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Showing posts from January, 2016

Academy Award Previews - Best Director

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Today I continue my Academy Award previews with the first category -- the Directors. This is a loaded category, as it is every year, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Best Director Nominees:
The Revenant: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Spotlight: Tom McCarthy
Mad Max: Fury Road: George Miller
Room: Lenny Abrahamson
The Big Short: Adam McKay

Thoughts: This is a tough field, with directors who offered five very different but very intriguing films. The only previous winner is Iñárritu, who won last year for "Birdman." On the flip side, the other four are all enjoying their first nomination as Best Director. So will it be back-to-back for Iñárritu, or will a first timer take it home? I think I would rule out Abrahamson as a long shot. In fact, his inclusion among the nominees was somewhat of a surprise. Ditto for McKay, who is best known for directing broad Will Ferrell comedies. He did a great job with "The Big Short," but I don't see him going home w…

Academy Award Previews - Bridge of Spies

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Today I continue my Academy Award previews with another Best Picture nominee, "Bridge of Spies."

Bridge of Spies
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, and Amy Ryan
Total Nominations: 6
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Rylance), Best Original Screenplay (Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen), Best Original Score, Best Production Design, and Best Sound Mixing
About: "Bridge of Spies" was somewhat of a surprise entry into the Best Picture race. It's a great movie with a great pedigree -- which includes Hanks in a lead role and Steven Spielberg as the director. But Spielberg didn't get a nomination, and neither did Hanks. And the movie had seemed largely over looked in the awards running up to the Academy Awards. Yet, it secured one of the eight slots and a total of six nominations. Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor seem a bit like long shots, though I loved Rylance's work. It might pick up one of the technical awards, or it might…

Academy Award Previews — Brooklyn

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We are a month away from the biggest day in entertainment, The Academy Awards. As such, I'll be previewing the awards, including recaps of all the Best Picture nominees, all leading up to final award picks and predictions from me on February 28.

Brooklyn
Starring: Saiorise Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Domnhall Gleeson, and Emory Cohen
Total Nominations: 3
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actress (Ronan), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Nick Hornby)
About: "Brooklyn" might have been a bit of a surprise as a Best Picture nominee. It has flown a bit under the radar, save for nominations for Ronan. But in the end, it made the final list of eight nominees for the Academy Awards. But that's not sure bet that it wins anything. It's only nominated for three awards, and I wouldn't consider it a favorite in any category. For "Brooklyn," simply being nominated for Best Picture — and the bump it gives films at the Box Office — will likely be the victory. This…

Now Playing

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

The 5th Wave
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Ron Livingston, and Liev Schreiber
Synopsis: By now there are a few staples every year at the Box Office. We’re going to get a half dozen superhero movies. We’re going to get at least a half dozen low budget horror films. And at some point during the year a new “franchise” based on a popular young adult novel is going to be released. With “The Hunger Games” done and the “Divergent” series near its end, it makes sense that studios are looking for the next big thing. Into that fray comes “The 5th Wave,” based on the novel from Rick Yancey. It has all the hallmarks of these types of films — end of the world stakes, a female protagonist in her teens and a love triangle. But it’s hard to know how the studio feels about “The 5th Wave” and its chance of success. It was unceremoniously dumped in January — not a typical time for building a film franchise — and opened in sixth place. The film ends in a …

Top 25 Countdown — No. 15

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Today I continue my countdown of my top 25 films of all time. Again, to make the list a film has to have been released at least five years ago. Starting this week, I'll have the list of previous selections at the bottom.

No. 15 — The Paper (1994)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Marissa Tomei, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, and Randy Quaid
Director: Ron Howard
Quote: "We run stupid headlines because we think they're funny. We run maimings on the front page because we got good art. And I spend three weeks bitching about my car because it sells papers. But at least it's the truth. As far as I can remeber we never ever, ever knowingly got a story wrong, until tonight." — Michael McDougal
About: When I was younger, all I wanted to do was work for a newspaper. That was, in fact, what I studied in college and what I did for the first seven years of my post-college work life. One of the big inspirations for that was "The Paper." Many people of a certain age would point to &…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 4

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In these weekly posts I take a look at the new shows of winter, reviewing the pilot and second episodes. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
The X-Files, Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 24)
About: "The X-Files" was a successful series on FOX that wrapped up after nine seasons in 2002. But now, 14 years later, it's back for a six-episode limited series. But believe me, if these six episodes go well, the series will be back in some fashion again. What helps is that the stars — Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny — are back. So, too, are many of the writers and producers. And the first two episodes — one aired after the NFC Title game on Sunday and the second in its regular time slot on Monday — were a breezy return to the world. Anderson and Duchovny are great in these roles, and even after more than a decade away they have no trouble sliding into the flow of this new series. The first episode on Sunday was a return to the …

2015 Broncos Season, AFC Title Game

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Peyton Manning owns most of the passing records and is probably the greatest regular season quarterback of all time. Now he gets a chance to go out on top, just like John Elway.

AFC Championship: Broncos 20, New England Patriots 18
Season Record: 14-4 (8-2 home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, with 12 seconds left, Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-18. On the two-point conversion, Bradley Roby picked off Brady in the end zone to seal the victory.

Recap: This has been a rough season to watch for the Broncos. I think it's taken years off my life. It's a season where we've looked bad on offense all year. A season where we had to go to overtime to beat the Browns. A season where Manning missed have the year with an injury and still led the NFL in interceptions for the regular season. But, in some ways, that's what's made it the most magical. The Broncos have been doubted and dismissed all year. But we've won. We've stru…

Favorite Bronco Playoff Games

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Today is the AFC title game. It's a big moment for the Broncos, and for fans. So I thought I'd celebrate with my five favorite Bronco playoff games of all time. These are only the ones I've seen, so no Drive on here...

No. 5 Broncos 29, Steelers 23 (January 8, 2012)
About: Tebow time, baby! The Broncos came in as an 8-8 division winner, hosting a favored Steelers team in a Wild Card game. What did they do, they won in dramatic fashion as Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an 80-yard touchdown pass to open Overtime. Game. Set. Match. No one thought we'd win, but we did.

No. 4 Broncs 24, Steelers 21, AFC Title Game (January 11, 1998)
About: It was a road game this time, and Elway was so close to his first Super Bowl title he could taste it. The Broncos exploded for 17 points in the second quarter and made it hold up for the three-point win to get to the Super Bowl.

No. 3 Broncos 26, Patriots 16, AFC Title Game (January 20, 2013)
About: It was Peyton Manning's sec…

Championship Game Preview

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We've finally reached the end of the AFC and NFC portion of the playoffs with the title games. After tomorrow, the Super Bowl match up will be set. Now it's time for final picks.

AFC Title Game:
No. 1 Denver Broncos over No. 2 New England Patriots
About: The smart money might be on the Patriots and Tom Brady. The Patriots are the team of the last two decades, and Brady is quite possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. In fact, I 've seen just about every "expert" pick the Patriots. I can understand that. It makes some rational sense. But football isn't always rational. I am picking Denver because they're my team. But I'm also picking Denver because I think they've got a good shot. Tom Brady is 2-6 lifetime in Denver, including 0-2 in the playoffs. A lot is made about Peyton Manning's record against the Patriots and Tom Brady, which is 5-11. He's also thrown 22 interceptions in those 16 games. However, 19 of those interceptions came pri…

DC vs. Marvel, building an empire

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It was a big week for DC Comics and its fans, at least if you watch the CW. In addition to the 2016 returns of "Flash" and "Arrow," the CW debuted its latest DC Comics collaboration -- "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" -- and celebrated the week with a look at the expanding DC cinematic universe.

Indeed, 2016 is shaping up to be a big year for DC as it tries to compete with the Marvel cinematic universe. It's been years in the making, but the big clashes are finally here, and each is jockeying for position.

It's a rich time to be a comic books fan. In 2016 we'll get "Deadpool," a wise-cracking, different kind of Marvel superhero in February. In March, DC will begin its attempts to build a super team with "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." That will feature the introductions of the cinematic version of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash, as well as Ben Affleck as the new Batman. Then in May we get "Captain America: …

Now Playing

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

13 Hours
Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, and Max Martini
Synopsis: When you see a movie is directed by Michael Bay, it usually conjures a certain kind of movie. He is the director of “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Transformers.” He makes loud, brash, and CGI-heavy action comedies. And that’s not the kind of film that appeals to everyone. I have always kind of liked Bay’s films for what they are. You know what you’re going to get — some funny lines, a couple likeable characters, an easy to follow plot, explosions and plenty of slow motion shots. You can almost take that formula to the bank. Which is what made Bay a curious choice for “13 Hours,” a film about what went wrong when a United States outpost was attacked in Benghazi, Libya. The attack made the news for months, and continues to be a black spot on the record of then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. And with Clinton running for President in the…

Top 25 countdown — No. 16

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Today I continue my Top 25 countdown with the movie adaptation of one of "Time Magazine's" top 100 novels of all time.

No. 16 — Watchmen (2009)
Starring: Billy Cruddup, Malin Akerman, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earl Haley, Matthew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Carla Gugino
Director: Zack Snyder
Quote: "They claim their labors are to build a heaven, yet their heaven is populated by horrors. Perhaps the world is not made. Perhaps nothing is made. A clock without a craftsman. It's too late. Always has been, always will be. Too late." — Dr. Manhattan
About: "Watchmen" isn't an easy movie to watch. Based on the praised graphic novel from Allan Moore, it's set in an alternate 1985. It's a superhero story, but it's really a deconstruction of what it means to be a hero. And Moore doesn't come down on a happy side of what it means. Moore is a nihilist and anarchist, and that worldview is about as fun as it sounds. In 2009, when I lined up to…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 3

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In these weekly posts I look at the new shows this winter, reviewing the first two episodes. Don't see a new show below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Shadowhunters, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered January 12)
About: Freeform is the new name for the ABC Family channel. The name of the network has changed, but the focus on young adult programming hasn't. Such is the case with "Shadowhunters," an adaptation of a the YA novel series "The Mortal Instruments." If that sounds familiar, it's because they tried to turn it into a series of movies, starting with "City of Bones," which didn't find an audience. But margins are smaller for cable networks, so it might be a better fit here. The pilot introduced the characters and world, and set up the conflicts. It did a fine job, but I wasn't really compelled or interested in any of it. I'm not the target demographic here, but I thought the pilot was a bit flat and, at times, con…

2015 Broncos Season, Divisional Round

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The playoffs have begun, and the Broncos held serve.

Division Round: Broncos 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Season Record: 13-4 (7-2 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, trailing 13-12, Bradley Roby forced a fumble from Fitzgerald Touissant, and DeMarcus Ware recovered for the Broncos. On the ensuing drive, CJ Anderson scored a one-yard touchdown run and Demaryius Thomas grabbed a two-point conversion to give the Broncos a seven-point lead.

Recap: It wasn't a pretty game, especially offensively. Peyton Manning looked better than he did during the regular season, and didn't turn the ball over. But the Broncos dropped plenty of passes, failed to capitalize on chances in the first half, and didn't get control of the game until late in the fourth quarter. That's not a great way to play a game. But in the playoffs, it's win or go home. The Broncos won, and that's all that matters for now. And now Manning will get another shot at Tom Brady and the Patriots, who come to to…

Making a Phenomenon

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"Your Honor, I just want to say this before we adjourn. It was far too easy to convict this wrongly accused man for murder and send him to death row for something he didn't do and much too hard to win his freedom after proving his innocence. We have serious problems and important work that must be done in this state." — Bryan Stevenson, "Just Mercy"

In December, Netflix released the true crime documentary "Making a Murderer." Since then, it's taken the Internet — and culture — by storm. How could 10 episodes spread out over a dozen years do this you ask? Well, quite simply because of the story it tells and how that's hit a raw nerve for the public.

Last year I read a fascinating book by Bryan Stevenson called "Just Mercy." It took a hard look at our justice system, and asked some hard questions about how easy it is to convict the poor and mentally challenged in this country.

That's the raw never that "Making a Murderer"…

Divisional Round Playoff Picks

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We've reached the second round of the playoffs, and there's some choice match ups. Below are my predictions for each.

Saturday Games:
No. 2 New England Patriots over No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs
About: I understand the arguments for picking the Chiefs. I even see the logic in some of them. And I'd be happy to see some new team get a shot at the title. But this is New England. This is January. And I can't really see the Patriots losing. They had a week off, they might get more weapons back, and Belichick and Brady were made for the playoffs. This will be a tight game, but I think the Patriots advance.

No. 2 Arizona Cardinals over No. 5 Green Bay Packers
About: I thought Washington would win last week, so I'm picking the Cardinals here. When the two teams met a month ago it was a blow out win for the Cardinals. I think this game will be closer, but the Cardinals are still the better team and I think they advance to the NFC Championship Game.


Sunday Games:
No. 1 Carolina Panthe…

Academy Award Nominations

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The Academy Award nominees were announced on Thursday, and as with every year there are surprises, snubs, and plenty to talk about prior to the awards. The winners will be announced on February 28, and between now and then there will be plenty of dissection of these nominees.

Overall, I thought it was a good field. There were a few surprises and snubs to me, but that happens every year. After reflecting for the past day, here's some thoughts on this year's field.

Nominees:
* This is the first year in a long time that I've seen all the Best Picture nominees already. I wasn't too surprised by the list, and I think the battle is probably coming down to "The Revenant," "The Martian," "Spotlight," and, inexplicably, "Mad Max: Fury Road."

* The Academy LOVES "Mad Max." This wasn't a complete surprise, but I don't really understand it. And, if there's going to be 10 nominations, shouldn't one be for acting? Plu…

Now Playing

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


The Revenant
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter
Synopsis: There’s been a long history in cinema of stories about survival against all odds. Usually these films find the protagonist injured, isolated and likely to perish. But few have featured as long of odds as “The Revenant.” The film is based in part on the true story of Hugh Glass, an explorer who survived a bear attack and being left by comrades to make it back to safety. It’s also based on the fictionalized novel that takes some liberties with that true-life story. In the film version, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu helps bring the story to life in a beautiful and sometimes brutal way thanks to a great performance from his lead actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Inarritu is a gifted visual storyteller, and he applies those talents to “The Revenant” beautifully. By all accounts it was a long, difficult and brutal shoot in desolate and frozen lan…

Top 25 Countdown — No. 17

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Today I continue my top 25 countdown with a late 1990s classic.

No. 17 — LA Confidential (1997)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Guy Pearce, and Kim Basinger
Director: Curtis Hanson
Quote: "Some men get the world. Others get ex-hookers and a trip to Arizona." — Lynn Bracken
About: Sometimes you're just destined to get over shadowed. When we look back, you can make an argument that "LA Confidential" was the best film of 1997. But it came out the same year as "Titanic," which had incredibly unique filmmaking techniques and, at the time, was the highest grossing film in history. So "Titanic" won Best Picture. Not a terrible choice, but not the right choice, in my opinion. Of course, I loved "LA Confidential" at the time, too, which is probably the kiss of death for a film's award chances. This isn't the only film on this list that I put that stink on the year it competed. But 19 years later, I still think thi…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 2

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In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new series. Don't see a new series listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Shannara Chronicles, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV (Premiered January 5)
About: When you see an original show is coming to MTV, it casts a certain level of expectations. The network is known for reality fare such as "The Real World," and not much in the way of cutting edge scripted fare. I have watched a few of their scripted series, and nothing has ever stuck. But none of those was the "Shannara Chronicles." Based on the fantasy books from Terry Brooks, this is a lot more like "The Lord of the Rings" than anything you'd expect to find on MTV. In an era rich with these kind of fantasy worlds, this pilot worked well. I liked the casting and I liked the production values. After the first episode, I was really excited to see where this series will go. This might be the show that ushers in a new era for MTV s…

2015 Broncos Season, Wild Card Round

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It was a relaxing week as a Broncos fan, just watching games for the fun of it. That, of course, is because the Broncos were on a bye week and didn't have to play. Instead, we got to watch the other AFC contenders play to see what the match ups will be. Below are my thoughts on both games and a preview of Denver's game.

Chiefs 30, Texans 0
Thoughts: The Chiefs extended their winning streak to 11 games and advanced. Kansas City is a good team that's played well of late. But I'm not sure they're as good as that score. The Chiefs' defense and special teams was incredible, their offense was pedestrian, and the Texans probably weren't really a playoff team. The Chiefs were also dealt a blow as Jeremy Maclin, their best receiver, was injured and likely won't play on Saturday. The Chiefs have had a nice season, but I don't think they slip past the Patriots.

Steelers 18, Bengals 16
Thoughts: This was an ugly game in terms of behavior and injuries. That made it…

Golden Globe Picks

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Awards season comes to TV tonight with the annual Golden Globe Awards. Below are my fearless picks for the night.

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy
“Casual”
“Mozart In the Jungle”
“Orange Is the New Black”
“Silicon Valley”
“Transparent”
“Veep”
Will Win: Transparent
Should Win: Silicon Valley

Best Television Series – Drama
“Empire”
“Game of Thrones”
“Mr. Robot”
“Narcos”
“Outlander”
Will Win: Mr. Robot
Should Win: Game of Thrones. Mr. Robot is a fine show, but GOT is the best on TV.

Best Actor in a TV Series – Drama
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Wagner Moura, “Narcos”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Will and Should Win: Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"

Best Actress in a TV Series – Drama
Caitriona Balfe, “Outlander”
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”
Eva Green, “Penny Dreadful”
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
Will Win: Viola Davis, "How to Get Away With Murder"
Should Win: Taraji P. Henson, "Empire…

Wild Card Weekend Picks

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Wild Card weekend begins today with a pair of AFC match ups. Then the NFC has a pair of games Sunday. This is always a fun, unpredictable weekend. Here's my picks below.

AFC:
No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs over No. 4 Houston Texans
Why: The Chiefs are the better team. They come into the playoffs riding a 10-game winning streak and they have been great. The Texans had a nice season — especially for a team that was forced to start four different quarterbacks this season. But the Texans are outgunned and really made it because they are in a poor division. Just making the playoffs should be the win for the Texans. Look for the Chiefs to move on.

No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers over No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals
Why: The Bengals had a great season, but when quarterback Andy Dalton broke his thumb a month ago, they became a different team. If Dalton was playing, I might give the edge to the Bengals. But I think Ben Roethlisberger and this passing attack — Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton — …

NFL Playoff Predictions

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The NFL Playoffs begin tomorrow. I'll have specific, more detailed predictions for Wild Card weekend tomorrow, but today I thought I'd begin by making my predictions all the way through the Super Bowl. As you can tell by the picture, I'm going with a homer pick. But, hey, they are the No. 1 seed.

NFC:
No. 1 — Carolina Panthers
No. 2 — Arizona Cardinals
No. 3 — Minnesota Vikings
No. 4 — Washington Redskins
No. 5 — Green Bay Packers
No. 6 — Seattle Seahawks

Wild Card Weekend:
Seahawks over the Vikings — The Vikings are probably a year away from making a real playoff run.
Redskins over Packers — Never would have thought this three months ago.

Division Round:
Panthers over Seahawks — This is a tough one, but it feels like Carolina's year.
Cardinals over Redskins — A chalk pick, but I can't see Washington winning here.

NFC Championship:
Panthers over Cardinals — I could see this going either way, but I'm going with Carolina. It feels like their year.

AFC:
No. 1 — Denver Broncos
No. …

Now Playing

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

The Big Short
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, and Christian Bale
Synopsis: Most of us remember when the housing bubble burst. There was a crazy few days when banks looked like they were going to fail. The economy around the world was suffering. People were losing their jobs and their homes. And then the government stepped in. For many, that was probably the end of their experience of the “economic crisis.” Others may have watched some of the movies, such as the HBO biopic “Too Big to Fail” or sought to learn more. But a whole subculture of media was devoted to exploring the crisis, why it happened and who might have seen it coming. Michael Lewis, who chronicled true life stories in the books “Moneyball” and “The Blind Side,” was one of those who explored this topic further. In his book, “The Big Short,” he looked at those in the financial system who saw the crash coming and, better yet, profited from it. Now a new mov…