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Arts and Entertainment

Tomorrow’s DVD release of Alpha Papa is a reminder that films based on television shows needn’t be On-the-Buses bad. Other honourable examples of the genre are The Inbetweeners Movie (2011), In the Loop (2009) and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999).

Any colour, so long as it's black

Film noir is a 50-year-old idea. Yet two of this year's best movies belonged to that genre. And there are more to come. Why? By Ryan Gilbey

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MEGA MOVIE MIND-BOGGLERS!

`I'm no cartoon. I'm me. I'm flesh and blood'

Meet the real Bruce Wayne, the man behind the Batman comics. He suffered, the myth prospered. John Lyttle met him on the eve of the opening of `Batman Forever'

This comes to you from the bottom of my gut

This year, the first presenter of the 67th Academy Awards (BBC1) reminded us, is the centenary of motion pictures; 100 years have passed, you thought, and they still can't get the words and the pictures to match up. Then again, maybe this guy was supposed to be there as a tuxedoed piece of leader tape, a five-minute dry run to allow technicians all over the world to adjust the machinery. His voice caught up with his lips just in time for him to introduce the traditional opening number - a baffling piece of cinematic illusion so clever that it was dumb. In the words of Tracey Ullman, it "tanked". That's the nice thing about Tracey, Hollywood hasn't changed her a bit.

A star is sold

Judy Garland (left) is the sort of star to inspire eternal devotion, and if your passion is matched by a stratospheric credit limit you could own a unique piece of memorabilia. A master-tape film of her last-ever concert has turned up and is expected to make anything up to £15,000 when it goes under the hammer at Bonham's on Tuesday. She is captured on the 45-minute tape performing on stage, and also duetting in her dressing room with the singer Johnnie Ray, at a theatre in Denmark shortly before her death in 1969. Remember, though, for that much dosh, you'd better duplicate it and store the original in a lead-lined vault before you wear out the copy in a few days. Also available in Bonham's entertainment sale is a pair of purple gloves and handkerchiefs worn by Jack Nicholson in Batman (yum), and an original mint-condition poster for Marlene Dietrich's 1930 film The Blue Angel, which could fetch something like £4,000.

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POLEMIC Spitting Image is dead. Long live political comedy, says David Tyler

Metromania: Rubber and plastic

LIKE a rubber ball, the annual Skin Two fetish bash keeps on bouncing back.

Jack shows his generation how to bite the brat pack

IF TINY ROWLAND, 76, wants another good laugh after fighting off the attack of 55-year-old Dieter Bock he should go and watch Jack Nicholson in Wolf.

FILM / Nicholson, Pfeiffer and an unhappy ending

MIKE NICHOLS' Wolf (15) is a werewolf movie in which the word werewolf is never mentioned. That is not an oversight or a gimmick, but an indication of Nichols' sedulous realism. He avoids such howling cliches as silver bullets - thought of as part of ancient lore but, in fact, cooked up in 1940s Hollywood by Curt Siodmak. For much of Wolf the lycanthropic interludes are so understated that, like the film's hero, a publisher played by Jack Nicholson, you may for a while feel you have dreamt them. When Nicholson, early in the film, jumps up a stairwell on all fours and bites his rival at the publishing firm (James Spader), the incident flashes by almost subliminally, like a spasm of the audience's unconscious, not to be referred to until the film's climax. Other werewolf movies exult in their outlandishness, setting it in the centre of seething humanity - Piccadilly Circus or Times Square. Nichols leaves it at the margins, on the edge of consciousness. He comes to bury the dark side of mankind, not to praise it.

FILM / Who's afraid of Jack's wolf?: Reviews: Adam Mars-Jones on Wolf, with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer; plus A Shadow of Doubt and Le Parfum d'Yvonne

The last member of the dog family to feature largely in a Mike Nichols film was the cute pooch in his laughable Regarding Henry. A director with a harsher conscience would have changed career at that point, but Nichols has persevered, and with Wolf has delivered his crispest film for a good while, at least since Working Girl and maybe since Silkwood. Something has undoubtedly gone wrong with Nichols since his auspicious beginnings - no one would seriously propose Wolf (15) as a worthy successor to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - but the film isn't a waste of time, and works rather well for about two- thirds of its length as a comedy of business life. For a horror film or a serious exploration of the divided nature of modern man, you need to look elsewhere.

FILM / The werewolf as social-climber: Time was when the werewolves were tacky, low-rent punks. But in recent years they've become sophisticated and upwardly mobile. Jack Nicholson's hairy monster, on view from tomorrow in Wolf, confirms the werewolf's social ascendancy

In his novelty hit song 'Werewolves of London', Warren Zevon claimed that he had seen Lon Chaney Jr - by which he clearly meant not the actor himself but his most famous role, Larry Talbot, the sad hero of Universal's The Wolf Man (1941) - escorting Her Majesty the Queen. The rock star had also, he sang, been impressed by the sight of 'a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's'. 'His hair', Zevon noted with a careful hint of envy, 'was perfect.' Originally released in the late Seventies, Zevon's song has proved prophetic.

CINEMA / More than we'll ever know: The check-out girl from Santa Ana is now the most sought-after actress in Hollywood. But where does Michelle Pfeiffer go from here? And what's behind those smog-laden eyes?

YOU WOULD hardly be surprised if, in a movie called Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson, the leading actress had little more to do than stand back and look fearful, or fascinated. But the actress cast in that role is Michelle Pfeiffer - so there is more to be said, as well as stray, warning apprehensions that go unuttered but which linger in our mind, like the calm grief in her smog-laden eyes. Wolf is a silly picture (though it doesn't quite bury an intriguing idea), and Pfeiffer might have regarded it as just a photo-opportunity with a famous co-star and some cool clothes. (Her character also sleeps beneath a Velasquez Infanta - which begins to explain such ancient, experienced eyes. And she snores a little - when did a beautiful actress ever snore?) But she makes so much of the slight role, we want to know more about her character, the subversive loner daughter of a plutocrat publisher.

Nicholson cleared

A judge dismissed misdemeanour, assault and vandalism charges against the actor Jack Nicholson, who was accused of smashing a motorist's windscreen with a golf club, Reuter reports from Los Angeles.

BOOK REVIEW / The long hard road of an easy rider: Jack's life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson - by Patrick McGilligan, Hutchinson pounds 18.99

SEX 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll: like many another Catholic boy in Fifties New Jersey, John J Nicholson got all the rock'n'roll he could ever want. The other elements, however, were harder to come by, and John had become Jack by the time he achieved his enrolment in the permissive society of the Sixties. But then Nicholson spent much of his life waiting. As Patrick McGilligan explains in this detailed and absorbing biography, he had to wait unti1 1974, when he was 37 and the hottest ticket in Hollywood, to discover the truth of his parentage. The woman he had thought was his mother was in fact his grandmother, while his supposed sister, June, was really his mother. It was a falsehood engineered to conceal his illegitimacy: the identity of his father remained a mystery.
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