Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Amy Grant: Out with the Old, in with the New…with the Old

posted by jtotey
Sparrow Records

Sparrow Records

Amy Grant was one of the first Christian music artists to create a “crossover” album with “Unguarded” which came out in 1985. Some viewed the event as a way of reaching out to the “unsaved” with mainstream music. Others thought she “sold out” her faith for fame. She got the same response in 1991 when she released her hit, “Baby Baby,” so, it will be interesting to see what happens with the news of Grant’s next release – a dance remix album.

“In Motion: The Remixes” is set to release on August 19 of this year and will feature over 10 of her hit songs reinvented as dance mixes. “I never could have anticipated that these songs from an earlier chapter in my life could be filled with such renewed energy and fresh production,” remarked Grant in a recent press release. “I am humbled and honored that these amazingly talented producers have leant their gifts to my songs. They have given me reason to want to get up and dance again!” Producers on board for the project include Chris Cox, Tony Moran, Moto Blanco, 7th Heaven and Dave Audé.

This will be Grant’s first remix album which features a new version of “Baby Baby.” When the original came out it topped the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for two consecutive weeks. The new version is remixed by GRAMMY®-nominated producer, DJ and remixer, Dave Audé , will be available on July 22 with album pre-order.

“Remixing ‘Baby, Baby’ has definitely been one of the highlights of my career,” Audé said. “I loved this song when it was released in 1991, and I still love hearing it today; you can’t say that about many records 23 years later. ‘Baby, Baby’ has crossed genres, and I’m hoping my remix will add yet another genre to this timeless classic.” To hear a sample, click here.

And in case you are wondering, the new album doesn’t only feature Grant’s more popular “secular-sounding” hits, but also the decidedly more inclusive “Christian” songs as well. “In Motion: The Remixes” will feature the following:

  • That’s What Love Is For (Featuring Chris Cox)
  • Stay For Awhile (Featuring Tony Moran and Warren Rigg)
  • You’re Not Alone (Featuring Guy Scheiman)
  • Every Heartbeat (Featuring Moto Blanco)
  • Better Than A Hallelujah (Featuring Mark Picchiotti)
  • Love Will Find A Way (Featuring Ralphi Rosario)
  • Baby, Baby (Featuring Dave Aude)
  • Say Once More (Featuring Hex Hector)
  • Out In The Open (Featuring 7th Heaven)
  • BONUS MIX: Stay For A While (Featuring Tony Moran)
  • BONUS MIX: Mega Mix (Featuring DJ Andy 7th Heaven)

Of course, “In Motion: The Remixes” follows the success of last year’s “How Mercy Looks From Here,” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Christian chart, making it a record-setting 16th #1 album for Amy in the Christian genre. The album also shot up the Billboard Top 200 Chart, debuting at #12. As Amy’s first new studio record in more than a decade, the album featured guests James Taylor, Carole King, Sheryl Crow, Eric Paslay, Will Hoge and Grant’s husband Vince Gill.

2nd ‘Dragon’ is Better than the First

posted by jtotey
The cast of "How to Train Your Dragon 2." (Dreamworks)

The cast of “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” (Dreamworks)

In DreamWorks’ 2010 movie, How to Train Your Dragon, dragons and men were enemies. That all changed when Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the son of the Viking king Stoick (Gerard Butler) became friends with Toothless. Both are handicapped, but as the two learned to work together, they realized how much stronger they were together than they were apart. Toothless needed Hiccup as much as Hiccup needed Toothless.

Five years later, and just about everyone on the island of Berk has their own dragon. Each is unique and different. Hiccup is now 20 and is considered a leader in dragon training, but while the others are racing with their dragons, he and his black buddy are exploring new worlds and territories. Everything is peaceful until the two fumble their way into a secret cave and discover hundreds of dragons that they have never seen. As you already know from the trailers, the person who watches over this sanctuary is Valka (Cate Blanchett), Hiccup’s long lost mother. Hiccup is already facing pressure as his father wants him to become the new leader and if that weren’t enough, there is a mysterious trapper looking to snatch up a bunch of dragons for himself and if he succeeds, it could change the relationship between man and beast forever.

There is a lot crammed in this movie, but the pacing never slows. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is everything you’d ever want in a family movie and probably a lot more than many kids will appreciate. Like the first movie, this one will surprise many viewers in that it is a lot deeper than your typical animated fare. To judge the movie by the commercials, it would appear that it is full of silly hijinks throughout. Well, the film does have plenty of silliness, but that is not the bulk of the movie. The silliness is mainly there for the younger viewers and can easily be ignored. For the older ones, there is a message that is very similar to the biblical parable of the prodigal son.

Hiccup and Toothless - together again.

Hiccup and Toothless – together again.

The first Dragon was a good film, but Dragon 2 is a great film giving everyone who sees it, a lot to think about. It is funny, witty and yes, there are a few sad parts, but good movies are made to move you from laughter to tears and back again. It is storytelling at its best.

Dragon 2 also features the voice talents of Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill and Kristen Wiig.

Dragon 2 features an unlikely friendship, themes of forgiveness, restoration, teamwork, fighting for what you believe in and the importance of family. More than one scene brought tears to my eyes. It’s a beautiful film.

Riot Studios Presents New Christian Comedy

posted by jtotey
"Believe Me" comes to theaters on September 26, 2014. (Riot Studios)

“Believe Me” comes to theaters on September 26, 2014. (Riot Studios)

Okay, so with the release of Moms’ Night Out and the less-viewed, Blue Like Jazz from a couple of years ago, we now know that Christians can be funny. For some of us, the arrival of the Christian comedy film is an answer to prayer. Until recently, faith-based films have had a reputation of being Hollywood’s ugly stepsister. Numerous times this title has not been deserved and even now critics are leery of giving out too many compliments on faith-based films. Still, the “year of the Christian film” marches on. More studios are presenting stories hoping to grab an audience and share the gospel if possible including Believe Me which will arrive in theaters this fall.

Riot Studios, a fairly new film company known for two documentaries, Beware of Christians and One Nation Under God, will present its first comedy, Believe Me on September 26. Described as “not your father’s ‘Christian’ film,” Believe Me centers on four college friends who come up with a scheme of creating a fake charity. Believing that Christians are suckers for any charity, they prey upon the church. A story that may be “too close to home” for some people.

Believe Me stars Alex Russell (Chronicle), Zach Knighton (Happy Endings), Johanna Braddy (Easy A), Miles Fisher (Final Destination 5), Sinqua Walls (TV’s Teen Wolf) and Max Adler (Glee), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and Christopher McDonald (Boardwalk Empire). Grammy Award-winning rapper LeCrae makes his acting debut here as well.

The mission statement for Riot Studios says that their company “exists to tell stories that compel viewers to challenge their beliefs, weigh the alternatives, and laugh while doing so. They aspire to make transparent and thoughtful art through film.” A worthy goal indeed. Still, some are already skeptical of this new project including Charisma News who wonders aloud what the studio’s “agenda” might be in a story published this week. The article refers to the film as a “secular movie” and asks readers if they think the film will help or hinder the church. Take a short glance at the comments section and you’ll see that Christians are already boarding the bandwagon against this film, judging the film and its motives before it even comes out.

Riot answered the “why” July 15 of last year on the company’s blog stating, “Both of our documentaries, Beware of Christians and One Nation Under God, are explicitly Christian. The reason being? They’re films about us – about us trying to find answers to life’s biggest questions while trekking around Europe and the U.S. seeking truth from outside our customary social circles. Jesus is central to who we are as people: that’s our truth, and it’s what helps us make sense of this life.”

Believe Me is a parody on religious scandals,” says co-producer and co-writer Michael B. Allen in a recent press release. “It holds up a mirror for viewers to see themselves and their assumptions from a new perspective.”

It will be interesting to see if believers will be willing to do just that in September. Will we be able to laugh at ourselves? Stay tuned. Until then, watch the trailer here or pre-order tickets here.

Summer TV (Part 3)

posted by jtotey

Summer TVNow that Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, has passed, the networks are offering a slew of new shows for better or worse. Many of these are returning shows, some are new shows getting a short try out and some we will never see again. One of TV’s most popular shows, Dancing with the Stars, began as a six week trial during the summer of 2005, so you never know what you’re going to get. Still, some of these sound a bit “out there.”

Some of the new summer shows have already started, but most offer “encore” performances or episodes can be found online or through your cable service. Due to the size of show offerings, this story has been broken up into three segments and broken up into “Optimistic Choices” and “Pessimistic Choices.” Here is part three:

Optimistic Choices:

Unforgetable (CBS)

Unforgetable (CBS)

Unforgettable
Status: Returning Show
Network: CBS
Debuts: June 29, 10:00 p.m.
Premise: Unforgettable’s third season continues with NYPD detective, Carrie Wells, who cannot forget anything. Ever. Together with her former boyfriend, detective Al Burns, the two solve murder cases in Queens. The show stars Poppy Montgomery, Dallas Roberts, Dylan Walsh and Jane Curtain.

Wipeout (ABC)

Wipeout (ABC)

Wipeout
Status: Returning Show
Network: ABC
Debuts: June 22, 8:00 p.m.
Premise: The family-friendly obstacle course game show returns with more “big balls” and silly fun. The season features two new courses with obstacles with names like Fail Boxes, Tropic Blunder, Octopushy, Miami Pound Machine, Wipeout City and Sugar Smacks. Each week 24 new contestants will risk their dignity for a chance to win $50,000. Hosted again by John Henson, John Anderson and Jill Wagner.

Pessimistic choices for June

Big Brother (CBS)

Big Brother (CBS)

Big Brother
Status: Returning Show
Network: CBS
Debuts: June 25, 8:00 p.m.
Premise: For some it is the ultimate guilty pleasure. For others, it has Seinfeld beat as a show about nothing. This summer marks the 16th season of Big Brother which is about watching a group of people living and talking about each other in the same house 24 hours a day via 53 cameras and 97 microphones. Each week, someone will be voted out and the last one there will receive $500,000. Updates will be featured on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer. Sigh.

It Takes a Church (GSN)

It Takes a Church (GSN)

It Takes a Church
Status: New Show
Network: GSN (Game Show Network)
Debuts: June 5, 9 p.m.
Premise: First there was The Bachelor, then The Bachelorette and now comes a Christian dating show, It Takes a Church. This one is a head scratcher. In partnership with the Christian dating service, ChristianMingle, one unsuspecting single will be surprised each week to find that their own church and pastor have set them up on a course to find true love. It will be hosted by Christian singer, Natalie Grant.

Misstresses (ABC)

Mistresses (ABC)

Mistresses
Status: Returning Show
Network: ABC
Debuts: June 2, 10:00 p.m.
Premise: There must be something more to this show than what they show in the previews, but I’m not seeing it. Based on hit show of the same name in the UK, Mistresses is about four friends with loose morals “each on her own path to self-discovery.” (Is that what we’re calling it these days?) The official description gets better: “These four friends find support and guidance with each other as they brave their turbulent journeys and life’s storms of excitement, secrecy and betrayal, all the while bound by the complex relationships they’ve created.” Nope. Nothing redeeming here.

The Quest (ABC)

The Quest (ABC)

The Quest
Status: New Show
Network: ABC
Debuts: July 31
Premise: Not much information is given about this part reality show/part fantasy except that is headed by the Executive Producer of The Lord of the Rings and the makers of The Amazing Race. In this game show, 12 contestants will be live in a “land of magic and malevolence where mythical creatures lurk in the woods.” Sounds similar to last year’s Whodunnit?.

Reckless (CBS)

Reckless (CBS)

Reckless
Status: New Show
Network: CBS
Debuts: June 29, 9:00 p.m.
Premise: Described as a sultry legal drama that is set in Charleston, SC, the show looks more like an excuse to show good-looking people getting it on with a small plotline thrown in for good measure. The “story” is about an attorney and a litigator, who have the hots for each other, to pretend that they don’t so that they can remain professional. Yeah, right. Oh, and the case that the two are battling against is a police sex scandal that “threatens to tear the city apart.”

Rising Star (ABC)

Rising Star (ABC)

Rising Star
Status: New Show
Network: ABC
Debuts: June 22, 9:00 p.m.
Premise: The network would have you believe that the show is something different than it really is – another singing completion. The “twist” is that “the audience will have the final say in real time” by voting through a special app eliminating the need for a follow-up “results show.” The show stars Josh Groban as host and features Brad Paisley, Kesha and Ludacris as the shows experts. Raise your hand if you are looking for yet another singing competition show. Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Under the Dome (CBS)

Under the Dome (CBS)

Under the Dome
Status: Returning Show
Network: CBS
Debuts: June 30, 10:00 p.m.
Premise: This show, based on the Stephen King book of the same name, had me going for a while last summer, but the longer the show went on, the more crazy the show got. Ultimately a fatalistic story, this next season looks even crazier and a higher death toll. Still, I might be drawn under the dome once again. The basis for the story is a small town that is covered by a giant clear dome that separates them from the rest of world.

Read Part 2
Read Part 1

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