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Film Round-Up

Jeremy Clarke

filmroundup.jpgGenre concerns loom large over this month's releases. Jennifer's Body (cert 15; 102 mins; right) mixes female high school buddy movie with demon possession (here the eponymous cheerleader) but it doesn't really come off. The Descent Part 2 (cert 18; 93 mins) is a solid, serviceable sequel to one of the best British films of recent years lacking the original's existential edge. The microbudget shocker Paranormal Activity (cert 15; 86 mins) achieves much with little, readable in terms of demonology, relationship breakup or intrusive camera.

Horror's aesthetics seep out elsewhere. The end of the world disaster movie 2012 (cert 12a; 158 mins), a spectacular audience pleaser far better than previous Roland Emmerich works might suggest, would benefit from more nasty things happening to people. As cities crumble and newly formed volcanoes erupt, most of the main characters manage constant miraculous survival. Robert Zemeckis' latest motion-capture animation feauture Disney's A Christmas Carol 3D (cert PG; 95 mins) is a lot more frightening than its certificate might suggest. Sticking with Christmas, Debbie Isitt's dire-looking but actually hilarious Nativity! (cert U; 106 mins) lampoons the institution of school play to great effect.

Carriers (cert 15; 84 mins) is a zombie movie in all but name, but with the gore removed, exploring what a disparate group of people will do to survive in appalling circumstances. The oddity Cold Souls (cert 15 tbc; 101 mins) has the angst-ridden actor Paul Giamatti put his soul into storage to prevent it tormenting him. After a change of mind, he wants it back - but it's being used by the girlfriend of a Russian mafioso.

Two films deal specifically with vigilante style crime. The unbelievable Law Abiding Citizen (cert 18; 108 mins) may well be the most risible film I have ever seen. The superior British entry Harry Brown (cert 18; 103 mins) has Michael Caine on top form as an ex-Forces pensioner going after local hoodied thugs on his housing estate after they kill his best friend.

Steven Soderbergh delivers two very different films. Jocular mainstream curiosity The Informant! (cert 15; 108 mins) concerns a US corporate whistleblower who, unfortunately for the FBI, also happens to be bipolar. The more experimental The Girlfriend Experience (cert 18 tbc; 77 mins) sees a Manhattan call girl grappling with life balance issues.

The likeable and charming indie documentary Paper Heart (cert PG-13 ; 88 mins) features the L.A. comedian Charleyne Yi, who does not believe in love, going to look for it. In the affecting Kazakhstani drama Tulpan (cert 12a; 100 mins), one nomad family tries to marry their son to the disinterested daughter of another, complete with an amazing live birthing lamb scene. Finally, Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock (cert 15; 110 mins) sidesteps expectations of concert movie for a period drama about how the seminal rock festival happened where it did and its effect (complete with a brilliantly staged crowd and an intimate acid trip) of its effect upon a local, entrepreneurial youth.

Jeremy  Clarke