<preform>Hotel Rwanda (12A)</br>Spanglish (12A)</br>Coach Carter (12A)</br>Hide and Seek (15)</br> Casshern (15)</br>Bewafaa (nc)</preform>

Great views, five-star service - and a refuge from the machetes
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The Independent Culture

Hotel Rwanda (12A) is up for three Oscars tonight - in the actor, supporting actress, and screenplay categories - in part because it's exactly the sort of film the Academy goes for, ie, it's a weighty true story of harrowing circumstances, but it has, at its comforting heart, a family man triumphing over adversity. It's set in Rwanda in 1994, as the death of President Habyarimana triggers the Hutus' slaughter of many thousands of Tutsis. International intervention amounts to the hasty airlifting of white visitors out of the country, but there's just enough of a UN presence in Kigali's finest hotel to enable its Hutu manager, Paul Rusesabagina, to turn it into a refuge. With tremendous quick thinking and bravery - and a little bribery, too - he shields hundreds of people from the genocide that's beyond the hotel's front gates. For obvious reasons, the film has been nicknamed the Rwandan Schindler's List.

Hotel Rwanda (12A) is up for three Oscars tonight - in the actor, supporting actress, and screenplay categories - in part because it's exactly the sort of film the Academy goes for, ie, it's a weighty true story of harrowing circumstances, but it has, at its comforting heart, a family man triumphing over adversity. It's set in Rwanda in 1994, as the death of President Habyarimana triggers the Hutus' slaughter of many thousands of Tutsis. International intervention amounts to the hasty airlifting of white visitors out of the country, but there's just enough of a UN presence in Kigali's finest hotel to enable its Hutu manager, Paul Rusesabagina, to turn it into a refuge. With tremendous quick thinking and bravery - and a little bribery, too - he shields hundreds of people from the genocide that's beyond the hotel's front gates. For obvious reasons, the film has been nicknamed the Rwandan Schindler's List.

As orthodox as it might be, Hotel Rwanda is still an amazing story grippingly told, and it's political enough to point the finger at the Americans and Europeans who let the massacre happen. It would be no disgrace if an Oscar went to Terry George, the co-writer and director; or to Sophie Okonedo, heart-rending as Rusesabagina's Tutsi wife; or to Don Cheadle, who is so committed to Rusesabagina's progression from aspiring Jeeves to frantic hero that I can almost forgive him for his Dick Van Dyke accent in Ocean's Eleven.

In Spanglish (12A), Adam Sandler plays a chef whose desire for a warm and soothing family life isn't going to be fulfilled by his wife, Tea Leoni, a woman so highly strung she's all four Desperate Housewives squeezed into one ferociously toned body. A final straw lands on their marriage in the curvaceous form of their new housekeeper, a Mexican single mother played by Paz Vega. Leoni is intent on converting Vega's young daughter to the delights of Californian consumerism. When Sandler sees Vega he has different delights in mind.

Spanglish is the latest comedy-drama from James L Brooks, the Oscar-hoarding maker of Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets. He's a dialogue writer, first and foremost, so, while Spanglish's plot could do with tightening, you have to respect the film's abundance of quotable banter. The downside, for British audiences, is the characters' habit of articulating their innermost feelings in some detail, so that every argument lasts a minute too long, and even the Mexican maid, who learns English in a few weeks from a teach-yourself tape, talks as if she has a degree in psychology and a diploma in daytime-TV chat shows.

Samuel L Jackson stars in Coach Carter (12A) as a basketball coach at an inner-city high school. He wants his pupils to develop off the court as well as on, so he decrees that none of them can play unless they do well at their studies. Everything happens as and when you'd expect it to, right up to the inspirational speech during the state championship final that transforms a losing team into the world's best athletes. But as predictable as Coach Carter is, it's genuinely concerned with the failings of American education.

There's some amusement to be had, too, from Jackson's employing the very same ice-cool, bad-ass attitude as a PE teacher as he does when he's playing a hitman.

Hide and Seek (15) opens with the suicide of an eminent New York psychologist's wife. The psychologist, played by Robert De Niro, plans to make a fresh start by moving to the country with his 10-year-old daughter (Dakota Fanning), and so he asks his estate agent to locate a property that looks like the Bates Motel, has a plentiful supply of knives and axes, and is situated in a neighbourly community of weirdos and red herrings.

Unsurprisingly, nastiness ensues, most of it involving Fanning, whose uncannily calm demeanour is terrifying enough even when she's in a fluffy comedy. However, she can't raise Hide and Seek above the level of a slow, silly, sub-Sixth Sense shocker. It's OK if you like that sort of thing - but is De Niro really not being offered any meatier roles these days? Casshern (15) is a Japanese sci-fi oddity which, like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, places its actors in computer-generated, retro-futuristic settings where jet packs operate alongside cogs and pistons. Other references are Terry Gilliam's films and Bryan Talbot's graphic novels, but Casshern's operatic, apocalyptic action is loopier than all of them put together. Bewafaa (nc) is a Bollywood melodrama - if that's not a tautology - about a woman who has to choose between the businessman she married for duty and the medallion-sporting rock star who was her one true love.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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