STAYING IN: A CRITICAL GUIDE: NEW VIDEOS

Apollo 13 (PG). The sole redeeming feature of this disastrous disaster movie was a gut-quaking Dolby-soundtrack launch sequence, which was loud enough to shake the popcorn from your hands. On the small screen, the picture is robbed even of that fleeting pleasure. The director Ron Howard manages to take one of the most potentially terrifying episodes in the history of space travel - when a hitch left the Apollo 13 craft suspended above the Earth, and the lives of its crew (Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton) hanging in the balance - and turn it into a tepid TV movie. (If only it really were one: you long for the brief reprieve of a garish commercial.) Where themes of patriotism jeopardised by the struggle for survival might have surfaced, the screenwriters revert to jingoistic impulses; stoicism replaces any whiff of existentialist terror; and instead of friction between the astronauts, we get that vacuum of personality that seems to open up wherever Tom Hanks, the eunuch of modern cinema, lays his hat. In this anaesthetised atmosphere, some of the supporting cast are pleasantly jazzy on the eye and ear: Gary Sinise is compelling as the one who got away - at first aggrieved, then relieved, awkwardly so, at having been left behind. But as a director, Howard is an anti-lifeforce, a vampire; he sucks films dry of tension and opportunity. He and Hanks are perfectly matched - they make everything bland. It's not all their fault. Even on the basic technical level, Apollo 13 fails dismally (look out for an unforgivable error in the early scene where Hanks is gawping at the Moon). Hollywood, we most definitely have a problem.

A cock and bull story

COMMENTARY

The transformer

4. Mark Shivas The BBC is emerging as a significant player in the film business, led by a man without proven ability as an uncouth heavy. By Kevin Jackson

From drawing-rooms to Wessex wilds

Catherine Pepinster sees Austen make way for Hardy on television

These are the rising stars of 1996

Which names will you hear everywhere in the year ahead? David Benedict canvassed the views of the Independent's critics

A Wessex tale of Auld Reekie

Jude the Obscure ... set in Edinburgh? `Eccentric academic' Kevin Jackson joined the set of the latest costume drama to hear producer Andrew Eaton's excuse

Pain, with no jokes taken out

Jimmy McGovern, the author of 'Cracker', has collaborated with multiple sclerosis sufferer Paul Powell to create a drama that is anything but an 'illness-of-the-month' feature. By James Rampton

The anti-nowhere leads

Cinema: BUTTERFLY KISS Michael Winterbottom (18) DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE John McTiernan (15) SUITE 16 Dominique Deruddere (18)

Rugby Union: Golden Old sinks Otley - Round-up

MICHAEL OLD displayed the coolness under pressure which used to be the hallmark of his father's game as he engineered the main upset of the Pilkington Cup second round yesterday.

REVIEW / Taking the Ha, Ha, Ha out of Roddy Doyle

THE HIGHER Roddy Doyle rises, the deeper his characters sink into the bog. The worst affliction suffered by anyone in the 'Barrytown Trilogy' was the Republic's elimination from the World Cup quarter-finals, and the emotions of stout men flowed as liberally as the stout. In Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, last year's Booker victor in which a 10-year-old kicked around with his pals while his Da kicked his Ma around , Doyle's comic instincts budged up a bit and made room for something gloomier. We should have known what to expect from his first work written directly for the screen. In Family (BBC 1), an Irish Catholic's tremendously sour contribution to this year's UN festivities, there's still a rich diet of soul music, football and repartee round the kitchen table, but unless the series lightens up a bit we'll fetch up in the heart of darkness.

TELEVISION / Doyle family values: Paddy Clarke Boo Hoo Hoo: Roddy Doyle is putting the darker side of family life on screen. Kevin Jackson met him on location

One Saturday afternoon late last autumn, the crowd at Dublin's Dalymount Park football stadium (Bohemians vs Shelbourne: a disappointing goalless draw) was slightly larger than usual, since it included a couple of actors, 50-odd extras, a camera crew, a director, a producer and a writer. Most of the crowd were understandably more interested in the match than in the visitors, but then some nearby lads noticed who the writer in question was, and, to the traditional supporter's melody of 'Guantanamera' started up a rowdy chant: 'One Roddy Doy-ull] There's only one Roddy Doy-ull] . . .'

THEATRE / Mother of all murders: Correction

In yesterday's review of 'Butterfly Kiss', the actress Susan Brown was incorrectly billed as Susan Brownowen.

THEATRE / Mother of all murders: Paul Taylor on Butterfly Kiss at the Almeida in London (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 16 APRIL 1994) INCORPORATED INTO THIS ARTICLE

Media / Talk of the Trade: Duds and delights

THE BBC is super-serving the middle classes. This is the predictable conclusion of both the BBC's own research and that of outside bodies such as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. It was probably ever so, but when the corporation is defending its right to a statutory licence fee to pay for good television programmes for everyone, it becomes a touchy subject.
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick