Alden Ehrenreich

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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REVIEW: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

hail caesarHollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) struggles to keep the studio’s stars in line as he tries to find kidnapped movie star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney).

Hail, Caesar! is a Coen Brothers movie so anyone who has watched a fair bit of their filmography will kind of know what to expect with this film. There’s comedy, weird and wonderful characters and some brilliant back-and-forth dialogue scenes. Plus, it looks amazing, 1950’s Hollywood looks glamorous with the various sets and costumes and the music fits the various Hollywood sequences wonderfully.

If you’re looking for a solid plot in Hail, Caesar! you’ll be a bit disappointed as in many ways it’s more of a series of sequences that imitate classic old Hollywood movies. There’s the western headed up by Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) who is now being shoe-horned into a ballroom drama at the studios behest, there’s the Roman Epic lead by the missing Baird Whitlock, there’s the song-and-dance lead by Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) who wears a sailor suit and tap-dances on tables and then there’s the spectacular synchronised-swimming sequence with DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) as a mermaid who isn’t as innocent as she appears on the big screen. All these scenarios have a hint of nostalgia for Hollywood’s Golden Age and they are all good fun.

Eddie Manix is the guy that holds all these characters and set pieces together as he not only struggles to put the ransom money together for his kidnapped star, but he also struggles with his conscience when he lies to his wife about giving up smoking.

All the cast fit their roles wonderfully, in many senses a lot of the characters are Hollywood stereotypes but as you watch Hail, Caesar! you don’t really care about that. They all seem like they are having a lot of fun, and you in the audience have fun too at the sheer delight as the film whizzes from scenario to scenario on a Hollywood Studio backlot. Hail, Caesar! doesn’t always make a lot of sense, and some characters aren’t really around for long but if you don’t mind that and just sit back and enjoy the ride, you might have a lot of fun.

Hail, Caesar! is chaotic and indulgent, it won’t be for everyone, but it really is a lot of fun. I’m in no way a hard-core Coen Brothers fan, I really did not like The Big Lebowski (1998) and that’s supposed to be one of their best loved films, but Hail, Caesar! was incredibly meta and fun and I couldn’t get enough. 4/5.