Showing posts from September, 2016

Upcoming Releases, October

September was a great month for new releases, and October looks to follow suit. Of course we still get the traditional horror movies in the run up to Halloween, but each week in October we'll also get at least one interesting new release. Here's a look at what's to come! Buckle up, there's tons of new releases in October.

Friday, October 7:
The Girl on the Train -- Based on the popular book, this film chronicles the journey of a woman who claims to have witnessed an attack on another woman who disappeared. But is she telling the truth, or slowly losing her mind. The book was a sensation, and the movie, starring Emily Blunt, looks to be pretty incredible.

Birth of a Nation -- This is Nate Parker's film that shares a title with a famous silent film but offers a completely different look at our nation's history. The film became controversial because of allegations made against Parker more than a decade earlier, but could remain part of the Best Picture conversation.

Now Playing

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

Magnificent Seven
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Peter Sarsgaard
Synopsis: There’s something about this story of seven experts defending a town down on its luck that appeals to audiences. In 1954, famed director Akira Kurosawa delivered “Seven Samurai,” about a seven unemployed samurai hired to defend a poor village from bandits. Six years later, in 1960, it was adapted into “The Magnificent Seven,” a western that changed the format to gun slingers and the location to Mexico. We’ve long since passed the time when westerns were common or the popular form of storytelling, but when they’re done well, it’s still a genre that brings audiences to the theater. That’s what director Antoine Fuqua does with his new version of “The Magnificent Seven.” The characters and setting have again changed, but the spirit remains the same. Seven men come together to defend a wayward town against a bandit — in this case a land ba…

NFL Picks, Week Four

It's week four of the NFL season, time to start picking it up. Through three weeks, Lindsay has done little but extend her lead. She's now up three picks, and feeling confident that will grow. We'll see. As always, her picks are in brackets.

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

Last Week: 8–8
Lindsay: 10-6

Season: 25–23
Lindsay: 28-20

NFL Picks Spread, Week Four:
Bengals -6.5 Over Dolphins
Colts -2.5 Over Jaguars
Panthers -2.5 Over Falcons
Patriots -6.5 Over Bills
Lions -2.5 Over Bears
Browns +8.5 Over Redskins
Titans +6.5 Over Texans
Ravens -3.5 Over R…

Faith in Film — Miracles From Heaven

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." — Hebrews 11:1

Tonight we tackle a Christian movie, "Miracles From Heaven," which is also the newest film on the list. It was released last Spring, during a rich time for Christian films in wide release at the cinema. Christian films have historically been very great at telling us about faith, but have sometimes struggled showing it. That’s what’s led to some criticism of Christian films as stand alone films, since film is such a visual medium. At the outset of this film, we get a pretty clear set up of what’s to come. The minister offers a sermon about faith, and how we have to maintain faith in hard times. That is our set up to remember that we’re about to get an object lesson, or rather our main family is about to get that lesson.

But that's not where "Miracles From Heaven" stays. It does tell us about faith, but it also does a great job of showing what faith mean…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 3

Fall TV Season is in full bloom, and there's lot's of new shows to discuss. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new script series this fall. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Kevin Can Wait, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 19)
About: Kevin James is back on network TV, and while his fans might rejoice, those looking for the next great CBS comedy have more waiting to do. This show is fine. It ticks all the boxes. James is strong in the lead role. I like Erin Hays as his wife. They have a decent rapport. It's just that the show is incredibly familiar and pretty boring. That's not an ideal combination. This show is fine, and will probably be decently rated for CBS, but it's nothing special and not a show you need to make a point to watch each week.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Tuesday Nights:
Bull, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 20)
About: Michael Weatherly, formerly of …

2016 Broncos Season, Week Three

The Broncos have gotten off to another strong start and look like a potential title contender again.

Week Three: Broncos 29, Cincinnati Bengals 16
Season Record: 3-0 (2-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, leading 22-16, Trevor Siemian dropped back and connected with Demaryius Thomas on 55-yard touchdown strike, his fourth of the day, to expand the lead to 29-16, putting the game out of reach.

Recap: The Denver Broncos are 3-0. While it's certainly not a shock, it's unexpected. Many pundits thought the Broncos would struggle on Sunday in Cincinnati. Instead, they showed a new way to win. Going into the game, the Bengals were a team that threw it all over the field but couldn't run. The Broncos, meanwhile, got off to a great start with CJ Anderson but struggled to find consistency in the passing game. The reverse was the case Sunday, as Jeremy Hill exploded early for the Bengals on the ground, and Siemian showed that he can command the pass offense. The Broncos got 100-plu…

Exploration of evil

"Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you." Psalm 102:1

I have long been fascinated by exorcism stories. It's so closely tied to Christian theology, that I enjoy seeing what various takes have to say. Sometimes you find nuggets of theology in the midst of a place you wouldn't expect.

There are two types of exorcism stories. The first example is "The Exorcist," the famed 1973 movie that some view as the scariest movie of all time. It is about exorcisms, which is a religious ceremony, yes. But it's not the way you'd expect. It uses exorcisms as a plot device with no real intention of exploring theology.

The second example is "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," which was released 11 years ago. That film was written and directed by Christians with the express purpose of telling an exorcism story as a way of exploring faith. It's a theological piece meant for outreach.

Most other exorcism stories — and there are many — fall somewher…

Now Playing

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

Bridget Jones' Baby
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, and Emma Thompson
Synopsis: It’s been 15 years since Bridget Jones first made her way to theaters, and it’s been 12 years since her last cinematic outing. That’s a long time to wait to find out if everyone’s favorite under dog found a happy ending. Now Bridget Jones is back, with returning stars Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth in the mix for new adventures. It was a fall treat for fans of the comedy and fans of romantic comedies in general, as this one offered the typical antics you’d expect from a Bridget Jones adventure. In the new film, Bridget (Zellweger) is turning 43. In fact, the film opens on her birthday and things aren’t going quite as she’d planned — at least in the romance department. While she’s a successful news producer and seems confident in her professional life, there’s a big hole in her personal life. By now, people know what to expect …

NFL Picks, Week 3

Two weeks in and Lindsay is still in the lead. We both struggled in week two, going 7-9, and remaining just one pick apart. On to week three! Lindsay's picks in brackets.

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

Last Week: 7–9
Lindsay: 7-9

Season: 17–15
Lindsay: 18-16

NFL Picks, Week Three Spread:
Patriots -.5 Over Texans
Cardinals -4.5 Over Bills
Broncos +2.5 Over Bengals
Browns +9.5 Over Dolphins
Lions +7.5 Over Packers
Titans -1.5 Over Raiders
Panthers -6.5 Over Vikings
Giants -4.5 Over Redskins
Jaguars +.5 Over Ravens

Faith in Film — Evan Almighty

Imagine God asked you to build an Ark. In 2016, in the middle of the United States, you're told you need to build an Ark. Or, how about this, imagine you're in the middle of Arizona and God asks you to build an Ark. What exactly would you do? How would you respond?

That's the situation in "Evan Almighty," a comedy released in 2007 about a newly elected Congressman, Evan Baxter, who's tasked by God to build an Ark during the middle of a drought in Washington, D.C. Evan, as one might expect, is skeptical.

But really, he brought it on himself. He prayed that God would help him change the world. The whole Ark building thing was the way God answered that prayer. And what results is a pretty amusing 95 minutes that asks some tough questions about faith and obedience.

This is a semi-sequel to "Bruce Almighty," a film that offers plenty of food for thought but a film I feel is a tougher theological sell. "Evan Almighty" isn't exactly a Christ…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 2

We have finally reached premier week. In fact, I know it's premier week because I'm getting daily e-mail surveys from Nielsen. The secret is out, I'll watch anything... In these weekly recaps, I look at the pilot and second episodes of new scripted series this fall. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Night:
Kevin Can Wait, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 19)
About: This is the latest CBS sitcom from Kevin James, star of "King of Queens." In this series he's a husband and father to three who recently retired as a cop. He's looking forward to retirement, and all his grand plans, but life soon intercedes. Hilarity ensues... at least that's the hope. This show gets a nice post-"Big Bang Theory" bump for a few weeks this fall, then gets paired with a similarly themed sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc. It's hard to say which show will be more plodding. I like James and his brand of humor, and Erin Hay…

2016 Broncos Season, Week Two

The Broncos continued their strong start, while the Colts have some work to do.

Week Two: Broncos 34, Indianapolis Colts 20
Season Record: 2-0 (2-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, leading 26-20, Andrew Luck took the snap, dropped back and was immediately hit by Von Miller. The sack resulted in a fumble that was scooped up by Shane Ray and returned for a touchdown, sealing the game.

Recap: When the Broncos and Colts met in the playoffs in January 2015, it seemed like the two teams were trending in opposite directions. The Colts one a physical game over the Broncos, advancing to the AFC Title game. The Broncos and Peyton Manning fell, and questions mounted about where the franchise was headed. Less than two years later, the script is flipped. The Broncos are 2-0, the reigning NFL Champions. The Colts are 0-2 with a lot of questions for a team that floundered last season and missed the playoffs. The questions begin on defense and end with an offense that can't protect its biggest…

Emmy Predictions Pt. 2 — Drama and Limited Series

The Emmys are Sunday night on ABC. In Part One I predicted the Comedy and Variety winners. Today it's Drama and Limited Series. Tune in Sunday night to see how badly I did.

Drama series
“The Americans”
“Better Call Saul”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“House of Cards”
“Mr. Robot”

Will and Should Win: Game of Thrones — This is a loaded category. I could make a case for a number of these shows, but "Game of Thrones" was on another level last season. It should win, and I think it will.

Lead Actor in a Drama
Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”
Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Will Win: Rami Malek — I think the voters want to recognize "Mr. Robot."
Should Win: Matthew Rhys — He is incredible on "The Americans."

Lead actress in a drama
Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

Emmy Predictions, Pt. 1 — Comedy and Vareity

The Emmys are Sunday night, so it's time for some fearless predictions. In Part One I tackle Comedy and Variety Series. In Part Two, I'll look at Drama and Limited Series (which are mostly dramas, too). The Emmys are Sunday night on ABC, so check it out to see how poorly my predictions do.

Comedy series:
"Master of None”
“Modern Family”
“Silicon Valley”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Will Win: black-ish — I think this comedy will get enough votes to push it over.
Should Win: VEEP — This, to me, is the best in a highly competitive category.

Lead actor in a comedy
Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”
Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”
Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Thomas Middleditch, “Silicon Valley”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Will Win: Jeffrey Tambor — I think he's still a favorite among voters.
Should Win: Thomas Middleditch — "Silicon Valley" was a close second for me for best comedy, and Middleditch is a big reason why.


NFL Picks, Week 2

Week one of the NFL season is almost always the hardest week of the year to pick. You can't tell who's a contender and who's a pretender until they actually play. Of course, that might all just be my lead in to the fact that Lindsay took the week one crown, going 11-5. I finished a respectable 10-6. Time to mount a comeback. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

NFL Picks, Week 2:
Bills Over Jets (Bills)
Steelers Over Bengals (Bengals)
Ravens Over Browns (Browns)
Redskins Over Cowboys (Redskins)
Lions Over Titans (Lions)
Chiefs Over Texans (Chiefs)
Patriots Over Dolphins (Patriots)
Giants Over Saints (Giants)
Panthers Over 49ers (Panthers)
Seahawks Over Rams (Seahawks)
Cardinals Over Buccaneers (Cardinals)
Raiders Over Falcons (Raiders)
Broncos Over Colts (Broncos)
Jaguars Over Chargers (Chargers)
Packers Over Vikings (Packers)
Bears Over Eagles (Eagles)

Last Week: 10–6
Lindsay: 11-5

NFL Spread Picks, Week 2:
Bills -.5 Over Jets
Steelers -3.5 Over Bengals
Browns +7.5 Over Rave…

Now Playing

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

The Disappointments Room
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Lucas Till, and Gerald McRaney
Synopsis: We never run out of low-budget horror films, especially this time of year. This one from director D.J. Caruso ("Eagle Eye," "Disturbia") is more of a ghost story, and nets a bigger named star in Beckinsale. Beckinsale plays a woman who recently lost her child and moves with her husband and remaining child to a creepy house in upstate New York. Lots of strange things happen and she begins to explore the history of her new house only to discover — surprise — that it has a haunted history. Needless to say this is beyond predictable. They throw almost every cliche of the genre into this production, and most of it doesn't work. It's not that the film is bad, it's fine, but it's incredibly predictable and dull. The most confounding thing was Beckinsale's blond hair. If you're on the fence, this is one you …

Faith in Film, Week 2

This week we're tackling the movie "Alice in Wonderland." The story was originally written as a novel by Lewis Carroll in 1865. In 1951, Disney adapted it famously as an animated feature. Then in 2010, it got the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp treatment.

The film was wildly popular when it was released, winning a pair of Academy Awards for its visual style. It also made quite a bit of money at the Box Office, kicking off a wave of live-action fairy tale adaptations.

But what I love about the film isn't the aesthetic, but rather the heart in the story. In a lot of ways, it's about the importance of understanding and recognizing your purpose, and how that helps you fit in the ways you're needed for those around you.

At the outset of the film, Alice is a girl who has a clear sense of self and a clear goal for her life. But that doesn't match the goal and sense of purpose others have for her, especially her mother and sister. Alice finds herself in the midst of a su…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 1

The fall TV season has begun. In these weekly posts I take a look at the pilot and second episode of the new scripted series this fall.

Tuesday Nights:
Atlanta, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered September 6)
About: This is the latest comedy from FX, and like so many of their comedies it defies traditional thinking. It comes from writer/producer/star Donald Glover ("Community") and is a long gestating project set in his home town of Atlanta. He plays a nearly broke young man who sees a chance at his big break managing his cousin after his rap demo hits it big. The first two episodes aired in a block on Tuesday night. This is a series that's been hailed as original and fantastic by critics. And there were plenty of things to like here. Some of the comedy works well. I liked the second episode better than the first, and found myself chuckling a few times. I like the cast and the potential here. But at the same time, it's an acquired taste. It's not my kind of genre…

15 Years Later

I remember it clearly, though it was 15 years ago. There are times you will never forget. It was a Tuesday morning. I was in college. Tuesday wasn't a chapel day, and I didn't have an early class, so I was sound asleep. So were my roommates. Then the phone rang just after 7 a.m.

I was in Los Angeles. It was after 10 a.m. on the East Coast, but I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about why someone would possibly call my room before 9 a.m. I answered the line and it was a guy who'd been in school with us the previous year — Josh. He now lived in Northern California and was living a conventional life, not being on the college schedule. I'll never forget the sound in his voice. It was a level of panic I'd never heard. And I'll never forget the first words he said.

"Dude, turn on the TV, America has been bombed." In the fog of early morning, I struggled to comprehend what I was hearing. America had been bombed? That didn't even make sense…

Taking a Knee

On Thursday night the NFL season began. It was a great game. The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers met in a re-match of Super Bowl 50. The Broncos won 21-20, and there was a lot to talk about after the game.

But one of the most frequent topics was about something that happened before the kickoff even took place. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall knelt along the sidelines as the National Anthem was performed. It was a silent act of protest, and one that's become common at sporting events throughout the country the past few weeks.

It began with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who not only sat on the bench during the National Anthem but made some bold statements about the racist and inequitable nature of law enforcement. Kaepernick's words and actions haven't been received well.

Marshall, for his part, was standing up for his former college teammate, in part, but had a very different view. He espoused respect for law enforcement and the military, but s…