Showing posts from January, 2014

Best Picture Nominees — Philomena

My look at Best Picture nominees continues as we make our way toward the Academy Awards on March 2.

Movie: Philomena
Total Nominations: 4
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actress (Judi Dench), Best Adapted Screenplay (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)
About: This is the little film that could, which kind of flew under the radar. I thought it was a really beautiful story of forgiveness, faith, and regret. The performances from Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are great, the direction from Stephen Frears brings the story to life, and the events of the narrative unfold in a moving way. I hadn't heard much about this film when I saw it in November, and I was blown away by what I saw. It hasn't had a lot of buzz, but it's quietly won over critics and voters with the heart and beauty of the story, and that's impressive. That being said, this film, like "Captain Phillips," is a great movie that is a long shot to win any awards. I don'…

Upcoming Releases — February

Winter isn't usually a great season for new movies, but thanks to some reshuffled schedules, we have a few diamonds in the rough this February.

Friday, February 7:
Monuments Men — This film, directed by and starring George Clooney, is based on the true story of the men who sought to save art and cultural works from the Nazis on the front lines of World War II. This was originally slated for awards season in December, but was delayed. It's a rare, prestige film being released in February. It has a great cast and looks amazing.

The Lego Movie — I think we should just retire from movies after February 7. "The Lego Movie" also looks fantastic, making it a great weekend for releases, and just in time for the end of football season and the beginning of what I like to call depression Sunday. This is allegedly aimed at kids, but every time I see the trailer I crack up. I have HIGH HOPES!

Vampire Academy —They can't all be winners. This is based on a series of young adult…

'Horror Story' following familiar path

"You're missing the point. The point is in this whole wide wicked world the only thing you have to be afraid of is me." — Fiona, "American Horror Story: Coven"

It seemed like a good idea on paper. A horror anthology show that could delve into all the different types and tropes of horror in American cinema. And, at first, it seemed like a good idea when "American Horror Story" made it on screen in October 2011. Tonight marks the end of the third season and it's hard to escape the feeling the show is now suffering the same effects of horror movies at theaters.

It's become common among cable shows for the penultimate episode to be the most jaw-dropping. That might be the case with "Coven," the third iteration of "American Horror Story." In its penultimate episode, things turned into a dark, violent, bloody mess that left the three prestige actresses in the cast — Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett — seemingly disp…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 4

New shows this winter have wound down, and most of the new entries have been cancelled or will be cancelled. With the Winter Olympics kicking off next week, most networks are now hibernating. I'll be back with the new shows for Spring beginning in late February.

Thursday Nights:
Rake, Thursdays at 9 p.m. on FOX
About: This was one of the touted shows during the Network presentations last May. In the time between now and then, FOX clearly thought better of it. In fact, the official premier of "Rake" was what was supposed to be the show's fourth episode. That's not a good sign, and this isn't a good show. As affable as Greg Kinnear can be, his character is totally unlikeable. Why do I need to tune in each week to root for a gambler, cheat, and sex addict who doesn't think much of ruining the lives of those around him. He trades on his friend's good graces, he lets his family down, and he doesn't seem to worry about any of it. Not to mention, there w…

2013 Broncos Season, Pro Bowl Week

It was the quiet week before the storm for the Broncos, as they met the media, practiced in the snow, and headed to New Jersey for the Super Bowl.

Season Record: 15-3 (9-1 Home)

Recap: The bye week does a lot for both teams. It allows them time to prepare, time to negotiate all the commitments that come with being in the Super Bowl, and time to get healthy. That bodes well for players that have been beat up, like Knowshon Moreno, as they head to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the team has also been bitten by the illness bug, particularly kicker Matt Prater, so that's not good. But last week was pretty calm, and went pretty much according to plan. That's a good thing as a team with only four players that have Super Bowl experience tries to win the big game.

Key Players:
* Peyton Manning. A lot has been made of Manning's poor record in the playoffs and poor record in cold weather. He will get a playoff game in cold weather in the Super Bowl, but I'm hoping that he can stil…

Transparent Marriage

"To be loved by not known is comforting, but superficial. To be known by not loved is our greatest fear. To be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God." — Tim Keller

Today we begin a four week series on marriage, a tough but important topic to consider. The idea behind the series is to look at four marriages from the Bible and see what they have to tell us about marriage. This first week's focus is on Adam and Eve, but it's not on what you might think.

The focus is on nakedness, but again not in the way we might think. The idea is transparency, being completely open, known, and unashamed before our spouse. That can be tough even under idea circumstances, but it is what God intended marriage to be, and it is what we all crave.

The quote from Tim Keller hits on this. We desire to be fully known and fully loved, but sometimes our previous experiences can hurt that. Whether it's past romantic relationships, familial relationships, or frie…

Changing Perceptions

"But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” — 1 Samuel 16:7

Malcolm Gladwell is a great author and thinker. His books have made people from all walks of life look at the world differently. But his latest book, "David and Goliath," did the same for him. When watching an interview, I was struck by the fact that the journey of telling this story inspired something in Gladwell.

In an interview with the Washington Post, he said, "I was so incredibly struck in writing these stories by the incredible power faith had in people’s lives, it has made a profound impact on me in my belief. That’s been the completely unexpected effect of writing this book. I am in the process of rediscovering my own faith again."

Needless to say I couldn't wait to dive into this book. I haven't finish…

Best Picture Nominees — Captain Phillips

The Academy Awards take place on Sunday, March 2 and between now and then I am taking a look at all the Best Picture nominees. That continues today with "Captain Phillips."

Movie: Captain Phillips
Total Nominations: 6
Nominated For: Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi); Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray); Best Editing; Best Sound Editing; and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
About: "Captain Phillips" was a well reviewed, and well-recieved film when it debuted in October. It's based on a true story, comes from director Paul Greengrass and stars Tom Hanks. Most people figured the movie would be a competitor come awards time. And while it got six nominations, including one for Best Picture, it seems to have faded from view. What do I mean? Well, most people were disappointed that Greengrass didn't get a nomination for Best Director. That doesn't kill a film's chances at winning Best Picture — just look at "Argo" last year — but it…

Now Playing

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

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara
Synopsis: We all crave connection and intimacy, but it can be hard to find. That’s the central idea in “Her,” a new film from Spike Jonze that has an odd hook while looking at a critical subject. Jonze takes that idea a step further in considering how advances in technology will impact that deep need to be known and share life with another. What role with advances in artificial intelligence play? Can a computer provide as much companionship and understanding as a real, live human being. The reaction of most of us would be no, but as “Her” shows it might not be that simple. While strange, it’s an oddly compelling story of romance and a fascinating character study. “Her” is the kind of movie that takes a look at a lot of things and approaches familiar topics in unexpected ways. Jonze, who also wrote the screenplay, does a great job of creating an o…

Seeking Connection

"We're both looking for something We've been afraid to find It's easier to be broken It's easier to hide Looking at you, holding my breath, For once in my life, I'm scared to death, I'm taking a chance, letting you inside." - "First Time," Lifehouse
There is something inside us that craves connection. But at the same time, we often don't know how to be vulnerable, to really share ourselves with another. We want to know someone and be known, but we don't know how to go about it.
That idea is at the heart of "Her," the latest movie from Spike Jonze. It also takes a look at how the changes in technology are making that idea of connection harder.
"Her" isn't the first show or movie to look at the way technology could impact our relationships. The show "Black Mirror," which in general is about technology and its dark side for us, had a fascinating episode that mirrors the ideas in "Her." The episode &…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 3

Here's a look at the new premiers this winter. It's slim pickings if you like quality shows, so far.

Tuesday Nights:
Killer Women, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC
About: This is a limited run series, so ABC was hoping to catch lightening in a bottle. But for the second time this winter, they found no audience. Part of the reason is that this show is pretty awful. There's just not much to like here. I'm not sure who the target audience is, but this show makes me long for "Lucky 7." It will get more than two episodes, but not many more. ABC has already announced they're pulling the show — which was only supposed to run for eight episodes — early. Better luck to "Mind Games."
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode: D

Wednesday Nights:
Chicago PD, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC
About: This episode was slightly better. But I still am not sure about it. There is probably a built-in audience for this show from people that watch "Chicago Fire" and "Law &a…

2013 Broncos Season: AFC Championship

After a long and successful regular season, the Broncos achieved their aims on Sunday and earned a trip to the Super Bowl. They are just one win away from meeting the goals laid out last summer.

AFC Championship: Broncos 26, Patriots 16
Season Record: 15-3 (9-1 Home)
Key Play: In the second quarter, facing third and nine, Peyton Manning connected with Wes Welker on a 14-yard completion to keep the drive alive. The Broncos continued down and scored a touchdown as part of a 13-3 lead. The Broncos were able to take control at that point and never let it go.

Recap: When the season began, the Broncos had only one goal in mind — winning a Super Bowl. It was a great season — complete with big plays, big wins, and records set. But all of it felt like a prelude to the playoffs. After beating the Chargers in the Divisional Round, the stage was set for an Epic AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Coming into the game the talk was about the magic of New England, Tom Brady's 10-4 record ag…

AFC Championship Picks

It all comes down to this. Four teams, two games, and one big prize.

New England Patriots (12-4) vs. Denver Broncos (13-3)

The Case for the Patriots: They've been here before, to remarkable success. Tom Brady shines in these big games, Bill Belichick is an incredible coach, and no matter what obstacles have been in their path, the Patriots have overcome it. They are a great team, and they've already taken the Broncos best shot and over come it. In November, when these teams met, the Broncos took a 24-0 first half lead, then the Patriots came back to win. Oh, and Tom Brady is 10-4 against Manning in his career.

The Case for the Broncos: No team in NFL history has had a better offense than the Broncos had this year. Peyton Manning has had a historic season, and despite all that the only thing on his mind is the Super Bowl. The Broncos are at home, where they are better, and the Patriots are a different, weaker team than the one that beat the Broncos in November. In addition, the w…

Best Picture Nominees — Dallas Buyers Club

The nominations are in! Between now and March 2, the date of the Academy Awards, I will take a look at each of the Best Picture nominees, looking at one or two a week. The trio I think has the best chance to win will be reviewed toward the end.

Movie: "Dallas Buyers Club"
Total Nominations: 6
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), Best Original Screenplay (Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack), Best Editing, and Best Hair and Make Up.
About: While just about everyone expected "Dallas Buyers Club" to receive some nominations, most thought it would be on the outside looking in when it came to the Best Picture nominations. Instead, it made the final cut. Not only that, typically the winner of Best Picture is nominated for, and usually wins, the editing award. "Dallas Buyers Club" is one of only five films nominated in the editing category, which fits that trend. That being said, I think this film is an extr…

Oscar Nominations are in

The nominations are in, and now the second guessing, debating, and prognosticating can begin. But first, it's time to reflect on the surprises and snubs. Here are a few that jump out to me:

Tom Hanks — Hanks delivered what I thought was one of the best performances of the year in "Captain Phillips," and though the movie earned several nominations Hanks didn't make the cut. In fact, while earlier in Awards season it looked like he might get two nominations — including one for "Saving Mr. Banks" — he ended up with none.

Michael B. Jordan/ "Fruitvale Station" — This was one of the sad omissions, though not totally a surprise. Jordan delivered a career best performance in this film, and in weaker years it might have made it through. But the field and crop of films was too strong.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" — It just isn't the Coen Brothers' year. I thought, at the least, the film would earn a screen writing and Best Original Song nod. I…

Now Playing

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

August: Osage County
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Dermot Mulroney, Margo Martindale, and Sam Shepherd
Synopsis: Family is tricky. For better or worse, our families are a part of us and help shape who we will become. As much as we might try to deny that fact, or try to run away from our families, as adults we slowly start to realize the influence family has on our behavior, our lives and the way we see the world. That is the central idea in “August: Osage County,” a drama that has some comedic moments but takes a long, hard look at family. And it really explores family dynamics — warts and all — in a significant way. That means it’s a very tough movie to sit through at times. Playwright Tracy Letts adapted his own work to the screen, and director John Wells makes the most of his talented cast. It’s a well-made movie, but probably not one tha…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 2

Here's a look at the new shows that have premiered this winter.

Monday Nights:
Intelligence, Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS
About: CBS premiered this show following "NCIS" last Tuesday, then it aired its second episode in its regular slot Monday night. This show features Josh Holloway, of "LOST" fame, and Marg Helgenberger, of "CSI," in a fairly standard crime drama. Sure, they want you to think this feels new, but it's essentially the same formula as everything else on CBS, perhaps hewing a little closer to "Person of Interest" than "CSI." The show is OK, mildly interesting, but honestly not that much better than "Hostages," the show it's replacing. I had high hopes, but through two airings there just isn't much here to hold on to.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C

Tuesday Nights:
Killer Women, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC
About: This show is a flat disaster. I am not sure what they were going for here, but nothing a…

The Year of the City

"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes." — Luke 19:41-42

This year our focus for church is on the city. This is a good focus, a necessary focus, and a difficult focus, beginning with this week's passage, above. Jerusalem was the heart of the Jewish world. It was supposed to be a center of hope and faith, yet the church there failed the people, and the city itself crumbled. Jesus knew this would happen when He stopped outside the city's walls to weep for the city, it's people, and its squandered promise.

History is full of great countries and civilizations falling when their cities crumbled. It happened to the Roman Empire, it happened to so many empires, and one has to wonder if it isn't happening to America. The bankruptcy shone a light on Detroit, but it's hardly the only major city that's struggling.

My favo…

Respectable Sins

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." — Matthew 7:3-5

For our Sunday School class we've been reading a book called "Respectable Sins." Let me tell you, it's a kick in the pants, for a variety of reasons. But chief among them is that it puts the pressure back on believers to be honest and, better yet, repentant about the ways we fall short. As the book points out in its early chapters, that hasn't been something the modern church has focused on much lately.

In the book, author Jerry Bridges puts the focus squarely on us. He also makes the point that while we've gotten good at identifying the big sins, the smaller ones ha…

2013 Broncos Season, Divisional Round

The goal all year for the Broncos has been to be in the Super Bowl. They are now just one game away.

Divisional Round: Broncos 24, Chargers 17
Season Record: 14-3, (8-1 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, up 17-7 with the Chargers gaining momentum, Peyton Manning missed on a pass to Wes Welker over the middle, but Welker drew the pass interference penalty. The penalty sustained the drive, and the Broncos went down to score on a three-yard run from Knowshon Moreno that made it 24-7.

Recap: The Broncos did what they needed to do on Sunday — they beat the Chargers and advanced to the AFC Title game. But to win on Sunday against the Patriots, and to advance to the Super Bowl, the team is going to need to avoid the kind of let down they had in the fourth quarter. All season it was the Broncos' offense that was the big story, but through three quarters on Sunday it was the defense that was getting it done. The Broncos shut out the Chargers out for three quarters, then fell a part a bit …

Golden Globe Picks

Sunday night marks the jump off of the movie award season with The Golden Globes. It's the biggest party, and also the most unpredictable of awards. My sense is they spread the love around. Below are my picks of who Will Win.

Best Picture — Drama: 12 Years A Slave. I think this was the most powerful film of the year and will earn the top prize.

Best Picture — Musical/Comedy: American Hustle. A lot has been made of the fact the five nominees here don't really seem to fit. That being said, I think "American Hustle" gets the nod.

Best Actor — Drama: Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club." A great year for McConaughey, and I think he gets recognized for his work here.

Best Actress — Drama: Sandra Bullock, "Gravity." In keeping with the theme that this awards will spread the love around, I give it to Bullock, who is among the favorites for the Academy Awards.

Best Actor — Musical/Comedy: Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street." DiCaprio h…

Divisional Playoff Picks

Here's the picks for this week. Last week I was 1-3, so here's to better this week!

New Orleans Saints (11-5) vs. Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

The Case for the Saints: I don't know what to say here. It's not that I don't think they can win, because I think last week showed that the Saints aren't dead on the road. However, the Eagles aren't a great home team and the Seahawks are. I don't think this will be a blow out like the last time these two met, but I think the Saints will struggle on offense in Seattle. Still, the Cardinals' victory in December in Seattle provides a blue print to beat the Seahawks.

The Case for the Seahawks: The Seahawks have been the best team in the NFL, according to most pundits, and they are the top seed in the NFC. The best weapon the Seahawks have is the home field, something they will have throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks beat the Saints at home earlier in the season, and they should be prepared for this game.

The Pick: Mat…

Now Playing

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

Inside Llewyn Davis
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, and F. Murray Abraham
Synopsis: We've come to know what to expect from Coen Brothers films. They basically fall into two categories — dramas around crimes gone wrong or wild comedies that have quirky characters and dramatic moments. I have come to love both, but what makes "Inside Llewyn Davis" so interesting is it doesn't fit the typical Coen Brothers mold, while at the same time feeling very familiar to those who are fans of their work. The film earned a Golden Globe nomination in the Musical/Comedy category and that's fitting. While there are some comedic moments, what's special about "Llewyn Davis" is the music. This is arguably the first Coen Brothers musical. The songs — performed by the actors themselves as part of the film — are the best part of the whole production. Some have comp…

Two Brave additions to the Hall

When I was in high school, I started watching more baseball. I kind of liked the Dodgers, because I lived in California, but staying up until 10:30 p.m. to watch games was daunting. The Atlanta Braves were a different story.

Usually I'd come home about 4 p.m. and start homework. During that time I'd flip on the TV, and there on TBS almost every day during the spring and early fall were Braves games. So I'd watch the team, do my homework, then head to dinner and the rest of the evening. But during those afternoons, I fell in love with the Braves.

Most people wonder why a California boy is a Braves fan, but it's right there in those afternoons we spent together. And when I think of those times, four players come to mind — Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and most especially Greg Maddux. On Wednesday, Glavine and Maddux were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

I loved watching the Braves' big three pitch. Smoltz was the po…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 1

We've entered a new year, and networks and cable channels have plenty of new offerings. Over the next few weeks, as with this fall, I'll be offering my take on the pilots and second episodes of these new offerings.

Thursday Nights:
The Assets, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC
About: This is the first of the new shows to bow this winter, and it had the worst debut for a network ever. That doesn't bode well, but I think there are a few things to consider here. First, it was billed as a mini-series and a period piece set during the Cold War and starring some British folks playing America. OK, that last part is just my observation. And second, when I say billed I am being polite. I don't think ABC marketed this show much at all. In fact, heading into the first episode I had no idea what it was about, and it was only by chance I saw it was on. Debuting a show with little or no fanfare that has no built in audience via a star on January 2 seems like a recipe for disaster. And may…

2013 Broncos Season: Wild Card Weekend

After the weekend off, the Broncos now know who they will play in their first playoff game — The San Diego Chargers.

Recap: The Chargers were the last team into the playoffs in the AFC, barely beating the reserves for the Kansas City Chiefs in week 17, and needing a missed kick. Given that, it was easy to forget the Chargers were one of the hottest teams down the stretch, starting with a Week 15 win in Denver, handing the Broncos their only home loss of the season, and the only AFC West loss of Peyton Manning's Bronco career. It was the worst offensive performance of the season for the league's best offensive team. It was also a game played on short rest without Wes Welker, who had been injured the Sunday prior. So what are we to make of that in terms of this matchup. I think it is a warning for the Broncos, but it doesn't foreshadow, necessarily, the outcome of Sunday's game. The Broncos are a better rested, healthier, and arguably more motivated team than they were i…

Called to be Saints

"To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours." — 1 Corinthians 1:2

What do you think of when you hear the word Saint? My guess is it's one of two things. It could be the apostles, canonized for their faith and life. Or it could be a football team in New Orleans that just won a playoff game last night.

But the Bible has a different definition of Saint. That's at the heart of the first chapter of Jerry Bridges' book, "Respectable Sins." The central idea of the first chapter is that all believers are Saints, and our definition of the idea has been skewed.

In the NIV, Paul's exhortation to the Corinthian church is those "sanctified," which means set apart. It's a similar idea to what's translated as Saints in other versions and other places. The point is that being sanctified, …