NEW FILMS

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The Independent Culture
BREAKING THE WAVES

Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard (18)

Bess, a devout member of an extreme Protestant sect in rural Scotland, marries Jan, an oil-rig worker. When an accident leaves him paralysed, he asks her to sleep with other men and describe the experience to him; and to prove her love, she goes ahead. Von Trier's Cannes prize-winner is an extraordinary amalgam of naturalism and stylisation; and if it ultimately becomes preposterous, the meticulousness with which he pursues an idea, and a marvellously expressive and touching performance by Watson make it worthwhile.

NOTHING PERSONAL

Director: Thaddeus O'Sullivan. Starring: Ian Hart, John Lynch, James Frain, Michael Gambon (15)

Set in Ulster in the mid-Seventies, with the Republican and Loyalist leaderships trying to negotiate a ceasefire, O'Sullivan's film is weighed down by the contemporary parallels. It has other faults: a sickly sentimentality, and over-reliance on Lynch's tortured integrity and Frain's menacing charisma. All the same, pacing and tension are beautifully kept up, and it's good to be shown the other parties, and not just the IRA.

TIN CUP

Director: Ron Shelton. Starring: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin (15)

That rarest of things, a Hollywood film that celebrates the gifted amateur and the game loser. Kevin Costner is unusually relaxed and appealing as a gifted but self-destructive golfer who has ended up running a dilapidated driving range in West Texas, while less talented, more sensible rival Johnson is a top-league pro. Costner sets out to snatch Johnson's psychiatrist girlfriend by winning the US Open. It's hardly profound, and Shelton drags the action out a bit; but it's more charming than it has any right to be.

DRAGONHEART

Director: Rob Cohen. Starring: Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Sean Connery, Julie Christie (PG)

Bold knight Quaid and last surviving dragon Draco (voiced by Connery) set out to overthrow evil tyrant Thewlis, rescue the peasants from oppression and restore "the Old Code" (truth, justice, etc). Hokum, you'll gather, but character-building hokum; and the weaknesses in the plot are more than made up for by wit, style and a highly convincing dragon.

THE REST

Boston Kickout

Director: Paul Hills. Starring: John Simm, Emer McCourt, Marc Warren (18) Paul Hills' first feature has apparently caused outrage in Stevenage, where it's set; elsewhere, it's unlikely to be terribly controversial - his picture of disaffected youth kicking against the pricks feels derivative and shapeless, like an anthology of "Play for Today". Full marks for the acting, though.

The Blue Villa (Un Bruit qui Rend Fou) Director: Alain Robbe- Grillet. Starring: Charles Tordjman, Arielle Dombasle, Fred Ward (18)

On a quiet Greek island, a writer mourns his daughter, who was murdered by her lover before he died in a storm at sea. Or did he? And was she? What is true? What is real? Is the writer guilty? Or is he only a character in somebody else's story? Robbe-Grillet's first film in years is lovely to look at but frustratingly pointless - or is that the point? Possibly; then again, who cares?

The Adventures of Pinocchio Director: Steve Barron. Starring: Martin Landau, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Udo Kier (U)

Patchy live-action version of Carlo Collodi's children's classic (not that it's a book you'd give to a sensitive child). Landau is fine as Gepetto the puppet-maker, the special effects are fine, and Barron has a strong sense of period; but the narrative has no drive, the songs are dreadful, and it's far too sentimental for most children to enjoy it.

A Goofy Movie

Director: Kevin Lima. Starring: Goofy, Max, Pete (U)

Goofy takes his son Max on a fishing-trip to do some father-son bonding; but Max wants to go to LA to see rock-star Powerline in concert and impress his new girlfriend. The animation is Saturday morning TV fare, the story spoiled by too many hugs, too much learning, several bad songs.

Alaska

Director: Fraser C. Heston. Starring: Thora Birch, Vincent Kartheiser, Dirk Benedict, Charlton Heston (PG)

Two kids set out into the wilds of Alaska to rescue their stranded pilot father, on the way saving a lovable polar bear cub from evil poacher Heston and finding themselves. Nice scenery.

Two Days in the Valley

Director: John Herzfeld. Starring: Danny Aiello, Jeff Daniels, James Spader, Eric Stolz, Paul Mazursky, Marsha Mason, Glenne Headly, Teri Hatcher (18)

Two days is probably 24 hours too many for this flip comedy noir set in LA's San Fernado enclave and featuring - oh dear - stylish hit men, ratty hostages and faded movie business types. Smart casting, but this manufactured trifle is a tad too pleased with itself.

The Wind in the Willows Director: Terry Jones. Starring: Steve Coogan, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Nicol Williamson, Antony Sher (U) Jones has taken Kenneth Grahame's gentle pastoral picaresque and tried to turn it into a fable about the evils of Thatcherism: Toad (Jones in green make-up) is selling off the family silver to the entrepreneurial weasels to fuel his mania for motorcars. Directed more slickly, this might have come off; as it stands, it's often dull and occasionally - as when Jones kits the weasels out in mock-Nazi regalia - downright embarrassing.

Pets Win Prizes: Top Animal Movies

101 DALMATIONS (1996) LIVE ACTION DISNEY OUT LATER

THIS YEAR

FLIPPER (1996) DOLPHIN-FRIENDLY FLICK WITH CO-

STAR PAUL HOGAN THE REAL ANIMAL

BABE (1995) TALKING PIG SAVES HIS RASHER

BLACK BEAUTY (1994) FAIRYTALE STRAIGHT FROM THE

HORSE'S MOUTH

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (1963) FLUFFY ROAD MOVIEWITH 3 PETS ON 250-MILE JOURNEY HOME

OLD YELLER (1957) HEROIC LABRADOR FIGHTS BEARS

& WOLVES BEFORE CATCHING RABIES

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