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FREEZE FRAMES

By David Sterritt / March 4, 1988



FRANTIC - A doctor from San Francisco searches Paris for his mysteriously kidnapped wife. The story is old-hat, and the pace is far from frantic, but director Roman Polanski is an expert at building menace and suspense in everyday surroundings. The action flows smoothly, and Harrison Ford is sturdily convincing as the hero. Written by Polanski and Gerard Brach. (Rated R) HAIRSPRAY - In the early 1960s, a white teen-ager helps desegregate Baltimore with a campaign to include black youngsters in a TV dance program, and not only on ``Negro day'' once a month. She also wins her own fight against prejudice by proving that a chunky girl can win every dance contest in sight. John Waters wrote and directed this sassy romp, with a lot of energy and fewer than usual of his customary gross-outs. (Rated PG) A NIGHT IN THE LIFE OF JIMMY REARDON - The hero is a 17-year-old boy who chases a girl his own age, only to be seduced by a woman of his parents' generation. The results are mostly indistinguishable from other teen-age epics, even though the picture was written and directed by William Richert, the first serious filmmaker to enter the teen-movie sweepstakes since James Toback released ``The Pick-Up Artist'' a few months ago. (Rated R) THE KINGDOM COME/THY WILL BE DONE - A matched set of medium-length documentaries on the upsurge in fundamentalist Christianity and its coupling with right-wing politics. Anthony Thomas directed this intelligent, imaginative, and important achievement. (Not rated) LOS AMBICIOSOS - In 1959, while living and working in Mexico, the great Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel directed this scathing melodrama about intrigue in a fictitious Latin American country with a repressive and corrupt government. It's not one of Bunuel's major works, but it's provocative despite its talky and needlessly complex plot. Photographed by Gabriel Figueroa in dazzling black and white. Also known as ``Fever Mounts at El Pao.'' (Not rated) SWITCHING CHANNELS - A fast-talking editor and his ex-wife, a fast-talking reporter, pull romantic and professional tricks on each other while covering a controversial murder case. The story was fresh and the characters were original when they debuted in ``The Front Page'' years ago. They were still delightful in the brilliant ``His Girl Friday,'' which changed one of the male protagonists to a woman and introduced a new romance element. The silly new version, which switches the action to a cable-TV news channel instead of a newspaper, is more strenuous than funny despite the best efforts of Burt Reynolds as the editor, Kathleen Turner as the reporter, and Christopher Reeve as her effete fiance. Earnestly but heavily directed by Ted Kotcheff. (Rated PG) TRAVELING NORTH - This gentle and humorous Australian drama chronicles the last months of an irascible old man, who won't give up his stubbornly held ideas despite the presence of a new and somewhat younger woman in his life. Leo McKern heads a delightful cast. Carl Schultz directed. David Williamson, who wrote ``Gallipoli'' and ``The Year of Living Dangerously,'' did the screenplay, based on his own stage play. (Rated PG-13)

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