CLUE -- There are three different endings to this dopey thriller-farce, depending on which theater you go to. I've seen all of them, and not one redeems the foolishness of the picture, which is based on the popular board game and centers on a mock-sinister dinner party at a blackmailer's house. Frantically directed by Jonathan Lynn. (Rated PG) FOOL FOR LOVE -- Sam Shepard wrote this rambling yarn about the tormented emotional and sexual relationship between a cowboy and his half sister. The picture resembles Shepard's earlier ``Paris, Texas'' in its obsessions with family, memory, and perversity. This time the feelings don't build much momentum, though, and the action is generally slack. Robert Altman directed, showing his usual healthy disdain for standard storytelling styles, but never quite getting a handle on his charact ers or their bizarre situation. Shepard and Kim Basinger are among the earnest performers. (Rated R)
ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS -- Mom doesn't like Christmas any more, so a ``Christmas angel'' gets the assignment of perking up her holiday spirits, helped by her young daughter. Oddly, the lesson consists mainly of heaping calamities on Mom, including the death of her whole family. Everyone hops back to life in time for the inspirational finale, but the misery quotient rises awfully high along the way, especially for a Walt Disney picture. Phillip Borsos directed from a screenplay by Thomas Meehan, which borrows liberally from ``It's a Wonderful Life,'' the classic of this dubious genre. Frank Tidy did the superb cinematography, and Mary Steenburgen heads the capable cast with a performance that far outstrips her material. (Rated G)
RAN -- A fierce 16th-century ruler is the protagonist of this epic variation on ``King Lear,'' which studies the twin subjects of civil war and domestic disloyalty. Studded with superb performances and directed by Akira Kurosawa, the greatest living Japanese filmmaker, with an artful balance of Eastern and Western cinematic values. (Rated R)
SANTA CLAUS -- The old boy has his own movie at last, and it's a would-be blockbuster, complete with the fanciest visual effects this side of ``Superman,'' which came from the same producers. The film is overweight but sweet, like the title character, and the second half is quite funny as our hero squares off against a toy tycoon so greedy he'll even exploit a runaway elf and a secret stolen from the North Pole workshop. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc. (Rated PG)
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL -- Sensitive drama about an aging woman who dreams of revisiting the Texas town where she lived in her younger years. When her family won't indulge her in this, she takes off on her own, heartily closing her mind to the fact that Bountiful has long since declined, emptied out, and faded back into the swamp. Directed by first-timer Peter Masterson from a screenplay by veteran Horton Foote. (Rated PG)
YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES -- A rehash of the old detective series, geared for today's teen-age tastes, but with a warmer atmosphere and a more leisurely pace than most youth-market items of the '80s. The hero and his sidekick, looking rather like a scaled-down Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, ferret out an evil London cult while investigating a series of unexplained deaths. Many episodes have an appealingly old-fashioned air, but the classic mood is disrupted by some violent hallucination scenes with jarring ly modern special effects. Directed by Barry Levinson from a screenplay by Chris Columbus. (Rated PG-13)
WHITE NIGHTS -- Years after his defection to the United States, a plane crash lands a Russian ballet star back in the USSR, where he meets a black American tap-dancer who has defected to the East. Also on hand is a nasty KGB man who'd give anything for the runaway Russian to redefect. The story deals with provocative contrasts between East and West, white and black, art and politics, and so on. But the director, Taylor Hackford, doesn't have the cinematic savvy to sustain so many tensions in a meaningfu l way; and the screenplay strays far over the line between incisive political comment and heavy-handed Red-baiting. (Rated PG-13) RATINGS: Films with ratings other than G may contain varying degrees of vulgar language, nudity, sex, and violence.