The Lost City of Z

Imagine a time where the idea of a lost city of gold was still a possibility. Places like Atlantis, El Dorado, Libertalia, Shambala, Iram of the Pillars… ok, at this point I’m listing the lost cities featured in the Uncharted video game. Still, the idea is quite enticing. The pull for most explorers are the ideas of vast wealth, unlimited power, immortality, etc. Spanish explorers scoured the Florida peninsula(before it was the U.S. of course) in hope of finding the fabled Fountain of Youth. Stories and myths from explorers and conquistadors has inspired countless stories that still sparks the imagination of people today.

At the dawn of the 20th century, a British explorer, Percy Fawcett discovers evidence of a previously unknown civilization and returns again and again in hopes of actually finding this lost city. This is the premise of The Lost City of Z.
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This movie is not your typical adventure story. This is nothing like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, etc. I wouldn’t even classify it as an adventure. Not that it is boring, since it’s anything but. It’s the drama that unfolds giving us insights to the mind and the heart of Percy Fawcett.

We find early on that his father has tainted his family name through drunkiness and gambling. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) has been presented with an opportunity to redeem the family name by undertaking an expedition to explore unknown territories of the Amazons. Leaving his wife (Sienna Miller) and children (Tom Holland plays his oldest) behind, Fawcett joins his army friend Henry Costin (an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson), a native guide, and additional men from a rubber plantation and journeys up an unexplored river in the jungle. After what seems to be a peaceful journey, the group is encounters hostile natives but before being forced to return Fawcett stumbles upon shards of pottery indicating the possibility of a highly developed ancient civilization, a place he refers to as Z.

Fawcett returns to home to present his findings only to come against ridicule from the scientific community who regarded the the indigenous people as savages. With the support of his wife and his companions, he is able to make more returns to the Amazon in hopes to be able to dig deeper into the Jungle and prove his naysayers wrong. The real Fawcett actually went on 7 expeditions whereas the movie only shows 3.

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The focal point of this movie is the drama that unfolds between each exploration. The separation of family and personal ambition. Percy is driven almost to the point of madness to find Z, but he leaves behind his growing family. By being gone for extended periods of time(years). He even leaves again because of a short stint of serving in the first World War. All this culminates the tension he feels between being with his family and discovering Z.

The movie is well shot and well acted. Not a single talent is wasted and that is refreshing. I’m expecting big things from Tom Holland. He continues to impress me with his emotional range. With a compelling script and an unhurried pace, Writer/director James Grey takes us on journey of curiosity and obsession.

I can’t imagine most people enjoying this at the theater. There was one moment where my mind drifted off. However by the end, I wanted to see more. I do have to iterate that this isn’t Indiana Jones or Romancing the Stones. Despites a couple intense moments, there’s no major action set pieces. Except for the few intense momentd there’s no adventurous thrills. Nobody is swinging from vines. No hidden traps triggering shooting poison darts. Just the dramatic indepth look at Percy Fawcett.

Belated Summer Movie reviews 2

Belated Summer reviews 2

As summer has come to a close, I managed to view a few more movies before ending the season as we cross over into September and Fall films.

Now You See Me 2
The first film came out as a surprised hit, even though it wasn’t exactly a box office smash. Just entertaining enough to warrant a possible sequel and sure enough, they did. The film centers around a group of magicians called the Four Horseman as they have been summoned to perform one last major trick before having all their secrets exposed to the whole world. Whereas the first one left you with a “Hey! I did not see that coming!”, this one left us with a big, not so positive “Wait, what?!” It’s not a terrible movie by any means, just feels a little bit unwarranted. I mean, the tricks are pretty cool and the actors do well with what they are given even though each of them seem to be in their typical typecast shtick. Could be fun for a family viewing for a Redbox night. Just make sure you see the first one before seeing this one, or you’ll miss out the “big reveal”.

The Conjuring 2
James Wan returns with his haunted house franchise and takes us across the pond for what is known as the English Amityville. Where a single mother and her 4 children are plagued by a malicious spirit. Like the first one, this is based on a true account from famed “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren. Whether or not you believe them is entirely up to you, however it doesn’t discount the possibility of creating a movie out of it. James Wan is a genius when it comes to horror movies. Conjuring 2 had such an atmospheric presence that will keep your full attention and the same time make you grab a nearby security blanket of some sort. One thing (amongst many other things) that I really appreciate out of this movie is that I really truly felt the love that Ed and Lorraine had for each other and the understanding of who each of them was. There is one pivotal scene where Ed gets trapped and leaves Lorraine behind. With much fear of the evil spirit that has threatened his life, he still chooses to abandon himself in order to save the girl and Lorraine knew this even though she didn’t want him to go. It may not mean much to anyone but it resonated pretty deep for me. That aside, Conjuring 2 is the perfect summer blockbuster for the horror genre and it’s pretty spooky to boot. I may or may not have avoided looking into mirrors for the night.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Turns out the rising to fame and falling from it can be pretty damn funny. I laughed a lot more than I thought I would have. Popstar is a mockumentary following the rise and fall of Connor4real played by Andy Samberg. Along with a talented comedic casts, the laughs keep coming and the film never overstays its welcome. There’s some raunchy materials in there, so keep that in mind if the kids are around. Beyond the jokes from Samberg and his posse, is the celebrity cameos from the like of Usher, Mariah Carey, and my personal favorite cameo Justin Timberlake. Turns out, they can be pretty funny as well. If you enjoyed Spinal Tap, then this is definitely worth the watch. Even if you haven’t seen it, I still think you’ll get quite a bit of laughs.

Free State of Jones
Helmed by Gary Ross (Hunger Games), Free State of Jones is about the events of Jones County, Mississippi where a Confederate deserter (Matthew McConaughey) forms a small army of fellow deserters, runaway slaves, and locals to fight against the Confederate army. McConaughey leads with much heart as the movie plays out. The underlying story of racial tension is evident throughout. The big issue is that it’s quite long. They seem to wrap it up at an hour and a half, but no we still have about an hour to go. So we can watch more racial tension as they go into “rebuilding” now that the Civil War has ended. Maybe this could be better served as a mini series. Even then, the story fizzles out. But hey, Gary Ross has done his research, there’s a lot of history to be learned in this movie. Not a summer blockbuster type film for sure. The box office numbers can testify to that.

That’s it for the summer. Summer in review is coming soon.