Freeze Frames. A weekly update of film releases

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FOOL FOR LOVE -- Sam Shepard wrote this rambling yarn about the tormented emotional and sexual relationship between a cowboy and his half sister. The picture resembles Shepard's earlier ``Paris, Texas'' in its obsessions with family, memory, and perversity. This time the feelings don't build much momentum, though, and the action is generally slack. Robert Altman directed, showing his usual healthy disdain for standard storytelling styles, but never quite getting a handle on his characters or their bizarre situation. Shepard and Kim Basinger are among the earnest performers. (Rated R)

ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS -- Mom doesn't like Christmas anymore, so a ``Christmas angel'' gets the assignment of perking up her holiday spirits, helped by her young daughter. Oddly, the lesson consists mainly of heaping calamities on Mom, including the death of her whole family. Everyone hops back to life in time for the inspirational finale, but the misery quotient rises awfully high along the way, especially for a Walt Disney picture. Phillip Borsos directed from a screenplay by Thomas Meehan, w hich borrows liberally from ``It's a Wonderful Life,'' the classic of this dubious genre. Frank Tidy did the superb cinematography, and Mary Steenburgen heads the capable cast with a performance that far outstrips her material. (Rated G)

SANTA CLAUS -- The old boy has his own movie at last, and it's a would-be blockbuster, complete with the fanciest visual effects this side of ``Superman,'' which came from the same producers. The film is overweight but sweet, like the title character, and the second half is quite funny as our hero squares off against a toy tycoon so greedy he'll even exploit a runaway elf and a secret stolen from the North Pole workshop. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc. (Rated PG)

Recommended: Charles Dickens: 12 great movie and TV adaptations

SOTTO . . . SOTTO -- Lina Wertm"uller continues her filmmaking decline with this drawn-out yarn of a woman who develops a heavy crush on another female, much to her own surprise. Energetic but dull, and never half as funny as it wants to be. (Rated R)

YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES -- A rehash of the old detective series, geared for today's teen-age tastes, but with a warmer atmosphere and a more leisurely pace than most youth-market items of the '80s. The hero and his sidekick, looking rather like a scaled-down Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, ferret out an evil London cult while investigating a series of unexplained deaths. Many episodes have an appealingly old-fashioned air, but the classic mood is disrupted by some violent hallucination s cenes with jarringly modern special effects. Directed by Barry Levinson from a screenplay by Chris Columbus. (Rated PG-13)

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