The Station Agent (15)<br/>Dawn of the Dead (18)<br/>Fear X (12A)<br/>Under the Tuscan Sun (12A)<br/>Welcome to the Jungle (12A)<br/>Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (PG)

Trainspotting dwarfs and the undead: great company
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The Independent Culture

The Station Agent (15) is a film about a trainspotting dwarf (Peter Dinklage) who moves into a defunct railway station in New Jersey in order to be by himself, but who attracts two other lonely people into his orbit: Patricia Clarkson, a painter whose son has died and whose marriage has ended, and Bobby Cannavale, a Cuban hot-dog seller with an ill father to support. Any further aspects of their lives are ours to guess. In Tom McCarthy's debut film as a writer-director, he declines to give his characters any spiels about their difficult pasts. Instead, he lets the members of his unlikely trio stroll, cook, drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, and he lets our fondness for them grow as naturally as theirs grows for each other. Some viewers may find The Station Agent too relaxed and inconclusive, but it's tenderly acted, it looks a treat, and it's very funny indeed. You'd have to have the heart of an estate agent not to warm to it.

The Station Agent (15) is a film about a trainspotting dwarf (Peter Dinklage) who moves into a defunct railway station in New Jersey in order to be by himself, but who attracts two other lonely people into his orbit: Patricia Clarkson, a painter whose son has died and whose marriage has ended, and Bobby Cannavale, a Cuban hot-dog seller with an ill father to support. Any further aspects of their lives are ours to guess. In Tom McCarthy's debut film as a writer-director, he declines to give his characters any spiels about their difficult pasts. Instead, he lets the members of his unlikely trio stroll, cook, drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, and he lets our fondness for them grow as naturally as theirs grows for each other. Some viewers may find The Station Agent too relaxed and inconclusive, but it's tenderly acted, it looks a treat, and it's very funny indeed. You'd have to have the heart of an estate agent not to warm to it.

Dawn of the Dead (18) is a remake of George A Romero's flesh-eating zombie classic from 1978. As in his film, the heroes are besieged in a shopping mall by decomposing gourmands, but the remake plays down Romero's anti-consumerist satire in favour of full-on undead cannibal carnage. Not that I'm objecting: it's nice to see the sort of unabashed, gore-dripping horror that hasn't been made for a long, long time. It doesn't rely on digital effects, it isn't shot on zero-budget digital video, and it isn't a post-modern lark full of teenagers making knowing quips about other movies. The smart black humour ensures there are almost as many laughs as screams, but Dawn of the Dead is serious about being terrifying - and it is, right to the end of the end credits.

John Turturro gives an unusually modest, measured performance in Fear X (12A) as a security guard in snowy Wisconsin who is haunted by the need to make sense of his wife's senseless murder. The first half of the film is a masterful study in paranoia and isolation, with an atmosphere so tense that I doubt I drew breath for a good 40 minutes. However, when it turns its attention away from Turturro and introduces other characters, the film deflates, with most of its credibility and suspense seeping out through the plot holes.

Under the Tuscan Sun (12A) is loosely based on Frances Mayes' best-selling book about how she renovated an Italian villa with her husband - so loosely based that in the film the heroine (Diane Lane) is in Tuscany to recover from her divorce. Only the radiant scenery remains intact. The movie shovels on the romance, the greetings card schmaltz, and a pack of local eccentrics, but it still has less incident than any one of the numerous TV shows about moving to the continent.

In Welcome to the Jungle (12A), Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays a "retrieval expert" sent to a mining village in Brazil to bring home a gangster's son, Seann William Scott, against the wishes of the fiendish mine owner, Christopher Walken, and the mysterious barmaid, Rosario Dawson. I'm all for mindless fun, but this bungle in the jungle has too much mindlessness and not enough fun. Still, it's intriguing to see a Hollywood action movie in which the American capitalist imperialists are the bad guys and the rebel guerrillas are the heroes.

Frankie Muniz returns as a spotty secret agent in Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (PG), an abysmal Spy Kids knock-off.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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