Arts: The Week in Review

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THE FILM SNAKE EYES

Brian De Palma's thriller sees Nicolas Cage as a corrupt cop who reveals a conscience following an assassination attempt on the US Defence Secretary. "The great drawback of staging a bravura opening is the near impossibility of matching it at any subsequent point in the movie," reported Anthony Quinn, noting that "De Palma still has one or two surprises up his sleeve, but the movie never recaptures the giddy momentum of the fight's build-up." "Sporadically brilliant," remarked the Daily Mail, while Time Out was thrilled: "Edgy suspense and powerful kinetic energy are generated by the intriguing revelations and razor-sharp editing." "You'll find plenty of food for the eyes here but little nourishment for the brain," grumbled The Express. "Even as disposable trash it hardly makes the grade."

As the plot unfolds, the suspense of Snake Eyes is gradually lost, but a thrilling opening scene and a searing performance from Nicolas Cage make it worthy of your attention.

Snake Eyes is out on general release, certificate 15. 99 minutes

THE PLAY UGLY RUMOURS

Tony-boy, Cherry pop and Chancellor Gordon McDuff feature in Tariq Ali and Howard Brenton's satire on New Labour, directed by Christopher Morahan and Stephen Rayne.

"If you're going to line up such obvious targets you should ensure that your weapons - language, characterisation and ideas - have real bite and punch. Which is where Ugly Rumours falls down," lamented David Benedict. "This astonishingly self-satisfied script is one of the laziest in town." The Daily Telegraph likened the show to "a bad edition of Spitting Image". "The performers give more to their script than it gives to them," observed the Financial Times, while The Times pleaded: "Please, someone, keep [Ali and Brenton] apart. Or, if they must work together, ensure it is on ... nothing satirical, nothing more demanding than a nursery rhyme."

The notion that New Labour is all surface and no substance is hardly news. Tired ideas, flat jokes and tenuously linked sketches make Ali and Brenton's latest collaboration a grave disappointment.

Ugly Rumours is at the Tricycle Theatre, London NW6 until 28 November. For bookings and enquiries call 0171-328 1000

THE EXHIBITION THE TURNER PRIZE

Cathy de Monchaux, Tacita Dean, Chris Ofili and Sam Taylor Wood are the four contemporary artists in the running for this year's Turner Prize and currently showing at the Tate Gallery.

"I don't think [the show] has ever looked better," commended Tom Lubbock. "For the first time it feels like a proper exhibition rather than a sampling of work." "Visitors no longer have any excuse for resorting to Britain's time-honoured, knee-jerk mockery of contemporary art," trilled the Daily Telegraph. "As an argument for the vitality of British art, this selection is persuasive," cried Time Out. The Daily Telegraph was less enthusiastic: "This year's shortlist is balanced, worthy and relentlessly lacklustre."

For the first time in its history, the Turner Prize feels like a real show. Chris Ofili may be the hot tip, but the exhibition itself doesn't indicate such a forgone conclusion. Go and decide for yourself.

The Turner Prize 1998 is at the Tate Gallery, London SW1. Open daily until 10 January. Admission free. The winner will be announced on 1 December

THE ALBUM ALANIS MORISSETTE

Canadian wailer Alanis Morissette follows up her 28 million-selling phenomenon Jagged Little Pill with her new song collection, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.

"Not for the first time, one is left feeling like an unpaid therapist for a rich star's problems," opined Andy Gill. "The very language of Morissette's songs derives from joyless, self-obsessed psycho-babble." The Times observed, "This monumental work feels not so much like a labour of love as something she just had to get out of her system." "It is a presumptuous record that mistakes incontinence for ambition," growled the NME, adding "...it goes on and on. It shares too much, too tunelessly. It's like being stalked by Joni Mitchell's nervous breakdown." Time Out confessed: "While I'm content to sample Alanis's occasional melodies, I'll pass on the prefab catharsis." Just in case we didn't get the message on Jagged Little Pill, this self-indulgent effort simply repeats the enraged sentiments of her debut album, only louder.

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is currently available in record shops on Maverick records

THE TV PROGRAMME BEYOND A JOKE

Robert Provine looks at the idiosyncrasies of human laughter while Professor Jaak Panksepp tickles rats' tummies to see if they giggle in Horizon's "Beyond A Joke" on BBC2.

"They usually stopped laughing when [Provine] appeared," observed Robert Hanks. "You imagine he sometimes finds this line of work quite depressing." The Times complained: "The popular science series tends to take a topic, worry at it like a cat with a ball of `string theory' and point up any conclusions that seem to be lying around. `Beyond A Joke' was typical." "Funny lot, scientists," remarked The Daily Telegraph. "A young woman in London was shown performing elaborate experiments to test the proposition that you cannot tickle yourself. But `Beyond A Joke' eventually settled down into something less eccentric."

Watching a group of scholarly scientists giving a laboratory full of rats the giggles is certainly good for a laugh, though it is difficult to take the experiments seriously.

Next week sees the beginning of a new series, Science At War. Thursday's edition traces the history of chemical weapons. 9.25pm, BBC2

Exit Poll

THE PLAY BRITTANICUS AT THE ALBERY THEATRE, LONDON

FIONA DIX

39, marketing

consultant, London

`Really gripping. Almost two hours and the time flies by. You get really absorbed in it. All the characters were interesting; they gave the roles a modern twist. The Emperor was a snooty stockbroker type, emotionally retarded, so it was easier to relate to than if it had been too rigid a representation of Greece. Very good indeed.'

KYRIAKOS

AXELOS

47, teacher, Athens

`Diana Rigg is great, absolutely fabulous. We saw her two years ago in The Taming of the Shrew. She was lovely. She is lovely. I not only came to see her, I came to see the play as well. We are Greeks, so this play appealed to our sense of history. We really enjoyed it.'

MARK

VENABLES,

40, manager,

London

`An amazing portrayal of human frailty and weakness. Wonderful. Nero was absolutely brilliant, acted superbly. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And the set design was one of the best I have seen. I especially liked the use of lighting and the perspective of looking in on the corridor of power.'

MARISA THOMAS,

43, software analyst, America

`Poor direction and not the best translation you can imagine. It just didn't keep my interest, but that may be the fact that we have just arrived from America, and haven't slept for one-and-a-half days. The performances were good, though, so you can't blame the director for everything.'

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