"Solo: A Star Wars Story" Review

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to "Film Discuss" and today we are going to review "Solo: A Star Wars Story".

It has been a few years since Lucasfilm was acquired by Disney in a transaction worth Billions of dollars, that saw the massive entertainment company acquire yet another property under their banner. This saw a resurgence of the Star Wars franchise, continuing their decades old saga stories, as well as creating new stories. The newest addition of which is Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is one of the many planned spin-off by Disney and Lucasfilm whom, under a new regime, want to expand the Star Wars universe into multiple films and franchises that tell other stories in the massive world. One of those stories is that of the original trilogy character Han Solo, initially played by Harrison Ford.

The original Star Wars trilogy began in 1977 with A New Hope, and ended in 1983 with Return Of The Jedi. The franchise saw never before seen special effects, an adventure story with pulp roots, as well as charming and fresh faces cast in the roles of the three main heroes of the story. It became an instant classic, and has sustained fandoms for decades since its creation.

In 2001, the franchise was reinvigorated with a new trilogy that began with The Phantom Menace and ended with Revenge Of The Sith in 2005. Although the new franchise saw commercial success, critically, there was a lot left to be desired. The new prequel trilogy, which focused on the origins of the franchise's main antagonist Darth Vader, failed to live up to audience and critics' expectations. In present day, the prequel trilogy is much maligned by fans, and is something that audiences feel best ignored.

With the new regime at Disney, the Star Wars franchise has experienced resurgence with a new trilogy that continues with the original story and characters, as well as fresher faces in newer characters with mixed reactions from fans and critics. All in all thought, the new planned trilogy can be seen as a massive commercial success. Thereby further Lucasfilm' plans for spin-offs and stand alone movies that tell other stories of new and existing characters. One of those stand alone movies is also a prequel, and the latest Star Wars movie from this iconic franchise.

Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the story, no pun intended, of one of the original characters from the Star Wars mythos; the dashing smuggler Han Solo, now played by newcomer Alden Ehrenreich.

In the original trilogy, the character of Han Solo was a rogue; a hot headed smuggler whose path crosses that of Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill and Obi Wan Kenobi, played by Sir Alec Guinness. Agreeing to transport them to their destination, Han becomes entangled in their cause to free princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher.

The original trilogy saw the character of Han grow from a selfish criminal to a rogue with a heart of gold. This was made even clearer through his romance with Leia, as they shared a volatile relationship, but one of true love. Han was always the one to break the tension, point out the obvious and, in many ways, reflected audience's reactions to the larger than life story about light sword wielding monks fighting one another. Most often with jokes and one liners that since have become a staple of pop culture.

So, a Han Solo prequel needed to showcase all these elements of the famous character, and provide context, insight and motivation behind into him. Something that Solo: A Star Wars Story does in spades.

Not going too far into the childhood of Han, Solo begins with a younger Han trying to improve his life, in order to start anew with his love, Qi'ra. His experiences throughout the course of Solo, are supposed to explain how he becomes the man we see in the other films.

Solo works for many reasons. The recasting of a younger Han Solo took many by surprise, as is the case with trying to envision someone else in the characterization of any beloved fictional character. So the main lead of Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, had an uphill battle from day one. However, the young actor knocks it out of the park with his performance in Solo.

Ehrenreich is able to balance the subtle charm of Han Solo, along with the brash and in-your-face attitude that will eventually become the smuggler fans know and love. Ehrenreich plays Solo as eager and independent, while still realizing he's not the biggest fish in the pond, a characteristic that stays him even in his older days, as seen in The Force Awakens. It's a credit to the young actor that he was so immediately comfortable in the role, and was able to add his own flair, while retaining elements of the character that he played. Believing that Alden Ehrenreich was Han Solo was the easiest challenge of Solo: A Star Wars Story, as Ehrenreich's own charms wins audiences over in the first few scenes alone.

Much of how Ehrenreich played the character of Solo also has to be credited to the screenwriters. Lawrence Kasdan, who was the screenwriter and one of the directors of the original trilogy, knows the character of Han Solo, and was able to capture his essence in the story. Joined by his own son, Jonathan Kasdan, the two infused the story and movie with the soul of Han Solo, and reimagined the character in his youth, to tell a story of what defines him, into the character that is the pop culture icon.

Along with the main lead, Solo: A Star Wars Story boasted of incredible performances across the board. Woody Harrelson plays Beckett, a veteran smuggler who is in part, responsible for a lot of Han's life lessons through the course of the movie. Thandie Newton has a brief appearance as Val, Beckett's strong willed lover who prefers to let her actions do the talking. Paul Bettany as Drydon Vos, the movie's main antagonist, is just as menacing as he is unpredictable. It's always great to have a talented actor like Bettany play a role of a villain. And of course, the fan favourite actor Donald Glover, in the role of another Star Wars original character, Lando Calrissian.

While Glover does not disappoint with his performance, his screen-time is limited to a few sequences. This would not be that surprising, if it weren't for the marketing campaign that heavily focused on Lando, including featurettes, behind the scenes looks, and multiple trailers focusing on the Han-Lando interactions.

And the most notable performance, after Ehrenreich's, has to be that of his love interest, Qi'ra, played by Game Of Thrones star Emilia Clarke. After her attempt to revive the Terminator franchise in Genesys, Solo can be considered Clarke's next big commercial project that looks to distance herself from her popular HBO role. And in that Clarke succeeds.

Clarke plays Qi'Ra initially, as Han's partner in crime; two idealistic lovers looking to get away from it all. When we meet Qi'ra next, she's a lot more practical and a realist. Aligning herself as the right hand of Vos, Qi'ra's past is unknown to us, but she seems well versed in the way of treachery and deceit, something that becomes all too apparent early on in the story. Clarke plays the character with the same glint of idealism in her scenes with Ehrenreich, while maintaining her somber calm with Vos. It's a performance that keeps fans guessing on her intentions from the first frame, all the while making fans want to believe and be swept up in her love story with Han.

All in all, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun and enjoyable movie that digs deep into the mythos of a famous character from the franchise, providing insight into his character and origins, without stepping on existing cannon. However, despite everything that works about Solo, the box office reception of the film has thus far been less than desirable. Some pundits would even declare that Solo: A Star Wars Story is the first flop in the Disney era Star Wars franchise.

The movie had a less than stellar opening, taking in only US$ 84 Million in its opening weekend. This figure was a lot less than the projected amount, especially when taking into consideration that it was a 3-day Memorial Day weekend. While other Star Wars films of the new Disney regime broke box office records, by all means, Solo underperformed. Even when compared to another Star Wars spin-off like Rogue One, Solo can still be seen as an outlier when it comes to box office numbers.

While there may be many factors that attribute to this lukewarm commercial reception, the biggest factor can possibly be a boycott by Star Wars fans, after the critical reception of the previous Star Wars saga movie, The Last Jedi.

The Last Jedi, by many fans, was seen as the anti-Star Wars movie, stating that the movie's themes and content veered too far away from established canon. Many wanted to make their sentiments heard by refusing to indulge in Solo, and seemingly it has been successful, given Solo's dismal Box Office performance.

Another factor to Solo's commercial status may be the behind the scenes drama that occurred months before the film completed production, or was anywhere close to releasing.

Solo: A Star Wars Story was originally directed Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the directing duo behind massive commercial successes such as 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. However, weeks into the production, the duo were unceremoniously terminated, owing to the age old reason given in Hollywood: creative differences. The split between the directors and the management of Disney and Lucas films, was heralded as being amicable. However, speculation and industry reports painted a different picture entirely.

On-set reports claim that the improvisational style of directing that Lord & Miller took, didn't resonate with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, nor with the Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilms. The duo apparently shot multiple versions of the same sequence or scene, veering off into tangents from the original script. The film was also, apparently, was becoming too comedic than any of the creatives behind the project originally anticipated, or even wanted.

After the exit of Lord and Miller, acclaimed director of Apollo 13, Ron Howard was hired to not only finish, but also re-shoot majority of the movie. Both Disney and Lucasfilm handled the transition extremely well, with a well-oiled Public Relations machine that only moved forward from the controversy.

However, for audiences and fans that knew about the behind the scene drama, the damage may have already been done. The already uninteresting subject matter of the film was soured even further by reported on-set incidents of the quality being compromised. Fans were less than excited to be a part of this new chapters of the Star Wars cinematic universe. The numbers reflect that all too obviously.

It's disappointing for all involved, especially when considering that the biggest critical complaint behind Solo: A Star Wars Story, is that it's too reliant on nostalgia and doesn't force a new story or tone for itself. A reaction the complete opposite of that of The Last Jedi.

So, the objective onlookers would assume that fans upset with The Last Jedi, would welcome Solo's nostalgia fuelled look into one of their favourite characters, with open arms. However, the reality is quite the opposite.

Solo: A Star Wars Story could easily have been Disney and Lucasfilm' new Star Wars franchise, with sequels and other ancillary material, however those plans may now be dead in the water. The film was the first movie within the Star Wars cinematic universe that was not beholden to any other film, sequel, or trilogy, but told its own story. And despite its critical quality and completely fun and adventurous nature, the commercial reception of the movie may prevent Ehrenreich the opportunity to shoot anyone else again, first or otherwise.

We are signing-off for now; until next time, ciao!

PS : We will be reviewing the much awaited Bollywood movie, "Dhadak" which stars the daughter of the Late legendary Bollywood actress, Sridevi, Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter! So, stay tuned!

"Dhadak" Review

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to "Film Discuss" and as promised, today we are going to review the Bollywood feature film, "Dhadak".

The most stunning commercial and critical success of 2016 was the Marathi language film Sairat. So much so that the Hindi film industry, more commonly known as Bollywood, decided to remake it into the recently released Dhadak, produced by none other than Karan Johar's production company, Dharma Productions.

The 2016 Marathi movie Sairat had unprecedented success for a regional film that featured no popular or well known stars, boasted of a pretty long run time of almost 3 hours, and was at its core, a very straight forward love story. Sairat had a very good run in film festivals all over the world and was appreciated for its experimental approach to storytelling that became immensely successful.

Acclaimed director, Nagraj Manjule had a very specific story in mind, and he was successful in telling that story how he imagined; an unique love story, not restricted or glamorized or perfected through the lens of the jaded film industry. He achieved this by casting non-actors in the roles of his lead pair. Rinku Rajguru played Archie, the strong willed daughter of a politician. While Akash Thosar played Parshya, a timid and mild manner boy from humble beginnings. Their new and inexperienced chemistry together came across as genuine and authentic. Sairat resonated with audiences due to a freshness that films only imitate, but can never provide. A story that felt like it was an everyday tale, brought to life by everyday performers, simply because they weren't actors, and a supremely talented director.

As the remake culture of the Indian Film Industry is pretty prevalent, a Bollywood remake of Sairat was almost inevitable. Enter Karan Johar, Bollywood's most influential filmmaker and icon, who has recently made it a business of distributing or producing regional movies of India. He initially distributed the global phenomenon Baahubali, and then produced another South Indian film remake with OK Jaanu. Similarly, his banner of Dharma Productions bought the rights to Sairat, and decided to remake it into the Hindi language, Dhadak.

Dhadak released in 2018 and became an instant commercial success. There were many reasons for this, of which Johar only contributed to. The Hindi remake was also directed by an up and coming director, Shashank Khaitan, known for his previous hits such as Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania. Khaitan also wrote the screenplay of Dhadak, which launched two brand new faces into Bollywood. Coincidentally, both actors stem from established families who are already in Bollywood.

Leading the highly anticipated duo of Dhadak was Ishaan Khatter, half-brother of popular Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor. While Dhadak was not technically his film debut, having starred in the India-Iran joint co-production Beyond The Clouds, it can be considered his first official Bollywood debut. His co-star on the other hand, can be considered a lot more high profile than him. Objectively at least.

Joining Khatter in their joint debut in Dhadak, is Janhvi Kapoor, daughter of Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor and the Bollywood iconic actress, the late Sridevi. Kapoor was unfortunate enough to have been in the headlines weeks before her film's release, due to the unexpected and untimely death of her mother. The death of Sridevi, and the subsequent controversy that followed, put an unwanted spotlight on the entire family, namely Janhvi, who was all set to make her Bollywood debut only a few weeks later.

While some emotional moments occurred during Dhadak's trailer launch, and understandably so, Kapoor made a remarkable splash on the industry with her commendable performance in Dhadak. Already establishing herself as a superstar; possibly the best way to honour the memory of her mother.

Returning to Dhadak, the film was received very well with the performances of the two young debutants being applauded. In a story that heavily put the burden of the charm, comedy, drama and emotional impact on these two stars, they performed incredibly and rose above expectations.

The story of Dhadak sees two young lovers, separated by social status and class, having to commit to one another, despite the mounting odds against them. The story of how innocent and youthful love abruptly needs to mature into one with very real stakes in life, and how these two characters deal with it, is what Dhadak is about.

Ishaan Khatter portrays Madhukar, a jovial and idealizing young man who has the biggest crush on his school mate Parthavi, played by Janhvi Kapoor. Kapoor's Parthavi is a headstrong and confident young woman who comes from an affluent background. One of the better elements of the story directly taken from the original Sairat, is how it's the girl who initiates and instigates their courting; at times directly confronting the boy about why he's looking at her. It's refreshing and incredibly empowering to see a girl from a small village in India make her affections known so bluntly, without feigning modesty at the fear of society's judgement of her.

Khatter is incredibly likable as Madhu, much like his elder brother was during his debut. Khatter's boy-next-door good looks, coupled with his depiction of a soft spoken young man give the character a lot of heart. Kapoor's portrayal of Parthavi on the other hand is the complete opposite as she's shown as being outspoken, defiant and very set in her ways. It's a great contrast between the characters that make their chemistry stand out that much more.

For the most part, Dhadak stays more or less true to the original Sairat. While other aspects of the original seem to be lost in translation, which implies a lack of understanding on the filmmaker's part regarding what Sairat was really about.

What made Sairat great was the fact that director Nagraj Manjule cast completely unknown non actors for the roles of the lead couple. Not newcomers. Not debutant actors. But kids who weren't actually actors at all, and weren't trained as such. So their performance came off as genuinely awkward, as teen love usually is. Their interactions and lack of experience, faking emotions, made their shy, quiet but also brash and abrupt expressions of their feelings, that much more real. The Hindi remake however, features two gorgeous lead characters.

Director Shashank Khaitan also frames the shots and blocks scenes in a way that makes it very obvious to audiences that this is a movie. A faux representation of what emotions, feelings and sadness is supposed to look like, instead of genuinely conveying it to the audience as being real. It's one of Dhadak's greatest shortcomings; trying to replicate the aura of source material that happened to work due to the spontaneity in performance of non-actors.

Dhadak also commercializes the runtime of Sairat as well, into an easily digestible 138 minutes, while the original went for 174 minutes. That's more than 30 minutes of the movie that Dhadak doesn't allow audiences to live in the characters lives for. Sairat was effective because we spent a lot of time with the characters, and became that much more invested in their lives.

Not to say that Dhadak is all bad of course. The movie works on its own as standalone movie about a rich girl and a boy from humble background. Dhadak works as a beautiful love story told from the perspective of two young people who try to figure out what love is as they go, and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. It's charming in all the right places, and the chemistry between the leads is magnetic. The most striking scene takes place in the City of Joy Kolkata, where the tragic climax is shot, which leaves the audiences speechless!

Kapoor can already be an established actress based on her performance in Dhadak alone. The young debutant is confident and owns the role with a maturity not seen in actors this young. She has immense screen presence that works to her advantage, and suits the character she's playing. Her back and forth with Khatter is also impressive. With the 'Zingaat' song pictured on them, the two young actors showcase their dancing talents incredibly well.

Khatter seems to have inherited his brother's dancing skills as he tears up the floor with his maniacal moves to the song by Ajay-Atul. Khatter's acting on the other hand, has definite room to grow. While his performance in Dhadak is commendable, the young actor can be seen as being very restraint.

Dhadak is a great attempt as a remake by all involved. Dharma Productions, under the execution of Khaitan, created a wonderful love story that will definitely work for casual and general audiences. However, Sairat is definitely the superior movie of the two. Dhadak took a lot of what made Sairat so successful and watered it down for a different audience, and essentially presented a conflict that felt very much like first-word problems. Not traumatic experiences the couple in Sairat had together, that brought them closer together.

Overall, I would give 7 out of 10, not just because of the great chemistry and performance by Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter, but also because of the extremely refreshing and heart-touching songs, like the title track, Dhadak, Pehli Baar and Vaara Re, which were written by Amitabh Bhattacharya. If you haven't yet watched the film in the theaters, it's my request, to buy the DVD / Blu-ray of the film, when it is out!

We are signing-off for now; until next time, ciao!

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to "Film Discuss" and today we are going to get up-close-and-personal with Actress, Priscilla Avila.

Priscilla Avila is a Brazilian actress and writer. She has appeared in several Brazilian plays, Films and TV Shows, most notably as "Stefani" in 2017's “171 Negocio de Familia” at Universal Channel, Brazil. She speaks Portuguese, French, Spanish and English.

She was born in a very small city in Minas Gerais, Brazil, but she moved to several places from Rio Grande do Sul to Bahia in her early years. Priscilla's exposure to the world of acting came when she moved to Itabuna, Bahia.

She began her career by appearing in several plays and commercials. Her debut in theatre was when she was only 12 years old, and her first commercial was when she was 14 years old.

At 13's, she got invited to be part of the theatre group of the City (TEG), and travels to multiple cities to join Theatre Festivals. Avila and her group won several awards with the plays they produced.

At 15’s, she was constantly acting, writing and painting canvas for the local market, a hobby that she discovered lucrative. In 2001, she also joined the Theatre Group from the University of South of Bahia (UESC).

Inspite of her theater career and commercials, Avila, pursuit her dream about movies, appearing in some short movies in 2009 in Bahia, Brazil.

As a young woman, she remained adamant also about her education. Studying Psychology, and after changing her field for Foreign Languages, Culture and Creative Economy. She learned several languages in college and began to travel around the world to complement her acting skills. She did some acting training in Argentina, France and later in the US.

In 2012, she traveled to Paris to find some gigs. She appeared in TV in a famous music video from the movie of Les Kairas, and she was part of a short film with the french actress, Esther Garrel. Despite her fast debut in the French industry, her visa status in France made her come back to Brazil in 3 months, and moved to Sao Paulo to improve her cinema career.

While continuing her career in Brazil, Avila earned a post-degree in Cinema from a Brazilian University in Sao Paulo. She won also a scholarship for the Summer Art Course in Santa Fe University, NM in 2014 and it was her first time in the US.

Avila's increasingly intellectual and passionate approach towards filmmaking culminated in her writing Brazilian scripts for film and one for TV show that’s still in production. She was obstinate to write some good roles for herself in order to move her Brazilian acting career further, but her ambitious behavior made her come again to the US in 2017, and join some great workshops and meetings that ended up in Avila trying to move to Los Angeles in 2018. Now Priscilla Avila is determined to improve her English and become an International Actress.

TV & Film Experience:-

2000 - Institutional TV Commercials, Brazil.

2002 - TV Commercial for Brazil Cosmeticos, Brazil.

2008 - TV Commercial Honda Motors, Brazil.

2010 - Short Movie - Murilinho, Brazil.

2010 - Short Movie - Lixo no Lixo, Brazil.

2012 - Short Movie - Les Carres Blancs, France.

2012 - Music Video - Le son des Kairas, France.

2012 - Short Movie - Bold, France.

2012 - Short Movie - O Banheiro, Brazil.

2012 - TV Commercial Brahma, Brazil.

2012 - Short Movie - Me tira daqui, Brazil.

2013 - TV Commercial InfoJobs, Brazil.

2013 - Web Series - Quarteto Mortal, Brazil.

2013 - Short Movie - My Dark Side, Brazil.

2013 - Espelho do Sol, Brazil.

2013 - Short Movie - Retweet, Brazil.

2013 - Web Series - Entre o Ceu e o Inferno, Brazil.

2013 - Private TV Series - TV Anhembi, Brazil.

2014 - Film - Distanasia, Brazil.

2014 - Short Movie - Existencia Seca, Brazil.

2014 - Short Movie - A sua Imagem, Brazil.

2015 - Music Video - Nicola Son, Brazil.

2015 - TV Commercial - Eletropaulo, Brazil.

2015 - Short Movie - Cibele, Brazil.

2016 - Internet Commercial - Bavarian Nuts, Brazil.

2016 - Short Movie - Mama, Brazil.

2017 - TV Series - 171 Negocio de Familia. Universal Channel, Brazil.

2018 - TV Mini-Series - Cidade Grande no Escuro, Brazil.

2018 - TV Series - Os Irmaos Freitas. Turner TV, Brazil.

2018 - Film - Hello Au Revoir. England, UK.

2018 - Short Movie - Blurred, US.

Priscilla Avila on IMDb : www.imdb.com/name/nm4415164

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