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Published: Saturday, 2/26/2005

'Passion' proved that moviegoers want faith-based films, Landon says

This is a scene from Love's Enduring Promise, a movie directed by Michael Landon, Jr. Landon This is a scene from Love's Enduring Promise, a movie directed by Michael Landon, Jr. Landon
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He's got the name recognition and the movie-star looks, but Michael Landon, Jr., prefers to work in the background, directing films that are uplifting and professionally produced.

The son of the late Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie star Michael Landon, Michael Jr.'s latest directorial effort, Love's Enduring Promise, was released this week on video by Fox Home Entertainment ($19.98 DVD, $12.98 VHS).

A film adaptation of the best-selling novel by Janette Oke, Love's Enduring Promise was the second-highest rated movie ever shown on the Hallmark Channel. The top-rated show on that station? Love Comes Softly, another Landon-directed adaptation of an Oke novel.

In an interview this week, Mr. Landon said he believes the phenomenal success of Mel Gibson's 2004 movie The Passion of The Christ helped convince Hollywood that there was a market for faith-based entertainment.

Although Fox Home Entertainment had started a division for movies with positive, family-oriented themes before The Passion, when Mel Gibson's film about Jesus' last days became an international box-office hit, "it obviously was a massive confirmation" that audiences would pay to see quality faith-based movies, Mr. Landon said.

He wants to see Christian movies that can compare with the quality of mainstream Hollywood releases, but for that to happen the filmmakers will need comparable budgets.

"A lot of what you're seeing in the Christian marketplace - a lot of the endtimes kind of stuff or biblical epics - are poorly made, not properly funded, and poorly produced," Mr. Landon said.

"You can't make a beautiful film with the budget that they're spending. You can't make a product that's inferior to Hollywood from a technical standpoint and get people excited about it, Christian or not. Hollywood will spend $100 million for some big epic like an endtimes film, and you can't do that with $4 million and expect people to get excited about it."

Mr. Landon, 40, said his father never encouraged or discouraged him from working in the movie industry.

"He totally left it up to me. He pretty much kept quiet about it, I think partially because he knew how difficult the business was. It had to be something I chose to do. He had to leave it up to me."

Although he is focusing on making faith-based movies, Mr. Landon wasn't always a person of faith.

"When I was 15 years old, my father had an affair and he left my Mom, and I was completely devastated," he said. "My father was everything in my life."

He went through "a period of immense crisis," Mr. Landon said, with his grades taking a plunge and his personal life falling apart.

"I was in a dark valley for a few years, trying to make sense of my life. My Mom ended up giving her life to the Lord and was trying to convince me to do the same thing," he said.

She kept inviting her son to church and one day, at age 19, he said he agreed just to appease her.

"I couldn't tell you what the pastor said that day but he spoke to my heart, and even though I resisted at first, finally I turned my life over to the Lord and I've never been the same."

Mr. Landon and his wife, Sharee, and three children live in Utah. He said he is working on two more movies to be filmed this summer, both based on Oke novels.

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With an album called "All Gas. No Brakes," I'm not sure I'd trust Stellar Kart with my car. But the Christian punk-rock band from Glendale, Ariz., sure has a talent for producing catchy guitar-driven pop rock songs.

With a style that sounds like a blend between Audio Adrenaline and Green Day, the group's debut disc on Word Records offers a wealth of songs that are fun and encouraging.

"Student Driver," for example, talks about speeding aimlessly along until the driver realizes he needs God as a copilot. The group also gets its gospel message across in a novel way in "Life Is Good," whose chorus states that "Life is good, eternal life is better."

Stellar Kart even manages to put a spiritual spin on Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" that the tune's creators probably never imagined.

Keep an eye on Stellar Kart when the band, along with BarlowGirl, steers into town to play at the Mill on March 14, openingfor Kutless.

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Eat your veggies, and watch them, too: Who can resist Bible stories acted out by such stars as Larry the Cucumber or Bob the Tomato?

Those singing vegetables have been featured in Veggie Tales computer-generated cartoon videos that have sold more than 40 million copies, and they starred in the 2002 theatrical release Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, which grossed $25 million at the box office.

Now the 25th installment in the vegetables' video series, due for release March 5, will tell the tale of Duke and the Great Pie War, a colorful interpretation of the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi.

Larry the Cucumber stars as Duke, rushing to the rescue of the charming young rhubarb named Sweet Petunia.

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Woman Thou Art Loosed, the movie adaptation of Bishop T. D. Jakes novel chronicling a woman's struggle with abuse, addiction, and poverty, will be released on video March 8 by Fox Home Entertainment.

The tragic story, starring Michelle Jordan, earned Best Film honors at the 2004 American Black Film Festival and grossed

Mr. Landon and his wife, Sharee, and three children live in Utah. He said he is working on two more movies to be filmed this summer, both based on Oke novels.

•

With an album called "All Gas. No Brakes," I'm not sure I'd trust Stellar Kart with my car. But the Christian punk-rock band from Glendale, Ariz., sure has a talent for producing catchy guitar-driven pop rock songs.

With a style that sounds like a cross between Audio Adrenaline and Green Day, the group's debut disc on Word Records offers a wealth of songs that are fun and encouraging.

"Student Driver," for example, talks about speeding aimlessly along until the driver realizes he needs God as a copilot. The group also gets its gospel message across in a novel way in "Life Is Good," whose chorus states that "Life is good, eternal life is better." The band even manages to put a spiritual spin on Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" that the songwriters likely never imagined.

Stellar Kart drives into Toledo March 14 for a concert at The Mill with BarlowGirl and Kutless.

•

Eat your veggies, and watch them, too: Who can resist Bible stories acted out by such stars as Larry the Cucumber or Bob the Tomato?

Those singing vegetables are the stars of Veggie Tales computer-generated cartoon videos that have sold more than 40 million copies, and also were featured in the 2002 theatrical release Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, which grossed $25 million at the box office.

Now the 25th installment in the vegetables' video series, due for release March 5, will tell the tale of Duke and the Great Pie War, a colorful interpretation of the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi.

•

Woman Thou Art Loosed, the movie adaptation of Bishop T. D. Jakes novel chronicling a woman's struggle with abuse, addiction, and poverty, will be released on video March 8 by Fox Home Entertainment.

The story, starring Michelle Jordan, earned Best Film honors at the 2004 American Black Film Festival and grossed

$7 million at the theatrical box office.



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