Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Meet ‘Survivor’ 29th Season Castaways

posted by jtotey
Survivor Castaways Fall 2014. (CBS)

Back Row: Julie McGee, John Rocker, Jon Misch, Jaclyn Schultz, Reed Kelly, Josh Canfield, Drew Christy, Alec Christy, Jeremy Collins, Val Collins  Front Row: Keith Nale, Wes Nale, Nadiya Anderson, Natalie Anderson, Missy Payne, Baylor Wilson, Dale Wentworth and Kelley Wentworth. (CBS)

Remember when you thought that this new TV game show called Survivor wouldn’t last? Well, here we are with the show’s 29th season, Survivor: San Juan Del Sur, starting up on Wednesday, September 24th. This time, the show brings back the concept of “Blood vs. Water” meaning that each contestant this season will be playing with a loved one.

The 90-minute “Blood vs. Water” premiere will be hosted once again by Jeff Probst who will watch over the 18 castaways that will try to outwit, outplay and outlast each other – even their significant other – all to win the title of “sole survivor” and $1 million dollars. For the uninformed, this version of Survivor brings together family members and loved ones and then threatens to pit them against each other raising the question of which is thicker: blood or water?

The show brings back Exile Island, where two loved one will battle against each other. The loser will be sent to the island while the winner receives a reward for their tribe and they will have to choose a tribemate to join their loved one.

Every year CBS does their best to find the most watchable players. Here are some interesting facts about this season’s casts. Who will your root for?

Dale Wentworth (55) & Kelley Wentworth (28) – Father and daughter

  • Dale is a self-employed farmer from a small town in Washington. His daughter, Kelley left the small town to become a marketing manager in Seattle.

Josh Canfield (32) & Reed Kelly (31) – Dating

  • Perhaps the most interesting pair this season, Josh and Reed are both active on Broadway, share a Christian faith and stress that they do not live together. Asked what three things that they would like to have brought to the island the both said “the Bible” as their first choice.

Jeremy Collins (36) & Val Collins (35) – Married

  • Jeremy is a firefighter while Va is a police officer.  They are both athletic and strong. They just might be the nicest couple this season. We’ll have to see.

Keith Nale (53) & Wes Nale (23) – Father and Son

  • Both are firefighters, but ironically, both said that they would have liked to have brought some form of tobacco with them on the trip: smokeless tobacco for Wes, 39 cigars for Keith.

Natalie Anderson (28) & Nadiya Anderson (28) – Sisters

  • Natalie is a twin. So is Nadiya. They also competed together on CBS other prime time reality game show, The Amazing Race. Isn’t one game show enough?

Drew Christy (25) & Alec Christy (22) – Brothers

  • Drew says that his hobbies consist of traveling, modeling, playing sports…and booze cruising and partying. The humble guy also says that he “seems to pull off the unthinkable with ease.” Alec on the other hand, says that he has no fear and wishes that he could bring a Playboy magazine with him.

John Rocker (39) & Julie McGee (34) – Dating

  • John is a former major league baseball player (no word on what he does with his time now). Julie is has created her own spray tan company. They are both disgustingly good-looking.

Jon Misch (26) & Jaclyn Schultz (25) – College Sweethearts

  • Jon’s claim to fame was winning a big 10 championship at Michigan State University. For Jaclyn, it was winning the title of Miss Michigan USA 2013. Jaclyn is also unique in that she has MRKH syndrome (born without a uterus) which affects 1 in approximately 4,500 women around the world.

Missy Payne (47) & Baylor Wilson (20) – Mother and Daughter

  • Missy is an owner of a competitive cheerleading gym even though she had never been a cheerleader before and Baylor was a winner of the Cheerleading World Championship in 2009.

The 29th season of SURVIVOR premieres Wednesday, September 24 with a special 90-minute episode (8:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

One Person’s ‘UTOPIA’ is Another’s Hell

posted by jtotey
The "Utopians" enter the compound. (FOX)

The “Utopians” enter the compound. (FOX)

FOX is leading the way for fall TV with UTOPIA which premiered Sunday, and if you missed it, just know that it was a doozy. The show is everything that Survivor and Big Brother wish they were. It’s not a game show, it’s a social experiment. Fifteen people have chosen to live in a commune of sorts for one year. There will be no winner as there is no prize. UTOPIA is based on the hit Dutch television series of the same name which asks the question: “If you could restart the world, what would you do differently?”

The “Utopians,” as they call themselves, start out with a meager amount of their own possessions. In addition, they are given a barn, two cows, a bunch of chickens, water and some alcohol. That is about it. They will be given a set amount of money to spend with the outside world, but it very limited so they have to choose wisely. There are no rules at the start. The group decides who, if anyone will be in charge and what rules will be followed.

The TV crew has set up 126 remote cameras all over the five acres of land dedicated for the experiment. The cameras will never shut off and a real time feed is being aired over the internet even as you read this. In fact, this unique “family” is already into day 10 of the experiment in real life.

Why would these people choose to do this? Well, each of them appear to be strong-willed, each with their own idea on what would make for a perfect utopia. They also seem to have something to prove. Do you really need to be a scientist to see how this is going to work out?

The people living this exclusive lifestyle are:

  • Hex Vanisles (25), who is an unemployed atheist from Detroit, MI.
  • Jonathan Lovelace (44), is a pastor and high school coach from Church Hill, TN.
  • Nikki Noce (29), is a medical and holistic doctor, with a strong fascination for yoga is from Brooklyn, NY.
  • Bri Nyugen (20), is a veterinary technician and student from Westminster, CA.
  • Dedeker Winston (26), is a model and motion-capture artist from Los Angeles, CA.
  • Chris Tuorto (25), is a glass blower and chili farmer from Cary, NC.
  • Dave Green (31), is an ex-con from Queens, NY.
  • Josh Johnston (36), is a general contractor from Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Aaron Thomas (26), is a private chef from Jackson, MS.
  • Amanda Scott (30), is a unmarried, pregnant behavioral specialist from Seattle, WA.
  • Rhonda Deniston (48), is a political activist from Oceanside, CA.
  • Kristen Vanstrom (24), is an entrepreneur from Jamestown, NY.
  • Mike Quinn (33), is an attorney from New York, NY.
  • Rob Hospidor (38), is a security programmer from South Amboy, NJ.
  • Bella Chartrand(45), is a survivalist from Griffin, GA.
The Utopians (FOX)

The Utopians (FOX)

As you can imagine, tempers flare almost immediately. Some resent being told what to do by others, some decide that the camp would be clothing optional, some can’t hold their liqueur (shocking!) and for poor Pastor Lovelace just wants to save souls. To my surprise and delight, he shows amazing restraint as many of his fellow co-habitants live their lives contradictory to his. In the first episode he has already made a few friends and given his first sermon.

The first episode covers three days and about half of the members have their own individual meltdown. Outside medics are called on the scene on day two. One woman flip flops with her emotions. One day she is full of hope and the next she is huddled in a ball crying, “This isn’t utopia.” No kidding.

Sunday’s two-hour presentation is actually part one of a three-part premiere. Part two airs on Tuesday, September 9 at 8:00 p.m. (The show’s regular time-slot) and part three will air on Friday, September 12 at 8:00 p.m. as well.

The show is a train wreck that you can’t stand to look away from, and FOX has made it so that you don’t have to. A free UTOPIA app is available so that viewers can spy on the group 24/7 on their mobile devices or you can just go the show’s page to watch live streaming.

Chris Dowling: Christian Horror Writer?

posted by jtotey

Chris Dowling on the set of “Produce.” (C. Dowling)

One of the most pumped up movies about the rapture and end times is coming to theaters this weekend and chances are you’ve never even heard of it. The film is called The Remaining and it is not your father’s A Thief in the Night movie.

Affirm films has been experimenting with their faith-based films division, trying hard not to do a “bait and switch” on the audiences attending these films. People who went to see Mom’s Night Out saw a true comedy. People who saw When the Game Stands Tall saw a true football film. Now, those who see The Remaining will see a true horror film. Not an axe-murderer movie with a message, but something just as scary.

“It has everything people love about horror films but with some meat,” says Chris Dowling, the co-writer for the film. “Most horror films, you walk out of the theater and completely forget about. You and your buddies are already talking about if you want to grab coffee or how late Buffalo Wild Wings is open by the time you hit the parking lot. The Remaining is not that movie. It stays with you. It’s a conversation starter. You don’t just walk away from it.”

(Affirm Films)

(Affirm Films)

I got a chance to talk Chris earlier this week about the project and was pleasantly surprised by what I learned. While similar in concept to other “rapture movies” like the upcoming re-make of Left Behind, this one attempts to stand out among the crowd with some impressive names attached to it. The movie is written and directed by Casey La Scala (executive director of Donnie Darko and A Walk to Remember), Doug Emmett (cinematographer of Paranormal Activity 4) and Brian Stultz (production designer for Iron Man 3).

The Remaining begins with a group of friends attending a wedding when a series of catastrophic events rains on their parade. People suddenly drop to their death with no explanation. In a matter of minutes, the group goes from celebrating to scrambling for safety. Has Mother Nature gone mad or is there a more sinister enemy behind the death and destruction?

The supernatural thriller centers on the extreme and horrific circumstances surrounding the biblical accounts of the end times, but not in a way that most of us are familiar with. So, how is The Remaining different from other end time films?

“I’ve heard of a Thief in the Night, but have never seen it and I made a specific choice not to see any of the Left Behind series when working on this film,” says Chris. “I didn’t want to be influenced either knowingly or subconsciously by the ideas they had in their films. So, with that said, I can’t speak on specifics on how different they are, but I can make some guesses.”

Scary stuff. A scene from "The Remaining." (Affirm Films)

Scary stuff. A scene from “The Remaining.” (Affirm Films)

“First off, (spoiler alert), when the rapture goes down, we don’t have people disappearing with a bunch of empty clothes laying around. Here, bodies drop. Everywhere. It’s the souls that get taken up. We wanted to do something different and it definitely makes for a much more terrifying and confusing event where there are thousands of “dead” bodies littering the city. It’s not gory or slasher stuff, but there are demons chasing people and some seriously bad stuff is going down. This is Revelations after all!”

The trailer does look pretty scary so it will be interesting to see how audiences will react to it. Chris says that he watched the reactions of filmgoers at a screening recently and he couldn’t be prouder of the end product. “I think it’s really fun to operate on the fringe of something where there is little precedent. I’m really proud to be on a team that is pushing the edge of faith films and testing the waters.”

This led to my next question, “So, are you hoping to scare the “hell” out of people with this picture?”

"The Remaining" (Affirm Films)

“The Remaining” (Affirm Films)

“From both a literal sense and figurative sense I suppose so,” says Chris. “But only by the nature of what the film is: a horror. As far as working akin to a “Hell House” or something where we as filmmakers are trying to scare you into accepting a faith with Jesus Christ…that’s not really the angle I was going for. I really wanted this to be about checking yourself and questioning where you are at with your faith. I think it’s really tough to scare someone into a relationship with God. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but usually if your “come to Jesus moment” is built on being scared into it…I don’t know…I feel like those are the people that do an altar call or say a sinner’s prayer or something…and then four weeks later, they are already over it and you never see them at church again. I think faith needs to be rooted in something more than fear. I hope this leads people to examine their own faith in a more comprehensive way.”

Before my interview, I did some research on Chris and took note that he has also been an actor in the past. “Ha! Acting was a brief moment in time. It was cool. I did a couple little things and had a character with a small (blink and you miss it) run on the soap Days of Our Lives, but ultimately I knew I really wanted to write. It’s been a long, strange trip, but things are really coming together. I’ve worked some odds and ends jobs like everyone else in L.A., but at the end of the day, I get to work from home doing what I love and have time to hang out with my wife and little girls. There is nothing better than that!”

And Chris has been busy. In tandem with The Remaining, Chris has written and directed his next movie, Produce. “It has secular appeal with a faith vibe,” says Chris. “It’s about an ex-major league baseball player whose life is turned upside down when he becomes friends with a teenager with Down Syndrome that has a child-like faith in God. I’m also producing a documentary about a comedy troupe that is made up entirely of actors with autism called, Asperger’s Are Us.”

Opening in theaters on September 5, 2014, The Remaining is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror, violence and destruction throughout, and thematic elements.

‘Dancing with the Stars’ Season 19 Cast is Announced

posted by jtotey
The new cast of Dancing with the Stars made a group appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America this morning. (L-R) Erin Andrews, Emma Slater, Michael Waltrip, Jonathan Bennett, Allison Holker, Antonio Sabato Jr., Cheryl Burke, Witney Carson, Val Chmerkovskiy, Janel Parrish, Alfonso Ribeiro, Tony Dovolani, Betsey Johnson, Derek Hough, Bethany Mota, Tom Bergeron, Tommy Chong, Petra Murgatroyd, Karina Smirnoff, Randy Couture, Lea Thompson, Artem Chigvintsev, Lolo Jones, Keo Motsepe, Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas. (ABC/Ida Mae Astute)

The new cast of “Dancing with the Stars” made a group appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on September 4, 2014. (L-R) Erin Andrews, Emma Slater, Michael Waltrip, Jonathan Bennett, Allison Holker, Antonio Sabato Jr., Cheryl Burke, Witney Carson, Val Chmerkovskiy, Janel Parrish, Alfonso Ribeiro, Tony Dovolani, Betsey Johnson, Derek Hough, Bethany Mota, Tom Bergeron, Tommy Chong, Petra Murgatroyd, Karina Smirnoff, Randy Couture, Lea Thompson, Artem Chigvintsev, Lolo Jones, Keo Motsepe, Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas. (ABC/Ida Mae Astute)



















Dancing with the Stars long established the idea of finding celebrities outside of TV or movie stardom to create a variety of “stars” including sports icons, models, comedians, etc. This is no doubt due to the fact that many big name movie stars are either too busy or not interested in doing the show. For the most part, this works out fine, but not everyone will be on board calling every celebrity on the show a “star.” For instance, this season they bring on a Duck Dynasty family member – Sadie Robertson. Don’t know who that is? She’s the 17-year old daughter who usually doesn’t get much screen time on the show. It is as if the producers of DWTS started asking the top stars of DD and worked their way down to Sadie. Sadie is a delightful young woman and will probably do very well on the show (her partner is Mark Ballas), but is Sadie really a ‘star’? This season also includes the YouTube “beauty expert” Bethany Mota. She is one of the most popular celebrities on social media. But is she a star? Perhaps this season’s biggest stars are known for their previous works: Lea Thompson (Caroline in the City), Alfonso Ribeiro (Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and Tommy Chong, (the “Chong” in “Cheech and Chong” comedy duo). However you choose to spell celebrity, each season of DWTS is always a huge ratings hit despite the fact that the creators keep messing with the formula. Last year the show went from two nights a week to just one, which was a welcome change from the “results show” which was filled with more fluff than substance. However, for this season, ABC has brought the one hour episode back and for this, I am holding a paddle with the number “2” on it. Another issue I have with changes for this year includes the decision to permanently add a fourth judge; former dancer on the show, Julianne Hough. She is the sister of multi-winner dance star Derek Hough. Does that seem fair? Maybe this is to help attract and keep younger viewers watching the show, but how many judges does the show need? I like all of the show’s judges just fine, but they already get too much face time in front of the camera. They are not the reason people watch the show and their commentaries on every single dance becomes tiresome rather quickly. At least DWTS has kept its most important feature of the show, host Tom Bergeron, who is just professional enough and has an amazing quick wit about him. He will be sharing hosting duties again with Erin Andrews and will be conversing with judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba and Hough.

Carrie Ann Inaba, Julianne Hough and Bruno Tonioli.  (ABC/Adam Taylor)

Carrie Ann Inaba, Julianne Hough and Bruno Tonioli. (ABC/Adam Taylor)

This seasons 13 celebrities and dance partners are:

  • Jonathan Bennett (actor) and Allison Holker
  • Tommy Chong (comedian) and Peta Murgatroyd
  • Randy Couture (mixed martial artist) and Karina Smirnoff
  • Betsey Johnson (fashion designer) and Tony Dovolani
  • Lolo Jones (track athlete) and Keo Motsepe (new dancer this season)
  • Bethany Mota (YouTube fashion star) and Derek Hough.
  • Janel Parrish (actress and singer) and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (actor and director) and Witney Carson
  • Sadie Robertson (reality TV star) and Mark Ballas
  • Antonio Sabato Jr. (actor and model) and Cheryl Burke
  • Tavis Smiley (author and talk show host) and Sharna Burgess
  • Lea Thompson (actress) and Artem Chigvintsev
  • Michael Waltrip (racecar driver) and Emma Slater

Season 19 of Dancing with the Stars debuts on Monday, September 15 at 8:00 p.m. with one couple being eliminated the following night, Tuesday, September 16 at 8:00 p.m. as well.

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