Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Film Review: "Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2018).


"Never tell him the odds" in Solo: A Star Wars Story. This space opera Western film directed by Ron Howard, written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, based on the character Han Solo created by George Lucas. It is the second Star Wars anthology films following 2016's Rogue One. Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission - the Millennium Falcon.

Before Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, development on a young Han Solo film began in 2012 with George Lucas. Lucas hired Lawrence Kasdan to pen a script, and was later joined by his son, Jonathan just before he left to work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Later, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were hired to helm the film. In January 2016, a shortlist of actors considered for the scruffy-looking nerfherder was revealed to include: Dave Franco, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Miles Teller, Nick Robinson, Leo Howard, Tony Oller, Chandler Riggs, Hunter Parrish, Rami Malek, Landon Liboiron, Ed Westwick, Tom Felton, Joshua Sasse, Logan Lerman, Ansel Elgort, Jack Reynor, Colton Haynes, Max Thieriot, Scott Eastwood, Chris Pratt, Emory Cohen, Taron Egerton, Jack O'Connell, Blake Jenner, and Alden Ehrenreich. Ultimately, Ehrenreich won the role. Lord and Miller said that while they liked a lot of the other actors they read with, they increasingly said, "The first guy we saw was the best for the part." By late July, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton, Joonas Suotamo, and Michael K. Williams rounded out the cast. In February 2017, Principal Photography began, locations included Pinewood Studios in London, England, the Dolomites, Veneto, Italy, and the Canary Islands. In June, shortly before filming was to be completed, Lord and Miller were fired by Lucasfilm due to "creative differences", and a new director was "to be announced soon." Shortly there after, Ron Howard was hired to take over the director's chair over Joe Johnston and Kasdan. In October 2017, production wrapped, and it was reported that Howard had re-shot more than 80% of the film, with Williams' role removed, and Paul Bettany was cast. With an estimated budget of at least $250 million, it is the most expensive Star Wars film ever made.

The film stars Ehrenreich, Harrelson, Clarke, Glover, Newton, Waller-Bridge, Suotamo, and Bettany. The cast gave terrific performances despite riddled with archetypal cliches and predictable character motivations associated with the genre.

Though the cast, including Alden Ehrenreich, give their all, they can't help Solo: A Star Wars Story overcome a cliche-ridden script and a horrendously compromised vision. It's a mediocre Star Wars movie that tells the early story of the titular smuggler and attempts to make it climax in a perfect coupling with the start of the known trilogy.

Simon says Solo: A Star Wars Story receives:



Also, see my reviews for Inferno and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Film Review: "Deadpool 2" (2018).


"He's not coming alone" in Deadpool 2. This superhero film directed by David Leitch, written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is the eleventh installment in the X-Men film series, and a direct sequel to Deadpool (2016). After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry's hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the Yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor - finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World's Best Lover.

Plans for a sequel was announced 3 days before the film's release, and were confirmed in February 2016.  The original team of Reynolds, Reese, Wernick, and director Tim Miller were set to return for the sequel. However, in October 2016, Miller left the project due to creative differences with Reynolds. Miller later stated that he left the sequel because he "didn't want to make some stylized movie that was 3 times the budget", and wished to create the same kind of film that made the first one a success. After Miller's departure, Rupert Sanders, Drew Goddard, Magnus Martens, and Leitch were considered by the studio to replace Miller. Ultimately, Leitch was chosen to direct. In the same month, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lizzy Caplan, Kerry Washington, Sienna Miller, Ruby Rose, Mackenzie Davis, Kelly Rohrbach, Eve Hewson, Sofia Boutella, Stephanie Sigman, Sylvia Hoeks, and Janelle MonĂ¡e were considered for the role of Domino. Zazie Beetz was ultimately cast, which was met with backlash from fans. In March 2017, an extensive casting search took place for the role of Cable that included Dolph Lundgren, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman, Pierce Brosnan, David Harbour, and Josh Brolin. Brolin was ultimately cast. Filming began in May and concluded in October, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The production wrapped on the same day that X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) wrapped it's production. Originally scheduled to be released on June 1 2018, the release date was pushed forward to May 18 2018.

The film stars Reynolds in the title role, alongside Brolin, Beetz, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, and Jack Kesy. The original cast gave another round of solidly entertaining performances that expands upon the first film, with Reynolds' being the strongest, comical, and surprisingly emotional. The new cast members are a welcome addition who injected new flavour into the already colourful ensemble.

Although the film itself succumbs to overly-outrageous cartoonish antics, Deadpool 2 is one superhero movie that manages to stay true to the original while expanding its universe. It features some larger-than-life action sequences, absurdly comical references and jokes, and new colourful characters.

Simon says Deadpool 2 receives:



Also, see my reviews for Deadpool and Logan.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Film Review: "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018).


"Where will you be, when it all ends?" Hopefully watching Avengers: Infinity War. This superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the sequel to 2012's The Avengers and 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it is the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment - the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.

In October 2014, Marvel announced a two-part sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron, titled Avengers: Infinity War. Part 1 was scheduled to be released on May 4, 2018, with Part 2 scheduled for May 3, 2019. In April 2015, Marvel announced that Anthony and Joe Russo would direct both films, with back-to-back filming expected to begin in 2016. The same month, Kevin Feige said the films would be two, distinct films "because they [have] such shared elements, it felt appropriate... to [subtitle the films] like that. But I wouldn’t call it one story that's cut in half. I would say it's going to be two distinct movies." In addition, according to Feige, the Avengers are expected to have a "shakeup" in their team lineup between Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled Avengers sequel. By May 2015, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had signed on to write the screenplays for both parts of the film, which draws inspiration from Jim Starlin's 1991 The Infinity Gauntlet comic and Jonathan Hickman's 2013 Infinity comic. In a NY Times interview, when asked about how the script was written to accommodate the large cast, McFeely said, "Not every scene can be 25 people in a room. You're going to have to make kickball teams and then have a tournament." Anthony Russo added the film was inspired by 1990s heist films, with Thanos "on a smash-and-grab [to acquire the Infinity Stones], and everybody’s trying to catch up the whole movie." In May 2016, the Russos revealed that they would retitle the two films, to further remove the misconception that they were one large film split in two, with Joe Russo stating, "The intention is we will change [the titles], we just haven’t come up with [them] yet." That July, Marvel revealed the film's title would be shortened to simply Avengers: Infinity War. Between April 2016 to January 2017, many actors from previous MCU films were confirmed to be reprising their roles in the films.

In late January 2017, Principal photography began, under the working title Mary Lou, at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County, Georgia as well as Downtown Atlanta. Additional locations included Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cumbernauld and the Scottish Highlands in Scotland, Durham, England, Queens, New York, and Ifugao, Philippines. IMAX stated that this film, along with the sequel, was entirely filmed with digital 2-D ARRI Alexa IMAX cameras, which are specially customized versions of ARRI Alexa 65 cameras with IMAX technology. Captain America: Civil War (2016) was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to incorporate the new cameras, but only for its airport sequence. This made Avengers: Infinity War the first non-documentary film to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras, although it did not use the traditional IMAX aspect ratio of 1.43:1 but rather the digital IMAX ratio of 1.90:1, which closely matches the 1.85:1 aspect ratio of The Avengers (2012) and Ant-Man (2015). In Early March 2018, Disney moved the release date to April 27 2018, releasing five days before the tenth anniversary of Iron Man (2008), to match the date in several international markets. In June 2016, Alan Silvestri, who composed the score for The Avengers, was revealed to be returning to score both Infinity War and its sequel. The visual effects for the film were created with the combined talents of Industrial Light & Magic, Framestore, Method Studios, Weta Digital, Double Negative, Cinesite, Digital Domain, Rise, Lola VFX, and Perception. With a running time of 156 minutes, this will make the film the longest Marvel film to date following Captain America: Civil War, which had a running time of 147 minutes. With an estimated budget between $300–400 million, the film would go on to become one of the most expensive films ever made.

The film features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, Chris Pratt, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, William Hurt, Winston Duke, Peter Dinklage, Terry Notary, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Carrie Coon, Michael James Shaw, and Josh Brolin. The cast gave spectacular performances that took their characters to whole other levels that we did not expect from the very first moment to the last.

Exuberant and eye-popping, Avengers: Infinity War serves as an overstuffed but mostly satisfying sequel. It succeeds in the top priority of creating a worthy opponent for its superheroes and giving the latter a few new things to do, and this time the action scenes and the stakes definitely measure up. It is a whole summer of fireworks packed into one movie. It doesn't just go to 11, it starts there. If this is what the apotheosis of branded, big-studio entertainment has come to look like in 2018, we could be doing much worse. Unlike other tentpole movies of its genre and scale, the film most definitely has emotional and gut-punching moments. The film redefines the scale we can expect from our superheroes.

Simon says Avengers: Infinity War receives:



Also, see my reviews for Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.