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ALIEN: RESURRECTION

(18) HHHH

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Sigourney Weaver

Jean-Pierre Jeunet brings the same sleazy comic-book feel to this latest instalment that characterised Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, the two films he made with Marc Caro, but the style never feels flippant, the way it has done in Jeunet's previous work.

It's the same old story - nasty aliens stalk desperate humans - but it has verve and pizzazz to spare. The progression of the character of Ripley is also ingenious, Now she contains alien DNA, which means, among other things, that her blood is pure acid, as is her sense of humour, and she harbours new allegiances. What really surprises is that the picture should manage to be both terrifying and touching, particularly during a climax that is unexpectedly moving.

ONE NIGHT STAND

(15) HHH

Director: Mike Figgis

Starring: Wesley Snipes

Mike Figgis's follow-up to his masterpiece, Leaving Las Vegas, is a small, subtle work that traces the dramatic repercussions of a brief encounter between a married commercial director (Snipes, in the most striking performance of his career) and the woman (Natassja Kinski) whom he meets at a hotel. But this is light years away from Fatal Attraction - instead of emotional hyperbole, Figgis strikes a paradoxical note of hushed melodrama. There is no doubt that Figgis is a director who knows his characters, and his medium, inside out. He never underestimates the intelligence of his audience, or the power of his medium.

UNDER THE SKIN

(18) HHH

Director: Carine Adler

Starring: Samantha Morton

Tough and tender by turns, Carine Adler's gritty debut feature follows a young woman (Morton) who indulges in a series of casual affairs as she attempts to get over the death of her mother and establish her own identity. At times, the atmosphere of claustrophobic sexual tension is overwhelming, but there's real sadness and sensitivity here, as well as a desperately poignant performance from Morton.

THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS

(15) HHH

Director: Bart Freundlich

Starring: Noah Wyle

A Thanksgiving dinner sparks off guilt and recrimination in a family's past, in this low-key drama that's like an indie-minded Ordinary People. Noah Wyle of ER makes a mildly impressive big-screen debut, but it's the underrated Roy Scheider and the ever-brilliant Julianne Moore who really make this worth seeing.

8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG

(15) HH

Director: Tom Schulman

Starring: Joe Pesci

The old mixed-luggage comedy scenario that worked so well in What's Up Doc? is revisited in this patchy black comedy. Joe Pesci plays a gangster who has to deliver the trophies of the title as proof that a multiple assassination has gone smoothly. Pesci's breathless psycho routine can be wearing, but the script offers the odd sparkling lines.

KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING

(12) H

Director: Robert Bierman

Starring: Richard E Grant

George Orwell's 1936 novel about Gordon Comstock (Grant), a copywriter who dreams of becoming a poet, turns up several shades in the film version, which replaces the original sombre tone with a lighter, more jazzy air. This allows the performances of Grant, and Helena Bonham Carter as the love of his life, room to flourish, but the picture feels awfully insubstantial.

HOW TO BE A PLAYER

(18) H

Director: Lionel C Martin

Starring: Bill Bellamy

It is likely that anyone who isn't a handsome, promiscuous, young, heterosexual male will find something to be offended by in this infantile sex comedy that starts off as a black Alfie but fails to make its hero pay for his gallivanting. But there are a couple of lovely comic cameos from Gilbert Gottfried and Max Julien.

THE TANGO LESSON

(U) HHH

Director: Sally Potter

Starring: Sally Potter

The Tango Lesson proves beyond doubt that Potter is adept at breaking down established boundaries between artist and audience. It's a film situated in the grey areas between truth and invention: Potter effectively plays herself - Sally, a film-maker who becomes entranced by the tango dancer Pablo Veron, and promises to make him a star if he teaches her to tango.

The Independent film guide

HHHH excellent HHH good HH average H poor

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