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Non-Review Review: Solo – A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story is perhaps remarkable in how it is unremarkable.

That is not exactly fair. Most obviously, despite being the tenth theatrical release with a Star Wars brand, Solo: A Star Wars Story is still something relatively novel for a franchise; it is a big-screen outing that consciously and overtly marginalises a lot of what audiences have come to expect from the franchise. There are a host of familiar elements here, but often in minuscule amounts; either token gestures or sly continuity nods. Without confirming any of these elements are present, Solo certainly has fewer Jedi, Death Stars, representatives of the Empire, officially designated rebels, or lightsabers than most Star Wars films.

The Wookie and the Rookie.

More than that, the film’s production was notably troubled, which is striking for a production company as efficient as Disney and Lucasfilm. Original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller finished shooting their version of the film, and were fired during the editing process. Reportedly, seventy percent of Solowas reshot by Ron Howard. Given the schedule demands of the actors involved, the complicated mechanics of the set pieces, and the budget of the film, this was no small undertaking. On paper, Solo would appear to have more in common with a film like Justice League or Suicide Squad than even the troubled Rogue One.

With all of that in mind, it is a credit to Howard that Solo turns out as well as it did. Howard is an efficient and often underrated director, one with a clean eye and with a clear storytelling style. Howard’s films tend to be unfussy and uncomplicated, a director who never gets in the way of the story being told. This is something of an underappreciated virtue, with Howard’s films often maintaining a firm grasp on the fundamentals of storytelling. Howard’s characters tend to have clear arcs and tangible motivations, with very little getting lost in the shuffle. Howard’s direction is unobtrusive, which likely made him such a good fit for this particular film in these particular circumstances.

On the cards…

Watching the film, there is little sense of competing tones or contrasting visions. There are moments over the course of the film when the cast are noticeably more playful, their banter a little more conversational and the comic rhythms a little more pronounced. However, Solo never misses a beat, never turns to sharply, never transitions too jarringly. There is a strange sense, watching Solo, that absolutely everything has ended up right where it was supposed to be with a minimum amount of fuss. There is absolutely nothing about the finished product screams “troubled production.”

At the same time, nothing about Solo screams anything at all.

Going Solo.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Precious Cargo (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Precious Cargo is a disaster. It is a spectacularly terrible piece of television. It is the kind of episode that fans point towards when they want to belittle or diminish Star Trek: Enterprise.

To be fair, it isn’t as if the show has the monopoly on bad episodes of the franchise. After all, the original Star Trek gave us And The Children Shall Lead, The Way to Eden and The Apple. Star Trek: The Next Generation gave us Code of Honour, Angel One, The Child and Up the Long Ladder. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine produced Let He Who Is Without Sin, Profit and Lace and The Emperor’s New Cloak. Star Trek: Voyager is responsible for Fair Haven and Spirit Folk. When you produce twenty-something episodes of television a year, terrible episodes happen.

We are Trip, of Bored...

We are Trip, of Bored…

Indeed, they will keep happening. Precious Cargo cannot even make an indisputable claim to being the weakest story of the troubled second season. There are fans who will argue that A Night in Sickbay or Bounty deserve that accolade. Nevertheless, it seems like everyone is agreed that Precious Cargo is a disaster from start to finish. It is a collection of pulpy science-fiction clichés that feels overly familiar, a lazy comedy without any solid jokes and a complete lack of chemistry between the two leads.

Precious Cargo is a spectacular misfire, an ill-judged and poorly-constructed addition to the franchise.

"Wait, another Trip comedy episode?"

“Wait, another Trip comedy episode?”

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Non-Review Review: Riddick

Riddick is remarkably candid about the trouble with The Chronicles of Riddick. Somewhere,” Riddick tells us in his introductory monologue, “I lost my way.” The movie sees Riddick trying to get back to his roots – literally and figuratively. He abandons the trappings of The Chronicles of Riddick, casting Karl Urban aside after little more than a cameo and a convoluted back story. He longs to return home.And, in a way, he does.

Eschewing the scale of The Chronicles of Riddick, the movie finds Riddick and the crews of two ships locked in combat on the surface of a planet, discovering that the elements are against them – and the monsters hiding therein. The movie is acutely aware of how tightly it’s mirroring Pitch Black. At one point, before an alien onslaught begins, one co-star asks how many survivors emerged from the crash at the start of Pitch Black. “As many as are in this room,” Riddick replies, underscoring the similarities.

However, Riddick is strongest when it tries to recapture the mood of Pitch Black, rather than trying to connect more directly with its predecessors. The decision to hang the back story of the film on a minor character from a movie released a decade ago feels like a miscalculation, and the movie’s introduction suffers from an indecisiveness about whether it’s breaking free of or following on from its direct predecessor.

Apocalypse how?

Apocalypse how?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Outrageous Okona (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season (and a tiny bit of the second), episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Well, I’m not sure if you can call two solid episodes in succession a “streak” or a “roll”, but Where Silence Has Lease and Elementary, Dear Data were two hours of television that demonstrated how far the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation had come since its rocky first season. However, it appears that the two very good episodes in a row did not represent a sudden change in direction and did not assure consistency. The Outrageous Okona is a bad episode, by just about any measure. It’s not necessarily as offensive as Angel One or Code of Honour, but it is quite painful to watch.

Unlike a lot of the bungled “message” shows in the first season that contained misjudged ideas or offensive elements, The Outrageous Okona is merely a terribly written and unfunny mess of an episode that simply gnaws at the viewer.

He works best Solo...

He works best Solo…

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Non-Review Review: The Chronicles of Riddick

There’s a good movie to be found somewhere inside The Chronicles of Riddick,I’m just not quite sure where. At the very least, you have to admire David Twohy’s ambition, staging a lofty large-scale science-fantasy with old-fashioned production design that we haven’t seen in years. Unfortunately, it’s a very tough type of subgenre to get right, and Twohy doesn’t necessarily come close. I can’t help but feel that Riddick himself is at the core of the problems with the would-be science-fiction epic, which gives any idea of just how deeply rooted those flaws must be.

Vin and gone...

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Five More Creative Ways to Make Green Lantern 2 A Better Film (Rather Than Just “Darker and Edgier”)…

Green Lantern was a disappointment. Along with Marvel’s Daredevil, the Green Lantern series has been perhaps the strongest mainstream superhero title published in the past decade, and Warner Brothers couldn’t manage to produce a decent film. This was supposed to be the company’s first superhero franchise outside of the tried-and-tested Batman and Superman properties, and it fell flat. Nevertheless, Warners have vowed to press on with the sequel, daring to produce a “darker and edgier” follow-up to the film. Ignoring the fact that not all superheroes need to be “darker and edgier”, it still ignores the fact that the problems with Martin Campbell’s would-be franchise launcher had very little to do with being too light or soft. Here are five pieces of advice that the executive would do well to take on board, before deciding to simply “go darker.”

The sequel... Dark Green Lantern...

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