Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “The Lost City of Z,” starring Charlie Hunnam as an obsessed Amazonian explorer, the unforgivable “Unforgettable,” the wild and wooly “Free Fire” and the rom mon “Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway as a woman whose drunken stumbling has far reaching effects.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, “The Lost City of Z,” starring Charlie Hunnam as an obsessed Amazonian explorer, the unforgivable “Unforgettable,” the wild and wooly “Free Fire” and the rom mon “Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway as a woman whose drunken stumbling has far reaching effects.
“The Lost City of Z” is an epic true-to-life tale of adventure and intrigue. Based on the book of the same name by David Grann it stars Charlie Hunnam as a determined explorer who obsession with the Amazon led to his mysterious disappearance.
Hunnam, who will soon be seen playing another legendary character in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” is Colonel Percy Fawcett, a man convinced of the existence of a lost city deep in the Amazon. When he discovers pottery, evidence of an advanced civilization in the region, he is ridiculed by the scientific establishment who hang on to old-fashioned ideas about indigenous populations. “Your exploits have opened every door for you,” he’s told, “but keep your ideas to yourself. It is one thing to celebrate the people it’s another to elevate them.” At a boisterous Royal Geographical Society meeting he says, “If we can find a city where one was for not to be able to exist we could rewrite history,” only to be drowned out by dismissive chants of, “Pots and pans! Pots and pans!” from his peers.
Determined to prove his theory he returns, aide-de-camp Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) and crew at his side only to be side-tracked by James Murray (Angus Macfadyen), a fellow explorer unfit for the journey.
Fawcett doesn’t give up despite Murray’s lawsuits, family trouble, his resignation from the Royal Geographical Society and World War I.
His search for the Lost City of Z provides the subtext for the movie. As much as this is an adventure tale, it’s also the story of a man desperate to not only prove himself personally and professionally. Personally he was, as the mucky mucks say, “unwise in his choice of ancestors.” Professionally he needs to prove to his British countrymen that the forgotten South American civilization were not “savages,” but people who have tamed the jungle and created empires.
His third and final try is a stripped down affair with son Jack (Tom Holland) in tow.
Traditionally made, “The Lost City of Z” feels old fashioned, as though you could almost imagine James Mason and Gregory Peck in the leads. It takes us back to a slower time, a moment in history before there were Starbucks on evefy corner and movies had to have gotcha moments woven throughout. It throws the modern adventure movie playbook out the window. There is no timetable for the action, no crash-and-burn scene every 10 minutes, just a story of survival and class warfare.
For much of the running time that’s OK. Director James Gray takes his time laying out Fawcett’s obsession, allowing us to get under the skin of a man with much to prove. It begins to feel overlong at the hour-and-a-half mark during a scene, wedged between the second and third explorations were a psychic goes on at length about the importance of Fawcett’s work and we still have WWI and the third expedition to go! It is the movie’s “dropout moment,” the scene that loses the audience and the film never recovers.
It’s a shame because “The Lost City of Z” is a handsome movie, ripe with subtext and solid performances. It’s also self indulgent, in need of one of Fawcett’s jungle machetes to chop it down to size.
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, Peter Berg’s ripped-from-the-headlines “Patriot’s Day,” “Live By Night” from director-actor Ben Affleck, the terrible “Monster Trucks” and the sublime “20th Century Women” and “Paterson.”
“Live By Night’s” stylish story of gangsters and redemption sees Ben Affleck reteam with crime writer Dennis Lehane. Their last collaboration, “Gone Baby Gone,” was a story of two detectives embroiled in a professional and personal crisis. This time around the personal and professional intermingle once again, but from the other side of the badge.
Affleck, who stars, directs and wrote the screenplay, is Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston police captain (Brendan Gleeson) who returned from WWI an outlaw, determined not to take orders from anyone ever again. “No man shall rule another man’s life,” he says. A botched bank robbery lands him in jail, at a reduced sentence thanks to his father’s influence. Jail is a breeze, worse for him is his romantic involvement with flapper Emma Gould (Sienna Miller) who also happens to be the girlfriend of powerful Boston gangster Albert White (Robert Glenister).
Sprung from the lockup and beaten to a pulp by White’s men, Coughlin teams with Boston’s other gang boss, Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone). He’s sent to Ybor City, Florida with the task of taking over the lucrative prohibition bootleg booze business, currently run by White. To that end he leaves a trail of blood and bodies but when this demon rum purveyor tries to find a legitimate way to make cash by building a casino, a religious zealot (Elle Fanning) puts a crimp in his less-than-godly pursuits and interests.
“Live by Night” is a muted, sombre film punctuated by Baptists, bullets, broads and booze. Affleck creates a hard-boiled look at gangster life complete with corruption, betrayal and all the usual crime genre tropes but opens it up to include passion, family and redemption.
Coughlin is an interesting character, a man who coveted his amateur crook status and only turns pro—in other words, becomes a gangster—when he is painted into a corner. He’ll gun you down, but he’s no Scarface. Instead Affleck plays him as a stoic man who leads with his heart and only resorts to violence when all other options are exhausted. Later, when his legacy of violence comes back to haunt him, it packs a wallop.
There’s a lot going on in Ybor City. “Live By Night” tackles racism—the KKK plays a big role in the Florida section of the story—religion—thanks to Fanning’s troubled but angelic character—love—in the form of Graciella Corrales (Zoe Saldana)—loyalty and betrayal. It’s a literary stew of themes, held together by the violence and pulpier aspects of the movie.
Richard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien talk about the weekend’s three big releases, the shady charm of “The Nice Guys” with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, the kid’s cartoon “The Angry Birds Movie,” and the Seth Rogen sequel “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” and the debauched “High-Rise” with Tom Hiddleston.
How to describe High-Rise, the darkly funny film from director Ben Wheatley?
Here goes; imagine the love child of Lord of the Flies and The Towering Inferno. An adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel about class segregation in a luxury condo, High-Rise is chaotic and completely bonkers.
“There’s material in here that is difficult and there’s structure in here that’s difficult but there’s also fun,” says Wheatley.
“There’s anarchy and sex and dancing and music. I always like to think about it like those 40s and 50s Hollywood movies and what they used to look like. There’d be no contradiction in a cowboy movie stopping for someone to sing a song.
“You don’t think about the pacing being really odd. The idea behind it was that those films were broken up into chunks. There’s a variety to them that make them really enjoyable. That’s what I was hoping for with this.”
Wheatley says the story of social warfare in the closed environment of an apartment building is just as relevant now as it was when Ballard wrote it in 1975.
“Ballard used to describe it that he was standing by the side of the road waving that there is danger ahead. But when I reread it when I was 40, it’s like, Crap, it’s not a warning anymore. It’s like it was taken from the newspaper. This is actually happening, which is kind of shocking but also kind of interesting.”
Known for his uncompromising films like Kill List and Sightseers, movies that critic Sheila O’Malley described as “black comedy thrillers involving crime, murder” and notable for their “absence of a moral compass,” the 44-year-old director is the cinematic spawn of mavericks like Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell and John Boorman, British filmmakers who broke taboos in big budget movies like Don’t Look Now, The Devils and Deliverance.
“That was the mainstream,” he says. “When you dig into the BFI archive and look at the Jack Bond stuff and see the other end of the avant guard cinema that was being made at the same time, it was absolutely crazy. It’s a real shame that has been lost. What also makes me chuckle is you see reviews saying that High-Rise is insane or incredibly experimental and you think, ‘This film wouldn’t have stood out as all that strange in the ’70s.’ It would have been a more conservative film of that period.”
Today it’s a little tougher to raise money to get challenging films like High-Rise made. He says Hollywood-y or famous actors help, and to that end he signed Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss to tell his outlandish tale.
“I like what (producer) Jeremy Thomas says about it. His whole career has been about smuggling weird into the mainstream and I think that’s about right. It’s a deal between you and the audience.”
Part of that audience is Ballard’s considerable fan base.
“The Ballardian website have interviewed us a few times and they seem to be convinced that we haven’t totally pissed up the leg of the memory of J.G. Ballard. There was never any intention to rile those people. They are partly the reason we are able to do the film, they are the fan base. Why would you go out of your way to irritate people like that?”
Words strain to describe the unrepentant grotesqueness on display in “High-Rise,” the darkly funny Tom Hiddleston film. Imagine if Ken Russell had directed “The Towering Inferno.” Or picture “Lord of the Flies” with an adult cast who don’t mind taking their clothes off.
“High-Rise” begins with some tasty real estate porn. Dr. Robert Laing (Hiddleston, who brings a Michael Fassbender vibe to the film) moves into an elegant apartment on the twenty-fifth floor of a luxurious high-rise building. He quickly begins to hobnob with his neighbours, the building’s elite like single mother Charlotte (Sienna Miller) and the regal Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons), the penthouse occupant and architect who calls himself the building’s midwife. The building is a social hierarchy, a segregated culture where the rich live on the top floors in opulence while the poor folks and families on the ground floor have to who beg for water and electricity. Royal calls it colonizing the sky, which, as one rich guy says, “is understandable when you look at what’s happening at street level.” When the anarchy of the lower floors spreads to the top, class warfare erupts and everyone, rich and poor, goes into extreme survival mode. How’s the high life? “Prone to fits of mania, narcissism and power failure,” says Laing.
An adaptation of JG Ballard’s 1975 novel about class segregation “High-Rise” is chaotic and completely bonkers. As the social structure disintegrates calm and reason go out the window—or more likely, are hurled off the balcony—for both the characters and director Ben Wheatley. Unafraid to allow anarchy to be the story’s engine, he blurs the line between behaviours civilized and savage, presenting a kaleidoscopic look at social rot. I mean, how many movies feature a roasted dog dinner and a Marie Antoinette dress-up party?
“High-Rise” will not be for everybody. It’s not meant to be for everybody. Uncompromising and disjointed, it’s unapologetically weird; a film that seems likely to earn instant cult status.