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IT'S A WONFERFUL LIFE

(U) HHHH

Director: Frank Capra

Starring: James Stewart

A freshly restored print of Frank Capra's classic Christmas cockle-warmer means audiences have a rare chance to appreciate the film's fine black- and-white photography on the big screen.

The film is much more than the self-congratulatory rehearsal of Midwestern American values it's often cracked up to be. A sweet candied fantasy with a hard noir centre, It's a Wonderful Life also serves up one of cinema's all time feel-good endings, which will have even the most hardened of cynics weeping into their popcorn.

See Wide Angle, p16

COP LAND

(15) HHH

Director: James Mangold

Starring: Sylvester Stallone

James Mangold's cop western sees Sylvester Stallone's deaf sheriff turning a blind eye to the corrupt NYPD men who populate his sleepy suburb. Until Robert de Niro's internal affairs man comes sniffing around, that is, awakening in Stallone, a slumbering sense of justice. Loaded with plot, character and a raft of excellent actors including Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Janeane Garofalo, this is an entertaining but sometimes predictable thriller which, in the end, is less than the sum of its very fine parts.

MARIUS ET JEANETTE

(15) HHH

Director: Robert Guediguian

Starring: Gerard Meylan

Although centred on the relationship between the feisty single mother (Arianne Ascaride) and morose security guard (Gerard Meylan) of the title, Robert Guediguian's charming movie is less about romance than the love between neighbours. When Marius disappears for a few days, a search to find him gives the director a chance to meander around Marseilles' colourful working class district, painting a colourful portrait of the characters who make it a community. A delicately played paean to friendship in adversity, shot through with a sly humour and unsentimental humanism.

THIS WORLD, THEN THE FIREWORKS

(18) H

Director: Michael Oblowitz

Starring: Gina Gershon

Jim Thompson's pulp fiction founders on the big screen once again in this stylised but hollow reworking of one of Thompson's short stories. Billy Zane and Gina Gershon star as incestuous twins who go to work as a hooker and con-man man, before moving on to murder. Fabulous sets and lurid red lighting give the movie a perfect retro look, but under Michael Oblowitz's direction the couple's salacious story never catches light.

THE BORROWERS

(U) HHHH

Director: Peter Hewitt

Starring: John Goodman

Natty-looking Hollywood version of the favourite children's story about a family of tiny scavengers living under the floor of the Lender family home. Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie are great as the pint-sized parents trying to protect their progeny from the dangers above the floorboards, while John Goodman lends his considerable bulk as the villain of the piece. Despite the mixture of quaint English sets and American accents and cute anachronisms, the warmth of Mary Norton's original story teamed with state- of-the-art special effects should make this a winner with "human beans" of all ages.

PARADISE ROAD

(15) HH

Director: Bruce Beresford

Starring: Glenn Close, Pauline Collins, Jennifer Ehle

A Girls' Own war film, with Glenn Close, Pauline Collins and Jennifer Ehle as the predictably mixed bag of prisoners who land up in a Sumatran POW camp after the Japanese invade Singapore. Enduring disease, loss and brutality, the women eventually find strength by banding together to form their own vocal orchestra, belting out symphonic classics in the face of their bemused captors.

Avoiding the heroics of war to focus on quieter, more anonymous suffering, Bruce Beresford's film is a throwback to the intelligent period dramas he used to make about Australia. Sadly, Paradise Road does not so much set up an alternative history as recycle a well-worn war-horse of a weepie. This is upmarket Tenko, not exploitative, but not adventurous enought to be truly moving.

To coincide with the theatrical re-release of Frank Capra's seasonal classic, It's a Wonderful Life, PolyGram Video has launched a digitally remastered version for the small screen, with an introduction from Frank Capra Jnr (see Wide Angle, p16) and 23-minute feature, The Making of It's a Wonderful Life (including an interview with James Stewart).

The Eye on London has 20 copies of the video to give away. To win one, send your name and address on a postcard to Eye Comp: PO Box 6140, London W3 7ZU by 12 December.

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