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TV film fare -- week of Sept. 29, 2019


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NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Sept. 29. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.

Sunday, Sept. 29, 9:05-11:30 a.m. EDT (Showtime) "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977). Richard Dreyfuss stars in director Steven Spielberg's epic about UFOs and the humanistic, hopeful and, for some, religious theme of mankind's close encounter with an extragalactic life form. The scenes involving simple person-to-person relationships may be somewhat flat, but the movie boasts some dazzling special effects and is tinged with a feeling of awe rare in science-fiction works. Some effects might frighten the very young. 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.

Sunday, Sept. 29, 9:30-11:30 a.m. EDT (TCM) "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007). The wedding of Mister Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) is interrupted by a cosmic force set to destroy the planet, and the pair must join with the Human Torch (Chris Evans) and the Thing (Michael Chiklis) to avert disaster, trying to dissuade the evil force's emissary, a silver man (voice of Laurence Fishburne) on a flying surfboard, from his dastardly mission, while contending with an overbearing army general (Andre Braugher) and duplicitous Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon). Apart from the elements listed below, director Tim Story's superior sequel -- with its personable leads, above-average special effects, and not-taking-itself-too-seriously tone -- makes for an engaging B-level adventure with a commendable message about making the right choices in life. Some mild innuendo and crass expressions, moderate action violence and implied nudity. 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.

Monday, Sept. 30, 6-8 p.m. EDT (TCM) "The Night of the Iguana" (1964). Uneven adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play in which a disgraced Episcopal priest (Richard Burton) hits bottom as a tour guide in Mexico, then gets fired because of a flirtatious teen (Sue Lyon) and turns to pondering his options with the help of a spunky widow (Ava Gardner) and a spinster artist (Deborah Kerr). Directed by John Huston, the theme of love's liberating power brings a sense of optimism to the otherwise dour proceedings, but what succeeds best is its collection of flawed characters whose human foibles are poignantly evoked in fine performances, especially that of Gardner. Sexual situations and innuendo, alcoholic excess and an attempted suicide. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 7:45-10 p.m. EDT (Showtime) "Donnie Brasco" (1997). Fact-based story of an undercover FBI agent (Johnny Depp) who infiltrates a New York mob family in the late 1970s by befriending an aging, low-level hood (Al Pacino), despite the agent's moral dilemmas over neglecting his own family while betraying a man who has treated him like a son. Director Mike Newell delivers an absorbing character study of a good guy nearly destroyed by his dedication to the job while never glamorizing the vicious brutality of the gangsters. Brief graphic violence, flash of nudity, intermittent profanity and much rough language. 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.

Thursday, Oct. 3, 6:30-8 p.m. EDT (TCM) "The First Texan" (1956). Agreeable Hollywood history of former Tennessee governor Sam Huston (Joel McCrea) coming to San Antonio in 1832 to set up a law practice, then agreeing to lead the fight against the Mexican forces of Santa Anna (David Silva) after the fall of the Alamo. Though director Byron Haskin doesn't make the events very exciting, the story of Huston's part in Texan independence holds interest, helped considerably by McCrea's credible performance as the heroic leader. Stylized violence. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Saturday, Oct. 5, 9:45-11:25 p.m. EDT (Cinemax) "Mean Girls" (2004). Catty teen comedy about an insecure 15-year-old (Lindsay Lohan), home-schooled for most of her life and raised in the African bush, who gets a crash course in the law of the social jungle when she is thrust into a public high school and gets stung by its reigning queen bee (Rachel McAdams). Directed by Mark Waters, the film explores the psychological minefields navigated by many young girls and imparts a positive self-esteem message, but its hard-edged sexual references make it unsuitable for the tween and teen audience at which it seems to be aimed. Recurring crude language and humor, some drug references and implied underage drinking. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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