Tag Archives: movie

WHAT TO SEE: Age-old dramatics of family in business

Andrew Chaney, Jason Collett, Robert Miano, Rich Praytor
Runtime: 94 min.
Distributed by Ignatius Press — www.ignatius.com

Faith-based films often are plagued by low budgets, weak scripts, mediocre acting, and inferior production values, but some deserve praise for having largely overcome these deficiencies. And some are actually rather good.

2018’s Inheritance — not to be confused with the 2017 mystery-horror film of the same name — is a well-intended effort. A drama revolving around an Italian family that is at least nominally Catholic, it packs enough relationship drama into its 94-minute runtime to fuel a daytime soap opera for several seasons.

Giovanni Delvecchio (Robert Miano) is the family patriarch who owns the family diner staffed by his son Frank (Andrew Chaney) and grandson Sonny (Jason Collett). Giovanni deflects shakedowns from the local Mafia types but can’t persuade Frank to end a longstanding feud with his brother Joey (Rich Praytor), a disagreeable lout who never forgave Frank for marrying his ex-girlfriend. When the two break into fisticuffs at Sonny’s wedding rehearsal dinner, Giovanni suffers a heart attack and dies.

Frank and Joey inherit the diner in a 70/30 split, but Frank, who refuses to work with his brother and entertains homicidal thoughts about him, descends into alcoholism. Meanwhile, a deep family secret about Sonny’s cousin Renny is revealed that alters the family dynamics. Sonny tries to help both his father and Renny but soon finds the situation stressing his own nascent marriage. Turning to alcohol himself, Sonny learns the cost of driving impaired, but a life-changing encounter enables him to become an agent for healing some of the strained family relationships.

Despite the Italian Catholic family at its center, it’s not a Catholic film by any means. The only Catholic references reveal a naïve view of sacramental Confession, and the most significant preachy moments are the stuff of generic altar-call Christianity. But Inheritance strives nevertheless to say something positive about faith, family, and forgiveness, and that’s a message the world needs to hear.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: Christmas fantasy in pointe shoes

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren
Runtime: 100 min
Rated PG

Those who glaze over at the very mention of ballet may find Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms an upgrade over their expectations. Those who look forward to the exquisite choreography and majestic music that characterizes the traditional Christmastime performance of The Nutcracker might find this 2018 film not an exact parallel.

It’s a lavish presentation that borrows from both the 1892 ballet and the 1816 short story by E.T.A. Hoffman that inspired it, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Hoffman’s original was decidedly dark in its telling, not much at all like the whimsical version we know today. Disney’s unique take bears influences of both. This isn’t the full Tchaikovsky score and two-act Nutcracker with added dialogue, however, but rather a basic storybook drama with a sampling of Tchaikovsky and ballet thrown in — visually appealing but only mildly entertaining at best.

Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy), a 14-year-old London girl, receives a Christmas gift from her late mother that leads her to search for the golden key that will unlock it. Dispatched by her knowing godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) into a magical world consisting of four “realms,” Clara joins forces with the titular Nutcracker, Captain Philip Hoffman (Jayden Fowora-Knight), to recapture the key after it was spirited away by a thieving mouse. Spurred on by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley), Clara and the Nutcracker confront the regent of the Fourth Realm, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), who reputedly is at war with the other three realms.

This inter-realm conflict is not quite as it initially seems, and Clara must act heroically to restore harmony to this strange kingdom — where, incidentally, Clara’s mother once ruled as queen. All the while, Clara draws inspiration from her mother, and in the end her takeaway is the usual neatly packaged set of valuable lessons learned.

The presentation demands little of post-adolescent viewers — just patience at times, perhaps. If one drifts uncritically into the fanciful world of Clara and the Nutcracker, however, one might find the journey worthwhile enough.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: The Battle on the Home Front

Sarah Drew, Justin Bruening, Jason George, Tia Mowry, and Madeline Carroll
Runtime: 110 min
Rated PG-13

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to think ourselves invulnerable – to stress, pain, doubt, or temptation.

Army Chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew), seem to have it all together – a solid marriage, three adorable children, and an unshakable faith. When Darren leaves for his first tour in Iraq, he waves off the cautions of those who have already served in conflict zones regarding how the experience can strain a marriage. “You ain’t never gonna be the same, and neither is your picture-perfect marriage,” warns Sgt. Michael Lewis (Jason George), a neighbor heading for his second deployment whose marital discord the Turners have witnessed firsthand. Darren and Heather echo the same naïveté: We’ve got this. We’re called to this. We’ll be just fine.

In Baghdad, Darren encourages the soldiers, just as he does his own children, to put on the “armor of God” — the shield and protection of faith. “God is no stranger to the battlefield,” Darren sermonizes.

As days turn to months, the Turners’ marital bond weakens. With only brief phone calls and a family website to keep in touch, a disconnect develops: Heather has no grasp of the horrors Darren sees, and Heather’s ordinary family stresses seem comparatively trivial to Darren. Ironically, he ministers effectively to his fellow soldiers even as his own marriage stumbles.

Returning stateside, Darren’s PTSD leaves him distant, disagreeable, and disillusioned. Healing is a long journey, as many war veterans have found.

It’s a true story: in film and in real life, the Turners resolve their issues and use their experiences to assist other military families who find the battle to save their marriages is as challenging as any enemy across the battlefield.

Indivisible may resonate most strongly with military families who have experienced the challenges of long separations and wartime trauma. Its underlying message of maintaining hope and faith and the power of God’s grace is one we can all appreciate.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: Romeo and Juliet in Hawaii

Running for Grace
Ryan Potter, Jim Caviezel, Matt Dillon, Olivia Richie
Runtime: 110 min
Rated TV-14

Jim Caviezel has played his share of virtuous characters and even starred as Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ (2004). He plays a far less righteous figure as he teams with fellow veteran actor Matt Dillon as doctors serving in the Kona Coffee Belt of early 20th-century Hawaii in the 2018 film Running for Grace, now available through streaming services.

Although Caviezel and Dillon provide the star power, the film centers on the forbidden romance between Jo (portrayed as a teenager by Ryan Potter), and Grace Danielson (Olivia Richie), the pretty daughter of a coffee plantation owner. Jo is a “half-breed,” as he is derisively called in two languages, and is orphaned when the Spanish flu ravages the islands in 1919. Considered bad luck by the Japanese coffee pickers and likewise rejected by bigoted non-native haoles, young Jo wanders the village until the kindly Doc Lawrence (Dillon) takes him in. He becomes Doc’s translator and later his “medicine runner” to deliver remedies by foot through lush mountains to plantation workers.

As Jo grows into adulthood, he aspires to be a doctor himself, and his desire to meet Grace – whom he had previously only admired from afar – prompts him to handle a sick call to the Danielson mansion in Doc’s absence. The bigoted Mr. Danielson resents Doc for this alleged permission and responds by recruiting a “real doctor” to serve the haoles. Enter Dr. Reyes (Caviezel), a smooth-talking alcoholic with an automobile.

When Reyes asks Danielson for Grace’s hand in marriage, Danielson hatches a plan by which Reyes and his supposed assets might save the plantation from an unrevealed impending bankruptcy. To fight for Grace’s hand, Jo must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles of race and class as the film builds to its climactic scene.

“Predictable but pleasant” is how one major film-review journal describes Running for Grace, and perhaps that is accurate enough. But this pleasant, squeaky-clean film with its gorgeous scenery, solid acting performances, positive values, and feel-good ending is a satisfying enough diversion for adults and adolescents.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: From Darkness into Light

Unbroken: Path to Redemption
Samuel Hunt, Merritt Patterson, Will Graham
Runtime: 98 min
Rated PG-13

The 2014 film Unbroken recounted the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who survived a long, harrowing ordeal during World War II: his plane crashed into the Pacific, he spent 47 days adrift in a life raft, he was captured by the Japanese, and he was dealt especially brutal punishment in prison camps due to his status as an Olympic athlete.

This 2018 sequel continues the story as Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) returns home a hero but has difficulty readjusting to civilian life, suffering from what today might be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Haunted by wartime traumas and memories of his Japanese tormentor, Corporal Mutsuhiro “the Bird” Watanabe (David Sakurai), Zamperini – already long adrift from his Catholic faith — descends into alcoholism and depression. He meets and hastily marries a fine Christian woman in Cynthia Applewhite (Merritt Patterson), but her longsuffering love and even the birth of their daughter cannot save Louis from his self-destructive spiral as he plots murderous revenge against “the Bird.” Miraculously, Cynthia’s commitment and the preaching of a young Billy Graham lead Louis to a conversion, literally dropping him to his knees in a dramatic embrace of healing and forgiveness.

“God’s not to blame for your suffering,” the family’s parish priest tells Louis shortly after his return from the war, and that summarizes well the theme of this sequel. By film’s end, Zamperini gets it: “[God] kept me alive through everything for this,” he says in a moment of epiphany as he gazes adoringly at his wife and daughter.

A textual epilogue tells the best part of the story: Zamperini becomes a Christian evangelist, founds a camp for disadvantaged boys, and stays married to Cynthia for 54 years (she died in 2001). It’s disappointing that an Italian Catholic boy strays from his childhood faith, but one can appreciate the rediscovery that leads him from the horrors of war to renewed hope, from the darkness of despair into the light of faith.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Queen of Heaven: Mary’s Battle for You

This magnificently produced DVD set/study program paints the epic narrative of Mary’s life, being released in perfect timing with this year’s 100th anniversary of Fatima. It is a 4-hour documentary style program, narrated by renowned Catholic actor, Leonardo Defilippis, with contributions from 15 experts (Tim Staples, Fr. Domonic Legge, Dr. Carrie Gress, Dr. Jem Sullivan, Dr. Paul Thigpen, Fr. Chris Alar, and others).

Filmed at multiple locations including the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the World Apostolate of Fatima Shrine, and the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, the Queen of Heaven videos tell the story of Mary’s life from before time until today. The video series explains her ongoing battle against the devil and evil in pursuit of man’s salvation; how she intervenes at pivotal periods – especially through her most famous apparitions; and the maternal care she bestows upon humanity. The series engenders greater devotion to Mary, Our Mother and Queen; and encourages vibrant participation in parish life.

The series offers a DVD boxed set ($39.95); Book ($24.95); parish program ($129.95), Group Study Bundle ($249.50), Individual Study Guide ($24.95), Leader Guide ($14.95), and Invitation/Pew Card ($10 – 50-pack); and Prayer Booklet ($4.95).

Produced by TAN Books
see www.tanbooks.com for additional information

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Managing Editor.

The Case for Christ

Starring Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway
Run time: 112 minutes
Rated: PG
In theaters April 7

After reading Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ a few years ago, I attempted to contact him by email. In his book, the former investigative journalist recounts his journey from atheism to Christianity. He set out to prove that Jesus was a hoax and the resurrection never happened.

In my email, I challenged Strobel to write a sequel: The Case for Catholicism. I asked him to apply the same passion and take the same approach — turning over every rock, probing every historical crevice to prove that the Catholic Church is not the church founded by Jesus Christ. I’m not sure if my email got through. I didn’t receive a response.

Strobel’s best-selling book is about to be launched as a full-length motion picture — a very important one at that. The film — produced by Pure Flix, the studio behind God’s Not Dead (and its sequel) and Woodlawn — should be a massive hit when the film debuts on April 7, a week before Good Friday.

The story is compelling, well-acted and better written than most Christian (or even mainstream) films these days. In the movie, Strobel (Mike Vogel, The Help) is frustrated that his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen, Parenthood) finds Christ and gets baptized. He sees Jesus as his rival and sets out to prove that Christianity is a sham. In the process, Strobel uncovers massive amounts of evidence, but none of it backs up his own worldview. He discovers that it takes more faith to disbelieve in Jesus than to embrace the historic truths that back up everything about the Lord, his death and resurrection.

In the end, The Case for Christ is a love story — Strobel’s love for his wife, his wife’s love for him and Jesus, and, ultimately, Jesus’ love for each and every one of us. In our age of rapid secularization and indifference to facts and the truth, The Case for Christ is one of the most important films of the past decade. Strobel’s book is powerful and compelling. The film version captures it perfectly. Let’s just pray he takes up my challenge. It would be a riveting sequel!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is magazine’s editor-in-chief.



Ignatius of Loyola

Starring Andreas Muñoz
Run time: 120 minutes
Rated: PG-13
In theaters now

For those of us not raised and educated by Jesuits, we may vaguely know of the order’s founder. His name probably bounces around in our minds with dozens of other Counter-Reformation saints like Francis de Sales, Phillip Neri, Francis Xavier and Charles Borromeo.

This new historical drama, based on the memoirs of St. Ignatius of Loyola, will help change that. Ignatius was a soldier, a man of vice and violence who, in his attempt to turn to the light, was forced to wrestle with his inner demons to the very brink of death.

Loyola’s leg was seriously injured during his valiant but futile defense at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521. While recovering, he reluctantly read the lives of the saints and the life of Christ. Thus began his transformation from a warrior for the world to a warrior for Christ. Imitating his newfound hero, Francis of Assisi, Loyola gave away his belongings to live a beggar’s life.

But God has other plans. Loyola developed his nowfamous spiritual exercises and became a brilliant teacher. He caught the attention of Church officials who brought him before an Inquisition. Despite his trials, Loyola remained committed to prayer, fasting and devotion to Jesus. “If you could hear the voice of God, would you want to keep it secret?” he asks.

Spanish actor Andreas Muñoz is exceptional as Ignatius in this Filipino production shot in Spain and the Philippines. He brilliantly captures the saint’s struggles with depression and near-suicide, his trial before the Inquisition, and his ultimate vindication.

There is so much to be learned from Loyola’s life and so many lessons to be gleaned from this film. Ultimately, this is a story of God’s grace and how, through tragedy, the Lord calls us to turn our gaze toward the only One who can save us.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Directed by Stephen Payne
Not Rated
Running Time: 90 minutes
DVD and streaming

Since the 1960s, Saul Alinsky’s words and famous work, Rules for Radicals, have influenced political tactics and theories — especially on issues concerning social justice. Behind his thesis, however, lurks a deadly agenda that threatens the Church — and Christianity’s core beliefs.

This film is a powerful new docu-drama from the Catholic father-and-son team of Richard and Stephen Payne. It reveals how Alinsky, the father of community organizing, successfully pulled the wool over society’s eyes. The Paynes deftly examine Alinsky’s massive political influence, including the impact on his most famous pupils — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The film, which aired on EWTN during the fall, is a lens into America’s cultural Marxism euphemistically called “progressivism.” The Paynes explore Alinsky and his movement juxtaposed with the classic teachings of the Church with insights from philosopher Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. (who was trained in Alinskyian organizing), Alinsky expert Stephanie Block, and others.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is a powerful attempt to sound the alarm for those not yet fully aware of Alinsky and the threat he still poses to the U.S. and the Catholic Church. It calls for a return to the Church’s social principles for the sake of saving society from the culture of death brought about by Marxism.

In Alinsky’s final interview just before his 1972 death, he said, “If there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell…. Over here, if you’re a have-not, you’re short of dough. If you’re a have-not in hell, you’re short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I’ll start organizing the have-nots.” Asked why, Alinsky states, “They’re my kind of people.”

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.
LifeSiteNews.com contributed to this review.
For more, visit AlinskyFilm.com

Win Son of God tickets!

Legatus magazine is proud to partner with the producers of the SON OF GOD film . . .

Son-of-GodLegatus magazine is proud to partner with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the husband-and-wife team that brought you THE BIBLE miniseries last year, to offer TEN pair of FREE tickets to the opening weekend of their blockbuster SON OF GOD!

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