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Film: Heavenly return of the fallen; Mike Davies takes a look at the week's cinema releases.

Byline: Mike Davies

CHARLIE'S ANGELS Cert PG. 100 mins 'Don't they know that television shows never make good movies,' snarls the man on the plane as TJ Hooker-The Movie comes on as in-flight entertainment. And, when you think of The Flintstones, The Saint and The Avengers, you have to agree.

Fortunately this big screen non-bimbo revamp of the tongue in cheek 70s series about three babes in tight-fitting, skimpy clothes who work undercover for the mysterious Charlie's detective agency bucks the trend.

It's a James Bond with cleavage, Hong Kong martial arts stunts and an Austin Powers sensibility. The plot (the girls have to rescue a kidnapped techno millionaire and recover his world-threatening communications software, but all is not what it seems) is flimsy at best. But then this was never going to be War and Peace. As directed by music vid whiz kid McG and written at some point by probably every screenwriter in Hollywood, it's just an excuse to have lots of explosions, chases, Matrix style flying through the air.

It's very silly. But it's supposed to be. Diaz, who does ditzy like it's just been fresh minted, even gets to shake her booty in two dance sequences (one in underwear), smiling fit to burst. Surprisingly it's Barrymore (who as producer insisted the Angels didn't use guns) who emerges as the best of the three, if only because she simply doesn't fit the familiar lithe action woman mould. Apparently she wanted her chunkiness digitally trimmed. It would have been a mistake. It makes her real. And keep your eyes alert for that ET poster gag too.

Sam Rockwell and his dominatrix partner Kelly Lynch aren't the most interesting of villains, the smuttiness is unnecessary, the references to other movies are definitely overdone and the Angels' off-duty boyfriends (Luke Wilson, Matt le Blanc and a very unfunny Tom Green) are underwritten as you'd expect from mere set decoration between the action. But why carp when the girls just wanna have fun. And you will too.

THE SKULLS

Cert 15. 105 mins

I may have seen a more bone-headed movie than this, but nothing immediately comes to mind. American colleges have Frat houses for the sort of students that populate the likes of Road Trip.

For the elite, however, there are the secret societies. Organisations that look to shape tomorrow's movers and shakers. At least three American Presidents are rumoured to have been members of Yale's Skulls and Bones. Despite warnings by his campus journalist best friend that nothing that's secret and elite can be good, Luke (Dawson's Creek's Joshua Jackson) hopes to be invited to join secret society creme de la creme, The Skulls. He is. Shortly afterwards aforementioned best pal winds up apparently committing suicide. Except, discovering he was doing an investigative expose, Luke's suspicious and suspects his society 'soul-mate' Caleb (who's dad's a supreme Skull) is involved .

Video evidence confirms what really happened, thereby making Luke both a danger to be eliminated and a pawn in high level Skull power games.

Having not bothered with even rudimentary plausibility up to now, the film now embraces full fledged conspiracy ludicrousness that even the X- Files would dismiss as far fetched. Utter tosh, but it'll give freemasons a good laugh.

IN THE MOOD

FOR LOVE

Cert PG. 97 mins subtitled

After the dizzying, kinetic style of Fallen Angels and Happy Together, the latest from Chinese director Wong Kar-Wei is in complete contrast, a leisurely paced, almost dreamlike reverie of mutually undeclared love that brings to mind those sumptuously aching Italian romances of the 60s.

Set in 60s Hong Kong it brings together sublime performances from Asian superstars Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as apartment block neighbours, brought together when they discover that their respective other halves are having an affair. The scenario's nothing new. But rather than pursue their own adulterous liaison as their feelings for each other grow, they keep the relationship discreet and platonic.

The result is exquisitely melancholic, suffused with a tangible but unconsummated eroticism, the claustrophobic interiors and preponderance of night time scenes accentuating the heady, almost unbearable mood of yearning and loneliness.

WATER DROPS ON

BURNING ROCKS

Cert 18. 86 mins subtitled

When the running time for French movies seems to be currently averaging past the 120 minute mark, it's good to find Francois Ozon packing his black comedy into a compact container. It's adapted from a play (Tropfen Auf Heisse Steine) German auteur Fassbinder wrote when he was just 19. An early work maybe, but still full of the themes that would occupy his later offerings. Primarily gay politics, domestic mediocrity and the power games of sex-based relationships.

Obviously a fan, Ozon also appropriates the garish stylistic feel of Fassbinder's own films while retaining the single set theatrical nature of the play. Picked up by bisexual fiftysomething insurance salesman Leopold (Bernard Giraudeau) at a bar while waiting to meet his fiancee, young culture vulture red head Franz (Malick Zidi) goes back to his Berlin apartment where he's not unwillingly seduced.

Fast forward six living together months and while there may still be zing in the sex, the relationship has settled down into Franz as the housewife trying his best to please and Leopold as the irritable grouch. At which point Franz's jilted fiancee turns up and it's not long before they're tumbling between the sheets.

Re-enter Leopold, who spots the opportunity for an interesting menage a trois and emotional manipulation. And, just to complicate matters further, there's a ring at the bell and who should be there but Leo's former transsexual ex 'wife'.

Mixing up wild absurdity (at one point the four break into a bizarre disco sequence) and caustic satire, while ultimately veering into melodrama, there's plenty of bitter wit and unsettling farce to be found.

CAPTION(S):

Girls just want to kick butt - the new-look Angels, released this week at cinemas across the region
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 24, 2000
Words:983
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