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Movie review: Dune: Part Two – Baltimore Magazine

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Movie review: Dune: Part Two – Baltimore Magazine

I want to start this review by speaking directly to the people who were eagerly looking forward to Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two. Congratulations. This film is going to exceed your expectations, light up your pleasure sensors, and pretty much blow your minds. As the kids say, you will be fed.

But what about the rest of us? For all its stellar special effects, rousing action, awe-inspiring beauty—undulating sand dunes, billowing capes, fire-red crescent moons—and cast of young Hollywood hotties acting their butts off, Dune Part Two didn’t pass the ultimate test for me. That test being: Would I recommend the film to my mother? No. No I would not.

Look, not all films are for all people—I get that. But the very best genre films transcend their tropes and offer something for everyone. An apropos example: I would recommend Villeneuve’s Arrival to all film lovers, not just sci-fi fans.

My biggest objection to the Dune series continues to be that it takes itself far too seriously. Again, I get it—we’re dealing with serious stuff here: dying civilizations, ancient prophecies, struggles for power, the dark temptation of revenge. But just because something is set in a desert doesn’t mean it has to be this dry.

I was a fan of first Dune in this series, although I logged similar complaints about its self-seriousness. This one is a little better; the action is just as thrilling but the characters are given more depth and the central moral dilemma of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet)—at what point does one become blinded by power?—begins to snap into focus. There is also a love story with the wonderful Zendaya, playing Chani, a member of the blue-eyed desert people, the Fremen of Arrakis. Paul is utterly devoted to her (“I will love you for as long as I breathe”) but she is a bit more circumspect. “You will never lose me as long as you stay who you are,” she says pointedly. She knows that Paul is being pulled by some powerful temptations, namely the Fremen people, who see him as a possible savior. They grow to worship him, especially after he manages to tame one of those giant worm creatures, riding it like Ben Hur through the swirling sand. But will Paul lose himself in his quest for revenge? It’s hard not to root for the brave and resolute Paul—he is played by Chalamet, after all—but Chani serves as the film’s voice of moral clarity and skepticism. She knows he’s teetering toward a point of no return.

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But we’re not there yet. Paul is still quite heroic in this film, even as he’s haunted by visions of leading the Fremen people to their own destruction. He has voices in his ear: His power-hungry, sorceress mother (Rebecca Ferguson), now pregnant with Paul’s sister, and recruited by the Fremen to be their Reverend Mother; the big-hearted Fremen patriarch, Stilgar (Javier Bardem), who is a true believer in Paul as the messiah; and Chani, who tells him to be wary of these prophecies.

Meanwhile, Arrakis is under siege by the Harkonnen kingdom, a land with, apparently, no Rogaine. Last film we met the Jabba the Hut-like Baron (Stellan Skarsgard), who was after the Arrakis’ precious resource of “spice.” This time we also meet his creepy nephew Feyd (Austin Butler), a lethal swordsman, not above cheating to win a dual, with a beautiful, alien-like face and positively crazed eyes.

Florence Pugh, who does some of the film’s narration, only appears briefly as the daughter of the Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken), who feels his grip on power slipping away. Her arc will be compelling—she’s loyal to her father, just as Paul was loyal to his, but she comes to realize that he is not a righteous man. By the film’s end, her fate and Paul’s fate will be inextricably entwined. (Alas, we’re going to have to wait for Part Three to see it play out.)

Villeneuve recently gave an interview where he said that he is mostly interested in cinema for spectacle, that dialogue holds little appeal to him. Having seen Dune: Part Two that tracks. The film is a spectacle, a marvel of craftsmanship, the sort of film you need to see on the largest screen possible. But the dialogue is mostly expository, and at times painfully earnest. That said, I wouldn’t want some script doctor jazzing this thing up with zingers (“Stop trying to worm your way out of this, Paul!”). That’s definitely not the vibe. Dune Part Two is the best Dune Part Two it can possibly be. I just have to accept that it’s not the best film for me.

 

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Humane (2024) – Review | Dystopian Family Thriller | Heaven of Horror

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Humane (2024) – Review | Dystopian Family Thriller | Heaven of Horror

How to reduce the population in a humane way

In Humane, which takes place in one single afternoon, but based on events that have happened over decades, a family is forced to deal with an ecological collapse. Basically, we need to reduce Earth’s population now, so the question becomes; How can we do that as a society in a humane way?

Hot tip: You need to pay attention to everything being said in the background during the opening credits!

Of course, there isn’t anything humane about having to eliminate a large percentage of the population. And yet, money can help, so a new euthanasia program has been made. Basically, you can volunteer to be “put down!

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A very different take on the euthanasia plot here >

Your family will be by your side as you say goodbye to them and they will also get a pretty penny for your sacrifice. Clearly, this scheme leads to mostly poor people and immigrants signing up, as they can then help their children and grandchildren to a better life.

That’s why it’s such a shock when a recently retired newsman – who has plenty of wealth to last a few lifetimes – invites his four grown children to dinner to announce that he has enlisted for the euthanasia program.

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Of course, nothing is as simple as described in the commercials constantly playing on TV to enlist volunteers. So, when the father’s plan goes wrong, full-blown chaos erupts among the four siblings, and they end up fighting each other to survive.

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There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Movie Review

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There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Movie Review

There’s Still Tomorrow, 2023.

Directed by Paola Cortellesi.
Starring Paola Cortellesi, Valerio Mastandrea, Romana Maggiora Vergano, Emanuela Fanelli, Giorgio Colangeli, and Vinicio Marchioni.

SYNOPSIS:

Trying to escape from the patriarchy in the Italian post-war society, Delia plots an act of rebellion against her violent husband.

Italian Cinema has had its share of triumphs over the years with the likes of Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini helping to define European Cinema of the mid 1900s. There’s Still Tomorrow from Star and Director Paola Cortellesi, proves that there is still plenty of life left in Italian Cinema. It has earned rave reviews and proven to be the most successful film of 2023 in Italy and the ninth highest-grossing film of all time there.

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Set in Rome in 1946, it follows Delia (Cortellisi), caught in a loveless marriage, struggling to put food on the table. Delia cares for their three young children and is also expected to tend to her bedridden father-in-law.  The Rome we follow is far from the more glamorous one we tend to see now, more like something in Rome Open City, with the effects of the war apparent, with a sizable US military presence still in place.

It has rightly earned plaudits and the way Cortellisi has balanced the period elements with neorealism is worth singling out. On paper this shouldn’t work, feeling often like a drama lifted straight from the era but also with a striking, contemporary edge to it, buoyed by some of the musical choices. The likes of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Outkast helping to lend it a ferocious energy and give it a sense of purpose. As far as debuts go this is incredibly ambitious but it never succumbs to striving for too much, miraculously finding balance throughout.

While the action is kept largely to Delia and her family it is gripping with plenty of impressive traits from our first-time director from the use of music and dance to slow motion. Davide Leone’s cinematography is striking and perfectly captures the downbeat nature of post-war Rome.

There’s Still Tomorrow is a wonderful blend of 1940s Italian Cinema and melodrama with a distinctly modern edge to it, landing this awkward balance for the most part. It will be intriguing to see whether international audiences take to it quite as strongly but as Italian as it feels, there is a global appeal to it, of a woman trying to escape a horrendous situation and reclaim her life. It is a very impressive debut and we can only hope Paola Cortellisi directs more in future. It is an unpredictable love letter to Italian cinema and this particular era in Italian society that wears its heart on its sleeve and is hard not to be enamoured with.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Chris Connor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/playlist

 

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Movie Review: Prepare to get hot and bothered with stylish, synthy tennis drama 'Challengers'

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Movie Review: Prepare to get hot and bothered with stylish, synthy tennis drama 'Challengers'

“Challengers” is a bit of a tease. That’s what makes it fun.

There is plenty of skin, sweat, close-ups of muscly thighs and smoldering looks of lust and hate in this deliriously over-the-top psychodrama. But get that image of Josh O’Connor, Zendaya and Mike Faist sitting together on the bed out of your mind. Most of this action takes place on the tennis court.

It’s still a sexy tennis movie about friendship, love, competition and sport set to a synth-y score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — it just might not contain exactly what you think it does. But remember, Luca Guadagnino is the one who filmed Timothée Chalamet with that peach, perhaps more memorable than any actual sex scene from the past decade. Manage expectations, but also trust.

And like “Call Me By Your Name” did for Chalamet, “Challengers” is one of those rare original big-screen delights that firmly announces the arrival of a new generation of movie stars. Zendaya and Faist already had a bit of a leg up. She has played significant supporting roles in some of the biggest movies of the past few years, from “Spider-Man” to “Dune,” and he had had his big cinematic breakthrough as Riff in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” But it’s O’Connor who really comes out on top, effectively shedding any lingering image of him as a whiny, dweeby Prince Charles in seasons three and four of “The Crown.” In “Challengers,” his Patrick Zweig is the cocky, flirty, slightly mean, slightly dirty and slightly broken bad boyfriend of our fictional dreams.

Written by playwright Justin Kuritzkes (who is married to “Past Lives” filmmaker Celine Song) “Challengers” is a prickly treat, about fractured relationships, egos, infidelity and ambition. Set during a qualifying match at the New Rochelle Tennis Club, outside New York City, the intricately woven story reveals itself through flashbacks that build to a crescendo in the present-day match.

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O’Connor’s Patrick and Faist’s Art are old boarding school roommates turned tennis teammates. It’s a relationship that’s at turns brotherly, erotic and competitive. Whatever it is, they are definitely too close and not remotely prepared for Zendaya’s Tashi Duncan to enter the mix.

Tashi, in high school, is well on her way to becoming the next big tennis superstar. Art and Patrick watch her play, mouths agape at her technical form and physical beauty. Later, they both ask for her number, leading to a revealing night in a grungy hotel room. She promises her number to the one who wins the singles match the next day. Tashi just wants to see some good tennis, she says, but she also knows how to motivate and manipulate.

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows Zendaya in a scene from “Challengers.” Credit: AP/Niko Tavernise

Because of the fractured timeline, we know that Tashi in the present day does not play tennis anymore. She was injured at some point and never recovered, unlike her husband, Art, who is now one of the most famous players in the world. The two of them are wildly wealthy, living in a ritzy hotel and fronting Aston Martin ad campaigns. At night, Tashi uses Augustinus Bader cream to moisturize her legs. Guadagnino, who likes to wink at and luxuriate in wealth signifiers, enlisted JW Anderson designer Jonathan Anderson to do the costumes, which will surely populate summer style inspiration boards the way his “A Bigger Splash” and “Call Me By Your Name” have in the past.

But while they are technically at the top, Art is also on a losing streak, so Tashi sends him to a low-stakes tournament where he can get his confidence back. That’s where they encounter Patrick, who has not been so fortunate over the years and who has fallen out with his old friends. Of course, it’s all building to Patrick and Art playing one another in the final match, a part of which is so wildly and comically drawn out that you can almost envision the “Saturday Night Live” spoof.

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“Challengers” is a drama, but a funny and self-aware one. It doesn’t take itself very seriously and has a lot of fun with its characters, all three of which are anti-heroes in a way. You might have a favorite, but you’re probably not rooting for anyone exactly — just glued to the screen to see how it all plays out on and off the court.

“Challengers,” an MGM release in theaters Friday, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for “language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity.” Running time: 131 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

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