Category: Faith and Family on the Internet

‘Carol’s Second Act’: Catholic Star Patricia Heaton Recalls How Jesus Helped Her Have a Baby

Patricia Heaton in ‘Carol’s Second Act’/CBS

In Carol’s Second Act, premiering Thursday, Sept, 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton returns to CBS — home to her hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond — now playing a 50-year-old divorced mother and retired teacher who pursues her lifelong dream of being a doctor. But when Heaton was facing her own medical challenge, she looked to a Higher Power.

Asked about her own hospital experience at the recent TV Critics Association Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California, Heaton recalled:

When I had my first child, it was ‑‑ I tried to do the whole “we’re going to do natural birth,” but I’m Irish Catholic, and we really believe in better living through chemistry. So I got that epidural right away, but I couldn’t get the baby out.

He was almost 10 pounds, so we had a C‑section, and they had to strap me down, and my arms were strapped down, and they cut me open, and they pulled Sam out, and everyone rushed to the end of the room, including my husband, to ooh and ahh over the baby, and I was still strapped down. The morphine was wearing off, and my jaw was starting to shake from the morphine wearing off.

And it was at a Catholic hospital, and I looked up, and there’s Jesus on the wall behind me with his arms out. I was like, “At least you know what I’m feeling right now!” So that was the older, wiser person that I saw at the hospital.

Heaton, a Catholic, is outspoken on Twitter and elsewhere about her faith and her pro-life views. While she describes herself as “judicious” about what she says, she has no plans to stop.

She said:

At the end of the day, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I stood up for the voiceless and for the poor and the hungry.”

Take a sneak peek at Carol’s Second Act:

Image: 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.

‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ Reboot Comes to Amazon and PBS KIDS in December

“Clifford the Big Red Dog”/Scholastic Entertainment

The beloved children’s character Clifford the Big Red Dog returns in a new series in December on Amazon Prime and PBS KIDS — and then hits the big screen next year.

Scholastic Entertainment has announced that the new version of the classic tale hits Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 6, and PBS KIDS the next day. The 39 22-minute episodes feature Clifford, his best friend Emily Elizabeth, and new friends, adventures and original songs.

Along with the series, there will be an extensive licensing and consumer-products products and global publishing program, with new titles coming out in 2019. Scholastic is still actively seeking licensees for the brand, with the first group of new licensees to be launched soon.

As for the big screen, Paramount Pictures will be releasing a live-action/animation hybrid Clifford the Big Red Dog feature film on Nov. 13, 2020.

From the press release:

“We look at every character on PBS KIDS as a role model for the joy of learning,” said Linda Simensky, VP, Children’s Programming, PBS. “Emily Elizabeth and Clifford showcase the thrill of working together and learning from one another, through stories that weave together imaginative play, early learning, and social-emotional concepts.”

“With an exciting expanded world and so many big adventures ahead, Clifford The Big Red Dog will win over children and families around the globe once again,” said series co-executive producer Caitlin Friedman, SVP & General Manager Scholastic Entertainment. “From a fresh new look to a full-scale licensing program with products that will help kids extend the fun and positive messages of the series beyond the screen, Clifford is well-poised to make a larger-than-life return.”

We’ll have to see what the new series looks like, but regarding the previous one, CommonSense Media rates it for ages three and up and says:

Parents need to know that Clifford the Big Red Dog is chock-full of positive lessons and likable characters — and may remind parents of their own childhood fascination with Clifford. Kids are often magnetically drawn to stories about Clifford because he’s the magical pet every child wishes for. The series is full of educational messages on social, emotional, and physical matters.

Image: Scholastic Entertainment

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.

How the Rosary and Our Lady Saved Jim Caviezel’s Soul and Career [VIDEO]

Jim Cavezel/YouTube screenshot

Jim Caveizel is well-known for his strong Catholic faith and for his Hollywood success. But he wasn’t always devout, and success in acting is never guaranteed.

There was a point in the early ’90s when Caviezel’s life was really off-track. A chance encounter with Venerable Patrick Peyton, the Holy Cross priest who founded Family Theater Productions in Hollywood — who had a strong devotion to the Mother of God and was known as the “Rosary Priest” — helped bring him back to the Faith. Read more about that here.

The star of The Passion of the Christ, CBS’ Person of Interest and Paul, Apostle of Christ (along with Mel Gibson’s upcoming The Passion sequel, The Resurrection of the Christ) continues to speak out about the power of Catholicism in his life.

Caviezel does so again, in a moving video recorded at the Eucharistic Holy Hour for World Peace Through the Mother of All Peoples in Amsterdam on June 1st, 2019 at the RAI Convention Center, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate posted it on June 5.

Among other things, he talks about Christ and Our Lady, how a rosary made a difference in him getting the first big role of his career, and the physical challenges of shooting The Passion.

Father Peyton would be proud.

Image: YouTube screenshot

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.

‘Eighth Grade’ Is a Well-Done Film, But Not for the Faint of Heart

Elsie Fisher, ‘Eighth Grade’/A24

I first heard about the coming-of-age indie film Eighth Grade some time ago when it was garnering a bunch of critical acclaim around the time it came out last year.

I stumbled upon an article about it that mentioned it was written and directed by a dude who is almost exactly my age, so I was immediately curious (and insecurely jealous, ahem …).

I’m not usually into coming-of-age stories about kids younger than mid-teens, and this one’s about a 13-year-old. But it came to Amazon Prime, so I figured I might as well see what all the fuss was about.

Eighth Grade Is Brutal

I mean that in every way you can imagine – I mean, except for, like, actual violence.

It’s the story of an awkward, insecure girl named Kayla (Elsie Fisher), as she nears the end of her eighth-grade school year. She has no friends, is tragically voted “most quiet” in her class. She basically hates her life. This girl wants desperately to fit in and has no idea how to do it.

Kayla makes online videos (which no one watches) to give “tips” about things like how to be confident, how to make friends, how to put yourself out there … the irony being that she herself doesn’t do any of these things.

We cringe for her over and over again, and honestly it’s kind of hard to watch at times.

My husband, who was doing homework nearby while I was watching this, asked me, “Is this movie funny?” And even though it’s supposed to be a dramedy, I responded without hesitation, “No.” There’s pretty much nothing funny about it.

Personally, I’d almost consider it more of horror movie than a comedy. Not horror in the normal sense of the term, but I was definitely horrified at it more than a few times.

A Real Eye-Opener

I don’t consider myself to exactly be estranged from, or oblivious, to the typical teen-aged existence these days. I love young-adult stories and I even spent a good amount of time as a middle-school substitute teacher. So I wasn’t really expecting to be shocked by anything in this movie.

But there are two areas that really stood out as shocking to me in this film. One is the sexual content.

Now it’s rated R and has a few nasty issues that might be kind of troublesome to some Catholic viewers – no actual sex scenes, but some sexual humor and a gross sequence where she’s looking up something sexual online.

But this 13-year-old girl’s whole social existence is so very wrapped up in sexuality.

The boy she likes is known for asking girls to send him nude photos. He asks her if she’ll do something sexual in order for him to go out with her.

Her acquaintances talk about sexting as if it’s nothing. And when an older teen guy tries to put moves on her, he references the future hook-ups he knows she will have.

I would expect this kind of content, and certainly not be shocked by it, if the people were, say, in their 20s. But these are 13-year-olds!

And we might say, “Oh that’s got to be exaggerated for dramatic effect.” I hope so. But I really doubt it is terribly exaggerated from what a lot of young teens are exposed to these days.

The other aspect that was kind of unexpected was how social media saturates this girl’s whole existence.

I had already read, before seeing it, that Eighth Grade made a bit of commentary on the social media and smartphone usage of today’s typical teen. So I was expecting some kind of cheesy, obvious, on-the-nose discussion of it, like in The Emoji Movie.

Instead, this movie showed social media and smartphones as almost like an extra body part for these characters.

There was no proselytizing on how we’ve lost our sense of real communication, etc. It was just that their lives were lived on and wrapped around this online world in a way that felt realistic, common, and still so very unhealthy. I’d say the movie does a good job making the point, without anyone really realizing it’s making a point.

This Is a Hard Movie to Watch

Eighth Grade is undoubtedly well-done and engrossing, with strong writing that avoids the trap of falling into cliché, and some pretty great acting. But its subject matter is hard.

You will cringe, a lot. And probably come away with a new appreciation for the fact that our modern society does not make it easy for a teen to be happy, emotionally healthy, or even good.

Perhaps I make it sound rather bleak. Well, so did this movie. Though it definitely offers some hope at the end, as we see that Kayla looks like she will be okay after all.

If you want to have a better idea of how teens live these days, watch this movie.

Personally, I’m glad I watched it. But I must admit that I am almost equal parts horrified and discouraged over it.

Image: A24

Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic mom, blogger and screenwriter. Reposted with permission (and some minor edits) from A Thorne in the Flesh.

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BASED ON: Father Vince Looks at the Catholic Soul of Netflix’s ‘Altered Carbon’

Joel Kinnaman in ‘Altered Carbon’/Netflix

Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a USC film-school grad, does a regular feature here called BASED ON, looking at literary works adapted into TV or movies.

Altered Carbon a Netflix series created by Laeta Kalogridis, based on the novel of the same title written by Richard K. Morgan.

Sci-fi writer Richard K. Morgan addresses the philosophy of extropy in his novel, Altered Carbon. A believer in this system trusts in improving the human condition until, one day in the future, science and technology advances to the point where humans live indefinitely. If this sounds farfetched, consider that Red Sox legend Ted Williams’ family chose cryogenic freezing upon his death in 2002.

So, for three years he held the mantle of “greatest living ballplayer” after Joe DiMaggio died in 1999 and willed a Catholic funeral Mass. Please forgive this cynical Yankee fan, but perhaps “Teddy Ballgame” intended to reacquire the mantle upon his “reactivation” in the year 2302.

Morgan’s novel, now adapted into a series on Netflix, indeed takes place 300 years in the future. The world’s technology has the ability to store consciousness in the brain, later downloading it into a body (or as the novel terms, “a sleeve”). The process is repeatable, affording denizens of this brave new world a type of immortality. Antihero Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), defeated in his first life leading a rebellion against the new world order, gets a second chance. If he solves a puzzling murder, he can keep his “sleeve.”

Engaging-noir-procedural aside, I thought the social commentary of the series to be the most intriguing aspect of the show. What would be the result of immortality? An Albert Camus quote came to mind, “A single sentence will suffice for modern man. He fornicated and read the papers.” The show gets the former correct. An Altered Carbon world reveals a society crazed with sex.

The culminating scene of season one ended up in a forbidden brothel floating above Earth and out of sight, named, literally, “Head in the Clouds.” With the latter, Camus overestimated man’s inclination towards the intellectual life. Characters in the show read not the papers, but blunt their minds with hard-core drugs. An interminable lifespan doesn’t seem as appealing as originally thought.

Enter into this spiritual wasteland, the Catholic Church. Other denominations accommodated the new technology, thereby compromising central Christian truths. Indistinguishable from anything else in the world, the denominations have long since disappeared. Only the Catholic Church remains, supporting the age-old truth that God gives us one life, pointing that one life to heaven.

A life without the promise of eternity is one thing; multiple lives without consequence further exacerbates the current degradation.

The Church in the future faces much of the criticism it absorbs now. The hot-button issue of the novel invites additional persecution. As the only institution seeking natural deaths, Catholics quickly become the only group of people murdered. If one kills a Catholic in this arrangement, the perpetrator has no fear of the deceased “re-sleeving” and seeking out revenge in their second life. Thus, the political subplot is an ironic one: outlaw the murder of those most critical of sleeving.

The television series adapts the book well and personalizes the Catholic faith. Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda) loses her devout mother, a victim of one of the murders. The mother’s faithful witness brings Ortega back to belief. Without the recourse to re-sleeving and bringing her mother “back,” Ortega can only pray and assist her mother’s soul forward, to our Lord and eternal life with Him.

Ed. Note: Altered Carbon features plenty of sex, nudity and violence, and therefore is not suitable for the whole family. Click here for Common Sense Media’s analysis.

Image: Netflix

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

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History’s ‘Jesus: His Life’: Is It Worthwhile Lenten Watching?

Photo: History Channel

Sorry to say it, The Bible miniseries notwithstanding, but History Channel is not always the best place to hear about Christianity. Jesus: His Life, premiering tonight, Monday, March 25, is no exception.

The four-week, eight-episode series aims to tell the story of Christ (and, to its credit, it emphasizes how important it is to understand that story, even for unbelievers, if one is to understand Western civilization) through the eyes of those who knew him. The first two episodes were made available to critics — Joseph: The Nativity and John the Baptist: The Mission.

There are the usual sword-and-sandal Biblical recreations, but at least actors were cast in the major roles, including Jesus, that are much more robust and expressive than the overly reverent stiffs that are too often found in these documentaries. Interspersed with the dramatic segments is an array of talking heads, including clerics and academics.

It’s a mixed bag, with the clerics including the controversial Father James Martin, S.J., and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen; along with Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry (famous for preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle), Father Jonathan Morris, and Trinity United Church of Christ senior Pastor Rev. Otis Moss III.

Among the academics is Dr. Robert Cargill of the University of Iowa. At several points, he offers an, um, novel interpretation of Scripture, only to be followed by fellow scholar Dr. Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary, who disagrees with him. Being the resident skeptic appears to be Cargill’s self-proclaimed function.

As Kathy Schiffer noted in her detailed review at the National Catholic Register:

But the expert who seems intent on dredging up controversy – and who is given a primary role in the series – is Dr. Robert Cargill. I should not be surprised by Cargill’s questioning: Cargill, who has been called the “Skeptic in the Sanctuary,” sees his role as asking difficult questions. “This is where I stand,” Cargill wrote,

“…atop the continental divide between faith and science, with one foot in the range of rigorous academic inquiry and skeptical scrutiny, and the other on the often slippery slope of competing religious worldviews. And from this marvelous vantage point I can survey both directions and ask difficult questions of both faith and reason. I imagine that I’ll spend the remainder of my career here, the ever-searching soul attempting to mediate between the two.”

Lent is a favorite time for TV networks to run Christian-themed programming, often with a strong undercurrent of doubt and skepticism. They love to draw in the Christian audience but too often can’t resist the impulse to throw shade on their faith.

Jesus: His Life isn’t as bad as some, and there is some lively commentary that doesn’t make you feel like you’re sitting in the back of a dusty lecture hall. But, for faithful Christians, it doesn’t add much to the conversation. For the unchurched, it does put flesh and blood on Biblical figures, and that’s a good place to start.

It would be better for these folks if they watched The Bible, or Bishop Barron’s Catholicism. But, Jesus: His Life isn’t the worst thing on Christianity ever — and it’s way better than History’s fanciful drama Knightfall, the first season of which was about as much about the real Knights Templar as James Bond movies are about actual espionage.

Just remember that most, if not almost all, mainstream productions about Christianity are not designed to encourage or confirm people in faith. Often, it’s just the opposite.

Jesus: His Life doesn’t go that far, but frankly, I’d rather spice up my Lent by rewatching Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (here’s the whole thing) or The Ten Commandments.

Here are History’s episode descriptions and airdates:

Episode 1 – Joseph: The Nativity
Premieres Monday, March 25 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
The Roman Empire occupies the land of Judea in a time of turbulent unrest. A simple craftsman named Joseph faces a personal test of faith in the small town of Nazareth, when his fiancée Mary tells him she is expecting a child, who is the Son of God. Joseph vows to love and protect his son Jesus through many dangers: his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, and the flight to Egypt to escape death at the hands of mad King Herod.

Episode 2 – John the Baptist: The Mission
Premieres Monday, March 25 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Some thirty years after Jesus is born, his life intersects with that of John the Baptist, a radical preaching in the desert against Judea’s rulers, including Herod’s son, Herod Antipas. John baptizes Jesus, starting his divine mission, but loses his own life, beheaded in a famous conflict with Herod Antipas’ step-daughter, Salome.

Episode 3 – Mary: The First Miracles
Premieres Monday, April 1 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is torn between wanting to protect her son and letting him go to fulfill his sacrificial destiny when the time is right; until Jesus is thirty, only she and Joseph know his mysterious mission. Jesus performs his first public miracle at her request at the Wedding Feast of Cana. But as Jesus’ work becomes public, he puts his life – and that of his family – in increasing danger. When Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath in Capernaum, he enrages the authorities and reaches an important crossroad.

Episode 4 – Caiaphas: The Raising of Lazarus
Premieres Monday, April 1 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Caiaphas, High Priest of Jerusalem and religious leader of the Jewish people, faces an impossible dilemma. Caught between determination to preserve his faith and the repressive might of Rome, Caiaphas must judge how great a provocation Jesus of Nazareth might pose. Jesus’ astonishing raising of Lazarus from the dead marks a turning point. Afraid that Jesus could prompt an uprising and possible brutal retaliation from Rome’s prefect, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas decides Jesus must be stopped.

Episode 5 – Judas: The Betrayal
Premieres Monday, April 8 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
His name a synonym for traitor even to this day, Judas is known as the devoted disciple who ultimately betrays Jesus. What prompted one of Jesus’ closest friends to turn on him remains one of the Bible’s great mysteries, one explored as Jesus and his disciples enter Jerusalem for Passover and what will become the Last Supper.

Episode 6 – Pilate: The Trial
Premieres Monday, April 8 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, has to make a decision about a troublesome preacher called Jesus. As pressure builds to execute Jesus, Pilate’s wife, inspired by a prophetic nightmare, urges him to leave Jesus alone. Instead, Pilate sends him away to be crucified, and publicly washes his hands of responsibility.

Episode 7 – Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion
Premieres Monday, April 15 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Cured of “seven demons” by Jesus, Mary Magdalene is among his best-known female followers. With his mother, Mary Magdalene witnesses the torment of the crucifixion at the foot of the cross. But her faith is rewarded the most when she is the first to witness the seemingly unbelievable: His resurrection.

Episode 8 – Peter: The Resurrection
Premieres Monday, April 15 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
A simple fisherman, Peter was Jesus’ most devoted disciple, his “rock.” But when a frightened Peter disavows Jesus three times during Jesus’ arrest, Peter despairs. The resurrected Jesus appears to Peter and restores him by commanding him to spread his gospel, and Peter takes on that mission, becoming perhaps the most important of Jesus’ disciples.

Image: History Channel

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.