Thursday, 21 June 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

A troubled production, a box office flop (kind of) and mixed reviews…. Solo: A Star Wars Story must be a pretty bad film right? Not at all really. It’s a lot of fun, a good Star Wars story and a lot better than we’ve been led to believe. Read on to find out my thoughts on the film or listen to them on the Cinebois2Cinemen podcast which you can find embedded at the bottom of this review!

Solo: A Star Wars Story is directed by Ron Howard after original directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller were fired off the project- sparking a tonne of reshoots and allowing Howard to take sole credit for the film. It follows the origins of Han Solo when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich in the role of young Han Solo, he doesn’t do a complete Harrison Ford impression but easily holds the film with his charm and wit. Donald Glover plays young Lando Calrissian, donning more of a Billy Dee Williams impersonation but absolutely nailing it and - with his limited amount of screen time - leaves you wanting more. There a whole host of new characters including Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany. They’re all doing great things and - unlike the Star Wars universe’s first anthology film, Rogue One - the new characters are all very interesting, layered and have a level of mystery to them.

With this being a prequel film, it has its slightly more cringey moments; as you learn how Han got his name and his blaster and that line etc… but you also get to see some cool scenes like how he first met Chewbacca, now played by Joonas Suotamo, and he very nearly steals the whole film. Thankfully a lot of these moments are played out near the beginning, allowing the story to just become its own thing, a fun heist film set in the Star Wars universe. In fact I would argue that this film could be enjoyed by anybody who hadn’t seen any of the other Star Wars films. I reckon it would probably get a lot more critical acclaim if it didn’t have the Han Solo name attached to it. Did we need it? No. But I enjoyed it quite a lot as a fun sci-fi film. Despite knowing the outcome for the lead, there are still a lot of stakes for everyone around him and the film manages to have a lot of surprises up its sleeve.

Tonally wise this feels like Star Wars, specifically the original trilogy; groups of characters sneaking around, going undercover and fighting for themselves and the little guy. As a huge Star Wars fan this makes me happy. As a film fan though, there is no doubt that I wanted more from this anthology series, rather than the one off prequels for characters we’ve already seen before. We need to expand the universe: there’s more to this world than Luke Skywalker and friends. I personally would love to see Lucasfilm give out $20 million to several up and coming diverse directors and see let them make a film set within the world. Nothing epic, just small stuff like “Hey, here’s a horror film.”, “a comedy film” or “a romcom” set in the Star Wars universe. I thought that we might have been getting something like that from Lord and Miller’s version of the Solo film. As much as I enjoyed this version of the film, I would love to know if I would have enjoyed their version as much. The film definitely has less comedic moments than you’d expect and is more of an adventure film. However, I still believe Ron Howard was a great choice to have take over the ship.

Another great choice in this film was the music. It wasn’t afraid to use the classic Star Wars fanfare when needed but composer John Powell added his own original scores as well which really fit into the world and sounded amazing when loud on the big screen. He’s be a great choice for future instalments as John Williams has already said that Episode 9 would be his last film. As much as I loved the sound, the visuals to accompany it were not always as good as we’ve seen from recent Star Wars films. Don’t get me wrong, most of it is great but the first half an hour or so is so weirdly dark that you can barely make out some details on the characters face, I felt myself squinting a lot. I thought this might have been a projection problem from my screening but I’ve heard similar complaints from other people. So if anything, don’t go see it in 3D.

Despite the worry and low expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s not the masterpiece that The Last Jedi was (screw you haters) but it is a good fun ride none the less. The great moments outweigh the slightly cringe prequel moments. Star Wars isn’t dead people, it’s very much alive. This film even teases further connections to the expanded universe as well as a thread which might link all these spin off films together. Go watch it this weekend, you won’t be disappointed. I’m rating Solo: A Star Wars Story a 3.5/5.

What did you think of the film? Let me know in the comments below.

And now for the listening section. Thanks again to Danny and Alfie for having me back on the podcast and allowing me to get all nerdy over Star Wars

Thanks for reading/listening!

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Deadpool 2

Couple of late reviews heading towards you, Deadpool 2 today and Solo: A Star Wars Story coming in a few days (hopefully). Sorry for the delay with these ones, the likelihood is many of you have seen them already but I've been busy, for one I just got engaged! I think that's a good enough excuse... Now please enjoy my review of the Deadpool 2.

I enjoyed the first Deadpool film but I did not love it. It was comedic and I enjoyed the adult take on the superhero genre. However, as much as it tried to be subversive it fell flat on the execution, since its own story followed the basic superhero tropes and rarely diverted from the tired template. I didn’t have high hopes for Deadpool 2, the trailers looked interesting but I just wasn’t completely hooked or invested in seeing another outing from the character. Maybe that’s why I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the sequel when I saw it the other evening.

Deadpool 2 follows the titular character as he brings together a team of mutant rogues to protect a young boy with supernatural abilities from the brutal, time travelling cyborg, Cable. There’s a lot more story in this one than the last and - although it doesn’t break any tropes - it is definitely a lot more interesting to watch play out. Deadpool himself points this out within the film and although that’s not as smart as actually breaking away from those tropes; it is quite funny to see him literally try and force an arc for his loud mouthed and annoying character throughout the film. New cast members, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz and Julian Denninso as Cable, Domino and Firefist are also very welcome additions to the sequel, all killing it in their roles and practically stealing the show.

Comedy is subjective so it’s difficult to talk about the comedy in Deadpool 2 as if my opinion of it is the only one that matters. There were many times throughout where the audience were in hysterics and I was sat their stony-faced and vice versa. I personally thought the hit rates of jokes were quite high in this film, I found it a lot funnier than the first. For me, this seemed to be because they scaled back on the amount of ‘dick’ jokes, making way for some smarter and more thought out writing. There’s still a lot of misses but there’s always going to be with the high amount of jokes in the film to begin with. I did find that the so called ‘subversive’ jokes or meta commentary to be the weakest ones though, with the jokes that play out as part of the story being stronger overall.

When it comes to the comic-book-y-ness of the film, there’s a lot to love. I particularly love how this franchise just completely disregards the X-Men universe it’s supposed to be a part of and just has fun in the sandbox of the world. There’s some great characters in here and some surprising ones as well that, if you can look past the dodgy CGI for, then you can have a lot of fun with.

It’s difficult to really talk about Deadpool 2; firstly, because what plays out should be left to be discovered by the audience but also secondly because I just enjoyed it, nothing more, nothing less. It hasn’t left a lasting impression on me but I had fun in the cinema. I enjoyed the action scenes which were done so much better this time round; possibly due to half of the John Wick directors, David Leitch taking the helm. You’re not going to have the same experience you might have had with Infinity War earlier this year but you are going to get a couple hours of escapism and some laughs along the way. I like what Ryan Reynolds is doing with character and I actually left this film looking forward to seeing what he gets up to next; whether that be a threequel or as a supporting character in another film.

This film made its audience in the first instalment and if you liked that one then you’ll probably like this one (possibly even more like me). But if you hated it then this is definitely more of the same; slightly better done but it’s not going to change your mind. Now we’ve got this sequel out of the way I’d like to see Deadpool go in a different direction and actually make a subversive film with a story to match instead of the smug wink and knowing nod that these two films like to delve into. I enjoyed you Deadpool 2, I laughed quite a lot and it made me want to see more, but next time deliver on what you’re fighting for; something different. I’m rating the film a 3.5/5.

What did you think of The Merc With a Mouth’s second (kind of third) outing? Loved it or hated it, let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!