The Clash Film Column: Crushing Teen Dreams

The Maze Runner is the big movie…

More like My Cousin Shitty, amiright? Sorry.

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The Clash Film Column: Crushing Teen Dreams

That was the week in which…

Two seemingly unlikely icons from film and music announced their collaboration.

The unification of film and music is a road paved with good intentions but littered with landmines. Where to start? I’m always drawn to Joe Pesci’s 1998 single ‘Wise Guy’. Just one track from an entire album seemingly based on his character in My Cousin Vinny, ‘Wise Guy’ features a video loaded with the iconic supermodels of the day (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2j96k_joe-pesci-wiseguy_music) as Pesci’s rhymes flow like quick-setting concrete: “Don’t do blow and I don’t sell crack / Stay alert! I got someone to whack.”

And then there’s the never-ending succession of biopics. You can forgive the ambitious misfires, such as I’m Not There, which sees Cate Blanchett and others making the life of Bob Dylan feel as about as exciting as a three-hour director’s cut of Loose Women. Yet there are dozens of examples of the exact opposite: a minimal budget and an uninspired story that relies entirely upon the name of the band to have any chance of attracting an audience.

A particularly heinous example of which is the inspirationally bad Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story. As the LA Weekly notes, “You're really just going to want to fast forward to the part where drummer Rick Allen loses his arm.” 

Joining this less-than-illustrious list will be the admittedly catchily described collaboration between “The Maestro (of Terror), Dario Argento, and The Godfather (of Punk) Iggy Pop” in the new horror film The Sandman, which has just been launched at IndieGoGo.

There are numerous reasons to be cynical. Last seen, on my screen at least, fronting an ad for car insurance, Iggy Pop’s acting sideline could be politely described as consistently inconsistent, as could the majority of Argento’s output since his late ’70s / early ’80s heyday. That they’ve resorted to crowd-funding to attract a relatively measly investment of $250,000 also doesn’t look encouraging.

Despite all this, there’s something resolutely romantic about the concept. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see any longstanding hero deliver a fresh classic at the twilight of their career? Combining two seemingly disparate talents into that scenario only amplifies the feeling. And even if it fails miserably, who really cares? You surely can’t begrudge the creators of ‘Raw Power’ and Profondo Rosso a last crack at their own Expendables-styled mission.

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The Clash Film Column: Crushing Teen Dreams

The Big Film: The Maze Runner

A young, talented cast aims to challenge The Hunger Games’ status as the Young Adult franchise du jour in the first adaptation of James Dashner’s successful line of novels.

Dylan O'Brien plays Thomas, a young man thrown into an environment known as The Glade where several young men are kept with no memory of how or why they've been sent there. The glade is surrounded by The Maze: a complex and deadly perimeter that few escape from. Against the wishes of many of his fellow Gladers, Thomas goes into The Maze in an attempt to find a way of escape, and the reasons why they are there.

Sound familiar? Admittedly, the film does follow the blueprint that made the adventures of Katniss and Co. such a success, but first-time director Wes Ball gives this franchise starter enough originality to make it more than just a hollow wannabe. 

With Ball’s background in visual effects, it’s no surprise that the film looks very impressive – both The Maze itself and the Grievers (monsters that roam the maze) are striking without being extravagant, and the action sequences push the envelope a little bit further (for this genre at least), keeping a sense of peril at all times.

The film’s ace up the sleeve, however, is the casting. While O’Brien rigidly sticks to the archetype YA male lead (boyishly handsome, earnest, troubled), the dual support of Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter as veteran Gladers with opposing views gives the story some depth. Poulter in particular stands out as a Glader who has become institutionalised, and makes for a great antagonist.

Part prison escape movie, part Lord Of The Flies, The Maze Runner is nothing you haven’t seen before, but makes enough tweaks to the formula to make this instalment (and future ones) an interesting prospect. Words: James Luxford

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The Clash Film Column: Crushing Teen Dreams

Also Out: ‘71

Imagine the tense stop-start dramatics of John Carpenter’s ’70s thrillers transplanted into the heart of Belfast during the peak of The Troubles and you’ll have a pretty strong idea of what to expect from director Yann Demange’s debut for Warp Films.

Jack O’Connell plays Private Gary Hook, a new recruit in a platoon dispatched to Belfast to tackle the city’s flourishing violence. His comrades appear to have little knowledge of what to expect and even their naive lieutenant underestimates the situation. His mistake, in part, results in a conflict which leaves Hook stranded in a strange and predominantly hostile environment. He’s left with little option but to stealthily work his way safely back to his barracks.

It’s the contrasting sense of dread during the quiet moments and the palpable sense of utter panic during the more chaotic scenes that works best here, as it focuses on Hook’s fear: even if he’s not in immediate danger, it lurks in menacing, unseen ways. The political context is secondary to the personal hell that Hook endures, and O’Connell masterfully captures another ferocious performance after the visceral Starred Up from earlier this year.

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The Clash Film Column: Crushing Teen Dreams

Shorts

Unsurprisingly, Gone Girl failed to go missing at last weekend’s UK box office as it passed a gross of £4 million – making it the first 18-certificate film to top the list since The Wolf Of Wall Street back in January. Dracula Untold managed to avoid most of the usual jokes about sucking and also scored a very credible second place despite a comparatively limited profile. Other high entries included the Knight and Day-inspired Bollywood action movie Bang Bang (#5) and Dolphin Tale 2 (#6).

It was revealed that Shia LaBeouf cut his face with a knife during the filming of Fury to make his war wounds look more convincing. That’s 4 REAL commitment or really quite disturbing, depending on the state of his mental health.

Finally, soporific TV quiz Pointless took an odd detour into the world of film when old-school kids entertainers and famous pant-swingers Trevor and Simon were asked to find a pointless answer from the cast of The World’s End. And they won by naming Paddy Considine, whose reaction you can see below. At least Considine found himself in good company as woman-of-the-moment Rosamund Pike and retired 007 Pierce Brosnan were similarly pointless.

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Words: Ben Hopkins except where indicated

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