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2021

Dune (2021)

Dune 2021 film review: The spice must flow, but it stops abruptly | Ars  Technica

DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve

CAST: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgard, David Dastmalchian, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster

REVIEW:

Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune, a futuristic geopolitical allegory that is unabashedly pro eco-radicalism, anti-corporate, and Islamophilic, is such a notoriously dense work that some believed it was unfilmable, even though it had an influence on various more commercialized sci-fi works that came after it, including George Lucas’ Star Wars (Dune takes place on a desert planet, features a scheming emperor, and involves a mystical power called “The Voice”….sound vaguely familiar?). Attempts were made, most prominently David Lynch’s borderline incoherent—and loosely adapted—1984 film, but its garbled narrative and the deviations it took from the source material rankled Dune fans. Later, a 2000 television miniseries adapted the plot more faithfully, but its low budget TV movie quality kept fans waiting for a definitive adaptation and did not fully allay concerns that perhaps Dune just didn’t work as a movie. Denis Villeneuve has tackled the ambitious task of bringing Dune to the screen in big-budget fashion, and while not a completely unqualified success, his version is successful and engaging enough that the biggest thing wrong with it is its subtitle “Part One”. The approximate first half of Herbert’s original novel has been brought to the screen, but with funding for the rest not yet secure, it remains to be seen if Villeneuve will be allowed to finish his work or whether this Dune will remain a half-told story.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

First reactions to Marvel Movie 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings':  Is it

DIRECTOR: Destin Daniel Cretton

CAST: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN “SPOILERS”

With the Infinity War phase ended, the Marvel Cinematic Universe must now turn its focus toward the next era of its superheroes, including replacing some of its long-running mainstays who’ve left us (Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow) with the next generation. To that end, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an engaging origin story that manages touches of an epic feel and does things different from what we expect from the Marvel formula and whose first half feels like an old-school martial arts action flick and whose second half feels like a mythological fantasy epic with shades of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Mulan.

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The Suicide Squad (2021)

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DIRECTOR: James Gunn

CAST: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, Sylvester Stallone (voice)

REVIEW:

With The Suicide Squad (with a “The” tacked on to differentiate it from David Ayer’s sporadically entertaining but scattershot 2016 hot mess), James Gunn has become the second high-profile Marvel director to moonlight in the DCEU, and fortunately his DC detour is more successful than Joss Whedon’s misbegotten Justice League. In fact, while not entirely escaping some of the flaws of its predecessor, Gunn’s rendition of the titular squad of supervillains is enough of an improvement over Ayer’s that it’s possible to disregard the previous film’s existence (this one exists in a vague unspecified territory between a loose sequel and a quasi-reboot, and features a few returning characters and actors, but no previous events are directly referenced, so familiarity with the “first” movie isn’t necessary to enjoying this one). Gunn delivers the same quirky, breezy tone that helped make his Guardians of the Galaxy so popular, but combined with his warped, blackly comical, and often gory tendencies now being given free rein by an R rating that Disney/Marvel would never have allowed. This isn’t a movie for the kids, but for adults who aren’t squeamish, it’s flawed but a blast of wild irreverent fun.

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In the Heights (2021)

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DIRECTOR: Jon M. Chu

CAST: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Lin-Manuel Miranda

REVIEW:

Prolific and multi-talented Broadway star and singer-songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda first developed In the Heights long before 2015’s phenomenon Hamilton made him a more recognizable name, and bringing it first to the stage and then eventually to the screen has been a longtime labor of love. In fact, Miranda first wrote what would become In the Heights in college, then fine-tuned it in 2002 with the intention of producing it as a Broadway show. The version that eventually debuted on the Broadway stage was co-written by Miranda and playwright Quiara Alegria Hudges. In 2008 the original Broadway run of In the Heights (also starring Miranda himself) was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won 4, including Best Musical. The film rights were bought the same year, but it has taken thirteen years for a film adaptation of In the Heights to reach the screen. The result, while overlong and not among the top tier of film musicals (or Miranda’s own output), and likely a little less relatable to viewers not personally connected to the Hispanic-American immigrant experience, is still a lively and enjoyable “feel good” experience.

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Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Godzilla Vs. Kong': first trailer sees cinematic titans square off in epic  battle

DIRECTOR: Adam Wingard

CAST: Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, Eiza Gonzalez, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Kaylee Hottle, Shun Oguri

REVIEW:

Godzilla vs. Kong, the fourth installment in Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse (and bearing little plot resemblance to 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla), is an example of how a two-minute trailer highlight reel shows its inherent shallowness when stretched out over two hours. Sporadic monster slugfests are not enough to sustain a Saturday morning cartoon plot with inane human characters scurrying around. Fans of the “classic” Godzilla series—which regularly featured plots every bit as silly as this one—might be entertained, but for casual fans, this series demonstrates diminishing returns.

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