Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The events of this movie take place long before Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi sit down in a bar at Mos Isley to discuss passage and payment to the Alderaan system. The events of this movie take place prior to the daring undertaking of Jyn Erso and a band of rebels to steal the battle plans of the Empire’s most powerful weapon. Before he shot Greedo, before he was in the employ of Jabba the Hut, the story of Han Solo started with a young bandit on the streets of Corellia who looked up at the sky and dreamed of flying away from it all with his girl and never looked back.

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Image by Lucasfilm

Solo: A Star Wars Story follows a young adult Han Solo and traces his path from a Scrumrat thief who had to steal to survive, to washout pilot in the Imperial Navy, fugitive, aspiring outlaw, to the smuggler he will one day be and sheds light on the characters who will aid him in his origin adventure. This movie tells the story of why Han dared to dream to fly, to how he met his friend and wingman Chewbacca, the figures who taught him the tricks and trades of the outlaw, how he crossed paths with his friend/swindler Lando Calrissian, and how he came to be in the pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon.

I’ve kept my eye on this film for a long time and followed the reports of this production as best I could. I recalled hearing at some point that the executives claimed that this film was unwatchable, that the leading man Alden Ehrenreich was doomed to fail in this role, how then-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were leading this film to disaster and there had to be extensive reshoots, which led to Lord and Miller out and Ron Howard taking over as director.

I feared the worst for Solo: A Star Wars Story but I was surprised by how smooth and solid the finished product of this movie was. I felt that this movie took a practical and straightforward approach to the origin story of one of Star Wars’ most pivotal characters, answering any questions I had with grounded and nuanced approach by adding some dash of surprise every now and then and I must say that this film is a success!

I’m not sure what direction Phil Lord and Chris Miller wanted to take this movie but I think Ron Howard was the right choice to pilot this picture. Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan crafted a story for Han Solo’s origins that is well put together, funny, smart, exciting and appealing for audiences who love the Star Wars franchise.

Alden Ehrenreich may have been a surprise choice for this role and he will never truly replace Harrison Ford as Han Solo, but he does a very good job by this character. At times, you can see that he just embodies the scoundrel Han Solo is and I think he may make Harrison Ford proud! The guy who really steals the show is Donald Glover, who steps into the skin of Lando Calrissian and knocks it out of the park; Billy Dee Williams must be as equally proud of Glover for doing his character justice.

Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, the voices of Jon Favreau and Linda Hunt, Ian Kenny, John Tui, the cast across the board are very good in their roles.

John Powell’s score was very refreshed and exciting, Bradford Young cinematography is excellent, Pietro Scalia’s editing is impeccable, Neil Lamont’s production design was solid, the art direction is vivid, the costumes designed by David Crossman and Glyn Dillon are very smart, the makeup is high caliber and the visual effects are about as good as it gets for a Star Wars feature.

Going into Solo: A Star Wars Story, I thought we were getting into a junkpile that had no chance of liftoff but what made this movie soar was the love and determination necessary to not only get it airborne and space worthy but to really make it soar through the stars! There’s no mistake that this movie hits its mark!

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Movie of the Week: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The second film in the Star Wars anthology series centers around one of the most pivotal characters in the franchise. Not much is known about this character before he met Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and agreed to charter them to Alderaan. We’ve seen and heard snippets of his past before he was reluctantly entangled with the Rebellion, but this film will attempt to fill in the blanks. Before he was the renowned Rebellion general, before he won the heart of a princess, before the events of A New Hope, Han Solo aimed to write his name down in history as the best pilot in the galaxy and Solo: A Star Wars Story will tell his story from the beginning.

Director: Ron Howard

Written by: Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt, Warwick Davis, John Tui and Ian Kenny.

What am I expecting to see?: What really fascinates me about these anthology films is that they fill in so many blank spaces in the almost 20 year void between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and Han Solo plays such a prominent part in the original trilogy that he does constitute his own origin feature because he is a character with a backstory some fans would like to see. I’m looking forward to seeing how Ron Howard salvaged this production due to early reports about how this film was trending towards disaster under then-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord and to see if Alden Ehrenreich can do justice by the role Harrison Ford made legendary. A lot is riding on Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The Oscar for Actor in a Supporting Role Goes To:

  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
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Image by Fox Searchlight

My Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards, Part III!

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Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The technical categories are complete! Now the moment you’ve been waiting for: The Big Six; the acting categories, best direction and the big award of Oscar night: Best Picture!

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
  • Allison Janney, I, Tonya
  • Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

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Image by NEON

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Image by Fox Searchlight

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep, The Post

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Image by Fox Searchlight

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
  • Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel Esq.

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

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Image by Focus Features

Best Director:

  • Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
  • Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

I predict that the Oscar will go to:

Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

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Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Picture:

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I predict that the Oscar will go to:

That concludes my three part Oscar Predictions!

Here’s Part I.

Here’s Part II.

Here’s the full list of nominees.

Check back here on March 4, 2018 for coverage on the 90th Annual Academy Awards.

The Ninetieth Oscar Nominees!

oscar-guy

Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

We’ve waited, we’ve wondered and now the moment movie fans have been clamoring for has come! For the 90th time, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces their nominees for this year’s Academy Awards Ceremony. Let’s dive in shall we?

Best Documentary Feature:

  • Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
  • Faces Places
  • Icarus
  • Last Men in Aleppo
  • Strong Island

Best Foreign Language Film:

  • A Fantastic Woman
  • The Insult
  • Loveless
  • On Body and Soul
  • The Square

Best Costume Design:

  • Jacqueline Durran, Beauty and the Beast
  • Jacqueline Durran, Darkest Hour
  • Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread
  • Luis Sequiera, The Shape of Water
  • Consolata Boyle, Victoria & Abdul

Best Visual Effects:

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  • War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Animated Feature:

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco
  • Ferdinand
  • Loving Vincent

Best Production Design:

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water

Best Original Song:

  • “Mighty River,” Mudbound
  • “Mystery of Love,” Call Me by Your Name
  • “Remember Me,” Coco
  • “Stand for Something,” Marshall
  • “This is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Best Score:

  • Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk
  • Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread
  • Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water
  • John Williams, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  • Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Editing:

  • Paul Machliss & Jonathan Amos, Baby Driver
  • Lee Smith, Dunkirk
  • Tatiana S. Riegel, I, Tonya
  • Sidney Wolinsky, The Shape of Water
  • Jon Gregory, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Cinematography:

  • Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
  • Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
  • Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
  • Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
  • Dan Lausten, The Shape of Water

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name
  • Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Disaster Artist
  • Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green, Logan
  • Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
  • Virgil Williams, Mudbound

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Guillermo Del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
  • Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
  • Allison Janney, I, Tonya
  • Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep, The Post

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
  • Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel Esq.

Best Director:

  • Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
  • Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best Picture:

And there you have it! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Class of 2017-18! Check back in a couple of weeks to see my official predictions leading up to the big night on March 4, 8:00PM on ABC, with none other than Jimmy Kimmel presiding as the Master of Ceremonies! I’m really excited!

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The dark comedic mastermind behind In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths is back with a vengeance! Martin McDonaugh’s new feature has a very simple plot: it’s about sending a message and that is exactly what the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri does: it sends a very loud and strong message from the most dangerous adversary anyone wouldn’t want to cross: a very, very, very upset mother!

All Mildred Hayes wants is the truth. Who raped and murdered her daughter Angela and why hasn’t the Ebbing Police Department made any headway into her unsolved investigation? Mildred is a mom on a mission and she isn’t going to let anyone deter her from holding the police responsible for dropping the ball on her daughter’s case.

Mildred’s message is seen and heard loud and clear and it does good but it also creates enemies in and out of the police department and the entire town. Naturally the police rallies around the ailing Chief Willoughby, as does his many friends in town; among those who aren’t exactly pleased by the attention of the billboards includes her son Robbie and her abusive ex-husband but this woman is resolute and she’ll fight tooth and nail to see the fruits of her billboards flourish or sour.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an utter riot of a film! It’s just what you expect out of a Martin McDonaugh picture: dark, full-force, funny, tender in a few places, unresolved but the ride is well worth the price of admission.

McDonaugh’s film is written as superbly it was executed! This is a movie that keeps you guessing whether or not we’re going to get answers but floors you with its relentless force in telling what is happening and I couldn’t look away for an instant, no matter how graphic or tense it was.

Frances McDormand is a tour-de-force! She is a one-woman war-machine ready to kick, punch or fight anyone who tries to silence her and I loved her character’s bravado in this film. In fact, I think this is her best performance since Fargo!

The supporting cast is outstanding. Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Zeljko Ivanek, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Sandy Martin, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Condon, Darrell Brit-Gibson, all very strong! This ensemble across the board utilizes the talent they possess to the fullest.

Ben Davis’ cinematography is very sharp, Jon Gregory’s editing is very precise, Carter Burwell’s music is good, the production design of Inbal Weinberg is well done, as is the Jesse Rosenthal’s art direction, the set decoration of Marissa Lombardo and the costume design of Melissa Toth are respectable as well.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is film I encourage audiences to see if they are in need of a wild-time! Mildred Hayes is certainly a character to remember and I credit Frances McDormand as well as Martin McDonaugh for crafting an original, dark, relevant picture that pulls no punches. This is definitely a must-see movie if you have the chance to see it!

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

To be honest, I was going into War for the Planet of the Apes with an idea of what I was in for. Based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen and heard about the film up to that point, I thought audiences were going into a film where Caesar would be leading his species in an all out assault to preserve their survival against what is left of mankind, yet I was unprepared for what really was in store.

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Image by 20th Century Fox

Essentially, War occurs two years post-Dawn and well distant from the events that transpired in Rise but not totally disconnected. After Caesar suffers an unimaginable loss that rocks him to his core, he takes it on himself to journey across the wintery wilds to find a man called The Colonel and kill him. Caesar is aided by his most trusted simian companions, Maurice, Luca and Rocket and pick up a few stragglers along the way in the peculiar Bad Ape and a mute girl who is later dubbed Nova; this journey to find the Colonel fills Caesar with inner turmoil to hold on to the principles he held so dear to him or embrace the darkness within himself to exact his vengeance, like Koba did. This inner battle within the first super ape is the War that takes center stage in the film.

Matt Reeves, the director and co-writer of the film, impressed me in bringing Caesar grand story to a stirring finish in the fashion that he did. Reeves and Mark Bomback have crafted a story with heavy biblical references to allow their protagonist to shine in the brightest way they could and truly cement his legacy as his story comes full circle.

Essentially, the Planet of the Apes franchise in its entirety is a story about hubris; how living creatures create their own undoing and there is a success in how this story, Caesar’s story, was told. In War, Caesar wrestles with his darkness brought on by immense grief, he suffers like Christ suffers, he led his species to freedom as Moses did, every action he takes in this movie, shapes the course of his future and the future of his apes and this story leaves a profound and thought-provoking experience with audiences and it resonates when they leave the theater.

I especially took pleasure in how the film handled Caesar’s relationship with Nova. Before the two meet, Caesar dives right into his inner demons to the point where he is almost apathetic, remorseless and bloodthirsty but Nova reminds him of the humanity inside him and how that humanity has kept him from becoming Koba; in a way that theme of humanity and hubris tied all of the films together.

Andy Serkis’ performance is once again, high caliber! The CGI visual effects are just a costume but he breathes life into his characters and audiences are taken for an emotional ride with his performance as Caesar. From the moment, Caesar makes his presence known in the picture, everyone becomes invested; Serkis commands the screen as this character and doesn’t let up for an instant!

Woody Harrelson is as good as I’ve ever seen him as the vicious and bloodthirsty Colonel. Steve Zahn is a hoot as Bad Ape, Amiah Miller is terrific as Nova, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Ty Olsson, Sara Canning, Aleks Paunovic, Devyn Dalton, Max Lloyd-Jones, Alessandro Juiliani and Toby Kebbell were all outstanding in the roles they played.

Michael Giacchino’s score, Michael Seresin’s cinematography, James Chinlund’s production design, William Hoy and Stan Salfas’ editing were all very satisfying. The visual effects were as elite as you might see all year.

I went into War for the Planet of the Apes expecting something totally different but I was completely washed away by how emotionally resonating, thought-provoking and creatively assembled this movie was. You won’t be flat out excited by it, but you will be immersed in how Caesar cements his legacy and how his tale comes to a close.

The Planet of the Apes franchise finishes on a very strong note.