Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The Ice Storm (15) Buena Vista, rental HHHH

Ang Lee's melancholy adaptation of Rick Moody's novel is an exquisite portrait of a dysfunctional family. Set in 1973 over the Thanksgiving weekend, the sexual liberation of the Sixties has finally filtered through to the frozen suburbs of Connecticut, where grown-ups hold perfunctory partner-swapping soirees while their disarmingly cynical children play peek-a-boo with each others' private parts. Though we feel their pain at every turn, the central characters - including a spiky Sigourney Weaver as Janey and a suitably ineffectual Kevin Kline as Ben - refreshingly experience neither retribution nor revelation. Lee subtly employs scorched colours, an elegant score and clipped dialogue to evoke a community frozen both inside and out.

The Sweet Hereafter (15) High Fliers, rental HHHHH

Based on the novel by Russell Banks, Atom Egoyan's award-winning picture explores issues of grief and misdeed. A grave Ian Holm plays a lawyer who travels to a small town in British Columbia to persuade 14 sets of bereaved parents to sue the company that built the crashed bus in which their children died. The film moves seamlessly between three time periods - before, during and after the crash - as we discover the cloistered complexities of this small community. Holm's voracious pursuit of rectitude is often discomforting as he moves from house to house, stirring the parents' distress. But as he delves deeper into the lives of the victims, his motives soon come to the surface. One of the most moving films of the year.

Picture Perfect (PG) Fox Pathe, rental H

The flimsy talents of Jennifer Aniston are showcased in this contrived and sickly sweet romantic comedy. She plays Kate, an ambitious advertising executive and spoilt social climber with a ludicrous crush on creepy man-about-the-office Sam (a skeletal Kevin Bacon). To make him jealous and impress her bosses, she invents a fiance based on an unsuspecting man she meets at a wedding. The camera shamelessly lingers around Aniston's gleaming teeth, ample cleavage and the infamous hairdo (it even gets cut, curled and styled as she deliberates her marriageable attributes with her mother), but worst of all is the fact that, rather like her Friends persona, this rarely funny picture revolves around such a dislikeable person.

The Quest (18) CIC, retail, pounds 13.99 HH

Jean-Claude Van Damme, aka "The Muscles from Brussels", directs himself in this martial-arts melodrama with about as much intelligence as that possessed by the vegetable of similar origins. He plays Chris, a stilt-walking street urchin in Twenties New York who stows away to Tibet. The torture is somewhat dissipated by Roger Moore, who provides mindless entertainment as the double-dealing pirate "Dobbs, Edgar Dobbs". He helps realise Chris's "quest" to take part in an international wrestling tournament staged by a gaggle of bloodthirsty monks. The competition is meant for representatives from all countries, though it seems no one told Jean-Claude, who came up with the plot, that Africa is actually a continent.