FREEZE FRAMES

THE ABYSS - Cleaning up a nuclear-submarine accident, husband-and-wife oil workers have an adventure with underwater extraterrestrials, and this helps save their marriage. The movie is big, expensive, and violent, like most would-be blockbusters. It's also unoriginal: The aliens look like Steven Spielberg puppets, and the climax is lifted from ``2001: A Space Odyssey,'' among other sources. James Cameron wrote and directed the soggy epic, which turns a few promising ideas into close encounters of the wet kind. (Rated PG-13) DISTANT VOICES/STILL LIVES - Full of loving details and revealing insights, this drama chronicles the bittersweet experiences of a working-class family in Liverpool, England, during the 1940s and '50s. Written and directed by Terence Davies, who based it on his own memories, it's a movie of astonishing power and bold originality, marked by poignant humor and a stream of transcendent song that tempers the frequent harshness of the story. (Not rated)

THE MAGIC TOYSHOP - A children's story for adults about a teen-age girl who loses her parents and moves in with a sinister uncle, who tyrannizes his family and never lets a child touch the toys he makes in his workshop. Concerned with emotional and sexual coming-of-age, this Freudian fantasy has more dreams, visions, and epiphanies than a dozen psychoanalytic sessions. It's also stunningly filmed. David Wheatley directed, from Angela Carter's screenplay. (Not rated)

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