After a string of award-winning arthouse hits like Kill List and A Field in England, director Ben Wheatley and writer Amy Jump stumble with this adaptation of the 1970s J.G. Ballard novel. The satirical dystopian setting offers buckets of eye-popping visual style, plus outrageously twisted characters the A-list cast have a lot of fun sinking their teeth into. But while the themes are strong, the people on screen are so aggressively loathsome that it's not an easy movie to watch.
It's set in a brutal concrete tower within commuting distance of London, where new resident Robert (Tom Hiddleston) is learning his way around the building's modern, self-contained design. He especially enjoys flirting with his sexy upstairs neighbour Charlotte (Sienna Miller). But the building has a social structure that is creating some serious tension. Wealthy residents like the tower's architect Anthony (Jeremy Irons) live at the top, while economically struggling families like Helen and Richard (Elisabeth Moss and Luke Evans) are closer to the ground, with middle-class families in between. So when the lower floors lose their supply of water and electricity, they revolt against the upper classes, waging all-out war in the hallways.
The political commentary is astute and perhaps even more timely today than it was in 1975, when the novel was written and when the film is set. And each of the characters is full of energy and anger. So it's frustrating that the choppy editing style seems to lose track of people and plot-threads as it shifts around to various angles on the action. This makes all of the violence and sex feel oddly random and excessive, as things get increasingly nasty and each of the people loses the audience's sympathy. Hiddleston has terrific presence, but the film kind of abandons him along the way. While Irons is hamming it up shamelessly, Evans is inexplicably brutal and both Moss and Miller are little more than victims.
Continue reading: High-Rise Review
While this ambitious Norwegian historical adventure sometimes dips into melodrama, it's a riveting, fascinating true story about passion and tenacity. It's also directed with a terrific sense of the open sea by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who have now turned their skills to making a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. This film is rather more serious, of course, as it's a recreation of real events that changed the way we understand global migration.
The central figure is Thor Heyerdahl (Pal Hagen Anders), who was obsessed with adventure even as a child in 1920s Norway. By 1937 he's living in Polynesia with his wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen), noticing clear connections between the islands and South America. But this goes against the conventional wisdom that Polynesia was populated from Asia, and no one will listen to Thor's theory that the residents are actually descendants of the Incas. So he decides to prove it himself, designing a raft out of the traditional materials and planning to set sail from Peru. To do this he needs considerable help, including an engineer (Baasmo Christiansen), a documentary filmmaker (Gustaf Skarsgard) and a crew (Tobias Santelmann, Odd-Magnus Williamson and Jacob Oftebro) who won't give up when the going gets a lot tougher than any of them expect.
The film has a striking attention to period detail, so much so that everything about this project feels seriously authentic. Thankfully, Ronning and Sandberg keep the focus on the characters, and each emerges as a man forced to confront the raw power of nature as well as his own inner resilience. At the centre, Anders plays Heyerdahl as a man who is willing to sacrifice everything to find the truth, including his family and his status in the scientific community. The interaction between these men sometimes feels a bit heightened cinematically, but they are all strong-willed guys with something important to prove. And both their inter-relationships and their bodies are pushed to the brink through bristling clashes and mind-boggling physical challenges. Although as their woolly beards grow out and their clothing falls to rags, they become somewhat difficult to tell apart.
Continue reading: Kon-Tiki Review
It's hardly surprising that laconic filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers) has created such an inventively offbeat vampire movie, helped hugely by the ace casting of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as extremely long-term lovers. Fans of the genre might find the movie a bit slow and relaxed, but sharp humour and especially strong characters make it unmissable.
In a run-down house in Detroit, centuries-old Adam (Hiddleston) is living in squalor while anonymously creating club music with the assistance of Ian (Yelchin), who finds things like antique guitars for him to play. He gets his supply of clean O-negative blood from a helpful doctor (Wright). Meanwhile in Tangiers, Adam's wife Eve (Swinton) relies on her old pal Marlowe (Hurt) for the blood she sips at sunrise like a cocktail before lapsing into a deep sleep. Bored, Eve decides to visit Adam, so books nighttime flights and arrives to a blissful reunion. But their solace is interrupted when her wild-child sister Eva (Wasikowska) turns up.
These may be creatures of the night, but over thousands of years they have discovered exactly what kind of art soothes their souls. And Eva's boisterous presence disrupts their languorous peace even more than the fact that the blood supply is becoming increasingly contaminated. Adam and Eve call humans "zombies" dismissively and joke about their influence on key events and inventions throughout history. Hiddleston and Swinton are utterly perfect for these roles, bringing out details that are hilarious as well as emotionally moving. They also let us see the years of boredom mixed with a glimmer of childish curiosity that would be required to survive for so long.
Continue reading: Only Lovers Left Alive Review
Definitely a film of two halves, this crime comedy kicks off with a spark of witty energy as the title character blusters his way through a series of events with hilariously profane rants. Then the plot kicks in. And from here on, it's a dull slog as we lose all interest in what happens next. It's well-played and stylishly directed, but it feels pointless.
We meet Dom Hemingway (Law) just before he gets out of prison after serving 12 years for refusing to rat out his boss Ivan (Bichir), a Russian mobster now living the high life on the French Riviera. So Dom and his sardonic friend Dicky (Grant) travel from London to see Ivan. After a very rocky start caused by Dom's loose tongue, they're in the middle of wildly hedonistic holiday when things take a sudden turn. Dom finds himself penniless back in England, turning to his daughter Evelyn (Clarke) for help. When she refuses to talk to him, he seeks work from a young thug (Hunter).
Up until the mid-point plot-shift, the film is a lot of fun, mainly because Dom's tirades are riotously rude but still have a literary lilt to them. This man clearly has no filter on what he says or does, so he goes from one spot of trouble to another. Law plays him with gusto, winning us over in the comical first half then struggling to keep even a hint of sympathy in the much mopier drama that follows. Frankly, we begin to think that Dom is finally getting what he deserves; we certainly don't want him to come out on top.
Continue reading: Dom Hemingway Review
In 1904 Zurich, Jung (Fassbender) tests Freud's theoretical "talking cure" on manic patient Sabina (Knightley). And it works, revealing Sabina's own skills as a potential shrink. Two years later, Jung travels to Vienna to meet Freud (Mortensen), and they start a working friendship. But when Freud refers an outspoken patient (Cassel), Jung starts to question his morality. As a result, he starts an affair with Sabina, which is much hotter than his comfortable marriage to Emma (Gadon). But this causes him to question Freud's theories, leading to a clash of the titans.
Continue reading: A Dangerous Method Review
Stealing Beauty fails miserably on both counts.
Continue reading: Stealing Beauty Review
Gal (Ray Winstone), an old time ex convict, is now retired. All he does is sweat by the pool, enjoy his form porn star wife Deedee (Amanda Redman), and share drinks with a couple of good friends. The setting is Spain, the sun is hot, and life is free of trouble... until, of course, one day when the peace must be disturbed -- and it is, by a guy named Don Logan. Presumably the titular sexy beast, Don (Ben Kingsley) appears on the scene and hell breaks loose as Gal gets back into his life of crime.
Continue reading: Sexy Beast Review
If you recalled fondly the line that Nelson said in an episode of The Simpsons after Bart uses a fake ID to get into this film ("I'll tell you two things wrong with that title"), then you're like most of America. I knew a little bit more coming in: that it was based on a novel by William S. Burroughs that is the quintessence of non-linear narrative and that it was directed by David Cronenberg.
Continue reading: Naked Lunch Review
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