Try an old fashioned rom-com adventure in “The Lost City”
Updated: Jul 23, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1) Former Navy SEAL Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) and book cover model Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum) rescue author Dr. Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) after she was kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax. (2) Co-producer and star Sandra Bullock.
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“THE LOST CITY”
4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 2022; PG-13 for violence and some bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity, and language; Streaming Amazon Prime (4K), Apple TV (4K), Paramount+ (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Location Profile” featurette
FOR 11 weeks, this likable rom-com adventure has been spinning exclusively in 4K Ultra HD/HDR on digital platforms to buy and now rent, and for subscribers to Paramount+. But don’t be dismayed physical disc lovers; a 4K, Blu-ray and DVD will finally arrive next week from Paramount Studios.
The story from co-director brothers Adam and Aaron Nee (“Band of Robbers”) isn’t unique, but still effective – featuring a dash of romance, murder, and plenty of silliness, as reclusive romance novelist Dr. Loretta Sage, played by producer Sandra Bullock, is kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), and taken to a fictional volcanic island in the Atlantic to find a lost treasure. Shades of Robert Zemeckis’ 1980s classic “Romancing the Stone,” and a chase sequence straight out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), the treasure caper received solid reviews from critics, hitting 71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and even higher with audiences at 83 percent. While its worldwide box office was a modest $190 million with a $68 million production budget – just a fraction of Paramount’s mega-blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick,” which just surpassed the studio’s previous top domestic title, “Titanic” (1997).
(1-3) Since the death of Dr. Loretta Sage’s archaeologist husband, she’s struggled to finish her latest romance novel “The Lost City of D.” From her home office, she writes a scene with the fictional heroine, Dr. Angela Lovemore, and her romantic interest, Dash McMahon trapped inside the King Kalaman’s tomb with a fantasy villain (Stephan Lang). (4-6) Fast-forward and she’s on a promotional book tour for her twenty romantic novel, and publisher Beth Hatten (Da‘Vine Joy Randolph) and her social media manager Allison (Patti Harrison) have set up the tour with the book’s cover model Alan Caprison.
Originally, the production was to be filmed in the U.K. and the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, but COVID-19 hit and, within three weeks, they shifted the entire production to the Dominican Republic. For Bullock and her co-producers, it was a blessing in disguise since the island resort provided much better water sources from waterfalls and rivers, and a wide range of landscapes.
The only negative was the excessive humidity and numerous thunderstorms. “We knew the weather was going to be a problem,” says co-director Aaron Nee. Plus, the mosquitoes were supersized and fast, and the production hired coconut hunters who pulled them off nearby trees to ensure the cast and crew wouldn’t get bashed. “A direct hit on the head could kill you,” production designer Jim Bissell says during one of the short featurettes (4K disc & digital).
Frustrated by the lack of good action/comedy stories, Bullock fought for “The Lost City.” “It’s really hard for me to find a comedy that is grounded and has big action set pieces. I realized it just requires me to sit there and fight for it, and find the place that wants to make it,” she says during the “Location profile” featurette.
(1&2) Loretta has been kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) and taken to a volcanic island in the Atlantic via Fairfax’s harrier-like jet. (3) The explosion scene was only filmed in one take, as Jack Trainer and Alan Caprison rescue Loretta. (4) Fairfax shouts, “Why are things exploding?” (5&6) The handsome Brad Pitt plays Jack Trainer who is killed by one of Fairfax’s men and, his blood splatters onto Alan. (7) Loretta was still strapped onto the chair when she fall out of the car when Alan lost control of Trainer’s small rental car.
Co-director Adam Nee considers the scene where two jeeps were blown up behind the three stars (Brad Pitt, Bullock and Channing Tatum) his favorite. Bullock is tied to a chair, which is tied to a wheelbarrow. Pitt pushes the wheelbarrow, while Tatum holds her foot as they escape from Fairfax’s tropical compound. “It’s a real fire, it’s real explosives, and they’re real people,” special effects supervisor Eric Frazier says during the “Jungle Rescue” featurette. “I was like, please don’t drop me, flip me, run over me, kill me,” Bullock says. For brother Aaron, it was a “pinch yourself” moment – especially watching the three actors and crew react during the first playback on the set.
The other featurettes highlight the sequin jumpsuit Bullock wears throughout the film; the charcuterie scene where wind from a fictional Harrier aircraft blows food into Bullock’s face; the villains, Fairfax and his henchmen; building the variety of sets all in the Dominican Republic, and the dynamic duo of Bullock and Tatum, the odd couple – she the author and he Alan Caprison as Dash, the book cover model and hero of 20 of her bestsellers. Five minutes of bloopers and eight deleted scenes are also included.
The Nee brothers and cinematographer Jonathan Sela (“Deadpool 2”) captured all of the action on 2.8K and 3.4K ARRIRAW digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio). But since the film features so many background VFX, it was mastered in 2K. The 4K upconverted visuals have excellent HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading, with high contrast levels hitting 1,000 nits for peak brightness, and an average light level of 353 nits, bathed in a warm and saturated color palette.
(1) Fairfax discovers Loretta has taken the surviving section of the symbol map to find Kalaman’s tomb and the Crown of Fire. (2) Loretta removes a number of leeches from Alan’s backside. (3&4) They continue the journey through the jungle to get to the island’s airport. (5&6) They reach a local village and hear a woman sing a folk song during a delightful dance scene. (7) Loretta realizes a line from the song provides a clue to finding the tomb.
Overall clarity for tight shots is very good, hinting that 58-year-old Bullock has had some facial work and post-production digital touch-ups to remove lines. Meanwhile, wide shots with small, distant objects lack the detail found on true 4K mastered films. The 4K digital has even less detail, more likely from the lower video bitrate output from the streaming service. Both 4K versions have no signs of post-production film grain applied.
This Dolby Atmos soundtrack is underwhelming, especially with its bass response during the action sequences, and the volcanic eruption – only topping at 98 dB. The height speakers are also used sparingly; only activated once during the first 30 minutes when the Harrier splashes food onto Bullock. The music cues from Elmer Bernstein’s score (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) are coded for the three front speakers, with a number of classic pop tunes including the romantic “True” from Spandau Ballet, “Funky Cold Medina” from Tone-Loc, “Can You Get to That” from “Funkadelic, “Red Right Hand” from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and “Shadows of the Night” from Pat Benatar.
The lighthearted adventure is clearly a rental, but for Bullock fans, it’s bound to be a permanent fixture in their 4K collection.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Fairfax captures Loretta again, and she’s forced to reveal the treasure’s location, which involves crawling through a small rock tunnel. (2&3) She finds the tomb and it’s not what Fairfax had hoped.