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Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Retrospective Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Director: Ron Howard

Before he crossed paths with The Rebellion, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) was a former Imperial Militant who became a space pirate cruising around the Outer Rim alongside his fellow outlaw: the mighty Wookiee, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). This is the story of how he came to be known as the galaxy’s most notorious smuggler, and how the man became a legend.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story remains a movie that was just mildly received by fans and critics alike. While some people would chalk that up to disinterest in Star Wars after the backlash to The Last Jedi from the year before, not many people really wanted a young Han Solo movie, and from the trailers it looked generally okay at best. It surprisingly bombed at the box office despite being a Star Wars movie (though they probably should’ve put it in cinemas in December instead of the middle of the year). I liked Solo when I first saw it, and I still like Solo now. However it’s probably the worst movie in the Star Wars series, aside from the first two prequels of course. I wouldn’t say that it does a lot of bad, it’s that it’s mostly just fine, competently made but doesn’t have a lot of great aspects to make it very memorable.

Much of the plot is straightforward and I went along with much of the plot decisions, even some of the weird ones like how Han received his last name of Solo. There are some callbacks which are a little cringeworthy and forced, but I tolerated them. The part that interested me the most about the plot was the part about the criminal underworld, we hadn’t seen that explored in a live action Star Wars movie. I wish there was a little more of that however, you get some but really not enough of that. Ultimately my biggest gripe with the movie was how safe it played everything. The movie is what you’d expect a Han Solo movie to be, but just that. It shows how Han met Chewbacca and Lando, how he got the Millennium Falcon, how he made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, etc. Now as some people know already, this movie originally had Chris Lord and Phil Miller directing, and part of the reason they were fired was because they were improvising a lot and deviating from the screenplay often. While I can’t say which version would’ve been better, it would’ve at least made things a little more unique at least. The ending with Darth Maul might’ve been fanservice (especially with him randomly igniting his lightsabre during his hologram meeting with Qi’ra for no reason at all), but I genuinely would’ve liked to have seen where it progressed next in future movies.

Alden Ehrenreich ultimately does a good job as young Han Solo, he may not be doing a Harrison Ford impression, but what’s most important is that he nails the essence of a younger version of the beloved character. It’s not an easy task, but I think that Ehrenreich really pulled it off. I feel like this version of Han really suffered from not having follow up movies to progress him. For those who know, Han changed quite a bit in A New Hope, and so his story arc from smuggler to hero was in that movie already. By the end of Solo however, Han is a hero, so it feels like follow up movies would have to make him go backwards so that he’s at the state that he’s in before A New Hope. It’s irksome but you get past that. Woody Harrelson plays Beckett, Han’s mentor, you wouldn’t think it at first but he actually fits the role quite well. Emilia Clarke was quite good here, with her role of Qi’ra being one of the more interesting characters of the movie. With the point that they left off the movie at the end of Solo, I really would’ve like to have seen where the next movie would take her character, with her as the new leader of the Crimson Dawn. Paul Bettany plays Michael K. Williams’s replacement as Dryden Vos. Bettany is clearly having fun with the role, and he’s pretty good, even if it’s just a couple scenes. Still, I would’ve liked to have seen what Michael K. Williams would’ve done in the role. There was much hype with Donald Glover playing Lando Calrissian in the lead up to Solo’s release. Personally I thought he did a very fine impression of Billy Dee Williams. Outside of that there’s not really much to say about the performance, you don’t really get to learn anything about Lando and he doesn’t really leave much of an impression. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 character had received criticism from some people, I found her to be just fine. Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau (as a voice) are very brief performers as members of Harrelson’s crew, I guess they play their parts well but they don’t last very long, so they really could’ve cast anyone in these roles and it would’ve worked just as well.

Solo isn’t among his best films, but Ron Howard did direct this well. The visual effects are quite good as to be expected, and the action was entertaining and fast paced. The cinematography by Bradford Young is among the best of the Star Wars movies, there are many parts that looked great. There’s just one problem, at times the lighting was a little too dark for its own good, so there are some parts especially earlier on where it was hard to see what was happening. The score by John Powell worked well enough for the movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is relatively decent. It’s mostly directed well, and most of the cast do well in their roles. It’s entertaining for what it is, but it really doesn’t do enough to justify its existence and at the end of the day, was just sort of conventional. If I was to recommend someone watching the whole series, even if it isn’t the worst in the series, I would say that they wouldn’t necessarily be missing out on a lot if they didn’t see Solo. However it’s not a bad watch if you have 2 hours and 15 minutes to spare.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val Beckett
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Erin Kellyman appears as Enfys Nest
Jon Favreau as Rio Durant
Director: Ron Howard

Young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon.

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I was cautiously optimistic about Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’m a fan of Star Wars, I like all but 2 in the entire series and I’m open to some new ideas. However, a Han Solo movie felt very unnecessary. Not helping was the fact that the original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired and were replaced by Ron Howard due to ‘creative differences’. Howard then reshot around 70% of the movie. I went into the movie expecting it to be decent at least, and Solo actually surprised me quite a bit, it was very entertaining. It has a great cast that does well in their roles, a story that worked and was unique, separating itself from the other films in the series despite some faults and Ron Howard’s great direction.

A lot of people have been saying that we don’t really need a Han Solo movie, and even after watching the movie I don’t have the feeling that we really needed a Han Solo movie. But I was nonetheless entertained by what we got. Something that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it expands the borders of the universe beyond that of the Skywalker Saga(s). It focusses more on the underworld side to Star Wars which is something that we don’t really get to see in live action until now. So in that sense it is expanding the Star Wars universe, so whether or not you like the movie, I do think that this is something worth praising. Another thing that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it doesn’t feel like a lot is at stake, and I mean that in a good way. The stakes in other Star Wars movies are on such a large scale, with planets being destroyed, rebellions struggling to survive against empires, etc., so it felt refreshing to have a more personal story for a Star Wars movie. On the whole the movie is quite fun and has quite a lot of heart to it. No it’s not as risky as The Last Jedi and so it won’t irritate fans for doing something different (it’ll just irritate fans in other was like every Star Wars film after the 1977 original). Some of the things that establish what we know about Han are here. Things which include Han meeting Chewbacca and Lando, getting the Millennium Falcon and more are here. Some of them worked, others… felt kind of forced and didn’t quite work, in particularly how Han gets the name of Solo. There are rumours about there being sequels and I can confirm that Solo: A Star Wars Story does seem to set up for sequels in the way some things are left at the end of the movie. I wouldn’t mind there are sequels honestly, as long as it can bring something fresh and new to the table. I want to see where certain plotlines are going in, Han’s story as he becomes the character we all know and love and explore different areas of the Star Wars universe. There is one moment of fanservice near the end which I liked but it is rather out of place, and unless they follow up on it in another movie it’s going to be completely pointless. Also, for anyone who only knows Star Wars from the movies, they are probably going to find this moment extremely confusing. You will all know what it is when you watch the movie. Solo is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long and at times you can really feel the runtime. The first act I liked but it is a bit of a rocky start, with it being rather slow to begin with. I still really enjoyed the movie from start to finish but really the pacing is only perfect from the point that the film introduces Lando.

I guess one of the first questions that people have is whether the lead actor exceptionally portrayed the titular character, and the answer is yes. Alden Ehrenreich really works as a young Han Solo, he’s not trying to do a Harrison Ford impression but you can see little bits of Ford in his performance. This really is Han Solo as he is starting out, here he is naïve, and he has a good heart (or at least that aspect is shown more prominently here than in his prior appearances by Harrison Ford). By the end he has changed a little but isn’t quite the Han Solo we first saw in A New Hope, in that sense I feel like there’s more story to be told with this young Han (and I’m completely open to it now). The rest of the talented actors are great as well. Donald Glover was a perfect choice for a younger Lando Calrissian. We don’t actually get to see him as much as you’d think but he is great in his scenes. Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson were really good in their roles and are welcome additions to the Star Wars universe. Another stand out performance is that of Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Chewbacca in Solo gets to do much more than any of the 6 other Star Wars movies he’s been in. The film shows how him and Han meet and becomes essentiely partners, and you can believe the friendship, despite one of them not speaking a comprehensible language. Other standouts include Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Lando’s droid named L3-37 and a character named Enfys Nest. Some of the other actors like Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany don’t really get to do as much in their roles but they are good in their scenes.

Solo is a fast and exciting movie and Ron Howard’s direction really added something to it. It’s a great looking movie as well, the cinematography by Bradford Young truly blew me away. I was surprised at how beautiful many of the shots were. The CGI was also great, at least on the first viewing there weren’t any out of place/really fake looking CGI. The action scenes are all well directed and are very memorable. The way the camera moves and the smooth direction overall were really effective, whether it be a gun battle, a ship chase or a car chase. An example is a train sequence early in the film which is fast paced, thrilling and exciting. It’s already known that most of the film is Howard’s but as for how much of the film is Lord and Miller’s, I couldn’t really tell, it’s not blatantly obvious as some with other movies with multiple directors. There are probably some moments of humour and dialogue that could possibly be their’s but otherwise nothing stood out on a first viewing. Honestly as bad as the situation was and as much as I hate this happening over creative differences, I am glad that Ron Howard directed it in the end as he did a fantastic job with Solo, and I hope that there he returns to direct the sequels, should they be a thing.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is by no means one of the best Star Wars movies but it is a good one. It’s an exciting sci-fi adventure with Ron Howard’s great direction and the talented actors, and it managed to be a pretty good movie surrounding Han Solo. I would say to give it a chance at least, you may very well end up being surprised by what you see. At the same time I will say to keep your expectations in check, the movie does have some issues, mostly with certain aspects of the story but on the whole, Solo is actually quite good and one of the best surprises of 2018.

Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture
Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan
Zendaya as Michelle
Donald Glover as Aaron Davis
Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Director: Jon Watts

Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine — distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

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I will be honest, I really wasn’t that hyped for Spider-Man Homecoming in the lead up to its release. I knew I would see it no matter how it turned out, and it didn’t look bad by any means. But it didn’t really grab my attention like it should’ve. I guess it must’ve been some mediocre marketing because this movie was a lot better than I thought it would be. It was entertaining, the plot is good, the action is good, the villain is great, everything about it is pretty good. It is one of the better films in the MCU.

This is the first Spider-Man film to be based entirely in High School. Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man had that but that wasn’t really focused on like Homecoming does, so this made this film feel more refreshing. This movie is very entertaining. For the first half of the movie it does feel like a enjoyable movie, I never really got bored. However I will admit, I wasn’t really loving it. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises to be had, it is at times familiar in terms of tone and plot to some other MCU films, not that its necessarily a bad thing. The second half was better to me, this film handles the dramatic side of the plot surprisingly well. This movie does have a lot of humour and it hits very well, there aren’t many jokes that disrupt the tone or fall flat. It’s nice to see a MCU movie which is more grounded and less world affecting, by that I mean that Spider-Man isn’t trying to save the world or anything like that. Homecoming is a more personal story, which is nice to see. Despite this movie being the first Spider-Man film set in the MCU and having like Tony Stark in it, it’s still very much grounded and works as its own story. With that said, this movie does set up for future movies. Some of the setups were okay, others were really distracting. There is a reveal in the third act which felt out of place and completely unnecessary. I know a lot of changes really bothered some die hard Spider-Man fans, with the exception of that one reveal (which just felt like unnecessary fanservice) I didn’t have any issues with the changes. There are two end credits scenes, the first was interesting and has me interested in what the Homecoming sequel will be like, the second was quite funny.

Tom Holland is a very different Spider-Man to both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, which is good, it’s important for each interpretation of a character to be unique and different from previous incarnations. This Spider-Man is young (15 years old), he’s smart, he’s full of energy and he loves being Spider-Man. But to just say that he’s great because he’s ‘fun’ would be a disservice to the movie and Holland. Tom is also great in the emotional scenes as well, and you can really understand how he feels. He really wants to become an Avenger like Tony Stark and that story arc was done very well. The supporting actors were good as well. Jacob Batalon is very entertaining as Ned, Peter’s best friend, Zendaya was also a fun character as Michelle. Other supporting actors like Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei were also really good. A concern of mine was Robert Downey Jr.’s role in the movie. Fortunately Tony Stark is used very sparingly and it makes a lot of sense that he’s in this movie and worked well for Peter’s arc. He’s not in the movie too much to overshadow Peter but is in it enough that he is important. Another concern I had was Michael Keaton as the Vulture, the villain of the film. The MCU has a reputation of having mostly just okay villains, with only a few genuinely great villains. While Vulture looked great in the trailers, I couldn’t help but think that Keaton would be wasted. That’s not the case here, Vulture is one of the best villains in the entire MCU series. A lot of time he isn’t wearing the Vulture costume, its just him and Keaton did a great job at portraying that. In fact his best scene was without the costume, you’ll know exactly which scene I’m referring to. Along with feeling like a threat, Vulture is quite a human villain. Without spoiling anything, Vulture has some understandable motives and you can totally see why he does what he does. Vulture is definitely one of the MCU villains yet. There are some other minor villains in the movie and while not great, they were good in their roles. There are some actors who are in Homecoming, potentially to set them up for future movies, examples are with Michael Mando and Donald Glover. They were fine in their moments onscreen but they felt out of place as they really don’t do much in the movie.

The action was really good and it was very entertaining. Some of the scenes at times were shot at night however, and at times it was hard to tell what is going on. The CGI for the most part looked good but at times did look a little fake especially with the Spider-Man costume (he still looked better than he did in Civil War) but most of it is fine. The soundtrack by Michael Giaachino aside from the opening credits and Vulture’s theme was passable but forgettable.

Spider-Man Homecoming was really good. I really liked the new take they had on Spider-Man, I loved the villain, it is entertaining overall and I had a blast with it. It is definitely one of the better Spider-Man movies and also one of the better films in the MCU. I am now on board with seeing future Spider-Man films in the MCU.

The Lazarus Effect (2015) Review

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The Lazarus Effect

Time: 83 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Horror
Cast:
Mark Duplass as Frank Walton
Olivia Wilde as Zoe McConnell
Sarah Bolger as Eva
Evan Peters as Clay
Donald Glover as Niko
Ray Wise as Mr. Wallace
Director: David Gelb

Medical researcher Frank (Mark Duplass), his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde) and their team have achieved the impossible: they have found a way to revive the dead. After a successful, but unsanctioned, experiment on a lifeless animal, they are ready to make their work public. However, when their dean learns what they’ve done, he shuts them down. Zoe is killed during an attempt to recreate the experiment, leading Frank to test the process on her. Zoe is revived — but something evil is within her.

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Most horror movies nowadays are terrible, with the exception of a few gems like The Babadook and Oculus. Most of them are by the numbers, have bad horror clichés and straight up aren’t scary at all. So how does The Lazarus Effect hold up? It doesn’t, it’s not scary (and as you probably guessed, relies on unscary jump scares), it felt dull and failed to thrill despite its initially interesting premise. However I wouldn’t call it a terrible movie. It does have a decent cast and the direction for the most part is fine and it’s nowhere near as bad as some other horror movies of today. But still, it’s not a good movie and not worth your time.

M182 (Left to right.) Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde star in Relativity Media's "The Lazarus Effect". © 2013 BACK TO LIFE PRODUCTIONS, LLC Photo Credit: Suzanne Hanover

This movie does have an interesting premise with the whole resurrection element, and what happens after people die. Despite this, at many points this movie just feels boring and dull, and there were so many missed opportunities to take the film into a scarier or at least more interesting level. Olivia Wilde dies like 30 minutes into the movie before getting brought back, that’s a third into the movie, so you can imagine how boring the road felt leading up to it. The tension only appears during certain scenes of the movie, it’s not maintained throughout most of the movie. It doesn’t help that this movie isn’t scary at all, but I’ll get to how the ‘scares’ are handled later on.

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This movie has a great cast, which was one of the few things that this movie had going for it. The cast was filled with talented actors such as Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters and many more. I thought that they did well with what they were given, despite not having very well written characters. They might actually be the best part of the movie and might be the only thing that sort of works, which is sad really.

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With the exception of the actual horror scenes, the movie is generally well directed and the production value is quite decent. Unfortunately when it comes to the horror scenes, it follows plenty of horror clichés. The Lazarus Effect, like other horror movies of today rely on jump scares, there are at least 10 of them, I counted them. Most of the jump scares I saw coming, though I will say that out of all the jump scares only 1 of them was a fake jump scare, but that’s hardly a compliment at this point in time.

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Overall The Lazarus Effect could’ve been an interesting horror movie with an interesting premise and a great cast but given the reception of this movie I didn’t go in expecting much and I got what I was expecting. It was brought down by unscary ‘horror’ scenes and a somehow bad plot, even though it promised a somewhat interesting result. It’s one of those movies like Transcendence which have good ideas but still doesn’t culminate in a good movie. Still, it’s nowhere near as bad as other horror movies of today like Ouija, that’s not saying much though as most movies aren’t at that level of horribleness.