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Bright characters to love and loathe; DVDS/BOOKS.

Byline: By DAMON SMITH Film Critic

Burn After Reading (Cert 15, 92 mins, Universal Pictures UK, Comedy/Drama/Romance, also available to buy DVD pounds 19.99/Blu-ray pounds 24.99) Starring: George Clooney, Richard Jenkins, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, JK Simmons, Tilda Swinton.

CIA AGENT Osbourne Cox (Malkovich) loses his job and decides to bide his time, when he's not drinking, by penning his memoirs.

An electronic copy of the manuscript ends up in the possession of gym employee Chad Feldheimer (Pitt) and co-worker Linda Litzke (McDormand), who attempt to blackmail Osbourne.

Unfortunately, the former agent refuses to accede to their demands so Chad and Linda head to the Russian embassy, intent on selling Osbourne's insider secrets to the enemy.

Meanwhile, Osbourne's hard-nosed wife Katie (Swinton) revels in an extra-marital affair with serial womaniser Harry Pfarrer (Clooney), who has also begun dating Linda.

Unbeknownst to all of them, the CIA is monitoring every twist and turn. After the nerve-racking tension of the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men, writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen return to comedic territory with this pithy tale of espionage and infidelity.

Burn After Reading is peppered with colourful characters we love and loathe in equal measure.

Rating: ***

Taken (Cert 18, 89 mins, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Action/Thriller, also available to buy DVD pounds 19.99/Blu-ray pounds 28.99) Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Olivier Rabourdin, Katie Cassidy, Xander Berkeley, Holly Valance.

FORMER government operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) has turned his back on top-secret missions to work bodyguard detail instead for vulnerable celebrities.

Hoping to rebuild bridges with his spoilt, 17-year-old daughter Kim (Grace), Bryan reluctantly bows to pressure from ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) to allow the girl to visit Paris with best friend Amanda (Cassidy). Midway through a telephone call to Kim, to check the girls have arrived safely, Bryan's worst fears are confirmed. Albanian thugs break into the girls' city centre apartment and drag away Amanda and Kim while Bryan listens across the Atlantic.

The skirmishes that ensue ultimately become rather repetitive, without any droll humour to lighten the relentless brutality.

Rating: ***

Nights In Rodanthe (Cert PG, 93 mins, Warner Home Video, Romance/Drama, also available to buy DVD pounds 15.99/Blu-ray pounds 26.99) Starring: Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Viola Davis, Scott Glenn, Christopher Meloni, Mae Whitman, James Franco.

WITH her marriage in freefall, Adrienne Willis (Lane) takes time out from her wayward husband (Meloni) and resentful, teenage daughter (Whitman) to spend a weekend in the North Carolina coastal community of Rodanthe, looking after the beachside inn run by her good friend, Jean (Davis).

Only one guest has booked in for the weekend so Adrienne should have lots of time to contemplate her future. The promise of peace and quiet is short-lived with the arrival of the inn's solitary guest, Dr Paul Flanner (Gere), who has unfinished business with local resident Robert Torrelson (Glenn).

As a storm descends on Rodanthe and rocks Jean's guesthouse to its foundations, Adrienne and Paul cling to one another for emotional and physical comfort, sparking a passionate dalliance that will change the course of their lives forever.

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook), Nights In Rodanthe is a slushy romance about two lost souls gifted a second chance at love.

Comparisons to The Bridges Of Madison County are inevitable but George C Wolfe's love-in possesses none of that picture's deep, emotional resonance, shamelessly tugging the heartstrings with its contrived tale of chance encounters.

Rating: ***

CAPTION(S):

WOMANISER: George Clooney as Harry Pfarrer who revels in an extra-marital affair with Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) in Burn After Reading, a tale of espionage and infidelity
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Feb 6, 2009
Words:616
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