TV film fare -- week of Jan. 30
The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Jan. 30. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.
Sunday, Jan 30, 9-11p.m EST (CBS) "The Lost Valentine,"
With the first of the baby boomers turning 65 this year, the ranks of their parents -- the children of the Depression and the youthful GIs and Rosie the Riveters of the Second World War -- are rapidly thinning. So perhaps it's an appropriate time for a celebration of the values and ideals cherished by those who have aptly been called the "greatest generation."
"The Lost Valentine" -- a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, produced in association with Paulist Productions -- offers just such a salute. Based on James Michael Pratt's novel, and directed by Darnell Martin, the sweetly romantic, family-oriented drama premieres Sunday, Jan. 30, 9-11 p.m. EST on CBS.
Each Valentine's Day -- her wedding anniversary and the anniversary, a year later, of her husband's departure for service in the Pacific -- Caroline Thomas, touchingly played by the indefatigable Betty White, returns to the railroad station where she saw her courageous and high-minded spouse, Neil (Billy Magnussen), for the last time.
Though he was reported missing in action shortly after the birth of their son a few months later, 65 years on, Neil's ultimate fate remains a mystery.
Assigned to cover Caroline's story as a human interest piece, initially doubtful TV reporter Susan Allison (Jennifer Love Hewitt) rapidly finds herself drawn to the plucky octogenarian and -- more significantly -- to Caroline's biggest fan, her protective grandson, Lucas (Sean Faris).
Susan's feelings for Lucas are complicated, however, by her relationship with longtime boyfriend, Andrew (Will Chase), a globetrotting photographer who, in an early scene, proposes to Susan shortly before departing for his latest journey to distant climes.
The unabashedly old-fashioned teleplay, by Maryann Ridini Spencer and Barton Taney, showcases Caroline's enduring marital love and -- as the circumstances of his last days are gradually uncovered -- Neil's selfless heroism.
As for Susan's dilemma, it pits the modern taste for a lifestyle abundant in space and freedom, typified by the possibilities of marriage to the often-absent Andrew, against the hometown closeness and simplicity offered by Lucas.
If the proceedings occasionally seem over-idealized, this is, nonetheless, that current rarity: quality programming appropriate for all ages. So parents can feel entirely comfortable gathering the clan for a wholesome and inviting stroll back in time to the days of swing music, victory gardens, and demanding commitments -- both personal and patriotic -- fulfilled.
Sunday, Jan. 30, 5-7 p.m. EST (Lifetime) "The Nanny Diaries" (2007). When a recent college graduate (Scarlett Johansson) turns her back on Wall Street only to be accidentally hired by a wealthy couple (Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti) as a nanny for their son (Nicholas Reese Art), she must conceal the situation from her ambitious mother (Donna Murphy). As the stress of her new job becomes overwhelming, she can only rely on the support of two close friends (Alicia Keys and Nathan Corddry) and on the sympathy of the handsome preppy who lives upstairs (Chris Evans). Writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's adaptation of the best-selling novel aspires to be a comedy of manners, but is hobbled by a simplistic message (rich is bad, working class is good) and characters who are, with few exceptions, walking stick figures. One use of the F-word, some crude and crass language, occasional profanity, partially concealed sexual activity, sexual advances, implied adultery and premarital sex, brief gay references, brief female disrobing without nudity and implied divorce. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Tuesday, Feb. 1, 10 p.m.-12:15 a.m. EST (TCM) "A Man for All Seasons" (1966). Engrossing drama of the last seven years in the life of Thomas More, Henry VIII's chancellor, who met a martyr's death rather than compromise his conscience during a period of religious turmoil. Robert Bolt's script is masterfully directed by Fred Zinnemann, with a standout performance by Paul Scofield in the title role, among other notable performances from a uniformly fine cast. The historical dramatization achieves an authentic human dimension that makes its 16th-century events more accessible and its issues more universal. Profoundly entertaining but heavy-going for children. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.
Thursday, Feb. 3, 5:30-8 p.m. EST (AMC) "Moonstruck" (1987). Charming romantic comedy set in an Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., where a widow (Cher) accepts the proposal of a fastidious bachelor (Danny Aiello) but falls in love with his darkly emotional younger brother (Nicolas Cage). Director Norman Jewison concentrates more on the comedy of character than on incident and the result is pleasantly amusing, emotionally operatic and humanly uplifting. Several restrained scenes implying sex, but the movie's moral perspective is implicit throughout. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG -- parental guidance suggested.
Thursday, Feb. 3, 9-11:30 p.m. EST (Lifetime) "Notting Hill" (1999). Gauzy romantic comedy in which a Hollywood movie star (Julia Roberts) and a timid London bookseller (Hugh Grant) fall in love, but he is too intimidated by her fame to pursue the relationship. Directed by Roger Michell, the contrived crowd-pleaser is long on stunning smiles and sugary sentiment but short on realistic romance. An off-screen sexual encounter, sexual references, occasional profanity and minimal rough language. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Saturday, Feb. 5, 10:15 a.m.-1 p.m. EST (TCM) "Becket" (1964). Superb adaptation of Jean Anouilh's classic play about the deep friendship and later conflict between England's King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) and his friend, Sir Thomas a Becket (Richard Burton), later a saint, and how their days of drinking and womanizing came to an end when the monarch appointed Becket archbishop of Canterbury, leading to Becket's spiritual transformation and ultimate martyrdom. Director Peter Glenville's film is rather stagy and leisurely paced, but the Oscar-winning dialogue is uncommonly literate, and the performances are brilliant. Some crass expressions and (by today's standards) tame sexuality. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Saturday, Feb. 5, 8-9:45 p.m. EST (HBO) "The Wolfman" (2010). Alternately spooky, savage and silly, this remake of the 1941 monster classic starring Lon Chaney Jr. tells of a decent if troubled man (Benicio Del Toro) periodically transformed into a hirsute beast after returning to his ancestral estate in England following the brutal murder of his brother in 1891. Striking a tone that might be described as "visceral camp," director Joe Johnston entertains by rendering the trappings of lycanthrope lore with first-rate special effects and actors -- Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving -- willing to feast on the material. Frequent episodes of moderately graphic violence including fleeting images of human entrails, decapitations and severed limbs; an instance of partial upper female nudity; several references to prostitution; one use of profane language. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America was R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Saturday, Feb. 5, 10-11:45 p.m. EST (Cinemax) "Our Family Wedding" (2010). Scattershot comedy, prone to physical gags, about the culture clash between two families when a Latina (America Ferrera) marries an African-American (Lance Gross). Director Rick Famuyiwa, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Wayne Conley and Malcolm Spellman, leaves no stereotype untouched in this wildly uneven combination of "Father of the Bride" and "Abie's Irish Rose," but mostly manages to stay within tasteful boundaries. A fleeting instance of crass language and the implication of a premarital relationship. Probably acceptable for mature teens. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
TV program notes -- week of Jan. 30
Here are some television program notes for the week of Jan. 30 with their TV Parental Guidelines ratings if available. They have not been reviewed and therefore are not necessarily recommended by Catholic News Service.
Sunday, Jan. 30, 10-11 p.m. EST (EWTN) "Parish Priest of Majdanek: About Omelian Kovch." A look into the life of Father Omelian Kovch, who died in a German Nazi concentration camp on the outskirts of Lublin, Poland. He served in the country town of Peremyshliany, Ukraine, and was known for his gracious treatment of all of the town's residents.
Monday, Jan. 31, 9-10 p.m. EST (PBS) "Greely Expedition." Using scientific accounts, diaries, photographs and letters, this episode of the series "American Experience" reveals how poor planning, personality clashes, questionable decisions and pure bad luck conspired to turn a noble scientific mission led by Adolphus W. Greely into a human tragedy (TV-PG -- parental guidance suggested).
Tuesday, Feb. 1, 8-9 p.m. EST (PBS) "Crime Dramas." Pioneers of the TV crime genre, including Jack Webb ("Dragnet"), Bruce Geller ("Mannix" and "Mission: Impossible"), Bill Cosby, Angie Dickinson, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau, James Garner and Stephen J. Cannell provide insight into the origins of their often groundbreaking programs. Part of the series "Pioneers of Television," narrated by Kelsey Grammer (TV-G -- general audience).
Tuesday, Feb. 1, 10-11:30 p.m. EST (PBS) "For Once in My Life." A documentary look at the Spirit of Goodwill Band. Made up of 28 musicians and singers, all of whom have severe mental and physical disabilities, the group provides a raucous home away from home, where members are free to display their talent, humor and tenacity. An "Independent Lens" presentation. America Ferrera hosts (TV-PG -- parental guidance suggested).
Wednesday, Feb. 2, 9-11 p.m. EST (History) "Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide." In this special, a team of scientists tries to create the definitive guide to Bigfoot. Among the questions they seek to answer: Does the creature exist? If it does, where is it? And how can it survive without being detected?
Thursday, Feb. 3, 10-11 p.m. EST (History) "Apocalypse in Georgia." Best-selling author Brad Meltzer leads a group of researchers in examining the mysterious Georgia Guidestones. Located on a remote hilltop outside Atlanta, the stones are often called America's Stonehenge. Part of the series "Brad Meltzer's Decoded."