DAILY CATHOLIC     LABOR DAY WEEKEND     September 4-7, 1998     vol. 9, no. 174

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 THE SUMMER

     Since the list of top ten movies for the last week lacks so much in quality with sexploitive or violent "R" rated movies dominating the scene, we thought we'd bring you the top ten movies from the entire summer - Memorial Day to Labor Day. Two asteroid flicks were among the top three which points to the fact producers are thinking about the apocalypse but maybe not in the right frame as God intends for His people in light of the chastisement and coming Triumph of the Immaculate Heart which will usher in the Era of Peace - the Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - the Age of the Holy Spirit. The most deadly war ever took second billing this summer with "Saving Private Ryan" - a late bloomer, and the animals - domestic and prehistoric took fourth and fifth with "Dr. Dolittle" and "Godzilla" respectively. The Mel Gibson adventure "Lethal Weapon 4" came in sixth followed by the Jim Carrey vehicle "The Truman Show". The oriental animated family film "Mulan" held down eighth and the biggest disappointment of them all morally - "There's Something about Mary" closed fast at ninth. Bringing up the rear was the enjoyable family fun adventure "The Mask of Zorro" with Antonio Banderas. It's a sad fact that of the forty some movies released this summer few had any redeeming quality as the Hollywood industry continues to emphasize quantity rather than quality, showing no shame in compromising value for venue.

      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 the summer 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. ARMAGEDDON 186 million for the summer Disney
          Many have said the concept of Armageddon is unbelieveable. We're not talking about their views on the end event in the Apocalypse, but rather the movie of the same name. We have always assimilated Armageddon with a place where a catastrophic event will occur that cannot be described. Little did we know it would also be boring! Don't know about you but "Armageddon" pretty tired of all the meteor disaster fare we've been subjected to lately. The latest is probably the dumbest, but add in some name "hunks" like same-ol' Bruce Willis and your stereotype characters and it will sell with more explosions and destruction than the human celebrum can handle, especially with the pumped up sound systems in the multiplexes these days. So if you want to waste two hours on this rehash of '"Independence Day" meets "Volcano" with "Deep Impact,"' then be our guest, but don't say we didn't warn you about "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.

  • 2. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN 147 million for the summer Dreamworks
         This movie has proven it 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 which many still feel will eventually catch "Armageddon". 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.

  • 3. DEEP IMPACT 140 million for the summer Paramount/Dreamworks
         As the first disaster film of the summer, it held up surprisingly well until the same genre flick "Armageddon" blazed into theatres. Audiences were mixed on which one they liked better although the later entry proved more popular at the box-office. Though both contained violence and some profanity they were both rated PG-13, similar subject matters from two different studios, and weak scripts. What it boils down to is that if you've seen one meteor movie you've seen them all. Below is the Bishops' review:

      Deep Impact-- Because of a massive natural disaster, sexual innuendo, suicidal references, 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. "Deep Impact" is a low-voltage disaster movie about the chaotic proceedings after President Morgan Freeman announces the failure of a space mission to deflect a huge comet from its deadly collision course with Earth. The spectacular special effects are brief and fleeting while the personal stories are overly sentimentalized.

  • 4. DR. DOLITTLE 140 million 20th Century Fox
         What could have been another "Babe" or "Pauli" vehicle, fell short in quality but scored big in quantity - dollar wise as "Dr. Dolittle" wrested the fourth overall spot, riding the crest of Eddie Murphy's star billing. The problem is that if foul-mouthed Murphy is in it, you know it's going to be crass in some way. Exhibit A - his blatantly offensive "The Nutty Professor" a few years ago. The animals are cute, but like another critter caper that debuted late last year "Mouse Hunt", humor is at the expense of others and when that's the case it isn't funny. This gross-out movie grossed big as movie-goers flooded theaters this summer but a Noah's ark it was not. It's the only movie we can think of where the animals need therapy! Below is the Bishop's 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.

  • 5. GODZILLA 135 million for the summerTri-Star
          As big a flop as this one was it was surprising it snuck up on people box-office-take-wise. Even though the lizard was on its last legs it managed to finish fifth overall even though it got more play on the Taco Bell commercials than in theatres as it plodded into the early summer. Just as word of mouth elevated "Titanic", many were telling their friends that the streaky black and white, out of sync Japanese farces were better! Below is the Bishops' review:

      Godzilla-- Because of recurring fantasy violence with much mayhem and intermittent 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. "Godzilla" is an overhyped monster movie in which New York City's landmarks and citizens are stomped on by the giant beast whose hatching eggs prove an even greater threat, especially to four adults in imminent danger. The special effects-thriller utterly lacks the consistent excitement or goofy humor that would make it fun-filled escapist fare.

  • 6. LETHAL WEAPON 4 124 for the summer Warner Brothers
          This one wasn't as lethal at the box office as many thought it would be despite the 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 what prognosticators forecast, yet it did top the 100 million mark to finish sixth overall. 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.

  • 7. THE TRUMAN SHOW 123 million for the summer Paramount
         Though it started strong, it slid badly as other fare knocked the comic -turned serious actor Jim Carrey off his perch. Still his pull was enough to garner seventh overall for the summer and top the 100 million mark. "The Truman Show" was a vehicle that allowed Jim Carrey to blossom into a full-fledge actor and warrant serious Oscar consideration. This satire was the kind of movie that left one reflecting on it long after the popcorn went stale and days after seeing it. 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.

  • 8. MULAN 116 million for the summer Disney
         Disney's newest animation tied in with all the hype on China. The timing of the release of the movie "Mulan" and Bill Clinton's obtrusive trip to Tiannamen Square was ironic. The fact this Disney vehicle targeted young girls admittedly limited audience appeal and it never achieved the high numbers of previous summer animated features such as "Hunchback of Notre Dame" or "The Lion King". Below is the Bishops' review:

      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.

  • 9. THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY 108 million for the summer 20th Century Fox
         There's no accounting for the taste of the movie-going public as this one finished a fast ninth overall for the summer. While all the other trashy movies continued to plummet, this sexploitive 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 plunked 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.

  • 10. THE MASK OF ZORRO 83 million for the summer Sony
          This one has proven that you can return to yesteryear for it is an adventurous 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 "zesty" 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.
Reviews provided through Film & Broadcasting Division of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and figures provided through Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.