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Director: Walter Salles

Starring: Fernanda Montenegro, Vinicius de Oliveira

Rio's teeming rail terminus serves as the effective launchpad for Walter Salles's Oscar- nominated Brazilian fable. A road-movie of sorts, Central Station trails Fernanda Montenegro's retired schoolmarm and her abandoned nine- year-old charge (played by Vinicius de Oliveira) on a hunt through the badlands of Sertao for the boy's missing father.

The trip takes in all facets of Brazil's disparate, displaced and poverty- stricken culture, yet Salles steadfastly refuses to make any heavy- handed political point here. Instead, his social critique remains implicit, low-down in the mix. The fine, unshowy acting is set off nicely by Walter Carvalho's haunting visuals, as Central Station blooms by degrees into a picture that is both intimate and universal. West End: Barbican Screen, Clapham Picture House, Curzon Mayfair, Notting Hill Coronet, Renoir, Ritzy Cinema, Screen on the Hill, Virgin Chelsea Local: Croydon Clocktower


Director: Tom Shadyac

Starring: Robin Williams, Monica Potter

Through the hallowed halls of medical college goes Hunter "Patch" Adams (Robin Williams); a winsome shock-doc who has the patients in stitches while giving a collective hernia to the stuffy establishment. Patch, you see, subscribes to the theory that laughter is the best medicine of all. Idling on your deathbed? Well, here's Patch to stick an enema bulb on his snout and send you off with a smile. Still not happy? No problemo: Patch has a whole heap more comedy tricks up the sleeves of his regulation white coat. Still that's Patch Adams: Awakenings without the angst, Dead Poets Society without the heart. It's like the ultimate distillation of the ultimate Robin Williams movie: the life sucked out and replaced by syrup. West End: ABC Tottenham Court Road, Empire Leicester Square, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero. And local cinemas


Director: Gary Ross

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon

See The Independent Recommends, right.

West End: Barbican Screen, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Plaza, Ritzy Cinema, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Haymarket, Warner Village West End. And local cinemas


Director: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Steven Soderbergh

Between Soderbergh's The Underneath (a box-office bomb) and last year's Out of Sight (a hit) came Schizopolis: a stop-gap experiment, a beaten retreat into art-house abstraction and evidence, perhaps, of a director in crisis.

Pieced together on a thrift-shop budget, Schizopolis is a bit of cinematic crazy-paving. Suburban manners, corporate paranoia, dental hygiene and the rituals of adultery are all deconstructed in energetic, scattergun fashion, though it's finally a shade too film-school wacky to warm to. While Schizopolis is undeniably the strangest film in the "American Independence" season that it's headlining, some of the other offerings (Clockwatchers, or Spike Lee's Four Little Girls) are more rounded and satisfying. Eye of God, Niagara Niagara and Sticky Fingers of Time are also showing. West End: Curzon Soho