A weekly update of film releases

* THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALLEN GINSBERG - This lively documentary traces the career of the Beat Generation's most celebrated poet from his early years in a troubled middle-class family to his discovery of improvisatory writing, authorship of the explosive ``Howl'' and ``Kaddish,'' and later activities as an antiwar activist, explorer of Eastern religion, and unreconstructed rebel against the status quo. Friends and foes as varied as William S. Burroughs and William F. Buckley add their two cents on his work, his influence, and his importance. In all, an entertaining and insightful film for anyone interested in the poetics and politics of the past 50 years. Directed by Jerry Aronson. (Not rated)

* REALITY BITES - Lelaina was valedictorian of her college class not long ago, but now she shares the same problems as all the other young adults she knows: precariously low funds, a shaky job situation, an even shakier love life, and a lot of uncertainty about the relationship between idealistic dreams and everyday issues in the real world, from employment to sex. At its best, this entertaining romance blends the zesty dialogue of a classic screwball comedy with the nonstop energy of a Post-Modern pastiche. It spices its conventionally filmed episodes with videotaped excerpts from a documentary Lelaina is making about the contentments and confusions of her life. The screenplay by newcomer Helen Childress falls back on familiar formulas too often, but first-time director Ben Stiller keeps the action fast and involving even when you can't help guessing what the next story twist will be. Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke head a picture-perfect cast, with Janeane Garofalo, veteran character actor Joe Don Baker, and filmmaker Stiller among the standouts in supporting roles. The crisp cinematography is by Emmanuel Lubezki. (Rated PG-13)

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