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GROUNDHOG DAY (Columbia PG 97mins) There aren't as many demented giggles as you might like. Still, this Bill Murray comedy has a riveting gimmick: obnoxious weatherman Murray is doomed to repeat the same dreary small town day until he gets it right (which means commitment to Andie McDowell, becoming a 'better' person). If the demands to conform are predictable, the movie's dark undertow isn't. Laughter evaporates during the suicide scenes - Murray finds he can't die - and not even the insane sight of a rodent driving a pick-up truck really restores the picture to comic buoyancy.

12:01 (Guild 15 90mins) Barry Thomas (Jonathan Silverman) is having a bad day. His 'super accelerator' is heading for the scrap heap and his heart's desire (Helen Slater) is shot dead before his very eyes. Then he's struck by lighting and, oh dear, finds himself endlessly reliving the day, attempting to correct disasters waiting to occur. What an original idea] Adding insult to injury, this coarse copy even rips-off Groundhog Day's poster art. Cheap, in every sense of the word.

SWING KIDS (Hollywood 15 109mins)

How did the producer pitch the plot? 'German teenagers challenge Nazi doctrine by dancing to Yankee swing music.' Comedy? Drama? Musical? The soundtrack is a joy (Basie, Goodman etc) but the film fatally lacks tone, what with an uncredited Kenneth Branagh playing Gestapo pig and Robert Sean Leonard fretting, a la Greer Garson, that his friends will forsake the beat of freedom for the Hitler Youth. Based on actual events, not that anyone would guess it.

THE CEMETERY CLUB (Touchstone 15 102mins) Impeccably cast, a sort of Golden Girls meets Fried Green Tomatoes. Olympia Dukakis, Diane Ladd, Ellen Burstyn are the friends facing widowhood and the resumption of the dating game, learning 'life lessons' together. There's a new market for tasteful mush (thank you, Driving Miss Daisy) among older audiences, but the creation of heart-warming moments and weepy asides needs more than box-office calculation. It requires charm, a quality in short supply here.

FALLING DOWN (Warner 18 108mins) A knock-out punch of a picture, similar in texture and intent to, say, Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole. From the opening moment when, in clinical close-up, sacked white collar worker Michael Douglas finally breaks in a sweltering traffic jam, Ebbe Roe Smith's script examines the faltering pulse - and purpose - of a disillusioned Middle America. Douglas's day-long odyssey to the beach home of ex- wife Barbara Hershey becomes a blunt portrait of a country that's lost its way with jibes at Koreans, at the rich, at gays, at neo-Nazis, at gun-toting street gangs. Director Joel Schumacher punctures the hot, golden-hued nightmare with violence, contrasting the descent into chaos with the fundamental, old- fashioned decency of retiring detective Robert Duvall; Douglas and he don't meet until the very last moment yet the entire film is a bitter, off-key duet. Available 15 Dec.

SOLAR CRISIS (Entertainment 15 107mins) It's big, expensive (dollars 33m) and bulky. The title alone was enough to sink this sci-fi flick at the US box-office last year, despite special effects from the team behind Star Wars. As usual, the problem is the plot - someone wants to sabotage a mission to still the sun's atmosphere-destroying storms with an anti- matter bomb - and the acting. How does an actor relate to a sexy robot? Charlton Heston does his best (which is seldom enough).

RETAIL

Bored with the deluge of mainstream hits and misses filling the shelves of your local video outlet? In search of something different? Redemption Video flaunts a great advertising come-on: 'No Preservatives, No Morals - Just Total Video Absolution'.

Loosely translated that means the one- year-old operation does an informed line in classic and sleazy horror / fantasy / exploitation films, ranging from Murnau's genre- establishing Nosferatu to Succubus and Venus in Furs. Redemption caters to a curious, but growing niche market, where the now grown- up readers of such Sixties fanzines as Famous Monsters of Filmland overlap with trash addicts (why else include Tinto Brass's daft Nazi soft-porn hit Salon Kitty in the catalogue?) and aficionados of lesbian vampire fare (La Vampire Nue). The clubby atmosphere is backed-up by the label's own magazine, a cheerfully tasteless tome now in its second issue, featuring 'SS Sults', the S & M cartoon and a fresh look at Frankenstein.

HMV, ever sensitive to the profits to be made from specialist cult material (such as Manga cartoons), has now dedicated an area to the Redemption range, mindful that in the last year the label has sold over 40,000 units. Both videos and magazine are masterminded by Nigel Wingrove, who smartly rejects the term 'video nasty' (though recent release Cannibal Man once languished on the banned list). 'Critics turn their noses up at horror and Seventies European erotica, which is why I wanted to package them nicely. We started with a hard core fan base: the 'Goth' types. But lately we're getting both trendy and respectable. Last week I saw people in their forties and fifties buying Redemption titles. Which just goes to show.'

COMPETITION

We have an Alien Trilogy Box Set (Fox Video pounds 69.99) to be won. It comes stored in the regrettably realistic shape of a Facehugger, the first stage of an Alien's life-cycle (ask John Hurt for details). Inside are widescreen versions of Alien, Aliens: The Special Edition and Alien 3, complete with trailers, colour booklet, stills, T-shirt, badges and out-take footage, including the Alien cocoon clips.

Just answer the following questions: What is Ripley's first name? What is Ripley's cat called? Who masterminded the look of Alien?

Entries by 17 Dec to: Alien, Arts, The Independent, 40 City Rd, London, EC1 2DB

(Photograph omitted)

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