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Plunkett And Macleane (15) 101 mins

When destitute gentleman James Macleane and bankrupt apothecary turned thief Will Plunkett are thrown together in mid-18th century London, the odd couple decide to pool their complementary talents to launch a new career as dashing highwaymen. Using Macleane‘s social connections and charm, and Plunkett’s underworld savvy, the pair are soon cutting a profitable swathe through high society, earning the sobriquet The Gentlemen Highwaymen after they hold up the Lord Chief Justice and his beautiful niece, Lady Rebecca Gibson. But Gibson’s cruel and ambitious deputy, Chance - England’s Thief Taker General - makes it his mission to capture the pair and set them swinging from the Tyburn Tree.

Based on the exploits of two historical characters, Plunkett And Macleane takes the conventions of British costume drama and filters them through the lens of an irreverent, contemporary buddy movie. Trainspotting pair Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle are perfectly cast as the film’s eponymous heroes.

Miller’s swaggering Macleane brims over with aristocratic insouciance, while Carlyle's feral Plunkett

Stand and deliver: Robert Carlyle in Plunkett And Macleane

burns with a rancorous class consciousness. Indeed, Carlyle's performance is coloured by all the other working-class heroes he has played in modern dress, in films from The Full Monty to Face. The supporting cast is equally good value, headed by Liv Tyler's plucky Lady Rebecca, Ken Stott‘s malevolent Chance and Alan Cumming’s fruitily camp Lord Rochester.

The film is the feature debut of Jake Scott, son of Ridley. It owes much to his father's trademark visual style and even more to his career to date in music videos and commercials. The flashy pop promo style - moody lighting, posey point-of-view shots, speeded-up camera and other stylistic tricks - is laid on so thick that at times one could be watching Adam Ant in his highwayman phase. A lavish ballroom scene sees scores of rhythmically choreographed, periwigged dancers moving across a striking chequered floor to a thumping, electronic beat. Baroque 'n’ roll.

Of course, each age remakes the past in its own image - but Plunkett And Macleane positively flaunts its anachronisms. Some people will hate it, but if you're in the mood, this is a hugely enjoyable if empty-headed romp. (Jason Best) ta General release from Fri 2 Apr.

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The Faculty mins ‘fi' #5? saw

In some quarters, Keyin Williamson is worshipped for single-handedly reVItalismg the horror mowe. Scream, With its entertaining balance of scares and self-referential jOkCS, put the genre back at the top of the box office charts, and the new blood kept pumping With I Know What You Did Last Summer and Halloween H20.

The Faculty fits neatly into the niche

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Earth girls are easy: Clea Duvall, Jordana Brewster and Laura Harris in The Faculty

Williamson’s pen and DimenSion Films; lots of great-looking young actors, a tightly packaged rock soundtrack and plenty of nods to past mowes for those in the know. This time, however, Williamson’s 'genre-busting’ goal is the 30-h B-mowe. But JUSI how original is his concept? It’s one thing to pay homage to a bunch of cult ClaSSICS. It's another to have characters say things along th'e'lines of 'You know these mowes, Stokely: how do they stop the

aliens taking over the town?‘ and then use that to dig yourself out of a plot hole.

The Breakfast Club was several generations of teen mowes ago, but nothing changes. Take five American schoolkids and you’ll still find a JOCk, a brain, a spoiled princess, a goth-freak loner and a rebel. In The Faculty, however, this group have worse horrors to face than all-night detention: their teachers and, one by one, their classmates are being taken . ‘. over by aliens. Only a qwck snort of caffeine-based amphetamines can sort the humans from the eVil ETs.

Director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn) ups the gore count far beyond the ’15’ certificate suggests and gives us the best screen monster since Alien, The film is funny and scary in the right places, but it's the underlying message that makes this the most subversive Hollywood mOVie for ages. Don't conform, shoot your teachers in the head, and take drugs to save the world. Not even Judd Nelson would advocate that. (Alan Morrison)

a General release from Fri 9 Apr. See feature.

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Tea With Mussolini (PG) 117 mins **

Franco Zeffirelli’s latest film is partly autobiographical, partly fictitious, and concerns the effect on his own upbringing and education by a group of English ladies living in Florence at the time of II Duce‘s rise to power. Leading this white-lace-and-parasols brigade are Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and the ubiquitous Judi Dench, while Cher and Lili Tomlin add a splash of American colour.

Plowright’s Mary Wallace is a tutor- cum-guardian to young Luca, who is illegitimate and whose father squeamisth disowns him because his own Wife detests the boy. Dench’s effusive Arabella is a fresco fanatic with pretensions of being an artist herself, and Maggie Smith’s Lady Hester is the stuffy widow of a former British ambassador, who pontificates to the others. Cher enlivens things somewhat as Elsa, a generous, Jewish, ex-Ziegfield dancer with a liking for Picasso and for rich, elderly husbands, and Tomlin mucks in as a pleasant lesbian archaeologist called Georgie.

Following a disturbance in the streets, Hester is granted a meeting - tea, no less with Benito himself (Claudio Spadaro), but his assurances are just a publiCity coup, and their situation is indeed precarious. As Italy’s war—time alignment becomes clear, Luca is packed off to Austria to learn German, and the ladies are interned along with Hester's adult son (Paul Checquer), whom they conceal among themselves in (wholly unconvmcing) drag. Luca returns grown up to find himself in love With Elsa, herself in grave danger after the US enters the war.

This particular brew by Zefferelli and John Mortimer has a melange of flavours and is deftly poured in the most idyllic of settings, yet it seems oddly lacking in zest. According to the director, the real life group who fostered his love of art were known as the Scorpioni because of their stinging satire ~ and perhaps this is what hasn't qune filtered through. But then, some people prefer a mellower cuppa.

(John Mackenzie) ta Selected release from Fri 2 Apr. Brew ha ha: Cher in Tea With Mussolini

STAR RATINGS vii at w a 9: Unmissable a w 31* ii; Very 900d it» ‘k Worth a shot a 1k Below average st» You've been warned