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Freeze Frames/A weekly update of film releases

THE BLACK CAULDRON -- An inexperienced farm boy and his friends try to stop a wicked Horned King from getting his claws on the Black Cauldron, a sort of ``lost ark'' brimming over with evil powers. The action gets off to a slow start and draws heavily on Tolkien and other classic fantasy. But the story builds enough energy and suspense to keep adventure fans hopping, and the brilliant Walt Disney animators have created their most endearing characters in years to accompany the hero on his quest. This is the most lavish animated film since ``Pinocchio,'' and it's certainly one of the best. Directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich. (Rated PG) THE COCA-COLA KID -- Social satire about a capitalistic showdown between a corporate whiz-kid and a crusty self-made man, over the issue of Coke sales in an obscure Australian region. Directed by the Yugoslavian filmmaker Dusan Makavejev, with his usual blend of wry humor, freewheeling sex, and peeks at the anarchic underside of human relations. (Not rated)

EXPLORERS -- Three teen-age boys build a homemade spaceship that's powered by a mysterious ``energy source'' one of them literally dreamed up. For the first 90 minutes or so, filmmaker Joe Dante is on his best behavior, and the action is so controlled it can hardly breathe. Then he allows his native wit and imagination to blossom in a hilarious encounter with aliens who've learned about Earth from old movies and TV shows, and this rip-roaring episode pretty well justifies the whole movie. (Rated PG)

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A FLASH OF GREEN -- Everyone has mixed motives in this thoughtful drama about a journalist who gets involved with a crooked politician and a land-grabbing scheme. The action is a little ragged and repetitious, even though the movie has been tightened since its film-festival showings last year. But it raises provocative questions about big issues like integrity and objectivity; and the cast, headed by Ed Harris, is marvelous. Directed by the talented independent filmmaker Victor Nuez. (Not rated)

THE LIFT -- A killer elevator is the villain of this tediously slow horror flick. Directed by Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas. (Rated R)

MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME -- The original ``Mad Max'' was a modest and effective revenge thriller. The sequel, ``The Road Warrior,'' was pretentious and overblown. The new follow-up falls in between its predecessors, less concentrated than the first and less self-congratulatory than the second. Mel Gibson returns as the lonely hero coping with surreal violence in the ruins of Australia after World War III. The directors, George Miller and George Ogilvie, borrow from every source they can find; movie buffs can pass the time spotting the Lynch shot, the Leone shot, the Jodorowski shot, and all kinds of others. (Rated PG-13)

SILVERADO -- A big and ambitious western about four decent men who join forces against a corrupt sheriff. Like the last movie Lawrence Kasdan gave us, ``The Big Chill,'' it's best when the carefully chosen cast throws itself into developing characters and building their relationships. When pure storytelling takes over after an hour or so, the picture becomes less original and engaging. The cinematography by John Bailey is stunning, though. (Rated PG-13)

TOSCA'S KISS -- ``Il Bacio di Tosca'' is the original title of this delightful documentary about Casa Verdi in Milan, a retirement home for Italian musicians. Filmed with great humor and affection by Swiss director Daniel Schmid, this is one of the most insightful, life-affirming, and just plain entertaining movies ever made on the subjects of old age, music, and the capacity of art to uplift and sustain the human spirit. (Not rated) RATINGS: Films with ratings other than G may contain varying degrees of vulgar language, nudity, sex, and violence.

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