Drop Dead Gorgeous (15) 98 mins *mwk

Set in America's heartland of traditional values and Christian morality, this deliciously savage satire takes a bite out of an aspect of American life held most dear. The beauty pageant every young girl's dream chance to show poise, talent and personality in swim and evening wear - is the basis of it, while the overwhelming desire of some small- minded, smalltown folk to succeed in such things is the prime target.

That is certainly true for the horrendous Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley). As a previous winner of the Teen Princess pageants, she is determined that her daughter Becky (Denise Richards) should also take the crown. But there is a problem: the other contestants. Chief threat among them is sweet-but-poor Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst), whose own mother (Ellen Barkin) puts no store in such things, but is backing her girl all the way. Both are surprised when some of Amber's fellow contestants start meeting with unfortunate accidents.

From so simple a premise this sharply observed and well-paced comedy travels to a painful, poignant yet funny conclusion. No one escapes being sent up, not even the likeable Amber and her fun-loving mother. Tragic stories in the news have echoed the kind of twisted mentality played out here, but

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Very bad things: Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards in Drop Dead Gorgeous

Drop Dead Gorgeous is played strictly for laughs, and has plenty of poise, intelligence and charm of its own. (Anwar Brett)

I General release from Fri 17 Sep.

Instinct (18) 123 mins *1:

Marketed foolishly as a cross between Silence Of The Lambs and Gorillas In The Mist, John Turtletaub’s psychological thriller has little chance of eclipsing either. Long-winded, Instinct meanders for too long, stop- starting with irritating regularity and pursuing sub-plots that do little to further the story.

This begins as Dr. Ethan Powell (Anthony Hopkins), stationed in Africa to study apes, is found two years after his disappearance in the jungle. Upon his discovery, he savagely kills three men and injures two more, but is ultimately imprisoned. Enter Dr. Theo Calder (Cuba Gooding Jr), a psychologist dedicated to the cause of getting Powell to break his cell-induced silence, and to unlock the reasons

Apernan: Anthony Hopkins in Instinct

behind his rage upon capture. Of course, Calder exorcises a few demons along the way and is home in time for tea. All very uninspiring from Turtletaub, who found he could do nothing original with the romantic comedy (While You Were Sleeping), enher

Hopkins, while not retreading Hannibal territory, is on autopilot. Gooding Jr, meant to graduate here to Leading Man, fails to impress - often overshadowed by Hopkins, despite the Welshman not firing on all cylinders. Brave the film might be in its attempt to stimulate with a virtual two-hander, but the concept itself (dealing with the beast within) remains rather misjudged. Not exactly unwatchable, but dipping dangerously towards tedious for a chunk of the running time. (James Mottram) I General release from Fri 77 Sep.

FILM new releases

South Park: Bigger,

Lon er 8: Uncut (15) mins *‘kir

However liberal-minded you think you are, your inner Mary Whitehouse might balk at the big-screen antics of the cut-out cuties from South Park. Within ten minutes, the 15 certificate looks like a printing error.

The premise reeks of the kind of smug self-referentiality you'd expect from hypemeisters Parker and Stone. The influence of a new movie, starring , flatulent Canadians Terrance and ', ' Philip, ups the little fellas' E‘P'et'vwswu‘ Park foulmouthery, so their clean-minded parents spearhead a bloody attack upon Canada. A few audacious leaps of credulity later, humanity is at the brink of destruction. Along the way there's enough profanity, perversion and scatology to make Bernard Manning blush - plus an alarming foray into hi-tech animation, and a glimpse of Kenny sans hood.

The humour of South Park works on numerous levels; what some interpret as bigotry, others take as a witty satire on institutionalised American hypocrisy. Whichever vieWpoint you tend towards, the movie will confirm it - it strains for maximum offence, and yet ultimately its stance is almost endearineg idealistic. It takes an obscene scenic route to a rather earnest point about kneejerk political proclamations, war and moral panic, which makes it a rather fascinating cultural artefact. But if that kind of theorising leaves you cold, you can always just laugh at the knob jokes. (Hannah McGill)

I General release from Fri 10 Sep.


(18) 99 mins iii:-

Antonia Bird's horror western is a hybrid in more ways than one. Apart from mixing genres, Ravenous mixes tones: eerie atmosphere and splatterfest gore. It's a film of two very distinct halves, both of which work well within themselves, although they sit together somewhat uncomfortably.

Opening in 1847, the first half sees Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce), a traumatised veteran of the Mexican-American war, banished to a remote army outpost in the icy Sierra Nevada mountains by his commanding officer who believes him to be a coward. Wandering into this camp of misfits - including Jeffrey Jones’s cynical commanding officer and David Arquette's peyote-stewed cook comes Robert Carlyle's half-starved stranger, Colqhoun, who tells a terrible tale of stranded settlers and cannibalism. The soldiers set off to retrieve the settlers’ remains, but up in the mountains Colqhoun gives them a big, nasty surprise. Thereafter, Ravenous switches moods, piling on the gore in a slapstick, ultimately farcical manner.

While the satire (on consumerism?) and humour don't always work, there is much to recommend: the charismatic leads (Pearce all brooding introversion in contrast to Carlyle's wildest psycho yet); the superb, sinister soundtrack by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman; the chilling (in both senses) location photography; and the raw meat 'n‘ gristle gore. (Miles Fielder)

I General release from Fri 70 Sep.

Stop Making Sense

(PG) 8 mins audit

There’s plenty of quality in Stop Making Sense, the film of Talking Heads’s 1984 stage show. There are the songs, obviously, and the band's original musicians, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison enjoying themselves tremendously. There’s direction by feature filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who has a radar- like eye for the little smiles and exchanges between band members, and the wit to make the opening shot of the film a pair of sneakers. But the element of Stop Making Sense that arrests the attention from beginning to end and makes this film unforgettable is the scintillating, mesmeric David Byrne.

Byrne’s stage personae are so numerable that there is something of the shape- changer about him. He is at one moment masquerading as an obese white collar type, the next caught up in some mad army drill. Each personality is there and not there: a momentary riveting impression of human character, be it satirical, comic or grotesque, thrown up from the singer's amazing imagination and then overturned in a shot. There's also more than a little of the vertiginous about Byrne: he messes with our concepts of sanity and insanity, reason and unreason, and makes a brilliant case for us to Stop Making Sense. (Hannah Fries)

I Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 10 Sep.

Same as it ever was: David Byrne and Talking Heads in the 15th anniversary re-release of Stop Making Sense

9—23 Sep 1999 THE UST18