Monthly Archives: December 2019

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

This is…*sigh*…not bad but also not what anyone was hoping for.

Solo will likely always be overshadowed for its price tag/wallet and was predetermined to suffer such a fate no matter how good this was. It’s unfortunate and a disservice to those who helped construct this artwork but where there are stalls in production and the termination of directors, there’s generally fire.

Ron Howard, under the tight reins of executive producers, ended up reworking nearly three quarters of the film.

The entire tonality of the film was flipped on its axle, leading stars actively questioning their roles, a major red flag for any production. Disney had botched this.Image result for solo star wars movie poster free use

But Disney, or any large megacorp, for that matter, would rather surge through the hurricane than wave the white flag and that they did. I discussed Disney’s reluctance to see straight on John Carter this summer (Was actually one of my better works this year. Worth a click).

Solo runs much smoother than broadcast but I use smooth as a detriment here. While Solo doesn’t scream panic on the screen, the story lacks narrative depth, no doubt a byproduct of a mosh pit of tonalities. The film was originally directed as a comedy since directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were expressly told to distance itself from a Star Wars taste and to instead look toward a character novella surrounding the famed smuggler.

And while I’d have no issue with a Star Wars comedy, producers were thoroughly against it. Some reports said Lord and Miller of Lego Movie fame were targeting a western more than anything. Whether space cowboy or straight comedy, all involved could agree that Han Solo deserved his own enterprise but there was enough vitriol in the disagreement to take an ax to the directing duo altogether, leaving all agreed to the “we need something different” statement but undecided on what qualified as different and what served as walking the plank.

In news that may shock some, the question of ambiguous texture arises on more than one occasion, making even “the dumb friend” in the group question what kind of park ride he got on. While Rogue One carries the Star Wars title, it also proudly states its individuality many a time across filming, a boastful demeanor which continues to magnetize audiences to this story in a familiar universe. Removed from that nostalgic environment, Rogue One still works on a narrative and character level. Being included in the Star Wars pages is simply a bonus.

Rogue One also didn’t reject the label like inheriting such a surname carrying tragic history.

Solo can’t decide if it wants to embrace the label with pride or trash it like a hand-me-down. If those are the only two options, given the Solo character is already part of the cannon, the former seems the right course of action but for whatever reason, the studios were deadset on something they deemed organic when the fragrance they’ve been churning out for forty years is still fresh.

And if western comedy is what you’re going with, that’s totally fine! Hell, might even be something *gasp* innovative.

Innovation scares people just like things and creatures people can’t understand. The unknown is unpredictable, not part of the plan and that upsets the schemers. (Sidenote: I’m in love with The Dark Knight. Truly a masterwork.) Films like Solo aren’t complicated or at least shouldn’t be. Complications arrive because of the parties involved.

And that truthfully sums it up, folks. Disney got too cute with this one and a bout of indecision during a dinner date with one of its finest suitors ended with some thrown handkerchiefs and dramatic exits.

Despite a clear miss at the shooting range, Solo, unlike John Carter, survives as an average endeavor. I give credit to Ron Howard, a man who’s been in the business a long time, and a crew who did what they could to make it all work. Star Wars has a family of its own and I believe those in Hollywood given the opportunity to add to the legacy do so with the utmost respect and reverence for the material.

Woody Harrelson’s bounty hero, along with most of the cast, can’t escape generalities, however, a pit Disney essentially pushed them into. I can almost visualize producers taking a far too active role in directing, correcting the cast’s portrayal of their vehicles at every turn, relaunching them onto a different set of tracks. If producers knew what was best for them, they’d put forward the funds and let the artists focus on the art.

Alden Ehrenreich is the picture’s best figure, an earnest and honest effort. There’s wit, showmanship and charisma here. Shame the script couldn’t have given the guy more to work with. Han Solo is begging for a comedy, howling for more one-liners. The producers stubborn resilience to frame this as a serious smuggler score rattles the mind.

Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Harrelson and company don’t execute anything poorly and I can’t emphasize enough that I hold no resentment toward the cast for this one. It’s hard to win five-card poker with a pair of sevens.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Batman BeginsThe MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTaken)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Spider-Man: Far From Home, Dumb and DumberPokemon Detective PikachuThe Matrix Reloaded,Wanted)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (XXX: State of the UnionThe SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe Gunman)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The ExtendablesThe Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcast)

My score for Solo: A Star Wars Story: 77. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a broken thoroughbred rounding the final bend of what was a promising start to the franchise. The original trilogy has aged tremendously and the prequels, while displaying poor acting and writing far more often than fans would like, are still watchable. The Force Awakens is arguably great despite being a near carbon copy of A New HopeRogue One may be better than any of the new trilogy installments.

Solo is the adopted stepchild who never finds a role to play in the family and despite promise, its parenting and circumstance prevent it from ever reaching its full potential.

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Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

It’s been far too long. I’d rather not blather on about my absence or make any promises regarding my publishing schedule. What gets done get done and I’d rather not chain myself to a planner. Just know I’ve missed this space and while I may disappear at times, I’ll always come back. Now, to our feature presentation.

The Marvel cinematic universe is quite an achievement. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy started it all, although Downey Jr.’s Iron Man gets most of the recognition (Iron Man has aged far better than when I wrote that review, by the way). Regardless, there have been a lot of achievements set by the comic superpower and very few missteps. The Thor franchise is a blight on the resume, with the first piece being average and the sequel, Thor: The Dark World, being a complete trainwreck. Ragnarok was the best of the three and Marvel, having recognized the underachieving so uncharacteristic of them, has green lit a fourth installment under director Taika Waititi’s helm. While Marvel has yet to fire a successful Hulk feature out of its cannon (and perhaps wisely so. They’ve plodded with this character for a while and now that Mark Ruffalo has cemented himself in the role and delivered in a supplementary space, best not to mess with the formula) and handed the public what I considered a copycat film in Doctor Strange, Marvel has been practically flawless otherwise, churning out premium content on a yearly basis for a decade. It was quite a period of prosperity for comic nerds and fans of heroes. Marvel has demonstrated finesse in discussing current events, aided by top-of-the-line casting and prestigious writing.Image result for SPIDERMAN far from home movie poster free use

This chapter, however, is now over. Infinity War, likely the best Marvel ever got or will ever be, followed by Endgame, put the final ink blotches on a stunning manuscript.

And so now, at least for me, appears uncertainty. With some of its best content explored and finalized, it is a question for me of how long they can keep this up. I said this once before and everything turned out fine. Of course, when Iron Man and Cap are part of the picture, you probably shouldn’t be too concerned. They are no longer here and less dominant works are naturally more difficult to adapt., so it comes as no surprise that Marvel turns to the Spider-Man well once again.

As I said, Marvel likely doesn’t consider making Iron Man if not for the success of Raimi’s trilogy. While I’m not a fan of rebooting a character every five years, the Spidey universe is quite extensive. They haven’t finished mining the caverns.

While Marvel and Sony together made a mistake with the Garfield entries (have not aged well and weren’t good to begin with. Further reading/research regarding the two projects reveals Raimi’s reluctance to make a fourth while Marvel decided to immediately reboot the saga with most of the same farmhands in place, leading to what was likely a burnt-out and heavily pressured creative team). Marvel was much smarter this time around.

Following a rights agreement between Sony and Marvel, a unified effort made the wheels go round in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Originally skeptical of a relative unknown (always will be. Comes with a lot of pressure), Tom Holland has worked well in the recipe Marvel has concocted. Straying away from the serious drama of Raimi and the repugnant bad boy of Marc Webb, Marvel has gone lighter, returning to the enhanced but overwhelmed teenager that makes Peter Parker so relatable and likable. Despite his reflexes, abilities and intelligence, Peter finds himself on the hunt for confidence and validation. Pair the immense shadow of responsibility with an even larger one from a lost mentor and Peter is gasping for air.

Hopefully an international field trip will do the trick.

Try as he might, you can’t run away from yourself and often not from your problems. Spider-Man: Far From Home is about Peter accepting and acting on that information. Peter wants a relationship with MJ but over the course of the film, begins to realize he needs to embrace himself before he can open up. Those feelings of vulnerability and helplessness are not something a relationship can cure. Those are monsters you have to conquer solo. Sometimes, doing things solo, even as a superhero, feels impossible.

You would think the introduction of superpowers into our lives would solve all our issues. Spider-Man, perhaps more than any other, proves otherwise. Yes, you can swing from rooftops but that’s not a skill highly pursued in a professional field. Being a superhero means sacrificing yourself and your life for the greater good and that is not a responsibility taken lightly. It also means having to always wear a mask, even in front of those you care about in plain sight. Everyone who knows is a potential target. If anything, superpowers make life, which is already difficult, impossible. And yet, despite all he loses by donning the mask, Peter does it anyway because he knows it’s what he’s been tasked with, what he’s supposed to do, who he is.

There are times where Peter questions it, deals with the same self-doubt many of us battle. Peter is human and Marvel’s depiction of these heroes’ humanity is one of their products’ best qualities.

Has Jake Gyllenhaal ever had a bad role? I’ve yet to see it. Samuel L. does his usual, the direction stays direct and perhaps most importantly, it stays true to itself. Plenty of pieces have become imitations rather than creations. Spider-Man: Far From Home never even dreams of it and we’re all the better for it.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Batman Begins, The MatrixL.A. ConfidentialHerTaken)

80-89  It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Dumb and DumberPokemon Detective PikachuThe Matrix Reloaded,WantedLaw Abiding Citizen)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Matrix RevolutionsTriple FrontierI am LegendIp Man 2Ip Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (2 Fast 2 FuriousDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide Squad)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (XXXThe SilenceThe Fast and the FuriousBrooklyn’s FinestDeath Race)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (DoomThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: Evolution)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (XXX: State of the UnionThe SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe Gunman)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The ExtendablesThe Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcast)

My score for Spider-Man: Far From Home: 89.

I’m excited to rewatch Spider-Man: Homecoming and put my thoughts down on that but until then, I’ll smile over Far From Home, a film which reminds us even the most powerful and most gifted sometimes feel weak.

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