FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

* DENNIS THE MENACE

The relentlessly cute mischief-maker strikes again. As usual, the main object of his tricks is old Mr. Wilson down the street, but John Hughes's screenplay also throws in a menacing robber who proves no match for our hero. The last portion is yet another reprise of Hughes's endlessly recyclable "Home Alone," with the young protagonist fighting a comic-scary villain in scenes of cartoonish violence that ultimately get too nasty for comfort. The comedy's only inspiration comes from Walter Matthau, a rubber -faced marvel as Dennis's long-suffering neighbor, and Joan Plowright as Wilson's sweet-tempered wife. By contrast, Christopher Lloyd is both unpleasant and unsightly as the bad guy. Nick Castle directed. (Rated PG)

* A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE - Revival of Douglas Sirk's great melodrama about the World War II era, centering on a German soldier who has lost all faith in his country and its cause but has no choice about returning to battle after meeting and marrying an innocent young woman. John Gavin and Lilo Pulver play the hero and heroine, backed up by Hollywood character types like Don DeFore and Keenan Wynn; their work is flimsy most of the time, but Sirk uses them less as realistic performers than as props

to illustrate his meditations on the banality of evil and the elusiveness of joy in human experience. Also in the cast is Erich Maria Remarque, author of the original novel, as a professor who explains why adversity has strengthened rather than weakened his religious faith. First released in 1958, this lavish production doesn't match the brilliance of Sirk's greatest masterpieces, such as "Imitation of Life" and "All That Heaven Allows," but it remains very powerful with its dark-toned atmosphere and bold visual style. (Not rated)

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