Star Wars

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: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

While Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to learn the way of the Force with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), General Leia (Carrie Fisher) leads the Resistance as the First Order threatens them all.

All the characters we met before in The Force Awakens (2015) have returned, plus some new ones. Two of the key new characters are Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) who befriends Finn (John Boyega), and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) who hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) clashes with.

A lot of the film focusses on Rey’s training as she learns more about the Force and what made Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turn to the Dark Side. Rey and Kylo are often portrayed as equals or two sides of the same coin and their interactions are often tense and fascinating. These two are the main focus of the film, which then means characters like Finn are side-lined which is unfortunate. To be honest, the Finn and Rose’s whole plot could’ve been much more condensed so they get back to the main group of heroes sooner. That being said, all of the cast give excellent performances and Hamill and Fisher add so much more to their iconic characters.

The Last Jedi is an action-packed sequel with a lot of humour, some of which doesn’t always hit the mark. There’s a lot going on in this film with characters splitting off and going on their own missions, but at the same time, all of this stuff doesn’t do much in terms of progressing the overarching plot. This film seems to focus more of character development, which is not a bad thing at all, though it is sometimes heavy handed and by focusing on this there doesn’t seem to be any form of resolution in the battle of good vs evil. Naturally this is the second film in a trilogy, so there’s time for things to be resolved in a satisfactory way.

The action is well shot, and the blend of CGI and practical affect is once again to the highest quality. The Last Jedi is also a good-looking film, with some stunning locations and interesting new worlds and creatures to meet.

The Last Jedi combines the family fun with dark themes, to varied affect. Sometimes these opposites are too extreme while in other cases it allows for a moments rest before these characters we know and love are in peril once more. There’s a lot of twists and turns in The Last Jedi, taking the franchise to places it may not have gone to before and it’s an unsettling thing. This makes The Last Jedi a fun ride but it’s not a flawless one. 3/5.

*Side note* I will be seeing this film again next week so I’m interested to see what I make of it after I’ve had time to think about it – will the flaws be more noticeable, or will I find more things I like? Who knows?

MINI COMIC REVIEWS: Poe Dameron Vol. 1, Monstress Vol. 1 and A-Force Vol. 0

I couldn’t figure out what book I wanted to read recently (the great thing about the Read the World Project is I’ve got a lot of interesting options but it does sometimes feel like homework) so I went back to my comic shelves and read a few of my unread volumes. I have stuff to say about them but not a lot so here’s some mini reviews.

Poe Dameron Volume 1: Black Squadron by Charles Soule and Phil Noto

I really loved this comic! Poe Dameron stole my heart in The Force Awakens so when I heard he was going to have his own comic series I knew I had to read it. Black Squadron is a prequel to The Force Awakens and Poe, along with his friends in his squadron, are tasked by Leia Organa to find Lor San Tekka (the old guy Poe’s talking to at the start of The Force Awakens – boy I’ve said The Force Awakens a lot in this paragraph!).

So, the comic is all about the mission but also the downtime and you get to see Poe interact with his team which is great. It’s a funny comic, Poe’s charm shines right off the pages and it’s a nice way to learn more about the character. Plus, his relationship with BB-8 is brilliant, there’s a scene where the whole plan depends on BB-8 and some other droids and Poe has complete faith in them.

I also love the art style in Black Squadron. Phil Noto draws some gorgeous stuff (his Black Widow run is also fab) and I love the colours. It is a bit funny seeing Oscar Isaac’s face in a comic, but I soon got used to it. This is such a fun comic with good adversaries for Poe and his team and they kind of go on a heist at one which was wonderful (heists are my favourite thing ever) and I can’t wait till Volume 2 is released. 5/5.

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The London Bookshop Crawl aka An Awesome Bookish Day

Yesterday I spent the day going to many bookshops in London with a lot of book loving people. It was the London Bookshop Crawl which was organised by the wonderful Bex and it as so much fun!

Going into the Bookshop Crawl I didn’t know anyone. Bex had set up a Twitter list of the people who were going on the crawl so I’d followed them all to try and learn names and get to know some of them but really, I didn’t know anyone when I arrived at Foyles at 9:30am.

When I got there, there were already some people sitting in the café with hot drinks and pastries. After having a hot chocolate I went browsing the shelves of Foyles with Annette and Lauren, we talked about what genres we liked and recommended books to each other which was great. In Foyles I bought A Darker Shade of Magic and The Man in the High Castle – two books I’d been meaning to get my hands on for a while. I did start the crawl saying I’d only get one book per shop but that failed straight away! (more…)

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-force-awakens-elenasquareeyesThirty years on from the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises in the form of the First Order. When former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) meets desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) they get caught up in the fight against the First Order as they struggle to find the Resistance.

The Force Awakens is a really fun movie. While there are some quieter character moments, it starts with a bang and never really lets up. It is wonderful to be in space and to see different planets and creatures. One thing that The Force Awakens does so incredibly well is merge CGI and practical effects, whether it’s BB-8, the most adorable droid ever and a great sidekick, which really did roll around after everyone or the deserts of Jakku which was a real location – it just makes the whole thing feel more real and lived in.

The cinematography coupled with the score that has a lot of nostalgia beats make The Force Awakens a beautiful film. The aerial dog fights between TIE fighters, X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon are easy to follow and thrilling. When there’s a lightsaber duel (it’s Star Wars, there’s going to be at least one of them here) it is well-shot and brutal. (more…)

N is for Lupita Nyong’o

1360297-lupita-nyong-o-attends-the-20th-annual-950x0-1Gosh Lupita’s beautiful isn’t she? And super talented! It’s so unfair.

12 Years a Slave (2013) is a tough film to watch for a number of reasons but Lupita’s performance as Patsy is truly incredible and heart-breaking. I don’t think I’ve wanted someone to get the Oscar as much as I wanted her to get it that night.

I was in part expecting all the film roles to open up for Lupita after she won the Oscar (and just about every other award going) but that hasn’t really been the case. She’s in the new Star Wars film which is cool and I really want her to be a badass Queen or Jedi. I’ve got the book The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers though I haven’t read it yet, I definitely will be soon since Lupita will be starring in the film adaptation.

I also love Lupita Nyong’o’s sense of style, I mean I’ve never seen her look bad on the red carpet and her dresses are always gorgeous. She’s just so wonderful and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

TRAILER REACTION: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Unless you are living under a rock you will have heard that the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released today. Twitter’s gone mad, there’s trailer breakdowns (for all 88 seconds of it) and it’s probably going to be one of the most watched trailers of the year.

After watching the trailer I felt compelled to talk about it even though I’m not a die-hard Star Wars fan. I didn’t grow up watching Star Wars like many people who were born in the nineties – I grew up watching films like Ghost and Robocop. It was an odd childhood film-wise to be honest. I didn’t watch the original Star Wars trilogy until two of my friends from University made me marathon them with them – I was twenty. I really did find them enjoyable. Obviously a lot of the big plot twists I knew because of the osmosis of the internet and general pop culture but I liked the characters a lot. Han Solo is my favourite type of character, a chancer with a good heart and good looks, Leia is pretty damn awesome and I liked Luke’s character arc. I also loved Lando and am continuing to keep my fingers crossed that Billy Dee Williams will make an appearance in The Force Awakens.

I didn’t get round to watching the prequel trilogy until I was 22 – I actually watched them on this year’s Star Wars Day (May 4th). Again I’d heard they were terrible and while I’ll admit they are not amazing films, there were some bits I liked and I didn’t feel as betrayed by them or as strongly about them because Star Wars wasn’t a huge love of mine.

So now we’ve got the new trilogy on its way. I tweeted a lot about the casting news because I was stoked about John Boyega getting the lead role (check him out in Attack the Block and Half of a Yellow Sun if you haven’t already) and also because Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis and Domhnall Gleeson were cast and I like all of them too.

Today was trailer day. I’m sure it was because I was in a film PR office but there was such a huge buzz of excitement when the trailer appeared online that I couldn’t help getting swept up in it all even though I don’t really have an invested interest in the franchise. So now onto my actual thoughts on the trailer.

It’s a teaser trailer so you get no plot (which I kind of love) and just some amazing shots of the new cast. I loved the fact that John Boyega was the first character you see and the other characters you see are also the new cast – Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac. That being said a lot of the shots and technology on show feel older and like the original trilogy. The only shot that felt JJ Abrams-esque (ie shiny and lens-flare-y) was the one of the Stormtroopers, everything else felt gritty and lived in. The final shot with the Millennium Falcon and that music blaring out gave me goosebumps and I’m not even a huge fan of the franchise – it’s such iconic music that I couldn’t help but smile to myself. The whole thing felt new and exciting but at the same time it feels like it has respect and nostalgia for the original films – which is a great balance to have when you’re rebooting or continuing a much loved franchise.

I’m surprised at how excited I got about the trailer launch, but I’m all for John Boyega leading a big movie and Harrison Ford stepping back into Han Solo’s shoes. It felt like proper teaser trailer and some other film makers could definitely take note of JJ Abram’s super secretive-ness. I look forward to seeing more footage of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I am sure I’ll be going to see it opening weekend next December.