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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

December 06, 1987|Kevin Thomas

A Hobo's Christmas (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.), a new TV movie, stars Barnard Hughes as a once-successful salesman who has a reunion with his long-estranged son (Gerald McRaney) after years of riding the rails.

Downpayment on Murder (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.), another new TV movie, stars Connie Sellecca and Ben Gazzara in a drama inspired by a true story about a young mother whose unstable husband hires a hit man to murder her.

That rousing police drama Serpico, with Al Pacino in one of his best performances (as a New York cop fighting criminals and corruption in his own department), returns Sunday at 8 p.m. on Channel 13. Sidney Lumet directed from the excellent Waldo Salt-Norman Wexler script, based on the Peter Maas book about the real-life Serpico.

Directed by Louis Malle and written by John Guare, Atlantic City (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.) is an exquisite romantic fable and an affectionate satire of American pop culture, past and present. Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon are among those dreamers whose lives converge in the throes of Atlantic City's renewal, thanks to legalized gambling. A key film of the '80s, Atlantic City is a sophisticated fairy tale, beautifully acted and beautiful to behold; it is as funny as it is touching.

Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder (Channel 11 Monday at 8 p.m.) is a lively and involving film that tackles issues from what growing up really means to what war signifies. Dennis Christopher stars in a splendid performance as a young, cynical medic in Vietnam whose life is transformed when he inherits an ever-increasing number of war orphans. Director Peter Werner and writer Paul Hensler, who drew from personal experience, resist sentimentality to tell a story that is as moving as it is entertaining. Susan Saint James co-stars as an Army doctor, initially a determined careerist.

In the new TV movie Eye on the Sparrow (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) Mare Winningham and Keith Carradine (on the cover) play a blind couple, Ethel and James Lee, who challenge adoption laws which discriminate against them. John Korty directed.

In its seventh remake, Brewster's Millions (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) casts Richard Pryor as an extremely minor-league pitcher (the Hackensack Bulls ?!?) who is stunned to learn he's the beneficiary of a squirrelly bequest requiring that he must spend a blooming fortune in a month's time or lose untold millions more. To watch incredulity, stupefaction, delight, consternation and devilish ingenuity chase each other across Pryor's face, all within the space of seconds, is one of the pure joys of movie-going. Unfortunately, the film itself is flat.

The 1986 Murrow (Channel 13 at 8 p.m. Wednesday and again Saturday) is a fascinating, well-told, well-acted chronicle of one man's contributions to an infant news medium that swiftly soared far beyond radio to new levels of influence and power. Beware, however, for this Jack Gold-directed drama is yet another dramatic re-creation of history, subject to the usual questions about accuracy and interpretation. However, as Edward R. Murrow, Daniel J. Travanti effectively conveys the true grit and taciturn presence of a man who became a metaphor for TV journalism's best and bravest.

The defense industry seems an unlikely setting for comedy, and Best Defense (ABC Thursday at 9 p.m.) goes out of its way to prove how uncongenial it can be. Worse yet, producer-writer Gloria Katz and director-writer Willard Huyck gingerly sidestep all the looming implications of weapons manufacturing in today's world--incredible as that seems. Caught up in this dud are Eddie Murphy as a jiving Army lieutenant and Dudley Moore as a luckless engineer--but they never even meet!

Also airing Thursday (on Channel 5 at 8 p.m.): the classic Western The Gunfighter, starring Gregory Peck and directed by Henry King.

While It Happened One Christmas (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.) is not the classic that the Frank Capra-James Stewart "It's a Wonderful Life" is, this 1977 TV movie remake succeeds as an honorable, heartwarming holiday family entertainment. Marlo Thomas stars as a small-town young woman who gamely shoulders so many responsibilities that they overwhelm her one Christmas Eve in the immediate post-World War II era. She's on the verge of jumping off a bridge when her guardian angel (Cloris Leachman) intervenes, showing her how worse off her world would have been had she never been born.

Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (CBS Saturday at 8 p.m.) is yet another welcome step in TV consciousness-raising concerning the elderly. The key word here is dignity . Katharine Hepburn and Harold Gould have exactly that, as a couple whose romance is met with opposition from family and friends.

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