The Lost City of Z: Dullness on the Amazon

(out of 4)

Movies about adventures in the wild have a long and intimidating pedigree. Well before Leonardo DiCaprio got himself mauled by a bear in 2015’s The Revenant, after all, you had Peter O’Toole floating on the desert sand in Lawrence of Arabia, Klaus Kinski glaring at his wearied soldiers in Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and Marlon Brando whispering about “the horror” in Apocalypse Now. Despite their vast differences in setting and historical period, each of these films spoke in some way to the power of human obsession, the insatiable desire people can acquire for an object or ideal that may not even be attainable. In those stories, the wild became something simultaneously fascinating and deadly, a place where great ambitions and schemes ran up against nature’s unsparing limits.

Unfortunately, whatever wilderness you encounter in the new “adventure” movie The Lost City of Z turns out to be anything but fascinating or deadly. Continue reading

Your Name: Anime Glitz

*** (out of 4)

Last August, while Suicide Squad, Sausage Party, and Don’t Breathe were perched atop the North American box office, a different sort of movie fever was taking ahold of Japan. Your Name, an anime about a boy named Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and a girl named Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) who find themselves suddenly “switching” bodies, opened to become the most financially successful anime film of all time, beating out established classics like Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Only this past weekend has it finally made it across the Pacific to North American theaters, and its arrival has been met with fervent acclaim from American reviewers: several of them have gone so far as to declare that director Makoto Shinkai has a claim to being “the next” Hayao Miyazaki.

When you consider just how much there is to take in on the movie’s surface, it’s not hard to see why people are so ecstatic. Continue reading