Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

ABC Shares New Shows for Fall

posted by jtotey

We have just made it to the halfway mark in May, and TV networks are already promoting their new fall shows. Yesterday afteroon, ABC held a press conference giving sneak previews to their 2014-2015 line up and you are invited to have a look as well. Here are five new shows to show up on the small screen in this September:

Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m.

ABC Says: “Eliza Dooley has 263,000 followers who hang on to her every post, tweet and selfie. But one lonely day she has a revelation: being friended is not the same as having actual friends. She asks marketing guru Henry to ‘rebrand’ her self-obsessed reputation and teach her how to connect.”

My Synopsis: It is a contemporary half hour sitcom based on “My Fair Lady” with John Cho serving as Henry Higgins and Karen Gillan as Eliza Doolittle – or in this case, Dooley. This one looks like it has potential, but it has a terrible title. At least their drawing from a classic source.

Watch the “Selfie” promo.

ManhattanManhattan Love Story
Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “Have you ever wondered what your date was thinking? This romantic comedy exposes the differences between men and women through the unfiltered thoughts, and often contradictory actions, of a new couple who have just begun dating.”

My Synopsis: This one has a clever idea of hearing the thoughts of the characters while their actions maybe saying a totally different thing. It stars Analeigh Tipton who is obsessed with purses and Jake McDorman who is obsessed with big breasts. Sadly, after only seeing a few minutes of this show, it looks fairly raunchy. Maybe they can clean up their act before the pilot comes out.

Watch the “Manhattan Love Story” promo


Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m.
ABC Says: “Doctor Henry Morgan, New York City’s star medical examiner, has a secret. He doesn’t just study the dead to solve criminal cases, he does it to solve the mystery that has eluded him for 200 years—the answer to his own inexplicable immortality.”

My Synopsis: This one looks intriguing, but I have my doubts. Henry’s secret is that he has died many times over the past 200 years and every time he comes back to life he finds himself in water and naked. Henry is played by Ioan Gruffield and the one man who knows his secret is Judd Hirsch!

Watch the “Forever” promo

Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids, and a colonial home in the ‘burbs. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family?”

My Synopsis: This family sitcom starring Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross looks like a lot of fun as Andre struggles to keep his family focused on their “black” heritage.

Watch the “Black-ish” promo

MurderHow to Get Away with Murder

Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.
ABC Says: “The brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.” Little do they know that they will have to apply what they learned to real life, in this masterful, sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller.”

My Synopsis: This one will be either brilliant or ridiculous or both. Viola Davis stars as the professor who appears to have questionable morals and students who are covering up their own crime.

Watch the “How to Get Away with Murder” promo

Fridays at 8:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “In her sixth year of law school, Cristela is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. The only problem is that her pursuit of success is more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”

My Synopsis: This looks like the Hispanic equivalent to “Black-ish.” It stars Cristela Alonzo as…Cristela.

Watch the “Cristella” promo

‘Moms’ Night Out’: Made for Women, but Men will Like it too

posted by jtotey
Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton star in "Moms' Night Out." Photo: Sony/Provident Films

Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton star in “Moms’ Night Out.” Photo: Sony/Provident Films

The new faith-based comedy, Moms’ Night Out, is taking a real beating among critics which is a real shame as this is not only a very well done “Christian” film, but it is also very funny with a storyline that many women can relate to. However, you wouldn’t know by some of the recent reviews of reviewers who were either annoyed or offended by the film’s tame tone. One critic calls it sexist and another says that the moral of the story is to never leave the house or all hell will break loose. Neither is the case of this film – although a lot of “hell” does break loose.

The main character is a stay-at-home mom (gasp!), who has a hard time controlling her children, constantly compares herself to other women and feels bad because she’s not the perfect mom. Yeah. No woman could relate to that. In fact, as of today, Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 17% “rotten” rating among critics but theater-goers gave it a 84% “fresh” rating. It is true that many faith-based films are bad – but this one isn’t one of them.

Manwell Reyes, lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise.

Manwell Reyes, lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise.

Moms’ Night Out stars ABC’s Grace Anatomy’s Sarah Drew as the harried housewife, Allyson. The only thing that she wants for herself is to write her own blog, but with everything else in her life, that too is a disappointment. Her husband Sean (Sean Astin) is a traveling businessman who understands that his wife is unhappy, but isn’t sure how to help. On a whim, Allyson decides to plan a “moms’ night out” with her best friend Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and their pastor’s wife Sondra (Patricia Heaton) who looks like she could use a night away as well. The kids will be taken care of by Sean, Izzy’s husband Marco (Robert Amaya) who has a fear of taking care of kids on his own as well as a number of other phobias, and their gamer friend, Kevin (Kevin Downes) who hates kids. What could go wrong? Everything.

The plot is very complex with too many twists and turns to explain here, but is very clever, enjoyable and (gasp again) clean. Don’t let the trailers fool you. This isn’t one of those silly movies where the kids misbehave and the dads are at a loss on what to do. Well, that happens too, but the kids are just kids. The film focuses on the adults who are just trying to do the best they can given the circumstances that put themselves into.

image16The casting is great. There is no surprise that Drew, Astin or Heaton do a great job with their roles, but audiences will be surprised by the talents of some of the other cast members. Andrea Logan White is a great actress, but many have not seen her work as the bulk of it has been done on straight-to-video Christian films. Trace Adkins is hilarious as Bones, the tattoo parlor artist. Amaya’s (who was in Courageous) role is small, but very enjoyable as well. The biggest surprise is that of Manwell Reyes in his first film role. Reyes is the lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise as the “Tattoo Desk Guy.” And then there’s David Hunt (Heaton’s husband in real life) as a British taxi driver.

Moms’ Night Out is a compilation of Christian filmmakers coming together to create one great film. It is a partnership of Sony, Affirm Pictures Entertainment (Heaven is for Real, Soul Surfer), Provident Films (Courageous, Home Run) and Pure Flix Entertainment (God’s Not Dead). It is written by Jon Erwin, who also wrote October Baby and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (What if).  It is directed by Andrew Erwin as well as Jon Erwin. The film is also especially important to Heaton and Hunt as they are not only acting in the movie but they serve as executive producers as well.

Moms’ Night Out is not preachy in the least and most moms will be able to sigh in unison that they are not alone in this struggle called motherhood. While there really isn’t anything inappropriate for children in the film, it really isn’t meant for them, so do yourself a favor and get a sitter. What’s the worst that can happen?

Disney to Release a ‘Very Bad’ Movie Which Actually Looks Really Good

posted by jtotey
Guess what this family just found in their doorway. (L-R) Ed Oxenbould, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey and Steve Carell. Photo: Disney

Guess what this family just found in their doorway. (L-R) Ed Oxenbould, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey and Steve Carell. Photo: Disney

Disney’s live action, family movies are sort of hit or miss adventures. Some are very good while other rely heavily of past formulas that worked in earlier films. Sometimes they try to re-create the magic of their original film with mixed results. (Think The Parent Trap or Freaky Friday.) You can’t really blame them though. Creating a film that everyone in the family will enjoy, let alone relate to, is hard work. However, Walt Disney knew himself that if you don’t have a good story to tell, the movie won’t be worth seeing.

Author Judith Viorst Photo: Milton Viorst for Simon and Schuster

Author Judith Viorst Photo: Milton Viorst for Simon and Schuster

Right now, we’re about five months away from a film that looks very promising since it is based on a good source material. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is based on the novel of the same name by Judith Viorst which was first published in 1972 and has been a favorite of many grade school kids ever since.

With more than two million copies of the book in print, Viorst was inspired by her own children, Alexander, Anthony and Nicholas. In it, Alexander has the worst day of his life, which isn’t really earth-shattering to adults, but horrifying to kids. In the end, his mother assures him that some days are like that and that tomorrow will be better. It became an ALA Notable Children’s Book and won a George G. Stone Center Recognition of Merit, and a Georgia Children’s Book Award. The book was also turned into a half hour HBO TV special in 1990 and a stage musical in 1998 in which Viorst collaborated with Charles Strouse and Shelley Markham. Viorst also wrote three sequels: “Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday” (1978), “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move” (1995) and the forthcoming “Alexander, Who’s Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever” to be released in September of this year.

Alex3In Disney’s movie version, Alexander isn’t the only one having a bad day. Alex 2His whole family is and from the new trailer just released, it looks like a day that we can look forward to.

Alexander is expected to arrive in theaters on October 10, 2014. It stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Megan Mullally and is rumored that Dick Van Dyke will have a small with the film as well. It is directed by Independent Spirit Award-winner Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Cedar Rapids, Youth in Revolt) from a screenplay by Rob Lieber.

Watch the trailer

American Idol: Behind the Voices

posted by jtotey

American-Idol-LogoAn Interview with Billy Mauldin

You see them every week. Musical hopefuls from all over the country competing to become the next American Idol. Some have never been away from home and most have never been exposed to so many people, (on stage and on the screen), in their lives. Each week they put themselves in the spotlight to be judged by America. Sounds terribly stressful. Fortunately, this year the crew has Billy and Julie Mauldin on their side. I got a chance to talk with Billy awhile back and asked him to share with me some insight on this new adventure.

Each week, Billy and his wife make the journey from Charlotte North Carolina to Hollywood and back again leaving their four children in the care of family and friends. Their mission? To serve as “spiritual advisors” to all of the American Idol contestants. If the title sounds odd to you, you are not the only one. “The whole title of spiritual advisor seemed to wig everybody out and nobody knew quite how to define it,” says Mauldin. “But our approach, Julie and I, is to take our time and just build relationships with them and let them see that we are authentic and therefore, they can trust us. And when they’re ready, they’ll open up to us if they want to or if they are interested in it.”

A "selfie" of Julie and Billy Mauldin

A “selfie” of Julie and Billy Mauldin

Though this is the first year for Idol to have spiritual advisors on hand, the ministry itself isn’t too new to Mauldin. Billy has been serving in a similar outreach ministry for 15 years: Motor Racing Outreach (MRO).

Pastor Max Helton began MRO 25 years ago as a ministry to NASCAR drivers and ten years into it, Mauldin joined in as a volunteer, eventually becoming the CEO of MRO. So, what does the MRO do? “Probably the easiest way to describe it is that we are a lot like a local church, but we’re mobile,” says Mauldin. “We travel to all the races every weekend. We have a staff, just like any local church does with pastors and assistants. We provide all the same types of services that a local church would have from pastoral care to counseling. We do chapel services, we do children’s programming, we do family events…anything that your local church would do, we do it, but we just have to figure out how to do it in a mobile fashion traveling around the country from week to week.”

Mauldin describes himself as a chaplain, similar to how chaplains are used in the service. “Obviously they serve in much more serious situations than we do, but the lifestyle and the type of ministry is very similar.” Apparently serving with the American Idol folk is too.

Mauldin became involved with AI when he was contacted by David Hill and FOX. Hill had worked with the broadcast team for FOX Sports for NASCAR and during his involvement there, he got a firsthand look at what the MRO ministry was all about. When he was transferred to work on Idol, one thing he noticed right away was that many of the contestants came from church-going families. He also noticed that many were not ready for the fame and pressure that came with the contest. Perhaps they could benefit from the Mauldin’s just like the NASCAR drivers do.

“So, how is serving for Idol different than NASCAR?” I ask Billy. “In many ways, there is not a lot of differences. Obviously in NASCAR we’re dealing with situations where it can be very dangerous, but the challenge of living your life underneath a microscope or underneath a lot of pressure, whether it comes from the media that’s following them or meeting the obligations of sponsors or anyone else, can be an extremely pressure-packed situation. A lot of what we do centers around the art of being good listeners, allowing a place where people can come to and just pour out what’s on their minds or what they might be wrestling with their heart. We give them an opportunity to hear [their own thoughts]. Probably nine times out of ten, just thinking out loud helps them as much as anything.”

Mauldin says that another similarity between the two is that both are fast-paced. “There’s a lot of things trying to grab your attention from a lot of different directions. One of the things that we use with our involvement with racing is developing a lot of non-verbal communication – the ability to just look someone in the eye or offer a simple gesture. By taking your hand and touching your heart while looking at them lets them know that, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you or I’m praying for you.’  In racing you’re hustling to get a car ready or you’re hustling to get ready for a qualifying round or you’re hustling to meet with your sponsors. Whatever the case may be, you can’t always stop and talk. But after over a period of time, you develop the art of non-verbal communication which is actually pretty exciting and fun to be able to feel a connection with somebody when you can’t stop and talk.”

The Mauldin pair don’t operate out of an office or anything so formal. There isn’t a need to. In addition to using electronic media to the fullest, Billy and Julie have been given access to the singers at all times. “We’re fortunate enough to hang around when they are working whether they are whether it be with their vocal coaches or in the green room before performances. That’s really the key to this type of ministry. Just being able to be present where they are.”

How well are the Mauldin’s accept with Idols? Billy says, “I think…you never know for sure but, I would say with all sincerity and honesty that they all have been glad to have us around. They know that we’re sort of a neutral. We’re somebody that they can talk to or at the very least they can get a hug from and a word of encouragement.”

One of the highlights over these many weeks has been the opportunity to pray with all of the contestants before they go out on stage and before the cameras. “That’s really cool. I remember one night, because of some circumstances we weren’t able to be with them in the green room, but they met and prayed anyway. It’s fun to have one or two little things that are kind of institutional to share together as a family of contestants, and that’s become one of them.”

Mauldin says that watching “these kids” seize the opportunity for the things that they long for is inspiring to him. To see them start to grow and mature, not just in their craft, but as men and women is inspiring too. “Their faith plays a big role in it as well. To realize that there is a God who can take care of what they can’t. I love watching them work hard and succeed. It is extremely satisfying to see their dreams come together.”

Just before hanging up I ask, “What do you think Christians would find surprising behind the scenes of racing and American Idol?” He said most would be surprised by how different the people are once you get to meet them outside of the public arena. “In NASCAR, you have “bad guys” and “good guys.” On American Idol, some [contestants] will be loved and some will be hated for whatever reason. And in both cases, they’re usually just a small sliver on who they are. My encouragement to everybody out there is to always keep that in mind. Usually there is more to people than what you can get from television or social media. There’s a pretty phenomenal group of people in both racing and AI.”

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