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JUDGE DREDD Danny Cannon (15)


FALL TIME Paul Warner (18)


THE FOX AND THE HOUND Art Stevens/ Ted Berman/ Richard Rich (U)

In an age where law means intimidation, wrongful arrests, bungled trials and lengths of gaffer tape, it would be reassuring if there were someone who could banish the risk of human error, and crime, from the streets. And did it with a neat catchphrase.

There is someone who fits this bill. His name is RoboCop. Oh, and Judge Dredd of course. Mustn't forget him. He's got a catchphrase - "I am the law" (I bet Paul Condon says that in the bathroom mirror). And he's been with us - in the 2000 AD comic - since RoboCop was just a megabyte on his daddy's hard-drive. But, unfortunately for Dredd, his cinematic debut has arrived eight years after RoboCop's. And 21 years after Charles Bronson in Death Wish. Not to mention 24 years after Dirty Harry. However hard the new film Judge Dredd tries, nothing can hide the fact that it has been gazumped several times over.

In 2139, the Judges, a troop of law enforcers in jazzed-up motorbike helmets, stalk the streets playing judge, jury and executioner. The most feared among them is the sneering Dredd, a man whose efficiency is heightened by his inability to experience human emotions. Dredd is played by Sylvester Stallone, whose success has also balanced on just such a deficiency. After 20 years, it's comforting that there's still no director who can hammer his voice into any sort of intelligible shape.

Dredd's righteousness is marred, however, when he is framed for murder by a corrupt superior (Jurgen Prochnow) in cahoots with the real killer, Dredd's evil brother Rico (Armand Assante). Dredd's fate: to be exiled to the Cursed Earth, a barren wasteland where scavenging mutants roam.

If you feel you've seen this all before, that's because you have. The young British director Danny Cannon is so indebted to Blade Runner (and to Escape from New York and Star Wars and Charles Band) that this feels like a remake. Nigel Phelps's glum sets may once have been movie stock, but since the 1970s science-fiction boom they have become the currency of pop promos. If I see another rain-drenched, neon-lit street peopled by postcard punks, I swear I'll turn judge, jury and executioner myself.

The film's biggest failing, though, is that it's too formal, too cautious, as the few bursts of gleefully sadistic violence prove. It could have used some polish, some wit, some ... some ... some RoboCop.

Harvey Keitel creates some more painful moments to be watched through the fingers in Imaginary Crimes. He plays Ray Weiler, a widowed dreamer caring for his two daughters, the oldest of whom, 17-year-old budding writer Sonya (Fairuza Balk), narrates the story of the Weiler family's freewheeling lifestyle and crushed dreams. Though the film lacks dramatic discipline, it showcases some accomplished performances. It's a film of failure, compromise, noses and grindstones. Which doesn't sound like anyone's idea of fun. But there's light at the end of this tunnel.

Unlike Fall Time, which ends with a massacre that you can spot coming from the moment three chums decide to stage a prank on the same day that psychotic hoods Mickey Rourke and Stephen Baldwin are planning to rob the local bank. The movie pretends to be about maturity, but you can hear the director, Paul Warner, slurping whenever blood gets spilled. There is no logic, though you take to its dottiness, as well as Rourke's tan leather outfit and the fact that his character is called Florence.

Accidentally catching a few minutes of the children's series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on TV, I had stupidly assumed that there was more to it than six teenage superheroes in gaily coloured costumes kung-fu fighting with rubber aliens. But there isn't, as the new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: the Movie proves. Don't let the thought of accompanying your wee ones to see it fill you with dread - there are some splashes of humour, and lots of batty dialogue along the lines of "I am Thermos, local ombudsman of the planet Haemorrhoid". Better by far than Disney's The Fox and the Hound, re-issued this week but drained of life and hummable songs. Having cried at it when I was nine, I now feel especially hostile toward its merciless manipulation, not to mention the sloppy animation. It is to the Disney canon what Julian Sands is to acting: expendable.