REVIEW: “MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN” (2018) Universal Pictures

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Oh my my my my “MAMMA MIA!! HERE WE GO AGAIN” had me from the moment one with my devotion and love for true icons ABBA & C-H-E-R all in one movie. What I didn’t expect, was an actual good movie.

Starting off, this sequel to ‘Mamma Mia’, which also presents itself as a prequel, in my world, this is a two-for-one deal of epic-ness that I loved from the get go. “Here We Go Again” has a much better story line than the original, and while all your faves return, you also make some great new ones. Writer/director Ol Parker – gets some good deeper cuts in, too with this being a new, complex and more mature story involving the characters we’ve known, and sang and danced along with for the past decade. The film quickly establishes the parallel stories with it’s fantastic opening number of “I Kissed A Teacher” and boom! we are introduced to the world of a young Donna (played terrifically by Lily James). Moving along back into the world of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is re-opening the hotel her mom Donna (Meryl Streep) ran. Donna died the previous year (this isn’t really isn’t a spoiler). In her mom’s honor, Sophie has renovated the place and is ready for a big celebration, with nearly every important person in her life invited, including Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Donna’s Dynamo sisters – Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters).

“Here We Go Again” explores within it’s flashbacks, a vibrant and spontaneous Donna of the 1970’s, as she seeks an adventurous life – and we see how she meets the three younger versions of the men whom will play major roles in her life – Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). It would take more space than I have to touch on every performance, so I’ll just sum it up and highlight a few. With this turn as Donna, Lily James is now officially a STAR as she will charm the socks off of you. In one simple, minute-long scene, Brosnan redeems himself for his lack of singing ability from the original. And in spectacular fashion with white silk wig and pantsuit to match, the one..the only..Cher makes a grand entrance in the final act as Sophie’s grandma… and instantly captivates the screen. And though how she gets to the point of singing is a big spoiler that I just can’t reveal, I will happily admit to yelling out “YES! YES! YES” when it did happen, media screening or not. (no one usually does something like this during them – but I wasn’t alone in my squealing joy of this.. so 🙂 )

Every single person here, from our older versions of Harry (Colin Firth) & Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) doing a bit of ‘Titanic’ for us all, to Fernando (Andy Garcia) & Sky (Dominic Cooper), looks like they’re having an absolute blast, and that happiness is resonates throughout the film and spreads to the audience. ‘Here We Go Again’ provides a carefree, yet meaningful, fun energy that’s so hard to find these days, even in musicals. I got chills during performances of “Mamma Mia!” and “Dancing Queen”, though those are saved till a little later in the film, as the first half has some of Abba’s lesser known hits dominating – though a true ABBA fan will know them!

Sure Mamma Mia 2! might not be perfect – and I might be a sap for anything musical related to ABBA & Cher – but I can guarantee a good time will be had by all who see it. And the beautiful, sweet final scene has a spirit all its own, touching on loss and new life in ways that will hit very close to home. I can only say — I do, I do, I do, I DO want you to see this film.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, July 16, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN” WILL BE OUT NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE ON FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2018

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REVIEW: “ALLIED” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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With Brad Pitt’s big return to the screen since his personal life news overtook his career for a bit there, we have him here in “ALLIED” as Max Vatan, a 1940’s wartime intelligence office who finds himself in a predicament with his fellow French Resistance (or is she?) spy and soon-to-be wife, Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard). A predicament I might add that can be figured out in the first 15 minutes of the film as Marianne makes a quote that let’s you know really where the film will end up going if you’re paying attention. And it’s exactly where it goes.

With uneven pacing and script, the film benefits from beautiful cinematography. The weakness in the lack of ability to successfully leave a lasting emotional impact on the audience, is in the writing and executive producership of it all. As we see Max and Marianne do a 30-sec assasination-shoot em’ up scene reminiscent of ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’, and they fall in ‘love’ in about half that time, makes it all a bit unbelievable and undercuts the storyline.
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For films that are not as much about the spectacle as they are the drama between characters and the challenge faced therein, it is important for personal/interpersonal relationships go beyond the screen to directly impact the audience. All the makings were here for a deeply moving cinematic story, but it just doesn’t quite make that transition from the mostly superficial and distant. The ending, which tried to be sentimental is done completely in an overly-compensated, dramatic fashion that comes off very falsly.

Supporting work comes via Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, August Diehl, Marion Bailey, Simon McBurney, and Matthew Goode. With no stand-out performances, and my screening being on a 50/50 basis of who liked it and who didn’t, I think it will do a couple of good weeks and the box office, but the competition along with a slate of excellent films coming out, might drag this one down after that.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 17, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
NOW PLAYING IN THEATRES NATIONWIDE