TV film fare -- week of Feb. 6
The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Feb. 6. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.
Monday, Feb. 7, 8-10:30 p.m. EST (AMC) "Rocky" (1976). Underdog Philadelphia club fighter Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has a shot at the heavyweight championship with the help of a tough old trainer (Burgess Meredith). Director John Avildsen concentrates on the gritty, back-street quality of life in the old neighborhood and the relationship that grows between Rocky and the introverted sister (Talia Shire) of his best friend (Burt Young). The bloody brutality of the prizefight game is abundantly evident. 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. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 7-9:45 a.m. EST (TCM) "The Shoes of the Fisherman" (1968). Uneven screen version of the Morris L. West novel about a Russian bishop (Anthony Quinn) who becomes pope and decides that the Vatican's wealth should be given to the world's poor. Directed by Michael Anderson, the point of the story gets lost in a series of murky subplots involving international intrigue. The religious pageantry is eye-catching but conveyed largely on a superficial level. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Wednesday, Feb. 9, 8-10 p.m. EST (TCM) "Come Back, Little Sheba" (1952). Strong story from William Inge's play about a middle-aged housewife (Shirley Booth) and her chiropractor husband (Burt Lancaster), a recovering alcoholic who goes off the wagon when a pert college student (Terry Moore) becomes their boarder. Director Daniel Mann keeps emotions churning as the couple's sad past and the harrowing consequences of alcoholism slowly emerge, but what remains most memorable is Booth's Oscar-winning performance as the pathetic wife. Implied premarital relations, sexual situations and alcoholic violence. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Saturday, Feb. 12, 9-10:45 a.m. EST (AMC) "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943). Thoughtful Western set in 1885 Nevada where a couple of cowpokes (Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan) join in the search for a rustler reported to have killed a rancher, then try to stop the lynching of three unfortunates (Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn and Francis Ford) taken prisoner along the way. Directed by William A. Wellman, the result succeeds in showing the human cost that results whenever people presume to take the law in their own hands. Frontier violence, vigilante justice and an inaccurate depiction of the Catholic sacrament of confession. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Saturday, Feb. 12, 5-7 p.m. EST (Lifetime) "The Lake House" (2006). Intriguing if slow-moving time-warp romance, as a doctor (Sandra Bullock) commences correspondence with an architect (Keanu Reeves) who lived in the same Illinois lakeside house she herself once occupied, but they come to realize they are existing two years apart from each other. Alejandro Agresti's fantasy is intelligently adapted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn from a South Korean film, "Il Mare." Though the leads are appealing, and the story of two unhappy people trying to make a connection touching if sometimes perplexing, somehow the movie never really grips. Just a couple of instances of mild profanity and a crude word, and a brief but violent traffic accident, though otherwise refreshingly free of objectionable content. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Saturday, Feb. 12, 9-11 p.m. EST (ABC) "Hairspray" (2007). Highly enjoyable adaptation of the hit Broadway musical based on a 1988 film of the same title about an overweight 1960s Baltimore girl (Nikki Blonsky) whose parents (Christopher Walken and John Travolta, the latter in a cross-dressing role) support her dreams of competing on a racially segregated local dance program which the girl helps integrate. Director Adam Shankman keeps the pace moving and strikes a sensible balance between heightened realism and more fanciful elements. There are entertaining performances from a well-chosen cast, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron and James Marsden, and strong messages about racial tolerance and self-respect. Some crass expressions, innuendo, mild sexual banter and irreverence, and brief teen smoking make this best for older adolescents. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Saturday, Feb. 12, 10 p.m.-midnight EST (Cinemax) "It's Complicated" (2009). A decade after their divorce, a couple (Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin) reconnect and have an affair, despite his second marriage to a much younger wife (Lake Bell) and her budding romance with an architect (Steve Martin). Though it highlights the lasting emotional toll exacted on children when their parents split, writer-director Nancy Meyers' aesthetically smooth-running romantic comedy is aptly titled from a Catholic moral perspective. This is true since -- assuming their union was valid to begin with -- the pair's seeming adultery, presented as a daring feminist adventure for Streep's well-delineated character, would in fact be marital lovemaking. Yet the breach of trust with the new "spouse" can hardly be excused, and adds a further twist to an ethically tangled story demanding careful evaluation by mature viewers. Complex moral issues; skewed values; implied sexual activity, some of it adulterous; off-screen masturbation; fleeting rear nudity; considerable drug use; some sexual references and humor; and a half-dozen crude or crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
TV program notes -- week of Feb. 6
Here are some television program notes for the week of Feb. 6 with their TV Parental Guidelines ratings if available. They have not all been reviewed and therefore are not necessarily recommended by Catholic News Service.
Sunday, Feb. 6, 10-11 p.m. EST (PBS) "Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime." On the centenary of President Ronald Reagan's birth, this biography examines how, as a loving spouse, a close confidant and a savvy political observer, Nancy Reagan exerted a powerful influence on her husband's career in public life (TV-G).
Monday, Feb. 7, 9-10 p.m. EST (Fox) "The Chicago Code." Premiere of a new police procedural series in which Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals), six months into her tenure as Chicago's first female superintendant, enlists her former patrol partner, Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke), in her campaign to rid the Windy City of its long-festering political corruption. In the pilot episode, the murder of a local real estate executive who discovered evidence of rigged bidding for a municipal contract puts Teresa and Jarek on the trail of powerful alderman Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Though some vulgar language and sexual talk -- presumably intended to add grit to the proceedings -- make this clearly off-limits for younger viewers, adults may find the lively pace and reasonably intelligent (if occasionally contrived) story line appealing.
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 9:30-10 p.m. EST (Fox) "Traffic Light." Premiere of a new comedy series about three college friends -- Mike (David Denman), Adam (Nelson Franklin) and Ethan (Kris Marshall) -- now long graduated and each at a different "stage" in their romantic relationships. Mike is married to Lisa (Liza Lapira); Adam is moving in with his girlfriend, Callie (Aya Cash); while free spirit Ethan's idea of commitment involves dating a woman for more than a couple of weeks. In this episode, Lisa becomes suspicious when she discovers that Mike's buddies won't talk to him on his car phone if they know she's riding with him, and Adam uses reverse psychology to persuade Callie to let him go out drinking with the guys. Apart from the questionable premise involving Adam and Ethan's lifestyles, the script only occasionally slips into tasteless territory: a gag about a topless photo of Callie, for example, and Ethan's ability to get away with crass compliments. But the action meanders while the understated humor is better calculated to inspire a few smiles than many laughs.
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 10-11 p.m. EST (PBS) "When I Rise." Filmmaker Mat Hames' documentary recounts the story of Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted music student who struggled against the odds to reach the heights of international opera. Part of the series "Independent Lens" (TV-PG).
Wednesday, Feb. 9, 9-11 p.m. EST (History) "Reagan." This special constructs a portrait of the 40th president using the defining moments of his 93-year lifespan. From his impoverished and nomadic childhood to his arrival as a Hollywood star; his work as a union president and a voice for the conservative movement, his position as governor of California and his ultimate role as commander in chief. Among the prominent figures interviewed are former White House correspondent Sam Donaldson, CNN political analyst and former Reagan aide David Gergen and former Secretary of State George Shultz.
Wednesday, Feb. 9, 10-11 p.m. EST (EWTN) "Christian Witness in the Middle East." A documentary look at the lives of Christians in Syria and Jordan. Highlights include interviews with Bishop Giuseppe Nazzaro, a Franciscan who is apostolic vicar of Alep, Syria, and Bishop Selim Sayegh, auxiliary Latin-rite bishop of Jerusalem and patriarchal vicar for Jordan.
Friday, Feb. 11, 10-11:30 p.m. EST (EWTN) "Healing and Miracles at Lourdes." This documentary about miraculous cures at Lourdes, France, begins with a summary of the events leading to the establishment of the shrine and moves on to an explanation of the process by which such cures are approved. Of the 30,000 people who have considered themselves healed since 1858, the script points out, the church has recognized only 65. The program will be rebroadcast Saturday, Feb. 12, 2-3:30 p.m. EST.
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