Don Siegel's The Shootist (Channel 13 Sunday at 6 p.m.) is a grandly elegiac Western and fitting farewell for John Wayne, cast as a dying gunfighter who craves a peaceful end but has one last mission to accomplish.
Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen, Silkwood (ABC Sunday at 8:30 p.m.) is deeply disturbing as a depiction of the men and women working in the potentially deadly front line of the nuclear industry. It's less satisfying in its telling of the story of Karen Silkwood, a worker at the Kerr-McGee Plant near Crescent, Okla., who died on a night in 1974 when her car veered off a lonely highway and hit a concrete culvert. What made her death a cause celebre was that she just happened to be on her way to meet a New York Times reporter with information about what she believed was a cover-up of faulty welds in the plant's plutonium fuel rods.
Unfortunately, the film doesn't render Silkwood's life with enough humanity to leave us feeling bereft, and what's more, Meryl Streep's portrayal of Silkwood as a reckless blue-collar tease who's pulled almost accidentally into activism is actressy; the film's dynamite performance is Cher's touching and funny portrayal of Karen's longing, lonely roommate.
Far, far past Apocalypse, in humanity's decay, the twilight of the West--this is where director George Miller takes us in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.). Mel Gibson is back for the third time as Mad Max, by now a weary warrior but one whose reflexes for heroism are still sharp. This time the villain is Aunty Entity, played by Tina Turner, no less, the queen of depraved Bartertown.
Garbo Talks (Channel 5 Monday at 8 p.m.) is a warm and enjoyable 1984 Sidney Lumet movie in which a feisty but ailing Anne Bancroft, a lifelong Greta Garbo fan, inspires her CPA son (Ron Silver) to set out to produce the reclusive star for his hospitalized mother.
Taylor Hackford's The Idolmaker (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m.), inspired by the life of Bob Marcucci, discoverer and promoter of Fabian and others, has some gritty, satirical commentary on the pop music scene of decades past but is hampered by an ending that seems self-dramatizing fantasy made real. Ray Sharkey, however, is impressive in the title role.
The Great Escape (Channel 13 Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m.), that rousing 1963 World War II adventure, stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn and Charles Brosnon, among others.
Howard the Duck (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.) took the irascible, cigar-chomping hero of the late '70s Marvel Comics and placed him in a 1986 live-action film with disastrous results.
Without a Trace (Channel 11 Thursday at 8 p.m.) is a tense but finally contrived and improbable story about the kidnaping of a 6-year-old. Kate Nelligan plays the child's mother.
Killing 'Em Softly (Channel 7 Thursday at 9 p.m.) is a dreadful 1985 Canadian movie which finds killer George Segal and Irene Cara, whose boyfriend is charged with the murder, falling in love.
Ladyhawke (CBS Friday at 8:30 p.m.), an enchanting, handsomely produced medieval fantasy, finds lovers Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer separated by the black arts of a jealous (and decidedly unfrocked) bishop. Matthew Broderick plays their unlikely ally, a scruffy, endearing pickpocket, in this 1985 winner.
In An American Werewolf in London, (Channel 4 Friday at 8 p.m.) director John Landis juxtaposes humor and gore with such outrageousness that from one moment to the next, you can't tell whether you're going to laugh or cringe. Not for the very young, but a delirious treat that develops surprising poignancy. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne star.
Eddie and the Cruisers (Channel 5 Friday at 8 p.m.), which takes its title from a '50s rock group on the verge of making it big, ambitiously attempts a variation on the rock nostalgia formula but involves a plot gimmick impossible to resolve satisfactorily. Michael Pare is terrific as the Jim Morrison/James Dean-like Eddie.
The premise of the 1983 thriller The Star Chamber (Channel 11 Friday at 8 p.m.) is that nine L.A. Superior Court judges, in despair over dangerous criminal suspects escaping conviction on technicalities, have taken the law into their own hands. Unfortunately, the film spends more time rabble-rousing than on sustaining credibility. Michael Douglas stars.
In the thoughtful Corvette Summer (Channel 5 Saturday at 6 p.m.) Mark Hamill and Annie Potts are outstanding as two innocents afloat in a terrible world.
Kill Me If You Can (Channel 9 Saturday at 8 p.m.) is the outstanding 1977 TV movie in which Alan Alda played "red light bandit" Caryl Chessman.
The ratings checks on movies in the TV log are provided by the Tribune TV Log listings service.