Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘McFarland, USA’ – Better than ‘Hoosiers’

posted by jtotey
McFARLAND, USA..L to R: Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) and Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) w/ Damacio Diaz (Michael Aguero) in background. (Walt Disney Pictures)

McFARLAND, USA..L to R: Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) and Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) w/ Damacio Diaz (Michael Aguero) in background. (Walt Disney Pictures)

I am always amazed when a movie that is “based on a true story” can change so many details. It’s as if the real story wasn’t good enough. In an interview with The Christian Chronicle, Jim and Cheryl White, the inspirational characters featured in Kevin Costner’s new film, McFarland, USA, explain some of the differences in the true story compared to the movie. Jim and Cheryl are the same age, whereas the Kevin Costner and Maria Bello couple are 15 years apart. The Whites have two daughters, but only two are mentioned in the film. And finally, the Whites are a Christian family which isn’t mentioned in the film. However, it’s not what Disney left out of the story that matters, but what they kept in. The pair have nothing but positive praise for the movie. “It’s a weird, unusual feeling to watch your own life unfold on the big screen,” says Jim. “We’ve seen it three times, and we know the story, and we’ve teared up all three times.”

The story isn’t about a white man saving a group of hispanic kids – it’s about a community that embraces an outsider and his family and together, they make their corner of the world a better place. It is a story about accepting people where they are, help them see beyond their own viewpoint and supporting each other as a community. Many churches can learn a thing or two by watching this movie.

A realistic portrayal of living in McFarland, CA.

A realistic portrayal of living in McFarland, CA.

After yet another incident where coach Jim White (Costner) gets fired for losing his temper with his students, he moves his family to the forgettable town of McFarland, California where the population is over 95% hispanic. The kids think that dad has driven all the way to Mexico. They are the minorities in this town and the last name of “White” doesn’t help. Many of the high school students refer to Jim as “Blanco,” which is Spanish for “white.” He soon learns that McFarland is not a place where anyone wants to move to and most want to get out of. Many of the school’s students work early mornings and afternoons at their parent’s farms. They are hard-workers, but unappreciated.

Jim is initially signed on as an assistant football coach for the high school, but after noticing how fast some of the kids run, he asks to become the school’s first cross country coach. Without any training or background in the sport, he and his team are equals and ultimately, he learns as much from them as they learn from him.

Maria Bello and Kevin Costner star as Jim and Cheryl White in Disney's "McFarland, USA." (Disney)

Maria Bello and Kevin Costner star as Jim and Cheryl White in Disney’s “McFarland, USA.” (Disney)

I will go out on a limb here to say that McFarland, USA is one of best sports movies to come around in a long time and it is even better than the classic basketball movie Hoosiers. Unlike other sports movies, White doesn’t sacrifice his family for the success of his team. He is far from perfect, often feels like he let his family down and forgets some of his own children’s important milestones. But he learns from his mistakes and starts to inspire his runners to think bigger than just getting a high school diploma and encourages them to consider attending college. This doesn’t sit well with some of the locals who feel that they are born a “picker” and will die a picker.

As the film opens, you relate with the White family and feel bad for their situation but by the end, you wish that you could pack up your stuff and move in next door to them. The movie only glamorizes true friendship, the importance of family and faith, and simple pleasures like a scene when the boys visit the ocean for the first time in their lives. The movie doesn’t shy away from the negatives about living in such a poor community either, but instead, shows how communities can come together to support each other after a tragedy strikes. At the end of the movie, members of the original track team are featured with short synopsis on what has happened in their lives after their first big win. Those stories are almost more inspiring than the movie itself.

In the recent string of movies for Kevin Costner, this one is the best. Maria Bello plays more than the dutiful wife. She is strong, supportive and many times plays the role of cheerleader for her husband and her girls. She embraces the beauty of McFarland long before the others do. There really isn’t a weak actor in the bunch.

McFarland is not a tentpole movie and not much has been said about it. The theme of cross country runners is not as popular as a football movie. However, parents should really consider treating their children to this movie as an example of how other kids in America live which might make them appreciate their own lives.

 

‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ – Lessons Learned

posted by jtotey
Geraldo Rivera and Leeza Gibbons wait to see their fate on "The Celebrity Apprentice." (NBC)

Geraldo Rivera and Leeza Gibbons wait to see their fate on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” (NBC)

For those of you who don’t watch such things, you may not have heard that Donald Trump crowned the latest winner of The Celebrity Apprentice last night on NBC. Starting with over a dozen celebrity Type-A personalities, it all came down to news correspondents Geraldo Rivera and TV show host, Leeza Gibbons. And the winner was…Leeza Gibbons, proving that sometimes “nice guys” do finish first.

It really wasn’t much of a surprise that the show ended with the these two powerhouse people. Both are very well-known and well-connected with people of power who could give generously for each of their charities. But what was a bit of a surprise was the reason why Trump picked Gibbons over Geraldo.
The two personalities of the two couldn’t be more different.

Rivera’s ego is almost the same size as Trump’s. In just about every task that he was in, Geraldo made sure that somehow he was the center of it. Here are just a few of his antics:

  • He credited himself for being one of the first to create a “selfie” on Facebook which helped ignite the trend.
  • He created a team poster which featured his face larger than the others.
  • He stripped to his underwear in hopes of being featured in a task that featured professional models.
  • He proudly claimed, “I am Geraldo. I am not to be trifled with me.” (Anyone in 2015 who uses the phrase, “to be trifled with” will most definitely be trifled with.)
  • His final task in shooting a commercial for Universal Studios Florida was more about him than the vacation spot.

In steep contrast, Gibbons powered through every task as a team player rather than chase the limelight. Nobody on the show had a bad thing to say about Gibbons either. Instead of thinking that she knew everything, she chose to work with her team member’s strengths. But just because she was easy to get along with didn’t mean that she was a pushover. When necessary, Gibbons made the tough decisions. In the end, Gibbons made it clear that it is possible for someone to be an effective leader and not alienate those working beside you. Bravo Leeza, bravo.

57th GRAMMY Awards Mostly Tasteful

posted by jtotey

grammy-awards-2015-logo-1417097939-large-article-0Last year’s GRAMMY Awards made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Each GRAMMY special is usually a weird mix of every music genre with some performances more memorable than others. This year’s presentation was much more calmer and dare I say, classier in comparison?

The night began with a trip on the Highway to Hell with AC/DC’s first GRAMMY performance ever, which made some of us concerned about what we were going to see this year. Madonna’s performance began with an army of horn-wearing male dancers which looked like another tribute to the devil, but instead, they were resprenting a herd of bulls and Madonna a matador. She sang her new single, “Living for Love” which was surprisingly uplifiting. At the end of song, she was joined on stage by a choir of gospel singers and Madonna was hoisted up into the air. The only thing really offensive was the tacky introduction by Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj.

One of the night’s more clever performances was that of Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer performing Williams’ “Happy,” which also won the best pop solo performance. They took the theme song from the animated Despicable Me and gave it a classical touch. Other performances included a tasteful performance by Lady GaGa and Tony Bennet (who won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album) and a duet with Jessie J and Tom Jones singing “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin.'”

About halfway through the show, a message was given from President Obama about violence toward women. A survivor of domestic violence then spoke briefly before a beautiful performance by Katy Perry singing the song, “By the Grace of God,” which is ironic since Perry has made it clear that she no longer believes in God.

Newcomer Sam Smith walked away from the award show with four awards including Best New Artist and Song of the Year. Beck won for Album of the Year, Carrie Underwood won for Best Country Solo Performance for “Something in the Water,” Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond won Best Country Song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” the late Joan Rivers won Best Spoken Word Album and Disney’s Frozen won two awards for Best Song Written for Visual Media and Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.

This year’s gospel and contemporary Christian music categories held some surprise winners. Best Gospel Performance/Song went to Smokie Norful for “No Greater Love,” Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song went to Lerae featuring For King & Country for “Messengers,” Best Gospel Album went to Erica Campbell’s “Help,” Best Contemporary Christian Music Album went to For King & Country’s “Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.” and Best Roots Gospel Album went to Mike Farris’ “Shine For All the People.”

To see the full list of winners, go to Grammy.com.

‘Christian Mingle: The Movie’ is Better than the Title Suggests

posted by jtotey
Lacey Chabert stars in "Christian Mingle: the Movie" airing Sunday, February 8 on UP at 7:00 p.m.

Lacey Chabert stars in “Christian Mingle: the Movie” airing Sunday, February 8 on UP at 7:00 p.m.

This Sunday, the UP Network will premiere Corbin Bernsen’s romantic faith-based comedy, Christian Mingle: The Movie. Despite the terrible title, the movie is pretty good and may surprise a few people. The the flick does feature a few Christian Mingle commercials, it is unclear why the film is dedicated to the Christian dating service.

Probably best known for his role on NBC’s LA Law so many years agao, Bernsen wrote and directed the flick which stars Lacey Chabert (FOX’s Party of Five) as Gweneth Hayden, a successful marketing professional who is unhappy with her dating life and on a whim, decides to post an ad on the famed dating website, even though she is not a Christian. To prepare for her date, she purchases a “Christianity for Dummies” book.

Kelly (Jill Saunders) and Paul (Jonathan Patrick Moore)

Kelly (Jill Saunders) and Paul (Jonathan Patrick Moore)

In a quiet little coffee shop, Gweneth meets Paul Wood (Jonathan Patrick Moore) who is the complete opposite of Gweneth. He likes to say words like “golly” and trying sushi for the first time is a major event. He attends a pristine white church with his folks Bill and Lacie (David Keith and Morgan Fairchild) and childhood friend, Kelly (Jill Saunders) who his mother not-so-secretly would like to pair him up with. Mom is no dummy. She can tell that there is something a little off with her son’s new girlfriend. For Paul though, love is blind.

Bill and Lacie Wood (David Keith and Morgan Fairchild)

Bill and Lacie Wood (David Keith and Morgan Fairchild)

Gweneth works for Douglas McCarver (Stephen Tobolowsky) who likes to keep his office ship shape – litterally. Her co-worker and confidant Pam (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) helps Gweneth manage through the company’s latest baldness cure promotion by infomercial king, Donny De Bona (John O’Hurley), which is just as phony as Gwen’s recent conversion.

The Mingle movie has a slow pace and some of the humor falls flat, but where the story is weak, Chabert and Moore make up with a fun on-screen chemistry. Unlike other faith-based films, the movie isn’t content enough with Gweneth finding her way. It actually gets a little preachy telling her that there is more to being a Chirstian than just acting like one.

Douglas McCarver (Stephen Tobolowsky)  and Pam (Saidah Arrika Ekulona)

Douglas McCarver (Stephen Tobolowsky) and Pam (Saidah Arrika Ekulona)

The film does a good job of gently teasing the behavior of some Christians. The family enjoys dining at the “Steak and Cake” restaurant after church and each of them have their own fuzzy nicknames. None of the characters are perfect and Paul’s mother is seen as being judgmental and yet, still has a good heart. Is the story realistic? Not really, but it is a romantic comedy after all. And it is one that you won’t have to take a cold shower after watching either. To get a better idea of the content of the movie, watch a clip from the movie here.

Christian Mingle: the Movie airs Sunday, February 8th at 7:00 p.m. on the UP network.

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