Friday, May 25, 2018
Before we dive in, let's do a recap of my Star Wars thoughts. I've already spammed my Facebook and Twitter friends with various Star Wars stuff in the last couple of weeks, but in case there's people from other places reading this review, or you are coming to this post from the future, I will repeat it again. I love the original trilogy. I always have for as long as I can remember given that all my family were also huge Star Wars fans. "Return of the Jedi" was my favorite growing up, but as an adult I don't think that one holds up quite as well and I've instead gravitated towards "The Empire Strikes Back" as my favorite. I enjoyed "The Phantom Menace" as a 10-year-old kid in theaters. As an adult, it's as boring as tar until Darth Maul shows up. I never liked "Attack of the Clones." I think "Revenge of the Sith" is the best of the prequels, but it's always felt extremely rushed and thus there's a lot of wasted potential. The special effects in the prequels don't hold up and the acting across the board is atrocious, minus perhaps Ewan McGregor. I loved "The Force Awakens" and I loved "The Last Jedi" even more. Didn't care for "Rogue One" much and it's only soured on me the more that time has passed. Those last three opinions apparently make me a horrible person, but who cares.
If you want more details on any of those nine films, just ask me and I can elaborate. Or you can use the little search bar on the top right of this blog, right under the logo, to search out my reviews for all of them because I have reviewed each one in great detail. If you know how to use Google to search specific websites, that might be even easier. As far as "Solo" goes, I was as nervous as the rest of the world when it was announced. It didn't seem like best idea. The production issues I mentioned made me more nervous, but I was crossing my fingers that things would all work out because there's plenty of examples of movies that went through production Hell that ended up being great movies. I still think they should've pushed this back to December. Not only would that have given them more time to work on the film and more time to advertise, but they would've made more money in a fairly open December as opposed to a crowded summer. But ultimately after the advertising started to kick in, I got more and more excited as the release date got closer and I made the decision that I didn't expect as much from this film. It didn't need to be an epic masterpiece in order to please me. I just wanted a fun side adventure and that's exactly what I got, so I left the theater pleased.
Onto the movie. I want to say this movie takes place somewhere around 10 years before the events of "A New Hope." If you've figured out the exact timeline, then I would love to hear, but the specific time frame is not completely necessary. It's after "Revenge of the Sith" and before "A New Hope" and there's a significant gap of sorts as this doesn't do what "Rogue One" did by leading directly into "A New Hope," thus leaving some space in case they want to continue further down this story arc in the future. We begin this movie with a bit of romance between Han and Emilia Clarke's Qi'ra. There's a lot of strong chemistry between the two of them that really makes this work. Yet as they are running away from a certain group in this lawless environment, Han manages to escape while Qi'ra gets caught. Ridden with guilt and driven by love, Han's only goal in life at this point is to find a way to return to her so they can escape and live together in peace, but this turns out to be much easier said than done as we then jump three years forward into the future where the majority of our story takes place and still no luck. In order to get back to where he wants to be, Han accepts a certain job with Woody Harrelson's Beckett and his little gang, which leads him into this life of being a scoundrel.
I will be the first to admit that this isn't a great movie. But again, I wasn't expecting it be. The biggest thing that holds it back from being a great movie is that the narrative of the movie doesn't feel completely polished. If you look at the typical three-act structure that movies are supposed to follow, this does have a beginning, middle and end, but it's not very smooth as for the most part we are bouncing from scene to scene without much of a clear direction as to where we are going with the story. Scenes are just kinda happening as Han and company are thrown into various situations that they have to find a way to get out of. A lot of the individual sequences are extremely fun on their own, but I spent much of the movie confused as to the overall direction of the film. This is where I honestly think that seven additional months would've greatly helped this production. Instead of rushing to completion to make their own deadlines, they could've had more time to iron out the script and polish up the movie so that we could have a better story that would grab more people and give us a reason to care instead of throwing all the weight on the shoulders of our characters or hoping that the various moments are strong enough to please audiences and keep their attention throughout.
In this sense, I feel that "Solo" mirrored "A New Hope" in a way as that movie was our introduction to young Luke Skywalker. By the end of the original trilogy, Luke is a completely different person, almost unrecognizable in comparison to when we initially saw the whiny, almost unlikable Luke at the very beginning. Young Han Solo in this movie reminded me a lot of young Luke in "A New Hope" and I'm glad that we have 10 years or so between "Solo" and "A New Hope" because that gives Han room to grow as a character before he becomes the person we knew at the beginning. Speaking of transitions from one actor to another, I feel it's appropriate to mention one transition that already happened that few are talking about, that being Chewbacca. Peter Mayhew returned to reprise his role in "The Force Awakens," but only partially because he's not in the best health. Joonas Suotamo played a Chewbacca double in that movie and has since completely taken over as he's been on his own in "The Last Jedi" and now "Solo." It's been such a seamless transition that I don't know if everyone knows a transition happened, which means Suotamo deserves a lot of praise for being able to perfectly recapture the magic of Chewie with his personality and language.
On that note, the introduction of Han and Chewie is a great moment, I think. Their chemistry throughout the movie is what helps make this movie so enjoyable, especially in sequences where I didn't know what was happening with the story itself. The fact that Suotamo and Ehrenreich are able to perfectly recapture the magic that Peter Mayhew and Harrison Ford had in the original trilogy speaks high praise to both of them. Rounding it out with our third old character being recast, we have the absolute gem that is Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. One could argue Ehrenreich as Han, but there are zero arguments that I've heard when it comes to Glover as Lando. He looks like a young Lando. He sounds exactly like Lando does. The hairstyling and costume design people again do a great job of getting the appearance down. And Glover does a perfect job of capturing Lando's personality and mannerisms as a younger version of the character that we see introduced in "The Empire Strikes Back." And the fun part of this is that Donald Glover is also currently No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his song "This is America," credited under his musical alter ego of Childish Gambino. I'm not sure when the last time we saw such a multi-faceted star like this.
That leads into the final main point I want to make in this review. There's a lot of mystery with what's going to happen with all of the characters. We obviously know that Han and Chewie are going to remain trustworthy best friends. We also know that Han and Lando are going to become friends, even though "Empire" suggests some drama in their backstory. But we have no idea how these new characters are going to play into Han Solo's life outside maybe knowing that the star-crossed lovers of Han and Qi'ra aren't going to have a happily ever after given the whole Han and Leia thing. The movie kinda sets up one character as the "villain" of the movie, but given that they're all outcasts and scoundrels in this lawless time period of the Galaxy, you have no idea who to trust and who to fear. The ambiguity of who is the one that is the real villain is one that I found fascinating. My mind also toyed with the idea that perhaps none of them are the villain or all of them are. Thus even though the journey felt a bit rocky with the unpolished story arc, it led to a finale that I genuinely loved as I had no idea what was going to happen, which is again in stark contrast to "Rogue One" where I knew exactly what was going to happen because the outline is in the crawl of "A New Hope."
There's a lot of specific details regarding this story that I have not even touched, but I promised a spoiler-free review, so I'm going to leave it at that. I could do a separate review where I discuss all of the spoilers and potential theories of what's going to happen next if they continue this story arc, but I don't see that as necessary because I have given you enough to give you an idea of how I felt. I didn't go into this movie with high expectations. Yes, I was nervous for a long time, but after seeing the trailers, I became more and more excited, especially when I settled on the idea that I just want a fun adventure out of this film. I didn't need for it to be on the same level as the original trilogy or even what I personally feel about "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi." With Disney owning Lucasfilm, I envision that the eventual goal will be to have Star Wars on the same level as the MCU with two to three movies per year and several TV series also moving forward. In that case, much like with the MCU, not every movie needs to be a masterpiece. We can have simple, fun adventures like "Solo." In fact, I think that's the exact direction they should go with these side stories in this gigantic universe. It's a solid direction and I'm excited. Thus I will happily award "Solo" with an 8/10.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
When I say "Deadpool" suffered from origin-story-itis, the specifics in that case were a bit of a tricky balance as what they did was completely necessary due to the fact that Deadpool's origins were completely screwed up in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." I don't hate that movie like most of the world does, but when it came specifically to Deadpool, that was perhaps one of the most embarrassingly awful introductions to a popular comic book character that this world has ever seen. Thus when they decided to do the "Deadpool" movie, they were required to spend a good portion of the movie on the real origins so that the world could be properly introduced to this character. There was no getting around that. And yes, they did tell the origins in a clever way as they started the movie in the middle and then spent the first half of the movie bouncing back and forth from the present to the past, so that we weren't spending 100 percent of the time on the past. But still, I found this setup to the character a lot less interesting than when we were in the present with him all suited up and ready to roll, thus the narrative balance of the movie wasn't completely in sync for me even though I was rolling around in laughter at the humor in the movie as I love fourth-wall breaking.
The second part of this origin-story-itis is that it's often not wise to introduce your protagonist's main arch-nemesis in the first film. Thus origin stories often introduce more of a throwaway villain for the hero to face right off the bat while they're in their early stages of herodom. After the character has successfully established themselves as a hero in the origin story after beating this first villain, then the franchise is ready to move forward with the major drama of that hero in the sequels. In the case of "Deadpool," we have Ajax, played by Ed Skrein, as our villain. And I only knew that name because I looked it up. Ed Skrein does a fine job with the role, but the villain is simply not memorable. I felt he was a throwaway villain whose purpose was solely to serve as a placeholder while they waited for the sequel for someone bigger and better. Thus in both of these cases, I feel "Deadpool" compares quite well to "Guardians of the Galaxy." Since no one knew the Guardians before the film was announced, that first movie had to spend a major portion introducing us to all of the characters. On top of that, they also had one of Marvel's worst villains in Ronan. Yet both "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Deadpool" were absolutely hilarious, making them fun, rewatchable movies despite the narrative flaws stemming from origin-story-itis.
I've now gone through all this setup without having talked about this actual movie at hand and that's mostly because I feel like I'm walking on glass when I talk about it. The marketing campaign for this movie was excellent. Not only did they make Deadpool fans extremely excited to see the movie, but in hindsight, the meat of the of the plot is completely absent from the trailers. We got a lot of Cable and X-Force stuff in the trailers and I had a good idea of how I thought they were going to integrate that, but I was mostly wrong. What we got instead was a movie that was surprisingly emotional and family-driven. Deadpool jokes towards the beginning that this is the perfect family film and in an odd, twisted way, he ends up being exactly right. Although the warning he gives right before is valid because you shouldn't take your kids to this movie. I still facepalm at stories I heard of parents taking their kids to see the original, then complaining at the movie for exposing their children to such content. I mean, did you NOT see the rating on your ticket that you purchased? Anyways, while this is not a kids film, family is the theme. Deadpool wants a family, but said opportunity gets ripped away from him until he learns to discover a new sort of family. It sounds cheesy, but it works.
There's some opening jokes that had me rolling in laughter, especially after seeing and loving "Logan" last year. But then we have an opening sequence that actually punches you in the gut, almost negated the previously stated idea of this being a relaxing film following "Infinity War." But then when the actual opening credits roll, we are reminded that this is in fact a Deadpool movie where the main focus is comedy, thus the hilarious opening credits do a great job of easing the audience back into a state of relaxation as we prepare for what the rest of the movie has in store for us, which mostly involves a kid named Russell, the kid with the fire abilities that we are introduced to in the trailers. Drama happens there that builds the emotion of the film, then Cable arrives and things start to get real. And much different than I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise to me. Unfortunately I do have to be honest with the fact that the movie gets a bit clunky in the process of this setup. The flow of the film isn't the best in the first several sequences. The movie felt like it was bouncing around a bit and the story seemed to just be happening, if that makes sense. Instead of having a polished narrative flow, the movie kinda just wandered around without much focus.
The obvious answer as to who saves this film and elevates it for me is Ryan Reynolds, who proves once again that he was born to play Deadpool. Even in sequences where the movie felt a bit clunky, he still owned every scene he was in, which happened to be most of the movie given that it's his movie. In addition to playing Deadpool, Reynolds also helped write the film and there are so many moments where you can tell that he had his hand on a huge part of the script and dialogue. Not to be forgotten, though, when it comes to the cast is that of Josh Brolin. The man is having himself a really good month at the moment as his turn as Thanos in "Infinity War" has him etched in stone as one of the greatest comic book villains of all-time. And now he follows that up with Cable, who has a unique relationship with Deadpool in this movie, which takes a twist I wasn't expecting. Nevertheless, Brolin and Reynolds bounced off each other perfectly in the film. Topping things off, the kid named Russell is played by Julian Dennison, the troubled kid from "The Hunt for the Wilderpeople," a movie that you all should see if you haven't. And we have Zazie Beetz as a character named Domino. I don't want to say much about them, but they are definite highlights and I'd love to see more of them.
There is a moment in this movie where any clunkiness is recovered from, characters evolve, the humor and story become mostly well balanced, and the result is an absolute blast that I simply can't talk about. I also appreciated the fact that, despite having the door wide open for them to do whatever they wanted, the movie is fairly tame when it comes to the raunchy humor. Instead of bathing the movie in debauchery just because they can, they only make certain jokes when they feel it's appropriate for the moment. Yes, the movie gets very graphic and bloody in terms of violence and is loaded with language, but it's really not a raunchy comedy, which I appreciated. Deadpool is constantly funny throughout without feeling the need to rely on sexual-based humor to make people laugh. When push comes to shove, though, what ended up standing out the most to me comes from the bizarrely perfect soundtrack which is highlighted by the song "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie." That song is one of my favorites as there's a strong sense of optimism despite the current miserable situation. In ways I can't say, that's the whole theme of "Deadpool 2" and it's rather beautiful. Add in the comedy and action and "Deadpool 2" delivers a solid 8/10 from me.
Friday, May 4, 2018
May 4th - 6th-
As far as the new releases for this weekend, leading the pack will be the Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez comedy remake Overboard. The original 1987 movie was directed by Garry Marshall, also known for "Pretty Woman" and "The Princess Diaries" among others, and starred Goldie Hawn as a stuck-up rich girl and Kurt Russell as a lowly, poor carpenter. When Goldie Hawn suffers amnesia and her real husband decides not to take her back, Kurt Russell decides to claim her as his wife, thus forcing her to live a life in poverty with him. In this remake, the roles are flipped and Eugenio Derbez is the spoiled rich man whereas Anna Faris is a lowly carpet cleaner. When Derbez suffers amnesia, Faris comes up with a plan to take him in as her husband, forcing him to live a life in poverty. This remake isn't getting very good early marks from critics at just 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but the original wasn't necessarily a critical darling, either. Tracking metrics have it playing similar to, or ahead of, Derbez's previous film "How to Be a Latin Lover," which opened to $12.3 million in 1,118 at nearly this same exact time last year. With "Overboard" opening in 1,623 theaters, if it were to follow a similar per theater average, that would equate to $17.8 million for this weekend.
Hoping to compete for a place in the top five will be the Charlize Theron drama Tully. The advantage that this movie has is strong critical reviews with a certified fresh score of 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The disadvantage is a lower theater count at just 1,353 theaters. "Tully" chronicles the pains and struggles of motherhood, especially for women in their 30's and older, who, as the trailer talks about, often feel like they have disappeared into the background, thus feeling rather worthless at times after such vibrant and active lives they had in their 20's. Charlize Theron plays one said mother in this movie who has become overwhelmed with life, as she has to raise her several kids almost on her own while her husband is extremely busy with his work. This leads her to eventually accept her wealthy brother's offer of hiring a nighttime nanny named Tully to help her out with her responsibilities. The movie is directed by Jason Reitman, who also directed "Juno," "Up in the Air" and "Thank You for Smoking." Given that this is more of an adult-targeted drama, said audience are not necessarily known for rushing out opening weekend, meaning this could be more naturally backloaded, especially with Mother's Day around the corner.
The final movie of the weekend is the movie with the highest theater count of the three, yet the movie that might make the smallest dent and that is Bad Samaritan. This is a movie that was initially scheduled for an April 27 release date, but when "Infinity War" took that date, Electric Entertainment smartly decided to swap and take this May 4 release date instead. But in the vein of this initially being a late-April throwaway movie, we have a horror/thriller that might have a hard time finding an audience. The movie is about a pair of young robbers who steal a man's car and intend to rob his home only to find a woman held captive in the home. David Tennant is the biggest name in the movie as the man whose home is being robbed while the other actors in the movie are lesser known. The movie is directed by Dean Devlin, producer of "Independence Day," "Stargate" and other Roland Emmerich films while having directed last year's "Geostorm." Distributor Electric Entertainment will be experimenting with their first film opening in wide release, as "Bad Samaritan" hits 2,007 theaters, after their only previous two films include "LBJ" (659 theaters) and "Blackaway" (11 theaters).
May 11th - 13th-
The other movie is another Mother's Day themed movie, albeit with a polar opposite angle from "Life of the Party" and that is Breaking In. This movie sees Gabrielle Union playing a mother who takes her kids to visit the home of her father, who has recently passed away, only to experience a home invasion where a group of guys take her kids hostage and make certain demands or else none of them will make it out alive. So we essentially have a home invasion thriller with Gabrielle Union fighting like a mother to protect and save her kids. The movie is directed by James McTeigue, who directed "V for Vendetta" in 2006, although he hasn't done much of note since. A better name to point out is producer Will Packer, who has produced a long string of hits. When it comes to "Breaking In," perhaps the most notable Packer-produced thrillers include "No Good Deed" and "Obsessed," which opened to $24.2 million and $28.6 million respectively. That mark seems like a best case scenario as there's a lot of potential comparisons here, ranging from "Unforgettable," which tanked by opening to just $4.8 million, or medium hits such as Halle Berry's "Kidnap" ($10 million opening), "When the Bough Breaks" ($14.2 million opening) and "Proud Mary" ($9.9 million opening).
May 18th - 20th-
There should be plenty of laughs to go around this month. In addition to "Overboard," "Life of the Party" and "Deadpool 2," another option for audiences will be Book Club. Despite the high level of competition when it comes to comedy this month, this movies seems like it's in decent shape because its target audience seems to be the older, senior crowd who probably don't have much interest in "Life of the Party" or "Deadpool 2." The movie stars four of Hollywood's beloved senior actresses, Diane Keaton (72), Jane Fonda (80), Candice Bergen (71) and Mary Steenburgen (65), who play lifelong friends who decide to read "50 Shades of Grey" in their book club, which in turn stimulates their desires to reinvigorate their own love lives, despite their age. The movie is directed by first time director Bill Holderman, who is known for his work as a producer, most notably for the movie "A Walk in the Woods" in 2015, which starred Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as two long-time friends who decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. The box office for that movie might be a good comparison for "Book Club" as "A Walk in the Woods" opened to a modest $8.2 million, but held fairly well to end up with $29.5 million.
The final movie of this weekend is the first movie in May to be targeted specifically at family audiences and that is Show Dogs. While "Peter Rabbit" was a huge hit for families earlier this year, the market has been a little sparse since then as "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Sherlock Gnomes" performed decently in March, but not great, and "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" was more of a blip in the radar in April. So the market is probably ready for another family hit, especially as school comes to a close for kids. The problem is that, even though the market is ready for another hit, the options on the table still have to be appealing and the reaction to the trailers for "Show Dogs" haven't been very nice to say the least. The movie involves a police dog going undercover with his human at a dog show in order to help advert a certain crisis. The movie comes to us via director Raja Gosnell, who previously directed "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and both live-action Scooby-Doo movies, so he seems to be an expert at these sub-par live-action kids movies involving talking animals. Granted, kids are pretty nice and forgiving as critics, but it's still the parents buying the tickets and they might choose to save their money for the likes of "The Incredibles 2" and/or "Hotel Transylvania 3."
May 25th - 27th-