October 31, 2014

Random Acts… Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” begins

Posted in Entertainment, Movies, Spirituality at 10:59 pm by dinaheng

If you’re ready for a little holiday cheer, check out the start of the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” this weekend, which marks the beginning of the network’s annual original Christmas movie offerings and other holiday fare for the season.

This year’s programming starts and ends with two TV movies that celebrate the attraction of opposites who find love in unexpected circumstances. On Saturday, Nov. 1, “One Starry Christmas” premieres at 8 p.m. Eastern with the tale of an astronomy professor who meets a charming cowboy on her way to New York City to surprise her boyfriend and family for Christmas.Dinah Eng

“I love the combination of bringing the cowboy into the city,” says Lewis B. Chesler, executive producer of “One Starry Christmas.” “She’s a woman who teaches astronomy, and he’s lived outdoors all his life. The stars have always had meaning for him, so it’s a meeting of opposites.”

It’s also an opportunity for Holly Jensen (played by Sarah Carter) to see the difference between being with Luke (Damon Runyan), a rodeo cowboy who supports her dreams, and Adam (Paul Popowich), a lawyer who wants Holly to support his ambitions.

For as Holly’s mom (Kathleen Laskey) notes, “The world has enough mediocrity. Love shouldn’t be included.”

Sarah Carter and Damon Runyan star it "One Starry Christmas." Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Christos Kalohoridis.

Sarah Carter and Damon Runyan star it “One Starry Christmas.”
Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Christos Kalohoridis.

Chesler, who works in partnership with David M. Perlmutter as Chesler/Perlmutter Productions, says Christmas is about sharing time with family and the people we love. While “One Starry Christmas” brings a country boy to the city, the film, “The Christmas Parade,” which debuts Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern, will close Hallmark’s holiday movies with another opposites attract premise.

When morning host Hailee Anderson (AnnaLynne McCord ), who’s lacking the Christmas spirit, finds herself humiliated on air by Jason Keppler (Drew Scott), her fiancé who’s always looking for the next deal. When she runs to a small town to escape the notoriety of her celebrity, she inspires Beck Thomas (Jefferson Brown), a trucker, to rekindle his dreams of being a painter, and helps to save a community art center for the town’s kids,

“There, you have a city personality who goes to the country,” Chesler explains. “This time, the woman finds satisfaction and value when people respond to her for her human qualities, and not her celebrity.”

Chesler, who studied cultural history at Amherst College, joined the Peace Corps before becoming artistic director of the Long Beach Performing Arts Centre in the mid-1970s. He moved into television with a series of variety shows, and created “The Hitchhiker” series for HBO.

Drew Scott and AnnaLynne McCord star in "The Christmas Parade." Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Peter H. Stranks

Drew Scott and AnnaLynne McCord star in “The Christmas Parade.” Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Peter H. Stranks

“I jokingly say that I never became the lawyer my mother wanted,” says Chesler, who became a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. “I like to tell stories, and our production company is based in Canada and the United States. During the holidays, we Canadians love to celebrate Christmas. After all, we’re really close to the North Pole.”

More than 70 holiday movies will air on the Hallmark Channel over the next two months, and if Santa has his way, viewers will be reminded of what’s really important in life – not just during the season of love and giving – but all yearlong.

For more information, check out http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/.





October 5, 2014

Random Acts… Some things we can be proud of

Posted in Diversity, Entertainment, Movies at 4:05 pm by dinaheng

One of the biggest movie hits this year is Marvel Studio’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a sci-fi fantasy that transforms characters who seem to care about nothing but themselves into a group of friends who grow to care about each other, and in the process, end up saving the day.Dinah Eng

The characters include Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a cocky space adventurer; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) a green-skinned female assassin; Drax (Dave Bautista) a big red guy with lots of rage; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a gun-toting raccoon genius, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a walking overgrown tree root of loyalty and light.

In this universe, nobody cares what you look like because everyone looks different. What matters is how you treat those around you. It’s a message that sci-fi, as a genre, conveys to the audience in the guise of characters who usually look far from human.

"Guardians of the Galaxy." Photo courtesy of Disney/Marvel Studios.

“Guardians of the Galaxy.” Photo courtesy of Disney/Marvel Studios.

The film’s humor, special effects, poignant moments, and rollicking tale have kept “Guardians of the Galaxy” in theaters since August 1, generating box office receipts that no doubt have sent Disney and Marvel executives over the moon.

Another feature, CBS Films’ “PRIDE,” also tells a tale of disparate characters who come together and end up supporting each other in a land and time not that far away. The film is based on the true story of a group of gays and lesbians who decided to support the United Kingdom’s striking coal miners in 1984, creating a comedy/drama of how two different communities overcome their fears and grow to see each other as family.

The characters include Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), a gay activist; Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine), a union rep; Joe (George MacKay), a closeted young man; Hefina (Imelda Staunton), an outspoken townswoman; Cliff (Bill Nighy), the secretary of the local union chapter, and Jonathan (Dominic West), an effervescent gay man.

In the South Wales and London of 1984, people’s differences kept them apart, and everybody cared what side you were on. When Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government decided to close 75 pits, British coal miners staged the largest industrial walk-out of modern times, refusing to work for nearly a year as their families faced cold winters without heat and the constant threat of hunger.

"PRIDE."  Photo courtesy of CBS Films.

“PRIDE.” Photo courtesy of CBS Films.

In “PRIDE,” a group of gay and lesbian activists see that the miners are the target of repression by the Thatcher government, the police and the tabloids – just like they are – and decide to raise funds for the miners and their families. When the mining community spurns their contributions, the LGSM (Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners) decides to concentrate their efforts on a local chapter in South Wales, where homophobia is clearly the norm.

How both sides come to see and value each other is an inspiring, entertaining, and uplifting story. Just as the union leadership challenges its members to overcome their homophobia, the leader of the LGSM challenges gays and lesbians to care as much about the pain of others as their own pain.

By the end of the film, you see that changing a mind occurs only after opening the heart, and that as painful as it is to confront fear, there is nothing more glorious than the love that awaits us on the other side.

Sadly, this film is unlikely to gross the box office that “Guardians of the Galaxy” has, which is a shame because the underlying message is the same.

Life is about discovering who we are, accepting who we are, and accepting others for who they are. It doesn’t matter if we have green skin or tree bark on the outside. It doesn’t matter who we love, but that we love. For Love is what will save us all.