The end of the world is nigh, again, in The Core, presaged by electromagnetic storms that trash world landmarks like the Colosseum, the Golden Gate Bridge and our own Trafalgar Square (hard to tell the difference with this last one, so chaotic with roadworks is its present state). There haven't been such apocalyptic intimations since Bruce saved us all a few years back in Armageddon. The story is that the earth's core has stopped spinning, and if it isn't started again double-quick the planet will go into meltdown; so a rocket mission to the core is launched with a crew that includes Aaron Eckhart as a geomagnetics professor, Stanley Tucci and Delroy Lindo as rival geophysicists and Hilary Swank as an ace astronaut-navigator.
While one suspects that the "science" here is absurdly far-fetched, the movie reworks the old heroic conventions with just enough pace and tension to keep us awake. Jon Amiel's career has done its own kind of rapid descent since the days of The Singing Detective, but he stages the action sequences quite competently as the countdown to doom ticks perilously on. All the same, with Hilary Swank's liquid eyes to gaze into, I couldn't have cared less about the fate of the Earth.
Adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, The Rules of Attraction aims for the hip, flip tone of American Psycho and jazzes it up with fancy camera tricks. Director Roger Avary (who co-wrote Pulp Fiction) freeze-frames the action, runs it backwards, splits the screen and flash-cuts time out of mind, the intention to convey lives hooked on narcotic overload but with "no forward momentum". James Van Der Beek stars as Sean, drug dealer and sometime student at an exclusive New England college, where appetite alone rules and love is for squares. Shannyn Sossamon is the kooky virgin who secretly admires Sean, and Kip Pardue plays a backpacking Don Juan who, in the film's best sequence, goes on an accelerated sex rampage through Europe – here rings the final death-knell for the spirit of Henry James. Ellis's ice-cold prose is well-served by Avary and his cast, and if it's a chronicle of monolithic depravity and languid nihilism you want, knock yourself out. I'm just not sure that you'll feel much better by the end.
Rebecca Miller's triptych Personal Velocity, adapted on grainy digital video from her own short stories, is a mixed bag. Each story focuses upon a woman at a turning point in her life. The first, Delia, concerns a battered wife (Kyra Sedgwick) who finally leaves her husband, taking their three children with her. The closing episode, Paula, returns to the theme of abuse as a pregnant 21-year-old (Fairuza Balk) picks up a young hitch-hiker whose body is livid with bruises and scars. While the acting is top-notch, the stories are undermined by an intrusive male voiceover ("a toxic blend of anxiety and alienation was building up inside her...") that sounds like a direct lift from Miller's prose – and it didn't encourage me to read the book. It has the same kind of tremulous literariness that weighs down The Hours. What makes it worthwhile is the middle section, Greta, about a Manhattan book editor (Parker Posey) who finds herself muddled by career ambitions and a decent but dull husband she doesn't love. It's very slight, but Posey's jittery energy lights up the screen.
Angelina Jolie, sporting an atrocious blonde bouffant, stars in Life or Something Like It as Lanie, a smart but shallow TV reporter who thinks she's got it made. Then a street soothsayer (Tony Shalhoub) tells her that she will die in a week, and suddenly a major life rethink gets under way: in short order she realises that her celebrity fiancé is a nincompoop, that the cameraman (Edward Burns) she affects to despise is actually The One, and that life is more important than work. Isn't that just peachy? This mawkish, self-pitying twaddle is bad enough, but what really infuriates is the falsity of Lanie's spiritual conversion. Nothing has been sacrificed, and she goes merely from Having It All to Having It All Plus A Great New Boyfriend.
From the team who brought you the abysmal Exit Wounds comes Cradle 2 The Grave, another helping of scenery-trashing mayhem and chopsocky. The story is a moronic heist-and-kidnap number starring Jet Li as a Taiwan police officer and DMX as a diamond thief: two performers, but one facial expression between them.
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