The Last Duel | This Movie Will Piss You Off

This historical drama directed and produced by Ridley Scott sees the reunion Ben Affleck (ZSJL, Paycheck) and Matt Damon (The Martian, The Bourne Identity) on film since Good Will Hunting (1997). The film also stars Adam Driver (Hungry Hearts, This Is Where I Leave You) as Jacques Le Gris, Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) as Maguerite de Carrouge, in this adaptation of Eric Jager‘s book about the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history.

Premise: In 1386, after the squire Jacques Le Gris is accused of a heinous crime, King Charles VI (Alex Lawther) declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.

Review: The story is told from three perspectives, one from each of our main characters, Jacques Le Gris, Jean De Carrouge, and Lady Marguerite. The perspectives are interesting in showing how each individual see themselves and the others involved.

The first perspective lays some foundation on the circonstances surrounding the duel besides the crime Le Gris is accused of. However, when the second perspective arrives and seemingly starts from the beginning – with minor differences – I was rolling my eyes waiting to see how the crime in question would be seen in that perspective. It didn’t turn out like I expected, I thought they’d be more of gray situation, more doubts as to who’s telling the truth but there’s no argument to be had. So from then on I got steadily angrier, I even said aloud “what the F” wondering how this was his account of the crime. I am not trying to pin modern morals onto the past but I can’t help if I’m pissed at what’s going on. I was also glad not to have read the book, because if I had I don’t think I would seen this movie.
As for the third perspective, it just adding insult to injury, pouring more salt to the wound, I saw red and doubted how this duel would be resolved. The duel itself is a high point in the movie action-wise but it’s also a point of contention for me because the outcome was a toss up, and it was not about justice.

The cast did an amazing job, there are subtle but meaningful differences in their portrayals in each of the perspectives. Driver even manages to make his Le gris’ belief that he did nothing wrong beside adultery believable. Damon and Comer were excellent.

The Last Duel took me on a wild emotional ride that barely abetted my anger in the end.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

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No Time to Die | Not The Woke Fest Some Say It Has Become

The fifth and final Daniel Craig 007 movie, No Time to Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, is spy thriller we were all waiting for. Craig led the franchise as the notorious James Bond for 15 years, he has the longest tenure held by an actor in the Bond movie franchise. This time around, the iconic agent is joined onscreen by Lashana Lynch, Ana de ArmasRami Malek and Billy Magnussen.

Premise: James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Review: My excitement for this movie seriously waned, when it wasn’t very high to begin with. Between Spectre that wasn’t very inspiring and the long wait, I went to see this film for something to do knowing that I would probably write about it. I’ve seen this movie on Tuesday and delayed writing this review because this movie failed to excite me despite being a good movie that managed to make shed a few tears.

The story is really engaging and connects all of Craig’s films in a clever way, this movie is influenced by the previous ones. If like me the other movies are not fresh in your mind there might be a bit of a disconnect but it takes little away from action and drama. There’s a lot of incredible action scenes, which compliments the directing and cinematography very well, while highlighting the ingenuity of the stunts. The dramatic moments are good and refreshing for a Bond film, it’s a bit more emotional, which I liked.
However, I have two main nitpicks with this movie, one is about the vilain and the age difference that is hinted at between Swan and Safin, I’m sorry it doesn’t work there’s no way he’s much older; the other one is about the weapon that Safin has, I feel like there was another solution to that problem. I won’t say more because that might be considered a spoiler.

As for the cast, they’re amazing in this movie. I enjoyed seeing the returning cast, it made me want to see more of them, I wouldn’t be opposed to a mini-series on Q (Ben Whishaw). Lynch is kickass as a 00 agent, de Armas and Magnussen have small roles but they’re far more memorable than Malek who is criminally underused.

No Time To Die is a solid spy thriller that really feels like the end of an era. It’s not the woke fest some might like to say it has become because Bond is not F’ing multiple woman instead on focusing on the threat at hand.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Passing | Trailer

  • Writer: Rebecca Hall (Screenplay), Nella Larsen (Novella)
  • Director: Rebecca Hall
  • Stars: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Alexander Skarsgard, Justus Davis Graham, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Ethan Barrett, Ashley Ware Jenkins.

This movie looks awesome, I like that it’s in black and white, the music, and the cast. I’m very intrigued. Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson are perfect for the roles, they have the talent and the look for it, I can’t wait to see this. Nella Larsen’s book is not a book I was familiar with but now I also want to read it.

Passing will be in select theaters in October and on Netflix on November 10, 2021.

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Dune | Near Mastery in Book Adaptation

Frank Herbert‘s 1965 science fiction novel of the same name, has had several big screen treatments – I’ve never seen any of them until now – but this feature adaptation is helmed by Sicario‘s Denis Villeneuve and stars Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Zendaya (Spiderman: Homecoming), Jason Momoa (Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Aquaman), Rebecca Ferguson (MI5, MI6, The White Queen), Josh Brolin (Infinity War, Endgame) among other talented actors.

Premise: A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence-a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential-only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Review: This movie is amazing, because the wealth of material crammed into that first book made me think that an adaptation would be very underwhelming. The reason for that i, most studios tend to adapt one book for one movie, except when they’re trying to milk the source material dry (i.e.: The Hobbit Trilogy, Breaking Dawn). In this instance they adapted most of the first book while still trimming some things from it.

Now, let’s focus on the movie itself, it’s striking. The visual effects, costume and set designs, and the acting is near perfection. Dune is a beautiful movie to look at with captivating performances in the hand of a skilled director and cinematographer but I have to admit that more needed to be done to convey some of the somewhat complex story points of this world. They did a decent job of it but during my screening, a woman next to me needed to have some of the blanks filled for her by her friends next to her. Don’t worry it wasn’t disrupting to me but whenever I felt like what I was seeing on screen wasn’t clear enough that woman, who clearly never read the books reacted in a way that confirmed my suspicions. In some instances it was a great thing because she was surprised and amazed by things that I expected but in others she wasn’t clear on some aspects and that’s what I’m referring to here.

It’s a bit nitpicky of me but part of the story was a bit wage, like some of the characters motivations, to name one. Not all of them were well defined – going deeper into this would be going into spoiler territory. However, the many themes of the original story is cleverly translated to the screen, and like the first book it allows different people to pull a variation of meaning of this movie.

Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune is a beautiful movie that does the book justice but it’s only one part of a hopefully much bigger whole.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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Hawkeye | Trailer

  • Headwriter: Jonathan Igla
  • Director: Rhys Thomas, Bert & Bertie
  • Stars: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farminga, Fra Fee, Tony Dalton, Zahn McClarnon, Brian d’Arcy James, Alaqua Cox

From the trailer alone it looks like the series is heavily inspired by Matt Fraction and David Aja‘s comic run on Hawkeye, which was to be expected because it was a great run. The most surprising thing about it is the Christmas setting, it probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind for Hawkeye but it works. It’s perfect for the character, who’s a family man, and allows us to see him in a different light. There’s also a cheerful, more comedic tone to the show

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Cinderella (2021) | What If Ella was like Belle?

This modern interpretation of Charles Perrault’s classic fairytale by Kay Cannon is a comedy musical featuring well-known pop and rock hits, in addition to several original songs. Camila Cabello stars as the title character in her acting debut, alongside Nicholas Galitzine (The Craft: Legacy, Handsome Devil) as the prince, Billy Porter (Pose) as the fairy Godmother, Idina Menzel (Frozen) as the Stepmother, and Pierce Brosnan (A Long Way Down, The November Man) & Minnie Driver (About a Boy) as the king and queen.

Premise:  Ella is an ambitious young woman who has big dreams for her future that are thwarted by her patriarchal society. With the help of her Fab Godmother, she perseveres to make them come true.

Review: Going in I didn’t know this movie was a Jukebox Musical, which is not a problem for me since I loved Moulin Rouge, but it’s important to note that it is one because that helps a lot in the enjoyment of the movie. The song choices are great, they work well with the story, modernizing it just enough and making it fresh.

Even knowing this was a musical, I was still shocked at the talent involved. For one I recognized a lot of British comedians and actors, but I kind of expected just a few cast members to sing. Here most of them have a musical number or/and participate in one. There are also many clever little changed to the story that shift things a bit without them being a total reboot of the story and characters. In this version some characters have more to do while others were added to the story. For example, Menzel’s stepmother is more mean than straight up evil and her motivations make some sense, the king and queen have more to do, and changes have been made to the prince that matches with the ones made to Ella.
Ella has more agency, she’s driven, and not exactly waiting to be saved. She’s more like Belle than the classic Cinderella. I also like that Cinderella wasn’t supposed to be considered ugly, just unkempt, her stepsisters even acknowledges that she is beautiful at one point. I always found it weird in other versions that everyone seem to act like she’s ugly until she puts on sparkling dress.

The movie also has a lot of comedy in it, and the cast does a great job with it. Cabello being the least experienced here doesn’t embarrass herself in her performance, she does a good job. Porter as the fairy godmother fits in so well that it doesn’t distract from the movie at all. Music aside, the plot has a whole is what that fairytale would be like if it was written nowadays. it’s not perfect but it entertains.

Cinderella is a fun movie, with a nice song selection, and changes that brings a nice spin to the classic fairytale.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | An Ode to Asian Cinema with a Marvel Spin

After Marvel has been killing it with their TV series Wandavision, TFATWS, and a surprising entry with Black Widow, the studio is back is another block buster directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy), who and co-wrote it with Andrew Lanham (The Kid) and Dave Callaham (WW84). The movie stars Simu Liu (Kim’s convenience) in the title role with Awkwafina (Nora from Queens), Tony Leung (The Grandmaster), Fala Chen (The Undoing), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians), Florian Munteanu (Creed II), and Meng’er Zhang rounding out the cast.

Premise: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Shang-Chi is drawn into the clandestine Ten Rings organization, and is forced to confront the past he thought he left behind.

Review: This movie being about a superhero of color, some people might be tempted to compare this movie to Black Panther, but unlike Asian cinema black cinema is not as expansive and widely known. So where Ryan Coogler‘s built upon black cinema, Destin Daniel Cretton paid homage to the various Asian films has while creating his own world within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cretton seamlessly mixes western and East Asian movie production styles in Shang-Chi.

The plot is quite compelling, it focuses on the family and a good chunk of it is on the antagonist that we get to know and understand fully. The rest of the MCU is referenced to point out that it’s all connected but this movie is mostly self-contained and centered on Shang-Chi’s family. There’s enough cool world building for the film to stand on its own, because the story spans throughout time with many flashbacks establishing each characters. The mix of different production styles and genres allow each of the action sequences to have a unique look and feel.
The fight choreography is an absolute joy to watch, it’s next level, because they really lean into the martial art aspect of the film. It also looks new and fresh with great cinematography and visual effects. However, the bigger and crazier the fights gets, the more it looks like any old Marvel VFX action sequence instead – meaning it’s good but not as exciting as it once was. I’m talking about a particular sequence in the third act, it’s cool to look at, if you can follow it. Since it’s Marvel, there’s humour throughout but it’s used well, it doesn’t take away from drama and gravitas of the film.

The cast is top notch, they are great and each are given cool character moments throughout the film. Simu Liu and Awkwafina make for a great duo, Leung is amazing, and the rest of the ladies are simply great.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a fun action movie with many surprises making it a top MCU film.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

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