Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of SOLO:  A STAR WARS STORY

Solo A Star Wars StorySolo: A Star Wars Story
***

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second installment of the Star Wars anthology series, following 2016’s Rogue OneSolo is a stand-alone film that takes place approximately ten years prior to the events of the 1977 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The film tells the early story of Han Solo, a much-loved character that was made popular by Harrison Ford. The film is exciting and enjoyable; how much you enjoy the film may be based on your personal expectations of it. Some Star Wars purists have been very negative about the film, which was troubled early on when co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired over creative differences with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriters four-time Oscar nominee Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, The Accidental Tourist) and Jonathan Kasdan. Although I have seen and enjoyed all of the Star Wars films, I am not an expert on the franchise with its prequels and now anthology films, instead just wanting to see an entertaining film, which is what I found with Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), was called in to direct the film after the original directors were fired after about five months of work on the project. It has been reported that Howard re-shot more than 80% of the film, which had a budget of approximately $250 million. The musical score is by Oscar nominee John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon). The legendary five-time Oscar winner John Williams (Jaws, Fiddler on the Roof, Star Wars, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List) composed the main theme.  The film is visually stunning, with Oscar nominee Bradford Young (The Arrival) handling cinematography.
We first meet the cocky Han Solo, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine, Hail, Caesar!) on his home sewer of a planet Coreillia. He is an orphan and a thief. He’s been living on the streets with his partner in crime Qi’ra, played by three-time Emmy nominee Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones). When they try to escape, only Han succeeds. He will spend the next few years developing his pilot skills while trying to get back to Qi’ra.
During this time, Han meets several characters who help shape him into the character we are familiar with – Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), the outlaw Tobias Beckett, played by three-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The People vs. Larry Flint, The Messenger), and the smuggler Lando Calrissian, played by Golden Globe winner Donald Glover (Atlanta). Phoebe Waller voices Lando’s co-pilot, L3-37, a robot. Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany (Iron Man films, A Beautiful Mind), plays the boss that Beckett works for.
We see Han team up with Beckett on a job in order to make enough money to purchase a ship to go back to Coreillia to rescue Qi’ra. When that job goes poorly, it sets up the plotline for the rest of the film.  The film plays like a space western and includes some excellent action sequences, and good use of humor.
Content concerns include typical Star Wars action violence and some light adult language. The acting performances of the main characters are all solid.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun and enjoyable, though probably not an essential adventure film that does a good job of answering questions about Han Solo’s story. My favorite aspect of the film was seeing the early friendship of Han and Chewbacca, who is 190 years old when they meet. We also see how Han ultimately becomes the owner of the Millennium Falcon ship. “The Force” a significant feature in Star Wars films, is absent in this film. The film would be considered “family friendly” for older children, and contains some intense battle scenes, humor and solid acting.

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My Review of ‘Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years’ on DVD

eight-days-a-weekEight Days a Week: The Touring Years
****

Although I’ve seen Paul McCartney in concert twelve times, including this year at Milwaukee’s Summerfest (see my review here), George Harrison on his only U.S. tour in St. Louis in 1974, and Ringo Starr with his All-Starr Band in 2014 (see my review here),  I, unlike one of my aunts (who saw them at Comiskey Park in Chicago), never saw the Beatles in concert, as they had stopped touring the day before I turned 10 years old. Clips from that August 29, 1966 concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, are shown in this documentary from Oscar winning director Ron Howard and writer Mark Monroe, which focuses on the Beatles’ incredible touring years 1963-1966. Paul McCartney would return to Candlestick Park to play a final event at the stadium almost 48 years later on August 14, 2014, before the stadium was demolished in 2015.

In the film we hear the Beatles legendary producer Sir George Martin say that the Beatles would release a new single every three months and a new album every six months during the early stages of this period, an incredible creative pace. Martin’s son Giles was the music producer for the film and the remastered album Live at the Hollywood Bowl, which is considered to be the essential companion to the film. Read my review of the album here.

Howard, shows us (through photos, video and interviews), what the Beatles touring years of 1963 through 1966 were like when the band toured 15 countries. Though he focuses on the band on the road (concerts, press conferences, hotel rooms, appearances on television programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show), he does address important issues along the way, such as the Beatles refusing to play a Jacksonville, Florida concert if the audience was to be segregated, and John Lennon’s controversial 1966 comment that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” at the time. What Howard shows us is what was referred to as “Beatlemania”, specifically the young females in their concerts screaming (you can also hear this on the Live at the Hollywood Bowl album).

Howard tells the story chronologically, using current interviews with the two surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as historical interview footage from John Lennon and George Harrison. McCartney states “By the end, it became quite complicated. But at the beginning, things were really simple.” Howard also includes interviews with people such as Whoopi Goldberg, who was one of the more than 56,000 who attended the 1965 concert at Shea Stadium, where the band’s sound came from tinny stadium speakers; Sigourney Weaver, who we see in historical black and white footage attending an early Beatles concert; and Miami radio station journalist Larry Kane, who travelled with the Beatles on their 1964 U.S. tour.

The film tells us that the Beatles had a poor record deal financially, and so made most of their money at this time touring. Unfortunately, due to the screaming, they could barely hear what they were playing. As they moved into 1966, they were more interested in experimenting in the studio with such songs as John Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” than they were playing on the road. As they finished their show at Candlestick Park, they all agreed that would be the end of their touring. Howard finishes the film with their last live performance, a January 30, 1969 rooftop concert that was recorded for their Let it Be film.

As a Beatles fan, I loved this film. I saw a lot of video that I had not seen before. For younger readers not too familiar with the Beatles, check out this film to get a glimpse of what Beatlemania was like.