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Monthly Movie Guide

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The following summaries of current, widely shown films are provided to help readers plan what to see. Inclusion of a movie does not imply Monitor endorsement. Further description is often supplied in articles on the arts-entertainment pages. The Movie Guide appears on the third Thursday of the month. ANGELO MY LOVE - Robert Duvall wrote and directed this astonishingly vivid picture about a young gypsy boy and his family, with a cast of real New York Gypsies playing themselves in the framework of a fictional plot about a feud over a stolen ring. After a few weak moments near the beginning it's a colorful, deeply engaging, and relentlessly dramatic movie, with some of the most unpredictable performances ever captured on film. (Not rated; contains a little vulgar language and some dissolute behavior.) BABY, IT'S YOU - A smart high school girl falls for an irresponsible dreamer, and we watch their ups and downs over a couple of years. Directed by John Sayles , from a viewpoint that's surprisingly unromantic much of the time. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and sexual activity.) BETRAYAL - An examination of a love triangle in reverse, starting after the affair is over and moving backward to discover its earlier phases. Directed by David Jones, the Harold Pinter screenplay is exquisitely sharp, and the performers match it stunningly, with Jeremy Irons at the top of his form, Patricia Hodge a devastating foil, and Ben Kingsley topping his brilliant work in ''Gandhi'' with the most riveting portrayal of the season. (Rated R; contains adult subject matter and a little vulgar language.) BLUE THUNDER - It's all action, little brain in this urban western about a helicopter-flying policeman battling a murderous rival and undoing a nasty political plot. The screenplay reaches pallidly for social significance, but director John Badham cuts to the chase whenever the story threatens to mean something. (Rated R; contains violence, vulgar language, and a little nudity.) BREATHLESS - Remake of the Jean-Luc Godard classic about a small-time hoodlum in trouble over his head. The director, Jim McBride, brings impressive energy to the project, but the movie is stuck hopelessly in an outdated '60s sensibility, hoping we'll cheer a desperado ''hero'' and ponder ''existentialist'' dialogue that doesn't even seem daring any more, much less fresh. (Rated R; contains explicit sex and vulgar language.) DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT, THE - Period romance about an artist who mingles amorous intrigue with a professional project. Directed by Peter Greenaway with a sense of structure that's as important to the film's effect as the story and characters. (Rated R; contains some violence and scatological detail.) E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL - Lost on the planet Earth, a friendly spaceman becomes the secret pal of a little boy, who can't believe his own good fortune. A grade-school version of ''Close Encounters of the Third Kind,'' directed by Steven Spielberg with lots of wit in the first half, but too much artificial emotion in the long climax, which leads to a resolution right out of ''Peter Pan.'' (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and a sci-fi medical sequence.) EVIL DEAD, THE - Disgusting, discombobulated horror yarn about a teen-age foursome beset by corpses. Directed by Sam Raimi. (Rated R; contains extreme violence.) FANNY AND ALEXANDER - In what he says will be his last film, Ingmar Bergman explores the life of a provincial Swedish family in 1907, approaching his very personal material with a mixture of insight, humor, and curious detachment. Though too long, sometimes vulgar, and surprisingly uneven in its inspiration, the result is perhaps the most Dickensian drama ever filmed: crowded, colorful, and compelling. (Rated R; contains sexual activity and bathroom humor.) GANDHI - Dignified but flat biography of the great Indian leader, giving more facts than insight. Directed by Richard Attenborough. (Rated PG; contains occasional scenes of violence in historical settings.) HUNGER, THE - A vampire uses love and lust to ensnare victims in this slick, sensational horror story with lesbian overtones. Directed by Tony Scott. (Rated R; contains explicit violence and kinky sex.) LA NUIT DE VARENNES - Colorful, often amusing, sometimes vulgar historical romp about the waning days of the French aristocracy, which is represented by the aging Casanova. Directed, in French, by Ettore Scola. (Rated R; contains some nudity and sex-related dialogue.) LA TRAVIATA - Franco Zeffirelli's witty, energetic, aggressively beautiful adaptation of the timeless Verdi work, with a nonstop flow of images so dazzling that even opera newcomers should be charmed from first scene to last, though buffs may feel the pictures fight the music to a standoff. James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and a cast that includes Teresa Stratas, Placido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil. (Rated G.) LOCAL HERO - Slightly daft, utterly charming comedy about a young American sent to a sleepy Scottish village under orders to buy the place up for the oil company he works for. Written and directed with marvelous wit and subtlety by Bill Forsyth. (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language.) MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE - Monty Python, the British comedy team, treats various philosophical questions with intermittent hilarity, some dull filler material, and occasional forays into the deliberately sickening. As loosely coordinated by director Terry Jones, it's weaker and less consistent than the best Python work in the past. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, sexual activity, and explicit scatological humor.) NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS, THE - Amid the sad confusion of World War II, a group of Italian peasants flee the Germans who control their town and head into the countryside, looking for American soldiers and liberation. Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani with their patented blend of realism, fantasy, and myth. (Rated R; contains some earthy details of peasant life.) OCTOPUSSY - A tiny octopus is the symbol of a circus that gets mixed up in international intrigue, and the insignia of a smuggling ring that James Bond vanquishes after sundry close shaves. Directed by John Glen, who keeps the excitement level high for an hour or so, then lets the show slip into the doldrums. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language and sexual innuendo.) OUTSIDERS, THE - Francis Coppola directed this episodic adaptation of S. E. Hinton's popular young-adult novel about two youth gangs (rich kids vs. poor ones) in Tulsa, Okla. There's little flow to the story despite lots of striking images and a few strong scenes. (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language and a good deal of violence.) PSYCHO II - The first half is great fun, especially if you have vivid memories of the Alfred Hitchcock original, but the rest is so uneven you might think director Richard Franklin was making up the plot as he went along. Anthony Perkins still scores as the ever-anxious Norman Bates, who runs into strange doings when he returns to his old home after supposedly being cured of his madness. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and much more gruesome violence than the first ''Psycho.) RETURN OF THE JEDI - George Lucas's hit ''Star Wars'' series comes to a close, for the time being anyway, with another slam-bang struggle between the evil Empire and good guys Han Solo, Artoo-Detoo, See-Threepio, et al. While much of the action is perfunctory and overdone, director Richard Marquand has managed some thrilling sequences as well, and the family drama centering on Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader lends depth to the colorful proceedings. (Rated PG; contains much stylized violence and a little visual vulgarity.) RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE, THE - In the 16th century a prodigal son returns to his native village, but some of the neighbors think he's really an imposter, and they may be right. As directed by Daniel Vigne, the story is engaging much of the way and the performances are strong, but there's ultimately not much point to it all, except to let us know that forensics weren't very advanced 400 years ago. (Not rated; contains come violence and sex.) SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY - Tuneful and energetic documentary about gospel music and the personalities who sing it to the rooftops. Directed by George T. Nierenberg with customary flair. (Rated G.) SOPHIE'S CHOICE - Harrowing but humanistic drama, set in 1947, about a young writer who gets involved with a non-Semitic survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp and her brilliant but unstable Jewish boyfriend. Written and directed by Alan J. Pakula, who eliminates much of the sensationalism and sexual detail of the original novel by William Styron. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, sexual innuendo, and Nazi war crimes.) SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES - Visually and verbally striking fantasy about a small town invaded by a demonic carnival, and two young boys who investigate the enigma. Ray Bradbury's screenplay captures the moody, atmospheric tone of his original novel, and director Jack Clayton makes the illusion complete by giving it his full conviction, though some of the special effects and performances fall short of the film's high standard. (Rated PG; contains some violence and a very intense nightmare sequence.) SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE - Occasional visual excitement interrupts the general dullness of this science-fiction epic about an interplanetary hero and his unruly young sidekick. Directed, in dreary-looking 3 -D, by Lamont Johnson. (Rated PG; contains violence.) TENDER MERCIES - Exquisitely written and performed drama about a former country-music star recovering from a wrecked career and a drinking problem with the help of his new wife and stepson. Directed by Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford in his Hollywood debut, with a gentle style that's all the more stirring because it avoids the usual melodramatic twists. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language.) TO BEGIN AGAIN - ''Volver a Empezar'' is the Spanish title of this sincere but soggy drama about a distinguished author spending some of his last days with an old flame in his native Spain. Winner of the Oscar for best foreign-language film, it was directed by Jose Luis Garci. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and references to the hero's impending demise.) TOOTSIE - An out-of-work actor becomes a star by masquerading as a woman in this reasonably funny comedy featuring a complex performance by Dustin Hoffman. Directed by Sydney Pollack. (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language and sexual innuendo.) TRADING PLACES - To settle a wager about heredity and environment, two crusty old capitalists take a wealthy banker and a streetwise con man, manipulate their lives so they wind up in each other's shoes, and watch the sparks fly before their victims turn on them. Directed by John Landis with a surprising amount of class, though he lets some of his old ''Animal House'' vulgarity slip ostentatiously into the action. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and nudity.) TROUT, THE - A band of self-styled sophisticates pick up a young rural woman, who becomes involved in their emotional free-for-alls. Directed by Joseph Losey with a cold irony that's too distancing for its own good. (Rated R: contains nudity and sexual activity.) VALLEY GIRL

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