TV film fare -- week of April 24
The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of April 24. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.
Sunday, April 24, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EDT (TCM) "Barabbas" (1961). Uneven costume epic follows the tormented path of the criminal (Anthony Quinn) who, after being freed by Pilate instead of Christ, is sentenced to the sulfur mines in Sicily, brought to Rome to be a gladiator (with Jack Palance as grimacing tutor-adversary) and finally crucified as a Christian under Nero. Directed by Richard Fleischer, the movie begins promisingly with a sequence counterpointing Christ and Barabbas but the religious level gets lost in Quinn's one-note performance as the surly, ever-questioning survivor until re-emerging in the ironic conclusion. Stylized violence. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Sunday, April 24, 4:30-8 p.m. EDT (TCM) "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965). While not the greatest movie ever made, director George Stevens' vision of the Gospel story presents a consistent, traditional view of Christ as the God incarnate. The movie, despite its epic Hollywood scale, is well-acted, tastefully and realistically written, and beautifully photographed; Max von Sydow's believable portrayal of Christ is the most essential element in its success. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was G -- general patronage.
Sunday, April 24, 10 p.m.-midnight EDT (TCM) "Godspell" (1973). Sparkling screen version of musical based loosely on the Gospel according to Matthew, featuring an off-Broadway cast with Victor Garber as the Christ figure and David Haskell as both John the Baptist and Judas. What makes the movie so high-spirited is director David Greene's turning the entire city of New York into a giant stage set, with its buildings, streets and parks all strikingly used for great effect. The parables are presented in imaginative skits, many of which serve as springboards for the irresistible tunes -- such as "Day by Day" and "God Save the People!" -- that made the play so popular. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was G -- general patronage.
Friday, April 29, 9:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. EDT (AMC) "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (2007). Unusual and compelling Western dramatizing the circumstances that led up to the shooting of notorious outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) by Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), a member of his own gang, and the publicity generated afterward. Writer-director Andrew Dominik tells the story intelligently at a leisurely but controlled pace with penetrating close-ups of the excellent cast -- Affleck is particularly outstanding -- to probe psychological motivations. The relatively restrained violence is presented with an admirable realism devoid of glamorization. Some crude language and profanity, innuendo, a nongraphic sexual encounter, several shooting deaths with blood and scenes of physical violence, suicide and brief rear male nudity. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Saturday, April 30, 3-5:30 p.m. EDT (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.
Saturday, April 30, 8-11 p.m. EDT (ABC) "Batman Begins" (2005). Dark and brooding prequel that explains how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) became the costumed crimefighter and reveals the "hidden years," detailing his training as a member of a clandestine order of ninja-like vigilantes, leading up to his donning the cape and cowl to become Gotham City's self-appointed guardian. Director Christopher Nolan goes for a more gritty "reality-based" approach, focusing on the psychological dimension of Bruce/Batman's inner conflict rather than comic-book heroics. Intense action violence, some frightening images and mature thematic elements, as well as a few crude expressions and an instance of profanity. 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 April 24
Here are some television program notes for the week of April 24 with their TV Parental Guidelines ratings if available. They have not been reviewed and therefore are not necessarily recommended by Catholic News Service.
Sunday, April 24, 4-6 a.m. EDT (EWTN) "Solemn Mass of Easter Sunday With Pope Benedict XVI (Live)." The pope celebrates Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican. The liturgy will be rerun 7-9 p.m. EDT.
Sunday, April 24, 6-7 a.m. EDT (EWTN) "Urbi et Orbi Blessing and Message (Live)." Pope Benedict gives the traditional Easter message and blessing "urbi et orbi" -- to the city of Rome and to the world. Presented live from St. Peter's Square. The ceremony will be rerun 5-6 p.m. EDT.
Sunday, April 24, noon-2 p.m. EDT (EWTN) "Solemn Mass of Easter Sunday (Live)." Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington will serve as celebrant and homilist at this liturgy broadcast live from that city's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Tuesday, April 26, 10-11:30 p.m. EDT (PBS) "Marwencol." Filmmaker Jeff Malmberg's documentary profiles Mark Hogancamp. After a vicious attack that left him brain-damaged and broke, Hogancamp sought recovery through Marwencol, a miniature World War II-era town he created in his backyard. Series host America Ferrera introduces this "Independent Lens" presentation (TV-PG/V -- parental guidance suggested; moderate violence).
Wednesday, April 20, 9-11 p.m. EDT (History) "Jesus: The Lost 40 Days." This special examines the 40 days that elapsed between Jesus' resurrection and his ascension. Drawing on such nonbiblical writings as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gnostic Gospels, the works of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus and the Gospel of Nicodemus, the program seeks to create a "fuller" narrative of this period than that contained in the canonical Gospels. (While such nonrevealed and -- in some cases -- heretical sources may be of interest historically and culturally, Catholic viewers will not, of course, regard them as faith-formative.)
Saturday, April 30, 2:30-5 p.m. EDT (EWTN) "Vigil in Honor of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II (Live)." This vigil -- broadcast live from Rome's Circus Maximus -- will be led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome, while Pope Benedict will be present via a video linkup. The event will be rerun 8-10:30 p.m. EDT.
Saturday, April 30, 10-11 p.m. EDT (Animal Planet) "Too Cute! Kittens." This lighthearted special follows the birth and first months of three separate kitten litters.