Movie Guide

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 is scheduled to appear 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. BACHELOR PARTY - There are even fewer laughs than you'd expect in this deliberately gross farce about a young man's prenuptial revels. Directed by Neal Israel. (Rated R; contains rough language and much sexual humor.) BEST DEFENSE - A lazy defense engineer passes off someone else's brainstorm as his own and finds himself in trouble with a demented black-marketeer as well as his own bosses. As directed by Willard Huyck, some scenes are quite amusing, others just coarse and stupid. (Rated R; contains sex and much vulgar language.) BIGGER SPLASH - There's an unmistakable odor of decay around this impressionistic ''documentary fiction'' on an artist's life, in which painter David Hockney and other real people play themselves in actual and imagined situations. Moodily directed by Jack Hazan. (Not rated; contains vulgarity and homosexual activity.) THE BOSTONIANS - Literate, exquisitely filmed, deftly performed adaptation of Henry James's imposing novel about a 19th-century feminist and a chivalrous Southerner who compete for the heart and loyalty of a young woman involved in the fight for women's rights. There's plenty of room for argument over James's attitude toward ''the woman question'' and the reproduction of it in this film, but it's hard to fault the expert filmmaking of director James Ivory, writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and producer Ismail Merchant, who have worked together for more than 20 years. (Not rated.) Aug. 2. CLOAK & DAGGER - A boy and his imaginary companion get mixed up with real-life espionage in this lightweight, utterly illogical thriller. Directed by Richard Franklin, who handles the emotional conflicts better than the suspense sequences. (Rated PG; contains violence.) THE CORSICAN BROTHERS - Even when they aren't playing babies, Cheech and Chong behave like them in this crude farce about peasant twins fighting the aristocracy in a period setting. Directed by Thomas Chong. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language, some lascivious posing, and nasty homosexual-baiting.) FIRST NAME CARMEN - Also known as ''Prenom: Carmen'' and loosely suggested by Bizet's opera, this is another pungent, provocative, proudly outrageous essay by director Jean-Luc Godard, who appears more interested in oblique musings on the state of sex and civilization than in his characters - a terrorist and her bewildered boyfriend. The melodramatic plot and sad, obsessive sexual encounters seem more elemental than exotic in their context of seascapes, cityscapes, and Beethoven quartet music. (Rated R; contains very graphic sex and some violence.) GHOSTBUSTERS - Bill Murray sets up a spook-chasing business with Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, and it's as if the Three Stooges met ''The Exorcist.'' Broad but often funny, and director Ivan Reitman ups the reward by treating the fantasy as energetically as the comedy. (Rated PG; contains a number of risque jokes.) GRANDVIEW U.S.A. - Failed comedy-drama with two intermingled plots, one about a high school boy seeking his own way in life, the other about an older woman with career and romance problems. Directed flatly and lifelessly by Randal Kleiser. (Rated R; contains sex and vulgar language.) GREMLINS - At first there's only one, and he's very cute, but if you aren't careful he has zillions of babies that shift from mischievous to malicious. There's lots of fun and inventiveness to the tale, although director Joe Dante has trouble balancing the humor and horror, both of which are surprisingly blunt. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and a lot of strong though cartoonlike violence.) June 7. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM - This time the hero of ''Raiders of the Lost Ark'' must restore a holy stone to an Indian village, or evil cultists will take over the world. Though director Steven Spielberg provides plenty of action and technical brilliance, the all-purpose violence is joined by a racism and sexism that have no place even in a pastiche of old Saturday-matinee styles. (Rated PG; contains much violence and yucky effects.) THE KARATE KID - John G. Avildsen, the director who gave us ''Rocky,'' does it again in this good-natured yarn about an East Coast wimp who moves to California and learns the art of self-defense from a wise old Asian man, who spouts the same sort of wisdom Yoda gave Luke in the ''The Empire Strikes Back.'' The filmmalking is primitive, but there's energy galore, and the finale will coax cheers from every teen-ager in the civilized world. (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and some fighting scenes.) LIFE IS A BED OF ROSES - A ''palace of happiness'' and a seminar on ''education of the imagination'' are two of the settings for this lumpy intellectual fantasy. Directed by Alain Resnais with all of the good-humored strangeness but little of the cinematic smoothness that marks most of his best work. (Rated PG; contains some vulgarity and drug scenes.) THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN - And the place will never be the same after Kermit's big show opens on Broadway and Miss Piggy demolishes a Central Park mugger. The rest of the gang is in top form, too, and under Frank Oz's direction the action is fast and funny for viewers of all ages. (Rated G.). July 19. ? THE NEVERENDING STORY - A book-loving boy is literally drawn into the story he's reading, about a magical kingdom that's threatened by a menace called the Nothing. Directed with great visual imagination by Wolfgang Petersen, though the effects aren't consistently realistic, and the screenplay has flat moments. (Rated PG; contains cartoonish violence and some surprisingly intense emotion.) July 19. ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA - Although substantially shortened for its United States release, this violent drama still has the feel of an epic, as director Sergio Leone explores the seamiest byways of urban Americana through the story of two gangsters who start their partnership as Brooklyn kids in 1921 and tragically end it in the late '60s. Yet the story has gaps and many of the incidents have a flatness which suggest deeper flaws than cutting and trimming probably account for. (Rated R; contains much sex and violence, sometimes mingled.) PURPLE RAIN - The pop-music star Prince makes his movie debut in this bizarre drama about a rock singer with a troubled career and a miserable home life. Directed by Albert Magnoli as if he were shooting ''Mourning Becomes Electra'' for MTV. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, violence, and a nasty attitude toward women.) RED DAWN - A handful of high-schoolers stand up to a wildly improbable Soviet-Cuban-Nicaraguan invasion of the United States. The movie's jingoism would be uproarious if director John Milius didn't take such vicious glee in the simple-minded militarism that's his substitute for thought. (Rated PG-13; contains vulgarity and very much violence.) REVENGE OF THE NERDS - There are few surprises amid the coarse jokes and predictable plot twists, as a bunch of intellectuals strike back at the jocks who make their first college days miserable. But the underlying intelligence of director Jeff Kanew glimmers through at times, reflected in a couple of nice performances. (Rated R; contains nudity and much vulgar language.) SKYLINE - Modest, charming, deftly made comedy about a Spanish photographer who comes to New York to further his career and finds the folkways as puzzling as the language. Directed by Fernando Colomo, whose sharp eye and keen ear capture fine nuances of American speech and gesture. (Not rated; contains a little vulgarity.)

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