By Lynn Venhaus
As far as big-budget cosmic spectacles go, “Dune” is impressive at filling the screen with wonder.

Directed by visionary Denis Villeneuve, who frames everything with meticulous care, as he did with “Arrival,” his only Oscar nomination, and “Blade Runner 2049” – the film is a technical marvel, with visually stunning panoramas and innovative flying machines.

A mythic hero’s journey, “Dune” is the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 bestseller about a feudal interstellar society in a galaxy far, far away, which is set in a distant future.

It’s the story of Paul Atreides, a gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding. As part of the noble house of Atreides, he must travel to Arrakis, the most dangerous planet in the universe for the future of his family and people.

The desert wasteland planet has an exclusive supply of “mélange,” aka “the spice,” a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. As it is the most precious resource in existence, malevolent forces are at work to prevent this, and only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Yet are these characters engaging enough? How much do we care about what happens to these political dynasties? They prefer to whisper in cavernous spaces, and while mesmerizing Zendaya’s narration helps, the project’s mythology on such an epic scale tends to weigh it down with “importance.”

Our hero’s journey is a very long one and we spend 2 hours and 35 minutes leading up to a next chapter. This is only Part One. We are warned at the end, when one character says to Paul: “You’re just getting started.” The payoff isn’t quite there – so when is Part Two?

We have just invested time on an extended prologue. Oh dear. Will only fans of the book be able to appreciate this saga? And isn’t that the true test? As is always the case, those not familiar with the source material will be at a disadvantage trying to keep up with the warring factions.

Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac and Stephen McKinley Henderson

Considered the best-selling science fiction novel of all-time, “Dune” is gigantic in scope, and the 1965 cult classic touches on themes involving politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, threading them all together in space.

The empire’s other planets want control of Arrakis for its spice, which is also necessary for space navigation because of its multidimensional awareness and foresight.

“Dune” is only the first in a series, followed by Herbert’s five sequels: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. After his death, others have kept the franchise going.

Its devoted fan base inspired filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky to attempt a film adaptation in the 1970s but it was cancelled after three years in development. Along came David Lynch’s complex adaptation in 1984, which was a harshly received misguided mess, and there was a Sci-Fi Channel miniseries in 2000.

While light years ahead of the 37-year-old film, “Dune” does seem to have the same problem about adapting something so unwieldy – that the character development suffers.

It’s difficult to figure out the planetary relationships and who’s who among the different groups, even with a strong cast that attempts to make everything as lucid as possible.

This one does attempt to over-correct in a tedious way, with a screenplay by director Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts (“Doctor Strange,” “Prometheus”) and Eric Roth, Oscar winner for “Forrest Gump,” that still is lacking in explanations.

Paul is played with youthful elan by Timothee Chalamet, who seems to be working non-stop. His character, burdened by birthright, is actually the least interesting of the massive ensemble – but the camera loves him, and he looks good standing in many shots of wind and blowing sands, contemplating.

Chalamet has genuine interactions with his father, an authoritative but loving Duke Leto Atreides, well-played by the always captivating Oscar Isaac. With warm fatherly advice, Isaac tells him: “A great man doesn’t seek to lead; he’s called to it.”

It’s not his fault that Paul is a blank slate. He is being groomed to take over, and while at times reluctant and confused, he ultimately accepts his duties. His mother, all-serious Lady Jessica, is a tough taskmaster, and subtly played by Rebecca Ferguson, they have a protective relationship.

Far more compelling is Jason Momoa as the fierce warrior Duncan Idaho. He brings some oomph to the fighter’s bravado and his fists of fury are legitimate. Momoa and Chalamet warmly convey a loyal long standing friendship.

Not given much to do is Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, the duke’s right-hand man, and Dave Bautista as antagonist Beast Rabben Harkonnen – along with Momoa, they are the recognizable fighters.

A barely there Javier Bardem is Stilgar, a leader of a desert tribe. An unrecognizable Stellen Skarsgard appears, Jabba the Hut-like, as the disgusting despot Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The Harkonnens are the evil not-to-be-trusted bad guys.

The first hour is full of awe. But why do movies about the future tend to mix medieval and “Star Wars” knock offs in production design and costumes, similar to the “Game of Thrones”? The color palette is deary shades of gray, beige and black.

While that gets wearisome, the cinematography of Greig Fraser is dazzling. An Emmy winner for “The Mandalorian” and Oscar nominee for “Lion,” he expresses the grandeur of the planets’ landscapes as well as the more intimate moments in various degrees of light.

He worked on “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the upcoming “The Batman,” so tackling sandworms and spaceships is natural for him. His majestic work is one of the pleasures of seeing this in IMAX.

Hans Zimmer’s score is a stirring mix projecting danger and derring-do in dissonant chords, setting an urgent tone for action.

Dune (2021).TIMOTHEE CHALAMET.Credit: Chia Bella James/Warner Bros.

Despite its storytelling flaws, “Dune” is such a monumental example of state-of-the-art filmmaking that its cinematic universe deserves to be seen on the big screen.

“Dune” is a 2021 science-fiction action adventure directed by Denis Villeneuve. It stars Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson
, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, and Javier Bardem. Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material, its run time is 2 hours, 35 minutes. It opened in theaters Oct. 22 and is streaming on HBO Max for 31 days. Lynn’s Grade: B.

By Alex McPherson

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is an entertaining, four-hour superhero epic that greatly improves on Joss Whedon’s 2017 version. After leaving the first production due to a family tragedy, director Snyder is finally able to give fans what they’ve been craving. 

Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and another familiar face team up to take down a world-ending threat. This time, a horned monstrosity named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) seeks to eliminate humanity from Planet Earth via three powerful “Mother Boxes” and rebuild it under the leadership of Darkseid (Ray Porter), who wants to control the galaxy. Feeling partly responsible for the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Batman becomes a reluctant leader as he and Wonder Woman bring the squad together. Heroes both new and old undergo their own arcs, to varying degrees — involving the topics of grief, faith, hope, and unity in times of crisis.

Aiming to please those who willed it into existence, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is difficult to recommend to viewers who aren’t already fans of the DC Cinematic Universe. The film contains moments of emotional resonance and visual spectacle, but proves grueling by the final hour — reverting to predictable plotting and repetitive, CGI-reliant action sequences.

At least the central characters are given more opportunities to shine. From its opening frames, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” establishes itself as a slower, mournful affair, with a 4:3 aspect ratio, dour chapter titles, muted color palette, and a clearer sense of organization. Snyder has crafted an unarguably more coherent storyline than before, maintaining a grittier tone than the original cut and giving scenes more time to breathe. Even though the storytelling itself is clunky, largely thanks to hit-or-miss dialogue and frequent exposition dumps, I appreciate Snyder’s ambition. 

The added depth to Cyborg (a.k.a Victor Stone) is particularly noteworthy. After Victor and his mother are killed in a car crash, his father, Silas Stone (Joe Morton) uses a Mother Box to resurrect Victor in a robotic body. Thanks to his new abilities, Victor becomes an all-powerful presence, able to tap into the world’s technological web with ease, and representing the League’s key to vanquishing Steppenwolf. Despite his powers, Cyborg is gripped with resentment towards his father and deeply uncertain of his own future. Fisher’s acting is endearing and empathetic, the most convincing in the entire film. His character  — practically deserving of its own standalone installment — remains the heart and soul of the whole endeavour. 

The Flash (a.k.a. Barry Allen) is also further fleshed out, but his journey lacks the nuance and complexity of Cyborg’s. He is much more confident in his speedy capabilities and doesn’t spout as many cringey quips as in the 2017 iteration. Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman, on the other hand, aren’t given much new material to work with under Snyder’s guidance, but we’re given more context for their actions. This helps create a stronger sense of flow from scene to scene than before, and all the actors give decent performances.

In terms of antagonists, Steppenwolf’s goals are more clearly outlined. Exiled from his demonic homeworld, he’s trying to prove himself to his master, Darkseid. Even though we understand where he’s coming from, Steppenwolf is still difficult to empathize with. Revealing more about his history doesn’t automatically fix his blandness or render him memorable. He’s big, powerful, odd-looking, and ready to slice and dice his way to victory.

Speaking of violence, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is rated R, allowing Snyder to indulge in bloody carnage that feels far more visceral than other cinematic comic book offerings. As expected, however, Snyder deploys an over-abundance of slow motion to present every shot as a work of art to be gawked at. Yes, there’s instances of beauty in his eye-popping, effects-heavy compositions, but they lose their thrill as the hours pile up.

Combined with an unnecessary epilogue that’s purely fan service, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” doesn’t quite justify its existence for casual moviegoers. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly support Snyder’s efforts to realize his vision. That being said, four hours is a huge time commitment, especially when viewed in a single sitting, and his film doesn’t differentiate itself enough to truly stand out.

A self-serious, over-indulgent, yet admirable effort, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” isn’t the masterpiece that some have touted it as, but it proves sporadically enjoyable. I just needed a long nap afterwards.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a 2021 release from Warner Brothers that is exclusively showing on HBOMax, as of March 18. It stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller as the six superheroes in the DC Justice League. is Rated R for violence and some language. It has a run time of 242 minutes. Alex’s Grade: B –

Disney Trivia, Creator Panels, Costume Contests, Cosplay Sessions, Speed Dating All Weekend Long At America’s Center, April 5-7

‘Charmed’ Q&A. Photo by Heather Christie PhotographyST. LOUIS, March 29, 2019—Q&A sessions with  the stars of “Charmed” (Holly Marie Combs, Brian Krause and Drew Fuller) plus Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live,” A Night at the Roxbury), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, “Stranger Things 2”), Alaina Huffman (“Smallville,” “Stargate” universe), David Alpay (“Vampire Diaries”) and workshops, cosplayer and comics creator sessions, adult and kids costume contests, feature film and trailer screening and more highlight the programming offerings at Wizard World St. Louis, April 5-7 at America’s Center.

David Alpay of “Vampire Diaries

Most programming is included as part of the standard event admission and is in addition to the live entertainment options (dancing, music, etc.) all weekend.

Some highlights of the more than 50 hours of panels scheduled to date include:

· Group session with the cast of “Charmed” (Saturday, 3 p.m.)· Sessions with Astin (Saturday, 4 p.m.), Kattan (Saturday, 3 p.m.), Huffman (Sunday, noon), Alpay (Saturday, 1 p.m.) and voice actor Scott Innes (“Scooby Doo,” Saturday, 4 p.m.)

· Disney Trivia panel with Walt Before Mickey star Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie) and Chris Owen (American Pie) moderated by Handbook for Mortals author Lani Sarem (Saturday, 2 p.m.)· Creator sessions with industry superstars Tom Cook, Phil Ortiz, Victor Dandridge, Josh Lyman, Stuart Sayger, Gavin Smith, Mostafa Moussa, Kurt Lehner, The Pumpkin Geek, James Morris, Shawn Coss and more· Immersive, high-intensity interactive workshops on such topics as Cosplay Photography, Cosplay Painting and Weathering, Resin Casting, Worbla, Creator U, Cosplay Foam Fabrication, Sculpting, Basics of Drawing (these workshops have an additional fee, with limited availability)

Drew Fuller

· Screening of modern religious feature film Jesus Bro, with writer Brad Jones and director Ryan Mitchelle (Saturday, 7 p.m.)· Fan- and industry-based panels on subjects ranging from self-publishing, YouTube 101, steampunk, Doctor Who, zombies, cosplay & anxiety, Nerd Off 2.0, Armor, superhero movies, comics in the classroom, Star Trek and more· Kids programming all three days, including story time, face painting, puppet shows, dance parties, magic, learn to draw, (and Kids 10 and under are free every day with paid adult)· Trailer Park, a screening of some of the newest and most anticipated movies and TV series (Saturday, noon)· World-famous Wizard World Adult Costume Contest, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Kids Costume Contests on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.· Cosplay with special guests SuperKayce, OhMySophii, Thousand Faces, Sally Quinn, Terrible Trio, Baroness Von T and more, throughout the weekend

Holly Marie Combs

Unless noted, programming events take place in the designated General Programming Rooms or show floor stages at the convention center. VIP tickets or additional costs may apply to ensure access to select activities, as noted.

A full list of Wizard World St. Louis programming is available at http://wizardworld.com/programming-entertainment/st-louis (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).

Wizard World events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. The fourth event scheduled on the 2019 Wizard World calendar, St. Louis show hours are Friday, April 5, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult.

Wizard World St. Louis is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday evening.

For more on the 2019 Wizard World St. Louis, visit http://wizd.me/StLouisPR.

About Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD)Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (www.wizardworld.com) produces comic, gaming and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, tech, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming and entertainment takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard Entertainment has also teamed with Sony Pictures Entertainment to find the next generation of movies as well as to engage in a number of strategic initiatives. Additional initiatives may include an augmented touring schedule of Wizard World shows, fixed-site installations, curated e-commerce, and the production and distribution of content both in the U.S. and internationally. Fans can interact with Wizard Entertainment at www.wizardworld.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.

The 2019 Wizard World convention schedule is available at: http://www.wizardworld.com/comiccon.

‘Aquaman’ Star Momoa, Astin, Kattan, Hudson Headline Celebrity RosterAt Wizard World St. Louis, April 5-7‘Charmed’ Trio Combs, Krause, Fuller, Cudmore, Alpay, Huffman Also Scheduled To Appear at America’s CenterJason Momoa, who rocketed to superstardom in Justice League and Aquaman, Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, “Stranger Things 2”), Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live,” A Night at the Roxbury) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, “Desperate Housewives”) are among the top celebrities scheduled to attend the seventh annual Wizard World St.Louis, April 5-7, at America’s Center. Other stars scheduled to appear include the “Charmed” trio of Holly Marie Combs, Brian Krause and Drew Fuller, Daniel Cudmore (X-Men, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2), Chris Owen (American Pie, The Mist), David Alpay (“The Vampire Diaries,” “The Tudors”), “Desperate Housewives”), Alaina Huffman (“Smallville,” “Supernatural”), Joe Flanigan (“Stargate: Atlantis,” “Stargate: SG-1”), Gregg Sulkin (“Marvel’s Runaways,” “Pretty Little Liars”) and Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie)Some of the world’s most talented creators populate Artist Alley at Wizard World. Top writers and artists scheduled to attend are Arvell Jones (Marvel, D.C.), Stuart Sayger (“ROM,” “Micronauts”), Kurt Lehner (“Gargoyles,” “Marvel Action Hour”), Jeremy Clark (“Grimm Fairy Tales,” “Day of the Dead”), Phil Ortiz (“The Simpsons”), Tom Cook (“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” “Superfriends”), Rick Burchett (“Batman Adventures,” “Superman Adventures”), Ryan Kincaid (“Antoinette,” Upper Deck), Shawn Coss (“Cyanide & Happiness”), Ty Templeton (“Batman and Robin Adventures,” “Batman: The Gotham Adventures”) and more.Wizard World St.Louis will also feature non-stop live entertainment hosted by Kato Kaelin, gaming, exclusive Q&A sessions with top celebrities, movie screenings hosted by stars and directors and more. Details to follow soon, along with programming and entertainment stage schedules.t.Wizard World events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. The fourth event scheduled on the 2019 Wizard World calendar, St. Louis show hours are Friday, April 5, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult.Wizard World St. Louis is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday evening.For more on the 2019 Wizard World St. Louis, visit http://wizd.me/StLouisPR.About Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD)Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (www.wizardworld.com) produces comic, gaming and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, tech, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming and entertainment takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard Entertainment has also teamed with Sony Pictures Entertainment to find the next generation of movies as well as to engage in a number of strategic initiatives. Additional initiatives may include an augmented touring schedule of Wizard World shows, fixed-site installations, curated e-commerce, and the production and distribution of content both in the U.S. and internationally. Fans can interact with Wizard Entertainment at www.wizardworld.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.The 2019 Wizard World convention schedule is available at: http://www.wizardworld.com/comiccon.

Jason Momoa, who rocketed to superstardom in Justice League (2017) and Aquaman (in theaters now), will attend Wizard World St. Louis on Saturday, April 6, at America’s Center. Momoa will greet fans, sign autographs and pose for photo ops.

Momoa had significant roles in the popular series “Baywatch” and “Stargate: Atlantas” before a turn as “Khal Drago” on the acclaimed “Game of Thrones” was followed by his first appearance as “Aquaman” in Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice in 2016. That led to a larger role as the undersea superhero in Justice League and star billing in the current hit release.

Momoa’s other credits include the title role in both Conan the Barbarian (2011) and Braven (2018) and opposite Bruce Willis and John Goodman in last year’s Once Upon a Time in Venice.

Momoa joins Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, “Stranger Things 2”), Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live,” A Night at the Roxbury), the “Charmed” trio of Holly Marie Combs, Brian Krause and Drew Fuller, Daniel Cudmore (X-Men, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2) and Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie) and more, as well as an outstanding array of programming, live entertainment, cosplay contests, gaming and more at the seventh annual Wizard World St. Louis, April 5-7.

Wizard World events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. The fourth event scheduled on the 2019 Wizard World calendar, St. Louis show hours are Friday, April 6, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, April 7, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, April 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Kids 10 and under are admitted free with paid adult.

Wizard World St. Louis is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday evening.

For more on the 2019 Wizard World St. Louis, visit http://wizd.me/StLouisPR.

About Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD)Wizard Entertainment, Inc. (www.wizardworld.com) produces comic, gaming and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, television, gaming, live entertainment, tech, comics, sci-fi, graphic novels, toys, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming and entertainment takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard Entertainment has also teamed with Sony Pictures Entertainment to find the next generation of movies as well as to engage in a number of strategic initiatives. Additional initiatives may include an augmented touring schedule of Wizard World shows, fixed-site installations, curated e-commerce, and the production and distribution of content both in the U.S. and internationally. Fans can interact with Wizard Entertainment at www.wizardworld.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.

The 2019 Wizard World convention schedule is available at: http://www.wizardworld.com/comiccon.