Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

Discovery Joins With ‘Fixer-Upper’ Couple Chip and Joanna Gaines for a New Network

Chip and Joanna Gaines/Magnolia

On last Friday’s episode of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Chip and Joanna Gaines, the Christian couple at the heart of the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper, revealed that they’ll be partnering with HGTV parent Discovery on a new branded network.

The two, who just had a fifth child, have been on a break since Sept. 2017, after juggling family, their design company Magnolia, various business ventures and television. But it looks like the time out is coming to an end.

From Deadline.com:

“We signed a non-disclosure and it said, quote/unquote, you can tell your mother but that’s it,” Chip said. “So mom, I just wanted to make a quick announcement, we are coming back to television. You are going to get to see the kids grow up, you are going to see us, well maybe a six-month delay like the rest of the world, but we are excited to be back.”

The couple’s Magnolia company also issued a statement. “We’re excited to share that we are currently in the early stages of talking with Discovery about a lifestyle-focused media network for Magnolia,” Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano said. “The details surrounding this opportunity remain a work in progress, but together, our hope is to build a different kind of platform for unique, inspiring and family-friendly content.”

Discovery then issued a statement to People, which read:

Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano also confirmed the news in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE: “We’re excited to share that we are currently in the early stages of talking with Discovery about a lifestyle-focused media network for Magnolia. The details surrounding this opportunity remain a work in progress, but together, our hope is to build a different kind of platform for unique, inspiring and family-friendly content.”

Chip Gaines says the plan is to have much of the busy parents’ filming done in their hometown of Waco, Texas, to minimize travel.

Along with Fixer Upper, the Gainses also have a lifestyle magazine called The Magnolia Journal, a new Magnolia Table restaurant, a product line at Target, and the Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, along with memoirs, cookbooks and a design book by Joanna, called “Homebody: A Guide to Creating Places You Never Want to Leave.

Image: Magnolia

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Tim Tebow Urges Contestants to Run LeBron James’ ‘Million Dollar Mile’ for CBS

Pictured (L-R): Matt “Money” Smith, Tim Tebow, Maria Taylor. Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS

Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL quarterback (and current minor-league baseball player) and very public Christian Tim Tebow has signed on as host for Million Dollar Mile, a new competition series from LeBron James’ company, SpringHill Entertainment, and WarnerHorizon.

Joining Tebow as commentators are Matt “Money” Smith, the voice of the Los Angeles Chargers play-by-play, and ESPN host/reporter Maria Taylor. Joining James and his production partner, Maverick Carter, are Fly on the Wall Entertainment’s (Big Brother) Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan.

From CBS:

“Watching good people compete at their highest ability is always inspirational to me,” said Tebow. “MILLION DOLLAR MILE is a show that does just that – it motivates, thrills, and is aspirational, and I’m excited to be hosting this show.”

In this unprecedented television event series, contestants will have the chance to win $1,000,000 every time they run the Million Dollar Mile. Standing in their way is the most challenging course ever designed and a group of elite athletes with one mission: to stop the contestants from winning the money at all costs. Currently, the series is in production in Los Angeles for broadcast on the CBS Television Network.

Tebow also has another entertainment product in the works, a feature film called Run the Race. Executive-produced by Tebow and older brother Robby Tebow, and filmed in Birmingham, Alabama, the film has been acquired by indie-film distributor Roadside Attractions (I Can Only Imagine), which is aiming for a Feb. 22, 2019 release.

From The Wrap:

Run The Race follows two young brothers with an unbreakable bond facing unbelievable odds. Reeling from his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Zach (Tanner Stine), an All-State athlete, finds glory on the football field, working to earn a college scholarship in the hopes of earning he and his brother, David (Evan Hoffer), a ticket out of town. But when a devastating injury sidelines Zach, David laces up his track cleats to salvage their future.

“I wanted to be part of something that’s encouraging and inspirational to the viewer. I believe Run The Race accomplishes this by showing two brothers struggling with real life, but them getting through it by supporting each other and their faith,” Tim Tebow said in a statement. “I hope those who see it can walk away with more faith, hope, and love.”

Also starring are Mykelti Williamson (Chicago P.D., Fences, Forrest Gump) and Frances Fisher (Watchmen, Marrying Mr. Darcy, Titanic).

Post-football, the now 31-year-old Tebow has worked as a college-football analyst, author (Through My Eyes, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms, This Is the Day), philanthropist and left-fielder for the AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies, a New York Mets farm team. A broken bone in his right hand cut his season short in July, but he’s expected to move up to the Mets’ Syracuse AAA team for the 2019 season.

From a Nov. 8 story in USA Today:

“That’s a great next step for him,” newly hired Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said, via NorthJersey.com, at the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., on Wednesday. “We’re excited to get him back in camp, and hopefully, after a trip to Syracuse, he’ll be able to prove to us and everybody in baseball that he can make an impact in the big leagues.”

Tebow’s been counted out plenty of times, mostly by a media that seems obsessed with the unwavering faith of a guy who never puts a foot wrong nor has a bad word to say about anybody. IMHO, he’d still be a second- or third-string QB in the NFL if the media circus that follows him around hadn’t caused more trouble than his talents were worth.

But, Tebow has persevered, continuing to find a way to compete while branching out into other areas (including starting a program that sponsors proms for special-needs kids).

As his official website says, “True success is not measured in physical possessions, but in the amount of lives you change.”

Amen.

Image: Courtesy CBS

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

‘Last Man Standing’ Is Back … And Perhaps a Little Better

I have to admit, I’ve never been a die-hard fan of Last Man Standing. I didn’t sign the petition to keep in on air when ABC cancelled it, and it wasn’t a show where I eagerly awaited a new episode every week. But I did catch up on it every now and then.

Mostly, I think I’d just grown cold on the multicamera, laugh-track heavy format where storylines are wrapped up neatly in 22 minutes. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the occasional cheesiness of the show.

Still, though, Fox picking up the show to air new episodes an entire season after ABC cancelled it … well, it felt like kind of a cool victory for family-oriented TV and the representation of conservative values. So I had to give the new season a shot.

Last Man Standing ran for six seasons on ABC …

Since its start on ABC in 2011, the comedy (official site here) been about a conservative outdoorsy guy named Mike Baxter (played by Tim Allen) who has three daughters and runs marketing for a store called Outdoor Man. The storylines are mostly men vs. women, conservatives vs. liberals, or other light family conflicts.

The show is not so very different from the Tim Allen sitcom of the ’90s, ABC’s Home Improvement, where he played a haphazard handyman dad of three boys. And Last Man Standing has even made the occasional joke comparing the two shows (my favorite being when they insinuated that Home Improvement had better writers, which I think is true, but it’s extra funny when you realize that the Last Man Standing writers were actually digging on themselves when they wrote the joke…).

Unlike most other shows on TV these days, Last Man Standing tends to show things like family values and morality in a positive light.

How the new season started …

The most obvious differences of this new season on Fox are some new actors in old roles. Middle daughter Mandy is played by a new chick who is, uh, not as good at playing a ditz? I’m not a fan of New Mandy … Grandson Boyd had been replaced too, but the new Boyd is pretty comparable to the old one, in my opinion.

Beyond that, it’s mostly the same blend of light family conflicts, occasional cheese, and good values. But so far there’ve been a couple noteworthy high points that make me wonder if they’re upping their game just a bit.

Episode 2 of this season is about Mike grieving (and really, about him not grieving) his deceased father. A comedy show episode about death can be really hard to pull off well, and they did it here. I actually almost cried. Granted, I’m full of pregnancy hormones right now, but still, I’ve never even come close to crying at this show before.

The other noteworthy high point is a subtle shout-out to Natural Family Planning in Episode 3, where middle daughter Mandy and mom Vanessa talk about Mandy’s hesitance to get pregnant. They surprisingly don’t mention contraception at all, and instead Mandy vaguely mentions abstaining from sex during times of fertility! I almost fell off the couch, I was so shocked. Conservative values and all, I never expected to hear NFP mentioned (let alone put in a positive, this-actually-works-to-prevent-pregnancy light!) on this show.

Overall …

The show is still a little cheesy here and there. And I find the new Mandy’s acting pretty cringe-worthy some of the time. But so far, this new season has me feeling happy that the show is back on the air.

Last Man Standing airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox; full episodes online and on Hulu.

Image: Courtesy Fox

Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic mom, blogger and screenwriter.

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BASED ON: Father Vince Surveys Netflix’s Marvel Universe of ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Jessica Jones,’ ‘Luke Cage’ and ‘Iron Fist’

The Defenders (Netflix)

The latest in a series from Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a USC film-school grad and producer-at-large at Family Theater Productions … and a serious comic nerd.

Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, based on Marvel comic books of the same titles. (ADVISORY WARNING: TV-MA). I don’t consider The Punisher‘s lack of superpowers and, thus, his machine-gunning villains to death, worthy of superhero status. So, I agree with Walt Flanagan from AMC’s Comic Book Men on that point.

A Comics Nerd Is Born

I’ve followed comics since the beginning of grade school. The medium fostered a lifelong love for reading and, given the visual nature of comics, I am certain it played a factor in my current work in the film industry.

Comics and graphic novels only recently gained mainstream acceptance as a “serious” art form. Comic-book conventions were once just about the only place a parent (my dad) could look cooler than the nerdy child (myself) that dragged them there. Now, Comic-Cons mark the domain where glamorous stars like Wonder Woman Gal Gadot hang out.

As the medium matured, so did the storytelling. IMHO, Marvel’s Netflix shows comprise the most “grown-up” of the superhero stories. But, how well the streaming giant adapted the four stories — all set and filmed in New York City — varies across the board.

Daredevil: Catholic and Complicated

Daredevil, currently in its third season, stands as the singular best adaptation. I believe it’s no surprise that the show most Catholic — both visually and thematically — earns the top spot. Catholicism recognizes a world very much consumed in darkness, yet still points to the glimmers of hope and light.

Daredevil then inhabits this neo-noir look well in the TV series, surpassed only by the character’s red costume piercing the utterly dark monochromatic world of Mark Waid’s Eisner-Award winning comic book series from 2012. The title character, played by British Catholic Charlie Cox, absorbs a good amount of abuse in his fighting of crime, both in the courtroom as lawyer Matt Murdock — blinded in an accident but with heightened other senses, fearsome ninja skills and miraculous healing powers — and on the streets as the vigilante Daredevil.

Perhaps, the most intelligent thing going over the three seasons is the depiction of evil. Even the best superhero adaptations can’t seem to resist moving from supervillain to supervillain per season or per film. Daredevil sticks with Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) as arch nemesis for the entire series, thus far.

Evil is never forever defeated this side of life. It suppresses itself for a time and looks for ways to seep back in at an unexpected moment. In the current season, Kingpin, undaunted by his stint in prison, decides to cast his corruption net high and wide, involving the overweening FBI as the mechanism to keep local authorities in check, the same local authorities that led to his original incarceration.

Jessica Jones: Ex-Hero and Hot Mess

I found Jessica Jones (first season in 2015; second in 2018) to be the surprising runner-up to Daredevil. Her series truth tells in the “via negativa.” She’s vulgar, promiscuous and addiction-prone. Whereas Daredevil embraces his vocation and indeed his crosses, Jones (Krysten Ritter) tends to run far away from them.

Jessica possesses superpowers, but has long since hung up her cape. So, she fights crime as a hard-nosed private detective, but only does so with half the power God gave her. It’s this superhero “atheism” that leads only to measured professional success and contributes to her many depravities. It’s a road that quite frankly, I could only travel for one season, but her story nevertheless tells the truth of a vocation shirked.

Luke Cage and Iron Fist: Too Much of Good Things

While enjoying Luke Cage, I felt the comic equips him with too great a power: invulnerability to bullets. When that’s what consistently flies in his neighborhood, obstacles are not as tension-filled enough to sustain a narrative.

He’s also too good and earnest a character (with the exception of a weakness for superheroines), so his 180-degree turn to potential villainy at season two’s end seems unrealistic.

Likewise, for Iron Fist‘s Danny Rand (Finn Jones), it’s hard to relate to a billionaire better trained in the martial arts than Bruce Lee and further gauntleted with the supernatural Iron Fist.

The two canceled shows (both after two seasons) should have explored the Marvel canon more deeply. A season of the comic Heroes for Hire with Cage and Rand might have turned them into TV’s latest buddy-cop duo. The episode where Rand appears in Luke Cage’s second season features the best chemistry in either show.

Heroism Loves Company

Indeed, Marvel’s Netflix universe works better with crossovers, and best when all four characters jell together, as seen in The Defenders limited series. As a Church supported by its saints and angels, superheroes remind us we all need a little help from our friends.

UPDATE: Sadly, on Nov. 12, reports came out that Stan Lee, the man behind Marvel, had passed away at 95. From his columns in comic books to his cameo appearances, Lee has been a beloved presence in the Marvel Universe. RIP, Stan Lee … and, as he always closed his columns, Excelsior! More here.

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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Martin Scorsese and Pope Francis Talk About Faith, Violence and the ‘Wisdom of Tears’

Earlier today (Oct. 23) in Rome, famed film director Martin Scorsese asked a question of Pope Francis, drawing on the Catholicism of his own childhood in New York and asking what older people can do to help young people maintain their faith “in this maelstrom.”

Have a look:

The Q&A came during an event for a new book called Sharing the Wisdom of Time, by Pope Francis and others, edited in English by Loyola Press and coinciding with the current Vatican synod focusing on young people.

Scorsese referenced the violence and suffering he saw on the streets as youngster and how that contrasted with the message of Christ, imparted through a favorite priest at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in the part of Manhattan currently called SoHo.

Interestingly, though Scorsese was asking about helping young people keep their Catholic faith — something he’s struggled with in his life and through his movies — the pope didn’t directly address that issue. Instead, he went for something a bit deeper in human psychology.

From Crux:

“Today we see more cruelty,” said Francis, answering a question posed by Scorsese.

“People act with more cruelty … cold cruelty, calculated to ruin someone else’s life. One of the forms of cruelty in this world that touch me in this world of human rights is torture. Torture is our daily bread, and it seems normal. No one talks about it. Torture is the destruction of human dignity.”

Francis said the key is in teaching young people that cruelty is the “wrong path,” helping them to have the “wisdom and gift to cry in the face of so much violence, cruelty, [and] destruction of human life. To cry is human and Christian.”

The pontiff suggested “empathy, closeness, non-violence, tenderness, all human virtues that seem small but are capable of putting an end to the most violent of events,” Francis said.

Scorsese’s relationship with Catholicism has been constant (he once was in minor seminary) but unsteady. In recent years, though, he seems to be drawing closer to the faith of his childhood.

In 2017, at a Catholic media conference in Quebec City, Canada, he appeared in person to answer questions from Paul Elie (who wrote this profile of Scorsese for New York Times Magazine) after a screening for attendees of his 2016 film Silence, about the cruel oppression of Catholics in 17th-century Japan (and the apostasy of a Jesuit priest, played by Andrew Garfield).

In late 2016, Scorsese said to the U.K. Catholic Herald:

“[Catholicism is] always in you,” he shrugs. “My search for faith has never really ended from when I became aware that there was such a thing as faith and started to look at how it’s acted out in your daily life. It’s in Mean Streets and it’s in Taxi Driver and it’s in Raging Bull, ultimately. And then The Last Temptation of Christ was a major step for me in trying to come to terms with these themes, these ideas of the Incarnation of Christ – what does it really mean?”

In the evening, after the Q&A, Scorsese joined the conference attendees at Mass, and later also at a dinner, where he accepted an award. Considering that, at the time, Silence had been neither a financial nor critical success, and the event wouldn’t change either of those — and that the journalists at the conference weren’t allowed to participate in the Q&A — I wondered that Scorsese made the trip all the way to Quebec City.

But, perhaps there was a deeper motive than just continuing to promote a movie, connected to Scorsese’s lifelong search to confirm faith. Click here for an extensive exploration by Catholic World Report of faith themes in Scorsese’s work (including the very controversial The Last Temptation of Christ) — which often, as Silence did, center on the theme of doubt.

From the Catholic World Report piece:

Yet what I call Scorsese’s “faith and doubt triptych” ultimately does affirm faith. This is consistent with Scorsese’s own attitude to his faith. In an interview published in Antonio Monda’s book Do You Believe?, containing interviews with famous artists and intellectuals, the filmmaker is asked if he considers himself to be a lapsed Catholic.

“Maybe ‘lapsed’ is too strong a term, and then I don’t know who can call himself both lapsed and Catholic,” Scorsese responded. “But what I meant is that I am not strictly orthodox, and in many ways I feel I haven’t respected the requirements of the Christian message. And yet I think that my Catholicism is part of my innermost self, and I’m sure it will always be that way.” When Monda asks Scorsese if he believes in God, he replies: “I don’t think I can give a precise answer. I think that my faith in God lies in my constant searching. But certainly I call myself a Catholic.”

It’s certainly paradoxical to consider oneself a Catholic and yet not be able to affirm a belief in God. On the other hand, remaining in a place of public doubt, or “constant searching,” can allow a person to give themselves permission to ignore Church teachings and live life according to their own inner dictates, while still maintaining an outward connection to faith.

There is value in the search for faith, but there is greater value in finding it — even if that means you might have to change your life. Maybe Scorsese could make a movie about that.

Image: YouTube screenshot/Catholic News Service

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

NBA Star Steph Curry Signs on as Executive Producer on DeVon Franklin’s Faith Film ‘Breakthrough’

Steph Curry

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry has signed a deal to become an executive producer on Breakthrough, a faith- and fact-based film starring Chrissy Metz of NBC’s This Is Us.

Breakthrough is based on the book, The Impossible, written by Joyce Smith. As reported here previously (before the film changed titles from The Impossible to Breakthrough), Metz plays Smith, a mother whose adopted son, John, fell through the ice and was declared legally dead. But, an hour later, after his mother’s fervent prayers, the 14-year-old boy came back to life. Topher Grace also stars as a pastor. Already filmed in Canada, the movie, launched by Christian producer DeVon Franklin (The Star), is set to come out in April.

Chrissy Metz

Curry recently launched a production company, Unanimous Media, which has an overall film/TV deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment. As the Hollywood Reporter learned exclusively, Curry, a devout Christian, was attracted to Breakthrough because he’s also interested in producing family-suitable and faith-friendly projects.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

“John’s story is nothing short of incredible,” said Curry in a statement to THR. “It’s a story about the power of prayer and perseverance and one I immediately connected to. After reading the script, I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing it to life onscreen.”

DeVon Franklin, who focuses on faith-based projects and produced Breakthrough, said Curry was moved by the true-life story and the movie “checks all his boxes: faith, true story, family and sports.” Curry and Franklin had a meeting on general movie projects and Franklin pitched him Breakthrough, the movie he was working at the time. Franklin gave him the script, which Curry read almost immediately; 24 hours later the basketball star was ready to get involved.

Curry and his co-founders at Unanimous, Jeron Smith and Erick Peyton, gave overall notes on themes tackled in the movie as well detailed notes on a couple of key scenes. They also gave editorial notes on the basketball scenes and helped license some of the imagery in the film.

Curry will also lend his high profile to the marketing of the film as the release draws nearer.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.