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Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: John Travolta, Emma Thompson

This starts as an absorbing safari through modern political strategy. It is based on the book by Joe "Anonymous" Klein, which was celebrated as a true-life account of the Clintons' campaign when Bill was Governor of Arkansas. As Jack Stanton, John Travolta's performance amounts to a vaudeville impersonation of Clinton. It's a grotesque, bravura display, and you can't take your eyes off him.

With the arrival of Kathy Bates as Libby Houston, a former Chief of Staff hired to conceal Stanton's peccadillos, the plot hares off in a new direction. Libby and Henry check out Governor Fred Picker (Larry Hagman) and find enough dirt to keep the National Enquirer in front pages for a month, but Libby decides it's unusable. Remember idealism, guys? (she asks). Spare us this debating-society crap, you think; this is supposed to be a satire on realpolitik.

Nichols can do brilliant things with narrative, symbolism and farce, but he can't leave his audience to draw their own conclusions.


John Walsh


Director: Michael Haneke

Starring: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe

Haneke's attack on screen violence views like a harsh lab experiment: mix one family unit with two psychopaths (Arno Frisch, Frank Giering) then scrutinise the resulting fireworks. It discreetly cuts away during its more shocking moments, yet is big on sound effects (golf-club on kneecap, blood-curdling screams). Its cast-iron claustrophobia leaves you fighting for breath.



Director: William Friedkin

Starring: Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn

The Exorcist is a creature conditioned by rumour and hearsay, its legend swelling in the 25 years since its release. Pull it into the light, though, and Friedkin's seminal horror is still efficiently terrifying. The chill atmosphere clings to the skin throughout.



Director: Brian Gibson

Starring: Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly

Clement and La Frenais-scripted comedy about a bunch of Seventies rockers reforming for a comeback tour. Unashamedly hailing from The Full Monty school of feel-good fodder, Still Crazy still boasts charm in abundance, a few hoary rock staples and a clatter of raucous gags.



Director: Dana Ranga and Andrew Horn

This oddball documentary spotlights the propagandist entertainment that flourished behind the Iron Curtain. Volga, Volga was Stalin's favourite movie, while Frank Schobel's hormonal antics in 1968's Hot Summer had him labelled "the Elvis of the East". Hollywood frivolities re-tailored in strict Soviet fashions.



Director: Jake West

Starring: Eileen Daly

Eileen Daly's vampire assassin indulges her penchant for kinky sex, rubber cat-suits and loaded weapons throughout debut-director West's chiller. Cobbled together on a skid-row budget, this boasts some of the most archly awkward dialogue this side of Falcon Crest.



Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Labina Mitevska, Alessandro Nivola

A torrid and overwrought tale of a hairdresser (Rachel Weisz) preyed on by her ex-con ex-boyfriend (Alessandro Nivola). Cue deep pockets of secrecy and sudden surges of murky sex as Winterbottom paddles on towards his grim finale.