THE GUARDIAN - She's really a babysitter, but ``guardian'' makes a classier title. Then again, she's not an ordinary babysitter, but a leftover Druid who makes sinister sacrifices to a tree-god in the woods behind the house where she works. This horror yarn was directed by William Friedkin, who clearly wants to repeat the scandalous success of ``The Exorcist,'' which he made back in 1973. Unfortunately, his new effort fails even by that dubious standard. Violence is its only stock in trade. (Rated R) THE MAHABHARATA - An ancient Indian epic is the source of this tale about two mythical families struggling for control of the known world. At a little less than three hours long, the movie is more compact than the nine-hour theatrical production it's based on, but it contains all the play's most memorable moments. Directed by Peter Brook from a screenplay he wrote with Jean-Claude Carri`ere and Marie-Hel`ene Estienne, it's an imposing but rarely exhilarating experience. (Not rated)

Q & A - Nick Nolte and Timothy Hutton give strong performances in this rough-and-tumble melodrama about a crooked New York City cop, but its outcry against racism and corruption is swamped by its overblown tactics. Written and directed by Sidney Lumet, who pushes the material so hard it loses credibility and even entertainment value after a while. (Rated R)

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