TV film fare -- week of Dec. 26, 2021

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Dec. 26. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 8-10:15 p.m. EST (TCM) "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974). Stylish screen version of the Agatha Christie mystery with Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) solving the murder of a man (Richard Widmark) whom everyone on the train apparently had good reason to kill. Set in the 1930s, director Sidney Lumet emphasizes the elegance of the period, has an enthusiastic all-star cast (Ingrid Bergman, Wendy Hiller, Vanessa Redgrave, Lauren Bacall, John Gielgud, et al.) and is faithful to the original's wit and verve. Exceptionally well-done escapist entertainment for those who enjoy murder mysteries but the murder here is rather brutal and definitely not for pre-teens. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating was PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Thursday, Dec. 30, 8-10 p.m. EST (ABC) "Frozen" (2013). Animated musical, loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale "The Snow Queen" and directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. The new queen (voice of Idina Menzel) of a mythical kingdom accidentally unleashes her power to create ice and snow, causing an eternal winter. She retreats into exile, but her princess sister (voice of Kristen Bell) is determined to find her and undo the spell. Joining the younger royal's epic odyssey are an amiable mountain man (voice of Jonathan Groff), his silent reindeer sidekick, and a comedic snowman (voice of Josh Gad). This good-natured film, suitable for all but the smallest tykes, who might be frightened by its storm sequences, has something for everyone: Broadway-style show tunes, thrilling adventure, gorgeous visuals, cute-as-a-button characters, and a nice message about the enduring bonds of family. There are even a few respectful religious overtones likely to please believers. A few mildly perilous situations, a bit of slightly gross humor. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association rating was PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Friday, Dec. 31, 8-9:45 p.m. EST (TCM) "The Thin Man" (1934). Classic murder mystery from the Dashiell Hammett story in which private detective Nick Charles (William Powell) announces his retirement after marrying rich socialite Nora (Myrna Loy), then gets involved in trying to help a young woman (Maureen O'Sullivan) find her missing father, the eccentric inventor of the title (Edward Ellis). Director W.S. Van Dyke II paces the suspenseful plot with numerous suspicious characters, witty dialogue and affectionate kidding between happily married Nick and Nora. Menacing atmosphere, some stylized violence, hard-boiled types and heavy drinking. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association. (All five "Thin Man" sequels follow, in chronological order, concluding with "Song of the Thin Man" (1947) 5:15-7 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 1)

Saturday, Jan. 1, 12:35-2:45 p.m. EST (Showtime) "Serpico" (1973). Screen version of the life and hard times of Frank Serpico (Al Pacino), the New York City patrolman whose disclosure of deep and insidious corruption within the police force went unheard until he told the press, after which a commission was set up to reform the department. Director Sidney Lumet's movie is gritty and uncompromising, convincingly realistic, yet engrossing in its human drama and tension. Its theme of corruption is unpleasantly graphic, and some will find its implications frightening. 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.

Saturday, Jan. 1, 6-8 p.m. EST (HBO) "Godzilla vs. Kong" (2021). Visually spectacular but dramatically feeble creature feature from director Adam Wingard. In following up both 2019's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" and "Kong: Skull Island" from 2017, screenwriters Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein entangle the titular showdown in the varied strands of interaction among an ensemble cast with the result that the outsized brutes prove a good deal more interesting than the puny humans. The latter include an orphaned deaf girl (Kaylee Hottle) who has won Kong's affection, her adoptive mother (Rebecca Hall), a linguist who tries to communicate with the big simian, an eccentric podcaster (Brian Tyree Henry) intent on uncovering shenanigans at a high-tech conglomerate, the teen (Millie Bobby Brown) who becomes his protege and a scientist (Alexander Skarsgard) on a quest to reach the center of the earth. Those in search of special effects and crashing skyscrapers will eventually be well satisfied, film fans looking for memorable characters, not so much. Frequent stylized violence, at least one use of profanity, several milder oaths, about a half-dozen crude terms, a couple of crass expressions. 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, Jan. 1, 8-9:43 p.m. EST (Cinemax) "Rocky Balboa" (2006). Sixth and ostensibly final round in the "Rocky" saga, in which former heavyweight champ Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), now a widower, estranged from his son (Milo Ventimiglia) and running a restaurant, comes out of retirement, stepping into the ring against the current champ (Antonio Tarver) to prove he has plenty of heart left in his aging body. Written and directed by Stallone, this new chapter is arguably the best in the series since the 1976 original, emphasizing character and emotional drama over fight action, while imparting an inspirational message about perseverance and giving it your all, win or lose. Some bloody boxing violence and a few mildly crude expressions. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating was PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.