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

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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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‘Abigail’: Bite Me Harder Tiny Dancer

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A gang of misfit kidnappers find their tiny target far more bloodthirsty than they bargained for! 

So, unfortunately, the trailers gave it away and let’s be real that’s why most of us are here, the knowledge that the kidnap victim Abigail (Alisha Weir), codenamed by the would-be kidnappers appropriately as ‘tiny dancer’, is in fact, a vampire. Not a spoiler, point of fact, one of the film’s actual great selling points. And the reactions from the misfit club when faced with a real actual f*cking vampire, range hilariously from the blunt “no such thing as vampires” all the way to, “Are we talking True Blood or Twilight rules or what?” all while covered in buckets and buckets of blood. 

Anyway, the gang manages to subdue and abscond with the aforementioned Abigail, in a pre-prepared duffle bag, like you do, and converge to a new location, a house oddly similar to the one she was just taken from. Welcomed and given codenames by a man who introduces himself as Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito), our misfit club is told to simply hold down the fort in this strange old house with the girl chained up in a room and one person to attend her, for twenty-four hours, and they’ll all get paid. 

As inevitable as the tides, the dopey druggie Dean (Angus Cloud) is the first to die, and we’re going to give that death-style points for inspiring terror right off the bat. The very controlling Frank (Dan Stevens, holy crap yes that is the guy from FXs Legion) is also of course the most suspicious – of everyone around him, sure, but also he himself is totes sus. We don’t learn terribly much about the musclebound tank who gets dubbed Peter (Kevin Durand), he’s your pretty typical little-brains-heart-of-gold muscle-for-hire any proper gang needs, right down to the bottle problem. Sammy (Kathryn Newton), well, even for being a purported hacker-type, she has, like, reality issues. Rickles (William Catlett), he’s arguably the most dangerous among them, ex-military and yet somehow here and involved in kidnapping for a few mills. Joey (Melissa Barrera) is our Final Girl, and though she has the inevitable problems in her recent past, she seems more capable of doing the hard thing and still somehow empathizing at the end of the day. Must be her burning desire to get back with her son. 

The fit hits the shan pretty quickly, and Abigail morphs from tiny dancer to tiny monster, though honestly, the way Abigail spoke the entire time in the film, if the ‘nappers had been paying close enough attention, would have been a solid clue. The performance from Alisha Weir as Abigail is incredible, as she literally dances a fine line between comedy, tragedy, and outright monstrosity. With a face full of makeup and the force of a tiny tornado to back it up, Weir brings to mind the great performances of the vampires in 30 Days of Night who saw the practicality in the need to trap their food, but also, play with it a bit first before feasting! Anything else would give away the absolute fun time that is Abigail, so you should go see it, out in theaters now!

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Scrubs Reunion: The Band Gets Back Together

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Fans of the beloved medical comedy series Scrubs were recently treated to a thrilling surprise when John C. McGinley, who portrayed the iconic Dr. Perry Cox, dropped a photo on Twitter hinting at a potential reunion project. The image, showing McGinley alongside his former co-stars, sparked a wave of excitement and speculation among fans who have been longing for more adventures with the beloved Sacred Heart Hospital staff.

While details about the reunion project are still scarce, the mere possibility of seeing the gang back together again has sent waves of nostalgia through fans who fondly remember the show’s original run from 2001 to 2010. Scrubs was not just a sitcom; it was a heartfelt exploration of friendship, love, and the chaotic world of medicine, all wrapped up in a quirky and often hilarious package.

At the heart of the show was the bromance between JD (played by Zach Braff) and Turk (played by Donald Faison), whose antics and deep bond served as the emotional anchor for the series. Their dynamic, along with the sage wisdom (and relentless sarcasm) of Dr. Cox, provided viewers with memorable moments that have stood the test of time.

As we eagerly await more news about the Scrubs reunion project, one thing is for sure: it’s time to dust off those old DVDs, rewatch our favorite episodes, and get ready to welcome back our favorite gang of doctors, nurses, and janitors for what promises to be a memorable reunion.

But Scrubs was more than just its main characters. The supporting cast, including the eccentric Janitor (played by Neil Flynn), the neurotic Elliot (played by Sarah Chalke), and the wise-cracking nurse Carla (played by Judy Reyes), each brought their own unique flavor to the show, creating a rich tapestry of characters that fans grew to love.

While the photo shared by McGinley has fueled speculation about what the reunion project might entail, whether it’s a one-off special, a new season, or something else entirely, one thing is certain: fans are eagerly awaiting any opportunity to dive back into the world of Sacred Heart Hospital.

In an age where reboots and revivals are commonplace, Scrubs stands out as a series that has the potential to recapture the magic that made it a fan favorite in the first place. With its blend of humor, heart, and unforgettable characters, a reunion project has the opportunity to not only satisfy longtime fans but also introduce a new generation to the joys of life at Sacred Heart.

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‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’: Rebellion with a cause

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The story of the rise of Coriolanus Snow, from teenage Capital City pawn to rising Dictator of the Hunger Games! 

Apparently no one out here in post-apocalyptic Panem has heard of irony and so they name their children things like Coriolanus (Tom Blyth), Tigress, and further off in Hunger Games lore, after swamp plants like Katniss. Corio’s father was a legendary general and that is pretty much the only reason young Snow and his meager family of grandmother called Grandma’am (Fionnula Flanagan) and sister Tigress (Hunter Schafer) are tolerated here in the Capital City at all. 

Most of the snotty youngsters at the academy won’t let Snow forget how far his family has fallen, but he’s generally not concerned with them. What is concerning is the strong disapproval of the drugged-up Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) and the creepy attention of Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) as she lurks in the classroom sniffing out talent. The Dean feels very strongly the annual Hunger Games should end, while Gaul is violently adamant that not only do the Games continue, but that they get as much more attention as possible. And young Snow is stuck in the middle, when the yearly prize money normally awarded to the academy student with the best grades gets switched out for, you guessed it, the student that can make this years’ Hunger Games as entertaining as possible. 

Whilst the students are protesting this sudden change, the annual Reaping is about to commence, and big shock and surprise, Corio’s candidate from District 12 Lucy Grey Baird (Rachel Zegler) is chosen as a Tribute. This is where the film begins to really take off on musical wings, for as it turns out, Lucy Grey can sing. Boy, can that gal sing! She can sing, she can play guitar, she can work a crowd, she can calm things down, she can fire ‘em up too! And Corio, being no dummy himself, instantly plots ways to use his Tributes amazing voice to draw attention to her, and admittedly his own, plight! 

Though far too many people sneer at the idea, Corio takes his position as Mentor to his Tribute seriously enough to sneak onto the tram taking the Tributes to their habitat, which turns out to be a completely appropriate moniker, as this year the Tributes are held before the Hunger Games in a large zoo habitat so the weatherman ‘Lucky’ Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman), host of this years games, can MC the hell out of everything up close and personal! 

What happens at this years Hunger Games and the subsequent consequences to both Corio and Lucy Grey is actually only half the story, and the movie. Coriolanus has always had to be opportunistic, but learning to be absolutely ruthless when necessary under the tutelage of Dr. Gaul, who basically thinks it’s always best to be merciless, is an eye-opening education indeed.  Even after they’ve both been consigned to military service and his friend Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andres Rivera) decides to finally rebel, Corio and Sejanus continue to deceive each other and themselves, to accomplish their separate goals. Not even the love Corio swears he feels for Lucy Grey can save him, or them, from the adamant absolute necessity of the Hunger Games continuing. And after all that’s happened, Coriolanus Snow has gotten a terrific education in the best way to be the absolutely ruthless next Hunger Games advocate, and oh yeah, President of Panem. 

The movie does itself no favors by trying to stuff not one but two major storylines and a bunch of side storylines sadly introduced and then ignored, into the film. It would have been entirely possible to turn Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes into two different movies, separated between feathers and scales if you like, and do justice to the major storylines in both. Blyth gives a fine  performance as a young Coriolanus Snow, but the fact that President Snow is played by Donald Sutherland in all three of the Hunger Games films means Blyth has incredibly large shoes to fill. Rachel Zegler as Lucy Grey is absolute fire, and yes the actress did sing the songs in the film herself, including the Hunger Games franchise epic song, ‘The Hanging Tree’. Every time Lucy Grey opens her mouth and sheer soul-searing music comes out, it provides a distinct counterpoint to the soul-crushing ambition of Coriolanus Snow and further demonstrates the District and Caste separation Hunger Games is known for. And if, by the end of the film, Coriolanus Snow has come to agree that the Hunger Games must continue but perhaps under his own auspices, he has no one but himself to blame when another younger but still rebellious female blows it all up in his face! 

Choose rebellion or conformity for yourself in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

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