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Freeze Frames

June 7, 1996



Freeze Frames: The Monitor Movie Guide

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Here are the week's reviews of both the latest releases and current films, rated according to the key below (''o'' for forget it). The capsule reviews are by Monitor film critic David Sterritt; the one liners from a panel of at lease three other Monitor reviewers. Movies containing violence (V), sexual situations (S), nudity (N), and profanity (P) are noted.

o Forget it

* Only if it's free

** Maybe a matinee

*** Worth full price

**** Wait in line

New Releases

The Arrival (PG-13)

** Screenwriter David Twohy ("The Fugitive," "Waterworld") makes his directorial debut with this visitors-from-Outer-Space film that seems like a half-baked episode of TV's "The X-Files." Charlie Sheen plays a researcher who stumbles onto a visit by extraterrestrials and a conspiracy led by bad guy Ron Silver to cover it up. Consider this a warm-up for the mega-budget, similarly themed blockbuster "Independence Day" next month. V P By Frank Scheck

BLUSH (Not rated)

* After the new Communist government cracks down on their illegal trade, two Chinese prostitutes turn their lives in fresh directions, but remain linked by romantic attachments and memories of their shared past. Directed by Li Shaohong, this historical drama is varied and ambitious, but suffers from uninspired acting and a wooden visual style. S V P

HEAVY (Not rated)

** Victor didn't worry much about his weight until an attractive young woman came to work at his mother's diner, sparking new emotions that his limited experience hasn't taught him how to handle. Written and directed with uncommon sensitivity by James Mangold, a strikingly talented newcomer. Superbly acted by a well-chosen cast including Pruitt Taylor Vince as the title character, Shelley Winters as his mom, Deborah Harry as the diner's other employee, and Liv Tyler as the new face in town. S P

KASPAR HAUSER (Not rated)

* Energetic drama about events in an 18th-century German town where a young man mysteriously appeared after being raised in a dungeon, then set free to make his way in a world he could barely comprehend. Written and directed by Peter Sehr, who sees the episode as part of a clandestine scheme to manipulate the royal succession. Andr Eisermann's strong performance as the title character appears to have been influenced by Bruno S.'s unusual acting in Werner Herzog's classic film on the Hauser legend. Contains sex and violence. V S N

THE PHANTOM (PG)

*** Billy Zane scampers between New York City and an exotic jungle, scavenging for magic skulls also coveted by all sorts of bad guys. Superman bends steel with his bare hands and Batman has amazing tools, and next to them the Phantom's mere pistols look kind of old-fashioned. At least the dialogue packs an occasional campy laugh, and while there's some nasty violence the picture is a bit more restrained than much of its mid-'90s competition. Based on the inexplicably popular comic strip. V

THE ROCK (R)

* A loony general hijacks a pile of poison-gas missiles and stashes them on Alcatraz, threatening to wipe out San Francisco if the government doesn't meet his demands. Can a mild-mannered toxicologist and an eccentric Alcatraz veteran stop him before it's too late? Learning the answer means sitting through more than two hours of violence, vulgarity, and all-around excess, served up with high-tech trimmings by director Michael Bay. Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery star. Contains a great deal of mayhem and foul language as well as a brief sex scene. V P S

SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. (Not rated)

o Gross-out comedy about an urban cop who fights crime with help from an ancient Japanese spirit. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz directed the Troma production, which isn't smart or savvy enough to compensate for its racist, sexist, and antihomosexual overtones. S N V P