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Movie reviews: 'Dune' is one sandy sci-fi spectacle

Shot in Hungary with the desert scenes in Abu Dhabi, the story centers around Timothee Chalamet's lead character, Paul, who has disturbing visions.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Timothee Chalamet in Dune

DALLAS — DUNE    

  I have not read the sci-fi novel or seen the 1984 David Lynch film, so I come with a clear view of "Dune," if I can just wipe all the sand out of my eyes! Shot in Hungary with the desert scenes in Abu Dhabi, the story centers around Timothee Chalamet's lead character, Paul, who has disturbing visions. His dad, the Duke, (played by Oscar Isaac) take over a dangerous new planet, whose natural resource is a precious spice. But never trust the guy who hands you a planet, and beware of those giant sandworms! It's not long before the family's lives and livihood are threatened.

     "Dune" almost feels like a cousin to "Star Wars" except it takes itself so seriously. If we got another closeup shot of Chalamet's big eyes framed by his mop top, I was gonna make a popcorn run. Rebecca Ferguson continues her run of boring characters (see "Reminiscence") as his bewitched mom. Only Jason Momoa as Paul's warrior friend brings any levity. Oh, and you can add Stellan Skargaard who's barely recognizable as a 'Jabba the Hutt' looking bad guy. Isaac does his usual fine job but got a giggle from me when he talks about wishing he were a pilot. (Paging 'Poe!') We barely see the much-publicized Zendaya as a desert dweller. We'll likely see more of her next time around. But can we please soften that pulsing Hans Zimmer score?

     Canadian director Denis Villeneuve invites you to play in his sandbox. You know him from such recent gems as "Sicario" and "Arrival." Despite my complaints, this is a cinematic showpiece meant to be seen on the biggest screen you can afford. It's considered Part One, with a Part Two expected unless this one tanks. There's enough interest that "Dune" should not be doomed, but don't be surprised if you get fidgety.

     (Warner Bros. Rated PG-13. Running Time 2 hrs. 35 mins. In Theaters and Streaming on HBO Max)

RON'S GONE WRONG

      We all know, kids are fixated on the personal device du jour. In the not-so-distant future, that latest device is a B*Bot, your very own high-tech digital companion. That's home base for the animated "Ron's Gone Wrong." B*bots organize your life, walk with you to school, and you rack 'em up like books in a locker. Everyone has a B*bot bestie except for Barney. So, when his birthday comes around, he's sure his dad, a gadget salesperson, will gift him with one. Sensing his disappointment when he gets a rock-collecting kit instead, his dad and live-in Grandma go to the local Apple-looking store, where they bargain with a delivery man for the last bot that fell off the truck. It's 'Ron' - a damaged blank slate who's eager to please. He also possesses the high-tech version of no filter, as he helps Barney fend off bullies and learn from scratch what friendship really is. When things get a little out of hand, a Tim Cook-looking evil B*bot boss tries to reset the course. You know who's gonna win this one. And, of course, we get the message that individuality is a quality worth celebrating, and relying on social media can be a trap.

     Zach Galifianakis voices Ron with all the fun you'd expect, but the blue ribbon for voice work goes to Oscar winner Olivia Colman as the Grandma. She's a hoot!

     (20th Century Studios/Disney. Rated PG. Running Time 1 hr. 46 mins. In Theaters Only.)

THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN

         You've heard of 'cat ladies.' Well, Benedict Cumberbatch is a bona fide cat man in his new movie, "The Electrical Life of Louis Wain."  It's the true story of an eccentric British illustrator famous for his Victorian Era cat drawings. If you don't recognize the subject's name, you know those drawings. Wain is single and living with his unmarried sisters when he falls for the family's governess played by "The Crown's" Claire Foy. Their chemistry is the best thing in the film. He refers to it as 'electricity,' thus the title. She doesn't hang around nearly long enough, though, and his idiosyncrasies turn into real mental issues. This movie is charming, and there won't be a dry eye in the house when it ends. Cumberbatch continues to show his terrific range, and it's Olivia Colman week. She narrates! Beyond Wain's iconic drawings, he's actually credited with making cats popular as house pets instead of just mice catchers. And that's the cat's meow.

        (Amazon Studios. Rated PG-13. Running Time 1 hr. 51 mins. In Theaters Only.)