MONTHLY MOVIE GUIDE

ALSINO AND THE CONDOR - Surprisingly fierce fable, with a disappointingly simplistic ending, about a Nicaraguan peasant boy whose land and people are caught in fighting between American-backed government forces and rebel guerrillas. A coproduction of Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, directed by Miguel Littin, a left-leaning Chilean filmmaker now living in Mexico. (Rated R; contains violence and vulgar language.) 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.) 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.) DUEL - Cold, mechanical, but viscerally exciting anyway, Steven Spielberg's 1972 TV drama looks much better on the big theatrical screen, where it has finally landed in this belated reissue. Dennis Weaver plays the main character, a mild-mannered driver who's drawn into a strange automotive battle on the highways of California. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language.) 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.) EXPOSED - A naive lass from the Midwest becomes a top fashion model in New York, finds a new boyfriend, and gets tangled up with international terrorism and intrigue. Directed by James Toback with occasional touches of hysteria to liven up the generally dull atmosphere. (Rated R; contains sex, violence, and vulgar language.) 48 HRS - Violence is the raison d'etre of this technically sharp but thoroughly nasty thriller about a cop and a crook who join forces to catch a psychopath. Directed by Walter Hill with his usual slam-bang competence. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, sexual innuendo, and mayhem.) 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.) KING OF COMEDY, THE - In a variation on their nasty masterpiece, ''Taxi Driver, '' director Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro depict a character so obsessed with TV stardom that he kidnaps a talk-show host (played by Jerry Lewis) and demands network air time as the ransom. Barely under control much of the way, the groggy plot veers between drama and comedy, often settling on embarassment as both its theme and its mood. (Rated PG; contains a little sexual innuendo.) LA BOUM - A party, or ''boum,'' becomes a rite of passage in this French comedy about an adolescent girl wrestling with growing pains, peer pressure, and parents who don't always manage to act their age. Directed by Claude Pinoteau, who comes up with some very funny moments, but pads the action with unnecessary scenes and inexcusably cloying touches. (Rated PG; contains occasional vulgar language and behavior.) 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.) MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER, THE - Australian western with all the classic cliches and stale situations, wrapped into a pretty and energetic package by director George Miller. Kirk Douglas plays two roles: a self-made rancher who wants to shield his daughter from romance with a handsome hired hand, and the rancher's long-lost brother, a sort of Gabby Hayes among the kangaroos. (Rated PG; contains some violence.) MAX DUGAN RETURNS - Comedy about a widow whose long-lost father pops up after years of absence, wanting to shower her and her teen-age son with goodies paid for from a satchel of ill-gotten money. Written by Neil Simon and directed by Herbert Ross, who seem to feel that family ties, baseball, and the accumulation of brand-name products are the greatest goods to which mankind can aspire. (Rated PG; contains a little 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.) NUDO DI DONNA - ''Photo of a Woman, Nude'' is the English-language title of this dark comedy about a man perplexed by the resemblance between his wife and a prostitute he meets. Directed by Italian star Nino Manfredi, who also plays the leading role. (Not rated; contains nudity.) 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.) QUERELLE - A sailor enters a web of crime, lust, and intrigue in a melodramatic story taken from a Jean Genet novel. The last picture directed by the late West German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who brings a deliberately slow and stylized approach to the sometimes disgusting, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes inventively photographed action. (Rated R; contains violence and explicit homosexual activity.) 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.) 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.) 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.) 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 - Teen-age girls chase teen-age boys, and vise versa, in this mildly satiric comedy that apparently takes its cue (but, alas, none of its music) from the Frank Zappa song of the same title. Directed with occasional insight by Martha Coolidge. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and sexual activity.) VERDICT, THE - Paul Newman gives what may be the performance of his career as a down-and-out lawyer who risks what's left of his practice to take a courageous stand on a difficult case. Sensitively directed by Sidney Lumet from a screenplay by David Mamet that is flawed only by some bumpy spots near the beginning and end. (Rated R; contains some vulgar language and a few medical details.) YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, THE - A young journalist takes on his first big assignment, covering the last days of the Sukarno regime in Indonesia, and meets a diverse array of characters, including an enigmatic little man named Billy, brilliantly played by the American actress Linda Hunt. Directed by Australian filmmaker Peter Weir, not at the peak of his powers as in ''Gallipoli'' and ''The Last Wave,'' but pretty close (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and occasional scenes of social and physical misery.)

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