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Movie guide

The following summaries of current, widely shown films are provided to help readers plan what to see. If additional coverage of a film has appeared in the Monitor, the date of the article is given in italics after the summary. Inclusion of a movie does not imply Monitor endorsement. The Movie Guide appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month AGAINST ALL ODDS - A pro football player gets mixed up with gamblers, crooked politicians, and a vanished heiress, among other denizens of this crowded melodrama, which takes its central relationship from a respected ''film noir'' of 1947 called ''Out of the Past.'' Directed by Taylor Hackford, who coaxes strong performances from most of the cast, but doesn't always know when to drop the overwritten dialogue and get on with the action. (Rated R; contains much vulgar language and some steamy sex.)March 1.m AND THE SHIP SAILS ON - Another of Federico Fellini's wry metaphors for the human condition, set in 1914 on a ship full of musicians heading for an unusual funeral. Although the screen play is often trite and silly, the images have a moody thrythm that partly redeems the colorful but very choppy voyage. (Rated PG; contains a little sexual innuendo.)Feb. 23.m THE BIG CHILL - College friends from the '60s get together at a crony's funeral and find out how they have, or haven't, changed since their salad days. Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who has a knack for comic scenes but doesn't always plumb the depths of the situations his characters wade through. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and a subplot about unmarried pregnancy.)Sept. 29, 1983 .m BLAME IT ON RIO - Some critics are arguing whether this is a capably crafted comedy or a cynical attempt to cash in on particularly sleazy fantasies, but what strikes me most is the sheer tackiness of the picture, which is especially surprising from a director of Stanley Donen's past accomplishment. Michael Caine plays a middle-aged man having an affair with his best friend's teen-age daughter. (Rated R; contains sex, nudity, and vulgar language.) BROADWAY DANNY ROSE - Woody Allen wrote, directed, and stars in this crisp, funny, ultimately bittersweet comedy about a small-time talent agent who can't separate business from personal feelings and bumbles into an adventure with a client's girlfriend and her weird acquaintances. A modest but thoroughly enjoyable romp. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and sexual innuendo.)Feb. 9.m CHILDREN OF THE CORN - According to this goofy thriller based on a Stephen King story, the focus of evil in the modern world is a Nebraska cornfield, where a gang of murderous kids and a vague sort of monster hang out. Directed by Fritz Kiersch, with clever touches that are swamped by the silly climax. (Rated R; contains lots of mayhem.) EL NORTE - Saga of a peasant brother and sister who flee oppression in their native Guatemala, only to find poverty in Mexico and new forms of hardship and servitude in California. Intelligently and resourcefully directed by Gregory Nava, though some of his storytelling strategies seem rather studied. (Not rated; contains violence and vulgar language.)March 1.m ENTRE NOUS - Perceptive drama about two French women who forge a strong and loving friendship while fencing with family and personal problems. Directed with uncommon insight by Diane Kurys, who vividly paints not only specific characters but the deceptively complex moods and attitudes of the 1950s, when most of the action takes place. (Rated PG; contains some violence, nudity, and frank sexual talk.)March 8.m FOOTLOOSE - In a small town where people think rock 'n' roll is a synonym for sex, a teen-ager tries to organize a dance while romancing the preacher's daughter. John Lithgow's sensitive portrayal of the minister towers over everything else in the picture, which was slackly directed by Herbert Ross and contains some very silly production numbers. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language and talk about sex.) GREYSTOKE, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES - Big, colorful, utterly predictable throwback to the wide-screen epics of the 1950s, rehashing the story of everyone's favorite ape-man with lots of hokey drama and a little real emotion. Directed by Hugh Hudson with the same dry dignity he brought to ''Chariots of Fire,'' missing the earnestly silly spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs , who wrote the original tale. (Rated PG; contains violence and a little vulgarity.) HARRY & SON - There are only a couple of good moments in this misfired comedy-drama about the relationship between a dying man and his slowly maturing son. Raggedly directed by Paul Newman, who also worked on the screenplay and plays the leading role opposite Robby Benson. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language and sexual innuendo. THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE - After making an overrated hit with ''The World According to Garp,'' author John Irving came out with this carelessly written novel, again darkly comic and full of strange fascination with sexual mayhem, the city of Vienna, and peculiar families, among other subjects. In the screen version, Tony Richardson crams in far too many of its slapdash incidents, all reduced to little snippets of film and sprayed relentlessly in the viewer's face. (Rated R; contains rape, incest, and Irving's odd notion that four-letter words are the main ingredients of everyone's vocabulary.) LE BAL - The sole setting is a cheesy ballroom full of unhappy-looking people, and it's meant as a microcosm of French history between 1936 and 1983. Italian director Ettore Scola evokes many incidents and moods without using a single word of dialogue, but the performances are mostly trite and overplayed, and the overall effect is as wearing as the relentlessly bouncy music. (Not rated; contains a little violence and sexual innuendo.) LES COMPERES - French comedy-drama about two men, with very different personalities, hunting for a teen-age runaway whom each believes to be his son. Directed by humor specialist Francis Veber, who coaxes strong performances from stars Gerard Depardieu and Pierre Richard. (Not rated; contains some vulgarity.) MIKE'S MURDER - It takes Debra Winger almost two hours to figure out that her slain dope-dealing boyfriend was more of a lowlife than she thought, but any viewer will know they're losers before the first reel ends. Directed by James Bridges, who offers a few scary scenes of looming violence, but can't sustain the suspense through the whole picture. (Rated R; contains sexual innuendo, vulgar language, and drug use.) NEVER CRY WOLF - A biologist travels above the Arctic Circle to study the ecological balance between wolves and caribou, and discovers new complexities in both his own nature and the animals he becomes increasingly fascinated with. Directed for Walt Disney Pictures by Carroll Ballard, but never reaches the sense of mystery and splendor that marked his earlier movie, ''The Black Stallion.'' (Rated PG; contains some earthy biological details.)Nov. 17, 1983.m$& RACING WITH THE MOON - There's nothing fresh about the story, as yet another young couple discover romance, sex, and the burdens of maturity, this time in a small American town during World War II. Still, the sensitive directing of Richard Benjamin and the exquisite cinematography of John Bailey give the comedy and drama a special glow, as do the strong performances by Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage and the stunning one by Elizabeth McGovern. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language, brief nudity and sex, and a subplot about abortion.) REAR WINDOW - Reissue of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 suspense classic about a snoopy photographer stuck in his apartment with a broken leg and his gradual realization that there's something, well, wrong in the building across the courtyard. Ingeniously conceived, grippingly directed, and gorgeously performed by James Stewart and Grace Kelly, whose rocky relationship provides a delicious romantic subplot. (Rated PG; contains a smidgen of sexual innuendo and some dialogue about gruesome doings.)March 29.m THE RIGHT STUFF - A freewheeling account of the Mercury space project and the first seven astronauts. Big and lively, but lacking the intelligence, wit, and fierce irony of the Tom Wolfe book. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language and bathroom humor.) Oct. 25.m SCARFACE - Nasty crime drama based vaguely on the old Howard Hawks classic, with Al Pacino as a Cuban cocaine dealer who hits the big time in Miami's underworld. Directed by Brian DePalma, who apparently considers ''money isn't everything'' an original message. (Rated R; contains violence, sex, and such rotten language that even one of the characters complains.) SEEING RED: STORIES OF AMERICAN COMMUNISTS - Lively, informative, and frequently funny documentary about rank-and-file members of the American Communist Party during its heyday in the 1930s and '40s, focusing on why they joined and what their experiences were like. Though filmmakers James Klein and Julia Reichert take a generous attitude toward their ''characters,'' the aim isn't to celebrate communism but rather to examine it - often very critically - on its own terms. (Not rated; contains a little vulgar language.)March 15.m SILKWOOD - Meryl Streep gives a stunningly complex performance in this drama about a real-life union organizer who died in an unexplained auto accident after seeking evidence of dangerous corner-cutting at the nuclear equipment plant where she worked. Sensitively directed by Mike Nichols, but the screenplay is so bent on giving all sides of every issue that the drama gets badly diluted. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and a subplot about lesbians.)Jan. 5.m SPLASH - Boy meets mermaid. Directed by Ron Howard, who keeps the performances roaring along, and fills the screen with funny sight gags whenever the story slackens. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language, fleeting nudity, and sexual innuendo.)March 22.m THE STONE BOY - After the accidental death of his brother, a guilt-ridden young boy isolates himself emotionally from the people around him. The film is quiet and compassionate in its portrayal of a family working its way through a difficult time, but the story tends to ramble and director Christopher Cain never quite brings it into focus. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and a subplot about marital infidelity.) SUDDEN IMPACT - Clint Eastwood and his most enduring character, policeman Dirty Harry, are no more subtle than usual in this loosely plotted excuse for mayhem. Directed by Eastwood with less imagination than he sometimes shows, and featuring Sondra Locke as the vengeful sister of a mentally disturbed rape victim. (Rated R; contains violence, sex, and vulgar language.) TERMS OF ENDEARMENT - There's not enough substance to support the sentiment of this longish comedy-drama about a young woman and her crusty middle-aged mother, which culminates in an episode of illness and death. Written and directed by James L. Brooks, who never settles into any aspect of his subject long enough to explore it thoroughly. (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language, sexual activity , and illness.)Dec. 22, 1983.m THIS IS SPINAL TAP - Mock documentary about a British rock group with a new album called ''Smell the Glove'' and a big American tour that's falling apart before their eyes. Cleverly directed by Rob Reiner, who energetically deflates an impressive number of musical, cinematic, and just plain human foibles. (Rated R; contains vulgar language.) UNFAITHFULLY YOURS - Dark comedy about a symphony conductor who decides to kill his wife and dreams up a daft murder scheme during a concert. The performances are imaginative, and there are some clever gags before the plot gets happily resolved, but director Howard Zieff never finds the bite and sparkle of the original version of the movie, made in 1948 by comedy master Preston Sturges. (Rted PG; contains nudity and sex.) Feb. 16 VERTIGO -- Reissue of Alfred hitchcook's 1958 classic about the intertwining of memory and experience, with James Stewart as a troubled detective who becomes obsessively fascinated bt a mysterious woman he's been asked to protect. Intelligently written, splendidly acted, directed with unerring grae, and generally one of the best movies ever made. (Rated PG; contains some violence and sexual innuendo.) March 29. YENTL -- Romantic comedy-drama about a feisty young woman who disguises herself as a man in order to study and learn, pursuits forbidden to females in Eastern Europe around the turn of the century. Based on an Isaac Bashevis Singer story and capably directed by Barbra Streisand, who plays the title character with more conviction than energy. (Rated PG; contains a little sexual innuendo and seminudity.) Dec. 22, 1983.

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