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Dune (2021) Review

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Dune (2021)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban
Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat
Zendaya as Chani
David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries
Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh
Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet-Kynes
Charlotte Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
Javier Bardem as Stilgar
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, 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, only those who can conquer their own fear will survive.

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Dune was my most anticipated film of 2021. Along with sporting a massively talented cast including the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac, it is also the next film from Denis Villeneuve, who has already delivered some outstanding films like Blade Runner 2049, Sicario, Prisoners and more. On top of that, he’s adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune, and although I’ve never read it and I have only watched the David Lynch adaptation, it is said to be one of the most iconic and important sci-fi novels ever. So for the talent involved I was absolutely on board and was greatly anticipating its release. Unfortunately, the wait for the release date in cinemas for Dune here in New Zealand has been delayed to December, resulting in me having to watch it through other means. All that aside, I can now confirm that it is a fantastic movie that lived up to all the hype.

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Despite this movie being called Dune in most places, the true title of this movie (as shown in the opening) is Dune: Part One. Denis Villeneuve made the decision to split his Dune adaptation into two parts, a very wise decision to me. David Lynch’s Dune attempted to adapt the novel all in one film to very mixed results. So far, Villeneuve’s adaptation really benefits from this. There is a lot of strong worldbuilding, as well as lore and characters established. It really does earn its 2 hour and 30 minute runtime. I haven’t read the book and my knowledge from it came from watching the Lynch movie, and even then I only grasped some aspects and plot details. However with Dune Part One I grasped the story and lore surprisingly well, and I wanted to know more about this world. I was on board with what was happening the entire time. The pacing is steady especially near the beginning, but I wouldn’t have changed it at all. Villeneuve does well at conveying the stakes and scale of the events and setting, while also telling a personal journey of the lead character. This movie essentially focuses on Paul’s (Timothee Chalamet) internal struggle with his growing power and the story is about him accepting his role in a coming war. Like other movies, it does have the concept of a messiah-like or chosen one protagonist but there’s something about the way its handled here that makes it feel unique. Part One does essentially serve to convey a lot of exposition and worldbuilding for the Dune universe, but it approaches it in a way that felt natural to me. Some characters are more fleshed out than others for sure but that’s to be expected with a movie on this large a scale, with so many characters to keep track of. I didn’t really have any issues with the film off the top of my head, there was a lot to take in and a second viewing would definitely help. The only thing I will note is that as you probably would’ve guessed by this point, not everything is resolved at the end, in fact most things aren’t. It does well at getting you interested in what’s to come next, but this movie’s quality in a few years from now will depend on whether Part Two can deliver.

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As said earlier, the cast is really talented and they are great in their roles. Timothee Chalamet is in the lead role of Paul Atreides. He’s a commanding screen presence and captivating as this layered character. Rebecca Ferguson is once again great, Oscar Isaac was solid as the Duke and Paul’s father, and Jason Momoa is a scene stealer and perfectly cast in his role. Other actors like Josh Brolin, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Javier Bardem and more also do well in their parts. Some actors have less screentime than others. Stellan Skarsgard plays Baron Harkonnen, the main villain of Dune. Despite being in under 5 scenes in this movie, he leaves a strong and memorable impression with his menacing performance. Zendaya doesn’t get a lot of screentime but her presence is felt throughout through visions that Paul has. She’s good in her scenes, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in Dune: Part Two.

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Denis Villeneuve is a great and ambitious director, and his work on Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 particularly felt like an audition for this movie. Unsurprisingly his work on Dune is fantastic. Again I wasn’t able to appreciate all the work done on a big screen yet, but for those who can watch it in a cinema, I highly recommend it. This movie is an absolute experience and spectacle of a film, it’s rare to find a blockbuster that actually feels this epic in scale. The cinematography from Greig Fraser is outstanding, with perfect use of framing, colour and lighting. The production designs and locations were incredibly effective. So many of the places shot were memorable and unique from other sci-fi movies, with an otherworldly look to them. The set pieces and wardrobe are well crafted and help bring this world to life. It is not an action movie by any means, but the action that is here is very well handled and shot. The score from Hans Zimmer is operatic and unique, fitting the film perfectly.

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Dune: Part One is truly an immersive experience and spectacle of a film. A fantastic and visually gorgeous sci-fi epic, with an intriguing story, characters and world, a great cast of performances, and stellar direction from Denis Villeneuve. The only thing about Dune: Part One is that essentially we are watching part one of a full story, this movie could end up becoming better or worse depending on how Part Two is. I do know that I am even more excited for Part Two now, and I really want to check out the novel it is based on. If you’re able to, try to watch Dune on the big screen because I can already tell that it’s worth it.

Lady Bird (2017) Review

Time: 94 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Drug use, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast
Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson
Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson
Tracy Letts as Larry McPherson
Lucas Hedges as Danny O’Neill
Timothée Chalamet as Kyle Scheible
Beanie Feldstein as Julianne “Julie” Steffans
Stephen McKinley Henderson as Father Leviatch
Lois Smith as Sister Sarah Joan
Director: Greta Gerwig

Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a high school senior from the “wrong side of the tracks.” She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. LADY BIRD follows the title character’s senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college.

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I had been hearing some amazing things about Lady Bird for a while in the lead up to its release, it has also been such a big player in the Awards field. Naturally I had some high expectations for it. Lady Bird is another great coming of age story with great acting but most of all a really noteworthy directional debut by Greta Gerwig. While I don’t love it as much as most people, it still really is worth seeing.

Greta Gerwig’s script was great. This is a coming of age story and it doesn’t feel cliched at all, it feels real and genuine. In fact, that’s one of the best parts about the whole movie, it felt so real. The dialogue was seamless and feels real, and something you can imagine really being said. The events that happen aren’t really that predictable, and if they do things that you can predict, chances are they are doing it in a way that you wouldn’t expect. It balances out drama and comedy pretty well. It also felt like an honest depiction of growing up. As I said earlier, I didn’t quite love this as much as everyone, it didn’t really hit me on an emotional level. However there’s not exactly anything major in particular that I can point to that I have a problem with. As a coming of age story, it is pretty great, and it doesn’t feel predictable.

Saoirse Ronan is the titular character here and this is possibly her best performance yet. A lot of the movie is riding on her performance and Ronan killed it. She’s so lovable and really does feel like a teenager going through her late adolescence. The supporting cast was great as well. Laurie Metcalf was the stand out supporting performance as the mother and she deserves some praise as well. Both Saoirse and Laurie’s character have a complicated relationship, they are completely different people and this relationship is one of the biggest parts of the movie. Their conflicts feel genuine, they never feel forced and do exactly what you’d expect them to do, and the two have great chemistry. Other supporting actors like Tracy Letts and Lucas Hedges are also good in their roles and do their part. If there was a weak link, to me it’s Timothee Chalamet, I don’t know if it’s so much his acting, it might’ve just been the character. Something about it didn’t work so well and just felt rather distracting.

For a directional debut, Greta Gerwig did a solid job. It feels like a smaller movie and it kind of benefited from that. The direction was at the level it needed to be. It wasn’t really that great, and its really more the writing that stood out as opposed to the direction.

Lady Bird is pretty great. Greta Gerwig’s writing was wonderful, the acting (particularly from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf) was great and it was just a really enjoyable movie that does some unique things. While I’m not sure that I’m loving it as much as everyone else, I do think that it is really worth seeing. Greta Gerwig’s directional debut was really good and I can’t wait to see her do even more work.