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Solo movie finds its feet

Overall, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a great film if you know enough about the Star Wars universe and not so much if you’re not well acquainted with it, making it one of the less successful additions to the franchise, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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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.

Arts and Entertainment

SA rises as Spotify turns 10

October 2018 marks 10 years since Spotify officially launched its music streaming platform and to celebrate this milestone, Spotify has taken a look at some of its biggest discoveries in music.

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Spotify provided the following information:

The service only launched in South Africa in March this year, so this country is not included in the retrospective, but Spotify supplied Gadget with the following local streaming landmarks:

·         Most streamed South African artist – Jeremy Loops

·         Most streamed female South African artist – Shekhinah

·         Highest first-day streaming record – AKA’s Beyonce

Since launch Spotify now sits at 180 million monthly active listeners across 65 countries. These Spotify users can enjoy a music library of over 40 million songs and podcasts, and over 3 billion-plus user-created playlists. As of 31 August 2018, Spotify has also paid over 10 billion euros to rights holders since launch.

To date, over 2 000 genres of music have been identified on Spotify, among them Wonky (electronic music characterised by synths with unusual time signatures), Shimmer Pop (a Swedish cousin of indie pop and indietronica), and British Blues (the blues…with a British flavour).

Spotify has also done an assessment of “listening diversity,” – the number of artists the average user streams per month – which has risen on Spotify over the past 10 years, at an average of about 8% per year. In the past three years alone, listening diversity increased about 40% on the strength of new personalised and editorial playlists – meaning people are listening to an increased number of artists on a regular basis.

An official Decade of Discovery playlist features the most-streamed songs over the past  decade, including favourites like Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” Hozier’s “Take Me To Church,” Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” Rihanna’s “Work,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” Major Lazer’s “Lean On,” and the star-studded “Despacito Remix”.

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Festival taps into source code of African identity

The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival enters its final week from 24 to 29 September with a special focus on gaming and beats. With the theme of “Tap Your Afro Source Code”, this year celebrates technology, creativity and innovation from across the African continent.

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Dr Tegan Bristow, Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival director, says that the theme centres on African visions of technology by tapping into the sources of African tradition and culture alongside technology, creativity and innovation: “This year we are exploring how local culture can move and change the future of technology. How would you understand and unpack the source code of your African identity?”

In its final week, the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival explores music culture via the annual Beats Programme curated by WeHeartBeat, which will descend on the Tshimologong Precinct with a six-day takeover of Braamfontein’s tech hub. The program comprising of workshops, experiences and performances, facilitates the meeting of mind and spirit in an environment geared around the festival’s theme, “Tap Your Afro Source Code”.

The Fak’ugesi Beats Lab, running from the 24th to the 28th of September will host international electronic artists and explore the connection between music, technology and culture with local and international artists. The outcome from these sessions will result in an EP release, a short documentary and a live showcase performance at the Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party on the 29th. The artists featured in the 2018 Beats Lab are S.Fidelity (Switzerland), Zikomo (USA), Morena Leraba (Lesotho) and South African artists Bonj Mpanza  and Hlasko.

In partnership with Ballantines Whisky and Business Arts South Africa, the programme includes panels on: ‘The Future of Music’ facilitated by Tefo Mohapi from iAfrikan.com and featuring guest panellists Riky Rick and Thibaut Mullings; ‘Managing Health Amongst Creatives’ featuring psychologist Thembi Mashigo and panel guests Ayanda Seoka, Mx Blouse and more. The day will include a Masterclass with Black Milk (USA), The Art of Remixing with Zikomo(USA) and close with a ‘Power of Collaborations’ session featuring Zikomo, S.Fidelity , Morena Leraba and Bonj Mpanza.

The last week of Fak’ugesi Festival also hosts a special session on the Future of African Gaming on the 28th and 29th of September. A full day on gaming, this will take place in collaboration with Red Bull Basement and focus on the theme of Tech for Good. The programme includes an Indie Games Arcade; a ‘Games for Good’ workshop focused games that address issues in South African urban environment.

The workshop will be followed by a “Futures and Networking” session, inviting the gaming community in the Southern Africa region to contribute to an understanding of what and how the Fak’ugesi Festival can develop and better support African games. This invitation comes after Fak’ugesi Festival in 2018 says farewell to A MAZE. / Johannesburg, which has supported its program since 2013 as the gaming partner.

A MAZE, under the leadership of its creative director, Thorsten S. Wiedemann, linked the Johannesburg gaming scene to an international network of indie developers for six years from 2012 until 2017. The two-way bridge between A MAZE. / Berlin and A MAZE. / Johannesburg inspired other projects like Super Friendship Arcade in Cape Town and Glitch Face in Johannesburg and was a huge impetus in the development of the Game Design programme in the Wits School of Arts. When the Fak’ugesi Festival was established in 2013, A MAZE fell under Fak’ugesi Festival support as the gaming partner. Weidemann added: “It’s been amazing meeting, working and learning from the local and national game and playful media community.  We definitely made history together.”

The week’s activities culminate in a celebration at the Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party   on Saturday 29 September. This event will reignite the energy and spirit created at the inaugural party in a union of performance, music, technology and digital innovation. The Bloc Party aims to showcase the best in underground talent, both local and international – etching its name in the cultural textbooks as an inspiration to future generations of creators, producers and innovators. The second instalment of this ground-breaking event will host performances from the Beats Lab participants, as well as Black Milk and a strong local contingent including Langa Mavuso, Mx Blouse, Symatics + Ramz, and Micr.Pluto.

Tickets for Thursday 27 September are R50 per session and can be purchased via WeHeartBeat. There will be a limited run of R200 student tickets available for Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party, upon presentation of a valid student ID. Workshop and student tickets can be purchased throughout the week at the reception of the Tshimologong Precinct.

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