new releases

Batman 8: Robin (PG) 130 mins hr

The best that can be said about the fourth Batman movie is that it isn't quite as bad as Joel Schumacher's previous effort, the abysmal Batman Forever one of the worst mainstream movies ever made. Moving further away from the Gothic melancholy of Tim Burton's first two films, Batman 8: Robin seeks ’inspiration' in the pun- infested campness of the 605 series, with catastrophic results. The clunky one-liners fall flat; every scene is an atomised set-piece; there is no narrative momentum whatsoever; and the characters/stars (like the majority of their dialogue) get lost amidst the impressive art deco sets, hyper- psychedelic lighting and cacophonous soundtrack.

For the record, the predictable plot concerns a plan by eco-terrorist Poison Ivy to seduce and destroy the Dynamic Duo, with the help of disaffected scientist Dr Freeze, who joins forces with her when told that it was they who pulled the plug on his cryogenically-preserved wife.

Uma Thurman's scene-stealing performance as nerdy botanist Dr Pamela Isley and vampy villainess Poison Ivy saves the film from total failure, capturing perfectly the exaggerated, comic-book feel that Schumacher seemed to be aiming for. By contrast, Schwarzenegger's Mr Freeze role is badly underwritten, with poor dialogue, a slightly too sentimental back-story about his love for his deceased wife, and a seriously damaging hedging of its bets where Arnold's being an out-and-out villain is concerned. As a result, his on-screen charisma is swallowed up by the silver suit in which he is incarcerated for much of the time.

And what about George Clooney's Batman? Well, Clooney does exactly what's required, but no more: he looks handsome in a dinner jacket, wears the Batsuit

Suit you, sir: Chris O'Donnell in Batman 8: Robin

without embarrassment, and uses his trademark grin and sexy voice to much advantage. On the other hand, the less said about Chris O’Donnell’s bland, whinging Robin or Alicia Silverstone's silly, redundant Batgirl, the better.

Not that any of this matters, since the entire exercise is merely a showcase for fetishistic shots of tight buns in rubber, flashy special effects, eye-catching gizmos and a lot of wince-inducing puns. Like its predecessor, this is noisy, empty, pointless and without a hint of wit or intelligence. But what do you expect from a director who was once a costume designer, and should have stayed one? (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Fri 27 Jun.

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Unhook The Stars

Girls' night out: Gina Rowlands and Marisa Tomei in Unhook The Stars

startling reminder of the romantic possibilities she's recently left under- explored.

Although it’s relatively easy to sketch such a synopsis, the impressive thing about Unhook The Stars is how quickly it draws us into these characters and makes us feel that they're the driving force behind the unfolding drama. The screenplay deviates from the textbook by letting emotional lives dictate plot development, rather than the other way around, and the immediacy of the performances keeps it all together.

Rowlands, maternal yet isolated, capable yet vulnerable, is absolutely wonderful, and her utter naturalness

(15) 104 mins timid

Following in the footsteps of a famous father has proved a stumbling block to many a creative career, but Nick Cassavetes -~ writer-director son of American indie godfather John has eased himself into the celluloid domain with this auspiCIous debut feature. Completing the family connection is a starring role for his mother, Gena Rowlands, who's superb as Mildred, an attractive middle-aged widow who starts to reconsider her own life

through the changes happening to others around her.

When her neighbour Monica (Marisa Tomei) is left holding down a job while looking after small son JJ (Jake Lloyd), Mildred offers to keep an eye on the boy for a few hours each day. Though she enjoys being an auntie, it does makes her think about how she dealt with her own children. Still, there is more to life than being a mom, and on a girls' night out, the attention paid to Mildred by her pal's truck-drivmg friend Big Tommy (Gerard Depardieu) is a

shows up the actressy calculations in Tomei's nervy support. Depardieu too (who also produced the French- financed film) is charismatic in his small but CTUClal role, while Cassavetes’s achievement is to create a deceptively loose enVironment where they can all give of their best —- though his firm controlling hand is never in doubt. Really, it’s so involving you want to bring the characters home With you. (Trevor Johnston)

I Edinburgh Film/louse from Fri 4 Jul. Glasgow Film Theatre lrom Fri 78 Jul.

new releases FILM

The Boy From Mercury (PG) 87 mins ****

If there’s anyone out there who is yet to be convinced of our relentless fascination with the 'other world’, have a glimpse at a recent selection of terrestrial broadcasting. In the space of just three days you could have watched Star Trek: Voyager, The Outer Limits, Alien 3, The X-Files, Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Thing and The Paranormal World Of Paul McKenna. Darwin only knows what kind of fuss the Americans are making of the whole deal.

So what we really need now is a film about a little Irish kid who thinks he’s from a distant planetary system, right? Well, why not? If ever there's a need for a bit of perspective, see the world through the eyes of youth and innocence. In writer and director Martin Duffy's The Boy From Mercury, eight-year-old Harry (James Hickey) believes he has special powers granted him through his birthplace being Mercury rather than Dublin.

This belief appears to stem from his visits to the Saturday morning film club for their weekly showings of Flash Gordon, his ever more sinister daydreams and his lack of a father figure. His real dad left mum (Rita Tushingham) widowed, and the potential surrogates are either weird like Uncle Tony (Tom Courtenay), a waster like his brother Paul (Hugh O’Conor), or in the case of his priest- teacher, a nose-picking disciplinarian.

Harry’s faith in his roots is tested at several points by doubting friends and when faced with the school bully but the dream remains intact. Quite what The Boy From Mercury adds to the oeuvre is uncertain, but what we are undoubtedly left with is an irresistible tale of memory, loss and the search for a better future. If you manage to sit through this without turning into jelly at Hickey’s painfully innocent performance, then you have the heart of a tyrant. (Brian Donaldson)

I Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 27 Jun,

On another planet: James Hickey in The Boy From Mercury

STAR RATINGS . iii *iriritr Outstandi * it 1i i: Recommen ed * sir it Worth a try * it: 50-50 i: Poor

27 Jun—10 Jul 1997 THEUSTZS