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Showing posts from March, 2014

A Better World

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"I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin." — The Operative

"So me and mine gotta lay down and die... so you can live in your better world?" — Capt. Malcolm Reynolds

"I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there... any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster.What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done." — The Operative, "Serenity"

Last night the fourth season of "The Walking Dead" came to a close. It wasn't an earth-shattering finale, but it did continue the trend of the back half of the season, a quiet reflection on the world that remains and the people left living there.

Some tune into the show for the zombie kills. Some tune in for the action sequences. It's not that I don't appreciate that, it's just that I look for something else. The part that fascinates me most is the exploration of this post apocalyptic world, an…

The Weeds of Anger

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"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." — Mark Twain

For our Sunday school class we are reading the book "Respectable Sins" by Jerry Bridges. It has been an interesting and challenging book to read because it forces me to take a hard look at myself. The idea is that it tackles sins we often tend to overlook, those things we allow to fester and harbor in our lives.

The last two weeks that thing we've had to look at is anger. And it's been a hard journey. As humans, I think we like to try and rationalize things and find other answers. That's what this study has been all about — pushing us to a deeper level of faith by pushing us to think about the behaviors in our every day lives.

The second chapter on Anger, called the "Weeds of Anger," focused on what happens when we let anger fester. When it stays with us, when we can't let it go and it does long-term damage. On…

Revisiting the 'Wolf'

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"On a daily basis I consume enough drugs to sedate Manhattan, Long Island, and Queens for a month. I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, pot to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome." — Jordan Belfort, "The Wolf of Wall Street."

I do things backwards. It works for me, but most people think it's strange. But when I go to a movie, if I like the story and know it's based on a book, I will get the book and read it. I never read the book first. I only read the book if I liked the movie/show. Then I feel I can appreciate both.

Around Christmas "The Wolf of Wall Street" hit theaters. It was a wild, debaucherous ride — one you can now see on DVD and Blu-Ray. After seeing it, I liked the movie more than I figured. So I got the book and was curious to see what it said.

After the movie came out, there was a lot of contro…

Upcoming Releases — April

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Here's a look at the movies coming to a theater near you in April. Summer's almost here, friends.

Friday, April 4:
Captain America: Winter Soldier — So far the second phase of Marvel's Avengers has been pretty amazing. I am excited to see what this sequel for Captain America brings, but by all accounts it looks great. My only question is why it's in April rather than summer…

Dom Hemingway — This film opens in limited release on April 4 and makes its way to theaters nationwide throughout the month. It stars Jude Law and the trailer is pretty funny. This could be an amusing indie comedy.

Friday, April 11:
Draft Day — Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner star in this film about an embattled general manager heading into the NFL Draft. Since the real draft moved to May, this movie will have to tide over NFL fans. It also looks pretty interesting.

Rio 2 — This is a movie for the kiddos. I never saw the original "Rio," but it did quite well with younger viewers. This sh…

'Psych' closes up shop

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"This is my life partner, Burton Guster Black Spencer." — Shawn, "Psych"

I remember when I saw the first commercial for "Psych." I recognized Dule Hill from "The West Wing," and I thought the commercial looked funny. I also couldn't believe USA — the channel where I watched my "Quantum Leap" re-runs as a youth — was making an original show.

I found that pilot, watched it, and was hooked. Eight seasons later, I'm still a fan. On Wednesday night, "Psych" came to an end. It's hard to believe it's been so long, and that so much has changed.

Now, USA is home to a number of series, and cable of all sorts have their own series. But seeing "Psych" end feels like the end of an era. "Psych" and "Burn Notice," which ended during the summer, were the shows that launched original programming on USA. But, like all things, they couldn't last forever.

"Psych" has developed a legion…

Network Comedy

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"The English language cannot fully capture the depth and complexity of my thoughts, so I'm incorporating Emoji into my speech to better express myself. Winky-face." — Gina, "Brooklyn Nine Nine"

Last night the winner of the Golden Globe for TV's best comedy had its season finale. If you didn't know that award-winning show was "Brooklyn Nine Nine," or that the show wrapped up its season last night, in March, then you're probably not alone.

The state of network sitcoms is kinda bleak. There are those that love "The Big Bang Theory," which is why it's one of the highest rated shows on TV, but I'm not among them. And even if you do love that show, you have to admit that network comedies — once a staple of the weekly schedule — are scuffling.

There was a time when NBC gave up three to four nights a week for sitcoms. "Friends," "Frasier," and "Seinfeld" were all among the highest rated shows on TV.…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 5

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New shows continue to make their way to us, and I continue to watch them. In this space each week I review the pilot and second episode of each new show this spring. If you don't see a new show's recap below, please check previous weeks!

Wednesday Nights:
The 100, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW
About: As I've mentioned before, I am not the target demographic for the CW, which is aimed at people age 18-24. Still, every network rolls out a variety of shows, and some of them click. I enjoyed "Supernatural," and sort of bought into "Arrow" last fall. So far this year I haven't been enamored of the new shows on the CW. "The Tomorrow People," "Reign" and "Star Crossed" didn't really click with me, though I know they've clicked with some older adults and the target demographic. I was surprised, however, at how much I enjoyed the pilot for "The 100," a sci-fi odyssey that seems to be a cut above the typical te…

Praying for A Win

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On Sunday "The Gazette" did something unique. It started with a letter from a child who wanted to know if God cared who won the Super Bowl, or other sporting events. What the paper did was offer two takes from two of its columnists.

Paul Klee took the position that God cares deeply about sports. Of course, his piece doesn't really talk about outcomes, rather it talks about the opportunities sports provide to people, the things athletes do for their communities, and the way sports becomes a rallying point in our culture. It was a powerful column that, at times, brought me to tears as I thought about why I love sports.

The second piece, from David Ramsey, said God didn't care who won. It suggested that those that believe God has a rooting interest in who wins the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, the World Series, or the church softball game don't have a firm grasp of Scripture. He talked about his own faith, his own love of sports, and how he had learned from his pare…

Disney's icy adventure

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It seemed almost like fate that our copy of "Frozen," Disney's latest animated adventure, arrived in my mailbox on Saturday. It was the first weekend of "Spring," it was 28-degrees, and the snow was falling. It felt like fate. So, in the midst of this frozen first weekend of Spring I decided to find out what all the hype is about.

When I saw the first trailer for "Frozen" — which featured Olaf and a reindeer, I was perplexed. Who knew what it would be about. Later, when the full Theatrical Trailer debuted, I knew this would be a return to the Disney roots. I told my wife and she promptly went to see it without me — twice. I was told I could watch it with her when it came to DVD.

Throughout the Academy Awards season, I knew it would be a winner. Not only did it take the top animated prize, it captured best original song. It was a Disney animated feature that returned to the Disney animated roots. I remember growing up the annual Disney animated featur…

An Invitation to Serve

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"Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." — Romans 1:5-6

The greatest journey of all begins with an invitation. It's the invitation to be part of the Body of Christ, to accept Grace, and to be part of a family of like-minded individuals who've accepted the same invitation and want to change the world for God. It's an incredible and awesome invitation, and it's an incredible and awesome responsibility. Sometimes I think we forget that.

Romans is a dense theological text. It's a challenging text. It's a text that offers us a lot to think about, and a lot about how we live our lives as those set apart for Jesus Christ. In fact, the latter half of the first chapter is a very challenging portion of text. But that's not how Paul starts.

He starts Romans, perhaps his master thesis on w…

Bigger Plans

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"People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. I'm sure the people in group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation is a fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they're on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there's a whole lot of people in group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they're looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever's going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees mir…

Now Playing

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

Veronica Mars
Starring: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Percy Daggs III, Tina Marjorino, Chris Lowell, and Ryan Hansen
Synopsis: In 2004 a quirky show about a teenage private detective hit the air on the UPN. Ostensibly it was aimed at teens, but it cultivated a core of die-hard fans through the three short years it was on the air. When “Veronica Mars” was cancelled following the 2006-2007 TV season, it left a void for that die-hard group of fans. They missed the characters, sure, but more so it was the way the final episode ended — a cliffhanger — that had fans constantly in search of answers. In the spring of 2013 the show’s creator and star tried something novel. To see if the fan interest was still high, they turned to Kickstarter, a crowd source Website, to fund a possible movie. The response was immediate, and greater than they’d hoped. Nearly a year later, the movie funded by fans opened on March 14. When the T…

The Madness of March

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March brings with it a few things. St. Patrick's Day, green and a celebration of the Irish. References to Julius Ceasar and the Ides of March. And, of course, the craziest time for college basketball.

In my younger years, I used to follow all sports intensely. I would research the teams, watch clips, then fill out my bracket. I always thought I had it nailed, until I realized I didn't. In recent years I haven't watched the regular season or researched the teams, but I still love to fill out the bracket. And you know what I discovered — I do about the same in terms of making picks. Lesson learned.

So, take the following for what you will. Below are my best uniformed guesses about who'll be playing in the Final Four.

West — Creighton. A lot of people like Arizona here, but not me. I like an under dog, Creighton has perhaps the best player in the country, and I think they have a shot. Again, these are guesses.

Midwest — Wichita State. This is the only undefeated team in …

Spring TV Roundup, Week 4

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I review the first two episodes of each of the new shows this Spring. If you don't see a new show listed, check previous weeks!

Monday Nights:
Those Who Kill, Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E
About: I loved the pilot for this show. It was moody and the stars, Chloe Sevigny and James D'Arcy, worked well together. It was a crime drama that appeared to work well in the short term and had an ongoing mystery. The second episode felt like a step backward, for both the characters and the story. It felt like the show fell into familiar tropes, and it didn't work as well. The biggest problem, as it turns out, was the ratings. After two airings, A&E pulled the show from the air. It says it will return… at some point. It's clear the show has been cancelled. There were good elements here, but it just didn't find an audience.
Pilot Grade: A-
Second Episode: B

Thursday Nights:
Chicagoland, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CNN
About: This is a documentary series about the city of Chicago …

The Haunting Turn of 'The Grove'

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“Ain’t many guys travel around together,” he mused. “I don’t know why. Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” — John Steinbeck, "Of Mice And Men"

The back half of the fourth season of "The Walking Dead" has been emotionally draining. The survivors have been scattered to the wind, and many have struggled to maintain hope and move forward. And it's been a tough road. Rick is injured, he, Carl, and Michone are on the run again. Daryl made peace with the future thanks to Beth, then he lost her and ended up with a group that won't benefit his personal growth.

But the darkest story of all turned out to be Carol and Tyreese, and the three kids they tried to protect. They found a house in an idyllic place, and began to think they'd found a refuge, an oasis of sorts. But, cruelly, it was ripped away in the most dour of ways.

If anything, "The Walking Dead" has reinforced two ideas throughout its four year run. First is that …

The Power of Faith

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"What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” — Romans 4:3

There are a lot of fascinating and challenging things to learn when going through Romans. That's what this "Epic" series has been about, an exploration of the foundations of faith in the book of Romans. Today we come to that concept, faith.

In Chapter 4, Paul uses Abraham as his example of faith. The story of Abraham, like so many in the Bible, is a story of faith despite conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom says that Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were too old to have a child. But God promised they would, and he believed. Paul uplifts this stepping out in faith.

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb wa…

Broncos Offseason, A Free Agent Frenzy

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Free agency officially began Tuesday afternoon, and through the first three days, the Broncos have yielded some good, some bad, and some ugly. See what's what below, plus some thoughts and analysis moving forward.

The Good: The Broncos have focused on improving the defense, an area of need. DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward are good players that can help in the secondary and by creating a pass rush. I'm particularly interested in seeing Ware and Von Miller go after quarterbacks, hopefully with the help of Terrance Knighton in the middle and a finally healthy Derek Wolfe on the other side. Hey, and maybe even Sylvester Williams will develop into a decent player.

The Bad: Eric Decker, Zane Beadles, and Wesley Woodyard are gone. I have questions about letting Woodyard — the heart of the defense — go, and how the Broncos will re-shuffle the offensive line. Maybe Orlando Franklin will be a good guard, and hopefully Ryan Clady will be back at full strength. Still, I have quest…

Faith breaking through

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"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." — Hebrews 11:1

Faith is a mystery, at least to most people. This week we're talking about faith as part of our series on Romans, and I couldn't help but reflect what a hard concept it can be for people. I also couldn't help but reflect on how often the theme comes up, even in popular culture.

On Sunday night, in three distinctly different shows, there was an exploration of faith. It is something on people's minds, but something they reflect on in different ways.

On the finale of "True Detective," Rust Cohle and his partner Martin Hart were reflecting on whether they had any faith in good overcoming evil. For most of the eight-episode series, Rust had offered a dim view of humanity and the hope for the future. But despite encountering evil in solving their case, he seemed to have more faith in the power of good. In looking at the night sky, Martin said there was mo…

What Might Have Been

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Heading into this NBA season, people were skeptical of the chances of the Los Angeles Lakers being good. There were questions about the health of Steve Nash, and no one knew when Kobe Bryant would be back in the lineup. In fact, the pre-season pundits guessed the Lakers would finish no better than 12th in the Western Conference.

Bryant publicly questioned that prediction. He said he was making great progress, would be back early in the season, and believed in the roster. Kobe didn't take long to come back, and he wasn't back long before he got injured again. On Wednesday they declared him out for the rest of the season.

Nash, too, hasn't been a factor. He's never really recovered from the injuries that plagued him last year, and he's struggled to string together a half dozen games at any stretch in his two years with the Lakers. In fact, the picture above — of Kobe, Nash and Pau Gasol playing together for the Lakers — feels more like a pipe dream than a reality. K…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 3

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Here's a look at the new shows rolling out this spring. As always, I look at the pilot and second episode. If you don't see a new show on this list, check past installments!

Monday Nights:
Those Who Kill, Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E
About: This is adapted from a Danish show of the same name — a place a number of our "new" crime dramas have come in recent years. And it enters very crowded waters. Shows about serial killers and those that catch them have become plentiful in recent years. But this feels a bit different. Chloe Sevigny is strong in the lead role, as is James D'Arcy as the damaged psychologist who helps her find these criminals. The pilot was moody, well put together, and introduced these characters in a compelling way. Sevigny and D'Arcy worked well together on screen, the story was engrossing, and there is great potential for this series. This felt like one of the best pilots I've seen this year.
Pilot Grade: A-

Tuesday Nights:
About A Boy, …

A True Ending

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"There ain't nothin' more dangerous in this would than a fool with a cause," Jake Brigance, "A Time to Kill"

"True Detective" wrapped up its first series — it seems fitting to refer to seasons the way they do in England because each will be short, compact, and self-contained. This iteration, the show's first, took place in the Bayou of Louisiana and centered on the uneasy partnership of Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson).

The show began with a lot of fanfare. It had a great, moody feel, interesting characters, and a wild mystery. But it was never going to be about how the show started, it was about how it would all end. And on Sunday we saw that ending, and it was satisfying in every way imaginable.

TV is littered with serial killer stories, or season-long mysteries. Many of them begin with a stroke of brilliance, but it wanes as the series progresses. Think "The Killing," which began with a flourish…

Romans

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"You know somethin', Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece." — Lt. Aldo Raine, "Inglorious Basterds"

When "Inglorious Bastereds" debuted in 2009, I was blown away. I knew it would be dark and violent based on the trailer, and based on the fact it was a Quentin Tarantino film. But I didn't realize how incredible the storytelling would be. Near the end, Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt, utters the line quoted above. I thought it was perfect, but I think that was really Tarantino reflecting on his work on the film.

And you know what, he was right. It was his masterpiece. It was the film he'd been working his whole life to tell. I had seen all his previous films, and because I had I could see pieces of his other work in "Inglorious Basterds." He had used the best of those film — in dialogue, tone, setting, and cinematic effect — to create a master opus. You could see the other influences, but in this film they'd been fin…

Broncos Offseason, Update One

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"Blessed to be able lineup opposite Champ and learn from a Great . Will def be missed." — Chris Harris, Jr., via Twitter.

On Wednesday, the Broncos made their first big move of the off season, releasing Champ Bailey. Bailey, one of the Broncos' defensive captains, a sure-fire Hall of Fame player, and a 10-year veteran of the team, says he doesn't plan on retiring. His loss is another blow to the glory days of the Broncos, but I think it's also a blow to the current Broncos.

You can't argue that Bailey is the same player, he's not. Last year he was oft injured, and he appeared to have lost a step. But he is still better than most of the options out there, and that's without considering his intangibles. He's a great leader and locker room presence, and unlike Peyton Manning, he's worked to build up the next generation.

After two seasons, I don't think you can say Brock Osweiler is demonstrably better, despite being under Manning's tutel…

Now Playing

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

Non-Stop
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong'o, Linus Roache, Anson Mount, Corey Stoll, and Scoot McNairy
Synopsis: Liam Neeson has found a career niche as the new go-to action hero. It might not seem that logical that the 61-year-old Neeson is one of Hollywood’s go-to action stars, but that fact can’t be denied. He is the star of the “Taken” franchise, which has produced two films with another one in development, and now here in “Non-Stop,” an action film set aboard a plane bound for London. It’s also been quite a month for Neeson, who serves as the voice of Bad Cop in “The Lego Movie,” which dominated at the Box Office for the first three weekends in February. Some might have questioned “Non-Stop” based on the premise and the trailer, which doesn’t say much about the film. However, while it’s still an action film in an enclosed space, it’s done well. “Non-Stop” is surprisingly entertaining, d…

Stages of Grief

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"I'm just tired of losing people." — Daryl Dixon, "The Walking Dead"

Grief and guilt manifest differently for different people. One of the things I credit "The Walking Dead" for in the back half of season four is the bold choice to explore inter-personal dynamics, themes, and emotional issues. That is something many have said isn't a part of this world, but the show has decided something else. Through four episodes of the back half of the season, all we've seen is the way the events of the mid-season finale have impacted these people emotionally and psychologically.

Daryl and Beth probably seem like an odd pairing. But in an episode that focused exclusively on them Sunday we saw how enriching the odd coupling can be. Daryl spent a lot of time angry and grunting, while Beth was on a quest for alcohol — something she'd never had. It turned out that both behaviors were the result of a manifestation of grief and guilt.

It's not surprising…

Empty Calories?

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"I am who I have always been; the scales have fallen away from my eyes. I can see you now." — Will Graham, "Hannibal"

There is a moment in "Christmas Vacation" that I thought of when watching the premier of the second season of "Hannibal." The Griswolds sit down to Christmas dinner, and there is a beautiful looking turkey. But when Clark (Chevy Chase) cuts into the turkey, it falls apart. It's dried out and hollow, there is nothing below the beautiful surface.

"Hannibal" is one of the most beautiful shows on TV, especially network TV. It has a look that can't be matched, and I think that's one of its biggest appeals. The actors are all very good as well, which makes it feel like this wonderful production.

When it first premiered, I didn't know what to expect. But what we got was better than I expected, and a lot of that had to do with the production design and performances. There was also a lot of curiosity about where…

Springs TV Roundup, Week 2

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The new shows are rolling out! I'll be looking at the first two episodes of as many new series as possible this spring. Let's hope to find some diamonds in the rough!

Monday Nights:
Star Crossed, Mondays at 8 p.m. on the CW
About: This is a teen romance show that involves aliens, discrimination, a love triangle, and social issues. I know what they're trying to do, I just can't bring myself to care. Of course, as I've said before, I'm not the target demographic for this show, or for the CW in general. I think there is some potential here, but it's in a brutal time slot and there hasn't been enough in the first two episodes to hook viewers. This feels like a show that's DOA, and hardly any people are watching enough to notice.
Pilot: C-
Second Episode: C-

Tuesday Nights:
Mind Games, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC
About: ABC was supposedly high on this show, but at the same time it got placed in the Tuesday night death slot on ABC. It's a mixed message,…