New Films

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The Independent Culture
BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (U)

Director: George Miller

Starring: Magda Szubanski, James Cromwell, EG Daily

The follow-up to 1995's Babe tosses the hapless "sheep-pig" into the midst of the city where he becomes the unlikely saviour of a bunch of waifs. Knockabout comedy is kept to a minimum in favour of a bleak animatronic fairytale that verges on the sadistic. Adults should go a bundle on Miller's skewed, carnival ambience. What kids will make of it is anyone's guess.

West End: ABC Baker Street, ABC Tottenham Court Road, Barbican Screen, Clapham Picture House, Elephant & Castle Coronet, Empire Leicester Square, Hammersmith Virgin, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero

DANCING AT LUGHNASA (PG)

Director: Pat O'Connor

Starring: Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Kathy Burke

Less a dance, more of a trudge, O'Connor's Ireland-set saga pinpoints the ebb and flow of an eccentric Catholic family in deepest Donegal. What gives it backbone is Meryl Streep's regal performance as the brood's eldest sister, plus the ever-watchable Michael Gambon as the homecoming brother. But it's not enough, and its static, stage-play origins are all too readily apparent.

West End: Curzon Mayfair, Screen on the Hill

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (U)

Director: Frank Capra

Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

Capra's festive bauble is a lot darker and more complex than it is generally given credit for being, with James Stewart's labouring everyman shown how dreary his hometown would have been had he never been born, before returning merrily to his Job-like existence. Its syrupy sentimentality contains a thick vein of bile, and at the day's end this is the making of the film; turning it into a bittersweet salute to the little man who makes a big difference.

West End: Curzon Soho, Gate Notting Hill, Phoenix Cinema, Ritzy Cinema

ON CONNAIT LA CHANSON (PG)

Director: Alain Resnais

Starring: Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azema

Love him or loathe him, Last Year at Marienbad auteur Resnais is a queer fish. Four years after the Continental breakfast he made of Alan Ayckbourn's Smoking/No Smoking comes this rattling merry-go-round of romantic intrigue, "inspired by the work of Dennis Potter", and featuring a lot of Potter-esque lip-synching to popular French show tunes. West End: Chelsea Cinema, Renoir

RUSH HOUR (15)

Director: Brett Ratner

Starring: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson

Rush Hour marries the Hong Kong action icon Jackie Chan with an LA backdrop, a jobbing Hollywood director (Money Talks' Ratner) and a wise-cracking black comic in Chris Tucker's huckstering LAPD man. Its caffeinated plotline sends Easterner and Westerner on the trail of a Chinese crime syndicate and oscillates wildly between Tucker's verbal dexterity and Chan's adrenalised physicality. It's a hit-and-miss affair.

West End: Elephant & Castle Coronet, Hammersmith Virgin, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Plaza, Ritzy Cinema, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Trocadero, Warner Village West End

TWILIGHT (15)

Director: Robert Benton

Starring: Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman

Twilight reunites Newman with his Nobody's Fool collaborator Benton for a zimmer-framed film noir which has the former's ageing gumshoe moving in with movie-star buddy Hackman and uncovering a skeleton in the family closet. While this is predictable stuff, muscular acting from a practised cast moves it along nicely.

West End: Plaza

YEAR OF THE HORSE (15)

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Jarmusch's documentary on Neil Young and Crazy Horse is respectful but never reverential, swinging between bracing live footage, robust interviews and discerning dips back into the archive. As a man, though, Young remains oddly oblique and unknowable, loitering in the background for most of the off-stage segments. He's content to let his music do the talking.

West End: ABC Piccadilly, Renoir

Xan Brooks

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