TV film fare -- week of Dec. 19, 2021

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Dec. 19. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.

Sunday, Dec. 19, 8-10 a.m. EST (TCM) "Boys Town" (1938). Sentimental but emotionally honest story of how Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) built his school for homeless and delinquent youths during the Depression. Directed by Norman Taurog, the Hollywood version centers on the conflict between the priest's charismatic powers of persuasion and a street tough (Mickey Rooney) who only thinks he's hard-boiled. Tracy's Oscar-winning performance as a role model for those in need of one was a credible blend of the idealistic and the pragmatic. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.

Sunday, Dec. 19, 7-11 p.m. EST (ABC) "The Sound of Music" (1965). Particularly fine screen version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about the formative years of the Trapp Family Singers in Austria between the two world wars. Its interesting story, solid cast (headed by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer), lovely music and intelligent lyrics, colorful scenery and pleasant fantasy will entertain the mind and enliven the spirit. Directed by Robert Wise, the movie has held up over the years as thoroughly refreshing family entertainment. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association rating was G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 7:30-10 p.m. EST (Showtime) "L.A. Confidential" (1997). Stylish cop drama set in 1950s Los Angeles where three police detectives (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce) working on apparently unrelated homicides begin to see all may be related to a ring of corrupt officials. Directed by Curtis Hanson, the darkly cynical story is densely plotted with murders most foul as the detectives work their way through a miasma of chicanery and deceit. Recurring violence, fleeting nudity, recurring sexual innuendo, some profanity and intermittent 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 rating was R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Friday, Dec. 24, 10-11:30 p.m. EST (TCM) "A Christmas Carol" (1938). Sturdy version of the Dickens classic in which miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen) fires clerk Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart) on Christmas Eve, then undergoes a change of heart after being visited later that night by his dead partner, Marley (Leo G. Carroll), and three ghosts. Directed by Edwin L. Marin, the adaptation is faithful to the spirit of the original, though it lightens the tone with some comic relief and makes the 1843 London setting more quaint than grim. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.

Saturday, Dec. 25, 5-7 p.m. EST (Showtime) "Last Holiday" (2006). Touching if improbable tale of a dowdy spinster (Queen Latifah) who, upon learning she is terminally ill, takes out all her savings and goes to Europe where she gets a makeover and learns to live life more fully, changing the lives of a corrupt businessman (Timothy Hutton) and less-than-altruistic politicians. Wayne Wang's remake of a 1950 Alec Guinness movie which had a script by august English writer J.B. Priestley is marred by some silly slapstick, but mostly, though predictable and contrived, it's a feel-good film with the marvelously empathetic Latifah and a positive message about recognizing possibilities and having the courage to follow through on them. A few instances of crude language, some frank sexual talk and innuendo and an adulterous situation in an otherwise admirably wholesome film. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating was PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Saturday, Dec. 25, 8-10:50 p.m. EST (HBO) "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012). Epic adaptation of the opening part of Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 children's novel "The Hobbit, or There and Back Again," directed by Peter Jackson. In this first installment of a trio of prequels to Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, also based on Tolkien's fiction, a homebody hobbit (Martin Freeman) is reluctantly convinced by a wizard (Ian McKellen) to accompany and aid a group of dwarves (led by Richard Armitage) in their quest to recapture their ancient stronghold, a storehouse of fabulous wealth long ago conquered by a rampaging dragon. The heroism of ordinary people and the potential for everyday goodness to subdue evil are the primary themes of the long, combat-heavy adventure that follows. As the titular character proves his mettle, the corrupting effects of power are also showcased through his encounter with a cave dweller (Andy Serkis) who is obsessed with -- and spiritually enslaved by -- a magical ring. Not for the easily frightened or those with short attention spans, Jackson's sweeping journey across Tolkien's imaginary world of Middle-earth is an upbeat outing suitable for all others. Much bloodless action violence, some mild gross-out humor. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating was PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.