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.m
ANNIE - Reasonably entertaining romp about a cute little girl who wangles her way from a Dickensian orphanage to a rich man's mansion, on the strength of curly hair and sheer chutzpah. Energetic and well acted, but short on atmosphere - the feel of the Great Depression is evoked less vividly than in the Broadway version of the show - and marred by a silly attempt at action during the climax. Directed by John Huston. (Rated PG; contains drinking jokes and swearing.)
BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, THE - The forces of decency battle a brothel and finally succeed in having it shut down, which the film regards as a bittersweet ending. Directed by Colin Higgins. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, some nudity, and lewd situations.)
BLADE RUNNER - The future is bleak and overcrowded in this impressively detailed but rather nasty science-fiction yarn about a cop whose job is killing maverick androids. Based on Philip K. Dick's novel ''Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'' but missing the humor and humanity. Directed by Ridley Scott. (Rated R; contains explicit violence).
BOB LE FLAMBEUR - Directed in 1955 by the gifted Jean-Pierre Melville, this French ''film noir'' follows an aging hoodlum as he drifts through the underworld of Montmartre and tries to engineer one more big job. A minor work compared with a Melville masterpiece like ''Le Doulos,'' but interesting for its position between the dark Hollywood thrillers of the 1950s and the French ''new wave'' of the '60s.
CHAN IS MISSING - In a wry variation on old detective movies, a middle-aged cabdriver and his young friend search the streets and shops of Chinatown for an acquaintance who has mysteriously vanished, and through their adventure, filmmaker Wayne Wang offers witty and insightful comments on the ''assimilation'' of Chinese immigrants into American society. Made in San Francisco - on a staggeringly low budget of about $20,000 - by Wayne Wang. (Not rated; contains occasional vulgar language.)
CHARIOTS OF FIRE - Vigorous but rather scattered account of two gallant young runners in the 1924 Olympics, based on the real-life experiences of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. A British film directed by Hugh Hudson. Winner 1981 Academy Award for Best Picture.
CHOSEN, THE - In a Jewish section of Brooklyn during the 1940s, a young man gradually grows away from his family's Hasidic way of life, and his father (a powerful rabbi) has trouble accepting the change. Contains the surface, but only bits and pieces of the substance, of the fine Chaim Potok novel on which it is based. Directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan.
DAS BOOT - Except for a number of scatological details and vulgar words, this is an old-fashioned action movie about a German submarine during World War II. As everyone knows, there isn't much you can do in a submarine picture, but this one contains all the venerable conventions of the genre, from the emergency dive to the obligatory close-ups of the water-pressure gauge. A film from West Germany, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.
DEMON POND - Japanese fable about a town that believes it will perish by flood if a certain bell is not struck on schedule. Exotic in flavor, delirious in style, outlandish in story. Directed by Masahiro Shinoda.
DINER - The preoccupation with sex and some of the hijinks recall the brash vulgarity of ''Animal House,'' but as a whole this is the most mature treatment so far of the 1950s ''nostalgia'' theme, and the most accurate in its facts and feelings. The action centers on a group of young men in their early 20s who hang around an eatery and wonder what it'll be like when (and if) they finally grow up. Directed by Barry Levinson. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and situations.)
DIVA - Fast and furious thriller about a young music fan who secretly records a performance by his favorite prima donna, a gaggle of cops and robbers who think his tape holds criminal evidence, and some crazed capitalists who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the real opera recording. Directed by French newcomer Jean-Claude Beineix with lots of style, it avoids sensationalism except for a little nudity and some violence near the end.
DON'S PARTY - Hoping they will have reason to celebrate, a liberal Australian couple throws an election-night party with rowdy results, as alcohol and fatigue take away the guests' pretenses and facades. Some of the character analysis is as insightful as it is savage; other scenes are snide or sensationalistic. Directed by Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford. (Not rated; contains vulgar language, nudity, and sex.)
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.)
FIREFOX - Long and talky. Who thought it would take Clint Eastwood more than two draggy hours to steal a Russian airplane? Interesting only for its paranoid portrayal of the Soviet Union, depicted as a lurid mixture of bumbling bureaucrats and scientists of almost supernatural skill. Directed by Eastwood. (Rated PG; contains violence.)
GARDE A VUE - Faced with a grisly crime, the assault and murder of some young girls, a policeman spends a long night questioning the prime suspect, running into some big surprises about whodunit and why. Directed by French filmmaker Claude Miller, who shares Alfred Hitchcock's fascination with the ambiguous appearances of guilt and innocence and with the technical challenges of building a ''one set'' drama. The title is a French term for preventive detention.
GREGORY'S GIRL - Scottish comedy about a gangly young man who can't get a date with the only girl on the soccer team, but finds romance knocking on his door anyway. A gentle and winsome movie, though loosely glued together. Directed by Bill Forsyth. (Rated PG; contains occasional vulgar language and a brief peeping-tom scene.)
JUDGE AND THE ASSASSIN, THE - A battle of wits between an eccentric anarchist and an ambitious judge, set in late-19th-century France. Directed by French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier. (Not rated.)
LA VIE CONTINUE - Gentle story, made in France, of a widow who learns to face life on her own with the help of her family and friends. Directed by Moshe Mizrahi. (Rated PG; contains some adult situations.)
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY, A - Three couples flirt relentlessly in a pastoral turn-of-the-century setting, amid satirical jabs at personal and social foibles. Gorgeously photographed by Gordon Willis. Written and directed by Woody Allen. (Rated PG; contains some lewdness.)
MY DINNER WITH ANDRE - Playing themselves, two real-life theater personalities - Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn - have a two-hour dinner and talk about everything from mystical experiences to electric blankets. An amazingly engaging and funny experience, though more like a jazz improvisation than an ordinary movie. Directed by the unpredictable Louis Malle.
NIGHT SHIFT - Comedy about two young morgue assistants who moonlight by operating a brothel. Directed by Ron Howard. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, some violence, and lewd situations.)
PIRATE MOVIE, THE - Wretched rehash of ''The Pirates of Penzance,'' with flat jokes and pop songs where Gilbert and Sullivan once reigned. Unrelated to the lively ''Penzance'' now running on Broadway, which is also being made into a film. Directed by Ken Annakin. (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language and bawdy jokes.)
POLTERGEIST - Spooks invade a suburban home, cause some harmless mischief, and then turn nasty. The buildup is slow and deliberate, creating a vivid sense of love and warmth within the family who share the harrowing adventure. The climaxes are horrific, with effects recalling ''Raiders of the Lost Ark,'' but in a less exotic setting. Directed by Tobe Hooper, with Steven Spielberg as producer. (Rated PG; contains violent episodes.)
ROCKY III - It's more of the same as the Italian Stallion battles his way back to duh heavyweight championship of duh world, this time facing a demented adversary named Clubber Lang. Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, with a good sense of how to please an audience - or a mob - but no more than echoes of the sensitivity and surprise that marked the first ''Rocky'' as a very special film. (Rated PG; contains graphic boxing scenes.)
SECRET OF NIMH, THE - Sumptuous, exciting, and very colorful cartoon about a friendly mouse named Mrs. Brisby, who finds herself mixed up with a gang of mysteriously intelligent rats. Directed with great style by animator Don Bluth. (Rated G; contains a few scenes that may be harrowing for the youngest viewers.)
STAR TREK/THE WRATH OF KHAN - It's talk, talk, talk as Captain Kirk and his crew battle an intergalactic villain, wrestle with personal problems, and try to prevent an experimental ''life force'' from falling into the wrong hands. Just as wacky as the first ''Star Trek'' movie, but not so spectacular. Directed by Nicholas Meyer. (Rated PG; contains a few scenes of cartoonish violence, some of which is unusually creepy.)
TEX - Sensitive, moving, intelligent drama of a teen-age boy who wants to grow up but isn't sure how to go about it. The plot, adapted from S. E. Hinton's popular novel, follows the title character through several adventures, touching on difficult topics including drugs and tentative sex but maintaining a tasteful and responsible attitude in every scene. Directed with tact and insight by newcomer Tim Hunter for Walt Disney productions. (Rated PG; contains some violence and mildly vulgar language.)
THING, THE - Slick remake, with much added violence, of Howard Hawks's 1951 classic ''The Thing From Another World.'' This time the plot is closer to the original science-fiction story by John W. Campbell Jr., about a polymorphous creature from outer space that kills earthlings and imitates their shapes, making it hard to tell a monster from a man. Directed by John Carpenter, with a touch as chilly as the Antarctic setting. (Rated R; contains extreme and explicit violence.)
TRON - Dazzling but lightweight epic about a young scientist kidnapped into a computer, where he battles an evil ''master control program'' that runs the place like an electronic fascist. Has some tantalizing moments, as when computer-generated characters debate the ''religious'' question of whether ''users'' really exist. In the end, though, it's squarely in the old Walt Disney tradition of anthropomorphizing everything in sight, only this time it's circuits (instead of cuddly animals) that look and talk like people. Directed by Steven Lisberger for Walt Disney Productions. (Rated PG; contains a little cartoonish violence.)
WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, THE - Episodic adaptation of John Irving's overrated novel about a boy who grows up to become an author, a wrestler, and a family man , influenced by his unconventional mother and her odd friends. Paints a moving portrait of the contentments of middle-class life, especially in the second half , but begs a lot of questions (particularly economic ones) and has a weird sexual uneasiness that touches many of the situations and most of the characters , including a transsexual and a group of violently extreme feminists. Directed by George Roy Hill. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, offbeat sexual activity, and some violence.)
YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE - Rowdy satire of hospital life in the vein of ''Airplane,'' but shorter on laughs and longer on bad taste. Directed by Garry Marshall. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, some nudity, and sexual and scatological humor.)