Just Like Its Title Hero, Solo: A Star Wars Story Scrapes By With Spunk, Heart & Luck

solo poster

The second Star Wars spinoff film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, has long been a troubled production, notably with the firing of the original directors. When Ron Howard took over the film, he wound up re-filming a majority of it to bring it more in line with what Lucasfilm expects for a Star Wars film. Some fans who are leery with Lucasfilm and its president Kathleen Kennedy eagerly hoped that this film would fail. if not in the box office, at least creatively. These haters will have to wait longer because Solo: A Star Wars Story manages to be an entertaining, fun romp of an adventure.

solo and qira

To start, let’s get this out of the way: Alden Ehrenreich does a fine job portraying a younger version of Han Solo, everyone’ favorite space pirate. Sure, he’s not Harrison Ford, who will always be the definitive Han Solo, but Ehrenreich does not try to imitate him. It’s a good thing because that would have been a mistake. Instead he captures the essence of Han Solo; he emulates the swagger, the cockiness and the spunk that we fans have loved about the smuggler.

The mannerisms are demonstrated in the opening moments of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which details how Han lived a desperate life in his homeworld Corellia. Han (and some will get annoyed by the origin of his last name, but so be it) always dreamed of a bigger life, which involved leaving the hellish Corellia. Circumstances and quick thinking on his part allow Han to escape the world and bounce around throughout many misadventures. These mishaps bring him to meeting his BFF Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and fellow rogue and friend Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Plus, we see how he came to own his famous ship, the Millennium Falcon, which is newer and cleaner looking.

Kessel Run

Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces many interesting characters that come and go at a rapid pace along with some head-turning cameos. The best of these are Qi’Ra (Emily Clarke), Han’s first love, and Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who introduces Han Solo to life as a space pirate. It also dwells on the seedier, more criminal side of the Star Wars universe. The Galactic Empire, Jedi, Sith and all the traditional Star Wars trappings are shoved to the background or unmentioned. This is great since it shows that there is more to the Star Wars universe and is similar to those episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that were devoted to the criminal underworld. This Star Wars spinoff earns extra credit just for not delivering more of the same when it comes to a Star Wars film.

At its core, Solo: A Star Wars Story is an exciting caper/heist story with adventurous dashes of the Indiana Jones films. There isn’t anything particularly deep or heavy here, but the film gives time to explore the heart and emotions of its characters. We may never know how the original version of the film would have been like, but Ron Howard does a credible, workman-like job in directing the film. It always moves along at a crisp pace and hits all the right beats. There are many thrilling set pieces such as a futuristic train robbery, an intense gambling sequence and of course, the famed Kessel Run. That last sequence, which takes place onboard the Millennium Falcon, is arguably the most nail-biting part. Also, Alden Ehrenreich deserves a lot of credit for the film since he is the main actor and is able to exude the spirit of a younger, more unpolished Han Solo. In addition to Clarke and Harrelson, Donald Glover does a great job of portraying Lando Calrissian. He does the smooth, savvy routine that Billy Dee Williams originated decades ago.

solo and lando at falcon

Some narrow-minded fans who are stuck in the past are ready to proclaim this film to be the death of Star Wars and a call to arms to replace Kathleen Kennedy. They point to some reviews and its box office performance since it underperformed in its opening weekend. However, if you watch this film with an open mind, you will find that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a genuinely fun adventure worthy of the Star Wars name.

Lewis T. Grove

 

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Save The Expanse

expanse season 3 poster

Not too long ago, devoted fans of the Syfy series The Expanse were heartbroken when the cable channel announced that the third season of the show would be its last. Cancelling favorite TV shows isn’t anything new, nor are the efforts to save shows. The original Star Trek is the best example. Sadly, most attempts to save cancelled TV shows are doomed, however, there are the rare occasions where the shows find new life. This happened last year when NBC un-cancelled the time-travel show Timeless and renewed it for a second season. And now it seems as if the beloved sci-fi show may get a reprieve elsewhere. But let’s not celebrate yet.

For anyone who has not watched it yet (and shame on you if you haven’t even sampled it), The Expanse is based on a series of books by James S.A. Corey about a divided humanity two hundred years from now in the settled solar system. Humans still haven’t discovered FTL yet, but space travel tech has advanced enough to allow humans to settle on Mars, several moons and on space stations. A delicate balance of power exists as Earth, Mars and the Belt (the inhabited regions of the asteroid belt, the gas giant moons and orbital stations) as each side vies for dominance.

The Expanse follows the lives of several characters from all levels of life either throughout the system and how they are impacted by a conspiracy that threatens everyone. An extra-solar substance called protomolecule is discovered and it is able to alter all life. What is worse is that devious government and business leaders are trying to weaponize it. As this goes on, unlikely heroes from diverse paths cross paths and try to prevent the spread of the protomolecule and war itself.

hybrid protomolecule

In the third season of The Expanse, these efforts are failing as not only is the protomolecule spreading and appears to be sentient, but war breaks out between Earth and Mars. During the fog of war, many of the heroes do their best to contain the protomolecule and end the war.

This TV show is a true gem in a network supposedly dedicated to science fiction. It is smart, well produced, has wonderful production values, and is captivating thanks to its engaging stories and characters. Ever since its debut three years ago, The Expanse has lived up to its promise of being an intelligent, hard sci-fi show, scoring huge with critics. It even won the Hugo Award in 2017 for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. At the same time, it takes great pains to keep a balance between story and character. In the past two seasons, the show explored what life is like for the downtrodden in the Belt. This season, however, focused more on the ragtag crew of the stolen Martian ship Rocinante and rescued passengers as they’re targeted by both warring sides. The Rocinante crew have to struggle between helping the passengers put an end to the war, stopping the protomolecule infestation, and a personal mission to rescue a young girl threatened by the alien substance. What made this season unique is that it had many diverse characters featured separately in the past meeting each other and uniting under common causes.

All this sounds great but remember this series is based on several books and there are many tales left to present. Sadly, The Expanse will not have the chance to finish telling all the stories from Corey’s books. Citing low ratings and complicated distribution issues with other parties like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Syfy pulled the plug. However, it turns out that the show has a devoted fan base. To date an online petition garnered over 100,000 signatures, and high profile fans like George R. R. Martin, Patton Oswalt and Wil Wheaton are throwing their support to the campaign. #SaveTheExpanse

save the expanse

Alcon Television Group, the studio that produces the show, is actively shopping it around. Currently, there are talks between Alcon and Amazon Studios to distribute a fourth season. The main contention in the talks has to do with Streaming or Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) rights. One thing the show has going for it is that it is popular on streaming/digital demand, and Amazon is looking to add more original content for its subscribers. Streaming and digital services are becoming a haven not just for original programs but for cancelled shows that are given new life in their services. Let’s hope that The Expanse will find new life there or elsewhere because it deserves to be reprieved.

UPDATE: Amazon has saved The Expanse and the fourth season will stream on Amazon Prime. Sometimes our beloved shows have a secind chance. 😀

Avengers: Infinity War—Aftermath & What’s Next For the MCU, Part II

Avengers: Infinity War has taken the world by storm and has become the biggest comic book superhero film of all time.  The nineteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is generating continued talk and speculation about where the MCU will go next. Let’s continue the discussion, at least until other summer ’18 flicks like Deadpool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story soak up the attention. As before, major spoilers will be thrown around, so for anyone who has not seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, here is your last chance to avoid being spoiled.

 

 

 

SPOILERS

 

 

 

How the Hulk Got His Groove Back, Etc.

Before the original Avengers make the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers 4, a few of them have arcs that need to be concluded. In Avengers: Infinity War, the Hulk was soundly beaten by Thanos early on. The beatdown was so bad that he refused to appear when Bruce Banner tried transforming into him. The Hulk never reappeared, leaving his story line unfinished. Clearly, this will be addressed in the next film where he will finally emerge in an epic rage as Black Widow is threatened or even killed. That by the way will be the extent of her development until her rumored solo film. Anyway, just like Thor had his crowd-cheering moment in Avengers: infinity War when he showed up in Wakanda with his new hammer to kick some ass, so too, will the Hulk put a serious pounding on Thanos and his minions. It’s something to look forward to!

Bring me thanos!

Bring me Thanos!

Meanwhile, Captain America’s story was underdeveloped in the third film. He never reconciled with Iron Man or regained his true shield. He did have a showdown with Thanos that surprised the Mad Titan as Cap held off due to his undying willpower. Captain America has had an underlying tragic aura as he is a man who cannot quite fit in. While the natural progression will be to have the old soldier lay down his life, hopefully he will be allowed to have another ending. Just a side note, it would be totally awesome if there is a scene where he not only wields his true shield but Thor’s hammer because, damn it, he is worthy!

Another Avenger that will get his day in the sun is Hawkeye who was noticeably absent in Avengers: Infinity War. Behind-the-scenes photos do confirm that not only will he be in the fourth Avengers film but might take on his Ronin identity. Possibly this will be because his family were victims of Thanos’ dusting.

Being that the next film will likely concentrate on the Hulk and Captain America (and Iron Man), do not expect Thor to get much attention. He spent most of his time in Avengers: Infinity War getting his mojo back by constructing Stormbreaker and took his shot with Thanos. Close, but no cigar. Don’t worry, the God of Thunder will have his applause-generating moments, but the most that may happen is that he will be involved in finding what’s left of his people. This would be a great way to send him off without killing him and brings up good ideas for future Thor adventures.

guardians with power stone

The Guardians stand with an Infinity Stone.

Will they all be killed off aping that scene from Guardians of the Galaxy where Peter Quill and company held the Power Stone? Instead all six original Avengers wield an Infinity Stone to defeat Thanos, but the effort takes their lives. Let’s hope it does not come to that.

Here Comes The New Guard

With the original Avengers probably fighting their last battle next year, who will take their place? Black Panther and Spider-Man are contenders but T’Challa may be too busy running Wakanda to be a full-time Avenger. He is popular, though, and he could fill the moneybags role possibly vacated by Iron Man.  Spider-Man is still too young and would be better suited to his urban solo adventures. Ant-Man and the Wasp could pick up the mantle and their story could continue in new Avengers films. Captain Marvel will provide the muscle and a cosmic connection, since supposedly the next slate of MCU films will be more cosmic.  Other candidates include Doctor Strange, the Winter Soldier and maybe even the heroes featured on the MCU TV shows. Maybe a couple of the Guardians of the Galaxy could even join the Avengers.

Let's talk about this plan of yours. I think it's good, except it sucks

Let’s talk about this plan of yours. I think it’s good, except it sucks.

One thing is certain is that when he is resurrected Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, has much explaining to do! His plan for defeating Thanos was better than Iron Man’s, which did suck, and it almost worked. If only he hadn’t let his emotions get the better of him! The leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy has taken on a lot of Internet flack for supposedly ruining the heroes’ best chance to remove the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos in Avengers: infinity War. Frankly, some people are just too harsh on poor Quill. He just learned his love Gamora had been killed by Thanos, how else would he act? If anything, his actions where he revived Thanos from his induced trance by attacking him is quite true to his nature. Peter Quill is quite impulsive and emotional; he reacted the same way when he learned his father, Ego, killed his mother. We cheered him on then. Besides, this could have been part of the scenario that Dr. Strange foresaw as the only one where they defeat Thanos. Otherwise, he could have easily stopped Quill when he started attacking Thanos. The next film may allow the Guardians as much screen time as with Avengers: Infinity War, if so then expect Quill to feel guilty about his actions and find a way to make up for it. If they have ample screen time, the Guardians may be the cosmic key to defeating Thanos.

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Avengers: Infinity War—Aftermath & What’s Next For the MCU, Part I

the Infinity gauntlet

Okay by now, half the world has seen Avengers: Infinity War. So, it’s safe to start discussing the ramifications of the film and not be too worried about spoilers. But if you have not seen Avengers: Infinity War yet then what are you waiting for? Bookmark this page, run out and see it, then come back to this article. With that said, let’s get started.

 

SPOILERS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those of us who have seen Avengers: Infinity War know that in the end Thanos wins. Our favorite heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) could not stop the Mad Titan with his scheme to wipe out half of all life in the universe. It was frankly shocking to see the villain triumphant. In these superhero films, and for that matter most films, the bad guy is always on the verge of winning until the hero pulls it off at the last minute and defeats the foe. Not this time. Despite all the efforts of the collective MCU heroes they fell short. This failure culminated with Thanos’ infamous snap of his fingers that took out most of the new guard. So, what’s next? How do the Avengers and the others MCU heroes recover? Is Thanos unbeatable? What will Thanos do now that he’s achieved his goal? (Besides watching the sun with a satisfied smile on his face.)

Thanos triumphant

Avengers Assemble!

A common, but favorite trope in the Avengers comic books is one where the team is thoroughly defeated or breaks up. The cackling supervillain of the month is on the cusp of total victory until a slapped-together version of the Avengers is assembled and come to the rescue. Examples of this include the “Under Siege” and “Breakout” storylines that were well received. Avengers: Infinity War has a version of this theme and it has to be considered as part one since we’re at the stage of the story where all hope is lost. Part two concludes the story by having the Avengers and their allies making their comeback. Part of the fun with this story is seeing the recruitment of unlikely, retired and underpowered heroes who somehow help turn the tide.

Captain Marvel to the rescue!

We already saw in the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War that Nick Fury managed to send out a distress call to Captain Marvel before he turned to dust. Captain Marvel is supposed to be the most powerful person in the MCU according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. For the sake of the universe, that better be true, but we’ll get an idea when Captain Marvel premieres on March 2019. Like what Black Panther did for T’Challa, Captain Marvel will tell the heart of her story and have her do a deus ex machine cameo in Avengers 4 (whatever it will be called) and contribute to the defeat of Thanos. Sort of like Superman in Justice League, only this time there won’t be any shoddy CG mustache removals.

Founding Avengers get their spotlight

Other expected heroes are Ant-Man and Hawkeye, who were both noticeably absent in Avengers: Infinity War. Behind-the-scenes photos of the fourth Avengers film confirm that both characters will join the fray. It is always fun to see undervalued heroes coming to the rescue and playing important roles. On a side note: it will be fittingly awesome if Ant-Man and the Wasp officially join the Avengers for at least one film. After all, they were the founding members of the superhero team in the comics. Who knows? Maybe the quantum realm angle, which is Ant-Man’s domain, will provide a key to defeating Thanos.

Time On Their Side

Many of the behind-the-scene photos for Avengers 4 feature Ant-Man fighting alongside Iron Man and what looks like Captain America as seen in the first Avengers film. In it, Captain America donned a more spandex-like outfit and the scenes look like recreations of that film’s famous battle in New York.

Avengers 4 BTS

Avengers, Back to the Future, Part II style

These scenes suggest the obvious: time travel will most likely be an element in the film. Our heroes have to travel back in time to somehow undo Thanos’ damage and alter history. For all we know when Doctor Strange gave up the Time Stone to Thanos, he could’ve put a spell on it that allow the Avengers to make a temporal jump. They just have to figure out what they have to do exactly. It seems like a fun development similar to Back to the Future, Part II.

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Celebrating The MCU 10th Anniversary

marvel studios ten years

Marvel Studios is certainly on a roll. For the past couple of years their films have been well received by fans and critics and the success just keeps building. After delivering three epics last year, Marvel Studios expanded on that success with the unbelievable reception to this year’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.

To think, it all began when a B-list Marvel Comics superhero made his big-screen debut ten years ago.

That character, of course, is Iron Man. Back in May 2008, the Golden Age of Superhero Films had arrived with the premiere of Iron Man. Superhero films had gained prominence in the first years of the 21st century with explosive adaptations of Marvel Comics characters like the X-Men and Spider-Man and DC properties like Superman and Batman. When Iron Man was announced, many thought it would be another fun and entertaining big-budget film. What few realized was that it would spark a phenomenal interconnected film universe that became known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). From that moment, the MCU exploded and captured our imaginations (and wallets). Which is why we are here celebrating the MCU 10th anniversary.

Many know by now the history of the MCU and how it came to be. Marvel Comics in the 1990s was bankrupt and sold the film rights of  many of its characters to various film studios. While this saved the comic book company in the short term, this act left Marvel’s beloved characters in the hands of others who made their own changes when it came to the films. When Marvel formed Marvel Studios to have creative control over its characters the company had a dilemma in that their A-list characters weren’t available. In fact, the initial characters in the MCU where in the hands of other film studios. However, Marvel Studios was able to regain the film rights for all except a few like the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. This forced the studio to rely on their less popular characters and this allowed them to fully realize their potential on film.

Birth Of A Film Universe

When Iron Man premiered, many saw how special it was since it focused on the flawed main character. Whereas, the main draw of the DC films at that time were the villains, such as in The Dark Knight, the first MCU film set a standard where the title character was the primary focus, not the foe. This led to a common problem with MCU films which had weak villains, but fortunately, the heroes were so endearing that audiences forgave the films.

Avengers

There was one thing that enabled Iron Man to stand out from the other blockbuster superhero films. Those who stuck around through the film’s ending credits found out what it was when they were tantalized with the idea of interconnected films. The hero Tony Stark was greeted by the mysterious Nick Fury who informed him he was not the only superhero around. Fury presented Stark with the idea of the Avengers Initiative, thus the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. This budding film universe was given a boost a month later when The Incredible Hulk premiered. While it is kind of dismissed these days, the second Hulk film was a vast improvement over Ang Lee’s pretentious and over-the-top Hulk, but it cemented the MCU. Aside from its many Marvel Easter eggs, at the end of The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark appeared, which connected the two films. From there, the MCU continued growing. A few short years later, Iron Man had a sequel and two more MCU films came out (Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger) that helped lay the groundwork for the culmination of the MCU at that time: The Avengers. Needless to say films were never the same.

Here we are at the MCU 10-year anniversary, celebrating it with their newest smash hit Avengers: Infinity War. Many film studios tried and failed to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These include Warner Bros. and DC’s DCEU, Universal’s Dark Universe, and Sony’s Spider-Man film universe. 20th Century Fox came close with their X-Men films but their films were hit or miss.

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