The Clash Film Column: Space Is The Place

Guardians Of The Galaxy is our pick…

Comic movies get a kick up the butt by one of Marvel’s best yet…

- - -

That was the week in which...

Film and stats nerds alike rejoiced at the publication of the BFI Statistical Yearbook.

The majority of stats suggested that the British film industry is generally strong, with the total number of admissions in 2013 (165.5 million) broadly similar to any other recent year and over £1 billion taken at the box office contributing to the world’s third-biggest market for filmed entertainment. It’s not all good news, however: of a total of almost 700 releases, 433 took less than £100,000 at the box office. There are more films in cinemas, but less chance of them actually getting seen by a sizeable audience.

The big hitters from the report include the news that Despicable Me 2 was the success of the year, Les Misérables the #1 UK film and Philomena the leading domestic indie film.

It’s the more spurious facts that remain pointlessly intriguing. Did you know that the once bankable war film is now the flattest commercial proposition? That just eight 18 certification films grossed more than £1 million? Or that foreign-language films (40% of all titles released) took just over 2% of the box office total? Or that a repeat of The Inbetweeners Movie was the fourth most-viewed UK indie shown on terrestrial TV?

Although any of us could’ve guessed that ITV2 showed Shaun Of The Dead 10 times over the course of the year.

If such trivia intrigues you, head HERE to discover more information than you could ever possibly find a use for. In the meantime, I’m going to marvel at the discovery that the low-profile Saving Santa was the best performing British indie in Venezuela.

- - -

The Big Film: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Disney does family films well. But when it was announced that the entertainment juggernaut had acquired the rights to superheroes stable Marvel Entertainment, some were concerned about what it might mean for a name that’s become synonymous with a darker, edgier side of mainstream cinema.

But they need not have worried. In Guardians Of The Galaxy, Disney has created a fresh, funny and entertaining comic book adaptation that’s lighter in every way – from the tone of the screenplay and high-colour saturation through to the violence on screen. And, crucially, it works.

The story, adapted from the Marvel Cosmic comic book series, focuses on a bunch of misfit aliens who are thrown together to wrestle control of the destiny of the universe from the clutches of the nefarious Ronan.

That’s it, in a nutshell – and while the plot might be standard fare, the two things that really make this film as compelling as it is are the dialogue and performances. Director James Gunn’s bold punt with the script, incorporating self-referential jokes, flippancy and facetiousness, is what separates this movie from other Marvel offerings. 

That’s not to say that the others aren’t good – many are great. It’s just really surprising to see the brand re-invigorated with such an unlikely treatment.

Guardians Of The Galaxy is up there among the most enjoyable family films, with the charming Chris Pratt as the film’s hero Peter Quill on fine comedic form and former wrestler Dave Bautista putting in a highly agreeable turn as the metaphor-averse, muscle-bound family man Drax.

The trailer for the first film in this new franchise sadly doesn’t do it justice. With Rocket (the animated raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel’s motion-capture tree character) looking really annoying, their importance in making the film as fun as it turns out is seriously underplayed. Advice? Ignore that and take note instead of the positive reviews. Words: Kim Taylor-Foster

- - -

Also Out: Mood Indigo

Michel Gondry’s mischievously surreal visuals again tick with their own oddball logic with this multi-faceted concoction of love and loss. Anchored by the sweet connection established by Romain Duris (Colin) and Audrey Tatou (Chloe) as a couple in the throes of blossoming new romance, it jumps into the darkness with the revelation that Chloe is suffering from a serious illness – the otherwise outlandish water-lily-on-the-lung acting as a cushioning allegory for cancer.

Despite the bleakness of the scenario, Gondry throws every inch of creative flair at the project from start to finish, with its often retro-tech aesthetic making for one of the most visually spectacular films of the year. Not that it all works: a split-screen of summer sun and autumnal rain being an example of a quirk devolving into self-conscious craziness.

It’s so audaciously rich with trickery that the development of the characters falls into secondary consideration: their plight in the real world is clearly life changing, but in such fantastical environs it’s a precarious disequilibrium between story and style. One moment of slapstick black humour, however, provides one of the darkest belly laughs of the year.

- - -

Also Out (Again): The Deer Hunter

The blisteringly hot interior of a Pennsylvanian steelworks sets the smoke-belching, fire-breathing tone of this dark satanic mill of a movie. Sweeping the Academy Awards in 1979, this astonishing film is perhaps at its most shocking in a Kubrick-ian jump-cut leap that shifts from the locker room camaraderie of blue-collar life into a visceral nightmare, where a band of brothers is subjected to torture by cackling captors in an unforgettable Russian roulette sequence.

Less a movie than an experience, the backstory of the Vietnam War is displaced with a festering feeling of being a stranger in a foreign land of backstreet murders and a barely understood colonial past. Thirty-five years on, this reissue restates The Deer Hunter’s position as a high watermark of the New Hollywood, a movement that ironically crashed and burned a year later with director Michael Cimino’s very next film, Heaven’s Gate.

Platoon and Born On The Fourth Of July owe its high stakes drama substantial debt, while more obtuse connections can be made in Ridley Scott’s lift of the Saigon street scenes in Blade Runner or Nicolas Winding Refn’s liberal borrowing of its surreal beauty and brutalism in Only God Forgives. Relentless. Words: Kingsley Marshall

- - -

Shorts

Place two semi-clothed attractive leads in a mostly SFW video clip based on a hugely successful book: yep, Fifty Shades Of Grey became the most-watched trailer of the year so far.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes spent a second weekend at the top of the UK box office. It can thank every participant from chimpan-a to chimpan-z, and well as the ludicrous posters for runner-up Hercules. Contrary to last week’s reports, Pudsey The Fecking Dog hasn’t yet been put down but is a place behind feline animation The House Of Magic – a situation that finally proves that cats are indeed better than dogs.

The teaser trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 has been released and looks promising enough for me to struggle to think of anything sarcastic to say for once.  Even the Battle Royale comparisons are now old hat. Lorde will provide the film’s first single and curate the soundtrack.

She commented: “The cast and story are an inspiration for all musicians participating and, as someone with cinematic leanings, being privy to a different creative process has been a unique experience. I think the soundtrack is definitely going to surprise people.”

- - -

Words: Ben Hopkins, except where indicated

More Clash Film content

Buy Clash Magazine
Get Clash on your mobile, for free: iPhone / Android

Have your say

Sign in or Register to leave comments
-