Solo: A Star Wars Story
Greetings, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a 2018 film and serves as the second Star Wars anthology movie after Rogue One was released to cinemas in 2016. The movie is credited as being directed by Ron Howard after the backstage dramatics that led to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, best known for the Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, being fired. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich as the iconic smuggler Han Solo in his early days, Joonas Suotamo as the legendary Wookie Chewbacca and Community’s Donald Glover as fan favourite Lando Calrissian. Suotamo, a former Finnish basketball player, had taken over the role from the original Chewbacca actor, the late Peter Mayhew, for ‘The Force Awakens’, ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’.
Solo also introduces new characters and actors such as Qi’ra played by Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones fame, Tobias Beckett as portrayed by Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton as Val, Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37 and Paul Bettany as the villainous Dryden Vos. The score was composed by John Powell who has orchestrated music for a number of films including Chicken Run, Shrek, Rat Race, Mr and Mrs Smith and the Kung Fu Panda series.
The plot begins on Han’s home planet of Corellia, a grim and desolate world in which Han and his romantic partner named Qi’ra hope to escape from. Han obtains stolen starship fuel, which is called coaxium, and plans to use the valuable resource to bribe his and Qi’ra’s way out of Corellia. After being chased by the criminal syndicate of crime boss Lady Proxima, who wants the starship fuel for herself, Han and Qi’ra manage to momentarily elude her forces. Han successfully bribes an Imperial Officer of the Galactic Empire at a space sport to provide transport for both him and Qi’ra but only he manages to get to safety as Qi’ra was captured by the gang. A dejected Han promises to come back to rescue Qi’ra one day with a ship of his own and, in an impulsive act, enlists himself in the Imperial Navy. During the registration, the orphaned Han is given the surname ‘Solo’ by an Imperial Officer as he has no family ties of his own.
Three years pass and Han Solo is serving as an infantryman on Mimban during a heated battle. As he fights on the front lines, he discovers a plot by smugglers who are disguising themselves as soldiers of the Empire to hijack an Imperial ship. Han tries to join the group, led by Tobias Beckett, as a way out of military service but when he isn’t welcomed in he tries to force his way inside by blackmailing Beckett. This backfires and Beckett convinces some Imperial soldiers that Han is a deserter. This results in Han being thrown into a pit to be eaten by a monster. That monster is none other than Chewbacca, who has been chained to the pit and immediately attacks Han. After a brief fight, Han convinces Chewie that he can get them both out of the pit by breaking down the infrastructure that kept them trapped inside. They manage to escape and Beckett, impressed by their prison break, allows them to join his team as they take off with the stolen Imperial ship for a heist.
Solo, due in part to its numerous reshoots, is one of the most expensive films ever made. It is also the first Star Wars movie to bomb at the box office. While its failure to gain crowds was blamed on a fatigued audience who had grown weary of three Star Wars films across three consecutive years, I believe that it suffered more from other factors. One of these was the concept of the origin story itself which would undoubtedly remove the mystique around Han’s character and his shadowy criminal background. It was also difficult for some fans to accept the recasting of such a beloved character as Solo, arguably Harrison Ford’s most notable character and certainly the role that brought him to stardom.
The main problem, in my opinion, is that it had the unenviable task of following the Last Jedi. A film that has seemingly destroyed the Star Wars fandom to a devastating degree and ruined Disney’s plans to make countless new movies for this one time juggernaut of a property. Solo is better than the Last Jedi and the as of then unreleased Rise of Skywalker but it ultimately feels unnecessary and most, but not all, of the new characters are either forgettable or annoying such as Waller Bridge’s L3-37. Lucasfilm is reportedly or at least rumoured to be in a disunited state as of now with power struggles occurring and warring factions battling it out within the company itself but there is some cause for hope for better projects in the future. The Mandalorian, a Space Western series for Disney Plus, is a recent addition to the Star Wars brand that I can say is one of the most captivating pieces of media that I have seen in years.
Quote of the Day
The Black Panther has been the protector of Wakanda for generations. A mantle passed from warrior to warrior. And now, because your friend murdered my father, I also wear the mantle of king. So I ask you, as both warrior and king... how long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?
T’Challa/ The Black Panther
Captain America: Civil War
Greetings, Parasite is a 2019 film which was directed by Bong Joon-ho who is known for his directorial efforts in ‘The Host’, ‘Snowpiercer’ and ‘Okja’ among others. The movie stars a cast of South Korean actors who are most likely unknown to international and Western audiences but includes Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik and Pak So-dam. The music was conducted by Jung Jae-il. The film received a lot of praise on its release and won numerous awards including the Oscar for the Best Picture of 2019.
The film starts with the impoverished Kim family living in a cramped semi-basement apartment known as a banjiha which is situated beneath street level. The family of four struggles to get by and fold pizza boxes as a way to earn some sort of income. A monetary opportunity arises when the son of the Kim family, Ki-woo, is provided the chance to teach English to the daughter of the wealthy Park family. Ki-woo’s friend, Min-hyuk, had previously taught the daughter, named Da-hye, but he will be studying abroad and referred Ki-woo to the family as his replacement. Ki-woo impresses Yeon-gyo, mother of the Park family, as he poses himself as a university student and is hired as Da-hye’s tutor. Once Ki-woo gains the trust of the Park family, he tries to get the other members of his own family to weasel their way into other high paying service positions at the household.
The first to do so is his sister Ki-jung. She sets up the false identity of Jessica, an art therapist, and hoodwinks the ditsy mother into believing that she should work with the ‘troubled’ son called Da-song. The father, Ki-taek, manages to secure the position of personal driver for the Park patriarch, successful businessman Dong-ik, by having the previous chauffer set up in a scandal of a suggested sexual nature as his daughter leaves her tights in the car one night. The mother also finds her way into the house by exploiting the peach allergy of the current and long serving house keeper, Moon-gwang, as the Kim family trick the Parks into thinking Moon-gwang has tuberculosis. One stormy night, the Parks decide to go on a trip and leave their luxurious house in the safe hands of their newest housekeeper Chung-sook. The Kim family takes advantage of the empty house but discover a secret about the home once Moon-gwang makes an unanticipated appearance at the doorstep.
I enjoyed this movie and despite having seen some of Bong’s films before, I was never too sure how Parasite was going to pan out in the end. While there are no plans for any sequel, there are currently talks of a television series being made for HBO. The series will have Bong and Adam McKay, known for Anchorman, Ant-Man and Vice, as Executive producers. The series will explore moments in between some of the scenes featured in Parasite. While I am sure that the television show will be well crafted, I have my doubts as to how interesting a series could be when it is set during a constrained timeframe and when the audience already knows what is going to happen.
Quote of the Day
He thinks we're us. Isn't that silly. We're not us. We're two other fellas. Aren't we?
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Greetings, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a 2018 movie directed by J.A. Bayona who is perhaps best known for his directorial involvement in ‘A Monster Calls’. It is a direct sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World and is considered the fifth instalment of the Jurassic Park series which began in 1993. The film sees the two main leads for Jurassic World, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, return to their roles as Owen Grady and Claire Dearing respectively. Actors from the original trilogy also return such as BD Wong and Jeff Goldblum of ‘The Fly’ fame reprises the character of Dr Ian Malcolm for a brief cameo. Other actors who are new to this franchise include Isabella Sermon, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Geraldine Chaplin and ‘Detectorists’ actor Toby Jones. Michael Giacchiano is also among the crew to have returned and conducted the music for this sequel.
The plot starts three years after the disastrous happenings in Jurassic World in which the park falls much like the original attraction had decades prior and the dinosaurs have free reign of the island. A small team had been sent to Isla Nublar to retrieve DNA from the slain Indominus Rex which had been dragged to its watery demise by the enormous Mosasaurus. Believing that any creature that had inhabited the lagoon had long since died in the past three years, a small aquatic vehicle is sent in to the enclosure as the ocean gates are opened. After locating a bone of the Indominus, the crew send it up to the surface and it is then taken away by a helicopter. The two man submarine is suddenly attacked by the Mosasaururs which uses the opportunity to escape into the ocean. In mainland America, Dr Malcolm is invited to speak at a U.S. Senate hearing as it has been discovered that the island of Isla Nublar is about to be subjected to a powerful volcanic explosion. The volcanic rupture will most certainly wipe out all of the dinosaurs on the island.
Malcolm believes that it is for the best that the dinosaurs go extinct once again and determines that the late John Hammond was wrong to have brought them back to life with his cloning process. Former operations manager of Jurassic World, Claire Dearing, completely disagrees and sets up a group to save the dinosaurs. The U.S. Senate chooses not to save the dinosaurs but Claire’s activism hasn’t gone unnoticed. She is contacted by the aging Sir Benjamin Lockwood, the former partner of Hammond. Lockwood and his aid, Eli Mills, have come up with a plan to save the dinosaurs and relocate them to a separate island. Claire agrees to assist them but she needs the help of her former paramour and previous raptor trainer, Owen Grady, if she is to have any success in relocating the prehistoric creatures. After an initial rebuff, Owen is eventually persuaded to go back to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs. He is especially motivated to rescue his own raptor, named Blue, who was left stranded there during the evacuation of the island.
Fallen Kingdom had a promising start but unfortunately it falls apart fairly quickly as it relies heavily on well-worn cinematic tropes, one dimensional new characters and forced nostalgia. The inclusion of the T-Rex from the original Jurassic Park movie was used well in Jurassic World but it has been overdone in this latest sequel to the point of almost being comedic or farcical. The main problem with this series is that the storyline has been trodden over already so many times in sequels which decrease in quality as they go along. It is no longer the fresh idea that had been set out in Michael Crichton’s novel when it was first published in 1990. None of these follow ups can match the magic of the original and most likely never will. The last of the Jurassic World trilogy is set to be released in 2021 with the title of Dominion. It will reportedly see Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum return as Dr Grant, Dr Sattler and Dr Malcolm. In my opinion, the series should have been left at Jurassic World as that was a fitting return to a beloved franchise.
Quote of the Day
This is another nice mess you've gotten me into!
Way Out West
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Greetings, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a 2010 action horror novel that was written by Seth Grahame –Smith. Seth is the author behind Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, a parody of Jane Austin’s iconic literary piece. His spoof take on the classic came out a year earlier than Vampire Hunter and since then he has worked on various films including the Lego Batman Movie, the remake of Child’s Play as well as IT Chapter 1 and 2. He is also believed to be involved with upcoming Gremlins and Beetlejuice sequels. This novel is, for several large segments, written as if it was the secret diary of Abraham Lincoln. The fictional biography also contains historical references in its footnotes or other annotation and old photographic ‘evidence’ of vampirism as part of it story telling technique.
The story starts in a quiet American town in the late 2000s. A youthful and mysterious man named Henry Sturges strikes up a friendship with a cashier who used to be an aspiring author until life put his dreams on hold. Henry gifts the cashier a diary before disappearing from the small town for unknown reasons. Once the cashier returns home with the present, he realizes to his astonishment that he has been given the personal diary of the 16th president of the United States and that much of his real history had been buried. He learns that the ill-fated president had in actuality been a slayer of vampires and the author uncovers the real cause behind the American Civil War. The Confederate States of America had been lead in part by vampires and the slavery system existed to serve them as slaves were a food source as opposed to the historically accepted reality of forced labour. The slaves were to be drained of their fluids on a mass scale and in a secretive manner so the humans did not learn of the vampire’s existence. The diary begins when Abraham was 11 years old and living with his impoverished family on the Lincoln farm. One night his drunken father, Thomas, reveals in a distraught state that Abe’s grandfather had been killed by a vampire in 1786 as opposed to the cover up tale of being massacred by a Native American tribe.
Abraham eventually encounters the wicked works of a vampire when Nancy, his mother, succumbs to an illness. He learns that Nancy had not died from milk sickness as he had wrongly believed but she had been poisoned by a vampire after his father had failed to honour his debts that had been owed to a local vampire. Abe began to loathe his father for not defending his family and swore to himself that he would spend his life hunting down vampires across America in revenge. His first act of revenge took place a year later when he lured the vampire responsible for his mother’s death into a trap and staked it through the heart using the element of surprise. Some years later in 1825, Abraham had been preparing to kill vampires daily using an axe and an assortment of homemade weaponry and tracks down one travelling along the Ohio River. Despite his best attempts and all of his rigorous training, he is defeated and almost drowned by an old, weak vampire. His life is saved by the intervention of another vampire who kills Lincoln’s intended target. The vampire, one Henry Sturges, is no friend of his own kind and offers to help Abraham in his quest to rid America of its vampire curse.
I enjoyed this book. It was exactly the type of novel I was expecting it to be with such a bizarre premise as well as its self-explanatory title. Despite the obvious fictitious elements, it also keeps to the facts about Lincoln’s life and provides an interesting view into the fictionalized Abraham’s mind-set. A film adaptation was made with the involvement of Grahame-Smith in 2012 although is does differ significantly from its source material. Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper and Anthony Mackie are among the primary cast of the movie. Seth also wrote a sequel to Vampire Hunter entitled ‘The Last American Vampire’ that I will most likely look into reading at some point.
Quote of the Day
And so life in the Shire goes on, very much as it has this past age. Full of its own comings and goings with change coming slowly, if it comes at all. For things are made to endure in the Shire, passing from one generation to the next. There’s always been a Baggins living here under the Hill, in Bag End. And there always will be.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Greetings, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is a 2019 feature film and serves as the epilogue of the Breaking Bad television show which ran from 2008 to 2013. El Camino was written and directed by Vince Gilligan, the creator of the series, and features a considerable number of actors from the original cast. Aaron Paul returns to portray his most famous role of the former meth cook, Jesse Pinkman. Others come back to reprise their characters as well such as Jonathan Banks as the stoic hitman Michael Ermhantraut, Jesse Plemons as the unnervingly polite henchman Todd Alquist and Robert Forster as Ed Galbraith the relocation expert for wanted men. This would prove to be one of Forster’s final film roles as he passed away on the day of its Netflix release on 11th October 2019. The music was composed by Dave Porter who had also worked on the original television series and the prequel show, Better Call Saul, which is based on the dodgy criminal lawyer Jimmy ‘Saul Goodman’ McGill. The review below contains major spoilers for the Breaking Bad storyline.
The plot begins in a flashback in which Jesse and Mike are discussing their planned departure from Walter White’s meth empire. Jesse states that he wants to start a new life, feeling regret for his role in the drug trade, and asks Mike what he would do in his situation. Mike replies that if he were younger he would relocate to Alaska but warns Jesse that he could never truly be absolved of his past sins. The film then segways into the immediate aftermath of ‘Felina’, Breaking Bad’s 62nd and concluding episode. An ecstatic Jesse Pinkman flees from the site of his captor’s base after White’s deadly assault on the Aryan Brotherhood’s compound sets him free. He manages to avoid police in one of his killed jailor’s car, an El Camino, and finds sanctuary in the home of his drug addicted friends Skinny Pete and Badger. A dishevelled and broken Jesse crashes at the home of his shocked friends, raiding their fridge and devouring their food before collapsing from exhaustion in one of their bedrooms.
Skinny Pete and Badger had been unaware of Jesse’s imprisonment and the forced labour he was pressured to endure as a meth cook at the hands of the Aryan Brotherhood. They turn on the news to discover that Walter White’s identity as the drug lord Heisenberg had been exposed and that he had been fatally injured in the shootout. The news reporter advised that the police were on the lookout for Jesse as a person of interest. Once Jesse wakes up the following morning, the three agree to hide the El Camino that Pinkman had stolen from his captor Todd Alquist as it was being sought after by law enforcement. Jesse decides that he needs to follow Michael’s advice that he had been given so long ago and head for Alaska. To do so, he needs to acquire a substantial amount of money so the mysterious Ed Galbraith can organize his disappearance and Jesse can finally begin his new life.
Despite a slow start, I really enjoyed this concluding arc of the series even if it did seem to be a somewhat unnecessary addition to it. I was very curious to see what the team behind it would do for a story after so many key characters, like the antagonist Gustavo Fring, had already been killed by this point and because the plot had seemingly been tied up nicely several years prior. The spectre of Walter White noticeably hangs over the film, which isn’t surprising given his iconic partnership with Pinkman, but it didn’t prevent me from enjoying it once I accepted this was solely Jesse’s story. I imagine most Breaking Bad fans would be entertained by this as it treats the source material with respect and provides fans with a chance to see some of their favourite characters again years after the whole experience was believed to be over.
Quote of the Day
Did you hear the lottery's up to $100,000,000? If I win, it's going to be separate beds for me and my mom!
Greetings, Bojack Horseman is an animated comedy series created for Netflix by Raphael Bob-Waksberg which ran for 6 seasons and a holiday special from 2014 to 2020. Some rather big names are attached to this show including Arrested Development’s Will Arnett as the titular Bojack Horseman, Amy Sedaris as Princess Carolyn and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as Todd Chavez. Comedian Paul F Tompkins plays the over excitable Mr Peanutbutter and Alison Brie, notable for her leading roles in GLOW, Community and as a Trudy Campbell in Mad Men, stars as the intellectual but depression prone Diane Nguyen. The music was composed by Jesse Novak.
The series is set in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals live together and is mostly located in Hollywoo, California. The naming convention of Hollywoo is the result of an ongoing joke in which the ‘D’ from the Hollywood sign is stolen prior to the events of the series. It follows the exploits of Bojack Horseman, a washed up and alcoholic actor who’s fame had reached its peak in the 1990s when he stared in the celebrated sitcom, ‘Horsin’ Around’. Now in the 2010s, Bojack is floating aimlessly in relative pop culture obscurity and decides he wants to be relevant again. At this point his on and off again girlfriend as well as his talent agent, Princess Carolyn, suggests that he write a memoir that will get him back into the public eye. While hosting one of his many parties in his multi-million dollar Californian home, Bojack encounters Diane for the first time.
Diane is a ghostwriter who agrees to write Bojack’s biography after he discovers that she wrote one for his childhood hero, the racing horse Secretariat. So begins a complicated and often difficult or fraught relationship between the two. Diane’s work eventually brings Bojack back to the spotlight and he starts being offered starring roles again after his career seemingly declined over the last decade. The series often explores the wacky, off the wall misadventures of friends Todd Chavez and Mr Peanutbutter. Todd is a freeloader who slept on Bojack’s couch for years after crashing one of his parties and never appears to be motivated to leave and start his own life. Mr Peanutbutter is optimistic and enthusiastic, a direct inverse of Horseman, and was once his sitcom rival as he stared in his own television show opposite Bojack’s ‘Horsin’ Around’.
The series is ultimately about the self-destructive and self-loathing behaviour of Bojack and his numerous attempts to better himself, although often failing in his noble endeavours. There are loads of clever little background jokes or subtle puns that often fly under the radar and the show also has its fair share of famous cameos or voice actors amongst its cast. Bob-Waksberg doesn’t currently have many projects in his filmography but he did some writing with the Horseman’s cartoonist, Lisa Hanawalt, on Tuca and Bertie. This was another Netflix animated show that had some of the Horseman Team behind it. It only ran for one season before a swift cancellation but despite its short-lived run it did receive critical acclaim. After watching it myself, I admittedly came away disappointed and consider Bojack Horseman to be leagues ahead of it. I would definitely, however, recommend Bojack Horseman itself if you are looking for something smart, funny and not afraid to embrace darker themes or display more serious moments.
Quote of the Day
And that's me on the set of Dances With Wolves. They gave me a small part; I played "Throws Like a Girl."