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Career Girls (15) Film Four, rental, 23 Feb

Though Mike Leigh's lengthy priming of his actors - constant improvisation and a virtual abandonment of a script - has paid off in the performances from Lynda Steadman and Katrin Cartlidge, he is never going to get as close to real life as he would like. Annie and Hannah are old college friends who, after a lapse of six years, meet up to compare lives. The distance between past and present is realised by a series of chance meetings with old friends (which, incidentally, are purely instrumental to the plot) and flashbacks. We see a younger Annie with a bad case of dermatitis, unable to look her companions in the eye, and Hannah, self-defeating and sour. But most poignant is the warmth that Hannah and Annie, despite themselves, exude to each other and their tormented peers. HHHH

Speed 2: Cruise Control (PG) Fox, rental, 23 Feb Where Jan de Bont's Speed exemplified the phrase "high octane", its sequel might find "a leisurely chug" more appropriate. Sandra Bullock is joined by a nervy Jason Patric, trapped onboard a luxury cruise liner that has been hijacked by a bug- eyed computer hacker (Willem Dafoe). There is a risible cameo appearance from UB40 who attempt to turn "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" into a death knell. Sadly, no amount of camera swoops and gusts of wind will convince us that this cruise liner is running at breakneck speed. Cruising - as cruise liners do - certainly, but not speeding. He also has a talent for pointing out the blindingly obvious. De Bont slaps labels, such as "FIBER-OPTIC CONVERTER", onto his gadgetry, just in case Dafoe's grand plan proves beyond our intelligence. Cries from the cabin crew, such as "It's coming right for us" also seem unnecessary, though at least they introduce a much-needed comic boost. H

L'Appartement (15), Fox, rental, 23 Feb Gilles Mimouni's seductive picture follows the crooked paths of four troubled characters linked by love, elegantly led by Vincent Cassel and Romane Bohringer. A fine embroidery of prevarication, obsession and coincidence unfolds - it's voyeurism echoing that of Paul Auster and his concern with observing and the observed. Beguiling and beautiful. HHHH

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