Happy Star Wars Day! My first experience at SW: Galaxy’s Edge

Hello everyone!! Happy Star Wars Day! Well, I was looking at some pictures on my camera and it dawned on me that I haven’t shared my experience going to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge back in March, which I mentioned here.

It seems like a lifetime ago when we were still in LBC (Life Before Corona). It’s crazy really, my hubby and I were in Disney World Florida in the first few days of March, and at the time there was only a few ‘known’ cases in California and life was pretty much normal everywhere, as Disney’s Hollywood Studios was still packed! In fact, we arrived at the park gate by 7:00am and there was already at least a thousand of people in line waiting to get in! And this was supposed to be a low-crowd day according to several blogs dedicated to Disney World.

The looooong line in front of Galaxy’s Edge entrance

They actually allowed us in about 30 minutes before the Park was supposed to open at 8am. By 7:35, we were waiting by the main entrance to Galaxy’s Edge, the most popular area of the Hollywood Studios Park, along with a throng of people. Right at 8AM, we used the My Disney Experience App to get into a virtual queue to get on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It’s truly the pièce de résistance of Galaxy’s Edge, and that’s the only way to get in instead of using the regular FastPass and/or standby lines.

Well, we thought initially we weren’t going to be able to get on the ride at all… more on that later. But first, let me tell you about our experience riding…

The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run

One thing we wish we had done weeks prior was to get a FastPass for the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride. Somehow I mistakenly thought there wouldn’t be a huge line to get in as everyone was going to the Ride of the Resistance. Oh well, we had to wait about 90 minutes or so, which wasn’t too bad considering we waited for twice as long to get into Avatar’s Flight of Passage the day before!

I was giddy like a school girl even just waiting in line to get into the ride! Disney did a good job entertaining us even as we’re queueing up, as there’s plenty of fun props to gawk at. It’s also quite fun seeing the excitement of people’s faces, especially kids, as they’re about to get on the ride. We loved this ride so much we ended up going twice in one day!

Once we’re done with our first ride on the Millennium Falcon, we took a stroll around the area which is set in the planet Batuu. The park isn’t really that big, but what it lacks in size, it made up in the production design and attention to detail which really immerses you in the experience! The marketplace, which is designed like a Middle Eastern bazaar, which consist not just a myriad of merchandise (like Baby Yoda stuffed toys), but also a ‘pet’ shop filled with some really strange creatures!

One of the most fun parts of Galaxy’s Edge of course is just being at the park and watching/interacting with Star Wars characters who’d show up at random, most notably Kylo with the Storm Troopers, Rey & BB8 and Chewie. They don’t allow people to dress up as SW characters except for young kids.

I didn’t really spend much time in the areas where you can build your own droid or lightsaber (those places are packed w/ kids and adults alike), but I’m glad we got into this popular bar at Planet Batuu…

Oga’s Cantina

We were pretty thirsty by then, thankfully, there were only a dozen people in line in front of us. The cantina’s attendant told us it’s standing-room only since we didn’t make a reservation beforehand, then a few minutes later he escorted us inside. I love the atmosphere of the cantina, inspired by the one in 1977 Star Wars movie.

Oga’s is inspired by the 1977 Star Wars cantina scene. There’s a wisecracking droid DJ right above where we were standing, apparently voiced by Paul Reubens aka Pee-Wee Herman. But of course, the main feature of the place is the cocktails!

The menu, as you can expect, is quite pricey! If you’re into collecting souvenirs, one drink called Yub Nub comes with a souvenir Endor mug, but that’ll set you back $48!

My hubby settled for the most popular drink, the Fuzzy Tauntaun – peach vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice with tangerine, pure cane sugar, and “buzzz” foam (that makes your tongue numb for a while) which cost $16.00 Since I don’t like alcohol, I went with Jabba Juice, a non-alcoholic drink with Orange juice, Pineapple, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, and Blueberry Popping Pearls. It’s only $8.50 and it’s quite yummy!

Now we finally got to the main event…

The Rise of the Resistance

As I mentioned before, we thought initially we wouldn’t be able to get into the ride at all. The boarding group number we got was 85, which was considered the ‘backup’ group. I read in some articles that because there might be some technical issues with the ride, the last boarding group that could get in within a single day would likely be those below #75. I remember feeling really deflated, I said to my hubby, ‘there’s no way we’d get on the ride!’ and we had only bought a one-day admission.

My hubby was more optimistic, and we decided to just find other rides to enjoy while we’re in the park. So we did… and guess what! While waiting on the Star Tours ride, our boarding group was called at around 3pm or so. Basically we got a notification on the My Disney Experience App and we had two hours after our group’s called to get on the ride! Ohhh happy day!!

We had time to get on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride in that two-hour window, which was pretty fun. So we finally got to the Rise of the Resistance ride at around 5pm, and still had to queue for about a half hour or so. By that point I was already so ecstatic that I’d actually get on the ride that I didn’t care. Funny how Disney really made you feel like a kid again and at that point, I was over the moon I could finally get on a ride that’s unlike anything built by Disney before!

The entire ‘ride’ is about 18 minutes long, and billed as a four-ride system that work pretty seamlessly. So there are tons of action going on before we actually get on the ride vehicle itself in a group of eight. As we entered the attraction complex, we’re led to a winding queue through rock formations and trees outside until we reach inside the base. That’s when the real fun begins! A series of animatronics of BB-8 droid and a hologram of Rey tells us about the mission we’re about to embark on. Then we got on a transport ship, which is a standing-room only, piloted by the fish-like creature Nien Nunb and Poe Dameron (woo wee!). But the ship had a run in with the First Order which we could see in the video screens all around us. Before it can make the jump to hyperspace, there’s a battle going on and soon we’re ‘captured’ by the First Order. There’s so much movement inside the ship it was tough to take a photo, but below is a pic of what the transport ship looks like (courtesy of gamespot.com)

The Resistance transport ship

It’s truly brilliant how immersive this whole attraction is, no wonder it’s extremely popular. According to this site, this attraction combines 5 million lines of computer code with animatronic figures, physical sets, digital projections and special effects. Not to mention all the props that you can gawk at as you’re waiting in line, like Poe’s uniform, etc. It’s quite a spectacular technical feat, and you can see why the chance of it breaking down is huge even if just one component isn’t working properly!

I think my favorite part is after we’re ‘captured’ by the First Order. Once we disembarked from the Resistance transport ship, we’re led to ‘detention cells’ within the Star Destroyer. Disney’s employees (here they’re appropriately called cast members) bark orders and do their best to stay in character and try to be as intimidating as possible. It’s all comical to us, but some kids are terrified, as the girl in front of me were crying constantly! The poor parents had to convince her that these are all employees in costumes. I overheard one of them say, ‘they have a house and dogs and everything’ Mwahahaha!!

 

So the dramatic ‘jailbreak’ finally gets us to the ride vehicle itself! It’s a trackless vehicle that seats 8 people. I LOVE this part and the only ‘downside’ is I wish it were longer! It’s the kind of ride you just want to keep going and going… it’s SO. MUCH. FUN. I was in awe of how much details are put into everything… definitely unlike anything I’ve ever riden before at any amusement park. My hubby was able to take a video once we got on the ride vehicle, so you can see for yourself!

Kudos to the Walt Disney Imagineering creative team! That OCR article also stated that the Imagineering team collaborated w/ Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic to create screen-based intergalactic battles that take place in the space windows of the Star Destroyer. It definitely made us feel like we’re part of the Resistance vs First Order story, and not simply a spectator!

I have to say I had a much better experience riding this than watching The Rise of Skywalker, ahah. When things would actually be back to normal again in a year or so, I’d certainly love to go back to Galaxy’s Edge. Perhaps we’ll try the one in Disneyland, CA next time around, but for sure I can’t wait to get on the Rise of the Resistance ride again!


Hope you enjoyed reading my experience to Galaxy’s Edge, it certainly was fun writing it and reminiscing on the fantastic time we had there!

May the Fourth Be With You!

FlixChatter Review – THE BOOKSELLERS documentary(2019)

Directed by: D.W. Young

Ruth asked me to cover The Booksellers because she knew I was a bookworm, and she’s not wrong. I majored in English because I love reading; the most memorable part of my first date with my boyfriend was browsing Mager’s and Quinn’s discount corner; and my regular visits to Winona aren’t complete without visiting Chapter 2 Books and scouring their densely packed shelves. But my love of books doesn’t compare with the sellers and collectors featured in this beautiful documentary.

The Booksellers is a documentary exploring New York’s book world, from the history and importance of its independent bookstores to a collection of passionate book collectors. The film discusses the practice of book selling and collecting, the future of the printed word, and how the changing times has affected the bookselling industry, and how there is still progress to be made.

Much of the documentary focuses on how technology-specifically, the internet-has affected booksellers. One collector noted that in the 50’s, there were 378 bookstores in NYC; as of the time this was filmed, there were 79. Before the rise of the internet, sellers would scour estate sales and church basement sales to find rare books for their stores. Once it became easier to find rare books online with decreased prices, independent booksellers suffered. Dwindling bookstores are leading to fewer book collectors, as used bookstores are often the introduction to budding enthusiasts. The fact that the world of bookselling hasn’t been particularly welcoming to women or people of color doesn’t help either; even today, only about 15% of independent booksellers are women, and while the number of people of color in the industry has increased, the field still isn’t very diverse.

That’s not to say the world of book collecting isn’t still very active. This documentary is full of people who are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about rare books, and it’s not just about collecting for the sake of collection. One comment that particularly struck me was that “books are not trophies;” people who collect rare books differ from people who collect art because they usually have a deeply personal connection to the books they buy, whereas art collectors are often more in it as a display of wealth. To view a piece of expensive art someone has feels more like a statement that they have it and no one else does, whereas viewing a rare book in a collection feels like an invitation into the collector’s world.

The documentary itself is a little scattered and unstructured, especially for its over an hour and a half length, and it can feel a little dry in some parts, but it’s still clearly a labor of love. The Booksellers will make you want to run out to your nearest used bookstore (once it’s safe to go out again) and spend a few hours browsing the comfortable, dusty shelves to find something that speaks to you.

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Have you seen THE BOOKSELLERS? Let us know what you think!

Star Trek: Picard – Binge-worthy for non-Trekkie like me

I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie, in fact, I have not seen any of the TV series, whether the original with Captain Kirk & co, or the later versions with Jean-Luc Picard. I did enjoy latest Star Trek movies by J.J. Abrams starring Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, but honestly I barely remember them now. Well, thanks to Sir Patrick Stewart, who’s one of the executive producers of the show, he announced via Twitter a month ago that we could watch season 1 FREE on CBS All Access for a month with the code GIFT (which has expired on April 23)

I’ve been curious about this show, so my hubby and I decided to give it a shot. I’m sure glad we did.

Follow-up series to Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) that centers on Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) in the next chapter of his life.

I have to say I’m hooked immediately and we binged the entire season 1 this weekend. I’m not reviewing this in details, I’m just sharing my general thoughts on the series as a whole.

The show is set in 2399, 18 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (which I haven’t seen but now might watch it because apparently Tom Hardy plays his cloned nemesis!), with Sir Stewart reprising his iconic role, admiral Jean-Luc Picard, now retired and living in his Château Picard vineyard in France. I’ve always been a fan of this distinguished British thespian, and he’s obviously perfect in the role he’s become world famous for. I’m always intrigued by shows/films that take the same character but place them in a different circumstance where they have to navigate the new reality and challenges in a whole new way.

Per IMDb, Stewart cites his previous film Logan (2017) as an influence on the show, pointing out that in both features the characters are still the same but their world has changed and they have to adjust to these changes. He said that film encouraged him to attempt something different with his role.

As the season starts, it’s apparent that Jean-Luc is still deeply affected by the loss of his personal friend, Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Jean-Luc recalled that Data gave his life up to save him upon the destruction of Romulus. That storyline is immediately intriguing to me, especially once a mysterious young woman named Dahj (Isa Briones) shows up, which launches Jean-Luc into the next adventure of his life. It took me a while to warm up to newcomer Briones who plays multiple characters in the show, but she certainly has a unique, almost otherworldly look that’s perfect for those roles.

The United Federation of Planets, the multi-planetary government Jean-Luc was once loyal to, is portrayed in a negative light. I find that as a pretty bold move to drastically change the reality of the Star Trek universe, but it inherently creates dramatic tension for the characters when nothing is no longer how they remembered it. The Romulan refugee crisis, prejudices across races/species, and some of the socio-political scenes depicted in the show certainly has some eerie similarities to what’s going on in the world today. Stewart has been quoted here saying that Picard is him ‘responding to the world of Brexit and Trump.’

Picard is also a reunion story in a way, as the show does reunite the protagonist with some characters from his previous life aboard the USS Enterprise.  In fact, one of my favorite episodes is the one with Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) who’s now living a peaceful life with his wife, former Starleet member Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis).

Stewart with Jonathan Frakes

The show took some time to get Jean-Luc back on a ship with a new ragtag crew. Sometimes it feels like the earlier episodes where he rounded up a new crew for his new adventure drag a bit. I have to admit though that the cast work pretty well, and each of them get a decent amount of screen time and backstory. It’s been ages since I saw Santiago Cabrera (who was in Heroes a decade ago) but he’s proven to be a really good character actor. Not only is Rios a dashing captain with a devil-may-care smile a la Han Solo, but he’s got multiple holograms with different personalities (and accents!) that’d show up in certain moments, sometimes against against his own wishes. I think he plays the various holographic personas brilliantly and often provide the show’s comic relief.

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The main theme of the show ultimately is about organic species versus artificial lifeforms (or synth). I’m always drawn to shows the struggle of humans vs robots co-existing and forming an unlikely bond, but the way this show explores it is a bit uneven. One of my biggest beef about this show is the Romulan siblings Narek and Narissa, played by Harry Treadaway and Peyton List. I feel like every time they appear, especially together, it takes the fun out of the show with their scheming melodrama. As the main villains of the show, their sheer hatred against AI as they plot to get the Federation to ban the creation of artificial lifeforms, is key to the show. I wish their scenes are more intriguing, but a lot of it is pretty cringe-worthy.

Spoiler alert: [highlight to read] Another character that takes me out of the show is the third character that Isa Briones portrayed, which is the closest incarnation to her ‘father’ Data, so she looks most like him with yellow eyes. Now, somehow her outfit and makeup makes me scream Rihanna! That certainly isn’t what the creators intended but there ya go, I think that’s also one of the weakest parts of the finale.

In fact, the antagonists aren’t particularly strong in this show overall. I mean, Vulcan Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) came across pretty menacing initially, but in the end the way she’s portrayed was just meh. It’s a pity as I like Tomita as an actress, and she was much more memorable in The Man in The High Castle which I just finished recently. I think the weak adversaries in this show keep it from being truly great.

Fortunately, the show does boast a great cast. Obviously Stewart himself is the best actor on the show by a long shot, but all the returning cast-members from the Star Trek Universe are great to watch. I have to say Jeri Ryan‘s Seven of Nine and Jonathan Del Arco‘s Hugh, both are former Borgs, are particularly memorable.

As a non-Trekkie, this show definitely makes me understand why people have such tremendous love for this franchise. I read that many people loathe the finale, which I think feels too bombastic and crammed with SO much stuff that it’s impossible to resolve everything nicely. Now, die-hard fans probably have issues with that ending concerning Picard’s identity that I won’t spoil it here. I do think the last 10 minutes has some really poignant moments… it marks the end for a central, beloved character in a touching way, but yet feels hopeful instead of morose. The writing of the show, led by Akiva Goldsman, sure has its moments but can also be clunky at times. I guess the same could be said for his career, who could forget the awfulness of Winter’s Tale? [shudder].

Visually the show looks beautiful, despite the DP’s obsession with lens flares, didn’t he get the memo that JJ Abrams got tons of flak (rightly so) for using too much of it on the Star Trek movie and has even apologized for it? Oh and I have to mention the gorgeous score by Jeff Russo, it’s definitely one of my fave parts of the show. I quite like the main title sequence too.

So overall, the show is pretty enjoyable despite its flaws. Once I started watching I couldn’t stop, so to me it’s definitely binge-worthy. I’m glad I decided to watch it while it was available for free (I don’t have cable, so I’d have to pay to see this on CBS All Access). I heard this show’s been renewed, so I’ll be up for watching season 2!


Have you seen Star Trek: Picard? Well, what did YOU think?

Cheers Virtual Cinema! Minnesota Film Festivals go online

In this strange and difficult times, it’s particularly tough for movie fans everywhere as movie theaters are closed and new movies are being delayed as we’re all in lockdown mode. But hey, I just thought how we should still be grateful we live in the age of the internet! Imagine if this happened in a time where there’s no online content to help us cope and escape from our every day life… I mean Coronavirus or not, I honestly can’t imagine life without having internet access!

The MSPIFF tag line for this year’s fest is ​Adjust Your View… I can’t imagine whoever came up with that has a crystal ball to predict that we’ll be in this um, predicament. Nor would that person realize how fitting that tagline as the audience is called to adjust our view as to how to experience a film festival. Per this MNDaily article, The MSP Film Society’s Virtual Cinema Collection platform, which went live March 20, offers access to what programming director Jesse Bishop calls “festival-style content.” It will be open 1-3 new movies every Friday, with most films running for at least two weeks. Ticket prices range from $10 to $12, and films are available for viewing anywhere from 48 hours to a few days after purchase, depending on the film. Here are just a small sampling of the lineup…

BALLOON

A thriller-like true story of one of the most spectacular escapes of the 20th Century.

With a theatrical release to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Germany’s reunification, Balloon is based on the true events of one of the most daring escapes of the Cold War in which two families living in Communist East Germany sailed over the heavily fortified border in a homemade hot-air balloon.


THE ROADS NOT TAKEN

Now this one is by an acclaimed female director with a star-studded cast!

Sally Potter’s The Roads Not Taken follows a day in the life of Leo (Javier Bardem) and his daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning) as she grapples with the challenges of her father’s chaotic mind. While they weave their way through New York City, Leo’s journey takes on a hallucinatory quality as he floats through alternate lives he could have lived, leading Molly to wrestle with her own path as she considers her future. Also starring Salma Hayek and Laura Linney.

 


The Etruscan Smile will be ready for home viewing starting tomorrow. I love Brian Cox, so definitely intrigued by this.

The Etruscan Smile stars Brian Cox (HBO’s Succession and recent Broadway leading man in The Great Society) as Rory MacNeil, a rugged old Scotsman who reluctantly leaves his beloved isolated Hebridean island and travels to San Francisco to seek medical treatment. Moving in with his estranged son, Rory’s life will be transformed, just when he expects it least, through a newly found love for his baby grandson.


MSPIFF isn’t the only MN film festival that offers online programming. Twin Cities Film Fest also launched its own independent movie streaming platform, called TCFF Streams, on April 6. Not only would the platform offer thought provoking and entertaining American independent storytelling content, it will also spotlight past TCFF films and filmmakers, alongside other award winning content from across the country. Best of all, TCFF will revenue share with our artists!

Check out some of the best indie docs, feature films and shorts that have screened at TCFF. Even as we’re self-quarantining amidst state-mandated lockdown, we can still support local non-profit organizations AND the filmmakers that made the films!


What are YOUR thoughts about film festivals going virtual? 

FIVE best cinematographers in Hollywood (not named Roger Deakins)

The process of making films is very difficult, whether it’s a short or full-length feature, one needs to put together a team of talented people in order to produce something that one can be proud of. One key component to make any film work is the person who does the actual shooting. The director tends to get all the credit when it comes to making a film but in a big or small production, a cinematographer is the real star behind the scenes. The director is in charge of the entire production crew, so he/she can’t oversee each and every shot during the shoot. That’s where the cinematographer comes in, this person must know the ins and outs of the cameras, which lens to use for each scene, set up lightings for each location and most importantly this person needs to be on the same page as the director. Basically, the cinematographer is the second most powerful person during the shoot.

I do feel that cinematographers tend to get over look when people are talking about certain films. One of the most well-known cinematographers in Hollywood is Roger Deakins and I won’t put him on my list here since his work deserves a list of its own. Here, I’m listing some of the best but not that well-known cinematographers working in Hollywood today.

In no particular order, here’s my list:

1. Robert Richardson

I was hesitant to put Richardson on the list since he’s won 3 Oscars for his work on JFK, The Aviator and Hugo. But I don’t think most film fans know much about him. Known to be a hot head in Hollywood, there were reports that he actually took over the directing tasks when Marc Forster lost control of the troubled shoot of World War Z. He then asked him name to be taken off the credits for that film because he wasn’t happy that the studio decided to convert the film to 3D and changed the color lutz of the footage that he shot. Richardson sounds like a man who don’t have much patience for inexperience directors in large productions, which explains why he mostly work with famous director like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone.

Here are some clips of his work that I think are great:

2. Oliver Wood

Wood has been working as a cinematographer since the late 60s. He shot several episodes of the TV show Miami Vice in the 80s and got his first big Hollywood production gig by shooting Die Hard 2. He’s been busy shooting big blockbusters ever since. But I don’t think many people knows much about him at all. You’d be surprised that some of the well-known films were shot by him, Rudy, The Bourne Trilogy and Face/Off are some of the films he shot. Now some might say that he started the whole fast editing and shaky cam action shots that plagued many action films of the 2000s, but I think that blame should go to Paul Greengrass.

Here are some shots of his work that I think are great:

The snowmobile chase/shootout in Die Hard 2. I’m pretty sure this scene was a very difficult shot to set up, it contains snow and set at night time.

The opening intro of Castor Troy in Face/Off. John Woo apparently fired his original cinematographer for this film because that person couldn’t keep up with his demands. Wood took over the gig and this scene is one of the many great shots in the film.

The epic car chase through the streets of Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy. One of the best car chases ever filmed and I assume wasn’t easy to film:

3. Ellen Kuras

Sadly, this is the only female cinematographer on my list here. As most of everyone knows, this is still a male dominated field and many female cinematographers are having a hard time breaking in. Kuras is one of the few that have been working in this field for a long time. She started out doing mostly short films and documentaries in the 90s. Her big break came when Spike Lee hired her to lens He Got Game starring Denzel Washington for him. Apparently, she worked well with Lee and they shot two more films together, Summer of Sam and Bamboozled. Some of her best-known films are Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Ballad of Jack and Rose. In the late 2000s, Kuras decided to go back and direct mostly documentaries and short films. I hope she comes back and shoot more feature films because I think she’s very talented.

Here some samples of her great work:

Summer of Sam trailer, I couldn’t find any clips on YouTube but you can see her work on this trailer. An underrated gritty drama that should’ve been seen by more people:

Train ride sequence in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A simple sequence but probably very difficult to set up, shooting scenes in a tight spot is never easy. There were many great shots in this film, but I’ve always enjoy watching this scene.

4. Steven H. Burum

Probably the oldest cinematographers on this list, in fact Burum hasn’t been working much since the early 2000s. But I’m sure you’ve seen many of his great work. He’s a constant collaborator of Brian De Palma and some of his famous work were Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire and The War of the Roses.

Here are some of my favorite shots of his work:

The mission gone wrong scene in the first Mission: Impossible. By killing off each of the team members early in the film, fans of the TV show were pretty shocked by it. The way this sequence was shot was quite spectacular. I think this whole film was full of great shots, most people tend to forget that the first Mission film was more of a suspense thriller and didn’t have a lot of action like its sequels. Most of the scenes were shot in tight spaces but Burum was able to make them look cinematic and big in scope.

The climatic foot chase/shoot out in Carlito’s Way. One of the most underrated films of the 90s and this sequence alone is worth the price of admission. Just watch and be awed by it.

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PART 2:

5. Matthew Libatique

Out of the people listed on here, Libatique might be the most well-known cinematographer working today. He’s been working with Darren Aronofsky since the early 90s and has shot all of Aronofsky’s films ever since. Probably his most famous work are his shots in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Inside Man and the recent remake of A Star is Born. I think Libatique is maybe the most generic of all these cinematographers that I’ve listed. It doesn’t mean that he’s done average work, it’s the opposite. I think he really catered to the style of the directors he’s worked with. Some of the clips from his work will show you what I mean. One is a film from Aronofsky and other is a Spike Lee’s film.

Here’s a clip of Aronofsky’s The Fountain:

Here’s Spike Lee’s Inside Man:

If you’re a fan of either Aronofsky or Lee then you can see how Libatique really catered to both of the director’s style.


These cinematographers didn’t quite make the list, but I think they will have have long career in front of them:

  • Rob Hardy
    He’s a constant collaborator with Alex Garland and has shot all of Garland’s directing projects including Ex Machina, Annihilation and the current TV show DEVS. But Hardy’s biggest success was 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
  • Zoe White
    She’s young and most of her work were short movies. But I think her work will get more recognition in the upcoming years. She’s already shot several episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and the recent episode of Westworld. Let’s hope some directors will hire her to shoot their upcoming films soon.

  • Hoyte Van Hoytema
    He’s young and has shot some of the biggest event films in the last few years. He’s also working with the most popular director right now, Chris Nolan. Pretty sure you’ve seen his work in Interstellar, Dunkirk, Spectre, Her and Ad Astra. His next film is Nolan’s Tenet.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


So, those are some of the best cinematographers working in Hollywood today. Did I miss any of your favorites? If so, please name them in the comment section.

Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE – what I’ve learned of the 2020 adaptation so far

Happy um-what-day-is-it? The days have become such a blur lately… and honestly, it’s tough to keep motivated during the lockdown, and the not-knowing when this whole thing would actually end is the toughest part. Summer’s practically been canceled, which if you’ve lived in places like Minnesota, that’s so devastating given how fleeting Summer is and ‘Spring’ is an on-and-off affair (I mean we just got a blizzard in some parts of MN on Easter weekend!).

Ok, venting over. I’d rather focus on the positive and look to the future! Well, since this is a film blog, one of the films that [hopefully] won’t get canceled is DUNE. Its release date is December 18.

Of course, an astute person already saw the glaring similarities of DUNE’s logo to an NBC sci-fi series that aired in 2006, ha! I actually like the look of the original one they posted a few months ago, it looked far more modern w/ an aerial image of sand dunes in the background.

In any case… the photos posted by Vanity Fair yesterday look stunning, they’re mostly the star-studded cast in costumes, but certainly made me even more anxious to see it! You can see them in video form thanks to MovieGasm, and I also posted the photos below.

Honestly, I’m not that familiar about DUNE, which is based on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novels. I haven’t seen the David Lynch 1984 version (I’ve watched the trailer a couple of times but haven’t mustered enough interest to actually watch it), nor the two-part series on Sci-Fi channel. But once Denis Villeneuve‘s attached to direct a two-part films, I’m immediately intrigued. So I’ve been reading a ton of stuff about this adaptation and how this version is supposed to be different.

Consider this a summary of what I’ve read so far, that some of you might find helpful.

Thanks to this comprehensive Reddit post, here’s the official synopsis:

A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Timothée Chalamet is definitely Hollywood’s boy du jour right now, and I think he’d be good as the young protagonist. I like the idea of Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac as Chalamet’s parents!

The amazing ensemble cast!

Here’s the full cast list (thanks to that Reddit post):

Character Actor Films Actors’ Known For
Paul Atreides Timothée Chalamet Ladybird, Call Me By Your Name
Lady Jessica Rebecca Ferguson Mission Impossible, The Greatest Showman
Duke Leto Atreides Oscar Isaac Ex Machina, Star Wars
Gurney Halleck Josh Brolin No Country for Old Men, The Avengers
Duncan Idaho Jason Momoa Game of Thrones, Aquaman
Dr. Liet-Kynes Sharon Duncan-Brewster Rogue One, Sex Education series
Reverend Mother Mohiam Charlotte Rampling Broadchurch, The Verdict, 45 Days
Baron Harkonnen Stellan Skarsgård Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Good Will Hunting
Feyd-Rautha Tye Sheridan Ready Player One, Dark Phoenix, Mud
Piter De Vries David Dastmalchian Prisoners, Ant-man
Count Glossu Rabban Dave Bautista Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049
Dr. Wellington Yueh Chang Chen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Assassin
Stilgar Javier Bardem No Country for Old Men, Skyfall
Chani Zendaya Spiderman, The Greatest Showman
Jamis Babs Olusanmokun Black Mirror, The Night Of, The Defenders
TBA Stephen Henderson Fences, Ladybird, Lincoln
Harah Gloria Obiano High Life, Good Omens
The House of Atreides - Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
The House of Atreides
Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac
Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

What is the story about exactly?

Per Vanity Fair article… Villeneuve sees this story of a planet being mined to death as something prophetic “No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt,” It’s hard to argue that our earth has been overexploited no matter which spectrum you are in the climate change debate. Villeneuve, who’s producing his own film for the first time, sees the story as a ‘call to action for the youth.’ I can see Greta Thunberg liking this movie a lot!

Villeneuve on set with Javier Bardem as Stilgar, leader of the Fremen tribe – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Since the French Canadian filmmaker is set on ‘going back to [Herbert’s] book and going to the images that came out when I read it’ (per Yahoo article), here’s a brief summary of the novel per SparkNotes:

Dune is based on a complex imagined society set roughly 20,000 years in the future. The setting is the year 10,191, and human beings have spread out and colonized planets throughout the universe. On the planet Caladan, Duke Leto of the House of Atreides is preparing to leave for his new position as the governor of Arrakis, a desert planet with valuable resources of melange, a spice drug that is extremely popular with wealthy people. Leto and his family, including his concubine, Jessica, and his son, Paul, suspect a trap by their rivals, the Harkonnens, led by Baron Harkonnen. Leto decides to settle on Arrakis because of its rich supplies of melange, despite warnings from his men, including his adviser, Thufir Hawat, and his master-of-arms, Gurney Halleck.

The Atreides arrive on Arrakis and the duke quickly moves to secure the planet from a Harkonnen attack. His main plan is to enlist the Fremen, the tough natives of the Arrakeen desert, as soldiers and advisers. Meanwhile, Paul’s and Jessica’s special abilities intrigue the Fremen. Jessica is a member of the Bene Gesserit, a school of quasi-mystical witches with strange powers. The Fremen believe that Jessica and her son are saviors who have come to lead them toward creating a lush paradise on the dry Arrakis.

Some interesting trivia about DUNE 2020

(thanks to Reddit, Vanity Fair, Nerdist, THR, Inverse.com

  • Denis Villeneuve confirmed that his adaptation of Dune will be split into at least two films, in order to ensure that the original story would be “preserved and not cut into a million pieces.”
  • Budapest is one the primary shooting location for the film. Denis will once again be working with Origo Film Studios who provided many of the stages and facilities used in the shooting of Blade Runner 2049. The other location for the sand dune landscape is remote regions outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where temperatures can reach 100 degrees.
  • Zendaya is playing Chani, seen here wearing the signature Fremen stillsuit. The suit’s designed to recapture the maximum amount of moisture and the nose tube is to reclaim vapor from every breath. As for those piercing blue eyes, it’s a condition caused by consuming melange (a.k.a. spice), a drug produced in Arrakis’ sands.

    Zendaya as Chani – photo courtsey of Vanity Fair
  • Charlotte Rampling, who will star in this upcoming adaptation of the 1965 novel, originally wanted to play Lady Jessica in Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s failed Dune project, but declined the offer due to a scene that involved 2,000 extras defecating at once.
  • Rampling will play the Reverend Mother Mohiam, the emperor’s truthsayer, a person who can divine intentions, suss out lies and manipulate people’s emotional states.
  • In an intriguing change to the source material, Villeneuve has also updated Dr. Liet Kynes, the leading ecologist on Arrakis and an independent power broker amid the various warring factions. Although always depicted as a white man, the character is now played by a black British actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Rogue One).

    Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
  • Hans Zimmer is set to score the film, having worked with Villeneuve previously on Blade Runner 2049.
  • In June 2019, a TV spinoff titled Dune: The Sisterhood was announced, which would be overseen by Villeneuve and focused on the mysterious Bene Gesserit, a key social, religious, and political force in the fictional Dune universe.

Splitting Dune into two films

Now, about the part that the film will be a two-part series. We’ve seen that in major finales of lucrative franchises like Harry Potter, Hunger Games and The Avengers are split into two movies. Honestly, I’m not too fond of that idea as it’s really a money-making scheme. But with this one, I feel like there is merit.

Per the VF article, Villeneuve said “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie…The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.” I haven’t read the book but I can see how such a dense, multi-layered story would be challenging to adapt. The director has said this project has been the most difficult thing he’s ever done… “It’s a book that tackles politics, religion, ecology, spirituality—and with a lot of characters,”

I’d even think making it as a miniseries might be the best format, but then again, the grand visuals would be something amazing to see on the big screen. Oh man, to actually be able to experience movies with fellow film fans again in a movie theater… those are simple joys we’ve all taken for granted!


Ok that’s all I’ve got on Dune so far… but speaking of power in the details, let me just end this post with this um, epic photo…

Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

I bow to thee Duke Atreides… yowza! 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Sorry, just got to get that out of the way… man, can’t wait to see the trailer for this!!


Are you excited about this new DUNE adaptation? Let me know your thoughts!

HEARTS WANT short film now on Amazon Prime Video!

Hello blog friends! Wherever you are in the world, I hope this message finds you all safe and in good health.

My first short film, a romantic drama, is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video!

Hearts Want on Amazon Prime Video!

Two former lovers who reunite for a play face the consequences of a secret that threatens to tear them apart forever.

It’s FREE to stream if you have Prime subscription, but it’s also available to rent or buy for non Prime subscribers for a nominal fee. Would you be so kind as to lend support by watching the film, and better yet, leave a review/rating right on Amazon. I’d really appreciate it if you can also help us spread the word out to your friends & family!

It’s been nearly three years since we filmed our short film in mid April 2017, exactly the day after Easter. You can also read about the filmmaking journey here. Hearts Want had a wonderful journey in various film festivals, both here in Minnesota and abroad.

Thanks to director Jason P. Schumacher and the talented MN-based cast & crew for making this dream a reality. I also want to thank those who have backed this project via Kickstarter. We wouldn’t have been able to complete this film in time for Twin Cities Film Fest where it won the Audience Award for short and made the five finalists for Best Short!

You can keep up with the project via our website and Facebook page. Oh and you can also listen to the wonderful score by Charlie McCarron on Spotify!


Thank you everyone for your support!