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True Blood to Tarzan: how Alexander Skarsgård swung into Hollywood

8 hours ago

He’s been a vampire bar-owner. Soon he’ll be Lord of the Jungle. But the Swedish actor is about to star in the sexually explicit Diary of a Teenage Girl – as a man who beds his girlfriend’s daughter

“I’m tall in Sweden,” says Alexander Skarsgård, lounging across a conveniently oversized sofa. “But I’m huge in Hollywood.” He’s not kidding: at 6ft 4in, he’s even taller in the flesh than he appears on screen. This must make film parties particularly awkward for people who find themselves pitching projects – or even just chatting – to his navel.

His height, in an industry full of titches, and his unmistakably Swedish looks, have helped Skarsgård stand out from the pack. He was perfect for a small turn in Zoolander as one of Ben Stiller’s buddies, and his imposing presence led to a breakout role in the vampire TV show True Blood. »

- Benjamin Lee

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Meet comedian Amy Schumer, the sneaky feminist honesty bomb

15 hours ago

She’s been showered with awards, has millions of views on YouTube and ‘blew away’ Trainwreck director Judd Apatow. Is Amy Schumer the funniest woman on the planet?

There are two bottles of mineral water in Amy Schumer’s hotel suite and no glasses. She takes sparkling, I have the still, and I offer to find something to drink out of. “Naaah, let’s drink it out of the bottle,” Schumer, the 34-year-old American comedian and actor, suggests. She slumps on the sofa, tucks her feet underneath her and takes a thirsty swig. She’s just come from doing photographs and is wearing an expensive-looking peach cocktail dress; her hair and nails are done. The effect is incongruous: she looks like a girl whose prom date has stood her up.

Nice dress, I say – mainly because that kind of clothing and conspicuous effort demand acknowledgement. It turns out to be »

- Tim Lewis

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation review – all guns blazing, almost constantly

17 hours ago

Tom Cruise still does all his own stunts, and Rebecca Ferguson’s femme fatale is a marvel, but the new Mission: Impossible is strictly by-the-numbers stuff

Five films and nearly 20 years into the Mission: Impossible movie franchise, it’s still hard not to feel nostalgic for the original 60-70s TV series, the most rigorously formulaic thriller show ever. Each time the Impossible Mission Force (Imf) set about a new task, the viewer had to piece together the riddle of what was going on and work out how all the elements glimpsed in that week’s burning-fuse opening credits – say, a box of bees, fumes from a ventilator, someone dangling in a lift shaft, Martin Landau peeling off a false moustache – would combine into a coherent narrative. You always knew what the mission was, but it was only at the end that you discovered how it was done. Every episode »

- Jonathan Romney

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The Third Man review – a near-perfect work

17 hours ago

(1949, Carol Reed; StudioCanal, PG, DVD/Blu-ray)

From the moment the first audiences saw the opening image of Anton Karas’s zither filling the screen with the nerve-jangling Harry Lime Theme (before, indeed, they had heard the word “zither”), they knew that with the second collaboration between director Carol Reed and author Graham Greene they were in for something special. At its end they recognised they’d seen a near-perfect work, what we now call a noir classic. The title rapidly entered the language and took on new meanings as the careers of Greene as wartime intelligence agent and Kim Philby as cold war traitor became linked.

The story features an evil, charismatic anti-hero who fakes his own death and makes his home in a Viennese sewer, and ends with its dull, perplexed leading man being silently snubbed by the beautiful, unsmiling heroine in a deserted cemetery. This new print does »

- Philip French

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The Cobbler review – a desperate and misguided modern fairytale

18 hours ago

A shoe-mender finds magical powers in this mawkish Adam Sandler vehicle

Adam Sandler movies tend to be unspeakable; this at least has the virtue of being differently unspeakable. It’s a folksy Jewish-themed parable about a lonely New York cobbler who discovers a magical shoe-stitching device (must be an Isaac Bashevis Singer sewing machine) that grants him chameleon powers. The shape-shifting premise takes a queasy oedipal turn when, in the guise of his long-absent dad (Dustin Hoffman), he has a romantic dinner with his elderly ma. It’s saccharine stuff until it detours bizarrely into violent intrigue, as Sandler tangles with a local black hood (an altogether racist cipher, improbably played by Wu-Tang Clan rapper Method Man).

The Cobbler is directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy, who made 2003’s much-admired The Station Agent, but his penchant for whimsy here congeals to the consistency of stale lokshen pudding. Much play is »

- Jonathan Romney

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Beyond the Reach review – a hunting trip turns sour and silly

18 hours ago

Michael Douglas is cartoonishly odious in this daft two-hander co-starring Jeremy Irvine

Jeremy Irvine plays a young tracker who signs up for a hunting expedition, only to get on the wrong side of his spoilt, wealthy client (Michael Douglas).

It starts off promisingly, suggesting a moody existential two-hander under blazing skies, then gets increasingly silly, hitting its nadir with the sight of Douglas taking aim at Irvine while sipping dry martinis among the mesas. Even more dastardly than his Gordon Gekko – and by now, considerably more lizard-like – Douglas’s embodiment of plutocrat amorality all but cackles “Mwaah-ha-ha!”, as the whole affair increasingly resembles a human Road Runner cartoon. Blankly candid, Irvine works hard, but the film is content to let his torso do most of the talking.

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- Jonathan Romney

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Hot Pursuit review – flat female buddy movie

18 hours ago

Reese Witherspoon’s wide-eyed energy as a cop assigned to protect a mob wife helps to lift this flagging comedy

Reese Witherspoon plays Cooper, a nervy, by-the-book Texas police officer assigned to protect the wife (Sofia Vergara) of a mob accountant en route to witness protection. As they’re chased by cartel gunmen and corrupt cops, this female buddy comedy barely rises above the title’s two-word pitch (they’re being pursued, see, and they’re hot). Both leads offer a diminished shtick, Witherspoon flustered and prim, Vergara flogging her zany Latina firecat routine from Modern Family. Semi-redeeming features: a cute opening montage about Cooper’s upbringing as a cop’s daughter, and Witherspoon’s energetic, wide-eyed incredulity, which was made for screwball comedy. Her energy never flags, even when the movie itself flatlines.

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- Jonathan Romney

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Man With a Movie Camera review – pure cinema, still unparalleled

18 hours ago

Dziga Vertov’s 1929 masterpiece celebrates the infinite possibilities of film

Made in 1929, this unclassifiable film is the work of pioneering Soviet experimenter David Kaufman, whose pseudonym Dziga Vertov means “spinning top” – if you like, cinema’s original dizzy rascal. Man With a Movie Camera came top last year in Sight & Sound’s poll of greatest documentaries, and to this day it looks and feels like nothing else.

It announces itself in the opening cards as “an experiment in the cinematic transmission of visual phenomena… without intertitles… without a script… without sets, actors, etc” – pure cinema, in other words, and Vertov isn’t just boasting. The film is a kaleidoscopic evocation of life in several cities, notably a sunlit Odessa, and to judge by the film life in the late-20s Ussr seems to have been a fairly jolly affair, although it wouldn’t be once the next decade got under way. »

- Jonathan Romney

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Iris review – vibrant sartorial documentary

18 hours ago

Iris Apfel, the beloved 93-year-old New York fashion icon, is a fitting subject for Albert Maysles’s penultimate film

Edna Mode, the hi-tech fashionista of The Incredibles, may have had Anna Wintour’s hair, but more distinctively, she had the porthole-sized spectacles of Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old subject of this documentary. A beloved New York fashion icon and self-styled “geriatric starlet”, Mrs Apfel is famous for dressing with delirious, eye-searing panache. “I like to improvise,” she says, “try this, try that, as though I’m playing jazz” – her jazz presumably being of the bacchanalian free-improv variety, rather than black polo-neck cool school.

Albert Maysles’s film follows Apfel on her shopping expeditions; explores the clutter-filled Aladdin’s cave of a home she shares with her husband and interior-design partner Carl, now 101; and shows her imparting brittle and generous wisdom to younger and more earnest fashionistas.

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- Jonathan Romney

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Cub review – visually stylish Belgian chiller

18 hours ago

An eccentric build-up and some ingenious booby-trappery can’t quite compensate for the plotting holes in this cub scout slasher movie

Here’s a novelty: a slasher movie about cub scouts. It’s also Belgian – and whatever the Friday the 13th series had going for it, it didn’t have subtexts about Franco-Flemish cultural tensions. In Jonas Govaerts’s visually stylish chiller, a boy goes camping with a troop that’s run along Lord of the Flies lines, only to encounter something feral lurking just beyond the campfire. The build-up is entertainingly eccentric, and there’s some ingenious booby-trappery at work among the pines, but Cub runs dry once it knuckles down to the routine bloodletting. And when it comes to plotting, Govaerts and co-writer Roel Mondelaers don’t quite earn their basic knots badge.

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- Jonathan Romney

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White God; Good Kill; Woman in Gold; Insurgent; La Jetée; Sans Soleil; Level Five; The Case of the Grinning Cat – review

19 hours ago

Stray dogs go on the rampage in Kornél Mundruczó’s vicious twist on man-mutt relations, while Ethan Hawke is silent but deadly

There are films about dogs that are expressly for dog lovers, films about dogs designed to needle cynophobics, and then there’s White God (Metrodome, 15), a film about dogs that snappishly ticks both boxes while not really being about dogs at all. Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó opens his extraordinary warping of the age-old romance between man and mutt with an indelible image: a vast, saliva-spilling pack of street dogs rampages through the streets of Hungary, trailing a 13-year-old slip of a girl on a bicycle. Whether she’s leading or running from them remains to be seen; dog-human relations are inverted several times over in the course of this sharp-incisored fable.

We gradually learn that the kid (fierce young talent Zsófia Psotta) has been separated from her beloved mongrel, »

- Guy Lodge

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The Jammed rewatched: indie thriller that became a runaway Aussie success

1 August 2015 5:00 PM, PDT

The gritty story about Melbourne’s sex slaves started small but became an acclaimed local hit, with powerful performances and dramatic pacing

The very concept of an independent film – one financed outside the traditional system, usually with little to no guarantee of distribution – is a concerning proposition in Australia. There is a sense locally made films battle upstream from the start, fighting for eyeballs against a backdrop of diminished market share and inundation of foreign content.

The release of writer-director Dee McLachlan’s riveting 2007 thriller The Jammed, a fictitious examination of Melbourne sex slaves told with shocking street-level realism, embodied the excitement in discovering a great indie but warned of the heightened challenges such films face in finding an audience. McLachlan’s fast-paced exposé came perilously close to plummeting into instant obscurity, but ultimately achieved one of the most inspiring success stories of any locally made independent film.

Continue reading. »

- Luke Buckmaster

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Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger team up for record label drama

31 July 2015 7:38 AM, PDT

Set in 1970s New York, Vinyl will explore the drug-fuelled music business at the dawn of punk and disco, starring Olivia Wilde and Jagger’s son James

A new TV series about the music industry co-produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger will premiere on HBO in 2016, it has been announced. The “rock’n’roll drama”, Vinyl, will star Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale, House’s Olivia Wilde and Jagger’s son James.

Set in New York in the 1970s, it will tell the story of a fictional record label called American Century records, exploring the drug- and sex-fuelled music business when the punk and disco scenes were emerging.

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- Nadia Khomami

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Producers of Hollywood child abuse documentary criticise director for not promoting film

31 July 2015 7:20 AM, PDT

An Open Secret, about the abuse of children in the film industry, has charted the lowest box office figure its distributer has seen in 26 years, as director Amy Berg cites a “busy schedule” as the reason she has refused TV interviews

Related: An Open Secret review – damning documentary takes aim at sexual abuse in Hollywood

The producers of An Open Secret, a controversial documentary about child sex abuse in Hollywood, have criticised their director, Amy Berg, for failing to sufficiently promote it.

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- Henry Barnes

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Why Man with a Movie Camera is the one film you should watch this week – video review

31 July 2015 5:50 AM, PDT

Dziga Vertov's 1929 art film/documentary spins the ordinary workings of city life in Moscow, Kiev and Odessa into a hallucinatory montage of the Soviet Union in frantic, constant motion. Here Peter Bradshaw explains why Vertov was the punk rock film-maker of his day and why Man with a Movie Camera is worth your time. Man with a Movie Camera is released in select UK cinemas today Continue reading »

- Peter Bradshaw and Henry Barnes

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Is Josh Trank's Fantastic Four doomed?

31 July 2015 5:36 AM, PDT

Reshoots, angry fans and reports of the director’s on- and off-set travails have plagued the production of Fox’s latest reboot for Marvel’s superhero quartet

Let’s pause before writing off the new Fantastic Four movie before anyone’s seen a single frame on the big screen. Similar negative buzz flurried around 2012’s Dredd, with reports that director Pete Travis had been locked out of the editing room by the studio while untried screenwriter Alex Garland took charge. Three years on, Garland is being vaunted as one of the most talented young film-makers of his generation after huge critical acclaim for Ex-Machina, and Dredd is widely considered something of a cult classic.

Related: Fantastic Four film-makers respond to criticism of decision to cast black actor

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- Ben Child

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Straight Outta Compton review – A-side is let down by a bloated B-side

31 July 2015 5:27 AM, PDT

This much-anticipated Nwa biopic has inspired and exuberant moments but its second half plays it too safe

With biopics of living musicians, there is always a conflict of interest. You need to have the creators on board if you want to feature the songs that made them noteworthy. And by the end of the film, everyone has to end up smelling like roses. The first half of Straight Outta Compton, F Gary Gray’s two-and-a-half hour opus about the birth of west coast gangsta rap, is bursting with energy, exuberance and inspiration. The second half is immobilised by bloat and sanctification. There are, as they say, some truly dope cuts up in here, but there’s plenty of filler, too.

Related: Nwa member Mc Ren says Straight Outta Compton trailer is 'disrespectful'

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- Jordan Hoffman

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This week’s new film events

31 July 2015 5:00 AM, PDT

Josephine Decker | Close-Up Cinema | An Evening With Fenella Fielding | Film4 Summer Screen

It has been widely agreed that New York film-maker Josephine Decker has “got something”. The New Yorker described her as “the most original independent film-maker to surface in the past few years”, and her first two features, Butter On The Latch and Thou Wast Mild And Lovely are both sensual, impressionistic, elliptical stories, teetering on the edge of strangeness. These films are probably too experimental for mainstream distribution: as an alternative, Decker is touring them as a double bill in seven UK cities this month, and holding Q&As after each event.

Continue reading »

- Steve Rose

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This week’s new films

31 July 2015 5:00 AM, PDT

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation | Hot Pursuit | The Cobbler | Iris | Beyond The Reach | Cub | Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder | Man With A Movie Camera

After four previous instalments of Mission Nearly Impossible But Somehow They Pulled It Off, you know where you’re going here, and there’s often a feeling you’ve been there before: exotic locations, opera assassinations, car chases, high-tech MacGuffins, and a plot that puts Cruise’s spy crew out in the cold. But the bar is still pretty high, especially in terms of action set-pieces and authentic-looking daredevil stunts, which are surely a better outlet for Tom Cruise’s excessive zeal than Scientology.

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- Steve Rose

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Why SpongeBob SquarePants could never 'jump the shark'

31 July 2015 5:00 AM, PDT

As the porous prankster enters his 17th year, it would be all too easy for the show to become a parody of itself. But an enduring wackiness keeps it afloat

The phrase “jumping the shark” – used to describe the exact moment a TV show becomes a parody of itself – originates from a fifth season episode of Happy Days. Continuing his evolution from eccentric supporting character to godlike emblem of superhuman cool, Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli is challenged to leap over a tiger shark on water-skis and succeeds in lively fashion, dressed in skimpy trunks and trademark leather jacket.

Since then, eagle-eyed viewers have identified the shark-jumping Rubicons of various other shows – Niles and Daphne’s wedding on Frasier, that episode of Friends where Ross bleaches his teeth – confirming in the process a key requirement for inclusion: the shark in question must once have been thought to be unjumpable. (Had Fonzie »

- Charlie Lyne

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