Staying In

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 February, 1996, 12:00am

MUSIC The Sweet. Ballroom Hitz - The Very Best Of Sweet. Polygram.

Who could ever forget The Sweet, possibly the world's finest example of 70s glam-rock fashion victims. There was Brian, the lead singer with his blond centre-parted hair, and the weird lead guitarist who wore native-American-style makeup. Add to these two remarkable personalities stack heels, skin-tight latex trousers and hits like Ballroom Blitz, Teenage Rampage, and Blockbuster and you have a CD not to be missed. Even all these years on, the chunky rhythm section and gymnastic vocals that defined The Sweet's sound get your feet tapping.

Seven Mary Three. American Standard. Mammoth.

The cover of American Standard shows a red-neck farmer chopping the head off a chicken with an axe. The cover is a good metaphor for the music within. Seven Mary Three deal in good old straight-up-and-down American rock 'n' roll. There is nothing radically new here, but the group gives itself a little extra class by using musical dynamics intelligently and effectively. A song will move from a hard stomp to a lyrical flutter and back again almost seamlessly. So maybe it's only rock 'n' roll, but it's clever rock 'n' roll and I like it.

BOOKS Local Rules, Jay Brandon, Signet.

In a world where hyperbole and unlikely scenarios seems to be fascinating publishers, Jay Brandon's Local Rules really comes as a breath of fresh air. The great strength of this novel is that the characters are totally believable. Local Rules is the story of city lawyer Jordan Marshall, who is offered an open-and-shut case as a defence lawyer when he passes through the small southern town of Green Hills. He takes on the job, only to find himself being dragged into what turns out to be a very complex case involving not one, but two murders.

As the small and intimate community of Green Hills closes ranks, Jordan finds himself having to investigate one of those murders to save his own client from a life sentence. Plot-wise, it's standard stuff, but what makes Local Rules a delight is the manner in which author Brandon gives everyone flaws.

Even our hero is a vain, cerebral man who can't stand up for himself in a fight. His vanity leads him into an excruciatingly embarrassing situation where he wrongly infers in court that the judge may have committed a murder (a lesser novelist would have made this unbelievable solution the real denouement of the book) and he is regularly found to be wrong, weak and credibly imperfect. As are all the characters around him.

The ultimate denouement is believable rather than spectacular but this adds to the book's charm.

VIDEO Funny Bones Funny Bones is a delightful film, so why have so few people heard of it? It's one of the most insightful looks into the nature of comedy ever to have been filmed. It examines the pathos, the sorrow and, ultimately, the anger that surrounds that most complex of professionals, the comedian.

Why do comedians feel the need to make others laugh and what is the essence of humour? Director and writer Peter Chelsom examines these questions in an economical and pithy fashion. Set in Las Vegas and (of all places) Blackpool, England, the film sees Tommy (Oliver Platt), the offspring of legendary comedian George Fawkes (played in marvellously dead-pan fashion by Jerry Lewis in what is just about a reprieve of his role in The King Of Comedy) searching for true comic genius after he dies horribly on stage in front of his father in Las Vegas.

He decides to return to Blackpool, his dad's home town, and offers to pay the locals for any routine he finds genuinely amusing. He eventually comes across the Parker family, and their comic genius son, Jack.

But Jack has a dark past. His dead-pan delivery resulted in so much suppressed emotion that he killed a fellow comedian on stage.

The film has a shocking finale.

A Walk In The Clouds This film comes to us from the director of the excellent Like Water For Chocolate, Alfonso Arau, and in the grand tradition of foreign film-makers coming to Hollywood and being given big budgets to play with, the respected Mexican has blown it . . . big time.

The world of magical realism that was so charming in Like Water For Chocolate ends up looking cheap and overly-sentimental when transported to Hollywood.

Sets look cliched, emotions are cheap and too extreme, and even seasoned performers like Anthony Quinn are made to look silly. It also features Keanu Reeves, who will surely soon be exposed for what he is: a pretty boy without one actor's bone in his body.