The Clash Film Column: Prison, Poltergeists And Pianos

Starred Up is our pick of the week…
Starred Up

Not to be confused with a ‘Starry Eyed’ night with Ellie Goulding. That’s a whole other date entirely…

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That Was The Week In Which…

Ghostbusters III was thrown into turmoil.

If something’s weird and it don’t look good: who you gonna call? Well Bill Murray ain’t picking up the phone, Harold Ramis is sadly no longer with us and original ‘Busters director Ivan Reitman has subsequently stepped back to a producer role. You’re gonna have to call Dan Aykroyd. And he’s got real ghosts to bust

Reitman’s recent interviews have suggested that any original characters would’ve been in minor roles, thus suggesting that the proton pack would be passed to a new core cast. Yet who could take charge of this long-awaited, Second Coming-style sequel?

Reitman’s son Jason would be an obvious choice if an awkward match: his best films are comedic dramas grounded loosely in reality, and his latest film, Labor Day, has had what a polite man would describe as “mixed” reviews. Besides, as numerous famous offspring have already discovered, sometimes you just can’t match your dad’s achievements.

The commercial success and critical acclaim of The LEGO Movie means that directorial duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the current favourites. Elsewhere, Edgar Wright could work in creative terms, but whether he could finish his current project Ant-Man in time to also deliver Ghostbusters for a planned 2015 release date seems questionable, a situation which is reflected with Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow with the new Jurassic Park film, Jurassic World.

Like any other industry, the world of film often restricts its choice of creative talent to whoever is considered to be “a safe pair of hands” or whoever is flavour of the month. Perhaps, though, we’ll be surprised. I for one would love to see a Shane Carruth take on Ghostbusters, full of borderline incomprehensible existential symbolism and extended detail on the mechanical technicalities of capturing a ghost.

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The Big Film: Starred Up

Director David Mackenzie’s best films – Hallam Foe, Young Adam – have been character-driven adventures that flit loosely around genres. It’s a little surprising, then, to see him return to form after with the hardiest of genres: the prison drama, inevitably based in one unforgiving location.

Starred Up starts uncompromisingly: considered too volatile for a young offenders’ institute, Eric (a thrilling, threatening Jack O’Connell) is strip-searched for his induction into the prison system. Before long, he’s shanked a senior inmate and come dangerously close to amputating a warden’s penis with his incisors.

It would be Eric against the world if not for another inmate, his equally unpredictable father, and the unorthodox methods of the prison’s psychotherapist. So instead, it’s Eric versus the system.

If there’s a flaw here, it’s simple to locate – just why are the prison authorities so eager to destroy Eric? Elsewhere, though, it’s almost at the peak of the genre as it raises endless questions about the nature of rehabilitation and punishment, and captures a nuanced sense of character. It will surely make O’Connell a star.

Starred Up, trailer

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Also Out: The Machine

Covering the classic sci-fi question of “what is human?” in a high-paced action adventure, The Machine is a thoughtful piece of speculative fiction.

Looking at a point in the future where warfare is conducted by servile, self-aware artificial intelligence, the film brings a haunting sense of possible reality to its well-worked plot.

Denis Lawson – Wedge from Star Wars, fact fans – is entertaining enough as nasty military boss bad guy #1, Thomson. However, the film truly belongs to the relationship between science whizz Toby Stephens and computer geek turned ass-kicking android Caity Lotz.

Making use of some technically bright visual effects alongside acerbic themes reminiscent of Blade Runner, the dark human versus android story plays with perceptions of a machine’s abilities to make our lives easier. But sometimes they just make them more confusing, in an emotional and combative sense.

The swift and sure-footed narrative manages to bring a part love story, part future conflict tale to rich fruition. The second feature from writer/director Caradog W. James, The Machine carves out a neat nightmare future with all the telltale dystopian light and shadows playing tricks with perceptions in the background. A respectable addition to the British sci-fi scene. (Words: Robert W. Monk)

The Machine, trailer

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Out Tomorrow: Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano

The brilliance of much of Elton John’s back catalogue, especially throughout the 1970s, could hardly be disputed. The music remains fresh today despite the over-saturation of songs like ‘Rocket Man’ in popular culture, and even his most recent album was universally well received.

This is all a credit to John’s ability and cultural value. But the decision to highlight the Las Vegas Caesar’s Palace show captured on The Million Dollar Piano is a credit to neither of those things, unfortunately.

Poor live graphics and a stuffy setting, not at all conducive to the grandness or excitement that a cinematic event demands, are just two of the pitfalls here. Let’s hope that this was simply a warm up for a more innovative, immersive feature documentary or concert film which lives up to his own standards. (Words: Andrew Law)

Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano, trailer

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New Talent: Luke Newberry

Who? Named as a Screen International Star of Tomorrow, Luke Newberry is a 24-year-old Devonian actor currently best known for his lead role as Kieren in BBC supernatural drama In The Flesh. Not many people can claim to “love playing an emotionally complex undead teenager”.

What’s he been in? Further TV credits include Lightfields and Sherlock, but he has also come to the attention of name directors in film after appearing in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina and Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet. “Working with Dustin Hoffman was three months training in how to act for screen, which I'll be forever grateful for.”

What’s coming up? Aside from a second series of In The Flesh, Newberry will also feature in The Legend Of Hercules, in cinemas from next week. “It was an exciting project because I knew I'd be pushed to my physical limits. On the surface, Agamemnon is a comical character, but what attracted me to him was his tragic history.”

They say: “He’s set to be dead famous.” Metro

He says: “I'd like to continue playing complex characters that surprise people and allow me to surprise myself. I get excited by characters who break a mould in some way. You always look for something you can personally relate to in a role but it's also fun to turn it on its head and play someone who's the opposite of yourself.”

In The Flesh, trailer

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Shorts

Need For Speed raced to the top of last weekend’s UK box office with a gross of over £2 million. That would pay for a lot of speeding tickets. Unrelated fact: its current Rotten Tomatoes score of 23% makes it officially as “fresh” as Robin Williams’s distinctly “rotten” Flubber. Under The Skin (review) is the next highest entry at #10, while The Zero Theorem’s #21 spot is no miscalculation.

A little nostalgia is good for the soul, but who really needs a Bananaman film? At least #PeelThePower is one of the wittier promotional hashtags of recent months.

Finally, Russell Crowe channelled the spirit of Father Ted with his visit to the Vatican in support of next month’s Noah:

 

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Words: Ben Hopkins (apart from where indicated)

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