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Showing posts from January, 2015

Best Picture Nominees — The Grand Budapest Hotel

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In these posts I'm taking a look at the eight films nominated for Best Picture. Today's post is about the biggest dark horse — Wes Anderson's quirky comedy.

Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nominations: 9
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director (Wes Anderson), Best Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costumer Design, and Best Hairstyling and Makeup
About: What to make of the chances of "The Grand Budapest Hotel?" It was a movie that was released in March 2014 and just keeps hanging in there. It is typical of Anderson and his unique cinematic style. I don't think it's his best film, but it's certainly the one that seems to be getting the most attention and acclaim. At the Golden Globes in early January, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was a surprise winner as Best Musical or Comedy, beating out the favored "Birdman." …

Oscar Killing Roles

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The Academy Award nominees are out, most of the other awards have been handed out, and now it's just down to campaigning. This year, perhaps more so than other years, there are favorites in just about all the big categories. But, like in year's past, it's hard to imagine all the favorites winning.

Sometimes that's due to other nominees' work being more widely recognized. But sometimes it's due to the front runners subsequent project coming out and dumping on their awards season campaign.

In 2006, Eddie Murphy had a breakthrough role and performance in "Dreamgirls." Sure, the movie wasn't as great as the hype — but Murphy's work was. Usually known for his comedy roles, Murphy brought his acting chops to a more dramatic role, and Hollywood took note.

He won the Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Golden Globes, and won the same honor at the SAG Awards. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards and was perceived as a front…

Upcoming Releases — February

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We've hit February. While a few Academy Award nominated films from 2014 continue to leak out in wide release, we've pretty much turned the corner into 2015 original releases. February isn't typically a great month for new films to be released, and it looks like this year will be no different. But, by the way, a highly anticipated, possibly controversial "love story" makes its debut in time for Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 6:
Seventh Son — And so it begins… This film, based on a novel, appears to bring a fantasy element to Young Adult Fiction. Ben Barnes takes the lead position here, but he's flanked by a high profile cast — including Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges. But the trailers look awful, and the story seems pretty murky here.

Jupiter Ascending — Speaking of awful trailers and murky stories, this is the latest from the Wachowskis — who long ago made "The Matrix" and have failed to make a great film in the 16 years since. This film was b…

Lost at Sea

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"Some eat meat, some vegetarian. I do not expect us to agree about everything, but I would much rather have you believe in something I don't agree with, than to accept everything blindly." — Santosh Patel, "Life of Pi"

I think it was "The Matrix" that was the first movie where I really saw the influence of Post-Modernist thought. The Wachowskis, who made the film, included a lot of religious thought, images, phrases, and iconography in the film. It was intentional, and it was pervasive.

But it wasn't a particular religious view, rather they included pieces of Christianity, Hinduism, Eastern Mysticism, etc. to create a sort of theological stew for their worldview. At some points you could see Scripture verses, at other points there were literally characters — the Merovingian, for example — that refuted the typical Christian worldview. The film sought to be all-inclusive of religions and thought disciplines in creating its world. It was the embodim…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 4

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In these weekly posts I look at the new shows this winter, reviewing the pilot and second episode of each new offering. If you don't see a new show listed below, check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
The Nightly Show, Monday to Thursday at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central (Premiered January 19)
About: This is the latest show to land behind "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, and host Larry Wilmore is the latest "Daily Show" correspondent to move on to his own show. The show still tackles news and culture with a humorous slant, but it takes a different format and has a slightly different focus. The first week's episodes were very focused on African American people, issues, and perspectives. The round table discussion adds an interesting element, too. Monday's episode tackled the hot topic of the movie "American Sniper," which has been a big topic of conversation and a political hot button. I like Wilmore's style of commentary and his laid back d…

Super Bowl XLIX: Deflated Balls, Painful Press Conferences, and A Lost Game?

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"I feel like I've always played within the rules. ... I would never do anything outside the rules of play." — Tom Brady

The hype for Super Bowl XLIX began at the end of the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots are up big, so it was logical to look ahead. The hype began — the vaunted Seattle defense versus Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense. Would the Patriots succeed where the Broncos and Peyton Manning failed a year earlier.

Most people felt like it was two equal teams that would be meeting on the field. People were excited for a great and competitive game. We went to sleep on January 18 thinking about that matchup, and how it would dominate the next two weeks.

Then Monday morning came, and Deflategate began. As the information has come out — that the Patriots were found to have 11 under inflated balls in the first half of the AFC title game — the spiral has continued. And it won't go away.

Some have called for the Patriots to be ruled inel…

The Renaissance for Christian Movies

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“It is the idylic and unrealistic portrayal of life in some Christian movies that can make them ineffective in reaching unbelievers with a positive message.” ― Douglas Beaumont, The Message Behind the Movie: How to Engage With a Film Without Disengaging Your Faith

For a long time, I've struggled with Christian films. I think the biggest issue, for me, has been the fact that the Christian part — the testimony — has been strong, but the filmmaking hasn't matched that. In the Douglas Beaumont quote above, that's certainly a sentiment that's shared by many.

Seeing a "Christian Movie" released doesn't always get me excited. But a funny thing happened in 2014 — it feels like we might have turned a bit of a corner. While I didn't go see these movies in the theater at the time, I spent the last month catching up on some of the wave of Christian films that were released in 2014.

While Biblical epics made by big-time filmmakers — such as Darren Aronofsky's…

Best Picture Nominees — The Imitation Game

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The Academy Awards are approaching, so it's time to look at this year's nominees.

Movie: The Imitation Game
Nominations: 8
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Keira Knightly), Best Director (Morten Tyldum), Best Adapted Screenplay (Graham Moore), Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design
About: Every year there's a really good movie that gets a lot of Academy Award nominations that comes away with nothing, or at least hardly anything. This year, that might be "The Imitation Game." It's an interesting story that's well told. It has some good performances. It's well crafted and been well received. It garnered eight Academy Award nominations, but it's not a front-runner in any category. The film was also nominated for five Golden Globe awards but came away with no wins. It's hard to see it winning Best Picture, though it was a good film. In addition, it's hard to see it win…

Best Picture Nominees — The Theory of Everything

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The Academy Awards are a month away, so it's time to deep dive into the Best Picture nominees and review their chances.

Movie: The Theory of Everything
Nominations: 5
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress (Felicity Jones), Best Adapted Screenplay (Anthony McCarten), Best Original Score
About: "The Theory of Everything" is one of a handful of biopics that have dominated the Academy Award nominations this year. This film is about Stephen Hawking — going back in time to just before he was diagnosed with ALS, and tracking his marriage, early career, and how he got to where he is now. The film is really about its performances — particularly Redmayne, who gives a very interesting and physical performance. His performance earned him the Golden Globe earlier this month, which has some suggesting he's a serious challenger for the Academy Award, as well. While I think he's up among the top two or three, I think it will be a challenge for him t…

Now Playing

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

American Sniper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and Keir O'Donnell
Synopsis: Most movies centered on war focus on the battle at the front. You have the two sides, you have the key battle scenes and that, ideally, a big victory. There are battle scenes and victories in “American Sniper,” but that’s not the ultimate point. The film, about legendary Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, isn’t really about the action at the front. It’s about how a man who’s seen the horrors of war processes all that, and how he goes back to being a husband and a father. Kyle was nicknamed the “Legend” by his peers because of the shots he hit. He had the most confirmed kills in history. But as Clint Eastwood chronicles in this film, his biggest battle was letting go of all he’d seen and done. “Sniper” was a late addition to the Academy Award race. While it didn’t get a lot of nominations or attention at earlier award presentations, it stunned on Jan…

Death-Defying 'Gravity'

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When "Alien" debuted in 1979, it came with the tagline "In space, no one can hear you scream." It was a fitting tagline for a movie that was set in space and was also quite terrifying.

Last year, director Alfonso Cuaron also delivered a tough movie about space, offering perhaps a more daunting tagline — "In space, life is impossible." He also delivered a brilliant visual film and one that has a surprising amount of heart.

"Gravity" was, rightly, nominated for a gaggle of Academy Awards last year. It was a stunning achievement and a memorable film, clocking in just under 90 minutes. It featured stunning visuals and a great performance from Sandra Bullock and good supporting work from George Clooney. Most people that saw the movie were focused on what a stunning achievement it was — especially in 3D or in large format theaters. And it was. But it was also a movie with an incredible amount of heart.

It's easy to lose the narrative among all th…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 3

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In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new shows this winter. If you don't see a new show listed below, check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Eye Candy, Mondays at 10 p.m. on MTV (Premiered January 12)
About: This show is a murder mystery, but it's also got a vibe that resonates with recent gritty crime dramas like "The Following" and "Stalker." I would argue this is something different for MTV, and might do better at this formula than either of those Kevin Williamson shows mentioned. It also is based on an R.L. Stine novel, which means at least the first season should be somewhat tightly plotted. I liked the pilot for this show more than I expected. There were some interesting twists and turns, and I thought it built the drama and tension. The second episode, not so much. The second episode was flat, repetitive, and only packed a punch near the end. I still like some of the characters, and there is still a little something fascinati…

Championship Games in review

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The Super Bowl matchup is set — The New England Patriots will meet the Seattle Seahawks in the desert in Arizona. But how each team got there was a very different kind of journey.

The Seahawks won in thrilling fashion, despite setting themselves some huge obstacles. The team turned the ball over five times, trailed 16-0 at the half, and was down two touchdowns with three minutes left. But, as always, the Seahawks found a way, breaking the hearts of Green Bay fans with a recovered onside kick and a 35-yard bomb in overtime.

New England, on the other hand, dominated for 60 minutes, racking up a 45-7 win over the Colts to go to the sixth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. But, like many things in the era, it's marred with a bit of controversy. Today the NFL announced it is investigating the Patriots for deflating balls on Sunday, possibly to gain a competitive advantage.

If the Patriots are found guilty — and that seems like a big If at this point — it would result in a…

Broncos' week in review

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What a wild week it's been for the Broncos. And now it's time to see where the team is going next. After taking some days to process and think, here are my thoughts on a wild first week of the off season for Denver.

* The John Fox firing makes some sense. Last Monday I was incensed — after all Fox had a great record and won four division titles in four years as coach. How could he be fired? He wasn't the one sucking on the field, that was the players. But Fox had great regular season teams, but little success in the playoffs. In last year's Super Bowl, and last Sunday's upset against the Colts, the team didn't look prepared or like it wanted to win, and that's a problem. Plus, it seems now that there were some problems behind the scenes. Fox was awfully quick to want to exit, and already has a new job. It makes me think this was a long time coming.

* Peyton Manning might still have something left. The Broncos seem to want him back, and many have suggested …

NFL Picks, Championship Weekend

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We have arrived at Championship Weekend. Now it's time to see who gets into the Super Bowl. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Championship Week:
Seahawks over Packers (Seahawks)
* We saw this game in week one, back when both teams were healthy and Percy Harvin was dragging down the Seahawks offense. Seattle won convincingly, 36-16, so I see no reason they won't win again.

Patriots over Colts (Patriots)
* The Colts had a big win over the Broncos last week, but I didn't think they looked great. Receivers were open and players were in position, Denver just lost the will to win. Also, the Patriots pounded the Colts earlier this season.

Last Week: 2-2
Lindsay: 2-2

Playoffs: 6-2
Lindsay: 2-6

Season: 140-124
Lindsay: 130-134

Amazon's Pilot Season, 2015

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We've once again hit pilot season for Amazon. The Website has earned legitimacy, seeing it's original show "Transparent" win Best Comedy at the Golden Globes on Sunday. Now, the site is trying to build a network brand. And, as always, the pilots are available at www.amazon.com, where you can watch them all and give your vote as to which you'd like to see go to series. This time, Amazon is offering four dramas, two comedies, and one documentary series.


Documentary Series:
The New Yorker Presents
About: This series aims to bring the pages of magazine "The New Yorker" to life. In a lot of ways, news or documentary series is new ground for Amazon that brings them more in line with a premium cable channel, like HBO. And this is entering that territory in a new way. The half-hour pilot features cartoons, a short film, an interview, and a documentary piece based on a "New Yorker" story shot by Jonathan Demme. I didn't like all the segments here, a…

Now Playing

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

Selma
Starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, and Carmen Ejogo
Synopsis: In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down large portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In defense of the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said “our country has changed.” The rationale was that, in the years since the decision, we had progressed as a society, and the strict protections the law afforded were no longer needed. Many in this country probably didn’t notice that decision, or take much stock of it, particularly younger generations who weren’t around to see the struggle that led to the passage of the law in the first place. Regardless, the sentiment that our country has changed to a great degree is either a glass half full ideology, or wishful thinking. In watching “Selma,” the new biopic that shows three months in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his associates as they pushed President Lyndon Johnson to …

And the Nominees Are...

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The nominees for the 87th Academy Awards were announced Thursday morning. As always there were surprises and snubs, and now we're in for a long month of campaigning and debating prior to the ceremony on Sunday, February 22.

In the next few weeks I'll be looking at the eight nominees for Best Picture, as well as the nominees in other categories, in more depth, leading up to me making picks. But today, it's time to celebrate and commiserate.

Surprises:
* Whiplash rocked! This was my favorite film of the year, and it not only got a Best Picture nomination and the expected nomination for J.K. Simmons, already a presumptive favorite, but got five nominations — including in the Film Editing Category, which is key to the chances of winning Best Picture.

* Laura Dern nominated for "Wild." I didn't love "Wild," but I loved the work done by Dern. It was an important part that might be easy to overlook. It wasn't flashy, but it was solid, and it helped mak…

More Than A Game

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"Those who exalt themselves will be humbled; those who humble themselves will be exalted." — Matthew 23:12

"When The Game Stands Tall" is about a coach, a football team, and an important season. But really, it's not. The movie is far less interested in what happens between the lines than what happens in the lives of the young men who suit up for De La Salle High School, and it should be. That's because the film — based on the true life story — is told from the perspective of that team's coach, Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), and he was far more interested in the men his players became.

I am a big football fan and a sucker for sports movies, but what moved me most about "When The Game Stands Tall" wasn't the way the team rallied to win the title. They'd won before, in fact they were the most winning team in the history of football. De La Salle High School won 151 football games in a row. But it wasn't winning on the field that matter…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 2

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Winter is here, and so, too, are new shows. Hurray! In these weekly posts I look at the new shows of this winter. I review pilots and second episodes of new shows this winter. If you don't see a new show listed below, please check previous posts.

Monday Nights:
Eye Candy, Mondays at 10 p.m. on MTV (Premiered January 12)
About: This show is based on an R.L. Stine novel of the same name. Stine is known as the "Stephen King" of children's literature, and is famous for "Goosebumps," among other works. I have never read the source material, but given what I knew of Stine's work and the fact this show is on MTV, I expected something more mild. I don't mean that as a criticism. This show centers on a young woman, Lindy (Victoria Justice), who has had a rough life. Her sister was kidnapped right in front of her and, three years later when the show picks up, she's still trying to find her sister and help others find their missing loved ones. She's a …

2014 Broncos Season, Divisional Playoffs

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The season is over. Not for everyone, just for the Broncos. For the second time in three years, the Broncos lost their first playoff game at home despite being favored.

Divisional Playoffs: Indianapolis Colts 24, Broncos 13
Season Record: 12-5 (8-1 Home)
Key Play: On the first drive of the third quarter, trailing just 14-10, the Broncos faced a third down and five yards. Peyton Manning rolled out and fired a ball to Emmanuel Sanders, who wasn't able to get his second foot down before flying out of bounds. The pass was incomplete and the Broncos were forced to punt. The Colts went down and scored to make it 21-10, effectively putting the game away.

Recap: On Friday, during their weekend football previews, Tony and Mike on "Pardon The Interruption" suggested that if the Broncos suffered a big loss in the playoffs on Sunday, it would mark the end of the Peyton Manning Era. At the time that seemed like a bit of an overstatement. Manning is only one season removed from running a…

Predicting the Golden Globes

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Tonight is the Golden Globes, the second best awards show of the year. Below are some fearless predictions. But since the Golden Globes always seem to do the unpredictable, we'll take these with a grain of salt.

Best Picture, Drama:
Will Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Selma
* The critics are in love with "Boyhood," and it's hard not to praise the dedication and craft. But "Selma" was an incredibly powerful story that was beautifully told.

Best Picture, Musical/Comedy:
Will Win: Birdman
* I don't know if I think "Birdman" is a comedy, but it feels like a lock here.

Best Actor, Drama:
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne, "Theory of Everything"
Should Win: David Oyelowo, "Selma"
* Redmayne was great as Stephen Hawking, and it was a physical performance that sometimes feels more impressive. But I loved the way Oyelowo channeled Martin Luther King, Jr.

Best Actress, Drama:
Will Win: Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Should Win: Reese Witherspoon, &q…

NFL Picks, Divisional Round

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Last week it was a tale of two picks for Lindsay and I. I went 4-0, nailing all four games, while she went 0-4. The Divisional Round always produces at least one upset, the trick is knowing which game it will be. Let's see if I can take another big step to 11-0 in the Post Season. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Divisional Round Games:

* Patriots Over Ravens (Patriots)
This one is tricky. Baltimore looked great in beating the Steelers last week, and now they're a trendy upset pick. Given that, over the last 18 games, No. 1 seeds in the NFL playoffs are just 9-9, that seems even better. I was tempted to pick the Ravens, but I can't. I don't think you can say last week's game was definitive proof they've turned a corner. The Ravens split the regular season series with the Steelers, and the Steelers played without their best player and MVP, Le'Veon Bell. That's why I picked the Ravens for an upset. I don't think that's proof they're poised…