The Lost City of Z | Review

★★★★

Humanity has long endured a difficult relationship with nature. It’s a coexistence that has oft been tackled by literature and film alike: that desire for conquest and struggle for omnipotent domination, so perfectly epitomised by Caspar David Friedrich’s romanticist painting: The Wander Above a Sea of Fog, that has driven many an explorer to madness, their sanity a sacrifice to their ambition. From Livingstone to Scott, all have found the natural world to be a fearsome opponent.

Less well known than those Boys’ Own heroes is Lt. Col. Percival Harrison Fawcett, the subject of David Grann’s article, and later published biography, The Lost City of Z, now brought to the big screen by director James Grey. Between 1906 and 1925, Fawcett, portrayed in 2017 by Charlie Hunnam, undertook seven expeditions to South America, spending the most of those years in search of an ancient civilisation, proposed to have been long since lost within the jungles of Bolivia, akin to Hiram Bingham’s 1911 rediscovery of Machu Picchu in Peru.

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Beauty and the Beast | Review

★★★★

The enduring success of Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is such that the film does not solely remain one of the greatest animated features of all time but among the greatest of any medium. The first Disney musical to be translated to Broadway, it is a well quoted fact that Beauty and the Beast was also the first animation ever to gain a – much deserved – Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Thus, at a time in which the House of Mouse seems intent on remaking their entire back catalogue, a live action update of this particular classic was surely inevitable, if unnecessary.

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The Love Witch | Review

★★★★

There’s a pivotal scene in Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows in which the reflected image of Jane Wyman’s Cary is framed within a television screen, bought for her by her family. Its a symbolically charged moment, the film revolving around the socially ‘scandalous’ relationship of an affluent widow and her younger gardener, dictating that a woman of Cary’s age and marital status must be prisoner to a life ruled by consumerism and the home. Sixty-seven years later, Anna Biller appropriates the image in The Love Witch, maintaining Sirk’s glorious technicolor, in her use of a mirror as the captive frame not of the woman, who moves freely in and out, but of the man, who is slavishly trapped in his bed. Whilst perfectly capturing the aesthetics of mid-twentieth century Hollywood, Biller’s film is a subversive, and deliciously addictive, feminist hit.

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Viceroy’s House | Review

★★★

Heritage Cinema is too easy to sniff at. Likewise, populist historicals are too often the recipient of critical derision. Indeed, much of my own criticism for Theodore Melfi’s recent Hidden Figures was perhaps even guilty of this. Broad strokes in cinema can grant a complex issue vital accessibility, a fact that should absolutely be celebrated. That said, it’s a fine balance and I maintain – for now anyway – that Hidden Figures takes simplification just too far in its crowd pleasing to fully enable a more than surface-level depth.

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Kong: Skull Island | Review

★★★

Who would win in a fight between King Kong and Godzilla? My Dad, ahead of our seeing Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ new picture Kong: Skull Island, reckoned it’d be no contest and that a giant sentient ape would have no issues in crushing a big lizard with little arms and a pea-sized brain. What my Dad was quite evidently forgetting is that in his last big screen outing (Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong) Kong measured up at just 25ft compared to the 355 feet that Godzilla clocked in at in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla from 2014. That’s presumably why this latest reboot in the character’s eighty-four year history sees Kong boosted to his mightiest height yet, an impressive 104ft. As we all know, bigger always means better, right? By that logic Skull Island could only be incredible, yes?

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Get Out | Review

★★★★

Were it not for the opening scene, in which a young, black man, alone at night in a dark suburbia, is assaulted by an armour-clad figure and dragged into a white car to the vintage strains of Flanagan and Allen’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’, Get Out might easily have been a comedy. On paper, the film marks the directorial debut of Jordan Peele – the man who wrote and headlined last year’s action-comedy Keanu – its stars include the comedic talents of Allison Williams (Girls) and Stephen Root (Dodgeball, Finding Dory), and it has a plot reminiscent of Greg Glienna’s Meet the Parents. Ba dum and, of course, tish. Do not, however, be fooled. Whilst Get Out is undoubtedly a feature with some genuine belly laughs, they’re laughs that come with a distinctly nasty sting.

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King Kong: The Eighth Wonder of the World in Retrospective

‘I’m going out to make the greatest picture in the world. Something that nobody’s ever seen or heard of!’

When Kong: Skull Island hits the big screens next week it’ll be a CGI behemoth taking centre stage, quite some distance from the 18” metal mesh skeleton of Merian C. Cooper’s 1933 original: King Kong. This month marks eight-four years since the first appearance of everyone’s favourite eighteen-foot ape and it would be fair to say that times have changed rather a lot in the meantime. For one thing, Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ reboot is unlikely to see Brie Larson subserve to the damsel in distress role of Fay Wray’s Ann Darrow. On the other hand, you might be surprised as to just how well the original stands up even today.

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