Great Expectations (15) 110 mins **

'l'm empowered to make your dreams come true,’ says the lawyer entrusted with the financial wherewithal to turn Ethan Hawke's Finn from a beer- swilling Florida fisherman into the toast of New York's art scene. It's also, of course, the blank cheque freedom of many a Hollywood filmmaker, and director Alfonso Cuarbn - in this free adaptation of Dickens's novel turns a dank, foggy tale into a dayglo romance incorporating art, sex and the media. Not that Dickens is completely left behind. Robert De Niro plays the gruff convict the young Finn helps out, Anne Bancroft does her version of Miss Havisham (now called Mrs Dinsmoor),

What the Dickens: Jeremy James Kissner and Robert De Niro in Great Expectations

and Gwyneth Paltrow is the beauty from the past that talented artist Hawke can’t get out of his mind.

With recurring motifs of fountains and ladybirds, the film seems to be straining for a new imagery after cavalierly rejecting the Dickensian, but it's at its best in the early stages where fidelity to the novel is evident.

Chris Cooper is great to watch as Finn‘s Uncle Joe, a laid-back fisherman, his face all wear and tear, his handshake homely; and Bancroft floats around her crumbling mansion like a hippy who's come into some money but doesn’t quite know what to do with it all. But when the action shifts to New York, the film dies a quiet, predictable death. (Tony McKibbin)

I General release from Fri 17 Apr.


(18) 125 mins *** it

After hitting the headlines with his last two films, Oliver Stone has decided to duck out of the political arena and make a smaller, less complex work. Those expecting the more typical Stone swagger will be disappointed, but anyone interested in a couple of hours of skilful storytelling, strong performances and punchy cinematography won't be.

Sean Penn is excellent as the unlucky dude Bobby Cooper, who is en route to Las Vegas to repay a nasty debt when his radiator blows. He heads for the nearest town, mistakenly called Superior, where he encounters the mechanic from hell, enthusiastically played by Billy Bob Thornton. When he

Car trouble: Sean Penn in U-‘l’urn

sees Grace McKenna (Jennifer Lopez) strutting her sexy stuff down the sidewalk, shadows of Double Indemnity appear. As hard as poor Bobby might try, he can't resist her, instantly embroiling himself in a seedy murder plot bet‘Ween husband and wife.

Stone says this is a film about 'grinning skeletons', and he's right. As Bobby falls deeper and deeper into the arms of tragedy, we can’t help laughing. Stone's love of soundtrack comes shining through with a magical score from veteran Ennio Morricone, and there is a vivid look to the film that does justice to the Arizona desert. Not the film that Stone will be best remembered for, but a small, perfectly formed gem. (Lila Rawlings)

I Selected release from Fri 24 Apr.

new releases FILM

Junk Mail

(15)81mins **** Offering a timely corrective to Kevin Costner's recent vision of the civilising power of the postal service, this Norwegian comedy-thriller suggests that you have every right to be paranoid about the fact that you never seem to get any mail any more. Roy Amundsun (Robert Skjaerstad) is a postie from your worst nightmare. Lazy and shiftless, he will probably have read your letters before you do. That's if he bothers to deliver them at all. There's always the possibility that he will just dump them in a convenient railway tunnel.

Roy also has voyeuristic tendencies which lead to his involvement with a deaf dry-cleaning woman, Line. In a rare noble action he stops her killing herself only to end up embroiled in the crime that sparked her suicide attempt in the first


Director Pal Sletaune's debut has invoked comparisons with the work of Aki Kaurismaki, but in truth his approach is busier and, ultimately, slighter. Still, Junk

Mail remains a stylishly grungey delight.

Whether the Norwegian tourist board will thank Sletaune for his image of Oslo as a city washed in a constant, sickly-coloured drizzle, peopled almost exclusively by pasty-faced malcontents, is doubtful, but cinema-goers certainly should for this bracineg seedy comic turn. (Teddy Jamieson)

I Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 17 Apr. Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 7 May. See


Happy Together

(15) 96 mins hunk at

The new movie from Chungking Express director Wong Kar-Wai boasts a much more conventional narrative than any of his previous films.

Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) and Ho Po- Wing (Leslie Cheung) are two gay guys stuck in a very tempestuous relationship, trying to make a fresh start in Buenos Aires, the other side of the world from Hong Kong. However, their routine of breaking up and getting back together again is sadly not helped by their new surroundings, and it's not until Lai makes a new friend, Chang (Chang Chen), that he finds the strength to break free of this destructive pattern, leaving H0 in turmoil.

Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together

A simple tale, but certainly not devoid of distinctive directorial style, Happy Together features a colourful collage of amazing cinematography from Wong's long-term collaborator, Christopher Doyle, ranging from angled and upside-down shots to time lapse and slow motion. Meanwhile, Wong's application of sonic and visual imagery serves to capture the emotion in the film, from possessiveness and passion to lonliness and boredom. Rich, stylish, magical and highly original, Happy Together is a truly thrilling piece of cinema. (Beth Williams)

I Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 24 Apr. Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 1 May.

See preview.

FILM BOOK Wong Kar-Wai (Dis Voir £23.95)

Glance along a row of new film books, and there seems to be nothing but glossy, shallow celebrity biographies and imposing academic essays. It's a pleasure, therefore, to discover a volume that's both glossy and intelligently written. Then again, maybe that‘s the only way you can approach Wong Kar-Wai, whose work is also gorgeously visual but deeper and more brooding than the Hong Kong

genre-based cinema that spawned it.

French publishers Dis Voir have gathered together three essays and an extended interview in this handsomely designed book. The authors examine Wong's inventive, fragmented narrative style, the individualist characters, his use of music and how it reflects the characters' psychology.

The book is lucidly written (and expertly translated), allowing mainstream film fans a closer reading of Wong's films. That doesn't mean the approach is simplistic (Ackbar Abbas's essay demands concentration), rather that the whole approach is to convey how Wong's techniques make him perhaps the most truly 'contemporary' filmmaker working anywhere in the world today. (Alan Morrison) I Available from good bookshops or direct from Central Books on 0181 986

4854. See preview.

16-30 Apr 1998 tumour