REVIEW: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

The story of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) who joins a group of smugglers and thieves led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) to take on an almost impossible heist for crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars films, showing us how Han Solo became the Han Solo we know and love. Is this film needed? No. Is it a good film? I’s alright and its downfall is that it has the same problems that so many prequel films have no matter the genre. You know the characters who you’ve seen in films that are set later on survive this adventure and you know any characters you’re introduced to in this film who you haven’t seen before will either die, turn evil, ride off into the sunset or just generally not have a big role in this film. Sometimes it’s a combination of more than one of these potential outcomes. The new characters are mostly decent but aren’t particularly fleshed out or, in the case of Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), are suddenly given multiple different facets towards the end of the film that it feels a bit like whiplash.

Alden Ehrenreich does a great job as a younger version of Harrison Ford’s jaded Han Solo. This Han Solo is a guy who doesn’t really know where he fits in, he tries being good, he tries being bad and a lot of the time he’s just very lucky. Donald Glover is also very charismatic as a young Lando Calrissian and seeing how Han and Lando meet is great and the two of them bounce well of each other. Another great first meeting is Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) seeing the friendship grow between these two was wonderful and any of their interactions or the scenes that featured the two of them were the best. Chewbacca probably has the most well-developed and interesting character arc in this film to be honest.

The action and fight scenes are good with the heist on a train being a standout moment. However, the pacing of Solo: A Star Wars Story leaves much to be desired. The first thirty minutes or so is a bit of a slog, but it does pick up once Han meets Beckett and his crew. The first thirty minutes or so were also incredibly dark. I honestly found myself squinting at the screen a few times as it was difficult to make out characters reactions to events that were happening around them. While scenes that take place at night or on grimy planets will naturally be darker, it seemed like everything was so poorly lit that when something interesting did happen, it was hard to actually see it.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a perfectly fine film. It’s mostly fun and the characters you’ve already met are great. There’s a few surprises in Solo: A Star Wars Story and a lot of references to the franchise as a whole (some of which are eyeroll-inducing and really aren’t needed). Overall, it’s a film that doesn’t add much to the Star Wars mythos but it’s a mostly fun adventure featuring some much-loved characters. 3/5.

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Over 500 followers! Thank you!

I have over 500 followers now, in fact it’s very close to 550, and I just wanted to say a quick thank you to all you people out there who’ve clicked that follow button or who just generally read my posts. It means a lot.

I actually passed the 500-follower mark a while ago, maybe a month ago now, but life’s been busy so I haven’t really had the chance to say thanks. Thank you for following, thank you for commenting and sharing and liking my posts. Thank you for coming to my little corner of the internet and sharing your opinions. While I may be slow at replying to comments, I do enjoy reading them and interacting with you all.

I thought I’d use this post to share my plans for my blog, the last time I did this was when I hit 100 followers and my plans haven’t changed much since then to be honest. I’m going to continue to post a film review on Mondays and a book review on Thursdays (I like how it shows off my interests equally and I like the spacing between days) and I think it would be cool to post at least semi-regularly on Saturdays. Though I’m not sure what the topic of those posts would be so we shall see how that goes or how inspiration strikes me. My stats have gone up significantly this year and I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because of my MCU rewatch reviews (that was extra content I was posting every Saturday and I did like how I had more posts on my blog each week) so I could post more Marvel-related stuff – I could talk about some of my favourite characters for days. It’s a thought.

I also wanted to use this post to ask you my dear readers, whether you are old or new, if there’s something you’d like to see me write about or feature here. Do let me know any ideas you might have for posts or if there’s something you’d like my opinion on. I won’t guarantee I’ll do any, or all, of your suggestions, but it would be cool to see people’s thoughts. Also I occasionally take part in Top Ten Tuesday and Top 5 Wednesday and am always keen to hear about similar features, bookish or otherwise, as I think it’s a great way for me to discover new blogs.

Finally, thank you again for following this here blog. I can’t quite fathom how many people follow my blog or visit it every week and from all across the world too. It’s wonderful. I enjoy blogging and don’t plan on stopping any time soon, so I hope you won’t get bored of me.

REVIEW: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

After the Secret Service is informed that the Bank of England’s gold is being stolen, 007 James Bond is put on the case to track down the mysterious Auric Goldfinger and find out how he’s been accumulating so much gold. But as Bond delves deeper, he discovers Goldfinger’s dangerous connections and that he has much bigger plans when it comes to gold.

While I have watched the film version of Goldfinger a number of years ago, enough time had past that I didn’t remember much of the plot, and even if I had the book was it’s own unique thing compared to the film adaptation.

After having the physical book on my shelves for years, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville who did a great job. Goldfinger is a fast-paced story and Bonneville did a great job at getting inside Bond’s head. The action sequences were exciting but the slower, spy stuff was just as compelling.

I love the character of James Bond in this story. He’s a mess, and an argument could be made for him being depressed when we’re first introduced to him in the opening chapters. He’s sick of his job, the travelling and the killing and he’s so very tired of it all. The thing I loved about Bond is that while he is a good spy, he is human and makes mistakes. Also, when times are tough and he’s in real mortal peril, his inner-monologue is emotional and reflective. James Bond also has a sarcastic sense of humour which I loved and there’s so many times he uses either wit or sheer luck to get by. For instance, at one point he blames a cat for something in the hopes that Goldfinger doesn’t figure him out.

Goldfinger and his trusted bodyguard Odd Job are both intimidating foes in different ways. Goldfinger is very smart while Odd Job is deadly. The language used to describe Odd Job and the other Korean workers Goldfinger employs is definitely racist and can be sometimes uncomfortable to listen to. I guess that’s the sign of the time it was written in.

The same it can be said of the way women are presented. Pussy Galore is a lesbian and the book states this multiple times. However, by the end it’s alluded to that she was only a lesbian because she hadn’t met a real man like James Bond yet. It’s eye-rolling stuff. That being said, while Bond is a self-confessed womaniser, there are moments, especially at the start of the novel, where it does show he can and does respect women. There may be some rather outdated views of them, but on the whole there’s less than one might expect from a James Bond story when all you’ve seen previously are the film adaptations.

I enjoyed Goldfinger far more than I was expecting to, to be honest. It’s a fast-paced thriller and Bond is much more interesting, funny and layered character compared to the almost archetype that’s seen in the various film adaptations. 4/5.

If you’re interested, as a part of my Bondathon three years ago I watched and reviewed the film adaptation of Goldfinger, along with every other Bond film. You can read that review here.

REVIEW: Deadpool 2 (2018)

Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is living life to its fullest by killing a load of bad guys and being in love with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). But when time traveller Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives with one aim – kill young mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) – Deadpool must bring together a superpowered team to stop him.

Deadpool 2 is the anticipated sequel of the surprise hit of 2016, and this sequel is just as fun, outrageous and violent as the first film. There’s a bigger scope (and budget) here and for the most part it pulls it off. The special effects do get a little ropey towards the end of the film, it’s almost as if they filmmakers had bigger aspirations than their budget, but the action sequences and fights are still well-shot and exciting. The surprising thing about Deadpool 2 is that it has a lot of heart and, for the most part, knows when to have those serious moments.

The new characters in this film are great. While it takes a while for Cable to make his entrance (and once he does he goes away again for a little while) he is captivating every time he’s on screen. He’s a total, almost unstoppable badass and his interactions with Deadpool are great. The fight sequence in a prison is brutal.

Probably the stand-out new character in Deadpool 2 is Domino (Zazie Beetz). Her superpower is being lucky and the sequences that show off that power are incredible. It’s not just herself who is lucky, her luck affects things around her so watching her fight is so much fun.

It’s the interactions between Deadpool and all these new, and old, characters that stand out to me. While the first film was great, it was naturally solely focused on Deadpool, but this time having him surrounded by a team leads to many great character moments that are often hilarious. This is still very much Deadpool’s film, he’s just got some great back up.

Deadpool 2 is most definitely still a comedy and there’s jokes and fourth-wall breaks flying almost constantly. Personal my favourite jokes are the self-referential ones to the X-Men films and superhero films and characters in general – there’s a Hawkeye-related one-liner that I found myself laughing at very loudly even though Hawkeye is my favourite Marvel character.

Deadpool 2 is bigger than the first film, and possibly even better (though it’s been a while since I’ve seen it). It’s funny, action-packed and introduces some great characters that I’d love to see more of. I’m planning to get my hands on as many comics featuring Domino as possible. Oh, and there’s a couple of mid-credits scenes too that are brilliant so make sure you stick around for them! 4/5.

Wildest Dreams Book Box: Female Voices

This week my first ever Wildest Dreams box arrived. Wildest Dreams is a UK based book subscription box that aims to be a more affordable option. Starting at £18 a month, the box contains a book, tea, a bath/body product and maybe a few extra little bits too.

Each month there is a theme and this month’s theme was Female Voices. I’d been meaning to give Wildest Dreams a go and this theme caught my attention. Without further ado, here’s what was in this month’s box.

I really liked how everything was packaged. Everything came in a smaller box compared to the other subscription boxes I’ve tried, but that didn’t stop it being all neatly presented. The contents was wrapped in tissue paper and the book itself was wrapped in brown paper – giving it that extra little bit of protection and making it more fun to open.

The first thing I saw was the tea. The tea is called Reset Yourself, it’s chamomile and lemongrass and is made by Rosie Lea Tea. It also came with disposable teabags which is always helpful as so often when you receive loose leaf tea in a subscription box, you don’t have anything to actually make it in if you don’t possess your own tea strainer. This tea was chosen by author Holly Bourne which is pretty cool.

The bath/body product included in this months box was Bone Season inspired soap. It’s a handmade dusky sole and almond soap, it’s blue, yellow and red, and it smells like sweets! I’ve honestly been sniffing it a lot as I’ve been writing this post like a right weirdo. The soap was made by the Glasgow Soap Company.

The book included was I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter. First of all I love the cover, it’s such a beautiful colour and image of a broken moth (or it could be a butterfly) is striking, and second of all, it’s a book I’d never heard of before.

Reading the blurb, it sounds like a hard-hitting but important contemporary YA book. It’s about Ellie, who just wanted to blend in, but that’s until popular Caleb tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it. Ellie’s not sure if she actually likes Caleb because the way he treats her, showing her with love one minute then ignoring her the next, his possessive tendencies and harsh tone. Then one-night Ellie learns what kind of monster her boyfriend really is. She’s not the first girl Caleb rapes, but she as the first she murdered. Now Ellie’s trapped, unable to move on, and stuck watching Caleb do the same thing other girls. Ellie’s powerless and alone, and she just hopes that someone can help her.

I’m especially interested to see how the story presents Ellie being dead but still present, seeing Caleb’s actions. I think I Stop Somewhere has the potential to be a really sad story but I would like it to also offer a sense of hope to Ellie and the reader.

In this box there were also a couple of Holly Bourne-related stickers, some chocolate chip and vanilla biscuits (which I’ve already eaten, and they were very tasty), a bookmark, a letter from the author and signed bookplate.

I really liked the Wildest Dreams Book Box. It’s a simple but well put together subscription box. As someone who enjoys all the goodies you get in subscription boxes but very rarely uses them all, I think this box is great as the soap is something I will definitely use and, if I don’t like the tea, my friends at work love tea so it can find a good home with them. I don’t think I’ll be getting the Wildest Dreams Book Box every month, as while it definitely one of the cheaper subscription boxes, I don’t really have the money to pay for a subscription box every month – plus, I want to make a dent in my large TBR pile before I regularly get subscription boxes again.

Wildest Dreams’ June theme is Love YA and it’s always a good idea to follow their Twitter as they often give out discount codes to make the box even cheaper! They’re awesome like that.

READ THE WORLD – Kenya: One Day I Will Write about this Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

Kenyan Caine Prize winner Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir about growing up in Kenya, his failed attempt at learning computer programming at university in South Africa, and the moving family reunion in Uganda years later.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Ivanno Jeremiah, and I found it to be very easy to listen to as Jeremiah was an engaging narrator. While it generally has a linear narrative, every now and then a word or event will take the story back to Wainaina’s childhood or to something that happened that was related to the current anecdote but was either years in the past or the future. This hoping through time did get a bit of getting used to.

This memoir spans decades, from Wainaina’s childhood in the 1970’s to him living and working in New York in the 2010. Through all that time you see through his eyes how Kenya, and the whole African continent itself, changes. The always shifting politics, the cultural changes, the various conflicts and how pop culture, both American and African, seep through into it all.

I learnt a lot from listening to One Day I Will Write about this Place, as many of the cultural and political events that Wainaina lived through in East Africa, were either events that happened before I was born, or before I begun paying just that bit of attention to the world news. It amused me how Wainaina and his friends would joke about Bob Geldof and Live Aid, and event I’d only ever heard about through a Western perspective.

While Wainaina lived through a lot of big historical moments, One Day I Will Write about this Place is at its heart about Wainaina’s family, his love of books and him learning to fins his place with ever changing Africa. Through a lot of his childhood and adolescence it seems like he doesn’t like his home and all the complications that come from being a part of various tribes. However, when he’s an adult and spent time away from his family, having his extended family reunite in Uganda is a big moment for him.

One Day I Will Write about this Place is a fascinating insight into one man’s experiences growing up in East Africa, and who struggles to find his own identity. It’s an insightful and thought-provoking memoir that has a lot of heart.

REVIEW: What Maisie Knew (2012)

Young Maisie (Onata Aprile) is caught between her feuding parents, Susanna and Beale (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan), as they go through a bitter custody battle.

The thing that makes What Maisie Knew special yet also kind of heart-breaking, is that Maisie is our eyes and ears as the whole film is from her point of view. She sees the fights between her parents, she sees her mother spending more and more time making music, and she sees what’s going on between her father and her former nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) before just about anyone else. It’s sad because the reason she notices what’s going around her is not because the adults in her life are bad at keeping secrets, but it’s more like they forget she’s there, and that while she’s young, she still has a mind of her own.

Maisie’s relationship with Margo and Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård), her mother’s new husband, is incredibly sweet and touching. What Maisie Knew shows how there’s more than one kind of family and it can be one where there’s no blood relations at all.

As the film progresses more and more secrets are revealed, and Maisie becomes less innocent as she goes through some turbulent times. However, she never truly loses her child-like wonder with the world even when she begins to see her parents as real, flawed people at a much earlier age than she should.

Onata Aprile is a very talented young actress, she more than holds her own when she’s in some emotional scenes with Julianne Moore, who’s also great in this.

What Maisie Knew is a touching film, full of powerful performances and compelling relationships. It’s a great drama that can be tough to watch at times but that makes it all the more special. 4/5.