Gender vortex / Critics of 1950s scifi thought it was sexist. But the new Star Trek movie shows they ain’t seen nothing yet.

In one early scene in Star Trek: First Contact, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), who has travelled back in time to stop the Borg from conquering the Earth in the 21st century, strokes a nuclear missile from his planet’s past. Data (Brent Spiner), the android, follows suit but says he cannot feel anything, so he tries again. Then Counselor Troi (Deanna Sirtis) walks in, sees them fondle the tall, hard, erect explosive device, and asks, “Would you three like to be left alone?”

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Interview: Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies, 1996)

Mike Leigh’s films are a paradoxical mix of tight directorial control and letting the chips fall where they may. He begins each film by gathering a cast around a basic premise, then getting the actors to improvise a storyline. But once a character’s next move has been determined, everything is scripted, rehearsed and executed with exacting precision. The result is an extremely professional work in which neither you nor the filmmakers ever quite know what’s going to happen next.

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Review: Four Rooms (dir. various, 1995)

On paper, it looked like such a good idea. Back when they were still unknown, four independent directors — Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging) and Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup) — agreed to tell four different stories set in a hotel on New Year’s Eve, with a bellboy (Tim Roth) as their only link. With the one-two punch success of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Four Rooms became an opportunity for the others to ride Tarantino’s coattails.

Consider the opportunity wasted. Four Rooms is an utterly lackluster production that most involved would be wise to keep out of their portfolios. It also represents the first solid nail in Tarantino’s cinematic coffin.

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Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 1996)

At first From Dusk Till Dawn looks like it might strike a balance between Quentin Tarantino’s savvy scriptwriting and the kinetic camerawork and adrenaline editing that are Robert Rodriguez’s forte. Indeed, the opening shoot-out, which segues smoothly from snappy dialogue to airborne hemoglobin, is a masterful fusion of talents. But after that, their styles prove to be as insoluble as oil and water. This is not one movie but two half-movies; one might call it Two Rooms.

The defining moment comes halfway through the story. Two American bank robbers and their hostages, having escaped to Mexico, enter a strip club called the Titty Twister, an opulent den of iniquity that leaves most other saloons choking in the dust. The camera lingers lasciviously on a neverending cascade of flesh, beer, flesh, Mayan architecture, flesh and six-shooting codpieces (did I mention flesh?) that vie for our attention as the criminals take their seats. One stripper takes centre stage — or table, as the case may be — and begins to flirt shamelessly with one of the slack-jawed gringos.

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