The Bourne Supremacy (12A)<br></br>Catwoman (12A)<br></br>Afterlife (15)<br></br>My Architect (PG)<br></br>A Tale of Two Sisters (15)<br></br>The Magic Gloves (nc)<br></br>Yu-Gi-Oh! (PG)

Limping heroes and toasters for bombs - now that's a spy movie

What's going on? Everyone knows that movie sequels are supposed to be appalling travesties of the films that spawned them, but this summer we've had Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2 and Before Sunset, all of which matched their predecessors, and now we've got The Bourne Supremacy (12A), which is a significant improvement on 2002's The Bourne Identity. Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne, the amnesiac CIA assassin who retired to Goa at the end of the last film. Flushed out of hiding by a hitman who may or may not be connected to his former employers, Damon is soon chasing his enemies, and being chased by them, around Berlin and Moscow.

What elevates the film above most Friday night spy movies - including The Bourne Identity - is that Jason Bourne has nothing in common with James Bond, except his initials. Damon plays him as a highly trained, driven but vulnerable human being who's concentrating too intently on the dirty job in hand to pause for Martinis or waggish innuendo. When he fights someone, the object of the exercise is to injure his opponent, not to break lots of windows in the most gymnastic way he can. When he blows up a house, he doesn't need any gadget more futuristic than a toaster. And, after he jumps down from a bridge onto a passing barge, he's got a limp for the rest of the film.

Don't worry, though: there's still the requisite number of car chases and espionage tricks. But Paul Greengrass, fresh from directing Bloody Sunday, makes everything look as if it's being done by real people in real locations. He's given us an action movie without any obvious CGI or slow-motion or freeze-frames, and for that we can be supremely grateful.

Catwoman (12A) is just the film to remind us how grateful we should be. A few years ago, we could have shrugged it off as another crude, sub-standard Batman cash-in; we might even have been pleased that it wasn't as boring as Tomb Raider. But now that the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises have raised the bar for superhero films, there's no excuse for editing that belongs on MTV, effects that belong in a computer game, or for a groan-inducing script that might have been left over from the Batman TV series of the 1960s. And if there's a Golden Raspberry for Worst Acting By An Entire Cast, then Catwoman's name is already on it.

Inspired - but not very inspired - by the DC Comics character, the film features Halle Berry as a shrinking violet who designs magazine ads for a cosmetics company. Her nefarious bosses, Sharon Stone and Lambert Wilson, have her murdered because she's overheard their plans for a range of, erm, poisonous face creams, but she's revived by a mystical Egyptian moggy - the most realistic CGI cat of the summer, apart from Puss In Boots and Garfield.

Before long Berry is enjoying her newfound ability to balance on furniture and make dreadful feline-related puns. She also takes to wearing a high-heeled dominatrix costume that has more material in the mask than in the rest of the outfit. It doesn't seem very practical for someone who likes to leap across rooftops and lash villains with her whip, but the producers must have hoped that the sight of Berry's flesh would compensate for everything that's wrong with this litter tray of a film. It doesn't.

Kevin McKidd stars in Afterlife (15) as a go-getting journalist who has to finish an article on assisted suicide before he can jet off to a glamorous job in New York. But then he's dragged home to look after a sister (Paula Sage) with Down's Syndrome and a mother (Lindsay Duncan) with cancer. And if you're wondering how many worthy issues can be crowbarred into one film, the answer is: not as many as screenwriter Andrea Gibb tries to crowbar into AfterLife.

She's written some amusing lines, and there are affectionate performances from McKidd, Sage and Shirley Henderson, whose career ambition seems to be to share a love scene with every one of her Trainspotting co-stars. But the film is pulling in so many different directions that it falls to pieces. Besides, McKidd's mother and sister treat him so horribly that I was willing him to jump on the first flight to New York.

My Architect (PG) is a fascinating documentary about Louis Kahn, the Estonian-born American architect. It's written, directed and narrated by his illegitimate son, Nathaniel Kahn, who was only 11 when his father died in 1974. As Kahn Sr juggled three separate small families, Kahn Jr wasn't able to spend much time with him, so the film is his loving, poetic but irreverent attempt to get to know the man through his work and his friends. Nathaniel travels from California to Bangladesh to visit Louis' monumental buildings, and he interviews a range of outspoken, sometimes irascible interviewees, from world-famous architects to Philadelphia cabbies. Thirty years on, several of them still weep as they reminisce.

A Tale of Two Sisters (15) is a slow-moving, psychological horror film from Korea that takes its lead from The Shining and The Turn of the Screw. It's set in an oppressive country house where two teenagers are feuding with their stepmother, and where something more uncanny is underway.

The Magic Gloves (nc) is a deadpan Argentinian comedy about a lowly taxi driver who agrees to whatever he's asked to do by a pill-popping ex-girlfriend, a porn actor, an air hostess, a talentless musician and anyone else who steps into his taxi. It's one of those films that wants to emphasise the inconsequential, anaesthetised nature of life, and succeeds slightly too well. Yu-Gi-Oh! (PG) is a cheaply animated Japanese children's cartoon that's perfect for anyone who finds Pokémon too rational and cogent. For most of the running time the characters are playing a brain-fryingly complicated card game that involves summoning monsters and wizards, so you'll quickly realise that you're sitting through a long advert for a tie-in game of glorified Top Trumps.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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