Solo: A Star Wars Story

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Ron Howard

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, and Jon Favreau

Solo: A Star Wars Story comes out to muted expectations, which is odd when you consider it’s a Star Wars movie. They’ve been a Christmas event movie since The Force Awakens. I’d drive an hour to see them every year on an IMAX screen, making a day of it with dinner at a restaurant afterwards. For Solo, I went to the local multiplex after work. It may have been rumours of the troubled production, or the fact that it’s not been long since The Last Jedi, but this one just didn’t feel as special going in. Star Wars has lost some of its shine. Which is a shame because Solo is a whole heap of fun.

Solo follows Alden Ehrenreich’s young Han Solo, before we knew him as the smuggling scoundrel in the first Star Wars movie. He starts off as a street rat, doing cons for a small crime ring. He finally finds a way out, but leaves behind the woman he loves. He vows to return to rescue her. That journey takes him from being a troop for the empire to falling into organised crime when he meets Woody Harelson’s Beckett. Along the way we meet familiar faces from the Star Wars universe, such as Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian.

I probably had the lowest expectations I’ve ever had for a Star Wars movie going into Solo. The rumours of on-set dysfunction, with Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller being fired, and Ron Howard being bought into replace them near the end of initial production. Howard gets the directing credit here, and whilst it’s rumoured that they re-shot 70% of the movie, it’s almost impossible to tell which bits were directed by Lord and Miller. It’s a film that, against the odds, works. I found it a fun, action packed adventure movie. Removed from everything that surrounds it, it’s just a pure, good time at the movie. Which is what you want from Star Wars, right?

Howard does well at creating a tone that blends different genres. Mixing elements of Westerns, heist movies, and film noir together to create an engaging look at the underbelly of the Star Wars universe. It also gives us our best look, away from the animated shows, of how the Empire operates in the galaxy. The action is all well done, but it’s the smaller moments that Howard excels at. Han’s first meeting with Chewie is tense, funny, and a little scary. It’s incredibly well directed. Howard was seen as a safe pair of hands when he came aboard, but I think that does him a disservice. He’s a director who knows how to make a film, and story work. He knows how to hit all the right beats, at the right time, in the right way. It’s a skill that’s often overlooked, but is essential in creating a satisfying time at the movies.

The other point of conversation going in was the casting. Could anybody replace Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Alden Ehrenreich bares slight resemblance to Ford, and sounds nothing like him. It doesn’t matter. He smashes this performance. In a smart move by him and the writers, this isn’t the Han Solo from Star Wars. This is the story of how he becomes that Han Solo. There are fan service moments like seeing him get his gun, and finding out, maybe a little too on the nose, how he got his name, but these moments are few and far between, they aren’t really the point of the movie. Ehrenreich plays Solo with the same swagger and cockiness as Ford, but undercuts it with an unsureness. He has the charm, but lacks the cynicism of Ford. He’s naive, and enthusiastic. The fun is in finding out what made him the pessimist. The iconic Star Wars line “I have a bad feeling about this” is turned on its head when Han says “I have a good feeling about this” and that is the key to this Han Solo.

The rest of the cast all do fantastic work too. Woody Harrelson is great. Donald Glover is terrific, and Emilia Clarke shines in a role reminiscent of 40s/50s femme fatales. Paul Bettany’s villain was the only role which felt like it was under-written. Bettany does his best to imbue him with a manic menace, but the villain here is the biggest disappointment. It stems from the biggest problem with the film, and that’s the fact that the stakes never feel high enough. We know how it’s going to end. We know what happens next. The momentum of the film carries it swiftly to the finale, but it’s a subdued, anti-climax to what has come before. The film comes to a halt right when it should be going into hyperspace. It does have a last act reveal, but rather than being a shocking revelation, it felt like fan pandering. Similar to Rouge One, it’s as if the studio are too scared to branch out into the unknown, and are keeping their anthology movies as close to the main saga as possible.

Solo is just a great time at the cinema. A refreshing side adventure to the main Star Wars story, which is filled with fun action, iconic characters, and a fantastic cast. It’s a space craft that has been deftly steered away from the asteroid field by Howard, and is thrown into hyper speed by Alden Ehrenreich’s performance. It stumbles at the finish line, but what has come before is more than worth the trip.

7/10

 

Top 10 Films Of 2017

2017, Uncategorized

Putting movies into any top ten list is purely subjective, and this list is very subjective. First off, the movies had to have been released in U.K. Cinema in 2017. Secondly, I had to have actually seen them. So whilst I’m sure both Logan and Moonlight are amazing films, I haven’t got round to watching them yet. I will do, but at the time of writing this list they had not been seen; and lastly, I had to think they were worth going on the list. Before I get started some honourable mentions for Paddington 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Split, The Cure For Wellness, and IT. All films which I really enjoyed this year but couldn’t fit into my top ten. Speaking of which, let’s get started…

 

Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick' in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2.

10. John Wick 2

When John Wick introduced us to Keanu Reeves’s ultra-cool, ultra-violent hitman, out for revenge after the death of his dog, it was a breath of fresh air. A great action movie which not only looked great but hinted at a wider world and deeper mythology. It left you wanting to know more, and this year we got more. It’s always a risk when doing a sequel to a great stand alone film, but buoyed by the stealth success of the first film John Wick 2 came out fighting. Whilst not hitting the same heights, it’s still incredibly enjoyable and delves deeper into the world in a fun and logical manner. The action is stylish, and Keanu Reeves fits the character like John Wick fits his jet black suit, perfectly.

 

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9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A lot of expectation was heaped upon this film, and as the dust starts to settle inevitably it didn’t live up to everyone’s. It’s still a really great movie though. Rian Johnson adds so many fresh and new ingredients to the Star Wars recipe, and went with the brave choice of making a character driven movie. It has great spectacle, and some truly jaw dropping moments. If it had been with us longer it might have climbed higher up the list.

 

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8. Gifted

A small indie from Captain America star Chris Evans, and a low key return from the director of The Amazing Spider-Man films Marc Webb. This sweet film about a man raising his genius niece, is both charming and heart-breaking. The cast are fantastic, and the film never becomes too sentimental. Tugging slowly at your heart strings, the film earns its emotional response. Missed by many on its release, this was a real gem.

 

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7. Blade Runner 2049

A follow up to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, not many could have hoped that this sequel would have been this great. Talking about the plot runs you at risk of revealing spoilers, but this is one of the most intelligent sci-fi films in recent years. The plot is worthy of the original, the acting is great throughout, Roger Deakins cinematography is jaw-droppingly beautiful. It’s just as cerebral as the original, and amps up the emotions. Denis Villeneuve continues to reinvent and reinvigorate the sci-fi genre. Next up, Dune.

 

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6. Baby Driver

Cooler than John Wick, choreography which outdoes La La Land, and more tunes than Guardians Of The Galaxy 2. Edgar Wright shrugged off the baggage of his failed Ant-man project with verve and style. Angel Elgort showed his leading man chops in a film which blended heist, comedy and musical. Never less than entertaining and with laughs to spare. Wright reminded everyone why he is one of the most interesting film makers around. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

 

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5. Wonder Woman

Beating Marvel to the punch, DC proved that a female driven super hero movie could do well at the box office. Hell it obliterated the box office. Easily the best movie of DC’s current crop, Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air in the testosterone fuelled landscape of comic book movies. Gal Gadot personifies Diana Prince perfectly, and with a female behind the camera in director Patty Jenkins, a perfect tone was set. If the third act was a little weak, what came before it was pure summer blockbuster joy.

 

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4. War For The Planet Of The Apes

Blockbuster movie making with real intelligence behind the camera. The rebooted planet of the apes films have shown what happens when a studio gives a great storyteller free reign. War was the perfect cap off to a fantastic trilogy. With lofty themes such as revenge, and humanity, Matt Reeves balances it all with a deft touch. This is character driven big budget movie making at its best, and features another fantastic Mo-cap assisted performance from Andy Serkis. Someone give this man an oscar.

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3. Mother!

For me, Mother! is what true film-making is all about. A directors vision from start to finish, pushing the boundaries of what audiences can expect and what you can achieve with the medium. Darren Aronofsky’s movie is a fever dream which blends elements of horror, comedy, and parable into a tale which can viewed in many different ways depending on what the viewer brings to it. It was the most thrilled, and the most gripped I’ve been by a movie all year.

 

Film Title: Get Out

2. Get Out

The biggest surprise of the year was the directorial debut by Jordan Peele. Wrongly labelled as a comedy by the Golden Globes. Yes, it has some laugh out loud moments, but this is a horror film. A horror film with great social satire, and a
bold perspective on everyday racial tensions. It doesn’t shy away from some truly weird moments, and next up for Peele is a new iteration of The Twilight Zone, which after Get Out has to be a must-watch.

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1. Dunkirk

We’ve talked about smart, big budgets movie making. We’ve talked about auteur vision. We’ve talked about pushing the boundaries of the movie going experience. Dunkirk is a film which manages to encompass all of that. In every nail biting, tension wrought scene. Christopher Nolan delivers a concise, taught film which demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. With his usual arsenal of IMAX cameras, in-camera practical effects, Hans Zimmer score, shifts in time frames, and a masked Tom Hardy, Nolan creates a war film which plants you into the protagonists shoes. There is no blood, the Nazis are hardly seen, and the film is technically about a retreat. Yet it’s also one of the most visceral, triumphant war movies in recent times, and that is all testament to Nolan’s skill as a filmmaker. Proving once again he is a master of his trade.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

2017, Uncategorized

Dir. Rian Johnson

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio Del Toro

 

Star Wars isn’t a movie. It’s an event. It takes grown ups back to their youth, and ignites the imaginations of young children. There were kids with lightsabers running round the cinema, as well as actors in storm trooper outfits patrolling the foyer. I watched the original trilogy religiously as a kid, enjoyed the prequels at the time (I was the right age), grew up and realised they weren’t great, and really liked The Force Awakens. Where The Force Awakens did fall short was originality, and it received a lot of criticism for rehashing old story beats. The expectation on The Last Jedi was in taking this story somewhere new. Boy, does it deliver.

 

The Last Jedi starts exactly where The Force Awakens left off. Rey has found Luke Skywalker, and is trying to coax him out of his self-imposed exile. Meanwhile, the rebel alliance are on the run from the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke, and a battle scarred Kylo Ren. To say much more risks running into spoiler territory, and this really is a film which is best seen with as little spoiled as possible.

 

There are so many great moments in The Last Jedi it’s hard to know where to begin.  It’s probably the best looking Star Wars movie so far.  From the costume design, creature effects, and visual grandeur, it tops them all. The performances throughout are superb, with top credit going to Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher. The original cast members really get a chance to stretch themselves, and deliver sides of their characters not seen before. Adam Driver is similarly terrific, his Kylo Ren is more nuanced here than The Force Awakens, the struggle between light and dark played out constantly on his face. If any performance is slightly off putting it’s Benicio Del Toro’s codebreaker DJ. Del Toro over acts, with voice tics, and odd hand gestures. He chews the scenery in all the wrong ways.

 

As I said before, The Force Awakens was criticised for just re-heating the original trilogy, and The Last Jedi really does forge its own path. This is a story driven blockbuster, and I’m sure some fans won’t like where Johnson takes the story, but I loved it. Instead of coasting on nostalgia, throwbacks are used to service the story. The biggest difference between the two films though is pace. After opening with a superb aerial fight, the film slows down, and allows us to dig into the characters. It’s here where Johnson pulls off his greatest trick, and that’s by giving the series heart. It’s easy to feel sad when Han Solo dies in TFA, you’ve grown up with this character. The feelings that Johnson is toying with are far more complex, and he makes you feel for every character by showing the audience what they are fighting for. This isn’t just a fight of good versus evil, Johnson throws in shades of grey. We also get answers to some of the biggest questions from TFA. I was satisfied with these answers, although I feel they will be divisive.

 

There are are a few minor flaws in the film. It’s too long, there are a lot of story strands to follow, and not all of them seem necessary. Finn and Rose’s, newcomer Kelly Marie Tran, adventure to the casino planet at first feels like a mis-step, but is given more weight during the climax. It could have been cut down, but that would have meant less screen time for Boyega which would have been a crime. The logic of the main chase sequence of the film is also questionable, but I feel this isn’t too hard to overlook, as the story is so captivating. The dialogue isn’t too great either. It sometimes feels like exposition overload. There is also a character death with felt a little wasted. After so much build up, it was hard not to feel a little like “Is that it?” It’s hard to judge whether all the decisions paid off, after all it’s the middle film of a trilogy, and I think that whether you have more negatives depends on whether you liked where the story went or not.

 

Overall, the film is great. The best Star Wars movie ever, that’s hard to say without knowing how it will stand up in thirty years, but I left the cinema feeling like it was. I loved the characterisation, how it raised deeper questions about this universe. There was also a subtle animal rights message which I enjoyed. The action was some of the best in the whole series and it was by far the best looking film of the series. It felt new, and fresh, and there was an emotional under current previously missing. Where the story goes from here is anyone’s guess, but that’s the great thing about Star Wars now, it’s regained the element of surprise.

9/10

The Most Anticipated Movies Of 2018 – Part One

2017, Uncategorized

2017 is drawing to an end, and so it’s the perfect time to look ahead at 2018, and see what movies will be filling our theatres next year. This article will be looking ahead at the most anticipated movies of next year. First of all, this blog is based in England, and whilst there are some movies coming out next year which I’m really looking forward to, they have already been released in the US. These films, such as Three Billboarda Outside Ebbing, Missouri, or Lady Bird, have been omitted from this list. They have already been received incredibly well, and this list is more about films where the anticipation is high, but we don’t know how they will turn out. This list might also be slightly heavy on the big blockbusters. Anticipation is a subjective thing, and it’s hard to predict how smaller, independent films will do. Get Out was one of my favourite films of 2017, but if you’d asked me in 2016 what I was looking forward to seeing, it wouldn’t have made my list. There are surprises every year, and I’m not trying to predict them.

Any way, 2018, there’s a lot of good stuff to look forward to. We have Marvel movies, Star Wars Movies, video game adaptations, auteur returns, and some original properties, all vying for the blockbuster crown. Here are our most anticipated movies of 2018…

 

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Black Panther

The first Marvel movie out this year, and the first Marvel movie in our list. Black Panther sees Chadwick Bosman reprise his role as King T’Chala, last seen in Captain America: Civil War. With Creed writer/director Ryan Coogler behind the camera, the trailer for this movie looks fantastic. It also serves as a lead in for Avengers: Infinity War, but more of that later.

Anticipation level: 9/10

 

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World was a huge hit. Whether you liked it it or not, there’s no denying it was a box office phenomenon. Whilst many felt it was the perfect mix of new and old, some felt it cleaved to close to the original, but with the world now reastbalished, Fallen Kingdom can now venture into uncharted territory. Yes, the trailer was awful, but apparently it only contained footage from the first act. So there are still plenty of surprises left in store.

Anticipation Level: 7/10

 

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Tomb Raider

Lara Croft Tomb Raider looks the perfect video game for a big screen adaptation, but, as we all know, it’s not that simple. Whilst some enjoyed Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of the titular heroine, those films were largely awful. Can Alicia Vikander break the video game to film curse? The trailer looks promising, and focusing on the grittier origin story of the most recent games seems to be a smart move. We’ve got our fingers crossed.

Anticipation Level: 6/10

 

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Isle Of Dogs

The first original property on this list. Isle Of Dogs is the new stop motion animation from indie auteur Wes Anderson. The story is set in Japan, and follows the tale of a boy as he goes in search of his new dog. The trailer showcases all of the style and charm that we are used to from Anderson, along with a fantastic voice cast. It’s also his first stop motion since Fantastic Mr Fox, which was great. So we can expect this to be another instant classic.

Anticipation Level: 7/10

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

Any other Star Wars movie would instantly be a must see, but Solo comes with baggage. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired off the project only to be replaced by veteran film maker Ron Howard. Tracing the origin of charming rogue Han Solo, this could turn out to be great. We just wish we could see the Lord and Miller version, as we love their left field vision. We’re excited for this, but apprehensive too.

Anticipation Level: 7/10

 

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Aquaman

The next movie up on DC’s slate is Aquaman. It’s the first movie to be released after Justic League, and a reshuffle behind the scenes at Warner Bros. but that shouldn’t effect it much as it’s too late to change much now. It’s still got a lot going for it. James Wan is in the directors chair after showing he can do big budget with Fast and Furious 7, Jason Mamoa’s take on the character has been well received, and it’s stand alone, with the makers even saying that the under water dynamics which didn’t work in Justice League will be different in this one. Here’s hoping for the next Wonder Woman.

Anticipation Level: 7/10

 

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Mute

Set 40 years from now, and about a mute bartender in Berlin going up against gangsters to find his missing partner. Mute could be the sleeper hit of 2018. It’s Duncan Jones’ return to more personal film making after the disappointment of Warcraft. Starring Alexander Skarsgård and Paul Rudd, it’s an idea which Jones has been teasing since Moon came out. We can’t wait.

Anticipation Levels: 8/10

 

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Ready Player One

Who isn’t excited to see a new Steven Spielberg movie. We can’t wait. Adapted from Ernest Cline novel, the film see’s a future where people escape the day to day by entering the Oasis. A virtual reality world. The creator of this world dies, but leaves behind an Easter egg which will grant the finder access to his fortune, and control of the Oasis. Mixing together a whole bunch of pop culture, including Freddy Krueger and a DeLorean, it’ll be great to see Spielberg play around with the pop culture he helped to create.

Anticipation Level: 8/10

 

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The New Mutants

Set within the same universe as X-Men, and directed by The Fault In Our Stars’ Josh Boone, The New Mutants follows the Fox playbook of experimenting with their properties, as seen with Logan and Deadpool. The film follow a group of teenagers struggling to come to terms with their mutant powers. So far, so generic, but The New Mutants is positioned as a straight up horror movie. The trailer teases the scares, but most exciting is how little we do know about it.

Anticipation Level: 7/10

 

Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Following on from where they left us in 2004, 2018 sees the return of our favourite super hero family. Not much is known about the plot, but the teaser trailer shows that Pixar haven’t lost their touch when it comes to physical comedy. Pixar sequels have been hit and miss, but their reluctance to bring out a sequel to Incredibles makes me think they must have had a prettt good story to bring them back.

Anticipation Level: 8/10

 

So that concludes Part One of our Most Anticipated Movies Of 2018, tell us what you think in the comments below and keep your eyes peeled for Part Two.