Showing posts from September, 2017

Kevin's Big Miss

Last year, one of the most ballyhooed new shows was "Kevin Can Wait," a sitcom featuring the return of actor and comedian Kevin James to TV on CBS. It's a place where, with "King of Queens," he had become a star and done well for the network. And his new show started strong.

But the ratings continued to ebb down through the season. Finally, in the first season finale, the show did a bit of stunt casting and brought in Leah Remini, who starred opposite James on "King of Queens," in the hope pulling in some additional viewers. Little did viewers realize it was also the start of some behind-the-scenes work to re-tool the show.

I didn't love "Kevin Can Wait," but I watched the whole first season. It was a show that had its flaws, but also had its moments. But what I thought worked best was the fun interactions between James and his new TV wife, Erinn Hayes. That, to me, was the heart of the show.

Apparently producers felt differently or, at…

Now Playing

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

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Kristen Wiig, and Michelle Pfeiffer
Synopsis: People have reacted harshly to writer/director Darren Aronofsky's latest film, "Mother!." Many have slammed it as the worst film of the year, or decade. Some have hailed it a complete masterpiece. The last film I remember being this polarizing was "Tree of Life," the epic from Terrence Malick that was both deeply personal and touched on some interesting religious questions and ideology. Some applauded and some booed when it premiered at Cannes. Some had it atop the Year's Best list, others panned it as the year's worst film. "Mother!" seems destined to go the same route, and may even end up being an award nominee along the way. It wouldn't surprise me. Technically, it's well done. And I thought it had some great performances. Say what you want about Lawrence, but as a performer I…

NFL Picks, Week 4

That was a wild Week 3, but Lindsay and I remain deadlocked. Maybe Week 4 will offer a littler separation. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

NFL Picks, Week 4
Packers Over Bears (Packers)
Saints Over Dolphins (Dolphins)
Falcons Over Bills (Falcons)
Bengals Over Browns (Bengals)
Cowboys Over Rams (Cowboys)
Vikings Over Lions (Vikings)
Titans Over Texans (Titans)
Patriots Over Panthers (Patriots)
Jaguars Over Jets (Jaguars)
Steelers Over Ravens (Ravens)
Buccaneers Over Giants (Buccaneers)
Eagles Over Chargers (Eagles)
Cardinals Over 49ers (Cardinals)
Broncos Over Raiders (Broncos)
Seahawks Over Colts (Seahawks)
Chiefs Over Redskins (Chiefs)

Last Week: 9–7
Lindsay: 9-7

Season: 29–18
Lindsay: 29-18

NFL Picks Spread, Week 4
Bears +7.5 Over Packers
Saints -2.5 Over Dolphins
Falcons -8.5 Over Bills
Bengals -2.5 Over Browns
Rams +8.5 Over Cowboys
Vikings -2.5 Over Lions
Titans -1.5 Over Texans
Patriots -9.5 Over Panthers
Jaguars -3.5 Over Jets
Steelers -2.5 Over Ravens
Buccaneers -3.5 Over Giants
Eagles -…

Faith in Film, Week 5

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice, not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. What faith I have, I owe to Simon Birch, the boy I grew up with in Gravedown, Maine.”

Those iconic words, spoken by Jim Carrey as narrator, begin "Simon Birch," a little film from 1998. They are iconic, as they were for the Novel upon which the film is based, John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany," which was released in 1989.

It's a story full of rich themes, many of which are retained in the film, though the movie captures just a piece of the story from the book. It touches on the idea of faith and has some strong things to say about he church and what it means to be a Christ follower.

It seems ideal that we'd get to this movie right now, having just touched on this topic Sunday as part of our First Things First se…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 3

It's finally here, the Fall Premier Week for networks. And over the next few weeks we'll get a flood of new shows joining the handful that got an early jump. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this fall. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Me, Myself, and I, Mondays at 9:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 25)
About: Sitcoms aren't my favorite genre, but it's hard not to respect what CBS has done the past decade, as they've become a reliable home for certain kinds of sitcoms. "Me, Myself, and I," by contrast, doesn't feel quite like the other sitcoms on the network. It feels like a little bigger swing and an attempt to do something new, so I'll be curious to see how audiences. respond. That being said, I enjoyed the pilot presentation more than I thought. The comedy focuses on a single man, Alex, at three points in his life, at 14 (Jack Dylan Grazer), at 40 (Bob…

2017 Broncos' Season, Week 3

Yesterday wasn't a great game, and I'll get to analysis in a minute. But yesterday was about more than games. It was about the future of our country, and I was proud to be a football fan when I saw those men bravely stand up for what is right by taking a knee during the anthem. If you're offended by that, you should also be offended by someone who claims to be our leader that has no regard for the Constitution and no problem using profanity to defame his citizens. Now on to the game, which left us feeling anything but proud.

Week 3: Buffalo Bills 26, Broncos 16
Season Record: 2-1 (2-0 Home)
Key Play: There were many, but the one that stood out was a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Von Miller as he had fun and joked with Bills' quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The penalty extended the drive and helped the Bills salt the game away with a late field goal. It was ridiculous for many reasons and was a key point in the game.

Recap: Prior to the start of the game, as early a…

God's Justice

I love teaching Faith and Film because both those things are important to me, as is open and honest discussion of the way the world views things as opposed to how God would lead us to view things. And when you're part of a public discussion, you never know what you're going to hear. We're all different people who have different backgrounds and life experiences, and different understandings of Scripture.

This week was one of those weeks. As part of the discussion of "The Hunger Games," and the duel inspirations of America's bloodlust in entertainment and our obsession with reality shows that inspired the film, I touched on the scourge of "Torture Porn." It's a sub-genre of horror which delights in porographic levels of violence, particularly against young people. It is a disturbing sub-genre that first appeared in the early 2000s and led many to decry its existence.

I join that chorus, but no all do, apparently. One attendee commented Wednesday …

Summer Box Office Lessons

I had an interesting conversation this week about the Summer Box Office and what went wrong. This, of course, has been a hot topic. Recently Variety chronicled how bad the summer was at the Box Office, noting that it was the "worst in a decade." The summer of 2017 was a 14.7 percent decline from 2016's Summer, and leaves us 6.5 percent behind this time last year as a whole despite some monster winter and spring movies.

That's not good. But you'd have to go back to 2006 to find overall summer receipts this low. Given inflation and the rise in 3D, that really means the actual number of tickets being purchased could be the worst in 15-20 years. And that is a moment to pause, reflect, and think about what we learned.

Many people have theories, and some have even called this the worst summer for movies ever, suggesting it was nothing but terrible releases. That's not right, and I don't think that's fair. But that doesn't mean we can't learn someth…

Now Playing

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

Wind River
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Graham Greene
Synopsis: Taylor Sheridan is one of the best writers working right now. His movies have a quality that feels real and lived in, he brings his characters to life in a vibrant way, and I love the light he shines on certain subjects. Whether it's predatory lending and the lives it crushes ("Hell or High Water"), the failed attempts in the war on drugs ("Sicario") or the plight of missing Native American women, which he considered in his latest film, "Wind River." This time Sheridan also sat in the director's chair and showed he has a strong eye for composition of shots and pacing of a films as well. The film centers on a U.S. Wildlife hunter (Renner) who comes across the body of a young girl while hunting lions on the Wind River reservation. Being that it's on Federal Land, a young FBI agent (Olsen) is called in to help with th…

NFL Picks, Week 3

We have two weeks in the books and it's time to re-evaluate our pre-season assumptions about some of these teams. Hopefully with some adjustments the picks will come out even stronger. Through two weeks, Lindsay and I remain tied. We've had the same record each week despite some different picks, which is interesting. What will happen in Week 3? Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

NFL Picks, Week 3
Rams Over 49ers (Rams)
Ravens Over Jaguars (Jaguars)
Falcons Over Lions (Lions)
Broncos Over Bills (Broncos)
Steelers Over Bears (Steelers)
Browns Over Colts (Browns)
Dolphins Over Jets (Dolphins)
Vikings Over Buccaneers (Vikings)
Patriots Over Texans (Patriots)
Panthers Over Saints (Panthers)
Eagles Over Giants (Eagles)
Titans Over Seahawks (Titans)
Packers Over Bengals (Packers)
Chiefs Over Chargers (Chiefs)
Raiders Over Redskins (Raiders)
Cowboys Over Cardinals (Cowboys)

Last Week: 11–5
Lindsay: 11-5

Season: 20–11
Lindsay: 20-11

NFL Picks Spread, Week 3
Rams -2.5 Over 49ers
Ravens -4.5 …

Faith in Film, Week 4

“We cheer for our favorites then cry when they get killed, it’s sick. If everyone just stopped watching they’d have nothing.” - Gale, "The Hunger Games"

The past two weeks we've taken a look at mainstream franchise films to see what they're saying about our contemporary culture. Last week it was "Jurassic World," which stays true to the original film, "Jurassic Park," in looking at the idea of what happens when you attempt to play god. But more importantly than that, it layered on a message about our current culture of more, and the pressure that creates on innovators to keep moving forward no matter what.

Tonight we look at "The Hunger Games," another popular film franchise that takes some very deliberate looks at a couple aspects of culture. And that is a credit to Suzanne Collins, the writer who first crafted "The Hunger Games" as a three-book franchise and later worked on the film adaptations. She set the series in a future…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 2

Fall TV is upon us! We have a handful of new shows already on the air, and the full premier week begins on Sunday night. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of news shows this fall. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
American Horror Story: Cult, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered September 5)
About: This is the seventh iteration of the popular horror anthology, and each one features a different story, genre, and characters, while employing many of the same actors. People like Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson have been it since the beginning, and are continuing to generate scares. I commented last week that I had a small issue with this structure because it felt like the wrong venue to take up a somewhat serious political issue. Another concern I had was that we felt too close to this, in a way. It mirrored reality too strongly, which is rough for me since I view TV as an escape from the every day grind. The second episode…

2017 Broncos' Season, Week 2

The Broncos are 2-0, and they won in impressive and explosive fashion at home on Sunday.

Week 2: Broncos 42, Dallas Cowboys 17
Season Record: 2-0 (2-0 Home)
Key Play: In the third quarter, leading 28-10 and following a Chris Harris, Jr., interception, CJ Anderson took a hand-off 23 yards to the house for a touchdown, making it 35-10 and effectively putting the game away.

Recap: At the very least the expectation was that the game with the Dallas Cowboys would be a rough one. The thought was that the Broncos would be tested, particularly by running back Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys' stout offensive line. That didn't really happen, at least not in the way most expected. The Cowboys were sometimes close on the scoreboard, but they never really seemed to be in the game. After tying it 7-7 in the early going of the second quarter, they never came close to tying it again. And, in fact, the Broncos seemed to win going away, opening a 25-point lead in the third quarter and salting the g…

Emmy Preview Picks, Part 2

Yesterday I previewed the Comedy part of the Emmys, today I'm going to look at Drama and Limited Series. Of course, the real best Drama this year should be "The Leftovers," which wasn't even nominated. So I'm making these picks under protest, just know that.
Drama Series
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“This Is Us” (NBC)
“Westworld” (HBO)

And the Winner Is: I think "The Handmaid's Tale" will get the win here, and it's a worthy option in this group. However, my personal pick would be "Stranger Things," which is a dark horse here. I also think "The Crown" and "Westworld" have outside shots. This is a tough group.

Drama Actress
Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)

And the Win…

Emmy Preview Picks, Part 1

The Emmys are on Sunday night, and in preparation I'm looking at the nominees and making some picks over the next two days. First, I'll look at comedies.

The Comedy format has shifted a lot over the past few years. They're all half hour slots, but many have more depth and range of emotions than a lot of dramas. And that makes the competition somewhat difficult. These half hours that really play out more like dramas are now competing against traditional sitcoms, which leaves the titles skewed. Some have argued the Emmys should really be broken down into half hour shows versus hour long shows, and that makes some sense, but it will never happen.

The other curveball for the Emmys is the typical season for nominees. Those receiving awards on September 17, 2017, aired between June 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017. That means there are many shows whose seasons aired almost a year ago or more than a year ago. That's rough to think about for a viewer or audience.

Then there's th…

Now Playing

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

Home Again
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Candice Bergen, Michael Sheen, Nat Wolff, and Pico Alexander
Synopsis: This romantic comedy from Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of Nancy Meyers, stars Witherspoon as a woman with a couple young kids who just hit 40, moved back to Los Angeles to live in her father's old house, and is going through a divorce. She ends up connecting with a young film director and his two friends, who then end up staying in her guest house while they try to achieve their dream. This was clearly some nice counter programming to "IT" last Friday, and is about what you'd expect from this kind of romantic comedy. It's fine and has some fun characters and moments, but it's not overly compelling or deep. This is the kind of forgettable romantic comedy we've gotten a lot of this summer, and there's not a lot here that stands out. It didn't deserve some of the critical trashing it got, b…

NFL Picks, Week 2

What a Week 1 in the NFL, huh? Everyone had the Chiefs beating the Patriots at home, right? What about the Jaguars destroying the Texans? Actually, I think Lindsay had that one, so never mind. Anyway, it was a wild first week of the season.

But now we're on to Week 2. As always, Lindsay's picks in brackets.

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

Last Week: 9–6
Lindsay: 9-6

Season: 9–6
Lindsay: 9-6

NFL Picks Spread, Week 2:
Texans +4.5 Over Bengals
Bills +7.5 Over Panthers
Buccaneers -6.5 Over Bears
Browns +7.5 Over Ravens

Faith in Film, Week 3

I love "Jurassic Park." It was released in the summer of 1993, and it was a formative theater-going experience for me. I was 12, and I watched the movie with a sense of wonder, fascination, and exhilaration, and that's something I can still tap into when I see the movie today.

As I've moved through my life, and been a Michael Crichton fan all that time, I've also learned to appreciate the depth of ideas in the story. As he does in a lot of his work, Crichton approaches advances in science and technology with a sense of wonder, but also with a sense of trepidation. He doesn't believe we can control everything and be in command of our creations, and his stories bear that out.

Even thought Steven Spielberg softened the edges of the original novel, the spirit of that ideology from Crichton remains in "Jurassic Park." You see it most clearly when Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) challenged John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) by saying, "Your scientists …

2017 Broncos' Season, Week 1

The NFL Regular Season is back, and the Broncos got off to a strong start.

Week 1: Broncos 24, Los Angeles Chargers 21
Season Record: 1-0 (1-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter with the game on the line, the Chargers lined up for a tying field goal. After taking a time out to ice the kicker, the Broncos' special teams surged and Shelby Harris blocked the kick, securing a three-point victory for Denver.

Recap: It was a long, strange week for the NFL as the regular season got under way. The Patriots lost at home, and the Buffalo Bills sit alone atop the AFC East. The Jacksonville Jaguars pounded the Houston Texans, meaning Blake Bortles has more regular season wins in 2017 than Tom Brady. And both the Chiefs and Raiders looked strong in getting road victories over AFC playoff contenders. That put plenty of pressure on the Broncos, who hosted the Los Angeles Chargers in the LAST game of Week 1, the second half of a Monday-night double header. That put the start of the game at 8:15 p…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 1

The Fall TV Season is upon us, as four new shows debuted post-Labor Day. These posts, if you're a regular reader, typically come on Tuesdays, and will return to that slot next week. But the Broncos open on Monday Night Football, meaning my happy, or sad, recap will be tomorrow. So I bumped this up a day. As always, I review the pilot and second episode of new scripted series.

Tuesday Nights:
American Horror Story: Cult, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on F/X (Premiered September 5)
About: This was the first new show of the Fall Season. I know what you're thinking, this isn't new. It's in its seventh season. That is true, but since it's an anthology, each season stands somewhat on its own, so it has been my practice to lump it in with the new shows. What's also interesting here is typically "American Horror Story" has come later in the season, but I'm wondering if its clown-heavy theme made it a prime candidate to jump out in front of the clown-heavy horror film…

2017 NFL Season, Broncos Preview

Just a week ago we were still reeling after the Broncos made some unexpected moves on cutdown day, and finalized the squad with a Practice Squad. Now, we're on the cusp of Week 1 of the NFL Season, with the Broncos playing the LAST game of the weekend on Monday night.

Before the season kicks off, let's take a look at what we might expect this season beginning Monday night.

* Can the Broncos offensive line improve? The Broncos will have at least three and possibly four new starters on the offensive line on Monday night, but will it help? The Broncos need the O-Line to step up in a big way this season for the offense to flourish.

* Who is the third receiving option? We know the Broncos will lean on Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but who is the next man up? Will it be Cody Latimer? How about Bennie Fowler or Jordan Taylor? Will the Broncos get production from the tight end? My gut feeling is one of those three receivers needs to make their presence felt.

* Can Trevor Siemia…

Fall TV Preview, Returning Shows

Fall TV Premiers are almost upon us, and that means it's time to start setting our calendar. Earlier this week I looked a lot at new shows — ones to avoid and ones to look forward to. Today, I want to highlight five returning shows I'm excited about. Again, they are listed in order of premier date.

1. The Good Place, Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC (Premiers Wednesday, September 20 at 10 p.m.)
About: This was one of my favorite new shows of 2016. It had great comedic timing and a great cast, led by Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. But the best part was the way the show was daring enough to flip the script in the finale, leaving it wide open to a new reality in season two. We've waited a long time for the season to return, but it's one of the first to debut this fall, and I can't wait.

2. Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO (Premieres on Sunday, October 1)
About: It's hard to believe that "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is actually coming back. It's been…

Fall TV Preview, Ones to Avoid

On Tuesday I looked at five new shows airing in September and October that I think look promising. (Though, caveat, having read a review of "The Orville" significantly damaged my enthusiasm for it). And though I have seen no more than previews and trailers, there are a few that I can't summon any excitement about. Below are five that I think are likely duds this fall. They appear in order of premier date.

1. Me, Myself And I, Mondays at 9:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 25)
About: So there is some talent in the cast, and the CBS Fall Preview almost gave me second thoughts, but there is so much about this premise that doesn't work for me. It's the same man at 40, 14 and 65, played by different actors. I don't really understand how it's going to work, or what precisely makes it compelling. Time travel is all the rage in a pathos gimmick thanks to "This Is Us," but I have my doubts here.

2. Law & Order True Crime: The Menedez Murders, Tuesday…