Video watch: Close encounters with mysticism

Contact (PG), Warner Home Video (available to rent from today)

Robert Zemeckis has been coming over all ecumenical in recent years, and his films are the worse for it. Forrest Gump turned out to be a dumbed- down, redneck Passion story, and now we're receiving instruction in his third-hand West Coast mysticism via Contact, Zemeckis's sluggish adaptation of Carl Sagan's tale of extraterrestrial redemption.

Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) appears to have thrown away a glittering career in astronomy to search for signs of galaxy-mates when the instructions for a DIY deep-space runabout are beamed straight into her laptop. "The most profoundly impactful moment in the history of history," according to Ellie, and that's about as well-articulated as Contact gets. Most of the film's two-and-a-half hours are consumed tediously with the exploitation of Foster's interstellar Meccano by self-interested governments and private concerns. There are a few distractions, notably, John Hurt as an Uncle Fester-lookalike tycoon, but Foster's affair with Matthew McConnaughey's drop-out Priest is the crudest example of Zemeckis's overriding theme: the conflict of science and spirituality. If you're in any doubt which discipline comes out on top, the sub-Blakean opening sequence is a big clue.


Albino Alligator (18), Columbia Tristar Home Video (available to rent now)

Three edgy, heavily-armed criminals cornered by the police. It's the standard failed-heist remit, chief among whose qualities is the plot-by- numbers structure. So why does Kevin Spacey come over all tricksy in his directorial debut? Brothers Matt Dillon and Gary Sinise, along with psychopathic strong-arm William Fichtner, wind up in Dino's Last Chance Bar, reluctantly holding a clutch of regulars to ransom - the only twist being that the cops think that someone else entirely is barking out the ransom demands. Having put this kink in the works, Spacey then doesn't seem sure how to oil them. Faye Dunaway looks below her station as a part-time bar keep, but heads a strong cast. Dillon is impressive as the decent crook, torn between filial loyalty to Sinise, the brains of the outfit, and Fichtner, intent on going down with all guns blazing. Perhaps prompted by the actor in him, Spacey gives everyone a little too much space, however, failing to crank up the tension. As the suspense dissipates, so Spacey seems to have less and less conviction in his screenplay.


House of America (15), First Independent (available to rent 9 March)

With the honourable exception of Trainspotting, it's safe to say that the quality of a British film in the Nineties is in strict inverse proportion to the number of Britpop songs on the soundtrack. It is with the deepest regret, then, that I inform you of the presence of Blur, Catatonia, Supergrass, Prodigy and a host of other rock luminaries in House of America, every name a nail in the coffin of Marc Evans's ambitious but ultimately disappointing adaptation of Edward Thomas's stage play. Told by their disturbed mother (Sian Phillips) that dad escaped to America years ago, Sid (Steven Mackintosh) and Gwenny (Lisa Palfrey) sink deeper into Kerouac-inspired incestuous "beat" fantasies to escape the misery of Welsh small-town existence, while their brother, Boyo (Matthew Rhys), uncovers the truth of father's whereabouts. Behind the camera, Evans is obviously a talent, drawing faultless, impassioned performances across the board. It's a pity that he couldn't muster the necessary discipline in the cutting room to transform the panache of isolated scenes into a coherent finished product. By the time Evans has reinforced his lyricism with a little narrative, you're nearly past caring.


Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

    £23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

    Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

    £14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower