Film: Video Round-Up

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The Independent Culture
Small Soldiers (PG)

To rent

The director Joe Dante has rummaged around in this box of tricks before. From its malevolent, pint-sized antagonists (action figures fitted with military computer chips) to its Spielberg-gone-bad tone (a struggling small-town toy-maker's son lands a squad of the "Commando Elite"), Small Soldiers is Gremlins with a corporate merchandising twist. Or a blood- stained Toy Story, if you like. While these miniature ethnic cleansers are on the loose (they're programmed to wipe out an unfortunately drippy bunch of alien misfits), Dante's trademark subversive wit is equally rampant. However, bar Dennis Leary's turn as a ball-busting empire-builder, Dante's usually dependable bad taste here has neither the legs nor the originality of Gremlins.

My Name is Joe (15)

To rent

This is where the Peter Mullan bandwagon started to roll. Mullan plays Joe, an alcoholic odd-jobber whose shaky attempts to stay off the sauce don't prevent a romance between him and a good-living health worker, Sarah (Louise Goodall). When a local loan-shark starts leaning on a member of his football team, Joe steps in and reverts to the only ways he knows to get himself out of trouble: violence and booze. All your favourite Loachisms are present: as politically trenchant as ever about the vicious circle of deprivation, Loach leavens the mix, even borrowing from his own Kes for football light relief. Most affecting, though, is the central love-affair which, unlike Carla's Song, say, puts emotional truth before politics.