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A weekly update of film releases

AFRAID OF THE DARK - As his own sight fails, the young son of a blind woman develops a fearful attitude toward life after learning of a dangerous stalker who attacks the blind. Mark Peploe, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "The Last Emperor," makes his directorial debut with this intellectually dense and viscerally violent tale, which unfortunately proves to be as incoherent as it is unconventional. The good cast includes Fanny Ardant and James Fox. (Rated R) FATHER - An aging family man in Australia is abruptly accused of being a Nazi war criminal with a horrible and long-hidden past, and his family rallies to his defense, convinced that the charges are groundless but unable to prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt. The story and dialogue are hardly original or surprising, but the drama benefits from a sturdy performance by Max Von Sydow and capable directing by Australian filmmaker John Power. (Not rated)

GAS, FOOD, LODGING - The adventures, romantic and otherwise, of a working-class single mother and her two teenage daughters. Some scenes evoke great humor or deeply felt emotion, while others fall flat. The acting is consistently strong, however, and the movie builds to a risky and remarkably touching finale. Written and directed by Allison Anders, a newcomer who shows enormous promise. (Rated R)

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