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Josh Reviews Solo!

Solo takes place in the years prior to the original Star Wars, when the galaxy is still under the thumb of the Empire.  Young Han and his friend Qi’ra (pronounced like Kira, which makes me think of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) have grown up in the slums of Corellia, scrounging a meager existence as thieves for an alien criminal called Lady Proxima.  When an escape attempt goes awry, Han manages to hitch a ride off-planet, but Qi’ra is left behind.  Han vows to return for her, but his plan to join the Imperial navy and become a pilot is thwarted when he’s kicked out of the flight academy for, as he puts it, having a mind of his own.  The result is that Han winds up as a Stormtrooper grunt, fighting the Empire’s wars in the dirt of a nameless world.  But when Han discovers a group of thieves, led by a man named Tobias Beckett, hidden among the Imperials, he sees at last his ticket to freedom.  And so the story of Solo begins.

Ever since plans were first announced, years ago, for a Young Han Solo movie, I thought it was a bad idea.  As a rule I am not a fan of prequels — I’d prefer the story go forward rather than backwards.  And while Rogue One, for instance, expanded upon a part of the Star Wars story about which I was eager to know more (just how DID the rebels get their hands on the Death Star plans in the first place?), I have never craved to know what Han Solo was like as a kid or young man.  The beauty of the character as introduced in the original Star Wars is that I feel we knew everything we needed to know about him.  What was interesting to me was not where he’d been, but how his crossing paths with Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Leia Organa would change his life, and vice versa.

Having seen Solo, I still feel that way.  This is not a movie that needs to exist.  I have never needed to know the origin of Han’s blaster, or those dice on the Millennium Falcon, or how Han got the last name “Solo,” or exactly how and why Han first met Chewie, or how Han acquired the Falcon from Lando, etc.

That being said, though, I was pleased by how much I enjoyed Solo.  It’s a fun, fast-paced movie with some great action, some nice character work, and lots fun connections to the broader Star Wars saga.  I still think the basic concept of the film is a bad idea, but if Lucasfilm was going to make a Young Han … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

I don’t remember a time in my life in which I didn’t know about and love Star Wars.  I was a little kid when the original films came out, and by the time I really remember it, Star Wars was already a complete thing.  Three films: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.  I read lots of articles about Star Wars as a kid and I of course knew the story that George Lucas had at one time pictured a Star Wars saga consisting of nine films… and obviously I was aware that those three Star Wars films that had been made were numbered Episode IV, V, and VI, but it didn’t seem like there was any prospect of additional Star Wars on the horizon.  I just accepted that, and I was all right with that.  Those three films painted a complete story, and I was satisfied.

I still remember the excitement when word trickled out that George Lucas was actually going to go ahead and make his fabled prequel films.  Like, I think, almost every Star Wars fan on the planet, I was hugely excited to see the backstory fleshed out.  A chance to see the Jedi in their prime?  To learn about what the heck the Clone Wars were?  And to finally discover just how the Emperor and Darth Vader were able to destroy the Jedi?  It was tantalizing.  Well, we all know how that turned out.  Watching Episode I in theatres that opening night was the most crushingly disappointing cinematic experience of my life.  I’d never really considered the possibility that the movie wouldn’t be great.  Episode II felt like a step forward at the time but that film has aged terribly.  There’s a lot that I like about Episode III — it’s the only prequel film that I can say I enjoyed — but it was too little, too late.  To me, the prequels are best forgotten.

And so, again, in my mind that was it.  George Lucas didn’t seem interested in making any additional Star Wars films, and after the disappointment of the prequels I was totally fine with that.  The Star Wars story was finished.

And then Mr. Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney and immediately the announcement was made that Episode VII was in development.  I of course followed those developments with great interest.  While I can’t say I was surprised that the decision was made to make more Star Wars films, I truly never expected to see Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher ever again reprise their roles on-screen.  I was stunned when that was announced, and even now after seeing The Force Awakens I am still … [continued]

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Guest Blogger David Edelglass Discusses Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Dark Knight

Below is the second of a three-part contribution from guest blogger David Edelglass to our continuing series in which I asked several of my close friends and colleagues to name their Favorite Movie of All Time. Click here for Part I.

My Favorite Action/Adventure Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is kind of a no brainer. Raise your hand if you never dressed up as Indiana Jones for Halloween or imagined yourself swinging across large crevices on your whip and outrunning giant boulders.

It is impossible to watch this film without getting caught up in the adventure and wishing you were there. This was a perfect meeting of the minds between three of Hollywood’s best and brightest at the time: George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, and Steven Spielberg. Lucas and Kasdan were just coming off of The Empire Strikes Back (which, along with Raiders, would be the high point in both their careers, in my opinion), and Spielberg was really hitting his stride, having already completed Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (He would follow Raiders with ET). All three clearly were in love with the pulp adventures they had grown up enjoying, and it shows here. Indiana Jones is smart, cocky, handsome, but a bit rough around the edges, and Harrison Ford plays him to a T (though I am insanely curious to see what the movie would have been like if Tom Selleck had been free to take the role as originally intended). Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood is the perfect counterpart to Indy, and she is by far the best female lead of the entire series. John Rhys-Davies (Sallah) and Denholm Elliot (Marcus Brody) turn in fine supporting roles, as does Alfred Molina in a brief cameo in the opening scene (though I don’t know if you can really call it a cameo, as this was his first credited on-screen role).

Raiders is by far the strongest in the series, and hopefully if Spielberg and Lucas decide to dip back into the pool one more time, they’ll go back and watch this first movie to see what it was that made Raiders of the Lost Ark so special to begin with.

(Note that I did not refer to the movie as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lucas and Spielberg should be ashamed of themselves for that one)

Honorable Mention: The Goonies

The Movie That Absolutely Blew My Mind in the Theater: The Dark Knight

You all probably remember the hype the preceded this movie. The viral marketing campaign before its release was astounding.  Then, with the death of Heath Ledger, this film became a must see. We geeks were foaming … [continued]