Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) Review

[This review contains spoilers]

This film is both a squeal and prequel of the original. It’s literally a cerebration Donna’s life. She died in the sequel, but the prequel is all about her journey to Greece and the three men she slept with.

I found the modern day, surrounded by Sophie’s mourning for the mother, Donna, to be rather touching. I enjoyed that life went on, she wanted to continue with her mothers hotel, she wanted to make her proud.

However her relationship with Sky is strained. He wants to remain in New York for career opportunities, she wants to stay on the island. The line is brought up, she should tell him that she loves him more than this fight.

Donna in her youth is wild, fun and is looking for something in life. Honestly, the prequel had the type of youthful energy this movie needed.

The shifts between the present and the past were a little sloppy and not always a smooth transition, but at least the film tried to be different. I’ll give it credit there.

The musical numbers are well done, and shot nicely. No as good as West Side Story, but that isn’t a fair comparison.

This film is sappy, made to make you cry and kick back and forget about life for a few hours. The acting is fine, the singing is good, with a few standout moments. It was nice listening to Abba songs that weren’t as popular.

The tensions happened naturally enough. The ending had a nice poignant moment where Sophie baptises her child, while Donna does the same for her. In that same small church on that lonely Greek island.

Yet that’s the main crux of the film, you’re never really alone. Yes, drama will happen, you won’t always get along with people. Maybe those boys you left, would come back, and decide that all three of them will be your daughters father.

You never know. Life is odd and mysterious, but there will always be people there to take care of you. That’s the overall message of the film, and I approve.

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West Side Story (1961) Review

[This review contains spoilers]

I didn’t expect what I got out of this film. I thought it’d be a fun romance, what I got was far more. It’s a very nuanced and mature film. The way it was shot is almost poetic. I didn’t expect for it to start with an aerial view of the city. Something that almost every TV show and movie does now, but something I almost never see from movies of that era.

It was lovely seeing New York in the 1960s, it really drew me into that time period, firmly establishing the mood of the film.

The dancing was excellent and very masculine, not something I can often say about a musical. The way the camera moved with the dancers, as if it was apart of the choreography, it reminded me of Gene Kelly.

This film is definitely a really good version of Romeo and Juliet, even better than the original in my mind. There are things that are done that I just think overall makes the story stronger. For example, Maria and Tony never marry like Romeo and Juliet, but they imagine what it would be like; saying their vows. It’s more realistic, but shows their commitment to each other, yes they basically just met yesterday, but they are madly in love.

The thing that really sets this film apart, besides the great music and dancing (and I don’t say that flippantly, the music really is great). It’s the racial tensions. Maria is Puerto Rican, and so is her friends and family. Her brother is in a Puerto Rican gang, that fight an American gang.

Both sides are young, and both are stupid. The film doesn’t take sides, it shows that the Puerto Rican gang feel alienated by American society and, to some extent, feel the weigh of racism on their backs. Yet the Puerto Rican immigrants argue amongst themselves, stating how America is a land of opportunity, yet they some of them spit back, sure if you’re ‘white’.

Yet, to counter these arguments is the American gang, this ‘land of opportunity’ produced them. Kids that are on the bad side of the law, from broken homes, that only feel at home on the streets fighting for their one bit of road. They only have each other as family, and they’re not going to give that up for anything.

These racial tensions in the film aren’t just between the Americans and the Puerto Ricans, it’s amongst the immigrants themselves. That’s what makes this film so nuanced, and just poignant.

Both sides are idiotic in the end, because that violence ends up with death on both sides. It shows that if you allow for that kind of hate and anger fill you up, nothing good will come if it. There is no winning in a war they literally created.

I did think there were some weaknesses in the film, like Maria just forgiving Tony after killing her brother almost instantly, but moments like that were few and far in-between. The film mostly overcomes them with just how good everything else is.

This film is easily recommended for anyone. Check it out, if you want a serious film that actually means something.

A Star Is Born (1954) Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

There are three different versions of this film, soon to be four by next year. I think that’s interesting given the heavy nature of this picture. A Star Is Born is about a young woman that becomes a ‘somebody’, and even more so, it’s about her alcoholic husband.

Judy Garland plays Esther Blodgett, renamed as Vikki Lester. It’s what they did back then, to give you a more ‘Hollywood’ name. I find it interesting that this film in someways peels back the curtain. That the stars people idealise really are just like them, with their own flawed little lives. Norman Maine, her husband, is a drunk. He tries to go clean for her, but constantly makes a fool of himself.

He knows he has a problem, yet he can’t help himself. It leads to his wife, Esther, to wither. He inspired her to be a star, to really appreciate and share her talent, yet without him it isn’t worth anything to her.

It’s when he realises that he’s ruining her life as well as his own that he takes his life. The thing is, in this film we see him cry. I think that’s really interesting, because films now rarely show that. It also was in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

A Street Car Named Desire had a man wailing with raw emotion.

I find this fascinating, because I rarely find modern Hollywood films trying to hit these types of heavy emotions. Films like that are still being made, but you have to look elsewhere to find them and I think that’s ashame. Because these films are really trying to be about something, and they were mainstream.

They weren’t indie darling, these were intended for general audiences. I wonder why Hollywood doesn’t trust the average cinema goer with this type of art any more?

A Star is Born is flawed. It has too much time spent away from the main plot, making the pace inconsistent and the film far too long. There are parts that are just a bit boring. Yet Judy Garland acts splendidly in this film and sings beautifully with some real stand out songs. The Man That Got Away is a particular highlight.

You also believe their relationship. They really did fall in love and it shows. He worked hard to make her a star. She worked just as hard to save him…but some people can’t be.

When she’s grief stricken and still able to march on. You feel it.

Life is hard, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on your knees when it tries to cut you down.

I enjoyed this film, it isn’t the best of that era, All About Eve is better. Regardless this is still a good film, it’s just not perfect.

An American in Paris Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

When an old fashioned American musical comes to mind, this is essentially the type of movie you get. Not La La Land.

Now La La Land had great acting and cinematography; but the musical numbers floundered. Due mainly to the main actors singing and dancing. They’re no Gene Kelly, and damn it if that man can’t dance!

He does an excellent job in this film. He’s likeable, charming, with the right amount of wit. Just like the rest of this film. This isn’t one for everyone, if you don’t like musicals, dancing or good clean fun, this isn’t for you. It’s really old fashioned, but honestly, I found it refreshing.

It’s about a man that falls in love with a girl, they can’t be together for one reason or another, then they end the film in an embrace. All is right with the world! It’s cheesy and silly, but nice.

It’s a very typical film that way. What isn’t are these strange moments when the film can become quite surreal. The best example is near the end of the film where it feels like your watching a theatre ballet of sorts. They’re are heaps of dancers, the chorography is just great. It feels dramatic and grand. The shots are carefully taken, your not really sure what’s happening, but I loved it regardless.

Did it make much sense to the film as a whole? Maybe not, but it felt important and symbolic. It could’ve been it’s own separate short film, like someone inserted their experimental art piece in the middle of a standard musical flick.

Whatever the case, I’m glad it was there, because it was just that well done.

The film overall has great music, good dancing.

I felt like Leslie Caron, though a great dancer, was rather weak in her role as the main love interest. I also found the romance to not be believable. Yes, they like each other. But Gene Kelly’s character, Mulligan, almost had a stalker-ish vibe to him in the beginning. It was odd.

There are other characters that just get their hearts broken. It’s a little sad really, but then again that’s life, and somewhat realistic. Love never was fair.

I just want to quote one of my favourite parts of the film:

“That’s… quite a dress you almost have on.”

“Thanks.”

“What holds it up?”

Modesty.”

That’s the type of good dialogue that keeps the story interesting, even though the film does have it’s slow points. Ironically those lines above weren’t even said by Ms. Caron, but by Nina Foch. I feel like Ms. Foch was wasted and under utilised in this film, because she stole every scene she was in. She holds her own against Mr. Kelly, and I look forward to watching her more in the future.

This isn’t a film for everyone. It’s a classic. It’s a 1950s American film. You’ll know whether you want to see it or not. I, however, fully recommend it.