Tag Archives: Paul Bettany

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany

Like a lot of folks, I was initially dubious about Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. Sure, I was ecstatic that the Star Wars saga would indeed continue – especially without George Lucas’ (who lost the plot a long time ago). But announcing spinoffs that would result some kind of Star Wars-related movie every year? The prospect of overkill loomed large. Did we really need character origins or side stories based on a single line of dialogue from the original trilogy?

Then Rogue One was released. We didn’t really need an entire film about how the rebels stole the Death Star plans, but damn, if it wasn’t the first one that actually felt like a war movie. While obviously still part of the Star Wars universe, Rogue One was a gritty, in-your-face film that owed as much to The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare as the saga which inspired it.

If Rogue One is the classic war film Star Wars universe, then Solo could be considered its classic western. And that’s a great thing. We may not have needed a Han Solo origin story, but in the tradition of the coolest westerns, the film gives a true anti-hero as its main protagonist, a first for the franchise. While no one could ever truly replace Harrison Ford, Alden Ehrenreich is terrific in the role. He sort-of resembles Ford if you squint your eyes, but more importantly, he incorporates just enough of the character’s mannerisms that we believe this is what Han might have been like in his reckless youth. Frankly, I don’t understand much of the criticism that’s been levelled at him in some circles. Wouldn’t a Ford lookalike who can’t act be worse?

In fact, I’m surprised at some of the negativity aimed at the film in general. As much as I revere the Star Wars saga, its massive story-arc has become so massive, sweeping and concerned with its own mythology that we tend to forget the 1977 film was just a simple, old-fashioned space opera with no concrete franchise plans. More than any other sequel or prequel, Solo maintains the same light, playful tone of the original. 

And yeah, a cynic can question the film’s overall necessity. We already know about Han’s legendary Kessel Run, and how he acquired the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) is common knowledge, but it sure is fun watching it all play out. The story touches all the bases, from befriending Chewbacca to the story behind Han’s dice. But Solo isn’t bereft of creativity. In addition to some great new characters, a few nifty story surprises are thrown in. There’s also a brief nod to the maligned prequel trilogy, as well as an amusing moment near the end that could be interpreted as a sly dig at Lucas for altering the one scene that established Solo as a questionable rogue in the first place. 

Like Rogue One, Solo takes a story we’ve known about for years and turns it into a rousing adventure, albeit much lighter in tone. It’s essentially a space western – with touches of classic pirate films – but still fits nicely in the Star Wars universe. Who cares if the outcome is a foregone conclusion?

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Avengers Infinity War

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by) 
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Pom Klementieff, Benedict Wong

The dust has settled, the hype has died down, the fanboys have scrutinised every frame and Avengers: Infinity War has already raked in $2 billion worldwide. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, look beyond the spectacle and obligatory fan-service to assess what is still essentially half a movie (though it’s still a lot better than Age of Ultron). 

I’ve always been pretty dubious over the practice of dividing a single story into two or more separate films. I understood Quentin Tarantino’s motives behind Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 because they were stylistically different. But two Breaking Dawns, two Mockingjays and three freaking Hobbits were just greedy, cynical cash-grabs calculated to prey on fans whose commitment to their beloved franchises gave them no choice but to open their wallets one more time than necessary.

But after seeing Infinity War twice now (once in theatres with everyone else, the second time for this Blu-ray review), I have to grudgingly concede that the decision to make it two movies might be justified (I’ll reserve a final verdict until next year). As it stands, this film has an unenviable task: Include nearly every major MCU character, work them into the film without regulating anyone to a gratuitous cameo while still moving the new story forward (“new” is relative, though…longtime fans have been aware of this coming war for years). 

For the most part, the film is successful, mainly because Marvel has done a pretty masterful job of laying the groundwork during the past decade of MCU movies. So when Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) engages in verbal chest-thumping with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the story doesn’t need to spend time establishing their personalities the way a stand-alone film must. Speaking of which, the film’s best moments are when these iconic characters are meeting each other for the first time. Those involving one-or-more of the Guardians of the Galaxy are predictably the funniest, and sometimes surprisingly moving.

The downside, of course, is that anyone not fully up-to-speed with the doings in the MCU will be completely lost. Sure, they could (mostly) follow the story, maybe even a few of the subplots, but will have absolutely no emotional stake in any of these characters. And there’s no other film in the MCU that depends more on the audience’s investment in its characters than Infinity War (especially during the final act).

Even without the burden of character exposition, bringing them all together convincingly takes a considerable amount of time (which Infinity War does by presenting three concurrent subplots). Could the rising action leading to its epic climax have been trimmed-up a bit? Absolutely. Infinity War is occasionally meandering and apocalyptic battles are so standard in this franchise that simply making them longer doesn’t necessarily make them grander. However, the story doesn’t feel gratuitously padded just to squeeze-out two movies. Casual viewers may be impatiently checking their watches after ninety minutes, but it goes without saying that anyone who loves these characters won’t want it to end. 

But end it does, with whopper of a cliffhanger that’s more Empire Strikes Back than An Unexpected Journey. In other words, the story may be incomplete, but not the experience. And if all 18 of the previous entries in the MCU can be considered converging roads leading up to this moment, then perhaps two movies is justified. I guess we’ll all know for sure next year.

Until then, because of its size, scope, references to past events and plethora of Easter eggs, Infinity War makes better repeated viewing at home than the usual superhero film. Nobody but the most dedicated fanboys would be capable of catching everything the first time. On a related note, I’m sort-of surprised at how light this Blu-ray is on supplemental material. The featurettes are entertaining, but mostly promotional and pretty short compared to those included on many other Disney/Marvel releases.