Solo: A Star Wars Story

By Laurence Washington

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the Star Wars movie nobody asked for. At least, I didn’t. I’ll explain.
Having grown tired of a steady diet of the usual suspects, Luke Skywalker, Princes Leia, Darth Vader and the two droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (’16), was a welcome relief, a satisfying terrific entrée to the franchise. And it made me think, “Wouldn’t it would be a great to have other stand alone Star Wars movies?” After all, I’m sure there are other Star Wars adventures happening in a galaxy far, far, away.

Enter Solo: A Star Wars Story. The backstory of how lovable rogue Han Solo, his co-pilot, walking shag carpet Chewbacca, card sharp Lando Calrissian and of course the legendary Millennium Falcon (that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs) all got together. But I’m not sure anybody cares.
Fast-forward two hours and 15 minutes later: I’m thinking, “Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.”

How so?
Thirty minutes into the film, I became disappointed. The opening minutes offer more action than the law allows, punctuated with spectacular set pieces. No argument here. But I just couldn’t get into the film until the last 45 minutes after a script suddenly appeared. And when Oscar-winning director Ron Howard’s name appeared in the end credits, I couldn’t believe I just sat through a Ron Howard film.
I found out later that Howard took on director duties two weeks before the film’s completion to salvage the project. As a result, there really wasn’t anything to invest in. There’s no one to root for. Unlike Rogue One, Solo doesn’t advance its storyline to connect with any other Star War film. Solo totally ignores that concept, so the audience never gets that “Ah Ha” moment they had been waiting for like in Rogue One.

OK, enough bitching and moaning. The film’s premise has Solo spending a good portion of the movie trying to reunite with his love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) whom the pair became fatefully separated early in the film. Along the way he hooks up with Beckett, an outlaw who is in deep with smugglers, and of course Chewbacca.

Solo is an OK movie, but it has the Star Wars brand, so the audience expects a higher standard. Alden Ehrenreich is fine as Han Solo, but there’s only one Harrison Ford. Ehrenreich lacks the sardonic grin and arrogance Ford stamped on the role. Donald Glover is the film’s bright spot as Lando Calrissian, but it isn’t enough to bring the film to the level of previous Star War films. Solo is probably better than Phantom Menace (’99). If there was one wish that went along with these films, I would wish Disney wouldn’t think, “Well, it’s time to make a Star Wars movie. So let’s crank one out.”


Deadpool 2

By Khaleel Herbert

Time travel, roasts of the Marvel and DC universes, a kid with mutant powers and the same merc with a mouth only scratch the surface of Deadpool 2.

Since killing Francis, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) has taken his mercenary work abroad, killing crime lords in Hong Kong, Sicily and more. Upon his homecoming, Wade reunites with his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) who’s ready to make babies. Suddenly, their apartment is raided by deadly thugs.
Wade apprehends all but one, spoiler alert, who kills his beloved Vanessa. While in a decapitating mourning period, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) brings Wade to the X-Men mansion and nudges him to be part of the team. Wade is reluctant. But when a mutant child with the power to shoot flames from his body (Julian Dennison) erupts on the public, Wade steps in as an X-Men trainee with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). You’d be correct to say this is a terrible idea.
Believe it or not, Deadpool 2 is one big spoof of Hugh Jackman’s Logan. The kid mutant, Wade’s reluctance to help the mutant child and the big X-Men references. Sound familiar? This sequel just hits the funny bone more than Logan did. But I wonder, if Logan didn’t premiere last year, would the plot of Deadpool 2 be completely different? I guess that’s one of those conspiracy theories fanboys and comic geeks will be at odds with for years to come.

Looking beyond Logan, this sequel has its funny parts with action and jokes aplenty. Josh Brolin gives an authentic performance of Cable, and frankly, I like him more here than as Thanos in Avengers because he’s more comical and the counterpart to Deadpool. There are plenty of comedy and pop culture references on dubstep, Winnie the Pooh and Frozen. Plus super-newbies Domino (Zazie Beetz) Bedlam (Terry Crews) and Shatterstar (Lewis Tan) add to the laughter and action. Deadpool fans will find it hard to hold in their laughter for this sequel.

But here’s my beef with Deadpool 2. The first time I saw Deadpool, I was blown away because he was an anti-hero with spunk. I couldn’t believe the things that came out of his mouth and how he reacted to different scenarios. Remember that scene when he fought Colossus and damaged himself so much that he was hopping on one leg? Or when Colossus captured Deadpool to become part of the X-Men and he cut his own hand off throwing the bird? Or the way he put Negasonic Teenage Warhead in a box as the typical rude teenage girl? Or even how he almost killed a man with a Zamboni in order to find Francis? I liked how he played by his own rules. Plus he broke the fourth wall…a lot, which really drew me into his world.

Deadpool was to Marvel’s mutant world what Eminem is to the hip-hop world. He followed his own compass and broke the mold of the typical superhero film. But in this film, he gets soft. I blame the director change. Tim Miller knew what he was doing when he made Deadpool’s debut film. David Leitch needs to stick to the Atomic Blonde and John Wick worlds and leave Deadpool alone. Plus, Stan Lee doesn’t grace the screen at all.
The merc with a mouth has his funny moments in Deadpool 2, but it doesn’t top his 2016 debut on the silver screen.


Life of the Party

By Samantha Ofole-Prince

Stifled dreams, adultery, sexual escapades, weed laced cookies, cougars and sorority parties —Life of the Party, the new comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, has it all.
Another vehicle directed by her husband Ben Falcone (The Boss and Tammy) under their production company, On the Day Productions, the film follows McCarthy as Deanna Miles, a 40-something year old dedicated housewife who decides to head back to college after a divorce and lands in the same class as her daughter.

The film does start off with some mild laughs as comedy veteran Matt Walsh, who plays her onscreen husband Dan, promptly informs Deanna that her other role in life—that of wife—has been cut just after dropping off their daughter in college. He’s having an affair with the local real estate agent Marcie, (Julie Bowen) and he’s taking the house.  After unburdening herself to her parents, friend (Maya Rudolph) and her Uber driver, Deanna’s first move is to relieve herself of the burden of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s things with a small backyard bonfire. When she comes across an old photo of herself with the Decatur University Archaeology Club, she decides to return to college.
“We wanted to create a story that encourages people to believe it is okay to suddenly say, ‘I’m middle-aged and I’m moving to another country, I’m starting a vineyard or learning to bake bread.’ It’s never too late to redefine your life and to say out loud, ‘What about me?’” shares McCarthy, who was eager to recreate the college experience for the film.
Deanna plunges headlong into the campus experience, much to her daughter’s chagrin, and along the way, she fends off mean girls, rediscovers sex, gets high and intoxicated and experiences the walk of shame, all while mothering daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) and her sorority sisters. There are college shindigs, a dance off competition, a sorority party, booze, sex and that silly comic fluff one would expect with any film that circles around college life – most, of which in this case is far from hilarious. At the end of it all, she manages to win literally everyone over, including her daughter.
Aside from that inspirational message of never giving up on your dreams, this fruitless attempt to cash in on McCarthy’s solid fan base lacks major laughs despite its star comedic casting.


Avengers: Infinity War

By Laurence Washington

“Step right up boys and girls! Pick a superhero, any hero!” That just about sums up Avengers: Infinity War.
If you’ve been following the Marvel universe on the big screen for the past 10 years, every superhero you’ve ever seen appears in Infinity War. Luckily, Infinity War is not a cluttered mess, but
nonetheless it’s cluttered. That being said, Marvel hardliners will love it.
Spidey, Thor, (bearded) Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther and the rest, all get sufficient screen time. It’s a blessing and a curse; because the movie runs two hours and 36 minutes, giving everyone sufficient time to do their feats daring of do. And admittedly, to and old guy like me, it’s a little hard on the bladder. But I digress.

Infinity War looks great, no argument here. And there’s even a script, which is always welcomed in these CGI laden flicks. Plus, Infinity War has its expected lighthearted moments, but it is also a little darker than pervious Marvel offerings. Which might shock some fans. But the film’s real problem is, Disney is cranking these bastards out too fast. I’m still trying to digest Black Panther, and then two months later, BOOM Infinity War and Dead Pool 2 is just around the corner. It’s truly a sensory overload.

But enough whining. Here’s the premise: Since the first Avengers movie, the franchise has been hinting that the Mad Purple Titan Thanos is coming to Earth to capture the Infinity Stones that will give himpower to destroy the solar system, universe, galaxy or whatever he pretty much wants.
Sounds pretty bad, uh? But actually, Thanos isn’t a bad guy. He’s misguided on how to balance the universe. The problem is no one appointed him Sheriff of the universe. So he’s self-appointed, and figures by getting rid of half the population, the universe will be in balance. So yes, I guess in the end, he is a bad guy.

the Avengers think so too, and they aren’t having it. So they team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and the armies of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to defeat Thanos. They give Thanos, and his army weird of creatures, a run for their money. However, Thanos is so powerful, even the Hulk has reservations about tangling with the purple titan after Thanos whips him like a green-headed stepchild.
Infinity War is thought to provoke, but it’s not the best movie in the Marvel library. I still love the first Captain America.

A couple of house keeping things: Infinity War is part one, so there’s another 2-hour film on the horizon. I know not when so don’t ask. And Hawkeye and Ant-man are suspiciously missing from the film. I suspect they’ll surface in the next installment, plus they’ll be a new character that was hinted at during the end of a film to join the Avengers.
A note for filmgoers with weak bladders: Go to the restroom during the five minutes of end credits, and then come back and watch the traditional after credit scene. After all, who cares about the Best Boy and the assistant to Chris Evans?


Florence Kasumba: “I would love to play the sweet girl from next door”
By Samantha Ofole-Prince

Florence Kasumba can still remember when she got a call from her agent telling her that she had gotten that clandestine role, which she had auditioned for.
“At that time, I didn’t know what movie it was for,” she recalls, “but it was very clear who she was. Someone who was trained in martial arts, whose mission is to make sure that somebody gets from A to B — fast and safe. That is all I knew,” shares the German actress who is part of the Dora Milaje in Marvel’s Black Panther.
“When you do an audition for a movie like that, most of the time you do not know, at least in my case, what you are auditioning for because people talk too much,” adds Kasumba, who first appeared in Captain America: Civil War.

With her statuesque look and martial arts training, the audition earned her the role of Ayo, who is part of a squad of strong fierce women who serve as the personal security force to the King and the royal family. Although, Kasumba initially only signed on for Captain America: Civil War, she’s reprised the role of Ayo in two more Marvel movies, Black Panther, which releases on DVD later this month and  Avengers: Infinity War, which is currently out in theaters.

Packed with bonus materials, the Black Panther DVD/Blu-ray” includes several deletedscenes, and a piece which focuses on the Dora Milaj, the female warriors of Wakanda.
“When you film for such a long time, as we rehearsed for months before filming began, there’s a lot of stuff, especially stuff I haven’t been involved in and a lot of bonus material that I am curious to see,” says the actress who admits she has watched Black Panther several times – four to be precise.
Known for roles that include the Dutch motion picture hit Ik ook van Jou, several television projects from ABC’s “The Quest” to NBC’s “Emerald City,” Kasumba, who was born in Kampala, Uganda, is a staple on German screens having starred in numerous television shows and stage plays such as Mamma Mia, Chicago, Cats, West Side Story and was cast in the title role in Germany’s production of Elton John’s hit musical Aida.

“My goal was always to play in musicals and while I was studying in Holland, I was cast in a movie and realized that I really liked both,” continues Kasumba who will voice Shenzi in the live-action remake of The Lion King, which releases next year.
She’s excelled at playing the tough, stylish female and her canon is well stocked with empowered female roles, and if there is one role Kasumba would love to play, it would be that of the best friend.
“I don’t get the ‘sweet type’ jobs because I guess I don’t look like the sweet girl from next door,” laughs the actress. “It’s typecasting and a lot of the time I do understand. They see me playing serious characters and never think she can actually be funny. I’ve played a lot of nice strong characters and its fun to work, but I can also play different types of characters.”