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Christmas movies for the family

Randall Murphree   - Guest Columnist
http://www.afajournal.org

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Thanksgiving weekend typically kicks off the barrage of Christmas specials for the holiday season. Here are three suited for the whole family.


Christmas Angel

Christmas Angel starring Della Reese will premiere on gmc TV Thanksgiving weekend. It's a superb original movie that includes occasional Scripture references, family prayer times and characters' relationships to illustrate Christian faith in action. It stars Reese (Touched by an Angel), Kevin Sorbo (Soul Surfer) and Tamera Mowry-Housley (Sister, Sister).

Christmas Angel (GMC tv special)Don't turn away because of the angel reference in the title (in case you've grown weary of Christmas movies that diminish the real meaning of the season in favor of magical mysteries and strange angel-like characters). Give this one a chance. It's a welcome contrast to the secular fairy-tale style Christmas stories; they're OK, but Christmas Angel goes deep enough to suggest what Christmas is really about.

In an exclusive interview, Reese said she is quite excited about this film. "It was great for me," she said, "because ... all of the things my character had to go through, I've been through in my career. So I didn't have to research the part. I've lived it."

Reese does play an angel-like character, but she's very much a human being. Her co-star is young Izabela Vidovic, who plays fifth-grader Olivia. The two become acquainted when the reclusive Elsie [Reese] quietly moves into the "haunted" house next door to Olivia and her mom. At first, it's a pretty rocky relationship because Elsie insists she doesn't want to be bothered by Olivia and her youthful enthusiasm. But both Elsie and Olivia soon discover some common ground in how they like to celebrate Christmas -- and it softens both of them in regards to how they think of and treat others.

"We may never know ... who needs this right away," Reese said. "Someone who may not be able to take the hard truth from their mother or their wife or husband will be able to see it in this movie and maybe adjust their lives."

Read entire interview with Della Reese below

The themes of forgiveness, generosity, honesty and reconciliation are woven subtly and artfully into the script written by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (Christmas with a Capital C). Christmas Angelpremieres Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, with multiple showings at 7, 9 and 11 p.m. (Eastern).

Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups (new release)

It's a family-friendly, fanciful tale of Christmas that includes talking pups and Santa Claus. But at the same time, Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups gets to the heart of Christmas, including a moving scene in which Sarah, the film's young heroine, sings a stirring cover of "O, Holy Night." (View trailer)

Santa Paws 2 (DVD cover)As for the story line, a litter of four talking pups -- Hope, Jingle, Charity and Noble -- stow away secretly on Mrs. Claus' sleigh when she travels to Pineville on Christmas business. The mischievous pups, eager to earn their own magic crystals, have taken one without permission. They begin granting the wishes of Pineville's boys and girls, and all seems well -- until they make a terrible mistake that threatens the Christmas spirit of everyone in town and beyond.

As their misdeeds are discovered and corrected, the pups learn the danger of deceit and they learn that being dishonest can bring problems and negative consequences. And there's still a deeper family theme as Sarah and her brother deal with the sadness of the first Christmas since their mom's death. However, the two of them and their dad are instrumental in bringing back the spirit of Christmas to Pineville.

The Disney production will be available November 20 at retailers and some online stores.

A Christmas Snow (Branson stage show based on popular DVD)

Themes of alienation and forgiveness take the spotlight in A Christmas Snow, a story which centers on three unlikely house-mates trapped together during a Christmas blizzard. Kathleen, a restaurant owner, is characterized by local news media as the "gourmet grinch" because she refuses to acknowledge Christmas in anyway. She doesn't decorate her restaurant or her home for Christmas.

A Christmas Snow (DVD cover)Ironically, it is her home that becomes a three-day prison for herself, 10-year-old Lucy and a mysterious man whom Kathleen almost ran over on the icy streets. All three are dealing with estrangement and forgiveness issues, Lucy's pain caused by her mother's death. It's a challenge for all of them, but eventually their circumstances lead them to begin opening up to each other.

Though not everything is tied up in a neat package, the big issues are resolved and the trio of misfits become fast friends. Some surprising twists lead to a conclusion that's both gripping and fulfilling for the audience.

If you can't make it to Branson's Starlite Theatre for the stage production, the DVD is available at the American Family Association online store.

Interview with Della Reese

Reese

Della Reese marks 75 years in entertainment, says we must get back to where we never should have left in the first place.

What makes "Christmas Angel" an outstanding movie for the whole family?

It covers everyone. It covers the children. It covers a woman whose life has not always been wonderful. It covers the fact that she has to turn to God. It covers the fact that there are people who are doing things for each other with an attitude of love. It's really a marvelous experience.

Why did the story resonate so strongly with you?

It was great for me because it was as if they stood out on my balcony and peeped in my room because all of the things my character [Elsie] has to go through, I've had to go through in my career. So I didn't have to research this part. I've lived it. I knew the feelings of this part, and I hope I was able to transmit those to the people who see it.

How did this role come to you?

My agent was aware of it and spoke to me about it. I read it, and I knew it was something I could do -- and should do!

What is your hope for "Christmas Angel" beyond just entertaining us this season?

It's all in the movie. The feelings are in there. For example, Izabel [Olivia], the young lady -- who is a magnificent actress -- brings to it the beauty of youth. At first, she is a little arrogant, she's not the sweetest little thing. Then you can see her come from being a little arrogant to being a little nicer, a little kinder. That's going to be good for children to see.

The part that I play tells the story of a woman who has had a great career, but because of her attitude has run the career away and a couple of husbands away and her daughter away. And she's at a place now where she needs all of these things. She needs to draw them back and be a part of life again. All of those things are touching.

And we never know, in something like Christmas Angel, who needs this right away. Someone who may not be able to take the hard truth from their mother or their wife or husband will be able to see it in this movie and maybe adjust their lives.

Have you had other opportunities to do anything with this much depth?

Well, I had 10 years of Touched by an Angel on television. We had many episodes like that. We came on when there was nothing else like it. Everything else was about showing bodies and cursing and a lot of other negative things. In the midst of that muddy water, we brought light.

About how many movies have you been in?

Oh, I haven't the foggiest notion. I don't have any idea. In fact, if I had to name them, I'd be in big trouble. [One website lists 65 movies or TV series in which Miss Reese appeared.]

I'm almost afraid to ask this next question, but I'm going to ask anyway -- how many years have you been in entertainment?

Well, I'm 81, and I started when I was 6. You do the math. God's been good to me.

What hope do you see for the entertainment in general? Any bright lights ahead?

Well, I see it happening all the way around, not just in entertainment. You see, when things are going well, we seem not to need God at all. But when things are not going well, we straighten up, and we go back to the things that are really important. There's a money shortage, and war is going on everywhere, and we recognize that only by the grace of God will we survive this. So we are led back to where we never should have left in the first place.

We'll encourage our readers to watch -- tell us again when it premieres.

November 24 and November 25 -- Thanksgiving weekend -- on gmc TV.

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