Klingon to your dreams

Star Trek: Generations Dir: David Carson (PG) Solitaire for 2 Dir: Gary Sinyor (15) Dallas Doll Dir: Ann Turner (18)
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The Independent Culture
The main mission of Star Trek: Generations is to allow Captain Kirk (William Shatner, naturally) to pass on his now-capacious mantle to the much sexier Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). It begins with an elegantly simple credit sequence: a champ agne bottle (2265 vintage) floats weightlessly through deep space before shattering ceremoniously on the hull of the good starship Enterprise. On board are Kirk and Scotty - present only as VIP passengers. Kirk is seething; when the young captain tells h im "I remember reading about your missions in grade school," he registers the compliment with a tiny flicker of displeasure.

The ostensible plot concerns Soren, a mad alien (Malcolm McDowell) and his quest to enter an energy mass known as the Nexus which has the opiate, highly addictive property of allowing individuals to live their most cherished fantasy. For reasons too complicated - not to say incomprehensible - to explain, he must be prevented and so Picard, accompanied by Kirk, pursues him.

A comic subplot concerns the robot Data (Brent Spiner) who has opted to trade in his Spock-like imperturbability and to be fitted with a microchip that allows him to experience human emotion. And the malevolent, magnificently breasted Klingon harpies putin a welcome appearance.

Star Trek: Generations is addressed primarily at cultists (the Empire Leicester Square has opened a little booth in anticipation of serious merchandising), and is not especially well plotted or directed. But its subtext is curiously melancholy. When Picard, who has never married, enters the Nexus, his fantasy is of a kitsch Victorian Christmas complete with candles, wooden rocking-horses and hordes of kids in ringlets (most people's nightmare, in other words); Kirk's is the archetypal little cabin in the woods. The film is about knowing how to pass on your legacy to future generations, even when you have no family of your own, and about missed opportunities: middle-aged men - Kirk, Picard, even Soran - realising that they've been so busy boldly going places that private happiness has passed them by.

The two film-makers behind last year's Leon the Pig Farmer have gone down quite different routes for their follow-up features. Vadim Jean made the horror flick Beyond Bedlam. With Solitaire for 2, his partner Gary Sinyor has attacked a trickier genre: the light romantic comedy (just how tricky can be gauged by how often Hollywood tries to make these money-spinners - and how rarely it succeeds).

In it Mark Frankel (the Leon who pig-farmed) plays an expert in body language: a smooth-talking yuppie-type who coaches other young male movers and shakers in the art of bluff, bullshit and aggressive powerbroking. Amanda Pays plays a palaeontologist whois ahead of his game - she can read people's minds - and you don't need a crystal ball to predict the outcome of their meeting.

Solitaire for 2 is very professionally edited, designed and shot; there is nice use of distinctively London locations, including an unusually empty Hampstead Heath and the Natural History Museum: these scenes, peopled by dinosaur skeletons, are faintly (very faintly) reminiscent of Howard Hawks's classic comedy Bringing Up Baby.

The film could use Hawks's madcap pacing, because, alas, the trouble with Solitaire for 2 is that it's not excessively funny. Like Leon it's based on a one-joke premise; unlike Leon, which moved the action from north London to rural Yorkshire and broughtin a host of new characters just as the idea was beginning to flag, this is a piece for two players with nowhere much to go; it seems over-long and under-plotted.

Frankel is diverting, although his character is paper-thin. Pays is, frankly, tedious: a neurotic, humourless man-hater. The ending, which requires her to choose between romance and career, marriage and a £50,000 field trip to India, is resolved in a surprisingly old-fashioned, indeed reactionary manner. But there are still enough good ideas and fine touches to confirm Sinyor's promise.

Ann Turner made a dazzling debut with Celia, a perfectly judged Gothic thriller - which makes her third film, Dallas Doll, an out-of-control mess, all the more baffling. Sandra Bernhard plays a charismatic American professional golfer who seduces her waythrough a suburban Australian family, and nearly wrecks their lives. The storyline ricochets around, constantly shifting emphasis and tone and ending up with a daft climax involving a low-budget UFO. Bernhard is terrible.

n All films open tomorrow

Sheila Johnston