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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The Greatest Star Wars Hallmark Ornaments

As the mighty Star Wars merchandising/marketing avalanche invades, one of the most common and popular items standing out this holiday season are ornaments! Star Wars and holiday ornaments go hand in hand as a cool and popular way for geeks to revel during the holidays. Ever since Hallmark started producing them during the mid 1990s, they have created the best Star Wars ornaments. From the very first, single ornament released back in 1996 (the Millennium Falcon) the market has exploded with the large variety of Star Wars Hallmark ornaments. These are the best of that Hallmark has created:

Characters/Dioramas

10. Admiral Ackbar (2015): One of the best limited edition Star Wars Hallmark ornaments was devoted to the amphibian Rebel leader. The sculpt was a perfect reproduction of Admiral Ackbar.  

9. A Deadly Duel (2009): Despite the disrespect the prequels get, one thing everyone enjoyed was the climatic duel where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi battled Darth Maul. This ornament perfectly captured that thrilling moment in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

8. Luke Skywalker and Yoda (2006): This dual character ornament is the ideal blending of two characters since it represented Luke’s Jedi training on Dagobah and Yoda’s iconic teachable moments.

7. Chewbacca (1999): Everyone’s favorite Wookiee was one of the best solo character ornaments and fits perfectly on a Christmas tree. After all, Chewbacca’s from an arboreal world.

6. Han Solo to the Rescue (2012): This Star Wars Hallmark ornament of Han Solo in his cold weather gear atop a tauntaun just looks perfect hanging from a Christmas tree or even on your desk.

5. An Epic Vision, a Star Wars Celebration (2015): The best limited edition Star Wars Hallmark ornament is also one of the rarest and a true treasure. The sculpts eerily recreate Ralph McQuarrie’s famous pre-production art for the first Star Wars film.

4. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi (2005): Colorful and striking with flaring lava plumes, this ornament is a superb recreation of the epic final battle between the Jedi and his former apprentice. Features powerful dialogue and clashing lighsaber sounds.

3. Darth Vader (1997): The first Darth Vader ornament is still the best one. Lord Vader stands imposingly on a lit base with his glowing red lightsaber. It doesn’t get any better though future ornaments like the Rise of Lord Vader (2014) and the Darth Vader Peekbuster came close.

2. Yoda Peekbuster (2014): Hallmark first launched this motion sensor ornament in 2012 with a Darth Vader Peekbuster. The concept is simple, you walk by and the ornament would talk to you, warning you away from the presents. The Yoda Peekbuster is superior because the little green Jedi Master better captures the spirit of the holidays and can be thought of as an honorary elf.

1. The Adventure Begins (2007): This one is a bit of a cheat since it features a spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, but it’s a terrific diorama. It depicts the moment the Falcon departs from the Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine as it whisks off our Rebel heroes on a grand adventure that changes the galaxy. Not only does the Millennium Falcon’s engines light up, but John Williams’ legendary Star Wars theme blares from this ornament, which is a superb touch.

Ships/Vehicles

10. Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter (1999): This is a rather neat Star Wars ornament, with its best feature being the lit-up cockpit that reveals Darth Vader’s silhouette.

9. The Battle of Naboo (2001): This is the best miniature Star Wars ornament which features the Trade Federation’s starship flanked by tiny Naboo and vulture droid fighters. It was a novel concept for Hallmark and portended to greater Star Wars ornaments.

8.  The Death Star (2017): Incredibly, it’s the first time we’ve gotten a full-size ornament of the original Death Star. And it is wildly impressive thanks to sounds and lights that accurately depict the infamous battle station.

7. Slave I (2011): Boba Fett’s weird vertical spaceship gets some love from Hallmark with this ornament. As always, Hallmark went the extra step to faithfully recreate the look and sounds of the bounty hunter spaceship.

6. Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi Starfighter (2005): One of the best ships seen in the prequel films was well crafted by Hallmark. Striking due to its design and yellow coloring, the Jedi Starfighter is clearly one of the most underrated Star Wars Hallmark ornaments.

5. T-70 X-Wing Fighter (2016): Poe Dameron’s eye-catching X-Wing fighter with its distinctive black color sets this ornament apart from other X-Wing ornaments. If it lit up like the others it would have rated higher on this list.

4 Star Destroyer (2004): The last Star Wars Hallmark ornament that plugged into a Christmas tree socket depicts the famous opening moment in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope as the imposing Star Destroyer captures the tiny Rebel blockade runner.

3. Imperial AT-AT and Rebel Snowspeeder (2006): It can be argued that this is more of a diorama but the walker is so prominent it belongs in this category. The walker stands on a snowy base as a tiny Rebel snowspeeder is buzzes around its metal legs. The battle sounds nicely complement this ornament.2. X-Wing Starfighter (2017): This huge ornament improves upon the original X-Wing ornament that came out in 1998. Like the original it lights up but now has sounds and better detailing. This pricey ornament is part of a set that includes Vader’s TIE fighter and the Death Star. When put together the three of them recreate moments from A New Hope with sounds..1. Millennium Falcon (1996): The best Star Wars ship ornament just happens to be the very first one released by Hallmark in 1996. It’s one of the older ornament models that plugs into a Christmas tree’s light socket, but just look at the detailing. The Millennium Falcon looks so real with its dark grey hull, engine and cockpit lighting; this beauty has weight and heft. Thankfully, next year Hallmark will produce a newer version of the ship that made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.

Walderman Rivera

 

Top 40 Greatest Star Wars Moments, Part I

The 40th anniversary of Star Wars is upon us! It is hard to believe that a quirky sci-fi film that went on the change our cultural and celluloid landscape is 40 years old. In that time, Star Wars and all the films and TV shows that followed, boasted many important and awe-inspiring moments that continue to resonate with fans throughout our planet. As we celebrate Star Wars’ 40th anniversary let’s look at the series’ greatest moments.

Rey claims lightsaber

40. Rey Claims The Lightsaber From Kylo Ren (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens): Nobody was sure about who was the main hero in the new Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. That mystery was solved beyond a doubt when Rey used the Force to claim Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and battle Kylo Ren. Her eventual victory  cemented the fact that she is the best hope for the galaxy. 

pod race

39. The Pod Race (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): As flawed as the first Star Wars prequel was, the exciting and breakneck pod race on Tatooine with all the weird pilots and their distinctive pod vehicles was one of that film’s best moments.

38. Anakin’s Spiritual Journey on Mortis (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Ghosts of Mortis”):  On a distant world, Anakin Skywalker became corrupted by the dark side of the Force after encountering spiritual embodiments of the Force. Terrifying visions of his rise to Darth Vader highlighted this powerful story arc that better explored his fall from grace than the prequel films.

37. “These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): Forget using the Force to do super acrobatics, wield lightsabers and levitate objects. When Ben Kenobi used a Jedi mind trick against stormtroopers interested in Luke Skywalker’s wanted droids, that scene displayed one of the most powerful aspects of the Force. Honorable mention goes to the bar scene in Episode II where a younger Kenobi tells a drug dealer to go home and rethink his life.

36. Darth Maul’s Final Duel (Star Wars Rebels “Twin Suns”): Darth Maul finally finds his ancient enemy Obi-Wan Kenobi in exile on Tatooine. The older Jedi isn’t interested in fighting Maul until the former Sith apprentice deduces that Kenobi is protecting someone (Luke Skywalker). The resulting lightsaber duel is brutally short and to the point with Maul quickly killed. It may have disappointed those waiting for a drawn-out sword fight, but the scene demonstrated that Kenobi was indeed a master. Plus, it cast Maul in a sympathetic light as he seemed to see the error of his ways in his last breath.

Ahsoka vs. Darth Vader

35. Ahsoka Tano Vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars Rebels “Twilight of the Apprentice”): Ever since Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka left the Jedi Order near the end of The Clone Wars series and reappeared during Star Wars Rebels, fans have wondered how she would react to seeing her former master as a Sith. We got our answer in the second season finale where she faced off against Darth Vader and proved she was his equal.  What was more engaging than the duel was her coming to terms with her former master’s fall.

battle of geonosis

34. The Battle of Geonosis (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): A Jedi force set out to rescue Anakin, Obi-Wan and Senator Padme Amidala from Separatist forces, but they weren’t enough. Enter the new clone army led by Jedi Master Yoda and before you know we witnessed a full-scale and chaotic ground war between clone troopers and droid soldiers. Seeing all the intense blaster fire and wild looking vehicles of all shapes and sizes engaged in battle was a spectacle and for Star Wars that is saying a lot.

33. Cassian Andor Murders an Informant (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): It was a small scene in the first live-action Star Wars spinoff film. Cassian Andor gets vital intel from a Rebel spy who cannot keep up with him as stormtroopers close in on them. Instead of helping his comrade Andor unexpectedly kills him. This cold-blooded act drove home the point that Rogue One was a decidedly dark film that took risks by showcasing this morally gray character who goes to extremes for the Rebellion.

32. Anakin Pursues Obi-Wan’s Killer (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Friends and Enemies”): One of the best arcs in the animated series featured Obi-Wan Kenobi faking his death and going undercover with bounty hunters. Anakin, believing his master to be dead, relentlessly pursues Obi-Wan’s killer, who is actually Obi-Wan in disguise. This development was an undeniable a high spot in this tense and captivating story arc.

31. The Grand Army of the Republic Sets Out For War (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): Following the climactic Battle of Geonosis in the film, the Galactic Republic unveils its mighty clone army to counter the Separatist threat. With much fanfare marching legions of white armored troops leave Coruscant in giant ships to engage the Separatist droid armies. While many celebrated this moment, others (and we) knew better than to hail these troopers because they foreshadowed the coming of the evil Empire. Continue reading

Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

star wars original poster

“May the Force be with you” – Jedi expression

This is the one that started the phenomenon…the very first Star Wars film. Back when it was first released it was just titled Star Wars. Those pesky Episode subtitles didn’t come along until The Empire Strikes Back and now this entry is known as Episode IV: A New Hope. It may sound confusing to someone completely in the dark about Star Wars films, but it makes some kind of convoluted sense to the rest of us.

Director and creator George Lucas often stated in past interviews that his saga as originally written was quite sprawling, too much to put into one film, let alone a trilogy. Hence, why he skipped to Episode IV to do first because he felt the storyline truly became interesting and action packed with this episode. And he was right.

opening

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope throws viewers into the complex galaxy where the story is based with an opening crawl informing us that this faraway galaxy, a long time ago, is in the midst of a galactic civil war. The Rebel Alliance, which rose from the ashes of the fallen Galactic Republic, has won its first major victory against the despotic Galactic Empire. The Rebels have stolen plans for the Death Star, a moon-sized battle station that is capable of destroying planets that was just completed by the Empire. Rebel leader Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is onboard a blockade runner spaceship on her way to the planet Tatooine to recruit  a Jedi to join her cause.

Just as the opening crawl finishes, leia and r2Leia’s spaceship swooshes overhead near Tatooine as its chased by a mammoth Imperial Star Destroyer battle cruiser. The imperial ship overtakes the small blockade runner and tows it onboard. Soon, the Rebel ship is boarded by white-armored stormtroopers led by Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), a fallen Jedi who is a Sith follower now. He and his troops turn the ship upside down looking for the plans. But they’re too late, Leia downloads the plans into an astromech droid R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) before she is captured. The small droid makes his way to an escape pod accompanied by a humanoid protocol droid C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and is able to flee the ship and land on Tatooine.

droidsThe desert planet is brutal to C-3P0 who constantly voices his displeasure to R2-D2. The small droid ignores his companion and separates from him to fulfill a mission given by Leia to find Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness). Both droids wind up being captured by Jawas, small nomadic beings that populate the planet’s sand-covered wastelands.

The Jawas wind up selling the droids to moisture farmer Owen Lars (Phil Brown). He assigns his nephew Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to get them ready for work on the farm. While cleaning up R2-D2, Luke triggers a partial holographic message from Leia where she says “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”; Luke wonders if the message is for Ben Kenobi, a hermit that he knows. He later tries bringing up this matter to Owen and over dinner served by his aunt Beru (Shelagh Fraser), but his uncle brushes him off and tells him to wipe both droids’ memory banks. Changing the subject, Luke asks if he can join the Academy, but Owen replies that he still needs Luke’s help on the farm and to wait another season. Angrily, Luke leaves the dinner table and goes outside to brood. He finds out from C-3P0 that R2-D2 ran away, but it’s already nightfall and too dangerous to go looking for the droid.

lukes relatives

The next morning he and C-3P0 leave the farm in his landspeeder hover vehicle and find the small droid in the desert just before they’re attacked by tusken raiders. After Luke is knocked out, the tusken raiders are scared off by an animal cry mimicked by Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi. Ben takes Luke and the droids back to his home  and after revealing that he was once a Jedi Knight, presents him kenobi's placewith a lightsabre. Ben tells him that it belonged to Luke’s father, a Jedi Knight and friend, who was betrayed and killed by Darth Vader, Kenobi’s former apprentice. After introducing Luke to the concept of the mystical Force, Ben is able to activate the full holographic message. It’s a plea from Leia to go to deliver the droids, who have the Death Star plans, to her home planet of Alderaan and join the fight against the Empire.

Pondering the appeal, Ben asks Luke to join him, but Luke turns him down because of his responsibilities. The old Jedi is disappointed but understands and accepts Luke’s offer to transport him to the city Mos Eisley to find passage to Alderaan.

death starThe Star Destroyer arrives at the Death Star. Several military leaders are holding a meeting, which is joined by Darth Vader and his superior Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing). They’re informed by Tarkin that the Emperor has dissolved the Imperial Senate and that fear of the Death Star will keep the many systems of the Empire under control. Tarkin instructs Vader to find the location of the Rebel headquarters to end the rebellion. Vader proceeds to torture his prisoner Princess Leia, but is unable to get from her the location of the Rebel base.

Back on Tatooine, Luke, Ben and the droids find the smoldering remains of the Jawas that sold Luke and Owen the droids. Ben concludes that they were killed by imperial troops and Luke quickly deduces that his family is in danger. He rushes home but is too late. Stormtroopers have been there earlier and killed his uncle and aunt. The young farmer goes back to Ben and asks to join him and to be trained as a Jedi.

cantina meetAfterwards, Luke, Ben and the droids travel to Mos Eisley, a rundown and seedy port of call bursting with aliens and imperial stormtroopers. They stay one step ahead of inquisitive stormtroopers and go to a local cantina to hire a pilot who can take them to Alderaan. In there, they meet a smuggler called Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), a bear-like Wookiee that only communicates with growls and grunts. The two parties strike a deal, which delights Han since he owes Jabba the Hut, a local gangster, a lot of money.

At the Death Star, Vader reports his failure to get the location of the Rebel base from Leia. Tarkin decides to use a different approach. He orders the Death Star to go to Alderaan and once the battle station arrives he threatens Leia that he will have the Death Star destroy her adopted planet. She reluctantly gives him a planet’s name and in response, Tarkin has Alderaan destroyed anyway, much to Leia’s horror.

falcon

On Tatooine, Luke sells his landspeeder to raise funds for the passage; afterwards a local spy spots Luke and his group as they make their way to Han’s ship, the Millennium Falcon . They board the Falcon just in time before stormtroopers catch up to them. Fortunately, the Millennium Falcon is able to escape from Tatooine and jump into hyperspace.

With some time to kill as they make their way to Alderaan, Ben starts instructing Luke on the ways luke trainsof the Force. Han is skeptical of the old Jedi ways, declaring it extinct, but Luke ignores the putdowns and begins to demonstrate some adeptness in using the Force through some exercises. At that point, the Millennium Falcon arrives at its destination, but Alderaan is nowhere to be found. Only meteors greet the space pirate and his passengers. Ben realizes that the planet has been destroyed and a small moon is spotted nearby. Before they realize it, the Millennium Falcon is ensnared in a tractor beam from the moon, which turns out to be the Death Star.

Once pulled inside the battle station, the small group hides out in the Falcon’s smuggling compartments and avoid capture. They depart the ship and begin plotting their next move. Ben leaves the group to turn off the Death Star’s tractor beam and face an old foe that he senses with the Force. Meanwhile, Luke discovers that Leia is being held prisoner and has to convince Han and Chewbacca to help him rescue her before she is executed.

Continue reading

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer

For the 99.99% of us who couldn’t make it to the very select few theaters showing it, here’s the official (no fan-made stuff) teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It looks pretty interesting, so far we only caught one Abrams lens flare and that was when the Millennium Falcon appears (the ship looks kind of fake though, hopefully the fx shot will be tweaked). Things that were cool seeing were the X-Wing fighters, the Millennium Falcon, of course, John Williams legendary score and a new lightsabre design!

It’s too bad the teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn’t feature any of the original cast but it’s a good intro to the next stage of the Star Wars saga.