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Film | The Guardian



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



Published: Fri, 21 Jul 2017 22:53:22 GMT2017-07-21T22:53:22Z

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



City of Ghosts director Matthew Heineman: 'Imagine seeing people crucified – every day'

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 17:41:43 GMT2017-07-21T17:41:43Z

Their families have been killed, they live in hiding, but a brave group of Syrians continue to defy Islamic State by reporting its atrocities to the world. The director of a new documentary explains how he told their shocking stories

The most remarkable scene in Matthew Heineman’s new film City of Ghosts – indeed, possibly the most remarkable scene in any documentary you’re likely to see this year – takes place in an unfurnished German apartment. Hamoud al-Mousa, a founder member of the citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) sits staring at a laptop, watching a video of his father’s murder at the hands of Islamic State militants. The killing has been filmed in the manner of a Michael Bay movie, bombastic and slickly edited. It is intended to strike fear into Hamoud – and any others willing to expose the many atrocities committed by the terrorist group. Hamoud however refuses to be cowed. “I watch the video a lot. It gives me strength,” he says.

Hamoud’s fortitude in the face of such brutality will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of RBSS. Formed initially to document the assault carried out by the Assad regime on their home city, the group turned their attention to Isis when the group took control of Raqqa in 2014 and declared it the capital of their new caliphate. Since then RBSS has, through social media postings and cameraphone footage, shone a light on a regime that is out of reach of western journalists. They have done so at enormous personal cost: several members of the group have been executed, as well as friends and family members. Hamoud’s father is just one of many victims.

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Dick Van Dyke sorry for 'atrocious cockney accent' in Mary Poppins

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:50:36 GMT2017-07-21T16:50:36Z

US actor apologises more than half century after ‘inflicting most atrocious cockney accent in history of cinema’ in Disney film

Dick Van Dyke has apologised for the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” more than half a century after his role in the 1964 Disnery classic Mary Poppins.

The US actor played chimney-sweep Bert in the film, and has been the subject of much teasing from fans about his famously off-radar accent.

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Dunkirk: power, patriotism and Harry Styles on screen – discuss with spoilers

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 11:00:09 GMT2017-07-21T11:00:09Z

Does Dunkirk’s claustrophobic intensity earn it a place in the pantheon of war movies? Should we read it as a Brexit allegory? And how did the boyband singer turned actor do?

  • This article contains spoilers

It has been hailed by Guardian critics as Christopher Nolan’s best film so far and the movie that sees the director of Inception and The Dark Knight finally live up to the comparisons with Stanley Kubrick. Indeed, Dunkirk currently boasts a rating of 94% “fresh” on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, suggesting genuine Oscar potential.

But does it really rank as one of the all-time great war movies? And what did you think of Harry Styles’ acting? Here’s a chance to give your verdict on the film’s key talking points.

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Water and Sugar: Carlo Di Palma, the Colours of Life review – radiant tribute to a cinematic maestro

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 10:00:15 GMT2017-07-21T10:00:15Z

Cinema’s magic is the running theme of this warm documentary about the life and works of visionary cinematographer Carlo Di Palma

Related: Obituary: Carlo Di Palma

The cinematographer Carlo Di Palma is the subject of this intelligent and deeply cinephile documentary tribute presented by his widow, Adriana Chiesa (Di Palma died in 2004). It’s a film to remind you of the almost miraculously collaborative nature of cinema, but also the radiant personalities of individuals.

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Bryan Cranston: ‘I would go to malls, sit near arguing couples and watch them’

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 14:11:24 GMT2017-07-20T14:11:24Z

The Breaking Bad star’s new film Wakefield is a study of a man who vanishes, only to spy on his grieving family. Would his years of pre-fame voyeurism come in handy?

Hi, Bryan. Where are you today?
I am calling all the way from Chiswick. We could have done this over tea.

Why are you in Chiswick?
One of the things I’d done, just after the end of Breaking Bad, was to create a production company to produce television projects. One of my projects is called Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams. [1] We’re shooting here in London. We have five episodes and I’m acting in one of the episodes. It’s an anthology series.

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Dunkirk and City of Ghosts: this week’s best films in the UK

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 09:00:14 GMT2017-07-21T09:00:14Z

Christopher Nolan delivers a visceral war epic, while brave citizens in Isis’s ‘capital’ risk their lives to shed light on the treatment of the city and its people

Nolan marshals the troops, the fleet and the Spitfires but strips out the dialogue and bombast to create a war epic like no other. Solemnly viewing the Dunkirk evacuations from three intersecting perspectives, it’s an intense, visceral experience, enhanced by non-CGI action and a throbbing score. The star cast – including Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Harry Styles – almost disappear in the mayhem.

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Big-budget films receive increase in tax relief to almost £600m

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 06:36:50 GMT2017-07-21T06:36:50Z

Treasury also paid £150m to TV shows that pass ‘cultural test’ to qualify as British in scheme to encourage creative enterprises

The government paid out almost £600m in tax relief last year to the makers of blockbusters including Baby Driver, Star Wars and T2: Trainspotting, as well as big-budget TV dramas including The Crown.

The payouts were part of £751m that the Treasury awarded in tax relief to films, high-end dramas, video games, animations, children’s TV shows and theatre productions that passed a “cultural test” that qualified them as British.

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War for the Planet of the Apes shows its simian strength at UK box office

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 11:46:13 GMT2017-07-18T11:46:13Z

Despicable Me and Spider-Man franchises fight for second place, while indie darling The Beguiled shows big ambition at cinemas

For the fourth weekend in a row, a film with blockbuster ambition has arrived at the top of the UK box office, with War for the Planet of the Apes landing in the wake of Spider-Man: Homecoming (5 July), Despicable Me 3 (30 June) and Transformers: The Last Knight (22 June). The latest Apes film has begun with a solid £5.22m, and £7.20m including previews for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

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Deadpool tops 2016 list of most complained about films

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:01 GMT2017-07-18T08:00:01Z

Superhero romp’s bloody violence, strong language and sex references generated 51 complaints, outgunning 40 received by Spectre in 2015

Deadpool, the horribly violent, disgustingly crude and, for many people, very funny superhero romp, was the film which last year generated the most complaints to Britain’s film censors.

The 2016 annual report of the British Board of Film Classification reveals that the Marvel movie received 51 complaints. That was followed by Suicide Squad with 30 and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children with 20.

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George A Romero, 'father of the zombie film', dies at 77 – video

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 10:33:35 GMT2017-07-17T10:33:35Z

The director George A Romero died on Sunday aged 77. Romero, who was born in New York, began his career as a commercial director before finding his calling in horror films. His first foray into zombie horror was the 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. The film’s success led to a long-running series of zombie horror films and won Romero the title ‘father of the zombie film’

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Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau dies aged 89 – video report

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:00:53 GMT2017-07-17T09:00:53Z

The actor Martin Landau died on Saturday aged 89. Landau, a New Yorker, rose to prominence in the 1960s when he starred in the TV show Mission: Impossible. During his lengthy career he worked with some of the industry’s best directors including Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Burton. In 1995, Landau won an Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi in Burton’s Ed Wood

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Martin Landau, star of Ed Wood and Crimes and Misdemeanors, dies aged 89

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 06:20:34 GMT2017-07-17T06:20:34Z

Veteran actor won a best supporting actor Oscar playing horror icon Bela Lugosi after a late-life career revival

Peter Bradshaw: a great actor who grew into his gravitas
A life in pictures

Martin Landau, the actor whose gaunt, hangdog features graced films by film-makers as varied as Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and Tim Burton has died. He was 89, and his death was confirmed by his publicist “following a short hospitalisation”.

Arguably Landau’s career high point arrived in 1995, when he won the best supporting actor Oscar for his role as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, the Burton-directed biopic of the infamous director of Plan 9 From Outer Space and other notorious films. In Lugosi, the washed-up former star of 1930s horror films such as Count Dracula, Landau found a forerunner he could relate to. “Lugosi ... had a palpable intensity and a presence that you can’t buy,” Landau said, just prior to his Oscar win. “But this fuckin’ town shat on him ... And I can relate to that. I’ve seen it happen a lot. I’ve seen it happen to me.”

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George A Romero, Night of the Living Dead director, dies aged 77

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 22:50:50 GMT2017-07-16T22:50:50Z

The writer and director, pioneer of zombie horror, died after a brief battle with lung cancer, his producing partner said

George A Romero, director of horror classic Night of the Living Dead, has died. He was 77.

In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Romero’s producing partner Peter Grunwald said the director died in his sleep after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer”.

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Gary Oldman as Churchill: first trailer for Darkest Hour released

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:01:03 GMT2017-07-13T14:01:03Z

First footage revealed of Oldman’s much-hyped performance as Britain’s wartime prime minister, set during the early years of his premiership

The first trailer for the forthcoming Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour has been released onto the internet.

Directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna), Darkest Hour follows Churchill immediately after his appointment as Prime Minister, as he agonises over whether or not to explore a negotiated peace treaty with the looming force of Nazi Germany. Gary Oldman stars as Churchill, with Kristin Scott Thomas playing his wife Clementine, and Ben Mendelsohn appearing as King George VI.

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Shia LaBeouf arrest video shows actor's expletive-filled rant – video

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 03:16:45 GMT2017-07-13T03:16:45Z

Videos released on Tuesday by police from Savannah, Georgia, of Shia LaBeouf’s arrest last week on charges of disorderly conduct and public intoxication show the actor hurling expletive-filled barbs at officers as he questions the reason for his arrest

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Shia LaBeouf 'deeply ashamed' of his racial outburst following arrest

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 01:00:17 GMT2017-07-13T01:00:17Z

The actor apologised and said he is struggling with addiction, after video emerged of him using racially charged language toward a black officer

Shia LaBeouf has apologised after a video emerged of him using racially charged language towards a black police officer when he was arrested for being drunk in public over the weekend.

The Transformers star said in a statement that he was “deeply ashamed” of his behaviour in Savannah, Georgia. He said: “I have been struggling with addiction publicly for far too long.”

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword review – Guy Ritchie's cheerful den of medieval dodginess

Tue, 09 May 2017 18:03:54 GMT2017-05-09T18:03:54Z

The Sherlock Holmes director has conjured up an entertaining rollercoaster that crashes through Arthurian legend, with only the occasional stall

Guy Ritchie’s cheerfully ridiculous Arthur is a gonzo monarch, a death-metal warrior-king. Ritchie’s film is at all times over the top, crashing around its digital landscapes in all manner of beserkness, sometimes whooshing along, sometimes stuck in the odd narrative doldrum. But it is often surprisingly entertaining, and whatever clunkers he has delivered in the past, Ritchie again shows that a film-maker of his craft and energy commands attention, and part of his confidence in reviving King Arthur resides here in being so unselfconscious and unconcerned about the student canon that has gone before: Malory, Tennyson, Bresson, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle etc. Instead, Ritchie launches into an all-purpose tale of medieval brigands and scofflaws. It’s more of a laugh than Antoine Fuqua’s solemn take in 2004.

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Absolutely Anything review - cheap and cheerless sci-fi comedy

Thu, 13 Aug 2015 21:15:10 GMT2015-08-13T21:15:10Z

Simon Pegg plays a teacher endowed with godlike powers and Robin Williams, in his final film role, supplies the voice of a dog. But it’s far from funny

The second word of the title should be “appalling”. It sure isn’t the best way to mark the first anniversary of Robin Williams’s death: this was his very last screen credit, as the voice of an unfunny dog.

There’s a blue-chip cast here, and it’s directed by Terry Jones; the Pythons have cameos, as creepy alien creatures. But this low-budget Brit film is just depressing, a sub-Douglas Adams sci-fi comedy which looks like mediocre kids’ TV with a dismal script and cheap’n’cheerless production values.

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Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto review – 13 Cate Blanchetts in search of a meaning

Tue, 08 Dec 2015 23:31:24 GMT2015-12-08T23:31:24Z

Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne
The words of Futurists, Dadaists and Communists are stolen from the page and given new life by Blanchett playing a teacher, homeless man, mourner and mother in the Berlin-based artist’s latest multi-screen installation

There’s a clinking of champagne glasses, and Cate Blanchett moves to address an affluent crowd. Reading from cue cards in her hand, she praises the great art vortex and describes the poor as detestable animals. “The past and future are the prostitutes nature has provided,” she adds. The crowd chuckles politely.

The scene plays out on one of 13 screens dangling from the ceiling at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne for the world premiere of Julian Rosefeldt’s multi-channel video work Manifesto.

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Whisky Galore! review – twee, comfy-cardigan film-making

Sun, 26 Jun 2016 18:15:21 GMT2016-06-26T18:15:21Z

Gillies MacKinnon’s remake of the classic postwar Ealing comedy is light on laughs and feels out of place in 2016

The Edinburgh film festival kicked off with Tommy’s Honour, a gently old-fashioned yarn about a 19th-century Scottish golf champion that may have induced mild stirrings of patriotism. Now the festival is aiming to repeat the trick with a remake of Alexander Mackendrick’s fondly remembered 1949 Ealing comedy Whisky Galore!, an adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s novel that itself drew on real events.

Like the original, it sets out to be a celebration of canny Scots outwitting humourless (and partly English) officialdom: a ship runs aground on a fictional Hebridean island during the second world war and the locals do their best to liberate some of the thousands of whisky bottles in its cargo. Cue cat-and-mouse shenanigans as the home guard try to reinforce wartime discipline and prevent imbibement above and beyond the quota level. Two weddings are simultaneously planned, involving the daughters of the leading whisky filcher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Power Rangers features first gay screen superhero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Belko Experiment review – gory workplace horror promotes nastiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Headshot review – ultra-violent Indonesian action-thriller

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

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

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

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

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Table 19 review – divorce yourself from this unfunny wedding comedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bitter Harvest review – timely but uneven Ukrainian famine drama

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

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

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

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

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The Great Wall review – lavish Chinese spectacle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rings review – spooky Ringu reboot smoothly reinvents the wheel

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

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

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

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

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Girls Trip review – raucous comedy delivers a fresh and filthy good time

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 10:00:17 GMT2017-07-19T10:00:17Z

Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah head up a foul-mouthed yet warm-hearted film about four friends reconnecting with their wild younger days

While the film industry slowly creeps toward something resembling a fair and equal landscape, women remain largely underserved at the multiplex. Last year, female protagonists reached an all-time high but still only fronted 29% of the top 100 films, and recent hits like Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman have shown, yet again, that audiences are eager for a more level playing field. But this inequality is nothing compared to the lack of films centered around women of color.

Related: Rough Night review – girls gone wild in amusing if ramshackle comedy

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Kuso review – Flying Lotus-directed horror stakes claim as grossest movie ever

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 10:00:19 GMT2017-07-18T10:00:19Z

The largely nonsensical debut by the electronic musician follows the survivors of an earthquake and inflicts on them unimaginable cruelty of the corporeal sort

There are horror films in which the persistence of violence and torture serves as a vehicle for a broader social commentary, like Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Saló, which, when I first saw it, was perhaps the most unruly thing I’d ever witnessed. It was equal parts captivating and unwatchable, driven by a withering critique of fascism and its practitioners’ cruel, sadistic thirst for power and pleasure.

Then there are ones like Kuso, the debut feature by the electronic musician Flying Lotus. Kuso could scarcely be called a film proper; it’s more like a feature-length sequence of moving pictures and disparate narratives that seem perpetually engaged in a game of one-upmanship, the point being for each image to be grosser than the one that came before. In this, Flying Lotus succeeds with flying colors (and lots of other airborne things, like fecal matter and a slew of bodily fluids).

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Wish Upon review – incompetent Final Destination rip-off is scare-free

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:00:00 GMT2017-07-13T16:00:00Z

The film is shoddily made and entirely lacking in thrills – a drab attempt to kick off a new horror franchise fails on almost every conceivable level

After Paranormal Activity gave up the ghost, the search has been on for the next multiplex-packing horror franchise. Reboots of the Blair Witch and Ring sagas proved to be teen-repelling non-starters (the Saw series is next on the block this Halloween) while impending sequels to recent hits Lights Out and Don’t Breathe already feel like unnecessary follow-ups to films that didn’t appear suitable for further installments.

Related: How post-horror movies are taking over cinema

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The Little Hours review – foul-mouthed nuns run riot in flimsy but fun comedy

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 10:00:27 GMT2017-06-27T10:00:27Z

Aubrey Plaza heads up a cast of skilled comic actors in a sex farce that has amusing moments scattered throughout but risks feeling like an extended SNL skit

Rather like 2011’s Your Highness, the initial gimmick proudly, even boastfully, revealed in The Little Hours is based on the notion that medieval characters can be just as puerile as their contemporary counterparts. Within seconds of the titles ending, 14th-century nuns are swearing, shouting, vandalizing and attacking any local man naive enough to look their way. But the test here – and it’s one that Danny McBride’s misjudged comic fantasy failed at – is whether the film can sustain itself beyond mere shock value.

Related: The Big Sick review – Kumail Nanjiani's real-life romcom is a humane delight

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The Big Sick review – Kumail Nanjiani's real-life romcom is a humane delight

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:23:30 GMT2017-06-22T15:23:30Z

The stand-up comic turned Silicon Valley star teams up with Judd Apatow to tell the charming story of how he met his wife

If you’re a comic keen to express, in great detail, the many difficulties of your everyday life on screen, then congrats – Hollywood wants to hear your story, even if a mass audience often doesn’t. The critical success of Louie has led to shows from Tig Notaro, Marc Maron, Pete Holmes, Cameron Esposito, Maria Bamford and Aziz Ansari, all riffing on versions of themselves with mixed, and sometimes under-seen, results. It’s become a strangely overpopulated sub-genre of late, and a feature-length film based on the early days of standup-turned-sitcom star Kumail Nanjiani arrives at a time when it feels as necessary as another superhero reboot.

Related: Kumail Nanjiani: 'For a long time, there was one famous American brown actor'

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Rough Night review – girls gone wild in amusing if ramshackle comedy

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 16:00:15 GMT2017-06-14T16:00:15Z

Scarlett Johansson leads an adept comic cast in a debauched take on Weekend at Bernie’s that has laughs but isn’t quite the slam-dunk it should have been

After the Oscar-nominated, $288m global success of Bridesmaids, it seemed as if the film industry would finally put to rest the tired assumption that female-fronted comedies can’t be just as successful as their male counterparts (in fact, it remains the highest-grossing Judd Apatow-produced film to date). But progress was strangely, frustratingly slow, and despite the darnedest efforts of Bridesmaids director Paul Feig (who went on to make The Heat, Spy and Ghostbusters) and, well, Bad Moms, this particular glass ceiling has remained relatively crack-free.

Related: Scarlett Johansson, charismatic queen of science fiction

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It Comes at Night review – devastating dystopia packs a frightening punch

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 11:30:26 GMT2017-06-08T11:30:26Z

A dread-filled end of days tale sees two families threatened by a deadly virus with shocking and emotionally grueling results

What terrifies us most on the big screen is often easily linked to what’s keeping us up at night in the real world. Fears of communism, McCarthyism, nuclear war, the onset of Aids, technology and terrorism have all helped to fuel the horror genre through the years, rooting the fantastical and unsettling us for reasons we might not initially appreciate.

Related: No sequels allowed: the 12 best alternative movies to watch this summer

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Beatriz at Dinner review – Salma Hayek takes on white privilege in savage drama

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 14:07:24 GMT2017-06-07T14:07:24Z

A standout turn from the often under-utilized actor is one of the many joys of this carefully choreographed dinner party satire that acts as a cutting allegory of Trump’s America

It’s tempting, if rather tiresome, to look for social commentary on the current, fractured state of the US in whatever piece of culture that comes our way. A cursory glance at any coverage of the small screen adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, aka The Show We Need Right Now™, will have made you boringly aware of this. But given that we’re yet to truly see the effect that the newly elected president will have on the creative direction of screenwriters, it’s mostly redundant to grasp at straws this early on.

But Mike White, who has quietly been writing some of the sharpest films (and one of the most underrated TV shows) of the past 15 years, has constructed the script for his latest film with a sort of psychic foreshadowing. It’s a savage takedown of ugly white privilege but, as with some of his richest work (The Good Girl, Year of the Dog, Enlightened), Beatriz at Dinner is also a character study of a woman who might have been pushed to the sidelines as tragicomic support in another, less sensitively realized film.

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The Wizard of Lies review – Robert De Niro's Bernie Madoff drama is a cheat

Fri, 19 May 2017 10:30:05 GMT2017-05-19T10:30:05Z

A prestige production, also starring Michelle Pfeiffer, asks the audience to sympathize with a self-pitying criminal without explaining exactly why

Who needs The Wizard of Lies, a new made-for-TV drama about the wreckage left by Bernie Madoff’s devastating Ponzi scheme? Based on New York Times journalist Diane Henriques’s account of the Madoff affair, The Wizard of Lies is a toothless and psychologically simplistic tragedy about Bernie’s impact on his immediate family, particularly wife Ruth (Michelle Pfeiffer), and sons Mark and Andrew (Alessandro Nivola and Nathan Darrow). Madoff (Robert De Niro) is humanized in this context, since he’s portrayed as a clueless sociopath who does not understand the extent of the damage he’s caused, and only superficially empathizes with people he thinks he cares about.

Related: New old money: why hating the super rich remains small screen gold

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Baahubali 2: The Conclusion review – joyous action epic soars

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:28:29 GMT2017-04-28T18:28:29Z

The second part of India’s most expensive film ever is a jaw-dropping blockbuster that combines nimble action with genuine heart

2015’s Baahubali: The Beginning, the impressive first chunk of India’s most expensive film yet, built towards a literal cliffhanger, with a strongman knifed in the back by a trusted associate on the mountain it had taken just shy of three hours to climb. Not untypical of a film hungrily synthesising centuries’ worth of sacred and secular myths, that shock was always going to be tricky to top – so it’s a relief to report that The Conclusion opens with a no less jawdropping set-to between the
hero’s mother and a stampeding elephant. Here, once again, is thunderous spectacle unlikely to be surpassed in several summers, and clinching proof of writer-director SS Rajamouli’s position among world cinema’s boldest imagemakers.

Related: Baahubali: The Beginning review – fantastic bang for your buck in most expensive Indian movie ever made

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lovers review – Debra Winger impresses in nuanced tale of infidelity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christopher Nolan on Dunkirk: 'There are 400,000 men on this beach – how do you get them home?'

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 11:08:41 GMT2017-07-18T11:08:41Z

Dunkirk sees director Christopher Nolan tackle one of the most remarkable stories of the second world war: the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from the beaches of northern France. In an extended video interview Nolan discusses the challenges of bringing such a mammoth operation to the big screen, the hard choices made by those involved in the evacuation and the ‘subtle and truthful’ acting performance of Harry Styles

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Andy Serkis transforms into Gollum to read Donald Trump tweets – video

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 05:59:11 GMT2017-07-13T05:59:11Z

Andy Serkis, the actor who played Gollum in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, brings his character back to life to read Donald Trump’s tweets on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

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Morrissey biopic England Is Mine trailer shows early years of Smiths frontman – video

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 11:42:27 GMT2017-06-30T11:42:27Z

Long before he was the gladioli-waving frontman of The Smiths, and even longer before he became the problematic provocateur of recent times, Morrissey was Steven Patrick Morrissey, a gobby teenage outsider looking to find his place in the world. Directed by Mark Gill and starring Jack Lowden, new biopic England Is Mine traces Morrissey’s formative years and his first fateful encounter with Johnny Marr.

•England Is Mine is released in UK cinemas on 4 August

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Hugh Jackman stars in first trailer for new musical The Greatest Showman – video

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:59:57 GMT2017-06-29T01:59:57Z

Directed by Australian film-maker Michael Gracey and starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Zac Efron, The Greatest Showman is an original musical featuring songs from La La Land’s Oscar-winning lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, which celebrates the life of entertainer and hoax merchant PT Barnum, who created the three-ring circus.
• The Greatest Showman is due for release on 25 December in the US, 25 December in Australia, and 1 January in the UK

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Wallace and Gromit creators share animation secrets – video

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:23:56 GMT2017-06-29T00:23:56Z

Co-founders of Aardman Animations Peter Lord and David Sproxton share some of the secrets behind their beloved films and television series Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run. A major exhibition, Wallace Gromit and Friends: The Magic of Aardman, has opened at the Australian Centre for Moving Image in Melbourne

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Steve Carell on Despicable Me 3: 'I think I'm naturally an evil person'

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:10:29 GMT2017-06-28T15:10:29Z

Reformed supervillain Gru and his dungaree-sporting Minions are back for another instalment of the high-energy animated comedy. This time Gru attempts to recover a stolen diamond, while trying to resist being tempted back into evildoing by his brother Dru. The film’s stars Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig discuss what makes a good baddie and the enduring appeal of Dru’s diminutive sidekicks

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Nowhere: a response to the housing crisis by poet Tony Walsh – audio

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 07:00:23 GMT2017-06-25T07:00:23Z

The poet, writer and performer who grew up in social housing in Manchester performs a specially composed poem in response to issues raised in the documentary Dispossession: The Great Housing Swindle

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Johnny Depp jokes about assassinating Trump at Glastonbury - video

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:01:13 GMT2017-06-23T11:01:13Z

Johnny Depp jests with the Glastonbury crowd about killing Donald Trump. The actor asks his audience: ‘When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?’, a reference possibly to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Depp is at the festival to promote his film The Libertine

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Diane Keaton: 'People in London drink in the afternoon ... wow!' – video interview

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:28:56 GMT2017-06-21T14:28:56Z

Diane Keaton’s new film is set in, and named after, the prosperous London district of Hampstead; she co-stars with Brendan Gleeson in a romantic comedy about an American woman who strikes up a relationship with an eccentric itinerant who lives in a shack on Hampstead Heath. Directed by Joel Hopkins and also featuring Simon Callow and James Norton, Hampstead is released on 23 July

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Chris Evans: 'Just because you disagree with somebody, doesn't mean they're evil'

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:43:07 GMT2017-06-15T15:43:07Z

In family drama Gifted, Captain America star Chris Evans is caught up in a very different battle to his usual superhero smackdowns. He plays Frank, uncle and guardian to Mary, a prodigiously talented seven-year-old. When Frank’s estranged mother tries to take Mary to live with her and get special tutoring, a vicious custody fight ensues. Evans talks about what motivates his character, and the larger conflicts currently dividing America.

  • Gifted is released in UK cinemas on Friday
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Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi takes on racism – video

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 01:19:18 GMT2017-06-15T01:19:18Z

Taika Waititi, the director of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows and Marvel’s upcoming superhero movie Thor: Ragnarok, appears in a video supporting the New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ campaign. Waititi, who was named New Zealander of the year, says ‘There’s no benefit whatsoever to being racist.’

Taika Waititi on shaking up Thor and being a Hollywood outsider

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The Snowman: serious film by serious people – or least spooky serial killer thriller ever?

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 11:15:36 GMT2017-07-20T11:15:36Z

The trailer suggests Michael Fassbender’s Jo Nesbø adaptation is a high-tension, dread-laden thriller with one problem: it’s full of snowmen

The Snowman, which is due for release in October, absolutely drips with pedigree. It’s based on a Jo Nesbø thriller about a serial killer with a disturbingly unique calling card: he leaves snowmen next to his victims. Originally due to be directed by Martin Scorsese, it’s a movie from film-maker Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) that stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, JK Simmons, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Toby Jones, with a score composed by Jonny Greenwood. The message is clear: this is a serious film made by serious people. As its new trailer demonstrates, The Snowman is intended to be taken very seriously indeed.

That said, it’s got loads of snowmen in it. Loads of them. Which is a risk, because it’s hard to make a snowman dramatically meaningful or ominous. Think of snowmen and you’ll think of Aled Jones warbling as a little boy flies through the air with his chilly best friend. Worse, you’ll think of the Michael Keaton movie Jack Frost. For The Snowman to work, it needs to employ some masterful production design: these snowmen have a lot to sell. With that in mind, here’s a definitive ranking of all The Snowman’s spookiest looking snowmen.

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The keg party's over: why gross-out comedies are going down the pan

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 06:00:13 GMT2017-07-20T06:00:13Z

Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen and the rest ruled comedy for more than a decade. But everyone’s wisecracking now – from Marvel heroes to current affairs anchors – and the gross-out gags are wearing thin

Before it landed in cinemas last month, the smart money would have been on gambling farce The House as a hit. All the elements of recent comedy successes were there: a zany premise (parents try to pay off their daughter’s tuition fees by opening an illegal casino in their friend’s living room); two well-liked leads in Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler; a ribald, outrageous tone; and some appealingly anarchic set-pieces – who could resist the prospect of watching Jeremy Renner being rolled up in a carpet and set alight?

But resist it audiences did. Most cinemagoers opted instead for the speed-demon thrills of Baby Driver or the unstoppable might of Wonder Woman. On its opening weekend The House grossed a measly $9m in US cinemas, against a budget of $40m. Three weeks later, it still hasn’t come close to earning back that budget.

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Human, all too human: 10 sci-fi films that show what it means to be alive

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 14:01:01 GMT2017-07-14T14:01:01Z

MoMA’s latest film series sees the institution search deep and wide for the best in out-there science fiction. Here’s a selection that pushes at ideas of humanity

When putting together MoMA’s new film series, Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction, its curator, Josh Siegel, set out to compile a list of pictures that defined the genre within more earthly parameters. He decided to seek out sci-fi that took place on Earth, had no aliens or invasions, and instead investigated what it meant to be human at the time of the film’s release. Before the retrospective, Siegel, along with museum’s chief curator of film, Rajendra Roy, discussed their favorite films in the series.

Related: George and Mike Kuchar: attack of the killer twins

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Game, set and movie: what makes a winning tennis film?

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:58:44 GMT2017-07-13T15:58:44Z

Past attempts to capture the game have had mixed results, but Borg vs McEnroe – celebrating the epic 1980 Wimbledon final – and Battle of the Sexes, both due out later this year, could deliver match points

There are so many ways to make John McEnroe mad. You can give him a bad line call or a time violation, or remind him of the French Open title bout he lost to Ivan Lendl in 1984. Alternatively, you can make a film such as Borg vs McEnroe, which lionises him on screen and celebrates his heroic performance in the 1980 Wimbledon final. The film is not out until September and he is already calling fault. He is bemused by the concept and sceptical of the content. He dislikes the fact that it is being made at all. “I’ve never seen a good tennis movie,” the three-time former Wimbledon champion complained to Vanity Fair. “They all were terrible.”

You can argue with McEnroe as much as you like. The man invites it; he feeds on controversy like a mosquito on blood. In the past three weeks alone, he has been accused of downplaying the achievements of Andy Murray and claimed that Serena Williams – widely regarded as the best female player ever – is only as good as the 700th-ranked man. As a film critic, though, he is on far safer ground.

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Big in Albania … countries that gave film flops a second life

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:34:58 GMT2017-07-12T09:34:58Z

The superheroes saved by Mexico, the video-game spinoff that became China’s 12th biggest movie ever, and the British comedian worshipped by a secretive communist nation. We remember the films somebody else loved

The Rock’s Baywatch reboot may be drowning, not waving, in multiplexes around the globe, but there is one territory where cinemagoers apparently can’t get enough of it: Germany. Put it down to the enduring cultural impact of David Hasselhoff, but the country of Angela Merkel is almost single-handedly saving Baywatch from box-office infamy. It’s not the first time a movie has struck an unexpected chord somewhere far from home, as these examples demonstrate.

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Christopher Nolan's 70mm screenings: format folly or cinema's Dunkirk spirit?

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 09:00:06 GMT2017-07-11T09:00:06Z

The director is planning to show his new project in the rare format loved by Tarantino. It’s a move that continues his role as film conservationist du jour

“There’s a very real danger in watering down the theatrical experience,” warned Christopher Nolan about the death of film in 2015. “With the confusing proliferation of digital technology,” the cinephile’s cinephile continues, “there isn’t any stable digital archiving medium.” One can half-imagine this self-anointed savior of celluloid emerging from his lair each night in a cape and cowl, committing acts of cinematic vigilantism. But with the rollout of his newest project, Dunkirk, he may not have to.

Related: Cinemas must 'drastically improve' or lose audiences, says Christopher Nolan

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The Beguiled: how Hollywood is whitewashing the US civil war

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 08:59:01 GMT2017-07-10T08:59:01Z

Sofia Coppola’s remake deletes the story’s only African-American character – but it’s not the only film to sideline black historical experience

Just because the civil war ended more than 150 years ago doesn’t mean the US has stopped fighting it. The Confederate flag still prompts passionate protest but today’s preferred theatre of combat is the movie one. And judging by recent civil war movies, there is no amnesty in sight.

Related: Sofia Coppola: ‘I never felt I had to fit into the majority view’

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Straight Outta Hollywood: how hip-hop saved the biopic

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:46:53 GMT2017-07-06T16:46:53Z

The film biography has a chequered past, but a rash of dramas based on the lives of 90s rap stars such as Tupac and NWA has juiced the genre

Music biopics have a long and, frankly, embarrassing history. Sure, some are well done (Control and I’m Not There come to mind), but this type of film has never been particularly successful. Until fairly recently only one – Walk the Line, about Johnny Cash – grossed more than $100m (£77.3m) at the box office.

Let’s be honest: it is weird seeing an actor playing your favourite musician – said actor undoubtedly lacks the charisma (and sex appeal) – but it’s also a script problem. Hollywood biopics tend to be incredibly formulaic: precocious talent achieves success against the odds, only to be subsumed by druggy excess, followed by downfall and then redemption. The groupies, crying mothers and finding-Jesus vignettes practically write themselves. The formula long ago gave way to parody – look no further than Walk the Line spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, or, my personal favourite, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, in which Andy Samberg’s character one-ups Justin Bieber by doing a number two in Anne Frank’s toilet.

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How post-horror movies are taking over cinema

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 05:00:34 GMT2017-07-06T05:00:34Z

From It Comes at Night to A Ghost Story, a new breed of horror is creeping into the multiplex, replacing jump-scares with existential dread. We talk to the auteurs breaking all the rules

Related: It Comes at Night review – fiercely watchable post-apocalyptic chiller

‘DO NOT GO SEE IT COMES AT NIGHT, ITS SO NOT WORTH WATCHING, WORST MOVIE EVER HANDS DOWN”. Twitter was filled with countless such posts after the US release of It Comes at Night last month. Mainstream moviegoers went in expecting a straight-up horror; they came out unsure about what they’d seen, and they didn’t like it. Critics, and a certain section of viewers, have loved the film, but its Cinemascore rating – determined by moviegoers’ opening-night reactions – is a D.

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How to spot a bad film without even seeing it

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 11:20:09 GMT2017-07-03T11:20:09Z

From rumours about Mariah Carey’s cameo to embargoed reviews … all the early warning signs were there for Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler’s new comedy The House

Related: The House review – Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler lose the bet

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler’s new film The House is a flop. Released in the US on 30 June, it currently has a 16% Rotten Tomatoes rating: that’s a full 7% worse than the hysterically trashed The Book of Henry. The House has also tanked commercially, opening outside the top five and recouping less than a quarter of its production budget. It’s Ferrell’s worst opening for a movie in 18 years.

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The best films of 2017 so far

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 05:00:14 GMT2017-06-29T05:00:14Z

La La Land and The Love Witch wove magic, Moonlight and Lion wrung out tears, while Get Out and Lady Macbeth got nasty. Plus, there were striking debuts, returns to form by seasoned directors and reunions for the Trainspotting rogues

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The Book of Henry is a catastrophically awful film. Everyone should see it

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:51:07 GMT2017-06-22T13:51:07Z

Tonally it jerks from syrupy to shrill, filled with A-list actors working without conviction or connection. This is a film to be studied in What Not to Do classes

It had the star-wattage and the slick presentation, the money behind it, the talent on screen, the entire infrastructure of a major studio available to keep everything on course, and you have to wonder why The Book of Henry went so catastrophically wrong.

Related: The Book of Henry review – icky revenge weepie pours syrup over everything

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From Notting Hill to Hampstead: why do directors get London so wrong?

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:28:38 GMT2017-06-21T17:28:38Z

Dancing cockneys, cobbled streets, red phoneboxes and cold cliques … why are film-makers still peddling dated tourist-friendly fantasies of London when the reality is so much more interesting?

“Portobello Road! Portobello Road! / Street where the riches of ages are stowed / Anything but anything a chap can unload / Is sold off the barrow of Portobello Road / You can find what you want in the Pooooortobelllllllo Road!”

Until I moved to London from New York that song, performed in the 1971 Disney classic Bedknobs and Broomsticks, formed the entire basis of my idea of the city. As a kid I was obsessed with this movie, in which three children are sent out of London during the second world war, only to go back into the city with their new guardian – who happens to be a witch, and even more excitingly happens to be Angela Lansbury – to find a book of spells which will end the war. So they head, yes, to Portobello Road.

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The '50 films to watch before you're 11' – and what the list is missing

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 13:26:46 GMT2017-06-19T13:26:46Z

A film education charity has compiled a list of movies to help turn kids into well-rounded cineastes. But is there too much Shrek and not enough otter murder?

There are 50 movies that your child should watch before the age of 11, according to the film education charity Into Film. These films, chosen by a panel of “leading film experts” (who presumably have a sideline in child development), are said to impact your child’s intellectual, emotional and educational development so keenly that they’ll grow up to be a better person as a result. Did they get it right?

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Hampstead: is the grey pound ruining British cinema?

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 08:59:31 GMT2017-06-19T08:59:31Z

From Diane Keaton’s new film to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Venus, the over-60s are taking up too much screentime. It’s time to fight back Related: Mystery of Hampstead Heath squatter whose home inspired Hollywood romcom If the generational chasm exposed by last week’s election came as shock, you clearly haven’t been watching British movies. Young people have a raw enough deal already – austerity, student debt, unaffordable housing, Ed Sheeran – but British cinema has been rubbing their noses in it for a while, serving them grim tales of broken families and criminal career paths, from ’hood dramas like Kidulthood and Ill Manors to arthouse downers like Fish Tank and last month’s The Levelling, in which a Somerset teen puts her studies on hold to come and clear out the family stables – literally and metaphorically. That’s what you’ve got to look forward to, kids! Continue reading...[...]


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Your mother knits socks in Hull: what 'clean versions' of films will look like

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 05:00:00 GMT2017-06-16T05:00:00Z

A horror-free Exorcist? The Terminator without guns? Sony Pictures’ initiative to re-edit films for family viewing would have extraordinary results

Everybody knows that the best version of a film is the one you get shown during a flight. You know, the version that’s been jarringly edited to remove any trace of content that might somehow cause offence. The version that quite often doesn’t make any sense because of how roughly it’s been treated.

Related: Sony revises plan to release 'clean' versions of films after director outcry

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Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson: why The Graduate unites warring generations 50 years on

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 11:30:27 GMT2017-06-15T11:30:27Z

Watching the classic 1967 Dustin Hoffman film in a post-Brexit world of boomerang children lends it a whole new resonance. Which is hardly surprising when you consider the parallels with the era in which it was created

It was the Summer of Love, the first one. Young people were making their voices heard in politics and revealing the widening chasm between themselves and their parents’ generation. The film that summed it all up was The Graduate, released in the US in December 1967, starring Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, a despondent 20-year-old who moves back home after finishing college, and Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson, the much older women who seduces him.

Half a century on, and in the wake of a pensioner-powered Brexit vote and a Corbyn-inspired youthquake, all that inter-generational drama feels fresh once more. The film that sums it all up? It’s still The Graduate, soon to be back in cinemas and just as alluring, sophisticated and as emotionally unsettling as an affair with your parents’ best friend would be.

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From Bruce Lee to Paul Walker: how Hollywood pulled off its biggest resurrection acts

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 05:00:18 GMT2017-06-14T05:00:18Z

Paul Newman is only the latest star to return to the big screen after death. From Philip Seymour Hoffman to Peter Sellers, here are some of the most celebrated performances from beyond the grave

Related: Bruce Lee, Audrey Hepburn and the ethics of digital necromancy

We may never see the likes of Paul Newman again. But we can at least hear the blue-eyed star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid one more time after it was announced that Newman, who died in 2008, will return as the voice of old-time racer Doc Hudson in forthcoming animated adventure Cars 3.

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How we made An American Werewolf in London

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 15:59:37 GMT2017-06-12T15:59:37Z

David Naughton: ‘I was running round naked in the London Zoo wolf cage. Thankfully, they had been fed’

We filmed the moors scenes in Wales. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne were inexperienced movie actors, but they gelled perfectly as two American backpackers attacked by a werewolf. But there was this moment when they were out walking – it was freezing and Griffin’s nose started running. He thought I’d called “Cut” but I hadn’t, so by the end of the sequence he was just wiping his nose and almost giggling. We left it in: it gave the scenes a wonderfully real feeling.

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The Babadook: how the horror movie monster became a gay icon

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 06:34:40 GMT2017-06-11T06:34:40Z

Top-hatted ghoul has been hailed as LGBT figure in corners of social media after it was jokingly floated on Tumblr that he was gay

Queer communities of the internet are embracing an unlikely icon this Pride Month: the Babadook.

The top-hatted monster, from the Australian horror film of the same name, has been hailed as a LGBT figure in corners of social media since the end of last year, when it was jokingly floated on Tumblr that he was gay.

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