(12) 144 mins a a a

Billed as 'The Dirty Dozen in space', Michael Bay’s sci-fi movie delivers what this year's other event movies - Deep Impact, Godzilla, Lost In Space - only promised. The plot may be muddled and the dialogue mostly flippant one- liners, but here is $125 million

worth of relentless, retina- scorching, high-testosterone action.

Bruce Willis leads a team of roughneck oil drillers who must save the world from an asteroid the size of Texas that's on collision course with Earth. We are not talking reality here; we are talking superior formula film-making - a tale about reluctant heroes who triumph against all the odds. ‘Talk about The Wrong Stuff'. quips a NASA astronaut, as Willis and his rag-tag team shamble across the runway. These are not the trained professional astronauts of Apollo 13 or Deep Impact, these are just regular blue collar guys.

Yet for all its jaw-dropping visuals and head-banging sound. the most impressive thing about

Meteor is murder: Bruce Willis in Ar

gs," V mageddon

Armageddon is not its pyrotechnics. True, the NASA- sanctioned shuttle launch footage is amazing, and the outstanding effects generate excitement and suspense during the asteroid~landing sequence. Yet the movie's real heart lies in its ensemble acting and engaging, if two-dimensional characters. The laconic Willis may get top billing, but you're just as likely to remember Billy Bob Thornton as the cool mission controller, Steve Buscemi as the sardonic geologist or the lovely Liv Tyler, whose smiling and/or tear-streaked face must represent the hopes and fears of the entire human

work by Oscar~winning scribes Robert Towne (Chinatown) and Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show), the messy script, together with director Bay's staccato editing, undermine the film's storytelling clarity.

That said, if you can suspend your disbelief, Armageddon delivers the kind of undemanding pleasures one expects from a popcorn movie, blending eye-pleasing images and a thumping rock score with a clever mix of Hollywood star power and indie street cred. Flashy, noisy, mindless entertainment, perhaps; but at least it's well~execiited mindless entertainment.

race. .

There are chronic weaknesses. Despite uncredited

(Nigel Floyd)

Abbas Kiarostami Director of A Taste Of Cherry

t 4 .4;

Abbas Kiarostami: a matter of life and death

At times he's been referred to as the Iranian Steven Spielberg. Abbas Kiarostami may well have pre-eminent status in his country's film industry, but his work couldn't be further away from the fast commercial thrills or

123 THE llST 6—13 Aug I998

mainstream sentimentality of the Hollywood king.

Kiarostami's films are unhurried, often repetitive cinematic essays that introduce then debate philosophical points on screen. The audience is stimulated on an intellectual rather than visceral level, and yet that doesn't stop crowds from across Iran’s social Spectrum flocking to his mOVies. Abroad, however, his work is relegated to brief screenings on the arthouse circuit and is championed by a critical elite. And yet his is a body of work that speaks directly to the common man, tackling universal themes of life and death.

His latest film, A Taste Of Cherry, jointly won the Palme D'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival In it, a man. drives around a bleak landscape hoping to recruit someone to help him commit suicide. But, argues, the directOr, this isn’t a character study as much as a declaration of mankind’s ultimate free chOice.

‘I deeply believe that one persOn is nothing, so it’s worthless to make a film about any one person,’ says

a General release from Fri 7 And see feature

Kiarostami But when I say that 80% of people think about committing Suicide at a certain period of their lives, then there IS a subject to talk about What I would like to convey is that the responsibility of your life is in your hands It's an eXistential philosophy that life is not imposed on you, it depends on your decisions Suicide is a kind of protest; we cannot choose our nationality, Our date of birth, things like that, so this is the only free option left for us '

Kiarostami also believes his film functions as a blank screen onto which the audience ‘."-/l“ project its own inner thoughts 'I wanted to leave the oppOrtiinity for the audience to use its imagination, to relate its own problems to the character,‘ l‘e my definition of his problem wrll differ according to the number of people in the audience Someone came and told me they were positive the character had emotional problems And so I was conVinced that that person had emotional problems ' (Alan Morrison) e Edinburgh Film/louse from Fri 7 Am; See review

And the

A Taste Of Cherry (PG) 99 mins as a is

A middleaged Iranian, Mr Badiei (Homayoon Irshadi), drives around the ugly country roads outside Tehran. At first we are unsure of this enigmatic ligure's purpose - is he kerb-crawling or hiring casual labourers? - but it soon becomes apparent he is trying to hire an accomplice to bury him after he commits smcide

Some of those he picks upturn him down flat; one young clergyman argues that taking your own life goes against the Koran. An old taxidermist agrees to help him, but then tries to talk Badiei out of his plans by telling him of his own aborted attempt at suicide ~ he changed his mind after tasting the berries on the tree upon which he was gomg to hang himself.

Director Abbas Kiarostami has no interest in plot or rounded-out characters. By refusing to reveal what lies behind Badiei's decision to kill himself, the focus falls instead on the decision-making process Each figure is real, naturally played and sure of his convictions, regardless of sOCial standing and nationality. This allows for a degree of audience sympathy within the film's intellectualised framework.

A Taste 0/ Cherry, jomt winner of the 1997 Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, doesn't end With a fade-to- black indicating Badiei's demise. Instead, we see the actor and film crew pack 'up on a sunny spring day. In his past work, Kiarostami regularly strips away artifice to reveal the filmmaking process, thereby adding an extra layer of debate to his Subject matter. Here he underlines another pet theme: it doesn't matter if this particular indiVidual lives or dies -- life goes on. (Alan Morrison)

a Edinburgh Fi/rnhouse lrom Fri 7 Aug. §ee preview

Dead reckoning: Homayoon lshradi in A Taste Of Cherry

STAR RATINGS a a i. at e Unmissable it it 9' it Very 900d 2 a it Worth a shot i x Below average * You’ve been warned