New Films

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ARTEMISIA (18, 98 mins)

Director: Agnes Merlet

Starring: Valentina Cervi, Michel Serrault

Based on the story of renegade female painter Artemisia Gentileschi, Agnes Merlet's film is played out in a lushly designed version of 17th- century Italy. It is always a treat to look at, and makes a few attempts at generating genuine dramatic tension during the courtroom scenes. But in its bid to be both a feminist biopic and a leg-trembling bodice-ripper, Merlet's labour of love is finally left stranded between two camps. West End: ABC Swiss Centre. Repertory: Cine Lumiere

BLACK CAT, WHITE CAT (15, 120 mins)

Director: Emir Kusturica

Starring: Bajram Severdzan, Srjan Todorovic

Beating a hasty retreat from the explicit political agenda of Underground, Sarajevo-born Emir Kusturica's new film, Black Cat, White Cat, comes across as a skewed Eastern European folktale. The plot (which has Bajram Severdzan's low- rent criminal double-crossed by his gypsy gang-boss partner) is but a peg on which to drape all manner of surrealist farce and knockabout comedy. The film is like some mad scientist's invention: a magical steam-engine of noisy pistons and coloured smoke. It runs throughout on a kind of ongoing junkyard aesthetic. West End: Barbican Screen, Chelsea Cinema, Curzon Soho, Renoir

FORCES OF NATURE (12, 104 mins)

Director: Bronwen Hughes

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck

Director Bronwen Hughes marshalls all manner of freakish acts of God during the course of her Planes, Trains and Automobiles-type romantic comedy, as Ben Affleck ventures cross-country with kooky travelling companion Sandra Bullock in tow. Affleck's on his way to get married, and, of course, free-living Bullock throws his plans out of whack. And so it goes, in a film by turns rollickingly simplistic and fussily stylised. Forces of Nature clearly aims for the lightness of touch of vintage Thirties screwball, but its stolid schematics soon send it clattering off the rails. Meanwhile, the miscast Affleck and Bullock exhibit the sexual chemistry of water and wood. They look like they filmed their scenes in isolation and were then cut together by a diligent editor. West End: Clapham Picture House, Empire Leicester Square, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero. And local cinemas


LAST SUMMER (18, 95 mins)

Director: Danny Cannon

Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Matthew Settle

Lest we forget, some high-school grads ran over a man last summer, dumped him off the marina and left him for dead. Then they were chased around by a killer in a sou'wester (see: I Know What You Did Last Summer). And now, hey presto, it all seems to be starting again. This dismally titled film whips original scream queen Jennifer Love Hewitt (now at college, bless her) off on a fraught holiday to a storm-tossed Bahamian resort with her photogenic band of buddies (Mekhi Phifer, Brandy, Matthew Settle). One-time British wonderkid Danny Cannon directs the ensuing stalk-and-slash shenanigans like a dirty job best done at speed. West End: Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Trocadero, Warner West End. And local cinemas

ORPHANS (18, 95 mins)

Director: Peter Mullan

Starring: Douglas Henshall, Gary Lewis

See The Independent Recommends, right. West End: ABC Shaftesbury Avenue, Gate Notting Hill, Metro, Ritzy Cinema, Screen on the Green, Virgin Haymarket. Local: Croydon Clocktower

SWING (15, 97 mins)

Director: Nick Mead

Starring: Hugo Speer, Lisa Stansfield, Alexei Sayle

Hugo Speer's ex-con cobbles together a ragbag of misfits (football hopeful, NF activist, brass-playing Orangemen) into a scratch swing band. Kitchen- sink comedy dances cheek-to-cheek with spry musical interludes, and it all ends happily. Swing is so small-scale, so eager to please, that you're tempted to gloss over its essential triteness; its bankruptcy of intensity or new ideas. File under The Full Monty/The Commitments school of homegrown film-making. West End: Odeon Haymarket, Warner West End. And local cinemas

Xan Brooks