One would expect that a film should be critiqued on its own merits, but sometimes outward factors force the film to be observed in a new light. In the case of Solo: A Star Wars Story, its troubled production history is impossible to ignore. Original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were reportedly fired by Kathleen Kennedy over their shooting style—their improv-heavy methodology not exactly sliding with the well-oiled machine of Lucasfilm. Rumours were also circulating that an acting coach was hired for Alden Ehrenreich—a painfully ironic mirror to the actor’s role in Hail, Caesar! as a young movie star struggling to give a good performance. Its reputation as an unrivaled disaster occluded the final product itself. Would that it were so simple.
Walking into the Grand Lumiere for a repeat gala screening—and feeling more glamorous than I ever will—what I was thinking (other than “DO NOT FALL OVER”) was: “Can they really salvage a good film out of this?” Replacing Lord and Miller with Ron Howard seemed like the safe option—and it really was. Ron Howard’s career as a director is dominated by films that are generally well-liked but are rather unremarkable. He’s prolific too, and so his films maintain a middling quality that means they leave the cultural conversation as quickly as they entered (does anyone actually remember In the Heart of the Sea?). My expectations with Ron Howard at the helm were met, but I was still disappointed. Star Wars films shouldn’t just be solid, they should be exhilarating, but emotionally resonant—and that is nowhere to be seen with Solo. What is revealed by this replacement is that the puppet masters over at Lucasfilm prefer a director who won’t step out of line over a director with a fresh, innovative perspective. Solo: A Star Wars Story is so concerned with playing it safe and appealing to the masses that the end result is wholly underwhelming. To put it bluntly, Solo is downright bland.
A standout scene from Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War involves a simple song and dance. No words are spoken, but nothing needs to be said—the actions speak volumes. Zula (Joanna Kulig) is looking defeated at the bar, embittered by her lover Wiktor (Tomsz Kot) ignoring her. The smooth baritone of Bill Haleysuddenly blares through the club’s speakers. Zula quickly gets up and drunkenly dances with feverish energy, moving from man to man, and then on top of the bar, much to the chagrin of Wiktor. Music becomes a source of liberation. If Zula is drifting from the jazz leanings of her lover, is she drifting from him as well? The scene unfolds in a transfixing single take—a fleeting moment of chaotic serenity.
If there’s any film that defines the paranoid, conspiracy theory-obsessed times we live in — where groups of thousands of faceless identities believe Kubrick faked the Moon landing, the Illuminati controls the world, and Beyonce is a lizard — it may just be David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake. The follow-up to the wildly successful It Follows is a delirious head-spin into the seedy underground of Los Angeles; a baffling acid-trip of imagery attacking you from all angles. It emulates the LA-set noirs that are more successful in their execution like Mulholland Drive, but the film still has something new to add the table — some would say too much, but you can’t fault it for its ambition.
Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner has always seamlessly incorporated his love for classic cinema into the band’s music — even back in the day when they were singing about drunken nights out in Sheffield. Ennio Morricone, in particular, has been a sort of muse for the songwriter, discernible from the organ sample in 505 which is lifted directly from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and the orchestral flourishes of Turner’s side project The Last Shadow Puppets. But Arctic Monkeys’ newest album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, may be their most overtly cinematic output yet. The record is an ambitious and stunning piece of world-building. The sound — laid-back, Bowie-esque, piano-heavy tunes, reminiscent of jazz lounges and hotel lobbies — is light years away from the catchy guitar hooks that have dominated their oeuvre. Tranquility Base is a giant middle finger to the weighty expectations following the astronomical success of AM; a liberation from being pigeonholed as the saviour of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a sprawling retro sci-fi odyssey that George Lucas could’ve concocted himself — imagine Finn and Rose taking a detour to a casino on the moon instead of Canto Bight and you’ve got the vibe nailed.
This past week has been an emotional rollercoaster for Marvel fans. 10 years, 19 films, and a lot of heroes have been leading us into Infinity War. Now that we’ve all seen, and grieved over the film, it’s time to talk about it. Much Ado writers talk about their favourite scenes, problems and most importantly, about Carrie Coon’s cameo, in conversation.
Classic films can be a bit daunting when you don’t know where to start. French New Wave? Italian Neorealism? German Expressionism? What do they all mean? Sometimes you don’t need to jump in the deep end with the 6-hour epics — there are classic films that are just as accessible as those made today, with the added bonus of operating as an easy gateway into the world of classic film. All it takes is that one movie — so we asked our regular writers: What film got you into classics?
It’s almost that time of the year again. Red carpets are being prepared, critics are gathering their caffeine tablets, and social media is beginning to buzz about the latest and greatest films from across the world. Cannes Film Festival has always marked the film calendar with ingenuity and controversy alike, and this year is no different. Dramas this year include a return of Nazi-sympathiser Lars von Trier to the lineup after a supposed seven year ban, a long and exhausting battle with Netflix (in which nobody really won), and a lack of female directors in competition (a dismal 14%). On the other hand, the 3 Days at Cannes programme will allow 1000 young cinephiles access to one of the most exclusive film events of the year, the competition jury is majority women, and Cannes’ very first Kenyan feature – discussed below – will compete in the Un Certain Regard section. One step forward, two steps back.
Regardless of all this, we’re excited because Cannes always means one thing: fantastic films. In preparation for the festival, we’ve put together a short list of those premieres that we’re most keen to see.