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Film reviews: Hur we go for a Roman classic.

GLADIATOR (15)

JUST when we thought the day of the sword and sandal spectacular was a distant memory, along comes a Roman epic to rival classics like Ben Hur and Spartacus.

Set in the Second Century, it's the rousing story of one-time imperial favourite General Maximus (Russell Crowe, to the toga born) who dares to defy mad young Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).

Driven into exile and mourning the brutal murder of his wife and son, honourable Maximus is forced to become a slave and has to start rebuilding his life as a lowly gladiator.

Fuelled by vengeance, he becomes the greatest arena fighter of his day surviving everything from swords and spears to fierce tigers.

Which naturally leads him back to the colourful Colosseum in Rome and an inevitable showdown with his by now barking old rival.

Blending traditional storytelling with state of the art computer technology, director Ridley Scott has impressively recreated an often bloody ancient spectacle. If not as effortlessly epic as its famous predecessors, it will more than do for a brave new Millennium. And the film is also a monument to the late, great Oliver Reed, who died while filming what turned out to be one of his best performances.

BEST (15)

THE rise and fall of George Best (John Lynch) is told Raging Bull-style in an uneven biopic which cleverly blends newsreel with recreated footage.

With Patsy Kensit as Angie Best, Jerome Flynn as Bobby Charlton and the late Ian Bannen as the great Matt Busby there's a name in every frame of a classic tabloid tale which scores heavily on cliches.

HANGING UP (15)

HOW could you possibly go wrong with a heart-tugging comedy drama about three glamorous sisters played by Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow?

Easy - just weigh it down with treacle, as star and director Keaton has done in the latest of a string of stories in which rich Hollywood types whinge on about badly-behaved parents. This trio are so shrill and selfish that you hate them all.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Falk, Quentin
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 14, 2000
Words:338
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