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Film releases: Setting the scene for a lovable rogue

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Cert 12A, 135 mins)

By Damon Smith

If Ryan Johnson's tour of duty with Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi propelled George Lucas's saga into a galaxy far, far away from the old-fashioned charm of the original trilogy, Solo: A Star Wars Story slingshots at lightspeed in the opposite direction.

Scripted by Jonathan Kasdan and father Lawrence, co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, the second standalone anthology film after Rogue One sketches the formative years of the charismatic scoundrel Han Solo in comforting, broad strokes.

A nifty prologue set on the ship building planet Corellia illustrates the doomed romance of Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and sweetheart Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke).

Three years later, after a cute meeting with Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Han seeks a route back to Corellia by hijacking a consignment of crystal fuel coaxium.

The heist doesn't unfold as planned and the deflated reprobates become indebted to Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate.

Han reluctantly undertakes a more dangerous assignment: to steal canisters of unrefined coaxium from Kessel.

Solo: A Star Wars Story looks and feels like a throwback to the original canon replete with visual nods to Han's lucky dice.

The Breadwinner (Cert 12A, 140 mins)

Hope takes root in the barren wilderness of present-day Afghanistan in Nora Twomey's beguiling drama, which was deservedly nominated as Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards.

Based on the book by Deborah Ellis, The Breadwinner is a beautifully crafted and deeply moving celebration of the fragile human spirit as seen through the tear-filled eyes of a family struggling to make ends meet.

Twomey's film doesn't shy away from depicting the intimidation and punishment of female characters including one scene of a mother being bludgeoned with a walking stick for daring to leave her house without a male guardian.

Expressive visuals alternate between an earthy palette for battle-scarred reality and an explosion of retina-searing colour for the fantastical fables that family members share to salve their pain.

Show Dogs (PG, 92 mins)

Raja Gosnell, director of Beverly Hill Chihuahua, collars a buddy cop movie, which is essentially Miss Congeniality on four legs, with dysfunctional canines replacing the beauty queens.

Show Dogs is a shaggy dog tale of questionable pedigree that will probably delight very young audiences, who might gurgle with glee at the sight of a Rottweiler sneakily breaking wind while an unsuspecting owner is soaping its rear.

Anyone with an age in double digits will be less enthralled, and grateful that this preposterous undercover sting at one of the world's most prestigious animal shows only wags its tail for 92 minutes.

The script is poor and repeatedly short-changes a starry ensemble cast. Outtakes during the end credits give some sense of the behind-the-scenes madness.

Belfast Telegraph

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