Monday 27 May 2019

CINEMA: From aliens to vampires, PAT STACEY and SOPHIE GORMAN review the latest movie releases

No east ham as Beckham scores Bend It Like Beckham (12PG, general) Any film that can combine the topics of women's football and the modern racial and cultural dilemmas of Britain's Indian community and whip them up into a confection as funny, charming and appealing as Bend It Like Beckham deserves a shot on goal.

Jess (Parminder Nagra) is the 18-year-old daughter of traditionalist Sikh parents living in London. What they want most is for her to go to university, get married and settle down which is what her older, airhead sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi) is about to do.

What Jess wants to do most is play football, which she does at every available opportunity, despite her parents' disapproval. During a kickabout in the park, Jess who really can bend a ball like Beckham meets the exuberant Jules (Keira Knightley) and joins her on the local girls' team.

Jess and Jules share an interest in playing professional football in America, and both have a thing for team coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers who gives a curiously watery performance). Knowing her footballing days would be over if her parents found out she hadjoined a team and one full of English girls who show off their legs Jess sneaks around pretending she has a summer job.

However, her deception is uncovered when her father discovers that she was actually playing in a weekend tournament in Germany when she was supposed to be staying with her cousins. To make matters worse, she also falls out with Jules over Joe.

With her team in a cup final on the same day as Pinky's wedding, can Jess make her parents see sense in time? Gurinder Chadha, who co-wrote the script, ties up the various plot strands a little too conveniently and in the last half-hour the film gets too squishily feelgood for its own good.

But for most of its length, Bend It Like Beckham sparkles like a sequin on a sari. Parminder Nagra, making her big-screen debut, is a real find. Keira Knightley (The Hole, The Phantom Menace) is also excellent and the two spark off one another beautifully.

Veteran Bollywood star Anapum Kher, as Jess's father, lends a quiet dignity that counterbalances the broader comic moments, while Juliet Stevenson as Jules's brassy, busty mother, who thinks the girls are having a lesbian relationship, is hilarious. PS

K-PAX

(15, general release)

The cinematography in K-PAX positively glows with an otherworldly aura. It's a pity that so much else about the film is thuddingly dull and uninspired. Kevin Spacey plays Prot, a mental patient who claims to come from K-PAX, a planet 1,000 light years away where there is no government, no violence, no crime and no illness. K-PAXians have the power to heal themselves a skill that comes in handy when Prot starts to move among his fellow patients and calm their troubled minds.

Enter Jeff Bridges as Dr Powell, the psychiatrist who eventually starts to believe Prot may be telling the truth. Is he really an inter-galactic Christ-like prophet who has come to show us the error of our ways and guide us to a higher plane, or is he a madman who, through his delusional fantasies, has arrived at a different sort of reality? Powell embarks on a quest to New Mexico to find the key to Prot's past.

K-PAX, directed by British-born Iain Softley, who made the excellent BackBeat, is a disappointingly woolly and obvious parable (pax is Latin for peace, geddit?) that echoes several other films, not least John Carpenter's Starman, which starred none other than Jeff Bridges.

Spacey does his low-key, self-contained number with typical aplomb, but Bridges is the one who keeps K-PAX afloat. Who else but Bridges could invest a mouldering cliché like the world weary shrink who can solve everyone's problems but not his own with such depth and feeling? What a truly wonderful actor he is. PS

Queen of the Damned

(15, general release)

Queen of the Damned was headed straight onto video in the US until its co-star, singer Aaliyah, died in an air crash last August and Warner Bros, presumably out of respect for the dollar, pushed it into cinemas. The death of Brandon Lee during the making of The Crow gave that film a poignancy and cult standing it wouldn't otherwise have had. Queen of the Damned is no Crow, but it is a turkey.

This is an adaptation of the third novel in Anne Rice's interminable Vampire Chronicles. The last time we saw Lestat in Interview With the Vampire, he looked like Tom Cruise. He's grown a few inches since and turned into Stuart Townsend.

Having got fed up with the state of the world, Lestat went to sleep for 200 years (watching this, I think I know how he felt), but now he's back and he's the lead singer with a Goth-rock band. Lestat revives Egyptian vampire queen Akasha (Aaliyah), decides she's the girl for him and the two set out to rule the world.

Director Michael Rymer displays even more po-faced reverence for Rice's pretentious, self-important pulp than Neil Jordan. The result is a film that's as camp as Butlins but nowhere near as much fun and full of awful performances and silly dialogue. Where is Wesley Snipes's Blade when you need him? PS

The One

(18, general release)

"There is not one universe. There are many. A multiverse," the narrator solemnly intones at the beginning of this latest showcase for Jet Li's martial arts expertise, set in the near future. In each universe, there is an alternative version of ourselves but all are oblivious to each other's existence. If one of our alter egos dies, their life force is divided up equally among the remaining versions.

Rogue multiverse law enforcer Yulaw (Jet Li) has discovered this and begun systematically eliminating all the other versions of himself in order to become "the one". Travelling from universe to universe through wormholes, Yulaw is eventually left with just one copy of himself and is determined to be the last man standing. But former colleagues Delroy Lindo and Jason Stratham are determined to stop him.

The One relies almost entirely on action, deafening music, frenetic editing and special effects, yet director James Wong misses the whole point of making a Jet Li film, which is not about special effects but Li's phenomenal kung fu techniques.

Twaddle of the highest order that makes you wish you had a wormhole of your own to escape into. SG

And Your Mother, Too

(Club)

Two testosterone-fuelled 17-year-old boys, Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), are best friends in Alfonso Cuaron's funny, insightful and provocatively frank coming of age/road movie.

Their aimless notions of debauchery unexpectedly find a purpose when they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the 28-year-old wife of Tenoch's cousin. Blinded by her beauty, they impulsively invite her to join them on a trip to an idyllic beach called Heaven's Mouth. Surprisingly, Luisa accepts.

As the three drive together into the blistering sunshine of the great unknown, they learn a lot about themselves and each other.

A powerful, mature film, though not for anyone easily offended by unapologetically revealing sexual acts. SG

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