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Movies & TV Worth Watching

Movies & Television Worth Watching

For a complete listing of television and movie reviews please visit
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Website

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For Greater Glory – This movie tells the true story of Gen. Enrique Gorostieta, leader of the Cristo Rey  (Christ the King) army fighting against the 1926- 1929 persecution of Catholics by the Mexican government.  The battle for religious freedom is going on around the world in many countries, on many different levels. You can’t take freedom for granted.  Read more

The Way – NEW YORK (CNS) — A thinking person’s road movie, “The Way” (Producers Distribution Agency /ARC) follows a quartet of central characters along the ancient pilgrimage route from France to the Spanish shrine of Santiago de Compostela, even as it conducts viewers through a reflective, and ultimately rewarding, exploration of elemental themes.
Writer-director Emilio Estevez’s drama challenges materialistic values and treats faith with refreshing respect. But its focus — like the varied motivations of the contemporary pilgrims it portrays — is more broadly spiritual than specifically religious. Thus Catholicism is treated as something the onscreen travelers encounter rather than fully embrace.
So moviegoers on the lookout for a full-blown conversion story will be disappointed. And parents will want to keep in mind that some aspects of the dialogue and behavior on display, including one character’s fondness for marijuana, make this meditative offering unsuitable for kids.
In an echo of reality, Estevez and his real-life dad, Martin Sheen, play a father and son. The fictional duo’s temperamental differences, however, have left them semi-estranged. Estevez’s Daniel is hungry for experience and fond of globetrotting, while Sheen’s Tom, a prosperous California ophthalmologist and widower, is content to divide his time between his office and the golf course.
It’s out on the links that Tom gets the shocking news that Daniel has been killed in a freak storm while pursuing his latest adventure — hiking the mountainous path to Santiago first blazed by medieval pilgrims. After claiming Daniel’s body and effects, Tom resolves to complete the journey Daniel had only just begun as a means of honoring the lad’s memory.
As he follows the Camino through the lush landscape of the Basque Country, Tom meets, and bonds with, three of his fellow sojourners: Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a tart-tongued Canadian divorcee out to quit smoking, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), a merrily gormandizing Dutchman who hopes to lose weight, and Jack (James Nesbitt) a garrulous Irish author struggling with writer’s block.
Despite some initial resistance, Tom’s newfound friends gradually break down both his self-imposed isolation and the mild orneriness by which he enforces it. A kindly priest, meanwhile, gives Tom, a self-identified lapsed Catholic, a set of rosary beads. A later scene shows Tom acknowledging that the use of them has proved helpful.
The privations they all endure — long days of walking are followed by nights in primitive dormitories — and the simple but pleasant hospitality offered by the locals drive home the point that happiness and meaning are not to be found in the blind pursuit of wealth.
“The Way” most closely approaches an explicit endorsement of faith during a climactic scene at the shrine itself. Catholic viewers will especially appreciate the influence that ancient structure exerts on Jack, whose previous sense of alienation from the church he attributes to the clerical scandals in his homeland.
Less welcome is the recurring sight of Tom leaving portions of Daniel’s ashes at various spots along the trail; Christian reverence for the body of a departed person — and the faithful expectation of that body’s resurrection — require, rather, that cremated remains be buried together.
Still, the underlying message of “The Way” — the very title, of course, recalls Jesus’ teaching that he is himself “the way, the truth and the life” — is one that audiences of faith will find congenial, if not as robustly satisfying as less caution might have made it.
The film contains brief partial rear nudity, drug use, a couple of instances of profanity and of crass language as well as references to abortion and sexuality. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.   – – – John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service

Vatican Recommendations

Andrei Rublev (1969) Russian production about a 15th-century monk (Anatoli Solonitzine) who perseveres in painting icons and other religious art despite the civil disruptions and cruel turmoil of his times. Director Andrei Tarkovsky visualizes brilliantly the story of a devout man seeking through his art to find the transcendent in the savagery of the Tartar invasions and the unfeeling brutality of Russian nobles. Subtitles. Stylized historical violence. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Babette’s Feast (1988) Screen version of a story by Isak Dinesen, set in a rugged fishing village in 1871 Denmark, shows the impact of a French housekeeper (Stephane Audran) on two pious sisters who carry on their late father’s work as pastor of a dwindling religious flock. Danish director Gabriel Axel’s understated but finely detailed work centers on the preparation and consumption of an exquisite Gallic meal, a sensuous labor of love which has a healing effect on the austere sect and the Frenchwoman who prepared it. Subtitles. Cerebral treatment. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) Engrossing drama of the last seven years in the life of Thomas More, Henry VIII’s chancellor, who met a martyr’s death rather than compromise his conscience during a period of religious turmoil. Robert Bolt’s script is masterfully directed by Fred Zinnemann, with a standout performance by Paul Scofield in the title role, among other notable performances from a uniformly fine cast. The historical dramatization achieves an authentic human dimension that makes its 16th-century events more accessible and its issues more universal. Profoundly entertaining but heavy-going for children. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences.

The Mission (1986) In the 1750s, the large and prosperous Jesuit Indian missions were divided between Spain and Portugal. In dramatizing these events, Robert Bolt’s screenplay focuses not on the religous but on the sociopolitical dimension of the colonial era and its injustices. The epic production is visually splendid but Roland Joffe’s direction is erratic and bogs down in contrasting a nonviolent priest (Jeremy Irons) and one (Robert De Niro) who leads the Indians against a colonial army. Although dramatically flawed, the work recalls a past that provides a context for current Latin American struggles. Some violence and ethnographic nudity. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.

The Sacrifice (1986) Swedish production in which a group of adults and a child pass through a night of confusion and fear, including portents of a nuclear-devastated landscape. Director Andrei Tarkovsky’s murky religious allegory about an aging writer’s bargaining with God to save others relies upon long silences, ritualized dialogue and beautiful but static photography. Subtitles. A very personal film about love and compassion, the effect is strangely cold and distant. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.

The Bicycle Thief (1949) Simple yet compelling study in desperation as a worker (Lamberto Maggiorani) must find his stolen bicycle or lose his new job. Ignored by the police and others, the man and his young son (Enzo Staiola) search the streets for it until, in despair, he himself tries to steal a bicycle. Scripted by Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica, the result is an engrossing picture of the human realities of life on the edge of poverty, shot on the streets of Rome with a cast of non-professionals that brought a new realism to the postwar screen and a new emotional honesty to the stories it told. Subtitles. Some earthy references. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Chariots of Fire (1981) Two young Englishmen (Ben Cross and Ian Charleson) overcome quite different obstacles to win gold medals at the Paris Olympics of 1924. One is a Jew determined to beat the anti-Semitic establishment at its own game and the other is a devout Scot who runs for the glory of God. Directed by Hugh Hudson, it is a richly entertaining and highly inspiring movie for the whole family. Several coarse words. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.

The Seventh Seal (1956) Intense medieval morality tale about a disillusioned knight (Max Von Sydow) returning from the Crusades to a plague-ravaged land where he forestalls Death (Bengt Ekerot) by wagering his life on a game of chess during the course of which he saves a traveling player named Joseph (Nils Poppe), his wife Mary (Bibi Andersson) and their infant son. Swedish director Ingmar Bergman convincingly re-creates the religious context of the Middle Ages but the knight’s quest to find meaning in a world of physical suffering and spiritual emptiness is more directly related to the contemporary search for life’s meaning in our own age of doubt and uncertainty. Subtitles. Recurring images of death, some stylized violence and instances of religious fanaticism. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Director Stanley Kubrick’s epic work, co-written with Arthur C. Clarke, is both science fiction and metaphysical poetry using an unconventional mixture of visuals and music to bridge humanity’s reconstructed past, identifiable present and projected future, all tied together by the recurring image of a monolith as symbol of a superhuman existence. The central narrative follows the struggle of two astronauts (Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood) to wrest control of their spacecraft from HAL, a talking computer (voice of Douglas Rain), on a half-billion-mile trip to Jupiter and the unknown. For young people and imaginative adults but too long, deep and intense for children. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.