DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN TO FRI-SAT-SUN     July 31-August 2, 1998     vol. 9, no. 149

MOVIES & MORALS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

TOP TEN MOVIES FOR THIRD WEEK OF JULY

     The poignant, powerful war movie "Saving Private Ryan" commandeered the top spot this past week from last week's leader "The Mask of Zorro". The latter, like its predecessor "Lethal Weapon 4" dropped into second as the others dropped another notch. Even the box-office appeal of Jim Carrey and Harrison Ford couldn't keep their summer films from sinking into the sunset. What surprised us the most was the sudden plunge of "Madeline" totally off the charts. However, unlike the preceding films, "Saving Private Ryan" is expected to maintain its lead over the next several weeks primarily because of the vivid portrayal director Steven Spielberg has brought to this epic story of D-Day that has cropped up memories in many veterans of the true horrors of WWII.

      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 30.6 million in first 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 MASK OF ZORRO 13.4 million over two weeks Sony
          Though still going strong in its second week, it still could not hold a candle - even though there are plenty of them in this movie - to Steven Spielberg's critically acclaimed masterpiece on war. The difference between "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Mask of Zorro" is that the latter provides good 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 is zesty and very 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.

  • 3. LETHAL WEAPON 4 94.6 million over three weeks Warner Brothers
          The latest Mel Gibson, Danny Glover vehicle is losing its lethalness after three weeks. Coming in number one three weeks ago, it dropped to second two weeks ago and into third last week. Still, the box office take is enough to dub it a success money-wise. 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.

  • 4. THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY 12.5 over two weeks 20th Century Fox
         If you want trash, blatant profanity and something with no redeeming value than this is the movie for you. If it is, we're wondering what you're doing reading this in a Catholic publication because 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. As we said last week, 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. ARMAGEDDON 149.6 million over four weeks Disney
          The asteroid is falling fast and even Bruce Willis can't save it this time. Still it enjoyed its run and made money for the mouse and Michael Eisner but nowhere near the hype expected for this wild ride. 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, rivaling 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.

  • 6. DR. DOLITTLE 118 million over five weeks 20th Century Fox
         In the zoo known as the fickle movie industry, this furry animal comedy has held its own in attendance. Considering the new movies that debuted this week, the fact "Dr. Dolittle" only dropped one spot spoke volumes for its surprising staying power. 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.

  • 7. DISTURBING BEHAVIOR 7 million in one week MGM
          What the struggling MGM Studios didn't need was a bomb and this is definitely a real dud - a rip-off of "The Stepford Wives". It's trash like this which passes for filmfare that has contributed to the decline of society, providing something with no redeeming value. What's really disturbing is anyone plunking down seven bucks to see this turkey. Now that would definitely qualify as disturbing behavior! Below is the Bishops' review:

      Disturbing Behavior -- Because of stylized violence, menacing situations, sexual innuendo, a flash of nudity as well as occasional rough language and profanity, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Disturbing Behavior is a slack thriller in which a transfer student is puzzled by his new high school's strangely perfect students until he discovers their brains have been programmed by the school's mad psychiatrist. There are occasional scenes of bizarre violence and nightmare suspense, but the plot makes little sense and the mix of sex and violence are definitely not for teen viewers.

  • 8. MAFIA 6.6 million in one week 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. 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.

  • 9. SMALL SOLDIERS 40.5 million over three weeks Dreamworks
          What a range of talent - here's a studio that has produced two soldier movies this summer, both in the top ten. One, "Saving Private Ryan" is expected to be a summer blockbuster while "Small Soldiers" is already giving strong repercussions of being a bomb. Even the kids are staying away from this rip-off of "Toy Story". Poor Burger King, they're stuck with the overhyped promotion of a movie that parents have found most offensive for the little ones. BK can't even give Small Soldiers merchandise away. 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.

  • 10. MULAN 108.1 million over six weeks Disney
         Disney's newest animation is the longest running film in the top ten, but it's likely to drop out next week. Yet it has done well, not the kind of numbers as past Disney summer animation features, but still relatively well. It has enjoyed a successful six weeks but we'll be surprised if it's still in the top ten next week. You might say, it's time for "Mulan" to move on just as "The Truman Story", "X-Files", "Deep Impact," etc. have done. McDonald's promotional tie-ins have kept this one alive longer than many anticipated. 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.
  • Reviews provided through Film & Broadcasting Division of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and figures provided through Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.