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Primetime Show Reviews
"The Heart of Christmas"
review by Suzanne
Airs Sunday, December 4, 7pm on GMC
This movie is kind of sad and depressing. It tries hard to be
uplifting and comforting, but it's kind of hard to get past the fact that it's
about cancer and death for kids. The ending is not cheery enough for me. It's
based on a real-life story, so that's why they couldn't make it more of a happy
ending, but I have to wonder why they thought this story would make a good movie
that anyone would want to see.
The acting is very good, even though I don't recognize most of the actors.
George Newbern, who plays one of the doctors, is the only face I knew. He is
cute and always does a good job.
Since this airs on the Gospel Music Channel, you know there is praying and
religious stuff. I just can't imagine that anyone could watch this without
crying. Maybe that's what you're supposed to do. It's not a warm, friendly
Christmas movie, though. I can't say I hated it - it kept me engrossed - but I
can't say I loved it, either, because of the ending.
There is also a
CD of music from Matthew West, who did the music
for the movie. It has the original songs for the movie as well as other
Christmas songs. It's a good CD to buy for the holidays!
You can find videos and info at
GMC TV DEBUTS FIRST ORIGINAL CHRISTMAS FEATURE FILM
THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS
STARRING CANDACE CAMERON BURE, GEORGE NEWBERN,
BURGESS JENKINS, DENDRIE TAYLOR, JEANNE NEILSON, ERIC BECK,
ANITA RENFROE, MATTHEW WEST, KARL T. WRIGHT, SOPHIA SINISE,
KELSEY MARIE KINGSBURY AND ERIN BETHEA
PREMIERES SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4 AT 7 P.M. ET
Movie Inspired By the True Story of the Locke Family and
GrammyÒ Nominated Artist Matthew West’s Hit Single
ATLANTA, GA - November 14, 2011 -- On Sunday, December
4, GMC, America’s favorite channel for uplifting music and family
entertainment, will present The Heart of Christmas, a new GMC
World Premiere Movie starring Candace Cameron Bure (Make It
or Break It, Full House), Jeanne Neilson (Faith Like Potatoes),
Eric Beck, Anita Renfroe,Grammy® nominated artist Matthew
West, Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping),
Kelsey Marie Kingsbury, Karl T. Wright, Sophia Sinise, Erin
Bethea (Fireproof), with Dendrie Taylor (The Fighter, Sons of
Anarchy, True Blood) and George Newbern (Father of the Bride,
Justice League).The Heart of Christmas is based on a true story
that made national headlines when a community in Washington, Illinois decorated their houses for
Christmas several weeks early in honor of a little boy battling a rare form of leukemia. The movie unfolds
as the Locke family’s grief is eased by the love and support of their community and the life-changing
legacy their son Dax Locke left behind, which reminds us all to cherish every moment.
“The Heart of Christmas illustrates the beauty and the power of people uniting to make a difference in the
lives of others,” said Brad Siegel, vice chairman, GMC. “This is a story about how caring hearts and love
can uplift a family and a community in the darkest time. It is the kind of story that we like to share with our
viewers,” he continued.
The Heart of Christmas was shot on location in Los Angeles, California and surrounding areas. Mark
Burman, Candace Cameron Bure and Jay Richardson are executive producers. Suzette Schafer and
Charlie Schafer produce. Joel West is co-producer. Gary Wheeler is the director. Lance Dreesen wrote
GMC (www.watchGMCtv.com) is America’s favorite channel for uplifting music and family entertainment.
The Parents Television Council™ recently awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval™ to GMC for
being “an authentic family-friendly cable network.” GMC is the only television network to receive the highly
coveted honor in 2010. GMC can be seen in over 51 million homes on various cable systems around the
country, as well asDISH Network on channel 188, DIRECTV on channel 338 and Verizon FiOS on
channel 224. Follow GMC TV on Facebook and Twitter athttp://facebook.com/gmctv and @gmctv or
The Heart of Christmas
Dax Ryan Locke, born to Julie and Austin Locke on June 26, 2007, was diagnosed with AML M7, a rare
form of leukemia, when he was 13 months old.
The Heart of Christmas is set in Washington, Illinois and at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, one of
the world’s premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other deadly diseases
in children. Told in flashback from the perspective of Megan (Candace Cameron Bure), a successful
businesswoman, wife and mother of two, the storyline unfolds when her commitment to faith and family is
renewed after reading the blog of Julie Locke, (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/daxlocke), the online
journal that Julie kept after Dax was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
In The Heart of Christmas, Megan, who has been struggling with finding time for her husband Walt
(Burgess Jenkins) and hasn’t made it to one of her daughter Emma’s (Brooke Bryan) soccer games all
year, has forgotten that it is Halloween until her son Jackson (Christian Nelson, Hayden Nelson) is
standing in front of her in costume, ready to go trick-or-treating. After bargaining with Emma to take her
brother door to door in a nearby neighborhood for a few hours so she can finish a business proposal, they
race out of the house, only to find hundreds of homes lit up for Christmas on Halloween. Confused by
this scene, Megan asks neighbors Mark (Matthew West) and Trish (Erin Bethea), who have rallied the
community to bring Christmas holiday cheer to the Locke family upon Dax’s (Chris Shone, Nick Shone)
final return home from St. Jude, to explain the scene before them. Trish hands Megan a card with Julie
Locke’s (Jeanne Neilson) blog information on it and encourages Megan to read it. Before Megan is able
to react, Trish sends her away with a heartfelt warning, stating, “it will change your life.”
Through Megan’s narrative, we are introduced to Dax’s father Austin (Eric Beck), who is deeply
concerned about Dax’s prognosis; the type of cancer has poor survival rates in children Dax’s age.
Austin is committed to being open to new forms of treatment and to staying hopeful for Dax, for his wife
Julie, her sister Melissa (Kelsey Marie Kingsbury) and Dax’s grandmother Theresa (Anita Renfroe).
During their hospital stay at St. Jude, Julie Locke meets Michelle (Dendrie Taylor), whose daughter
Elizabeth (Kaya Millar) is also being treated there. Michelle introduces Julie to a support system of other
moms, who encourage Julie to blog about Dax’s progress and her journey as a way to keep friends and
family informed. Days after initial treatment begins, we meet the team of incredible doctors at St. Jude:
Nurse Lisa (Sophia Sinise), Dr. Sandler (George Newbern) and Dr. Benson (Karl T. Wright), who is
charged with telling Julie and Austin that, after months of treatment and a rollercoaster of emotional highs
and lows, the experimental, last chance effort was unsuccessful in curing Dax’s cancer. Determined to
give Dax one last Christmas, Austin Locke surprises Julie and Dax with a Christmas tree- even though it’s
October. The neighbors quickly catch on and surprise the Locke’s by showing up at their home to give
Dax, his family and the community a magical night to remember.
The Music Behind the Movie
The GMC World Premiere Movie The Heart of Christmas was also inspired by Matthew West’s viral
holiday hit music video, “One Last Christmas,” released last year. West, who has penned tunes for Billy
Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts and Natalie Grant, among others, heard about the two-year old from
Washington, Illinois and his struggle with leukemia that sparked a worldwide outpouring of support for his
family and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where Dax was treated at no cost to the family.
On the heels of releasing his hit single, West raised over $205,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research
Hospital. This October, West released his first Christmas album, also titled “The Heart of Christmas.”
Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Mandisa contributed to the album. Songs from the album, which is a mix of
original music and holiday classics, will be featured throughout the GMC World Premiere Movie. The
album’s title track will be released to radio along with a music video. West will also embark on a
Christmas tour with Mandisa in December.
The Dax Locke Foundation
The grief Julie and Austin Locke felt after Dax passed away was eased by the love and support they
received. In October, 2010, Julie and Austin welcomed a daughter, Madeline Elizabeth Locke, named
after Elizabeth Dunford, daughter of Michelle, the mom that Julie met at St. Jude, who she remains close
friends with. The Dax Locke Foundation, “Cherish Every Moment,” continues to raise funds and
awareness for St. Jude. The Foundation aims to raise 1.7 million dollars; the cost to run St. Jude
Children’s Research Hospital for one day. For further information, visit, www.stjude.org/heartofchristmas.
Candace Cameron Bure (Megan) is one of the most beloved child stars of the 90’s, a successful actor, a
New York Times best selling author, a wife and a mother. Her defining role as D.J. Tanner, the loveable
oldest daughter on Full House, the hit television series that ran for eight seasons, ranking as one of the
most successful series of all time, came in 1987 and subsequently marked the beginning of her career as
an actor. Bure currently stars in the hit ABC Family series Make It or Break It, now in its third season.
She is the author of Reshaping It All, which chronicles her lifelong struggle with food and the physical and
spiritual fitness regimen that has kept her on track. Her feature film roles include playing opposite Eric
Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind of Wonderful and working with Tom Hanks and Sally
Field in Punchline.Bure is married to professional hockey player Valeri Bure. They have three children:
Natasha, Lev and Maksim. She is the sister of actor Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains). Bure serves as the
ambassador for National House of Hope. She travels the country speaking at various churches, colleges
and women’s conferences, sharing her Christian faith.
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, George Newbern (Dr. Sandler) is a film and television actor best
known for his roles as Bryan MacKenzie in Father of the Bride and its sequel Father of the Bride Part II.
He is also known for his role as Danny (The Yeti) in Friends. He voices the role of Superman from the
Justice League and Justice League Unlimited as well as Sephiroth from the Final Fantasy series and the
Kingdom Hearts series. Newbern also appears in Saw VI. Additional television credits include
Providence, Chicago Hope, Friends, Bull, CSI, Medium, Ghost Whisperer, Criminal Minds and Private
Practice. He is married to actress Marietta DePrima. They live in Los Angeles with their three children,
Emma, Mae and Ben.
Burgess Jenkins (Walt) is a film actor known for his role as Ray Budds in Remember The Titans
opposite Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. He played Hilary Swank's husband David Winter
in The Reaping. He portrayed religious leader John Wesley in the award winning independent film Wesley
with Golden Globe winner Kevin McCarthy and Emmy nominated television legend June
Lockhart.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgess_Jenkins - cite_note-3On television, Jenkins played
Bobby Irons throughout season 6 on the hit WB series One Tree Hill while also playing a recurring role on
Lifetime'sArmy Wives and Drop Dead Diva. He starred in the true story "Unshackled" with Stacy Keach.
He was nominated as Best Actor at the Boston Film Festival for his portrayal of Bruce Snow in
Insignificant Others. Jenkins is a Meisner method actor trained at the Playhouse West with Robert
Carnegie and academy award nominated actor Jeff Goldblum. He lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
with his wife Ashlee Payne.
Dendrie Taylor (Michelle) is an accomplished actor who has worked with some of the most
accomplished directors in the world, including Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, Oliver Stone, Carl
Franklin, Wes Craven, Alan Coulter, Roger Donaldson and Ivan Reitman and David O. Russell. She
starred opposite Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in the Academy Award
nominated film The Fighter. Her most recent television credits include the critically acclaimed FX series
Sons of Anarchy and the hit HBO series True Blood. Additional motion picture credits include World
Trade Center, Hollywoodland, Jarhead, War of the Worlds, High Crimes, Species, Start Trek-
Generations, Golden Gate, Dave, Twins, Two Mothers, Madhouse, Shocker and The Vanishing. She has
appeared on Prison Break, N.C.I.S., Criminal Minds, Lincoln Heights, Without a Trace, ER, Veronica
Mars, Judging Amy, JAG, Joan of Arcadia, NYPD Blue, The Bold and the Beautiful, among others. She
began her professional acting career in New York, Regional and Los Angeles theatre. She originated
roles in Howard Korder’s Search and Destroy, John Bishop’s Borderline and Marlane Meyer’s The
Geography of Luck, The Chemistry of Change and Etta Jenx. Among her many other theater credits, she
also played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and starred in the critically acclaimed Pyretown by the late John
Belluso. Growing up in Los Angeles with a tv-director /father and a dancer/ mother, Dendrie dreamed
early on of becoming an actress. She moved to NYC at age 17 to study ballet and theater, and earned
her BFA in Drama at NYU’s TISCH School of The Arts. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor,
writer Adam Lazarre-White and their daughter, Aiyana Grace.
Jeanne Neilson (Julie Locke) was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Her breakthrough came in the
lead role of "Jill" in the multi‐award winning motion picture Faith Like Potatoes (2006) and since then she
has appeared in films such as The Deal (2008) opposite Meg Ryan and 'William H Macy', FreeWilly:
Escape from Pirate's Cove (2010) and various German, British and SouthAfrican films and TV shows.
Jeanne is married to her producer and aviation enthusiast husband Dominic Wilhelm.
Eric Beck (Austin Locke) was born on April 5, 1983 in Wiesbaden, Germany to Carla and Larry Beck
and within a matter of hours of his birth, he was on his first flight across Europe to Greece, where is
parents were both stationed in the United States Air Force. He and his family moved all over Europe and
to over a dozen different U.S. states before finally settling in Aberdeen, Idaho in the mid nineties to raise
dairy cattle. Beck’s interest in entertainment was clear by the age of 7, when he would crash family
reunion talent contests just to perform for a crowd. His passion for the stage took him from high school
theater to a theater scholarship at the Albertson College of Idaho. After one year there, he packed up his
belongings and drove to Hollywood to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and ultimately,
move on to study classical theater with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Balliol University of
Oxford.His professional accomplishments this year include roles in The Heart of Christmas, Vile and
Anita Renfroe (Theresa) has been described as “this generation’s Erma Bombeck.” Her latest DVD,
“Big Ol Sweet Iced Tea,” was filmed in her hometown of Atlanta, GA before a sold-out crowd. The special
features her off-the-wall insights, music and her trademark pop culture parodies. Renfroe tours with her
own comedy concerts and inspirational women’s conferences, where she routinely packs venues across
the United States. Renfroe and her husband John live in Atlanta and have three children, Calvin, Austin
and Elyse, one daughter in law (Lisa), one grandbaby and a maltipoo named Maggie.
Grammy® nominated singer/songwriter Matthew West’s (Mark) discography includes acclaimed
releases: Happy (2003), History (2005) and Something to Say (2008). His latest studio album, The Story
of Your Life, was inspired by 10,000 stories from every state in the U.S. and 20 countries. The album
released on October 5, 2010, and garnered attention from CNN Online, Fox News, Billboard Magazine,
Country Weekly, American Songwriter and more. The Story of Your Life gave West the largest street
week debut of his career selling over 10,000 units the first week landing at No. 3 on Christian Soundscan,
and No. 41 on the Billboard Top 200. In conjunction with Harvest House Publishers, West teamed up with
best selling author Angela Thomas for “The Story of Your Life” book. The Heart of Christmas marks
West’s first full-length Christmas project. A multiple ASCAP “Song of the Year” winner, West has had four
No. 1 radio hits.
Karl T. Wright (Dr. Benson) has made appearances on several television shows, including Heroes,
Judging Amy, Everyone Hates Chris and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He is also an award winning reporter
and was the host of the weekly entertainment magazine, "Backstage Pass" on Chicago Public Radio. He
is married to Wendy Miller. Wright is from Chicago.
Sophia Sinise (Nurse Lisa) appears in the documentary Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good and has
appeared on television in the popular series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She is the daughter of Gary
Kelsey Marie Kingsbury (Melissa) is the daughter of award winning Christian novelist Karen Kingsbury.
She is the inspiration behind Baily Flanigan, the central character in Leaving, the first book in a new
series by her mother. Kelsey is the voice of the character on Facebook.
Erin Bethea (Trish) is best known for appearing in the Sherwood Pictures films Facing the Giants and
Fireproof, the highest grossing independent film of 2008, where she starred opposite Kirk Cameron. She
currently lives in Orlando, FL, where she works for the Walt Disney World Resort as an actor in the Magic
Kingdom. Bethea is the daughter of Terri and Dr. Michael Catt. Her father, Dr. Michael Catt,
is the senior pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church, an affiliate of Sherwood
Pictures. She is married to Bill L. Shafer.
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