“The Fault in Our Stars”: Love, Death… & Faith?

fault-in-our-stars-landscape-poster webWARNING – this blog contains many plot spoilers! Now out on DVD, The Fault in Our Stars, known as TFOS by its fans, is a best-selling book adapted to film that has been proclaimed by many to be this generation’s Love Story. Don’t tell this to the movie’s creator or cast who have publicly cringed from the comparison. However, like that film, TFOS is about a young couple who fall in love against the odds, only to have their love tested by terminal illness, all in a tragic tale designed to have the audience leave the theater in tears. Both even have a signature line. In Love Story, the line is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”, and (maybe as the biggest indicator of the difference in generations) it has been swapped with “Okay”. Yes, you read it correctly – “Okay”. In this movie, “Okay” takes on a special meaning– and it actually plays surprisingly well, but you sort of need to see it to believe it.  Read More »

“The Maze Runner”: Intense Action but a Family Film Puzzle

the-maze-runner webYou may have noticed, September is a strange time for movies. All the big action blockbusters opened in the summer, and all the horror films won’t come out until October when it’s close to Halloween. That leaves September as a no-man’s land somewhere in between, and that is the feel of The Maze Runner. Based on a book with the same name, The Maze Runner is part thriller and part action movie, but it also stars teen-age protagonists (or at least ones from teen oriented TV and films), so it seems aimed at a youth or family audience. However, it falls in between all of these genres – except, it is definitely not a family movie. It has scenes and themes far too intense for children and probably most pre-teens. That said, it is an engaging, entertaining story, and though it suffers from a number of flaws, it is a fun film for an older teen to young adult audience. Read More »

“FAMILY DINNER” – Family Theater Productions Announces New Release in DVD Series for Teens

family at table webWe here at Family Theater Productions are excited to announce the release of our latest project…FAMILY DINNER!

Family Dinner is a half hour teen drama about a young girl, Christina, who makes a deal with her parents to help them with their projects and cook a family meal.  In return, they will meet her boyfriend so that she can start dating.  Along the way, Christina starts to ask herself…what is true love?

christina communion webThis is the latest DVD in a series for teens that focuses on the Mysteries of the Rosary.  Family Dinner focuses on the contemporary issues of true love and dating and parallels with the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist.

Families will love this modern teen drama that will help them discuss together the meaning of true love and the selfless service of Christ that we are all called to.

Look for the release of Family Dinner on DVD October 1st….just in time for the Month of the Rosary!

mom kids grandma webIn celebration of the release we will be hosting a Photo Contest on our Facebook page.  Post your photo of your family dinner…be creative!  Then have your friends and family vote for the photo.  The photo with the most votes at the end of the contest will win a DVD copy of Family Dinner and several of our other films in this series.

For more information on where you can obtain a copy, visit our store.

The Song: A Beautiful Lyric Not to be Missed

Photo credit: TheSongMovie.com

Photo credit: TheSongMovie.com

Many years ago I worked in a music store selling CDs.  One day a man came in and asked me if I had any love songs.  I looked at him, pointed to the entire store and said “yes!”  Most songs are written about love because that’s what moves us, what touches our souls.  One of the greatest love songs ever written is in the Old Testament…The Song of SongsThe Song of Songs has been attributed to the writings of King Solomon, who had the gift of wisdom.  The Song of Songs is essentially erotic love poetry about a man and his wife.  It is meant to be a metaphor of the love of God and his people, of the love of Christ and his Church.

When I heard that there would be a film based on the story of King Solomon and the Song of Songs, I had two thoughts…1) what a great idea! and 2) wow…that is very ambitious!  So I was excited to see how it would turn out.  I wasn’t disappointed.

The Song, from City on a Hill Productions and Samuel Goldwyn Films, is a film about love, marriage, and the cross.  Aspiring singer-songwriter Jed King writes “The Song” inspired by his new wife, Rose.  “The Song” becomes a huge hit propelling Jed to stardom.  But life on the road and in the spotlight threatens to destroy his marriage, his family, and his life.

Photo credit: TheSongMovie.com

Photo credit: TheSongMovie.com

This movie takes a look at the difficulties of married life and how if marriage is not properly looked after, it can wither and die.  This movie also takes a look at how the role of confession, penance, and redemption can save not just a marriage but also a man’s soul.

Music lovers will enjoy this film as the soundtrack is fantastic!  In fact, I would say the music is a character all its own, pulling the film together and moving it along.

Couples will love this film as it will give them hope and encouragement for their own relationships.

Singles will enjoy this film as it will give them the hope of finding that same joy of their own someday.

Photo credit: TheSongMovie.com

Photo credit: TheSongMovie.com

I would not recommend this film for young children as there are some serious adult themes dealt with, such as sex, drug use, drinking, and adultery.  However, I would recommend this film for teens, especially when watching with their parents (don’t worry Mom and Dad, it’s done in a tasteful manner) as a conversation starter on these very important topics.

You can find resources for couples and families at the website for The Song.  This film will be just as helpful with strengthening marriages and families as Fireproof was.

The Song opens this Friday, September 26th.

Dolphin Tale 2: Friends and Family Matter on Land and Sea


In Theaters Now

In Theaters Now

Dolphin Tale 2 released recently by Warner Brothers was the number two at the box office its opening weekend in September.  I saw the film Saturday afternoon in a theater packed with children, parents and grandparents.  Part of the fun of the film was hearing the giggles and responses of the kids in some parts, but their absolute silence in other scenes of the film.  The film had their attention and deserves it.

It is a family movie, not just in the sense that it has kid actors, animals and “lunge free” viewing (parents do not have to lunge to cover their children’s eyes or ears), the film is about the importance of family and friendships, of letting go and of remaining committed.

The first Dolphin Tale film tells the story of the rescue of Winter, a female dolphin whose tale fin had been cut off after being caught in a crab trap.  Dr. Clay Haskell, played by Harry Connick, Jr., takes the wounded creature to Clearwater Aquarium assisted by his daughter Hazel, Cozy Zuehlsdorff, and her friend, Sawyer, Nathan Gamble.   They pair an older dolphin named Panama with Winter and ultimately fit her with a prosthetic fin invented by Dr. Cameron McCarthy, played by Morgan Freeman.   All based on a true story.

The real Winter is a celebrity at the Clearwater Aquarium drawing many visitors, among them many disabled people.  Her ability to adapt to the prosthetic fin has inspired humans living with loss of limb or faced with physical challenges.

In Dolphin Tale 2, Winter’s dolphin friend Panama dies.  In spite of efforts by Cozy, Sawyer and the staff, Winter is depressed.  They must find a companion dolphin for her or risk her health and also the loss of the aquarium under pressure from the USAD.

Nathan Gamble star of Dolphin Tale 2 interviewed at Family Theater by Fr. Ed Benioff.

Nathan Gamble star of Dolphin Tale 2 interviewed at Family Theater by Fr. Ed Benioff.

Every character in the film seems called to clarity dedication to a purpose greater than themselves and must wrestle with what that means in terms of their life decisions. The staff at the Clearwater Aquarium rescue animals with the idea to return them to the wild as soon as possible.  Though they come to love the sea creatures in their care: they must be able to release them back to the wild.   The staff, including young Sawyer and Hazel, live the struggle of sacrificial love.

At the same time, Sawyer is offered a scholarship to a semester at sea program based in Boston.  Nathan Gamble says about his character, “The last three years at the Aquarium have been so great for him; it’s given him purpose and many friends, so he struggles with whether or not he should go.”  Can he let them go?  Can they let him go off to school so that he can become the person he is called to be?

The cast includes other greats like Ashley Judd and Chris Kristofferson, not to mention a scene stealing pelican and other beautiful sea animals.

All ages can see and enjoy Dolphin Tale 2.  It is wonderfully escapist in the sense that it has little of the cynicism and darkness of so many films today, but it still points to significant life issues that are worth a little reflection with touching moments, beautiful scenes and fun along the way.

The Wall Street Journal’s Article about Hollywood and What Makes Us Cry at the Movies

a walk to remember “Hollywood is Working Hard to Make You Cry” explains Don Steinberg’s in his recent article in the Wall Street Journal. He looks at the neuroscience, the art of storytelling, the filmmaker’s intention behind making a scene tear jerking, the actors themselves, and the differences between men and women’s reactions to film.

Click here to read the whole article http://online.wsj.com/articles/tearjerkers-to-hit-cinemas-this-fall-1408637194?mod=trending_now_5

Here are some excerpts:

Audiences love tearjerkers, but why? How do they work? Horror movies have their clichéd “jump scares” that can get us every time—the demonic face in the bathroom mirror, the knife-wielding maniac suddenly in the doorway. Tearjerkers have triggers, too, but they are more complex, wrapped up in how characters make us feel, with their awkward attempts to connect with each other, their bravery and fears, regrets and unspoken burdens. Other hot-button themes are faith redeemed, struggles rewarded and love requited.

Researchers are applying science to answer questions about movie-induced weeping. Princeton University psychologist Uri Hasson, who coined the term “neurocinematics,” led a 2008 study that used a type of magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity while watching a film. The researchers used “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”—hardly a tearjerker—in their project. Mr. Hasson and his colleagues identified similar brain activity among people watching the same film, and suggested such research might be useful for the movie industry.

love storyWhen asked which films choke them up, many men cite depictions of against-the-odds valor or understated affection, like “Rudy,” “Brian’s Song” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Women name relationship dramas like Steel Magnolias” or “Beaches” or “When a Man Loves a Woman,” in which Andy Garcia tries to preserve his marriage to an alcoholic Meg Ryan.

Men and women may sob at different parts of the same film. In “Gravity,” some women react when Ms. Bullock, while stranded in space, talks about her daughter who died in childhood (“Can you please tell her that Mama found her red shoe?”). Men may be more stirred by the dénouement, when the astronaut, having survived her journey, walks triumphantly ashore.

The “completely vulnerable human moment” is the key to great cinema.  It is then that the viewer connects with their own personal  trials with those of the character on screen.   In that experience we connect with the greater story of the human condition.  Exploring the meaning of human existence—to love, to suffer, to be vulnerable, to overcome—is the vocation of the artist and is what makes a film great.