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Sima Mobarak-Shahi in 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
Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs mug for the camera

The Battle of the Sexes

Telling the story of the hyperhyped tennis match between 55-year-old “male chauvinist pig” Bobby Riggs and the then reigning queen of tennis, Billie Jean King, this deceptively light documentary catches the casual and systemic sexism of the time, paints a warm, human picture of King and even has the grace to give the publicity hungry Riggs, now long dead, a decent screw. And the match really was hyped. If you were alive back then there is no way you won’t remember the furore when Riggs, who’d won Wimbledon in 1939 but had long since slipped into obscurity, came out of retirement to make a loud public announcement – the women’s game was feeble, … Read more
The "let's roll" moment from United 93

United 93

A reconstruction of what happened on 11 September 2001 to the fourth hijacked plane, which went down in Pennsylvania before getting to its target in Washington DC, probably the White House. It’s shot in a documentary-like shaky-cam style, has not a single recognisable face to hook onto and there’s a complete absence of heroic Hollywood dialogue. Writer/director Paul Greengrass lets events unfold in real time which, coupled with the knowledge of how things pan out, has the effect of making every otherwise mundane detail – stewardesses sharing a joke, businessmen working on their laptops – unbearably poignant. As we have already seen in The Bourne Supremacy, Greengrass is a master of dramatic irony … Read more


Fashion photographer and music-video director David LaChapelle’s documentary about Krumping, the brutally physical, adrenalised street dance movement in South Central LA which rose, in the aftermath of the 1992’s Rodney King riots, from the Clowning movement. Yes, clowning as in painting the face and putting on big baggy clothes. Think rap face-to-face showdowns, but instead of spinning rhymes they do the most ridiculously amazing dances with their body, the court of audience opinion more often than not deciding the winner. Both clowning and now krumping are a leftfield response to deprivation and the added blight of the gang culture and originally allowed those who do it to pass unmolested from one gang district … Read more
Ben Foster as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand

The latest of the Marvel comics franchise is the most expensive film ever made but carries on just like the earlier two – lots of characters chasing too little plot. If you can call a po-faced allegory about society’s treatment of difference a plot. As ever Halle Berry looks nice, Hugh Jackman throws his chest out to good effect and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen compete to see whose voice has the most actorly resonance. To flesh things out a bit more, the story hinges on a mutant called Leech, whose special power is the production of something – hormones, pheromones, slimy oozy stuff, call it what you will – which turns our … Read more

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