VIDEO REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
City of Angels (12) Warner, rental HH

Any normal person would be filled with fear when faced with a man in a black overcoat who, without introduction, barges into their office, knows their name and number and has unlimited access to their inner thoughts. Not our Meg. One eyeful of Nicolas Cage's bovine mug and she's dusting her best china for their first romantic meal. Even his doltish drawl fails to put her off. The revelation that he is a angel causes her to rebuke the god who let them meet, rather than call for an ambulance. Director Brad Silberling, creator of the children's picture Casper, does not seem to have adjusted his approach for adults as he leaves questions unanswered and offers a simplistic view of life and death.

Howard Marks - Video Diary (E) Vision, retail pounds 12.99 HH

The nation's most celebrated drug smuggler offers a guide to drug pedalling in this video diary. Marks smuggled one-tenth of the world's cannabis for the best part of two decades under a total of 43 aliases (among them Mr Nice, the title of his autobiography) and owned 25 money- laundering companies. Consequently, he was sentenced to 25 years in jail. This unrepentant account of his exploits offers some engrossing explanations of the different effects of grass (the sight of Rastas inhaling large bongs bring tears to the eyes), but his relentless boasting becomes distasteful as he triumphantly tells us what it is like to have pounds 1 million under your bed. An interesting character, but Mr Nice he isn't.

The Big Lebowski (18) Polygram, rental HHHH

The Big Lebowski marks a departure for the Coen brothers into the realms of a plot. Much lauded, Jeff Bridges plays the dope-addled "Dude" Lebowski. A bunch of bungling gangsters mistake Dude for his namesake, a Pasadena millionaire whose wife has been kidnapped. When they pee on his carpet Dude goes to the Lebowski mansion for reimbursement. The film is shot in a series of Los Angeles haunts, from parking lots to coffee shops. Best of all are the scenes at a local bowling alley where Dude and his friends religiously spend their evenings battling with bowling champion Jesus Quintana (John Turturro), a vain-glorious flasher in a lilac tracksuit.

As Good As It Gets (15) Columbia, retail, pounds 14.99 HHHH

An obsessive-compulsive novelist and a beleaguered waitress are the unlikely romantic interest in James L Brooks's bittersweet comedy. Melvin Udall's (Jack Nicholson) condition leads him to avoid cracks in the pavement and eat with plastic cutlery while his misanthropic tendencies drive him to deliver fascistic orations about homosexuality. Udall's half- hearted efforts towards redemption are echoed in his attempts to win over Carol (Helen Hunt). As usual, it is only Nicholson's cheeky sneer and permanently raised eyebrow that allow him to get away with such anti-social behaviour, though it remains a mystery as to why a warm-hearted lady would fancy him. An enjoyable watch all the same.

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