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FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

By David Sterritt / July 29, 1994



* BLACK BEAUTY - The life and times of a valiant horse in 19th-century England, starting with his birth on a country estate and continuing with adventures in many other homes, some quite pleasant and others terribly harsh. Based on Anna Sewell's popular novel, the picture has enough action and sentimentality to keep young audiences interested. But parents should know that much of the movie follows the old tradition of putting its hero through one ordeal after another, from illness and accidents to the whims of a cruel owner and the loss of a kindly one. David Thewlis follows his searing performance in ``Naked'' with a modest but affecting portrayal of Black Beauty's favorite master. Alex Thomson did the attractive cinematography. Written and directed by Caroline Thompson, who follows the conservative style of her screenplay for ``The Secret Garden'' rather than the adventurous tone of her Tim Burton pictures, ``Edward Scissorhands'' and ``The Nightmare Before Christmas.'' (Rated G)

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* IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU - An honest cop tips a hard-working waitress with half a lottery ticket. He keeps his word about splitting the bonanza when he wins, and then falls in love with her, outraging his self-centered wife in both cases. Andrew Bergman's urban fairy tale has a big heart and a sunny disposition. It also has enough imagination to turn current Hollywood formulas on their heads: There's a policeman who helps regular folks instead of catching mad bombers, a media blitz that sparks a Capraesque happy ending, and a portrait of New York City that makes the place look downright attractive. Nicolas Cage gives the most surprising performance by acting ordinary for a change. Bridget Fonda is fine as the waitress, although it's not clear why she gets higher billing than Rosie Perez, a bundle of energy as the wife. Jane Anderson wrote the wise-cracking, occasionally insensitive screenplay. (Rated PG)