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The Independent Culture
Orphans (18)

Fox Pathe, rental HHHH

We get a sense of director John Mullan's scabrous humour right from the start. Four grown children mourn the death of their mother. In the pub, the eldest, Thomas (Gary Lewis) launches into a grief-stricken karaoke act so bad that some of the onlookers laugh. The ensuing brawl sees Michael (Douglas Henshall) getting stabbed and his younger brother (Stephen McCole) disappearing off to find guns to finish the fight. It is surreal and desperately funny, but Mullan's film also provides a touching portrait of bereavement and stands as proof that there's more to current Scottish culture than Irvine Welsh.

Beloved (15)

Buena Vista, rental HH

The past and present are turned inside out in Jonathan Demme's disappointing picture, based on Toni Morrison's Pullitzer Prize-winning book. Oprah Winfrey plays Sethe, the hard-bitten mother who is haunted by her dead child. When an old friend Paul D (Danny Glover) returns and begins a relationship with her, the ghost appears in human form to drive him out and reclaim her mother. Demme's greatest mistake was encouraging Thandie Newton, as the ghost, to behave like she was in The Exorcist. The mother-daughter tenderness is obliterated as Newton screws up her face and drools.

My Son the Fanatic (15) VCI, rental HHHH

Hanif Kureishi's film - adapted from his short story and directed by Udayan Prasad - is a fresh take on the complexities of father-son relationships. Parvez (Om Puri) is a Pakistani taxi driver living in the north of England, whose son, Farid (Akbar Kurtha), rebels against his liberalism and turns to Islam. As his father retreats to his basement to listen to Louis Armstrong, Farid holds religious meetings upstairs. There is further antagonism when Parvez begins a romance with a prostitute (Rachel Griffiths). Though unlikely, their love affair provides some of the most touching scenes in the film.

Very Bad Things (18)

Universal, rental H

For the first twenty minutes of Peter Berg's film, I thought I was watching Doug Liman's Swingers. No such luck. A gaggle of lads go for a night on the tiles in Las Vegas for Kyle's (Jon Favreau) stag night. But the evening takes a downward turn when they accidentally kill a prostitute. Disposing of the bodies is predictably unpleasant and jarringly reminiscent of similar scenes in Shallow Grave. And, of course, the bloodshed doesn't end there. Despite its interesting premise, as the film goes on, you can't wait for them all to kill each other so that the whole sorry saga is over as soon as possible.