FREEZE FRAMES. A weekly update of film releases

ELENI -- Returning to his native Greece, an American journalist traces the story of his mother's life during the Greek civil war, when she sacrificed her life to secure a better future for her children. The subject, based on true events, is highly dramatic; and the central characters are strong. But director Peter Yates and writer Steve Tesich keep the action slow and static, and there's a lack of balance between John Malkovich's underplaying and Kate Nelligan's intensity. (Rated R) JAGGED EDGE -- Despite misgivings about the criminal justice system, a former prosecutor takes over the defense of a wealthy man charged with savagely killing his wife. At a time when strong roles for actresses are all too scarce, Glenn Close lights up the screen as the canny lawyer, while Jeff Bridges leads an excellent male contingent. Except for a few moments of harrowing verbal and visual violence involving defenseless women, this is a direct descendant of such classic courtroom dramas a s ``Witness for the Prosecution'' and ``Anatomy of a Murder,'' which offered similar blends of suspense and irony. Richard Marquand directed. (Rated R)

THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN -- In the midst of the 1930s depression, a young girl starts a lonely search for her father, who has headed west to take a job. It's refreshing to see a strong female character at the center of the plot, and the movie plunks her into all kinds of situations, some of them fairly suspenseful. But the supporting characters are too familiar; the dialogue is often trite; and the ending, which tries very hard to be inspiring, drowns in its own corn. There's also a surpris ing amount of dubious taste for a Walt Disney picture, including vulgar language, bathroom humor, and even a dogfight scene. Directed by Jeremy Kagan. (Rated PG)

MARIE -- Drama based on the real-life experience of a young woman who helped blow the whistle on corruption involving the Tennessee parole board. Sissy Spacek is solid as the heroine, showing her as vulnerable but never weak or wishy-washy; and the screenplay does a good job of balancing the domestic and professional sides of her life, both of which are uncommonly challenging. Directed by Roger Donaldson, who once again shows a probing interest in emotional turbulence, although he lets

the story peter out in a too-long courtroom episode that seems trivial next to the big issues at the heart of the movie. (Rated PG-13)

THE OFFICIAL STORY -- Argentine drama focusing on the families of ``disappeared'' people in the aftermath of the anti-insurgent ``dirty war'' of the 1970s. The story recalls the poignancy and power of ``Missing,'' although the current of domestic violence is more brutal here, and filmmaker Luis Puenzo drags the material out too long. (Rated R)

SWEET DREAMS -- Jessica Lange plays the late country singer Patsy Cline in this well-made but downbeat ``biopic,'' which focuses on her career and her turbulent relationship with her second husband. Directed with a sharp eye and a steady hand by Karel Reisz. (Rated R)

A YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN -- In an unsettled Polish territory just after World War II, an introspective American soldier falls in love with a refugee, and their relationship deepens despite their differences of language and background. Sensitively directed by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi, but hampered by a sleepy pace. (Rated PG) RATINGS: Films with ratings other than G may contain varying degrees of vulgar language, nudity, sex, and violence.

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