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Uncle Howard review – nephew trawls film-making vaults for moving portrait

5 hours ago

This study of documentarian Howard Brookner is a family relic, a snapshot of New York’s 1980s gay scene and an unearthing of quirky cinematic detritus

Here is a sensitive, intelligent portrait of film director Howard Brookner made by his nephew Aaron – a film-maker of some note, too. It also indulges in a little literary excavation, and functions as a window on the mid-1980s New York gay community that was decimated by the Aids epidemic.

Howard Brookner’s reputation chiefly rests on a documentary profile of novelist William S Burroughs, who he filmed in the writer’s latter years – initially – while at New York University film school. (An unexpected byplay is that Brookner’s sound recordist on the Burroughs film turns out to be an equally studenty Jim Jarmusch, and his cinematographer was Tom Dicillo, another director-to-be.) As Aaron Brookner – who bears a striking resemblance to his uncle – chases down Howard’s Burroughs footage, »

- Andrew Pulver

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War on Everyone review – bad cop, bad cop on the trail of a plot

6 hours ago

John Michael McDonagh steers renegade police duo Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña into quirky Albuquerque, where they bafflingly fail to clean up on laughs

Pull over, punk, for Terry and Bob – renegade police who protect and serve only their self-interest. They bring gun, badge and vice on duty. Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) likes his liquor and Bob (Michael Peña) pounds the powder. Both love nothing more than a quick buck, won dirty.

Related: Michael Peña says Us media overplays police brutality

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- Henry Barnes

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Second showing: unearthing the lost history of African American cinema

6 hours ago

Nearly 500 ‘race films’ were produced in the Us between 1915 and 1952 but lost due to a combination of neglect and poor preservation, yet a new project shines spotlight on the early 20th-century films of Oscar Micheaux and others

Contemporary film-makers such as Ava DuVernay (Selma) and Nate Parker (Sundance prizewinner The Birth of a Nation) have recently delved into key moments in African American history for subject matter. But now a Kickstarter-funded restoration and distribution project – Kino Lorber’s ‘Pioneers of African American Cinema’ – aims to shine a long-overdue spotlight on the trailblazing wave of black American independent film-making that flourished in the early part of the 20th century.

Executive produced by Paul D Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and curated by historians Dr Jacqueline Stewart and Charles Musser, the project focuses on a thematically and stylistically diverse group of low-budget movies written, directed, starring and frequently funded, distributed and exhibited by black film-makers. »

- Ashley Clark

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Bridge of Spies book author sues over rights to title of Steven Spielberg film

6 hours ago

Former Times Moscow correspondent Giles Whittell starts fresh action after previously suing studios, claiming they did not get approval to use title of book

The British author of a book called Bridge of Spies is suing studios behind the Oscar-nominated Steven Spielberg movie of the same name in a dispute over use of the title.

Giles Whittell, a journalist, author and currently a leader writer for the Times, names several units of studio DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox Film Company in a preliminary hearing for the legal action at the high court in London, according to Bloomberg.

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- Ben Child

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Midnight Special review – close encounters of a turgid kind

8 hours ago

Mud director Jeff Nichols aims to replicate Spielbergian wonder with this tale of a boy with magical powers, but the attempt misfires

There’s a wave of young film-makers brought up on the 70s and 80s blockbusters that changed the Hollywood system who are trying their darnedest to replicate them. Jj Abrams managed to work alongside Steven Spielberg himself for throwback fantasy Super 8 before taking charge of the rebooted Star Wars franchise, Gareth Edwards admitted that his take on Godzilla was influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind and others such as Rian Johnson and Joss Whedon are clear students of the multiplex masters who birthed the event movie.

Related: Berlin film festival opening gala – in pictures

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- Benjamin Lee

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Baftas more diverse than Oscars but change may still be on way

9 hours ago

Film body taking steps to bring its members’ ethnic makeup in line with its mix of age and gender, despite greater diversity among nominees

As it prepares to roll out the red carpet on Sunday night, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts is already celebrating its own victory: dodging the controversy that has dogged its Us counterpart. Not only are Bafta nominees more diverse – Oscar-snubbed Idris Elba and Benicio Del Toro are both up for best supporting actor – the spotlight has failed to fall on the organisation’s own internal diversity.

Related: Baftas 2016: Peter Bradshaw predicts the winners

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- Catherine Shoard

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The horror! Why Universal's monster movie 'cinematic universe' is the wrong kind of scary

11 hours ago

It works for Marvel’s superhero films and even for Star Wars. But teaming up Dracula, Frankenstein and the Invisible Man would be a frightfully faddish move

Related: Johnny Depp to play the Invisible Man in remake of horror classic

It’s the studio buzzword for 2016, and no wonder. The concept of the “cinematic universe”, invented for Marvel’s interlinked superhero movies, has caused quite the Hollywood hullabaloo. As well as the slew of Star Wars films due to hit cinemas over the next few years, it’s being used to describe Warner Bros’ proposed slate of 10 new movies based on the DC Comics back catalogue (think Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and two forthcoming Justice League movies that will see all three teaming up). There are even loose plans for a Ghostbusters universe.

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- Ben Child

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Michael Peña says Us media overplays police brutality

12 hours ago

‘The news sells because it is fear’ … star of corrupt-cop drama War on Everyone says coverage is hyped, and labels Hollywood race guilt a ‘champagne problem’

Actor Michael Peña has suggested that the highly publicised cases of police brutality that sparked the #blacklivesmatter movement have been overplayed by the media.

Peña, who stars alongside Alexander Skarsgård in John Michael McDonagh’s War on Everyone, a comedy about two New Mexico cops who brutalise informants, snort drugs and drink on the job, compared the coverage of police shootings to the American media’s hype over the Ebola crisis.

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- Henry Barnes

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Preston Sturges: how a master of daftness conquered Hollywood

12 hours ago

Sturges’s screwball comedies play with big ideas and serious themes. So what makes them some of the funniest films ever made?

It was a sprint worthy of his greatest farces: between 1937 and 1944, Preston Sturges made some of the funniest films Hollywood ever produced, including The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, and Hail the Conquering Hero. Then suddenly, as if his frantic, frenzied comedies had exhausted not only himself but his form, Sturges ran out of steam. Blending the comical and serious, farcical and cerebral, high and low, Sturges found catalytic energy in mixing formulas like a madcap scientist; as if he had released actual kinetic energy, he went ricocheting through Hollywood cinema, until he fell to earth with a thud. Happily, the BFI season celebrating Sturges offers audiences the chance to rediscover golden-era Hollywood’s minister of misrule. »

- Sarah Churchwell

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Penelope Cruz: five best moments

12 hours ago

As the Oscar-winning actor stars in comedy sequel Zoolander 2, here’s a look back at her defining performances

It’s taken Hollywood a long time to figure out exactly what to do with the often underrated talents of Penelope Cruz. But this year, the actor is choosing to flex her comic muscles alongside Sacha Baron Cohen in Grimsby and in this week’s Zoolander 2, with Ben Stiller.

Related: Zoolander 2 review: Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are so lukewarm right now

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- Benjamin Lee

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George Clooney meets Angela Merkel and backs Germany's support for refugees

13 hours ago

Hail, Caesar! star follows up combative performance at Berlin film festival press conference with meeting to discuss the Syria crisis with the German chancellor

George Clooney has backed Germany’s open-door policy towards refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict after meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Clooney and his human-rights lawyer wife, Amal, enjoyed a one-hour meeting with Merkel on Friday morning to discuss the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the political reaction to it in Europe and elsewhere. Merkel has led Germany’s approach to the greatest movement of refugees since the second world war, which has resulted in Europe’s most populous nation taking in nearly one in two of all asylum applications made by Syrians in EU member states last year.

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- Ben Child

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This week’s new film events

14 hours ago

Glasgow Film Festival | Secret Cinema

Coming so early in the calendar, this festival has its pick of the exciting new titles we’ll spend the rest of the year waiting for. Films such as Hail, Caesar!, the Coen brothers’ star-packed Hollywood homage, which opens the event. Not to mention new Disney animation Zootropolis, Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, and the talked-about Green Room, featuring Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi. On the foreign-language side, there’s Oscar-nominated Turkish teen drama Mustang, Cannes-winner Dheepan and Norwegian disaster epic The Wave. And much more besides: 174 films in total, including a mini FrightFest, Bowie material, and guests from Richard Gere to Peter Greenaway. Plus some ingenious pop-up events: a Romeo + Juliet-style masked ball, The Man Who Fell To Earth at the Planetarium, and a Con Air event where you’re put in an orange jumpsuit and transported to a secret location. »

- Steve Rose

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The Guardian film show: Zoolander 2, Deadpool, A Bigger Splash and Concussion – audio reviews

16 hours ago

The team review the week’s new releases, including Ben Stiller’s belated high-fashion sequel Zoolander 2 and the subversive superhero comedy Deadpool

Catherine Shoard and Peter Bradshaw join Xan Brooks for our weekly round-up of the big cinema releases. This week the team check to see if Ben Stiller’s dumb model is still in fashion in belated sequel Zoolander 2; find out if Ryan Reynolds can finally make a franchise work in subversive superhero comedy Deadpool; bask in the sun in Luca Guadagnino’s steamy melodrama A Bigger Splash and wonder if Will Smith’s Concussion deserved to be snubbed by the Academy

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- Presented by Xan Brooks with Catherine Shoard and Peter Bradshaw Produced by Ken Macfarlane and Rowan Slaney

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The Guardian film show: Zoolander 2, Deadpool, A Bigger Splash and Concussion – video reviews

16 hours ago

Catherine Shoard and Peter Bradshaw join Xan Brooks for our weekly round-up of the big cinema releases. This week the team check to see if Ben Stiller’s dumb model is still in fashion in belated sequel Zoolander 2; find out if Ryan Reynolds can finally make a franchise work in subversive superhero comedy Deadpool; bask in the sun in Luca Guadagnino’s steamy melodrama A Bigger Splash and wonder if Will Smith’s Concussion deserved to be snubbed by the Academy

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- Xan Brooks, Peter Bradshaw, Catherine Shoard and Ken Macfarlane

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Rival movie awards to highlight diversity gap days before Oscars

17 hours ago

Beasts of No Nation, Chi-Raq, Concussion, Creed, Dope and Straight Outta Compton will compete for best picture at #OscarsSoWhite-inspired ceremony

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is to stage a rival awards show just days before the Oscars with the aim of showcasing the diverse Hollywood talent ignored by the world’s most famous film ceremony.

The All Def Movie awards are clearly designed as a reaction to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy which has overshadowed this year’s awards season after the Us Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to include a single person of colour among its acting nominees for the second year running. Beasts of No Nation, Chi-Raq, Concussion, Creed, Dope and Straight Outta Compton will compete for best picture. Guests will arrive on a black carpet, and as well as handing out prizes for best actor, best actress, best director and “best bad muh fucka”, there will be »

- Ben Child

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This week’s new films

18 hours ago

A Bigger Splash | Deadpool | Zoolander No 2 | The Survivalist | Pride And Prejudice And Zombies | Concussion | The Green Inferno | I’ll See You In My Dreams

An unstable foursome assemble at a Mediterranean villa for a strained, sexually charged holiday. It’s the type of film where something might happen but we’re perfectly happy if nothing does, if only because the characters and location are so captivating. Fiennes steals the show as a party animal; Swinton is his opposite: an imperious, practically mute rock star. There’s history between them; possibly less of a future.

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- Steve Rose

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Racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia – the four theatres of Oscar conflict

20 hours ago

Actors need to pick a side in the culture wars now, or they will be first up against the red carpet come the showdown

Epic times for the acting community, as the showbiz gods decree that the Oscars will be the locus for the various culture wars that Hollywood has battled tirelessly not to make movies about.

A sort of Ragnarok for people with no-eye-contact clauses, the row over this year’s ceremony has expanded rapidly from the race discrimination controversy that initially engulfed it when the major awards categories were revealed (for the second year running) to include no nominees of colour. Now, thanks to acts of war by various well-meaning subclinical narcissists, there are four clear theatres of Oscar conflict: racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia. Or five, if you count “racism to whites”, as steel-trap-minded Charlotte Rampling does.

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- Marina Hyde

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The Survivalist review – apocalyptic thriller told with gritty realism and flair

11 February 2016 3:00 PM, PST

Stephen Fingleton’s tale of three survivors carrying on as society crumbles makes him a worthy Bafta nominee for outstanding British debut

Related: Mia Goth: ‘I’m always scared of feeling like a fake’

The title could apply to any of the three main characters in this overwhelmingly tense and brutal thriller from first-time feature director Stephen Fingleton, who is a supremely well-deserved Bafta nominee in the outstanding British debut category. The scene is a post-apocalyptic future in the north of Ireland as there’s a dialogue reference to Monaghan, a county near the border. The opening titles hint at catastrophic population growth – there is no hunger-gaming or maze-running. This is old-school scary and depressing realist futurism; a breakdown in society, law and order. Martin McCann plays a lone survivor growing crops around his shack in a forest, shouldering a rifle and on the lookout for interlopers; ready to defend himself. »

- Peter Bradshaw

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies review – undead breathe no life into revamp

11 February 2016 3:00 PM, PST

This gimmicky reworking of Jane Austen’s classic uses deadpan decapitations to satire the prim costume drama but its gags are ultimately unearned

This laborious single-joke movie could well convince you that the mashup is the single most overrated thing in popular culture. Based on the 2009 bestseller attributed to “Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith”, the film is an elaborate spoof of Pride and Prejudice, taking place in an alternative England where the undead roam the land. The haughty Darcy (Sam Riley) is a renowned zombie hunter and Lizzie (Lily James) a dazzling ninja warrior. You get the elegant badinage, and then you get the people with half-eaten faces getting their bonneted heads blown off. It’s meticulously acted with deadpan attention to form – as well acted, in fact, as any conventional Austen adaptation – and it could conceivably be read as a satire of the traditional middlebrow tea-time costume drama (Andrew Davies »

- Peter Bradshaw

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The Green Inferno review – bad taste gore in the jungle

11 February 2016 2:45 PM, PST

Eli Roth’s crass satire/horror links Amazon deforestation and Fgm, depicting a group of students tortured by cannibals with an energy bordering on mania

The sheer chutzpah of Eli Roth escalates in this breathtakingly crass, ultra-violent satire targeting the liberal PC classes – a twist on Ruggero Deodato’s cult shocker Cannibal Holocaust. Like him or not, Roth makes other horror directors look like a bunch of softcore wusses. With a sublimely irresponsible bad taste bordering on primitivist genius, he takes on the subjects of the Amazon rainforest and Fgm – and it’s far from clear by the end of the “university lecture” scene on this subject that Roth actually understands what the sinister motivation for Fgm is in the real world. A bunch of do-gooding Us students head to South America to chain themselves to bulldozers belonging to the logging company destroying the rainforest. But to infiltrate the clearing »

- Peter Bradshaw

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