The major film of the week re-releases old antagonists and two friends from Boston.
Jamie Lee Curtis tangles with her arch nemesis Michael Myers (no relation to this writer) in “Halloween Kills,” while the Oscar-winning screenwriting duo of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon featured in “The Last Duel” alongside Nicole Holofcener Has been. Directed by Ridley Scott and co-starring Damon and Affleck.
Here’s a rundown on what to watch this week, including a trio of excellent documentaries served on streaming services.
“The Last Duel”: Telling a story about a crime from different perspectives is nothing new. Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” remains a textbook example of how to take that approach and do it correctly. But screenwriters Holofsner, Affleck, and Damon also deserve their due, handling a tricky narrative structure well in the absorbing they said/said about an alleged rape in 14th-century France. Veteran director Ridley Scott (“Aliens,” “Gladiator”) proves to be equally adept at tackling the challenging material that each of the three major players took on.
Scott explains the small but details – such as the flap of an eyelid – as well as the big implications of unspooling clashing interpretations of a couple’s sex life. What always remains is the disturbing fact that men treat women as little more than servants to satisfy their every hunger. Be prepared for difficult scenes, including two explicit but never unnecessary reenactments of alleged rape. Though “Last Duel” could have missed at least 10 minutes from its 2½-hour running time, the excellent ensemble cast, played by Jodie Comer, keeps us hooked. The story is drawn into three chapters, each of which culminates in the sexual assault of Marguerite (Comer), the wife of the tax-burdened Jean de Carruges (Matt Damon), the handsome, arrogant rake Jacques le Gris ( An extraordinary Adam Driver), Jean’s former friend. “Gladiator” devotees will be delighted by Scott’s occasional burst of blood-soaked sword-and-arrow games. But the “duel”, based on real events, is more concerned with battles fought in homes and puppet courts. “Duel” draws its richest blood not from the climactic duel (well-staged), but in its depiction of Marguerite’s violations and reactions to it, a smile from King Charles VI (Alex Lother) and a derision from the orgy-lover. , High-powered chum of Jacques’ – Count Pierre of Alençon (Affleck, in blonde-hair mode). description: 3 out of 4 stars; In theaters October 15.
“Convergence: Courage in Crisis”: With COVID-19 a deadly global presence, do we really need to revisit the early months of a pandemic that remains so fresh in our minds? Yes, when documentary-maker Orlando von Einsiedl (“Virunga,” “The White Helmets”) is on top. What makes this poignant, surprisingly inspiring documentary so extraordinary is its intimate tale of nine stories about people of color, from a committed volunteer to a Miami doctor helping locate the sick in a Brazilian slum. To help the homeless population. This is one of the best documentaries of 2021. description: 4 stars; Available on Netflix.
“Jacinta”: While Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy” turns impoverished rural America into a Hollywood cliché, this terrifying Hulu documentary on drug addiction is rooted in the real deal. It is an immaculate portrait of a Maine mother trapped in an endless cycle of lies, theft and drug abuse. Filmmaker Jessica Earnshaw gets unprecedented access from Jacinta, 26, the camera is always there to photograph her stop-and-go efforts to stay clean following her release from Maine Correctional Center. The deck is stacked against him, thanks to “guys” who are supporters and a mother with a rap sheet who is doing time in the same lock-up. The scenes between Jacinta and her daughter Kailyn are going to break you. My only complaint is the very fast documentary sprint at the end. description: three and a half stars; Available on Hulu.
“the Velvet Underground”: Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven,” “Dark Waters”) puts his innovative stamp on rock-band documentary, a genre often given for less-than-lights. Haynes certainly respects one of rock’s most influential groups, but that doesn’t stop him from noticing the discrepancy between its faster members (Lou Reed stands out as an idiosyncratic genius) while acknowledging their artistic successes. stops. Told in the impressionistic, avant-garde flourishes that reflect the bold creative landscape in 1960s New York that inhabited, “underground” is a statement of the times that have the personalities of the people involved. description: 4 stars; Opens October 15 in select theaters and on AppleTV+; An onstage conversation with Haynes at the Mill Valley Film Festival on October 17, also screens at www.mvff.com.
“Muppets Haunted Mansion”: If the family-friendly “Addams Family 2” hasn’t left you snapping your fingers, turn to Disney+ for this Halloween-themed offering. Featuring original ditties—best being performed by Darren Criss in Between the Graves, “Rest in Peace”—and several cameos (including the late Edward Asner)—great Gonzo teamed up for anything in this spirited 93-minute treat. Go to The Haunted Mansion to spend a night full of terror in the clever King Shrimp, one of Disney’s theme rides. Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown and Taraji P. Henson are having a great time and make it irresistible as the Muppets. description: 3 stars; Available on Disney+.
“Foggy”: Shorter than “Haunted Mansion,” but sure to make you cry, AppleTV+’s 14 Minutes Short – a husband’s remembrance of his wife and mother of his kids. This Skydance animation film is a special, wordless portrait of love and loss set on a desolate planet, enriched by the presence of a fickle creature that has the ability to land and change the lives of other astronauts. It’s absolutely cute. description: three and a half stars; Available on Apple TV+.
“Mass”: In this four-person cubicle piece, the still-stunned parents (Reed Birney and Ann Dowd) of a deceased high school shooter meet with the parents (Jason Issacs and Martha Plimpton) of a son killed in the attack. See you in the room. The aim is not only to gain insight into how this happened but to share in the grieving and healing process. Actor Fran Kranz’s writing and directing debut makes for an uncomfortable, often tortuous film. The acting is remarkable, with Isaac and Plimpton giving their all as tormented parents who don’t always want to be in that room. But even though the intentions of “Mass” — the 2018 Parkland, Florida-born, shooting — are well-meaning, the landscape comes across as stagnant and insidious and seems to be yelling at us at every turn. description: 2 Stars will open in select theaters on October 15.
“Bergman Island”: You don’t need to be a disciple of iconic Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergmann to swoon over this bold, consistently surprising ode to the playful art of creativity. But it will help. Vicky Cripps and Tim Roth are a delight as a filmmaking couple seeking creative mojo on the Faroe Islands for many of Bergman’s most notable works. Director Mia Hansen-Love’s brilliant tribute comes with a parallel story with multiple layers. It’s all told playfully and with a master’s touch. description: three and a half stars; In theaters October 15; Available to stream on October 22nd.
“save”: Leave it to the Oscar-winning spouse who is directing the pairing of Elizabeth Chai Vasarely and Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo”) to make us slumber in our seats. His latest documentary chew-your-nails is intense as it plunges us into Thailand’s Tham Luang Nang Non cave to enlist the daring 2018 recovery of 12 teenagers and their soccer coach. As it progresses, “The Rescue” recounts a dangerous mission that turned cave divers into heroes. You want to be happy to stand till the end. description: three and a half stars; In theaters October 15.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]