Film: New films

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The Independent Culture
THE ACID HOUSE (18)

Director: Paul McGuigan

Starring: Stephen McCole, Kevin McKidd, Ewen Bremner

A trio of interrelated shorts culled from the stories of Irvine Welsh, The Acid House (above) plays out in the down-and-dirty landscape of inner- city Edinburgh and darts with brio between a range of moods and tones. Story number one, "The Granton Star Cause", is a playful riff on Kafka's Metamorphosis as layabout wastrel Bobe (McCole) gets conjured into a fly by the vengeful, boozing God (Maurice Roeves) whom he meets down the pub.

Story two, "A Soft Touch", comes on as a kind of social-realist Special Brew opera, as its affable emasculated hero (Kevin McKidd, brilliant) finds himself cheated on by his missus and menaced by the tattooed thug who lives upstairs. Story three, "The Acid House", is both the most ambitious and the least coherent; an indiscriminate what-if scenario that has Ewen Bremner's rave kid switching places with a newborn bairn. In it, the revelations of an acid-trip are cross-cut to the trauma of birth, yet a clever conceit stays unfulfilled; buried under a ton of showy hallucino- genics. Overall, though, debut director Paul McGuigan (who trained as a stills photographer) turns The Acid House into a bit of a triumph; adapting his style well to the shifting landscape of Welsh's tales and rustling up a film that's less poised and populist than Trainspotting, but more earthy, edgy and intense, too. A cracker, all told.

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STAR TREK: INSURRECTION (PG)

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Starring: Patrick Stewart

A belated Christmas gift for Trekkies the land over, Insurrection hits the cinemas stuffed with in-the-know gags, ribboned and bowed with reliably cheesy art-design and effects work, and wrapped up in rather more cornball romance than we're used to. The yarn is nominally about Patrick Stewart's do-gooding captain tangling with villainous F Murray Abraham, who's hatched a scheme to take over an Edenic planet of perpetual youth. Trouble is that the whole Star Trek phenomena is less a story now than a series of self-reflective gestures. Insurrection takes no real risk with the format; simply navel-gazes for a while, gives floorspace to the regulars and idles its way along to the climactic explosion. That's Star Trek star-date 1999.

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SITCOM (18)

Director: Francois Ozon

Starring: Evelyne Dandry, Francois Marthouret, Marina de Van

Someone ought to introduce Francois Ozon to a good editor. The debuting French film-maker is clearly a man of talent, but in Sitcom, he lets his ideas maraud madly off the leash. A scattergun satire on middle-class mores, the film takes abundant pleasure in dismantling a standard nuclear family (mere, pere, fils et fille); setting a rat loose in the home and interjecting an implicitly queer and subversive vein to the increasingly fraught shenanigans.

The result is sharp, funny and savage one moment, over-heated and indulgent the next, and arrives heavily touched by the influence of Luis Bunuel and John Waters. Ozon's still, formal framing strikes a nice balance with the craziness contained inside.

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