Available to rent from Monday
At the baldest level, Ang Lee's superbly rendered adaptation of Rick Moody's novel masterfully reviews the sexual winter to which the summer of love gave way in the Seventies. Against the backdrop of a frozen Connecticut over Thanksgiving, the Carvers (Kevin Kline (right), Joan Allen, and their kids Christina Ricci and Tobey Maguire) struggle to raise the emotional temperature both within their own family and in furtive sexual trysts with their neighbours, the Hoods (Sigourney Weaver and Henry Czerny, and their boys Jamey Sheridan and Elijah Wood).
The highlight of the adults' social calendar is the key party, a nasty wife-swapping vestige of the sexual revolution. The damaged children are little better, replicating the sins of the parents in their faltering attempts at tenderness. That said, Lee's film is without wit. His eye for social mores makes the melancholic tone more than palatable. Furthermore, he stays faithful to the complexity of the character. You won't see a better film this year.
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I'm sure Bill Paxton, the stalwart American support actor, has been waiting a long time for a decent leading role to come along. But this low-key, unambitious drama isn't it, I'm afraid. Paxton plays a gypsy con-artist who, against the wishes of his fellow travellers, takes on a raw Mark Wahlberg in his pursuit of easy money, "repairing" driveways and pulling bar-room stings.
As a pair of charismatic tricksters, Paxton and Wahlberg have got a long way to go to beat Robert Redford and Paul Newman, but, while the pair of them are busy extorting, there's some mildly subversive enjoyment to be had picking up the dos and don'ts of professional fleecing. This being a Hollywood flick, of course, the opening reel is a mere feint before our essentially sympathetic characters redeem themselves.
Enter ER's Julianna Margulies with a sickly child in need of expensive medical treatment. From here on in, the film confines itself to the final con Wahlberg, Paxton and old-timer James Gammon attempt and a plot that probably wouldn't have made it past the pitch stage of a Dukes of Hazzard script conference.
Resurrection Man (18)
Available to rent from Monday
Presumably, what Marc Evans was aiming for was a baroque tale of psychopathic allure lent a chilling historical authority by the exploits of the Shankhill Butchers in 1970s Northern Ireland. Otherwise what possible artistic satisfaction could he have gleaned from setting out to make this squalid, psychologically facile slasher movie rubbing itself up against the Troubles in the hope of a little credibility. You can't really fault Stuart Townsend as the eponymous loyalist killer Victor Kelly either - if the director's Sellotaped your chin to your jumper and told you to giggle a lot in the expectation of scaring us all witless, you get it over with and move on to your next movie ASAP.
Brenda Fricker pops up telling anyone who'll listen that her Victor's a nice boy who loves his mum, and John Hannah is to be seen as well, looking sheepish as a paramilitary cohort jealous of Kelly's notoriety.