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Showing posts from August, 2015

A Tale of Two Endings

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"I don't intend Hannibal to be caught a second time." — Will Graham, "Hannibal"


Over the weekend a pair of series came to their end. In one case, it was long in the planning. In the other, it was a somewhat premature, but completely unexpected ending. The two series couldn't be more different, either.

The first finale was "Hannibal," which completed its third and final season on NBC. Creator Bryan Fuller has hopes for a movie, mini-series or fourth season at some point in the future, but for now it's over. This season followed the are of the "Red Dragon" novel more closely, at least the second half did. And the question was whether the series would provide closure.

It did. In an homage to "Sherlock Holmes," Will Graham found a way to eliminate Hannibal from the game by sacrificing himself. It was a violent and beautifully framed closing sequence, just like the rest of the series.

"Hannibal" was an interesting tak…

2015 Broncos Season — Preseason, Week 3

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The third preseason game is usually a regular season preview, and if that's the case, we have a great defense and work to do on offense.

Preseason Week 3: Broncos 19, San Francisco 49ers 12
Preseason Record: 3-0 (1-0 Home)
Key Play: On third and 2 from the 49ers 28, trailing 12-11, Brock Osweiler threw a bomb to the end zone to Jordan Taylor. The pass was incomplete, but drew a pass interference penalty, placing the ball at the one yard line. Juwan Thompson punched it in on the next play and scored the two-point conversion to give the Broncos a 19-12 win.

Recap: The Denver Broncos played starters for the first half. That's the last we'll see of them before the regular season opens on September 13 against the Ravens. On the one hand, at least no one was seriously injured. That's a plus. On the down side, the starting offense never produced a touchdown in the preseason. They only had a couple good drives. That's frightening. However, the starting defense has been great …

Upcoming Releases — September

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There are great times for movies, and there are terrible times for movies. September is the latter. There appear to be a few diamonds in the rough… but there's a whole lot of rough.

Friday, September 4:
The Transporter Refueled — About the best thing you could say about "The Transporter" franchise was it had Jason Statham. This re-boot doesn't have that. Happy Labor Day…

Friday, September 11:
The Perfect Guy — In honor of the date marking our nation's tragic loss, we have this upscale creepy thriller about a guy who has decided if he can't have the girl, no one will… Michael Ealy stars.

The Visit — This is about the worst visit anyone ever made to their grandparents house. On the bright side, this is kick-off weekend for the NFL, so the movie theaters might be irrelevant.

Friday, September 18:
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials — "The Maze Runner" is a set of popular YA books. I didn't really care for the first one, but this might be more interesting. Emp…

2015 Broncos Season — Roster Projections

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The Broncos play their third preseason game tomorrow, after which the first round of cuts will be made. Within 10 days, the roster will drop from 90 to 53. Below is a fearless projection about the final 53.

Quarterbacks: 2
* Peyton Manning
* Brock Osweiler

Running Backs: 4
* CJ Anderson
* Ronnie Hillman
* Montee Ball
* Juwan Thompson

Fullback: 1
* James Casey

Tight End: 3
* Owen Daniels
* Virgil Green
* Marcel Jensen

Wide Receiver: 5
* Demaryius Thomas
* Emmanuel Sanders
* Cody Latimer
* Andre Caldwell
* Bennie Fowler

Offensive Line: 10
* Louis Vasquez
* Evan Mathis
* Ryan Harris
* Ty Sambraillo
* Matt Paradis
* Max Garcia
* Ben Garland
* Michael Schofield
* Chris Harris
* Gino Gradkowski

Defensive Line: 6
* Derek Wolfe
* Malik Jackson
* Sylvester Williams
* Darius Kilgo
* Kenny Anunike
* Vance Walker

Linebackers: 10
* DeMarcus Ware
* Von Miller
* Shane Ray
* Danny Trevathan
* Brandon Marshall
* Shaquil Barrett
* Lerentee McCray
* Todd Davis
* Steven Johnson
* Lamin Barrow

Defensive Backs: 9

Now Playing

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

American Ultra
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, and Tony Hale
Synopsis: When we get to this point in the summer, the options at the Cineplex get dicey. There’s the holdovers from earlier in the summer and then a glut of cheaper options aimed at capturing the dollars of those looking to beat the heat. On the surface, that seems like what you’d expect from “American Ultra.” It’s an R-rated comedy farce about a stoner who turns out to be a secret government weapon. And he’s been activated. Hilarity and explosions ensue. All that’s true, but what surprised me was how into the story and characters I got as the movie unwound. “American Ultra” is a good way to beat the heat in the Dog Days of Summer, but’s it’s also surprisingly entertaining. Eisenberg is a unique actor with a unique set of comedic talents and timing. He’s been great in dramas, but he’s suited to these everyman kind of …

Summer Binge Watch — Coens, Pt. 2

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On Monday I looked at my five favorite Coen Brothers comedies. Now it's time for Dramas. In fact, this list contains my two favorite Coen Brothers films of all time.

1. No Country For Old Men (2007)
About: This is about as perfect a movie as you could hope for. It won Best Picture, and it should have. Even eight years later, it remains an outstanding example of storytelling. And I'd wager to say that this was the perfect kind of story for the Coen Brothers unique talents. It's a story of crime gone wrong. It's also a story that wrestles with the larger ideas of reconciling evil in the world. That, of course, is one of the more powerful themes in "Fargo," too, but I think they nail it a lot more completely here. And of course this is a film with three incredible performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. This is one of my all time favorite films.
Rating: R for strong graphic violence and some language.
Verdict: Four stars out of four.

2. Mi…

Summer TV Roundup — Week 15

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In these weekly posts I look at the new shows of summer (scripted fare). We're getting closer to fall, but the summer newbies keep on coming. I review the pilot and second episode. If you don't see a new show listed below, check previous weeks.

Wednesday Nights:
Ties That Bind, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on UP (Premiered August 12)
About: This latest drama from UP is about a cop, her family, and the two teens she adopts when her brother is sent to jail. It features Kelli Williams ("The Practice") in the lead role, with Luke Perry recurring as her brother. The first two episodes introduced the world and the characters. This is a hybrid show — part family drama and part case of the week. I thought the pilot was a little slow, but the second episode was a bit better. This is nice, family entertainment that fills the warm summer evenings.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C+

Thursday Nights:
Documentary Now, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on IFC (Premiered August 20)
About: This is the latest moc…

Summer Binge Watch — Coens, Part 1

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Some might argue it's a finite line, but I think there's two kinds of Coen Brothers movies — comedies and dramas. Often the comedies are black comedies that have some dramatic elements, but I like to make that distinction.

Since the second season of "Fargo," a TV anthology series inspired by the Coen Brothers' 1996 movie, is about to be released, it seems like a good time to examine the filmography of the brothers. So I decided to break it up into two parts (with my five favorite dramas listed Wednesday). Today, it's my five favorite Coen Brothers comedies.

1. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
About: "You know, for kids." This is a strange movie, and I mean that in the best possible way. It feels like a bit of a period piece, and you could also call it a Christmas movie in the same way "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie. I like the comedy here, I love the performances from Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. And it's just a fascin…

2015 Broncos Season — Preseason, Week 2

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Preseason Week 2: Broncos 14, Houston Texans 10
Preseason Record: 2-0 (0-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, trailing 10-7 with time winding down, quarterback Trevor Siemian led the Broncos on a drive. He connected with receiver Corbin Louks on a 26-yard touchdown strike to give the Broncos a 14-10 lead, the final margin.

Recap: Preseason is a time when you're hoping to see how players fare, work on weak spots, prepare for the season, and try not to get anyone injured. From that standpoint, the Broncos were mostly successful on Saturday night. It was a little troubling to see Shane Ray helped off the field, but let's hope it's not too series. It was a little disappointing to see that the first team offense struggled to move the ball and didn't score any points. But they'll get there. And Emmanuel Sanders is still missing, so there's that. But the defense looked good and the Broncos picked up another win, despite themselves. That's probably the real troubl…

Fantasy or nightmare?

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"God bless Fantasy Football. There are many things a man can do with his time — this is better than those things." — "The League"

Matthew Berry, chief Fantasy Football analyst for ESPN, wrote a book called "Fantasy Life." I haven't yet read it, but I understand that he tells a lot of stories of the way Fantasy sports is life for many people. I think I'm beginning to understand that.

I first tried Fantasy Football in 2009. A friend invited me to be in his league, and I thought — what the heck. The worst thing that could have happened was that I picked up Michael Vick and Tim Tebow because I thought they were cool players, and they guided me all the way to my league finals. Between that and an upstart running back named Matt Forte, I seemed to be fantasy gold.

When I look back now, I realize I had no clue what I was doing. But it was fun — and addictive.

In the past, I've added a few teams. And it's been fun. I am even commissioner of a lea…

What We Watch Matters

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“'I have the right to do anything,' you say—but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything'—but not everything is constructive." (1 Corinthians 10:23)

I have been watching "Hard Knocks" this season. I hadn't really watched it before, but I'm so down for football this year I decided to tune in. And I love it. It's hilarious and fascinating. But it's not exactly clean in terms of language. And my wife noticed.

During the second episode, she commented, "I don't know if you should watch this anymore, their language is so bad." At first, I brushed it off. Then I realized it was sort of impacting my personal speech.

I have always been dismissive of the idea that watching something impacts your behavior. I can watch a horror movie and have no desire to kill someone. I also don't watch movies and want to watch adult entertainment or model some of the lascivious behavior. But when it comes to language, I have …

Now Playing

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

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, and Hugh Grant
Synopsis: Based on the old spy show from the 1960s, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." takes the action back to the Cold War and tells the story of an American spy, a Russian spy, and the mission that unites them despite all their differences. Director Guy Ritchie ("Sherlock Holmes," "Snatch") gives this story a modern sheen and, judging by the way the film ended, hopes to build a film franchise. Audiences didn't flock to see the movie. I think it's in part because it's not as popular a classic show among new audiences and in part because the film lacks a defined star. It was also hard to tell from the trailer what the movie would be like. I liked "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." for what it was, and I could see future installments working well, too. I liked Cavill and Hammer in the lead …

Summer Binge Watch — Star Trekking

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Patrick Stewart — otherwise known as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard — has a new show, "Blunt Talk," which debuts on Saturday. In the first scene, there's a "Star Trek The Next Generation" reunion as Stewart shares the screen with Brent Spinner.

Given that, and the fact J.J. Abrams — who helped reboot "Star Trek" on the big screen in 2009 — will now do the same for "Star Wars." So it seems like now's a good time to binge your way through "Star Trek." There are 12 films, three different casts, and plenty of space adventures.

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
About: This is the best of "Star Trek" on the big screen. It features and iconic villain, a great story, and the best flow of the "Star Trek" films. It also features the greatest moment in the films, when Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) have to say goodbye to one another. "The needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few, or …

Summer TV Roundup — Week 14

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It's near the end of summer — school has started for many — but the new fall season is still a month away. That hasn't stopped networks from continuing to roll out new summer shows. In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new shows. Don't see a new show below, check previous weeks. (Note: given the rise in reality shows and cable networks, I'm focusing on scripted fare for the balance of summer).

Wednesday Nights:
Kevin From Work, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC Family Channel (Premiered August 12)
About: Workplace comedies are a staple of the sitcom world. "Kevin From Work" wants to be the latest hilarious entry. There were moments that were mildly amusing, but overall it just doesn't work. I think this wants to be the next generation of "The Office." It has the crazy boss, weird co-workers, and the unrequited romance between two co-workers — one of whom has a less than desirable boyfriend. That's a stock set up that should…

2015 Broncos Season — Roster Bubble

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The Broncos roster sits at 90 players. By the time the season starts, it will be 53. That means a lot of people are fighting for a couple spots. Below is a look at some of the key roster battles, and who I think has the edge.

Running Back: Six Contenders (CJ Anderson, Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson, Jeremy Stewart and Kapri Bibbs). The logic says the Broncos will keep three players. Thompson could make the roster at RB/FB, which skews the totals.
Bottom Line: I think the Broncos keep three. Anderson and Ball are in. The final slot will come down to Thompson and Hillman.

Wide Receiver: 12 contenders. I won't name them all, but I think the Broncos keep five. Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Andre Caldwell and Cody Latimer are assured spots. That means a lot of guys fighting for one spot. Being a returner will be key.
Bottom Line: I think this is a four-way battle between Bennie Fowler, Jordan Norwood, Isaiah Burse, and Solomon Patton. Fowler isn't a returner, but he…

Pre-Season Overreaction

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We've played one weekend of preseason football and already some dramatic proclamations are being made. One game. That doesn't count. And know we know everything. Here's a sample of what I've seen on the Internet:

* The Buffalo Bills have the best defense in the league, perhaps the best defense ever.

* Jameis Winston's release looks like Tim Tebow. He's slow, unaware and done.

* Ameer Abdullah looks just like Barry Sanders.

* Zach Mettenberger should be the quarterback in Tennessee.

Again, one game. Most players played only a handful of plays. Yet we're supposed to be taking all this as gold when it comes to the regular season.

The preseason serves a purpose. It allows coaches some game action to scout. It helps coaches find diamonds in the rough that can help their team win. But it isn't a solid gold prognosticator of the future. Especially after one game.

Does it give you an idea of who might be good? Yes. Does it tell you who might be bad? Yes. Just …

2015 Broncos Season - Preseason, Week 1

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The  Denver Broncos finally began the 2015 season with a 22-20 win over the Seahawks in week one of the preseason. It's a good start to what promises to be a good season.

Preseason Week 1: Broncos 22, Seattle Seahawks 20
Preseason Record: 1-0 (0-0 Home)
Key Play: Leading 19-13 deep in the second half, quarterback Trevor Siemian dropped back to pass and connected with Bennie Fowler on a 41-yard strike. The Broncos finished the drive with a field goal to go up 22-13 late in the fourth quarter, putting the game away.

Recap: It was a preseason game, the first preseason game at that, so there's no point in getting too crazy. That being said, coming out and getting a road win in Seattle is great no matter the circumstances. And it happened in a game where Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Owen Daniels, DeMarcus Ware, and Chris Harris, Jr. didn't play. It was also a sloppy game for the Broncos on Special Teams, so the fact they overcame that to get a win is great. …

The better detectives

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"Some mistakes last a lifetime. Don't let this be one of them." - Terry, "Murder in the First"

This summer there was a lot of buzz about "True Detective's" second season. The anthology series had lofty ambitious and the weight of a ton of fan expectations, but it fizzled with both. There was plenty of promise in the story -- featuring a murder investigation, corrupt cops and corruption in general in California. But it didn't come together.

On TNT this summer, "Murder in the First," the Steven Bochco drama, is going through its own second season. It doesn't have a lot of buzz or acclaim, and it doesn't have as high profile of actors. But it's doing a similar story in a much better way.

"Murder in the First" is its own kind of anthology. The primary cops stay the same, but it follows a different crime each year. The first year, the crime fizzled and the show was only OK. I, in fact, was on the fence about seeing …

Now Playing

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

Fantastic Four
Starring: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, and Toby Kebbell
Synopsis: It takes a lot to make a good film. There is so much that goes into the filmmaking process that, often, it feels unfair to simply judge the finished project. That’s what makes films that feel like failures fascinating. One of my favorite behind-the-scenes documentaries is the making of “Jaws.” Steven Spielberg, at the time, was a young, unproven filmmaker. He was handed this mammoth undertaking and put under incredible pressure. The film had to be finished before a looming writers’ strike, among other obstacles. And nearly from the start, nothing went right. So Spielberg and his cast improvised. Forty years later, “Jaws” stands as an iconic cinematic achievement, and Spielberg is revered. But when you watch the making of the film, you come to see that most of the moments and decisions that made it a classic were born of failure.…

Summer Binge Watch — Music Biopics

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On Friday "Straight Outta Compton" debuts. It's a biopic on NWA and I think it could be one of the big hits of summer. In preparation for that, I thought it would be fun to chronicle some other music biopics. There are many classics to choose from, so I'm just gonna offer five I liked from the last 15 years (since 2000).

8 Mile (2002)
About: This might feel like a cheat since it's not completely a biopic. It's not exactly a true story. But given the setting and the story, and the fact Eminem has said it closely mirrors his story, it's kind of like a biopic. First off, I'll say you don't expect the director of "L.A. Confidential" or "Wonder Boys" to be making this movie. But Curtis Hanson  did. This is not an incredible film. The performances aren't great, either. Sometimes it's a little hard to watch. So why is it on this list? Well, it feels like a good compliment to "Straight Outta Compton." And, two, the bes…

Summer TV Roundup, Week 13

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We're in the Dog Days of summer, and a lot of what's come out lately is sitcoms. Those are always a dicey proposition. So it goes with this summer. In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new shows. (Given the wealth of channels, I'm sticking with scripted fare on cable outlets). If you don't see a new show below, check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Significant Mother, Mondays at 9:30 p.m. on the CW (Premiered August 3)
About: The CW isn't great for comedies. In fact, during the regular season, they don't have any half-hour options. But during the past few summers, they've tried some different options. Last summer, they aired the worst sitcoms I'd seen, and two of my picks for the worst shows of the year. Earlier this summer they offered a retread British show about awful dates. It was an awful watch. Now comes "Significant Mother." This is a sitcom about a young restaurant owner in Portland whose world is thrown into cha…

A Fitting Conclusion

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"Some men get the world. Others get ex-hookers and a trip to Arizona." - Lynn Bracken, "L.A. Confidential"

There is a proud history of excellence in detective noir films and novels, especially those set in the seedy underbelly of Southern California. Nic Pizzolatto is obviously aware of that, how else would you explain the various homages to better stories embedded in season 2 of "True Detective?"

But there's the problem. The season was billed to be one thing -- something on the level of those greater stories -- but it materialized into something else. That's neither bad nor good on it's own, it's just an observation. But now, after all eight episodes of the second season have aired, it's reasonable to reflect on what we've seen and how it stood up to expectations.

The answer to that question is more complicated than some might think. It didn't meet expectations. It's not as good as the first season. It's now what fans…

Storytelling

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“I asked God to help me understand the story of the forest and what it means to be a tree in that story.” - Donald Miller

What does it mean to be Drawn Into God's Story? How do we connect with Millenials? Why does the church matter? I've wrestled with a lot of big questions that don't have easy answers in the past few weeks. It's enough to drive you a little crazy.

On top of that, I've been to two different learning experience that, essentially, shot best practices and information at me like a fire hose. When I was reflecting on the 2015 Global Leadership Summit, I realized the most impactful moments for me were a series of small videos.

Bill Hybels called them part of the "Grander Vision." What he was really driving at is Call, and how we live out God's Call in our vocational lives. His description of the videos included Frederick Beuchner, who said calling is where, "my deep gladness meets the place of the world's deep need." Those fi…

The Music of Life

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Whenever I attend the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, there are things that grab me. For those who've never been, it's two intense days that feature more than a dozen speakers and tons of great information.

At some point, it becomes information overload. So I try to latch on to a couple of nuggets to think about for days. I'm the kind of person that needs to marinate in ideas for a bit to really come up with what I think. I liken it to getting blasted by a fire hose during a hot summer day then looking for a shady spot so you can stay wet and see how it makes you feel.

One of the interesting discussions at this year's conference was around the power of music. On Friday, the second day of the conference, Bill Hybels went through an exercise about the healing power of music. It was a time to think about music and it's impact on our lives and our thinking.

One of the songs played during that segment was "It Is Well." It didn't take long for me to…

A life in community

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It started with a question. Last week, as part of a week-long seminar put on by Fuller Theological Seminary and the Lake Institute, we had an exercise in which we were asked to partner off and answer some questions.

Most of them were about our past, our family, and our view on giving and generosity. That made sense. It was the Executive Certificate on Religious Giving. Then came the last question, "How do you want to be remembered?" There's nothing wrong with the question — in fact, there are many people of a certain age that probably give a lot of heft to that project.

I'm a 34-year-old man. I don't yet have children. Lord willing, I still have more days ahead than I do behind me. So I don't think about my legacy a lot. The question caught me off guard, and I was even more alarmed to think I had about 30 seconds to think of something profound to share with my partner. That's when it hit me — How do I want to be remembered? My answer was, I want to be re…