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Showing posts from November, 2012

A Death Blow?

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A couple weeks ago, Hostess announced it was closing its doors. It appeared to be a death blow for a slew of tasty confections, most notably Twinkies. Instead, a few weeks later, Hostess reports 110 suitors have lined up to buy the brands and start re-producing the tasty cakes.

So it's a win for all, right? Wrong.

The 18,000 employees of Hostess are out of a job. Most — if not all — will not find work with whoever buys out the brand. But it didn't have to be that way. Sure, the higher ups at Hostess are to blame in this demise. But so, too, is the bakers' union. Really, this is just another sign that unions in general have become an outdated part of our economic structure.

When unions began, they served a very real and important purpose in protecting workers. But in the modern era, can the same really be said? I don't think so. Now, unions are primarily special interest lobbying groups. They do offer some benefits to members, sure, but it's also stalled the econom…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at my full review for "Red Dawn."

Red Dawn
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Adrianne Palicki
Synopsis: In 1984, in the midst of the Cold War, everyone was afraid World War III was about to start. The United States and Russia — the world’s two remaining superpowers — were at odds. Into that atmosphere came “Red Dawn.” The film was about a Russian invasion of the United States and the plucky teens in Colorado that decided to repel them. Sure, it was probably escapist fantasy, but it seemed fitting with the cultural times. In 2012, we live in a different world. There is no Cold War, and in fact one could argue the biggest threats today are shady lenders who helped create the housing market collapse, the rising global temperatures, or terrorist cells waiting to blow up famous landmarks during inspirational holidays. But since Hollywood seems intent on recycling every semi-successful idea from the past, “Red Dawn” …

Upcoming Releases — December

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Sigh... 2012 is almost over. And, hey, if the Mayans were right, the world's almost over too. Which means I won't get to see the film I'm most excited for this upcoming month, Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," which opens Christmas Day. I guess we'll see...

Friday, December 7:
Playing For Keeps — A romantic comedy about soccer starring Jessica Biel (Timberlake) and Gerard Butler. I'm not sold, and that might be an understatement. This looks like a walking cliche, but, hey, not everything can be heavy and full of gravitas in December.

Hyde Park on Hudson (Limited) — Hard to say how wide a release this will get, or how soon we'll actually get to see it, but this looks like an indie charmer. I love Bill Murray, and I'm curious to see how he does as FDR.

Lay The Favorite — This film has a cookie-cutter sounding plot, but it has Bruce Willis and it's directed by Stephen Frears, who did "The Queen." So, it will be interesting to…

Character Growth

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“The only thing’s that changed is now you know more about me.” — Dexter Morgan, "Dexter"

When "Entertainment Weekly" did a list of shows that are popular now but shouldn't have worked, "Dexter" was right near the top. Now in its seventh season — with an eighth, and perhaps final, season already guaranteed — "Dexter" continues to draw large ratings for Showtime.

But on paper, it still shouldn't have worked.

The show is about a serial killer trying to live a normal life, hidden in the shadows, while working for the Miami police of all things. As the show has progressed, the writers and producers have endeavored to offer more three-dimensional depth to the character of Dexter Morgan, something essential for a successful television show, but problematic given that he's an ice-cold killer. But that leads to the fundamental question about the layers to people, even people who are deeply disturbed.

Dexter Morgan is the consummate anti-hero…

A Tale of Two Cities

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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." — Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities."

One of my favorite books from high school was "A Tale of Two Cities." I loved the story and found it fascinating, but I especially love the opening line. I couldn't help but think of that description as I watched the latest installment of "The Walking Dead" Sunday.

The show is racing toward its mid-season finale (next Sunday), and the anticipated clash of the two survivor groups. On the one hand there's Woodbury, run by The Governor (pictured above), which seems like an idyllic safe haven in a world gone mad. From the outside it looks like a little piece of paradise carved out of the ruin of society. At least i…

Family Matters, Week 4

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It has been said there are the families we're born into and the families we choose. The people in that second family are the people in our life that help add dimension and meaning to our days.

The best place to help build that second kind of family is church. Church is a place where we all come together united in a common purpose  — to serve and worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With that shared set of values and mindset, we're set on the same path.

To make church more than a place where we go once a week to sing and listen, we have to form connections. That's part of what transitions church from a place to home. Those kind of connections take time, especially for those of us who don't freely share what we're thinking and feeling.

But when you find a church where you can form those family bonds, it makes a lot of difference as you make your way through the world.

NFL Picks, Week 12

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It's Thanksgiving week! Last week I went 7-7... Let's hope this week is better. No more byes, so we're back up to 16 games a week.

Texans -7.5 Over Lions
Redskins +3.5 Over Cowboys
Patriots -6.5 Over Jets
Bears -5.5 Over Vikings
Bengals -7.5 Over Raiders
Browns +3.5 Over Steelers
Colts -3.5 Over Bills
Broncos -10.5 Over Chiefs
Seahawks -2.5 Over Dolphins
Buccaneers +.5 Over Falcons
Jaguars +2.5 Over Titans
Chargers +.5 Over Ravens
49ers -1.5 Over Saints
Rams +2.5 Over Cardinals
Packers +2.5 Over Giants
Eagles -2.5 Over Panthers

This Week: 2-1
Last Week: 7-7
Overall: 77-83

Dawn Comes Again

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When "Red Dawn" debuted in 1984, it's plot was probably a bit of a stretch. It's plot was about the Russians invading the United States of America and a group of Colorado teen repelling them.

Of course, the film came out during the height of the Cold War. People lived in fear of World War III beginning, and "Red Dawn" sort of capitalized on that sentiment. It's not that it was totally believable, it's just that it wasn't totally unbelievable.

But the world is a lot different in 2012. We have smart bombs, unmanned drones, and the biggest threat to our nation isn't another superpower, but rather terrorist attacks. Yet it is into this world that studios have attempted to inject a new version of "Red Dawn."

I already critiqued the film in yesterday's post, so I won't go into that again. This is more of a critique of the idea, which seems a little too far-fetched today.

Setting aside the ridiculously inconsistent secret weapon …

Now Playing

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It's beginning to look a lot like Awards season. Here's a look at what's out now!

Lincoln
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and David Straithairn
Synopsis: When most of us think of Abraham Lincoln, we probably think of pennies — or, perhaps, $5 bills  — monuments, top hats, and grandiose speeches. But what about the man and the times he was “fitted into?” Already this year Lincoln’s work has been re-imagined as a vampire fantasy. But in his new film, director Steven Spielberg is interested in a more reasoned, grounded approach to the man and his mission. Lincoln lived during violent, dangerous times and was forced to make difficult decisions and champion challenging causes. We have a tendency to romanticize the past and politics — and people living south of the Mason-Dixon Line might consider “Lincoln” a bit of both. But the film focuses on a specific period late in Lincoln’s life and is a beautiful portrait of a man strugglin…

Black Thursday

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I love Thanksgiving. It's fair to say that it's my favorite holiday. It's a fun time to gather, enjoy good company, enjoy good football, and enjoy good food. It's a day when we stop, think about the blessings we've enjoyed in life, and give thanks for all those.

At least it's supposed to be.

Always looming behind Thanksgiving is Black Friday, the most commercialized day of the year. People go out early (or late) and standing in line, fight other consumers, and generally don't enjoy themselves a lot as they battle for bargains. It's bad enough that Black Friday follows such a special day of giving thanks, but now it's taking it over completely.

For years the times of the sales have moved up. Last year, a lot of the sales started at midnight. That's because 3, 4, or 5 a.m. just isn't good enough. But this year, the sales begin at 6 a.m. — on Thanksgiving day. Is nothing sacred?

Apparently the answer in our current consumer-driven culture is n…

Fear the Living

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"Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the strength and the conviction to complete the task you entrusted to me. Thank you for guiding me straight and true through the many obstacles in my path. And for keeping me resolute when all around seemed lost. Thank you for your protection and your many signs along the way. Thank you for any good that I may have done, I'm so sorry about the bad. Thank you for the friend I made. Please watch over her as you watched over me. Thank you for finally allowing me to rest. I'm so very tired, but I go now to my rest at peace. Knowing that I have done right with my time on this earth. I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith." - Eli, "Book of Eli"

The thing I hate most about reality shows is that they seem to celebrate and glorify the worst of human nature. That, of course, is why I don't watch them. When "Survivor" premiered during the summer of 2000, I was intrigued. It seemed like a fun pr…

A Stroll Down the Bored Walk

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"You can't be half a gangster, Nucky. Not anymore." — Jimmy Darmody, "Boardwalk Empire"

When "Boardwalk Empire" premiered in 2010, I was excited. It seemed like it would be an interesting fusion of creative talent, actors, and a cool premise. And, for the first season at least, that was sort of true.

Now nearing the end of the third season, "Boardwalk Empire" seems stuck in the mud. It has all the trappings to suggest it should be a compelling cable drama, but it just isn't. And I'm not the only one to notice.

Recently I saw a list of high profile, critically acclaimed, once popular shows that were on the DVR chopping block. Among them was "Boardwalk Empire." At first I couldn't believe it, then I read the user comment which said something to the effect that it felt like a show they should like but just didn't because it was boring and never seemed to accomplish anything. I couldn't help but agree.

Earlier this…

Family Matters, Week 3

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It's amazing how much your context for a message changes when your life changes. I have heard single messages a number of times before, having heard the "Flying Solo" message twice at Highlands. Whenever this topic used to come up, I would always cringe.

It isn't fun to be young and single, especially in the Christian context. I remember the last time at Highlands we did this message and the question spun around in a staff meeting about what I'd want to hear in this message. My gut response — I don't want to hear the message. I don't need the reminder.

Of course, I remember the last time I really got down because of feeling isolated and single. It was May 6, 2011. I had turned 30 two days previous, and I went to the movies to see "Something Borrowed." I thought it would be stupid — and it was — but it also left me shaken. Essentially the movie starts with a young woman (Ginnifer Goodwin) turning 30 and coming to the conclusion her life is meani…

NFL Picks, Week 11

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I fell off the pace again last week, going 6-8. It's telling that all three double-digit favorites failed to cover... That seems to be the sign this season. Hopefully this week will be better.

Bills -3.5 Over Dolphins
Falcons -9.5 Over Cardinals
Cowboys -7.5 Over Browns
Packers -3.5 Over Lions
Bengals -3.5 Over Chiefs
Rams -3.5 Over Jets
Redskins -3.5 Over Eagles
Buccaneers -1.5 Over Panthers
Texans -15.5 Over Jaguars
Saints -4.5 Over Raiders
Broncos -7.5 Over Chargers
Colts +9.5 Over Patriots
Ravens +3.5 Over Steelers
Bears +4.5 Over 49ers

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 6-8
Overall: 70-76

Adjusted Course

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"Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while people like you come along who knock down all the obstacles we put in your way. People who realize freewill is a gift that you'll never know how to use until you fight for it. I think that's the chairman's real plan. That maybe one day, we won't write the plan, you will." — Harry Mitchell, "The Adjustment Bureau"

Sometimes it's fun to revisit a film you haven't seen in a few years and think about the ideas it conjures. That's what happened for me with "The Adjustment Bureau" as I had to re-watch it with an eye toward world view for a film class I was taking here at church.

I saw "The Adjustment Bureau" when it came out in 2010, reviewed it, wrote about it, and liked it. But I haven't thought of it much the last two years. When I saw it listed on the course outline, I started thinking about the film again.

One …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at this week's new movie. James Bond is back!

Skyfall
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Albert Finney, Javier Bardem, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Harris, and Ralph Fiennes
Synopsis: James Bond has been part of the cinematic landscape for 50 years. During that time, a number of actors have put their stamp on the role as the films have adapted to meet the times. Daniel Craig — once thought to be an unlikely choice for Bond — first inhabited the role in 2006 with “Casino Royale.” It was a Bond film like no other, and was hailed by critics and fans as a masterpiece. Some even went so far as to say it was one of the best films of the first decade of the Twenty First Century. The 2008 follow-up, “Quantum of Solace,” was a sturdy action film that lacked the depth of Craig’s first outing as Bond. Due in part to production that began during the writers’ strike, “Quantum” failed to match the level of sophistication of Craig’s first stint as Bond. Then financing woes took their t…

Hot Mess in NYC

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"I'm not going to make a decision one way or the other in order to save my job. I'm trying to win games." — Rex Ryan, Jets head coach

The New York Jets are not a good team. Let's face it. The team is 3-6, lost 28-7 last week, and boasts a starting quarterback that went 9-for-22, passing for 124 yards, an interception, and no touchdowns. And the head coach has spent all week saying said quarterback — Mark Sanchez — gives the Jets the best chance to win.

In what world is that true?

Many were shocked when the Jets gave Sanchez a giant extension this off season. Sure, the Jets went to the AFC Title game his first two seasons, but they missed the playoffs entirely last year. And, what's worse, Sanchez didn't appear to have gotten better.

The same is true this season — year four, a time when quarterbacks are supposed to be hitting their stride. To be fair, the entire Jets offense leaves something to be desired — like offense. They boast marginal receivers and …

Irish Fighting Again

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Ara Parseghian: Rudy the NCAA is really strict with this 60 player rule, and in some positions we only have one backup and you know that every year we are competing for the national championship. Is this wish just for your father?
Rudy: No its for everyone who told me that being a Norte Dame Football player would be impossible. My brothers, the guys I work with at the mill they can't come to practice and see that I am a part of this team. — "Rudy" (1993)

College football is better when Notre Dame is a force to be reckoned with. It just is. Notre Dame is one of the most revered programs in college football history, but over the last two decades it hasn't always felt like it.

The Fighting Irish have been a national after thought. When "Rudy" came out in 1993, celebrating a young man who's life aspiration was to get on the field in the Notre Dame uniform, it made sense. Notre Dame has won 11 National Titles and boasts seven Heisman Trophy winners. But the l…

Checking in On The Walking Dead

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If you don't like/watch/care about/loathe "The Walking Dead," you may want to skip this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I wrote about "The Walking Dead" last week, but I guess I'm not totally done thinking about the stuff of the show that extends beyond the zombie kill(s) of the week. So, here we go again.

Last week I came to the conclusion that those who find their moral center — some piece of humanity in a world gone mad — are the ones who are freed. In terms of the show it means their characters are killed, but in a reality as bleak as the one in the show, is that really such a bad thing? I think what we saw in the follow-up to last week's bloodshed only confirmed that line of thinking.

That rang true for me when thinking about what Glenn (Steven Yeun) said about the departed T-Dogg (IronE Singleton), essentially calling him the best person he knew. When you think about that in conjunction with T-Dogg's amazing expression of faith las…

Family Matters, Week 2

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"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." — Hebrews 12:1-2a

For Christians, there is comfort in this verse. It's the idea that the race we're running in our faith is not being done alone. There are those that have gone before, those that will come after, and a great host of pillars of the faith who are there, watching and cheering us on along the way. Like I said, comforting.

But there is another way to think about this verse, especially as you get older and form a family of your own. It's not longer just about who is watching you, guiding you, and cheering you on in your race, it's about the example you're offering as part of the cloud of witnesses for others.

Considering that context, I can't help but think of my gran…

NFL Picks, Week 10

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Last week I got back on track, going 8-6 and making up ground a bit. Still a ways to go, but things are looking up.

Colts -3.5 Over Jaguars
Broncos -3.5 Over Panthers
Giants -4.5 Over Bengals
Dolphins -6.5 Over Titans
Lions -2.5 Over Vikings
Patriots -11.5 Over Bills
Saints +2.5 Over Falcons
Buccaneers -3.5 Over Chargers
Raiders +7.5 Over Ravens
Seahawks -6.5 Over Jets
Cowboys +1.5 Over Eagles
49ers -11.5 Over Rams
Bears -1.5 Over Texans
Steelers -12.5 Over Chiefs

This Weeks: 1-0
Last Week: 8-6
Overall: 64-68

Under Pressure

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Kobe Bryant has never been shy about expressing his opinions.

I have been a Lakers fan all my life, thanks in large part to my dad, and I've had a love-hate relationship with Bryant. He's a great player, and I'm usually glad he's on our team, but I don't always like him. He's  rumored to be difficult to play with (in fact, coach Phil Jackson wrote a book about that). But I think he's grown a bit as a player after seeing that his attitudes wrote checks his makeshift team couldn't cash.

But there is little doubt about how the Lakers feel about Kobe. They love him, and they'll do almost anything to please him. Which is why seeing that Mike Brown was fired five games into this season, you have to wonder if Kobe shooting him the stink eye following a loss to Utah wasn't the final straw.

Sure, Kobe laughed it off in the media the following day. But, still, it didn't seem like a good sign. And, now, Brown is gone.

Don't get me wrong, I didn…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new film I saw this week, the excellent drama "Flight."

Flight
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, and John Goodman
Synopsis: Does excellent performance excuse criminal indulgence? That’s the question at the heart of “Flight,” a superb new film that features and incredible performance from Washington and an even more compelling story. The film’s trailers give one a sense of its plot. Whip Whitaker (Washington) is a great pilot that’s troubled by some huge personal demons. All those factors are in play when he gets in the cockpit of what should be a routine flight that turns out to be anything but routine. The film marks the first live-action feature for director Robert Zemeckis since “Cast Away” in 2000, and it’s another good one. The film’s gripping portrayal of a man dealing with his personal demons and a difficult situation is already drawing early Oscar buzz. The heart of the film goes back to the initial que…

Smoke Them If You Got 'Em

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"I was gonna clean my room until I got high. I was gonna get up and find the broom but then I got high my room is still messed up and I know why (why man?) yea hey — cause I got high." — Afroman, "Then I Got High."
Lost in all the hullabaloo over the elections — which by the way left us with the same President, same Congressional composition, and same dreary path as the day before — was the fact there were other things on the ballot. A few years ago, while I still lived in California, there was a proposition to legalize marijuana. I thought it would pass. It didn't.
Now I live in Colorado, and as you can probably tell by the graphic at the top of this post, the state got a different result. Who knew Colorado was more progressive!
Yesterday two states legalized marijuana — Washington and Colorado — and though it's still illegal according to the federal government, I somehow doubt this trend is going away.
Now, there are a couple things to remember about the…

Election Day

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"Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve." — George Bernard Shaw

Today, our long national nightmare ends. Candidates for President of the United States have been on the trail for a couple years, but it all ends here. All the ads. All the attacks. All the promises. All the flip-flopped positions. It all comes down to today.

I can't be sure, but my guess is that voter turnout today will be less robust than voter turn out in 2008. In general, you can't help but feel people are less optimistic about government today than they were four years ago. I've joked, frequently, these past few months that there isn't a good choice in the race, it's more a matter of who you think will be less bad. Poor grammar aside, that's kind of a sad but true thought about this election.

It's also sad but true that it seems people are more apathetic about voting than they have been in years. But that is also part of the problem. I …

An Apocalyptic Way Station

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"...two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." — Robert Frost

I have watched "The Walking Dead" with fascination for a couple years now. The world depicted in the show is beyond dystopian, but the themes are powerful and resonate. Sure, there are those that watch each week just to bask in the carnage of a zombified future, but I have always been more interested with the show's take on the slippery slope of humanity in a bleak, desolate, darkly lit future. Last night's episode was one of those that slaps you across the face with a deeper truth than the body count on the screen.

Last night (spoiler alert) a pair of core characters were consumed by the darkness of the world around them. It's hardly a surprise given the pattern of bloodshed and violence on this show. Doubtless it won't be the last time core characters are destroyed this season, either. But it did help to re-frame my tho…

Family Matters, Week 1

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"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." 1 Corinthians 13:11

Today we started our new series, Family Matters, with a look at marriage. I have heard a lot of marriage sermons during my time in the church, but this one meant a little something different to me. This was the first time I've actually been married when hearing a marriage sermon.

I have been married about three months and three weeks... so clearly I'm an expert. Not really, but in that short time I've had a chance to reflect on what is different. For me, there have been plenty of adjustments — and not just because I moved to a new job, city, and state right after getting married.

I think what stood out to me, when reading 1 Corinthians 13, considered the ultimate passage on love, was the verse I started this entry with. It comes down to maturity. In order to thrive in marriage, you have to b…

NFL Picks, Week 9

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And the wheels came off the bus last week... I went 6-8. Let's see if this week goes a little better.

Chiefs +8.5 Over Chargers
Broncos -3.5 Over Bengals
Browns +3.5 Over Ravens
Packers -10.5 Over Cardinals
Bears -3.5 Over Titans
Dolphins -2.5 Over Colts
Redskins -3.5 Over Panthers
Lions -3.5 Over Jaguars
Texans -10.5 Over Bills
Buccaneers +1.5 Over Raiders
Seahawks -4.5 Over Vikings
Steelers +3.5 Over Giants
Cowboys +4.5 Over Falcons
Eagles +3.5 Over Saints

This Week: 0-1
Last Week: 6-8
Overall: 56-62

Big Ideas

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Sometimes films stick with you long after you've watched them. I saw "Cloud Atlas" a week ago, going in with fairly middling expectations, and haven't been able to shake it since. That's the power of movies that introduce interesting ideas and engage you in critical thinking. It's the same way many people felt after seeing "The Matrix" as well.

I put up my film review yesterday — and I noted some of the structural flaws that can be a distraction for viewers. I also noted that this isn't going to be a universally appealing film. Doubtless some will walk away angry, bored, or confused. Some, however, will be engaged.

I think that's what good art does. In 2009, I went to see "Watchmen." I was unfamiliar with the story prior to seeing the film — actually, I frequently like to go into the films cold and, if the story intrigues me, find out more about it or read the source material afterward. I find that if you know too much about the s…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Cloud Atlas Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving Synopsis: In 1999, movies changed forever with the release of “The Matrix.” Sure, that might seem like an overly bold statement, but “The Matrix” was an incredible phenomenon that has been copied, ripped off, and remains a part of our cultural lexicon. The Wachowskis — the creators behind “The Matrix” — haven’t been able to capture lightening in a bottle since then. The subsequent “Matrix” sequels failed to live up to the original, and the only raving over 2008’s “Speed Racer” was due to the fact people paid to see it. With “Cloud Atlas” the Wachowskis and partner Tom Tywker (“Run Lola Run”) again wade into philosophically dense but visually stunning material. Whether they’ve again succeeded in capturing the attention of the nation remains to be seen, but the early reviews on the film are mixed. While there has been almost universal praise of …