Solo : A Star Wars Story – No Spoilers Review


I eventually got around to watching “Solo : A Star Wars Story” today (more then 36 hours after it was released!). To summarise, it was good but not great.

This film is basically an origins/back-story for Han Solo, in the Star Wars timeline it is approximately 10+ years before the original (“Episode IV: A New Hope”).

Although it takes part in the Star Wars universe, it could stand alone. Yes the Empire is there with Stormtroopers and there’s speeders and R2 units etc. But they are really all pretty much incidental to the film. That’s not to say there’s nothing there for Star Wars fans, there’s lot’s of little nods for the fans, where did Han get that iconic blaster? or meet Chewie and Lando? And of-course there’s a brand new shiny Millennium Falcon and we finally get to see how Han “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” (“well if rounding down”).

Unlike all previous films it does not really have a good versus evil (dark/light) theme, there are no Jedis, no mention of “The Force”, as I said the Empire is not really a significant factor, there are some interesting indications at the evil Empire and good rebels but they are not really major plot lines (for the most part).

Without giving away any spoilers, the end does throw up a couple interesting links to the mainstream timeline and also leaves room for a new “Star Wars Story” outside the main timeline.

It was an enjoyable diversion/filler until the next Star Wars Episode, Episode IX is due for release December 20, 2019.


Amazon Lockers

I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon the other day (all fairly small things like cables, etc) and just my luck when I checked out they were split into two separate deliveries. Normally my Amazon deliveries arrive mid afternoon which is a pain as I have yo stay in until they arrive, I’ve been told you can get a text message to give you advance warning so you don’t have to wait in the whole day, but although I have that set up, I’ve never received a text from them, except a verification code when I set it up, I even deleted my mobile number yesterday and re-entered it to confirm it worked bu I still never got any texts about my delivery ūüė¶ [Update:I got a text today telling me my second parcel was delivered to the lockers]  


Anyway, I discovered there are Amazon lockers at the Kirkgate, which is a 10 google minutes walk from my flat and decided to try them. A few hours after ordering Amazon said my first delivery would be late and instead of arriving on the 3rd it would be sometime between the 3rd and the 8th! By lunchtime yesterday they updated it again and said it was out for delivery, it left the Edinburgh depot about 11:00am


I went into town around 13:00, thinking I’d do some shopping and then pick up my Amazon delivery on the way home about 16:00. But 16:00 came and went and I had not heard from Amazon, my parcel was still “out for delivery”, by 17:30 I gave up and got the bus back to Leith. Before I got back to Leith I received a notification that my parcel had been delivered to the lockers. I got an email with a number and a bar code.


So I hopped off the bus a couple stops early at the bottom of Leith walk and went to the Lockers, they are just outside the shopping area (beside Trinity House). There is a touch screen attached which when activated told me to enter my code or scan the bar code on the scanner below the screen. I got my email on the phone and waved it at the scanner and “hey presto!” one of the locker doors popped open to reveal my parcel! I was impressed, (I’m easily impressed).


The lockers are obviously of limited size, apparently the Amazon website will tell you if your parcel is too big before you checkout, but for smallish stuff this is handy and saves the hassle of waiting in all day, you also have three days to pick up your parcel which is handy if it’s delivered when you are busy.

There’s also a new pub opened (The “Steel Coulson”) a couple hundred yards along the road from the lockers, so it gave me the opportunity to check it out too ūüôā



3D IMAX Sucks

I don’t go to the cinema that often, usually for “special” movies that should be seen on the big screen at least once, why spend that money when you can own the film a few months later for approximately the same price. I especially don’t spend the extra money for IMAX and/or 3D. I did watch Avatar in 3D at the cinema as that was hyped as the next generation of movie experience (it wasn’t). Anyway I stumbled across a 3D IMAX one day only “Filmfest” a while ago, showing 4 films for ¬£3 each, so I got myself a ticket for “The Force Awakens” (I also tried to get a ticket for “Fantastic Beasts” but it was already sold out).

So let’s start with the “disclaimers”

  1. I am aware that the Edinburgh Cineworld IMAX screen is not actually a “true” IMAX screen, I won’t go into the details but it’s the wrong size, aspect ratio and I believe uses digital projectors instead of 70mm film, you can Google the differences for yourself or compare it to the IMAX in Glasgow which I am led to believe IS a “true” IMAX screen.
  2. The Force Awakens was NOT filmed using IMAX cameras except for (I read)¬†one short scene; ¬†so this probably means that disclaimer 1 above doesn’t matter as much.
  3. The Force Awakens was not filmed using 3D cameras but converted in post production, this may well have had an adverse effect on the end result.
  4. I probably was not sitting in the perfect seat (C15) which is on the third row and slightly to the right of centre, it was a pretty good seat but slightly higher and more central may have improved my viewing experience, but they were all sold when I booked, although many were actually empty (I guess a lot of people bought tickets but didn’t go).

To be fair some parts of the 3D looked fantastic and worked really well but there was so much that didn’t work that I will be very unlikely to¬†pay the usual full price for a 3D film at the cinema (unless there is some stunning new technology breakthrough).

Now we have that out of the way, why does 3D IMAX suck?

  1. ¬†Focal Depth – The 3D view creates an unnatural “layered” effect in some scenes which makes things look like cutouts in a diorama. ¬†I assume this is partially due to the post production 3D in that it cannot render perfectly every part of the scene to the correct focal depth so selects the major parts of the image to a specific focal depth and extrapolates the bits in between, e.g. in a crowd scene the people may be set to a specific focal depth (i.e. how sharply in focus they are) but the bits of the scene between the people may not match exactly.
  2. Focal Point- In some scenes the main main object in the scene is in sharp focus and everything else is deliberately out of focus, which can look fantastic but sometimes the image jumps around so much that your eyes have to move quickly around the screen. Now I appreciate that this IS also an issue with 2D films but it is so much more noticeable on a large 3D image, I suspect that if the film was originally designed to be in 3D that the editing would have been done differently to compensate for this, for example, some subtle panning to draw your view more gently.
  3. Poor quality 3D – ¬†Some scenes just did not render well in 3D, especially fast moving scenes with lots of objects at different depths overlapping, I noticed on numerous occasions where the edges of objects were not sharp and clean as they should have been, they were jagged and blurred, I’m guessing that this is due to the post 3D rendering not able to do a perfect job on every single frame. ¬†It was usually only for a split second but it was noticeable enough¬†to be off putting and occurred often enough to be an irritation.
  4.  It looks too good РMaybe this one is just me but some scenes looked so good in 3D that you want to study all the subtleties of the the 3D rendered screen instead of watching the movie. I know this sounds counter intuitive but imagine the scene where *WARNING -Minor Spoiler alert* Ren and Fynn are fighting in the snowy forest, instead of watching the fight you are admiring how well all the trees and snowflakes look in 3D!

Don’t get me wrong some parts of the film looked totally spectacular but there were so many other parts that just did not work well, ranging from mildly irritating to very bad, that it came close to ruining the experience completely. I certainly will not be paying the normal extra cost to watch another film in 3D IMAX in future.

Fringe 2016 Р The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare,  Swivelhead 

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare ***** (5 Stars) 

I’m a fan of The Socks,  I’ve seen them at the Fringe several times now,  last year I wasn’t too impressed,  they had quite a few old jokes and obscure references I didn’t get.  This year they are back with a whole new show and back on top form. 

For those that don’t know the socks,  (check out their videos on YouTube )  they are two sock puppets that do a very funny show on a specific subject interspersed with a few comedic songs. 

This year they are doing Shakespeare and as per usual one of the Socks is getting too serious and the other one is managing to misunderstand,  complicate and generally screw things up.   ūüėā

I love The Socks and always see them at The Fringe,  but they are not for everyone (or children! )  Check them out on YouTube and if you like what you see go see their show! 

Swivelhead *** (3 stars)

Somebody handed me a flyer at the Pleasance Courtyard for this show,  that said it was about a RAF pilot turning into an owl. It’s not really,  the whole owl thing is somewhat irrelevant. Its a play about an ex Typhoon pilot who now flies UAV drones and has a nervous breakdown. 

The play centres around the main character and his work with a new UAV pilot and the main character’s relationship with his sister.  It switches between routine days flying  UAVs with the two characters talking to each other and during off time having phone conversations with his sister,  who is planning on getting married. 

It is very well done and goes into the past history of the lead character, as well as the relationship with his sister and (deseaced)  father.  It does go into the whole ethical question about UAV drones.  The lead character talks about being a real pilot and references to the “Playstation”  generation.  Its all well done and does a good job of balancing the argument for and against “drone warfare” versus conventional bombing. 

The whole “turning into an owl” plot line is really obtuse and not really relevant,  the real  idea is the lead character does slowly have a breakdown. The owl part is really just a minor part. 

The show is very well done,  they have a fairly impressive set (for a Fringe show)  and the acting is very good.  Not exactly a light hearted show as it does delve into the whole drone,  modern warfare  against terrorism,  middle east/western imperialism subjects. But the acting is top notch and the show could easily be a professional show in a “regular” theatre. 

Fringe 2016 – Wychwood, ¬†The Oxford Gargoyles Jazz A Capella, ¬†Steele Edge : Maerial Arts Illusion Show, ¬†Randy Writes A Novel

Wychwood **** (4 stars)

Wychwood is an asylum, that closed it doors in  1916, this show takes you inside and tells the tails of some of its inmates. 

It’s actually a show mixing four edwardian horror tales with music. Its mostly acting  with a few songs thrown in.  The acting is,  for the most part,  will done by a youngish cast,  I did think that some of the acting was a little stilted at times but perhaps the coupke individuals were selected for their singing ability over their acting. For the most part it was very well acted and the singing interludes are well done although perhaps a little out of place at times,  but isn’t that the way of musicals write often?  People bursting into song for no apparent reason ūüėÜ

The stories themselves were quite good and fairly original. The main characters,  (inmates of the asylum) appearing in straight jackets to introduce their tale before it is reenacted. 

There are lots of well done effects and a combination of live music and additional sound effects add to the atmosphere. There are also some nice “special” effects that adds to the show,  not hugely expensive effects (e. g. a rocking horse that starts rocking on its own,  a music box that opens and closes when no-one is near it,  a disembodied head in a cupboard) but clever enough.  It’s nice to see a the extra effort go into some props,  unlike a lot of Fringe shows that just leave it to the imagination.

All in all its a good,  dark and creepy show with much more plus points than a few minor ones. 

The Oxford Gargoyles: Jazz A Cappella  ***** (5 stars)

 I’ve seen this show a few times over the years and it never disappoints.  Each year is new and a delight to see.  The performers change from year to year but the high standards are always maintained. 

Their repetoire of songs is quite varied, including a track from The Jungle Book (King of the Swingers)  and “Twist and Shout” as well as some improvised jazz “bebob”. 

Along with the excellent singing the show is well choreographed,  not axillary dancing but moving around the stage for different line ups and formations for different songs. Most (if not all)  of the take centre stage at one time or another for solos and/duets. 

Is always a good show and I’ll no doubt try and see them again next year. 

Steele Edge: Martial Arts Illusion Show * (1 star) 

The show starts off with two guys doing some martial arts moves,  kick punches,  tumbles and somersaults,  this is a good start and they are fairly impressive (hence the 1 star). 

The rest of the show is led by a guy doing some fairly cheesy magic tricks. All of these tricks we’ve seen before and seen done better. Some of the props looked home made,  others can be bought at any decent magic shop. 

At one stage the lead man started throwing playing cards around like thowing stars,  this seemed a bit pointless not to mention a little dangerous as he wasn’t very accurate,  I was sitting in the front row and one of the cards almost hit me,  I felt it brush my hair and if I hadnt ducked it may have hit me! 

The rest of the magic tricks were pretty poorly executed e. g.  you could clearly see a person moving into position when a sheet was raised,  and the “empty” box obviously had mirrors in it to hide the secret compartment. 

A very amateur show and not worth the ticket price! 

Randy Writes A Novel
***** (5 stars) 

This is basically a one “man” stand-up comedy show,  except Randy is a puppet that wouldn’t look out of place on The Muppet Show,  although  he has an Australian accent and swears a lot. 

I first saw Randy at The Fringe a few years ago,  then he was a drunk!  The next time I saw him he had given up drinking and was trying to sort his life out. He is still on the wagon and has now written a novel!  

He admits he is rather scared about publishing it unless it isn’t received well so has decided to get the opinion of the Fringe audience by reading the manuscript. 

He is rather nervous about reading it and keeps procrastinating by talking about other subjects including Ernest Hemmingway,  the meaning of art,  being a vegan,  etc.  

It’s a hysterically funny show,  even though Randy’s features can’t move be seems to be able express real emotions.  Combined with a lot of humour and rather coarse language he puts on a fabulous show.   

Fringe 2016 – Escape from the planet of the day that time forgot, ¬†The Power of Japanese ¬†Drums, ¬†Nosferatu’s Shadow

Escape from the planet of the day that time forgot ***** (5 stars) 

This show is really funny and really well some.  Its a three person comedy/parody sci-fi play in the style of a typical  1950’s movie. 

When the professor’s eager young assistant brings an odd rock to show the professor and it turns out to be from a previously uknown planet they set off in a convenient rocket with the professor’s attractive niece (after all who will keep the rocket clean and cook meals?). 

In typical cheap Fringe budget the special effects are at a minimum but the clever use of a few boxes, an ironing board & a “dust buster” add to the humour of the show. The show throws in the stereotypical characters that you’d expect from a 1950/60 sci-fi film with a lot of humour and take you off on a “jolly romp” to another planet. 

If you remember the triffids “fondly”,  from the 1981 TV series or the original 1961 movie you’ll appreciate this show even more, but any fan of cheesy sci-fi will enjoy it. 

The Power of Japanese Drums **** (4 stars)


Obviously drums arent for everyone but this is the worst of show your not likely to habe the opportunity to see very often. 

I know nothing about music or drumming but  I can appreciate the skill and talent in this show,  not to mention the sheer energy and physical effort  involved! 

It’s a stunning show where a small group of drummers playing numerous pieces on a combination of different drums.  

Unlike the Korean drummers I saw earlier in the week they do not add to the show with a bit of showmanship,  this is all about the drumming! And it is stunning. Well worth experiencing,  I saw them last year and went back again this year. 

Nosferatu’s Shadow **** (4 stars) 

I had looked at this show and discounted it originally,  but when friends told me  Michael Daviot was doing it,  I bought a ticket. I have seen Michael Daviot do a couple for pieces at the Speakeasy in the past and he is a fabulous narrator. 

For those who don’t know Nosferatu is an old Vampire movie created in 1922 Germany.  It was basically a rip-off of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” novel with the characters changed.  Today is regarded as a classic of not the first original Vampire movie. 

Max Shreck played Count Orlok (aka Dracula) and became famous for this role.  He actually played hundreds of roles in film and on stage but is only remembered for this one role. 

Michael Daviot plays Max Shreck in this show to tell you the story of his life. Its an interesting show and presented extremely well but ultimately the subject matter is some what obscure!. Although I’ve seen the film a couple times I could not have told you who played the count  and ultimately it doesn’t really matter,  even though he played it expertly. 

Fringe 2016 – Cut, ¬†24 Hours with Mary Lynn Rajskub

Cut ***** (5 stars) 

28 “passengers”  enter an aircraft cabin and are seated,  the “air hostess” is dressed typically,  immaculate uniform and precise makeup. After a standard safety briefing,  the aircraft takes off. 

The “cabin” is suddenly piched into complete darkness, and I do me complete.  There is not a hint of light anywhere, the only sound is that of the planes engines.  And then a couple select lights come on highlighting the air hostess she doesn’t look quite as immaculate as before and her fixed smile has gone. When she talks it is clear this isn’t the air hostess going about her job but her own inner thoughts/monologue,  apparently she is being followed by a man and she is scared. 

The lights go dark again and when they return the air hostess continues about her normal business. 

This back and forward continues and it becomes clear the boats believes she is being stalked and the man is on the plane.  As the show moves along the hostess’ inner thoughts become somewhat more “ragged”,  perhaps she isn’t being stalked,  is it all in her mind,  is the man real or imaginary? 

This show is rather unique and extremely well done, it is also the closet thing I seen to a truly scary show. It isn’t scary in a slasher horror movie sense,  it’s a psychological horror and the anticipation of what will happen next is high. Not a show for the feint hearted!  

24 Hours with Mary Lynn Rajskub *** (3 stars)

 You will probably know Mary Lynn better for her role as Chloe from 24 (she was the little blonde computer expert that was always on Jack’s side) but she has always been a stand up comedian. 

This show is a fairly standard stand-up show, Mary Lynn starts the show by telling you a little bit about herself,  her husband and son.  She continues on telling anecdotes from her life,  she does not shy away from her role in 24 but does point out it was quite some time ago.  There is a bit of audience interaction and a couple images are projected onto a screen but most of the show is just Mary Lynn.  Its entertain and funny,  I was chuckling and laughing throughout but it’s not outstandingly funny, I’ve seen funnier shows but I’ve seen a lot more less funny shows