Oom pah pah

Film Reviews: Brassed Off Mark Herman (15) Loaded Anna Campion (18) The Last Supper Cynthia Roberts (nc) The Glimmer Man John Gray (18)

A brassy, sleazy melody strikes up, and a couple of diffident cabaret spotlights bob towards the centre of the screen. Soon two lights turn into many, the camera focuses, and they suddenly become the helmet- lamps of a gang of approaching miners. Thus the credits sequence of Brassed Off neatly sketches the film's two concerns: it is a paean to northern England's unique heritage of brass-band musicianship, but also a lament for the same region's blight of pit closures and industrial decline.

Don't worry, it's not that grim oop north - writer / director Mark Herman has made one of the most involving and enjoyable British films in years. It's set in 1994: while the workers of Grimley Colliery struggle against the decision to close the pit, they have reached the semi-finals of the National Brass Band competition, and will play the Albert Hall if they make the finals. Up turns Tara Fitzgerald, a suspiciously good flugelhorn player, who renews teen passions with young hornblower Ewan McGregor. Will the colliery survive? Can music possibly matter if it doesn't?

The cast are uniformly charming, in a story that snakes confidently through deadpan comedy and gruffly passionate sentiment. But the outstanding performer is Pete Postlethwaite, as bandleader Danny. Where he could have played the part for cheap sentiment he is genuinely moving, and when he's on the conductor's podium in full purple-braided regalia - elbows flying, smiling serenely, giving little ecstatic shakes of the head - it's impossible to mould your features into anything other than a very wide grin of delight.

Nowadays, the brass-band combination of trombones, euphoniums and the like is most often used satirically, to accompany screen images of fat people doing amusing things. It's one of the many virtues, therefore, of this lovely film that it rehabilitates the brass band as a source of pleasure - thanks to beautiful playing by the real-life Grimethorpe Colliery Band, and to the arrangements by Trevor Jones and Geoff Alexander, who provide a thrilling version of the 1812 Overture for the deliciously feel- good yet provocative finale.

Loaded is a wannabe-millennial LSD-fuelled morality tale of love and angst among students. A bunch of said students spend a weekend in a remote English country house to make an experimental horror video. Neil (Oliver Milburn) is an introverted type who secretly videoed his sessions of psychoanalysis, and watches them repeatedly because he fancies his shrink. But he's also infatuated with Rose (Catherine McCormack), a tease who snogs biker Lionel (Matthew Eggleton) by the swimming pool.

What starts out as a jolly satire on studenty pretensions - the video's director, Lance (Danny Cunningham), injects hand-waving, lank-fringed pomp into lines such as "I think we should be looking at the human condition, yeah?" - soon commits artistic suicide by buying into studenty pretension itself. Loaded lurches into druggy odyssey (computer graphics pictorialize acid trips) and then slapstick tragedy. Anna Campion (sister of Jane) produces arresting images but, sadly, Loaded strains after universality so hard it forgets to be anything in particular. The young cast do a fine, fresh job, however, so it's never less than watchable, and often mordantly amusing.

The Last Supper, meanwhile, is the epitome of a bad trip. Based on a play by Hillar Liitoja, it is the story of Chris, an ex-dancer and actor who is dying of Aids, and spends a last evening with his lover Val reminiscing, eating smoked salmon and ratatouille, and then arranging his own euthanasia to the strains of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. The camera never leaves Chris's sick-room and, from the interminably long opening shot where he wakes up, drinks a glass of water, and drops the glass, it's depressingly clear that the film is shot in "real time". Yes, if you really have no ideas, you can always run back to Aristotle's classical unities.

The script is, mostly, crushingly banal. Only Daniel MacIvor's clever, measured performance as the doctor contains any edgy glint to cut through the emotive mush. The rest is chat and jerky camera-spinning. The part of Chris is played by Ken McDougall, who was actually dying of Aids at the time of shooting. It is extraordinary to see director Cynthia Roberts prattling on in the press notes about how pleased she was, because this gave her film greater authenticity. Now, I am sure McDougall was a great performer and a good man, and this home movie will no doubt be a treasured record for his family and friends. But that doesn't stop The Last Supper being, despite its fine intentions, dismayingly glib and manipulative.

By now, dear reader, you have travelled from brass to muck. I speak of The Glimmer Man, the new actioner starring Steven Seagal. The erstwhile karate hero now tries to conceal a massive paunch under baggy black smocks. (The best soundtrack for his first appearance would be a sarcastically parping brass arrangement of Beethoven's Funeral March.) The Glimmer Man jumps on the theological-schlock bandwagon of last year's Seven by having a serial killer who crucifies his victims. It also stars Brian Cox and In Living Color star Keenen Ivory Williams, who both seem battered into submission. Quite the most witless and insulting piece of bilge this year

Steven Poole

All films on general release from tomorrow

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week