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Showing posts from February, 2013

Upcoming Releases — March

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Let's face it, 2013 has been kind of a weak year so far. January was blah and the big releases in February, well, for the most part they fizzled. "Beautiful Creatures" was supposed to be the heir to "Twilight," but  I don't see that happening. "A Good Day to Die Hard" didn't quite have the pop of earlier films, and "Safe Haven" wasn't the most successful Nicholas Sparks adaptation. At least "Identity Thief" made some hey at the Box Office.

Well, let's put that behind us because March arrives tomorrow and, with it, the promise of some better films. Or at least the hope of some better films.

Friday, March 1:
Jack the Giant Slayer — Nicholas Hoult is off to a good year. He was in the excellent "Warm Bodies," one of the better February films, and he kicks off March with this action adventure from director Bryan Singer based on a famous fairy tale. It's got a good cast, good director, and a good trailer. T…

Superheroes, the message of "Spider-Man"

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"This guy, Flash Thompson, he probably deserved what happened. But just because you can beat him up doesn't give you the right to. Remember, with great power, comes great responsibility." — Uncle Ben

Spider-Man is one of the most familiar and popular characters in the cannon of superheroes. He is popular with kids, teens, and adults — and that was part of what made him unique. This was an integral part of the popularity when the character was first created. It has been said that Peter Parker — the boy behind the mask — exuded "self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness," which young readers related to. By March 1963, Spider-Man was fast becoming a cultural icon. In a 1965 survey by Esquire Magazine, Spider-Man was named a revolutionary icon alongside Bob Dylan and Che Guevera. That shows the power this story had with young readers.

His popularity hasn't waned. Spider-Man is still a featured balloon every Thanksgiving Day in the annual Macy&…

Super Heroes, Week 2 Worksheet

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Here's a look at the worksheet for tomorrow night's lesson on "Spider-Man." Hope to see you all there!



Title: “Spider-Man” (2002)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Willem Dafoe

Synopsis: Spider-Man is largely regarded as the crown jewel in the cannon of Marvel Comic properties. The wily web-slinger made his way to the big screen in 2002 with a film directed by Sam Raimi and starring Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The film was a big hit, spawning two sequels in 2004 and 2007. Five years later, with Maguire and Raimi retired, Spider-Man got new cinematic life in “The Amazing Spider-Man” with Andrew Garfield in the lead role and Marc Webb directing. Once again Spider-Man made a boatload at the Box Office, proving that society still hasn’t gotten enough of Spider-Man stories. And there’s a reason for that — it’s a character, story and a principle that we can all relate with.

Peter Parker isn’t a born hero. He’s a high school student whose go…

The Oscar Aftermath

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Let's start with my tally from yesterday — 15/24 — which isn't terrible considering this was a night full of surprises. And, of course, I need to apologize for the gaff of failing to post my picks in the musical categories on my blog yesterday.

There were some things we learned last night right after the awards started flying. First, the Academy really had no love for "Lincoln." The film earned the most nominations — 12 — but took home only two awards — production design and Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor. Most considered Day Lewis a lock, and he's loved by the Academy, so let's set that aside. One for 11? That's not great. While I figured it was on the outs for Best Picture, seeing Spielberg lose and Kushner lose for screenwriting was confirmation that the film had soured among voters.

But "Lincoln" wasn't alone. "Zero Dark Thirty," once considered a front-runner, managed just one award — a tie in the sound editing category. Ouc…

Predicting Tonight's Winners

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It's finally here, the biggest night in entertainment, the Academy Awards. Now it's time to predict the winners. My guesses for all 24 categories are below. Happy Oscar night all!

Best Picture:
A month ago, this seemed like "Lincoln" was a lock to win. Now, it seems that "Argo" is a lock. This has been a great year for films, and you could make a case for a number of films in this category. With the exception of a couple of the nine, any film that won would be deserving of recognition. My favorite is David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook."
Will Win: "Argo"
Should Win: "Silver Linings Playbook"

Best Actor:
This category is one of the closer things to a lock. There are five great nominees, but Daniel Day Lewis was incredible as Abraham Lincoln.
Will and Should Win: Daniel Day Lewis

Best Actress:
Some great nominees here, but I think the race comes down to three. Emanuelle Riva has a strong following for her work in "Amo…

Best Picture Nominees — 'Silver Linings Playbook'

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And now we come to the last of the Best Picture Nominees to recap.

Silver Linings Playbook
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, and Jackie Weaver
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), Best Actress (Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Weaver), Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Adapted Screenplay (Russell), and Best Editing
Synopsis: If there is one drawback to my dedication to making my year-end lists, it's the compressed time frame with which I have to see all the key contenders. Most of the "best" films get released in a flurry at the end of December, and there is a tendency to really recall what you saw last and have it stick with you. That has led to some of my worst picks. A few years ago I "We Are Marshall" and got sucked into the emotion of the moment. I made it my best film of the year. I haven't seen it since. Every time I think about watching it again, I find s…

Best Picture Nominees — 'Argo'

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I continue my look at Best Picture nominees by looking at one of the most interesting cases.

Argo
Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, and Victor Garber
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Arkin), Best Adapted Screenplay (Chris Terrio), Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing
Synopsis: "Argo" is probably drawing more attention for the nomination it didn't get than the seven it did. That nomination — the glaring omission of Affleck in the Best Director race — has caused consternation, confusion, and outrage. It's also having a huge impact on this Best Picture race. Following the nominations, most people assumed it was "Lincoln" this year. After all, other key contenders didn't even get Best Director nominations. But in the time since the nominations were announced — and in no small way thanks to the outrage of the Affleck snub — "Argo" has won every…

Superheroes, Week 1 Notes

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A big thanks to all those who turned out Wednesday night. Here's a synopsis of some of my speaking notes from our discussion. Please feel free to make comments on this post and I will get back to you, or just bring further thoughts and questions next Wednesday!

It's hard not to notice that superhero stories and movies have never been more popular. Since 2000, there have been many blockbusters released each year — most of which have raked it it at the Box Office. In 2012 alone, the top two films of the year were superhero stories. The Avengers, which made more than $600,000 in the United States and more than $1.5 billion worldwide became the third highest grossing film of all time.

Clearly these stories are resonating with people. That's because superhero stories have become the mythology for our American culture. The Greek and Roman culture had myths in the form of Gods. Aesop had his fables. Grimm had his fairytales. We have comic books. And they serve largely the same p…

Superheroes, Week 1 Worksheet

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A big thanks to all who came out for our first class last night. Hope to see you again in the weeks to come. Please feel free to leave comments on this site and I will get back to you!


Now Playing

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A look at the new movie I saw this week.


A Good Day to Die Hard
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jai Courtney
Synopsis: Twenty-five years ago audiences were introduced to one of the greatest action stars of all time. John McClane, as given voice by Bruce Willis, was an every man New York City cop who happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. In an age of simple action films, “Die Hard” mixed quality action sequences, humor and characters that resonated with audiences. John McClane was, above all else, a family man. He did everything he could to save his family while doing his duty. That same formula came into play in the 1990 follow up, then in 1995 “Die Hard With a Vengeance” tweaked the formula but the bones of the formula remained in place. In 2007, when the fourth installment of the franchise came out, the genre had changed — and so had “Die Hard.” Many were critical of the lavish — and unbelievable — effects sequences, the plot and the fact that th…

Best Picture Nominees — 'Lincoln'

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Today I continue my look at Best Picture Nominees with the most nominated film of the year.


Lincoln
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor (Day Lewis), Best Supporting Actress (Field), Best Supporting Actor (Lee Jones), Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Adapted Screenplay (Tony Kushner), Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Editing, and Best Sound Mixing
Synopsis: And the leader heading to the club house is "Lincoln" with 12 total nominations. About a month ago, when the nominations were announced, it seemed "Lincoln" was the clear-cut favorite to win Best Picture. And why not? It's an exceptional film and a labor of love for Kushner, who adapted the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Spielberg. It features the best performance of the year — from Day Lewis who is a shoo-in to win the Best Actor award — and it was an emo…

Best Picture Nominees — 'Life of Pi'

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I continue my exploration of Best Picture nominees with one of the most beautiful films of the year.

Life of Pi
Starring: Irrfan Khan and Suraj Sharma
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Adapted Screenplay (David Magee), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Production Design
Synopsis: Each year there is a great film that garners a lot of nominations that doesn't really win much. It's good in a lot of areas, but not the best at anything. It's easy to say that this year that film could be "Life of Pi." It was a beautiful film, very moving, and incredibly well crafted. But it came out around Thanksgiving, was marketed poorly, and seemed to get lost in the shuffle. This film has long odds for winning Best Picture — despite receiving the second most nominations with 11. The film has no real marketable stars and no nominations in the actin…

Best Picture Nominees — 'Amour'

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I continue my look at Best Picture nominees with a sweet foreign film.

Amour
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Huppert
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Haneke), Best Actress (Riva), Best Original Screenplay (Haneke), and Best Foreign Language Film
Synopsis: It's a good time to be a French filmmaker — at least when it comes to recognition by the Academy Awards. Last year's Best Picture winner, "The Artist," was a (mostly) French production. This year "Amour," the a French film, made the cut for Best Picture and scored an upset Best Director nod for Haneke, who slid in ahead of some favored American directors. But you have to think that, in large part, the "win" for "Amour" is getting these big nominations and pushing the profile higher among American audiences. This is a beautiful love story, but it's not easy to sit through, nor is it conventional. It features some beautiful performan…

Forgiveness, Pt. 2

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"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." — The Lord's Prayer

Forgiveness is a big and important topic. A part of that is the personal aspect of forgiveness, but what about the role of the church as a whole? What message does the church often send to the world? Probably not a good one.

A few weeks ago I saw a car with a bumper sticker I won't forget. It said, "I like your Christ but I do not like your Christians because they are so unlike your Christ." Clearly that person wasn't a member of a local church. But they were someone familiar with the message of Jesus Christ. It's just that the Christians they'd encountered had put them off the message of the Gospel. That's a sad reality of our world today.

So what's the root cause, and how do we fix it? I think the root cause comes from the poor way some Christians represent Christ in the world. One of my favorite movies is "Doubt," which is also an excellent stage play. Th…

Forgiveness, Pt. 1

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"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." — The Lord's Prayer

Today as we continue our series looking at justice and mercy, we're talking about forgiveness. This is one of the most difficult — yet important — subjects to discuss. And its not just the Christian community that dwells on forgiveness, but rather the whole of humanity. One of the things I love about analyzing films is the way it reveals the concerns, beliefs, and hurts of those that make them. And forgiveness — or the lack of forgiveness — is a primary topic in modern film.

In 2007 the film "The Kingdom" was released. I loved it for a lot of reasons — it's a good action film, has some good performances, and has a compelling plot. But there is one scene at the end that has always stuck with me. Early in the film an FBI agent, played by Jennifer Garner, is brought to tears upon hearing a fellow agent is killed. The team leader, Jamie Foxx, consoles her, they head to Saudi Arabia and b…

Best Picture Nominees — 'Les Miserables'

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My look at Best Picture nominees continues today with one of the most famous musicals of all time!


Les Miserables
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Eddie Redmayne
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor (Jackman), Best Supporting Actress (Hathaway), Best Original Song, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Best Sound Editing
Synopsis: This is the kind of film the Academy Awards were made for, a sweeping musical with incredible production design and production numbers. Directed by Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech), heading into the holidays "Les Miserables" was a trendy pick. Then a funny thing happened — the film  became available for mass audiences. While it's a quality production, it just wasn't everything the trailers indicated it might be. There are some beautiful performances and some moving musical numbers, but there was something off about the production as a whole. It was…

Best Picture Nominees: 'Zero Dark Thirty'

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I continue my look at the Best Picture nominees today with another film that seems to be a victim of the current political climate.

Zero Dark Thirty
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, and Mark Strong
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actress (Chastain), Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing
Synopsis: Heading into late December, most people were talking about "Zero Dark Thirty" like it was a lock as Best Picture of the year. But a funny thing happened along the way to the film's coronation — backlash began. First, leading politicians began to decry the film as inaccurate. In a post in January I talked about the idea that I think the film rubs us the wrong way because it forces us to confront who we really are as a nation, and we don't like it. I still think that's true, but no matter what the underlying root of the problem is, there is a problem. When the Academy Award nominations came out, director Kathr…

Now Playing

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


Identity Thief
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Robert Patrick, and John Cho
Synopsis: A decade ago a dramedy called “Gilmore Girls” was a modest hit on the short-lived WB Network. There among the cast was Melissa McCarthy playing the good-hearted, wacky chef Sookie. Sookie was the kind of part that rounded out the ensemble but could easily fade into the background. McCarthy, however, wasn’t one to fade into the background. After headlining her own sitcom — the CBS hit “Mike and Molly” — beginning in 2010 and enjoying the breakout performance of her career in 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” McCarthy’s star has never shown brighter. She again puts her unique comedic talents on display in “Identity Thief,” where her wacky character squares off against consummate straight man Jason Bateman. It’s a pairing that works well and leads to plenty of laughs and a little bit of heart. Bateman and McCarthy are two talented comedian…

Best Pictures Nominees — 'Django Unchained'

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My look at the Best Picture nominees continues with a film by Quentin Tarantino.

Django Unchained
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kerry Washington
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (Tarantino), Best Supporting Actor (Waltz), Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Editing
Synopsis: Tarantino is no stranger to controversy or to Best Picture nominations. "Django Unchained" represents his third film nominated for Best Picture. Some think "Pulp Fiction," which earned the honor in 1994, is his best film. Personally, I think his greatest masterpiece was "Inglorious Basterds," which earned a nomination in 2009 and earned an Academy Award for Waltz. That was a genius film on a number of levels and could easily have earned the top prize. "Django Unchained" is a great film, but it's not as good as either of Tarantino's other Best Picture contenders. In a weaker year, you could see t…

Best Picture Nominees — "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

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The Academy Awards — perhaps the best award show of the year — is less than two weeks away. In preparation, I will be recapping all the Best Picture nominees and (eventually) making picks. Get excited people.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, and Levy Easterly
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director (Behn Zeitlin), Best Actress (Wallis), Best Adapted Screenplay (Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar)
Synopsis: This was the indie darling of 2012. It was made with little budget (estimated at $1.8 million), by a first-time filmmaker, and featuring no known performs. It's set in a little, impoverished area near New Orleans and doesn't feel totally connected to reality. Most descriptions refer to it as a post-apocalyptic world, which could be true, but it feels more like it's grounded in a fantasy world of the characters' own choosing. This is a film that seems to want to take on some big issues, but doesn't do it in a totally coherent way. It…

Return of the Dead

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"The Walking Dead" returned for its final five episodes of the third season last night and, once again, it returned to record ratings. The show drew more than 12 million viewers and a 6.1 in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. Those are numbers that would make most Networks drool, let alone a cable channel.

And, once again, "The Walking Dead" offered an interesting take on morality in a world gone made. While the zombies might be the ever present physical threat, the show once again made clear that it is the living, breathing humans that are the biggest threat to the world.

First we have Tyrese (Chad Coleman) and his crew. While Tyrese remains a mostly noble character, two members of his party were perfectly willing to trade morality and decency for a nice place to live. They actually advocated killing two women, a baby, a young boy and a crippled older man in order to have a quiet place to hole up. Tyrese stopped that talk, but he wasn't rewarded for his …

Considering Micah

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Today we looked at the most famous verse from Micah, a beautiful verse that talks about what God requires of us. But it's not just that verse I love, but rather the story of its author, the Prophet Micah.


Micah is one of the 12 Minor Prophets — you know those little books in the back of the old testament that you have to flip through before you get to Matthew. Micah probably wasn’t a super popular guy in his day, but he pushed for something really important. His ministry is regarded for the fact that he stood up for the little guy. As one site I looked at put it, “Micah reproaches unjust leaders, defends the rights of the poor against the rich and powerful, and preaches social justice; while looking forward to a world at peace centered on Zion under the leadership of a new Davidic monarch.” He spoke to a people that were lost and broken during a time before Jesus came; during a time when they were looking for direction. And the words of comfort and direction he offered the Isreal…

L.A. Implosion

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The NBA All-Star Game is right around the corner. Though that's considered the mid-way point in the season, in reality more than half the season is gone. The Los Angeles Lakers are 23-27, they've played 50 games and have just 32 games left in the regular season.

At this point in the season, most team's have a good idea of where they are. While plenty can still happen, the contenders are established and the rest are jockeying for playoff or draft position. Heading into the year, the Lakers were projected to be a top team in the Western Conference. Currently they are in 10th place — just outside the playoff picture.

And what's worse, it doesn't seem like this team can get a lot better. Pau Gasol is out for six to eight weeks, and the Lakers haven't played well as a unit. And all that was before they started taking shots at each other through the media.

The Lakers might be one of the best franchises in basketball history, and they might have a stacked roster, but…

Now Playing

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

Warm Bodies
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, John Malkovich, Teresa Palmer, and Rob Corddry
Synopsis: There are those who see the world as glass half full, and those who see the world as glass half empty. In terms of dystopian visions of the future, usually things don't get much better. That is especially true in the zombie genre, where things seem pretty grim, has been pretty set. You basically have works that are like "The Walking Dead," which is as much a negative commentary on humanity as it is about the zombie virus that could destroy our future. That's what makes "Warm Bodies" so refreshing. By now the zombie genre is well-worn territory. There is little variation to the stories — whether they by of the George Romero film variety of the previously mentioned "Walking Dead." Never has a zombie film been a romantic comedy that dar…