For years, the slogan for HBO's line-up of TV series has been "It's not TV; It's HBO." But that's selling the cable network short. Not only has it managed to reinvent television with edgy, inspired shows like "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," and "The Wire," it's also become a showcase for some of the best TV movies of the past few years.
The crackling election drama "Recount," which aired a few years ago, was on par with -- in fact, better than -- many political thrillers released in theaters. And it's hard to think of a recent biopic that's as compelling, witty and entertaining as "You Don't Know Jack," which airs tonight at 9. The film tells the story of the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian (played here by Al Pacino with uncanny accuracy), who gained both praise and notoriety for euthanizing the terminally ill and suffering. Whether or not you agree with what Kevorkian did, the movie is intelligent and engrossing as it follows Kevorkian through his personal and legal battles. Pacino tones down his bombast considerably and gives a thoughtful, measured performance as the man nicknamed Dr. Death. He's surrounded by a stellar cast, including Susan Sarandon and John Goodman as loyal allies and Brenda Vaccaro as his supportive, but long-suffering sister.
Special mention must also be made of Danny Huston who, as Kevorkian's flashy lawyer Geoffrey Feiger, steals every scene he's in. If you remember the real Feiger at all, you'll be amazed by how dead-on Huston is. Part of that is his amazing wig, but Huston deserves a lot of credit, too.
The movie is a bit over-long and a little slow. But, mostly, director Barry Levinson keeps things humming along, and the result is both entertaining and thought-provoking. "Jack" is the best film I've seen in a while. After all, it's not a movie -- it's HBO.