Tag Archives: Donald Glover

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)

Synopsis: Solo charts the life of Star Wars’ favourite smuggler Han Solo before he became the rogue viewers fell in love with during A New Hope. 

Never has a better spin-off been found in a galaxy far far away. Solo is a swashbuckling adventure of daring-do and oddball characters who bring liveliness and levity to a franchise which can fixate too much on good versus evil. Hopping between the dives of the galaxy and other dangerous corners Solo is a great film to let yourself switch off and simply enjoy, despite Disney’s interference.

Suffering from a tortured development process and a last minute change of director leading to effectively a remade film,  the odds have not favoured Solo. The film’s real misfortune is to follow behind the polemical Star Wars: The Last Jedi and bear the brunt of fan backlash to Disney’s guidance of the franchise. Tragically for a film fated to receive poor opinion among fans, Solo is by accident the most innovative Star Wars instalment since Disney bought the mantel from George Lucas. The Marvel-Disney formula is a false arc constructing a story filled with danger whose consequences will change the axis of the universe . The reality is that each ending changes nothing and none of the heroes ever suffer a price.

More so than in either the original or prequel trilogy, Star Wars under Disney has developed the same hollow self-aggrandising displayed by the Marvel franchise. In stark contrast Solo’s protagonist is at the mercy of larger events while his actions are of little consequence to the galaxy beyond. Ultimately Solo is a great heist film set in the Star Wars’ universe, and it would have even better if Disney had let it be just that. Sadly Disney’s compulsion to weave Solo into Star Wars lore and sound out a possible sequel jars with everything else. Disney threads Easter eggs both obvious and obscure into the Marvel and Star Wars films to generate fan speculation about immediate and future films. In Solo Disney reaches a new level of glibness with its scavenger hunt, placing throwaway comments about The Clone Wars T.V show and letting the camera linger over props from prior Star Wars films. Worst of all is a central part of Solo’s story stemming from a  contextual comment in A New Hope. Instead of using Han Solo as a springboard for something new, Disney loops events from the original trilogy with a fixated neatness to answer questions few fans probably asked about. To someone who has been a Star Wars fan since childhood, Disney’s visible attempts in Solo to generate further speculation, interest and hopefully money out of the franchise grates against Solo’s otherwise decent story.

Since reviewing Doctor Strange I have had the pleasure of reviewing a few of Disney’s offspring in both the Marvel and Star Wars universes. My opinion on Disney’s works is that they are often problematic stories propped by excellent casts. Although Solo’s plot problems are not significant, they are helped by a very robust cast. Woody Harrelson as Thomas Beckett, Han Solo’s reluctant mentor, is a safe pair of hands and Paul Bettany is convincingly villainous as the crime lord Dryden Vos. Plus Bettany really rocks Dryden Vos’ black cape. Emilia Clarke was surprisingly good as Han Solo’s conflicted love interest Qi’ra. Given Clarke’s fame stemming from only her Game of Thrones role and her past involvement in box office flops, I was somewhat worried as to her performance. The fears were unfounded while Alden Ehrenreich is very good in depicting his own version of Han Solo. Gone is the gritty sardonic demeanour of Ford’s character, replaced by a naivete alongside some good comedic timing and quips.

Ron Howard’s experience as a director shows throughout Solo. Howard’s approach in the film is economical, with every scene being a direct depiction of how the viewer should think and feel in that moment. Although the film is filled with the grandiose CGI scenes that are typical to blockbusters, Solo’s opening and later depiction of a planetary invasion truly drew me into the story. Another highlight was a standoff between Han Solo and company against some pirates which bristled with the tension of a Western gunfight. If Howard did re-direct Solo, he truly did rescue this film.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below;

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Spider-Man Homecoming

Movie Score4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Hannibal Buress, Laura Harrier, & Tony Revolori

Director: Jon Watts

Synopsis: The mutated spider has already bit Peter Parker and transformed him into Spider-Man. The movie commences a few months after Spidey disarmed Captain America. While technically part of the Avengers, Peter has to remain in Queens, fighting petty criminals because Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) commanded him to lay low and be “a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.”  Frustrated with such limitations, Peter sets off to fight “serious crime” in order to prove his worth as an Avenger to Tony and his assistant, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). On this quest, Peter discovers Adrian Toomes/The Vulture/Birdman (Michael Keaton), a former construction contractor, who is now scavenging and selling alien weaponry from The Avengers invasion on the black market. After seeing the destruction such weapons are capable of, Peter sets out to defeat The Vulture whilst balancing a normal high school life. A great movie ensues.

Heading into the movie, I felt disappointed. A week early, I had read a review that stated Spider-Man Homecoming was purely a franchise building machine with only small moments of humor and few redeeming qualities. Ladies and gentlemen, friends, families, and readers, let me be the first and hopefully not the last to tell you the aforementioned review was wrong.

The movie’s teenage characters were my favorite part (besides the villain Toomes). Tom Holland phenomenally portrayed Peter Parker. I’m so glad he did not try to emulate Toby Maguire’s sniveling, wimpy version of Peter. Instead, Holland imbues Peter with humorous and nerdy, yet subtly cool, qualities. Together with Jacob Batalon’s hilarious character, Ned, the two form a wonderful duo who made me laugh a lot more than I expected. Normally, six screenwriters on one film signals trouble, but in this one the writers created and gave Ned and Peter some fantastic quips. However, they didn’t hoard all the best lines for the main characters. Zendaya’s hipster Michelle several great lines. I wish they had also decided to make Michelle a more prominent character since she stole all her scenes.

Like Zendaya, Keaton, of course, killed all his scenes. However, what made me love his character and the movie was not just his quality acting. It was also his character and his motives. Toomes began the movie as just an honest construction worker trying to take advantage of a good business opportunity: governmental contracts to help rebuild a destroyed New York City after the Chitauri army wrecks it in The Avengers. However, after losing the contract when the government discovers the power of the Chitauri weapons and asserts control over the reconstruction. This move leaves Toomes in a precarious position as he took out large loans to gather the men and equipment needed to take on such a job. Therefore, in order to support his family and his men’s families, he starts finding, fixing, and selling the alien weaponry on the black market.

I enjoyed Toomes because he was not a master villain trying to take over the world à la Loki. Instead, he was just a man doing whatever it takes to make ends meet and live the American dream. In an interesting conversation with Peter, Toomes asks him, what’s the difference between what he does and Tony Stark selling arms to the armies of the world. Such a question enters a fantastic grey area that Marvel likes to venture into and have successfully done so far like in The Winter Soldier and Civil War.  The question stumps Peter and it stumped me.

Target Audience: Teenagers, Marvel/DC/Disney lovers, and middle age adults. I’m counting out people over 50 based on my dad’s groans when he saw the trailer and children because the Vulture can, at times, be fearsome.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham