Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Idol Thoughts (Guys, Round of 20)...

Well, that's more like it. Though the guys still haven't completely redeemed themselves from last week's atrocity and I still don't think a guy really has a shot this year after what the girls pulled off last week. The good news is that the guys went from having almost all sub-par performances to only having two real clunkers. The bad news is that there were still no real showstoppers and there are probably only 3 guys with even a remote chance of winning this thing. I'll let you figure out which three.


Phil Stacey - “Missing You.” (B)
Just decent that's all, nothing special.

Jared Cotter - “Let’s Get It On.” (B-)
At least it was a performance but still felt forced and honestly not that good vocally, nobody feels like they actually belong on stage.

A.J. Tabaldo - “Feeling Good.” (B+)
At times really good, but overall still something missing.

Sanjaya Malakar - “Stepping Out.” (D)
He is just not good, WHY IS HE ON THE SHOW? Serious mistake, yet he will sail through again... sigh...

Chris Sligh - “Trouble.” (A-)
Sang the song, looked like the stage was his home, and didn't try to make it more than it was.

Nick Pedro - “You Give Me Fever.” (B)
OK voice, Ok song, but still blah.

Blake Lewis - “Virtual Insanity.” (A)
GREAT song choice and I loved the vocal turntable-ism. Blake brings something to Idol they have never had, a true Male pop star, not rock, not country, not soul, not R&B, POP. No one else there could do that song, NOBODY. That means something to me.

Brandon Rogers - “Time After Time.” (C-)
Boring, Poorly sung, bye bye Brandon.

Chris Richardson - “Geek In The Pink.” (B+)
The judges must of had a different mix, cause I could barely hear the vocals, what I heard sounded good but not as good as the judges heard.

Sundance Head - “Mustang Sally.” (A-)
I don't know what to do about Sundance. He strikes me as a great bluesy vocalist that just isn't comfortable being a performer. That was a great performance from someone I think is essentially a non performer. Still good stuff.


The line of the night has to go to Cowell who chirped "...and I like puppies." while Paula was gushing about something or other that had absolutely nothing to do with singing or performing. Unfortunately there are plenty of "I like puppies" voters who will keep in the incredibly awful Sanjaya. Someone please tell me who is voting for this guy? The other one that should go home is Brandon with his completely forgettable performance. For my official predictions I'll go with Brandon and Nick Pedro, both of whom just didn't do anything to get anyone to pick up a phone and vote.

Comments? Questions? Which guys actually have a shot at winning? All feedback welcome below :)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On Rubik's Art and Salmonella Sandwiches...

Q: What did the leper say to his girlfriend?
A: I'll never forget the day you caught my eye.

Here are some things around the interweb catching mine today...

- I don't know why, but I'm always more impressed by art that takes longer and has a built in level of difficulty. There's nothing especially beautiful about this Rubik's Cube sculpture (sculpture?, mosaic?, building?, not sure.) aside from it's nostalgic subject matter. In fact, it's actually somewhat ugly and ungainly. Yet somehow I find myself in awe of it, as if the effort itself is praiseworthy despite the end result (The means justify the ends?). It's the same reason I hold stop motion animation in such high regard, and possibly eating competitions. By the way, what's up with the lower left cube? It's as if he/she/they made an extra "top of hand" piece and just set it there for no particular reason. Am I the only one bothered by stuff like that?

- "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" debuts tonight after Idol with Jeff Foxworthy hosting. In case you were wondering how you stack up check out the Trivia Quiz at the official site. I got 9 out of 10 and was told that I am as smart as a 5th grader. If someone on the street told me this, I would think I was being insulted, yet somehow I'm proud of this fact. In the end this show will likely be less about how smart you are and more about all the things you have forgotten because they ended up having absolutely no practical meaning in your life. But that probably wouldn't have fit as nicely into a show title, so I'll forgive.

- Former Idol contestant Matt Buckstien (the cowboyish guy who made Hollywood last year and made it to the last cut this year) had the clever idea to keep going in Idol by running his own voting on his Myspace page. Each week he uploads a video of a performance in line with the Idol week and people are encouraged to leave comments and vote on whether or not he would have been eliminated. It's a great idea, but Idol sent Mr. Buckstien a cease and desist, banning him from using the word "Idol". It's an interesting story and you can read more on Matt's take at his Myspace, as well as his humorous video take on the whole thing.

- Finally today, I was getting ready to make the boys some PB+J recently and happened to notice that the jar of peanut butter was Peter Pan. If you can remember back a couple weeks, there was this big Peter Pan recall of jars that might contain Salmonella. After checking online for the info and then crosschecking the lid of said jar, I came to the startling conclusion that this half eaten jar of peanut butter's lid did indeed have a code number with 2111 at the front (2111=Bad.) Every one is fine, and I don't remember any unexplained illness in the family recently, but it was just kind of shocking that this Peanut Butter sat in our cupboard two weeks before checking. All of the sudden I felt like child services was going to break down the door and steal the children of the neglectful peanut butter parents. The truth is there is always a lot of peanut butter in the house o' Dice and so we just pushed the Peter Pan to the back when the recall was in the news, but still. When things like this happen (Taco Bell E Coli, Broccoli contamination, etc) my usual stance is to say that our fear addled culture goes crazy over nothing. But from here on out I think I might be a little more diligent about at least seeing if it applies to me. Lesson learned.

I'll check back in tomorrow with some Idol thoughts, and I'd like to do a two month Wiiview here soon so keep dropping by!

Comments? Questions? Heard any good leper jokes? All feedback welcome below :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

James Cameron Finds Jesus (literally)... least that's his claim. Later today the famed director of "Titanic" will hold a press conference to claim that he and his documentary film crew found the actual bones of Jesus Christ (and Mary mom and Mary Mags as well.) It's easy to dismiss this as a complete publicity grad for a movie, but there's something about this that irks me more than usual. Setting aside the easy headline of "King of the World discovers King of Kings" and the smiling circus that is sure to congregate on both sides of this story, there is an essence of real malice in waiting til Easter season to promote this to full effect. Cameron seems to be intentionally arrogant and combative in this and as someone whose face he's aiming to shove this in it's more than a bit annoying.

The interesting thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. Present your evidence, show your movie, and I'm more than happy to listen and see what you have found. My faith is strong enough to know that you are mistaken, but I would love to see what makes you think you've found Christ's skeleton (Can't you just see Jesus firing up the heavenly X-Ray machine, just to make sure His bones are still with Him, "Whew, Cameron, you had me worried.") I guess it just seems irresponsible and callous to treat this with so little tact and grace (whether you think it's true or not).

This also caught my eye in the article: "But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archaeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family" (emphasis mine.) DNA tests, from what? One of the Da Vinci code descendants? Common sense says that calling anything proof in this case will require quite an intellectual stretch, yet here they stand dogmatically claiming to have it (Truth is, this is a nice look in the mirror when we get so dogmatic about "proving" faith issues.)

Don't get me wrong, J.C. (that would be the James Cameron, J.C., not the other.) is an amazing filmmaker. I've never understood the revisionist history on Titanic, it's a spectacular movie, and I still think it stands up as one of the best movies of all time. In fact, Cameron's skills are the reason this is just that much more frustrating. It's Micheal Moore all over again. Amazing style, compelling content, it's just that the substance feels so bitter and contrived.

In the end, I just get the feeling this will be another one of those things where they might as well have found a box of bones with "Jesus" written in sharpie on a post-it note stuck to it, and it would be just as viable proof. But I'm more than willing to give Mr. Cameron and crew the respect of actually watching the doc before I make that judgement about his beliefs. Too bad he decided not to do the same.

Comments? Questions? Bone to pick with James Cameron? All feedback welcome below :)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why Doves Cry...

Morning all. I wasn't too disappointed with the Idol boots last night. I predicted 2 out of the 4 (Paul and Amy) and I knew the worst singers would stick around for a couple weeks thanks to the "threat bounce". Truth is there are only about 8 I really care about (only 2 of which are guys) so as long as they stick around I'll be fine.

Thought the poster here was nice. Can't help but smile when you combine two of my TV faves.

For the main chunk of the blog today I wanted to look at a couple of awards shows headed our way, the Oscars and the Doves. One you probably know too much about and the other you may know nothing about. The Academy hands out it's annual prizes this weekend and I haven't really mentioned anything about the nominees yet, mainly because there are very few I have seen or care about (not that that is different from most years.) I couldn't care less about the biggest award, Best Picture, since both Dreamgirls and United 93 were completely snubbed. It was nice to see Greengrass get a directing nom for his amazing work on United 93, but no director has ever won without their movie being nominated for Best Picture, so I'm not holding out any hope of a win.

None of the other big categories really interest me except maybe Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor. I'd love to see Will Smith win for Pursuit but that doesn't look likely, and I'd like to see Jennifer Hudson win for "Dreamgirls", which she just might. Other than that, I'll be rooting for "Cars" in animation, and "The Prestige" wherever it got nominated (Art and Cinematography I think). Like I said not much to root for for me Sunday night. I may just watch Amazing Race All Stars and go to bed, then >> through the ceremony when I get the chance.

The Doves, on the other hand, are usually very interesting to me. They never get much press, but being in "the industry" (that would be the "Christian Music" industry) I know a lot of these artists and the people who work with them. Unfortunately the industry is struggling right now, and this year's nominations showcase exactly why. You have to look down to the specialty categories to find anything interesting or groundbreaking, with all the major nominations being right up the middle in the "safe zone" (except possibly Toby and Stellar Kart for Artist of the Year). Radio stations, record labels, and artists in this industry have learned that being "safe" gets you a relative level of success, and the industry has become a somewhat stagnant look at what "lowest common denominator" looks like when applied to music. Don't get me wrong, I want to see artists who are believers succeed (in fact, my livelihood depends on it) but I also want to see them push boundaries, musically, artistically, and yes even lyrically, and then be rewarded for doing so. Plumb's "Cut", Jars' "Dead Man", and Toby's "Diverse City", could (and should) have been best song noms.

Most telling are the "POP/Contemporary songs of the year" nominations:

  • “Bless The Broken Road”; Bless The Broken Road: The Duets Album; Selah Featuring Melodie Crittendon; Marcus Hummon, Jeff Hanna, Bobby Boyd; Curb Records
  • “Broken And Beautiful”; Broken And Beautiful; Mark Schultz; Mark Schultz, Matthew West; Word Records
  • “Dead Man (Carry Me)”; Good Monsters; Jars Of Clay; Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason, Matt Odmark; Essential Records
  • “Made To Worship”; See The Morning; Chris Tomlin; Stephan Sharp, Ed Cash, Chris Tomlin; Sparrow Records, sixstepsrecords
  • “My Savior My God”; Anything Worth Saying; Aaron Shust; Aaron Shust; Brash Music
  • “Praise You In This Storm”; Lifesong; Casting Crowns; Mark Hall, Bernie Herms, Beach Street Records, Reunion Records

Hear me clearly, these are good songs (even great songs), but for the POP/Contemporary category to be 5 out of 6 songs ballad heavy is just a flat out joke. It's hard to blame the GMA voters on this, though. It starts at the labels and on the radio (that's me). The artists that should be in this category simply don't exist. The Grammy POP categories include artists such as Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mary J. Blige, Justin Timberlake, Gnarls Barkley, The Black Eyed Peas, Nelly Furtado, Death Cab for Cutie, and The Pussycat Dolls. That's pop music and we have nothing like it. Toby Mac might be our JT, and Group 1 Crew is a step in the right direction, but our industry has the rock so tightly tied around us that we are sinking fast in a growing ocean of musical diversity.

If we are content to just circle up and keep making safe songs that Christians want to hear, fine. But if we want the product to expand we need to bring in new ears, some of which might even belong to non-Christians (gasp).

That's enough ranting for today :) What do you think?

Comments? Questions? Do you even care about the Doves? All feedback welcome below :)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Idol Thoughts (Girls, Round of 24) ...

Now that's more like it! Can we just send all the guys home and let the girls battle it out in the Top 12? There were at least 5 performances last night that outdid anything the fellers did the night before. And Lakisha's show stopping performance (well, I guess the show was scheduled to be over anyway, but still...) will be remembered as one of the great Idol performances of all time.

Rankings (in order of performance):

Stephanie Edwards - “How Come You Don’t Call Me” (A)
Amy Krebs - “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (C+)
Leslie Hunt - “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” (C)
Sabrina Sloan - “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You” (A-)
Antonella Barba - “I Don’t Want Miss A Thing” (D-)
Jordin Sparks - “Give Me One Reason” (A-)
Nicole Tranquillo - “Stay” (B-)
Haley Scarnato - “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (B)
Melinda Doolittle - “Since You’ve Been Gone” (A)
Alaina Alexander - “Brass in Pocket” (D+)
Gina Glocksen - “All By Myself” (B+)
Lakisha Jones - “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” (A+)


Who should go home? Another easy call. It should be Antonella and Alaina. But I could see anyone going except Lakisha and maybe Melinda. The reason is that Lakisha so dominated the night that the remaining votes will be almost solely based on fandom. Many of these girls were so completely ignored before this that people don't really know them. My gut says Alaina will go but Antonalla will be saved because she's gotten some screen time. Plus, the judges were so brutal with her that she will get that "in trouble" bounce in the voting. So I'll say Alaina and Amy are headed out and just hope that Jordan, Stephanie, Sabrina, and even Gina got enough to survive. If not, you'll hear me rant harder than ever that the voting process would be much better if we voted people off instead of on.

Comments? Questions? Agree? Disagree? Will Lakisha win it all? All feedback welcome below :)

On Blended Glowsticks, Faithbased Films, and More...

A few things I've been browsing this morning...

- Will Mark Burnett's new "On the Lot" be more Survivor/Apprentice/Contender or more The Casino/The Restaurant/Rock Star? You can find out when it debuts May 16th. Also announced today was that "So You Think you can Dance" will be back May 24th.

- Are "Christian Films" making the same mistakes that "Christian Music" did 20 years ago? Great article in Phil Vischer's blog today.

- Do you think the animosity between Cowell and Seacrest this season is real or a show? Whatever the case I find it completely annoying.

- Finally, is always good for a nice laugh, but is there anything cooler than a dozen glowsticks in a blender ?

I'll be back in a bit with my thoughts and predictions on the Idol gals from last night. And hopefully tomorrow I can get around to some conversation on the Oscars and the recent Dove noms (that's the Christian version of the Grammy, in case you were wondering.)

Comments? Questions? Cowell vs. Seacrest, Who Wins? All feedback welcome below :)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Idol Thoughts (Guys, Round of 24)...

Was it just me or were the AI guys really bad last night? I seriously don't remember a single episode of any season that was as consistently boring, and had no stand out performance. I guess Phil Stacey was ok, and certainly Chris Sligh has a wonderful personality, but overall the singing was at best mediocre. I think I'm rooting for Blake (beatbox boy) just for the novelty of it all.

Rankings (in order of performance):

Rudy Cardenas (aka guy who sang first and danced way too much) “Free Ride” C+
Brandon Rogers (aka Mr. Background Vocalist) “Rock With You” B-
Sundance Head (aka guy who rocked the audition and hasn't shown up since) “Nights In White Satin” D+
Paul Kim (aka guy who doesn't wear shoes) “Careless Whisper” C-
Chris Richardson (aka guy who neither looks nor sings like JT, yet somehow they keep saying that) “I Don’t Want To Be” B-
Nick Pedro (aka The Quitter) “Now And Forever” C
Blake Lewis (aka Beatbox Boy) “Somewhere Only We Know” B
Sanjaya Malakar (aka guy whose smile completely freaks me out) “Knocks Me Off My Feet” F
Chris Sligh (aka Mr. Funny Guy) “Typical” B-
Jared Cotter (aka "this guy made the finals instead of Sean Michel?") “Back At One” C+
A.J. Tabaldo (aka "who dat?") “Never Too Much” C
Phil Stacey (aka guy that missed his child's birth yet somehow we still like him) “I Could Not Ask For More” B+


Who should go home? Easy. Sanja and Sundance. Sanja's performance was one of the worst things I've heard on the AI stage and Sundance has proven that his tryout was all smoke and mirrors, he's just not that great a singer. Who will go home? First week it's usually the ones who get little airtime through the tryouts or the ones who do good enough that people think they are safe, yet bad enough that no one votes for them. A.J. and Jared fit into category 1 while Nick, Paul, Rudy and Brandon fit into category 2. I'll go ahead and take one from each category by saying that A.J. and Paul will hit the road this week.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Review: The World's Fastest Indian

The World's Fastest Indian

If you are looking for timely movie reviews from me now is as good of a time as any to crush that sweet notion into the ground until no more breath escapes it's cold dark lips. The truth is that I mostly watch DVDs, and even the films I see in the theater have often already been out a few weeks. No fancy press pass here, so It's not like I see movies the day before release because I'm some sort of filmic gatekeeper letting you know exactly what you should and shouldn't see. A Dice review, rather, is a little more real world.

Case in point.

I was checking out upcoming showings on HDMovies (I'm willing to watch just about anything in glorious HiDef) and saw a movie I had heard good things about a while back but never got the chance to check out, "The World's Fastest Indian". I set it to DVR, and it sat there on my hard-drive for about 2 weeks before I got around to starting it a few days ago and finishing it last night. So I'm not exactly Roger Ebert in that way, but I will let you know when I hit a movie worth talking about. After all, just cause a movie is a couple years old, doesn't mean it can't have an impact. It may not be fresh in theaters or even in the new release section at Netflix, but if I saw it, I'll bust out some thoughts here in the blog.

I knew "The World's Fastest Indian" was about an old guy who loved going fast. I didn't think he really looked Indian in the previews (nor Native American, as if the title would be so un-PC) and I wasn't sure why his national heritage was even of note. Turns out it's the motorcycle he rides that is the "Indian" and his national heritage actually does play a vital role, in that he's a Kiwi (New Zealander for those that didn't pay attention in the Lord of the Rings' special features) and has to travel to the other side of the globe if he wants to fulfill his quest to run in the official Bonneville time trials. The movie is ostensibly about his quest for a world land speed record, but under the surface this is much more a story about the journey that passion and purpose can take you on if you give in completely to a calling. It's also about peeing on your neighbor's lemon tree for them while they are away, so you decide what message to walk away with.

The heart of T.W.F.I. is an amazing performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins as Burt Monro. Based on a true story (though the movie takes quite a few liberties with the facts) Munro jumps from the screen as a charismatic yet simple everyman, and Hopkins' performance perfectly brings him to life for us. You get the sense that this could be your grandpa, if only your grandpa was cool enough to drive a motorcycle over 200 mph and had a New Zealand accent. He is at the same time out of place and yet comfortable in any situation. He is both aloof and yet keenly astute. It's an amazing balancing act and Mr. Hopkins is completely up to the task. The surrounding performances though seem a bit over the top and hammy at times, but that may just be lesser actors withering in the genius that is Anthony Hopkins. I also thought the movie was extremely well shot and beautiful, but that could just be the HD euphoria talking.

The truth is I liked this movie quite a bit, and it had me invested even with a somewhat slow pace. Despite a few minor glorifications of immorality and rebellion, the overall message was a refreshing look at what happens when someone pursues life (and purpose) with zeal and a disregard of consequence. It's a reminder that we could all use a little more single mindedness about the things that are important in our own lives. Been wanting to write that novel? Trying to get focused on starting your own business? Been waiting to start that family? Take a lesson from old Burt Monro and just go for it, all out, no holds barred. Just make sure you have someone to "water" the lemon tree while you're away.

The World's Fastest Indian: 88%

Monday, February 19, 2007

Of Flaming Faces and Free Flapjacks....

Two thoughts today, neither of which have to do with Brittney shaving her head. Seriously, how is this A) News or B) even remotely important. Speaking of remotes, we mourn the loss of a true hero today, but that's not one of my thoughts either (Stream of consciousness blogging, it's what's for breakfast.)

The aforementioned two things:

First, In my gandering at the box office for the weekend I saw that "Ghost Rider" made $44.5 million. 44 and half million dollars? Either Nic Cage is much more of a draw than I gave him credit for or this was a much bigger comic series than I realized. My only response to the previews was that it looked cool enough to draw the kids but creepy enough to keep away most. Guess we like creepy. To give you an idea it's the largest opening for a movie in 6 months, Cage's biggest opening ever, and the biggest President's Day ever. I'll check it out when it hits DVD, but let me know if you saw it and what you thought.

Also, just a heads up as IHOP will be giving away a free stack of pancakes tomorrow to celebrate National Pancake Day. I'm not normally one to care about useless holidays like this, but when there is free food involved, let's party! By the way, when is National Steak Day, and has anyone alerted Texas Roadhouse?

Comments? Questions? Could Ghost Rider actually be good? All comments welcome below :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Goodbye 60, and a bit of Wiispotting....

First up, I'm completely bummed with the news that Studio 60 is likely out the door for good. It's been put on indefinite hiatus, which is network code for "we respect it too much to say canceled, but yeah, don't come to work anymore." This show was really catching it's stride and Sorkin's genius writing will be missed on a weekly basis. Plus it has one of the only consistent Christian characters on TV, well I guess there's always Flanders. Am I the only one who will be going through Sorkin withdrawal every week?

I did get some cheering up this morning, though, when I saw this picture today from a BBC news' "World Business Report".

If you peek behind the serious anchorgal's shoulder you will see the Nintendo Wii's News channel open on her monitor. How cool is it that the serious folks over at BBC use a Wii to gather news data? The truth is she was probably rockin' out to the dance stage on Wario Ware right before the interview and only switched it over to the news to look professional.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Toby and a Truck...

Got Toby's new album yesterday (yes, I know it doesn't come out until next week, and yes, I am so happy to work in radio) and it is absolutely capital A mazing. Toby conitinues to grow as a solo artist on "Portable Sounds" which is saying something for somebody who has already put out some killer projects. Every single track on this album is a surefire radio smash. For an idea, the current single "Made to Love", though a stellar song, is probably the 4th or 5th best song on the disc. Tracks 1, 3, and 13 are my wishlist singles, but I'd add just about anything from this CD to our rotation. The hooks are hot, and the production is off the charts fresh (a definate headphone album). If this all sounds a little hyperbolic and fanboyish, you might be right. But check it out for yourself when it's out next week and let me know what you think.

On a completely different note, I'll just let these pictures tell the story (confirmed as accurate by Snopes here.) Close call doesn't begin to describe it.

(Apparently I can't link the pics so click the link and check it out.)

Yes I know it's Valentine's Day, you don't think those pictures have anything to do with love?

New Movie Ideas...

(Originally posted Tuesday, February 13th, 2007)

Read about a couple new films that have the green light, and I'd love to know your thoughts on these.

The Hardy Men

I guess the concept is that the Hardy Boys have grown up and are now at odds. It's set to star Ben Stiller (hot off the surprise success of "Night at the Museum") and Tom Cruise (comment withheld), and I'm thrilled that these two will share the same screen space. This is something I've been begging for since Stiller's crazy good impersonation of Cruise at the MTV Movie Awards several years back. To put them as brothers is perfect. You may have forgotten, but Cruise is a pretty decent actor (and funny enough to hang with Ben) if you can get past the distractions. In fact, I'm still convinced MI3 was an amazing movie that didn't get the credit it deserved because of Cruise's sideshow.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

You may remember this as the finale from the original "Fantasia". You know, where Mickey got the starry cap and directed anthropomorphic brooms to carry buckets of water until he had inadvertently filled the place with water. As a side note, I think our youngest son Ethan must have seen this lately, because he has taken to filling cups of water and just dumping them through the house. Thanks Disney. Anyhow, the new film will be feature length and be LIVE ACTION. Nicolas Cage is set to star as the sorcerer and I'm not sure who will play Mickey (another role for Dakota Fanning's resume, perhaps?) I would be quick to judge this as one of the worst ideas ever, except that I did the same thing a few years ago when Disney announced they were making a movie about an old decrepit pirate ride.

An EW Double Take...

(Originally posted Monday, February 12th, 2007)

Back for another cold week in Michigan. It's been almost a month now since we have seen the other side of freezing, I really need to start damaging the Ozone more, cause this global warming thing just ain't doing the trick yet. Checking out Pro Tennis in person this past weekend turned out to be pretty impressive. The gals we saw were absolutely pounding the ball, and I couldn't believe some of the returns. My favorite part though was pulling a Bruno Anthony on the folks across the way (prize to the first person in the comments who IDs that reference.)

Also wanted to mention an EW double take I had this weekend. These happen occasionally when Entertainment Weekly casually references something the mainstream press usually ignores. Recent examples include a Phil Vischer interview, or when Evenescence asked me why the **** I was playing their music. This weekend I was flipping the pages and found Ricky Gervais' "Must List". This is where the celebrity they are interviewing gives their recommendations for stuff to watch or listen to. Ricky Gervais (creator and star of the original "The Office" in the UK) is apparently a Mat Kearney fan. I wonder if Mat even knew this was coming. I wonder if he subscribes to EW and had his own little double take when he saw his little picture and blurb as one of three things that Ricky Gervais loves. "Hey that picture in EW looks like me, wait a second, THAT IS ME!" I also wonder how he felt about Gervais' description of his art as "spoken word that sounds like French hip-hop". Hmmm, French hip-hop, oooooook. Whatever the case, Mr. Kearney best be getting used to the press, talent like that just won't stay buried.

Marking off a life goal today...

(Originally posted Friday, February 9th, 2007)

Made a life goal list back in college and today I get to mark another one off. Tonight I'm going to a professional tennis tournament. OK, so it's not Wimbledon or anything, but I'm counting it. In fact the station got some sweet suite ticks so I'll even be following the bouncing ball in style. I've heard that tennis is like hockey in that it is so much more impressive in person. We shall see.

Here for your enjoyment is the rest of my list and how I'm progressing:

Life Goal Rules:

1). Once the list is begun you can add things but never subtract them.
2). Make them as specific as possible.
3). Adding life goals in hindsight is ok but must be noted as such.

(Uncompleted goals in red)
  • Go to a Pistons' Playoff game (Pistons/Heat Game 5 Eastern Conference Finals 2005, Pistons dominate Shaq and the Heat)
  • Go to a Tigers' Playoff game (Tigers/As Game 3 ALCS 2006. Kenny Rogers dominates Oakland)
  • Go to a Red Wing's Playoff game
  • Go to a Lion's Playoff game (Haha)
  • Meet Toby Mac (Many times now, in fact last time he actually knew my name. Livin' the dream, baby.)
  • Meet Steve Taylor (National Youth Workers convention 2000, presented him with a 3 ring binder compilation of ways he had inspired me called "Steve Taylor for Precedent", if you weren't sure of my geek status, know now, I'm a full fledged nerd.)
  • Meet Jon Foreman (HINDSIGHT: Didn't know how much it would mean to me now, but met the guys at GMA 97 before the first album was even out, listened to Chem 6A nonstop the entire drive home)
  • Skydive (I was so close to this one, but they were afraid if I freaked out they couldn't control me, the life of a big guy.)
  • Scuba dive (Honeymoon, 1995, Cayman Islands, Sting Ray City, Incredible)
  • Perform in front of Thousands (Nazarene Youth Congress, 1995, 8,000 screaming teens, as part of a group called "Vision")
  • Sing the National Anthem before a professional sporting event (1996, Before Pacers/Rockets game as a part of Orpheus Choir)
  • Have a radio show (Every morning on 101.7 The Fuse)
  • Go to professional Tennis match (TONIGHT)
  • Go to a professional Golf tournament (Buick Open 2002, Saw Tiger drive up close, feared for my life)
  • Shake the hand of an active president
  • Be completely Debt free (including home) by 40 (Not looking likely but I'm still going for it)
  • Go to Europe (Portugal/Spain Mission Trip 1997)
  • Go to Africa
  • Go to Australia
  • Weigh 240 again (This may seem high to you, but for a 6'6", stable structured person as myself 240 looks almost skinny)
  • Appear in a feature film
  • Publish a book
  • Write a song for each of my children (Still haven't recorded "Ethan's Song" yet but when I do I'll let you know where you can purchase the full album ;))
All in All, tonight puts my at 13 out of 23 by age 31. I'll take it and thank God again for the experiences He's brought my way. How 'bout you?

Idol Thoughts

(Originally posted Thursday, February 8th, 2007)

Got snowed in south of Chicago the past couple days. People there still seem stung by the Bear's Super Bowl loss, but always end up saying things like, "It was time for Manning." or "That Tony Dungy, what a great guy." It's almost as if they can't bring themselves to be too upset with an Indy win. Speaking as a Detroit Tiger fan, that's just strange. I'm still seething that the Cardinals won, I don't care how nice the coach was. Dungy's post game stuff was great though, and his quote about being a Christian and winning being more important than being black and winning certainly raised some eyebrows. If you missed it, here it is in it's entirety:

"I'm proud to be representing African American coaches as the first African American coach to win this. It means an awful lot to our country. But again, more than anything, I said it before, Lovey Smith and I not only are the first two African Americans but Christian coaches showing that you can win doing it the Lord's way. We're more proud of that!"

God not only got some props on the Super Bowl but continues to show up in American Idol as well. In a recent interview, Hollywood attendee Sean Michel (he's the one that looked like Castro and sang the Johnny Cash tune) had this to say about the message in his music:

"The message I want to deliver is that all of us are in desperate need of something more out of life. And while we struggle after it in vain, God has appeared to us as a man to bring us to that very life we were always meant to live. I want to let people know there is another level to living that is only found when we lose ourselves to Jesus Christ."

Later he says this:

"First, I find a connection with my Creator as I am involved in the creative process of my art. And so my art, my songs, are meant to dig down deep in the soul of those who listen, so that it reflects that connection between me and God. It also means that there is a lot more that goes into a song than just hitting some notes. I want to craft every moment of singing a particular song so that I put my heart out there, not just my voice. And finally, I hope that anyone who sees or hears me sing will have no doubt that I have shared in the redemption of sins offered by Jesus Christ, because there is nothing else that I know to sing about that moves me so much as this."

Well, that about sums it up, doncha think?

Of course rumor has it that Sean doesn't make it through Hollywood because he won't shave his beard or cut his hair. If he goes I am so rooting for the chubby Chris kid, but until then Sean is the man.

You can check out the full interview here.

The Best Super Bowl Commercial Was...

(Originally posted Monday, February 5th, 2007)

... I'll tell you in a second. But first, Is anybody else confused as to why CBS is pushing the new David Spade/Patrick Warburton sitcom "Rules of Engagement" so hard and then putting it on at the same time as "24" and "Heroes"? I think David Spade is hilarious (though completely at fault for how bitingly sarcastic our culture is) and I would be likely to DVR the first few episodes to see if it's any good. Now, there's not a chance I will see it. I have a dual tuner DVR so I can record two things at once, but that's it. And there is no way I'm missing an episode of "24" or "Heroes" just to see if David Spade is still funny.

So yeah, the Super Bowl was yesterday and whether or not you broke the law by watching it at a church party or just took it in at home I'm sure you had an opinion on the most important part of Super Bowl Sunday, the commercials. As far as I'm concerned, Coke was the clear winner this year. Not just that they had the best one commercial, but their entire ad campaign was genius. Choosing to be positive, fun, and happy in a sea of negative, rude, and dull commercials paid off big time. The coke spots were a breath of fresh air compared to everything else. Career Builder was comparing your job to the "Lord of the Flies", Bud was encouraging rock throwing, wedding botching, hitchhiker hosting, and slapping each other, and GMC telling us that if we didn't buy their product a robot would commit suicide (or something like that). The point is while everyone else was telling us life stinks, Coke said, life is happy. Their black history month spots were great, the "What happens inside the Coke machine?" spot was one of the most creative and fun spots I've ever seen, and the old guy zooming off to find new life experiences was joyous. But what really stole the show was the Grand Theft Auto spoof in which a presumed ne'er-do-well ends up changing his environment by doing random acts of kindness. It was a perfect encapsulation of what Coke was doing with their brand, turning the negative advertising on it's head, and standing out by promoting positivity.

Way to go Coke, you nailed it.

Favorite TV Shows of 2006 (Part 3)

(Originally posted Friday, February 2nd, 2007)

Catching up:

15. Jericho
14. CSI
13. The Simpsons
12. Monk
11. American Idol
10. My Name is Earl
9. Mythbusters
8. The Lost Room
7. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
6. House

From the Top, to the f, to the ive, here are my favorite TV favorites.

5. Survivor (Exile and Cook Islands)

It's a bit of a cheat to include both Survivors from 2006 as one, as each really does stand on it's own. But the two editions this year were about the same (though I was much happier to see Yul win than Aras). Survivor continues to be the best Reality Show on TV even if American Idol gets all the attention and Amazing Race gets all the awards. They craft some great stories from these stranded strangers and I think Jeff Probst may be the most underrated host on TV. They also deftly mix the exploring of human nature with fierce competition, making the show compelling on philosophical and emotional levels as well as engaging on a week to week "root for your favorite" level as well. If this list were ranked by how much I yell at my TV, Survivor would easily be number 1.

4. 24

I'm not sure any season of 24 will ever match the place season 1 has in my heart (Am I the only one who still says "on the day of the California Presidential Primary", after Keifer does the intro?) . The show was so fresh and the style so risky, and I was so invested, that the first season plays like a lucid dream to me sometimes. Having said that, Season 5 of 24 has come the closest. So many great moments and great characters. I'm always amazed at how these guys continue to up the ante, kill off people we love (Edgar... sniff, sniff), and write in the most over the top plot points and somehow it just works and we love them even more. By the way, just once I'd like them to go to commercial with Jack Bauer saying to someone, "By the way, Where's your bathroom" and then straight to the beep, click, beep, click. Oh and in case your wondering my full ranking probably looks like this 1,5,3,4,2.

3. The Office

From the most intense show on TV to the funniest. I'm not sure I can justify this one much beyond saying it makes me laugh. Like seriously laugh... a lot. Yes, Steve Carell as Michael is great, and yes, Dwight Schrute is a great Kramerish sidekick, but what makes this show for me is John Krasinski (Jim). The show is shot in a documentary type format so that fourth wall (that separates the audience from the action) comes down and Jim's response to the insanity of what happens around him is often a direct wink, smile, or nod to us. Often times I laugh more at Jim's reactions than the actual gag itself. So yeah, this show makes me laugh... out loud... a lot.

2. Heroes

I'm really not sure how the creators of Heroes got away with such a blatant X-Men rip-off, but I'm glad they did. This show locked me in with it's first four jaw-dropping, twist ending episodes, and has kept me around with some decent character development and story lines. Since the beginning of the year the show has been consistently besting 24 in the ratings and I have a feeling it could be with us a while. It's a difficult thing to keep such a serialized, sci-fi, character driven show fresh so I wish them the best, I'll be watching.

1. Lost

Speaking of serialized, sci-fi, character driven shows and staying fresh. Maybe you are in the seemingly growing group that thinks Lost has jumped the proverbial Dharma tattooed shark. Me? I think it's stronger than ever. I still love the characters, I still want to know what is up with that insane island (er islands?), and I still would rather watch this show than anything else on TV. I also love the fact that it's creators are doing everything within their power to set an end date for the series so they can wrap it up in as satisfying way as possible (I still weep at how poorly the X-Files exited) and I think once they commit to running uninterrupted seasons (like 24) the stage will be set for an spectacular finish to the best 42 minutes on TV every week.

Favorite TV Shows of 2006 (Part 2)

(Originally posted Thursday, February 1st, 2007)

Making a favorite TV list is much easier than movies for one reason, DVR. I've already got my recording priorities set on my Tivo (well technically DishDVR but you know what I mean), so it's almost as simple as looking to see if two shows went head to head which one I'd rather record. Now explaining why, that's more difficult.

But I'll give it a shot.

10. My Name is Earl

Writers should study this show as a perfect sitcom specimen. Solid concept, stellar cast, great stories, and a positive message. All of this in a show that trusts it's audience to know when to laugh on their own (RIP laugh-track, you were both annoying and unnecessary, glad to see you go). Sure, I have a bit of a problem with the mixed up spirituality of the show, but to have a show that honors the power of doing the right thing is nice to have on TV. Did I mention the show is hilarious?

9. Mythbusters

There is something contagious about the sheer giddiness of Adam and Sam as they explore, in as explosive and destructive ways as possible, urban legends and commonly held beliefs. I consider this show part "Mr. Wizard", part "That's Incredible" and part "The Odd Couple" As funny and entertaining as it is educational. Thank you Discovery Channel for existing so shows like this can see the light of day, and then prove how that light can be focused through a block of ice to make fire.

8. The Lost Room

The what? Yes, I know. It's a shame more people didn't catch this 6 hour mini series on Sci-Fi when it was on last November. But it was one of the most thought provoking, quirky, entertaining, and well done things on TV all year. It got enough attention that Sci Fi is mulling doing another batch and it's certainly a world worth exploring. "The Lost Room" refers to a Hotel Room that is locked in another dimension that is only accessible by having "The Key", a hotel key that when used on any door will take you to the room at which point you can exit the hotel room into any other door in the world. "The Key" is only one of many objects that originally resided in the hotel room that now have strange powers in the real world (Think X-Men except it's every day household objects instead of mutants that have strange powers.) The real power of this show though is in the end, as in, IT HAS ONE. I'd forgotten how satisfying actual resolution to a TV mystery could be. We need more shows with set ends so we can get somewhere. Are you listening Prison Break? Lost? I'm talking to you!

7. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Best written show on TV, easy. Of course, that shouldn't be a surprise when Sorkin is holding the pen. I fell in love with his style on Sports Night, and am still smitten with it today. With the quickest wit possible Sorkin paints the backstage world of a "Saturday Night Live" type show (man, I wish real people talked the way he writes.) A prominent Christian character inhabits this universe as well, and guess what, she's actually likable and funny. The show stumbled to find it's way out of the gate with the characters being more humorous than the show they were making. But they moved away from that fairly quickly, and now the show seems to be finding it's stride very well. So smart, so funny, Studio 60 is worth a glance.

6. House

Hugh Laurie is an acting genius. He has created a character that is so compelling and real that he has taken an otherwise gimmicky and often predictable medical show, and made it feel like the best thing on TV. Don't get me wrong, I love the show (there are only 5 others I love more) but beyond his performance there really isn't much else to this thing. Of course, what else do we need really, the show is after all called "House" in the same way that 24 really should be called "The Jack Bauer Power Hour". I'll keep tuning in every week just to see what this caustic, unethical, yet somehow strangely lovable doctor will say next. Thank Hugh, Thank Hugh very much.

Favorite 15 Shows of 2006 (Part 1)

(Originally posted Wednesday, January 31st, 2007)

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting as much response as I got to my annual movies list. I had over 400 views of that blog with plenty of you joining in the comments to let me know which movies I missed (apparently I really need to see "Little Miss Sunshine") and which movies shouldn't have made the list (what can I say, I like mutants). Since I'm quite the populist people pleaser (redundancy is fun, as is alliteration, also redundancy), here's more of my favorites from the past year, this time in the television arena, for you to tear me apart with.

Same caveats apply; not a best of, not necessarily recommendations, and all are shows I watched in the 2006 calendar year.

Here we go, five at a time, from #15 to #1 by Friday.

15. Jericho

Is Skeet the new Keifer? uh... No. Though both have those hippie-cool first names, Sutherland out-broods Ulrich easily. It's probably not fair to compare any show to 24 but that seems to be the feel Jericho is going for. What they get is more Prison Break than 24. Like Prison Break last season Jericho ultimately succeeds mostly in plot, as in, I can't wait to see where the story goes next. And much like Prison Break this season Jericho could get very boring very quickly once the main conflict is resolved (who is behind the attacks and why). I'm not sure how they will keep my attention after that as I'm just not invested in the characters except for possible the outgoing Mayor/father figure Johnston Green (played wonderfully by veteran Gerald McRaney). Jericho could easily be a one season show that outlives it welcome quickly, but for now I'm in.

14. CSI

Still doing quality work, even if the over-saturation of the genre has run them a little thin. The miniature making serial killer storyline was engaging, intelligent, and creepy, the three keyingredients to a good CSI (well that and the occasional gross bugs eye view of a human cadaver). Grissolm and the gang are still my favorite CSIs around and if I ever die in Vegas I'm glad they will be there to find out how it happened.

13. The Simpsons

Later this year The Simpsons will hit episode 400. It's an astonishing number for any TV Show, but when you stop and think about this one in particular it's hard to believe. A cartoon satire? Really? Smart writing and some amazing voice work get you so far, but the longevity of this show is simply unexplainable. Just think about it, after a couple seasons this show went up against The Cosby Show my friend, you know, the Huxtables. When this show started I was in JR. HIGH! Though there have been ups and downs in quality it remains one of the best shows on television and despite the many imitations, there is still nothing quite like it.

12. Monk

Not the highest quality show on TV, but maybe one of the funniest. Tony Shaloub is an absolute genius in this series and deserves every award he gets. I'd tune in just to see his portrayal of our favorite OCD detective but I'm often engaged by the intricate mysteries as well. This is proof that sometimes a show just needs a place to live and breathe (in this case on cable outlet USA) to find an audience. The networks could learn a lot from this show (and if they do, maybe the next Freaks and Geeks or Firefly will be with us a bit longer.)

11. American Idol

The most watched show on TV. Though I'm increasingly disturbed by Paula Abdul's erratic behavior I'm increasing impressed by the variety and quality of entertainment on this show. I was one of many Taylor fans last season and knew just how Mr. Hasselhoff was feeling when he won. The thing about AI is that it found it's winning formula and has strayed very little from it since. I believe that most of us could stand to be a little more Simon and a little less Paula, and that there is nothing wrong with helping people identify what their gifts are and even more importantly aren't. This rant is, of course, sure to be followed by you telling me, "blogging just isn't your thing", and "Stick to the talking Mr DJ, leave the writing to the professionals." Never mind, forget I said anything.

Homestar Wii, Terebithia, Justin's Bday and More

(Originally posted Tuesday, January 30th, 2007)

Justin is 6 years born today. Every time one of my boy's annometer clicks another year I get this feeling that the numbers will keep going up and at much faster rates than I am comfortable with. Between May and October later this year I will have every even number under 10 in my house, just weird. What's nice is that Justin informed me today that he wants 800 Wii points for his birthday (not so coincidentally this is exactly the number of Wii points it takes to buy "Zelda: A Link to the Past" on the virtual console.) And since 800 Wii points costs exactly 8 bucks, I think I'm OK with it. Thank you Nintendo. In fact, we may just make it 2000 Wii points and let him pick up Mario Kart 64 or Mario 64 as well. We shall see.

Speaking of the Wii (which I seem to have been doing a lot lately), a lot of "Wii enhanced" websites have been popping up lately with big buttons and dimensions perfect for Wii's internet browser (still free and in Beta). My favorite of these has to be the one that has many of the Homestar Runner games formatted perfectly for Wii use. There just seems to be something giddily addictive about playing "Population Tire" with the Wiimote.

Did you ever read "Bridge to Terabithia" when you were in school? It's one of three books I vividly remember from those years of forced reading ("Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Tuck Everlasting" are the others.) Well, I recently saw the preview for the upcoming flim and it kinda weirded me out. I remember the story being about friendship and imagination but I don't remember it being so fantastical and I'm not sure I like the world being so external realized in that way. However, just today I found out that Katherine Paterson's son David actually wrote and produced it. And since a lot of the story was based on his experiences it gives me a little peace that the movie will be faithful to the printed pages. I'm now looking forward to this movie much more than I was.

Finally, I stumbled today (thanks to upon one of the most compelling anti-drug campaigns I've ever seen. It's called "Faces of Meth" and it's simple before and after pictures of Meth addicts. It's absolutely stunning that a drug (and the lifestyle that goes along with it) can do this to a woman in 3 and a half years. Astonishing, and heart wrenching. I hope when you look at these pictures there is more compassion than judgement, and a real since of "There but for the grace of God". These pictures outdo the frying egg analogy any day. "You, alright!, I learned it by watching you." Don't do drugs boys and girls, seriously, run away.

The Wii, One Month Later

(Originally posted Monday, January 29th, 2007)

Now that my fam is about one month into the Wii experience (well, we've actually had it about two months, but for the first month it sat in our closet taunting me) I thought I would blog a bit on how the experience (or Wiisperience if you prefer) has been.

It's easy to see that Nintendo has hit a marketing home run with this thing. They still don't stay on store shelves past opening, while the PS3 lingers there like a puppy at the local shelter begging to be taken home. In fact, word is that Wiis will be scarce until June, even with a million a month or so hitting stores worldwide. Why are people clamoring for this simple little white box? I don't know, maybe because it looks like crazy fun and something you could pull out at any party and young and old alike would enjoy it? The real question though, one month in, is does it continue to live up to that promise or is it a brilliant marketing gimmick that starts to wear thin?

I'd have to say for my family that question is answered easily and vehemently that the promise has been kept. My only regret with the Wii is that I don't have nearly enough time to play it. We've got Monkey Ball, Zelda, Wario Ware, and of course Wii Sports, and I've got so much more to explore in all of them. My wife is now a PRO bowler in Wii bowling (she's got the sparkley ball to prove it) and we might even start working out together everyday with Wii Boxing. My boys love Wario Ware the most, but also dig the original Super Mario Bros (downloaded from the Virtual Console) and popping in old gamecube games as well. I've taken the Wii to our staff Christmas Party, where it was a hit, pulled it out at mom and dad's, who loved it, showed it off to some "non gamer" friends, who played so much that they were sore for a couple days, and I am looking forward to throwing a few Wii parties in the next month.

The point is the Wii has completely blown away my expectations and continues to do so, and I haven't even mentioned the amazing weather and news channels, the Miis, or even the innovative control system.

I still feel like I've got plenty more to dive into on the system (last night I popped in an SD card and messed around with the picture channel for the first time, there's even a fun puzzle game in there.) and maybe a month is too short of a time to really see if the Wii holds up. But I have to say, I couldn't be more pleased with our family Christmas gift this year.

One thing I still want to explore more is the online community aspect, but I don't know of any friends who have a Wii yet. If you have a Wii and are willing to "be friends" just post your Wii info below or email it too me at I think all you need is the Wii code (mine is 7654 7233 2786 4327) and then you can check out my Miis and send notes and be updated when I finally beat Twilight Princess 4 years from now.

Checkin' In from Pittsburg

(originally posted Friday, January 26th, 2007)

You get one guess as to what I'm doing in Pittsburg today. Nope, wrong. Nuh-uh, wrong again, and I told you only one guess. Today I find myself at a jewelry convention.

Yeah, you heard me, my wife is a Premiere Designs jeweler and she drag... er.. graciously offered to bring me along. The truth is she loves it and I love that she loves it (and I'm sure that she loves that I love that she loves it.), and it seems to be a great company with a Christian foundation. I'm just not sure I fit in with all these "Jewelry Ladies", I need a shot of testosterone, like, real quick. So I finally started into this season of 24. Yep, that'll do it.

I'm just through the first 2 hours and... YIKES, man, that show goes right for the jugular. eh hem.

So I need to get back to some more Jack Bauer in order to make it through this evenings jewelry session, but I wanted to check in even though I don't have much time (places to go, earrings to see, you know)

Couple quickies:

-If you get a chance check out new artist Jill Parr's stuff, we've been playing the single Reach for a while, and it's now hitting the Top 30. She's a local Michigan gal and the version we are playing with MOC is hot. I'm begging you labels, MORE POP MUSIC, pleeeeaaaassse :)

- If you are a Mythbusters fan, you might want to check this page that lists every myth they have done. It's not a perfect design but it's a great idea and I am completely addicted to that show.

I'll check back Monday and maybe get into my favorite TV of the past year, sounds like fun.

Top Movies of 2006 (Part 5)

I'm finishing up the list this morning, thus giving you the opportunity to finally know that I completely missed your favorite movie. Until now, you held out hope, now all hope is gone. Until this morning, you could believe that maybe, just maybe, I had good taste. Now, you can clearly see I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Also, just for MJ, all 25 of these movies (and about 6 others) ranked ahead of "The Island". Deal with it.

Time for some "closure", let's do it.

25. Hoodwinked
24. End of the Spear
23. Flightplan
22. Inside Man *
21. Akeelah and the Bee
20. Zathura
19. Good Night and Good Luck
18. A History of Violence *
17. World Trade Center
16. The Greatest Game Ever Played
15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
14. X Men: The Last Stand
13. The Exorcism of Emily Rose *
12. Walk the Line
11. Sky High
10. Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story
9. Cinderella Man
8. Monster House
7. Lady In the Water
6. Match Point*

5. The Prestige

This is one of those movies that lingers. So amazing in it's execution and resolution that you can't help but talk about it for days afterwards. The movie itself is the perfect magic trick, with deft sleight of hand by Christopher Nolan (Momento, Batman Begins) who is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are amazing (nice to see Batman and Wolverine in the same film, eh?) and the audacity of what this movie does is made completely acceptable by the metaphor that it resides in.

4. The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith has proven he can make a mediocre film good (Hitch) but with Happyness he (and his child prodigy offspring, Jaden) make an already good movie great. This is a great story of perseverance and integrity already (a lot of shadows and echoes of Cinderella Man), but the performances of this father/son combo blew me away. Really, it's a pretty straightforward tale and you know exactly where it is going, but Mr. Smith and son pull you into these characters to the point that my sister in law was actually praying in the theater for them (anyone for a prayer/predestination/freewill/omniscience discussion?). Powerful stuff.

3. March of the Penguins

Best documentary I've ever seen. Engaging, gorgeous, compelling, entertaining, educational, and funny. These are penguins, PENGUINS I tell you, yet somehow I was completely engrossed in every second of the amazing story of how these creatures make their living. Skip "Happy Feet" (and it's environmentalist overtones) and watch this instead. You will get a much better appreciation of the world we are caretakers of, and they don't even need Robin Williams to make funny voices to do it.

2. Cars

It says something about Pixar that this is probably the fifth best movie they've made and yet it's still the second best film I saw all year. Cars follows the well tested Pixar formula of putting story and character first and letting message rule the day over gimmick and crassness. An amazing allegory on stopping and smelling the roses and the importance of community and teamwork. As always Pixar backs up the substance with the style, as some of the animation in this film is incredible. I thought Pixar might be in for a miss with this one, but nope, they nailed it again.

1. United 93*

The most powerfully moving movie I've seen since "The Passion". Every decision director Paul Greengrass made in this was the right one. Not casting known actors, casting people in their own real life roles, developing the terrorists as real people and not caricatures, letting the events unfold without gratuitous commentary, not creating back story for the passengers (thus allowing us to get to know them just as they got to know each other) It all adds up to a movie that feels like they stumbled upon actual footage. It puts you directly in the seats of these honorable, brave, and heroic people and leaves you devastated at what evil looks like when laid bare. It would have been very easy to exaggerate or embellish the action points of that day. Todd Beamer saying "Let's Roll" is a perfect example of a moment Greengrass could have highlighted for dramatic effect, but instead he chooses to downplay it, because that's probably a more accurate look at how it happened. These aren't action stars, they are you and me in a situation you and me (and they) could never imagine being in. Somehow, the simplicity and honesty of this film leave a deeper impact and more completely honors these people and the choices they made September 11th, 2001.

Top Movies of 2006 (Part 4)

25. Hoodwinked
24. End of the Spear
23. Flightplan
22. Inside Man *
21. Akeelah and the Bee
20. Zathura
19. Good Night and Good Luck
18. A History of Violence *
17. World Trade Center
16. The Greatest Game Ever Played
15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
14. X Men: The Last Stand
13. The Exorcism of Emily Rose *
12. Walk the Line
11. Sky High

Moving on.

10. Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

This is a pretty straight forward, against all odds, tug the heartstrings kind of Disney movie. What made it great, though, was the amazing performance of Dakota Fanning (I'm more and more convinced that she is actually some sort of freaky child/adult clone hybrid where she only looks 10 but is actually 36 years old), and the wonderful look into the Father/Daughter dynamic.

9. Cinderella Man

I honestly don't know if I've seen a Russel Crowe performance that disappointed me. The guy's got it down. His portrayal of Braddock (yes, yet another "true story") was extremely moving and I found myself openly cheering for this man whose roller coaster or a life never threw off his moral compass. Also, Ron Howard's touch is felt throughout, giving the entire film a real sense of weight. Well done, Opie, well done.

8. Monster House

A horror movie for kids? A kids movie for adults? What is this thing? All I know is that it was genuinely funny and touching, and absolutely gorgeous. There is a reason it was nominated for both the Globe and the Oscar for animation. It is a beautiful movie, and well executed both in plot and pace. My recommendation? Put the kids to bed and watch it with your local spouse.

7. Lady In the Water

I should have known better than to trust the critical bashing this took. M. Night has never let me down before, yet somehow as more and more critics trashed this, I became more convinced the streak was over. Maybe my low expectations had me thinking this was better than it was, maybe I'm just a Shammy fanboy, but I thought this movie was great. I loved the characters, loved the storybook feel to it, and most of all loved what it had to say about purpose and plan. A solid double to the gap for Night who is now 6 for 6 as far as I'm concerned.

6. Match Point *

Woody Allen made this? Seriously? This movie owned me. I wasn't expecting much of anything from this, but a friend whose cinema opinion I really respect told me I just HAD to see it. He was right, and I'll try and tell you why without giving too much away. It's all right there in the first opening minutes of the film, I mean all of it. The power of seemingly random things, the beauty of the tennis analogy, the pace and feel, all of it. Arriving at the end of this movie was a stunning experience, and I felt like the movie had me where it wanted me the entire time.

Top 25 Movies of 2006 (Part 3)

25. Hoodwinked
24. End of the Spear
23. Flightplan
22. Inside Man *
21. Akeelah and the Bee
20. Zathura
19. Good Night and Good Luck
18. A History of Violence *
17. World Trade Center
16. The Greatest Game Ever Played

Are you not entertained?! You will be, You.... wiiilll... be. (Sorry ,my Yoda isn't as good as my Maximus)

Moving on.

15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

See, this is where my integrity shows up, because I really didn't want to admit I liked this movie as much as I did. I know it was targeted toward teenage girls, but somehow it spoke right to me. (The logical ramifications of that sentence are terrifying). So it's outside my demographic, can't I be amazed at some amazing performances, including a post "Joan of Arcadia", Amber Tamblyn, and a pre "Ugly Betty", America Ferrera? Can't I be moved by such touching stories no matter what age or gender is featured? Can't I be impressed at a mainstream movie finally and honestly dealing with the consequences and pain of premarital sex, the confusion and bitterness of having divorced parents, and the loneliness and shallowness of the post modern sarcastic lifestyle? Yes, I believe I can, and I believe you could too, if the word "Sisterhood" doesn't scare you away.

14. X-Men: The Last Stand

I sure hope not. The X-Men universe is a virtually endless possibility of stories and characters and as each movie comes along, I am more and more convinced that this could easily be the longest running movie franchise of all time. To be able to pull superheroes in and out of the story and create new ones with different powers allows unprecedented freedom and creativity. So much so that NBC stole this idea for new show "Heroes", as blatant an X-Men ripoff as I've ever seen (Don't get me wrong, I still love it.) The point is, this movie did exactly what I needed it to. Developed old characters, introduced new ones. kept the plot moving, and gave me plenty of special effect eye candy. To end this franchise would be one of the biggest movie mistakes of all time.

13. The Exorcism of Emily Rose *

At first glance this appears to be just another "Exorcist" type horror film, but the truth is that this is an amazing look into the true story of an actual court case involving exorcism and the moral and ethical questions that arise from it. Some great performances, but mostly I loved it for it's honesty and message that what we see with our eyes is only part of the equation. I also love that the film, in a very literal way, is exactly what Emily Rose wanted to come from her story.

12. Walk the Line

I don' t know that I could add much to what has already been said about this Johnny Cash biopic. Joaquin and Renee are amazing, the music is great, and the tender yet honest look at Cash is an honorable homage to a sometimes troubled yet talented man. I learned a lot about his story, but the main thing that stuck with me was the devotion and unconditional love of June Carter, whose commitment is as visual representation of being "Christlike" as I saw all year.

11. Sky High

Fun, just flat out fun. A great little message about family, community, and purpose wrapped in a crunchy superhero shell. If you've got kids this is required family viewing, and if you don't, well, this movie is yet another reason to get started on that family or borrow some from the neighbors. I've seen this movie a dozen times or so already and seeing the joy of imagination and discovery in the face of my boys while watching this somehow never gets old.