FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

* SAFE PASSAGE

A large family is drawn closer together while waiting for news of the oldest child, who may have perished in a faraway accident. The story gathers some dramatic impact before it's over, but the characters are so two-dimensional that a computer program might have dreamed them up; and after ``Little Women'' and ``Lorenzo's Oil,'' poor Susan Sarandon needs a rest from all the self-sacrificing moms she's been playing. Directed by Robert Allan Ackerman from Deena Goldstone's screenplay. (Rated PG-13)

* HIGHER LEARNING

This multifaceted look at college race relations has two parallel plots. One focuses on a white student whose social awareness is raised when she's date-raped after a wild party; the other centers on a black student who resents the unspoken racism he sees all around him. Other key characters include a black professor who seeks to inspire self-reliance in his minority students, and a disgruntled white student who's recruited by a skinhead gang. The film treats realistic subjects in a stylized way, putting its main energy into exploring ideas rather than developing the direct emotional power usually associated with such urgent material. Written and directed by John Singleton, who recovers after the failure of ``Poetic Justice,'' but doesn't recapture the vivid impact of ``Boyz N the Hood,'' still his best movie. (Rated R)

* THE KINGDOM

Imagine a cross between ``MASH'' and ``Twin Peaks,'' and you'll have some idea what this bizarre horror-comedy is like. Set in a vast Danish hospital, it spends nearly five hours chronicling the adventures of such characters as a bigoted neurosurgeon, an irresponsible medical student, an incompetent chief administrator, and an old woman trying to solve a long-ago murder. Underlying the crazy plot is a serious interest in the notion that the age-old battle between science and superstition is far from over. Directed for Scandinavian television by Lars von Trier, best known for his equally antic ``Zentropa'' a few years ago. (Not rated)

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