Fan Edit Review: Paradise


Original Films Directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus Written by Jon Spaights and Damon Lindelof, Alien: Covenant Written by John Logan and Dante Larper
Fan Edit by JobWillins
Category: FanMix

JobWillins’ Derelict was quite the experience, combining two Ridley Scott films separated by over three decades into a coherent and suspenseful single storyline. After Alien: Covenant was released, I suddenly had a spark of inspiration; why couldn’t Prometheus and Covenant be combined in a similar way? After all, both films feature a central character in David, the murderous, disturbingly creative android, so why not give it a go myself? Well, little did I know that JobWillins was already on it, and let’s face it, he was always going to do a better job than I would.

As it turns out, JobWillins had conceived of the Paradise idea long ago. From his Tumblr:

“When I edited Derelict a couple of years ago, combining Prometheus & Alien in black & white, it was mainly because I found Prometheus unsatisfying as a standalone film.  Its ending promised (and begged for) a sequel, but that sequel kept falling behind other Ridley Scott productions.  With a sequel in doubt, I tried to use material from both films to make a single experience that felt more like a satisfying whole.
“We eventually did get a sequel 5 years later in Alien: Covenant.  Half of it felt like a Prometheus sequel and the other half an Alien prequel.  In my opinion it didn’t fully succeed in either role.  I enjoyed parts of Covenant very much as I did Prometheus, but also much like Prometheus, it ended on an intriguing promise of a sequel.  That sequel may never come thanks to its relatively poor box office performance.”

And so, here we are with another expansive, 2.5 hour sci-fi epic!


Opening in the all-too-familiar black-and-white style of Derelict with the ominous Peter Weyland TED Talk, Paradise shifts into full color with the excellent prologue of Covenant, David’s first day of life in the company of his father. However, the prologue stops short, giving us the new title as the Prometheus flies through space. Throughout the film, this prologue will return periodically, as if to punctuate the themes of creation and godhood with increased clarity as the narrative bounces between time frames.


While the transitions aren’t quite as good or numerous as those witnessed in Derelict, JobWillins covers this with a restrained hand, ensuring to keep both films at least thematically-synced. Probably the best example of this would be Covenant‘s backburster scene, intercut with Holloway’s agonizing death in Prometheus. As Ted Kurzel’s brilliant score pulsates away, the horror of both Shaw and Oram seeing their spouses’ deaths is compounded nicely. A lot has been cut from both films, including some of my favorite bits, like Milburn and Fifield’s run-in with the Millipede and various snippets of the Covenant crew’s first trek across Planet 4, but again, this is all in the name of ensuring the finished project isn’t so long that viewers check out for other offerings.


As before in Derelict, several deleted scenes from both films are used, as well as some of the online viral content from Alien: Covenant. Major props to JobWillins for his beautiful rendition of the ‘Crossing’ prologue. As for changes wholly his own, some may or may not like his musical choices for the beginning and end of the Covenant storyline, but I for one enjoyed them.

For this review, I watched his full-quality offering of the edit from Google Drive, which at a file size of 9.62 GBs, is plenty enough for home theater viewing. The video bitrate is a little lower than Derelict‘s at 8 mbps, but this allows for the inclusion of both stereo and surround audio tracks, and I honestly didn’t see any video quality loss, at least on my 1080p equipment.


While Derelict seemed to emphasize the mystery and intrigue of the films it sought to combine, Paradise is an edit more preoccupied with the grander themes at work within Ridley Scott’s mind: themes of creating life from nothing, of going against the natural order, themes more reminiscent of Shelley than Lovecraft, which is something I picked up from Covenant that I’m sure most viewers either didn’t see or didn’t appreciate. JobWillins certainly did, and that’s just one of many reasons why I love Paradise. I’m still thinking of doing my own Prometheus/Covenant fanmix, but not because Paradise was inadequate. On the contrary, if I never got around to it, I wouldn’t feel that bad. I still have this gem to come back to.


Maestro’s Picks – August 25, 2017

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for Maestro’s Picks!

Because this is the glorious(?) return of my first on-going series, I’ve decided to go with two picks this time around. Also, because I just couldn’t pick one of them. This time, both are from the illustrious and bottomless world of Tumblr!

First, as you may or may not know, I am working on my first full-length fan edit, and a major factor in this finally happening is the excellent editor Red Menace, of RedMenaceOfficial on Tumblr. Specializing in HD reconstructions, Red Menace has delivered the kaiju goods on multiple occasions, bringing back to life such lost American versions of Godzilla films as Godzilla 1985, Destroy All Monsters, and Monster Zero, in addition to a fan edit series of Neon Genesis Evangelion. He is currently working on several projects including a hotly-anticipated Godzilla vs. The Thing reconstruction, and of course, makes tons of shitposts. Check him out!

Second is the interesting newcomer Alien Covenant: A Gothic Fiction in Space. My recent rewatch of Covenant has convinced me of its merits as a great science fiction and horror story, and this Tumblr came along at the right time to help form words to my exploding thoughts regarding Ridley Scott’s newest piece. Prerusing the table of contents post reveals an expansive attention to the details of Covenant, analyzing everything from character motivations to specific, indelible images that link Scott’s film with the greatest gothic fiction of the past, including, yes, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Give this one a serious read, even if you weren’t a fan of Covenant. You just might change your mind.

And now, here comes the second half of Maestro’s Picks: where I share one video and one image which I found myself drawn to this week: Presenting:

The new poster for Blade Runner 2049, opening October 17 of this year and starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and Jared Leto:

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Medley Weaver‘s mashup trailer for Godzilla (1954), featuring the music and editing of the 2014 film’s famous trailer:

Well, that’s all for today! Stay true, believers!

A Taste of Tumblr and The Subversive Genius of Alien: Covenant

Last night, I threw in my Alien: Covenant blu-ray for my first viewing of Ridley Scott’s divisive return to the universe of the Xenomorph since May. Before, I knew I could see merit and even inspiration in Covenant, but I was still a bit on the fence. And then the blu-ray kicked back into the menu, I took to my Tumblr account to spill the excited beans. This was supposed to stay exclusive, but I felt it was too good to let my blog readers go without, so enjoy:


For more of the same, follow @damoviemaestro on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram!

REVIEW: Alien: Covenant (2017)


Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by John Logan and Dante Harper, Story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green, Based on Characters Created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett
Starring Michael Fassbender, Katharine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz

Prometheus may indeed be the unrecognized classic that I believe it to be, but there is no denying that it’s shortfalls have influenced the future of the Alien series just as much as its original concept. While Alien: Covenant is a step back into the creature horror that made the franchise, well, a franchise, it seeks to meld this approach with a continuation for Prometheus‘ higher speculations on life and creation through the last remaining character of that film. It’s an effort not unlike that of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, however whether it is doomed to fail still has to be seen.

The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, suffers a near-catastrophic setback that leaves their options limited. At this critical juncture, the crew discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, a habitable world seemingly missed by all surveys of the area. Entering orbit, a scouting team descends to the surface, where an unusual mystery begins to unravel. Somebody has been there. And something else awaits them.

If there was a prevailing theme from my viewing of Covenant, it was that of mild confusion. I saw it after the opening weekend, so while I had not actually read any professional reviews in depth or absorbed spoilers, I was able to discern a large swath of general opinions on the film. In truth, I’m hard-pressed to remember a film that was more divisive than this one. And while confusion usually denotes disappointment with a film, in this case, it’s much more positive. Complicated, but positive.

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Covenant‘s opening is much more reminiscent of Scott’s Blade Runner than any other entry in the Alien series, beginning with an extreme close-up shot of an eye. David’s eye, in fact, during the first day of his existence, in the company of his creator, Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce). After a philosophically-weighty conversation brought on by David’s rendition of a Wagner piece, David asks a pointed question that not only harkens back to events in Prometheus, but becomes a focal point of this story: “You created me. Who created you?”

Flashing forward, the colony ship Covenant encounters a solar flare that damages the ship and rocks its crew awake from hypersleep. After unceremoniously killing off the Captain (in a hilariously short cameo by James Franco), the film settles into a stretch of character building. Katharine Waterston plays this film’s Ripley-counterpart, Daniels, with a believable hyper-attentiveness and concern for the crew, as the dead Captain was her husband. She is surrounded by a core of likeable people, chief among them being Danny McBride’s Tennessee and Amy Seimetz’s Faris, a rough-around-the-edges couple with Earthy roots and healthy senses of humor. Billy Crudup is Oram, the Covenant’s new Captain and presumably a man of faith, however more so a man punctuated by deep insecurities.

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During repairs, the Covenant receives a mysterious transmission from a previously-undiscovered planet, and from here, the characters freeze in mid-evolution from this point on in favor of sheer mystery. The high-tech interiors of the Covenant, which seem even more related to the Nostromo than the Prometheus, give way to a world known by the filmmakers as Paradise, lush with vegetation and spectacular views but devoid of any animal life. It is here that Covenant achieves its finest and most subtle melding of Alien and Prometheus; a foreboding and eerie environment, cloaked in earthen beauty and wonder.

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Once the eponymous Aliens show up, the film kickstarts into a more familiar gear, even if the new creatures themselves aren’t quite so familiar. The new birthing scenes are horrendously bloody and gruesome, and in my mind reach the same level of shock as the original chestbursting scene from 1979. The new beasts themselves are also incredibly ferocious, clawing through bodies like hot butter. The frenetic pace and incredible amount of bloodletting in these alien scenes does a swell job of distracting from the shaky CGI and often-times idiotic decisions by their victims.

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And I’m absolutely sure that this is how the rest of the film would have played out, were it not for the impeccable talents of Michael Fassbender. Playing dual roles as David and the Covenant’s more advanced yet emotionally-lacking synthetic Walter, Fassbender gets to eat up the screentime with breathtaking examples of acting prowess. Walter is stunted intellectually yet immensely likeable in the bond he forms with Daniels, quite the opposite persona to David. The curious android has changed much since Prometheus, having found a purpose for himself in the guise of artistic and biological creation. He’s become his father, filled with delusions of greatness coupled with the intense desire to make something that improves upon him. His quest for perfection even extends to his scenes with Walter as they spew weighty dialogue in masterful long-takes by Scott (as if he were composing the cinematic form of baroque), with two in particular taking me by surprise with an undercurrent of homo-eroticism between the two supposedly sexless automatons.

David’s evolution into a more villainous character is quite the welcome shift, and almost merits Covenant dropping ‘Alien’ from the title. Yes, the classic Xenomorph does show up for the climax, but he’s only there to please the crowd. David is the true man of the hour. He eschews classic Shelley poetry and commits horrendous acts of sexual violence and Frankenstein-ian meddling in creation that dangerously borders camp but pulls through quite nicely, echoing the pulpy roots of the Alien series. While Covenant may begin and end much like Alien did, its meaty middle is stuffed to the brim with the same bold ambition that Prometheus had, this time not swirling around ancient aliens and questions of the afterlife, but compacted into the metaphorical monster David has become. “Serve in Heaven, or reign in Hell,” he asks Walter. It’s clear which choice he has made.

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Alien: Covenant is an interesting film, one that I feel is both a compromise and a gamble. Ridley Scott has long felt an unneeded urge to overexplain the mystery behind his original film, and while this one seems to answer the big enigma of the nature and origin of the Alien itself (I don’t believe it does, however, as my fan theory can still hold up), Scott also reigns himself in, listening to his better artistic muses while saving enough time to deliver the guts and gore that he admits moviegoers wanted out of him. And in creating a series villain that dwarfs even the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Scott may have landed his extraterrestrial baby into biblical waters of existential terror that were more hinted at in his previous effort. I had no idea what to expect going into Covenant, and I didn’t walk out of the film cheering; rather, I was pondering what a subversive work of genius Covenant might actually be. It may definitely be rooted in horror conventions, but Scott is obviously unconcerned with that. Time will tell, but for now, I’m slowly realizing that I have what I wanted from this film.

Something new to think about. Thanks for the brain-grain, Ridley.

Fan Edit Review: Derelict


Original Films Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Prometheus written by Jon Spaights and Damon Lindelof
Fan Edit by JobWillins
Category: FanMix

Not all fan edits exist to simply extend a film or fix some perceived problem with its story or pacing. Sometimes, an editor wants to make a work of art. An interesting mix of elements from different films can be combined to create an incredibly unique experience, and that is just what JobWillins has done here with Derelict, a combination of Prometheus and Alien.

Obviously, it isn’t as easy as sticking both films together at the ends and calling it a day. JobWillins’ vision calls for a marrying of both films’ stories, shifting back and forth between each film. This creates a unique dual narrative structure that increases the mystery element in each film and heightens the dread surrounding each cast of characters.

Roughly 30 or so minutes of Prometheus has been cut and replaced with an hour of Alien, staggered at varying intervals according to how well each scene fits. Beginning with David aboard the Prometheus, Derelict aims for maximum ambiguity: without the beginning of time opening or the Isle of Skye scene, the voyage and David’s role in it become a mystery, one that only heightens when the ship reaches its destination, only for the film to jump 30 years later to the Nostromo.


The unknown elements of Alien gain even more of a sinister edge with this approach. The repeated beacon that calls the Nostromo is now implied to have something to do with the Prometheus mission. The derelict vessel becomes an even bigger enigma once the Juggernaut is revealed. David and Ash become even more intrinsically linked. All of these new revelations aren’t specifically stated by the edit, just implied by the new ordering.


The best bits of this edit are in how the films transition into each other. The touchdown of the Prometheus cuts directly to the Nostromo’s rocky landing from inside the cockpit. Shaw, Holloway, and David’s escape from the storm cuts directly to Dallas and Lambert with Kane at the Nostromo airlock. An excellent montage of Weyland’s group entering the Engineer pyramid plays over Ash’s speech on the perfection of the Alien. And don’t get me started on how tense the new, combined climax is. With each cut of three decades, this edit’s legitimacy as’s Fan Edit of the Month gets more and more solidified.

As mentioned before, large swaths of both films have been cut. Dropped is most of Prometheus‘ first act, sadly losing some of the better character moments between Shaw, Holloway, and Vickers (poor Vickers suffers the most from the cutting). Gone too is some of Alien‘s better bits of banter between Brett and Parker and some of the third act scares, but it’s all in the name of creating a pacing that fits in both stories effectively without turning the project into a 4-hour monstrosity. Two deleted scenes from Prometheus are also used.


Video and sound are presented at the internet standard of 15 mbps, at 720p resolution with a 2-channel soundtrack. Presented in high contrast black-and-white to cover the obvious differences between the films’ visual styles, Derelict does a great job at emphasizing Ridley Scott’s use of light and shadow. Sound is dynamic enough for a stereo mix and quite adequate.

Derelict is an example of the talent that exists outside the Hollywood system. Taking two films separated by 32 years and combining them into a single, flowing story is not an easy feat, let alone making it a unique and entertaining venture when both films have been pored over to death. JobWillins makes the project look easy-peasy. Highly recommended.


Derelict has been taken from Vimeo’s public listings, however, it still exists as an unlisted video. If you have a Tumblr account, hop on and follow @JobWillins. On his blog there he has the video link posted along with the password required to watch. Enjoy!

REVIEW: Prometheus (2012)


Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jon Spaights and Damon Lindelof, Based on Elements Created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pierce, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall

Prometheus had been my favorite film of 2012 for a long time, and while I may have rethought my position on that moniker, it still remains high in my ranking of science fiction cinema, despite whatever mixed reputation it may have. While it remains an easy target for naysayers, Prometheus was a bold and fresh journey into an underexplored facet of the Alien universe, and while we may be turning back toward creature horror with Alien: Covenant, the effects of it’s unconventional premise are still being felt.

A group of explorers, including archaeologists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), are on an “undisclosed” mission whose destination is a moon trillions of miles away from Earth. There, they find the remains of an ancient alien civilization which may be the forerunners of the human race. But some of the explorers have an ulterior motive for being there, including Weyland Corporation representative Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the android David (Michael Fassbender).

Opening on a primordial world, presumably Earth, Prometheus wastes no time in displaying the talents of Scott’s now go-to visual team of photographer Dariusz Wolski and editor Pietro Scalia. Together, they weave us through spellbinding sights of this ancient paradise, bolstered by Marc Streitenfeld’s romantic score, painting a picture of the wonder of a cosmic beginning. Stepping into this landscape is a lone humanoid figure, pale white and naked, who drinks an unknown liquid that dissolves his body into a nearby waterfall, where his DNA recombines, revealing the overture of the picture to be the start of life as we know it.


If Alien was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by way of 2001, then Prometheus is 2001 by way of Alien. The first hint of this influence is the cut from the primordial Earth to the 2090s, far eclipsing the millennia-jumping cut of Kubrick’s film in terms of history. A brief scene in Scotland establishes the main scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charles Holloway (Marshall-Green), and their mission, to find the alien source of ancient human pictograms, and then we are in space and on our way to the main narrative.

Here we get a more clean meld of 2001 and Alien, as the android David goes about his day, alone while the crew is in hypersleep, aboard the exploratory vessel Prometheus. It’s sleek lines and heavily-digital control surfaces evoke 2001, but underneath, there is a heavy current of the Nostromo to the design, inherent in the meticulous attention to detail and the familiar motifs of motion-activated lighting and European influence to its interior design. In short, one can tell that these ships definitely belong to the same universe, separated only by their purposes and the money spent in building them.




David, however, is a far cry from his future counterparts Ash and Bishop. He is naturally curious and full of inquisitive insight. He even finds a role model in his solace; Lawrence of Arabia, as played by the great Peter O’Toole. David sees them both as equals, out of place among their peers yet superior, and deserving of praise. It is a role Michael Fassbender was born to play, injecting him with a starry-eyed happiness that later gives way to a sinister lack of empathy for his masters as the picture goes on.

Dear God, I would kill to have that as my home theater….

While David steals the picture, Holloway and Shaw are an impressive couple in their own right. Holloway, a militant atheist, and Shaw, a devout Christian, display an impressive bit of character writing, as both have come to the same belief that extraterrestrials created us. Rounding out the main cast are Charlize Theron as Vickers, a no-nonsense, mean-spirited Weyland Corp. representative, and Idris Elba as Janek, the Prometheus’s working man captain, obviously cut from the same cloth as the Venture’s sensible skipper from King Kong.

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At their destination, the moon LV-223, the film ventures into Alien territory, taking the explorers into an ancient underground installation which appears straight out of H.R. Giger’s original concept work on that 1979 film. These Engineers are definitely familiar creatures, and every bit of the environment pays beautiful homage to Giger’s art.


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While Prometheus begins to morph into a horror film at this point, it is most certainly a thinking-man’s horror film. Instances of creature horror and jump scares are present, but play second-fiddle to an existential horror that evokes H.P. Lovecraft: the Gods are angry, and they will kill us all. The sense of wonder and cosmic purpose pervading the first half of the film subtly shifts to this fear of the known, rather than the unknown, as the crew slowly figures out that the base our forefathers guided us to may not have a benevolent purpose. Even if the Engineers aren’t evil, David once again swipes the spotlight to posit to Holloway, after the drunk scientist claims humans made the android because we could, “How disappointing would it be to hear the same thing from your Maker?”

But this isn’t even the most ambitious part of Lindelof’s and Spaight’s screenplay. The film’s boldest aspect isn’t that it raises these questions, it’s that it doesn’t answer them. This has been one of the chief knocks against the film, but Prometheus isn’t Aliens. Just as we will never truly be sure of our own answers, neither will Shaw or David. Prometheus is a film that is meant to be talked about, discussed, and theorized over.

A Prometheus hater watching Prometheus.

That being said, even I have to recognize the shortcomings, mostly inherent in the supporting character writing. While I defend the characters of Millburn and Fifield as the comic relief-archetype, I will admit they are not written to the same standard as, say, Brett and Parker where in the first film. And yes, Vickers’ end was incredibly dumb.

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Whether or not one likes Prometheus, everyone had better start getting used to it, as Alien: Covenant, from early reviews, aims to continue its themes of human origins and the power of creation. It is well acted, superbly written (for the most part), and a nice experience for the senses. I suggest that if you are on the fence about it, now is the best time to give it another try.

Casting Calls: Denis Villeneuve’s Dune

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Hollywood’s long-gestating remake of Dune has been stuck in Development Hell for what seems like forever, but now with director Denis Villeneuve in charge of the project, it seems like it might finally get made. The definite cinematic version of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi epic could actually be in our near future.

But who will bring his characters to life on the screen? At this point, there still is no screenplay, so casting is a far off proposition. But let’s say the project gets that far. Here are my choices for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.


PAUL ATREIDES: Asa Butterfield

I tried with all my might to find an actor at about 16-17 for Paul Atreides, as I feel the biggest stumbling block to the believability of Kyle MachLaclan and Alec Newman in the role were the fact that both were too old. That said, you can’t just throw any teen actor in there, as Paul is at once young, idealistic, strategic, and full of self-doubt. And a literal Messiah. Out of all the young actors out there, I feel Asa Butterfield of Hugo and Ender’s Game can most easily portray all of these qualities. And his eyes are already piercing. Imagine him with blue Spice eyes.

DUKE LETO ATREIDES: Michael Fassbender

In the novel, heroic and noble Duke Leto is said to have “hawkish” features, cutting a valiant figure. Michael Fassbender, hot off success in Prometheus and X-Men, could easily fit the bill, especially when one sees what he did with Macbeth. He could bring an air of opportunistic thought to Leto, a man who is deep down a good soul, but has been hardened by a lifetime of political maneuvering.

LADY JESSICA: Vera Farmiga

Physical looks are another factor in Lady Jessica’s casting, as she is said to have a distinctive round face and piercing eyes of her own. Voila, enter Vera Farmiga, an actress at just the right age to come across as in her thirties, but with a wisdom and cunning far exceeding that.


To be honest, I almost went with the alternate choice on this one, but D’Onofrio’s turn as Wilson Fisk in Daredevil won me over, as that is exactly how the Baron should be portrayed: intelligent, ambitious, and utterly ruthless. All he would need to do is bring the relish of theatricality that D’Onofrio has already been proven to have and you’ve got yourself a Baron to surpass Ian McNiece.

FEYD-RAUTHA: Cameron Monaghan

Feyd was a character that eluded me for awhile, both in casting and true understanding. Most portrayals cast him as a rich playboy of the Harkonnen family, only valuable for his genetic material. So why not build upon that by displaying a slightly unhinged portion of his personality that rebels against this nihilistic fate? Cameron Monaghan, best known as the proto-Joker known as Jerome on Gotham, would kill in this role. Literally.
ALTERNATE CHOICE: Domhnall Gleeson


Again, here’s one that I almost chose the alternate, but there’s something about the smaller name of Damian Lewis that wins me over. He has experience in roles both villainous and militaristic, and he fits the physical description of a man appearing in his early forties with red hair. He’ll do just nicely.
ALTERNATE CHOICE: Benedict Cumberbatch


Irulan is regal, beautiful, and stunningly smart. Who could ever play her? Uh, duh, Emma Watson! Who else? Do I need to explain myself on this one?


For the longest time, I wanted Rutger Hauer in the role of Leto’s prized Mentat. But then The Last Jedi‘s trailer dropped, and I heard the first inklings of a darker, sadder Luke Skywalker, and it clicked. Mark Hamill will have his first post-Star Wars sci-fi role that isn’t glossed over and forgotten. Seriously, look at him! He’s got this. This is stunt casting that works. If not him, bring Patrick Stewart back to Dune, but as a different character. You gotta drum up geek news somehow!


While I loved Patrick Stewart’s turn as Gurney Halleck in David Lynch’s version, I admit that he only nailed the more poetic side of his character; he was simply too pretty to be the portly, rough troubador of the book. Ray Winstone, however, can combine both aspects effortlessly, as noted in films like Beowulf and Noah.


I cannot recall a physical description of the traitor Yueh in the book past his Imperial Suk tattoo, but it seems all the rage right now among fan casters to interpret him as Asian, given his last name. I thought, why not? Ken Watanabe is the best Japanese actor in Hollywood right now, and is more than capable of conveying the sadness and torment of Yueh.

CHANI: Auli’i Cravalho

First: I fully believe that to do the Fremen justice, they must truly be a desert people, meaning Arabic actors. Their entire culture is based around those peoples, and it only makes sense that desert nomads wouldn’t be sparkling white in the heat of two suns. That being said, right off the bat, I’m sort of breaking that rule twice with Chani and Stilgar. In Chani’s case, I cannot think of any Arabic actresses in the 17-20 age range that I feel can do the job. Cravalho, however, hot off success as Disney’s Moana, is already an incredible voice actor. If she’s as good live-action as I believe she is, then Chani, the female Fremen warrior and romantic interest of Paul, is in good hands.

STILGAR: Oscar Isaac

I know, again, a Fremen not being played by an Arabic actor, but I have one movie for you to look at: Ex Machina. He’s intellectual, intimidating, not without his own sense of menace within the picture. It doesn’t hurt that he sports a full beard in that film, which is how I’ve always pictured Stilgar.
ALTERNATE CHOICE: Alexander Siddig

DUNCAN IDAHO: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Duncan Idaho is another character a lot of people are race-changing to diversify the cast in fan posts, and I for one don’t see the problem here. Idaho is said to be quite the looker, yet a fierce warrior with a voice of brilliance. Chiwetel Ejiofor of Serenity and Doctor Strange could run with this role. If not him, then David Tennant of Doctor Who is just as good.

DR. KYNES: Shaun Toub
And now we have some Arabic actors as Fremen: Shaun Toub of Iron Man looks suitably bookish but capably tough as a hypothetical Dr. Kynes, and considering that he held his own with Robert Downey Jr. on the same film doesn’t hurt either.


Unlike his brother Feyd, who is able to contain his psychopathic tendencies behind a veneer of nobility, Rabban earns his nickname as the Beast by being an insufferable and murderous bastard, not very bright or tactical in any way. Aaron Paul, with his rough voice and reputation as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad is perfect as the Harkonnen’s jack-booted thug of a royal figure.


This one was a battle between the two heavyweight child actresses of the present day, as either one already has the sci-fi credentials to portray Paul’s abomination of a sister and young oracle of the Fremen. But I have to say, after seeing Logan, I really want Dafne Keen in the role. She can play fierce and violent as easily as she can display maturity, which is exactly what the role of Alia needs.
ALTERNATE CHOICE: Millie Bobbie Brown

PITER DE VRIES: Cillian Murphy

The Baron’s twisted Mentat assassin was described in the book as a Spice addict, possessing the Fremen’s blue eyes and a murderous streak tempered by a snakelike pantomime of the typical “powerful advisor.” Cillian Murphy, long favored by director Christopher Nolan for his striking blue eyes, has played this kind of role many times in the Dark Knight trilogy and Red Eye, to name a few, so why not go with him here as well?


A character that was left out of Lynch’s film, Fenring is an interesting case, the most trusted advisor of the Emperor and a chief architect of his plot to eliminate Duke Leto. This requires an actor who can make the most of little screen time, and Michael Sheen can definitely accomplish that in spades.


Described as the typical witch-like crone in the book, Reverend Mother Mohiam is the chief matriarch of the Bene Gesserit, perhaps among the most powerful forces in the Imperium. Helen Mirren, herself practical Hollywood royalty, is no crone, but can be made up to fit the bill, and would certainly be an intimidating force on screen.

SHADOUT MAPES: Shohreh Aghdashloo

I love Shohreh Aghdashloo. From her starring role in The Expanse to all of the other supporting bits in many films, she has been presented as a confident and elegant woman, able to hold her own against anyone in her way. This perfectly fits Shadout Mapes, the palace keeper and the secret savior of Paul and Jessica, a tough Fremen woman in her own right.

Any other roles I did not cast here as they are simply too small to extend too much thought to them. Just get actors who won’t take a dump on the set and they’ll be fine.

So, what do you think? Do you like the choices I made here and hope Villeneuve goes in these directions? Or do you have other ideas? Let me know in the comments, and keep the Spice flowing!

REVIEW: Haywire (2011)


Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Lem Dobbs
Starring Gina Carano, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas

Ah, my first Steven Soderbergh review of the Movie Maestro. Been looking forward to this, wondering off and on which film of his would draw the first honor. And that film is Haywire, the action-packed spy thriller that introduced to the cinematic world that pioneer of women’s mixed martial arts, Gina Carano.

Freelance covert operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is hired out by her handler to various global entities to perform jobs which governments can’t authorize and heads of state would rather not know about. After a mission to rescue a hostage in Barcelona, Mallory is quickly dispatched on another mission to Dublin. When the operation goes awry and Mallory finds she has been double crossed, she needs to use all of her skills, tricks and abilities to escape an international manhunt, make it back to the United States, protect her family, and exact revenge on those that have betrayed her.

Ask any Soderbergh fan why they love him so much, and invariably, the answer will be his cool, minimalist style. Haywire is an actioner that benefits heavily from his milky smooth touch with camerawork and editing; I wish more action directors were like him. Every set piece is clean and simple, allowing Carano and her exquisite stunt work (she did them all on her own, of course) to take center stage, free of the stupid, unnecessary shaky camerawork that plagues the action genre these days.

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The screenplay by Lem Dobbs matches Soderbergh’s visual punch with a deft, swift narrative that bounces between flashbacks telling the bulk of the story and the framing flight of Mallory and innocent bystander Scott (Michael Angarano) in his car. While most audiences seemingly didn’t appreciate the story, feeling it to be too hard to follow, but I disagree with the masses yet again. It doesn’t spoon-feed its audience, rather, it tells you only what you need to know, letting the plot naturally unravel, like the best of the classic spy thrillers from the days of Hitchcock and early James Bond.

Image result for Haywire filmSoderbergh’s other trademark, a highly capable cast, is also on prominent display, with regulars Tatum and Douglas supporting MacGregor, Banderas, Fassbender, and Paxton. In reality, however, all of these incredible actors are playing the supporting fiddle to Carano as the main star of the film. This is a bold and uniquely feminist move, swapping the normal action dynamic clean across gender lines. To put it bluntly, it’s like watching Jane Bond and her gaggle of Bond Boys. It’s actually quite fun, especially when any number of the confident men underestimate Mallory.

I don’t know if Mallory herself works as well as the concept, however. Carano is extremely commanding in the combat scenes, but does tend to fall more on the flat side in the more quiet dialogue pieces. It doesn’t help that apparently her voice was significantly altered in post, although I do not know to what extent this affected the performance. I also have found references to Laura San Giacomo, another Soderbergh regular, having overdubbed her voice, however I cannot find proof and there are other contradictory statements on this matter. In short, this being Carano’s first film, she isn’t exactly A-grade material yet.

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This doesn’t discount Haywire‘s strengths. It’s a tight and fun spy film, smart in execution and filled with enough action to please die-hard enthusiasts. All in all, it’s a worthy addition to Soderbergh’s catalog, and a great 90-minute stunt film to fill an evening with.

Fan Edit Review: LV-426


Original Film Directed by Ridley Scott, Written by Jon Spaights and Damon Lindelof
Fan Edit by The Man Behind the Mask
Category: FanFix

Prometheus, while most would agree is a beautiful and thought-provoking film, is also incredibly divisive. Some, like myself, praise the mystery it has injected into the Alien franchise, while others have derided it as containing unbelievable characters, too many open ends, and even of not being a true prequel. This last point of contention certainly has some truth to it, as Lindelof’s entry into the project sought to distance it from established Alien continuity, and take the story into the uncharted realm of the then-called “Space Jockey” race as Ridley Scott wanted.

Enter The Man Behind the Mask, a prolific fan editor behind such edits as War of the Stars (the Grindhouse version of Star Wars) and the heavily shortened Kong. TMBTM’s vision for Prometheus is rather straight-forward: change LV-223 to LV-426 to make the film a direct prequel to Alien. This isn’t as simple as just changing the name of the planetoid on a star map and calling it a day, however. LV-426 is in many ways a radical departure from Prometheus, losing over 30 minutes of the original runtime and using new VFX work to alter the ending.

Taking a cue from JobWillin’s Derelict fanmix, TMBTM presents the film in black and white. While it looks great, I don’t know exactly why he went with this aesthetic. While Derelict is presented in this way to better marry the distinct visual styles and color palettes of two different cinematographers separated by 33 years, LV-426 doesn’t have this disadvantage, so what’s the point. Oh well, like I said, it doesn’t look bad at all, so there’s that.


Right off the bat, there’s a big difference: the entire opening. Gone are the ‘Beginning of Time’ and Isle of Skye sequences, replaced with voiceover from Shaw’s video message to Peter Weyland, pulled from one of Prometheus’ blu-ray features. This greatly speeds up the narrative, a theme that is carried through the entire film. In some spots, deleted scenes are used to fill the gaps, and with the exception of one, I enjoyed seeing all of them put back into the film. On the other hand, some other editorial changes I wasn’t too fond of, like the loss of David’s viewing of Lawrence of Arabia and all subsequent references to it, some of the humorous banter between Fifield and Millburn, and the wonderful ‘Navigational Map’ sequence, in which David activates the computer aboard the Engineer vessel. I also wan’t a fan of the repeated line, “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” Once was enough, and it is in no way better than another line it replaces at one point: “Big things have small beginnings.”


Video and sound quality are in tip-top shape, presented in over 15 mbps. The soundtrack is in 2 channels with what sounds like a Dolby Digital encode. It’s pretty solid, and has a bit of surround activity, or as much as can be expected in a stereo presentation. New VFX work is very subtle and almost unnoticed at the beginning of the film, but the biggest shots come at the very end. Beware, spoilers:

TMBTM removes the end ‘Deacon’ scene, instead digitally matting the creature into the Engineer as he is locked into the command chair, thereby revealing him as the dead Engineer from Alien, and the Deacon as his killer. This is a bold vision, but not one without its own set of discrepancies. If the Juggernaut from Prometheus is the Derelict from Alien, why is it fossilized after only several decades? What happened to the planetoid that so changed its environment (listen closely during Alien to discover that the Nostromo team’s walk to the Derelict occurred during the day–why is it so much darker than in Prometheus)? These problems certainly show how a direct sequel to Alien was certainly not the best direction to go.


That being said, TMBTM’s edit is a fun way to kill an hour and a half. It’s stark and beautiful, its tight and suspensful, and it uses the much better Xeno-Fifield scene that so many fan editors are enamored with. It is not my prefered version of Prometheus, but I enjoyed my viewing, and that is way more than what I expected going in. Recommended as an alternate view of what could have been.

But how to get it? This time it’s very simple. Just watch on Vimeo!

REVIEW: Macbeth (2015)


Directed by Justin Kurzel
Written by Ted Louiso, Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, Based on the Play by William Shakespeare
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotilliard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, David Thewlis

The best cinematic Macbeth. There, I said it. Everything about this version screams near perfection to me. And while I may be rusty on my Shakespearean, both in tongue and in practice, I just cannot get enough of this version, which speaks to its power.

Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife (Marion Cotilliard), Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself. Soon, their schemes will catch up with them, as Macbeth’s trail of guilt leads him to kill more to protect his power, and Lady Macbeth is left with the aftermath.

Why do I find this particular version so enticing? For two big reasons, besides the incredible acting, which I will get to: the screenplay and the editing.

This film manages to inject a fresh take on the brutal tragedy whilst staying incredibly faithful in setting and lyrical dialogue, and that take is this: Macbeth is suffering from PTSD. The insomnia, the waking nightmares, the ghosts who haunt him, all manifested from the horrors of war, unrecognized as a true illness in his time. His mental state is further compounded by the loss of his daughter, whom he and his wife bury in the opening scene, another incredible addition to Shakespeare canon. While it has been long theorized that Lady Macbeth refers to a lost child in her first soliloquy, here it is all but confirmed in an eerie, sweeping opening, followed by a mad blast of Scottish bagpipes that signals the beginning of Ted Kurzel’s haunting score (can’t wait to hear his work in Alien: Covenant!). Mad props to screenwriters Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff, and Michael Lesslie and director Kurzel.

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But it takes more than a change of background to successfully realize a Bard play on film, and Macbeth accomplishes the more theatrical touches, like the soliloquies, rather effortlessly by keeping them intact–and turning the dialogue inward. They are still physically speaking, but to themselves, to the ghosts, to their own doubts and fears. This is where Fassbender and Cotilliard shine the brightest. It isn’t easy taking moments that were meant to be grandly emoted to a live audience and speaking them softly, inwardly. Luckily, they have help from editor Chris Dickens, who blends these speeches with the very next scenes, creating a dynamic visual punch and tightening the pace of what could easily be 4-hour drag. His take on action is just as welcome, juxtaposing slow-mo with normal speed without resorting to Snyder-ish ramping.

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It also doesn’t hurt to see beautiful visuals, and here they arrive in spades. Macbeth is one of those films that does not have an ugly moment. I forget who said it, but a critic once remarked that a true test of filmic beauty is that if one were to pause a film at any given point, it could still be an image gorgeous enough to hang on a wall. Kurzel’s and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw’s work certainly passes with flying colors. Speaking of flying colors, I usually am annoyed by tinting applied to the look of a film, but this is the exception. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “tinting,” because the color palette of this work is wide enough to be natural, yet always leans toward the hot end, with plenty candlelight yellows and blood reds to punctuate the action.

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To cap off this very glowing review, go find Macbeth and watch it. Don’t worry about the dialogue, as I said, I’m rusty with my Shakespearian and I got the gist. Go find it, buy it, and thrill to the ghosts that stare back accusingly at the usurping King or the fires of damnation that swirl around Macbeth and Macduff’s final battle. Do yourself the favor.