Solo: A Star Wars Story is the most enjoyable Star Wars prequels yet. The film starts in the time when Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) lived in Corellia with one of the Star Wars universe’s newest characters, Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke): she is introduced kissing Han in the first few minutes of the film. The film starts with some jokes that don’t land too well, but it quickly finds its feet in the first 10 minutes or so.
There has been some online skepticism about whether Ehrenreich could fill Harrison Ford’s Han Solo boots. He did an amazing job. The way Ehrenreich holds himself, the way he speaks, and his general character, is a perfect representation of how Solo should be: young, full of life, and hungry for justice. Solo explains how Han gets to become one of the best pilots in the universe, despite all the challenges he faces.
It’s a great struggle story of a nobody from Corellia finding his way in the Star Wars universe. That being said, the movie has a lot more to it than just Han finding his way.
The tale begins when Han and Qi’Ra get separated, forcing him to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot alone. He is quickly led into the pits of battle, where he meets bandits and a 196-year-old (!) Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). He makes friends with the bandits and his new Wookie friend to become an intergalactic looter of a rare and expensive power source, coaxium. Along the way, Han needs help from Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).
Qi’Ra’s initial appearance in Solo asserts her as one of the strongest female leads since Princess Leia. Her strong screen presence leaves one hanging onto her every word, especially when she appears later in the film. In her time alone away from Han, she mentions she learned a bit of Teras Kasi, one of the strongest form of hand-to-hand combat in the Star Wars universe.
The great thing about this moment is that Teras Kasi has never been mentioned in any Star Wars film and was only referenced a few times in the 1997 PlayStation 1 game, Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi. This is one of the greatest, and most under-appreciated, Star Wars tie-in moments in the film.
Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) pushes the limits of defining relationships in the Star Wars universe by having a love interest in a robot, L3-37, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Solo’s writers have revealed (in a Huffington Post interview) that Lando’s character is pansexual, which can be noted from Lando flirting with anyone (and anything, if we’re not calling robots people) he meets.
This is an extremely progressive move from the Star Wars writers, creatively expressing what is essentially a LGBT character in a science fiction universe.
Overall, this Star Wars story is brilliant if you know enough about the Star Wars universe and less than brilliant if you’re not well acquainted with it. That being said, the box office force wasn’t exactly with Solo, which may be a sign of prequel fatigue.
What should be next to save the Star Wars universe? Proper cool-off time before creating more Star Wars films, as we’ve seen one a year since 2015.
Netflix to make SA series
The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.
World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.
The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.
The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.
South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.
“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.
“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.
The series is due to start production in 2019.
Showmax shoots its first local drama
Showmax has completed filming its first commissioned drama, as it builds out its roster of original content.
The Girl From St Agnes, Showmax’s first original drama, wrapped on 28 November 2018 after filming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on 31 January 2019. It is the second series in a programme designed to build out its roster of exclusive, original content.
As Netflix takes hold as South Africa’s preferred streaming video-on-demand service, Showmax owner MultiChoice has made a string of strategic announcements designed to take the DStv paid satellite broadcasting service into the streaming era. Original content is critical to this strategy, as Netflix is on track to become the world’s biggest movie studio.
Showmax is available in 70 countries.
“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”
At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.
But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.
The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…
Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.
Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.
Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (High Rollers), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.
The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.
Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.
“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”
All eight episodes can be binged on Showmax from 31 January 2019.