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Schlock, rock and barrels; Mike Davies makes his pick of the week's cinema releases.

HALLOWEEN: H20

CERT 18. 85 MINS

OK, just pretend that nobody made any Michael Myers-related movies since John Carpenter's original ended with the mad murderer being supposedly burned to death. Now pick up the plot 20 years later and meet up again with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) w ho, all too aware that they never did find the body, still gets the shivers whenever October 31 comes around and still hallucinates about mad brother Michael in his white William Shatner mask.

This is despite the fact that she faked her death (well, that gets round one conundrum from the series), changed her name, and is now headmistress at an upmarket boarding school attended by her teenage son (Josh Hartnett).

But bearing in mind the adage that just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean there isn't some psycho with a knife standing behind you, sure enough Michael's on his way to stage a family reunion in the way only he knows best.

Of course, that doesn't mean he can't have a little sport along the way, despatching three unfortunates even before their names appear on the opening credits. And, having got into the grounds, there's always the guarantee that some teens will have snuck off for private biology lessons, blithely unaware they'll end up on a meathook.

Accepting that you're not supposed to raise matters of plausibility, Friday the 13th veteran Steve Miner shows his working knowledge of the genre by setting up plenty of false starts before the sudden jolt of the real thing, letting you taste the anticip ation of the impending inviscerations long before they arrive.

And, while he indulges in a nice in-joke by having Curtis's mum and Psycho star Janet Leigh play the mumsy school secretary and drive a very familiar car, he thankfully doesn't succumb to the current trend for knowing post-modernism, and plays his horror straight by the rules.

Returning to the role that established her as the Scream Queen, Curtis finally gets to take a stand for selmpowerment.

ELIZABETH

CERT 15. 105 MINS

From Bandit Queen to Virgin Queen, Shekhar Kapur follows up his controversial biopic of the Indian outlaw with an historical thriller about England's most famous female monarch, tracing her fraught ascendancy to the throne and the plots and problems invo lved in hanging on to it.

The conniving in shadowy corridors, a mad Protestant-burning sister (Kathy Burke, nightmarishly grotesque) and the treacherous courtiers, bloody murders and attempted assassination render this a Godfather in ruffs.

But essentially, it boils down to a woman sacrificing her heart for duty as the frolicking filly casts off her ultimately traitorous lover Dudley (a watery Joseph Fiennes), for whom she's resisted attempts to be married off to swarthy Spaniards or transv estite Frenchmen, and assumes the role of the tough old boot for which history remembers her.

There's a touch too much technical flash in the early going, what with sweeping overhead shots and rapid cutting, but when Kapur settles down to focus on the strategic backstabbing, and indeed bedstabbing, of the assorted plots, then it asserts a strong dramatic grip. Lord Attenborough's clucking adviser is a poor show, but there's solid support by everyone from John Gielgud to Eric Cantona. And indeed, Angus Deayton. The top marks go, however, to Geoffrey Rush as Walsingham, Elizabeth's machiavellian M aster of Spies, Christopher Eccleston's eternally scheming viperish Norfolk and, above all, to Cate Blanchett's title role performance.

VELVET GOLDMINE

CERT 18 123 MINS

Hayes, who seems at times to have confused his 70s Glam and 80s New Romantic scrapbooks, sets it all up like Citizen Kane in spandex and sparkle, but from the mind-boggling opening involving a flying saucer, 19th century Dublin and a schoolboy Oscar Wild e, you're pretty soon convinced that he's gone in for method directing to fully embrace the nature of the era.

The plot wallows in Glam's sexual indulgences and vanity aesthetic like a pig in sequined mud, falling face down into more rock movie cliches than a Bryan Adams album before wheezing its way to the painfully predictable 'surprise' finish.

Rhys Meyers has clearly taken extensive lessons on how to place limp wrist on satin pants, and McGregor manages to suggest he's been on first name terms with over-indulgence, but it's hardly what you call dramatic depth. The only frisson of real interest is in the music where classics from the likes of Roxy, Reed and T Rex mingle with a mix of originals and glam covers from the movie's fictious bands whose members include Bernard Butler and Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

SMALL SOLDIERS

CERT PG. 99 MINS

So, there's Spielberg extolling the American GI's courage in Saving Private Ryan, and here's his mate Joe Dante taking a swipe at the US military's muscleheaded death or glory, if it's different kill it, gung ho attitude. In a nutshell, it's Toy Story me ets Gremlins, much of the plot mirroring Dante's earlier tale about a boy who comes into possession of something seemingly innocent but which proves hugely destructive, and which he and his romantic interest then have to prevent from trashing suburbia.
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Author:Davies, Mike
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 23, 1998
Words:852
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