Sunday, 22 June 2014

Under the Skin The Review

How much exposition do you need in a film? Those clunky scenes when characters discuss plot, stitching Scene A to Scene B? Obviously film is a visual medium, so in theory nobody needs say anything. 

In Under the Skin, director Jonathan Glazer decides less is definitely more, keeping dialogue to a minimum as Scarlett Johansson’s alluring alien arrives in Scotland and begins patrolling the streets for men. 
In short, it’s Species with A-levels. 

There are bound to be comparisons with Nic Roeg’s the Man Who Fell to Earth, the last time an intelligent, erotic, surreal study of an alien’s arrival on Earth made such an impact. That was almost 40 years ago. 
Since then we've had plenty of alien visitor movies, but many were teen-friendly offerings designed to make pots of cash or satires such as Brother From Another Planet and Morons From Outer Space. 
Glazer had spent a decade developing the movie, distilling the source novel down to its purest form. And the result is disturbing, mesmerising and unforgettable. 

Johansson is terrific in one of the boldest roles of her career. Initially a predatory, blank avatar unaffected by empathy, her visitor merely exists to trap men and use them.
’Why’ would be spoilerific. 
How she does it is part Hellraiser; asking guys back to her dingy house where they are understandably seduced, and then live to regret it. 

Through it all the soundtrack throbs and pulses. The camera largely taking a back seat as we watch the visitor watching the locals, searching for her next target. 
It's as voyeuristic as Rear Window or Blue Velvet, and just as compelling. 

Arguably the best scene involves a loner with “nice hands”, as affecting as anything you've seen all year. It's at this point Johansson’s lethal ET starts to gain a degree of humanity. 
Yes, I could describe more of the plot, who the nice handed character is, and lots more, but better to let the movie wash over you. 

UTS is a haunting, waking dream of a movie. It may have made a modest impact at the cinema, grossing a couple of million dollars in the States alone, but given the limited number of screens it played on, and the arty sensibilities, there's perhaps little wonder. 

Like all cult films, it will prove far more indelible than tent pole movies which dominate the opening weekend box office then vanish without a trace. 
Hopefully we won't have to wait another decade for Glazer’s follow up. He's too great a talent to languish in whatever limbo space ScarJo’s alien was born from. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

22 Jump Street. The review

The beauty of 21 Jump Street was it was a movie version of a TV series hardly anyone was desperate to see. 

The only place it could go was up, and was surprisingly hilarious.

So at the start of the sequel, 22 Jump Street, we wonder how much comedy is left to mine from that seam of TV-inspired nostalgia.

Surprisingly there's plenty, not least because the knowing script is happy to poke fun at the fact it's exactly the same plot, only this time set at college instead of school.

Once more, dream team Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are superb as the old school enemies turned rookie cop mates.

In a thrilling opener reminiscent of Beverly Hills CopMorton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) pursue a group of drug dealers led by Ghost (Peter Stormare). 
A truck chase that is both exciting and funny is rare, and this is both.

They fail in spectacular fashion, so Deputy Chief Hardy (the ever brilliant Nick Offerman)sends our heroes across the street to work for Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Their mission: go undercover as college students and find the drug supplier of "WHYPHY" which killed a student who apparently bought it on campus.

Jenko befriends football players Zook (Wyatt Russell) and Rooster (Jimmy Tatro), while Schmidt falls for art student, Maya (Amber Stevens), much to the annoyance of her grumpy roommate Mercedes (Jillian Bell).

To reveal much more would be spoilerific. Safe to say, nothing is as it seems on campus; there are red herrings aplenty, one literal, while the comic timing is superb.

Having seen it after the woeful A Million Ways To Die in the West, which is often cruel and leaden in its delivery, there's a joy to the energy here.

The film-makers treat the audience with a degree of respect, and even though many of the gags seemed to go over the heads of many teenage cinema goers, for a fan of meta comedy such as Mike Myers' finest works, this was like catnip.

Hill may have dropped the ball with some comedies over the years (The Watch for example), but following his superb turn in The Wolf of Wall Street, here he's terrific as the likeable co-lead, the yin to Tatum's nice but dim yang, Jenko
The latter is happy to send himself up, not least with a great in-joke about the wonderfully silly White House Down, while his eventual reaction to a character (spoiler) half way through is comedy gold.

He also looks superb in the breathless action scenes, running, jumping, brawling. Okay, Hillmay be the star when they tour the interview circuit, but Tatum is a genuine movie star when it counts.

This may be a lads' comedy, but the two female co-stars, Amber Stevens and Jillian Bell, are brilliant: the former an even cuter, younger Zoe Saldana-alike; the latter a funnier, youngerMelissa McCarthy-alike. If there's any justice both will be in a possible 23 Jump Street and no doubt plenty of other Hollywood offerings in the coming years.

Superbly helmed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, two of THE most reliable comedy directors working today, this is the perfect antidote to any spring or summertime blues.



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