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TV film fare -- week of Nov. 24, 2019


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NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Nov. 24. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.

Sunday, Nov. 24, 8-11:04 p.m. EST (A&E) "Hacksaw Ridge" (2016). The extraordinary heroism of Army medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) during the Battle of Okinawa in the closing phase of World War II is vividly realized in this fact-based drama, directed by Mel Gibson. A committed Christian and conscientious objector who refused to bear arms, Doss was nonetheless eager to serve his country, despite the misgivings of his parents (Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths) and his fiancee (Teresa Palmer). Doss overcomes the ridicule and abuse of his fellow soldiers in boot camp as well as an effort to discharge him led by the sergeant (Vince Vaughn) heading his platoon and the captain (Sam Worthington) commanding his company. Once in combat, he singlehandedly saves the lives of over 75 wounded soldiers while under constant enemy fire. As might be expected with Gibson at the helm, Doss' religious convictions, which are integral to his story and his performance on the battlefield, are not sidelined. Yet, while no doubt realistic, the carnage is extreme, and its portrayal will necessarily restrict this ultimately inspiring film's audience to those mature viewers willing to endure such sights. Graphic war violence with much gore, brief rear male nudity, a scene of marital sensuality, considerable 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 of America rating was R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Monday, Nov. 25, midnight-2 a.m. EST (TCM) "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928). Silent screen masterpiece portraying the heresy trial, confession, recantation and execution of the Maid of Orleans (Maria Falconetti) in a performance of such emotional power that it still stands as the most convincing portrayal of spirituality on celluloid. Directed by Carl Dreyer, the work is essentially the interior epic of a soul, consisting largely of close-ups of Joan's face and those of her interrogators accomplished in a fashion which is never static as the camera explores the inner struggle between human frailties and spiritual strength. Some duplicitous churchmen, medicinal bloodletting and a restrained torture scene. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Tuesday, Nov. 26, 5-7 p.m. EST (AMC) "Christmas With the Kranks" (2004). Delightful yuletide comedy about a Chicago couple (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) who boycott Christmas after their daughter leaves home to join the Peace Corps, sparking unforeseen reactions from their militantly merry neighbors (led by Dan Aykroyd). The film is based on the novella "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham. Director Joe Roth delivers a dose of holly-jolly fun that is, by turns, extremely funny and poignantly tender, and its warmhearted message of selflessness, family and coming together as a community clearly embodies the truest spirit of the season. Some suggestive humor, comic violence and mildly crude language. 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.

Thursday, Nov. 28, 8-9:45 p.m. EST (TCM) "Sitting Pretty" (1948). Period comedy in which busy suburban parents (Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara) engage the services of a live-in baby sitter (Clifton Webb), a self-proclaimed genius who proves more than capable of handling not only the children but any crisis along the way. Directed by Walter Lang, the whole show is Webb's imperious performance as the unflappable Mr. Belvedere who is more than superior to any situation, including nosy neighbors. Some muted sexual inferences. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Friday, Nov. 29, 7-9 p.m. EST (AMC) "The Polar Express" (2004). Visually captivating animated fantasy -- in which Tom Hanks plays five separate roles -- about a doubting young boy who is whisked away on Christmas Eve aboard a magic train bound for Santa's village in the North Pole. Based on the children's novel by Chris Van Allsburg, director Rob Zemeckis' hauntingly beautiful fairy tale celebrates childlike wonder and -- though secular in tone -- imparts a profoundly faith-friendly message about the importance of believing in things that can't be seen. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating was G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

Saturday, Nov. 30, 8-10:15 p.m. EST (HBO) "Shazam!" (2019). Endowed by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) with the ability to transform himself, by dint of the titular exclamation, into a superhero with the body of an adult (Zachary Levi), a 14-year-old foster child (Asher Angel) does battle with a formidable villain (Mark Strong) who wants the lad to surrender his newfound powers to him. Though it eventually becomes almost exclusively an action picture, director David F. Sandberg's DC Comics-based origin story begins with an enjoyable overlay of comedy as the protagonist and his physically challenged best friend (Jack Dylan Grazer) marvel at his ability to shoot electricity from his hands and perform similar nifty stunts. Family life is exalted over egotistical self-reliance as Angel's character learns to use his gifts responsibly, and viewers of faith will appreciate brief scenes of prayer and an implicitly pro-life message about the dignity of the disabled. Some mischief enabled by the main character's grown-up guise, however, makes this questionable fare even for older teens. Much stylized violence with a few gruesome sights, underage drinking, brief sexual humor, some of it involving a strip club, at least one use of profanity and a milder oath, about a dozen crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America 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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