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Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo so-so 

       Growing up under the Dickensian thumb of an evil crime boss, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich: The Yellow Birds) knows how to run a scam and talk himself out of a scrape. He has dreams of getting off the planet of Corellia with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke: Game of Thrones). When his escape go awry, Han must flee the planet — say it with me — Solo. 
      Determined to return to Corellia with enough coin to buy Qi’ra’s freedom, Han joins the Empire’s army. Kicked out of flight school for his arrogance and mouth, Han is slogging through battlefields trying not to die when he meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), a crook who ekes out a living stealing hyperfuel from the Empire and selling it to fringe organizations. 
       Han signs up for a life of crime and quick cash, convincing his newfound friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo: Star Wars: The Last Jedi) to come along as muscle.
      If you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie, this is not the one to start with. Solo: A Star Wars Story is entertaining enough, but production and scripting woes show. Hired after another team’s firing, director Ron Howard (Inferno) cobbled together what he could from already-shot and reshot footage. No surprise that the overall story is rushed and disjointed. 
      Many plot points are told through clunky dialogue rather than shown. The central love story is poorly written, and its actors have zero chemistry. Most relationships are vaguely sketched. Some chase scenes, particularly one involving the Millennium Falcon and a space anomaly, are visually boring in badly rendered graphics. 
       The biggest failure is Emilia Clarke, who pulls outlandish faces and becomes a distraction in every appearance. She and Ehrenreich are very pretty, but together they have the appeal of cold oatmeal. 
        This is a shame as the love story wastes so much time, and the other parts are pretty darn entertaining. Harrelson and Ehrenreich have chemistry, and the heist scenes are fun. Suotamo’s Chewie also has great rapport with the cast and entertaining reactions to Han’s stupid plans and antics. 
         The best part of the movie, however, may be Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover: Atlanta) and his droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge: Goodbye Christopher Robin). Glover fully captures the slick charm of Lando, who disguises his worries beneath his cavalier veneer. His odd relationship with L3-37, who believes in droid rebellion from human rule, is one of the strongest in the film.
       Flawed, yes, but Solo is still fun. Grab a bucket of popcorn and sit down to laugh your way though this breezy origin tale. If you’re a diehard Chewie fan, like this reviewer, it’s more than worth the ticket to finally see just what happens when you make a Wookie mad.
Fair Action Adventure • PG-13 • 135 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Action Point
        D.C. (Johnny Knoxville) is the proprietor of an off-brand theme park filled with rickety rides and apathetic employees. When his daughter Boogie visits, D.C. wonders if he shouldn’t upgrade. Then a big corporate park opens nearby. 
       This is your typical Johnny Knoxville comedy, which means he’ll be hit, run over and thrown through the air. There will be crude humor, lots of silly jokes and barely any plot. 
Prospects: Dim • R • 85 mins.
 
Adrift
       When her boyfriend Richard (Sam Claflin) invites her to sail across the Pacific, Tami (Shailene Woodley) thinks romance. The lovebirds hit a snag when they sale into a hurricane. With the boat and Richard nearly destroyed, Tami must draw on determination to save boat and boyfriend. 
       Based on a true story, Adrift should be a stirring tale of survival. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 120 mins.
 
Upgrade
       Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) watches four muggers kill his wife after paralyzing him. Filled with rage, he gets an offer he can’t refuse: A billionaire wants to use him as a guinea pig for an implant under development. STEM would rewire Grey’s brain and allow him to walk.
        It works, and the now-mobile Grey goes after the men who killed his wife. He finds an odd ally in the STEM system, which is able to take over his body and give him super-powered strength and abilities.
       Is the STEM implant a godsend? Or is there a downside to allowing AI to move your body like a puppet? 
      This type of action movie could go either way, to bonkers action or slogging high-concept. If it leans into the craziness inherent in the plot, it could be a gonzo good time.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 95 mins.