<preform>Shaun of the Dead (15)<br>50 First Dates (12A) <br>Blind Fight (15) <br>In Song For a Raggy Boy (15)<br>Masti (nc)<br>Les Diables (15) <br>Deserted Station (nc)</preform>

Zombified and a menace to society - beware the middle-class twentysomething
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The heroes of horror films are usually dauntingly resourceful, so it's quite comforting in Shaun of the Dead (15) when Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his flatmate (Nick Frost) respond to the zombies marauding through north London by sitting down, putting on the telly, texting their mates, and hoping everything will blow over. It's a disposition that spawns as many cracking gags as you'd anticipate from Pegg, the co-writer/star, and Edgar Wright, the co-writer/director, who last collaborated on Channel 4's Spaced sitcom.

The heroes of horror films are usually dauntingly resourceful, so it's quite comforting in Shaun of the Dead (15) when Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his flatmate (Nick Frost) respond to the zombies marauding through north London by sitting down, putting on the telly, texting their mates, and hoping everything will blow over. It's a disposition that spawns as many cracking gags as you'd anticipate from Pegg, the co-writer/star, and Edgar Wright, the co-writer/director, who last collaborated on Channel 4's Spaced sitcom.

The principal conceit of their "rom zom com" is that most middle-class twentysomethings are so zombified that only an undead assault could tear them away from their Playstations. But the film is more than just an extended sketch. Pegg and Wright have crafted a meticulous plot and invested Shaun with so much anguished sincerity that we actually care whether or not he gets eaten by shambling fiends. It's also authentically eery. When zombies close in on Shaun's friends (including Bill Nighy and The Office's Lucy Davis) the scenes are as gruesome as any bona fide horror movie, but funnier.

Drew Barrymore stars in 50 First Dates (12A) as an art teacher who sustained brain damage in a car accident a year ago and now wakes up every morning with no memory of anything that's happened to her since. Renewing their Wedding Singer partnership, Adam Sandler plays the zoo vet who has to woo her from scratch every single day. In short, 50 First Dates is Groundhog Day and Memento remixed as a light romantic comedy. It's cute and charming, with some thought-provoking approaches to the premise, and the leads' bubbling chemistry is enough to compensate for the dreaded indulgences of a Sandler production. No one but him could imagine that the film needed a vomiting walrus, a mannish German frau, a lisping bodybuilder, or Sandler's friend Rob Schneider as a one-eyed Hawaiian oaf.

Blind Fight (15) tells the story of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy's years as hostages in Beirut. Ian Hart and Linus Roache transform themselves into the emaciated captives, and the film conveys their incredible mettle. But the film, co-written by Keenan, just doesn't have the budget or the dramatic magnitude to be more than a TV play. And what does that title have to do with anything, anyway?

In Song For a Raggy Boy (15), Aidan Quinn plays a lay teacher who arrives at a forbidding Irish reformatory school in 1939 to teach English (it's always either English or art). It's all been done before, and better, in Dead Poets' Society and The Magdalene Sisters, so unless you think that books and kindness are bad, and that torturing boys is good, then it doesn't have anything to teach you.

Masti progresses enjoyably from Blake Edwards-ish romp to Coen-ish black farce as its three heroes' hunt for extra-marital sex gets them tangled up in blackmail and murder. Located in a yuppie Mumbai of mobile phones and designer apartments, Masti is the most emphatically contemporary and Americanised Bollywood film ever to be released in the UK.

Les Diables (15) is an entirely bleak and not entirely credible drama in which a young brother and sister drift around Marseille in search of the parents who abandoned them. In Deserted Station (nc), a gently touching Iranian film, a metropolitan couple's car trouble strands them in a desert village. Re-released this week is Roman Polanski's first psychological thriller, Knife In the Water (PG), a honed, black-and-white three-hander set aboard a rich man's yacht.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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