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Prime-Time Flicks

December 15, 1996|Kevin Thomas

What can you say about the very dull 1994 Lightning Jack (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.)? Paul Hogan plays Jack, a nearsighted Aussie gunslinger in the Old West. He's on the run from the law in Junction City for a botched robbery. Ben (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a mute, is his all-too-obliging hostage who becomes his all-too-obliging accomplice.

Joe Pesci is surprisingly touching in this often funny but very uneven 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny (CBS Wednesday at 9 p.m.), about a New York lawyer (Pesci) who defends his cousin (Ralph Macchio) and friend against a murder rap in Alabama. Marisa Tomei, who won an Oscar for her portrayal as Vinny's girlfriend, is an inspired kook.

White Christmas (KTLA Friday at 8 p.m.) is an elaborate 1954 VistaVision reworking of the much better 1942 "Holiday Inn," in which Bing Crosby introduced "White Christmas." Crosby returns, as do Irving Berlin's songs, and he's joined by Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.

Audiences loved The Sound of Music (NBC Friday at 8 p.m.), the 1965 Robert Wise-Ernest Lehman adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's last stage musical, like no other movie of the '60s. It's an archetypal story: the spunky governess (Julie Andrews) in the gorgeous chateau, taming the chilly master and his adorable motherless tots, with mountains, lakes, Nazis and world catastrophe in the background.

It would be hard to imagine a holiday season without an airing of It's a Wonderful Life (NBC Saturday at 8 p.m.) It's both Frank Capra and James Stewart's favorite among their films. It is a timeless gem, an answer to a conscientious American Everyman (James Stewart) who in despair decides that he's better off dead than alive and even wished he'd never been born in the first place.

In the 1952 Hans Christian Andersen (KCET Saturday at 8 p.m.) Moss Hart's clever script mixes Andersen's life, his fairytale stories and a backstage ballet romance reminiscent of "The Red Shoes." Danny Kaye is a wistful ball of red-haired energy, and the Frank Loesser score ("Inch Worm," "Thumbelina," "Copenhagen") is right on pitch. But the tone, style and settings are slack; it isn't the classic it might have been.

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