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Klaus Maria Brandauer as Colonel Redl

Colonel Redl

Colonel Redl is an adaptation of John Osborne’s play A Patriot for Me and charts the rise and fall of a soldier with opportunism where principles should be. It’s a sumptuous affair set in the dog days of the Austro-Hungarian empire and builds slowly towards a painfully frenzied climax, as did the previous collaboration between director István Szabó and actor Klaus Maria Brandauer. And as in Mephisto we’re following a man of few scruples making his way from relative obscurity to the top of his tree – the secret service in this case. Redl was a real man, an officer in the espionage wing of the Austro-Hungarian army who sold his country’s war … Read more
Sabina Guzzanti Viva Zapatero

Viva Zapatero!

After a slew of documentaries from the US, not least Michael Moore’s prodigous output, here’s a reminder that Europeans can make political documentaries too. Viva Zapatero! is a pop at Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi by Sabina Guzzanti, whose politically satirical TV programme was axed by Italian state broadcaster RAI for being “political” – after legal pressure was applied by rival media outfit Mediaset (proprietor: Silvio Berlusconi). Guzzanti then goes further and accuses RAI of being stacked with Berlusconi stooges, effectively his employees. Should a public service broadcaster be headed by political (ie Berlusconi’s) appointees? Of course not. Though precious few in Italy have had the balls to say so, such … Read more
Piper Perabo and Lena Headey in Imagine Me and You

Imagine Me and You

A duvet-day rom-com in the Four Weddings mould but with a pair of lesbians doing the canoodling. As seems to be de rigueur these days, the plucky Brit babe is played by an American. And Piper Perabo makes a decent stab at an English accent, playing the newlywed falling for the girl (Lena Headey) who did the flowers for her big day. It is all terribly terribly fragrant and London looks as lovely as this part of West London generally does on a sunny day – stucco houses, canals, the odd auction house on hand to add an antique armoir or chaise longue to the picture. You get the point – this is … Read more
Audrey Tautou, Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code

“What, [dodges bullet] you mean Jesus wasn’t really the Son of God [jumps into speeding car] and married Mary Magdalene [hijacks armoured vehicle] who bore a child who [takes plane to an England full of half-timbered cars] established a bloodline which [evades knife-thrust of albino monk] if it were ever to become public knowledge would [accidentally shoots cardinal] undermine the power of the Catholic Church [garrottes nun]?” There’s plenty more of this sort of carry-on in director Ron Howard’s almost satisfying attempt to turn Dan Brown’s 560 pages of lecture-chase-lecture into something cinematic. And it had to be made into a movie – the sales figures of the book said so. But did … Read more
Sima Mobarak-Shahi in Offside

Offside

Iranian Jafar Panahi’s comedy is about a group of girls who are arrested for dressing up as boys and trying to get in to see the 2006 World Cup Iran/Bahrain qualifier, women not being allowed to watch football in Iran. Accessing another country’s culture through football is a neat way of curving a ball past those who “don’t do arthouse”. The anti-subtitle crowd might also be interested to learn that the film was shot on the hoof, guerrilla style at the actual game in Tehran, using non-professional actors. Painting a picture of a country that seems at first almost barbaric in its medieval world view, Panahi isn’t so western focused that he can’t … Read more
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Johnny Knoxville

27 May 2013-05-27

Out in the UK This Week The Last Stand (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Welcome back Arnold Schwarzenegger, just a touch arthritic after all those years running California and now, with seven projects announced on the imdb, clearly cranking them out quick before the ibuprofen wears off. So what do we have here? It’s Arnie as a sheriff in a nowhere town down near the Mexican border being inveigled into an Unforgiven style strapping back on of the guns by a seriously bad escaped gangster (Eduardo Noriega) who’s heading down Arnie’s way in a hilariously fast car. The big idea is a lone-hero High Noon showdown but in essence this an 80s action movie … Read more
Robin Williams ready for ordeal by ordure in RV

RV: Runaway Vacation

And you thought that after being excellently sinister in Insomnia and One Hour Photo, Robin Williams had stopped making goofily sentimental comedies that stop every 20 minutes for toe-curlingly inappropriate improv from Mr W. Sadly not, as evidence there’s this woeful, slight affair in which Williams plays the family man driving his family cross country to a business convention (they think they’re going on holiday but he hasn’t told them the truth) in a recreational vee-hickle, even though they’re the sort of family who don’t do recreational vehicles, camping, communication, fun or togetherness. Cheryl Hines plays the exasperated wife and Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth are the heads of a family they meet … Read more
Yuya Ozeki is the creepy little boy in Ju-On: The Grudge 2

Ju-On: The Grudge 2

How odd. For the fourth entry in the Ju-On cycle, Takashi Shimizu, the director of the original Ju-On: The Grudge, has almost entirely ditched the muted ethos of the original in favour of a British Hammer Horror approach. “In America,” he says in the production notes, “people tend to be scared by a lot of blood and direct attacks.… In England people tend to fear evil and the source of darkness… Hollywood just doesn’t have the history of this type of expression of horror.” However you look at it, the original Ju-On The Grudge was scary as hell, and even the American remake (with Sarah Michelle Gellar) was pretty terrifying. But if you’re … Read more
Elisabeth Harnois and Evan Rachel Wood in Pretty Persuasion

Pretty Persuasion

Kimberly (Evan Rachel Wood) is a spiteful young wannabe actress and fulltime minx who accuses her teacher (Ron Livingston) of sexual harassment… partly for fun, partly to get some acting practice in, mostly for spite. And before you know it there’s a TV news crew camped out on the door, with an overeager reporter (Jane Krakowski) visibly almost aroused as she recounts the allegations. Pretty Persuasion would be a better film if it were a straighter film, or if it had gone all out for dark funnies. But there’s some real gold in this otherwise overstrained satire scraping the crud from the underside of the Bel Air idyll. Wood is remarkable as Kimberly, … Read more
David Belle in District B13

District 13

Free-running is the gimmick powering this actioner scripted and produced by French action powerhouse Luc Besson and also known as District B13 (B is for “Banlieue”). Set in a broken-down Paris in the near future, District 13 has an Escape from New York kind of vibe and follows a tough cop (Cyril Raffaelli) and a gangland desperado (David Belle) into a walled-off urban badland to sort out the guys who’ve nicked a nuclear weapon (it was the US president in Escape from New York). But back to the free-running, or le parkour as its French originators (one of whom is David Belle himself) call it – the adrenalised athletic stuntorama that could simply … Read more
Pedro Perez and Mia Maestro in Secuestro Express

Secuestro Express

Inspired by the Latin American practice of secuestro express – or quickie kidnap – the Venezuelan Jonathan Jakubowicz’s debut feature tracks a miserable night in the life of a rich Caracas couple (Mia Maestro, Jean Paul Leroux) after a wild night out of partying ends with abduction at the hands of a trio of gun-happy barrio gangsters. We’re then with the couple and the banditos until the woman’s father (played by Rubén Blades) coughs up. And as the night of brutality wears on, nuance starts to push its way through what at first looked like stereotypes. Maybe our gangsters aren’t so bad; maybe our heroes aren’t so heroic. It’s a garishly lit thriller, … Read more
Dave Chappelle and invitees

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

Hot off Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, director Michel Gondry takes an abrupt left turn with a documentary about US comedian Dave Chappelle hosting a block party in Brooklyn, where the likes of Kanye West, the Fugees, Jill Scott, Mos Def and Erykah Badu rock the house. Gondry has previous directing music videos so it’s not so much of a stretch but the idea is unusual – we watch as Chappelle organises things, calling in favours from friends, putting the celebrity lock on people too timid to turn him down while a camera is rolling, but most of all he’s handing out tickets to just about anyone he runs across in Dayton, … Read more

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