FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

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*SPEED - The mad extortionist has placed his bomb on a Los Angeles bus. It's timed to explode when the vehicle's speed drops below 50 m.p.h., and that's a pretty grim joke when the L. A. freeway system is involved. This sounds like the formula for a mighty speedy movie, and that's exactly what former cinematographer Jan de Bont has concocted, with editing and camera work that race as relentlessly as the bedeviled bus itself. The film's kinetic energy has been lavishly praised by numerous highbrow critics who want to show what freewheeling fun-lovers they are; but while the movie is certainly diverting in a brainless sort of way, it's as shallow as they come. It has few real surprises once you accept the premise and plug into the hyperactive visual style. Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper are fun to watch as the dueling protagonists, and Sandra Bullock is fetching as an astonished commuter who finds herself behind the steering wheel. Graham Yost wrote the screenplay, and Andrzej Bartkowiak did the hard-hitting cinematography. (Rated R)

*TWO SMALL BODIES -

A mother enters an emotionally complicated relationship with a detective as he investigates the disappearance of her young children and probes her possible role in the tragedy. The story develops a good deal of intensity without appearing to have much of a point. Fred Ward and Suzy Amis give fittingly fervid performances, though, and director Beth B fulfills some of the filmic promise she showed in the interesting Super 8 movies she helped make years ago. (Not rated)

Recommended: Charles Dickens: 12 great movie and TV adaptations

* ZERO PATIENCE -

This unlikely musical comedy, about the apocryphal airline attendant who first brought AIDS to North America, shuttles between the unwieldy and the incoherent. Directed by John Greyson, who sincerely wants to be stimulating and constructive, but lacks the necessary ingenuity so far in his career. (Not rated)

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