Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1.  Family Movie Night hits its creative stride. Game of Your Life (NBC, Friday 12/2 @ 8:00 PM ET),  the ninth of the impressive P&G-Walmart film series, is perhaps the most creative yet — featuring a genuinely original premise about a class of young video game geniuses taking part in a competitive scholarship program at the prestigious Digital Institute of Game Design.

The story focuses on four of the students who are teamed in a program contest to create the next great video game. Complications arise when Zack (Titus Makin Jr. of Glee).  the creative heart of the team breaks the rules and secretly accepts an outside gig working with the billionaire gaming icon Marcus Bentton (Tom Nowicki of The Blind Side).  Though Zack’s motive is good (to help his help widowed dad whose business is struggling), the result of his decision isn’t — as it places his new friends and teammates at risk of being eliminated from the program.

Those team members include Sara, (Dana De La Garza) as the leader (and Zack’s romantic interest), as well the brilliant-but-strange duo of Phillip (Nathan Kress of  iCarly) and Donald (Adam Cagley of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Good Luck Charlie). There’s a genuine chemistry between the foursome that could actually carry over well into a series (if ratings justify such consideration).

Setting this apart from previous Family Movie Night entries is the fact that the kids are really the focus here.  The others films really did keep the action more within a particular family whereas this edition actually sends its young heroes out into the world and forces them to figure things out on their own — with the help of strong role models in the persons of faculty members Dr. Abbie Lambert (Lea Thompson of Back to the Future and Caroline in the City) and Dean Cameron (Ric Reitz). And, while parents are more in the background than is usual for these films, the relationship between Zack and his father is particularly solid and touching.

Game of Your Life certainly has a message to deliver about honesty, loyalty and using one’s talents in a positive way but it’s artfully delivered with a light touch. Recommended.

2. Matthew West’s song One Last Christmas becomes the basis of GMC’s new Christmas movie. The Country songwriter  has a role in The Heart of Christmas (GMC, Sunday 12/4 @ 7:00 PM & 9:00PM ET), a true-life inspired film which stars Candace Cameron Bure (of the recent Family Movie Night film Truth Be Told) as  Megan, a successful business woman, wife and mother who finds her commitment to faith and family renewed by the online journal of Julie Locke about her son Dax who at only 13 months old was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

I haven’t actually previewed this one but The Heart of Christmas but it appears to deal with genuine human emotions in a way that too few current television dramas dare to. It also  deserves viewing consideration for focusing some attention on the good work being done at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

In a phone conference with with the media (including yours truly), Matthew West offered some valuable insight regarding the value and power of storytelling.  “As a songwriter,” he said, “I always felt like a storyteller at heart. I believe there’s power in a story.  And I believe that sometimes the best stories are are kinda waiting to be told…They’re not always the ones that catch headline news that the whole nation initially hears about. They’re just kind of waiting to be discovered. Everyday people who have a story to tell and I also believe that sometime the best stories, ironically, wind up coming out of some of the more difficult things that we experience throughout the course of our lives – as is the case in the Locke family’s story.”

Checkout the film’s Matthew’s One Last Christmas music video followed by the movie trailer for The Heart of Christmas.

No blog tomorrow. See you Monday.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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