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Film | The Guardian

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

Published: Mon, 25 Sep 2017 21:08:50 GMT2017-09-25T21:08:50Z

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

James Corden's Peter Rabbit: another kids' classic wrecked forever

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 12:16:10 GMT2017-09-25T12:16:10Z

A new trailer reveals Beatrix Potter’s gentle rabbit has been turned into a house-trashing, cocky jerk. It looks like he’s gone the way of Postman Pat and Thunderbirds

In a concrete bunker situated miles below civilisation lives a crack team of scientists dedicated to one thing and one thing only: ruining Peter Rabbit as comprehensively as they possibly can.

Parents of young children might be fooled into thinking that their mission has already been a success. After all, there’s already a CBeebies Peter Rabbit adaptation that paints the sedate, 115-year-old Beatrix Potter character as a go-get-’em adventurer whose escapades are typically soundtracked by a series of nightmarish sub-Levellers songs about standing your ground and laughing in the face of danger.

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Pixel wizards: meet the unsung heroes bringing your favourite films to life

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 08:42:01 GMT2017-09-25T08:42:01Z

Forget directors, the real stars behind the likes of The Jungle Book and Star Wars are the VFX artists who build their digital worlds. We report from the cutting edge festival offering a glimpse into the secret life of cinema

“So I need to know: Are you ready to be transformed?” shouts Scott Ross to the 900-strong crowd in the auditorium. They respond with raucous applause. To them, Ross is a legend. He ran George Lucas’s visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in the 1980s, then founded his own Oscar-winning effects firm with James Cameron. His audience is largely made up of young people looking to follow in his footsteps: animators, video game designers, concept artists, illustrators and effects specialists. These are the people who build the digital worlds where we’re increasingly spending our leisure time – in movies, games, and virtual reality. They are transforming culture and they’ve come here to transform themselves, even if they’re not exactly sure what into.

Welcome to Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn. If the name sounds odd, that seems to be the idea. It takes place in Troia, Portugal, an idyllic peninsula just south of Lisbon. Its organisers describe it as “Burning Man meets TED Talks”, though it’s equally a spiritual retreat. Students and young professionals come here from across the world, as do big industry names looking to hire new talent, make connections and softly promote their brands – brands such as Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar, Google, Oculus (the Facebook-owned VR company), King (the makers of Candy Crush Saga) and Unity (makers of the pre-eminent game engine).

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Czech actor Jan Tříska dies, aged 80, after fall from Prague bridge

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 10:35:23 GMT2017-09-25T10:35:23Z

Actor who emigrated to the US during Czechoslovakia’s communist era was best known for his appearances in The Karate Kid Part III and Quantum Leap

Actor Jan Tříska, who moved to the US after being banned by Czechoslovakia’s communist regime, has died after falling from Prague’s iconic Charles Bridge. He was 80.

Prague theatre director Jan Hrušínský confirmed Tříska’s death on Monday. The actor died in Prague’s military hospital overnight due to injuries from the fall on Saturday, the circumstances of which remain unclear.

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From Blade Runner to Rollerball: did cinema's sci-fi dystopias predict the future?

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 08:59:09 GMT2017-09-25T08:59:09Z

We are living in the era imagined by science-fiction films – but is reality really mirroring fiction?

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

Police cars can’t fly, artificial snakes are not commercially available, and the exodus to off-world colonies has not yet begun, but we’re already living in the world of Blade Runner – chronologically, at least. The original movie is set in 2019. Rutger Hauer’s replicant-in-chief has been activated since January 2016. He might be watching attack ships off the shoulder of Orion as we speak.

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From Queen Victoria to Jesus Christ: the figures who most fascinate filmmakers

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 16:00:49 GMT2017-09-24T16:00:49Z

Thanks to Judi Dench, Victoria now reigns supreme as the most popular character ever in British films. But who are the pretenders to her throne?

Queen Victoria has replaced Sherlock Homes as the most featured character on British screens. According to a study by the British Film Institute, the monarch now is jointly tied with James Bond, on 25 films – thanks to Judi Dench’s turn in Victoria and Abdul. But which other enduring characters have appeared multiple times in the movies around the world?

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The Guardian at Tiff 2017: Darkest Hour producers on Brexit and Churchill – video

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 08:00:08 GMT2017-09-25T08:00:08Z

Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, the co-chairs of celebrated British production outfit Working Title talk to the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw about their long and varied careers, including the glory days of the Richard Curtis romcoms Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, and their newest films Victoria & Abdul and Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour.

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'The voice of the voiceless': how Viola Davis and Julius Tennon are changing the face of Hollywood

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 06:00:37 GMT2017-09-24T06:00:37Z

The wife-and-husband team set up their own production company to tackle Hollywood’s persistent diversity problem

The actor Julius Tennon is thrilled to be appearing alongside his Oscar-winning wife, Viola Davis, in the new season of her hit show, How to Get Away with Murder, later this month. It is rare they work together onscreen.

Offscreen, however, the power couple spend much of their time working together for they have a joint mission: to change the face of Hollywood by increasing diversity across the industry.

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Brexit critic Colin Firth opts for Italian passport for ‘family reasons’

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 15:42:02 GMT2017-09-23T15:42:02Z

Oscar-winning actor will continue to be based in London as officials in Rome confirm he now holds dual nationality

Many of the threats and promises exchanged during the row over Brexit have yet to be tested by time, but this weekend at least one has come to pass. The Oscar-winning film actor and producer Colin Firth, unmoved by Theresa May’s pronouncements in Florence, has accepted Italian citizenship, according to the Italian interior ministry in Rome.

Related: Kingsman: The Golden Circle review – spy sequel reaches new heights of skyscraping silliness

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How weird does a celebrity have to be before we stop watching their films?

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 07:59:10 GMT2017-09-23T07:59:10Z

All celebrities are a bit weird, so when one is known for being Weird Even For A Celebrity, you know they are probably crossing over to ‘actually quite scary’

Of the many deeply uncool things I am obsessed with – The Golden Girls, the oeuvre of Roxette, Princess Anne’s hair – the uncoolest is also the one that has been with me the longest. Tom Cruise has been a part of my mental landscape ever since I was old enough to read in a magazine that I was supposed to fancy him. I was alive in the 80s and, as strange as this is now to think about, what with his deeply unsexy obsession since with thetans, back then he was very much pitched as Mr Sexxxxxy. Which is even stranger when you think that Cruise didn’t even grow into his face for another decade: back in Risky Business and The Outsiders, he looked vague and doughy next to his co-stars, particularly the Adonis that was the young Rob Lowe.

Cruise was never really my type, but I will argue until closing time and beyond that he is one of the most watchable actors of all time: a proper Hollywood star who proved in one decade he could do top notch schlock (Top Gun), mediocre schlock (Cocktail) and proper acting (Born On The Fourth Of July and Rain Man, for which he should have won the Oscar instead of Dustin Hoffman).

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Gaga: Five Foot Two review – pint-sized music doc wallows in self reflection

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 18:51:31 GMT2017-09-22T18:51:31Z

Despite artful direction and meticulous curation by Gaga herself, the documentary never quite shakes the feel of a longform advert for the singer’s new phase – one that’s preaching to the converted

It’s been a transformative year in the life of Stefani Germanotta, a cycle purportedly captured in the new documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, which is streaming on Netflix starting Friday. The vérité-style feature tracks the artist during the recording, release and promotion of her fifth studio cut, Joanne, culminating with her triumphant performance at the Super Bowl half-time show. The title, a nod to both the performer’s diminutive stature and the Guy Lombardo number, showcases the sincerity and humor and artistry that’s engendered a connection with her legion of Little Monsters over the years, but not even as formidable a talent as Gaga can overcome the inherent pitfalls of the authorized popstar documentary.

Artfully directed by the Banksy profiler Chris Moukarbel and meticulously curated by the subject, who doubles as executive producer, the narrative follows the familiar beats of the genre with similarities to 1991’s Madonna: Truth or Dare. That similarity will do no favors for an artist who’s sparred with comparisons to Her Madgesty, which are addressed directly, and amusingly, on more than one occasion. Nearly a decade after she soared to global success with 2008’s The Fame, with an array of masks, headgear, and wigs to conceal her persona, there are moments of revelation and self-reflection dressed as a compelling pitch for the present chapter and ones to come. But not nearly enough of them, as Five Foot Two never quite shakes the feel of a longform advert for Gaga’s new phase that’s preaching to the converted.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle – did the shock tactics go too far? Discuss with spoilers

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 09:53:19 GMT2017-09-22T09:53:19Z

Was the sex and violence boundary-pushing or in poor taste? Did the Elton John joke wear thin? And what to make of Colin Firth’s resurrection?

Kingsman: The Secret Service was a big sleeper hit, racking up $414m worldwide and confirming director Matthew Vaughn as a major Hollywood player. So can the British film-maker repeat the trick? So far Kingsman: The Golden Circle is balancing precariously at 50% approval on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, indicating a mixed reception to the return of super-spy Eggsie and his cohort of nattily dressed secret agents. Here’s your chance to weigh in on the film’s key talking points.

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Yes, yes, yes! Welcome to the golden age of slutty cinema

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 05:00:38 GMT2017-09-22T05:00:38Z

The promiscuous heroine of the indie film Daphne upends on-screen conventions about women and sex. From Bond to Bridesmaids and beyond, are the movies finally coming to terms with female desire?

It is a radical act, which every film generation thinks they are the first to discover: to create characters who are not good people. When you drill into it, this always means creating men who are not good men, since the grey areas around women on screen – do they have any lines that aren’t variations on “help”? Do they have motivation independent of the hero’s? – mean that, even in a putatively intelligent film, it is often quite hard to ascribe a moral arc to them, as it would be to a horse, or a robot. So let’s leave aside “good” – it is vanishingly rare, and pretty bracing, to see a woman on screen who isn’t the villain, and yet is not likable.

The eponymous Daphne, a millennial chef trying to weather a choppy, hostile London, in a low-fi indie debut from Peter Mackie Burns, is not at all winsome – haughty and self-absorbed, cranky and ungenerous, she is arresting like the first spoon of a cold soup that you expected to be hot. Her sheer obstreperousness gets in the way of what would otherwise be her headline trait, promiscuity. She’s more often to be found nearly getting laid, then storming off for reasons that may or may not be valid (Daphne is quite a good fourth-date film, or any time you want to have an argument about men and women), than actually pursuing a sexual destiny, distinct from a romantic one. Nevertheless, she has agency enough to upend all the on-screen conventions about women and sex. In theory, if not in practice, she sleeps with whoever she wants to.

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Tramontane review – musical road trip untangles trauma of Lebanese civil war

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 09:00:43 GMT2017-09-22T09:00:43Z

Vatche Boulghourjian was selected for Cannes’ Critics’ Week for this meandering mystery about a blind musician who discovers that his childhood was a lie

Tramontane can mean “northern wind”, but is also the name of the lead character; in Arabic it is Rabih. The blind Lebanese singer and musician Barakat Jabbour takes the lead role in this interesting and distinctive if undeveloped feature debut, a kind of road-movie mystery. It is written and directed by Vatche Boulghourjian, the Lebanese film-maker whose career developed through the Cinéfondation at Cannes, and who was selected for Critics’ Week with this film.

Jabbour plays Rabih, a young man who is – like the actor himself – blind and a talented musician. He is the adopted son of Samar (Julia Kassar) and by that token the nephew of Julia’s brother Hisham (Toufic Barakat), a shady businessman. When Rabih is invited to tour Europe with his group, he needs a passport; the authorities tell him his ID is fake, and Rabih realises everything he has been told about how he was found as a baby is a lie. He goes on a slightly improbable road trip, to ask questions of Hisham’s suspicious, resentful friends and relatives, and discovers his identity can be found only by dredging up painful memories of the Lebanese civil war.

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On Body and Soul and In Between: this week’s best films in the UK

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 08:58:58 GMT2017-09-22T08:58:58Z

A peculiar tale about the characters at a slaughterhouse stands out from the crowd, while Palestinian womanhood gets an eye-opening update

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The Guardian at Tiff 2017: Glenn Close on her new starring role, The Wife – video

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 08:00:42 GMT2017-09-22T08:00:42Z

In the second of our live onstage interviews at the Toronto film festival, Peter Bradshaw discusses The Wife with its star Glenn Close. Close plays a woman whose husband (Jonathan Pryce) is to accept the Nobel prize, and the trip to Sweden precipitates a crisis as frustrations over her own writing career emerge.   

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It’s lit! How film finally learned to light black skin

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:26:52 GMT2017-09-21T16:26:52Z

In lighting, makeup and camera calibration, cinema has pandered to white skin for decades. Now, a new generation of film-makers are keen to ensure people of colour look as good on screen as they should

Insecure, the HBO series currently in its terrific second season (#TeamMolly), has been garnering attention since its pilot for its refreshing look at the lives of a small group of black women in Los Angeles. Broadcast in the same slot as its precursor Girls, which showed women as their “real” messy selves, and before that Sex and the City, a fantasia of skipping round New York in Manolos, Insecure sits somewhere between the two. Its storylines are all too real, but it looks stylish and glamorous.

Previous incarnations of black characters on television have mainly been overlit sitcoms or overly gloomy slices of realism. Insecure is neither – and its actors look like bonafide movie stars.

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Borg vs McEnroe’s Stellan Skarsgård: ‘I’ve been changing diapers for 40 years’

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:00:21 GMT2017-09-21T15:00:21Z

He’s both one of Sweden’s most prolific actors and the father of eight kids – including actors Alexander and Bill. So it’s no surprise that – despite starring in the nail-biting tennis drama – he doesn’t have much time for sport

It must be difficult to get entirely swept up in the magic of the movies when you are the man who once changed Pennywise’s nappies. This is the strange position that actor Stellan Skarsgård finds himself in, as he promotes his new film, Borg vs McEnroe, while his 27-year-old son, Bill Skarsgård, is receiving rave reviews for playing the demonic clown in a new adaptation of Stephen King’s It while his eldest son, Alexander, is about to win an Emmy for his role in Big Little Lies. “I was happy when he was doing It because he had so much fun, and that’s where the joy was really,” says Skarsgård senior, frowning thoughtfully out of the hotel room window, as if searching for the right words amid the rooftop air vents. “It’s also kind of ridiculous, all of it, isn’t it? On Sunday, Alexander goes up for the Emmy … It’s kind of silly, isn’t it?”

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Viola Davis leads mission to bring diversity to Hollywood

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 23:04:29 GMT2017-09-23T23:04:29Z

The Oscar winner and her husband Julius Tennon explain why the US film industry’s diversity crisis can only be fixed from within

Actor Julius Tennon is thrilled to be appearing alongside his Oscar-winning wife, Viola Davis, in the new season of her hit show How to Get Away with Murder. It is rare they work together on screen. Off screen, however, the power couple have a joint mission: to change the face of Hollywood by increasing diversity across the industry.

Related: Hollywood still excludes women, ethnic minorities, LGBT and disabled people, says report

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Spectacular Fast and Furious car stunt live show is a £25m gamble

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 23:01:31 GMT2017-09-21T23:01:31Z

Producers of a show based on the film franchise are banking on there being enough petrolheads to fill arenas the world over

It will have a fuel tanker engulfed in flames bouncing across the arena, a jack-knifed lorry pursued by screeching Honda Civic EJ1s, at least two tanks, a souped-up Dodge Charger and a bright orange Lamborghini, obviously, and a submarine crashing through the ice.

“It is not a real Akula-class submarine,” said Rowland French regretfully, who is the creative brains behind the live arena show that he believes is one of the biggest and most ambitious ever staged. “Much as I would like to have the opportunity to play with a real one. It will look like one though.”

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Isle of Dogs: watch the trailer for Wes Anderson's dystopian canine epic

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:41:37 GMT2017-09-21T15:41:37Z

Set in a future Japan where dogs have been banished to an island of garbage, Anderson’s animated film features the voice work of Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Yoko Ono

The first trailer for Wes Anderson’s new animation Isle of Dogs has been revealed.

Set in a dystopian future Japan where dogs have been banished to a island made of garbage, following the outbreak of canine flu, Isle of Dogs follows a young boy’s odyssey to find his lost pet. The film utilises the same stop-motion animation seen in Anderson’s 2009 Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr Fox and features a gargantuan voice cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton and Yoko Ono.

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British cinema's gender imbalance worse in 2017 than 1913, says BFI study

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 17:11:13 GMT2017-09-20T17:11:13Z

BFI’s new Filmography survey shows 31% of actors cast in films produced 104 years ago were women, with 2017’s figure 30%

In the century or so since the birth of British cinema, moviegoers have enjoyed the advent of sound, colour, 3D, and pick’n’mix. But according to an exhaustive new survey of film history, the industry’s historically lopsided gender balance has barely changed.

In “depressing” statistics released as part of the BFI’s Filmography of British film on Wednesday, 31% of actors cast in films produced in 1913 were women; in 2017 the proportion is actually lower despite increased public attention, at 30%.

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Sarah Connor returns: Linda Hamilton to star in Terminator 6 after 25-year absence

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:48:34 GMT2017-09-20T09:48:34Z

Latest instalment of the franchise will see Hamilton reunited with Arnold Schwarzenegger and original creator James Cameron

Linda Hamilton is the latest name to return to the Terminator films, more than 25 years since her last appearance as the series’ robot-battling heroine Sarah Connor.

The actor’s return was announced by Terminator creator James Cameron at a private event celebrating the franchise, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Hamilton will reprise her role as Connor in the as-yet-untitled sixth instalment of the series, which will see her reunited with Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose own appearance in Terminator 6 was confirmed earlier this year. Cameron will produce and Deadpool’s Tim Miller will direct the film, which is being treated as a direct sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and is being eyed up as the first instalment of a new trilogy.

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Stephen King's It scares off competition at UK box office as Mother! divides and falls

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 11:50:36 GMT2017-09-19T11:50:36Z

A pair of horror films met contrasting fates at cinemas in a week that saw a royal return for Judi Dench and inexplicable longevity for The Emoji Movie

With £22.2m grossed from just 10 days of cinema play, Stephen King adaptation It is already well on the way to becoming the biggest horror movie of all time at the UK box office. Second-frame takings of £6.07m showed a fall of 38% from the opening session – a remarkably low rate of decline for a horror picture.

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Three Billboards heads for Oscar glory after winning Toronto's People's Choice award

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 10:27:50 GMT2017-09-18T10:27:50Z

British director Martin McDonagh’s film about a woman avenging the murder of her daughter received the film festival’s popular vote

Martin McDonagh’s black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has received a major boost in its Oscar prospects by winning the top honour at the Toronto international film festival.

Related: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri review – violent carnival of small-town America

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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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Moving mountains: how Jennifer Peedom captured pure majesty on film – video

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:00:25 GMT2017-09-21T18:00:25Z

Australian director Jennifer Peedom sits down to discuss the making of her latest film, Mountain, a cinematic and musical collaboration between Peedom and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Written by bestselling author Robert Macfarlane, the documentary explores our fascination with mountains. Peedom explains how the collaboration worked – “it means that I’m not the boss” – and how music and film combined

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle: Colin Firth on the superspy comedy sequel – video

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:25:56 GMT2017-09-21T15:25:56Z

The second Kingsman film sees the dapper British secret agents go up against American supervillain Poppy Adams, played by Julianne Moore, with the help of Statesman, their US equivalent. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is out now in the UK, and is released on 21 September in Australia and 22 September in the US.

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Harry Dean Stanton dies aged 91 – video obituary

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 11:24:28 GMT2017-09-16T11:24:28Z

The cult US actor died in an Los Angeles hospital on Friday, aged 91. Stanton’s career spanned more than six decades, appearing in scores of films including Paris, Texas; Alien and Repo Man. Stanton was famed for his ability to project his hangdog, laconic charm into minor roles

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The Guardian at Tiff 2017: meet the stars of gay romance Call Me by Your Name – video

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 13:30:07 GMT2017-09-11T13:30:07Z

In the first of three sessions from the Toronto film festival, the team behind Call Me by Your Name discuss their film with the Guardian’s Benjamin Lee. Based on the novel by André Aciman about an affair between a 17-year-old and a visiting academic, Call Me by Your Name stars Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, and is directed by Luca Guadagnino; it will be released on 27 October in the UK, 24 November in the US and 26 December in Australia.

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I am your conductor: Darth Vader leads orchestra – video

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 15:46:31 GMT2017-08-28T15:46:31Z

Kazakhstan’s National Conservatory orchestra performs John Williams’ Imperial March from Star Wars, conducted by Lord Vader himself. The concert, held within Expo 2017 Astana economic forum, surprised the audience when Darth Vader mounted the stage and faced the orchestra wielding a lightsaber for a baton

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Life and times of Jerry Lewis, the 'king of comedy' – video obituary

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 02:20:46 GMT2017-08-21T02:20:46Z

The renowned actor and slapstick legend has died in his Las Vegas home at the age of 91. Jerry Lewis was the knockabout clown, singer and showbusiness savant who started professional life in a double act with Dean Martin, went solo and was for a while the biggest comedy star in Hollywood

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Daniel Craig confirms he will return as James Bond – video

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 11:55:56 GMT2017-08-16T11:55:56Z

In an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, Daniel Craig said he would be reprising his role as James Bond. Craig has starred as 007 in four films to date. The news of his return was welcomed by fans of the film franchise around the world

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Watch the trailer for Wolf Warriors 2 – video

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:32:21 GMT2017-08-08T08:32:21Z

Watch the trailer for Wolf Warriors 2, the sequel to the Chinese box-office hit Wolf Warriors. Wolf Warriors 2 stars Wu Jing as action hero Leng Feng, who finds himself in an unnamed African country trying to live a peaceful life, only to be forced to return to his old ways as a soldier

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Barbecue: watch the trailer for a meaty new documentary – video

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 01:38:55 GMT2017-08-04T01:38:55Z

Barbecues are about more than just cooking meat over an open flame. For many, the grill is a pathway to community that crosses cultural boundaries. From Texas to Tokyo, Australian film-makers Matthew Salleh and Rose Tucker explore the meaning of this simple but emotive ritual around the world. Barbecue is streaming on Netflix from 15 August

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In a Heartbeat: watch the trailer for animated short film – video

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 00:05:23 GMT2017-08-04T00:05:23Z

‘A closeted boy runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams.’ Trailer for the animated short film In a Heartbeat, which has garnered over 11m views on YouTube.

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Sam Shepard, celebrated playwright and actor, dies at 73 – video report

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 18:05:41 GMT2017-07-31T18:05:41Z

Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated actor and celebrated author, whose plays chronicled the explosive fault lines of family and masculinity in the American west, has died aged 73. Shepard, though famously a man of few words, produced 44 plays and numerous books, memoirs and short stories. His 1979 play, Buried Child, won the Pulitzer for drama

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What the F? How Mother! joined the 'bad movie' club

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 18:03:33 GMT2017-09-18T18:03:33Z

Filmgoers have handed the film the lowest possible rating, putting it among a select group of F-rated movies that includes the Nic Cage remake of The Wicker Man. Can the Jennifer Lawrence horror really be ‘the worst film of the century’?

At the very beginning of last week’s Toronto film festival, all I wanted to talk about with anyone was the movie I had just seen: Darren Aronofsky’s crazily brilliant and audacious horror-thriller Mother!, all about the couple, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, to whom bad stuff happens at an exponential rate.

My friend Col Needham, founder and chief executive of the Internet Movie Database, smiled and told me: “Do you know, I think it’s a Schrödinger’s movie. Inside the box, there’s a film that is very good and very bad at the same time.” Perhaps in that spirit, the Toronto Globe and Mail noncommittally settled on two different star ratings for Mother!: one star (“for the Aronofsky agnostic”) and four stars (“for the Aronofsky acolyte”). I myself had been an agnostic since Aronofsky’s previous, middling film about Noah.

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Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:08:11 GMT2017-09-18T14:08:11Z

The #stopHansZimmer hashtag was created after the composer was brought in to provide the music for Blade Runner 2049, with critics claiming he’s too dominant

Rare is it that composers of instrumental music can get the time of day from the general public, but Hans Zimmer is a bona fide rockstar. His summer tour played to zealous fans throughout Europe and North America at venues such as Wembley Arena, Radio City Music Hall in New York, and a rousing set at Coachella. The Supermarine cue from his Dunkirk score has a ready spot on my iPhone’s playlist and, although the 60-year-old Frankfurt native is a phenomenon deserving our respect, but maybe it’s time to reel it in a little.

Related: Radiohead and Hans Zimmer collaborate for Blue Planet II teaser

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Horrorwood! Will the new golden age of scary movies save cinema?

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 16:41:08 GMT2017-09-14T16:41:08Z

It’s been a disappointing year at the box office – which means the huge success of It, Get Out and other horrors have made the genre more vital than ever. So how did these once-fringe films move to the heart of the mainstream?A creepy clown has just chomped a monstrous chunk out of the box office – and It is not alone. This year, horrors Annabelle: Creation and the fantastic Get Out have thrived while other genres struggled to draw in the crowds. The Stephen King adaptation about the evil Pennywise has made nearly $180m (£134m) worldwide in its opening weekend, the biggest-ever opening for a horror. It’s official: horror films are firmly part of the mainstream – for good or bad.The Conjuring “universe” kicked off in 2013, buoyed by the success of the Insidious series. The supernatural sequels and spin-offs that followed its success have since magicked themselves into the worldwide top 30, a list that’s more typically dominated by action, sci-fi and family films. Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation were both part of this phenomenon – the latter made it to number one at the US box office – and there’s more to come: there are spin-offs called The Nun (scarier than it sounds) and The Crooked Man in the offing, alongside The Conjuring 3. It seems audiences cannot get enough. Continue reading...[...]

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Talk is cheap: will anyone save us from the waking nightmare of director Q&As?

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 11:08:34 GMT2017-09-14T11:08:34Z

The growing trend for film-makers to discuss their work with the audience after a screening is ruining the cinemagoing experience. Please make it stop!

There is a disease in the heart of cinema, and that disease is the Q&A. More cinemas are putting them on than ever, partly as a response to the rise of online streaming, in order to “add value” to their offering – and audiences are lapping it up. Q&As with directors and cast sell out in minutes to people consumed with a burning impulse to ask why there are no nice characters in the movie, or what it was like to film all those hot scenes. Why? Who would willingly put themselves through this hell? When will we wake from this nightmare?

Imagine if other art forms enacted the same depressing, bathetic rituals as film-makers do with the Q&A. If, at the end of a gig, the lights came up and Dave Grohl and the rest of Foo Fighters came back on stage to sit on stools and take a few softball questions about lyrics and feedback from Lauren Laverne, before a microphone was passed into the crowd for concert-goers to ask why I’ll Stick Around was omitted from the setlist, or if the band have any words about the passing of David Bowie.

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Liam Neeson has retired from action films – we'll miss his particular set of skills

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 10:18:20 GMT2017-09-13T10:18:20Z

The Taken actor has announced his departure from the genre after a decade of gleefully schlocky thrillers, but also one stone-cold classic

Related: Non-stop action: why Hollywood’s ageing heroes won’t give up

So that’s it. Liam Neeson is no longer an action movie star. His retirement from action films, announced yesterday (“I’m sixty-fucking-five. Audiences are eventually going to go: ‘Come on,’” he said at the Toronto film festival), forms the conclusion of perhaps the most unlikely career jag in cinema history.

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Will the success of Stephen King's It result in a Hollywood Kingaissance?

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 05:00:26 GMT2017-09-12T05:00:26Z

The stunning box-office returns for It mean that studios will be desperate for more King adaptations. They mustn’t waste the opportunity

Stephen King has always had a complex relationship with Hollywood. Studios adore the writer’s offbeat verve and creativity, yet have often balked at the more transgressive corners of his back catalogue. The latest Kingism to be left out of a big-screen adaptation is the infamous teen sex scene in the novel It, the movie adaptation of which has just wowed the global box office with a frightening $179m on its opening weekend – a new record for a horror flick. In the book, the six male members of the “Losers Club”, battling to destroy the murderous titular villain, realise they can only win by having sex with their only female comrade, 14-year-old Beverly Marsh. King describes the encounter in excruciating detail.

Given the youngest Loser, chubby Ben Hanscom, is aged just 11, it is unsurprising that Andy Muschietti and his team chose to avoid the scene altogether. The written word may retain an immersive quality that even the most hi-tech 3D screenings would struggle to match, but authors will always be given more leeway than their counterparts in film and TV. For the most part, this is a good thing – imagine the outrage at Game of Thrones’ more taboo-busting moments if the younger characters from George RR Martin’s original books had not been radically aged up for the HBO adaptation. Or imagine if the icky-sounding version of It originally imagined by True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga, who left the project over creative differences, had made it into cinemas.

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Not so super: why Hollywood's cinematic universes are on the way out

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 05:00:33 GMT2017-09-05T05:00:33Z

Marvel’s interlinked superhero movies transformed industry thinking, but now rival studios are increasingly reverting to simpler, old-school storytelling

It’s never easy to change the habits of a lifetime. We spend much of our existence watching the more outwardly successful members of our society and trying to shift our outlook subtly in order to be just a bit more like them. To exercise more; to eat less. To spend more time reading works of fine literature and watching cult movies; to spend less time on Facebook and reading the gossip pages or football transfer news. Yet we often find ourselves reverting to type, because these are the tiny vices that get us through the day.

Something similar seems to be happening in Hollywood right now when it comes to comic-book movies. Rival studios such as Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox have noted the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) model and would quite like their own piece of the pie. But try as they might, they cannot help but revert to older film-making models that have served them well in the past – and require rather less joined-up thinking.

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Fire Walk With Me: how David Lynch's film went from laughing stock to the key to Twin Peaks

Sat, 02 Sep 2017 06:00:07 GMT2017-09-02T06:00:07Z

In 1992 it was critically savaged and fast forgotten. But the new TV series has helped reveal the film to be a harrowing tour de force that shuns easy answers

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is David Lynch’s film maudit. With the revival of the director’s seminal TV series currently earning acclaim, it might be hard from today’s perspective to fathom the stink the prequel caused when it was released back in 1992. Although there has been a critical reappraisal in recent times, Fire Walk With Me’s reputation at the time was of the atrocious movie from a director who’d lost his pop-surrealist mojo.

When it was released in 691 screens across the US on 28 August, the show’s rabid fanbase were feverishly expecting another slice of quirky cherry pie on a bigger canvas, with all their favourite characters back and as adorably odd as ever. Instead, they were presented with an intense, sordid, phantasmagorical tragedy about sexual abuse and loneliness, filled with bizarre sequences and wacky details – David Bowie showing up as rogue FBI agent, for instance – that, detractors claimed, made zero sense to anybody but the director and co-writer Robert Engels.

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'It was wonderfully scary': Tim Curry, Rob Reiner and Kathy Bates on the joy of adapting Stephen King

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 05:00:35 GMT2017-09-01T05:00:35Z

Four decades after Carrie, the master horror writer’s It is the latest of his tales to be turned into a film. Actors and directors explain what’s kept the industry hooked

Hollywood pounced on Stephen King as soon as his first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974. Over four decades, filmmakers have continued to take his words off the page and on to screens, scaring and delighting audiences in equal measure. From the terror of Misery to the bittersweet charm of Stand By Me, King is one of cinema’s biggest forces, his work lending itself to endless interpretations. So what is it that keeps the industry coming back for more? What exactly is that Stephen King magic that makes for such chilling entertainment, and what is it that makes him tick? We asked some of those who have brought his greatest creations to life.

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Is Fantastic Four the most mismanaged superhero franchise ever?

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 09:41:59 GMT2017-08-29T09:41:59Z

Marvel’s awesome foursome have endured a long history of underwhelming big-screen outings – and a new, kid-centric reboot looks set to continue that pattern

It is tempting to wonder if there has ever been a superhero team more mishandled on the big screen than the Fantastic Four. On the face of it, Marvel’s awesome foursome are less frumpy and passé than Captain America, more recognisable to the general public than … say … Deadpool, and have a collective backstory that’s almost as absurdly cosmic as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet somehow all of the above are thriving in multiplexes, while Reed Richards and co are an enduring Hollywood disappointment.

If blame is to be laid anywhere, it should probably be placed at the door of 20th Century Fox, the studio that bought the big screen rights to Fantastic Four way back in the 1990s, and has held onto them ever since despite all available evidence suggesting that it hasn’t got a clue what to do with the superhero team. In fact, the history of the franchise points to one knee-jerk decision after another, a pattern that shows no sign of letting up if rumours that the latest reboot are to be believed.

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Not coming soon: the star-studded films that almost didn't get released

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 10:00:09 GMT2017-08-29T10:00:09Z

The release of the oft-delayed period drama Tulip Fever, filmed three years ago, reveals the latest starry project that’s suffered a bungled journey to the screen

There was a time, way back in the simpler, more innocent mists of the early 2000s, when Tulip Fever was a very hot Hollywood property. Deborah Moggach’s bestselling novel, a historical romance set in 17th-century Amsterdam, put dollar signs and golden statuettes in the eyes of producers seeking a period hit in the vein of Shakespeare in Love. Tom Stoppard, that film’s Oscar-winning screenwriter, did the adaptation; Jude Law and Keira Knightley were cast, only for the UK government to seal off the tax loophole enabling its funding.

Related: Hollywood at war: when film-makers feud with each other

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‘The idea that it’s good business is a myth’ – why Hollywood whitewashing has become toxic

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 17:46:15 GMT2017-08-29T17:46:15Z

Ed Skrein has resigned from a forthcoming Hellboy film in which he was cast as a Japanese-American. Activists say it could be a pivotal moment for an industry happy to jettison cultural sensitivity for star power

In its original sense, “whitewashing” meant covering or cleaning something up. In today’s cultural landscape, it is a stain that won’t rub off. Now, “whitewashing” describes the habit of casting white actors to play non-white characters, often to shoehorn in a star, sometimes out of racial insensitivity, invariably to the detriment of people (and especially actors) of colour.

Film and television used to be able to get away with whitewashing, but when the word is associated with a project these days it tends to stick. It comes up at every press conference, it generates a cloud of Twitter memes. The signs point to it starting to make an impression on the people who make movies. On Monday, in what could be a pivotal development, British actor Ed Skrein announced he would be stepping down from his role in Hellboy, a reboot of the comic-book franchise, just days after his casting had been announced.

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Innocence lost: Stephen King’s It and the real-life horror of kids in Hollywood

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 08:59:29 GMT2017-08-28T08:59:29Z

Child peril isn’t just a theme of the biggest scary films, it’s an off-screen reality

Related: Scary toddlers and super creeps – helicopter parenting and the rise of 'kindergarten horror'

Actor Bill Skarsgård had a moment of clarity playing Pennywise, the scary clown in the new movie of Stephen King’s It, when he walked into a scene full of unsuspecting child extras. “Some of these kids got terrified and started to cry in the middle of the take, and then I realised, ‘Holy shit. What am I doing? … This is horrible.’”

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Tobe Hooper: the director who took a chainsaw to wholesome family life | Peter Bradshaw

Sun, 27 Aug 2017 11:57:44 GMT2017-08-27T11:57:44Z

With his macabre horror masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hooper found dark inspiration in the shadowy, secretive side of the American household

Related: Tobe Hooper, Texas Chainsaw Massacre director, dies at 74

Perhaps it was Wes Craven who offered the definitive comment on Tobe Hooper’s macabre masterpiece from 1974, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Craven called it “Mansonite” and in a spirit of dark humour he applied the adjective as much to the film’s creator as the thing itself. The director had invaded our minds with this diabolically horrible film and very much moved the furniture around in our skulls.

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Why an underpass in Berlin is Hollywood’s biggest breakout star

Sun, 27 Aug 2017 13:59:06 GMT2017-08-27T13:59:06Z

From the Bourne Supremacy to Atomic Blonde, the Messedamm subway has starred in six blockbusters over the past 13 years

The second Bourne film, the fourth Hunger Games movie, an indie flick about a teen assassin and one of the highest-grossing instalments in the Marvel cinematic universe. If that were the IMDb page of an actor, you would think they were on their way to the big time. But the CV in question belongs not to a person, but a tunnel in Berlin.

Since doubling as the exterior of a Moscow airport in 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, the distinctive orange-tiled walls and pillars of the Messedamm underpass have been seen in Joe Wright’s Hanna in 2011, 2015’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, last year’s Captain America: Civil War and Charlize Theron spy thriller Atomic Blonde, released earlier this month.

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Lights, camera, inaction – could Brexit hurt the British film production boom?

Sat, 26 Aug 2017 15:00:39 GMT2017-08-26T15:00:39Z

With Hollywood dollars pouring in and the pound weakening, business looks good in the short term. But millions in EU funding could disappear after exit

The British film production boom, from blockbusters including the new Star Wars trilogy to smaller domestic flicks and European co-productions, has played a role in propping up growth in the UK economy following the Brexit vote.

However, producers – including the backer of a film about that most British of figures, Winston Churchill – have warned that severing links with Brussels will endanger the industry. Lionsgate, which released Churchill in June, worries that Brexit will impede the already complex process of funding, filming and releasing a multimillion-pound product.

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These aren't the spinoffs you are looking for: Star Wars movies that should never get the green light

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 14:33:18 GMT2017-08-21T14:33:18Z

From Han Solo to Obi-Wan Kenobi, some of Star Wars’ most famous characters have movies on the way. We can only pray that Chewbacca or Jar Jar Binks are not among them

The Star Wars spin-offs have a tricky line to walk. On one hand, they have to fill in the backstories of some of the most famous characters in movie history. On the other, they have to retain some of the mystery that made them so beloved in the first place. You just have to see how badly George Lucas botched Boba Fett, saddling him with untold daddy issues in the prequels, to see how tricky it’s going to be.

But, still, they keep coming. As well as the troubled Young Han Solo movie, there’s now likely to be a Young Obi-Wan movie, a Young Jabba the Hutt movie and, yes, another crack at a Young Boba Fett movie. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before every peripheral Star Wars character in history ends up with their own spin-off. But some characters do not deserve such treatment. These are those characters.

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Godzilla vs Kong: whoever wins Hollywood's monster mashup, we all lose

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:48:26 GMT2017-08-22T09:48:26Z

Adam Wingard has promised a definitive victor when the giant beasties go at it in 2020. But the history of ‘versus’ movies suggest that, irrespective of who triumphs, audiences will feel short-changedThe last 18 months have seen something of a renaissance for the high-octane big-budget B-movie. From the hyper-real monster mashup of Kong: Skull Island to the one-gal-against-the-ocean thrills of Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows, to trashy superhero epics such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, the multiplexes have been invaded with low-concept, semi-infantilised cinema. It is no surprise to discover that Hollywood executives are currently greenlighting movies based on the whims of four-year-olds, because most of the above films could have been dreamt up – at least in terms of their basic concept – by small children.Not that this is necessarily a bad thing for those of us who love genre fare. The entire blockbuster era was ushered in when Hollywood began looking for counter-programming to the auteur-led film-making of the 1970s, and for all its faults it has delivered myriad examples of totemic cinema. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a B-movie in all but name, right down to the giant rubber shark that features as the antagonist; likewise, 1977’s Star Wars is the kind of far-out, boys’ own space romp that would and could only have been made as a cheap throwaway for the drive-ins and grindhouse theatres just a few years previously. Continue reading...[...]

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Jake LaMotta: a flawed character alchemised by Raging Bull into a mythical figure

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 05:00:25 GMT2017-09-21T05:00:25Z

LaMotta was immortalised on screen by Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, but their brilliant 1980 movie remade boxing history in the process

Related: Jake LaMotta, former boxer whose life was subject of Raging Bull, dies aged 95

“Now, sometimes, at night, when I think back, I feel like I’m looking at an old black-and-white movie of myself. Why it should be black-and-white, I don’t know, but it is. Not a good movie, either, jerky, with gaps in it, a string of poorly lit sequences, some of them with no beginning and no end.”

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Steve Buscemi: ‘In some ways I feel I haven’t fulfilled my true potential'

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 07:00:34 GMT2017-09-17T07:00:34Z

From firefighter and bar fly to Hollywood superstar, Steve Buscemi has populated his films with lovable oddballs and cold-blooded killers. But, as Aaron Hicklin finds, it’s all been driven by his need to fit in

Like Tommy, the aimless barfly he plays in Trees Lounge, the melancholic 1996 indie film he also wrote and directed, Steve Buscemi found himself in a spiral of hopelessness after leaving school, jumping from one part-time job to another: cinema usher, ice-cream seller, petrol station attendant. There were many long nights in bars. “I really had difficulty there [on Long Island] in my last couple of years because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “I felt my life was going nowhere.” His father had pushed all four of his sons to take a civil service exam, in Buscemi’s case as an avenue to a career with the fire service, where he would work for four years.

Although he knew he wanted to be an actor, he had only a dim notion of how to realise his dream. It was also his father who suggested he apply for drama school, ostensibly as an interlude until the fire department came calling. At his interview for the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, Buscemi was asked why he wanted to be an actor. He casually parroted his dad’s well-meaning advice that acting classes would stand him in good stead for whatever path he chose in life. “I remember her telling me: ‘Well, we really want people who want to be actors,’” he recalls. “In that moment, I felt I really blew it.” He didn’t, as it happens, but it taught him not to be so cavalier about the thing he was most passionate about.

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Mark Strong: ‘I’ve seen people I know become very famous. It’s nothing I would recommend’

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:35 GMT2017-09-17T08:00:35Z

The Kingsman actor on not playing the fame game, the hit-and-run joy of character acting and his punk-rock past

Mark Strong is one of the UK’s most successful cinema character actors, with almost 60 film credits in 25 years, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Zero Dark Thirty and the Kingsman series. On stage, he won the 2015 Olivier award for best actor for his role in A View from the Bridge. An only child, Strong was born in London and brought up by his Austrian mother, who worked as an au pair. His Italian father left when he was baby. He lives in north London with his wife, the producer Liza Marshall, and two sons.

You studied constitutional law at Munich University. You could now be an anonymous functionary in the German legal system. What made you want to become an actor?
I had fantasies of being a European lawyer, but I quickly realised I probably just had fantasies of wearing a raincoat and carrying a briefcase and driving a BMW. I thought that would be cool. But the study of law is so dry, especially constitutional law in German. I came across a class in Munich – only Germans could have a course called Theaterwissenschaft, which means theatre science – and it was way more interesting than what was going on in the lecture halls. I just managed to get in on that somehow, and that opened up the whole world of theatre, acting, performance.

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Michael Keaton: ‘There was a lot of bad taste in the 90s and I contributed to that’

Sat, 09 Sep 2017 08:30:03 GMT2017-09-09T08:30:03Z

From Beetlejuice to Batman to Birdman: the actor on superheroes, surprise roles and his second act

The thick black curls that helped make Michael Keaton look so manic in all those 1980s comedies, and which he then tore at as a tormented Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s Batman movies, are long gone; but the satyr-like eyes are unchanged. As he walks into a London hotel room on a grey Saturday morning, holding a cup of coffee, he looks strikingly different from the man I have spent four decades watching on screen: he has the trim, spry build of a wiry woodsman rather than a 66-year-old actor, thanks to half a lifetime spent in rural Montana, fishing and hunting. His walk is reminiscent of a rooster’s strut, with his chest puffed out and a bounce on his toes; that swagger we saw in 2014’s Birdman, for which Keaton won a Golden Globe as the eponymous former superhero actor, was not a put on, it turns out.

“Hadley, huh? My niece is called Hadley,” he says, shaking my hand, and embarks on a winding digression about Ernest Hemingway, whose first wife was called Hadley, and various Hemingway descendants whom Keaton has met over the years, and do I know them (I do not), and how I really ought to meet them. So was his niece named after Hadley Hemingway, I manage to ask.

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Taylor Sheridan: 'The big joke on reservations is the white guy that shows up and says: "My grandma is Cherokee"'

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 14:45:58 GMT2017-09-08T14:45:58Z

The Sicario and Hell or High Water writer has turned director with Wind River, an acclaimed crime thriller set on a Native American reservation. He discusses the Great Spirit, police shootouts, and Nick Cave’s giant cat

The films of actor-turned-writer-turned-director Taylor Sheridan resemble their central characters: stern, taciturn, unwilling to give anything away unless absolutely necessary. These are tales of law enforcers and their quarry, bonded by a desire to simply keep going. We’ve seen them in Sicario, the Denis Villeneuve-directed account of the drugs war on the Mexico/US border, and the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, about two Texas rangers’ attempts to hunt down a pair of down-on-their-luck bank robbers. Sheridan’s screenplays for both were thoughtful, funny and frequently terrifying, but above all succinct. After all, when you’re in a shootout with cartel members or desperate felons, there’s little time to shoot the breeze.

Related: Wind River review – Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen team up in smartly chilly thriller | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week

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'Anything is possible in Pakistan – but everything is impossible': Sarmad Masud on filming My Pure Land

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 18:01:10 GMT2017-09-07T18:01:10Z

The British Pakistani film-maker on how he brought a local legend to the big screen, despite a tiny budget and a difficult shoot

Nazo Dharejo had barely mastered the alphabet when her father, Haji Khuda Buksh, first showed her how to load a gun. The kalashnikov would be kept on the wall, hung above the living quarters of the family’s two-storey home, where she grew up with her two sisters, and their older brother Sikander in rural Sindh, Pakistan. They were comfortable, but not extravagantly well off; Khuda Buksh worked as a farmer and had inherited a few dozen acres of land from his own father. His wife, Waderi Jamzadi, raised their children and, once the girls left school, aged seven, taught them what she could at home.

The girls were moulded to be tough and resilient. Their father would dress them in trousers and shirts – “boy’s clothes” – instead of more feminine, traditional shalwar kameez. Nazo, the eldest daughter, was given the male nickname Mukthiar and was the first to be taught how to shoot, when she was 16. Two years later, with her brother murdered and her father in prison, the fierce but waif-like teenager was armed and leading a gunfight against a criminal army of bandits sent to steal her family’s home and land. Now 41, she has been dubbed “the toughest woman in Sindh” by the Pakistani press, and the story of that night has become local legend – one that British Pakistani film-maker Sarmad Masud has beautifully rendered in his debut feature, My Pure Land.

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Darren Aronofsky on Mother! - ‘Jennifer Lawrence was hyperventilating because of the emotion’

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 16:32:20 GMT2017-09-07T16:32:20Z

The director’s new film pushed Lawrence – as well as audiences – to the brink. Is the bizarre psychological horror a warped self-portrait?

The hour grows late at the London press junket. The schedule is running horribly behind time. Inside suite 206, the reporters find themselves packed in like sardines. They are perched on tables and windowsills, spilling coffee and mopping up the mess with their notepads. Each time the door opens, a fresh arrival comes in, which means that the walls inch ever-closer and there is less air. Tension is mounting and tempers are fraying. The night before, we all sat down and watched Mother! together. Today, it feels as if we might be living it, too.

Darren Aronofsky’s new film is an explosion, an assault, a haunted-house horror that whips up conflicting emotions. Some love it, some hate it and some pinwheel back and forth, like lost souls in limbo. On screen, Jennifer Lawrence plays an unnamed heroine whose domestic idyll is overrun by an endless procession of malignant houseguests. They are disturbing her in the bathroom; they are making out in her bed. “I’m confused,” she confides, just as the nightmare begins. And by God, she is not the only one.

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Daniel Draper, film-maker: ‘Dennis Skinner sang to me over the phone’

Sun, 03 Sep 2017 07:30:37 GMT2017-09-03T07:30:37Z

The man who persuaded Labour’s ‘Beast of Bolsover’ to commit his story to the big screen says his subject was ‘a joy to work with’Daniel Draper, 30, is a documentary maker from Liverpool whose first feature-length film explores the life of Dennis Skinner, the outspoken veteran Labour MP for Bolsover in Derbyshire. Draper met Skinner in 2014 and spent the next three years making the documentary, supporting himself with a part-time job as a chef. Shot for just £2,400 and completed with £21,009 raised on Kickstarter, Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast is released on Friday.What prompted you to make a film about Dennis Skinner?I made a short documentary in 2014 called Still Ragged, about Robert Tressell’s novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, and Dennis agreed to be in it. Before we started filming, he was talking about trees and collecting chestnuts, and I thought: there’s more here than meets the eye, it’s not all politics. After the project was finished, I sent him a letter saying that I didn’t understand why a film hadn’t been done with him before, and would he trust me to do it – because he’s very wary of what he calls “media types”. He called me back one Sunday morning and we talked for two hours. We just really got on. He was even singing to me over the phone. Continue reading...[...]

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Nick Broomfield: 'I was a rebel, causing as much trouble as possible'

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 10:00:41 GMT2017-09-01T10:00:41Z

The inner life of pop diva Whitney Houston, the murder of rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG, America’s first female serial killer … film-maker Nick Broomfield talks closeups, close calls and what drives him to find the truth

Nick Broomfield’s original film about Aileen Wuornos, always described as America’s first female serial killer, was released in 1992. In great detail and with remarkable access he covers successive trials, across different states, in which she was handed the death penalty several times over for the shooting of six men on various highways.

What is striking about the first film, The Selling of a Serial Killer, is how isolated and undefended Wuornos was. With her girlfriend giving evidence against her, Wuornos’s only emotional support came from one coquettish Christian woman who had decided to adopt her during the trial. Her legal counsel was Dr Legal, a solipsistic stoner she had seen on a TV advert, who hoped to make his own fee (she had no money, of course) by selling media access. No women’s movement, no statutory support, no flicker or hint that the courts are dealing with anything but a monster.

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Noomi Rapace: ‘Amy Winehouse was like an angel when I wasn’t in a good place’

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 12:08:40 GMT2017-08-31T12:08:40Z

The Swedish star of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo explains how she plans to do justice to the late singer, plus the logistics of that self-caesarian scene in Prometheus

Hi Noomi. In Unlocked, you play a tough-as-nails spy tasked with preventing a terrorist attack. But the role was initially written for a man, wasn’t it?

Yeah, they kind of rewrote the script for me. I wanted her to be a real woman with a personality, more than some badass agent who’s fighting bad guys. I wanted you to see cracks in her.

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Director Francis Lee on sex, piglets and fighting off Hollywood from his hilltop hut

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 06:00:00 GMT2017-08-29T06:00:00Z

The debut film-maker behind God’s Own Country talks about growing up on a farm – and why his sensational debut is not ‘the Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain’

Francis Lee shot his sensational debut God’s Own Country down the road from the farm where he grew up in West Yorkshire. A love story between two young male farm workers, it’s been described as “a Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain” and has been picking up awards left and right, including a best director prize at Sundance and the prestigious Michael Powell award at the Edinburgh film festival. Unexpectedly, it has been a Hollywood calling card and Lee’s phone has been ringing off the hook.

At least, it would be ringing off the hook if anyone could get through. Lee, 48, lives in a wooden hut on the side of a hill near Haworth in the Pennines – Brontë country. “The mobile phone reception is nonexistent and I don’t have internet,” he says. So where does he go to pick up emails from big-shot Hollywood agents? Lee chuckles. “Keighley library. I’m a big fan of libraries. Or I go round to my dad’s. He’s 10 minutes away.”

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Josh O’Connor: from The Durrells to the ‘Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain’ … and beyond

Sat, 26 Aug 2017 23:05:49 GMT2017-08-26T23:05:49Z

Early starts, long hours, lots of sheep: the star of God’s Own Country tells of the hard graft behind the acclaimed film

For Josh O’Connor, known for his role in ITV’s The Durrells, it was the bright Mediterranean sun and the sparkling sea of the hit show’s Corfu setting that lit a path to fame. But this autumn the 27-year-old actor has swapped the heat and goats of the Greek island for the rain and sheep of the Yorkshire dales.

O’Connor is the star of an unusual new romance, God’s Own Country, out in cinemas this week and already hailed by critics as among the best films of the year. The unexpected impact of the story, set on a financially imperilled Yorkshire farm, has left him with a choice to make. Will he stick with British independent cinema, or take up one of many offers from Hollywood? Perhaps even donning a superhero’s cape?

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Jane Goldman: 'The only way Hit-Girl could be not sexualised was by being 11'

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 05:00:03 GMT2017-08-25T05:00:03Z

The Kick-Ass and Kingsman screenwriter on how the late Alan Rickman influenced her new film, The Limehouse Golem, and how her daughters empowered her views on gender politics

There’s a thick pool of shiny yellow goo on the ground outside Jane Goldman’s Camden office, as if an alien has been sick. She answers the door and has a look herself, perplexed.

A cynical person might suspect she set this up, this otherworldly substance on an unassuming side street. Since her screenwriting debut with 2007’s fairytale romp Stardust she has written films about the fantastical meeting the ordinary: Kick-Ass (kid with no powers becomes superhero), The Woman in Black (man gets haunted by a vengeful spirit), Kingsman: The Secret Service (petty criminal becomes superspy), Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (kid meets paranormal prodigies).

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Freema Agyeman: ‘Bradley Walsh is Doctor Who’s new assistant? He’ll be brilliant’

Thu, 24 Aug 2017 12:26:01 GMT2017-08-24T12:26:01Z

The actor spent two series in the Tardis, played a lawyer in Law & Order, and is now in a vampire caper. Which might explain the home blood-testing kits …

Hi, Freema. You’re in a film that’s about vampires (1) . Have you ever donated blood?
I did at university – like a million years ago. But I’m thinking of doing it again, because my sister’s husband got one of those kits you can get to test your own blood type. He found out he was O-negative. And out of seven people who got tested, I got O-negative as well (2) . That’s the universal blood type, so we can give blood to anyone.

Sorry, why were you using home blood analysis kits?
It was something to do with all of this DNA family history stuff. I’m totally fascinated with heritage. There was a minute when I was talking to Who Do You Think You Are (3) , and some of the stuff they found out in the first round was really interesting.

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Riley Keough: ‘I had a bad reaction to authority’

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 07:00:36 GMT2017-08-20T07:00:36Z

She grew up between Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, Graceland and her father’s trailer park. But actor Riley Keough is amazingly grounded, finds Sanjiv Bhattacharya

A couple of months ago, Riley Keough turned 28, so she went out for a celebratory dinner with friends and family. “I drank some wine,” she shrugs. “But I don’t like drinking, really. I have so much to do and it’s hard to function with a hangover.” She thinks for a moment. “Actually, I don’t like dinners either. Such a waste of time. I like eating, but I don’t like that it’s this whole experience, like picking a restaurant and going there and like sitting at a table…”

She speaks in a quiet, halting voice, grinning as though amused by how her idiosyncratic opinions sound when she says them out loud, and by the bizarre fact that most people actually enjoy food. Which is ironic, considering she’s Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, but we’ll get to that.

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Rupert Everett: ‘I was living in terror for my life when Aids began’

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 14:00:44 GMT2017-08-20T14:00:44Z

The star of new comedy Quacks had his big break in 1981, but spent the period in ‘sheer panic’ watching friends die. He talks about fear, flops and coming back from the wilderness years

In one way, Quacks is a natural place to find Rupert Everett. The keenly British comedy has “something of the Carry On, Stanley Baxter era” about it, he says – a sharp, playful script; a generous, gracious ensemble cast also featuring Rory Kinnear and Mathew Baynton; very accurate historical detail, such as Everett’s thunderous physician trying to cure what sounds like cystitis with the topical application of a baked potato. Really, what could be more fitting? Who else would you cast?

Yet the legacy of his first, dazzling appearance into British culture, the stage and then film version of Another Country, means that if you were alive and at all conscious in the early 1980s, you can’t help thinking of an Everett sighting as a rare honour, like seeing a ptarmigan, or an MP at a bus stop.

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Kathryn Bigelow on Detroit: ‘There’s a radical desire not to face the reality of race’

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:00:58 GMT2017-08-17T17:00:58Z

The latest film from the director of Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker follows the 1967 police killing of black teenagers amid a racially charged riot. It could be 2017’s most urgent movie

Kathryn Bigelow sits very straight and considers events last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. “It was an atrocity,” she says. “I don’t know where we go from here.” Does the crisis of American racism scare her? She repeats the question back as if peering at it under glass. “Does it scare me? Does it scare me?”

We are in London, a long way from Charlottesville, and a piano tinkles nearby. Bigelow, who is wearing a black top and jeans, is almost 6ft tall, gracefully angular, still the only woman to win an Oscar as best director, for her Iraq war masterpiece The Hurt Locker. The movies she makes – spotted with raw, precision violence – might suggest a certain kind of personality. In fact, I’m not the first person meeting her to be reminded of a benign professor.

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Whose Streets? Powerful Ferguson film focuses on ‘flashpoint moment’

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:00:56 GMT2017-08-11T10:00:56Z

Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis spent more than a year in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown, bearing witness to the protests that followed

Three years ago this month, Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His death prompted demonstrations, heavy-handed policing, violence and, eventually, national outcry.

Whose Streets?, from film-makers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, follows that arc as it unfolds, from the frontline of the protests to the behind-the-scenes of activists’ homes.

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David Lowery on why he made A Ghost Story: 'I was freaking out, having an existential crisis'

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 17:41:06 GMT2017-08-09T17:41:06Z

Why would anyone dress Casey Affleck in a white sheet and try to pass him off as a ghost? It all started when David Lowery read an article about earthquakes – and became convinced the world was ending

David Lowery spent much of last summer feeling sick to his stomach. The director was so nervous about shooting A Ghost Story that he filmed it in secret. “I was very aware of falling flat on my face,” he says. “It was such a high-wire concept. I went into it thinking it would be fun, a liberating bout of creative experimentation. But it was terrifying. I was so riddled with self-doubt I probably aged five years.”

Lowery is now grinning from ear to ear, though. He can talk about his fears because A Ghost Story has neither sunk his career nor made him a laughing stock – although you can understand his anxiety. On paper, the film’s “high-wire concept” looks bonkers: it’s Casey Affleck wearing a white bedsheet. He looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost or the phantom emoji come to life. “On set, I kept waiting for someone to call me out, to raise their hand and say, ‘This looks stupid.’ I’m glad no one did, because my confidence was already shot.”

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'I've not retired!' Earl Cameron, Britain's first black film star, on Bond, racism – and turning 100

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 12:03:14 GMT2017-08-08T12:03:14Z

From Thunderball to Inception, from punchy thrillers to mixed-race romances, Earl Cameron blazed a trail through British acting – with just one lung. He relives his meatiest roles and the prejudice he rose above

‘Not long till your birthday!” the receptionist shouts as Earl Cameron materialises in the lobby of the Holiday Inn near his home in Warwickshire. He’s come with his wife, Barbara, to check on the party arrangements. They’ve booked the conference suite, which he now fears is too small, given all the guests who are coming. He has six children scattered around the world, more grandkids than he can keep track of, plus scores of old friends.

It’s going to be a big bash, which is only fitting. Cameron was arguably Britain’s first black movie star – and these are the preparations for his 100th birthday, which takes place this week.

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Clémence Poésy: ‘Can Macron make it work? I’m waiting to see…’

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 08:00:36 GMT2017-08-06T08:00:36Z

The star of In Bruges and Harry Potter on working with Stanley Tucci, Brexit and Le Pen, and her fears for generation InstagramThe French actor Clémence Poésy, 34, is best known for her roles in The Tunnel, In Bruges and as Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter films. In Stanley Tucci’s film of the life of artist Alberto Giacometti she plays opposite Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer. She lives in Paris and east London, and earlier this year gave birth to her first child, Liam.Your character in Final Portrait is Giacometti’s mistress and muse, Caroline. She’s full of life and colour, but is very temperamental and often skittish. How did you want to play her?I was constantly scared of her being too much. But Stanley had his film very clear in his head, and knew that the story needed that burst of energy at some points. I was quite careful that we had just a minute to show that maybe her life was a bit more complicated and maybe not as happy as it seemed, and maybe a bit tougher. So we had that conversation about having one silent moment that I think brings that world into the film, and makes her a bit layered, I guess. Continue reading...[...]

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In Between review – the struggle of free spirits trying to fly

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 08:00:39 GMT2017-09-24T08:00:39Z

Three female flatmates in Tel Aviv fight the constraints of their Muslim faith and families in an inspiring directorial debutThis bittersweet debut feature from Maysaloun Hamoud is a spiky treat, an empowering tale of three Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv, each fighting their own battles for independence and fulfilment. Balancing tragicomic relationship blues with sharp sociopolitical observation, Hamoud’s slyly subversive drama draws us deep into an often hidden world. As the title suggests, these women occupy a liminal space, caught between freedom and repression, religion and secularism, the past and the future. Theirs is a world in flux, in which the drugs and partying of the underground scene stand in stark contrast to the strict hypocrisies that dominate the cultural landscape. As one of them tells her devout father: “Some people live in palaces, but God knows what their life is like inside…”Laila (Mouna Hawa) is a force of nature, a chain-smoking, leather-jacketed lawyer who can drink and snort the boys under the table and takes pride in overturning the conventions of her profession and her gender. She lives with Salma (Sana Jammalieh), an aspiring DJ who works long hours in kitchens and bars and whose strict Christian parents don’t know she’s gay. When strait-laced and studious Nour (Shaden Kanboura) arrives from Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, the ultra-conservative Muslim lifestyle she leads is out of step with that of her [...]

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King Arthur; Baywatch; The Red Turtle; 3 Hearts and more – review

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 07:00:39 GMT2017-09-24T07:00:39Z

Guy Ritchie’s sword-and-sorcery epic and a remake of a 90s camp classic fall flat while there are delights for young and old alike elsewhereAs the days shorten, outfits lengthen and autumn greets us with chilly reserve, Hollywood is still poring over the results of its summer autopsy – a grim one, with the season ending in its lowest US box office total in a decade. As fingers of blame are pointed in any number of directions, from Netflix to the political administration, the slump is more easily explained in a few individual cases; even the least discerning viewers couldn’t find much to love in films as obnoxiously misconceived as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Warner, 15) and Baywatch (Paramount, 15).The former sees Guy Ritchie trying out the same trick he pulled with Sherlock Holmes – meshing the lairy contemporary laddishness of his geezer crime flicks to an older-school English storytelling institution. The slick of glib confidence that got Holmes by, however, has all washed off in this incoherent scramble of booming battle choreography, comic-book history and scratchy “street” swagger – let us cast a permanent veil over David Beckham’s excruciating cameo – with poor Charlie Hunnam looking beautifully bemused at the centre of it all. Hard as it is to locate a principal problem here, it might be that Ritchie’s winking urban anachronisms in this tricked-out Arthurian univers[...]

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Heroes to zeroes: the Batman and Superman movies that never were

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 09:33:11 GMT2017-09-19T09:33:11Z

Thanks to the current trend for ‘what if’ comic-book flicks, abandoned concepts from Tim Burton and Darren Aronofsky now look far less bizarre

Hollywood history is littered with the corpses of unmade superhero movies, destined only ever to be mentioned when a franchise slips into decay and is looking for a fresh way to breathe life into Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or whichever masked titan has currently hit the skids. And so it is perhaps inevitable this week that we are once again locked in the DC mortuary, staring at what might have been if Tim Burton and Darren Aronofsky had been allowed to pursue their respective superhero visions in what now seems like another era entirely.

Few would argue that either the caped crusader or the man of steel is currently top of the DC tree, following the meat-headed, convoluted mess that was last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But does that mean we are viewing Burton’s aborted mid-1990s pitch for Superman Lives, starring Nicolas Cage as the last son of Krypton, or Darren Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One, which would have cast Joaquin Phoenix as the dark knight in 2002, with rose-tinted x-ray vision?

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Game, set and spats… a grand slam of tennis movies

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:35 GMT2017-09-17T08:00:35Z

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe go head-to-head this autumn. Our critic plays umpireTennis addicts can rest easy – in the sense of staying up all night to watch tennis. Somewhere in the world an important tournament is under way and on subscription TV. The less seriously committed are faced with the long inter-slam drought between the US and Australian Opens. Fortunately palliatives are at hand in the form of two movies, Battle of the Sexes and Borg vs McEnroe.The first film is about the 1973 match between Billie Jean King and the self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig and former world No 1 Bobby Riggs; the second focuses on the 1980 Wimbledon final. They are linked by the way that in 2000 Donald Trump offered John McEnroe a million dollars to play either of the Williams sisters at one of his hotels. As McEnroe recounted in his 2002 autobiography Serious, the sisters’ claim that “they could beat ranked male players” prompted him to respond that “any respectable male player, be it a top college competitor, a senior player, or a professional, could beat them”. Trump stumped up the money but the Williamses “came to their senses and put out a statement that they didn’t want to play against ‘an old man’”. Continue reading...[...]

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