Category: Kate O’Hare

‘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.

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.

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.

Tim Tebow Urges Contestants to Run LeBron James’ ‘Million Dollar Mile’ for CBS

Pictured (L-R): Matt “Money” Smith, Tim Tebow, Maria Taylor. Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS

Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL quarterback (and current minor-league baseball player) and very public Christian Tim Tebow has signed on as host for Million Dollar Mile, a new competition series from LeBron James’ company, SpringHill Entertainment, and WarnerHorizon.

Joining Tebow as commentators are Matt “Money” Smith, the voice of the Los Angeles Chargers play-by-play, and ESPN host/reporter Maria Taylor. Joining James and his production partner, Maverick Carter, are Fly on the Wall Entertainment’s (Big Brother) Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan.

From CBS:

“Watching good people compete at their highest ability is always inspirational to me,” said Tebow. “MILLION DOLLAR MILE is a show that does just that – it motivates, thrills, and is aspirational, and I’m excited to be hosting this show.”

In this unprecedented television event series, contestants will have the chance to win $1,000,000 every time they run the Million Dollar Mile. Standing in their way is the most challenging course ever designed and a group of elite athletes with one mission: to stop the contestants from winning the money at all costs. Currently, the series is in production in Los Angeles for broadcast on the CBS Television Network.

Tebow also has another entertainment product in the works, a feature film called Run the Race. Executive-produced by Tebow and older brother Robby Tebow, and filmed in Birmingham, Alabama, the film has been acquired by indie-film distributor Roadside Attractions (I Can Only Imagine), which is aiming for a Feb. 22, 2019 release.

From The Wrap:

Run The Race follows two young brothers with an unbreakable bond facing unbelievable odds. Reeling from his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Zach (Tanner Stine), an All-State athlete, finds glory on the football field, working to earn a college scholarship in the hopes of earning he and his brother, David (Evan Hoffer), a ticket out of town. But when a devastating injury sidelines Zach, David laces up his track cleats to salvage their future.

“I wanted to be part of something that’s encouraging and inspirational to the viewer. I believe Run The Race accomplishes this by showing two brothers struggling with real life, but them getting through it by supporting each other and their faith,” Tim Tebow said in a statement. “I hope those who see it can walk away with more faith, hope, and love.”

Also starring are Mykelti Williamson (Chicago P.D., Fences, Forrest Gump) and Frances Fisher (Watchmen, Marrying Mr. Darcy, Titanic).

Post-football, the now 31-year-old Tebow has worked as a college-football analyst, author (Through My Eyes, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms, This Is the Day), philanthropist and left-fielder for the AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies, a New York Mets farm team. A broken bone in his right hand cut his season short in July, but he’s expected to move up to the Mets’ Syracuse AAA team for the 2019 season.

From a Nov. 8 story in USA Today:

“That’s a great next step for him,” newly hired Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said, via NorthJersey.com, at the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., on Wednesday. “We’re excited to get him back in camp, and hopefully, after a trip to Syracuse, he’ll be able to prove to us and everybody in baseball that he can make an impact in the big leagues.”

Tebow’s been counted out plenty of times, mostly by a media that seems obsessed with the unwavering faith of a guy who never puts a foot wrong nor has a bad word to say about anybody. IMHO, he’d still be a second- or third-string QB in the NFL if the media circus that follows him around hadn’t caused more trouble than his talents were worth.

But, Tebow has persevered, continuing to find a way to compete while branching out into other areas (including starting a program that sponsors proms for special-needs kids).

As his official website says, “True success is not measured in physical possessions, but in the amount of lives you change.”

Amen.

Image: Courtesy 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.