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The Independent Culture
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (U)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone

A perfect antidote to the bombast of Armageddon can be found in Curtiz's merry and inventive romp, one of the greatest swashbucklers ever made. Graceful fighting sequences, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Oscar-winning soundtrack, jazzy pacing and a general air of joie de vivre make it the most enticing family film on show this summer.

CW: Barbican Screen, Curzon Mayfair, Screen on the Hill

ARMAGEDDON (12)

Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton

This deeply stupid film purports to be a tender love story, a meaty action- adventure and a global disaster movie, with almost every moment carefully engineered to include something for all the family.

Dad will enjoy the gruff camaraderie of the deep-core drillers dispatched to sabotage the course of a meteor heading for Earth, while the love of the chief driller, Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), for his daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler), should please Mum, Candy-coated exchanges between Grace and her fiance, AJ (Ben Affleck), will keep Big Sister quiet, and Kid Brother is sure to be thrilled whenever a burning car sails through the air.

Director Michael Bay's picture has a problem with the complexities of identity, and not only in terms of its audience profile. In Armageddon, the world's countries are acknowledged - an advance on Deep Impact, in which the end of the world apparently only posed a threat to a stretch of motorway and some desirable beachfront properties. But is being represented by crude picture-postcard tableaux any better than not being represented at all?

This whole end-of-the-world nonsense turns out to be simply a preamble to Grace and AJ's wedding, though in all the excitement, everyone seems to have forgotten France being wiped out in the final reel. We are supposed to be soothed by the fact that AJ has survived, but as a substitution for 2,000 years of culture and history, I am not sure he really cuts it.

CW: ABC Tottenham Court Road, Barbican Screen, Clapham Picture House, Elephant & Castle Coronet, Hammersmith Virgin, Notting Hill Coronet, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Leicester Square, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Rio Cinema, Ritzy Cinema, Screen on Baker Street, Screen on the Green, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Fulham Road

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD (18)

Director: John Hillcoat

Starring: Tcheky Karyo, Rachel Griffiths

Nick Cave was one of the musical consultants on this heady melodrama, and indeed the whole film feels like one of his own murder ballads stretched out for two hours. Actually, it is the work of John Hillcoat, who made the intense prison drama, Ghosts... of the Civil Dead, but here throws together too many over-heated cliches to form a kind of low-rent Vertigo, with Tcheky Karyo remaking his lover, Rachel Griffiths, in the image of his former wife.

CW: ABC Piccadilly, Metro

ZERO EFFECT (15)

Director: Jake Kasdan

Starring: Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller, Ryan O'Neal

Kasdan is a 22-year-old following in the footsteps of his writer-director father, Lawrence (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon), demonstrating some of the same flaws as Dad (incongruous use of symbols, over-reliance on irony), but generally pulling off an impressive debut. Pullman is excellent as Daryl Zero, the world's greatest private investigator, a drop-out who subsists on tuna fish, Tab and amphetamines, pulling on reserves of wit and ingenuity when the time comes to crack a new case. And when Pullman gets to play scenes with Stiller, who plays Zero's well- groomed go-between, it is like watching a fireworks display - this pair crackles. Ultimately, the film feels a little shallow and self-conscious, but it puts a smile on your face for most of its duration.

CW: Odeon Camden Town, Virgin Haymarket, Warner Village West End

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