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March 2024


Dune: Part Two


Warner Bros. Pictures // Directed by Denis Villeneuve // Starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem


Dune: Part One was my favourite film of 2021. I was captivated by its visuals, its scope, its scale and the depth of its story. As someone who has not read Frank Herbert's seminal novel, I was not sure what to expect but the results blew me away. Now, three years later is the follow-up, or more succinctly, Part Two of the story. Director Denis Villeneuve has over the last few years firmly established himself as Hollywood's premier visual director delivering epic sci-fi films such as the aforementioned Dune, Blade Runner 2049, and Arrival, and Dune: Part Two continues this trend with a grandeur that is nothing short of breathtaking. Somehow, Part Two manages to up the ante in every aspect, including performances, to deliver an unforgettable experience. In all honesty, I did not watch Dune: Part Two, I experienced it. From the beautiful majesty of its visuals to the awe-inspiring sound design and the fantastic production design, this film was an absolute joy to behold. The story this time around focuses on larger and deeper thematic strands, continuing the story of Part One and taking it to new and exciting (and also dark) places as we continue following our lead Paul Atreides, played with confident steel by Timothée Chalamet. The full, star-studded cast has a part to play and they play it with such enthusiasm and confidence, especially Zendaya as the warrior Chani, who is given far more to do this time around, and Austin Butler in an unrecognisable and memorable turn as the villain Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. Though Villeneuve is absolutely a visual director, there are plenty of smaller character moments that pay off handsomely by the end of the movie. Though it could be argued that the final twenty minutes of the movie were rushed, and I can't disagree, the finale felt like a more than satisfying conclusion to this movie story and a tantalising follow-up to the next film in the saga, Dune Messiah. Without spoiling anything in this film, the messiah aspect of the third instalment will be key as Part Two deals with a messianic revolution bumping up against more grounded (see: less religious) principles and ideas, and the ramifications of every related decision which will prove significant going forward. Dune: Part Two is a thrilling, exciting, heavy, and intelligent science fiction film that should be celebrated for years to come. It will be hard for any other film this year to top the majesty, scale, and epicness of Dune: Part Two, and, yes, this could potentially become one of the greatest film trilogies ever made if Dune Messiah sticks its landing. Time will tell, but whatever the outcome, Dune: Part Two is a film that deserves to be remembered and lauded.




Lionsgate // Directed by Jeff Wadlow // Starring DeWanda Wise, Tom Payne, Taegen Burns, Pyper Braun, Veronica Falcón, Betty Buckley



Blumhouse's terrible recent output has included Night Swim and Five Nights at Freddy's (and many would happily include The Exorcist: Believer into the mix), and, cutting to the chase, Imaginary can be added to the list. In fact, Imaginary tops the list of Blumhouse's failures as this is simply a dreadful film. Imaginary is the type of bland, banal, uninspired and lazy horror film that is becoming common in the genre as a way of gaining a quick buck for minor output - but this could be a new low. How this received a 15 rating in the UK from the BBFC is beyond me as nothing happens. Literally. Chauncey - the bear in the marketing - does nothing, one person dies off-screen, and there are a few hokey jumpscares, but, other than that, it's a poorly acted slog about a new family wading through generic drama as Alice (Braun), the weird young kid, bonds and speaks to a teddy bear for about an hour. It then becomes a cheap-looking attempt to capture the magic of older, better horror flicks with a crazed, abysmal Betty Buckley gurning and shouting for the camera. In an attempt to...get Chauncey the bear over (?), they namecheck him so many times that it becomes a parody and they provide him with a warped version of Alice's voice which was nothing short of hilarious (a mid-movie therapy session provided a good belly laugh due to this). I felt for DeWanda Wise here as she tries, she really tries, to sell what she is asked to do and she is a likeable presence in the film as the stepmother who just wants to bond with her new family, but nothing is saving this. Not even Tom Payne's middle-class English rockstar (who plays the world's most oblivious father before he departs the entire movie to go on tour) adds anything. How this narrative ended the way it did is mind-boggling - who in their right mind would conjure this up and look proudly at it, smiling like a new parent, and declare it fit for humans to endure? Hopefully, Blumhouse can get back on track this year, though their next scheduled release is a remake of the excellent Speak No Evil so who knows what they'll do with that? Imaginary may work as a gateway horror, but even then it could traumatise people who then move on to stronger horror like Madame Web. There is nothing redeemable about this, and it's one of the worst horror films I've seen in years. I'm left imagining the utopia I lived in before seeing Imaginary, as it was an infinitely better time.




NEON // Directed by Michael Mohan // Starring Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Benedetta Porcaroli, Dora Romano, Giorgio Colangeli, Simona Tabasco


Move over Valek, there’s a new nun in town. Sydney Sweeney’s Sister Cecilia is the latest ass-kicking agent of God ready to throw down with the worst that Hell can offer. Actually, no she isn’t. Michael Mohan’s Immaculate is a religious horror that is not in keeping with recent offerings, such as The Nun films and Prey for the Devil, in that our lead is not fighting demons or the possessed.  Instead, she is dealing with a miracle - an immaculate conception - following her transfer from her closed parish in the States to a secluded convent in picturesque Italy -and as the story progresses, it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems in the sprawling, echo-filled convent lit mainly by candles and atmosphere. Immaculate is a solid slow-burn horror until it takes a turn in the final fifteen minutes where it leans fully into its gonzo nature, channelling the New French Extremity subgenre of years past and delivering a finale that feels bolder than most in recent years. Sydney Sweeney continues her recent dabbling in different genres and delivers a strong overall performance despite an admittedly rocky opening act, leading to an all-in virtuoso final one-take sequence. It should be said that, narratively, Immaculate isn’t necessarily providing anything original, however, its dedication to atmosphere, scares and impressive gore keeps this entertaining for the entirety of its brisk runtime. That was my main takeaway from the film, for a story dealing with heavy subjects and imagery, I found myself simply enjoying what I was watching. The filmmakers were able to move between moods deftly and I never felt an imbalance in tone - though I do believe an extra ten minutes (or so) in the final third would have eased its slightly frantic feel, or maybe the chaotic nature was just what the film needed to end on. Either way, Immaculate was an unexpected curveball given the major recent genre and subgenre outputs. Effectively crafted with an unnerving score from Will Bates, it felt bold at times, and patient at others leading to its gonzo finale. Sweeney is impressive here, and, though it may not be perfect, it was nuntheless a lot of fun - surprisingly, too.


Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire


Sony Pictures Releasing // Directed by Gil Kenan // Starring Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O'Connor, Logan Kim, Emily Alyn Lind, James Acaster, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton


For the majority of my life, bustin’ has made me feel good. Great, in fact. I’ve been a fan of Ghostbusters since I was a kid way back when, and it has been so good to see the franchise back on the big screen again following 2016’s Answer the Call and 2021’s wonderful Afterlife. While 1984’s original classic was a snarky satire on small businesses and the supernatural horror genre, that hasn’t stopped Sony from expanding on its humble roots. Now, in 2024, we have Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Directed by Gil Kenan, this is the first film in the main continuity not directed by a Reitman - though Jason remains on board as a writer - and finds the whole gang from Afterlife, OGs included, back in New York City to bust a chilly ancient villain, Garakka, who is hellbent on claiming the city (and the world) as his frozen empire. The trailers promised something bigger than before and Frozen Empire is certainly bigger, but unfortunately, it is not better. It is absolutely an enjoyable romp, but one that is overstuffed and a world away from 1984’s original in terms of tone, vibe, and attempts at a grounded feel (yes, ghosts, walking statues and marshmallow men exist, hear me out). Where that film, and Ghostbusters II, succeeded was in keeping things focused on our crew, the schlubs who were just like us, but everyone involved worked with the tools they had - Frozen Empire takes wild detours that explicitly bring the supernatural to the human characters, and it is to the detriment of the story. The story itself is bursting at the seams from the beginning, with too many characters and too much happening. There are new villains, old characters, a focus on Phoebe's emotional arc, a new ghost-busting laboratory, and much more. As a result of trying to give every member of the cast something to work with, no character has a chance to stand out fully, and the story suffers. The characters and performances are all fine enough, Grace is again very good as Phoebe - though her main subplot (featuring a solid Lind) was horribly disappointing - and Rudd, Aykroyd, and Nanjiani provide strong supporting performances but the sheer volume of characters means no one has a chance to stand out fully. Murray, Oswalt, Hudson, Kim, Coon - all get fun moments but it becomes a mess by the time the big Marvel-esque showdown arrives complete with a fully CGI villain. Gozer and Vigo worked so well because they were played by actors on set, they felt authentic, but here the fear factor was lost despite Garakka’s great visual look. Now, there were plenty of great gags and quips throughout - Murray and Nanjiani were having a blast - alongside some fun scenes of bustin’ ghosts (including some cool new ghosts) and smaller character moments, so Frozen Empire isn’t a flop or a write-off. Far from it, it is very watchable and enjoyable but it is unfocused. The franchise seems geared firmly towards families now as its key demographic, which is fine as my daughter loved it, and this felt like the true start of passing the torch along. The supernatural horror parody is gone, and the snarky satire of politics and upstart business is gone, replaced by a direction that feels more blockbuster-focused. Kenan and co. aimed for something different, a risk which should be commended, but it didn’t entirely work leaving Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire as a fun but highly flawed effort.

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