Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Saving Christmas’ is Full of Useful Stuff

posted by jtotey
Christian (Darren Doane) is not happy with the idea of Christmas this year. (Provident Films)

Christian (Darren Doane) is not happy with the idea of Christmas this year. (Provident Films)

Some may view actor Kirk Cameron as a hyper-religious, ultra-conservative Christian, so it may surprise you that his latest venture, Saving Christmas, is the polar opposite of what you might expect. In fact, this film is actually aimed at those who are hyper-religious, ultra-conservative Christians and even proves that the title is inaccurate. Christmas isn’t in need of saving; it needs to be celebrated.

Saving Christmas is different from what you might expect in a lot of ways. It isn’t really a tradition movie as there isn’t much of a storyline. It isn’t really a documentary, because there IS a storyline. The production is written and directed by Darren Doane who also has a large role in the film as Kirk’s fictional brother-in-law “Christian” and obvious metaphor for everyone who watches this movie. Christian’s wife is played by Kirk’s sister, Bridgette Cameron.

The thin plot revolves around a family Christmas party where Christian spends most of it sulking in his car. Instead of the over-used storyline about someone who has “lost the Christmas spirit,” Christian has had it with Christmas. He is upset with all of the commercialism and he fears that he is partaking in traditions that have history in druidism. Kirk goes out to talk to him and addresses each of his concerns with historical facts and stories.

Kirk’s and Christian’s conversation is pretty entertaining to watch as Doane is actually very funny in his awkwardness. Christian rants about one subject, Kirk addresses it and then they move on to the next. Here you won’t find schmaltzy stories like the “legend of the candy cane,.” Instead, lessons on the background of many holiday traditions and little-known facts about the nativity story are presented. This is all good stuff, however, comparing the Christmas tree to the Tree of Knowledge found in the Adam and Eve story is a bit of a stretch. The argument that “just because the druids worshipped trees doesn’t mean we have to” is enough.

At just one hour and twenty minutes long, Saving Christmas feels more like a Christmas TV special than a movie and like many holiday specials, about 20 minutes of the production is filled with fluff that doesn’t really belong. These are “comedy bits” from other cast members that aren’t especially funny that should have been left out. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth watching. It is. Just don’t expect to be entertained as much as you would with another movie. The other thing is don’t wait too long to see this movie as it is only showing in theaters until November 27. (Click here to find a theater near you.)

One final thought, though the film is family-friendly, it is really geared toward adults. Parents will do better sharing the material with their children on their own level at home.

Michael W. Smith Named Philanthropist of the Year

posted by jtotey
Michael W. Smith is presented with Philanthropist of the Year Award by the AFP. (AFP)

Michael W. Smith is presented with Philanthropist of the Year Award by the AFP. (AFP)

A Friday night affair
Out in the city heat
Always a party there
Along the sordid street
And it was guaranteed
The place to be was Rocketown
The drinks were two for one
Inside the crowded bars
The girls would make their run
Out on the boulevard
It was the idol place
We lived the ways of Rocketown

– From the song “Rocketown”

November 5, 2014 was designated as National Philanthropy Day and in Nashville, Tennessee; the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) celebrated the “difference makers” in the community which included naming singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith, as the Philanthropist of the Year. This was based on his extensive work with the Rocketown outreach program which he founded in 1994, eight years after the song of the same name was released on his album, “The Big Picture.”

Rocketown is considered to be the first of its kind in the Southeast and has since grown into a regional outreach.  Located in downtown Nashville, the facility features three stages for live entertainment, an indoor skatepark, a snack bar, a recording studio, and other studios for photography, art and dance. It is estimated that more than 800 teens from across the Middle Tennessee region participate in programs each weekend as well as an after-school program at a local high school.

It’s been a good week for Smith as he was again given an award at the Nashville Association of Talent Directors’ annual gala on November 11th. The program honors entertainment professionals for their efforts “to make Nashville the exciting and vital entertainment mecca that it is today.”

‘Big Hero 6’ will be Huge

posted by jtotey
The Cast of "Big Hero 6" (Disney)

Wasabi, Go Go Tomago, Honey Lemon, Fred, Hiro and Baymax from Disney’s “Big Hero 6.” (Walt Disney Animation)

All those naysayers, (myself included), who thought that Disney was making a big mistake purchasing Marvel, thinking that the two entities would not be able to mix well should be able to relax now. Yes, the traditional Marvel movies bases on Ironman and others have done just fine, but Big Hero 6 is the first creation to be Disney-fied. In fact, the movie is so far removed from its original source, Disney barely even mentions the Marvel tie-in (although, like all Marvel movies, Stan Lee has a cameo in this one too). In theory, it shouldn’t have worked. But it does big time. In fact, expect Big Hero 6 merchandise to be sold out before Christmas.

Hiro begins transforming Baymax into a superhero robot.

Hiro begins transforming Baymax into a superhero robot.

One of the weirdest marketing promotions for the film is the phrase, “From the team behind Frozen.” Big Hero 6 isn’t remotely like Frozen. It isn’t a musical, isn’t centered on princesses and really is intended for a different audience. However, expect it to be just as big. Boys, girls and their parents will love this movie. The film will surprise viewers in other ways too. It takes more serious themes from comic books (death and revenge) and makes it kid-friendly. Really. It is both “cute and cuddly” and “big adventure.” Disney could really for far with this one. It could be the company’s version of Scooby-Doo.

Inspired by the Marvel comic of the same name, the hugely funny movie takes place in the mythical San Fransokyo (a blend of San Francisco and Tokyo) where a young teenage genius, Hiro Hamada (voice of Ryan Potter) would rather spend his time with illegal “bot-fighting” rather than putting his skills to better himself. However, it is his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) that shows him a whole new world of geekdom in the form of science and technology starting with his new invention called Baymax (Scott Adsit). Tadashi created Baymax at his college where Hiro meets his friends, Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung), neatnik Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and school mascot Fred (T.J. Miller).

The comic book that inspired the movie.

The comic book that inspired the movie.

Baymax starts out as an inflated, soft, medical care robot, but Hiro has bigger plans for the loveable invention. After a tragic situation, Hiro, with the help of his friends, transform themselves into superheroes to right a terrible wrong. The film surprisingly tackles the issue of revenge and how it can never make up for the loss that one feels. It also shows the power of friendship and working together as a team.

Christian parents should take comfort in that fact that despite the film’s dip in dark themes, it handles them extremely well in a way that children can both relate and understand without “talking down” to them. The “bad people” are motivated by bad things in their own lives. Like other Disney films before, it has a mix of happiness and sadness, but ultimately makes you feel good in the end. One of the most touching aspects of the film could be glossed over pretty quickly, but it deserves a mention. When a tragedy happens to Hiro, his friends come to support him numerous times stating that that is what friends do. Hiro is blessed to have such friends take notice of his pain and what to be there to help. In real life, even in the church, many hurting people go unnoticed. This is a great lesson for kids.

To add to the fun, Disney has paired this movie with its newest animated short, Feast,  which has no dialogue and is similar in tone to the studio’s other recent short, Paperman. It is told from a puppy’s point of view and his fascination with food.

Let the Games Begin! The Celebrity Apprentice is Back!

posted by jtotey
Pictured: (l-r) Shawn Johnson, Leeza Gibbons, Lorenzo Lamas, Kevin Jonas, Jamie Anderson, Johnny Damon, Vivica A. Fox, Geraldo Rivera, Donald Trump, Kate Gosselin, Ian Ziering, Terrell Owens, Gilbert Gottfried, Sig Hansen, Brandi Glanville, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Kenya Moore -- (Photo by: Art Streiber/NBC)

Pictured: (l-r) Shawn Johnson, Leeza Gibbons, Lorenzo Lamas, Kevin Jonas, Jamie Anderson, Johnny Damon, Vivica A. Fox, Geraldo Rivera, Donald Trump, Kate Gosselin, Ian Ziering, Terrell Owens, Gilbert Gottfried, Sig Hansen, Brandi Glanville, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Kenya Moore (Photo by: Art Streiber/NBC)

NBC announced today the lineup of celebrities who will be joining Donald Trump in the boardroom for the 7th Celebrity Apprentice to be air next January. And what a lineup it is. True, many of the celebs have made Apprentice the next reality completion show to add to their resume, at least this year you will be aware of who most of them are!

The Men
The lineup of men joining the competition include two-time World Series champion Johnny Damon; actor and legendary comedian Gilbert Gottfried; Sig Hansen, the star of Deadliest Catch and Captain of the Northwestern; Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum musician Kevin Jonas; Golden Globe-nominated actor Lorenzo Lamas; NFL great Terrell Owens; award-winning journalist, author, and talk show host Geraldo Rivera; and television and movie actor Ian Ziering.

The Women
The lineup of women include Gold Medal Olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson; movie star Vivica A. Fox; best-selling author and television icon Leeza Gibbons; reality star and best-selling author Brandi Glanville; TV personality, author, and mother of eight, Kate Gosselin; world-class gymnast and gold medal Olympian Shawn Johnson; Kenya Moore, former Miss USA and star of The Real Housewives of Atlanta; and television icon Keshia Knight Pulliam.

NUP_136398_1032As with other seasons, 16 stars will compete in business-driven tasks around New York City proving once again that they aren’t really all that different from us after all – or are they? Each task will help the celeb raise money and awareness to their favorite charities and each have the chance to deliever a $250,000 bonus check to them as well. Each activity will be scrutinized and watched by Trump and his children, er, advisors Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump.

Unlike the past few seasons, instead of weekly 2-hour broadcast, the show has been cut down to size – sort of. Beginning in January, NBC will air two one-hour episodes back-to-back. The new season will premiere on Sunday, January 4th from 9:00-11:00 p.m. and then begin its regular time slot the following Monday from 8:00-10:00 p.m.

Over the course of the series, The Celebrity Apprentice has raised over $14 million dollars for charity. “This season of The Celebrity Apprentice is on point to be the best yet,” said the ever-so-humble Mr. Trump. “With 16 extraordinary contestants bringing their energy to the boardroom, it is sure to be a hit, as always.”

Previous Posts

‘Saving Christmas’ is Full of Useful Stuff
Some may view actor Kirk Cameron as a hyper-religious, ultra-conservative Christian, so it may surprise you that his late

posted 4:38:28pm Nov. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Michael W. Smith Named Philanthropist of the Year
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posted 6:22:27pm Nov. 14, 2014 | read full post »

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[caption id="attachment_746" align="alignleft" width="362"] Pictured: (l-r) Shawn Johnson, Leeza Gibbons, Lorenzo Lamas, Kevin Jonas, Jamie Anderson, Johnny Damon, Vivica A. Fox, Geraldo Rivera, Donald Trump, Kate Gosselin, Ian Ziering, Terrell Owens, Gilbert Gottfried, Sig Hansen, Brandi Glanville,

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