There are three new films releasing this week Dune, The Card Counter and Ron's Gone Wrong.
This mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey tells the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) - a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding - who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people.
As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence - a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential - only those who can conquer their fear will survive.
A master of complex storytelling for the screen, visionary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve wanted to take audiences to places they’ve never been with Dune just as the novel did for him as a young reader, tackling the daunting adaptation as director and co-writer with acclaimed screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth.
With its awe-inspiring locations, momentous sets, thrilling action and compelling characters together comprising a gripping story of a young man’s coming-of-age in a world of social and political turmoil, Villeneuve and his many collaborators hope the film will have a wide appeal for both the fans of the novel and beyond as well as global movie audiences spanning nationalities, demographics and generations
Villeneuve found “there are many ways you can approach Dune’s story, but one of them, one of the main angles, is the very human story of the Atreides family that falls into the trap set by the Emperor, who’s getting more and more jealous of their growing popularity. And so the Emperor sends the Atreides to a new planet in the galaxy, which is Arrakis, where you can find the spice, the most precious substance in the universe.”
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Redemption is the long game in writer-director Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter.
Told with Schrader’s (first reformed) trademark cinematic intensity, the revenge thriller tells the story of an ex-military interrogator turned gambler haunted by the ghosts of his past decisions. William Tell (Oscar Isaac) - formerly private first class William Tillich - a special ops soldier carrying the moral weight of harrowing crimes in Iraq.
After serving time in prison, he reinvents himself as a professional gambler on the American poker circuit, but his actions abroad haunt him to his core, even after he swaps isolation and despair for love and connection. His only solution is to violently reckon with his own past.
At a security conference on interrogation and truthfulness, presented by combat veteran Major John Gordo (Willem Dafoe), Tell meets Cirk (Tye Sheridan), a high school dropout whose late father connects to the poker player’s black-ops past in Iraq. The improbable duo hits the road, traveling from casino to casino as William works the tables and Cirk’s identity and motives become more clear-cut.
“My aim is to create a crack in the viewer’s skull, opening up a rift between what they desire and expect of my characters and what they feel after spending time with them,” says Schrader. “How they make that adjustment is up to them but to get the viewer engaged in this kind of conflict is what every artist seeks. It’s not so important what my viewers think but that they do think.”
Twentieth Century Studios and Locksmith Animation’s Ron’s Gone Wrong is the story of Barney, a socially awkward middle-schooler and Ron, his new walking, talking, digitally connected device which is supposed to be his ‘best friend out of the box.’
Ron’s hilarious malfunctions, set against the backdrop of the social media age, launch them into an action-packed journey in which the boy and robot come to terms with the wonderful messiness of true friendship.
“This film has an important message that both parents and children will understand,” says producer Julie Lockhart. “The amount of time a kid spends on screen and the effect it has on parents and the worry that it causes parents, and the family as a whole, is something everyone can appreciate … and, of course, it just looks beautiful on the big screen.”
“Like every parent, I experienced that awful moment when my kid came home saying, ‘I didn’t have anyone to play with today,’” says co-director, co-writer and executive producer Sarah Smith who directed the film with Pixar veteran Jean-Philippe Vine (story artist on Cars 3, The Good Dinosaur) and Octavio E.
“Your heart breaks. But now they face the pressures of social media too making it even harder. We wanted to make a movie about kids’ friendships in the social media age and that universal feeling that every child has that everyone else has got it all sorted except them … Most of us carry that feeling throughout our lives,” Smith says.
Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit www.writingstudio.co.za