New Films: Reviews

EAST SIDE STORY (U)

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.

West End: ABC Swiss Centre

THE EXORCIST (25TH ANNIVERSARY RERELEASE) (18)

Director: William Friedkin

Starring: Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn

In the cold light of day, and with two decades' worth of imitations under our belts, the head-swivellings and projectile vomitings of The Exorcist might not look quite so appalling as they did to those brave enough to keep their eyes open at the late-night show back in 1973. What has retained the power to haunt, however, is the unforgettable Devil's voice emanating from Linda Blair's throat, provided by the uncredited Mercedes McCambridge, best remembered on screen as the harpie who terrorises Janet Leigh in the motel in Touch of Evil.

West End: ABC Baker Street, ABC Tottenham Court Road, Elephant & Castle Coronet, Hammersmith Virgin, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Ritzy Cinema, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero, Warner Village West End

FUNNY GAMES (18)

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 fireworks. It discreetly cuts away during the more shocking moments, yet is big on sound effects (golf-club on kneecap, blood- curdling screams), and its cast-iron claustrophobia leaves you fighting for breath.

West End: Metro, Curzon Minema, Richmond Filmhouse, Ritzy Cinema

PRIMARY COLORS (15)

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: John Travolta, Emma Thompson

Primary Colors 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, 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.

West End: Barbican Screen, Empire Leicester Square, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero

RAZOR BLADE SMILE (18)

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.

West End: Empire Leicester Square, Odeon Camden Town, Ritzy Cinema, Virgin Trocadero

STILL CRAZY (15)

Director: Brian Gibson

Starring: Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall

Clement and La Frenais-scripted comedy about a bunch of Seventies rockers re-forming for a comeback tour. Unashamedly hailing from The Full Monty school of feelgood fodder, it boasts abundant charm and a clatter of raucous gags.

West End: Clapham Picture House, Notting Hill Coronet, Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Swiss Cottage, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Chelsea, Virgin Haymarket, Warner Village West End

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