Louis Bayman

The Men Who Stare at Goats

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Director Grant Heslov; Release date: 6 November

Imagine Jeff Bridges reprising his Big Lebowski role but as the New Age pioneer of a secret US army unit that experiments in psychic warfare. With him come George Clooney and Kevin Spacey as his light and dark Jedi pupils, and Ewan McGregor as the down-on-his-luck nobody who stumbles across them in his desperate bid to be a war reporter. Now you've got an idea of the pitch for The Men Who Stare at Goats. This is a satire, and a very funny one, of US delusions in Iraq.

Shirin

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Director Abbas Kiarostami; Release date: out now

It might be truer to the spirit of Kiarostami's latest experimental work to begin, dear reader, not with a description of his film but on the condition of review-writing. There is something unromantic about the critic's view of the blank computer screen when compared to the audience member's relationship with the cinema screen, on which images in flickering light bring love, violence, death - in a word, emotion.

American Idol after Iraq

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Nathan Gardels and Mike Medavoy, Wiley-Blackwell; £17.99

This book attempts some academic weight but offers a very sketchy and confused account of the relationship between Hollywood, capital and politics.

It is part of a considerable shift in US opinion that "the allegiance of hearts and minds must be granted consensually by persuasion". It is a liberal contribution to the politics of the post-Bush era for which the torn out fingernails and electrocuted genitals of Abu Ghraib are the US "losing its way" and not the inevitable consequences of full spectrum dominance.

Wendy and Lucy

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Director Kelly Reichardt; Release date: 6 March

Or "One Woman and her Dog", as this film could alternatively be called. The title refers to the one loving relationship in the industrially depressed Oregon in which Wendy and her canine companion Lucy are stuck for the length of this film.

Three Monkeys

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Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Release date: 13 February

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's previous film, Climates, confirmed him as Turkey's premier internationally acclaimed art director. The stylish and bitter Three Monkeys follows up his previous themes, using its thriller plot to concentrate on lives where no one can relate to each other and no one can get away from each other.

Gonzo

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Director: Alex Gibney; Release date: 19 December

The sense of peace in the opening of this documentary, describing a semi-retired and uninspired Hunter S Thompson, is broken as Hunter's own words describe the clash of fanaticisms unleashed by the 9/11 attacks.

An energetic tumble of news footage lambasts the chaotic violence of the imperial US, before a TV obituary appears from 2005 with the news that Hunter S Thompson has shot himself dead.

London Film Festival

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Round-up

The London Film Festival kicked off on fine form with the world premiere of Frost/Nixon. In an adaptation of Peter Morgan's stage play, director Ron Howard brings to the screen the true story of disgraced president Richard Nixon's television interview with David Frost. The virulently reactionary Nixon resigned while undergoing impeachment for his role covering up an illegal spying campaign on political opponents.

Gomorrah

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Director: Matteo Garrone; Release date: 10 October

Like any good drama, Gomorrah sums itself up in its opening scene. Some friendly chat, and several men, stripped to their trunks and none too pretty, prepare themselves for the tanning stands. Without warning, the setting turns to brutal violence as the men are shot in a coordinated gangland killing.

Ben X

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Director: Nic Balthazar; Release date: out now

Ben X is a film about, as his onscreen psychologist puts it, "an extraordinary boy who every day has to try to be normal". Severely autistic, Ben suffers at the hands of school bullies and the concerned adults who have such difficulty in communicating with him. His only comfort is online video gaming, a controlled fantasy away from the increasing humiliations meted out at school, and where he fosters a friendship with the attractive and mysterious female gamer Scarlite.

Defiance

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Tom Behan, IB Tauris, £15.99

Few phenomena of Italian society fascinate like the Mafia, with its violent energy and romantic attachment to ancient ritual. But the defiance which gives this book its name is not the Mafia's, a deeply conservative organisation, but that of Peppino Impastato, who paid for his anti-Mafia activism with his life.

The moment visitors to Sicily touch down in Palermo airport they are in "Mafiopoli", Mafia town. Tom Behan focuses on the small town of Cinisi, home to Palermo airport, built by organised crime, to illuminate how crime is instituted in the very core of society.

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