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Freeze Frames

(Page 3 of 5)



* A simple story, about young people caught in an uncertain romantic situation, is repeated three times with different characters in different settings. Hal Hartley's innovative comedy-drama is more ambitious than successful, but it deserves credit for trying something genuinely unusual. V N P

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FOXFIRE (R)

* Unhappy with their boring lives in a small-minded community, several high school girls form an angry gang under the leadership of a new friend with a powerful but enigmatic personality. The screenwriters have borrowed the basic plot but not the disturbing political implications of Joyce Carol Oates's propulsive novel "Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang," pushing the film toward well-crafted exploitation rather than thought-provoking commentary on American sexism. Directed by Annette Haywood-Carter. V N P

GIRLS TOWN (R)

* Three ethnically diverse high school girls are shocked into a new awareness of violence and sexism when their best friend commits suicide after being raped. The screen-play was derived from long sessions of improvised acting, and some scenes are more like acting-class workshops than fully developed dramatic episodes. But the material is powerful and most of the performances are excellent. Lili Taylor heads the cast. Directed by Jim McKay. V P

THE GREEN HOUSE (Not rated)

** After his son is executed by the Nazis despite a willingness to cooperate with them, an old Frenchman shields his little granddaughter from the truth. He tells her she's a Resistance fighter and makes up "missions" for her to carry out. Philippe de Broca's comedy takes on social importance by dealing with issues of Nazi-French collaboration, but there's something distasteful about its whimsical treatment of life-and-death themes. V P

HOUSE ARREST (PG)

*** Some youngsters lock their feuding parents in a basement, hoping the experience will help the moms and dads grow up a little. There's some amusing satire on middle-class mores, but too much time is wasted on aimless shenanigans. Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Pollack head the cast. Harry Winer directed. V P

INDEPENDENCE DAY (PG-13)

** A likable scientist, a feisty soldier, a goofy crop-dusting pilot, and the president of the United States are among the heroes who save Earth from an evil intergalactic empire. The action is fast, furious, and loaded with explosive effects, but the theme is a regrettable return to the us-against-them paranoia that dominated much science fiction in the cold-war era. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Will Smith star. Contains a great deal of violence. V P

*** Explosive, disjointed, spirited.

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (PG-13)

** A man is stranded on a tropical island run by a mad scientist who's trying to fuse humans with animals in cruel genetic experiments. Based on H.G. Wells's haunting novel about the dangers of uncontrolled science, John Frankenheimer's movie uses a great deal of violence, killing, and horrific weirdness to make the same point with a lot less subtlety. Not as memorable as the old Charles Laughton version, but better directed than the Burt Lancaster remake. Marlon Brando is sensational, giving his wittiest performance in years. Also with Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, and Fairuza Balk. V N P

* Moronic, silly, disappointing.

JACK (PG-13)

** Jack is diagnosed with an illness that causes him to mature at quadruple the normal rate, and his parents aren't sure how to handle a four-year-old boy in a full-grown body. Don't be misled by the idea of Robin Williams as a cuddly child-man. The movie takes several turns into sexual and scatological humor, and much of the story is haunted by loneliness, anxiety, and death. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, best known for the "Godfather" films. V P S