Filming a much-loved literary classic is tricky enough. Filming a much-loved literary classic that doesn't have a plot is even trickier, but that's what Stephen Fry has done with Bright Young Things (15), his splendid debut as a writer-director. It's a translation of Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh's fragmentary novel about a crowd of 1920s socialites going to parties and writing gossip columns. Taking what you might call the Trainspotting approach, Fry hasn't imposed much of a structure on the text beyond the vague from-hedonism-to-hell arc, but he keeps up the pace, and he keeps every scene brimming with colour, energy, and panache.
He's also assembled a dazzling ensemble of rising actors. In Vile Bodies, the characters react to death, destitution, and broken engagements with the same sort of dismissive remark ("What a bore"). Fry sticks with Waugh's Martini-dry dialogue, but the actors' faces show the pain behind their flippancy. They bring life and soul to the party. Stephen Campbell Moore, sometimes resembling a younger Hugh Laurie, is sympathetic as the luckless hero, Adam. Emily Mortimer gives a tour de force as his fiancée Nina, as pristine but as fragile as an eggshell. Their friends Michael Sheen, David Tennant, James McAvoy and the perfectly named Fenella Woolgar should be tipped for the top as well. And the film's old things, Peter O'Toole among them, are even brighter.
Finding Nemo (U) is the new film from Pixar, the computer-animation studio that made Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Monsters Inc. For much of its running time it's set in the sea, as a timid clownfish fends off sharks and jellyfish on his way to recover his son from an aquarium in a dentist's office, so who knows how many hours the animators spent studying the sway of anemones, and the way light refracts through rippling water and onto sand? Whatever the number, it was time well spent. Pixar has served up another sumptuous visual banquet. Animation aside, though, Finding Nemo is more of a traditional cartoon than the studio's other films. It's always delightful, but without the usual wit or surprises, it's a top-notch family film, rather than a top-notch film full stop - which still puts it 20,000 leagues ahead of anything Disney has done lately.
Another agreeable cinematic outing for children is Bugs! (U), a 40-minute Imax documentary that introduces us to the insects of the rainforest in dizzying 3D. It's comforting to hear the tea-and-cakes voice of Judi Dench, the narrator, while you're watching a praying mantis chewing off a fruit fly's head.
Mr In-Between (15) deserves to be a cult smash. It's a London gangster movie, but, like Sexy Beast, it has a fantastical edge, a vein of pitch-black comedy, and a philosophical cleverness unimagined by any Guy Ritchie copy. In Bad Boys II (15), Will Smith and Martin Lawrence demolish cars and bicker constantly for more than two hours. The message of this noisy Miami cop sequel seems to be that Ecstasy is a lethal poison trafficked by vicious madmen sponsored by Fidel Castro, but spraying machine gun bullets in a built-up area never did anyone any harm.
For a more moderate take on Castro, see Comandante (PG), an interview conducted by Oliver Stone as he tagged along with the Cuban leader for three days. It's interesting, but not very revealing. Castro doesn't drop his guard or take off his rose-tinted spectacles, and Stone returns so often to the topics of his own previous films - JFK, Nixon, Vietnam - that I half expected him to ask the dictator what his favourite Doors songs were.
Krámpack (15) is an upbeat, unpretentious, Spanish coming-of-age comedy about two 16-year-old boys, Dani and Nico. Nico is trying to get girls into bed, Dani is trying to get Nico into bed. House of 1000 Corpses (18) is a blood-drenched tribute to the most lurid and exploitative of 1970s horror movies, directed by shock rocker Rob Zombie. Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet (15) is an anthology of short films by seven directors including Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch and Werner Herzog.Reuse content