, earning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award as the Best Play. It is called “Doubt, A Parable,” and that is a fairly accurate representation of the crux of the story. The film retains the basic story and much of the original …

Pilot Roundup, Week 2

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The first full week of the new fall season offered plenty of new shows to consider. They weren't all winners. I saw 13 new shows (all of which are chronicled below), and found only one I really liked ("The New Girl," pictured above). There are a few that were good and some that were, in a word, ghastly. By the way, ghastly is my new word of the month for shockingly bad sports and entertainment moments.
Here are the capsule reviews and letter grades for the new pilots. It is broken down by day and time.
Monday nights: 2 Broke Girls, 8:30 p.m. on CBS Synopsis: This is the big new comedy on CBS. It wasn't terrible, and it had a couple mildly amusing moments, but it didn't sustain that. To be honest, sitcoms aren't my favorite, so it takes a bit to get me hooked on a sitcom. I like Kat Dennings, but that was about the only thing I liked in this show. Not sure it's a great concept. It has a plumb time slot — tucked between "How I Met Your Mother" and &qu…

Exploring the Depths

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If I was being totally honest, I didn't expect the Denver Broncos to be good. I have watched Kyle Orton for three years. I think he is a totally fine, vanilla quarterback. He won't win you any games, and there's a chance he might lose some for you. If you have a great defense and a dynamic running game, he can shepherd your team to the playoffs.
I think the same thing of John Fox. In some ways, it's fitting that he was chosen to helm the disaster that is the Denver Broncos. Many analysts don't understand the fan love of Tim Tebow, arguing he's raw and will make mistakes. I completely agree. He's also exciting, talented, driven, and capable of doing extraordinary things. We saw flashes of that during the last three games of last season. Denver went 1-2 during that stretch, but every game was fun.
Denver is 1-2 so far this season, and none of the games have been fun. They've been excruciating to watch. Even though I really want Tebow to start, I don't b…

Playing Moneyball

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The new movie "Moneyball" opened on Friday. For those that don't know, Moneyball is a philosophy pioneered by Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane as a way for the A's to compete against teams with bigger payrolls.
Beane's method — which involves a statistical analysis of players to determine who is undervalued in an attempt to gather a team that even a modest franchise can afford — was chronicled in the book by Michael Lewis, the same author to that captured Michael Oher's life story in "The Blind Side." The question was, how do you turn a book on statistical analysis into a movie.
The answer is "Moneyball." Director Bennett Miller, screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, and star Brad Pitt have made a compelling film. They have given depth to the characters and made the journey — primarily going through Beane's 2002 season — a fun ride.
Where I quibble with "Moneyball" isn't as a film, but as a concept. Beane…

Person of Interest

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One of my favorite movies is "The Dark Knight," I also think it was probably the best film of the 21st Century to this point. So it's fair to say I hold it in high esteem, and the same goes for its creators. Christopher Nolan was the driving force behind that film — and in fact the whole series — but among his collaborators were his brother, Jonathan.
When I heard that Jonathan Nolan was developing a series for TV, I was naturally excited. By all accounts, "Person of Interest" seemed like one of the most promising new series of the fall. But the pilot falls a little short, perhaps in part due to the concept.
The premise feels genuine. In our modern, post 9/11 world, there are few places that the government can't see. The paranoia surrounding national security led to the creation of a super computer that inputs images, telephone calls, and e-mails from every person, every day in an attempt to get out in front of the next attack.
But the man who created that sup…

American Justice

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I have long been concerned about what I see as our "American" notion of justice. I've thought about it quite a bit this last couple weeks in a variety of ways.
On Wednesday, we looked at the Beattitudes with the High School group. The speaker found a very unique way of breaking down the spirit of the Beattitudes. One that caught my eye was "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God." The description of our response to that was, "You refuse to declare war on others, even if the right to do so exists. You reconcile differences with other without destroying their uniqueness. You desire to bridge differences, are open to other viewpoints, and can genuinely and sincerely accept those who do not agree with you."
In groups, the students were asked to weigh in on these. Looking at the first line — you refuse to declare ware on others, even if the right to do so exists — I couldn't help but think how different that mindset is from…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week!

Drive
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, and Bryan CranstonSynopsis: “Drive” is an interesting film. It’s got a simple plot, simple but sturdy performances, and a sparse cinematic sense thanks to director Nicolas Winding Refn. It’ also one of the better films to be released in the past few months. Refn and star Ryan Gosling keep it simple throughout most of the film so that when the big moments come, they land with extreme intensity. The film, based on a novel from James Sallis, centers on Driver (Gosling) who is incredible at what he does. He is a stunt driver for films, a mechanic, and the best getaway driver available. There is a sparseness to this production that works in its favor. The dialogue is simple and a good deal of the film is told visually — including a great opening sequence that sets the tone for the film and sets the tone for Driver as a character. That is a credit to Refn. One of the …

Faith in Film 3, Dead Poets Society

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Tonight we kick off a new round of Faith in Film with a look at the 1989 movie "Dead Poets Society." The film is a fascinating exploration of philosophies of life and how we should approach ideas. Now there is certainly an academic perspective of that, but when I look at this movie and the message of it, I can't help but see the ways we can apply that to an exploration of our faith.
There are a few key phrases in the film, the first being "Carpe Diem." Most people know that is Latin for "Seize the Day." The phrase comes from a poem by Horace, which translated to English reads "Seize the Day, putting as little trust in the future as possible." The emphasis is that life should be lived and we shouldn't just wait for the future, which is uncertain. Jesus actually talked about that in the Sermon on the Mount, when he admonished us not to worry about tomorrow because our Heavenly Father is already looking out for us. That doesn't mean we s…

Faith in Film 3, Week 1

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This week marks the first for our new round of Faith in Film. Below is the worksheet for tomorrow night's first meeting. I hope everyone will make it out as we begin this exciting adventure again!
Title: “Dead Poets Society” (1989)Starring: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, and Robert Sean LeonardSynopsis: This is a film set in the 1950s at a conservative, private, preparatory school in Vermont. The institution is very buttoned-down, exclusive, and renowned for the education and opportunities it provides for its students. Among a group of senior boys that the film follows are Neil (Leonard), an overachiever with an over-bearing father, and his roommate Todd (Hawke), a quiet thinker who is trapped in the shadow of the siblings that preceded him at the school. Both boys have stores of hidden talent, but both are held back in different ways from pursuing their desired path. For Todd, the impediment is his self-doubt. For Neil, the impediment is the will of his father.A new English teacher,…

Pilot Roundup, Week 1

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For the next few weeks, on Mondays I will review the pilots for new shows that I've seen and second episodes. By the end of two episodes last season, several shows had been cancelled. It is an instant feedback world, after all.
Tuesday Night: Ringer, 9p.m. on the CW Synopsis: Sarah Michelle Gellar's return to prime time television didn't disappoint. I, honestly, didn't know what to make of this show when I read the description. After watching the pilot, I am not convinced this is the kind of concept that will work long-term, but it will be a fun ride for 13 episodes or at least one full season. There is a lot of intrigue and possibility. The plot centers on a young woman (Gellar) who is set to testify against a high-profile criminal when she decides to go on the run. She links up with her twin sister (also Gellar), who soon kills herself. No one else knows this has happened, so the young woman decides to take over her sister's life, only to discover her sister had tro…

Emmy Picks

The annual Emmy awards are tonight. They're sort of like the Jan Brady of awards, but that doesn't mean we can't do some picks!
Outstanding Comedy Series Nominees: "The Big Bang Theory" (2007) "Glee" (2009) "Modern Family" (2009) "The Office" (2005) "Parks and Recreation" (2009) "30 Rock" (2006) Will Win: Modern Family Should Win: The Office
Outstanding Drama Series Nominees: "Boardwalk Empire" (2010) "Dexter" (2006) "Friday Night Lights" (2006) "Game of Thrones" (2011) "The Good Wife" (2009) "Mad Men" (2007) Will Win: Mad Men Should Win: Game of Thrones
Outstanding Miniseries or Made for Television Movie Nominees: Cinema Verite (2011) (TV) "Downton Abbey" (2010) "The Kennedys" (2011) "Mildred Pierce" (2011) "The Pillars of the Earth" (2010) Too Big to Fail (2011) (TV) Will Win: Cinema Verite Should Win: Downton Abbey
Outstanding Lead Actor in a …

TV's Best Dramas

I am continuing TV week on my blog this week with my picks for the best dramatic series from the 2010-2011 season.
Best Drama: 1. Fringe, FOX "Fringe" is easily the most compelling and most original drama on network, cable, or any kind of television. It gets better every season, and the third season was the show's best. If there were justice, this would be the show that would win the Emmy on Sunday night. Sadly, it's not even nominated.
2. Game of Thrones, HBO "Game of Thrones" was the best drama on HBO last year, which is saying something given the depth of creativity for this pay-cable network. Great performances, a great story, and some fascinating execution. I didn't know what to make of this show when it first premiered, but it quickly became my favorite hour of the week.
3. Justified, FX This is another cable show that is lights out. The second season of "Justified," based on the short story by Elmore Leonard, was incredible. Great performances…

Fall Preview, Pt. 4

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I continue with my look at the new fall season today with a look at some shows that need to improve this season.
Glee, Tuesdays at 8p.m. on FOX. Starts Sept. 20 During its first season, I was enamored of "Glee." Last year, the show was all over the place in terms of story and became too issue driven. It's also hard to deny the show, it's songs, and it's starts have been a little over-exposed. After a weird reality show competition to add to the cast, another concert tour, a movie, and an underwhelming second season, can the show bounce back or will it continue to flounder. That's the question that must be answered in this third season.
The Mentalist, Thursdays at 10p.m. on CBS. Starts on Sept. 22 "The Mentalist" is another show that was great during it's first season — thanks mostly to the work of Simon Baker in the lead role — and has been uneven ever since. The end of the third season provided a shocking twist that could serve as the foundation fo…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Contagion Starring: Gwenyth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Jude Law Synopsis: Perhaps the last great threat in the world is bio-terrorism. In a lot of ways, the world is a lot smaller place. The connections that we’ve made to people half a world away allow us to connect, but also open the paths to the spread of infection half a world away. Director Steven Soderbergh has directed a number of interesting films, but arguably his best work was in 2000’s “Traffic,” which took a detailed look at the war on drugs. It looked at a number of facets of the drug war in a number of different places. It showcased the hopelessness, and some of the reasons and ways why it would never end. In the same way, Soderbergh takes a look at what would happen if a disease of unknown origin spread around the world because of how connected we’ve become. “Contagion” might be some people’s worst nightmare…

Fall Preview, Pt. 3

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Today I continue my fall TV season preview with a look at new shows I think might be good. Emphasis on the word might. Of course, like last year, I'll review new pilots and second episodes I've seen starting next week when the season begins! For now, let's feel hopeful!
1. Person of Interest, Thursdays at 9p.m. on CBS. Starts Sept. 22 This show, from super producer J.J. Abrams, features a fascinating concept. The show surrounds a wealthy genius (Michael Emerson) and a former CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) team up to try and stop crimes. This seems kind of like "Minority Report" but grounded a little more in reality in a post-9/11 world. I have high hopes based on the pedigree (also from Jonathan Nolan, brother of Chris and a co-writer of "The Dark Knight) and the cast.
2. Homeland, Sundays at 10p.m. on Showtime. Starts Oct. 2 This show is about a soldier (Damien Lewis), captured years earlier, is found and returned to the United States. To nearly everyone he's a h…

Fall Preview, Pt. 2

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In the second part of my fall TV preview, I'll take a look at some cable shows coming this fall to be on the lookout for. While the Network Shows get a lot of the publicity, some of the most creativity in TV is happening on basic and premium cable channels.
Psych, Wednesdays at 10p.m. on USA. Starts Oct. 12 "Psych" is normally a summer favorite, but this year USA Network held off the premier until the fall. The show — starring James Roday and Dule Hill — isn't deep or complex, but it is pretty fun. There is a lot of comedy, a lot of 1980s references, and some interesting stories. This is lighter fare, but it's well done.
Boardwalk Empire, Sundays at 9p.m. on HBO. Starts Sept. 25 Now in its second season, "Boardwalk Empire" takes a look at the criminal world of Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1920s. The show can, at times, be overly violent and have a little too great a degree of sexual content, but it is a well done crime drama. For those who liked the &qu…

Fall Preview, Pt. 1

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This is officially TV week here on the blog! The Emmys are Sunday, the fall season begins Sept. 19, and I'm on vacation preparing for that (and Faith in Film's return Sept. 21). This week I'll be offering my own version of the fall preview. Check back each day (save for Thursday, where movie reviews will appear as scheduled) for new subjects. Below is a schedule.
Monday — Returning Network Shows to check out Tuesday — Returning Cable Shows to check out Wednesday — New shows that could be good Friday — Shows that need to improve during the 2011-12 season Saturday — My picks for the best of the 2010-2011 season Sunday — Emmy picks
So, without further ado, here's my picks of five returning Network Shows that I have high hopes for in the 2011-12 season.
1. Fringe — airs Fridays at 9p.m. on FOX. Starts Sept. 23 "Fringe" has been my favorite show on the air for the past two seasons. Now in its fourth season, "Fringe" just keeps getting better. It comes from execut…

Never Forget

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I will never forget where I was 10 years ago. It was a Tuesday morning early in my junior year at Biola University, in the heart of Southern California. The phone rang just after 7 a.m. Being a college student with no morning classes, I wasn't really planning on getting up. Neither were my roommates.
Groggily, I answered the phone and it was a friend who used to go to school but now lived in San Jose. Breathless he screamed that the United States was being bombed. I could hardly believe it. As I started to come awake, I flipped on the TV. The first thing I saw shocked me, as a plane slammed into the World Trade Center and the towers collapsed. I quickly woke up my roomates and we stared at the screen not knowing what to do.
The rest of that morning was chaotic and terrifying. As the details continued to roll in, the destruction was vast. Then the real panic set in. 10 years later, it's easy to forget that, for a few hours following the first attacks, there were a number of plane…