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Showing posts from December, 2014

Best of 2014, Movie Performances

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The year is almost over, so it's time to look back at the best of 2014. In these posts I look at the best of what I saw in TV shows and movies this year. This post is dedicated to the best performances I saw in movies. This, of course, tested my theory of whether I can love performances despite not caring for the story or the movie. Hello "Birdman," this post is for you. Also, there are a number of high-profile films competing for awards in 2014 that I've not yet seen… so no slight to that wonderful work.

Best Actor:
* Michael Keaton, "Birdman" — I have always loved Keaton, and I thought he was great in this role. I didn't love the story, but how could you not love this performance.
* Miles Teller, "Whiplash" — A lot of the talk when it comes to "Whiplash" is about J.K. Simmons, and for good reason. But this movie doesn't have the power it does without the great work from Teller.
* Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything&q…

Best of 2014, Movies

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The year is almost over, so it's time to reflect on the best of 2014. In these year-ending posts I'm offering my take on the best from the TV shows and movies I saw this year. This post is dedicated to the 10 best (and five worst) movies I saw in 2014. Here they are in Ascending order:

Best Movies of 2014:
10. The Judge
We think of Robert Downey, Jr., now mostly as Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes. It's true, he's been great in those blockbuster roles, but with "The Judge" he gets to apply his talents differently. And he shines in this movie, too, sharing a number of great scenes with Robert Duvall. This is a movie that didn't get a lot of publicity, but it was a stealth gem in an uneven year for movies.

9. When The Game Stands Tall
I love good sports movies, and there were two in 2014. I enjoyed "Draft Day" quite a bit, even though it was largely panned. But the best of the year, for me, was "When The Game Stands Tall," a true life story abo…

Best of 2014, TV Performances

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The year is nearly over, which means it's time to look back at the best of 2014. In these posts I put my top 10 lists from the TV shows and movies I've seen this year. This time it's the best TV performances of 2014.

Best Actor, Drama:
* Matthew McConaughey, "True Detective" — It was a great year for McConaughey, and that included this performance.
* Woody Harleson, "True Detective" — He got somewhat overlooked by his co-star, but Harleson was every bit up to the task in one of TV's best shows.
* Mads Mikkelsen, "Hannibal" — He imbues a familiar part with a fresh take and helps make the show incredibly compelling.
* Martin Freeman, "Fargo" — He did a great job with the accent, the performance, and the character.
* Michael Sheen, "Masters of Sex" — It's not a showy part, but he plays it very well.

Best Actress, Drama:
* Alison Tollman, "Fargo" — She was perhaps the best thing about an excellent first season …

Best of 2014, TV Episodes

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It's the end of the year, so it's time to look back at the best of 2014. In these posts I will share my top ten lists from the movies and TV shows I've seen. Here's the 10 best episodes I saw in 2014 in ascending order.

Best Episodes of the Year:
10. Two Boats and a Helicopter, "The Leftovers," HBO
"The Leftovers" was a heralded new HBO show that didn't totally work. I didn't love the show, but I remained intrigued because of episodes like this, which was the third of the show's first season. It centered on Rev. Matt (Christopher Eccleston) and his doomed effort to save his church. It was a fascinating musing on grief, loss, and faith.

9. How Your Mother Me Me, "How I Met Your Mother," CBS
The sitcom wrapped up in the Spring with a much derided finale. But along the way in its final season the show had some great moments. This episode — told mostly from the Mother's point-of-view — was a reminder of why I liked the show in th…

Best of 2014, TV Series

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The year is drawing to a close. In honor of that, over these last two days of the year, I'll have my best of lists. Today I'll look at TV in a couple of posts (Best Shows (and worst), Best Episodes, and Best Performances). Tomorrow it's the movies' turn. As always, these are my picks for the best among what I've seen and come in ascending order.

10 Best Series of 2014:
10. Arrow, The CW
There aren't a ton of people that watch the CW, but the network has quietly put together a mildly impressive slate. "The Flash" was one of the best new shows this fall, but the show that birthed it — "Arrow" — really hit its stride. "Arrow" had an incredible Spring, culminating in a great showdown in the second season finale. It continued that to start its third season, ending the year with a jaw-dropping cliff hanger (dive) involving Oliver Queen.

9. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC
If you gave up on this show after a few episodes in its firs…

NFL Season Recap

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On Sunday the NFL season drew to a conclusion. It was, as ever, full of some surprising outcomes, including those that made the playoff field. Here's some of my observations from a terrific day of games.

* San Diego collapsed. There was a point a few weeks ago when the Chargers seemed to be out of things, but then they rallied. A win in Baltimore and then a great comeback over the 49ers had them poised to return to the playoffs. They controlled their own destiny. But Sunday in Kansas City, the magic ended.

* Baltimore backs in. Yes, technically they won. But the team struggled against the Browns' third-string QB on an offense that lacked Josh Gordon. The Ravens have not looked good this season and might struggle mightily against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

* Atlanta fails to show up. The Falcons have been an awful team all season, but they came into the game 5-0 against the NFC South. All they needed was a home win against division foe Carolina to eek into the playoffs. Instead,…

2014 Broncos Season, Week 17

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Week 17: Broncos 47, Oakland Raiders 14
Season Record: 12-4 (8-0 Home)
Key Play: With the Broncos leading 20-7 at the half, to begin the second half Denver got the ball. Running back CJ Anderson capped his day with a 25-yard touchdown run, his third of the game, to put the score out of reach. The Broncos never looked back.

Recap: Denver put itself in the position of having to win this game against the Raiders to assure themselves of a bye in the playoffs. They did, winning convincingly and looking pretty strong. Peyton Manning, for only the second time this season, didn't throw a touchdown pass. But the passing game looked strong, and the Broncos aren't hurting for points. But the team is hurting — hence the need for a first round bye. The team hasn't been off since week four, which was back in September. This bye will help get some players healthy and back on the field as they begin their playoff push on January 11. The Broncos are a different team at home than on the road, …

Now Playing

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

Annie
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz, and Quvenzhan√© Wallis
Synopsis: By now most everyone is familiar with the story of “Annie.” Various versions of the story of Little Orphan Annie have been offered at theaters since 1932, and that doesn’t even account for the number of times it’s been performed on the stage and in schools. The story remains largely the same — a precocious orphan finds a family in an unlikely place thanks to her pluck and the joy she inspires in a wealthy loner. Throw in a little “Hard Knock Life” and “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow,” and you’re golden. This latest update on “Annie” follows largely the same formula. Sure, it flips the ethnicity of the players, updates the setting and adds a few original songs, but at its heart it remains true to the iconic classic. Since this is such a familiar story, retold time and again, there aren’t a lot of surprises as to how this will go. In order to make a…

NFL Picks, Week 17

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The final week of the regular season is here. After a bad week by both of us last week, Lindsay and I are separated by two picks heading into the final week of the regular season. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Week 17:
Bills +3.5 Over Patriots (Patriots)
Bears +6.5 Over Vikings (Bears)
Browns +8.5 Over Ravens (Browns)
Cowboys -6.5 Over Washington (Cowboys)
Colts -7.5 Over Titans (Colts)
Chiefs -2.5 Over Chargers (Chargers)
Dolphins -5.5 Over Jets (Dolphins)
Saints -3.5 Over Buccaneers (Saints)
Eagles +2.5 Over Giants (Giants)
Texans -9.5 Over Jaguars (Texans)
Panthers +3.5 Over Falcons (Panthers)
Broncos -14.5 Over Raiders (Broncos)
Lions +7.5 Over Packers (Lions)
Seahawks -12.5 Over Rams (Seahawks)
Cardinals +5.5 Over 49ers (49ers)
Steelers -2.5 Over Bengals (Bengals)

Last Week: 7-9
Lindsay: 6-10

Season: 123-117
Lindsay: 121-119

2014 Broncos Season, Week 16

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Ugh…

Week 16: Cincinnati Bengals 37, Denver Broncos 28
Season Record: 11-4 (7-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, trailing 30-28, Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning dropped back to pass looking for Demaryius Thomas. Instead, he found Dre Kirkpatrick, who returned the interception for a touchdown, sealing the game.

Recap: Last night I had an early Christmas celebration with my family. I opened a lot of presents relating to the Broncos, and our quest to create a Bronco dome in our downstairs area. Meanwhile, in the background, the actual Broncos looked like a dumpster fire on the field, particularly in the first half. Early in the game Aqib Talib picked off Andy Dalton and returned it for a touchdown. The Broncos led 7-0 and it was exciting. It was all downhill from there… The Broncos offense looks like a hot mess. The Broncos special teams aren't special. And the Broncos defense was woeful last night. In a game they needed to win, the Broncos looked apathetic at times, and …

'Homeland' limps to the finish line

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"Listen, I have to ask and I understand if you can't say, but is there something going on that I don't know about?" — Lockhart, "Homeland"

"Homeland" finished its uneven fourth season last night on a quiet note. The show, which has typically had big revelations in its finales, went small. There are ways to look at the show that might change how you feel about the merits of what was done.

It felt like the show took a page out of the "Game of Thrones" playbook. The HBO hit — which is a far superior show now — usually delivers its big blows in the penultimate episode. The rest is just blowback.

That was sort of true for "Homeland." The fourth season delivered some wallops in the home stretch, including a big revelation to close its penultimate episode, then it got pensive to wrap things up. It ended where it began — with Carrie (Claire Danes) wonder what it means to be a mom, sort of loving Quinn (Rupert Friend), and not sure whe…

The Angel's Song of Peace

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“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” — Luke 2:14

The final candle of Advent is the Candle of Peace. (Well, technically the Christ Candle is the last one, but this is the final week of Advent). It seems both fitting and challenging that Peace is the final candle.

Peace is vital; Peace is what we seek; Peace is necessary. Peace is also elusive. It can feel a million miles away, especially when we see the strife and struggle of the world around us. These past few weeks have helped drive that point home.

That's part of what makes Jesus so important. As Isaiah notes, He is our Prince of Peace. His birth changed the world and our future for the better. We don't always see it and can't always appreciate it, so it's important to take some time to do that during this season of Advent.

That is the promise of the Angels in Luke — "peace to those on whom His favor rests." It's a beautiful promise, and one worth e…

Rough end to 2014

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There's only a few days left in 2014, but it doesn't seem like the year is ending with a  flourish. It's been a strange year. There's been highs and lows. But the way the year has ended makes you wonder what lies ahead.

For weeks now, there's been legitimate protests throughout the country. This isn't just about a single death and a single grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, anymore. That may have been the biggest catalyst, but this is a nationwide call to action. And I can't help if this is carry over from last year.

One of my favorite movies from 2013 was "Fruitvale Station." It was ironic, it seemed, that the movie that depicted a young black man killed by a white police office for now justifiable reason was hitting theaters nationwide during the Trayvon Martin decision. It put the issue to the forefront and, sadly, it hasn't gone away.

We like to think things are better in 2014 when it comes to race relations, and perhaps that'…

Is 'Mom' a sitcom?

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For a long time now, the line between comedy and drama has gotten a lot smaller. There are dramas that have some very comedic tones and moments, and there are comedies that are quite dramatic. For the past few years “Nurse Jackie” has been a constant presence in the comedy awards lineups though many feel it’s more of a drama. You could argue something similar with “Orange is the New Black” and “Girls.”
But Networks haven’t fallen into that trap. Sitcoms are, for the most part, sitcoms. But CBS might be challenging that with “Mom.” Sure, there are slapstick sitcom moments on “Mom.” Anna Faris and Alison Janney are talented actresses that have good comedic timing. But in this second season in particular, the story has gotten quite heavy.
Last season we were introduced to Christy (Faris), her family, and her challenges. She’s a recovering alcoholic. She has two kids and a unique relationship with her mother (Janney), also a recovering alcoholic. In the first season she struggled to get …

Now Playing

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

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, and Lee Pace
About: There are some directors who will be forever linked to the material or film series that defined their career. You can’t think of Francis Ford Coppola without thinking of “The Godfather.” And you can’t hear the name George Lucas without thinking about “Star Wars.” For Peter Jackson, most people will rightly think of Middle Earth. Over the last 13 years, Jackson has offered six films based on J.R.R. Tolkien novels. His films have spanned nearly 24-hours and have made billions at the Box Office, even earning on Best Picture trophy. For the past three Decembers, Jackson has offered his take on “The Hobbit,” Tolkien’s prequel to “Lord of the Rings,” mixed with some pieces from the Middle Earth history piece “The Silmarillion” to give fans a complete picture of the world from the books. While the first two…

NFL Picks, Week 16

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The NFL regular season is winding down, and the competition between Lindsay and I is heating up. On the heels of a 12-4 weekend, Lindsay trails by just one for the season. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Week 16:
Titans +3.5 Over Jaguars (Jaguars)
Eagles -8.5 Over Washington (Eagles)
Chargers +2.5 Over 49ers (49ers)
Falcons +6.5 Over Saints (Saints)
Lions -6.5 Over Bears (Lions)
Panthers -4.5 Over Browns (Browns)
Packers -10.5 Over Buccaneers (Packers)
Chiefs +3.5 Over Steelers (Chiefs)
Vikings +6.5 Over Dolphins (Dolphins)
Patriots -10.5 Over Jets (Patriots)
Ravens -4.5 Over Texans (Ravens)
Giants +5.5 Over Rams (Giants)
Bills -5.5 Over Raiders (Bills)
Cowboys -2.5 Over Colts (Cowboys)
Seahawks -7.5 Over Cardinals (Seahawks)
Broncos -3.5 Over Bengals (Broncos)

Last Week: 9-7
Lindsay: 12-4

Season: 116-108
Lindsay: 115-109

Fall TV Roundup, Week 15

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Technically fall lasts until Sunday, but it's slim pickings for new shows… or new episodes of shows period. But here's a couple to look at.

Tuesday Nights:
Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo (Premiered December 2)
About: This show has a nice cast, led by Lisa Edlestein, and good production values. It feels like a show that's trying, at least a little, to be like "Sex in the City." I am probably not the target demographic for this show, and it's also not my kind of show. That being said, I see what this show is trying to do, and I just don't think it's really working. The second episode was, arguably, less interesting than the first episode. Also, there's been behind-the-scenes drama with this show, which led to a casting shake up, so we don't even know what this show is going to be. Janeane Garofalo has been a major part of the narrative, and her character has been a big part of the plot, but she's already left…

NFL Playoff Picture

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There's just two weeks left in the NFL season, and after another crazy weekend, the playoff picture is becoming clearer, but still in flux. Here's a look at the conferences and some fearless predictions about who'll be in the fray.

NFC:
Division Leaders:                                                                   Contenders:
West — Arizona Cardinals (11-3)                                           Seattle Seahawks (10-4)
North — Detroit Lions (10-4)                                                 Green Bay Packers (10-4)
South — Carolina Panthers (5-8-1)                                         Philadelphia Eagles (9-5)
East — Dallas Cowboys (10-4)                                               New Orleans Saints (5-8)
                                                                                                 Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

The picture in the NFC is more clear in terms of the teams likely to make the playoffs, but the seeding is very much up in the air. The …

2014 Broncos Season, Week 15

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Here's your fearless Denver Broncos recap for the week.

Week 15: Broncos 22, San Diego Chargers 10
Season Record: 11-3 (7-0 Home)
Key Play: In the third quarter, leading 9-3, Peyton Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas on a 28-yard touchdown strike. It was the Broncos' lone touchdown of the game, giving them a 16-3 lead. The Broncos used that lead, patient running, and two fourth-quarter interceptions to win the AFC West for the fourth straight season.

Recap: The AFC West is won. The Denver Broncos will be in the playoffs and will host at least one game. The team beat San Diego, improving to 5-0 in division games, to move to 11-3 and remain in second place in the AFC. The team remains in the driver's seat for a first round bye (owning the tie-breaker over the Colts) and remains alive for the top seed. If the Broncos win out, the team will finish the regular season 13-3 for the third straight year. If they win out and the Patriots lose, the team will have the top seed in th…

Zechariah's Song of Joy

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"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them." — Luke 1:68

There are a lot of things we focus on in the Nativity Story. We talk about Mary. We talk about Joseph. We talk about Nazareth, the manger, the star, the shepherds and the wise men. We talk about Angels. We talk about Elizabeth and her son, John, who paved the way for Jesus.

But we don't talk much about Zechariah. It might be because he doesn't talk much in the Scriptures. We first see him early in Luke when he's in the Temple and the Angel Gabriel visits him to tell him he'll have a son, John, who will pave the way for the Savior. Zechariah has a moment of doubt, for which he's left mute until his son is born.

After John is born, Zechariah speaks. His eloquent words are a praise to God, and a foreshadowing of what's to come. Then his story is done. He's not there long, but there is plenty to learn from Zechariah because, indeed, it seems l…

'Gracepoint' mystery finds an ending

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"It's a simple truth Miller. Anybody's capable of murder given the right circumstances." — Det. Carver, "Gracepoint"

Sometimes the ending to something is the gut-punch moment. It's something that can only happen once. Upon a second viewing, the power and intensity isn't there because you've seen it before. I remember the first time I saw "The Mist," an adaptation of Stephen King's novella. The ending was tragic and haunting. It was a kick in the gut. When I've seen the movie again, it hasn't been the same — how could it be.

That was how I felt about "Broadchurch," a British crime mystery that sucked me in last summer. It was a slow burn story of the death of a boy in a small town and the quest to solve his murder. Except that it wasn't really a crime drama. Sure, there was a crime and an investigation. But the power of the show was its relationships, and the damage done when the case was solved. The finale of…

Now Playing

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

The Homesman
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, and Meryl Streep
About: This is an odd movie. It's part period piece and part western. It was also clearly a passion project for Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay and directed the film in addition to starring. I was expecting something deep and meaningful — and maybe it was for someone — but what I got was an odd film that was quite depressing. It's set on the frontier prior to the Civil War. Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) is a single woman trying to make her way in the west. All she wants is a husband and to build a family and a life. But that doesn't seem to be in the cards. Instead, she volunteers to take three women (Gummer, Otto, Richter) home who've gone mad thanks to the hardship of life on the frontier. She recruits a criminal (Jones) to help her in the task, and they form an unexpected friendship. I believe the movie w…

NFL Picks, Week 15

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We've hit the home stretch of the season. I picked up two games on Lindsay, but she's still within range of winning at Lindsay +5. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Week 15:
Cardinals +3.5 Over Rams (Cardinals)
Steelers -2.5 Over Falcons (Steelers)
Packers -5.5 Over Bills (Packers)
Bengals -.5 Over Browns (Bengals)
Texans +6.5 Over Colts (Colts)
Raiders +10.5 Over Chiefs (Chiefs)
Dolphins +7.5 Over Patriots (Patriots)
Giants -6.5 Over Washington (Giants)
Panthers -5.5 Over Buccaneers (Buccaneers)
Jaguars +13.5 Over Ravens (Jaguars)
Broncos -3.5 Over Chargers (Broncos)
Jets -1.5 Over Titans (Jets)
Lions -7.5 Over Vikings (Lions)
Seahawks -9.5 Over 49ers (49ers)
Cowboys 3.5 Over Eagles (Cowboys)
Bears +2.5 Over Saints (Bears)

Last Week: 9-7
Lindsay: 7-9

Season: 107-101
Lindsay: 103-105

Fall TV Roundup, Week 14

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In these posts I look at new shows on TV. I review the pilot and second episodes. If you don't see a new series listed below, please check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo (Premiered December 2)
About: Most channels on the dial are getting into original scripted programming, and Bravo is no exception. This is the latest series for the network, starring Lisa Edelstein as a self-help writer whose life falls apart. She's spent her career doling out advice about being a wife and mother, but when her marriage implodes her career might go with it, too. This feels like a show aimed at angry women who were wronged by men. I might not be the target demographic here, but this show made me feel more than a little uncomfortable — and not just because there aren't a lot of likable characters here. Also, Janeane Garofalo plays a very central supporting role in the first episode, and I guess in the first couple episodes, but she&#…

2014 Broncos Season, Week 14

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Week 14: Broncos 24, Buffalo Bills 17
Season Record: 10-3 (7-0 Home)
Key Play: In the third quarter, leading 21-3, the Broncos defense saw the Bills' offense, led by former Bronco Kyle Orton, driving for a score. In the Red Zone, Orton dropped back to pass, looking for Robert Woods. Instead, cornerback Chris Harris, Jr., stepped in front of the pass, picking it off to end the drive and stymie the Bills' hopes at a victory. The ensuing drive led to a field goal, putting the Broncos up 24-3 late in the third quarter.

Recap: It's time to talk about Peyton Manning. Last year was magical. Manning started with seven touchdown passes in the opener, and ended the season setting a new record. This season hasn't been as a magical. Manning has been fine, for the most part, but he accuracy has been noticeably off, especially on deep passes. He's made more mistakes, looked sloppier, and the Broncos have struggled more. Take yesterday. The defense was great, forcing three turnovers…

Mary's Song of Love

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"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, or he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name." — Luke 1:46-49

What do you think of when you think of Mary, the mother of Jesus? How do you picture her? By now everyone is familiar with the Nativity story, and our mind logically fills in the gaps based on our experience of the world.

I remember when I saw the movie "The Nativity Story." It was written by a Christians, based on the Gospel accounts, research of the period, and consultation with pastors. The goal was to give a moving and authentic portrayal of the familiar story of the birth of Jesus Christ. And I think the film accomplished that. But it also made me look at the story differently.

Previously, I never really thought that much about Mary, and who she was. In that movie, she's depicted as a young teen, d…

Fall TV winners and losers

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The fall is over, and a lot of new shows came out. Networks are pouring over the numbers and trying to re-group for the winter and spring. Here's some thoughts on what we saw.

Winners:
* Superheroes. The two hottest new shows of the fall were "The Flash," which brought record numbers to the CW and is a legitimate hit for that network, and "Gotham," the only thing that worked for FOX this fall. People still love Superheroes, and we have a lot more coming in 2015 and beyond.

* The CW. The network has had a solid fall. "The Flash" is the best show they've had, and it's even boosted the numbers for "Arrow." While "Jane The Virgin" hasn't lit up the ratings, it has been a hit with critics and it's a pretty well-done show.

* ABC and Shonda Rhimes. The fall is dominated by reality shows and football, but it was a trio of scripted shows that carried Thursdays. The Rhimes trio — "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal,…

The end of the 'Newsroom'

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"Needless to say I'm impressed by your indifference to talent, experience and credentials and I assume the absence of the words truth, trust, and professionalism in your mission statement was an oversight." — Charlie, "The Newsroom"

When "The Newsroom" debuted three years ago, it came with a great deal of flourish and publicity. Creator Aaron Sorkin, who gave the world great series in "The West Wing" and "Sportsnight," was coming off a great run in movies. Creating a show for HBO — especially one with his signature style and that cast — was a coup.

Now, the show is in the midst of its final (shortened) season, and the shine is off the apple. But, ironically, this might be the show's best season. I wasn't one of those who was instantly put off by "The Newsroom," though I agree that covering real-world news years after the fact felt off and, in some ways, like a mistake. But the second season showed improvement and…