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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

‘Incredibles’ is back after 14 years, and it hasn’t missed a step

Charmaine Blake

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Elastigirl is the badass star of Incredibles 2.

Image: Disney / Pixar

“In the 14 years since The Incredibles came out, superhero movies have exploded. Circa 2004, we got maybe two a year; in 2018, Incredibles 2 is the third such film within the past two months.

In that context, it’s easy to imagine Incredibles 2 getting swallowed up by the wave, buried under the meta jokes of Deadpool and the ambitious world-building of Marvel. Instead, however, Incredibles 2 rises above it. Here’s how.

The action is, well, incredible

Incredibles 2 opens with a city-destroying battle of good versus evil that’s become a staple of the genre. But Pixar pulls it off with such style and finesse that it retroactively makes the competition look sloppy.

The choreography is sharp and dynamic, playing with each character’s specific strengths and weaknesses. Elastigirl’s bendiness contrasts and complements Mr. Incredible’s brute force, while Dash’s super-speed combines nicely with Violet’s force fields.

Other superhero movies could stand to learn from Incredibles 2.

Image: Disney / Pixar

Meanwhile, the camerawork and dialogue keep our focus on the characters, not just the spectacle. It serves as quick reintroduction to the leads, their personalities, and their relationships, in case your memory’s grown fuzzy after a decade and a half, and underlines why this particular fight is important to them.

It’s like the best of the Avenger-on-Avenger bits from Captain America: Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War – only better, because….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/06/11/incredibles-2-movie-review/

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New Movie Reviews

‘Ocean’s 8’ is a fizzy good time, and not much more

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Round up the gang this one’s a good group hang.

Image: Warner Bros.

“Ocean’s 8 is the LaCroix of movies: It’s sparkly, it’s fizzy, it goes down easy, and there’s not really any there there.

It’s not totally dumb, but nor is it particularly clever. It’s nice enough to look at, thanks to all its glamorous stars and their glitzy costumes, but not especially stylish. 

But just as flavored water can really hit the spot on a hot summer day, so can Ocean’s 8. It’s fun enough to serve as an excuse to chill with some friends, or while away an afternoon in movie theater air-conditioning. 

And for all its shortcomings, it does deliver in some key areas. Here are five reasons to check it out. 

5. The girl-power message, I guess

Ocean’s 8 is for all the little girls out there who want to be jewel thieves when they grow up, or something.

Image: Warner Bros.

The basic premise of Ocean’s 8 is that it’s Ocean’s 11, only with eight women instead of eleven men, and with the Met Gala instead of Las Vegas. In this era of shared universes, of course there’s a narrative link to the earlier films – the ringleader in 8 is Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney’s character from the Steven Soderbergh movies.

The act of recasting what was once a “male” property with female leads still feels like a statement in this day and age – even if it all it’s saying are “women are people, too.” Ocean’s 8 occasionally nods in the direction of feminist messaging, having one leading lady point out to another that women get ignored (a plus, when you’re trying to pull off a heist) and another execute a stunt involving the country’s “Founding Mothers.” 

For the most part, though, Ocean’s 8 lets those themes recede into the background. It doesn’t want to tell you how powerful it can be when women band together in a man’s world – it just wants to show you how fun it’d be to round up a girl gang and steal some jewels. In its own way, that’s kind of empowering, too. 

4. The vivid personalities – and fanfic-worthy pairings

Heck yes, Ocean’s 8, I ship it.

Image: WARNER BROS.

Like any good ensemble caper, Ocean’s 8 establishes a cast of colorful personalities, and spends some time sitting back to see what happens when they mix.

There are a few scenes that seem tailor made to inspire fan fiction.

This particular crew does happen to be starrier than usual. In addition to Bullock, there’s Cate Blanchett as….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/06/06/oceans-8-review/

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New Movie Reviews

Reviews are in for ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

Charmaine Blake

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“The latest installment of the Jurassic Park series sounds like a palatable film for fans of the series but doesn’t offer up a completely enrapturing experience the whole way through.

Reviewers have weighed in on the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to Jurassic World, and it isn’t getting the most thrilling praise so far. In this movie, a volcano at the Jurassic World theme park has erupted, sending the human protagonists and a handful of dinosaurs away from the island and into normal society which is fine for the humans but not so great for the dinosaurs.

Read on to see what the critics thought of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The visuals don’t disappoint

Matt Chapman, DigitalSpy:

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) guilts Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) into returning to the island to rescue his beloved raptor Blue, before an out of control volcano kills every living thing. What follows is some of the most beautiful destruction you’ll ever see onscreen, with a few heart-in-mouth moments for our intrepid dino wranglers and their support staff, Daniella Pineda’s spunky scientist Zia and Justice Smith’s jumpy tech guru Franklin.

Gav Murphy, IGN:

If you thought there was going to be too much CGI in Fallen Kingdom, you’re wrong. There’s a surprising amount of practical effects on display – in fact, it’s the first time I’ve felt genuinely disgusted by these creatures. From the flies buzzing around Rexy’s stinking sleeping body to the mucus and phlegm we see, there’s an impressive blend of both CGI and practical effects in use that helps bring us closer to the dinosaurs. This closeness helps us either feel more afraid or in the case of Blue, a dramatic medical treatment scene really highlights the bond that Owen has with her. Practical effects and CGI are merged seamlessly here and we end up with a touching sequence that also draws in video flashbacks of Owen raising Blue which are obscenely cute.

Dinosaurs aren’t the main event

Owen Gleiberman, Variety:

The film provides plenty of encounters with our stomping, gnashing primeval beastly friends — yet for much of Fallen Kingdom, they are caged, shackled, sedated, wounded, and otherwise subdued. They’re right up there on screen, but too often they don’t feel like the main event….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/06/05/jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom-review-roundup/

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