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Film | The Guardian



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



Published: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 00:18:40 GMT2017-04-28T00:18:40Z

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



Roman Polanski's Based on a True Story added to Cannes film festival lineup

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:59:04 GMT2017-04-27T18:59:04Z

The director’s latest thriller will premiere at the festival as his lawyer continues to battle for the Oscar winner’s return to the US

Roman Polanski’s new film has been added to the Cannes film festival lineup as his legal battle to return to the US continues.

Related: Roman Polanski fails to secure no-jail guarantee in rape case

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The Circle review – Emma Watson and Tom Hanks face off in empty techno-thriller

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:59:16 GMT2017-04-27T15:59:16Z

The Harry Potter alumna missteps after the $1bn success of Beauty and the Beast with a Dave Eggers adaptation that swaps initial intrigue with vapidity

There’s something quite perfectly pitched about the release of The Circle. First, in a landscape overflowing with headlines proclaiming that “this is the BLANK we need right now”, an adaptation of Dave Eggers’ cautionary tale about the dangers of a life consumed by an over-reliance on one’s digital footprint remains ever prescient. Second, it’s anchored by Emma Watson, coming off the back of the phenomenal success of Beauty and the Beast, and she’s joined by John Boyega, his first role since his charming breakout turn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Finally, it’s arriving on the edge of the summer season, aiming to engage our brains before they get pummeled into submission by a parade of shiny effects-driven epics with little interest in raising questions other than: wasn’t that explosion, like, totally sick?

Related: Emma Watson: feminist to the core or carefully polished brand? | the Observer profile

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Frantz star Paula Beer: ‘To see Berliners voting for the far right shocked me'

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:14:59 GMT2017-04-27T14:14:59Z

The 22-year-old, who won best young actor at Venice, stars in François Ozon’s post-first world war drama – and says the societal problems of that time are returning

Old before her time, it is said of Paula Beer, which is meant as a compliment. She is the star of Frantz, from mercurial director François Ozon. It is set in the broken months after the first world war, and Beer plays a sheltered but slowly blooming young German widow. The movies always need new faces, yet more than one observer has remarked that something about Beer – a certain silent expressiveness – makes her look as if she belongs in black and white.

“It’s strange, I agree,” she says. “I don’t look in the mirror and see the 1900s, but on the screen, there is a sense I fit in that time – like history suits my face.”

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Lady Macbeth review – brilliantly chilling subversion of a classic | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:30:20 GMT2017-04-27T14:30:20Z

Florence Pugh is lethally charismatic in William Oldroyd’s daring journey into the darkest corners of the world of bonnets and bows

William Oldroyd’s fierce feature debut feels like Victorian noir, a twist on a genre probably invented by Shakespeare in the first place. It could well open up a dark new avenue in the bonnets-and-bows world of classic literary adaptation. His movie does an awful lot with a limited budget. It is smart, sexy, dour: qualities that are weaponised by a lethally charismatic lead performance from Florence Pugh as the eponymous, unrepentant killer. She is both sphinx and minx. “You have no idea of the damage you can cause,” her enraged father-in-law splutters at her. Actually, he’s the one with no idea.

Dramatist and screenwriter Alice Birch has adapted Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, itself of course inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and adapted by Shostakovich in 1934 as an opera – the work which famously infuriated Stalin – and by Andrzej Wajda as a film, Siberian Lady Macbeth, in 1962. Oldroyd’s new movie version, shot with clarity and verve by cinematographer Ari Wegner, retains all of this story’s subversive sexiness, making changes to the narrative, bringing in or rather drawing out themes of abuse, violence, race and class. Cleverly, it gives us enigmatic backstory hints that may or may not help explain the sudden direction change the film takes in its third act, leading to a denouement of toxic ingenuity. And of all it driven by the sensuality and rage of Pugh’s performance.

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Rodney King review – Spike Lee's Netflix special is a bleakly poetic howl of rage

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:21:43 GMT2017-04-27T14:21:43Z

The acclaimed director brings a stark quality to this recording of Roger Guenveur Smith’s one-man stage show about the incident that sparked the LA riots

Spike Lee is marking the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots with an hour-long Netflix special about Rodney King, whose vicious police beating triggered the chaos after the LAPD officers involved were acquitted despite their savage attack having been captured on video, filmed by a local man from his apartment balcony and seen by TV viewers around the world. That video became the most famous witness footage since the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination; Lee used it as the prologue to his 1992 movie Malcolm X.

Related: Spike Lee: ‘Black men are still viewed as predators’

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M Night Shyamalan announces sequel to Unbreakable and Split in same film

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 11:26:41 GMT2017-04-27T11:26:41Z

Director reveals both films will ‘collide’ in the new movie titled Glass, with Unbreakable’s Samuel L Jackson taking a lead role alongside Bruce Willis and Split’s James McAvoy

The Sixth Sense director M Night Shyamalan has announced that his new film will act as a sequel to both Split, his recent hit multiple-personality thriller starring James McAvoy, and Unbreakable, the 2000 superhero film featuring Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson.

Shyamalan revealed the new project, titled Glass, in a series of tweets that said the director could “finally answer the #1 question I get, ‘Are you making a f#&@ing sequel to Unbreakable or what?’” Adding that it was “always my dream” to have both Split and Unbreakable “collide in this third film”, Shyamalan said the cast would include both films’ leading actors: Unbreakable’s Willis and Jackson, and Split’s McAvoy and Anya Taylor Joy.

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Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme dies aged 73

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:44:12 GMT2017-04-26T15:44:12Z

Oscar winning film-maker emerged from the American independent scene, and went on to direct a string of major social-issue films

Film director Jonathan Demme, best known for The Silence of the Lambs and Something Wild, has died at the age of 73. His publicist told Variety that the cause of death was “cancer complications”.

The Silence of the Lambs, the horror-thriller adapted from Thomas Harris’ novel, was the high point of his career as a mainstream film-maker: the film won five Oscars, including best director for Demme, and made its central character, Hannibal Lecter, into a household name.

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Indian film board clears Lipstick Under My Burkha for release

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:32:31 GMT2017-04-26T14:32:31Z

Tribunal overturns decision to ban ‘lady-oriented’ film exploring women’s sexuality – though length of sex scenes must be cut

An award-winning Hindi film that was blocked by India’s film censor for being too “lady-oriented” has been cleared for release by an appeals tribunal.

Lipstick Under My Burkha, a drama that explores the sexual awakenings and personal struggles of four small-town Indian women, was initially denied classification in January, a decision the film’s director, Alankrita Shrivastava, described as “an assault on women’s rights”.

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LA mayor heralds La La Land Day with acrobat dancers at City Hall – video

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 09:02:26 GMT2017-04-26T09:02:26Z

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has proclaimed 25 April as La La Land Day, in honour of the Oscar-winning Hollywood musical which uses the city as a backdrop for its elaborate song-and-dance routines. Marking the occasion were acrobats suspended by ropes who danced across the facade of City Hall

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Fast & Furious 8 maintains lead over Boss Baby at UK box office

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:06:02 GMT2017-04-25T14:06:02Z

Vin Diesel and his turbocharged action thriller fight off Alec Baldwin another week, while Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton debut on the chart with post-blitz comedy drama Their Finest

Given the commercially modest set of new films it was up against, the eighth instalment in the Fast & Furious franchise had no problem holding on to the top spot at the UK box office, grossing £3.59m in its second frame, for a 12-day total of £23m. This compares with £26.25m for Fast & Furious 7 after two weekends of play, although that was just a 10-day number.

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Hollywood writers' strike looms as union authorisation vote passed

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 11:52:48 GMT2017-04-25T11:52:48Z

A high turnout of Writers Guild of America members has voted to take industrial action, as a three-year deal with production studios ends on 30 April

The prospect of a Hollywood writers’ strike has moved closer after a vote of Writers Guild of America (WGA) members resulted in more than 96% backing industrial action.

According to Deadline, the WGA’s strike authorisation ballot resulted in 96.3% approval from the 6,310 voters, which represents 67.5% of eligible members. The ballot was held ahead of the expiry of the current writers’ contract, which ends on 30 April. If no agreement is reached between the union and studio representatives the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in the intervening period, then strike action could begin in early May.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle – first trailer released for spy movie sequel

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:14:08 GMT2017-04-25T08:14:08Z

Colin Firth returns from the dead, while Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry get their spy credentials in Kingsman: The Secret Service follow-up

The first full trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle – the follow-up to the hit Bond pastiche Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn – has been released online.

Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy, the council estate kid who is improbably chosen as a recruit for a mysterious, elite spy agency, and finds himself entangled in a dangerous mission to save the world. The sequel appears to have all the same building blocks in place, with the major addition, as the plot synopsis reveals, of a US version of the agency.

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Faye Dunaway says she felt 'very guilty' about Oscars envelope fiasco

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 03:03:44 GMT2017-04-25T03:03:44Z

Actor tells NBC she was ‘stunned’ after incorrectly announcing La La Land as best picture instead of Moonlight

Faye Dunaway has opened up about her role in the best picture envelope scandal at the Oscars, two months after the awards ceremony.

Speaking to Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News on Monday, the actor said she was “completely stunned” after she incorrectly announced La La Land instead of Moonlight as the winner of the best picture award, which she was co-presenting with actor Warren Beatty.

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'He was super happy': Heath Ledger film fights perception actor was depressed

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 00:53:19 GMT2017-04-25T00:53:19Z

Documentary portrays young star as a passionate force of nature who was ‘enthralled’ by his final role as the Joker

Nine years after his death at the age of 28, audiences are seeing a different side of the Australian actor Heath Ledger – through the lens of his own camera.

A new documentary about the actor’s life, I Am Heath Ledger, uses thousands of hours of video shot by Ledger, as well as his artwork and music videos, to paint a portrait of the young actor who took Hollywood by storm in roles including Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight.

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The Fate of the Furious review - Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson ensure franchise still has va-va-vroom

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 22:22:50 GMT2017-04-10T22:22:50Z

The latest instalment of the car-based action thriller – also called Fast & Furious 8 – has lost none of its zip, and even gained Charlize Theron, Jason Statham and Helen Mirren

The resurgence of Fast and the Furious from straight-to-DVD-destined three-wheeler to multiplex monolith has been one of the more unlikely cinematic successes of recent years. This was a franchise that, with 2006’s endlessly lampooned Tokyo Drift, looked less in need of a tune up than to be scavenged for parts and left up on bricks. Five instalments later and it’s as close to a bankable vehicle as it gets in Hollywood.

Of course, cynical sorts might suggest that the untimely death of Paul Walker midway through filming of Fast and Furious 7 gave the series a sympathetic second-look from audiences that might have otherwise abandoned it. That though would underplay the strangely appealing alchemy of the franchise in the past several instalments, which has seen it evolve from a gruff drag race B-movie to something far more universal: a turbocharged mix of cars, quips and explosions, with just the merest hint of sentimentality to keep the date-movie crowd sweet.

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A Quiet Passion review – Cynthia Nixon gives Emily Dickinson the soul of a poet

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 14:30:06 GMT2017-04-06T14:30:06Z

Terence Davies’s elegant film benefits from a terrific performance by Nixon, who makes the reclusive 19th-century poet seem radiant with loneliness

In this film, Cynthia Nixon has the face of someone with a secret. She plays the poet Emily Dickinson, and her face is fever-bright with irony and wit, then loneliness and fear. You can see how emotions are somehow stored in that face provisionally, being refined and saved for later – for the poetry she writes during the night. It is a face that changes as she grows older and moves along the spectrum of genius, publishing little or nothing, angry about the non-consolation of “posterity”. Terence Davies’s film and Nixon’s tremendous performance reminded me of WH Auden saying that Matthew Arnold “thrust his gift in prison till it died”. It isn’t Dickinson’s gift for poetry that gets thrust in prison but her gift for love, and not thrust by her, either. Her poems are periodically quoted by Nixon in voiceover and, with these shrewd selections, Davies may be playfully suggesting that their seductive rhythmic canter has a tiny technical echo with Longfellow, whom Emily professes to despise.

Emma Bell plays the young Emily, who is agnostic and free-thinking, and bullied at a tyrannically puritan Christian school from which she is miraculously rescued by her warm and kindly family, to be welcomed into a protective and relatively liberal circle. She grows to adulthood – a process represented in a strangely eerie digital transformation of her photographic portrait – and is portrayed by Nixon from then on. Jennifer Ehle is excellent as her affectionate sister Vinnie; Duncan Duff is their adored brother Austin, a lawyer who marries Susan Gilbert (Jodhi May), a woman who confesses with sisterly intimacy to Emily how the conjugal duties are to be endured in exchange for the blessings of family. Austin grows to despise himself for shirking military service in the civil war, at the insistence of their kindly but stern father Edward, played by Keith Carradine.

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The Lost City of Z review: Charlie Hunnam slow-burns down the Amazon, leaving Sienna Miller at home

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:00:21 GMT2017-02-13T19:00:21Z

James Gray’s introspective tale of adventurer Percival Fawcett’s obsession with a lost Amazonian city is a twist on the familiar Conrad jungle narrative

James Gray brings a characteristically muted, slow-burn intensity of purpose to this odd, interesting period drama. It is based on the true story of Col Percival Fawcett, a British explorer and army officer of the last century who became obsessed with what he was convinced was a lost city he called “Z”, deep in the Amazon jungle: a vanished civilisation overlooked by the historical and archaeological establishment. For his screenplay, Gray has adapted the 2005 New Yorker article and subsequent book about Fawcett by David Grann. It’s a curious film in some ways, taking what could be an exciting epic adventure in the style of David Lean and turning it into something introspective, slightly morose and anti-climactic. Yet there is a persistent, beady-eyed intelligence at work.

Gray’s film shows that Fawcett’s involvement in Amazon exploration has its origin in his being asked by the Royal Geographical Society to act as an honest broker in a border dispute between South American states about where national territories began and ended, which in turn arose from exploitation of local resources. But while there, Fawcett rises above commercial concerns and even the traditional thrill of imperial prestige. He finds fragments of pots and evidence of ruined sculpture, which triggers a lifetime’s obsession and a need to prove himself to the snobs and prigs who had looked down on him for being not quite top drawer. His Amazon journeys happen as storm clouds of war are gathering; the trips are in some ways driven by the same misplaced romantic need to prove masculinity and hardihood – but also a need to avoid and escape, to turn one’s back on the squalor of conflict.

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Norman: the Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer review – Richard Gere ups his game in iffy film

Mon, 05 Sep 2016 10:30:11 GMT2016-09-05T10:30:11Z

The actor gives a strong performance as a desperate social climber in this fractured drama that works best as a flawed character study

Quietly and usually without much of an audience, Richard Gere is having a bit of a moment. Unlike his similarly aged peers Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis, he’s rejected the senior stuntman route and instead made the decision to embrace his older self, taking on roles that are reliant on his age, often uncomfortably so. In Time Out of Mind, he played a homeless man struggling to reconnect with his estranged daughter, in The Benefactor he was an unhinged philanthropist making amends for his tortured past and, well, he even joined the cast of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Related: Wakefield review: two hours with Bryan Cranston in an attic is less fun than it sounds

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Tommy's Honour review – well-pitched performances bring golf biopic up to par

Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:26:33 GMT2016-06-24T14:26:33Z

This story of teenage golf sensation ‘Young’ Tom Morris is a decent rather than dazzling film to open the Edinburgh film festival, kept on course Peter Mullan and Jack Lowden as father and son

Jason Connery – son of Sean – is still probably best known for his mid-1980s stint in the TV series Robin of Sherwood, but he’s been directing features for a few years now: mostly obscure sci-fi and thrillers, but this, his fifth, has got a modicum of wider interest to it. Tommy’s Honour is a conventional, old-fashioned, biopic of early golf champ “Young” Tom Morris, who remains the youngest ever winner of the British Open as a 17-year-old in 1868, and who succumbed to an appallingly early death just seven years later.

Morris is portrayed with enthusiasm and no little charm by Jack Lowden, who channels a sort of bristling young lion challenge towards his father, “Old” Tom Morris, played with gravelly, bearded dignity by Peter Mullan. Old Tom is the deferential club professional, little more than a skilled servant to the top-hatted members, while Young Tom is a modern-style athlete who expects to be well rewarded for his accomplishments. Their combative relationship not only provides the meat of the film’s drama, but also allows the film-makers to get across some (fairly sledgehammer) points about the social mores of the time.

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Life review – Jake Gyllenhaal hits the retro rockets for sub-Alien space horror

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:01:20 GMT2017-03-22T00:01:20Z

Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds play members of a scientific team investigating material from Mars that turns out to contain a hostile life-form

Like the anonymous phone call in a horror film that turns out to be coming from inside the house, Life is a sci-fi thriller about a contamination crisis: a crisis that goes on pretty much uninterruptedly for around an hour and three quarters. It’s a serviceable, watchable, determinedly unoriginal film starring Jake Gyllenhaal about a parasite-predator in a spaceship, a creature which can only survive by feeding off a pre-existing host. The expressions on the spacepersons’ faces here may give a guide to the feelings of Ridley Scott and everyone involved with the 1979 classic Alien when they see it. Life is indebted to Alien, to say the least, although its final, perfunctory hint of a conspiracy doesn’t approach Alien’s powerful satirical pessimism.

Related: Jake Gyllenhaal to play anarchist joining the fight against Isis

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Power Rangers review – colour-coded superpowers revealed in goofy origins story

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:12:30 GMT2017-03-21T23:12:30Z

It may be the most unlikely and least welcome superhero movie of the year – or even the decade – but this reboot actually benefits from lowered expectations

You can rationalise and contextualise and say that the Marvel effect means any Lycra-clad saviour with an iota of brand recognition is now apt for revival in some format. Once the lights dim, however, nothing can prepare you for the ontological strangeness of watching a Power Rangers movie in 2017. Especially one that is – forgive me if my voice rises an octave here – not entirely terrible? That is, in fact, basically harmless, if you don’t object to feeding your kids pop-cultural leftovers, with odd flickers of charm besides? In an age of hype, some films are bound to benefit from massively reduced expectations; this would be one of them.

Related: Power Rangers features first gay screen superhero

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CHiPs review – timid, off-colour cops-on-bikes remake

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:27 GMT2017-03-24T08:00:27Z

This comic-ironic remake of the old TV show never quite thrums into life, and contains a few horribly misjudged moments

Here comes yet another addition to the “ironic film remake of a beloved 70s/80s TV series” genre, which is starting to look as dated as the shows it purports to send up. Updating the cops-on-bikes action drama of the same name, ChiPs stars Michael Peña in the old Erik Estrada role of Ponch, a sex-addicted FBI agent who is tasked with rooting out police corruption by going undercover in the California highway patrol unit. There he’s paired up with idiot-savant rookie Jon Baker (Dax Shepard, also the film’s director), whose guilelessness is counterbalanced by a remarkable gift for riding motorbikes. Soon the pair are on the trail of a dirty cop (Vincent D’Onofrio, entirely wasted in a gruff, underdeveloped role), bickering and blowing stuff up as they go. When placed next to the gleeful postmodernism of the 21 Jump Street films, this feels remarkably timid, its humour built around off-colour gags (including one desperately poorly judged Oscar Pistorius joke) and the mildly homophobia-tinged bromance between Ponch and Baker. Shepard and Pena do at least throw themselves into proceedings with elan, but they can’t prevent CHiPs from seeming a distinctly second-gear affair.

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I Called Him Morgan review – jazz star's story comes in from the cold

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 10:22:00 GMT2016-09-12T10:22:00Z

Kasper Collin’s spellbinding documentary reveals the tender and tragic tale of hard bop trumpeter Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen

With the best jazz recordings you recognise the beginning and know where it’s going to wind up, but it’s the road there that’s unpredictable. To that end, Kasper Collin’s I Called Him Morgan isn’t just the greatest jazz documentary since Let’s Get Lost, it’s a documentary-as-jazz. Spellbinding, mercurial, hallucinatory, exuberant, tragic … aw hell, man, those are a lot of heavy words, but have you heard Lee Morgan’s music? More importantly, do you know the story of his life?

Lee Morgan may have been one of the most important trumpet players in jazz, but he doesn’t have the household name status of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis. Unfortunately, like Bix Beiderbecke and Clifford Brown, he died way too young. While Morgan’s output as the leader of his own working group is outstanding (may I recommend to you The Sidewinder, The Gigolo or perhaps even The Rumproller) he was also a linchpin member of the classic Blue Note sound overseen by producers Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff and engineer Rudy Van Gelder.

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Wilson review – Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern in mostly charmless adaptation

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 04:47:47 GMT2017-01-24T04:47:47Z

The filmic take on Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel wants to stand up for the weirdos – but instead makes you yearn for silence

That annoying creep who sits next to you on an otherwise empty bus and won’t stop talking? How would you like to spend an entire movie with him? Don’t worry, it’ll end with life lessons about the importance of family. Wait, come back!

OK, it’s not all bad. Wilson, an adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel of the same name from The Skeleton Twins’ director Craig Johnson, at least features an adorable terrier. But, she dies. Oh man, I keep screwing this up!

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Beauty and the Beast review – Emma Watson makes a perfect Belle in sugar-rush romance

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 17:00:07 GMT2017-03-03T17:00:07Z

Watson star cuts a demure, doll-like figure in Disney’s live-action remake, which features an outbreak of starry cameos and the world’s briefest gay reveal

The world’s most notorious case of Stockholm syndrome is back in cinemas. Disney now gives us a sprightly, shiny live-action remake of its 1991 animated musical fairytale, Beauty and the Beast, with Emma Watson as Belle, the elfin beauty from a humble French village whose poor old dad (Kevin Kline) is imprisoned by a wicked beast who lives in a remote castle. This is in fact a once handsome prince (played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens), transformed into a monster by an enchantress as a punishment for his selfishness, while all his simpering courtiers were turned into household appliances such as candles and clocks. Belle offers to be his prisoner in her father’s place. Gradually the grumpy, soppy old Beast falls in love with her and she with him.

Everyone warbles the classic 1991 showtunes by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, and there is a sugar-rush outbreak of starry cameos at the very end, from A-listers who are given full status in the final curtain-call credits. The whole movie is lit in that fascinatingly artificial honeyglow light, and it runs smoothly on rails – the kind of rails that bring in and out the stage sets for the lucrative Broadway touring version.

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T2 Trainspotting review – choose a sequel that doesn't disappoint

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 22:48:37 GMT2017-01-19T22:48:37Z

Danny Boyle’s followup to the cult 1996 hit isn’t quite as quick and extraordinary as the original, but it is a funny, moving ode to middle-aged male disillusion whose risks pay off in spades

Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting is everything I could reasonably have hoped for – scary, funny, desperately sad, with many a bold visual flourish. What began as a zeitgeisty outlaw romp in the Uncool Britannia of the 1990s is now reborn as a scabrous and brutal black comedy about middle-aged male disappointment and fear of death.

It reunites the horribly duplicitous skag-addicted non-heroes of the first movie about twentysomethings trying to get off heroin in Edinburgh, and finding that they have nothing very much to put in its place. In that film, I often hid my head in my hands, unable to watch scenes about dead babies and diving into gruesome lavatories. Now it’s the sight of desolate men’s faces that made me want to look away: stunned by the realisation that their lives are coming to an end.

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Song to Song review – Terrence Malick returns to form with lyrical love triangle

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 16:30:39 GMT2017-03-11T16:30:39Z

The divisive film-maker adds story to swirling camerawork as Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling cross paths in the Texas music scene

Some artists just see the world differently. Terrence Malick, the secretive and mercurial film-maker whose recent output has been, it’s fair to say, divisive, has a very specific lens. In Malickville, time swirls with a beautiful, melancholic rush of imagery, dizzying the senses at every turn. Malick’s life must be exhausting if every walk across the kitchen to pour a cup of tea is such a moment. But if that is your perception, or what you want to project out into the world, then I guess you have to go for it. This time it pays off.

Related: Is Terrence Malick ahead of his time or out of date?

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Burn Your Maps review: if the kid from Room wants to be Mongolian, let him

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 15:27:27 GMT2016-09-09T15:27:27Z

Jacob Tremblay and Vera Farmiga (as his understanding mother) are irresistible in this strange tale, premiering at Toronto, of a young boy with goats on the brain – it’s just a shame the film isn’t as interested in the locals as they are

Few actors working in Hollywood today have a more expressive face than Vera Farmiga. With a crooked smile or a slightly tilted head, she has the uncanny ability to convey complex emotions in even the briefest reaction shot. Lucky we are, then, that this newest film, Burn Your Maps, offers a rich character, roiled in tumult, and plopped in an extraordinary setting. This isn’t to say this movie is a masterpiece, but it’s one that doesn’t just tug on the heartstrings it yanks on them like a streetcar passenger afraid he’ll miss his stop.

We open in suburban Chicago, where young Wes (Jacob Tremblay) has for some reason become fascinated with everything Mongolian. He watches YouTube videos, is teaching himself the language, listens to throat-singing and takes his older sister’s Uggs and makes them into shepherd’s boots. It’s all very cute, and images of him riding around on his bicycle with goats and eagles made from toilet paper are adorable.

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The Belko Experiment review – gory workplace horror promotes nastiness

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 11:00:28 GMT2017-03-15T11:00:28Z

An enjoyably manic shocker about an office full of employees forced to kill one another uses dark humor and extreme violence to grab attention

Ever have one of those days when you feel like killing your coworker? How about all of them? How about all of them but in a creative array of graphically violent ways? If this is starting to sound like a thought process you often have but perhaps wisely keep secret from others then you’ll probably get a sadistic kick out of this nasty little horror.

Related: Get Out: the film that dares to reveal the horror of liberal racism in America

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Kong: Skull Island review – only de-evolution can explain this zestless mashup

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 22:00:28 GMT2017-03-02T22:00:28Z

Tom Hiddleston’s talents are lost in this jumbled jungle caper that repeatedly indulges in anti-climax and silliness

Deep in the distant jungle … the undergrowth stirs, the lagoons froth, the branches shake and a huge monster rears terrifyingly up on its haunches, blotting out the sun. Run for your lives! It’s a 700 ft turkey, making squawking and gobbling noises and preparing to lay a gigantic egg.

This fantastically muddled and exasperatingly dull quasi-update of the King Kong story looks like a zestless mashup of Jurassic Park, Apocalypse Now and a few exotic visual borrowings from Miss Saigon. It gets nowhere near the elemental power of the original King Kong or indeed Peter Jackson’s game remake; it’s something Ed Wood Jr might have made with a trillion dollars to do what he liked with but minus the fun. The film gives away the ape’s physical appearance far too early, thus blowing the suspense, the narrative focus is all over the place and the talented Tom Hiddleston is frankly off his game. Given no support in terms of script and direction, he looks stiff and unrelaxed and delivers lines with an edge of panic, like Michael Caine in The Swarm.

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Personal Shopper review: Kristen Stewart's psychic spooker is a must-have

Mon, 16 May 2016 21:38:59 GMT2016-05-16T21:38:59Z

Cannes gets its first marmite sensation with Olivier Assayas’s uncategorisable – yet undeniably terrifying – drama about a fashion PA trying to exorcise herself of her dead twin

Is Kristen Stewart the fifth ghostbuster? Questions like that are liable to pop into your mind watching this captivating, bizarre, tense, fervently preposterous and almost unclassifiable scary movie from Olivier Assayas. It’s a film which delivers the bat-squeak of pure craziness that we long for at Cannes, although at the first screening some very tiresome people continued the festival’s tradition of booing very good films.

Personal Shopper had that undefinable provocative élan that reminded me a little of Lars Von Trier’s Breaking The Waves. It is actually Assayas’s best film for a long time, and Stewart’s best performance to date – she stars in a supernatural fashionista-stalker nightmare where the villain could yet be the heroine’s own spiteful id. Is it The Devil Wears Prada meets The Handmaiden (also in Cannes) with a touch of Single White Female?

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My Scientology Movie review – Louis Theroux gets smart with the cult church

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 14:30:56 GMT2016-10-06T14:30:56Z

All sorts of weird stuff starts happening as Theroux reiterates the sheer nastiness of the organisation in his provocative documentary

The Church of Scientology is a deeply strange organisation and, appropriately enough, Louis Theroux has made a strange film about it. It works as a companion piece to another documentary, the one that I think is the definitive takedown: Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, from 2015. It’s an interesting, if flawed piece of work; Theroux’s opaque manner masks an uncertainty as to exactly what he wants to say, and he finally seems to turn on his own chief witness.

Theroux’s Scientology movie is undoubtedly a smart piece of what could be called improv-ocation. He shows up in LA, advertising his intention to film a series of scripted and unscripted scenes recreating key moments from the life of the Scientologists’ sinister chief, David Miscavige. (Theroux may here have been inspired by Josh Oppenheimer’s modern-classic documentary about the Indonesian tyranny, The Act of Killing.) He will audition actors, film the audition process, and use as his adviser a famous apostate and whistleblower, former Scientologist enforcer Marty Rathbun – a man now hated in the church for his betrayal.

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Raw review: I didn't faint in classy cannbibal horror – but

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 16:54:29 GMT2016-09-21T16:54:29Z

The flesh-eating movie that had them requiring ambulance intervention in Toronto never lets up. It’s also a complex drama of adulthood, sex, conformity, hazing, body image and lust

Julia Ducournau is a 33-year-old first-time feature director who makes her worryingly brilliant debut with this saturnalia of arthouse horror. At the Toronto film festival, it had audiences dry-heaving and indeed wet-heaving in the aisles and the cinema lavatories. This is the sort of film which pundits are often keen to label “black comedy” as a way of re-establishing their own sang-froid. In the same tongue-in-cheek spirit, it has been called coming-of-age drama. There is a grain of truth in both of these labels. It is a film about cannibalism, and has clearly been influenced by Jorge Michel Grau’s We Are What We Are, John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps, and perhaps especially Marina de Van’s body shocker In My Skin – which incidentally featured a young Laurent Lucas, a veteran of extreme French cinema who also turns up here.

Related: Cannibal horror film too Raw for viewers as paramedics are called

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Logan review – Hugh Jackman's Wolverine enters a winter of X-Men discontent

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:30:21 GMT2017-02-17T21:30:21Z

The third and final Wolverine film is a poignant study of ageing and infirmity, as the arthritic mutant holes up in Mexico with a declining Professor Xavier

Superpowers are one thing, but no-one said they were immortal. What happens when superheroes get old? Actually, what happens when, like many non-superheroes, they arrive at late middle-age without a partner, in ill health, and with an ageing parent to look after? Or parent-figure anyway. You find yourself asking these questions watching this surprisingly engaging, but downbeat – and also violent – X-Men movie from the Marvel stable. It is more like a survivalist thriller than a superhero film, and signals its wintry quality with the title itself. It’s like seeing a film entitled Banner or Parker or Kent. With the approach of death, maybe super identity is cast off. Superpowers start to fade along with ordinary powers.

Related: Does Brie Larson's Captain Marvel signal a new era of superhero diversity?

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Headshot review – ultra-violent Indonesian action-thriller

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 22:30:29 GMT2017-03-02T22:30:29Z

Bad guys go on the rampage in this stylish and excessively gory iteration of the action genre

This Indonesian action film unfolds a story as old as time, or at least as old as film noir, in which a bad man (the undeniably charismatic Iko Uwais) experiences a trauma so severe (shot in the head, thrown into the sea) he wakes up with amnesia and somehow a completely different personality (which seems unlikely from a neurological point of view). Nerdy-cute medic Ailin (Chelsea Islan) nurses him back to health in the hospital and names him Ishmael after the narrator of Moby-Dick, which she happens to be reading at the time.

The film-making owes far less to any literary antecedents than it does to the kind of ultra-violent, stylish action films made in Hong Kong and Korea. As such, it’s a very good iteration of the genre, with moody lighting, razor sharp editing and great fight sequences, but be advised that only the strongest of stomachs need apply: it is excessively gory and amoral, even by the standards of such fare, with lots of blood-letting, eye-gouging and murder achieved with assorted implements of destruction including, at one point, a chopstick to the head.

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Table 19 review – divorce yourself from this unfunny wedding comedy

Wed, 01 Mar 2017 15:55:41 GMT2017-03-01T15:55:41Z

Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow and Stephen Merchant are all wasted in an embarrassingly tone-deaf film filled with thin characters and bad writing

At weddings – or at least at weddings in the movies – there’s that moment when the officiant says: “If anyone knows of a reason to prevent this marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace.” I only wish I could have been present when so many actors I admire said “I do” to this tone-deaf, embarrassing motion picture.

To be fair, there is a kernel of a good idea in Table 19. It’s all set at a wedding, where beloved family and friends are close to the action at tables one, two and three. In the back, and close to the bathrooms, is the table of “randoms”, the guests invited out of social obligation who ought to have had the decency to send their regrets.

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Get Out review – white liberal racism is terrifying bogeyman in sharp horror

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 20:35:28 GMT2017-02-22T20:35:28Z

Writer-director Jordan Peele masterfully combines incisive social commentary with genuine, seat-edge suspense in film exploring evils of American suburbia

There’s a great, often under-appreciated, history of social commentary within the horror genre. From John Carpenter’s politically charged They Live to Bryan Forbes’ haunting adaptation of The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin’s icy take on the male fear of second-wave feminism, scares and satire used to arrive simultaneously. But somewhere along the way, that tradition has been jump-shocked out of its seat, popcorn flying, and replaced with vapidity, an impatient teenage audience force-fed predictable thrills over a story that might provoke or inspire debate.

Related: Get Out: the horror film that shows it's scary to be a black man in America

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Bitter Harvest review – timely but uneven Ukrainian famine drama

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 23:30:16 GMT2017-02-23T23:30:16Z

Despite honourable intentions, this film addressing the Stalin-inflicted 1932-33 genocide in Ukraine is at times embarrassingly bad

At least Bitter Harvest’s release date is relatively timely, given the recent focus in the news on Russia’s brutally aggressive, expansive ambitions. Putin may be accused of killing, but he’s got nothing on Joseph Stalin who instigated the genocide via famine of some 10 million Ukrainians in 1932-33, an atrocity now known at the Holodomor. This drama by director/co-writer George Mendeluk is one of the very few western films to address the subject, and while one may applaud the intention, the execution is markedly uneven.

Max Irons stars as Yuri, a Cossack’s son with dreamy eyes and notable daddy issues who deeply loves feisty local beauty Natalka (Samantha Barks). Not long after their marriage, Stalin (incarnated by Gary Oliver in cutaway scenes, practically twiddling his bushy, fake moustache) comes to power and the tractors of death start ploughing up the land. The dialogue is at times embarrassingly bad, and the death of practically every principal supporting character is marked by a shot of some prop being splattered with metonymic blood. On the other hand, the period details are impressive and must have cost a pretty kopiyka or two, and the film benefits visually from being shot on location.

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The Great Wall review – lavish Chinese spectacle

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 08:00:03 GMT2017-02-19T08:00:03Z

The country’s most expensive co-production to date is a visual treat, complete with a grizzled Matt Damon, but don’t expect any complex plotting

On the hunt for precious “black powder”, rogue mercenaries William Garin (a grizzled-looking Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Game of Thrones’s Pedro Pascal) are captured by The Nameless Order, an ancient military operation occupying the Great Wall of China. The order are preparing to battle the mythical Tao-Tie – giant, green, lizard-y looking monsters that are resurrected every 60 years to teach the Chinese a lesson about unchecked greed and swarm the wall in their millions.

Commander Lin (the film’s sole speaking female character, played by Jing Tian) takes a shine to William, pointing out their similarities. However, though both are dab hands with a bow, the two fight for different reasons; he for food and money, she for trust and honour, a lesson William inevitably learns by the film’s conclusion (perhaps making an oversimplified case for Chinese communism).

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A Cure for Wellness review – evil spa horror has eels, incest and aqua aerobics

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 14:00:16 GMT2017-02-07T14:00:16Z

An alternately intriguing and frustrating chiller has flashes of elegance but settles for unhinged hokum with bizarre results

An understandably forgotten mini-trend in the 80s was the strange idea to set horror films in gyms. Granted, the decade was generally monopolized by a sudden obsession with working out, but audiences weren’t that pumped with the prospect of seeing sweaty youths get crushed to death by weight-training equipment in films like Death Spa and Killer Workout.

Related: Rings review – spooky Ringu reboot smoothly reinvents the wheel

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Fifty Shades Darker review – submissive sequel offers little light relief but lots of washing

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 07:43:13 GMT2017-02-10T07:43:13Z

EL James’s panting couple are back – but director Sam Taylor-Johnson is not – in this daft yet dull S&M soap

Related: The seven most wonderfully ridiculous moments in Fifty Shades Darker

This is a chaste age at the cinema. La La Land may be sold on its leads’ sizzling chemistry, but Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone remain strictly zipped throughout. Film fans in search of titillation are unlikely to be sated by Loving’s snuggles or Moonlight’s angsty, unseen intimacy. In tilting for Oscars, contenders are emulating the statuettes’ anatomy.

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The Lego Batman Movie review – funny, exciting and packed with gags

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 23:00:35 GMT2017-02-09T23:00:35Z

This sophisticated pop culture adventure set in a world of Lego bricks just might rescue DC Comics’ battered reputation

Growing inexorably in awesomeness, the Lego movie empire delivers another fantastically funny and highly sophisticated pop culture adventure, though with only a hint of the first film’s existential angst. (Gotham City is said to be built on thin planks over a void that smells of “dirty laundry”. Like a kid’s bedroom, maybe?) The Lego Batman Movie might even rescue DC’s battered reputation and persuade audiences to feel good about Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn and the idea of Batman fighting Superman. In a world made of Lego bricks, Batman – voiced with basso profundo severity by Will Arnett – is a super-successful crime fighter who battles terrible loneliness back at Wayne Manor: superb scenes of poignant emptiness. This film incidentally has the most devastating use of Harry Nilsson’s One (Is the Loneliest Number) since Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is wounded by Batman’s refusal to commit to an exclusive hero-villain combat relationship: Batman hurtfully says that he prefers to “fight around” with Bane, Superman and the like. So Joker devises a wicked plan that forces Batman to swallow his loner pride and ask for crime-fighting help from his stepson Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and new Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). It’s packed with gags and smart allusions. Why can’t non-Lego movies be as funny, exciting and weirdly moving as this?

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A United Kingdom review: Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo in fine romance

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 22:30:14 GMT2016-09-09T22:30:14Z

A strange, shameful chapter of history is dusted off by Amma Asante to make this earnestly stirring Empire drama

With terrific warmth and idealism – and irresistible storytelling relish – director Amma Asante gives us a romantic true story from our dowdy postwar past. And with some style and wit, she even revives the spirit and showmanship of Richard Attenborough, who I think would have really enjoyed this gutsy movie.

It’s a tale of star-crossed lovers with the bigoted British government playing a particularly shabby and nasty House Of Capulet: a story of imperialism, bully-ism, and Westminster functionaries passing off their taboo horror of interracial marrying as a matter of realism and political expediency.

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The Lure: mermaid musical a splashy distraction until lack of story seems fishy

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 16:17:23 GMT2016-01-24T16:17:23Z

This Polish vampire musical featuring mermaid siblings seems to have it all – but after a while the wackiness gets weary and even the foam seems thin

Agnieszka Smoczynska’s tale of sibling mermaids could possibly be the strangest film in this year’s world cinema competition. Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska star as two sirens, Golden (Olszanska) and Silver (Mazurek), who swap swimming, seduction and hunting men for a life as star turns at a seedy gentleman’s club.

Looked after by the club’s matriarch Krysia (played by Kinga Preis) they use their vocal ability to draw the crowds (their act is called The Lure), but there are a couple of problems with their adopted lives. The first is that Golden can’t stop chomping on the vital organs of the male townsfolk, and the other is that Silver has managed to fall in love with her band’s bass player.

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Rings review – spooky Ringu reboot smoothly reinvents the wheel

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:07:26 GMT2017-02-03T18:07:26Z

F Javier Gutiérrez’s update of the Japanese cult horror flick comes up with a fair mystery and an admirably loopy finale featuring swarming cicadas

Circles within circles. It’s been 15 years since The Ring, Gore Verbinski’s American translation of the cult Japanese horror Ringu, which means an entire generation of westerners might not have been scared or bored to death by the sight of lank-haired spooks emerging from the gogglebox. This update for the era of iPhones and .MOV files has very quickly to acknowledge that the VHS players that perpetuated this curse circa the millennium are now practically occult items, less likely to be found occupying cherished home-cinema space than collecting dust, along with Ouija boards in junkshops.

Related: Ghost in the system: has technology ruined horror films?

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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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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 Lovers review – Debra Winger impresses in nuanced tale of infidelity

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 02:00:00 GMT2017-04-23T02:00:00Z

The Oscar-nominated actor stars with Tracy Letts in a well-observed film about a cheating couple who fall in love with each other again after years of marriage

For an extended period throughout the 80s and early 90s, Debra Winger was one of the most successful female actors in the industry, scoring three Oscar nominations and appearing in films, such as An Officer and a Gentleman, Terms of Endearment, and Shadowlands. But in 1995, after co-starring with Billy Crystal in Forget Paris, she took a hiatus. While she claimed it was a decision based on a simple desire for time off, many saw it as an indication of how Hollywood treats women over the age of 40, her choice of roles clearly drying up.

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

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Sandy Wexler review – Adam Sandler's 90s-set comedy is strange yet strangely likable

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 15:05:10 GMT2017-04-14T15:05:10Z

The actor’s latest film for Netflix is filled with annoyingly unfunny moments yet there’s a charm that’s tough to resist

With the artistic freedom given to him by his eight-picture Netflix deal, Adam Sandler has made his All That Jazz. The puerile comic despised by most critics wears his heart on his sleeve for Sandy Wexler’s very-long-for-an-Adam-Sandler-movie run time of two hours and 10 minutes. The result borders on outsider art, with scenes that stretch way past their warranty, and a tone that wobbles from immature slapstick to inelegant, spasmodic tugs at the heartstrings.

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

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Patti Cake$ review – Juno meets 8 Mile in formulaic crowd-pandering indie

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 19:21:50 GMT2017-03-16T19:21:50Z

Despite success of being picked up by Fox Searchlight, this tale of a white female rapper in New Jersey opts for audience-pleasing indie formula over authenticity

Every year at Sundance, the studios (or their indie sister companies) impatiently wait for the breakout hits: the films that cause widespread laughing, crying, screaming, tweeting or preferably all of the above. The titles that cause the most fervent reactions are then snapped up, repackaged and sold to a mainstream audience with enthused quotes like “You’re going to LOVE this movie”. The process, which has unearthed some gems in the past, has grown tired and shamelessly transparent.

The films that are miraculously “saved” from what’s seen as an ignoble fate in – clutches pearls – arthouse cinemas no longer feel quite as fresh, their very existence seemingly tailored to slither into this cynical machine. Audiences are becoming wise to this too. Recent big-money acquisitions, such as Dope and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, have felt a little too slickly engineered and both were inevitable box office disappointments.

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The Most Hated Woman in America review – Melissa Leo lifts messy biopic

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 21:30:12 GMT2017-03-14T21:30:12Z

A gripping performance from the Oscar-winner isn’t enough to save a tonally awkward take on the true story of a woman taking on religion in 50s America

The Most Hated Woman in America, a biopic of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, wins the award for inspiring my swiftest personal pivot from film-watching to Wikipedia-checking. The instant the closing credits hit I raced to my laptop with supersonic speed: wait, did this actually happen?

Related: Song to Song review – Terrence Malick returns to form with lyrical love triangle

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Burning Sands review – grim drama uncovers brutal hazing at black fraternity

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 12:00:04 GMT2017-03-10T12:00:04Z

A strong young cast, including Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, anchors a tough look at toxic masculinity on campus for Netflix

“It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”

It’s a Frederick Douglass quote frequently, and accurately, used in the bleak college drama Burning Sands which shows that a) in 2017, we’re still struggling to teach boys how to grow into decent, well-adjusted men and b) he really is getting recognized more and more.

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The Force review – admirably layered police documentary falls short at climax

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 21:46:48 GMT2017-01-27T21:46:48Z

Outstanding access and an unobtrusive approach almost make up for some unexplored leads and an anticlimactic ending

Debuting as it did at 2017’s Sundance Film Festival, it is very difficult not to compare The Force to another documentary in this year’s class, Whose Streets? The guerrilla-style Whose Streets? is an expressive, urgent note sent from underground. The Force, in comparison, is the official story.

Related: City of Ghosts review: could be the definitive Syria documentary

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Newness review: swipe left on this shallow dating drama

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 21:11:49 GMT2017-01-26T21:11:49Z

Nicholas Hoult and Laia Costa are a dull millennial couple addicted to Tinder in this visually slick yet emotionally vapid take on modern relationships

The young people today – they can’t stop screwing! Well, if this movie is any indication, anything is welcome if it keeps these people from talking.

Newness, the latest from director Drake Doremus, is a gorgeously shot film with an emphasis on beautiful people in closeup, striking interior design and impressionistic shallow focus. The screenplay, unfortunately, is equally shallow, and that’s a bit of a problem when it wants so hard to make a grand pronouncement about The Way We Live Now.

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Rebel in the Rye review – JD Salinger drama catches attention but sinks into cliche

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 20:30:47 GMT2017-01-25T20:30:47Z

Nicholas Hoult plays the author in a watchable but shallow take on creativity and the process of writing a classic

The first shot in Rebel in the Rye is of a broken down man staring at the Central Park carousel. This isn’t an adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye and it isn’t quite a biopic of its author, JD Salinger. It’s more like a “making of” story, the long struggle to get the novel about the disaffected teen in a red hunting cap on to the page and out into the world. Though this telling has more than its share of well-worn story beats that Salinger’s hero Holden Caulfield might accuse of being phoney, there are enough occasional insights into the creative process, as well as juicy tidbits about the secretive Salinger, to make this a very agreeable, if at times shallow, watch.

Related: Wilson review – Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern in mostly charmless adaptation

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Beach Rats review – Brooklyn bro faces his sexuality in quietly powerful drama

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 03:30:35 GMT2017-01-24T03:30:35Z

Broody tale of a young man struggling to come to terms with his own desires avoids cliche and provides a poignant and authentic character study

The fascinating complexities of the coming out experience have been largely underrepresented on the big screen, strange given the strong dramatic potential for both eroticism and torturous inner struggle. But recently, Barry Jenkins’ deservedly lauded heartbreaker Moonlight gave much-needed insight and tenderness to this journey while also exploring the damaging effects that performed hyper-masculinity can have.

Related: Call Me By Your Name review: A Bigger Splash director makes waves with superb gay romance

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The Polka King review – Jack Black shines in a weirdly enjoyable film

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:58:18 GMT2017-01-24T01:58:18Z

Based on the life of disgraced polka sensation Jan Lewan, Jacki Weaver, Jason Schwartzman and Jenny Slate round out a wacky comedy that’s full of heart

There are three things you can always count on: death, taxes and that any movie with Jason Schwartzman playing a clarinet can’t be all bad.

The Polka King, a return to Sundance for Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky after Infinitely Polar Bear, is definitely wacky, perhaps even a little zany, but as the pre-title card and closing credits photos remind us, this is based on a true story. That fact serves as a considerable engagement engine, as this is the type of story where, if someone told it to you, you might say, “Man, they ought to make a movie about that!”

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Beware the Slenderman review – documentary on a deadly meme

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:35:15 GMT2017-01-23T15:35:15Z

A harrowing and nuanced look at the notorious online figure who inspired two 12-year-old girls to stab their friend

Due to an over-reliance on shock sensationalism, the true crime genre had been mostly discarded by documentary film-makers and relegated to tawdry late-night television. But it’s experienced something of a respectable makeover in recent years, thanks to the phenomenally successful Serial podcast, the Netflix breakout Making a Murderer and the critically adored OJ: Made in America, which is currently favorite to win the best documentary Oscar next month.

Related: Inside Netflix’s Amanda Knox: ‘She was cast as a she-devil’

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The Yellow Birds review – Iraq war PTSD made beautiful but baffling

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 14:36:43 GMT2017-01-22T14:36:43Z

French director Alexandre Moors has a strong cast and excels at creating mood. Alas, his big reveal cannot dispel the fog of the Iraq war

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line proved that you could make a beautiful movie about war. The Yellow Birds, a Sundance premiere from French director Alexandre Moors, is the first attempt at a beautiful movie about post-traumatic stress disorder.

The most memorable parts of this Iraq war drama are those detached from the overall story. The Bible-quoting soldier pouring salt over a scorched battlefield, the decision-making when a patrol group discovers a body bomb, a pre-assault interview in which soldiers are asked if this is the most important day of their life.

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Mudbound review – a masterly, meaningful tale from America’s divided past

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 14:18:32 GMT2017-01-22T14:18:32Z

Premiered on Saturday, a day of million-woman marches, Dee Rees’s masterful film of racial divide in 1940s Mississippi says much that we all might heed

“I dreamed in brown,” Carey Mulligan’s Laura McAllan recalls in voiceover, commenting from some unknown point in time about a life on a farm in the Mississippi delta. It’s a life spent in struggle with the land, one bad crop away from hardship, only clean on Saturdays, forever sweeping death from her doorstep. “The country life,” she calls it.

It’s not just Laura whose thoughts we hear in Mudbound, Dee Rees’s masterful adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 1940s-set novel. This is a giant of a story, very much the soul of America in microcosm, and as such each of the players deserves and gets our sympathy. Well, everyone except Pappy, Laura’s racist father-in-law whose interment in a hastily dug grave bookends the story.

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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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'It's a feminist message': Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy on Their Finest - video

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:53:39 GMT2017-04-21T15:53:39Z

Historical comedy-drama Their Finest is an affectionate ode to morale-boosting British Ministry of Information films of the second world war. Gemma Arterton stars as a young copywriter who is brought in to work on a film about the Dunkirk evacuation, while Bill Nighy is a fading matinee idol hoping for one last star turn. The pair discuss the role played by women in the war effort, the timely nature of their film and the challenges of doing a Welsh accent.

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'It was a goofy mistake': Warren Beatty on the Oscars fiasco, Rules Don't Apply and Donald Trump - video

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 13:07:23 GMT2017-04-20T13:07:23Z

Veteran actor-director Beatty has made his first film since 1998 with comedy-drama Rules Don’t Apply, in which he plays reclusive movie mogul Howard Hughes. He discusses the changes he’s seen in his half-century in Hollywood, the mix-up that led him to deliver the wrong Best Picture envelope at the Academy Awards and why it’s important not to be distracted by presidential propaganda

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Watch the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi – video

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 17:46:30 GMT2017-04-14T17:46:30Z

The trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration fan event in Orlando, Florida on Friday. Episode VIII of the Star Wars saga, written and directed by Rian Johnson, follows on from 2015’s The Force Awakens

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Watch Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett in first Thor: Ragnarok trailer – video

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 00:22:06 GMT2017-04-11T00:22:06Z

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) loses his hammer and faces the Incredible Hulk in gladiatorial combat in the action-packed first look at Thor: Ragnarok. New antagonist Hela, played by Cate Blanchett makes an appearance, as does Tom Hiddleston’s mischievous Loki. Thor: Ragnarok is directed by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, best known for comedy films Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows. The film will be released in Australia on 26 October, the UK on 27 October and the US on 3 November

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Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman on Going in Style: 'People have to be taken care of' – video interview

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 11:32:26 GMT2017-04-10T11:32:26Z

The two veteran actors star alongside Alan Arkin in a caper movie set in Brooklyn, a remake of the 1979 film starring George Burns in which three retirees decide to rob a bank after they encounter financial and health problems in old age. Directed by Zach Braff, Going in Style is out now

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Comedian John Clarke dies at 68 – video obituary

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 04:40:04 GMT2017-04-10T04:40:04Z

John Clarke, the deadpan satirists best known for his long-running Australian political sketch with Bryan Dawe, has died while hiking in Victoria. Tributes to Clarke have flowed from fellow comedians and politicians. Clarke was also a well-known actor and writer in Australian and New Zealand film and television classics
• John Clarke: 10 best clips from a career of withering satire

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Alec Baldwin: 'Playing The Boss Baby is more fun than playing Trump' – video

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 12:08:44 GMT2017-04-05T12:08:44Z

Stars Alec Baldwin and Lisa Kudrow and director Tom McGrath discuss their new animated comedy, about a suit-wearing, megalomaniacal toddler who some suggest bears an uncanny likeness to a certain president of the United States

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I Am Heath Ledger trailer: 'Even as a supporting actor, he will steal the whole show' – video

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 07:12:12 GMT2017-04-05T07:12:12Z

A first look at the new documentary, scheduled for release at Tribeca film festival in April, which features never-before-seen home footage of the late actor as well as interviews with family, close friends and collaborators including the director Ang Lee and actor Ben Mendelsohn. The documentary comes before an exhibition about Ledger’s life to be held at the Western Australian Museum in October 2017

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The 'I Am Not Your Negro' episode - Token podcast

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 14:08:35 GMT2017-03-31T14:08:35Z

Leah Green and Fred McConnell are joined by Raoul Peck, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary I am Not Your Negro. They talk about the legacy of James Baldwin, white fragility and the irrelevance of #OscarsSoWhite

I am Not Your Negro will be released in UK cinemas on 7th April

The Token podcast is based on discussion and difference. We want to hear both from people who agree and who disagree with us – and from those who simply have a different perspective. So, if you want to respond to any of the questions or advice given, please get in touch. Be respectful! Leave a comment below, send us an email at token.podcast@theguardian.com or tweet @leahgreentweets, @fredmcconnell and @thetokenpod.

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An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power trailer: climate change has new villain – video

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 05:41:25 GMT2017-03-29T05:41:25Z

Former US vice president Al Gore has produced a follow-up to his award-winning 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Watch the first official trailer

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Elisabeth Moss stars in disturbing first full trailer – video

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 04:36:10 GMT2017-03-24T04:36:10Z

The brutality of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale is brought to life in a film starring Elizabeth Moss, released in the US on 26 April. Moss plays Offred, who narrates life from the dystopian totalitarian future in the country of Gilead, where women are imprisoned and forced to procreate for the ruling male elite and their infertile wives

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The Wizard of Lies trailer: see Robert de Niro in HBO’s Bernard Madoff drama – video

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 10:57:41 GMT2017-03-22T10:57:41Z

Watch the trailer for HBO’s latest TV drama The Wizard of Lies, starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. De Niro plays Bernard Madoff, the former stockbroker and fraudster as his Ponzi scheme slowly unravels around him, dragging his family into the spotlight. The Wizard of Lies premieres on HBO on 20 May

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Raw: watch a clip from the feminist cannibal horror film – video

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 14:57:50 GMT2017-03-13T14:57:50Z

Directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw is a French-Belgian horror film about a vegetarian woman who becomes a cannibal after being forced to eat raw rabbit liver during a veterinarian school initiation. It has already attracted widespread notoriety after an ambulance was called to a screening at the Toronto film festival. Raw stars Garance Marillier, and is released in the UK on 7 April

WARNING: This clip contains disturbing images

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Samuel L Jackson on casting black British actors in American roles – video

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:21:03 GMT2017-03-09T17:21:03Z

The American actor Samuel L Jackson questions the casting of black British actors in roles about US race relations during an interview with the New York radio station Hot 97. Pointing out that ‘some things are universal, but [not everything]’, Jackson says the decision to feature the British actor Daniel Kaluuya as a black man falling victim to white liberal racism in the satirical horror film Get Out made him wonder ‘what a brother from America would have made of that role’

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Jonathan Demme: 'A storyteller of bold and muscular force' | Peter Bradshaw

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:40:15 GMT2017-04-26T16:40:15Z

The Silence of the Lambs director, who has died aged 73, was an artist of brilliance and intuition as well as a master craftsman of great character dramas

The colossally talented and productive Jonathan Demme never assumed or wanted the status of an auteur, and in fact his one consciously cinephile project, The Truth About Charlie in 2002 – a remake of the 1960s caper Charade with nods to Truffaut – was not much liked. But Demme was a ceaselessly inventive and creative film-maker, a storyteller of bold and muscular force; a director who was plugged into the energies of commercial Hollywood cinema and who had imbibed the work ethic and the play ethic of his early mentor and producer Roger Corman.

From Corman he learnt the values of populism and crowd-pleasing, and simply getting movies made on an industrial basis, and he developed this ethos which he endowed with something of the indie new wave spirit, morphing into 1980s brashness. He created cult hits like Melvin and Howard, Something Wild and Married to the Mob. But his career ascended to yet greater heights with some of the biggest hits of the 1990s: prominently Philadelphia, the HIV-Aids drama starring Tom Hanks — and of course the stone-cold grand guignol classic, The Silence of the Lambs, in 1991. This was the film which got him his best director Oscar: the hugely lucrative and award-garlanded version of Thomas Harris’s macabre novel about the serial killer Hannibal the Cannibal.

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Why we should learn to stop worrying and love the blockbuster franchise

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:53:50 GMT2017-04-24T15:53:50Z

Each summer brings with it plenty of critical scorn for big-budget sequels but what can they teach us about the passage of time and the sociopolitical climate?

Summer movie season is fast approaching – or well under way depending on how you look at things. The Fate of the Furious may have set box office records, but critical consensus is the 15-year-old franchise is running out of gas (it suffers from the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score since the fourth chapter). In the coming months we’ll see sequels to 10-year-plus franchises, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers and Cars. This provides more than enough fodder for laments about how Hollywood is out of ideas.

Related: How the Fast and Furious franchise used cars to symbolize the American dream

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Hot guys wanted: Chris Evans, Tom Hardy … who's next for CBeebies Bedtime Stories?

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:25:58 GMT2017-04-24T14:25:58Z

As the BBC’s parental-respite service continues its fine tradition of giving mums something pretty to look at, we ask who can follow Captain America

Chris Evans is going to read a CBeebies Bedtime Story soon. Actual Captain America, from all three thousand Captain America films, will sit down and lull the nation’s toddlers to sleep with a sonorous reading of Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker and Eda Kaban on 10 May.

Admittedly this is probably more interesting to parents than toddlers. My two-year-old, largely speaking, doesn’t care about the box office grosses of the people reading stories to him. He’s over the moon if they happen to be softly spoken and sincere like Nadiya Hussain from the Great British Bake Off, and actively less over the moon when, say, David Hasselhoff ends up bellowing a broken assembly line of words that sound as if they’ve been phonetically translated from Esperanto on cue cards held slightly too far away to be comfortably read.

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How we made Brassed Off

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:30:21 GMT2017-04-24T14:30:21Z

‘I spent months learning the flugelhorn – and I didn’t even have to play it’

Pete Postlethwaite, who was playing my father, took me down to Grimethorpe a week before filming to talk to locals and let them know this was their story. The miners were reticent at first. Not long before, a TV crew had stitched up the town, getting kids to throw stones at derelict buildings and making it seem as if it was a regular occurrence, as if Grimethorpe had become a wild west town.

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Raw director Julia Ducournau on how to make a horror film as creepy as possible

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 23:33:53 GMT2017-04-21T23:33:53Z

The brains behind the French cannibal film that overwhelmed Toronto audiences shares her tricks for creating menacing, hair-raising body horror

Julia Ducournau’s debut feature film, Raw, made headlines at Toronto last year when a couple of horrified audience members fainted in the cinema and an ambulance had to be called. All publicity is good publicity, but the director wasn’t thrilled.

“For me, it’s really something that I could have done without,” Ducournau said in January in Paris, to tells a room full of press. Her film – which opened this week in Australia – had just screened; none of us fainted. “I saw it snowball on the internet for a week afterwards, and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about that. At one point people were talking about a movie that is not mine ... My movie’s not a shocker, it’s not a blood fest; it’s more than that.”

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Advanced Fifty Shades studies: five films to liven up our classrooms

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 06:00:11 GMT2017-04-21T06:00:11Z

20th Century Fox is offering US teachers free learning materials inspired by its Nasa-themed hit Hidden Figures. But why stop there?

Related: Should pupils watch movies in class? Discuss …

Kids love movies, and education standards need to be improved. So why not use movies as a teaching aid? It’s not rocket science. Except in this case it actually is. After unexpectedly conquering the box office with its inspiring tale of the resolute black women who helped keep Nasa in the 1960s space race, Hidden Figures is now setting its landing coordinates for the classroom.

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‘Contrived, vulgar and stupid’: Going in Style and the rise of the geriatric buddy movie

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 06:00:11 GMT2017-04-21T06:00:11Z

The OAP gangster caper is the latest example of a Hollywood staple that’s well past its sell-by date – manipulative, nauseatingly heartwarming films that invariably seem to star Michael Caine

In the predictably inert, if not explicitly vile, geriatric buddy movie Going in Style, Michael Caine plays an octogenarian prole who is about to lose his home to a heartless bank. His cashflow problems necessitate the obligatory senior tete-a-tete with the obligatory insensitive bank manager, a stock character previously seen in Saint Vincent and Drag Me to Hell. Dissatisfied with the result of their little chinwag, Caine and his fellow retirees Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin decide to rob the bank.

Going in Style was co-produced by Steven Mnuchin, a hedge-fund manager recently named secretary of the US treasury by the irrepressible Donald Trump. During the financial crisis of 2009, Mnuchin made a fortune for himself by investing in a mortgage bank that had a nasty habit of foreclosing on peoples’ homes. In fact, he invested in several of these enterprises. Anyone who thinks the Age of Irony is dead should think again.

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Apes, vampires or giant crabs: which movie apocalypse would you prefer?

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 15:10:55 GMT2017-04-19T15:10:55Z

Whether you’re hiding from Godzilla or fleeing the zombie masses, some films prove you might just be better off flinging yourself into the sea

I’ve just received a press release – it doesn’t matter what for – that has listed all the different ways the world might end, based on scenarios from films, and how people have stated they would respond. It is stupid, and now I will explain why on a scenario-by-scenario basis.

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Which Adam Sandler films to watch, and which to avoid

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 17:03:13 GMT2017-04-18T17:03:13Z

Netflix viewers have clocked up over half a billion hours watching films featuring the US comic star. Here’s a guide to the best and worst of his extensive filmography

The news that Netflix users have spent more than half a billion hours “enjoying” the films of Adam Sandler since December 2015, may come as a surprise to those who have spent just as much time studiously avoiding them. Still the former Saturday Night Live man must be doing something right, given the streaming service recently signed a deal to produce four more of his films, to add to the more-than-50 he’s already appeared in. So, where should a Sandler novice start with this hefty catalogue of gross-out comedies and yet more gross-out comedies? Here’s a condensed guide to which of his films to watch and which to run a mile from (cough - The Ridiculous 6 - cough):

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer – five things we learned

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 17:50:49 GMT2017-04-14T17:50:49Z

The first footage of Star Wars Episode VIII has just been revealed – and after poring over it, here’s what we discovered

Star Wars Celebration in Orlando has been under way for the best part of two days now, and during Friday’s special panel for new episode The Last Jedi the assembled throngs were shown the first trailer for Rian Johnson’s highly-anticipated new movie. Here are five takeaways from the two-minute teaser.

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Heavy hitters and hot tickets: Cannes 2017 is as mouthwatering as ever | Peter Bradshaw

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:27:35 GMT2017-04-13T12:27:35Z

Michael Haneke’s Happy End leads the charge for this year’s Palme d’Or, but there are tasty spectacles on the Croisette wherever you look

Related: Cannes takes on Trump with highly politicised lineup for 2017 film festival

The Cannes official selection list has been unveiled and it is a politicised lineup with a repeated thematic emphasis on the refugee crisis, designed to give the finger to the New Trump Order. The inclusion of Claude Lanzmann’s new film Napalm may be of interest to the White House press secretary Sean Spicer – horrified as he is about countries who use chemical weapons.

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An Obi-Wan-possessed Luke and the 'lost' Star Wars films you'll never see

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 11:30:03 GMT2017-04-13T11:30:03Z

As Guillermo del Toro reveals that he almost directed a Jabba the Hutt gangster movie, we look at which other films were almost part of the galaxy

Ah, what might have been. Guillermo del Toro, that most warm-hearted and genial of film-makers, was once due to direct The Hobbit, back when it was still a simple celluloid fable about a hairy homunculus and his merry band of dwarf companions, rather than a sprawling trilogy replete with unwieldy elf-dwarf romances and scary orc villains you never remembered from the book. Now it turns out the Mexican director was also once in talks to direct a Star Wars movie – and thanks to comments he made in 2015, we have a pretty good idea what it would have been about.

Related: Can Star Wars: The Last Jedi rehabilitate Yoda?

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How the Fast and Furious franchise used cars to symbolize the American dream

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 11:30:34 GMT2017-04-12T11:30:34Z

As the blockbusting franchise returns with The Fate of the Furious, what does it have to say about America’s obsession with cars?

Fast cars and Hollywood have always been a crucial part of American identity, with the former helping to shape the cool identity of the latter, adding an aspirational accessory to aspirational imagery on screen. In turn, cinema was America’s subconscious writ large; the American dream played out across multiplexes nationwide. Anyone could become anything they wanted, and their exploits were projected before the eyes of millions at 24 frames a second.

Related: The Fate of the Furious review - Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson ensure franchise still has va-va-vroom

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Sofia Coppola to Michael Haneke: the movies and directors most likely to make it to Cannes

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 06:00:27 GMT2017-04-12T06:00:27Z

Coppola, Haneke and Todd Haynes are odds-on to be showing this year, but what about Jean-Luc Godard and David Lynch? We weigh the odds on films in the running

As Sundance and Berlin recede into the distance, the next festival juggernaut is revving its engines on the horizon. The 2017 edition of Cannes is shaping up to provide its usual cocktail of white-hot star power and genuflection at the altar of art cinema. Also as usual: the manoeuvrings, offers, counter-offers and general jostling that goes into assembling the festival’s line-up, which covers the Competition, the Un Certain Regard subsection (“Worth a Look”), and Out of Competition screenings. (That’s not even counting the parallel selections for the Directors Fortnight and Critics Week line-ups, both separately organised events.)

The opening film – a much prized slot – would normally have been announced by now, but the delay suggests there may have been problems locking it down. Of course, by the time it has finished Cannes will no doubt have anointed some hitherto unheard-of directors and/or films; but it also has a tradition of standing by a select group of heavyweight auteurs whose films, should they be ready in time, are virtually guaranteed inclusion. Having scanned the international production calendar, here’s our best guess of the runners and riders for this year’s festival, which runs from 17–28 May.

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Peppa Pig: gateway drug for a new generation of cinephiles

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 06:00:21 GMT2017-04-11T06:00:21Z

The bumper Peppa Pig omnibus currently in cinemas might win over new big-screen converts – if you can get them to sit still through 25 minutes of Volkswagen adverts first

Until this morning, I had never seen a single episode of Peppa Pig. Sure, it’s on in my house all the time because I have a two-year-old, but that doesn’t mean I’ve actually seen any of it. When I’m lying on the sofa with my son and Peppa Pig is on, I’m usually looking at my phone or thinking about food or just rolling my eyes back into the top of my head and waiting for the merciful hand of death to gently escort me away from this miserable joke of a life.

But that has changed, because Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience was released today, and I have gone and seen it. With my kid. In a cinema. This meant that the place I have come to view as an exclusively childless treat would be invaded by a tiny, yelling interloper who – although I love him more than anything – was guaranteed to demonstrate a brazen disregard for traditional cinema etiquette. At midday. During the school holidays. As the kids say, FML.

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Bundles of joy: which baby movie is for you?

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:00:10 GMT2017-04-09T14:00:10Z

New animation The Boss Baby introduces a suit-wearing, dummy-sucking tyrant to our screens. Not to your taste? Worry not, there’s a baby film out there just for you

There is no such genre as the baby movie. Just because one film happens to feature an infant, it’s not automatically lumped in with every other film with a baby in it. If Netflix suggested that you watch Rosemary’s Baby on the basis that you enjoyed Look Who’s Talking Too, you’d cancel your subscription and write an angry letter.

Related: The Boss Baby: just a corny kidflick – or a subtle political satire?

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Blockbusters assemble: can the mega movie survive the digital era?

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 05:00:01 GMT2017-04-07T05:00:01Z

From Star Wars sequels to superhero franchises, blockbusters still rule the film industry. But with Amazon and Netflix tearing up the release schedules, are they on shaky ground?Is the blockbuster in trouble? On the surface, to suggest such a thing might seem as foolish as handing out the wrong envelope at the biggest event of the film calendar because you were busy tweeting pictures of Emma Stone. This is the blockbuster we’re talking about. It’s Luke Skywalker, Jurassic World, Disney, The Avengers, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Pixar. It’s the Rock punching his fist through a building. It’s the effects-driven cultural juggernaut that powers the entire film industry. Does it look as if it’s in trouble?A glance at the balance sheet for the year to date would cement the view that the blockbuster is in rude health. Total grosses are higher at this stage than any of the past five years. Logan, the Lego Batman Movie and Kong: Skull Island have all pulled in big audiences globally. And then there’s Beauty and the Beast, a true cultural phenomenon, currently racing its way up the all-time rankings. All this and there’s still a new Star Wars instalment, another Spider-Man reboot, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, plus sequels of (*deep breath*) Guardians of the Galaxy, Cars, World War Z, Kingsman, Transformers, Fast and the Furious, Planet of the Apes, Despicable Me, Thor and Pirates of the Caribbean still to come. Hardly the signs of a crisis, it would be fair to say. Continue reading...[...]


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Ghost in the Shell’s whitewashing: does Hollywood have an Asian problem?

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 06:30:48 GMT2017-03-31T06:30:48Z

From Scarlett Johansson’s heroine in the remake of the anime classic to Tilda Swinton as a Himalayan high priest in Doctor Strange, the film industry stands accused of whitewashing Asian characters and culture. Does it have a defence? As social-media marketing strategies go, Ghost in the Shell’s promotional site was a bit of an own goal. Visitors were invited to create their own personalised tweet of empowerment by uploading an image and writing a slogan starting with the words “I Am …” Suggestions included “Strong”, “A Fighter”, and “Whoever I Want To Be”.The fans had other ideas. Ghost in the Shell is a live-action Hollywood remake of one of the most successful Japanese anime movies ever. The decision to cast Scarlett Johansson as its cyborg heroine, originally named Motoko Kusanagi, has not gone down well. This was “whitewashing”, the fans complained. The role should have gone to a Japanese actor. To date, more than 100,000 of them have signed a petition saying so. They also made a mockery of the Ghost in the Shell promo site. Examples include an image of Johansson with the slogan “I Am Totally a Japanese, Yeah”, Japanese actor Rinko Kikuchi with “I Am The Woman That Should Have Been Cast” and, over an image of kids painting a picket fence white: “I Am Hollywood Making Any Movie Ever.” Continue reading...[...]


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Lost in space – why does watching modern sci-fi hurt my head?

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 07:00:49 GMT2017-03-31T07:00:49Z

As films such as Life and Arrival groan under the weight of microhydraulics, astral protozoa or the space-time continuum, swaths of the audience are being left behindSPOILER ALERT: this article contains spoilers for Life and ArrivalLast week, in an increasingly common occurrence, I went to see the same movie twice. The film was Life, which stars Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal as outer-space-based scientists who have a big problem. They are trying to prevent a malignant entity that wiped out life on Mars from entering Earth’s atmosphere, where it could really do some damage. And the malignant entity seems to have the drop on them.Life was reasonably entertaining, but that is not the reason I went to see it twice. I saw it twice because it was yet another motion picture about science, and specifically space science, that I couldn’t follow. I saw Arrival twice and I couldn’t follow it. Ditto Interstellar, Gravity, Passengers and The Martian. And don’t get me started on films such as Inception, which lay far outside my bailiwick. Continue reading...[...]


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Who should direct Donald Trump: the Movie? Step forward, Werner Herzog

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 14:14:21 GMT2017-03-30T14:14:21Z

With his yen for monomaniacal oddballs and love of an unhappy ending, the German film-maker is surely the perfect person to tackle a Trump biopicAs we inch towards day 100 of his ignoble reign, it is becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump is going to remain president of the United States for a fair while yet (bar a sudden and unlikely show of courage from Republican politicians). Which means at some point we’ll have to start thinking about those big questions around the legacy of POTUS 45. What, for example, will a Trump presidential library look like? Will it contain three books or four? Which of the faces on Mount Rushmore is Trump going to replace with his own visage? And most importantly of all, for film fans at least – who will direct Trump: The Movie?Because make no mistake, there will be a Trump movie. We’re only a few months into his presidency and already HBO have announced that a miniseries about his election win is in the works. From cable news to late-night chat shows, television has turned the Trump presidency into a licence to print money, which you have to imagine is attracting envious glances from the film industry. Surely it’s not a question of if but when – and of who should direct it. Continue reading...[...]


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All This Panic: the most relatable film about teenage girlhood ever?

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 07:30:24 GMT2017-03-26T07:30:24Z

Jenny Gage’s intimate documentary of seven Brooklyn teenagers has been praised for its honest account of growing up. We asked four British school friends to assess it‘I don’t want to age. I think that’s the scariest thing in the entire world,” says Ginger Leigh Ryan, one of the girls featured in Jenny Gage’s documentary All This Panic. Set in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Clinton Hill and directed by the former US fashion photographer, with cinematography by her husband Tom Betterton, the film follows seven teenagers – best friends Lena and Ginger, their school friends Sage, Olivia and Ivy, Ginger’s younger sister Dusty, and Dusty’s best friend Delia – over a three-year period.i-D magazine said the film “might be the most honest documentary about teenage girlhood ever”. That’s a bold claim, but there’s something to be said for the way Gage’s film articulates the emotional intensity of being a teenage girl. What makes it different from other coming-of-age films is the way it allows the girls to articulate their experiences as they occur, and in their own words. The Virgin Suicides showed teenage girls as their male classmates remembered them; Spring Breakers objectified and parodied them; films like Fat Girl, Fish Tank, Girlhood and Mustang shaped their stories around their protagonists’ particular traumas rather than their triumphs. Gage takes them seriously, and wants to hear what they have [...]


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Rotten Tomatoes: is the semi-fresh aggregation site really destroying cinema? | Peter Bradshaw

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 06:32:49 GMT2017-03-24T06:32:49Z

Producer Brett Ratner is right to address the site’s dumbing down of film criticism, but his negative review is also a case of sour grapes

Brett Ratner is right. Sort of. The director of the Rush Hour films has launched a passionate denunciation of the movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. I’m giving his attack a “semi-fresh” rating.

Ratner says: “The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. I think it’s the destruction of our business.” Well I don’t know about that, but it’s certainly hurting the art of conversing about film. Whenever someone solemnly invokes a Rotten Tomatoes score you can feel the conversation become paralysed.

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Eraserhead: the true story behind David Lynch's surreal shocker

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 07:00:28 GMT2017-03-22T07:00:28Z

Forty years on, the director’s fatherhood freakout has lost none of its horrific power

On 19 March 1977, the world changed, after which there was a long uncomfortable silence. The occasion was the first public screening of Eraserhead, the feature debut of David Lynch, at the Filmex festival in Los Angeles. It was not a hot ticket. The film arrived with little advance publicity at the only festival to accept it. The screening took place at midnight, drawing a modest crowd who dutifully watched for the next two hours (the film was then longer than the 89 minutes it became). When it ended: nothing. But no one left either. Just silence. Then, finally, applause.

Lynch was barely into his 30s, still a way off from the master surrealist with the silver quiff who created Twin Peaks. And it hadn’t yet become apparent that this was how everyone would react to Eraserhead. You wonder exactly how many people since have been left mute after their first encounter with Jack Nance and his socket-finger hair, cast as luckless new father Henry.

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