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Reviews

Film Round-Up April 09

WatchmenOn the back of 300's boffo box office, Zack Snyder is the director who finally turns the seminal graphic novel Watchmen (cert 18; 160 minutes; pictured) into a movie. Leaving aside a couple of bone-breakingly violent fight scenes (to 18 it?), one major finale plot point tweak and two fantastic, additional opening scenes - including a title sequence throwing extraordinary period images against Dylan's 'The Times They Are A Changin' ' - it bears considerable resemblance to Alan 'no credit thanks' Moore and Dave Gibbons' printed page original. Impressive stuff, especially in IMAX.

The docudrama The Damned United (cert 15; 93 minutes) casts the rising character actor Michael Sheen as Brian Clough in a screenplay which cleverly explores the legendary manager's ill-fated 44-day tenure at Leeds United in 1974. Sheen's uncanny ability to recreate familiar famous people on screen (like David Frost in Frost/Nixon, Tony Blair in The Queen) serves the piece well. Compelling stuff, even if you haven't the slightest interest in football.

James Toback's documentary Tyson (cert 15 tbc; 90 minutes) is constructed around the former boxing champ's talking to camera. Mike Tyson is an extraordinary subject, on one level, a man who rose from the meanest of Brooklyn streets to the heights of celebrity only to self-destruct and come crashing back down to earth. Twice. Parts will make you squirm as Toback provides enough space - or perhaps rope - for the highly articulate Tyson to verbally battle his inner demons before your eyes.

Another documentary, the green effort The Age Of Stupid (cert 12a; 89 minutes), suffers from an inadequate collection of ideas that lack enough substance for a feature. A great framing device casts Pete Postlethwaite as 2055's last human on earth guiding us through archive footage to show what the human race did to destroy the planet. Sadly, its didacticism never transcends mere Agitprop in the way that both Garbage Warrior and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth did.

The disappointing Religulous (cert 15; 101 minutes) fails woefully to deliver its promised, serious debunking of religion from a staunchly atheist viewpoint. The comedian presenter Bill Maher knows both that there isn't a God and that theist religion is a con, so happily ridicules anyone of a different opinion. The director Larry Charles' film represents one of the most dishonest exercises in editing I've ever seen, cut together with a disregard for what his subjects have to say on camera or for any ideas that don't fit his badly argued thesis. Admittedly, it is entertaining and engaging throughout: just don't expect any serious meat.

Finally, the likeable I Can't Think Straight (cert 12a; 80 minutes) charts a lesbian romance between a Christian Jordianian Palestinian and a Muslim British Indian living in London. Both come from wealthy families, so have few struggles beyond personal, sexual identity. The film fails to address the religious conflicts you might expect, but tackles the two leads' internal gay dynamics rather better to deliver a charming human drama.

Jeremy Clarke