Category: Family Movies & Television

‘Project Blue Book’s’ Catholic Actor Neal McDonough: ‘Go Out and Sin One Less Time Today’

Neal McDonough has gotten a lot of attention lately for saying he lost a Hollywood job because he wouldn’t do a love scene — but this is nothing new for the devoutly Catholic actor.

McDonough currently stars as General James Harding in the History Channel Tuesday-night UFO drama Project Blue Book, but my entertainment-journalist history with him goes back to the 1990s (click here for one of those stories). In a recent interview with Yahoo.com, McDonough talked about being replaced on a short-lived ABC show called Scoundrels because he wouldn’t do a sex scene.

“I was [surprised], and it was a horrible situation for me,” McDonough said. “After that, I couldn’t get a job because everybody thought I was this religious zealot. I am very religious. I put God and family first and me second. That’s what I live by. It was hard for a few years. Then [Band of Brothers producer] Graham Yost called me and said, ‘Hey, I want you to be the bad guy on Justified. I knew that was my shot back at the title.”

Back in 2016, I spoke to McDonough for Greater, the faith-and-football film he starred in and produced (currently available to stream on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes and Hulu). Click here for what he had to say about the movie, but here are some excerpts from our conversation, originally posted right on this blog.

With his bleached-blond hair (first acquired to play World War II hero Buck Compton in Band of Brothers) and ice-blue eyes, McDonough often plays the bad guy. But in real life, he’s a devout Catholic and a political conservative — and one of the nicest guys I ever met in Hollywood.

But, being true to the Faith does carry a price in all aspects of life, and the entertainment industry is no different — especially when you’re a married man with mouths to feed.

Said McDonough on what he will and won’t do:

Two rules. I don’t use the Lord’s name in vain on TV or movies, and I don’t have sex scenes. How do I work as an actor after that? Okay, I’m the bad guy. I tell you, with five kids, I’ve got to keep working.

I’ve got to pay those bills. Every time I have a job, I have to figure out how to be the most creative and fun guy and great performance and all that stuff. Aside from that, I just love doing what I do. I have a great time doing it, and I’m blessed beyond belief to have the opportunity to keep working. I mean, this is 30 years in the business of constantly working on whatever. It’s been awesome.

On the advice given to him by Father Colm O’Ryan, pastor emeritus of Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills (where he married his South African wife, Ruve Robertson):

Go out and sin one less time today. Go out and drink one less drink today. Go out and do these things one less time today, and you’ll be doing your job as a child of God. That’s what he’s about. That’s what I try to do after I get to play bad guys on TVs and movies.

On working on Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, with fellow Catholic Kevin James:

We had Mass every day at lunch.

We hired the biggest suite at the Wynn Hotel. We’d fly priests in. We’d have Mass every day during the filming of this in Las Vegas at the Wynn Hotel.

Not for gambling, but for God. It was phenomenal. Kevin James — not only one of the greatest actors on set, but one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. Gosh, what an amazing human being to do that. “All right, everyone in the cast, everyone in the crew. You want Mass? It’s going to be in suite 306. Let’s have at it. Every day.”

Is it a challenge to be a faithful Catholic in Hollywood? Sure. And sometimes you may have to make tough choices about roles. But as McDonough shows, it can be done.

As you can see from his role in Project Blue Book, McDonough is still making it work in Tinseltown. If you stand on principle, you’re going to lose some roles, but if you’re good, more will come.

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.

‘The Star’: Producer DeVon Franklin on the Christmas Film’s Future

DeVon Franklin/The Star

Last year, The Star returned Christ to the Christmas-movie season — but when will it be back on the big screen?

Released in November 2017, the Sony Animation feature tells the story of the Nativity from the POV of the animals, along with Mary and Joseph. It’s earned 62.8M worldwide, and it’s available on DVD and for streaming on Netflix and other platforms.

Voice talent for The Star includes Zach Levi as the voice of Joseph; Gina Rodriguez as Mary; Steven Yuen as their faithful donkey, Bo; and Oprah Winfrey, Tracy Morgan and Tyler Perry as the Wise Men’s camels.

Other voice talent includes Patrica Heaton (Edith the cow); Anthony Anderson (Zach the goat); Kris Kristofferson (old donkey); Ving Rhames (Thaddeus the dog); Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse); Kristen Chenoweth (Abby the pygmy gerboa); and Christopher Plummer (King Herod).

I recently had a chat with Christian executive producer DeVon Franklin, whose next faith-based movie, Breakthrough, is hitting theaters at Easter.

Franklin was pleased with The Star‘s performance in theaters, but said, “Animated films can be released in theaters, but they really find their audience in home video. So, so many people have come to me saying their families have watched it.”

But what about putting Bo the Donkey and pals back on the big screen?

Franklin said, “We were going to re-release it this year, but for a variety of reasons, we’re going to hold the re-release until next year, so that we actually have enough time to plan for it.

“But, as an anecdote, my nephew, who is four years old, my younger brother’s son, the only thing he wanted to watch a week ago was The Star. He was like, ‘We got to watch The Star!’ Kids love it.

“If Malachi Franklin loves The Star, that’s good enough for me.”

If your family has loved and seen The Star — or watches it because you read this — we’d love to hear what you think. Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

Merry Christmas, and remember to follow the Star (of Bethlehem, that is) …

Image: The Star …Sony Pictures Animation/DeVon Franklin … TM & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

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 Joy of Rose on Advent’s Gaudete Sunday

Why is this one candle on the Advent wreath not like all the others?

Advent and its counterpart, Lent, are seasons of penitence and of waiting — one for Christ’s arrival, and the other for His Resurrection. On the Advent wreath, the three purple candles mark the preparation Christians undergo while waiting for the events of Christmas Day.

But, unlike dour Lent, Advent is usually a happy season, full of food, parties, shopping, music and lights. In the retail world, Christmas begins right after Halloween and then kicks into overdrive on the day after Thanksgiving. Many people mirror this, barely putting away the leftover turkey before putting up every Christmas decoration they own.

While this calendar is fine for secular society, it has nothing to do with the Child at the heart of the season. He won’t be here until Christmas Eve, and all the earlybird sales in the world won’t speed that up.

That’s why it’s traditional (though not required) to refrain from putting the Christ Child into a Catholic church’s Nativity scene manger until the appointed moment. Here’s Pope Francis at the big moment:

Some folks don’t even put Him there in their home Nativity scenes until Christmas.

So, why do we need a reminder to rejoice on the Third Sunday of Advent? It’s called Gaudete Sunday (Latin for “rejoice”) – in 2018, on Dec. 16 – and marked by lighting a rose-colored candle on our wreaths and having priests wear rose-colored vestments at Mass (as demonstrated by Kai from our online series Catholic Central, in a clip from an episode on “The Liturgical Year”).

Because the happiness that comes from fun and friends and a full belly is not the same thing as Christian joy.

During a spring Mass in 2013, at Casa Santa Maria in Rome, Pope Francis talked about the difference between happiness and joy:

“To be happy is good, yet joy is something more. It’s another thing, something which does not depend on external motivations, or on passing issues: it is more profound. It is a gift.

“To be ‘happy at all moments, at all cost,’ can at the end turn into superficiality and shallowness. This leaves us without Christian wisdom, which makes us dumb, naïve, right? All is joy … no. Joy is something else; it is a gift from the Lord.”

If joy is a gift from the Lord, then the Lord Himself is our first and greatest gift, and the only one that will never tarnish or break or fade. Gaudete – said “Gow-DAY-tay” – Sunday reminds us that the gift has not yet arrived, but it’s very near.

It takes its name from the first word of the Introit, “Gaudete in Domino Semper,” which is Latin for the beginning of Philippians 4:4-7, Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

So even though you may be having happy times during Advent, Gaudete Sunday is a moment to stop and reflect on the source of true joy. And if the Advent season has brought causes for stress and sorrow into your life, then lighting the rose candle is an opportunity to take heart and refocus on what the Mass of Christ is all about.

Perhaps you’ll have the same revelation that came upon the pinched and petulant title character of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” as he stood atop Mount Crumpit with all the Whos’ Christmas goodies piled high on a sleigh, ready to be dumped.

But up from Whoville, divested of all its festive finery and fine food, came not howls of anguish nor shouts of anger but the sound of sweet singing.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow

Stood puzzling and puzzling, ‘How could it be so?

‘It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

‘It came without packages, boxes or bags!’

And he puzzled three hours, ‘till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.

‘Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!’”

Or, as the Whos reminded us …

Here’s a lovely version of the traditional Advent carol, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” from a cappella group Pentatonix …

Blessed Gaudete Sunday!

(Adapted and updated from a column I originally wrote for CatholicVote in 2013.)

Image: Shutterstock

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 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.

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Kenneth Branagh Plays Shakespeare (Himself) in ‘All Is True’ [UPDATED WITH TRAILER]

All Is True/Sony Pictures Classics

Belfast-born British actor and filmmaker Kenneth Branagh is possibly the best friend the Bard of Avon has in movies today — and now he’s actually playing the playwright.

As director and star, Branagh’s Shakespeare film adaptations include Henry V, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Loves Labour’s Lost, As You Like It, Othello and Macbeth.

Now, quite quietly, he went about directing and starring in All Is True, a new period drama about the final years in the life of William Shakespeare, just acquired for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. Right before Christmas, the film will get a brief theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles — so it qualifies for awards — then sent to more theaters in 2019.

Taking on the daunting task of writing about possibly the greatest writer in the English language is comedian, screenwriter and author Ben Elton, better known for such funny stuff as The Young Ones and Blackadder (and for an acting role in Much Ado About Nothing).

From Deadline.com:

Penned by Ben Elton in his first original drama, All Is True is set in 1613 when Shakespeare is acknowledged as the greatest writer of the age. But disaster strikes when his renowned Globe Theatre burns to the ground. Devastated, Shakespeare returns to Stratford, where he must face a troubled past and a neglected family. Haunted by the death of his only son Hamnet, he struggles to mend the broken relationships with his wife (Dench) and daughters. In so doing, he is forced to examine his own failings as husband and father. McKellen plays the Earl of Southampton.

And, from EmpireOnline.com:

Sony Pictures Classics picked up rights to distribute it worldwide. “We have known and worked with Ken for 25 years,” the company says in a statement. “We feel this is a movie he was destined to make. He conjures up for us the depth and dramatic richness of a character about whom we have always been fascinated. What we have seen has confirmed our excitement to plan a qualifying run at the end of this year and to open the movie fully in the new year. We believe audiences will embrace the freshness of All Is True.”

In 2017, the fanciful drama Will had a brief run on TNT, diving into oft-discussed Catholic background of Shakespeare. But, the 1998 comedy-drama Shakespeare in Love avoided the subject entirely.

Catholic writer and Shakespeare scholar Joseph Pearce has long defended the Bard’s Catholicism. In an April 2018 piece for the National Catholic Register, he writes:

Blessed John Henry Newman wrote that Shakespeare had “so little of a Protestant about him that Catholics have been able, without extravagance, to claim him as their own.” Hilaire Belloc, echoing Newman, insisted that “the plays of Shakespeare were written by a man plainly Catholic in habit of mind.” G. K. Chesterton, reaching the same conclusion, stated that Shakespeare’s Catholicism was “a thing that every Catholic feels by every sort of convergent common sense to be true.”

Newman, Belloc and Chesterton drew their conclusions from their deep understanding of Shakespeare’s work, not having the benefit of the wealth of biographical evidence for the Bard’s Catholicism that has emerged in the past century or so. Today, those who claim that Shakespeare was a Catholic can employ the historical facts of his life and times, as well as the textual evidence to be gleaned from his poetry and plays.

Today it is widely accepted, albeit reluctantly by many, that Shakespeare was raised in a devoutly Catholic family at a time when the practice of the Faith was illegal.

Raised the son of working-class Protestant parents in a divided Belfast, Branagh — despite having directed what Bishop Robert Barron called a “very Christian Cinderella” — has not shied away from what faith exists in his Shakespeare films, but is not a man known for bringing up the subject himself.

And, writer Elton is not religious (but he doesn’t seem hostile to the notion of a Higher Power).

So, is the Shakespeare of All Is True a Catholic or a Protestant, or is it just not discussed? We shall see …

Here’s a peek …

Image: Sony Pictures Classics

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.

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.