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 Lynn Venhaus
On Sunday night, the Critics Choice Awards will air beginning at 6 p.m. CST on the CW (ch. 11 in STL). I promise you, it will be way better than the Golden Globes.

For one, I vote as a member of Critics Choice Association (formerly Broadcast Film Critics Association). Hehehehe. I am one of 400+ members. Secondly, we have a diverse membership and our nominations reflect that, unlike the 87 at HFPA.

As far as the show goes, this is what our leadership reports:

We will have virtually all our nominated performers participating virtually in our show on Sunday night. Our lineup of Presenters includes Kevin Bacon, Angela Bassett, Mayim Bialik, Phoebe Dynevor, Morgan Freeman, Gal Gadot, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Hemsworth, Jameela Jamil, Eva Longoria, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jared Padalecki, Kyra Sedgwick, Yara Shahidi, Courtney B. Vance, John David Washington, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

But once the Critics Choice winner is announced and all the nominees have reacted, we will focus full-screen on the live acceptance speech, without awkwardly returning to the other nominees. And we will offer generous clips showcasing our nominated performances, a treat for audiences who may be inspired to discover movies and series they want to catch up on.

Hosted for the third year in a row by Taye Diggs and with our special See Her Award going to Zendaya, we hope and expect that our 26th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be our best ever. And as the world starts to return to normal in the coming months, we will continue to shine our light on the best the creative community has to offer at our Critics Choice Real TV Awards, Critics Choice Documentary Awards, and Critics Choice Super Awards.

Me and Seth Meyers at 2020 Awards

Last month, we brought our 3rd annual Celebration of Black Cinema to a national audience for the first time, reinforcing our commitment to championing the broadest spectrum of popular entertainment. If it’s as fun as it was last year, I will be very proud and happy! (I attended the ceremony in Santa Monica last January 2020).

It was really hard to pick winners this year — so many good nominees.

Enjoy, movie lovers!

(And if you want to read/listen to my reviews, I am in the Webster-Kirkwood Times; KTRS Radio (segment with Ray Hartmann on Sound Cloud — just go to station website, under Shows, click St Louis in the Know, and the list of audio clips is right there; Reel Times Trio podcast (all posted on Facebook page); and my website, www.PopLifeSTL.com, which is a work in progress, but content is growing.)

Me and Awkwafina at 2020 Awards

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) has announced that award-winning actress and activist, and current Critics Choice Award nominee, Zendaya will receive the fifth annual SeeHer Award at the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards. The honor will be presented by her “Malcolm & Marie” co-star John David Washington during the live ceremony on Sunday, March 7, 2021 from 7-10pm ET/PT hosted by Taye Diggs.  

The SeeHer Award recognizes a woman who embodies the values set forth by the SeeHer movement, to push boundaries, defy stereotypes and acknowledge the importance of authentic portrayals of women across the entertainment landscape. SeeHer is the leading global movement for accurate portrayals of women and girls in media. Led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), SeeHer is a collective of leading marketers, media organizations and industry influencers committed to creating advertising and media content that portrays women and girls as they truly are. Previous award recipients are Kristen Bell, Viola Davis, Claire Foy, and Gal Gadot. 

“We are so proud to be a part of the Critics Choice Awards, and celebrating our fifth SeeHer Award,” said Nadine Karp McHugh, President, SeeHer. “We are delighted to be presenting the award to Zendaya, who is such a strong representation of what it means to be a woman in 2021. One of the busiest rising stars in Hollywood – with a generation of Disney Channel fans, Marvel devotees and ‘Euphoria’ evangelists – she is a role model and leading voice of her generation. From being the youngest actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series to using her platform to advocate for Black women in Hollywood, she is showing the next generation that you are never too young to use your voice to make a difference. Inspiring girls everywhere to see themselves in their full potential, Zendaya represents everything SeeHer is.”  

Emmy Award-winning actor Zendaya is one of the most prominent and influential names in the entertainment industry today. Born and raised in Oakland, California to two teachers, Zendaya grew up performing, having spent a lot of her time at the local theater where her mother worked. She is currently starring in Netflix’s “Malcolm & Marie,” now available to watch globally, for which she also serves as a producer. Her role as Marie earned her a Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Actress this year.  

Zendaya launched her career as an actress on the Disney Channel starring in the hit series “Shake It Up” for three seasons and Disney’s “K.C. Undercover” for three seasons, which she also helped produce. 

Zendaya moved to the big screen in 2017, when she played the role of MJ in Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” followed by its sequel “Spider-Man: Far From Home” that premiered July 2019. She recently starred in the HBO and A24 hit series “Euphoria” for which she won the 2020 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. 

She can next be seen in Warner Bros. highly anticipated movie “Dune” which will be released in October 2021. 

Other film projects have included “The Greatest Showman” in which she played trapeze artist Anne Wheeler opposite Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman. The film was released in 2017 and instantly became a cult classic. In 2018 Zendaya played the voice of Meechee, a young yeti in the animated musical film “Smallfoot.” 

Zendaya is currently a beauty ambassador for Lancôme, as well as an ambassador for Bulgari and for Valentino. 

Critics Choice Awards are bestowed annually to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. Historically, they are the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations. 

The 26th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment. The CCA is represented by Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig. The show will continue its combined Film and Television awards format, honoring the finest in both cinematic and televised/streaming achievement. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be an in-person/virtual hybrid, with Diggs and some of the evening’s presenters filming from a stage in Los Angeles, and nominees appearing remotely from various locations around the world. 

Follow the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards on Twitter and Instagram @CriticsChoice and on Facebook/CriticsChoiceAwards. Join the conversation using #CriticsChoiceAwards. 

Digital assets and artwork can be found HERE

About the Critics Choice Association (CCA)  

The Critics Choice Association is the largest critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 400 television, radio and online critics and entertainment reporters. It was established in 2019 with the formal merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, recognizing the blurring of the distinctions between film, television, and streaming content. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com.  

About SeeHer 

Despite strides made in recent years to accurately portray women and girls in media, unconscious bias persists throughout advertising and entertainment. The average age, race, body type, and other aspects of women depicted in media today still represents only a small fraction of the female population. Led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), SeeHer is a collective of marketers, media organizations and industry influencers committed to creating advertising and supporting content that portrays women and girls as they really are. It launched in June 2016 in partnership with The Female Quotient (The FQ) in Washington DC at the United State of Women. To help marketers benchmark success, the group developed Gender Equality Measure® (GEM®), the first research methodology that quantifies gender bias in ads and programming. GEM® shows that content portraying females accurately dramatically increases both purchase intent and brand reputation. In 2017 GEM® won the prestigious ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Award. The methodology quickly became the industry standard, which led to a global rollout in 2018. In 2019, the movement expanded into new verticals: sports (SeeHer In Sports) and music (SeeHer Hear Her). Visit SeeHer.com and follow @SeeHerOfficial on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

About The CW  

THE CW TELEVISION NETWORK, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS, launched in 2006. The CW is a multiplatform network that broadcasts a six-night 12-hour primetime lineup, Sunday through Friday and streams its ad-supported content, free, without login or authentication on CWTV.com and The CW app which is available on every major OTT platform. In daytime, The CW broadcasts a Monday through Friday afternoon block, and a three-hour Saturday morning kids block. The CW’s digital network, CW Seed, launched in 2013, and offers beloved limited-run series, as well as past seasons of recent fan-favorite television shows. For more information about the network and its programming, visit www.cwtvpr.com.  

By Lynn Venhaus
The long-winded intimate relationship drama “Malcolm & Marie” explores both the public and the private side of a young power couple in Hollywood, as well as the minefield of working together or choosing not to, during one long night.

When a filmmaker (John David Washington) returns to the lush seaside home the studio has rented for him in Malibu, along with his girlfriend (Zendaya), after his successful movie premiere, they wait for the reviews. Their conversation begins to break down the events of the night as they affect their relationship, and some ugly truths are revealed. Their love is tested by forces within and the career paths they have chosen.

The tone and the temperature shift as Malcolm and Marie, rising stars John David Washington, 36, and Zendaya, 24, talk through festering resentments, bruised egos and their personal and career choices for 1 hour and 46 minutes. By mid-film, it feels like one long tedious and repetitive domestic argument, as they roam about the place, venting, defensive and tired, with pent-up passion.

How much you buy into their union will depend on whose side you’re on, and I’m on Team Marie.

The pair – who also produced – have an interesting dynamic together, but as the relationship is the definition of complicated – and frustrating, it’s hard to understand the commitment. There is plenty of navel-gazing. What happens when daylight breaks can be anyone’s guess.

Zendaya is a natural force destined for a huge career, and she is relentless here, displaying anger, pain and exasperation. Marie is not just going to be the girl on his arm, demanding that she not be ignored.

She is mad because Malcolm – self-absorbed, vain – forgot to thank her and appropriated her life story for the film. But didn’t cast her. Oh, does she have some questions. He is very reliant on her as a partner who attends to his needs and has a short lease. But does that translate to appreciating her?

John David Washington, who exploded onto the scene with “BlacKkKlansman” but was miscast in “Tenet,” has a tougher time gaining our sympathy here as he tries to explain/excuse his behavior. Their delivery is rat-a-tat-tat, so hang on, because the dialogue can leave little time for coming up for air, and at times, is exhausting.

Writer-director Sam Levinson, creator of HBO series “Euphoria,” which stars Emmy-winning Zendaya, took pen to paper during the pandemic. He is the son of Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson, so he’s been around the business his entire life. This script is very inside Hollywood – and in a good way, tackles systemic racism in showbiz. Malcolm takes issue with a certain white female critic, who actually fawned over his brilliance.

One of the drawbacks here is that Malcolm is supposed to be this hotshot phenom, but we can’t see if his work is any good – we can only take the opinions of critics (wink).

And why does he treat Marie in an unequal manner while professing his love?

Shooting in a stylish contemporary home in Carmel, Calif., in black-and-white, cinematographer Marvell Rev’s silky work is exquisite. The black-and-white aspect keeps our focus on the couple, not the accoutrements.

The self-indulgent script needed more context for the characters. I wanted characters with some gravitas. Malcolm’s character never struggled.

“Malcolm & Marie” succeeds as a showcase for two young talents but the overstuffed script is hard to get behind.

“Malcolm & Marie” is a drama directed and written by Sam Levinson, and stars John David Washington and Zendaya. Rated R for pervasive language and sexual content, the movie runs 1 hour and 46 minutes. In theaters now and on Netflix beginning Feb. 5. Lynn’s Grade is C+.

 The Critics Choice Association has announced the additional honorees and presenters that will join, virtually, the third annual Celebration of Black Cinema on Tuesday, February 2, 2021.  The ceremony will be hosted by author and media personality Bevy Smith

Following its invitation-only digital premiere, the event will be shared with the public on KTLA and offered to all Nexstar Media Group television stations.  KTLA will air the 90-minute Celebration of Black Cinema special in Los Angeles on Saturday night, February 6th.   

Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) will receive the Performance of the Year Award for his magnetic and heartbreaking portrayal of Levee, an ambitious musician struggling to earn the recognition he deserves in a world, and a recording studio, built against him.  

A special donation in Chadwick Boseman’s name will be designated to provide scholarships to students participating in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Gold Program.  The Academy Gold Program is an industry talent development, diversity and inclusion initiative to provide individuals, with a focus on underrepresented communities, access and resources to achieve their career pathways in filmmaking.   

Zendaya & John David Washington (Malcolm & Marie) will receive the NextGen Award for their work on the highly anticipated Malcolm & Marie, which was filmed safely amid the pandemic and became one of the most sought-after projects of the season.  Washington and Zendaya portray a filmmaker and his girlfriend returning home from his movie premiere and awaiting the critical response. 

Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah) will receive the Director Award for his visionary telling of the story of American civil rights leader Chairman Fred Hampton, iconic leader of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party who was ultimately killed in 1969. 

Tommie Smith (With Drawn Arms) will receive the Social Justice Award.  An iconic athlete and activist, in With Drawn Arms, Smith reflects on his iconic fist-thrust silent protest on the medal stand during the nation anthem at the 1968 Summer Olympics, a moment that helped define the civil rights movement. 

The Celebration of Black Cinema honorees will be fêted by a prestigious group of presenters who will celebrate their work and their ongoing commitment to telling Black stories on film, including Nnamdi Asomugha, Lee Daniels, Michael Ealy, Dominique Fishback, Taraji P. Henson, Daniel Kaluuya, Jonathan Majors, Kemp Powers, Aaron Sorkin, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Williams, and George C. Wolfe

As previously announced, the event will recognize Delroy Lindo (Career Achievement Award), John Legend & Mike Jackson (the Producers Award), Tessa Thompson (the Actor Award), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (the Breakthrough Award), Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli GoreeAldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom, Jr. (the Ensemble Award),and Andra Day (Special Honoree Award). 

About the Critics Choice Association (CCA) 

The Critics Choice Association is the largest critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 400 television, radio and online critics and entertainment reporters. It was established in 2019 with the formal merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, recognizing the blurring of the distinctions between film, television, and streaming content. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com