Comedy

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN

Director
Ol Parker

(NOW IS GOOD, IMAGINE ME & YOU)

Stars
Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Jeremy Irvine, Pierce Brosnan, Josh Dylan, Stellan Skarsgård, Hugh Skinner, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters

And here we go again, we know the start, we know the end.
We’ve done it all before and now we’re back to get some more.

Those lyrics from one of the many famous and catchy songs sung by ABBA are indeed in tune to this sequel (and prequel) to the smash-hit musical romantic comedy MAMMA MIA. My my, can you believe it’s already been ten years since its release? Well then, now is our chance to show these ensemble of characters “just how much we’ve missed them”.

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN begins with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) completing the final preparations for a party to celebrate the impending opening of her hotel on the Island of Kalokairi, which is her mother’s lifelong dream. This milestone event leads Sophie to learning more about Donna’s youth, shown via extended flashback sequences set back to 1979. During these scenes, a younger and carefree Donna (now played by Lily James) has separate encounters with the men, Sam, Bill and Harry (Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan and Hugh Skinner, respectively) who are all potential candidates of being Sophie’s father, whom Donna meets during her travels to the idyllic Greek Island that becomes her home. 

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The feel-good fever being spread from the screen in MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN is totally infectious and will be embraced by many, yet I seem to be one of very few who were more immune to its outbreak of joy and fun, and could only feel minor symptoms.

Make no mistake, you will be having the time of your life throughout this musical film. Even if like myself, you find the dancing choreography rather standard and its songs to sing performed quite reasonably only, there is still much more to become fond of. The beginning of this sequel takes place five years on from where the 2008 film left off. Not long after we are whisked back to 1979, the screenplay makes smart use of its locations and commonalities in its narrative to connect the two timelines and its female protagonists. It’s a move that is not only creatively and nicely presented but also adds further laughter and some poignancy to the picture. The highly anticipated appearance of Cher (who turned down the role occupied by Christine Baranski in the first MAMMA MIA!) more than meets expectations. It will have her fans in a state of jubilation and is well worth the wait. Speaking of Christine Baranski, she absolutely steals every scene her character makes a remark in! It might be expected, but it never ages or tires. But don’t be holding your breath for the very brief visit of another favourite. Unlike before, Meryl Streep plays an extremely minor role in MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN and is only cast in just a few scenes. Nevertheless, she’s bound to gain her 22nd Oscar Nomination at the next Academy Awards!

So, even though MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN may not be able to make the magical music of ABBA flourish, as the original could, this shouldn’t be a preventative from enjoying and liking the sequel. Either way, your money money money will be well spent and MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN will be the winner that takes it all!

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion
PG
(Mild sexual references)

Trailer
MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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TWO IS A FAMILY (DEMAIN TOUT COMMENCE)

Director
Hugo Gélin

(JUST LIKE BROTHERS)

Stars
Omar Sy, Clémence Poésy, Antoine Bertrand and Gloria Colston

The crowds gathered from all around the world for this French adaptation of the 2013 Mexican film INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED. TWO IS A FAMILY not only sold more than three million tickets at the French box office but was also the most popular French language movie of 2017 worldwide.

Omar Sy (THE INTOUCHABLES) stars as Samuel, a charter boat pilot living and working at the gorgeous Côte d’Azur in the French Riviera. A true ladies’ man who can charm his way both into and out of just about anything, the hedonistic lifestyle of the hard-partying Samuel is given a rude awakening by way of a shock arrival one morning. A past summer fling, Kristin (Clémence Poésy), advises Samuel that he is the father of the baby girl that she is currently holding! Immediately after breaking the news to him, the troubled Kristin gets into a taxi and flees, abandoning her child and leaving the impromptu father to care for their daughter, Gloria.

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This French comedy/drama is a sweet-natured film that has its heart in the right place in spite of its misguided stumble to get to its ultimate message.

As his baptism by fire into fatherhood begins, Samuel is required to leave the clear blue waters and endless days of sunshine behind in pursuit of Kristin, who lives in London. This entire first act of TWO IS A FAMILY doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is fortunate for it is never genuinely convincing. Because he is not able to immediately locate Kristin, Samuel is required to make something of a life for himself in the English capital. The people that he meets here, which includes a French-speaking stranger that will become his friend, and the employment he gains give TWO IS A FAMILY extra comedic punch. Simultaneously, Samuel is becoming quite fond of his growing child and the film growing closer to the heart as a result. These individual elements begin to compliment the rather whimsical trajectory of the plot quite nicely throughout the middle stretches of the film.

While a good number of its unexpected developments to date are mostly a hit, there are more coming that don’t fit quite as comfortably. It eventually becomes obvious that we aren’t to take TWO IS A FAMILY so lightly after all, which poses a few problems. Not only have there been further less convincing developments made since the opening act, but the scale of drama occurring in the latter half has become quite weighty and high in volume. I’m not convinced that every layer added here is absolutely necessary. The only reliable and consistent ingredients of this movie are an engaging lead performance from Omar Sy, the remarkable feature film acting debut of Gloria Colston, and the touching and beautiful on-screen chemistry they share as father and daughter.

On a side note, the price of admission can (almost) be justified alone to see inside a home that is way beyond cool and may very well be every child’s dream house!

3 stars 

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Viewer Discretion
(Coarse language)

Trailer
TWO IS A FAMILY (DEMAIN TOUT COMMENCE)

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films for the in-season pass to watch this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
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TEA WITH THE DAMES

Director
Roger Michell
(NOTTING HILL, MY COUSIN RACHEL, MORNING GLORY)

Stars
Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright

A pot of tea, immeasurable volumes of hearty laughter, and a pinch of age-old wisdom that is shared by our divine dames form the recipe of this utterly pleasant documentary.

The personal friendships of actresses Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright span for more than half a century. These remarkable actresses grant filmmaker Roger Michell exclusive access to stories and experiences from both their professional careers and personal lives, with the use of real-life footage and stills dating back from as early as their childhoods right through to contemporary times.

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Most documentaries importantly contain content that either or both intend to educate and bring to awareness specific matters that are often heavier (yet essential) to digest. Therefore, to watch TEA WITH THE DAMES can quite fittingly be likened to sipping a mug of freshly brewed hot tea – it warms the soul and is refreshing to ingest.

To add to that, it is no exaggeration to state that these ladies, and in particular the magnificent Maggie Smith, are so downright and naturally hilarious, they could offer a formidable rivalry to Hollywood’s present day comedy stars! The audience I shared this screening with laughed so loudly at times, it was impossible to hear what was being said on-screen! Even when the laughter momentarily subsides, the joy felt from watching this very special occasion always stays. It truly is our honour to get to know the extraordinary women behind the performances we’ve come to love them from. On that note, the more knowledge of their respective careers as well as all forms of performing arts from roughly the sixties right through to the eighties that you as a viewer possess, the more inclusive the various discourses of the dames will be. The only less pleasing factor of this documentary is the unnecessary need to be rather intrusive and even insensitive by way of some deeply personal questions that are noticeably unexpected and uninvited. Though they do undoubtedly draw curiosity, I think everyone would have been happier if this footage had been left on the cutting room floor.

So, now that we’ve had the pleasure of attending TEA WITH THE DAMES, what invitation would you like to receive next? How does a Dégustation with the divas sound? Or perhaps a Moët with Meryl!?

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion
(coarse language)

Trailer
TEA WITH THE DAMES

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films and Miranda Brown Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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I GOT LIFE! (AURORE)

Director
Blandine Lenoir
(ZOUZOU)

Stars
Agnès Jaoui, Pascale Arbillot, Lou Roy-Lecollinet, Sarah Suco, Samir Guesmi, Philippe Rebbot and Thibault de Montalembert

A film made by a woman, starring a woman in a movie that is made for women, all sharing one common denominator – the age of participation is above forty. I GOT LIFE!, or AURORE as it is known in France, is a likeable comedic drama that may struggle to extend its appeal beyond its desired audience.

When we meet the titular character, Aurore Tabort (Agnès Jaoui, who also collaborates to the screenplay), she is at an uncertain time in her life. Separated from her husband, she works as a waitress for a boss and alongside colleagues who are much younger than she is while dealing with the physical reactions of menopause on a daily basis. Happiness in her life is sourced from the companionship of her best friend, Mano (Pascale Arbillot) and two daughters, Lucie (Lou Roy-Lecollinet) who lives at home with Aurore and Marina (Sarah Suco), who’s expecting her first child. While out one afternoon with Mano, Aurore bumps into Christophe (Thibault de Montalembert), a man who she had a brief love encounter with at high school. Could this surprise rendezvous be a new opportunity for Aurore to find love all over again?

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The plot in this French comedy/light drama is largely rendered via a random and wacky series of stand-alone scenes, some recurring sequences and arbitrary dialogue that (at best) does regularly offer mild amusement. When I GOT LIFE! takes an episodic break from being so quirky and goes more… normal, its uninspired directing and lack of substance and trajectory in story instantly make it a dull film to watch. Even for its targeted crowd, the screenplay is more limited than it wishes to be in what it has to offer and consequently places a greater reliance on forming an interest in and affinity for the various characters in this movie. Luckily, they aren’t difficult people to be in the company of for an hour and a half. Particularly the impulsive and very cheeky Mano, who steals almost every scene she appears. 

Should you manage to feel a similar way to this, then I GOT LIFE! won’t find itself in too much strife.

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion
M(Sex, coarse language and brief nudity)

Trailer
I GOT LIFE! (AURORE)

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films for the invite to the screening of this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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TULLY

Director
Jason Reitman
(JUNO, UP IN THE AIR, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING)

Stars
Charlize Theron, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Davis and Mark Duplass

Working together for a third time in comedy/drama TULLY, writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman are best known for their stand-out movie from 2007, JUNO. Here, the writing and directing duo team up for a second time with star Charlize Theron (after the 2011 under-rated comedy/drama YOUNG ADULT), who gained fifty pounds to play Marlo, a married mother of two who is heavily pregnant with her and husband Drew’s (Ron Livingston) third child. Marlo isn’t exactly ecstatic by the impending arrival, partially due to exhaustion and other reasons that will become evident while watching the film. During dinner one evening, Marlo’s brother Craig (Mark Duplass) recommends a night nanny to his sister that he and his wife previously hired. Not too long after the birth of her third child, Marlo employs the young, spirited and rather unorthodox Tully (Mackenzie Davis), which springs some surprising outcomes.

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Though I can’t necessarily speak from experience, I am confident that the depiction of motherhood in TULLY is nothing short of being utterly realistic and downright truthful. This outstanding characteristic is written straight from the personal experiences of Diablo Cody and is one that parents, particularly mothers, will easily identify with. While TULLY absolutely nails this key aspect of the story, the screenplay does a fine job of raising further matters of importance derived from the central plot, but isn’t able to follow them through to a satisfactory level. In its defence, these separate, yet connected issues aren’t the focus of this comedy/drama. Nonetheless, those viewers who will resonate with what is developed by TULLY’s script deserved more practical solutions and less dismissive treatment of these matters than what is demonstrated. Despite this moderate blemish, the dialogue constantly features a number of sharp and hilarious lines that are custom-built to be expelled from the mouth of an excellent Charlize Theron. She shares great chemistry and some truly heartfelt moments with co-star Mackenzie Davis, who’s equally as good.

With plenty of laughter and substance, TULLY is a worthwhile contributor to one of my personal favourite genres of film.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion
M (Mature themes, coarse language and sex)

Trailer
TULLY

Moviedoc thanks Studiocanal and Asha Holmes Publicity for the invite to the screening of this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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The 2018 Spanish Film Festival – ABRACADABRA

Director
Pablo Berger
(BLANCANIEVES)

Stars
Maribel Verdú, Antonio de la Torre, José Mota and Priscilla Delgado

When viewing the trailer and reading the synopsis of this Spanish fantasy-comedy, a light-hearted and crowd-pleasing showing is on the cards. Soon after those cards are flipped, a few less promising numbers appear. It’s permissible to overlook these blemishes from the deck for there are several other options available that if picked, will surely lead to a stronger hand. But no, each new turn that is had lessens the overall worth before your eyes, until one final curse of fortune ends it all.

Don’t be fooled into taking a gamble with ABRACADABRA, for if you do, it will leave you feeling as perplexed and deliberately misled as a Spanish bull charging towards a red flag that turns rainbow!

Neglected housewife, Carmen (Maribel Verdú fromBLANCANIEVES), and her misogynistic, soccer-fanatic husband Carlos (Antonio de la Torre fromTHE LAST CIRCUSand Pedro Almodovar’sVOLVER) attend the wedding of her cousin together with their teenage daughter, Toñi (Priscilla Delgado from another excellent Pedro Almodovar film,JULIETA), who’s addicted to her phone. During the celebrations, an apprentice magician, Pepe (José Mota) hypnotises Carlos, who returns home as a completely different man. Driven by curiosity for separate reasons, Carmen and Pepe team up to discover the spiritual being that has embodied her husband. 

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Though in possession of an abundance of improbabilities and absurdities, ABRACADABRA is fairly easy to enjoy during most of its opening half, courtesy of its decidedly mirthful tone and appealing comedic premise. As its improbabilities begin to turn nonsensical and some unusual behaviour creeps its way in, the joyful facade of this film soon fades away. A random and bizarre series of events grow further in their frequency and at this point it is evident that this misguided comedy is not only exhibiting a dreadful lack of direction but is also (probably inadvertently) having a failed crack at the same type of surreal humour that Swedish art film,THE SQUARE is fondly remembered for. The entertainment to be derived from the second half of ABRACADABRA vanishes just as rapidly and inexplicably as Carlos’s (unappealing but true) personality. Ending all hope of a final act improvement is the horribly out-of-place decision to give the film a macabre mood swing. Audiences are left in genre-limbo as writer and director Pablo Berger illustrates just how out of touch he is with the crowd he is aiming to attract.

ABRACADABRA is anything but magical.

1 ½ stars

Don’t let this uneven mess allow you to avoid this year’s Spanish Film Festival though! There are many appealing films on offer for all tastes, including the female-driven musical comedy THE TRIBE, gripping mystery MIST & THE MAIDEN and even a special screening of Guillermo del Toro’s superb film, PAN’S LABYRINTH.

Full details including dates and the program are available right here:
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL.

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Viewer Discretion
M (Mature themes, violence and coarse language)

Trailer
ABRACADABRA

Moviedoc thanks Asha Holmes Publicity, The Spanish Film Festival and Palace Cinemas for the invite to the screening of this film

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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THE PARTY

Director
Sally Potter

(ORLANDO, THE MAN WHO CRIED, GINGER & ROSA)

Stars
Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Bruno Ganz, Cillian Murphy, Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer

A black and white tragicomedy set entirely inside one house with a running time of just 71 minutes, THE PARTY unwraps its goods in similar fashion to a stage production.

Seated in an armchair with a glass of red and appearing clearly perturbed is Bill (Timothy Spall), an Academic whose wife, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), is preparing for the arrival of some friends to celebrate her recent promotion to the position of shadow minister for health for the opposition party. Her guest list includes serial cynic April (Patricia Clarkson), who likes to refer to herself as a realist, along with her German partner, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a self-proclaimed spiritual healer who discredits modern medicine. Next arrivals include Martha (Cherry Jones), a Professor for women’s studies and her partner, Ginny (Emily Mortimer), a chef. And finally, a banker named Tom (Cillian Murphy), who has also turned up in a visibly anxious state. As conversation between the group of friends begins, their opposing opinions build tension in the room, which leads to the revelation of several secrets that threatens to destroy each of their friendships.

Group shot from THE PARTY by Sally Potter
Before the melt downs occur, the topics of conversation exchanged between these characters are mostly of a political and philosophical nature. The dialogue and its delivery from the high-calibre cast and the interest given to the potential reasons for the unsettled state of Bill and Tom is what writer & director Sally Potter is relying upon to engage most viewers earlier on. As such, THE PARTY caters to an acquired taste of black comedy. During these stretches and all throughout the film, the frank nature of Patricia Clarkson’s character and her stand-out verbal material and performance will keep viewers who may be feeling on the outside with this film more involved. Thankfully, this film’s narrative does become more accessible for a wider audience once the tragic component of the comedy arrives. The amusement it derives from the anticipation it generates, the reactions from its characters and the studiously written contradictions that come into play do heighten the enjoyment. Despite this higher appeal, THE PARTY does remain an acquired taste by way of its setting, structure, its darker comedic roots, and a final twist in proceedings that isn’t entirely necessary or credible.

This black & white black comedy hosts a similar premise and shares a number of commonalities with the far superior Italian comedy, PERFECT STRANGERS (PERFETTI SCONOSCUITI). Though definitely less broadly appealing and accessible, THE PARTY does just enough to satisfy those it’s intended for.

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion
MA15+ (Strong drug use)

Trailer
THE PARTY

Moviedoc thanks Madman for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Leigh for Moviedoc
Follow on Twitter – Moviedoc / LIKE on Facebook – @moviedoc13

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