Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Year: 2018
Directed by: Oli Parker
Starring: Lily James, Amada Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Colin
Firth, Julie Walters, Andy Garcia, Cher

WRITTEN BY MEGAN WILLIAMS

This is going to be a weird way to start off this review, but I have a confession to make: I’m not really an ABBA fan. I enjoy a couple of their songs but they wouldn’t be my first or even third choice of music to listen to, but despite this, still really enjoyed the film adaptation of ‘Mamma Mia!’ in 2008. Now, ten years later, Hollywood has decided we clearly needed a sequel/prequel. I call it that because of the way the plot is constructed: ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’ is set in the present day as well as the 1970’s as we are reunited with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she reopens her mother’s hotel in Greece. The other plot revolves around a young Donna (Sophie’s mother, this time played by Lily James) as she graduates from University in 1979 and travels to Greece where she meets three men (one of which is Sophie’s father) and gives birth to Sophie.

For something that is a blatant cash-grab, I had fun with this charming film. The plot and songs worked well together (for the most part), and the blending of songs (most of which I didn’t know) within each scene fitted in seamlessly. Most of the cast were fantastic too although the standouts, once again, were Donna’s two best friends (played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski in the present plot, and Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn in the 1970’s plot). Amanda Seyfried and Lily James were fantastic and their singing voices are beautiful; they should both be featured in more musicals, and I look forward to seeing them in more films. However, this is where the positives end, unfortunately.

Nearly all of the cast were given singing parts, which is to be expected in a musical, but some of these actors should not have been granted this opportunity: Pierce Brosnan is back once again with his tone-deaf and flat voice (although it’s not for long thank goodness) but he does a passable job, acting-wise, returning as one of Sophie’s potential fathers. Dominic Cooper, who plays Sophie’s boyfriend Sky, is also not that great singing and even acting-wise. While he’s not flat, his singing and acting is very monotone and emotionless; it made me wonder whether he had signed a contract ten years ago saying he had to be in the sequel and he had had second thoughts before the filming of this one. On a final note, Hugh Skinner (who plays the young version of Colin Firth’s character) also can’t sing to save his life, and the sequence where him and Lily James perform ‘Waterloo’ is the probably the cringiest movie scene I’ve ever watched; I had my head in my hands throughout its entirety.

Overall, ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!’ was a fun, charming but blatant cash-grab that, for the most part, works really well and although a couple of the cast members shouldn’t have been given singing parts, this gets overshadowed by the rest of the cast. If you’ve seen every other film that’s out at the moment but still want another trip to the cinema, I’d say check this one out.

MEGAN’S RATING:

3

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Year: 2017
Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Lily James, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Glen Powell, Tom Courtenay, Penelope Wilton

WRITTEN BY SARAH BUDDERY

Let’s face it, the world is going to sh*t. The world of cinema isn’t always just big explosive blockbusters, and scientific head-scratchers, and sometimes we just need a cosy, picture-perfect film to escape into and forget about all our problems. ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ may have a mouthful of a title, but it is remarkably easy to digest, and with a cast full of British national treasures and ‘Downton Abbey’ alumni, it’s all just pretty bloody lovely really.

Juliet Ashton (James) is an author who, after happening across a letter from a book club in Guernsey, decides to visit the eccentric group of characters and find out more about them. Faced with the German occupation of their small island, the society came together over books, friendship, and a rather unpalatable potato pie. However, under the surface there are secrets and questions that need to be answered.

The plot moves at the genteel pace of a Sunday evening BBC period drama, the costumes are gorgeous, and the scenery is incredibly picturesque. Likewise, the cast are very easy on the eye and its chock full of British acting institutions, giving it all the comfort and warmth of the titular pie. Lily James is always a delight on the screen, and she oozes an effortless likeable charm. Fellow ex-‘Downton’ star Jessica Brown Findlay might not have too many moments on screen, but her firebrand character is a constant presence and it is the reveals regarding this character that keeps the plot ticking over. These aren’t quite world-changing reveals, more a gentle clutch of the pearls, but this film never tries to be anything outlandish or ground-breaking.

It’s perhaps about 20 minutes too long, and to find a fault, it would be that the plot is a little thin. The German occupation of Guernsey provides a fascinating backdrop, but the atrocities of war are only ever briefly mentioned, hinted at, or they occur off camera. There are moments where the story feels frustratingly slow, and despite the aforementioned reveals causing a slight ripple, we all know it is going to end well, so there doesn’t always seem to be a purpose in taking things quite so slowly.

With great performances, and beautifully shot locations, ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is a harmless slice of escapism. It is charming, twee, and just all-round delightful with its themes about the power of stories, friendship, and that good old British stiff upper lip. This is perfect lazy Sunday afternoon watching; your Mum and Nan will love it, and so will you.

SARAH’S RATING: 7/10

Darkest Hour

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

Winston Churchill is as famous a British Prime Minister as you can get. Taking control of the country in a time of grave need and facing imminent destruction, he had the unenviable task of inspiring his country into believing the war was not lost. What followed is a story of bravery and heroism on the part of the entire UK, who rallied behind Churchill and his unrivalled skill with language. As a character, Churchill is as alluring as any other. The task, this time, falls to Gary Oldman. To say Oldman gives a great performance in ‘Darkest Hour’ is the understatement of the century.

After being reluctantly placed in charge of the UK, succeeding the increasingly ineffectual Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill was given a war to win, in as literal a sense as you can get. As a man without the support of his party, he is left with only his desire and his commitment to serving his country at all costs. Spanning Churchill’s tumultuous first 9 days in office (yes, 9 days), ‘Darkest Hour’ shows even a man brimming with confidence can be brought to his knees.

Before addressing the obvious in greater detail, ‘Darkest Hour’ is a great film. I’m surprised I was as invested as I was. To be political for just a minute, I am phenomenally disenfranchised with the idea of Great British Values and how great this country is considering the UK is on the verge of irreversible self-destruction. And yet, ‘Darkest Hour’ is a film built on that; built on rallying the country to believe in itself, and I couldn’t help but be swept up in the commotion.

Joe Wright is a visual director with hits and very big misses (‘Atonement’ and ‘Pan’, respectively). I’m happy to report he has another hit with ‘Darkest Hour’. Using flashy camera movements, whether slow zooms or tracking shots or crane shots around the Houses of Parliament, ‘Darkest Hour’ is very enjoyable to watch. One particular shot made me audibly say ‘wow’ in the cinema, where the camera tracks along a bombing run and the destroyed ground before seamlessly transitioning to a dead soldier’s face covered in dirt. It’s the kind of shot that leaves an impression and won’t leave my mind for a while. There are some more creative shots that feel somewhat unnecessary (more than a few scenes of Churchill alone in a room surrounded by a frame of total darkness to convey his isolation within his party were slightly too blunt), but the effect of the film as a whole isn’t lost. Churchill faced war within his party as much as he did with Adolf Hitler, something Wright managed to very successfully portray.

Now, here comes the point that everyone knows is coming, but it needs to be discussed – Gary Oldman is a complete revelation. Someone could make the wild claim that Joe Wright and company literally reanimated Winston Churchill’s corpse and I’d genuinely think about it for a second. It’s a complete transformation visually, physically, and aurally. Admittedly, Churchill is a meaty character to take on and it demands someone going all-in on the performance to deliver it truthfully, and Oldman does that and then some.

Churchill’s famous speeches are treated like action set-pieces no matter where they’re delivered. Two speeches delivered in the Houses of Parliament, one delivered to a small group of politicians, one delivered to his war cabinet, and one on the radio that is bathed in the red glow of betrayal and fear. Every speech is accompanied by a score that only accentuates every speech’s intentions. Beyond his speeches, Oldman delivers every line with the same energy and vigour as a speech, a personal favourite of which is his cry “you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!”

Gary Oldman’s career is full of tremendous highs, and for my money, his Churchill may be the highest of the lot. It’s the performance of a lifetime from a true great, and he is deserving of every award he has already received and is sure to receive over the coming weeks.

‘Darkest Hour’ is a brilliant piece of rousing British cinema. For best results, watch it as a double bill with 2017’s ‘Dunkirk.’ ‘Darkest Hour’ works on so many levels from cinematography to screenplay to its performances (Kristin Scott Thomas is terrific as Churchill’s wife, Clementine), but a film like this lives and dies by its lead. Gary Oldman carries the film on his shoulders and marches it victoriously to its conclusion.

Rhys’ Rating: 8.5/10

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Here We Go Again! First Trailer For ‘Mamma Mia’ Sequel Arrives

“Ten years after ‘Mamma Mia! The Movie’ grossed more than $600 million around the world, you are invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA.”

Directed By: Ol Parker

Cast: Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Colin Firth, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner

Release Date: July 20th, 2018

 

Churchill Rallies A Nation In New ‘Darkest Hour’ Trailer

“A thrilling and inspiring true story begins at the precipice of World War II as, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman) must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.”

Direct By: Joe Wright
Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas
Release Date: 12th January 2018

Baby Driver

Year: 2017
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

Odeon’s ‘Screen Unseen’ is a regular event in which the cinema chain hand picks a film for an early screening. In the build up to the eventual screening, Odeon release very cryptic clues for the film they’re showing. This film’s clues were “Political hangover,” “Soon shorter star, surrogate shop,” “Tiny, dark, waiting in the wings, “ and “Fingers ‘n Finest formed.” I’ll let you figure out exactly how they link to the film in question, but as you can tell, Edgar Wright’s ‘Baby Driver’ was the ‘Screen Unseen’. For a film to join the ranks of previous ‘Screen Unseen’ films like ‘Moonlight’, ‘The Revenant’, and ‘Whiplash’, Odeon certainly had high hopes for ‘Baby Driver’. Those high hopes were not unfounded. ‘Baby Driver’ is one of the films of the year so far.

‘Baby Driver’ is the story of Baby (Elgort) and his adventures as a getaway driver for mysterious criminal and bank robber Doc (Spacey). As far as the plot goes, giving much else away would ruin some of the surprises and magic you have in store. In ‘Baby Driver’, you have a film where the motto seems to be “it’s not about the destination, it’s how you get there.” Both the film and its title character get from Point A to Point B in the only way they know how; driving really fast to the sound of a really loud, really eclectic iPod. It’s a blast.

From the first scene, Wright lets us into idea of the film. Baby is the getaway driver and he is our lead character; he is the focus of our story. While some of his criminal associates are off performing heists, that is purely background noise to Baby’s enjoyment of music. The first song we hear is ‘Bellbottoms’ by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a blues-y, headbanger of a song, and the entire heist is ignored in favour of Baby air-guitaring and air-drumming and miming along to the song. Instantly, Baby comes across as charming and likeable and once the driving begins, almost impossibly talented. The first car chase, in the red Subaru that’s all over the trailers, is spectacular. It’s an intense, white-knuckle thrill ride through the streets of Atlanta. There are close shaves, clever tactics, handbrake turns galore, and accompanied by the song in question it becomes one of the best car chases I’ve seen in years. This becomes a common theme. Every car chase or major set-piece in ‘Baby Driver’ is on its own level of awesome.

As a huge fan of Edgar Wright, his Cornetto trilogy, ‘Spaced’, and ‘Scott Pilgrim’, I found his energetic style of filmmaking to be a perfect fit for ‘Baby Driver’. Even small, conversation filled scenes are punctuated with small sound cues at just the right moment or gesture. I got the impression as the film went on that the visuals on screen were so meticulously planned from the get go, almost as if the scenes themselves were filmed with a song in order to truly nail the timings. Everything you see in Baby Driver can be matched to a musical influence of some description, gunshots were in perfect sync with the music playing overtop, and even Doc explaining an upcoming heist had the rhythm of a drum solo. Wright manages to keep the pace and flow of the film at such a high level that I have no doubt that there are moments and jokes that I didn’t catch on first viewing and will require a second or third viewing. What a shame.

Given the talent on show, it should come as no surprise that the performances are terrific across the board, particularly from Elgort, Foxx, and James. Foxx’s Bats is a loose cannon, a difficult business partner when the business is crime and several characters find themselves on the wrong side of Bats. Lily James’ Debora leaves a long-lasting impression too as she comes across so endearingly from her very first appearance. It’s possible that there’s a manic-pixie-dream-girl element to her as she is Baby’s perfect match instantly, but when James pulls off the character so well you can’t help but be swept up along with Baby and his love for her.

Baby Driver’s driving force is no doubt its music. Judging by my Spotify playlist having increased in number by no less than 15 songs, there’s something for absolutely everyone as the song choices span several decades. ‘Baby Driver’ does for 80s blues what ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ did for 70’s rock. ‘Baby Driver’ covers every base it can in a soundtrack that no doubt took almost as long to get right as it did to actually film. A late chase sequence to the sound of a Queen song had my mouth agape for its duration as it was such a perfectly intense song for the visuals on screen. That scene, as well as several others, were utterly breathless and I can’t wait to see them again.

If I had a gripe about Baby Driver, I would say it’s in its third act as some characters make some choices that are questionable, possibly going against what we’ve been shown in the previous 90 or so minutes. One character has been far-removed from the key action until the third act and when they are, they appear to brush off fairly brutal violence very casually. That said, it’s a small gripe that has no bearing on my overall opinion of the film.

‘Baby Driver’ is a blast. It’s exciting, funny, heart-warming, and very original. The performances are terrific, it’s written and directed superbly, and all being well, ‘Baby Driver’ should be one of the big hits of the summer. Edgar Wright, you’ve done it again.

Rhys’ verdict: 9.2/10

First Trailer For Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver Arrives!

The much anticipated trailer for Edgar Wright (Sean of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World)’s ‘Baby Driver’ finally dropped in the wee small hours of the morning, flanking it’s premiere screening at SXSW.

The outing at SXSW seems fitting for a film that seems to be driven (excuse the pun) by music.

Ansel Elgort plays the Baby of the title who, the trailer quickly explains, is a driver for nefarious characters, but due to a childhood trauma has to play music to drown out a hum in his head. Kevin Spacey is on top Frank Underwood bad guy duty, while Jamie Foxx and Flea add in some comedy relief.

The dialogue seems to be a carefully studied pastiche of every heist movie going, and there is more than a touch of Tarantino about the relationship between Baby and the woman of his dreams (Lily James). Add in Wright’s penchant for lightning fast cuts, kinetic stunts and a fallible human element, Baby Driver looks like it’s going to be pure, high octane fun.

‘Baby Driver’ races into theatres 16th August 2017

Written by Abbie Eales