Friday, May 25, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story


Solo:  A Star Wars Story feels a bit like a history lesson, filling in the backstory of Han Solo, for example letting us know how Han Solo met Chewbacca, met Lando Calrissian, acquired the Millennium Falcon and completed the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.  

That sounds like fun, and mostly it is.  I was really enjoying the movie until the ending.  What's wrong with the ending?  Nothing major.  However, despite the movie feeling slightly too long, the ending wraps up the plot threads a little too quickly and too easily.  For me it felt kind of forced.  That's when I realized that Solo: A Star Wars Story seems kind of average and not particularly special.  It is mostly a heist film in space with space gangsters.  You could have had the same story in another setting that didn't have anything to do with Star Wars, like a western.  The film as given doesn't really add anything to the Star Wars saga.  It slips in a couple of easter eggs that have implications for the Star Wars story in general, but they weren't significant enough for me to care.  

There is a big reveal at the end of the movie that sets up a sequel, but the reveal isn't too surprising to anyone who has watched the Star Wars The Clone Wars animated TV series.

As far as characters are concerned, again I don't feel like we got anything special.  Chewbacca is probably the most interesting character in the movie.  Alden Ehrenreich is passable as a young Han Solo, but he is too bright eyed and bushy tailed.  He is green and lacks any kind of hard edge that we would expect from Han Solo.  Lando Calrissian as played by Donald Glover is good, but none of the other characters really stand out; they feel ordinary, just like the story feels ordinary.

Even when I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which if we are to believe Rotten Tomatoes was hated by half the fans, I felt like I was watching something truly special and significant to Star Wars.  With Solo we get a story we didn't need that is kind of forgettable, with a great many characters that we only partially care about.  Perhaps one problem with the movie is that it has too many characters.

The movie had production problems and its budget exceeded 250 million dollars.  For that kind of money, my expectations for the film were a little higher than what we got.   The movie is entertaining enough, but that is all it is.  Star Wars deserves better. People go to see Star Wars movies because they are exceptional, not because they are average.  Part of the problem is that Disney is making too many Star Wars movies, so the quality of the storytelling is being diluted.

Rating:  * * *   or B-.

Solo has a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, gives the film three and half stars.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Full Star Wars Movie Schedule and Release Date Calendar

Defending "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace"

In response to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ7j3IG4OVY, I wrote:

I think that The Phantom Menace is vastly underrated.  People let their dislike of Jar Jar, who I didn't mind as a comic foil, discolor an otherwise really good movie.  (I have to add that in Science Fiction, it would be seem unlikely that all the intelligent species would be of the same intelligence.  That would be nearly impossible.  So it makes sense that you could have one group less intelligent than another.  Using one of them as a comic foil is an artistic choice, but in an otherwise overly serious movie you need some humor to lighten it up.  Although many people found Jar Jar cringeworthy, I like the character.  It was kind of nice to see him the animated shows as well.)

I have seen most of the movies multiple times, and the original 18 times over the last 42 years.  So my ranking of the movies we have seen so far is ...

1.  The Empire Strikes Back.
2.  A New Hope.
3.  The Phantom Menace.  (Maybe there are some flaws, but there are many good moments.)
4.  Return of The Jedi.  (The singing Ewoks were awful, and these were later replaced by an embarrassingly bad musical number in Jaba's Palace.  It is definitely weaker than the first two movies.  I almost made this #6, but it is still a memorable classic and a necessary conclusion to the original trilogy.)
5.  Attack of the Clones.  (Maybe the dialog could have been better but overall the movie is pretty entertaining.)
6.  Revenge of the Sith.  (Too much action at the expense of the characters.  Anakin's turn is not completely believable.  There is a major plot hole that Obi Wan and Yoda did not work together to defeat Palpatine.  The death of Padme is kind of weird.)
7.  The Force Awakens.  (Feels like an imitation of a Star Wars movie where they almost got it right, but not quite.  They don't provide enough information to support these characters, so the movie feels like it is full of plot holes.)
8.  Rogue One.   (It's a good movie, but somehow it didn't come across to me to be as great as its predecessors.  It is more fan service.  Feels kind of forced.  Not really a movie we needed, but enjoyable.)
9.  The Last Jedi.  (Despite some really obvious flaws, including some really bad plot holes, I think that the good parts outweigh the bad parts.)

Looking forward to seeing Solo.  Even if it is flawed, and even if it pushes an agenda, I'm sure it will be entertaining.  Hope I'm not wrong.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Avengers Infinity War

There have been eighteen Marvel Universe movies since 2008.  These have introduced a large number of characters, i.e. heroes, most of which come together in this movie to fight a single enemy named Thanos.  Previous movies hinted at infinity stones being powerful and dangerous, and the need to keep them from evil.  It turns out Thanos is getting his hands on these stones and has an agenda that involves wiping out half the life in the galaxy.  Why?  His world collapsed due to overpopulation, so he takes it upon himself to solve this problem for everybody else.  If he gets all six stones he could kill every other person in the galaxy with just a snap of his fingers.

There have been a number of good Marvel movies in the last decade and many of the stories from the films pick up in Avengers Infinity War from where they left off.   The action gets started early and almost never lets up.  One might think that this would be bad, but the action is done so well and the characters are so good that the movie feels like something truly special on a grand scale.  Never have we seen so many different stories and characters woven together so seamlessly.  This isn't just a movie, but an event a decade in the making.  

We see more of Thanos than we do any individual hero, making him in effect the main character.  This is as much his story as it is anybody else's, and he is played wonderfully by Josh Brolin.

With so many actors and effects it is not surprising that the movie cost $360 million to make.  They got their money's worth.  Some have compared the film to Star Wars in terms of quality, which is not a bad comparison, although I still prefer the first two Star Wars movies.

Rating:  * * * *  (A+)