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Monday, 25 October 2021 14:00

Fear is the mind-killer – ‘Dune’

Every once in a while, there is a movie experience that manages to transcend a lot of the traditional markers that define quality, however nebulously. Most films you watch, they’re relatively easy to parse – I liked it because X, I didn’t like it because Y, you know the drill. But occasionally, a film will come along that moves beyond those identifiers; your reasoning is still there, of course, but there’s also something fundamentally overwhelming about it.

“Dune” overwhelmed me.

The new film from director Denis Villeneuve – who also co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts (adapted from Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 sci-fi novel of the same name – or the first half or so anyway) is a sprawling, sand-strewn epic. It is a movie that unabashedly embraces not just the letter but the spirit of its source material, resulting in a deliberately-paced and utterly gorgeous film that captures the sheer scale of galactic intrigue while also delving into the psychological and sociological underpinnings that come when nobility takes different approaches to maintaining their humanity.

It’s a space opera, for sure, with plenty of familiar tropes of the genre at play. But the combination of Hebert’s interplay of eco-consciousness and political dynamics matched with the auteur’s eye of Villeneuve transforms “Dune” into something far more. It is a literal feast for the eyes, one of the most strikingly compelling visual blockbusters we’ve seen in years, all in service to a dense plot involving everything from galaxy-spanning empires to mind-expanding traditions to colonialism to learning what it means to lead.

Yeah – overwhelming is the right way to put it. And this is just the first part!

Published in Movies

Starting with the revolutionary work of George Romero, the movie zombie has long been used as a sort of thematic cipher. The nature of the monster allows for a filmmaker to project their viewpoint regarding a particular cultural or societal issue; horror films are often about more than just the horror, with zombie movies serving as the most flexible palette for the expression of ideas.

Then again, sometimes a zombie movie is just a zombie movie.

While I’m not going to sit here and say that Zack Snyder DIDN’T have some sort of larger commentary in mind when he made “Army of the Dead,” currently in theaters and streaming on Netflix, it sure does seem like he just wanted to throw some hot zombie action onscreen and see what happened.

And that’s OK.

Basically, Snyder has grafted a heist movie onto his zombie movie to mixed-but-largely-positive results. There’s plenty of gore and viscera splattering all over the place. The heist side of things is reasonably heist-y. And Snyder shows a degree of self-awareness, embracing and sometimes winking at his well-known filmmaking tics. It’s got its issues – primarily its length and some unnecessary narrative/character convolution – and it lacks some of the pop of Snyder’s previous zombie feature, 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” (his feature debut, no less!), but it is ultimately a successful genre mashup that works more often than it doesn’t.

Published in Movies

Stop me if you heard this one: a professional wrestler who transitioned to acting makes an action comedy in which he shares the screen with a precocious child costar.

Ever since the double leg drop of Hulk Hogan’s “Suburban Commando” and “Mr. Nanny,” it seems that part of the formula for getting over a wrestler as a movie star involves that sort of kid-oriented flick. Hogan did it, the Rock did it (wildly successfully, it should be added) and now we’re seeing offerings from the likes of John Cena and Dave Bautista.

Bautista stars in “My Spy,” currently available on Amazon Prime Video and for rental, precisely the sort of odd couple kiddie comedy we’re talking about. Now, Bautista is an interesting case, in that he initially skipped a few steps in the wrestler-to-movie star plan thanks to his delightful turn as Drax in the MCU, but apparently he still has to follow the rules, even if he does it out of order.

As you might expect, there’s not much here that you haven’t seen before. The standard beats are all present, landing with a steady deliberateness. This is not a movie that surprises in terms of structure or story; you’re pretty sure how it’s all going to go from the top.

And yet … it’s actually not bad. Not great, mind you, but charming enough, thanks to Bautista and (particularly) his young costar. It’s all perfectly pleasant, with some dumb jokes and a couple of fun supporting turns and some fun kid-friendly(ish) action sequences. Not memorable, but in a vaguely pleasant way.

Honestly, it could have been worse.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 16 July 2019 19:31

‘Stuber’ far from five stars

Who among us doesn’t love a good buddy comedy? A movie with a dynamic central pairing that has good chemistry and good comedic timing – the sort of movie that can coast on the charisma of the foundational duo – can really be a great time. The right casting can cover for a lot of issues in terms of story and style.

“Stuber” is ALMOST such a movie.

The buddies in question are Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista – and honestly, it’s a really good match. They’re a wonderful set of contrasts, in terms of both sensibility and physicality. There’s an ease between them that makes for an engaging relationship.

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. There’s a stylistic inconsistency on the part of director Michael Dowse – the film can’t seem to choose a tone, leading to some shifts in energy that are pretty jarring. Add to that a muddy script from Tripper Clancy and you’re left with a film that, while entertaining at points, fails to fully utilize the considerable abilities of the two performers at its center.

Published in Movies

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