Bus 174 (15)
Main Hoon Na (12A)
Imagining Argentina (15)
Our House (12A)
Secret Window (12A)
The Calcium Kid (15)
The Honeymooners (15)
Bukowski: Born Into This (nc)
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (15)
Stay on the bus: the true tale of a boy from the wrong end of the queue
Sunday 02 May 2004
On Valentine's Day in 2000 a Rio street kid hijacked a bus and held the passengers hostage for five hours. The awesome documentary Bus 174 (15) combines TV footage of the siege with numerous interviews to investigate the story behind the drama - looking at a social underclass who "battle against invisibility" and the conditions that transformed shy, sweet Sandro into a dangerous kidnapper. The film's quality lies in even-handedness: the feelings it elicits oscillate wildly between compassion for Sandro and disgust at the way he terrorises his captives, between sympathy with the dilemma faced by the police and anger at their hypocrisy and incompetence. A hypnotic, gruelling glimpse into a city of mouth-watering beauty but the ugliest of hearts.
An exuberant, top-of-the-range Bollywood extravaganza, Main Hoon Na (I Am There for You) (12A) features Indian superstar Shak Rukh Khan as an army officer posing as a mature student so that he can protect his boss's daughter from terrorists. With a contemporary, youthful setting, the usual sumptuously designed dance numbers, and a plot that ably combines Bond, Carry On and Grease, with Matrix-style special effects, here is cinema unselfconsciously enjoying itself. And it's contagious.
Christopher Hampton's drama Imagining Argentina (15) deals with the reign of terror in Argentina during the 1970s and, in particular, the "disappeared" - thousands of opponents of the military junta who were kidnapped and, for the most part, killed. Antonio Banderas plays a theatre director in Buenos Aires, whose clairvoyant powers allow him to "see" the fate of these victims. Sadly, he cannot use this gift to find his wife (Emma Thompson), a journalist who has herself disappeared. The problem here is fundamental: to use such a magical realist device seems trite and misguided - leaving a sincere film as no more than tragically inconsequential.
Our House (12A) is about that familiar domestic fear: the neighbour from hell. When Nancy (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Ben Stiller) buy a beautiful, affordable Brooklyn apartment, the catch is the elderly tenant upstairs. Mrs Connelly (Eileen Essell) seems a sweet Irishwoman who will die soon enough; but her demands, manipulations and man-hating parrot look likely to destroy the couple's lives first - leading them to thoughts of murder. Directed by Danny DeVito, this is an enjoyable black comedy.
A thoroughly insipid Stephen King adaptation, Secret Window (12A), stars Johnny Depp as an author in the grip of writer's block and bitter divorce, whose life becomes even more miserable when a psychotic stranger (John Turturro) accuses him of plagiarism and demands bloody recompense. We've been down this road with King before, in Misery. But whereas the tussle between James Caan and "number one fan" Kathy Bates was gripping, this is tension-free, with a "twist" that is signalled a mile off.
The Calcium Kid (15) is Jimmy Connelly (Orlando Bloom), a south London milkman whose years spent drinking his own product have given him unfeasibly strong bones and an unlikely crack at the boxing world title. But, a naïf amongst idiots, Jimmy finds that he prefers his milk round to the spotlight. Bloom has picked a great curdled dud for his first home-grown film - yet another Brit flick in thrall to the Guy Ritchie blueprint of inane laddish humour, look-at-me editing and characterisation you could fit on a postage stamp.
In The Honeymooners (15) a groom (Jonathan Byrne) jilted at the alter and totally hammered, pays a waitress he's never met (Alex Reid) to drive him to his honeymoon cottage in Donegal. We expect these two, in true rom-com fashion, to fall in love; but promising first-time writer/director Karl Golden doesn't make it quite that simple. With raw Dogme-style camerawork and beautifully natural performances, this features refreshingly recognisable characters in a story that is at turns quirky, funny and sad.
Charles Bukowski, the "booze bard" of LA, is the subject of the likeable documentary Bukowski: Born Into This (nc). Capitalising on archive interviews with the late poet, director John Dullaghan suggests a damaged soul behind the down-at-heel Barfly persona. The man Tom Waits describes as "a writer of the dispossessed" was an abused child who endured a lifetime of menial jobs so that he could make the time to write. Not only did he write brilliantly, but any man who can go out with someone called Cupcakes O'Brien deserves our time.
Following the success of Croupier, director Mike Hodges and actor Clive Owen have reteamed for I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (15), another journey into identity crisis and London sleaze - with significantly less success. As hard as it tries to be different, this is a conventional, cliché-ridden gangster thriller, which fails to capitalise on its assets and whose echoes of Get Carter merely underline how good a film that was, and how mundane this is.
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
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