New films

Head Above Water

(15)

Director: Jim Wilson Starring: Cameron Diaz, Harvey Keitel

If you're going to ask an audience to believe that Harvey Keitel could pass for a righteous judge, then you may as well make him a judge who merrily conspires to slice up the corpse of a heart-attack victim while you're at it. Keitel has a lot of fun with his role in , but though he's not an actor that you could accuse of excessive shyness, his frolics aren't very engaging. His character has married a young ex- hellraiser (Cameron Diaz), whose rehabilitation has been precarious enough for him to urge her "No sedatives!" as he departs from their remote island home on a fishing trip. But it's Keitel who proves to be the oblivion addict. While he's away, Diaz's ex-boyfriend (Billy Zane) shows up, flirts a bit, then refuses to leave in the morning. Typical one-night stand behaviour. Only he's not being stubborn. He's being dead.

When Keitel returns, it takes only a few swigs to tip him into drunken maniac mode. He relishes the chance to play gaga but for the audience, it proves less satisfying.

You may have prayed, as I have, that Weekend at Bernie's would be the last word in crazy corpse comedies. Unfortunately not. The only memorable moment in is the final sequence featuring a runaway chainsaw and death-by-gazebo. It's got to be a first.

Jackie Chan's First Strike

(12)

Director: Stanley Tong Starring: Jackie Chan

Who would have guessed that twinkling eyes and a goofy smile could be the key to the longevity of the modern action hero? I don't think Jackie Chan could get away with half the nonsense he puts on screen if he didn't look like your favourite teddy bear. Of course, you already know he can pull off the stunts. It's the bits in between - the jokes, and I use the word in the loosest sense - that really try your patience. Don't let these low points, or even the dubbing, put you off his latest film.

Jackie Chan's First Strike hinges on an antiquated espionage plot which can be summed up with a single line of dialogue from the film: "We need your help to retrieve the nuclear warhead stolen a few days ago." .

First Strike contains at least one sumptuously cinematic moment, where assassins in ski-masks and white overalls rise ominously from their subterranean hide-outs in a snowy landscape. Naturally, the fight scenes are executed with equal measures of knowing absurdity and steely precision. And what Chan can do with a step-ladder, wielding it like an oversized pair of tweezers, is nobody's business.

Volcano

(12)

Director: Mick Jackson Starring: Tommy Lee Jones

Dante's Peak got in before this more high-profile, muscular addition to the current resurgence of the disaster movie, and it's hard to see how audiences who lapped up that earlier lava-extravaganza will find anything here to sate them. It's the same old structure we've become accustomed to since the days of Towering Inferno - assemble a bunch of unsuspecting innocents, sprinkle with a few heroes, trap them in an apocalyptic situation and place bets on who fries and who survives.

Tommy Lee Jones has to put his trademark grouchiness on hold in order to save lives as Mike Roark, the emergency chief who, together with seismologist Dr Amy Barnes (Anne Heche) is first alerted to the threat of an eruption in LA. From there, the director Mick Jackson, a consummate professional of no fixed identity (he directed LA Story and The Bodyguard) keeps things ticking along and rushes us towards the first pulse of lava without making the wait too dull.

Certainly the film is no more or less fun than Dante's Peak. The locations are utilised with wit, and Jones and Heche are winning leads. But nothing here suggests that the disaster movie has anything left to offer, unless, like Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!, it can put its knowingness to satirical use.

Booty Call

(18)

Director: Jeff Pollack Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson

Two horny black devils, Bunz (Jamie Foxx) and Rushon (Tommy Davidson) take a pair of young women (Vivica A Fox, Tamala Jones) out to dinner, hoping to charm them into bed. But their efforts deteriorate into a long evening of coitus interruptus. And that's it. You might think that the makers of Booty Call would encounter difficulty dreaming up jokes as crude as that premise. You'd be wrong. A dog steals Rushon's last condom, and in a particularly Mr Bean-esque episode, both men, over-eager in their pursuit of safe sex, wrap themselves in cling film. Yet there are a few things worth holding out for. Art Malik's uncredited cameo as a trigger happy shop-keeper is one. But even at his most objectionable, the brassy young comedian Jamie Foxx pulses with vitality. You might never forget the sight and sound of him making love whilst impersonating prominent figures in black politics, from Martin Luther King to Jesse Jackson. Presumably Bernie Grant resides on the cutting-room floor.

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