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Han Solo's Star Wars movie is entertaining but unremarkable by Ryan Hill

 
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After The Force Awakens, Rogue One and the upcoming Episode IX, it’s almost expected a new Star Wars film is going to have production issues. Expectations are always through the roof for a Star Wars film, and there’s simply too much money – via box office, merchandising, life – riding on each new entry to not get it right. Solo is no exception and may have been the most difficult of all, firing the directors in the middle of production.

First thing’s first. Most films that fire their director (or directors, in Solo’s case) during production don’t turn out well. Solo turned out just fine.

Solo finds the title character (played by Alden Ehrenreich) starting out on his journey toward full scoundrel, even introducing a younger Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and the famed Kessel Run that’s been mentioned throughout the series. This Solo isn’t on the run from Jabba the Hut; no, he’s lovelorn over being separated from his love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and wants nothing more than to reunite with her. That and be a pilot.

After directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the two Jump Street movies, The LEGO Movie) were let go, Ron Howard was brought in to right the ship. The Oscar-winning director shot around 70 percent of the finished product, but it’s unclear what shape Lord and Miller’s footage was in – at least the footage that wasn’t used. What’s there, like Howard’s is fine but unremarkable.

The combined work seen in Solo is fun, but it’s clear some scenes were rushed as Howard & Co. had less than a year to make that May 25, 2018 release date. Cinematography in some scenes, especially early in the film, are too smoky (hopefully watching Solo on Blu-ray or in 4K definition will clear that up), there’s very little in the way of insert shots or anything that resembles nuance. The filmmakers simply had no time. The most compelling character is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s equal-rights-for-all android, L3-37, probably due to the special effects crew being hard at work well before Howard took over.

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Ehrenreich (Hail Caesar!), given the awesome opportunity to play Han Solo but also the unenviable task of replacing Harrison Ford, is perfectly fine in the role. He doesn’t have Ford’s charisma, but it’s important to note that this iteration of Solo isn’t that Solo. The seeds are there, but he’s young, optimistic and a bit naïve. The main standout besides Waller-Bridge is, of course, Glover as Lando. Glover’s always had that “it” factor, but channeling Billy Dee Williams sends his charisma into the cosmos.

Get it? Cosmos? Because this is a review for a Star Wars movie?

If the powers-that-be had pushed Solo’s release back to, say, Christmas 2018, following in the pattern of every Star Wars film since The Force Awakens, Ron Howard maybe could’ve crafted something special. It’s amazing he pulled off what he did and yes, Solo is worth seeing. It’s broad, easily digestible and is better than Rogue One, which really lags in the middle. But this is Han freakin’ Solo. A movie bearing his name should be more than just worth seeing.

Maybe if there’s a sequel, they’ll hit it out of the park. But what would it be called? Solo 2: Flyin’ Solo? Solo 2 Solo? Solo 2: 2 Solo’s Make A Couple? Solo 2: The Chewie Connection? Solo 2: Time to Lando? Book of Shadows: Solo 2?

 

 

Hate to say it, but A Wrinkle In Time is not good by Ryan Hill

 
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In Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, people communicate with flowers, Mindy Kaling speaks in quotes (ranging from Gandhi to Chris Tucker), Oprah Winfrey’s first appearance looms large over everyone (it is Oprah after all) and the film’s emotional anchor is played by Captain James T. Kirk, though in fairness Chris Pine is a good actor. That’s A Wrinkle in Time. If that sounds like a mess, it’s because it is a mess. And that stinks.

Adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, the film stars Storm Reid as Meg, a 13-year-old who’s been in and out of trouble since her scientist father (Pine) disappeared without a trace. She has an adopted younger brother, who’s been palling around with three mystical women known as the W’s, played by Kaling, Winfrey and Reece Witherspoon. Once Meg learns of this, it’s decided – by the others – it’s time for all of them to look for her father.

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In a taped message before the film’s screening, DuVernay said she made Wrinkle with the intent of making the audience feel like they were 12 or 13 again, and in that regard the film is a success. With a vibe similar to other kid-oriented fantasies like The NeverEnding Story, Wrinkle feels like a blockbuster made specifically for kids. That also means scenes play out longer than they should, dialogue is overly simple, and the children in the film are never in danger, even when they are. One scene is supposed to have Meg being violently whipped around, but she never really moves.

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The bigger issue with Wrinkle is that what works in a book won’t always work in a film. Some of the film’s visuals are fantastic, but there isn’t much of a plot. Meg isn’t a very active main character most of the time, doing little more than complaining as the others hold her hand, whisking her off to different places in the universe. There, they ask the locals, be it Zach Galifianakis or a bunch of flowers, if they saw her dad. Once the answer is no, the W’s whisk the kids off to the next place.

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It’s not until the third act that the plot kicks in and a villain takes shape. That doesn’t even get into the bits of stunted, awkward dialogue lifted straight from L’Engle’s novel, which was first released in 1962.

A Wrinkle in Time marks a watershed moment for minority directors, especially coming so close to the amazing success of Ryan Coogler and Black Panther. Wrinkle is the first film directed by a woman of color to feature a budget or more than $100 million. That’s a big, big deal. Directors, regardless of sex or race, deserve the chance to make bigger-budgeted fare like Wrinkle, and an influx of different perspectives can only make commercial films more interesting in the future. Wrinkle just isn’t one of them.

THE CARVER'S Jacob Devlin Steps Into THE AUTHORDOME by Ryan Hill

 

Full disclosure: I've only read maybe 35 pages of Jacob Devlin's debut THE CARVER. Not because it's bad - on the contrary, I'm digging it. There are a lot of moving parts, and Jacob isn't rushing to have them converge, which I love. It's the sign of a good storyteller. 

No, I haven't read more because I've been knee deep in edits for THE BOOK OF BART - VERSE 2. It's amazing how sometimes it takes 30-45 minutes to come up with one throwaway joke that the reader may do little more than smirk at.

But I digress. It's time... FOR ANOTHER EDITION OF AUTHORDOME!

Two authors enter.

Two authors leave.

THE GIRL IN THE RED HOOD has been looking for her mother for six months, searching from the depths of New York’s subways to the heights of its skyscrapers . . . 

THE PRINCE looks like he’s from another time entirely, or maybe he’s just too good at his job at Ye Old Renaissance Faire . . . 

THE ACTRESS is lighting up Hollywood Boulevard with her spellbinding and strikingly convincing portrayal of a famous fairy. Her name may be big, but her secrets barely fit in one world . . . 

Fifteen-year-old Crescenzo never would have believed his father’s carvings were anything more than “stupid toys.” All he knows is a boring life in an ordinary Virginia suburb, from which his mother and his best friend have been missing for years. When his father disappears next, all Crescenzo has left is his goofy neighbor, Pietro, who believes he’s really Peter Pan and that Crescenzo is the son of Pinocchio. What’s more: Pietro insists that they can find their loved ones by looking to the strange collection of wooden figurines Crescenzo’s father left behind. 

With Pietro’s help, Crescenzo sets off on an adventure to unite the real life counterparts to his figurines. It’s enough of a shock that they’re actually real, but the night he meets the Girl in the Red Hood, dark truths burst from the past. Suddenly, Crescenzo is tangled in a nightmare where magic mirrors and evil queens rule, and where everyone he loves is running out of time.

Link to Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29918359-the-carver

Purchase Links:

BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo TBD | iBooks

Can Jacob fictitiously survive THE AUTHORDOME? Let's find out...

THE CARVER is a road trip novel. What's your favorite road trip book/movie/etc.? THE CARVER is an acceptable answer. 

ZOMBIELAND is definitely an eternal fave. I think I’ll always be partial to those goofy movies about the Griswolds though, especially VEGAS VACATION. If THE CARVER becomes a movie one day, it is my secret wish that “Holiday Road” goes on the soundtrack :-P

Are there any classic characters you wanted to include in THE CARVER that you weren't able to? 

In the earliest draft before Blaze (Publishing - the pub that released THE CARVER) even saw the manuscript, Tarzan was part of the Order, but something didn’t feel right about that. I also wanted to bring out some familiar Oz names in bigger roles, which are in the public domain, but there was already so much going on in both THE CARVER and the world of Oz retellings. I imagine Dorothy and friends are probably running around in the background somewhere, but I’m going to leave that up to the reader’s imagination. 

Are you familiar with THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN? That's supposedly a great Alan Moore graphic novel series, but it was such a crappy film it forced Sean Connery into retirement. Anyway. Are you familiar with the property? Do you see any parallels between it and THE CARVER? 

Hey, I saw that movie! But I liked the idea of the movie better than I liked the actual movie. I’ve always been a big fan of mashups, crossovers, and letting worlds collide, so I can definitely see the parallel.

You've recently taken up sword fighting, correct? How do you think Pinocchio would fare in a sword fight? I feel like his opponent would just chip away at him, piece by piece. 

Yessss! I’m officially a “white belt” in Haidong Gumdo, which isn’t an impressive accomplishment. But see, I actually feel like Pinocchio has the advantage. Because I’d be over there trying to block his sword, but he could just run around spewing lies and gain the advantage. Either his nose could skewer me, or I’d get so tired of infinitely hacking at it that I’d just, like, black out or something.

Speaking of swords, how heavy is the one you wield? Does having one make you wonder how people in the Middle Ages could fight with one while also wearing a suit of metal? Seems kind of crazy to me. 

Ha! It’s one of those long wooden practice bokkens, which is probably less than two pounds. Sometimes after spending 75 minutes flinging it around though, it hurts to lift a pencil, so I have crazy respect for anybody who can run around with a real sword while wearing armor and balancing on a horse!

Does your sword have a name? If not, it should. Even King Arthur's sword was named Excalibur. 

I was actually thinking about this on my way home today! I haven’t settled on one yet, but I’ve thought of a few options: Godric (Eh! Get it, because of Gryffindor?), Veturius (except I already named my car that, so…), or something totally unassuming like, maybe Larry. Because nobody would ever be afraid of a Larry, right? So its terrible power would catch my enemies way off guard.

Ryan note: Definitely go with Larry. Or Bob. Not even Google knows who Veturius was. GOOGLE!

Next up for you is a novella set in THE CARVER's universe. What else do you have coming up? Any other series planned? How many installments do you foresee for THE CARVER? 

If I can finish the story in three novels, that’s what I’m aiming for. The hope was always a trilogy because it would be a nice tribute to the central trio of Pinocchio, Alice, and Peter Pan, or for each of their kids. There will also be a number of novellas released in between to offer backstories on the other characters and worlds. It’s strange, exciting and a little sad to think about, but the series needs an endgame, and it’s only a matter of time before I finish the story of THE CARVER and need to branch out into new material. I have three fun ideas written down that I’ve been hanging onto for a while (little teaser: sea demons, aliens, or reality shows). We’ll see what calls to me first!

Do you have any other creative re-imaginings floating around in your head, like making ALICE IN WONDERLAND about some hippy in 1960s San Francisco that's always tripping on psychedelics, which is why it's called ALICE IN WONDERLAND? If you haven't, you can have that Alice idea. Free of charge. 

Dude, I would totally read that! Wonderland’s actually my focus for THE CARVER’s sequel and it’s been a blast to play around with such an iconic place. One of my three ideas from the last question may or may not have elements of THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF if I ever get to it. Otherwise, I’d love to sink my teeth into an Inferno twist one day! But do I really wanna mess with Dante, though? Like, really really?

Ryan note: No. Stay away from Dante and his Inferno. That stuff falls into BOOK OF BART territory. I'd have to fight you. I've never swung a sword, so you've got me there. I'd have to pull a Bart and show up in a tux, rocking a Walther PPK. DO NOT DOUBT ME!

In haiku format, tell us why we should read/buy THE CARVER. 

Wait, that's five words, right?
Followed by five other words?
Forgot how these work.

Ummm...

Peter Pan grew up.
Why's Hansel acting so strange?
Let's take a road trip.

Thanks Jacob!

Thank YOU man!