Friday, April 30, 2010

Marvel/DC Comics Illustrator Creates Pro-Life Comic Book

Professional illustrators come in all shapes and sizes, but very few of them have a pro-life or Christian perspective. But that is something that Dan Lawlis, a professional illustrator for over 20 years who has created comic book art for companies like Marvel and DC Comics, wants to change.

Lawlis is endeavoring to use the internet to bring a new comic book vision to the world, and has made his first go at the effort with the comic called “Orange Peel” – a story set in a technologically advanced future, where evil aliens plot to take-over the neighboring planet Godderth for conquest. However, they first plan to make conquest easy by getting the inhabitants of Godderth to abandon their morality, destroy the family unit, and become so morally impoverished that they will welcome their would-be conquerors with open arms.

The premise of the book is that somewhere in the future, human beings learned how to transport themselves to distant planets, but the transportation led to transformations in their appearance, making them alien-like.

The comic’s artwork is visually stunning and appealing, and little wonder: Lawlis has worked on characters like Spiderman, the Hulk, X-Men and more.

But those characters, he said in an e-mail to (LSN), are more or less atheistic in their outlook. Instead, he was looking for a character that would appeal to comic book and science fiction fans and help introduce a pro-life Christian message “into what is mostly an anti-Christian atheist entertainment culture.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A 'Marvel'ous idea!

Pro life comics, why didn't we think of this before?
Check out Orange Peel, who saves civilization from self destruction. . .by Marvel Comics illustrator.
Read more about it here.

Assam and Darjeeling in Print!

Some of you may recall my extreme enjoyment of Assam and Darjeeling by T.M. Camp. In fact, it became an SFFaudio Essential with my review, which is a rarely bestowed accolade.

The only thing missing was a print copy for those of my acquaintance who I knew would love the story but who, stubbornly, will not listen to podcasts. Let's face it, on occasion I would like to read it myself when a podcast just isn't going to work.

At last, we have the hardback which you see above and the paperback ...

One of the things I knew I would miss in a book was the sense of whimsy which T.M. Camp included in some of the standard statements accompanying each podcast. Looking through the previews you can imagine my delight at finding the whimsy intact beginning with the copyright page, some of which I transcribe below to give you a sample
Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be used, transmitted, broadcast, or otherwise reproduced in any manner or medium without receiving prior, written permission from the author. Failure to comply is a violation of international copyright law and will incite the fury of the sea to rise up against the nations of the earth, wiping away innocent and villain alike. So don't say we didn't warn you.
Duly noted!

Go read the review and then get yourself a copy. It will be coming to Amazon and Barnes and Noble soon, but if you don't want to wait then just click through on the links above. (Oh, and I meant to mention, it is available on Kindle now.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You Are What You See

I was privileged to read the galley for this book by Scott Nehring who, incidentally, is a contributor to this blog. I can honestly say that I can't wait for it to come out so I can begin pushing it on everyone. He opens people's eyes to the power of film as a cultural force and unlocks the "key" of story so that you really understand what you are watching (well, ok, I already watched that way ... but I still was riveted by this book).

It is simply fantastic. You will never watch movies the same way again ... click the image to enlarge for readability.

Book Review: Dimiter by William Peter Blatty

Written for SFFaudio, book provided by publisher.

In 1973 a nameless prisoner is being tortured in an Albanian prison, where "grace and hope had never touched." Colonel Vlora, known as "The Interrogator," is frustrated and mystified by a man they have come to call The Prisoner because they cannot even make him speak. Is he an American spy? The solution to this stalemate while expected on one level is a complete surprise on another. This turns out to be emblematic of William Blatty's book. Part 1 is an appropriate foretaste of this complex, suspenseful, and fast paced thriller, which does not shy away from the problem of evil contrasted with the mystery of faith.

The scene shifts to Jerusalem where we meet Moses Mayo, a neurologist, who is investigating a series of seemingly natural deaths that are nevertheless linked. He also is plagued by a gruesome murder, reports of apparitions and mysterious miraculous healings. We also meet Mayo's life-long friend, Peter Meral, an Arab Christian, who is a police detective. Among other things, Meral is investigating a strange car explosion and the mysterious disappearance of the men involved, a CIA cover-up, and a body found at the Tomb of Christ.

The body count climbs and complications arise from the interweaving of all the events. This sounds somewhat like a standard thriller, however, it is anything but. We know the deaths are real but what about the reported miracles? Is everything really connected and, if so, what could possibly be the logical link? The solution is not only surprising but also provides an extremely moving moment of redemption.

Dimiter's suspense keeps the listener fascinated while also raising it above the ordinary by not being afraid to have characters who care about spiritual searching, loss, redemption, and love. The spiritual element will make this work especially interesting to those who are drawn to themes that investigate good versus evil. This is not an element that should surprise those who remember that Blatty is the author of the justly famous horror novel The Exorcist. Although this novel is strictly in the thriller vein, I must admit that I did find the torture scenes rather horrific and did fast forward through a few of them.

The author narrates his work and does such an effective job that I often forgot I was not listening to a professional voice talent. The only downfall was that during fast-paced scenes with more than two male characters, such as CIA interrogations, there was not enough differentiation between all the voices to make it easy to tell when dialogue shifted from one person to another. This was not a huge problem but it did require me to back up a couple of times until I figured out the tempo. Otherwise, William Blatty's reading was a sheer pleasure, especially in voicing his more eccentric characters who he brought to life in a most vivid fashion.

Highly recommended.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Reviewing Pirate Radio: Somewhere There's a Movie Reviewer Who Owes Me Two Hours

Yes, I'm lookin' at you Joe Morgenstern.

This movie has a glorious soundtrack of classic rock and roll.

This movie has top notch actors, all giving their best.

Too bad they forgot to throw in a plot or character development beyond something a first grader might provide. (The mean old man doesn't like music or fun. He's mad at the happy people who like music.)

There are a few amusing scenes and the ambiance works but that is hardly enough to justify the movie.

Wait, did I mention that it was a failed movie in the U.K. that was renamed and marketed in the U.S. with a lie? It is not based on fact, although if they had based it on Radio Luxembourg (on a boat) then they might have a leg to stand on. I did find it amusing that the original pirate radio stations on boats were angling for credibility so they might be able to operate on land and sell advertising. Just about opposite from the point made in the movie.

Also, it would have been nice since this is about rock and roll in 1966 if they had actually only had the DJs play songs from that time period and not later. This drove Tom crazy.

It was especially painful to see Kenneth Branaugh stuck with playing the one-note up-tight British government official. It made me want to send him a donation. Surely poverty was the only reason he took such a thankless part.

I am not opposed to sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll in a movie depending on the context, but please believe me when I say that what is seen in this movie is about as gratuitous and pointless as it gets.

Not worth your time. Buy the sound track and dance with some friends. It is time better spent.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review: "Hide in Plain Sight" by Marta Perry

Andrea Hampton is a successful businesswoman. 
When her sister Rachel is hit by a car, Andrea returns to Pennsylvania to help Rachel and their grandmother with the Three Sisters Inn.
they are converting the large family estate into a bed-and-breakfast.  The problem is, there is someone who doesn't want the B&B to open.  Actually, Andrea isn't crazy about the idea either.  She would prefer they sold it, but nevertheless, she takes some time off from work to help them get it started.  She can't wait to return to work.  
They soon realize that Rachel's 'accident' was no accident,  and other dangerous events continue to occur.   Andrea must race against the clock to both get the inn open, and find out who is trying to stop them.  She gets help from both Cal Burke, her grandmother's tenant,  and the Amish family who live next door.

The story is quite captivating, but I think what I like most about this book is the characters; they are unique and distinct, and their roles in the story are well-defined.  Most importantly, two of the major characters each undergo a transformation; a change of heart.   I especially like like how  these two characters often turn to God.  Nothing dramatic, but they frequently utter short little prayers such as "Lord, show me the way" or "God, I need your help".   I identify especially with the character of Andrea.  At one time, I too put my job above all until I had a medical situation that made me realize the importance of family.

An excellent story that I can highly recommend.

Following Isaiah to a Better Place: Reviewing "Finding Martha's Place"

I first found this through The Good Cook book club. Based on their description I thought there would be much more about food in it. However this book was so astonishing that I forgot all that early on. Any descriptions you read that are longer than one sentence make you think that Martha was a hard-driving, determined woman who pushed her way to success despite long odds. It is true that Martha did succeed and that she persevered, however, one does not get the feeling that she did it through sheer force of personality. Martha gives the impression of being a gentle, loving person who nevertheless kept doggedly marching in the direction she thought she should go.

For a lot of her life Martha was just doing what most of us do when we are little ... living and trying to make sense of the world. The turns her life took and the way she pushed everything bad way down inside left Martha with mental illness. Her determination is seen in her desire to not leave her four children without a mother so she fights her way back to equilibrium. Along the way, she clings to the verse (Isaiah 61:1) that haunts her after flipping through a Bible one day and having it fall open at that spot.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound
This sets her not only on the right path to her place but serves as a beacon to the place where she can help others. Martha is matter of fact and tells the story just as if you were sitting at her restaurant having some tea. (Yes, food does come into the picture eventually.)

Extremely inspirational and moved me deeply but not sugary at all. Highly recommended.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review of "No Turning Back"

By Fr Donald Calloway, MIC
Marian Press
262 pages

I had been given a copy of Fr Calloway’s video testimony "No Turning Back" by my new pastor as a welcome to the parish. Surrounded by a sea of boxes to unpack in my living room, I put on the DVD intending to listen to the simple tape focused on the young priest’s face while unpacking. Five minutes into his mesmerizing testimony, I forgot about packing, and called my children to watch Father give his remarkable witness to the power of prayer. We watched, transfixed by a story too dramatic to believe, yet somehow familiar.

A modern day St Augustine, Fr Calloway’s story is one of a youth out of control, completely devoid of responsibility and human compassion in his relentless pursuit if the perfect high; whether it be through substance abuse, sexual sin or defying the legal system. Donald felt cheated by life, somehow, perhaps by the frequent moving of an Army brat, or by his lack of attention from his father in his early years, but no amount of tough love from his mother and stepfather would be enough to overcome his life of lawlessness, promiscuity and drug addiction. He stole, he used people, he lied to his parents, ran away from home, and laughed at their efforts to reform him in rehab after rehab. He escaped jail by a hair more times than he could count, and was ejected from Japan where his father was stationed for his life of thievery and drug abuse. Only a true miracle would stop this train wreck of a teenager from hurtling towards self destruction at the tender age of nineteen.
Enter the overwhelming grace of Our Lady. His parents, new converts to Catholicism, had been praying for Donald and Our Lady’s love pierced the darkness of his soul with the force of laser beam. Though he would die rather than admit it, Donald was really searching for this love, for as St Augustine says, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”. His wholehearted pursuit of evil was transformed overnight into his wholehearted conversion to the faith of Church he once mocked. As dramatic as his selfishness had been in his utter disregard of others, the passion of his newfound love for Our Lady and Christ was no less dramatic. He says, “From that day forward, I almost literally began living in church. Virtually overnight, I went from being afraid to set foot in church, to feeling like it was where I was meant to be and nowhere else.”

It becomes clear why his conversion was so hard won, it has produced unimaginable fruit; a priest on fire with the message of Divine Mercy of Christ. Now Fr Calloway, armed with the awesome story of Divine Mercy in his soul, travels the world to give hope to those of us who are praying for what seems like an incorrigible soul. His story reminds us that no one is beyond the reach of Divine Mercy, and his testimony has become the means of many conversions of those like his former self.

Written in a masculine, take-no-prisoners style, in conversational language most teenagers would easily relate to, Fr Calloway’s book is a page turner, even if you know the ending. In fact, his dramatic conversion is even more moving in the book than it is in his DVD. His book is written with humility which allows us to see how this metanoia, or turning towards God was pure grace, and not his own doing. This book will be enjoyed by teens looking for a good story, by heartbroken parents of teens who have become discouraged in prayer, and by grandparents whose children have strayed from the faith. Catholics who want a modern day role model who escaped our culture of sin, can find inspiration in Fr Calloway’s whole hearted pursuit of holiness.
Because of his vivid descriptions of the depravity of modern life, this is not reading for younger children. Sexual misconduct, stealing and drug abuse are labeled the sins they are, however you might want to screen this book before allowing your child to read it. But you’d better hurry; when the teens in my family saw Fr Calloway’s photo on the cover, they lined up to be next to read the book.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tarsus to Redemption ... I Can Not Wait to Get My Hands on These

St. Paul's story ... manga-style.

What could be more perfect? I mean.  Just look at that cover!

Well, ok. There could be one thing more perfect. If St. Paul cried, so we could have those fantastic manga-tears shooting out of his eyes.

But we all know St. Paul never cried. NEVER. (sigh)

I'll be getting at least one of these (c'mon, send me more ...) to review and will tell y'all all about it.

Sympathetic 'Dr. Death' Kevorkian Biopic Set to Air on HBO Saturday

A biopic of Dr. Jack Kevorkian that portrays the famous mass-murderer in a sympathetic light is set to air on HBO Saturday night. Known to many as "Dr. Death," Kevorkian has admitted to murdering over 130 disabled, terminally ill, and healthy suicidal individuals.

"You Don't Know Jack," which stars Al Pacino and reportedly takes a lighthearted approach to Dr. Kevorkian's trail of murders that led to his national celebrity status, has already been shown in a premiere in New York last week. Another premiere is set to take place in Detroit on Thursday.

Kevorkian was recently released from parole after serving over eight years in prison for the second-degree murder of 52-year-old Lou Gherig's disease sufferer Thomas Youk. Although Kevorkian, 82, said in an interview last year that he was tempted to kill himself in prison, his lawyer talked him out of it; ironically, Kevorkian admitted that he would not have done the same in return.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours"

God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours
by Regina Brett
New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010

Regina Brett long-believed that "at the moment she was born, God must have blinked. he missed the occasion and never knew she had arrived." The fifth of eleven children, she got lost in the mix. She was "a lost soul who drank too much at 16, an unwed mother at 21, a college graduate at 30, a single mother for 18 years, and finally, a wife at 40, married to a man who treated me like a queen." Then, at 41, she got breast cancer. It took two years for her to recover. At age 45, Brett wrote down 45 lessons life had taught her. At age 50, she added five more. Her newspaper, "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland, ran the column. People all over the country began to forward the column. At some point in time, you have probably read these lessons and nodded knowingly.

Consider the book version of "50 Life Lessons" the expanded version of that well-traveled list. Brett writes from a place of faith. She sees God at work in her own life and the lives of others. In essays such as "Life Isn't Fair, but It's Still Good," "Life is Too Short to Waste Time Hating Anyone," "It's Okay to Get Angry with God. He Can Take It," and "Always Choose Life," Brett shares her wisdom and outlook on life. I dare anyone to read this book and keep dry eyes. These essays will speak to your heart and make you rethink your life. This is one of those books, like the original column, that will be shared among friends. A portion of the royalties of this book will support The Gathering Place which offers free services for anyone touched by cancer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans - PG13

cross-posted from A Catholic View

The story is quickly laid out as 'gods vs. humans'. The gods are portrayed as controlling and vengeful. The humans are angry at the gods; they feel that the gods have deprived them, and that they don't have the life they should be having.  Zeus created people, and now he is not 'feeling the love'  from them; he thrives on their love and adoration.  Zeus' brother Hades, ruler of the underworld, convinces Zeus to let him loose on humanity, and he will drive people back to Zeus.  

Now at the  next solar eclipse,  Princess Andromeda will be sacrificed to the Kracken, a huge creature that scares even the gods. 

Zeus' half-human son Perseus must find a way to defeat first Madusa, then the Kracken in order to save Andromeda.  Zeus would also like Perseus to assume his rightful place among the gods.  

There was a lot of religious symbolism.  Zeus claims to have created humans, but is somewhat vengeful and spiteful, unlike our God who who is merciful and forgiving.  And Hades is like Satan.  He has his own agenda, and it only includes himself.

As with any remake, I couldn't help comparing it to the original.  This remake had the distinct advantage of more advanced special effects and 3D.  The one scene that stood out for me was the scene with Madusa.  I felt it was done better in the original.  Otherwise , this was an improvement over the original. The special effects were better, and the story  flow was better.
Very entertaining.  I can definitely recommend.

Friday, April 16, 2010

USCCB survey shows parents concerned about youth access to unwholesome media

A survey of parents sponsored by the U.S. bishops find they are deeply concerned about content in media and want help from the media industry and government to control children’s access to it. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) study, “Parents’ Hopes & Concerns About the Impact of Media on their Children,” was commissioned in response to a notice of inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Over 80 percent of parents say they want to be able to control access to content that depicts violence, sex, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and profane language, the USCCB reports. Illegal drug use and alcohol abuse are special concerns, though they are not considered by many ratings and parental control system.

According to the survey, parents are more concerned about inappropriate content on television and the Internet than they are about video games, cell phones or music. Over 90 percent say their family has rules about what media their children can use and watch. More than half say they use parental controls for television, the Internet and video games.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Perfect Game interviews

The Huffington Post interviewed David Salzberg and Christian Turead about the little film  that took two years to come to the big screen. They always believed in the power of this true story.

Review of "The Perfect Game"

PG On limited release April 16 in NY, LA and Texas only. Let's give it a great opening weekend so the whole country can see this outstanding family film.
When is the last time you saw a great baseball movie; the kind which inspires you to go outside and play ball? How about a rags-to-riches story about the underdogs who made good despite bigotry, poverty, and family drama? When is the last time you saw a film which made your heart swell with pride about being a Latino or belonging to the Catholic Church? Would you believe there is a film out there like this? And that this film stars Cheech Marin, as Padre Esteban, a devout, old-fashioned priest?” This would take a miracle”, you say, well, in this film, Padre Esteban says “Sometimes God gives us the ability to make them.”

“The Perfect Game” is all about miracles, it is based the true story of the 1957 Little League World Series in which a rag-tag group of poor Mexican boys from the metal forge town of Monterrey cut a swathe of victory through the United States, to the admiration of American children and the chagrin of racists. Their meteoric rise to fame captured the attention of America and will capture your heart.

How did boys who didn’t speak English, had no field or fancy equipment, and weighed 50 pounds less on average than their opponents win so many games? The diminutive athletes have two secret weapons, their coach Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.)A former employee of the St Louis Cardinals gave them each a role model in a Major League Baseball star, and their pastor, gave them his blessing. With the support of these men, hard work and heartfelt faith, the Monterrey Industrials went out to make history. The story follows the tight knit band of amigos from their simple homes in Mexico all the way to the Little League championship in Williamsport, PA. But their unlikely championship does more than impress the hometown folks, they managed to change hearts and inspire those they met. In Mexico, they bravely faced the scorn of the wealthy Mexico City team, yet the boys were not prepared for the harsh realities of segregation in the South of the 1950’s. Separate bathrooms were new to them, and it angered the boys when one of the American team members ate alone at the diner, because he was black. Soon the entire Monterrey team had moved over to share a meal with him. They forged a kinship with a black Protestant Pastor Clarence (John Cothran Jr) who pinch hit as team chaplain for Padre Esteban and they forged the common bond as underdogs who refuse to let hatred win.
The unique and memorable characters of the teammates are what make the film a winner. Jake T Austin has an incredible range of emotions as Angel Macias, the pitcher who strove to pitch a perfect game. Moises Arias, is adorable as Mario, the shortest teammate famous for his charm with the ladies. The feisty yet humble personalities of the little boys captured the hearts of the teenage audience who viewed the film with me. They recognized the actors from Disney Channel, and were charmed by their characters in the film, cheering them on as they wowed America onscreen.

When Cheech Marin was asked by Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends how it was that he played the role of Padre Esteban so convincingly, he recalled his childhood in the Church where he was an altar boy. “I imitated the priest”, he said. In his childhood, Cheech was also a big fan of the Monterrey Industrials; “I had a lot in common with them” he said. Perhaps that’s why he successfully embodied the Padre whose heartfelt prayer for a means of giving the boys hope began the story. Soon after his prayer, a baseball saying “Property of St Louis” was found by Angel Macias, next to an abandoned church, and the boys took it as a sign from God that they were meant to play baseball. They convinced Cesar to be their coach, cleared the abandoned church plaza for a field, and began to play ball. Soon the relationship between the team and down-on-his-luck Cesar took on the warmth of a friendship as the boys assisted his budding romance with the beautiful Maria (Patricia Manterola). Cesar, an unkempt drunk, finds himself spellbound in the presence of a Maria as the two meet at the market. The boys convince him that she can be found at Sunday Mass, where Cesar stands out like a sore thumb. This impresses Maria who invites him to dinner with her family. The involvement of the entire team in Maria and Cesar’s romance is part of the film’s charm, making it an excellent date flick.
The theme of father son relationship is central to the film, where the tension is thick between pitcher Angel Macias and his father, Umberto (Carlos Gomez). Umberto is angrily mourning the loss of Angel’s big brother Pedro. Angel somehow manages to excel as a pitcher, despite his father’s insistence that he will never fill Pedro’s shoes, and his utter lack of interest in his playing. Yet, in the end, the film underscores the crucial importance of a father’s approval to a growing son.
The authentically Mexican flair of the soundtrack and unique cinematography, blending newsreel footage of the actual team and the film itself, enhance the feeling of being witness to history.
This is a film which will be soon added to the family collection, to be played and replayed, along with director William Dear’s other baseball classic, “Angels in the Outfield”. Its not often that at film comes along which baseball is merely a vehicle to inspire hope and not an end in itself. The boy’s faith, dogged perseverance and winning personalities will make you laugh, cry and cheer for them. “The Perfect Game” is an example of what sports can do for a group of children with a good adult role model to guide them.
No nudity (little boys in underwear, a verbal reference to jock straps), no sexual innuendos, an appropriately negative portrayal of drunkenness and a scene where stealing is correctly called ‘sinful’ make this film an outstanding family film, suitable for all ages. I give this film my highest recommendation. If you only go to see one film this year, go see “The Perfect Game”.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Movie Review: The Perfect Game

As I prepare my review for this wonderful film, I thought I'd revive the excellent review of a friend of mine who attended a screening over a year ago (original date of this post was 7/08), and never lost faith that this film would be released.
Leticia Velasquez

A guest post by Lynn Mary Wilson who attended a preview of this film

In 1957 North America, baseball was, as it is today, filled with miracles of all sizes. In The Perfect Game, based on a true story of baseball and miracles, a ragtag group of young altar boys in Mexico without hope of baseball but living in a culture filled with miracles and formed by an unlikely padre played remarkably by Cheech Marin, unfold their story. It may be just in time to rescue modern baseball fans of all stripes from apathy, cynicism, disgust and maybe even football. Many things have not changed in baseball or in life - men have fallen to envy, prejudice and corruption in every age - the real story is in the redemption of fallen or disheartened or oppressed or angry men and The Perfect Game is a unique kind of redemption story - a story of faith, hope, charity and a little romance - and the victory of the underdog that is more timely now than half a century ago. There is even a great little subplot about women in sports journalism.

Uplifting us from the sandlot of Monterrey to the glory of Ebbets Field, this is a movie to cheer about. In fact, at the screening I attended, that's just what happened in the audience! People love a story of men who believe in a cause and fight for it, and this is one story and one cause that should have no detractors. There WAS prejudice in 1957 in all quarters, but that did not stop one faithful priest and his flock from giving one desperate man (Clifton Collins, Jr.) a reason to believe and some good work to do. In the process, from a most unlikely corner of the continent, comes a story that reminded a nation what it means to seek and to find not only the American dream, but the God Who is behind it all. It bears repeating that the story has not changed much over the years.

This movie was to have been released on August 8th, 2008, but has been put on the backburner. If you believe in the power of miracles, please contact Lionsgate to vote for release of this movie sooner rather than later.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Review of "Letters to God"

Ever wonder what happens to the letters children mail to Santa? Imagine the dilemma the mailman faces when a confident boy of 8 hands him letters addressed to God. This is the situation that Brady McDaniels (Jeffrey Johnston) finds himself in, when he takes over the route of a fellow letter carrier on leave. More troublesome still, his supervisor Les (Dennis Neal)suggests he keep them. He brings them with him to show them to his old Commanding Officer, now a bartender at his nightly watering hole, who suggests they belong in a church. Hesitantly Brady walks up the aisle of the local church, hoping to leave the letters there and escape unnoticed. He feels uncomfortable, suspecting that his drunkenness will not go over well. He is startled by the pastor, who, knowing the boy who sent them, suggests that Brady has been given a mission by God, and that the letters addressed from his parishioner, 8 year old Tyler(Tanner McGuire) with brain cancer were meant for him.
What could the chatty letters full of details of Tyler Doherty’s life and childish questions have to do with a life where, as he describes it, ‘everything I touch turns to dust”? After he was caught driving drunk with his son in the car, Brady lost custody of him to his ex-wife. He misses his son, yet knows that, as a drunk, he is a bad example to him. His life is a lonely one, and it isn’t long before Tyler's letters reach Brady, he is drawn into by the loving attitude of the family and finds himself involved in their lives.
Maddy Doherty (Robyn Lively) is at the end of her rope. Her husband’s sudden death last year, left her a single mom of two growing boys. On the night she prepares to return to her nursing job at the hospital, she burns the meatloaf. Only the calm reassurance of her mother Olivia (Maree Cheatham) enables Maddie to keep it together as she hugs Tyler goodbye and leaves for work. Tyler is the light of her life, and though his doctor has warned her not to get her hopes up, she can’t help hoping that his cancer will be cured. What she can’t cure is her teenage son Ben’s negative attitude towards his family. He feels that his mother has forgotten him in her focus on his sick brother. He lost his faith in God, since the tragic loss of his father Patrick last year, and Ben (Michael Bolten)sullenly hides in his room, playing his guitar, and pushing everyone away.
"Letters to God" is not a typical sick child story. Missing the self absorption, and the scientists rushing to find a cure, we are left with an eight year old boy whose contagious hope buoys up everyone he meets. Tyler sits out on a porch on the roof of the house at night talking to God in his letters. “I miss Mom’s laugh”, “can you see the stars from there, God? My father told me you made them”. Tyler isn’t afraid of going to heaven, he tells God, “I already know two people there” and he isn’t afraid of sharing the reason for his hope: Tyler is best friends with God.
“Letters to God” is based on a true story written by Patrick Doughtie, the father of a little boy who died of cancer. His letters had a powerful effect on those who read them, inspiring them to write their own letters to God. Anyone who has had a loved one die the slowly painful death from cancer knows the importance of a relationship with God in a crisis. Yet Tyler ’s faith isn’t the foxhole faith of a dying boy, it’s the easy friendship of a life long walk in the company of Jesus, molded in His image. Tyler doesn’t beg to live longer, he asks for faith for those he loves, and someone to care for his lonely mother. When Tyler's friend Sam's Grandpa, the erasible Cornelius Pennyfield(Ralph Waite) tells him that he has been handed the role of his life, to be a warrior for God, Tyler takes on the challenge with gusto. His courageous example inspires his friend Samantha (Bailee Madison)who ferociously defence of him at school, lands both of them in the principal's office, to look into the hearts of those who are cruel and offer forgiveness. Tyler is an inspiration to his classmates, his brother Ben who composes a song on his guitar for him, and his mother who finds strength in his example. Soon, the influence of one little boy's faith inspires a movement of outreach and faith. "Letters to God" is a moving tribute to a life well lived and a mission unaccomplished.
A compelling performance by Tanner McGuire as Tyler is the hub of this emotional drama, compliments the theatrical magic of Ralph Waite. Mr Waite lost a child to cancer 30 years ago and for this reason felt inspired to be part of this moving tribute. Jeffrey Johnston is believable as Brady McDaniels, renegade turned father, and the film, though slow in places, finishes with a powerful impact, as real life testimonies to the real Tyler are shown during the credits.
This moving film will become a standard in many a family DVD collection.

No nudity or profanity, brief violence related to drunkeness, and a mature theme have earned this film a PG rating. Highly recommended for children Tyler's age(8) and up.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview with director of "Letters to God"

Interview with David Nixon director of “Letters to God”

How is your company related to the Church in Georgia?
About six years ago, we got a divine appointment with that church, Sherwood Baptist in Albany (Georgia) and they knew of my production company, I’ve been in production for about 30 years, doing secular productions; commercials, documentaries and things. They wanted to make Christian films and they called me and said, “Will you come and help us make our next movie, give us a Hollywood look that was “Facing the Giants”.
They made “Flywheel” themselves in the church, and they couldn’t get a Hollywood look and they called me, so I drove my crew from Orlando and we kind of elevated their production level to give them a Hollywood look, “At that point, we didn’t think they were going to get a theatrical deal. We didn’t think we could get that back then, but that was when “The Passion” was getting about $600 million”.
We were at the right place at the right time. And SONY picked it up, and put it in theatres and the rest is history”.

Where did you get the story for “Letters to God?”
About three years ago, we were putting a film deal together after we finished “Facing the Giants” and we were gearing up to make “Fireproof”, The distributor said, “can you do any more of these God films?”. I said the church can only do one about every three years, but Possibility Pictures can. That was SONY, who is the distributor. It’s an amazing thing that Hollywood wants these movies, and so I was looking for scripts., I have a friend in Orlando who is a writer, who said he was just working with the father of a little cancer boy up in Nashville who’s written this story “Letters to God”. He asked if I wanted to see it, and I said “definitely, and as soon as I read it, it just touched me and I got on a plane and I flew to Nashville, I met with Patrick Doughty the father, and I said, we got to make this movie, its just a wonderful sweet little story, and it has all the components of a great film. That was about three years ago, we went out and raised the money, made the film and here we are.
Sony originally said they would fund it, but I went back to Orlando, and I told my Christian friends, “Should we really let Hollywood pay for it?” and they said “no, no, we can raise the money, if Hollywood pays of it, they’ll control the content. And they’ll water down the message. Why don’t you let us raise the money here in Orlando, and we can make sure the content doesn’t get watered down, and the Christian message doesn’t get taken out of the movie. “
That really is the secret to the success.
And whether SONY realizes it or not, they still don’t know how to do Christian.
LaughsSo that’s really our model, my company, Possibility Pictures funds the movies.

What do you think sets this film apart from other films about sick children, like, “Extraordinary Measures”? What is the difference in perspective?
Well, really it’s the story. It’s a true story, and it goes beyond just the typical cancer idea, it’s the letters component. We wanted to make a movie with a lesson, but we didn’t want to be preachy, to hit you over the head. I loved this idea of a little eight year old, writing these simple letters to his best friend, God, putting them in the mail, because that’s a way to get across a message without it being overbearing, without it being preachy, and that’s what makes the difference. You’re so compelled by this little eight year old, and his faith and the characters portrayed up on screen, you become part of the family, that’s so real that it’s not hitting you over the head with the message, you get it.
The faith of this little boy changed all of the lives around him.

Yet it was the father who wrote the story, and there is no father in the story, why?
He changed the story because it was so difficult for him, after his son passed, he went through about two years of depression, he came out of that and God put it on his heart to write the story, but he had to change that because it was so close to him, he changed it to be a single mom instead of a single father, and he added a few characters, he changed it enough, so that it wasn’t so difficult for him when he was writing the story.

He wrote himself out of the story.
Yes, (laughs).

Was the mailman part of the original story? It’s very poignant his being an absentee father. So many kids are going through fatherlessness.
The mailman was fictional, but the father (Patrick Doughty) thought, ‘let’s add this guy who’s had his own demons, who’s going through his own struggles, being alcoholic and we can really see his character change, through the movie, and I thought Jess Johnson just played such a wonderful role, and really pulled that character off, You really feel for this guy.

I appreciate the fact that in the beginning, the audience is led to think, ‘what kind of a loser is this guy?’ then as the story unfolds, you begin to feel sympathy for him.
The screenplay came first, the book was written after the screenplay, the novelization was written after we’d actually made the movie. It was Patrick’s story of his little boy Tyler that he wrote into a screenplay, and that was the original idea. We took that screenplay and polished it. I had my writer, Sandy Thrift. She’s been my partner for about 20 years. She polished the script, added the magic, she added the characters which gave the neighborhood the wonderful charm, like magic.

Where did you find your actors?
We did a casting in LA and most of the actors were actors in LA who have done television and some movies, we just put the normal casting call out, we didn’t think we would get high caliber actors. This isn’t a high budget movie. We couldn’t offer them much in terms of compensation. We were amazed at how many actors came and said, “We love the screenplay, we don’t get enough of these kinds of screenplays, we would love to play this role. Especially Ralph Waite (Pa Walton in the Waltons). He blew us away when he came to the casting. He said to us in the casting, “you know, this movie is very close to my heart, I lost a child to cancer 30 years ago, so I wanted to play this role.“

What do you hope is the message that audiences take away from the film?
The bottom line is what Tyler says at the end of the movie, “I just want everybody to believe.” The reason why we make these movies is that we want people to know that you can have a connection with God. And if this little eight year old boy, going through the worst time of his life, can write these sweet little letters, to his best friend, to God, and he has this connection, then any of us can have that hope, and that connection and so, I hope that people will be inspired by the movie, and maybe they’ll start writing their own letters to God, but at least have some kind of connection with God that wants to be a part of their lives.

Did you use the words from Tyler’s original letters?
Exactly, that is true to life, that Patrick wrote down the same dialogue and the same things that happened with him and his son are true to life in the story.

What’s your next project?
We have two films we’re shooting this summer. One is a Christian comedy called “Saving Livingston” which is a wonderful little story we came up with, and another true life story about a girl in Orlando which is called, “To Write Love on Her Arm”. We’re shooting both of those this summer and they’ll be out next year in theatres.

You sound like you’re getting busier.
Oh yeah, it’s non-stop. While we’ve got this door open to theatrical release, we’re going to run right through that.
Our formula is in the three million dollar range, so we can have paid actors and paid crew in these movies, we’re staying to that formula, we’re not increasing it from movie to movie. We’ve gone out and raised enough money to make each one of these movies for about that, It works pretty well, you know the distributor has to make money, so you can’t be spending a hundred million dollars on a movie, in this genre, you’re not going to make your money back.

Do you have any romantic films coming? Is “To Write Love on her Arm “romantic?
Not really, “To Write Love on Her Arm” isn’t really romantic, it’s a true story about a teenage girl who went through depression became an alcoholic and became addicted to cutting.

That’s becoming a frighteningly common trend.
Terrible. That’s what that’s about; we wanted to tell that true story about a girl in Orlando who went through that. We wanted to tell that story to save some kids. There are kids who are committing suicide because of this. That’s a pretty heavy dramatic film. “Saving Livingston” is a comedy but it has a pretty romantic side to it. That will be a little lighter fare.

Can you do an anti-Twilight film?
Laughs. That’s the plan. Really, that’s “To Write on Her Arms” that’s the anti-Twilight film.

That’s a media trend which really disturbs me. Such a lack of self respect among young women.

Do you have any books as part of the film promotion?
Actually, there are seven, a children’s book, one on prayer, a novelization of the film, they’ve been out in bookstores for two weeks.

You did very well with “The Love Dare”, right?
That was phenomenal.

David Nixon was the producer of “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof” and is the director of “Letters to God” which is coming out Friday, April. 8.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Catholic Actor Neal McDonough Refuses to do Racy Sex Scenes

cross-posted from A Catholic View

KUDO's to Neal!  Always great to see someone in the spotlight living their Catholic faith.

Neal McDonough is a marvelous actor who elevates every role he plays, whether it's in Band of Brothers or Desperate Housewives. So when he was suddenly replaced with David James Elliott 3 days into the filming on ABC's new series Scoundrels earlier this week, there had to be a story behind the story. The move was officially explained as a casting change. But, in fact, McDonough was sacked because of his refusal to do some heated love scenes with babelicious star (and Botox pitchwoman) Virginia Madsen. The reason? He's a family man and a Catholic, and he's always made it clear that he won't do sex scenes. And ABC knew that. Because he also didn't get into action with Nicolette Sheridan on the network's Desperate Housewives when he played her psycho husband during Season 5. And he also didn't do love scenes with his on-air girlfriend in his previous series, NBC's Boomtown, or that network's Medical Investigation. "It has cost him jobs, but the man is sticking to his principles," a source explained...