Director: Tim Roth
Starring: Ray Winstone, Lara Belmont
Inside a bleached-bone Devon cottage a family of displaced Londoners - Mum (Tilda Swinton), Dad (Winstone), adolescent brother (Freddie Cunliffe) and sister (Belmont) - huddle close around a deep, dark secret (incest, natch). Outside it's grey and drizzly. Inside the electric fire is full- on, Dad's taking a bath with Sis, and dashed if Brother knows what to do about it.
The set-up complete, Roth's directorial debut prowls stealthily towards its denouement, unfolding in a slow, deliberate fashion. Its editing is leisurely, its visuals still and painterly, while the acting trades in a kind of trippy naturalism (all inscrutable looks and murmured dialogue). Strip these away and The War Zone (above) is a fairly predictable domestic drama, yet Roth has done well by re-arranging his humdrum furniture in a minimalist feng-shui styling.
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Sarah Polley, Desmond Askew
"Go" reads the title card, and off we jet through a pair of cross-referenced plot threads that spill out from the same starting point. Characters are introduced in freeze-frame, pills are dropped, guns go off, the narrative backflips. Doug Liman's follow-up to 1997's Swingers is a virtuoso exercise in contemporary storytelling, dazzling the viewer with plot ingenuities, a vogueish cast and his hip take on one wild Californian weekend. It's like the perfect bubblegum pop-song: beautiful while it lasts, then vanishing instantly from your memory. As gorgeous as it is ephemeral.
YELLOW SUBMARINE (U)
Director: George Dunning
Lest we forget, the Age of Aquarius was not all great music, vibrant sex and chic revolutionary antics. It also gave us Richard Nixon, Thalidomide and Yellow Submarine, here celebrating its auspicious 32d birthday with a remastered print. George Dunning's unofficial Beatles pic (the boys crop up in a live-action segment, but their cartoon incarnations are voiced by soundalikes) strings some of their more sugary tunes (Nowhere Man, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds) around an airheaded plot that has the Fab Four tuning oppressed Pepperland into the joys of peace'n'love. So Yellow Submarine uses pop-art visuals to showcase the Beatles' worst impulses (the idiot whimsy, Goon Show-esque humour and vacuous take on Eastern mysticism). This is the Sixties' death knell; Altamont in cartoon form.
PAPERBACK HERO (15)
Director: Antony Bowman
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Claudia Karvan
When Jack the trucker (Jackman) pens a Mills & Boon-ish novel, he is understandably reluctant to set his name to it, choosing instead to publish under the name of cafe-owner Ruby (Karvan). Cue mistaken identity, myriad confusion and a sketchy examination of gender roles Down Under. It's not that Paperback Hero is a duff film, exactly. Just a little flimsy, a trifle slight, a mite schematic. The story turns dog-eared midway through.
THE 13TH WARRIOR (15)
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif
Adapted from a Michael Crichton book, The 13th Warrior (above) has the visuals of a heavy metal album and the plot of a Dungeons & Dragons game. Banderas is the Arabic hero press-ganged into helping a band of Norsemen battle a bunch of grizzly flesh-eating monsters. The film idles through its middle section but whips itself into a hormonal storm for the battle segments. It's an awkward adolescent of a movie: heavy-limbed, sporadically impressive but not quite grown into its frame.