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The 2017 Movie Masterpiece That You Probably Missed

Charmaine Blake

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As Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) departs for the jungle for what will be the last time, he and his son Jack (Tom Holland) lean out the window of their train car, waving at the people who wait just to catch a glimpse of the explorers. As they pass the gathered crowds, so too do they pass the sleeping form of Percys wife, Nina (Sienna Miller), and his other two children. It is as if he is dreaming them, as if time has begun to collapse as Fawcetts adventure comes to an endor a beginning.

To watch James Grays The Lost City of Z is to be caught in that dream with him. Movies are often cited as a form of escapism, but there are very few movies that are quite as transporting as this one, and it deserves to be in contention as one of the bestif not the bestmovies of the year. (Its streaming on Amazon Prime, and I would recommend seeing it on the largest screen possible.)

Admittedly, its not a particularly easy sell at almost two and a half hours long. Its not really a brisk movie, either, though as a proponent, I cant say that I ever felt weary of the movies runtime. Its also focused on such a specific story and era that anyone not in the mood for a period drama might overlook it. But all it takes is the films openingthe crackling of torches, the hum of Christopher Spelmans scoreand the spell is cast.

Its Ravels second suite of his score for the ballet Daphnis et Chlo that plays over Fawcetts final journey into the Amazon. Its a composition that is just as lush and verdant as the film and the jungle into which Fawcett is about to descend, and its place in the impressionist movement is also fitting for the way in which Gray makes movies. At the risk of sounding pedantic, Gray is a filmmaker whose visions are of the sort that Hollywood doesnt indulge anymore.

In 1925, British explorer Percy Fawcett embarked on an expedition to find the remains of a city that he had dubbed Z. The expedition was the culmination of Fawcetts research and previous forays into the Amazon, as well as his fervent belief in the existence of a city that would prove that the jungle could sustain complex civilization, and had done so before Europeans ever had. The last communication from the party was on May 29, 1925. Then they disappeared.

In the intervening years, numerous explorers have tried and failed to find what became of Fawcett, and its telling as to the power of the story that were still discussing it, now. Gray is keenly aware of the tendency to romanticize exploration, and what makes The Lost City of Z so remarkable is the way in which he corrects that notionnot by dispelling the perceived beauty in it, but by shedding that light upon every aspect of the story.

We see the toll that exploration takes, not just on the explorers themselves (though they are indeed gruesome) but on Fawcetts family. The minutiae of each expedition are treated with care, with all of it circling back to the political and cultural ramifications of what might be learned, and how those results might reflect upon Fawcetts reputation. His social standing, in turn, affects the lives of his wife and children, who already suffer a loss each time he goes into the jungle. But he cant help his obsession. Even as he recovers from what might have been a fatal injury after serving in the war, all he can think about is whether or not his wound will prevent him from venturing on another expedition.

And yet, despite all that, it is impossible not to understand Fawcetts obsession, or the impulse that drove so many other people, including an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson, to follow him into the unknown despite knowing the risks. Gray is a master of evoking feeling through film, which is the sort of thing that cant be said ofand sometimes simply isnt even attempted byevery movie. The score, for instance, is meant to evoke a mood rather than a moment; it isnt necessary for each moment to be spelled out as long as the feeling of it is clear.

Then, and most incredibly, there are the dream sequences that pass in and out of the film. By the end, the effect of these visions is comparable to the strange beauty of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arguably, Fawcett hasnt really traveled any more or less than Keir Dulleas Dr. Bowman. No, The Lost City of Z isnt about the creation of man, but the sense of wonderment in discovery, despite all the dangers that come with it, is cut from the same cloth. Fawcett sees the jungle even as he hunkers down in the trenches during wartime; then he passes his family by as he returns to the jungle, a reminder of just how much of their lives he has missed, and how much more time he will lose with them. But he doesnt turn back.

The Lost City of Z is the kind of movie that would feel like a miracle no matter when it was released. Its rich without being excessive, beautiful without glossing over the horrors that often befell explorers, and straightforward in picking apart the colonialist and racist beliefs of the time and the characters where it could just as easily have left them implied or ignored them completely. But words ultimately dont do the film justice. Its more than the sum of its technical triumphs: its a dream, and well worth seeking out before the year is over.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-2017-movie-masterpiece-that-you-probably-missed

New Movie Reviews

‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is one of the best superhero movies ever: Review

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There’s a new Spider-Man in town, and he’s freaking amazing.

Image: Columbia / Sony

“To say that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels like a comic book come to life may sound like faint praise, seeing as we’re two decades into a superhero movie boom that the original Spider-Man helped jump start.

But few recent films have embraced the comic book style and sensibility — its visual quirks and anything-goes openness — as wholeheartedly as Spider-Verse has, or enjoyed as fully the potential in combining the two mediums.

Right off the bat, Spider-Verse acknowledges that it’s probably the 700th Spider-Man story you’ve seen in the past few years. A voiceover “yada yadas” the basics of Peter Parker’s origin story, while winking at almost every iteration of it; even the much-maligned Spider-Man 3 gets a rueful shoutout. This movie isn’t afraid of a laugh at its own expense, though the knowing humor is more affectionate than biting.

Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before.

When that montage ends with Peter telling us “there’s only one Spider-Man,” it plays like another joke, because we’ve seen so many Peters over so many years. And becomes even more of one once we meet Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore).

Though Miles has been a fan favorite in the comics since 2011, Spider-Verse marks his first time on the big screen. Accordingly, Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before it.

Spider-Verse eschews both the slick three-dimensional look of most modern studio animated movies (think Pixar or Illumination) and the gritty “realism” of most live-action superhero movies, in favor of a flatter, sketchier aesthetic bursting with poppy colors, Ben-Day dots, and motion lines. It’s an obvious nod to Spidey’s ink-and-paper history, but it’s also an expression of how Miles, himself a character who’s grown up admiring Spidey and reading Spidey books, might view his own superhero saga…………………………………………”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-movie-review/

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Creed II review – Rocky saga continues with knockout sequel

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“Before he delivered arguably Marvel’s most dazzling chapter to date, Ryan Coogler had managed something close to impossible in Hollywood: he had found a fresh way to reboot a dusty franchise. In a landscape of endless thirst and vacant remixing, he had somehow managed to concoct a nifty, imaginative way back into the Rocky saga with Creed, a film that felt old-fashioned yet fresh, intimate yet grand, a rousing return from the grave.

By focusing on the son of Rocky’s competitor-turned-friend Apollo Creed, Coogler was also able to reteam with Michael B Jordan, who made such an indelible impression in his first film, 2013’s devastating fact-based drama Fruitvale Station. The duo worked together again in Black Panther earlier this year, with Jordan switching tacks to play villain Killmonger, and so soon after, seeing him return as Creed is a further reminder of his broad star appeal, the sort of rare leading man one can imagine remaining at the top of his game for years to come. Given his time in Wakanda, Coogler was unable to return but he has handed over directorial duties to Steven Caple Jr, who impressed in 2016 with debut feature The Land, and it is a similarly deft rise from micro-budget indie to franchise film-making.

While it’s not quite the showstopper that its predecessor was, Creed II is still another knockout piece of entertainment. There’s a keen awareness of what made Creed work so well without it feeling like a lethargic rehash. This time, Adonis (Jordan) is the heavyweight champion of the world, in a loving relationship with his pregnant musician girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and still living near and working out with a recovering Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). But there’s discontent from……………………………………..”

Read More Here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/16/creed-ii-review-rocky-sylvester-stallone-michael-b-jordan

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They Shall Not Grow Old review – a breathtaking journey into the trenches

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Written by Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

“There’s a familiar mantra that computers have somehow taken the humanity out of cinema. In an age when it’s possible to conjure spectacular action from digital effects, many modern movies have developed a sense of weightlessness – the inconsequentiality of artifice. Along with Avatar director James Cameron, New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson has been at the forefront of the digital revolution, with his twin Tolkien trilogies (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) pushing the boundaries of computer-generated entertainment.

Yet with his latest project, a revivification of the Imperial War Museum’s archive of first world war footage, Jackson has done something quite remarkable: using 21st-century technology to put the humanity back into old movie stock. The result is utterly breathtaking.

Commissioned for the Armistice centenary by IWM and 14-18 NOW in association with the BBC, They Shall Not Grow Old is not a document of the world at war. Rather, it is an arresting snapshot of the lives of British soldiers who went to fight in Europe, many of them having lied about their tender ages to enlist. There are no historians, narrators or political commentators to guide us; the voices we hear are those of veterans, many gathered by the BBC during the making of its 1964 documentary series The Great War.

As we watch a line of soldiers marching through mud towards the front, something extraordinary happens. The film seems almost miraculously to change from silent black-and-white footage to colour film with sound, as though 100 years of film history had been suddenly telescoped into a single moment. Stepping through the looking glass, we find ourselves right there in the trenches, surrounded by young men whose faces are as close and clear as those of people we would pass in the street. I’ve often argued that cinema is a time machine, but rarely has that seemed so true………………………………………………”

Read the rest of the article here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/11/they-shall-not-grow-old-peter-jackson-review-first-world-war-footage

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