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Movies Spotlight

March 15, 1998|Kevin Thomas

The combination of director Joel Schumacher's eye for mass public appeal and novelist John Grisham's best-selling sensibility produced The Client (KNBC Sunday at 8:30 p.m.), a 1994 film that is probably truer to the spirit of the novel than the adaptations of other Grisham books. Not particularly nuanced or fine-tuned, 'The Client,' like its source material, is both gimmicky and involving. It is beefed up by a pair of satisfying star performances by Susan Sarandon as a diamond-in-the-rough lawyer protecting a bratty 11-year-old (Brad Renfro) from the Mafia, and Tommy Lee Jones as the ambitious federal prosecutor who would use the boy to get his mob man.

Waterworld (KABC Sunday at 9 p.m., completed Thursday at 9 p.m.), the 1995 Kevin Costner-starring epic, is a moderately successful guy's movie with both weak and strong elements where lots of things are brilliantly blown up and few things make any kind of sense. A narrator tells us that in the future, "the polar ice caps have melted, covering the Earth with water. Those who survived have adapted to a new world." It's a world whose people can be divided into strata that roughly correspond to the groups that populate traditional Westerns. Most vulnerable are the unadventurous average citizens, who dream of a perhaps mythical place called Dryland and whose towns are enormous man-made atolls (the one in the movie used 1,000 tons of steel) cobbled together out of random pieces of junk. Making their lives miserable are the outlaws, and then there are the lonely, enigmatic drifters whose relationship to pure good and evil is harder to pin down. The Mariner, played by Costner, is the drifter's drifter.

Costner earlier starred in and directed Dances with Wolves (KTLA Thursday at 8 p.m., completed Saturday at 8 p.m.), the 1990 film about a white man's communion with Native Americans, and it was a multi-Oscar winner. There's a lot of noble savage stuff in here parading as New Age brothers-under-the-skin stuff; Costner gives himself more close-ups than Elizabeth Taylor received in 'Cleopatra.' Still, it has its stirring moments, including a great, thundering buffalo charge (which may be less than thunderous on the TV screen).

The Mosquito Coast (KCOP Saturday at 7 p.m.), Peter Weir's 1986 film of Paul Theroux's novel, is a lot closer to his Australian work than "Witness" was; it has that sense of the inexplicable, dangerous landscapes, mystical depths. Harrison Ford goes magnetically over the top as anti-hero Allie: a survivalist inventor at war with modern society, who makes ice from fire and sets up a jungle utopia that fails. Allie is a modern Leatherstocking, but the fact that he brings his family along makes his story a tragicomedy.

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