RECOMMENDED FILMS

The Five Best Films

The Borrowers (U). Enormously clever family adventure in which a minuscule Jim Broadbent cuts John Goodman's monstrous capitalist down to size. The script has wit and a fine sense of danger; the production design is Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' with extra nuts. Barbican (0171 382 7000) 1.30 6.00; Odeons Ken (0181 315 4212) 12.25 2.45 5.05 7.20, Marble Arch (0181 315 4216) 12.15 2.20 4.30 6.40, Swiss Cott (0181 315 4220) 12.25 2.30 4.30 6.30; Plaza (0990 888990) 2.30 4.30 6.30 8.25; Virgin Troc (0181 970 6015) 12.20 2.20 4.20 7.00; Warner (0171 437 4343) 12.20 2.20 4.40 7.00; Whiteleys (0990 888990) 11.05 1.00 3.00 5.00 7.00. (P)

CHASING AMY (18). Foul-mouthed but utterly disarming, Kevin Smith's comedy focuses on a romance between a straight boy and a gay girl in suburban New Jersey. Filthy jokes, likeable performances and an irresistible message: love is bigger than sexual orientation. ABCs Piccadilly (0171 437 3561) 1.15 3.25 5.55 8.35, Shaftesbury Ave (0181 970 6013) 2.15 5.15 8.15. (P)

LA CONFIDENTIAL (18). Despite a hollow romantic plot, Curtis Hanson's stylish, brutal film noir is the most riveting crime thriller of the year. Not quite the real thing, but pastiche is rarely this seductive. ABCs Baker St (0181 970 6036) 8.05, Panton St (0181 970 6021) 2.00 5.00 8.00; Clap Pic Hse (0171 498 3323) 4.45 9.00; Odeons Camden (0181 315 4229) 8.50, Ken (0181 315 4214) 9.15, Marble Arch (0181 315 4216) 8.45, Swiss Cott (0181 315 4220) 8.25; Virgins Fulham (0181 970 6011) 2.20 5.20 8.15, Haymarket (0181 970 6016) 2.00 8.35; Warner (0171 437 4343) 12.00 2.00 3.00 5.10 6.00 8.00 9.00 11.00 12.00. (P)

LAWN DOGS (15). A 10-year-old girl (Mischa Barton) forms a fascinating friendship with a lawnmower man in a compelling little fantasy from John Duigan. ABC Swiss Centre (0181 970 6017) 1.10 3.30 8.50. (P)

SPICEWORLD THE MOVIE (PG). See review, page 7. ABC Tott Ct Rd (0181 970 6032) 1.15 3.25 5.35 7.45 9.55; Barbican (0171 638 8891) 4.15 6.30 8.30, Empire (0990 888990) 11.30 1.50 4.15 6.40 9.05; Odeons Camden (0181 315 4229) 12.10 2.25 4.40 6.55 9.20, Ken (0181 315 4214) 12.15 2.35 5.00 7.20 9.40, Marble Arch (0181 315 4216) 1.00 3.35 6.10 8.40, Swiss Cott (0181 315 4220) 1.00 3.30 6.00 8.30; Virgin Chelsea (0171 352 5096) 12.30 2.40 4.45 7.10 9.20. (P)

Matthew Sweet

The Five Best Plays

CHICAGO. The best musical in London since the National's 'Guys and Dolls' topically presents US trials as a branch of showbiz. With Ute Lemper and Ruthie Henshall as the celebrity murderers, coached and primed by the suavely manipulative Henry Goodman. Adelphi, WC2 (0171 344 0055), to 18 Apr. Mon-Sat 8.00. M: Wed & Sat 2.30.

A DELICATE BALANCE. The unmissable Maggie Smith is in restlessly show-stealing form as the drunken sister in Anthony Page's prestigious revival of Edward Albee. Haymarket, SW1 (0171 930 8800), to 31 Jan. Mon-Sat 8.00. M: Wed & Sat 3.00.

CLOSER. Patrick Marber's searing follow-up to 'Dealer's Choice', which established him as the leading playwright of his generation, transfers to a bigger stage with Neil Dudgeon and Mark Strong joining Sally Dexter and Liza Walker in the cast. Lyttelton, SE1 (0171 928 2252), in rep to 3 Feb. Fri & Sat 7.30. M: Sat 2.15.

OTHELLO. Sam Mendes's superbly detailed 1930s production has a show-stealing Simon Russell Beale as Iago and a glamorously authoritative David Harewood as Othello. Cottesloe, SE1 (0171 928 2252), to 29 Jan. Mon, Fri & Sat 7.00. M: Sat 1.30.

PETER PAN. Three enchanted hours, with honours going to Alec McCowen, perfect as narrator, Ian McKellen as first charming and then devilish Mr Darling and Captain Hook, and John Napier's picture book designs. Best of all is JM Barrie's tough Edwardian whimsy. Olivier, SE1 (0171 928 2252), to 29 Jan. Mon-Sat 7.15 M: Tues, Wed & Sat 2.00.

Robert Butler

THE FIVE BEST EXHIBITIONS

DEATH. One hundred artists ruminate about the end of life and, surprisingly, come up with a show that's varied, moving and often funny. Flowers East, E8 (0181 985 3333), to 11 Jan. Tues-Sun 10-6.

THE AGE OF SYMBOLISM. Very large show of familiar, repetitious works by Rossetti, Burne- Jones and Watts. Their foreign contemporaries add interest. Tate, SW1 (0171 887 8000). LAST WEEK (ends Sun 4 Jan). Daily 10-5.50.

SENSATION. Exhibition of young British artists from the Saatchi collection. Short on honest talent, often unpleasant, nonetheless an important survey. Royal Academy, W1 (0171 439 4996), ENDS TODAY. 10-6.

LIVERPOOL JOHN MOORES EXHIBITION. The country's most popular painting competition, interesting as ever. Besides the first-prize winner Dan Hays, there are fine canvases by Callum Innes, Pete Ellis, Gwen Hardie and 40 others. Liverpool Walker Art Gallery (0151 478 4199), to 15 Feb. Mon-Sat 10-5 Sun 12-5.

YOKO ONO. Retrospective of the intense Japanese oddball. Works from the 1960s are the best, plus a more recent installation that is exceptional. Oxford Museum of Modern Art (01865 722733), to 15 Mar. Tues & Wed, Fri-Sun 11- 6, Thurs 11-9. Tim Hilton

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