Movie Review: Solo – A Star Wars Story (2018)

Hey, finally a non-christmas movie. Nice to have a bit of variation. Anyway, let’s go on a space adventure, you scruffy looking nerf herders.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Solo – A Star Wars Story”.

The story follows Han (Alden Ehrenreich), a young and determined guy who wants nothing but to get out of the shitty slum life he’s been part of his entire life. And such an opportunity presents itself when he joins a crew of space scoundrels who have been tasked with delivering a very valuable fuel resource to a notorious gangster. So now we have our “Star Wars” prequel. And while the plot here isn’t anything special, I found it to be a bit of fun. As a big fan of “Firefly” and “Cowboy Bebop”, I have a soft spot for these kind of ragtag space misfit stories. In it’s entirety, the plot is just fine, not something I’d put among the all-time greats. But it’s a fun and fast-paced space adventure, and I don’t mind that.

The characters in this are likable, somewhat interesting, and quite entertaining. Alden Ehrenreich plays the young version of Han Solo. In this, Han isn’t quite the jaded smuggler that we know him as in the older movies, but we see hints of that here as he enters the scoundrel life. He’s quite a fun protagonist. And I thought Ehrenreich was really good in the role, he definitely had a lot of that sly charm one would expect from the character. Next we have Woody Harrelson as Beckett, the guy that Han starts working with who sort of becomes his mentor. A hardened badass with a lot of charisma, he’s quite an enjoyable character. And Harrelson is great in the role. Next we have Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, childhood friend and love interest of Han. And that’s all I’m gonna say, because any further details would technically be spoilers. But she’s an okay character. And Clarke is pretty good in the role. Donald Glover plays the young version of Lando Calrissian, the smoothest son of a bitch in the galaxy. Not much else to say, he’s a smooth-talking, tricky, and clever guy who could charm his way into the heart of a mountain. And Glover is really good in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Joonas Suotamo, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau, and more, all doing well in their respective roles (even if one or two of the characters is less than well-realized).

The score for this movie was not composed by the one and only John Williams. Instead it was done by John Powell. And while there are some familiar themes used throughout, he still brought a lot of his own stuff to it to create one of the best scores of the year. I’m not just saying that because of my love for any piece of “Star Wars” music, he brought his fucking A-game on a fair bit of the tracks here. Yeah, the music here is great.

This movie was directed by Ron Howard, and I think he did a really good job with it. He manages to work with a lot of the typical “Star Wars” visual stylings, while also bringing in some stuff of his own, and even a little bit of old school western. The movie is just well shot and has a nice overall flow here that makes it a joy to watch. And the action here too is a lot of fun. Some good shootouts, a nice fight or two… there’s just a lot of fun to be had with the action here. And I don’t think I need to say anything about the visual effects at this point… it’s fuckin’ “Star Wars”, y’all know that stuff is gonna look great.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 70% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 62/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,0/10.

While not anything special, “Solo – A Star Wars Story” is a damn fine space adventure full of charisma and fun. It has a pretty good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/action/visual effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Solo – A Star Wars Story” is an 8,86/10. So I’d definitely say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “Solo – A Star Wars Story” is now completed.

You know what another title for this movie could be? Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. *Ba-dum-tss*.

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12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 10)

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Why am I doing this to myself?

Sometimes you watch good movies. Sometimes you watch bad movies. And sometimes, you might find a “Holy Mess”. Released in 2015, this holiday dramedy is about a gay couple (Anastasios Soulis and Anton Lundqvist) who invite a bunch of their relatives over to celebrate christmas. Cue the dysfunctional family crap, involving homophobia, familial inadequacy, and poor writing. The ideas here aren’t inherently bad, I am 100% sure that they could be used to make a truly compelling piece of cinema. But the writing here isn’t exactly what you’d call… good. When it tries to be funny, it’s groan-worthy. Then when it switches to the drama side of things it expects one to care… but I really didn’t, because like I said… the writing is a holy mess (see what I did there?). But let’s be generous and look at some of the positives. Most of the performances here are good, with Robert Gustafsson (mostly known for comedy) being a real standout with a really good dramatic performance. And the cinematography here is pretty good too, there are some solid enough shots and camera movements throughout. But in the end it all comes down to the writing, and as we’ve discussed, it’s more lutfisk than christmas ham. As the title suggests, this film is indeed a “Holy Mess”.

On the tenth day of christmas, Markus must confess, that he’s not a fan of Holy Mess.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 9)

Holy shit, we are already three quarters through this dumb thing. Man, time flies like a hummingbird on cocaine. Anyway, let’s get into this thing.

So what’s the movie today? Is it another cute and family-friendly thing? More made-for-tv schlock? Nope. Today we’re going quite far from the glitzy shit of the Hallmawk channel or the kid-friendly stuff of the Muppets. Today we are talking about a foul-mouthed, violent, and foreign movie. This is “Jackpot”, a 2011 Norwegian crime-comedy-thriller written by famed author Jo Nesbø and follows Oscar (Kyrre Hellum) who wakes up, covered in blood and with a shotgun in his hand… in a strip club. And we follow him as he talks to a cop about everything that led up to this. So how’s this connected to christmas? It’s set around the holidays, that’s it. Anyway, do I think this is a good movie? Kind of. With this I really sense that Nesbø tried to emulate Quentin Tarantino a bit. And while I like Tarantino, I don’t think it was the right approach for this. Nesbø is a brilliant writer, but I think that’s more when he goes for his own style rather than trying to ape someone else. That’s not to say that this is bad, because it’s not. The actors are great, the directing is pretty solid, and there’s some genuinely funny and even kinda tense moments. It’s one of those that I kinda recommend you putting on during a rainy Sunday afternoon, when you got not much else to do. “Jackpot” is a decent crime caper.

On the ninth day of christmas, Markus gives to you, something with blood, booze, and some money too. 

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 8)

BAH, HUMBUG. There, I did the thing. Can we get on with the talks about the christmas-y thing now?

There are many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. There’s the Patrick Stewart one, there’s the Muppet one, there’s the Bill Murray one, there’s the creepy CGI Robert Zemeckis one… so picking one wasn’t easy. But I finally decided to settle on the first version I ever saw. This is “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”. You all know the story, cranky cheapskate Ebenezer Scrooge (Scrooge McDuck/Alan Young) is a dick (or duck, ba-dum-tss) to everyone around him. So when he goes to bed he is visited by the three ghosts of christmas, and they show him how he’s a giant fuck-up, and like I said, you know what happens. Everybody knows this story. The only real difference here is the use of beloved Disney characters instead of actor/humans. But I like it, adds quite a bit of charm. Plus, Scrooge as Scrooge is a match made in obvious. But the animation is good, the story is timeless, the voice cast is stellar… plus, it’s only like 25 minutes, so it won’t consume much of your day. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” still holds up 35 years later.

On the eighth day of christmas, Markus gives y’all a hug, because he doesn’t wanna tell you “Bah, humbug!”.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 7)

Good day to you all! Hope all of you are doing well! Man, I’m in a good mood today, let’s do this!

I was considering doing “Alvin and the Chipmunks” for today’s thing, but then I decided to not be cruel to myself like that. So instead I went with something that I hadn’t seen, but was based on something that always brings a smile. It’s “A Muppet Family Christmas”. So what’s it about? Simple, Kermit, Animal, and the rest of the gang travel to Fozzie’s mother’s home to celebrate the holidays. Cue the singing, heartwarming talks, and funny hijinks that one expects from these lovable cloth creatures. And that’s really it. The only real twist here is that characters from both “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock” show up to join in the fun. Not much that can be said, I love Muppets, and they use them to great effect here, giving me a nice, cozy feeling. It’s the frickin’ Muppets… how could one not get all warm inside? “A Muppet Family Christmas” brings much joy for the holidays.

On the seventh day of christmas, Markus brings to you, the Swedish Chef once again speaking gobbledygoo. 

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 6)

Holy shit, we’re already halfway through this silly thing. Time sure flies.

So, today’s thing is technically a tv episode. But if you know anything about the show, you know the episodes all have a feature length runtime. Also, it’s a holiday special, so I can use it. That’s right ladies and gents, today we are talking about “Sherlock” and its holiday special, “The Abominable Bride”. So in this episode, the characters of Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) get sent back in time to the late 19th century… which is the century the characters originated in… even though this iteration of the characters is from the 2000s… but now they’re in the 1800s… which is where they started… this shit will loop on forever, so I better move on before my fucking brain melts. Anyway, it’s the “Sherlock” version of the characters solving a mystery in the 19th century… but it also tries to interweave aspects of the modern day. For the most part I enjoyed “The Abominable Bride”, the parts in which we see Cramplescrunch and Bilbo Baggins doing the 19th century crime solving, that is fun. But when it tries to involve the modern day stuff and try to have a sort of meta narrative, it doesn’t quite work, and just comes off as a bit smug. I love “Sherlock”… the first two seasons at least, haven’t really seen anything past that. But despite my love for the show, I have to look objectively at this and say that it’s just fine. Which makes me sad, because “Sherlock” at its best is some of the best tv ever made. But if you want a decent enough romp featuring some great actors in period garb, you could do far worse than “The Abominable Bride”.

On the sixth day of christmas, Markus he took on, a man saying “elementary, my dear Watson”. 

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 5)

Well hello there! Thanks for coming. Sit down and relax while I jabber on about today’s film.

Earlier today I was thinking, “What should I do today?”, as I wanted to be slightly more creative with today’s pick. Then I thought “I should do a Harry Potter movie!”, as most of those flicks have a part set around the holiday. Then it came down to which one I would do. And in the end I decided to pick my favorite out of the bunch, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. It’s time for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to do his third year at Hogwarts school for witchcraft and wizardry. But of course he can’t just have a “normal” school year for once, as he has to look out for Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a killer who has escaped from Azkaban prison. And you know the usual shenanigans that happen, Harry questions things, Snape (Alan Rickman) looks angry, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is secretly a dick, and Harry and his friends end up in some dangerous situations. But they put some nice twists on these things here with the inclusion of certain revelations regarding the past of Harry’s parents, as well as the looming horror of the Dementors. It stands out thanks to one of the more engaging plots in the series, combined with the confident and stunning direction of Alfonso Cuarón. And while this movie doesn’t go “Happy Christmas” as blatantly as some of the other ones, it does have a bit set in a very snowy Hogsmeade, and it all just gives me a very christmas-y vibe. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” works both for christmas-y and casual viewing.

On the fifth day of christmas, Markus brings to you, an actual good film, woohoo!

Movie Review: Sweet Country (2018)

Australia. Beautiful scenery, deliverer of my favorite band, origin of so many great actors… there’s a lot to appreciate, but there’s also things that one won’t appreciate. Like snakes… and spiders… and the fact that not even the country at the end of the world has been free of racism. Oh well, let’s go down and under and back in time a bit.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Sweet Country”.

Australia, the 1920s. We follow an Aboriginal farmhand (Hamilton Morris) who has to go on the run after he shoots a white man in self defense. So now we have our historical Aussie western. And I thought the plot here was good. It has an interesting premise, the events unfolding are somewhat engaging, and the entire story is pretty well told. It gives an interesting glimpse into what it was like in the outback during those times… but despite all this, it never really grabbed me. It was interesting enough for me to follow along, but there was never any point where the story had me in its grasp. I don’t know how to properly explain it. Yes, the story is good, but it’s not one of those that really dug itself into my mind.

The characters in this are decent, not ones I’ll be remembering, but they worked well enough in the movie. Explaining their arcs like I usually do is hard as to not get into some spoilers, so I’ll just skip that and list the actors (who are all really good). Hamilton Morris, Bryan Brown, Tremayne Doolan, Sam Neill Ewen Leslie, Matt Day, and many more.

The score was composed by… no one? Yeah, there’s no music here except for the end credits and like one really high pitched note at one point. But other than those… no music. Hmm…

The movie was shot and directed by Warwick Thornton, and I think he did a really good job with it. He has a way of keeping you engaged through his tight and often kinda tense directing, while also giving us some great shots of the Australian outback. It’s well shot and well directed. Not much else that can be said on that front.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 87/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,8/10.

While “Sweet Country” didn’t enamor me like it has the critics, I still think it’s an incredibly well made historical western-drama. It has a good plot, okay characters, great performances, no music(?), and great directing/cinematography. Though as previously mentioned, despite the plot in itself being really good, I wasn’t that engaged by it. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Sweet Country” is an 8,51/10. So while flawed, I’d say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “Sweet Country” is now completed.

G’day.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 4)

What? Did you think all these would be made-for-tv schlock? Wrong. Sometimes I do old stuff too.

As you could probably guess from the header image, today we are talking about Rankin/Bass’ beloved 1964 classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. And you guys already know the story. Even if you haven’t seen this thing, then you’ve absolutely heard that song. And if not, then I wonder what cave you’ve been living in for the past millennium. But to recap, there’s this reindeer, his name’s Rudolph, he has a red nose with the watt count of a fucking spotlight (and it apparently also has a dimming option). This little thing makes the other reindeer mock him, despite it doing no actual harm to anyone. So we follow him as he tries to fit in. That’s basically it. All I wonder is how in the shit they stretch this out to a 50-minute runtime. I mean, the inclusion of snow monsters, an elf that wants to become a dentist, and a prospector packing heat certainly might help in extending it a bit. But this is also the aspect that drags this special down a bit… that runtime feels dragged out. 25 – 30 minutes would have sufficed, but somehow it’s 51 minutes long. Yes, this special has a ton of charm and some really catchy tunes… but it all feels a bit dragged out. I mean, it’s good… I’m just not in love like those who grew up watching this.

On the fourth day of christmas, Markus decided to pick, a thing telling you not to be a dick.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 3)

Howdy, and welcome to part 3 in this year’s 12 Films of Christmas series. Let’s get into this thing.

That’s right, I’m doing another made-for-tv movie. This time it’s “Just in Time for Christmas”, a 2015 Hallmark channel original about a young woman (Lindsay Rogers) who has to ponder a difficult choice. Either she follows her ambitions to get her dream job, or she follows her heart and marries her long time boyfriend (Michael Stahl-David). As she ponders about this, a mysterious man on a carriage (William Shatner, yes really), who I’ve elected to call Shatner Claus (because that’s what he might as well be), takes her for a ride. And at some point during this ride she may or may not be transported into the future that shows her following her ambitions (anybody else getting “A Christmas Carol” vibes?), and what consequences that might have. Admittedly, this is a decent idea, I have a soft spot for alternate universes/timelines in storytelling, so this intrigued early on. But then I finished watching it. And guess what? It’s absolutely fucking… mediocre. Yeah, bet you didn’t see that one coming. There is some actual talent on display here, it’s not a full-on shitshow (unlike the “movie” we talked about yesterday *shudders*). I mean, it foregoes a lot of logic and realism, but it’s at least passable. The characters aren’t the worst, the story has a few decent ideas, and I got kind of a cozy vibe from this entire thing. Plus, having Christopher Lloyd in your movie doesn’t exactly hurt. The actors are pretty good, the cinematography is… fine, the storytelling isn’t bad. The movie’s biggest problem is that it’s just passable at best. It’s not bad, but I wouldn’t exactly recommend going out of your way to watch it. But if I had to choose between rewatching this or yesterday’s “movie”, I’d happily pick this every time. “Just in Time for Christmas” isn’t a modern classic, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve watched.

On the third day of christmas, Markus brings to thee, Shatner Claus and some mediocrity.