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Showing posts from June, 2015

Summer TV Roundup, Week Seven

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

Tuesday Nights:
Proof, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on TNT (Premiered June 16)
About: In this series a doctor (Jennifer Beals), who suffered a near death experience and lost a child, is asked by a dying billionaire (Matthew Modine) to definitively prove what happens after we die. It's an exploration of the after life, and in its own way, of spirituality. Beals is good in the lead role, and the second episode expanded the premise into more of what it will be like on a week-to-week basis. My guess is that the enjoyment of episodes will vary slightly on the case of the week. In the second episode, I liked the case of the week and I thought there were more poignant moments. While slightly different, this could be a nice compliment to the brand identity that TNT drama has cultivated.
Pilot Grade: C
Sec…

Summer Binge Watch — Scream Movies

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It's summer, and MTV is about to launch a weekly TV series based on the "Scream" movies. The series begins tomorrow night, so it's not too late to binge watch the films — for research purposes, of course. The original is 19-years-old, while the fourth film debuted just four years ago. Below is my rankings of the four films in the "Scream" cannon.


1. Scream (1996)
About: I have said before that "Scream" is one of the most important movies of the 20th Century. Some guffaw that notion, and that's fine. It's not everyone's cup of tea. But what the movie did — and the way it worked to transform the horror genre and become a piece of popular culture — can't be overlooked. It was a fascinating premise, and a movie that served as much as a commentary on culture and horror movies as telling a story itself. The performances are good, the formula works, and there's an interesting blend of comedy and horror. "Scream" might not be …

Punishment Pending

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"Cheating is not good, especially when you've got guys who are working their butts off for 365 days out of the year and one person cheats — whether it helps them win the Super Bowl or not, they still cheated and shouldn't be a champion." — Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos receiver

It's been months since the Super Bowl, we're on the eve of Training Camps beginning, and the Deflategate saga still hasn't been settled. The Patriots have been fined, and Tom Brady has been suspended. A giant report was released — albeit one that didn't make any truly definitive findings. And now Brady has had his appeal and we await a final sentencing.

The New England Patriots are Super Bowl champions, and no one will take that away from them. No matter how Sanders or others might feel. And at this point, while I still think cheating is deplorable, no matter how much you may or may not have benefitted, I don't see the point in continuing to re-hash this story.

It's…

Upon Further Review

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"The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control." — Simon Masrani, "Jurassic World"

Most of the time, no matter how I feel about a movie, I see it once in the theater. Of course, there have been some rare exceptions, but I'm not typically one of those people that goes over and over again. But with "Jurassic World," apparently I've become like those 12-year-old girls that helped "Titanic" make a mint back in the day, as I've seen the movie three times already.

But the one advantage to seeing a movie you've already seen again is that you notice different things. Or in my case, re-notice things I'd forgotten by the time the film ended the first time. So below are a couple of additional thoughts on "Jurassic World" after multiple viewings.

1. A Christmas movie? At the beginning of the film, when their parents are seeing Zach and Gray off at the airport, the movie plays "Have Yourself a Merr…

Upcoming Releases — July

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We're almost half way through the summer movie season and the blockbusters just keep coming. Here's a look at the blockbusters coming in July.

Wednesday, July 1:
Terminator: Genisys — This is the latest "Terminator" film, the fifth in the franchise. This one feels a bit like a re-boot, with a new Kyle Reese going back to save a new Sarah Connor from the same old Terminator. This has a good cast — including Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke — and looks like it could be an interesting twist on the familiar narrative.

Magic Mike XXL — This sequel to "Magic Mike" supposedly ditches the story for more dancing. The ladies are already getting excited.

Friday, July 10:
The Minions — I am one of the people that thought The Minions were the best part of the "Despicable Me" movies. Now they get their own feature film, which serves as an origin story.

The Gallows — This is a low-budget horror film aimed at bringing in teens during long, hot summer nights. This time i…

Summer Binge Watch Bonus — Seth Macfarlane films

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Seth Macfarlane has long been a fixture on the small screen, where "Family Guy" remains a cult hit. But his third feature film — "Ted 2" — drops tomorrow, so now seems like a good time to look at the two previous outrageous comedies he gave us during these long, hot summer months.

Ted (2012)
About: I will always hold a special place in my heart for "Ted." No, it's not because the movie deeply moved me, but rather because I saw it on the most important day of my life so far, the day I married my wife. "Ted" was the kind of funny, irreverent comedy that was the perfect tonic to cure wedding day nerves, at least for me. It was also quite entertaining. Macfarlane directed the film, and stars as the voice of Ted, a stuffed bear that comes to life. He had great chemistry with Mark Wahlberg, who seemed perfect in the role. There were a lot of great cameos and supporting performances too. I really liked Joel McHale as the obnoxious boss, which led to…

Summer Binge Watch — Jaws

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In these weekly posts I take a look at something you can binge this summer. Since the original is turning 40, and is the ultimate summer blockbuster, it's time to look at the cannon of "Jaws." Plus, at the bottom, I'll give you another sneaky entertaining shark movie.

1. Jaws (1975)
About: This was the first summer blockbuster, it's classic Steven Spielberg, and it's a film that's held up incredibly well over the years. There is a reason it's a classic. It's also fascinating to watch the making of documentary and realize how much of what makes the film Iconic was a fluke during production. Roy Schieder, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss are great in this movie. It's one of my all time favorites, and a must watch for me each summer.
Rating: PG
Verdict: Four stars out of four

2. Jaws 3-D (1983)
About: This is where the order starts to change. "Jaws 2" is a fine film. It's on this list. It's not the second best film. That honor, to me…

Summer TV Round, Week Six

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Summer is alive and well, we've surpassed "the longest day of the year" and June has brought a glut of new shows. But are they any good? Good question! In these weekly posts I look at the new shows of summer, reviewing the pilot and second episode. It's time to separate the wheat from the ever increasing amount of chaff. If you don't see a new show of summer listed below, check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Making the Mob, Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC (Premiered June 8)
About: This show is part cheesy re-enactment and part documentary, telling the real story of the rise of organized crime in 1920s New York. Ray Liotta — best known for "Goodfellas" — narrates the whole thing. The documentary aspect, complete with interviews, is somewhat interesting. The re-enactments are terrible, and there were more of them in episode two. If you are devoted to the Mob, this will be fascinating. Otherwise, there are other options.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

Tuesday …

The New Wild West

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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

The Internet has had a profound impact on our society. We have easy and ready access to all kinds of information. Social media allows us to connect with friends and loved ones a world away. Communication is wider, easier, and faster than ever.

But the flip side of every virtue is a fault, and the Internet is no different. In a lot of ways, it's an incredible jump in technological advancement and communication that has opened new frontiers, but left our laws behind. It's become the new Wild West, a legal quagmire.

Last week I experienced the negative side of the Internet — the place where ignorance and malice run free. A news story came out that involved people I know, and when I read the comments below it on Facebook and on the news site, I was appalled and saddened. One comment summed up the discussion for me,…

25 Years of Lifetime

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"I found an unopened box of chocolate today. You know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!" — Robert Benson, "A Deadly Adoption"

Lifetime has been making TV movies for 25 years, and to celebrate that milestone they released "A Deadly Adoption" on Saturday night. I'm not one to sit home on a Saturday and watch a Lifetime original film, normally, but I decided to check this one out. And I wasn't alone. You see, it's not every day that two bankable stars — in this case Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell — make a Lifetime original film. At least not intentionally — shout out to "Grace of Monaco" and Nicole Kidman.

We all know what to expect from these films. Often they're based on true stories. They have some recognizable faces from TV or days of yore. There's some cheesy lines, some ridiculous plot twists, and plenty of faux danger.

I suspect Wiig and Ferrell were familiar with the formula, and fascinated by these films, too. That&…

The Hunt is On

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"If I were like Hannibal, I would have killed you already, cooked you, ate you, and fed what was left of you to him. It's what he would do." — Will Graham, "Hannibal"

The story of Hannibal Lecter has been told and re-told many times by many people. His story appears in a series of novels by Thomas Harris. And those novels have been the basis for a number of films, sometimes multiple films covering the same ground.

Those novels are also, now, the inspiration for NBC's original series, "Hannibal," which is now in its third season. I have been a fan of the show since it began, and there are many reasons for that. I love the visual aesthetic, which I've written about before. I like the performances, pacing, and way the story is told visually. It's unique.

It's also unique for the ground it covers. I haven't read all of Harris' novels, but I have seen all the films. One of the things that always interested me is how Hannibal was or…

2015 Broncos Season — Early Roster Prediction

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The Broncos wrapped up OTAs and the first mini camps this week. Now they're on a break until Training Camp begins in July, followed by the preseason in August. Right now the Broncos roster has more than 80 names on it. By the time the season begins on September 10, it'll be down to 53. It's a long road to getting to 53, and the real work won't begin until preseason.

Still, it's never too early to start guessing. That's what today is — a guess about who makes the final roster. Of course, training camp, game action, and injuries will all be a factor. But let's start imagining who will comprise the 2015 Broncos' regular season roster.

Quarterbacks:
* Four on the roster — Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Zac Dysert, and Trevor Siemian

The Broncos carried three quarterbacks on the roster last season, and I think they do the same this season. Manning is getting older, and there are questions about whether Osweiler will be with the team next season. I think if …

Now Playing

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

Jurassic World
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Jake Johnson
Synopsis: In June 1993, Steven Spielberg delivered an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park.” It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. At 12 years old, this was one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater and going wow. Spielberg imbued the story with a child-like wonder that was a hallmark of many of his early films. When the dinosaurs first appeared on the screen, Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler weren’t the only ones who had their breath taken away. “Jurassic Park” will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason. When watching “Jurassic World” — the fourth entry in the interconnected film franchise — I couldn’t help but think I’m not alone in my reverence for the original. “Jurassic World” simultaneously introduces a new world, new characters and paves the way for a new franchise, while paying hom…

Summer Binge Watch — Firefly

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Earlier this summer Joss Whedon launched a billion dollar film in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." But before he was commanding the Avengers, Whedon was a master of the small screen. This week I'm looking at his one-season wonder, "Firefly"

Firefly (2002), 14 Episodes
About: When you describe a show as a "Space Western," it can be a tough sell. That description is simultaneously apt in describing "Firefly" and sells the show short. What also didn't help the show stick was the work done by FOX, which aired the episodes out of order and didn't give the show an incredible chance to take root. In fact, FOX didn't air the original pilot until mid-way through the show's run. That's a setback for anyone trying to build a world, especially a world as intricate and fascinating as "Firefly." I was a late adopter to the show — in fact, I didn't even watch the series until after I saw the wrap up movie, "Serenity," w…

Summer TV Roundup, Week Five

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

Monday Nights:
Making of the Mob New York, Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC (Premiered June 15)
About: This new series is part live-action re-enactments and part documentary, narrated by Ray Liotta. It's about the rise of organized crime in New York City in the 1920s. Many of the people explored here were also part of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," which chronicled this ground in a much more interesting way. The documentary part is somewhat interesting, but the whole project is bogged down by the re-enactments, which are poor. That kind of drags the whole thing down and makes it somewhat cheesy.
Pilot Grade: C-

Tuesday Nights:
Stitchers, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC Family (Premiered June 2)
About: "Stitchers" maintains the youth vibe of ABC Family while verging into a procedural mode. The show is about a group of …

Now his watch is ended

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"And now his watch is ended." — Saying of the Night's Watch, "Game of Thrones"

It has been a harrowing, brutal, and violent season on "Game of Thrones." The game is winding on, and the players are getting fewer. With presumably just two seasons — and 20 episodes — remaining, big chunks of story are being chewed through.

Each season the ninth episode brings tough deaths and battles. But usually the finale is somewhat more of a mop up moment. Not so this season. The final three episodes — featuring the battle at Hardhome, the return of Drogon, and the battle at Winterfell — have crammed a lot of plot in. And there's been far to many casualties.

Last night's finale was no exception. It was a bloody hour that marked a turning for a number of characters. Some found redemption, and some were robbed of redemption. Some were made to suffer, and others got what was coming to them. But no one got away clean.

Daenerys is, in some ways, back where she be…

Faith without works

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"They were reflecting a common misunderstanding propagated by many churches: belief is the evidence of grace." — Mark Labberton, "Called."

Over the past few weeks, as a class, our Sunday school has looked at the core beliefs of a number of different religions. It has been a great time of learning and discovering, full of a lot of interesting information. But the biggest take away, for me, has been the fact that each religion — though different in beliefs and practices — has a component of works-based salvation.

That's what makes Christianity unique — the concept of grace. It's our free gift from God, and something we can't earn. All that is required for salvation is faith. That makes Christianity special. But it's also a concept that's been abused.

As a church, we're looking at Mark Labberton's book "Called." One of the points he makes in the book is that Christians have become so focused on the idea of faith that they've …

How Spielberg created John Hammond's vision on screen

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"Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should." — Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Jurassic Park."

"Jurassic World," the re-imagining of "Jurassic Park," opened yesterday. It made more than $87 million on opening day, and is on the way to setting a June record. It's a great summer popcorn flick that's open-ended enough to jump start the franchise. In fact, star Chris Pratt has said he's signed on for sequels, so we can reasonably expect to see a few more.

It is a fine movie, and I enjoyed it. It's one of the better blockbusters so far this summer. But, at the same time, I can't help but think that writer Michael Crichton — who authored "Jurassic Park" — would be rolling over in his grave if he saw this latest film. That's because from the time Steven Spielberg adapted that book to the big screen, there was a fundamental misunderstanding of…

2015 Broncos Season — 1A and 1B

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As someone who checks on his Dynasty league lineup daily and recently bought a 2015 Fantasy Football ranking guide magazine — basically 162 pages of stats an analysis — I am ready for the season to start.

Listening to the Broncos interviews at mini-camp, I think they might be ready, too. Of course, we still have more than a month before training camp begins, and nearly two months before actual (fake) games resume. Still, it's not too early for some (over) analysis of the team's prospects. Let's look at some position groups.

Offensive Line:
This group suffered a huge blow during OTAs when left tackle Ryan Clady was lost for the season. That leaves just one defined starter — Pro Bowl right guard Louis Vasquez. During mini-camp, some of the other positions started to round into shape. Here's the other starters as they currently sit:

Left Tackle — Ty Sambralio (R) Left Guard — Ben Garland Center — Gino Gradkowski Right Tackle — Chris Clark
Of course, this isn't set in …

Now Playing

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Here's a review of the new movie I saw this week.

Spy
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, and Allison Janney
Synopsis: There are two staples of the summer movie season. One is the big budget, effects-driven blockbusters. The first month of the summer season was dominated by those type of films as “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “San Andreas” pulled down big numbers in May. The other staple of the summer is comedies, and “Spy,” which was released on Friday, fits that bill. Just as there are two staples at the summer Box Office, there are two staples in the canon of Melisa McCarthy. The first is the mild mannered character, featured in the small screen in shows like “The Gilmore Girls” and “Mike & Molly.” The other is the brash and crude lead, which she’s done in things like “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat.” The best part about “Spy,” McCarthy’s latest leading role, is that she gets a chance to do both in the same movie. …

Summer Binge Watch — Jurassic Park Films

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On Friday the summer movie season continues with "Jurassic World," the fourth installment in the "Jurassic Park" franchise. In order to get prepped for that, it's time to look back at what's come before.

1. Jurassic Park (1993)
About: Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, this was one of the big early summer blockbusters, and is one of director Steven Spielberg's best films. It's a film that's magical, memorable, and asks some bigger questions. The book is all about those bigger questions — namely what happens when we try to play God — and much of that central idea remains in the film. Of course, it also has some Spielberg touches. The film changes the ending, making it more upbeat. I still vividly remember seeing this film in theaters as a child. It has always been one of my favorites and it holds up well. I'm hopeful, based on the plot outline and trailers, that "Jurassic World" will remain true to the spirit and storytelling in…

Summer TV Roundup, Week 4

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Each week during the summer I take a look at the new shows and rate the pilot and second episode. If you don't see a new show listed below, please check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
UnReal, Mondays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime (Premiered June 1)
About: This series chronicles the behind-the-scenes action on a reality series that looks an awful lot like "The Bachelor." That's because one of the show runners, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, was a producer for "The Bachelor." The pilot for "UnReal" was, perhaps, the best I've seen this year. I thought the second episode slipped a bit in that it felt sort of repetitive at times, but it's still very good. This has been the best new show of summer to this point, and I'm excited to see where it goes. I like the work of Shiri Appleby in the lead role, and the bite that Constance Zimmer brings to executive producer Quinn. The first four episodes are now available on Lifetime's Website, so it's not to…