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Prime-Time Flicks

June 02, 1996|Kevin Thomas

The Couch Trip (KTLA Monday at 8 p.m.) is "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" mixed with "Spellbound" and updated to the era of Dr. Toni Grant and competitors--as a conman mental patient poses as his own psychiatrist and becomes the rage of the Beverly Hills Dial-A-Neurosis talk show circuit. How can you miss with an idea like this? Easy. Just watch this 1988 movie. Despite an apparent high comic pedigree, it has the brittle surface, empty ideas and sharp, vacuous jive of a bunco artist working the crowd.

If fires had agents, not to mention publicists, the seven (or is it eight?) blazes that energize the 1991 Backdraft (NBC Monday at 8 p.m.) would have their names up in lights. The film's nominal stars, Kurt Russell and William Baldwin as the battling firefighting brothers, the McCaffreys, would end up in small print. Nothing anyone does in this conventional smoke opera can hold a candle to conflagrations so eye-popping they make "The Towering Inferno" look like leftovers from "The Little Match Girl."

Better scaled to TV than to the big screen, the admirable, affecting 1989 Jacknife (KTLA Thursday at 8 p.m.) illuminates the lingering effects of the Vietnam War on its veterans. Robert De Niro stars as an uninhibited, exuberant man who seemingly comes out of nowhere to disrupt the ordered lives of his Vietnam buddy (Ed Harris) and his sister (KathyBaker). Extraordinary performances all around.

The 1980 Flash Gordon (KTLA Saturday at 5 p.m.) is pure entertainment, a perfect escape that transports us to an astonishing world of fantasy made real through movie magic. It has humor, a handsome hero (Sam Jones), a beautiful heroine (Melody Anderson) and a wonderfully wicked villain.

In the 1991 Truly, Madly, Deeply (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.) a maddeningly mannered Juliet Stevenson stars as a woman whose lover, played by Alan Rickman, comes back to life--sort of. This British fantasy-romance is more civilized entertainment than, say, "Ghost." It's a bit too self-consciously life-affirming, but worth seeing.

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