Films: New Films


Director: Petr Zelenka

Starring: Jiri Kodet, Borijov Navratil

Skipping without warning from pre-Bomb Hiroshima to the present-day Czech Republic, Zelenka's curious little portmanteau piece dovetails a set of six short-stories, some wacky, some sad and all implicitly concerned with notions of forgiveness, community and social tolerance. Inevitably, Buttoners is a mixed bag, saddled with some duff Forties period details plus a smattering of awkward, amateur-night performances. Still, no matter: Zelenka's droll good-humour and airy idiosyncracies ensure his film is emphatically more treat than trick. West End: ICA Cinema


Director: Jan Kounen

Starring: Vincent Cassel, Tcheky Karyo

Vincent Cassel's born-to-be-bad gangster struts and sneers his way through a gleamingly abstracted Paris. Tcheky Karyo's bad-egg cop looks on balefully. Big guns go off, red sportscars cruise down open freeways, and lily-livered bystanders blub like babies. So this is what the new French cinema is all about: endless stylised carnage and iconic posing, plus a script that's going nowhere fast. Kounen's en-plein-visage actioner comes with the thumbprints of Reservoir Dogs and Luc Besson all over it. But there's no wit, no urgency - no nothing, really, beyond a few neat set-pieces and lots of gurning overacting. Kounen goes a bundle on sudden zooming close-ups. West End: Clapham Picture House, Metro, Odeon Camden Town, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Trocadero


Director: Martin Brest

Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins

Picking his way through Brest's under-developed overhaul of 1934's Death Takes a Holiday goes Brad Pitt's aquiline Grim Reaper, who gets chaperoned round the everyday delights of Planet Earth by Anthony Hopkins's dying billionaire. The introductions complete, Brest throws in a romance (between Pitt and Claire Forlani's soulful debutant), a few air-brushed life-lessons, then leaves his tale to drift along for close on three hours. So while Meet Joe Black has a few neat themes, and a reliably solid turn from Hopkins, it's too much a picture of disparate pieces, each played out to their individual lengthy agendas, with no glue in the middle, just vapour. West End: Empire Leicester Square, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero


Director: Don Roos

Starring: Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan

See The Independent Recommends, right.

West End: Barbican Screen, Clapham Picture House, Ritzy Cinema, Screen on Baker Street, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Warner Village West End


Director: Larry David

Starring: Craid Bierko, Steven Weber

TV wisdom has it that Seinfeld slumped after co-creator David bailed out of the show. Trouble is, the man's feature-length writing-directing effort is no great shakes: a Seinfeldian comedy of urban neuroses hingeing on the familial spat between Craig Bierko's jackpot winner and the cousin (Steven Weber) who lent him the coins to play the slot-machine. The dialogue is honed and witty, the situations generally funny and tightly rendered. It's just that Sour Grapes slowly runs out of breath the further it pushes past the 25-minute length. The insistent score and over-eager acting take on an increasing whiff of desperation. West End: Virgin Trocadero, Warner Village West End

Xan Brooks

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