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Peter Bradshaw on smartphone reviewing

6 May 2012 4:05 PM, PDT

'Goodbye, lovelorn Skyping Germans'

The physical form of the critic has undergone an evolutionary change. Think of that famous image of an ape slouching along behind a less hairy, more upright figure showing us, homo erectus. A similar picture for critics might feature an image of a civilised, thoughtful figure sitting elegantly upright at a desk, tapping serenely at a laptop. Then, to the right on the timeline, there would be a sweaty, harassed figure, standing hunched outside a cinema, jabbing at his smartphone.

I've just discovered it's entirely possible to write a longish review on your iPhone yellow-pad app, using only a single hyperactive thumb. If there's very little time to complete it – at a festival, for example – doing it this way is the only way. It's actually fine. The yellow-pad auto-corrects, smoothing away fat-thumbed errors; and, unlike a tablet or laptop, a smartphone can be carried around in your jeans pocket. »

- Peter Bradshaw

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John Forrest obituary

6 May 2012 9:03 AM, PDT

My friend the actor John Forrest, who has died aged 80, combined a distinguished film career with work as a stage magician. He had his first success as a child actor, in David Lean's classic movie Great Expectations (1946), as the "pale young gentleman" – the young Herbert Pocket.

Known later for his many supporting roles playing very "British" characters such as Grassy Green in Very Important Person (1961), he was in fact born in the Us, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His English mother, an artist, had married an American lawyer, and when the marriage broke up after a few years, she brought John and his sister to England where they lived in the village of Cookham, Berkshire. Their neighbours were the painter Stanley Spencer and his equally eccentric brother, Horace, who taught John magic.

Following his early film success, John acted alongside such distinguished actors as David Niven, in Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948), Richard Attenborough, »

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This week's cultural highlights: from Snow White to the Cribs

6 May 2012 5:58 AM, PDT

Our critics' picks of this week's openings, plus your last chance to see and what to book now

• Which cultural events are in your diary this week? Tell us in the comments below

Opening this week

Theatre

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

With the ever-inventive Rupert Goold both writing and directing, there should be no whiff of mothballs about this staged version of the Cs Lewis classic. Threesixtytheatre, Kensington Gardens, London W8 (0844 871 7693), Tuesday until 9 September.

Chariots of Fire

Sprinting in before the rerelease of the 1981 movie and the Olympics, Mike Bartlett's version promises to be no mere screen-to-stage adaptation. A nifty young cast of rising stars alongside some established talent should make sure this is a show that runs and runs. Hampstead theatre, London NW3 (020-7722 9301), Wednesday until 16 June.

Film

Goodbye First Love (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)

Two young people pick up the romance that first flowered between »

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Letter: Philip Jenkinson interviewed Alfred Hitchcock, Julie Andrews and Joan Crawford for Film Review

6 May 2012 4:03 AM, PDT

Philip Jenkinson launched the TV show that was the precursor to Barry Norman's long-running film review series. Film Preview on BBC1 was a weekly clip show that sampled all the films to be shown on BBC TV in the week ahead. Phil presented it with enthusiasm and expertise. I was the studio director. It then changed its title to Film Review and broadened its base to include new releases in the cinema, and interviews with film-makers. Phil interviewed Joan Crawford, Robert Wise, Julie Andrews, Dirk Bogarde, Robert Vaughn, Ken Russell, Marianne Faithfull and Alfred Hitchcock – who was impressed by Phil's encyclopedic knowledge of his oeuvre.

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Bank holiday weather misery predicted as floods leave economy under water

5 May 2012 4:14 PM, PDT

Forecasters predict snow and downpours in the coldest start to May in 70 years with grim effect on consumer spending

It was not meant to be like this. A bank holiday weekend with the mere hint of sun sees streams of motorists queuing to enter the Kentish harbour town of Whitstable. But yesterday afternoon the town's car parks were half empty as day trippers stayed away, opting not to brave the icy blasts whipping off the grey North Sea.

People were out walking around the town, but their hands were firmly in their pockets and their heads bowed against the wind. Few were spending money. Quaint cafes by the quayside waited for business; ice-cream kiosks where queues 30 deep have been known were devoid of customers. For many of the town's shopkeepers, dependent on the down-from-London brigade for their livelihoods, the bitter bank holiday weekend was a major setback after weeks of poor weather. »

- Zoe Wood, Jamie Doward

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Zsa Zsa Gabor family feud over ailing star

5 May 2012 4:09 PM, PDT

Husband and daughter battle for control of Zsa Zsa Gabor's financial affairs

It is an unglamorous end to a life that symbolised exotic Hollywood celebrity, lavish living and sheer female bravado. For Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Hungarian-born actress who is renowned as much for her nine marriages as for her films, is at the centre of a family feud that was back in the Los Angeles courts last week.

Her husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, is locked in a legal battle with Gabor's daughter, Constance Francesca Hilton, over control of the 95-year-old's financial affairs and medical care. But if that sounds as if it has the dramatic potential to be a final movie for Gabor, it would be a tragedy. For although the two parties clashed in court last Wednesday, it is not clear how much Gabor herself is aware of the legal situation.

She is bedridden in hospital »

- Paul Harris

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The Complete Humphrey Jennings: Volume Two: Fires Were Started

5 May 2012 4:07 PM, PDT

(1941-43, BFI, E)

Created in 1930 by John Grierson, the British documentary movement reached its apotheosis during the second world war as the Crown Film Unit. Its dominant figure was Humphrey Jennings, "the only real poet the British cinema has yet produced", as Lindsay Anderson put it in the influential 1954 Sight & Sound essay reprinted in the excellent booklet accompanying this outstanding second part of the BFI's three-volume collection of Jennings's work.

The war transformed the Cambridge literary scholar and surrealist painter into a great artist, his heart beating with that of the nation in five masterly movies. First came two 10-minute patriotic-propagandistic films: The Heart of Britain (1941) (narrated for its American audience by Ed Murrow) and Words for Battle (1941), where Laurence Oliver reads from Milton, Blake, Browning, Kipling, Churchill and Lincoln. These were followed by the near flawless Listen to Britain (1942), a paean to communal music-making; Fires Were Started (1943), a feature-length »

- Philip French

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Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai 3D – review

5 May 2012 4:07 PM, PDT

Takashi Miike follows his elegant, extremely bloody 13 Assassins with a sombre, deliberately paced tale of unemployed samurai trying to preserve their dignity in a 17th-century Japan plagued by peace. It largely unfolds in two extended flashbacks, the first told by the head of a prosperous household of how they taught an excruciatingly painful lesson to a young samurai they thought was trying to con them. In the second, another samurai explains why he's come to teach them a different lesson, one that involves respect for the insulted and injured and the true meaning of honour. The moving story reaches its climax in a beautifully choreographed fight between a platoon of samurai and a man wielding a wooden sword.

Action and adventurePeriod and historicalDramaWorld cinemaPhilip French

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- Philip French

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Goodbye First Love – review

5 May 2012 4:07 PM, PDT

Mia Hansen-Løve proves that less is more in a beautifully observed tale of a student's romantic entanglements

The critic and columnist Alan Brien once told me about a friend consulting him about an autobiography he'd been asked to write. It was the mid-1950s when angry young men were all the rage, the friend was about 30 and clearly the publishers expected him to deliver something socially significant. "In 1939," he asked, referring to his sixth-form days, "whom should I have been reading and what should I have been thinking?" Somewhat mischievously Brien suggested he should have discovered Orwell, become disillusioned with Auden and Isherwood, had a sceptical approach to the Popular Front but a high regard for John Strachey, and so on. When I checked out the eventual book these were precisely the attitudes expressed, though whether these aspects of the author's intellectual development all came from Brien's tuition I can't be sure. »

- Philip French

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Trailer trash

5 May 2012 4:07 PM, PDT

Jason Solomons takes a ride in James Bond's Aston Martin, reports on Woody Allen's Cannes plans and gets lost in translation

Driving licence to kill

Trash fulfilled a boyhood dream last week when visiting the Bond in Motion exhibition down at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire. The museum's curators allowed me to sit in the Aston Martin DB5. Yes, the very car I played with as a child, my first bit of movie memorabilia, and I was now sitting in it, feeding the smooth walnut steering wheel through my hands, just as Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan had done.

What struck me was how the leather interior smells of espionage and the driving seat doesn't go back very far, so you really struggle to get your legs under the wheel, but the doors make a lovely, old-fashioned thud when you open and close them. I'm not sure »

- Jason Solomons

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Michael Winner: 'Burt Lancaster tried to kill me three times'

5 May 2012 4:07 PM, PDT

The director and columnist on David Cameron, being a grump, bad restaurants and refusing an OBE

You dated your wife, Geraldine, on and off for 55 years before finally tying the knot last September. Has being married made a difference?

It's much the same as it was before. I say: "Darling, you're absolutely right" a lot more than I used to.

Do you argue?

The atomic bomb at Hiroshima has nothing on Geraldine. You can't row with her, you just sit back and pray you're not going to be killed. I don't mind a row. I've had screaming rows with people and we've all made up and we're friends.

Do you regret never having children?

I'm not good with children. When they're young, they make a noise. You go to someone's house for dinner and suddenly they bring on these children and say: "Aren't they wonderful?" Well, no, they're not.

You »

- Elizabeth Day

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This much I know: Olivia Newton-John

5 May 2012 4:05 PM, PDT

The singer, 63, on friendship with John Travolta, doing the laundry – and being the daughter of an MI5 man

You don't really ever know your parents. My mother was German – she'd moved to the UK before the Second World War [she was part Jewish] – and my dad was in the Raf. They only stopped speaking in German to one another after the war ended and I was born. It was only 30 years later that I found out my father had been an MI5 officer.

I got lucky. The success I've had still surprises me. I wasn't particularly ambitious. I was really relaxed about it all – there were lots of singers and actors around who "wanted it" more than I did.

Grease was a life-changing experience that I'm reminded of constantly. The best thing I took from it is lifelong friendships – John [Travolta] and I are still mates to this day.

My mother always said: "Never rely »

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Le quai des brumes – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

A BFI Southbank season of films starring the great Jean Gabin has put a new print of this 1938 masterpiece of poetic realism back on to the big screen at lucky cinemas around the country. Raymond Chandler said that Bogart could be tough without a gun, and Gabin was France's Bogart. He was at his best in the 1930s playing doomed, blue-collar losers, gangsters and military deserters (as in Le quai des brumes), most especially for Duvivier, Carné and Renoir. His postwar films were less good, though Becker's Touchez pas au Grisbi and Renoir's French Cancan are excellent, and he got to play Maigret three times as well as the French president, and to co-star with Bardot in one of her better films, En cas de malheur.

DramaWorld cinemaCrimeRomancePhilip French

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- Philip French

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Piggy – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

Ken Loach's Scottish discovery Martin Compston adopts a cockney accent to play a shy, mild-mannered London messenger boy who goes into a deep depression following the murder of his beloved elder brother by a band of hooligans. Then the demonic Piggy (Paul Anderson) enters his life to lead him on a horrendous revenge trip. Capable but monotonous, it ends with a predictable twist that has a distinguished literary lineage.

DramaThrillerKen LoachPhilip French

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- Philip French

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Two Years at Sea – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

Winner of an international critics' prize at Venice, this grainy, monochrome documentary records the solitary, silent life of Jake Williams, a hirsute hermit of indeterminate age living in squalor in the Scottish highlands. There are long takes of him in his primitive shower, walking in the snow, building a raft, annotating an undisclosed book, sitting in the dark before a fire. How he came to be there, what he's thinking, how he can afford a smart 4x4 are questions left unanswered. It's a contemplative film, and most members of the audience are likely to be contemplating how they can get out of the cinema without appearing to be philistines.

DocumentaryVenice film festivalPhilip French

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- Philip French

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Beauty and the Beast 3D – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

In 1992 I called Trousdale and Wise's film "the best full-length animated movie from the Disney studio for 50 years", and the 3D revival sees this witty, dramatically inventive version of a familiar story wearing well. Belle, the daughter of an eccentric inventor, is an intelligent, resourceful, assertive heroine, a book lover who's courted by the Beast with a fabulous Borgesian library, a gift likely to puzzle future generations. As I noted at the time, the film's only let-down comes when the Beast becomes a conventional fairytale prince.

AnimationFamilyRomanceWalt Disney Company3DPhilip French

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- Philip French

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Safe – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

In this ultra-violent thriller our own Jason Statham, the British national diving star turned screen tough guy, protects a sweet little Chinese mathematical genius from Russian and Chinese mafiosi as well as bent cops doing the bidding of a corrupt mayor of New York. The names of some of America's finest talents (among them producers Lawrence Bender and Kevin Spacey, costume designer Ann Roth and cinematographer Stefan Czapsky) appear on the credits. Which only goes to show you can't make silk Speedos out of thick ears.

ThrillerAction and adventurePhilip French

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- Philip French

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Silent House – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

A year ago the Uruguayan horror flick La casa muda purported to tell, in what was claimed to be a single take, the story of a father and daughter visiting a deserted, ill-lit country house they once lived in. It lacked conviction, and in this version transposed to the States it loses whatever claims to individuality it once had as well as wasting the talent of Elizabeth Olsen.

HorrorPhilip French

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- Philip French

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Juan of the Dead – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

Flesh-eating zombies come to Cuba in a familiar horror spoof that rather overstays its welcome. The film's chief interest resides in the opportunity it seizes to mock almost every aspect of the country from the general state of decay (even of the much vaunted health service) to, somewhat obliquely, Castro himself. Of the surviving zombie hunters, only the likable slacker hero decides not to flee to Florida at the end, and he faces the monstrous horde as Sid Vicious's version of "My Way" wells up on the soundtrack.

HorrorComedyWorld cinemaCubaPhilip French

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- Philip French

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The Lucky One – review

5 May 2012 4:03 PM, PDT

Based on a romantic bestseller by Nicholas Sparks, this old-fashioned tearjerker features Zac Efron (star of the High School Musical series and, more interestingly, Me and Orson Welles) as a marine sergeant who finds a photograph of a good-looking American blonde in the rubble after a firefight in Iraq. Believing it to be a talisman that saved his life, he follows a trail that leads to a small Louisiana town and becomes detraumatised through his relationship with the woman portrayed, her cute son, her jealous ex-husband and her dotty mom. There's a thin line between the exploration of grief and its exploitation that this film crosses. By the way, can Taylor Schilling, who plays the heroine, be related to the Fifty Shilling Tailors once found on every British high street?

RomanceDramaZac EfronPhilip French

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- Philip French

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