Box Office: “Furious” finds over $35, newcomers can’t clear $5

boxA big Friday translates to another big weekend for “The Fate of the Furious,” which is falling off on the low end of projections (63%) and headed towards a $37 million weekend, if Saturday and Sunday add up.

But “Unforgettable,” “The Promise,” Disneynature’s “Born in China” and “The Lost City of Z” will have to have big Saturdays if any of them are going to clear $5 million, much less $10 million. Surprised the kids’ nature documentary isn’t doing better, and this really is the end for Katherine Heigl if audiences won’t show up to hiss her villainy. But there it is.

MGM’s late owner Kirk Kerkorian dreamed of getting an epic treatment of the Armenian genocide on the screen, and landed a decent director, an Oscar winner and an Oscar nominee or two in the cast for “The Promise.” But nobody’s showing up.

“The Lost City of Z” was envisioned as a Brad Pitt project, but he ended up only taking a producer credit. It got the best reviews of the weekend, but Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, a surprisingly good Robert Pattinson and the new Spider-Man aren’t box office draws. Under $2 million for that one.

“Boss Baby” is closing in on $150 million, “Beauty and the Beast” will be close to $500 million domestic when it loses its screens to summer fare.

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Movie Review: “Obit” gives newspaper obituary writers the last word

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It’s one of the most thankless, unsung jobs at any newspaper, and one of the hardest.

Obituary writers make value judgments, about whose life and achievements or simple notoriety is worthy of “500, 800 words,” and whose isn’t. And they spend a frantic few hours, trying to reach grieving loved ones and peers, sifting through legions of “facts” often provided by people’s faulty memories or the family circle exaggerations of the deceased.

Because God forbid they get something wrong. This is, as one obit writer in the fine new documentary “Obit” puts it writing someone’s history “at the very moment they become history.”

Filmmaker Vanessa Gould naturally chooses The New York Times as the setting for her film, focusing on one of the last newspapers with a staffed obituary department, veteran writers who specialize in collecting information about the recently-deceased, from popes and tyrants to pop stars, inventors, adventurers and crooks.

Blending documentary footage of some of the subjects — a Transatlantic rower, a stripper-girlfriend of Lee Harvey Oswald shooter Jack Ruby, a political aide who made sure Kennedy looked better than Nixon for those historic 1960 TV debates — with interviews of those who wrote them, Gould creates a fascinating portrait of the work and the patient, harried and detail-oriented folks who do it.

There’s a formula for an obituary, we learn. Typically, there’s just a single sentence that mentions death. Some are “news” obituaries, others more colorful feature story obits, with anecdotes and laughs, even, in their lines.

Bruce Weber comes off as a man who loves to talk. He sits on the phone, collecting first the hard fact details that the obituary will be built upon. We only hear his half of the conversation as he asks survivors “Was he married, and how many times before you? Could you spell that for me?”

A proper newspaper obituary, not the fluff provided by a family to a funeral home for publication, is filled with facts. People embellish their war records, their athletic achievements, their “firsts.” Nailing down what is true, on deadline, when the person who best knows that truth is dead, is tricky business.

Weber will make a mistake, and most newspaper reporters will spot it the moment he makes that assumption during a phone interview. But that’s what “Corrections” are for.

The staff — editor William McDonald and others — talks in the jargon of the “press,” whether a notable deserves an “above the fold” (front page, top half) remembrance, or a “refer,” an obituary mentioned on the front cover but printed inside.

The lonely keeper of “The Morgue,” the newspaper’s vaunted archive of stories, clip files and photographs, tracks down images from the distant past and previously-reported stories on the subject of this or that obituary.

Writers recall the harrowing rush to get something into print after sudden deaths — Michael Jackson, Prince, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman. And each relishes the grace notes of a particularly distinct life rendered in just the right keystrokes, when they have time to make an obituary “sing.”

Margalit Fox, once an aspiring cellist, loves alliteration and has a touch of the poet about her. When detailing the life of one of the last typewriter repairmen in North America, Manson Whitlock, she turns “the ffft of the roller, the ding of the bell, the decisive zhoop … bang of the carriage return, the companionable clack of the keys” into the music of the man’s life.

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It’s not the most cinematic of subjects. And the film, like most recent documentaries about newspapers, has a New York myopia about it.

But the anecdotes, about tidbits, old family photos, that perfectly summed up that person’s story, or the blunders (you’ve GOT to confirm somebody is actually dead) make “Obit” in itself a fine piece of “instant history” for a profession that is itself going dying out.

And when newspapers, and these reporter/writers are gone, who will be there to sum up a life — notable or notorious — in 800 words or less?

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MPAA Rating: unrated, with mild profanity

Cast: Bruce Weber, Margalit Fox, William McDonald, Paul Vitello

Credits:Directed by Vanessa Gould. A Kino Lorber release.

Running time: 1:35

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Box Office: How fast will “Furious” fade?

fate1It cleared $100 million on its opening weekend and has no major fresh competition to face on this, its second week of release.

So how much of that opening weekend audience will disappear for “The Fate of the Furious?”

Box Office Mojo figures it’ll drop according to the averages of the series, with the seventh film (the last one) being an exception to that rule. Figure $35 million, with a 65% drop.

Box Office Mojo thinks “buzz is good” (reviews weren’t awful) and that it’ll hold more audience, maybe a $39 million weekend.

That sets up expectations, so anything under $30 will mean the word of mouth on this Paul Walker-less sequel is already out of gas. I’m expecting the tumble to be Madea Movie steep — 65-70%. I got to this one late and saw it in a mostly-empty theater.

Reviews of “Unforgettable” aren’t strong enough to correct a low audience awareness of this cat fight thriller, with Katherine Heigl facing off with Rosario Dawson. Mojo thinks that’ll lead to an $8 million weekend, Guru figures only $6.

Say what? I’d bet cash money that audiences, female-driven audiences, will want to see Heigl in murderous psychotic mode. It’s her last shot at big screen redemption, and with nothing else new out there threatening it, I’m guessing $10 million+.

“The Promise” is a period piece love triangle “epic” (small “e”) with Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale both courting Charlotte Le Bon during World War I’s Armenian genocide in Turkey. It could do decent business. The TV commercials are everywhere and reviews of this sprawling mess haven’t been awful. $3 million, tops.

“The Lost City f Z” has even less oomph, in terms of hype and promotion. Good reviews. But Charlie Hunnam isn’t a movie star. Yet. If it clears $2 million I’d be shocked.

DisneyNature’s “Born in China” should do well with family audiences. Not animated blockbuster well, but better than the $4 million most are projecting for it to take it. No 3D prices, but yeah, there is so much nature documentary content on TV it will be a hard sell. Not one of Disney’s best, but the pandas and monkeys are adorable. Maybe $6-8 million for this one?

Next weekend is kind of a wash with no “major” releases, so “Fate of the Furious” and “Boss Baby” and “Beauty and the Beast” have two full weeks before summer truly starts to finish making their money. “Baby” and “Beast” should add another $8-9 million to their bottom lines this weekend.

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Movie Review: It’s “Unforgettable” because we’ve seen all this before

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“Unforgettable” lets the hated Katherine Heigl stop pretending she was ever going to be “America’s Sweetheart” and wear her resting bitch face with pride.

As a filthy-rich ex-wife hellbent on getting her husband and family back, she has the regal posture of the riding classes, born in designer clothes and perfect makeup. She combs her perfect hair, then combs her daughter’s  so obsessively that you just know she’s an upper crust psychopath.

“Now you’re perfect, just like Mommy!”

And we buy it. Boy do we buy it.

The movie may be nothing more than your standard love triangle, with its scheme-by-scheme, crime-by-crime set up for a third act cat fight, but Heigl and Rosario Dawson are well-matched foes, women willing to throw down and draw blood over the man they both love.

The guy? Well, generic chiseled hunk Geoff Stults (TV’s “Odd Couple”) doesn’t suggest “unforgettable” or “irresistible,” but that’s always where this sort of thriller loses points.

Dawson is Julia, an online story editor for a magazine, leaving that life behind for her new man. We’re told that she was a domestic abuse victim, and that her abuser’s been in jail and he’s about to get out.

She’s motivated to slip out of town and “start over.”

David (Stults) is a wealthy, successful something-or-other who’s starting a micro-brewery (little late for that) living just inland from those “Big Little Lies” richies. Julia fits right into his showplace house, with his darling shared-custody daughter.

Yeah, it’s like she’s living the ex-wife’s life. So when they meet, she offers reassurances.

“I get it,” she says.

“No, you couldn’t possibly.

And any assurances that Tessa, the ex will “calm down” are, we know, a joke. She can’t calm down. She’s wrapped too tightly for that.

Things start to go wrong for Julia —  phone misplaced, a ring lost, a future step-daughter escaping into a carnival crowd.

And everywhere she turns in this enclave of wealth, they run into Tessa.

Undermined, isolated, suspected and accused, she is alarmed. She turns testy at Tessa. And it’s on.

“I hope I’m not interrupting.”

“Then why are you HERE?”

But there’s no mystery to this thriller, and little suspense. The entire story is framed in flashback, after a crime. We know who’s survived.

unf1The cameras stalks Julia, but the editing isn’t above delivered the occasional cheap fright — a dark night, a shadow slipping by a window. But the script and producer-now-a-director Denise Di Novi (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and TV’s “Beaches”) want to explain everything, spoon-feed it to us, to wholly give away motives and back story. When you meet Tessa’s mom (Cheryl Ladd), you understand all.

You give away the mystery, you make the movie lean too hard on its implausibilities. Well, we DO tend to keep WAY too much personal data on our cell-phones. Get into somebody’s phone, you get into their head.

There’s soap opera-styled over-sharing, and the picture is peopled with stock characters; the funny best-friend-from-work (comic actress Whitney Cummings) whom Julia confides in, the mother-whose-behavior-explains-her-daughter’s.

But Dawson makes us believe how overmatched Julia feels, and Heigl’s “Mommy Dearest meets Fatal Attraction” turn is real mustache-twirling villainy. What will she do to get back what was hers? What WON’T she do?

If this hits, and it could, we could see a whole new chapter in Heigl’s struggling, diva-damaged big screen career. No more frothy, ill-conceived romances, just scary Joan Crawford/Barbara Stanwyck/Bette Davis/Theresa Russell minxes, black widows and back-stabbers. She’s already the movie star America loves to hate? Why not get paid for it?

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MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, violence, some language, and brief partial nudity

Cast: Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, Cheryl Ladd

Credits:Directed by Denise Di Novi, script by Christina Hodson, David Leslie Johnson . A  Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 1:40

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Movie Review: “NOLA Circus” is a Big Easy bust that makes comedy look hard

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With all the money Louisiana has poured into film incentives over the past decade and a half, it’s a little shocking that so little cinema has come out of the bayou that gives us a real flavor of the place.

Most glaringly, there’s no comic equivalent of say, a “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” A poor state that is giving away several fortunes to movie makers hasn’t managed to produce a comedy that feels, sounds and tastes like New Orleans. There’s an audience for that, a crying need for it.

And for the first ten minutes or so, “NOLA Circus,” an indie Afro-centric “barbershop” comedy set around Algiers Point, makes you think, “This could BE that movie.”

Then the “circus” part kicks in, a mad collage of racists, drug dealers, stereotypes and dull writing, and the movie’s wit evaporates like a cold drink on a hot day.

There are two competing barbershops, one run by our politically-active, Rosa Parks-worshiping, Afro-rocking narrator, Will (Martin Bats Bradford of “Free State of Jones”). Marvin’s, across the street, is run by the disreputable Marvin the Scissors (Vas Blackwood) and his two physically distinct brothers, Happy the Big Ears and Con the Anaconda.

Will quotes Martin Luther King Jr., thinks of his hair as a political statement and is popular because of it. Even singer Eryka Badu is a fan.

Marvin? He collects snatches of hair, and not from “up there.” Good thing his drug-dealing girlfriend (Kamille McCuin) isn’t wise to that — yet.

 

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But Will is playing with fire, too, and not just with the politics. (The film’s opening scene has a trio of high-voiced Klansmen raiding his shop and threatening him.) Will is sneaking around with the vivacious Nola (Jessica Morali). And the only way he avoids a brutal beating from her over-protective, white-haired psychotic brother Denzel (Reginal Varice) is to put him off the scent.

Telling Denzel he thinks Nola is sleeping around with a pizza delivery guy gets every Italian-surnamed pie-maker in the parish a beating. Giuseppe (Ricky Wayne) isn’t standing for that. In a racist tirade for his fellow Italians, he screams for the blood of Denzel. And that can mean only one thing. Call the family’s “made man.”

“Get Enzo!”

Writer-director Luc Annest throws potent street drugs, random comic nudity, two women dressing as Playboy bunnies robbing/kidnapping the city’s richest and whitest and dueling stammerers at us.

Yeah, he’s seen every Spike Lee movie ever made, starting with Spike’s debut, “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads.” The thing is, Annest didn’t discover what made the funniest ones work.

Bradford makes a likable scoundrel, but Annest abandons his most interesting character for long interludes — often violent — involving drug deals, peripheral character comic melodramatics and the like. Will is the cause of all this mayhem, and while his comeuppance is coming, we’re treated to some pretty nasty Italian stereotypes and some generally unfunny African American ones.

Annest fills the screen with printed explanations of this street drug or that haircut or, um, “yoga.” He delivers a wedding, an opera audition and a Kevin Smith-worthy exploration of the relative lengths of tongues and penises.

Some moments might make you smirk. But there’s little that makes you laugh. Denzel’s unwarranted beatdowns are too severe, Nola herself is a short-skirted blank slate and Will is seriously under-developed as a character in the process.

“Barbershop” comedies are ensemble pieces, so this could have worked, in spite of all that. But the one-liners, the situations and the buffoonish caricature-characters just aren’t there, comedically. As for “flavor,” Annest whiffs on that quite thoroughly. Showing a New Orleans street band, with natural sound, in one scene in which he dubs in generic soul music betrays a lack of effort to land a public domain jazz tune, or sloppy inattention to detail.

And there’s one big thing any aspiring African American filmmaker should figure out in studying movies set within the community, aimed primarily at that audience. Every such film with a pun in the title (NOLA is both a character, and an abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana), from “Jason’s Lyric” to “Just Wright,” just sucks.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: unrated, with gun violence, beatings, nudity, profanity, drug humor

Cast: Martin Bats Bradford, Jessica Morali, Vas Blackwood, Kamille, McCuin, Ricky Wayne, Lucius Baston, Dave Davis

Credits: Written and directed by Luc Annest. An XLRator release.

Running time: 1:29

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Movie Review: Disney celebrates the People’s Republic of Pandas in “Born in China”

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When you think of the wonders of nature, chances are China isn’t the first place that probably pops to mind.

Its vast population and 75 years of Communist oppression, censorship and recent years of resource-devouring expansionism and regional muscle-flexing can make us forget that the cutest critters on Earth, pandas, call it their home.

So “Born in China,” this year’s Earth Day offering from Disney’s documentary division, DisneyNature, is something of an eye opener. Those 1.4 billion people — including including the seven million of occupied Tibet — live mostly in cities. That leaves vast mountain wildernesses, high, sparsely-populated plateaus whose pristine rivers feature breathtaking waterfalls, deserts and bamboo forests for wildlife.

The film, narrated by John Krasinski, sets out to tell us about red-crowned cranes, Tibetan antelope (not named “Tibetan” here, but “chiru”), golden monkeys, snow leopards and pandas. But since birds and antelope aren’t particularly cuddly, Lu Chuan’s film settles in on a panda mom and her cub, a snow leopard and her two cubs, and a tweenage monkey trying to find his place in “the family.”

Dawa, the snow leopard, lives on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the “highest in the world,” we’re reminded. What we’re not told is the “Tibet” part of the name. It’s an arid, wild place where mountain goats and the calves of domesticated yaks are the snow leopard’s prey. Not marmots, Krasinski jokes. Too funny looking. Bigger game.

“In Dawa’s world, you must take life to give life,” Krasinski narrates. Disney never tires of reminding us of “The Circle of Life.”

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The film makes the point that leopards and pandas being solitary animals, the mothers dote on their children, just for the company. The snow leopard frolics are cute, the panda footage as adorable as you might expect.

Mei Mei, the baby panda, tumbles down hills, tries and fails (a lot) to climb trees as her mom coddles, tugs at and plays with her in the full knowledge that she’s growing up and moving away someday soon, leaving mom alone again, nibbling her “40 pounds of bamboo a day, 40 POUNDS” in solitude.

The golden monkeys live in extended families that viewers of any nature doc about primates will recognize — a patriarch, lots of females collaborating (comically) to raise the young, adolescent males banished to live in a pack all their own. Disney calls those males “The Lost Boys,” (of course) which is where Tau Tau, the monkey, spends his time.

There are predators — wolves, goshawks. And there is death, mostly off-camera. This is Disney, after all. Let the BBC have nature snuff films all to itself.

It’s a lovely, informative movie that flirts with cloying, but never quite gets there. It was also made with Chinese money and participation, and Disney desires to curry favor in the People’s Republic. That can be felt in every effort to erase “Tibet” from human memory.

Krasinski’s light voice works best in actorly interjections — “Whoa!” and the like. But he often sounds like he’s reading, and when he’s reading he might as well be selling car insurance on TV.

G-rated and very short, “Born in China” is padded with a long, funny and revealing behind-the-scenes closing credits.

All in all, it’s an eye-opening offering from DisneyNature, even with the Chinese pandering, Chinese spin and image-burnishing we can sense was part of the package.

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MPAA Rating: G
Cast: The voice of John Krasinski
Credits: Directed by Lu Chuan, written by David Fowler, Brian Leith. A DisneyNature release.
Running time:  1:12

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Movie Review: “Fate of the Furious”? To be in a film series that never improves and never ends

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Eight films into the “Fast and Furious” franchise, this much is clear. These movies, especially the latest, “The Fate of the Furious,” are not to every taste.

For all the action beats, the over-the-top digitally-augmented car chases, the trash-talk one-liners and the warm fuzzies over “You never turn your back on family,” they’re stupid. The new one? Colossally stupid.

But if you’re in the mood for a cartoon car thriller that defies the laws of logic, smart dialogue, honest plotting and physics, well friend, have we got the movie for you.

“Fate” adds Oscar winners to the cast, Havana and Siberia (OK, Iceland) to the locations and nothing at all to the formula of cars, capers, supervillains, one-liners and “hug it out” “family” conflict.

Still, give director F. Gary Gray credit. He edits Vin Diesel into a passable performance, knows how to film a fight and “fix” a car chase in a computer — or knows how to hire people who do — and tipped the makeup crew so that everybody, from Charlize Theron and Dwayne Johnson to Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell and a certain regal cameo has never looked prettier.

Dom Toretto (Diesel) is on his Havana honeymoon, racing for vintage Cuban pink slips when the cyber-crook known as Cipher (Theron) whispers menacing nothings in his ear. Next thing you know, he’s “gone rogue,” and his old team, led by Detective Hobbs (Johnson) and augmented by an ex-con they thought they’d put away (Jason Statham) are commissioned by Mr. Nobody (Russell) to bring him in.

A weapon’s been stolen which could lead to an “instant stone age,” in terms of digital civilization. The surveillance hack called “God’s Eye” tracks everyone and everything who might try to get that Electro-Magnetic Pulse generator back. And Dom is on the clock, stealing stuff that the whispering, leggy villainess Cipher needs to complete her dastardly plan.

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The plot takes us into prison, where Hobbs and the Brit brawler Deckard (Statham) swap tasty trash talk in adjacent glass-walled cells. Hobbs, in his prison-orange jumpsuit, doesn’t agree that this is “a good color on you.”

“It’ll look better with your BLOOD on it!”

Later, it’s “That tight t-shirt is cutting off blood to your brain.”

The script panders to the lead characters shamelessly, giving fans big Diesel and Rodriguez smiles, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris barbed banter filled with disrespect and Johnson a hilarious bit where he’s taught his daughter’s soccer team a pre-game Maori war chant.

But most of the action is this or that character knuckling a gear-shifter and grimacing “I GOT this,” dialogue filled with “That’s not GOOD” and “Guys, we’ve got snow mobiles on our right!” The plot ranges from wildly implausible to simply not possible.

But there is one alarming sequence that gives a new twist to “product placement.” Self-driveable cars are hack/hijacked for a heist that you’d figure car companies would PAY to be left out of. Not Jeep, Fiat, VW, Toyota or Dodge, though.

There are disposable characters, and not just the villain’s minions. But one of the dumber elements of these movies is how so few of the actual leads, friend or foe, from previous pictures seem to stay dead. Only Paul Walker has truly exited the franchise. Maybe Djimon Hounsou doesn’t need the money to make a soap opera return.

That also happens in cartoons. In this Charger, Challenger, Bentley, Lamborghini, Corvette and Mercedes world, it’s not just the coyote who comes back to life after a beat down. The Road Runner gets its time in the body shop, too.

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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language

Cast: Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell
Credits: Directed by F. Gary Gray, written by Ch.  A Universal release.
Running time: 2:12

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Movie Review: Man hunts down myth in “The Lost City of Z”

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Major Percy Fawcett was a peripheral figure among that last gasp of stiff-upper-lip British explorers, a tragic figure who set out to find something exciting in one of the last great blank spots on the map — Amazonia.

He disappeared making one last trek into the jungle to find proof of a forgotten civilization in a place the old men of the Royal Geographic Society had permanently labeled “a green desert.”

But one of the truths to emerge from “The Lost City of Z,” David Grann’s book about Fawcett’s search, is that this hunt wasn’t about discovery as much as it was about proving one’s self worth. A throwback figure like Fawcett was a Victorian in an Edwardian age, a man with a stain on his family’s honor who sought, by a years-long pursuit involving bravery, suffering and audacity, to reclaim for his descendants their place in Britain’s rigid hierarchy.

Charlie Hunnam (“Crimson Peak,” “Pacific Rim”) is Fawcett, an Army officer we meet on a stag hunt in 1903. His competitiveness gains notice among all the right people.

But “He’s been rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors,” one of the most withering self-admissions ever to come out of the “Downton Abbey” generation.

Fawcett is keenly aware of this fact himself, even if he isn’t as touchy about his sissy first name. He’d like his regal wife (Sienna Miller) and their growing brood of children to grow up without that cloud (his father’s ill-repute) hanging over them. And when the Army drops a dangerous job on his lap, the Royal Geographical Society swells aren’t shy about dangling “save your family name” in front of him.

He is to map the rubber-plantation destined border between Bolivia and Brazil as an objective third party, saving South America from another brushfire war between neighbors.

Joining him is a dissolute aide de camp, Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson). They inelegantly meet, which infuriates Fawcett, who has staked his “reputation as a man” on this quest.

But once in the jungle, the two come to rely on one another as they pass each square of the Jungle Movie Jeopardy board game. Treacherous rubber barons, a mission that the government has second thoughts about, suspicious natives, “primitive” tribal ambushes, an unyielding river and unrelenting rain play into it all.

It is while dodging snakes, starvation and jaguars that Fawcett sees signs of pottery that suggest to him “cities,” walls of skulls and carvings that might be hallucinations, or might be proof of what he comes to call “The Lost City of Zed.” He is English, after all.

His quest to find that city consumes decades, traveling back and forth to Britain just long enough to re-impregnate his wife, raise interest in return trips and fight in the Great War.

Director James Gray (“The Immigrant,” “Two Lovers”) stripped away the archaeology of the book and zeroes in on class and the romance of this quest for name-defining fame, which consumed Fawcett and drew in his eldest son, and upon the mystery, for which Gray presents something of a solution.

The script highlights the usual proto-environmentalist/socially ahead of his time touches to Fawcett, who contends with vestiges of slavery, British racism about “primitives” on another “Dark Continent,” cultural and rain forest destruction and a class war that he is hellbent on winning.

Angus Macfadyen is the face of this last fight, and makes a properly game amateur explorer whose name and money give him access to exploits his constitution is ill-suited for.

The direction is confident and thoughtful, but not brisk. There’s little epic about the look of this “Fitzcarraldo” for our times, either. A more immersive, rainy picture was called for, and a little of the archaeology (a civilization made of wood will leave little behind) would have helped.

Brad Pitt eyed this project when the book came out, and he has a producer credit on a picture the accomplished, sturdy but somewhat less charismatic Hunnam must hold together. It’s easy to see why Pitt wanted to do it, and why he passed on it.

Miller has done her best work over the past five years, and she gives more to the plucky, stuck-at-home wife, than the role gives back.

The real revelation here is Pattinson, donning a bushy beard to play a crusty second banana, at long last liberated from the demands of a “Twilight” matinee idol. He growls and swallows his lines, wears loyalty in his eyes (Costin follows Fawcett into WWI) and gets across military competence in way you’d never have guessed when his face was covered in vampire glitter.

Tom Holland, the new Spider-Man, is a bit young to play Fawcett’s oldest son, Jack, as an adult who insists on getting to know his dad by sharing his quest for exploration vindication and family fame.

 

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“Lost City” aims for a sort of new-fashioned old-fashioned approach to this subject, and that unfortunately makes it more Earthbound than soaring, more pedestrian than epic.

But Hunnam, Miller and Pattinson and the estates of Ireland and jungles of Colombia make fine impressions in a story that is less about making history and more about passing a horrific test you give yourself in order to prove you’re better than “they” will ever give you credit for.

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MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson

Credits: Written and directed by James Gray, based on the David Grann book. A Bleecker St./Amazon Studios release.

Running time: 2:21

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Gaga “Star is Born,” a first peek

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A truly novel way to remake “A Star is Born” would be to flip genders in the casting, pair up an alcoholic/addict fading lady star with a hot new male talent who must deal with fame and falling in love with the one person who can help his career, a famous, abusive drunk.

Why am I seeing J. Lo in that part? Too on the nose? Not that’s she’s abusing. Abusive, maybe. Harry Styles or some such as the rising star. Better yet, cast it younger, all the way round. ADELE as the burnout, Styles as a more calculating sleep-your-way-to-stardom toy boy.

But can any version work in our cynical “good-for-the-brand dating” age? Can “A Star is Born” and Coachella and the Kardashians and Orlando Bloom exist in the same epoch?

Whatever. “Star” is a remake without guilt. Whatever status the previous versions enjoy, the passage of time renders them moot, and fading memories (even of the Judy Garland/James Mason version from ’54) make this fair game. Old fashioned, with a lot of past-expiration-date gender role issues to work out, clunky, a “story” that has always depended on killer performances –and since Garland, singing performances — to get by, expectations can be happily lowered for anything great coming out of pairing Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga for this new version.

This first image, from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta’s Instagram account, resonates with the 1976 Streisand/Kristofferson rendition of the oft-told tale. Yeah, the big-voiced, attention-sucking shock value seeking Gaga looks winsome and eager enough. Cooper? A taller Scott Stapp, as more than one wag has noted.

Cooper gets to direct, for his trouble. Sam Elliott is in it. And the movie is coming out on the cusp of awards season — Sept. 2018. For what that’s worth.

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Netflix explains its Adam Sandler fixation

sandlerThe moronic comedies of Adam Sandler have long been a cultural punch line. The ridicule has been steady and merciless, with only the odd Sandler hangers-on (“The Dan Patrick Show”) refusing to acknowledge the obvious.

The guy is comically/dramatically as limited as any “star” the movies have created.  He jokingly calls himself a moron, which doesn’t defuse the obvious — that his movies are moronic, funny only to the chemically altered or challenged.

Critics pound him like a nail stuck in concrete — repeatedly, with growing frustration.

But one of the little mercies of recent years has been that his audience of the undiscriminating has aged out of the movie-going habit. That’s consigned them, and now him, to Netflix, where his dreadful half-an-idea comic concoctions directed by and packed with cronies (Spade, Quinn, Nick Swardson, Rob Schneider for a while, Dan Patrick, et al) might have a more natural home. His fans aren’t going out any more.

Netflix has now explained their desire to keep his career going past the point where Hollywood saw no need. They’ve streamed or rented 500 million showings of his movies since 2015, they said in a release which The Verge sees as a sign of the apocalypse, or at least evidence of Sandler’s enduring, appalling appeal.

They’re not all watching “Spanglish” or “Funny People” or “Punch Drunk Love,” I’ll wager. Nope. “Little Nicky” and “Grown-Ups” and “Blended” and “Jack and Ill” (his worst ever), “Happy Gilmore” and “Billy Madison” and “The Waterboy” probably dominate that data.

Anyway, after “Ridiculous Six” I found the need to watch Sandler’s ongoing slack of effort (ahem) pointless. The roundly, soundly pounded faux Tarantino “Western” (actually, more on the money than QT cultists would like to believe) was it for me. It’s not like reviews have ever kept anybody away from Sandler & Co., anyway. “Sandy Wexler” is his latest. No doubt the mouth-breathers have tracked it down and streamed it to death.

But this data from Netflix does give one pause.  People are staying home, watching the Sandman, refusing to outgrow him the way his characters refuse to grow up. He should run for office.

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