Tag Archives: Woody Harrelson

Midway (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson


Midway Review

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Wes Tooke
Stars: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson 

Thank God Midway is not a remake of the 1976 film depicting the same event.

Some of you might recall that one, which was mostly an excuse for Universal to promote their newest sonic toy, Sensurround. Most of the action scenes consisted of footage lifted from older – and better – movies, while the narrative was needlessly padded with fictional main characters and a sappy romantic subplot. Too bad, because Charlton Heston was one of my idols back then.

If nothing else, director Roland Emmerich knows such a decisive WWII naval battle is dramatic enough without such embellishments. Since the plot has already been written in history books, all that’s really needed is a solid cast depicting real-life figures and Emmerich’s distinctive brand of visual bombast. As such, what Midway lacks in dynamic characters is compensated by the intricacy of Japanese and American strategies, punctuated by some astounding action sequences as the scenario plays out.

Typical of Emmerich’s biggest films, the special effects are the real stars. While there are some brief moments of truly terrible CGI, for the most part, the battle scenes are convincing, spectacular and creatively rendered. Midway needs them, too, because also like Emmerich’s biggest films, the screenplay is rife with dialogue that sounds like it was written in the 1950s. But while most of the characters are walking cliches from war movies of that same era, they are performed with workmanlike skill by a talented cast, making the movie’s cornball earnestness oddly endearing (though I kept expecting Woody Harrelson to say or do something really funny).

Ultimately, Midway is the kind hopelessly old-fashioned war film people haven’t bothered to make for decades. But in a way, that’s also part of its charm. Just like he did with Independence Day, Roland Emmerich shamelessly pilfers standard characters & tropes of the past, then glosses over his thievery with state-of-the-art visuals & sonic fireworks. The result may not resonate much afterwards, but it’s an infinitely more entertaining depiction of the Battle of Midway than the 1976 film. Sorry, Chuck.

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?

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Movie Review By John Gray


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

Solo, a movie I neither needed nor wanted. Why demystify one of the most iconic characters in movie history? Does everybody need an origin story? Sufficient to say I walked into my local cinema with managed expectations, not just because I thought the movie was a bad idea, but because of its troubled production.

I needn’t have worried. Like Han swooping in last minute to aid Luke during the trench run, director Ron Howard arrived late to a tension- filled set and saved the day. Solo is an old- fashioned adventure movie in many ways, and that’s part of its charm. On the other hand Howard wisely strips away the main saga’s gravity and bombast. Those complaining Solo didn’t ‘feel like Star Wars’ are missing the point of these standalone films. They’re supposed to play with tone and genre a little. Rogue One was a gritty war film (although it was supposed to be far grittier) and Solo is perfectly pitched as a kind of heist- movie- space- western. 

Of course none of it would have worked without a good cast. When Alden Ehrenreich was cast he faced a Daniel Craig type backlash, and I’ll admit being skeptical myself. One doesn’t simply replace Harrison Ford’s effortless charisma and screen presence. Thankfully Ehrenreich doesn’t try, and gives us a performance rather than an impersonation. There are moments- facial expressions or vocal inflections- when we see and hear Ford, but these moments are wisely sparse, just enough to help us believe we’re really watching a young Han Solo. 

The rest of the cast are just as good. Donald Glover’s Lando almost steals the show. Amelia Clarke brings disarming charm to her part as Han’s first love, Kira. Woody Harrelson is great as world weary thief Beckett, and Paul Bettany manages to bring real menace to his limited role as villain. 

Aside from being immensely fun, its also rather funny, although this is perhaps the greatest weakness here. The humour, like the Falcon, doesn’t always land. What does land for the most part is the emotion. While the film’s twists and turns are hardly unpredictable, you feel for the characters involved. Oh, apart from that one twist that almost made me spit out my popcorn. That, I did not see coming.

Enjoyment rating: 4/5 

Quality rating: 4/5

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Movie Review By Anna-Maria McAlinney

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover.

Plot: Star Wars side story. We get to see Han Solo as a young man, learning about the empire, becoming a pilot and meeting his frenemy Lando Calrissian.

Review Summary: Pleasantly surprising.  Actually worth going to see.

Review: I was totally prepared to actively dislike this film.  I was actually a little bit disappointed by how enjoyable if I am honest.  The characters are quite relatable and there is a good balance of action, comradery and romance.  I was worried that with a young and attractive cast that there would be an overkill of longing staring and fleeting eye contact but they actually mingled the romance in with the action in an appropriate way.


  • We have a whole wave of new characters introduced and I don’t feel that they were all needed.  I would definitely argue that the wrong ones were given the more screen time.


  • They clearly examined the original trilogy source material closely and got a few ideas from it, but they didn’t just replicate the Han we know.  That makes sense because adult Han was clearly the product of some interesting stories and a whole heap of experience so the younger version would be a little more naive .

Generally speaking, I enjoyed the direction that they went with this.  Solid performances from the main cast and thematically spot on for the time period in the franchise.  I am looking forward to seeing how they spring on from this into Boba Fett and Kenobi.

Enjoyment Rating: 4/5

Quality Rating: 4/5

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Stars: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

Martin McDonagh brings us a dark horse in the form of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” starring Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, Woody Harrelson as Chief Of Police William Willoughby in a dark comedic drama. Months have passed since the terrible murder of Mildred’s Daughter and there has been no leads, no new information and to date no culprits for the terrible crime. A Mother with no closure and in constant despair decides to make a bold statement to Willoughby and his Force in the form of renting three rundown billboards that haven’t been used since 1986 and leaving controversial messages on them directed at the Chief of Police. Trouble brews in the form of Willoughby’s second in command Officer Dixon played by Sam Rockwell who gets involved and the battle between Mildred and the Police is only exacerbating the situation.

“Three Billboards” of course won four Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actress (Frances McDormand) in a Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Sam Rockwell) in a Motion Picture and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Martin McDonagh) and for me arrived under the radar. Don’t get me wrong I had heard of this picture with the strange name and you could be forgiven for not taking too much notice of this films release. Especially when you realise what the film was up against at these awards.

Frances McDormand is brilliant. It’s as simple as that. Every scene and every line is delivered perfectly by the Academy Award Winning Actress (Best Actress in a Leading Role in Fargo as Marge Gunderson) her portrayal of a tortured soul is all there to see in her performance. You can feel her anguish and frustration in the Police Department and although the subject matter is pretty grim, there is little nuggets of humour in there and McDormand handles these brilliantly, without them being out of place.

When I first knew about this film and the character Woody Harrelson would be playing I assumed he would be an unlikeable guy. On the contrary, Willoughby isn’t your normal two dimensional town sheriff. He has issues in his own life and actually comes across as a decent guy who by the looks of things has exhausted his leads in the murder case and his resources look pretty limited. Harrelson’s portrayal of the character is realistic that although this case is at the top of Mildred Hayes list of priorities, he has other issues in his profession and more importantly with his health that Mildred is unaware of.

This infuriates Officer Dixon in knowing his Boss is seriously unwell and Mildred’s Billboard stunt is the last thing the Chief Of Police needs. Sam Rockwell portrays the character as someone who respects Willoughby and aspires to be one day. Dixon is protective of his senior officer and as the film rolls on you get to see his violent side. I first saw Rockwell in both 1999 films The Green Mile and Galaxy Quest and then again in 2001’s Heist as Jimmy Silk and I have followed his career ever since. His character is full of anger and frustration. This is due to the fact that Dixon is the Sole Carer to his Mother after his Father died and appears bitter to his predicament. I think this is why the character is the way he is with Willoughby. He sees him as a father figure and is constantly looking for his approval.

This film is shot beautifully and with vibrant colours. McDonagh already an Academy Award Winner in 2004 for a Best Short Film in Six Shooter displays his directorial talents again. As far as writing goes, McDonagh again knocks it out the park. The script is solid and when you realise this is the guy who was also nominated in 2008 for Best Screenplay for the film “In Bruges” you can see why. Do I have any issues at all with the film? Well yes, it’s not perfect in the sense of tone at times.

Having spoken to a few people, they have had different experiences with this film from being emotional to finding the film very funny. I get that as the film has all of that but in some scenes (not many) I felt a little unsatisfied in how I was meant to feel and some people I know have felt that way too, but as I said it’s nitpicking and the same can be said for the films final third. Just when you thought we were going to get some closure and resolve for poor Mildred a lead turned out to be a red herring.

One of the more surprising things about the lead comes from none other than Officer Dixon who overheard a conversation between two out of town men bragging about a crime they committed that matches that of Mildred’s Daughter. If anything came out of this, it was how the relationship between the grieving mother and the Dixon actually bettered at the stories climax. Although the two men who committed a crime had nothing to do with Mildred’s Daughter both Dixon and Mildred bonded in the sense they agreed to pay these two men a visit…armed.

Overall I enjoyed the movie and I can see why it got the attention it deserved at the Golden Globes. It remains to be seen how it will fare at the Academy Awards shortly but let’s put it this way there will be a lot more attention on “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” this time and I think it deserves the recognition. Highly Recommended.