Movie Round-Up: The Lost City of Z, Snatched, Gifted, The Bad Batch

By | September 28, 2017

Today rounds up a series of films where Anglos are in peril in hostile, lawless lands, including the state of Florida in the case of “Gifted”…

The Bad Batch…In yet another Dystopian vision of America (sigh), former model Suki Waterhouse—whose best performance so far was pretending to love Bradley Cooper for two years while she launched her acting career—gets released into a desert penal colony that houses America’s “Bad Batch,” and she’s quickly captured by cannibals who amputate their victim’s limbs before eventually killing them, to stretch the meat out longer. So in the first 15 minutes we’re treated to a brutal double-amputation, cannibalism, and Waterhouse (who’s now missing an arm and a leg) smearing herself in her own shit as part of an escape. There will be a type of person who feels “The Bad Batch” is an underrated masterpiece and really “says something, you know?” and that type of person will be wrong. Between the pseudo-philosopy, jarring violence, and euphoric pop songs, it’s clear that Ana Lily Amirpour is borrowing as much from David Lynch as “Mad Max,” but everything here just feels like a glib, fetishistic knock-off, capped by a smugly downbeat ending and the fact that the film’s “villain” (Keanu Reeves, playing the type of role Nicolas Cage might have 15 years ago) is actually much, much less odious than the muscle-freak cannibals he’s up against. Grade: D

Snatched…Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn run for their lives after being kidnapped in Ecuador. The movie is sporadically funny—some of Schumer’s one-liners are so out-of-nowhere funny you almost do a double-take, wondering if you really just heard that or it belongs in a funnier film—and well-cast (Schumer, Hawn, and Ike Barinholtz as Schumer’s idiot brother really do look like they could be related), but you just keep hoping for a little more. Although I do think this is the smart-dumb comedy critics always claim to want (it is better than it’s meager 35% on Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe), it’s plot ambles more than it drives and the last two-thirds grow repetitive, awakened only temporarily when Christopher Meloni shows up as a hilariously unhelpful spoof on Michael Douglas’s character in “Romancing the Stone.” Grade: B-

Gifted…A tough call, as I can see the film’s merits a little more clearly than I really fell for them. It’s plot is about the custody battle over a mathematically “gifted” young girl who may grow up to solve a famously tricky equation if her grandmother has anything to say about it. You really do go back and forth wondering if Lindsay Duncan’s ultra-driven grandmother would be a better guardian than Chris Evans’s slovenly uncle Frank, who looks like he can just barely rouse himself from a bar-stool slumber long enough to do anything besides make wisecracks. It’s not a suble film—Octavia Spencer’s “Auntie” figure practically says “oh no you didn’t!” and many of Evans’s wisecracks are beyond corny—and the pacing can feel listless, but people may find they’re crying in spite of themselves. Grade: B-

The Lost City of Z…Charlie Hunnam’s British explorer goes to the Bolivian jungle initially on a surveying mission, but soon finds himself interested in a tale of the mythical title city, which is a supposedly advanced city made out of gold. This is a gorgeous film, and the type of new-historical epic Hollywood has all but given up on. Even some of the film’s flaws (stately pacing, muted dramatics, a feel that is never quite hallucinatory enough given the character’s supposed obsession) would likely overwhelm what director James Gray is going for if he tried to fix them. I think this is Hunnam’s best performance, but there’s no denying that he doesn’t really project the madness and internal obsession his character is supposed to, but what he does accomplish (with Gray) is more a sense of a spiritual journey. You don’t really even believe Hunnam’s explorer—who is diplomatic with Amazon natives in a way his more arrogant society peers have no time for—cares all that much about finding the physical City of Z so much as enjoying a near-intergalactic journey. [Gray emphasizes the stars so much in the night scenes, that you feel Hunnam’s Percy Fawcett likely would’ve been an astronaut if he’d been born a century later.] Grade: A-

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