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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘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.

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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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ABC Comedy Misses the Boat

posted by jtotey
Contance Wu, Hudsong Yang and Forrest Wheeler star in Fresh Off the Boat (ABC/Eric McCandless)

Contance Wu, Hudsong Yang and Forrest Wheeler star in Fresh Off the Boat (ABC/Eric McCandless)

After ABC found family sitcome success with shows like The Middle, Modern Family, and The Goldbergs, this year, the network has been focusing on bringing more diversity to the airwaves. Black-ish had a strong start with it’s great premiere episode, but quickly ran into mediocrity. The Latin-themed Cristella is pretty silly, but it does have a likable cast. Tonight ABC brings it’s new Asian family to the line up with Fresh Off the Boat which does contain a few laughs, but that is about it.

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The show tries to be reminiscent to The Wonder Years with 11-year-old Eddie Huang (Hudson Yang) telling about the glory days growing up in Olrando, Florida in the mid ’90s. Despite the title, the Huang have actually only moved from Chinatown in Washington D.C., but it is still world’s away. Eddie’s father, Louis (Randall Park) moved his family to the suburbs to pursue his version of the American dream which includes opening a cowboy-themed restaurant – because all white Americans love these sort of places. However, reality soon sets in that he will need to work hard in order for his restaurant to succeed.

The fish-out-of-water comedy is based on the best-selling memoir with the same name by the real Eddie Huang, so there is some reality built into the unrealistic script. The show is a great idea but is executed poorly as it has two problems: the writing and the casting. Other than that, it’s flawless. Both Huang and Park have trouble with over-acting. Because of that, neither is very likeable. Instead of believing that they are real people you are made aware that they are acting. In other shows like The Middle, the actors work so well together and are believable, that you are sucked into their world. No so with the Huangs.

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The show’s bright spot though is Constance Wu who plays Eddie’s mom, Jessica. She has just the right amount of broken English in her accent to make her seem the most realistic of the bunch whereas no one is going to believe that Park wasn’t born and raised in America. Wu also has the best lines and you can catch most of them from the TV commercials for the show.

Fresh Off the Boast isn’t terrible and the pilot makes a point to show that the Huang’s love and will support each other through their new difficult transition. You can check out the show yourself with two episodes airing tonight on ABC at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

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‘Black or White’ is More Grey – but in a Good Way

posted by jtotey
Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner star in "Black or White." (Relativity)

Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner star in “Black or White.” (Relativity)

Kevin Costner is a busy actor these days playing everything from a superhero’s father (Man of Steel) to a dying CIA agent (3 Days to Kill). Next month he’ll play a high school cross country coach in McFarland, USA, but this weekend he shines as the imperfect Elliott Anderson in Black or White. It’s a different type of role for him. He’s a lawyer, he’s old and he’s salty.

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As the movie opens, we are with Elliott at the hospital when he receives news that his wife who was in a car accident didn’t survive. Understandably he falls apart. Not so understandably, he turns to the bottle for help. Back home, Elliott is tasked in telling his granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell) the sad news. Eloise’s mother, (Elliott’s daughter), died in childbirth and Eloise barely knows her father. Eloise’s mother was white; her father is black.

To make matters more difficult, Eloise’s grandmother on her father’s side, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), wants nothing more than for her son, Duvan (Mpho Koaho) to be reunited with Eloise. That’s not going to happen if Elliott get’s his way. Let the courtroom drama begin.

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Black and White is unique in that nothing in it is completely…black or white. Elliott is rich and can provide anything that his little Eloise would ever need. Rowena also has money, not the kind of money that Elliott has, but she is doing alright for herself. Elliott and Eloise live alone. Rowena has a huge family living with her. Duvan is a former drug addict. Elliott is an alcoholic. Questions rise up on whether Eloise would do better living with a black family rather than a white one. Some family members want to make the situation a race issue while others appear to be colorblind. There is no simple answer, but in the end, the right one wins out.

Black or White is not a perfect movie, but it is engaging. Jillian Estell is a charming actress and looks very natural throughout the film. However, one of the weirdest parts of the story is the inclusion of Elliott’s business partner’s girlfriend Fay played by Gillian Jacobs. She is a blond airhead whose character really has no reason for being in the movie. Fortunately, about after halfway through, she isn’t anymore. Her character, obviously meant for comedy relief, just doesn’t work.

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The movie posters for the film make the story look more rosy than it is. Costner’s character isn’t really likeable (but of course he is grieving through most of it) and Octavia’s character is a lot more fun than you would think it would be for a family drama like this.

All in all, Black or White is definitely worth seeing and though the film is intended for adults, pre-teens could benefit from seeing this movie as well. Some great conversations could be had afterward.

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More than 320,000 Students will see ‘Selma’ for Free

posted by jtotey
Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

What started as a local event has grown to a national one in just a few short weeks. The “Bring Selma to Students” program began on January 8th in New York City when 27 African-American business leaders created a fund for 27,000 of the city’s 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to see the film for free. Due to the overwhelming demand, the New York City effort sold out in the very first weekend and was expanded to 75,000 tickets.

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Since then, other African-American business leaders across the U.S. have joined in with Indianapolis and West Palm Beach being the newest, which means that the film will be shown to students for free at 34 locations nationwide.

Selma chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. The film stars Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, with Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey.

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Due to the program’s popularity and the ongoing efforts of the organizers, student tickets in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Miami, New York, Northern New Jersey, Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, St. Louis and Washington D.C. have sold out. Philadelphia expanded its program and added 3,000 more tickets to meet the overwhelming demand, while the business leaders in Northern New Jersey raised additional funds to send 1,000 students in Trenton, NJ to see the film.

Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, which is distributing the Academy Award-nominated film for Best Picture and Best Original Song, is coordinating the programs with participating theaters in the U.S. For a list of participating theaters in select cities offering free admission to students during this program and for information on group sales, visit www.SelmaMovie.com/studenttickets. Middle and high school students who present a current student ID or report card at the box office of any participating theater will receive free admission while tickets last.

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