Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

On the two viewings I’ve managed so far, I’m pretty sure Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the epoch-defining film that we don’t deserve but which we sorely need

“When you’re gone
How can I even try to go on?”

I was lucky enough to see an early screening of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last week and I thought it was fricking fantastic. But as the occasion fuelled by an afternoon tea that was heavy on the bubbles and the raucous atmosphere of a stagey audience and not quite bold enough to stick by the courage of my convictions, I opted to wait until seeing the film a second time before officially declaring my opinion.

And I have to say I really do think this is a superb film. The sequel that no-one really knew they wanted, whipped together in under 12 months once the green light had been given, that somehow manages to do everything you expect it to, and but better, and infinitely more moving than it has any right to be. I knew I’d shed a tear or three of joy but there was more than one moment where I was just sobbing, so rich is the emotion here. And that’s only fitting considering the bittersweet melancholy that is ABBA’s true calling card, rather than the cheesiness they are famed for. Continue reading “Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)”

DVD Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)

All hail Mamma Mia! As we tentatively await the sequel, I revisit a film I can’t ever imagine not loving

“I won’t be muscled out by an ejaculation”

With Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just about to hit cinemas, I thought I’d revisit the original Mamma Mia! film to remind myself of its pleasures, Pierce Brosnan’s singing and all. Released in 2008, it managed that trick of defying a lukewarm critical reception to garnering huge popularity, something repeated by The Greatest Showman (it’s almost as if film critics can’t quite imagine audiences wanting to see a harmlessly fun musical…). 

And that’s what this is in the end, lots of fun and silly with it. Based on the iconic jukebox musical of the same name, it’s a whole load of ABBA songs strung together on a gossamer-light plot of romantic comedy gold. Where it succeeds, as with the musical, is in taking the job at hand most seriously, whilst never taking itself too seriously at all. Songs are in the right places, serving as motors in the narrative, and there’s an integrity to the whole thing, even when its daft as a brush.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)”

Post-#Pride

Just the couple of days late with this round-up of Pride-appropriate film and TV…which I’m going to style out as entirely deliberate and a way to remind us all that Pride isn’t just about sponsoring a float or corporate rainbow flag branding. It’s everyday, all-day; it’s committing to support the LGBT+ community in all shapes and forms; it’s standing up against odious anti-trans protestors; it’s acknowledging that I need to do better than just focusing on the G in LGBT+ with these reviews of God’s Own Country, A Very English Scandal, and Man In An Orange Shirt. Enjoy these in the meantime and I’ll strive to do better, as should we all.

Film Review: God’s Own Country (2017)

God’s Own Country

“My country is dead. You can’t throw a rock in most towns without hitting an old lady crying for her children who have gone.”

Of course its taken me months to get round to watching God’s Own Country and of course I loved it utterly and completely. It’s grim up north and there’s nowt so queer as folk, not least Johnny Saxby, single-handedly holding his family’s failing farm together after his father’s stroke. He numbs the pain with blackout drinking sessions in the pub and rough casual sex with any guy who is up for it, but it’s no life, something has to change.

That change comes in the form of Gheorghe, a Romanian farm labourer brought in for the lambing season. His moody dark looks, lovely chunky knit and sheep’s cheese-making ways don’t quite melt Johnny’s heart so much as grip it, yank its pants down and roll in the mud with it. Theirs is a viscerally physical connection, reflecting the hard labour on this unforgiving Yorkshire countryside, and slowly, Gheorghe begins to shift Johnny’s views on the world. Continue reading “Film Review: God’s Own Country (2017)”

Oscar Week Film Review: The Greatest Showman

Defying the critics and showcasing the marvellous Keala Settle, there’s more to like about The Greatest Showman than you might think. Or not.

“The noblest art is that of making others happy”

There’s always something amusing about a piece of art that manages so successfully to flick two fingers at the critics and right now, none more so than The Greatest Showman. In the UK alone, it has achieved a box office consistency near the top of the list unseen since Avatar, the cast recording has been at the top of the album charts for the past two months, and such is its hold on the zeitgeist that it is now holding singalong performances across a range of cinemas.

None of which you would have predicted on its critical reception ahead of its Boxing Day release. It’s not an accurate portrayal of PT Barnum’s life, some said; it doesn’t have enough of a dramatic narrative, others sniffed; still more have derided its complete lack of any post-modern ironic edge, de rigueur for a contemporary musical so they’d have you believe. And there’s merits to all of these points though they do seem to spectacularly miss the point of the film, which is pure entertainment. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: The Greatest Showman”

Oscar Week Film Review: Victoria and Abdul

Not even Judi Dench can save this irresponsible look at the British colonial legacy, Victoria and Abdul nevertheless takes two Oscar nominations into the ceremony.

“It is imperative that the royal colon receives a little roughage”

AKA The Other V&A. You can see the rationale behind Victoria and Abdul, allowing Dame Judi Dench to reprise her much-loved role from Mrs Brown with another 20 years under her belt. And directed by Stephen Frears from a screenplay by Lee Hall, hopes were reasonably high.

What results though, is a film that indulges in an irresponsible kind of historical revisionism, a refusal to engage with and interrogate the reality of British colonial rule. Hall’s version of Victoria is allowed to be coyly ignorant of the looting of Indian treasure, a champion of diversity too in an improbable twist. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Victoria and Abdul”

Oscar Week Film Review: Phantom Thread

It may be Daniel Day-Lewis’ apparent last hurrah but Phantom Thread is all about Lesley Manville’s world-conquering excellence.

“No one gives a tinker’s fucking curse about Mrs. Vaughn’s satisfaction!”

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and nominated for 6 Academy Awards, a lot of the attention around Phantom Thread has been around Daniel Day-Lewis’ announcement that this would be his last film role. But for me (and for any right-thinking folk), the pleasure comes from a scene-stealing supporting role for Lesley Manville which has garnered her one of those nods. (Not sure if she’ll be attending the ceremony though or giving her understudy a brief moment in the sun.)

And it is an unexpectedly engaging and surprising film. Day-Lewis plays fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock whose rule on the world of 1950s London couture is slowly slipping due to the arrival of the New Wave. His audacious arrogance, sorry artistic temperament, is brought into question when he meets Belgian waitress Alma but when a romance sparks up between the pair, the result is a far from conventional affair which leaves its gender dynamics entirely shooketh. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Phantom Thread”

Oscar Week Film Review: All the Money in the World

The drama around All the Money in the World proves more interesting than the film, if I’m honest.

“We look like you, but we’re not like you”

Perhaps unfairly, All the Money in the World will be more famous for events around it rather than for the film itself. For at the heart of the #MeToo maelstrom, director Ridley Scott took the decision to remove and recast Kevin Spacey out of a major supporting role barely a month before it was due to open.

Christopher Plummer stepped into the shoes of John Paul Getty at the last minute, delivered in nine days of reshoots and has been rewarded with an Oscar nomination for his pains. The result though. is a rather uneven film in which his performance seems at odds with those around him. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: All the Money in the World”

Oscar Week Film Review: Mudbound

Up for 4 Academy Awards, Mudbound is superb and director Dee Rees is entitled to feel cheated for her lack of recognition

“My hands did these things but I was never easy in my mind”

Dunkirk may have got the honours as the most-recognised WWII film this awards season but set in and around the same period, Mudbound knocks it out of the water for my money. Based on the 2008 novel by Hillary Jordan and adapted by Dee Rees and Virgil Williams, it’s a beautifully evocative and epic piece of storytelling – directed with heart and skill by Rees – that marks it way above any preconceptions you might have about it being a Netflix release.

Set in the Deep South of Jim Crow and horrific racial violence, this sweeping story encompasses the fortunes of two families – the McAllans and the Jackson, one white and one black, one landowners and one farm labourers but crucially, both with a son who serves in the Second World War. And through the many ways in which their lives intertwine, particularly around their children, it is the connection between these two vets that proves to be the most momentous. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Mudbound”

Oscar Week Film Review: Darkest Hour

No amount of prosthetics can stop this from being my…Darkest Hour

“The deadly danger here is this romantic fantasy of fighting to the end”

Eesh. The world already has too many Churchill films, never mind the fact that two big ones were released in the same year (Brian Cox’s Churchill was the lower profile one here). And for me, there’s nothing here in Joe Wright’s direction or Anthony McCarten’s writing that merits the retread over much-covered ground.

That is not the prevailing opinion obviously, as the film’s seven Oscar nominations testify, but it is what it is. No amount of latex makes Gary Oldman’s performance palatable (and isn’t it odd that he’s getting such acclaim for a role in which he is unrecognisable), and it is a crime in the ways in which the likes of Patsy Ferran and Faye Marsay are under-utilised, nay wasted. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Darkest Hour”