Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)


Don’t get cocky, kid!

Lucasfilm maybe should have taken Han’s advice, because while Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t a bad film, it isn’t a very good one, either.

One of the main challenges for Lucasfilm in making this film was finding the person who could fill Harrison Ford’s massive shoes. Han Solo is an iconic character and it was going to take someone special to step into the role. They settled on Alden Ehrenreich, which wasn’t a bad choice. Ehrenreich does a pretty good job encapsulating the swagger and snark that is Solo, and by the second half of the film, I bought it. Whether or not that stands the next time I pop in the original trilogy remains to be seen.

Visually, the film is beautiful, which isn’t surprising. The action set pieces are what you would expect from Lucasfilm at this point, although I could have done without all the non-humanoid creatures that kept popping up. We get it. There are weird looking aliens in this universe. It just feels like, at this point, that every film is trying to one-up the last with what kind of strange creatures will pop up next. And without going into spoilers, I’m sort of done with the droids, too. The film also falls into Marvel territory in regards to its villains. Underdeveloped and with a couple of twists that sort of made me shake my head and go, huh? Was that really necessary? The film almost felt as if it were a couple of different films pieced together, which isn’t surprising given the behind the scenes stuff that went on.

There are a number of bright spots, however, that pull the film from terrible territory. The cast is one of them, and this is where the movie really shines. Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra is interesting, with just enough of mystery to make you take notice and Woody Harrelson’s Beckett is exactly what you’d expect. As noted everywhere else on the interwebz, Donald Glover’s portrayal of Lando Calrissian is next-level incredible. He embodies Billy Dee Williams perfectly, and then ramps it up a notch. I won’t be surprised, given the reaction to the character, if Lucasfilm announces a Lando spin-off film in the near future. Although, the opening weekend numbers of Solo might put a damper on those sorts of notions.

The main problem with the film, besides the pacing which was all over the place, is the same problem that plagues all prequels. There are no real stakes. We all know the overall outcome before the movie starts. Both Han and Chewie are going to survive, and there is not enough development of any of the new characters for us to really care about what happens to them. It was the same problem I had with Rogue One. And yes, I know that Lucasfilm provides a lot of extra content and backstory in the tie-in materials, but unless you’re a hard-core Star Wars fan, it’s unlikely that you’ll seek this information out just to fill in any gaps.

Overall, the film is okay, bordering on good. But that’s not what I want from my Star Wars films. I want fantastic, amazing, I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-it incredible. And I’m not sure that that’s what we’re going to get while Lucasfilm keeps going back to the same old well for story ideas. (The exception to that is an Obi-Wan film (or trilogy) because that is the story I most want!). In this vast and varied galaxy, there have to be other stories to tell. Let’s hope that the studio realizes this sooner rather than later.

6/10 STARS


I’m A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Blogger…


back again

So, the point of getting my crap together last summer and sprucing up my website and all of that was because I was going to be interacting and blogging and all of that SEO stuff that’s important on the interwebz. And it was going great, for a few weeks… And then… well, I can’t even really say that anything in particular happened, other than life.

Life gets in the way of all the fun stuff, it seems. Either that, or laziness! I’m going with the first one… although I’m far too afraid that it’s the latter. 😊 But that’s all in the past now and I am back in the saddle and… well, at this point, I’m going to try to be more consistent moving forward. My goal is to post at least one new blog post a week. It may be something writing related, it may be a movie review (because I’m still seeing those on a regular basis!) or it may be me just ranting about random stuff or something cool that I’ve done or seen (like my recent trip to New York City, where I went to see 8 Broadway shows in 7 days!). Whatever it is… well, we’ll see what happens! 😊

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Welcome home, Spidey.

On the big screen, Spider-Man has had a bit of a tumultuous ride. For the character, there have been really high highs and really low lows… so much so, in fact, that things were looking grim for Sony there for a while. They didn’t seem to know what to do with the character and his gallery, and after a couple of failed attempts, seemed to be floundering. Spider-Man is the only character that the studio holds the rights to, so they needed to make sure that they had something viable and usable, and preferably something they could build a cinematic universe on.

Enter Marvel Studios.

It’s been a long-time dream of comic book fans to see Spider-Man back in the fold and on the big screen with the Avengers. Nerd tears were shed back in 2015 when it was announced that Sony had finally made a deal with Marvel Studios to bring Peter into the MCU. And make no mistake about it, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an MCU film. And a solid one at that.

There is no radioactive spider bite and no tearful goodbye to Uncle Ben. The film picks up where we last saw Peter, in a delightful little montage (because I avoided the later trailers, I wasn’t spoiled by this bit), at the airport in Germany during the Captain America: Civil War battle. But just as Peter thinks he’s hit the big time, he’s sent back to the minors and expected to just go about his everyday teenage life back in Queens. Which includes attending high school and all the stuff that comes with it when you’re a nerdy teenage boy.

This is where the film really shines. John Watts has done a fantastic job of balancing the everyday stuff with the superhero aspects of Peter’s life, and how these things weigh on the character. And the idea that Peter is going to—and does—make mistakes give the story a real world feel, with consequences and all. Previous iterations of the character had a tendency to gloss over this aspect of Peter’s life, but this film dumps you head first right into the deep end of all that teen angst. It’s a refreshing change to recent superhero fare.

What really makes this film stand out, however, is both its hero and its villain. Michael Keaton shines as Adrian Toomes, also known as the villainous Vulture. Toomes has agency, motivation and a credible backstory, which is rare for a Marvel villain. He’s also rather terrifying, and that’s never a bad thing in a bad guy. But that only adds to the incredible performance by Tom Holland. He is both the quintessential Peter Parker and Spider-Man and seemed to be born to play this role. His brings a real naivety and vulnerability to the character, which is something that was lacking in previous iterations. It’s going to be fun to see him grow with this role, and there is no doubt that he will easily be considered the perfect Peter when all is said and done.

Overall, the film is what I wanted in a Spider-Man film and is the perfect vehicle to bring the character into the Avengers fold. While no means perfect, it still captures the magic and wonder of the character and the world he lives in, growing pains and all. Sure, it’s fun to see him interacting with the rest of the Avengers, but it’s these smaller, neighbourhood stories that truly bring the character to life. Hopefully we’ll get a few more before Spider-Man takes over the Avengers, because we all know that’s where this is headed. Just maybe not so soon.

8.5/10 STARS

The Chances You Don’t Take…

I’ve always been a bit of a dichotomy. A touch wishy-washy and a bit impulsive. Believe me, it doesn’t make sense to me either, and yet, it’s true. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the things I regret the most seem to be the ones that I hem and haw about, and ultimately decide against doing. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘why didn’t I’s’ are the things that still haunt me.

I honestly don’t have many regrets in my life, but the ones I do seem to be the kind that linger, petty though they may be. And believe me, some of them are pretty petty in the grand scheme of things. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t have meant something to me, had I only not hesitated or talked myself out of it.

The latest one, the one that got me thinking—which is a scary prospect, I know—involves a possible trip to New York City for a weekend in August that is definitely not happening now. I’ve never been to NYC, but it’s high up on my list of places to visit. I’m a huge ‘Theatre Geek’ and can’t wait to see my first show on Broadway (you would think that this would have played a part in this whole thing, but alas, you would be wrong).

The story starts about a month ago when I got word of a one-night only show in NYC that I wanted very badly to see. At the news, I sighed wistfully and had daydreams of winning the lottery so I could attend. Fast forward to last week when it came to my attention that someone who I’ve been dying to see perform live would be in this particular one-night only event. Well, I freaked out and immediately went online to see if tickets were still available. And there they were… beautiful, front of the stage seats, at a reasonable price… and my heart fluttered, I sighed again and closed the browser window.

But then, over the weekend, the idea that I could actually make this work began growing and evolving in my over-worked brain. The show is on a Saturday night, so I could easily fly in overnight on Friday and head home on Sunday. Throw in a matinee of another show I’m dying to see on the Saturday and it just might be a fantastic weekend.

So, this morning, I said fuck it, I’m doing this thing because life’s too short and I work hard and because I damn well want to… and of course, the show is now sold out. Cue uncontrollable sobbing in the corner. (Not literally, because I was at work all day, but you get the picture).

*SIGH* Another regret on the pile… to go along with the boy I didn’t kiss when I had the chance, the party I didn’t attend that I should have, the words I didn’t write, the chance I didn’t take because I was afraid and the things I never said to someone who is gone.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am completely aware that this is the height of a first world problem. There are many other things going on the world that I should be worried about. That doesn’t make the disappointment any less poignant in the moment, however. Or the fact that I will forever kick myself for hesitating, solely because of the almighty dollar. What if this was my only chance to see this particular work and this particular performer? I guess I’ll just have to be happy with the decision I made and move on.

Maybe tomorrow.

Today I want to be a little angry and a little sad and whole lotta disappointed. And then maybe next time I’ll remember this feeling and I won’t hesitate. I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason, so I will take this one as a lesson in over-thinking things and the stupidity of not going with your gut. And when the next opportunity rolls around, I’ll be ready to shout ‘yes’ from the rooftops. Or get on that plane with no regrets.

Review: Baby Driver (2017)

They say that sometimes you have to let go of the good things to make room for the great things. These pearls of wisdom have never been more apt than with the whole Edgar Wright/Ant-Man falling out with Kevin Feige and Marvel a few years ago.

While Wright’s Ant-Man would have been something interesting, the fact that he stepped away from the project looks to be the best thing to happen to all parties involved. Not only did we get a gem of a film in Peyton Reed’s final version of Ant-Man, but the move also opened the door for Wright to set his sights on a more personal project… which just happened to be the incredible Baby Driver.

Baby Driver follows the story of Baby (the fabulous Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver for a master-of-the-heist crime boss, Doc (a mustache-twirling—but in the very best way—Kevin Spacey). Baby’s goal is to get out, but we don’t often get the things that we want in life, even with the best laid plans.

The film is brash and bold and brazen. So unique and distinctive that it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the Cinematic Universe fare that seems so prevalent in cinemas these days. An incredible score and soundtrack, mixed with a great script, fantastic action and a fabulous cast will easily send the film to the top of many Best lists. And deservedly so. Wright not only gets incredible performances from Elgort (who, based on his performance here, is a bonafide movie star) and Spacey, but also his supporting cast. Jamie Fox and Jon Hamm shine as not-so-nice partners in crime, but Eiza Gonzalez is the real breakout here. Her take on Darling is something special, and when added to the chemistry that she and Hamm have, she virtually leaps off the screen and right into your lap.

Overall, this film is exactly what I wanted it to be. Fun, loud, incredible and a little unexpected. Wright has taken an interesting, if trite premise and turned it on its head. The film is neither a sequel, a requel, a prequel nor a remake. Hopefully that, coupled with the awesome word of mouth that it’s been getting, will send audiences flocking to the theatre. A girl can dream, can’t she? Oh, and if you haven’t already done so, GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

9/10 STARS

New-To-Me Review: The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years (2014) is a film adaptation of the Off-Broadway musical of the same name by Jason Robert Brown. The film was written and directed by Richard Lagravenese and stars Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up In The Air) and Jeremy Jordan (Broadway’s Newsies, TV’s Smash).

The story follows the rise and fall of the five-year relationship between struggling actress Cathy Hiatt and novelist Jamie Wellerstein. Like the musical, the film is sung through, which means that the story is told entirely through song. The film (unlike the musical, which I have not had the pleasure to see) does have a couple of spots where there is brief dialogue, but they are absolutely minimal. And here, unlike in the stage production, the characters actually get a chance to interact with one another, which adds another bit of depth to the material. (On stage, they each tell their side of the story directly to the audience and only interact once).

What sets the story apart, however, is that it is not told in chronological order; Cathy’s arc begins at the end of the relationship and moves backwards, while Jamie’s arc starts at the beginning and moves forwards. The viewpoints alternate throughout the film, with the two stories intersecting in the middle, at the point where the characters get engaged and then married.

Overall, the film is beautiful… and heartbreaking. The score is modern and poignant, and a few of the tunes are the kind that have a tendency to stick with you. I will definitely be buying the soundtrack to the film later this week. And there is no doubt that the beauty of the film lies in the performances of the two leads. Especially when it comes to light that the performances were all captured live. No lip-syncing here.

To steal a line from Jordan’s Bonnie And Clyde on Broadway co-star, Laura Osnes, Jeremy Jordan can sing the crap out of anything and doesn’t disappoint here. The emotion that he brings with just his voice alone is incredible, and there is a reason that he is considered one of the top talents on Broadway (and is completely wasted as sidekick Winn Schott on The CW’s Supergirl. But that’s a rant for another day!) His rendition of ‘Nobody Needs To Know’ makes you want to both hate him and hold him, all in the same breath. Kendrick is excellent in the flashier role of Cathy (she gets the more memorable songs of the bunch) and proves that she is the whole package once more. The nuance and subtlety of her performance makes it a must see.

The only problem I had with the film was that it seemed to get a little muddled in the middle. A couple of times I felt myself a little lost as to where exactly we were in the timeline, which is one of the issues with having the leads on screen together. It was a mad scramble to see if they were wearing wedding rings to try and place the scene. This is a minor complaint, however and will probably work itself out during rewatch.

The film doesn’t fit in the happy, all-is-right-with-the-world box that most musicals find themselves in. Neither character is exceptionally likeable, and yet their inevitable end still breaks your heart. It’s raw and real and oh so resonant to anyone who has ever made the wrong choices, for reasons that they felt were right, in a relationship and had their heart broken in the process.

8.5/10 STARS

Why, hello there…

Hello and welcome to my blog space. Here you’ll find my random thoughts on just about anything… movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, things I love, people I admire, what I’m working on. You know, a collection of haphazard thoughts and ideas from my brain (which is sort of a scary thought!). A space for me to get my feelings down and hopefully have a discussion with like-minded, or maybe not so like-minded, individuals. I’m always up for discussion, but my only rule is that you have to be respectful. Differing opinions are what make the world go round, but if we can’t discuss them civilly, then what’s the point?

Now, you may have a question about the name of the site. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little cheeky. But I love it because it’s actually a quote from one of my favourite films, The Birdcage. Val (Dan Futterman) has just told his dad, Armand (the incomparable Robin Williams) that he’s getting married. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well. Instead of answering yes or no when Val asks his dad ‘are you upset?’ Armand looks at his son and says, ‘But let me tell you why…’ It’s a quote that I’ve always loved and thought it was rather apropos here. And if you haven’t seen The Birdcage, stop what you’re doing and go and watch it right now. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are masterful in the film.

So, that’s it. That’s what this whole thing is about. Hope you stop by again to see what I’m up to. Or not up to, as the case may be.