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Tag Archive: John Powell


Review by C.J. Bunce

Maybe you don’t need the Old West to have a great Western after all.  Bringing back the feel of the first third of the original Star Wars: A New Hope with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid level of fun and humor, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters with something for every Star Wars fan.  The saloons may be different and so are the sidearms, but this is the story of a young gunfighter, complete with the related outlaws and mercenaries, partners and betrayals, card playing, and gunfights.  With the sweeping adventure of The Empire Strikes Back, the perfectly rebuilt and repackaged nostalgia of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a jumping off point for a galaxy of possibilities for beloved characters we only thought we knew, director Ron Howard delivers.  Not weighted down by the gloom and doom of the Dark Side in Rogue One or the rest of the Star Wars films, this Star Wars story creates new and original locations and situations for a few familiar characters plus many new ones and still ties into the overall episodic stories, taking place after Revenge of the Sith, but before Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.  Yet we meet many new characters and questions are raised in the film that beg for one or more sequels to this branch off the main Star Wars saga–we can now have many new tie-in novels, comics, TV series, and maybe even movies to keep it all going.  If you didn’t think The Last Jedi captured the nostalgia or fun of earlier Star Wars films, then Solo is for you–not since The Empire Strikes Back has an entry in the saga been such a rollercoaster ride.

Surprises?  In a film that could have just filled in the blanks, the surprises were dished out from beginning to end, including some big ones we won’t mention here.  The overall tone is something out of Amazing High Adventure, and it makes perfect sense: It’s Silverado in space.  Screenplay writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay with son Jonathan Kasdan), known for writing Westerns Silverado and Wyatt Earp, prior Star Wars entries The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and that greatest of adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark, was the perfect match to veteran director and movie icon Ron Howard.  The Western inspiration is supported visually in the Frederic Remington-inspired colors and landscapes.  You can spot the World War II movie references along the way, too, that Kasdan and Howard no doubt enjoyed as moviegoers over the years, like Von Ryan’s Express.  The relationships between characters evoke gangster movies and even pirate tales like Treasure Island.  Science fiction fans will see parallels to Han’s band of mercenaries in both the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels and Joss Whedon’s Serenity crew in the Firefly television series.

The Kasdans smartly injected those scenes every fan has thought about, pulled from passing references throughout the original trilogy to become fully realized plot threads, and then they folded in so much more.  Without the religion and mysticism of the Force, Solo: A Star Wars Story breaks the precedents of the saga as space fantasy to become arguably the first end-to-end science fiction movie of the franchise.  And it’s not just a fun movie.  Viewers will get plenty to think about.  Characters here are sometimes swapped into positions taken by other characters (and beasts) in prior movies in a way that will make moviegoers want to take another look at the prior films again.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A fantastic animated movie is heading to theaters this week that your family is not going to want to miss, and (assuming you’re already planning to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi) if you see only two movies over the holidays you’ll want to make sure this is one of them.  Once referred to as the greatest children’s book since Winnie the Pooh, the 1936 internationally successful The Story of Ferdinand has finally been adapted into a full-length animated film.  It is the real deal–a classic animated movie in the tradition of Pinocchio, Bambi, Snow White, The Jungle Book, Tarzan, and Beauty and the Beast, possibly the best film in decades to merit inclusion among these cinema greats, with a level of animation that may have you thinking of the Aardman stop-action films because of its quality 3D animation.  The 32-page original story written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson has been expanded into a larger story with new characters like many popular children’s books–think Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Polar Express, and The Night at the Museum–remaining completely loyal to the original story.

Ferdinand tells the story of a rural Spanish bull (voiced by actor/WWE wrestler John Cena) who is not interested in growing up like other bulls to fight a matador in the giant arena in Madrid.  He leaves his farm and is adopted by a man and his daughter, where he spends his days smelling (and caring for) flowers on the hillside.  He eventually grows to be a giant bull, larger than any bull around, and a mishap bee sting lands Ferdinand back at the farm with the bulls he grew up with.  They, too, have grown up: Valiente, a stubborn, angry bull (voiced by Ant-Man’s Bobby Cannavale), a small bull named Bones (voiced by Law and Order’s Anthony Anderson), Guapo, a show-off bull (voiced by NFL football player Peyton Manning), an engineered super bull named Machina, and a Scottish Highlander named Angus (voiced by Doctor Who’s David Tennant).  Law and Order’s Jeremy Sisto provides the voice of Ferdinand’s father and Jerrod Carmichael (Transformer: The Last Knight) is the voice of the dog, Paco.  Soon an ambitious goat (voiced by Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon) befriends Ferdinand as Ferdinand learns what it means to be seen by everyone as a “monstrous” bull again.

Ferdinand has it all, at its core a story about an individual who stays true to himself, beautiful scenery, some fun and familiar voice actors, a complex villain, an outstanding musical score with great songs, and powerful themes.  Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha, who directed the Ice Age films and Rio, demonstrates his mastery of cutting edge animation, with a screenplay that creates several subplots that all get nicely tied up by film’s end.  The soundtrack includes songs from Smash Mouth, Green Day, Shakira, Ed Sheeran, and many more.  Prolific composer John Powell (The Italian Job, Shrek, The Bourne Identity, Paycheck, X-Men: The Last Stand, and next year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story) offers up a musical score that includes all you’d hope for in a Spanish story, incorporating a variety of styles and instrumentation.

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