Dune (12A, 155 mins)


Verdict: Out of the world

The French Dispatch (15 mins)


Verdict: Tiresomely mannered

James Bond is still on an all-out mission to save the cinema industry. But, he was at least joined yesterday morning by an angry army of giant sandworms. 

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune isn’t the masterpiece that many people claim it to, but it’s the roaring and sprawling embodiment of a movie that demands to be seen at the largest screen.

Villeneuve’s last film, unveiled four years ago this month, was the excellent Blade Runner 2049 — the French-Canadian director has form in the business of tackling science-fiction material freighted with baggage. Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner was the bag in that instance. Villeneuve could do it justice after 35 years. He did.

Dune is Frank Herbert’s 1965 bestseller. The baggage scared off film-makers because of its narrative breadth. David Lynch took a chance in 1984, a fitting year to tell a futuristic story. Lynch’s adaptation went way too far. It was a confusing, bloated mess.

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is not the masterpiece some have proclaimed it to be, but it is the roaring, sprawling embodiment of a film that demands to be seen on the biggest screen available. Timothee Chalamet is pictured above as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides

Dune by Denis Villeneuve is not the film of genius that many have claimed it to be. But it is the epic, sprawling masterpiece of a film that deserves to be seen on the largest screen. Timothee Chalamet is pictured above as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides

We are now again transported to Arrakis in the year 10191. This deserted planet is home to worms as large as dirigibles. They are meant to inspire wonderment by tunnelling through the sand and destroying everything they come across. They are a joy to behold, and I am almost ashamed to say so. They are ridiculous dirigibles.

Arrakis, contrary to all appearances, is a treasure-house. It is home to huge quantities of’spice’ which is the most valuable commodity within this forbidding universe. Spice production is a guarantee to obscene riches.

According to the rumours, interstellar space travel would be impossible without spice. It would take a while to recognize spice as a euphemism to oil, our earthly holy of holies.

The story begins on Caladan, a more sanitized planet, home to the noble house Atreides. Here, Prince Paul (Timothee Chalamet), dreams of a beautiful beauty from a faraway place.

The Emperor’s mysterious Truthsayer (Charlotte Rampling in an extravagant headdress black) is of particular interest. Paul’s vision turns to be beautiful Chani (Zendaya), who lives far away on Arrakis as a member of the oppressed Fremen Tribe.

The Fremen, led and ruled by Stilgar (Javier Bardem), warrior-serfs. They are subjugated the the destitute House Harkonnen who have been harvesting spices for decades and live off the hog. Their ruthless leader, the terrifyingly corpulent Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard in a fatsuit).

Are you keeping up? Caladan’s Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), Paul’s father plans to forge an alliance with Fremen to gain a foothold in the spice industry. Let’s call him a spice wannabe, in homage to Scary and Ginger, Sporty, Baby, and Posh. His wife Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), isn’t sure about any part of it, and she’s not the only one. My tip? Read the story before you speak.

Similarly unquenchable are the bagpipes with which the Atreides announce their arrival. Whether it’s depressing or uplifting to find that bagpipes are still around more than 8,000 years from now, with so much else having presumably fallen into extinction, you’ll have to decide for yourself

The Atreides’ arrival announcements are made with bagpipes, which are equally unquenchable. It doesn’t matter if it’s sad or joyful to discover that bagpipes will still be around in 8,000 years, with so many other things having presumably gone extinct, you’ll have the final say.

It’s still a spectacular spectacle with stunning visual effects, cinematography by Greig Fraser, and a haunting Hans Zimmer score. It is important to remember the oil metaphor as the Atreides troops arrive on Arrakis. They must be aware that the scorching heat will sabotage their attempts at friendly colonisation if the Harkonnen fundamentalists or the furious Sandworms don’t. Paul refers, to make the modern-day allusions more egregious, to ‘a holy warfare spreading across the universe as unquenchable fire’.

The Atreides’ arrival announcements are made with bagpipes that are equally unquenchable. You’ll have to decide if it’s depressing and uplifting to see bagpipes still around 8,000 years later, while so many other things have presumably gone extinct.

Dune will be a huge success, and we will get a sequel. This movie only tells half of the story. It was a great film that I saw at the Venice Film Festival last month. I saw it in a mad mob of ‘Chalamaniacs’ who were desperate to see young Timothee.

They will be delighted to learn that he also looms large at The French Dispatch as a wild-haired student revolution in writer-director Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic love letter’ to journalism in general, and The New Yorker magazine specifically.

If Dune is a hit, incidentally, then we are certain to get a sequel; this movie only covers half the story

Dune will be a huge hit, and we will get a sequel. This movie only covers half of the story.

Anderson has assembled a great cast: Chalamet (Bill Murray), Frances McDormand and Willem Dafoe. . . The list goes on. The film, which is split into four stories and each portrays a feature article from The French Dispatch, supposedly a Kansas newspaper outpost in France, is undeniably stunning to look at. Every frame is a thing that’s beautiful.

Anderson’s final live-action feature, 2014’s dazzling The Grand Budapest Hotel, is a big favorite of mine. Anderson’s carefully crafted narrative and visual style can work well.

Despite all the rhapsodies that have been heaped upon it by others, and having watched it twice just for confirmation, I found The French Dispatch a pretentious slog, mystifying and laboured in its comedy, as well as being too adoring. 

Many people say the same thing about The New Yorker. But I don’t think that was his point.

Oh Dear, this stage hit’s turned into a film flop 

Dear Evan Hansen (★★✩✩✩ 12A, 137 mins) is the film version of the hit stage musical about a troubled high school kid, Evan (Ben Platt), crippled with shyness and anxiety, forced to sustain the pretence that he was the best friend of a classmate who committed suicide.

The situation is a result of the letters he wrote to himself as therapy. One of these letters was found by Amy Adams, Amy Adams’ mother. She believes her son wrote it, and so begins the misunderstanding.

Although I applaud the idea of trying teenage mental health issues through musicals, I felt like I was swimming through treacle. It’s a well-done film with Julianne Moore as Evan’s single mom. There are many reasons why the film failed in the U.S., and I don’t disagree.

Best Sellers (★★✩✩✩ 15, 102 mins) tries just as hard, and fails even more dismally, to yank the heartstrings. It stars Michael Caine as Harris. This is 50 years after Harris wrote his first novel, which was a huge bestseller. Harris is tempted to leave his solitude to save the venerable publishing house that his former editor, Lucy (Aubrey Plaza), has run.

The couple then embark on a tour to promote the book. I believe we are meant for them to find their relationship through turns funny and moving. It’s impossible to believe that it could be true. I can think of 20 other odd-couple generation-gap movies. It’s always nice to be able to see Caine who at first claimed he was retiring, but then he changed his mind. We should cherish him as long as we can.

The Boss Baby 2: Family Business (★★✩✩✩ PG, 107 mins) is a sequel to The Boss Baby, the 2017 animation which gave a baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) a business suit and a briefcase, and was great fun. Baldwin returns for this one, but it lacks the charm of its predecessor.

The streaming platform for Best Sellers is available; the cinemas for the other two are available.