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The Ice Storm
Hot on the flares of Boogie Nights comes Ang Lee's more subtle view of modern life viewed through the prism of a garish past. Eternal themes of love, loyalty and human relationships are explored against of background of Watergate angst and personal betrayal as Kevin Kline conducts a loveless affair with Sigourney Weaver unaware that his own family is in crisis. Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood and Joan Allen also star.

The Butcher Boy
Tough viewing, Neil Jordan's masterfully directed tale of juvenile delinquency in Sixties Ireland has a sweetly nostalgic air that is in stark contrast to the terrible behaviour of its title character. Eamonn Owens is superb and in every sense startling as a 'hero' who looks like Grange Hill's Pogo Patterson but acts like a youthful Hannibal Lecter, wreaking havoc in his small village, and conducting an unlikely dialogue with the Virgin Mary as he goes.

FairyTale: A True Story
A cut above the similarly plotted Photographing Fairies, Charles Sturridge's film tells of two young girls in post-World War One Yorkshire who apparently managed to take pictures of the fairies at the bottom of their garden. The case causes a sensation, with such luminaries as Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini taking an interest and continuing the debate about the limits of the natural and supernatural world. A gentle film that is beautifully staged and nicely acted, it's like The X-Files in crinoline.

Amistad
Forget The Lost World, this is the kind of film at which Spielberg excels - human stories on a big canvas. Based on the true tale of a ship of slaves who broke free and killed their captors in the early 19th century, only to find their fate debated through America's highest courts, it is powerful stuff. A star cast including Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne and Matthew McConaughey each get to do a turn, but newcomer Djimon Hounsou outshines them all as the slave leader Cinque, giving a towering portrayal of restrained dignity in the face of a terrible injustice. Not perfect, but still absorbing entertainment.

The Ugly
A low-budget shocker from New Zealand, first-time writer/director Scott Reynolds has crafted a tense and terrifying psychological thriller that takes pleasure in subverting clichés and turning some expectations on their head - while eagerly embracing others - yet following an enjoyably predictable course. Paolo Rotondo is rather a sweet looking murderer, lulling psychologist Rebecca Hobbs into a false sense of security as she delves deeper into his disturbing past to find out what has transformed him into the twisted serial killer he appears to be.

 
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