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Film | The Guardian



Latest Film news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice



Published: Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:24:55 GMT2017-01-22T00:24:55Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



Maren Ade: ‘Toni Erdmann’s humour comes out of a big desperation’

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 19:00:08 GMT2017-01-21T19:00:08Z

The German writer-director on how her dad inspired her surprise hit comedy-drama, why the Golden Globes was bizarre and why she won’t do a US remake

An unusual thing happened at the Cannes film festival last May. It was an authentic surge of audience euphoria, a spontaneous burst of applause in mid-film and what’s more, it erupted at a press screening. It has been known at festivals for critics to melt on exposure to certain lighter entertainments – a Pixar animation or a breezy cinephile lark like The Artist. But a 162-minute German study of generational conflict and the perils of globalisation? It’s safe to say that no one was expecting the jolliest experience, so Toni Erdmann caught everyone unawares.

Without giving too much away, the moment in Maren Ade’s film that did the trick was a party scene in which an elderly prankster persuades his business consultant daughter to do an impromptu rendition of Whitney Houston’s glutinous anthem The Greatest Love of All, accompanying her on electric piano. It is show-stopping, cathartic and utterly joyous.

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The Discovery review: everyone but Jason Segel and Rooney Mara wants to die

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 15:20:42 GMT2017-01-21T15:20:42Z

Robert Redford has discovered the afterlife so everyone is trying to get there fast in this slack-paced, heavily-signposted love story

The Discovery posits a world in which an afterlife has been scientifically proven. There are no specifics, other than concrete evidence that brainwaves move to a different plane of existence. The public reacts with a drastic spike in suicides, as unhappy people rush to “get there”. Hitting reset is an understandable impulse, especially after watching a film which starts so promising only to get bogged down in dreary, desultory scenes and confusing plot contortions.

Jason Segel is the determined man whose name just happens to be Will, and Rooney Mara is the emotionally isolated woman whose name just happens to be Isla. Everybody got that? Okay. They meet on an otherwise empty ferryboat to an unnamed destination, a seaside town during the off-season. Segel’s father, Dr Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) is the scientist who made the discovery, now at its two-year anniversary, though he has been in seclusion for over a year. Society has changed: a suicide counter adorns public spaces, next to encouragements to stay alive in this world, and Will’s brother Toby (Jesse Plemons) admits he’s stopped going to the funerals of acquaintances.

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The Workers Cup review: if you're building stadiums for Qatar 2022, someone else wins

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 14:42:44 GMT2017-01-21T14:42:44Z

Adam Sobel’s documentary joins the crews of men constructing the venues to be used in 2022 and shocks its audience with their tales of modern-day slavery

This feels like a particularly diverse year for the voices being heard in Sundance’s documentary programme, and The Workers Cup fills a welcome niche in being an all too rare documentary about Qatar, with the added bonus of featuring charismatic characters spanning the world. It’s also a very successful film about modern day slavery which avoids pitying or patronising its subjects.

There has been widespread disbelief that Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022, with regular reports of terrible working conditions for the construction staff working on the stadiums, who face potential injury or death in building a footballing infrastructure from scratch. Information coming out of Qatar can be limited and confusing, and the chances for independent journalists or film-makers to report accurately can be slim.

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The legend of Zelda: Christina Ricci’s Fitzgerald is a confused cliche

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 09:30:31 GMT2017-01-21T09:30:31Z

Z: The Beginning Of Everything attempts to chart the flapper icon’s thrilling rise to intoxicating muse but its portrayal of the jazz age is disappointingly pedestrian

It’s a mark of the careering ambitions of our so-called golden age of television that, should I tell you Amazon is attempting to salvage a tired film genre with a 10-episode series about an iconic Zelda, that genre could just as easily be video game adaptation as period biopic. Alas, it’s the latter, and though Z: The Beginning Of Everything would be a perfectly good title for a rip-roaring tale of puzzle-based valour, on balance it’s probably better suited to a glittering jazz-age portrait of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Christina Ricci bids farewell to a decade of post-Speed Racer ignominy to play the title role, and her easy effervescence goes a long way to explaining what made the woman born Zelda Sayre so intoxicating to the luminaries of the lost generation, most notably her husband, F Scott Fitzgerald. Ricci plays Zelda as a fully-formed idol from the start, someone fiercely aware both of what she wishes to get out of life and what others imagine her to offer. This constant give and take was a defining characteristic of her life as she sought to be seen not just as Scott’s muse but as a creative force in her own right.

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Geeta and Babita Phogat: ‘Our father taught us never to be scared'

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 07:00:29 GMT2017-01-21T07:00:29Z

The highest-grossing Bollywood film ever isn’t a romance, but the true story of sisters from a rural village who became world-class wrestlers. Now they’re hoping their sudden fame will inspire other Indian women to break free

‘Change for women is happening, but it’s maddeningly slow,” says Geeta Phogat. “Take my mother,’ she continues. Like most women in rural Haryana state, where they live, she has worn the ghunghat, or veil, her entire life. A few years ago, when the sisters first became well-known, they urged her to change her old ways too. “Drop the veil,” they said. Cautiously, she agreed.

“No one followed her example. No aunt, no female relative, no other women in the village. No one had the courage. In fact, villagers gossiped about my mother. They called her brazen. But it’s their job to bitch and our job to get on with doing what we think is right,” says Geeta.

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Whose Streets? review: searing film gives a voice to the people of Ferguson

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 13:02:09 GMT2017-01-20T13:02:09Z

Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s outstanding documentary, which has premiered at Sundance, gets to the heart of the St Louis suburb rocked by the police shooting of Michael Brown

The common protest chant “Whose streets? Our streets!” isn’t heard in Whose Streets? until nearly the end, but perhaps the more relevant question is: “Whose cameras?”

Directors and activists Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s outstanding and incendiary documentary about Ferguson does a tremendous end run around mainstream news outlets and the agenda-driven narratives that emerge, particularly on television. Its images aren’t leaked by law enforcement or stage managed for the media, but come directly from the people who lived through the violent events of 2014. “Return to your homes!” police shout from atop their tanks. “We are home!” a beyond frustrated civilian calls back. Whose Streets? depicts injustices that have always beleaguered the African American community, but this is a film that could only have been made now.

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Dangerous Game: can a Calum Best vehicle with Darren Day as a Russian mob boss really exist?

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:45:11 GMT2017-01-20T11:45:11Z

In the trailer, Best plays a Premiership star who robs shoe shops for the mafia while dressed as Gary Lineker. Alex Reid and Lucy Pinder also feature. Is this post-truth cinema?

I need your help. I’ve just watched a trailer for a film called Dangerous Game, and I think someone might be having me on.

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Janelle Monáe: ‘I am the whole package’

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:05:14 GMT2017-01-22T00:05:14Z

She’s a musician whose work has brought her massive acclaim. She’s also an outspoken activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, and now Janelle Monáe is in Moonlight, one of the most talked about films of the year

One of Janelle Monáe’s earliest childhood memories is of being hugged by her grandmother, a former sharecropper from Mississippi, and listening to her stories from the past: her years as a cotton picker; how their family came to be in Kansas City; the importance of connection to others. It was there, in her grandma’s arms, that a slip of a six-year-old girl decided that one day she would become a storyteller, too. She wrote precocious plays and poems, sang and entered talent competitions that she often won, and gave her mother the winnings to help towards the electricity bill.

There was a drug dealer like Juan in our district. He was a mentor to local young people

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Wine, weddings and ballet: new role for indie cinemas at heart of high streets

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:04:14 GMT2017-01-22T00:04:14Z

The intimate atmosphere and community spirit have allowed small operators to thrive

Independent cinema has never known a time like it. From themed weddings to live-streamed operas and interactive movie nights, indie theatres are reinventing themselves as the new entertainment hubs on the high street – eating into the market share of the multiplex giants and in-home rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

These independents accounted for almost a quarter – 23% – of all screens nationwide in 2016, up from 17% the year before, according to data from research firm Mintel, released before the BFI’s annual review of the cinema industry this week. The figures represent a huge turnaround, given that many of these venues were on the verge of closing down a few years ago.

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Calls to boycott French film awards over Roman Polanski honour

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 14:44:04 GMT2017-01-20T14:44:04Z

Women’s groups describe decision to have veteran director preside over César ceremony as ‘snub to rape victims’

French women’s groups have called for a boycott of the César awards, the country’s equivalent of the Oscars, after Roman Polanski was asked to preside over this year’s ceremony.

The veteran film director, who has won four best director Césars for movies including Tess, The Pianist and The Ghost Writer, is wanted in the US on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977.

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Kristen Stewart co-authors research paper on 'pioneering' film technique

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 14:37:18 GMT2017-01-20T14:37:18Z

Twilight star among three authors of paper explaining how ‘neural style transfer’ method was put to use in her directorial debut, the 17-minute short Come Swim

Twilight and Personal Shopper Kristen Stewart has co-authored a research paper on “neural style transfer”, an arcane technique that uses artificial intelligence to reconfigure an image in the style of another.

Written with Bhautik J Joshi, a research engineer at Adobe, and producer David Shapiro, Stewart’s paper is related to work done on her short film directing debut Come Swim, which received its world premiere at the Sundance film festival on Thursday. Called Bringing Impressionism to Life with Neural Style Transfer in Come Swim, the paper was submitted on Wednesday on Cornell University library’s open-access arXiv.org website, an online repository for scientific research papers.

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A Dog's Purpose premiere cancelled after video of stunt dog 'in distress'

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:40:30 GMT2017-01-20T11:40:30Z

Universal halt red carpet event and press junket pending a review of footage that appears to show a German shepherd being forced into a pool of water on set

The world premiere of A Dog’s Purpose, Universal’s new canine adventure, has been cancelled following the emergence of a video that appears to show a stunt dog in distress on the film’s set.

According to TMZ, the leaked footage shows a German shepherd being forced into a pool that is meant to recreate rapids, and scrabbling at the bank in an effort to resist. Finally submerged, the dog is buffeted by the waves for a few seconds while the camera crew secures the shot.

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Anne Hathaway has psychic connection to giant monster in Colossal trailer

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:15:04 GMT2017-01-19T22:15:04Z

The film, which opened to mixed reviews at the Toronto film festival, sees the Oscar winner overcome alcoholism by saving South Korea

Anne Hathaway discovers that she is psychically linked to a giant monster in the first trailer for offbeat comedy drama Colossal.

Related: Colossal review – Anne Hathaway's madcap monster movie plays it too safe

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Anne Hathaway to join Rebel Wilson in remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:25:08 GMT2017-01-19T21:25:08Z

The film, to be called Nasty Women, will see the actors taking on the con artist roles made famous by Michael Caine and Steve Martin

Anne Hathaway will join Rebel Wilson in a gender-reversed remake of the 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The film has been renamed Nasty Women, referencing reality star turned US president Donald Trump’s insult of Hillary Clinton during a televised debate in 2016. The pair will take on the con artist roles originally played by Michael Caine and Steve Martin in the original.

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Peta calls for boycott of A Dog's Purpose following distressed German shepherd video

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:04:23 GMT2017-01-19T16:04:23Z

The leaked footage, which appears to show a dog being forced into churning waters, has prompted the animal welfare group to urge audiences to avoid the film

A disturbing video that appears to show a stunt dog being pushed into a pool of water meant to recreate a raging river has been condemned by Peta – and one of the stars of the movie.

According to TMZ, the leaked footage shows a German shepherd that stars in forthcoming adventure A Dog’s Purpose being forced into the pool, scrabbling at the bank in an effort to resist. Finally submerged, the dog is then buffeted by the waves for a few seconds while the camera crews get the shot.

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Johnny Depp thanks fans for trust at People's Choice awards

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:54:18 GMT2017-01-19T09:54:18Z

The actor, who recently finalised his divorce, enjoyed a podium finish alongside the likes of Tom Hanks, Blake Lively and Finding Dory – which was named best picture

Related: People's Choice Awards 2017 red carpet and best moments – in pictures

Johnny Depp has thanked the public for their support in the wake of his divorce from Amber Heard, a few days after proceedings were finalised.

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Patrick Stewart to voice poo emoji in The Emoji Movie

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:47:59 GMT2017-01-18T20:47:59Z

The acclaimed Shakespearean actor will take on the role of a pile of excrement in a new animated comedy

Patrick Stewart is set to voice the poo emoji in animated adventure The Emoji Movie.

Related: Ready for their smiley face close ups: which emoticons should be film stars?

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Lionel Richie to produce Sammy Davis Jr biopic

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:27:37 GMT2017-01-18T19:27:37Z

Based on a memoir from 1965, the production will involve all of the late singer’s heirs after years of legal disputes

A biopic of the singer Sammy Davis Jr is finally heading to the big screen after years of legal disputes.

According to Deadline, the film will be based on the 1965 memoir Yes I Can: The Story Of Sammy Davis Jr, co-penned by Davis and his wife Jane, as well as the author Burt Boyar. The heirs to his estate will join producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mike Menchel and Lionel Richie. Bonaventura’s credits include the Transformers franchise.

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The 50 best films of 2016 in the US: the full list

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 13:06:06 GMT2016-11-29T13:06:06Z

The Guardian film team’s favourite movies released in the US this year is complete, headed by the powerful story of a young man’s fight for affirmation

See the UK cut of our list
More on the best culture of 2016

1

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The 50 best films of 2016 in the US: No 1 Moonlight

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 11:30:01 GMT2016-12-16T11:30:01Z

In our countdown’s top spot, Benjamin Lee salutes a poetic and poignant movie that depicted the life of a gay black man with heart-swelling humanity

More on the best culture of 2016

In an industry that still prefers a limited set of straight, white narratives above all else, the arrival of this ambitious, slow-burn drama was a game-changer.

Telling the story of a gay black man coming to terms with his sexuality in three devastating chapters, it prioritised raw authenticity over minority-based cliches, and the result was like nothing we’ve ever seen. Director Barry Jenkins, adapting the loosely autobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, avoids drowning the deprived Miami setting in grimy stereotypes and dazzles viewers with unconventional, often poetic stylistic choices that never distract from the heartfelt narrative and flawless ensemble cast.

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The 50 best films of 2016 in the US: No 2 Toni Erdmann

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:45:01 GMT2016-12-15T11:45:01Z

As our countdown nears its conclusion, Catherine Shoard picks – in joint second place – a German comedy that pokes extravagant fun at work, life and imbalanced family ties

More on the best culture of 2016

Few people settle in for a three-hour German comedy about an uptight woman and her farty father expecting a masterpiece. Yet that’s what Maren Ade’s extraordinary, genre-bending revolution of a movie is. It tells of Ines (Sandra Hüller), an efficient, humourless, whippet-thin businesswoman in her mid-30s. She’s focused on success with no apparent aim but for its own sake (“You’re an animal,” someone tells her – there are a lot beasties in this film). To this end, she sacrifices her free time, much of her social life, and many of her ethics.

There’s one appalling scene in which she must take shopping the wife of a powerful contact she’s courting. “I’m not a feminist,” she witheringly tells one of the colleagues above whom she is miles more capable and bright, “or I wouldn’t tolerate guys like you.” We pity brittle Ines. We don’t necessarily like her.

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The 50 best films of 2016 in the US: No 2 La La Land

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:45:01 GMT2016-12-15T11:45:01Z

As our countdown continues to joint second place, Andrew Pulver taps his foot to Damien Chazelle’s magical reprise of the golden age of musicals

More on the best culture of 2016

Every so often – against all its better instincts – the film industry turns out a movie that essentially eulogises the act of film-making, and asserting its primacy in the collective imagination and fantasy. Correctly, Hollywood tends to police all this stuff rigorously, and only the high-end examples make it out to the wider world. Though its origins weren’t actual Hollywood, The Artist was the last film to really pull it off, and was rewarded with a bunch of Oscars for its troubles. And it’s looking increasingly likely that La La Land, a devout worshipper at the altar of the Hollywood musical, will go down the same path.

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The Founder review: Michael Keaton supersizes McDonald's and births Trump's US

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 12:10:56 GMT2017-01-16T12:10:56Z

Fascinating, subtle film on the machinations of Ray Kroc, the ruthless, insecure man who made a burger joint an empire and sold out its originators

All this film’s irony and ambiguity are showcased in the title, though Birth of a Salesman was an alternative that occurred to me. The Founder is an absorbing and unexpectedly subtle movie about the genesis of the McDonald’s burger empire. There is an avoiding of obviousness that resides in its clever casting of not-immediately-dislikable Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the needy, driven, insecure marketing type with the predatory surname who masterminded a nationwide franchising for the original California hamburger restaurant in the 1950s; finally taking it away from its owners and revolutionary fast-food pioneers, Dick and Mac McDonald, played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch.

Keaton is never the cartoon bad guy, not even at the very end. His moonfaced openness makes him look like a giant, middle-aged baby, wide-eyed with optimism about the world. He looks like the kind of unemployed comedian who might earn a buck playing scary clown Ronald McDonald – who is not in fact mentioned in the film.

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Split review – M Night Shyamalan twists again – and again

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:00:13 GMT2017-01-19T22:00:13Z

This suspenseful tale is surprisingly satisfying thanks to clever plotting and a fine performance from James McAvoy as a man with two dozen personalities

The traditional response with a new M Night Shyamalan movie is, “Oh no, what’s the twist ending this time?” But Split is more of a feature-length twist: its chief antagonist has dissociative identity disorder, which means he cycles between two dozen personalities. It’s lurid and warped and more than a little dodgy, but it comes off thanks to the bravura performance – or performances – of James McAvoy, who throws himself into the role – or roles – with an admirable mix of skill and abandon.

We first meet McAvoy as Dennis, a cross-looking neat-freak who abducts three young women from the shopping mall and imprisons them in his labyrinthine underground lair. But next time he visits them, he’s Patricia, a prim English governess. Then he’s Hedwig, a lisping, nine-year-old Kanye West fan, who warns them about “The Beast”, suggesting this psycho wants to chew on more than just scenery.

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xXx: The Return of Xander Cage review – Vin Diesel goes full throttle in action-movie silliness

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:01:21 GMT2017-01-19T00:01:21Z

After being killed off, Diesel’s lumbering lunkhead Xander Cage returns for another helping of goofy action that’s rooted in the absurd 1990s mode

Vin Diesel’s plump-necked, vest-wearing action hombre Xander “XXX” Cage has come lumbering back onto the big screen, delivering sleepy zingers in that growly laryngeal voice, for the first time since 2002. Sadly, it’s the least anticipated franchise renewal imaginable. Only the release of a new Police Academy film could cause less excitement. But Vin, great ridiculous beefcake lunk that he is, does provide us with some fun.

Diesel became the action genre’s lost hero after the first XXX film, in which he played the skateboarding XXX-treme sports guy recruited by Samuel L Jackson to fight for justice. Then he got killed off for the 2005 sequel when Diesel’s fee demands got reportedly XXX-cessive and he was ignominiously replaced by Ice Cube. From then on, Diesel appeared to concentrate on the hugely lucrative Fast & Furious series and his much-cherished sci-fi action hero Riddick which failed to give him solo stardom. But now he has brought Xander Cage back from the dead in a new film made possible by Chinese co-production investment.

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Rester Vertical review – exercise in myth-making and sexual adventure fails to stay upright

Thu, 12 May 2016 11:05:23 GMT2016-05-12T11:05:23Z

French director Alain Guiraudie’s follow-up to The Stranger by the Lake is wearyingly self-indulgent and a real disappointment


Has Cannes just experienced its first auteur turkey? Alain Guiraudie is hugely admired for his explicitly sexual thriller The Stranger By the Lake, but his film in this year’s competition, Rester Vertical, is a head-scratching disappointment: an incoherent, inconsequential picture which sometimes looks worryingly as if it is being made up as it goes along.

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Trespass Against Us review: even Fassbender and Gleeson can't make every criminal charming

Sat, 10 Sep 2016 08:32:09 GMT2016-09-10T08:32:09Z

Adam Smith’s debut film could be an evocative slice of life about Irish travellers in the west country – in fact it’s an indulgent, arm’s-length muddle that fails to convince you its leading men are sympathetic

The suspension of disbelief is key to watching films, but at some point you have to have to put your foot down. No one as beautiful as Michael Fassbender would be living in such squalor.

In Trespass Among Us, Fassbender plays Chad Cutler, the second generation in a small band of Irish travellers living somewhere in the west country. He’s the only one in the group who wears a collared shirt (hell, some hardly wear clothes at all) and his is the trailer with plastic covering over the couch cushions. His father, Colby (Brendan Gleeson), loves nothing more than telling tall tales around the campfire, making flat-Earth arguments and reminding his grandchildren not to believe anything they learn at school.

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20th Century Women review – Mike Mills's new film is poignant and delicious

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 19:41:54 GMT2016-10-07T19:41:54Z

A film about nothing specific boasts rush of gorgeous moments, a standout performance from Annette Bening and profound thoughts on family and identity

There is a third rail for many film-makers, the alluring danger of quirk. Quirk is a somewhat indefinable thing but, to paraphrase supreme court justice Potter Stewart, we know it when we see it. There are some, however, who know how to harness its powers, and six years after the festival debut of Beginners, designer, music video director and guy-with-cool-associates Mike Mills has stepped back behind the camera to one-up himself. 20th Century Women is a rushing river of gorgeous moments, a full-frontal assault of poetic observation and craftily constructed vignettes. By being about nothing specific (is there even an elevator pitch here?) it manages to be about everything, a coming-of-age tale about a kid that’s “different” but not too different. Moreover, it proves that Mills is no dilettante, he has developed a very specific style that is, above all the poignancy, deliciously watchable.

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The Bye Bye Man review: farewell to charm in bloody, awful college horror

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 17:02:18 GMT2017-01-14T17:02:18Z

Cressida Bonas is among luckless students who discover the devil in their digs in this lazy junk featuring expositional librarians and a search engine called ‘Search’

Every Friday the 13th, Mammon demands another teenbait horrorshow with which to befoul multiplexes. Here we find former indie spirit Stacy Title (Let the Devil Wear Black) schlocking out, possibly explaining the incongruous Rilke quotations and alt-rock T-shirts adorning this otherwise artless shambles, a Candyman shorn of all subtexts. Three blandies install themselves in ominously spacious student digs and – after aeons of poking about that suggest Scream never happened – inadvertently summon the titular fiend, a Poundland Voldemort whose name spawns a handy dual-action mantra-cum-strapline: “Don’t think it, don’t say it.” (To which some wag has doubtless already appended “Don’t see it.”)

Even at its copout conclusion – blatantly shilling for sequels – there’s marked editorial confusion as to how this bogeyman presents, beyond the usual loud farts on the soundtrack. (The students’ coughing and hallucinations could as likely be a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.) Half-hearted digging into Old Bye Bye’s genesis occasions direly acted flashbacks and meetings with expositional librarians, but curiously not the gore young adults might in good faith have paid to see. There’s not a memorable kill in these 96 minutes, and one fatal shotgun blast leaves behind only a light grey smear, as though the effects team had popped out for Hobnobs.

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I, Daniel Blake review: Ken Loach's welfare state polemic is blunt, dignified and brutally moving

Thu, 12 May 2016 19:03:29 GMT2016-05-12T19:03:29Z

There are shades of Dickens and Orwell in this emphatic drama about a disabled man strangled by the red tape of the benefits system

With this movie — maybe his last, and maybe not — Ken Loach establishes himself yet further as the John Bunyan of contemporary British cinema. Based on research and interviews by the screenwriter Paul Laverty, this movie tells the fictional story of Daniel Blake, a middle-aged widower in the North East who can’t work or get benefits after a near-fatal heart attack, and the story is told with stark and fierce plainness: unadorned, unapologetic, even unevolved. Loach’s movie offends against the tacitly accepted rules of sophisticated good taste: subtlety, irony and indirection. The film is not objective, and perhaps Loach and Laverty have signed up to Churchill’s maxim about refusing to be neutral between the fire brigade and the fire.

Ken Loach will insist on behaving as if there really is something urgently wrong, and that we shouldn’t or needn’t get used to food banks as a fact of life; he portrays it all as something which we might actually do something about in the real world, as opposed to invoking injustice as an aesthetic gesture, or a flavour-ingredient of modern social realist fiction. Many are happy to concede the value of films like this set in the developing world, showing sympathetic people trying to retain their dignity while being hungry. But the same thing set in modern Britain gets dismissed with an embarrassed shrug as strident or hectoring, as if going hungry is impossible for British non-shirkers.

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Live By Night review: Ben Affleck's mob drama is nearly kiss of death

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 16:56:05 GMT2017-01-06T16:56:05Z

Narcissism dogs Affleck’s self-direction which is too forgiving of his dubious character and relegates its female stars to sacrificial roles

Ben Affleck is a dismayingly stolid and uninteresting star turn, playing ambitious young gangster Joe Coughlin in this stodgy, self-important mob drama with borrowings from The Godfather and Scarface. There is a dull dreamboat handsomeness to his performance throughout. Perhaps another director could have got something more from him, but Affleck has directed and adapted the award-winning 2012 crime novel by Dennis Lehane – whose Gone Baby Gone he brought to the screen in 2007 for his directorial debut.

Live By Night has a surface confidence; its period settings and style always look good and it boasts some thoughtful, detailed supporting performances from actors playing corruptible cops – Chris Cooper as the careworn Florida officer Figgis and Brendan Gleeson as Thomas Coughlin, the Boston police captain and Joe’s sorrowing father. But there is something narcissistic and tiresome about the forgiving gaze that Affleck turns on himself as Joe, whose nice-guy credentials are always unchallenged, and who is surrounded by simperingly adoring womenfolk. Female stars Elle Fanning and Zoe Saldana are wasted in thankless, sacrificial roles whose purpose is to emphasise Joe’s lantern-jawed sensitivity and gallantry even in the midst of gangsterdom.

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Toni Erdmann review: long German comedy is slight, biting little miracle

Fri, 13 May 2016 21:07:22 GMT2016-05-13T21:07:22Z

A leftfield Palme contender emerges in this insightful and sometimes very funny film about a prank-prone dad trying to lighten up his serious businesswoman daughter

This is proving to be a festival for broad, outrageous and enjoyable comedy. Bruno Dumont has just given us his madly over-the-top seaside extravaganza Ma Loute, and now German film-maker Maren Ade presents Toni Erdmann – an uproarious movie with a lot of big laughs. It’s a film that starts out looking like a European version of Hollywood’s bittersweet generational pictures about lovably impossible dads, like Jack Lemmon’s Kotch (1971) or Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt (2002). But then it gradually mutates into something darker and more disorientating.

The film is very funny – but asks its audience to wonder if being funny, if wanting to make people laugh, and particularly if using comedy for family-bonding, really is the sign of being relaxed and life-affirming in the way people who are talented at comedy often assume.

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Hidden Figures review – black women Nasa boffin pic defies its formula

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 14:47:25 GMT2016-12-12T14:47:25Z

Following a pre-programmed trajectory marked #OscarsSoWhite, this biopic of the scientists behind John Glenn’s space flight is irresistably uplifting

Nelson Mandela’s death was announced at the London premiere of biopic Long Walk to Freedom. That film under-performed critically, at the box office and when it came to awards. The producers of Hidden Figures will be hoping it’s not second time unlucky. Their movie about how three black female Nasa scientists helped send John Glenn into space premiered a couple of days after the death of the astronaut, aged 95.

But while the reignition of interest in Mandela did not lead to a dividend of tickets, that film was hobbled from the off – by lukewarm reviews, a formidable running time and Idris Elba’s striking lack of physical resemblance to the great man. Hidden Figures benefits from a tale few know, with a trio of leading characters almost nobody has heard of and – unlike the Mandela film – a total absence of solemnity.

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Paterson review – Adam Driver beguiling in miraculous tale of everyday goodness | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 15:30:37 GMT2016-11-24T15:30:37Z

Driver’s delicate performance as a poetic bus driver in Jim Jarmusch’s delightfully unironic film is far, far away from his Star Wars persona

Slowly but surely, the gentleness of Jim Jarmusch’s lovely new film steals up on you. It has an almost miraculous innocence. I can’t remember when I last saw a movie whose adult characters had so much simple, unassuming goodness, goodness that breaks everything in the modern culture rulebook by going unironised and unpunished. And Adam Driver’s face is something to fall in love with. An Easter Island statue reborn as a sensitive, delicate boy.

Related: Punch the keys now! Why cinema keeps churning out films about writers

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Silence review: the last temptation of Liam Neeson in Scorsese's shattering epic

Sat, 10 Dec 2016 16:00:02 GMT2016-12-10T16:00:02Z

Returning to themes which have haunted his whole career, Martin Scorsese has made a film of grandeur and great fervour about Christianity, martyrdom and the silence of God

The silence of God – or the deafness of man – is the theme of Martin Scorsese’s epic new film about an ordeal of belief and the mysterious, ambiguous heroism involved in humiliation and collaboration. It is about an apparent sacrifice in the service of the greater good, and a reckoning deferred to some unknowable future time. The possibility of reaching some kind of accommodation with the enemy, and not knowing if this is a disavowal of pride or a concession to the greatest sin of all, is a topic that Scorsese last touched upon in The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, in which Jesus sees a future of peace and ordinary comfort.

Silence is a drama about Christian martyrdom, and like all such films, from Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc to Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons, it must address an atheist counter-sensibility aware that the Catholic Inquisition itself saw no difficulty in putting perceived heretics to death, and that arguably their own martyrs are therefore ineligible for lenient humanist sympathy. In fact, in this movie there is a fierce debate about the opposition of Christianity and Buddhism, of Europe and Asia, and about the relativism of faith.

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A Monster Calls review – Liam Neeson stars in sweet, sad fantasy

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 21:00:14 GMT2016-12-29T21:00:14Z

Neeson voices a monster who helps a bullied boy cope with his mother’s terminal illness in a dramatic, affecting tale

JA Bayona, director of The Orphanage, shows how a child’s fantasy can make sense of the world and our feelings about it: we create our own monsters to exorcise anger and grief. This sweet, sad movie reminded me at various stages of Let the Right One In, Pan’s Labyrinth and Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man; there’s also a briefly visible model of Frankenstein’s monster, maybe alluding to Victor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive. It is based on an idea by children’s author Siobhan Dowd, who poignantly conceived of the story as she was dying of cancer; Patrick Ness wrote the book and the screenplay adaptation.

Newcomer Lewis MacDougall plays Conor, a lonely kid whose mum (Felicity Jones) is dying; he is bullied at school and hates his overbearing grandma, played by Sigourney Weaver with that slightly too-slow voice some US stars use when they do British accents. Toby Kebbell plays his estranged dad. In the depths of his despair, Conor is visited by a gigantic monster voiced by Liam Neeson, who appears out of a yew tree in the local churchyard and tells him mysterious stories over successive nights, dramatised in animated sequences. This is an affecting movie with a lump-in-the-throat ending, but I have to confess to finding its fantasy quotient a bit twee, and the non-fantasy scenes are themselves flavoured by a self-consciously imaginary storybook quality that took the sucrose content too high.

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La La Land review: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone shine in a sun-drenched musical masterpiece

Wed, 31 Aug 2016 11:01:12 GMT2016-08-31T11:01:12Z

The director of Whiplash delivers a musical romance that rushes from first love to heartache via showtunes, love songs and free jazz. Propelled by charming performances from its leads, it’s a sweet-natured drama that’s full of bounce

The seasons of a love affair are played out beguilingly in this wonderfully sweet, sad, smart new movie from Damien Chazelle – the director of Whiplash – and the Venice film festival could not have wished for a bigger sugar rush to start the proceedings. It’s an unapologetically romantic homage to classic movie musicals, splashing its poster-paint energy and dream-chasing optimism on the screen. With no little audacity, La La Land seeks its own place somewhere on a continuum between Singin’ in the Rain and Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, with a hint of Alan Parker’s Fame for the opening sequence, in which a bunch of young kids with big dreams, symbolically stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway leading to Los Angeles, get out of their cars and stage a big dance number.

To be honest, this is where an audience might find its tolerance for this picture’s unironic bounce tested, coming as it does right at the top of the show. It takes a little while to get acclimatised, and for the first five minutes, the showtune feel to the musical score might make you feel you’re watching a Broadway adaptation. But very soon I was utterly absorbed by this movie’s simple storytelling verve and the terrific lead performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who are both excellent – particularly Stone, who has never been better, her huge doe eyes radiating wit and intelligence when they’re not filling with tears. Gosling, for his part, has a nice line in sardonic dismissal to conceal how hurt he is or how in love he is.

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Why Him? review – Bryan Cranston in disposable festive fun

Thu, 22 Dec 2016 22:45:03 GMT2016-12-22T22:45:03Z

In this moderately entertaining Christmas comedy, Cranston plays a dad anxious about a tech billionaire’s interest in his daughter

Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullaly supply some ballast to this silly, broad, moderately entertaining comedy on the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner theme from director and co-writer John Hamburg (who wrote for the Zoolanders and Fockers). They’re Ned and Barb, a married couple who own an old-fashioned printing company in Michigan, feeling the pinch in an increasingly digital, paperless world. To their horror, they discover that their 21-year-old daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) is dating a smug thirtysomething tech billionaire and wild man called Laird Mayhew (James Franco) who has inappropriate language, tattoos, and enormous wealth based on precisely that online revolution that is putting this middle-aged couple out of business. Laird invites them to his hi-tech modern mansion over the Christmas holidays, intent on asking Ned for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Franco does what he does – though frankly he is getting a little old for some of this stuff. It’s Cranston who keeps the film upright with his craggy, Spencer Tracy-type disapproval. There’s a funny cameo from the veteran glamrockers, Kiss. A disposable bit of Yuletide fun.

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Patriots Day review: Boston marathon bombing movie is tense yet respectful

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 08:20:45 GMT2016-11-18T08:20:45Z

The latest collaboration between Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg is a moving and compelling homage to a city and its spirit, as well as a gripping procedural

There’s little doubt who the hero of Peter Berg’s retelling of the 2013 Boston marathon bombings is: the city itself. Native Bostonian Mark Wahlberg plays Jimmy Saunders, a police sergeant, who acts as no-nonsense conduit to help cut through the layers of bureaucracy, bullshit and emotion of that day in April 2013 when three people were killed by two homemade bombs.

The first 20 minutes recall the signature docu-drama style of Paul Greengrass, who retold a US terrorist attack with his 9/11 tale United 93. That handheld invasive style is coupled with authentic footage and incredibly accurate re-enactment to piece together the events of the day. It’s also close in feel to Brett Morgen’s 30 for 30 documentary on OJ Simpson’s famous Bronco chase, and, like that film, Berg slowly pieces together the action of the day – a minute’s silence for the Newtown massacre’s victims, the Red Sox’s home game – to give a sense of a calm before the chaos. We see protagonists from the bombing preparing for the race around the city. There’s a couple, a father and son, and Saunders, who has been given the duty of marshalling the finishing line as punishment for allegedly beating up another officer.

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Julieta review – Almodóvar’s five-star return to form

Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:27 GMT2016-08-28T08:00:27Z

Told in flashback over 30 years of guilt and grief, this tender melodrama based on three Alice Munro short stories is Pedro Almodóvar’s best film in a decade

Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, his most moving and entrancing work since 2006’s Volver, is a sumptuous and heartbreaking study of the viral nature of guilt, the mystery of memory and the often unendurable power of love. At times, the emotional intrigue plays more like a Hitchcock thriller than a romantic melodrama, with Alberto Iglesias’s superb Herrmannesque score (the director cites Toru Takemitsu, Mahler and Alban Berg as influential) heightening the noir elements, darkening the bold splashes of red, blue and white. Three short stories from the Canadian author Alice Munro’s 2004 volume Runaway provide the source material, but the spirit of Patricia Highsmith looms large as strangers on a train fuel the circling narrative (one character even observes that he is becoming a Highsmith obsessive). I was also startled to find echoes of George Sluizer’s Dutch-French 1988 chiller Spoorloos in the depiction of a life defined by the disappearance of a loved one, although there is a tenderness here wholly lacking from Sluizer’s altogether more unforgiving work.

Related: Pedro Almodóvar: ‘Nobody sings. There’s no humour. I just wanted restraint’

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Sing review – pitch-perfect porcupines have the X factor in jukebox musical

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 12:43:06 GMT2016-09-12T12:43:06Z

Scarlett Johansson and a star cast of animated animals belt out wall-to-wall pop hits in a formulaic film from Son of Rambow’s Garth Jennings which will entertain kids and parents

To many of us, “formulaic” is a negative term. But for mainstream family entertainment destined to live a franchise life after the initial film has long left the theatres, working within a well-worn structure is the key to success. Sing, from Illumination (the animation company that made Minions), feels less like a movie than a genetic mutation developed in a laboratory. It has just the right measurements of simple humour, heart, kawaii-levels of cuteness, zany chase sequences, fart jokes and catchy tunes. The sales pitch – American Idol but in a world like Zootopia – is one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” home runs. But that’s only part of it. Sing is structured like a jukebox musical, so it’s wall-to-wall popular songs that everybody knows just from going to the supermarket. Indeed, one of Sing’s big numbers comes when Gipsy Kings’ Bamboleo, which has appeared in television advertisements for years, pipes in over a supermarket PA system. It may be a talking pig with 25 children and dreams of being a star that’s pushing the cart, but it is also you and me.

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Assassin's Creed review – Michael Fassbender game movie achieves transcendental boredom

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 20:00:28 GMT2016-12-19T20:00:28Z

This film adaptation of the successful videogame, in which Fassbender must battle Templars after the original apple from Eden, is an interminable, lifeless mess

“What the fuck is going on?” mutters Michael Fassbender’s character through clenched teeth, reasonably early on in the course of this interminable film, based on the lucrative video game series Assassin’s Creed. You can imagine each of its stars – Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Essie Davis – saying much the same thing while looking through the script, before being directed to the fee on the last page of their contract. It’s an action movie, with dollops of thriller and splodges of Dan Brown conspiracy; and hardly five minutes go by without someone in a monk’s outfit doing a bit of sub-parkour jumping from the roof of one building to another. And yet it is at all times mysteriously, transcendentally boring.

I bet playing the game is much more exciting. But then getting Fassbender to slap a coat of Dulux on the wall of his hi-tech prison cell and monitoring the progressive moisture-loss would be more exciting.

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Passengers review – spaceship romcom scuppered by cosmic creep

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 14:00:03 GMT2016-12-15T14:00:03Z

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence have plenty of chemistry but his cyber-stalker actions kill the romance and the space peril is hardly pulse-quickening

Quite a bit is expected of Passengers, the heavily promoted romcom-in-space starring two easy-on-the-eye leads in Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Its basic premise would appear to have been inspired by Douglas Adams: specifically, the giant Golgafrincham ark from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which is carrying huge numbers of people to colonise other planets. In Passengers, it is a sleek spacecraft called the Avalon, which is ferrying thousands to a new life, all in hibernation: the fully automated ship is designed to deal with meteor showers, asteroid storms and the like.

Related: Cosmic emotions: why Arrival and Passengers feel like a new wave of sci-fi

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Neruda review - unconventional drama constructs rather than retells Chilean poet's life

Sat, 14 May 2016 14:50:00 GMT2016-05-14T14:50:00Z

Pablo Larrain follows up No and The Club with an unlikely, often surreal and incredibly entertaining film that plays fast and loose with facts and time

The basic formula of the biopic has grown almost unbearably tiresome, thanks largely to the annual parade of mostly uninspiring Oscarbait true stories that serve to do nothing but show actors’ “range”. Would the world have stopped spinning if The Danish Girl or Trumbo had never been released?

Related: Clash review – horrifying one-location drama tackles Egyptian conflict

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Manchester by the Sea review: Kenneth Lonergan's morose echo of Margaret

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 12:52:03 GMT2016-01-24T12:52:03Z

Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams lead a starry cast in Lonergan’s long-awaited latest – but the impact of this impressive drama is suffocated by the silence and suffering of its central character

One of the buzziest films of this year’s festival, Manchester-by-the-Sea is the long-awaited return for director Kenneth Lonergan, who premiered his debut, You Can Count on Me, at Sundance in 2000, but whose critically-adored followup, Margaret (2011), was mired in distribution hell.

There’s much expectation for his latest, therefore; further fuelled by the star-wattage of a cast that includes Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler.

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Fences review: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis set to convert Tonys to Oscars

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 16:30:31 GMT2016-11-22T16:30:31Z

This long-awaited film adaptation of the August Wilson play remains stagy, but as a showcase for two towering performances it could hardly be improved

Ever since August Wilson’s play first premiered 33 years ago, a movie version has been mooted. Soon after it won the Pulitzer back in 1987, Eddie Murphy was lined up to play the lead – Troy, a former baseball star working as a garbage collector in 50s Pittsburgh – with Norman Jewison behind the camera. But Wilson put his foot down: there was no way it would be directed by anyone who wasn’t black.

The project fell through and the play stayed on the stage. Revival after revival met with acclaim, but Wilson held firm, continuing until his death in 2005 to insist on a black director, and to voice upset at the danger and injustice of how, in cinema at least, “whites have set themselves up as custodians of our experience”.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review – a sleek addition to the fleet

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 08:29:29 GMT2016-12-15T08:29:29Z

Felicity Jones’s fugitive, hunting for the plans to the Death Star, is a tousled-but-game female lead – just one of many classic Star Wars motifs in Gareth Edwards’ exhilarating spin-off

This latest exhilarating, good-natured and enjoyable adventure from the Star Wars imaginary universe is written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, and directed by Britain’s Gareth Edwards; it comes from a time which now doesn’t seem so very long ago. The film’s action occurs some time between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV, A New Hope. So it’s a mid-quel or a deja vu-quel. Character archetypes, mythic confrontations, desperate hologram messages, dads real and quasi-, uniforms and hairstyles are always rising recognisably to the surface. Like superhero films or westerns or romcoms, Star Wars invented its own recurring generic components, and to complain or even notice now seems almost as beside the point as recognising familiar chord progressions in the blues. It is noticeable that the newish motif of the defector or renegade, which featured in The Force Awakens, pops up again here.

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Person to Person review – Broad City star underused in meandering ensemble indie

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 23:00:19 GMT2017-01-20T23:00:19Z

Abbi Jacobson is a reliable comic presence but she’s lost in this slight tale of disparate characters over a single New York day

While Sundance has become a trusted, and often forgotten, launchpad for vital genre offerings (in previous years The Blair Witch Project, Saw, The Witch and The Babadook all premiered at the festival), it’s mainly associated with quirky low-budget indies that warrant use of the heinous term “dramedy”. The often overwhelming number of films that neatly fall into this bracket means that some fall by the wayside, their entire reason for existing boiled down to a Park City premiere.

Related: Al Gore's Inconvenient Sequel to open Sundance in acutely political year

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Bright Lights review – a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 13:00:19 GMT2017-01-06T13:00:19Z

The strong bond between the late actors is brought to life in this heartfelt and funny HBO documentary that offers many poignant moments

Their differences extended down to their dogs. Dwight, a perfectly poof-y white Coton de Tuléar, stays with the elegant and eternally camera-ready Debbie. But good luck keeping your eyes off Gary, the dark, panting bulldog with his slobbery tongue drooping out of the side his mouth. Gary was forever in Carrie’s arms, on her side of the Reynolds-Fisher compound where the legendary Hollywood mother-daughter team lived and laughed during their final years.

Related: Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher: surviving instant fame and finding a lasting bond

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Gold review – the priciest ore is a bore in Matthew McConaughey misfire

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 14:46:51 GMT2016-12-30T14:46:51Z

An allegedly true story emerges as a lackluster riff on American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street with a scrappy turn from an overly disguised lead star

There’s not much that glitters in Gold, a lackluster caper that proves that even the priciest ore can bore. Stephen Gaghan’s new film is an admixture of the capitalist nihilism from The Wolf of Wall Street and the cheap-suit true crime of American Hustle. On paper the elements are there, but unfortunately the alchemy fails. This year’s earlier picture War Dogs, already something of a formulaic copy, comes off looking like quite the jewel by comparison.

Related: The most exciting film dramas of 2017

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in-depth fan review: 'This is a movie made for fans'

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 12:00:01 GMT2016-12-15T12:00:01Z

While its whole purpose is to tread water in a larger pool, I was ready to do cartwheels in the aisle by the end of this latest spin-off

SPOILER WARNING: There is discussion of the film’s content in the following review, so proceed with caution

There has never been a film franchise like Star Wars so it stands to reason there’s never been a film like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It is not, if we’re being honest, a real movie. It is a fan exercise. Its whole purpose is to tread water in a larger, more familiar pool.

Most of the moments that crackle are direct touchpoints with something we recognize. The sequences that are Rogue One qua Rogue One are occasionally intriguing, but, predominantly, merely adequate. And unlike in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there is a clear and recognizable section for dashing out if that extra large Diet Pepsi has gone rogue in your bladder. This is a movie made for fans.

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The Comedian review – De Niro delivers as standup who's sick of life's punchlines

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 08:08:09 GMT2016-11-12T08:08:09Z

De Niro’s turn as a misanthropic weather-beaten comic who can’t seem to shake his annoying alter-ego, mixes Bad Grandpa’s puerile pathos and Louie’s darkness

Robert De Niro recently made headlines for saying he could no longer punch Donald Trump in the face now the New York businessman is president-elect. It’s the kind of thing you could imagine his character in The Comedian, the misanthropic burned-out standup Jackie Burke, working into a routine or perhaps taking a step further. In fact, Burke – whose put-upon manager is played by Edie Falco – doesn’t have any such issues with self-constraint, and triggers the film’s first act by assaulting a heckling audience member in a public breakdown that has shades of Michael Richards.

That outburst sets up the well-worn premise of The Comedian: a standup who can’t shake his best known and, often, most mainstream character. Unlike De Niro’s portrayal of wannabe comic Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy – who was a Walter Mitty fantasist a mile away from the big time – Burke has tasted success, and that’s the problem. Despite his best efforts Burke can’t get his fans to see him as something other than Eddie, a sitcom dad who is somewhere between Archie Bunker and Ray Romano. He’s got a catchphrase (“Arlene!”), there’s a suitably hokey theme tune (think Too Many Cooks), which his fellow inmates sing to him when he’s imprisoned for assault and for people of a certain age, it’s clear he’ll forever be Eddie from Eddie’s Home.

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Miss Sloane review – Jessica Chastain dominates as a Washington power player

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 07:33:29 GMT2016-11-12T07:33:29Z

The Zero Dark Thirty star prevents a sometimes ludicrous script from veering off course with her forceful performance in the role of a Washington lobbyist

For Jessica Chastain, there’s a constant trait found in her best roles: the characters she plays are obsessive. In Zero Dark Thirty she played the female operative behind locating Osama bin Laden. Those obsessive qualities were also found in Crimson Peak’s Lucille Sharpe, as well as Anna Morales, the Lady Macbeth-type in A Most Violent Year. But Elizabeth Sloane, the tenacious lobbyist she plays here, is perhaps her most obsessive character yet.

Related: American Pastoral review – Ewan McGregor's misjudged Roth adaptation

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Army of One review – Nicolas Cage hunts Osama bin Laden in year's worst comedy

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 14:57:53 GMT2016-11-04T14:57:53Z

A shockingly ill-advised caper from Borat director Larry Charles takes the left field true story of Gary Faulkner and mines it for zero laughs

In Army of One, a man who experiences hallucinations due to kidney disease has a vision of God, sparking an ill-advised misadventure. I urge the film’s director, the usually great Larry Charles, to immediately seek a doctor’s care, as I fear he may be suffering from a similar condition.

Related: The Trust review: Nicolas Cage gets wacky in pitch-black heist comedy

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I'm Not Ashamed review – faith-based drama exploits Columbine tragedy

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 15:03:41 GMT2016-10-21T15:03:41Z

The company who brought us God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2 returns with a Christian drama centered on the 1999 school shooting with queasy results

To use the senseless death of a school shooting victim to promote one’s warped political agenda is, to use a trendy term, deplorable. One should expect nothing less from the odious low-budget film company Pure Flix, whose work includes God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2 and the forthcoming God’s Not Dead 3. (Yes, God’s Not Dead 2 ended with a Marvel Studios-like stinger.)

Related: Christsploitation – Hollywood gives thanks for the new wave of faith movies

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Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween review – more tricks than treats

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 14:13:23 GMT2016-10-21T14:13:23Z

The return of Perry’s phenomenally successful character has funny moments but shoddy direction and gay panic jokes make it scary in the wrong way

Halloween 2016 is the scariest it’s been since we thought there were real witches up in Salem. We are weeks away from an election that could give us a president as orange as a Jack-o-Lantern that wouldn’t just decompose after a few weeks. It’s terrifying and we could all use some catharsis, no matter the source. It may just be the bad vibes talking, but the image of Tyler Perry’s Madea racing down a street screaming “Help me, Jesus!” with zombies hot on her trail seems slightly … profound? It’s an unexpected reaction to one of Perry’s low-budget comedies that mostly trades in pratfalls and bawdy invective before slamming into a wall of treacly pop-psychology. But it’s a very strange time in America right now.

Related: Black films matter – how African American cinema fought back against Hollywood

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I Am Not Your Negro review – James Baldwin's words weave film of immense power

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 19:10:10 GMT2016-10-20T19:10:10Z

Raoul Peck’s stunning look at the civil rights era ends up as the writer’s presumptive autobiography, but it gets there via an unexpected route

Raoul Peck’s documentary I Am Not Your Negro has a “written by James Baldwin” credit in its opening sequence. At first this seems like a polite tip of the hat to the author, essayist and public intellectual who died nearly 30 years ago. Soon we realize this is an accurate statement of fact. Each line of the narration that permeates the film is taken directly from one of Baldwin’s texts or letters. His words dominate the archival clips as well.

Related: Black films matter – how African American cinema fought back against Hollywood

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The Lost City of Z review – James Gray finds a way to capture a cinematic adventure

Sat, 15 Oct 2016 21:42:03 GMT2016-10-15T21:42:03Z

The film escapes the net of the evil European/noble savage dialectic by focusing on a driven lead character played by Charlie Hunnam

How does one make an a strapping adventure about colonial pursuits without either coming across as an imperialist or going overboard with “virtue signaling”?

Earlier this year Colombian director Ciro Guerra released one of the best films of the year, Embrace of the Serpent, which told a tale of early 20th century European explorers in the Amazon, from their guide’s point of view. James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, which shares a similar setting, isn’t quite so revolutionary, but escapes the net of the evil European/noble savage dialectic by focusing on a driven lead character drawn to a higher, nobler purpose than fame and fortune.

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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk review – Ang Lee war drama is a misfiring folly

Sat, 15 Oct 2016 15:36:24 GMT2016-10-15T15:36:24Z

A rare misstep for the Oscar-winning director is an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s acclaimed novel flattened by ill-fitting experimentation with new technology

There’s a lot going on in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, an alternately somber and boisterous film about the effect of combat on America. But despite the great wealth of compelling psychological, interpersonal and social drama that this promises, the complexities are left to those behind the camera to unravel. For director Ang Lee, he sees his latest project as a way to revolutionize how we experience cinema.

It’s a lofty goal but Lee’s coming off the back of his Oscar win for the visually stunning adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, a film that dazzled us with 3D wonders, arguably placed ahead of emotional engagement. But that was a project that demanded a skilled special effects team, a story too extraordinary to be told without. His follow-up is another adaptation, this time of Ben Fountain’s satirical award-winning novel about veterans and Lee’s keen to use it as a guinea pig for a new format.

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The Accountant review – Ben Affleck autism thriller doesn't add up

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:00:13 GMT2016-10-12T13:00:13Z

The actor plays a man who uses his disorder to balance books for criminals in a film that struggles to balance derivative action and underwritten romance

“Sooner or later, difference scares people.” The Accountant puts that sentiment in the mouth of a military man (Robert C Treveiler) explaining the tough ways of the world to his autistic, bullied son. But it could as easily be said by the director Gavin O’Connor, who has put together a drama so familiar and formulaic that even the most timid viewer will be comforted. Or, more likely, anesthetized.

Related: Why The Girl on the Train heralds the return of the Hitchcockian thriller

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Clinton, Inc. review – ludicrous right-wing documentary fails to bring down Hillary

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:03:13 GMT2016-09-30T13:03:13Z

Another lo-fi attempt to sway the election crashes into select cinemas with a set of vicious attacks and a lack of anything resembling a revelation

Please sit down, I have something shocking to tell you. In fact, best make sure you have a glass of water nearby. Okay, here goes. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s marriage may be some sort of … arrangement.

Related: Hillary's America review – Dinesh D'Souza says: beware racist Democrat super-villains

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Souvenir review – Isabelle Huppert swaps Eurovision for paté and back again

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 14:53:50 GMT2016-09-16T14:53:50Z

This sugary comedy drama sees the actor in unusually light territory and while it’s ultimately little more than a soufflé, her presence makes it rise

Anyone deluded enough to claim that the film industry isn’t both ageist and sexist need only to try explaining just where so many talented female actors over the age of 50 have gone. It’s this forced disappearing act that makes it so pleasurable when there’s a rare exception to the rule. As a sort of French Meryl Streep (in her ability to maintain a steady list of credits, not her acting style), Isabelle Huppert remains at the top of her game at the age of 63.

Related: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House review – Ruth Wilson can't save underwritten horror

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LBJ review: Woody Harrelson compelling if physically unconvincing in firm biopic

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 16:28:04 GMT2016-09-15T16:28:04Z

Harrelson might not look like Lyndon B Johnson – even with the benefit of heavy prosthetics – but he gives a convincing performance of a troubled leader in Rob Reiner’s conventional presidential drama

It’s inevitable that an election year would have an effect on Hollywood, but 2016 has seen an unusually high number of films centred on, or at least relating to, US political history. There’s been Elvis & Nixon, the two Obama dramas, Southside with You and the Toronto-premiering Barry and even a Purge sequel subtitled Election Year. But even within this subgenre, Lyndon B Johnson has been a surprisingly recurrent character.

Related: Jackie review – Natalie Portman astonishes in remarkably intimate portrait

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Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids review - Jonathan Demme's no-frills doc

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:04:42 GMT2016-09-15T13:04:42Z

The megastar proves himself to be a fabulous entertainer in film following the final few nights of his 20/20 Experience tour in Las Vegas – there’s no resisting

In recent years, Justin Timberlake’s been forcefully trying to sell to the world that he can act. For a superstar of his stature, he’s done just fine at picking the right roles to showcase his good looks and undeniable charisma, most notably putting both to good use as Sean Parker in The Social Network. But as Jonathan Demme’s concert documentary Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids indisputably shows, Timberlake is only truly in his element when on stage being a showman.

Related: Justin Timberlake 'uses black culture', says hip-hop star Vic Mensa

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Amanda Knox review – slick documentary excels with unprecedented access

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 11:17:19 GMT2016-09-15T11:17:19Z

Netflix’s sharp look at the murder of Meredith Kercher has no big revelations, but is an expansive and detailed account

Thanks to her extreme representation within the media, Amanda Knox – the former US student twice convicted and twice acquitted for the murder of British roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy – has sometimes seemed like a villain invented by a screenwriter. The sexually deviant femme fatale with an appetite for blood.

Knox has even been the subject of a Lifetime movie, with Hayden Panettiere in the lead role. But in this sharply directed Netflix documentary, one of the key aims is exploring behind the headlines, the accusations and the slut-shaming.

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T2 Trainspotting: watch a clip from Danny Boyle's sequel – video

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:57:23 GMT2017-01-19T11:57:23Z

In this clip from T2 Trainspotting, the forthcoming followup to Danny Boyle’s 1996 hit about Edinburgh heroin addicts, two of the four friends have a rather more successful trip up Arthur’s Seat. Ewan McGregor’s Renton counsels Ewen Bremner’s Spud to channel his addictive tendencies into something more productive than hard drugs

• T2 Trainspotting opens in the UK on 27 January

  • The Guardian’s first review will be published at 10.30pm GMT on 19 January
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Cary Grant in screwball comedy His Girl Friday – video

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 15:39:07 GMT2017-01-18T15:39:07Z

To mark what would have been Cary Grant’s 113th birthday, watch a scene featuring the super-smooth comedy maestro opposite Rosalind Russell in comedy classic His Girl Friday. Directed by Howard Hawks, His Girl Friday has Grant playing cynical newspaper editor Walter Burns, whose star reporter and ex-wife Hildy Johnson is about to embark on her second marriage; Walter sets out to sabotage the wedding and win Hildy back

• His Girl Friday is out now on Blu-Ray

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Ryan Gosling on La La Land: 'The world is quick to shame you for trying' – video interview

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:26:12 GMT2017-01-13T15:26:12Z

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the stars of multi-award winning movie La La Land, speak about why the musical tends to flourish in times of real-life bleakness, the dangers of dreaming too much and why today’s climate is tougher for wanabees than ever before

• La La Land is now on release in the UK

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Viola Davis makes powerful anti-Trump speech backstage at Golden Globes – video

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 12:10:07 GMT2017-01-09T12:10:07Z

Meryl Streep was not the only actor to address the issue of Donald Trump at the Golden Globes. Viola Davis spoke about the president-elect, saying his win is a reflection of how America has fallen short of its dreams and values, and ‘it is wrong to have someone in office who is not an extension of our own belief system’. Davis, who won a best supporting actress award for her roles in Fences, was speaking backstage to reporters

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Golden Globes: British stars reign with wins for Foy, Hiddleston and Laurie – video highlights

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 09:54:26 GMT2017-01-09T09:54:26Z

The Brits had a successful night at the Golden Globes on Sunday, with Tom Hiddleston, Claire Foy and Hugh Laurie all taking home awards. La La Land won seven awards but best picture went to Moonlight. The most talked-about event of the evening, however, was Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech

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Jackie trailer: Natalie Portman stars in intimate portrait – video

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 16:35:12 GMT2017-01-07T16:35:12Z

Jackie is a biographical drama film directed by Chilean Pablo Larraín and is his English-language debut. Starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy, the film follows her life after the 1963 assassination of her husband, president John F Kennedy

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Michelle Williams on Manchester by the Sea: 'Closure only comes when we die' – video

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 11:19:14 GMT2017-01-06T11:19:14Z

Michelle Williams, the star of acclaimed new drama Manchester by the Sea, discusses why audiences can feel alienated and unattractive after watching a lot of mainstream movies. Director Kenneth Lonergan reveals the patronising attitude many studios have towards their audiences, as well as the destructive impact that a cinematic notion of closure has on those grieving in real life

• Manchester by the Sea opens in the UK on 13 January

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Indian actor Om Puri dies aged 66 – video report

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:45:03 GMT2017-01-06T10:45:03Z

Indian actor Om Puri, who starred in films from Hollywood, Bollywood and the UK, has died in Mumbai. The 66-year-old was found dead at his home on Friday, reportedly after suffering a heart attack. He was best known in the UK for his roles in British films such as East is East

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Manchester by the Sea trailer: Casey Affleck stars in acclaimed drama – video

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 18:26:41 GMT2016-12-29T18:26:41Z

Manchester by the Sea is the long-awaited return for director Kenneth Lonergan, starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler. Affleck plays a janitor who returns to his hometown to look after his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies, but must confront past ghosts as he faces up to new responsibilities

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Debbie Reynolds had 'a wonderful career' after getting her break young – video

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 05:56:35 GMT2016-12-29T05:56:35Z

Debbie Reynolds said she ‘had a wonderful career and it’s been a joy’ during a red-carpet interview before her death at the age of 84. The Hollywood star said she was very lucky because she got her break when she was really young. Reynolds died a day after her daughter, actor and author Carrie Fisher

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Carrie Fisher, actor and writer, dies at 60 – video obituary

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 22:01:44 GMT2016-12-27T22:01:44Z

Carrie Fisher, the actor best known for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, has died in Los Angeles. She was 60 years old. Fisher made her big screen debut in the 1975 comedy Shampoo and would launch to superstardom just two short years later for her role in the sci-fi franchise

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Carrie Fisher 'in intensive care' following heart attack – video

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 11:17:03 GMT2016-12-24T11:17:03Z

Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, has suffered a serious heart attack, according to her brother. Fisher was on a flight to Los Angeles from London after completing filming on the third season of the British television comedy Catastrophe when the incident occurred. The 60-year-old actor is being treated in an intensive care unit in LA

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Michael Fassbender on Assassin's Creed: 'Genetic memory makes a lot of scientific sense to me' – video interview

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 09:49:11 GMT2016-12-23T09:49:11Z

The star of the video game adaptation – alongside co-star Marion Cotillard and director Justin Kurzel – discusses the plausibility of past lives and inheriting the experiences of our ancestors. Fassbender also cautions against colonisation, while Kurzel speaks about mainstream snobbishness towards the gaming community.

• Assassin’s Creed opens in the UK on 1 January 2017

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Moonlight trailer: Barry Jenkins's Oscar-tipped drama – video

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 14:29:53 GMT2016-12-20T14:29:53Z

A young man in Miami struggles with his sexuality and his drug-addicted mother in Barry Jenkins’s acclaimed drama. The film features three different actors playing the lead at various stages in his life, with supporting turns from Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali. Based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight has won rave reviews and topped many critics’ polls of the best film of the year (including the Guardian’s).

Moonlight is released in the UK on 17 February with previews from 10 February

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A wide-ranging interview with Red Dog star Phoenix – video

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 06:14:17 GMT2016-12-20T06:14:17Z

Guardian Australia’s film critic, Luke Buckmaster, sits down for the interview of his career with Phoenix, the star of Red Dog: True Blue, and a very good boy.

In the original film, the producer’s own dog, Koko, starred as Red Dog, an urban legend of a kelpie who spent much of his life without a master, wandering through mining communities in Western Australia in the 1970s.

Out in Australia on Boxing Day, Kriv Stenders’ Red Dog: True Blue goes back even further, to tell the origin story of a legendary dog

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It's all connected! Pixar and the history of surprising film and TV shared universes

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 17:42:23 GMT2017-01-19T17:42:23Z

With the animation company revealing that its films are linked, what other unexpected connections are there between big- and small-screen worlds?

There are some pretty weird Pixar fan theories out there, including the one about the seminal animation house’s entire canon representing a 65m-year struggle between humans, sentient toys and intelligent animals. But who needs wild stretches of fancy when mischievous animators with far too much downtime have inserted real visual Easter eggs connecting virtually all the studio’s movies?

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No thanks for your time: the worst movie auditions from A-list stars

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 15:39:10 GMT2017-01-17T15:39:10Z

La La Land reminds us of the brutality of the auditioning process – something that even Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts can remember

Every actor has a bad audition story, a recollection of how they managed to mangle their one big chance at stardom. These stories are so ubiquitous that, in La La Land, Emma Stone’s character gets to act one out for us. And the most effective way that Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali has thought to beat La La Land at the Oscars is to appear on talkshows and discuss the time he screwed up a Game of Thrones audition by sitting on the wrong type of chair.

Related: When celebrities used Myspace: the profiles A-listers try to forget

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Breaking bad: Hollywood wakes up to the power of dark, dangerous women

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 07:00:32 GMT2017-01-17T07:00:32Z

Forget sobbing suffering beauties. From Rebecca Hall’s unlikable newsreader to Jessica Chastain’s ruthless lobbyist, this is the year of the unsympathetic, deeply flawed femme. Thank goodness for thatThe good news is that there are some great female characters coming up in the cinema in 2017. The bad news, if you’re looking for inspirational feminist role models, is that you won’t always find them in the movies. Lurking behind such obvious audience-pleasing instances of fine upstanding womanhood as Taraji P Henson plotting a course through the cosmos in Hidden Figures, or Rachel Weisz taking antisemitism to court in Denial, lies a monstrous army of deeply flawed femmes – perverse, prickly, deluded, depressed, obsessive, venal, scary. Well, I say hurrah for that.First up, though, is the unfeasibly perfect Natalie Portman in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, not so much a biopic of Jacqueline Kennedy as a tone poem evoking its subject’s transformation from trophy wife via weeping widow into American icon, a makeover forged by grief. In recreating a historical event made to seem ever more removed from reality by more than half a century of Zapruder, Warhol and conspiracy theorising, the film-maker and his leading lady transport us back to basics: the barely imaginable horror of witnessing your husband’s brains being blown out. Portman knocks it out of the park, giving a masterclass in suffering beautifully. Continue reading...[...]


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La La Land: the ending, the songs, the jazzsplaining – discuss with spoilers

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 15:46:12 GMT2017-01-16T15:46:12Z

It’s won more Golden Globes than any other film, and took a projected £6m at the UK box office in its first weekend. Deservedly so? Here’s your chance to discuss the film without blowing the plot for others

Few films have raised expectations quite so headily as Damien Chazelle’s third feature. Right from its Oscars-launchpad premiere on the opening night of Venice (where Gravity and Birdman had both debuted in past years), this one was tipped for the top. Hollywood has predictably gone gaga over it; reviewers followed suit. On Sunday, it won seven Golden Globes, more than any other film ever. Were you suitably swooning after you saw it? Or does such buildup inevitably lead to an anticlimax once you’re actually sitting in front of it?

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Trump v Hollywood? Don't expect to see the culture war play out on screen

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 08:00:12 GMT2017-01-13T08:00:12Z

Industry figures might march in protests or give critical speeches, but waging a crusade against the White House is not in the job description

Meryl Streep used her Golden Globes acceptance speech to fire what appeared to be an opening salvo in America’s latest culture war: Hollywood v Donald Trump.

The actor excoriated him as a xenophobic bully in a podium address that turned her Cecil B DeMille award into a rallying cry against the president-elect.

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The sex files: a history of erotic films from slo-mo frolics to romping stags

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 07:00:21 GMT2017-01-12T07:00:21Z

The British once took their titillation from heavily censored softcore films. Forty are now in the BFI’s new erotic archiveLong before 1970s sexploitation comedies such as Eskimo Nell and Come Play With Me brought bawdy humour and copious T&A to the commercial theatres of Britain, the country’s smut industry comprised an informal economy of club impresarios, carneys and photographers. Their work was part of a long lineage of stag films, 8mm home movies, mondo and nudist documentaries, and filmed stripteases exhibited to select audiences of men via cinema clubs or on private reels. Often produced on zero budget and distributed through a network of magazine subscriptions and black market retailers, these motion pictures were mostly disposed of or forgotten in short order.The BFI’s new collection, The Pleasure Principle, the most recent addition to its massive Britain on Film online initiative, has digitised more than40 such examples of reclaimed erotica. Their duration spans from the late 19th century to the advent of home video, often seen as signalling the death of the softcore genre. Divergent in style and fetish but tame in imagery (at least by later hardcore standards), the collection provides a fascinating history of Britain cinema’s evolving and often transgressive relationship with the body. Continue reading...[...]


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Fandom menace: the story threads Star Wars: Episode VIII can't afford to forget

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:24:06 GMT2017-01-11T15:24:06Z

The Force Awakens left us with tons of unanswered questions. Director Rian Johnson should look at what’s left on the cutting room floor for the follow-up

Back in the 1970s and 80s, Star Wars fans desperate to fill their time with Jedi-related adventures on mystical far-flung planets in the company of wise, syntactically challenged aliens of the green, hairy-eared variety were forced to turn to comics or novels from the Expanded Universe – or worse still, the execrable Star Wars Holiday Special – while waiting three years for a new film to come out. These days we have thrillingly unnecessary episodes, such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a Death Star-sized slice of fan fiction masquerading as a movie, to keep appetites whetted. In fact, a new Star Wars movie of a sort is promised every year from here on in, with Alden Ehrenreich’s young Han Solo the next to get his own gap-filling spinoff, in 2018.

Related: Disney's dilemma: digitally resurrect Carrie Fisher or write her out of Star Wars?

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Bafta nominations 2017: snub for American Honey leaves a bad taste | Peter Bradshaw

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 11:33:17 GMT2017-01-10T11:33:17Z

La La Land, Arrival and Nocturnal Animals are worthy multiple nominees but a single nod for Andrea Arnold’s zeitgeist-surfing drama is disappointing

It has become a convention for awards commentators to revert instantly to snub-complaint mode, but the almost complete no-show for Andrea Arnold’s American Honey on this year’s Bafta nomination list is a disappointment.

Related: Bafta nominations 2017: La La Land dances on but Arrival and Nocturnal Animals hot on its heels

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La La Land's landmark haul is lovely, but expect more drama at the Oscars | Peter Bradshaw

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 08:32:21 GMT2017-01-09T08:32:21Z

The Golden Globes do things differently, which meant a chance for this richly lovable film to win big. Yet more space for superb dramas such as Nocturnal Animals and Moonlight could have been found

Related: Golden Globes 2017: Moonlight wins for best drama as La La Land cleans up – as it happened

Damien Chazelle’s triumph for his gorgeous musical romance La La Land – winning in every category for which it was nominated, and picking up seven Golden Globes, either makes the film a frontrunner for this awards season, or is the high-water mark of its prize success, given that the Globes are the only awards that specifically carve out a space for musicals and comedies. It’s a huge haul for this richly lovable film about the love affair between a would-be movie star and a tough, sardonic jazz musician: best film and acting awards for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in the musical/comedy category, together with best director, screenplay, score and song.

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Disney's dilemma: digitally resurrect Carrie Fisher or write her out of Star Wars?

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 15:50:38 GMT2017-01-06T15:50:38Z

Princess Leia was set to have a pivotal role in Episodes VIII and IX before Fisher’s tragic death. Now the studio faces narrative, ethical and commercial quandaries

There is a temptation to assume that Princess Leia, and by extension Carrie Fisher, who played the Alderaanian Rebel leader in four movies across more than five decades, belongs to all of us. For those who grew up with the fiery bun-headed teenager in 1977’s Star Wars, her youthful image is burned so deeply into our cerebra that we can recall her countenance in an instant.

Related: Star Wars focus group to plot life in Leia-less universe after Carrie Fisher's death

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Don't call it a comeback: the actors set to return to the A-list in 2017

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 15:45:51 GMT2017-01-06T15:45:51Z

The next 12 months could see stars including Debra Winger, Michelle Pfeiffer and Val Kilmer return to the public eye

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Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds's deaths were tragic coincidence – but we're suckers for a story

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:39:32 GMT2017-01-06T10:39:32Z

The poignancy of Fisher and Reynolds’ passing is worthy of Hollywood melodrama. But after 100 years of vividly filmed plots, it’s as if we are trapped in an endless fiction

What happened with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds? Granted, there were real, unexpected events at the ends of their lives, yet still we must recognise that a thing one can only call a “story” has closed in on them. A tidiness is now being constructed about them online, where there is hysteria for having stuff fit together in ways that are cliched, unreliable and lifeless – yet urgent. The project we might call history can hardly survive such pressures.

Debbie Reynolds, according to her son Todd, said, “I want to be with Carrie”, and in a matter of moments, she was – if dead people are capable of being together anywhere other than in the annals of a story.

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Rise of the apes: how Rogue One's strange birth lays bare Hollywood's imagination drought

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 15:57:57 GMT2017-01-04T15:57:57Z

The revelation that the Star Wars spin-off was mapped out using clips from existing movies is a reminder of the multiplex’s resistance to breaking new ground. We must cherish the films that do

It’s become a familiar experience to the 21st-century cinemagoer: that nagging feeling of deja vu in the multiplex, the sense that one is seeing the same movie over and over again, ad infinitum. This is hardly surprising given seven of last year’s 10 highest-grossing films were either remakes, sequels or set in a pre-existing “cinematic universe”. Hollywood has become – perhaps always has been – a cultural Möbius strip, doomed to eternally travel the same path, only ever shifting its trajectory slightly; an old scratched, warped record that never plays quite the same way twice.

But while cinephiles have long become used to shelling out their hard-earned wonga to watch the same movie several times over, a new interview with the editors of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hints that Hollywood’s habit of regurgitation goes further than we imagined. It reveals the film’s initial “cut”, designed to map out the movie before any shooting took place, was cobbled together by editor Colin Goudie using footage from hundreds of other existing films.

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Deadly reality TV and sex robots: what can we learn from films set in 2017?

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 12:45:06 GMT2017-01-05T12:45:06Z

From The Running Man to Cherry 2000, we’re now living in a year that’s been painted as a dystopian nightmare onscreen

The start of a new year can be a tad bittersweet. While there’s the promise of hopeful resolutions and much-needed change, there’s also the unavoidable realization that we’re all edging closer to the grave. Given that we’re coming off the back of a year that saw more celebrity deaths than the first act of This Is the End, it feels like more of a relief to be done with 2016, our own mortality be damned.

Related: Aliens, sequels and even stranger things: predicting 2017's cultural highlights

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Why a film celebrating McDonald's is the perfect start for Trump cinema

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 18:39:13 GMT2017-01-03T18:39:13Z

The Founder, about the man who built McDonald’s, is a fitting start to the new era. But Hollywood’s love affair with Trump’s kind of anarcho-capitalism began long agoIt is the early 1950s. A travelling salesman named Ray Kroc, played in the forthcoming biopic The Founder by Michael Keaton, sells milkshake machines to restaurants all over the US. Then he discovers an extraordinary little place in California called McDonald’s, run by the McDonald brothers, who have revolutionised the fast-food business with menus limited to burgers, fries and soda, walk-up counters, huge grills and fryers for speedy, short-order volume. In a blinding flash, Kroc sees how the brothers can franchise their operation around the country. They could be an American church, as ubiquitous as decent people’s houses flying the stars’n’stripes. When we saw Ray in his scuzzy hotel room, listening to a self-motivation LP on a portable record player, we could have guessed he would have corporate-imperial ambitions.Might The Founder come to be seen as the first example of Trump-era cinema? After all, poor Ray, with his how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people LP, would be a prime candidate for Trump University. And it wasn’t long ago that McDonald’s was shorthand for evil big money in the cinema. In 2004 Morgan Spurlock made a documentary called Super Size Me, about Big Mac gluttony and the profit motive. But The Founder is basically sweet on a great American adventure. It’s the Birth of a Salesman. Continue reading...[...]


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Fifty Shades Darker trailer review: fancy a lift?

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 13:07:19 GMT2017-01-03T13:07:19Z

Anastasia and Christian make up and get it on in an elevator in the second trailer and it all seems to be going so well – but don’t expect a fairytale ending

Right, OK, yes, look. I have reviewed the trailer for Fifty Shades Darker, the partially awaited sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, once already. And now I’m going to review it again.

But that’s because a new trailer has been released. And this one is quite a departure from the first one because it includes a song by Zayn from One Direction and Taylor Swift instead of that version of Crazy in Love that sounds as if Beyoncé is singing it through a heavy cold. That’s enough to warrant another review, isn’t it?

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Good grief: cinema’s new mood of despair

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 08:00:27 GMT2016-12-30T08:00:27Z

From Jackie and Manchester by the Sea to A Monster Calls, 2017’s awards favourites are about loss. In turbulent times, is this the theme we need to tackle in order to make sense of a world in limbo?Not since the advance publicity for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street neglected to mention that Tim Burton’s movie was a musical has a trailer obscured potentially off-putting information as successfully as the one for Manchester by the Sea. Anyone would mistake this awards favourite as a heartwarming tale of a taciturn janitor, played by Casey Affleck, who bonds with the nephew left in his care. But that’s not the whole story – not by a long chalk.The film’s harrowing secrets will be preserved here, although prospective viewers should be warned that it is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who has form in the area of putting cinemagoers through the wringer. His debut, You Can Count on Me, begins with two children being orphaned after their parents die in a car crash. His second film, Margaret, traces the effects on a young woman of a gruesome bus accident in which she was complicit. If you knew you were a character in one of Lonergan’s movies, you would never go near a road. You might never leave the house, although that wouldn’t really help you in the case of his new film. Continue reading...[...]


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Fight the power: documentaries to unleash the activist in you

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 09:00:20 GMT2017-01-02T09:00:20Z

Children in poverty, rape in the military, mass murderers at large … Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker picks 10 powerful documentaries to galvanise you into action

The documentaries praised on these pages are all ones that fired me up, galvanised me into action, which are also magnificent works of film-making well worth watching now. I’m proud to look around and, as that there are far too many non-fiction films to choose from, please forgive the omissions as I’m spoiled for choice by my inspiring film-maker colleagues.

There are brilliantly energising films that have brought real-world justice, such as The Central Park Five (directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon) about five black and Latino teenagers wrongly convicted of raping of a white woman jogging in New York in 1989. In this category, I would also mention The Jinx (directed by Andrew Jarecki) about the real estate heir Robert Durst, accused of murder and the subject of a manhunt; and The Thin Blue Line (directed by Errol Morris) about a man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit.

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From Groundhog Day to … Raging Bull? – films to inspire and uplift

Sun, 01 Jan 2017 18:00:02 GMT2017-01-01T18:00:02Z

Supposedly ‘inspirational’ films tend to leave our critic reaching for the sick bag. He finds defeated boxers, desperate weathermen and boozy, cantankerous widowers far more upliftingMore uplifting culture for 2017Can films be inspirational? Well, the good ones all are. And, in a broader sense, going to the cinema is a narcotic, luxurious experience that makes you feel inspired, uplifted and stimulated. But when people talk about “inspirational” films – underdogs achieving spectacular sporting success, charismatic teachers winning over pupils, people overcoming disabilities – I am sometimes a bit agnostic. An inspirational film often feels soupy and syrupy, schematic and cliched, faintly coercive and reactionary. Inspirational means aspirational, no arguments – and it brings out my ironic, grumpy Brit. When I’m asked for my favourite inspirational scene, I nominate Tom Courtenay’s final, miserable act of defiance in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.One movie that was lauded as inspirational, The Blind Side, features Sandra Bullock in an Oscar-winning performance as a well-to-do Christian Republican mom in the Sarah Palin mould. She takes in a troubled African American teen and helps mould him into a top football player. This was a huge hit in 2009, with great swathes of America undoubtedly deeming it to be inspirational (perhaps the “inspirational” movie is itself [...]


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Hard men of God: a guide to cinema’s most badass priests

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 16:00:08 GMT2016-12-29T16:00:08Z

Martin Scorsese’s new movie, Silence, features a pair of action-man Jesuits on a secret mission in 17th-century Japan. They join a select band of big-screen clerics who never walk away from a fight

For all the cerebral piety and inward contemplation of Silence, the new movie by Martin Scorsese, there are more than trace elements of an adventure yarn: 17th-century Portuguese Jesuits sneak into Japan, where their religion is banned, searching for their missing leader. Our idealistic travellers (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) encounter dangerous weather, double-crosses, imprisonment and physical torture. For a film about a spiritual journey, it has its share of action.

There are plenty of films with friendly fathers, or clerics killed off as a device to kickstart a supernatural horror schlocker. What distinguishes Silence is that these devoted men are heroes. Men of the cloth are rarely leading men in adventure cinema, but there are a few titles that could be added to the priests-in-peril genre …

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