NEW FILMS

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VELVET GOLDMINE (18)

Director: Todd Haynes

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette, Christian Bale

On the surface, Velvet Goldmine (below) is the story of the rise and fall of a superstar during the glam rock era, that lipstick-smudged phenomenon which began in the early 1970s with the likes of Roxy Music and David Bowie, and expired shortly afterwards. The film mixes real myths and fictional pop-stars.

Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Myers) is a Bowie-esque idol in glitter make- up and a feather boa; his friend and mentor Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) is a self-destructive US rocker in the Lou Reed-Iggy Pop mould.

The story of how these characters are bound together and torn apart is unravelled by a journalist (Christian Bale) who, 10 years after the hoax assassination of Slade, is despatched to discover the truth behind glam.

Any resemblance to Citizen Kane is not coincidental. This astonishing and audacious film from the US writer-director Todd Haynes explores many of the same themes as Welles did. No matter how close we get to the facts about Slade, his essence, like Kane's, will be tantalisingly out of reach, which is where the glam-rock setting becomes significant, with its masks and illusions and the inter-play between reality and fiction.

Like Citizen Kane, the film is a series of flash-backs and is so densely textured as to be almost too rich to consume in one sitting. Haynes has fashioned a masterpiece in which form and content function as inseparable, mutually-enriching harmony. It is a film brimming with intelligent ideas and a real sense of the infinite possibilities of cinema.

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THE DISAPPEARANCE OF FINBAR (15)

Director: Sue Clayton

Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Just what the world was crying out for - an Irish-Swedish attempt to replicate the laconic comedies of the Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. The film begins in social-realism mode with the dissatisfied Finbar (Jonathan Rhys Myers) vanishing from his Irish home and calling his best friend, Danny, three years later from Sweden. Danny sets off to find Finbar, and his free-wheeling search across Sweden forms the main part of a film which is characterised by its pointlessness.

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AIR BUD (U)

Director: Charles Martin Smith

Starring: Kevin Zegers

Air Bud is a ludicrous tale entertainingly told, about a young boy who moves to a new town after the death of his father and befriends a basketball- playing dog. What will snare potential audiences is the catalogue of tricks, beautifully performed by the canine Buddy. Equally importantly, the film is nicely paced and enjoyable for both adults and children.

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THE GOVERNESS (15)

Director: Sandra Goldbacher

Starring: Minnie Driver, Tom Wilkinson

Minnie Driver gives a performance of entrancing warmth as the young Jewish woman in 1840s London who obtains employment as governess to a family on the Isle of Skye. She becomes involved with the head of the family (Tom Wilkinson), instigating a tentative affair. This is a film about people possessing those they love, even as they are hiding the truth about themselves. The director Sandra Goldbacher communicates her ideas in a hackneyed fashion, using the camera as an object of imprisonment, without ever conveying a sense of the emotional depth in her characters, which is left to the fine cast.

HH

HALLOWEEN H20 (18)

Director: Steve Miner

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin

Twenty years after the events of the original Halloween, our resident psychopath returns to terrorise the one that got away - his sister (Jamie Lee Curtis), now the headmistress of a private school. Standard shocks with a glazing of post-modern in-jokes.

HH

SMALL SOLDIERS (PG)

Director: Joe Dante

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Gregory Smith

Inventive children's adventure about a batch of toy soldiers brought to life by a military microchip. The director Joe Dante draws some nice parallels with his own best film Gremlins. HHH

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