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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

January 31, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS

Although severely traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam, Air Force major Clint Eastwood in Firefox (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) is recruited for an impossible mission. He must snatch the Russians' newest, most magical MIG, which flies six times the speed of sound, is undetectable by radar and obeys the thoughts of its pilot, which are transmitted via electrodes in his helmet. This sounds right down Eastwood's alley, but Firefox misfires, becoming a sagging, overlong disappointment, talky and slow to ignite. For once Eastwood the director did not serve well Eastwood the star.

The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D. (Channel 7 Sunday at 8 p.m. following the Super Bowl) is a so-so 1984 TV movie in which Robert Young's kindly family doctor finds it hard to hold on to his part-time hospital position.

The Oscar-laden In the Heat of the Night (Channel 13 Sunday at 8 p.m.) pits Rod Steiger's Southern redneck sheriff against Sidney Poitier's smart big-city cop.

In the 1985 TV movie Love, Mary (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.) Kristy McNichol is impressive in the true story of a near-illiterate teen-ager who overcomes many obstacles to become a physician, but the film itself is only average.

In The Stepford Children (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.), a 1987 TV movie, it's the kids who seem weird. Barbara Eden and Don Murray star.

Douglas Trumbull's 1983 Brainstorm (Channel 5 Monday at 8 p.m.) prophesies the invention of a device which enables us to videotape our thoughts, memories, fantasies and emotions. Slip on a headset, and you'll enter the very being of another individual--for better or worse. Trumbull persuades us that this could actually happen, taking us on trips through "inner space," but the film becomes grounded on such mundane ills as confusing plotting, thin characterizations and underdeveloped relationships. Natalie Wood, Christopher Walken and Louise Fletcher, however, give it their best.

Flashdance (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) is a triumph of Hollywood "high concept" over content as sexy, formidably limber Jennifer Beals works in a Pittsburgh steel mill by day and dances in a beer joint at night--never mind that her act has a Vegas sheen--and dreams of breaking into a prestigious dance company, all the while pursued by her handsome boss (Michael Nouri). Ludicrous.

The new TV movie Weekend War (ABC Monday at 9 p.m.) is a contemporary drama about unsuspecting U.S. civilians whose routine National Guard duty explodes into guerrilla warfare in a remote Honduran jungle. Stephen Collins, Charles Haid and Daniel Stern star.

Stanley Kubrick's dazzling, confounding 1968 sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (Channel 5 Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.) contemplates the likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in space and time--or out of it. Written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, this visual triumph also has a man-vs.-machinery theme as spacemen Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood battle the computer HAL.

Peter Hyams' 1984 sequel 2010 (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) is more literal than mystical but is still a worthy and venturesome entertainment in its own right. In this one, Roy Scheider joins an American-Soviet space mission to find what went wrong on the original flight of the Discovery.

Directed by Don Siegel, Telefon (Channel 5 Friday at 8 p.m.) is a diverting, sleek but routine spy thriller decidedly lacking in substance. Donald Pleasence, with a fanatic gleam in his eyes, plays an old Russian KGB agent determined to wreck detente . Charles Bronson is the current KGB top man sent to track down Pleasence and stop him with the aid of his American contact Lee Remick, who works for the CIA. Tyne Daly has a good scene as a relentless CIA computer genius.

The Black Stallion (Channel 5 Saturday at 6 p.m.) is a work of beauty and simplicity that achieves a touching intimacy yet possesses considerable scale. Carroll Ballard directed this story of a boy (Kelly Reno) who is shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and is rescued by a magnificent black horse. Later on back home, Reno and his stallion come under the protective tutelage of a veteran horse trainer (Mickey Rooney, in a terrific performance). Teri Garr is wonderfully real as the likable Reno's mother. Easy Money (Channel 9 Saturday at 8 p.m.) asks us to imagine Rodney Dangerfield as a working-class Staten Island photographer who's given a year to shape up if his wife is to inherit her mother's $10-million department store. Despite bumpy pacing and a dribble-away finish, the 1983 comedy is pretty amusing.

Howard Hawks' fabled 1959 Western Rio Bravo, which teamed John Wayne and Angie Dickinson so memorably, screens Saturday at 8 p.m. on Channel 13. Dean Martin co-stars.

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