new releases

Conspiracy Theory (15) 140 mins **

The first half-hour or so of this new thriller from the Joel Silver/Richard Donner team that's made a packet from the Lethal Weapon series promises a lot more than the rest of the movie delivers.

We open on rain-washed, neon-lit New York streets as humble cabbie Mel Gibson plies his trade by night, Carter Burwell’s smoochy-yet- unsettling score sealing the feeling that we’re not a million miles from Taxi Driver terrain. When he gets back home, Mel's heavily fortified apartment resembles downtown paranoia city, where the fridge is locked, the coffee jar has a combination, the walls are plastered with magazine cuttings, and folders of newspaper clippings take up the rest of the floor-space. This guy clearly has a bee in his bonnet about . . . well pretty much everything actually. Kennedy, the CIA, Vietnam, you name it it's all one big conspiracy to him.

The first inkling that he's not wholly nutzoid comes when he's

picked off the streets by men in long coats, taken to a mystery location and pumped full of truth drugs by bespectacled nasty Patrick Stewart. Disorientatingly shot by cameraman John Schwartzman, it’s a fairly unnerving scene for a Hollywood blockbuster. Problem is, it’s the highlight of a movie that runs on for another hour and a half.

Mixed up in all this is Julia Roberts, a top Justice Department attorney who‘s dedicated years to investigating the murder of her federal judge father. Since Brian Helgeland's screenplay only gives us about three dots to work with, it doesn’t take the audience a

Just because you're paranoid . . . : Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts in Conspiracy Theory

fact that this collection of post‘Vietnam clichés and sinister governmental operations which passes for a plot really isn't interesting enough to sustain the 140- minute running time. The star power aspect doesn't do it either: Roberts does variations on ’gee-ain't-l- cute/smart/vulnerable' and remains utterly without soul, while Gibson has one of those truly unplayable parts where memories tend to come back to him every time the scriptwriter gets stuck. For those who've seen The Manchurian Candidate, it's all particularly transparent. A movie that flatters to deceive. (Trevor

long time to figure how all this joins together. All the production glitz in the world can't disguise the


I General release from Fri 29 Aug,

Horse parade: Judi Bench and Billy Connolly in Mrs Brown

Mrs Brown (PG) 103 mins it * air it

It's 1864 and Queen Victoria is not amused. Neither is the nation. Prince Albert has been dead for three years and the Widow of Windsor’s obsessive mourning for her beloved consort is casting gloom over the entire country. The reclusive Queen's popularity is waning and there are even calls in Parliament to abolish the monarchy. Enter Billy Connolly’s hlfSUlC Highland ghillie, John Brown, to shake up the

stuffy, protocol—ridden English court and rouse the Queen (Judi Dench) from her depreSSion. Incapable of standing on ceremony, he coaxes Victoria out of her torpor and soon becomes her most trusted companion. But rumours of the Queen's closeness to her servant emerge and the tabloul press dubs her 'Mrs Brown‘.

Well, did they or didn't they? Did John Brown bed Queen Vic? Probably not, is the line taken by director John Madden and writer Jeremy Brock, but their film remains a love story all the

same. At first it appears to be followmg the pattern set by so many Merchant-Ivory movres: volatile 'foreigner’ (Brown) melts the reserve of the emotionally repressed English (Victoria). However, Mrs Brown doesn't succumb to this cliche' and ultimately tells a far more interesting (and convmcmg) story. The love between Brown and Victoria isn’t so much platonic as sublimated, wrth Brown channelling his feelings for the Queen into an obsession wrth her safety. Madden's film can't match the comic brio and Visual panache of The Madness 0/ King George another film to draw teasing parallels between today's monarchy and its predecessors but his understated direction undeniably suits the story. Although the film won't lose very much on TV, it well deserves its place in the Cinema. The performances are uniformly splendid, With Dench and Connolly (both perfectly cast) grvrng the film a surprising emotional depth, while Anthony Sher provrdes an enioyable cameo as the dryly ironic Disraeli. Mrs Brown won’t melt any republican hearts, but one would have to be

made of stone to be left unmoved

(Jason Best) I General release from Fri 5 Sep

new releases FILM The Full Monty

(15) 91 mins twink

Aside from its hilarity, this hard—as-nails Yorkshire comedy has a profound, realist edge to it. Superbly directed by Peter Cattaneo, the film maps the precarious domestic relations in the lives of six men who find themselves displaced from their bread-winning roles.

In once-affluent Sheffield, it is not only the city that is left bereft of promise and vigour; a group of unemployed and uninspired Steelworkers find themselves more than literally redundant in society, as the gang leader, Gaz (Robert Carlyle) bemoans ’we’re not needed no more, we're as extinct as dinosaurs or roller- skates’. Desperate for money and a sense of purpose, this motley male crew decide to capitalise on their unconvincing sex appeal. So begins the mad-cap adventure, ignited in the maverick mind of Gaz, to become home-grown Chippendales, dancing to a raunchy beat for the pleasure of screaming women who are ’man enough' to use the urinals.

Following in the tradition of recent gritty British comedies such as Brassed Off and Secrets And Lies, Cattaneo's debut feature does not sacrifice its humour to an overwrought focus on the politics of working-class hardship. Reality is never overbearing as the men head from an initial misery over domestic troubles which include intense moments of pathos towards their roles as happy, clappy, clubland geezers whose will proves to be indomitable to their tragic situation.

This truly feel-good film features a winning script by Simon Beaufoy and some inspired performances from the troupe of male strippers. The grand finale lends a heroic bravado to these men, who go ’the full monty' and bare themselves in front of locals, laying aside their night-before nerves about penis size, body fat and accidental erections to crotch-thrust their way off the poverty line. An infectious comedy with a kitsch line in Las Vegas disco, it leaves us reeling from a climactic end. (Arifa Akbar)

I General release from Fri 29 Aug.

Naked ambition: Robert Carlyle in The Full Monty

STAR RATINGS at t it it t Unmissable it t it it Very ood * * * Won 3 shot it it Below average it You've been warned

29 Aug—~11 Sep i997 mausns