Home Viewing Roundup for Nov. 6, 2023
(OSV News) The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies available now for streaming or scheduled for broadcast on network or cable television during the week of Nov. 19, as well as notes on TV programming for the same week. Televised films may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations while the programs listed have not been reviewed and therefore are not necessarily recommended by OSV News.
"Guy Ritchie's The Covenant" (2023; Amazon Prime)
Amid the rigors of the conflict in Afghanistan, a U.S. Army master sergeant (Jake Gyllenhaal) gradually bonds with his unit's Afghan interpreter (Dar Salim). When an ambush far away from their base subsequently leaves the soldier badly wounded, his life depends on the depth of the friendship and dedication his comrade is willing to display over the course of an arduous and perilous journey back to safety. Director and co-writer Guy Ritchies tense war drama eschews the window dressings of heroism, focusing instead on the gritty determination, self-sacrifice and endurance sometimes required to demonstrate genuine courage, as well as on the reciprocal demands of an honorable relationship formed in the crucible of trying circumstances. While the values celebrated in his film are admirable, it's not an adventure for the fainthearted nor for those who object to soldierly swearing. Much combat violence with some gore, disturbing images, a narcotics theme, vague sexual humor, at least one profanity, pervasive rough language, occasional crude and crass talk. The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
"A Haunting in Venice" (2023; Hulu)
Agatha Christie's famed sleuth Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed) is drawn out of his post-World War II retirement in the titular city when a detective novelist (Tina Fey) invites him to unmask a spiritualist (Michelle Yeoh) during a Halloween-night seance at the reputedly haunted palazzo of a celebrated opera singer (Kelly Reilly) whose recently deceased adult daughter died in tragic, and murky, circumstances. Unsurprisingly, a murder ensues and Poirot sets out to solve it. As loosely adapted from Christie's 1969 novel "Halloween Party" by screenwriter Michael Green, Branagh's lush, eerily atmospheric production reaps audience interest from Poirot's confrontation with supposedly supernatural forces. Yet the film also tends to conflate necromancy with religion and portrays the brilliant Belgian, a self-identified Catholic in print, as having lost his faith. Parents will have to assess whether mature teens are sufficiently equipped to take on such material. Occult and atheism themes, disturbing images, some physical violence, a couple of instances each of profanity and crass language, about a half-dozen mild oaths, at least one crude term. The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" (2023; Netflix)
After downbeat opening scenes involving a teen angst-ridden Spider-Woman (voice of Hailee Steinfeld), this animated sequel to 2018's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse'' hits its stride with witty dialogue enlivening the further adventures of the Brooklyn-based hero (voice of Shameik Moore) as he tangles with a mutant mad scientist (voice of Jason Schwartzman) whose increasing powers threaten cosmic destruction. Co-directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson, the Marvel Comics-derived proceedings feature rapid-fire action, a constantly multiplying array of varied Spideys and plot developments pitting personal happiness against the greater good. The result is a crowd pleaser that may prove confusing to the uninitiated but will be catnip for hardcore fans. Possibly acceptable for mature adolescents. Much stylized violence, a few mild oaths, about a half-dozen crass terms. The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Sunday, Nov. 19, 4-5:30 a.m. EST (EWTN) "Holy Mass on the World Day of the Poor." Live coverage from Rome's St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Francis celebrates the World Day of the Poor with a special Mass for the impoverished and the people who assist them. The liturgy will re-air 7-8:30 p.m. EST (TV-G general audience).
Sunday, Nov. 19, 3:45-5:45 p.m. EST (TCM) "Pat and Mike" (1952). Offbeat romantic comedy teams veteran sports promoter Mike (Spencer Tracy) with top amateur athlete Pat (Katharine Hepburn), who is aces in any competition except when her beau (William Ching) is watching. Directed by George Cukor, it's Hepburn's picture with Tracy cheering her on as she goes through her winning paces, including a scene in which Pat saves Mike from two thugs. Feminist twist on the battle of the sexes. The OSV News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.
Sunday, Nov. 19, 8-10 p.m. EST (ABC) "Raya and the Last Dragon" (2021). To defeat the dark force that has brought turmoil to her once-tranquil world and turned many of its inhabitants into stone statues, a teen (voice of Kelly Marie Tran) teams with a dragon (voice of Awkwafina) on a quest to reunite the five fragments of a magical gem that, once made whole again, will restore peace and revive the petrified. Along the way, they enlist the help of, among others, a young mariner (voice of Izaac Wang) and a fearsome but good-hearted warrior (voice of Benedict Wong). Co-directed by Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada, this lively and colorful animated adventure promotes trust of adversaries, primarily through the character of a peer of the protagonist's (voice of Gemma Chan) from a rival realm who once betrayed her, and showcases the ills produced by greed and aggression. Yet, as scripted by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, the film includes quasi-religious behavior that might confuse impressionable viewers. Well-catechized teens, by contrast, will easily shrug off such elements. Nonscriptural practices, stylized combat, including swordplay and martial arts fighting, potentially frightening sights, childish scatological humor. The OSV News 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.
Monday, Nov. 20, 10-11:30 p.m. EST (PBS) "Wisdom Gone Wild." Filmmaker Rea Tajiri's documentary chronicles her Nisei mother's battle with dementia. A "POV" presentation (TV-14 parents strongly cautioned).
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 10-11 p.m. EST (PBS) "The Princes in the Tower." This episode of the series "Secrets of the Dead" examines whether the 15th-century murder of two princes in the Tower of London can ever be solved.
Saturday, Nov. 25, noon-2:30 p.m. EST (TCM) "Going My Way" (1944). Bing Crosby ambles amiably through the role of Father O'Malley, the crooning curate sent to assist the aging, crotchety pastor (Barry Fitzgerald) of a poor parish in need of change. Director Leo McCarey's sentimental story is well paced with humor and songs such as "Swinging on a Star," but at its sugary center is the theme of new ways replacing the old, as conveyed amusingly but with feeling by the two principals. The definitive Hollywood version of Catholic life in an age of innocence, the picture retains appeal today mainly as a well-crafted vehicle of popular entertainment. The OSV News classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.
Saturday, Nov. 25, 6:05-8 p.m. EST (HBO) "The Nun II" (2023). Jump-scares abound in director Michael Chaves' horror sequel but so, too, do religious images deployed in a strictly utilitarian way, with the sacred subordinated to the film's agenda of reaping chills. Set four years after the action of the 2018 original, the follow-up finds the nun-turned-spook antagonist of the kick-off (Bonnie Aarons) once again on the loose. Out to thwart her plans for world conquest is the same heroic sister (Taissa Farmiga) who stymied her in the original. With Catholic worship practices tending to come off as no more than a series of magic tricks, some viewers of faith will consider the production irksome from the start while others may find it onerous by the time the final credits roll. An occult theme, dubious use of consecrated objects, physical violence with some gore, brief references to suicide, fleeting rough language. The OSV News 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.- - - John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @JohnMulderig1.