Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture

“Little Hope Was Arson” documentary set for November release

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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True crime, true faith. Following a successful and award-winning run on the festival circuit, Little Hope Was Arsona documentary about the quest to solve a series of ten Texas church fires, will begin its roll out in theaters and On Demand on November 21.  The feature length documentary is produced by the Collaborate & Goodnight Smoke. It looks compelling. I’m looking forward to reviewing this one.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

TV Review: “My Boyfriends’ Dogs” on Hallmark Channel + A chat with actress Teryl Rothery

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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My Boyfriends’ Dogs airs tomorrow (10/18) @ 9:00 PM ET on Hallmark Channel.
Synopsis (from the Hallmark Channel website):
Bailey Daley (Erika Christensen) is a hapless young bride who has run away from the altar with not one, but three dogs she adopted from past relationships. Running into a small diner one rainy evening in a soaked wedding dress with her dogs at her feet, Bailey launches into the story of her strange predicament to the restaurant owners, Louie (Michael Kopsa) and Nikki (Joyce DeWitt). She explains that she hasn’t been able to find the right love, always longing for the more loyal, stable companionship she finds in her ex-boyfriends’ canine companions. Against the knowing advice of her mother Dina (Teryl Rothery) and best friend Amber (Emily Holmes), Bailey tries to transform herself into the perfect fit for each new guy she meets. As each relationship ends, Bailey adopts her ex’s dogs, but remains hopelessly single. Will a twist of fate that stormy night lead her to realize that true puppy love happens only after one stops searching for it?

Review: Sure, it’s about dogs but what we really have here is the ultimate chick flick. But, that’s okay. I happen to be a guy who loves dogs. And, even as a guy, I can appreciate a well-told romantic comedy — especially one with dogs. And that’s exactly what we have here. A story about a likable woman’s quest to find that special someone. Erika Christensen (Parenthood) is delightfully intelligent, funny and vulnerable as the story takes her through three doomed-to-fail relationships. Besides the dogs, the film also features Joyce DeWitt (Three’s Company) and Michael Kopsa as an older married to whom she tells her story. Their scenes work well as a means of tying the story together and of gently portraying how nice and snugly comfortable a marriage an enduring marriage can be. That, in itself, is something that should be portrayed more on television.

Probably the best and sweetest (in a good way) scenes, however, are the ones between Bailey and her mother (Teryl Rothery, interviewed below).  There’s some genuine chemistry between the two actresses and the sense of a mother and daughter who truly love each other is honestly touching.

The bottom line is this. Though you’ll see the ending coming almost before the movie even begins, it’s satisfying and makes you feel good. On a relaxing Saturday night, after a hard week of work, sometimes that’s all you want. Mission accomplished. My Boyfriends Dogs is a treat and recommended.

Talking with Teryl Rothery (Hallmark’s My Boyfriends’ Dogs, Cedar Cove)

(Left to Right): Teryl Rothery, Erika Christensen
Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Brenda Falvey

JWK: You’re a very busy actress with role ongoing role in a successful TV series.Why did you choose to take on the role of Bailey’s mother in My Boyfriends’ Dogs?

TERYL ROTHERY: The script! I absolutely loved the storyline! It was funny. It was warm. It made me laugh out loud. It made me smile.  I just knew deep down inside I had to be a part of it.

JWK: Are you a dog lover yourself?

TR: Huge! It’s ridiculous!

JWK: Do you have any pets at home?

TR: I do. I have two dogs, two birds, two fish and, as you can (in the background), a very loud five-year old…So, it’s a handful.

JWK: Checking out your IMDB page, you’ve done a lot of sci-fi and fantasy projects. Besides you’re roll on Stargate SG-1 (one of my favorite shows) and Arrow,  your credits include roles on Supernatural, Eureka, Smallville, Caprica and, most recently, CW’s Arrow? Are you attracted to sci-f projects?

TR: I haven’t been locked into just the sci-fi although I love it — mostly for the fans…It’s tremendous to go out and do all these conventions and thank them for supporting the show. But it’s been a mix…I mean I (also) love the warm and fuzzies (like Cedar Cove and My Best Friends’ Dogs).

JWK: What TV shows do you watch?

TR: That’s a hard one because right now it seems that all I’m watching is Teletoons and Nickelodeon. You know what I love? I love Criminal Minds. I love CSI. Those are my kind of shows. I also love Modern FamilyMasterChef, I’m huge into that. I’m a big Gordon Ramsay fan…I don’t get a whole lot of time to watch anything but, if I can, those are some of the ones that I do tend to watch.

JWK: It’s interesting that you like shows like Criminal Minds and CSI which would hardly be described as “warm and fuzzy” yet you also enjoy some of the gentler stuff.

TR: Absolutely. My favorite movies are all romantic comedies. I love the romantic comedies.

JWK: Do you have a favorite romantic comedy?

TR: I’d still have to say Pretty Woman. I still think that it’s one of the best ever.

JWK: What’s next on your professional agenda?

TR: Well, right now I’m working on Cedar Cove which is another Hallmark project. So, I’m really excited and very happy doing that. I’m loving the character.

JWK: Beyond Cedar Cove, what kind of roles are you looking to do?

TR: I love comedy. I love to make people laugh. (But) anything that’s telling a good story makes me happy. So, I just like to be part of the storytelling process.

JWK: And it looks like you have a great relationship going with Hallmark.

TR: Oh, how grateful am I! It’s an absolute joy to work with these people. It’s seriously like you would think. It’s that family feel. I’m seriously blessed to be a part of that series. I really am. I’m so grateful to Hallmark.

Note: Cedar Cove  airs  Saturdays @  8:00 PM ET on Hallmark Channel.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Catholic monks release chanting CD + “Old Fashioned” romance to face steamy “Fifty Shades of Grey” at the box office

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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Melodious monks. New Camaldoli Hermitage, a community of Roman Catholic monks in California’s Big Sur, will release their album O Day of Resurrection on Tuesday, November 4th. From Jade Music, the CD is a 27-track recording of the monks’ beautiful chants of the Liturgy of the Hours, a community prayer with songs and readings at specified times during the day and night, according to the rule of St. Benedict. In addition to the Mass, the principal “hours” or “offices” are Vespers, Vigils and Lauds. The album was recorded in the chapel of the New Camaldoli Hermitage, and is available now for preorder at Amazon.

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Romance is making a comeback. Old Fashioned is the title of an upcoming indie faith-based film that will look at the challenges of finding true love in an age of hooking up. Due to open on Valentine’s weekend 2015. The co-announcement was made by Bill Reeves of Working Title Agency, producer Nathan Nazario and Freestyle Releasing Co-President Mark Borde who will distribute the movie in a platform theatrical release.

The romantic drama centers on former frat boy Clay Walsh and free-spirited Amber Hewson who together attempt to accomplish the seemingly impossible: an “old-fashioned” courtship in contemporary America. Interestingly, the film will open the same weekend as highly-hyped and decidedly steamy Fifty Shades of Grey.

“The timing of it all definitely provides a stark contrast—and that’s the point,” says Old Fashioned writer/director/star Rik Swartzwelder. “The conversation should be pushed. Not all fantasy is harmless and not all paths lead to true and lasting love. We have two movies here, both about people with troubled pasts . . . but both taking very different approaches to getting romance right.”

Swartzwelder adds “Opening the same weekend as Fifty Shades, there’s definitely a David v. Goliath comparison…They will have more screens, more money, more hype…but we’re hopeful that we are not alone in our belief that there are others out there who desire more from love–and the movies–than objectification or domination.  That being the case, we simply want to offer an alternative view on the topic of romance; and, perhaps even dare to suggest that there is a more beautiful way to which we all can aspire.”

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

UP TV’s “Heavenly Match” is a nice idea that could use some tweaking

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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Heavenly Match no match for UP’s previous offerings. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I tend to like movies on UP TV.  Some are excellent but, whether comedies or dramas (or a mix of the two), almost all of them tell reasonably insightful and interesting stories about likable people that you want to root for. Without being preachy, UP’s refreshingly snark-free films put forth the values of faith through modern-day parables that leave you feeling a little bit better armed to face the world. It’s a type of storytelling the broadcast networks have almost entirely abandoned as they continue to go further and further over the edge while remaining hyper P.C. at the same time. That, of course, requires pushing the boundaries of traditional storytelling while studiously coloring within the stringent lines drawn by industry gatekeepers. But I digress.

The point is Heavenly Match (airing tonight 10/12 at 7:00 PM ET on UP TV) is a movie I really wanted and expected to like more not just because I like the network and respect the creative people involved but because I like its premise.

Synopsis (from the UP press release): Life would be perfect for 30-year-old, single Reverend Casey Hart (Samaire Armstrong) if it weren’t for parishioners who poke into her love life and steal money from the collection box.  Not to mention some very inconvenient feelings she is having for her long-time friend, fellow seminary school classmate, and verbal sparring partner, David Swenson (Brenden Penny).  Feeling the pressure of leading the congregation and managing the board’s expectations, Casey questions if she should remain a minister in the church or pursue other career opportunities.  Unsure of her direction, terrified of professional failure and panicked that David has met someone new, Casey turns to her other best friend from school, Reverend LaRonda “Ronnie” Mason (LeToya Luckett).  Can Casey reclaim her confidence while reconciling her clerical robe with high heels and date nights?  A fun-loving look at a single girl’s life on the other side of the altar.

The idea of a dramedy about a female minister called on to lead a quirky, slightly-stuffy congregation could be a lot of fun and perfect for UP TV. In fact, I think the idea has great potential as a TV series as well.  Unfortunately, there’s just something off about Heavenly Match. 

It’s not just the dialogue is a little stilted, it’s that the relationships are too. First of all, there are just too many ministers in the story. Besides, Cassie, there’s her love  Rev. David  Swenson (Brenden Penny, looking an awful like Donald from That Girl) and her best friend Rev. LaRonda Mason (LeToya Luckett) as well as an older (and dying) female minister mentor (whose name I can’t find in the press materials and whose storyline starts)

Taken one by one, the mentor character is fine but her storyline starts and ends rather abruptly — popping up almost like an afterthought, a scene or two and then she’s gone. Personally, I think there should have been a bit more set up for character. Rev. LaRonda is also fine — though I think it may have been more interesting to have given Cassie a best friend from outside the ministry. If you’re going to have virtually everyone she’s close to be a minister, that could be an issue for the character to deal with. Is her world too insular?

But what really throws things off, in my view, is that character of David. He’s just plain boring and the whole idea of him being a minister from another church just throws things off balance. His character may have worked better if his character was a congregant and, perhaps, a member of the parish board that is so skeptical of her ability to mobilize the church.

There’s also a storyline about diminishing church collections — and whether or not someone is dipping his or her hands in the till — that resolves rather unconvincingly.

On the plus side, the script does offer some nice insights on life and a situation that allows for some Scripture quoting that doesn’t come across as forced.  It just could use a little tightening around the edge.

And, despite its problems, I’m not so sure a sequel isn’t in order. It wouldn’t be the first series to find its way after a bumpy pilot (?). The premise, as I said, is solid and I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the character of Cassie continue. I’d suggest losing the boyfriend character and keeping the focus on the growth of Cassie and her relationships with the parish board and the church members. There’s promise here.

Heavenly Match is  produced by Front Street Pictures Harvey Kahn and directed/executive produced by Michael M. Scott, both of whom were behind UPs Far From Home (a film I liked The film is based on Beth Pattillos novel Heavens to Betsy which, in turn, sprang from Pattillos experiences as a female minister.  Cara J. Russell wrote the adapted script. 

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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posted 2:03:41pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »

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