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TV film fare -- week of Feb. 23, 2020


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NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Feb. 23. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.

Sunday, Feb. 23, 1:45-4 p.m. EST (TCM) "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939). Sprawling medieval melodrama from Victor Hugo's story of Quasimodo (Charles Laughton), the misshapen cathedral bell-ringer who rescues a kind gypsy dancer (Maureen O'Hara) from the gallows, then saves her from the clutches of the evil judge (Cedric Hardwicke) who had been his benefactor. Directed by William Dieterle, the 15th-century Paris setting is vibrantly rendered, the crowded plot moves briskly and, at the center of the piece, Laughton's feeling performance transcends the character's grotesque features to win audience sympathy. Stylized violence and romantic complications. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 8-10:35 p.m. EST (AMC) "The Book of Eli" (2010). This unexpectedly contemplative and lyrical, if violent, homage to spaghetti Westerns, martial arts films and religious faith follows a lone hero (Denzel Washington) as he traverses a post-apocalyptic landscape using his considerable fighting skills to safeguard the only extant copy of the King James Bible. Director siblings Albert and Allen Hughes have succeeded at making an entertaining and relatively substantive movie, while refraining from saturating the proceedings in blood or prolonging the violent passages. Still, some will find the pairing of Scripture with stylized aggression unnecessary and avoidable. Intermittent strong violence including gunplay and swordplay and a killing intended to be merciful, much rough and some crude language, brief sexual innuendo. 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.

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 8-10 p.m. EST (TCM) "Swing Time" (1936). Down-on-his-luck hoofer (Fred Astaire) rides the rails to New York City, teams with a comely dance instructor (Ginger Rogers) and they score as the town's top dancing duo in such numbers as "Waltz in Swing Time" and Astaire's solo showstopper, "Bojangles of Harlem." Director George Stevens keeps the pair's romantic misunderstandings light and lively, gets strong comic relief from Victor Moore and Helen Broderick and effortlessly stages such songs as "A Fine Romance" and "The Way You Look Tonight." Elegant entertainment for all but the very young. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.

Saturday, Feb. 29, 8-10 p.m. EST (HBO) "Anna" (2019). This stylish, seat-of-your-pants thriller, written and directed by Luc Besson, reinvigorates the spy drama with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. In 1985 Russia, a young woman (Sacha Luss) is recruited by a KGB agent (Luke Evans) to join the ranks under the tutelage of a crusty former spy (Helen Mirren). Working undercover as a fashion model in Paris, she meets a CIA operative (Cillian Murphy) who convinces her to turn double agent to win her freedom. Though clever and highly entertaining, the film is strictly for discerning adult viewers, given its many objectionable elements. Graphic bloody violence, strong sexual content, including a lesbian relationship, brief nudity, a suicide attempt and occasional profane and crude 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.

Saturday, Feb. 29, 9:40-11:50 p.m. EST (Cinemax) "Deja Vu" (2006). Action thriller about a federal agent (Denzel Washington) who, in investigating a deadly explosion on a New Orleans ferry, is recruited into a top-secret project whose members (including Val Kilmer) have found a way to peer into the past to solve crimes and, while helping them track down the bomber (Jim Caviezel), falls in love with one of the blast's casualties (Paula Patton) and decides to travel back in time to prevent her death. Managing to keep the twisting plot mostly lucid, director Tony Scott grafts inventive action sequences onto the intriguing premise resulting in a sufficiently engaging sci-fi mystery, despite some holes in story logic. Some intense action violence, disturbing images of death, blurred shower nudity, brief rear nudity and some mildly crude language. 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.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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