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The Nun. Nope.

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Such perfectly straight teeth for a demon… I guess Hell is going to the dentist after all.

The Nun sucks. I should just stop there. It doesn’t really deserve elaboration. but, screw it… why else does this blog exist then, if not to skewer garbage in an overly loquacious and ire-laden rant?

Okay, so The Nun falls into what I guess you’d call The Conjuring Cinematic Universe. This movie world consists of The Conjuring (great), The Conjuring 2 (ridiculous but sometimes affective), Annabelle (boring) and Annabelle: Creation (never bothered to waste my time watching it, and I’ve seen House 2, House 3 & House 4… own them all, in fact, on blur-ray so that’s really saying something about Annabelle: Creation).

The one thing The Nun has on all the other entries in the series though, is how goddamn stupid it is. It opens on a remote convent in a scary eastern European country (Romania, in his case) because to an American audience familiar with dreck like Hostel, eastern Europe is inherently terrifying. Perhaps because it is the cradle of all vampire lore. Or something. I don’t know, doesn’t matter. The movie opens with two nuns frantically searching for some sort of religious relic in a dark scary part of their convent. They open a huge ugly door they clearly should not have and one of them gets sucked inside by some sort of evil presence. The other runs aways and later hangs herself. Okay, so that doesn’t sound so stupid, right? Until later we get some exposition. Turns out, the evil presence in the convent is the demon, Valak from The Conjuring movies. According to The Nun (the movie, not a character in it), all Valak wants is a body to possess so it can escape the convent where it has been imprisoned. And apparently, this is why the one nun killed herself. BUT this is where it gets really really really really stupid… what about the other nun who got sucked into the dark room with the demon? Why did Valak not possess her? And if he did, why did the rest of the movie even happen? If he possessed her, he could leave. Which then brings up another point… later in the film, Valak appears as the evil nun we all know from The Conjuring movies. But why does he look like a nun? If he did possess the nun in the beginning, what in the hell is he hanging around for? And if he didn’t, 1) why didn’t he and 2) why is he then appearing to other characters as a creepy toothy nun (other than because creepy toothy nuns are scary)? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

There are some other characters doing stupid, mostly irrelevant stuff too, like an older priest who contributes zero to the plot and could have been removed completely without impacting the “story” in the slightest. The other primary character is a young local man who initially discovers the nun who hung herself. The filmmaker’s end up shoehorning his storyline at the end of the film into an opening scene from the first Conjuring (even though they had to retcon the scene to tie it to The Nun). Which brings me to my second big problem with The Nun, besides the idiocy of its basic premise and opening scene. The main character is played by Taissa Farmiga, little sister to Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren in the other Conjuring films. They are about 20 years apart in age, the same time separation between The Nun and The Conjuring, and look so much alike that it would be reasonable to assume that they were playing the same character at two different ages. Added to that, Taissa’s character, Sister Irene explains at one point that she’s had visions since she was a young child, exactly as Lorraine Warren describes her visions (since childhood) in The Conjuring. Of course, they do have different names and at no point in the later movies does Lorraine Warren talk about ever confronting Valak, or being a nun for that matter. Yet throughout The Nun, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the character was initially written as a young Lorraine Warren, but then changed later for whatever behind-the-scenes reasoning studio suits came up with. Ultimately though, I would probably chalk it up to a casting misstep. When you cast family members who look alike as characters who aren’t related, it becomes an odd distraction for the audience. This may sound like a minor grievance, but it’s the only thing about The Nun that stuck with me after having watched it. And as such, I would recommend it for completists only. Everyone else, stay far, far away. You want Nun of it.

Hahahahaha.

-c

 

 

 

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SEARCHING… Wow. Who knew?

Don’t judge a film by its terribly Photoshopped poster.

Hey gang,

Seems like my last few reviews have all been fairly scathing. So I thought I’d post a rare positive review for once. Caught Searching on demand recently and was pretty blown away. I expected Unfriended but ended up with something more akin to Up meets The Vanishing.

John Cho has been quietly building an interesting film (& television) career in his life after Harold & Kumar. I’ve found him to be one of the more interesting aspects of the wildly inconsistent Star Trek reboot and its sequels.  He’s done great guest arcs on Sleepy Hollow, Difficult People & The Exorcist and with no less than 6 projects on the horizon for 2019, he really seems to be building steam in a big way right now.

So it should come as no surprise that he nearly single-handedly carries Searching and carries it well.  If you aren’t familiar with the conceit of the film, John Cho plays a concerned dad searching his daughter’s laptop and the internet for clues regarding her recent disappearance.  And in doing so, learns some hard truths regarding just how very little he really knows about his daughter.  Debra Messing receives a fair amount of screen time as the cop assigned to his missing persons case, but the whole of it is all told from his computer screen, hence the title.  If it sounds like an ad for Google or Microsoft, you’d be right.  But only at first. You get used to it and after awhile you begin to feel like you’re not just a passive audience, but are in the shoes of a terrified father trying desperately to track down and information he can that might lead to his daughter being found.

So that’s the aspect of Searching most like The Vanishing.  But I also mentioned Up. It may sound crazy if you haven’t seen Searching, but the first 20 minutes or so of the film are reminiscent of the opening of Up, where we learn through the single most efficient and effective 5 minute montage in all of filmdom, the entire history of the main character’s relationship with his wife, from joyful vows til death do them part. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Searching is equal parts clever and emotionally moving and a large part of its overall effectiveness is John Cho’s performance. I’m reluctant to say anymore.  You should go into it with as clean a slate as possible.  It’s a great little thriller who’s central, shall we say gimmick (which isn’t really fair) is not only motivated, but executed with real style and heart.  Were I Siskel &/or Ebert (or even Richard Roeper), here is where I’d say, “Two thumbs up.”

-c

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Mary Poppins Returns

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Hey gang,

It’s not exactly a secret that I don’t like musicals.  If they’re live, I find musicals almost unbearable. But there are a handful of movie musicals I do like.  The Wizard of Oz (and its gloriously bizarre companion, The Wiz), Singing in the Rain, The Sound of Music, Grease, Moulin Rouge and that’s about it. Oh, and Mary Poppins.  All of these have great music that sticks with you, and other than Grease, fairly layered stories with an interesting point of view conveyed by relatable and complex characters tied up in an engrossing plot.  Sorry, Grease, but you’re ridiculous. But the goddamn music is so good. And none of them, for the most part, sing their dialogue.  That particular conceit is an affront to good music, good storytelling and good taste.  And part of the reason I absolutely loathe Rent.

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Except this version…

Which makes Mary Poppins Returns so disappointing.  None of the musical numbers stick with you.  Music is often a subjective art-form, so maybe it was just me, but I found the songs to be bland parallels to the vastly superior music from the original.  If the music had been outstanding, I could have forgiven the fact that Mary Poppins Returns, much like The Force Awakens, went to great lengths to retain all the same elements that made its predecessor a success.  And in doing so in such a rigid manner, managed to produce a sequel that feels more like a remake than a continuation. I find it frustrating that the film’s production team didn’t have the courage and conviction to make a true sequel. But instead hedged their bets, making a film that ensures Mary Poppins fans engage with a familiar brand, to steal a bit of ad speak from the marketing world.  Added to which, new audiences will almost undoubtedly love it, since they’re cribbing all the major beats from the original, which is still hugely popular.  It’s a disservice to the author of the books and it’s a disservice to the fans who, for $15 deserve a movie that’s earned its spot in the film universe of Mary Poppins. And I feel certain there is to be a Mary Poppins film universe beyond this one.  Again, much like The Force Awakens, Mary Poppins Returns felt like a big toe dipping into a pool to test the temperature before the inevitable next film cannon-balls in and kicks the franchise off proper.  And in doing so, robbing the movie-going public of a good film, or at least a respectable sequel.  Which certainly is not impossible. Case in point:  The Color of Money, the sequel to The Hustler made and released 25 years after the original.

I’m dating myself a little bit, leaning on a 32 year old film that itself was a sequel to a 57 year old film.  But it is the best example I can think of of a long-gap sequel that was a true continuation of a story, taking it in a whole new direction, with confidence and total originality.  The Color of Money was directed by Martin Scorcese and brought together two of the biggest Hollywood stars of their respective generations in Paul Newman (reprising his role of “Fast Eddie” Felson from the first film) and a young Tom Cruise whose star was still on the rise. The great thing about The Color of Money is that it is totally self-contained.  You do not need to see The Hustler to understand and enjoy The Color of Money, but if you do, then The Color of Money takes on a whole new level of complexity that I found completely fascinating as a self-proclaimed movie geek, and card-carrying member of the human race.  The Color of Money won Paul Newman his first Best Actor Academy Award (on his 7th acting nomination – he would be nominated twice more for acting subsequent to TCOM) and was nominated for three others. I suppose one could argue that comparing a film directed by a film legend, Martin Scorcese and a film directed by Rob Marshall, the guy who made Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides isn’t entirely fair.  To that I would say, why not get a film legend to make a Mary Poppins sequel then?  Just because the guy was hugely successful in musical theater doesn’t mean he can make a good movie.

No, Memoirs of a Geisha does not count. It’s perhaps the single most expensive soap opera ever filmed.  Not a compliment.

Ok, so I didn’t like the music, story or director.  I did, however like Emily Blunt.  A lot. She’s pretty goddamn perfect.  I can think of zero fault of any kind in her performance. I’ve been trying to imagine who might have been a better choice for the role and I can think of nobody.  It’s inspired casting, a role she was practically born to play.  Which, again makes it all the more disappointing that the film played it so safe, to the point of boredom.  Yeah, I fell asleep for a little while in the middle.  Even Emily Blunt couldn’t keep me conscious through that utterly irrelevant and odd-ball (not in a good way) scene with Meryl Streep, who channels the voice/accent of her character in Sophie’s Choice, of all the films to call attention to when performing in a Disney musical ostensibly for kids. The rest of the cast were excellent.  I just wish they had a more interesting script to work with.  I will make one exception though… I really did not like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Full disclosure, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a performer I simply do not like.  Can’t put my finger on it… he just bugs me.  In Mary Poppins Returns he’s the obligatory Dick Van Dyke/Bert fill-in and honestly, he was never going to hold a candle to Dick Van Dyke.  The fact that they even tried is perplexing.  Added to which, Miranda is mostly of Puerto Rican descent.  It’s hard to forget that when watching him speak and sing in a cockney accent. It’s kinda like trying to suspend disbelief when watching Charlton Heston try to play a Mexican character in Touch of Evil.  Or perhaps a more relevant example, when Rob Marshall cast three Chinese actresses to play Japanese characters in Memoirs of a Geisha. There we go, full circle.

It would be cynical to write an entire review without admitting that I did smile a lot throughout the film.  It’s lighthearted throughout with small doses of heartfelt sentiment revolving around parenthood and the struggles of carrying on a family after the death of a spouse. I just wish it had been created with more ambition.  Retreading familiar territory is the cardinal failing of so many sequels these days.  I was really hoping they would take this one in a more interesting direction.  Maybe the next film in the inevitable series will.

-c

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The Tomb Raider Origin Story Nobody Asked For

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Tomb Raider, starring Bojack Horseman

Hey guys,

Caught Tomb Raider on demand a couple weeks ago and after having done so, I’m quite thankful I didn’t waste 15 bucks on this turkey in the theater.  My god, it’s just so goddamn bland. I had to look it up on Wikipedia to remind myself whatever the hell the plot was about.  I couldn’t remember, and it’s been like a week and a half.  It’s pretty clear Hollywood still hasn’t learned its lesson from garbage like Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake/origin story, or The Amazing Spider-man reboot that came out a mere 5 years after Raimi’s Spider-man 3 and revisits the very same well-worn radioactive spider material everyone on the planet is already 100% aware of, not to mention the king mother of stupid and unnecessary origin stories (that even has the word in the title), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (with specific reference to one Wade Wilson, aka, Deadpool).  This entry on the endless Hollywood reboot train finds Laura Croft a bicycle messenger mostly oblivious to the shenanigans of her rich, globe-trotting adventurer father (I should mention she is unaware of his latest exploits because she thinks he’s dead – spoiler alert: he’s not).  This is the somewhat naive version of her pre-dating the video game and film versions audiences are already well familiar with.  We see her fight training, for no other reason than we know Laura Croft should know how to fight (even though she’s a bicycle messenger).  We see that’s she’s handy with a bow and arrow because we know Laura Croft should be handy with a bow and arrow (even though she’s a bicycle messenger… in a city… where a bow and arrow are pretty goddamn moot).  You see where I’m going with this?  Tomb Raider has got to be the laziest origin story I’ve ever seen.  We are not shown how she acquired all these various skills, because one would assume she had acquired all these skills through the experiences of being the Laura Croft we all know, the tomb raiding ass-kicking Laura Croft.  Instead we’re merely shown she has all these skills… before becoming the Laura Croft we all know.  If it sounds stupid, it’s because it is stupid.  It’s really really stupid.  It’s so stupid that I’m going to spare you further ruminations on the topic of Laura Croft becoming a tomb raider.  Nobody cares.  Trust me.  Instead, let’s have a brief discussion regarding Dominic West.

Dominic West is such an extraordinarily odd actor.  He kinda came out of nowhere in The Wire, having had mostly tiny roles in a slew of little-seen films, most notably as a slimy shitbag Spartan statesman in 300, which wasn’t really a notable role at all.  And then, The Wire.  In which, he is absolutely fantastic.  A career-making performance in a career-making role.  And then nothing but garbage after.  And not just garbage, but garbage he’s terrible in.  See exhibit A:  Punisher: War Zone.  Jesus Christ, I haven’t heard a New York accent that bad since Steven Seagal’s cartoonish Brooklyn accent in Out For Justice. Seriously, just sit back and take in this fucking malarky.  My god.  I mean, seriously, WTF? (I will admit, I love Out for Justice.  It’s like a a bunch of film students in  Canada made a movie that takes place in Brooklyn after watching My Cousin Vinny). But back to Dominic West. Post The Wire: Centurion, From Time to Time, Johnny English Reborn, The Forgotten, Words of the Blitz, John Carter, Pride, Testament to Youth, and of course, Tomb Raider (in which he plays Laura Croft’s father, the ridiculously named, Lord Richard James Croft, Ph.D).  ‘Nuff said.

Tomb Raider is terrible.  In case there was any ambiguity in the above paragraphs.  The only interesting thing about this inert turd is the colossal Photoshop fail when designing the movie poster that made Alicia Vikander look like a giraffe (or Bojack Horseman).  I am reminded of the Netflix banner poster for The Babysitter.

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While some people have two left feet… this woman has two right hands. Literally.

-cohan

p.s.  The Affair?  Never heard of it.

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Jurassic Blender

 

Film Title: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Awww, what an adorable man-eating monster.

Hey guys,

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom looks great.  If taken as a series of still images, some of which have an almost classical painting quality to them, it’s great.  To look at anyway.

1. I0NZOLfu_o

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See what I mean?

But ultimately, it’s a hollow film.  There are no new ideas, but rather a mish-mash of previously covered material across the 4 previous films.  It’s like someone took all these varying concepts explored in the earlier movies, dumped them in a blender and turned it on. What came out was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It also suffers from poor character motivations, clashing with established characterizations from Jurassic World before it.  Everything feels retconned and awkwardly forced to fit with whatever it is they have planned for the inevitable next film.  In fact, the one new idea they do introduce in Fallen Kingdom is totally out of left field and utterly ludicrous within the context of a film franchise about dinosaurs.  The filmmakers suffer from the same issues they’re forcing into the films… the idea that basic dinosaurs are not good enough.  They have to keep inventing new, crossbred never-before-seen dinosaurs who are bigger, meaner and even more blood-thirsty than the humdrum T-Rex and, yawwwwwn, Velociraptor (because these two fucking monsters aren’t impressive enough?).

SPOILER ALERT

And so the filmmakers introduce the idea of human cloning at the end of Fallen Kingdom.  It’s a random question whose answer is two simple words:

Who. Cares?

This idea has no place in Fallen Kingdom, but plays like a post-credits sequence to tease the next film in the series.

The plot of Fallen Kingdom continues elements from the last film and goes all in.  Bad guys steals dinosaurs, bad guys sells dinosaurs to more bad guys.  Dinosaurs get loose. A common theme that has been run through the ringer at this point.  But hey, at least in this movie, the dinosaurs only eat bad guys, so that’s a plus.  For the good guys anyway.  For the audience, it’s a total cheat and undercuts the dread and menace inherent in a story about giant wild animals free from empathy who are turned loose on their food supply. The cast is great, again, but mostly wasted.  Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm, but is relegated to the role of Chorus in a Greek tragedy.  His scenes occur solely in a courtroom as he testifies before some official body whose point I’ve already forgotten.  His lines are all thematic commentary the audience doesn’t really need.  We get it.  Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt have pretty good chemistry, but the filmmakers have decided to waste that fact by completely underwriting their relationship, which at the time of the film has devolved into ex’s.  Also, in a broader sense, why even cast Chris Pratt in this film if you’re not going to take advantage of his talents?  He has little to do in Fallen Kingdom, other than to run around and look ruggedly handsome.  He has exactly one good line in the whole film. Such an odd choice to cast someone with great comedic timing and then hamstring that talent with stilted and sparse dialogue.

The only way I would have any interest in the next Jurassic film is if they go full-bore Planet of the Apes.  Fast forward several years to a planet overrun by free-roaming dinosaurs, with humans an endangered species.  I’d pay to see that.  Otherwise, probably not.

I left Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom comparing it to the most recent Godzilla movie that came out in 2014.  It was exquisitely shot, but to what end?  There was far too much focus on bland human characters and whatever the hell they’re up to and not nearly enough on the giant goddamn monster wreaking havoc across the planet.

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I mean, holy shit, look at this imagery… in such a tragically dull film.

I hope the filmmakers behind the next film,  Jurassic Planet (or whatever they decide to call it) wake up to the fact that dinosaurs are fucking awesome all on their own.  Lots and lots and lots of dinosaurs… is even better. You do not need more dinosaur-y dinosaurs. And don’t let a bunch of boring humans doing stupid bullshit get in the way.

-cohan

p.s. We could have seen The Incredibles 2 or Hereditary instead of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  Balls.

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The Unexpected Hilarity of Game Night

 

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Funniest “man gets sucked into jet engine” since the first Incredibles.

Hey guys,

Caught Game Night on demand recently. I had forgotten how funny Rachel McAdams can be.  Near as I can tell, she hasn’t done a straight up comedy since Wedding Crashers. And even so, in that movie she plays a straight woman to all the hijinks going on around her.  She doesn’t get a lot of laughs. You really have to go back 14 years to Mean Girls to see her being funny.  It’s almost as if The Notebook‘s success pigeonholed her in more serious fare, keeping her out of the sort of broad comedic movies that are really Jason Bateman’s bread and butter. He’s been on a bit of a losing streak with his film output lately… Office Christmas Party, Bad Words, Identity Thief, The Switch, Couples Retreat, not one but two horrible Horrible Bosses movies… I mean, holy shit… despite that mountain of dreck, together with Rachel McAdams (and the rest of an excellent cast), Jason Bateman manages to make Game Night a shockingly funny little film.  It helps that they’re surrounded by an extremely talented cast not necessarily known for comedies.  Kyle Chandler plays a pivotal role as Bateman’s older brother, for which he actually smiles.  Quite a bit actually.  I seem to recall one of episode of Friday Night Lights where he let one corner of his mouth curl upward ever-so-slightly after his daughter said something particularly nice to him, but it was fleeting, quickly replaced with his standard furrowed brow.  Speaking of Friday Night Lights, Jesse Plemons shows up in Game Night as a divorced ex-friend, a creepy police officer who lives next door to Bateman and McAdams and wants nothing more than to participate in game nights the way he used to when he was married to the woman who was actually their friend. Sharon Horgan, from Amazon’s Catastrophe, steals scene after scene as a stranger to the group, there on a date with a doofus who usually brings young vapid girls to game night to try and impress his friends with his dating prowess. Kylie Bunbury and Lamorne Morris round out the cast as game night regulars, a couple arguing over the fact that one of them slept with a celebrity while they were on a break.  The payoff for that subplot is pretty damn funny.  Throw in a handful of more traditionally serious actors like Billy Magnassun, Michael C. Hall, and Danny Houston and Game Night really defies expectations given its somewhat silly plot.

Game Night, as the title suggests, is about a group of adults who meet weekly to compete in some friendly board game competition at Max and Annie’s (Bateman and McAdams) home. For the latest shenanigans, Max’s somewhat estranged and extremely successful brother, Brooks has invited them all to his place for a special night of fun.  Unbeknownst to everyone, Brooks has arranged for a kidnapping/detective mystery type scenario not too dissimilar a Murder Mystery Dinner, were it crossed with a scavenger hunt.  Things go awry, of course, when Brooks is actually kidnapped. It would ruin the fun if I went into it any further. Bad shit goes down and its damn funny. I’m still surprised how much I laughed. Usually film comedies disappoint me.  Films like The House, Girls Night and Masterminds always have a great cast, but the films end up falling flat, wasting their few funny moments on the trailer, getting your ass in the seat only to find out those were the only funny moments in the film.  Broad comedies are having a rough go of it in Hollywood right now.  So much talent being wasted on dog shit scripts. It’s unfortunate that I’d rather watch Ghostbusters for the hundredth time than sit through ten minutes of Baywatch.

The best thing about Game Night is how low my expectations were. It’s nice when a film surprises you, in any way at all.  Whether it’s scarier than you thought it would be, or more thrilling, darker, weirder, more thoughtful, or funnier. Too many times a movie is exactly what you were afraid it would be. Game Night bucks that trend.  Next time you got 5 bucks & 90 minutes to spare and feel like chuckling, give Game Night a whirl.

If you feel less like laughing and more like poking an exposed nerve, check out Ozark on Netflix.  While Jason Bateman’s films aren’t exactly breaking box office records, he’s killing it on the small screen.  I cannot recommend Ozark enough. A dark, deeply intimate crime drama about a Mexican cartel money launderer from Chicago trying to stay one step ahead of those very same international cartels plus local crime lords, small town thugs, and the FBI as he tries to keep his family alive in rural Missouri. Give it a shot. I’ll leave you with a quote:

The satisfying sound of your lover hitting the pavement is the only thing that gets me to sleep.

-cohan

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Miscasting

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TIE Swatter

Hey guys,

Solo: A Star Wars Story is not the disaster some media outlets would have you believe. On the contrary, Solo is a good film.  I enjoyed it a lot.  It’s not only a hell of a lot of fun, it’s also a fitting origin story for one of the most beloved space pirates in cinema history.  Its use of clever and extremely subtle easter eggs weaved throughout the film enmeshing it in the fabric of the Star Wars extended universe was…

Solo, at its core, is a story of how Han Solo made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs.  It also shows how he met Chewbacca and provides backstory on his history with Lando Calrissian.  And all 3 were handled with great care and thought, with many visual flourishes (such as the gif above) and nods to the character as we know him from the original trilogy. Although I will admit I wish they hadn’t softened the character’s edges quite so much.  I suppose one could argue this version of Han Solo has yet to grow into the scoundrel we all know and love.

So why is Solo merely a good film and not a great one?  I would say that it’s because Alden Ehrenreich was miscast as Han Solo.  To paraphrase Han Solo himself, he’s fine.  Everything about him is fine.  Alden Ehrenreich is fine as Han Solo.  But that’s it.  He’s merely serviceable and I don’t mind saying that when you’re casting a younger version of Han Solo, your casting has to be inspired.  It has to be perfect.  You have to make the audience forget that you’re not watching Harrison Ford.  Nothing less will do.  And sadly, Alden Ehrenreich isn’t that.  Okay now, I’m about to get up on my soapbox… so bear with me…

Consider Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The third entry in the Indiana Jones series opens on a flashback to 1912 as we’re introduced to Henry Jones, Jr. as a teenager.  In this case, River Phoenix plays a young Indiana Jones.  I think most people would agree that River Phoenix, before his untimely death at 23 was a fairly phenomenal actor and inspired casting for the part.  You may remember he had played Harrison Ford’s son 3 years earlier in The Mosquito Coast, a criminally forgotten entry in Ford’s filmography.  Serendipity, it would seem.  Go ahead and watch that opening, I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, good.

From Phoenix’s first shhhh at 30 seconds in, with his eyes darting back and forth, to the way he snatches the snake, to the moment he grabs the other scout’s neckerchief shortly after, culminating with, “I don’t know I’ll think of something” and a smirk, everything about his performance screams Harrison Ford. Without being an impression.  He is Indiana Jones and it’s glorious.  Just watch the way he runs down the side of the cave entrance at 1:38 and tell me he doesn’t look just like Harrison Ford running for the seaplane in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, arms flailing, his wobbly knees threatening to dump him on his ass with every step.  Now that is how you play a young Harrison Ford character.  River Phoenix nails it at every turn.  When you’re watching him, you forget that you’re not watching Harrison Ford, but you never stop believing you are watching Indiana Jones. River Phoenix truly was something special. Much like his younger brother.   So if you’re thinking, Yeah but there’s only one River Phoenix, or something to that effect, I would say, YES, of course.  That’s the point.  When you’re casting a young version of a beloved character played previously by Harrison Ford, then you absolutely have to find that 1 in a million actor who can pull it off.  And, apologies to Alden Ehrenreich, but he just ain’t it.  Like I said, he’s fine.

What makes Ehrenreich’s casting even more frustrating is how goddamn perfect Donald Glover is as a young Lando Calrissian.  Jesus Christ, now that is inspired casting.  That is a truly memorable performance. It’s hard to overstate just how good Glover is as Lando. He literally steals every scene he’s in, which makes it all the more tragic the role of Solo didn’t go to someone as dynamic as Glover.  With the right actor as Han Solo, the scenes between he and Calrissian would have been movie magic.  Those scenes would have helped elevate Solo: A Star Wars Story to something special.  As it is, Glover’s performance merely elevated his character.  Disney would be fools not to be fast-tracking a Star Wars Story film centered on Glover as Lando Calrissian.  I’d love to find out how he ended up the administrator of Cloud City, seeing as how according to Lando himself, “Mining colonies are the worst.”

There’s a lot to like about Solo.  Woody Harrelson is reliable as ever.  The heist storyline resonates.  Everything looks great, gritty as Rogue One before it. And what’s a Star Wars movie without a memorable droid, which we get in L3-37. The pieces of a great film are all there, all except one.  The most important one.  Like they say, 90% of directing is casting.

Speaking of directors.  I’m sure you’re aware that Chris Miller and Phil Lord were the original directors hired to make Solo: A Star Wars Story.  They were fired by Lucasfilm and replaced with Ron Howard.  Now, I don’t like Ron Howard.  He’s a middle-of-the-road director who rarely, if ever, takes risks in his filmmaking.  He has a handful of excellent films under his belt.  Parenthood and Apollo 13 come to mind, but one could argue those films were going to be great with any director given how well-written they are. To me, Ron Howard is the guy you put in the baseball game to throw strikes, and let the defense do all the work.  If you have A Beautiful Mind or Cinderella Man on the tip of your tongue as some sort of defense of Ron Howard, just stop.  What a bunch of overrated hokum, both films.  A series of heavy-handed false moments strung together with over-obvious sentiment, hitting the audience over the head with all the subtlety of any given moment in Forrest-fucking-Gump, another movie I hate.  I guess my point is, Ron Howard is exactly the sort of director you bring in to right a listing ship.  When you fire your director(s) and need someone to come in and just not fuck it up, I can think of nobody better than Ron Howard. And while I never thought Chris Miller and Phil Lord were the right guys for the job,

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 6.02.29 PM
Yeah, let’s hire these guys for a Han Solo movie…

I’d be lying if I wasn’t dying to see their Solo film for comparison.  Sort of like the clusterfuck that was the dueling Exorcist prequels.  Sadly they were fired before they completed filming so we’ll never get a Lord & Miller cut of Solo.

My problems with Alden Ehrenreich’s casting are only exacerbated by the fact that we just saw Harrison Ford as Solo in The Force Awakens. Perhaps if Return of the Jedi were the last time we had seen Ford in the role, my point of view would be different.  But I doubt it.

-cohan

p.s. I almost forgot to mention an interesting subplot prevalent throughout Solo, but not really paid off until the end.  Which is, the literal birth of the Rebel Alliance.  That was pretty cool.

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SPOILER ALERT

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p.p.s. I also didn’t mention that big ole bastard of a cameo at the end. After the film was over I said, “Was that Darth Maul? Or was it another member of whatever the hell race he is? And if it is him, what in the hell is going on with this timeline?” A friend of mine filled me in on the continuing story of Darth Maul after Obi-wan cuts him in half at the end of The Phantom Menace. If you watch the animated Clone Wars tv show, you know he survives that bit of bisecting, somehow. And ends up with mechanical legs, which you can apparently see in Solo (I missed it). Don’t know about his dingus.