Recent Movies and TV

  • Jolt (2021): Kate Beckinsale has poor impulse control and kills a whole lot of people. Shit, that's all you had to say.

  • Blood Red Sky (2021): This is fantastic. Nobody actually says "I have had it with these motherfucking vampires on this motherfucking plane" but it is completely implied.

  • Hacks (2021): I didn't expect a story about a couple of washed up stand-up comics hating each other to be this funny, but it's pretty good.

  • The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (2021): Dumb foul-mouthed fun. I have already forgotten everything about it.

  • The Empty Man (2020): A guy tries to figure out what a cult is up to and why they seem to have a weird interest in him. It takes a Lovecraftian turn, but without any tentacles at all.

  • Suicide Squad (2021): This was pretty funny. Not as good as the Harley Quinn movie, but worlds better than the first Suicide Squad.

  • Chompy and The Girls (2021): Trying to explain this would be fruitless, just go watch it.

  • Nightbooks (2021): Or, "Don't Trust the Baba Yaga In Apartment 23". A witch kidnaps a kid and makes him write scary stories. It's fun and the costumes are great.

  • Candyman (2021): I loved this. The way it re-frames the story of the first movie is great. The technical work on every scene that has a mirror in it is amazing -- they do some really subtle scares with those.

  • Black As Night (2021): Teens kill some damn vampires. It's very Buffy, in the best way.

  • Implanted (2021): What if Siri but evil. (Oh wait.) It's kind of the same story as Upgrade but I liked it more. Also kind of a rebuttal to Her.

  • The Night House (2021): A woman discovers that her dead husband was a creep, and is maybe haunting her. Pretty well done.

  • Val (2021): (Not the Val Kilmer movie.) A crook on the run breaks into a call girl's house, except oops, maybe she's the devil. It's pretty funny.

  • Leverage Redemption (2021): I was a fan of the original run of Leverage, and they did a great job of getting the band back together for this one.

  • Foundation (2021): Isaac Asimov was a piece of shit and a terrible writer, and Foundation was an incredibly boring rant about how math is better than sociology or something. Less "unfilmable" than "should not be filmed". But this show is ok, and as others have noted, that's mostly because it ignores just about everything from the books except for the one-sentence summary of the plot, and a bunch of character names.

  • Star Trek Lower Decks (2020): When this show began, I had some unkind words to say about it -- it seemed to me like it was just The Orville, "What if Star Trek, but cynical, barely-competent dimwits". But it got much better, and I kind of love it now. They mostly stopped with those sorts of jokes and showed that these people really are Starfleet. Also, there are some really deep cuts into Trek lore throughout.

  • What If...? (2021): These ranged from amazing to merely excellent. I am really impressed. The old What If comics always had a "kid burning ants with a magnifying glass" feel about them, but mostly these episodes were not so pessimistic, or so enamored with the idea that the mainline MCU is the best of all possible worlds. I did think the finale episode was weak, though. There was no need to try and tie everything together, and I think it would have been better without it.

  • Y The Last Man (2021): This (already-cancelled) show is absolutely terrible, but not for the reasons you'd probably expect. You'd expect them to have really put their foot in it over gender and trans issues, but mostly they seem to have not made a mess of that. No, it's awful because nothing ever happens and all of the characters are just shitty, boring people and I couldn't care less whether any of them survive. It's basically The Walking Dead but even more nonsensical. People go from point A to point B because... the plot demands it. Some major cities are "evacuated" and others are not because... the plot demands it.

  • La Brea (2021): This is literally Lost. In the first episode, a character jokes, "Maybe we're in an episode of Lost". It wasn't funny. Just like Lost, the only way these writers know how to advance a plot is for characters to keep secrets from each other. "We can't tell anyone what we found in the spooky cave, they might panic!" Fuck you all.

  • Star Wars Visions (2021): Watch the first episode, the samurai one, it's amazing. You can skip all the rest.

  • Midnight Mass (2021): There is really a lot of Catholic all over this, which can be kind of off-putting, but the acting is great, the writing is great, and the restraint they showed in not revealing the [REDACTED] until like episode 4 was impressive.

  • Brand New Cherry Flavor (2021): A filmmaker hires a witch to put a curse on the producer who done her wrong; antics ensue. This is fantastic and unpredictable. It takes a few nicely Cronenbergian detours, as well.

  • Chucky (2021): The new Chucky series is everything that I hoped it would be.

  • Malignant (2021): A woman's childhood invisible friend may have come back to do some light murdering. This is incredible and kept me guessing. Also the fight scenes involve some amazing contortion, and I really want to know now much was practical.

  • In Fabric (2021): An evil dress does evil things, kinda? But this is freaky and amazing. The cinematography is incredible. This is a new Suspiria.

  • Dashcam (2021): This is a forensic mystery in the vein of Blow Up or The Conversation, and because of that it worked even though it's kind of a COVID "zoom movie". It's mostly one guy in his apartment going "enhance!" but it is compelling and believable.

  • No One Gets Out Alive (2021): A story about a haunted-ish boarding house and an undocumented woman trying to GTFO. Very moody.

  • Dune (2021): It is very pretty, but it is basically the first two episodes of an 8 episode miniseries. It just kind of... stops. It did make me appreciate how much exposition Lynch managed to pack into his version, though. This one is like, "Mentats? Uh yeah we're just not going to explain what the deal is with those guys at all." I watched it with someone who didn't know the story, and I had to do a lot of explaining for them to be able to follow it.

    Something that neither movie nor the book explained, though: space flight is impossible without spice. So how the hell did they get there in the first place? And why isn't the Spacing Guild like, "Yeah, this is our planet, we will not be taking any questions."

    I re-read the book recently, for the first time since I was a kid. There are some interesting ideas in it, but it's not really very good. It has a real Ender's Game feel, where Paul goes from "fish out of water little boy" to "omniscient psychopathic god" over the course of like, one page. "How will the immortal psychic get out of this next pickle!" is maybe not the greatest device for plotting.


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71 Responses:

  1. phule says:

    If they don't make "The Hitman's Bodyguard's Wife" as a sequel I'm going to be very disappointed. Not because I want the film to exist, I just want a film to exist with that title. I'd take "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard's Wife" as well but I wouldn't be as happy about it.

  2. Doctor Memory says:

    Massive spoilers for Malignant behind the link -- apparently the bulk of [redacted] was in fact done by a human contortionist with some CGI touch-ups.

  3. saxmaniac says:

    Wow, this has the least amount of bad reviews of any RM&T post ever. Now I’m all sus this is a trick…

    • jwz says:

      I only rarely bother to review things that suck. They have to have really pissed me off.

      • Chris says:

        Did.. did Squid Games piss you off? I've only seen one episode so far, but I can't imagine you skipped it with all the hype it's been getting.

        • jwz says:

          I didn't watch it because I hated Battle Royale, Hunger Games and The Purge so why would I?

        • jboy says:

          Here's a mini-review from someone who's only 2 episodes ahead of you (ie, 3 episodes in):

          All the reviews I've read, and everyone else I've spoken to about Squid Games, say it starts off strong and then ends weak.

          My take was the opposite: Episode 1 was underwhelming; episode 2 was better; and episode 3 was better again.

          Episode 1 was basically Old Boy (loser dad) + Parasite (unsubtle class commentary) + Battle Royale. Loser Dad was immensely frustrating in the first episode, stumbling from one stupid decision to another. This made it very difficult for me to wish for anything other than a speedy death for him. The only plot element that made me hope he survives, was his rather adorable daughter and her embarrassed facial expressions.

          Episode 1 had some interesting visuals -- such as when the game participants were marching around the pink stairs like lemmings. But ultimately (as far as I can see by the 3rd episode), the visuals had no deeper meaning or significance. (Who knows, maybe I'll find out in Episode 7 that all the other kids in school bullied the Bad Man In Charge because he spent all his time playing lemmings.)

          Likewise, when the Bad Man In Charge was listening to classical music while the game participants were being slaughtered, it was just so the show could use an edgy juxtaposition. No deeper meaning.

          But in Episode 2, they introduced some interesting plot development, with a twist I didn't see coming. Not a dumb heist movie twist, disconnected from anything the film has chosen to reveal to you thus far, but an unexpected coin toss landing which causes the plot to develop in an unexpected direction.

          And in Episode 3, there was actual character development. Even better!

          I'm hoping it continues in this trajectory. With any luck, the "disappointing" ending of the series -- that bored all the fans of Episode 1 -- will not be some murderous kid's game while the Bad Man In Charge listens to classical music... but rather the Loser Dad going into a room and then everyone kisses his hand and then he closes the door and shuts out his wife. What does that even mean?? What a disappointing ending!

          • Chris says:

            Thanks for some spoiler-free thoughts! I'll watch episode 2 tonight, I'm sure. I've never seen Old Boy, for which "shame on me" because I'm told it's excellent.

  4. Grey Hodge says:

    "Isaac Asimov was a piece of shit and a terrible writer, and Foundation was an incredibly boring rant about how math is better than sociology or something."

    Man, it feels good to hear someone else say that.

    • Dude says:

      Also: his BFF was Heinlein (even after he started praising Ayn Rand) and both dudes counted L. Ron Hubbard as a friend and peer.

  5. Jon says:

    "space flight is impossible without spice. So how the hell did they get there in the first place?"

    My take would be that there were other methods of space flight but they all sucked so much in comparison to using spice that they were obsoleted & not worth keeping around. It does seem like something that should have been mentioned at some point in the books (although, maybe it was brought up in one of the prequel/sequel books written by his son, I haven't read anything beyond the original six books).

    I agree with you on the Spacing Guild not taking control of Arrakis, that makes no sense.

    • jorm says:

      The Butlerian Jihad eliminated AI machines, which is what they used to determine their wormhole calculations.

      • Nick Lamb says:

        Yes. And IIUC eventually the books get around to somebody realising that if you reject the Orange Catholic Bible you can do AI space travel, AI warfare, and suddenly CHOAM and the Spacing Guild are nothing to you. Dune is set in a much more interesting world than ours, but it's because of a plot contrivance and once you unravel that you don't have Dune any more.

    • Ian says:

      At some point, someone clearly killed all the chemists in the galaxy, or they'd have worked out how to synthesise the active ingredients in spice several centuries ago.

      Clearly energy is already dirt cheap, the material science is great, and no-one cares about the physics.

  6. Jonny says:

    The basic story to the Dune universe is that at some point humans had really powerful AIs, and the AIs were involved with FTL. The humans also find spice. They learn that if you snort enough spice, you can see good enough into the future to be your own FTL computer. Then there was a big war between the humans an AIs. The humans win the war using spice and some other biological enhancements, and then go absolutely nuts smashing anything that looks even vaguely like a computers. When it's all said and done, it's a world completely devoid of computers that use biological means to do what computers used to do. Spice and navigators are used for FTL, and mentats are used as human computers.

    • db48x says:

      You forgot the in–between step where the AI goes rogue and kills or enslaves most of humanity. Eventually what remains of humanity gets their act together, carpet–bombs any world controlled by the AI with nukes (killing billions of human slaves at the same time), then finishes it up by destroying all machines that mimic a human mind, and a few others besides. At some point in all of that an Atriedes thinks that a Harkonnen has committed an act of cowardice, and the feud between those two houses begins. But the details are deliberately not spelled out in any of the books Frank Herbert wrote; there were just a few sentences in the glossary in the back that you could go on.

      I read one of the prequels by his son, which wasn’t very good. However, there is one detail that I did like: the AI doesn’t just “go rogue”. Instead, a small group of people uses the AI to take power for themselves, making themselves dictators of a dozen worlds. Then they get sloppy and the AI murders them and takes over.

  7. asan102 says:

    In Fabric is (2018).

  8. MattF says:

    Foundation’s apparently unfixable problem is that there’s no protagonist, for both book and series. So far, still true for series.

  9. MrSpookTower says:

    Jesus Imaginary Christ, where do you find the time to watch all this stuff? It seems you're living in an alternate universe wherein free time isn't a scarce commodity.

    • Zygo says:

      I've been following RM&T for some time. I have a list, I put the new shows at the end of the list, watch the old shows at the beginning of the list, standard FIFO queue stuff. I started late, so I had been thinking optimistically that if I reached the end of my FIFO queue before jwz had time to refill it, I'd start going through the extensive back catalogue.

      That clearly isn't going to happen--at the moment I'm almost five years behind.

    • jwz says:

      Well, uh, I spend all day doing some combination of working and goofing around on the internet, then I go drink at my nightclub, then I come home and watch garbage on TV until I pass out. Easy!

      In the Before Times, when I had something that might have resembled a social life, there was less TV, I suppose.

    • Ian says:

      I find it odd when people don't see at least one film a day.

  10. グレェ「grey」 says:

    They made a show of Y The Last Man? h.f.s. the comic was so bad I wouldn't even use it as toilet paper. I guess, no surprise it has been cancelled, kind of confused it even would have made it to a pilot stage.

    I will probably get around to watching Denis Villeneuve's Dune eventually, but it's going to take something beyond comprehension to make me think that Jodorowsky's Dune isn't the documentary of best version of the film version that we will never get and that everyone should just give up and stop trying already.

    • jboy says:

      Have you watched Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain? I think Jodorowsky's Dune would have been interesting... but terrible.

      I too was bedazzled by that documentary when I first saw it. But... think about how Jodorowsky was going to spend the money. He was going to pay Salvador Dalí $100,000 per minute? He was going to replace the emperor with a robotic lookalike? The spaceships were going to be decorated with checkerboard patterns?

      And worse than any budgetary or aesthetic considerations, he was going to change the ending? We are all Spartacus?

      I think that Alien was the best possible outcome of Jodorowsky's production.

    • jwz says:

      The documentary Jodorowsky's Dune was very entertaining, but don't fool yourself, any actual Jodorowsky's Dune would have been exactly, literally this:

      • グレェ「grey」 says:

        Typos, will be the death of me. Why, does this blog not have an edit feature?

  11. グレェ「grey」 says:

    " A lot of people regard the sequels as inferior as a result, which I think was probably inevitable. It does make them harder to recommend, even if I think they were worth reading."

    The first book was OK, and self contained.

    The second book, was bad.

    Part way through the third book, it was obvious that Frank Herbert was milking what he perceived to be a cash cow and I gave up.

    Somewhere, scoured from the interwebs, was a comic with troll face.JPG enumerating the various sequels, as well as the son's efforts at grabbing more cash, and even sprinkling in some humor of prescient not yet published future works.

    The whole concept of AI or prescience, would really be better expounded upon by the prior art of Laplace's Demon, and Bayesian filters, and how even centuries later, people keep reinventing the same flat tire despite overwhelming evidence that relying upon such systems never works out well in the grander scheme. 60 billion deaths seems like a wild underestimate of the lives lost through such travesties throughout spacetime.

    But, I can't critique it too much, I lump it into the realm of speculative SciFi by people on too many drugs that failed to the see the forest for the trees like every piece of dreck that William Gibson cranked out, wherein even today one has to marvel at the constrained memory sizes of computers in Neuromancer, which had less computational power than systems which predated Gibson's writing. Gibson, had never used a computer when he wrote Neuromancer, and to the likes of me, it was obvious.

    Unfortunately, for mankind, the luddites tend to fetishize that which they don't understand, so Dune and Gibson get way more props than they will ever merit, and we are stuck with navel gazing film rehashes long after such texts failed to be relevant.

    If you think they were worth reading, please keep that to yourself, enough trees have been murdered producing pulp for such abysmal things too laden with allegory and nonsense.

    • db48x says:

      Ah, but it wasn’t self–contained. That’s the whole point. It hews fairly closely to the standard fairy–tale form, but are you really so naive as to believe in the “happily ever after” crap at the end of a fairy tale? You were pretty cynical about the idea of sequels, but not cynical enough about the ending of Dune itself, I think.

      > The whole concept of AI or prescience, would really be better expounded upon by the prior art of Laplace's Demon, and Bayesian filters

      On the whole I don’t disagree, but Dune isn’t about AI. It’s about extinction–level threats. In Dune that threat was any kind of machine designed to kill humans which could act without human supervision. Think of weaponized autonomous drones if you prefer, rather than malevolent self–aware AI, for that’s how they were described in God Emperor Dune.

      Also, if you mean the Bayesian filters that were invented in the 90’s, then I’m not going to penalize the author of a book written in the 60’s for not knowing about them.

      • グレェ「grey」 says:

        Bayesian filters are named after Thomas Bayes and his theorem. He was alive: c. 1701 – 7 April 1761.

        Sorry, penalization stands.

        Herbert, and his fans need to chill t.f. out.

        • db48x says:

          That’s just nonsense. At any given time over the last two hundred and fifty years only a tiny fraction of the people alive have understood and could use Bayes Theorem. I would wager that there are more people alive today who can speak Latin conversationally than who know what Bayes Theorem is.

          Saying that a book is bad because the author didn’t name–drop Bayes is just a terrible standard; it’s not going to reliably distinguish between insightful books and trash.

          I think that Frank Herbert had a genuine insight to explore. You can argue that he failed because his characters got bogged down in politics instead of going on a romp through the universe, causing most of the readers to bail and miss it. That has the advantage of being a true statement! You could even argue that his insight was wrong; I won’t be mad at that.

          But his “failure” to mention Bayes is not a factor at all; it’s merely expected given what we know of human nature and our educational system.

          • グレェ「grey」 says:

            So, it's OK for Herbert to have used allegories (e.g. mangling Jesuit as Gesserit), but also ignore other centuries old prior art of themes he was attempting to describe, but failed?

            Sorry, we are not going to concur.

            Please go away with your wagers and attempting to defend a dead person, who is mostly loved by junkies who long since went sober.

            • db48x says:

              Of course it’s ok for him to ignore or not be aware of Bayes. You cannot expect everyone to know everything you know.

              “Bene Gesserit” is perfectly good Latin; I doubt he meant it as anything else.

              • グレェ「grey」 says:

                I get it, you seem hyper fixated on Latin, a dead language. I already had to study that language formally, and while it is rarely still useful for etymological insights, that's about it from my vantage.

                Whether you grok Bayes' theorem or not, derivations of it are more widely in use today, in the 21st centuries' computational paradigms, than Latin. That's one of the fascinating things about programming, an average individual doesn't need to understand them, for them to be functional.

                If Dune is just SciFi, so be it. I won't critique it as fiction. I don't find it particularly insightful personally, you seem to think it had genuine insights. We won't concur on that, but you are entitled to your opinion.

                • jwz says:

                  I am really sick of reading you two sniping at each other. Both of you please fuck off.

    • Doctor Memory says:

      wherein even today one has to marvel at the constrained memory sizes of computers in Neuromancer, which had less computational power than systems which predated Gibson's writing

      And Lewis Carroll was severely misinformed about how mirrors work. If you think that Neuromancer was about computer systems, I'm not even sure what to say to you.

      If you think they were worth reading, please keep that to yourself

      I take it back, I know exactly what to say to you: go pound sand! Ordering people to not share their opinions about a piece of art in response to you... sharing your opinion about a piece of art, on someone else's blog? I can't fault you for a lack of chutzpah, but that's about the limit there.

      • グレェ「grey」 says:

        So, other people's opinions are OK, but mine, requesting that people who clearly are still way too invested in a franchise from 1965 long after it ceased being relevant to please stop stirring that pot are the sort to resort to "pounding sand"?

        Sorry, I guess I don't think that a book with over 20 million copies already sold needs new movie-tie in wastes of tree pulp (e.g. Libraries still exist, I doubt anyone, on Earth, will have difficulty sourcing a copy of Dune even without new rehashes.

        At least Lewis Carroll, who doubtlessly would have been cancelled were he alive today, got things such as The Annotated Alice, which cleared up misconceptions that may have transpired from the time the texts were written to more recent readers. Dune seems lost in a quagmire of psychedelic irrelevance, where your average erowid devotee today would not have ever even bothered to read roughly contemporaneous publications such as Myself and I: The Explosive Experiences of Constance A. Newland Who Took Twenty-three Doses of the Dangerous New Mind Drug LSD published on January 1, 1963. Though I guess there is this: that is hardly the sort of thing available to an average interested reader.

        Moreover, if you think that Neuromancer wasn't about computers, please share your purported wisdom with the likes of Robert Graham who created Black Ice Defender in homage. Or share it with the script authors of Hackers (1995) who thought it would be "zero-cool" to name a mainframe "The Gibson". The people who were already coding, certainly didn't benefit from Gibson's SciFi. You could consider it equivalent to the literary version of "Eternal September" from my vantage.

        Computers and psychedelics can and do coexist, but those truly curious about such subjects would be far better served by texts such as What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry, by John Markoff than by Frank Herbert or William Gibson. Alas, these days I doubt many ever even got around to reading Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer by John C. Lily, and for those unfortunate enough to have waded through that nightmare, Dr. Lily's legacy is predominantly that of someone who seemed like a drug addict attempting to justify his habits with professed academia, while murdering some dolphins along the way. Similar travesties are littered throughout historiy, literary and otherwise, albeit typically with fewer casualties of Cetacea involved, though again, that is a theme which Gibson certainly aped as well.

  12. Zygo says:

    it seemed to me like it was just The Orville, "What if Star Trek, but cynical, barely-competent dimwits." But it got much better, and I kind of love it now.

    IMHO this is one of the better fake-outs in TV: the writers start with "look, anyone could write The Orville, it's not that hard. See, we can do it too, it's easy. You want to watch The Orville with even more Trek nostalgia? Fine, here you go, we make what the market wants." So the audience gets lulled into a cartoony combination of The Orville with maybe a little Space Force thrown in, a silly version of Star Trek where mission objectives don't always get achieved but at least nobody dies because someone was hilariously, court-martially stupid.

    At the end of season 1 they dropped one of the top 5 opening scenes of the whole franchise, and it's now clear these writers don't give a shit about making a show like The Orville. They are writing Star Trek wearing an Orville T-shirt.

    In this universe, the characters are cynical, barely-competent dimwits who are relative underachievers in a crew that lives and works in space and routinely makes life-or-death decisions that affect their ship, their crew, and one or two nearby technologically advanced civilizations, like, every other week. They use cynicism and humor to cope with the trauma of their absurdly dangerous and implausibly survivable "essential" jobs.

    I find it a bit annoying that the main characters all seem to be nascent geniuses held back by a severe case of impostor syndrome, but Lower Decks handles it better than Enterprise and Discovery, where the impostor syndrome was so often the only thing--and it somehow can be turned off like a switch in a crisis.

    Aaaaand then in season 2 the writers kind of drift back toward Orville a bit. Oh well. Not that The Orville is such a bad show--there has to be at least one TNG episode that's worse than all of The Orville's.

    • For what it's worth, I for one was going for Galaxy Quest The Animated Series and I did not feel disappointed. It is very affectionate towards the source material. ❤️

    • Elusis says:

      Wait, are you saying that "Orville" is really a thinly-veiled adaptation of John Scalzi's "Redshirts"?

  13. TreeSpeaker says:

    Brand New Cherry Flavor (2021) was described as & “If Cronenberg and Lynch had a child, and ran it at 1.5 speed”. Season 1 was only the first 66 pages of a large book. Looking forward to season 2, even if they did the trope of starting the next season with only a small number of the previous season main characters.

  14. Dude says:

    It is very pretty, but it is basically the first two episodes of an 8 episode miniseries.

    And I suddenly remembered when SyFy did that very thing in 2000:

    Say what you will about the Lynch version (I love it, in spite because of its many, many flaws), at least it has personality. Lynch's ideas not really gelling with the text make it memorable - one could only wonder what would've happened if he'd passed on Dune and taken up Lucas' offer to direct Jedi (which he also extended to Cronenberg before just using Richard Marquand as an avatar).

    The 2000 miniseries intentionally tried to go opposite to Lynch by putting in more of the book, but they also went opposite by stripping it of any life. As for the new version, I'm not looking forward to it since I'm still not too fond of Denis Villeneuve for obvious reasons.

    I do have one question: is Feyd-Rautha even in the new version? I mean, he's a superfluous character that can easily be cut, but I just noticed no mention of him in any promo materials.

    • jwz says:

      No Feyd. And I'm not sure if Rabban is even mentioned by name, he just stands around.

      I'd be ok with either Lynch or Cronenberg making a version of Jedi right now.

      • グレェ「grey」 says:

        Lynch taking over the reigns from Lucas was attempted, I think it was certainly better for Lynch's health that we didn't get it, but at least there are some laughs to be had out of this retelling from David Lynch's recollection:

        Sascha Ciezata even decided to make an animated variant:

        Either is better than Revenge^w Return of the Jedi, to me at least. It is rare, when someone chooses artistic integrity over millions of dollars, but thank goodness some people have a backbone.

    • jboy says:

      I'm a fan of Lynch. I think Lynch's Dune was a pretty OK Lynch space opera, but a pretty bad Dune film. One particular gripe is the casting: Several of the actors appear to have been cast to be Lynch-style strange, rather than a good fit for the role. And Patrick Stewart is a great actor, but Gurney Halleck he ain't.

      I think the 2000 miniseries lacked life partly because Dune technically doesn't have many maniacal scenery-chewing roles aside from the Harkonnens & the Reverend Mother. Compare it to another TV miniseries from 2000, Gormenghast. With the exception of Titus (who is boring), almost every character is partially insane, which makes the whole thing great fun, even on a limited miniseries budget.

      I would like to see a Return Of The Jedi directed by Lynch. I think the Ewoks would have come out very different. And I'm imagining Bib Fortuna played by Willem Dafoe from Wild At Heart (1990).

      • Rodger says:

        I like Lynch's film, but it almost single-handedly underwrites the "white saviour" criticism of Dune, because that's pretty much what it is as a film. It discards so much of the stuff about Dune-the-book that is interesting and unlike most of the other sci-fi being written at the time, and keeps the generic space opera & costumer drama with drug dreams. Do I like the film? Sure. But it's pretty uh, shallow.

        Villeneuve has thrown overboard most of the "great house/important white people" bits in favor of the stuff I think is most interesting - the Freman, the idea that being a messiah might not be shits and giggles, the ecology - in preference.

        Like obviously it's less gratifying from the "I am the chosen one" Superman power fantasy, but it pulls much more of the interesting stuff out.

        • jboy says:

          That sounds ideal. "European aristocracy, but in spaaaaace" was the least interesting aspect of the novel to me. (Although I suppose it's a convenient short-cut to describe a corrupt, self-serving ruling class of powerful horny men.)

          And if I wanted to see a film about a white saviour in a desert, I'd watch Lawrence of Arabia again.

          Conversely, the Fremen language & culture, the subversion of the messiah trope, and the ecological aspirations -- these were some of the most novel & interesting parts of the book to me (along with the development / evolution of the Mentat & Bene Gesserit doctrines & training regimes).

          [Note: The "white saviour in a desert" issue notwithstanding, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is a truly great classic film with an excellent soundtrack, and I recommend it highly to anyone who hasn't seen it yet.]

    • jboy says:

      Besides, Villeneuve is the best hard sci-fi blockbuster director we have right now. And he's not even the most important piece of the puzzle.

      I can't think of any better Paul/Jessica combination than Chalamet/Ferguson; I suspect we'd be waiting a long time even for their equal. I can think of precious few actresses as well-suited to play Jessica as Ferguson is. (I realised she would be something special when reviews for Doctor Sleep described her performance as "magnetic" -- what better word could you use to describe Jessica?) And I can't think of a single young actor in the past thirty years with boyish acting talent comparable to Chalamet.

      I just wish the screenwriters chosen weren't the ones responsible for Passengers, Prometheus, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and Forrest Gump. That's what has me worried...

      • Dude says:

        I am not a fan of Denis Villeneuve, though I've only seen a few of his flicks. I may be alone in this, but Arrival did nothing for me. And fuckin' Blade Runner... oy vey.

        Like I said, that's my only knowledge of his works, so I may think higher of him if I see his earlier works. Still, based on those two sci-fi flicks, Villeneuve comes off to me as the French Christopher Nolan: the guy every keeps calling a "genius" because Hollywood gives him blank cheques and all of his images are in focus, but watching the films reveals a stuffy pretentiousness and unearned sense of superiority.

        My opinion may change if and when I see Dune or his earlier work, but I'm not holding my breath.

        • jboy says:

          With you 100% on Christopher Nolan being generally overrated. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar, Tenet... all written & directed by Christopher Nolan; all overrated by overly-credulous fools (with the exception of Tenet -- I think even the fools began to suspect that the emperor might have no clothes after this one).

          But I think you're being unfair to Villeneuve: He directed, but did not write either of, Arrival & Blade Runner 2049. And your gripes in your blog post seem to be about the written plot rather than the direction. I was similarly underwhelmed by the film's ending, but I respect that it was at least a mostly hard sci-fi about linguistics & neural plasticity.

          You know in the Marvel films, there's this real smart guy who got shot in the chest, and now he can fly in a metal suit and shoot laser beams out of his hands! Now that's scientific!

          (Aside: I find it interesting that you identified the 2/3 mark as the point where you wish Arrival had ended in your blog post. I had the exact same response to Sunshine (2007). I loved the first 2/3 of that, but then the final third just turned into [REDACTED].)

          • Dude says:

            Even if Villeneuve didn't write the scripts (which he did for Dune, with collaborators), it still speaks to the quality of what he thinks is a great script. And a director of his stature will have influence over the script and ask for rewrites to convey specific things. That's why whenever someone like Spielberg directs a shitty movie, you can't brush it away with, "Oh, but he didn't write the script". He's the director, everything has to meet with his approval. Sometimes that's entertaining (the nonsensical reappearance of the T-rex at the end of JP) other times it's mind-bogglingly stupid (pretty much all of Minority Report).

            And yeah, a lot of my problem with Arrival was in the story, which (I'm told) were also plots beats in the original short story. That it hinges so much on the Deus ex Machina broke my suspension of disbelief in this flick about Amy Adams being the only linguist in the world who can translate circular alien-speak.

            But that's just me. If everyone liked it, I'm glad they had a good time with it.

            • elm says:

              Arrival really punched up the plot from Story of Your Life and it's worse because of it.

              The novella wouldn't make a blockbuster sci-fi film without adding explosions and threat of war to it. But it made an interesting novella and worth reading the ~60 pages as a personal story about loss and transformation of self.

            • jboy says:

              > broke my suspension of disbelief in this flick about Amy Adams being the only linguist in the world who can translate circular alien-speak

              OK, I'm not trying to change your mind about Arrival. I just can't resist noting that the film actually did set up this particular conceit fairly well, in terms of both story-telling & in-universe "physics". But it was relatively subtle, so I only noticed it on a second viewing.

              Basically: Amy Adams is the linguist who can/will translate circular alien-speak, because she is the one who translated circular alien-speak.

              The movie ultimately establishes that (Sapir Whorf + neural plasticity + circular alien-speak) gives you the ability to experience the time axis as you would a spatial axis: all of it simultaneously, rather than only an instant at once. [This is where the one-time student of relativity physics in me goes "Hmmmm......". But it's certainly a neat idea for a sci-fi story, and the sort of conceit that would appeal to the scientifically-minded.]

              Furthermore, it's shown that even in the past (i.e., before Amy Adams learns circular alien-speak, and thus has her brain re-wired), she has been having premonitions of her future daughter. [Again, physics student in me says "Hmmm...", but film-lover in me says "OK, interesting plot point..."]

              Now that we've established that future events can influence past events, the film could just wave its hands and invoke fatalism. But, to its credit, it works a little harder.

              Let's review the facts from end to beginning -- because hey, this is Arrival after all.

              At the climax of the film, Amy Adams realises that when the aliens are saying "use weapon" or "offer weapon", they don't just mean "weapon" ~ "tool", they actually mean "weapon" ~ "language". IIRC, they want to offer their time-warping circular language to humans, to help humanity.

              Now wind back to the start of the film, just before the 20-minute mark. When Amy Adams gets into the helicopter and meets the physicist (Jeremy Renner), literally the first thing he says to her is:

              "Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict."

              He's quoting from the preface of her own book on linguistics.

              Now from a story-telling perspective, the audience has already been given the answer to the riddle. And the answer was written by Amy Adams, so from a character perspective she's uniquely equipped to solve the riddle.

              Amy Adams seems embarrassed, and explains that this is a preface designed to "dazzle them with the basics". What if past Amy Adams wrote this preface for some reason she didn't fully understand at the time? But it was some premonition about the future? And past Amy Adams was convinced to write it for the benefit of future Amy Adams?

              When you can pass messages from the future to the past, cause-and-effect becomes blurry. So Amy Adams translated circular alien-speak (and ultimately wrote the book on it too), which potentially gave her the ability to send unconscious hints to her past self about how to translate circular alien-speak... or gave her past self the ability to peek into the future for hints.

              [Sorry for the long comment.]

              Also, something something Neural Plasticity, Front Line Assembly. [I was kicking myself that I didn't make a FLA reference last time around.]

    • Dude says:

      Holy shit... how the fuck did I never know that Herbert wrote Dune here in San Francisco?! This is the Potrero Hill house and article about it:

  15. Mark says:

    This comment section may be the best use yet for the herp derp feature.

  16. jwz says:

    Dune movie social media manager: "Explain Dune in one sentence."

    AugustJPollak: "In a move so unsurprising there is literally an eons-old galactic prophecy about it, powerful, horny men are unable to peacefully share a planet made of cocaine."

  17. Philbert says:

    It's because computers are TABOO in the Dune universe, there's a general revulsion about them as a result of a Matrix-style war that took place between humans and AI (the Butlerian Jihad.) It's literally seen as blasphemy (in the Orange Catholic Bible) to have so much as a calculator. Presumably they found Arrakis and the spice before the war.

    But with spice, they don't need computers. Humans can be focused to process information like computers with the spice. I.e. find some idiot savants, hop them up on meth (spice), and voila human computer.

    The guild navigators use the spice for its the precience it gives them, the ability to see a little bit into the future, so they know if they're about to take a wrong turn.

    Verdict: it was good, but the Lynch movie is superior in every way, by far. It does have a whiff on our insufferable modern day sensibilities smuggled into it, though.

  18. Jim says:

    Jamie have you seen the Inside Job animated cartoon series?! You will not regret, at least the first three episodes which is what I've seen so far. I plan to splurge the rest ASAP but I have actual work....

  19. Rodger says:

    Blood Red Sky was great fun, but it would have been so much better without 30 tedious minutes of flashbacks. I don't care how she became a vampire! Even to the degree that I did care they could have told me everything that I needed to know in 5 minutes!

    It would have been so much tighter and better paced without that. But even so, still a fun film.

  20. margaret says:

    The next thing you eat. The first episode is the intersection of tech and restaurants. Quote: i don't want the delivery guy to be an indentured servant of some tech bro.

  21. George Dorn says:

    WTF happened to Foundation? It's like the first half of the season was written and directed by some competent show-runners, and then they decided it was going so awesomely they retired and left it to the unholy mutant offspring of JJ Abrams, Lindelof and, I dunno, Ridley Scott. I don't think I've ever seen a show turn to crap that fast.

  22. Dude says:

    So... The Asylum (yup, they're still around) just dropped this to cash in on this year's, um, Dune-mania or something.

    And here's the kicker: they hired Sean Young!