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Showing posts from January, 2012

The Manning Connundrum

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I have never really liked Peyton Manning the player. I don't care for the Colts, and seeing as how I have a serious fondness for Tom Brady and the Patriots, it makes sense that I have never been a Manning guy. That being said, it's impossible to deny his talent. And I'm not just talking about his incredible commercials.
Manning is an incredible, and incredibly unique player. Part of what makes a good villain is someone who is great, capable of incredible feats, and always in the discussion come championship time. It's the same way I feel about Derek Jeter. I hate the Yankees, but I respect Jeter's skill and the way he's willed his team to succeed.
Manning really doesn't have anything to prove on the field. He's been a consistently prolific passer, he's put up an incredible record, he has been one of the most durable players to ever play, and he has the one thing great players always need to cement their legacy, a Championship. If there was any doubt a…

Winter Premiers Roundup

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With the dawn of a New Year have come a handful of new shows. Here's a look at a couple of the new shows that have debuted this month.
Alcatraz — Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX About: This show has a nice pedigree — coming from executive producer J.J. Abrams. The show is building a solid mythology and takes on an interesting premise — that the prisoners, guards, and employees at the famous prison disappeared just before the facility closed. Now, those that disappeared are reemerging for some as yet unknown purpose. The cast is fairly solid, led by Sam Neill, Jorge Garcia, Parminder Nagra, and Sarah Jones. The episodes are a mix of the present and flashback origin stories for the "returnee" of the week. This does create a "Lost"-like storytelling structure, but this material seems a bit more accessible at this point. The show is well crafted and there is a certain potential for this to develop into a solid, serialized hit. Grade: B+
Luck — Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO About: W…

Championship Weekend

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"We're 10 minutes into overtime, I mean someone had to win." — Lawrence Tynes, Giants placekicker.
This is what I like to call minor depression Sunday. We're at the end of the NFL season, almost. This is the first week without any meaningful games. Yes, I know the Pro Bowl is today, but I said meaningful games. As we get ready for Super Sunday, I thought I would look back and championship weekend.
So, those were some games, huh? Two games decided by three points each. But it wasn't exactly a rousing finish. First, during the AFC title game, it was a simple field goal that missed that ended the game. The Patriots played poorly for most of the game, but somehow they were leading. Then, just when it appeared the Ravens would tie it up and force overtime, a simple kick sailed left.
I really wanted the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl, but seeing the game end that way reminded me of someone who reads the Cliff Notes then sets the curve on the test. You're happy …

Best Picture Nominees — Dark Horses

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Over the next few weeks leading up to the Academy Awards I'll be reviewing and categorizing the films competing for Best Picture prior to making my annual picks. Today's section looks at Dark Horses, the films that should probably be happy just being nominated.
Midnight In Paris Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, and Marion Cottillard Synopsis: Woody Allen's film is the little comedy that could. It's a simple film with an interesting story that seems to have captured the hearts and attention of audiences and critics. Personally, this is the only film in the nine running for Best Picture that I just don't think you can make a case for actually winning. The nomination for Best Picture — and the other nominations for the film — seem more like a nod to the filmmaking ability of Allen. This is a creative, somewhat enjoyable film, but I don't think it's a great film, even by Allen's standards. It does have an interesting premise a…

Upcoming Releases — February

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Now diving into the second month of the New Year, there is a combination of action films, horror films, and romantic comedies coming soon to a theater near you.
Friday, February 3: Woman in Black — This is the first post-"Harry Potter" role for Daniel Radcliffe. It is a horror film with a good supporting cast. It is nice to see Radcliffe stretching himself, and this looks like an above average genre picture to boot.
Chronicle — If "Woman in Black" looks above average, this goes the other way. This has a relative unknown cast and looks to have one of those hand-held, real footage feels. It looks like a group of teens finds something underground and develop powers. What starts as fun soon turns grim... for the audience that shells out to see it.
The Innkeepers — Another horror story, and another horror story that looks like it might leave you feeling flat. It takes place at a spooky inn and stars Sara Paxton, heroine of "Last House on the Left" and "Shark …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new films that I saw this week, including a pair of top contenders.
The Artist Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bernice Bejo, John Goodman, and James Cromwell Synopsis: This is one of the most lauded films of 2011, and for good reason. "The Artist" is artful, whimsical, and daring. It is a black and white silent film about a silent film star coming to grips with the end of the silent film era. In a day and age where studios are intent on pushing forward with 3D and special effects technology, this film is a throwback to a simpler era when a film was defined by its story and performances. Both are first rate in this film. And if it took a silent film to introduce U.S. audiences to the talents of Dujardin and Bejo — French film stars — then keep them coming. Both are fantastic in difficult roles that take you back to a different era of filmmaking and storytelling. Writer/director Michael Hazanavicius clearly had a vision for this film, and he brings that vision t…

Goodbye Joe Pa!

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Last week, legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno died. His funeral, held yesterday, brought a close to a tragic saga that spanned through the fall, into the winter, and will likely continue with trials, litigation, and questions about his legacy.
If we are talking simply about coaching, Paterno is unquestionably a key historical figure and an iconic figure in college football. The time he put into the program at Penn State, the success he enjoyed, and the longevity in the position all put him in rarified air. When we think of the greatest college football coaches of all time — based on his record and merit — Paterno is at or near the top of the discussion.
But life is not that simple, nor should it be. When Paterno was fired in November, amidst the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the foundations of college football, Penn State, and the nation, people questioned what Paterno's legacy would be. Doubtless the stress and sorrow of the situation, coupled with his age and failing…

Heavenly Predictions

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"“We want more than this world's got to offer; We want more than the wars of our fathers; And everything inside screams for second life, yeah; We were meant to live for so much more; Have we lost ourselves? Somewhere we live inside.” — "Meant to Live," Switchfoot
I feel like I've been confronted with the concept of heaven a lot in the last year. When doing a class on the End Times, I felt it was crucial that the last installment be about Heaven. Then, when doing the last round of Faith in Film, heaven came up again — this time as we looked at the worldly outlook presented in "What Dreams May Come."
But it hasn't just been my little world that's been touched by this discussion. Rob Bell released a book last year that examined the idea of heaven, hell, and who goes where. Then, of course, there's a little book that's been really popular called "Heaven Is For Real."
The book is non-fiction... sort of. It is a true story of one pasto…

Nominees Announced

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The road to the Academy Awards got a little clearer this morning as the pool of nominees was announced. Now we have just over a month before the ceremonies, which will be on Sunday, Feb. 26.
The real interesting part of this year's awards ceremony was guessing how many Best Picture contenders there would be. Back in the old days, five was the maximum. But after the travesty that saw "The Dark Knight" snubbed in 2008, the decision was made to expand the field to 10 films. After two years of that experiment, seeing some strange films ascend to the highest honors of Hollywood, the rules changed again. Now, based on votes, there could be anywhere from five to 10. Our answer regarding that came this morning, when nine films got the call.
The nine contenders are: "The Artist," "The Descendants," "Hugo," "The Help," "Moneyball," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "Midnight in Paris," "Tree of Life,&quo…

Faith in Film

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It's been about six weeks since the last installment ended and I have been looking at a list of new films to run a bit of a shorter course. Not sure yet when it will start, and the list will need to be approved, but I've attached a working list of an eight-week adventure.
As always, I love feedback and suggestions. If you have any ideas for films you'd like to see, or any comments about the ones on this early, tentative list, please let me know. Film is an art form that conveys so much about the way we, as a society, see the world. Some of the films on this list present a quite challenging view of this world, which is precisely why it's important to evaluate them on their merit and compare them to the universal truth contained in the Scriptures. As always, I hope it's a fun, informative, and growing journey.
Faith in Film 4 (Prospective List) Week 1: “Atonement”Week 2: “Devil” Week 3: Screening: “Get Low”Week 4: “Get Low”Week 5: “Tree of Life”Week 6: Screening: “Soul …

Not Alone

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“Doubt can be a bond as sustaining as certainty. When you’re feeling lost, you are not alone.” — Father Flynn, "Doubt"
Today's mountain to move was Spiritual Isolation, or lonliness. It's a tough topic to think and speak about, but something that is a very real problem, even among those who are part of the kingdom of God. I couldn't help but think of two ways we have to battle being lonely as Christians.
The first comes when we have times of struggle and doubt. I love how this idea is addressed in the film "Doubt," based on the stage play from John Patrick Shanley, that I quoted to begin this post. We all go through times of doubt, struggle, and isolation based on the circumstances of life. This is a normal part of the rhythm of being human, and it is a normal part of our faith journey. Often, these times can strengthen our faith and resolve when we lean into Him.
The thing to remember is, when we feel lost, we are not alone. When we put our faith in Jesus…

American Justice

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"Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!" — Carl Lee Haley, "A Time to Kill."
"A Time to Kill" is my favorite film. I still remember the first time I saw it, there was something about the film that always stuck with me. It remains my favorite film for a lot of reasons. It's well acted. It's got a killer cast. The lines and arguments are memorable. And there is something compelling about the story.
The only problem is, I don't agree with the ending. Carl Lee Haley goes free. He killed two men, and yet he walks free. The music swells, the cast smiles, and you're supposed to feel like justice was done. I love everything about the movie, but I don't love that ending. To me, it's not justice... not really.
You see, Carl Lee shot and killed two men, but they weren't much of men. They were poor, southern racists that raped, beat, and nearly killed a little black girl — Carl Lee's girl. And, fearing they might get a li…

United in His Service

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"Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing." — 1 Timothy 2:8
Paul, in 1 Timothy, offers a beautiful vision for what the church should be. In the verse cited above, he talks about coming together, letting go of anger and disputes, and coming together in holy worship and prayer. It's a beautiful, Biblical vision for the church — one we don't see that often.
In our time, the church has taken on a different form. What divides us is infinitely more public than what unites us, and some would argue we should let all that go and follow the Biblical model. While I'm all for following the Biblical model, I'm not sure some of what divides us can just be set aside.
But that doesn't mean we can't focus on prayer and worship. The modern church has real, serious issues that have led to division. I'm not talking about the style of music, the style of choir robe, or the style of service. Those are minor issues that …

Audacious Prayer

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How do we move from knowledge to practice when it comes to faith? That's a tough question to consider, let alone answer. But it's been something that I've been wrestling with this week after reading a powerful book, "Sun Stand Still," by Pastor Steven Furtick.
The title of the book is taken from a prayer in the book of Joshua where he asked God to freeze the sun during an important battle. God did, for more than a day, and Joshua's army won the day. It's a story many of us have read, studied, and understood — but how many think about it in realistic terms?
That is the challenge put forth in the book. He calls on us all to be audacious in our faith and in our prayer life. To, in essence, really believe that God can work miracles in and through our lives.
On the surface, that seems elementary. Of course we believe in a God of miracles. Of course he can, has, and does do miracles in all our lives. Intellectually I've been able to process that, and I believe…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the movies I saw this week!
Contraband Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster, and Lukas Haas Synopsis: And we've launched into a new year with a fairly standard action film. Wahlberg is a good guy, a family man, and a former criminal who's trying to go strait. When his brother-in-law gets in too deep, he has to dive back into the life to protect his family. Wahlberg is great in these types of roles, and he does a nice job here. The film is buoyed by a strong supporting cast. Beckinsale plays Wahlberg's wife, Haas plays one of his co-horts, Ribisi is sufficiently creepy as a hood and drug dealer threatening Wahlberg's domestic bliss, and Foster plays a friend who's possibly working his own angle. The action sequences work well and the film moves along at a decent pace. It is fairly predictable and lacking in any real sense of drama in terms of the story. Additionally, aspects of the story require an incredible amount…

Praying For the Enemy

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"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
Sometimes when you read a passage, it knocks you on your behind. And maybe that's a good thing. That happened to me yesterday when I was at small group, looking at the passage above, as part of our study on prayer. By itself, that passage is powerful. But when you put it in connection with the other ways God is speaking to you, it can knock you off your seat. That happened for me.
This Sunday, we talked about loving our enemies. That's a challenge. It's a challenge to be nice to those who aren't nice to you. It's a challenge to show compassion to those whose hearts are hard toward you. It's a challenge to b…

Learning to Love

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"Things are tough all over, cupcake. It rains on the just and the unjust alike." — Sally Jupiter, "Watchmen"
Today we began the Moving Mountains series with perhaps the toughest mountain of all for some, forgiveness. And, of course, it's not just forgiveness, but the idea of loving our enemies as delivered by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. It's possibly one of the most fascinating, difficult, and inspiring passages in the Bible.
In the midst of a long section concerning our personal conduct, the way we live our lives, and the way we interact with the world, Jesus gives us perhaps the hardest instruction.
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will y…

Fourth and God

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"If you pick against Denver this weekend, you're picking against every sports movie ever made, as well as the $86 million opening weekend Disney is about to have for Fourth-and-God in 15 months. As always, tread carefully." — Bill Simmons, Editor-in-Chief of Grantland.com
Last Sunday, as I sat in the living room preparing for overtime, I didn't know what to think. When, on the first play, I saw Tim Tebow deliver a strike to Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown strike to knock the Steelers out of the playoffs, all I could do, literally, was jump for joy.
The last few months of the NFL season have been a roller-coaster for Broncos fans, Tebow fans, and NFL fans in general. There was the high of an improbably six-game winning streak that put the Broncos in the drivers' seat for an AFC West crown, the low of a three-game losing streak to end the season, and another high in that playoff game. I don't, realistically, expect the Broncos to beat the Patriots and g…

Globes Predictions

On Sunday, the second best awards show takes place as Ricky Gervais returns as host for the Golden Globe awards. This show is hardly a forecast for the Academy Awards, but it can be quite a bit of fun. Below are my predictions of who will win, and who I'd like to win in the major categories for TV and Movies.
Best Picture, Drama: Will Win: Hugo Should Win: The Descendants This is kind of a tough category to call. You could make a case for any of the nominees, but I think the film celebration/preservation angle will capture voters. If pressed, though, I think "The Descendants" was the best film.
Best Picture, Comedy/Musical: Will and Should Win: The Artist This is a bit of going out on a limb, too, since the film hasn't come here, but by all accounts "The Artist" is a masterpiece, and the only film in this group that's a serious Best Picture contender with the Academy Awards.
Best Actor, Drama: Will and Should Win: George Clooney, "The Descendants" Again…

Now Playing

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Here's a quick look at the new movie I saw this week, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Starring: Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt, Stephen Graham, and David Dencik Synopsis: We may have moved into a new year, but it’s still looking a lot like late 2011 at the Box Office, especially as more award contenders that received limited release in late December make their way to more theaters. One of the films that popped up at the end of the year was the British spy drama “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which has earned acclaim for its cinematic style and the lead performance by Oldman. The film, a re-make of the mini-series starring Alec Guinness in 1979 and based on the novel by John le Carré, is a period drama set during the Cold War. The film features a slow burn plot, beautiful performances, and a deep cast. Though “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” has faded a bit in the award season race, i…

Faith vs. Faith

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"I have faith. I just need proof to back it up." — Joe, "Simon Birch"
At the close of his book, "He Is There And He Is Not Silent," Francis Schaeffer offers thoughts on the word faith. He talks about two kinds of faith — a blind leap, and a studied, conscious choice. That presents an interesting thought for believers, especially as it comes to the area of evangelism.
One of the most heart-breaking things I saw in recent years was the one woman play "Letting Go of God," given by Julia Sweeney. Sweeney is a talented and gifted comedian, and it was easy to be pulled into this live performance, which was essentially a narrative of her life and her journey of faith.
I was also moved by her breadth of knowledge and desire to understand. She freely quoted Scriptures, talked about her upbringing, and transitioned to her personal search. It was during that portion that I felt the most sad. She talked about reading, but not fully understanding. She talked ab…

Sherlock I Presume

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Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous detectives in pop culture history. The books, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, remain popular, and he and his sidekick — Dr. Watson — have appeared in numerous adaptations.
Sherlock is, in fact, still popular today, with two very different versions of the hero appearing for audiences. It's an interesting study, examining those two properties, to see how the hero has changed moving to the modern era, and how the stories remain relevant to audiences.
The first incarnation has been the Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law starring, Guy Ritchie directed, big-screen version. Now the Holmes purists haven't been wild about the way the story has been brought to life, and that's somewhat understandable. I maintain that core elements of the character and world remain the same, but this is not your father's Sherlock Holmes.
Ritchie is best know for his slickly edited action films — such as "Snatch." And you see elements of that in his…

Winter Premiers

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So, the holidays are officially behind us, and networks have begun to trot out the first new shows of 2012. Based on the two that premiered last night, I'd say it's time to start throwing them back... Yes, the date on the calendar may have changed but the commitment to quality on TV apparently remained the same.
Showtime, in the midst of a free weekend designed to attract new viewers, offered up it's winter premiers — the second season of "Shameless," a new season of "Californication," and the new show, "House of Lies." On paper, "House of Lies" looks like it could be entertaining. It's a half-hour comedy featuring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. Both are talented performers and both deserve better than this show.
First off, it celebrates greed, the demise of the middle class, and the falsity of our financial system. And who thought this would be a good idea at this point in our history? Last year was rough, and this year also figure…

Mission Outposts

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"‎If the size of the vision for your life isn't intimidating to you, there's a good chance it's insulting to God." — Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church.
This year, we've put a lot of focus on missions. It was something I talked about last week, and something Pastor Graham hit upon in today's message. I think when most people here that word missions, they think of some big, grandiose, global activity. And that is missions, but it's not the only definition of missions.
I used a couple examples last week. One is "The Blind Side," which is a true story. It's about an affluent family that took in a teen who had no family, no support system, and no encouragement to reach his potential. The part I really love about that story is when the matriarch of the family, as played by Sandra Bullock, points out that it changed all their lives. Mission doesn't just help those we minister to, it helps us as well.
Donald Miller is a great writer, and …

And So It Begins

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That's right, I'm talking about the NFL playoffs. Today, the road to the Super Bowl is paved with the carcasses of teams that got bumped off along the way. I'm just worried, as a Broncos fan, that Tim Tebow will be a part of that road... But we shall see.
For those of you who haven't kept track, it's an interesting group of playoff teams this year. In the NFC, the seeding goes — 1. Green Bay; 2. San Francisco; 3. New Orleans; 4. New York Giants; 5. Atlanta Falcons; and 6. Detroit Lions. A powerful group at the top and an intriguing group at the bottom.
In the AFC, the seeding goes — 1. New England; 2. Baltimore; 3. Houston; 4. Denver; 5. Pittsburgh; and 6. Cincinnati. A much tougher group to read, if you ask me. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone make a case for any of those teams to be in the big game, the question is really if any of them could in it.
This Wild Card weekend, we get four games, but some of them aren't inspiring. Here's the rundown.
Gam…