Showing posts from April, 2014

Spring TV Roundup, Week 10

In these roundups — which basically go all year but just change seasons — I look at the pilot and second episode of each new show. I watch the duds so you don't have to! If you don't see a new show from this spring below, please check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Fargo, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX
About: This show shares the same title and sensibility as the Coen Brothers movie, but it's a completely different story. The pilot felt a bit like the movie. It was 90 minutes that laid out the characters, the world, and the crime gone wrong. The second episode showcased how we'll live into the this story, experience the consequences, and move toward a resolution. The pace was a bit slower, but the sensibility and growth of characters was better. The performances in this show are excellent, and though the Coen Brothers aren't working hands on as writers, this feels very much like one of their movies. The characters, dialogue, and the way the show is put together feel ve…

Following a New Path

“You won’t be seeing me any more, Joe. I’ll never give you that. You’re going to die in prison. And as you whither away in there, you’re going to be fading from my memory every day a little bit more. Because I’ll be making new memories in a new life that doesn’t include you.” — Ryan Hardy, "The Following"

"The Following," the creepy FOX horror/thriller, wrapped up its second season last night. It's never been as good, or as compelling, as the pilot promised — or as FOX wants it to be. But in the way the second season ended, there might be an opportunity. The show has been renewed for a third season, but its ratings have declined. So the show needs a shake up if it's going to continue.

In a lot of ways, the season two finale cleared the deck. Now it's just a matter of what the show can do with that cleared deck and a new lease on life. Here's a few suggestions:

1. Ryan can't be done with Joe, but it could be more fun. At the end of the episode R…

On The Bubble, Pt. 2

We are nearing that magical time when networks make decisions on shows that will continue, pick new shows, and put out a projected fall schedule. If you are a TV nerd, as I am, this is a joyous week.

In the first Bubble post, I offered a bubble show from each of the four major networks that deserves to be spared and given another shot. In this post, I'll look at one from each network on the bubble that shouldn't see new life in September.

Resurrection, Sundays at 9 p.m.
Why: This might seem like a surprising call. There are worse shows on ABC — and my guess is all of them will bite the dust. This show has been one of the better ratings successes for ABC in the spring, and still wins its timeslot. So why should it go? I don't see this working long-term. This show started with a flourish and has declined since premiering. And that's in the spring. Would this hold up in the fall against "The Walking Dead," "Homeland" and the NFL? I don't think…

On The Bubble

We're almost to my favorite week of the Spring — Network up fronts. In the next couple weeks, the Networks will make final decisions about current shows and whether they will get to return, then pick new shows, and set the schedule.

As we approach that announcement, the Bubble Watch is on. Below are four shows — one from each network — I think deserve a reprieve.

Trophy Wife, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.
Why: This is one of the better new comedies of the season. It is consistently funny and, I think, better than "The Goldbergs," which has drawn more press and higher ratings. I think this is a show that could pair quite nicely with "Modern Family," and I don't understand why ABC won't pick the show up for a second season and give it that slot. It could create a night of wacky family comedy that would make sense. This is a show that deserves another shot.

The Crazy Ones, Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.
Why: This is CBS' best new comedy. Sure, it isn't th…

Life After Death

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." — 1 Corinthians 15:12-14

Last Sunday we celebrated Easter, called the most hopeful and important day on the Christian calendar. It celebrates Jesus' resurrection — His triumph over death and the fulfillment of the promise of Scripture. It's the event that's portended in the Old Testament. It's what Jesus' ministry led up to. And it's the crown jewel upon which the early church and the rest of the New Testament epistles are based.

But some dismiss it. Even some claiming to be Christians. We are reading a book in our Sunday School class called "Respectable Sins." This week's chapter was on judgmentalism, which is something we're all guilty of fr…

Upcoming Releases — May

May is just around the corner — despite the weekend weather in Colorado — which means it's time for Summer movies, y'all. Here's a look at what's coming in May. Here's a look at what you can expect!

Friday, May 2:
The Amazing Spiderman 2 — This time with more recycled plots! Sure, it isn't recycling the origin story, but in this one Spidey battles Harry Osborn, otherwise known as the Green Goblin. I'm sure it will be fine, but I'm getting a little burned out on these "Spiderman" films.

Walk of Shame — That describes star Elizabeth Banks when promoting this movie. Not even the trailer looks funny.

Friday, May 9:
The Neighbors — This film has a ubiquitous title, but it has a funny concept and trailer. I think it will be one of the better comedy hits of the summer.

Mom's Night Out — This is a Tyler Perry jam, so it probably has a built in audience. This doesn't look like my kind of movie, but to each his own.

Chef — We don't know a l…

Now Playing

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

Draft Day
Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Dennis Leary, Frank Langella, and Chadwick Boseman
Synopsis: Sports movies are tricky. People generally know what to expect, and it takes a lot to make a good one. For a long time, Kevin Costner has been the king of baseball movies. His performances in comedies, dramas and iconic baseball films made him the go to guy in the genre. With “Draft Day,” Costner looks to conquer football in a similar fashion. Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns on the day of the NFL draft. His job is in jeopardy, his franchise is reeling and his personal life is a storm of chaos. The film takes a deep look at the NFL Draft and NFL franchises. It has a lot of people connected with the NFL in it, and it takes you into a war room. And it does all of that in a compelling way. It’s the most excited I’ve been about the NFL draft in years, and it wasn’t even real. Most football fans are fa…

Summer Movie Preview, Pt. 2

Summer is coming, time to get excited about our options. In part one I gave you the five films of May and June I'm most excited about. This time I'm looking at the five I'm most excited about in July and August. It seems like this is going to be a big summer for comedies...

Tammy (July 2) — Melissa McCarthy is a gifted comedian who's coming into her own. This film — which she co-wrote with her husband Ben Falcone (the film's director) — looks like a pretty hilarious starring vehicle. Having Susan Sarandon in it is a plus. This isn't the typical film you think of on Fourth of July weekend, but that could be a good thing.

Sex Tape (July 25) — Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz had great chemistry in "Bad Teacher." It wasn't a great film, but they were great in it. That's why I'm excited to see them here together again in a set up that sounds pretty funny. The red band trailer for this movie was hilarious.

Other July Releases: Deliver Us From…

Summer Movie Preview, Pt. 1

May is coming, and with it comes the traditional four months of summer blockbusters. Since "Captain America" came out in April, and "The Hunger Games" comes out in November, we'll take that with a grain of salt.

Still, it's worth considering what the air-cooled, darkened theaters will offer as bait to pull us away from long summer days and nights. In this blog I will highlight five movies in May and June that I'm excited to see. In part two we'll tackle five from July and August.

Neighbors (May 9) — Every summer there is one wild, over-the-top comedy that really works. Sometimes there's more than one. Sure, there will be plenty of summer action movies, but I like to find the comedies, indie dramas, etc. that round out the summer. The trailer for this movie — about a couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) — see their life turned upside down when a frat house — led by Zac Efron. The trailer looks hilarious, and this could be a good alternative to…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 9

Today I continue my look at new shows this spring. There have been a lot of them. Any way, I grade the pilot and second episode of each. If you don't see a new show below, go ahead and check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Fargo, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX
About: This show is inspired by the Coen Brothers movie, "Fargo," but it doesn't have the same characters and it doesn't follow the exact same story. It more pulls the ethos of that movie to make a show set in the frozen north about crime gone wrong. The dialogue has that Coen Brothers feel, as does the product, but this is an original story. It's also part of a new wave of TV. Like "True Detective," this was conceived as an anthology series. Next year, should it be picked up, the show would feature a totally different story. That's why we have actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman headlining this limited run series. The pilot, which was about 90 minutes, introduced the characters, …

The Aftermath of the King's Death

"I will not become a page in someone else's history book." — Stannis Baratheon, "Game of Thrones"

Last week, "Game of Thrones" shook the board up again with the death of Joffrey. It wasn't a sad moment, but it was sort of unexpected. For most of three seasons it seemed like the story was about Joffrey battling Rob Stark and, soon enough,  Daenerys Targaryen. By the third episode of this fourth season, two of those would-be rulers is dead, and one remains an ocean away building an army and freeing slaves.

So what is this show about? It's about the smaller moments, the ways the destruction of the ruling families have ruined the lives of the people of Westeros, and the threats that linger beneath the surface. It's about a dangerous world, and the dangerous people who will do anything to survive. It's also about those who don't understand where they live, putting themselves in jeopardy.

In the midst of that, it's been interesting …

He Is Risen

"Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." — Mark 16:8

There is a common practice in TV called the cliffhanger. It happens a lot in season finales. It's a way the makers of the show can keep you on the edge of your seat, and ensure you come back for more. This is also a common among shows struggling to earn a pick up. When they don't get picked up, we're left with that unresolved story as the last word on the matter.

As Americans, we generally don't like this. In movies there are basically two kinds of stories — the ones that are tied up in a neat little bow, and those that remain unresolved. We are pioneers of the wrapped up story, and generally reject those open ended, we don't know what happens endings. We don't like them. They frustrate us. We want to know that everything is worked out; that people live happily ever after.

Life isn't always like that. In fact, …

The NBA's Second Season

What a weird NBA season we just endured. Down the stretch it felt like a competition for who wanted it least… In fact, more stories were devoted to the idea of tanking than who would be competing for the title.

Why is that the case? The teams that peaked early — Indiana, Miami, Houston, Portland — all faded late. The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers — major teams in major markets — were all terrible. Teams on the rise, like the Oklahoma City Thunder, seemed to fall short of the mark. And marquee players, like Chicago's Derrick Rose, ended up injured and out for the year.

Then there was the best most consistent team all season — the Spurs. The Spurs are getting older, and each year people say they're due to fall off, but it still hasn't happened. The old, boring, consistent team was the best, again.

And what about the other top seed, the Pacers in the East? Last year they seemed like a hungry upstart. Now they seem like a reeling …

Now Playing

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

Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, and Logan Lerman
Synopsis: At one point Biblical epics were common among Hollywood films. The great Cecile B. DeMille gave the world “The Ten Commandments,” which is still a staple on the small screen around Easter each year. That was but one example of how filmmakers mined the most popular book in history, The Bible, for big screen epics. That hasn’t been the case recently. Aside from “The Passion of the Christ” — which invaded theaters a decade ago — most Bible stories have come from Christian companies and filmmakers. They aren’t wildly released or widely regarded. But perhaps that’s about to change. In December Christian Bale will offer his take on Moses in Ridley Scott’s epic “Exodus.” And in late March, Russell Crowe offered his take on a famous Bible hero in Darren Aronofsky’s take on “Noah.” “Noah” makes a feature length film out of …

Creative Flame Out

"Enjoy the break-up. If you need me, I'll be in my room, listening to some mainstream hip-hop." — Schmidt, "New Girl"

When it debuted three seasons ago, "New Girl" offered not only the best pilot of the year, but quickly became the most funny show on TV. That first season it tore through 24 episodes (two more than the standard full season network order). The second season, it was asked to carry a full night of comedy and turn out another 24 episodes.

It's still April in the show's third season and it has already aired 21 more episodes — meaning it's already through 69 episodes in its short life. As a result of the increased orders, added pressure, and the way we consume TV, the show is burning through stories like nobody's business. In its first two seasons it used more arcs than a lot of sitcoms do in four seasons.

The result has been an uneven, often unsatisfying third season. Now, it's reasonable to question if this show is nea…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 8

Today I continue my look at the new shows debuting this Spring. I review the pilot and second episode of new shows. If you don't see a new show listed, check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Friends With Better Lives, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS
About: CBS badly wants this to be the heir to something. The pilot followed the finale of "How I Met Your Mother," and the promos played that connection up for all it was worth. The network has also touted it as a possible heir to the "Friends" model. Neither of those shoes fit. The show feels closer to the now defunct CBS sitcom "Rules of Engagement," just with an extra character. The jokes are about on that level, as is the set up. As my wife said watching episode two, it just feels like the show is trying too hard. There are some mildly interesting pieces, but it hasn't created a solid whole. This doesn't feel like a show with a future beyond airing a handful of episodes this spring.
Pilot Grade: C

The King Is Dead

"War is war, but killing a man at a wedding, horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage." — Lady Olena, "Game of Thrones"

Last season "Game of Thrones" changed the way people think about weddings with the ninth episode of the third season, "The Rains of Castemere." The episode featured a scene that came to be known as "The Red Wedding." It was a shocking, violent, and game-changing moment.

In the second season of the fourth season, we got another wedding. This one was rife with talk of those bloody nuptials up north, but this was the wedding of King Joffrey. It was in the Capital. It was too close to the other wedding for anything dark to happen.

But it did. By the end of the hour King Joffrey was dead, the recipient of poison wine during his own reception. It left me with a mix of emotions about what happened, how it happened, and where the show goes next.

"The Lion And The R…

Rock Monsters, A Flood, and a New Beginning

"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith." — Hebrews 11:7

This is a big year for Christians and films. Already we've seen "Son of God." On Wednesday, the account of Todd Burpo and his son, Colton, comes to the big screen in "Heaven Is For Real." In December Christian Bale suits up as Moses in Ridley Scott's "Exodus." And, of course, a few weeks ago Russell Crowe offered his take on Noah in Darren Aronofsky's "Noah."

In terms of details, the Bible leaves a lot to the imagination when it comes to Noah. His tale, one of the most famous to believers and non-believers alike, takes up just three chapters. It boils down to humanity being corrupt, God asking Noah to step out in faith, a flood washing the Earth clean, and creation beginning anew.

In bringing the story to …

Competing Values

"I adore Chicago. It is the pulse of America." — Sarah Bernhardt

Perhaps the most fascinating and thought provoking hour of TV is on CNN on Thursday nights. The documentary series "Chicagoland" explores the trials, challenges, beauty, and triumphs of Chicago, Illinois. It is emblematic of major cities throughout the United States, and that's something we should all consider.

As depicted in this documentary series, Chicago is a city of great art, culture, and cuisine. It is a place where business leaders birth beautiful new ideas, citizens rally around sports teams, and diversity is celebrated. It's a place where generations come together to help build America. But that's not all it is.

Chicago is a violent place. It's a place where the promise of young life is snuffed out in many neighborhoods on warm summer nights. It's a place where kids struggle to get to school, are afraid to go to school, and face a hopeless future. It's a place where …

Freedom or Security?

"They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." — Benjamin Franklin

We all want to live in a safe world, but what are we willing to sacrifice? This is a question that lies at the heart of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." SHIELD is working on a plan to keep the world safe. But to do that, they have to tread upon the rights and privacy of the world.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sees it as a necessary step for the world we live in. Captain America (Chris Evans), who was born of a different time and generation, sees it as sacrificing too much. This is not a new question — either in terms of modern entertainment or age old debates. How much can and should we sacrifice for freedom.

Our Founding Fathers knew that this was something to be considered. Franklin's quote gets at the heart of that. But with the increase in terror threats, and the increase in technology, the line between security …

Now Playing

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

Captain America: Winter Soldier
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, and Cobie Smulders
Synopsis: At this point, the Marvel universe that involves The Avengers is well established. After a slew of origin stories, “The Avengers” dominated at the Box Office in 2012. In the period since, each of those super heroes have continued the story. Last year Iron Man and Thor each had a new adventure, and on Friday it was time to check in again with Captain America. I continue to marvel at the way this universe expands and connects. Like the other films, “Captain America: Winter Soldier” expands the world, digs deeper into the characters and opens up a new set of challenges. And like the other films, this one has a style and tone all its own. “Winter Soldier” feels like a political thriller and asks some hard questions about the nature of privacy versus security, all the while advancing …

The Beginning of the End

"I believe you dictate the river of fate through your own actions." — Boyd, "Justified"

Earlier this winter it was announced that the next season of "Justified" — its sixth to premier next winter — will be the last. During the fifth season finale last night, we got a preview of coming attractions. Fittingly, it looks like the final season will focus on Raylan, Boyd, and the reckoning they've had coming for a while.

Since the beginning, it has always been about Raylan and Boyd. They had similar upbringings, and they went down divergent paths. But in a lot of ways Boyd is the mirror Raylan can't escape. They are flip sides of the same coin. Raylan may have a badge, but in a lot of ways he uses people and bends the rules the same as Boyd. He thinks he does it for noble reasons, but he leaves a lot of people damaged in his wake.

At the end of the 12th episode of the fifth season, Raylan challenged Boyd. He said Boyd had left a trail of "human wr…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 7

Today I continue my look at new shows this Spring. I watch the pilot and second episode to give the shows grades. If you don't see a new show listed below, please check previous weeks.

Thursday Nights:
Surviving Jack, Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on FOX
About: This show comes from the writer behind "Sh*t My Dad Says," and is again culled from his life and his relationship with his dad. As I said last week, this show hews closer to the tone of the book. I think Christopher Meloni is great in the lead role, and Rachael Harris is great as his wife. The pilot for this show was one of the best comedy pilots I saw this year, and I thought the second episode followed up on that. It doesn't seem like viewers have found the show, so it's a long-shot for a pick up, which is a shame. I would like to see this show move to Tuesday nights with "Brooklyn Nine Nine," "New Girl," and "The Mindy Project." I think it would work well there. But, alas, it migh…

Watch The Throne

"I didn't know your brother. He seemed like a good man, but I didn't know him. Your mother on the other hand, I admired her. She wanted to have me executed, but I admired her." — Tyrion, "Game of Thrones"

On Sunday, TV's best show returned. "Game of Thrones" is the TV series based on George R.R. Martin's sprawling series of books. The show, by all accounts, stays faithful to those books. I read "Game of Thrones," the first in the series, but have purposely tried to stay behind the series in the books because I like to be surprised on Sunday nights.

One of the aspects of the show that works best is that element of surprise. This is a bold story that takes you to unexpected places. No one is safe — hero or villain. That was best exemplified by the assassination of the Stark family during the third season. The ninth episode, which featured the sequence that's come to be known as "The Red Wedding," was one of the most …

Visiting Disneyland

"Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.”

The last time I went to Disneyland was in May 2003, when I graduated from college. On Saturday, I had a chance to see Disneyland again — with my wife, and as an adult the first time. It was as fun and magical as I remember.

I think the thing I took away as an adult is what a wonder Disneyland really is. It celebrates America — it's different culture and themes. Many of the rides have a historical significance. Others are based on beautiful stories. It truly is a magic Kingdom. It transports you to other places, times, and worlds. It is a place that celebrates America, celebrates families, and allows us to remember the importance of fun. Coming on the heels of a conference that reminded me that the Christian walk is about fun, this was a beautiful time of fun and escape.

And a whole lot of Mickey...

Other thoughts on our trip to Disneyland.
Biggest disappointment: It's A Small World was closed.…

Catalyst West Coast, Day 2

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." — Romans 5:8

Here's a look at some of the big thoughts I took away from day 2 at Catalyst. It was a beautiful time that reminded me of how great God is, and how much fun it can, and should, be to be one of His servants.

Charles Lee:
* If you want to innovate, a healthy culture is the key. Long-term success depends on it.
* Ask yourself two questions: What matters most at the end of the day? None of us have unlimited time and resources, so what is enough?

Bryan Loritts:
* The greatest challenge to the 21st Century church in America is the sin of greed and materialism.
* Our identity comes from the Provider, not His provisions.
* The righteous person shares what he has with others and gives of himself.
* The Gospel of Jesus Christ prompts us to action.
* How Much Is Enough?

Robert Madu:
* When we compare ourselves to others, it distracts us from running our race with Jesus Ch…

Catalyst West, Day 1

It's been a couple years since I've been to Catalyst West, but yesterday was a reminder of the energy, excitement, and fun at the conference. That's what it should mean to be a Christian, and that's what you get at the conference — that an a lot of great information in a short period of time.

But, perhaps my biggest take away from yesterday is that the church should spend more time having fun. Below are a few other nuggets I got from the many great speakers I heard.

Henry Cloud:
Cloud kicked off the conference, and he brought plenty to consider. The theme of the conference is Known, and how we create our identity as leaders in Christ. He had three ideas:

* Leaders need focused attention.
* Leaders can only realize their identity in a positive emotional climate.
* Leadership is not meant to be done alone; it needs to be done from a relationally connected place.

Bob Goff:
I like Bob Goff. I first learned of him through his appearance in Donald Miller's books. He's…

Now Playing

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

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Wilkinson, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Saorise Ronan, Tony Revolori, and Tilda Swinton
Synopsis: Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Wes Anderson brings a unique style and point of view as a filmmaker. He has delivered a number of classic tales that have developed a cult following. Doubtless his latest effort — “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — will follow the same route. Inspired by the writing of Stephan Zweig, Anderson delivers a tale of intrigue, romance, mischief and wild antics. It takes place across three time periods and is set — mostly — in a fictional European country that gets caught up in World War II. Anderson has a unique way of telling stories. There is plenty of quirk and plenty of whimsy, but there’s also a lot of heart. I loved his last film, “Moonrise Kingdom.” Others have been drawn to his cannon for work — which inc…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 6

Here's a look at the new shows this Spring. I review the pilots and second episodes of each new series. If you don't see a new show below, check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Friends With Better Lives, Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS
About: This is the sitcom that will slide into "How I Met Your Mother's" timeslot. It got it's first preview on Monday night, following the HIMYM finale. It was mildly amusing, but not great. It feels a bit too much like other CBS sitcoms. I didn't feel that magic. Of course, part of that could be that it followed the HIMYM finale, which was rough. There are some decent actors here, but I'm not sure if this will work.
Pilot Grade: C

Wednesday Nights:
The 100, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW
About: This futuristic sci-fi show took a step back for me in its second episode. I loved the set up of the pilot and the possibility set up in the pilot. The second episode wasn't as great, but I'm still intrigued by the premise, the …

Nine Years and a Bait and Switch

"Here's the secret kids. None of us can vow to be perfect. In the end all we can do is promise to love each other with everything we've got. Because love's the best thing we do." — Ted, "How I Met Your Mother"


Last night "How I Met Your Mother" ended with a series finale that was a bit of a shock. After nine years, most fans were waiting for that moment when Ted would meet the mother of his children, completing the story he was telling his children over these nine seasons.

That happened. But then some other stuff happened, too, and it left me sort of confused. Turns out I'm not the only one.

TV shows are tricky. They are the product of the imagination and passion of those that create them. But in order for them to succeed, they need passionate fans. After nine years, you become devoted to a show and y…