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Showing posts from June, 2016

Now Playing

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

Independence Day: Resurgence
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe, and Liam Hemsworth
Synopsis: In 1996, Will Smith established himself as a movie star in “Independence Day.” The film, from director Roland Emmerich, centered on an alien invasion repelled by the President (Bill Pullman), a fighter pilot (Smith) and a UFO nut (Randy Quaid). It was a simple enough concept, and it hit big. Emmerich pulled the right strings in building the story, which saw the White House and New York City among the landmarks destroyed in the blockbuster. It drew audiences, and even 20 years later remains an action movie staple — and a personal favorite for me. In the following years Emmerich went on to destroy the world in a variety of other films, while Smith was, for a time, the biggest movie star around. Now both are looking for a career rebound — but only one returned to make a follow up to “Independence Day.” As I menti…

Superhero Movie Countdown — No. 11

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Today the countdown continues with an underrated Batman film.

No. 11 — The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Anne Hathaway
Director: Christopher Nolan
Quote: "There's a point, far out there when the structures fail you, and the rules aren't weapons anymore, they're... shackles letting the bad guy get ahead. One day... you may face such a moment of crisis. And in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I did, to plunge their hands into the filth so that you can keep yours clean!" — Jim Gordon
About: This is an underrated film. I think that's for a couple reasons. First, it's always been associated with the tragic shooting that happened in Colorado. Second, I think it's because it's measured against "The Dark Knight." "The Dark Knight" is a rare cinematic achievement, so it's impossible for this movie to live up to that hype. However, when considered …

Summer TV Roundup, Week 6

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We're in the midst of summer and the new shows are flowing. In these weekly posts I take a look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Greenleaf, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on OWN (Premiered June 21)
About: This is the latest new scripted series for Oprah's OWN Network, and it features her in a supporting role. It's about a big church in Tennessee run by a family of ministers, led by Keith David. When his favorite daughter, Grace (Merle Dandridge) comes home, it sets the story in motion. She was perhaps the best preacher in the family, but she left it all. Now she's back. That creates jealousy among the siblings, but little do they know she's there to investigate the family. The pilot and second episode — a total of three aired over two nights — had some interesting moments. I like the cast, and the church looks and plays like something from the real world that is taken…

'Game of Thones,' season six and it's place in the pantheon

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"Sometimes before we can usher in the new, the old has to be put to rest." — Qyburn, "Game of Thones"

Wow. Incredible. Holy Cow. Can you believe that? Best ever, right? I'm so jacked right now.

Those are just some of the responses I've seen following the season six finale of "Game of Thrones," which aired on Sunday night. And it's understandable. It feels like every year when "Game of Thrones" ends people declare it the best ever. And whenever the next big episode airs, they declare it the best ever. I usually chock it up to recency bias, but now I'm thinking differently.

For those that haven't seen "Game of Thrones" season six, SPOILERS BELOW:

Was season six the best ever? That's a subjective question, but even objectively you'd have to lean toward yes. The season delivered some epic moments. Here's a small list of what we saw this season:

* Episode 2: Jon Snow is raised from the dead. We all knew it w…

An explosive ending

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"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." — Cersei Lannister, "Game of Thrones"

(WARNING: Spoilers below)

"Game of Thrones" ended its sixth season on Sunday night. After 10 of the most action-packed and riveting hours imaginable, it's fair to say this is the best season yet. Here's where we are heading into the next season.

The finale was a bloodbath. It reminded me of a Quentin Tarantino movie. The movie usually starts out slow, building characters and setting the mood. Then an action piece comes. Then in the third act, everyone dies.

The sixth season of "Game of Thrones" was very much like that. There were some incredible episodes along the way. The first half of the season was incredibly strong. Then last week's episode, "Battle of the Bastards," was the kind of action set piece we've come to expect from this show. It was an all time episode.

It would have been reasonable to expect the finale to be a …

Amazon Pilots

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It's time again for Amazon Pilot season. This time around there's just two to choose from. As always, you can watch these yourself for free and vote on what Amazon should make next!

The Interestings
About: This time-jumping story is based on the novel from Meg Wolitzer. It's about a group that becomes friends at a drama camp as teens in the 1970s and remains close into adulthood in the 1990s. The idea, at least from the pilot, is that this is a time-jumping story that shows that people really only understand what they should have done with the benefit of hindsight. The show centers on characters played by Lauren Ambrose — who is keeping secrets and navigating a marriage that never should have happened — Jessica Pare — her best friend who is keeping a secret of her own about her fugitive brother — and David Krumholtz — Pare's husband, who has his own successful TV show. The idea is that these people are supposed to be incredible interesting, or at least think they're…

Revisiting History

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"I've been very clear. I won. I didn't commit the crime." — O.J. Simpson

Last week ESPN aired its latest "30 For 30" documentary, "OJ: Made in America." Over five nights and 10 hours it told the comprehensive story of Simpson's career and post-career life, specifically the most famous trial in the world.

It is a fantastic 10 hours, and something that fans of sports and those who aren't should check out. It's about so much more than one athlete, it's about the history of race relations and justice in America. If that sounds broad and dry, I'm doing it a disservice, because it was far from that.

It's been quite a year of the O.J. Simpson trial. First came the fictional account of the trial, "The People vs. O.J. Simpson," and now this ESPN documentary. For someone who was young 22 years ago when it happened, it was fascinating to re-examine the whole series of events. Watching this documentary, I came away with a fe…

Now Playing

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

Angry Birds
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Sean Penn, and Peter Dinkledge
Synopsis: It's no surprise to see a glut of animated movies during the summer season. Kids are out of school, the days are hot, and distractions are welcome. "Angry Birds," based off the popular game, was one of the first to debut this summer, coming out in late May. During the long, hot weekend, I went to give it a try. I was excited about the voice cast and potential here. But the film didn't live up to that hype. First off, I'd note that it's borderline inappropriate for kids. I'm thinking the target audience might have been teens and young adults. Second, though it's full of plenty of funny people, the film itself is a little dull. I didn't love the jokes or the story. There's some funny moments in it, but it isn't a great movie. With all the talent involved, I think …

Superhero Movie Countdown — No. 11

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Today's superhero movie countdown continues with the one that started the modern wave.

No. 11 — X-Men (2000)
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, and Halle Berry
Director: Bryan Singer
Quote: "Does it ever wake you in the middle of the night? The feeling that one day they will pass that foolish law or one just like it, and come for you? And your children?" — Magneto
About: Superhero movies and TV shows are everywhere in 2016. We've already had four major superhero movie releases — four if you count the Ninja Turtles — and at least two more on the way. But when Bryan Singer brought his vision for the Marvel Comics "X-Men" to the big screen in 2000, that wasn't the case. In fact, at that time his film was an outlier. The Superman franchise had died out in the 1980s and Batman's franchise had withered on the vine in the 1990s. When Singer tapped into the Marvel vault in 2000, no one knew if superhero movies could be a thing. Then "X…

Summer TV Roundup, Week 5

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Summer has officially arrived on the calendar, and things are heating up on the small screen, too. In these weekly posts I look at the first and second episode of new scripted series for the summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Guilt, Mondays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered June 13)
About: This new series on Freeform, centered on an American and Irish girl living abroad in England. When the Irish girl turns up dead, the American and her French boyfriend become likely suspects. This conjures thoughts of Amanda Knox, but it's not that straight forward. There are plenty of suspects here, and plenty of potential mystery. It's also got Billy Zane as a shady defense attorney. But, that being said, the first two episodes were incredibly boring. I didn't care for the series, and even in the midst of the slow summer season there wasn't enough for me to stick with it. The performances and characters are blah, as is the story. This mi…

A Turning Point

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"You are going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well." -- Sansa, "Game of Thrones"

Last night was perhaps the most anticipated hour of TV of the year. Throughout its run "Game of Thrones" has been known for its spectacular ninth episodes of each season. Last night was, likely, the final ninth episode of a season for the series, and it didn't disappoint.

Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) met on the field of battle. It was everything fans could have hoped for. "Game of Thrones" is a show that eschews traditional labels such as hero and villain. It isn't a black-and-white world.

That being said, Ramsey Bolton is the closest we have to a pure villain. He is pure evil. He delights in torture and murder and has shown himself irredeemable. Jon, on the other hand, is the closest the show has to a pure, noble hero. He even fits the Christ-archetype perfectly, having sacrificed himself to save the world and been resurrec…

Battle of the Year

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"I've fought worse than him north of the wall." — Jon Snow, "Game of Thrones"

Through six seasons we've had one constant when it comes to "Game of Thrones" — beware of the ninth episode. It started in season one, when Ned Stark (Sean Bean) lost his head. That was, arguably, the moment that I went all in on "Game of Thrones." It was the moment I knew anything was possible.

And that's continued over all the seasons. Here's a quick snapshot of the ninth episode of each season:

Season 2 — The battle at Blackwater. Stannis Baratheon tried to take King's Landing, and it resulted in an incredible battle. Tyron was scarred, the Hound fled the city and Stannis was rebuffed.

Season 3 — The Red Wedding. To this day, this remains the most devastating episode of the show I've ever seen and, for that reason, my favorite. It's gut-wrenching, but it's brilliantly done.

Season 4 — The Battle at the Wall — Another incredible special …

Improving our Generational IQ

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In his book "Generational IQ," Haydn Shaw looks at the four generations in the church, and how we can better adapt our ministry to reach Gen-X and Millennials. It's not surprise by now, if you follow such things, that those under 40 are leaving the church, or declaring themselves Nones.

What is interesting about the research is that the Nones don't necessarily have no religious affiliation. In fact, 68 percent say they believe in God, they just don't believe in the church. That's both encouraging — because they can be reached — and discouraging because we're not doing enough to reach them.

In his book, Shaw looks at a number of different areas where changes in culture have led to Millennials approaching faith and the church differently, but the church hasn't changed. Now, the average age upon first marriage is 26 for women and 28 for me. That's much later than for the Boomer Generation, which currently dominates church leadership. It's led to…

Finals battle

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The dream for the NBA, NHL and MLB each year is a championship series that goes the distance. This year in the NBA we have that, a game seven, winner takes all battle between reigning league MVP Steph Curry and the man viewed as the best player in the NBA, LeBron James.

We should all be thrilled, right? Well, maybe.

Sure, it's a game seven, but the better question is will it be a good game? Usually when a series goes the distance it's because the two evenly matched teams have fought down to the wire in every matchup. In this series, however, it's been an alternating group of blow outs. Sure, there has been a close game, but mostly it's been a series of unwatchable lopsided affairs.

Does that make it a good, evenly matched series? No, I don't think so.

The same was largely true of the Western Conference Finals. While that series also went seven games, many of them were lopsided victories. That's been true of the NBA playoffs in 2016 in general, as it's set …

Now Playing

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

Alice Through The Looking Glass
Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway
About: I remember when I first saw "Return to Oz." I love "The Wizard of Oz," it's a classic, who doesn't love it. So I was excited about the sequel... until I saw it. What I got wasn't that wonderful, it was more jarringly odd and disconcerting. The familiar characters were there, but the story just didn't work. It was odd, quirky, and a little boring. That's what I felt seeing "Alice Through The Looking Glass." When "Alice in Wonderland" debuted a few years ago, I loved it. Tim Burton had a great take and a meaningful story. This one returns to the world and characters, but something is diminished. It's fine. The performances are fine. The enrapturing colors and sets are fine. But the story lacks some spark. Maybe you just can't go to the world again. But t…

Superhero Movie Countdown — No. 12

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Today I continue my Superhero Movie Countdown with a classic from 2002.

No. 12 — Spider-Man (2002)
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kristen Dunst, Willem Dafoe, Cliff Robertson, and James Franco
Director: Sam Raimi
Quote: "Remember, with great power. comes great responsibility." — Uncle Ben, "Spider-Man"
About: Since 2002, Spider-Man has appeared in six feature films and headlined five feature films. Since 2002, we've had three actors play the part. And we're getting another Spider-Man stand alone film, which will be the third re-boot of the franchise since 2002, in the next few years. And there's plenty of debate about which of those films has been the best. It's fair to argue somewhat that the best depiction of the story is yet to come. Others like the re-boot of Spider-Man that came in 2012. But for me, I always come back to the first take from Sam Raimi. The follow up in 2004 is the more highly regarded film, but I liked the original. It sets the stage, int…

Summer TV Roundup, Week 4

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We're in the heat of summer, and the new shows are starting to flow. In this weekly posts I look at the first and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Guilt, Mondays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered June 13)
About: "Guilt" is the story of an American living abroad who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after her roommate turns up dead. She's got a French boyfriend and a flimsy alibi. Sound familiar? This show will certainly elicit comparisons to the case of Amanda Knox, and it's hard to believe that's not intentional. At the same time, show runners insist this isn't the Amanda Knox case put to film by another name. So we'll see how that goes. The best thing going for the show is star Billy Zane, who serves as a smarmy defense attorney. The pilot wasn't that compelling, in large part because the plot was too soapy and the characters were too hammy. We&#…

'Game of Thrones' place all time

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"A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I’m going home." — Arya, "Game of Thrones"

Last night was the eighth episode of season six of "Game of Thrones." Now we have 58 episodes in the cannon, and only a handful of episodes left. It's at this point that most shows begin to discuss the idea of legacy.

The show runners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have said that after this sixth season the show is likely to have two shortened final seasons — seven episodes in season seven and six episodes in season eight. That means there's just 15 episodes left total for this series.

I moderate a chat room that discusses the show on a weekly basis, and a lot of talk has begun about whether "Game of Thrones" is the best show of all time. That's a lofty claim, but not surprising given how radically this show has changed the landscape of television.

My answer is always the same: Not right now, but maybe. Let me explain.

First, I don't think that yo…

The future for 'Bloodline'

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"We're not bad people, but we did a bad thing." — John Rayburn, "Bloodline"

The second season of the Netflix original series "Bloodline" dropped on May 27. By now, many have made their way through this latest adventure of the Rayburn clan. But if you have, you probably can't help but notice there is a shadow over the whole thing.

In terms of plot, that shadow is the murder of Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn). In terms of the series, it's Mendelsohn himself.

The first season of "Bloodline," which debuted last year, was a fascinating look at a family living in the Florida Keys. There are four siblings, Sheriff's Deputy John (Kyle Chandler), lawyer Meg (Linda Cardinelli), entrepreneur Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) and the black sheep, Danny. The first season was about Danny's return, and what that sparked in the family, leading to the confrontation with John that ended his life.

Mendelsohn was by far the best thing about the first sea…

2016 Broncos' Season — Von, Aqib and offseason problems

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It's the off-season, and we still have nearly three months until the regular season begins. That being said, it's never too early to express concern. And the Broncos have two stories — both involving their top-ranked defense — that bear watching.

Aqib Talib: This began last weekend, when Talib was shot while at a night club in Dallas. That's problematic enough. But while it seems like Talib will recover well from his injuries, there are larger questions now at work. Talib faces an investigation that could yield criminal charges, especially if he shot himself with a weapon that was unregistered while intoxicated. That could me actual prison time. But even if Talib doesn't serve actual jail time, he could be looking at a suspension. Both those prospects are rough for the Broncos.

Some have asked whether the Broncos should release Talib outright. While earlier in the off-season I argued the team could move on from Talib, now it doesn't make sense. The draft has come a…

Where do we go from here?

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"You choose a job before you really know if you'll like it right. When you're young, you don't really know who you are, what you wanna do, be. You pick something because it fits who you are or what you need. But life changes things, you change, or something. And then one day, you wake up and you don't want to go into the office, you don't want to make arrangements for people you don't know, you don't give a shit about. You don't want to do it. You just don't. Every morning, I wake up with this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach." — Phillip Jennings, "The Americans"

In the world of TV, premiers and finales are the most buzzed about episodes. But they aren't always the best episodes. "Game of Thrones" has been the master at this. It's a widely known fact among fans that the season's ninth episode — the penultimate hour of the season — is always the best for "Thrones." It's where the most acti…

Now Playing

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

Me Before You
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, and Brendan Coole
Synopsis: There are certain movies that you know what’s going to happen before you even begin. You know how it’s going to end, and likely how it’s going to make you feel. But it’s OK because the surprise in the plot isn’t the hook, it’s the characters. It’s the journey of the film that matters, not the destination. “Me Before You,” which opened on June 3, is one of those kind of films. If you’ve seen the trailers or read the book, written by Jojo Moyes, then you pretty much know what’s going to happen. It’s one of those sappy love stories doomed for tragedy, like a William Shakespeare play or a Nicholas Sparks novel. But you go anyway, hoping the characters and performances will pop and suck you in. In the case of “Me Before You” they do. Not that the film isn’t without its flaws or controversy. “Me Before You” has drawn a lot of critici…

Superhero Movie Countdown — No. 13

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Today I continue my superhero movie countdown with perhaps the best origin story film of all time.

No. 13 — Batman Begins (2005)
Starring: Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman
Director: Christopher Nolan
Quote: "People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I'm flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol... as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting." — Bruce Wayne
About: Batman is by far my favorite superhero, so I'm a little biased when it comes to movies feature Batman. That being said, Christopher Nolan — and his "Dark Knight" trilogy — has been universally praised. Most agree that "The Dark Knight" is the best, but there's often debate about where "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight Rises" falls on the spectrum. To me, "Batman Begins" is the least of the thre…

Summer TV Roundup, Week 3

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Summer is in full bloom at the movies, and getting that way on TV. In these weekly posts I look at the new scripted series of summer. I'll review the pilot and second episode of each. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Feed The Beast, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on AMC (Premiered June 5)
About: This is the latest series from AMC, focusing on a pair of friends (Jim Sturgess and David Schwimmer) who are fighting to open a new restaurant. The show was supposed to debut on May 31 but got bumped back to June 5 to air behind "Preacher." The pilot sets up the world and characters. One (Sturgess) is an ex-con with a cocaine habit that's in too deep with the mob and the cops, but he's an expert chef. The other (Schwimmer) is still struggling after the death of his wife, trying to raise a son who's gone mute since the tragedy and make a living selling wines. The pilot hit on a lot of cliches, and it wasn't great, but there's some…

Part of the Plan

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"The gods have a plan for us all." - Queen Margery, "Game of Thrones"

For the past two seasons, the crown and faith have been part of the central focus of "Game of Thrones." They've been called the twin pillars of the realm, and we've seen characters use -- and misuse -- both at times during the seasons.

Last year Cersei thought she could use the faith as a weapon, and it was used against her instead. We've also seen Margery attempt the same thing.

In the North, we've seen people make sacrifices to the Red God only to see themselves undone. And yet, we've also seen faith rewarded in bringing back heroes.

As there is in our lives, we've seen a lot of notes ring false from the religious leaders. The High Sparrow talks a good game, but his motivations seem far from pious. Yet he's brought people together and given them a rallying cry.

Last night we saw a character thought to be dead, The Hound, return. Gone is his armor and weapo…

The Right to Die

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"Disability does not sideline or disqualify someone from living a full and active life. Everyone living with paralysis can live boldly." - The Reeve Foundation

"Me Before You" is a new summer movie, based on a novel, that opened last Friday. It made plenty of money, features some good performances, and will likely be one of the sleeper hits of summer. But it's also drawing plenty of controversy.

(SPOILER ALERT)

The plot centers on a young woman, Lou (Emilia Clarke), who is tasked with being a caretaker and companion for a quadriplegic man, Will (Sam Claflin). Lou soon discovers Will is miserable and has given his parents six months, after which he intends to go to Switzerland to a clinic that will help him end his life.

Lou is shocked and horrified by this decision. She decides to spend six months trying to convince Will to live. In the process they fall in love. She thinks she's succeeded, but he instead decides to end his life anyway.

I won't get int…