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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Andrea Logan White is No Mean Girl

posted by jtotey
Andrea Logan White (Pure Flix)

Andrea Logan White (Pure Flix)

Last fall I was treated to an on-site visit for the production of Do You Believe in Michigan. While there, I got a chance to speak to Andrea Logan White about her role in the film, her marriage and life as an acting family.

Like last year’s hit, God’s Not Dead, Believe tells of multiple storylines of everyday people whose lives come crashing together one fateful night. Andrea plays the role of…Andrea, but the woman I met with is a lot friendlier and happier than the one in the film. “ I don’t even know if that name is even mentioned on camera,” she tells me, “but she is a lawyer – and is cynical and questioning and hopeful and really wanting to believe that Christians are who they say they are.” She explains that this fictional Andrea is a lawyer with a hard shell because she feels that she can prove her point by proving others are wrong. “I think that she is a fighter but that is just a shell for being brokenhearted. She wants a relationship with the Lord but doesn’t know how to get there because of some bad experiences in her life.”

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(Pure Flix)

(Pure Flix)

And how was it playing the mean girl? “She is very fun to play. I love playing mean people,” says White. “Comedy is actually harder to play believe it or not. [My character] is in a relationship with Dr. Farrell (played by Sean Astin) who is an atheist, so it is kind of a relationship where she likes the fact that he’s very strong and very opinionated. They both live in their egos. They are very strong-willed, controlling, self-obsessed and kind of narcissistic, so it is very fun to play but very sad in the sense that they are searching more than anybody.”

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In addition to appearing in this new film, last year’s Mother’s Day comedy, Mom’s Night Out, and many others she is also married to David A.R. White, fellow actor and producer of those faith-based films – 32 since 1998. I asked her what it’s like to be married to dreamer. Is your life chaotic at home?

“You know…Yes. I mean, our life doesn’t stop. My husband and I are polar opposites. He is doing a million things at once and I think I would be do well living in the ’70’s. It’s chaotic, but we are very specific in making sure that our family comes first. For us, that is a priority. We never want to be doing things for God but forget about what he blessed with first and foremost and that’s our children and our marriage. So, it is crazy, especially after God’s Not Dead came out, I mean the traveling and everything has been really busy, but we are very prayerful about it. I am pretty specific on the types of projects that I take on. This is the first project that I’ve taken on where I’ve been away from my kids more than four days. We always say that if we don’t have peace about something than that’s like a sign from the Lord to not take anything more on.”

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YouTube Preview ImageWhile on set, everyone tells me how great the people of Pure Flix are work with. However, I know that if can’t be this wonderful for everyone working in Hollywood. I ask Andrea what advice she would give others actors and actresses working in L.A.

“You know, I’m thankful because I have a husband who grew up as a Christian and I feel like both of us lift each other up when we’re down. We’re stronger – we have each other. Not everybody has that privilege, so I think the biggest thing, and I tell this when I speak to a lot of women, is to keep God first. In Matthew it says ‘seek first the kingdom of God and all things shall be added.’”

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She encourages those who believe that God has given them a desire in their heart to perform as a actor and to glorify any gifts and talents to the Lord, to be free and trust in that. However, you must keep God first. “Don’t think that you can get any further by compromising or pursuing your career and putting Him on the back burner. I feel like the Lord never really blessed me and my path until I made an active decision to be a Christian and profess that He is my Savior and…it’s hard.”

This is where Andrea chooses her words carefully, not wanting to sound high and mighty. “David and I always say that we’re called to love and not judge. We’re going to make mistakes…all of us make mistakes especially when your flooded with bad influences in L.A.. Keep praying about every situation. If there is a project that comes about – you will know by your peace whether or not you should do it. We all believe that we have the Lord and the Holy Spirit. We can trust that the Lord will give us peace and lead us out of that, but, I think that is the most important thing. Sure, we’re not going to be perfect and we’re easily persuaded to kind of glorify ourselves and forget about that. It’s a walk. That’s why God calls it a walk because we fall down and get back up. I think, getting involved in a good church – that truly preaches the word of God is #1 and surround yourself with like-minded believer, actors and singers and performers. That’s a pretty good start.”

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‘Insurgent’ Carries on the Story with no Point

posted by jtotey
Tris (Shailene Woodley) continues her journey with Four (Theo James) and bad haircut in "Insurgent."

Tris (Shailene Woodley) continues her journey with Four (Theo James) and bad haircut in “Insurgent.” (Summit Entertainment)

I have never read the Divergent series of books by Veronica Roth, but I have been told that the third book in the series, “Alliegiant” is very disappointing. After seeing Divergent the movie and now Insurgent, I think I can understand why. The premise in the first film had an intriguing premise. The world as we know had been reduced to the city of Chicago where all the residents were divided up into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Dauntless, Candor and Erudite. The second movie, Insurgent, takes place right after Divergent and about 200 years after the formation of the five factions. The world people live in is a contrast of super high-tech and extreme poverty almost in the same space and a civil war is about to emerge. A giant massacre has occurred between on faction and another. Clearly, this way of doing business is not working.

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This story begins with our heroes Tris (Shailene Woodley), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Four (Theo James) and few others hiding in plain site within the boundaries of peace-loving Amity faction led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer). They are living in relative harmony but itching to get out. Understandably bitter due to the deaths of her parents, Tris becomes extremely edgy and frankly, unlikeable. The girl you were rooting for in the first film is now kinda annoying. Soon, the group is on the run due to when Jeanine (Kate Winslet), leader of the Erudites, discovers a mysterious box that only a Divergent can open. She doesn’t know what’s inside, but feels strongly that it holds the key to her happiness…or something. It’s just not clear what she hopes this big box will do for her. Knowing that Tris is at least partially Divergent in nature, Jeanine has her army hunt her down. However, not before Tris, Caleb and Four have a short visit with his mother, whom he told everyone was dead. She is a leader herself wanting peace, but Four doesn’t trust her.

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Believe it or not, there isn’t much more to the story. A large portion of the film is dedicated to more high-tech special effects where Tris is once again put through enormous hurdles through a device that ushers in bad dreams and amazing fantasy landscapes. Somehow by going through these virtual nightmares, the mystery box will open up. How the two go together is never explained – you’re just supposed to go with it. And finally when the truth is revealed, it leaves you with another “is that all there is” moment.

Insurgent isn’t a bad movie. It should keep your attention the whole time, but it fails in the same way as the first story did. You see how this society doesn’t work, but you are never given a glimpse of what it should or could be. Some characters want to strip Jeanine of her power, but someone else wisely questions the wisdom as another horrid leader will just take her place. The other issue I had with the story was the change of character’s motives and actions from the first movie. One character goes from “good” to “bad” and back to “good” again by the time the film is over. Tris is harsh and bossy while Four, who was so tough in the first movie, is now just trying to keep the peace and avoid his mother.

The movie ends on a much better note that the first film, but the joy you feel is fleeting as you wonder, “Is that all there is?” It is like telling a morality play that has no moral to learn at the end. But the special effects are pretty neat though.

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‘Divergent’ is a Good Movie Without a Point

posted by jtotey
Relax Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) it's only a dream. (Summit Entertainment)

Relax Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) it’s only a dream. (Summit Entertainment)

What is it with teens and dystopian thrillers? They are depressing, full of teen angst and the storylines are obsessed with death. But the books have been huge hits so therefore movies must be made.

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When viewing Divergent, it is easy to compare it to The Hunger Games. The two deal with class and are both pretty violent. However, the premise of Divergent is more intriguing. The story is set in a future version of Chicago where buildings and skyscrapers are in shambles. This society has been broken up into five factions that are based on human virtues. In our real world, every person has a little bit of every virtue in them, but in future Chicago, people are assumed to fit in one faction only.

The five factions are:

  • Abnegation – Selfless people who wear grey clothing, never look too long in the mirror and are the ones that run the government.
  • Amity – People who are lovey-dovey and would rather pretend that everything is peachy keen instead of feeling anger
  • Dauntless – Crazy, but brave people willing to take chances and they are the ones who serve as the society’s police.
  • Candor – They are people who always tell the truth, but are not necessarily kind in the way that they do it. They wear black and white and see life that way too.
  • Erudites – These people are the super-smart ones and tend to conflict with the Abnegation people.

Those who don’t “fit in” within any of the five factions are either considered Factionless (basically homeless people) or Divergent (people who can think independently and therefore are considered a threat).

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Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) were born into a Abnegation family. Their father Andrew (Tony Goldwyn) and mother Natalie (Ashley Judd) serve as leaders. When children in this certain society reach a certain age, they are given a choice to continue living within their known faction or adopt a new faction. However, if they do choose a new faction, they must not associate with their former family. To their parent’s dismay, Beatrice, changes her name to Tris and becomes Dauntless. Caleb chooses Erudite.

The story then continues following Tris as she goes through a boot camp-like environment. Unfortunately, the Dauntless have recently changed their policy and did not let the new recruits know ahead of time: Those who are not up to snuff are kicked out of the Dauntless club and will become factionless. To make matters worse, Tris is informed that she is actually a Divergent and needs to keep quiet about it.

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Meanwhile, there is building tension between the faction leaders. Abnegation are accused of stealing food and Jeanine (Kate Winslet), leader of the Erudites, feels that she is smarter and could do a better job in power.

For the most part, Divergent starts out strong, than lags in the middle and then picks up again near the end. Though the set up is strong, the end result is not. You see, participants in this new world are tested frequently to make sure that they who they say they are. They are given a strange serum that makes them dream crazy dreams. But here’s the deal. When Tris dreams, she is strong enough to know that none of what she is seeing is real and therefore able to wake up quicker than others – a sign that she has a mind of her own. One of her trainers, Four (Theo James), wants to know how she “escaped” so quickly. Apparently, no body else knows how to do that and her test results will be a dead giveaway of her true nature if she doesn’t reform. That’s it. That’s her special ability. With all the build up, you would think that it would be something greater. This is where The Hunger Games stands out as a better film. Its storyline gets stronger as the story goes on whereas Divergent, ends with no real payoff. We know that this system of living doesn’t work, but we aren’t given a better alternative either.

Of course, this I just one film in the proposed four-film series, but at the end you’re left feeling like, “this is it?” There must be more to this dystopian life.

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‘One Big Happy’ is a Mess

posted by jtotey
Elisha Cuthbert as Lizzy, Nick Zano as Luke and Kelly Brook as Prudence in "One Big Happy" (Photo by: Eric McCandless/NBC)

Elisha Cuthbert (Lizzy) just announced that she is pregnant while Luke (Nick Zano) and Prudence (Kelly Brook) announce that they got married. in “One Big Happy.” (Photo by: Eric McCandless/NBC)

I am not one to just to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to conspiracy theories about Hollywood, but NBC’s latest sitcom has given me pause. However, those like me who are concerned about the messages shared in One Big Happy shouldn’t be too concerned. It won’t be around for long. The show has too many flaws to be a hit. Instead, it should be titled, “What’s a Nice Cast Like You Doing with a Script Like This?”

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Beside the fact that this show is not funny, (more on that later), it has an offensive premise. Lizzy (Elisha Cuthbert) and Luke (Nick Zano) are lifelong and best friends. They’ve been through a lot together and they would make for a great couple except for the fact that Lizzy is a lesbian. Still, the two play house together and after some heavy thinking, the two have the brilliant idea to have a baby together. Because…why not? However, the two don’t have sex together (they have their standards after all), they plan to have a baby the new-fashioned way.

Somewhere down the line we as a society have accepted the fact that having babies is a fun hobby and raising them in a stable environment is unnecessary. Are these two so naive to think that they will be together forever? Of course not. Both want to fall in love with someone else and when they do, they can take turns raising the baby or something. But hold on – it gets worse. On a night out, Luke meets free-spirited Prudence (Kelly Brook) from England. Of course Luke brings her to his home to have sex because the act of sex between strangers is completely normal. Then it turns out that she is an illegal alien who will be deported if she doesn’t get married. No problem! Luke is pretty sure that he loves her and within days, they get married in Vegas.

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So, what’s this father-to-be and new husband to do now? Suggest that they all live together to become, (everyone say it together), “one big happy” family or a resemble facsimile. This isn’t a marriage anymore than it is a family but it should make for a funny situation comedy – right? Wrong. The pilot episode’s jokes are either tacky, tasteless or just lame. For an example, Prudence is very comfortable with her body and walks around the house naked. Lizzy is understandably uncomfortable with this and makes a few comments about finding “vagina coasters” since the new housemate tends to sit anywhere she pleases. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t appreciate vagina jokes.

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The cast also includes Brandon Mychal Smith, Rebecca Corry and Chris Williams, which are all fine, but none of them really add much to the show. In fact, the best thing about this show is the casting. Together they could make a really funny comedy. Just not this one.

Much of the blame for this show should go to Ellen DeGeneres who served as Executive Producer and Director of the pilot episode. I actually like DeGeneres even though I don’t agree with everything she says or does. For the most part, she is a great comedian, a terrific host for the Oscars and does a fine job with her day time talk show. She is who she is, but she isn’t offensive, at least not usually. I really don’t understand why she thought this show was worth investing in. After watching it, you’ll wonder too.

One Big Happy airs on Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on NBC.

Previous Posts

Andrea Logan White is No Mean Girl
Last fall I was treated to an on-site visit for the production of Do You Believe in Michigan. While there, I got a chance to speak to Andrea Logan White about her role in the film, her marriage an

posted 2:27:26am Mar. 27, 2015 | read full post »

'Insurgent' Carries on the Story with no Point
I have never read the Divergent series of books by Veronica Roth, but I have been told that the third b

posted 7:29:43am Mar. 20, 2015 | read full post »

'Divergent' is a Good Movie Without a Point
What is it with teens and dystopian thrillers? They are depressing, full of teen angst and the storylines are obsessed with death. But the books have b

posted 6:36:33am Mar. 20, 2015 | read full post »

'One Big Happy' is a Mess
I am not one to just to jump on t

posted 3:26:19am Mar. 19, 2015 | read full post »

‘Cinderella’ is an Improved Masterpiece
Sometimes Disney outdoes Disney. When news broke that Walt Disney Pictures was going to  make a live action version of one

posted 6:52:53am Mar. 13, 2015 | read full post »

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