FREEZE FRAMES

BLISS -- A middle-aged man drops dead one afternoon, then revives after a few minutes, seized with a conviction that his life is unbearable and that even worse is in store if he doesn't change his habits drastically. The picture is ambitious, idealistic, often wrong-headed, and so eager to shock us that it turns to repellent images when provocative ideas run out. None of this stopped it from becoming the biggest hit ever in Australia, its native country. Directed by Ray Lawrence, who punctuates ironic views of family and business life with explicit scenes of sex and surgery. (Rated R) BLUE CITY -- A young man returns to his Florida hometown and seeks vigilante revenge for the death of his father. Scott Wilson gives a surprisingly lively performance as the apparent villain of the story, while good guys Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy strive to out-bland each other. The action is generally vicious, vulgar, and vapid. Directed by Michelle Manning. (Rated R)

FEMMES DE PERSONNE -- Ambitious, compassionate, but not very incisive drama about four women and their diverse approaches to life, love, and sexuality. Written and directed by Christopher Frank, a Briton who lives and works in France. (Not rated)

JO JO DANCER, YOUR LIFE IS CALLING -- After being severely burned in a drug-related accident, a famous black comedian looks back at his experiences, hoping to understand what brought him to this sorry condition. Richard Pryor directed, produced, co-wrote, and starred in the drama, which is clearly based on events in his own life. But the screenplay is so sketchy and most scenes so clumsily put together that few coherent insights come to light. (Rated R)

LEGEND -- Synthetic fairy tale about a young hero and heroine caught between the forces of darkness and light, which are embodied by a demon and a pair of unicorns, respectively. The visual effects are relentlessly lavish, but the story is hopelessly trite, and the violence is much too harrowing for a tale pitched largely to young viewers. Directed by fantasy specialist Ridley Scott. (Rated PG)

ROUTINE PLEASURES -- An eccentric, winning documentary that divides its attention between a California model-railroad club and the work of Manny Farber, a painter and writer who has exerted a strong influence on contemporary film criticism. Directed by French 'emigr'e Jean-Pierre Gorin in a personal cin'ema-v'erit'e style that treats itself and its subjects with an equal blend of respect and irreverence. (Not rated)

TRACKS IN THE SNOW -- Sensitive, understated drama about two middle-aged brothers with very different personalities and goals, who come to grips with their relationship while arduously transporting the remains of their late father to a burial site in a wintry northern land. Intelligently directed by Dutch filmmaker Orlow Seunke. (Not rated)

WATER -- Silly, sometimes distasteful farce about a poor Caribbean island dogged by lingering British colonialism, inept revolutionaries, and a greedy American company that wants to exploit an accidentally discovered well of Perrier-type water. Directed by Dick Clement. (Rated R) RATINGS: Films with ratings other than G may contain varying degrees of vulgar language, nudity, sex, and violence.

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