Ep. 115 – Solo: A Star Wars Story

May 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod travel to a galaxy far, far away to review Lord and Miller’s Ron Howard’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Adlen Eherenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind”)
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) and Jonathan Kasdan (“In the Land of Women”)

As Disney and Lucasfilm turn the Star Wars IP into a “new movie every year” cash cow, the companies seem to be stuck in a regressive loop, constantly revisiting characters and concepts that strike an immediate note of familiarity. Maybe that’s why we keep getting the Death Star or Death Star stand-ins. “The Last Jedi” excluded, Star Wars has played it safe since its resurrection from the much-maligned prequel era, which has weirdly included crafting two more prequels: 2016’s “Rogue One” and now “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” The new film is an origin story of sorts for the charming, rascally smuggler made iconic by Harrison Ford, which, despite some fun moments and an interesting dose of fan service, proves to be entirely unnecessary.

Opening in the dingy underground of the planet Corellia, our hero Han (Alden Eherenreich) lives an “Oliver Twist”-ian lifestyle, owned by the Fagin-ish worm Lady Proxima, who Han betrays after he’s sent to steal some valuable hyperfuel known as coaxium. With his love interest Qi’ra (Emila Clarke), Han looks to escape his home planet and buy a ship for the two of them with the stolen coaxium. But when Qi’ra is captured at the spaceport, Han is forced to join the Imperial Army to escape, where he’s given the last name “Solo” in a rather meh-worthy joke. In a war zone three years later, Solo meets Beckett (Woody Harrelson) a smuggler who’s looking to boost some coaxium for gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). With his newly-liberated Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca in tow, Han joins Beckett’s crew and begins his life as an outlaw.

Even as a famously troubled production—original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired and replaced with Ron Howard—“Solo” has a few things going for it, namely a grimy, lived-in palette with some inspired cinematography and Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. Glover brings his natural charisma and charm to the role made famous by Billy Dee Williams. Eherenreich, though, not so much. While his Han Solo isn’t as bad as you’ve feared, it also isn’t really that good, and it’s definitely missing the spark Ford brought to the character. There are some decent moments, like the first meeting of Chewbacca and Han, butted up against ideas that feel half-formed, like an early movie heist perpetrated with a crew clearly inspired by “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but who get sent off without so much as a moment to mourn when things go south. And you want fan service? You’ve got fan service, mostly in the form of a late movie cameo that might leave you scratching your head if you haven’t watched any of the canonical Star Wars cartoon series. Who, come to think of it, reminds me of this movie: two things, a prequel and an origin story, sewn together to make a whole thing that’s familiar, but not anywhere near new.

Inferno

October 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Angels & Demons,” “The Da Vinci Code”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Angels & Demons,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdon of the Crystal Skull”)

Call me a philistine if you will, but I, like a lot of people in the mid-2000s, enjoyed the novels of Dan Brown. With titles like “Digital Fortress” and “Deception Point,” it should be abundantly clear what you’re putting your hands on: mindless distraction during your lunch hour that, maybe, you can talk about with someone else once you’ve finished. To further illustrate my point, I’ve also read a vast majority of James Patterson’s nursery rhyme-themed novels featuring Alex Cross for reasons I don’t fully understand, beside the fact that I’d been doing so for the better part of two decades. The works of either author are far from being considered high art—and their film adaptations aren’t really any better.

Which brings us to “Inferno,” the third movie in the series that includes “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” from director Ron Howard (based on the fourth book—sorry, “The Lost Symbol”) featuring Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, a somewhat milquetoast professor who is a world-renowned expert in solving intricate puzzles based on or embedded in Renaissance works of art. This time out, Langdon wakes up in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy, having apparently suffered a gunshot wound and retrograde amnesia. This is all according to his young doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) who actually recognized Langdon from a lecture she attended when she was nine years old. The two must make a hasty escape, though, when moments after Langdon awakes, an Italian police officer comes in shooting. Langdon and Sienna retreat to her apartment, where Langdon discovers some gizmo in his jacket that projects an altered image of Dante’s 7 layers of hell, peppered with clues by bizarre billionaire Betrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), hinting at the end of the world. You see, Zobrist has created a supervirus that will wipe out half of humanity in a matter of days so as to save the earth from overpopulation, and it’s up to a 60-year-old professor and his young English doctor sidekick to stop Zobrist—once they shake the jack-booted thugs the World Health Organization (!!!) sends gunning for them, that is.

While bereft of fun and weighing heavy with a sense of “let’s just get through this” obligation, “Inferno” falls squarely into the same category as “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” before it: inoffensive and forgettable. Howard and Hanks, who I’ve never thought was right for the role, must be making a mint off of all of this, and they both seem like super nice guys, so what’s the problem, right? Plus, Irrfan Khan seems to be having a good time (and if the script had any eyes on a continuing the series, would have been less beholden to his character’s inconsequential fate in the book) and seeing Felicity Jones is a good reminder of how excited you’ll be to see “Rogue One” in a couple of months. Just pretend the movie is like one of the many museums the characters visit: you’ll buy the ticket and hope the experience goes by as quickly as possible, and maybe you’ll share a small conversation about it with someone at work on Monday. It really is the best case scenario.

Rush

September 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Frost/Nixon”)
Written by: Peter Morgan (“The Queen”)

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”), redeems himself after his last few downfalls (“The Dilemma,” “Angels & Demons”) with “Rush,” a perfectly-paced and exciting action-drama starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl. The film follows two racecar drivers who create a rivalry with each other in the 1976 Formula One racing circuit.

In “Rush,” Howard introduces his audience to racers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Bruhl) and the competitive and money-driven racing world they both want to control. With stellar cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “127 Hours”) and the strong script by screenwriter Peter Morgan (“Frost/ Nixon,” “The Queen”), the intricately developed relationship between James and Niki pushes “Rush” across the finish line and crowns it a champion of good cinema.

The conflict begins when James finds himself trailing behind Niki, Formula One’s world champion, during the 1976 racing season. When they arrive to a race in Germany, aptly nicknamed “The Graveyard” for its treacherous track, it is pouring rain. Niki calls for a drivers’ meeting with the intention to cancel the race. However, when he is outvoted by his fellow racers, he is forced to race on the dangerous track. In a horrific accident later that day, Niki almost loses his life when he hits a wall and his car bursts into flames, thus putting James in the perfect position to catch up and clench his title. Although Niki is confined to the hospital undergoing treatments and surgeries, he allows his competitive spirit to get the best of him as he watches James chip away at the leaderboard.

Delving deep into each character, Hemsworth and Bruhl bring to life this amazing historic rivalry. On the surface, they are polar opposites – Niki, a stark and meticulous German racer, and James, a sex-crazed British party boy. As their backstories and common underlying desire to be the best racer emerge on screen though, so does their respect for one another. Bruhl draws you close with his first-rate performance while Hemsworth’s physical stature reinforces his “ladies man” persona.

As a high-risk sport, moviegoers experience the thrill of Formula One racing during the most climactic parts of the film, all of which feel like you’re right there on the track. Close up shots of speeding tires and turning engines leave you at the edge of your seat, and intensifies the movie’s pace and audience’s adrenaline.

Movies like “Rush” remind us that topical cinema, relevant or irrelevant to our interests, can be inspiring and sometimes great if given the chance. Race fan or not, “Rush” is a must-see, even if only for its character-driven plot line and almost flawless lead performances.

The Dilemma

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder
Directed by: Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”)
Written by: Allan Loeb (“The Switch”)
 
Academy award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”) has given us some exceptional films over the course of his nearly 25-year career as a director. Despite making a couple of memorable comedies during that time (“Splash” and “Parenthood”), the genre isn’t one you’d consider his forte. With “The Dilemma,” it’s safe to say he still doesn’t have it quite figured out.
 
In “The Dilemma,” Vince Vaughn and Kevin James deliver their usual buffoonery as best friends and business partners Ronny Valentine and Nick Brannen. When Ronny (Vaughn) discovers Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) is cheating on Nick, he can’t decide whether or not to break the news to him while he is under a critical deadline for work.
 
Without much chemistry between Vaughn and James, “The Dilemma” allows its two stars to take turns in the spotlight. Vaughn does his usual nonsensical rambling (sometimes it works, here it doesn’t) while James grumps it up and even finds time to have a conniption fit on the dance floor (when will James learn he’s not Chris Farley?).
 
Where “The Dilemma” truly fails, however, is in its awkward tone. Howard has no idea what type of film he wants to create. While there is definitely a darker side to the comedy, it never feels like a true dark comedy. When it goes for the lowbrow humor, “The Dilemma” proves it has a major identity crisis that is impossible to remedy with such a weak and misguided script.

Angels & Demons

May 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Angels & Demons
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Frost/Nixon”)
Written by: David Koepp (“War of the Worlds”) and Akiva Goldsman (“I Am Legend”)

It might not ruffle as many miters as Bill Maher’s 2008 God-is-the-equivalent-of-an-imaginary-friend documentary Religulous, or even The Da Vinci Code, the first film based on author Dan Brown’s bestselling novels. When two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks dismisses faith in favor of science in Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons, however, you know there’ll be a few extra Hail Marys uttered for the souls of the entire production.

Nevertheless, when it comes to all things religious, not even a talented director like Howard can enlighten everyone. Nor can he and screenwriters David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman manage to compress Brown’s text into an insightful narrative. Their version really should be renamed CSI: Vatican City.

In A&D, Hanks reprises his role as Harvard University symbologist Robert Langdon, the protagonist pitted against an angry albino and a secret sect of the Catholic Church in 2006’s Da Vinci conspiracy. Here, the professor teams up with more God-fearing men to discover who is responsible for the disappearance of four Vatican cardinals and the theft of a top-secret science experiment that could annihilate Rome if it’s not found in time.

Clues point to the Illuminati, a centuries-old underground society made up of Catholic free thinkers for whom the fine line between religion and scientific truth is always smudged. Needless to say, this idea doesn’t jibe with the traditional Church’s contention that “ancient traditions [are] threatened by a modern world.” (Prayer chain emails, by extension, must be the root of all evil.) There is, however, never an authentic sense of conflict between these concepts beyond the film’s conspicuous amped-up tempo after the much-maligned sluggish pace of its predecessor. Science and technology may very well lead to the death of theology, but A&D’s preaching lacks any real conviction.