(PG) 97 mins ****
Bleak, rainy countryside and frustrated love — this latest Thomas Hardy adaptation is more than buxom girls in corsets running through fields chewing grass. The story revolves around the effects of social snobbery on a small rural community where love and love’s fulfilment do not walk hand in hand.
In the middle are Grace (Emily Woof) and Giles (Rufus Sewell), betrothed since childhood. But when Grace returns from finishing school an educated young lady, her father begins to dream of a better match for her than this cider-brewer, and the simplicity of the couple's future together is underminded. Grace makes a socially advancing but unhappy
Hardy couple: Emily Woof and Cal MacAninch in The Woodlanders
marriage to the unfaithful Dr Fitzpiers (Cal MacAninch), forcing her to face up to what might have been.
Both Woof and Sewell — quiet but tortured in his chunky country chords — put in moving performances as young sweethearts c0ping with sadness and alienation as family pressure drives them apart. Using the rural landscapes to exploit the 'bitter-sweet' nature of the story, the film moves through magical summer evenings to black, relentless rain. As Grace’s husband makes increasing numbers of night visits to the Lady of the Manor, the storm of emotions brews and any chance of a resolution is likely to be washed away in the inevitable deluge. (SOphy Bristow)
l Selected release from Fri 6 Feb.
Driven to extremes: Rock Hudson and Dorothy Malone in Written On The Wind
RETROSPECTIVE Douglas Sirk
Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 13 Feb; Glasgow Film Theatre from Sun 15 Feb.
Melodrama, in a critical context, is a much misused word. It's thrown at scenes of cheap hystrionics in the same way as 'tragic’ is a byword for 'sad’ and ’epic’ really means 'at least half an hourtoolongﬂ
No one crafted melodrama into as fine a cinematic form as Douglas Sirk. After establishing himself in Berlin's Ufa Studios during the 19305, Sirk relocated with his Jewish wife to Hollywood just before the outbreak of World War II, and it was there that he crafted some of the key films of the
SOs. Examples from both periods are on show as a retrospective of his work comes to Scotland.
Written On The Wind (1956) is perhaps his strongest work. Robert Stack plays an alcoholic oil heir, Lauren Bacall his new wife, Rock Hudson his lower class best friend and the Oscar- winning Dorothy Malone his tarty sister. Here, money is a curse and the root of self-loathing. This quartet of characters act on their emotions, not their intellects, and that is what brings about inevitable death.
Classy tearjerkers and prototype soap operas for sure, but perhaps this season can reclaim Sirk’s SOs movies from dismissal as 'chick flicks’ by noting how his eye also falls with sharp criticism on notions of masculinity. (Alan Morrison)
new releases FILM
ALSO OPENING Good Burger (PG) 95 mins
Back in 1995, All That — a series on America’s Nickelodeon daytime cable channel - introduced a character called Ed, a fast-food joint employee who really loves his work. Kel Mitchell, the actor who plays Ed, also appears in a TV spin-off called Kenan And Kel, With fellow comedian Kenan Thompson. Now they appear together — as does happy chappy Ed — in spin-off spin-off Good Burger.
The story begins as Dexter (Thompson) takes a job beside Ed (Mitchell) in the Good Burger restaurant as a means of paying off a debt to schoolteacher Mr Wheat (Jingle All The Ways Sinbad) after a car accident. When a slick chain called Mondo Burger opens across the road, the end would appear to be nigh for the independent, until Ed creates a home-made sauce that’s an instant hit. Mondo Burger’s neo-naZi manager Kurt (Jan Schweiterman) then goes all out for the recipe.
The film enjoyed a modest box office return in the States last year, but over here, unfamiliarity is likely to reign supreme. Respected American critic Roger Ebert, while admitting the film wasn't aimed at him, still called it 'innocent, good-hearted, colourful and energetic', and a pre-teen audience may well take to the instantly likeable Ed's weird sense of humour. But the next Big Night? Unlikely. (Alan Morrison) . Selected release from Fri 73 Feb.
Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson in Good Burger
RE-RELEASE The Magnificent Ambersons (PG) 92 mins * i: **
With his technical mastery and baroque stOrytelling powers, it makes you shudder to think what Orson Welles could have done with the budgets available to today’s crop of Hollywood wUnderkinds. Then again, the way his films became artistic putty in the moguls’ hands, it is likely he would have wished to remain a maverick.
Coming just a year after Citizen Kane, much was expected of his version of Booth Tarkington’s story of a high society family’s attempts to adapt to the social, economic and technological changes in 18703 USA - neatly encapsulated by the automobile. The Magnificent Ambersons is less of a narrative and chronological jigsaw puzzle and more a dissection of a family Within a system With the odd flashy bit thrown in.
Welles may not be on screen but his bulky presence is everywhere — in the austere voiceover, the juxtaposition of playfulness and menace and his expressionistic use of light, sound and sets for maximum symbolic effect. Compared to Citizen Kane, his follow-up is less reliant on cinematographic wizardry and more on detail and performance — Joseph Cotton and Agnes Moorehead shine — and, as such, renders it a marginally less complete cinematic experience than his first-born. Which, unlike the studio-imposed happy finale, is hardly cause for criticism. (Brian Donaldson)
I Glasgow Film Theatre from Sat 7—Mon 9 Feb.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
(12) 91 mins
A no-nonsense, no-plot excuse to combine a deafening soundtrack With martial arts set-pieces, the original Mortal Kornbat was the best of the films inspired by video games. Mind you, that's not saying much in a field that also includes the Bob Hoskins clunker Super Mario Bros and the bizarre teaming of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue in Streetlighter. Nevertheless, it kept the thrills coming and even managed to deflate its cosmic pretentiousness thanks to a knowingly over-the-top performance by Christopher Lambert.
We can expect more of the same from Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, at least in the fight department. Rumblings from America haven't been so good on its all-round entertainment value, however.
Despite their first round victory, the heroes of the first movie find themselves once again up against the deadly warriors ordered around by Shao-Kahn, the evil Emperor of Outworld. Scorpion and Sub-Zero are back, and this time there's a female baddie with four karate-chopping arms. In other words, more characters, more fights, more noise, more diminishing returns. Bruce Lee would have gubbed the lot of them. Single-handed. (Alan Morrison)
I Selected release from Fri 73 Feb.
Talisa Soto in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
6—19 Feb 1998 THE UST 51