Category: Faith and Family on the Internet

5 Christmas Movies Streaming Now, Filled With Cheer, Innocence & Fun

The Star/Sony Animation

Is it just me, or does it seem like there is a glut of standard, made-for-TV-type Christmas movies on Netflix and the like right now? And they all kind of seem to blend together in a haze of mediocrity and Santa Clauses?

Well luckily, there is also a fairly good selection of newer and classic Christmas movie offerings streaming right now, for those of us who like a little more substance and meaning (and maybe production value!) in our Christmas entertainment programming.

Here are 5 Christmas movies on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime that are filled with actual Christmas themes– you know, like the birth of Christ! With a bit of life’s meaning and innocent fun thrown in as well!

The Star (2017)

A computer animated movie from Sony about some animals involved in the Nativity of Christ. Funny, entertaining, and it even gives some screen-time to the actual human characters in the story as well — Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, Herod, and Baby Jesus. It’s rated PG for some thematic elements, but this one is a great choice for the whole family. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The black-and-white Jimmy Stewart classic about a desperate man who wishes he’d never been born, and the angel who shows him what that life would have actually looked like for everyone he loves. Filled with Christmas-y atmosphere and worthwhile themes about the impact of one’s life and actions on others, this one has staying power for good reason. It’s available to stream on Amazon Prime right now.

White Christmas (1954)

A Bing Crosby musical about two war buddies with a song-and-dance act who meet two sisters who have their own song-and-dance act. The two duos work together to put on a Christmas show that will hopefully save a failing lodge in Vermont. This one is mostly just old-timey fun with a lot of Christmas cheer thrown in, but it’s innocent and sweet as well. You can stream it on Netflix.

A Christmas Carol (1984)

The timeless Charles Dickens story about the miserly, friendless Ebenezer Scrooge (George C. Scott) learning how to care about others, when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve. This one — originally produced for CBS and one of the better versions — is rated PG and might be a little scary for younger viewers (a bit more intense than the Mickey Mouse version!), but it’s a great choice for those beyond the nightmare years. It’s currently on Amazon Prime Video.

The Nutcracker (1993)

If you’re thinking of going to see the new Disney adaptation of this classic Christmas ballet that’s in theaters now, you might want to check out the older version of the wonder-filled story about a little girl who dreams of her toys coming to life on Christmas Eve. Macaulay Culkin (of Home Alone) actually plays The Nutcracker in this one, and it’s pretty kid-friendly. It’s available to stream on Netflix right now.

Happy viewing!

Image: Sony Animation

Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic mom, blogger and screenwriter.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Chris Pratt Talks Love, Fatherhood and God at Disneyland Candlelight Ceremony

Chris Pratt at Disneyland’s Candlelight Ceremony (YouTube)

Actor Chris Pratt is at it again, spreading the hope and love of God – plus a rousing “Merry Christmas!” — whenever he gets a public forum, this time on Saturday, Dec. 1, at Disneyland in Southern California.

In many ways, Disney has yielded to the culture and to so-called “progressive values,” in its TV and movie offerings, and at its theme parks. But — according to Robert Niles at the ThemeParkInsider.com — since its opening in 1955, Disneyland has offered the Candlelight Ceremony processional and performance at Main Street USA’s Town Square.

The invite-only affair plays just four shows over two nights on the first weekend of December, featuring nearly 700 musicians, including a live orchestra, Disney cast members and local school, church and community choirs (non-invited park attendees can view the procession itself down Main Street USA).

Among the song selections are such sacred favorites as “Away in a Manger,” “What Child Is This?” and “Silent Night.”

The finale was the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.

Pratt, star of the hit Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World movies, was on hand this year to read the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke, and to deliver a personal message.

Wrote Niles of the “Hallelujah Chorus”:

That moment of silence before the final chords? Chills. I loved this work as a choir geek growing up and continue to adore the power and spectacle of it performed live. And with nearly 700 musicians performing it at Disneyland? Amazing.

Pratt followed the curtain call with some clearly heartfelt words, referencing his own recent fatherhood to talk about his new-found appreciation for a father’s love.

Pratt pointed out his son in the audience, calling him “this precious little creation of mine,” and spoke from the heart as a father, saying:

I watch the ways in which he tries to please me, I just fill with a love that I feel is so pure, and unending. The way we love our children, the more we love our children, the more we will understand the capacity for our Father in heaven to love us. Each and every one of us a precious creation, and he just marvels in the ways that we can try to please Him. That should give us a great deal of comfort. I know it does for me.

This holiday season, let us embrace every one of our tomorrows with hope and love. And through this holiday spirit may we continue to spread peace and goodwill throughout the world. Thank you, and Merry Christmas!

Pratt fans know that Jack, his son with ex-wife Anna Faris, was born two months premature in 2013. Pratt has often spoken how immersing himself in prayer while Jack was fighting for his life brought him closer to his Christian faith. Although his marriage has since dissolved, Pratt’s commit to faith, and willingness to talk openly about it, has continued.

Whether it’s at the MTV Awards or the Teen Choice Awards or through social media, Pratt encourages young people to connect with God and prayer.

And we thank God he does!

Here’s the whole Candlelight performance; Pratt is introduced at the 50:41 mark:

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.

From Hallmark to Netflix: TV Stuffs Your Stocking With Christmas Movies

Christmas in Love (Hallmark Channel)

Christmas movies are not just for Hallmark Channel anymore — several cable networks and streaming services are getting in on the holiday game. Not everyone may want to say Merry Christmas in public these days, but TV just can’t get enough of snow and mistletoe.

Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Of course, Hallmark still pulling the biggest sleighload of Yuletide films. It was also the first, with the Jane Austen-inspired Christmas at Pemberley Manor on Oct. 27, before the Halloween candy had even been handed out. Close on its heels were Christmas Joy (Nov. 3) and Road to Christmas (Nov. 4). Next up is It’s Christmas, Eve, with country singer LeAnn Rimes, airing Nov. 10 (don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll repeat them all).

Between Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, there are more than 30 new movies this season. Here’s Hallmark Channel’s lineup; click here for more info; guide can be downloaded here.

As for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Miracles of Christmas schedule (downloadable here).

Here’s a full sneak-peek episode at Hallmark’s holiday offerings:

Lifetime

Lifetime launches its holiday-fest, called It’s a Wonderful Lifetime, on Nov. 21, with My Christmas Inn, an Alaska-set adventure starring Tia Mowry-Hardict (Sister, Sister). On Thanksgiving night, Nov. 22, rouse yourself from your turkey coma for One Tree Hill alums Hilarie Burton, Robert Buckley and Danneel Ackles for The Christmas Contract, followed by ‘Tis the Season: A One Tree Hill Cast Reunion.

Also in the mix is the musical romp Jingle Belle, starring Tatyana Ali, Cornelius Smith Jr. and Loretta Devine, premiering Nov. 25.

Click here for a quick rundown of Lifetime’s Christmas cornucopia; and here for more details.

Freeform

The Disney-affiliated network still isn’t quite sure what it is, but it is sure it wants in on the Christmas bonanza, with its Kickoff to Christmas (click here for the full schedule), which began Nov. 1.

You’re not going to find the romantic original movies dominating the other channels. Instead, Freeform has assembled existing favorites, including plenty from Disney and Pixar. Among the offerings (in heavy rotation) are The Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney’s Frozen, Mrs. Doubtfire, Alvin & the Chipmunks (and its Squeakwel), Beethoven, Storks, etc.

UPtv

The season also launched Nov. 1 on “uplifting” UPtv, but it continues for a total of 55 days, including seven premiere movies and a Gilmore the Merrier binge-a-thon, with host Scott Patterson.

Among the highlights are Second Chance Christmas on Nov. 8; A Christmas Switch on Nov. 9, and Naughty & Nice on Nov. 10 (proving that they don’t all HAVE to have Christmas in the title). Click here for the full rundown (there are even a couple with dogs!); and download the full Christmas calendar here.

INSP (said I-N-S-P)

Branded as faith- and family-friendly, INSP is also in the Yuletide game. On Nov. 25, it premieres Christmas on the Coast, starring Julie Ann Emery, Bonnie Bedelia and Clarence Gilyard Jr. (star of one of INSP’s most popular shows, Walker, Texas Ranger, and a Catholic board member of FTP’s parent organization, Holy Cross Family Ministries). Click here to learn more about it.

ION

Another family-oriented up-and-comer (available via broadcast, cable and satellite) is banking on Yule magic. Bring the Holidays Home starts off with Christmas Cupid’s Arrow, airing Nov. 25, a twist on the Cyrano tale (with a much cuter Cyrano). Click here for more information and a full schedule.

Netflix

The streaming juggernaut had a huge hit last year with The Christmas Prince, so it’s back this year with The Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding on Nov. 30.

While you’re waiting for the wedding, you can watch The Holiday Calendar, available to stream now.

It’s followed by The Princess Switch (Nov. 16), with Vanessa Hudgins; and The Christmas Chronicles on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. I know I’ve always wanted to see Snake Plissken as Santa — how about you?

There’s also an animated family short called Angela’s Christmas, coming out Nov. 30.

And Just for Fun …

The good folks at Vulture have sorted out this year’s offerings into “trope” categories, such as Let’s Fake a Relationship That — Spoiler Alert — Turns Out to Be Real, Every Girl Wants to Be a Princess … Or Does She?, and An Event Planner Didn’t Plan for THIS.

Get the popcorn, cocoa and sugar cookies, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Image: Courtesy Hallmark 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.

Netflix’s ‘Dogs’ Will Give You All the Fido Feels

On Nov. 16, Netflix is going to set tails a’wagging with the streaming premiere of Dogs, a six-part cinema vérité series exploring bonds between humans and canines around the world. So, sit, stay and learn what it’s all about.

The Netflix Original Documentary Series — a real switch from such recent true-crime fare as Making a Murderer and The Keepers — travels to Syria, Japan, Costa Rica, Italy and the U.S. to profile the love between dogs and people.

It’s gonna be a heart-tugger, so get out those hankies (and grab a warm puppy, if you have one).

Who’s Behind Dogs?

If you’re wondering if the folks producing this series really love dogs, meet executive producer Glen Zipper, a former criminal prosecutor whose life was forever changed by his encounter with a shelter puppy named Anthony. After adopting Anthony days before he was to be euthanized, Zipper was inspired to become a shelter volunteer.

Eventually, that led him to leave his job as a lawyer, pack up Anthony and drive cross-country to L.A. to tell stories. In an essay provided by Netflix, he writes:

For the last 14 years — through successes and many more frequent failures — Anthony has always been there for me. With his wagging tail at the door after a long, hard day; with his smiling face always managing to pierce the gloomiest of moods; and most importantly, with his constant, unrelenting, unconditional love.

Dogs don’t just make us feel loved; dogs make us feel safe. They allow us to venture out into the world, take our lumps and come back to the best friend any of us could ever want or imagine.

In the world we live in today, no matter how divided we are, we should take care to realize how dogs can bring us together. Our love for them speaks to our unanimity of needs: love, friendship, companionship, loyalty. We all want these qualities in our lives, and dogs are the only souls on this planet who guarantee us each and every one of them in spades.

Our series Dogs is created in this spirit — to honor our dogs, and to help us realize that a love for dogs is something we all have in common. Understanding this, it is also our hope that sharing these stories might help us find more ways to love each other.

How Should Christians Think About Dogs?

I’ve always believed that dogs offer a mirror of our relationship with God. As God made us to love and serve Him, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him, so we have made dogs to love and serve us, and their hearts are restless unless they’re getting a belly rub.

As Christians, we should always put our fellow humans first, especially children. But caring for dogs, and being cared for by them, can open up windows in hardened human hearts and teach us much about the nature of love. One has to think every wagging tail is pleasing to God.

Here’s more on the episodes:

1: The Kid With a Dog

Directed by Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp, One of Us)

Corrine, an 11-year-old girl with traumatic seizures, is paired with Rory, a dog trained to detect an oncoming seizure.

2: Bravo, Zeus

Directed by Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil)

Ayham fled war-torn Syria for Germany, but had to leave his husky, Zeus, behind. He and his friends risk everything to bring Zeus out of Syria to safety.

3: Ice on the Water

Directed by Richard Hankin (The Jinx)

Italian fisherman Alessandro relies on his partner, Labrador retriever Ice, to be his companion and help in the family business.

4: Scissors Down

Directed by Roger Ross Williams (Life Animated)

Renowned California dog groomers fly to Japan to compete in a high-level grooming competition.

5: Territorio de Zeguates

Directed by T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay (Undefeated, LA 92)

Dedicated people sustain a sanctuary deep in the Costa Rican rainforest that saves street dogs.

And, last but  not least …

6: Second Chances

Directed by Berg

The New York City charity Hearts and Bones travels to the south to return dogs to the Big Apple for adoption.

 

Will you be watching? Here’s a peek:

Images: Courtesy Netflix

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.

‘Catholic Central’ Videos Keep It Quick, Fun and Informational

Family Theater Productions’ Catholic Central aims to boil down the history, theology and practices of a 2,000-year-old church into a series of online videos that all clock in at less than 10 minutes, while still keeping it fresh, fun, engaging to younger viewers … and accurate.

Here’s a taste:

How Is Catholic Central Created?

This Herculean task requires a team of professional writers, directors and crew people, two outrageously talented hosts, along with editors and animators, and a backup squad of researchers and theologians. There are many talking-head YouTube videos out there, and many of them are quite good (such as those by Father Mike Schmitz, a fan of our show), but Catholic Central wanted to be something different.

“Catholic Central plays a much-needed role on the Internet. Not only are Kai and Libby great at communicating the truths of the Catholic faith in a clear and understandable way, but their presentation is also incredibly entertaining and the production value very high. We need more resources like this!”

          Fr. Mike Schmitz, Catholic priest and media evangelist

Shot in FTP’s own studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the episodes focus on a wide variety of Catholic topics, from big ones, like recent episode “What’s Catholic?”, to short explorations of holiday traditions, hot-button issues like “Creation and Evolution,” and more esoteric subjects, like “Praying With the Bible: Ignatian Meditation.”

Inspired by John Green’s info-and-graphics-heavy, but still quick and entertaining, Crash Course videos, the episodes feature striking visuals and computer-generated animation, like this dramatic comic-book-flavored take on the papal conclave:

The goal is always to come at the topic from a broad view, then narrowing down to the most essential elements. After that, it’s deciding how the information can be conveyed through spoken text (leaning toward non-theological language, with precise terms added when necessary), comedy and images. The Catholic Central style makes use of traditional Catholic imagery, mixed with striking photos and pop-culture-inspired takes (like the cardinal “Bat Signal” in the video above).

Who’s in Catholic Central?

Live hosts Kai (Kaiser Johnson) and Libby (Libby Slater) anchor from the Catholic Central desk and also portray a dizzying array of original characters, those inspired by pop culture, and figures from history in quick comedy takes.

Like this clip from “Mary” featuring Slater as the Mother of God:

All of these are then cut together into fast-paced videos that are still sensitive to the topics, never going for laughs or speed at the expense of facts and reverence.

After a long casting search, Johnson and Slater were chosen for their on-screen chemistry, poise and appealing personalities. As time has gone on, they’ve demonstrated impeccable comedic timing, an ability to be serious when the topic demands (and say some mighty big words). They’re also good sports, rapidly switching costumes, wigs, makeup and personas — sometimes several times in one shooting day.

Kai and Libby also write for the show — and they have improv chops, as demonstrated in this short episode for Lent, which begins with a script and then goes into Johnson’s improvised rant:

Where Can You Watch Catholic Central?

Available on its own YouTube channel, the show is also found at CatholicCentral.com, where each episode page features links, Going Deeper questions and such downloadable resources as an episode transcript, and activity guides for individuals and small/large groups. The guides and questions are developed with input from the show’s own Catholic staff, in consultation with educators and theologians.

While the classic YouTube format of one or two people just talking directly to the camera can be very effective, Catholic Central takes it up a notch, producing videos that are not only suitable for the ordinary seeker who may stumble across them on YouTube but also for families and the classroom. The style is intended to be visually interesting and entertaining, emphasizing sound doctrine and history while keeping it sharp, funny and relevant.

The show even now has a Millennial showrunner, Mary Ashley Burton. A talented writer, she also directs episodes, and manages the writing team and the physical production.

There are several new episodes up at CatholicCentral.com — take a look!

Image: Family Theater Productions

Kate O’Hare is a longtime entertainment journalist and the Social Media Manager for Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Ken Burns Reveals the Mayo Clinic’s Catholic Roots in PBS Documentary

Airing on Tuesday, Sept. 25 and repeating Wednesday, Sept. 26, on PBS stations (check local listings; channel, dates and times may vary), acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns’ latest effort, The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science explores the history of the famed Minnesota hospital and medical-research facility … and finds some determined Franciscan nuns.

From the press release:

When a deadly tornado tore through their small community in 1883, the Mayos took charge of recovery efforts, enlisting the help of the nearby Sisters of Saint Francis to care for patients. Afterwards, Mother Alfred Moes, the leader of the convent, told Dr. Mayo she had a vision from God that instructed her to build a hospital, with him as its director. She believed it would become “world renowned for its medical arts.”

Blending historical narrative with contemporary patient stories, THE MAYO CLINIC: FAITH – HOPE – SCIENCE is a timely look at how one institution has met the changing demands of healthcare for 150 years—and what that can teach us about facing the challenges of patient care today.

Born in Luxembourg, Mother Alfred Moes was the founder of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, who eventually became a teaching order in the Midwest. They cared for orphans and educated girls from early childhood through their teens.

From her bio at the order’s site:

Our Lady of Lourdes Academy and several other schools under Mother Alfred’s direction were flourishing in Minnesota, when on August 21, 1883, a tornado ravished the area. Mother Alfred and her Sisters opened their schools to the victims. After this experience, Mother Alfred recognized the great need for a hospital. She petitioned Dr. Mayo to plan and staff a hospital at the expense of the Sisters. Within a few years, on September 30, 1889, Mother Alfred opened St. Mary Hospital, Rochester, Minnesota, which eventually became the renowned Mayo Clinic.

Although Mother Alfred died in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 18, 1899, her ministry, as that of St. Francis of Assisi, “to rebuild the church” continues to this day by the Congregations known as “Al’s gals.”

It’s clear from Burns’ documentary that St. Mary’s, and the eventual Mayo Clinic, would not have been possible without the physical and fundraising efforts of the sisters, who transformed themselves in many cases from teachers into nurses.

The sisters remain involved with the world-renowned clinic to this day, which maintains a St. Mary’s Campus as part of the overall Mayo Clinic property.

Ken Burns

Burns’ documentary not only highlights the Church’s long involvement with healthcare — stretching back centuries — but shows how the involvement of a higher purposes and a higher calling can elevate science.

Said Burns; “The history of healthcare is a larger reflection of who we are as a nation. It includes advances in science and technology, but also touches on more universal themes of love and compassion. This is an extraordinary story that places our fundamental need to care for each other within the larger framework of America’s healthcare system and modern medicine.”

The two-hour documentary airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, Sept. 25, on many PBS stations; and repeats on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 10 p.m. ET.

Also, with a PBS membership, you can watch the whole thing here; or you can buy the DVD here.

Images: Courtesy PBS

Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.