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!

annette-driver

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)

donquixote-gilliam

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.

driver-quixote3

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.

driver-quixote

3.5/5 Reels


Paterson (2016)

paterson-jarmusch

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.

adam-paterson

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.

adam-paterson-bus

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! 

FlixChatter Review: JUPITER ASCENDING (2015)

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This film was supposed to open in the Summer of 2014, but Warner Bros’ delayed it to give more time for post-production work. Heh, clearly they’re far more concerned with all the CGI extravaganza as what the film needed more is a script rewrite. I already had a bad feeling about this even from the unintentionally hilarious trailers. They included the dialog where Channing Tatum said he had more in common with dogs than humans, especially a supposed royalty, to which Mila Kunis replied, “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs.” Well, at least they’re consistent as the movie is as dreadful as the promos.

The entire film is a discombobulating and farcical mess, but what’s more baffling is the claim by The Lana Wachowski – as well as several bloggers on Twitter – that this is an *original* sci-fi. Huh?? What originality? The ‘chosen one’ type of plot is rehashed from stuff the Wachowskis themselves have done better with The Matrix, as well as a bunch of other sci-fis. Self-plagiarism isn’t uncommon among filmmakers and I’m fine with it if it actually improves on their previous work.

JupiterAscending_MilaChanningIn any case, the movie opened with the protagonist, Jupiter Jones’ narration about her life story and how she ended up being a cleaning lady in Chicago. Her late dad was an astronomer, hence the name, and a tragic event prompted her family to migrate to America. A lowly beginning to be sure, and she claimed repeatedly how she hated her life. But of course we know that’s not really her *destiny* as in a planet far, far away, three royalty siblings with a name that sounds like some household cleaning product, Abrasax, talk about claiming earth as their own now that their mother’s died. So apparently, their planet consumes earth’s resources in a process called planetary harvest, which basically is an extensive form of genocide in order for the aliens to live forever.

The first act is a long exposition telling us why Jupiter is special and why there are intergalactic bounty hunters as well as an army of weird-looking aliens are after her. But no fret, we’ve got an eyeliner-wearing man-wolf hybrid Caine Wise (Tatum, sporting a goatie & elven ears) with his anti-gravity boots to save the damsel in distress. The action sequences are cool for the first five minutes at best, but it long overstayed its welcome that it became aggravating. Cool visuals can only entertain you for so long when we barely care about the characters and their journey. So apparently Jupiter shares the same DNA sequence as the Abrasax’s late mother and that makes her special as she’s also heir to the throne and could potentially rule earth.

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This is a space opera at its most bloated and risible. It’s full of weird-looking space creatures which are humans cross-bred with elephants, alligators, etc. but they all seem to speak with British accent of course. All of them report to Balem (Eddie Redmayne), who should win a Razzie for the most annoyingly over-the-top performance, as an androgynous looking *royalty* could only whisper or scream and nothing in between. Redmayne seems to take this role way too seriously, but all the theatrical antics prompts grimace and laughter every time he’s on screen.

The protagonists fare slightly better, thought that’s not saying much really. I have to hand it to Mila Kunis, she’s not a particularly strong performer but she always comes across genial and earthy. She’s effortlessly likable though she appears mystified for much of the movie. Channing Tatum is pretty much hired for his physical prowess, as he appears shirtless for a good chunk of the time. He has zero chemistry with Kunis and he kind of has this constipated look throughout, perhaps thanks to the mouthpiece he had to wear during filming (per IMDb trivia) Heh, why they put an actor through that if it had absolutely zero purpose for his character arc nor the story as a whole??

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Poor Sean Bean as Tatum’s friend from his military days didn’t have much to do here other than offering more exposition and saying lines like ‘Bees don’t lie.’  Oh brother! I think this tweet pretty much sums up how I feel about his involvement:

It also pains me to see Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a half human/deer mutation who serves as Balem’s aide. I sure wish Hollywood would recognize talent when they see them. Douglas Booth looks like he could be Redmayne’s prettier younger brother, but both he and Tuppence Middleton who formed the three Abrasax siblings are pretty much fillers. But then again, what can you expect from the supporting characters if the main protagonist doesn’t even have an arc? It may seem like there’s theme of female empowerment here but Jupiter mostly plays a passive role in her own *destiny* [yawn], as she’s whisked away from one strange place to another.

JupiterAscending_Wedding

This movie would’ve probably been slightly more palatable if it had a sense of humor. There are several attempts at it, like Jupiter using a sanitary pad to patch Caine’s wound, ewww gross!! The only true comical moment is the whole bureaucracy process Jupiter has to go through, kind of like an administrative immigration procedure if you will, with Terry Gilliam‘s cameo. I didn’t realize it was him until later and I read that it was an homage to his fantasy satire of bureaucratic society, Brazil.

This is the Wachowskis’ third under-performing film in a row after Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas (which I actually quite like). I doubt they could easily get the kind of astronomical budget like this one ($176 mil), as they’d likely struggle to make half of that given the mere $19 mil opening weekend. Heh, no amount of money and crazy CGI-fest can camouflage a terrible story.

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Final Thoughts: Yet another style-over-substance sci-fi in the vein of Elysium which also boast some arresting space imagery. The costumes, especially Mila’s dresses, are gorgeous and the design of the planetary universe and spaceships are imaginative, if only they’d invest the same care to the story and characters. It amounts to one big dumb flick, not really a step up from those Transformers movie. Now, some dumb action flicks can still be entertaining but to add insult to injury, this movie is also quite boring, and the bombastic action/chase scenes just dragged on for far too long. I guess this one *lives up* to the reputation of being released in Hollywood’s dump month of February. Suffice to say it’ll likely end up in my worst list of the year.

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Well, what are YOUR thoughts about Jupiter Ascending?

Weekend Roundup: Thoughts on Prometheus, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, BBC’s ZEN

Yo, Happy Tuesday all!

It’s been one hectic weekend for me. Saturday morning my hubby and I participated in the annual Kids Against Hunger’s Fill Their Plate 5/10k walk/run sponsored by my friend’s church. It’s raining but still a whole lot of fun to do and we were caught up in the energy of all the people at the beautiful Calhoun Lake.

That night we finally saw Prometheus. Well, I wasn’t exactly disappointed but I can’t exactly say it’s a stellar film either. I agree with my colleague Phil’s review that it’s indeed a gorgeous film, but I have sooo many issues about the plot that I’d probably give this movie a 3 out of 5 instead of 4.

Below is just my quick thoughts about the movie:

Now, Phil mentioned in his review that ‘the movie brings up an awful lot of questions that will leave you shaking your head days later and some of those questions can only be answered by a sequel.’ Now it’s to be expected that Ridley Scott would want to create another lucrative franchise out of Prometheus but I’m afraid that the fundamental questions about the story would likely still be left unanswered.

As I mentioned in Castor’s review, I mentioned that the questions begin early with the uber-ripped ‘engineer’ in the opening sequence [obviously there’s a bunch of GOLD GYM in the alien planet]. It’s never explained what the heck happened by the waterfall there that caused him to fall into a decaying creature. That’s just the beginning, but my biggest beef is with the protagonist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw’s ‘belief system.’ She wears a cross necklace and the movie alludes to the fact that she is a believer in a Higher Being in what I presume is the Judeo Christian God [her father seems to have been a missionary?]. When her boyfriend Charlie asks her at one point why she keeps wearing the cross when it’s been suggested that aliens rather than God made humans, she shoots back saying, “Yes, but who made them?” But then later on she ends up convinced the engineers are indeed her ‘maker,’ despite non-conclusive evidence a scientist like her would require before jumping into such theory. That supposed DNA match argument doesn’t really hold up either as the engineers don’t really share our likeness so to think that they created us is just laughable. I guess you can chug it to ‘that’s what I choose to believe’ [shrug]

Scott directing Rapace in Prometheus

Prometheus does work as a sci-fi thriller though, and there are a lot to be enjoyed in the movie. The suspense and eerie feeling is definitely there throughout, peppered with jump-out-your-seat moments but not too scary that would repulse someone like me. I’ve mentioned how gorgeous this movie is, the opening sequence look like something from an IMAX National Geographic film. I also enjoyed the performances of Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba, in that order. Rapace’s Shaw definitely echoes the badassery of Alien’s Sigourney Weaver. Her survival instinct is just incredible, yay for woman power! Fassbender’s robotic David is wonderful to watch as well, ironically, his character is the most well-developed of all the others. Clearly Scott is far more interested in the ‘replicant’ character than the human ones. Elba is his usual charming self and you could say he’s the comic relief in the movie.

So overall I see it as a fun sci-fi but not exactly a profound one. Sure Ridley Scott did a decent effort exploring the basic questions all of us grapple with: why are we here, where are we from, etc., he just can’t follow ’em up with meaningful answers, let alone a rational one.

Another movie I saw over the weekend is The Imaginarium of  Dr Parnassus, Heath Ledger’s last film I’ve been wanting to see since 2009. Ivan and I started watching it really late so we actually have only seen the first 90 minutes. So far I really enjoyed it though, it’s a fun fantasy flick, definitely bizarre but that’s what one would expect from Terry Gilliam. Christopher Plummer is wonderful as always, but the scene stealer is Heath Ledger. He was so charismatic, a pity that he died during production of this film. I am curious to see the three actors who replaced him in the latter half: Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Heath actually reminded me of Depp in some scenes so it’s definitely inspired casting. Bonus that Andrew Garfield is in this as well, I adore him and he’s the reason I’m looking forward to The Amazing Spiderman.

Oh and last but not least, my pal Becky made me promise that I watch BBC’s ZEN on Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday, and really she didn’t need to ask me twice. I mean, it’s Rufus Sewell + Rome = a delectable combination! Rufus is at his most gorgeous  [those Armani suits fit him sooo well], and so is his love interest, Caterina Murino [the other Bond girl besides Eva Green in Casino Royale]. It’s a great detective drama peppered with action and wit, it’s a pity BBC didn’t make more of it. Check out this in-depth review of the series when it first premiered on PBS last year.


Well, that’s my weekend viewing roundup. What did you watch this weekend? I welcome your reaction to my Prometheus mini review.

Correction on ‘Dr Parnassus’ movie release date

Sorry, apparently I was misinformed about the release date of the movie. The October 16th date is the UK release but as of today, there’s no official confirmation who’ll distribute it in the US and when.

There’s rumor circulating it might be out on Christmas day, and I’ll be sure to post an update as soon as I learn more.

Cheers!

Hollywood Casting News: Flixchatter highlights

When I was little, every time the inevitable “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question came up, I always answered with all the tenacity a teeny girl I could muster: a screenwriter. A rather unusual reply for a wee kid barely able to scribble a decent sentence, let alone a paragraph. But come to think of it, you know what would be a fantastic job to have? Casting director! I mean, imagine how fun it’d be going to work every day looking at scripts and study the characters, and figure out who’s best fit this role or that role. Of course it’s not as easy and glamorous as it seems, and I presume it can be as stressful as any job, but how gratifying it would be when the person you hire — and fight for with all your might to get him/her cast in a certain project — ends up winning an award or become an unlikely movie star! (I always wonder how Robert Pattinson’s casting director feels with all the frenzy surrounding that previously obscure kid actor).

In any case, as such dream job is definitely out of the realm of possibility, I settle for just reading about casting updates. Here’s some of the highlights this past week:

  • Jackman the AVON MAN?
    If he's selling it, I'd definitely be an AVON customer =)

    Variety: Hugh Jackman has joined the cast of Avon Man. Now, don’t worry, it’s not exactly another super hero flick. It’s billed as a Monty Phyton-ish comedy about a group of men laid off from an auto dealership (how timely!). One of them, presumably Jackman’s character, is reluctantly recruited into becoming an Avon salesman. Although the experience is initially emasculating, he uses his charm and good looks to become a top seller and even manage to compell his buddies to join him in the makeup business in order to win a regional sales contest. I laughed so hard just reading the premise, with Jackman’s charm and showmanship, this sounds like a winner!

  • Digital Spy reported that Colin Farrell has been tipped to replace Johnny Depp as Toby Grisoni in Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited Don Quixote movie. The film, initially titled The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, originally started filming in October 2000, but it was abandoned after a series of on-set mishaps. I wonder if the fact that both Depp and Farrell are in Gilliam’s upcoming film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus might have something to do with the casting switch.
  • I didn’t even know they’re making this film, but apparently it was to star Penn, Benicio del Toro and Jim Carrey. What a strange threesome indeed. But Chron Entertainment reported that Jim Carrey has walked away from the Farrelly brothers’ upcoming remake of The Three Stooges. He was expected to take on the role of Curly, but according to The Boston Globe, Peter Farrelly has confirmed he is no longer involved in the project. Allegedly, Giamatti has now been confirmed to fill the role vacated by Sean Penn (???!!), who quit the film earlier this year citing personal reasons. Well, who’d have thought Penn would ever be interested in a Three Stooges movie!
  • Variety: Frank Langella will join the cast of Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, that’ll be directed by Oliver Stone. Michael Douglas will reprise his Oscar-winning Gordon Gekko role. Langella is in talks to play Lewis Zabel, an old-time broker who mentors Shia LaBeouf’s character, a young Wall Street broker. Ok, that’s my cue that I’ve got to watch the original movie soon.
  • Variety: Sam Worthington is in talks to join Charlize Theron in The Tourist, a remake of the 2005 French thriller Anthony Zimmer that will be directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day). Theron is set to play a female Interpol agent who uses an American tourist in an attempt to flush out an elusive criminal who was once her lover. Worthington is replacing Tom Cruise who dropped out of the project (yay!). Wow, whoever this Aussie actor’s agent is, he/she’s one busy bee!

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Heath Ledger’s last film

ledger_parnasusIn the trailer that was released last week, we get a glimpse of the last work of an actor who died way too young and with so much potential for greatness. It’s a fantastical morality tale that tells the story of a leader of a traveling troupe, Dr Parnassus, who has an extraordinary gift of guiding people’s imagination through a magical mirror. But Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret after having made a deal with the devil Mr Nick a second time, this time to trade his immortality for youth. That ‘deal’ comes at a hefty price: any souls that reach the age of 16, including Parnassus’ own daughter, would become the property of Mr Nick. As Valentina rapidly approaches her 16th birthday, the doctor becomes desperate to protect her daughter from her impending fate. Enter a mysterious outsider Tony, who ends up embarking through parallel worlds of surreal obstacles to rescue Valentina, the girl he loves. He and Dr Parnassus must fight to undo the doctor’s past sins, once and for all.

British thespian Christopher Plummer (who’s always & forever Capt. Von Trapp to me) plays Dr Parnassus, and Heath played the role of Tony. According to MTV news, Heath has completed about 45 percent of the shoot for the film in London in early December 2007. By mid-January, after Ledger had filmed an eerie scene in which his character hangs by his neck off Blackfriars Bridge, production broke for a week, as planned, with the intention to resume the shoot in Vancouver. Heath died merely days later of accidental overdose. Originally director Terry Gilliam rejected the idea of recasting Heath’s role. “He finished almost everything on this side of the mirror,” Gilliam said. “What he didn’t do was what was on the other side of the mirror.” But upon the insistence of the producers of the film, he ended up having to find other actors to portray Tony once he travels through the mirror, and Gilliam called some of Ledger’s friends to see if they’d join the cast. That’s how Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law found their way into this movie. On a side note, the three replacement actors donated their paychecks to Matilda, Ledger’s three-year-old daughter, which is very cool of them to do so.

The movie was screened at Cannes to mixed reviews, and it will premiere for North American audiences at the Toronto Film Festival in less than a month. It’ll no doubt be gaining attention the fact that it’s Heath’s final film. But the trailer itself looks fascinating, it’s weirdly surreal-looking brimming with psychedelic imagination and circus-like vibe, which is expected from the director of Monty Phyton and the Holy Grail. Besides Ledger who’s perfect as Tony, it’s always fun to see Johnny Depp in yet another one of his seemingly endless fantastical roles (as he’s just last seen as Madhatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). “Nothing is permanent, not even death,” Depp as Tony says towards the end. Alas, in the transient world we live in, it is indeed permanent, but once The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is released on October 16, it’ll be great to see Ledger come alive again on screen.