Ron got it wrong (U)***
Ridley Scott’s last historical epic, The last duel, should not be confused with some kind of late sequel or prequel to his first film The Duelists. More than four centuries apart, the latter was a dawn gun affair set in the era of the Napoleonic Wars; the new film, meanwhile, features men jousting to defend their wounded pride in a medieval France shot through with post-MeToo sensibility.
It’s the hook to bring this story based on real events behind the last legally sanctioned duel in French history to the big screen. It stars Matt Damon and Adam Driver as Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, respectively, friends in King Charles VI’s army who fall out when Le Gris wins favor with the king’s playboy cousin, the Comte Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck) and is later accused by Jean Marguerite’s wife (Jodie Comer) of rape. The origin of their rivalry is not the attack on Marguerite, but a dispute over land promised to Jean as part of her marriage dowry – a fact which the film uses to show how much the women are considered property, not human beings.
If that makes the film’s sexual politics brutal, well, they are. But it also makes a valiant effort to dismantle notions of chivalrous honor by telling the Rashomon-style story from the perspective of each of its main characters. Co-written by Damon, Affleck and freelance writer Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said), the film sees each writer take turns writing a chapter, with Damon doing his, Affleck doing Driver’s and Holofcener writing Comer’s.
Admittedly, it’s slightly unfortunate for the film’s feminist credentials that by the time we get to Marguerite’s point of view, she doesn’t need as much screen time to get her truth across. Nonetheless, Comer is a formidable enough presence to make it work, and Holofcener gives her some withered lines that reinforce the danger she’s in just for talking. Elsewhere, Damon and Driver pretty much play type, albeit with the former’s usual stoic heroism and the latter’s mischievous charms reframed in a less forgiving light. Affleck, meanwhile, writes an entertaining and juicy part of his own as the dodgy count and Scott pulls off the titular showdown with all the bloody, heartbreaking tension you’d expect from the director of Gladiator.
Revolving around a lonely child who befriends a malfunctioning robot, Ron gone wrong plays as an algorithmically assembled riff on ET, Wreck it Ralph, Big Hero 6 and West World. It’s more than a little ironic given that this latest Disney animation also functions as a slight retreat from big tech and its insidious efforts to turn children into consumers. Luckily, it’s also a lot of fun, which makes it a bit easier to swallow his moralization about the need for kids to connect with each other rather than through each other’s devices.
The story revolves around an endearing school misfit called Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer) who feels increasingly ostracized by being the only kid in his class who doesn’t own a B-Bot. : a social media-ready robot buddy designed by a giant tech called Bubble to make sure no kid ever feels lonely again…unless they can’t afford it (in a snap clear eye to Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs of Apple, Bubble is led by a goofy tech genius and his co-founder). But when Barney gets his hands on factory scrap Ron (Zack Galifianakis) bought out of the back of a truck by his cash-strapped dad (Ed Helms), his flaws turn out to be his strengths so that his and Barney’s off-the-grid existence forces them to learn from each other, not from the data Bubble collects about everyone else.
As ambitious as it may seem thematically, what follows lacks the conceptual leaps we get from Pixar, but it’s a solid, gag-packed adventure nonetheless and Olivia Colman is a hoot as the voice of Donka, Barney’s Bulgarian grandmother, a little crazy.
The more murders Michael Myers commits, the more powerful he becomes, says a character from halloween kills. Unfortunately, the other main benefit of this latest installment in the horror franchise is that the more the filmmakers tackle the original film’s mythology, the less threatening the whole thing feels.
A direct sequel to the 40th anniversary/reboot/whatever sequel that came out in 2018, this one picks up the action on the same Halloween night as the previous film (which brought back Jamie Lee Curtis), but it goes back also in time for 1978 so returning director David Gordon Green can create an epilogue to John Carpenter’s groundbreaking original that will allow him to expand the 2018 story in a way that connects the two more strongly.
As fun as some of Green’s narrative trickery is, his main innovation here is to turn the tables on Michael by having the people of Haddonfield fight him. This leads to a frenetic and quite effective setting involving an angry mob chasing the wrong man. But having chosen to also confine Curtis’ character to a hospital bed for much of the time, the film ultimately doesn’t have much to offer beyond raising the body count in painstakingly macabre fashion. in preparation for the already announced final chapter next year. Halloween ends.
The Last Duel, Ron’s Gone Wrong and Halloween Kills are in theaters from October 15
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