Cinema Dispatch: Dune

Dune and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Dune is just one of those things that I’ve only ever known from the outside looking in; like modern art trends or Homestuck.  I never read the book but I have seen the David Lynch movie which is… well it’s certainly in the ballpark of what I’d imagine a David Lynch space opera to be, but it still took me two or three viewings before I could even grasp what was going on; especially when the second half just sped through years of its plot in a few quick montages.   Eventually though, I got the gist of it and there are things about the world that I did like even if I found quite a bit of it to be rather flawed and overly convoluted.  Perhaps Warner Bros had the same idea when they greenlit this remake as I doubt they’d put as much money as they did into a project as esoteric as David Lynch’s weird little sci-fi epic.  Then again, with the way Warner Bros has been acting recently, it’s hard to tell where their head is at and what we can expect from anything they put out anymore.  Is this a worthwhile adaptation of one of Science Fiction’s most esoteric classics?  Let’s find out!!

If you’re still in the dark as to what this whole DUNE thing is about, then brace yourselves as this will be a bit much to take in and yet still only scratching the surface!  At its core, it’s the story of two great houses IN SPACE; The Harkonnens and the Atreides.  The Harkonnens have been running a Spice plant on the planet Arrakis for generations on behalf of the Galactic Empire, but since Galactic Empires can’t help themselves from stirring the pot now and again, they’ve decreed that the Harkonnens will no longer run Arrakis and that Atreides will run the Spice plant instead; a task that involves managing very tense relationships with the native people of the planet known as the Fremen.  Spice by the way is… a lot to get into; just imagine that it’s Space Oil and also Peyote as it allows ships to fly across the galaxy while ALSO getting you super high!  What it ultimately serves as is for the plot is a resource that the two families are fighting over that they only partially understand, and the young prince of the Atreides family Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is your typical sci-fi and Fantasy hero who bears the burden of his family’s name and has a greater destiny that he is not truly aware of yet.  To go much further than that would be getting into the second half of Dune while this movie only covers the first half, so essentially it’s a power dispute between two great houses over control of this planet that ends up being the starting point for a greater journey that Paul has to take that could shake the Galactic Empire to its core!  Will the Atreides, led by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), be able to fill in the shoes left by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) and produce enough Spice on the harsh desert planet of Arrakis?  What threats must they face on the planet, and are some of them coming from much closer than they expect?  I know it’s a different sci-fi universe, but do you think we can just call Paul a Jedi and be done with it?  I mean we can beat around the bush with names like Kwisatz Haderach and groups like the Bene Gesserit, but frankly, I’m giving Lucas a point here for keeping his sci-fi buzzwords short and punchy.

“Kwisatz Haderach.” “The Quiz-art Hader-act?” “Kwisatz Haderach.” “The Quick-sat Hatter-axe?” “Kwisatz Haderach!” “The Knick-knack Paddy-wack?” “Okay, close enough.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Lady Bird

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Lady Bird and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24

Directed by Greta Gerwig

So who would have guessed the surprise hit of Oscar season 2017 would be an indie coming of age story about a young woman who’s desire to be an artist and to see the world is straining against her down to Earth family that love her unconditionally but are hard on her because they only want what’s best?  Admittedly it DOES tick off quite a few check boxes in the Oscar Bait checklist, but then again a lot of movies that SUCCESSFULLY pull this kind of material off really are deserving of all the accolades they get and it’s not often that something receiving THIS much praise from such a large majority of film critics doesn’t have SOMETHING to offer… unless we’re talking about The King’s Speech.  Pointless and petty jabs at old movies aside, does this manage to be the critical darling that earned its title by being a superb film, or will the sterling reputation of this film be short lived as it fades into the background like many other supposedly great films that don’t hold up under scrutiny?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) who’s about to enter her senior year of high school and is still not sure what she wants to do afterwards which is putting her in constant conflict with her mother (Laurie Metcalf).  Okay, well actually she KNOWS what she wants to do and that’s to find an arts college on the East Coast willing to take her in so she can get the heck out of Sacramento and be about as far as realistically possible from the life she’s living now, but her mom doesn’t want to hear all that and is insisting she go to a much closer college.  Not helping matters is the fact that her dad (Tracy Letts) just lost their job and is having trouble finding another one which makes the chances of out of state schooling that much more infeasible.  For the rest of the year, Lady Bird needs to find a way to escape from her less than engaging circumstances while also just trying to survive day to day life with her friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) giving her moral support throughout.  Will Lady Bird find a way to fulfill her dream of NOT living in Sacramento?  Why is her mom in so hard on her all the time, and is all that Tough Love really helping her to be a better person?  WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG!?

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“Will you back me up on this, Larry!?”     “Nah, I think you’ve got this handled.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Fences

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Fences and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Denzel Washington

So what we have is one of the most respected black actors making a film based off of a multiple award winning stage play in a year where the Academy is looking for ANY film to try and make up for OSCAR SO WHITE.  Well, since Birth of a Nation turned out to be underwhelming and Moonlight being under the radar for most, chances are that Denzel’s big film of the year is gonna be a HUGE winner come the end of February.  Still, being ripe Oscar bait doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a GOOD movie (*cough* The King’s Speech *cough*), and there are plenty of films that won awards that no one cared about even a year later (*cough* Chariots of Fire *cough*).  Is this one of those that exists solely to maximize Oscar wins, or is there more beneath the surface what with the immense talent in front of and behind the camera?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is about the Maxson family; primarily the patriarch breadwinner Troy (Denzel Washington), his loving yet firms wife Rose (Viola Davis), and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo). The family lives a comfortable if somewhat tiring life in the Pittsburg suburbs where Troy spends five days a week hauling garbage and the other two days complaining that he never got his shot to play baseball professionally.  Naturally, he’s the kind of guy who makes sure that EVERYONE knows what he could have been if he wasn’t such a gosh darn loving and responsible father, and this attitude starts to get him into more and more trouble as the play goes along; including when his son is given a shot to go to college on a football scholarship that he isn’t too keen on letting him accept.  Will this man’s bitterness and resentment towards the world lead to his family (including his son from another family Lyons played by Russell Horsnby and his brother Gabriel who suffered brain damage during the war played by Mykelti Willamson) to finally turn their back on him no matter how many meals his paycheck gives them?  What else is he getting up to that neither he nor his best friend Jim Bono (Stehen McKinley Henderson) aren’t too keen on talking about?  Just how much screen time is too much for Denzel!?

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Trick question.  You can NEVER have too much screen time with him!

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