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HANDS (AKA PALMS) (PG)

Director: Artur Aristakisyan

The director of this harrowing semi-documentary has been compared to Pasolini and Tarkovsky, the press notes assure us, but though this is an imaginatively realised rumination on the workings of the modern world, the picture is deadening in a way that those directors' best work never was. The film is simple and precise in its methods; as images of downtrodden and forgotten citizens - amputees, beggars, the very young, the elderly - are played out before us in a moving collage, a man narrates a message to his unborn child, who may be being aborted even as he speaks.

Limited Release

HE GOT GAME (18)

Director: Spike Lee

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ray Allen

The plot of Spike Lee's muddled tale is pure poppycock: Jake Shuttleworth (Denzel Washington) is doing time for the murder of his wife, but is offered a deal, out of the blue, which could cut short his sentence. It has come to the attention of the Governor that Jake's son, Jesus (Ray Allen), is the country's hottest new basketball star, with all the majors competing to sign him up. If Jake can convince Jesus to sign with the Governor's alma mater, then he can look forward to early release. Jake agrees, and is dispatched into the outside world on this errand. However, there is one seemingly insurmountable obstacle in Jake's path - his son has vowed never to forgive him for his mother's murder.

If the impression this gives is of a politically correct soap opera, then that's close to how He Got Game comes across. Few directors have made such a swift impact on cinema as Lee - but equally, few have gone on to have such a variable career. Lee coaxes an impressive performance from Washington, but it is his own stylistic excesses which are the film's undoing.

Limited Release

THE LAND GIRLS (12)

Director: David Leland

Starring: Catherine McCormack, Anna Friel

This gentle comedy from David Leland (Wish You Were Here) leads you into familiar territory, but manages to infuse the experience with warmth and wit. Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel and Catherine McCormack are the "land girls" called upon in WWII to pick up the discarded ploughs and take the place of the farmers who have departed for war. Nothing surprising here, but very nicely done.

National Release

THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (15)

Director: Whit Stillman

Starring: Chloe Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale

In the fictional club at the centre of Whit Stillman's dry and slightly sad comedy, everything sparkles - under the light from the glitterball, the dancers are united in their absent-minded beauty, and pockets of glitter fall from the ceiling even as the club is being busted by cops. But you couldn't accuse the picture of being nostalgic - actions and emotions unfold with a knowing wink toward the future. Generally, Stillman does a fine job of capturing the mixture of flair, invigoration and uncertainty by which any burgeoning trend is characterised. His very palpable thrill is in assembling a social circle, and then charting the various ripples and tidal waves which sweep through them when the core of their world - in this case, nightclubbing - is threatened. National Release

SPECIES II (18)

Director: Peter Medak

Starring: Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge

Ludicrous science-fiction horror about a strand of deadly alien DNA carried back to Earth in the bodies of astronauts. Cornball dialogue and a healthy abundance of sex and violence make this passable B-movie fun.

National Release

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