Arts: The Week in Review

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OVERVIEW

THE FILMS GANG RELATED

The last of the Tupac Shakur epitaphs, Jim Kouf's tongue-in-cheek cop-drama sees the gangsta rapper team up with fellow cop James Belushi as they frame an alcoholic tramp for a murder they committed.

"It glistens from the tantalising, oily sheen of pure trash" reported Ryan Gilbey. "What pleasures it offers are largely derived from the assorted bends, U-turns and blind alleys taken by the film's writer-director." "The plot (has) the air of a Laurel and Hardy narrative let loose in the inner city" chuckled The Spectator while the Daily Mail informed "A superior script that has a trace of Tarantino about it..." continuing "the relentlessly bad language and gratuitously voyeuristic strip-club scenes become wearisome". The Big Issue found it "merits a short footnote in history as the swansong movie role for a gunned-down Tupac Shakur... it remains an above-par foray through its familiar mean-streets territory."

Belushi and Shakur give creditable performances as cops-gone-bad, though Kouf's gangland farce offers little moral comment and fails to rise above the cliches of its genre.

On view at selected cinemas through the country from yesterday. 111 minutes. Cert 15. This is the last chance to see Shakur on the big screen, but you can see him with Tim Roth in the much-acclaimed gangster flick 'Gridlock'd', available now on video.

THE PROGRAMME QUEST FOR QUAGGA

QED meets follows naturalist Reinhold Rau's quest for the extinct animal known as a quagga - a strange hybrid of zebra and horse. Reinhold's project served as inspiration for Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.

"The quagga was described as 'one of Africa's most graceful animals' and a 'gentle creature', but how reliable are these description?" asked Thomas Sutcliffe. "In truth, both phrases are posthumous honorifics, the sort of attributes we sentimentally ascribe to beasts we have extinguished in order to make ourselves feel wickeder than we are." "As happy as most of us are that they're not doing a Frankenstein, in terms of the programme, it's an anti-climax" stated Time Out. "The facts of the matter are nothing like as dramatic as the book or Spielberg's movie" complained The Mirror. "I can think of sillier ways of horsing around."

QED has sadly underestimated the viewers by taking a sentimental rather than a scientific stance..

There are no more planned showings of this programme. Next week's QED is called Breathless and looks into a controversial new cure for asthma. BBC1 9.30pm.

THE GIG IAN DURY

Despite Dury's diagnosis of liver cancer, the cockney pub-rock veterans Ian Dury & The Blockheads reassemble (again) to promote their first album in 17 years at Paul Weller's Victoria Park bash and Camden's Dingwalls.

"(Dury's) stage demeanour conjured up the ghosts of music hall comedian Max Wall and Max Miller, and gave a nod in the direction of Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten" said Pierre Perrone in the Independent. "The Blockheads were as tight as ever, mining a jazz-funk seam which perfectly complemented Dury's brand of street poetry and rap." "Within a minute of the opener, 'Wake Up and Make Love with Me', my reservations had evaporated" sang the Daily Telegraph.

Dury appeared to disappoint all the critics by not dropping down dead. Even in middle-age, these Essex boys have surpassed themselves.

There are no more dates planned as yet. Ian Dury & The Blockheads' new album Mr Love Pants is available in all record shops at pounds 15.99.

THE BOOK HISTORY IN OUR TIME

A collection of articles by essayist and historian David Cannadine on themes of 20th century Britain, from Churchill and Thatcher to Edward VIII and Diana.

"Few academics have spent their idle moments more productively, for these pieces are well worth preserving" praised Piers Brendon in the Independent. "Cannadine writes with infectious verve. He writes lucidly, and sometimes wittily... some of Cannadine's own squibs bang and sparkle agreeably, but there is something that grates," muttered the Daily Telegraph.

"Every bit as stodgy, and eventually as wearisome, as compilations of reviews usually are," spluttered the Spectator. "the book has only the slenderest claim to thematic coherence".

Despite it's deeply turgid title, 'History In Our Time' is a stylishly crafted reference book for academics. Cannadine's scholarly wisdom, vivacious writing style and smart editing make for an engaging and often irreverent read.

Available now in all good bookshops. Published by Yale University Press, pounds 16.95. Other titles by the author include Decline and Fall of British Aristocracy. Cannadine's next book, Class In Britain, will be published in October.

THE COMEDIAN BEN MOOR

My Last Week With Modolia is a gentle tale of boy meets girl, in which a cynical twentysomething junior plastic surgeon, who believes in fairies, falls in love with an

88-year-old woman, his "anti-Lolita".

"... wistful, intelligent, fantastical and especially... charming," gushed Mark Wilson in the Independent. "It's refreshing that a comedian has the audacity to produce a show that is unashamedly sentimental, never resorts to shock tactics but instead relies on the craft of the writing and Moor's etiolated and expressive physique." "An enchanting mix of the prosaic and the poetic, full of improbable imagery, daft lines and a strong dash of bathos," enthused the Guardian. "Moor has a great presence... and he drives the story at a cracking pace, never giving your mind a chance to wander." The Times was equally approving. "This is a delicious piece of theatre by an inspiring performer, with just enough of a naughty edge to stop it slipping from pleasantly sweet into winsome."

The route to success is the avoidance of smutty monologues on sex, drugs and alcohol. Moor's singular brand of "new romantic" comedy, coupled with his enthralling story-telling ability, will ensure a long stay on the comedy circuit.

Ben Moor will be showing at The Pleasance Over The Road 2 at 4.20pm, until 31 August (except 18th). Today, 21, 22, 28-31 August pounds 8.50 (pounds 7.50 concessions). For bookings and enquiries call 0131 556 6550.

MAJORETTES IN SPACE

A strikingly eclectic assortment of short films and small features from France at London's Institute of Contemporary Art by five gay film makers: Francoise Ozon and Bruno Rolland.

"Gay short film-making has never suffered from a dearth of distinguished practitioners" observed an entranced Ryan Gilbey. "Ozon taps into the enigmatic sensuality of the greatest cinema, and isn't afraid to drench you in it." The Guardian also picks out Ozon, noting "A Summer Dress is the most seductive... a depiction of seaside sex that has something to put a smile of the face of just about anybody." "(Ozon's) style is bold, economical and observational" note Time Out. The Times concurred: "Francois Ozon is the star of the show... His exquisitley shaped short film A Summer Girl's Dress seems flimsy next to A Little Death, an abrasive 26 minutes with the weight of a full-length film."

The ICA's programme of French shorts has been carefully curated to increase your appetite for this marginalised art form. A welcome elixir against the prediliction for blockbusters.

On view at the ICA Cinema, Nash House, The Mall SW1. No Certificate. Subtitled. For bookings and information call 0171 930 3647.

THE ALBUM PURE ESSENCE / IAN BROWN

Following their eponymous album of 1996, this doleful Manchester three-piece, fronted by James Mudriczki, arrive with their second album, characterised by stadium-rock guitars and dramatic melodic intervals.

The Independent's Andy Gill asserted "Puressence's brand of souring, soul-baring rock has suddenly acquired a remarkable prescience. Theirs is a stern, powerful sound." Time Out observed "a big sound... sweeping, melodramatic, memorable," while The Guardian opined "essentially a man and his voice, though the dramatic guitar backing deserves a mention." The Mirror was less impressed: "(the singer's) vocal style and the band's built-for-stadium-rock sound begins to grate."

The melodrama of Only Forever is more in keeping with the current tide of miserablist bands than their 1996 effort. This may lend them fleeting credibility but it will take something more original to win us over.

"Only Forever" will be available from records shops from on Monday at pounds 10.99. Their debut album Puresscence is currently available from all record shops at pounds 15.99.

CRITICAL VIEW

OUR VIEW

ON VIEW

YOUR VIEW...

...ON THE AVENGERS

We asked cinema- goers coming out of The Odeon, Marble Arch, what they thought of The Avengers....

LOUISE GORDON

Student, 18, Northern Ireland

'Ralph Fiennes is very smooth, but I'm not so sure about the film '

MAX KULOW

Accountant, 25, Northern Ireland

'Thurman and Fiennes don't gel. But good effects.'

INGI HADAR

Waiter, 18, Iceland

'Fabulous! Sean Connery is drop-dead gorgeous.'

GHASSAN KARRIAN

Political Researcher, 25, Istanbul

'Give me this kind of yarn any time over the so-called "deep" rubbish the Arts Council throws

money at'

JAMES SIEGL

Snowboard Instructor, 20, Glastonbury

'Great cars, a great car chase and Uma Thurman - Phwooar!'

TARIQ GODDARD

PhD Student, 23, west London

'Uma Thurman's

cat-suit will be a talking point for men everywhere.'

KATY PARKER

IT Consultant, 24

'Oh dear, very hit and miss. Anyone for tea?'

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