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.
BLAME IT ON RIO - Some critics are arguing whether this is a capably crafted comedy or a cynical attempt to cash in on particularly sleazy fantasies, but what strikes me most is the sheer tackiness of the picture, which is especially surprising from a director of Stanley Donen's past accomplishment. Michael Caine plays a middle-aged man having an affair with his best friend's teen-age daughter. (Rated R; contains sex, nudity, and vulgar language.)
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE - Woody Allen wrote, directed, and stars in this crisp, funny, ultimately bittersweet comedy about a small-time talent agent who can't separate business from personal feelings and bumbles into an adventure with a client's girlfriend and her weird acquaintances. A modest but thoroughly enjoyable romp. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and sexual innuendo.) Feb. 9.
CHAMPIONS - Old-fashioned, grimly sentimental horse-racing yarn about a jockey with a fatal illness. Directed by John Irvin. (Rated PG; contains some sexual activity.)
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.
THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE - After making an overrated hit with ''The World According to Garp,'' author John Irving came out with this carelessly written novel, again darkly comic and full of strange fascination with sexual mayhem, the city of Vienna, and peculiar families, among other subjects. In the screen version, Tony Richardson crams in far too many of its slapdash incidents, all reduced to little snippets of film and sprayed relentlessly in the viewer's face. (Rated R; contains rape, incest, and Irving's odd notion that four-letter words are the main ingredients of everyone's vocabulary.)
KIPPERBANG - The humor is wry and understated and the laughs are frequent in this comedy about a 14-year-old boy who longs to kiss a pretty classmate. Directed by Michael Apted with a refreshing lack of condescension, though things go a bit mushy near the end. (Rated PG; contains sexual innuendo and a subplot about unmarried pregnancy.)
L'ARGENT - Money is the guiding metaphor of this rigorous drama about a tragic chain of events that ruins a young man's life after a counterfeit bill falls into his hands. Directed by French master Robert Bresson with his usual stern touch, and his usual concern with heady philosophical questions about the struggle between things of the flesh and of the spirit. (Not rated; contains violence.) March 22.
MISUNDERSTOOD - Gene Hackman sensitively plays a businessman who has trouble relating to his young children after his wife's death. But director Jerry Schatzberg doesn't quite integrate the sentimental story, heavy emotions, and North African setting into a seamless fabric. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgarity.) April 19.
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.
SILKWOOD - Meryl Streep gives a stunningly complex performance in this drama about a real-life union organizer who died in an unexplained auto accident after seeking evidence of dangerous corner-cutting at the nuclear equipment plant where she worked. Sensitively directed by Mike Nichols, but the screenplay is so bent on giving all sides of every issue that the drama gets badly diluted. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and a subplot about lesbians.) Jan. 5.
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.
SUGAR CANE ALLEY - A funny, poignant, and revealing film about an 11-year-old boy growing up in Martinique during the early 1930s, surrounded by poverty and oppression but instinctively reaching for a better life. Directed in Martinique by Euzhan Palcy, who grew up there herself and knows the subject down to her bones. (Not rated; contains a little vulgarity.)
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.)
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.)
UNFAITHFULLY YOURS - Dark comedy about a symphony conductor who decides to kill his wife and dreams up a daft murder scheme during a concert. The performances are imaginative, and there are some clever gags before the plot gets happily resolved, but director Howard Zieff never finds the bite and sparkle of the original version of the movie, made in 1948 by comedy master Preston Sturges. (Rated PG; contains nudity and sex.) Feb. 16.