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Showing posts from January, 2013

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

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Jassen, and Peter Stormare
Synopsis: By now, most everyone is familiar with the tale of “Hansel and Gretel,” or at least one version of it. There’s the children’s fairytale, which is a cautionary tale about strangers and candy. Or there’s the original Grimm’s Fairytale version, which is simply a kind of horror story. But it’s fair to say no one has seen Hansel and Gretel like they are in the new film “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” which opened January 25. That’s probably a good thing, considering this version is a hot mess. “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” seems like the kind of idea that would be best served as a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, or as an action comedy. Instead, this is an overly graphic, overly serious version of this story that just doesn’t work on any level. January is a month that’s not noted for its exceptional releases, but fe…

The Feel Good Story of the Week

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Everyone loves Ray Lewis. Everyone recognizes his great talent and the fact that, over the last 12 years, he's been a pretty good guy. And, aside from a weird PED accusation, since it's Ray's last game, everyone seems pretty excited to see him try to win one last Super Bowl.

But it's that time period before the last 12 years, before the Ravens won a Super Bowl that seems to get swept under the rug. That night during another Super Bowl game when Ray and some friends were out in Miami and two men lost their lives.

We'll never totally know what happened that night, but it wasn't good. And Ray was directly involved. Two men died, no one went to jail, and the next year the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Lewis was named MVP and everyone moved on.

I admire Ray's talent on the field. Doubtless he is one of the best linebackers to play the game. And by all accounts, he's done a lot to be a better person the past few years. But that doesn't make up for the death…

'Following' up on FOX's new show

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Last week I took at look at the new FOX show, "The Following," which seems to be the drama they've put the most energy into promoting. I saw the pilot and liked it. Then I read some reviews of the show, which were overwhelmingly negative. Then I didn't know what to think.

Last night the second episode premiered, and it actually drew a larger rating — which hardly ever happens. But I thought the episode wasn't as good and actually started to make me worry about some of the things I brought up last week. So, I remain cautiously optimistic.

The pilot I loved most in the fall was "Last Resort." It had good actors, an engaging plot, and a unique voice. But I wondered how that could be sustained for a series. It turns out, that was a trickier proposition. The show wrapped up its 13 episodes Thursday — having been cancelled by ABC — and it hardly resembled the promise of the pilot. In some ways, it was a blessing the show got to wrap up early.

Watching the se…

Upcoming Releases — February

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January is nearly gone, so it's time to look ahead to the new movies coming our way in February. And, as per usual, the Valentine's Day weekend includes a romantic film and one you probably wouldn't expect.

Friday, February 1:
Warm Bodies — This looks like an intriguing film. It plays on the current zombie craze, but it takes things in a new direction. Namely, this is an interesting romantic comedy twist on the whole zombie movement. The trailer is engrossing and amusing, so let's hope the movie offers that same vibe.

Bullet to the Head — Sylvester Stallone starring in a movie from Walter Hill. If this were 1988, we'd all be excited. But it's 2013. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone may still be trying to star in big action films, but it just doesn't work anymore. Nothing about this trailer works...

Stand Up Guys — An interesting pairing for Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin — a trio who've all won Academy Awards. This movie looks like an i…

Dawn of a New Day

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"My friend, killing will not bring you peace." — Dr. Charles Xavier, "X-Men: First Class"

Today we wrapped up our series on grief with a look at the last part — moving forward. When we suffer a grief or a loss, there are a few reactions. As I looked at last week, one of those can be an unhealthy expression of grief.

In the movie "X-Men: First Class," Magneto (Michael Fassbender) wants to get vengeance on those who killed his parents. His grief has twisted in him and become something ugly. Though his friend, Dr. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) tries to persuade him otherwise, his grief has turned to anger and he can't get past it.

That is one reaction to grief. Another is not being able to reconcile the idea of the goodness of God with the evil and grief we see in the world. When I think about that, I always think about "No Country for Old Men," the fate that befalls Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). He sees a violent dance play out betwe…

A Tale of Two Teams

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There are two basketball teams in Los Angeles, and each fills a traditional role. There's the Los Angeles Lakers — one of the historically best franchises in basketball — that usually contends for the playoffs and the title. Then there's the Los Angeles Clippers — the also-ran team — that usually stumbles through the season thanks to some inept leadership.

So near the end of January, just over halfway through the regular season, seeing the two records for the Los Angeles teams isn't surprising. One is atop the Pacific Division at 32-13. The other is 18-25, tied for 10th place in the Western Conference. The only thing surprising is that it's the Clippers in the catbird seat, while the Lakers appear to be on their way to missing the playoffs entirely.

What makes that more shocking is that, heading into the season, the Lakers were viewed as heavy favorites. Last year the team fell short, again, in the Western Conference semi-finals. But with a strong nucleus still intact…

A Fitting Finale

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“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” — Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities."

When I was in high school, I read "A Tale of Two Cities." It's a dense book, probably a little long since Dickens was paid by the word, and written in a style we don't use much today. Despite that, I loved it instantly, and have thought of the story often. It was a moving, original work about love, honor and sacrifice.

Earlier this year "The Dark Knight Rises" referenced the book and the quote during the funeral for Bruce Wayne. It seemed a sort of fitting tribute for the story and Christopher Nolan, himself British. …

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Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week, the pulpy "Gangster Squad."

Gangster Squad
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Mirelle Enos, Anthony Mackie, and Giovani Ribisi
Synopsis: Some films you do for the money, others you do for passion. In looking at the finished product, it’s not hard to deduce the motivation for the cast of “Gangster Squad.” It’s prettied up, but it’s essentially a fluffy entertainment piece. On paper it seems like a winning combination. Gangster films are always a hit, and period pieces generally pack in an audience. “L.A. Confidential,” the last noir crime drama to tread over this ground, was an Academy Award winning film. But this is no “L.A. Confidential,” no matter how hard it tries to be. Director Ruben Fleischer found something winning with “Zombieland,” an action comedy that drew strong reviews and developed a cult following. But where that film has some breezy laughs mixing in with the violence…

The Curious Case of Manti Te'o

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Notre Dame is one of the biggest historic colleges of all time, but they haven't been great over the last few years. That's why this year, the resurgence of Notre Dame, led by their charismatic linebacker Manti Te'o, has been one of the greatest stories of the year. What made it even more compelling was the fact Te'o overcame so much off the field — with his grandmother and girlfriend both dying on the same day in September.

Notre Dame finished the season No. 1 and made it the championship game. Te'o finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and all seemed to be going well in the magical season. Then the Irish got pounded in the title game by Alabama — 42-14 — and Te'o didn't look like himself. Many wondered what happened.

Last week we got the answer — Te'o and his riveting story seemed like something out of a sports movie because it could be — or at the very least a Lifetime movie of the week. Te'o's girlfriend never existed. It was a s…

FOX goes dark with "The Following"

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Last night FOX debuted the show piece of its scripted fare for the winter/spring with "The Following." It's a gritty crime drama from scribe Kevin Williamson ("Scream," "Dawson's Creek," "The Vampire Diaries").

The Following, Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on FOX
Starring: Kevin Bacon, James Purfoy, and Natalie Zea
Synopsis: I have always appreciated Kevin Williamson's writing. I think "Scream" was one of the most significant films of the 20th Century, as it completely turned the horror genre upside down. Of course, I'm not alone in that thinking. But Williamson has long thrived on the small screen — where his shows have tended to revolve around love triangles. There is a love triangle, of sorts, in "The Following," but no one will mistake this for "Dawson's Creek." This is a gritty crime drama — or at least the pilot was. Bacon, a notable cinema actor, brings his talents to the small screen as former FB…

Thoughts on the Title Games

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The AFC and NFC Title games were yesterday, setting the stage for the NFL Title game. This season, through 16 weeks of the regular season, I was 120-120 in picking winners. Through two weeks of the playoffs, I was 4-4 in picking games. It only makes sense I would go 1-1 with the title games, but of course the one I lost was the one I wanted most. This, of course, has been the story of the 2012 NFL season.

49ers 28, Falcons 24:
This game kind of went how I imagined. All season, the Falcons have demonstrated a familiar pattern. They jump out front early, allow the other team to come back, then attempt to win it close in the end. That's the way the game went with the Seahawks in the Divisional Round. The Falcons jumped out to a 20-0 lead, fell behind 28-27, and won it at a last minute field goal. That, of course, didn't work against the 49ers. The 49ers spotted the Falcons a 17-0 lead, but then charged back. When the 49ers went up 28-24, you felt like it might be over for the Fa…

Vulnerability in Grief

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This week we continued our series on grief, thinking about how to respond during those vulnerable periods of grief. That got me to thinking some of the negative impulses we're prone to give in to during those periods of grief.

Recently my brother-in-law visited and watched a movie out of my collection, "The Kingdom." When the film was released, it was a favorite of mine that year. I still really like it, but there is a moment at the end that gives me pause when I consider what it means for the state of the world.

The film begins with an American compound housing oil field workers being bombed by terrorists in Saudi Arabia. Among those killed is an FBI agent stationed there, played by Kyle Chandler. When news of the attack, and the death of their colleague, reaches agents in America, they are grief stricken. A young agent played by Jennifer Garner begins to sob during the meeting on hearing the news of the death of her friend. The lead agent, played by Jamie Foxx, goes o…

Championship Picks

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So last week I went 1-3 in picks. Both my picks for the Super Bowl — the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers — crapped out last Saturday. I guess I underestimated the appeal of Ray Lewis' last stand and the all world ability of Colin Kaepernick. That won't happen again. Just three games left this NFL season. Let's see how I do this week. The good news I can't lose three picks...


NFC Title Game: 49ers Over Falcons
I think this will be a close game. The Falcons have played ugly and close all year, but they still manage to pull it out. So I don't see the 49ers pulling away like last week. But I think it's time to admit that the 49ers are better. If I have to pick a clutch game between Kaepernick and Matt Ryan, I'm going with Kaep. The 49ers have a better defense and better running game too. It will be close, but I think the 49ers are going.
Score: 49ers 27, Falcons 24

AFC Title Game: Patriots Over Ravens
The Pats and Ravens have played close every time they&…

Winter's Not a Wonderland

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"A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water." — Carl Reiner

Today I walked out to my car to get it fired up to come to work. It was in the just pre-dawn time frame, as has been my schedule this winter, and took a quick moment to consider the weather. It was in the mid-30s, but I couldn't help but feel grateful for the warm morning. What a difference six months makes.

I grew up in California. I lived in California all my life prior to July, when I relocated to Colorado Springs for work. It's been an adjustment in a lot of ways — none more so than changing my definition of winter weather. In California, the mid-30s or upper 20s was a chilling reminder we weren't in summer. Here, it's a blissful break from winter weather.

When we initially came here, I was bracing for a redefined winter. And, in truth, it hasn't been that bad. But as this week began — and we embraced a cold snap that led to nearly constant snow flurries for …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new film I saw this week, the excellent and gripping "Zero Dark Thirty."

Zero Dark Thirty
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and Kyle Chandler
Synopsis: In May of 2011, nearly a decade after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the United States finally got its man. Osama bin Laden was killed by Seal Team Six, thanks in large part to the hard work of CIA operatives that located the terrorist leader. It was a big victory for the United States in its War on Terror. But it wasn’t a simple task. During those 10 years, operatives worked tirelessly to find information. They faced grave danger, a number of dead ends and near constant pressure from the government and the public. Writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow — who previously teamed to deliver Best Picture winner “The Hurt Locker” — sought to capture the complexity, difficulty and gritty details of that hunt. “Zero Dark Thirty,” nominated for Best Picture, does just that. There is little tha…

Et tu, John Elway?

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Growing up as a fan of the Denver Broncos, a big part of that was John Elway. He was more than just a quarterback, he was a legend. He had a knack for coming back. It got to be that, even when we were down, if John could just get the ball you felt like you had a chance.

Of course, part of that legend was born on January 11, 1987 during the AFC Title game with the Browns. In a span of football that's become known as "The Drive," Elway led the Broncos 98 yards to tie the game 20-20 before Denver won it in Overtime. Then legend was truly born then.

Of course, Elway authored many comebacks during his career. He never gave up, and the fans loved him for it. That's how he won his first Super Bowl, against the Green Bay Packers, by never giving up, driving down the field, and overcoming the odds.

On Saturday, Denver's season came to an end as John Elway watched from the box above. He's now the general manager — responsible for hiring coach John Fox, landing quarter…

Do We Torture? Should We?

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"Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully." — Proverbs 28:4-5

In May 2011, President Barack Obama proudly announced that the United States of America had found and killed Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader responsible for the attacks on 9/11. Though bin Laden had been a threat prior to that, the United States began to hunt him in earnest following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nearly a decade later, the mission was finally accomplished.

Though the hunt for bin Laden fell of the day-to-day radar of most Americans, but the intelligence gathers tasked with finding him remained doggedly committed to the hunt. The team spent 10 years gathering every bit of information possible, using a variety of means and methods to do it. The film "Zero Dark Thirty" seeks to chronicle that hunt — particularly the efforts of one analyst who wouldn't give…

Dissecting Round 2

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I have seen the Broncos choke away a season before. It's always a bummer, but nothing has been quite like the past two days. Living in California, there were some Broncos fans, but it's not the same as living, essentially, in the heart of Bronco country. There was a strange grief that struck the whole area Saturday, as Justin Tucker banged home a 47-yard field goal to give the Ravens an upset victory. Two days later, people are still frustrated and talking about it. It still doesn't feel real. It still hurts.

Now comes the blame game. That's what it's like living HERE when the Broncos fold. Especially the way they went down. Sure, Peyton Manning has his head hung low, but so, too, do we all. Another season blown.

I went 1-3 this weekend in picks. It's safe to say I didn't see this coming. Maybe I should have, maybe we all should have, but I didn't. Here's my thoughts, game by game:

Ravens 38, Broncos 35 2OT:
This was an ugly game. The fact it was c…

Golden Globe Picks

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Tonight is the Golden Globe awards, arguably the most fun award show. It's just acting, directing, writing, and picture awards for TV and Movies. It's a cool party and it can give you an idea of what's trending in advance of the Academy Awards. Below are my picks.

Best Picture — Drama: Lincoln
There are a lot of solid choices here, but I think "Lincoln" was the best movie this year. You could make a case for a few others, but it's probably "Lincoln" this year.

Best Picture — Musical or Comedy: Les Miserables
If I were picking which film I thought was the best, that would be hands down "Silver Linings Playbook." While "Les Miserables" doesn't seem to be doing well with Academy voters, it seems to be a leading favorite at the Globes.

Best Actor, Drama: Daniel Day Lewis, "Lincoln"
Five great performances in this category, but Daniel Day Lewis was the best.

Best Actress, Drama: Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty&…

Playoff Picks

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Well, it's arguably the best weekend of the NFL season — the divisional playoff weekend. Four big games, including three re-matches from the regular season. Last weekend I went 3-1, missing only the Colts-Ravens game. But, in all fairness, the Colts missed that game too...

Here's to hoping I got 4-0 this weekend. And, of course, all my picks for the championship games and Super Bowl are still alive.

Broncos Over Ravens:
A 10 point line feels too high. Sure, the Broncos pounded the Ravens on December 18, but, still, this is the playoffs. The Ravens have been energized with the return of Ray Lewis, but the Broncos are a better team. Denver pounded them a month ago and should pull it out this week.

Packers Over 49ers:
The 49ers are the home team, favored and won when the two teams played in week one. That being said, Green Bay is getting healthier and is hot. I think Green Bay is a better team and I think the playoffs might be too much for Colin Kaepernick.

Seahawks Over Falcons…

Oscar Announces Nominees

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Yesterday, really early in Hollywood, Seth Macfarlane and Emma Stone made a few jokes, smiled a lot, and breezed through the nominations for this year's Academy Awards. And, as always, the announcements left plenty to consider.

It all starts with Best Picture. In 2008, the world was in an uproar after "The Dark Knight" was snubbed by the Academy Awards. That led to a change in the process. It was expanded from five to 10 nominees the following year. That also led to an uproar, which led to the process changing again. For the past two years, the number of nominees has been up to the will of voters. There is a minimum of five and maximum of 10 allowed. What we got last year and this is nine.

The nine nominees this year — a particularly fine year for films — represents a lot of different styles and genres. But what it doesn't really have are the populist blockbusters that were supposedly the impetus for the change in the first place. Sure, "Lincoln," "Le…

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Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week, "Promised Land," the best fracking movie I have ever seen...

Promised Land
Starring: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosmarie DeWitt, and Hal Holbrook
Synopsis: In 1997, a then basically unknown Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote a script and teamed with director Gus Van Sant to deliver the film “Good Will Hunting.” The film — which starred Damon in the lead role — drew critical acclaim and helped solidify the careers of all three. Now 15 years later, Damon has again teamed with Van Sant — this time with a script he penned with John Krasinski — for another moving, thought-provoking film. This time the pair are also tackling the timely topic of fracking. “Promised Land” may explore a hot political and environmental topic, but the film handles its subject matter delicately. In the end, the film is more interested in the story of its characters than a heavy-handed political message. Van Sant is a talented filmmak…

Winter is a Season

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"My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten as though I were dead, I have become like broken pottery. For I hear many whispering, 'Terror on every side!' They conspire against me     and plot to take my life. But I trust in you, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.'” -Psalm 31:10-14
David, who wrote the above passage, didn't pull any punches. You don't have to wonder how he was feeling when he wrote this. There is something real and raw that is easy to identify with. Then the twist happens. Despite his anguish, despite how low David feels, he is able to find hope and strength in the Lord.
Such is the nature of grief and struggle in this life. Grief is the subject we will be focusing on for the next three weeks at church…

NBC's Winter Premiers

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NBC had a lot to crow about after the fall. The network — which has been stuck in last place for years — bounced up to second place. But returning this winter, NBC doesn't have the NFL, "Revolution," and "The Voice" — three reasons for their fall success. So the network has to hope returning shows — like "The Biggest Loser" and "Smash" — and a few new offerings will catch fire with audiences.

Two such shows have already premiered, and it's a mixed bag that leads to questions about whether NBC will be able to sustain its success and stay strong while waiting for "Revolution" and "The Voice" to return in March.

Deception, Mondays at 10 p.m. (9 Central/Mountain)
Synopsis: This show really tries to capture on the whole "Revenge" vibe. That show worked well last season fro ABC — turning into a modest hit — but it's really tailed off in year two. That should have been a cautionary sign. Of course, "Decep…