FlixChatter Review: DUNE (2021)

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Few films are as buzzy as DUNE in the past decade and after nearly a year delay, its eventual release date felt like it crept up on me all of sudden. The press screening was packed, which wasn’t always the case lately as most screenings have been barely half full. But DUNE felt like a cinematic event, and the visuals on screen certainly attest to that. No wonder, Denis Villeneuve wasn’t pleased that DUNE will be released on HBO Max the same day as its theatrical opening, even from the first five minutes, this is a film to be seen in as big a screen as possible.

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Right from its opening screen, I was immediately in awe of the visuals… the world building that Villeneuve has done with his longtime collaborator Patrice Vermette. Set in the year 10191, the universe of DUNE is undeniably vast, so I’m glad I had read up about it leading up to the film. It certainly helps me digest the plot a bit better, which begins on planet Caladan, where the leader of the House Atreides, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) is preparing for a new role as the governor of Arrakis.

It’s a lucrative gig given the desert planet is the only place the vital natural resource of spice, aka melange, can be found in the galaxy. Of course, that new power comes with a dangerous enemy, especially from the House Harkonnen, the previous family in charge of mining the spice. Like any greedy colonial government, the Harkonnen is good at stripping any place of its natural resources and use it for their own gain. Naturally they’re not happy to have to leave Arrakis and would do anything to regain control of it.

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At the center of the story is Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the Duke’s son and heir of the royal house. Obviously he’s special given what he’s to inherit, but he’s also got special powers thanks to his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), who belongs to a mythical intergalactic guild comprised of women with special powers called Bene Gesserit. The scene between Paul is tested by the guild’s leader Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) is a memorable one and filled with mystery and suspense. The film shows just how revered and powerful this group is, as Mohiam is seen talking to and wielding her influence in both royal houses.

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The set design, architecture, costumes, and the futuristic elements are marvelous to look at. The Atreides’ home base in Arrakis capital Arrakeen looks like a world war bunker with its angular shape, which I read is what the style was modeled after. The construction looks like it could withstand the extreme climate and high winds of the desert planet. I especially LOVE the four-winged, dragonfly-like chopper (ornithopter) used by the Atreides, which apparently built for real by a company in England specifically for the film. This meticulous details of futuristic elements are the kind of stuff we go see a sci-fi movie for! I’ve always appreciate films shot on location and the fact that DUNE was filmed in UAE and Jordan definitely lends authenticity to the story, you could almost believe this desert planet actually exists.

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Given the complexity of the story, this film could’ve easily get bogged down by exposition. Thankfully, the script by Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth and Villeneuve did a good job in not over-explaining things. I like how Dr. Liet-Kynes, the planetary ecologist explain how the Fremen stillsuits work to help survive Arrakis’ harsh environment while commenting on how Paul seems to already been familiar with a world he never steps foot in. It’s obvious that Paul, like his mother, has supernatural abilities who’s destined for adventure and greatness.

One of my favorite scene is when Paul is in his room studying about Arrakis via holographic imagery and senses a foreign object has trespassed his space. It’s such a cool, thrilling scene that’s beautifully-filmed. Given this is just first part of the story, the script feels more enigmatic that sparks my curiosity. I like all the mystery of it all… the secrecy surrounding Bene Gesserit, the Fremen’s native people and desert power, etc. There’s a lot to take in, but the film makes it enjoyable to digest them.

Hans Zimmer‘s music helps immerse me in the desert universe with its Middle-Eastern motifs and African beats. Just like Villeneuve, Zimmer has been a huge fan of the book in his teenage years. He seems to relish working on this project and the result is an evocative, soulful and rousing score. As much as I love it though, the music can get overwhelming in some scenes as it overpowers the action. I think in certain parts, the music could have been toned down a bit.

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I have to commend Villeneuve in the one thing that many filmmakers struggle with, and that is pacing. It’s especially crucial in films over 2 hours long, but for me, its 2.5-hour running time didn’t feel like a drag. I do have my quibbles–for one, the films does feel overly indulgent at times, likely because of the director’s passion for the subject matter. The film’s energy also dips a bit in the second act, but overall it’s well-paced and the talented actors help keep me engaged throughout.

Oh and what an ensemble cast it was! Chalamet is perfect as the film’s protagonist, he’s got a strong screen presence with his handsome, youthful face and lithe figure. There’s an inner tumult and angst, which is typical in a teenage boy, but there seems to be something deeper that plagues him… as he constantly dreams of a Fremen girl that’s both seductive and ominous. Zendaya’s Chani is an important figure in the story. Though she doesn’t really get to do much until the third act, her presence is felt throughout through Paul’s dreams.

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In the House Atredeis side, I love how commanding and regal Oscar Isaac looks as the Duke with his glorious grayish hair and matching beard. Apparently he lobbied for a role in DUNE and he’s spot on as the patriarch who’s protective but also loving to his heir. But then again, he rarely made a wrong move since I first laid eyes on him in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood as Prince John. I’ve loved Rebecca Ferguson since The White Queen series and she’s got the beauty, strength and certain mystical aura as Lady Jessica. She has the most screen time with Chalamet here and I like the unconventional mother-son dynamic. In many ways, his mother is also his mentor as she was still training Paul to use the ‘voice,’ an audio-neuro mechanism used to manipulate others. 

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As the Duke’s most trusted military advisers, both Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa have the brute force as well as intellect required for the roles. The fighting scenes are pretty cool to watch, especially since the characters use an invisible shield, some kind of protective energy field that make them temporarily impervious from harm. Charlotte Rampling is not in the film much but you definitely won’t forget her in one pivotal scene. In the House Harkonnen side, we’ve got the villainous Baron Harkonnen, who looks like an oily version of Jabba the Hutt. Stellan Skarsgård portrayed the role in full body prosthetic jumpsuit. He doesn’t have to act much as his body makeup alone does the work. Baron is more repulsive than scary, while Dave Bautista barely has much to do here as his henchman.

Javier Bardem plays the leader of a Fremen tribe who has the audacity to visit the House Atredeis without an invitation. He’s a knight-like figure who’s strong and defiant, but like Zendaya, we only get to see him prominently in the third act. Taiwanese actor Chen Chang has some memorable moments as House Atredeis’ family physician Dr. Yueh despite his limited screen time. Last but definitely not least, there’s Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet-Kynes who’s easily one of my favorite characters in the entire film. Apparently the film changed the gender of the character from male to female in the book, which I think works just as well. Duncan-Brewster has a charismatic presence here so I’m glad to see her featured prominently throughout.

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I think fans of the book would likely have more things to pick apart than those who have not, such as myself. Herbert’s book has an anti-imperial, anti-colonial themes woven in its larger arcs. Even without reading the book, I could see the unsubtle commentary on Middle Eastern oil (swapped for the spice in this story) and also its environmental message that resonates today in regards to climate change and lack of care for our planet. As for the ‘white savior trope’ criticism towards the book, Villeneuve himself has addressed that as saying that ‘…it’s not a celebration of a savior, but more of a criticism of the idea of a savior, of someone that will come and tell another population how to be, what to believe.’ As someone from a SE Asian country that was colonized for over three centuries by a small country who literally mined our spices, obviously I’m not fond of this commonly-used narrative.

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To be fair, I think Villeneuve has tread carefully in this regard and present Paul’s story as someone who struggles with the idea that he’s seen as a savior. He’s shown as being passionate to learn about Arrakis and its people. There’s a scene where he’s talking to a Fremen watering the native palm trees. You can imagine how precious water is to a desert planet, and Paul questions whether the water should be saved for the people instead.

There’s also a scene where he and his mother mimic the Desert Walk of the Fremen where one alters its rhythm while walking on sand. It’s not just for efficiency but for survival given the giant sand worm is a constant threat. The fictional extraterrestrial desert creature is meticulously designed and it’s quite thrilling and suspenseful every time it glides through under the sand and practically swallow everything in its path, even a giant mining machine, if you can’t outrun it.

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Overall I’m impressed with what Villeneuve has done in bringing his vision of DUNE to life. It’s more than just a feast for the eyes, but the narrative delivery offers something thrilling and thought-provoking. The version we’re seeing is in fact Villeneuve’s vision from when he was a teen when he first read Frank Herbert’s influential sci-fi novel. I’ve mentioned in this post that I haven’t seen the David Lynch version, or should I say the Dino De Laurentiis version as Lynch disowned it. Not that it matters as Villeneuve has said repeatedly that his version wouldn’t have any semblance to the 1984 film. ‘Fear is the mind-killer,’ that’s the book’s mantra, but it might as well be Villeneuve’s as well given he dared to tackle something deemed ‘unfilmable.’ Tackling this weighty project obviously takes some massive ambition, passion and craftsmanship. It takes an even higher level of courage given that the Montreal-born director took this on after the major box office bomb of Blade Runner 2049 which also happens to be a remake of a 1980s version. 

Now, I’m not saying this movie is without flaws. I was hoping there’d be more emotional resonance given the high stakes. I didn’t connect with some of the key characters as much I had hoped, either because they’re under-developed or inaccessible. I figure it’s par for the course that the film feels incomplete, as this is just the first part of the whole story (even the poster spells it out… IT BEGINS). One thing for sure, there’s enough to get me invested in the world of DUNE, and the ending certainly makes me hope we get to see the conclusion in part II.

4/5 stars


Have you seen DUNE? I’d love to hear what you think!

Music Break – The fabulous songs from The Greatest Showman (2017)

I can’t believe I hadn’t done a Music Break post on The Greatest Showman since it’s been released three years ago. I’ve been listening to its songs over and over, and it’s truly one of my absolute favorite musicals in the past decade.

Interesting Trivia – courtesy of Screen Rant and IMDb:

  • The musical grossed over $400 million worldwide against an $84 million budget.
  • This film was a dream project for Hugh Jackman since 2009.
  • Jackman did extensive research for the film–reading dozens of books about Barnum, long hours of dance rehearsals, and singing – lots and lots of singing! When asked what was the hardest movie to prepare for compared to Logan, Jackman actually said it was hands down this movie!
  • The film features eleven new songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of La La Land (2016).
  • From early on in pre-production on the film, the decision was made to have the musical style to evoke more that of contemporary musical genres like pop and hip hop rather than that of a traditional, classical musical style that would accurately evoke the film’s 1800s setting. As Pasek said, “The choice was to express not just the characters’ feelings, but also how ahead of his time P.T. Barnum was. He wasn’t bound by the world in which he lived; he wanted to create one.”

Ok so here are 5 of my favorite songs featured in the film:

Tightrope

Right from the first moment I heard it, I just fell in love with this song. The scene is so beautiful but also heartbreaking as Charity is lamenting on her husband being away with the opera singer Jenny Lind and that success actually drives him away from their family.

This curtain scene is so exquisitely done… and oh so heartbreaking!

I LOVE Michelle Williams‘ singing voice! In an interview with New Zealand Herald, she said:

I find that singing and dancing is a direct path to joy. And I just wanted more of it, that’s why I wanted to make the film. Singing is natural for me. I don’t know if I’m the greatest in the world at it, but I just love it!

A Million Dreams

Though Ellis Rubin played young P.T. Barnum in the movie, it’s actually Ziv Zaifman who provided the singing voice for  for this song which I think sounds fantastic. I love that in the second part of the song, it’s Hugh Jackman singing it as the adult Barnum, it adds such a wonderful dimension to the song.

Rewrite the Stars

One of my all-time favorite duet from a musical, perhaps beating Moulin Rouge!‘s Come What May (Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) which was my fave for a long time. Zac Efron and Zendaya have a lovely chemistry and this duet as they’re swaying on a rope is such a showstopper scene that takes my breath away every time I watch it.

I read a bunch of articles how arduous it was for them to film the high-flying aerial stunts and the outtake video of them colliding mid-air. Props for the two actors and the entire filmmaking team for making the sequence look so effortless!

Never Enough

Rebecca Ferguson‘s voice was dubbed by Loren Allred. However, in order to get into the role, Ferguson insisted on singing the song in front of the extras while filming. She is actually Swedish, born in Stockholm, just like the character.

I love Ferguson’s passionate performance here, she absolutely sells me that she’s the greatest singer in the world. There’s also some intriguing intercuts in the scene depicting the tension in the relationship between Barnum and Charity, as well as Efron and Zendaya’s characters.

This Is Me

This is such a defiant, heartfelt anthem sung phenomenally by Keala Settle who played the the bearded lady Lettie Lutz. The rousing scene

According to Jackman, the film’s nine-year development process from conception to completion was, in part, due to studios’ unwillingness to take a risk on an original musical. What finally sold the deal at 20th Century Fox was this Oscar-nominated song This is Me, which had literally been written by Pasek and Paul during the two-hour flight to the studio meeting where the film was green-lit.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. If you’ve seen The Greatest Showman, which song(s) is your favorite?

New Netflix Movies/Miniseries To Watch in February – Malcolm and Marie | I Care A lot | Red Dot | The Last Paradiso | Layla Majnun | Behind Her Eyes

There are SO many things to watch on Netflix that I always struggle to figure just WHAT to watch. Now, this is not a comprehensive list of ALL that’s coming to Netflix which includes older movies that’s been released before, i.e. The Bank Job, Inception, The Patriot, War Dogs, Captain Fantastic, etc. but these are NEW stuff from the streaming service, part of the 70 new original content Netflix promised to release in 2021. There’s an extra dose of romantic-themed content released in February because of Valentine’s Day, but there’s a comedy + thriller thrown in.

In any case, so here are 5 new movies + 1 limited series coming to Netflix this month:

Malcolm & Marie

Releases February 5 – read my review

A director and his girlfriend’s relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere and await critics’ responses.

One of the best things about TENET is John David Washington and I like Zendaya based on the two things I saw her in, The Greatest Showman and Spider-Man Far From Home. I haven’t seen her in Euphoria yet, which is created by the director of this film, Sam Levinson (who happens to be the son of Barry Levinson who won an Oscar directing Rain Man).

Some of you might have seen this by now as it was released last Friday. Let me know what you think if you have seen it!


The Last Paradiso (L’ultimo paradiso)

Releases February 5, 2021

In 1950s Italy, a passionate free spirit dreams of love, justice and a better life till a forbidden affair threatens everything. Based on real events.

Of course seeing the title reminds me right away of Cinema Paradiso, one of my all-time favorite non-English language films. This one is also a love story, a forbidden affair no less, that’s based on a true story. I recognized the lead actor Riccardo Scamarcio from John Wick 2, he’s got such an intense stare that’s hard to forget. I’m down to be swept away to the South Italy’s countryside for a couple of hours. Love, passion, rebellion… hopefully would make a memorable drama.


Red Dot

Releases February 11, 2021

When Nadja becomes pregnant, they make an attempt to rekindle their relationship by traveling to the north of Sweden for a hiking trip but soon their romantic trip turns into a nightmare.

I’ve enjoyed quite a few Nordic thrillers, such as The Hunt, Headhunters, though I should watch more. Scandinavian filmmakers sure know how to make effective noirs. This one comes from Swedish filmmaker Alain Darborg, and it has that ominous, atmospheric vibe to it.


Layla Majnun

Releases February 11, 2021

While in Azerbaijan, Layla, an Indonesian scholar, falls for Samir, an admirer of her work — but her arranged marriage stands in the way.

I rarely blog about Indonesian movies (despite the fact that my late dad used to work in the Indo film industry), but this one caught my eye. I’m not familiar w/ any of the cast but the setting in Azerbaijan and the familiar-yet-still-enticing forbidden love story sounds like a perfect one to watch around V-day.

I Care A Lot

Releases February 19, 2021

A shady legal guardian lands in hot water when she tries to bilk a woman who has ties to a powerful gangster.

I’m intrigued just reading the description and the cast: Rosamund Pike, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, Peter Dinklage.I love Rosamund Pike and it’s nice to see her in a dark comedy, playing a shady character no less. This film premiered at TIFF and currently has a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating, praising Pike’s a wicked performance. Can’t wait!


Behind Her Eyes (miniseries)

Releases February 17, 2021

A single mom becomes entangled in a twisted mind game when she begins an affair with her psychiatrist boss while bonding with his mysterious wife.

Want a bit of twist with your Valentine romance? How about a psycho-sexual thriller with a good looking UK cast? I’m a huge fan of Tom Bateman who’s the epitome of tall, dark & handsome and also super talented. I’ve just seen Eve Hewson in Tesla and really like her, looking forward to seeing the love triangle between these two and Simona Brown.

The miniseries is produced by Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind the prestigious drama The Crown.


What do you think of these two movies?

FlixChatter Review: Malcolm and Marie (2021)

I’ve always been fascinated by two-hander type films which relies on the performances of only two actors for the entire duration of the film. It’s quite tricky to pull off, but perhaps Malcolm & Marie‘s filmmaking style could just be the norm for the next year or two, given the restrictions of the pandemic. Apparently this is one of the first movies to be developed and completed entirely since Covid-19 spread into the US.

The film takes place primarily in a single evening, when filmmaker Malcolm (John David Washington) and his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) returns home following a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits reviews of his new film. From Malcolm’s chipper mood, it’s safe to assume the film is poised to be a critical and financial success. As Malcolm keeps rattling off about all kinds of things, Marie’s mood is rather somber, which is a telltale sign that their relationship isn’t as rosy as the movie posters have us believe. 

I know from experience of living with the same person for nearly two decades that one of the main reasons couple argue is presumption. Malcolm presumes that even though he had left her out of his thank-you speech that she’s cool with everything. He also presumes that when Marie says ‘she’s fine’ that she is in fact, fine. Malcolm’s presumption extends beyond what’s transpired that evening, but also throughout his relationship with Marie… as we learn from their constant bickering that last through the night. It doesn’t take long for me to form my opinion about each character. Though initially I find Malcolm to be a cool guy at first, soon I became irritated by his arrogance and condescending manner. I find myself shaking my head quite a bit at his serious lack of empathy, which turns bad situation to worse. Marie is a bit harder to read at first as she’s pretty quiet in the first act, but later she lets her feelings known and we start to see the crux of the problem.

Writer/director Sam Levinson has cast two of the brightest young actors working today in top form, which is crucial in making this talky film work. Zendaya in particular is mesmerizing in the most dramatic performance I’ve seen her in. She and Levinson had worked together in Euphoria (where she won a Best-Actress Emmy award), and you could sense there’s a mutual trust between them as she’s really confident in the role he’s crafted for her. It’s an emotionally-authentic performance where she’s not afraid to appear unglamorous and even unhinged at times. Props to John David his willingness to play an unlikable character, constantly putting his girlfriend down if she doesn’t get some of the film/filmmaker references he incessantly spewing. Marie calls him a narcissist and she is not wrong in her assessment. As I’ve only seen John David in two films prior to this, this affirms his chops as a dramatic actor as there are moments where he truly let ‘er rip as more and more revelations about their relationship bubble to the surface.

Hollywood always likes to make films about themselves and this film falls in that category, but framed from the perspectives of a couple who works in the industry. It’s interesting that the director and male lead are connected with Hollywood veterans – Sam Levinson is the son of Barry Levinson, the Oscar-winning director of Rain Man, and John David (JD) Washington is Denzel Washington’s son. I watched a Q&A via Zoom (thanks to Film Independent) where the filmmaker talked about how the script was fluid enough to allow for improvisation during filming. It also allows for the actors to inject their personal experiences into the story.

Now, I applaud the innovative approach to writing and filmmaking though it isn’t always effective. Their conversations is is a bit all over the place as the pair just keep rambling on and on. Long monologues seem intriguing at first, but after a while it lost its luster and it feels over-indulgent and showy. Some of the topics are fascinating (to me anyways, though I don’t know how many people care so much about how Malcolm feels about William Wyler), but some get too repetitive and perhaps over-indulgent. Malcolm’s constant lashing out at his critics feels like a not-so-subtle jab at film criticism, is that Levinson’s way of telling off his own critics? Interesting that even though Malcolm may act like he wasn’t affected by the negative reviews, his bitter reaction proves otherwise. The part about how filmmakers of color are perceived is one that stood out to me, definitely a commentary of a current hot button issue.

Stylistically speaking, this is a beautiful film to look at and everything is well-lit. The house itself is architecturally amazing to look at. Marcell Rév‘s cinematography work illuminates the beauty of the two actors, yet it feels emotionally distant somehow, perhaps a commentary of the couple? Despite their beauty (and perhaps because of it), the film also feels bit claustrophobic and suffocating as it’s just the two of them on screen. The black/white visual also adds to the monotony of being confined to a single location. I do enjoy the music by Labrinth which has a cool vibe and something I expect a popular yuppie like Malcolm would listen to.

It’s been a few weeks since I watched this movie, and I’m wondering just what does Levinson want to say with this story. It’s an ambitious and inventive filmmaking showcasing a pair of charismatic performers, but in the end it’s neither a profound nor riveting character study it wants to be. I can’t help comparing it to Marriage Story where the characters’ situation are similar but there is a much clearer and more satisfying story arc. Honestly, I don’t really know how I feel about Malcolm & Marie’s relationship at the end, and frankly I don’t give a damn that much one way or the other.

Have you seen Malcolm + Marie? Well, what did you think?

THIS JUST IN! Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE (2020) trailer

Woo wee!! Can you believe it’s been five months since the first official FIRST LOOK photos of DUNE were released?! I remember hyperventilating then just looking at a bunch of photos, well… finally, the trailer is here!

Behold…


I had been standing in front of my laptop since 10:45 CST… waiting w/ bated breath to see the trailer. Well, as it turns out the studios had a special event Q&A w/ the director Denis Villeneuve and the entire cast, hosted by Stephen Colbert, here’s the convo if you missed it:

 

My reaction is: WOO HOO!!! Cannot. freakin’. wait for this!! As if I weren’t anticipating this enough already, the Q&A w/ the cast/crew really whet my appetite even more! The world building, the set pieces, outstanding ensemble cast… boy, it LOOKS AMAZING! Glorious, atmospheric, mysterious, suspenseful… everything I expect from a sci-fi epic.

I respect Villeneuve as a filmmaker and I trust that he’s going to bring something that’s truly worth the hype!

Hollywood’s it-boy Timothée Chalamet is perfectly cast here as Paul Atreides… the narration of DUNE’s famous quote about fear gives me goosebumps!

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear and I will permit it to pass over me. When the fear is gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

I quite like the pairing of him and Zendaya too as Chani, a Fremen woman.

Full cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.

Great seeing several of them on the Twitter trailer event Q&A today!! They all look happy, even emotional, seeing the trailer, just like the fans!

Twitter trailer event Q&A w/ director + cast

DUNE’s full 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.

Chalamet as Paul Atredes with Charlotte Rampling’s Gaius Helen Mohiam

The film is currently set for theatrical release on December 18 in the U.S. and the UK.


Well, what do you think of the DUNE teaser?

FlixChatter Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Can’t believe it’s been seven years ago that I reviewed the Andrew Garfield‘s The Amazing Spider-man, which I barely even remember now so clearly it wasn’t all that amazing. I think I was mostly sentimental as I was at Comic-Con Hall H when Garfield first revealed that he was playing the role (those with eagle eyes might notice me hyperventilating just inches away behind him 😉 ) but since Tom Holland took over the role in Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017, he’s now become my favorite Spider-man. He’s a proper kid after all, while Garfield was a decade older when he was cast to play a teenager.

I’m treading as carefully as I can with this review as not to tread into spoiler territory. It is safe to say that the film takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, which if you still haven’t seen it by now, well this entire movie IS a huge spoiler. While Endgame has fixed Thanos’ snap in which he wiped off half the universe, those who had been gone for five years now co-exist with those who remained, the effect coined as ‘the Blip.’ The opening sequence addresses that in hilarious way (using a famous 90s power ballad) as Peter is reunited with his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon) and they’re preparing on a school trip to Europe.

The heroic ending of Tony Stark weighed heavily on everyone, most of all Peter Parker who still misses his former mentor/father figure. Not only that, he also carries the burden of people’s expectations that he’d become the next Iron Man, which honestly, is too much for any capable man, let alone a 16-year-old boy! Yes he’s an Avenger, and at such a tender age, he’s had more than his fair share of battles. ‘Please! You’ve been to space!’ as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) argued, but the most important thing in Peter’s world at the moment is to declare his love to his school crush. I appreciate that this movie allows Peter be a regular boy, dealing with the angst of teen angst like any other, while juggling the huge expectations of  living up to the ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ mantra.

Just like its titular hero, director Jon Watts also has a huge responsibility on his shoulder the fact that Far From Home is the last movie of Phase Three of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) while no new movie has been officially announced for Phase Four yet. I think Marvel boss Kevin Feige said Endgame and Far From Home is ‘essentially two pieces of the same story’ which has to be quite challenging to do when you’ve got two different set of directors for each film. Yet Watts managed to pull it off marvelously, keeping the tone of this movie lighthearted, humorous and fun but not without its poignant emotional moments. The fact that he has worked with Holland in Spider-man: Homecoming, they surely have a good rapport. The returning cast such as Batalon and Zendaya as MJ have a bit more to do here as well. I have to say some of my fave scenes involve Peter and MJ, who refreshingly is much more than a damsel in distress.

Jake Gyllenhaal in his MCU debut as Mysterio couldn’t be more perfectly-cast. The less said about his character the better but I could say that he and Holland have a good chemistry together. I also like that the plot deals with the themes of trust, as any good superhero would have to quickly learn, similar to the themes in Captain America: Winter Soldier in many ways. I also love that the movie deconstructed the whole superhero myth as one character said something about how people only listen to you if you wear a cape.

Clocking in at 2 hours 9 minutes, the movie didn’t have many slow moments. The action sequences are terrific. All the perilous scenarios really puts Spidey’s power to the test. The fact that Peter now has access to Stark’s state-of-the-art technology is both a blessing and a curse, which you’ll find out why when you see the movie. I still do have issues with some of the more bombastic action sequences (just way too many explosions!) but the clever plot makes it bearable. Plus I love the European locations… Venice, Vienna, Prague… oh my! There’s also a hilarious bit of Peter in the Netherlands! It certainly helps when the script is as nimble and spry as the protagonist. Screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers turned the whole ‘saving the world from an Avengers-level threat’ upside down where nothing is what it seems. Now, my favorite Spider-man movie up until now was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 with Doc Ock as a fantastic adversary, but I think this one now stands as my new favorite Spidey movie.

Tom Holland is the true star here who absolutely rocks as both Spider-man AND his alter ego Peter Parker. He’s got the nimble physicality that makes him credible as a web slinger, but what I love most is how he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not afraid to show his feelings, be it his deep admiration for Tony Stark or his love for MJ. I have to admit that whole ‘Peter Tingle’ phrase (thanks Aunt May!) in reference to his Spider-sense is silly and cringe-inducing, but it’s a cute scene the first time it’s introduced. Marisa Tomei is wonderful as Aunt May and nice to see Jon Favreau back as Happy who now gets to look after Iron Man’s young protégé. I already mentioned about Zendaya above but I’ll say it again, I adore her MJ and I hope she gets to do more in the future Spider-man movies!

Lastly, while I can’t talk about the ending of this movie, one thing I can say is that it’s unpredictable. That is always quite a feat for any movie, let alone one of this magnitude where there’ve been so many versions in the franchise. Oh and DO stay for the end credits scenes! Believe the hype, they’re both great and the first part actually makes you wonder just what it all means for Peter Parker in MCU Phase Four. Man, we don’t even know when the next Marvel movie comes out but I’m already looking forward to it. Bring. It. On!


What are YOUR thoughts about Spider-man: Far From Home

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FlixChatter Review: The Greatest Showman (2017)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The upcoming original musical The Greatest Showman is directed by Michael Gracey, and written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. First time Australian director Gracey made a wonderful decision to turn The Greatest Showman into a modern-musical, opting for modern day pop style songs over 1800s tunes. Convincing 20th Century FOX, Gracey was instrumental in hiring songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Tony award winners for the original musical Dear Evan Hansen and then Golden Globe and OSCAR winners for the La La Land song City of Stars). Pasek and Paul wrote eleven original songs for The Greatest Showman, each more emotional than the last. Their original song This Is Me, has so far been nominated for a Golden Globe and could be in play for the Best Original Song category at this year’s OSCARS.

The film is inspired by the life of circus creator and father of modern show business, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). Supporting Barnum are his supportive wife Charity (Michelle Williams), his business partner Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the acrobat & trapeze-artist that Carlyle scandalously falls for. Broadway star Keala Settle stars as the Bearded Lady and she sings This is Me to perfection. She nearly runs away with the whole movie.

When Barnum struggles supporting his circus made up of freaks and bizarre acts, he invited and hires Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), a famous Swedish opera singer to perform in America for the first time. Barnum called Lind “The Swedish Nightingale” and she ended up being a big hit and performing over 90 concerts for him before quitting the tour and breaking her contract with Barnum. Lind had wearied of Barnum’s assertive marketing of her and that she would end up like Barnum’s circus. When Barnum returns to New York after the tour, the building housing his circus catches fire and while no one is hurt, the building is a total loss. Barnum then figures out that he doesn’t need a whole building to house the circus but rather a very large tent.

Zendaya and Zac Efron have a wonderful connection onscreen, especially when they perform the acrobatically-demanding musical number Rewrite The Stars and when he defends her in front of his parents. They share some terrific chemistry, but it’s hard to beat the moments when Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman share the screen. One of the best scenes in the film is when Barnum talks Carlyle into joining the circus, and they try to out-dance each other. They do this during the song The Other Side. There are also beautiful renditions of Tightrope by Michelle Williams and Never Enough, performed by Loren Allred who provides Jenny Lind’s singing voice in the movie.

The Greatest Showman feels a little predictable and disjoined at times, but the emotions in the movie feel true and very authentic. The movie make you want to care for Barnum and what happens with his family, so you probably won’t care if it is a little over the top – musicals are supposed to be that way. It’s the perfect film to enjoy with the whole family over the holidays; even if you’re someone who hates musicals this one might be the one that convinces you to give it a try. At least one can appreciate the hard work it is to write a whole new, original musical. I have to give them props for a job well done.


Have you seen ‘The Greatest Showman’? Well, what did you think?