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Film | The Guardian

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

Published: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:02:40 GMT2016-12-05T15:02:40Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2016

Moonlight sweeps LA and NY film critics' awards as American Honey takes Bifas

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:43:26 GMT2016-12-05T14:43:26Z

LA and NY film critics recognise the black gay US drama while Andrea Arnold’s road movie triumphs at the British independent film awards

Two influential sets of film prizes have given boosts in the awards-season scramble to Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ poetic study of an African-American teenager’s struggle with his sexuality, and American Honey, Andrea Arnold’s freewheeling road trip following a group of magazine subscription sellers.

Moonlight was the main beneficiary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards, where it took home four, including best picture, best director for Jenkins, best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali, and best cinematography for James Laxton. This follows its success at the equivalent New York critics awards, where Jenkins, Ali and Laxton all won in the same categories (though it lost out to La La Land in the best picture category), and its strong showing at the Gotham awards, a key independent-cinema oriented ceremony.

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Five things we learned from the first trailer for The Mummy

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:32:56 GMT2016-12-05T13:32:56Z

Tom Cruise is top gun in the new Universal monsters cinematic universe, but he has a beastly side, and Russell Crowe’s Jekyll is just as shadowy

Somewhere in Bavaria, electricity crackles and dead synapses fire instantly back into life. Deep in the Amazon jungle, a loathsome gilled monstrosity emerges from the swamp and sets out on its reign of carnage. In rural England, a hideously bandaged man tries to hide from sight in the remote countryside.

Universal’s classic monsters are all returning to the big screen, and this time they will all be part of a single Marvel-style shared universe – with stars such as Johnny Depp (The Invisible Man), Tom Cruise (The Mummy) and Javier Bardem (Frankenstein) lined up to get their freak on. Here’s what we learned about the studio’s plans from the first trailer for the debut instalment, The Mummy.

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Why Sean Penn has a soft spot for Castro, Chávez ... and Madonna

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:50:33 GMT2016-12-05T13:50:33Z

The actor, activist and friend of revolutionaries bid $150,000 at a charity event last week to remarry his old flame – proof that 80s revivalism has gone too far

Name: Sean Penn.

Age: 56.

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Last Tango scandal shows toxic extent of male power in the film industry | Peter Bradshaw

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 16:21:56 GMT2016-12-04T16:21:56Z

Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci’s prioritisation of cinema over human feelings is the tip of the iceberg in industry that has seen abuse go unchallenged for decades

My female friends and colleagues, online and off, have been bleakly unimpressed this weekend by a recent display of bland and worldly impenitence from Bernardo Bertolucci about how he created the “butter” scene in the 1972 film Last Tango in Paris, starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. But they are still more unimpressed about the resulting liberal horror, as if this was a bizarre and scandalous one-off, and not simply yet another detail in the colossal architecture of male power in the movies and everywhere else.

Hollywood’s Captain America star Chris Evans tweeted: “This is beyond disgusting. I feel rage.” Jessica Chastain tweeted: “To all the people that love this film - you’re watching a 19-year-old get raped by a 48-year-old man. The director planned her attack. I feel sick.”

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The difficult delivery of Nate Parker's The Birth Of A Nation

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:59:19 GMT2016-12-05T08:59:19Z

This account of 19th century slave rebel Nat Turner has been plagued by changing attitudes towards its creator - but does the film itself stand up to scrutiny?

Related: Nate Parker: director with a back story | Observer profile

As with its notorious, KKK-celebrating 1915 namesake, the history of Nate Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation is almost more interesting than the movie itself. Written and directed by Parker, and starring him as the 1831 slave-rebellion leader Nat Turner, it was feted at Sundance, and subject of an intense bidding-war. A movie many felt was needed in the post-Ferguson Black Lives Matter cultural moment, it was consequently overrated by a hungry audience, reflecting the hopes and desires of the viewer more than the real qualities of the movie.

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Mark Kermode: best films of 2016

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 07:00:07 GMT2016-12-04T07:00:07Z

A journey into blindness, strange magic from Japan, and an Iranian spine-tingler are among the year’s must-sees

• Observer critics’ reviews of the year in full

Every year we hear the same horror story; that cinema is overrun by formulaic franchise fodder, with nothing but superheroes and sequels on display. Yet turn your attention away from the monotony of the multiplexes, where the dreary Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the disappointing Suicide Squad may rule the roost, and the picture is quite different. At independent cinemas around the UK, we are constantly reminded of the stunning breadth and scope of modern movies, thanks to films such as Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s electrifying Notes on Blindness, an exceptional sensory experience, based on the audiotape memoirs of theologian John M Hull.

Notes on Blindness was just one of several superb homemade indie pics released in the UK this year. Other admirable oddities included Stephen Fingleton’s stripped-down Northern Ireland thriller The Survivalist; Joe Stephenson’s Kes-like Chicken; and Jane Gull’s My Feral Heart, with its brilliant central performance by newcomer Steven Brandon.

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Full stream ahead? The brave new world of cinemagoing

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 21:00:32 GMT2016-12-03T21:00:32Z

The 21st century has seen a revolution in how we consume cinema, from streaming a movie the day it’s released to forking out for a plush boutique experience. How did we get here – and how do we navigate the new landscape?

On a recent visit to a Curzon cinema in London I sat (lay, really) on a steeply pitched chair that had been upholstered in red fur. Outside in the lobby, the snacks for sale included prosecco-laced ice lollies and popcorn flavoured with specific French cheeses; I chose a wedge of iced sponge cake that was on display under a cloche. Inside the screening room, I wasn’t the only one clacking tableware while we waited for the feature – Woody Allen’s Café Society – to start.

A pre-film advert played, promoting the Curzon’s app. Audiences were advised that, next time, they could simply stay at home and use their phones to stream selected newly released films direct to their TVs. Café Society had a 1930s setting, a jazz soundtrack, Allen’s usual Windsor font in the credits. But the preamble to it had been powerfully, pungently modern, illustrating the lavishing-up of many cinemas and the spread of home-streaming services, developments that have come to characterise movie‑watching in 2016.

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Tim Roth: my father and I were abused by my grandfather

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:05:43 GMT2016-12-05T11:05:43Z

The Rillington Place and Reservoir Dogs actor has spoken about the abuse he and his father suffered as children

Tim Roth, the acclaimed British actor who rose to global fame with roles in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, has said that both he and his father were abused by his grandfather.

Roth, who has previously spoken of his own abuse, has not before said who his abuser was, nor that his father was similarly abused.

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Aacta awards 2016: Hacksaw Ridge and Rake win early screen honours

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:11:51 GMT2016-12-05T08:11:51Z

More than 30 category winners are announced in the lead-up to Wednesday night’s main Australian film and TV event

Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge has already taken out four categories of Australia’s largest screen awards, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards.

An “industry luncheon” was held on Monday ahead of the main ceremony on Wednesday, which will be broadcast on Channel Seven.

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Moana tames Fantastic Beasts while Arrival comes in third at US box office

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 18:39:29 GMT2016-12-04T18:39:29Z

Disney animated film takes $28.4m in its second weekend in theaters, while Harry Potter spinoff, in its third week, brings in $18.5m

Audiences came back for a second helping of Moana and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them this weekend, as the family-friendly films topped the post-Thanksgiving box office charts. Moana brought in $28.4m and Fantastic Beasts earned $18.5m, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

Related: Moana review – sail of the century from Disney

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Actors voice disgust over Last Tango in Paris rape scene confession

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 17:38:26 GMT2016-12-04T17:38:26Z

Film’s director Bernardo Bertolucci faces backlash over his admission that scene was shot without consent of the actor involved

The film industry has reacted with disgust at the admission from a director that one of the most notorious rape scenes in modern film history was shot without prior consent from the actor involved.

Bernardo Bertolucci was facing a backlash on Sunday from actors including Jessica Chastain, Anna Kendrick and Chris Evans after a newly surfaced video clip showed him confessing that he did not consult Maria Schneider about some elements of the infamous rape scene in Last Tango in Paris so as to make her reaction appear more authentic.

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Last Tango in Paris director suggests Maria Schneider 'butter rape' scene not consensual

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 02:08:14 GMT2016-12-04T02:08:14Z

Bernardo Bertolucci sparks outrage after 2013 interview surfaces in which he says he ‘wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress’

Comments by the director of the film Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci, that he conspired with Marlon Brando to film a graphic rape scene without the consent of 19-year-old actor Maria Schneider have prompted outrage in Hollywood.

Speaking in a video from 2013 that surfaced recently, Bertolucci said he and Brando came up with the idea to shoot the infamous scene depicting assault, in which Brando’s character uses a stick of butter to anally rape his lover, played by Schneider.

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Andrea Bocelli’s battle with blindness inspires big-screen story

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 00:04:02 GMT2016-12-04T00:04:02Z

Il Postino director Michael Radford’s film of the life of the famous tenor will explore the relationship between loss of sight and hearing

He is the golden-voiced Italian tenor who overcame blindness and other extreme obstacles to find success on the world stage, selling more than 80 million albums. Now Andrea Bocelli, 58, has inspired one of Britain’s leading film directors to tell his extraordinary story on the big screen. The singer has asked only that his blindness not be portrayed as a disability.

The Music of Silence is being shot by Michael Radford, whose previous films include the critically acclaimed Il Postino – for which he received an Oscar nomination – and a version of The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino.

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Amy Schumer set for title role in Barbie movie

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 11:21:14 GMT2016-12-03T11:21:14Z

Comedy star in late-stage talks to rewrite and then take lead in big-screen debut for Mattel’s iconic doll

The Barbie movie has unveiled what might appear to be an unlikely star. Amy Schumer, the standup comedian known for her frank discussions of casual sex and politics, and who found big-screen success with the bawdy comedy Trainwreck, is lined up for the lead in Mattel’s debut movie outing for its ambitiously proportioned plastic bestseller.

The film, to be released in summer 2018, is an Enchanted-style mix of animation and live action which sees Schumer evicted from Barbieland for eccentricities.

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Rogue One: could Disney want to cap the success of Star Wars spin-off?

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:02:08 GMT2016-12-02T17:02:08Z

Rogue One is poised to top the box office around the world. But it may not be in Disney’s long-term interests for the film to be too profitable or interesting

With a fortnight still to go before its release, Rogue One is nonetheless set to be 2016’s highest-grossing film. The first “anthology” movie in the Star Wars franchise, it is set in roughly the same universe as episodes one to seven, but features none of the familiar characters. Its cast is more credible than A-list: Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna. Likewise, its British director, Gareth Edwards.

Yet such is the strength of George Lucas’s space saga brand, acquired by Disney for $4.05bn in 2012, that earlier this week, Rogue One broke presale ticket records for the year. Pundits predict a final global total of $1.4bn.

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French film board again under fire after Sausage Party rated 12

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 18:48:17 GMT2016-12-01T18:48:17Z

Catholic and right-wing bodies decry move enabling pre-teens to see foul-mouthed Seth Rogen cartoon featuring a foodstuffs orgy scene

The CNC, France’s film certification board, has come under renewed pressure to review its practices by conservative organisations angry at what they perceive as an overlenient rating given to a Hollywood cartoon.

Sausage Party, written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is an animated fable about the delusion of religion in a godless universe. Set in an American supermarket, its characters are horny and often blasphemous foodstuffs who at one point engage in a mass sex party.

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The 50 best US films of 2016: 50-10

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

A countdown of the Guardian film team’s favourite movies released in the US this year. We’ll be revealing the top 10 each weekday from 5 December

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


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Allied review – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard fail to find Blitz spirit

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 08:01:00 GMT2016-11-21T08:01:00Z

Robert Zemeckis lacks his usual fizz in this tourist visit to a heritage-wartime past, in which Pitt and Cotillard look and act like strangers

A lot of prerelease gossip has attended this plonkingly slow and clonkingly laborious wartime thriller starring Brad Pitt as dashing Canadian airman Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard as Marianne Beausejour, the lissom French spy with whom he falls in love. As Pitt’s marriage collapsed in the real world, social media buzzed impertinently about the Allied stars’ relationship. But in this film, there is no chemistry, no romantic fusion, no Bradion, no Mariobrad. Their screen passion bursts forth like a cold wet teabag falling out of a mug that you have upended over the kitchen sink and don’t much feel like washing up. Their rapport fizzes like a quarter-inch of bin juice left after you have taken the rubbish out.

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Moana review – Disney's Polynesian princess movie can't help itself

Mon, 07 Nov 2016 16:00:49 GMT2016-11-07T16:00:49Z

Culturally accurate and with a pleasing ‘know who you are’ message, this South Pacific adventure tale nevertheless settles into empowerment cliches

Disney animations never have it easy. They have been accused of ethnic stereotyping and of having a white-centric worldview. But when they attempt to embrace other cultures, the studio is told off for appropriation. The latest entry, Moana, which is inspired by Polynesian mythology and culture, has attracted criticism for depicting Pacific islanders as stereotypically overweight, and for selling a padded, tattooed bodysuit as a child’s Halloween costume (which the studio hastily withdrew). Credit to Disney for even wading into these hazardous waters, then. And this seafaring adventure appears to take great pains to get it right, from the textile designs to the dance movements, the coconut-based crafts to the lovingly rendered turquoise seas.

But there are other traditions Disney animations must respect. As one character says of our heroine: “You’re in a dress and you’ve got an animal sidekick: you’re a princess.” Despite Moana’s denials, this is a Disney princess movie, which means it has certain royal obligations to fulfil: a role-model heroine, a magical quest, a wholesome message, a merchandisable animal sidekick (in this case, a supremely dumb chicken) and musical numbers that will pass the playground test. (Some of them do: Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda had a hand in the songwriting and the earwormy How Far I’ll Go is this year’s Let It Go).

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Rules Don't Apply review – Warren Beatty as Howard Hughes: a strangely compelling vanity project

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 05:35:13 GMT2016-11-11T05:35:13Z

The legend’s odd and energetic film is a mix of fun, sadness and fatigue, and while not everything falls into place, it has its share of entertainment

Imagine a monomaniacal businessman who inherited loads of cash from his father, treats women like property and races around with no master plan, barking kooky sentence fragments. At first it’s funny and then it gets sad and then it gets tiresome.

No, I’m not talking about the president-elect of the United States. I’m talking about Howard Hughes as portrayed by Warren Beatty in Rules Don’t Apply.

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Bad Santa 2 review – same old dirty tricks

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 22:30:45 GMT2016-11-24T22:30:45Z

Billy Bob Thornton returns in a belated sequel that wrings occasional snickers from a patchy script

Related: Never mind the baubles: why the best Christmas films are darker than December

This tardy-to-needless sequel to 2003’s unusually scabrous studio comedy plays the same dirty tricks with only negligible variations: rather than shopping malls, incorrigible wash-up Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) and his diminutive sidekick (Tony Cox) are reteamed to rip off a Chicago homeless charity. If confronting Willie with mother-from-hell Kathy Bates was one smart creative decision, nothing else – not the jokes about Cox’s size, not charity supervisor Christina Hendricks’ susceptibility to Willie’s dubious charms, nor the ensuing alleyway pumping – catches us by surprise this time. Likable Mean Girls pro Mark Waters wrings occasional snickers from a patchy script, but the whole feels tamely conventional: misanthropy passed through the usual Hollywood motions.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them review – JK Rowling goes steampunk

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 02:30:06 GMT2016-11-13T02:30:06Z

The latest film from Harry Potter author Rowling’s wizarding world is a wonderfully enjoyable adventure featuring Eddie Redmayne as a “magizoologist” who stumbles into a dark magic adventure in New York

We’ve never needed cheering up more; though on the strictly escapist level, this film is maybe compromised by making one of its characters an obnoxious rich New York chump, a charmless lump, or do I mean grump, reliant on his father’s money and nursing political ambitions. “He’s been mentioned as a future president,” says someone. Surely not...

That entertainment enchanter JK Rowling has come storming back to the world of magic in a shower of supernatural sparks - and created a glorious fantasy-romance adventure, all about the wizards of prohibition-era America and the diffident wizarding Brit who causes chaos in their midst with a bagful of exotic creatures. It’s a lovely performance from Eddie Redmayne who is a pretty fantastic beast himself. There’s a moment when he has to “whisper” an errant animal into submission and his contortions would put Andy Serkis to shame.

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Bleed for This review – Miles Teller boxing biopic is flattened by cliche

Sat, 03 Sep 2016 00:15:16 GMT2016-09-03T00:15:16Z

The story of Vinny Paz, who broke his neck and still got back in the ring, is sensational. But this boring, miscast film, screening at Telluride, fails to connect

Everyone has a boxing film in them. But Miles Teller already did his. An ambitious talent driven to breakdown by his coach; a rise, a fall and a rise again: it hardly mattered that jazz drumming was Whiplash’s game. It was a better boxing drama, a better sports drama, a better film, than Bleed for This, a biopic of Rhode Island fighter Vinny Paz that goes toe-to-toe with genre cliche and ends up on the canvas.

Teller plays “the Pazmanian Devil”, a real-life boxing champ who, after breaking his neck in a car crash, defied doctors’ advice and got back in the ring. Aaron Eckhart is Kevin Rooney, the booze-beaten coach who still has enough fight in him to help the champ back to greatness. Also in Paz’s corner, his dad Angelo (played with vowel-gobbling voracity by a terribly miscast Ciarán Hinds) and his worried mum (Katey Sagal), clutching her rosary while Paz bounces back from another beating.

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The Eyes of My Mother review – squelchy, silly revenge horror

Thu, 28 Jan 2016 23:26:25 GMT2016-01-28T23:26:25Z

Almodóvar meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – but without the finesse – in this out-to-lunch black-and-white horror

Unexpected tales of macabre violence and intrigue in a rural American setting are nothing new. The innocent-looking house or barn harbouring horror and gore is as much a part of US film-making as the romcom. But it’s possible the trope has never seemed as weird as this. Director Nicolas Pesce’s tale about a country-dwelling family strikes an uncomfortable note from the first scene.

A stranger (Will Brill) approaches the idyllic home of an American-Portuguese family, and once he’s managed to worm his way into the house he kills the family’s matriarch in the bath tub. From there things develop into something that sits between Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as the father returns to seek vengeance, finally deciding to chain the attacker up in their barn.

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

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

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

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

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

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Nocturnal Animals review – Tom Ford's deliciously toxic tale of revenge

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 12:00:48 GMT2016-11-03T12:00:48Z

Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams star in the gripping story of a broken-hearted ex-husband who wreaks vengeance decades later with his unpublished novel

Nocturnal Animals delivers a double shot of horror and Nabokovian despair: it’s excessive, outrageous, a story within a story about the super-rich and super-poor. Director Tom Ford has adapted Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan, magnifying its cruelties and ironies, and bringing to it a sheen of hardcore porn and pure provocation.

This movie had its premiere at Venice earlier this year, and it was every bit as horribly gripping and intimately upsetting this second time around. But now I was struck by its emphasis on the writer’s brooding, solitary life: the writer for whom autobiographical fiction is therapy and revenge. Watching this film, I found myself wondering how Evelyn Waugh’s first wife felt when she received her copy of A Handful of Dust, and realised exactly how the author felt about her.

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A Street Cat Named Bob review – so much kitty litter

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 22:00:00 GMT2016-11-03T22:00:00Z

James Bowen attributes his survival to an alley cat but as viewers we need more of his story than endless closeups of a nethers-licking feline

More meme than movie, this cut-price rendering of James Bowen’s bestselling memoirs sees homeless busker Luke Treadaway’s plight positioned a distant second behind the ginger tom who reportedly hastened Bowen’s return from the margins. Truly spoilt, Bob is afforded more closeups than Garbo at her peak, a jolly Routemaster excursion, even deeply silly cat’s-eye POV shots that distract from the generally featherheaded depiction of life below the poverty line. Longshots, however, reveal our feline hero would rather lick his nethers or ponder running into traffic than endure any more of Treadaway’s acoustic guitar stylings. Perhaps Ken Loach should have popped an otter in Daniel Blake’s pocket for luck.

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Bastille Day review – Idris Elba takes down the terrorists

Thu, 21 Apr 2016 21:45:10 GMT2016-04-21T21:45:10Z

Richard Madden plays a hapless pickpocket and Elba a macho CIA agent in this competent popcorn-flavoured thriller

Related: Robert Downey Jr is back for Sherlock 3 and Spider-Man, and Bastille Day reviewed – the Dailies film podcast

With a rooftop chase scene as good as anything in Bourne, Bastille Day is a serviceably brash thriller. It’s a bit silly maybe, with a plot that requires you to overlook the implausibility of a certain smartphone with no passcode protection. But there is a nifty premise. In modern-day Paris, a young American pickpocket called Michael (played by Richard Madden, from Game of Thrones) is mingling discreetly with the tourists and stealing their wallets and watches; things are going well for him until he pinches a bag belonging to a beautiful and upset-looking young woman called Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon). The bag contains a ticking bomb, because Zoe is a terrorists’ accomplice who had just lost her nerve and was about to throw it in the Seine – and it’s going to go off any minute! What happens next brings into play an outrageously macho CIA agent called Briar, played by Idris Elba, who has to tackle the terrorists and foil a sinister conspiracy. Director James Watkins gave us the nerve-mangling ordeal thriller Eden Lake in 2008, starring Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly (who appears in this film too, as Briar’s boss); his work here is more conventional with more of a popcorn flavour, but none the worse for that. And that rooftop sequence really is good.

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Arrival review – Amy Adams has a sublime word with alien visitors

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 15:30:15 GMT2016-11-10T15:30:15Z

Denis Villeneuve’s thrilling sci-fi epic, in which a linguistics expert is called on to speak for the human race, is daring, clever and touched with skin-crawling strangeness

Arthur C Clarke famously said there are just two possibilities: that we are alone in the universe, or we aren’t, and both are equally terrifying. The first terror is harder to put on film, but director Denis Villeneuve brings the second to life with this freaky and audacious contact sci-fi – and makes it something other than terror. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer has adapted the novella Story of Your Life by the SF author Ted Chiang; he brings to it a Shyamalanesque lilt, and cleverly finesses the inevitable problem of how to end this kind of story: whether there is going to be any kind of departure. The movie skirts the edge of absurdity as anything like this must, but a forthright star performance from Amy Adams convinces you that something that could be silly is actually fascinating and deeply scary. This is a close encounter of the engrossing kind: smarter and more dreamily exalting than recent, disappointing movies such as Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.

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

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

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

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

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

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Elle review: Paul Verhoeven's brazen rape revenge comedy is a dangerous delight

Sat, 21 May 2016 11:06:11 GMT2016-05-21T11:06:11Z

Isabelle Huppert delivers a standout performance as a woman turning the tables on her attacker in the controversial director’s electrifying and provocative comeback

Turn off the lights and let the horror begin. Paul Verhoeven’s new film, Elle, is an outrageous black comedy, volatile and deadly; a film that opens up with a sexual assault and then cleans off the blood ahead of a posh restaurant dinner. “I suppose I was raped,” Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) casually remarks to her friends, just as the waiter swoops in with a magnum of champagne. A guest at the table flicks a nervous glance at the bottle. He says, “Maybe wait a few minutes before popping that.”

Likewise one perhaps needs to pause before trumpeting Elle as one of the best pictures in this year’s Cannes competition, if only because its implications are so problematic they require more time to be processed. But there’s no denying that, in the moment at least, the film is utterly gripping and endlessly disturbing. In carving a hazardous path through hackneyed genre territory, Elle never flags, barely stumbles. Verhoeven, I fear, is pointing his film straight to Hell. He brazenly dares us to stick with him for the ride.

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National Bird review – chilling film reveals truths about drones

Sun, 17 Apr 2016 21:06:37 GMT2016-04-17T21:06:37Z

Using the testimony of three courageous whistleblowers who worked on the US drone programme, this documentary uncovers some disturbing truths about modern American warfare

This is a disturbing documentary which, through the testimonies of three courageous whistleblowers, sheds some daylight on the USA’s secret military drone programme. Directed by Sonia Kennebeck and executive-produced by Wim Wenders, National Bird weaves together the stories of the air force veterans Lisa, Daniel and Heather, all of whom have worked on the drones programme, gathering intelligence and tracking targets to be killed.

Then National Bird moves to Afghanistan, where the maimed survivors of a mistaken drone strike on unarmed civilians in February 2010, which killed 23 people, describe what happened when they were attacked. The juxtaposition of the appallingly gung-ho attitude of the drone operatives, re-enacted from a transcript of the event, and raw footage of the dead bodies (some children) returning to their anguished friends and family, is heartbreaking and enraging.

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Doctor Strange review – Benedict Cumberbatch relishes an eyepoppingly freaky extravaganza

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 12:57:18 GMT2016-10-24T12:57:18Z

Marvel’s latest yarn features the Sherlock star as a surgeon who battles evil with the help of martial arts, knuckle dusters and a mysterious ancient guru

Like his near-namesake Strangelove, this is a character in touch with vast elemental powers – and who also makes a miraculous recovery from apparently irreversible disability. Doctor Strange, the newest Marvel superhero, stars in a movie that, perhaps due to misalignments in the multiverse’s space-time parameters, comes too late to be the summer smash of 2016. This exotic action-adventure is very entertaining nonetheless: an eye-poppingly freaky extravaganza with city-folding moments of surreality comparable to Christopher Nolan’s Inception; yet it wears its digital accomplishment a bit more lightly. Marvel supremo Stan Lee is to be glimpsed making a cameo on a city bus, chuckling over a copy of Huxley’s Doors of Perception – the closest the film comes to advocating illegal drug use.

Related: Benedict Cumberbatch webchat – post your questions now

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Hacksaw Ridge review – Mel Gibson finds a conscience in gruesome war story

Sun, 04 Sep 2016 10:20:46 GMT2016-09-04T10:20:46Z

Andrew Garfield stars as decorated conscientious objector Desmond Doss in Gibson’s highly effective shot at a major directorial comeback

As a machine-tooled vehicle for Mel Gibson’s directorial comeback, Hacksaw Ridge couldn’t be more perfect. A study of a second world war conscientious objector who demonstrated extreme bravery under enemy fire (and won the Medal of Honor), the film allows Gibson to identify himself with a tough guy of considerable moral virtue, someone who has gone through through their own modern Calvary, taken the punishment, and come through the other side relatively unscathed. And the foundation for all this? An unswerving commitment to a little-understood corner of the Christian faith (in this case, Seventh Day Adventism), which triggers – in order – bafflement, ridicule, and finally respect.

That, presumably, is how Gibson see his own journey, which began its descent after the volley of abuse he aimed at cops in 2006 after being stopped for drink driving. That year saw the release of Apocalypto, his Mayan-language thriller; it’s taken him a decade of public humiliation, frequent apologies, and occasional forays as an actor, to get to the position where he can release another film he’s directed. And as repellent a figure as many may still find Gibson, I have to report he’s absolutely hit Hacksaw Ridge out of the park.

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Loving review: civil rights tale marries heartfelt drama with too much restraint

Mon, 16 May 2016 10:46:39 GMT2016-05-16T10:46:39Z

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga bring strength to a true story of an unlawful interracial marriage in 50s America that is earnest but underpowered

Here is a film with its heart in the right place, an anatomical correctness coexisting with heartfelt, forthright conviction and an admirable belief in the virtue of simplicity and underplaying. Nobody mentions the wonderful serendipity of the characters’ surnames. But this restraint sometimes sags into a kind of absence, and means the film itself is a bit rhetorically underpowered.

Related: When it comes to interracial romances, the movies need to catch up

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Trolls review – multicoloured collectables overcome in children's sleepover fare

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 21:45:12 GMT2016-10-20T21:45:12Z

Perky troll Poppy enlists the help of misery Branch to help her find tufty-haired happy in a glaringly bright kids’ cartoon with songs

It’s not a brutally explicit documentary about internet abuse, and oddly, there are no contemporary jokes at all on that subject. The trolls in this family animation are simply the perky-faced, tufty-haired little critters that small kids might collect in their bedroom: and I suspect that this film is targeted at the home-entertainment 10-year-old-sleepover market. It’s a DreamWorks production that is set in a vivid multicoloured world; the colour-scheme does look in fact as if it has been branded to fit with the DreamWorks balloon logo.

Related: Trolls review – a candy-coloured return for the famed ugly-lovable creatures

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The Eagle Huntress review – Kazakh falconry was never so family-friendly

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 09:34:15 GMT2016-09-08T09:34:15Z

A rite-of-passage movie about a girl’s dreams of being the first female to enter the Golden Eagle competition is pleasantly feelgood, plus it’s narrated by Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley

OK, I’ll come clean: I didn’t know that much about the nomad Kazakh minority living in Mongolia before I saw this documentary. Their facial features are east Asian, their writing is Cyrillic and their language is peppered with the inshallahs of other Muslims. The snowy, rocky terrain of the Altai mountains is gorgeous and inviting, but also treacherous. Most fascinating is their working relationship with the magnificent golden eagles of the region. Captured at just the right moment of growth – old enough to fly, but still young enough to get yanked from a nest – they are trained to aid in foxhunting, but only for seven years, before they are returned to the wild. It is a noble tradition, but, as with traditions of many cultures, certain aspects of it can use a rethink.

Enter Aisholpan, a rosy-cheeked, exuberant 13-year-old daughter of an eagle hunter with a natural propensity to follow in her father’s footsteps. Despite some allowances for modernity (solar panels on their yurts), there are certain things the elders will not allow. Girls cannot eagle-hunt.

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Peter and the Farm review – tragicomic portrait of farmer at wits' end

Fri, 04 Mar 2016 18:04:12 GMT2016-03-04T18:04:12Z

Tony Stone’s debut documentary is an intensely involving character study profiling a rugged Vermont farmer with self-destructive tendencies

Documentary portraits live or die on the subject at hand – and in his debut documentary Peter and the Farm, film-maker Tony Stone has a hell of a character to keep you engaged.

Peter Dunning is the Vermont farmer of the title: a rugged, hard drinking and foul-mouthed loner. His only friends seem to be his animals – whom he slaughters.

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Inferno review – like being lectured on Dante at gunpoint

Sun, 16 Oct 2016 07:00:28 GMT2016-10-16T07:00:28Z

The third of Ron Howard’s Dan Brown capers adds nothing to a woeful franchise

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks reunite once more to follow the impossibly overwrought exploits of Harvard professor of symbology and art history, Robert Langdon. The third film to be based on Dan Brown’s series of thrillers is clumsily executed, preposterously plotted and powered by a score that appears to be in the grip of some kind of nervous breakdown. Which is to say, business as usual.

Related: Tom Hanks: political ignorance is the greatest threat to humanity

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Supersonic review – Oasis pop history lesson ignores battles

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 08:00:09 GMT2016-10-02T08:00:09Z

The excitement of Noel and Liam Gallagher’s rapid rise to pop stardom is well captured in Mat Whitecross’s documentary, but it is disappointingly coy on the band’s decline and breakup

Here is a watchable, intimate but oddly truncated history of Oasis, directed by Mat Whitecross, who gave us the recent Madchester drama Spike Island and the excellent Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. Noel Gallagher is the film’s executive producer, and it should probably be entitled Oasis: The Golden Years, because it ends with the band’s colossal concert at Knebworth in 1996, almost implying they went up in a blaze of glory after that.

We don’t hear about the Cool Britannia tussle with Blur, or Noel’s strikingly explicit endorsement of Tony Blair and New Labour (“There are seven people in here who are givin’ hope to the young people of this country. Me, our kid, Guigsy, Bonehead, Alan White, Alan McGee ... and Tony Blair”); nor the long decline into acrimony after that.

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Moonlight review – devastating drama is vital portrait of black gay masculinity in America

Sat, 03 Sep 2016 15:29:19 GMT2016-09-03T15:29:19Z

Writer/director Barry Jenkins’ bold and uniquely told film about the struggle to accept one’s own sexuality is both heartbreaking and deeply relevant

It’s been a particularly horrifying year for minority groups in America. The increasingly documented inhumanity towards African American men by police and the brutal act of homophobia that took mostly Hispanic lives at a gay club in Orlando have awakened many to the bleak knowledge that progress is stalling and instead, regressive views on race and sexuality are still dangerously pervasive.

Related: Bleed for This review – Miles Teller boxing biopic is flattened by cliche

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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back review – pecs, punchups and popcorn galore

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 13:00:08 GMT2016-10-19T13:00:08Z

Tom Cruise rattles through every trope in the book as the vigilante ex-soldier, this time fleeing corrupt bosses in a high-octane sequel that revels in its absurdity

Tom Cruise is back in the role of Jack Reacher, badass military cop turned maverick civilian engaged in freelance pro bono asskicking. He is suffused with pimpernel mystery. At the end of an adventure, Reacher will stick his thumb out and hitchhike his way into the night. (At the end of Pulp Fiction, John Travolta is derisive about Samuel L Jackson’s ambition to “walk the earth” like Caine from the TV show Kung Fu on the grounds that he would just be a bum. But maybe he would be like Jack Reacher.)

This is the second in Tom Cruise’s silly, entertaining Reacher franchise, and I was hoping he would marry a woman called Round and go for the double-barrelled surname. Instead, he monkishly refrains from sex but does pull a classic Cruise/Reacher move: semi-undressing in a motel room after a punchup, disclosing pecs which fall impressively on the right side of the moob borderline. An attractive woman also partially disrobes, flaunting a workaday bra strap.

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The Handmaiden review – Park Chan-wook's lurid lesbian potboiler simmers with sexual tension

Sat, 14 May 2016 13:25:04 GMT2016-05-14T13:25:04Z

The acclaimed Korean film-maker’s latest is an erotic thriller that prioritises female sexuality, and exquisite set design, to intoxicating effect

It was inaccurately thought by some, who had clearly never read a single sentence of the source novel, that Sam Taylor Johnson’s glossy adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey would be a seminal Hollywood moment for female sexuality. Hopes that it would be “bravely” thrusted to the forefront were quickly dashed, whipped and spanked once it was predictably revealed to be a film about, duh, male control.

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

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Ouija: Origin of Evil review – prequel keeps spirits high with schlocky scares

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 09:12:31 GMT2016-10-18T09:12:31Z

Mike Flanagan’s film is essentially a branding exercise and its setup formulaic, but the director injects plenty of fun into this story of supernatural possession

Ouija, 2014’s rapidly forgotten exercise in crash-bang-wallop horror, was chiefly notable as a business proposition, born of a deal struck between Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes outfit and boardgame nabobs Hasbro to convert the latter’s products into movies. Still, it was cheap enough to turn a profit on wide release – $103m (£84m) on a $5m budget – and so, this Halloween, we’re offered a prequel that claims to fill in some of the devil board’s backstory. “The spirit world is unpredictable,” its phoney occultist heroine Madame Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) informs us. The movie business, as we know very well, is not.

For all that, Origin of Evil – directed by Mike Flanagan, the emergent talent behind 2011’s unsettling Absentia – does just enough to climb over the low bar of expectation. Granted, there’s nothing new about its premise – fake psychic learns a lesson about messing with the dark side – and Flanagan has to resort to a 1960s milieu, all kinky boots and intermittent “groovy”s, to distinguish his film from the 1970s-set Conjuring series.

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

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

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

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

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

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In a Valley of Violence review: Hawke underplays in tongue-in-cheek western

Sun, 13 Mar 2016 12:22:09 GMT2016-03-13T12:22:09Z

Indie horror auteur Ti West takes a stab at the western genre in his most high-profile project to date with strong results

Since gaining recognition for 2009’s The House of the Devil, an effortlessly cool horror that harked back to the best genre efforts of the 80s, film-maker Ti West has stuck to his calling card.

Related: Everybody Wants Some!! review: Richard Linklater's new college comedy is infectious fun

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King Cobra review: James Franco at his lurid best in gay porn shocker

Fri, 22 Apr 2016 18:22:00 GMT2016-04-22T18:22:00Z

The actor gives his most unhinged performance since Spring Breakers in Justin Kelly’s compelling film detailing the rise of porn star Brent Corrigan

As an actor, James Franco has two modes: committed and can’t-be-bothered. His bold work in Spring Breakers, 127 Hours and Pineapple Express falls into the first category; Oz the Great and Powerful and Werner Herzog’s misbegotten Queen of the Desert meanwhile feature Franco at his most lifeless. Luckily for film-maker Justin Kelly, Franco is at his brazen best in the dark gay porn saga King Cobra.

The film reunites the star with the director of I Am Michael for another gay-themed narrative based on real events. That, however, is where the similarities end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christine review: Rebecca Hall astonishes in real-life horror story

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 19:57:04 GMT2016-01-24T19:57:04Z

Actor gives the performance of her career in Antonio Campos’s eerie study of a news anchor who achieved notoriety in the 70s for killing herself on live TV

Hollywood has never seemed to know quite what to do with Rebecca Hall. The stunning British actor came to the industry’s attention with a scene-stealing turn in Christopher Nolan’s magician thriller The Prestige, shortly followed by a juicy role in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But since her arrival, Hall has largely languished with supporting roles in films that in no way prepare you for the breadth she displays in director Antonio Campos’s tragic character study, Christine.

Hall completely immerses herself in the role of Christine Chubbuck in Campos’s stark retelling of the story that led to the television news reporter’s suicide live on air, aged 29, in 1974. It’s one of two films on the subject at Sundance this year – the other is the documentary Kate Plays Christine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Amanda Knox review – slick documentary excels with unprecedented access

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

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

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

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

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Brain on Fire review: Chloë Grace Moretz fails to ignite disease-of-the-week drama

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 09:00:43 GMT2016-09-15T09:00:43Z

The true story of a journalist’s struggle with a rare brain disease has initial promise but soon descends into well-worn soap

There’s a great difficulty in bringing a true story about a character struggling with disease to the big screen. Thanks to hundreds of overly sentimental Lifetime movies, a set formula has meant that, as an audience, we’re so familiar with the beats, we need something radical or at least expertly played to make it seem worth telling. Yet for an actor, illness offers them the chance to rotate through a variety of Oscar-friendly situations, showing off how brilliantly they can play pained.

Related: Strange Weather review – Holly Hunter takes classic American indie back on the road

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Their Finest review - Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy struggle with a duff script in wartime drama

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 17:47:14 GMT2016-09-13T17:47:14Z

An Education director Lone Scherfig goes period again with this account of British women on the home front during the Blitz – but it’s all a bit predictable

Their Finest, the latest serviceable period jaunt from An Education director Lone Scherfig, masquerades as an ode to how women played a major role in boosting national morale during the Blitz of London in the second world war. At its core, it’s really just a workplace love story that grows increasingly uninterested in its plucky heroine’s journey in favour of hitting familiar rom-com notes – and to give audiences another reason to love Bill Nighy.

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

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Catfight review – gory comedy hits us with knockabout fun and broad satire

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 15:43:57 GMT2016-09-13T15:43:57Z

Anne Heche and Sandra Oh are old enemies who meet years later and become locked in a bitter and violent rivalry in this female spin on Trading Places

Post-Bridesmaids Hollywood was supposed to be filled with female-fronted comedies that didn’t have the word “romantic” placed in front of them. But progress has been painfully slow and it’s been left up to Melissa McCarthy and some Bad Moms to continue the important work.

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

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The Promise review – Oscar Isaac tackles Armenian genocide in cliched but involving romance

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 10:57:44 GMT2016-09-13T10:57:44Z

Hotel Rwanda director Terry George takes on a largely uncovered part of history in this often soapy but well-intentioned and extravagantly mounted epic

There are many reasons to criticise James Cameron’s record-breaking weepie Titanic but one of the most frustrating reminders of its success lies in Hollywood’s repetitive treatment of historical tragedies ever since. Not that the director invented the formula of placing a love triangle in the middle of adversity, but he showed that it could be extraordinarily profitable – and movies from Pearl Harbor to Pompeii have tried desperately to replicate the package.

Related: Denial review – Rachel Weisz makes heavy weather of Holocaust courtroom drama

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The Mummy trailer: watch Tom Cruise die in monster reboot – video

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:32:18 GMT2016-12-05T13:32:18Z

The first in Universal’s planned series of new monster movies, The Mummy sees Tom Cruise amongst a team of military commandos who bring an entombed mummy from the Egyptian deserts to London. But their plane malfunctions and the mummy awakens, in a bad mood. Sofia Boutella co-stars in the title role, while Russell Crowe plays friendly Dr Henry Jekyll

  • The Mummy is released on 9 June
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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer starring Baby Groot – video

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 03:47:07 GMT2016-12-05T03:47:07Z

Just over two years since the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the franchise heralds its return with its band of interstellar travellers. James Gunn’s sequel to his blockbuster – the highest grossing film in the US in 2014 – features Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax and Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, as well as Bradley Cooper, Glenn Close and Elizabeth Debicki. The film is scheduled to be released in Australia on 25 April, the UK on 28 April and the US on 5 May.
• Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: first teaser trailer debuts online

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How to See Through Fog: a portrait of a mining town in its darkest days – video

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 19:00:56 GMT2016-11-29T19:00:56Z

Queenstown, on the remote west coast of Tasmania, is known for two things: copper mining and the harsh gravel oval that is home to the local Australian rules football team. A series of deaths at the Mount Lyell mine brought operations to a standstill and put the future of the town in doubt. Thomas Hyland’s evocative film, shown here after screenings at the Unconformity festival, tracks the story of the town, the people and their football team through shock, grief and change
Devastation and beauty collide in Tasmanian mining town

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Marion Cotillard on starring with Brad Pitt in Allied: 'Chemistry creates itself' – video interview

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 17:21:36 GMT2016-11-25T17:21:36Z

The star of new wartime thriller Allied joins director Robert Zemeckis to talk about the intense emotions people feel under siege, the crucial ingredients of on-screen chemistry and why acting isn’t like lying

• Allied is now on released in the UK and US and opens in Australia on Boxing Day

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Toni Erdmann: UK trailer for Oscar favourite German comedy – video

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 11:56:02 GMT2016-11-25T11:56:02Z

The critics’ favourite at this year’s Cannes film festival, Maren Ade’s three-hour German comedy is about the fractious relationship between a hardworking businesswoman in her mid 30s and her prank-loving father. The film opens in the US on Christmas Day and in the UK on 3 February 2017

Peter Bradshaw’s review
As Cannes closes, a new breed of female lead emerges: empowered, careerist –and ‘gender-neutral’

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Silence trailer: Martin Scorsese's Japan-set epic starring Andrew Garfield – video

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 16:00:48 GMT2016-11-24T16:00:48Z

A passion project in the works since 1990, Silence is Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the 1966’s novel by Shūsaku Endō about two Portuguese Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face persecution on a trip to find their mentor (Liam Neeson). The film is released in the US on 23 December and in the UK on 1 January

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Western Sahara: the last colony in Africa – video

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 09:00:29 GMT2016-11-24T09:00:29Z

Annexed by Morocco more than 40 years ago, Western Sahara is known as the last colony in Africa. Iman Amrani visits the Dakhla refugee camp in Algeria, where the remote Fisahara festival is held. Women explain how they are using film activism to empower their community

The producers trip was paid for Fisahara Film Festival

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David Oyelowo: 'There's resistance to films with black protagonists' – video interview

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 08:00:28 GMT2016-11-24T08:00:28Z

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, the stars of Amma Asante’s new film, A United Kingdom, discuss the project’s origins; the difficulty of green-lighting an expensive movie about an inter-racial relationship; and why the story behind the film moved them so deeply

• A United Kingdom is released in the UK on 25 November

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Obama gets 'choked up' presenting Ellen DeGeneres with Medal of Freedom – video

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 00:43:04 GMT2016-11-23T00:43:04Z

Outgoing US president Barack Obama admits to getting ‘kinda choked up’ while presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ellen DeGeneres. ‘It’s easy to forget now just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages 20 years ago.’ Other recipients included Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross

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Barry trailer: Netflix film examines Barack Obama's time as college student

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 00:21:54 GMT2016-11-22T00:21:54Z

As the US president prepares to leave office on 20 January, Netflix has delved into his past for a biopic based around his life as a student at Columbia University. The Australian actor Devon Terrell plays the 20-year-old Obama in the film, which is directed by Vice on HBO host and documentarian Vikram Gandhi. Barry depicts Obama navigating questions of race and identity in America in the early 1980s.

When Barack met Michelle: the presidential biopic as love story

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Marilyn Monroe’s JFK birthday dress sells for record $4.8m – video

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 10:02:58 GMT2016-11-18T10:02:58Z

The iconic dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she sang “happy birthday Mr President” to John F Kennedy has sold for a world-record price at auction, fetching US$4.8m (£3.87m) in LA on Thursday. The sheer, flesh-coloured design, which features more than 2,500 hand-stitched crystals, was bought by museum chain Ripley’s Believe It Or Not

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First look at Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events for Netflix – video

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 18:16:36 GMT2016-11-17T18:16:36Z

Based on the bestselling books, A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the Baudelaire orphans as they try to escape the clutches of their creepy guardian Count Olaf. The Burtonesque series starts on 13 January 2017

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Leonardo DiCaprio visits homeless charity in Edinburgh – video

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 16:56:07 GMT2016-11-17T16:56:07Z

Leonardo DiCaprio visits Home restaurant in Edinburgh on Thursday. Home, whose profits go to help homeless people was set up by restaurateur Dean Gassabi and Josh Littlejohn, whose Social Bite charity has cafes in numerous Scottish cities. DiCaprio is the keynote speaker at the Scottish Business Awards on Thursday

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Kong: Skull Island: trailer for Tom Hiddleston's epic ape adventure – video

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:15:15 GMT2016-11-17T13:15:15Z

A sister film to 2014’s Godzilla, Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s forthcoming disaster movie is set in the 1970s and follows a team of explorers who set out to assess an uncharted island in the Pacific – which happens to be the home of a massive angry gorilla. Alongside Hiddleston, the film stars Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman and John C Reilly

  • Kong: Skull Island opens on 10 March 2017
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Fantastic Beasts cast: 'A bunch of squirrels together ... that's pretty fantastic' – video interview

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 08:40:33 GMT2016-11-17T08:40:33Z

The stars and director of Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them discuss the film’s relevance post-Trump; how the movie’s message of tolerance might help history not to repeat itself; and the perils of managing the expectations of fans. Eddie Redmayne, alongside Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol and David Yates, also reveals the most fantastic beast he’s encountered in real life

• Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is released on 18 November

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Office Christmas Party proves Hollywood is mild at heart

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:53:05 GMT2016-12-01T14:53:05Z

Gross-out films used to feature raucous antics. But recent supposedly wild comedies have featured respectable professionals letting their hair down – before knuckling down to their careers. Where did it all go wrong?It may sound like the winner of a Feeblest Possible Title for a Hollywood Comedy competition, but there is a film coming out next week called Office Christmas Party. According to the press notes, it features Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and others throwing an “epic” bash “to impress a potential client and close a sale that will save their jobs”. But can an office party, even an epic one, ever be hilarious? Are there 100 minutes of laughs to be had from secret santas, bowls of crisps, plastic cups of warm white wine and furtive snogs in the stationery cupboard?The sad thing is that Office Christmas Party is just one of many recent Hollywood comedies to be built on the concept of middle-aged, middle-class, white Americans doing something slightly naughty, before returning gratefully to the status quo. Never mind romantic comedies, gross-out comedies or ghostbusting comedies: over the past five years, they have been outnumbered by comedies concerning respectable thirty and fortysomething professionals loosening their ties, letting their hair down and behaving almost badly. In the past 12 months, we have had Bad Moms, in which Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell dare to drink wine, and Sisters, in which Tina Fey and Amy Poehler dare to invite their old schoolmates to a party at their parents’ house. Those, I’m afraid, are the wildest comic fantasies that Hollywood currently has to offer. Continue reading...[...]

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Too many sequels, too much money: why did so many comedies flop in 2016?

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:00:16 GMT2016-11-30T11:00:16Z

Studios trying to create franchises out of average originals, market tested laughs and a lack of originality made this year’s biggest comedies stilted and boringBy most measures, the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was a box-office flop, losing upwards of $70m for Sony after tepid domestic and international returns failed to match the robust production and marketing budget. It also happens to be, at the time of writing, the highest grossing non-animated comedy of 2016 – not the most profitable, but it was the film the most American viewers paid to see. To state the obvious, when one of the year’s biggest studio comedy is also one of its most notable bombs, it hasn’t been a banner year for comedy. There are specific reasons why Ghostbusters failed, from the army of troglodytes who condemned the movie before its release and attack Leslie Jones on Twitter, to the denial of its release in China, to the anodyne notion that, well, maybe it wasn’t all that funny. Sometimes comedies aren’t successful because they aren’t successful comedies, and Ghostbusters was a raggedy proposition, wounded by an awkward mingling of improvised banter and computer effects, an arbitrary plot, and a half-in/half-out fidelity to the original that kept it from establishing its own identity. There were many forces tugging every which way on Ghostbusters – the massive budget, the sacrosanct legacy of the original, the table-setting for a franchise – and none of them helped make it a better movie. Continue reading...[...]

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For haters only: watching Steve Bannon's documentary films

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 11:00:47 GMT2016-11-29T11:00:47Z

Before he became Donald Trump’s most trusted adviser, the businessman labelled a white nationalist by critics had a career making rightwing movies

Now that he has taken his place at the right hand of President-elect Donald Trump – himself a reality-denying figment of reality TV – it seems like the appropriate moment to examine the career of film producer and director Steve Bannon, or Stephen K Bannon, as he’s known on IMDb, as a reality-denier and distorter. His skills in this area were forcefully on display during the Orwellian, black-is-white, two-plus-two-macht-fünf, Backwards Day campaign he ran for Trump this summer and fall, but they were honed to a fine gleaming edge during his years in what he calls “one of the most Darwinian environments I’ve ever seen”: Hollywood.

Related: How comedians struggled to parody Donald Trump

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Why Dumbledore must not be the token gay person in Fantastic Beasts

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 07:48:46 GMT2016-11-29T07:48:46Z

There was a mixed reaction when JK Rowling revealed the Hogwarts headmaster’s sexuality in 2007. Now she has a second chance to get this right

When Dumbledore came out of the closet during a JK Rowling Q&A in 2007, the LGBT rights organisation Stonewall said the revelation showed there was “no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster”. The audience at New York’s Carnegie Hall responded with enthusiastic applause, and rightly so.

Related: Six things we now know about the future of Fantastic Beasts

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Cinema trains lens on role of nude scene: artistic, erotic or gratuitous?

Sat, 26 Nov 2016 20:10:31 GMT2016-11-26T20:10:31Z

As Hollywood producers sue Amber Heard for refusing to perform naked, we examine the latest manoeuvres in the long battle between prurience, commerce and art

Women have been paid, down the ages, for taking their clothes off in public: now it seems some of them are being asked to pay, and handsomely too, for the privilege of not taking them off.

The row prompted last week by news that the Texan actress and former model Amber Heard is being sued for $10m for reneging on a supposed agreement to be filmed naked has put a compelling new twist on a familiar Hollywood puzzle: why is screen nudity such a big element of so many female stars’ early careers? It is a puzzle conventionally posed just after the one about why so many film directors are men.

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Oscars 2017: 11 female performances too good to be overlooked

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 13:00:03 GMT2016-11-25T13:00:03Z

In a year overflowing with exceptional performances, many are bound to fall by the wayside this awards season. Here are some worthy of a closer inspection

Even with months to go before next year’s Academy Awards, and loads of vying films still to be unveiled, one thing about the race is certain: the pool of female actors is stacked. While Tom Hanks and Casey Affleck were arguably the only male actors to receive major awards momentum from the recent slate of fall film festivals (for their performances in Sully and Manchester by the Sea, respectively), a glut of their female colleagues have emerged as surefire contenders.

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

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Drama-free Thanksgiving: alternative movie marathons for every taste

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 15:00:36 GMT2016-11-24T15:00:36Z

From Albert Brooks movies to films with actors who might have large heads, there’s something for all family members trying to avoid political arguments

My favorite Thanksgiving distraction has always been the TV marathon. Cable channels like USA Network and TBS would devote their entire programming day to hours of James Bond, Star Wars, Star Trek or this year on FX, 600 episodes of the Simpsons.

Related: Santa, Teacher or Grandpa: which 'bad' movie is the baddest?

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Network at 40: the flawed satire that predicted Trump and cable 'news porn'

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 14:00:06 GMT2016-11-23T14:00:06Z

Prescient and powerful, the film foreshadowed the likes of Bill O’Reilly with its ‘mad as hell’ protagonists and the climate of American anger that birthed Trump

Does this sound familiar? “The American people are turning us off. They’ve been clobbered by Vietnam, Watergate, the inflation, the depression. They’ve turned off, shot up … the American people want someone to articulate their rage.” And how about this? “There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT, and ATT and DuPont, Dow, Union-Carbide and Exxon. The world is a business … it has been ever since man crawled up out of the slime.”

Related: Four films that predicted the rise of Donald Trump

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Six things we now know about the future of Fantastic Beasts

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 17:43:17 GMT2016-11-22T17:43:17Z

Spoiler alert: Those you think are dead are not dead, Johnny Depp is charmingly evil, we’ll always have Paris, and it will all end with a duel … we think

There are surely many ways to discover the hidden secrets of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, JK Rowling’s latest wizarding saga to triumph at the global box office. We could ask Queenie Goldstein, a renowned legilimens, to take a peek inside Rowling’s bonce. We could plead with Newt Scamander to cast another Specialis Revelio spell, the charm used by our bumbling magizoologist to expose dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) at the end of the movie. Or we could wait about a decade until all five Fantastic Beasts films have found their way into cinemas.

Related: Ageing Harry Potter fans help Fantastic Beasts to box office magic

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#ImWithHim: why Donald Trump is right to watch all films on fast-forward

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 12:08:21 GMT2016-11-21T12:08:21Z

The world is full of long, boring films, so why not follow the US president-elect’s movie-watching style and cut to the chase by skipping over the talky bits?

Donald Trump’s greatest talent is his ability to boil complex themes down into blunt sentiment. While Hillary Clinton broke her back trying to set out a wide-ranging and inclusive moral ideal of what the United States should be, Trump wore a hat with “Make America Great Again” written on it and won.

This ability, it turns out, stretches to Trump’s movie-watching habits. A feature in the Sunday Times this weekend recalled an occasion in the 1990s when Trump wanted to watch the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Bloodsport during a flight. However, Bloodsport is a long film – 92 minutes long, in fact – and Trump is a busy man. His solution? Making his son fast-forward through all the boring bits, like exposition and dialogue, until he was left with a relentless 45-minute supercut of broken bones and knuckle sandwiches.

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Emma Watson’s Beauty and the Beast is a good start – we need more feminist fairytales

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:30:04 GMT2016-11-19T09:30:04Z

Meryl Streep called Disney’s vision of passive princesses and envious stepmothers ‘gender bigotry’. Here we give five classic fairytales a reboot

For the duration of this article, we are going be using “feminist” as a transitive verb. You have to just not let it bother you.

Related: Beauty and the Beast trailer beats Fifty Shades as most viewed in 24 hours

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – discuss with spoilers

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:12:46 GMT2016-11-16T13:12:46Z

The first of JK Rowling’s new wizarding film series is packed with staggering surprises – take this chance to share what you thought of it here

  • This article contains spoilers

It has conjured up an impressive 90% “fresh” rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, making Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them easily one of the year’s best-reviewed mainstream movies so far. But is this first of a whopping five planned instalments about swashbuckling magizoologist Newt Scamander and his witchy pals good enough to follow the Harry Potter saga into the record books? Here’s a chance to give your own verdict on the movie’s key talking points.

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French resistance: can Netflix win over its harshest critics?

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 10:00:05 GMT2016-11-19T10:00:05Z

As the streaming platform struggles across the Channel, a new Cannes haul could provide an opportunity to seduce a very sceptical audience

Related: Divines review – exhilarating urban thriller froths with joie de vivre

Despite the seemingly limitless resources at its disposal, Netflix has shown little interest in forging a brand identity. Instead, with its burgeoning parade of Netflix Originals, the platform has attempted to simultaneously appeal to everyone, from nostalgic thirtysomethings (Stranger Things) to excitable tweens (Haters Back Off) via the terminally masochistic (high-octane Kevin James romp True Memoirs Of An International Assassin, now streaming!).

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Is Fantastic Beasts the antidote to our alpha-male superhero addiction?

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:00:45 GMT2016-11-17T10:00:45Z

In this Trumpian age, JK Rowling’s return to the wizarding world of Harry Potter magicks up a gentler, less ostentatious heroic template

Versus movies are all the rage right now, after the lost son of Krypton took on Gotham’s dark knight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Iron Man went 10 bloody rounds with Steve Rogers’ patriotic superhero in Captain America: Civil War. So why not take it to the next level? I want to see the gloriously unpretentious team from JK Rowling’s marvelous new wizarding fantasy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them lining up against Marvel and DC’s top colorfully costumed goliaths, if only because it might tell us something about Hollywood’s rapidly shifting definition of heroism in 2016.

Related: Why Fantastic Beasts is a trump card for progressive youth | Catherine Shoard

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Boyhood, Moonlight and beyond: the best coming-of-age movies

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 11:00:46 GMT2016-11-17T11:00:46Z

As Edge of Seventeen adds another film to the coming-to-age canon we look back at the best there has ever been, from Carrie and Clueless to Mud and Moonlight

Kelly Fremon Craig’s Edge of Seventeen premieres this week, a fresh entry in an enduring genre: the coming-of-age film. In movies as in real life, these stories are awkward, tender, tragic, triumphant, surreal, nightmarish, funny – sometimes all at once. Their magic lies in the insight they can offer, how universal and unifying they are no matter the details of the narratives, their time and place. Here are the essentials.

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Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford: does it matter if movie romances are real?

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 11:35:12 GMT2016-11-16T11:35:12Z

The Star Wars actor has claimed her and her co-star’s affair continued after the cameras had stopped filming. But caring about such on-set shenanigans does viewers no favoursWell, the cat is out of the bag. The moggy in question may be knocking on for 40, and the bag is coming apart at the seams, but no matter: the story can finally be told. In 1976, during the filming of Star Wars, Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford, who was Han Solo, crossed over to the Dark Side and – according to Fisher’s new memoir – had a three-month affair. She was 19 with a stormy Hollywood upbringing behind her and a fledgling drug habit; he was a 33-year-old former carpenter who was married with two children. According to People magazine, to whom Fisher gave an interview ahead of the publication of her new memoir, The Princess Diarist, it is the news “that die-hard fans have wished for since Han Solo and Princess Leia captured hearts on screen”.This might be an overstatement. It is unlikely that millions of Star Wars disciples have been monitoring the press for the last four decades for an indication that their idols had once been an item. (“Still nothing?” asks the patient wife of a fiftysomething Star Wars enthusiast as he slams the newspaper down on the breakfast table yet again.) Even so, there is a frisson whenever a fictional relationship spills off the edges of the screen like ale into an overfilled tankard. Continue reading...[...]

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Poop, peepee and creepy rabbits: kids' books that should never become movies

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 17:05:40 GMT2016-11-15T17:05:40Z

Not all children’s books are heartwarming and inspirational – some are disturbing, traumatising or just plain weird. Here are five that ought never to get near a film camera

Corduroy is one of the most popular children’s books written in English. Since 1968, it has enchanted millions of kids as they follow the night-time adventures of an unwanted teddy bear trying to find a missing button in a department store.

This success has spawned spin-offs including a short-lived cartoon, and a slightly disturbing short film. And now director Tim Story has announced his decision to turn Corduroy into a movie. If it’s a success, this could be a new golden age of children’s book adaptations. However, as a newly minted connoisseur of the form, I am aware that some books must never be turned into films. These are those books.

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Worse than a whitewash: has Ghost in the Shell been Hollywoodised?

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 16:50:36 GMT2016-11-14T16:50:36Z

Mamoru Oshii’s seminal anime looked ahead to a future where man and machine are one. Rupert Sanders’ remake, starring Scarlett Johansson, appears to be looking backwards – to RoboCop, The Matrix and Bourne

When science fiction is no longer looking forward, does it lose all meaning? That was my first thought after viewing the first full trailer for Ghost in the Shell.

I’ve always thought of sci-fi as territory for inquiring minds, for those who long for a glimpse of the next step in human – perhaps even machine – evolution. Which is why it’s deeply unsettling, to say the least, that Rupert Sanders’ upcoming remake of Mamoru Oshii’s seminal anime seems to be relying on tried and test Hollywood tropes to sell itself to us.

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Adam Curtis: why South Park is the best documentary of them all

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 09:00:43 GMT2016-11-14T09:00:43Z

The HyperNormalisation director believes that the traditional documentary has failed to explain truths about the real world. Instead, he says, we should look to fiction for answers…From Weiner to Making A Murderer: why we’re living in a golden age of documentariesLouis Theroux, Laura Poitras and other directors on their favourite documentaries Related: Hypernormalisation: Adam Curtis plots a path from Syria to Trump, via Jane Fonda To be honest, I find the best documentary reporting these days in things that don’t really classify as documentaries. Things like South Park, movies like The Big Short and American Honey, and the This Is England series. They are all about portraying the real world but they do it in ways that are surprising and imaginative. They make you look at things in new ways. Whereas traditional documentaries seem a bit stuck. I think this has happened because most of them have been moved off TV and into the art house cinema circuit. As a result they tend to play to what their audience already know – reinforcing their beliefs. Like the fact that bankers are bad. Or climate change threatens the world. Continue reading...[...]

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