STAYING IN: A CRITICAL GUIDE: NEW VIDEOS

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The Independent Culture
Apollo 13 (PG). The sole redeeming feature of this disastrous disaster movie was a gut-quaking Dolby-soundtrack launch sequence, which was loud enough to shake the popcorn from your hands. On the small screen, the picture is robbed even of that fleeting pleasure. The director Ron Howard manages to take one of the most potentially terrifying episodes in the history of space travel - when a hitch left the Apollo 13 craft suspended above the Earth, and the lives of its crew (Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton) hanging in the balance - and turn it into a tepid TV movie. (If only it really were one: you long for the brief reprieve of a garish commercial.) Where themes of patriotism jeopardised by the struggle for survival might have surfaced, the screenwriters revert to jingoistic impulses; stoicism replaces any whiff of existentialist terror; and instead of friction between the astronauts, we get that vacuum of personality that seems to open up wherever Tom Hanks, the eunuch of modern cinema, lays his hat. In this anaesthetised atmosphere, some of the supporting cast are pleasantly jazzy on the eye and ear: Gary Sinise is compelling as the one who got away - at first aggrieved, then relieved, awkwardly so, at having been left behind. But as a director, Howard is an anti-lifeforce, a vampire; he sucks films dry of tension and opportunity. He and Hanks are perfectly matched - they make everything bland. It's not all their fault. Even on the basic technical level, Apollo 13 fails dismally (look out for an unforgivable error in the early scene where Hanks is gawping at the Moon). Hollywood, we most definitely have a problem.

Butterfly Kiss (18). A disconcerting British road movie that is variously absurd, bewildering and harrowing. The frumpy Miriam (Saskia Reeves) works in a garage forecourt shop; the psychotic Eunice (Amanda Plummer) is roaming the North slaying salesmen and shop assistants. They fall in love: "Mi" gives "Eu" her trust. Eu liberates her bumbling sidekick and drags her along on the killing spree. The first half-hour of Michael Winterbottom's thriller has all the apocalyptic chill of the motorway service stations it tours. But despite some eerie photography and daring performances, it is doomed by its cod psychology, excessive violence and Cranberries soundtrack.

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