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Solo: A Star Wars Story - DVD Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SOLO could well be the Ant-Man of the Star Wars universe.

For starters, there’s a notoriously troubled shoot, which (just like Ant-Man) saw the film’s original directors replaced. And then there’s the fact that it plays out on a noticeably smaller scale than most of the other films in its franchise. Most crucial, however, is that Solo defies expectations to emerge as a much better film than anticipated in spite of the problems surrounding it.

Ron Howard’s film is essentially a heist movie (again, like Ant-Man) that serves as an introduction to some of Star Wars most beloved characters. First and foremost, there’s Han Solo, nicely played by Alden Ehrenreich to embody more than a few nods to Harrison Ford’s iconic character, while also making the role his own for possible future instalments.

But we also get to see how he met and befriended Chewbacca (played here by Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo), acquired the Millennium Falcon and – by extension – became an acquaintance of Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).

Howard, who belatedly stepped in for original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, enjoyably pieces all of these elements together, while revealing some interesting new characters to boot.

Primary among these is Solo’s love interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), whose outright loyalties aren’t always that clear. But then there’s a roguish master-thief named Beckett (the ever-reliable Woody Harrelson) and a new super-villain in the form of Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos. All make their presence felt.

Enjoyable, too, is another new droid, named L3-37, a right-hand woman to Lando (voiced by Fleabag‘s Phoebe Waller-Bridge), as well as Thandie Newton’s no-nonsense career criminal Val.

If Howard doesn’t always successfully deliver as much screen-time as some of these new players deserve, then the fault perhaps lies in the screenplay (by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan) and the many elements it tries to squeeze in, including several double crosses and a large helping of robust set pieces.

But if that criticism doesn’t unduly harm the movie’s overall entertainment value, it does belatedly expose a bigger overall flaw – the question of whether the movie was needed in the first place. And the answer is sure to divide opinion.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

On the one hand, Solo does tick all the right boxes for Star Wars fans. Its nods to the future and certain character traits are cleverly dealt and it’s nice to find a Star Wars film that’s content to focus more on character than the bigger, universe-in-peril picture.

And yet there’s an inevitability to the fate of some characters (primarily, its main principals) that negates some of the film’s capacity to surprise (unlike first spin-off Rogue One), while the lack of anything genuinely breath-taking may disappoint some. There’s a shortage of iconic moments, even if some interesting seeds are being sewn for potential future spin-offs.

It’s perhaps in this area where the difficulties surrounding the production of the film are exposed. But even then, it may depend on just how ardent a Star Wars fan you are. If, like me, you exist primarily to be entertained (if not always blown away), then Solo is fun, flawed and ultimately forgettable. It’s an amiable popcorn adventure… and sometimes that’s all you need.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 15mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: September 24, 2018

The Negotiator (Jon Hamm) - DVD Review

The Negotiator

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JON Hamm delivers a powerhouse performance in this intelligent and taut thriller, The Negotiator.

The former Mad Men star may be treading vaguely familiar ground by playing another smart-talking, put-upon hero, but he does it so well that he completely commands every scene he’s in. What’s more, he’s aided by a smart script by Tony Gilroy, who himself is no stranger to spy movie traits having penned the first four Jason Bourne films as well as writing and directing the superior Michael Clayton.

Formerly known as Beirut when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, The Negotiator picks up in a faction-ridded Beirut, in 1972, as foreign diplomat Mason Skiles (Hamm), a smooth talking businessman who is friendly with all sides.

We first meet Mason at a party, where his verbose skills are in full effect. But it quickly becomes apparent that his life is about to change. Hence, when agents enter the party to try and take away the 13-year-old boy, Karim, in his care, for alleged links to a terrorist bomber, all hell breaks loose as allies of the child’s brother also turn up to reclaim him. Needless to say, bullets fly and tragedy follows.

Ten years later, and Mason is now an alcoholic low-level businessman carving out a meek living in Boston. He is called back into action, however, to assist when one of his former friends, Cal (Mark Pellegrino), is kidnapped and held to ransom by terrorists who will only negotiate with him.

What ensues is a series of tense meetings between all of the invested parties, as Mason must wrestle past ghosts and stay one step ahead of possibly duplicitous colleagues within the CIA (whose number extend to his handler, Rosamund Pike, and a cocky National Security Council member, Shea Whigham), while also attempting the safe recovery of his former friend from the clutches of another group with connections to his past.

Gilroy’s film is as talky as its name suggests but provides a terrific platform for great character actors to strut their stuff. Hence, while short on action, the film offers both an intelligent examination of Middle Eastern politics as well as an absorbing insight into notions of guilt, regret and terrorist psychology. It may be set mostly in the ’80s but a lot of the issues it raises hold plenty of resonance today (and may doubtless cause some controversy as a result).

Hamm, meanwhile, provides a ferociously compelling central presence, nimbly negotiating his way around several sweaty situations while juxtaposing a perceived sense of arrogance with a tremendous amount of inner turmoil. This is a tour-de-force from him.

But there’s equally eye-catching support from the likes of Pike, suitably irrepressible as his handler, Whigham and Dean Norris (two more veterans of classic US TV shows), and Idir Chender, as one of the primary terrorists Mason is parlaying with.

Director Brad Anderson also does well with Gilroy’s script, subtly increasing the sweaty tension to finally deliver a tense stand-off that brings things to a satisfyingly bittersweet close.

And while elements of this may feel a little too Hollywood given its proximity to recent history and current headlines, there’s no denying the effectiveness of this reliably old-school movie. It’s the type of thriller that mainstream Hollywood now shies away from… one that places words above action and realism above the fantastical.

Fans of Gilroy’s very best work, as well as tightly knit thrillers from the likes of John le Carré, Vince (Syriana) Gilligan and (to a certain extent) Graham Greene, are in for a treat.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 50mins
UK DVD Release: September 24, 2018

A Prayer Before Dawn - Preview & trailer

A Prayer Before Dawn

Preview by Jack Foley

AVAILABLE now on digital download and on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, September 24, 2018, A Prayer Before Dawn is the bruising, authentic and remarkable true story of Billy Moore.

Staring BAFTA nominated breakthrough actor Joe Cole in a stunning lead performance, the film is available to pre-order now.

A young English boxer (Joe Cole) is incarcerated for three years in two of Thailand’s most notorious prisons. He is quickly thrown into a world of drugs and gang violence, but when the prison authorities allow him to take part in the Muay Thai boxing tournaments, Billy realises that this is his only hope for survival, taking him on an incredible journey.

A Prayer Before Dawn features a strikingly visceral performance from breakthrough actor Joe Cole, best known for his recurring role of ‘John Sheldon’, younger brother to Cillian Murphy’s ‘Tommy’, in the BBC’s acclaimed Peaky Blinders.

He has also recently been seen in Hang The DJ, an episode of the latest series of Black Mirror on Netflix alongside Georgina Campbell, in which he has earnt a BAFTA nomination.

A Prayer Before Dawn (cert. 18) is directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, director of the acclaimed Johnny Mad Dog.

Watch the trailer

Win The Breadwinner on DVD

The Breadwinner

Preview by Jack Foley

FROM executive producer Angelina Jolie and twice Academy Award and BAFTA-nominated Kilkenny-based animation studio Cartoon Saloon – the creators of the Academy Award nominated The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, comes the highly-anticipated, award-winning feature The Breadwinner, releasing on Digital Download on September 17 and on Blu-ray and DVD from September 24, 2018. Pre-order now.

The Breadwinner tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family.

With dauntless perseverance, Parvana draws strength from the stories her father told her, and ultimately risks her life to discover if he is still alive. Equal parts thrilling and enchanting, The Breadwinner is a timely and inspiring tale about the transcendent power of stories, and their potential to unite and heal us all.

Based on Deborah Ellis best-selling novel, director Nora Twomey was instantly drawn to the story. After the script was solidified and production began, one of the biggest challenges for the creative team was identifying a clear visual style for the film.

Cartoon Saloon founder and CEO Paul Young, who is also a producer on the film, commented: “In this film, we’ve gone more realistic with the look. We’re introducing a perspective that we’ve never had in our films before.”

Combining various styles of animation (such as cut-out animation) provides the film with a strong visual cue when entering from the real world, Parvana’s experience in Kabul, to the story world, her imagination.

Win The Breadwinner on DVD

To celebrate the release of the critically-acclaimed The Breadwinner on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, September 24, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs The Breadwinner?

Simply send the answer to The Breadwinner competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Watch the trailer

Win Federico Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits on dual edition Blu-ray and DVD

Juliet of the Spirits

Preview by Jack Foley

TWO masterpieces from world revered director Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita) are released for the first time on Blu-ray and arrive as dual editions including a DVD version courtesy of CultFilms.

His highly influential I Vitelloni is already available, while dazzling first colour film Juliet of the Spirits is also celebrated with a fresh HD restorations that does justice to his original vision.

Winner of the 1966 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli Spiriti) is Fellini’s fantastical first ever feature-length colour film which now makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of CultFilms on Monday, September 24.

This exceptional HD restoration is released in dual edition including its first ever UK Blu-ray version alongside the DVD, as well as available digitally on all UK platforms.

Hailed as one of the greatest tributes a husband has ever paid to his wife, Fellini’s real life partner Giulietta Masina (La Strada), plays her namesake and delivers a superb performance in this internationally acclaimed classic. (Yet bizarrely it also co-stars Sandra Milo known to be Fellini’s mistress).

Giulietta is a bored, timid and unfulfilled wife. Suspecting her husband’s infidelity, she enters a surreal journey of self-discovery filled with wild dreams and enchanting fantasies, much of which involve her sexually liberated neighbour Suzy (Sandra Milo – 8 1⁄2) .

With a whimsical score from Nino Rota, Fellini moves on from neo-realism and defines ‘Felliniesque’ in this breathtakingly beautiful carnival ride.

Win Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits on dual edition Blu-ray and DVD

To celebrate the release of Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits on dual edition Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, September 24, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who composed the score for Juliet of the Spirits?

Simply send the answer to Juliet of the Spirits competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Win Life of the Party on DVD

Life of the Party

Preview by Jack Foley

To mark the release of Life of the Party, out NOW on DVD and Digital Download, we’re giving away a DVD copy of the film.

When her husband suddenly dumps her, long-time dedicated housewife Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) turns regret into reset by going back to college… landing in the same class and school as her daughter, who’s not entirely sold on the idea.

Plunging headlong into the campus experience, the increasingly outspoken Deanna – now Dee Rock – embraces freedom, fun and frat boys on her own terms, finding her true self in a senior year no one ever expected.

Watch the trailer

For your chance to win – just answer the following question…

Q: Name the actress who stars in Life of The Party, and has previously appeared in the following Warner Bros. films: Tammy, The Hangover Part 3, Life as We Know It

Simply send the answer to Life of the Party competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

© 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

Terms & conditions

Open to UK residents only

- The competition will close on October 16, 2018 at 23.59 GMT.

- The winner will be picked at random from entries received.

- One [1] winner will receive 1 copy of Life of the Party on DVD.

- If any Prize or element thereof becomes unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances, Warner Bros. UK reserves the right to substitute with a Prize of equivalent rating and audience at its sole discretion.

- Events may occur that make the awarding of the Prize impractical or inappropriate due to unforeseen circumstances or reasons beyond the control of the Promoter or Warner Bros. In this situation, the Warner Bros. may vary or amend the Prize to provide a reasonable alternative as a result of which the Promoter or parties connected to the Promoter shall not be held liable.

- No cash or credit alternative is available and the Prize is not transferable. Prizes may not be sold, offered for sale or used in connection with any other competition or promotion by the Prize winner.

- The Promoter of this competition is IndieLondon.co.uk.

- Entrants’ personal data submitted in connection with the promotion will be processed by the Promoter and third-party service providers for the purpose of administering and managing the promotion, distributing prize and verifying the eligibility of entrants/winner. By entering the promotion, entrants agree that their information may be used by the Promoter to administer the promotion.

- To coincide with GDPR regulations, competition entry information will not be stored once the competition has ended and the winners have been chosen and prizes sent out.

Win Escape Plan Box Set on DVD (featuring Escape Plan I & 2)

Escape Plan II box set

Preview by Jack Foley

STRAP yourself in for the second instalment of the explosive and electrifying action franchise, as the on-screen forces of Sylvester Stallone (Creed, The Expendables) and Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy) combine in Escape Plan 2, available on digital HD from September 10 and on DVD and Blu-Ray from September 17, 2018, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

Years after Ray Breslin (three-time ACADEMY AWARD© nominee and GOLDEN GLOBE© winner Sylvester Stallone) fought his way out of the escape-proof prison called ‘The Tomb’, he’s organised a new top-notch, for-hire security force that includes some of the best in the business.

But when one of Breslin’s team goes missing – inside a computerised techno-terror battle-maze known as HADES, where human combatants brawl like beasts – Breslin goes back into the secret lock-up to save his friend.

To attempt this near impossible mission, he enlists his old friend Trent Derosa (Dave Bautista) and the returning surveillance expert Hush (Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson), to help him return from the gauntlet with both his friend and his life.

Following on from the success of the first film in 2013, Escape Plan 2 aims to build on the story and characters that connected so well with action movie fans the first time around, elevating them to a whole new white knuckle ride into the dystopian land of the dead.

With some of the action genres biggest hitters coming together, Escape Plan 2 promises audiences one hell of a ride.

Win Escape Plan Box Set on DVD on DVD

To celebrate the release of Escape Plan II on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, September 17, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies of the box set, featuring the original and the sequel. Simply answer the following question…

Q. What is the name of Dave Bautista’s character in Escape Plan 2?

Simply send the answer to Escape Plan Box Set on DVD competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Deadpool 2 - DVD Review

Deadpool 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IF SUPERHERO fatigue is a thing, then the sequel to Deadpool should have had its work cut out not only in avoiding it, but also ensuring that the freshness of its fourth wall shattering, foul-mouthed, ultra violent original didn’t become stale as well.

Fortunately, Deadpool 2 emerges as one of those rare examples of a sequel that actually betters the original. It’s just as brash, funny, inventive, subversive and, yes, offensive as its predecessor; but it arguably has a little more heart, a lot more cash and plays out on a bigger, more confident scale.

And while those that didn’t rate the first Deadpool won’t be swayed here, the core fans – those people that enabled it to become the second highest grossing R-rated film in US history behind The Passion of the Christ – will lap up every extended minute.

Perhaps most remarkably, Deadpool 2 still has the ability to surprise – and that’s in spite of a marketing campaign that has dropped countless trailers, promos, pop videos with Celine Dion and David Beckham apologies.

The plot is quite heavy. What you may well have gleaned from the aforementioned marketing is that part of it involves a teenage mutant named Russell (played by Julian Dennison, of Hunt For The Wilderpeople fame), who needs Deadpool’s help to survive after being targeted by a fellow mutant named Cable (Josh Brolin), who has travelled from the past to kill the young firestarter.

In order to do so, Deadpool (once again played by Ryan Reynolds) creates his own superhero outfit, named X-Force (which includes the likes of Zazie Beetz’s Domino). And then there’s his ongoing relationship with both his true love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, now ready to start a family), and his extended X-Men family to nurture and/or understand.

Needless to say, not everything plays out in the way you’d expect… not even from watching those countless trailers! Reynolds, who co-scripted with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, clearly enjoys toying with expectation and then shattering it – much in the same way that he revels in tearing down superhero conventions and poking fun at himself and anyone on his pop culture radar.

But another surprise is the way in which he does so without losing sight of some core values. There is an emotional undertow, which allows Reynolds to present a more melancholy version of Deadpool at times – someone at odds with himself and those around him (we won’t say why).

Everyone operates from a place of hurt. And while there are times when the film’s readiness to shoot for laughs sometimes upsets the dramatic momentum, enough of it is retained for Deadpool 2 to land some unexpectedly hefty emotional blows.

Fear not, though. This isn’t the Empire Strikes Back of the Deadpool saga. The laughs still fly thick and fast… some of it crude, some of it lewd, some of it inspired and most of it always outrageous in some way.

There’s a nod to Basic Instinct in one utterly bizarre exchange between Deadpool and his team-mates, an homage to Say Anything, DC put-downs, a running joke about Yentl and Frozen as well as countless non-PC jokes at the expense of everyone and everything (from Hitler to racism via Reynolds’ own acting CV… Green Lantern, anyone?).

Deadpool 2

With John Wick’s David Leitch in the director’s chair, meanwhile, the action becomes increasingly operatic in nature. The choreography is often as stunning as it is wince-inducing, meaning that Deadpool earns every bit of its R-rated/15 certification.

And yet, there’s still room for character growth, with Reynolds managing to take Wade Wilson on a worthwhile emotional journey even from behind the mask, and Brolin’s Cable emerging as a fully rounded character to boot. Beetz and Dennison also make a strong impression.

If not everything lands successfully, it’s perhaps to be expected, and even forgivable, given the extremes to which the film so frequently goes. But that’s part of the appeal. Deadpool 2 is a romp to be indulged in on its own f**ked up terms.

As Deadpool himself might say, it’s a superhero film that exists to be bad for all the right reasons. So why not just go with the flow?

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 59mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: September 17, 2018

Win Jacques Rivette’s The Nun on Blu-ray

The Nun

Preview by Jack Foley

STUDIOCANAL are delighted to announce that, following its selection for Cannes Classics 2018 and its recent screening at the Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Jacques Rivette’s controversial French New Wave The Nun (La religieuse) will make its UK Premiere on DVD/Blu-ray/EST on September 17, 2018.

Banned for two years upon release for its controversial subject matter, with an exception granted for it to premiere at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim, Jacques Rivette’s The Nun is a gem of the French New Wave, encapsulating the turbulent years of the Gaullist government and political instability of France in the 1960s.

Adapted from the 18th Century novel by Denis Diderot, the author of The Lumieres, the film stars Anna Karina (Alphaville, Pierrot le fou) as Suzanne Simonin, a young woman removed from her family home to become a nun against her will.

The character of Suzanne becomes, with Diderot, an allegorical figure of freedom of speech and revolt.

In the XVIII century, Suzanne Simonin (Anna Karina) is locked in a convent against her will. She finds for a while some comfort with the Mother Superior, but then she dies and is replaced by a sadistic woman than cannot stop blaming and punishing Suzanne. The young lady gets the right to move to another convent, however, she remains determined to recover her freedom.

Jacques Rivette (1928 – 2016) was a French film director and film critic, known for his contributions to the French New Wave and the influential magazine (dubbed the ‘instrument of combat’ of the New Wave) Cahiers du Cinéma, of which he was editor throughout the first half of the 1960s.

Extremely prolific throughout his career, Rivette made 29 films, best known among them L’amour fou (1969), Out 1 (1971) and La Belle Noiseuse (1991).

The restoration of The Nun was made in 4K from the original film negative. The 4K resolution reproduces all the information and the details from the 35mm film and re-establishes on big screen the beauty of Jacques Rivette’s images and the delicacy of Alain Levent’s photography.

The sound has also been restored from the negative sound (the only compliant element).

This restoration was carried out by the laboratory L’immagine Ritrovata under the supervision of STUDIOCANAL and Mrs. Véronique Manniez-Rivette, and lasted five months, benefiting from the support of the French National Center For Cinema And Animated Image, The French Cinematheque and the Franco-american Cultural Fund-DGA-MPA-SACEM-WGAW.

Win Jacques Rivette’s The Nun on Blu-ray

To celebrate the release of The Nun on Blu-ray on Monday, September 17, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies on Blu-ray. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who wrote the 18th Century novel upon which The Nun is based?

Simply send the answer to The Nun competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Iceman - Preview

Iceman

Preview by Jack Foley

RIVETING, unique, and visually stunning – the ground-breaking epic revenge thriller Iceman will be available to own on DVD and Blu-ray on September 17, 2018. Available to pre-order now

Inspired by the discovery of Ötzi The Iceman, the oldest known human mummy found in 1991, approximately 5,300 years after his death, Iceman is an immersive, universal story of survival and revenge. Staring Juergen Vogel (The Wave), Susanne Wuest (Goodnight Mommy), André Hennicke (Downfall) and Franco Nero (Django), Iceman is brought to the screen by writer/director Felix Randau (Northern Star, The Calling Game).

The Ötztal Alps, more than 5,300 years ago. A Neolithic clan has settled nearby a creek. It is their leader Kelab’s responsibility to be the keeper of the group’s holy shrine Tineka.

While Kelab is hunting, the settlement is attacked. The members of the tribe are brutally murdered, amongst them Kelab’s wife and son, only one newborn survives… and Tineka is gone.

Blinded by pain and fury, Kelab is out for one thing alone – vengeance. He sets out after the murderers on what turns into a grand odyssey where he must fight constantly – for the infant’s survival; against the immense forces of nature; against hunters he encounters; and, amongst the loneliness of the quest, against a growing sense of doubt over the morality of his mission.

Told with minimal dialogue in an extinct dialect and without subtitles, Iceman offers a unique and fascinating cinematic experience which walks in the footsteps of ancestry to investigate a five-thousand-year-old murder mystery.

A revenge thriller like no other – Iceman will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD across the UK by Bulldog Film Distribution on September 17, 2018.