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Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’: The grandest epic you need to see in theaters!




Spoilers hide in the sands of Arrakis!

 Based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 original epic science-fiction novel ‘Dune’ , Part 1 of Villeneuve’s Dune introduces the Imperium of a far-off future, when the official trade-off of the governorship of the fief of planet Arrakis, the only source of mélange or spice in the known universe, is betrayed and embroils the noble Houses and the Empire into all-out war!

Much and more has been made about Herbert’s original novel, including a most beloved Lynch film, 2 love-it-or-hate-it Syfy television shows, a whole library of prequels, sequels, and interleaved books, plus computer games, board games, and even songs. Herbert’s original world-building involves massive moral and ethical dilemmas, treatises on love and the human condition, human evolution without the crutch of AI technology, addictions in many forms some even necessary, the overuse of supposedly abundant natural resources, gender dynamics, prescience, and its perils, and a whole host of other galaxy-sized concepts to explore. But we’re trying to stick with the single original novel that began it all, Herbert’s game-changer novel ‘Dune’, which is still so detailed and sprawling that it necessitates not one but multiple films to do it justice!

With that in mind, onward we sprint, make sure it’s without rhythm! We begin with introducing the ruling family of House Atreides of the water planet Caladan – honorable father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), his bound concubine and disgraced Bene Gesserit mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and finally Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), the heir of House Atreides yes, but with a far bigger hidden fate destined to him! In rapid succession, we meet other key members of House Atreides – swordmaster Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), warrior-troubadour Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), Master of Assassins and House Mentat Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson), and the Imperial Suk Doctor Wellington Yueh (Chen Chang).

I personally am a giant ridiculous ‘Dune’ fan, having read all the books, seen all the visual entertainment attempts, even played both the computer and board games. Thusly, I will be sprinkling the review with useless bits of ‘Dune’ trivia that wasn’t in this new film! For example … Dr. Wellington Yueh is a Doctor of the Imperial Suk school, with Imperial conditioning that was supposed to absolutely guarantee discretion and loyalty from any given Suk doctor, that’s what the diamond tattoo signifies. And it was the love of his Bene Gesserit wife Wanna, simple, stupid, and unadorned love, that caused Yueh to commit the ultimate act of betrayal that sparks the conflagration that embroils the whole Imperium!

Hurrying on, we meet our main villains of House Harkonnen – Beast Rabban (Dave Bautista), the Baron’s brutal nephew and the head of Harkonnen crackdown forces, Piter de Vries (David Dastmalchian) the twisted Mentat of House Harkonnen, and Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) himself, corpulent, gluttonous and murderous against their millennia-long enemies House Atreides.

So, the Emperor of the Known Universe has purportedly stripped the fief of planet Arrakis, the only known source of the spice in the entire universe, from the Harkonnens and commanded stewardship of the planet go to their mortal enemies House Atreides. This means the Atreides and their people, long having ruled the ocean-laden planet of Caladan, have to pick up everything and go to live on the desert planet Arrakis, with its giant sandworms, mysterious desert folk known as the Fremen, and leftover Harkonnen sabotage potential everywhere. The movie goes on to explain that the spice helps the Guild Navigators fly their ships and without it the Imperium would collapse, which is all technically true but plenty of other ‘Dune’ related folk use it. The spice prolongs life to all and sundry, leaving most people in the Imperium forever addicted to its anti-aging properties, and most especially the Emperor and his immediate circle. The spice can let you see the future with prescience, that’s how the Guild Navigators use it (more or less), while the Bene Gesserit, Mentats, and other Great Schools of the ‘Dune-iverse’ use spice in various, sometimes highly inventive, ways. The Fremen, the people of the sands of Arrakis, who live their lives inundated and surrounded by the spice, have their eyes turn the blue-within-blue of total spice addiction, called the Eyes of Ibad.

This means that the forms must be obeyed and pageantry demonstrated, even as Duke Leto admonishes Gurney to smile and the scarred warrior replies he is smiling. The Herald of the Change (Benjamin Clementine), along with representatives of the Guild Navigators, the Imperium and the Emperors own Bene Gesserit Truthsayer, Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling), transfer stewardship of Arrakis to House Atreides, but no one seems to think the Emperors new commanded gift is anything but a poisoned apple – even the Herald of the Change. And after the ceremony is completed, now is the perfect time for Reverend Mother Mohiam to come test Lady Jessica’s forbidden son.

The whole scene where Mohiam tests Paul with the box of pain and the gom jabbar is a pretty clear demonstration of the fabled witch-like powers of the Bene Gesserit women, but there’s a few details missing, which I’ll gleefully add here – you’re welcome. Through the millennia-long practice of prana-bindu techniques, bloodline study and collaboration, and the somewhat successful shepherding of humanity, the Bene Gesserit have reached mythical proportions in the modern Imperium. All Bene Gesserit are women, one of the many reasons Mohiam isn’t thrilled with Jessica teaching her son Paul their Ways, and their commanding Voice is an openly held powerful secret. The Bene Gesserit have their own stories and legends and goals, the main one of which is the Kwisatz Haderach, their own Shortening of the Way, the male Bene Gesserit who can bridge space and time, the goal of their multiple-millennia-long bloodline breeding scheme. And of course, headstrong Lady Jessica, installed as Duke Leto’s bound concubine and commanded by the Bene Gesserit to bear only Atreides daughters to be used matrimonial pawns in Imperial and political bloodline schemes, gave her beloved Duke a son, Paul.

And then there’s Paul himself, poor thing. Mohiam admonishes him he has more than one legacy in his fate, he has prophetic dreams about the sands and people of Arrakis, specifically one singularly important Fremen woman, Chani (Zendaya), plus let’s not forget the crushing expectations of House Atreides, the eternal enmity of not only House Harkonnen but potentially the Imperium to deal with too, and Paul is barely of an age to shave. His closest comrade inside House Atreides is the friendship and loyalty he enjoys in Duncan Idaho, though all the men, and women for that matter, not only of House Atreides but Caladan itself, love their Duke and his heir. But when the combined absolutely crushing force of not only Harkonnen kill squads but the Emperor’s own Sardaukar comes to take back Arrakis and destroy House Atreides in the process, Paul and Jessica find themselves fugitives thrust into the sands of the planet called by its natives, Dune.

Herbert’s legacy of sci-fi world-building and Villeneuve’s grand epic vision of filmmaking are both the movie’s greatest blessing and biggest curse, it seems. Herbert’s book embraces so many thought-provoking concepts and moves at times at breakneck speeds without any explanation or backstory, with so many pivotal characters to introduce, the 2021 film adaptation has to distill down to three key points and leaves no more room for anything else. One, the introduction of as many key characters as possible, with an incredible cast and grand majestic writing to back them up, while important to move the story along, has a small tendency to ring a bit hollow when we’re introduced to a character we know is a villain we’re supposed to despise (or hero, etc.) but the film can’t linger on them long enough to explain why. Two, sweeping grand epic shots of as many locations as possible, to try and give a scale for the sheer size of these various other planets and holdings of these characters. Arrakis, or Dune, in particular, gets sweeping shots of the desert moving like beautiful water, disgorging gigantic magnificent sandworms and spice blows, and the city of Arrakeen, where House Atreides takes up a new residence. And three, the technology in use in the far-off future of year 10,000+, mostly centered around spice harvesters on Dune, the hand-combat personal shields most people wear, and most especially the vehicles that look like giant dragonflies, called ornithopters.

As yet another personal note I’d like to add that the costumes made for the film are incredible, costume designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan came up with their own take on the Fremen stillsuits and made them as book-accurate as possible, plus their touches on the costumes of each and every separate planet-dweller, such as the hawk-shaped pins on Atreides uniform collars (the hawk is the House Atreides crest), and the oil-slick industrial kaftan the Baron wears with his suspension spine, are just absolutely incredible and the costumiers deserve all kinds of praise and awards and lauds.

Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is shot on a grand epic scale because that was the kind of vision Herbert had when he wrote it, so long ago. And while this means we can own ‘Dune’ 2021 when it finally comes out on 4K Ultra HD or whatever, and even appreciate it on HBOMAX on your 50-some-odd-inch tv, you are doing yourself a disservice as a sci-fi fan if you don’t go and see Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ in the theater. It’s a visual treat for the eyes, for all the senses really, and that’s the utter magic of V’s filmmaking. The film is meant to be seen on that giant silver screen, to see the giant sandworm sniff the tiny world-breaker-in-the-making Paul as he stands frozen in the sand, finally understanding his fate could very well swallow him whole, just like Shai-hulud.

Brave the spice blows of Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ in theaters now!

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Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy



Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.

The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.

I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.

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Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?



Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!  



Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.

So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.

The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.

Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.

First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.

Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.

Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.

Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.

To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!

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