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Prime-Time Flicks

March 30, 1997|Kevin Thomas

A Few Good Men (NBC Sunday at 8 p.m.) is a brisk and familiar 1992 courtroom drama that is as pleasant to watch as it is predictable. More than anything else, it is a tribute to pure star power. Like "The Caine Mutiny" before it, it is centered around a trial in a military courtroom and would like you to think about such weighty topics as the misuse of power and a young man's struggle to find himself. But its true reason for being is to give Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson the kind of juicy roles they do best.

The Ten Commandments (ABC Sunday at 8 p.m., completed Monday at 9 p.m.) is Cecil B. DeMille's final (1956) film, and one of his most stirring and spectacular, a Victorian melodrama with the pictorial grandeur of the silent era in which DeMille was a pioneer. DeMille was never above prurient appeal, but he was one of the movies' master storytellers and entertainers, and for all the parting of the Red Sea jokes, Charlton is a truly heroic Moses.

As Carmine Sabatini, the Little Italy "importer" in The Freshman (KTLA Tuesday at 8 p.m.) who bears a striking resemblance to Vito Corleone, Marlon Brando pulls off a minor miracle. By all rights, watching America's finest actor parody one of his greatest roles should be a sorry spectacle--a sign of artistic bankruptcy. Except that he does indeed do something fresh. The role is nothing more than an elaborate comic turn, but he invests it with such sly knowingness and reserves of feeling that he gives a soul to this dinky 1990 joke-book movie, about an NYU film student (Matthew Broderick) getting mixed up in the Mob. Penelope Ann Miller shines as Brando's seductive daughter.

Before "The English Patient," director Anthony Minghella made the 1993 Mr. Wonderful (KCOP Friday at 8 p.m.). A terrific little romantic comedy starring Matt Dillon as a Con Ed repairman trying to find a new husband for his ex-wife, played by Anabella Sciorra, to avoid paying her alimony. The conventional film takes its time, but ultimately succeeds by exploring the characters' emotions. With Mary-Louise Parker.

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