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Put a Log on the Fire, a Chestnut in the VCR; 'Ishtar,' 'Garden,' 'Superman IV' in Stores

November 27, 1987|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

This is a big weekend for families to sit around the VCR watching movies. But sometimes it's hard to think of fare suitable for all ages--something not too sexy or violent for children but not too juvenile for adults.

Here are some suggestions:

Disney's "Old Yeller" (1957) The adventures of a boy (Tommy Kirk) and a stray dog set in Texas in the 1850s. At the end, there won't be a dry eye in the room.

Paramount's "Sounder" (1972). The story of the struggles of a poor black family of sharecroppers in Louisiana during the Depression. Like "The Color Purple," a romanticized look at Southern blacks--but still a touching family movie. Starring Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson.

Disney's "The Parent Trap" (1961). Twins, played by Hayley Mills, conspire to reunite parents (Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith). Cozy comedy featuring some likable slapstick.

CBS-Fox's "On Golden Pond" (1981). A comedy-drama about a couple (Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn) coping with old age and family tensions. A tear-jerker in parts. Possibly too adult for some youngsters.

CBS-Fox's "Friendly Persuasion" (1956). About a Quaker family grappling with changes caused by the Civil War. Starring Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire. One of the all-time great family dramas.

CBS-Fox's "The Black Stallion" (1979). A stunningly-photographed tale of a boy (Kelly Reno) and his devotion to a horse. Includes some scenes that might be too scary for children.

CBS-Fox's "My Fair Lady" (1964). Prof. Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) tries to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear--Eliza Doolittle, played by Audrey Hepburn. Featuring a Lerner-and-Lowe score that's among the best.

MGM/UA's "The Champ" (1979). This is about a son's unwavering faith in his father--a broken-down fighter (Jon Voight). As the boy, Ricky Schroder is always crying. Watching one of the all-time tear-jerkers, you'll be misty-eyed, too. Faye Dunaway co-stars.

MGM/UA's "Lili" (1953). Ultra-charming musical about a French orphan (Leslie Caron) in a carnival troupe.

NEW RELEASES: RCA/Columbia's "Ishtar," starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, is one of the most ballyhooed big-budget bombs of the decade. Written and directed by Elaine May, this was supposed to be a modern version of the wacky Crosby-Hope "Road" pictures that were propelled by a zany energy that even had you laughing at bad jokes. But "Ishtar," critics charged, is strangely passive. The blame was most often placed on the flawed script and the absence of comic spark between the two stars. Hoffman and Beatty play two inept songwriter-performers who get a nightclub date in Morocco and meet a beautiful revolutionary (Isabelle Adjani) who entangles them in a Middle-Eastern espionage mess, making them the target of every intelligent agent in town. Estimated budget--$40 million and beyond. The gross was $14 million.

CBS-Fox's "Garden of Stone" is director Francis Coppola's languid exploration of the conflicting attitudes about Vietnam on the home front. Set in the late '60s, it focuses on a sergeant (James Caan) who's a member of the Army's ceremonial burial unit. The movie concerns his shifting views about the war and his relationships with his best buddy (James Earl Jones), an idealistic recruit (D. B. Sweeney) and his lover--an anti-war journalist (Anjelica Huston). While praising Caan's performance, many critics found the movie meandering and muddled--lacking a dramatic center.

Warner Video's "Superman IV: A Quest for Peace" isn't bad. It's just not as much fun as the first two in the series. In this one, Superman (Christopher Reeve) tries to rid the world of nuclear arms but is formidably opposed by evil Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and another almost invincible superhero, Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), who's fueled by the sun. Meanwhile, Superman continues to play romantic tag with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and a sexy publisher (Mariel Hemingway) is chasing his alter ego--Clark Kent. As usual, Hackman has all the best lines. Bargain-basement special effects tarnish both Superman's flying scenes and his titanic battle with Nuclear Man.

Lorimar's "The Chipmunk Adventure" is for the kiddies but, in spots, it's hip enough for adults. The squeaky-voiced heroes--Alvin, Simon and Theodore and the spunky Chipettes--are duped, by crafty smugglers, into a transcontinental balloon race where they encounter all sorts of hair-raising adventures. The cleverest is their escape from savages who get caught up in singing and dancing to the Sam the Sham hit, "Woolly Bully." One possible problem: if you're older than 6, all that squeaking may drive you a bit crazy after a while.

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