Solo – a Star Wars Story


Viewed – 20 November 2018. Online rental

I was disappointed and somewhat annoyed by The Last Jedi, so like many others I suddenly felt cautious about a Star Wars movie the same way I’d felt cautious going to see Revenge of the Sith. This spin-off gives us an ‘early years’ snapshot of none other than Han Solo, which I’ll admit was an intriguing idea. Solo (a perfect Alden Ehrenreich) is from the off a likeable rogue who unwittingly gets signed up for the imperial infantry after getting separated from his love interest in the shape of Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke. However once amongst a rag tag group of soldiers he teams up with Woody Harrelson’s smuggler and also makes a new, hairy friend.

Directed by Ron Howard this is immediately entertaining and slickly made. It starts off energetically and barely lets up, with a sharp script that throws in several nods to the classic franchise as well as introducing us to a fun, twist filled caper. The banter between the characters is great, and I especially enjoyed the new droid L3, and how she’s a sort-of girlfriend to notorious womaniser Lando Calrissian! That train sequence is first rate also. However with a focus on smugglers and thieves and not so much the empire or any sort of rebellion, this has a different vibe than what we’ve seen before. The plot for what it is is simple though and the transporting of a valuable item from one group of people to another is only their to bring certain characters together. Yet the origins of the Millennium Falcon and some of Han’s boasted escapades (the kessel run?) was certainly fun to see play out.

A final twist proves overly confusing (unless you have indulged in any of the expanded universe), and Emilia Clarke is surprisingly bland. Thankfully then, this still nails it where it counts … adding its own flavour whilst managing to retain the feel of what a Star Wars movie should be.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Apollo 13


Viewed – 04 May 2010  Blu-ray

15th Anniversary Edition

During a career high for Tom Hanks in the nineties where he scored big with Forrest Gump, Philadelphia and Saving Private Ryan, this was another one of those big name movies that garnered plenty of attention.  Telling the true story of the troubled Apollo 13 moon expedition, following in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Hanks plays Jim Lovell, heading a band of three astronauts as they journey into space.  Along for the ride is Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton, and with acclaimed director Ron Howard at the helm, this was a recipe made in heaven.

Although on paper this should be boring, the movie allows what is primarily a two setting show between the space capsule & mission control in Houston, to still be utterly gripping, as the astronauts attempt to rectify an accident that threatens the whole mission, whilst the experts on earth attempt to figure out how to get their boys home.  With stunning attention to detail (the zero gravity is a joy to behold) and solid performances, especially from Hanks who carries the movie and gives a very human, likable performance, and Ed Harris as Mission Control’s chief who commands every line he’s given with convincing authority.  Paxton and Bacon fair a little worse, given little to do but point fingers at each other and squabble, and the scenes involving the families whilst believable are not that fully fleshed out – with only Hanks’ family getting much screen time. 

Ron Howard’s direction has always felt like Spielberg in my opinion, with a similar love of family values, big special effects and americana – but this remains one of his best efforts to date.  The authentic sets (and some incredible work from Digital Domain), makes this a crowd pleasing experience, even if at times it drags, and the ending is never in question, taking away some of the tension.   Yet the story is still something that needed to be told and should leave you humbled by just how much risk mankind will take to reach new horizons.

The Blu-ray is packed with features, with archive footage of the Apollo 13 mission, picture-in-picture historical and technical information, an invaluable commentary from Ron Howard aswell as another from astronaut Jim Lovell and his wife, and plenty of behind the scenes stuff.  The picture is eye-catching but suffers a little from what looks like ringing or edge enhancement, and the colours seem a little overblown.  But overall the detail is high and sound-wise this packs a punch with the launch especially shaking the room. 

Verdict:  4 /5