Solo: A Star Wars Story (Film Review) – Star Wars At Its Most Entertaining

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a space western directed by Ron Howard and written by the father-son combination of Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Kasdan. It is the second standalone Star Wars film and it is set many years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The film stars Joonas Suotamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover and Alden Ehrenreich.

In Solo, we follow a younger and more idealistic Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) on his adventures where he makes a new friend in Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). They group together with other characters such as Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as well as Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), owner of the Millennium Falcon, on a heist.

My Expectation For Solo

For me, every Star Wars film made under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm has got progressively better. Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were great films, but I give the slight edge to Rogue One in my preference between the two. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is my second favourite Star Wars film ever made and it may well be my No. 1 as time progresses. All of this has led me to be in such a good place with Star Wars at this moment in time.

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo about to play Sabacc in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Still, I understood that the progressive streak Lucasfilm was on when it came to the quality of Star Wars films was probably going to come to an end with Solo. This did not mean that I thought the film would be bad. Instead, I went into Solo expecting it to be decent but absolutely the weakest film made under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership of Lucasfilm.

Alden Ehrenreich Would Be The Key

This film has had an extremely troubled production which really tempered my hopes about Solo for a long time. Still, the late marketing push for Solo made me a bit more hopeful about the film and Alden Ehrenreich looked as though he could succeed in portraying Han Solo, a character so synonymous with Harrison Ford. Clearly, the success of a film about a young Han Solo is going to largely come down to Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as Han. I was interested to see his take on a younger, naïve and more idealistic Han Solo than we first saw in Star Wars: A New Hope.

I also could not wait to see how the events of Solo would potentially enhance what we saw of Han in the Original and Sequel Trilogy films as well as his relationships with Chewbacca and Lando. Certainly, one thing I was pretty certain of with this film was that Donald Glover would be awesome as Lando. In the end, all I wanted Solo to be was a decent, fun adventure film. Anything more would be a bonus.

Millennium Falcon in Solo: A Star Wars Story

My Thoughts On Solo

Solo is Star Wars at its most entertaining. From start to finish, I was hooked and I had an absolute blast with this great film that, like The Last Jedi, exceeded all of my expectations when it came to quality. From the very beginning, the film has great pacing and momentum. I had read/watched a number of viewpoints about Solo which stated that the film had bad pacing and that the first act was rough to get through. I have to wonder what film they were watching because I never felt this way.

I think a big reason why I was so captivated by Solo was due to how quickly I attached to the characters in it. That comes down to the quality of the performances given by the cast. Let me make this clear; Alden Ehrenreich is superb as Han Solo. He nails the subtle nuances and mannerisms of Han and I completely bought into his younger, more naïve take on the character. The echoes of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo were there, but Alden made the character his own which I loved.

Donald Glover was, as I predicted, awesome as Lando and there were certain moments where he acted and sounded exactly like Billy Dee Williams which really impressed me. Yet, like Alden, he also made the character his own. I thought Paul Bettany was extremely menacing as Dryden Vos, Woody Harrelson was as good as he always is and Emilia Clarke gave a much more nuanced performance as Qi’ra than I initially expected. The character who surprised me the most was Enfys Nest who was terrific. I loved her musical theme and her development as a character in the third act of Solo was really engaging.

Enfys Nest in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Superb Character Dynamics

Every cast member gives impressive individual performances and the strength of Solo absolutely lies in its characters and the way they all interact with each other. I loved the dynamics and relationships between the characters in this film, particularly when it came to Han and Chewbacca. Chewbacca is probably as good as he has ever been in Solo and the relationship he had with Han was pitch perfect. From their awesome first meeting to their last scene in the film, watching them together was an absolute delight.

Han and Lando’s relationship was fantastic and I also loved how the relationship between Han and Beckett was developed in Solo. Beckett is the mentor to Han in this film and everything they went through as well as the lessons Beckett taught Han gave Solo some real dramatic heft. This was particularly the case in their final scene together where Beckett dies at the hands of Han after Beckett had betrayed him. It was quite a moving scene after everything we had seen these characters go through both individually and collectively.

Moreover, the scene provided some deserved, subtle fan service in the fact that Han shot first in the scene where he kills Beckett. It was a great nod to Star Wars fans, especially to those who are still annoyed that George Lucas, in his Special Editions, changed the Cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope to Greedo shooting first instead of Han. For me, that change does not improve the Original Trilogy in any way, shape or form. However, the events of Solo do improve the Original Trilogy.

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra, Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo Enhances The Original + Sequel Trilogy

Indeed, Solo enhances both the Original and Sequel Trilogy in magnificent fashion. For one, we get to see how Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando and the line “You lost her to me fair and square” in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has a much deeper meaning now. Additionally, the relationship Han has with Beckett has a lot of parallels with the relationship that Han has with Rey in The Force Awakens. Parallels also exist between Han’s experiences and Rey’s experiences in their respective films.

In Solo, Han believes he has been away from Corellia for too long and needs to get back to reunite with Qi’ra. In The Force Awakens, Rey thinks she has been away from Jakku for too long and needs to go back. In Solo, Han gets his first job and blaster from Beckett which mirrors what happens in The Force Awakens when Han gives Rey a blaster and offers her a job. The reaction Han has to Rey’s comment that she “didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy” when flying over Takodana has so much more meaning when we see the conditions Han grew up with on Corellia.

To me, Han sees a lot of his younger self in Rey in The Force Awakens. What we see in Solo gives the scenes that Rey and Han have together in The Force Awakens greater value. It all fits beautifully and Solo improves the viewing experience of the Original and Sequel Trilogy which is something I really appreciate. The arc of Han in Solo is necessary viewing to fully understand his interactions with Rey in The Force Awakens. It is almost as if Lawrence Kasdan had all of this in mind when he worked on The Force Awakens.

Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett in Solo: A Star Wars Story

More Positive Elements About Solo

I have even more positive things to say about Solo. For one, I loved the adventurous feel of the film. The set pieces, action and score by John Powell enthralled me in the adventure that the characters go on in Solo. I also dug the new twist on the opening crawl. The “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” font was used to open the film and it was a cool, subtle touch.

The cinematography in Solo was superb. Bradford Young brought a grungy feel and look to Solo which was great. A thing in Solo which completely caught me off guard but in a great way was the reveal that Maul was the mysterious leader of Crimson Dawn, the crime syndicate that Dryden Vos and Qi’ra were part of. We see Maul in a scene with Qi’ra who had assumed Dryden Vos’ position of power after he was killed by Qi’ra.

It was awesome to hear Sam Witwer voice the character as he had done before in the animated shows Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. The reveal of Maul made absolute sense to me given his roles in those shows and the fact that I knew he survived his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Still, I am uncertain about how the casual fan would have reacted to this.

Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story

I imagine the inclusion of Maul in Solo, which is essentially his return to the Star Wars franchise for a lot of people, would have been confusing for them. One must realise that the casual Star Wars fans are the overwhelming majority of the audience who see these films. They are essential to the future of this franchise and these films must cater to them above everyone else.

Solo Has Flaws

But, at the end of the day, the reveal was shockingly awesome for me. However, as much as I have praised Solo, it has a number of minor flaws and the majority of these are in the first act of the film. Indeed, there were a couple of clunky edits in the first act which were a bit jarring. Additionally, Val (Thandie Newton) died in the first act and for an actress as talented as Thandie Newton this was a bit of a waste, especially as I was liking the character before she died. I also thought that the way Han got his last name of Solo could have been handled better.

Do not get me wrong, I have no problem with Han not having a last name. But, I wish he had chosen the name of Solo instead of getting it from an Imperial officer when he signed up for the Imperial Academy to escape Corellia. I also thought that some of the scenes with L3-37 in Solo were a bit cringy and it brought the character down for me. L3 was decent overall but she was a bit hit and miss. Some of her scenes were great and others were not.

Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story

My Final Thoughts On Solo

Nevertheless, while Solo has minor flaws, they did not lessen my overall love for this film. This is a great film. For me, Solo continues the superb run Lucasfilm is on with the quality of its Star Wars films. I put Solo just above The Force Awakens and around the same level as Rogue One. Those three great Star Wars films are quite close to each other in terms of quality with the amazing film that is The Last Jedi being far and away my favourite of the Star Wars films made under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership of Lucasfilm.

Solo leaves me with a huge desire to see more stories with these characters, especially when it comes to Donald Glover’s Lando and also Qi’ra thanks to the Maul reveal. Whether it is in films, TV shows, books, video games and/or comic books, I want to see the continuation of what we saw in Solo. It was a film that really exceeded my expectations and I never wanted it to end because it was such an enjoyable watch from the first scene to the last.

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Westworld: Season 2 Episode 3 (Television Review) – The Mythology Continues To Be Expanded

One of things which has really impressed me with Season 2 of Westworld has been the way in which it has expanded the mythology of this world. This has been done through the development of what we know about the characters as well as the history of the park and Delos. In this third episode, titled ‘Virtù e Fortuna’, the continuing expansion of the mythology is now being done through the reveals of more parks besides Westworld. This was something that was teased in the Season 1 finale and we have now seen it for real in ‘Virtù e Fortuna’.

My Thoughts On ‘Virtù e Fortuna’

This episode began in a British Raj park. We see a woman called Grace flee from a rogue host and she then ends up being chased by a tiger which is eventually killed by her. It is the same dead tiger we saw in ‘Journey Into Night’. Even this early on in Season 2, mysterious things are being explained. Although, more questions have now been raised about the importance of Grace and her role in the wider story being told in Season 2 after this episode and the wider story continues to intrigue me.

Firstly, it turns out that I was right about how the flash Bernard scenes in ‘Journey Into Night’ showed us glimpses of the past and the future. Indeed, one of those flash scenes involved Bernard and Dolores and she stated that “there is beauty in what we are”. We got to see that scene play out in ‘Virtù e Fortuna’. Yes, Bernard and Dolores are reunited in this episode after Bernard gets separated from Charlotte (In the future timeline, those two reunite at Park HQ, aka the Mesa).

Grace in the British Raj Park in Westworld Season 2 Episode 3 Virtu e Fortuna

Bernard and Charlotte had Peter Abernathy, Dolores’ father, but he along with Bernard were taken by the Confederados to Dolores. I always found the scenes between Dolores and Bernard to be amongst my favourite character interactions in Season 1 and it was great to see them together again. We also got to experience an emotional scene between Dolores and her father which humanised Dolores and this moment was in stark contrast to the scenes where we continue to see Dolores’ ruthless nature.

Abernathy Has Vital Information Within Him

Certainly, there seems to be nothing which will deter Dolores from her path. She uses the Confederados as pawns in the battle that occurred in the 3rd act of this episode between the Hosts and the Humans (which was awesome by the way) and she then proceeds to wipe them all out. Well, all except those few spared by Teddy who is more and more out of his depth as Dolores’ conquest continues. Dolores sees this act of mercy by Teddy and I feel as though it will lead to Dolores making a difficult choice with Teddy later on in Season 2 of Westworld.

Dolores is also going to now have to find a way to rescue her father who was taken by the humans but not before Bernard found something within Abernathy’s code. It looks as though it is extremely important as Bernard was utterly shocked with what he found. The information within Abernathy seems to be vital when it comes to the larger story being told and this mystery about him just adds to the compelling nature of this season of Westworld.

Samurai World in Westworld Season 2 Episode 3 Virtu e Fortuna

Samurai World

We also get to focus on Maeve in ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ and, for me, her overall storyline is good but the weakest storyline so far in Season 2. However, in her quest to find her daughter, Maeve is reunited with Felix and Sylvester, the two lab workers from Season 1. I always enjoyed the dynamic those three had together so I look forward to seeing more of that this season. I hope it improves Maeve’s storyline and the way ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ ends certainly points to a step up in its quality.

Indeed, Maeve’s group is attacked by a samurai in an intriguing, cliff-hanger ending which sets up Samurai World and I cannot wait to this in future episodes of Season 2. If those future episodes can keep the same consistency we have got so far or even improve on what we have seen up to this point, then Season 2 of Westworld will be a worthy continuation of Season 1.

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A Quiet Place (Film Review) – A Tense, Entertaining Ride

A Quiet Place is a horror film directed by John Krasinski and he stars alongside his wife, Emily Blunt, in the film. The story focuses on Krasinski and Blunt who play parents to three children. They have to live their lives in silence in order to survive and hide from creatures who exclusively hunt by sound.

My Expectation For A Quiet Place

I have mentioned before in my review of Get Out that horror is a genre of film that is not my favourite. I find no enjoyment in being scared and I do not willingly seek out these types of films to watch. Still, whenever a horror film such as A Quiet Place has been as lauded to the extent it has been by film critics, I feel obligated to see it.

Everything I had heard about this film was positive. It reminded me of how well Get Out was received last year and I have to admit that I was intrigued by A Quiet Place, especially when it came to John Krasinski who has been praised for the way he directed this film. If nothing else, I was in for a tense experience and I hoped I would be pleasantly surprised by A Quiet Place.

John Krasinski in A Quiet Place

My Thoughts On A Quiet Place

I enjoyed A Quiet Place. By no means is it one of the best films I have seen in 2018 but I had a good time with it. For me, the biggest strength of this film is its technical quality. More specifically, it is how its use of sound, or lack of it, creates real tension throughout. Certain moments in A Quiet Place were excruciating to watch in a very good way thanks to the way sound is used. As a result of the suspension and tension created by the way sound is used, you have no idea where the story is going to go next.

This makes the film compelling and it keeps you engaged despite the pacing which is not the quickest. However, the running time of A Quiet Place is perfect for a film with this kind of pacing so this was not a big issue. The performances in this film are also something to be admired. For everyone in the film, especially the child actors, to give very good performances when you consider how A Quiet Place is not dialogue-heavy is a difficult feat to pull off but it was achieved and it was impressive to see.

These individual performances also combine to create a family dynamic which I completely bought into. The main theme of this film is family and what you would do to protect the ones you love and this gives the film real emotional weight and stakes. I also liked the creature design in A Quiet Place and I thought that the way this film ends was absolutely brilliant. It is sudden and it leaves you wanting more which I loved and I can definitely see why a sequel is in the works.

John Krasinski and Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place

My Final Thoughts On A Quiet Place

Overall, from start to finish, A Quiet Place was a thrilling ride and I cannot wait to see what John Krasinski does next in his directorial career. Whether it is A Quiet Place 2 or an entirely new project, I will definitely see what he directs next thanks to how much I enjoyed this film. If you want a unique experience with a film, then I would urge you to see A Quiet Place when you have the time.

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Westworld: Season 2 Episode 2 (Television Review) – More Timelines, More Mystery

You can never judge the overall quality of a season of television until it has finished. This is certainly true for a show like Westworld. In its first season, each episode deepened the mystery of the story and the season had multiple timelines within it. This meant that it would be unfair to judge the season until the stories in those timelines had come to some sort of resolution and connected in some way. Season 2 is absolutely continuing what Season 1 established in this regard.

Arnold and Dolores

In ‘Journey Into Night’, we saw that stories were being told in two different timelines. Now, after the second episode, titled ‘Reunion’, more timelines have now been re-introduced. Indeed, the distant past was a big focus in Season 1 of Westworld and it provided some interesting backstory to characters such as the Man in Black, or William as he was known back then. This also continues in Season 2. However, before going back to continue William’s story from where that ended in Season 1, we went even further back in time to when Arnold was still alive and before the park had been built.

Indeed, Arnold was setting up a showcase for Logan to convince him to invest in Westworld with the help of Robert Ford and it was awesome to hear a younger version of Ford. I do not know if Anthony Hopkins came back to do the voice for the younger Ford but it sounded exactly like him. So, either Hopkins did come back or they got a tremendous voice actor who can imitate a voice on the same pitch-perfect level as, for instance, Stephen Stanton did for Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars Rebels episode ‘Twin Suns’. I also liked how the relationship between Arnold and Dolores, who was meant to be a part of the showcase to Logan, was developed in this timeline.

Jeffrey Wright as Arnold and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores in Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 Reunion

William

We get to see Logan again in the other timeline that takes place in the distant past. As I said earlier, we follow William after the events of Season 1. Logan is out of the picture and William now has access to Logan’s father and he shows him how the parks can be used to spy on guests and collect data on them. As William says, the parks are where people show who they really are and this whole conversation between William and Logan’s father was very timely when you consider the revelations that have come out about Facebook recently.

William takes control of Delos and Dolores, at a party celebrating this, finds a despondent Logan who believes that humanity in now doomed. He may turn out to be right and all of what we saw in the distant past in ‘Reunion’ continued to provide some fascinating backstory which I am sure will connect to what is going on in the present timelines.

The Present

The other storylines that were continued from ‘Journey Into Night’ were the ones which focus on Dolores and the Man in Black. When it comes to Dolores, she is continuing to expose Teddy to more of the truth about what they truly are. She also runs into Maeve and they have an intriguing discussion about their newfound “freedom” which is an important theme of Westworld. Dolores also tries to recruit more Hosts to her cause of finding the “valley beyond” which houses a weapon she intends to use against the humans.

Ed Harris as the Man in Black/William in Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 Reunion

This goal and her whole arc in ‘Reunion’ was intrinsically linked to the past timelines as well as the Man in Black who reunites with Lawrence. He also tries to recruit Hosts, loyal to the new El Lazo, to aid him with his game and reach the “pearly gates”. On a side note, it was awesome to see Giancarlo Esposito, Gus from Breaking Bad, portray the new El Lazo. It was a cool cameo. However, the Man in Black’s plans were foiled. Robert Ford was not allowing any of this to happen and he kills his recruits.

Even though Ford is dead, his spirit still lives on and it raises some questions over how dead he really is. Despite this setback, the Man in Black goes forward with his quest to destroy what he sees as his greatest mistake. This may be the park itself or perhaps the weapon Dolores is seeking and, in the distant past, we saw William take Dolores to this special project he was constructing which may well be the weapon. Both the Man in Black and Dolores seems to be heading towards the same destination with different ambitions in mind.

My Final Thoughts on ‘Reunion’

I really liked ‘Reunion’. It provided us with more interesting backstory, it deepened the mystery of the story being told and the episode was quite different from what I believed we would get based on where we left off in ‘Journey Into Night’. Certainly, more periods of time will be focused on than I originally thought and while all of these convoluted timelines could have been confusing, the way they linked together in ‘Reunion’ was well executed in my opinion.

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores and James Marsden as Teddy in Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 Reunion

Because of Season 1, it is much easier to follow what is going on in these different timelines. I cannot wait to see how everything established so far in Season 2 of Westworld will all link together in the end, especially when it comes to finding out what the weapon actually is.

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Love, Simon (Film Review) – A Movie With A Huge Heart

Love, Simon is a romantic comedy-drama directed by Greg Berlanti that is based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The film stars Miles Heizer, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel and Nick Robinson. The story of the film focuses on Simon (Nick Robinson), a closeted gay teenager who has to balance high school, friends, family, protecting his secret as well as trying to discover the identity of an anonymous classmate he has developed an online relationship with.

My Expectations For Love, Simon

We are almost halfway into 2018 and we have already had the pleasure of seeing some amazing films. Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity WarReady Player One and Lady Bird are just a few of the films which, for me, rank amongst the best of the year so far. In fact, Lady Bird is one of the best coming-of-age films I have seen in recent years and Love, Simon looked like it could be on the same level of quality as Lady Bird. While Love, Simon is labelled as a rom-com, it had a lot of coming-of-age vibes from the trailers.

Nick Robinson as Simon in Love Simon

Indeed, a lot of comparisons have been made to John Hughes with this film which is a huge complement when you consider that John Hughes directed Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which are all classics. I had high hopes for Love, Simon and I was expecting, at the very least, a heart-warming story that would entertain me from start to finish.

My Thoughts On Love, Simon

Love, Simon is really good. It is the most heartfelt film I have seen this year and a big reason why this was the case was because of the cast. The performances given by everyone in this film were great, especially from the young cast members whose chemistry was so natural that it felt like they had known each other forever.

Katherine Langford as Leah and Nick Robinson as Simon in Love Simon

The only thing I have seen in recent years that made me feel the exact same way when it came to young cast chemistry was the first season of 13 Reasons Why. It is therefore apt to see that stars of 13 Reasons Why such as Katherine Langford and Miles Heizer are also in Love, Simon. Additionally, this is the best thing I have ever seen Josh Duhamel in. He was fantastic in every scene he was in and he did a wonderful job playing Simon’s father, especially in the more serious, dramatic moments of the film.

Serious Subject Matter

Indeed, while Love, Simon has a lot of heart thanks to its young cast and humorous moments are aplenty, it is also a film that showcases some extremely important issues and themes and it does this with tenderness and care. This meant that the dramatic elements of the story were incredibly effective when they needed to be. All of the best coming-of-age films have a good balance of comedic and dramatic moments and Love, Simon is no exception.

Simon's Family in Love Simon

Still, another thing which can also be expected to be found in any coming-of-age film is a couple of annoying characters who make for some cringe-worthy moments. The majority of these moments in Love, Simon happen in the first half of its running time and they did not bother me to a huge extent, especially as the humour in this film outweighed any scenes which were excruciating to get through.

Overall, Love, Simon is a film with a huge heart that will lift your spirits if you are feeling down and provide you with a great blend of comedic and dramatic beats. Moreover, the film uses the right type of music (I mean, you cannot go wrong with Bleachers) and I could absolutely see why so many had made comparisons to John Hughes with Love, Simon. It truly is a John Hughes type of film for a modern generation which is a wonderful thing.

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Avengers: Infinity War (Film Review) – A Phenomenal Cinematic Achievement

Avengers: Infinity War is a superhero film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and it is the nineteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film boasts a huge ensemble cast which includes Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Josh Brolin.

The story of Avengers: Infinity War takes place two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War which tore the Avengers apart. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has given up the mantle of being Captain America and Thanos (Josh Brolin) has come to Earth to acquire the remaining Infinity Stones and attain access to the full power of the Infinity Gauntlet. This will give Thanos the ability to bend reality to his will and he can accomplish his goal of destroying half of the universe’s population to, in his view, achieve balance. The Avengers must unite once again and join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop Thanos.

My Expectations For Avengers: Infinity War

When the MCU began with Iron Man in 2008, no one could conceivably imagine what was to follow over the next ten years. Comic book fans marvelled (hehe) at how the MCU progressed to a stage where the possibility of seeing films such as The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Civil War actually became a reality. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear to see that the MCU has been laying the groundwork for a culmination of the franchise as we currently know it.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and and Benedict Wong as Wong in Avengers Infinity War

I contest that the untitled Avengers 4 will be that culmination seeing as this will end Phase 3 of the MCU and usher in Phase 4 which, from all accounts, is going to be radically different than anything we have seen so far in this franchise. Still, I can see why Avengers: Infinity War is being classed as this type of film. Never in the history of the MCU have we seen all of our heroes unite in one film to face a common enemy that has been teased since The Avengers.

Thanos Needed To Deliver For Avengers: Infinity War To Succeed

I am, of course, talking about Thanos. Until the most recent MCU instalments, this franchise has, for me, been incapable of producing amazing villains on a consistent basis. Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther provided fantastic antagonists in the form of Vulture and Killmonger respectively. Because of the build-up Thanos has had since The Avengers, a lot of pressure was on Avengers: Infinity War to deliver on his villainous potential.

Indeed, he has been marketed as the main character of Avengers: Infinity War. Hence, if he succeeded as a compelling character, then the film would succeed too. I was going into this film pretty confident that it would be both good and, at the same time, subvert expectations when it comes to events. I would have no problem with this because I go into every film with an open mind about how the events on-screen will transpire.

Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers Infinity War

Moreover, it seemed like we, the audience, would not be prepared for what was to unfold in Avengers: Infinity War. Nothing was off the table when it came to this film. I could not wait to experience what I hoped would be an amazing, unique theatrical event as well as an MCU film that had the potential to rank amongst the best in this remarkable accomplishment of a franchise.

My Thoughts On Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War has supplanted Guardians of the Galaxy as my favourite MCU film. It is a phenomenal cinematic achievement that works on every major level. It succeeded beyond my wildest dreams when it came to its story, humour, themes and its villain. Certainly, Thanos is one of the best villains I have had the pleasure to watch in the MCU. While his aims are abhorrent, I completely understood his motivations. I related to him in the film when it came to his belief that what he was doing was right based on his past experiences.

Thanos had a lot of depth and, to be honest, Avengers: Infinity War was his film. He was well fleshed out as a character and I also thought that his relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), his adopted daughter, was really enhanced with this film. Their relationship has been referenced in previous MCU films but not explored and developed in the way it was in Avengers: Infinity War.

The Guardians of the Galaxy in Avengers Infinity War

The scenes between these two characters were amongst the best in this film, particularly when it came to an incredible sacrifice Thanos had to make in order for his mission to succeed. It was a heart-breaking thing to witness and it weighs heavily on Thanos which helped to increase my sympathy towards him in the process.

For a film to make me care and relate to the struggles of a vllain in the way Avengers: Infinity War did with Thanos is an incredible feat. He is absolutely alongside the Vulture, Ultron and Killmonger as being one of the best MCU villains. For the most part, I have been really impressed with the most recent villains the MCU has given us and I hope this streak continues for as long as possible.

A Compelling Story With A Great Blend Of Comedy, Action + Drama

As I previously stated, Thanos would be key to the success of Avengers: Infinity War as a film and he absolutely worked as a villain. It was then fantastic to see that everything else in the film worked just as well as Thanos did. Indeed, from the very beginning, the story in this film is compelling and leaves you reeling at just how ruthless Thanos is. Because of this, I had no idea what was going to happen as Avengers: Infinity War progressed from its gut-punch of a beginning and the film never lets up from that point.

Josh Brolin as Thanos using the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers Infinity War

For one, the stunning cinematography kept me engaged from a visual perspective and the story had a superb mix of comedy, drama and action which kept me invested throughout. A big part of the success in this blend was down to the ensemble cast. The interactions between our heroes were the best I have ever seen in an MCU film. Whether it was comedy, action or drama, all of them shone in at least one of those aspects and, in some cases, all three.

For me, the MVP’s of Avengers: Infinity War were, besides Thanos, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). I loved the arcs that Thor and Doctor Strange went through in this film and they were well developed as characters to a much larger extent than they already had been. While I would have loved for Captain America to have had a larger role than he did because he is my favourite character in the whole franchise, I can accept him not being the focus in Avengers: Infinity War.

A “Part 1” Film With A Definitive, Crushing End

This is because he, as well as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), will have a larger role to play in Avengers 4 given what we saw at the end of this film. Indeed, Avengers: Infinity War is, in my opinion, a “Part 1” film that, remarkably, has a devastating, definitive ending. So, without further ado, let us get into some major spoiler territory. Both Iron Man and Captain America survive the events of Avengers: Infinity War. While this was a relief given how much I like them as characters, it also signifies that their roles in this story are not finished just yet.

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier in Avengers Infinity War

However, that is about the only positive outcome that came out of an absolutely crushing ending to Avengers: Infinity War. Indeed, in this film, Thanos went on a journey to complete his mission of obtaining the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of all life in the universe and he succeeds. Despite the best efforts of our heroes, Thanos wins and it gives us an ending which, in isolation, was incredibly ballsy. I was speechless during the credits as a result of what happened in the final moments of this film.

Because Thanos succeeded, a lot of our heroes perished. They literally turned to ash and I was shocked to see that characters such as T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) among many others all perished. Important characters in the MCU such as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Gamora had also died well before the ending of Avengers: Infinity War which was also shocking to see.

A Great Ending Undermined

As I said, this film is quite ballsy in the way it killed a lot of important characters and its ending left me speechless but this was only the case in isolation. Sadly, the announcement of future MCU films in Phase 4 such as the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Black Panther 2 undermines the impact of a lot of the deaths in Avengers: Infinity War. This is because some, if not all, of those who turned to ash in the final moments of this film are very likely to be resurrected in Avengers 4. Certainly, I would be amazed if Black Panther or Spider-Man stay dead.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man in Avengers Infinity War

It is not the fault of the film that the impact of the ending is undermined. Instead, it is the known slate of Phase 4 that unfortunately does this. Still, this only dawned on me some time after I saw Avengers: Infinity War. It does not take away from what was an incredible cinematic experience in addition to a film which, like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I have no huge issues with. It succeeded on every major level it needed to succeed in and it became my No. 1 MCU film in the process. I cannot wait to see what will happen next in the MCU and to see Thanos and our remaining heroes return in Avengers 4.

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Westworld: Season 2 Episode 1 (Television Review) – A Superb Start

The first season of Westworld was superb television to watch. The technical quality of it was undeniable and the themes that were explored in the mysterious narrative really made the entire season an enjoyable watch, even in its more slower moments. As you can imagine, the hype for Season 2 of Westworld was quite high and I was excited to come back to this show, especially as we have had to wait some time for it to return.

However, the wait is now over and ‘Journey Into Night’ was the episode which kicked off this second season of a television series that HBO is really pushing to become one of its leading lights. This is particularly the case when you consider that Game of Thrones is coming to the end and the void left by its end needs to be filled by one or more shows on the scale of Westworld.

My Thoughts On ‘Journey Into Night’

Sometimes, the first episode in a new season of television can be the weakest episode of that season. If this is the case with ‘Journey Into Night’, then we are in store for a phenomenal season of Westworld. I loved this episode. From its very first scene, it was compelling. Certainly, an episode of Westworld which begins with a past conversation between Bernard/Arnold and Dolores is a fantastic way to start this second season.

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

I say Bernard/Arnold because I am not sure whether that conversation took place in the distant past when Arnold was still alive or, more likely, with Bernard in the more recent past. Either way, it was a fascinating scene which showcased how Westworld is a cut above the overwhelming majority of TV shows currently airing. The acting and dialogue between Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood in this scene alone was mesmerising and, for me, it foreshadowed what is to come in Season 2.

Indeed, Bernard/Arnold stated that he was frightened about what Dolores might become and what path she will take. Obviously, we have seen already what Dolores is capable of and this scene may have indicated that much worse is in store. Another subtle element of this scene that I appreciated was how the framing was different compared to the rest of ‘Journey Into Night’.

Two Timelines

After this scene, we saw flash scenes of both Bernard and Dolores. Now, I did not have the opportunity to watch the first season of Westworld again before Season 2 began. I was able to recognise that some of these flash scenes were from Season 1 but others were not as recognisable which make me believe that we got glimpses of the future. However, I understand that I may be completely wrong about this.

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

Still, what was completely apparent about ‘Journey Into Night’ is that, at least for now, we are following two timelines in Season 2 of Westworld. One of them takes place in the immediate aftermath of the death of Robert Ford at the end of Season 1 and the other is set around two weeks later where the humans are trying to regain control of the park. What we saw in the latter timeline was at the beginning and the end of ‘Journey Into Night’ so the real meat of this episode took place right after Ford’s death.

The Hosts Take Control After Ford’s Death

In this time period, the Hosts are in total control of the park and they have wiped out almost all the Delos board members with only a few surviving the massacre that began with Robert Ford’s death. As expected, the Man in Black/William is having a great time with this new reality. It was what he wanted all along as we saw in Season 1 of Westworld and, in ‘Journey Into Night’, he had a great discussion with the young Robert Ford Host where he learns that an entirely new game solely for him has just begun.

Bernard and Charlotte are together and they try to deal with the repercussions of Ford’s death. They eventually find safety and learn that they have to find Peter Abernathy, the Host who played Dolores’ father in Season 1, and give him to Delos to secure help and extraction from the park. Maeve has to go on a journey of her own to find her daughter and Dolores, with the bemused help of Teddy, is charting her own course and wishes to go beyond the park and take control of the human world.

Young Robert Ford Host and Ed Harris as the Man in Black/William in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

Clearly, a lot of things are about to go down in Season 2 of Westworld given what has been set up in ‘Journey Into Night’ and I loved where our characters are at in this timeline. It has established some exciting narratives and I am fascinated to see what unravels in this timeline going forward.

Bernard + The Military Team

In the time period that takes place two weeks after Ford’s death, Bernard wakes up on a beach with water rising around him which establishes a good amount of mystery about how and why this happened, especially when one thinks about where he was in the other timeline with Charlotte. Additionally, it was a visual which linked back to the very first scene of the episode where he described a dream he had to Dolores that was exactly like the situation he found himself in at that moment.

He encounters a human military team from Delos who, as I said earlier, are attempting to take back control of the park from the Hosts. Bernard eventually leads them to a lake of dead Hosts who he claims to have killed. To see where Bernard starts in one timeline and then get to the place where he was in the other is going to be fascinating to experience.

Dead Hosts in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

My Final Thoughts On ‘Journey Into Night’

In both timelines, the outstanding quality of this show is still clear to see from a technical perspective. From a storytelling viewpoint, Westworld continues to explore themes such as existence, consciousness and meaning in a deep and layered way. ‘Journey Into Night’ did a tremendous job at reintroducing us to these themes as well as providing a great platform for the characters, and the story they are in, to flourish as Season 2 progresses from episode to episode.

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Isle of Dogs (Film Review) – Decent But Not Wes Anderson’s Greatest Achievement

Isle of Dogs is a stop motion animated film written and directed by Wes Anderson which stars Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel, Courtney B. Vance, Frances McDormand, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Koyu Rankin and Bryan Cranston. The film takes place in a near-future dystopian Japan and the story centres on a young boy called Atari (Koyu Rankin). Atari goes on a mission to find his dog after the entire species is banished to a trash island due to an illness outbreak.

My Expectations For Isle of Dogs

A lot of film fans are always craving for originality in the films they see and they should look no further than Wes Anderson when it comes to this wish. Without a doubt, Wes Anderson is one of the most creative forces in the film industry. Since the 1990s, he has provided us with extremely quirky, fresh stories in his films and Isle of Dogs looked no different. Yet, I was slightly concerned going into this film.

For one, Wes Anderson has ventured into stop motion animation before in the form of Fantastic Mr. Fox and I was not a huge fan of that film. I was worried that Isle of Dogs would be a film in a similar sort of vein to Fantastic Mr. Fox and I wanted it to be completely different. Moreover, this film, while receiving mostly positive reviews, has received criticism in the way it represents Japanese culture and I did not want Isle of Dogs to come across as disrespectful.

Bryan Cranston as Chief in Isle of Dogs

Still, despite my small concerns, I was mostly optimistic going into Isle of Dogs due to how much I love some of Wes Anderson’s films such as Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The voice cast for Isle of Dogs was also very impressive which was another thing that excited me about seeing this film.

My Thoughts On Isle of Dogs

Overall, I thought Isle of Dogs was a decent film. I certainly preferred it to Fantastic Mr. Fox but it is nowhere near Wes Anderson’s best film. Still, before I talk about negative elements of the film, let me talk about what I liked about Isle of Dogs. For one, as was the case with Fantastic Mr. Fox and practically every stop motion animated film I have seen, the animation is great.

Stop motion animation is something which is a painstakingly long labour of love and I always respect filmmakers who use this type of animation in their creations. The quality of the animation in Isle of Dogs was evident to see. It is a beautiful film to look at. I also thought that the story in this film is quite touching at times, especially when it deals with the bond between dogs and humans. Certainly, I would contest that Isle of Dogs is a love letter to dogs. As a result, dog lovers are going to get something out of it.

Atari in Isle of Dogs

Bad Pacing

However, the story in Isle of Dogs is badly paced for a good chunk of its running time. Even for a film that is 90 minutes long, it is extremely slow which, as always, harms re-watchability. Isle of Dogs truly felt like it was a short film that was unnecessarily elongated so it could be a full-length feature film. Additionally, I was also disappointed that the film was not as funny as I wanted it to be and it was strikingly similar to Fantastic Mr. Fox in that regard.

This was a terrible shame as, most of the time, I find Wes Anderson’s live-action films to be hilarious. Yet, as I previously stated, I do prefer Isle of Dogs over Fantastic Mr. Fox. But, even though I generally liked this film, it is not something that I will rush to watch again.

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Ready Player One (Film Review) – Fun + Extremely Rewatchable

Ready Player One is a science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. The film is based on the 2011 novel of the same name and stars Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Cooke, Tye Sheridan. The story takes place in 2045 where humanity uses virtual reality software called the OASIS to escape the harsh and dystopian reality of the real world.

The protagonist of Ready Player One is Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) who uncovers clues to a hidden game within the OASIS. The winner of this game will gain full ownership of the OASIS. Wade, with the help of his allies, tries to win the game before players working for a company run by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) can do so.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Ready Player One

I said this in my review of The Post and I will say it again now; Steven Spielberg is the greatest director of all-time. He has made amazing films in literally every genre of film there is and, in some ways, he was going back to his roots with Ready Player One. Indeed, Spielberg made a name for himself with adventure films such as the Indiana Jones trilogy and Jurassic Park. From the trailers, Ready Player One looked like a fun adventure film and the reviews for the film confirmed that it was quite entertaining and a throwback to Spielberg’s earlier work.

Tye Sheridan as Parzival in the OASIS in Ready Player One

I could not wait to see what was in store, especially when it came to finding all of the pop culture references and Easter eggs. Moreover, I had never read the novel on which this film is based upon so I had no preconceived notions about what the film had to do in order for it to equal or better the novel. I did not expect Ready Player One to rank amongst the best of Spielberg’s diverse filmography. Instead, all I wanted to watch was an entertaining film with high re-watchability.

My Thoughts on Ready Player One

By a long way, Ready Player One is the most entertaining, fun cinematic experience I have had in recent times. I was grinning from ear to ear for the majority of this film and it is absolutely one of my favourite films of 2018 so far. For me, re-watchability is important in the overall quality of a film and Ready Player One is eminently re-watchable. This is just for trying to find all the pop culture references alone. Truly, the film is littered with them and trying to find as many as I could kept me engaged throughout.

Still, while this was fun to do, it was not what fully propelled Ready Player One to a place where it was one of my favourite films of 2018. It was the story and the amount of world-building in the film which did this. Every time I was in the OASIS, I was hooked from a visual perspective. I loved how vibrant it was. It left me longing for a world where virtual reality technology like the OASIS exists but I guess I will have to be patient in that regard.

Tye Sheridan as Wade and Olivia Cooke as Samantha in Ready Player One

I also found the story in the real-world to be captivating due to how it contrasted to the OASIS. The OASIS was full of imagination and possibility whereas the real-world was, to be honest, quite depressing. I connected to the characters in both worlds and loved how the story interconnected between the two.

Pop Culture Commentary + The Cast of Ready Player One

As the film progressed, I also noticed how much Ready Player One was a commentary on pop culture and fandom. This was interesting to me given how Steven Spielberg has had such a big role in shaping both of these things as we know it today. It was a theme in Ready Player One that gave the film some meaning and depth, especially towards the end of the film where the cast really shined for me.

The entire ensemble cast gave very good performances. I liked Tye Sheridan in the lead role but my favourite performance was given by Mark Rylance. He played the character of James Halliday who created the OASIS and some of the stuff he was involved in during the film was very touching, particularly in the third act. He was a character I could really relate to and he was just one element of many in Ready Player One that I absolutely loved.

The Iron Giant in Ready Player One

If I am going to be a bit nit-picky, the only thing in Ready Player One that annoyed me was an incredibly cheesy line of dialogue in a scene between Wade and Samantha (Olivia Cooke) towards the end of the film. I understood why it was said but it was too cringe-worthy for my liking. Still, that is an incredibly minor issue in an otherwise fantastic film that you should absolutely see as soon as you can.

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Lady Bird (Film Review) – The Film That Should Have Won Best Picture

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age film written and directed by Greta Gerwig and stars Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan. The story of the film is set in Sacremento, Califorinia in the early 2000s and focuses on Christine (Saoirse Ronan), a high-school senior who goes by the name of ‘Lady Bird’. She clashes with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) about her future.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Lady Bird

On paper, everything about Lady Bird sounded terrific. For one, I love coming-of-age films. In recent years, films such as The Edge of Seventeen, Boyhood and The Perks of Being a Wallflower now rank amongst the best coming-of-age films I have ever seen. For whatever reason, it is a genre of film that I gravitate to and the fact that Lady Bird was nominated for five Oscars increased my expectations about the quality of the film.

As well as being nominated for Best Picture, both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. From this, I expected that the acting in Lady Bird would be brilliant. This went for the entire cast, not just from Ronan and Metcalf. Certainly, Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet are incredibly talented actors and impressed me with their work in Manchester by the Sea and Call Me By Your Name respectively. I hoped to see more of the same from these two in Lady Bird.

Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf as Marion in Lady Bird

Before I saw Lady Bird, the only film nominated for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars that made me feel like it completely deserved its nomination was The Post. I hoped that Lady Bird would impress me to the same degree that The Post did. I was expecting great things from this film.

My Thoughts on Lady Bird

I thought Lady Bird was absolutely terrific. Everything about this film felt authentic and genuine. Greta Gerwig partly based this film off her own experiences growing up in Sacramento and you can tell that this film came from the heart. While a coming-of-age film is going to have scenes and/or dialogue that are a bit cringe-worthy, nothing in Lady Bird ever felt forced or out of place. I had such a great time watching this film, especially when it came to the performances.

Saoirse Ronan was fantastic in the lead role and fully deserving of her nomination for Best Actress but I have to admit that, for me, Laurie Metcalf stole the entire film. She was so real and natural with her performance and, while I still have not seen Allison Janney’s performance in I, Tonya, I struggle to see how anything could eclipse what Laurie Metcalf did in Lady Bird.

Laurie Metcalf as Marion and Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird in Lady Bird

The mother-daughter relationship was amazing and what Metcalf and Ronan brought to it made their relationship one of the strongest aspects of Lady Bird. I also thought that Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet were all very good in the film as well.

Funny and Sad Moments

Another strength of Lady Bird was the humour which was spot-on for a film like this. Certain lines of dialogue in the film and situations some of the characters found themselves in made for some really funny moments. Yet, at the same time, there were some incredibly sad moments too whether it was with Stephen McKinley Henderson’s character or with Lucas Hedges character. You need these types of moments in a coming-of-age film and I thought they were all executed very well.

I also have to say that the use of ‘Crash Into Me’ by Dave Matthews Band throughout the film was something that really pulled me into Lady Bird as it is one of my favourite songs. All of the things which I have mentioned above made me full in love with the film and, as I watched the credits roll, I could not help but feel that the ending, while abrupt, felt right and the character arc that Christine went through in Lady Bird came full circle.

Beanie Feldstein as Julie and Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird in Lady Bird

My Final Thoughts on Lady Bird

Lady Bird and The Post were the two films nominated for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars that were, for me, worthy nominees. Now that I think about it, I believe that Lady Bird should have won the award. I never thought either one would win Best Picture as The Shape of Water was the clear favourite. Still, I was rooting for an upset and I hope, in the years to come, that Lady Bird will be seen as one of the best coming-of-age films that has come out in recent times.

Clearly, I would highly recommend this film to anyone who loves coming-of-age films and wants to see exceptional acting as well as a superb directorial debut from Greta Gerwig. I hope to see more of her in the years to come when it comes to directing films.

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