The Clash Film Column: Stunning Bones, Oily Mass

Under The Skin is our pick of the week…
Under The Skin

Time was, he could eat a peach for hours

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That Was The Week In Which…

Nicolas Cage complained about the nature of fame while speaking at SXSW (in support of his new movie, Joe).

As evidenced by a million or more memes, everyone loves ol’ Nic. One time I even watched The Family Man (I’d lost the remote) and I actually own his version of The Wicker Man on DVD (well, it was free). Indeed, there’s so much goodwill directed at ol’ Nic that it’s hard to be cynical about his comments.

“It really sucks to be famous right now,” he whimpered. “In the LA Times, the critic who reviewed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, incorporated how many homes I bought or sold into the review.”

Of course, without film being a celebrity orientated business that handsomely rewards its biggest names, ol’ Nic might not’ve been able to fund two divorces, a third marriage, castles in Somerset and Germany, an island in the Bahamas, or huge donations to Amnesty International and to the Red Cross in support of American Katrina (good ol’ Nic).

But ol’ Nic has a point: think how refreshing it would be to able to watch the world’s leading actors’ talent at work, without it being compromised by a thorough knowledge of their personal relationships, their financial failures and whatever other foibles they may boast.

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The Big Film: Under The Skin

The Woman Who Fell To Earth is the loose premise of Under The Skin, Jonathan Glazer’s first film since the polarising, Nicole Kidman-fronted Birth almost a decade ago. The introductory scenes are eerily hypnotic as the story begins to take shape. Almost iconically vampish, Scarlett Johansson plays the mysterious Laura, an alien in human form dropped onto our planet’s bewildering environs. She trawls Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands in search of lonely young men. Those who fall for her charms are tricked to her lair where, once aroused, they’re consumed by an oily black mass.

Although much of the film takes place in the mundane setting of a white van (set largely to a suitably unsettling score courtesy of Micachu), the visuals are often stunning in their creativity as Glazer reprises the striking style of his music videos for UNKLE, Radiohead and Massive Attack. On occasion, it’s chilling – Laura dispatches a swimmer with brutal efficiency – and the use of a hidden camera really captures the confused reaction of the general public who are unwittingly drawn into the film.

Despite such strengths, Under The Skin is killed by an inability to capture any sense of emotion or narrative thrust, leaving the bones of a visually stunning yet barely developed tale.

Under The Skin, trailer

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Also Out: The Zero Theorem

Returning to the director’s chair following a four-year absence, Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem is a madcap tale of existential angst, marking a return to familiar themes of dystopian oddness.

Christoph Waltz is marvellous as the worker drone desperate to figure out his place in the world, and Gilliam has lost none of his madcap visual flair. But for all its creative promise there’s a nagging sense that these are themes that have been better explored elsewhere, most notably 1985’s Brazil, of which this feels like a lacklustre retread.

Although stunning to look at, The Zero Theorem scarcely equates to the sum of its promising parts. (Words: Paul Weedon)

The Zero Theorem, trailer

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New Talent: Antonia Thomas

Who? Like Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Robert Sheehan, 27-year-old London Antonia Thomas first came to prominence in Misfits.

What’s she been in? Okay, so not many people saw her in Eight Minutes Idle, but Spike Island and particularly Sunshine On Leith, the musical based on the songs of The Proclaimers, were much more successful.

What’s coming up? A whole lot: terrorist thriller Survivor with Pierce Brosnan and Milla Jovovich; the long-awaited Northern Soul film; Brit sci-fi horror Scintilla; and Rearview with James Floyd.

They say: “Cinema’s next big thing.” The Mail Online

She says: “I don’t think there’s a particular type of role that attracts me. I just want to play as many different roles, explore as many different kinds of people as possible. For me, it’s extremely important to be as versatile and actor as possible. I do, however, really enjoy playing characters that are very different to myself. I find it fascinating to get into the mind set of somebody completely removed from me.” Moviescope

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Shorts

The LEGO Movie has finally dropped from the top of the box office, which is just as well as I’d run out of lame puns to make about it. 300: Rise Of An Empire takes the top slot – a film our reviewer Elijah Lawal described as, “so bad, I can taste it”. The altogether sweeter The Grand Budapest Hotel (review) takes the third spot. Danny Trejo’s Bullet is in with a bullet at #89 with a whopping gross of £137 – one place behind the surprisingly successful (The) Harry Hill Movie, which is still beating off newcomers despite being released midway through the Victorian era.

Production has started on Kill Your Friends. The strength of the book and the experiences of its author John Niven should guarantee that this is the first half-decent based around the industry side of music since... well, ever, unless Svengali is better than the trailer suggests. Owen Harris directs (remember the episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror in which Hayley Atwell’s character has sex with a humanoid approximation of her dead boyfriend?), and the strong if unshowy cast features Nicholas Hoult and Submarine’s Craig Roberts.

The Last Of Us, story trailer

In the same week that the original game cleaned up at the BAFTA Game Awards, taking home trophies in five categories including Best Story, The Last Of Us has been confirmed to make the move from PlayStation 3 to the big screen. Writer and creative director Neil Druckmann confirmed that the movie will follow the events of the game – set in an America rocked by a fungal pandemic – but didn’t offer anything more specific beyond, “We’re not sure yet.” Troy Baker, the voice of central protagonist Joel, has expressed his interest in reprising the role on film. But should the grizzled look of said character be mirrored in cinemas, it’s unlikely that the handsome Baker, best known for ample anime work, will be behind the beard. Sorry Troy, you’re just too pretty. On the plus side, there is a good chance that The Last Of Us might break the curse of cruddy game-to-movie translations, on account of it already being a tremendously affecting experience. (Words: Mike Diver)

Finally, Lee Hardcastle. Unless you’re related to him, are friends with him or are him, you probably have no idea who he is. You may, however, have seen his 60-second claymation remakes of Shaun Of The Dead, Evil Dead and The Thing, or his T For Toilet contribution to horror anthology The ABCs Of Death. Now he has started a Kickstarter campaign to make Spook Train 3D, which will surely be the goriest claymation film in history – unless Aardman finally respond to my pitch to make Wallace and Gromit in Driller Killer. His Kickstarter link is here, and the trailer is down there…

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Words: Ben Hopkins (except where indicated)

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