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: “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