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. The Movie Guide appears on the third Thursday of the month.

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.)

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.)

FANNY AND ALEXANDER - In what he says will be his last film, Ingmar Bergman explores the life of a provincial Swedish family in 1907, approaching his very personal material with a mixture of insight, humor, and curious detachment. Though too long, sometimes vulgar, and surprisingly uneven in its inspiration, the result is perhaps the most Dickensian drama ever filmed: crowded, colorful, and compelling. (Rated R; contains sexual activity and bathroom humor.)

FLASHDANCE - Punchy, cleverly stylized, but utterly empty yarn about a feisty young woman who welds by day, disco-dances by night, and dreams of the day when she can devote her life to her art. Directed by Adrian Lyne, who cares more about the frazzled musical numbers than the story, characters, or anything else. (Rated R; contains nudity and vulgar language.)

GREY FOX, THE - A gentle, picturesque Western set at the turn of the century, about a crusty old thief who goes back to his nefarious ways after a long stretch in the pen. Richard Farnsworth's starring performance is the picture's reason for being, though Canadian filmmaker Phillip Borsos has directed it with a good eye for mood, atmosphere, and telling detail. (Rated PG; contains a little violence and has a rather accepting attitude toward the misdeeds of its ''hero.'')

I MARRIED A SHADOW - Mildly suspenseful French yarn about a young mother involved in a case of mistaken identity. Directed by Robin Davis with some imagination but a rather heavy hand. (Not rated; contains a little violence and implied sex.)

KRULL - Mix and match the romance, adventure, and howling cliches in this ragingly old-fashioned yarn about a prince trying to rescue his beloved from the clutches of a monster on some faraway planet. Directed by Peter Yates, who at least has the courage to take the material straight, without condescending or camping it up. (Rated PG; contains violence of the sword-swinging and fang-bearing variety.)

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.)

L'ETOILE DU NORD - ''North Star'' is the American title of this dull drama about a middle-aged man and woman involved in murder. Directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre with the lethargy that often mars his work. (Not rated; contains some sexual innuendo.)

LIQUID SKY - A flying saucer lands in downtown Manhattan, perversely attracted by the demented lives of the trendy ''new wave'' set, which it spies and preys on. Directed with great visual panache but a striking absence of moral perspective by Soviet emigre Slava Tsukerman, who seems equally repelled and attracted by the loud, lascivious ''punk'' behavior he paints with hair-raising, and surely exaggerated, detail. (Rated R; contains enormous amounts of sex, violence, and vulgar language.)

MIRROR, THE - Autobiographical musings by the great Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, about a man recalling his childhood while dealing with a difficult time in his adult life. The family drama is slow and unmemorable, but the visionary dream sequences are overwhelmingly powerful. (Not rated.)

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.)

OCTOPUSSY - A tiny octopus is the symbol of a circus that gets mixed up in international intrigue, and the insignia of a smuggling ring that James Bond vanquishes after sundry close shaves. Directed by John Glen, who keeps the excitement level high for an hour or so, then lets the show slip into the doldrums. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language and sexual innuendo.)

PAULINE AT THE BEACH - On vacation, a teen-age girl watches two men court her older cousin, and tries to figure out why adults are so crafty and conniving about something as simple as affection. The third entry in the ''Comedies and Proverbs'' series of French director Eric Rohmer, who fills the picture with his usual blend of constant conversation, impeccable images, and sly intelligence. (Rated R; contains some nudity and sexual innuendo.)

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.)

RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE, THE - In the 16th century a prodigal son returns to his native village, but some of the neighbors think he's really an imposter, and they may be right. As directed by Daniel Vigne, the story is engaging much of the way and the performances are strong, but there's ultimately not much point to it all, except to let us know that forensics weren't very advanced 400 years ago. (Not rated; contains come violence and sex.)

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS - Reissue of the 1937 cartoon classic. Still a beauty, though like other Walt Disney animations, it puts most of its energy and imagination into the funny and scary parts, lapsing into dullness in the romantic and musical interludes. (Rated G.)

STAR CHAMBER, THE - Convinced that ''something's gone wrong with the law'' because so many criminals are set free on courtroom technicalities, a group of judges decides to ''do something'' about the situation. As directed by Peter Hyams, the first half attacks the American judicial system and posits a well-dressed version of vigilante justice as the solution, while the second half pallidly tells us we're better off as we are. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and violence.)

STAYING ALIVE - It's ''42nd Street'' with a disco beat in this sequel to ''Saturday Night Fever,'' being a rehash of the ancient story about a talented dancer yearning for a big break on Broadway. Directed by Sylvester Stallone, who pours lots of energy but little intelligence into scads of short, sweaty scenes more suited to the rhythms of cable-TV ''rock video'' than to the wide screen, (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and implied sex.)

SUPERMAN III - Except for a bout with kryptonite, and a symbolic wrestling match between Superman and his ''secret identity,'' the mood is mostly comic as the man of steel foils a plot to corner the world oil market and also woos an old flame. Directed by the inventive Richard Lester. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language.)

SURVIVORS, THE - The heroes are two likable losers being chased by a killer after witnessing a crime, but the movie's real purpose is to allow satire specialist Michael Ritchie to heap comic abuse on the American weakness for weapons, macho posing, and the cult of ''survival'' at any cost. Walter Matthau gives a wonderfully shaggy performance, although Robin Williams gets too manic for comfort and the successful jokes are scattered among plenty of clinkers. (Rated R; contains much vulgar language.)

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.)

TRADING PLACES - To settle a wager about heredity and environment, two crusty old capitalists take a wealthy banker and a streetwise con man, manipulate their lives so they wind up in each other's shoes, and watch the sparks fly before their victims turn on them. Directed by John Landis with a surprising amount of class, though he lets some of his old ''Animal House'' vulgarity slip ostentatiously into the action. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and nudity.)

TWILIGHT ZONE, THE MOVIE - A four-part ''anthology film'' of varying quality, ranging from George Miller's stunning thriller about a demon sabotaging an airplane to Steven Spielberg's limp fable about senior citizens learning to be children again. Also present are Joe Dante's tale of a little boy with awesome powers, and John Landis's moralizing yarn about a bigot who gets his just deserts. (Rated PG; contains violence and vulgar language.)

WARGAMES - A bright but irresponsible high-schooler unwittingly dials into a military computer that's used for rehearsing World War III and, thinking it's all a game, nearly touches off a nuclear holocaust. The teen-age heroics of the plot are eventually coupled with a laudable antiwar message, but the approach of director John Badham and his screenwriters is too pat and smug to shed real light on the desperately important issues at hand. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language.)

WAYS IN THE NIGHT - During the Nazi occupation of Poland, a young German soldier gets a crush on a local dowager and can't understand why she loathes him despite their mutual love of the arts. The reason, of course, is her fierce nationalism, which is just one of the many attitudes and ideas explored by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi in this eminently thoughtful drama, made in West Germany. (Not rated; contains some sexual references.)

WHITE ROSE, THE - Involving drama, based on fact, about an anti-Nazi society waging a secret propaganda war against the Third Reich under Hitler's very nose. Capably directed by Michael Verhoeven, despite some cloying moments. (Not rated; contains a little nudity.)

ZELIG - Woody Allen's amazingly funny and poignant account of a ''chameleon man'' whose desire to ''be liked'' induces an ability to change his looks and personality to match any company he's with. Set in the 1920's and 30's, and ingeniously told in "Documentary" style, with cleverly faked newsreel and home-movie footage that seamlessly blends the historical and the new. (Rated PG; contains a handful of sexual references.)

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