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In Runner Runner, Justin Timberlake loses a fortune playing online poker, and then flies off to confront the owner of the website, Ben Affleck. But perhaps he could have saved himself the trip if he’d watched a few poker films before logging on.

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Film Studies: Bald, blank, brainy. It can only be John Malkovich

Something strange even for the movie business has been evident in the last few weeks. I refer to a movie known as Being John Malkovich. A friend asked me what I thought of it, and I pass on the opinion I gave him - that for 45 minutes or so it is stunningly original, and so funny you can't stop laughing. "I'd settle for 25 minutes of that," said my friend, in a shrewd comment on modern pictures.

Film: Of luvvies and lawnmowers

From the inside of John Malkovich's brain to a Belgian trailer park, Kieron Corless looks at the cream of the 43rd London Film Festival

The Irritations of Modern Life: 63.

PIERCINGS

Portrait: His harshest critic

As a food writer, AA Gill is renowned for his withering turn of phrase, but, it seems, he reserves his most merciless judgements for himself

Digital. Cable and Satellite: Pick of the Day

CRITICS MAY have received his most recent film, Celebrity, with some equivocation, but that was due to the weak performance of its star, Kenneth Branagh, rather than any flaw in Woody Allen's direction. Sleeper (8.30pm FilmFour) sees Allen, almost 30 years earlier, at his uninhibited best, playing a vegetarian musician who dies during a routine operation, is preserved and brought back to life 200 years in the future.

The Critics: Cinema: Also Showing

ANTONIA QUIRKE Croupier (15) Mike Hodges; 89 mins Cruel Intentions (15) Roger Kumble; 97 mins Just the Ticket (15) Richard Wenk; 115 mins Gloria (15) Sidney Lumet; 110 mins Venus Beauty (15) Tonie Marshall; 105 mins Bride of Chucky ( 18) Ronnie Yu; 90 mins Touch of Evil (12) Orson Welles; 111 mins

Books: Under the sheltering sky

God's Fugitive: a life of C M Doughty by Andrew Taylor HarperColllins, pounds 17.99, 350pp: Jan Morris rejoices that the greatest, and weirdest, desert traveller has emerged from the shadows

Satellite & Cable: Pick of the Day

JOHN MALKOVICH (right) has always impressed as a baddie - remember his insinuating seducer in Dangerous Liaisons, or his creepy psycho-killer in In the Line of Fire? He gets to play the villain again in Con Air (10pm Sky Premier), an exciting roller-coaster of an action-picture. The premise is quite straightforward - a single good guy (Nicolas Cage) attempts to wrest control of a plane from a group of desperate criminals (a top-notch bunch of actors led by Malkovich and featuring Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames). But where Simon West's thriller scores is the sheer panache with which he handles the action sequences.

Country Matters: Alone in the killing fields

With only a week to go, woodland deer-stalkers all over the country are scrambling to reach the targets set for their annual cull. Male red, fallow and sika deer remain in season for another couple of months; but when it comes to controlling numbers it is the females that matter, and their season closes at the end of February.

The Critics: Cinema: The Matt Damon backlash starts here

Rounders (15) Ronin (15) The Eel (18) Les Miserables (12) Dead Man's Curve (18) The Fountainhead (PG)

Film: The old percentage game

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