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Posts Tagged ‘Sienna Miller’

Charlie Hunnam

“THE LOST CITY OF Z” My rating: B

141 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There are really two movies at work in James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z.”

One unfolds in the well-appointed parlors, bucolic fields and imposing halls of turn-of-the-last-century England.

The other plays out in a world of daunting jungles,  piranha-infested rivers and unpredictable Amazonian cannibals.

Holding those two realities together is the real-life figure of Percy Faucett, an Englishman who embodied his era’s spirit of discovery, scientific exploration and a seemingly superhuman need to experience physical challenges and personal perils.

“The Lost City of Z” (the Z is pronounced “zed,” Brit-style) is the most expansive, grandest vision of writer/director Gray’s career (“Little Odessa,” “The Yards,” “The Immigrant”), achieving at times the sweep of a David Lean epic.

And as is the case with Lean, it sometimes seems that the epic overpowers the human elements.

We first meet Faucett (Charlie Hunnam, about 180 degrees away from his biker Hamlet in cable’s “The Sons of Anarchy”) as a struggling young military officer whose prospects are limited, in the words of one aristocratic snob, because he has been “rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors.”

Faucett gets a shot at fame and glory when he’s asked by the Royal Geographic Society to travel to the Amazon to prevent a war.  Seems the Bolivians and the Brazilians cannot agree on an official border between their two nations; Faucett is to survey the impenetrable jungle and set a boundary that will ensure the peace.

Accompanied by his equally adventurous assistant, Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson in full beard mode), the two not only accomplish their mission but stumble across tantalizing evidence that somewhere deep in the wilderness are the ruins of a centuries-old city, a metropolis that would have been bigger and more sophisticated than anything in Europe at that time.

Returning to Britain a national hero, Faucett touts his belief in the lost city, leading to accusations that he has fallen for an “El Dorado”-type myth. That attitude is as much racist as it is scientific…Faucett’s belief that the Amazon Indians once had a world-class civilization doesn’t go down well with imperialists who embrace the white man’s duty to raise and/or exploit the world’s great unwashed. (more…)

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Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston

“HIGH-RISE” My rating: C+

119 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Duration is the enemy of allegory.

At 50 minutes Ben Wheatley’s “High-Rise” would have been a stunning achievement — a vicious, snarling, breathless satire of class warfare and social apocalypse.

At two hours, though, it’s a slog, one that very nearly wears out its welcome and ends up repeating itself like a 33-record with a track-skipping scratch.

Screenwriter Amy Jump’s adaptation of the 1975 novel by J.G. Ballard (Crash) bears more than a few  similarities to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and especially to the the recent cult hit “Snowpiercer.”  Just replace the hermetically sealed high-speed train with an equally isolated high-rise apartment complex.

We are introduced to this modern Tower of Babel through the new tenant, Liang (Tom Hiddleston, who seems to be everywhere nowadays: “I Saw the Light,” TV’s “The Night Manager,” Marvel movies).  An unmarried M.D. with more money than he knows what to do with, Liang takes an apartment about halfway up the 30-plus story edifice.

The tower has all the amenities of a decent-sized town: health spa, swimming pool, school, a traditional English garden on the rooftop complete with livestock. There’s even a grocery store that sells only generic products (“Thank you for shopping on floor 15”). Alas, the place is chilly and sterile, all poured concrete and glass. Which is fine with Liang, who has no furniture and never gets around to unpacking his boxes.

It quickly dawns on the newcomer that the building has a social pecking order.  Towering over everyone else in his penthouse is the symbolically named Royal (Jeremy Irons), the architect who designed the building and is forever tinkering with improvements meant to validate his experiment in social engineering.

Just below Royal are the wealthy aristocrats embodied by the sneering, pompous Pangbourne (James Purfoy).

Then come the mid-level residents like Liang and Charlotte (Sienna Miller), the salacious single mom whose bright young son (Louis Suc) is building what looks like a homemade bomb.

Below Liang are residents like Wilder (“The Hobbit’s” Luke Evans), an aggressive and rabble-rousing documentary film maker, and his ever-pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss). (more…)

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Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

“BURNT” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Oct. 30)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There’s plenty of gastro porn on display in “Burnt”: fruits and veggies exploding in vibrant colors, lusciously marbled meats, clouds of steam and rings of blue flame, plates of edibles arranged with the precision/happy chaos of a modernist painting.

In most other regards director John Wells’ film about a megalomaniacal chef working his way toward redemption is standard-issue stuff. Yeah, it accurately captures the politics and pecking order of a high-end restaurant kitchen (as did the recent sleeper hit “Chef”).

But the big story, the big drama, never materializes.

The film has an invaluable asset in Bradley Cooper, who even when playing a dick oozes charisma. But this yarn (screenplay by Steven Knight, story by Michael Kalesniko) relies too much on stock characters and time-tested dramatic devices without ever digging deep.

Adam Jones (Cooper) is a once-acclaimed chef at a top Paris restaurant. But his career ran aground on drugs, drink and women (a common-enough narrative among this breed) and he retreated to New Orleans where he got sober, gave up sleeping around, and got a lowly job shucking oysters.  After working his way through exactly 1 million of the mollusks (he kept meticulous records of his shucking activities) Adam walked out the door and caught a flight to London.

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Ben Mendelson, Ryan Reynolds

Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds

“MISSISSIPPI GRIND” My rating: B

108 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Ben Mendelsohn is such a terrific actor that some day he’ll be cast as an upright citizen.

For now, though, he is Hollywood’s go-to guy for grungy losers (“Animal Kingdom,” HBO’s “Bloodline,” “Killing Them Softly”). In Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s “Mississippi Grind” Mendelsohn practically sweats desperation and existential angst.

You’d figure that he’d be just right as Gerry, a degenerate gambler from Dubuque, Iowa. What one might not expect is that Ryan Reynolds would match him in the demanding and fuzzy-around-the-edges role of Curtis, Gerry’s alter ego and spiritual inspiration.

Gerry is deep in in debt to…well, just about everyone he knows.  (Alfre Woodward has a brief but tasty scene as a suburban housewife whose real career is that of leg-breaking loan shark.) At a local poker night he meets Curtis (Ryan), an out of towner who tries to disrupt the game with jokes and nonstop patter. Looking at his hand, Curtis innocently asks the other players: “Aces…those are good, right?”

Somehow Gerry gets the notion that Curtis is his good luck charm.

The two men could hardly be different.  Gerry is intense, woebegone, hapless. He goes through hell with every showdown.

Curtis is cool, funny, and entertaining, a raconteur with dozens of shaggy dog stories about the gamblers and lowlifes he’s had the pleasure to know  (including the guy who reversed a losing streak in Kansas City and left the table with “enough to pay back everything he owes and still get a slab at Oklahoma Joe’s”). Curtis doesn’t seem to care if he wins or not. “It’s the journey, not the destination,” he says.

They agree to take a trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, hitting the casinos, horse and dog tracks and back room poker games along the way. Curtis will provide the betting money; Gerry the skill.

What could go wrong?
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american-sniper-trailer-bradley-cooper
“AMERICAN SNIPER” My rating: B+

132 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In more than 40 years of directing, Clint Eastwood has become a master storyteller.

That is overwhelming evident in the first half-hour of “American Sniper,” Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall’s adaptation of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s memoir about his experiences as the most deadly sniper (160 confirmed kills) in U.S. military history.

They waste no time in plunging us into the action: A street in Iraq. American soldiers searching door-to-door.  Watching from above is Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), new to the war and positioned on a rooftop.

Suddenly Chris spots movement — an Iraqi mother and her young son are approaching. The mother produces a rocket-propelled grenade from her clothing and gives it to her son, who rushes toward the Americans.

In seconds Chris must decide if his first kill will be a child.

From that hair-raising intro, the film sends jerks us back to Chris’ childhood: reared as a hunter (and possible proto-survivalist) by his father, a misspent youth as a rodeo rider, the decision to enlist in the best military unit in the world, the SEALs.

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