Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Director: Ron Howard Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany

A young Han Solo finds himself getting involved with a criminal gang planning to steal from the Empire, as he tries to get together enough money to buy a ship. Through several twists of fate he meets Chewbacca, soon becoming his co-pilot, and the untrustworthy Lando Calrissian with whom he forms an alliance of convenience.

As everyone keeps saying, this is the Star Wars prequel that no one asked for. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know that back story of Han, as his mystery is all part of the allure, but actually the story is quite enjoyable and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. I mean, I started with very low expectations so that probably helped, but on the whole I think it’s a good film.

Starting with the good points, Solo is a good stand alone film without have any prior knowledge of the Star Wars universe. I think that’s why it’s unfair for people to criticise it- on it’s own, as a film there’s not much wrong with it and it’s a fun family adventure. Obviously it’s no The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s not part of the central Star Wars saga so it’s not fair to compare it. Alden Ehrenreich is fine as Han Solo- at some moments I could see that he was going for some of the classic Harrison Ford mannerisms, and although he slightly misses the mark, I can justify that in my head as because he’s a younger Han Solo he’s no going to be exactly the same as the fully developed Han Solo of the original trilogy. I really liked the story of how Han and Chewie meet, and their friendship has enough screen time so that you can properly see it develop. There were lots of great little references to the original films- but not so much as to make it not work as a standalone film- such as the Kessel run (settling once and for all the Great Parsec Debate), Han’s lucky dice, his legendary blaster and of course the classic issue of Han shooting first.

As I mentioned, most of the references to the originals are subtle enough for it not to matter to new viewers but long-time Star Wars fans will appreciate them. However, without wanting to give away any spoilers, the final scene with Qi’ra (Han’s love interest) and the big reveal of who she works for may not make a lot of sense to those new to the franchise and might seem a bit random. It definitely needs expanding on and I think that’s why there are rumours circulating that Solo will be trilogy.

Solo is an enjoyable yarn, and I’d probably place it mid-table in the list of all the Star Wars films. For people who aren’t into Star Wars it’s a good entry into the franchise, and is fun and light-hearted but with well-developed characters and a storyline that makes sense. Don’t let the bad reviews put you off and miss out on seeing it at the cinema!

4 stars

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The Disaster Artist (2017)

Director: James Franco Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson

The true story of what happened during the creation of cult favourite movie The Room by Tommy Wiseau. Tommy and Greg meet at an acting class in San Francisco, and quickly become friends after Tommy’s positive, can-do attitude to life spurs on Greg to pursue his dream of an acting career in LA. When they move to LA and neither of their careers really takes off, Tommy writes a screenplay and casts himself and Greg in the star roles. However, Tommy’s not a regular director and the film takes some strange turns.

After I sat through The Room late last year, for on reason or another I never made it to the cinema to watch The Disaster Artist, simply¬†through my own general incompetence. It’s been a long wait but I’ve finally watched it- and as hoped I thought it was great. I thought it would just be a good laugh, finding out what happened behind the scenes, but actually the film has a strong plot of its own and it totally changed my perception of the characters. Yes, Tommy Wiseau is a massive weirdo and kind of a dick, but I actually really admired his outlook on life. He doesn’t care what other people think; he believes that if he works for his dream he can achieve it; he pushes Greg to be his best; and he works hard on a project he’s passionate about. Yes, the result was The Room, and although it’s not what Tommy had in mind, it’s a cult favourite that tonnes of people have seen, and the film mentions at the end that thanks to its cult status and appearance at midnight screenings for fans, the film has actually finally made a profit.

James Franco is a divisive actor and to be honest really has been in some crap films, but he’s perfect in this. He plays Tommy (ironically both directing and playing the lead role, just like Wiseau IRL), and his mannerisms and accent are so accurate that it’s hard to tell it’s not actually him. There’s a final scene after the credits in which the real Tommy Wiseau meets the character played by Franco, and you can hardly tell which is which. Dave Franco as Greg is fairly standard as Greg doesn’t really have any stand-out characteristics, but I thought Josh Hutcherson as Denny was hilarious and Zac Efron’s cameo also made me laugh just because he was so weird. James Franco won a Golden Globe for this, which I think is very fitting because I feel like Tommy has had the last laugh over the Hollywood that rejected him.

While there are a fair number of in-jokes shared by those who’ve seen The Room, I don’t think you necessarily have to have seen it to enjoy The Disaster Artist. As I’ve mentioned, the behind-the-scenes is a great story in itself that I think many would appreciate.

4 stars

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Director: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth… ok they’re all in it. Everyone minus Antman and Hawkeye.

After lurking in the background for several movies, Thanos makes his play for all the infinity stones and instigates his plan to fulfil his plans for universal dominance. When he encounters Thor in space, the Avengers become alerted to his plan and are forced to reunite to try to stop him.

Admittedly, I’ve always enjoyed the Marvel movies but would never consider myself a full-on fan. However I thought Infinity War was brill. There’s definitely a novelty factor in all the characters including the Guardians of the Galaxy gang coming together once again, but the film brings all of them together really well, and not just for the sake of having all these huge names in one movie. There are so many different missions and sub-plots going on, but it never feels like the film is bitty or jumpy; everything flows in an orderly way and it’s well-paced. It’s the longest Marvel film yet but honestly it felt like the time went really quickly.

There’s also a lot more character development and general emotions and feelings and stuff. The previous movies haven’t really focused much on this (everyone generally operates at a high gung-ho level) aside from Iron Man’s PTSD from the events of Avengers Assemble, but this film shows the effects on everyone and it was much easier to feel more involved in their personal journeys. Also as a warning, prepare to come out feeling ever so slightly like you’ve lost a close friend.

All the characters are in it apart from Antman (sadly) and Hawkeye (honestly not bothered). Thankfully, seeing as Black Panther was so good, most of the cast from that are in it, and Thor seriously ramps it up in a major way. I enjoyed Spiderman again and especially his and Iron Man’s relationship. I didn’t really like the Doctor Strange movie (I fell asleep in it for a good half hour) but I liked him in this- he’s a useful character all round and the other characters kind of tone down his grating personality. Plus I think he’ll have a major role in closing the events of the next movie…

I would absolutely suggest you go and see this film, although probably worth catching up on the recent previous Marvel movies for a recap (especially Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther). Finally, as an FYI the post-credits scene is right at the end of the credits, not halfway through like they usually are, so don’t run away too quickly.

4.5 stars

I, Tonya (2017)

Director: Craig Gillespie Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson

Based on real-life interviews with the main protagonists, I, Tonya charts the story of US figure skater Tonya Harding from her early days in the sport to the 1994 Winter Olympics and the controversy surrounding an incident with her main rival. The film explores the abusive relationships she has with both her mother and husband, and how she faces different treatment and judgment because if her “white trash” background.

I had wanted to see this movie because from the trailer it looked like a dark comedy, which is a type of movie I love. However, after watching it I wouldn’t define it as such and I’d say the comedy element is almost accidental, as the whole thing is based on real testimonies so nothing is supposed to be funny- that’s just how it was. There’s actually a disclaimer at the start of the film saying that it’s based on real interviews, totally “without irony”, which I think is important to bear in mind throughout the film as you watch the ridiculousness of the tragedy unfold. This is actually how the real-life people say that the events unfolded, which makes it even more surreal.

The whole story is really very sad, and I liked how the film doesn’t really try to portray the characters as good or bad, but they all have elements of both so that the audience can decide for themselves. I imagine most people will fall on the side of Tonya, but I found her husband Jeff and her mother to have some good qualities too, meaning they weren’t all bad.

I thought Margot Robbie was excellent in this, and while I agree that Frances McDormand was the right choice to win the Oscar for Best Actress, I think this was the best film I’ve seen Margot Robbie in. I was very convinced by her character and I thought she portrayed Tonya’s anguish and disappointment really well. Allison Janney did win Best Supporting Actress- she’s not in the films loads but she is good in it, and I think she had one of those “Oscar moments” when she explains to Tonya why she treats her like she does and compares it to the relationship she had with her own mother.

The film is quite sweary and the storyline most certainly is not family appropriate, but it’s a good drama so I think a lot of people wold enjoy it. As far as Oscar films go it’s not too heavy and pretentious, so definitely at the easier-to-view end of things. Plus, the soundtrack is really really good.

4 stars