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Showing posts from December, 2012

Best of 2012: The Year in Movies

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Today I take a look at the best movies I saw in 2012. It was a good crop with some tough choices. Also, one caveat. Due to the fact it won't go into wide release until January 11, I have not seen "Zero Dark Thirty," though I suspect it's awesome.

The Best:
Honorable Mention: "The Cabin in the Woods"
Line: "It was the pioneer days; people had to make their own interrogation rooms. Out of cornmeal." —  Marty
Why: Joss Whedon is a genius, but he really only had one GREAT film in 2012, and it was "The Cabin in the Woods." This is a horror movie that truly helps redefine the genre. It's hilarious, well acted, and well done. It was a cinematic treat.

10. Skyfall
Line: "She sent you after me, knowing you're not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad." — Silva
Why: Daniel Craig has created something new with his take on James Bond. "Casino Royale" was fantastic, but this movie is a very strong effort…

The Best of 2012: The Year in TV

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Today I continue my look at the end of the year with a roll call of the best of TV. As always, the list is in ascending order!

Best Shows:
10. The Newsroom, HBO
Why: This isn't Aaron Sorkin's best show, and it was certainly a show that drew mixed reactions from critics, but it still had the hallmarks of his writing. Is it frustrating at times? Sure, but this is still a show that's interesting to watch and talk about. I like the basic premise and what the show has to say. While some might find the characters annoying (at least that's what endless reviews said), I find them interesting. I can see this show growing into something lasting.

9. The Walking Dead, AMC
Why: I am not the biggest fan of AMC. I don't go all in for "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," "The Killing" was marginal at best, and then there's "The Walking Dead." At times during the second season, I was ready to give up on "The Walking Dead." It appeared…

The Best of 2012: The Year in Songs

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Today I begin my wrap up of 2012 with my list of my favorite songs of 2012. It's a Fun list! The countdown will begin in inverse order.

10. "We Are Young" — Fun
Line: "Tonight, We are young; So let's set the world on fire; We can burn brighter; Than the sun."
Why: This was one of the first songs this year that really grabbed me. Every time I heard it on the radio, I cranked it and sang along. It led me to look up the band that made it, Fun, which led me to discovering the band. This song was eclipsed by another Fun release, but it's still one of the best of the year.

9. "Too Close" — Alex Clare
Line: "You gave me more that I can return; Yet there's so much that you deserve"
Why: This song really exploded thanks to Windows 8. The song was in every commercial and it just kind of stuck. It's got a good beat and it's infectious.

8. "Breath of Life" — Florence and the Machine
Line: "I was looking for a breath o…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at all the new movies I saw this week. Brace yourselves, there's a lot.

Django Unchained
Starring: Jaime Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kerry Washington
Synopsis: This is a typical Quentin Tarantino film in terms of tone and style. But it's different from his other films in terms of how it flows. This is a film that is set in and around the world of slavery, and as such is not entirely politically correct. That being said, I think some of the criticism of the story is a bit over dramatic. There are parts that are uncomfortable, there are parts that are rough to watch, and there are elements of the story that are quite negative. That being said, this is still an interesting film. It isn't quite the masterpiece that "Inglorious Basterds" was, but it is a solid film. Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio and Jackson all deliver incredible performances. It's overly violent at times — as all Tarantino films tend to be — it'…

NFL Picks, Week 17

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It finally happened, I am back at .500. With a lot of year end recap posts the next few days, I decided to issue my week 17 picks early. One more strong week and I'll finish over .500 for the season.

Falcons -3.5 Over Buccaneers
Bills -3.5 Over Jets
Bengals -2.5 Over Ravens
Bears -3.5 Over Lions
Titans -4.5 Over Jaguars
Colts +3.5 Over Texans
Saints -4.5 Over Panthers
Eagles +7.5 Over Giants
Browns +6.5 Over Steelers
Broncos -15.5 Over Chiefs
Packers -3.5 Over Vikings
Patriots -10.5 Over Dolphins
Chargers -4.5 Over Raiders
Cardinals +14.5 Over 49ers
Seahawks -10.5 Over Rams
Cowboys +3.5 Over Redskins

Last Week: 12-4
Overall: 120-120

Christmas Movies, Pt. 9

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"You'll shoot your eye out, kid." — Santa, "A Christmas Story"

Merry Christmas! This look at holiday classics wraps up with one of the best, "A Christmas Story." That classic that appeals to a whole generation weened on the Christmas misadventures of Ralphie!

A Christmas Story
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin
Synopsis: What is there to say about this movie, really? It's set in the 1950s, so it appeals to that older generation. But it was released in 1983, so it is a Christmas classic to children of the 80s (yours included). There are so many wonderful, memorable scenes. There is humor, drama, and the wide-eyed imagination of being a child at Christmas. From the mundane to the extraordinary, "A Christmas Story" has a little bit of everything. It's the kind of story we can all relate to... especially the part about the odd gifts that end up under the tree! For those of you reading this post on Christmas …

Christmas Movies, Pt. 8

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"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 about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'" — Linus, "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

In 1965 a kids cartoon became a holiday classic. It's content is so beautiful and moving, it likely couldn't be made today. But nearly 50 years later, it's still the best way to spend Chr…

Christmas Movies, Pt. 7

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"Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister." — John McClane, "Die Hard"

"I don't make things difficult. That's the way they get, all by themselves." — Martin Riggs, "Lethal Weapon"

Today we continue our look at Christmas movies with a pair of unlikely choices. You may not think of "Die Hard" or "Lethal Weapon" while putting up your Christmas tree, but both take place at Christmas. So if shoot outs and snarky dialogue gets you in the holiday spirit, here's your movies!

Die Hard
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, and Bonnie Bedelia
Synopsis: "Die Hard" is one of the best action movies ever made. It helped launch Willis' career, and John McClane remains an iconic character in film. This movie launched a franchise — with the fifth installment coming out in February. But this is a Christmas movie. It has Christmas music. It takes place on Christmas Eve.…

NFL Picks, Week 16

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Two weeks left in the regular season. Last week I went 8-8, which means I have two more weeks to make up the eight picks I need to get to .500.

Falcons -3.5 Over Lions
Saints +3.5 Over Cowboys
Titans +12.5 Over Packers
Colts -6.5 Over Chiefs
Bills +4.5 Over Dolphins
Chargers +2.5 Over Jets
Redskins -4.5 Over Eagles
Bengals +4.5 Over Steelers
Rams +3.5 Over Buccaneers
Panthers -8.5 Over Raiders
Patriots -14.5 Over Jaguars
Vikings +7.5 Over Texans
Broncos -13.5 Over Browns
Bears -5.5 Over Cardinals
Giants -2.5 Over Ravens
Seahawks +1.5 Over 49ers

Last Week: 8-8
Overall: 108-116

Christmas Movies, Pt. 6

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"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge — they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around." — The Prime Minister, "Love Actually."

What was it about 2003? Three Christmas movies, all different, that endure nearly a decade later. Yesterday I looked at "Bad Santa" and "Elf," today it's a British Christmas movie about love.

Love Actually
Starrin…

Christmas Movies, Pt. 5

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"I just like to smile! Smiling's my favorite." — Buddy, "Elf"

"Well they all can't be winners!" — Willie, "Bad Santa"

Today's post is a tale of two Christmas comedies released within a few weeks of each other in 2003. One is typically merry, the other, not so much.

Bad Santa
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, and John Ritter
Synopsis: This is a dark Christmas comedy about a guy playing Santa that you wouldn't want your kids to meet. It's an off-color comedy that had its script touched up by the Coen Brothers, which adds to some of the humorous elements. Thornton plays Willie, a mall Santa who uses that gig as a cover for his real pursuit — robbing stores. He does that with the help of his partner, Marcus (Cox), a little person who poses as his holiday elf. From the word go, this film is irreverent, violent, and crass. But it's supposed to be. When it was released, it was considered a stron…

Christmas Movies, Pt. 4

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"This is extremely important. Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys, nothing but Peter, Kate, Buzz, Megan, Linnie, and Jeff. And my aunt and my cousins. And in a few years time, my Uncle Frank. Okay?" — Kevin McCallister, "Home Alone"

Today I continue my celebration of Christmas movies with a look at an all time classic, "Home Alone."

Home Alone
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern
Synopsis: Few movies spell the holidays like "Home Alone." It was released in 1990, and since then has had regular rotation on the networks and cable. Mostly I associate it with Thanksgiving time, because that used to be the day NBC would trot it out most. I remember watching the film when I was young and loving it. I have always considered it a holiday classic, but it had been years since I sat down and watched the movie. Let me tell you, watching it as a…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at "Hitchcock."


Hitchcock
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Danny Huston, and Scarlett Johansson
Synopsis: Today, “Psycho” is considered a masterpiece. There are a number of elements about that film — released in 1960 — that are considered genius, and the film is on the list of the greatest films ever made. All of which makes it fascinating to think that, when legendary director Alfred Hitchcock proposed making it, “Psycho” was considered an enormous gamble. The studio didn’t want to fund it, Hitchcock had to mortgage his house to make it and the studio didn’t even want to really release it. Today, “Psycho” is considered the greatest film made by, perhaps, our greatest filmmaker. That’s among the key elements of “Hitchcock,” a new biopic that follows the making of “Psycho” and chronicles a little about the director who remains an icon years after his death. We live in an age where privacy is an illusion. We know everything about our media heroes tod…

Christmas Movies, Pt. 3

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"Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing." — Judy the Elf, "The Santa Clause"

The Christmas movie round up continues with a film from Tim Allen's prime!

The Santa Clause (1994)
Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, and Wendy Crewson
Synopsis: There was a time when Tim Allen was a big star. He had his own show — "Home Improvement" — and he was a fixture on TV. During that run he did what all comedy TV stars do, he tried to capitalize on it with some family-friendly movies. Thus "The Santa Clause" was born. The film is a unique take on holiday comedies. When Santa Claus is killed delivering presents on Christmas Eve, Scott Calvin (Allen) is tapped to take his place thanks to the Santa clause, a binding piece of legalize that forces the person who picks up Santa's suit to take his job. Calvin has a year to prepare to take on the role full time, but first he has to deal with the fall out from his ex-wife (Crewson) and her new husband…

Christmas Movies, Pt. 2

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My wife loves Christmas and Christmas movies, so we've been going on marathons. Over the next few days until Christmas (with a few exceptions), I'll be taking a look at some of the movies we're watching and offering reviews to make your holidays bright. Fair warning, there will be a lot of comedies (that warning is for me as much as you).

Four Christmases
Starring: Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn
Synopsis: Vaughn has had a couple Christmas films. His first shot was with "Fred Claus," a film where he played Santa's brother. Santa, of course, was played by Paul Giamatti. That film seemed to have plenty of promise, but it landed with an uneven thud. That is complete with an odd performance from Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as a rapping holiday elf. Yes, you read that right. But this post is about Vaughn's other Christmas comedy, "Four Christmases," which is an interesting and odd little family film. It's also short, clocking in at an …

A Tale of Two (other) Finales

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“We all make rules for ourselves. It’s these rules that help to find who we are so when we brake those rules we risk losing ourselves and become something unknown. Who is Deb now? Who am I? Is this a new beginning or the beginning of the end?” — Dexter Morgan, "Dexter"

So Sunday nights are going to be depressing for a while. After a fall that featured so much excellent, thought-provoking entertainment, it's going to be a hard adjustment. That, and football is coming to an end.

The best of those Sunday night thought pieces was the killer Showtime lineup of "Dexter" and "Homeland," both of which wrapped up on Sunday night. Oddly, though wildly different in plot and characters, both dealt with similar ideas in their finales.

I heard it said once that it's not until you get into a foxhole that you know who you really are and what you really believe. It's when the pressure is on that we reveal the real pull of our heart. That was what I thought ab…

Christmas Movies, Pt. 1

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"I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery." — Ellen, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

So, we're in the shadow of Christmas. It's a time when we prepare for family, fun, food, and all the trappings of the most commercial holiday there is. In that spirit, over the next bit until Christmas, I'll be adding reviews of classic films that make the holidays bright.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, and Juliette Lewis
Synopsis: This classic film — released in 1989 and a follow up to the classic "Vacation" film — has a lot of memorable holiday moments. It also has a theme we can all relate to — no matter what your plans, family always makes things interesting. Poor Clark Griswald (Chase) just wanted to have a grand Christmas celebration for his extended family. He makes big plans and he hopes to surprise them with news of a pool, bas…

NFL Picks, Week 15

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Last week began week but ended poorly as I finished 7-9, again. I need a strong showing these last three weeks to get back to .500.

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

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 7-9
Overall: 100-108

Why?

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The peace of our Friday was shattered early this morning as news reports out of Connecticut indicated another school shooting had taken place. As the details streamed out, it became clear this was one of the worst, if not the worst, tragedy in U.S. history.

It appears 27 people are dead, approximately 18 of them children between the ages of 5 and 10. Much of this is early speculation and will likely change throughout the coming days and weeks. But the final figure isn't what's important here.

When I saw the news, it was hard not to think of April of my senior year of high school, as reports poured in during a spring afternoon that there had been a school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. My English teacher, Mrs. Kay, was a native of Colorado who had taught at Columbine. I remember the fear and sadness she had as she tried to get information on what happened.

I remember how shocked I was then, watching the news about the shooting, and wondering at how something li…

Walking the Talk

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I first heard the name Cory Booker during the summer of 2011 as I attended The Global Leadership Summit put on by Willow Creek. His message, which I have listened to more than a dozen times since then, was funny, charming, honest, and inspiring. Everything we'd like to believe we can rely on with our politicians, but the things we rarely get.

I have followed him — in the news, on Facebook, and through Social Media — since that time. I love the quotes he puts up every day, the way he champions his beliefs, and the way he carries himself as a public figure.

Last week, I was fascinated as Booker under took the SNAP Challenge — in other words, he decided to see what it would be like to survive a week with only the food he could buy from government assistance. It was a rough week for Booker, but it was an incredible way to shine a light on the struggles of those living in poverty. And, let's be honest, that's a serious challenge we face in America, despite being the wealthiest…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the period piece I saw this week...

Anna Karenina
Starring: Keira Knightly, Jude Law, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Synopsis: Leo Tolstoy, who wrote the novel version of “Anna Karenina,” opened that work with the famous line “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” While we could quibble about the first half of that line, the second half is certainly born out by the events of the novel and film. Joe Wright has a gift for period dramas — having scored with “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement,” both of which starred Keira Knightly. With “Anna Karenina,” which against teams Wright and Knightly, it doesn’t all work. There are some curious decisions made in terms of production that sort of take you out of the moment. That doesn’t help with a dense production, especially for those that aren’t familiar with the novel. This isn’t a light-hearted or happy story. Tolstoy didn’t intend for it to be, and the script from Tom Stoppard holds t…

Final Showdown

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"It was you or Walden, and it wasn't even close." — Brody (Damien Lewis) to Carrie (Claire Danes) during Sunday's "Homeland."

Two years and 23 episodes have been building to this. "Homeland," Showtime's excellent cable drama, has its second season finale Sunday and a lot is riding on the outcome. After sweeping the Emmy awards in September and an explosive first season, "Homeland" was something of a critical darling.

This season has stretched common sense at times, and it has certainly tested audience good will. So, hard as it might be to believe, the show is actually coming to something of a crossroads in its second season finale. The big question is, how will this arc end and what will be set up for season two?

The logical answer to both is that Brody has to go. It's nearly impossible, now, to imagine a scenario in which the character fits an ongoing narrative, despite the wonderful work from Lewis. It's time to get some r…

The Greatest of These

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"And these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." — 1 Corinthians 13:13

No, this post isn't about a sci-fi wedding... though I did you a popular wedding text. Instead this post is about my TV love, "Fringe." Those who know me — or have seen the wall paper on my computer — know that my favorite show on TV is "Fringe." This is it's fifth and final season, an abbreviated 13 episode love letter to fans whose passion kept the show from being outright cancelled.

I haven't written about the show as much this year because, at times, I haven't really known how it was all going to shake out. But Friday's episode, "The Human Kind," was a reminder about what I have always loved best about this show — it's heart.

"Fringe" is about a lot of things. It has quirky characters and stories, and it's highly serialized. There are those that love the wry comedy, those that are fascinated by the s…

Family Values

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"Blue Bloods" isn't the deepest or most critically acclaimed show on TV. It's a little drama that does quite well on Friday nights. The audience isn't huge in the 18-49 year old slot, the one most coveted by advertisers, and the show probably won't win any awards. So why does it matter? Well, I for one enjoy it because it's one of the few shows on TV that celebrates family and asks the hard questions about what the nature of justice is in our country, and what it should be.

That sounds like the kind of high minded concept made for cable, not a show at 10 p.m. on Friday nights on CBS. But that's the nature of entertainment today. In a world that seems to praise the anti-hero and believe the ends justify the means, this is a show that dares to take the position that the means are just as important, if not more so. That's what makes this a rare and fascinating show.

Each episode also includes something else missing on TV — the idea that family is im…

Our Mighty God

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"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  — Isaiah 9:6

For Advent we're looking at this Old Testament verse and it's description of the facets of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This week we looked at the second attribute, Our Mighty God. One of the interesting things that came up during our staff deliberations was the idea that it can be tough to think of our God as a warrior, and what that means.

I couldn't help but think of a different take on the idea of a warrior. Some of the mightiest warriors don't have to do anything to be imposing. That is how it was with my dad growing up. He was a strong presence and he commanded respect without ever having to do anything. That's how it is in "The Godfather," as you see Vito, then his son, Michael, commanding respect without having to go out and do a lot to prov…

NFL Picks, Week 14

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Last week was a regression, but I'm hoping for better this week... Already off to a better start after Denver covered a 10.5 spread.

Broncos -10.5 Over Raiders
Rams +3.5 Over Bills
Cowboys +3.5 Over Bengals
Browns -5.5 Over Chiefs
Colts -5.5 Over Titans
Steelers -6.5 Over Chargers
Buccaneers -7.5 Over Eagles
Ravens +.5 Over Redskins
Falcons -3.5 Over Panthers
Jets -2.5 Over Jaguars
Dolphins +10.5 Over 49ers
Saints +5.5 Over Giants
Seahawks -10.5 Over Cardinals
Packers -6.5 Over Lions
Texans +4.5 Over Patriots

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 7-9
Total: 93-99

Easy Targets

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"You can’t imagine believing in something bigger than you. We are at war, I’m a soldier." — Abu Nazir
"No, you're a terrorist." — Carrie Matheson, "Homeland"

Sunday night I got to watch "Homeland" live. It's one of the few shows that both my wife and I like, and more often than not I watch it the next day with her. But we were both up and awake, so we watched it together live on Sunday night.

As a result of not watching it on the night it airs, most of the time I don't read the recaps or check the fan buzz about "Homeland" on Mondays. This week I did. And what I read surprised me. Most people had turned on the show, complaining about plot points, holes in logic, and the like. When I watched it Sunday, I had a different reaction.

Sure, in the cold light of day we can talk about some of the absurd points of the show. Why didn't the CIA just listen to the recordings of Brody's calls? Why didn't Carrie tell her tea…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies that I saw this week. One was great, one was confounding.

Killing Them Softly
Starring: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, and Ray Liota
Synopsis: Andrew Dominik is an interesting director. I didn't love his last feature, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," but I was fascinated by it. There were great performances, some unique visuals, and an interesting storytelling style. Those things are still present in "Killing Them Softly," which again teams Dominik with Pitt, but the story is repugnant. And the political connection layered on top of it tends toward a distraction. I've read a few different takes on what point Dominik is trying to make about America, politics, and the fractured nature of our society. I can understand some of them, but I almost feel like that gives this film too much credit. This film seems to follow a familiar formula for the genre, but does it wit…