A weekly update of film releases
* THE BROWNING VERSION - Terence Rattigan's respected play was written in 1939, and turned into an equally respected Michael Redgrave movie a dozen years later. This updated version, starring Albert Finney, retains the original story of a crusty schoolteacher whose coming retirement is marred by sad realizations of how little love and trust he has accumulated during his years of sincere but rigid pedagogy. Mike Figgis's filmmaking isn't very imaginative, and Ronald Harwood's screenplay doesn't have much success in its half-baked attempts to give the drama a contemporary ring. This is especially true when it adds a few steamy touches that seem out of synch with the rest of the picture. The turning points in the plot still have a solid emotional punch, though, and Finney gives an all-stops-out performance that reconfirms his status as one of today's finest British actors. Greta Scacchi and Matthew Modine head the good supporting cast, playing the protagonist's young wife and her not-so-secret lover. Mark Isham composed the overdone score. (Rated R)
* HOOP DREAMS - As lengthy as it is ambitious, this striking three-hour documentary follows two inner-city Chicago boys through five years of their lives, chronicling their hopes, dreams, and experiences as they pursue the all-too-familiar desire to become rich and famous basketball stars. The film's material is neither as pithy nor as cogent as one might wish. Some portions raise more questions than they answer about the real-life characters and the society that exerts so many implacable and often contradictory pressures on them. But it's still an impressive achievement, full of sidelong revelations about aspects of American education, athletics, and commerce that are rarely examined at such length. Directed by Steve James in collaboration with Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert.