Skip to main content

You’re like a human mummy!

The Lost City

(SPOILERS) Perhaps the most distressing part of The Lost City, a Romancing the Stone riff that appears to have been packaged by the Hollywood equivalent of a processed cheese plant lacking its primary ingredient (that would be additives), is the possibility that Daniel Radcliffe is the only viable actor left standing in Tinseltown. That’s if the suggestions at least two of the performers here – Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt – are deep faked in some way, shape or form, and the other name – Channing Tatum – is serving hard atonement time. If the latter’s choices generally weren’t so abysmal and his talent in arears, I’d assume that was the only explanation for him showing up in this dreck.

Loretta: You brought a scented candle into the jungle?

Whatever the plausibility of such scuttlebutt, The Lost City appears to have been intentionally designed to test the patience of even the least-jaded, most ardent devotee of production-line remakes, sequels and focus-tested fare. It may not be a sequel, but if feels like one, and a cheap cash-in one at that. If they were going to make a movie largely on soundstages and render their leads looking at least ten years younger than they are (Bullock is 57 and Pitt is 58, or they were), why not just go the whole hog and de-age Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas for that long-awaited third Romancing movie (variously The Crimson Eagle/ Racing the Monsoon)? And yes, I know it says they shot in the Dominican Republic, but directors Aaron and Adam Nee, in concert with David Leitch’s cinematographer Jonathan Sela (so familiar with all that rigorous effects work) offer four-square TV-production values, and whenever there’s a vista-vision long shot, it looks like it was conjured by a budget-conscious effects house.

Alan: Don’t do mean stuff on a bike.

If it’s the case that Hollywood is making productions with avatars of now hauled-off celebs (see Guantanamo Hanks in various upcoming productions), it certainly fits that Bullock and Pitt’s next – released, but shot first – movie Money Train is also with cinematographer Sela (and director Leitch). In contrast to Bullock who has said – conveniently – “I'm not retiring, just going to not spend time in front of the camera for a while” (see also Jim Carrey), Pitt’s a busy beaver, meanwhile, with Babylon and a pairing with Guantanamo-friendly George Clooney scheduled.

Audience Member: Can you rip off Dash’s shirt?

Such alleged disparity between truth and perception is, in its own cack-handed way, a theme of the movie. Popular rumour holds that if anyone – as opposed to simply everyone – in Hollywood is inverted, it’s Bullock (per her allusive surname), who hails from a military family and had a German rocket scientist for a grandpops. Here, her romance-adventure novel author Loretta Sage is being packaged as someone she isn’t at the outset; Patti Harrison’s Allison has been employed as her social media manager and is immediately interacting as Loretta (“You have to remind the fans why they love you so much”). And then there’s the bit of business with Loretta’s sheer glitter jumpsuit, focusing on her crotch as if we’re in a Carry On (she’s instructed “don’t touch it” – her “wedgie” – and “Get it out now, cos you can’t do that on stage”).

Loretta: You do know you’re not Dash, right?

No one’s likely to mistake Tatum for a rocket scientist (unlike Bullock’s grandpops), so he makes for a fairly plausible lumbering narcissist; at its most basic level, though, the movie is presenting Alan Caprison as a (near) complete antithesis of his swoonsome fictional alter-ego Dash McMahon (Alan is a cover model for Loretta’s fictional hero). He’s inept and ill-prepared for any heroic encounters, yet he will still reprimand Loretta for dismissing her novels as “schlock” as it disrespects the fans: “I imagine you of all people would know not to judge a book by its cover” he tells Loretta. Or should that be Bullock? Who also tells him “I am a woman. I can’t mansplain anything”.

Abigail: You have a hamster’s asshole?

Elsewhere, Radcliffe shows up as billionaire Abigail Fairfax; his conviction that “It’s a gender-neutral name” (like his brother Leslie) at least seems to be taking the piss. Radcliffe is woeful, as he is in everything (sorry, Harry Potter fans), and the idea that he’d be a good fit for the lead in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is… boggling. There’s admittedly a decent joke at his expense, courtesy of Da’Vine Joy Randolph (as Loretta’s publicist Beth): “I thought he was a little boy, but he has a full beard”. So Radcliffe may be a good sport, but he’s far from a great thesp.

Loretta: Why are you so handsome?
Jack: My dad was a weatherman.

The above is also a rare good line too; Pitt comes on with Legends of the Fall hair, and the (decent) gag of his super-skilled action guy, former Navy SEAL and CIA man Jack Trainer – also Harrison Ford’s character in Working Girl – having his brains inopportunely blown out is rather soured by his return in an end credits cameo where he professes his survival is down to our using only ten percent of our brains (“Naturally, I have some anger issues”).

Loretta: Did you say shortcut through the jungle?

Trainer makes some allusions to elite practices of the Dangerous Game/The Hunt/kind of thing that goes on at the estates of Belgian royals: “Doesn’t sound like a ransom scenario. Unless it’s blood sport, Hunger Games situation. Possibly some dark web, coke-fuelled stuff. Real clown shit”. As opposed simply to “Weird sex stuff like Taken”. Trainer also requests payment in cryptocurrency, so we’re pretty up-to-date and relevant.

Allison: History had a lot of nudity.

Furthering the theme of artifice, Loretta’s novels are accused of representing “fake history at its worst”. She objects to this, as she only resorted to romance fiction when her serious work on “Spanish colonisation in the Atlantic” was rejected; this is still “Real history with a bit more nudity”. Her actual research – as presented in The Crown of Fire – results in her kidnapping by Abigail, who “found the city on a forgotten island in the middle of the Atlantic” (obviously such details are common to the treasure hunt genre, but nevertheless pertinent in terms of forgotten/stolen/rewritten history). Abigail has a “passion for hidden things in the world” (as doubtless do all elite billionaires) but is disappointed to discover Kalman’s Tomb reveals no great score: “It’s a hiding place for a grieving woman”.

Loretta: It’s kind of like picking anchovies off a Caesar salad.

Seth Gordon lives up to his rank resumé (Four Christmases and Identity Thief are among his milestones), although the Nees and Orien Uziel (nothing good) and Dana Fox (Cruella, which was decent, to be fair) are awarded screenplay credit. This was titled the slightly less flavourless The Lost City of D originally, a riff on The Lost City of Z (which was produced by Pitt’s production company, with Pitt originally set to star). Occasional amusing lines can’t make up for the pervading vacuum of inspiration. Heights of “hilarity” included a sequence involving leeches and Tatum’s butt, or his butt double’s (“Why do they go for the butts so much?”) Alan’s profound denseness – “You could be visiting Ancient Greece” he suggests, and later references Gloria “Seinfeld” – makes the intimation of actual romance at the end rather nonsensical (it would be less so, had original choice Ryan Reynolds been available). Pulp-steam line “The hot lava pulsing from his–” invokes Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, but less deliriously. “Are you the one who’s been emailing me for photos of my feet?” may be a poke at Tarantino. Or maybe not.

Loretta: I’m in a glitter straightjacket.

The Lost City can comfortably rub shoulders – or leech-infested buttocks – with another of the year’s deep-fake virtual world movies Death on the Nile, any hint of the exotic buried beneath a digital veneer and reliance on soundstages over locations. It also carries a similar lustre to last year’s archaeological-action-comedy-treasure-hunt-romance extravaganza Jungle Cruise. Which is none at all.

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We could be mauled to death by an interstellar monster!

Star Trek Beyond (2016) (SPOILERS) The odd/even Star Trek failure/success rule seemed to have been cancelled out with the first reboot movie, and then trodden into ground with Into Darkness (which, yes, I quite enjoyed, for all its scandalous deficiencies). Star Trek Beyond gets us back onto more familiar ground, as it’s very identifiably a “lesser” Trek , irrespective of the big bucks and directorial nous thrown at it. This is a Star Trek movie that can happily stand shoulder to shoulder with The Search for Spock and Insurrection , content in the knowledge they make it look good.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar. Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins , and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch , in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whet

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

There is a war raging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur.

The X-Files 5.14: The Red and the Black The most noteworthy aspect of this two parter is that it almost – but not quite – causes me to reassess my previous position that the best arc episodes are those that avoid tackling the greater narrative head-on, attempting to advance the resistant behemoth. It may be less than scintillating as far as concepts go, but the alien resistance plot is set out quite clearly here, as are the responses to it from the main players.