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IN BRIEF

SELENA PG, 1997, 128 minutes, Warner.

This hagiographic "bio-pic" of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Perez, whose Spanish-language recordings made her a star before she was slain at 23, will please her fans. But it doesn't give much of a handle on the person behind the star.

Every scene is a milestone: her first rehearsal as a 9-year-old; her band's first concert; the band's first hit; her first song in Spanish (English was her first language), and so on. This shorthand style leaves no room for nuance, except in the individual performances, some of which are surprisingly deep.

As Selena, Jennifer Lopez is dynamic, smart and sexy, and comes off looking like a star. Her courtship and marriage to guitarist Chris Perez (a smooth Jon Seda) is touching, as is her relationship with her family, but it all has a too-good-to-be-true gloss. Contains nothing objectionable.

-- Eric Brace/Washington Post
ANGEL BABY Unrated, 1997, 101 minutes, Republic.

This movie means its title earnestly; it's about a couple who believe they are going to have an angel for a baby. Alas, they are clinically mentally ill, and when in the interests of sound medical practice they refrain from taking their stabilizing pharmaceuticals, they essentially doom themselves. Both John Lynch and Jacqueline McKenzie are effective in the Aussie kitchen-sink drama, but the thing is so overwrought it exiles rather than absorbs you. It's Australian for "bad."

-- Stephen Hunter/Washington Post
LOVE JONES R, 1997, 110 minutes, New Line.

This directing debut by screenwriter Theodore Witcher tells an often-funny love story between young, aspiring writer Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate) and budding photographer Nina Mosley (Nia Long). It's obvious that Witcher's real passion here is the social lives of young, educated, creative African-Americans.

A little more chemistry between Long and Tate would have gone a long way to spark the on-screen flame. But this shouldn't keep viewers away. Contains sexual situations and profanity.

-- Esther Iverem/Washington Post
FIERCE CREATURES PG-13, 1997, 94 minutes, MCA/Universal.

This reunion of the "A Fish Called Wanda" team is pretty bad, but it does have its fleeting funny moments. When Kevin Kline, the tyrannical new boss of a London zoo, announces that only vicious, crowd-pleasing animals are allowed to remain, the zookeepers, including Michael Palin, stage a revolt.

But their plans are complicated by Jamie Lee Curtis, a slinky, manipulative new hire in Kline's empire, and Kline's estranged, egomaniacal son (played by Kline again), who come to take over the zoo. As the zoo's militaristic director, John Cleese pulls out his characteristically deranged mannerisms. But his wonderful range of expressions can't redeem this banal farce. Contains comically sexual situations, some strong language and macabre humor.

-- Desson Howe/Washington Post
LITTLE FUGITIVE Unrated, 1952. Being the younger brother is tough. Poor Joey knows this all too well. The 7-year-old New York boy becomes the victim of a cruel prank his 12-year-old brother, Lennie, and Lennie's friends play on him. Thinking that he shot and killed his brother, the cowboy-loving Joey packs his toy pistol and makes his getaway to Coney Island, where he discovers the life of a desperado can be lonely. Morris Engel wrote, directed and produced, along with his wife Ruth Orkin and collaborator Ray Ashley. Here is a delightful film detailing innocence, both lost and found. It was made for a pittance, yet it's richer than most big studio efforts that try to recapture childhood. To order the video, call Kino on Video at (800) 562-3330.

TOP TENS

SALES
(1) Sleeping Beauty (Disney). (2) Star Wars Trilogy -- Special Edition (Fox). (3) The First Wives Club (Paramount). (4) Spawn (HBO). (5) Playboy Celebrity Centerfold: Farrah Fawcett (Playboy). (6) Casper: A Spirited Beginning (Fox). (7) Fleetwood Mac: The Dance (Warner Reprise). (8) William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (Fox). (9) Pooh's Great Adventure (Disney). (10) Mary Poppins (Disney).

RENTALS
(1) The Saint (Paramount). (2) The Devil's Own (Columbia Tri-Star). (3) Sling Blade (Miramax). (4) Donnie Brasco (Columbia TriStar). (5) The English Patient (Miramax). (6) Fathers' Day (Warner). (7) Dante's Peak (Universal). (8) Murder at 1600 (Warner). (9) Absolute Power (Warner). (10) Crash (New Line).

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