THE GUARDIAN – Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is a film about a beautiful, scary alien that is itself beautiful and scary and alien: it’s an entirely extraordinary, outrageously sensual film that Glazer’s previous excellent work had really only hinted at, partially and indistinctly. His Sexy Beast (2000) was a visually accomplished, exciting and intelligent crime thriller that was way ahead of the woeful mockney-geezer mode of the time. Birth (2004) had Kubrickian ingenuity and chill, with some remarkable moments; it was a movie that deserves cult-classic status but has yet to achieve it. Then a decade went by, and it seemed that Glazer might be a stylist for whom a sustained cinema career would perhaps not be achievable (and heaven knows, it can happen to the most talented).
But when he gave us his long-gestating free adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel Under the Skin, the result really was gasp-inducing: hilarious, disturbing, audacious. No less an A-lister than Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form who roams the streets and shopping malls of Glasgow. Perfectly genuine footage of real-life passersby is shown as the incognito Johansson impassively sizes up these earthlings for their calorific value. Then actors will step out of the crowd for their scenes with the great seducer. She takes them back to her place: a mysterious dark cavern in which, in an erotic trance, they submit to being imprisoned and farmed for their meat – and perhaps, who knows, for their very soul.
Glazer surely took something, again, from Kubrick, especially in the scene in which his alien is born in some dimensionless otherworld. He took something from Nic Roeg and The Man Who Fell to Earth and a little, perhaps, from David Lynch – of which, more in a moment. But alongside the sci-fi exoticism he brought the grit and sinew of contemporary realism, calling to mind the work of film-makers like Ken Loach, or even Abbas Kiarostami and the opening of his The Taste of Cherry, in which a desperately unhappy man drives around the itinerant labour markets of Teheran looking for someone to help him. These fantastic alien forms are scuffed with ordinariness and even bathos. The scene in which the alien uncomprehendingly watches Tommy Cooper on television is a masterpiece of tonal suspense.
Watching Under the Skin again brought to mind another comparison: Orson Welles – the Welles who succeeded in creating a hoax martian invasion on the radio and who, in F for Fake (1975), got his partner Oja Kodar to walk around the streets in a miniskirt, secretly filming the lascivious expressions of the non-actor guys looking at her.Continue Reading
THE WRAP – Uma Thurman will host the 24th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York City, the Independent Filmmaker Project announced Tuesday.
The organization also announced that presenters at the event will include Meryl Streep, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Marisa Tomei, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Catherine Keener and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Other presenters will include Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Will Arnett, Heather Graham, Amy Schumer and Miles Teller.
The show will take place on Monday, Dec. 1 at Cipriani Wall Street, with seven competitive awards being presented to independent films and tributes taking place to actor Tilda Swinton, director Bennett Miller and Netfix’s Ted Sarandos.
Artists expected to attend include Julianne Moore, Steve Carell, J.C. Chandor, Jon Hamm and Oscar Isaac. Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” led all films in nominations with four, followed by “Birdman,” “Dear White People,” “Nightcrawler” and “Under the Skin” with two.
The Gotham Awards are one of the two major honors given to independent film. The other, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, takes place late in the season, the day before the Oscars.
The Spirit Awards will announce nominations on Tuesday.
VARIETY – Joel and Ethan Coen’s Hail, Caesar! is to start shooting Monday in studios and on location in Los Angeles, sources close to the production have confirmed.
Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Alden Ehrenreich and Jonah Hill star in the film set in Hollywood in the 1950s.
The Coen Brothers wrote and will direct the film, which is a Working Title/Mike Zoss Production, and is being produced by the Coen Brothers and Working Title Films’ Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan.
Hail, Caesar! marks the eighth film collaboration between the Coen Brothers and Working Title following A Serious Man, Burn After Reading, The Man Who Wasn’t There, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, Fargo and The Hudsucker Proxy.
Universal has dated the film for a February 2016 release date in the U.S.
Many congratulations to Scarlett for her nomination in the Best Actress category at the Gotham Independent Film Awards–she was also nominated for her work in Don Jon at last year’s awards. The ceremony will be held on December 1 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. For a full list of this year’s nominations, click here.
Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (IFC Films)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights (Relativity Media)
Julianne Moore in Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin (A24 Films)
Mia Wasikowska in Tracks (The Weinstein Company)
The first official teaser trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron has debuted–and if you are one of the few who has yet to see it yet, be sure to check it out below. I’ve also added screen captures of the few glimpses of Scarlett as Natasha Romanoff from the trailer.
THE GUARDIAN – Scarlett Johansson has been offered $10m to star in the long-gestating live action remake of Ghost in the Shell, reports Deadline. The top dollar pay cheque recognises the US actor’s newfound status as an A-list action star following standout turns in Lucy and Marvel Studio’s Avengers series of superhero films.
Hollywood’s plan for a debut English language take on the seminal 1995 Mamoru Oshii anime moved a step closer to reality in January when Snow White and the Huntsman’s Rupert Sanders was hired to direct by studio Dreamworks. Reports back then suggested the remake would be based on a new screenplay by The Reluctant Fundamentalist’s William Wheeler.
The Ghost in the Shell comic book series, film rights to which were picked up by Dreamworks co-owner Steven Spielberg in 2009, follows cyborg detective Major Motoko Kusanagi, team leader of a futuristic Japanese counterterrorism organisation focused on cyber-crime. Three anime films (one made-for-TV) have been based on the comic, of which the 1995 Ghost in the Shell was the first, as well as an animated Japanese TV series and three video games. Spielberg’s planned 3D movie failed to make it to the production stage but the approach for Johansson suggests the new iteration may have legs.
DEADLINE – Sony Pictures TV is bringing together one of the biggest movie stars, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lucy, Her), and the work of one of the most celebrated American novelists, the Pulitzer Prize winner Edith Wharton (The Age Of Innocence) for a limited series project that is about to hit the marketplace. Johansson is set to star in and executive produce the eight-episode period series, from Charles Finch’s Pink Sands, which is based on Wharton’s 1913 novel The Custom Of The Country.
Eyed for a cable run, possibly on premium cable, it will be written by British playwright-screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement) from his original screenplay. Hampton originally wrote a feature script adaptation of Custom Of The Country almost two decades ago, reportedly for Michelle Pfeiffer who had starred in the 1993 feature Age Of Innocence, based on Wharton’s book. It was published in 2002 as part of a collection of Hampton screenplays.
Custom Of The Country is described as a scathing story of ambition featuring one of the most ruthless heroines in literature, Undine Spragg, who will be played by Johansson in her first major TV role. Undine is as unscrupulous as she is magnetically beautiful. Her rise to the top of New York’s high society from her nouveau riche roots provides a provocative and thoroughly modern commentary on the upwardly mobile and the aspirations that eventually cause their ruin.
Johansson, repped by CAA and LBI, is executive producing with Hampton and Finch. Hampton is repped by CAA and Casarotto/Ramsay.
While not as famous as Wharton’s Age Of Innocence, The Custom Of The Country has had great influence, with Julian Fellowes citing it as an inspiration for his work including his hit drama series Downton Abbey.
THE WRAP – Iron Man kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, and now he may become responsible for wiping its stars off of the planet.
In a new synopsis for Avengers: Age of Ultron posted to the Disney fan site Stitch Kingdom, Marvel explains how Tony Stark’s good attentions go awry and lead to a battle to save the planet, which seems to constantly need saving. The outline also hints at characters played by Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlett Witch), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) and Paul Bettany (Vision).
The film, of course, is a follow-up to the monster 2012 hit that made $1.52 billion worldwide, and returns not only the all-star cast of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but also director Joss Whedon.
TheWrap has reached out to Disney in order to confirm the authenticity of the synopsis below:
Marvel Studios presents Avengers: Age of Ultron, the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.
THE PLAYLIST – One of the big narratives in terms of superhero movies over the summer has been the lack of women-led movies in the genre: despite the success of everything that Marvel does, Kevin Feige has remained non-committal in terms of the studio putting out a film with a female lead. And Warner Bros. may have cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in “Batman Vs. Superman” but don’t appear to have made any strides forward in terms of giving the character her own solo movie.
And a backlash is starting to form: Jessica Chastain, being as awesome as she is, spoke up in favor of Scarlett Johansson (who had a monster hit with “Lucy” this summer) getting her own Marvel movie in the last week, and now one of Johansson’s co-stars has weighed in, with Robert Downey Jr, the figurehead of the Marvel movies, also speaking up in favor of a solo “Black Widow” film.
Speaking to USA Today (via Latino Review), Tony Stark himself spoke up in favor of the female character in Marvel movies, saying “Look, I think that the interesting thing particularly after Guardians with Zoe (Saldana), (or) even from the first Iron Man where Pepper was kind of this really – to me the Iron Man franchise would never have taken off without (Gwyneth) Paltrow. There’s something about her that grounded the story. She’s not your typical lady in a superhero movie, and then by ‘Iron Man 3′ she’s swallowing serums and putting on suits and kicking (butt) and all that stuff.” But the actor also added that he’d like to Johansson get top-billing on a project: “It would be kind of more appropriate for a character that already was like a Black Widow (to lead a movie). It just seems like whatever Scarlett does people want to go see it.”
Notwithstanding that the disappointing box office of the awesome “Under The Skin” doesn’t quite back that up, point taken. But that’s not the only Marvel spin-off that Iron Man wants to see. “The funny thing is,” he says,’ honestly, at this point, everyone deserves a franchise. I think Jeremy Renner is—when folks see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” he’s just a rockstar, a badass. And Ruffalo is pumped. He does great (work). I’d like to hear them talk even more seriously about a Hulk franchise, because that’s been one of the toughest ones to get right. But I’m sure that my parent company is feeling expansive and and bold after the summer they’ve had.”
Your move, Marvel. Given the potential of a Hulk or Black Widow movie, or even of a modestly-budgeted “Hawkeye” movie inspired by Matt Fraction’s incredible recent run in the comics, these all seem like good ideas, even if Marvel has other franchises they want to launch too. In the meantime, Downey Jr’s about to open the Toronto International Film Festival with “The Judge” —look for our review in the next few days. And the whole gang will be seen in next summer’s “Avengers: Age Of Ultron.”
I’ve added scans from the August issue of Total Film, in which Scarlett is featured extensively, to the gallery. Coverage includes her roles in Lucy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Under The Skin. Be sure to take a look!
Magazine Scans > Scans from 2014 > Total Film – August 2014