The Ladykillers (15)<br></br>Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (15)<br></br>The Notebook (12A)<br></br>Eurotrip (15)<br></br>You Got Served (PG)<br></br>Deewar (nc)

Tom Hanks the funny man... remember him?
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The Independent Culture

The Coen Brothers' remake of The Ladykillers (15) differs from the original Ealing comedy in almost every detail. They've kept the plot of the 1955 edition: a criminal schemer rents a room from a sweet old lady, but when she discovers that he and his motley crew are up to no good, one of them has to bump her off. Everything else, though, is copyright the Coens, from the characters to the dialogue to the setting, which has been relocated from post-war King's Cross to a cartoon version of present-day Mississippi. It's a locale that lets them fill the soundtrack with rousing gospel music, as well as allowing Tom Hanks to play a hilariously caricatured Southern gentleman.

Stepping into Alec Guinness's shoes - or, to be more accurate, putting in Alec Guinness's unruly fake teeth - Hanks plays Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, a snickering fop who looks like Colonel Sanders' evil twin, and who exults in his own fabulously florid turn of phrase: Baroque musical instruments, he informs his landlady, were "contrived in an age ignorant of miniaturisation".

His performance reminds us that Hanks was a comedian before he started impersonating James Stewart for a living. It also reminds us how amusing the Coens can be. Exploding with verbal fireworks, The Ladykillers is funnier than their last comedy, Intolerable Cruelty. It's just not quite as funny as the 50-year-old comedy they've gone to so much time and trouble to revise. In the end, watching The Ladykillers is like watching Kill Bill. You can relish the genius of the writer-directors while simultaneously wishing that their film had the substance to do that genius justice.

Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (15), functions as a kind of sequel to Dogtown and Z-Boys, a superb documentary which chronicled the California skateboarding scene of the 1970s. The new film takes us into the commercialised mid-1980s, as embodied by Mark "Gator" Rogowski. His four-wheeled acrobatics, complemented by the arrogance, humour, and looks of a Beastie Boy, brought him rock-star status, but they also brought him a rock star's topple from grace. Helen Stickler's record of his Icarus flight is neither as imaginatively edited nor as comprehensive as Dogtown, but it's still riveting stuff. With a wicked eye for the unutterable naffness of 1980s fashion, the documentary is a fine satirical comedy, before the horrifying end of the story reveals that it was a tragedy all along.

The Notebook (12A) is set in the 1940s, but it would have seemed old-fashioned even then. It's a staggeringly sentimental "Mills and Boon" romance between a poor country boy (Ryan Gosling) and a rich city girl (Rachel McAdams) whose mother declares, "That child's got too much spirit for a girl of her circumstance." To be fair, it's acted and filmed with a lot of charm, but it's not suitable for viewers under the age of 75.

In Eurotrip (15), four American teens tour the capital cities of Europe, where they sample the sex and drugs that we old-worlders apparently serve up to one-dimensional geeks from Ohio. The fact that the film was all shot in Prague, with some out-of-focus backdrops representing London, Paris and Rome, gives you some idea of how much care and attention went into it. You Got Served (PG) is a cringingly incompetent teen drama set in the world of back-street breakdancing contests. It's the video for Run DMC's "It's Like That" remix, except 10-times longer, and then saddled with an hour of the worst writing and acting imaginable.

In the action-packed Deewar (nc), a regiment of brave and noble Indian soldiers plan their Great Escape from a prison camp run by cold-blooded Pakistani torturers. It won't win any prizes for political balance, and it cribs from a dozen Hollywood movies, but Deewar has several plot twists - and several musical numbers - that are all its own.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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