Film: New Films

Xan Brooks
Friday 18 June 1999 23:02 BST


Director: Orson Welles

Starring: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston

This re-edit of Welles's 1958 noir tightens up some of the film's sloppier moments without hampering its delirious forward rush. A giddy, wilfully over-the-top tale of police corruption south of the border, this conspires to cast all-American Charlton Heston as a high-minded Hispanic and Marlene Dietrich as a Mexican spitfire. Amazingly, Welles gets away with it. Citizen Kane may be the more weighty, rounded work, but Touch of Evil is a heap more fun.



Director: Woody Allen

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Melanie Griffith

Good satire doesn't pull its punches. Unfortunately in Celebrity, Woody Allen's line of attack is compromised by his being at least half in love with the very glitterati he sets out to savage. Here America's nerd auteur falls into the same trap that Altman tumbled into when making The Player - roping in a bunch of beautiful people (Winona Ryder, Leonardo DiCaprio) to show what good sports they are by pouring scorn on beautiful people. But it is Kenneth Branagh in the central role who inflicts the most damage on this fitfully funny yarn. Playing the film's social-climbing hack, Branagh reads his lines in an irksome, ongoing Woody Allen whine. His ham-fisted bit of mimicry makes you pine for the real McCoy.



Director: Roger Kumble

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe

The teen make-over of classic literature motors on. Just as Clueless ripped off Jane Austen's Emma, so Cruel Intentions transplants Les Liaisons Dangereuses to chi-chi Manhattan for a toxic little tale of two scheming half-siblings (the impressive Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe) who embroil their peers in all manner of sexual machinations. The big surprise here is how smoothly the intricate rituals of French society adapt to their new environment (Machiavellian viciousness, it seems, is universal). The abruptly moralising ending bumps this down a notch or two. Until then Cruel Intentions makes for smart and nasty entertainment: disservice with a smile.



Director: Tonie Marshall

Starring: Nathalie Baye, Bulle Ogier, Samuel Le Bihan

Revolving around the lives and loves of a trio of French beauticians, Venus Beauty moves from soap-operatics to farce to tragedy and alights at last on a lover's kiss beneath a shower of sparks. Nathalie Baye buttonholes the attention as the damaged, lovelorn lead, while director Tonie Marshall maps out the drama with soul and delicacy.



Director: Mike Hodges

Starring: Clive Owen, Alex Kingston, Gina McKee

Mike Hodges' latest crime-themed thriller is a million miles away from the taut, tough trajectory he brought to the recently re-issued Get Carter. A standard gambling caper, Croupier sees Clive Owen's casino worker (and aspiring novelist) playing with a deck of three queens: girlfriend Gina McKee, colleague Kate Hardie and South African card-sharp Alex Kingston. Owen's portentous voice-over stands in for his stiff non-acting. Script and direction play safe throughout.



Director: Richard Wenk

Starring: Andy Garcia, Andie MacDowell

Clearly infatuated with Seventies American cinema, Richard Wenk's low- budget debut spins a freewheeling account of a hustling tout at large in New York City. Just the Ticket's ongoing Andy and Andie show finds Garcia coping well as the yarn's smart-talking opportunist; while MacDowell struggles to flesh out an underwritten turn as his harassed ex-girlfriend. Wenk's debut has a certain baggy energy, but it finally has too little to say, and spends too long saying it.



Director: Ronny Yu

Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, John Ritter

The latest graduate from the Scream school of self-referentiality, Bride of Chucky strings together a series of humorous asides and knee-jerk shock tactics. Jennifer Tilly copes well as a leather-clad dominatrix, but when she's electrocuted in her bathtub, all that's left is an assemblage of stalkings, stabbings and cheesy gags.


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