Web site TV for Sept. 5 – Sept. 11, 2010
TV film fare -- week of Sept. 5
The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Sept. 5. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.
Sunday, Sept. 5, 6-9 p.m. EDT (AMC) "The Sum of All Fears" (2002). Espionage thriller loosely based on the Tom Clancy novel in which rookie CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) races to prove a nuclear attack on the United States was not ordered by Russia while both the American and Russia presidents prepare to initiate a nuclear response. Sleekly directed by Phil Alden Robinson, the frightening visuals of nuclear devastation add up to more than escapist entertainment yet the narrative glosses over a morally questionable course of action to deliver a pat, romanticized ending. Some catastrophic and recurring violence, the issue of vigilante justice, an implied affair, intermittent profanity and an instance of rough language. 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 PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Monday, Sept. 6, 10-11:45 p.m. EDT (TCM) "Tender Mercies" (1983). Down-on-his-luck country-western singer (Robert Duvall), whose drinking broke up his first marriage, meets and weds a young widow (Tess Harper) who runs a ramshackle motel with her young son (Allan Hubbard). Director Bruce Beresford gets feeling performances from his cast, most especially Duvall in one of his best roles, and treats in a refreshingly uncynical, matter-of-fact manner the widow's strong religious convictions and her quiet pride when she sees her son and husband baptized. A rare movie, tough and gentle, inspiring and immensely entertaining, but the serious nature of the story is more appropriate for adults and 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.
Friday, Sept. 10, 6-8 p.m. EDT (TCM) "The Haunting" (1963). Eerie version of Shirley Jackson's novel about Hill House, an isolated 19th-century New England mansion where reports of psychic phenomena are investigated by a parapsychologist (Richard Johnson), a skeptic (Russ Tamblyn) and two potential psychic mediums (Julie Harris and Claire Bloom). Director Robert Wise generates mounting tension from the spooky atmosphere of the long-empty house and the terror of unseen forces lurking within it. Scary proceedings, mostly in the imagination but no less effective for that. 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, Sept. 11, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. EDT (A&E) "Back to the Future" (1985). Above-average entertainment about a teenager (Michael J. Fox) who is transported back through time and obliged to serve as matchmaker for his parents or face retroactive nonexistence. A major problem is that his mother-to-be finds him far more attractive than she does his father-to-be. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it is funny and clever with a bit of genuine sentiment but unfortunately is marred by casual profanity, the depiction of violence as manly and, though there is no depiction of it, an implicit acceptance of sexual promiscuity as standard teenage behavior. 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, Sept. 11, 8-10 p.m. EDT (HBO) "Couples Retreat" (2009). Mostly dull, sexually wayward comedy in which a suburban couple (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) on the verge of divorce convince a group of their friends (most prominently Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman) to join them at a South Pacific resort whose founder (Jean Reno) specializes in marriage therapy. While Peter Billingsley's directorial debut ultimately affirms marital fidelity, viewers have to endure waves of constantly suggestive, occasionally smutty humor and a tide of New Age psychobabble -- an obviously inadequate substitute for faith as a basis for lifelong commitment -- before reaching that safe shore. Strong sexual content, including brief but aberrant adulterous activity, fleeting nongraphic sexual activity within marriage, a flash of rear nudity, many sexually themed jokes, and some crude and much crass language. 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 PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Saturday, Sept. 11, 8-10:30 a.m. EDT (AMC) "Wild Wild West" (1999). Glossy adaptation of the 1960s TV series in which two post-Civil War government agents -- one trigger-happy (Will Smith) the other skilled at disguises and inventions (Kevin Kline) -- must disable a behemoth killing machine operated by a wheelchair-bound madman (Kenneth Branagh) bent on bringing down the Republic. Director Barry Sonnenfeld blends sci-fi contraptions, a comic tone and the Old West setting for a hollow, gimmick-driven plot with impossible stunts and decorative femme fatales for giddy escapist entertainment. Intermittent explosions and stylized violence, some sexual innuendo and double entendres, and fleeting rear nudity. 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, Sept. 11, 10 p.m.-12:10 a.m. EDT (Cinemax) "Sherlock Holmes" (2009). This vigorous but frequently violent addition to the chronicles of the iconic sleuth sees Holmes (entertainingly sly Robert Downey Jr.) and his perennial sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), on the trail of a Satan-worshipping homicidal aristocrat (Mark Strong). The aristocrat has inspired a wave of public panic by apparently rising from the dead after his execution, while Watson's plans to abandon detective work to marry the woman (Kelly Reilly) for whom he has fallen, and the appearance of a femme fatale (Rachel McAdams) who has bested and befuddled Holmes in the past, heighten the tension. As envisioned by director Guy Ritchie, this brawny Sherlock slugs his way through several bone-crunching square-offs across Victorian London. He does so while investigating the dark doings of the Masonic-style secret society to which the errant lord belonged and which may hold the key to his seemingly supernatural powers. Considerable action violence, occult themes, satanic activity, brief irreverence, a sexual situation, a few sexual references and jokes. 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.
Here are some television program notes for the week of Sept. 5 with their TV Parental Guidelines ratings if available. They have not been reviewed and therefore are not necessarily recommended by Catholic News Service.
Monday, Sept. 6, 6:30-7 p.m. EDT (EWTN) "Christ the Servant: The Vocation of Deacons." In this first episode of a five-part series, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers examines the true nature and character of the diaconate, which is not defined by what a deacon does but by who the deacon is: a sacramental sign of the church in the world and a consecrated, visible witness to the kingdom of God manifested in Christ the servant. The series continues nightly through Sept. 10, 6:30-7 p.m. EDT.
Monday, Sept. 6, 10-11 p.m. EDT (PBS) "Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City." This documentary recounts the life of Daniel Burnham, a dreamer who shaped some of America's best-known places and spaces, including New York City's Flatiron Building and Washington's Union Station. The profile also explores Burnham's complex legacy as an urban planner, as public debate continues today about how and for whom cities are planned (TV-G -- general audience).
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 10-11 p.m. EDT (Animal Planet) "Cat Ladies." A look at four unique women whose lives and self-worth have become inextricably linked to their cats (TV-PG -- parental guidance suggested).
Thursday, Sept. 9, 9-10:30 p.m. EDT (EWTN) "Live From Wyoming Catholic College." Presented as part of the youth-oriented series "Life on the Rock," this special features interviews with students and faculty from Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo., which opened its doors in 2007.
Thursday, Sept. 9, 9-11 p.m. EDT (History) "9/11 State of Emergency." This special recounts the difficult split-second decisions a wide spectrum of people -- ranging from senior political leaders to ordinary men and women -- were forced to make on one of the most fateful days in American history. Among those interviewed (listed with their titles at the time of the attacks) are National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, acting chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, and White House chief of staff Andrew Card.
Friday, Sept. 10, 8-9 p.m. EDT (ABC; CBS: Fox; NBC; others) "Stand Up to Cancer." News anchors Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, and Brian Williams co-host this live, commercial free cross-network simulcast -- a follow-up to a similar special that aired in 2008 -- aimed at raising funds to accelerate innovative cancer research. Featured guests include cancer survivors Christina Applegate, Lance Armstrong, Fran Drescher, Elizabeth Edwards and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as well as other celebrities such as Abigail Breslin, Cindy Crawford, Sally Field, Terrence Howard, Ken Jeong, Ray Liotta, Aaron Neville, Queen Latifah, the Simpsons, Reese Witherspoon and Stevie Wonder.Friday, Sept. 10, 9-11 p.m. EDT (History) "Voices From Inside the Towers." This program presents an "inside" perspective on what happened during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center through recordings and recollections of phone calls made by some who later died and others who survived.