Friday 28 December 2018

2018 in Review: Looking Back

We've reached the end of my week-long 2018 in Review series of posts. In case you missed it, the series was started on Monday with a rundown of my favorite video games released during the year. This was followed by a rundown of my favorite songs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I highlighted my favorite albums. And yesterday, I revealed my favorite movies. Today, we'll be looking back at some of the events and people that shaped the year as a whole.

The people of England and the world at large were treated to another royal wedding this year. This time around, it was Prince Harry who was tying the knot, as he'd married Meghan Markle, the star of the popular TV series, Suits. The ceremony was held on the 19th of May and sure enough, millions of people around the world tuned in live to follow the proceedings. I don't watch Suits, but I've been following news about the British royal family ever since Princess Diana passed away in 1997. I admit it was a bit trippy seeing young Harry from back then getting married. I guess it's high time I accept just how old I have become.

Another thing I don't watch or particularly care for is football; at least not since I got my heart broken by the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, all the way back in 1994, when they lost to Italy during the Round of 16 at the World Cup. So these days, I'm more or less a casual observer with a pretty vague awareness of current happenings in the sport. But this is the frigging World Cup we are talking about here, one of the most highly televised events in the world, 32 teams competing for the title of world champion and all that jazz. France would eventually go on to win the title, in a 4-2 victory over runners up, Croatia, while Nigeria crashed and burned at the group stages.

The entertainment industry lost one of its biggest icons this year when Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. He would have been 96 today. I cannot even begin to describe how influential his works have been over the years, spawning some of the most well-known pop culture superheroes in the world today. These include the X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Black Panther and Daredevil, just to name a few. He came to be known in recent times for his cameo appearances in movies based on his characters, so much so that these became highlights of the movies in question. He would be remembered for the vast legacy he has left behind.

My 2018 has been rife with ups and downs and various challenges and even disappointments, none of which I'll be getting into here. But if 2017 was about me getting back up and moving on from the sorry state I was in at the end of 2016, then 2018 is surely where I'd found the strength and determination needed to do so. And it has come from the strangest of places, through my love for heavy metal and the various subcultures that surround it. There is nothing quite like that jolt of pure energy you feel when you hear a perfect guitar riff, or when you step into a moshpit and you feel an instant connection with a group of complete strangers, a bond forged out of a shared love of an art form that is oftentimes misunderstood by outsiders.

I've always loved rock music, but my love for metal in particular, and all its various subgenres, can be traced back to my discovery of Linkin Park back in the heydays of nu metal. Another discovery I'd made this past year was of the presence of a thriving rock and metal community right here in Lagos, Nigeria. You have no idea how much my mind was blown when I'd found out we didn't only have people that showed a strong appreciation for rock music, but also skilled and competent artists devoted to that style of music. It was like being jacked out of the Matrix, and realizing for the first time that there is this other world that exists outside of the one you've come to know. I guess it just feels good to finally know that you are no longer in isolation.

All in all, 2018 has been a good year and we look forward to 2019 being even greater. Until then, thanks for reading, and Happy New Year in advance.

Thursday 27 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Movies

Black Panther

I think we can all agree that Black Panther was one of the most eagerly anticipated films this past year, after the character's show-stealing debut in Captain America: Civil War two years before. The fact that it was to feature a predominantly black cast, and that it was being directed by Oscar-nominated director, Ryan Coogler, only served to heighten our expectations. And those expectations were more than met, propelling the movie to become one of the landmark cinema events of the year.

Game Night

Nowadays, it is very rare to find a comedy that is not only funny, but also competently made from a technical and artistic standpoint. Game Night is just one such comedy. It stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as a competitive gaming couple who are invited to what is billed as the ultimate game night. But things take a dark turn when one of the participants is seemingly kidnapped as part of the game, and the only way to win the game is to follow the set of clues he'd left behind beforehand.

A Quiet Place

Real-life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinki star in A Quiet Place, a post-apocalyptic horror film about a husband and wife trying to keep their family safe in a world ravaged by hellish creatures that hunt by sound. The film makes good on its titular promise with long stretches of silence with hardly any dialogue spoken. Yet it still manages to retain as much tension as you'd expect from a film of this nature.

Avengers: Infinity War

Earth's mightiest heroes finally went toe to toe with Thanos this year, after 18 movies and as many post-credits scenes between them. And what a battle it was too, culminating in what would undoubtedly be remembered for years to come as one of the boldest and most heart wrenching endings to a superhero movie of this caliber. The story is not over yet though, so fans are looking forward to the release of Avengers: End Game next year for some much-needed closure.

Deadpool 2

The Avengers were not the only superheroes teaming up this past year, as the merc with a mouth was also putting together a team of his own. Known as the X-Force, his ragtag group of heroes would go on to provide more laughs than actual superheroics. Deadpool 2 builds upon the success of the first movie while also defining its place in the wider X-men cinematic universe, thereby setting itself up for more potential crossovers.

Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson returned to stop-motion animation this year for his latest film, Isle of Dogs. In a dystopian future where all dogs in the greater Japan area have been banished to an island that doubles as a dump, one boy would embark on a journey to find and bring his dog back home. It is a heartwarming tale that has Wes Anderson's signature visual flair, while also boasting the voice talent of an all-star cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Scarlet Johansson.

Incredibles 2

14 years. That's how long it has taken for fans of the beloved Incredibles to get this much-anticipated sequel. But the Incredibles themselves haven't aged a day since 2004, as the movie takes place immediately after the events of the previous one. Superheroes are still illegal, but Elastigirl joins forces with a brother and sister duo that want to put an end to that, leaving Mr. Incredible to take care of parenting duties. Incredibles 2 was a great, worthy sequel. Here's hoping it doesn't take another 14 years to get a follow-up.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Tom Cruise proves once again that he's still got the moves in Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the sixth installment in the long-running spy series. Christopher McQuarrie returns to direct, and the story picks off right where Rogue Nation left off, with the IMF agents left to deal with the aftermath of their takedown of the Syndicate terrorist network. The film is easily the best in the series, with some even considering it among the greatest action movies of all time.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Another long awaited sequel that was released into the wild this year was Wreck-It-Ralph 2. The movie has John C. Reilly reprising his role as the voice of the titular video game baddie turned goodie. He is joined by Sarah Silverman as the voice of his best friend, Vanellope von Schweetz, and the film finds the duo leaving the confines of the arcade to embark on an adventure on the internet, where they hope to find a replacement part for the Sugar Rush arcade game before it is "put to pasture."

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the new benchmark for animated comic book movies, with its stunning visual style that looks like its been ripped straight out of the pages of a comic book. I can't overstate how stunning this movie looks. The fact that it also tells a great, heartfelt story, while still delivering the requisite amount of action just goes further to place it among the upper echelons of animated superhero movies, a space that is typically reserved for DC Comics adaptations.

And the winner is...

A Quiet Place

Yep. Called it. I'd known from the moment I finally saw A Quiet Place that it would be difficult for any other film to topple it off the top of my list of favorite movies this year. Not to say that they haven't been some serious contenders, with Mission: Impossible - Fallout and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being as awesome as they were. But there is just something about this movie that sets it above all others. No other movie had been able to tick all the boxes this year the way this one so effortlessly did. The 10 Cloverfield Lane comparisons are unavoidable for sure, but the fact that that was my 2016 favorite movie further cements this ones position as numero uno.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Albums

Fall Out Boy - M A N I A

2018 was off to a great start with the January release of Fall Out Boy's seventh studio album, Mania. Despite a relatively lukewarm reception by critics, the album has proven to be a commercial success, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts while also earning the band their first ever Best Rock Album nomination at the forthcoming 61st Grammy Awards. Highlights include The Last of the Real Ones, Hold Me Tight or Don't, Champion, and Young and Menace.

Various Artists - Black Panther: The Album

One of the biggest event movies of the year also brought with it one of the year's finest albums. Spearheaded by none other than Kendrick Lamar, Black Panther: The Album finds the American rapper recruiting a number of talents from home and abroad as they take on several themes from the movie. The result is a cultural showcase that is every bit as remarkable as the movie that inspired it. Highlights include All the Lights, Opps, King's Dead, Redemption, and Pray for Me.

The Weeknd - My Dear Melancholy,

The Weeknd returned this year with a back-to-basics album; at 6 tracks in length, it is more of an EP than anything else. Shedding the more pop-oriented trappings of his previous two albums, My Dear Melancholy marks a return to the downbeats of his earlier mixtapes. He'd enlisted the likes of Skrillex, Gesaffelstein and Daft Punk's very own, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo to create its dark but luscious sonic soundscape. Highlights include Call Out My Name, Hurt You, and Privilege.

Panic! at the Disco - Pray for the Wicked

Panic! at the Disco released their sixth studio album, Pray for the Wicked, back in June. It's the first album to feature frontman, Brendon Urie, as the sole contributing member of the band. The fact that he's been able to hold it all together while also delivering what is possibly their best album till date is nothing short of incredible. Highlights include (Fuck A) Silver Lining, Hey Look Ma, I Made It, Dancing's Not a Crime, and Dying in LA.

Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe is one of those few artists out there today that still manages to consistently put out good music. Ever since her breakout EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), she has gone on to release the followup albums, The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady. For her third album, Dirty Computer, she'd decided to drop her Metropolis narrative. Easily her most overtly sexual album till date, the record is renowned for its catchy hooks and buttery smooth production. Highlights include Crazy, Classic, Life, Take a Byte, Screwed, and I Got the Juice.

Five Finger Death Punch - And Justice For None

And Justice for None is the seventh studio album released by American heavy metal band, Five Finger Death Punch. It features their signature hard rock-leaning style of heavy metal, while also incorporating elements of blues rock on several of its tracks. But perhaps what sets their seventh album apart from its predecessors is the inclusion of two of their finest covers till date. Highlights include Fake, Sham Pain, Gone Away, and Blue on Black.

Florence + The Machine - High as Hope

Florence Welsh is without a doubt one of the finest vocalists in the world today, and her vocal prowess was on full display this year on the fourth Florence + the Machine album, High as Hope. The album is noted for its stripped-down production, which allows her vocals to shine even more than it did on previous records. Highlights include June, Hunger, Big God, and Sky Full Of Song.

Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts

Two of my favorite rappers came together this year to form the super-duo, Kids See Ghosts. Comprised of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, the duo released their self-titled debut, which came after several collaborations between the two over the years. There is no denying the high level of musical chemistry shared by both artists, but only time would tell just how far they are willing to take this with future projects. Highlights include Feel the Love, Freeee, Reborn, and Kids See Ghosts.

Disturbed - Evolution

Like I mentioned during yesterday's post, the heavy metal band, Disturbed, have made an attempt this year to followup on the crossover success of their Simon & Garfunkel cover, The Sound of Silence. And this came in the form of their latest record, Evolution, the title for which was meant to reflect the change in their sound to incorporate different styles. While they haven't quite captured lightning in a bottle for a second time, the effort has produced the equally beautiful ballad, A Reason to Fight. Other highlights include Are You Ready, No More, and The Best Ones Lie.

Architects - Holy Hell

Holy Hell marks the first Architects album released after the death of founding member, Tom Searle, and as a result, much of its subject matter is a reflection on death and our inherent mortality. Tom, who died of skin cancer in 2016, had written most of the band's songs with twin brother, Dan. The fact that the remaining members of the band have been able to craft something this heartfelt and admirable out of a situation so dire is an achievement in and of itself. Highlights include Death is not Defeat, Hereafter, Royal Beggars, and Doomsday.

And the winner is...

Architects - Holy Hell

It's been a solid year for metalcore, and fans of the genre specifically, but its defining moment this past year came with the release of the eighth Architects album, Holy Hell. This is without a doubt the best album I'd listened to all year, and one that I've found myself going back to time and again. There is something wholly mesmerizing about the music crafted by this English metalcore band, from lead singer, Sam Carter's, scream singing, to Dan Searle's drumming, and some of the best guitar work I've heard on a metalcore album. The album oozes perfection on every track, and is a clear indication that good things can come out of even the worst situations. It all depends on how you choose to move forward from it.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Songs

5 Seconds of Summer - Youngblood

The Australian punk rockers that gave us "She Looks So Perfect" in 2014 were back this year with another hit that had instant classic written all over it. This time around, the band had decided to step out of their comfort zone by delivering an electropop powerhouse, showing just how much they have evolved since their punk rock debut.

Calvin Harris - One Kiss (feat. Dua Lipa)

Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa join forces on One Kiss, a song that is as much an ode to 90s house music as it is a showcase for both artists. Debuting at number 3 on the UK charts, the song would go on to top the charts for 8 consecutive weeks, becoming the first song featuring a female singer to do so in the past decade.

Tiësto & Dzeko - Jackie Chan (feat. Preme & Post Malone)

Arguably one of the best remixes released this past year, Jackie Chan finds DJs Tiësto and Dzeko putting their spin on the Preme and Post Malone collaboration. The result is a crossover hit that manages to celebrate the fast life while paying homage to the famous martial artist of the same name.

As I Lay Dying - My Own Grave

As I Lay Dying was back this year to straddle the line between mainstream metalcore and Christian Metal with their new single, My Own Grave. And they've never sounded better, with the song's lyrics being especially poignant when put in the context of their lead singer's recent incarceration and the events surrounding it.

Childish Gambino - This is America

Very few music videos managed to set the internet on fire this year the way This is America by Childish Gambino did, juxtaposing its graphic depiction of gun violence with its tightly choreographed dance moves. This has propelled the song to receive a total of 4 nominations at next year's Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Music Video.

XXXTentacion - Sad!

Speaking of gun violence, one of the tragic tales that made the rounds on the internet this past year was that of America rapper, XXXTentacion, who was gunned down during what appeared to be a robbery. His death would go on to lend even more credence to his specific brand of emo-inspired hip hop, propelling his sophomore album's lead single, Sad!, to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Disturbed - Are you ready

Disturbed was back this year to follow up on the recent mainstream crossover success they'd found following the release of their Simon & Garfunkel cover with a new album. For their first single though, they'd listened to long-time fans and decided to release Are You Ready, a song that is more in tune with their older, heavier sound. It would eventually top the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

Bring Me the Horizon - Mantra

Another band that was back this past year was Bring Me the Horizon, following up on the success of their 2015 album, That's the Spirit, with the promise of a new one. And our first taste of that album came in the form of its first single, Mantra, a song that marked even more of a departure from their deathcore and metalcore sounds of old. But you won't catch fans complaining, not when their new music sounds as good as it does.

While She Sleeps - Anti-Social

While She Sleeps was one of several bands I discovered this past year through YouTube recommendations. In this case, the recommendation in question was for their recent collaboration with Oli Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon, Silence Speaks. I'd immediately gone to check out their back catalogue of music, and their brand of metalcore dubbed metallic hardcore. But it was not until they released their video for Anti-Social did I consider myself a fan of said music.

Major Lazer - All My Life (feat. Burna Boy)

Burna Boy is an artist that's been going places, even scoring a guest appearance on the Fall Out Boy album, M A N I A, earlier this year. It was his collaboration with Major Lazer though, All My Life, that would eventually crowbar its way onto my year-end favorites playlist, with its feel good vibes and Burna Boy's signature vocal style.

And the winner is...

While She Sleeps - Anti-Social

Once again, it was a tough call, but I'd have to give the title of my favorite song of 2018 to Anti-Social. It is one of those songs that comes out of left field and blows everything else you'd been listening to out of the water. Everything from its guitar opening, to its headbang-worthy intro, and the timeliness of its overall message sets it apart from other songs on this list. Add to that the fact that it boasts one of the most well-made music videos and what you've got is the total package, which is made all the more impressive when you consider that it was put together by an independent band. They'll be releasing their next album, So What?, next year, so here's hoping that this is just one of several gems to be found on that record.

PS: Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday 24 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Games

As we close out yet another year filled with awesome entertainment and moments high and low, it is time for me to take a step back from it all and review which of these left a lasting impression. So for the rest of the week, I'll be shortlisting my favorite things and moments from 2018. This is a feature I've been running on this blog since inception, so if you fancy catching up on my favorites from previous years, here are links to my favorites from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

2018 was a solid year for video games, so just like I did last year, I'll be starting the week-long series with a list of my favorite video games released during the year. I didn't get around to playing as many of the heavy hitters as I would have loved, so games like Monster Hunter World and Assassin's Creed Odyssey would be noticeably missing from my list. But the few games I did manage to play have been some of the very best to grace PCs and consoles in recent memory. And my favorites from those are:

Shadow of the Colossus

The fact that I never owned a PS2 meant I'd missed out on a lot of classics from that generation. And one of the most revered of these was Shadow of the Colossus, a game that was faithfully remade for the PS4 this past year. Best described as an action-adventure game made up of a number of sequential boss battles, the remake not only boasts one of the most breathtaking visuals on PS4, but also retains the same haunting atmosphere that made the original such a classic in the first place.

God of War

Another game that emerged during the PS2 generation was God of War. Based on the tale of a demigod named Kratos who was betrayed by the gods of Greek mythology, the game would go on to launch a series filled with blood, guts and revenge, the quest for which culminated in God of War 3 on the PS3. For the fourth installment, the developers decided to go with a soft reboot of the entire series. The game was heralded as a technical marvel, pushing the PS4 hardware to its limits while also reinvigorating the series with new gameplay mechanics and storytelling techniques.


Celeste is a side-scrolling platformer developed by indie game developer, Matt Makes Games. Much like Super Meat Boy, the game sports a pixel art style reminiscent of 2D platformers of old and is renowned for its gameplay's requirement of pixel-perfect jumps and dashes. What sets Celeste apart though is its surprisingly deep and rewarding storyline and a beautiful soundtrack that perfectly compliments its on-screen action.

Fortnite: Battle Royale

Fortnite is undeniably the most popular video game in the world right now. Much of that popularity can be attributed to its simple pick-up-and-play battle royale gameplay, as well as its availability across multiple platforms and devices. Actually released for PCs in 2017, I am including it in my list of 2018 favorites primarily because this was the year it made its way onto consoles, or more specifically my current console of choice, the Nintendo Switch. I am yet to win a single match, or master its building mechanic for that matter, but the game finds other ways of dishing out rewards regardless.

Dead Cells

There have been no shortage of roguelikes and metroidvanias in recent years, but rarely has both genres been blended as beautifully as they have in Dead Cells. Developed by Motion Twin, the game places players in control of the titular "dead cells" after they reanimate the corpse of a recently-executed prisoner, and their primary objective is escaping the dungeon they find themselves in, with its procedurally-generated levels and an upgrade system that rewards exploration and encourages subsequent retries.

The Messenger

The Messenger is a 2D action-platformer inspired by the Ninja Gaiden games of old. You play as the titular messenger, a ninja tasked with delivering an ancient scroll to the top of a mountain after your village is attacked by a demon horde. Players are able to double jump using a technique called cloudstepping, whenever they strike an object while in mid-air. But perhaps the game is best known for its time travel mechanic, with the past being presented in 8-bit graphics and the future in 16-bit, and appropriate chiptune music and sound effects for both eras.

Marvel's Spider-Man

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to swing through the city of New York? Well, that's precisely what Insomniac Games have sought out to achieve with Marvel's Spider-Man, putting you in the shoes of everyone's favorite webslinger. The swinging mechanic is nothing short of exhilarating, and still manages to feel that way, even after hours of traversing its open world. And with a combat system that is reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham games, that feeling of exhilaration continues even when your feet finally hit the ground and you're faced with scores of bad guys to pummel.

Red Dead Redemption II

The original Red Dead Redemption was considered one of the greatest games from last generation, with its incredible open world, gunplay, music and story. So of course expectations were high for its long-awaited sequel. The game is set several years before the events of the first game, and players control Arthur Morgan, an outlaw and member of the Van de Linde gang, as they fight to survive against lawmen, bounty hunters, rival gangs and the decline of their way of life in the face of civilization.

Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu!

As popular as the Pokémon franchise has gotten over the years, I've never been more than a casual observer. The only entry in the series that I sunk any significant amount of time into was Pokémon Yellow on the Game Boy Color, nearly 20 odd years ago, and I never realized just how fondly I held that particular entry, until now. Pokémon Let's Go is a Nintendo Switch remake of Pokémon Yellow, with beautiful 3D visuals, a catching mechanic ripped straight out of the super popular Pokémon Go, and a surprisingly deep RPG progression system that is sure to satisfy even seasoned veterans.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Another series that I hadn't been particularly keen on over the years is Super Smash Bros. I suspect this was due to the fact that I hadn't owned a Nintendo console since the SNES, and the few times I'd played any of the games at my friend's place, I'd gotten my ass handed to me. But there is something about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch that makes it so accessible to newbie's like myself. Couple that with its RPG-like single player adventure mode, World of Light, and I've found myself coming back to the game time and time again. The game is not only the "ultimate" edition of the series as it's been marketed, it is also a celebration of video gaming as a medium.

And the winner is...

Red Dead Redemption II

It was a tough call, but inasmuch as I loved playing both God of War and Marvel's Spider-Man this past year, my favorite game for 2018 is undoubtedly Red Dead Redemption II. It took everything Rockstar had done in the previous game, and GTA V after it, and shot it into the stratosphere. Its open world is so beautiful and dense with detail that I found myself spending huge chunks of time just admiring its various vistas. Its sound design and music is also one of the most immersive I've ever encountered in a video game. That said, the game isn't without its issues, with its comparatively slower pacing and outdated controls being the first that come to mind. But no other game this year had made me feel such emotional highs like the ones I'd felt while experiencing Arthur Morgan's tale of betrayal, revenge, and ultimately, redemption.

Friday 21 December 2018

Aquaman (Movie Review)

It is no secret that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) had all but come to a sputtering halt following the release of last year's Justice League. This was despite that movie's attempt to course correct all the missteps and shortcomings of the movies that came before it (except Wonder Woman of course, which was universally beloved by fans and critics alike). But if Justice League was a step in the right direction, then Aquaman is the logical next step, or dare I say leap, in that new direction.

The movie takes place after the events of Justice League, but rather than try to tie its plot in with the events of that big but messy superhero team up, the filmmakers have opted to tell a self-contained story that works as a standalone tale, or soft reboot, depending on how you choose to look at it. It is both a superhero origin story and a coming-of-age tale, one that finds its titular hero (Jason Momoa) on a quest to reclaim his lost inheritance and prevent an all out war.

Born from a forbidden love between his human father (Temuera Morrison) and the queen of Atlantis herself (Nicole Kidman), Arthur Curry (aka. Aquaman) has grown up with very little connection to his people. The only exception to this is his mentor, Vulko (Willem Dafoe), who'd taught young Arthur about his heritage and how to use his powers. But this changes after he learns from the Atlantean princess, Mera (Amber Heard), that his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilsons), was seeking to unite the underwater kingdoms in a war against the surface dwellers.

A reluctant Arthur is soon swept up by the waves of an adventure spanning the deserts of the Sahara and the seven seas, as he comes to accept that the only way to stop Orm is by overthrowing him as the rightful ruler of Atlantis. But before he can make a proper claim to the throne, he must first win its people's approval, and the only way to do this is by retrieving the Trident of Atlan, the very first king's weapon of choice.

Aquaman is the exact kind of movie that the DCEU needs right now. It is a fun-filled adventure that fully embraces the wackiness and otherworldliness of its source material, and this is brought to life by some truly spectacular visuals and action sequences. It also helps that none of its humor or lightheartedness felt shoehorned into the film, the way it did in Justice League and Suicide Squad. Overall, it marks another win for the DCEU, and a clear indicator that there is still some hope yet.

Saturday 15 December 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Movie Review)

What a time to be a Spider-Man fan; not only did we get another stirring (and ultimately heartbreaking) take on the webhead by Tom Holland in Avengers: Infinity War earlier this summer, but we also received what was arguably one of the greatest superhero video games ever made in the form of Insomniac's Marvel Spider-Man in the fall. Now we are crowning out the year with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a movie that features not one, but six different incarnations of the beloved webslinger.

The movie centers on Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a teenage boy who is struggling to adjust to life at his new boarding school. But his world is turned upside down, quite literally, when he is bitten by a radioactive spider that imbues him with spiderlike abilities. He is soon forced to put those new abilities to the test when he is caught in the middle of a fatal fight between Spider-Man (Chris Pine) and his long-time enemy, the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). In a bid to bring back his dead wife and daughter, the Kingpin and his scientists use a particle accelerator to momentarily open a doorway to other parallel universes.

Unbeknownst to them, this has the unintended effect of transporting the various Spider-Men of those universes into their own. These include the junk food loving Peter B. Parker/Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfield), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peter Porker/Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), and the anime-inspired Peni Parker (Kimiko Glen), who co-pilots the biomechanical suit, SP//dr, with her pet radioactive spider. The Spider-Men must work together with Miles to defeat the Kingpin, and restore order to the titular Spider-Verse before it is destroyed.

It is hard to talk about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse without first addressing the sheer gorgeousness of its visuals. The movie sports a distinct art style that lies somewhere between CGI and hand-drawn. This is lent further authenticity by its stop-motion-like animation, with frames being skipped and sped up to mesmerizing effect. Put simply, it is like watching a comic book brought to glorious life, and I found myself simply gushing at the stylized visuals for the better part of the movie's runtime.

The movie isn't all about its looks though; it also boasts a story that is packed with superhero action, not afraid to go to some dark places, and is extremely funny to boot. I was surprised by just how comedic the situations could get, especially with the likes of Spider-Ham, the Looney Tunes-inspired rendition of Spider-Man who comes complete with anvil-dropping antics. Thankfully, none of it gets too overbearing, a true testament to the balancing skills of the writing and production teams, which include Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of The LEGO Movie fame.

I know I'd declared Ralph Breaks the Internet as my clear frontrunner in my last review, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse also deserves a shot at the Best Animated Feature award at next year's Oscars, if only because it looks unlike anything we've ever seen before. It is also high time that another animated film that wasn't churned out of the Disney and Pixar animation studios took home the award. So, who knows? A fan can hope at the very least.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Ralph Breaks the Internet (Movie Review)

There have been quite a few movies in recent years that were heavily influenced by video game culture. Some were decent enough (like Ready Player One earlier this year), while others were not so much (I'm looking at you, Pixels starring Adam Sandler). But none of them were as successful at creating that perfect blend of nostalgia and humor as 2012's Wreck-It Ralph. The fact that it managed to tell a heartfelt story about a video game baddie that wanted more than the hand that he had been dealt while doing so was an accomplishment on its own.

Set 6 years after the events of the first movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet centers upon the friendship between the titular baddie turned hero (John C. Reilley) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a bratty but adorable go-cart racer and ruler of the video game kingdom, Sugar Rush. This time around, it is Vanellope that begins to desire more from their life of routine. Her wish comes true when she and Ralph are forced to leave the safety of the arcade and journey to the Internet, where they hope to get a replacement part for the Sugar Rush arcade cabinet before it is unplugged.

The duo would soon find out that the Internet is not for the fainthearted, with its busy highways and aggressive popup ads. This is especially so when they venture into the online racing game, Slaughter Race, where they hope to earn enough money to buy the part they need by stealing a car owned by Shank (Gal Gadot), a hotshot racer and leader of a crew of street racers. Vanellope is immediately attracted by the high-speed thrills of racing in Slaughter Race, and this would serve as a catalyst for a series of events that would test her friendship with Ralph to its limits.

As much as I loved Wreck-It Ralph, I have to admit that that love pales in comparison to my love for its sequel. Ralph Breaks the Internet takes everything that made the first movie great and expands upon it, scratching my nostalgia and fanboy itches in the process. Much like the first movie, the sequel is chuck full of cameos and pop culture references. These included characters from Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, in my favorite bit, Disney's own stable of Disney Princesses. The fact that they were all voiced by their original voice actors lent a level of authenticity to their inclusion that made them feel integral to the story.

And in the midst of all that fun and humor, the writing team still manages to tell a cautionary tale that explores our overdependence on technology and our obsession with social media trends. Put simply, the movie is not only one of the best-made animated films in recent memory, it is also one of the most important, and as such, deserves a Best Animated Feature nomination at the forthcoming 91st Academy Awards. Hopefully it doesn't get robbed of the award like the original was.

Saturday 17 November 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Movie Review)

I confess, I wasn't particularly keen on the first Fantastic Beasts movie, even though I am a Potterhead and I loved all the books and movies that preceded it. The idea of spawning an entire film series out of what was essentially a fictional textbook sounded too much like a cash grab to me. Thankfully, we had J.K. Rowling herself penning the screenplay, lending some much-needed authenticity to the project. And she returns along with veteran series director, David Yates, to give fans another glimpse into her "Wizarding World" in the second installment of what is now a 5-part series.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens with the titular dark wizard (Johnny Depp), who'd been imprisoned at the end of the previous movie, escaping captivity during a transfer to Azkaban prison. We soon learn that he is still after Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the powerful Obscurial who was responsible for much of the death and destruction in the first film. Also searching for Credence is Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), a Hogwarts professor who enlists the help of one of his former students, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), to find him.

To do so, Newt must travel to Paris through unconventional means, having been banned from traveling by the Ministry of Magic, following his involvement in the events of the previous film. He is accompanied by his good friend, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a Muggle (No-Maj? Can't-Spell?) whose memory was wiped at the end of the last film but has since been regained. They run into Tina (Katherine Waterston), Newt's love interest, and Yusuf (William Nadylam), a mysterious wizard, and they must all work together to find Credence before Grindelwald finds and uses him to bring about his vision of a new world order.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald attempts to deepen the Harry Potter lore while also setting up events for the subsequent parts yet to come, but in so doing, it fails to capture the imagination in the same way its predecessors did. Much like the first film, the movie lacks that "magic" that made the Harry Potter books and movies so great to begin with. It tries to make up for this with callbacks to those movies, and I'll admit, it was nice seeing a young Dumbledore teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. But those moments were few and far between.

The fact that it felt like there was so much setup going on also didn't help. This is one area where I wish the story had been told in the form of books instead, to allow its various characters and plot lines room to breathe and develop. In its current form, the whole thing feels like a heavily convoluted race towards a finish line that is still at least three movies away. All that said, the movie still offers enough of the high production values and great performances that fans have come to expect, so it is definitely worth checking out if you happen to be one.

Friday 5 October 2018

Venom (Movie Review)

Sony Pictures takes another stab at its Spider-Man license with Venom, a movie based on the titular antihero last seen on the big screen in 2007's Spider-Man 3. But with Spider-Man currently being licensed out by the studio to Marvel's own Marvel Studios, it was clear going in that we wouldn't be seeing much of the beloved webslinger in this particular movie. What we have instead is a standalone movie that is expected to lay the groundwork required to jump start a new connected universe. And with a more than capable cast that includes heavy hitters like Tom Hardy, it would look like Sony might be on to something here, right? Well, not quite.

Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a hotshot reporter who loses everything after he attempts to bring down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the wealthy CEO of a bioengineering company with some shady practices. At the start of the movie, the company recovers a group of lifeforms called symbiotes from a comet in space, one of which escapes after their space vessel crashes during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. They eventually begin conducting experiments with one of the remaining symbiotes in their possession, the titular Venom, looking for a perfect host for it in a bid to learn how we might better adapt for survival on other worlds.

During a convoluted break-in into the company's research facility, Eddie Brock comes in contact with the symbiote, becoming its ideal host. This imbues him with superhuman abilities as well as an insatiable hunger that is played to great comedic effect throughout the movie. They manage to escape from the facility, but are soon hunted down by a group of mercenaries, leaving Eddie with no choice but to seek help from his ex-girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams), and her new boyfriend, Dr. Dan Lewis (Reid Scott), with all this happening as the other escaped symbiote makes its way to the research facility for some sort of ultimate showdown.

It's been a while since I've seen a genuinely bad movie, and of the last few I remember, Venom is one of the more entertaining ones. The film felt like a throwback to a time when comic book movies didn't aspire to be anything more than CGI-laden adaptations of their source material, which could've worked on a purely nostalgic level of course, if only the finished product didn't feel slapped together. The movie's tone was all over the place, and it was clear that the director was just as conflicted as the title character, as he never quite seemed to decide if the movie he was making was a horror film, a superhero origin story or a straight-up comedy, ultimately failing on all three fronts.

The film's sole saving grace was its cast members, with Tom Hardy in particular giving a surprisingly comedic performance in the duel roles of Eddie Brock and Venom. But even that couldn't save what was essentially a missed opportunity, and its hard to imagine just how viable a connected universe filled with Spider-Man villains is going to be after this. Hopefully he gets a chance to put those acting chops to better use when (if?) we get the eventual crossover with Sony's next iteration of the webslinger and some of Marvel's better known properties.

Monday 30 July 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (Movie Review)

The 2018 summer blockbuster season is coming to an end, and what better way to end it than with what is arguably the best film of the entire season. Mission: Impossible - Fallout continues the high benchmark and current winning streak the franchise started with Ghost Protocol in 2011. Tom Cruise returns as the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent, Ethan Hunt, with Christopher McQuarrie also returning as director in what is effectively a direct sequel to his previous installment, Rogue Nation.

Set two years after Rogue Nation, Fallout finds Ethan Hunt and the IMF dealing with the aftermath of the criminal organization they took down in the previous film, The Syndicate. With their leader, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), captured, the remaining members of the organization form the terrorist group, The Apostles. The movie opens with the IMF and The Apostles butting heads, as the latter tries to secure three plutonium cores off the black market, and the former tries to stop them.

The IMF ultimately fails its mission, and the members of The Apostles escape with the plutonium, which they were acquiring for a mysterious client known as John Lark. This causes the Director of the CIA, Erica Slone (Angela Bassett), to insist on shadowing Hunt and the IMF on their mission to retrieve the plutonium with one of her agents, the trigger-happy operative, August Walker (played by Henry Cavill, and his infamous mustache). The plutonium is to be sold at a fundraiser in Paris, by a broker known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby).

Hunt and Walker infiltrate the fundraiser, where they hope to retrieve the plutonium from the White Widow by impersonating John Lark, the buyer. They succeed in gaining her trust when they save her from several assassination attempts. But things become decidedly more complicated when the Widow reveals the price for the plutonium cores: they must first help her extract The Syndicate leader, Solomon Lane, who it turns out had been pulling the strings as he strives to bring about his doomsday plot.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is not only one of the best movies in the franchise, but one of the best action movies to grace cinemas in recent memory, period. Tom Cruise proves once again that he is ever the viable action hero, performing his own stunts in some of the most jaw-dropping set pieces to be seen in any film. One of the biggest ones in the movie is the breathtaking HALO jump over Paris, which is impeccably shot and edited to reproduce that sense of vertigo and tension.

The same tension carries through the other set pieces and quieter scenes alike. And while the movie itself might feel overlong at nearly two hours and thirty minutes, it never seems to lose any steam as things continue to stack up at a breakneck pace. It is hard to see any other action movie topping this anytime soon, as it joins the ranks of Mad Max: Fury Road as one of the finest the genre has to offer.

Sunday 22 July 2018

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Movie Review)

ABBA fans rejoice as the cast of the jukebox musical, Mamma Mia!, make a return to the Greek island of Kalokairi. Theirs is a bittersweet reunion though, as the story takes place one year after the death of Donna (Meryl Streep), frontwoman of the Dynamos and owner of the island's popular hotel villa, the Hotel Bella Donna. Much of the story is also told through flashbacks, and as such the movie functions as both a prequel and a sequel, with all the romance, comedy and musical numbers we've come to expect.

Since her passing, the Hotel Bella Donna has fallen into a state of disrepair, a situation her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), seeks to rectify through a grand reopening she intends to dedicate to her memory. Things don't go according to plan of course, as the island is hit by a storm on the eve of the ceremony, undoing much of the preparations as well as preventing all the high-profile guests from being able to attend.

Sophie is also going through a rough patch in her marriage to Sky (Dominic Cooper). She receives counsel from her mother's best friends and bandmates, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), and through their tales, she learns much about her mother's misadventures as a young adult (played by Lily James) in the summer of 1979, and how she came to meet her three fathers, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård).

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is undeniably the best feel-good movie I have seen so far this year. The movie exudes the kind of charm that leaves a smile plastered on your face for the duration of its runtime. It doesn't hurt that I love ABBA and their incredible catalogue of hits. All that said, I must confess that I wasn't the biggest fan of the original film, which at the time of its 2008 release I found a little too campy for my tastes. Some of that campiness carries over into the sequel of course, but the musical numbers are so well executed here that you'd be hard pressed to find any reason to complain.

Friday 6 July 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp (Movie Review)

Much like they did in 2015, the folks at Marvel Studios have chosen to follow up another Avengers movie with an outing of their ant-sized heroes. And of course, after the gut-wrenching finale of Avengers: Infinity War two months ago, you can be sure that fans have been waiting for Ant-Man and the Wasp, looking for answers, or closure, or a bit of both. Except the filmmakers have their own story to tell, be it one that is on a smaller scale and with relatively smaller stakes.

Set following the events of Captain America: Civil War, the movie finds Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) undergoing house arrest for assisting Team Captain America in its fight against Team Iron Man. Scott is just days away from serving his sentence when he receives a message from Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who has been trapped in the quantum realm for some thirty odd years. This leads him to contact Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), her husband and inventor of the Pym particle.

Scott is broken out of house arrest by Hope van Dyne (Evangelline Lilly), aka the Wasp, who you'll remember had assumed the mantle during the mid-credits scene of the last film. The two of them must work together with Hank to rescue Janet. Except they have to contend with not only the authorities (Randall Park) and a black market dealer (Walton Goggins), but also a mysterious masked woman known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who can phase through walls and uses this ability to steal Hank's lab (yep, the entire lab) with hopes of also finding Janet for personal reasons.

If you're one of those expecting Ant-Man and the Wasp to provide answers to some of the questions you had after Avengers: Infinity War, then I'd have to say prepare yourself for some measure of disappointment. The movie is as self-contained as they come.There is not an Infinity Stone in sight. What we get instead is much talk about quantum realms and particle accelerators. Thankfully, the movie itself is just as funny as the first one, with Michael Peña once again stealing the show with his portrayal of the fast-talking ex-criminal, Luis.

The movie also boasts more of the inventive action sequences we saw in the first film, making great use of its heroes' abilities to switch sizes. But for those still wanting to know how all this ties into the greater ongoing drama of the MCU, I'll say this much: be sure to wait for the mid-credits scene. It might not provide all the answers, but at least it places the film within the context of that other movie.

Saturday 30 June 2018

A Quiet Place (Movie Review)

One of the downsides of living in a country where there is little appreciation for anything outside what it considers mainstream is you tend to miss out on a lot of gems. So of course I wasn't surprised when the geniuses that run our local cinemas had elected not to show A Quiet Place all through its global theatrical run. And so I had no choice but to patiently await its release on digital download, even as news of its success filtered over to our shores. But man was it worth the wait.

The movie stars Emily Blunt and real-life husband John Krasinski (who also directs) as a couple struggling to keep their family safe in a post-apocalyptic world where much of the Earth's population has been decimated by vicious creatures that hunt by sound. Where did the creatures come from? A planet of angry librarians perhaps. The filmmakers don't even attempt to answer these sort of questions, choosing instead to focus on the plight of this one family stuck in this dire situation.

Much of the movie takes place on the rural farm the family calls home. They go about their day-to-day activities like any regular family would; they do laundry, help their kids with their homework, go out hunting and have dinner. Except they do all this in silence and with the knowledge that there are three of the creatures actively hunting in the surrounding area. It is quickly established that the creatures have no known weaknesses, other than the fact that they are totally blind. But things are about to get more complicated as the family prepares to welcome its newest member.

I know it is too early to call it, but A Quiet Place is quite possibly my favorite movie of 2018. Much like 10 Cloverfield Lane before it, the movie plays out like an intricate game of chess, and we get to watch as all the pieces are moved into place. It eschews traditional jump scares in favor of a deeper sense of dread that permeates every scene. It also boasts one of the most memorable and impressive sound designs since Gravity, as it makes good on its titular promise, with stretches of silence that make even the most mundane sounds sound scary and unwanted.

But the movie is as much a family drama as it is a brilliantly executed horror film. Ultimately, it is a movie about parenthood, and what it means to keep your loved ones safe in the face of clear and present danger. I couldn't recommended it highly enough.

Saturday 16 June 2018

Incredibles 2 (Movie Review)

Everyone's favorite superhero family, the Parrs, make their return in Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to 2004's The Incredibles. Written and directed by Brad Bird, the film picks off right where the first movie left off 14 years ago, with the mole-like Underminer arriving to lay siege on the city of Metroville, forcing the Parrs to once again don their superhero costumes and personas as they fight to protect its citizens.

They manage to foil the Underminer's plans to rob the city's bank, but not without leaving a trail of collateral damage in their wake. This causes the authorities to hold them accountable for the incident, especially since they had been acting against the laws forbidding all acts of superheroism. But their plight is brought to the attention of Winston and Evelyn Deavor, a brother-and-sister duo of superhero advocates (voiced by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener).

The pair are seeking to restore the public's faith in superheroes, and ultimately put an end to the law preventing them from fighting crime, and this they intend to do by showing the untold stories of the crime fighters. And in a reversal of roles, Helen Parr/Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) is chosen as the face of this campaign, while Bob/Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) gets to play the stay-at-home dad who must tend to the day-to-day needs of their three superhero kids.

The Incredibles was revered for elevating the superhero movie genre, a genre whose landscape has changed drastically in the last 14 years with the advent of shared universes. So the fact that its sequel still feels as poignant today as the original did all those years ago is a feat in and of itself. As expected, the technology powering the production has improved since 2004, a fact that is immediately apparent from the very first frame, with details like hair and lights taking on a life-like quality.

The movie still retains the same animation art style though, with more of the fancy camera work and whiplash-inducing action we've come to expect from the original. Also worthy of note is the movie's score, which highlights and underscores all the key action scenes with a sense of urgency that gets the pulses racing.

2018 has already proven to be an awesome year for superhero movies, with heavy hitters like Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 all finding success and critical acclaim (with Ant-Man and the Wasp and Aquaman still to come). We can add Incredibles 2 to that list, a movie that manages to feel fresh in the current landscape, while also staying true to form.

Saturday 9 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Movie Review)

Every summer, there seems to be at least one obligatory tentpole release from a long-gestating franchise nobody really asked for. In 2015, that movie was Jurassic World, except it exceeded expectations by breaking several box office records, proving that there was indeed a demand for just such a film. It also helped that the movie didn't totally suck. All that success of course meant that we would be getting an inevitable sequel, hence Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

It's been three years since the dinosaurs took over the titular theme park. In all that time, they've been left to roam wild and free on the fictional island of Isla Nublar. But their makeshift haven is about to come to a fiery end as an active volcano on the island draws closer to eruption. This raises the moral debate of whether or not their human creators should intervene or allow nature to run its course. But of course the film wouldn't be much fun if they'd chosen the latter.

So before long, a rescue operation is mounted and a team assembled to help with the evacuation. This includes the park's former operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and everyone's favorite dinosaur trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). The dinosaurs are to be transported to a new island, with the operation being funded by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the former partner of the original park's creator, John Hammond. Everything is not as it seems though and it soon becomes evident that their kind benefactors might be harboring some dark secrets.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom lives up to the legacy of its predecessors as a true summer blockbuster. The movie is full of spectacle, with some of the biggest set pieces the franchise has put forward till date. The visuals are appropriately spectacular, and the fact that a lot of the close-up dinosaur effects were achieved using animatronics helps sell their performances even more.

It's a shame the same thing can't be said about their human counterparts though, some of whose actions and motives were downright unbelievable. But overall, the movie provides enough thrills and close-quarters scares to tide fans over until the third and final installment of the new trilogy drops three years from now.

Friday 25 May 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Movie Review)

The second Star Wars anthology movie is here, arriving just five months after the release of The Last Jedi. There's been much talk over the internet about franchise fatigue, so I'd be quick to confess that like many fans, I was also skeptical about the prospects of a young Han Solo movie. I mean, here was a character we all grew to love over the course of the original trilogy, played so perfectly by Harrison Ford. And our skepticism wasn't exactly helped by news of the film's troubled production, with original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller being fired midway due to creative differences, prompting reshoots and a change of director.

They were replaced by Ron Howard, and he has done an admirable job of making the whole thing look like a coherent whole, unlike the last movie I saw with an equally troubled production. So the burning question then is how does all of this affect the quality of the final product? And the answer I guess depends on how you've felt about the recent crop of Star Wars movies, and more importantly, what you are expecting from this one. Billed as a space western, the movie makes good on its promise of depicting a fun adventure by a beloved character, but doesn't aspire to do much else.

The movie is set about 10 years before the events of A New Hope, at a time before Han Solo (now played by Alden Ehrenreich) became the hotshot pilot of the Millenium Falcon. Tired of life in the slums of his home planet Corellia, young Solo plots his escape with love interest, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). But the two are separated when she is captured at a security checkpoint during their escape. Han vows to come back for her, and he spends the next three years trying to raise enough money to buy a ship and do just that, first by enlisting in the Imperial Navy, before joining a group of criminals. Led by a man known as Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), the group inform Han of a train heist that would reward him with enough money to carry out his vow.

Things don't go according to plan though and they are ambushed by a rival gang in the middle of the heist, ultimately losing the shipment of coaxium (a precious hyperfuel) they'd been after. Han learns that the job was actually done in service of the crime boss, Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), and their failure means they'll need to find another way to repay him. They manage to avoid certain death at his hands by convincing him they'd secure enough raw coaxium to repay him, but to do so, they'd need a ship fast enough to make the infamous Kessel run. And so they go in search of the one man with a ship that meets that requirement, the smuggler Lando Carlrissian (Donald Glover).

If I were to rank the recent Disney-produced Star Wars movies, Solo: A Star Wars Story would fall squarely into the last position. That said, the film is by no means a bad movie. Far from it. It has its fair share of flaws, for sure. It takes some time for things to really kick into gear, and it also fails to show any meaningful character development for its key characters, Han Solo most especially. There is also that overall lack of suspense, since we already know where the whole thing is headed. There were also some unresolved subplots and twists towards the end that allude to some sort of sequel or connection to a future anthology movie.

You can blame all this on the exceptionally high bars set by Rogue One and The Force Awakens. Or as the naysayers on the internet would put it, on franchise fatigue. But ultimately, the movie functions more like a fun excursion to a place we've all come to know all too well; beautiful for sure, but doesn't leave much of a lasting impression.