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TV film fare -- week of July 5, 2020


Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke star in a scene from the movie "Last Christmas." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Universal)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies on network and cable television the week of July 5. Please note that televised versions may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence, and sexual situations.

Sunday, July 5, 11:55 a.m.-3 p.m. EDT (AMC) "Batman" (1989). Dark, haunting vision of the caped crusader (Michael Keaton) who must battle not only the evil Joker (Jack Nicholson) but the demons left over from his own tragic childhood. Director Tim Burton does not make the eternal fight between good and evil an easy one but virtuoso performances by the leads and Anton Furst's production design of a Gotham City full of shadowy gothic and modernistic spires make the movie noteworthy. Some grisly comic-book violence and a suggested sexual encounter are too intense for young viewers. 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.

Sunday, July 5, 12:35-3 p.m. EDT (Showtime) "The Pelican Brief" (1993). With her life in grave danger after figuring out who was behind the assassination of two Supreme Court justices, a New Orleans law student (Julia Roberts) turns to an investigative reporter (Denzel Washington) to get her incriminating brief in print. Abetted by exceptional performances from a fine supporting cast, director Alan J. Pakula's spiky thriller maintains suspense despite a convoluted plot. Some restrained violence and an instance of rough 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.

Monday, July 6, 10-11:45 p.m. EDT (TCM) "The Defiant Ones" (1958). Interracial chase thriller in which a black convict (Sidney Poitier) and a Southern redneck (Tony Curtis) flee a chain gang shackled together and needing each other if they are to make good their escape. Director Stanley Kramer's message movie about the chains of prejudice may be a little too pat and melodramatic in developing the stark situation but the incidents along the way more than sustain interest until the finale. Some nasty stylized violence and racial epithets. The Catholic News Service classification of the theatrical version was A-III -- adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.

Wednesday, July 8, 6:10-8 p.m. EDT (Showtime) "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" (2019). Classic horror motifs are given fresh life in this fun chiller, set in 1968 Pennsylvania, about a teenage aspiring writer (Zoe Colletti) who, together with her two best pals (Gabriel Rush and Austin Zajur) and a stranger (Michael Garza) the trio have just befriended, pay a Halloween-night visit to a haunted house from which she purloins a tome that turns out to be capable of unleashing mayhem. As the scribe and the out-of-towner fall for each other, each character is imperiled in turn when a story about him or her is magically added to the stolen volume. In adapting a series of books by Alvin Schwartz, screenwriters and brothers Dan and Kevin Hageman throw in the ghost of a troubled girl from the turn of the last century for good measure. Director Andre Ovredal presides over a spirited, often funny collection of eerie urban legends come to life. Brief moments of harsh but bloodless violence, sexual references, a scatological theme, a few uses of profanity, a handful of milder oaths, occasional 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.

Saturday, July 11, 8-9:45 p.m. EDT (HBO) "Last Christmas" (2019). Awkward and problematic blend of romantic comedy and drama tells the conversion story of a selfish, thoughtless young woman (Emilia Clarke), a childhood refugee from ex-Yugoslavia living in London, whose life is transformed after she meets and falls for a mysterious, sensitive stranger (Henry Golding). Her reform benefits the stern but good-hearted owner (Michelle Yeoh) of the yuletide merchandise store where she works, her war-scarred mother (Emma Thompson) and put-upon dad (Boris Isakovic) as well as her successful attorney sister (Lydia Leonard). As written by Thompson and Bryony Kimmings and directed by Paul Feig, the film is aesthetically flawed and a moral grab bag. The heroine's original personality is so grating that it's difficult to take much of a shine to her, and the twist ending is a whopper only the most sentimental will swallow while positive messages about welcoming foreigners, caring for the poor and the power of love to ennoble people are offset by a frivolous attitude toward emotionless encounters and homosexual relationships. Approach with caution. A benign view of casual sex and a lesbian relationship, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, occasional crude and crass 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 PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Saturday, July 11, 8:30-11 p.m. EDT (AMC) "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" (2014). Enjoyable espionage thriller in which a wounded Marine (Chris Pine) with a business-school background is recruited by a CIA operative (Kevin Costner) to join the agency as a financial analyst. But when he uncovers portentous investment manipulations by a sinister Russian oligarch (Kenneth Branagh), he's compelled to cross the line from desk work to perilous field activity, an unsought career move that eventually endangers his live-in girlfriend (Keira Knightley) as well. In crafting this origins story for a character created by novelist Tom Clancy, Branagh, who also directed, provides mature viewers with a diverting adventure that gains moral credibility from its protagonist's qualms about the use of fatal force. Russian Orthodox Christians may be less than pleased, however, to see the villains of the piece lighting candles in church and using a liturgical reading as the coded signal to put their evil scheme into action. Some harsh violence, much bloodless gunplay, images of gory combat wounds, premarital cohabitation, several instances of profanity, at least one use of the F-word, about a half-dozen crude terms. 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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