TIFF 2015 Review: High-Rise

In an audience empathy test, killing the dog is perhaps the most capital of movie-crimes. Here is gleefully committed in the opening minutes, as a bellwether for the casually curious to beware. Several other canine-murders are peppered throughout the film, each more grim than the last, lest you miss the point. Subtlety of course is not aim here, the films central and titular edifice is a super-sized, dangerously insular apartment building where the floors at the top are bent both figuratively, and literally. Society in microcosm.

And we arrive at the point where the long juggled adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel, High Rise, makes it to the screen. At one point director Nicolas Roeg was scheduled to make it, at another Vincenzo Natali was attached. Ben Wheatley (and his writing partner, Amy Jump) deliver a retro-futurist grotesquerie of hate and suffering. A cinematic endurance test as it were. Wheatley has never been one to let a lot of empathy get in the way of his comically brutal style of filmmaking, and he has managed squeezed every last drop of it out of it, here. This is triple distilled satire, to be served cold with a garnish of mania.

Tom Hiddleston, here a lean but blank slate, plays Dr. Robert Laing. A successful neurosurgeon recently recovering from an vaguely alluded to family tragedy, he is looking for both anonymity as well as a way to move up the socioeconomic ladder. This disturbingly massive condo tower is built on the edge of nowhere. Seagulls cry desperately on the soundtrack, often, but are never seen. We see only their shit dropping from the sky onto the endless field of 1970s automobiles and parking-lot skirting the building. It is a recognizable kind of addled future-version of Britain along the lines of Brazil, only with far more smoking, and sideburns (courtesy of an unrecognizable Luke Evans). Wheatley has set the film at about the same time as the publication Ballard’s novel. An interesting choice, because the promise of future looks stale, ugly and dank.

Being the first of many such buildings under construction, which we see in wide, slightly dodgy CGI inserts, early adopters of various social strata get to participate in the process of working out the bugs. Of which their are many, including wonky elevators, thermostats and the occasional brown out. The architect of the project, Mr. Royal (wobbly played by Jeremy Irons), resides in a verdant, almost medieval idyll at the top with his crazy wife who holds Marie Antoinette by way of Gatsby parties for the residents of the upper floors. His vision for the project is “a crucible for change.”

And that it is.
Or something.

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Cinecast Episode 311 – As The Furious Turns

A the fifth Fast and Furious sequel speeds into the multiplex, Kurt and Andrew go deep into the nuance and complex character interactions that have defined the last 12 years of this franchise. OK, not so much. Instead we ask questions about Spanish airport design, what becomes of the 100 commuter funerals after the credits roll, and just how well one can control London surveillance cameras these days. It’s easy to pick on the story inanities of the Furious Franchise, but we do take time to admire the 2nd unit elements of the film, and the editing of parallel action which are excellent. Andrew talks the new Arrested Development season up on Netflix, Kurt is all over the map in trying to parse the motivation and execution of Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven. Frank Capra gets some show time with Arsenic & Old Lace and the cultural impact of It’s A Wonderful Life.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Bradley Cooper is Word [Thursday One Sheet]



Tomorrow’s regular post is already set to go (and it’s a good one), so I thought I’d jump the gun a bit and post a taste of first time directors’ Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal’s film The Words. I’m pretty sure this sort of design has been done before, but I can’t recall one quite as classy or eye-catching. So first time film makers they may be, but from a marketing standpoint, it looks good so far.

Furthering my interest, the movie also boasts a really nice cast. Obviously Bradley Cooper; but also Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Ben Barnes, John Hannah and J.K. Simmons.

I don’t know much about the movie’s plot yet. It has something to do with strong consequences for plagiarism and how our use of words defines us especially when they are not your own. Now to me, this poster gives off a bit of a sci-fi (sort of an The Adjustment Bureau) feel for some reason. No reason to think that will be part of the story, but I like the style/vibe.


Character Banners for Appaloosa

Appaloosa one sheetLooks like another western is just around the corner for mainstream audiences. Appaloosa opens on October 3rd in limited release and then wider soon after. I know our own John Allison is seeing this on Saturday as part of his TIFF screenings, so I look forward to a full report.

Appaloosa will be Ed Harris’ second shot at directing and it looks to be simple, but killer; which involves two gunmen making their way into a small town to free it’s residents from a “thuggish” cattle baron. To complicate matters, a widowed woman (Zellwegger – who performs well in 19th century period pieces) arrives in town at the same time. So it sounds like your basic premise of 95% of all western serials from the 40’s and 50’s; i.e. awesome. Kevin Costner’s Open Range had a similar storyline and is magically well done.

New character banners were released today and we’ve got them here thanks to worstpreviews. Click any image for a new window with the hi-res versions. I love the sepia tone which gives them an “old-time” feel and my favorite is the Jeremy Irons one. Really look forward to my contemporary westerns and this one in particular looks great.

Ed Harris Jeremy Irons
Renee Zellwegger Viggo Mortensen

Trailer for Ed Harris’ Appaloosa Starring Mortensen, Zellweger and Irons

Appaloosa Movie StillWesterns are not my forte. I’m not a big fan of the old west and men shooting at each other from behind barrels and inside saloons but over the last few years, and with the help of a few modern westerns, I’ve come to appreciate the genre a little more and it looks like I’m in for yet another great romp through the old west this time with Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris leading the way.

Written directed and starring Harris, Appaloosa focuses on two friends (Harris and Mortensen) who are hired to police a town. Things are going well until a widow moves into town and, I’m assuming, steals both their hearts. I’m not a huge fan of RenĂ©e Zellweger but I’m willing to overlook her (she annoys me) for the goodness of Harris and Mortensen together. If those two aren’t good enough, how about appearances from Jeremy Irons and Lance Henriksen? I’m sold.

Harris doesn’t get enough credit for his work. The man always gives solid performances and his directorial debut is a brilliant, under seen gem. Here’s hoping that the star power here will bring him a little more attention.

Appaloosa will premiere at TIFF in September and then open in limited release on October 3rd. Sounds a little like the releaser plan for last year’s Mortensen gem…

Thanks to the guys at FSR, the trailer is tucked under the seat!

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