Movies: Ridley Scott’s newest gem from Germany and the Muppets take on Halloween


The awards at VIFF this year included a lot of films that I saw towards the end. Watch them when they come back. The best BC Film was Handle with care: the legend of the Notic Streetball team, which is more than basketball. Best Canadian: Sin Havana. Co-extinction won the Rob Stewart Eco Warrior Award and Official competition (Spanish, very funny) and The in-laws (black humor from Poland) were among the audience favorites. Our Oscar submission Drunken birds got a special mention in the Canadian category.

Back to the usual cinema scene, here are the novelties …

The Last Duel: 3 stars

I am your man: 3½

Haunted Mansion of the Muppets: 4

Mass: 4

Lucky Love Song: 3

THE LAST DUEL: A 14th century #MeToo tale tries to show that it always has been. Men control, women are victims. Under the direction of Ridley Scott and the visual eyes of the art directors, it almost works. But it is also too long and sometimes drags because of its structure. There Is A Rape, the story is told in three versions, each from a distinct perspective: the wife (Jodie Comer), her husband (Matt Damon) and the author (Adam Driver), if he s was really rape. A tribunal will decide that, and if not, God will, who will let him win a duel.

Courtesy of 20th Century Films

It happened in France in 1386 and has since fascinated historians as well as novelist Eric Jager, the source of this film. Driver and Damon play the fighting best friends on earth, and a promotion has gone to the character of Driver instead of Damon. They present themselves differently in the three stories, naturally, depending on who is telling them. But the facts only vary subtly, and it feels like we’re getting them three times. It is also far-fetched to accept these actors as characters from medieval France. Damon’s accent wanders, Driver’s is more stable, but Ben Affleck as the King’s cousin doesn’t even try to accent. Comer (well known from television Kill Eve) fits best. She is intelligent and varied in the way she plays the victim, especially under misogynistic interrogation in court. The duel, which we are promised from the start, is brutal when it comes. The rest of the story feels like we’ve heard it before. (5th Avenue, International Village, Marine Gateway, and many suburban theaters.) 3 of 5

I AM YOUR MAN: The title is clever because it is not at all a man. He’s a robot. (Android, for science fiction buffs, because he’s so realistic.) He’s also polite, attentive, and very intelligent. He can quote obscure percentages about accidents, and when he draws a bubble bath adorned with rose blossoms, he can tell you that 93% of German women prefer that. The film is Germany’s candidacy for the upcoming Oscars and has already won awards nationally and at festivals. And it’s delicious.

Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Dan Stevens (remember him from Game Of Thrones?) plays him wide-eyed and a little odd, speaking German with an English accent. He is programmed with algorithms that make him the perfect man. Maren Eggert won the 2021 Berlin Silver Bear for her performance as the lady in charge of hosting him for three weeks to see if he’s really that perfect. He does not get angry, but on demand can simulate anger. He orders in a cafe but later admits he didn’t really know what he wanted. She is puzzled, happy and annoyed. The first scenes are very funny, playing on what some women can expect from an ideal man. Then a competing production sets in, but the film, directed by Maria Schrader, doesn’t stick to it and turns on a superfluous twist. It’s still a lot of fun. (Vancity Theater.) 3½ of 5

MUPPETS HAUNTED MANOR: Preparing for Halloween brings back horror classics (see Rio Theater schedule) and even nifty horror (check out The Cinematheque) and a new one or two (like this week’s too late promotion Halloween kills), but think about what the Muppets did. They made Christmas, Treasure Island and Outer Space, and now (for the first time) Halloween. Gonzo and Pepe dare to spend the night in a haunted mansion that once belonged to a great magician. It is to pay homage to him and to reproduce the route proposed in several Disney theme parks. The movie is short, only 52 minutes, and with its easy mix of mild scares and Muppets show nostalgia is a good family event.

At the mansion, Will Arnett is the host, celebrities introduce themselves as Sasheer Zamata, Danny Trejo, Taraji P. Henson, Pat Sajak and Ed Asner (as ghost, one of his last roles), and pretty much every Muppet you can remember is there: Animal, Sam the Eagle, Fozzie Bear, and so on. Kermit in one scene is dressed as Miss Piggy.

Courtesy of Disney

People who remember them from the TV show will probably appreciate it the most. It’s full of back references, jokes, and the same goofy humor. A breakup is explained as “a union affair” but we get this assurance: “Don’t worry, folks, we’re not going to explain all the jokes. Yet they do a lot. It’s funny. (Disney +.) 4 of 5

MASS: When I read about the school shootings, that archery and arrows attack this week, or anything like that, I think not only of the victims but also of the shooter’s parents. What should they be thinking? Do they feel guilty? Would they have seen warning signs? This film tackles these questions head-on with a fictional story of two sets of parents meeting and talking. Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton play the roles of parents who lost a son when a teenager took a gun to school and shot his classroom and the library. Reed Birney and Ann Dowd play the shooter’s parents. The conversation they have around a table in a local church is excruciating with the emotion it arouses. It is devastating, it can alert you, but since it is so real, it might worry you excessively.

Courtesy of MK2

Plimpton plays a brooding mom. She doesn’t want to meet the other parents and ends up becoming vindictive. Isaacs, as a father, tries to keep things calm. On the other side, Birney says he didn’t know her son was depressed. He was lonely, had good grades, and spent too much time on his computer, but it didn’t seem unusual. “None of us knew.” Plimpton insists they must have known or should have. The father is full of regrets and his wife collapses crying at one point. The four of them remember stories about their children that appear in the arguments, but also make the grief worse. “I promised him his life would make sense,” Plimpton’s character says of his son. This is a drama deeply felt by actor Fran Kranz who is making a powerful debut as a writer and director. (International Village, also Victoria and Kelowna.) 4 of 5

HARD LUCKY LOVE SONG: It’s one of those little movies about people hanging out in country bars, living in cheap motels, and trying to have a life. It’s one of the best, easy to take, and seemingly based on reality, like some of the best country songs. No surprise, that. It’s based on a song, Like the good old times by Todd Snider, who plays it alongside the end credits. It’s about a guy who goes to town in Texas, plays pool for money, and reconnects with a woman he hasn’t seen since that time in New Orleans. Typical country lyrics, right? The film corresponds to them and develops them a little.

Courtesy of Photon Films and Roadside Media

Michael Dorman plays the guy; a songwriter, he says, for a few mid-level artists. The woman (Sophia Bush) now works as a prostitute (she will do whatever you want except breakdance). He calls her and they reunite even though she remembers that he “plotted and manipulated” and had “destroyed everything”. He looks pretty cool now, but not when he’s playing pool. He’s a con artist and he gets beaten up for it. Dermot Mulroney, Eric Roberts and RZA cross his path. Also, a surprisingly understanding cop. As the song says, it’s about “living our own kind of American dream.” (Rio Theater, Sunday and Wednesday.) 3 out of 5

About Victoria Rothstein

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