Film

The latest releases – plus interviews with actors and directors

Interview: Nicolas Winding Refn
Film

Interview: Nicolas Winding Refn

Did you know there was an article in the Daily Mail calling for the British Board of Film Classification to ban The Neon Demon?“Fucking A. Come on, the kids love it! And I love it. Absolutely love, love, love it. It’s not so much about publicity, it’s that art is mostly interesting when it’s combined with controversy.” But creating controversy is easy, you just need to depict something horrific. Is there a line that you draw?“I only draw a line on what I would like to see. I can only use myself as the audience. If I want to see it, I’m cool with it. If I don’t want to see it, I wouldn’t do it.” Is that a moral decision or an aesthetic one?“It’s a combination. Like when I make advertisements, there are certain things I will not advertise. I won’t do toys, or soft drinks, or anything geared towards children. And that’s out of moral choice.” You clearly see yourself as an anti-establishment figure, but can you be the director of multi-million-dollar movies and be truly anti-establishment?“Absolutely, because I make them inexpensively. Art and commerce walk hand in hand. You can have all the contractual creative power you ever want, but what defines true creative freedom is the money, and the less you have to make back, the more creative freedom you have. I make a balance so I can do whatever I want, knowing it’s going to be okay. That gives me the security of approaching art as it should be, a very singular expression.” So you don’t remotely care about negative reactions to

The best and worst Disney movies
Film

The best and worst Disney movies

Are Disney films wise, funny and visually stunning – perfect for all the family? Or are they sappy and sentimental, brainwashing kids with all-American values? Everyone has an opinion of the 53 animations released over the years by the Walt Disney Company, beginning in 1937 with ‘Snow White’ and hitting new heights with last year’s box office bonanza ‘Frozen’. What cannot be denied is how loved these films are in every corner of the globe. But which Disney movies deserve a place on your DVD shelf, and which are best forgotten? We count down the best and worst Disney animated movies.

Interview: Michael Shannon
Film

Interview: Michael Shannon

The thing about actors known for their brooding screen presence is that, nine times out of ten, they turn out to be puppy dogs in the flesh. That’s definitely not the case with Michael Shannon, who stars in this month’s Midnight Special, a sci-fi road movie with hints of Spielberg. The 41-year-old, who made his name with unnerving turns in Take Shelter, Man of Steel and Boardwalk Empire bristles when I describe his roles as “menacing.” But as he prowls around the hotel room, all 6'3" of him, it’s hard not to feel just a little bit intimidated. In Midnight Special, you play a father who rescues his son from a cult. You had a challenging childhood yourself after your parents divorce. Did that add a layer of empathy to your performance?“I think being a parent adds that. But yes, all my life experiences become paints on my palette. The great dirty secret about acting is that however much people say, ‘I have my method to give a great performance,’ a lot of it is subconscious. I just showed up with the script. It all made sense. This guy loves his kid. He’s trying to save him. Simple.” You’re not known for nice-guy roles. Was it a relief to play a righteous man for a change?“Well, everyone’s righteous from their own point of view. I love all my characters.” Sure, but some of these guys have been pretty menacing. Why do you think directors pick you?“Hmm. I don’t know if I agree with that, so it’s hard to answer. It’d be like me asking you why your favorite color’s blue, when your

Diary of a 'Game of Thrones' addict
Film

Diary of a 'Game of Thrones' addict

1 The time before reckoningYou never thought it would happen to someone as worldly and wise (read: lazy and snarky) as you. It might, as Huey Lewis always assured us, it's hip to be square these days, but isn’t Game of Thrones the preserve of block-quoting nerds in egg-stained Red Dwarf t-shirts and earnest girls with henna tattoos? We’re none of us strangers to the box-set/Netflix-dump/dodgy download, but whereas The Sopranos was cask-aged in gushing claret and “family” values, and The Wire made us feel all “word” and “street” and “legit,” surely GoT is just an excuse for Brit thesps to mess around with the Lord of the Rings dressing-up box. And yet. And yet… You’ve heard rumors that there’s the occasional flash of skin and that someone is graphically deprived of a limb/head/codpiece/loved one every ten minutes. So it is that you find yourself happening across a random episode while flicking around during an ad break in Family Guy. Maybe just give it five minutes. Can’t hurt, can it?2 A song of vice and ireIt’s three weeks later. You’ve steadily caught up on all the precious episodes you have missed. You find yourself in increasingly animated debate over Friday-night drinks with colleagues you’ve never really bothered with before. The depth of knowledge exhibited by your fellow Throneheads (your term) makes you realize how little of the Seven Kingdoms you have explored. There’s nothing else to it. You need to learn more. This means reading the big, thick source novels. Which

Latest film releases

La La Land
Film

La La Land

The young writer-director Damien Chazelle has followed his Oscar-winning drama 'Whiplash' with another entirely novel film steeped in the world of music. His soaring, romantic, extremely stylish and endlessly inventive 'La La Land' is that rare beast: a grown-up movie musical that's not kitschy, a joke or a Bollywood film. Instead, it's a swooning, beautifully crafted ode to the likes of Jacques Demy's 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' and Stanley Donen's 'Singin' in the Rain' that plays out in the semi-dream world of Los Angeles and manages to condense the ups and downs of romantic love into a very Tinseltown toe-tapping fable. 'La La Land' boasts stars to fall in love with: Ryan Gosling is Seb, a brooding pianist and jazz purist who dreams of running his own nightclub, while Emma Stone plays Mia, a more sunny studio-lot barista and aspiring actor who dreams of putting on her own plays. The film follows them from winter to fall and back to winter as they meet, argue, flirt, fall in love and face a growing conflict between their personal passions and romantic hopes. There are tender and imaginative moments to die for: Stone mouthing along to a cover version of 'I Ran' at a pool party; the pair watching their legs discover the power of tap while sitting on a bench; the two of them flying into the stars and waltzing while visiting Griffith Observatory - a moment inspired by a trip to see 'Rebel Without a Cause'. There are songs, there are dances (and Gosling and Stone prove easy n

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
I, Daniel Blake
Film

I, Daniel Blake

Fifty years since Ken Loach raged against homelessness in his television play 'Cathy Come Home', the British filmmaker has made a film infused with the same quiet but righteous anger about the failings of the society around him. 'I, Daniel Blake' is the story of an unlikely but tender friendship between Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother from London with two kids, and Dan (Dave Johns), a Geordie carpenter in his late fifties who's out of work and recovering from a heart attack. There are no histrionics here, no crowd-pleasing genre leanings, barely any score: Loach tells his tale straight and with the confidence of someone who knows that they have a story to tell, with no need for bells and whistles. It's a spare film, muted in colour and unflashy – and it's all the more powerful and urgent for it. Both Katie and Dan are feeling the sharp end of the shrinking welfare state: Katie has been forced to move her children north to Newcastle to find a flat; Dan is stuck in a nightmarish bureacratic limbo between work, illness and benefits. 'We're digital by default,' a job centre worker tells this man who's never used a computer, pointing him towards yet another online form. The language of impersonal government bureaucracy runs through the film. It's blackly comic until it begins to sound threatening, even deadly. Loach sketches with compassion the growing humiliation felt by both Dan and Katie; forces beyond both are turning them into different people. Dan is community-min

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Florence Foster Jenkins
Film

Florence Foster Jenkins

Meryl Streep continues her screw-the-Oscars, life-affirming run of movies with this ridiculously watchable comedy, playing filthy rich socialite Florence Foster Jenkins. In the 1930s, the deluded diva sang at private recitals in New York, warbling opera, blissfully unaware that her hilariously awful singing voice might shatter the chandeliers at any moment. (David Bowie put one of her records on his list of favourite albums.) Wearing comically vile dresses that look like they’re made out of cushion covers and doilies, Streep is clearly having a blast. To sing this badly must stretch as many acting muscles as all that Oscar-winning emoting. When tone-deaf Florence opens her mouth it’s like opening the door on a barn full of on-heat foxes. Protecting her from the truth is Florence’s younger second husband, St Clair Bayfield (played by Hugh Grant, who has transformed into a silver fox overnight). His mission in life is to keep the ‘mockers and scoffers’ at bay, bribing audiences and paying off critics. He pampers and fusses over Florence, indulging her every whim (we all need a St Clair in our lives), but comes unstuck when Florence dreams big: hiring Carnegie Hall in 1944. You could get a bit sour about ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’. What would her modern equivalent look like? A Russian oligarch’s little princess paying call centres in China to buy her songs on iTunes? But director Stephen Frears sketches out her tragic backstory, and Streep in grande dame mode is not to be missed.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Film

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Unless you’ve spent the last two years in a stone cave on the remote planet Ahch-To (gesundheit), you’ll know that the new Star Wars sequels are only half the story. Between every episode in the new trilogy (and presumably beyond), Disney will release an anthology film telling a standalone story set somewhere along the Star Wars timeline. The first, enticingly titled ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, is due for release on December 16. Watch the first trailer above.

From the Land of the Moon
Film

From the Land of the Moon

This undeniably old-fashioned latest film from French filmmaker Nicole Garcia starts fairly stodgily but then turns into something interesting, even a little unusual. The early scenes, set in a Provençal village in the 1950s, show the response of troubled teenager Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) when the teacher she has a crush on rejects her advances. The girl, inspired by romantic literature, believes that profound, passionate love is ‘la chose principale’ – the main reason to live – and that a life without such love isn’t worth living.   Gabrielle's mother, tired of the stomach cramps she suspects are an act, persuades Jose (Alex Brendermühl), an exiled Catalan worker helping with the lavender harvest, to take her off her hands in return for being set up in business. So starts a loveless relationship which remains rocky despite Jose’s kindness and growing affection; only after a doctor’s diagnosis of Gabrielle’s condition results in six months at an Alpine sanatorium do things change, when she meets André (Louis Garrel), a seriously ill veteran of the war in Indochina.    If this sounds to you like a conventional sweeping romance, you’d only be partly right. The film’s French title – 'Mal de Pierres', alluding to the kidney stones causing Gabrielle’s cramps – is more evocative than the English of its slightly detached, even clinical tone. As played predictably well by Cotillard, Gabrielle is not an entirely sympathetic character; she’s stubbornly unrealistic in her aspira

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Allied
Film

Allied

What’s your pleasure: a frothy spy romance or a grim World War II drama? How about both at once? ‘Allied’ sets itself up as a modern day answer to ‘Casablanca’: the early scenes are set in the Moroccan city under German occupation, and like the beloved Bogart ’n’ Bergman classic it combines a star-studded love story with a dark depiction of betrayal. But director Robert Zemeckis (‘Forrest Gump’) is no Michael Curtiz. Where ‘Casablanca’ glided seamlessly from swooning passion to stark reality, ‘Allied’ lumbers like an out-of-control tank, crushing any semblance of subtlety. Luckily the film has plenty of charms, chiefly the sight of Brad Pitt filling out a flight suit and Marion Cotillard oozing glamour on his arm. Pitt is Max Vatan, a Canadian sent to Morocco to murder the German ambassador. Cotillard is Marianne Beausejour, a French agent tasked with easing his assimilation into Vichy high society. Their marriage is only pretence – at least until the job’s done, at which point Max invites Marianne to return to London and be his wife for real. Cue domestic bliss? Not quite. Perhaps it’s a deliberate nod to those Hollywood oldies, most of them shot on LA backlots, but ‘Allied’ feels entirely fake. Even under German rule it’s hard to imagine a North African city as spotless as this. But nothing is as unconvincing as Pitt and Cotillard’s relationship. If you believe the old ‘Friends’ maxim that a lack of on-screen chemistry means definite backstage sparks, this pair’s entente

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars

More interviews & reviews

The Uncanny Cannes
Film

The Uncanny Cannes

A veteran journalist I met at the festival, who has been coming to Cannes since 1966 and personally saw François Truffaut ask Hitchcock for an autograph, lamented to me that the festival has become evermore hierarchical. My experience confirms this: as a novice first-timer at Cannes, I was given the lowly yellow badge, the bottom of the pecking order that is the press. This meant that I had to wait behind the heavenly white badge, legendary pink badge and honourable blue badge queues to enter a screening, which sometimes meant there was no room for me. That being said, my yellow badge got me into most of the screenings and I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of flaunting my badge to security as the Cinéphile badge holders, the true proletariat of Cannes, gave me the evil eye from their queue.  A few days into the festival, I began discovering some loopholes in the order of things. When I did not feel like waiting in the yellow badge queue one time, I faked self-importance to enter a screening from the white badge section. Sure enough, an unsuspecting and misinformed guard let me through. As you would expect to happen in a film festival, acting goes a long way.  I usually woke up at 7:30, munched a pain au chocolat on the leisurely 20-minute walk along the Riviera leading to the festival, where I queued every morning for the 8.30 press screening of an Official Selection film at the Grand Theatre Lumiere. I saw an average of five films a day and came back to my room always after mi

Interview: Juliette Binoche
Film

Interview: Juliette Binoche

What was it about this story that attracted you to the project? “The magical thinking that Anna chooses to live in order to face the tragedy of her life, the loss of her son, was fascinating to me. She’s not able to say the truth, not because she’s manipulative, but because she cannot say those words: ‘He’s dead.’ I resisted playing a woman losing her child after Three Colors: Blue, because my experience with Kieślowski was so joyful. Somehow I wanted to protect that memory. But when I met with Piero Messina, there was such an intelligence in his eyes and a will in his way of talking that I was really tempted to make his first film.”   Anna is almost always on-screen, but her motivations are often ambiguous. Why doesn’t she tell Jeanne the truth? “It is probably impossible to imagine the pain of losing a child, and I can very well relate to the people who are inventing sort of a space in them in order to accept the loss. There might be an element of wanting to protect Jeanne from the pain... I don’t think Anna is perverse; she doesn’t know how to cope with her pain and loss. I was very keen to play moments where she’s willing, trying to say the truth, but she can’t. I hope the audience will be able to feel it.”   You’ve worked with a lot of the world’s best directors, including Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, David Cronenberg and Olivier Assayas. How is working with veterans like these different from working with a first-time feature filmmaker like Messina? “I consi

Gaspar Noé interview
Film

Gaspar Noé interview

After Enter the Void, you said you wanted to make a porno movie. Is this it?“I just used that word. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but for me porn doesn’t have a bad image. When I was younger I used to watch these French and American movies from the 1970s on VHS. Porn was cool. Now porn is cold. It’s all guys with tattoos and shaven girls with lots of plastic surgery. I don’t know where you look if you want to see sexy images these days.” So you’re usually disappointed with sex in movies?“Yes, I always watch thinking that I’d love to see a movie that looks like my life or my friends’ lives. Why do we see all these sentimental movies where there’s no carnal connection between the characters on screen? Why do we see all these stupid porn videos where people have useless carnal connections that are totally free of emotions? Why don’t we have more movies close to life?” How difficult is it finding actors when you’re making an explicit film?“It’s an issue. To be naked they need to be happy with their bodies. And they need to deal with their families, their boyfriend or girlfriend. When you’re talking to actors about this sort of movie, you know that 90 percent of them won’t do it.” The question everyone’s asking about Love is whether the actors are actually having sex. What are you telling people?“Nothing. It’s not an issue. What changes if I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Nothing changes. Movies are movies.” How did you negotiate with the actors about what they were and were not willin

Interview: Rooney Mara
Film

Interview: Rooney Mara

‘Love is Hard’,sighs Rooney Mara. She should know: the 30-year-old actress spent a long time thinking about the L-word to prep for her new filmCarol. Mara plays Therese, a shy shop girl who dreams of becoming a photographer but can’t see herself well enough to know what she wants to capture in others. That changes with a single glance from flirtatious housewife Carol (Cate Blanchett), who saunters up to Therese’s counter in the department store where she works. It’s a few days before Christmas in 1950, and being gay is still considered a mental illness. Therese doesn’t even have the words to describe her feelings. I meet Mara on a crisp morning in early October, in the basement of a New York hotel with floral wallpaper so loud it looks like someone glued potpourri to the walls. It hardly seems like the proper place to sit for a chat with the star who played hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – so convincingly that her performance earned her both an Oscar nomination and a reputation for being icy and impenetrable. But to my (pleasant) surprise, Mara is neither cold nor distant. I’ve never seen a movie that so accurately conveys what it feels like to fall in love. Why is Carolso universal?“I think one reason is because so much of it is unspoken. So much of it is just in the way they look at each other. Falling in love is such an interesting thing. So much of it is projection. It’s in your mind and what you imagine the other person to be. It’s this roll