Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: I Took a Chance on It and It was Super, Trouper – Amazon Review (Day 25)

I watched the sequel to one of my least favorite musicals and, wow, this was better.

SUMMARY

Meryl Streep is dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever, about that. I considered this a surprise, as I thought she was marketed with the film, but if advertisements were always true indications of a film, I might have liked Suicide Squad

Yes, one of these women is dead the whole time.

Yes, Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, is dead and her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is set to reopen the hotel now under her management. While she is being helped by the manager Mr. Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia) and her father Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), she is upset that her other fathers, Harry and Bill (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård), are not able to make the grand re-opening. This gets even worse when her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), reveals that he will not be able to come either. As Donna’s band members Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski) show up, the film flashes back to tell the story of how a young Donna (Lily James) left Rosie and Tanya (Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn) behind to go explore Europe and meeting young Harry, Bill, and Sam (Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine). Also, we get to see Cher.

END SUMMARY

 So, I saw Mamma Mia after it originally came out and I did not enjoy it. I thought it was an amazing travel commercial for Greece, but in terms of being an effective musical, even a Jukebox Musical, I felt like it fell short. Honestly, I didn’t think Meryl Streep was as focused and flawless as she usually is and I thought that the songs didn’t really add much to the story, a common problem with trying to do a musical based on one band’s catalogue. The film always felt too grounded in reality for a musical, too, which seemed partially because it had to focus on the leads over the spectacle. Moreover, it sometimes felt to me like an example of why you should not cast certain actors (names have been changed for the sake of the victims) like Bierce Prosnan as leads in a movie like this. They’re great performers, but it’s completely different to pull off a musical number. 

This movie apparently read the notes from that one, because they fixed almost everything I didn’t like. 

But they kept the fun group shots, so great job.

First, it is not at all grounded. Scenes in this range from “over-the-top” to “insane” and I mean both of those in the absolute best way. In order to find justifications for some of ABBA’s more outlandish songs, the musical was forced to venture to situations far outside of a Greek hotel. For example, “Waterloo” is set at a Napoleonic themed restaurant in Paris, and all of the wait staff perform elaborate choreography designed to echo famous portrayals of the French Emperor. It starts to feel like you’re really in the kind of world where people are always on the edge of bursting into song. It also helps that more random bystanders get wrapped up in the music, like when a Vice Chancellor (Celia Imrie) goes from “well, I never” to “well, I always” in the middle of “When I Kissed the Teacher.” 

Waterloo was probably my favorite scene.

Second, the flashback cast is unbelievably good. Lily James really nails being a wild, young Donna, because she captures all of Meryl Streep’s joie de vivre without the regret we see for her circumstances in the first film. Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn (from Ed Wynn’s family, no less) both have the same comedic timing as their modern counterparts, but also have the requisite energy to keep up with Lily James. Hugh Skinner, the one playing young Colin Firth, was so spot on that I realized what character he was supposed to be immediately. Given how good he was on Fleabag, I suppose I should not have been surprised. While the other two young bachelors are also excellent, I will say that they didn’t really come off as young versions of their older counterparts as much as he did. Still, they were solid and believable as people that young Donna would want to have a romantic adventure with. Also, they’re much better singers than their aged counterparts, sparing us some performance issues. It did bother me that Young Stellan was not played by one of his ~25 children, but I got over it.

Wait, was this the 1970s? Because then Amanda Seyfried would be almost 50.

Third, they added Cher. I didn’t actually list this as a problem in the first movie, but, let’s be honest, every musical that DOESN’T have Cher in it is inherently inferior. While the movie does not have her in a ton of it, when she does show up and perform, it’s a powerful boost to the third act. 

God, you diva, you deserve everything you want.

Last, they definitely bumped up the dialogue for this film. I’m not saying that it’s deeper or more sincere; in fact, the opposite is true. This movie has more quips and funny one-liners that better suit the nature of a jukebox musical. There are some sincere moments, to be sure, but most of what keeps the film going are humorous interactions between the cast and this movie takes that up a notch. Admittedly, most of the good lines went to Christine Baranski, but she uses them to their fullest.

That woman has more sass in her eye shadow than most people do in their bodies.

Overall, I was amazed how good this movie was and how much of an improvement over the last film. I don’t know that you can watch it without having seen the first one, but if you already suffered through the first one, this is a must-see.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Amazon Prime Review – Modern Love: The Highs are Worth the Lows

Amazon gives us a series of interesting portraits of love in the modern world. 

SUMMARY

It’s an anthology, people. I can’t summarize every episode without kind of ruining the surprise. Just know that each of the stories focuses on something about love between people. Mostly romantic, but not always.

ModernLove - 1Cast.jpg
Such a cast. Much wow.

Eh, fine, here’s a 1 sentence summary of each episode:

WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN

A woman (Cristin Miloti) has a doorman (Laurentiu Possa) who’s a gatekeeper for more than just her building.

WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST

A woman (Catherine Keener) interviewing a tech billionaire (Dev Patel) about his lost love (Caitlin McGee) reveals her own (Andy Garcia).

ModernLove - 2Dev
Journalism at its finest.

TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM

A bipolar (Anne Hathaway) woman tries to have a relationship with a guy (Gary Carr), despite her condition getting in the way.

RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE

A married couple (Tina Fey and John Slattery) start to realize that they might not be meant to last, but don’t want to quit. 

AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY

Two people on their second date (Sofia Boutella and John Gallagher, Jr.) get a crash course in each other after an injury derails their evening.

SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?

A young woman (Julia Garner) tries to replace her father with an older co-worker (Shea Wigham), but he misunderstands her attention.

HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE

A couple (Andrew Scott and Brandon Kyle Goodman) tries to adopt a baby from a homeless woman (Olivia Cooke).

ModernLove - 3Couple
They’re so cute together.

THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP

A woman (Jane Alexander) who found a new love (James Saito) late in life takes a run around the rest of the series in his memory.

END SUMMARY

The upside of the show is that it’s an anthology, so if you don’t like an episode, you can still try the next one and it’ll be different. The downside is that it’s an anthology and if you really like the way an episode is done, the next one is probably going to go a different way. The episodes, though they all focus on love, are varied in style and also in their focal interpretation of love. Since love comes in all different colors, flavors, shapes, sizes, sexes, Tex-Mexes, and Shrekses (guess what I’m drinking? Hint: Whisky), that also means that a creator is pretty much allowed to justify whatever interpretation they want to put into their story. Apparently, each of these stories were taken from a column published in The New York Times every week, but I have to confess that I don’t think I ever read it, even when I read the paper. Not that I don’t enjoy a good love story, I just never did.

ModernLove - 4Column

The quality of the episodes also varies a lot, although, on balance, I thought the series was pretty good. I do admit the finale montage is weird to me. Since there were only eight episodes, it seems kind of unnecessary to spend a bunch of time recapping the series, particularly since the clips don’t really interact, so they don’t give us a ton more perspective on the characters. They could just as easily have added the post-credits epilogues to the actual episodes and maybe spent ten more minutes on the narrative of the last story.

So, since I don’t want to spoil the show too badly, I’m going to do a 1-2 sentence review of each episode, in ascending order of quality. 

8) SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?

This story is super creepy and includes a girl trying to force herself to sexually fantasize about her fake father figure, which is double creepy. Emmy Rossum directed this, and it’s only a slight step up from Dragonball Evolution

ModernLove - 5Goat
Seriously, it’s awful.

7) AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY

Two good actors are absolutely ruined by stilted dialogue and pacing taken from a silent film. The ending feels forced, as do a lot of the moments of supposed clarity.

6) THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP

The story of finding a second love late in life is adorable, but too much is wasted on the series recap. Still, it was cute.

5) RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE

Tina Fey and John Slattery are great, but honestly it has a melancholy that never feels either closed or cemented as unending to me. 

ModernLove - 6Movies
Also, how did these two meet? I mean, that’s a real story.

4) WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST

A cute story, but even with the epilogue, the story just doesn’t feel like it’s that significant. 

3) TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM

By far the most artistic episode, the representation of Bipolar may not be accurate, but it does make the condition more relatable. Also, Anne Hathaway’s breakdown is just damned heartbreaking.

ModernLove - 7Market.png
It’s a musical.

2) HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE

This one is the most complex story in terms of characterization and Andrew Scott’s performance is just damned perfect.

1) WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN

The person who requested I review this series said that if I don’t end my review of this episode with “I cried like a tiny child,” then I have no soul. Well, I may have no soul, but I definitely cried like a tiny child.

ModernLove - 8Museum.png
Like. A. Tiny. Child.

I hope they keep this show going. Even though some of the episodes weren’t great, I think they’ve got a lot of stuff left that they could cover. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.