FlixChatter Review: The Last Duel (2021)

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I have a thing for Medieval stories. In fact, a few years ago, I was quite obsessed with the Wars of the Roses after seeing The White Queen miniseries. So when the first trailer of The Last Duel first came out, naturally I was intrigued! As a big fan of Gladiator, I know Ridley Scott can mount spectacular battle sequences so this is definitely right up his alley, but this time he tackles something that’s based on a true story. It’s worth noting that the film marks a reunion of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, both behind the scenes as screenwriters, as well as on screen as co-stars. The two besties collaborated with Nicole Holofcener in adapting Eric Jager’s 2004 book titled The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France. 

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For a film titled The Last Duel, obviously one expects a ton of gritty battle sequences and that is precisely what we get. The looks of the movie resembles to Scott’s 2010 Robin Hood with the steel gray tones that evokes a moody, atmospheric but also downright miserable feeling. Life was hard back then surely, with rampant bloody wars fought by power-hungry men. Jean de Carrouges (Damon) is always present figure in many of those wars–he’s the Medieval Jason Bourne with equal ferocity and fighting skills. On one of his rare off days, however, Jean meets Marguerite (Jodie Comer), the beautiful daughter of Sir Robert de Thibouville (Nathaniel Parker), a Norman lord who’s considered a traitor by some, as he’s gone against the French king in a few territorial conflicts. Given his financial troubles, marrying Marguerite would be beneficial as it comes with a rather sizable dowry which includes a desirable piece of land in Normandy.

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For a while Jean and Marguerite live a nice quiet life, that is until Count Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck) who somehow bears resentment towards Jean demands that he pays off his debt. Pierre sends his squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) to do his bidding, and soon Jacques practically becomes not only his party buddy but also his accountant. Despite having fought together in battles, there seems to be tension between Jean and Jacques, which only intensifies the more Jacques gains favors from Pierre.

The film’s title refers to the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history, which took place following Marguerite’s claim that Jacques had raped her while she was alone in her estate. Out of anger, Jean challenges Jacques to trial by combat despite King Charles VI court’s warning that if he loses, not only would he be killed but Marquerite would also be burned alive as his loss is considered that her accusation is false. As I mentioned before, life was hard back then, but it’s even harder for women in Medieval times. The Last Duel is perhaps the first big-budget, Medieval ‘Me-Too’ film with a woman’s story at the center and her narrative is what drives the main events throughout the film.

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The film is broken down into 3 chapters to show different viewpoints from the three main characters, starting with Jean, Jacques and lastly, Marguerite. The multiple-chapters concept itself is intriguing, as it potentially allows viewers to immerse themselves in the story. However, the execution can also become a distraction. The way Scott sets it up here, at its best, it enables me to analyze the story from different angles. For example, when we see the story told from Jean’s perspective, he paints himself as a good guy who’s victimized by Pierre and Jacques. But once we see Marguerite’s POV, it’s apparent he’s no saint and that his sense of righteousness and entitlement is what brings him and his wife into the mess they’re in.

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At its worst however, this verbose narrative style prolongs the film’s already bloated running time and becomes annoyingly-repetitive. It doesn’t help matters that the way the most horrific scene is filmed is seen twice!! It’s bad enough that I had to see a woman being brutalized, but I feel that the way the scene was directed lacks sensitivity as it ends up glorifying the perpetrator in the act. There’s that term ‘the female gaze’ and it would have really been beneficial having a woman’s influence in filming THAT scene, especially the second time that scene is shown, which is supposed to be viewed from Marguerite’s perspective. I really think the scene should’ve been ‘seen’ from her eyes… putting the audience in her shoes as she experiences such a heinous act done to her, but instead we see the perpetrator’s face in the throes of ecstasy, twice! From a director who’s been said to be a feminist-ally (after all he gave us Alien and Thelma & Louise), I expected more from him in this regard.

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In terms of performances, Jodie Comer is a a standout amongst the mostly-male cast. Having enjoyed seeing her in the Killing Eve series and in Free Guy recently, she displays a terrific range as a dramatic actress. She’s got such strong screen presence and has the nuance and subtleties as Marguerite endures not only her husband’s callous insensitivity, but also the rejection from her own mother-in-law and girlfriends for coming out about being raped. The script does a good job showing the impossible situation women in the Middle Ages found themselves in when it comes to sexuality and their own bodies.

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As for besties Damon and Affleck, I actually find their casting (and haircuts) a bit distracting here. The fact that the script makes Pierre so unfairly mean to Jean seems amusing given that they’re best friends. I’m glad Affleck didn’t end up playing Jacques as seeing the two duel to the death (Batman VS Bourne) would definitely take me out of the movie! It’s amusing to see Affleck as a comic relief of sort, it helps to have some moments of levity given the sense of dread surrounds the movie. As for Damon, his physical prowess is on display once again with all the fighting scenes he got to do. He still manages to make it believable that he could tackle someone bigger and 13 years his junior like Driver.

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Speaking of Adam Driver, the prolific actor is no stranger for playing unsympathetic characters, but he takes that despicable factor up a notch here. His Jacques is the kind of man who has a warped sense of morality and entitlement, someone who thinks that even doing something as horrible as taking a woman by force is completely justified. Even amongst a long list of terrible characters he’s portrayed, I think Jacques is right up there. In fact, as a big fan of his, I’d say his performance here just might cure me of my infatuation with him, ahah. Of course that is a testament to his strength as an actor and his screen presence is undeniable.

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In terms of action, I’d say the 82-year-old filmmaker’s still got it and his direction big battle scenes are perhaps the best in the business. All the war and fight scenes have such a high degree of realism—Scott and his DP Dariusz Wolski stage those scenes in such a visceral way. I remember the rush of the Germania battle sequence in the opening scene of Gladiator, with the horses galloping and soldiers clashing into each other on muddy grounds with swords/axes clanging. I felt the same way watching the battles in this one, down to the vicious, high-stakes climactic duel to the death that takes my breath away.

Given just how much armors these two guys put on, under lesser direction it’d be like seeing two giant tin cans whacking each other. But the fight scenes are dynamically-choreographed where you can really see what’s going on and they’re fused with real tension and suspense. The costumes, set pieces and locations all help create an authentic depiction of Medieval France. Harry Gregson-Williams‘s music perfectly complements the look and events in the film without overpowering it.

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What you won’t find authentic would be the accents. Most of the actors use whatever accent they want, only Comer and a few of the British supporting cast actually speak with British accents. Apparently Comer helped Affleck with his dialect, while Damon and Driver sound pretty much like themselves with a few ‘British sounding’ moments few and far between. To be fair though, all of the characters are French anyway so even if they ALL sound British, it still wouldn’t be authentic.

Overall, The Last Duel is a competently-made film, but I couldn’t really give it high marks for the main issues I’ve mentioned, which I think detracts from the progressive female-empowerment theme. If you’re a fan of Sir Ridley or any of the cast, I still highly recommend this one. For sure, the epic action sequences did not disappoint and truly lived up to its title.

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Have you seen THE LAST DUEL? Well, what did YOU think?

August 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Hello, hello!! I’m posting my end-of-the-month recap a bit early this month as I’m taking a week-long hiatus. My hubby and I flying to L.A. tomorrow until Labor Day, woot! We got tickets to see John Williams conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic – Maestro of the Movies at the Hollywood Bowl. I could hardly contain my excitement as I absolutely LOVE his scores. I’m giddy just thinking of seeing the orchestra play some of my favorites, which I’ve listed in this post… plus I’ve never been to this historic outdoor amphitheater, so it’ll be a fun Friday night!

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Ok, now on to the movie report… I’ve actually seen more films that I thought I would, so I’m quite happy about that!

NEW TO ME MOVIES

As I haven’t finished packing, I’m not going to rate those I haven’t reviewed, but I’m just going to link those that I have written about.

Hampstead (2017)

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I have to admit I was curious to check this out largely because of the UK setting (didn’t I tell you I’m an Anglophile?) and that I like Brendan Gleeson… plus it’s got James Norton who I wish had more screen time. To be honest, I’m not too fond of watching Diane Keaton for some reason and this movie did not change my mind. I think it’s ok, a bit too predictable and their romance lacks serious spark.

Free Guy (2021)

Annette (2021)

The Suicide Squad (2021)

CODA* (2021)

Green Lantern (2011)

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After watching Free Guy and seeing interviews of Ryan Reynolds, I realized I haven’t watched his first superhero movie. Well, it is as terrible as what people have said, no wonder Reynolds himself continue to make fun of it, ahah. Hey at least he got to meet the love of his life Blake Lively who’s just so gorgeous in, well anything. The movie is not only dumb but also really ugly to look at, those garish green is really the color of neon vomit, blech!

Val (2021)

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar (2021)

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I don’t know what came over me that I decided to watch this head-scratcher of a movie! Yikes!! File this under ‘what in the world did I just watch?’ It is as bizarre as everyone has made it out to be, and not exactly in a good way… I was either confused or cringing the entire time. Jamie Dornan must have a predilection for weird movies as he did this practically back to back after Wild Mountain Thyme

Hungry Hearts

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I was hoping to watch this during the Adam Driver marathon last month but the movie didn’t arrive in time. My friend who still has a Netflix DVD subscription lent it to me and despite this movie not being pleasant to watch, I’m glad I finally watched it. It’s quite amusing too that there’s a baby involved here as I had just seen Annette last month… but this time it’s an actual baby instead of a puppet, ahah. Driver is as immensely watchable as ever even being mostly in sad/forlorn/angry state, but I don’t think I’d ever want to watch it again.

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Reminiscence* (2021)

The Girl In The Book* (2015)

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I was looking for films directed by women and came across this one on Prime Video. I only knew Emily VanCamp from MCU, but she’s quite good here as an aspiring writer who’s haunted by her past when a famous author appeared in her life again. The late Swedish actor Mikael Nyqvist played the author… there were some disturbing scenes but fortunately it was shot with the female gaze that it didn’t feel sexually exploitative.

The Souvenir* (2019)

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I had been wanting to see this for ages, so it’s disappointing that it turns out pretty dull. I think the coming-of-age premise is intriguing, but the too-slow pace feels tedious and self-indulgent. Plus I just can’t connect with the central character (played by Honor Swinton Byrne) at all. I did like Tom Burke here and am amused to see Honor’s mom Tilda Swinton as her mother, but overall it’s a total bore.

Love & Basketball* (2000)

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Ahhh… finally I got to see this terrific rom-com written & directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood! Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps have such a lovely chemistry AND they look believable as basketball players! I love that it’s more than just romance as both characters pursue their passion and shows that women can play ball just as good as men! There’s so much to appreciate here that I just might write a full review on it one day. So yeah, I enjoyed this one immensely, in fact I’m still kicking myself why it took me so long to finally see this.

The Lost Leonardo documentary (2021)

Out Kind Of Traitor* (2016)

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I’m always up for seeing a spy thriller based on John le Carré’s novel, especially one directed by a woman. Susanna White directed my favorite Jane Eyre adaptation (2006) and she did an excellent job here as well. Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris play a couple who somehow got involved in a Russian oligarch’s defection plans, played by Stellan Skarsgård. It’s a pretty solid thriller with some genuine mystery and suspense, so I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of le Carré’s work.

Worth* (2021)

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The last film I watched this month ends up being quite an emotional one. Can’t believe 9/11 happened nearly 20 years ago… and watching some of the scenes unfold still took my breath away. Sara Colangelo directed this with a sensitive but deft touch, which tells the story of attorney Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) who’s appointed by Congress to lead the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. It’s definitely one of Keaton’s best, most controlled performance, with Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan lending some memorable turns as well. The title is perfect for this thought-provoking film which might be tough to watch for some who are personally affected by the tragedy.


52 films by womenMovies indicated with * (asterisk) indicates those directed by women. I’m  happy to report that I managed to see SEVEN female-directed films, woo hoo!! I’m hopeful I can actually complete the 52 Films By Women challenge by the end of the year.


TV SERIES

The Pursuit of Love* (2021)

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I love period dramas and especially those set in England! I like the cast (Lily James, Emily Beecham, Dominic West) and it’s directed by Emily Mortimer. A romantic comedy-drama about love and friendship set in Europe before WWII, it’s well-acted and pretty entertaining overall, but I find it uneven and not as emotional as I had hoped. The set pieces are nice to look at, but I don’t think it’ll stick in my mind for too long.

Ted Lasso 2 (2021)

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Movies that Made Us: Pretty Woman(2021)
Movies that Made Us: Forrest Gump (2021)

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Charlie’s Angels – Fallen Angel ep (1979)

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Bless you TUBI! They actually have the entire Charlie’s Angels series on there. I had been wanting to watch the Fallen Angel episode with my eternal crush Timothy Dalton! The series is SO dated and kind of silly, but I LOVE seeing Dalton as a millionaire playboy/jewel thief Damian Roth who’s romancing Farrah Fawcett. They even referred Damian as James-Bondian, which is interesting given that Cubby Broccoli had wanted him to play Bond for years before Dalton finally agreed.


REWATCHES

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) + The Living Daylights (1987)

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I was feeling rather indulgent that I decided to rewatch movies starring my new and old crush, ahah. I guess I have a thing for tall, dark, handsome actors who can make anger/sadness look sexy 😉

I actually find Adam Driver hilarious as Kylo Ren initially, but he’s such a charismatic actor and immensely watchable in pretty much anything. 

As for The Living Daylights, well it remains one of my all time favorite Bond films, though it’s a bit eerie to watch those scenes in Afghanistan, and seeing the Mujahideen as his ally. In any case, I still think Timothy Dalton is my favorite 007 who I wish had done a 3rd or even 4th Bond film!


AUGUST MOVIE OF THE MONTH

CODA (2021)

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I’ve posted my full review of this powerful and deeply moving film that feature actual deaf actors in prominent roles. I can’t recommend this enough and it’s available to stream on AppleTV.


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in AUGUST?

FlixChatter Review: ANNETTE (2021)

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What a roller coaster ride it has been doing an Adam Driver marathon of sort. I had just watched four of his films last month for the Hidden Gems series, which I had decided before I got a press screening for ANNETTE last week. Well in a way, the absolute bizarrity of Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote ends up serving as a pre-req for Annette. It’s interesting that before the film starts, we’ve got a VO of its director Leos Carax telling the audience to hold our breath until the end of the movie. Well, there were a few times I did hold my breath watching this movie.

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It’s been four days since I saw it and let’s just say I’m still recovering from it, ahah. I guess nothing could really prepare you for this rock opera written by the Sparks Brothers. Ok now, even that info alone should tell you this isn’t a movie you watch for its strong narrative. Its primary strengths are its visual style and the catchy songs. I LOVE So May We Start in its opening sequence, starting with Carax and the Sparks with their band in a studio, then they step out the room, meeting the main actors of the movie and the entire group sing the song together as they walk out into the street. That’s such a surreal scene unlike anything I’ve ever seen, which is what you could say about the entire movie.

We’ve fashioned a world, a world built just for you
A tale of songs and fury with no taboo
We’ll sing and die for you, yes, in minor keys
And if you want us to kill too we may agree

That’s just some of the lyrics from the opening song… so don’t say the filmmakers didn’t warn you. When it first came out in Cannes, Twitter was set alight by critics describing a character performing cunnilingus while singing a love song. Well believe it or not, it’s actually NOT the most bizarre thing in this movie.

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The basic plot is that we’ve got a celebrity couple, a stand-up comedian Henry McHenry (Driver) and an opera singer Ann Desfranoux (Marion Cotillard) who falls head over heels in love. Their career trajectory changes course as the film progresses and the birth of their daughter turns their lives into a tailspin. The film’s title is named after their daughter who has a special gift… I’m not going to spoil it for you what her gift is, but what’s quite unnerving to behold is Carax chose to use a puppet for the baby. For someone with a strong aversion for dolls/puppets in general, it took me a while to adjust to that fact, but thankfully there are plenty of things to distract me from it, most notably Adam Driver’s tour de force performance.

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In my post about Annette here, some critics talked about Driver’s towering, imposing physicality being used to great effect in this film. That turns out to be absolutely true. Though billed as a bizarre love story, this is pretty much an Adam Driver show from start to finish and he capably carries this film on his strong shoulders. Carax is known for his grand but strange vision for his films and Driver is willing to match his insane cinematic choices, which I shouldn’t be surprised given he did exactly that for Terry Gilliam. As Henry, his dry sense of humor, sheer rage, magnetic charisma and intensity are in full display here, at times in extreme close-ups. His character preps with boxing regimen in his hooded robe which is quite strange for a comedian, but perhaps that explains why his acts are so militant and physical. Most people have seen how intense he could be as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars trilogy, but given he’s under a mask for most of the trilogy, I feel like you’re robbed off just how insane he’s willing to go for a role.

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Annette feels more like an experimental film at times, but it also feels personal in its depiction of love and loss. I find it hard for me to delve into this film’s plot as even after days watching it, I can’t quite put a finger on it what it’s about. Driver’s Henry–nicknamed ‘the ape of God’– is such a provocative performer who depicts the quintessential toxic masculinity, complete with a Me-Too chorus of women accusing him of various misbehaviors. But even from his stand-up acts where he doesn’t so much deliver jokes but throw lines at the audience to react to, it’s clear he’s got issues. Though both Henry and Ann are performers, the stark difference is that Henry seems to put a lot of himself into his show while Cotillard’s Ann is the opposite. She wears a wig when portraying a larger-than-life persona in her play where she dies at the end of each show. The theme of death ends up spilling over from their stage persona into real life… well, as ‘real’ as it seems in this film given the blurred line between fantasy and reality.

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Despite Driver’s long screen time in the movie (he’s pretty much on screen at least 95% of the time), I don’t really get his character. I’m not sure the filmmakers intend it to be a character study, but at least Driver has an arc as Cotillard’s and Simon Helberg’s the conductor character barely has any. Both have their moments in the movie, but for the most part I feel like their characters are only there to move Henry’s story forward. It’s quite frustrating and such a pity given how talented both actors are. Heck, what living breathing performers want to be upstaged by a puppet baby? Yet that’s what happens here, especially the huge scene towards the end that made me gasp. The ending is as puzzling as ever as it feels anticlimactic. My friend sitting next to me raises both hands as the screen turns to black and said ‘that’s it?!’ Perhaps the filmmakers intend things to be one big giant puzzle, but perhaps they just didn’t know how to end the film.

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In terms of visuals, Annette is gorgeous to look at, shot by French DP Caroline Champetier, it has a neon green/blue tone similar to Holy Motors that she also shot. As to be expected in a musical, the songs are memorable and have such an infectious energy to them. So May We Start and We Love Each Other So Much are still stuck in my head to this day. One thing for sure though, the film’s sheer grandiosity, extreme absurdity and off-kilter sensibilities will likely make this one of the most divisive movies of recent memory. Like Holy Motors, Carax’s distinctive styles are not for everyone. It’s long running time (140 minutes) and odd pacing also doesn’t make this the easiest film to recommend to others.

For me personally, despite some of my biggest quibbles, I had a good time with it. I feel like I don’t have to fully understand something to appreciate it. Just like an art in a museum/gallery, I often have no clue what it means or why it’s constructed in such a way, but it can still be absolutely mesmerizing.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen ANNETTE? I’d love to hear what you think!

Hidden Gems: Adam Driver

This post is a few days late as I had planned on posting this on the last day of July, but oh well, work and life tends to get in the way.

This Hidden Gems series was spearheaded by Mettel Ray, and you can read more info about it here. I’m not sure I’ll be able to participate again this month, so this is actually July’s edition as I watched the movies all last month. It’s definitely a great series to explore an actor’s filmography and try to find the hidden gems from the list.

 

 

WHY ADAM DRIVER?

I’ve been a longtime admirer of Driver as I’ve always enjoyed everything he’s in, even in small parts. Yet there are still a bunch of movies I haven’t seen that I should catch up on. He’s worked with a ton of interesting directors and has a diverse and eclectic mix of films in his resume that only continue to get more interesting as he’s become more and more sought after by various filmmakers. Well, given I’ll be seeing ANNETTE tomorrow night, he’s been on my mind even more!

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STATISTICS

Instead of using Letterboxd, I’m using IMDb for stats. There are 48 credits listed under his profile, but I excluded TV series, shorts, video games, etc. as well as films that have not been released yet and that left roughly 27 films. That is quite a feat for this Juilliard grad who just got his big break in feature films only 10 years ago in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar in a small supporting role.

The first time I saw him was Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013, since then I’ve seen Driver in these films: Midnight Special, While We’re Young, Logan Lucky, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, BlacKkKlansman, Marriage Story, and The Report.

For the Hidden Gems challenge, I chose four off-the-beaten-path movies:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

What If (2013)

Paterson (2016)

Tracks (2013)

Here are my picks of hidden gems:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

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I knew this is going to be a strange movie given it’s by Terry Gilliam and the project has been stuck in development hell for ages! There’s even a documentary about Gilliam’s first attempt to bring this movie to life called Lost in La Mancha. The story is loosely based on the 1605/1615 novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Adam Driver plays a cynical but supposedly genius film director who’s shooting a commercial in Spain and stumbles upon a DVD of a student film he made there a decade ago about Don Quixote.

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Unbeknownst to him, that little film changed this small Spanish village forever, especially one shoemaker with delusions of grandeur thinking he is actually Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce).

Like most Gilliam’s movies, it’s definitely not for everyone but I quite enjoyed all the surreal, bizarre and plain weird-ness of it all. Driver is definitely the main reason to see this for me, he’s got such a magnetic presence throughout this mad adventure, being practically put through the wringer in a pretty physical role. He’s able to balance the drama and comedy the role requires and pulls it off with aplomb.

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I particularly enjoy the scenes at the cruel oligarch Alexei Miiskin’s mansion where the craziest stuff happens. At times it’s hard to discern which part is in real and which are just in the characters’ heads, which can be amusing as well as frustrating. The visuals are wonderful though, so I highly recommend this for fans of Driver or those who can appreciate Gilliams’ imaginative and peculiar vision.

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3.5/5 Reels


Paterson (2016)

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I’ve actually been wanting to see this even long before I was crushing hard on Driver. The idea of a low-key bus driver who secretly writes poetry immediately appeals to me. Described as a quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details, the film delivers exactly that… and it’s mesmerizing.

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Paterson wakes up every morning next to his wife in their small, modest home in Paterson, New Jersey, has his cereal breakfast and goes to work as a bus driver. It’s a regimented life but the routine is charming and captivating, not at all tedious.

I love how director Jim Jarmusch incorporates his own poetry in the film, as well as those by William Carlos Williams and Ron Padgett, and makes the words come alive. There’s something so poetic in the simplicity of the lives depicted here. Paterson thinks of poetry all the time, mainly while he’s driving the bus and observing his passengers day in and day out.

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I was also fascinated by his artistic wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and his adorable English bulldog Marvin. There’s such beauty in contemplation, quietness and serenity, a sweet celebration of life’s small joys and even its oddity. Apparently Jarmusch intended Paterson to be an antidote to the modern action film and it’s truly a welcome respite.

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4.5/5 stars


Tracks (2013)

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I love adventure road movies like this one, and it’s especially fascinating as it’s based on a true story. An adaptation of Robyn Davidson‘s memoir of the same name, its film development began even before lead actress Mia Wasikowska was even born, with Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman considering the project. I’m glad Mia ends up doing this film as she perfectly embodies the role in such an authentic way.

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The movie chronicles Robyn’s nine-month journey on camels across the Australian desert in 1977. She sets out from Alice Springs, trekking across 1,700 miles of Western Australia desert to reach the Indian ocean. Driver portrays National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan who documents her journey. He isn’t in the movie very much but his character is integral in the story and he’s totally believable in the role.

The relationship between Robyn and Rick isn’t exactly romantic and at times she’s standoffish towards him, which is understandable considering her fiercely independent nature. At times Rick can be rather off-putting and perhaps even intrusive in the way he tries to cover Robyn’s story. 

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I highly recommend this movie for those looking for a quietly mesmerizing, soulful movie to take a break from the usual Hollywood offerings. Directed by John Curran, the visuals of the Australian dessert is absolutely breathtaking but it also shows the harsh and brutal climate. It’s inspiring to see anyone, let alone a young woman, accomplish what Robyn did, which made me curious to check out her book.

Adam Driver photographer Tracks

3.5/5 Reels


Final Thoughts: 

I’m really glad I was able to found 3 gems out of just the 4 films I saw. I really wanted to see Hungry Hearts but that one is a bit harder to find, but hopefully I can see that soon. What If is actually ok but despite its intriguing premise and charming performances, I find the ending rather clichéd and predictable. Driver isn’t in it very much anyway, so I wish I had picked a different movie. 

As for this Hidden Gem challenge, I’m glad I’m able to participate at least once this year, now I’m trying to think who else would make a good topic/subject for future series.


 

Have you seen any of these Adam Driver movie(s)? Let me know what you think! 

JULY 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Happy August!! Dayum, Summer is surely fleeting by. It has been sweltering HOT the past two months that even 80 degrees feels ‘cool’… We’ve got the most 90-degree days in 9 years in the Twin Cities… I think we’ve had like 22 days so far this year, but feels like there have been more than that. The haze is what’s bothering me the most though, the MN Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for the entire state for days, thanks to the Canadian wildfire. We’re pretty far from the border, so my heart goes out to those living close to these fires.

Ok, now on to the movie report… which is kind of uneventful overall apart from the increasing number of in-theater screenings of late, yay!

NEW TO ME MOVIES

The Tomorrow War (2021)
(full review)

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Croupier (1998)
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I had been curious about this Clive Owen movie when he was still young and clean-shaven. He’s the reason to watch it for me. I think people who enjoy gambling-type movies would enjoy this more but it’s a bit too slow and I also find it a bit odd overall. I was quite taken aback seeing Alex Kingston baring it all in a scene that I thought was out of left field.

3Reels

Love Sarah* (2021)
(full review)

LoveSarah-CeliaImrie

Gunpowder Milkshake(2021)
(full review)

gunpowder-milkshake-heady-gillan

Jungle Cruise (2021)
(full review)

junglecruise-movie

The Bank Job (2008)
BankJob-Statham

When I watched this movie, it said it was based on a true story, which I thought was a regular bank heist. Well apparently it was about Princess Margaret’s sexual affairs with Jamaican men in the 1970s, and of her pictures being caught and saved in a highly secured unknown bank. It’s not exactly like an action comedy a la Oceans 11 or The Italian Job, it’s actually not as humorous and more violent than thought. Still worth a watch for the ensemble cast led by Jason Statham, though this is prior to him becoming a huge action star in the US.

3Reels

The Last Letter From Your Lover* (2021)
(full review)

lastletterfromlover-sailboat-romance

The Green Knight (2021)GreenKnight-Patel

I just had to see this on the big screen on opening night!
Review Upcoming

Unknown (2011)
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For some reason I was curious to check out Liam Neeson‘s movies directed by Jaume Collet-Serra who just did Jungle Cruise, and this one happened to be on Netflix. I actually enjoyed it, though I feel like this could’ve been re-titled as Lost in Berlin as Neeson was pretty much lost the entire time, ahah. The plot twist is actually pretty creative, I did not see THAT coming.

3.5/5 Reels


ADAM DRIVER Marathon

adam driver don quixote

I’ll be blogging about this later as part of Mettel Ray’s HIDDEN GEMS monthly series (I’m a couple of days late to the party though… oops!)

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

What If (2013)

Paterson (2016)

Tracks (2013)


Movies indicated with * (asterisk) indicates those directed by women – and sadly, I managed to only watch only TWO movies directed by women this month. Hopefully I’ll still be able to complete the 52 Films By Women challenge by end of the year.


TV SERIES

TEHRAN (2020) – Apple TV

tehran-series

After watching the stellar Little Drummer Girl, my hubby and I decided to binge on another female-led spy thriller. TEHRAN focuses on a Mossad agent Tamar (Niv Sultan) who embarks on her first mission as a computer hacker in her home town of Tehran. It’s pretty gripping and suspenseful with terrific performances all around. It’s also pretty emotional given the personal stakes for most of the characters involved and it doesn’t paint the ‘enemy’ as one dimensional, in fact, the series shows a pretty balanced view of both sides of the Israeli and Iranian conflict.

Ted Lasso (Season 2) – Apple TV

tedlasso-season2

I’m so glad the series is back!! Just two episodes in so far but it reminds me of why I absolutely LOVE this series, can’t wait for more!

Loki – Disney+

Loki-finale

Well LOKI proves to be quite a game-changer series! I have to admit I didn’t always enjoy every episode and at times it just went over my head. But that the finale was indelible with the introduction of a new MCU villain Kang the Conqueror (a terrific Jonathan Majors). After Thanos they’ve got to come up with another formidable antagonist for phase 5, and Loki’s expression at the end of the finale says it all! I’m also excited that unlike the previous two Marvel series, LOKI will have a season 2!!

The Movies That Made Us: Jurassic Park (2021)

movies-that-made-us-JP

I really enjoyed this documentary series created by Brian Volk-Weiss chronicling the stories behind some of the beloved movies of the 80s and 90s. Jurassic Park is one of my all time favorites and it’s always fun to see all the challenges making ANY movie, especially something as huge (literally!) as this Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster.


REWATCHES

I barely have time to watch new stuff this month, but I did rewatch one movie…

My Fair Lady
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JULY MOVIE OF THE MONTH

Paterson (2016)
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Adam Driver and poetry… a truly mesmerizing combination. A quiet but indelible film and it cements Driver as my current cinematic crush. This is only the second Jim Jarmusch‘s film I’ve seen so far, but I really should check out more, starting with Only Lovers Left Alive.


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in JULY?

This Just In! Ridley Scott’s HOUSE OF GUCCI trailer

Dayum, Sir Ridley Scott is one busy filmmaker!! I feel like I’ve been posting his film just the other day, The Last Duel, and I’m feeling de-ja-vu as we’ve got Adam Driver in the lead role once again. Eccellente! I think Adam should be in EVERY MOVIE, ehm. 

Full synopsis:

Spanning three decades of love, betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately murder, we see what a name means, what it’s worth, and how far a family will go for control.

Woo wee!! That’s one heck of a stylish trailer, it even starts out like a flashy Gucci commercial. I love Blondie’s Heart Of Glass song and now it’s stuck in my brain all over again. These fashion houses sure have real-life drama as intricate and juicy as their haute couture creations. The story is based on a book of the same name by Sara Gay Forden, she has covered the Italian fashion industry from Milan for more than 15 years. Her book centers on the brutal 1995 murder of Maurizio Gucci (Driver), the grandson of the Gucci company founder, by his ex-wife.

HouseOfGucci-Gaga

Truth is stranger than fiction. I was actually just reading about what happened to Maurizio Gucci not too long ago, and his former wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) who served in jail for 18 years for hiring the hitman to kill him. Can’t say I have much sympathy for Maurizio though, as reportedly he left Patricia for a much younger woman, Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin) and lied that he was going on a business trip. Interesting to see Driver being cast as a narcissistic, cheating husband once again as he seems like a real nice bloke in real life. Clearly acting as someone opposite from you is far more fun.

I’ve been doing an Adam Driver marathon lately (which I’ll blog about in a couple of days!) so I’m super excited to see more of him in two highly-anticipated movies later this year! I love how he continually switch things up, this role can’t be more different from the one he’s doing in The Last Duel.

HouseOfGucci-Driver

I almost didn’t recognize Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons if it weren’t for the character posters, wow! Gaga is chewing the scenery as Patrizia, that last part of the trailer… ‘Father, Son and House of Gucci’ is a hoot! Per IMDb trivia, a slew of actresses the likes of Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Margot Robbie and Natalie Portman were considered for the role before Gaga was cast. I was really impressed with her in A Star Is Born, and this looks like a role she’s born to play. 

The star-studded cast also includes Al Pacino as the patriarch of the fashion empire, as well as Salma Hayek as Pina Auriemma, the clairvoyant friend of Patrizia who helped organized the hit on Maurizio. It’s inspired casting given Hayek is the wife of François-Henri Pinault, the billionaire Kering CEO who now owns the the Gucci brand.

I think since the on-set photos were circulating on social media back in Spring, practically everyone just became obsessed w/ this movie. I tried not to look at too many set photos and keep my enthusiasm in check until we actually see a trailer. Well now I am officially intrigued, I’ve seen this trailer a bazillion times in under two hours, ahah! 

HouseOfGucci-familia

But apparently not everyone is enthused about this movie, according to AP News, the Gucci family isn’t keen on the movie, one of Maurizio’s cousins was quoted as saying that it was “… stealing the identity of a family to make a profit, to increase the income of the Hollywood system.” It’s always tricky to portray such a larger-than-life story based on a real family, though given the notoriety surrounding Maurizio’s murder, this is certainly the kind of twisted, glittering tale made for Tinseltown. Surely we can expect glamorous European locations, glitzy parties, fabulous fashion in this movie to go along with the wild and dark side of life in excess.

House of Gucci will be released on November 24.


What do you think of the trailer? 

This Just In! Ridley Scott’s THE LAST DUEL trailer

Oohhh, what have we here? It’s been a while since I heard news about this medieval drama directed by Ridley Scott. Production was delayed in the Spring of 2020 due to what else, the Coronavirus pandemic. What’s most notable about it is that it features the reunion of Oscar-winning BFFs Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, both as screenwriters AND co-stars.

TheLastDuel-fight

Nicole Holofcener is also credited for writing the script, she’s too was Oscar-nominated for her screenplay Can You Ever Forgive Me? in 2019. Billed as a historical drama, the story is based on The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France, a 2004 book by American author Eric Jager which chronicles the last officially recognized judicial duel fought in France.

Full synopsis:

In 14th-century France, Marguerite de Thibouville claims she’s been raped by her husband’s best friend Jacques Le Gris. Her husband, knight Jean de Carrouges challenges his friend and squire, to trial by combat. It is the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history.

It’s surely tough being a woman in the Middle Ages where as one female character puts it ‘The truth does not matter, there’s only the power of men.’ So for Marguerite to come forward with such a despicable accusation, she is also risking her own life as if her husband lost the duel, she would have been burned at the stake as punishment for her false accusation.

lastduel-damon-comer

I’m a big fan of period pieces, so this is SO right up my alley. Of course given the huge-budget for Hollywood epics, star power matter more than historical accuracy, hence not a single French actor (or even French-speaking ones) in the main cast. Apparently Damon and Affleck were supposed to play the duelist Jean and Jacques, but Adam Driver ended up being cast in Affleck’s role because of scheduling conflict with his commitment to Adrian Lyne‘s Deep Water. That would’ve been a boon for the marketing department as the two lead characters were former best-friends-turned-enemies. They also have matching bad-movie-hairstyle here, complete with bleached blond hair and… Medieval mullets? New hair memes beckons!

I LOVE Jodie Comer since Killing Eve and I also loved her in The White Princess as Elizabeth of York, so this is certainly isn’t her first foray into historical dramas. ’tis also the year for long-haired Adam Driver and I’m SO here for it!! I’m seeing ANNETTE next week (wahoo!!) and for sure I’ll be seeing this on the big screen later this Fall! In fact, he’ll have TWO films coming out this Fall that’s both directed by Ridley-Scott, the other one is the highly-anticipated House Of Gucci

The unstoppable 84-year-old British filmmaker is no stranger to historical epics, apparently his directorial debut The Duellists (1977) is also a duel between two people that’s also set in France. His longtime collaborator Dariusz Wolsk (Prometheus, The Counselor, The Martian) is back as cinematographer. The visuals look appropriately dirty, gritty and dark, a la Gladiator and Robin Hood, with filming locations include France and Ireland.

The Last Duel opens in theaters nationwide on October 15.


What do you think of the trailer?