Monday, November 22, 2021

All presents wrapped

Got the last of my Christmas gifts wrapped.  This is crazy.  I've never finished this particular chore this early in the season.  It's not even Thanksgiving yet.

Glad to have it out of the way, though.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A tale of two adaptations

I've seen Dune, and it was good.  I thought it was a very faithful adaptation of the book.

I have not seen any of the Wheel of Time series, nor do I have any plans to watch it.  From what I've read on the internet, it takes way too many liberties with the source material including altering the basic plot of the entire series.  *smh*

One of these things will go down in history as a fine piece of art.  The other, not so much.

The lesson, as always, is to stay faithful to the book.  If a book is adapted for a movie, it's because the book is popular in a big way.  It's the height of hubris for some movie-producer guy to think that he can do better than the author at telling that author's story, especially when the book has already proven its worth in the marketplace by selling millions of copies.

This sort of thing should be the easiest slam-dunk in the history of money-making.  A popular book already has a built-in fan base.  Just give those preexisting fans what they want and rake in the cash.  It's as simple as that.  If you do right by the book fans, then they'll shout your movie's praises from the rooftops, and word of mouth (or internet) will work its magic, and you'll have a box office smash.

Monday, November 8, 2021

First present wrapped

I've wrapped the first Christmas gift of the season.  It's insanely early to be doing this, but with half the nation's imports currently languishing on container ships with no off-loading in sight, I felt the need to get this stuff done as quickly as possible.

I suspect many people will wait until the last minute to do their Christmas shopping.  It's an easy thing to procrastinate.  And I suspect many of those folks will be unable to purchase what they want.  Or if they can, then the delivery will be well after December 25th.

I further suspect that there will be more fights at stores than usual.

It promises to be an exciting and interesting holiday season.  :/

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Braves win!

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves, 2021 World Series Champions.

Their last World Series title came in 1995.  In each instance, the Braves won the series four games to two and pitched a shutout in the sixth game.

Way to go, fellas.  :D

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Safety first

I'm usually pretty good about safety when it comes to using tools.  I learned how to safely use a knife when I was a boy, and I rarely cut myself.

Yesterday, though, I stabbed my index finger with an X-Acto knife.  It's not bad, but it's a good reminder that it only takes a moment of carelessness to draw blood.  Or worse.

Be careful with the sharp stuff, folks.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Dune review

I have seen Villeneuve's Dune, and it was very good.  Recommended.

That's the short version.  Now for the longer one...


***Warning: Spoilers!***

The first thing readers want to know is whether the movie is a faithful adaptation of the book.  Well, it is.  It's one of the most faithful book adaptations I've seen.  There are no weirding modules like in the Lynch film.  The movie didn't add anything that made me roll my eyes.

The movie did subtract some things, though.  The dinner scene was omitted, and that's unfortunate, because that gives us some background about the political situation on Arrakis and the various factions involved.  In fact, it seems like the Harkonnen attack occurs practically the day after the Atreides get there.  There's no "settling in" period for the newcomers, nor do we get to see much of the Fremen in a peaceful environment.

In the book, each chapter has an epigraph written by Princess Irulan.  These don't make it into the film.  I doubt putting these up on screen would have added more than five minutes to the running time, but I guess that's too much to spare.  I would have liked to have seen them, though.

No baliset playing from Gurney Halleck.  :(  And Brolin even talked about it a year ago!

Maybe it got cut.  Who knows...

Now let's talk dialog.  Or, rather, the whispering and mumbling and gasping and muttering that passes for dialog in modern movies.

I know Hollywood thinks this sort of thing adds emotion and depth and whatnot to the lines, but there's also something to be said for being able to actually understand the words coming from the characters' mouths.  I want clear enunciation, dadgummit!  If I can't understand the dialog, then what's the point?  Stellan Skarsgard put on a voice so gravelly and guttural that it might as well have been a cement mixer.  Rebecca Ferguson was gasping and whispering everything.

A thick accent can be a problem, too.  I had a hard time with Javier Bardem's accent.  And Chang Chen's.

Jason Momoa and Oscar Isaac spoke their lines well.  I understood them without struggle.  The Mentats did well, too, but they were barely on screen for any length of time.

I blame the director for all this, by the way, not the actors.  It's the director's job to tell the actors how to speak their lines.

Comparing the actors, I'll go ahead and say this: Oscar Isaac had the best performance in the movie.  Totally believable as both the authoritative Duke and as a loving family man.

On the subject of Momoa, I'm not really a fan.  The first time I saw him was in North Shore, and I can't get the image of the "surfer dude" out of my head.  Sort of ruins it for everything else I've seen him in.  I think shaving his head would go a long way to counter that image, but if he was ever going to do that, it would have happened by now.  He did shave his beard after arriving on Arrakis, though.  (He's bearded on Caladan.)  I imagine a clean-shaven face gets a better seal with the mouthpiece of a stillsuit, and I'd like to believe Duncan Idaho came to the same conclusion.

As for Jessica...


Book Jessica is a trained Bene Gesserit.  She has a high level of mastery over her facial expressions and body language.  That's what they teach in Bene Gesserit school.  No matter what happens, they're supposed to look like they're in control of themselves.

Movie Jessica was an emotional wreck.  Complete opposite of Book Jessica.  She spent half the movie looking like she was on the verge of a panic attack.  I don't know whose idea it was to play it like that, but it was a terrible disservice to the character.

Timothy Chalamet did pretty well, I thought.  He whispered/muttered too many lines for me to say his performance was great, but it was good enough.  He didn't look totally clumsy in the fight scenes, and that's always a plus.

We only hear the Fear Litany twice, and it's from Jessica both times, and she's gasping it out in a way that makes it difficult to discern.  I was disappointed about that.  I wanted to hear Paul recite it, especially during the gom jabbar scene.  This was one instance where an internal monologue voiceover would have been both warranted and potentially really cool.

Now let's talk effects...

The ornithopters were absolutely badass.  My favorite scenes in the movie were the ones involving ornithopters.  They looked like a dragonfly mated with an Apache helicopter.  The effects guys totally nailed it here.

Sweeping vistas and all-around impressive visuals.  It's an epic movie, and it looks it.

As for the sandworms, we really don't see them that much.  I expect we'll see more of them in part 2, though, if that movie gets filmed and sticks to the book as well as this one does.

On the subject of costumes, it seemed like everyone wore either black, white, or gray.  :/  I would have liked to have seen a little more color.  They have dyes on Arrakis, right?

There were no internal monologues like in the Lynch film and the book.  They're not missed, either (except for the Fear Litany already mentioned).  Everything is communicated via dialog, visions, hand signals, etc., and none of it seemed like clunky exposition to me.  This is one of the challenges of making a Dune movie, and Villeneuve met that challenge very well. 

The movie ended right after the fight with Jamis, but I think I would have saved that for the second part.  I would have ended this movie with Paul and Jessica alone in the desert and about to set out to find the Fremen.  I then would have filled that extra time with the dinner scene from the book and the epigraphs.

The music was good.  Not great, but good.  I enjoyed it.  It was mystical and sort of Arabesque, so it totally fit the setting.  My main criticism of it is that it was kind of monotonous.  Not as much variation as I would have liked.  And that lack of variation often resulted in a mood that didn't quite fit the scene as much as I would have liked.  For example, when the Atreides first set foot on Arrakis, we get this bagpipe type stuff:

This music creates a vibe of mystery and tension, but it's not triumphant.  It almost sounds like it could be a funeral march.  I think the mood here should have been triumphant.  This is the high point for the Atreides family, after all.  They're together, they've got their army chanting their House name, they've got the locals praising Paul as the potential messiah... everything feels victorious.  After this, it's all downhill.  Let the audience feel that triumph of the moment so that the later catastrophes will feel more catastrophic by contrast.

For an example of what I'm talking about, consider this scene from Jurassic Park.  Pay close attention to the changes in the music throughout the scene.

Hans Zimmer is a fine composer, but John Williams is a master of the craft.  (For more on the music of Jurassic Park, check this out.)

The film ends with the Fremen leading Paul and Jessica to Sietch Tabr.  They're toting Jamis's enshrouded corpse.  We then get our first glimpse of a Fremen riding a sandworm in the distance, Chani tells Paul it's just the beginning, and they all walk off into the sunset.  The rider was a cool effect, and it made for a nice way to end part one, though like I said, I would have ended it sooner.


Well, that's it.  Like I said, Dune is a very good movie, so give it a shot.  And keep in mind that it's just part one of two, so don't expect a satisfying conclusion.  That comes later (hopefully).