Mourning the Passing of Rock Icon Meat Loaf

Marvin Lee Aday, more famously known as the rock star Meat Loaf, passed away recently at the age of 74.

He was simply one of the best-selling musical artists of all time.

Meat, as he liked to be called, was the musical performer on more than 100 million records that were distributed worldwide.

He made his way to the top rung of rock stardom in the United Kingdom and in Europe.

His nickname was given to him in part by his dad. But the completion of the famed label came from a high school football coach.

He went through a legal name change in 1984, but not one folks might have thought. He changed his first name from Marvin to Michael.

To the surprise of many meat eaters, his carnivorous nickname did not actually reflect his personal eating habits. Many individuals were stunned to find out that Meat was actually a vegetarian for more than a decade.

Commenting on the vegetable eating irony, he told Entertainment Weekly, “There’ve been vegetarians who wouldn’t speak to me because of my name. I was sitting with Jon Bon Jovi at one of those awards things, and I say, ‘Oh, man, I love k.d. lang. I’d really like to meet her.’ They went to find out if it was okay, and she goes, ‘No. His name is Meat Loaf.’ I stopped being a k.d. lang fan after that.”

Meat’s vocal specialty was an ultra-dramatic performance amid an orchestral blanket backdrop. His recordings combined European opera tradition with American hard rock. The result was a unique brand that he shared with longtime composer-songwriter Jim Steinman.

Steinman wrote and produced many of Meat’s best known works, including his 1977 debut album “Bat Out of Hell.” The album was based on a futuristic rock opera version of Peter Pan, titled “Neverland,” which was produced by another rock legend, Todd Rundgren,

The recording came about from an unusual collaboration of musicians that included the pianist and drummer from Bruce Springsteen’s “E Street Band,” members of Rundgren’s group “Utopia,” and a well-placed Edgar Winter sax solo.

The album was actually rejected by four record labels. However, two breakthrough television performances by Meat, the UK’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” and the U.S.’s “Saturday Night Live,” propelled the album’s ultimate release.

It would go on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time, with more than 43 million copies sold globally, and two sequel albums to follow.

Meat had an acting stint in addition to his mega-successful musical career. He was a scene stealer in the cult films “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Fight Club.”

He also starred in numerous other films that include “Roadie,” “Motorama,” “Crazy in Alabama,” “Stage Fright,” “Spice World,” “Leap of Faith,” and “Americathon.”

Meat played dual roles in the original Broadway cast of “The Rocky Horror Show” and also appeared in the musical “Hair.”

High-profile associates in the music business paid tribute to the rock singer at his passing.

Queen guitarist Brian May wrote on Instagram that Meat was “Always full of madness, with the innocent sense of naughtiness of a five-year old, Meat was forever young.”

Bonnie Tyler, who recorded an album with Meat, described him as “a larger than life character with a voice & stage presence to match & is one of those rare people who truly was a one-off talent and personality.”

Alice Cooper, rock legend in his own right, said, “Meat Loaf was one of the greatest voices in rock ‘n’ roll, and he was certainly one of my closest friends in the business.”

Cooper said there is no one like Meat, and that “his shoes can never be filled.”

Unlike many of his colleagues, Meat was an independent thinker and soon projected a right-of-center persona. In 2012, he was one of the few well known entertainment figures to campaign for then-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

When Meat was a contestant on the 2011 season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” then-host Donald Trump asked the rocker if he thought he should run for president.

Meat answered, “Absolutely. I would vote for you. In fact, I’ll help you with your campaign.”

Meat and President Trump became fast friends on the show, so much so that the 45th president issued a statement about Meat’s passing, describing the singer as a “great guy.”

“He was smart, talented, open, and warm. His success was enormous — we all loved him. Meat Loaf will be greatly missed!” President Trump said.

Meat also held traditional religious views that placed him at odds with many current entertainment industry figures.

He grew up singing in the church choir, studied the Bible, and attended a Christian college. His faith influenced his work, with many of his songs containing Christian concepts.

At one point he collaborated with a female vocalist named Shaun Murphy, aka Stoney, whom he met during the Detroit performances of the musical “Hair.”

The album that the two released in 1971, titled “Stoney and Meatloaf,” contained a Christian-themed song “(I’d Love to Be) As Heavy as Jesus.”

Some of the lyrics are as follows:

“I just want to rise above, above that devil’s glove

And see God in every single man, I just want to spread joy like that little boy

Who once walked, walked this promised land,

And I’d love to be as heavy as Jesus.”

Meat shared his very active and consistent prayer life via an interview.

“I’ll be honest with you. I pray every night and if I skip a night, I apologize for skipping it,” he stated. “I thank [God] for my blessings because I’ve been very blessed and I pray for my family and I pray for people who are ill…”

Rock opera pioneer Andrew Lloyd Webber described Meat’s afterlife in this way:

“The vaults of heaven will be ringing with rock.”

Clearly the world was blessed by his talent.

‘American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story’ Scores Big at the Box Office

Had a screenwriter pitched the making of the Kurt Warner story, Hollywood studio execs would probably have passed. Not believable enough.

But Kurt’s real life story is true, and events that unfolded are as awesome as it gets.

The undrafted quarterback hailed from a small college and stocked shelves in a grocery store to make ends meet.

He first played professionally on an arena football field in his home state, where the Iowa Barnstormers took him on as quarterback.

After a time he was signed as a backup QB on the NFL team of the then-St. Louis Rams. When the starter went down with an injury, Kurt was able to lead the team to one victory after another, culminating in a Super Bowl win, where he was named both League and Super Bowl MVP.

Some use the word “impossible” to describe his life trajectory. But the same would go for a lot of the bullet points of his bio, as the movie “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” underscores.

On Christmas Day 2021, the film hit the big screens. It won the hearts of football fans as well as non-jaded cinema buffs who still enjoy stories that hail the human spirit’s triumph over adversity.

The original plan for the film was to have it released in Winter of 2020. But COVID-related delays ended up pushing the release date back.

The screenplay is derived from a book co-written by Kurt and journalist Michael Silver called “All Things Possible.” The movie itself is directed by the Erwin Brothers, Jon and Andrew, modern-day virtuosos of the faith-based genre.

This same duo made a film back in 2018 called “I Can Only Imagine,” which wildly exceeded box-office expectations by taking in over $70 million on a budget of only $7 million.

The Erwin’s latest project not only opened with almost $6 million, it remained in the top four over New Year’s weekend, tallying up a cumulative total of over $15 million.

It received a coveted A+ from audiences via CinemaScore and garnered mostly favorable reviews from the frequently hard-to-charm film critic community.

Zachary Levi plays the lead role of Kurt. Levi’s prior roles include him being featured in the 2007 television series “Chuck” as well as in the 2019 superhero movie “Shazam!”

Audiences first encounter a young Kurt as he watches renowned quarterback Joe Montana secure a Super Bowl win.

At each juncture of his involvement with the sport of football, it seems that Kurt is destined to deal with obstacles: Frustration at being benched and being kept off the field at Northern Iowa University because he doesn’t see eye to eye with his coach (played by Adam Baldwin); And when he finally gets his shot with an NFL team, how the offensive coordinator appears to take pleasure in making things as difficult as possible for the backup QB candidate.

Thankfully for Kurt, Head Coach Dick Vermeil (played by Dennis Quaid) has a hunch that the player before him has potential, and he keeps him on the team.

Intriguingly, the central focus of the film turns out not to be sports. Instead it is a love story surrounding Kurt and Brenda, Kurt’s bride of two dozen years (played by Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin).

For Kurt, it is the proverbial love at fist sight. His eyes catch a glimpse of Brenda in a country music nightspot. After some tutoring in country dancing, Kurt musters up the nerve to ask Brenda to dance. Her response, “’Bout time.”

She refuses to give Kurt her phone number. Instead she tells him that, as a single divorced mother with two young children, he should want nothing to do with her life. She punctuates her message by driving away before he has a chance to respond.

He nevertheless manages to find out her address, meet her children, including one child who is blind from a brain injury, and eventually win Brenda’s trust. It all leads to an amazing scene depicting love’s first kiss.

In his initial game as an NFL starter, Kurt and the Rams shock a team known for its fierce defense, the Baltimore Ravens. After an upset win, the QB thanks the Almighty.

The Rams would go on to post a 13-3 record that season, as the team’s offense under Kurt become known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The Rams ultimately defeat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, with Kurt breaking Joe Montana’s record for passing yardage.

The accolades of Super Bowl MVP and League MVP are attached to his name, making him the first undrafted player to secure either of the titles.

Film credits indicate that Kurt would go on to play in two other Super Bowls, and he would become enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Credits also note that the two executive producers, the real life Kurt and Brenda, continue in nuptial bliss with their now-seven children.

What’s the secret to their marital success?

“You have to know that there is a plan for your life,” Brenda says. “We believe in faith, we believe that you have to have faith in your own strength and faith in each other, your relationship to make it through, no matter what.”

As “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” illustrates, faith is the completed pass into the end zone.

‘Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist’ Looks to Be Yet Another Kevin Sorbo Blockbuster

Kevin Sorbo is a multi-talented entertainment pro.

He first rose to international fame in 1995, when he landed the lead role as Hercules in “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” At the time it ranked as one of television’s highest-rated syndicated shows.

Its success yielded the popular 1995 spin-off series called “Xena: Warrior Princess.” Lucy Lawless plays the lead in the TV fantasy offshoot. And the pair of hits allowed for some fun crossover appearances of characters between the two shows.

Kevin also plays main character High Guard Captain Dylan Hunt in the 2000 sci-fi TV series “Andromeda,” which was penned by the creator of the enduring iconic series “Star Trek,” the late great Gene Roddenberry.

As one of Hollywood’s top celebrities, Kevin’s more recent projects have focused on using his many mighty gifts in spiritually-oriented ways.

As a major co-star in the 2014 watershed faith-based film “God’s Not Dead,” he portrays an atheist college professor, who on the first day of class mandates that his students disavow their religious beliefs.

The movie has an astounding profit margin, having grossed more than $62 million on a $2 million budget. It not only succeeded in turning industry heads, but it also ended up launching a whole new film franchise.

His latest project is a new cinematic adaptation of a “Left Behind” work that is part of the bestselling series co-authored by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

The series has, over time, inspired several movies, including the original “Left Behind” films starring Kirk Cameron, as well as an additional adaptation that features Nicolas Cage.

Kevin produces and stars in the upcoming “Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist,” which is presently being filmed in Canada. He and co-star Greg Perrow recently provided some insight as to why they are making the movie, and what people can expect in the re-launch of this beloved saga.

One factor that played a role in Kevin’s decision to become involved in the latest movie project is that he, like so many others, is a real fan of the “Left Behind” books.

“I’ve known about the ‘Left Behind’ books forever,” Sorbo told Faithwire. “There was no way that anything else was going to get in the way of me wanting to be a part of this.”

Considering the unprecedented circumstances in which many individuals find themselves these days, he feels that people really need more uplifting content for their entertainment viewing.

“I love movies like this. I love movies that have hope, redemption, laughter, and love, and things that we need more than ever in this world – in this crazy, divisive world we live in,” Kevin said.

“We’re hoping a movie like this will be a positive impact on people around the world,” he added.

He plans to bring a fresh cinematic approach to the story, which will serve to distinguish this project from prior versions.

“I think it’s a grittier feel to it,” he explained. “The world’s a whole different place right now.”

Kevin has a sense, which is shared by countless Christians, that recent world events may be mirroring those foretold by Scripture.

“It feels like the rapture’s just down the road right now. The Sodom and Gomorrah we’re living in … the anger and the hatred and all this divisiveness that is out there,” he explained.

“Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist” draws its material from the third book in the Left Behind series. As the plot unfolds, the military forces of the global government attack U.S. cities. All the while the Antichrist is promising peace and is urging the nations of the world to submit to him.

Meanwhile the global military is attempting to eliminate any insurgents that are resistant to the Antichrist’s plans for the planet.

Kevin plays the role of pilot and secret insurgent Rayford Steele, while Perrow portrays journalist Buck Williams (originally played by Cameron).

The title of the movie, “Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist,” refers to a diabolical, yet cunningly charismatic world leader, who is part and parcel of Bible prophecy. Almost every Christian denomination holds beliefs that cite and/or involve this global dictator, who is referred to as the capital “A” Antichrist.

References to this evil being are found in interpretations of both Old and New Testament passages, including specific mentions of the “antichrist” term in the epistles of John.

The Antichrist is also specifically referred to in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where the wicked leader is characterized as the “supreme religious deception” by which “man glorifies himself in place of God.”

In the New Testament Book of Revelation, the Antichrist also bears the name “the Beast.”

Like many other faith-filled people in Hollywood, Kevin has borne his share of scorn.

He noted, “There’s a negativity towards Christians in Hollywood, and a negativity towards people who believe in God.”

Maybe, just maybe, Kevin, whose efforts in the past helped bring us tales of battling mythical beasts and who is now taking on the biblical ones, will get some folks to crack open the Good Book.

A great place to start at this time of year is Luke chapter 2, verses 1-20. Merry Christmas!

Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Misses the Mark

Remakes of iconic films are rarely able to match, or even come close to, the level of artistry, entertainment value, and outright magic of their original movie counterparts.

This hasn’t stopped New Hollywood from continuing to give it a try.

Steven Spielberg is the most recent one to have a go at it. Just released is Spielberg’s remake of directors Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 enduring musical film classic “West Side Story” (music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim).

Spielberg may be wishing that he had chosen a different flick to try and reconfigure. The legendary director’s remake, which bears the original’s same name, has come up short at the box office.

The film’s estimated take for its debut weekend is around $10 million, despite its having had a production budget of about $100 million and a likely larger marketing cost. Expectations for its opening weekend had been as high as twice that amount.

Filmmaking is, of course, a uniquely collaborative art. It typically involves a large team of creative individuals who work together on a singular cinematic goal.

Sometimes everything comes together to create the perfect piece of entertainment art. That’s what happened with the original “West Side Story.” It is one of those rarities where all cinematic cylinders were fired up at peak levels.

The story by Arthur Laurents sublimely meshes with Bernstein’s musical compositions and Sondheim’s lyrics, creating a beautiful framework from which the Shakespearean inspired tale takes flight.

All things work in concert, including the impeccable casting, choreography, and screen presentation, which at the time resulted in the film’s winning 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The plot revolves around the lives of two teenagers who are madly in love with one another. Tragically, though, each one has an allegiance to family and friends of a different ethnicity and gang affiliation.

The inter-rivalry between the gangs is fierce, and they are continuously at odds with one another in an ongoing effort to dominate the New York City neighborhood.

In Spielberg’s remake, creators made what I consider to be a storytelling error that tends to worsen over the course of a movie-making process; that being, creators appear to have allowed an agenda to take precedence over fundamental artistry.

In other words, it looks as if the message derailed the medium.

In the remake of any iconic film, a mistake such as this may prove to be very troublesome. Here’s why.

In the remaking process, it is extremely important that deference to the original film be taken. This is because a classic movie has permeated society to such a degree that it has become an integral part of our shared cultural experience.

In the Spielberg version of “West Side Story,” the underlying storyline, song lyric content, and personality traits of some of the characters were significantly changed. This appears to have been done in an effort to comply with an invisible mandate contained within the film’s agenda of preference.

To compound matters, certain scenes are much less accessible, particularly for viewers who are not bilingual in English and Spanish languages. Portions of the film are actually in Spanish language only; however, there are no subtitles included, which many audiences have come to expect in such cases, and/or individual scenes.

Spielberg shared an explanation for the decision regarding language. He told IGN that the choice of not using subtitles in any of the Spanish speaking scenes was “out of respect for the inclusivity of our intentions to hire a totally Latinx cast to play the Sharks’ boys and girls.”

He also indicated that the decision was made to avoid an inequity that might be created if a language became over-empowered.

“If I subtitled the Spanish I’d simply be doubling down on the English and giving English the power over the Spanish,” he said.

Here are more ways in which the remaking process, minus the proper deference to the original, may be creating trouble for the reboot.

The late Natalie Wood, who was not of Puerto Rican descent, famously portrays Maria in the original film. Creators of the remake, likely in an effort to avoid the criticism of “cultural appropriation,” cast a Colombian American named Rachel Zegler as Maria.

Despite the apparent attempts to gain favor from those who subscribe to the tenets of the remake’s preferred agenda, the film is being slammed anyway for its ethnic insensitivity.

“I have an issue with Hollywood once again fumbling the easiest of opportunities to elevate a Puerto Rican actress. They seem to think that as long as the actors are Hispanic, that’s enough,” Daily Beast Assistant Managing Editor Mandy Velez wrote.

In terms of the music, many folks vividly remember the song “Gee, Officer Krupke,” the cleverly choreographed performance contained in the original film,

In Spielberg’s remake, the scene that contains this song and performance has unfortunately been twisted into an anti-police presentation. The setting is the 21st Precinct of the New York City Police Department, and it is here that members of the Jets proceed to mock the police and wreak havoc on the facilities.

Lyrics to the iconic “America” tune are altered as well. The snappy back-and-forth between Anita and boyfriend Bernardo about whether the U.S. is a good or bad place to live has been contorted into a flat lyric with no measurable zing.

Ditto for the original Rita Moreno scene-stealing performance. The remake seems to have put it through a redacting machine.

On a Moreno side note, the enduring star is also an executive producer of the remake, and she definitely provides some bright spots in the dull new version. She portrays a character that wasn’t in the original’s cast, Valentina, who is a widow that runs her store while simultaneously dispensing sage advice.

Too bad Doc, the “conscience” character of the original film, was left on the cutting room floor.

Other problems in Spielberg’s revised version include a lack of chemistry between lead characters Maria and Tony. This perhaps is partially due to a loss of an idealism that the original contains, as well as an innocence that is manifested by the characters.

All the seemingly forced alterations in the reboot simply don’t work. And one of the worst things about it is that this happened to a film that is considered by many to be the best movie musical in all of cinematic history.

I’ve been thinking, though, that the lackluster reboot might have the effect of bringing a whole new generation back to the movie experience of the real deal.

Young people could enjoy it with their moms and dads and grandmas and gramps, who in their drama club days sang and danced to the high school musical of their times, the original “West Side Story.”

Viewers Show Their Christmas Love for ‘The Chosen’

Dallas Jenkins, filmmaker son of “Left Behind” series author Jerry Jenkins, is the creator of the streaming series “The Chosen,” which is the first multi-season series that focuses on the life of Jesus Christ.

The series has become a global phenomenon. It currently holds the record for being the highest crowd-funded project of all time.

Its devoted audience has funded $40 million in crowd-funding financing to date, which has facilitated the production of two full seasons of programming.

The number of viewers of “The Chosen” keeps growing exponentially, thanks to the series’ multiple streaming platforms and its very own app.

The New Testament project has been translated into 50 languages and has made its way into the world’s top entertainment app list.

The success of “The Chosen” has resulted in an upgrade of the project’s production facilities, allowing future filming of the upcoming third season to take place with a historically accurate set design, one that sits on 900 acres in Midlothian, Texas.

The series is available on the app with no fee or subscription required. The opportunity for viewers to voluntarily “pay it forward” is provided via crowd-funding at the conclusion of the screening.

Plans for the series to continue for seven full seasons is in the works, allowing for a full exploration of all aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus.

Part of the uniqueness of the approach that has been taken by the creators of “The Chosen” series has to do with the emotionally relatable characters that are featured in their cinematic story lines.

Bible believing Christians adhere to the doctrine that Jesus is both human and divine.

While still staying true to Scripture, Jenkins and company have focused more heavily on Christ’s humanity. This is in contrast with what many of their predecessor filmmakers have done.

“The No. 1 word that we put on our wall, the banner across everything we do, is ‘authenticity,’” Jenkins says. “So many past Bible projects telling Jesus’ story have been a little stiff, maybe a cleaned up, sanitized version of the story. We desperately seek to pursue a portrayal that’s as authentic as possible.”

For the role of Jesus, Jenkins went with an actor that he had used before, Jonathan Roumie. Having been raised in the Greek Orthodox Church and being a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, Roumie is highly knowledgeable about the Gospel story.

He had played Jesus in a touring multi-media project about the life of Saint Faustina called “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy.” He had additionally played the role of Jesus in a short film by Jenkins, titled “The Two Thieves.”

As we move further into the Christmas season, the timing is perfect for a remembrance celebration of the birth of the holy infant. It is also a welcomed time to experience a cinematic retelling of the time-honored Christmas story, particularly a retelling that is respectful in its presentation. And the following one truly is.

Multiplying the joy of the season, the producers of “The Chosen” have created an additional stand-alone big-screen movie titled “Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers.”

The recent Christmas feature contains the same high-level production value and powerful storytelling as that of “The Chosen” series, which pleases devotees of the initial project as well as others in the movie-going public who are seeking to escape the darker and more cynical movie fare that poses as holiday entertainment.

The Christmas edition of “The Chosen” has broken yet another record by becoming the bestselling movie in the history of its distributor, Fathom Events, with $8 million for 640,000 tickets in 1,700 movie theaters nationwide.

Fathom, which has been going strong for 17 years, is the 11th largest distributor of content to movie theaters.

In the lead-up to the box-office event, $1.5 million in tickets were sold during the first 12 hours of availability. As a result, the original 2-day run had to be expanded to 10-days.

On a musical note, “Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers” is loaded with performances by an all-star roster of contemporary Christian music performers that include For King & Country, Phil Wickham, We The Kingdom, Matt Maher, Maverick City Music, Brandon Lake, Cain, Leanna Crawford, Jordan Feliz, Dawson Hollow, One Voice Children’s Choir, The Bonner Family, and Bryan and Katie Torwalt.

The music component of the film culminates in an epic performance of “Joy to the World,” featuring a collaboration of star musicians playing and singing the venerable hymn.

May all enjoy this miraculous time of the year when Earth receives her King.

Hollywood Still Loving ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is widely recognized as one of the greatest movies of all time. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and took home one Oscar.

The American Film Institute (AFI) includes it on the list of the 100 best American films ever released. And it takes the top spot on AFI’s list of the most inspirational American films of all time.

Believe it or not, the movie was not initially well-received at the box office. But it ultimately became a seasonal must-see across the country, airing every Christmas Eve for decades.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is produced and directed by the great Frank Capra, who considered it the favorite among all of the cinematic works that he had directed.

As a matter of fact, Capra made it a point to screen it for his own family every single Christmas season.

Jimmy Stewart, one of the most beloved film actors in all of history, plays George Bailey, a man who one stark Christmas Eve questions whether his family and friends would have been better off had he never been born.

In his despondent state, he attempts to take his own life. A guardian angel, Clarence, played by Henry Travers, comes to the rescue. The angel shows George the way life would have played out for his wife Mary and for the people of the town of Bedford Falls, without his presence.

It all makes for a magical misty-eyed Christmas movie treasure.

In a 2003 book by Stephen Cox, which is titled “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book,” the legendary filmmaker indicates that he had a higher purpose in mind when he made the movie, which was “to combat a modern trend toward atheism.” Sadly relevant for today’s times.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” will no doubt air multiple times this year. But there will be a bit of an additional twist to the regular television lineup. A group of Hollywood actors will participate in a special table read of the classic script.

The live table read will honor the late Ed Asner, who passed away last summer. Proceeds will benefit The Ed Asner Family Center, which promotes mental health and enrichment programs to children with special needs and their families.

An all-star cast will be featured. Tom Bergeron will host the event. SNL alum Jason Sudeikis will take on the role of George Bailey. And Sudeikis’s real-life uncle, George Wendt (aka Norm on the classic sitcom “Cheers”), will play Bailey’s Uncle Billy.

The cast will also include Martin Sheen, Rosario Dawson, Kathy Bates, Mandy Patinkin, Ed Harris, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jean Smart, and Mark Hamill.

One memorable line that occurs near the end of Capra’s iconic Christmas movie is delivered via angel Clarence.

“Each man’s life touches so many other lives,” Clarence explains. “When he [Bailey] isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

If you or members of your family haven’t connected yet with this precious part of Americana, put this one under the tree for your Christmas viewing pleasure.

Catch the film as it airs this season on TV, streaming, and on your favorite on-demand platforms.

And believe the words of the angel. Each one of our lives matters.

Mark Wahlberg Teams up with Mel Gibson for Faith-based Film ‘Stu’

Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson are starring in an upcoming faith-based movie titled “Stu,” a biopic on the life of a man who was a boxer, actor, museum manager, and ultimately an ordained Catholic priest.

The main character in the film, Father Stuart Long, was affectionately known as “Father Stu,” hence the movie title.

Wahlberg began working on the project two years following the passing of Father Stu in 2014. The upcoming feature was financed in part by Wahlberg himself and is currently in post production.

Wahlberg plays the lead role, and Gibson plays the part of Father Stu’s dad, Bill Long.

It makes all the sense in the world for Wahlberg to pursue a faith-oriented project. He once told Parade Magazine that faith was “the most important part” of his life.

In reference to this faith, he stated, “I don’t try to push it on anybody and I don’t try to hide it.”

Father Stu’s real life story is an awe-inspiring one.

Although he himself was not Catholic, but rather an agnostic, he nevertheless attended a Catholic institution called Carroll College.

At one point he took up the sport of boxing and was adept enough at it to win the Montana Golden Gloves championship. However, as a result of a jaw injury that he suffered, he was forced to abandon the sport.

He ended up moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and was able to secure work as a movie extra and also did some advertisement spots.

It wasn’t long before he became disenchanted with the entertainment industry and decided to change direction. He began working at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where he eventually rose to managerial level.

His chosen mode of transportation to and from work happened to be a motorcycle. One day while traveling home he collided with a car and was thrown headfirst into another vehicle in an adjacent lane.

It was there at the hospital that he would have a deeply profound religious experience, which would alter the course of his life forever.

Although at one point in life he had fallen in love with a Catholic Christian woman, as so frequently happens things would turn out quite differently than expected.

Once baptized in the Catholic faith, he began to feel a strong spiritual pull that would ultimately lead him to a priestly vocation. He took the necessary steps to pursue this calling.

While studying at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, he was forced to undergo surgery to remove a tumor in his hip region. It was determined that he had a rare autoimmune disease called “inclusion body myositis,” which is an inflammatory degenerative muscle condition that causes weakening of the body’s musculature, similar to ALS.

Sadly, there is no effective course of treatment for the disease. By the time of his ordination in December 2007, due to the severity of his symptoms, he was already reliant on crutches to assist him in walking.

The cross he was carrying would become the blessing that would end up enhancing his pastoral capabilities.

As a cleric, Father Stu was simply remarkable.

He served as a priest for six short years, but the impression left on all those who were fortunate enough to be shepherded by him would be an indelible one.

Bishop George Thomas, now at the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada, was the bishop of Helena, Montana at the time, where Father Stu was serving as a priest.

Bishop Thomas recalls that Father Stu’s liturgy services were “deeply moving.”

The bishop describes the progression of the disease as well as the toll it took on Father Stu’s health and ability to perform his priestly duties.

He shares the story of a Mass for the students at Carroll College at which Father Stu presided, where the good father “was so weak at this stage that as he reads the Words of Institution [or Consecration] during the Mass, one of the students would take his hand and help lift up the Host.”

While in a rehabilitation facility, Father Stu took it upon himself to become a sort of in-house pastor. People would line up outside his room, waiting for the opportunity to seek his counsel or to receive the sacrament of absolution.

Participating in what would be the last Easter Vigil of his life, his condition was so weakened that attendance was only possible via a gurney. But there was no way he was going to miss the high holy day.

It turns out that Father Stu had another reason for being there, though – his most fervent prayers were about to be answered.

With tears running down his face, he watched as his own mother and father were baptized into his beloved faith.

Six years ago Wahlberg contacted Bishop Thomas to learn about Father Stu’s life and obtain the bishop’s approval for the project.

Bishop Thomas recounts the moment.

The actor’s words were short and sweet: “The Church has been through so much; I would like to do something beautiful for the Church.”