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Showing posts from March, 2015

Winter TV Roundup, Week 13

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Winter has turned into Spring, and the new shows keep on coming. This is the final week for Winter TV premiers, but we'll transition to Spring TV premiers (some of which begin tonight) next week. As always, I review the pilot and second episode of new shows. If you don't see a new show listed below, check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
iZombie, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW (Premiered March 17)
About: This is the latest show from the creators of "Veronica Mars," and it's also based on a DC Comics property. DC Comics has been a boon for the CW — with "Arrow" and "The Flash" dominating the networks ratings, and a new spin-off of those shows being prepped for the fall. But, if you do into "iZombie" expecting a superhero show, you'll be disappointed. If you go in looking for "Veronica Mars," well that might be more accurate. "iZombie" is a show built around a plucky female heroine who's been dealt a serious bl…

Now What?

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"We'll survive, I'll show you how." — Rick, "The Walking Dead"

Well, that happened. After eight smoldering episodes, the back half of the season for "The Walking Dead" came last night. It was the culmination of a lot of slow-burning ideological battles, and it sets up the next challenge for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and our heroes.

But it's logical to wonder, now what?

Last night's episode brought the threat of death from the jump. Rick faced being banished for his fight. Glenn (Steven Yeun) faced a threat from Nicholas (Michael Traynor), Carol (Melissa McBride) preached revolution, and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) battled depression/PTSD/suicidal tendencies. But, ultimately, death was more scarce than that.

Glenn, despite being shot and left for dead by Nicholas, showed mercy. Sasha and Gabriel found solace in God — thanks in part to Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) timely arrival. Carol didn't get her revolu…

Palm Sunday

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"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.'" - Luke 19:41-44

As Christians, I think we're great at Christmas and Easter, but sometimes we gloss over these other events. Palm Sunday is a big day on the religious calendar, but sometimes I wonder if we spend enough time stopping to think about what it meant.

Palm Sunday is really the day that begins to separate Jesus -- and by extension Christians -- from other religions. Palm Sunday, and Jesus' actions, are the reasons devout Jews don't believe Jesus is The Savior.…

Secrets and Lies

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"We all have a stake in this, this is our country and the balance of power between the citizenry and the government is becoming that of the ruling and the ruled as opposed to actually, you know, the elected and the electorate." -- Edward Snowden, "Citizenfour"

"Citizenfour" is the documentary about Edward Snowden, the NSA analyst-turned whistleblower who blew the lid off a comprehensive government program to spy on, and collect information from citizens all over the world. It was a glimpse behind the scenes and a chance to hear from Snowden, himself. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary feature, largely due to the subject matter and the way it broke ground.

By now everyone has heard of Snowden, and there are a variety of opinions on him. Some hail him a hero, “Edward Snowden isn't a traitor. He reported the crime of conspiracy to deny citizens of their constitutional rights," said David Chiles.

Others believe Snowden is a traitor.…

Upcoming Releases — April

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As we move into April, the blockbusters start to appear. Here's a look at the new movies coming to a theater near you in April.

Friday, April 3:
Furious 7 — This is the latest installment in the "Fast & Furious" series, and the final for Paul Walker. It was delayed from a summer 2014 release, and people can't wait to see where these fun, popcorn action films end up next.

Woman in Gold (Limited) — This drama, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, is about a woman trying to recover property stolen by the Nazis during World War II. This looks like an interesting drama.

Friday, April 10:
The Longest Ride — The latest from Nicholas Sparks, this drama centers on a pair of love stories separated by decades. Undoubtedly tissues will be a must for this one.

Friday, April 17:
Child 44 — Tom Hardy tries to stop a serial child murderer behind the Iron Curtain. This looks like a serious and somber drama.

Unfriended — This is the latest low-budget horror film. This time it tu…

Now Playing

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

Cinderella
Starring: Lilly James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Ben Chaplin
Synopsis: Disney has taken to re-creating its classic fairy tales as live action tales. "Cinderella" hews closely to the animated classic of our youth, and it has a beautiful spirit and production. James, best known as Lady Rose on "Downton Abbey," and Madden, otherwise known as Robb Stark from "Game of Thrones," do a nice job in the lead roles. Blanchett is good as the wicked stepmother — a role that is given a bit more depth and explanation in this film — and Bonham Carter has fun as the fairy godmother. Minus the music and the score, this feels very much like a loving tribute to the animated classic, and the classic story, that has been a part of childhood for generations. The color pallet and performances are great. Kenneth Branagh does a nice job bringing the story to life. "Cinderella"…

Cultural Influence

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"Starbucks represents something beyond a cup of coffee." — Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO

Last week Starbucks began — and quickly ended — a new initiative. The brainchild of CEO Howard Schultz, the company planned to write "Race Together" on its cups and ask its workers to start a conversation about race with customers.

Here's what Schultz said in launching the program, “This is not some marketing or PR exercise. This is to do one thing: use our national footprint and scale for good.” Given some of his past comments, you have to believe Schultz means that. He also admitted in a video launching the program that many, even on his own staff, warned him against doing it.

The program ended almost as quickly as it began, mostly due to incredible criticism. Lost in that is the irony that, though not in the way intended, Schultz did start a conversation about race in America, or at least about the way we talk about race.

At First Pres, we have a program called God Ques…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 12

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We've seen a lot of new shows premier this winter, and more waiting in the wings as we transition to Spring and Summer. But only a few are really worth checking out. In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new shows. Don't see a new show from this winter below? Check out previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
iZombie, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW (Premiered March 17)
About: Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, the team behind "Veronica Mars," are back at it with the latest CW series, "iZombie." The show is loosely based on a DC Comics property of the same name, giving it a tie-in to the world of comics and superheroes. But those that loved "Veronica Mars" will discover that this series feels a lot more like that. It centers on a female protagonist — Liv (Rose McIver) — who was a promising young doctor with a fiancé and a bright future until she decided to attend a boat party. There, a designer drug caused a zombie outbreak and Liv…

Teetering on the Edge

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"If you don't fight, you die." — Rick, "The Walking Dead"

The penultimate episode of the season of "The Walking Dead" didn't disappoint. Well, technically Rick was kind of disappointing, but the show itself was quite compelling. And it leaves a lot of questions to be answered in next week's 90-minute finale. Chief among them is what will become of our erstwhile hero.

It has been said that if you spend long enough chasing or hunting something, you risk becoming the thing you hunt. For a long while our heroes have feared people — not walkers — for the threat they pose humanity's long-term survival. And rightly so. Time and again, people have been the biggest threat.

A common refrain during the back half of this season has been the idea you can be out on the road for too long. The implication being you are out there so long you lose a part of yourself, something you can't get back. And, of course, our heroes have seen plenty of that — fr…

The Madness of March

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"There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie." — Randy, "Scream"

March Madness is the name commonly given to the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament, and madness describes what happened the past four days as the field was whittled from 64 to 16. It was a lot of carnage. More than 11.5 million brackets were submitted on ESPN, and by Saturday afternoon there were no perfect brackets left.

Like Randy said in "Scream" of horror movies, there are typically rules to follow when creating a bracket. One of the common ones has been beware of the Twelve seeds. Typically each year a Twelve seed upsets a five seed. So those making brackets always look for the juicy 12-5 upset.

Accept this year, all four Twelve seeds lost in the first round. In fact, all four five seeds and all of the four seeds advanced, somewhat defying logic. Instead, the dangerous seed in this tournament was the three seed — two of which…

Broncos Offseason Roundup: Free Agency's Slow Burn

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The Broncos have made it clear through 11 days of Free Agency that they plan to play the long game. The team will continue to look for bargains in free agency, play the draft, and continue to develop young players.

Of course, that could make some sense. The team is loaded as some critical skill positions. Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Cody Latimer give them some weapons at receiver, with CJ Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, and, to a much lesser extent, Montee Ball giving them young depth at tailback. The rumor is that Ball is even trying to work to re-gain the No. 1 running back spot. Let's all quickly say a prayer that remains a rumor.

On defense, the Broncos will switch to the 3-4. That probably means DeMarcus Ware moving back to outside linebacker opposite Von Miller, with Brandon Marshall and a (maybe) healed Danny Trevathon on the inside. At corner, the Broncos return Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, Kavon Webster, and Tony Carter. And at Strong Safety they have Pr…

Chris Borland, CTE, and the Changing Face of the NFL

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“I don’t think even the top neurologists truly understand the risks and the connections [between football and brain trauma]. There’s just too much unknown for me, and there have been too many tragedies for me to be comfortable playing." — Chris Borland, retired San Francisco 49ers Linebacker

On Monday, Chris Borland shocked the 49ers, and the world, by retiring. He was coming off a sensational rookie season. He is reasonably healthy. He is 24-years-old. And he was virtually guaranteed to start and continue building his career.

But what mattered to Borland wasn't gridiron glory, it was his quality of life. That's something he didn't see in large supply if he continued his NFL career. So he walked away. He walked away having made a decent salary for one year, but being far from set for life. To Borland, life was more important.

This came on the heels of an episode of "The Night Shift," a medical show set in Austin, Texas, in which a high school football playe…

Culture Clashes

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"Why do we cling to bigotry? Because bigotry, plainly, is convenient. It is a near-effortless way to both elevate one's stature and make a pity grab in this culture of victims that we have become." — John Ridley

During the 2014 awards season, John Ridley shined. He was the screenwriter that brought "12 Years A Slave" to life. That film, based on a true story, told hard truths about America's past, slavery, and the struggle for equality. But that struggle didn't end with the Civil War.

This Spring, Ridley is re-igniting an important discussion in our country with his provocative new drama, "American Crime." The show premiered on March 5, and airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC. It is about a brutal crime, those who committed the crime, and the family of the victims. It's an intense, and in-depth look at how this crime effects so many people, and how they react to the crime. It's also a look at the people who committed the crime, and why t…

Welcome to Jurassic Park

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"The world has just changed so radically, and we're all running to catch up. I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but look... Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?" — Dr. Alan Grant, "Jurassic Park"

There are some movies that bring you back to a time and place in your life. For me, one of those movies is "Jurassic Park." I was 12 years old, about to begin sixth grade, when I saw "Jurassic Park." It's one of the first movies I have vivid memories of seeing in the theater.

When I see "Jurassic Park," though it's been 22 years since it was released and I've seen it many times as an adult, I'm still transported back to what it felt like to see it through my 12-year-old eyes. It was a movie full of wonder and excitement, something I'd never seen before. Th…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 11

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

Monday Nights:
The Returned, Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E (Premiered March 9)
About: This show, based on the French series of the same name, explores a small town where people who died years earlier return, inexplicably and without injury or memory. They're also frozen in time at exactly the same age as when they left. The problem is, while the returned haven't changed, the world around them has. The first episode focused on Camille (India Ennenga), who perished four years earlier in a bus accident. She returns to see her family has fractured. Her parents aren't together and her identical twin sister, Lena (Sophie Lowe), no longer looks familiar. In the second episode Simon (Mat Vairo) returns after dying on the day of his wedding, six years earlier. He finds that his fiancé, Rowan (Mary Elizabeth …

Blood in the Water

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"You keep the windows intact, you keep society intact." — Rick, "The Walking Dead"

Alexandria appeared like a place of promise. Now, it looks like a place of battle — or at least it will. You can feel it coming. Since they arrived, our heroes have had one eye cocked, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Carol and Rick have skulked around, preparing for the worst. Others have worked to build up the fence and been wary of what might be coming. Then, last night, the bottom fell out.

Carol figured out that Pete is abusing his wife and family, and challenged Rick to do something about it. More precisely, she challenged Rick to kill Pete.

While out gathering supplies for the fence, Abraham showed himself to have a great deal of courage and leadership. He took over the crew — putting another of our heroes in a leadership position.

And while out scavenging, Noah was killed, as was Deanna's son, Aiden. That will have repercussions. Glen looked shaken. Tara is injured. An…

Finding Strength in a Hopeless Place

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"When I heard Deo's story, all I could think is I would not have survived." — Tracey Kidder, "Strength in What Remains"

I have been on a kick lately of reading challenging books. Some people have wondered why I want to read stories that are tough, depressing, or both. I guess the answer is our worldview has to be challenged to be sharpened. Reading about injustice and suffering does both.

That's certainly true of "Strength in What Remains," a story of a man who endured tragic and brutal circumstances but found his way through. I was struck when author Tracey Kidder noted of Deo's story that he would not have survived. I thought the same thing. In fact, it is hard to imagine surviving such horror intact.

Deo was a medical student in Burundi, a small nation in Africa, in the early 1990s when ethnic genocide and civil war broke out. Many are familiar with the genocides in Rwanda around the same time, but things were just as bad in Burundi. After…

Broncos Offseason Roundup: Free Agency, departures, and a youth movement

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Free agency has begun, and while that meant big things for the Broncos the past two years — Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, TJ Ward, and DeMarcus Ware, among others — it's been a quiet week in Dove Valley. But that doesn't mean we haven't learned some things about where the Broncos are headed in 2015.

* Big Departures. The Broncos saw Orlando Franklin, Julius Thomas, Rahim Moore, and Terrance Knighton sign with other teams this week. That's four starters, and key contributors to the Broncos' success. The team will be different next season, that's for sure.

* The Broncos will be patient. Denver still has the core of some great players. Julius Thomas leaving is a blow, but the Broncos' big offensive pieces — Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Peyton Manning, CJ Anderson — are still there. This isn't a poor offense by any stretch of the imagination.

* The Broncos believe in their young players. At present, the Broncos only have two offensive linemen set in start…

Early days of Free Agency

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Free agency has been going strong for a week. Of course the NFL would tell you it began Tuesday, but a legal tampering period — during which a number of big contracts were negotiated — began last Saturday. And what a week it's been. Below I'm going to look at some winners, losers, and question marks.

Winners:
* The Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks were one bad play call away from being back-to-back Super Bowl champions. And you know what, it's not hard to see it happening again. The Seahawks retained star running back Marshawn Lynch, a key cog in their attack, then busted the off season wide open by trading for Jimmy Graham, the second best tight end in the league. That gives the Seahawks a legitimate threat in the receiving game, which is only going to make Russell Wilson bloom a little brighter.

* The Indianapolis Colts. The Colts jumped off the free agency period with a bang, signing running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Andre Johnson, and a host of defensive players. Th…

Now Playing

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

Chappie
Starring: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Yo-Landi, and Ninja
Synopsis: Filmmaker Neil Blomkamp has carved out a niche for himself by making unique sci-fi films. His debut feature, “District 9,” drew legions of fans and earned a Best Picture nomination. It raised a number of interesting social and political themes — whether on purpose or by accident — and looked like something unique and original. He’s continued to try and fill that pattern — first with “Elysium,” which bowed during the summer of 2013 and now with “Chappie.” His latest film, which opened on March 6, is ambitious. It has a name cast and a seemingly high-minded premise — police in South Africa using robots to reduce the crime rate. But in reality, the film is a series of uninteresting vignettes about teaching a robot to behave coupled around some ridiculous action sequences. It has colorful, but uninteresting characters and the promise…

Breaking Barriers

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"I don't care if they like me. I didn't come here to make friends. I don't even care if they respect me. I know who I am. I've got enough respect for myself. I do not want them to beat me." — Jackie Robinson, "42"

"42" is an excellent film that chronicles the story of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball's color barrier. It's also about Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, who stood up for Robinson, and more importantly stood up for what he believed in.

Rickey was determined to facilitate the breaking of the color barrier, and he remained steadfast in his support of Robinson despite pressure from other owners. This is something that is depicted in "42." Consider this exchange with the owner of the Phillies:

Branch Rickey: You think God likes baseball, Herb?
Herb Pennock: What - ? What the hell is that supposed to mean?
Branch Rickey: It means someday you're gonna meet God, and when he inquires as to why you d…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 10

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

Monday Nights:
The Returned, Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E (Premiered March 9)
About: This is the latest drama from A&E, which was adapted for American television by Carlton Cuse, who does "Bates Motel" for the network. The backstory of the show is complicated. It's based on the French series "The Returned," and it is about a small town where people magically come back from the dead years after they perished. The returnees are unchanged, and they have no memory, seemingly, of what happened to them. This might sound familiar, because it's also somewhat close to the premise of the ABC drama "Resurrection," which debuted to banner numbers last Spring and has wilted on the vine ever since. I have the same concerns about "The Returned." When "R…

Paradise Lost

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"We'll make it work. If they can't make it, then we'll just take this place." — Rick, "The Walking Dead"

Alexandria looms like an oasis in the desert. It's a beautiful city with supplies, running water, houses, and cocktail parties. It's what the survivors we've followed on "The Walking Dead" have been looking for all the time they've been on the road.

Why, then, are they so skeptical? Why do they secretly believe it's a trap? Why do they worry about becoming soft? Why can't they accept it?

A big theme in this second half of the fifth season has been the idea that you can be out on the road too long. Glenn voiced this concern early in the second half. Rick has commented, more than once, that people are the real threat. And Daryl asserted on Sunday that the longer people are on the road, the more they become who they really are.

If that's the case, is it possible that our heroes have been on the road too long? They&…