Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Ol Parker, 2018) 4/5

Hold on to your hats boys and girls, because, yes, you’ve guessed it, here we go again! Mamma-Mia-2-New-Film-Poster-2018Benny and Bjorn have got the entire team back again to sing all of the greatest Abba anthems once again, this time with one big difference, Meryl Streep is severely lacking (spoilers ahead).

Part sequel and prequel, this second film in the franchise outlines the story of how Donna comes to her idyllic Greek Island and falls for the three handsome men that would turn out to be Sophie’s dads. Unfortunately for Donna (and the rest of the audience), she’s dead. As such, the contemporary storyline is largely missing Streep, however, that doesn’t stop the camp being turned up to 11. Lily James is a fantastic addition to the case as the young Donna and belts out ‘When I kissed a Teacher’, ‘Andante Andante’ and, the classic wedding dancefloor filler, ‘Waterloo’. James proves to be every bit capable of carrying this film and it is this that makes the story so worthwhile and without her, it would have been poorer.

In essence, this film brings everything that we loved about the first film and added just about every feather boa and flared jean you could ever imagine. Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) knows how to make these types of films, and the cast are clearly having a ball. Standouts though include Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and, of course, CHER.  The iconic diva might be in a total of 23 seconds of the story (I might be being dramatic there.) but her presence is all kinds of fabulous and she can still belt out a tune.

The only thing that would have made this experience much better would have been to know exactly what caused Donna’s demise. Without this, we are left hanging slightly, thinking, did she die on a Greek fishing accident?

In sum, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! Is probably the most fun you will have in a cinema this year. A word of caution though, if you are a fan of Streep, she will be in even less of this film than Cher.

The Giver

The Giver (Phillip Noyce, 2014) 3/5

I won’t go on about YA novels, their adaptations and their incessant need to claim the giver‘dystopia’ for themselves. I feel that every week there is a new film coming out, from an international bestseller aimed at teens. So, does The Giver differ from, say, the horrific 2013 yarn ‘The Host’? The answer is Yes and No.

Noyce’s film does its best to marry two audience groups, by providing a thought-provoking for the adults and enough adolescent goings-on for the younger crowd. This results in a film that is seemingly always walking a tightrope and the first half of the film seems to be nothing but exposition and settling in. Once the action begins and we get into the motivations of our central character, we become more invested.

Brenton Thwaites plays Jonas, a charismatic teenager who, along with his friends Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan) are about to be assigned roles within the community. Trouble is, Jonas is given the role of ‘The Receiver of Memory’, whereby he must attend – slightly creepy and inappropriate – meetings with The Giver (Jeff Bridges). As the story progresses and Jonas becomes aware of what the community has given up, in terms of the past, he begins to see things clearly. Most notably through the use of colour and dreams, he is able to look past what is in front of him and stir up suspicion from The Chief Elder (Meryl Streep).

At points the film does seem to think it is a little too smart for its own good and the sluggish beginning aids in that. However, once it gets rolling, Lois Lowry’s novel finally comes through and injects enough smartness into the script for us to coast through. As opposed to last years The Host, where nothing really happened and the dystopian future was bland, The Giver has a sense of heart.

In sum, although the film doesn’t reach the hefty heights to fully deal with its themes, there is enough here to suggest a serious negotiation with them. Packed with solid supporting performances of Bridges, Streep, Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes, this YA adaptation is definitely one to let wash over you.

August: Osage County

August: Osage County (John Wells, 2013) 3/5

 

When it was announced that Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep were set to appear in this augustadaptation of the Broadway play of the same name, there was enormous buzz. How will the greatest movie star and the greatest actress of all time gel? Will it be a head to head race for the Oscars? These and many other questions were posed and in the final product you have to wonder if the amount of focus was placed on casting as it was on polishing up the script then it could have been a masterpiece.

John Wells’ second feature after 2010’s The Company Man follows the bizarrely dysfunctional Weston clan as they come together following the suicide of the family’s patriarch. As the days go by, hidden secrets, horrendous addictions and affairs are all laid bare in brute honesty by all those involved. Violet Weston (Streep) and her daughter Barbara (Roberts) are the main building blocks to the narrative and vent the most frustration out on others. This really is a film that is much more about the acting involved rather than any other filmic element, even the narrative suffers under the weight of the sheer amount of histrionics.

That being said Streep and Roberts shine in their respective roles and wholly deserve the Oscar nominations they received earlier this month. As well as this the impressive supporting roles all add so much to the film and make it a richer experience. It’s just a shame that with so much talent involved here; the script could not have been fleshed out a bit more, allowing for the actors to breathe.

In sum, for those expecting a clash of the cinematic titan’s ala All About Eve you won’t be disappointed. However, if you were expecting an entire film that would match the high quality of storytelling throughout 2013, then you will be left slightly wanting.

Alternate Academy Awards – Best Actress

Let the Twilight Zone saga continue….

2003 – Julianne Moore – Far From Heaven – Now, even though Kidman was great in The Hours I just thought that Moore’s portrayal of a Sirkian heroine could not be ignored! Alas, it oscarwas…

Who did win: Nicole Kidman – The Hours

 

2004 – Charlize Theron – Monster – One of the decade’s greatest performances, a deserving win.

Who did win: Charlize Theron – Monster

 

2005 – Kate Winslet – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Winslet shined in this film as the wandering free spirit to the straight Jim Carrey. Sadly, this was not to be her shining moment.

Who did win: Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby

 

2006 – Felicity Huffman – Transamerica – One of the most challenging roles for an actress was snubbed in favour of a more ‘safe’ option.

Who did win: Reese Witherspoon – Walk the Line

 

2007 – Helen Mirren – The Queen – Some may say that this was just another Royal Monarch film, however Mirren portrayed a variety of emotions in order to embody Queen Elizabeth II. As such, this was a deserving win, despite the fierce competition in the category that year.

Who did win: Helen Mirren – The Queen

 

2008 – Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose – The Academy does love a biopic, even a French one. Cotillard’s performance was by far the best of the year and was the right winner.

Who did win: Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose

 

2009 – Kate Winslet – The Reader – A career Oscar. After countless nominations, Winslet finally nabbed it! There was stiff competition from the likes of Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway however at the end of the day; this controversial role was just too strong.

Who did win: Kate Winslet – The Reader

 

2010 – Carey Mulligan – An Education – I really thought that the Academy would honour a first timer here. The prospectus had been good; however the Americans love their NFL and their sweethearts.

Who did win: Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side

 

2011 – Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole – Should have been Kidman’s year. Portman was good, but Kidman had the much meatier role.

Who did win: Natalie Portman – Black Swan

 

2012 – Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady – Even though the film as a whole was a mess, this towering performance just could not get ignored. An absolute blinder by Streep.

Who did win: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady