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FREEZE FRAMES

APRIL 21, 1995 Movies that contain violence, sexual situations, nudity, and profanity are denoted V, S, N, and P respectively. Evaluations do not constitute a Monitor endorsement. Further guidance is supplied by full reviews on the Arts pages

By David Sterritt and Staff Panel / April 21, 1995



EVALUATION SYMBOLS

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David Sterritt Staff Panel Meaning

O\ O\ Don't bother

u q Poor

uu qq Fair

uuu qqq Good

uuuu qqqq Excellent

7 1 Half rating point

New Releases

APARAJITO

uuu A superb coming-of-age movie, following its hero's life from childhood to young adulthood, with special attention to the pains of family separation suffered by his mother and himself. Directed by Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray in 1956, as the second installment in his renowned ''Apu'' trilogy. Known as ''The Unvanquished'' in its English-subtitled version. (Not rated)

THE BASKETBALL DIARIES

uu Jim Carroll's autobiographical book is a largely amoral account of his life as a street hustler, narcotics addict, and high-school athletic star. Scott Kalvert's movie adds a kicking-the-habit sequence to give the impression that it's an antidrug story, but the results are more sleazy than insightful. Leonardo DiCaprio heads a generally excellent cast. (R) S V N P

BURNT BY THE SUN

uu The time is 1936, the place is an estate in the USSR, and the main character is an aging Bolshevik hero confronted by a Stalinist rival. Directed with much warmth but little energy by Nikita Mikhalkov, who also plays the central role. (R) P S V

CRUMB

uuu Absorbing but disturbing documentary about R. Crumb, a pioneer of kinky ''underground comix,'' bringing out both the vivid imagination and the raging sexual obsessions that have characterized his career. Directed by Terry Zwigoff over a six-year period, the film also gives a poignant account of Crumb's sadly dysfunctional family, providing clues as to why his talent evolved in such bizarre directions. (Not rated) P N S V

THE CURE

O\ Friendship develops between two boys, one of whom has AIDS, and they share various pranks and adventures before the unhappy ending. It's bad taste, bad filmmaking, and bad morality to use a phenomenon as serious as the AIDS crisis to prop up storytelling as trite and insipid as this. Directed by Peter Horton. (PG-13) P N V

KISS OF DEATH

uu David Caruso takes his ''NYPD Blue'' talent to the big screen, playing a New York City crook who lets himself get suckered into one last job, then agrees to squeal on his accomplices. Even nastier than the 1947 gangster film it's based on, this updated ''film noir'' is stronger on gruesome details than psychological involvement. It's well acted, though. Barbet Schroeder directed. (R) S V P

NEW JERSEY DRIVE

uuu Stealing cars and joy-riding become deadly pastimes for a group of African-American youngsters in a New Jersey ghetto. Nick Gomez doesn't recapture the full cinematic excitement of his first movie, ''Laws of Gravity,'' but he still shows himself to be a wildly talented young filmmaker with a piercing eye for life in the jungle of cities. (R) P V

WINGS OF COURAGE

u The first dramatic film in Imax 3-D is about an intrepid aviator trekking to civilization after crashing his plane in a South American mountain range. The snow is astoundingly real, the story is amazingly repetitious, and the movie is mercifully short, clocking in at around 40 minutes. Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, it's designed to be shown as a regular large-screen attraction in Imax theaters not equipped for 3-D projection. (G)

Currently in Release

AMATEUR

u A man with no memory of his past, a nun entering the secular world after 17 years of seclusion, and an actress of very dubious morality are the main characters of Hal Hartley's offbeat drama, which explores complicated issues of identity and sexual politics, but remains too schematic to gain the emotional impact it sorely needs. (R) S N V P

BALLET

uuu In the 27th documentary of his distinguished career, Frederick Wiseman turns his camera on the American Ballet Theater, charting activities as varied as rehearsing, performing, hiring new talent, and coping with the financial pressures facing a modern cultural institution. Life itself becomes a kind of choreography in Wiseman's artful view, which is sometimes as funny as it is beguiling. (Not Rated) P