: Dune (2021) PG-13 A son of a noble family, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), is destined to become the leader of a planet that contains the most vital element in the galaxy, spice. Paul will face untold horrors, challenges, and sadness as he battles forces for control of a world and a people that have been waiting for their hero for centuries. Frank Herbert’s novel Dune was a life-changing book for me, as it was the first ‘adult’ sci-fi book that I read as a kid, and it blew me away with its story of a young man who is destined to be the savior of a people on a distant planet. I was greatly disappointed in the 1984 David Lynch attempt at putting an over 500-page book into a 2-hour film. I can say that this is a much better attempt at adapting such a sprawling and dense book into a watchable movie. First, go into this film knowing that Dune is part one of a two-part film series and that the film is two hours and thirty-five minutes long (so pack a lunch and go to the bathroom before seeing it). Also, please don’t watch this film at home; watch it, like I did, on the big screen, where the glorious cinematography and the wondrous score by Hans Zimmer can surround and overwhelm you. Timothee Chalamet is an excellent choice for Paul, the man destined to lead, as he is young enough that Paul’s enemies will underestimate him and charismatic enough on the screen to believe that a nation of people suppressed for centuries will rise up and follow him. The cast is impressive, with Oscar Isaac, as the steadfast father of Paul and Josh Brolin as his loyal right-hand man, stand out in their performances. I loved Jason Momoa, as the brash pilot (shades of Hans Solo) who is a hero to the young, impressionable Paul. Momoa has some great action sequences, and his chemistry with Chalamet is warm and genuine. Fans of Dave Bautista and Zendaya may be a little disappointed in this film, as their parts as mostly hinted at on what they will be in the next movie. Overall, the film feels slightly lacking, only because the world that Frank Herbert created in Dune is so complex, and most of the action will take place in the second film. Still, that being said, this is a film spectacle that is one not to be missed on as big a screen as you can find. My Rating: Full Price Dune Website Now playing in theatres nationwide and on the HBO Max platform.
Indiefest: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021) PG-13 British artist Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch) becomes famous for his paintings of cats, which transform the public’s perception of how we see and deal with our house pets. But Louis, an eccentric man responsible for the care of his five sisters, has bigger ideas brewing; unlocking the ‘electrical’ mysteries of the world. I loved the first half of the film as we get pulled into the world of Louis and his large, strange family. Into the madness of Louis and his five sisters walks Emily (Claire Foy), who is given the task of teaching the younger of Louis’s sisters, much to the unhappiness of Louis’s older sister, Caroline (Andrea Riseborough), who has taken over the role of both mother and father to her sisters and Louis himself. Emily brings life to both the family and Louis himself, and they fall in love, creating a great scandal, where a nobleman like Louis would love and marry a spinster, governess, who is of a lower class. However their happiness is short-lived, as Caroline becomes sick, though Louis discovers his love of cats when on a walk, the couple finds a kitten abandoned in the rain. The second half of the film begins to fail as Louis, having lost Caroline, starts to lose his sanity and slowly delves into madness. The film takes such a dark tone from its first half that it feels like it is two different films, and the pace becomes so slow that it is almost painful to watch Louis slowly descent into a shell of what he once was. The film is based on a real man, who almost single-handedly, through his drawings, made cats more than just something to keep around to catch vermin. Louis captivated his audience with whimsical depictions of cats that inspired a nation to see them as companions, something to love and cherish. I wish I felt the same way about this film, but it left me wanting more. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Electrical Life of Louis Wain Website Now playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime platform on Nov. 5th.
Indiefest: Becoming Cousteau (2021) PG-13 Documentary looking at the life of Jacques Cousteau, the explorer and environmentalist who because famous for his sailing vessel, Calypso, his invention of the diving apparatus, the Aqua-Lung, and for his documentaries and TV specials on marine conservation. Cousteau is someone who has been somewhat forgotten. Still, for someone like me, who grew up in the 60s/70s, he was a part of our family, showing up for TV specials that not only entertained but also astonished with its beauty but always with a warning that the beauty of the sea was fragile. The film does a wonderful job of giving us a look at a man who became a symbol of the attempt to save the world from poisoning itself with pollution and the reckless abuse of the sea. The film has a ton of behind-the-scenes footage, some of which has just recently been discovered. The film explores how Cousteau, whose early explorations were funded by oil companies, became aware of how we were destroying the planet and how he became someone who preached about global warming as early as the 80s. The underwater footage alone is worth the price of admission, but Becoming Cousteau's message about a man who made it his mission to save the seas is worth more. My Rating: Full Price Becoming Cousteau Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Mass (2021) PG-13 Years after an unspeakable tragedy has occurred, two sets of parents (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney, and Ann Dowd) agree to meet to talk privately in an attempt to deal with what happened. The meeting will be a journey of grief, anger, denial, and finally, acceptance by those left behind. I will warn you that if you are a parent, this will be a hard film to watch, as the story is one of a parent’s nightmare; your child has been killed by another in a senseless act of violence. The film mainly takes place in one room with the two couples as they slowly go over what happened to their children and try to understand why. From the start, you feel the rage and hurt from Martha Plimpton, who is bubbling over with her feelings, wanting to point fingers at the other couple, especially at Ann Dowd, who plays the mother of the kid who pulled the trigger. The contrast between the two couples is stark and makes for some of the tension in the film, as the parents of the kid who died in the shooting are looking for answers, and the parents of the kid who did the shooting, really don’t have them. The tension in the film ebbs and flows between the two couples as the film goes along, and we see that both sides have been hurt to the core. This is a film that is hard to watch due to the subject matter, but the performances are so real, raw, and emotional that you can’t look away. As the mother of the kid who pulled the trigger, Ann Dowd is exceptional in the role of a woman who loved her child and is as shocked and guilty as a person can be, all the while looking for some way to find forgiveness. Mass is a powerful film with four outstanding performances that will shake you to the core. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Mass Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Found (2021) PG Three American teenage girls, each adopted from China, discover that they are blood-related cousins through the 23andMe website. Their meeting inspires them to confront the burning questions of their shared past and lost history. Found is a fascinating and lovely story of three young women who are looking for answers. All three girls were adopted from China, probably abandoned by the parents due to the ‘one child’ rule that China had for many years that heavily punished families for having more than one child. The three girls were adopted by Americans, and all three have grown up in loving homes and are doing well. But there is that lingering wonderment that the girls have; why were they given up, and who are their natural parents. All the girls wonder; do their birth parents regret what they did, and do they ever think of them. This is a touching film about trying to find out these questions and how much the girls want to know. The film follows the girls as they discover that they aren’t alone in being adopted and finding solace in the fact that they have cousins of roughly the same age and from simular circumstances. Found is a film that is filled with not only hurt feelings, regret and guilt but also love. The love of family, of not just the ones that are related to you but also the family that chooses you. My Rating: Full Price Found Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Ouija Japan (2021) Karen (Ariel Sekiya) is an American housewife living in Japan and desperate to fit in with her Japanese community. She joins other homemakers to play the Kokkuri-san (the Japanese Ouija board), and they unwittingly disrespect a local deity, which starts a game that will pit each housewife against each other in a battle that can only have one winner. This is one of those films that deserves to be seen at a small film festival as a midnight horror showing. There, an audience could have fun with it and enjoy it for what it is, a fun, somewhat amateurish version of a horror film. The film, while unlike a lot of small movies, does have some good qualities, with excellent sound and cinematography. But, it’s hard to overlook the somewhat clumsy dialogue, a plot that seems to forget how many people are in the group, and acting that is sometimes painful to watch. The film does combine two aspects that show up in a lot of Japanese horror films; the love of Ouija boards and the battle royal and I had fun watching this film move along, but it needed a stronger cast and a few re-writes of the script to make it more than just a nice film to see at a midnight screening. My Rating: Cable Ouija Japan Info Now playing On Demand.
Indiefest: Bergman Island (2021) R Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) are an American filmmaking couple who move to Swedish island to each write screenplays. They hope to be inspired by the landscape where famed filmmaker Ingmar Bergman created some of his best works. The couple soon finds out that the lines between reality and fiction have become blurred. This is an interesting film that doesn’t always work. More of a slice of life film combined with a bit of mystery (is the film within the film real or a figment of Chris’s imagination?) than a full-fledged narrative, the film explores the dynamics of a couple whose writing process is exposed to us, while the couple explores the life and meaning of a famous filmmaker. I have never been a fan of Bergman’s films, but I know that his films mean a great deal to his fans and critics worldwide. The film explores what goes into the creative writing process, as the two writers talk about their work, though Chris is more forthcoming about her work than her husband is. The film is a bit frustrating, much like some of Bergman’s films, in that we never get a resolution; we are left with the couple continuing to work and live on the island, and what tensions that have been created, aren’t truly resolved. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Bergman Island Website Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.
Forgotten Film: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982) R Corrine Burns (Diane Lane) is still recovering from her mother's death when she is fired from her job on live TV. Using the publicity from that event, she and her band, The Fabulous Stains, get hired to open for a tour of a washed-up glam-rock group and an up-and-coming British punk band. Soon, through outlandish outfits and attitude, the Fabulous Stains become the headliner, but fame can be hard to handle, and Corrine learns that love and fame can be fleeting. Seeing both Diane Lane and Laura Dern as teenagers is worth watching this film alone, but it’s the performance of Ray Winstone, as the leader of the punk band who falls for Corrine, that makes this film worth watching. Plus, the song that his band plays is a darn good punk song, and the best of all the songs are in this film. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains isn’t a great film, but it’s fun watching Lane as the lead singer of a band that shouldn’t be out on the road, much less headlining. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Dune: Sandwalk coordinator
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Last Night in Soho (2021) R Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a fashion student in London, living a good life, but she has always dreamed of being alive in the 1960s. Eloise begins dreaming at night about a glamorous wannabe singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), living the nightlife in 60s Soho. Be careful what you wish for because Eloise’s dreams are about to become dangerous as she uncovers something ugly. I am a big fan of Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead), so I can’t wait to see this film. Add in the fact that Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit), and Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones, The Avengers), and it makes it one not to miss. Last Night in Soho Website