The Clash Film Column: Mutant Thesps FTW

X-Men: DOFP is our pick of the week…

Apologies. We took a break. Something in the popcorn. Long story. Anyway, Films

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That was the week in which...

Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River took a kicking.

Half Nelson. Blue Valentine. Drive. The Ides Of March. The Place Beyond The Pines. Only God Forgives. Almost everything that Ryan Gosling has touched has turned to gold, propelling him to the rare status of a critically adored heartthrob.

But with the launch of his directorial debut Lost River at Cannes this week, his Midas touch has been downgraded from gold to tin. The Guardian described the film as “colossally indulgent, shapeless, often fantastically and unthinkingly offensive and at all times insufferably conceited” (albeit tempered with a few more positive notes). The Telegraph’s opinion is that it’s “mouth-dryingly lousy”. At 25% ‘fresh’ at Rotten Tomatoes, it’s significantly less popular than The Postman Pat Movie (I credit the black and white cat).

Deadline reports that Warner Bros. are already looking to offload the film to an indie distributor, noting: “This seems like one of those films that is smaller, and requires the care and feeding that the specialty distributors can take the time to do.” Which essentially is a polite way of saying, “Now that the film isn’t going to be a critical smash, there’s not much else we can do with it.”

Poor Ryan Gosling.

Lost River, trailer

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The Big Film: X-Men: Days Of Future Past

With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the X-Men franchise has enjoyed arguably the most critically accepted adaptation from comics to cinema. No mean feat, considering it has spanned a couple of spin-offs and reboots. And let’s face it: it’s not easy to please its vast audience of action junkies, comic book fans and people with leather fetishes. So how does X-Men: Days Of Future Past stack up compared to its predecessors?

It excels. Based in a dystopian future where giant robotic sentinels have taken over society by eliminating mutants and anyone who stands with them, the surviving X-Men and old enemy Magneto band together to send series poster-boy Wolverine back in time to change the past. This requires him to convince a much disillusioned and downtrodden younger Xavier, aka X-Men leader Professor X, to work with Magneto to stop the events that will lead to the sentinels’ rise.

Time travel plots are often tedious and hard to follow, but Wolverine provides a perfect anchor in connecting the two timelines together. Anyone who has read the comics that the movie is based on knows there is a long list of characters that make an impact on the storyline. This is also true of the movie, but thanks to a tight script, each has their opportunity to shine.

There is surprisingly very little outright action, and few fight scenes. Instead, the plot focuses on the interactions between the characters, and the effects of their actions since the last movie. As expected from the likes of Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, their talent brings an emotional depth to the story which lets the viewer understand the severity of the sentinel threat. And this is the franchise’s ace in the hole: using true thespians as their leading characters is a ploy that has enabled these films to stand the test of time. Words: Elijah Lawal

X-Men: Days Of Future Past, trailer

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Also Out: Fading Gigolo

Although often grounded in theory, the worst of sci-fi jumps the shark to move from the unlikely to the utterly unbelievable. Superhero movies clearly aren’t grounded in reality. What Women Want isn’t a biopic. Cats & Dogs wasn’t David Attenborough’s examination of pet-based warfare between our favourite two types of furry friend. And yet all of these stories are more believable than Fading Gigolo.

A dermatologist (Sharon Stone) and her friend (Sofía Vergara) are on the hunt for a man to complete their proposed threesome. They enlist the help of book shop owner Murray (Woody Allen) who in turn sources the unassuming Fioravante (played, perhaps unsurprisingly, by the film’s director John Turturro) to complete the deal, starting a chain in which the gigolo/pimp/client triangle becomes ever more complicated.

The connection between Turturro and Allen has an immediate spark, especially as Woody acts as if he’s the star of a documentary titled Being Woody Allen. The story ambles along with an oddly directionless sense of charm, which is sourced primarily from the inherent likeability of its characters, a beautifully photographed New York City and a reserved, jazzy score that reflects the film’s lack of urgency.

Yet just what is it about Fioravante that enables him to make the most of the situation? Why are these successful women so interested in him? An underdeveloped central character is part of the reason why this rather dated sex comedy’s jokes tickle the mind rather than the diaphragm.

Fading Gigolo, trailer

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Also Out, Part Deux: The Punk Singer

Kathleen Hanna gave a voice to a generation of women. A key figure in the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s, which was embedded in the so-called third wave of feminism, the former Bikini Kill frontwoman was – and is – a female who inspires.

This documentary takes a look at the charismatic, pint-sized powerhouse, giving us a run-down of the part Hanna played in the scene, an overview of her influence and a glimpse into the life of the feminist firebrand. The Punk Singer takes us back more than 20 years to when Hanna was starting out as a spoken-word performer through her years spitting vitriol with Bikini Kill, and her subsequent time with electroclash act Le Tigre and latest project The Julie Ruin. Also touching on her struggle with late-stage Lyme disease, The Punk Singer summarises key moments in Hanna’s life.

And therein lies its problem. Those looking for an in-depth analysis of the role Hanna played in feminism and the wider influence of her bands will be disappointed. Similarly, if you’re looking for an insight-packed portrait of a significant woman, this documentary merely skims the surface. Although it’s an admirable attempt to document a movement and shine a light on one of its figureheads, there’s every danger you’ll come away feeling unfulfilled, and with more questions than answers. Words: Kim Francis / Photo: Pat Smear

The Punk Singer, trailer

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New Talent: Kyle Soller

Who? A London-based American whose stage career has already been a huge success, Roles in the likes of Edward II, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Glass Menagerie earned Soller the title of Best Newcomer at the Evening Standard Awards as well as an Olivier nomination. Plus he’s married to future Woman In Black sequel star Phoebe Fox. Seems the move worked out okay, then,

What’s he been in? In terms of films, not a huge amount so far but there have been small parts in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina and WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate.

What’s coming up? There’s a quadruple selection of projects on the cards with Monsters: Dark Continent, the sequel to Gareth Edwards’ indie hit Monsters; American Civil War drama The Keeping Room with Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington and Brit Marling; a supporting role in the David Ayer and Brad Pitt film Fury; and finally a key role in the BBC’s resurrection of 1970s favourite Poldark.

They say: “A dynamo of an actor.” The Guardian

He says: “When I got in [to RADA], I dropped everything. There was a romanticism to it – an American in London, getting Shakespearean training, being closer to Paris, having good Guinness. I really wanted to stick around afterwards, because the stuff being done here, particularly the new writing, excited me so much.” The Stage

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Shorts

JJ Abrams announced a competition to win a cameo role in the upcoming Star Wars film. All you have to do is pay $10 per entry, with proceeds going to UNICEF. Which is mighty nice of him. Okay, so you won’t get to be Hans or Luke or even Lando, but you can probably veto any plans to make you this generation’s Jar Jar Binks. Maybe you could be the new equivalent of the Stormtrooper who hits his head on a doorframe. Enter here.

Godzilla stomped its way to the top of last weekend’s UK box office with a gross of over £6 million – fine work for director Gareth Edwards, whose previous monster movie, the imaginatively named Monsters, had a total budget of substantially less than a tenth of that figure. The Two Faces Of January debuted at #5, but no other new openers made much of an impression.

Finally, there’s a new trailer for the James Brown biopic Get On Up with Chadwick Boseman playing The Godfather of Soul. Will he be a Sex Machine? Or just Super Bad? Our American brethren will find out when it’s released on August 1st, but UK audiences will have to funk it out until late September:

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Words: Ben Hopkins, except where indicated

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