Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul Atriedes in Denis Villeneuve’s version of Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune.’ 

Tempo grade: A+
Storyteller 7 Cinemas
Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.

Back in 1984, director David Lynch tried and failed — by his own admission — at attempting to properly adapt acclaimed sci-fi writer Frank Herbert’s 1965 epic novel, “Dune.” In many ways it wasn’t his fault because he was not given final cut and when he was finished, his studio re-cut the film for mass appeal. Even still, his version was marred by, how to put this, a personal indulgence to inject his trademark Lynchian grotesquery. 

Fast forward to now: Denis Villenueve has had the benefit of picking apart decades of lessons gleaned from Lynch’s experience, plus that of Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s additional failed attempt, a lame SyFy Channel mini-series, and leaps-and-bounds advances in film technology. His new film, “part one” of which was released this week, takes all of that and emerges with something approaching genuine wonder.

This is the “Dune” that tops them all. It’s the one I, for one, have waiting all this time to finally see, especially, on the big screen.

Villenueve dispenses with all the comic book imagery and explores how the inhabited worlds of the “known universe” might look if tangible, gritty, and functioning in the year 10,191. This is a universe that depends on the spice melange mined exclusively by a planetary guild on the arid desert planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune. The spice, of course, is a psychoactive and addictive substance whose properties allow the guild pilots to make space travel possible. It is also very dangerous to obtain because it is protected on Dune by gigantic sand worms and an indigenous population known as Fremen.

It opens with an imperial decree demanding the rapacious House of Harkonnen to leave Arrakis  and allow the House of Atriedes to take over spice production. Atriedes is from the Planet Caladan, a beautiful world of plentiful water where the cunning Bene Gesserit Sisterhood has been hard at work over centuries as close consultants throughout the Great Houses. Their work is covert and vaguely sinister, but ultimately it consists of political, social and genetic manipulation over generations to result in the Kwisatz Haderach, a kind of superior being or savior.

Little does he know, but young Paul Atriedes (Timothée Chalamet), son of Duke Leto Atriedes (Oscar Isaac) and his bound concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), might just be the one. But, that remains to be seen, and proven, as the House of Atriedes travels to Arrakis to observe spice production firsthand and to figure out why the Emperor decided to force the Harkonnens, led by the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), to leave their extremely profitable operation behind. 

Villenueve takes his time to unspool this story, making it easier to understand than previous versions which relied on a screenwriter’s conceit to say something is the way it is without having to show it. Here, the director respects the audience’s need to understand by giving us symbols we can use as touchstones connecting various story threads. But, even at two and a half hours, this is only part one. I, for one, cannot wait to see what comes next. 

Also showing at the Storyteller 7 Cinemas

Ron’s Gone Wrong
Not previewed
Rated PG for some rude material, thematic elements and language.

Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a socially awkward schoolboy who receives a robot named Ron (Zach Galifianakis) -- a walking, talking, digitally connected device that's supposed to be his best friend. Barney is excited to finally have his own robot -- until his new toy starts to hilariously malfunction, drawing the attention of a shady executive who wants to protect his company's stock price at all costs. Directed by Sarah Smith, Jean-Phillippe Vine and Octavio E. Rodríguez, this film features the voice talents of Ed Helms and Olivia Coleman.

The Mitchell Theaters Storyteller 7 Cinemas are open seven days a week and, in compliance with New Mexico Department of Health order, all patrons are required to wear masks when not eating or drinking on the premises. Location is 110 Old Talpa Cañon Road in Taos. For tickets, other screenings and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Now showing at the TCA Drive-in 

Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Tempo grade: A+
Not rated

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is an aging and sadly unstable silent film queen who refuses to accept that her stardom has ended. She hires a young down-on-his-luck screenwriter named Joe Gilles (William Holden) to pen a script that could be her return to the silver screen. One of the best movies about the industry and arguably director Billy Wilder’s greatest. Although it seems a throwback to old school Hollywood, its approach is solidly modern and crafted with intriguing psychological details. Co-stars Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark and Jack Webb.

This film will be screened Friday (Oct. 22) at 7 p.m. Not rated.

Psycho (1960)
Tempo grade: A+
Rated R for violence.

Part of the reason for this highly successful Alfred Hitchcock thriller was the tight script by experienced horror writer Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch, which had a wonderful twist ending audiences were sworn to not reveal. This, of course, added to the word-of-mouth appeal. The movie is about a lowly motel clerk named Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and a beautiful woman named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who is on the run after making off with a large sum of money in hopes of starting a new life with her boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin). After Marion seems to disappear, Sam and Marion’s sister, Lila Crane (Vera Miles), decide to retrace her steps. That’s when Norman’s mother, a shower, and a nosy detective become part of a mystery so horrifying it made movie history. Great score by Bernard Herrmann.

This film will be screened Thursday (Oct. 28) at 7 p.m. Not rated.

And, inside at the TCA’s Big Screen

Not previewed
Not rated

Faction's third feature film uncovers the foundations of freeskiing as seen by the current generation of skiers. From the caves of the Dolomites to the nightscapes of Ruka and the mythic peaks surrounding Verbier, ROOTS takes us on a journey through the vibrant spectrum of freeskiing. In co-production with Red Bull Media House.

This film will be screened Saturday (Oct. 23), 6:30 p.m. Note: Vaccination proof or negative Covid test required for in-theater events. 

For tickets and additional information about Taos Center for the Arts film screenings, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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