FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

* GUARDING TESS - This fitful comedy-drama traces the up-and-down relationship of a zealous Secret Service agent and the VIP he's assigned to guard, a presidential widow who's as stubborn and stiff-necked as he is. The screenplay aims at a feisty blend of ``Driving Miss Daisy'' and ``In the Line of Fire,'' and there's an offbeat chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Shirley MacLaine that almost brings the movie off. It's too bad director Hugh Wilson reaches for starchy irony rather than the laugh-out-loud absurdity his material could easily have provided; and the eighth-inning switch from mild humor to high-octane melodrama is too late and lame to save the picture. Written by Wilson and Peter Torokvei and nicely photographed by Brian J. Reynolds. (Rated PG-13)

* THE REF- A desperate crook kidnaps a husband and wife who can't stop bickering, and finds himself in the unlikely role of marriage counselor on the lam. This is a funny idea, but the movie is too thinly written to build any real credibility, and the cast rarely seems in tune with the vapid vulgarities that dominate the dialogue. Directed by Ted Demme. (Rated R) * THE SUMMER HOUSE

Unenthused about her impending marriage to a very dull fellow, a young woman broods over her fate while sparring with her mother and prospective mother-in-law; but she perks up noticeably when an eccentric newcomer suggests that her problem may have a solution. As the latter character, Jeanne Moreau is so frantically flamboyant that such eminent costars as Joan Plowright and Julie Walters almost get jostled off the screen. This will suit Moreau admirers fine, but others may wish the picture were more balanced, and that Martin Sherman's screenplay had gotten beyond the ever-so-witty remarks by ever-so-crusty ladies. Waris Hussein directed. (Not rated)

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