DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN TO FRI-SAT-SUN     August 7-16, 1998     vol. 9, no. 154-159

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 and SECTION FOUR and SECTION FIVE and SECTION SIX

TOP TEN MOVIES FOR FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST

     The poignant, powerful war movie "Saving Private Ryan" once again held onto the top spot this past week while "The Mask of Zorro" surprised everyone by falling out of the top five. Considering it's family appeal, good reviews, this was quite a shock, especially in light of the five movies ahead of it -all weak entries for the summer which should keep Stephen Spielberg's masterpiece ahead for some time though next week's Nicholas Cage thriller might make a dent. Dropping totally out of the top ten were "Disturbing Behavior", "Mafia" and "Mulan", Disney's annual animated summer fare. But Disney traded Mulan's decline with the shocking success of "The Parent Trap" which catapulted to the runner-up spot in its first week, despite the fact it is a rehash of the much better done "The Parent Trap" in 1961 starring Hayley Mills. Some good news: that base film that masquerades as a comedy that opened this past week "Baseketball" never figured in the top ten and for that we can all give joyful thanks!

      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 73.4 million over two week Dreamworks
         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. THE PARENT TRAP 11.1 million in one weekDisney
         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.

  • 3. THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY 60.1 million over three weeks 20th Century Fox
         While all the others continued to plummet, this exploitive film rose in the ranks. This phenomena speaks more for the poor taste of the American movie-goer, than the financial gain this trashy flick has garnerned. 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.

  • 4. THE NEGOTIATOR 10.2 million in one weekWarner 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.

  • 5. EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY 8.5 million in one week20th 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.

  • 6. THE MASK OF ZORRO 62 million over three weeks Sony
          This swashbuckling romance action adventure recalling the early days of California provides a nostalgic look of that masked man who many of us grew up with in the television milieu when Disney was respectable, where many of us hummed the Zorro theme - you know, the one we couldn't get out of our heads. The movie version is more complicated, but the presence of Antonio Banderas who wowed movie goers in "Evita" and Anthony Hopkins who brings excellence to everything he does, adds up to a 90's version that is zesty and very enjoyable PG-13 summer fare for the whole family. Because of the revolving door syndrome of summer films, this one may find its way to the video shelves sooner than many expected but is expected to do boffo there. Below is the bishop's review of this film:

      The Mask of Zorro -- Because of much stylized violence, mild sexual innuendo and fleeting rear nudity, 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. The Mask of Zorro is set in Old California where Anthony Hopkins, an aging Zorro, trains fiery replacement Antonio Banderas to destroy the tyrant who 20 years earlier stole his infant daughter, now a dazzling beauty in love with the new masked avenger. The spirited swashbuckler features old-fashioned derring-do and a game cast in a zesty adventure pitting dauntless heroes against daunting villains.

  • 7. LETHAL WEAPON 4 108 million over four weeks Warner Brothers
          The latest Mel Gibson, Danny Glover vehicle is losing its lethalness faster than many anticipated and, like "The Mask of Zorro" has dropped four spots in the top ten. Still, the box office take has been enough to dub it a success money-wise, joining several other films that have topped the six figure mark. It had to be an expensive flick considering the name stars in this one. This fast-paced sequel of the other three is humorous and the chemistry between Gibson and Glover better than ever, but the violence continues and, while Pesci has toned down his mouth, Rock spews obscenities that are really not necessary or pertinent to the story. The choreography of Li's kung fu is amazing, and the sanctity and importance of marriage wins out in the end. Below is the bishops' review:
      Lethal Weapon 4 -- Because of excessive violence and brutality, some profanity and much rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Lethal Weapon 4 reteams Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as L.A. detectives pursuing a gang of Chinese counterfeiters, while awaiting news that one's become a father and the other a grandfather. Despite the pair's appealing comaraderie, the tired action formula is still fueled by constant violence and deadly mayhem masquerading as exciting fun.

  • 8. ARMAGEDDON 163.1 million over five 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 this summer at the box-office, surpassing the other asteroid disaster flick "Deep Impact" for the biggest blockbuster this summer. Below is the bishops' review:

      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.

  • 9. DR. DOLITTLE 126.1 million over six weeks 20th Century Fox
         In the zoo known as the fickle movie industry, this furry animal comedy has held its own in attendance, just this week beginning to drop considerably. Even though this is a tame Eddie Murphy compared with his past movies, we still prefer the original "Dr. Dolittle" with Rex Harrison and Anthony Newley...a bit more British, but much more proper. Below is the bishops review:

      Dr. Doolittle -- Because of much bathroom humor, coarse language and several instances of profanity, 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. Dr. Dolittle is a comic misfire with Eddie Murphy as a San Francisco physician whose life becomes complicated when he starts talking to animals but no one else can hear what they say to him. The result is a dull sentimental comedy paced by crude gags and verbal insults.

  • 10. MAFIA 13.8 million in two weeks Paramount
          Parody has always been a risky venture and in this one by Jim Abrahams the risk of undertaking a film without the Zucker brothers proves he's out on a wire without a net. After such a riotous hit as "Airplane", the brilliant comedic mind of Abrahams, similar to what has happened to other comedy writers like Mel Brooks, has recycled too many jokes to make "Mafia" a tiresome drudge of hackneyed cliches we've already seen. It's sad that the late Lloyd Bridges had to go out with this film on his epithat. This one only dropped two spots but then it debuted in 8th last week and will be gone next week. Look for it at the nearest Blockbuster soon. Below is the Bishops' review:

      Mafia-- Because of comic violence, sexual innuendo, crude toilet humor, ethnic stereotyping 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. Mafia! is a comic misfire that tries to get laughs from its formula story about the son of a klutzy Sicilian mobster eventually taking his father's place as underworld boss. Despite many goofy sight gags, the result is mostly flat and unamusing in its attempts to parody "The Godfather" and similar movies about organized crime.
  • Reviews provided through Film & Broadcasting Division of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and figures provided through Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.