Concussion is About Football — and About Faith

Posted on January 4, 2016 at 8:00 am

Copyright Sony 2015
Copyright Sony 2015

The New Yorker has a thoughtful essay by Ian Crouch about the spiritual and religious themes in Will Smith’s fact-based movie, “Concussion.” Smith plays real-life doctor Bennet Omalu, who insisted on pursuing the issue of head trauma in professional football and its long-term impact on players.

he movie’s moral arguments are framed less as matters of medicine than of religious faith. It’s not a sports movie, or a medical thriller, so much as a Christian homily….Omalu is a kind of prophet, an outsider who can see a truth that those around him, blinded by their own cultural prejudices, cannot, and who is punished and shunned for spreading a gospel that those in power do not want to hear. This makes for a heavy-handed, often treacly movie: Will Smith’s version of Omalu is as the lone principled man in a world marred by compromise—and saints, even when they are martyrs, are boring protagonists. But as a polemic, this evangelical argument is interesting and novel, suggesting that football’s dangers are not merely physical, but spiritual as well. This might be the movie’s most subversive message: not that the N.F.L. stood in the way of scientific research about the health of its players but that it occupies a false place within the religious and patriotic beliefs of so many of its fans, whose Sabbath routines are timed perfectly so that Sunday service ends just in time for kickoff.

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Spiritual films Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Star Trek Stamps from USPS

Posted on January 3, 2016 at 8:00 am

The US Postal Service is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek with a new set of stamps that have four digital illustrations inspired by classic elements of the television program:

the Starship Enterprise inside the outline of a Starfleet insignia against a gold background;
the silhouette of a crewman in a transporter against a red background;
the silhouette of the Enterprise from above against a green background; and,
the Enterprise inside the outline of the Vulcan salute (Spock’s iconic hand gesture) against a blue background

The words “SPACE… THE FINAL FRONTIER,” from Captain Kirk’s famous voice-over appear beneath the stamps against a background of stars. The stamps were designed by Heads of State under the art direction of Antonio Alcalá.

Copyright USPS 2015
Copyright USPS 2015
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Science-Fiction Television

Happy 2016! Here’s What’s Coming to Theaters This Year

Posted on January 1, 2016 at 8:00 am

Happy new year! Here’s some of what we’re looking forward to seeing in theaters in 2016. As usual, we have sequels, remakes, superheroes, movies based on best-selling books, and movies based on real-life stories. And, as usual, what I look forward to most is knowing that a year from today I will be a fan of movies and performers and writers and directors I do not yet know anything about. Can’t wait to meet them. (All release dates subject to change)


Norm of the North (looks kind of like “Happy Feet” crossed with “Madagascar?”)


Hail Caesar! (The Coen brothers take on the golden age of Hollywood)

Zoolander 2 (Blue Steel! This time with Benedict Cumberbatch!)

Race (the story of Olympic champion and American hero Jesse Owens)


Knight of Cups (from Terrence Malick, so it will be beautiful and opaque)

Me Before You (based on the best-seller about a young woman who is hired to help a wealthy young man who is paralyzed following an accident)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Tina Fey and Margot Robbie star in this fact-based story of a war correspondent)

Zootopia (animated comedy about a city of animals)

Batman vs. Superman (Clash of the DC titans)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (even Greekier and weddingier!)


Keeping Up with the Joneses (Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, and Zach Galifianakis star in a comedy about suburbanites who suspect their neighbor might be a spy)

The Boss (Melissa McCarthy is a bad boss gone rogue)

Barbershop: The Next Cut (Ice Cube and the gang are back for more haircuts, trash talk, and potential apple juice theft)

Everybody Wants Some (“Boyhood” director Richard Linklater follows up his classic “Dazed and Confused” with some some dazed and confused 80’s jams — in both senses of the word)

The Jungle Book (live-action re-telling of the Rudyard Kipling classic story of a boy raised by animals)

Keanu (Key and Peele play “blerds” (“black nerds” who must save a kitten, with Method Man, Nia Long, and Will Forte)

Mother’s Day (from the same folks who brought you all-star dramedies about New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day)

Nine Lives (Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Garner star in a story about a man who is trapped in the body of the family’s cat)

Same Kind of Different as Me (Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellwegger, and Djimon Honsou star in this real-life story based on the best-seller about a homeless man and an art dealer who become friends)


Captain America: Civil War (Cap is back. So is the Winter Soldier.)

Going in Style (remake of the comedy heist film about an over-the-hill mob, starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher LLoyd — and Ann-Margret)

The Free State of Jones (Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star in this fact-based story of a farmer married to a former slave who rebelled against the Confederacy during the Civil War)

Money Monster (Jodie Foster directs George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the story of a television investing guru held hostage on the air)

Snowden (Oliver Stone directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the story of the notorious former NSA contractor seen by some as a traitor and some as a heroic whistleblower)

The Angry Birds Movie (ever wonder how the birds got so angry?)

X-Men: Apocalypse (more mutants!)


Now You See Me 2 (that rich guy is not happy about the magicians stealing his money)

Finding Dory (Nemo and Marlin must take another journey)


The BFG (Roald Dahl’s classic story stars Mark Rylance from “Bridge of Spies”)

The Secret Life of Pets (what do they do all day when we’re at work?)

Ghostbusters (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Kate McKinnon probably get slimed)

Lala Land (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a musical from “Whiplash” writer/director Damien Chazelle)


Ben-Hur (Jack Huston and Rodrigo Santoro star in this remake of the Charlton Heston classic)

Kubo and the Two Strings (the latest from LAIKA)


The Magnificent Seven (remake of the classic western with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Matt Bomer)

Masterminds (Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig star in this fact-based story of some very dumb criminals)


The Girl on the Train (Rebecca Ferguson and Emily Blunt star in this mystery based on the best-selling book)


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (JK Rowling’s new story stars Eddie Redmayne and takes place in New York)

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the DC sorcerer)


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton directs this fantasy based on the series by Ransom Riggs)

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