Denis Villeneuve's Grand and Gorgeous Epic is as Insightful about Sincerity and Strategy as it is Engaging on the Broad Levels of a Big-Budget Studio Blockbuster.


Matthew Vaughn has Officially become a Director of Diminishing Returns with this Overstuffed and Laughably Corny Slog of a Spy Caper.


This Trip back to North Shore High Justifies itself by still being Sharp in its Observations of Vacuousness.


Writer/Director Cord Jefferson’s Feature Debut Splits the Difference Between Searing Satire and Emotional Family Drama Coming out a Winner in Both Respects.


Emma Stone is Daring and Mark Ruffalo is Hilarious in this Surreal Fever Dream of Philosophy and Attempting to Understand our Nature through Unorthodox Methods.


We tend to like our space operas with well-defined heroes and villains. Whether it be Star Wars or the latest incarnation of Power Rangers, the line between nobility and corruption is made clear whether it be through direct action or the color scheme of the costumes. Hell, even in something as sophisticated as Denis Villeneuve's two Dune adaptations the heroes are largely surrounded by pure, white sands while the villains literally dip themselves in black goop (neither this review nor the Dune movies are sponsored by Gwyneth Paltrow -- as far as I know). What is immediately striking about Dune: Part Two is how it continuously questions its own mythology. While the whole of Dune is essentially a story of heroes and villains in a race for ultimate power and control through the ultimate commodity, what it is actually about (the films, anyway) are the power, control, influence, and questions the presence of a messiah manifest. In Villeneuve's first Dune film Timothée Chalamet's Paul Atreides was a boy born into a destiny beyond his understanding. What makes Part Two the more complex, interesting, and arguably more epic of the two films is both Paul's understanding of and ultimate embrace of this destiny that has been prescribed to him his entire life. 

In the first film, Paul's father (Oscar Isaac) tells him, "A great man doesn't seek to lead; he is called to it." In Part Two, we see that calling play out as Paul is guided in his decisions - through both dream-like visions as well as his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) parlaying a prophecy into as much of a reality as she can - to the point there is hesitation in Paul's actions, a sincerity as Zendaya's Chani sees it, that makes him question whether seeing this prophecy through or putting a stop to it altogether is the better decision for the universe as a whole. There is of course, much more going on around Paul, the Fremen people, and the planet of Arrakis on which they reside that factor into Paul's deliberations, but for as much time as Dune: Part One spent on building the mythology of Frank Herbert's universe it only seemed natural that Part Two might then define what makes this mythology, these characters, and these worlds worth investing in. Rather, Villeneuve and screenwriter Jon Spaihts (Prometheus) spend much of the runtime of this continuation within the ethical questions Paul seeks to (re)solve - questions that could also be applied to the religion and politics of this universe that naturally mirror our own. The result being that by investigating these questions and conflicts the characterizations and significance of what could easily be perceived as pure nonsense do, in fact, become meaningful as if the attention and care paid to the depth allows for the breadth to sustain itself.


I could watch two Channing Tatum movies in The Vow and The Lost City and get this same movie while having a more rewarding viewing experience and I would absolutely rather watch two consecutive Channing Tatum movies than ever experience Argylle again. 

That is to say, unfortunately Matthew Vaughn has officially become a director of diminishing returns. Out of the gate, Vaughn only continued to improve with each of his first five features. In his first (seemingly) original film since 2014 after making three films in the same universe and launching a third franchise with Argylle clearly intended to be a fourth (even though that definitely won't happen), it would seem Vaughn has finally hit a career low. While this would seem to indicate he can only go up from here, this winking hodgepodge of a meta-comedy, action caper lets us know early on what we're in for when it becomes clear just how little Vaughn is invested in the construction of the film by the placement of the title card. Why would you not at least save it until after the worst looking high speed car chase in history? 

Written by Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) and including such classic dialogue as, “You and I, we’re not so different…” it is important to stay aware of the film's intent as Argylle unravels (pun fully intended). The point being, there is no intention or ideas outside of being "big" entertainment. Not even pure entertainment because if that were the case this would have been half an hour shorter, but in keeping with the "big" part of being entertaining this is nearly two and a half hours and absolutely doesn't need to be. Had they streamlined some of this overly convoluted nonsense it might have actually resonated simply as entertaining and fun, but it instead becomes a laughable (as in definitely laughing at and now with) slog. Even worse, a lot of the admittedly inventive action set pieces would be really clever and genuinely funny if they didn’t look like complete shit. I just can't understand how Vaughn's modern action sequences are so much uglier than the outright classics he was concocting ten and fifteen years ago?