Monday, May 28, 2018

Movie Review: “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Solo:  A Star Wars Story

**** out of 5
135 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence

Article first published at

The deck was stacked against Solo: A Star Wars Story from conception. As if it’s not a bold move for anyone to be making a prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy, they sought to take us back to the yesteryears of the beloved Han Solo. So it’s a good thing Lucasfilm is handling it themselves. Even better, having Kathleen Kennedy made sure to play her cards right, ensuring maximum quality.

While Kennedy may have given Rian Johnson free reign to polarize the entire franchise with The Last Jedi, she swiftly replaced original Solo directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller with Ron Howard. While we may never know what could have been — word was that they were trying to make a buddy comedy 21 Jump Street style — but Howard was definitely a better fit and Solo beats the odds so don’t ever tell him the odds.

Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is on the run with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) from a local gang on Correllia. The two are separated with Han joining the Imperial Navy to become the best pilot in the galaxy. Three years later, Han meets up with criminals Tobias (Woody Harrelson) and Val Beckett (Thandie Newton), and Rio Durant (voiced by Jon Favreau) while meet-cuting Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Now, everyone needs the help of Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) to steal unprocessed coaxium from the Kessel mines for Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the leader of the Crimson Dawn criminal syndicate. All while the Cloud Riders are hot on their tails!

With The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, it’s nice to find Solo setting out to not try its damnedest to fit in. This is Solo’s movie through and through. Never getting bogged with political agendas, Howard has crafted this outing back to the feel of George Lucas’s original trilogy.

Of course there’s plenty of CGI, but this is also the dirtiest of the new films. Dirty as in Solo’s world has a lived-in quality, it’s not bright and shiny. That being said, be careful where you see it, the first press screening felt a little too dark and my suspicions were proved correct after the second one was held on an IMAX screen. It looked better and was far more enjoyable in round two. I mean, it is a Star Wars movie so why wouldn’t you see it on IMAX anyway?

Howard’s overhaul also brought in his years of expertise. This is his best film since Apollo 13 and hopefully reignites his spark from the ’80s and ’90s. Master Star Wars scripter Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens) — along with son Jonathan — send us back to before the rebellion and make sure the audience is taken on a breathtaking rollercoaster ride. They also take time to plant the seed for future adventures and even more spin-offs.

The RottenTomatoes score keeps falling and it’s obviously ruined by those who just can’t see Han portrayed by anyone other than Harrison Ford. Ehrenreich is one of very few who could pull it off. He’s spectacular from first frame to last and has truly become (young) Solo. And then there’s the always impressive Donald Glover. No one since Billy Dee Williams was born to play Lando and now no one else can. As much as everyone is clamoring for Lando to get his own film — myself included — it sounds like Kennedy is in no rush. And as Lando himself may say, that’s nothing but a good thing, baby. And of course, Chewie steals every scene he’s in.

Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t perfect. Considering its troubled production, it’s a miracle Solo is as good as it is! Filled with old friends and new faces, it’s a fun Star Wars films and an admirable addition to the franchise.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Movie Review: “Deadpool 2”

Deadpool 2

***** out of 5
119 minutes
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material

20th Century Fox

Article first published at

With Deadpool becoming not just the second highest grossing R-rated feature domestically, but the highest grossing X-Men film, expectations are high for Deadpool 2. Well have no fear, Wade Wilson is here to cleanse our saddened Infinity War palettes and satiate our appetites with everything we love about Deadpool.

Deadpool may be a comic-based action film, but it’s a comedy at heart. And there’s no genre harder to make a sequel for. Leave it to Deadpool & Friends to find a way. Our favorite “Merc with a Mouth” is back and he’s brought some new friends with him to ensure maximum effort across all fronts.

Fifty years in the future, a mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison) will kill Cable’s (Josh Brolin) wife and daughter. In the present, Cable has time traveled back to stop Russell. Meanwhile, Wade (Ryan Reynolds) must do whatever he can to stop Cable from killing Russell with the help of his X-Force — Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan),  Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), Domino (Zazie Beetz), and Peter (Rob Delaney) — along with Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapičić), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and even Dopinder (Karan Soni).

For those of you who liked the first Deadpool, you’re gonna love Deadpool 2! This is director David Leitch’s best film yet — quite a feat when you’re following up John Wick and Atomic Blonde. Leitch — along with returning writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, joined by Ryan Reynolds this time — deliver on all fronts. They even manage to subtly set up the X-Force spin-off without shoving it down our throats.

Reynolds continues to prove Deadpool is the character he was born to play. Brolin kills it as Cable while Dennison continues to be a hilarious star on the rise after his turn in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Beetz is a scene stealer and needs her own movie.

This is the sequel we deserve and it’s nice to see Marvel and Fox didn’t jump the gun and phone it in. The marketing for the film has gone balls out too. Look no further than the Celine Dion video for the Oscar bait song, “Ashes” and a glutton of 7-11 items ranging from Slurpee to Trolli Mini Hands.

Deadpool 2 also has a better tone than the first. After rewatching the original over the weekend, it feels more mean-spirited and nihilistic whereas the sequel is even more fun. It also features one of the best opening and closing credits sequences ever! Don’t worry, this is pure Deadpool cranked up to 11. Gleefully profane and even more self-aware than the original, this is the Deadpool we know and love. The jokes are funnier, the gore is gorier, the big is bigger, and the meta is metaier.