Critics Consensus

Lost City of Z and Fargo Season 3 Are Certified Fresh

Plus, Free Fire is explosive fun, The Promise is a missed opportunity, Born in China is effectively educational, and Unforgettable is... pretty forgettable.

by | April 20, 2017 | Comments

This week at the movies, we have a stately Amazon adventure (The Lost City of Z, starring Charlie Hunnam and Tom Holland), an 85-minute gunfight (Free Fire, starring Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy), lovers in a dangerous time (The Promise, starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale), a Disneynature look at China’s cuddliest residents (Born in China, narrated by John Krasinski), a marriage threatened by the machinations of a jealous ex (Unforgettable, starring Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson), and UFOs over the desert (Phoenix Forgotten, starring Florence Hartigan and Chelsea Lopez). What are the critics saying?


The Lost City of Z (2017) 86%


Exotic danger, a forgotten people, one man determined to press on against seemingly insurmountable odds — The Lost City of Z offers a variation on the classic noble explorer’s story, with one crucial twist: it’s all based on reality. Inspired by David Grann’s hit nonfiction book of the same name, Lost City dramatizes the incredible exploits of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), whose adventures in the Amazon turned up evidence suggesting the region was once home to a hitherto unknown great lost civilization. A stately drift downriver from the whip-cracking Indiana Jones-style adventure that thrill-seeking film fans might expect, this sweeping historical epic takes a thoughtfully old-fashioned approach to a genre all too often exploited for cheap thrills — and most critics agree it pays handsome dividends. Whether you’re in the mood for gorgeous cinematography, fact-based drama, or simply a movie that reminds us of the incredible things we can achieve when we refuse to give up on a dream, The Lost City of Z is worth seeking out this weekend.


Free Fire (2017) 69%


Cinema can be uniquely thought-provoking, but sometimes, you just want to watch a movie that puts a bunch of gun-toting maniacs in a building and lets the bullets fly. Filmgoers with just such a hankering can now head out to Free Fire, the latest from Kill List director Ben Wheatley — and as you’d expect given its pedigree, this is an action thriller that offers ample bang for one’s buck. Wheatley’s rounded up a talented ensemble cast (including Brie Larson and Armie Hammer) to imagine the bullet-riddled shenanigans that might erupt if an arms deal went awry between a homicidally volatile group of people, and while a number of critics have pointed out that the end results might not be completely original, most agree that the experience is still plenty of fun. If you’re looking for a shoot-’em-up this weekend, Free Fire should satisfy.


The Promise (2017) 51%


Director Terry George proved his knack for fact-based historical drama with In the Name of the Father and Hotel Rwanda, which probably has at least a little to do with why he was able to round up Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale for The Promise — and why this look back at the last days of the Ottoman Empire seemed like a sure bet for one of the year’s first prestige-picture hits. Alas, critics say George has fallen short of the mark this time around; while the cast is great and the real-life story is powerful, The Promise neglects to use it as much more than the backdrop for a fairly uninspired love triangle. If it teaches a few people about the horrors of genocide, it’ll still be a worthy entry in the actors’ filmographies, but the chances we’ll be talking about this movie come awards season seem very low.


Disneynature: Born In China (2017) 85%


Disneynature and Earth Day have become an annual tradition, and this weekend, Born in China continues it with a colorful introduction to the flora and fauna native to the titular nation. If you’ve watched previous Disneynature releases like African Cats or Chimpanzee, you know what to expect here: beautifully filmed up-close looks at wildlife, usually accompanied by voiceover narration (provided here by The Office vet John Krasinski), all in service of a nonfiction narrative balancing the dangers facing our natural world against our reasons to hope for the future. Critics say Born in China accomplishes those goals reasonably well, and although it works better as a series of stunning images than a narrative — and your tolerance for anthropomorphism had better be high — it all adds up to another of the studio’s heartwarming animal adventures.


Unforgettable (2017) 28%


Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, or so the saying goes, although there’s also something to be said for the fury of a film critic forced to watch another jealousy-fueled thriller pitting woman against woman in a catfight to the finish. Unforgettable, starring Katherine Heigl as a bitter ex-wife conniving to make life miserable for her ex-husband’s new bride (Rosario Dawson), has all the Lifetime-ready ingredients that would seem to make it ripe for a critical bashing — yet in the context of the genre and general expectations, the reviews have actually been surprisingly kind. Admittedly, the pundits haven’t exactly been effusive in their praise, and more than a few have pointed out that plenty of other movies have done this sort of thing far more effectively, but Heigl and Dawson breathe enough life into their roles to make Unforgettable marginally better than expected. On balance, it’s still more “bad” than “so bad it’s good,” but it’s been awhile since a major movie indulged in this level of glossy camp; if that’s your thing, feel free to seek out a screening — the closer to midnight, the better.


Phoenix Forgotten (2017) 45%


It’s been far too long since Hollywood brought us a classic alien abduction movie, but there’s reason to hope that Phoenix Forgotten might be the UFO thriller to end the drought. Inspired by an incident that made real-life headlines 20 years ago, it comes shrouded in decades of allegedly factual mystery — just the sort of thing that sends tingles down the spines of genre aficionados jonesing for a close encounter of the big-screen kind. Unfortunately, it wasn’t screened for critics, so we can’t tell you whether Phoenix Forgotten is worth checking out; in the meantime, we’ll just have to make do with another round of Guess the Tomatometer.


What’s New on TV

Fargo: Season 3 (2017) 93%

Thanks in part to a memorable dual performance from Ewan McGregor, Fargo mostly maintains the sly wit and off-kilter sensibility it displayed in its first two seasons.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

Tag Cloud

Adult Swim Infographic Columbia Pictures Image Comics Brie Larson universal monsters series Nominations Super Bowl concert Superheroes die hard DC Comics Cannes indiana jones popular ID name the review transformers rotten San Diego Comic-Con Discovery Channel BET space TCA 2017 Quiz Pop TV Thanksgiving Sundance Now spider-man Awards Christmas Western teaser period drama YouTube Red foreign know your critic comics saw Star Trek cats BBC cooking Music nfl discovery Pride Month TV Land werewolf french Academy Awards Winter TV Nickelodeon documentary sports casting free movies Comic-Con@Home 2021 medical drama Trivia remakes TCA twilight SDCC Writers Guild of America hispanic Lifetime boxoffice best zero dark thirty Rocky dramedy E3 comedies 72 Emmy Awards Drama video on demand sequels zombie finale romantic comedy APB ratings news cars Binge Guide Freeform black blockbusters HBO kaiju The Arrangement comiccon Turner Classic Movies emmy awards Calendar supernatural DGA Tomatazos Trophy Talk independent talk show TLC jamie lee curtis dragons Apple ABC CBS All Access Animation superman Rock Shondaland Teen films slashers Funimation 2017 24 frames james bond pirates of the caribbean Arrowverse stoner Spike TV movies Women's History Month Biopics Holiday asian-american dogs Amazon Prime Video TV Lifetime Christmas movies mutant book adaptation Emmy Nominations target The CW CW Seed Warner Bros. ABC Family mockumentary Superheroe canceled TV shows screenings psychological thriller kids RT History Red Carpet Comics on TV TruTV comic Broadway Country FXX game of thrones comic books classics Baby Yoda aliens hidden camera Fantasy 2020 Apple TV Plus green book First Look facebook Spring TV USA Network The Academy SXSW A&E Chernobyl History Certified Fresh IFC Television Critics Association Winners adaptation AMC Pirates LGBT cancelled television south america Horror indie thriller cancelled TV shows Awards Tour Comedy Central telelvision 21st Century Fox DirecTV dceu FX on Hulu USA women CMT travel docudrama live action breaking bad Family ITV dark theme song festivals razzies true crime Hallmark Christmas movies composers ghosts sag awards Pet Sematary natural history Emmys romance Britbox harry potter Mudbound zombies 71st Emmy Awards adenture Turner TBS Ovation new zealand Black History Month unscripted anime adventure crime drama Food Network cops 1990s Masterpiece parents ViacomCBS latino Elton John 2021 legend Video Games Tubi GIFs cancelled TV series Holidays Mary poppins Marvel Studios OneApp Watching Series Tokyo Olympics godzilla witnail BBC America American Society of Cinematographers crossover cults Valentine's Day hollywood Captain marvel vampires WarnerMedia Kids & Family criterion Universal kong The Purge what to watch TV renewals Crunchyroll documentaries Alien social media Exclusive Video venice king arthur Esquire mission: impossible suspense Martial Arts NBA TIFF TV One TCA Winter 2020 war The Witch historical drama dc Bravo Reality Competition franchise Vudu spanish spain screen actors guild Best and Worst Summer Star Wars Marathons stand-up comedy political drama Film Countdown stop motion Reality Paramount Network Showtime Travel Channel video game show wonder woman Disney+ Disney Plus Paramount Plus new york Fall TV scorecard reboot See It Skip It scary movies Opinion YouTube Tumblr archives FX GoT CBS japan renewed TV shows Podcast new star wars movies anthology Anna Paquin HBO Go CNN lord of the rings Comedy 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Amazon Prime E! deadpool Syfy Pixar high school Pop First Reviews VICE 2019 Polls and Games Avengers Musicals New York Comic Con cinemax FOX biography ABC Signature football police drama rt archives President Comic Book elevated horror crime politics BBC One Starz Song of Ice and Fire monster movies science fiction Sneak Peek strong female leads Disney Channel spanish language joker toronto australia italian richard e. Grant sitcom crime thriller Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Television Academy Disney Sci-Fi HBO Max children's TV based on movie Lucasfilm MSNBC Musical PlayStation versus nature aapi Interview disaster jurassic park TCA Awards golden globe awards singing competition WGN OWN reviews Box Office Toys 45 Schedule 90s Hulu Cartoon Network spy thriller psycho Amazon Oscars Lionsgate Film Festival a nightmare on elm street tv talk international Tarantino Nat Geo Walt Disney Pictures Peacock satire 2015 Mary Tyler Moore halloween Rocketman movie YouTube Premium Mary Poppins Returns animated Black Mirror Apple TV+ Sundance TV Grammys Mystery worst movies blockbuster spinoff 007 Premiere Dates serial killer TCM heist movie christmas movies Sundance The Walking Dead festival halloween tv TNT Sony Pictures Endgame Marvel Television robots Marvel docuseries Fox Searchlight award winner japanese olympics BAFTA Amazon Studios Action Pacific Islander VOD El Rey obituary child's play Netflix 93rd Oscars Cosplay Extras marvel cinematic universe critics MTV Logo diversity Character Guide hist LGBTQ GLAAD Classic Film PaleyFest doctor who directors Shudder rotten movies we love VH1 trailers Paramount rom-coms MCU nbcuniversal YA movies revenge Rom-Com streaming movies Spectrum Originals NYCC Acorn TV Trailer Epix DC streaming service laika 4/20 prank streaming sequel 2018 Fox News all-time fresh superhero television golden globes justice league batman cancelled 20th Century Fox Wes Anderson Ellie Kemper PBS ESPN miniseries Set visit canceled basketball binge X-Men king kong Disney streaming service Hear Us Out Netflix Christmas movies worst 2016 RT21 The Walt Disney Company fast and furious NBC Ghostbusters BET Awards technology Dark Horse Comics Creative Arts Emmys book cartoon Stephen King scene in color chucky A24 National Geographic quibi Legendary toy story blaxploitation Disney Plus Hallmark Crackle Year in Review SundanceTV Heroines Election Chilling Adventures of Sabrina boxing DC Universe Mindy Kaling Photos IFC Films 99%