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.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

I liked this film more than Wonder Woman. I thought it was funnier, tighter written and had more personality; yet afterwards I was left feeling empty.

I thought a lot of this film was well written, in particular the jokes. It got a good amount of chuckles out of me. It’s a movie with a smart mouth. However Peter was less goofy than the previous film with a lot of his personality lost in the process. Star-Lord and Gamora’s romance went basically nowhere, is was the weakest aspect of the film to me. Baby Groot was funny, but basically a gag character on the level of an animal in a Disney cartoon. Rocket didn’t have much of an ark, even if he was meant to have grown, it didn’t really show.

Then there’s Yondu, he’s supposed to be Peter’s father, even though the film admits he lead to many children’s death. He isn’t a good person, yet the film tries to play him off as sympathetic, he isn’t. He’s just a guy that happened to be good once. I don’t think that there can be any redemption in that, even if the film is pushing it with it’s flimsy attempt to be philosophical.

The only relationship I really bought was between Gamora and Nebula. They both were abused as children and as a result resented each other. They blamed the other for the crimes dealt to them by their father. That is incredibly human and very genuine. I liked that they looked past all that and became stronger as a result. It was the best part of the film for me.

Family is a strong theme in this movie, but other than the sisters relationship, it came across as rather superficial to me. I get that they’re a family, but other than a few points in the film, there was rarely a weight put behind those words.

Drax was the funniest character to me, a real improvement over the first film. The action was good with music accompanying them appropriately. It was very well done.

Go into this one without thinking too much and you’ll probably have a fun time.

Bus Stop Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

Isn’t it wonderful when someone so horrible turns out to be so nice?

I’m paraphrasing, but Marilyn Monroe does utter a line remarkably similar to that. By the morals of this film, abduction is fine, stalking is acceptable and if you’re in love with a stranger, it justifies manhandling the hell out of them.

Marilyn plays the dumb blonde rather well, a woman without talent, that can’t sing but wants to make it in Hollywood. The scene where she sung went for too long and felt rather painful. Cherie, Marilyn’s character, is deemed an Angel by Bo, a man that seems to think you should treat a woman the same way you do a bull.

Tie them up and bring them home.

That’s not a joke, that’s how little respect and understanding he has for much of anyone. He’s brutish, and literally doesn’t behave until it’s literally beaten into him.

Then he’s sorry. Then he wants to play nice, and because Cherie is so dumb she believes him. Even though he proves moments later he had learned nothing, because he almost kidnapped his best friend.

Bo is a man child that doesn’t respect Cherie at all. He doesn’t even call her by name. Cherry, that’s her ‘new name’. One she doesn’t even want.

So, seeing a stranger and forcing them to marry you is romantic?

What a strange message. This isn’t a bad movie, the acting is good, but the plot is nonsensical. I mean, why would everyone just grin and wave while Cherie leaves with Bo? He’s crazy. She needs someone to take her aside and say: ‘Honey, you’re better than this.”

Which is really the message of the movie. It could’ve been better, instead we got this, a dumb mess.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

The title of this film is a lie. I swear that the brunette gets more guys looking at her than Marilyn Monroe (not that Jane Russell isn’t a looker herself). This film is actually pretty funny, as a comedy should be.

It has the two leading ladies continually getting themselves caught up in hijinks, from accusations of stealing a tiara to being investigated for a love affair. It’s nice seeing the two women play off each other, and being a little man crazy.

I liked that, it’s not something that I feel like I see often enough in films (maybe I’m not watching the right ones?). Regardless, this film has scenes with men parading around shirtless. Let it never be said that the 1950s didn’t have fanservice for the ladies.

I liked how the women played off each other, they were loyal and always back each other up, no matter the trouble they wound up in. The music was nice and playful, and the romance was well done.

Marylin’s character however has the oddest addiction to diamonds. Yet it did lead to a great musical number, one that’s become iconic and kept alive through people like Madonna. It’s a scene that has been replicated throughout the decades, it’s a nice scene, but not the best musical number of it’s time. Yet it is still good. It’s a great example of how they achieved spectacle in a time before CGI, with it’s great sets and dancing.

This is a pleasant film, that’s smarter than you’d think. Give it a shot on a lazy afternoon if you’re game.

Desk Set Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

This film honestly surprised me. It was meant to be a romantic comedy, instead I got a film that was a light hearted, and warm, office drama. I actually really enjoyed the surprise.

This story is about Bunny Watson (played by Katherine Hepburn) and Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) falling in love, despite her being in a rather one-sided relationship for seven years. Mike loves her, or so he says, but he is married to the business. She helps him with his work, enough to get him promoted and he expects her to drop everything. Just because he has now decided he wants to marry her.

He had no respect for her, and it’s a point emphasised by the film. Hell, Bunny is described as an old jacket by her friend Peg, to be used at his convenience.

Which I think shows a contrast to Sumner. He always treats her nicely, and though for the majority of the film you think he’s going to get her fired because of a ‘mechanical brain’ (a giant computer basically), there is no bitterness there. They become close, and there is genuine chemistry between them. However the romance took a back seat to what really set this film apart. The characters.

They’re all incredibly sweet. They have great banter. There isn’t really a dull moment in my mind. They think they’ll be fire because of a machine, a problem that plagues modern society today. I thought it was handled rather well, despite the machine being larger than half the room. The themes of displacement and distress. That’s realistic.

The relationships between the women felt real, as if they were family. They truly had each others back. They cared for each other. That’s what made the film for me, the human connection.

I know that sounds cheesy, but I appreciated it for that. It is a slow film, so it won’t be for everyone. But I liked that this was a film that explored themes that I didn’t expect of it. Even if it did have a happy ending, showing that the machine didn’t erase their jobs, and that even machines can ‘make mistakes’. I enjoyed that.

Though it did mention some people did get fired due to a similar machine in the payroll department. It just shows that despite it’s loving message of the unfailing human spirit, sometimes society will have upheaval due to new technology. Is that a good thing? Well, that’s beyond the scope of this film and this review.

I’d say watch the film, because it certainly has my vote.

Whatever happened to the chick flick?

[This article contains spoilers]

Baby Driver reminds me of two other ones: American Ultra (which is not as good) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (which is a better movie). It’s is the attitude of these films, the quick editing and the surprising focus on a rather nice romance. Another, better known film, that did this ‘action romance’ better is Deadpool.

I’m not saying that if you liked Deadpool you’ll all of a sudden like all these other films (especially given that American Ultra being the weakest example). But it seems to be a recent trend, come for the bloody fights, stay for the touching story.

I find it strange that the best romance films nowadays aren’t even trying to be romantic films, but action ones. I think it’s a little sad that the romance genre is so sparse and unoriginal in modern times. I’ve brought it up before, but The Apartment has be one of my favourite romance films I’ve ever seen, and funnily enough, that one also has a male protagonist.

Whatever happened to the iconic romantic film? Where are they? There have been some decent ones, like About Time (another male lead…I wonder why?)

What about those really dumb and sappy films that stared Meg Ryan? The movies where it was obvious where it was going? Aiming squarely at that middle age woman demographic? I miss those films. I miss the predictable clichés that you’d see from a mile away. The fact that they love each other so damned much that it hurts to be apart. That soul crushing romance. I love that stuff, yet I can’t think of any true great examples of a pure romance film experience in the last few decades.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Deadpool, I think it’s a wonderful romance and a great action film, but I want more. I want to watch a woman crying like Bridget Jones’s Diary, or see a sweet quirky family dramedy like My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But those were over a decade ago.

Some notable mentions should be Silver Linings Playbook. A decent film, but I wouldn’t call it remarkable. It’s more about mental health than romance, and even then, I think it plays down those more serious aspects for comedy (like the father basically gambling everything away. ‘It’s okay because they won the bet’, seems to be the films logic behind it. Real life doesn’t work that way).

Love & Other Drugs is a good film, but it’s narrative is fractured. It moves from a love story to living with a partner with Parkinson’s disease rather fast, but it does ‘go there’ which I appreciate. The Proposal is also pretty funny and silly, but not for everyone. I enjoyed it, but it’s hardly a classic.

I haven’t seen The Fault in our Stars or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I understand that they’re meant to be good ‘young adult’ romance flicks.

The only great film aiming for this audience that I saw was Your Name, a wonderful film. Yes it’s animated, an action film filled with a time travel adventure. However it’s a love story at it’s core, which is nice.

I guess I wrote this to say, I’m still waiting for a film that’ll knock my socks off. That’ll come out and be sappy, silly and funny. That will be a return of a real romantic film, for an adult. I love Deadpool, but it’s just not that same.

Romance films of the 21st Century, where are you? It’s been too long and you’re sorely missed.