All posts from “February 2011”

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February 28, 2011

Emilio Estevez on new film: 'It was the divine'

Writer/director says 'The Way,' starring father Martin Sheen, had providence on its side

When asked after a recent screening about the making of The Way, which stars his father in the lead role, writer-director Emilio Estevez told Catholic New Service, "I've stopped using the word coincidence" to describe the process. "It was providence. ... It was the divine."

The film, slated for limited theatrical release this fall, stars Martin Sheen in the story of four Westerners who walk the 500-mile pilgrimage route from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where tradition says the remains of the apostle St. James are buried. It is named after what is known as The Way of St. James.

I've heard good things about this film, including from CT critic Ken Morefield, who saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall.

February 28, 2011

The Anti-Social Network?

Winklevoss twins, star characters in 'The Social Network,' continue their legal battle

The Social Network may not have picked up any major awards at Sunday night's Oscars, but the film's main characters continue their battle for awards of another kind -- in the courts.

The Los Angeles Times reports that twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who maintain that Mark Zuckerberg ripped them off to build Facebook, are contesting an out-of-court settlement reached three years ago. The Winklevosses have already accepted a $160 million settlement, but feel they're entitled to more -- while also insisting it's not about the money. They say it's the principle of the thing.

"If it was about the money, we would walk away right now," Cameron Winklevoss said. "Mark Zuckerberg wouldn't be sitting where he is if it weren't for us. They think it's over. We believe there is another chapter to be written."

Zuckerberg's response? "After all this time, I feel bad that they still feel bad about it."

February 22, 2011

'Hold Me' Has Got a Hold on Me

New Gotee artist Jamie-Grace, just 19, has a hook-laden single that just won't let go

TobyMac is always looking around for promising new artists for his label, Gotee Records. He recently found -- and signed -- another in Jamie-Grace, a 19-year-old college student from the Atlanta suburbs who releases her debut EP, Hold Me, today. The title cut, her first single, is incredibly contagious; check it out in the video below.

TobyMac, who lends background vocals in the song, says, "I’ve not been this excited to work with an artist in a long time. She has a style that can’t be put into a typical label box—a dash of reggae, a dash of folk, a dash of hip hop. . . . Jamie-Grace is a natural, beautiful next step for our industry.”

Diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 11, Jamie-Grace has walked a challenging journey that has included physical exhaustion, emotional stress, and spiritual doubt. After hearing Tammy Trent (who lost her husband to a diving accident in 2001) give her testimony, Jamie-Grace said she thought, "I’ve cried enough. It’s time to accept my joy." She decided that "even with Tourette’s, I still have something to do with my life. I love to sing. I have a story, and I’ve got to share it.”

Three years later, she's a college junior studying children's ministry and releasing her music to the world. Check it out:

February 22, 2011

Jesus Music Galore at Cornerstone

Event celebrates 40 years since The Jesus Revolution with awesome lineup of legends

As if there weren't reasons enough to attend the Cornerstone Festival in any given year, just check out this lineup of legends for their Jesus Rally this summer, celebrating 40 years of The Jesus Revolution.

Petra. Keaggy. Rez Band. Servant. Stonehill. McGuire. Daniel Amos. And more. Man oh man.

February 22, 2011

Film, Tour Remember Larry Norman

'Fallen Angel' documentary, director, and Randy Stonehill headline event

The Fallen Angel Film & Music Tour kicked off last night in Surrey, BC, featuring a documentary about late CCM legend Larry Norman (who died of heart failure in 2008), live music from Norman's contemporary and longtime friend Randy Stonehill, and a Q&A with the film's director, David Di Sabatino.

According to a press release, the documentary asks whether Norman, known as the “father of Christian rock," was "nothing more than a contemporary Elmer Gantry, a musical flim-flam man out to con the faithful."

The release also calls Norman "the most vibrant musical performer to shake, rattle and roll church pews during a hip countercultural revival of religion known as the 'Jesus movement.' Casting a prophet-like presence and with lyrics that cut to the marrow, Norman became the voice of a generation of young Christians trying to make sense of their faith amidst the chaos of the 1960s. . . . Over time however, Norman’s crafted image began to overtake him and the line between fact and fiction became blurred.

Stonehill (at left with Norman many years ago), who was led to Christ by Norman, only to be burned by his friend more than once in later years, says he watched Norman "grasp for hope at first, but then slowly lose grip on those fundamental principles.” The press release says that in the documentary unfolds "the true story of this enigmatic figure for the first time."

See the trailer for Fallen Angel here:

Fallen Angel DVD Preview from churchspeak on Vimeo.

February 22, 2011

Narnia Producer Found Dead in NY

Perry Moore died last week of an apparent accidental overdose of a painkiller

Perry Moore, who played a critical role in bringing the Narnia stories to the big screen, died of an apparent accidental overdose of OxyContin last week, it has been reported. He was 39.

Moore, an executive producer on the three Chronicles of Narnia films that have released since late 2005, was found unconscious by his partner, Hunter Hill, in the bathroom of his Manhattan home on Thursday and died later in hospital, according to police, who do not suspect foul play. Moore apparently had chronic severe back pain, and was scheduled for back surgery later this spring.

Moore's 2007 book, Hero, about a gay superhero, won a Lambda Literary award. He also wrote and directed the 2008, Lake City, starring Sissy Spacek.

Moore played a key role in bringing the Narnia films to the big screen, starting with a 2001 letter to the C. S. Lewis Company seeking film rights to the Chronicles for Walden Media. He was just 29 at the time. Five years later, the self-professed "Narnia geek" saw his dream come true when The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe hit the big screen. Moore chronicled his journey in, The Official Illustrated Movie Companion for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (HarperSanFrancisco).

"I'm just the ultimate fanboy living out a fan's dream, because this was my favorite book as a kid," Moore told CT in 2005, just before LWW released. "Narnia kicked off my lifelong relationship with storytelling, with wanting to read everything I could get my hands on—certainly fantasy, though I like to call it 'literature of the ideas.'"

February 21, 2011

'The Washed-Up Geezer Redemption Film'

A pastor opines on 'Gran Torino,' 'The Wrestler,' 'Crazy Heart,' and 'Red' -- but no 'Get Low'


In a brief essay on what he calls "washed-up geezer redemption films," Charles Hambrick-Stowe, pastor of the First Congregational Church, Ridgefield, Conn., writes for Faith & Leadership wonders if such movies "teach us anything about what they might be looking for from the gospel?" He also asks, "What kind of 'redemption' do we find in these movies?"

By "these movies," he's specifically referring to Gran Torino, The Wrestler, Crazy Heart, and Red, and yes he does find redemption in each -- and, unfortunately, in far too spoiler-ific description. Glaringly missing from his list is Get Low, which releases to DVD this week and features the great Robert Duvall in the lead role, playing an aging hermit who has hid in the woods for more than 40 years to pay -- in his mind -- for a specific sin of his youth. To him, grace isn't an option; he wants to pay his penance. But as he encounters others along the way, he begins to consider the possibility of forgiveness. Duvall should've received an Oscar nomination for the role, but was unfortunately overlooked.

Check out our review of Get Low, my interview with Duvall (who knows a bit about geezer redemption), and the trailer:

February 21, 2011

Well Beyond 'Skin' Deep

New on DVD, 2008's 'Skin' is a stirring look at South Africa's apartheid era


No wonder Roger Ebert called it "one of the best films of the year." I just watched Skin, a 2008 film based on the true story of Sandra Laing, a dark-skinned girl born to white Afrikaner parents in 1955 South Africa. The film, which released to DVD a few weeks ago, follows Sandra's remarkable journey -- expelled from school and shunned by white society despite her father's efforts to have her officially classified as "white," and the sociological implications that her pigmentation wrought.

Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) is brilliant in the lead role as Sandra, torn between her feelings for her family and the black man with whom she falls in love. Sandra's father (played by Sam Neill) is an old-school racist who sees blacks as a lower class, but her mother (Alice Krige) is a bit more tolerant. But Sandra is forced into a position where she must choose between family and the man she loves, resulting in a difficult journey through hardship, racial intolerance, familial rejection, and a society in which she can never quite find her place.

It's ultimately a story of perseverance, redemption, and forgiveness, and well worth putting in your rental queue. Here's the trailer:

February 18, 2011

Producer Wanted to Cut Bible from 'Soul Surfer'

But after Bethany Hamilton's family complained, the Word made it to the final cut

The Hollywood Reporter notes that a producer had requested that the words "Holy Bible” be digitally removed from the cover of the book in a scene of Soul Surfer, the upcoming film depicting the journey of surfer Bethany Hamilton. Hamilton lost her left arm to a shark attack at the age of 13, but has since come back -- through perseverance and her Christian faith -- to become one of the world's greatest surfers. The entire Hamilton family is strong in their Christian faith.

According to THR, "When religious leaders were shown an early version of the Sony movie, set for release in April, the words “Holy Bible” had been digitally removed from the cover of the book in a scene depicting [Tom] Hamilton reading in a hospital where his daughter was fighting for her life. Hamilton says producer David Zelon, an executive at Mandalay Pictures, had lobbied to tone down the film’s Christianity in an effort to broaden its appeal to non-Christian audiences. But the Hamilton family objected, and when they attended a subsequent screening, they were pleasantly surprised with what they saw.

"I could see the words bright and clear," Hamilton told THR. “I looked at my wife and whispered, ‘Thank you God, they put it back.’ ”

Fox News reported that Tom Hamilton and the production team "didn’t always see eye-to-eye," but that he's pleased with the end result.

“This is the first movie I’ve ever been involved in, and what really counts is what ends up on the screen,” Hamilton told FOX411. “And we are absolutely thrilled with the way the film turned out, and the wonderful way it portrays Bethany’s and our family’s story and faith."

February 18, 2011

Hannah Montana 'Destroyed My Family'

So says Billy Ray Cyrus, father of Miley, adding that they've been under spiritual attack

In a rambling, revealing interview with GQ, Billy Ray Cyrus says that Hannah Montana, the Disney TV show that made his daughter Miley famous, "destroyed my family. . . . [T]he damn show destroyed my family." He adds, "I’d erase it all in a second if I could.” Cyrus and wife Tish are in the process of getting a divorce after 17 years of marriage.

The Cyrus family, including Miley, have been outspoken about their Christian faith in recent years, but Billy Ray says that recent incidents have shaken his -- and Miley's -- faith, and that his family has been under spiritual attack.

"Somewhere along this journey," Billy Ray told GQ, "both mine and Miley's faith has been shaken. That saddens me the most." GQ noted that the entire Cyrus family had been baptized together before moving from Franklin, Tenn., to Los Angeles. Billy Ray says the baptism "was Tish's idea. She said, 'We're going to be under attack, and we have to be strong in our faith and we're all going to be baptized...'" He says he has no doubt that the family has been spiritual attack: "I think we are right now. No doubt. There's no doubt about it."

Cyrus also says he wished he'd been tougher as a parent the last few years, as he watched Miley slowly move away from her goody-two-shoes image and make questionable -- even almost scandalous -- choices in recent years (a revealing photo shoot in Vogue, a quasi-pole dance on TV's Teen Choice Awards, drinking a beer in public, and, most recently, smoking a bong).

Billy Ray Cyrus told GQ, “How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough — it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t know the ball was out of bounds until it was way up in the stands somewhere.”

February 18, 2011

Tomlin, TobyMac Lead Dove Nominees

The two artists received six nods apiece for the GMA Dove Awards, to be held April 20

TobyMac and Chris Tomlin received six nominations apiece for the 42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards, to be held April 20 at Atlanta's Fox Theatre -- the first time the event has been held outside of Memphis or Nashville. Jason Crabb nabbed five nominations, and Francesca Battistelli four.

Joining Tomlin and Crabb as nominees for Male Vocalist of the year are Chris August, Doug Anderson, Brandon Heath, Israel Houghton, and Marvin Sapp. Joining Battistelli as noms for Female Vocalist of the Year are Audrey Assad, Natalie Grant, Britt Nicole, Janet Paschal, Kerrie Roberts, and Laura Story. Nominated for Group of the Year are Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Gaither Vocal Band, Mercy Me, Mikes Chair, Sidewalk Prophets, and Tenth Avenue North. For a complete list of nominees, click here.

According to a GMA press release, the event will be delayed broadcast on GMC on Easter Sunday, April 24, at 7 p.m. Comedian and talk show host Sherri Shepherd of The View will host the Dove Awards.

February 18, 2011

Freud, C. S. Lewis Get into an Argument . . .

That's the premise of 'Freud's Last Session,' a play now in an extended run in New York


C. S. Lewis, Sigmund Freud, and God walk into a bar, and . . .

Well, that's not quite the setting, and it's not quite a joke, but there is humor aplenty to be found in Freud's Last Session, an off-Broadway play in New York that imagines a conversation between the two thinkers -- the Christian Lewis and the atheist Freud -- and their musings on God.

Here's one example of the smart banter between the two:

LEWIS: The wish that God doesn’t exist can be just as powerful as the belief He does. I’d even say choosing to disbelieve may be stronger evidence for His existence, since you have to be aware of what you’re denying.

FREUD: I deny the existence of Unicorns. Therefore, they exist?

Jerry Tallmer of New York's Downtown Express sheds more light on the production, which has also received rave reviews:

“Sharp, lively discourse…The humor is plentiful! Martin Rayner delivers a wise and cranky Freud. Mark H. Dold paints a wonderfully warm portrait of the young C.S. Lewis" (NY Times). "A juicy intellectual debate…Terrific performances!” (NY Post). “Riveting theater!” (Huffington Post)

Click here for some video snippets from the play.

February 18, 2011

Gaga, Snoop Dogg, the Grammys and God

'Believing that God wants you to be famous actually improves your chances of being famous.'

Rock reporter Neil Strauss, writing for The Wall Street Journal, has interviewed many celebrities through the years, noticing how many of them claim some sort of faith in God. That's not unusual, but through further analysis of his interviews, Strauss concludes that "believing that God wants you to be famous actually improves your chances of being famous."

He notes interviews with Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Christina Aguilera, Eminem and others as he studied his previous interviews and analyzed the "God comments."

"Before they were famous," Strauss writes, "many of the biggest pop stars in the world believed that God wanted them to be famous, that this was his plan for them, just as it was his plan for the rest of us not to be famous. Conversely, many equally talented but slightly less famous musicians I've interviewed felt their success was accidental or undeserved—and soon after fell out of the limelight."

February 8, 2011

Has Your Pastor Caught Bieber Fever?

New movie, out this week, has Christian undertones -- and even a Bible study guide!

Your preteen daughter surely knows that Justin Bieber’s first feature film is opening this Friday, Feb. 11, in theaters everywhere. But does your pastor know? Or your church’s youth leaders?

There’s a subtle-but-fascinating marketing campaign going on for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, accentuating the faith angle of the movie. Well, maybe not so much the movie as Bieber himself. Other than a quick pre-show prayer or two, the film is not overt about Bieber’s faith; one publicist clarified that “while Justin and his mother [also prominently featured] are Christians . . . this is a secular film about Justin and his music. However, it is clean, safe, wholesome entertainment that parents and grandparents can take their kids to.”

Still, due to the faith angle — however subtle — a relatively new division of a large marketing agency is pitching the movie to faith-based media and audiences. Allied Faith & Family, an arm of Allied Integrated Marketing, is working the faith angle for the movie, which is being distributed by Paramount. Allied IM (the parent company) is an established marketing agency that works a myriad of projects with well-known clients — including many of Hollywood’s major studios. (CT works regularly with the Chicago branch of Allied for movie screenings for our local film critics.)

In conjunction with the new Bieber film, Allied Faith & Family has put together a 12-page Bible study discussion guide titled, “Never Say Never: For Nothing Is Impossible With God,” based on the film and Bieber’s own faith journey. The guide bills itself as “an opportunity to teach our children about the power of hope, prayer, faith and family.” It includes sections on “Discerning God’s Plan for Your Life,” “The Power of Prayer,” and “The Importance of Godly Friendships.”

We already knew that Bieber was a Christian, but Allied Faith & Family’s efforts — which include a video interview with Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette — have helped members of the media learn even more about his faith journey. Cobbled from press releases, videos, and the interview with Mallette, we learn that:

> Bieber, in his own words, is “a Christian. I believe in God. I believe that, you know, Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I have a relationship with him. And he’s the reason I’m here.” (A few more "you knows" were edited out here.)

> Mallette wanted her son to be “a youth pastor or a worship leader,” and when Justin’s pop star began to rise so rapidly, she didn’t think it was God’s plan because so many entertainment celebs “are getting into trouble. It’s not the best environment to raise a child from.” But she says God “said” to her that he’d called her son “to be a light in the world, and how are you supposed to be a light in the world if you’re not in the world.”

> The prayers of many surround Bieber, his family, and his traveling entourage. “You can never have enough prayer,” Mallette says. “I have a group of people that I ask to keep us covered in prayer.” She also notes that many fans she’s never met regularly pray for them. (At left, Bieber and tour members pray before a show.)

> “Justin is still discovering who he is and who God is,” according to Mallette. “He has faith in God, and God has hooks in his heart. . . . He definitely knows he is not here on his own merit. He can’t deny the unprecedented favor of God in such a short period of time. And he knows it’s for a purpose and a plan.”

> Justin’s “Pray” is his mom’s “all time favorite song. It’s so full of life and hope.” In the song, Bieber notes some of world’s woes (“children are crying, soldiers are dying, some people don’t have a home”) before praying “for the broken hearted, for the life not started, for all the ones not breathing, for all the souls in need.” It’s not great poetry, but it’s a catchy pop song with a good word from a nice kid who believes in Jesus, you know?

And here's the movie trailer:

February 4, 2011

'Grizzly Adams' Creator Dies

Charles E. Sellier Jr. created popular series, and a host of faith-and-family-friendly flicks


According to a press release from Grizzly Adams Productions, Charles E. Sellier, Jr. passed away unexpectedly on January 31st at his North Idaho home, according to longtime business associate David Balsiger. Sellier was 67.

Sellier was the President/CEO of Grizzly Adams Productions, which produces and markets family-oriented and faith-based feature films, television series, and documentaries worldwide.Best known for creating the iconic long running NBC television series, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, in the late 1970s, Sellier personally wrote and produced more than 30 feature films and 230 television shows during his show business career spanning four decades. Eleven of his theatrical films are among the top 100 all-time independent grossing films, with six of those releases ranked in the top 25.

“Chuck was a truly gifted individual,” said longtime associate David Balsiger, vice president of marketing, and senior producer with the company. “Both an artist and a computer geek, he could write an original screenplay, produce the movie, and then market the show generating amazing audience enthusiasm. Chuck was an industry pioneer in pre-testing film projects using sophisticated research techniques—opinion polling, generational science and neuromarketing.”

February 3, 2011

Christian Mom up for GMA's 'Advice Guru'

Carla Barnhill, a Christian mom from Minnesota, could be Good Morning America's pick

Earlier this week, I interviewed my friend Carla Barnhill for CT's women's blog (yes, I wrote for a women's blog, so sue me!), discussing her quest to become the new "advice guru" for ABC's Good Morning America.

Carla, whom I worked with for several years at several of our sister publications, is one of four finalists for the gig. We just learned today that GMA will announce the winner on tomorrow (Friday) morning's show. I know who they should pick; I'd take advice from Carla any day. I've taken advice from her before, and I'd take it again any time. Good luck, Carla!

Feb. 4 update: 'Good Morning America' announced this morning that Liz Pryor, a single mother of three from California, will be their new “advice guru.” Upon hearing the news, Carla Barnhill posted this on her Facebook page: “This has been an amazing, life-altering experience for me and I don't regret a second of it. You, my friends, have been so good to me and I am so, so grateful for you. Thank you for your endless encouragement, your votes, your comments, and your love. Now, let's see what we can conquer next!”

February 3, 2011

John 3:16 Ad Won't Air During Super Bowl

Fox Sports rejects commercial because it contains 'religious doctrine'


A year ago, we were blogging about the controversy surrounding the Tim Tebow pro-life ad that was to air during the Super Bowl. (It ended up airing anyway, and there were far fewer complaints after it aired than before it -- scandal averted!)

Now we have another minor commercial controversy brewing. Fixed Point Foundation reports that Fox Sports has rejected a proposed Super Bowl ad featuring a reference to the Bible verse John 3:16 -- ironic since it has been showing up in the background on signs at sporting events for decades.

In the commercial (embedded below), Fixed Point -- whose stated mission is "to promote a confident Christianity in the public square by fortifying the minds of Christians and challenging the faith of skeptics" -- hoped to encourage viewers to look up John 3:16 and consider its meaning. The commercial directs viewers to a website ( with the verse and explanation. Neither the commercial nor the website sells a product or asks for money, but Fox supposedly rejected the commercial because it contains "religious doctrine."

Still, some regions have opted to air the commercial anyway; a Fox station in Birmingham has agreed to air it twice during the big game. Here it is:

And here's the Tebow ad from last year's Super Bowl: