Film Review – “The Cakemaker”

THE CAKEMAKER
Starring: Tim Kalkhof and Sarah Adler
Directed by: Ofir Raul Graizer
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins
Strand
 
Sometimes it takes just a little patience for a cinematic experience to blossom into a piece of work that can be appreciated for its artistic endeavor. While the Israeli drama “The Cakemaker” may be littered with delicious looking pastries, it takes about half of its nearly two-hour running time before it offers something you can sink your teeth in to. Directed and written by Israeli filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer (“Dor”), “The Cakemaker” is slow to develop during that first half and it leaves us wondering if it is going somewhere. Thankfully, it saves itself from blandness and leaves us wondering something entirely at the end.
 
Premiering at this year’s 52nd annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, “The Cakemaker” introduces us to Israeli Oren Nachmias (Roy Miller, “When Heroes Fly”) when he steps into a Berlin bakery where a young, talented German baker named Thomas (Tim Kalkhof, “Homeland”) is working. In quick order it is revealed that Oren is living a secret life as a gay man while maintaining the life of a happily married family man in Jerusalem. Their affair continues for a quite some time as Oren routinely travels to Berlin on business. However, it all comes to an end when Oren is killed in a car accident after returning home on one of his trips.
 
It takes a while for him to find out, but when Thomas does he is left in a daze. Armed with information he gleaned from Oren during their relationship, Thomas travels to Jerusalem to find Oren’s widow, Anat (Sarah Adler, “Foxtrot”). While keeping his knowledge of Oren a secret to himself, Thomas eventually garners a job at Anat’s struggling kosher café. His pastries, however, turn her business around, much to the chagrin of some in Anat’s Jewish neighborhood.
 
It’s all quite dry and laborious, but there is a tangible creepiness to Thomas’s actions as he inserts himself deeper and deeper into his former lover’s life. He even goes so far as to wear a pair of Oren’s swimwear and run in his jogging shorts. What Thomas doesn’t count on is the attraction that the still grieving Anat begins to develop for the troubled German. It puts him in awkward position, but it also appeals to his yearning to experience Oren’s life.
 
Graizer’s story is nothing extraordinarily original, yet he inserts enough small twists in it to make it passably interesting. The relationship between the two men is poorly developed in the beginning, which makes it difficult to become invested in the story. Important elements are brought to light much later, which helps the second half of the film but still leaves the first half high and dry. Graizer’s pacing is also sluggish with too many moments of utter silence with nothing of interest transpiring. Yawn.
 
Miller’s performance is just a blip on the radar and Adler’s is merely satisfactory without enough depth of emotion. Contrary, Kalkhof wears a terrific mask on his face as Thomas is a perplexing character to figure out. What exactly is his end game? Does he want to live a lie, or does he want to do harm to everyone in the middle of the night? His blue eyes speak of someone who is moving along with clear thoughts, but there is a churning, pent-up ocean of emotion rolling around inside him.
 
“The Cakemaker” is a solid endeavor of average cinema with an ending that at least everyone can sit around and debate for a while.

Film Review – “BLACKkKLANSMAN”

BLACKkKLANSMAN
Starring:  John David Washington, Adam Driver and Topher Grace
Directed by:  Spike Lee
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 15 mins
Focus Features

Spike Lee and I go way back.

The movie theatre I managed in Baltimore was in an urban area.  I proudly showed “She’s Gotta Have It” and “School Daze.”  I was (and still am) angry that “Do the Right Thing” wasn’t nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and I was thrilled to meet him and speak for a few minutes in Washington D.C. while he very graciously signed my “Malcolm X” script.  I should also mention that I silently cursed him when he shot a reel of his film “Crooklyn” in the widescreen format but intentionally didn’t adjust it, giving the film a look that caused many customer complaints and passes given out.  He’s made more good movies than bad and this week he’s here with one of his best.

It’s the 1970s.  Ron Stallworth (Washington) is a black police officer in a time where, if you’re the first one on the scene of a crime, your fellow officers may think YOU are the perp.    One day, while reading the newspaper, Ron comes across an ad for the local chapter of the KKK.  As a joke, he sends in for his membership card and is delighted to get it.  When Ron is invited to meet the membership, he agrees, sending fellow officer Flip Zimmerman (Driver) in his place.  Zimmerman is Jewish and has to learn to keep his emotions to himself when surrounded by the idiot gang he finds himself a part of.  As Ron/Flip get deeper into the group, they soon find themselves chatting up David Duke, then the first Grand Wizard of the KKK, today pretty much a punchline.  When Duke is scheduled to come to Ron’s town, things go from comical to serious as the groups true goals are announced.

Powerful and pertinent, “Blackkklansman” is a film that deals with both the past and the present.  Director Lee and co-writers Kevin Willmott, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz have created a world that anyone over 21 will recognize.  There is humor but then there is horror.  Not violent horror, but the horror at the spoken word.  Can people truly be this vile?  Sadly, yes.

As with many of Lee’s films, a great cast has been assembled.  I was surprised to learn that leading man Washington is the son of Denzel.  If this performance is any indication, Pop better keep an eye on the rear view mirror.  He plays Stallworth with the dignity required, something that wasn’t easy to display in the early 1970s.  Driver is equally good here.  This is the first thing I’ve seen him in since the last two “Star Wars” films and – SPOILER ALERT – though as a filmgoer I will never forgive him for killing Han Solo, I will continue to recognize him as an actor to watch.  As David Duke, Grace is pitch perfect.  He doesn’t scream out his hatred, like his dimwit followers.  He oozes it, like the politician he would later become.

“Blackkklansman” took home the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and I look for it to be a front runner when the Oscar nominations roll around.  Do you hear that, Academy?  I don’t won’t to get angry again!

Film Review: “The Meg”

THE MEG
Starring:  Jason Statham, BingBing Lee and Rainn Wilson
Directed by:  John Turtletaub
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hr 53 mins
Warner Bros.

If you’ve learned anything about me over the years, you know that “Jaws” is my favorite film.  That being said, every time a new shark themed film shows up (“Deep Blue Sea,” “Open Water,” “The Shallows,” etc) I have to put my blinders on and do my best not to compare the film to “Jaws.”  However, when the film in question steals whole sequences from the film, I may bet a little testy.

We meet Jonas Taylor (Statham) as he and his rescue team are trying to save the crew of a submerged vessel.  However, just as you think they’re all going to survive, they are attacked by “something,” causing Taylor to leave behind a couple teammates, who inevitably die.  Fade to black and jump ahead a few years.

Welcome to the bottom of the ocean, inside the Mariana Trench.  A bizarre philanthropist (Wilson) has financed an expedition to the trench with the purpose of trying to go deeper.  The idea is that it’s so cold at the bottom of the ocean that maybe you’re not on the ocean’s floor.  Maybe you’re just blocked.  Crazy guy arrives at his sea platform, which is full of scientists and a cute Chinese family (older father, daughter and granddaughter).  The mission is a success, but while down below their sub is attacked by “something.”  Only one person can help them…someone whose life was changed by “something.”  But what?

With a few good special effects shots and a cast that’s trying way too hard, “The Meg” is passable entertainment.  A giant shark that can actually eat people whole is kind of cool, though the filmmakers can’t seem to decide on how big it is.  When it’s out to sea it’s HUGE, knocking over boats and gobbling up people like cocktail peanuts.  But when it comes close to shore, where hundreds of people are bathing, it easily swims by, not one person noticing the 60 foot monster that just passed by.

Director Turtletaub has directed four films since 2004, three of them starring Nicolas Cage, the master of over-emoting.  He would have made a fine substitute to Statham, who has proven himself in other films.  The slow parts between shark appearances start to add up, and the film feels every bit of its almost 2-hour run time.

To steal (and paraphrase) from Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” a film is like a shark.  It has to keep on moving or it will die.  And what we’re dealing with here…is a dead shark.

Film Review: “Three Identical Strangers”

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
Starring: Robert Shafran and David Kellman
Directed by: Tim Wardle
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 114 minutes
Neon
 
“Three Identical Strangers” is the best documentary thus far in 2018 and one of the best overall films of the year. The well-deserved recipient of a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for storytelling at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, “Strangers” is a compelling work that is thoughtful, compelling, moving and leaves a lasting impression for many moons after the credits have faded to black. Even though it’s been 38 years since long lost triplets miraculously reunited, it remains a story with ripple effects being felt to this very day.
 
Initially, “Strangers” reels us in with an infectious enthusiasm we feel radiating from Robert “Bobby” Shafran who describes with a gregarious smile how he stumbled upon his identical twin brother, Edward “Eddy” Galland. Their reunion made headlines across the country, but it became even crazier when a third brother, David Kellman saw doubles of himself in a newspaper. The triplets became overnight sensations and appeared on a multitude of media outlets at a blistering pace, which was only matched by their wild partying. Both David and Bobby recount those days, as well as how they started families, with great fondness. However, things start to take dark turn as “Strangers” begins to develop a grittier, tragic tone with its probe into how they were separated in the first place.
 
As it turns out, the triplets improbable, 1980 reunion in New York set a series of disturbing events in motion that began with a negative meeting between the brothers’ angry parents, who were upset their sons had been intentionally split apart, and an adoption agency with some shadowy backers. It’s paired with an author/journalist in Texas who uncovers a secret study that, as David describes, turned the brothers into lab rats.
 
The sinister background to it all begins with late child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Peter Neubauer (1913-2008). Neubauer was an Austrian Jew who was able to escape his Nazi-controlled country by fleeing into neutral Switzerland where he completed his training before moving in 1941 to New York City. It sounds heroic enough until we learn that like the Nazis he fled from, Neubauer initiated an inhuman, concentration camp-like experiment by orchestrating a program in which several sets of twins and one set of triplets, the brothers in “Strangers,” were deliberately separated during infancy as part of a clandestine “nature vs. nurture” experiment. Even more shocking is that it was the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services who helped Neubauer with a program that led to a variety of mental health issues among its unwitting participants as they entered adulthood.
 
Naturally, Bobby and David, among others, continually try to demand answers, but he ended the program in 1980, Neubauer, realizing his work would be controversial, had his study sealed upon his death at Yale University until the year 2066, thus insuring its participants would be dead by the time its findings would be released to the public.
 
“Strangers” is a superb example of documentary filmmaking as it entertains, educates and causes thought provoking discussion of the subject matter. All of director Tim Wardle’s interview subjects are engrossing to listen to and his overall storytelling flows naturally like winding stream. His work shines a light on a dark tragedy that almost disappeared into the shadows. This is a film that should not be missed.

 

Film Review: “The Darkest Minds”

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore and Gwendoline Christie
Directed By: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 105 minutes
20th Century Fox

I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s another attempt by Hollywood to build another young adult dystopian franchise. Just seven months ago in January, “Maze Runner” was wrapping up a successful franchise that nearly hit the $1 billion mark worldwide. Enter “The Darkest Minds.”

Based on Alexandra Bracken’s books, “The Darkest Minds” is about a pandemic, called IAAN, which has wiped out 98% of people under 20-years-old, leaving behind a mutated 2%. This 2% is divided up by a color system, designating their mutated powers, with green being the safest and red being the most dangerous. Green means they’re highly intelligent, blue means they’re telekinetic, yellow means they can control electricity, orange means they can control the minds of those around them and red means they control fire. Someone should really flip orange and red in terms of danger.

Red and orange children are immediately murdered by the government once the scientists figure out their color code. Ruby (Stenberg) is an orange, but before they can off her, she uses her powers to convince the lab coat scientists she’s a green. So she’s shuffled in with the rest of what’s left of America’s youth to work camps, while our country figures out the cause and origins of IAAN. I haven’t even touched on Ruby’s parents, the time jumps, or President’s son who is also an orange. By the way, this all is thrown at the audience in the first few minutes so fast that you’d suffer whiplash trying to digest it all.

“The Darkest Minds” is a mix of “X-Men” and “Divergent.” I begrudgingly mention “X-Men” and this film in the same sentence. It’s a very by-the-books film that is only mildly amusing because of its main young actor. Stenberg, who’s actually better than her IMDB suggests, provides an emotional weight to Ruby, even when we’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on with the plot. I give points for the movie making Ruby sympathetic, brave and an endearing female lead, but also subtract points for the cliché beats her character goes through.

There are moments where I thought the film would distinguish itself amongst the pack by tying its dystopian themes to contemporary problems, something most studios seem to be afraid of doing because of today’s political climate. I can easily think of several things that could have been said when scared adults are attempting to control kids because of the power they’re about to wield. Or even the decaying world that older generations are leaving behind for future generations. But instead the writers rely on the tired tropes of being yourself and the generalization of “fight the good fight.”

I don’t want to pile on anymore to a movie that has somewhat good intentions and I’m sure is based on a decent book (I say decent because it has warranted five sequels). “The Darkest Minds” may have been better with love and care, or maybe if it came out during the “Harry Potter” films. It might please a younger audience that’s new to the genre, but for those of us who’ve seen these films come out every year since “The Hunger Games,” the air around these young adult films continues to stagnate.

Film Review: “Eighth Grade”

Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton and Emily Robinson
Directed By: Bo Burnham
Rated: R
Running Time: 93 minutes
A24

Cringy. Heartfelt. Anxiety inducing. Unflinching. Heartbreaking. Hopeful. “Eighth Grade,” Bo Burnham’s debut film, seemingly has it all, and it does. You can’t call “Eighth Grade” a coming-of-age movie because the character in this film is 14-years-old and about to head into high school. Kayla (Fisher) still has a lot of growing to do and the point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ journey in this film at least reassures viewers that there’s a bright future for Kayla despite a lot of nerve-wracking speed bumps along the way.

Kayla paints a social media portrait that she’s happy, an advice guru, and seemingly has this near-perfect life. She uploads videos onto Youtube detailing her own life, the lessons she learns and how to radiate confidence. She’s also constantly updating her Instagram and Snapchat (sorry for those of you wondering about her Facebook, Generation Z doesn’t use it and it’s not cool anymore). But behind this online facade, Kayla actually doesn’t have friends, no viewers on her Youtube channel, and was just awarded the quietest kid in school (what school official thought that was a good award for the student body to vote on?).

“Eighth Grade” is all about Kayla’s final week in middle school and her preparations for high school. Most people will relate to Kayla’s urge to hit the reset button after a less than stellar outing in middle school. That relatability is what will allow the movie to eventually make your stomach do summersaults and potentially tear your heart in two. But luckily for the audience, Burnham shows restraint and puts away the dagger that he could have easily plunged deep into your heart.

My experience with this film was like the first time I watched Burnham’s stand-up. It was something I had seen before, but it felt new because of how personal and forward it was. Just like his stand-up, “Eighth Grade” pulls no punches in delivering some biting, brutally honest commentary. The apprehension is temporarily relieved multiple times throughout by well-scripted jokes, usually playing off teenage cluelessness and growing pains. Burnham is kind enough to keep everyone, characters and audience, in on the joke instead of making either the butt of one.

So much of Burnham’s soul is laid out in “Eighth Grade,” and not just through Kayla. Her father, played by the great Josh Hamilton, embodies much of what Burnham most likely experienced with his parents or he’s simply conveying his own parental ambitions of nurturing and care for when he becomes a father. But just because Kayla is a girl and she’s being raised by a single parent, doesn’t mean both characters speak volumes for everyone, regardless of gender, color, creed, family dynamic, etc.

“Eighth Grade” is a harrowing, sincere trip through one of the most emotionally vulnerable times in people’s life. I’m sure that some people didn’t have the kind of middle school experience Kayla had, but it’s a refresher for us to remember we’re all human and all feel the same kinds of raw emotions. There are even some solid teaching moments for the tweens who do eventually pile into the theater or watch this film at home. Burnham proved he’s a formidable force in comedy over the past several years, and now with “Eighth Grade,” he’s proven that he’s a formidable force in the film industry.

Film Review: “Christopher Robin”

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Starring:  Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell and Jim Cummings
Directed by:  Marc Foster
Rated:  PG
Running time:  1 hr 44 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Why do we have to grow up?

I’m 57 (58 next month) and as my childhood gets further and further away, I miss more and more the things of that time.  I think most of us do.  To forget out childhood, and our childhood friends, seems like an impossibility.  But not to Christopher Robin.

When we meet young Christopher (Orton O’Brien), he is being honored at a going away party by his best friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.  As stories are told and gifts exchanged, it is his stuffed bear, Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Cummings) that says what everyone is thinking:  “I wish this could go on forever.”

A film that melts your heart in its first five minutes, “Christopher Robin” follows the title character (McGregor) into young adulthood, where he goes off to school, falls in love, goes to war and then settles down to raise a family.  Now a working-class family man, Robin’s daily duties include cutting costs at the luggage manufacturing company he works for and ducking his Gin Rummy-crazed next door neighbor.  He has long ago put away his drawings from childhood, where he and his friends would have adventures.  His latest adventure – breaking his promise to his daughter and sending she and her mother off on holiday alone.  Another weekend working.  Oh, bother.

A perfect blend of live action and CGI, “Christopher Robin” brings back to life such cherished characters as Tigger (also voiced by Cummings), Eyore (Brad Garrett), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi) and Owl (Toby Jones).  Along with Pooh, they do their best to convince a dubious Christopher that you can’t lose the past if you don’t want to.  “Did you let me go,” Pooh asks softly.  Christopher can only ponder the question.

McGregor is perfectly cast as a young husband and father, trying to provide for his family and not realizing that, the more he tries, the further they are drifting apart.  Atwell is just as strong as Christopher’s wife, Evelyn, and young Bronte Carmichael is sadly sweet as their daughter, Madeline.  The special effects are flawless and, if you’re not too careful, you too might find yourself talking to stuffed bears and planning age-old adventures.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post Red Carpet Interviews

Desiree Ahkavan’s new film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post hits theaters this week after both winning the Grand Jury prize for drama at Sundance Film Fest and screening at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The film, an adaptation of Emily Danforth’s 2012 novel, stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Cameron Post, a high school girl who is caught making out with another girl on prom night. Cameron is subsequently sent to a religious gay “conversion therapy” camp called God’s Promise by her conservative American family. From there, Ahkavan’s touching and honest film follows Cameron as she encounters her fellow campers coping with their sexualities and the camp counselors (Jennifer Ehle and John Gallagher Jr.) who may have their own inner reservations about the work that they do. It is a challenging film for its young stars that’s deftly led by Moretz with support from Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck.
I got to speak with some of this talented cast at their Tribeca red carpet premiere about how they came to be in the film and the message believers in these controversial camps could take away from Cameron’s story.

Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. plays Reverend Rick, himself a former camper turned youth counselor who outwardly is a God’s Promise “success” story but clearly deals with suppressing his true emotions.

Lauren Damon: Your character has so much going on under the surface, how did you work on playing him?

John Gallagher Jr: Yeah! A lot of it was just trusting the script and trusting Desiree. You know it was a very complicated role who’s living right on the edge of something. And I just really looked to [Desiree] to kind of be the leader and to be my guide throughout all of it. And to just try and kind of tell the truth as we had deemed it fit for the film.

LD: What was the most difficult part of working on this?

JGJ: I think, you know living on that edge…of like really preaching something that, I think you start seeing throughout the film, that the character may or may not actually even believe. And that kind of crisis of faith, and that doubt and that second guessing. And really like the guilt that comes with that…I think he’s a guy that really is struggling to do what he believes is the right thing. And I think that his awakening in the film is that he doesn’t know what the right thing is.

LD: I watched this in an admittedly liberal NYC screening room and I think the reactions to a lot of what happens in the camp was that it was ridiculous, but both in the film, and in these real places, it’s really not…

JGJ: It’s not. There is no spin on it, that is their earnest belief. And as I can’t even fathom having that kind of opinion on matters of sexuality, that’s a very real thing. And people do have those exact kind of beliefs.

LD: What would you tell someone with these kinds of beliefs if you could speak to them?

JGJ: Gosh. I would tell them to watch this film and think it over a second time, you know?

Quinn Shephard plays the small but crucial role of Coley Taylor, the girlfriend who Moretz’s Cameron is caught with before she is sent for conversion.

LD: Your role isn’t big in terms of screentime, but it’s so pivotal to the film, how was it to know that going in?

Quinn Shephard: It was great! I was very happy to be a part of the film in any way possible. I keep saying, I just wanted to be a part of the movie because I really believed in it. I think it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read and I wanted to be in it. And I’m excited that I got to play this role.

LD: As in actress in this film, if you could get a message to people who believe these camps are effective, what would it be?

QS: Oh man. I think it’s like…I mean, look–Some people I think have a lot of fears and they justify things like conversion camps out of fears. But I think that if you come at something from a place of love, it’s impossible to justify. I think if you’re really someone who feels love in your heart and you challenge yourself to love someone who’s gay and imagine…putting that person through that and telling them that they’re not okay, I think it’s impossible to justify. I think people get caught up in their rhetoric and they get up in religious justification. But when it’s human and it’s in front of you, it’s very hard to agree with, you know? And I think that if somebody sits through this movie who believes in it, they’ll change their mind.

LD: How did you go about preparing for the intimate scenes between Coley and Cameron?

QS: I read the book, I read about my character…I’m somebody who’s very comfortable with who I am and it was just about creating a place in myself where I was very happy for what was happening, but at the same time very ashamed of it. I think that’s who [COLEY] is, she’s that duality and that was a difficult place for me to go. It was a very sad place. But it was something that was very important to her. There was a fragility to the relationship because she is not okay with it yet. And then I think as far as the actual intimacy of the scene, we just went into it was a sense of humor. And Desiree was very accommodating and she made us very comfortable and we had fun.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post opens in New York on August 3rd and expands to LA and other cities on August 10th.

Enter to Win Blu-ray Combo Pack of “Breaking In”

To celebrate the Blu-ray release of “Breaking In“, Media Mikes would like to give two of our fans a chance to win a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack of the film. If you want to win this great prize, please leave a comment below your favorite revenge thriller. This giveaway will remain open until August 13th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

Shaun Russell (Union) takes her son and daughter on a weekend getaway to her late father’s secluded, high-tech vacation home in the country side where the family soon receives an unwelcome surprise from four men who break into the house in search of a hidden safe. After managing to escape, Shaun stops at nothing to turn the tables on the thieves and rescue her two children being held hostage in a house designed with impenetrable security. No trap, no trick and especially no man inside can match a mother with a mission in BREAKING IN. Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Sense8), BREAKING INalso stars Billy Burke (TwilightSeries), Aijona Alexus (“13 Reasons Why,”Acrimony) and Seth Carr (Black Panther).

Film Review: “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot”

DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr 54 mins
Amazon Studios
There is little doubt that the late cartoonist John Callahan (1951-2010) was as politically incorrect as they come. However, to paraphrase Jim Morrison, he had enough of a good life, or at least enough of an interesting one to base a movie on. After several years in limbo, Callahan’s biopic “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” has finally hit the silver screen. Directed by Gus Van Sant (“Milk,” “Drugstore Cowboy”), this emotionally charged drama is one of the best films of 2018 thus far. This is due in large part to epic performances by three-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master,” “Walk the Line,” and “Gladiator”) as the lead and Jonah Hill (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Moneyball”) in a supporting role.
Based upon Callahan’s memoir “Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up?”, “Don’t Worry” is not a step-by-step biopic flick as it subtly dances back and forth among time frames during his life. An extra curve ball is thrown into the mix when some of his more notable drawings interject themselves across the screen to punctuate what his critics labeled as off-color humor. What we do learn about Callahan is that he was abandoned at a Catholic orphanage soon after birth and grew up in an area of Oregon called The Dalles near Portland. An alcoholic starting at the age of 12, Callahan became a quadriplegic at age 21 when on one evening in 1972 the equally inebriated driver (played by Jack Black) of his Volkswagen crashed into a utility pole at 90 miles per hour.
After months of rehabilitation, Callahan is eventually released back into the wild, but he continues to drink, something that is not played as darkly as it could have been. A day eventually comes when he hits rock bottom and he joins an Alcoholics Anonymous group sponsored by the guru-like son of rich parents, Donne Green (Hill). Green speaks continually of being honest and of recognizing a higher power to Callahan as he slowly makes his way through a 12-step program. Through it all he develops a relationship with a pixie-like flight attendant (Rooney Mara) from Sweden whom he first meets shortly after his spinal surgery. It’s an unlikely relationship and one that seems out of place within the film. It impedes the overall pacing of the story as it also eliminates other aspects of the real Callahan’s life that could have been examined – his earning a degree at Portland State University, his troubled childhood, or the six-year bender he went on after his accident, for example.
Don’t worry, this film is not all gut-wrenching sadness and pain as there is joy to be found in watching Callahan discover his true gift in life, a gift that led him to becoming a successful newspaper cartoonist despite his physical limitations. Phoenix delivers a raw, emotional performance as dives into his character with abandon. It ranks as one of his best roles and deserves to be remembered when Oscar season comes around. The same can be said for Hill who shines in a career defining role as an AA sponsor with his own set of demons. It is a genuine pleasure to watch them both as “Don’t Worry” won’t leave you any time soon after you leave the theater.

Film Review: “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT”

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
Starring:  Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill and Ving Rhames
Directed by:  Christopher McQuarrie
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 27 mins
Paramount

I’m curious if Tom Cruise has in his contracts a clause that says he must run in his films.  In early films like “Taps” and “The Outsiders” he ran with others.  He was constantly running to school in “Risky Business.”  “Legend.”  “The Firm.”  He raced Robert Duval at the end of “Days of Thunder.”  Hell, even though he spends most of the film in a wheelchair, he found time to run in “Born on the Fourth of July.”  But none of these films can prepare you for the mileage he covers in his latest adventure as Ethan Hunt: “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT.”

The film begins with Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) attempting to retrieve three pieces of hardware needed to outfit nuclear bombs.  However, when one of his force-mate’s life is put in jeopardy, Ethan chooses them over the success of the mission and the hardware is absconded with.  Cue the music!

Not only the best of the “Mission: Impossible” films, “FALLOUT” is also one of the best films of the year.  After an introductory scene that would have made the opening moments of most James Bond films seem tame, Hunt and company are soon introduced to CIA Agent August Walker (Cavill, out of his Superman uniform but just as bad-assed), a no-nonsense kind of guy who certainly would have let a member of his team die and not give it a second thought.

There are so many twists and turns here that to go into too much detail about the rest of the film would give away some nice plot points.  Suffice it to say that Cruise easily covers a few miles by way of his fleet feet.  Run, Ethan, run.

Blu-ray Review “Gravity Falls: The Complete Series”

Actors: Jason Ritter, Alex Hirsch, Kristen Schaal, Linda Cardellini
Number of discs: 7
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Run Time: 900 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“Gravity Falls” was a brave and very different show for Disney XD. I caught an episode of this show by accident one day nearly at the end of the first season and right away I was hooked. This show had it all. It created this wonderful world with these characters. There was great mythology and planning that went behind this show. I loved how each episodes was leading to something bigger in the next. The show really engaged it’s viewer with deeper meanings and hidden Easter eggs. This show was definitely one of a kind and due to that it never really got the love it deserved. I had the chance to chat with the show’s created years ago after watching that first episode and I found, read here, out how much really went into the making of this show and I got a really appreciation for it. If you are a fan of the show, this is a must purchase for all fans! Shout! Factory doesn’t disappoint again!

Official Premise: Welcome To Gravity Falls! Twin brother and sister Dipper and Mabel Pines are sent to the small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon to spend their summer vacation with their great uncle (Grunkle) Stan. Upon arrival, Grunkle Stan enlists the siblings’ help in running The Mystery Shack, a self-owned tourist trap that overcharges unsuspecting customers. While Dipper has a hard time getting used to his new surroundings, Mabel’s upbeat optimism comes in handy in her quest to find true love. But there may be more to Gravity Falls than meets the eye as Dipper and Mabel encounter strange occurrences and weird creatures. When Dipper stumbles upon an elusive book, he discovers it is the answer to uncovering the town’s mysterious happenings. Soon, Dipper and Mabel realize they must rely on each other to navigate this unfamiliar place. Meanwhile, Grunkle Stan guards a secret of his own: one that just might hold the key to unlocking the deeper mystery that is Gravity Falls.

The Collector’s Edition will be a seven-disc Blu-ray box set that includes all 40 episodes of this show. There is also an entire disc of bonus features, including audio commentaries on all 40 episodes with series creator Alex Hirsch and members of the cast and crew…that’s right ALL 40!;. There is a new feature-length documentary “One Crazy Summer,” featuring interviews with Alex Hirsch, actors Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal, director and storyboard artist Matt Braly, writers Jeff Rowe, Shion Takeuchi and Josh Weinstein, composer Brad Breeck and over a dozen additional members of the cast and crew. This doc is a must watch for all fans. Lastly we have a over an hour of never-before-seen deleted scenes as well as a few shorts and promos from the show’s run.

You can tell  that there was a lot of planning and love that was put into this these extras and the Blu-ray in general. The 1080p transfer of these episodes look great with the animation style and the colors. I love the palette for this show. The exterior slip cover case is a really sturdy hard stock and I  really like it. It feels like they actually delivered a solid product all around here. If you don’t have Blu-ray, there will also be a six-disc retail DVD edition that includes all 40 episodes of the series and the accompanying audio commentaries, but does not include the bonus feature disc.  Shout! has got us fan covered! Don’t miss this!

“Batman: The Complete Animated Series – Deluxe Limited Edition” Coming October 16, 2018 To Blu-ray Box Set and Digital

WARNER BROS. HOME ENTERTAINMENT AND DC ENTERTAINMENT PRESENT

BATMAN: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition

COMING OCTOBER 16, 2018 TO BLU-RAY™ BOX SET AND DIGITAL

BURBANK, CA (July 23, 2018) – Batman: The Animated Series, the most acclaimed animated super hero television series in history, arrives this fall in an all-encompassing package befitting its revered place in the annals of fan-favorite entertainment. Remastered for the first time since its broadcast airing from 1992-1995, Batman: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition will be available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital and in a stunning Blu-ray™ box set ($112.99 SRP) on October 16, 2018.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, the Emmy Award-winning series captured the imaginations of generations, setting the standard for super hero storytelling for the past quarter-century with its innovative designs, near-perfect voice cast and landmark approach to DC’s iconic characters and stories.  Batman: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition box set includes all 109 thrilling episodes, plus two bonus disks containing the recently-remastered, fan favorite animated films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero.

The impressive Batman: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition package features approximately 2,700 minutes of entertainment spread over 10 Blu-ray™ discs, plus the two bonus discs – not counting 11 specially-selected episodes with audio commentaries by cast and crew. In addition, Batman: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition includes an exclusive ensemble of collectibles highlighted by three Funko mini-figurines (Batman, Joker, Harley Quinn) and seven beautifully-designed lenticular art cards. The entire box set is housed in a stunning layflat-book with a dazzling slipcase.

This ultimate collectors Blu-ray box set will be individually numbered for a Limited Edition release of 30,000. More than 2,000 copies were pre-ordered within the first 24 hours of availability on Amazon.

Batman: The Animated Series had a ground-breaking initial run from 1992-1995, garnering a Primetime Emmy Award in 1993 for Outstanding Animated Program, along with three additional Emmy wins and 13 total Emmy nominations.

The creative team behind the breakthrough animated series was headed by the producing quartet of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Eric Radomski, alongside executive producers Jean MacCurdy and Tom Ruegger. Shirley Walker composed the award-winning score, while 8-time Emmy Award winner Andrea Romano guided an unparalleled collection of actors as casting/dialogue director. Kevin Altieri, Boyd Kirkland and Frank Paur handled the majority of episodic animation direction, along with Dan Riba, Dick Seabast, Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Kent Butterworth.

The Batman: The Animated Series cast rivaled that of any animated series in its time. The cast featured actors with laurels totaling one Academy Award, 11 Oscar nominations, 65 Emmy Awards, 283 Emmy nods, 15 Gold Globe Awards, 85 Golden Globe nominations, four Grammy Awards, a Peabody Award, and 17 actors forever honored with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Kevin Conroy led the voice cast as Batman, quickly and forever establishing himself as the fan-favorite voice of The Dark Knight. The core cast featured Golden Globe Award winner Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth, Robert Hastings as Commissioner Gordon, Loren Lester as Robin, and Robert Costanzo as Detective Harvey Bullock.

The extraordinary villains guest cast was led by Mark Hamill as the now-preeminent voice of The Joker, along with Richard Moll as Harvey Dent, Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman, and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn – the first character to be created initially for animation (by Bruce Timm & Paul Dini) to jump to comic books. Harley Quinn is now recognizable worldwide in film, television, videogames and comics and is one of DC’s most popular female characters, and Super Villains.

Other notable guest cast included actor/singer/songwriter Paul Williams as Penguin, Melissa Gilbert as Barbara Gordon, George Dzundza as Scarface, Brock Peters as Lucius Fox, Ed Asner as Roland Daggett, David Warner as Ra’s al Ghul, Marilu Henner as Veronica Vreeland, Ron Perlman as Clayface, Roddy McDowall as the Mad Hatter, Helen Slater as Talia al Ghul, Diana Muldaur as Dr. Leslie Thompkins, John Glover as Edward Nygma, Marc Singer as Dr. Kirk Langstrom, Pat Fraley as Bat-Mite, Kate Mulgrew as Red Claw, Ed Begley Jr. as Germs, Michael Ansara as Dr. Victor Fries, Harry Hamlin as Anthony Romulus, Alan Rachins as the Clock King, and Adam West as Simon Trent.

Also lending their voices were entertainment luminaries Elisabeth Moss, LeVar Burton, Elizabeth Montgomery, Paul Winfield, Seth Green, Jeffrey Tambor, Tim Curry, Michael York, Megan Mullally, Alan Young, Brad Garrett, Heather Locklear, Ken Howard, Joseph Campanella, Matt Frewer, Dick Gautier, Treat Williams, Richard Dysart, Peter Scolari, Meredith MacRae, Rene Auberjonois, Tim Matheson, Joe Piscopo, Thomas Wilson, Bud Cort, William Windom, Bill Mumy, Robby Benson, Dorian Harewood, Lindsay Crouse, John Rhys-Davies, Bess Armstrong, Michael Gross, Henry Silva, Paul Dooley, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Micky Dolenz, Ernie Hudson, David Lander, Kevin McCarthy, Roscoe Lee Browne, Peter Strauss, JoBeth Williams, Jeffrey Jones, Loretta Swit, William Katt, Nichelle Nichols, Alan Oppenheimer, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Helmond, Robert Picardo, Melissa Manchester, Jean Smart, Stephanie Zimbalist, Brian George, Bruce Weitz, Vincent Schiavelli, Richard Jeni, Andrea Martin, and Adam Ant.

Batman: The Animated Series set the standard for super hero animation for decades to come, and we’re proud to present this remastered box set to allow new generations – and the series’ vast, avid fanbase – to enjoy this landmark entertainment in the highest quality possible,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Vice President, Family & Animation Marketing. “This is truly a box set for the ages with an array of bonus features to perfectly complement all 109 episodic masterpieces – plus the full-length, remastered films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero.”

Batman: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Enhanced Content includes 25 featurettes – led by an all-new, 60+ minute definitive Batman: The Animated Series making-of documentary, “The Heart of Batman” – as well as introductions to five episodes by producer Bruce Timm, and commentary on 12 episodes by various combinations of the production team: Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Paul Dini, Kevin Altieri, Michael Reaves, Boyd Kirkland, Shirley Walker, Glen Murakami, Dan Riba, and James Tucker.

Batman: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Enhanced Content

The Heart of Batman (All-New Documentary) – A rare gathering of talent defined Batman for a generation. Twenty-five years later, Batman: The Animated Series continues to inspire fans and myth makers all over the world. This hour-long documentary takes an in-depth look at the renowned storytellers behind the landmark series.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Feature-Length Film) – When the city’s most feared gangsters are systematically eliminated, the Caped Crusader is blamed. But prowling the Gotham night is a shadowy new villain, the Phantasm, a sinister figure with some link to Batman’s past. Can the Dark Knight elude the police, capture the Phantasm and clear his own name? Unmasking the Phantasm is just one of the twists in this dazzling animated feature. Discover revelations about Batman’s past, his archrival the Joker, and Batman’s most grueling battle ever — the choice between his love for a beautiful woman and his vow to be the defender of right. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is “a mystery that is genuinely absorbing, suspenseful and moving” (The Cincinnati Enquirer ).

Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero (Feature-Length Film) – Batman faces his coolest case ever when Mr. Freeze returns to Gotham City and kidnaps Batgirl. While unraveling the mystery of Batgirl’s disappearance, Batman and Robin discover that she is part of Mr. Freeze’s frigid plan to save his dying wife – no matter what the cost. With time running out, Batman and Robin must find Gotham’s most cold-blooded villain and prevent him from putting Batgirl “on ice” forever. Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero includes all of the special features included on the original release: All four episodes of the animated “Mr. Freeze Saga” – Heart of Ice (Batman: The Animated Series), Deep Freeze (Batman: The Animated Series), Cold Comfort (The New Batman Adventures) and Meltdown (Batman Beyond); Art of Batman: Music Montage (Featurette); Get the Picture: How to Draw Batman (Featurette); Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes (Featurette); and an Audio Commentary featuring Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami and James Tucker.

The Dark Knight’s First Night Pilot Promo: Hosted by Bruce Timm (Featurette) – Witness the 1991 Batman promo reel as producers Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski discuss the origins of Batman: The Animated Series.

Batman: The Legacy Continues Retrospective (Featurette) – DC luminaries join BTAS creators as they explore the combination of exquisite design and in-depth storytelling that helped create a once in a generation show.

Robin Rising: How the Boy Wonder’s Character Evolved (Featurette) – The evolution of Dick Grayson from young ward to crime fighter.

Gotham’s Guardians: The Stalwart Supporting Characters (Featurette) – Batman is not the only hero safeguarding Gotham City. This documentary focuses on the importance of the Dark Knight’s allies in the Batman mythology.

Voices of the Knight (Featurette) – Actors Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Adriene Barbeau, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Andrea Romano discuss the process of bringing their iconic characters to life.

Gotham’s New Knight (Featurette) – Barbara Gordon swings into focus in this exciting look at Batman’s trusted ally and equal, Batgirl.

Video Commentary: “House and Garden” – Watch along as Producer Bruce Timm, Director Boyd Kirkland and writer Paul Dini take viewers behind the scenes of an exciting episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

In-Movie Experience – Watch along as Producer Bruce Timm, Director Boyd Kirkland and writer Paul Dini take viewers behind the scenes of an exciting episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Introduction (Featurette) – Bruce Timm, Dan Riba, James Tucker, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Andrea Romano discuss Gotham’s most popular rogues.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Clayface (Featurette) – Clayface personnel file revealed by Bruce Timm, Dan Riba and James Tucker.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Harley Quinn (Featurette) – Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Paul Dini and James Tucker discuss bringing Harley Quinn to life.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: The Joker (Featurette) – Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Paul Dini, Andrea Romano and Dan Riba discuss Mark Hamill’s inimitable Joker.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Mr. Freeze (Featurette) – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Andrea Romano and Dan Riba discuss MR. Freeze and the Heart and Ice Origin story.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: The Penquin (Featurette) – Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Alan Burnett, James Tucker, Dan Riba and Eric Radomski discuss The Penguin.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Poison Ivy (Featurette) – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Alan Burnett, Dan Riba and Eric Radomski discuss designing Poison Ivy.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Ra’s Al Ghul (Featurette) – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and Dan Riba discuss why Ra’s Al Ghul is such an exciting villain.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: The Riddler (Featurette) – This file discusses The Riddler and how creators differentiated him from the Batman ‘66 Riddler with: Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Andrea Romano, Eric Radomski and Dan Riba.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Scarecrow (Featurette) – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Andrea Romano and Dan Riba discuss the various iterations of the Scarecrow.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Two Face (Featurette) – Discussing Batman’s key nemesis are Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, James Tucker, and Dan Riba.

Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Ventriloquist & Scarface (Featurette) – Lively discussion about one of Batman’s most unique villains with creators Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Eric Radomski, Andrea Romano, and Dan Riba.

“Concepting Harley Quinn” (Featurette) – Producer Paul Dini discusses how Harley Quinn was incorporated into the series.

Tour of the Batcave (Featurettes):

  • Batman 
  • Utility Belt 
  • Bat-Vehicles
  • Alfred

Audio Commentaries:

“On Leather Wings” – Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski.

“Heart of Ice” – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Eric Radomski.

“Robin’s Reckoning, Part One” – Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski

 “Heart of Steel, Part Two” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Kevin Altieri

“Almost Got ‘Im” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Paul Dini

“Harley and Ivy” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Boyd Kirkland

“Read My Lips” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Michael Reaves, Boyd Kirkland and Shirley Walker.

“Harlequinade” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Shirley Walker and Eric Radomski

“Over The Edge” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.

“Critters” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.

“Legends of the Dark Knight” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.

 

Film Review: “King Cohen”

KING COHEN

Starring:  Larry Cohen, J.J. Abrams and Michael Moriarty

Directed by:  Steve Mitchell

Rated:  Not Rated

Running time:  1 hour 49 mins

Darkstar Pictures

 

As a teenager there were two film trailers shown on television that not only scared the hell out of me, but that I still remember vividly to this day.  One was for the film “Magic,” featuring Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margaret and a dummy named Fats, who would look into the camera and recite, “Hocus, pocus…we take her to bed.  “Magic” is fun.  YOU’RE DEAD!”  The other one began like this:  “There’s only one thing wrong with the Davis baby.  IT’S ALIVE!”

 

“King Cohen” is an excellent documentary about filmmaker Larry Cohen, whose films, including “It’s Alive!,” “The Stuff”  and “Q” have a devoted following of fans, including such successful directors as J.J Abrams, John Landis and Martin Scorcese.  All three of these men face the camera and expound on the effect Cohen has had on their own projects.  Abrams recalls a time when he was fifteen years old and running into Cohen on a Los Angeles street.  Cohen was lost and the young man pointed him in the right direction.  Decades later, when the two meet again, Cohen remembers Abrams as the kid who gave him directions.

 

Cohen grew up like many people in show business…wanting to be in show business.  He broke into television in the 1960s, writing for such shows as “Surfside Six,” “The Fugitive” and “Branded.”  Occasionally Cohen was ahead of the times.  A script he wrote for the show “Naked City” was turned down for being to “rough” for the times.  30 years later, Cohen sold the script to “N.Y.P.D. Blue.”

 

The film looks at the various films in Cohen’s career, with Cohen and others talking about his filmmaking process.  Cohen was often a true guerilla filmmaker, often putting a cameraman up on a fire escape and filming the passerby’s reactions.  For one film, he required a parade of 5,000 New York City.  To get the shot, he dressed Andy Kaufman up as a cop and had him join the rest of the boys in blue in marching across the city.  While filming a film dealing with J. Edgar Hoover in Washington D.C., Cohen learns the address where the former F.B.I. director lived and films a few scenes on the front lawn.

 

This film covers pretty much Cohen’s filmography, focusing more on the most popular films, especially “Q” and “The Stuff.”  Interviews with fellow filmmakers, crew members and actors such as Michael Moriarty and Eric Roberts gives the viewer every possible look at Cohen’s process.

 

All in all, “King Cohen” is one of the best documentaries about Hollywood to come down the pike in a very long time.  Now, if I could only get that Davis baby out of my head!

Film Review “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”

Directed by: Ol Parker
Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy García, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Cher, Meryl Streep
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 114 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Earlier this year I heard word that “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was coming out and I thought to myself that it was a sequel that really no one asked for nor did it seem necessary…but the trailer was a lot of fun, so I was excited. The cast is all back along with some new great faces (more on that below). I really just enjoyed this movie a lot. It had tons of laughs followed up by some really solid drama (bring the tissues). I loved the balance of the two. Listen, I am not a huge ABBA fan but those songs seems to win me over and performed by these amazingly talented people makes it hard not to enjoy! I have a feeling that I will be seeing this film again soon in the theaters again perhaps if they have a Sing-a-long version (if you are reading this Universal) 😉

Let’s just talk about the cast, this film brought back EVERYONE! Amanda Seyfried looks better than ever, WOW, and her voice was on point. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters were amazing together again. I just love their characters. Pierce Brosnan was sweet in the film and really gave some heart. It’s looks like he was trying really hard, so I am throwing him a bone here. Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård were very funny again and added a lot of heart. Cher still has it let me tell you and she looks fantastic! Meryl Streep delivers a very emotional song and I really enjoyed her being back as she was. Some new faces Lily James and Andy Garcia were fantastic as well. Andy Garcia steals the show for me personally. Lily James though was simply perfect as a younger Donna. Her voice is extraordinary and she really nailed that carefree spirit and made you want to be like her (except for the three random hook-ups). I loved her in “Cinderella” and she is even more amazing in this!

Like I mentioned at first I thought this would be unnecessary, put I feel like the sequel does have some extra life in it that I didn’t expect. It takes place tn years after the first “Mamma Mia!” (which grossed more than $600 million around the world). In the film, we return to the Greek island of Kalokairi, where Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) running planning a grand re-opening of Donna’s (Meryl Streep) villa, who had past away a year prior. She finds herself thinking about her relationships and her future. With the arrival of friends and family to support they guide her through the opening event. Plenty of surprises along the way including an appear from Sophie’s grandmother played perfectly by Cher. The story intertwins with a flashback of Donna when she is young and how Sophie was led to be born, which also connects with Sophie today.

Let’s not forget the music now. “Mamma Mia” wouldn’t be “Mamma Mia” without the songs of ABBA. There is a decently balanced combo of new songs mixed with a few songs redone from the first film. At first, I really wasn’t too keen on hearing the same songs again but they were really well done, specifically “I Have A Dream” by Lily James. When you think about “Mamma Mia” though, I would want to hear “Dancing Queen” and songs like that, so this movie does not disappoint at all. This is a fun movie that has a really good heart and even though a little cheesy but you leave the theater smiling (and a little teary).

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