Here’s 2014’s first dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
What’s new in the New Year? Here are five projects worth keeping an eye on.
1.) The Town That Came A-Courtin’ (UPtv, January 19 @ 7 PM ET – with encores at 9 and 11 PM ET)
Synopsis: Abby Houston (Lauren Holly) is a smart, beautiful, successful author and fiercely independent Southern woman. When we meet her, she is curiously being kept captive in a remote cabin in the woods by an obsessed fan named Walter (Toby Hargrave). Days earlier, Abby and her publicist Jamie (Lucie Guest) were visiting the lovely town of Bliss, Mississippi on her most recent book tour. In Bliss, local Magnolia Blossom B&B owner Charlotte (Valerie Harper) and their well-meaning prayer chain have big plans for Abby – as the perfect match for their widowed Mayor Spencer Alexander (Cameron Bancroft), a single dad of two. A series of collisions, several bouquets and numerous good words later, Abby relents to having dinner with Spencer and finds a handsome, earnest man. Eagerly encouraged by the entire town, they embark on a whirlwind, public romance. But just as they are about to share a first kiss, Spencer is reminded of his late wife and abruptly pulls back. Hurt and sad, Abby is determined to leave Bliss behind, only to find her obsessed fan waiting. With phones buzzing and the town mobilized, what happens next will determine her future.
2.) Gimme Shelter (In Theaters on January 24)
Synopsis: Based on the inspiring true events, the film centers on the courageous story of Agnes “Apple” Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) and her incredible path to motherhood as a pregnant, homeless teenager. Forced to flee her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) and turned away by her Wall Street father (Brendan Fraser), Apple finds herself on a desperate and isolated journey of survival. In the depths of despair, she meets a compassionate priest (James Earl Jones) who ultimately leads her to salvation and unprecedented support in a suburban shelter for homeless teenagers. With gained confidence, and the warmth of her new home, Apple breaks from her inhibiting past, embracing the future with clarity and hope.
Hudgens, best known for her work in Disney’s High School Musical franchise, immerses herself in the character and delivers a transformative and stunning performance. To prepare, she lived for weeks in pregnancy shelters, interacting with the young, homeless mothers who also appear in the film, completely altering her appearance unrecognizable.
3.) God’s Not Dead (In Theaters on March 31)
Pure Flix Entertainment has announced the release of the film on over 600 screens nationally March 21, 2014 through Freestyle Releasing.
The ensemble cast also includes Kevin Hanchard (Orphan Black, Suits), Lamar Johnson (The Next Step, Home Again), Stephan James (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Home Again), A.J. Saudin (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Da Kink in My Hair), Gemini Award winner Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas, Call Me Fitz), Joanne Boland (Copper, Lost Girl), Paul De La Rosa (The L.A. Complex, Covert Affairs), Gemini Award winner Catherine Disher (The Border, Flashpoint), Peter Williams (Stargate SG-1, Da Kink in My Hair), Siobhan Murphy (Rookie Blue, Men With Brooms), Barry Flatman (The Kennedys, Defiance), Darlene Cooke (Saving Hope, Da Kink in My Hair) and Millie Davis (The Best Man Holiday, Orphan Black). The real-life Angela Logan makes a cameo appearance.
“Apple Mortgage Cake is the inspirational, real-life story about how one good idea — and a ton of apples, sugar, flour and butter — can change a family’s future for the better,” says UP SVP Barbara Fisher, adding “We are thrilled to introduce viewers to Angela Logan and her family, who went from foreclosure to “overnight” success and her own prosperous apple cake bakery in Teaneck, New Jersey.”
Synopsis: A five-year-old Angela Logan (Millie Davis) is in her grandmother Nellie’s (Darlene Cooke) kitchen in New Jersey learning how to make apple cake and discovering the joys of baking. Nellie tells Angela: “Cake makes people happy. One bowl, one mixer, and the right company, and you’re set free for life.”
Thirty-five years later, Angela (Kimberly Elise) is a single, working mom with three teenage boys, Marcus (A.J. Saudin), William, (Stephan James) and Nicolas (Lamar Johnson). She juggles various jobs and helps with employment counseling at the local Mission. While thrilled to be in the family home where she learned to bake, the house is falling apart, with sections deemed uninhabitable by inspectors after storm and flood damage. Plus, the car just decided not to start – and the boys all still need shoes, books and food. She has always made due until now – when her lender calls in the mortgage loan and puts her into foreclosure. Angela has 10 days to come up with $4000 or she loses her home.
This is the true story of a woman who decides to bake 100 apple cakes and sell them at $40 each in order to save her home – and how this idea completely changes her and her family. As word of her “bake sale” ripples out through neighbors, friends, her church and even old flames, such as Melvin (Kevin Hanchard), the story soon spreads to the news, locally, nationally and internationally. Orders fly in from all over the world. Angela is taken off guard by the overwhelming support. But soon, this fiercely independent woman learns to depend on the kindness and love of others that comes her way, particularly when the community and local businesses rally around Angela to help her finish and ship the initial stacks of orders.
5.) Three Wise Animals (In Pre-production, from Andretta Productions)
This one (very appropriate, I think, for a Feast of the Epiphany posting) is from R.G. Seal, a talented up-and-coming filmmaker I met at the 2013 Variety Family Entertainment & Faith-based Summit. The project is still seeking completion financing and may well represent a major opportunity for someone looking to get in on the ground floor with a major young talent. If you can help in that regard please email email@example.com.
I’ll be following R.G.’s progress with Three Wise Animals. I certainly wish him well and will keep you posted.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11