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Showing posts from December, 2015

Best of 2015 — movies, performances

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This is the final day of 2015, so it seems fitting for me to put out my list of my favorite movies of the year. This will include my top 10 personal picks, five disappointments, and my favorite performances. It was quite a year at the movies, and this list reflects that.

Best Movies:
No. 10 — Creed
About: I'm not big on boxing movies, especially the "Rocky" franchise. In fact, true confession, I haven't seen most of the "Rocky" films. So I went into this one cold knowing only that I think Michael B. Jordan is a great actor and his collaboration with writer-director Ryan Coogler on "Fruitvale Station" was incredible. Here, they took a genre picture and elevated it. Jordan is great and so, too, is Sylvester Stallone, presenting a different side to Rocky Balboa. This was one of the best films of the year, and the biggest surprise for me on this list.
Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality.

No. 9 — Concussion
About: This film from writer-…

Now Playing

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

Concussion
Starring: Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Albert Brooks, and Alec Baldwin
Synopsis: I have always loved sports, but one sport has always stood about the rest — the NFL. I live for Sundays in the fall, watching games nearly all day and managing a handful of Fantasy Football teams. Over the past few years, it’s been hard to ignore how the game — or rather the perception of the game — has changed. The focus has been on safety, rightly so, and it’s changed the way the game is played. It’s also changed the way we think about football. I can remember, growing up, watching for the big hits. The highlights always included scenes of men being violently thrown about. We celebrated it. We cheered for it. We watched the games hoping to see it. Then came all the discoveries about the high cost of professional football and head injuries. Now, all those huge, catastrophic collisions elicit another reaction — a cringe. You can’t help but wond…

NFL Picks, Week 17

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We have finally reached the last week of the regular season. It was another solid week, and I feel like I'm figuring these teams out. As always, Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

NFL Week 17:
Falcons over Saints  (Falcons)
Jets over Bills (Jets)
Lions over Bears (Bears)
Bengals over Ravens (Bengals)
Steelers over Browns (Browns)
Cowboys over Redskins (Cowboys)
Colts over Titans (Titans)
Dolphins over Patriots (Patriots)
Texans over Jaguars (Texans)
Giants over Eagles (Giants)
Broncos over Chargers (Broncos)
Raiders over Chiefs (Raiders)
Rams over 49ers (49ers)
Cardinals over Seahawks (Cardinals)
Panthers over Buccaneers (Panthers)
Packers over Vikings (Vikings)

Last Week: 12-4
Lindsay: 8-8

Season: 153-87
Lindsay: 125-115


Week 17 Spread:
Falcons -4.5 over Saints
Jets -2.5 over Bills
Lions +1.5 over Bears
Ravens +7.5 over Bengals
Browns +9.5 over Steelers
Cowboys -2.5 over Redskins
Colts -6.5 over Titans
Dolphins +9.5 over Patriots
Texans -6.5 over Jaguars
Giants -2.5 over Eagles
Bron…

Top 25 Countdown — No. 19

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Today I continue my top 25 countdown with a look at a classic from Alfonso Cuaron.


No. 19 — Children of Men (2006)
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine, and Danny Huston
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Quote: "I can't really remember when I last had any hope, and I certainly can't remember when anyone else did either. Because really, since women stopped being able to have babies, what's left to hope for?" — Theo
About: I didn't really know much about the story when I went to see "Children of Men." I'd vaguely heard that critics loved it and I knew it was some sort of dystopian story, but I didn't have a lot of high expectations. What I got blew me away. Cuaron was probably best known for directing the third "Harry Potter" movie at the time, but what he did with this movie was incredible. It's a tough story to tell, but it's incredibly fascinating. The film is set in a dystopian future where women can&#…

2015 Broncos Season, Week 16

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The season is almost over, the pressure is on, and the Broncos stepped it up, big time!

Week 16: Broncos 20, Cincinnati Bengals 17
Season Record: 11-4 (5-2 home)
Key Play: Tied 17-17 in overtime, Brandon McManus nailed a 37-yard field goal to put the Broncos up 20-17, winning the game after a Bengals fumble on the subsequent drive.

Recap: The Broncos are again in the driver's seat. With a win Sunday, the team will be the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and earn a first round bye. That's the good news. The bad news is that, again, the team only played one good half. This time it was the second half. After trailing 14-3 at half time, the Broncos came out strong in the second half on both sides of the ball and won the game. The Bengals are a quality opponent, so it was a good showing. Still, the Broncos need better consistency on offense and defense to go far in the playoffs. And with a win over the Chargers on Sunday they will put themselves in good position to do just that.

Game Balls:

Best of 2015 — TV Episodes, Performances

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Today I continue my countdown of the best media of 2015 with my favorite TV episodes and performances of 2015.

Best Episodes:
No. 10 — "My Name is Oliver Queen," Arrow
About: This was the concluding episode of the third season. It was, once again, an epic showdown for Oliver Queen and his team. But what I liked about this episode was the fact that it finally gave Oliver a happy ending. Seeing him ride off into the sunset with Felicity was a great way to end the season.

No. 9 — "Mother's Mercy," Game of Thrones
About: Season five was perhaps the best season for the show. It was full of monumental episodes and moments. An under rated one was "Mother's Mercy," which sets in motion events for season six and featured an incredible sequence and performance from Lena Headey.

No. 8 — "Government Surveillance," Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
About: In some ways it's hard to pick what episode of "Last Week Tonight" was the best, but I …

Best of 2015 — TV Series

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We've reached the end of another year, and as such it's time for my yearly countdown of my favorite TV shows, episodes, performances, and movies of the year. This is the first of two posts on TV. It was a banner year for scripted series, and a crowded one. More than 400 scripted series aired seasons in 2015. That's a lot. And there were some great shows, great episodes, and great performances. Below are my 10 favorite series and five least favorite series of 2015.

Top TV Series:
No. 10 — Silicon Valley, Season 2 (HBO)
About: I liked this series from Mike Judge about tech wannabes going through highs and lows in the Silicon Valley when it debuted in 2014. But the series came into its own during the second season. The jokes were sharper, the satire worked well, and the stories were fascinating. This was part of the best night of TV this year, Sundays this Spring for HBO. And the second season was strong enough for it to move ahead of "VEEP," another comedy that just …

Merry Christmas

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Charlie Brown: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about. Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
[moves toward the center of the stage]
Lights, please. "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a mul…

NFL Picks Week 16

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Only two weeks left in the NFL season. By now we know what and who most of these teams are. But that doesn't make picking games a breeze. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.
NFL Week 16: Raiders over Chargers (Raiders) Redskins over Eagles (Eagles) Falcons over Panthers (Panthers) Bills over Cowboys (Cowboys) Buccaneers over Bears (Bears) Chiefs over Browns (Browns) Lions over 49ers (49ers) Texans over Titans (Texans) Colts over Dolphins (Colts) Steelers over Ravens (Steelers) Jets over Patriots (Patriots) Jaguars over Saints (Saints) Cardinals over Packers (Cardinals) Seahawks over Rams (Rams) Vikings over Giants (Giants) Broncos over Bengals (Broncos)
Last Week: 13-3 Lindsay: 10-6
Season: 141-83 Lindsay: 117-107
Week 16 Spread: Raiders -5.5 over Chargers Redskins +2.5 over Eagles Falcons +7.5 over Panthers Bills -5.5 over Cowboys Buccaneers -2.5 over Bears Browns +12.5 over Chiefs Lions -8.5 over 49ers Texans -2.5 over Titans Colts +2.5 over Dolphins Ravens +10.5 over Steelers Jets …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week. For a review of "Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens" check an earlier post from last Saturday.

Brooklyn
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson
Synopsis: This is the time of year when we get a lot of smaller films that tell rich, beautiful, and unexpected stories. "Brooklyn" is one of those stories. It's the story of a young Irish girl who comes to America and builds a new life before facing the pull of returning home. It's the story of a woman torn between duty and a future that she's built for herself. It's a rich journey, buoyed by a great performance from Ronan in the lead role. She's earned a Golden Globe nomination as best actress and has a good shot at an Academy Award nomination as well. She's great in this role and really makes the movie. I also enjoyed the supporting performances from Cohen and Gleeson, who are the two suitor…

Top 25 Countdown — No. 20

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Today I continue my Top 25 countdown with a Coen Brothers film, the first by them on this countdown.

No. 20 — Miller's Crossing (1990)
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Turturro
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Quote: "Nobody knows anybody. Not that well." — Tom Regan
About: The Coen Brothers are American treasures when it comes to film. But when most people think of them, the bigger commercial hits come to mind — "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski," "O Brother Where Art Thou." For me, I've always been drawn to their smaller films, particularly from a certain era in their career. For a long time "Miller's Crossing," the duo's third film, was my favorite of their films. And I still have it put pretty high on my personal list, as you can see. To me it is part of a sweet spot the Coen Brothers hit — beginning with "Miller's Crossing" and moving through "Barton Fink" and "The…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 13

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We've reached the final Fall TV Roundup of the year. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new shows. If you don't see a new show listed below, check previous weeks. I'll start the Winter TV Roundup in January.

Tuesday Nights:
The Expanse, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on SyFy (Premiered December 14)
About: This is the latest drama from SyFy, which got a two-night roll out last week. It debuted on Monday and then got its second episode during its regular time slot on Tuesday night. Both nights it bowed behind the highly anticipated mini-series "Childhood's End." It will be interesting to see if it brings people back this week. I kind of appreciate the pilot. I didn't love it but I thought it offered some promise. Then I saw the second episode, which felt like a giant step backward. It wasn't what I expected, and I didn't really care about the arc it started to take its characters. That's a problem. Given that, I don't see thi…

2015 Broncos Season, Week 15

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Another second half collapse and brutal loss for the Broncos and the season is looking a little more grim.

Week 15: Pittsburgh Steelers 34, Broncos 27
Season Record: 10-4 (4-2 home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 27, Brock Osweiler dropped back to pass on second and seven from the Broncos' 27-yard-line. On a pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders, Osweiler was intercepted, leading to the go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers.

Recap: The Broncos looked to be in prime position after beating the New England Patriots on November 29. They then briefly held the shot at the No. 1 seed in their hands when the Pats lost to the Eagles on December 6. Now, that seems a long ways away. The Patriots have pretty much locked up the No. 1 seed and the Broncos need to win their last two games to avoid losing the division to the red hot Chiefs. And even then, the Broncos will be a question in the playoffs. How the mighty have fallen. The Broncos collapsed in the second half for the se…

Now Playing — The Force Awakens Edition

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Here's a my review of "Star Wars." Don't worry, no spoilers or plot synopsis. Just fan boy love...


Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens
Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver
Synopsis: I was just a little boy when “Return of the Jedi” was released in theaters, so for most of my childhood, “Star Wars” to me was watching videos in my living room. I’d pull out my action figures — some “Star Wars” figures, the rest G.I. Joes — and I’d act out the galactic battle between the Light and Dark sides of the force. When the original trilogy was re-released in 1997, I skipped school and headed to the theater. It was magical. When the prequels were announced, I was overjoyed. But like so many tried and true “Star Wars” fans, Episodes I, II and III were underwhelming. But when Disney acquired Lucasfilm and announced plans for Episode VII, I was excited. I remembered the feeling I got watching the original fi…

Now Playing

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

Creed
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, and Phylicia Rashad
Synopsis: "Creed" is technically the seventh film in the "Rocky" cannon, but it's really a film that can stand on its own. It will, in fact, probably fuel a series of its own. And it's one of the more pleasant surprises of the year for me. Stallone returns as Rocky Balboa, but this is unlike any of his previous incarnations of this role. This film is really about Adonis Creed (Jordan), the son of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who is trying to make it on his own as a fighter. Jordan, who worked with "Creed" director Ryan Coogler on the incredible "Fruitvale Station," is great in the lead role here. And Coogler has an incredible feel for the material. He tells what, to me, feels like one of the best boxing movies I've seen, and certainly a worthy air to "Rocky," which some forget won Be…

NFL Picks, Week 15

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Three weeks left in the season and the good teams are starting to establish themselves. That said, it's never been harder to predict what will happen week-to-week. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

NFL Week 15:
Rams over Buccaneers (Rams)
Jets over Cowboys (Jets)
Jaguars over Falcons (Falcons)
Redskins over Bills (Redskins)
Vikings over Bears (Bears)
Patriots over Titans (Patriots)
Texans over Colts (Texans)
Chiefs over Ravens (Chiefs)
Panthers over Giants (Panthers)
Seahawks over Browns
Packers over Raiders (Browns)
Bengals over 49ers (49ers)
Broncos over Steelers (Broncos)
Dolphins over Chargers (Chargers)
Cardinals over Eagles (Eagles)
Lions over Saints (Lions)

Last Week: 10-6
Lindsay: 7-9

Season: 128-80
Lindsay: 107-101

Week 15 Spread:
Rams -.5 over Buccaneers
Jets -2.5 over Cowboys
Jaguars -3.5 over Falcons
Redskins +.5 over Bills
Bears +5.5 over Vikings
Patriots -14.5 over Titans
Texans +1.5 over Colts
Ravens +7.5 over Chiefs
Panthers -5.5 over Giants
Seahawks -14.5 over Brown…

Top 25 Countdown — No. 21

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Today's countdown continues with a film I've looked at twice during Faith in Film studies. I think it's Jack Nicholson's best performance.

No. 21 — About Schmidt (2002)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Hope Davis, Dermott Mulroney, and June Squibb
Director: Alexander Payne
Quote: "I know we're all pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference, but what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?" — Warren Schmidt
About: This was a movie that kind of came and went quietly the year it came out. When Alexander Payne's films are discussed, this isn't at the top of the list. But it is for me. It's my favorite of his movies and, obviously, one of my favorite movies of all time. I always know when awards season comes and I am slavishly devoted to a film and pumping it up with everyone I know that it will get hosed when the awards are handed out. Th…

Shinning a Light in the Darkness

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"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." — Edmund Burke

"Spotlight," a new film based on the story of a group of reporters at the Boston Globe that broke the story about the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, is consistently on the lists of the Best films of the year. And it should be. It is the best film I've seen so far in 2015, and probably the most thought provoking. It caused me to think deeply about two different ideas the film brings forward.

First, we need good journalism:
One of my favorite films growing up was "The Paper," a Ron Howard film about a day in the life of a Metro Editor for a paper in New York. It starred Michael Keaton, and it was a movie that made me want to be a journalist. It was about the commitment to the truth — even difficult truths — and the role of the media in our society.

It's hardly the first or only movie or TV show to touch on this topic. "Homeland," in it's t…

2015 Broncos Season, Week 14

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There are three weeks left in the NFL season. The Broncos are currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC, with a two-game division lead. But there's still plenty that can happen.

Week 14: Oakland Raiders 15, Broncos 12
Season Record: 10-3 (4-2 Home)
Key Play: With the Broncos leading 12-9 in the fourth quarter, Emmanuel Sanders went back to receive a punt. The punt got away from him, the Raiders recovered deep in Broncos' territory and quickly scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Recap: At this point in the season, good teams should win games they are supposed to win. You also have to take advantage of opportunities to improve your playoff seeding. When the Patriots lost to the Eagles last week, it opened the door for the Broncos. When the Bengals lost Sunday morning, losing quarterback Andy Dalton in the process, it opened the door even wider. But the Broncos slammed that door shut in their own faces thanks to some horrific second half play in a game they should have won. When you're fac…

The Left Behind

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"they're giving them something. I mean, we can strip it away, but once it's gone? We have nothing to put back in its place." — Tom, "The Leftovers"

Few shows were as polarizing as "The Leftovers." Based on a fascinating, but difficult, book by Tom Perrotta, the show developed by Perrotta and Damon Lindelof was a fascinating meditation on grief and loss. It was dark, difficult and, at times, confusing. The first season wasn't a show I loved, but it was a show I was drawn to watching.

The second season has been something else. It's been more compelling. It's been more rich. But it's continued that tough, dark look at grief and loss. When the show aired its second season finale on Sunday, I thought it had done something beautiful. It had found hope in sadness, a way forward in the darkness.

I don't know if it's just the tough cultural times we live in, but it can feel like danger, loss, and sadness are all around us. It seems…

Final Playoff Predictions

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We are now three quarters of the way through the NFL regular season. Time for the final playoff predictions. Below I have my Mid-Season predictions with a summary of where I went wrong a few weeks ago followed by my revised predictions based on time with ESPN's playoff machine!

Mid-Season Playoff Predictions:
NFC Playoff Predictions:
West Champ - Arizona Cardinals. They're a good team, but a flawed team.
North Champ - Green Bay Packers. They'll right the ship a bit, but they aren't as good as they appeared.
South Champ - Carolina Panthers. All they do is win.
East Champ - New York Giants. A flawed team, but the best of a mediocre bunch.
Wild Card - Minnesota Vikings. They are challenging the Packers and could make a playoff run.
Wild Card - Seattle Seahawks. This is a bit of a reach, but I think they get it turned around enough to make the playoffs. It's more that I don't believe in the Rams or the Falcons.

Round One: Cardinals over Seahawks; Vikings over Giants
Round T…