DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     August 21-23, 1998     vol. 9, no. 164

MOVIES & MORALS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE

TOP TEN MOVIES FOR FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST

     A man against boys, that could be the title of this week's results in the aftermath of the poignant, powerful war movie "Saving Private Ryan" once again coming in number one for the fourth consecutive week. Since the all-time blockbuster "Titanic" was knocked from the top spot early this summer, no film has maintained that kind of consistency. Adding to Director Stephen Spielberg's good fortune could be the plethora of mediocre and just plain bad movies that are glutting the movieplexes late this summer. We offer as exhibit "A" the following trashy fare such as the runner-up "How Stella got her groove back" and "There's something about Mary" still in the top five. Weak competition was provided by the rip-off of an excellent British thrillers of the sixties - "The Avengers" and the inept "Snake Eyes" which truly wastes a good Nicholas Cage performance.

      As you'll see with each review there is almost always something objectionable about each movie so go in with an open mind and keep in mind the best advice before you plunk down your hard-earned money at the box-office: Would Jesus and His Mother Mary watch it with you? If not, think twice about seeing it.

    Below are the top ten for this last week with the Bishops' reviews. Reviews are categorized by A-I -- general patronage; A-II -- adults and adolescents; A-III -- adults; A-IV -- adults, with reservations (an A-IV classification designates problematic films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, require caution and some analysis and explanation as a safeguard against wrong interpretations and false conclusions); and finally, ones no one should see: O -- morally offensive.
  • 1. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN 126 million over four weeks Dreamworks
         This movie has all the makings of being one of the top blockbusters of the summer. When you consider that a third of the population refuse to see it because of its mind-numbing graphic content that can stir nightmares like nothing "Halloween H20" could ever do, that says a lot for this film's staying power and powerful cast. Like his award winning, but disturbing movie "Schlindler's List" Steven Spielberg brings us another powerful, poignant and purposeful masterpiece with a message that will have audiences buzzing for weeks to come. This one is not "entertainment" per se but a realistic look at the horrific casualties of war like no movie ever has. But it is not just for shock value as so many movies try to do today, but, true to the Spielberg purpose of expressing his heart and soul for a cause, the master director takes us there to show us how it really was and the saving grace and triumph of man's soul in the face of insurmountable odds. Below is the Bishops' review:

      Saving Private Ryan--Because of graphic battlefield violence, some profanity and recurring rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Saving Private Ryan is a riveting war drama with Tom Hanks as an army officer who leads a patrol behind German lines in 1944 France to rescue G.I. Matt Damon whose three brothers had been killed in action the previous week. This realistic re-creation of war's horror and chaos never loses sight of the soldiers' humanity and loyalty, despite their questioning the mission's justification.

  • 2. HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK 11.3 million in one week 20th Century Fox
         Though this farce is targeted to exploit black audiences, white audiences are also falling for the bait which will land something that definitely should not only be thrown back, but thrown out. Why is Hollywood so out of touch with reality and morality? This film answers the question only too vividly by glorifying something God has said is sinful - with no exceptions. As for any redeeming qualities to this movie, don't look for it. Below is the bishop's review of this film:

      How Stella Got Her Groove Back -- Because of its uncritical treatment of pre-marital sex, fleeting nudity and some rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-IV -- adults, with reservations. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. How Stella Got Her Groove Back is a glossy comic valentine in which 40-year-old single mom Angela Bassett finds happiness with a man half her age whom she meets while vacationing in Jamaica. The result is an idealized romantic fantasy about a one-night stand maturing into a committed relationship.

  • 3. THE AVENGERS 10.3 million in one week Warner Brothers
         Perhaps because Warner Brothers did not preview this film it did poorly in its opening week. Whether that was, as WB claims, "to let it stand on its own merit" or as critics predict "a real turkey" - it most probably hurt the film's take last week. They say followers of the cult-like sixties TV series will be greatly disappointed since Uma Thurman cannot hold a candle to Diana Riggs, though Ralph Fiennes carries off his role as John Steed almost with the same British aplomb as his predecessor Patrick Macnee, though the role given to Sean Connery lacks the punch and depth normally expected from such an exalted actor. In fact, Connery himself, a connosieur of good scripts, regrets being a part of this one, refusing to promote the film. That speaks to his integrity and the shallowness of this British-oriented film which, even with Emma Peel has no apeal for American movie-goers. Below is the bishop's review of this film:

      The Avengers -- Because of stylized violence, sexual innuendo and an instance of rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. The Avengers is a leaden updating of the 1960s TV series with unflappable British operatives Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman battling international villain Sean Connery. The agents are smug and charmless while the villain proves to be embarrassingly buffoonish.

  • 4. THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY 91.3 million over five weeks 20th Century Fox
         While all the others continued to plummet, this exploitive film continued to hold its own which - when you consider this movie's contents - is an oxymoron. Speaking of morons, that's what we must call the American movie-goer who plunks down hard-earned cash for this garbage. It is, to put it simply, a story that is blatant profanity and something with absolutely no redeeming value. This "R" rated movie exploits others and holds sex on such a vulgar level that it is so bad that the best thing in the movie is the dog - even in full body cast he's more believable than any of the human characters who don't seem to have a clue what good acting is. How these kind of films get made and the poor calibre of actors and actresses that are being churned out is beyond our comprehension. This is definitely one to avoid like the plague! We have to disagree with the Bishops' review below when they said "the sentimental story helps keep its tasteless humor from becoming seriously offensive." Sorry, your excellencies, but it is seriously offensive! Below is the Bishops' review:

      There's Something About Mary-- Because of some comic violence, gross sexual innuendo, fleeting nudity, intermittent profanity and much rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-IV -- adults, with reservations. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. There's Something About Mary is a wacky but very crude comedy about lovelorn Ben Stiller competing with sneaky private eye Matt Dillon and others for the affections of the attractive but incredibly naive Cameron Diaz. The jokes in this goofy romantic comedy range from the dopey to the outrageously vulgar, though the sentimental story helps keep its tasteless humor from becoming seriously offensive.


  • 5. SNAKE EYES 31.6 million over two weeks Paramount
          Those who loved Nicholas Cage's performance in "Face Off"), will be greatly disappointed with his latest vehicle "Snake Eyes". Cage, a fast talking detective on the take is definitely good in it, but the story and supporting cast are very shallow. This one bears the label of that great bugaboo among today's script writers: no motivation of character. The violence is very graphic and midway through the film, after they reveal the villain, everything is anticlimatic and boring from there. This is definitely not a movie to bet big on. Below is the bishops' review:
      Snake Eyes -- Because of recurring violence, some sexual innuendo, minimal rough language and frequent profanity, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. In Snake Eyes the lifelong friendship of corrupt cop Nicolas Cage and Naval Commander Gary Sinese is sorely tested when they investigate a Cabinet member's assassination at a championship boxing match they were attending. The movie is more sleek than suspenseful in finding its twisted route to the truth and one man's hardly credible redemption.

  • 6. HALLOWEEN H20 40.1 million over two weeks Miramax
          Oh please, haven't we had enough of these teen exploitation horror flicks? Won't someone please kill off Michael Myers so we can put an end to this madness? One would understand "madness" when one has teens in the household who "must see it." Why these genre of films mesmerize and magnetize the teens so is beyond this editor's comprehension, but they do. One would think the state of the world today and the pending Justice of the Almighty would be scary enough without paying to be frightened to death! Below is the bishops' review:
      Halloween: H20 -- Because of recurring shadowy violence, mild sexual innuendo, intermittent rough language and an instance of profanity, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. In Halloween: H20 a presumed dead homicidal maniac tracks down the sister (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) that he tried and failed to kill 20 years earlier, this time intent on finishing the job. Since some attention is paid to the negative effects violence had on the Curtis character over the years, the slasher sequel seems less excessive and is occasionally suspenseful.
  • 5. EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY 34 million over three weeks20th Century Fox
         At last they might have found a movie where overused and undertalented Drew Barrymore fits in with the scenery and times - the Renaissance era of 16th Century France. This is a different kind of Cinderella story than the one your parents told you and with all your imagination, believe us, Barrymore was not who you pictured, we're sure. Having only her name to sustain her, she is better in this film than all the rest put together since "E.T." and she wasn't very good in that one. It's a romantic fantasy that could well put the men to sleep - you could call it "Sleeping Beauty." with an attitude. Below is the Bishops' review:

      Ever After: A Cinderella Story -- Because of some stylized violence, menace and crude language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Ever After is a fairy tale romance with Drew Barrymore as a spunky young Frenchwoman who, despite the interference of her wicked stepmother, wins the heart of the crown prince who is enthralled by her natural beauty, wit and intelligence. This variation on the Cinderella story offers a modern, self-reliant heroine in a colorful 16th-century setting, with often amusing and, at times, heartwarming results.

  • 8. THE PARENT TRAP 43.6 million over three weeksDisney
         Trapped in a void, that's what Disney is with this remake of the successful and funny film of the same title back in the sixties when Hayley Mills became a household name. This one is a cruder remake of that one with nothing new and everyone, other than the young and spunky Lindsay Lohan as identical twins. Who would you believe is more credible as parents: Randy Quaid and Natasha Richardson from the 98 version or Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara from the 61 film? Thought so. This is basically a harmless film that shows Disney must be hard up for originality. Below is the Bishops' review:

      The Parent Trap--Because of some unamusing pranks and a scene of amateur ear-piercing, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II --adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. The Parent Trap is a slow-paced but often charming re-make of the 1961 movie in which 11-year-old identical twin sisters, raised separately by divorced parents, happen to meet at summer camp, then switch places to work on reuniting mom and dad. The sentimental premise provides a number of heartwarming moments with comic relief from the mischievous twins, but the feel-good results are superficial at best.

  • 9. THE NEGOTIATOR 32.5 million over three weeksWarner Brothers
          If you like cliche-ridden dialogue, this one takes the cake. "The Fugitive" with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones was better and the setting and sets are basically the same. Despite excellent acting performances by Samuel L. Jackson and the always spooky Kevin Spacy, this is the sad swan song for versatile character actor J.T. Walsh who died of a heart attack earlier this year while vacationing in San Diego. Though it has its suspenseful minutes, "The Negoiator" is one you might want to negotiate on whether you see this movie or opt for another. Below is the Bishops' review:

      The Negotiator -- Because of considerable violence, life-threatening situations, recurring rough language and occasional profanity, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-IV -- adults, with reservations. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. The Negotiator is a murky thriller in which Chicago cop Samuel L. Jackson holds a number of people hostage while trying to convince police negotiator Kevin Spacy that he has been framed for a crime he didn't commit. The overly contrived proceedings are filled with hokey action, vague motivations and stereotyped characters that lose interest long before the formula ending.

  • 10. ARMAGEDDON 180 million over seven weeks Disney
          Even though the asteroid has almost crashed, the financial success of this disaster film shows the star-pulling power of Bruce Willis. Again, like "There's Something About Mary", this doesn't speak very well for the audience's preferences. Still Armageddon is a harmless, if not loud and we mean LOUD movie experience. Those who have seen this movie might still be having hearing problems because of the outrageous decibel level that the filmmakers have foisted on the public's earlobes. Despite the cacaphony it has made noise at the box office, surpassing the other asteroid disaster flick "Deep Impact" for the biggest blockbuster this summer and staying the longest in the top ten since all-time heavyweight "Titanic" which, in its 35th week, still comes in at a phenomenal 18th, having garnered an incredible 598.6 million to date...and just think, next week it becomes available on video tape which should also set all-time records. Below is the bishops' review for "Armageddon":

      Armageddon -- Because of explosive mayhem, an implied affair, occasional profanity and an instance of rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Armageddon is a bloated disaster story with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck planting a nuclear warhead on a humongous asteroid in a desperate attempt to blast it out of its collision course with Earth. The result is an overlong tale of macho heroics, pumped up with special effects, then doused in weepy emotions.
  • Reviews provided through Film & Broadcasting Division of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and figures provided through Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.