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Monthly movie guide

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.) 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 The director, Jim McBride, brings impressive energy to the project, but the movie is stuck hopelessly in an outdated '60s sensibility, hoping we'll cheer a desperado ''hero'' and ponder ''existentialist'' dialogue that doesn't even seem daring any more, much less fresh.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.) DRUGSTORE ROMANCE - Pretentious piffle about a man obsessed with an older woman. Directed in French by Paul Vecchiali, and ostensibly dedicated to Gabriel Faure, whose music is the picture's main asset. (Rated R; contains nudity and vulgar language.) 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.) GOD'S ANGRY MAN - Stunning documentary about a California television evangelist who evidently specializes in appeals for money. Directed by West German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who interviews the preacher and shows long excerpts from his almost unbelievable TV show. (Not rated.) HAMMETT - Fictional yarn based on the life and ideas of detective-turned-writer Dashiell Hammett, without the snappy dialogue that sparked a real Hammett novel like ''The Thin Man,'' but with a splendid sense of visual detail and an insinuating rhythm. Directed in the United States by West German filmmaker Wim Wenders, and finally relex Francis Coppola's studio after years of Hollywood scuttlebutt about script problems and disagreements among the production team. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and situations.) HEATWAVE - A movie about real estate, wherein a visionary architect and a housing activist find themselves on the fringe of a nasty financial scheme. Imaginatively directed by Australian filmmaker Phillip Noyce, who gave us ''Newsfront'' a few years back. (Not rated; contains some sexual activity and vulgar language.) HUIE'S SERMON - Fascinating documentary about a black church in Brooklyn, where the minister turns his sermon into a cascade of incantatory words and music. Directed by West German filmmaker Werner Herzog. (Not rated.) 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.) L'ETOILE DU NORD - ''North Star'' is the American title of this dull drama about a middle-aged man and woman involved in murder. Directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre with the lethargy that often mars his work. (Not rated; contains some sexual innuendo.) THE MIRROR - Autobiographical musings by the great Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, about a man recalling his childhood while dealing with a difficult time in his adult life. The family drama is slow and unmemorable, but the visionary dream sequences are overwhelmingly powerful. (Not rated.) 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.) OKLAHOMA! - The first half is so scrubbed and stylized it's lost all its feelings, and by the time things pick up after the intermission it's too late to generate much excitement. Directed by Fred Zinnemann with an eye for big and beautiful images. First released in 1955. (Rated G.) 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.) SUPERMAN III - Except for a bout with kryptonite, and a symbolic wrestling match between Superman and his ''secret identity,'' the mood is mostly comic as the man of steel foils a plot to corner the world oil market and also woos an old flame. Directed by the inventive Richard Lester. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language.) THE SURVIVORS - The heroes are two likable losers being chased by a killer after witnessing a crime, but the movie's real purpose is to allow satire specialist Michael Ritchie to heap comic abuse on the American weakness for weapons, macho posing, and the cult of ''survival'' at any cost. Walter Matthau gives a wonderfully shaggy performance, although Robin Williams gets too manic for comfort and the successful jokes are scattered among plenty of clinkers. (Rated R; contains much vulgar language.) 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.) THEY DON'T WEAR BLACK TIE - The tribulations of a Brazilian family caught in a labor struggle and domestic problems. Directed by Leon Hirszman with the no-nonsense attitude that has typified the Brazilian ''cinema novo'' movement for years. (Not rated; contains nudity and vulgar language.) 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.) TWILIGHT ZONE, THE MOVIE - A four-part ''anthology film'' of varying quality, ranging from George Miller's stunning thriller about a demon sabotaging an airplane to Steven Spielberg's limp fable about senior citizens learning to be children again. Also present are Joe Dante's tale of a little boy with awesome powers, and John Landis's moralizing yarn about a bigot who gets his just deserts. (Rated PG; contains violence and vulgar language.) WARGAMES - A bright but irresponsible high-schooler unwittingly dials into a military computer that's used for rehearsing World War III and, thinking it's all a game, nearly touches off a nuclear holocaust. The teen-age heroics of the plot are eventually coupled with a laudable antiwar message, but the approach of director John Badham and his screenwriters is too pat and smug to shed real light on the desperately important issues at hand. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language.) WHITE ROSE, THE - Involving drama, based on fact, about an anti-Nazi society waging a secret propaganda war against the Third Reich under Hitler's very nose. Capably directed by Michael Verhoeven, despite some cloying moments (Not rated; contains a little nudity.) ZELIG - Woody Allen's amazingly funny and poignant account of a "chameleon man" whose desire to "be liked" induces an ability to change his looks and personality to match any company he's with. Set in the 1920s and '30s, and ingeniously told in "documentary" style, with cleverly faked newsreel and home-movie footage that seamlessly blends the historical and the new. (Rated PG; contains a handful of sexual references.)

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