Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018; USA; Colour; 135m) ***½ d. Ron Howard; w. Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan; ph. Bradford Young; m. John Powell. Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Warwick Davis, Clint Howard, Richard Dixon, Joonas Suotamo, Sarah-Stephanie, Deepak Anand, Slim Khezri, Ian Kenny, Douglas Robson, Omar Alboukharey, Sean Gislingham, Nathaniel Lonsdale. During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion. Whilst this STAR WARS spin-off offers nothing particularly new or surprising, considering its troubled production history it remains a surprisingly consistently entertaining adventure. Ehrenreich displays the same roguish charisma as essayed by Harrison Ford and Glover also scores as Lando Calrissian. The action set pieces are effective and avoid the stilted choreography of recent efforts. Whilst the story itself may lack the gravitas and mysticism of its parent, it makes for more simple-minded fun. Although originally brought on board to complete the film after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had been dismissed due to creative differences, it was widely reported that Howard re-shot more than 80% of the movie. Also shot in 3-D. 
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017; UK/USA; Colour; 115m) ***** d. Martin McDonagh; w. Martin McDonagh; ph. Ben Davis; m. Carter Burwell. Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Abbie Cornish, Brendan Sexton III, Samara Weaving, Kerry Condon, Nick Searcy, Lawrence Turner, Amanda Warren, Michael Aaron Milligan, William J. Harrison, Sandy Martin, Christopher Berry, Zeljko Ivanek, Alejandro Barrios, Jason Redford, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Selah Atwood. A darkly comic crime drama in which a woman pressures the police into continuing the investigation into her daughter’s murder. Multi-layered tale with themes of retribution, prejudice, guilt and redemption is brilliantly scripted and superbly acted. McDormand, Rockwell and Harrelson turn in top-notch performances. It is darkly comic, but the drama burns deep. At times it is a tough watch, but it remains engrossing throughout. A modern-day parable of rare complexity. Won Oscars for Best Actress (McDormand) and Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell). 
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017; USA; Colour; 140m) *** d. Matt Reeves; w. Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves; ph. Michael Seresin; m. Michael Giacchino. Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Gabriel Chavarria, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Ty Olsson, Judy Greer, Sara Canning, Devyn Dalton, Michael Adamthwaite, Aleks Paunovic, Toby Kebbell. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. Bloated third entry in the rebooted APES series has stunning visuals and special effects, but is weighed down by two-dimensional characterisations. Reeves too often slows the action down to a crawl in order to manufacture emotional wallop and some of the plot progression lacks logic. Also shot in 3-D.