Solo: A Star Wars Story


Swanner: “Solo” is another entry into filling in the missing pieces of the Star Wars story. Like “Rogue One”, its time line is pre “A New Hope”. This shows us a young Han Solo, taking him from a boy on the streets of Corellia to pulling off the legendary Kessel run in 12 parsecs. We also see how Han meets Chewbacca and wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. We get a lot of boxes to check off, but we also get a complete story with new characters we haven’t been introduced to before.

The biggest problem you are going to have with this film, both as an audience member or filmmaker,  is finding someone to play a young Han Solo. Harrison Ford’s portrayal is so iconic that it’s nearly impossible to do. Alden Ehrenreich does a good job trying to give us someone real without trying to do a flat out impression. He does have his go to Han Solo one liners but otherwise he gives a performance that had me forgetting I wasn’t seeing Harrison Ford. The rest of the cast is terrific including Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who voices the amazing L3-37.

There had been talk that the film wasn’t going to work, but I think director Ron Howard and screenwriters Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan give us a solid piece of the Star Wars puzzle. I enjoyed watching the film with a full audience and hearing the excitement as Chewbacca and Lando are introduced; or seeing Lando’s cape closet: so many capes. Like the rest of the series, this film is fun and a great way to kick off summer.

Swanner: 3 1/2 stars

Deadpool 2


Swanner:  Deadpool gathers a team mutants and a guy named Peter together to protect a young boy, Russell (Julian Dennison), with supernatural powers from Cable, (Josh Brolin) a time traveler from the future who has arrived in this time to stop Russell making it to the future. Deadpool must also deal with a great loss. David Leitch (John Wick) directs with Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds bring this very funny screenplay to the screen in a way that looks effortlessly.

Judd: Fans of the first are going to enjoy this sequel, I fell for it the moment the title sequence turned into a Bond spoof replete with Celine Dion belting out the title track. The fact that it is directed by David Leitch, who brought us John Wick and Atomic Blonde, is only icing on the cake. I will admit that the movie doesn’t feel as fresh, but that’s the problem with sequels in general.

Swanner: Always the way with a sophomore effort feels, but there is nothing lazy about this sequel. The script is funnier than the first one because they saw what worked so well in the original, and amped it up from there. Reynolds just seems so comfortable playing the role that much of the dialog seemed natural as if he’s making it up on the spot. My biggest and only problem is with the character of Russell. It reminded me of Saving Private Ryan where everyone risked their lives to save Matt Damon. Matt Damon like Russell here, not worth the loss of life.  

Maybe Reynolds asides were off-the-cuff, and that’s what earned him his writing credit. I completely feel the same as you about Russell. Even after the twist, and knew what it meant to save Russell, I still thought, “Who cares?” I’m curious what Dennison’s connection is to the crew. He’s the weakest of the cast, and while I can’t say he ruined the movie, he definitely brought it down a notch. I’m hoping to see more of Domino in future movies. Zazie Beetz has fantastic screen presence, The fact that Domino’s super power is luck is preposterous, but no more or less, really, than any other super power. It fits perfectly with the Deadpool franchise.

Swanner: Domino was very memorable in a cast of wild characters. This was one of three films that I hav been looking forward to, and I was not disappointed. I wish it didn’t take so long to get a new Deadpool, but either way, this was worth the wait. It’s also nice seeing our good friend, Josh Brolin, having such a good summer. First with Avengers and now with Deadpool. As Brian said, If you loved the original you’ll love the sequel. 

Swanner: 4 stars
Judd: 3 stars

Life of the Party

Swanner: When I saw that Melissa McCarthy was heading “Back to School” I figured this was going to be a remake of sorts of the old Rodney Dangerfield film. Oddly enough, it isn’t like that at all, even though they are quite similar. This film is much nicer and kinder. As they are dropping off their daughter for her senior year in college, DeAnna’s husband, Dan (Matt Walsh), announces he is leaving her for another woman. DeAnna (McCarthy) decides that she is going back to college to get her degree at the same college as her daughter.

Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s husband serves as director here as well as writing the screenplay with McCarthy. McCarthy usually goes rogue in her films, but here she was quite retrained. A lot of that has to do with the fact she plays a regular mom. Even if there are a few overly silly scenes, the film really tries to keep on track. I did feel sorry for Molly Gordon, who plays Maddie, DeAnna’s Daughter. The other sorority girls are all written so funny and different that Gordon’s good daughter character comes off as window dressing. Not her fault, just collateral damage to better defined characters.

I’m sure some people will not see this film for the warm hearted comedy it is because they are expecting some odd loner character from McCarthy. Life of the Party proves she can play a regular mom and open up a whole new world of characters for her. The rest of the cast hold their own up against McCarthy. They include Gillian Jacobs, Debby Ryan, Adria Arjona, Julie Bowen, Stephen Root, Luke Benward, Maya Rudolph, Sarah Baker, Chris Parnell, and Jacki Weaver. All in All, it’s a funny movie with a good message and a lot of heart.

Swanner: 2 1/2 stars