5 for Friday: Mr. Peabody, Tolkien, Holiday Baking, Minions and Narnia

Don’t tell me there’s nothing suitable for the whole family to watch this weekend (including Monday). I trolled through TV listings just for you and turned up a quintet of offerings that parents and kids can enjoy together.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014) — Friday, 8 p.m., FXM (Fox Movies)

Like its TV predecessor, this animated movie works on two levels, with a lot of the jokes aimed at adults (and going right over small kids’ heads). Genius dog Mr. Peabody (Ty Burell) and his adopted boy, Sherman (Max Charles), use Mr. Peabody’s time machine to visit the past. According to the parents’ reviews at CommonSense Media, the issue of adoption could have been handled better.

But it’s not all bad.

From CommonSense Media:

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an uneven production of highly entertaining visuals and semi-educational historical tidbits mixed with so-bad-they’re-occasionally-funny puns and physical comedy. There are jokes (and all the puns) obviously aimed at parents, and sight gags clearly targeted at the kids. But not all of the characters are easy to root for or even like. Penny (voiced by Modern Family star Ariel Winter) is a highly unlikable character for most of the movie, during which she’s petulant, bullying, and selfish — demanding to do risky and dangerous deeds. Eventually she redeems herself, but she’s too much of a mean girl for little kids to understand.

The father-son angle, however, is quite sweet. Mr. Peabody may be a genius dog that can master everything from cooking to rocket science to all forms of music, but parenting is the one thing he can’t just learn out of a book. The various ways that Mr. Peabody and Sherman protect, defend, and teach each other is a good lesson in what’s important about parent-child relationships (trust, communication, unconditional love). Baby boomer-aged adults will enjoy revisiting their childhood with this adaptation, but even those completely unfamiliar with the source material will find the story amusing if not remarkable.


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring/The Two Towers — Saturday, 5 p.m., AMC

Pop a big bowl of popcorn for this Tolkien-fest, as two of the “Lord of the Rings” movies air back-to-back, with “The Two Towers” lingering on to 12:30 a.m. This might be the perfect lineup for a teen sleepover, as the monsters and frequent, extended fight sequences might be too much for little ones.

But if you love dwarves and Hobbits and elves and orcs, your Saturday is set.

Holiday Baking Championship — Saturday, 5 pm., Food Network

The 2017 edition of this reality-competition show premieres Monday, so Saturday is devoted to the 2016 first season, in marathon form. Host Bobby Deen challenges nine bakers to a variety of Thanksgiving- and Christmas-themed culinary challenges.

The night begins with “Signs of the Season,” followed by “Grandma’s Thanksgiving Favorites,” “Thanksgiving Joy,” ‘Hearth and Home,” “Sweet Surprises” and “Christmas Morning.”

The new season launches Monday at 9 p.m., with “Holiday Party Delights” and “Christmas Family Fun” (in which the bakers must create a giant cookie puzzle based on a Christmas carol).

Here’s a dessert suggestion from last season:

Despicable Me (2010) — Sunday, 7 p.m., Disney Channel

The animated movie features the voices of Steve Carell (a Catholic, BTW), Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews and Will Arnett in the story of Gru, a supervillain trying to steal the moon, who meets his match in three orphan girls who want him to be their dad. Bonus: This is the movie that introduced the Minions.

From Catholic reviewer Deacon Steven Greydanus:

Despicable Me, from newcomer Illumination Entertainment, is the best of the lot so far. It’s slicker and better-paced than all of the non-DreamWorks entries, and it has more energy than any of its predecessors except Monsters vs. Aliens. Best of all, it’s got heart and sweetness eluding all the earlier entries.

Heart? Sweetness? (In villainous European accent) Don’t make me LOL! Heart is for eating at breakfast time! Sweetness is only flavor of revenge! That’s how I roll!

But the moppets, generic as they are, really are super cute. (In an early scene, they offer a heartfelt prayer to be adopted.) Their interactions with Gru, e.g., tucking them in and reading them bedtime stories, slowly become genuinely lump-in-throat inducing. On the family-film spectrum of sincere and sentimental (Pixar, most of Blue Sky) to snarky and ironic (most of DreamWorks), Despicable Me leans solidly toward sincerity and sentiment.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) — Monday, 8:25 p.m., HBO Family

Based on the beloved first installment of C.S. Lewis Christian-allegory fairy-tale series “The Chronicles of Narnia,” this 2005 entry follows four British children who are swept into a wintry wonderland inhabited by talking animals and an evil White Witch.

From Steven Greydanus:

As an ensemble story of 20th-century British schoolchildren caught up in a world of magic and danger, it evokes the Harry Potter stories, though without the moral debates about witchcraft and rule-breaking and the like.

And with its central motif of a divine being who faces down a chilling icon of evil and brings salvation by laying down his life before triumphing over death and evil, it recalls The Passion of the Christ, but without the troubling arguments about antisemitism or the almost unbearable brutality.

At the same time, Andrew Adamson’s film — the director’s first solo effort and first live-action film (Adamson’s only prior credits are co-directing Shrek and Shrek 2) — is neither as daring nor as visionary as [Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” movie or Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”].

Nor is the screenplay, by Adamson and three credited co-writers (none with any notable credits), as faithful to the source material as the Harry Potter films (at least before the books broke 500 pages). Nevertheless, the film brings Lewis’s story to life with sufficient fidelity and movie magic to make it one of the best and brightest family films in some time.

Image: Courtesy DreamWorks

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

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Family Prayers by the Numbers (Including the Rosary With ‘Brother Francis’!)

Preschool and kindergarten is an interesting time, where little ones are learning about their world at a very rapid pace. While letters and numbers and language in general is important, young children also begin to learn their core values during this period. Incorporating prayer into their lives in ways that will engage and interest them presents a number of possible benefits—it can be a wonderful teaching tool, even beyond helping them develop a relationship with God.

Here’s an idea that can instill gratitude in your young child, while giving them an opportunity to practice a few other skills as well…

10 – Thank you God for my 10 fingers and 10 toes. Let’s count them all together.

9 – Thank you God for my 9 favorite animals, from the farm and the zoo and the jungle too. Let’s name each one.

8 – Thank you God for my 8 favorite foods. Let me tell you the 8 yummiest things I put in my tummy.

7 – Thank you God for the 7 days of the week. I know how to name them all.

6 – Thank you God for my 6 favorite songs. Let’s sing a verse from each one.

5 – Thank you God for my 5 senses. I use them to hear my favorite songs, taste my favorite treats, feel hugs and kisses from my favorite people, smell my favorite foods and see the beautiful world around me.

4 – Thank you God for my 4 favorite books. Can I tell you what they’re called?

3 – Thank you God for my 3 favorite activities. There are so many things I love to do. Let me see if I can name a few.

2 – Thank you God for the two people who take such good care of me every day, who feed me, read books to me, listen to me when I need to talk, play with me when I’m ready for fun and hold me when I need a hug.

1 – And thank you God for YOU! You are the one who loves me the most, who accepts me exactly as I am and who will always be there whenever I need a friend.


It can be fun to see how your child’s favorite choices will change from time to time… and they will enjoy letting you know. This is a prayer that requires time and patience to move through but the positives that it presents are endless. Give it a try!

Of course, the most famous counting prayer is the Rosary — 5 decades, 5 Our Fathers, 10 Hail Marys per decade, and so on. While a great way to pray, the Rosary is also a good tool for learning counting (and you can do it on your fingers, too).

The animated series “Brother Francis” has a whole playlist of videos (click here for that) to teach kids about the rosary. Here’s the first one to get you started:

Image: Pixabay

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

3 for Tuesday: All Saints Edition — Thomas More, Mother Teresa, Brother Francis

It’s Halloween, and there’s plenty of spooky stuff on TV. But, it’s also All Hallows Eve, which means tomorrow is All Saints Day, and once the kids are coaxed out of their costumes and recovered from their candy coma, it’s time to teach them about the real stars of the week.

Unfortunately, a lot of great movies about saints are older, in black-and-white or foreign languages, so it’s hard to get kids to watch. So, I’ve picked two that might have appeal to teens or tweens — and one that’s aimed straight at your little future saints.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) — available on DVD or streaming on Amazon Video

The favorite movie of Bishop Robert Barron (see below), this Academy Award winner for best picture is based on the stage play by Robert Bolt. It stars Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, a loyal subject of King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw of “Jaws” fame), who refuses to give public approval to Henry’s intent to divorce his lawful Catholic wife, Katharine of Aragon, to marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn.

In an era where government action and Christian conscience seem to come more frequently into conflict, More’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to obey both his king and the Church is instructive and relevant.

On top of that, it’s a wonderful script, with crackling dialogue, sumptuous costumes and sets and excellent acting (including Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey).

The Letters (2015) — available on DVD or streaming from Amazon Video

From the review by Sister Helena Burns of the Daughters of St. Paul at LifeTeen.com:

The Letters” is another film about the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (acted with aplomb by Juliet Stevenson) — specifically that part of her life where, posthumously, personal letters that revealed her prolonged dark night of the soul surfaced. The stunning revelation is chronicled in the book “Come Be My Light — The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.” She had wanted these letters burned at her death, but, thankfully, her spiritual advisors did nothing of the sort. To know that the woman whose name is synonymous with acts of charity struggled with not just intermittent spiritual dryness but full-blown, persistent desolation, can give courage to even the most skeptical of believers and non-believers alike.

The film’s slow, reflective pace and truly lovely soundtrack makes it suitable as a retreat film or for viewing when one is in a contemplative mood.

Brother Francis — The Saints: Our Heavenly Friends (2017) — available on DVD (also here), on YouTube and at the show’s Website.

Geared to viewers 8 and younger, this delightful animated series (with English and Spanish tracks) follows Brother Francis — a Franciscan, of course — as he guides children through all aspects of the Catholic Faith.

Regarding the episode focusing on the saints, from Amazon.com:

Join Brother Francis as he introduces children to their heavenly friends, the saints! Learn about the wonderful comfort, encouragement, and help given through those that serve God in His Heavenly Kingdom. This episode includes: The Story of Saint John Bosco – The inspiring account of the devoted saint whose dedication to God and his calling resulted in a multitude of children whose lives were changed forever. I Will Do My Best for Jesus A musical reminder to do our best for God and others no matter what our circumstances are. Meet the Saints – Viewers will be introduced to wonderful saints like Dominic Savio, Thérèse of Lisieux, John the Baptist, and many others. Entertaining and instructive, Brother Francis: The Saints is a wonderful way to help children better understands who the saints are and why they are so very important. See also these best selling, Brother Francis DVDs and Coloring & Activity Books, The Rosary, Bread of Life, Forgiven, Lets Pray. The King is Born, Born into the Kingdom, The Sacraments, The Jesus Stories, Following in His Footsteps, and More. The Brother Francis DVDs are great teaching and compliment the Brother Francis Coloring & Activity Books. –Don Greve

Here’s a taste:

Blessed All Saints (Wednesday, Nov. 1 — A Holy Day of Obligation!) and All Souls (Thursday, Nov. 2)!

Image: Courtesy Brother Francis

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

5 for Friday: Peanuts, Monsters, Dr. Jeff, Cinderella and ‘The Toy Box’

It’s 5 for Friday time again, as we run down family-suitable shows airing over the weekend — and you don’t even need a streaming subscription (although most of this week’s entries do require cable).

Let’s get right to it:

The Peanuts Movie — HBO Family, Friday, 7 p.m.

Rated G, this 2015 feature addition to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts legacy pleased both Charlie Brown fans and parents looking for uplifting entertainment.

From Catholic News Service:

Charlie Brown (voice of Noah Schnapp) teaches moviegoers a lesson about divine providence and the power of prayer at the climax of this latest “Peanuts” outing.

In extending a feature film legacy that dates back to 1971’s “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” director Steve Martino is scrupulously faithful to the understated tone as well as the tried-and-true chemistry of his source material. It’s a wise decision.

Top-notch values — including altruism, honesty and loyalty — prevail in a touching story well calculated to win the hearts of old and young alike.

Monsters, Inc. — Freeform, Saturday 7:20 p.m., Sunday 6:55 p.m.

The 2001 beginning of the franchise, from Movieguide.org:


MONSTERS, INC. is an animated fantasy from Pixar Animation Studios (the TOY STORY movies) about two fanciful, lovable “monsters,” who run into complications and an insidious plot when they try to return a little human child to her world. MONSTERS, INC. is a hilarious, incredibly imaginative, exciting, fabulous animated movie.


Pixar does it again! The only movie company that has produced a string of hits that are all family oriented, including TOY STORY I and II and A BUG’S LIFE, now brings us another movie where fun triumphs over fear. To those who love God’s word, we are called not to be afraid and that is exactly the message of MONSTERS, INC. It delivers this message with great joy, good characters and a fun script. The bad guys get their comeuppance, and the good guys learn how to be better.

Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet — Animal Planet, Saturday, 9 p.m.

The hit series about an outspoken Denver, Colorado, veterinarian, who owns bustling full-service, lost cost clinic Planned Pethood Plus (referring to the clinic’s emphasis on spaying and neutering pets, not to anything concerning humans) heads south in a new episode:

“Into the Jungle”: The team heads to Mexico to help desperate owners and their pets; a teenage boy and his sister worry about their sick dog; a remote village has never seen a vet.

And he doesn’t do just dogs and cats …

Cinderella (2015) — TNT, Saturday, 5:45 p.m.

From Catholic deacon and movie reviewer Steven Greydanus:

Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is such a gallant anachronism, such a grandly unreconstructed throwback, that it offers, without ever raising its voice, a ringing cross-examination of our whole era of dark, gritty fairy-tale revisionism. These stories have been around for centuries, the film seems to say. Are you sure they will be improved by making the heroines oppressed by society or their parents, making the male love interests the moral or cultural inferiors of the heroines, adding battle scenes and so forth?

As told by Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz (About a Boy), the tale of a much-abused “cinder girl” and a high-minded prince who fall in love at the ball is as magical and romantic as you remember it being the first time you saw the Disney cartoon.

In fact, this telling is considerably better than the Disney cartoon, which, classic though it is, has notable flaws. Until now I would have said that the definitive screen Cinderella was the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein TV musical starring Lesley Ann Warren, but Branagh’s film surpasses it.

The Toy Box — (premiered on Oct. 1) — Sunday, 7 p.m., ABC

Currently airing its second season on ABC, the competition series features host Eric Stonestreet welcoming inventors presenting ideas for new toys to a panel of kids and their mentors. In the end, one toy idea is chosen and sent to stores.

Sunday’s episode features a glowing flying disc, portable dollhouse, wooden robot craft kits, tower building game, hybrid mythical creature dolls, camping trip board game, and a re-imagined portable golf set.

Image: Courtesy 20th Century Fox Animation

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

3 for Tuesday: ‘The Middle’ Halloween, Otters, Puppies and … Play Ball!

Happy Tuesday! Here’s our latest round-up of family-suitable shows airing between Tuesday and Thursday — and you don’t even need to watch them on the Internet (unless you really want to, of course).

All times Eastern.

The Middle: Halloween VIII – Orson Murder Mystery — Tuesday, 8 p.m., ABC

The beloved ABC sitcom about a Midwestern family — with Catholic Patricia Heaton playing the matriarch, Frances “Frankie” Heck — is currently airing its ninth and last season, including a special Halloween episode. It involves Frankie, husband Mike (Neil Flynn), sons Axl and Brick (Charlie McDermott), daughter Sue (Eden Sher) and Axl’s girlfriend Lexie (Daniela Bobadilla).

From ABC:

As Halloween approaches, Frankie discovers that a woman had died in the bathtub of the Heck house close to 50 years ago; Frankie and Brick become convinced that she was murdered and, much to Mike’s chagrin, attempt to track down and find the murderer. Meanwhile, Axl and Lexie become frustrated over losing their alone time when Sue insists on hanging out with them wherever they go.

Here’s a peek at the Season 8 “Farewell Season” trailer:

Nature: Charlie & the Curious Otters — Wednesday, 8 p.m., PBS

(Check local listings for time and date in your area. The film will be available to stream the following day for four weeks via pbs.org/nature and PBS OTT apps.)

From PBS:

How otters are able to operate so successfully on both land and in water has fascinated wildlife filmmaker Charlie Hamilton James for years, so he decided to see what he could learn from studying several species around the world to discover their survival secrets.

The program focuses on efforts to rehabilitate three orphaned river otters in Wisconsin, shows some ground breaking experiments using cool cameras and anatomical CGI, and captures other wild encounters.

At the Wild Instincts Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Charlie is introduced to three orphan river otter pups and films their progress and training:  from needing around the clock care and feeding, to being taught the crucial skills they will need in order to return to the wild. Despite the fact otters can swim nearly a quarter mile without coming up for air, baby otters do not start out as natural swimmers and they don’t really like water. So the center’s manager Mark Naniot assumes the roles of surrogate mother and teacher. Charlie films him coaxing the pups into a small pool for swimming lessons and later adding minnows which the orphans instinctively chase and catch.

Too Cute: OMG! Puppy Power — Wednesday, 8 p.m., Animal Planet

Who doesn’t love watching puppies grow up? OK, I’m sure there’s someone out there, but for the rest of us, there’s this puppy adventure, with some OMG! extras thrown in.

From Animal Planet:

Little Roo is the smallest of a litter of Beagles, but proves to his sisters that he is top dog. A litter of super fluffy Bichon Frise pups follow mom’s path to show dog stardom. And in a litter of twelve Doberman Pinschers, one pup stands out.

Take a peek:


The 2017 World Series — Tuesday, 8 p.m., Fox

Baseball swings into the Fall Classic, as the Houston Astros — pride of the storm-battered Texas city — take on the City of Angels’ hometown heroes, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the World Series.

For lots of families in the U.S. — hit by hurricanes, floods and fires — the great American pastime could be a great unifying force (and an excuse for hot dogs and popcorn together, on the sofa or, if you’re very lucky, in the ballpark).

Speaking of weather, heat and Santa Ana winds are battering Southern California, so triple-digit temperatures could greet the players and crowd at Dodger Stadium.

From AccuWeather:

“Games 1 and 2 could be the hottest world series games on record at the time of first pitch,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.

moderate Santa Ana event will be responsible for the heat this week. While the area around Dodger Stadium is sheltered, winds will still be gusty and can swirl around through the park.

It’s not that the Astros aren’t used to playing in toasty temps, but at least L.A. doesn’t have Houston’s humidity. As we like to say out here — it’s a dry heat!

Image: Courtesy ABC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Catholic Star Mark Wahlberg Shares His Faith in Chicago

As a former rapper and underwear model, who has battled drug addiction, and is a convicted felon who spent time in jail as a teen, Catholic Mark Wahlberg knows more than many about the power of faith and forgiveness.

On Friday, Oct. 20, the 46-year-old actor and producer joined Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 at the UIC Pavilion in the Windy City for the Chicago Archdiocese’s (re)ENCOUNTER event, designed to draw young adults into the Catholic faith.

After his time in prison, Wahlberg turned to his parish priest for help getting back on the straight and narrow, but it took a few years to extricate himself from that life. It also took time for Wahlberg to totally turn around his showbiz choices and devote himself to his faith.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, speaking prior to the (re)ENCOUNTER  event, Wahlberg said:

 I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past.

In particular, he’s not especially proud of his role in the 1997 feature film “Boogie Nights,” in which he played a 1970s high-school dropout drawn into the porn industry. Chicago Inc. asked Wahlberg if he’d ever prayed for forgiveness for a particular movie, and he said:

 “Boogie Nights” is up there at the top of the list.

Regarding his troubled past, Wahlberg said:

I’ve never been shy about sharing my past and the bad decisions I’ve made and being affiliated with gangs, being incarcerated, so absolutely I think they can identify with me on a personal level, and that’s why I’ve continued to try to do as much as I can to help young people.

It’s one thing to give money, or to start programs, but to be there and be able to talk to them, and tell them there is someone who has been through the same things they are going through and was able to turn their life around, and turn it into a big positive. That’s always important.

Now living in Los Angeles, Wahlberg — whose brother, Donnie Wahlberg, stars in CBS’ “Blue Bloods” — is a husband and father of two daughters and two sons.

Here are a couple of clips related to the event — one of a press conference, and the other from the event itself.

And if you have the time, click here for the full video of the event, as streamed by CatholicChicago.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.