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Prime-Time Flicks

December 22, 1996|Kevin Thomas

The engine that drives the 1992 summer hit Sister Act (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.), which is graced with a clever script and a cast that will make you smile till you ache, is, of course, Whoopi Goldberg, irascible mistress of the double take. She's the lead singer in the most marginal of Reno lounges--and the frustrated lover of gangster Harvey Keitel--when she accidentally witnesses a major crime. This means that until she can testify she has to hide out--in a San Francisco Carmelite nunnery.

The biggest sack of defensive lineman Dennis Byrd's life--knocking into a hat the medical predictions that he would never walk again--is the stuff of the legendary "Brian's Song" (1972), although Byrd's movie has a sunny ending. Even viewers who have never heard of the New York Jets player, who broke his neck in a collision with a teammate in a New York-Kansas City game in 1992, should be touched by the 1994 TV movie Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story (Fox Tuesday at 8 p.m. with its personal crucible of courage, strength and commitment.

Directed unevenly by Stephen Frears and written by "Unforgiven" screenwriter David Webb Peoples, the 1992 Hero (Fox Wednesday at 8 p.m.) asks whether heroism is truly selfless or rather an act of stupidity. Dustin Hoffman stars as a curmudgeonly, anti-social weasel who nevertheless winds up bringing about the rescue of 54 people in a plane crash only to vanish immediately afterward. Among the rescued is a hard-charging TV reporter (Geena Davis), who knows that the disappearing hero could be the story of a lifetime. But then a handsome guy (Andy Garcia) shows up to claim the laurel wreath.

The Sunshine Boys (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.) tells of two squabbling old vaudevillians, an ex-comedy team who mix like garlic and ice cream, and their troubled reunion. This 1975 movie is one of Neil Simon's best efforts, with smooth Herbert Ross direction and sparkling byplay between Walter Matthau and George Burns as the comics.

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