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Freeze Frames - The Monitor Movie Guide FEB. 3, 1995

We publish this guide as a service to readers, to help them decide which movies they wish to see. The guide covers current films being widely shown. These evaluations do not constitute a Monitor endorsement. Movies that contain violence, sexual situations, nudity, and profanity are denoted with V, S, N, and P respectively. Further guidance is supplied by full reviews on the Arts pages. EVALUATION SYMBOLS David Sterritt Staff Panel Meaning O\ O\ Don't bother * * Poor ** ** Fair *** *** Good **** **** Excellent 1/2* 1/2* Half rating point New Releases MIAMI RHAPSODY

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** The adventures of a Miami family, focusing mainly on sex, romance, and marriage. Sarah Jessica Parker and Mia Farrow are ideally matched as a daughter and mother who fall for the same guy, and Paul Mazursky and Antonio Banderas stand out as two of the men in their lives. Written and directed by David Frankel, whose determination to follow in Woody Allen's footsteps would be more productive if it weren't so slavish. (PG-13) S N P TSAHAL

**** Claude Lanzmann follows his nine-hour Holocaust documentary ``Shoah''with this five-hour study of Israel's defense forces and the effects of decades of war-oriented thinking. A deeply engrossing meditation on militarism and modern history. (Not rated) P Currently in Release BAD COMPANY

* A renegade CIA agent goes to work for a private company specializing in bribery and blackmail. The steady stream of betrayals would be monotonous even if the filmmaking weren't so heavy on its feet. Directed by Damian Harris. (R) V S N P BEFORE SUNRISE

*** Romantic comedy about a young American and a French student who meet on a European train and decide to spend a spontaneous day together. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are attractive stars, but what's most appealing about the picture is the value it puts on sharing ideas and feelings through language. Directed by Richard Linklater. (R) P DEMON KNIGHT

* Innocent people get caught between supernatural desperadoes fighting over a mysterious talisman. Ernest Dickerson directed this rehash of ``Night of the Living Dead,'' which is more silly than scary despite its ultraviolent effects. (R) V S N P DISCLOSURE

*** A man struggles to save his career after being sexually harassed by his new boss, who happens to be an old girlfriend of his. The movie's social attitudes are ridiculous, suggesting that powerful women pose dangers their male counterparts would never dream of. The story is told with great gusto by director Barry Levinson, though, making it fun to sit through despite its many failings. (R) S N P *** Intriguing, suspenseful, topical. DUMB & DUMBER

* And how. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels play a couple of losers who get into stupid scrapes. The pointless plot and scatological humor are to be expected in gross-out comedies like this; more surprising are the nasty undertones of the story, which seems to think friendship and betrayal are two sides of the same coin. Peter Farrelly directed. (PG-13) V N P HEAVENLY CREATURES

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*** Pauline and Juliet are New Zealand teenagers who feel suffocated by their families and decide to escape the trap by murdering Pauline's mother. Peter Jackson has directed the fact-based story with an eye for its deeper meanings about relations between parents and adolescents. The violent climax is no less disturbing for that, however. (R) V S P HIGHER LEARNING

*** A multifaceted look at college race relations, focusing on three students: a white woman whose social awareness is raised after a date-rape incident; a black man who resents unspoken racism; and a white man who's recruited by a skinhead gang. The film treats realistic subjects in a stylized way, putting its main energy into exploring ideas rather than building emotional power. Written and directed by John Singleton. (R) V S N P **1/2 Sobering, realistic, disturbing. HOOP DREAMS

*** A team of documentary filmmakers spent years tracking two young basketball players who hoped sports careers might be their ticket out of Chicago's inner city. The movie is a provocative commentary, but the material could have been shaped into a tighter, more cohesive structure. (PG-13) P HOUSEGUEST

** A man running from gangsters poses as the childhood friend of a total stranger, moves into the comfy suburban home of his host, and gets tangled up with sitcom-style family problems. Sinbad and Phil Hartman are fun to watch, and director Randall Miller brings out a crazy energy. (PG) V P IMMORTAL BELOVED

** Who is the mysterious woman to whom Beethoven left his worldly goods? That's what the executor of his will has to discover. Everything about this crazy ``biopic''is barely under control, from Gary Oldman's acting to Bernard Rose's directing. The result is fascinating in a creepy sort of way. (R) V S N **1/2 Predictable, shallow, but good soundtrack. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES

** Anne Rice's spooky novel is equally spooky on the screen, if less imaginative in its flights of horrific fancy. Tom Cruise lacks the feral wildness the vampire Lestat has in the book, but you still miss him when he disappears from the story and Brad Pitt takes over. Directed by Neal Jordan. (R) V S N P I.Q.

** Wishing his niece would date a likable mechanic instead of a stuffy psychologist, Albert Einstein tries to pass the worker off as an undiscovered genius. Walter Matthau makes an ideal Einstein, but the plot cries out for twists in the screwball-comedy tradition. Fred Schepisi directed. (PG) P THE JUNGLE BOOK

** Adventure and romance in colonial India, centering on a young man raised by animals in the jungle, and a British commander's daughter caught between respect for tradition and the charms of her new friend. The story is attractively filmed but not very memorable; better to stick with the 1967 cartoon version. Directed by Stephen Sommers. (PG) *** Storybook quality; young children may be bothered by violence. JUNIOR

* A male scientist impregnates himself with a stolen embryo, looking for data he needs to market a new medication. Ivan Reitman's comedy can be seen as macho propaganda, suggesting that men will make dandy moms as soon as technology lets them take over the job; it can also be seen as a progressive statement, viewing parenthood as a calling that transcends mere gender. Most of the farce is more foolish than philosophical, though. (PG-13) S P THE LAST SEDUCTION

*** Theft and betrayal touch off skullduggery in the small town where a big-city seductress is hiding from her vengeful boyfriend. Directed in film-noir style by crime-movie specialist John Dahl, and featuring a high-energy performance by Linda Fiorentino. (R) V S N P * Crass, amoral, depressing. LEGENDS OF THE FALL

* The story begins as a family saga in old Montana, but soon turns into a hackneyed tale of rivalry between two brothers who love a beautiful widow. The scenery is pretty, in a calendar-art sort of way, but nothing else is worth the price of admission, including Anthony Hopkins's amazingly weak acting. Directed by Edward Zwick. (R) V S N P **1/2 Tear-jerker, melodramatic, beautiful scenery. LITTLE WOMEN

*** Sweetly filmed, sensitively acted retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, plunging us into an idealized American past that's as seductive as it is mythical. Directed by Gillian Armstrong. (PG) ***1 Poignant, wholesome; death scene is disturbing. THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE

*** Maybe it's family problems, or the stress of losing the American colonies; but whatever the cause, the monarch's mental health has become shaky, and this is of enormous interest to friends and enemies alike. Excellent acting undergirds this historical comedy-drama, directed by Nicholas Hytner, who also supervised the well-received stage production of Alan Bennett's play. (Not Rated) P MURDER IN THE FIRST

** Fresh out of law school, a young attorney takes the case of an Alcatraz prisoner who murdered another inmate, arguing that the killer's mind was warped beyond control by the tortures of solitary confinement. Based on real events, the story poses important questions about penology and rehabilitation, but it's too heavy-handed to be very effective. Directed by Marc Rocco. (R) V S N P NELL

** Jodie Foster plays a young woman who's been raised in almost total isolation. Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson play scientists who try to befriend and understand her, but can't protect her from the world's curiosity. The movie wants to explore the secrets of a person who evades all categories and pigeonholes. Unfortunately, the filmmakers place her in their own categories and pigeonholes from beginning to end, transforming their fascinating subject into a very ordinary drama. (PG-13) V N *** Engrossing, touching; excellent work by Jodie Foster. NOBODY'S FOOL

*** Paul Newman does his best acting in years as Sully, a likable loser juggling relationships with friends and relatives who can't figure out why he's still drifting aimlessly through life after passing his 60th birthday. Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis head the strong supporting cast. Directed by Robert Benton. (R) V S N P *** Sad, honest, well-acted. PULP FICTION

*** Four interlocking stories about sex, drugs, violence, and other sensational stuff, tempered with an interest in redemption that suggests filmmaker Quentin Tarantino might be growing up a little. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are terrific as talkative hit men, and Bruce Willis is equally good as a boxer who refuses to throw a fight. Look out for over-the-top scenes of mayhem and brutality, though. (R) V S N P *** Surprising, wry, gory. READY TO WEAR

*** A rangy satire on the international fashion scene, visiting a long list of characters at a crowded Paris exhibition. Although the story is pointless, director Robert Altman retains his status as one of today's most original film artists, turning sketchy material into a series of uneven but often compelling visions. (R) S N P RED

**** A young student and an aging judge are the main characters of this gorgeously photographed tale about mysteriously intertwined lives. Irene Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant give striking performances, bringing Krzysztof Kieslowski's excellent ``Three Colors''trilogy to a vibrant conclusion. (Not Rated) S P ***1/2 Intense, complex, memorable characters. SPEECHLESS

** Love blooms between speechwriters for rival politicians. Michael Keaton and Geena Davis are fetching, but the dialogue isn't as snappy as it might have been, and screenwriter Robert King plays it too safe by making each candidate as corrupt as the other. Ron Underwood directed. (PG-13) S P TO LIVE

**** A man with bad habits grows gradually more mature as he and his family endure the ups and downs of life in China from the 1940s through the Cultural Revolution period. Two of China's most internationally renowned stars, Gong Li and Ge You, give radiant performances under the guiding hand of director Zhang Yimou. (Not rated) V P

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