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Freeze Frames

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* Comedy about the increasingly strained relationship between two brothers with overlapping marital and romantic problems. Written by, directed by, and starring Edward Burns, who makes little improvement over the glib superficiality of "The Brothers McMullen," his previous picture. P V

*** Funny, relationship-oriented, recycled.


* Looking for the biological mother who gave her up for adoption, a middle-class black Englishwoman is surprised to discover that her mom is poor, uneducated, and white. Mike Leigh's sensitive comedy-drama is superbly acted but contains much vulgar language, and some moviegoers may be troubled by its treatment of extramarital sex and promiscuity. P


**** A dedicated New Yorker named Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras helps change the lives of inner-city children by teaching them to play the violin and helping them showcase their achievements at Carnegie Hall. Allan Miller directed this richly musical documentary, which features Isaac Stern and many other tuneful talents, professional and otherwise.


** Pablo Picasso's work combined intellectual rigor with emotional richness, and James Ivory's glowingly filmed drama captures the tempestuous energy of his talent along with the powerful charisma of his personality. By focusing on his relationship with a long-term lover in the years after World War II, it also captures his weakness for domineering behaviors that exemplified male chauvinism in its most obnoxious forms. Anthony Hopkins plays Picasso in one of his most vivid performances. Written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. N S P

*** A Hopkin's triumph, captivating, well written.


*** Four young Pennsylvanians start a Beatles-type rock band in the mid-'60s and hope they'll achieve fame with help from a smooth-talking record producer. Tom Hanks makes his directorial debut with this likable comedy, which shows that while pop culture is a business like any other, enthusiasm and high spirits can lead to satisfaction even if major success proves elusive. Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, and Ethan Embry play the leads, helped by Liv Tyler as a long-suffering girlfriend (with little to do in this mostly male story) and Hanks as the recording exec. P

*** Optimistic, fun nostalgia trip, enthusiastic.


** Marcello Mastroianni plays the main character, whose identity shifts among different forms - a millionaire working as a servant, a husband who never returns from a simple errand, and so forth - all based on myths drawn from modern city life. The surprising story was directed by Ral Ruiz, one of today's most innovative filmmakers. P V


*** Reissue of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece about a retired detective (James Stewart) who falls in love with a mysterious woman (Kim Novak) while trying to discover what ghostly force is driving her toward suicide. First released in 1958, this is the most profound work by one of world cinema's greatest artists, skillfully restored to its original big-screen splendor. V


* A murder scheme goes wildly wrong, affecting a motley cast of characters including the killer, his bumbling henchman, a suicidal filmmaker, a compassionate nurse, a high-strung executive, and his long-suffering assistant, all of whom converge on a single Southern California house. The story has some laughs along with over-the-top violence and vulgarity. The cast includes James Spader and Eric Stoltz. Directed by John Herzfeld. S V N