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.
ALPHABET CITY - Sympathetic portrait of a New York City dope dealer, packed with cliches of the genre. Partly redeemed by the visual imagination of director Amos Poe, who attracted notice with his underground thriller ''The Outsider'' and turns parts of his present opus into an infernal tone poem. (Rated R; contains violence, vulgarity, and incredibly sleazy characters.) May 17.
THE BOUNTY - Fletcher Christian and Captain Bligh sail again, only this time it's Lieutenant Bligh, since producer Dino De Laurentiis wants to get the historical details right and tell ''the true story.'' The result is pure hokum, nonetheless, in the old tradition of big-screen epics, competently directed by Roger Donaldson and occasionally inspired by Anthony Hopkins's portrayal of a surprisingly sympathetic skipper. (Rated PG; contains nudity and violence.) May 17.
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.
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.
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.) April 12.
ICEMAN - Arctic researchers thaw the frozen body of a 40,000-year-old man and one scientist tries to draw him out while setting him at ease in his new surroundings. It's fascinating material, and there's a tantalizing mystical twist at the end, but filmmaker Fred Schepisi cares more about showing us things than making us feel, and his juxtapositions of modern technology with ancient human qualities never add up to the transcendent experience they aim at. (Rated PG; contains some violence and vulgarity.) May 17.
MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON - There's an engaging lilt to this bittersweet comedy about the immigrant experience, focusing on a jazz-loving Russian who defects to the United States and moves in with a poor black family. Still, director Paul Mazursky loses credibility with his contrasting portraits of Moscow and New York , picturing Russian poverty as harsh and spirit-killing but American poverty as romantic and kind of fun. (Rated R; contains sex and vulgar language.)
MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL - Romantic comedy about two residents of a ski resort who are great pals until they both fall in love with Isabelle Huppert. Drearily directed by Bertrand Blier, with his habitual male bias just a little more muted than usual. (Not rated; contains sex and nudity.)
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.)
THE REVOLT OF JOB - There's much pathos in this well-made Hungarian drama about a Jew who decides to outwit Hitler's genocide by adopting a non-Jewish boy to inherit his worldly goods. But directors Imre Gyongyossy and Barna Kabay don't maintain the momentum of their story, which falls back on familiar conventions of past Holocaust films. (Rated PG; contains sex and vulgarity.) April 3.
ROMANCING THE STONE - A shy novelist finds herself in the middle of an exotic adventure after a treasure map falls into her life. Robert Zemeckis directed the fast-moving, humorously self-mocking action, which is marred by a few inexplicably limp scenes and a condescending attitude toward Latin America, where most of the story takes place. (Rated PG; contains sex and violence.) April 12.
SIXTEEN CANDLES - As if her scanty romantic life weren't enough for our heroine to worry about, her parents clean forget it's her 16th birthday, leaving her to grope her own way through this important way station on the rocky road to coming of age. Along with the lapses of taste that have become standard in pictures aimed at teen audiences, filmmaker John Hughes offers moments of wit and warmth. (Rated PG; contains nudity, bigotry, and much vulgar language.) May 17.
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.
SWING SHIFT - There's not much freshness to the plot, about a young woman who has a love affair when her husband sails off to fight World War II. But director Jonathan Demme shows the same keen interest in Americana that sparked his fine ''Melvin and Howard,'' and while some story details are murky or unconvincing, his probing lens captures delicate nuances of atmosphere and performance. (Rated PG; contains adultery and some vulgarity.) May 17.
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.
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.)