Review: Solo (A Star Wars Story)

Review: Solo (A Star Wars Story)

This Is Corellia, Don’t Catch You Slipping Up.

When rumors started to spread about a spin-off Han Solo film the obvious questions quickly followed: “what kind of film will it be?” perhaps a traditional Star Wars film, or a crime movie, or a heist film. But Solo, it turns out, is an origin story inspired by these and many more, it’s a heist film, a gangster movie and an action thriller, with a good pinch of The Fast and Furious and Mad Max thrown in for good measure and all this while still managing to fit perfectly into the Star Wars franchise.

This is not, however, the Star Wars you may be instantly familiar with, Solo at first shuns the intergalactic fantasy for a more gritty industrial setting, and it uses this setting to establish the dirty underworld that our main protagonists exist within. Where Rogue One wanted to introduce shades of grey and humanise all the sides of the story, Solo instead wants to bring it down to a human level and explore what it’s like to live under the terrifying oppression of the totalitarian empire, and when it does stray into more traditional Star Wars territory the oppression and the underworld is still there following and shaping our heroes throughout.

But whether fantastical or gritty, what makes the world of Star Wars is its inhabitants and in Solo the inhabitants are as good as they come and the actors behind them are equally on point. The entire main cast is constantly stealing scenes out from under each other. Harrelson, Glover, Waller-Bridge and Bettany are as charismatic as they are morally flexible. But special praise has to be given to Alden Ehrenreich who has done a fantastic job of fitting into the shoes of one of the most beloved characters in cinema history. You will come away feeling that given time he could truly grow into being Harrison Ford’s rendition of the character and that is quite an achievement for such a young talent.

When you talk about this film you have to talk about it in terms of moments, the core story has its ups and downs but the key moments of it are absolutely the high points of the film. The inciting moment in the first act is timed perfectly and will instantly grab an audience investing them in the narrative. The moments that punctuate the start and ending of each act are equally impressive, making it very clear that the film is going somewhere you really didn’t expect it to go and keeping you invested each time. But for hardcore Star Wars fans it’s the moment at the end of the film you’ll likely be talking about when the credits roll, it’s a massive risk for this film to take and it’s one of the most exciting moments Star Wars has had since its triumphant return. If you’re looking for this franchise to surprise you and excite you in equal measure then do not sleep on Solo, this moment is exactly what you’re looking for.

In a year of giant high budget franchise outings Solo was very easily the least anticipated of its peers and the stories of its troubled production issues on set didn’t help it. It’s ironic then that Solo succeeds where its biggest rival fails; it takes the established formula of Star Wars and does something truly new and exciting with it. You know these characters for the most part, you know the majority of their stories but you aren’t expecting the story that Solo tells and you certainly aren’t expecting the story it sets up for the future of the franchise. It’s a bold, fun, vibrant story that does exactly what it needed to do and just a little bit more.

Solo score


Review: Deadpool 2

Review: Deadpool 2

A new director and a broader script propel Deadpool to even greater heights in this successful sequel.

The overarching story of Deadpool 2 is much like the overarching story of Deadpool 1, it’s generic but it’s not what you came here for and Deadpool knows that. This time the overarching focus of the film is a soul searching revenge Thriller, but to say that’s all the film is would be hugely reductionist.There is an overarching narrative (and arguably it’s more interesting than that of Deadpool 1)butmore importantly it act perfectly as a framework, allowing the sequel to go places that the original film definitely didn’t.

Of all the moving parts of Deadpool 2 it’s the Script that shines the most.Where the first film was an acidic Knockdown of the superhero genre, it was mostly made funny through its childish/adult humour. This time around however Deadpool is full on comic book Deadpool. There’s fourth wall breaking galore, metatextual references to just about every film that’s come out in the last three years, sequences that confuse and astound in equal measure and it all comes together to make you feel that this is the Deadpool film we’ve been waiting for since the concept leak all those years ago. That leak was a proof of concept of the first film but now the first film very much feels like a proof-of-concept for this more impressive sequel

As ambitious as all of this is it would fall flat on its face if it weren’t for a talented cas, luckily Deadpool has you covered there as well.It goes without saying that at this point Ryan Reynolds is more Deadpool than himself. But this time round he’s backed up by a much stronger cast, Josh Brolin takes his second outing this month as a truly charismatic antagonist, Terry Crews and the rest of the X force are all equally entertaining and serve the films narrative perfectly well. But it’s Zazie Beets who profits the most from her appearance in this film, Domino is incredibly likeable and plays as a really nice counterpoint to Josh Brolin’s rugged bad guy, expect to see her in many many more films after her appearance here.

Respect also has to be paid to Tim Miller the director who picked Deadpool 2 up. One of the things that defines the first film is it small budget style. This time around there is no small budget but the style. substance and relevance of the film has remained. In fact Deadpool 2 is arguably far more relevant, far more interesting and far more on point than the first film was, and manages to use its budget to explore and expand the Horizons of the character rather than invest in cheap gimmicks or marketing ploys as other high budget Hollywood films tend to do. Tim Miller manages to carry over the underdog style that made Deadpool one such a success, without Feeling overburdened by budget or lost in a sea of other high-end superhero films.

All of the points it scores on style and filmmaking would be nothing if it weren’t funny luckily it has no problems there,Deadpool 2 is as funny as they come.It’s biting,it’s acidic, it’s fourth wall breaking, it’s silly childish moments, it’s Winks and offhand looks to the camera and it always delivered perfectly. Ryan Reynolds timing is as per usual on point and this time around he’s supported by a cast who don’t just act alongside and prop up his Deadpool routine, but instead support and improve the gags.

Where Deadpool was a good film, Deadpool 2 is truly brilliant, at times odd, at times messy but nothing short of Brilliant. It’s a whole heap of classic comedy fun in the middle of one of the heaviest superhero seasons since Nolan graced the genre. But it does this without sacrificing an iota of style or substance, and if you feel like reading more deeply into it you may find a surprising amount of relevancy here as well. Deadpool 2 is a surprise, a success and a delight in all the right ways.

Deadpool score

Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Review: Avengers: Infinity War

A beautiful fizz in place of a shocking bang,

After 10 years of slow build the Marvel Cinematic universe reaches a semi climax in a film that perfects the action movie craft but ultimately leaves you wanting more.

Make no mistake about it, this is a big film, and not just in terms of the amount of main characters in it, the overall scale and scope of the film are huge. It pushes the boundaries of what a Marvel film has done up to this point by combining so many different locations, characters and film styles and turning them into one cohesive narrative. From a production standpoint it’s a very real achievement not only that the film has actually been made, but that it can be made, and adhere so cleanly and easily to the MCU thus far. It’s Ironic that it’s taken 10 years to answer the question “how can all these different characters work in the MCU” but Infinity war not only proves that they can but proves that they can fit together in a natural and cohesive way. This is thanks in no small part to the Russo Brothers.

See directing or producing one film is hard, directing or producing multiple films is very hard, Infinity war is, however, the culmination of 18 films, and in this film The Russo Brothers have taken on every single one of them. This latest avengers film is clearly built on the back of the characters that feature in it, they are vibrant, varied and bring a lot of potential to the table, but this comes at the price of having to feel authentic. If T’challa feels less of a king than he became, or Thor is not the stone cold badass he was come the end of Ragnarok then the foundations of Infinity War would start to crumble before the narrative of the film had even tried to take off. But they don’t, the Russo’s manage to take 10 years of cinematic history under their wing and capture the tone, style and quirks of each faction in a near perfect fashion. That takes serious talent and serious talent is exactly what’s on show in Infinity War.

Speaking of talent it’s time to address the man of the hour, The Mad Titan, Thanos. Josh Brolin is truly fantastic in this villainous role. He strikes a disconcerting balance between a measured, calculated being with good but flawed intentions at heart, and a ruthless titan, stopped by nothing in a blind quest. It’s his ability to control both of these extremes that make him feel like a step up in terms of MCU antagonists, he is shown to be effortlessly powerful and needlessly brutal, but we also get to see enough of his motivations and his quieter moments to be unnerved by him on a whole new level.

That being said what Thanos brings to the table is only as good as the story he is written into and unfortunately the narrative of the film manages to let the production of the film down. It all starts strong with a set up that immediately establishes how tense the film could be. But by It’s final moments the audience may well have decided that the punch line was less interesting than the buildup of the joke it comes from. Especially with the promise of so many surprises going into the film, it’s a shame that despite having 10 years of back story to surprise the audience with very little takes place that you wouldn’t expect from a film like this. It’s not devoid of surprises or character progression but those moments feel too greatly outweighed by “necessary plot movements” to have the desired impact.

Theres an argument to make that what an audience member will get out of infinity war depends on their expectations going in to the film. If you’re going in looking for your typical avengers fare: a popcorn flick with a giant roster of main characters then you’ll be in for a very good time. If, however, you go in expecting more of this film than that which has come before (as you would be more than right to do considering the films marketing) then, when the dust settles, you may find yourself disappointed.

The third Avengers film is infinitely watchable, infinitely impressive and infinitely beautiful, as a fairly standard action movie infinity war excels with it’s diverse range of protagonists and the stories and styles they bring to the plate. It’s the most cohesive and entertaining version of an Avengers film that has been released to date. With all that being said it still stumbles and falls in to the same holes that have plagued marvel since the start of the MCU, and with the stakes supposedly so high it makes you wonder how damaging those flaws may turn out to be and how much work Avengers 4 may have to do in a year’s time to fix them or commit to them.

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2017: Album Of The Year.

2017: Album Of The Year.

It took a little while longer than planned, but hopefully it’s worth the wait, here is my rundown of 2017’s best albums.


It’s rare for a bands first album to feel genuine authentic and effortless and yeah for the most part on eternity in your arms creeper managed this the self-described horror punk band hit all the aggressive highs and deep dark lows the crafted rock opera the kind that My Chemical Romance would envy and at times they almost have shades of the Legendary 5-piece. They’re not quite there yet but hopefully they won’t struggle settling for having one of the best albums of 2017.


To say that Paramore came into the year an underdog is itself an understatement. Their previous self titled effort saw them rocket to mainstream success, but turn away from the Paramore of yesteryear. After laughter, However, manages to tread the fine and brilliant line between capturing both the dark and damaged tone of their third album with the flow, structure, production and songwriting of classic Paramore. It’s not an album that will please all of their fans but it is a damn good collection of music that pushes the bands boundaries whilst feeling like the Paramore you grew up loving.

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Some albums are defined more by the tracks you skip then the tracks you listened to, the tracks you couldn’t bring yourself to hear, that had too much weight or meaning to just “be listened to”. But Enter Shikari’s The Spark is an album defined by the difficult songs you do hear. The record takes the Shikari formula and applies it to a more personal, smaller scale album that tells stories of breaking down and building back up again. This is also the structure of the record, building up with heavier guitar driven tracks, breaking down to quieter, or smaller scale tracks and then rebuilding to something new. It’s an emotional journey in terms of both the sound and the tone of the album and it makes for a record that is undeniably the best of the year.

Thank you for your patience with this year’s “best of” series and as always thanks for reading!

Review: Black Panther

Review: Black Panther

T’challa returns home to Wakanda after having kingship thrust upon him to find a troubled home nation, and challengers to his rule.

When Chadwick Boseman stepped in to the Black Panther suit in his debut in Civil War it was an important moment both in the cinematic landscape and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now Boseman is the focus of an entire film that shows some major growth in the Black Panther character and in Marvel’s ability to tell stories.

Of the many moving parts of Black Panther it is the characters and their stories that are arguably the most important. There is a delicate balance of power at play throughout the whole film and it rests on the shoulders of T’challa. Boseman plays the hero fantastically, showing clear growth and evolution in the character. He treads a line between powerful and patient that few Marvel actors pull off as convincingly. His quieter delivery makes his action scenes seem even more superhuman than usual but it’s his slower scenes in the gorgeous land of his ancestors that are the most memorable, offering quiet moments of peace in what is otherwise a busy and fast paced film.

However whilst Boseman’s hero is memorable it’s Micheal B Jordan’s Killmonger that comes out as the biggest surprise of the film. Jordan offers a very notable portrayal of a damaged villain. His final scenes are some of the most memorable that a Marvel antagonist has managed yet, adding a refreshing depth to an already deep character. Jordan’s performance makes the character but Killmonger is also important for the parallels that can be drawn from him to other black characters in super hero/action films. His character is one of many examples of social commentary throughout the film, commentary which elevates Black Panther above many of its Marvel peers.

The films has a very distinct style, whether it’s in the visuals or the sound design the authenticity of the culture that is being both created and portrayed is evident throughout. From a musical perspective the percussive motif mixes well with more typical Avengers instrumentation to make the films orchestral backdrop. Whilst in the visuals the mix of stunning art and set design makes for a vibrant setting that simultaneously fits in with and stands out from the Marvel franchises typical look. The only issue is that in key action scenes the VFX often feels to float-y to be believable, looking more like a fight between two Black Panther shaped jellies than T’challa and Killmonger themselves.

At first Black Panther is a very good popcorn flick with a good set up, likable characters and enjoyable cinematography. But as it adds more threads, characters, histories and motivations it begins to grow beyond it’s peers. The film, thanks to its narrative, begins to rise above its smaller, more basic elements to become something that none of the other Marvel films have yet managed.

Black Panther is powerful. Powerful because of it’s authentic cinematography and original score. Powerful because of it’s dedicated portrayals from a team of incredibly talented actors. Powerful because of the way it challenges expectations with brilliantly crafted characters and motivations. But most of all powerful because in a franchise of nearly 20 films it is the only Marvel film that tells a story that is more than a popcorn flick, Black panther is not afraid to deal with themes, stories and concepts that some of its audience may find challenging and for that reason it deserves a lot of respect. Is it a perfectly constructed film? Nope. Is it a great piece of cinema despite this? Absolutely.

Black Panther Score

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson takes huge risks in a film that sees the return of the last Jedi.

To summarise the plot of The Last Jedi would be to miss and undersell a great deal of the film, it is densely packed with lots of twists and turns all happening at a very fast pace. It gives the viewer a lot to think about for each of its main characters and their relationships with one and other. But the best way to think of the story behind The Last Jedi is as a tale of balance, hope and loss. It asks questions of what it is to be a hero or a villain in a universe like this and is constantly toying with its audience as a result. It always has an ace in the hole, sometimes they are exactly the ace you were expecting and sometimes they are the least expected option on the table. It’s far from a “playing it safe” sequel and it’s a good thing too as it shakes up and adds to the ongoing saga in some extremely meaningful ways.

One of the most important things about Star Wars, from Episode I through all the way to The Force Awakens, is how the imaginative character and world design has led to a film world with a truly unique look and feel and The Last Jedi is arguably the most imaginative Star Wars outing since the original trilogy. The film is overflowing with beautiful creature designs, each who serve a function in the places where we encounter them. This massively adds to the feeling that these worlds are real, living places with their own flora and fauna. Star Wars has a reputation for being a home for the weird and wonderful, its films like The Last Jedi that keep that reputation written in stone and for all the right reasons.

These worlds and creatures are usually the most eye catching part of any scene, which is often in stark contrast to the darker, bleaker look of the film this time around. Don’t worry, there are still lightsabers lighting up scenes left, right and centre but those scenes are a bit less filled with colour, a bit darker and play a lot more with shadows then they do light. The major set pieces are striking as a result of this, the film skips between huge, ornate set piece to tight, dark personal shots and manages to impressively fold them together in to one consistent and unified vision of this universe in its current state.

But above all else The Last Jedi is ballsy. Johnson and the script writing team have taken risks on this film that certain film makers wouldn’t dream of doing in a life time. Twists and turns are abundant. Some are small and inconsequential but others are huge and intentionally shift the audiences expectation from scene to scene, toying with viewers desires and emotions, much like the characters they are watching. There is one particular risk that the film takes that deserves massive kudos for its guts and the class with which it is handled. It makes for one of the best scenes in the film if not the entire canon of Star Wars and it will be talked about for a while to come.

Balance. Balance is the key at the core of The Last Jedi, the balance between light and dark, heroes and villains, hope and hate. It’s also the balance between the new and the old and in almost every way it treads that line fantastically. Star Wars Episode 8 is not what you expect, it will surprise you and shock you but, in the end, it is exactly what you want. It’s a brilliant, imaginative, dark, twisty Star Wars film. It will bring a smile to your face, keep you on the edge of your seat and make you gasp in equal measure. It cannot be recommended highly enough.

Cam writes score 2.0

Review: Blade Runner 2049

Review: Blade Runner 2049

Denis Villeneuve astounds with a film that easily deserves to stand in the foot steps of an all time classic.

The original Blade Runner became such an important film because of how it managed to defy its own context and represent some of the vital discussions of the generations who grew up watching it. Deckard’s story painted a world that was dystopian and damaged, yet idyllic enough that we have arguably taken great strides towards it in the real world ever since. Whilst it’s far too soon to tell, it’s not hard to get the feeling from 2049 that Villeneuve has achieved with this sequel, a film of similar cultural impact, which will contribute to the zeitgeist far beyond its release.

Blade Runner 2049 is a film school’s wet dream. It’s main characters and story are a masterpiece of subtext  and structure. It wants the audience to draw their own conclusions and it starts to provide the material by which to do so from very early on. As a result, by the end of it’s slow, tense (and nearly three hours long) burn the average audience member will be throwing out hypothetical what if’s like there’s no tomorrow.

Luckily this is also not a rare case of substance over style in fact to some extent they are one and the same. The film is bursting with visual nods to themes and concepts that, as well make the film look beautiful, add to the huge level of depth that is being aiming for with the films narrative. It’s about Slavery and racism, but it’s also Slavery and entertainment, identity and self in a digital age,  creationism and playing god and it doesn’t stop there. it’s capitalism versus revolution, it’s nostalgia versus progressiveness, The deeper you read into it the deeper the themes you will find, it’s a very rare film in that it doesn’t stop at a certain level, it has something to offer to every level of its audience.

Technically everything 2049 has to offer is at the top of it’s game. The sound track is equal parts emotive and eye melting, it’s performances are Oscar Worthy in almost every case and the visuals are of an equally high calibre. Villeneuve deserves incredible praise for his vision and stylistic approach to the film but so too does every team who brought it to life so convincingly.

But technique is only as good as the narrative allows it to be and the personal story in this film is as good as it gets.  The audience’s disbelief is perfectly suspended, the film is always smarter than you but it always makes you feel like the smartest person in the room and it’s all paced perfectly (a perfect example of the Bait, switch and resolve technique). On top of all this, away from the more personal narrative, there is a deep, multilayered and intense story about a world, it’s context and the people within it. Blade Runner 2049 is very much a caricature of our own society, with many of the same debates, conflicts and underlying tensions. And all of this weaves together and functions seamlessly as one whole. The story of the world is the story of the characters and visa versa, the level of storytelling (both visual and traditional) on display is truly stunning.

Blade Runner 2049 is not a film, it’s a dystopian neon tinged painting, it’s a deeply satisfying novel, it’s a Vangelis inspired orchestral suite, it’s a dissection of life, technology and society all presented in 24 frames a second. The word Epic is used a lot these days but usually it’s to sell films, to encourage audiences that this film will be epic and filled with action and explosions. Blade Runner is slow, patient and profound, epic in the truest sense, not because of its ability to overwhelm the senses, but its ability to overwhelm with ideas and possibilities. This is  Blade runner is not a film, it’s an example of what film can be.

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