Robots (U)<br/>The Machinist (15)<br/>Don't Move (15)<br/>5x2 (15)<br/>Pooh's Heffalump Movie (U)<br/>Darkness (15)

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The Independent Culture

Robots (U) is the new computer animation from the makers of Ice Age. In that cartoon, understandably, a lot of the backgrounds were white expanses, which could be why the director strove to cram so much eye-straining detail into every frame of Robots. It's set in a world where everyone and everything is mechanical, so the screen is bursting with nuts and bolts and springs and pistons, as if the set of Metropolis had been recreated using the innards of a pinball machine, a grandfather clock and some executive desk toys.

Robots (U) is the new computer animation from the makers of Ice Age. In that cartoon, understandably, a lot of the backgrounds were white expanses, which could be why the director strove to cram so much eye-straining detail into every frame of Robots. It's set in a world where everyone and everything is mechanical, so the screen is bursting with nuts and bolts and springs and pistons, as if the set of Metropolis had been recreated using the innards of a pinball machine, a grandfather clock and some executive desk toys.

Like nearly every CG animation worth its pixels, Robots has its complement of dizzying action set pieces, childish giggles, adults-only references and needlessly prestigious voice actors (Robin Williams, Mel Brooks, Halle Berry, etc). What it lacks is the characters to match the craftsmanship. The hero is a young inventor (voiced by Ewan McGregor) who foments a revolt against a shiny corporation that's leaving outmoded 'bots on the scrapheap - and while he's a decent fellow, as machines go, you wouldn't miss him if he wasn't in the sequel.

Christian Bale delivers a heavyweight performance in The Machinist (15), which is quite something considering that he lost around four stones for the role. So thin that you worry his limbs might snap, Bale is the most emaciated actor I've ever seen, and that includes Ethan Hawke. Sadly, The Machinist doesn't quite repay him for his commitment. It's a murky psychological horror film with a twist I've seen in four other films in the last six months. Bale plays an insomniac who works at a factory lathe. As spooky omens close in on him, he tries to figure out whether his colleagues are conspiring against him or whether he's losing his marbles. But when the whole film has a greeny-grey pallor and the leading man could pass for a malnourished praying mantis, the answer to that should be obvious.

Don't Move (15), an intense Italian melodrama about a surgeon's abusive affair with a chambermaid (Penelope Cruz), is another film distinguished by the shocking metamorphosis of one of the lead actors. It's not as profound as it pretends to be, perhaps because it has the same man (Sergio Castellito) starring, directing, and adapting the screenplay from his own wife's novel. But it's worth seeing for Cruz's astonishing performance. Disguised by straggly bleached hair, yellow teeth and an entire set of luggage under her eyes, she is almost unrecognisable, but her fierce characterisation isn't dependent on that.

François Ozon's 5x2 (15) gives us five scenes from a marriage in reverse order, starting with a couple's divorce and jumping backwards, via a dinner party, the birth of their son, and their wedding, to the beach holiday which kindled their romance. As with 8 Femmes, though, it seems that Ozon was so chuffed with his catchy concept that he didn't work too hard on its development. Viewed individually, each vignette is a melancholy short story, but viewed together they don't enrich each other, and Ozon's principal insight is that people who are spiteful, deceitful and unfaithful all through their relationship shouldn't be too surprised when it ends.

Pooh's Heffalump Movie (U) is another of Disney's efforts to squeeze every last cent from the Winnie The Pooh franchise. Its central character is, in fact, Roo, a young kangaroo with a fondness for the un-Milne-ish expression, "kinda neat". His frolics with his elephantine pal are so glutinous that anyone old enough for primary school will feel as if they're having one of Pooh's honey pots emptied over their heads: I thought that "Little Mr Roo" was the most nauseating song in history until I heard it reprised as "Little Lumpy Loo".

Darkness (15) is yet another horror film in which a family moves into an old house, having neglected to ask the surveyor to check for flickering lights, black gunk spluttering from the taps, and any history of human sacrifice. It resembles actual darkness in that it could help you fall asleep.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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