Category: Kate O’Hare

NatGeo’s ‘The Story of God’ Tackles the Resurrection (Or Not, Actually)

National Geographic Channel/Maria Bohe

The Story of God With Morgan Freeman premiered its third season on Tuesday, March 5, on National Geographic Channel with an episode on the Devil. Next Tuesday, it’s Gods Among Us, profiling people who claim to be deities, including Jesus Christ.

The series sends host and executive producer Morgan Freeman around the world to survey a wide variety of belief systems, from major ones like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, to smaller sects. I’ve seen the first three episodes of this season. It’s an improvement over a disappointing season two, which followed a fairly strong season one.

Glad to report that, unlike in earlier seasons and many other cable documentaries, believers and clergy talk about Christianity, rather than primarily just academics, who, though they may study faith, are not always people of faith themselves.

Here’s how NatGeo describes Gods Among Us, airing Tuesday, March 12:

  • Are there people walking among us who truly embody the divine? Many of us were taught that God is in heaven, yet we believe that it’s possible for people on Earth to have a direct connection to God. Christians think of Jesus as the epitome of the divine made human, but people of all faiths have sought God in charismatic figures. Morgan Freeman journeys around the world to explore the mysteries of these mortals, including a rare meeting with the famed Kumari of Nepal, a prepubescent living goddess.

One thing the episode doesn’t point out — and it’s what distinguishes Christ from others who claimed to be divine — is the Resurrection, the central mystery of Christianity. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.”489 The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross:

Or, as St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15: 12-19:

But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.

Yet, Gods Among Us makes no mention of the Resurrection. Recently, during the biannual TV Critics Association Press Tour, I did a roundtable interview with host Morgan Freeman and his fellow Revelations Entertainment executive producers Lori McCreary (a Christian, by the way) and James Younger.

I asked them about the choice not to include the Resurrection, and here’s what I heard, with the producers considering the perspective of religions that include a belief in reincarnation..

Younger: [The Resurrection] is a splitting point for you, maybe, as a Catholic, but it may not be a splitting point for a Hindu, or a Buddhist, who are much more like, everyone gets resurrected. So, this issue about coming back from the dead is not really a big deal, because everyone does.

Freeman: Yeah, trying to reach Nirvana.

McCreary: You bring up good points. Because, we have a lot of things where we’re really careful about how we present information, because we know we have multiple faiths watching this. It’s important, and literally a word can make a difference.

We spend a lot of time … James, he sends notes in the middle of the night, “You can’t say this. Please say it this way.”

We find a way. I hope we find a way where we’re presenting something that’s not offensive to anyone who has a strong belief in one of these different faiths, but also allows them to lean in, as opposed to saying, “Well, they got that totally wrong.”

Here are NatGeo’s descriptions of the rest of the episodes:

Visions of God (March 19)

  • Stories about visions of God are found in most religions, but where do visions come from? What do they have in common? Morgan Freeman sets out to explore the mysteries behind these visions, and his travels take him  to Lourdes, France, where believers claim to have been cured of physical and spiritual ills by the water flowing from its spring. He also meets with a member of the Anishinaabe Tribe in Canada to learn about the transformative power of a vision quest.

Deadly Sins

  • How do we grapple with the reality that we are all susceptible to sin? What Christians call “sin,” other religions describe with similar concepts, such as “karma” in Buddhism and Hinduism, or “guo” in Taoism. Morgan Freeman travels around the world to explore how different religions have developed ways to fight back against sin. He visits a local Hindu community in the United Kingdom to celebrate Diwali, and journeys to Vietnam, where he meets the commandant of the Hanoi Hilton, the notorious prison where the North Vietnamese kept prisoners such as John McCain during the war.

Diving Secrets (April 2)

  • Some faiths keep their entire religious communities hidden for fear of persecution. Other faiths have secret practices that only special initiates are allowed to participate in. Morgan sets out on a journey to understand why secrecy and religion are so often intertwined, and if the mystery of ritual can bring people closer to the mystery of the divine. Along the way, he travels to the spectacularly preserved Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii to see frescoes depicting the secret cult of Dionysus, which is believed to have performed rituals of animal and human sacrifice.

Holy Laws (April 9)

  • For many believers, the Ten Commandments are a moral guide and the foundation of Judeo-Christian and Islamic society. Around the world, other societies and religions also have divine prohibitions and prescriptions that the faithful must follow. Morgan Freeman travels to Jerusalem to meet with an archaeologist and examine a segment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and crosses the globe to Nepal, where he explores the commandments of Jainism — the five great vows or Maha-vastras.

The Story of God airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic Channel.

Images: National Geographic Channel/Maria Bohe

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 ‘Movieguide Awards’ on Hallmark Celebrates Films and TV That Lift the Spirit

James Faulkner, Jim Caviezel ‘Paul: Apostle of Christ’/Photo: Movieguide®

Not sure why Hallmark Channel chose to air the Movieguide Awards the night after the Academy Awards — ensuring they’d be swamped in a flood of post-Oscar coverage — but this is one ceremony where love and light take center stage.

The actual ceremony — full name Faith & Values Awards Gala — took place on Feb. 8 at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City, California, with the theme Movies and TV That Transform, and aired on Feb. 25 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Movieguide is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the influence of the entertainment media,” and, as the name suggests, reviews movies with an eye to the faith and values audience.

As part of the Gala, Movieguide founder Dr. Ted Baehr presented highlights from the organizations 2018 Report to the Entertainment Industry about what kinds of entertainment moviegoers and TV viewers actually prefer (hint: it’s often not the stuff that wins Emmys and Oscars). More on that here.

The hosts were actress and Fuller House star Candace Cameron Bure and her daughter, actress Natasha Bure.

Here are the nominees and winners (in bold):

The Visionary Award for Furthering Entertainment With Faith & Values

  • Bill Abbott, president & CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, and Michelle Vicary, executive vice president, programming, Crown Media Family Networks, for their work with Hallmark Channel.

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Movie

  • God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
  • The Grinch
  • I Can Only Imagine
  • Paul, Apostle of Christ
  • Unbroken: Path to Redemption

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring TV Program of 2018

  • Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey
  • Daredevil (Season 3, episode 13)
  • Elvis Presley: The Searcher: Part I and Part II
  • Manifest (pilot episode)
  • Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 5, episode 22)
  • Medal of Honor: ‘Hiroshi Hershey Miyamura’
  • A Shoe Addict’s Christmas
  • When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing

Faith & Freedom Award for Movies

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Chappaquiddick
  • Incredibles 2
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Little Pink House
  • Paddington 2

Faith and Freedom Award for TV

  • Daredevil” (Season 3, episode 13)
  • Little Women
  • Manifest (pilot episode)
  • Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 5, episode 22)
  • Medal of Honor: ‘Hiroshi Hershey Miyamura’

Best Movie for Families

  • God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
  • The Grinch
  • I Can Only Imagine
  • Incredibles 2
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • Paddington 2
  • Paul, Apostle of Christ
  • Peter Rabbit (2018)
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

10 Best Movies for Mature Audiences (in alphabetical order)

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Chappaquiddick
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Little Pink House
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • A Quiet Place
  • Skyscraper
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Unbroken: Path to Redemption
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Christie Peters Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for Movies

  • David A.R. White, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
  • Dennis Quaid, I Can Only Imagine
  • J. Michael Finley, I Can Only Imagine
  • James Faulkner, Paul, Apostle of Christ
  • Jim Caviezel, Paul, Apostle of Christ
  • John Krasinski, A Quiet Place
  • Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
  • Samuel Hunt, Unbroken: Path to Redemption
  • Merritt Patterson, Unbroken: Path to Redemption

Christie Peters Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for TV

  • Emily Watson, Little Women
  • Henry Simmons, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 5, episode 22)
  • Chloe Bennet, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 5, episode 22)
  • Joanne Whalley, Daredevil (Season 3, episode 13)
  • Candace Cameron Bure, A Shoe Addict’s Christmas
  • Jean Smart, A Shoe Addict’s Christmas
  • Lori Loughlin, When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing

$15,000 Kairos Prize for Most Spiritually Uplifting Screenplay by a First-Time or Beginning Screenwriter(s)

  • Nathan Leon, Grace by Night

$15,000 Kairos Pro Prize for Most Inspiring Screenplay by an Experienced Filmmaker

  • Paul Cooper, Mingo Road

Image: Movieguide®

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.

‘Unplanned’: Planned Parenthood Drama Lands Distribution, Releases Trailer

UnplannedFilm.com

Unplanned, a new film chronicling the change of heart of Texan Abby Johnson from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life activist, has found a theatrical distributor and released a trailer.

PureFlix plans to release the film on 800 screens on March 29. It renews the company’s relationship with writer/directors Carey Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, who wrote and co-produced God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2, which PureFlix also distributed theatrically.

The film (click here for the official Website) is based on Johnson’s 2011 book Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line.

Ashley Bratcher plays the feisty, outspoken Johnson. Here’s an interview they did for EWTN:

Kaiser Johnson

Also appearing in the film is Family Theater Productions’ own Kaiser Johnson, who stars, with Libby Slater, in our online series Catholic Central.

Johnson plays Jeff, a brash attorney who represents Abby as she disentagles herself from Planned Parenthood.

From the press release:

“I thought I was helping women,” said Abby Johnson, founder and director of And Then There Were None,  the only group in the country that helps abortion workers exit the industry and find them new jobs. “But I was doing more harm than good. It wasn’t until I saw a child fight for its life that my world came crashing down and I understood the enormity of my actions. I had to leave. No one will be able to walk away after seeing this movie and say ‘I didn’t know.’”

During her time as director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, Abby facilitated over 22,000 abortions. Since leaving, she has helped nearly 500 former abortion workers, including seven doctors, leave their jobs and find fulfilling careers outside of the abortion industry.

Bringing to life this powerful real-life story of redemption and love, UNPLANNED stars Ashley Bratcher (WAR ROOM, 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN) as Johnson; Brooks Ryan as her husband, Doug; Robia Scott (CSI, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) as Abby’s superior at Planned Parenthood ; Emma Elle Roberts (HUNGER GAMES:MOCKING JAY, I AM NOT ASHAMED, ) as Marilisa Carney, Kaiser Johnson (LITTLE BOY, VAMPIRE DIARIES, SLEEPY HOLLOW); and Jared Lotz (OF LITTLE CONVENIENCE, THANKSGIVING) as Shawn Carney.

Actress Ashley Bratcher was nearly aborted by her own mother, which she didn’t find out until filming began. “I was born for this role,” said Bratcher.

“This is the most important movie anyone will ever see on the most controversial issue of our time,” said Solomon and Konzelman. “When UNPLANNED comes to theaters, this movie will make abortion unpopular.”

The film has also released a trailer:

Watch this space for more about the film as the release date grows nearer. Considering current headlines about legislation to relax abortion restrictions in New York State and elsewhere, the film couldn’t be more timely.

Image: UnplannedFilm.com/Family Theater Productions (Johnson)

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.

‘God Friended Me’ Gets a Second Season on CBS

(L-R) Violett Bean, Suraj Sharma, Brandon Micheal Hall/CBS

CBS announced today that it’s given the Sunday-night faith-and-Facebook comedy-drama God Friended Me a second season.

Family Theater Productions hosted a screening of the show’s pilot for invited guests from the local faith (primarily Catholic) community, and it was given near-universal thumbs up (click here to read what they had to say).

Brandon Micheal Hall stars as Miles Finer, a computer-security-company employee and podcaster who received a friend request from a Facebook account called “God.” That began a series of coincidences (?) and friend suggestions from the “God account,” that have sent him and his friends (Suraj Sharma, Violett Beane) on an adventure of helping others, self-discovery and attempts to uncover the mystery of the account.

Along the way, Finer has moved from militant atheism to turning his podcast into an open conversation on faith.

Joe Morton also stars as Finer’s father, an Episcopalian minister; with Javicia Leslie as his lesbian sister, a bartender.

In the ensuing weeks, God Friended Me has managed to maintain a delicate balance of character drama, comedy and respectfully discussing issues of faith from a variety of perspectives.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

“We’re thrilled with how God Friended Me has performed on Sundays. It’s one of the top three new series on television, has improved its time period significantly, and continues a long tradition of prestige dramas for CBS on the night,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday.

Added Thom Sherman, senior exec vp programming: “Our amazing cast and producers have done a wonderful job of bringing this series to life each week with humorous and inspirational storylines. Viewers have clearly embraced our characters and the positive message the show delivers.”

In its first season, God Friended Me has been CBS’ second-most-watched new series. Click here to learn why Kahl thought the show was worth picking up in the first place.

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.

‘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.

Should You Give Up Social Media in 2019? Bishop Barron Weighs In

Resolved for 2019: Giving up all social media. Done. Kaput. Gone! … But is that a good idea?

If you work in media, like we do at Family Theater Productions, that’s not even a question. You just can’t. For hearing from the audience, and communicating back to them, social media is vital. Otherwise, it’s just a one-way ad stream going outward, with no feedback — and that’s not good.

We’re active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, both for FTP and for our productions — like The Dating Project and Catholic Central — and every day, we check to see what you’re thinking and saying (and we hope you check in with us).

But for me especially, as Social Media Manager, in the thick of it every day …whoa, there’s a lot of bad out there. I spent many years in mainstream entertainment journalism before I came here, so the craziness and negativity doesn’t surprise me. Every now and then, though, I’m even brought up short by just how nasty people can be.

On the other hand, we get lots of positive, wonderful and helpful feedback as well. Like this comment on YouTube:

And, outside of business, think of all the ways social media has connected people — lost relatives, old and new friends, people in crisis, potential pets and spouses. It’s also brought us shocking, important or heartwarming stories from the furthest corners of the world.

Personally, I think of Facebook as a huge dinner party, with invited friends, nosy neighbors, party crashers and crazy uncles (and aunts).  Twitter is the 24/7/365 rowdy cocktail chatter of the world, encircled by an eternally updating news ticker. Instagram is the beauty (and weirdness) of the world as it is, with a heavy dose of the world as we pretend it is.

Professionally, I’m eternally surprised to learn what you all out there like, and don’t like. Trust me, we listen, and we learn. Anyone who works in media has to have an ear to all the social channels. We can work on projects for years, talk among ourselves about what we like and don’t like, what we think will work — but ultimately, you guys are the ones that decide whether a project is a success.

Media ignores the voice of the audience at its peril. Creators can’t allow the audience to dictate to them — after all, it’s that creator’s unique voice that can make something special and authentic — but at the same time, if they want their creations to be enjoyed and appreciated (and most especially, produced), they need to pay attention. Sometimes it can be bruising, but it’s essential.

But even secular media, including such business-focused sites as Ragan.com, realizes that one has to take a break every now and then. From a post today:

If you have an unhealthy relationship with social media, consider a cleansing “fast.” Give up Snapchat or Facebook for Lent. Break it off with whichever platforms give you grief and little else.

For people of faith, using social media can be especially fraught. For that, I happily yield the floor to Los Angeles’ Bishop Robert Barron, who knows as much as anyone about the rewards and pitfalls of faith in the social square:

Here’s to a happy, healthy and sane 2019, even in social media!

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.