also showingy Day Story Michael Ray Rhodes (12) Adrenalin: Fear the Rush Albert Pyun (18) By Ryan Gilbey

Con Air Simon West (15) The Fifth Element Luc Besson (PG) Drifting Clouds Aki Kaurismaki (PG) Alive and Kicking Nancy Meckler (15) Men, Women: A User's Manual Claude Lelouch (12) The Informer John Ford (PG) Entertaining Angels: the Doroth...

Con Air is a schizophrenic action movie that wants to have its cake and blow it to smithereens. It was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, now going it alone since the death of his partner Don Simpson, whose insatiable appetite for excess would have been whetted by the film's finale, where Las Vegas is razed, but who might have displayed less enthusiasm toward the Dostoevsky references and semantics discussion. That's the input of the screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, who seems to be engaging in some kind of symbolic struggle with the traditional action movie formula.

Sure, Rosenberg tosses in plenty of explosions and flippant brutality, but he also knows how to engineer a little mischief. One of the heroes, US Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack), has at his disposal an arsenal of synonyms rather than shot-guns. And even the bad guys - a gang of psychotic convicts (including John Malkovich and Steve Buscemi) who hijack the plane that's ferrying them between prisons - find as much pleasure in mind-games as murder. Whether you take to the film or not largely depends on how convinced you are that it's all unfolding within giant inverted commas. The performance by Nicolas Cage seems to embody the picture's spirit - as a kindly ex-con hitching a lift to freedom he delivers his lines in a sardonic drawl that would be unintelligible were his tongue jammed any further into his cheek.

Cage has some ridiculous errands to run, hurtling through a ball of fire to deliver an insulin shot to his diabetic chum, or defending the honour of the fluffy bunny that he's taking home for his daughter's birthday. You're faintly disappointed when, after all the fun and games, Con Air is stripped to its bare essentials. Never mind Dostoevsky and gags about cuddly toys: it all comes down to how well you can swing an axe, ride a motorcycle or engage in unarmed combat aboard a speeding fire-engine.

The French director Luc Besson began his career with a science-fiction movie, The Last Battle, and has invested elements of the genre into his work ever since. But in his new film, The Fifth Element, he demonstrates less assurance than ever in constructing a convincing futuristic universe, let alone pacing a thriller. His vision of alien worlds on earth in Subway and The Big Blue displayed more breadth and originality than the overcrowded, consumerist metropolis that constitutes this film's vision of 23rd-century New York - it's like Blade Runner with the brightness cranked up. That's where the movie's hero, a cabbie named Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) resides, living his Long Goodbye-gone-sci-fi life, until a bewitching stranger (Milla Jovovich) crashes through the roof of his taxi. Korben agrees to help her in a quest to stop a sphere of anti-energy engulfing the earth - well, she does hold the secret to the future of civilisation as we know it, and it's not often you meet someone who can substantiate such lofty claims.

The faults of The Fifth Element are in its larger inadequacies - the lack of urgency in the pacing, or the clunking gags that sound like they've been translated from French to English via Urdu and Swahili, or a climax that could be an out-take from The Crystal Maze. But there are some odd pleasures to be had along the way. Jean-Paul Gaultier's costumes are imaginative and daring - or foolhardy in the case of Bruce Willis's orange Lycra number - while Besson's direction is often brilliantly inspired, particularly during one virtuoso scene set at an intergalactic opera. Most of the fun comes courtesy of Gary Oldman, who fully exercises the right that every science-fiction villain has to have a silly voice and an outlandish hairdo: Perspex skull-cap coupled with a floppy fringe. It's going to be all the rage this summer.

The dry, absurdist wit of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki is in glorious evidence in Drifting Clouds, a melancholy tale of a husband and wife who both lose their jobs, and face long, yawning days of depression. Not the most promising material for a comedy, perhaps, but Kaurismaki doesn't force the laughs. He lets the humour emanate naturally from his characters, like breath; he's the least contrived of modern directors. And he works in beautiful, muted colours - the sets and the actors look like they've been left to pale in the sun. He only slips up once, panning across posters for Night on Earth, L'Atalante and L'Argent in a cinema foyer. A director who deems it necessary to make such explicit reference to his influences might be said to lack confidence in his own voice. Kaurismaki is one director who need have no such worries.

In Alive and Kicking, something ghastly happens to an HIV-positive dancer named Tonio (Jason Flemyng). Someone falls in love with him. Like the hero of Jeffrey, Tonio isn't sure how to handle love now he's living in the shadow of Aids, so he plumps for hostility, reckoning without the persistence of his suitor, Jack (Antony Sher). The screenplay, by Martin Sherman, who wrote Bent, finds a nice balance between optimism and realism. Sherman recognises that while Aids gives the picture an abstract urgency, the narrative also requires an immediate motor, resulting in a less convincing race for Tonio to be fit enough to dance in his ailing company's last ballet. But the film's main strength comes from the combination of Nancy Meckler's simple but attentive direction and Jason Flemyng's devilish, irrepressible vitality.

The rest of this week resembles a car-boot sale used by the country's film distributors to clear out all the odds and ends that have been cluttering up the office. There's Men, Women: A User's Manual, a story of love and coincidence that is everything we've come to expect from a Claude Lelouch film - warm, wistful and terribly facile - but with the bonus of the delightful Fabrice Luchini as a self-absorbed worrywart.

The Informer, John Ford's 1935 drama of betrayal in 1922 Ireland, earns a revival this week; the picture's claustrophobic intensity goes some way towards distracting you from some characteristically sentimental flourishes, but it's not Ford at his best. In Entertaining Angels: the Dorothy Day Story Moira Kelly is fine as America's famed crusader struggling against poverty, while Martin Sheen busies himself struggling with a French accent. The term "worthy but dull" might have been invented for this film. Heaven knows how or why Adrenalin: Fear the Rush ever got made, let alone released, but you are urged to avoid this post-nuclear horror movie which is so cheap that Christopher Lambert gets top billing.

All films open tomorrow

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?