Friday 29 May 1998
Very little I can say is going to stop Spiceophiliacs besieging video stores the country over. Still, there's no reason why it's not possible to push their average age up a bit, because Spiceworld isn't half bad. Kim Fuller's first achievement with her peppy screenplay is to recognize the way in which the cartoonish Ginger, Sporty, Posh, Baby and Scary have some sort of ironic presence thanks to their dinky girlpower manifesto. The Spice universe, as seen here, ought to be no more tangible than La- La land: the girls hare around London in a Union Jack-decorated bus in the run-up to an Albert Hall gig, singing their jolly songs along the way. The reality that does leak into the picture goes beyond the cameo appearances of Bob Geldof and Elton John, however. The film cheerfully mines a knowing sense of humour: a shrewdly judged fantasy sequence, for instance, finds the Spicies in the dock, accused by Stephen Fry of releasing a single "by no means as kicking as your last", and the girls are pursued throughout by an enjoyably pretentious documentary-maker (Alan Cummings). The plot - a Murdoch-like media tyrant to split the Spicies up - is also a self-conscious concession to the over-twelves, but like the rest of the film, has a tacky charm. 3/5
Regeneration (15) (available to rent now)
Gillies MacKinnon's directorial debut Small Faces rightly won him plaudits, but his measured adaptation of the first of Pat Barker's World War One trilogy mystifyingly sank without trace. It probably doesn't help that Barker's novel about mental health, moral choice and class refuses to render its knot of complex issues into a neat narrative bow, an intelligence MacKinnon respects. War poet Siegfried Sassoon (played by James Wilby) is institutionalized in an attempt to undermine his thoroughly sane public assessment of the war as a conflict of murderous aggression.
Neither he nor his therapist, Dr William Rivers (an excellent Richard Pryce), fundamentally alter their opposing views, however; Rivers accuses Sassoon of intellectual vanity and, although troubled, sticks to his duty of returning shell-shocked troops to active duty. Sassoon and Rivers's elegantly presented conflict bookends the film's modest but moving drama, the cure of bitter working-class officer William Pryor (Jonny Lee Miller in a revelatory performance). MacKinnon's only false note is his loyalty to historical fact: Sassoon may well have advised fellow patient Wilfrid Owen to work on his poem Anthem for Dead Youth, but the film could do without this literary tourism. 4/5
Tomorrow Never Dies (12)
(available to rent Monday)
Timothy Dalton's inheritance of the then fagged-out Bond series nearly killed it off altogether - he just looked miserable trying to unearth Bond's dark side. Brosnan's real achievement in Goldeneye, his second outing as Agent 007, is to restore Bond's trashy appeal.
The regulation babes and bangs are all present and correct here, as is the the film's adherence to the series' deliciously cursory absorption of contemporary mores. Bond seduces an old flame, played by Teri Hatcher, but not before she's challenged him about his characteristically abrupt departure some years before. The Bond girl (Michelle Yeoh) also proves, as the secret agent might say, that she can handle herself. The plot plays along too, filling the resident evil genius role with a corrupt media tycoon.
But the satire is kept blunt, not least in the casting of Richard Pryce, who doesn't really look as if he'd do anything more nasty than change channel without asking. In another respect the film is right up-to-date. Product placement has not only forced upon Bond the humiliating substitute of a BMW for his Aston Martin but also ensured that his pursuers drive Range Rovers - now a BMW-owned brand. 3/5
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