DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN TO FRI-SAT-SUN     July 24-26, 1998     vol. 9, no. 144

MOVIES & MORALS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

TOP TEN MOVIES FOR THIRD WEEK OF JULY

     "The Mask of Zorro" left its mark in theaters this past week, supplanting last week's top dog - "Lethal Weapon 4" which had knocked the previous week's number one movie "Armageddon" off the top perch. This trend should continue next week when the critically acclaimed "Saving Private Ryan" will debut on the silver screen. Summer is the time of baseball, hotdogs and apple pie. Though there are no movies (yet) about baseball, there are plenty that are "dogs" and, when one thinks of apple pie the natural tendency is to apple turnovers...and speaking of that doughy substance, and there were quite a few turnovers in the top ten last week with half falling from the ranks including the ballyhooed "X Files" which has been filed in the "wait for video" file along with "The Horse Whisperer" which has been put out to pasture. "Hope Floats" sunk, "A Perfect Murder" committed box office suicide, and "Out of Sight" has done just that. 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. THE MASK OF ZORRO 22.5 million in first week Sony
          The newest champ is a PG-13 adventure romp through the nostalgia 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 can be "lusty" at times, but overall enjoyable PG-13 summer fare for the whole family. 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.

  • 2. LETHAL WEAPON 4 71.7 million over two weeks Warner Brothers
          This one wasn't as lethal in the second week as many thought it would be despite the box office draw of Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Joe Pesci. Add in Rene Russo, foul mouthed Chris Rock and Jet Li an oriental master of kung fu and it still wasn't able to maintain its remarkable first week. 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.

  • 3. ARMAGEDDON 129.1 million over three weeks Disney
          The asteroid is still in orbit, threatening the summer champs who have passed the one hundred thousand mark faster than any other film this summer. Of course, it had the benefit of debuting during the lucrative Fourth of July four-day weekend. Despite the stupidity of this film's premise, audiences continue to flock to see it. That tells us something about the caliber of today's theater-goer, doesn't it? We suspect, with the new movies bowing in over the next several weeks, that "Armageddon" will plummet to earth with a thud. 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.

  • 4. THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY 13.7 in first week 20th Century Fox
         This "R" rated movie that exploits others and holds sex on such a vulgar level 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. Thank God, it did poorly in its first week and will drop fast. How these kind of films get made and the poor calibre of actors and actresses that are being churned out is beyond our comprehension. In a word: bad, bad, bad! Well in three words then! 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. DR. DOLITTLE 105.4 million over four weeks 20th Century Fox
         Whether it's the furry animals or Eddie Murphy, this one passed the one hundred million mark last week, though it is beginning to fade fast, taking in single figures for the first time. But with the other competition out there it is a week top ten and we would surmise it has run its course and begin to fall fast for Rex Harrison did so much more as "Dr. Dolittle" than Murphy. Besides, Anthony Newley was much funnier as Harrison's foil, whereas Murphy relies on toilet humor and crassness for his laughs. 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.

  • 6. SMALL SOLDIERS 30.3 million over two weeks Dreamworks
          Just what the kids need: more violence! Aimed at the youngsters, Dreamworks fails miserably with "Small Soldiers" in a rip-off of "Toy Story" that will alert every child to check his toys and action figures carefully to make sure they are inanimate objects. Come to think of it, this movie is one big inanimate object that adds up to small time bunk. Below is the Bishops' review:

      Small Soldiers-- Because of much intense fantasy mayhem and brief drug references, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-IV -- adults, with reservations. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Small Soldiers is a mean-spirited fantasy mixing live action with animation as toy soldiers come to life bent on destroying all other toys as well as the families who own them. In this cynical parody of macho heroics, the humans become just as violent as the computer-generated soldiers, with appalling results.

  • 7. MULAN 101.3 million over five weeks Disney
         Disney's newest animation continues to maintain a presence for the fifth week, though its take was less than five million last week. The promotional tie-ins are keeping this one alive, but not for too much longer. It could fade fast in the next few weeks or continue in the lower echelons of the top ten because the kids need something with all the PG-13 and R movies out there and, since there is nothing offensive about this film, making it available for the kiddies can't be all bad! Below is the review of the number three movie this past week:

      Mulan -- The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. "Mulan" offers a boisterous animated tale of ancient China where a rebellious daughter disguises herself as a man to fight invading Huns in place of her sickly father. Blending sumptuous visuals with catchy songs and some contrived humor, the picture's theme of female empowerment downplays romance to focus on issues of self-identity, honor and patriotism.

  • 8. MADELINE 15.3 million over two weeks Sony
          With all the violence, sex and decadent action on the silver screen today it's refreshing to see a star the calibre of oscar-winning Frances McDormand in this vehicle that takes many adult women on a nostalgic trip down memory lane. That, however, is the downfall of this picture in garnering greater audiences because it appeals to a limited audience - elementary girls and their mothers. While a 5 to 12-year old girl will be enamored with "Madeline" it's doubtful their male counterparts could sit through a third of it. Not enough action in this virtual age of non-stop sock 'em, rock 'em mayhem. "Madeline" is not mayhem and therein lies the problem of luring all audiences. Yet it is the redemption of the film as well. Below is the Bishops' review:

      Madeline -- The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Madeline is a sweet-natured tale set in 1956 Paris where the title 9-year-old orphan lives in a girls' boarding school which she attempts to save from being sold, but instead is kidnapped by circus performers. Children will enjoy the warm characters and their engaging adventures, including a bit of mild menace, while their elders may be more charmed by its nostalgic picture of growing up in a simpler age.

  • 9. THE TRUMAN SHOW 120 million over seven weeks Paramount
         Owing exclusively to the staying power of Jim Carrey, "The Truman Show" remains the longest running film in the top ten. Yet over the past three weeks it has garnered less than fifteen million total. We suspect it has peaked and, to quote another Truman - "The buck stops here" as movie-goers will stop paying for this unique film, putting their money on newer fare and relegating it to the video shelves. In case it isn't in the top ten next week, "good afternoon, good evening and good night." Below is the Bishops' review:

      The Truman Show-- Because of mature themes, marital discord and a few instances of profanity, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. "The Truman Show" is a beguiling fantasy in which 30-year-old Jim Carrey suddenly discovers his life from day one has been secretly televised 24 hours a day and all the people in his tranquil island community are paid actors. The emotionally involving tale gingerly scratches the surface of moral issues concerning media manipulation and the right to privacy.

  • 10. SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS 67.5 million over six weeks Disney
         Bringing up the rear this week is "Six Days, Seven Nights" which means we're about to say adios to this summer adventure that failed producers' expectations greatly. Casting the magnetic Harrison Ford figured to be a sure hit, but they blew it by going the course of political correctness and pairing him with self-admitted lesbo Anne Heche. The backfire proves Americans will not be force-fed the legitimacy of homosexuality. It goes against their grain and they're proving it at the box-office. Below is the Bishops' review:

      Six Days, Seven Nights-- Because of brief violence, some sexual innuendo, recurring 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. "Six Days, Seven Nights" is a mildly comic adventure in which Harrison Ford and Anne Heche crash land on an uninhabited tropical island where they must fend off pirates from the sea and an unwanted mutual attraction. The tired formula is made palatable by the airy banter between appealing performers in an otherwise completely predictable movie.
  • Reviews provided through Film & Broadcasting Division of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and figures provided through Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.