MOVIES . . . PARADISE ROAD: Singapore, 1942. As the Japanese advance, the colonial swells party on, unconcerned. They don't know that disaster looms. But we do; this is the same familiar war-movie territory we've seen in countless other films. "We also know that we are in for a very long day’s journey on writer-director Bruce Beresford’s endlessly predictable 'Paradise Road,'" says TIME's Richard Schickel. "Do we know that the ship carrying the women and children to safety as Singapore surrenders to the Japanese will be sunk, Red Cross markings or not? Can we predict that the well-spoken Japanese officer some of the survivors meet when they stumble ashore on Sumatra will turn out to be a sadist? When the commandant of the camp where they’re interned appears, are we not instantly certain he studied penology with Colonel Saito over on the River Kwai?" And that's just the start of things. There's much familiar hardship and vile torment to go, not to mention the inevitable triumph of the human spirit. One day Adrienne Pargiter (Glenn Close) and Margaret Drummond (Pauline Collins) get to humming the theme from a symphony. The former once studied music seriously; the latter is a missionary who knows how inspiring a good tune can be when you’re in the dumps. Soon enough the prisoners form a symphonic chorus, which sings wordless versions of great orchestral works. Even the more selfish and cynical prisoners—among them recent Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, rather miscast as a Viennese Jewish doctor—register awe and wonder at this feat. "We are assured that this all really happened," notes Schickel. "Survivors have imparted their memories to Beresford. The vocal arrangements they made still exist and are used in the movie. But in shaping their tale for the screen, shouldn’t he have honored their courage—and, yes, inventiveness—with something other than cliches?" TELEVISION . . . GUN: The latest—and most impressively pedigreed—of this spring's slate of cop shows is ABC’s 'Gun,' which starts on April 12 (Saturdays, 10 p.m. ET). Conceived by director Robert Altman, Gun aims to follow the life of a single pistol—an intriguing premise until you realize that no single episode will have any relation to the last. But then arbitrariness is the show’s only distinguishing element. In the first episode, dwarfs appear as waiters at a swank hotel for no explicable reason. "In some ways, 'Gun' resembles a camp version of Altman’s 'Short Cuts,'" says TIME's Ginia Bellafante. "Like that film, it offers vignettes of the striving and the desperate."