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Showing posts from April, 2015

Now Playing

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

The Longest Ride
Starring: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston, and Alan Alda
Synopsis: By now, audiences have certain expectations when they see a film is “based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.” The romance author has 10 of his novels adapted into films in the last two decades. They are reliable stories of love and loss. And in some ways, they’ve become predictable. Two people have to overcome obstacles to be together — often coming from different worlds — only to see their romance come apart. Their happy ending can be curtailed for a variety of reasons, but the most common is a death. “The Longest Ride” has a lot of the familiar themes and set ups of other Sparks adaptations, but it’s fair to say this might be the most hopeful of his stories yet. Even if it does follow most of the familiar path. This film is directed by George Tillman, Jr. — best known for “Men of Honor” and “Faster” — and based on a script …

2015 Broncos Offseason: Draft Preview

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The off-season keeps on moving. Voluntary mini-camps have begun, the schedule has been released, and Peyton Manning has already started refuting that this will be his last season. What's next?

The NFL Draft, of course. The Draft begins tomorrow night, and with 10 picks and lots of needs, the Broncos are hoping to make the most of the draft. Let's look at some areas that need some help in order of the priority I think it should be.

1. Offensive Line
* The need here is obvious, as the Broncos have a 39-year-old quarterback, a strong desire to run the ball, and only two guaranteed starters. On the wish list first has to be a Right Tackle, but a good Left Guard and Center would be nice, too.

2. Defensive Line
* The current starting three are Derek Wolfe, Sylvester Williams, and Malik Jackson. Yeah, I'm not totally sold either. Aside from Wolfe (who has some health issues in the past), this is an unproven group.

3. Linebacker
* The starters are Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware outsid…

Spring TV Roundup, Week Four

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In these weekly posts I look at the new offerings this Spring, reviewing the pilot and second episode of each new series. If you don't see a new show from this Spring below, please check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Star Talk, Mondays at 11 p.m. on National Geographic Channel (Premiered April 20)
About: This is the latest talk show, mixing a fusion of science and pop culture. Neil DeGrass Tyson, America's astro-physicist, hosts the show, which is a take off on his long-running radio show. If you take it for what it is, "Star Talk" is an interesting way to fuse science with pop culture, and maybe get more people interested in science. The first episode took a hard look at what we can learn from the world of "Star Trek." But this is a bit dry for a TV show. It feels very much like a radio show that's being filmed. That means it will live of die by the subject and the guests. The pilot episode had interesting moments, but it was a dry watch.
Pilot Grade:…

Upcoming Releases — May

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Summer is here folks, at least at the movies. The Summer Movie Season begins in May, and May begins on Friday. Here's a look at the blockbusters and sleepers coming during the first month of summer movies.

Friday, May 1:
Avengers: Age of Ultron — The first "Avengers" movie set Box Office records, and I expect more of the same from this sequel. The movie opened overseas last weekend and it's already made more than $200 million. This is a big movie, with a big cast, and big expectations.

Far From the Maddening Crowed (Limited) — This is the anti-"Avengers." It's a period piece based on a Thomas Hardy novel starring Carey Mulligan.

Welcome to Me (Limited) — This off-beat Kristen Wiig comedy has drawn some good reviews. It's a chance to see a talented lead actress stretch herself in a comedy/drama with a unique take.

Friday, May 8:
Hot Pursuit — Summer is always a time for big comedies, and this is the latest. Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara headline…

Food Challenge

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"SNAP is a critical anti-hunger program that feeds millions of low income Americans, including children, veterans, and seniors who would not otherwise have the resources to buy groceries." — Dan Maffei

A few years ago, I was struck by something Cory Booker — then-Mayor of Newark, New Jersey — shared on Social Media. He took on a challenge of living, for a week, off only food bought for the amount people on the SNAP program get. That amount is $29 dollars per person, per week. It equates to $1.38 per meal (three meals a day, seven days a week). That's not a lot of money. In fact, you can't get much with $1.38, and you can't get a lot of food for $29 in a week.

I admired Booker's commitment to the challenge and effort to bring awareness to the subject. I've since seen many others try to do the same thing. Most recently, it was Gwenyth Paltrow. In Paltrow's case, most of the media attention veered away from a discussion about poverty and more toward moc…

An Odd Farewell

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"It's a beautiful day to save lives." — Derek Shepherd, "Grey's Anatomy"

Last night "Grey's Anatomy" bid farewell to a beloved core character, Derek Shepherd. It was a big move, and it's led to some mixed emotions. But what struck me was that it felt like a strange choice, executed in an odd way that belies the rudderlessness of the season and, perhaps, a sign it's time to seek an exit strategy.

The season has felt jumbled. A few big story lines — April and Jackson's baby and Dr. Herman's brain tumor — populated the first part of the season, but have since been wrapped up. Since then, the season has felt disconnected. No where has that been more clear than in the storyline for Derek and Meredith, the central couple in the show.

Their relationship seemed to fracture in the first half of the season, culminating with Derek leaving for Washington, D.C. Then he was MIA for several episodes, only to return when Meredith suspected he…

Secrets and Lies

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"We're getting her ready to find out who we really are; who she really is and that's going to break everything open, will change everything, but it's going to take time." — Elizabeth Jennings, "The Americans"

The explosive third season of "The Americans" wrapped up on Wednesday, and it didn't disappoint. It's been a dark, unsettled season, so it makes sense that the show would end in a way that leaves you wondering what will become of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings when the show returns.

It's easy to forget, but when "The Americans" began, Philip was on the fence about keeping up this life. He and Elizabeth have gone through peaks and valleys, but the focus of this year has seemed to be on the cost of leading the lives they do. They've examined the cost in terms of what it does to them as individuals, but also the collateral damage done to Paige, their daughter.

The finale brought all those things to a head. Forced to…

Now Playing

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

True Story
Starring: Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Felicity Jones
Synopsis: As a society, we seem obsessed with true crime stories. We have documentaries that examine crimes. News magazines on TV often look in-depth at cases. And some of our most famous non-fiction books, like Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” take a harsh look at real crimes and the people responsible for them. “True Story” is a true crime story that’s based on a journalist — Michael Finkel — and the subject of his book — Christian Longo. It is about the crime, but more importantly it’s about the author, his subject and what’s motivating his search. In society, we often seem to focus on true crime stories as a way to understand evil in the world. The more normal someone appeared before they committed these acts, the more we try to understand why. In some ways, exploring the people responsible for these acts are a means of trying to understand something unlikeable or …

Broncos Off-Season Roundup — Scheduling a Season

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It's the middle of April, and games don't begin for months, and don't start counting for even longer. But the NFL keeps churning out news, dominating headlines, and whetting appetites for the season to come. On Tuesday night, that was the release of the official schedule.

Some have complained that the schedule release is meaningless. Granted, we've known who the Broncos would play — both home and away — for months. But we didn't know when the games would happen, or in what order. And that makes a big difference in forecasting. That's why people care about the Schedule Release and why, arguably, the Schedule Release matters.

So what did we learn from seeing the Broncos' schedule? Here's a few of my takeaways.

* First, it seems most feel this is the Peyton Manning farewell tour. He gets to go back to Indianapolis, he gets to play a lot of big contenders, and he squares off against Tom Brady, again, and Aaron Rodgers in his (presumed) final season.

* The …

Spring TV Roundup, Week three

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The glut of new shows is slowing to a trickle. It's late in the broadcast season, and we're a little early for the mad rush of summer. Instead, we're left with a few entries to ponder. In these posts, I review the first and second episodes of new shows. Don't see a new show below, check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Your Family or Mine, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on TBS (Premiered April 7)
About: TBS uses the tagline "Very Funny" in its marketing, but it's struggled to launch new sitcoms and keep them on the air. "Your Family or Mine" feels like the kind of show that could work and find a niche on TBS, but it also feels like a bit of a retro sitcom built around a premise that's kind of a gamble. The central couple — played by Kyle Howard and Kat Foster — are the everyman couple trapped between two eccentric families. In the pilot we meet Howard's family, and all the awkward drama that comes with that. The second episode showcased Foster's…

Reality Bites

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"I promised you freedom and justice. You can't have one without the other." — Daenerys, "Game of Thrones."

When she said she intended to rule, Daenerys likely had a clear picture in her mind of what that meant. If Sunday's episode is any indication, that picture hasn't played out as she hoped or expected. That's because you can idealize and believe something, but that doesn't make it happen.

Daenerys spent a bulk of the middle part of "Game of Thrones" as a fledging leader and liberator. She is practicing to be queen. She felt like she had a conception of what it was like to rule. She felt that when she got her chance, she could operate by her rules and be all right. But that is foolish thinking in the Seven Kingdoms and, as it turns out, in the East, where Daenerys built her new empire.

Ned Stark, in the first season, thought he could lead and follow his strict code of honor, too. He thought doing the right thing would be respected, …

Tebow Time in Philly

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"Just in terms of the skills Tebow has exhibited on the field, does he fit as a possible quarterback in Kelly’s vaunted offensive scheme? Yes. And no. And, more than anything: It depends." — Bill Barnwell, "Grantland" writer.

The last NFL jersey I bought was a No. 15 Denver Broncos Tim Tebow jersey. I wore it for the better part of two seasons, then the dream ended. Tebow was traded to the Jets and, not long after, found his way out of the NFL.

After three years of Peyton Manning — including a Super Bowl berth — it could be easy to forget what Tebowmania was like. But I was a fan in college, and one of the few who was elated when the Broncos drafted him in 2010.

That first season only saw glimpses — mostly at the end of the year, when the corpse of the Kyle Orton-led offense had collapsed, leading to the implosion of the Broncos. The following year, Tebow got his chance to lead, and he did it well.

The Broncos were, at times, a chore to watch. But Tebow was electr…

The state of TV comedy

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For years now, Cable has understood that the traditional half-hour comedy has changed. "Nurse Jackie" wins awards, but it's hardly a chuckle fest. "Louie" is considered a revelation, but it wouldn't work with a laugh track.

You could argue that the best "comedies" throughout the history of the medium have woven in dramatic moments. But now, it seems the "comedies" that get award nomination and attention look more like mini-dramas with some humor sprinkled in.

Of course, the best dramas have known how to lighten the mood from the beginning. "The West Wing" was idealistic, patriotic, and deeply moving. It was also sometimes the funniest show on TV. And it's not alone. You can cry through both pain and laugher, and the best shows know how to get you to do both — often in the same episode.

But while the nature of "comedies" has largely changed all over the TV landscape, on networks its remained a staid formula. There…

Broncos Off-season Update: Reading the Tea Leaves

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We've hit that point in the off-season where there is little happening — at least for two weeks until the NFL draft. Most of the big free agent pieces have been taken off the board, teams are managing the salary cap and finishing their big scouting.

Undoubtedly that's left two big priorities for the Denver Broncos:

* Sign Demaryius Thomas to a long-term deal. Everyone says the negotiations are ongoing. Most suggest this will happen, and before the season. But the longer it drags on, the more nervous I get. DT wasn't at Duke, and he's not at the OTAs right now. I understand that, and it makes sense since he's not under contract yet, but it's not a great sign of things to come.

* Draft some help on the line. Both the Broncos' offensive and defensive lines are works in progress. Their few free agent signings have crystalized that. The Broncos need some help on the line, and hopefully that comes in the draft.

Those things aside, there are a few interesting thi…

Now Playing

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

Furious Seven
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludicris, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell, Jordana Brewster, Jason Statham, and Dwayne Johnson
Synopsis: Back in the summer of 2001, a little movie called “The Fast and the Furious” was released. It was a simple story of an undercover cop infiltrating a group of car enthusiasts who happened to be criminals. You can almost imagine the pitch — a “Point Break” with street racers. It was a good, entertaining film. It was the kind of movie made for summers. Now nearly 15 years and six sequels later, it’s incredible to think of the franchise that was born of that little film. It’s a franchise that has made household names of its stars — particularly Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Their mix-matched buddy routine is a big part of what made the films so great. The sum was greater than its parts. When Walker died unexpectedly during the filming of “Furious Seven” it changed the traj…

Leaving Harlan Alive

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"I think the only way to get out of our town alive is to never been born there." - Boyd Crowder, "Justified"

Endings are tricky. For every beautiful series finale, you get a “Seinfeld” finale. One that sticks in the craw of fans, one that doesn’t make sense, one that doesn’t fulfill the weight of fan expectation. The producers of “How I Met Your Mother” know that feeling. Ditto for the producers of “LOST,” who still, to this day years later, engage angry fans on Social Media.

Thankfully, the producers of “Justified” won’t have that problem. After six seasons and 78 episodes, the FX series based on an Elmore Leonard short story came to an end. After an explosive and engaging series, it was hard to know what to expect going into Tuesday night’s swan song. I think it’s fair to say it was unexpected and beautiful. And as it has from the beginning, the series finale came down to Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).

After getting into the …

Spring TV Roundup, Week Two

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So many shows, so little time. The spring has brought plenty of new offerings — including a bevy of new streaming shows. But how many are worth your time? In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new shows. Don't see a new show below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Weird Loners, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on FOX (Premiered March 31)
About: This is FOX's latest attempt at a sitcom. For its first two episodes, "Weird Loners" was given the prime spot behind "New Girl" that was occupied by bubble sitcom "The Mindy Project." The latest comedy — centering on four aloof loners in their 30s looking for love and/or connection — failed to find an audience. And for good reason. The pilot was dry and wildly uneven. But it offered a faint glimmer of hope in a last act bit at a wedding that offered the only genuine laughs and smiles of the episode. I had wondered if the show would build on that or be more like the first half of the pilot…

Watch the Throne

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"I didn't do it for you. I did it for the seven kingdoms." — Varys, "Game of Thrones"

On Sunday night TV's best series returned for its fifth season. "Game of Thrones" has become a phenomenon, reaching even more of the culture as a TV show than it did as a series of novels from George R.R. Martin.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons for that. It's a sprawling fantasy epic. There's a lot of fantasy elements to the show, and a lot of directions in which it could go. For me, the most fascinating part of the show hasn't been the White Walkers, dragons, or other fantasy elements — it's been the people and the political intrigue.

Arguably the two most popular shows on TV are "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead." Both shows have dystopian or fantasy elements, but what unites them both is a complex ideology. They're really about the nature of man, the nature of society, what's worth living for, what's…

Grace vs. The Law

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"You have these rules, and you think that they'll save you." — The Joker, "The Dark Knight"

In our Sunday School class lately we've been studying the book of Philippians. There's something amazing about the way he lays out faith in the book, and something challenging, too.

The third chapter, which we looked at Sunday, focuses on the idea of grace — God's free gift to us — versus the law, and the ways we try to "earn" righteousness for ourselves. Of course, we know that's a fool's errand. But something in us is always trying to go that way.

One of the questions prompted by the study was what things have we put our faith in — or seen others put their faith in — that turned out to be "rubbish?" Most modern Christians understand works doesn't get us to salvation, but it can be easy to put our faith in people — like ministers or leaders — or institutions — like Christian college or churches — and be let down.

I think that…

The Speed of Connectivity

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“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” — Eric Schmidt

I had the chance to attend a conference this week about the growing world of mobile devices and mobile advertising. It was a fascinating and challenging experience, but it was also a time that made me think. In 2014, searching and connecting to the Internet via mobile devices (phones, not tablets) surpassed all other ways of connecting to the Internet. By 2016, it's expected that mobile device connection will double that of all other modes of viewing the Internet.

A couple other statistics that caught my attention:
* The average person looks at their mobile device 150 times per day.
* Those under 25 spend more time on Apps, but have fewer of them.
* Those over 25 have more Apps on their phone than younger peers.
* There are 7 billion people on the planet. 5.1 billion people own cell phones. 4.2 billion people own t…

Summer Movie Preview, Pt. 2

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Summer movies are just about upon us. It's a magical time of year, full of possibility and plenty of escape options from the long, hot days under the summer sun. Yesterday I looked at a couple to watch for in May and June. Today, we'll look for some gems in the dog days of July and August.

July Releases:
Minions (July 10)
I wasn't a huge fan of either "Despicable Me" film, but the Minions — who doesn't love the Minions. And now, they get their own movie. The trailer looks adorable, and children everywhere are in desperate need of a new animated feature. This could be the best of the lot.

Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation (July 31)
This is the fifth installment in the series. Normally that would be a concern, but since the third and fourth were the best films in the series, I'm intrigued. The first trailer for this movie didn't look great, but you can never count out "Mission Impossible." After the highs of "Ghost Protocol," how can yo…

Summer Movie Preview, Pt. 1

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Sure, it feels like Spring just began, but in terms of the movies — Summer is just around the corner. The summer movie season officially begins with the first Friday in May, which is coincidentally on May 1 this year. Today I look at the first two months of the summer movie season — May and June — and I'll highlight five movies in those two months I can't wait to see. Check back tomorrow for a preview of July and August.

May Releases:
The Avengers: Age of Ultron (Friday, May 1)
The first "Avengers" film was great. Joss Whedon, long an incredible filmmaker with a unique voice, did a great job bringing this superhero team to life. It also broke Box Office records. I expect more of the same with this follow up, which expands the world, ups the stakes, and expands the scope of the Marvel universe. All of it with Whedon's unique style and voice. This is the perfect way to kick off the summer.

Pitch Perfect 2 (Friday, May 15)
The first "Pitch Perfect" was a sur…

The End Draws Nigh

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"Raylan Givens, Boyd Crowder, and Avery Markham are soon to converge, Mr. Vasquez. Like the aligning of the planets, if those planets carried guns and hated my guts." — Wynn Duffy, "Justified"

After six seasons, "Justified" is coming to an end on Tuesday. This week's penultimate episode set the stage for an epic conclusion. All the characters are coming together, and some kind of violent showdown looms.

How will it end? That's been the question since the season began. Of course, the series has already vastly outpaced the source material. The series is based on the Elmore Leonard short story, "Fire in the Hole." In that short story — the bulk of which is contained in the series pilot — the action ends with Raylan Givens killing Boyd Crowder.

It didn't go that way in the series, thanks in large part to the way Walton Goggins popped on the screen as Boyd. And for six seasons, Boyd and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) have been at odds, played…

Spring TV Roundup, Week One

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In these weekly posts I look at the new shows this Spring, reviewing the pilot and second episodes. And this last week brought a lot of new shows.

Tuesday Nights:
Weird Loners, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on FOX (Premiered March 31)
About: This is the latest sitcom from FOX, another quirky show about 30-somethings looking for love and connection. It's paired with "New Girl," and the tone of both shows would seem to to work well. That being said, the pilot is wildly uneven. There are some talented performers in this show — including Becki Newton and Zachary Knighton — but the pilot wasn't the greatest use of their talents or storytelling. Comedy pilots can be rough — you have to establish characters, build a world, and be funny in about 20 minutes. And the characters and set up for this show are slightly more complicated than most. That being said, I was all out on the pilot until the end, when they sat on a bench watching a wedding and re-enacting bad lip-reading theater. …

The Absence of a Plan?

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"He’s one of the best in the game, and he's one of the best people in the game. So from that standpoint, it's tough to lose him and to lose a friend." — Alex Wood, Atlanta Braves' pitcher

I don't write about sports other than the NFL much, especially lately. Though I was born in California and lived there for 31 years before coming to Colorado, my favorite professional sports teams are all over the board. I love the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Lakers, and Atlanta Braves. And it seems lately there is reason to question the overall plan for all three teams.

The Lakers are in the midst of a historically inept season without a clear path to resurgence in sight. The Broncos are in the midst of a middling off-season with an aging quarterback sucking up a good deal of cap space. And now there's the Braves. Today is opening day, but it already feels like the team is stuck in fourth place, out of the playoffs, with little hope heading into a long summer.

That was…