Worth Watching in December

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By John P. McCarthy

Television & Multimedia


PBS’ Independent Lens presents THE CALLING, a two-part documentary that follows seven Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim Americans as they train for the clergy. Produced by a multi-denominational team of filmmakers, the four-hour piece reveals how faith is lived today; a companion website — whatsyourcalling.org — explores the idea of a vocation from religious and secular perspectives (December 20 & 21).


TOP 10 MONKS, airing on HBO2, tells how Cistercian monks living in a 12th-century monastery near Vienna scored a surprise Top 10 hit in Europe with an album of Gregorian chants (December 22).


HBO Sports and NFL Films joined forces on LOMBARDI, a biography of Vince Lombardi, professional football’s most revered coach who, as a young man, studied in preparation for the priesthood (HBO2; December 11).


The Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings include the original movies THREE WISE WOMEN, which puts a new twist on ghosts of Christmas past, present and future (December 14), GIFT OF THE MAGI, an adaptation of O. Henry’s timeless tale of treasures surrendered by loving hearts (December 15), and AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS, based on Louisa May Alcott’s short story and starring Jacqueline Bisset (December 11). 


WORD ON FIRE WITH FATHER BARRON airs weekly on WGN America. In each episode, host Fr. Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Chicago aims “to encourage believers and bring the transformative power of the Gospel to the culture.” (December 5).


Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation has launched three projects linked to BROTHER ANDRE BESSETTE canonized by Pope Benedict XVI this past October. The projects include French and English-language documentaries as well as broadcast of a daily Mass in French from the crypt of St. Joseph’s Oratory, the shrine Brother André founded in 1904. Visit saltandlighttv.org/brotherandre to learn more.


The new online shopping website SOCIALVEST.US gives consumers the power to donate to the charity of their choice through purchases from their favorite retailers.


CatholicTV.com’s programming lineup features three new children’s shows: THE ADVENTURES OF DONKEY OLLIE and GIGI, GOD’S LITTLE PRINCESS, both animated, along with MR. HENRY’S WILD AND WACKY BIBLE STORIES



In THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their cousin Eustace Scrubb, join Prince Caspian and the warrior mouse Reepicheep on a ship headed for the edges of the world (December 10). 


Comic actor Jack Black stars in a contemporary re-imagining of Swift’s classic GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, playing a boastful mailroom clerk who learns it’s how big you are on the inside that counts (December 22).


In TRON: LEGACY, a father (Jeff Bridges) and son (Garrett Hedlund) embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe based on a video game (December 17).


Jellystone Park is in danger of being sold for development in YOGI BEAR, a big-screen adaptation of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon featuring voice work by Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, and Anna Faris  (December 17).


The documentary BHUTTO puts the life of Pakistan’s late president Benazir Bhutto, the first woman ever elected to lead a Muslim state, into context using interviews with experts, friends, and family members  — as well as never-before-heard audio tapes in which she tells her own story (December 3).


A poignant father-daughter relationship drives the animated film THE ILLUSIONIST, adapted from a screenplay originally written by French comedy genius Jacques Tati (December 25).


THE WAY BACK is a fact-based adventure about escapees from a Siberian gulag in 1940 starring Colin Farrell and Ed Harris. Australian filmmaker Peter Weir directs the epic story of survival and solidarity (December 29).


Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play a husband and wife struggling to save their marriage in RABBIT HOLE based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play (December 17).




ANDY GRIFFITH 50th ANNIVERSARY: BEST OF MAYBERRY showcases the down-home humor and endearing cast of characters that has made “The Andy Griffith Show” among the most beloved television programs of all time (December 21).


Chronicling extraordinary sports stories from the last 30 years, ESPN’s ‘30 FOR 30’ DVD GIFT SET VOLUME 1 contains 15 films from the critically-acclaimed series and is an ideal gift for sports fans (December 7).


THE DOLPHIN: STORY OF A DREAMER is an enchanting underwater adventure based on Sergio Bambarén’s novel about a little dolphin with big dreams who ventures beyond the safety of his pod, following his heart into the unknown (December 7).


(Dates and schedules subject to change.)


John P. McCarthy