Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/18/24

Let’s hear it for the dog! Audiences certainly gave Arthur the King a hand with a coveted A CinemaScore. Unfortunately, the $7.5 million the movie pulled in over its opening weekend was below expectations (though good enough for third place). Inspired by a true story, the film stars Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Lindnord, an adventure racer who forms an emotional bond with a stray dog he meets during a dangerous endurance competition. The movie is based on Lindnord’s book Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home. Despite the slow start, director Simon Cellan Jones believes the powerful story has legs.

JWK: What drew you to this story?

Simon Cellan Jones: Well, there’s a few things. Definitely one of them was the dog. The story about the dog, I thought it would be really hard to pull off but, if we could make it work, it’s such a cool story. It’s very human. Well, human interacting with a canine. It’s sort of a real against-the-odds story. I thought there was something really beautiful about that.

JWK: Do you have a dog yourself?

SCJ: I’ve got three dogs. They’re too big, they’re too annoying, they leave hair about the house and they sort of steal food and all that but I wouldn’t be without them.

JWK: What is about dogs in movies? People love them. It’s like magic. Why is that?

SCJ: It is. Usually in the movies cats are the bad guys and dogs are the lovely, maybe a little stupid, guys. Listen, so many of us get a genuine benefit to to our life with a dog. It’s a companion. It’s someone who, if you’re a single person or a lonely person, if you have a dog you have a partner. You have someone to help you out against the world. There’s something amazing about a dog. Of course, we all love the fact that they don’t judge us. They’re loyal all the time. They’re always glad to see us.

JWK: Do they, in some ways, represent that best of human beings – or, at least, what we hope to be?

SCJ: Well, yeah. They certainly have a few things to teach us.

JWK: The human star of the movie is Mark Wahlberg, who you’ve also recently worked with on a movie called The Family Plan. What is it like working with him?

SCJ: I’ve worked with Mark twice in a row now. He’s kind of the easiest actor that I’ve almost ever worked with. You know, you think “Oh, my God! He’s this big movie star. It’s gonna be all showbiz and entourages.” He comes to the set. He’s really nice. He’s super-prepared. He’s a fantastic actor, obviously. So, it was really easy – and really fun – working with Mark.

JWK: Is he a dog person?

SCJ: Yeah. I think he’s got two dogs. He’s definitely a dog person.

JWK: So, what is it that you hope people take from this story?

SCJ: It’s about people in a race – and, of course, what they’re doing is they’re racing themselves. That’s an old thing to say but these people do this amazing stuff called adventure racing which is super-tough. It’s like running two marathons a day for a week. It’s really tough. You either give up or you push on through – and that’s what happens to our characters. Of course, all of us have given up. It’s very easy to do. I’ve done it myself – but, if you can stick to you guns a little bit and just push yourself that extra mile then, you know, you might punch it through.

This being Women’s History Month, it’s interesting to note how many  women of faith are currently (or soon to be) in the movie spotlight. In theaters,  Angel Studios’ Mother Cabrini biopic Cabrini (which scored an impressive A+ CinemaScore) continues to perform at the box office, finishing at #5  in its second week in theaters (with a box office take $2.8 million). That’s on top of a first week haul of over seven-million dollars (good for 4th place) last week. You can read my review of the film (as well my conversation with co-star David Morse) here. Meanwhile, Mother Teresa & Me, a movie about another real-life Catholic heroine, is now streaming and available for all audiences on Apple TV, Google, Amazon, Roku, Peacock, and others. You can read my review here and my interview with star Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz here.

Coming soon is Wildcat, a film about the relationship between noted Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor (Maya Hawke) and her mother Regina (Laura Linney). The movie takes place in 1950 when, at 24-years-old, Flannery was diagnosed with lupus. Struggling with the same disease that took her father’s life when she was a child and desperate to make her mark as a great writer, the health crisis propels the young Christian into a deep exploration of belief. The movie, directed by Ethan Hawke who co-wrote the script with Shelby Gaines, opens in theaters on May 3rd. Check out the trailer below.


Down the road a bit further, music legend Gloria Gaynor is set to have her inspiring journey of faith and survival brought to life in a new Lifetime biopic under the Robin Roberts Presents banner. Set to air in 2025, the scripted drama comes on the heels of a documentary about Gaynor’s life (Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive) that debuted in theaters this past February. When I spoke with Gloria about that film, we had this exchange.

JWK: Your story is so dramatic on so many levels that it strikes me that there could a scripted feature about your life. Have you ever thought about – and who would play you?

GG: I don’t know. I was kind of toying with the idea at one time and I thought that I would like Kerry Washington.

End Note: Kerry, are you listening?

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

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

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