Freeze Frames. A weekly update of film releases.
THE BEAST - Lost behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, several Soviet soldiers confront not only Afghan antagonists but also rivalries and hatreds among themselves. The main characters speak idiomatic English even though they're meant to be Soviets; this follows an old Hollywood tradition, but it also brings out parallels with the experience of American soldiers during the Vietnam war. No film this side of ``Platoon'' has been more bold and unflinching in showing the explosive nightmares of combat. Unfortunately, some portions are badly written and weakly acted, and the treatment of war as a phenomenon is more melodramatic than philosophical. Directed by Kevin Reynolds. (Rated R) DEAR AMERICA: LETTERS HOME FROM VIETNAM - An emotionally resonant documentary focusing on letters written by American soldiers to their families and loved ones during the Vietnam war. Directed by Bill Couturi'e. (Rated PG-13) MILES FROM HOME - The first scene is splendid, as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visits an American farm during the late 1950s. Then the movie's actual story picks up in the '80s, when the farm has failed and the brothers who owned it turn to a life of crime and what Khrushchev would have called hooliganism. The subject is compelling, and stage director Gary Sinise shows promise as a filmmaker. But the pace is sluggish, and neither of the stars, Richard Gere and Kevin Anderson, has enough intensity to make the characters fully convincing. John Malkovich shows up in a bit part as a Rolling Stone reporter, and it's tantalizing to imagine what he might have accomplished as one of the leads. (Rated R) MOON OVER PARADOR - The spirit of comedy filmmaker Preston Sturges hangs over, or tries to hang over, this farce about an American actor who's forced to impersonate a deceased Latin American dictator in the autocrat's own country. There aren't many good laughs, but Jonathan Winters livens up the show as a sour CIA agent, and Raul Julia has his moments as a henchman who really runs Paradorian affairs. Directed by comedy specialist Paul Mazursky. (Rated PG-13) THE PRINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA - A precocious teen-age boy copes with personal and family problems in the mining community where he and his parents live. The story promises to pick up steam when the hero stumbles into a bizarre kidnapping scheme calculated to end his woes, but the movie isn't clever enough to fulfill its ironic possibilities. Written and directed by Ron Nyswaner. (Rated R) RUNNING ON EMPTY - The premise is fascinating: A family has lived in hiding since the parents took part in a politically motivated bombing years earlier, and now their on-the-run life is stifling the growth of their 17-year-old son. Sadly, the filmmakers use this foundation to erect nothing more substantial than a fitfully well-acted soap opera with a foolishly unconvincing finale. Directed by Sidney Lumet, who often has the courage to choose politically charged subject matter but goes into a slump when actually dealing with it. (Rated PG-13)