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) 50%


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) 84%


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) 27%


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) 41%


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

comiccon NBC Columbia Pictures Pirates Year in Review GLAAD casting Polls and Games Extras TLC SundanceTV Britbox TIFF Women's History Month Star Wars doctor who Film Pride Month strong female leads Holidays Interview FXX serial killer TCA Tumblr psychological thriller Spring TV science fiction dceu Vudu Hulu miniseries Rock Emmys Sundance 45 Character Guide elevated horror PBS History Horror Premiere Dates Shudder golden globes discovery Country Nat Geo boxoffice Fox News The CW romance Cosplay GIFs Emmy Nominations Bravo Disney streaming service nature SXSW sitcom RT History Best and Worst Lucasfilm anthology historical drama Superheroe Grammys jamie lee curtis Netflix First Look E! Schedule Set visit Nickelodeon Rocketman Paramount Mystery Animation PaleyFest tv talk RT21 true crime VH1 Sneak Peek Crackle animated Red Carpet 007 robots ratings Video Games social media Quiz cops adaptation Opinion American Society of Cinematographers Infographic Winter TV what to watch CBS All Access DC Comics 2018 National Geographic Ghostbusters Ovation APB crossover Trivia Esquire X-Men MSNBC Syfy Western period drama green book composers Nominations crime Chilling Adventures of Sabrina dramedy Sundance Now DC Universe unscripted El Rey HBO Max Pop facebook CNN harry potter Warner Bros. USA Network teaser Teen The Arrangement Podcast GoT MTV Valentine's Day ghosts Marvel Song of Ice and Fire Toys stand-up comedy BBC Comedy Central dc 21st Century Fox natural history TBS Kids & Family Sci-Fi award winner 24 frames Tarantino Dark Horse Comics cooking Tomatazos ABC Family 2015 talk show aliens cinemax justice league game show Certified Fresh Writers Guild of America Rom-Com DGA children's TV Captain marvel CBS latino crime drama streaming Epix zombie Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Adult Swim Awards ABC DirecTV ESPN New York Comic Con 20th Century Fox Biopics Family Summer Shondaland television Musicals Stephen King adventure finale Martial Arts First Reviews hist Christmas dragons Walt Disney Pictures based on movie Binge Guide transformers mockumentary HBO Brie Larson festivals Cartoon Network Fantasy Spectrum Originals NYCC Spike spider-man FOX Music zombies Sony Pictures anime series Heroines spy thriller BBC America Lifetime Paramount Network Cannes crime thriller TNT Starz Amazon Prime Comic Book cults Comedy vampires blaxploitation YA politics Superheroes police drama book 2019 theme song diversity Oscars Action Mudbound YouTube Red Anna Paquin Super Bowl CW Seed zero dark thirty BET Trailer spain Masterpiece Awards Tour TV Land sports Comics on TV SDCC ITV sequel medical drama Winners VICE cars The Witch spinoff binge game of thrones witnail movies space Lionsgate Film Festival Thanksgiving mutant Apple Acorn TV Trophy Talk Mary poppins Pet Sematary psycho CMT revenge Fall TV President disaster MCU Photos Universal 2016 quibi Box Office richard e. Grant Creative Arts Emmys Reality Competition Musical Disney Rocky AMC Pixar Chernobyl TV Election Mary Poppins Returns WarnerMedia spanish language IFC Films Star Trek Food Network Marathons DC streaming service comic OWN San Diego Comic-Con Black Mirror supernatural Calendar Amazon singing competition travel A&E Mary Tyler Moore Mindy Kaling TruTV LGBTQ LGBT Countdown south america FX toy story See It Skip It USA IFC Elton John Drama TCA 2017 cats biography E3 hispanic foreign Showtime WGN Freeform 2017 kids docudrama war political drama TCM technology Logo YouTube Premium Amazon Prime Video Reality Ellie Kemper thriller Disney Channel Watching Series