FILM REVIEWS: The Persian Version, a new Ghostbusters and two horrors

Iranian filmmakers are invariably talented ‘world cinema’ storytellers who rarely break through in multiplexes.

But if The Persian Version gives you a taste for the country’s food then Westside includes options at Khayyam at 135 Tennant Street (with possible belly dancing!) as well as the Indo-Persian restaurant Qavali at 60 Broad Street.

And, just 40 yards from Cineworld’s front door is Zaitoon at 5B Bishopsgate Street.

All of the following films are screening at both Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza and Cineworld Broad Street.

THE PERSIAN VERSION (15, 107 mins). This comedy drama about an Iranian-American family centres on a traditional mother and her estranged, lesbian daughter. A dark secret underpins the past, but it might be best not to stress grandad – he needs a heart transplant.

The verdict: ***** Energised by the great American dream rising above Iran’s oppressive regime, this is a gloriously-ambitious, culture-clash-cum-generation-gap drama. Spanish legend Pedro Almodovar must wish he’d made it.

Breezily shot for fun instead of stifling perfection, the lively film directed by Maryam Keshavarz doesn’t try to solve the world’s ills, and so even its fractured chronology is of rare benefit. 

The clever use of a classic song offers hope that where there’s a will as strong as the non-preachy, life-affirming messages here, there’s a way.

GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE (12A, 115 mins). Forty years on, the Spengler family returns to the New York City firehouse. Can they and younger spirit fighters successfully prevent an ancient artefact from creating a new ice age? 

The original 1984 PG-rated movie was reclassified as a 12A in 2011 following the 2002 introduction of the new certificate between PG and 15. Likewise, Frozen Empire is a 12A for ‘moderate threat, horror, sex references and implied strong language’.

The verdict: ** Having made a sequel in late 1989, Hollywood just couldn’t resist exhuming the idea in 2016 and again in 2021 with director Gil Kenan’s Afterlife.

As per Indiana Jones last year, this fifth instalment with original star Dan Ackroyd (also an executive producer) returning alongside Bill Murray feels we’re squeeing a nearly-dry lemon.

Having met likeable, London-born director Gil Kenan for his promising Monster House (2006) debut, he should still be innovating, not recycling ad nauseam.

Frozen Empire’s supernatural comedy mish-mash of past and present terminates the ‘franchise’ for now, If Kenan wants to keep his dignity intact he should run a mile from any further sequels.

Frozen Empire is dedicated to co-writer and Ghostbusters’ original director Ivan Reitman who died in February 2022 aged 75.

IMMACULATE (18, 89 mins). Attractive Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) joins a nunnery and somehow conceives a child. The film is chaptered by stages of pregnancy and has a now rare 18-certificate for reasons of violence, injury detail and sexual violence and sexual threat.

The verdict: *** The profile of Euphoria and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood star Sydney Sweeney has risen sharply in the past six months – from draping her voluptuous figure across a car in The Rolling Stones’ video for their comeback single Angry to starring in hit comedy Anyone But You and also the forgettable Madame Web. 

Here she plays a sister who clearly should never get pregnant, but somehow is. The plot makes little sense, but Ms Sweeney rises above it all with ease.

Best of all, the sound overkill guys who ruin most modern horrors with ‘jump scare’ effects appear to have taken their afternoons off.

The result is a watchable, if mercifully-short retread of everything from Rosemary’s Baby to The Exorcist but late teens won’t mind that if it feels new to them. 

Immaculate’s climactic achievement is to make older viewers wonder why the Scream series never lived up to its name.

LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL (15, 93 mins). Remember the ‘found footage’ genre with the likes of The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Creep, Host and the Spanish classic, [REC]?

Time then to discover a long-lost Halloween special from a beige-heavy 1977 TV show called ‘Night Owls’, hosted five nights a week since 1971 by newly-bereaved husband Jack ‘Mr Midnight’ Delroy in a bid to save his career versus Johnny Carson.

The verdict: *** It’s not scary enough, but David Dastmalchian (Suicide Squad / Oppenheimer) shines in the leading role as he ‘attempts to commune with the devil’. Central Weekend, which Nicky Campbell used to host from Bridge Street in Westside, was never like this, nor any show hosted by Delroy lookalike Jonathan Ross.

Based on the ‘recently discovered’ master tape of what went to air that night, as well as behind the scenes footage which deflates the tension, the film’s outlandish ‘did this really happen’ vibe could spawn a host of imitations.

PICTURE CREDITS: Late Night With the Devil, IFC Films / Shudder; The Persian Version, Sony Pictures; Ghostbusters, Sony Pictures; Immaculate, Black Bear.

ENDS

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