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TV film fare -- week of Sept. 1, 2019

By John Mulderig
Posted: 8/19/2019

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of Sept. 1. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence, and sexual situations.

Sunday, Sept. 1, 5:45-8 p.m. EDT (TCM) "The Searchers" (1956). Returning from the Civil War, a seasoned Westerner (John Wayne) stops to visit his brother's family but, after an Indian war party raids the ranch, kills the family and abducts his young niece (Natalie Wood), he sets out to rescue her in a quest that spans many years and a variety of frontier experiences that mellow the aging man of action. Classic western directed by John Ford, its themes of pioneer versus Indian and civilization versus the freedom of nature are conveyed through the rich and often surprisingly warm interplay of its diverse characters amid the striking landscapes of Monument Valley. Fairly balanced view of Native Americans and some frontier violence. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Wednesday, Sept. 4, 8-9:45 p.m. EDT (TCM) "Broken Blossoms" (1919). Simple but heartfelt romantic tragedy from Thomas Burke's "Limehouse Nights" in which an impoverished, disillusioned Chinese immigrant (Richard Barthelmess) befriends a London street waif (Lillian Gish) terrified of her drunken, sadistic father (Donald Crisp). Director D.W. Griffith demonstrates his abilities to work in a small, intimate drama that conjures with the fragile innocence of an adolescent caught in the ugly reality of an intolerant and unjust adult world. Moral complexities. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (First of a series of six silent films being shown to mark the centennial of United Artists, concluding with 1928's "Sadie Thompson," Thursday, Sept. 5, 4:45-6:30 a.m. EDT.)

Wednesday, Sept. 4, 8-11 p.m. EDT (AMC) "Independence Day" (1996). Compelling sci-fi thriller in which huge alien spaceships level three American cities before the president (Bill Pullman), a computer whiz (Jeff Goldblum) and a Marine pilot (Will Smith) mount a last-ditch effort to disable the spacecraft's impenetrable shields. Director Roland Emmerich's patriotic-themed disaster flick is powered by an action-packed story, spectacular special effects and sympathetic characters who provide some human dimension to the proceedings. Intense depiction of massive destruction but little gore, brief sexual innuendo and minimal profanity. 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.

Thursday, Sept. 5, 9-11:20 p.m. EDT (Showtime) "Spider-Man 3" (2007). Excellent second sequel has Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), on the verge of proposing marriage to girlfriend Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) while Peter's friend-turned-nemesis Harry (James Franco) recovers from an amnesia-inducing accident which temporarily erases their enmity, though Peter's increasingly prideful behavior and two formidable villains, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace), set the stage for trouble. Director and co-writer Sam Raimi mixes the expected action sequences (impressive digital effects) with a well-acted, very human story imbued with a strong moral focus resulting in a fine and surprisingly moving -- if somewhat overlong -- action film, with solid themes of good versus evil, forgiveness and redemption. Acceptable for older teens. Intense action violence, a couple of crass words, suicide reference, mild innuendo and a suggestive dance. 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.

Saturday, Sept. 7, 8-10:05 p.m. EDT (HBO) "Mary Queen of Scots" (2018). Highly spiced historical drama follows the doomed monarch of the title (Saoirse Ronan) from her return to Scotland from France after the death of her husband, King Francis II, through her exile to England where her claim to the throne made her an unacceptable rival to Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). Taken as entertainment rather than a chronicle of real events, director Josie Rourke's glossy adaptation of John Guy's biography is generally diverting. But the sexual behavior on display, especially that linking Mary's second spouse (Jack Lowden) and her court musician-turned-private secretary (Ismael Cruz Cordova), requires considerable caution even on the part of grown viewers. Some gory violence, strong sexual content, including aberrant and adulterous acts, graphic marital relations and rear nudity, a benign view of homosexuality, a scene involving menstrual blood, sexual references, a mild oath, a couple of crass terms. 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.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.