Posted in Blog Posts, Flick Central, Star Wars

SOLO: a Star Wars Story, based on characters from George Lucas: a Film Review

Synopsis:

Set a decade before Star Wars: A New Hope we discover the beginnings of Han Solo’s story.

Han and his love, Qi’ra, are orphans on the planet of Corellia trying to escape from the local gang…a place that is run by them and often the only way to stay alive is to be part of the mob.  Having stolen a vial of pure hyperdrive fuel, called coaxium, the pair attempt to flee by bribing an Imperial Officer.

Han manages to escape but Qi’ra was recaptured by the gang.  He vows to come back for her and as he continues to flee, Han is nearly caught.  So he joins the Imperial Navy and is given the last name “Solo” since he had no last name.

Three years later, Han is determined to get back to save his girl when he encounters a group of criminals posing as Imperial soldiers.  Having been discharged from the Imperial Academy for insubordination, he attempts to blackmail the head of the crew and when that doesn’t fly he ends up arrested and tossed into jail to be fed to another prisoner, a Wookie named Chewbacca.  Han is able to persuade him to join forces and escape to, thankfully, be picked up by the criminals who had him arrested in the first place.

The crew reveals that they have been hired to do a train heist, and the payout would be enormous.  The pair can assist but are told to follow orders and their payout would be enough to buy their own ship…

General Information:

-Genre: Space Western. Science-fantasy Heist

-Creator: based on characters from George Lucas

-Length: 135 minutes

-Rating: PG-13 (mild science fiction violence, mild profanity, some use of alcohol and drug innuendos, some intense scenes, moderate amounts of crime)

-Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video (Buy/Rent), iTunes (Buy/Rent), Disney+ (with subscription), DVD, Blue-Ray, or look for it at your local library

-Main Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany

-Page of Reference in RP1: 62 (see the article about why we chose to include this here )

Review (contains spoilers):

I LOVED THIS MOVIE.  I don’t know why I had waited so long to watch this one!  I’ve found lately that I tend to enjoy the stories set in the universe more than the Skywalker Saga films.

They are some of the greatest things that Disney has done with the franchise in my opinion.  Because they are (insert film genre) first and “Star Wars” second.

I don’t feel like I have to know every single last thing about the Star Wars universe to love the films.  I don’t have to understand and watch all of the Clone Wars to understand why General Grievous coughs (I looked it up because it was just weird for a droid to do that…) or feel like a fool for missing some small nuance in the background of some scene.

Just like the Marvel films, for the most part are another genre then a superhero film, the stories set in the Star Wars world are just wonderful films.  This was a GREAT heist film, it was an incredible space WESTERN.  And it was also a Star Wars movie.

It had MAJOR Firefly vibes.  It had action and daring and crime and romance. And deceit.  And everything a good heist/crime film should have in it.  THAT is what I love.  I love being able to change out the characters for fully original characters and the movie still makes sense.  I love even more that they’ve created something new with characters that we all know and love in the first place.

It gives a level of dimension that we are lacking…or fleshes out the characters in a way that we never thought of before.

Truly a great film.  But if you want a “Star Wars” film…you’ll probably be disappointed.  But I wasn’t.

Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Posted in Blog Posts, Flick Central

Firefly, created by Joss Whedon: a Television Review

Synopsis:

The year is 2517 and humanity had worn out the old Earth. So they have terriformed hundreds of other Earth like planets. Some, like the inner allied planets, thrive on technology and the protection that comes with being allied together. Others, such as those on the outer edges, are not so lucky.

For those who have the mind, and want the freedom, they will take just about any job. These rogues run anything from supplies to medicine to people to where ever their money will take you.

The crew of the Serenity (a Firefly class space vessel) is one of these such crews. While on Persephone, a planetary port, they pick up several passengers and a large piece of cargo that is to accompany one of the men. When they head out from port things get dicey for both the crew and their passengers when the contents of the package and the type of jobs the Serenity takes on are revealed.

General Information:

-Genre: Space Western or Science-Fiction Western

-Creator: Joss Whedon

-Length: 14 45 minute episodes with the Pilot running 2 hours with commercials (11 ran on FOX in the US during it’s airing from 2002-2003)

-TV Rating: TV-14 (due to nudity, sexual situations and discussions, violence, and references and flashbacks to war)

-Where to watch: DVD, Blue-ray, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, or check your local library for copies!

-Main Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass

-Page of Reference in RPO: 49

Review (contains spoilers):

I have been watching Firefly regularly over the last 15 years and I must say that when I started this project and sat down to re-watch the series it had been a few years since my last viewing. Sad I know.

I forgot just how good the writing was…but only when watched in the correct order (see Firefly, the Forgotten Fandom for more on that).

While watching through the character developments and the story lines all I can return to is how sad it was that this show got cancelled and we never got to know about so many layers of the characters.

Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is the guy in charge of the whole operation. He’s commanding, commandeering, a bit rough around the edges. A bit of a rogue and has a swashbuckling presence that wouldn’t be out of place in the days of piracy. Which is perfect. Because that is just what he is…a space pirate. Yet, he has a side that is unlike what he shows to the world. One that is loyal and dedicated to his crew.

Zoe Washburn (Gina Torres) is the hard kicking, straight laced sidekick. Joined by her husband, Hoban “Wash” Washburn (Alan Tudyk), these three form the main base of the crew. Zoe was Mal’s right hand during the war where they fought on the side of the rebellion and lost. Wash is the pilot of the Serenity and pulls off some insanely important moves that save the crew many times over. The relationship between the Washburn’s feels so real, so true. They balance each other well through their devotion to each other and their marriage is stunning throughout all the pressure put on it by being on the edge of the law.

Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye (Jewel Staite) is by far one of my favorite characters. She is bright eyed, joyful, loving and innocent in so many ways. Yet she always feels authentic in her enthusiasm and her view on the world. She is obsessed with beautiful things but is almost always covered in grime from fixing her beloved Serenity despite what and how many times the Captain puts the ship in danger. Everyone in the crew (minus maybe Jayne) is very protective of and loves Kaylee deeply.

Which brings us to the last official member of the Serenity crew when we join them on Persephone as they pick up new passengers. Jayne Cobb (Alex Baldwin), is a sharp shooting, man’s man which works well for him in the backwater deep west feel of the outer planets. He’s an avid collector of firearms and always has a fist to spare in a bar fight with Mal. A mercenary by trade everyone knows they are always one good price away from him selling them all down the river which makes him authentic in the wild-card, ne’re-do-well, charming rogue sort of way.

Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin) brings some dignity to the crew. She is a registered Companion which is basically a very legal and very respected high-end escort, seductress, sex worker, societal woman, and discreet assassin rolled into one. A 26th-century Giesha if you will. She rents a shuttle on the Serenity and gives the whole outfit a level of class that allows them to dock in places that would otherwise be off limits to the rag-tag band. She has her own secrets that unfold but that we never truly get to hear the climax of because the show was cancelled.

While in Persephone we see the crew pick up a set of new high paying passengers who all accept the risk of travelling under the radar of the Alliance and the danger that travelling the outer planets can entail.

Shepard Derrial Book (Ron Glass) becomes the spiritual leader to the crew in a round about way. He is the moral compass of the crew, whether they like it or not…and it often brings him in conflict with Mal and Jayne. We never find out where he comes from or how he was trained in combat or why he has an extensive knowledge of Alliance criminal proceedings that he occasionally uses to keep everyone safe. His mysterious past is part of his intrigue.

Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) is the most reluctant of the “new” crew members. He boards at the beginning of the show with a large piece of property that he watches the loading of with great concern. We quickly learn that this intelligent, well-mannered and quiet doctor is hiding the biggest secret on the ship. His sister, River Tam (Summer Glau). Seemingly law-abiding and tight-laced Simon snuck into the Academy she was sent to and drags her out, trauma and all. River is all but delusional when she appears…naked and in stasis. She struggles with her grip on reality, has insane fighting skills that seem programmed directly into her brain and some psychic abilities that are never truly explained. They find a tenuous place in the crew where Simon begins to fall in love with Kaylee and River starts to become more stable in the fairly unstable world of Serenity.

What we get out of all of this is ONE singular and beyond promising season of brilliant television. And that is it.

We get more questions than answers even with the follow up movie, Serenity.

This is what we walk away with:

Mal is a jerk and it makes for entertaining film particularly when his pig-headed attitude does things like get himself into a gentleman’s duel (with swords) or dressed up as a lady in his “pretty floral bonnet”. Inara’s depth and profession as a Companion are beyond intriguing. Add in a mysterious vial that we can only deduce later may be a medication of some kind and there are so many levels of intrigue within her character. The banter and budding relationship between the two of them remains one of the most irritating parts of the cancellation of the show. We could have seen so much more from this pair.

Shepard Book’s mysterious past may have been explained as would his need to save as many souls in redemption as he can. The biggest question is what happened to make him repent endlessly till his last breath? Jayne and his insane collection of guns would have made for some entertaining television, especially if we ever saw a time when he may have been offered enough to sell out the crew…and if at that time they were enough of a family to make him reconsider.

And speaking of family! Wash and Zoe and their incredible marriage! Would they have gotten their own boat? Or stayed aboard? Or would they have eventually settled down and started a family of their own?

What about River’s trauma and crazy mind powers? Does she ever recover or is she ever able to move on? And the romance that blossomed between Simon and Kaylee was nothing short of perfection. I wish we could have seen so much more of how their little group and their relationships developed.

Overall, a wonderful and delightful show that ended too soon.

It was followed by a single film to “wrap up” the story which will get a separate review (Serenity Review) with my personal thoughts about the ending.

Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

(would be a full 5 if the series hadn’t been messed up by FOX’s airing schedule because we would have gotten MORE!)

Photo from Google… official DVD cover…

Posted in Blog Posts, Flick Central

Serenity, created by Joss Whedon: a Film Review

Synopsis:

The film opens on a new character, The Operative, going through files on Simon and River Tam which doesn’t seem to bode well for the siblings and the crew in the long run.

We rejoin the crew of Serenity as they continue their journey through space…but the ties are currently tenuous. Inara has left the boat, Shepard Book has settled in a community of his own, Simon and River are on the verge of leaving, and Mal seems to be dead set on pushing away most of the crew.

As they set out to do a new job, things get more complicated. What is a routine mission for the group, a bank job, turns sour when Reavers attack…and River is able to sense them.

Simon decides they will be leaving Serenity…but in a twist of events River is activated and knocks out the entire bar they are in while Simon is negotiating safe passage. This pushes Mal to the edge. And the film follows through this problem and its inevitable end at the mysterious “Miranda”.

General Information

-Genre: Space Western, Science-Fiction Drama

-Creator: Joss Whedon

-Length: 119 minutes, feature length film

-Film Rating: PG-13 (For violence, sexual situations, weapons, death and violent injury, implied rape and sexual assault)

-Where to watch: DVD, Blue-ray, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu (with a plug in), or check your local library for a copy!

-Main Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, Chiwetel Ejiofor

-Page of Reference in RP1: 49

Review (contains spoilers):

A less than satisfactory end to what could have been a long running and landscape changing show.

We are finally reunited with our beautiful crew, 8 months after the Tams set foot on Serenity. The movie starts by revealing some of the mystery behind River’s escape by the hands of her brother Simon. We find that someone is on the hunt for our beloved girl and that her abilities may not be what we see…the insanity, the trauma, the mental anguish and, as we find out, the deadly weapon that she has been trained to be.

We discover some of the mysteries and answer a few of the questions we have asked along the way.

Simon and Kaylee have feelings that we see flourish throughout the film. Wash and Zoe are still amazing together…and Mal and Jayne are themselves.

Though Mal seems more angry and more vicious in his words. Maybe its because Inara moved off of Serenity (for unknown reasons though we can guess that it is because of her mysterious illness and a major fight with the Captain). Maybe he’s just mad at Simon for his over-protectiveness of River. Or maybe he just has a bee in his pretty floral bonnet.

In the end, Serenity is a wonderful piece of science-fiction film. The fights are beautifully choreographed. River’s character develops in a way we never thought we would see. We learn the origins of the Reavers, how the Alliance has been negotiating and killing for years under covert operations.

But the things we lose are not only less than satisfying…they are devastating and are the one time I really feel that Whedon went for the shock factor in an unnecessary way. Wash didn’t need to die. There were other ways that he could have created the feeling that they may not all get out alive. And with his death we had all hopes of his and Zoe’s future taken away. For a shock.

And while we get a wrap up for somethings, like Simon and River becoming a real part of the crew. Mal getting back to himself. Inara coming back… Kaylee and Simon starting something. Jayne is Jayne.

The Alliance is beyond weakened by the broadcast Mal sends out.

As a single film, if you don’t know the show….its wonderful. A full story tied up nicely in a bow. But for the fans….its a difficult pill to swallow as the last time we will see our beloved Serenity and her daring crew.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

(because it’s a great stand alone…but left us wanting as fans…)

Photo from Google… promotional movie poster