The Screen Critic: A sci-fi spectacle, a brilliant Leonard Bernstein biopic and a hilarious take on a legendary gentleman thief

Mar 01, 2024
Source: Timothée Chalamet in Dune: Part Two (Warner Bros); Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro (Netflix); Noel Fielding in The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin (AppleTV+).

It’s so rare for a movie sequel to outmatch its predecessor, yet Dune: Part Two manages to be bigger, more engaging, and even more spectacular than Dune, which came out in 2021 and set staggering new standards in how realistic sci-fi epics can look and feel.

Again directed by Denis Villeneuve – who loves sprawling wide shots as much as he does intimate close-ups – the film continues the saga of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his battle to defend the planet Arrakis from the nasty Harkonnen dynasty, which harvests the planet’s sands for its valuable spice.

The sheer scale of the film is awesome to behold, its brilliant cinematography creates the impression that the filmmakers actually flew to another planet to shoot it.

Yet while there are many sweeping sequences – you’ll love the use of landscape and the ginormous sandworms that inhabit the terrain – the film focuses on the ascent of Paul Atreides, whose rise among the local Fremen fighters appears to be fulfilling an ancient prophecy.

The makers have struck a very satisfying balance here between serious drama and jaw-dropping scope, with the film’s final reel proving especially compelling.

Best seen on the biggest screen you can find, Dune 2 is an enthralling experience – and don’t be intimidated by the 167-minute running time. Just be sure to visit the restroom beforehand because you won’t want to miss any of it.

Very quickly, here are two new release titles you’ll be better off avoiding. Baghead is a very low-grade, low-budget horror film from Britain about a teenage girl who inherits an old pub only to discover a being from the netherworld living in the basement. Not even the easily spooked will get much joy from the style-free goings on here.

Sounding like a throwback to the exploitation films of the 1970s, Drive-Away Dolls is a drab caper comedy about two young women who steal a car that – surprise surprise – has troublesome cargo in the boot. It stars the usually terrific Margaret Qualley (Maid) and is directed by Ethan Coen (going solo from brother Joel) but don’t be sucked in. The film’s a largely laughless turkey.

A very strong contender at the upcoming Oscars is Maestro, a superb biopic directed by and starring Bradley Cooper, who does a splendid job portraying the artistically obsessed legendary composer Leonard Berstein. With an equally magnetic performance from Carey Mulligan as his very tolerant wife Felicia, the film bursts with old-school style and new-school cinematography as we are taken on a dizzying journey through Bernstein’s artistic life and romantic passions.

About half the film runs like an old black-and-white Hollywood film, mimicking the look of classic romances before bursting into full colour and, eventually, into widescreen. Cooper’s stylistic flourishes are refreshing and include some marvellous camera moves.

As Bernstein, Cooper is all but unrecognisable. With the help of some special nose-enhancing makeup his portrayal is rich with nuance that shows Bernstein’s remarkable energy for music and deep love for Felicia who, despite his indiscretions, he cherished above all else.

As far as biopics go, you can chalk Maestro up as one of the best yet. Its Oscar nominations include best film, actor, actress, cinematography, sound, original screenplay, and makeup. Check this beautiful-looking doozy out on Netflix.

Now, if you’re in need of some big laughs a major comedy treat awaits over on AppleTV+ with the wonderfully loopy, very funny six-part British comedy series The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin.

Fans of The Mighty Boosh who took a shine to Noel Fielding and his glam character Vince Noir will delight at his presence here, essentially playing the same guy, only as a fictionalised version of the legendary gentleman thief Dick Turpin, a highwayman who did the “stand and deliver” routine across the south of England in the early 1700s.

Full of visual wit and contemporised gags, Fielding’s Turpin is a loveable rogue, a hippie-type, New Age goth who is into knitting, sewing, fashion, group hugs, and peace. That he and his eccentric gang rob the rich is almost incidental.

With corrupt official Jonathan Wild (a very mirthful Hugh Bonneville) and his annoying son in pursuit, Turpin deals with competing gangs, witches, treachery, pacifism, and crime boss Lady Helen Gwinear (Tamsin Greig), all with a signature smile and a congenial, winning personality.

Thankfully, the alt-comedy humour holds up nicely throughout all six episodes, with Fielding’s laid-back persona the warm centre of a delightful, laugh-laden romp.

Running a mere three hours, the show is a prime candidate for a relaxing binge on a lazy afternoon. You’ll love it.

For more visit and @jimschembri on X for updates.

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