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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‘Cinderella’, ‘Insurgent’, ‘Danny Collins’, ‘Jauja’, ’71’, ‘The Salvation’, ’50 Shades of Grey’

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So I’ve seen a bunch of films lately that have all been pretty average or just plain bad..with one I really liked!! And as sometimes we all feel like a bad film has just sucked it out of us, I didn’t even feel like giving some of them a review..but then decided to suck it all in and just put them all in one with a few bits about each and let everyone make up their own minds to see them or not.

I’m starting with the one that actually surprised me out of the group because I actually did like it…not love it mind you, but a good ‘like’ is pretty much all I’m looking for now-a-days from a film!
So let’s begin:
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CINDERELLA (2015) Disney Studios – Every little girl knows this story by heart growing up..it’s truly a little girls fantasy that no matter how crappy things are, you have the chance of one day meeting your ‘prince’. We all bank on it somewhat that it could actually happen. And then you grow up. ha! What surprised me was how much I liked revisiting this version of the story. Richard Madden as “Prince Kit”, (whom I loved and miss as Robb Stark), really made a very believable Prince and Lily James is a quite wonderful “Cinderella”. Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother was perfect, and it’s always nice to see ‘Daisy’ from Downton Abbey (one of my fav. characters of that show) Sophie McShera “Drisella” and Holliday Grainger “Anastasia” doing a fun spin on the wicked stepsisters. Throw in Stellan Skarsgard as the “Grand Duke” and Derek Jacobi as the “King” and you have a well-rounded out cast that brings some new blood & life to this story. And that’s what I liked best of all about it. Told in a little bit more updated version, though not time-wise, but tale-wise, brought it all to life in a really nice wrapped up gift. Was it super fantastic and the best Cinderella story ever told..nah..but it certainly was a nice breath of fresh air and a decent enough way to spend an afternoon reliving the little girl inside of me.

Grade: C+

Next on the list:
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INSURGENT (2015) Lionsgate/Summit Ent.
For this one I actually looked back at my review of “Divergent” from back in March of 2014. https://peggyatthemovies.com/2014/03/26/peggyatthemovies-review-of-divergent-2/ .

Basically I could just repeat it almost word for word except for a few minor things.. Like first off how this one was worse, second of all; bad bad casting decision on Naomi Watts as “Evelyn”, Four’s mother. And yes, the lovely Theo James reprising his role here, though annoying enough he kills the best character they had of all as I noted in my Divergent review also, “Eric” (Jai Courtney) this time round. You know my motto, you’re only as good as your villain and Courtney played a good villain.
Miles Teller as “Peter” steps it up some this time, but after you’ve seen him in Whiplash, it’s hard to take this performance seriously as you now know what he’s truly capable of. Ansel Egort “Caleb” is pretty non-existent both in character and performance, and Shailene Woodley coming back as “Tris” is annoyingly bad…again. I mean in an opening scene she decides to chop off all her hair for a new look.. now we know with the hack-knife that she’s using there is no way this is coming out well.. but oh no..not with Shailene..it’s perfectly coiffed hair cut. Please. Stop it.

I didn’t hate the first one, but I liked this one even less and losing a good villain and not adding anyone of consequence..I think I might be out of town, or ya know, busy washing my hair for the next one.

Grade: D

Moving on—
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DANNY COLLINS (2015) UNIVERSAL

Sigh. I j’adore Al Pacino. I always have. I’ve met him a few times, sat next to him at a movie at Sony once and he shared his candy with me and is truly one of the nicest guys ever. He’s also Al freaking Pacino!!! I mean… enough said right.

Well here he plays “Danny Collins”, an aging rock star who’s manager & best friend “Frank Grubman” (Christopher Plummer) discovers 40 years after the fact, that John Lennon wrote him a letter telling him to basically stay true to himself at what he was doing at the time. Clearly he didn’t and now decides to change his life and sit down and write the songs that were true to him back then, thinking his now-aged audience will want to hear them. They don’t. There is a back story here that I won’t even get into because it’s so passe’ but I will say that Bobby Cannavale as his son “Tom Donnelly” is refreshingly good and I don’t think gets enough credit for his work ever. Annette Benning “Mary Sinclair” as the hotel manager whom Collins is trying to woo into having dinner and maybe more, with him, of course carries herself. Jennifer Garner “Samantha Donnelly” as Tom’s wife holds her own in this company. There are a few really nice, fun moments and as you see them coming a mile away, a few harder ones also, though you pretty much can see in sight what the ending is. In December I went to a screening with a Q & A with Mr. Pacino afterwards of “The Humbling”. This film is almost a cover version of that one except here he is an aging rock star vs. an aging actor.
But ya know what.. no matter as I will always go see an Al Pacino film.

Grade: C-

Neeexxt…
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JAUJA (2014)
I will be deadly honest with you all here. I am not completely sure what this film was even really about. I went because I was invited to a screening with Viggo Mortensen doing a Q & A afterwards and as I am a big fan of his, I thought “sure I’ll go”. Huh.. I think it’s basically a journey of a father, “Gunnar Dineson” (Mortensen) and daughter “Ingebord” (Villbjork Malling Agger) thru a desert though I’m not sure where they are going exactly, and the daughter runs away with her boyfriend in the middle of it, though there is another person they are hunting, or is he hunting them?? And then he meets a witch in a cave while searching for her.. or does he really?? again, completely confused. And then BOOM! all of a sudden it’s present day and it’s the same daughter living in a nice house but without the father. The whole film switches between Danish & Spanish speaking and let’s just all agree to say that I didn’t get it and call me completely lost on this one.. like ‘we have to go back to the island’ LOST. 🙂

I will say Viggo was an absolutely wonderful guy with a lot to talk about. I think he could tell that I might be a little confused by the film and offered to have me to stay for the second screening they were having later. I told a white lie and said I had plans..which I kinda did. They involved me watching the Malaysian Grand Prix a little later. 🙂 And we ended up talking mostly about football aka soccer, as he brought it up when speaking and it turns out we like the same teams. So there ya have it.
Movie grade: D
Conversation with Viggo grade: A 🙂 Viggo

71
’71
Being a fan of Jack O’Connell‘s I saw this film a few weeks back and while for the most part, I liked it, and liked his performance as “Gary Hook” the somewhat dis-oriented British soldier who during a riot on the streets of Belfast during the height of the Irish Catholic/Protestant war i.e., 1971, gets left behind by his unit.
What follows was a bit of a convoluted story for me of him being chased down, beaten up, shot, and surviving a bomb attack all in a matter of what..48hrs. I dunno.. a lot of it just seemed a bit implausible for me. And what’s with him always constantly getting the crap beat out of him in pretty much every single film he’s ever done!! ha! Sorry..sorry.. I know I shouldn’t even be commenting that because this is a serious film..but hey. I call it as I see it.

The side story here is of course religion and how much these people hate each other over it..once again..I’m never that great with these story lines because I’m not religious and can’t imagine killing someone over it. But it’s gone on for thousands of years, and as we all know in Ireland, it was really heavy duty for about 30+ or so years until the ‘peace treaty signed about 17 yrs ago, with this time period truly being the height of it all. There is also a nice sub-plot of crooked police detectives “Sgt. Leslie Lewis” (Paul Anderson), “Capt. Sandy Browning” (Sean Harris) helping both sides in a way and the rest of a good supporting cast including Sam Reid as “Lt. Armitage” who is O’Connell’s commanding officer and seemingly the only person really looking out for him & on his side to find him. This is a rough movie, not altogether great, but it will keep you watching till the end.

Grade: C

Almost to the end..

the salvation
THE SALVATION (2014) IFC Films

Since this just came for a one week run here in L.A. a few weeks ago, I had the chance to catch it on at my favourite art-house theatre, the NuArt. But whoa.. what a film. I mean if one more thing happened to Mads Mikkelson’s character here. Well I just don’t think it would be humanly possible. To put it lightly..this is a dark dark film (yes pun intended) that just takes you places that I probably never want to visit again.

It’s a Western, but not like one you’ve ever seen before because it’s not just Cowboys & Indians here. It’s really like how it must have truly been because there were tons of immigrants coming from all over and settling in as cowboys, though in every Western you’ve ever seen, they just pretend that suddenly everyone was just a regular old southern boy without an accent drifting out West. ZZZzzzzz

Well this one is 1870’s America, the gold rush is on, and this peaceful Danish settler “Jon” (Mads Mikkelson) has been separated from his wife & son for 7 years and finally brings them out to be with him. Literally within an hour of being here, they are kidnapped, his wife raped & murdered & young son also murdered by two degenerates, one of them being a character named “Paul” (Michael Raymond–James). Jon sets out, with his brother “Peter”(Mikael Persbrant) to avenge their deaths and hunts them down and kills them, which then leads to the unleashing of notorious gang leader “Delarue” (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) coming after them as Paul was, unbeknownst to Jon, Delarue’s brother. The really weird townspeople then desert him in his hour of need because they don’t want to die, ends up most of them do. Eva Green is thrown in as a character named “Madelaine” who has her tongue cut out so she doesn’t speak..which doesn’t matter as she really can’t act anyways.. and then comes some really hard core horrible death scenes and basically anything that can go wrong for Jon does, until of course it doesn’t.

This isn’t a great film, it a super depressing one to be honest, but it’s also not horrible. Mads is quite good as a cowboy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan even better possibly as the villain, though you know my motto, you’re only as good a your villain..yeah that doesn’t apply here. Jonathan Pryce “Keane”, Eric Cantona “Corsican”, Sean Cameron Michael “Lester” and Jose Domingos “Raul Delgado” all offer good supporting characters. This film was definitely a mixed bag for me.

Grade: C

50 shades
50 SHADES OF GREY (2015) Focus Features/Universal Pictures

What was the big deal here is all I kept thinking about while watching this film. I thought I was going to be watching the second coming of Deep Throat or some really trumped up S & M film or something the way everyone was going on about it..and all I got was an actually very tame, quite badly done film about this guy, “Christian Grey” (Jamie Dornan) wanting to control this girl “Anatasia Steele” (Dakota Johnson). She’s a literature student who works in a hardware store (of course she does) and he’s a tormented handsome, self-made millionaire businessman..ZZZzzzz oh sorry I drifted off there for a minute just telling with that ridiculous storyline. They are like the new Twilight couple featuring some S & M sex vs. vampires & wolves. Control in the way of having her sign a contract before sex, because he doesn’t spend the night with anyone or have relationships..blah blah blah.. of he does end up doing so, she ends up letting him take her to the ‘The Red Room’ and with some reeaaally bad dialogue thrown in and possibly worse acting, you have the story in a nutshell. I don’t think two people with less chemistry together have made a movie about sex so badly before. And truly, there wasn’t anything hardcore about this. Why all the fuss?? So the guy has a dungeon like room full of sex toys.. a few sex scenes that seriously weren’t that far out there at all. I feel like I must have missed something..but if I did, that’s okay because I will probably miss the next few ones in the trilogy also unless they up their game and their acting ..a lot.

Grade: D

So now you see why I just threw them altogether in one review. I like some, but didn’t love any of them. And now I’m caught up, back and ready to go! 😀
@pegsatthemovies
peggyatthemovies.com

(See grading scale)

REVIEW: “HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS” (2014) ~ Relativity Media

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Fun little Pegg on a Stick given to us at theatre screening.. aka it’s a fan!

Was it just last year we were treated to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in which we saw Ben Stiller undertake a romp around the world voyage to understand the meaning of life? Yes it was..it seems every year we get at least one of these movies..some better than others.. This time out it’s Simon Pegg’s turn to try getting in touch with his happy-self side in “Hector and the Search for Happiness”

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Based on French psychiatrist François Lelord’s best-selling novel of the same name, Pegg plays “Hector” our dissatisfied protagonist of the movie, who is a seemly stuck in the rut of a never and I mean NEVER, changing everyday life with his live~in girlfriend “Clara” (Rosamund Pike) who literally does everything for him. He seems to like it this way and really doesn’t want it to change so he says. You hear stories about people like this, a wounded bird of sorts who can’t do anything for themselves. Hector though, is a psychiatrist who realizes his methods are not helping his quirky patients in the least, and so embarks on a trip around the world in a bid to discover the secret of happiness to be able to help his patients also find this hidden gem of life.

hector                    Among the destinations Hector jaunts too are Shanghai, where he meets “Ying Li” (Ming Zhao) with whom he almost cheats on Clara with, but as he spent the only night he had with her sleeping, it didn’t happen and he finds out her time isn’t exactly free. Onward to the Himalayas & meeting up with monks, then onto Africa to meet up with an old friend “Michael” (Barry Atsma) and in a so not even semi-plausible sequence, meets up with a big time dealer “Diego Baresco” (Jean Reno) who also saves his life when he is captured by the rebels..yes you read that correctly..captured by rebels I mean..ZZZZzzzzzzz.. it is possibly one of the most ridiculous, completely unbelievable sequence of events I’ve ever seen in a movie this year.

Director Peter Chelsom does well to capture the essence & energy of the various locales ~ noting here that the filming of some of these places is really beautiful and if nothing else the aesthetics in movie are mostly impressive, all the more so when you consider the films tight budget. As for the film’s relatable messages, well I guess the bulk of them could pretend to hit home, though the heavy-handed manner in which they are  executed leaves much to be desired. Sadly, it’s not the only problem in the unfocused  screenplay. This is exemplified in the final act; Hector’s (TADA!!) ~ ultimate realization is extremely sudden and feels like it comes out of nowhere. To paraphrase Clara, Hector’s girlfriend, “you have to build to it”.Pike makes good use of her screen time but she is severely underused throughout the film and you wonder why she is sticking around waiting while never really getting anything. from it.

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Pegg is known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, but here the focus is on the latter. Though the actor proves up to the task in the emotional moments and does his best to give Hector some likability, as written our protagonist is too immature and self-indulgent to inspire much empathy. A supporting cast that includes Stellan SkarsgMǻrd as “Edward” the suave & sophisticated business man who takes Hector out for the whirlwind evening in Shanghai, the wonderful Christopher Plummer as “Professor Coreman”  and Toni Collette once again playing an American role as Hector’s long unrequited love from days gone past, “Agnes” are always going to class up a mediocre film and they are enjoyable enough in their roles, but there is really little cohesiveness on what their characters musings on happiness really are.

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The screenplay really isn’t as profound as it thinks it is or tries to be and disappoints more than impresses but in an odd way it’s got a sweetness about it that I normally don’t fall for in a movie but maybe it’s because I think I liked a bit of the message it does tell or the fact that I’m a big believer in traveling as much as your life allows you too and experiencing life through other peoples eyes and cultures.  I didn’t hate this movie completely, though none of it is as particularly funny as I thought or hoped it would be, or even touching for that matter in it’s message. Those pursuing true happiness need not apply, but those content with mild entertainment will probably be satisfied.

Grade: D+  (below average- not really worth time or money)

#peggyatthemovies