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Movie Reviews

Noteworthy viewing and streaming from home this holiday season

NEW YORK (OSV News) — The following are capsule reviews of theatrical movies available now for streaming or scheduled for broadcast on network or cable television during the week of Dec. 24, as well as notes on TV programming for the same week. Televised films may or may not be edited for language, nudity, violence and sexual situations while the programs listed have not been reviewed and therefore are not necessarily recommended by OSV News.

Streaming Now:

“The Bourne Identity” (2002)

Well-crafted thriller in which a highly trained CIA agent (Matt Damon) suffering from amnesia after a botched secret operation must figure out who he is and why fierce assassins are after him as he is aided by a German woman (Franka Potente) whom he has taken into his confidence. Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum, director Doug Liman’s film is both an engaging character study and a fast-paced espionage yarn as the ongoing chase scenes and chilling close calls provide suspense and deflect attention from the story’s predictable spots. Recurring harsh violence and some profanity with an instance of rough language. The OSV News classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (The sequels “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) and “The Bourne Legacy” (2012) are also streaming.)

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003; Amazon Prime).

Lavish high-seas adventure, based on Patrick O’Brian’s popular maritime novels, about an intrepid British naval captain (Russell Crowe) who must hunt down and destroy a superior French frigate during the Napoleonic wars. Combining grand swashbuckling spectacle with painstaking attention to detail, director Peter Weir weaves a salty yarn about honor, duty and friendship, which, while steering clear of the dehumanizing reefs of gratuitous violence, proves effective as both an engaging historical drama and entertaining escapist fare. Naval battle violence with related gory images, a suicide and minimum mildly crude language. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” (2023; Netflix)

Grown-ups in search of action, special effects and some humorous dialogue will be satisfied with this sequel to the 2019 origin story of the titular DC Comics character. Yet, though diverting, returning director David F. Sandberg’s extension of his story is overburdened with lore and less than memorable. After the three daughters of the titan Atlas (Rachel Zegler, Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren) get hold of a mystical artifact, only the lad (Asher Angel) to whom a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) gave the ability to turn himself into an adult (Zachary Levi) endowed with incredible strength and speed in the first chapter can thwart their plan for global destruction. He’s aided on this mission by the ensemble of fellow foster kids with whom he later shared his superpowers (most prominently Jack Dylan Grazer who becomes Adam Brody). While Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan’s script promotes family bonds and showcases a sweetly innocent teen romance, it also throws the term gods around in a way that might be confusing for the poorly catechized and matter-of-factly reveals that one of the protagonist’s adoptive brothers (Jovan Armand/D.J. Cotrona) is gay. Much stylized but sometimes harsh violence, brief references to homosexuality and venereal disease, a few mild oaths, a couple of crude terms, occasional crass language. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Looking Ahead:

Sunday, Dec. 24, 1:30-3:15 p.m. EST (EWTN) “Solemn Mass of Christmas Eve in Rome.” Live broadcast from St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City as Pope Francis celebrates Midnight Mass on the Solemnity of Christmas (TV-G – general audience).

Sunday, Dec. 24, 8-10 p.m. EST (ABC) “Home Alone” (1990). A large family takes off for Christmas in Paris accidentally leaving behind their timid 8-year-old (Macaulay Culkin) who becomes very resourceful in defending the house against a persistent pair of bungling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). The laughter ebbs and wanes in director Chris Columbus’ contrived comedy, but the pace is peppy and the family message heartwarming. Minor violence and robbery played for laughs. The OSV News classification of the theatrical version was A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating was PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Monday, Dec. 25, 6-6:30 a.m. EST (EWTN) “Urbi et Orbi: Message and Blessing.” Pope Francis gives the traditional address and blessing to the city of Rome and to the world. The event will re-air 3-3:30 p.m. EST (TV-G – general audience).

Monday, Dec. 25, noon-1:30 p.m. EST (EWTN) “Solemn Mass of Christmas Day.” Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, is scheduled to serve as the celebrant and homilist at this Christmas Mass broadcast live from the capital’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (TV-G – general audience).

Monday, Dec. 25, noon-2 p.m. EST (AMC) “The Polar Express” (2004). Visually captivating animated fantasy — in which Tom Hanks plays five separate roles — about a doubting young boy who is whisked away on Christmas Eve aboard a magic train bound for Santa’s village in the North Pole. Based on the children’s novel by Chris Van Allsburg, director Rob Zemeckis’ hauntingly beautiful fairy tale celebrates childlike wonder and — though secular in tone — imparts a profoundly faith-friendly message about the importance of believing in things that can’t be seen. The OSV News classification of the theatrical version was A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association rating was G — general audiences. All ages admitted.

Thursday, Dec. 28, 6:30-9 p.m. EST (Showtime) “The Fabelmans” (2022). One problematic subplot aside, this autobiographical drama from director and co-writer Steven Spielberg is an emotionally rich delight. Set in the 1950s and ’60s, the movie recounts the childhood and adolescence of a lad (Gabriel LaBelle) whose determination to become a filmmaker is supported by his artistically inclined pianist mother (Michelle Williams) but dismissed as impractical by his dad (Paul Dano), a gifted engineer involved in the development of modern computers. Christian viewers may find a stumbling block in the person of the fellow high school student (Chloe East), for whom the Jewish protagonist eventually falls, since she not only vainly aims to convert him but has a discomfitingly eccentric relationship with Jesus. Additionally, the script’s message about following your heart takes on, at moments, a quality of reckless romanticism. But the remainder of the long running time finds vivid characters and sharp writing blended with pitch perfect acting in a thoroughly winning recipe. Some irreverent humor, mature themes, drug use, numerous profanities, about a half-dozen milder oaths, at least one rough term, occasional crude and crass talk. The OSV News classification of the theatrical version was A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating was PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Saturday, Dec. 30, 8-9:33 p.m. EST (Cinemax) “The Witch” (2016). Slim, disturbing mood piece about 17th-century New England, set some 60 years before the Salem witch trials. In lieu of showing panic within an entire community, writer-director Robert Eggers opts to study — not, alas, to especially good effect — eerie occurrences within a single family. Exiled from their Puritan community, the unnamed clan (led by parents Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie) struggles to deal with a series of gory events some among them are inclined to blame on the witchcraft supposedly being practiced by the eldest daughter (Anya Taylor-Joy). As the plot leaves reality behind, Eggers resorts to some mildly exploitative footage of unclothed, albeit shadowy, spell-casters cavorting in the moonlight. Occult themes, fleeting rear nudity, some bloody physical violence. The OSV News classification of the theatrical version was L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating was R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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