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Showing posts from March, 2016

Now Playing

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

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, and Diane Lane
Synopsis: This clash of the titans has been a long time coming. I don’t mean Batman fighting Superman, though that’s true. No, I mean the battle between Marvel and DC Comics. Beginning in 2008, Marvel had a long-term plan to build a cinematic universe. That came to fruition with “The Avengers” in 2012 and continued with “Age of Ultron” in 2015. Meanwhile DC saw what was happening, and planned a cinematic empire of its own. “Man of Steel” in 2013 set the stage for a new wave of DC films, and with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which opened March 25, DC Comics is hoping to see a successful cinematic universe of its own on screen. The movie set Box Office records, but it’s also drawn fierce criticism and middling reviews, which are all deserved. When “Man of Steel” debuted three years ago, I was excited. I …

Top 25 Countdown — No. 6

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Today I continue my Top 25 Countdown with the last film outside the top five.

No. 6 — The Godfather (1972)
Starring: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Diane Keaton
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Quote: "Just lie here, Pop. I'll take care of you now. I'm with you now. I'm with you." — Michael
About: There are myriad reasons why "The Godfather" is on nearly every list of the greatest movies ever made in America. It is a beautifully told story with rich characters, performances, and narrative. I love the classic scenes, the characters, the story, and the rich, iconic dialogue. But as an adult, I also appreciate the story behind the story. The one of a man hoping to create a life outside of his family, but who has a gapping weakness — his love of that family. And it is that weakness that is exploited time and again as he's drawn deeper and deeper down a path he never meant to go. You feel it from him and, especially, from the regret o…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 5

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We're almost to April and the new shows keep coming. In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new scripted series. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
You Me Her, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Audience Network (Premiered March 22)
About: Audience — the network created by DirecTV — has premiered some new shows off and on. Last Tuesday it launched a pair of comedies. The first is "You Me Her," which is a co-production with Canada and is about a couple (Rachel Blanchard and Greg Poehler) who separately meet an escort (Priscilla Faia) and fall in love with her. That's a complex premise, especially for a half-hour comedy. Poehler is the brother of Amy, and recently had a show on NBC. Blanchard is a familiar character actor and Faia was a star on another Canadian import, "Rookie Blue."All three have an affable look and feel in their roles, but there's something odd and creepy about the premise of this show.…

Upcoming Releases — April

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We've reached April and the summer movie season is right around the corner. The summer movie season officially begins in May, so this might be considered the calm before the storm.

Friday, April 1:
God's Not Dead 2 — The first weekend in April doesn't have much going on, but the one release is this sequel to "God's Not Dead," a Christian movie that drew a strong response. It's a rich season for Christian movies, and this one looks like it could be interesting.

Friday, April 8:
Hardcore Henry — This is a movie that plays like a first-person shooter. It's handheld and shot strictly from the POV of the main character. And it's an action film. It's an ambitious project that could change filmmaking, or could be a disaster. I'm leaning toward the latter.

Boss — This is the latest from Melissa McCarthy, who plays a Martha Stewartesque mogul that ends up in jail. It focus on her triumphant comeback alongside her former assistant, played by Kristen Bel…

He Is Risen

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"The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” — Matthew 28:5-7


Today is Easter, a great day of celebration for the world. It's a day when we remember Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and the hope that brings to the world for eternity. I often am moved to reflect on this in song, so I thought I'd share a couple that inspire me today.

The first is the chorus from "Written in the Stars," by Tiny Tempah. I don't know if he's a Christian, or if he totally intended for the chorus of this song to inspire that kind of hope. But he's an English rapper who talks about struggle and the search for hope. He references believing an prayer. He references Scripture i…

In defense of Batfleck

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"Man is still good. We break things, tear them down, but we can rebuild. We can be better, we have to be." — Bruce Wayne, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" opened this weekend to Box Office records. It also opened to an incredible level of critical scorn. Though, to be fair, much of that started long before the film was released.

In fact a lot of it went all the way back to the casting process, when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. I didn't mind the choice then, and I was pleased with the way he handled the role. Some may have been dubious, but I think he was a good choice.

Here's a little defense of the Batfleck.

1. "Daredevil" isn't as bad as you think. Sure, "Daredevil" wasn't great. It probably isn't an all time classic and was, perhaps, a misstep. But that can't all be blamed on Affleck. There were a lot of elements of the film, which came out on the early end of the …

Titans Clash with 'Dawn of Justice'

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"[touches the S shield] This means something. It's all some people have, it's all that gives them hope." — Lois Lane, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

On March 25 two titans are clashing. Yes, Batman and Superman will fight, but the real clash is between Marvel and DC Comics, the two preeminent purveyors of superhero stories. Of course, DC is striking back a little late, and it remains to be seen if they can even land a body blow.

Let me go back to the beginning. In 2008, Marvel released its first movie. I don't mean the first movie to feature Marvel characters — because by then we'd had three "X-Men" films and three "Spiderman" films in this current wave of superhero madness. No, I mean the first movie they made themselves. It was "Iron Man," a superhero movie directed by the guy from "Swingers" and starring Robert Downey, Jr. No one knew if it would succeed, but Marvel had a lot riding on it.

They didn&…

Now Playing

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

The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Octavia Spencer, and Naomi Watts
Synopsis: Young adult book series adapted into film series have been all the rage in recent years. Last fall we saw one popular series — “The Hunger Games” — limp to the finish with a flat final offering. The “Divergent” series didn’t come into theaters with as much fanfare, but through two films it built a solid following. With “Allegiant,” which was released March 18, the series is making a pivot toward its conclusion. After radically changing the world in “Insurgent,” the second installment in the series, “Allegiant” seemed to pave the way for something new. At least that was a logical conclusion. But much like what happened with the dystopian vision of the future offered in “The Hunger Games,” that doesn’t end up being all it’s cracked up to be for the “Divergent” series either. One of …

Top 25 Countdown — No. 7

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Today I continue my Top 25 countdown with another Steven Spielberg classic.

No. 7 — Jurassic Park (1993)
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough
Director: Steven Spielberg
Quote: "Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should." — Ian Malcolm
About: There are movies that just stick with you, and "Jurassic Park" is one of mine. I was in the summer before sixth grade when the movie came out, and I remember seeing it in the theater. It was one of those movies that made a huge impression on 12-year-old me. I then read the book, and got drawn into the rich world of Michael Crichton. The book is a better than the movie, but I love them both. "Jurassic Park" has been among my top 10 favorite movies for more than two decades, and I think it will always stay there. It's been higher, at times, but it's never left that list of top 10 films. When…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 4

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We've hit Spring and the broadcast season is winding down, but the flow of new shows continues. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episodes of new series. Don't see a new scripted series below, check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Of Kings and Prophets, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered March 8)
About: No point in kicking a show while it's down. "Of Prophets and Kings" practically broke a land speed record in getting cancelled after two episodes. That's not really bad news. The show was a hot mess. Based on The Bible, the series was supposed to chronicle the story of David and King Saul. I guess it did, kind of. But the first two episodes were not only boring, they were poorly constructed and not that interested in the source material. No one watched, and they've been cancelled.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: D

Wednesday Nights:
Underground, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on WGN America (Premiered March 9)
About: This is the latest drama from WGN …

Re-Framing History

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Perhaps the best new show of the year is "American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson." It's not that it's new or mysterious — the series is based on a real trial from 20 years ago. It's that it re-frames what you might have thought you'd known from watching the trial on TV.

I was in middle school when the OJ trial happened. But I remember watching pieces of it, and the perceptions that were presented through the media about the key players involved — particularly the prosecution.

This series — which is based on a book that asserts that OJ was guilty and beat the system — gives you a different impression. It's through seven of 10 episodes — with the eighth airing tomorrow — and it's done a great job of providing depth of character to these familiar people — Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and members of the Dream Team. And it's seemingly setting a new blueprint for this type of anthology series.

Here's three things I've enjoyed so fa…

FOX kicks off Holy Week with 'The Passion'

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"It’s so different from anything else that’s been done on television." — Tyler Perry

On Sunday night, FOX staged a live musical event, "The Passion," presented by host Tyler Perry and featuring a host of famous musicians and singers. Live from New Orleans, for two hours on Broadcast Television, the story of Jesus during Holy Week was presented.

I didn't hate the telecast, but I didn't totally buy into it. That being said, it was incredible to see a network spend money and broadcast hours essentially preaching the Gospel. Live musicals are big right now, and FOX has stolen the thunder from NBC, which kicked it off. "Grease" live was the best live musical event so far. And "The Passion" captures a lot of those production values.

In the wake of seeing the telecast, here's a look at what I thought worked and what didn't work.

What worked:
* Like "Grease" Live, this was a great production. The park in New Orleans looked good…

2016 Broncos Season — The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of the Off Season So Far

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When you're the defending Super Bowl champion, no one really wants to hear you whine about off-season woes. But, still, we're fans. And you're only as good as your next game. So, with a couple weeks of Free Agency in the books, here's a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Broncos' off-season.

The Good:
* Offensive Line Make Over — The Broncos may have won the Super Bowl, but they had some weaknesses. One of the major ones was the offensive line. It looks like in September only one starter from the Super Bowl — center Matt Paradis — will be on the line for the Broncos. But that might be a good thing. Signing Russell Okung away from the Seahawks was a great move, even better it appears to be a very cap friendly deal. Donald Stephenson is supposedly a good fit for the system, Max Garcia is developing and so, too, is Ty Sambraillo. Michael Schofield, who often looked out matched as a starter last season, can go back to being a swing tackle/guard and back up. …

The Gritty Perfection of 'Bosch'

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“Everybody counts or nobody counts." - Harry Bosch, "Bosch"

We live in a radically different era for TV. There's more scripted shows now than ever before by a wide margin. Six years ago the number of scripted series on the air was 211. In 2014, that number had ballooned to 376. And last year, the number of scripted series on the air jumped to 409. Think about that, in six year we've seen almost double the number of scripted shows emerge.

The fastest risers among that group is on streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. In 2012, the streaming services produced 15 scripted series a year. In 2015, that number ballooned to 44. And already 2016 figures to see an increase. Since mid-February, Netflix has released an original series each week.

While Netflix was a pioneer in getting original scripted fare to audiences, Amazon seems to have become the next big power player. Part of it has been a result of their unusual process. Amazon shoots all it…

Now Playing

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

10 Cloverfield Lane
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallager, Jr.
Synopsis: In 2008, the movie "Cloverfield" came out of no where. The trailer was vague and cryptic. In fact, the first trailer didn't even have the name of the movie, just a January release date. It was hard to tell what it would be. Though the story was probably clever, the movie is more fondly remembered for its marketing than its quality. It was totally hand-held, meant to be some sort of found footage film where young, attractive New Yorkers are running for their lives from a (mostly) unseen nemesis. Was it Godzilla? Was it Aliens? Was it a joke? Whose to say. Eight years later, "10 Cloverfield Lane" is using that same marketing savvy, but for a much better film. It isn't exactly a sequel, but as producer J.J. Abrams said it inhabits the same universe, maybe. And there could, eventually, maybe, be a third kind of…

Top 25 Countdown — No. 8

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Today I continue my Top 25 countdown with one of the older entries on this list.

No. 8 — Jaws (1975)
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw
Director: Steven Spielberg
Quote: "I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a man who's lining up to be a hot lunch." — Hopper
About: Spoiler alert, this is neither the oldest film on this list or the last Spielberg film on this list. That gives you something to look forward to. But in terms of the No. 8 film on this list, what can I say other than this is an absolute classic. This is the original summer blockbuster, and it's a movie I watch yearly on the Fourth of July. The first "Jaws" film I ever saw was "Jaws 3," a film that is still nearer and dearer to my heart than it ought to be, but it doesn't compare to the Spielberg original. Everything about the production of this film was difficult. The documentary on the making of "Jaws" is a fascinating watch on its own. But a…

Spring TV Roundup — Week 3

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In these weekly posts I review the new scripted shows of Spring. See reviews of the pilot and second episodes below. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Damien, Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E (Premiered March 7)
About: This new series is a sequel to the 1976 horror film "The Omen." This time it focuses on an adult Damien Thorn (Bradley James) who is about to come into his power but doesn't really know who he is. The pilot was about planting the seeds and it was dry and a little boring. The second episode was worse. Maybe as a movie follow up, compressed to 90-95 minutes, I could see this working. But as a weekly series? Who cares? And are we really supposed to feel bad for the Anti Christ? That's clearly what they're going for to some extent but I can't summon up the will to care. A&E scored big with "Bates Motel," a take off on another classic horror film, so you can see why they'd pursue this. But the s…

Losing Humanity

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"You keep choosing this life, you will die." — Morgan, "The Walking Dead"

One of the most controversial characters this season has been Morgan. He returned in the Season 5 finale, and is here for good now. He was always a fan favorite after appearing in the pilot and sporadically throughout the first five seasons.

But the Morgan we see now is different than the Morgan we've met before. He is changed by his experience. He is changed by what he's experienced. He is changed because, as he says frequently, he believes, "all life is precious."

That shouldn't be such a strange thing to say, but it is in the world of "The Walking Dead." As the series has shown many times in the past, people are the greatest danger. Society has broken down. Violence is the way of the world and most have to adopt a kill or be killed mentality to survive. But Morgan wants to give people the benefit of the doubt.

We've seen that can go wrong. One of the Wo…

Finishing Our Race

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"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

I didn't love everything about "The Book of Eli." Some have argued that it's a Christian film. I wouldn't go that far. I believe Denzel Washington is a Christian, and where he could, he used his influence in the film. One of the powerful pieces is when his character, Eli, quotes the verse above when describing the completion of his mission — which he believes was from God — near the close of the film.

I heard that verse again this week. Peyton Manning, who just won the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, officially retired from professional football on Monday. It was the end of a brilliant and decorated 18-year career. In five years, he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee. His speech was touching, gracious, and beautiful — a reflection of the man behind the player. In it he said:

"When I look back on my NFL career, I’ll know without a doubt that…

The Young Messiah

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"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:6-8

We know a lot about Jesus. Even those who don't consider him Savior or Lord note him as a key historical figure. His story has been told and re-told. As Christians, we hear the words of Jesus on a  weekly basis. We know so much about his earthly ministry.

And yet, we know little about his life. We know about his birth, and we know about his ministry. But what about the rest? A nearly 30-year history that is absent from Scripture.

The Gospel of Matthew tells of his birth, references his exile to Egypt as a boy and his return after the death of Herod. The Gospel of Luke tells of a story about Jesus disappearing to the Temple as a boy. B…

Election Season on 'House of Cards'

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“Democracy is so overrated.” — Frank Underwood

Netflix has been a major player in original content in the past few years, churning out a number of high profile series. But the series that started it all was "House of Cards." It's hard to believe, but four years ago it seemed shocking that Netflix could lure Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and David Fincher into working on a television series for a streaming service.

Now tons of big name talent work on shows for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and a number of other niche channels and streaming services. "House of Cards" might not be the best series on Netflix, but it's the original, and it's a pioneer of sorts.

Its third season, which dropped in February '15, left something to be desired. It felt meandering, off course, dry, and unsatisfying. It left some to wonder if the series was running out of steam. The fourth season, which dropped on March 4, proves otherwise. It's not as great or memorable as season o…

Now Playing

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


Risen
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, and Cliff Curtis
Synopsis: Every year around this time we get releases aimed at Christian audiences. This year is no exception. During the high holy time during Lent, in the run up to Easter, faith-based movies get some Box Office traction. "Risen" is one such release that falls into that category, but at the same time it's one of the most moving movies of this kind I've seen. I'm usually quite cynical about films made about Scripture, and I approached "Risen" in much the same manner. Here we have the story of the time closely following Jesus' death and resurrection, the story of the Disciples and the early days of Christianity, and all told from the point-of-view of a Roman soldier. But what I saw in "Risen" changed my thinking. It was a beautifully told story from director Kevin Reynolds, who previously did "The Count of Monte Cristo"…

Top 25 Countdown — No. 9

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Today I continue my countdown with my favorite war movie (and one of my favorite novels) of all time.

No. 9 — Gettysburg (1993)
Starring: Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Sam Elliott, and Stephen Lang
Director: Ronald F. Maxwell
Quote: "All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you have. Some came mainly because we were bored at home, thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. And all of us have seen men die. This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history you will see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them, or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new, this has not happened much, in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, all of it, not divided by a line between slave states and free - all th…

Spring TV Roundup, Week 2

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We've entered the Spring TV season, and new shows keep on coming. In these weekly posts I look at the new scripted series of Spring. In these posts I review the pilot and second episode. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Damien, Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E (Premiered March 7)
About: A&E has found an original programming niche by taking off from classic horror/thriller films. "Bates Motel" is essentially a long form prequel to "Psycho." It follows a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his relationship with his mother (Vera Farmiga). And it's been a hit for the network. So it makes sense A&E would follow suit, which is what they did with "Damien." This new series, which debuted last night, is a direct sequel to the 1976 horror film "The Omen." In fact, it's so direct a sequel that it features photos and footage for the original film, which starred Gregory Peck as a politician whos…