Six movies to see this summer
By Aaron Lambert
Writer from Denver
Aside from the hot sun beating down and a cold glass of lemonade, few images evoke the sweet season of summer better than the dim lights of a movie theater with popcorn in hand.
This year has seen the release of a wide variety of great films, from family-friendly heartwarmers to raucous summer blockbusters. There’s even been a couple of spiritual films that powerfully portray the love of God and the beauty of the Christian faith.
If you find yourself with some downtime to kick back and watch a movie or two this summer, here are six that are worth watching.
This one received a lot of Oscar buzz, with seven nominations and one win for best original screenplay, and for good reason. “Belfast” is a poignant yet heartwarming tale of one boy’s life in Belfast during the era known as The Troubles, a sectarian conflict between the Irish people that lasted well into the ’90s. The film is partly a biopic of the childhood of director Kenneth Branagh, who is not only a successful director but also a very talented actor. “Belfast” feels very personal, because indeed, it is; but a strong thread of childhood innocence weaved into the importance of faith, family and friends amid a tumultuous period of history make this film leave a lasting impact.
Time will tell how much longer Disney movies remain “family-friendly,” but for now, they’re still releasing some newer gems that are not agenda-driven and hearken back to the classic Disney films that actively promoted good things like traditional family values. One of their latest phenomena is “Encanto,” which centers around the Family Madrigal and a miracle they received during a difficult point in their family’s history. Besides the music, which is ridiculously, almost annoyingly, catchy thanks to composer Lin Manuel-Miranda (remember, we don’t talk about Bruno!), “Encanto” is, at its heart, a movie about the importance of family and how we are not defined by what we can do or the gifts we’ve been given, but rather by how well we are able to love one another. A perfect flick for a family movie night.
One of the most anticipated movies of the year, “The Batman” doesn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding it, but it’s a decent movie with a surprisingly human story at its core that warrants a watch nonetheless. Robert Pattinson plays the Batman, whose secret identity is billionaire Bruce Wayne, traditionally depicted as a playboy of sorts but is more akin in this latest reboot to a grungy, angsty youth. While this version of “The Batman” is even darker than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (and, in this writer’s opinion, much more inferior), there is still a message of hope that resounds by the time the end credits roll. Of note is the film’s score by Michael Giacchino, which features a short homage to Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” albeit used in a more sinister manner as the theme for Paul Dano’s disturbed take on The Riddler, a classic Batman villain. Make sure the kids are in bed before turning this one on. ›
The film industry is not kind to Catholic priests. Generally speaking, priests as depicted on film fall into three general stereotypes: perverts, fools or evil incarnate, all clad in a collar. Thankfully, with “Father Stu,” Hollywood has given us a film that shows the priesthood as it actually is – a beautiful gift of self to others. The film is based on the true story of Father Stuart Long, a staunch atheist and all-around troublemaker from Helena, Montana who experienced a profound conversion later in life and became a priest, only to be diagnosed with a rare disease that ultimately killed him in 2014. As short-lived as his priesthood was, he had a profound impact on the many who encountered him. Megastar Mark Wahlberg was so moved by Father Stu’s story and his beautiful example of suffering well that he made a movie about him in which he stars as the late priest, and what results is one of the best movies about the priesthood and the Church in a long time. Highly recommended, with a disclaimer: this film earns its “R” rating for crude and pervasive language.
Man of God
As Catholics, it is imperative to hear the stories of our Orthodox brothers and sisters in the faith, whose examples of fidelity to Christ are no less moving than those of the saints venerated by the Catholic Church. One such story is that of St. Nektarios of Aegina, whose life is recounted in the beautiful film “Man of God.” In many ways, St. Nektarios’ life mimics that of Christ himself; he was a bishop and great teacher in the Greek Orthodox Church whose fellow bishops in Egypt became jealous of his popularity with the people and unjustly exiled him from the diocese. St. Nektarios, who is portrayed wonderfully by the Greek actor Aris Servetalis in the film, did not let this deter him from doing the heavenly work he felt the Lord was calling him to, in spite of numerous other tribulations that he encountered along the way. “Man of God” is a reverent, almost contemplative film that studies St. Nektarios’ life as one which reflects each Christian’s duty to live charitably and be holy, regardless of our state of life or where we are.
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
At this point, it seems the Marvel cinematic universe will never end, what with all the series and spinoffs and superfluous cinematic sagas in the works. It seems that Marvel movies (and superhero films, for that matter) are a dime a dozen these days, and their quality is suffering as a result. However, every once in a while, there’s still a gem that emerges from the rubble. Case in point: the recent “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness,” which succeeds because it tries something different than the formulaic approach that many of the recent Marvel films have fallen into. Sure, part of that has to do with the fact that the multiverse has been opened wide and is now ripe for cameos and other surprises, but the main reason is director Sam Raimi, who is best known for cheesy horror films but more notably for the original Spider Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire. Raimi’s return to the superhero genre with “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” mixes in a bit of his B-movie sensibilities and is carried by a surprisingly human story at the heart of it. Even for those who have long since written off Marvel films as recycled Hollywood drivel, this one is worth a watch; if nothing else, it’s wickedly fun and entertaining.
–This article is the June 2022 issue of Catholic San Francisco Magazine