We watched movies over my extended Birthday Weekend: the new “Dune”, “Shang-shi and the Legend of the Ten Magic Rings”, “Tulip Fever”, “From Russia with Love,” “The Catcher Was a Spy”, “Moulin Rouge”, and “The House of Mirth”. Reviews of the latter four movies will follow.
Sorry to say but the new “Dune” was a disappointment for me. Tom, who hasn’t read the book, actively disliked the film and had trouble following the plot (he’s usually excellent with plots).
Possibly my expectations were too high, but the film needed a good, strict film editor (like the director/editor of “The Catcher Was A Spy”, reviewed in Part II). Too many dreams and visions that go nowhere, too many characters who are shrouded in mist, too long battle scenes, too much filler that goes nowhere (did we need the big black spider-thing or the desert mouse water dripping down its ears? For a moment, I thought Paul and Jessica would eat the mouse.)
For a film that takes on a desert planet where people have to take shelter when the sun rises, there were too many scenes that were just dark, physically dark.
Then there were issues that weren’t enough. The sand worms weren’t scary enough. There was not enough explanation of the Bene Gesserit. Tom didn’t understand who they were or what their function was. The film kills off several significant characters.
And Spice? A classic forbidden case of telling and not showing. A hand sifts Spice and a voice-over calls Spice the most valuable substance in the universe, helping to enable interplanetary travel—without attempting to explain or showing this phenomenon. Spice is a hallucinogen, a holy sacrament to the Fremen of Dune whose eyes are digitally colored blue as a result of their ingestion of the substance. Paul gives us a little experience of the hallucinogen, but that too doesn’t explain how Spice helps interplanetary travel.
The end reminded us of “The Sound of Music”. We thought the film would be about the Van Trapp family trekking across the Alps. Instead, after a long domestic drama, the brief end shows them hiking up a mountain. The End. We looked at each other and said, “Huh?”
Same for “Dune”. Paul and company trek off into the desert. The End. The Hollywood Reporter says the producers are still casting “Dune 2”. That means the film is two years away. If you’re hell-bent on seeing “Dune 1”, at least wait until “Dune 2” is out and see them together for six hours. We’re unlikely to see “Dune 2”.
Shang-shi and the Legend of the Ten Magic Rings” is a fast-paced, action-packed, complex Chinese fantasy and is colorful, with many touches of humor and many flashbacks to fill in the story. The actors are appealing. The San Francisco scene with the 1 California bus, which in reality goes up California Street—California Street doesn’t go down—was harrowing and very funny.
The hero goes in search of his sister and father to a magic land where magical people and magical creatures live and is hidden to the outside world. His mother died there; his father is delusional that she’s alive. The one mistake of this absorbing film is the depiction of a little magical creature, about the size of a medium dog, who has fur and feathers, but no head or face. The creature should at least have had eyes and mouth. Every time this viewer saw the creature, she shuddered—it was not cute but grotesque.
The end, however, is perfect, reprising the beginning bar scene of the two friends recounting their adventures to a friendly couple and then going off to—no plot spoilers here!
Both “Dune” and “Shang-shi” center on families (both mothers are powerful and great martial artists; both fathers are killed, hmm) and so does “Tulip Fever”. The fascinating film takes place in 1648 Amsterdam when the Netherlands was the richest country in the world due to their shipping and import/export business and that fledging city on the East Coast of America was called New Amsterdam instead of New York. The Dutch had their own bitcoin of the time—tulip bulbs. (I kid you not.) They drunkenly met in taverns and fiercely bid on tulip bulbs. When the scam was over, a few got very rich and many were left destitute.
Against this feverish background, an older wealthy man buys a young woman from an orphanage to be his wife and bear him an heir. (Judi Dench plays a shrewd and wily old nun who deals in orphans and tulip bulbs, among other things). The rather outrageous domestic plot takes off from there, with several instances of mistaken identities. No plot spoilers! All ends well, so this ultimately is a happy movie.
Four more movie reviews comin’ up.
So there you have it, my friends. An enjoyable time was had be all.
From the author of ODDITIES: 22 Stories IN PRINT as a beautiful trade paperback at ODDITIES: 22 Stories is in Print as a beautiful trade paperback on November 17, 2020 in the US, in the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Japan. ODDITIES: 22 Stories is on Kindle worldwide, including in the US, in the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, in the Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, India, and Japan.
CHROME (five-stars) an ebook on Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo. And on US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, India Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, and Mexico Kindle. IN PRINT at U.S. print as a beautiful trade paperback. Also in U.K. print, in German print, in French print, in Spanish print, in Italian print, and in Japanese print.
Summer of Love (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. BACK IN PRINT! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Love-Travel-Lisa-Mason/dp/1548106119/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/summer-of-love-a-time-travel-lisa-mason/1104160569.
The Gilded Age (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. BACK IN PRINT! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/Gilded-Age-Time-Travel/dp/1975853172/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-gilded-age-a-time-travel-lisa-mason/1106038566.
The Garden of Abracadabra (“Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy . . . I want to read more!) On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. NOW IN PRINT! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1978148291/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-garden-of-abracadabra-lisa-mason/1108093507
Arachne (a Locus Hardover Bestseller) is an ebook on US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle worldwide in France Kindle, Germany Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Spain Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Brazil Kindle, India Kindle, and Japan Kindle. Back in Print! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/198435602X or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arachne-lisa-mason/1000035633.
Cyberweb (sequel to Arachne) is on US Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also Kindle worldwide on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Brazil Kindle, France Kindle, Germany Kindle, India Kindle, Italy Kindle, Japan Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, and Spain Kindle. Back in Print at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1984356941 or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cyberweb-lisa-mason/1001932064
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (“A must-read collection—The San Francisco Review of Books). On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle world wide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. NOW IN PRINT at https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Ladies-Stories-Lisa-Mason/dp/1981104380/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/strange-ladies-lisa-mason/1115861322.
One Day in the Life of Alexa (“Five stars! An appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms”). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. Order the beautiful trade paperback NOW IN PRINT at https://www.amazon.com/One-Life-Alexa-Lisa-Mason/dp/1546783091 or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-day-in-the-life-of-alexa-lisa-mason/1126431598.
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition, A Lily Modjeska Mystery (Five stars) On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
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