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Star Trek: Insurrection Jonathan Frakes (PG) Sitcom Francois Ozon (18)

FROM THE annals of intergalactic pioneering comes another Star Trek movie, with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) still baldly going where most of the series has already been. Star Trek: Insurrection is no more than a feature-length episode garnished with pricey special effects, but as long as you don't mind the formula - confrontation with a race of tyrannical expansionists, Picard and his crew put to the test, edifying spectacle of multiracial harmony re-established - it makes for an amiable, undemanding entertainment.

This time the plot concerns a rural utopia where the Ba'ku lead a life of nouveau-hippie contentment. It's like Palm Springs without the zimmer frames, for the Ba'ku inhabit an atmosphere that reverses the ageing process. Under the pretence of a cultural survey, a hostile tribe called the Son'a aim to get their arthritic hands on a piece of this age-free paradise, thus ensuring their own longevity and sparing their leader, Ru'afo, whose skin is as grey and wrinkly as an elephant's backside, the inconvenience of another facelift. Naturally, Picard comes to the rescue of the beautiful people, and indeed finds his heart captured by a Ba'ku woman, Anij (Donna Murphy), despite her being more than 300 years old.

Directed by Jonathan Frakes, the film occasionally takes a time-out from the earnest cosmic hand-wringing for some light-hearted fun. I enjoyed the moment when Picard and the Enterprise's whey-faced android Data (Brent Spiner) did an impromptu duet from Gilbert and Sullivan, though for all it added to the plot it might as well have been Gilbert and George. Stewart retains a suave authority as Picard, and F Murray Abraham as Ru'afo glowers convincingly beneath his latex mask. How much longer the film-makers will continue remaking this space-age morality play is uncertain, though I can imagine it outstripping the lifespan of your average Ba'ku.

Francois Ozon's debut feature, Sitcom, is a heavy-handed French farce that will irk or enchant according to taste. Set within the claustrophobic confines of a bourgeois household, it recounts the way a pet rat upsets the equilibrium of an apparently respectable family. First the son announces he's gay; then the daughter turns suicidal. Their mother, neglected by her frigid husband, decides to try her hand at incest, while the Spanish housekeeper exercises her wiles upon the daughter's boyfriend.

Ozon appears to be making it up as he goes along, while the cast mug through the Almodovarian antics as best they can, and looked to be every bit as relieved as I was when it came to a halt.

AQ

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