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Rewatching classic Australian films: Malcolm

3 hours ago

A crime caper replete with kooky contraptions, this endearing film's hero is a man who moves to his own mechanically engineered beat

Its clear from the beginning of director Nadia Tasss 1986 oddball comedy Malcolm that its protagonist, a reclusive simpleton played by Colin Friels, is a bit out of the ordinary. A tram-obsessed employee of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, which operated Victorias trains, trams and buses in the 1980s, the film opens when the sun goes down and Malcolm knocks off work.

With a big grin stamped across his face, Malcolm sneaks out and rides his most prized invention a mini tram-like invention that seats only him down the streets of Melbourne. Its a wonderfully weird scene setter that introduces that first of many kooky contraptions.

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- Luke Buckmaster

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Cupcakes review feelgood Israeli musical comedy

6 hours ago

Eytan Fox's musical comedy about a bunch of Israelis who are surprise song-contest entrants has a big dollop of Almodóvar thrown in

Eytan Fox's feelgood musical comedy treads little new ground on the dancefloor, but is no less enjoyable for it. The story centres on a group of friends gathered in theTel Aviv apartment of Ofer (Ofer Shechter) to watch Universong, a Eurovision parody. Despite an attempt at enthusiasm with booze, bunting (of sorts) and a camp singalong, it's "un point" to Israel (British audiences will relate). They break into a spontaneously made-up song to cheer themselves up, and a mobile phone recording makes its way to the show's judges, they become Israel's next official entry. If you're a fan of the genre, you'll know how the find-your-own-voice melody goes and ends and you shouldn't lament the lack of complex character development too much. With a big handful »

- Dee Rudebeck

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We Are the Freaks review cliched 90s big-night-out comedy

6 hours ago

Justin Edgar's one-crazy-night comedy would struggle to get on to British TV

There can hardly be a movie genre more knackered than the post-Trainspotting ensemble/coming-of-age/drug-zeitgeisty/one-crazy-night comedy. Ten or 15 years ago, at the tail-end of Uncool Britannia, we seemed to get a new one every week. We are the Freaks, from writer-director Justin Edgar, is set in the 90s and looks at first as if it is going to satirise these 90s cliches. But actually we don't get anything other than more cliches: the film is made up of secondhand ideas, characters and riffs. Jamie Blackley plays Jack, a bloke hanging round in his hometown one summer, waiting for a grant (those were the days) to go to uni to study creative writing. His mad friend Chunks (Sean Teale) and nerdy, useless friend Parsons (Mike Bailey) are up for a night out, but Jack is still mooning around, »

- Peter Bradshaw

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After the Night review laboured Lisbon ghetto drama

6 hours ago

It's not clear why Basil de Cunha's drama about a moody Lisbon ghetto dweller did so well on the festival circuit

After the Night, by the young Portuguese director Basil de Cunha, has won golden opinions on the festival circuit. I have to confess it defeated me. The action seems laboured, opaque and inaccessible, and based on an improv-style way of acting and devising story that does not make the proceedings any more real. In fact, it only seems to highlight how disconcertingly implausible they sometimes are. The story takes place in the grimmest ghettos of Lisbon; at its centre is Sombra (Pedro Ferreira), a moody loner who owes a drug dealer a lot of money, so finds himself having to help at a violent robbery to make it up; an arresting idea but one weirdly drained of suspense or tension, and that points up a nagging question: is it »

- Peter Bradshaw

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An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker review unexpectedly affecting Roma study

6 hours ago

This realist study about a Bosnian family who just scrape by is lit up by the couple's quiet love for each other

Danis Tanovic is the Bosnian film-maker whose No Man's Land (2001) was one of the most memorable films about the 1990s ex-Yugoslavia wars. This is very different in style: a lower-budget, handheld-realist study of a Roma family in a remote Bosnian village, living on the poverty borderline; it's a grim film in many ways, but strangely and unexpectedly affecting. Nazif (Nazif Mujic) is a guy who scrapes a living as an "iron picker": he finds wrecked cars and smashes them up with his axe to sell the bits for scrap. He uses the same axe to cut branches for firewood in the local forest.

His wife Senada (Senada Alimanovic) stays at home with their two kids and a third is on the way. The family get by, but they have no medical insurance, »

- Peter Bradshaw

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Looking for Light: Jane Bown review excellent film about veteran photographer

6 hours ago

The Observer photographer Jane Bown is profiled in this intelligent and unfussily traditional documentary

The Guardian's sister paper, the Observer, partly funded this film about one of its greatest staff photographers, the peerless Jane Bown. She's a figure well-loved around the Guardian Media Group's headquarters, a backdrop for many of the interviews shown here. It is an excellent, intelligent and unfussily traditional documentary about a gifted artist who photographed many key 20th-century figures, including Mick Jagger, John Betjeman, Queen Elizabeth and Samuel Beckett. Now 89, a frail and lucid Bown reflects on her life, revealing a troubled childhood that may have nourished her ability to connect with subjects. Others pay homage without gushing too much, and speak insightfully about aesthetics, technique and the context of Bown's work. Directors Luke Dodd and Michael Whyte's austere film-making eminently suits the material, especially when they eschew all sound and just hold for several seconds on the pictures themselves, »

- Leslie Felperin

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Tracks review a road movie without a sense of direction

7 hours ago

Mia Wasikowska is forceful as Robyn Davidson, but this drama travels emotionally light

Tracks is a good-looking movie, acted with intelligence and conviction, a road movie with no road but also, perhaps, one with no great sense of narrative direction. It is about a remarkable journey undertaken in 1977 by travel writer Robyn Davidson, who in her 20s made a 1700-mile solo trek across the burning deserts of Western Australia with four camels. Her courage and determination saw off those who patronised her as an eccentric, and Davidson's experience was immortalised in a National Geographic photojournalism series.

Davidson is forcefully and convincingly played by Mia Wasikowska, and Adam Driver is the photographer, Rick Smolan, who falls painfully in love with the enigmatic and self-reliant heroine. The indigenous Australian guide on whom Robyn relies is played with delicacy and charm by Roly Mintuma. It's watchable and accessible drama but in terms of real emotional complexity, »

- Peter Bradshaw

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The Other Woman review dumb dumb-feminist message

7 hours ago

This dismal effort fails the Bechdel test generously as its female characters do little but worry and talk about the film's love rat

Mousy Wife (Leslie Mann) is cheated on by Love Rat Husband. He's secretly dating the One with the Career (Cameron Diaz) And the One with the Boobs (Kate Upton). Career finds out (ohhhh!), befriends Mousy (ahhhhh!), who recruits Boobs (ha ha ha!). Off they all go to teach Love Rat a lesson (Yay!). Melissa Stack's script chases laughs and catches cliches. Mann's kooky, Diaz is sassy. Upton does that Cat Daddy dance people on the internet liked so much.

Meanwhile, The Other Woman scrawls out a dumb dumb-feminist message with a big, fat marker pen. The women get revenge against the bad man. In the process they stalk him, worry about Loverat and talk about him incessantly. Hollywood 1 0 Bechdel.

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- Henry Barnes

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You & Me Forever review a brooding look at teen girls' friendship

7 hours ago

Although it could have become a Nordic take on Blue Is the Warmest Colour, this well-acted Danish social drama deftly shows the blurry overlap of girlish sensuality and lesbian desire

This Scandinavian teen-centric film doesn't have the anarchic effervescence of Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best!, last week's Scandinavian, teen-centric movie, but this more brooding work also astutely explores the subtle head games and micro-politics of adolescent girls, in this case that of 16-year-olds in suburban Denmark. When the story starts, Laura (Julie Andersen) and Christine (Emilie Kruse) are seemingly inseparable BFFs, but then Laura finds herself irresistibly drawn to new girl Maria (Frederikke Dahl Hansen), a troubled sophisticate with a wild streak. Working with a semi-improvised script, director Kaspar Munk deftly shows the blurry overlap between girlish sensuality, with its experimental kisses and sleepovers, and outright lesbian desire. At one point, it looks like this will turn into »

- Leslie Felperin

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Transcendence review Johnny Depp is less attractive here than Zoolander

7 hours ago

Sleepy-eyed Johnny Depp is an implausible genius in this unclever sci-fi movie about artificial intelligence

This is like a heavy-handed and humourless version of Spike Jonze's postmodern comedy Her, mulched in with the old sci-fi novel Donovan's Brain, about keeping someone's brain alive in a tank. We are invited to believe in Johnny Depp as a mathematical genius in the field of artificial intelligence. He is the megabrainy Dr Will Caster who decides to "transcend" his puny bioform and upload his entire consciousness that whole magnetic personality of his to a specially built, warehouse-sized mainframe in the desert in which his activities become increasingly disturbing. Unfortunately, with his zonked-out face and barista facial hair, Depp looks as if his entire mind could be comfortably housed in one of Alan Sugar's Amstrad PCWs. Rebecca Hall plays his adoring wife: sleepy-eyed Mr Depp's performance is less than 100% focused on the »

- Peter Bradshaw

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Looking for Light: Jane Bown review excellent film about veteran photographer

7 hours ago

The Observer photographer Jane Bown is profiled in this intellingent and unfussily traditional documentary

The Guardian's sister paper, the Observer, partly funded this film about one of its greatest staff photographers, the peerless Jane Bown. She's a figure well-loved around the Guardian Media Group's headquarters, a backdrop for many of the interviews shown here. It is an excellent, intelligent, and unfussily traditional documentary about a gifted artist who photographed many key 20th-century figures, including Mick Jagger, John Betjeman, Queen Elizabeth and Samuel Beckett. Now 89, a frail and lucid Bown reflects on her life, revealing a troubled childhood that may have nourished her ability to connect with subjects. Others pay homage without gushing too much, and speak insightfully about aesthetics, technique, and the context of Bown's work. Directors Luke Dodd and Michael Whyte's austere filmmaking eminently suits the material, especially when they eschew all sound and just hold for several seconds on the pictures themselves, »

- Leslie Felperin

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The Informant review an anaemic meat-and-potatoes thriller

8 hours ago

Director Julien Leclercq's tale of a snitch working for the French border patrol has a smart premise, but fails to inspire

France's Julien Leclercq specialises in meat-and-potatoes thrillers based on true events: hijack saga The Assault, in 2010, was broadly functional, but this tale of shady dealings in late-80s Gibraltar seems underpowered. The script, by Abdel Raoul Dafri (A Prophet), smartly outlines how debt-laden publican Gilles Lellouche removes himself from one hole, by snitching to French customs, only to face another dug by Italian traffickers. However, nothing much distinguishes the twitchy confabs that follow. Tahar Rahim is wasted in a dull desk-jockey role, while Lellouche looks more concerned than we ever become. Some shonky British accents among the smugglers won't help its chances in these waters.

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- Mike McCahill

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Peter Jackson retitles The Hobbit part three The Battle of the Five Armies

11 hours ago

Director calls previous sub-title There and Back Again redundant as 'Bilbo has already arrived there'

The final film in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy has been retitled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

The New Zealand film-maker made the announcement on his Facebook page following weeks of speculation surrounding the movie, which was previously titled There and Back Again. The third instalment of Jackson's adaptation of Jrr Tolkien's book is due in cinemas this December. The Oscar-winning director said the change had been made because the old title no longer felt right for a trilogy, having been conceived back when the film-makers planned a two-part adaptation of the 1937 fantasy fable.

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- Ben Child

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Lights, no camera, action: the joy of live film readings

11 hours ago

Seth Rogen as the Big Lebowski? Mindy Kaling as the Princess Bride? Live reads of these films, plus Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, are proving a sellout success. They make for a great night of theatre

A week ago I was lucky enough to snag the hottest ticket of the week in Los Angeles. This meant I got to see 12 people sitting around on a stage clutching scripts and talking into microphones, shooting one another with finger guns, fake projectile vomiting, fake punching each other in the face, or playing dead for extremely long periods.

Conducted under the stewardship of director Quentin Tarantino, and under the auspices of Film Independent at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma), and its curator Elvis Mitchell, this was the world premiere of his new movie, The Hateful Eight. Or, rather, an enhanced "live read" of his screenplay, or to be more precise, »

- John Patterson

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My guilty pleasure: Eat Pray Love

11 hours ago

David Jenkins: Watching Juila Roberts take a year-long romp of global self-discovery, the thing most people miss is that the film is a pin-sharp mockery of Liz Gilbert's bestselling book

More from the guilty pleasures series

Writing a negative review of Eat Pray Love isn't like shooting fish in a barrel. It's like hauling out a fish, placing the barrel of a revolver against its slimy gills, then pulling the trigger while intoning a grave, possibly aquatic-themed, soliloquy. The irony being that Liz Gilbert, the character Julia Roberts plays in the film, would cheerily consume said fish. She would then go on to share some little-known and untranslatable foreign epithet that captures the indefinable feeling of consuming seafood that would have otherwise been destined for the chum bucket. I don't know what the exact term is, but it would probably ends in -delle, or -isimo, or -ante. And »

- David Jenkins

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Michael Fassbender: Frank and me

12 hours ago

The actor on why he's happy inside Frank Sidebottom's fibreglass head for Lenny Abrahamson's comedy about an eccentric band and his own teenage fantasies of rock stardom

A wooden cabin by a lake in the middle of rural Ireland. A freezing midwinter morning. Four musicians are in the living room. A bass guitar wobbles between two alternating notes. A complex drum fill crashes for half a bar, then stops. Two atonal synthesiser stabs, each from a different keyboard. From somewhere else in the cabin, a man's voice moans: "Again." The musicians go through the cycle again: bass wobble, drum fill, synth, synth. "Again," the voice wails, from a  different room. Bass, drum, synth, synth.

I'm watching the band play on a monitor from the room next door, huddled with other technicians out of shot. The man shuffles past us and shouts through the wall: "Again!" Bass, drum, synth, »

- Steve Rose

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Christopher Doyle: a legend in his own Y-fronts

13 hours ago

The straight-talking cinematographer rants about Martin Scorsese, raves about Juno Temple and christens himself the Keith Richards of the film world

Early evening in Hong Kong and Christopher Doyle is cracking open a beer in his studio. What's he been doing today? "I can't tell you!" Why? "I don't remember! But it was good. It was good for her. It was good for me. The usual stuff."

In Doyle terms, this is indeed the usual stuff. Throughout our one-hour Skype session he rants, raves, laughs (a lot, uproariously, mostly at his own jokes), gets angry, gets upset, and it's never entirely clear whether he's speaking on or off the record. A gloriously unbridled and candid interviewee, he can't get his words out fast enough.

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- Alex Godfrey

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Exhibition review Joanna Hogg creates a masterful cinematic enigma | Peter Bradshaw

13 hours ago

The anxieties of the bohemian classes are up for inspection in this sensual, brilliant film about about two dysfunctional artists

Joanna Hogg is an artist and film-maker who entrances and enrages. After the first wave of praise from fans (such as me), her movies tend to get a backlash of incredulity and scorn from those who would prefer the envelope unpushed and unmolested. In the runup to its release, this latest film has already provoked some giggles and putdowns online. Some of the tweets I've been getting have felt like seat-bangs from some derisive digital walkout. It only makes me love her more.

Exhibition is a superbly glacial and composed experiment in fictional cine-portraiture; a refrigerated study in domesticity and sophistication, mysterious and preposterous a movie that might claim its lineage from Rachel Whiteread's cast sculpture House, or David Hockney's painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy. Hogg uses »

- Peter Bradshaw

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Barbie to star in live-action movie

14 hours ago

Buddy comedy will team her up with an overworked bureaucrat, and play on Mattel-manufactured doll's passion for fashion

Barbie is set to hit the big screen for the first time in her own movie, with the debut instalment in a new live-action series tipped to enter production by the end of the year.

The Hollywood Reporter says the new film will team the doll, first marketed in 1959, with an overworked bureaucrat looking for an assistant. It is being billed as a contemporary buddy comedy and will be based on a screenplay by Jenny Bicks, sometime writer on the TV version of Sex and the City. Producers Walter F Parkes and Laurie MacDonald will work with studio Sony on the project.

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- Ben Child

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William Hurt quits Gregg Allman biopic amid latest claims over crew death

14 hours ago

Actor drops out of Midnight Rider day after blog reports that producer boasted: 'We make movies by our own rules'

William Hurt has quit the troubled biopic Midnight Rider following a fatal accident on a railway track in February, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The move comes amid fresh revelations surrounding the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones, who was killed after being hit by flying debris during a shoot for the film in Jesup, Georgia. Hurt had been cast in the role of singer-songwriter Gregg Allman, the biopic's subject. The 64-year-old Us actor narrowly escaped injury during the accident and was reported to have been very shaken.

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- Ben Child

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