The Clash Film Column: Coming Out The Goddamn Walls

A new Alien? And other news…

But… but… she died! Didn’t she? And the latest reviews...

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That was the week in which...

Sigourney Weaver expressed an interest in revisiting Ripley, the main character from the Alien series. 

The first two films, 1979’s Alien and the 1986 follow-up Aliens, are bona-fide sci-fi masterpieces. The original simmered with gut-wrenching intensity as its small-scale horror cranked up the creepy quota, while its sequel erupted the original’s malevolent spirit on a grotesquely huger scale. Their shared themes of feminist strength in a masculine world together with the late H.R. Giger’s stunning visual creations still hasn’t been topped.

Zombifying old classics from beyond the cinematic graveyard is a common pursuit born from potential box office appeal and, arguably, a dearth of new ideas. Alien, however, endured a natural fade: Alien 3 was wrecked by endless re-writes; Alien: Resurrection fared little better; and Alien Vs. Predator was bad enough to ensure that few relished its Requiem.

If the combined talents of David Fincher, William Gibson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet failed to provide much of substance beyond Aliens, what chance does anyone else have of delivering the goods? On the other hand, the 17 years after Resurrection have created a new world of technology in both cinema and the wider world, not to mention another generation of writers, actors and directors who could freshen the franchise. Even looking backwards has potential, given that Vincent Ward’s ideas for Alien 3 have been described as one of the greatest unmade sci-fi films ever. (http://www.empireonline.com/features/alien-3-tale-of-the-wooden-planet/)

It’s wise to approach with caution (actually, pack the Caterpillar P-5000 Powered Work Loader, just to be safe), but Ripley has the potential to fight another day.

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The Big Film: 22 Jump Street

A cop movie with two buddies: Jenko, a muscular jock with a double-digital ID and his smarter but altogether less athletic pal Schmidt. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s characters are solidly established after 21 Jump Street, and this sequel isn’t really concerned with character evolution. It’s basically The Odd Couple dropped into Police Academy 2.

Yes, there a story here but it moves in less than mysterious ways: undercover cops, drug deals, guns, gangsters, distractions from new friends, and a bromance pushed to breaking point. Give those guidelines to an infinite amount of monkeys with an infinite amount of Apple products in an infinite amount of chain coffee shops and you’ll get 22 Jump Street within the hour. And probably some quite feasible plots for further sequels as well.

But that’s not to be dismissive of this mostly amusing sequel. It’s not the film to sate a desire for unseen twists, split-time narratives and grand allegorical interpretations. “Come for the dick jokes and stay for the meta humour” would be an accurate if commercially unappealing tag, for amidst the blokey humour there’s something of real substance bristling away at the edge. It might be Jenko learning the sexual-political reasoning as to why homophobia is bad. It could be a car chase (of sorts) in which the direction is dictated by a double-meaning examination of what’s feasible for the film’s (real) budget and what works for the (fictional) funding of our hapless duo’s case.

Like diarrhoea, it’s not terribly consistent, with a noticeable amount of the jokes on display pretty much rendered immediately flushable. Yet unlike said runs, you won’t mind a repeat performance because the moments that work really do connect – especially with the duo’s captain (Ice Cube) repeatedly losing his shit to a stunning extent, as well as a dazzling closing credits sequence. There’s no danger of Tatum or Hill becoming the new Steve Guttenberg.

22 Jump Street, trailer

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Also Out: Pulp: A Film About Life, Death And Supermarkets

On 8th December 2012, Sheffield Britpop heroes Pulp reunited for a final concert in their home town. This last hurrah is the starting point for this documentary film directed by German-born New Zealander Florian Habicht, but its main focus is not the Jarvis Cocker fronted five-piece. Its scope is far wider.

Taking a fascinating, witty and affectionate look at Sheffield’s ‘common people’, its full, prosaic moniker, Pulp: A Film About Life, Death And Supermarkets, mirrors the no-nonsense ordinariness of its subjects, and it’s ultimately a film about all of those things.

Just as Habicht is at pains to show real life and real people, erasing any of the self-indulgent pomp and ceremony associated with rock and roll, he is also keen to anchor Pulp’s fame and popular music to their roots and the real world. Echoing the subject matter of their songs, Habicht gives more of an insight into the band and its sensibilities than many a more conventional rockumentary would.

Also frequently exposing the artifice inherent in documentary making by including raw footage others would cut, Habicht’s film is a better championing of the working classes than the recent Jimmy’s Hall, (review) the latest feature from renowned social realist filmmaker Ken Loach. Words: Kim Francis

And if you fancy seeing some Pulp on the big screen complete with a satellite Q&A with the band tomorrow, you can find your nearest cinema and book tickets right here.

A Film About Life, Death And Supermarkets, trailer

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Also Out: Cheap Thrills

The production stills look like something from a straight-to-DVD, second-rate American indie horror, the cast seems to be drawn from the same genre, and the budget is clearly tight: Cheap Thrills isn’t big, but it’s certainly pretty clever.

It riffs on the familiar idea of what could happen when life is seemingly at its lowest ebb. Laden with debt, family man Craig drowns his sorrows at a bar after losing his job, but his spirits are lifted by running into his old friend Vince. As the night progresses, they end up drinking with the clearly wealthy Colin and his much younger wife Violet. A couple of innocuous bets soon escalate into an increasingly dark night.

Cheap Thrills’ juggernaut pacing allows Craig and Vince’s increasingly extreme actions to feel convincing as the stakes are constantly rising in their desperation for money. It’s a trait complemented by the sheer shock value of the speed of their collapsing morality, a succession of unexpected twists, and a constant sense of demented black humour.

There are layers of substance here too as the whole story feels like a satirical bite at capitalistic exploitation in a time of financial crisis, mixed with slapstick extreme violence – broadly akin to Michael Haneke directing Beadle’s About. The enjoyment, however, is primarily of the “OMG! WTF! I CAN’T BELIEVE HE JUST DID THAT!” variety.

Cheap Thrills, trailer

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Also Out: Benny & Jolene

Ever since Spinal Tap turned the music comedy up to 11, the industry has been depicted as a series of unbelievable events helmed by a mire of larger-than-life sharks played by actors with all the subtlety of a stag necking Jägerbombs for breakfast. In 1984, it was funny. In Wayne’s World almost a decade later it was still funny. Now, it’s a rotten indie film cliché so hackneyed that it hacks at the roots of any related joke. Especially as anyone can easily have a good chuckle at the real life exploits of Anvil.

The Benny & Jolene of the title is an emerging folk-pop duo hoping, initially at least, to make it big. Their journey is hindered by the incompetency of their label, a ripple of romantic tension and differing expectations of success. Can they stick together and sell records without selling out?

The casting of the ever reliable Craig Roberts (Submarine and, briefly, 22 Jump Street) and Charlotte Ritchie (Fresh Meat) is perfect for this kind of softly dramatic comedy, especially as they seem to form an immediately intuitive bond. Elsewhere, though, there’s not a great deal for them to work with. Their seemingly largely improvised dialogue is entertaining enough when it’s not rambling, but when combined with an obvious and uneventful narrative, it leaves all the substance of a novelty summer hit.

Essentially a British take on the trend for quirky rom-coms (see 500 Days Of Summer and Daniel Radcliffe’s upcoming What If?) which are packed with geeky cultural references but rely on the usual traits of the genre, Benny & Jolene isn’t terrible but it’s hard to get all that excited about. It’s the cinematic equivalent of the fifth single from a hit album.

Benny & Jolene, trailer

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Shorts

Brad Pitt admitted to punching Vitalii Sediuk – the “nutter” who attacked him at a premiere of Maleficent. Brad, remember the first rule of Fight Club?

12 Years A Slave’s Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie Of Game of Thrones have joined the cast of the new Star Wars film, which greatly enhances the chances of the film passing the Bechdel test.

Maleficent went straight to the top of last weekend’s UK box office with X-Men’s future/past placing rising/dropping to #2. Tom Cruise’s Edge Of Tomorrow pipped Seth McFarlane’s A Million Ways To Die In The West to #3. Jimmy’s Hall reached the bottom of the top 10.

Finally, the entire Wright / Pegg / Frost Cornetto Trilogy has been rewritten... in emoji form!

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Words: Ben Hopkins, except where indicated

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