Category: Family Movies & Television

‘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.

5 Family-Friendly Live-Action Movies Available for Streaming

(L-R) Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts in “Wonder”/Lionsgate

Family movie night doesn’t always have to mean cartoons.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of high-quality animated movies out there that parents can enjoy alongside their kids. But sometimes it’s nice to take a break from animation and watch something a little more grown-up.

Are there really any non-animated movies out there these days that are suitable for the whole family to watch together, though? Yes! Sometimes it takes a bit of digging to find them, but here are five family-friendly titles that are available through streaming services right now.

Wonder (2017)

Starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, this PG movie about a boy who has a facial deformity is really quite sweet.

Based on a bestselling book, Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, who enters mainstream school for the first time in fifth grade. The story follows him and his family as he adjusts to school, to dealing with bullies, and to recognizing what true friendship looks like.

Wonder is on Amazon Prime and Hulu right now.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)

This one is a fascinating look at a culture and way of life very different from our own. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a Netflix movie about a boy in a poverty-stricken village in Malawi who builds a wind turbine and uses it to bring much-needed water to the starving villagers’ crops.

This movie does have a little violence and a couple uses of rough language, but nothing too intense. (Also note that it’s part English, part foreign language with English subtitles.)

The Railway Children (2000)

This Masterpiece Classic adaptation of the novel by E. Nesbit is a fun and clean old-timey story about three children who move to a cottage in the country with their mother. Between the movie’s many trains and the occasional horsey appearance, this one’s a great choice if you have younger kids and don’t want to be bored to tears yourself by traditional young kid programming.

The Railway Children is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Unicorn Store (2017)

This Netflix movie is a little out-there, but it’s pretty fun. Unicorn Store is Brie Larson’s directorial debut about a free-spirited young woman who just might fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a unicorn (she also stars, along with Samuel L. Jackson in a pretty wacky role).

It’s very unique, and it doesn’t go at all in any risque directions like you might fear. The one issue to be aware of, though, is that it has more language than the usual PG-rated film (several uses of the s-word).

The Perfect Game (2009)

The Perfect Game is a baseball movie that’s based on the true story of the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series. The movie follows a group of boys from Monterrey, Mexico, along with their down-and-out coach, who’s finding a new outlook on life through his coaching. The best part about this movie is that it’s interspersed with Catholicism, as the boys are devout Catholics, and they even bring their priest with them to their tournament.

There are some occasionally cheesy one-liners, but nothing objectionable morally speaking. It’s available on streaming on Amazon Prime.

Image: Lionsgate

Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic mom, blogger and screenwriter.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

‘Toy Story 4’: Pixar Has Done It Again [UPDATED]

‘Toy Story 4’/Pixar

I was five years old when the first Toy Story movie came out. It wasn’t the absolute favorite movie of my five-year-old self by any means, but I definitely liked it. My favorite part of it was always the mini-love story of Woody and his girlfriend, Bo Peep. Five-year-old me really wanted to hear more about them.

A few years later, when Toy Story 2 came out, I liked it even better than the first one but was still wanting to know more about Woody and Bo Peep. I was an adult when Toy Story 3 came out. And even still, I was disappointed at the throwaway line from Woody used to inadequately explain Bo Peep’s absence: “We’ve lost some friends over the years … Bo Peep …”

And then, at long last, the five-year-old in me was thrilled to learn that Toy Story 4 would tell me more about Woody and Bo Peep’s love story.

Move over, kids. I’ve been waiting TWENTY-FOUR YEARS to see this movie! (In reality, I took my five-year-old to go see it with me – there, now I look a little more normal).

Toy Story 4’s premise

If you’ve seen the other ones, including the tear-jerking display of Pixar’s genius that is Toy Story 3, you know that Woody and the gang now belong to a little girl named Bonnie.

So after first flashing back nine years to show us just what happened to Bo Peep back in the day,Toy Story 4 shows us the gang in Bonnie’s house, just before she starts kindergarten. And in this house, Woody is no longer a favorite.

But, showing true growth of character over the course of the franchise, Woody isn’t beside himself over this. Instead, he’s just looking to do all he can for this little girl, even if that means she doesn’t always pick him for playtime.

Bonnie is about to go to kindergarten orientation (who knew that was a thing? Not this former homeschooler …) and she’s a little scared about it. So Woody helps make sure things go smoothly for her. Which results in her making a “new friend” named Forkie out of a spork and some googly eyes.

When Bonnie’s family decides to take a road-trip in the last couple weeks before school officially starts, hijinks ensue among the toys. And in a pretty forgivable story-quality lapse into coincidence territory, Woody ends up stumbling upon his old friend Bo Peep.

Bo Peep has been doing just fine

It seems Bo Peep has been living as a “lost toy” for some years. And she’s OK with it. More than OK with it, she prefers this life after already being outgrown by two different kids.

I suspected (and feared) from the trailer that this current stage of Bo Peep’s life might show her in a bit of a woke, feministic slant. After watching it, I’d say my suspicions were right, but the movie steers just clear of being annoying about it. They walk right up to the line of where I would start thinking, “Okay, let’s not get agenda-y here …” and stop just in time, in my opinion.

This is a good story

Apart from my concerns in the Bo Peep wokeness arena, there was literally nothing I didn’t like about it.

It was hilarious, for both adults and kids — my five-year-old was dying when the plush toys fantasize about attacking people, and I kind of was too!

There’s also a bit about conscience in a conversation between Woody and Buzz, and it’s a recurring joke because Buzz misunderstands. But it can be a nice conversation starter for parents and kids afterwards.

And then the character of Woody has grown into a true hero in this film. He makes a very big sacrifice of self in order to make sure that Bonnie’s favorite new toy Forkie gets back to her. And then, oh man I don’t want to spoil it because I didn’t foresee this ending of the Woody/Bo Peep love story, but let’s just say I cried over it (stop it Pixar, stop it! But not really …).

Go see it if you can

I don’t see movies in the theater very often, between the expense and the inconvenience.

But this really is a good one, and I felt it well worth the time and money. Especially if you have a kid you can introduce to this fantastic story that’s been wowing us for over two decades now.

UPDATE: Since seeing Toy Story 4, it’s come to my attention that the film actually contains a brief scene showing a kid being dropped off by two moms. It’s so quick and in the background that I completely missed it, so it would definitely go over most younger kids’ heads. But still, ugh. I would have thought twice about taking my kid to see it if I’d known. 

Click here for the Fandango link to find showtimes in your area.

Image: Pixar

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

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

‘Breakthrough’ and ‘Emanuel’: New Ways to Watch Two Faith-Related Films

Chrissy Metz in ‘Breakthrough’ (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment); ‘Breakthrough’ (Fathom Events)

If you’ve heard about the faith-related feature film Breakthrough or documentary Emanuel, but haven’t been able to watch either, you now have second chances to see both — one on DVD, and the other in theaters.

Breakthrough (coming to streaming and DVD in July)

Released in theaters in April, Breakthrough — based on the true story of a teen boy’s apparently miraculous recovery from drowning in icy water — is available for streaming on July 2, but it’s also coming to DVD. On July 16, the film, starring This Is Us star Chrissy Metz as fiercely faith-filled mother Joyce Smith, hits 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Among the bonus features are:

  • A Tapestry of Miracles: Making Breakthrough
  • Carry My Soul Phil Wickham deleted scene, and optional audio commentary by producer DeVon Franklin and director Roxann Dawson
  • Short documentary Trapped in Icy Waters
  • Audio commentary by Franklin and Dawson
  • Photo gallery

From an earlier story:

From Franklin, on what he’d like people to take away:

The number one takeaway is that prayer works, love wins. Really when you think about it, it’s like why would Joyce pray that hard? ‘Cause of her love? I think that’s just so powerful. There’s so many films that celebrate superheroes that are great. Hey, those are billion dollar movies. But they’re all imagination; this is real. And what Joyce did is a real superhero doing a real superpower, which is faith and praying. So I really want people to take that away.

Metz on what she hopes people glean from the film:

That we’re stronger together than we are apart, and there’s all of these people on the planet to learn from, to teach, to learn, to grow, to evolve with each other, Otherwise there’d be one person on the planet. There’s a reason why we all look differently and like different things, come from different backgrounds, because we’re all here to teach each other, whether it’s empathy or tolerance or self-love in order to impart that on other people. So, I hope that that’s what people take away.

Click here for the DVD on Amazon.com; and here for the film’s official site.

Emanuel (hitting theaters in June)

Executive-produced by Christian NBA star Stephen Curry and actress Viola Davis, and co-produced by actress Mariska Hargitay and director Brian Ivie, Emanuel documents the aftermath of the June 17, 2015, racially-motivated mass shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina — nicknamed “Mother Emanuel.”

The film features interviews with witnesses, survivors and family members, along with the remarkable story of the strength and willingness to forgive shown by the church community.

Now, the film hits the big screen as a two-night Fathom Event on June 17 and 19. Along with individual tickets (click here to find participating theaters), group or whole-showing sales are available for churches and other organizations (click here for that).

From the website:

National headlines blazed the story: Churchgoers Gunned Down During Prayer Service in Charleston, South Carolina. After a 21-year-old white supremacist opened fire in the church, nine African Americans lay dead—leaving their families and the nation to grapple with this senseless act of terror.

Forty-eight hours later, in the midst of unspeakable grief and suffering, the families of the Emanuel Nine stood in court facing the killer … and offered words of forgiveness. Their demonstration of grace ushered the way for hope and healing across a city and the nation.

It’s the story that rocked a city and a nation as it happened … and in the days that followed. Marking the fourth anniversary of the event, executive producers Stephen Curry and Viola Davis, co-producer Mariska Hargitay, and director Brian Ivie (The Drop Box) present EMANUEL. The documentary powerfully weaves the history of race relations in Charleston, the significance and impact of Mother Emanuel Church, and the hope that somehow emerges in the aftermath.

Featuring intimate interviews with survivors and family members, EMANUEL is a poignant story of justice and faith, love and hate, examining the healing power of forgiveness. Marking the fourth anniversary, EMANUEL will be in movie theaters across the country for two nights only.

From Deadline.com:

“The documentary highlights how a horrible tragedy can bring a community together, and spreads an important message about the power of forgiveness,” said Curry. “Stories like this are the reason we created Unanimous and entered the entertainment space. I hope the film inspires others like it does me.”

“We, along with the country, grieved each family’s loss,” add Davis and Tennon. “Yet, miraculously, from this devastation we witnessed tremendous benchmarks of humanity. The survivors found courage to love in the face of hate.”

Click here for the official website.

Images: Fox 2000/2oth Century Fox; Fathom Events

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.

The ‘Downton Abbey’ Trailer Is Here, and We Take a Catholic Look Back

‘Downton Abbey’/Focus Features

The full trailer for the much-anticipated Downton Abbey movie has just been released, and it contains royalty, surprises and lots of familiar faces.

Set to be released on Sept. 20, the movie picks up the story of the aristocratic Crawley family, led by the current Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville, who was host of a documentary on Jesus last year) and his American wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). Their daughters Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Edith (Laura Carmichael) are on hand, along with the extended family.

Created and written by Catholic Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey aired on ITV in Britain and on PBS’ Masterpiece in the U.S. (the last episode aired in the U.S. in May 2016). It was a highbrow soap opera that dealt with family, class, sex, race, religion (a bit), war and the changing world of the early 20th Century.

As the trailer shows, it’s now 1927, and King George V and Queen Mary (Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother) are coming to visit the elegant Yorkshire estate of Downton Abbey. The family and servants prepare for a royal luncheon, a parade, a dinner and no doubt lots of romance, conflict and surprises.

FTP’s producer-at-large, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a 2016 graduate of USC’s film school, has been rewatching the Downton Abbey series, so I shot him a few questions:

Based on the trailer, what are your hopes for the Downton Abbey movie?

The trailer mentions 1927 as the year the movie takes place, so right after the events covered in the final episode of the TV series. My selfish hope for the movie is that it only covers a year or so in its temporal time, thus leaving the possibility of sequels.

Julian Fellowes, who created and writes Downton Abbey, also wrote the movie Gosford Park. Other than the superficial similarity that they are both upstairs/downstairs stories about English nobility and their servants, what other themes do they share in common?

The central theme of Gosford Park I found to be mercy. The perpetrator of the murder is revealed, but the victim by all accounts was a wicked person (Michael Gambon) whom neither the upstairs nor downstairs would miss. The housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren), declares to the maidservant (Kelly Macdonald) that she could reveal the culprit to the constable, but “what purpose would it possibly serve?” The maidservant then becomes the next messenger of this theme of mercy when she uses this same line with the Countess of Trencham (Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton).

Fellowes is a Catholic, which is not always an easy thing to be in Britian. What are the main ways you think that has influenced Downton Abbey?

Julian Fellowes, the show runner and Catholic himself, created a priest-like character in terms of the butler, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter). The butler treats the upper-class family and lower-class servants with equal dignity, knowing both classes irrespective of wealth (or lack thereof) nevertheless undergo their own joys, triumphs and sorrows. He responds to them with the appropriate candor. Especially, with the downstairs community, he balances pastoral application of the house rules without ever compromising them. The butler is the model of truth in charity.

Some have accused Downton Abbey of having an overly rosy, even nostalgic, attitude toward the largely bygone era of servant and master. How do you see this, from a Catholic perspective?

Every time and space will display some version of servant and master. Just because these formal divisions have been dissolved doesn’t mean they don’t exist in some unofficial (cultural elitism) illegal (sex slavery/trade) or existential (so-called sexual revolution) form. I would say Downton Abbey is not so much nostalgic as it is frank with a past that was honest with the reality of the formal class divisions of its day. Catholicism, after all is telling the truth of something. I don’t always see the same introspection of our current secular culture sold as a liberating one, but whose reality is often a bag of hot air.

As a filmmaker, what do you think Downton Abbey did best?

The period nature of the show requires a literal and figurative chastity to be observed. Downton Abbey can not rely on lust to draw in viewers the way some premium-cable shows do. The extra rules then demand impeccable plot structuring and characterization to hold an audience. The dialogue in particular, ranks among the best in TV history. Maggie Smith spouts some amazing one-liners. I wait with bated breath to hear what she will say next in the movie version.

Image: Focus Features

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

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

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.

Patricia Heaton, Bradley Whitford and Kim Cattrall Headline Faith-Adjacent Fall 2019 Shows [UPDATED]

‘Perfect Harmony’/NBC

The broadcast networks have announced their plans for the fall, and there are a few shows of possible interest to people of faith. Just remember, a lot can change between a show being picked up and actually making it on the air.

Perfect Harmony (NBC)

Former West Wing star Bradley Whitford — who reportedly is involved with All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California — stars as former Princeton music professor who winds up working with a small-town church choir.

Carol’s Second Act (CBS)

After talking a break following the end of The Middle on ABC, Catholic star Patricia Heaton returns to her Everybody Loves Raymond home of CBS for a new multicamera comedy. She plays a retired teacher who, now that her children are grown, decides to become a doctor. Kyle MacLachlan also stars.

Patricia Heaton (right) in ‘Carol’s Second Act’/CBS

Evil (CBS)

Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife) are behind this new drama, starring Katja Herbers (Westworld), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Aasif Mandvi and Michael Emerson (Lost, the upcoming The Name of the Rose). It’s described as a psychological thriller exploring the origins of evil and the (Catholics believe false) dichotomy between science and religion (some descriptions have Colter’s character as a “priest-in-training,” and the team working for the Catholic Church). The husband-and-wife duo bring their own theological perspectives, since Robert is Catholic, and Michelle is Jewish.

Filthy Rich (Fox)

Kim Cattrall headlines the cast of a show described as a soapy Southern Gothic family drama. When the patriarch (Gerald McRaney) of a Southern family, which got rich from creating a Christian TV network, dies in a plane crash, his stunned family learns that he fathered three children out of wedlock — and they’re all written into the will.

Also, just added today (May 14) …

United We Fall (ABC)

The multicamera comedy stars Will Sasso and Christina Vidal as parents of two young children dealing with overzealous extended families — including the Latina mother’s large Catholic one. Also starring are Jane Curtin and Jason Michael Snow.

Christina Vidal, Will Sasso in ‘United We Fall’/ABC

Also, among the shows axed was ABC’s Catholic-family comedy The Kids Are Alright, that our blogger Adrienne Thorne didn’t dislike.

But, in good news, NBC’s acclaimed family drama This Is Us was picked up for three more seasons. From Variety:

“In a television landscape with nearly 500 original scripted series, there are very few, if any, that have the critical and cultural impact of ‘This Is Us’ and we couldn’t be more proud to bring fans three more seasons of a show that so well represents the NBC brand,” said Lisa Katz and Tracey Pakosta, presidents of scripted programming for NBC Entertainment. “A huge thank you and congratulations to our executive producers, cast and crew who reach new heights every week with the show’s inventive and compelling storytelling.”

Images: NBC, CBS, ABC

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.