Reel Time

The Lost City of Z

In the early 1900s, Col. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), an experienced traveler and surveyor, trains British soldiers in Cork, Ireland. He lives there with his wife, Nina (Sienna Miller), and young son, Jack. One day he is summoned to the Royal Geographical Society in London and offered the chance to go to Bolivia to survey a border in the hopes of keeping peace there.

Corporal Costin (Robert Pattinson) accompanies Fawcett on the difficult 1906 expedition and several others that follow. Fawcett, unarmed and polite to the local people, learns of the ruins of a mysterious city and claims to have seen evidence of it. He names the city “Z. ”

Fawcett’s interest in his explorations is genuine as he endures attacks by the locals, thick jungles, dangerous animals, and his men beset with fever and hunger. When he returns home, his peers mock him in disbelief and accuse him of being overly ambitious, which may have some truth to it.

After World War I, Fawcett, now in his 50s and joined by his son, sets off to find the lost city.
David Grann wrote the book on which The Lost City of Z is based. James Gray (director of The Yards and We Own the Night) wrote the script and directed this compelling film that builds up slowly and unfolds in a quiet and organic way, drawing viewers into Fawcett’s adventures.

The film comments on respecting native peoples, preserving the Amazon, and exploration
over exploitation. The character of Nina gives voice to women’s suffrage. It’s very much a classic adventure movie, and I enjoyed it very much.

Not yet rated, PG-13 ♦ Violence, language.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

Richard Gere plays completely against type as Norman Oppenheimer, a tragically lonely and aging Jewish businessman. He makes his rounds in Manhattan, trying to make deals between people he doesn’t even know, based on ideas only tenuously linked to reality. His quiet, fawning desperation to be somebody, to have friends, and to be needed become his downfall.

Norman follows Misha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a mildly depressed Israeli official, as he window shops. Misha accepts an expensive pair of shoes from Norman, who arranges an invitation to dinner for Misha and himself with another businessman. But when Misha doesn’t show up to the dinner, Norman is humiliated and ushered out.

Three years later, when Misha is elected Prime Minister of Israel, Norman, as is his nature, brags about their connection to the wrong person, Alex (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an ethics officer at the Israeli embassy.

The conceit of Norman is that it is too clever for its own good. What could have been an unpredictable look at one man’s life becomes a predictable story; thus, an insightful tale ends up dissolving our emotional involvement.

The reality and morality of loneliness pervade the film and make you think about people who have no one to love them or if they do, manage to push them away. Gere, who thus far has been unrecognized by the Academy, is flat-out brilliant and deserves Oscar attention.

Not yet rated, R ♦ Language.

Going in Style

A film that boasts a trio of Oscar winners, Going in Style is about three elderly gentlemen, Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine), and Albert (Alan Arkin), who worked together in a Queens factory for decades, but are now retired. Joe’s house is in foreclosure by the bank that sold him a sleazy mortgage deal. While trying to work things out, Joe watches three men rob the bank in a well-orchestrated heist.

When the friends lose their pensions through their involvement of the same bank and Joe learns that he needs a new kidney, the friends decide they can rob the bank, too, and take what is rightfully theirs without hurting anyone.

Zach Braff (who shot to prominence with the show Scrubs) directs this well-crafted yarn by screenwriter Theodore Melfi (who gave us Hidden Figures and St. Vincent). Going in Style has a good heart. And while the humor is surprisingly clean, its optimism is tempered by the pessimistic reality that banks and corporations are greedy and callous, and people you care about are going to get hurt.

Not yet rated, PG-13 ♦ Marijuana, language, mature situations.

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