Tag: Adam Driver

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

tmwkdqIt’s been three decades in the making but Terry Gilliam has finally done it! For so long, the spectre of cinematic death has loomed large over his project but the fact that The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has been released at all represents a marvel of Directorial tenacity. It certainly was an ambitious assignment, made more so by some spectacular bad luck; illness, floods, financial difficulties and a number of other studio ailments. But finally it’s here and it’s wonderful to see Gilliam having the last laugh…. even if his film isn’t very good.

Quixote is unmistakably a Gilliam film, popping and fizzing with the ex-Python’s eccentric grandeur. A testament to its lengthy gestation, the film runs the stylistic gamut of his back-catalogue; breathing the leathery pungency of Time Bandits, the derailed loopiness of Brazil and the woozy nausea of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The story (confused as it is), operates as a fevered auto-biopic of a Director’s arm-wrestle with his art. Adam Driver plays Toby, an aspiring feature Director who has been put out to pasture on a diet of advertising work. Cynical of his vocation and struggling for motivation, he relives his past through a chance job located in rural Spain where his career began. The film blurs the lines between reality and fantasy as he reconnects with a village cobbler who thinks he is the famed Don Quixote de la Mancha (played by the wonderful Jonathan Pryce). Toby’s flirtation with Quixote’s delusions leads them both down a comical path of madness and redemption.

Quixote’s grand visual style is undoubtedly mesmerising, but unfortunately the writing bloats a production already struggling to support the weight of its troubled past, unduly hampering it with swathes of incoherence too bothersome to wade through. Indeed, when Driver exclaims midway through the film “This is insane!”, I think he might’ve mistaken his line for a margin note. Alas, Gilliam has clearly suffered from his lengthy stare down this production’s endless rabbit hole. And despite periods of biting comedy and some delightful old-school production heft, this is a project that would’ve been better to have died on the vine.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

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Logan Lucky

llFive years ago Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11,12,13, Erin Brockovich) quipped “If I have to get into a van to do another scout, I’m just going to shoot myself.”  Well, saddle up Stevo, because your so-called “retirement” has come to an end with Logan Lucky.

Set in Boone County, West Virginia, Logan Lucky resembles an Ocean film but with all the knee slappin’ swagger of a West Virginian bar brawl. The Logan brothers, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver), cite a family curse for their bad luck.  Jimmy was a promising American football player until his knee blew out and Clyde lost his arm (or hand, as he insists) on tour in Iraq. Determined to change their bad fortune, they hatch a plan to circumvent (quite literally) the local speedway’s cash takings that are being pumped through pneumatic tubes into an underground vault. Unsurprisingly, an explosives expert is required for the heist—the appropriately named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) along with his two brothers. After a comically small deliberation on the morals of carrying out the felony (to get the film’s audience onside as much as themselves), their tenuous plan kicks off a riotous regimen of shenanigans and tomfoolery.

Soderbergh is never one to shy away from peculiar production practices, and here he has turned to an unknown writer (to us, at least) to pen this screwball caper. Credited as Rebecca Blunt, the film’s writer is rumoured to be a pseudonym for Soderbergh’s wife Jules Asner, comedian John Henson, or even Soderbergh himself.

Having produced the Ocean’s triplets (and with one in the oven), Soderbergh’s experience in working with an ensemble cast is clearly evident; here the main cast offers solid performances that embrace the film’s tone. However, Logan Lucky is not without its faults; a few heavy handed stereotypes, some pedestrian moments, and forced cameos from Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, and Hilary Swank, unfortunately derail the film’s momentum and continuity.  There is no doubting that Logan Lucky has a big heart and tries its hardest to be endearing, but it falls a couple of rednecks short of a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.

 

You can see my published reviews here.

Silence

 

silenceI am always wary when a film of notable scope and pedigree such as Silence is largely ignored during awards season. Either I’m reading too much into its lack of critical chatter, or the film is a dud. I was hoping the former.  After all, master director Martin Scorsese has had this film in the oven on slow-cook since the nineties, so my hopes were high.

Silence is based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 historical novel about the persecution of Christians in 17th-century Japan. Two Portuguese Jesuit priests, Rodrigues and Garupe (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver), leave for Japan in search of one of their own (Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson) who’s believed to have renounced his faith and “gone native”. In doing so, both have their faith tested as they encounter extreme torment in a land that is “like a swamp” and incapable of adopting the Christian faith. Shūsaku Endō’s story is remarkably similar to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which also received cinematic treatment with Apocalypse Now.  But where Apocalypse Now was a personal film for Ford Coppola due to hardships he encountered while filming, Silence is a personal film to Scorsese because the source material clearly resonates with his own faith.  However, this might’ve clouded his filmic judgement, because like its protagonists, Silence tests your patience.

I really wanted to like this film, but like an unrequited love, I found myself losing interest and giving up the chase. Large chunks were unengaging, slow, and dare I say it … boring.  Putting in extra effort to peel back layers of dubious Portuguese accents and gratuitous melodrama does reward the viewer with glimpses of Scorsese genius; his intentional use of the camera, his interesting treatment of sound — basically, Silence looks and sounds great.  But, that’s slim pickings for a film that promised so much more.

I have never felt this way about a Scorsese film before. So, like the Jesuit priests, I started to doubt my faith in the great director.  Must I apostatise like the film’s Christian subjects? Maybe I was lacking the piety of a true film critic. Or perhaps this was a test and so I should wait for enlightenment. Like any great cinematic journey, the destination only begins to fully reveal itself long after you’ve left the theatre.  So, wait I did … nothing. Waited further … silence.  Sorry Martin.

Rating: 2.5 blessings out of 5

You can see the published review here.