The son of a powerful duke receives visions of the future as his family takes control of a vital and contested planet.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac
Review by Jon Kissel
My only experience with Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi tract Dune is from the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, so any contact with the material is going to have been informed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. He’s a director who, after making gory, mindfuck midnight movies in the 60’s and 70’s, took a crack at Dune that produced influential concept art but no actual movie. Jodorowsky was himself a big advocate of psychedelics and shamanism, so he connected to a story about a drug whose users find enlightenment and spread that enlightenment throughout the galaxy. For the big-budget modern remake after David Lynch’s campy and disavowed 80’s attempt, Denis Villeneuve is not the obvious choice. Sure, he’s handy with a soundscape and his visuals are top-notch, but he’s never been into magical realism or surrealism. Indeed, Villeneuve’s Dune relies on breathy voiceover and literal visions to convey the story’s psychedelic prophecies and spice inhalation, but his vision of the far future is otherwise a towering achievement and the best thing he’s done yet. Dune overwhelms the viewer with interplanetary power and possibility and world-building.
The trend of monumental TV shows following up their runs with a long-gestating movie continues with The Sopranos, the show least likely to indulge its fanbase. Friends and Parks and Rec, sure. Breaking Bad turned itself over to fan service with its series finale so why not a feature length epilogue to answer lingering questions about Jesse Pinkman’s fate. Deadwood had a famously abrupt ending and a creator withering away from Alzheimer’s, so a last hurrah provided a sentimental reunion for him more than for the show’s adherents. With the exception of Friends, which I can’t and never will speak to, all of these reunion specials and follow-up films have been acceptable, at best. None improve on or significantly add to the body of work from television. David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, is perhaps the most misanthropic brain behind any of the Golden Age of TV shows, and should therefore be the most likely to turn this trend around. His immunity to giving the audience anything that they might want should distill any follow-up movies into the essence of whatever idea he wants to pursue. The problem with The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to the events of The Sopranos, is that Chase gets too caught up with future events and loses the thread on the present. Such and such anecdote was mentioned in the series, and therefore it must show up in the prequel. The Many Saints of Newark has its fan-flattering moments, and I’m a Sopranos fan so I was flattered, but I don’t love Chase’s masterpiece TV show because it patted me on the head. I loved it for its prickliness and its adherence to its vision and theme. Chase has done so little since the Sopranos ended, and the rust is apparent.
Sian Heder’s CODA, an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults, throws as much melodramatic ammunition at the viewer as they can handle, and then flings a little bit more. This Sundance crowd-pleaser, bought by Apple for a festival-record amount of money, features half-a-dozen liberal feel-good’s and satisfies them with present-day demands of casting and representation. If the working class struggle doesn’t work on the viewer, then the non-threatening teenage boy romance or the first-to-go-college subplot will. At the center of all these subplots is the plight of a hearing young woman who too frequently finds herself subverting her own hopes and dreams to support her deaf parents and brother, all of whom are cast with deaf actors. CODA is an ADA-certified Billy Elliot for the New England set. Its earnestness can be blunt and broad, but it comes in such overpowering waves that its charms cannot be fully resisted.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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