FREEZE FRAMES. A weekly update of film releases

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 surprising 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)

MACARONI -- Paying his first visit to Italy since his GI days, an American businessman learns that a forgotten wartime buddy has turned him into a local hero, using tall tales and bogus letters. The story is sometimes funny and poignant. But many of the plot twists seem contrived, and director Ettore Scola allows Jack Lemmon and Marcello Mastroianni to push their performances too hard. (Rated R)

FLANAGAN -- The title character is a middle-aged Shakespeare fan who drives a cab and dreams of becoming a classical actor. Philip Bosco plays him with great conviction, giving equal weight to the aspirations that spur him and the failings that hold him back. The screenplay is simplistic at times, though, and director Scott Goldstein falls prey to clich'es and vulgar stereotypes. Geraldine Page heads a solid supporting cast. (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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