Film Review: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (USA 2018) ***1/2

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Solo: A Star Wars Story Poster
During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.


Ron Howard


(The review contains a few plot points. that should not spoil ones enjoyment of the film) 

Han Solo, is the space outlaw made famous by Harrison Ford ever since the first blockbuster STAR WARS wowed the world is.  It would be a treat for Star Wars fans if Ford made an appearance in this movie.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is the second of the Star Wars anthology films following ROGUE ONE in 2016.  The film is a stand-alone instalment set prior to the events of A NEW HOPE.  As the title implies, the film follows the adventures of the beginnings of Solo (played this time around by a younger Alden Ehrenreich) before he joins forces with Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.  The film is written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan and directed by Ron Howard taking over the direction after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were let go owing what the studio cited as ‘artistic differences’.  Lord and Miller are still credited as executive producers.

A good exercise watching the film would be to guess which section was directed by Lord and Miller and which were taken over by Howard.  The former made the crazy LEGO MOVIE, which might have been too much for the Star Wars franchise.

The film opens with young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) fighting for survival on a desolate planet while having the dream of becoming a pilot to fly his ship among the stars.  But first he has to get out of the hell hole.  He and his love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) attempt to but she is captured at the last minute, Solo escaping promising to return to the planet to save her.  This opening escape sequence (with the introduction of great sets, odd creatures and stunning alien landscape) is done really well and sets up the stage for an exciting film, which fortunately director Howard delivers.  The story goes on to Solo meeting with a master criminal, Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who becomes Solo’s mentor.  They eventually embark on a task to aid Master Criminal Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) steal prized fuel from a distant planet.  Along the way, other new characters are introduced including Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Solo’s Wookiee sidekick and best friend.  

The film introduces new terms like gravity well, hyper fuel, Crimson Dawn just to list a few.  The film reveals (good for Star Wars paraphernalia) how Han Solo got his name, how he and Chewbacca originally met and how he got his first starship to fly.

Alden Ehrenreich, a star in the making, creates an excellent Han Solo,  the new super young action hero, the space outlaw who will gradually grow into Harrison Ford in the later films.  The other new actors like Clarke and Donald Golver as Lando Calrissian also prove their worth standing besides veterans like Harrelson and Bettany.

The film contains all the elements of a good action movie – betrayal, love, sacrifice and exciting action set-pieces.  There is the classic climatic fight between hero (Solo) and villain, Dryden.  The ending includes both a plot twist and a western-like showdown.

SOLO: A STAR WARS film turns out to be another solid action space western in the Star Wars franchise, another winner for director Ron Howard, translating to lots of money for Disney studios.


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Film Review: KAYAK TO KLEMTU (Canada 2017)

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Kayak to Klemtu Poster
14-year-old Ella is determined to travel the length of the Inside Passage, along the shores of the Great Bear Rainforest by kayak in order to testify against a proposed pipeline that would …See full summary »


What begins like a documentary eventually turns into a story settling on a teenage girl’s mission.  The words displayed during the opening credits inform the audience of an upcoming native hearing on a judgement of oil tankers passing through their lands that may cause damage to native resources.  The 14-year old Ella, a native, (Ta’Kaiya Blaney), is asked by her Uncle Dave (Evan Admas) before his death to testify at this hearing to be held in the community of Klemtu. 

The title, KAYAL TO KELMTU refers to the trip by kayak undertaken by Ella.  Ella decides to grant her Uncle Dave’s dying wishes – which includes scattering his ashs along the way.  The trip allows Ella (and the audience, obviously) to discover the land and then deliver her testimony at the end of the trip at Klemtu.

This is a film that delivers a strong message for the indigenous people.  Their lands have been stolen and violated.  It is time to stop – beginning at halting the oil tankers from travelling through their inland waters.  One oil spill and the damage will be irreversible. Klemtu, is a tiny community in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, where Ella’s family used to live.  Ella is thrown for a loop when she’s joined by her wacky aunt (Sonja Bennett), wayward cousin (Jared Ager-Foster) and cranky uncle (Lorne Cardinal).  As they make their way up the Inside Passage to Klemtu, not only is the trip a challenge, so too are the family dynamics. 

Despite the filmmakers’ good intentions, the film aimed at a family audience turns out too crowd pleasing, manipulative (like the the bear hunting encounter) and at times unbelievable.  The script also (too obvious) contains some Hollywood-style powerful crowd arousing dialogue.  Ella’s mother says: “That pipeline does not stand a chance, ” as Ella partakes of the trip to the hearing.

One of the most impressive aspects of the film are the stunning scenery of the British Columbia natural landscapes.  The camera lingers from the rocks on the shores of the rives to the forests to the mountains and even the pretty little flowers and vegetation, all part of the greater nature of things.

Young actress Ta’Kaiya Blaney who in real life is an environmental activist delivers a winning performance.  The only trouble is that she always looks too perfect with perfect make-up and tidy hair even after spending 4 consecutive days and nights in a rainstorm. At Klemtu, the audience suddenly sees her and her aunt wearing fashionable coordinated bright new parkas.  

Despite the film’s faults, credit must be given to Hopkins and crew for trying.  The film sends an important message to save native natural resources.  But the more important message is that everyone, whether directly affected or not, should do his/her own to save Mother Earth.  The film, a crowd pleaser, won the audience award at the 2017 imagineNATIVE and Powell River festivals, and took Best Canadian First Feature at Victoria 2018.


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Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami Poster

Larger than life, wild, scary and androgynous – Grace Jones plays all these parts. Yet here we also discover her as a lover, daughter, mother, sister and even grandmother, as she submits …See full summary »


Sophie Fiennes


Directed by Sophie Fiennes (sister of Ralph and Joseph Fiennes) who made THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY, this doc on Grace Jones is not the typical biographical doc.  

The doc shares Fiennes’ sense of humour, evident in the aforesaid mentioned film about ideology seen from the point of view of Slovene philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek.  In the case of GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI, the doc follows the model, actress and drama queen as she travels to world, particularly to her home country of Jamaica where the audience sees her at home with family.  In short, the doc plays like a Grace Jones reality show.

Many first heard of Grace Jones in the role of bad woman MAY DAY in the James Bond flick A VIEW TO A KILL with 007 Bond Roger Moore.  Of all the Bond secondary villains, only two have survived the test of time – Jaws and May Day.  From then on, Jones has become larger than life, wild, scary and androgynous.  She is now a pop culture icon at the ripe age of almost 70, but still blessed with the good looks of a woman under 40.  

Director Fiennes reveals Jones also as a lover, daughter, mother, sister, and even grandmother.  Filmed over the course of a decade, Grace Jones has become an electrifying journey through the performance, private and public worlds of the Jamaican-born singer. 

Fiennes intersperses the doc with various spritely musical numbers that lifts her film to ecstatic nights as Grace know how to captivate her audience.  Her performances are colourful from the lighting of the shows to her elaborate costumes that include the most outrageous hats.

The film running quite long at almost 2 hours, could have been trimmed.   The best thing about this doc is watching these performances including the song numbers “Slave to the Rhythm” and “Hurricane”.  Still, what is missing that should be included is a clip of Jones fighting James Bond in A VIEW TO A KILL.  (I had to Youtube the film trailer to catch a glimpse of Jones when writing this review.) 

Jones is also shown as a tough cookie.  She only performs when paid in advance.  Once she refuses to perform around surrounding females (in Paris) as she claims she looks like a Madame in a female brothel.  She wants the female dancers replaced by males.  Jones can also speak English with a French accent (she does speak French too) and also with a British and Jamaican accent.

The prize segment of the doc is Grace chatting with her grandmother.  Her grandmother is beyond shy, with her breasts (despite her age) being the best in show.  Her words to Grace are all hilarious.

The film premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival with Grace present as one knows this woman just loves the spotlight.  



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