BEARDED wonder Richard Branson realised he had the Midas touch when he became the first schoolboy in the world to make a fat profit from the school magazine. As an extra-curricular activity, it was far preferable to the traditional alternative of standingaround on the rugby field all afternoon holding up your over-sized shorts with one hand while wiping hailstones the size of jumbo jets from your eyes with the other. He did it by selling advertising from a public telephone box. Now he owns record stores, sells condoms, produces videos and laserdiscs, runs a record label, oh yes, and owns a very large airline. He is the kind of man who could make Li Ka-shing feel like a chronic under-achiever. Mr Branson - who also has a penchant for finding unusual ways to cross the Atlantic - is the subject, or one of the subjects, of this evening's Eye on Hong Kong (Pearl, 7.20pm). Katie Ledger talks to him about plans to expand his already expansive empireto Hong Kong. THERE are two films on World this evening that slipped in and out of the cinemas quickly and quietly, but which are, nevertheless, both worth staying out of bed for. The River Rat (9.30pm), which barely made a ripple when it was released in 1984, stars the resurgent Tommy Lee Jones while Sarah, Plain and Tall (1.30am) stars Glenn Close, not at her best, but at least better than anyone else would have been in a role which, superficially at least, hardly sounds inspiring. The River Rat is the best of the pair, thanks partly to its admirable ability to avoid sentimentality on a subject that could so easily have drowned in the stuff. Sarah, Plain and Tall almost does drown in the stuff, but is saved by Ms Close as a kind ofAmerican Mary Poppins without wings, a schoolteacher who travels to Kansas in 1910 to baby-sit for a widowed farmer's family. Tommy Lee Jones must take great responsibility for the watchability of The River Rat. It isn't a great film, but it is a good one, and he turns in the kind of almost psychotic performance that made him so electrifyingly memorable (no pun intended) in TheExecutioner's Song. Most recently of course he came within a whisker of bursting Harrison Ford's balloon when he out-acted him in The Fugitive. In fact Jones is on a bit of a roll, also to be seen in Oliver Stone's Heaven and Earth, which is opening soon in Hong Kong. Here he plays an ex-con who gets out of prison and finds he has to start loving the 12-year-old daughter (Martha Plimpton) he hasn't seen in years. The River Rat marked the directorial debut of screenwriter Tom Rickman (The Coalminer's Daughter, which also starred Jones). The likeable Brian Dennehy also pops up. THE producers of all those banal action series that clog the television schedules like bowls of All Bran have always been preoccupied with the future, probably because it is a damn site harder to exercise such astounding artistic licence on the past. It is somehow difficult to imagine a producer calling Lee Majors from the golf course and saying: ''Lee, I want 4,264 episodes about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The budget is big - you can stage all the car wrecks you want.'' An enema is called for. In the meantime, Time Trax (Pearl, 8.30pm) is the latest in this not-so-great tradition of future dramas. Logan's Run and The Planet of the Apes were two of the best, but these days even something as essential as a plot is becoming secondary to the kind of virtual reality hyperbole usually available only in amusement arcades. In Time Trax it is the year 2193 and, for some reason, criminals are fighting to get back to the 1900s.