New Films

BABYMOTHER (15)

Director: Julian Henriques

Starring: Anjela Lauren Smith, Wil Johnson, Caroline Chikezie

An endearing reggae musical which takes an old idea and douses it in gaudy colours - quite literally, in fact, given that it sometimes looks as though the print has been spattered with Day-Glo paint. Anita (Anjela Lauren Smith) is a "babymother" - a woman saddled with children at a young age. She lives in north London and longs to be a reggae star, but her dreams are confounded not only by her responsibility to her son and daughter, but by their calculating father, who feels that his own imminent stardom would be jeopardised by Anita's success. The final musical showdown between the pair is clumsy, but for the most part, this is a fresh and engaging delight. West End: Ritzy Cinema, Virgin Trocadero

COUSIN BETTE (15)

Director: Des McAnuff

Starring: Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Shue, Bob Hoskins

Balzac's novel about romance and deception in 19th-century France is the basis for this shallow but breezy comedy. Jessica Lange plays Bette, who is appointed housekeeper to the family of her late cousin. In the pursuit of love in her own life, she inadvertently weaves a web of betrayal around everyone she knows - her cousin's daughter, Hortense (Kelly McDonald), her actress friend Jenny Cadine (Elisabeth Shue), and most of all Wenceslas (Aden Young), a sculptor to whom Bette has deigned to play benefactor. Although the director Des McAnuff can't keep his film from wandering, there are enough precious comic moments to make it a pleasing diversion.

West End: ABC Baker Street, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Haymarket, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Swiss Cottage

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (15)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon

Steven Spielberg's Second World War drama focuses on a mission with more than a hint of public relations about it. Three brothers are killed in action, and their mother is about to receive the triple-dose of bad news in one go; the fourth and youngest, James Ryan, is still in combat. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) is dispatched with his squad to seek out the young Private behind enemy lines and return him home to safety. It is unlikely that many viewers will emerge from the picture warmed by emotional catharsis, though there is plenty of it in evidence. It is the harsh, devastating battle sequences which are branded on the memory, and which momentarily suggest that the film will be something more adventurous and resonant than your average war movie. It isn't. But the promise alone is, in itself, strangely compelling.

The real achievement of Saving Private Ryan is that Spielberg has managed to create anything remotely worthwhile out of Robert Rodat's screenplay. Rodat throws together so many cliches that at times it seems that most of Spielberg's energy is expended in distracting us from the tawdriness of the material. This he does most effectively in the combat scenes, where subjective sound and photography create a disturbing sense of chaos. It was an error to once again use John Williams as composer, but for most of these lapses of judgement there are compensations, most often found in the cast.

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

LA VIE DE JESUS (THE LIFE OF JESUS) (NC) Director: Bruno Dumont

Starring: David Douche, Marjorie Cottreel, Genevieve Cottreel, Kader Chaatouf

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