BARE BONES: DUNE (2021)

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DUNE (2021)

Dune is the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic Sci-Fi novel—well, the first half. Story has Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) and his family being assigned to takeover spice production on the desert planet of Arrakis from the vile Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). It turns out to be a trap and after a massacre, Leto’s escaped son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is now left on the hostile planet with his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). They must somehow survive heat, sandworms and the mystical natives called The Fremen. Lady Jessica, however, is a woman of mystical abilities herself and her powerful son Paul may be the prophesized savior The Freman are waiting for—The Kwisatz Haderach!
 
Adaptation is directed by Denis Villeneuve from his script with Eric Roth and John Spaihts. Having read the book, this is an epic task and as an adaptation, this is a far better one than David Lynch’s bombastic but entertaining 1984 flick. The problem is it’s far less fun or involving. Villeneuve’s first half of the story looks great and has a solid cast, but aside from a couple of sequences, meanders along till it’s abrupt conclusion. The Harkonnen attack on House Atreides aside, the film has a ponderous pace and feels far longer than it’s 156 minute runtime. Dune was not an action heavy book, but this flick seems to drag, not to mention Timothée Chalamet is kind of a dull lead as Paul. He doesn’t have the charisma to be the savior of Arrakis he is supposed to be. The FX and visuals are spectacular and the action is equally so, the few times we get some, but overall this flick moves slower than a sandworm and isn’t nearly as involving as the detail and intrigue filled literary classic it’s trying to adapt. Maybe a Game of Thrones style series would have been a more efficient approach. Hopefully the planned Dune Part 2 will gives us both the story and entertainment we came for in this part. Also stars Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa and Zendaya, all in roles far smaller than they deserved. 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

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BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

Sequel picks up thirty years after the disappearance of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) with replicants now being perfected to the point of obedience. One such new model “K” (Ryan Gosling) hunts down older models as a Blade Runner. When he “retires” replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), he finds a box of bones on his property that belong to Deckard’s replicant lover Rachel. They also indicate Rachel had died giving birth, a starting revelation that finds K sent on a reluctant mission to find and eliminate the child before the world finds out about it. This puts him in great danger as he must track down Rick Deckard and is pursued by the Wallace Corporation, who want to find out how a replicant gave birth and use that knowledge for their own purposes.

Worthy sequel is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) from a script by Hampton Fancher (who co-wrote the original) and Michael Green. It’s a science fiction mystery with an amazing visual style that both brings us back to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic and yet goes beyond it to create it’s own futuristic world, of neon overindulgence and rotting decay. It is a moderately paced and moody thriller that manages never to be boring at a lengthy 163 minutes and populates it’s world with some very eccentric…and dangerous…characters. The script links the film very cleverly to the 1982 original and takes the story to new places and gives us a lot to think about as we follow K on his journey and we discover the clues and startling revelations as he does. Like Scott’s film, there is some violent action, but this is a film noir, mystery/thriller not an action movie, much like the first film and it works very well if you have the patience to let it tell it’s story at it’s own pace. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is quite sumptuous and the score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch sets the mood perfectly and mixes in some elements of the original Vangelis score, so the film feels like a Blade Runner movie.

Villeneuve has a great cast. Gosling is a perfect fit for the brooding Blade Runner “K”. He gives the outcast replicant some nice emotional depth as he ponders his part in this ongoing mystery. Ford steps back into Deckard’s shoes with ease giving him a weariness and a hardened edge of living a lonely life in exile. Robin Wright makes for a tough, hard-nosed cop as K’s superior officer, Lt. Joshi. Ana de Armas is charming, sweet and sexy as K’s hologram girlfriend Joi. Rounding out is a creepy Jared Leto as Niander Wallace, who has taken over the replicant business from The Tyrell Corp and Sylvia Hoeks as his very lethal hench-woman, Luv. They serve as our villains, as they want to find Rachel’s child for their own nefarious purposes. The supporting players, including Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista, are all top notch, too. A very solid cast.

It’s too early to tell if this flick will become a cult classic like it’s predecessor. It is a solid sequel and yet very much it’s own movie. It has a great cast, some incredible visuals and an intriguing mystery that keeps our attention even at almost three hours long. It may be a bit too brooding and lengthy for some, but if you are a patient person, and a fan of the original, it is a highly recommended sequel to a cult classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 3 and 1/2 holographic girlfriends.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: ARRIVAL

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ARRIVAL (2016)

When twelve ships of possible extraterrestrial origin park themselves over twelve random earth locations, the nations of the world become united in curiosity and concern. Linguistics expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called upon to head the U.S. team responsible for finding a way to communicate with our visitors. But as tensions rise and world powers start to consider a military response, Louise races desperately to find a way to convince the world what she already knows, that the visitors mean no harm.

Arrival is an interesting and involving science fiction film from director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) from a script by Eric Heisserer based on Ted Chiang’s short story, Story Of Your Life. It’s refreshing to have a flick that views our first contact with an alien race as exactly that…a first contact, not as yet another alien invasion. The film is suspense-fully directed by Villeneuve who also gives it a bit of a sense of wonder, as we learn along with Louise how to talk to these octopus-like creatures and what their intentions are. He builds the tension very well as the nations of the world grow fearful, based on what could be initial miscommunication and then keeps us riveted as Louise figures things out and now races to keep world powers from starting an intergalactic conflict. The director gets really good performances out of his cast, primarily Adams, Jeremy Renner as a physicist and Forest Whitaker as an army officer in charge of the contact group. Sure things may get a little sappy in the last few minutes, but overall it is an intelligent and entertaining science fiction epic with no lasers and scant few explosions for once.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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REVIEW: SICARIO (2015)

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SICARIO (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Sicario is an intense and gripping crime thriller that opens with an FBI raid on a house owned by a suspected drug lord and the gruesome discovery made within. Not only does by-the-book agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) discover bodies filling the walls of the house, but a booby trap claims the lives of two officers. Wanting to catch those responsible, Kate is asked to join a special ops team with mysterious government operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and even more mysterious ‘advisor’ Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). As the operation to bring down drug lord Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino) and his boss begins and Kate is taken deep into the Mexican underworld, she starts to question who her new partners really are and what their real agenda is.

Written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Denis Villeneuve, this is a very involving and sometimes shocking thriller about an idealistic FBI agent who may not be ready to deal with the realities of the war on drugs. We are taken inside this special ops team knowing as little about these men as she does and watch as she is drawn into a world she isn’t prepared for. Not only are the people they are pursuing capable of horrible atrocities, but her mysterious team members aren’t above breaking rules and crossing lines to accomplish their objectives as well. The line between good guys and bad guys becomes increasingly blurred and Kate is our voice of reason being drowned out in a world were reason and morality have long since been abandoned. The deeper she gets, the more she realizes she is in a world she doesn’t want to be in. As for her new team, they seem to have their own agenda and methods, that Kate is no longer sure she wants to be a part of. It’s a rude awakening for her and Villeneuve opens our eyes along with her. It can be a very intense ride and there are a few punch-in-the-gut scenes as true agenda’s and identities are revealed. This is a top notch thriller with some nail-biting action and one that takes us into world’s we don’t see on CNN or even NCIS for that matter…a world where there are no heroes or villains, just players in a brutal game. It also takes the time to give us a glimpse of what life is like for those that live closest to it. It’s an intense, suspenseful and well-crafted thriller that takes a noble woman and places her in a violent world without rules that she is not prepared to live in. It’s harrowing and skillfully told journey.

The cast are top notch and all do good work. Emily Blunt again shows she is a versatile actress who can take on tough physical roles with dramatic intensity. Her Kate is a woman with both a sense of duty and morals who is forced into a world were the book is thrown out the window along with morality and even the law she has sworn to uphold. She teams with men no better than those she vowed to bring to justice and Blunt plays the toll on Kate well. Josh Brolin is strong as the team leader shrouded in mystery. From the beginning we know there is more to this man than meets the eye and Brolin keeps pace as Sheridan’s script slowly unravels the layers of secrecy to let us know who the man really is and what his true agenda entails. Del Toro really impresses with a character that is soft spoken one minute, yet has no hesitation in torturing a suspect if it means getting what he wants. He is shrouded in mystery as is Brolin, but the man we are finally to discover is one you may not expect. The film switches focus to him a bit in the last act and it is here we discover his true identity and his real mission and it will really tear Kate apart when this strange man she starts to bond with, is unmasked. We also have a great supporting cast including Victor Garber, Marvel familiar face Maximiliano Hernández, Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal and Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan.

This is a strong thriller that can hit hard at times and takes you on a journey into a world of questionable morals and tactics with a character who has always played by the rules and tried to do what’s right. She is surrounded by men with their own methods and agenda’s operating in another world beneath the one she knows. There is some taunt suspense, some gripping action and some disturbing moments as Agent Kate Macer is drawn deeper into a war we only see the surface of on TV. There are some messages here, but they are not intrusive and the acting really  makes these characters work, especially when the layers are slowly peeled off and true natures are revealed. A highly recommended thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 bullets.

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