August 15, 1988 12:00 PM

>YOUTH AND WAR: EMPIRE OF THE SUN There are flashes of brilliance in Steven Spielberg’s flawed but deeply felt character study of a British brat separated from his parents and forced to spend World War II amid the brutalities of a Japanese prison camp. Newcomer Christian Bale, who ages from 9 to 13 during the course of this 153-minute film, is astonishing as the boy pushed into adulthood. Even when Spielberg dilutes the power of his story with show-off effects and soggy, sanitizing sentiment, Bale etches an indelible portrait of a little boy lost. (Warner)

YOUTH AND SEX: A NIGHT IN THE LIFE OF JIMMY REARDON Despite the presence of talented River Phoenix as a skirt-chasing 1962 high school grad facing college, this comedy never moves much beyond raging hormones. (CBS/Fox)

YOUTH AND MATURITY: FOR KEEPS It’s strictly old wine in new bottles as a baby forces students Molly Ringwald and Randall Batinkoff into a marriage that teaches them a hard lesson in love. (RCA/Columbia)

YOUTH AND DISILLUSION: PROMISED LAND This unheralded but worthwhile drama shows a dark, disturbing downside to the world after high school for Kiefer Sutherland, Meg Ryan, Jason Gedrick and Tracy Pollan. (Vestron)

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