Showing posts with label Loulou. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Loulou. Show all posts

Friday, July 27, 2018

"Mama Mia! Here We Go Again" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Mama Mia! Here We Go Again" as well as DVDs "Annihilation" and "The Leisure Seeker."  The Book of the Week is (gasp! - another novel.  What is happening here?) "How to Be Famous" by Caitlin Moran.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Loulou."

Mama Mia! Here We Go Again

A sequel AND a prequel to the original "Mama Mia!"

If you were expecting to see a lot of Meryl Streep returning as Donna in this sequel, you will be disappointed.  It's almost a bait and switch.  She figures prominently in the trailers and on the movie poster, but she only appears in a cameo at the end of the film.  But that's not to say this isn't a fun movie.  It is. And she is there in spirit in the form of Lily James as the young Donna and most everyone else from the earlier film also make appearances.

Five years after the events of "Mama Mia! (but ten years in real life), Donna (Streep) is dead, and her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is now pregnant herself, and with the help of a handsome Mexican gentleman (Andy Garcia) is reopening Donna's old inn on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi (the same inn that figured prominently in the earlier film). Now dubbed Hotel Bella Donna, Sophie is planning its grand opening and has invited her three Dads, Bill (Stellan Skarsgaard), Harry (Colin Firth) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Donna's best friends and surviving members of her band, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) as well as the local villagers so that we can have huge musical numbers. 

But, sadly, it looks like only one Dad, Sam, will be there; Sophie's husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), is in New York and might not make it; and she is missing her mother.  And to make matters worse, a huge storm blows in and looks like it will ruin the party. 

But musicals have a way of making the best of things.  

What do you guess that all of the Dads show up?  And Sky? And we might not have Meryl Streep, but we have Cher as Donna's mother!  And as a grandmother, no less, which is a stretch because in real life, Cher is only three years older than Streep!  But Cher clearly has a sense of humor.

In the midst of all of the preparations for the reopening of the hotel, the film flashes back to a young Donna (James) who, after giving a speech at her graduation from Oxford, in true musical comedy fashion turning it into a huge almost cringe-worthy song and dance number, and then heads out into the world to "make some memories," thus helping us discover how Donna ended up on Kalokairi and how she met the three men, all of whom could be Sophie's Dad (if none of that makes sense, you should probably see the first film before seeing this one). We also meet the younger version of her best friends, Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn and yes, her grandfather was actor, Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies). Both young actresses beautifully channel Baranski's and Walters' original characters.

In Paris, the young Donna meets the young Harry (Hugh Skinner) and they spend the night together.  On her way to the Greek Island she meets the young Bill (Josh Dylan) and they spend the night together, and when she arrives on the island she meets the young Sam (Jeremy Irvine)...and, yup, you guessed it.  They also spend the night together.  They are all very handsome young guys and she has sex with all of them, thus causing the conundrum in the first film when Donna didn't know which of the guys was Sophie's Dad.  Our Donna was a bit of a slut, er, I mean, free spirit. 

As I said, if you enjoyed the first film, this one doesn't disappoint.

It is a lot of fun with beautiful young people and all of those ABBA songs, though many of the songs featured in this film are lesser known.  I have to laugh when I think of how much I enjoy ABBA now, because back in the day if you were a fan of rock and roll, you would be a laughing stock if you said you liked ABBA.  But I do.  And speaking of the ABBA songs, I couldn't help but think while watching this film that the film was written around the songs rather than the songs fitting into the plot.  For example, what would you guess that handsome Mexican gentleman's first name would be?  You are CORRECT, Sir.  "Fernando."  I mean, they had to work that song in there somewhere and give Cher a song to sing, right?

Anyway, the film written and directed by Ol Parker was pretty much what you would expect.  

The singing and dancing was fun and the actors were wonderful. Loved seeing Pierce, Colin and Stellan again who I must say are aging well as is Andy Garcia.  In fact, Garcia seems to be having a bit of a renaissance as the handsome older man now (see "Book Club").  Also enjoyed Christine Baranski and Julie Walters reprising their roles as Donna's best friends and singing partners, but the lovely Lily James stole the show.  We "Downton Abbey" fans first noticed her as Lady Rose MacClare and then she went on to dazzle in "Cinderella" in 2015.  She does Meryl proud as the young Donna.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is the feel good film of the summer, and if you loved the first one, you will enjoy this one.

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


Annihilation (2018)

A biologist and her team trek into a dangerous area called The Shimmer, where aliens have possibly taken over and the rules of nature no longer apply.

Last week was kind of a slog, and I didn't like much of what I saw so in the interest of being more positive, I thought I would start out with what I liked about this movie.

It stars women.

OK, that's it. Now what I didn't like - the rest of it, because basically the film didn't make much sense and seemed like a complete rip off of one of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" that I reviewed back in January - "Stalker," a film I actually liked better than this one, even though it's about men and is in Russian.  

This film starts with Lena (Natalie Portman) being interviewed by men in hazmat suits, and through flashback, we learn that she is possibly the sole survivor of a reconnaissance mission into "The Shimmer," an area supposedly taken over by aliens and where few have survived their missions.

Also in flashbacks, we see Lena as a biologist and professor of medicine specializing in cells at Johns Hopkins University.  She also appears to be a grieving widow.  We know she is a grieving widow because we are treated to a short, wistful memory montage showing her frolicking happily in bed with her husband (Oscar Isaac) to CSN's "Helplessly Hoping" who is now nowhere to be found.  

But then he shows up.  He's not dead even though he has been "disappeared" for over 12 months and Lena assumed he had been on a covert mission and had died.  He is alive but seems shell-shocked and acts mysteriously.  She asks him where he has been.  He doesn't know.  She asks if his mission was covert.  He replies "Maybe."  He doesn't seem to remember where he's been or what he has been doing.  Then suddenly he says, "I don't feel very well" and starts spitting up blood and has a seizure.  Lena calls 911 but as he is being taken away in an ambulance, some military types hijack him from the ambulance.

The plot thickens, as they say.

Next we find Lena at the Southern Reach, a research facility where she meets Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose career seems to be taking off again) and shown "The Shimmer," a strange colorful and shimmering force field outside the Southern Reach, that has overtaken an area of Florida marshlands.  It seems that some kind of alien comet hit a lighthouse there three years ago and the area around the lighthouse - now known as Area X - turned into a shimmering no man's land with strange events taking place there.  No one who goes in comes back - until now.  Lena's husband, Kane, has made it back but he's dying.

And The Shimmer appears to be growing larger and moving closer inland.  

Instead of sending more military into The Shimmer, the researchers now think that they should send scientists and so Lena volunteers. She is introduced to her all-women team led by Dr. Ventress: Josie (Tessa Thompson), a physicist; Anya, a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez); and Cass (Tuva Novotny), an anthropologist.  It's very unclear how or why these particular women were chosen or even why the team consists of all women, but as the film progresses, we learn that they all have "issues."  Anya is just recently sober.  Josie tried to kill herself. Ventress has no friends and is dying of cancer, and Cass lost a daughter. But again, if the film tried to make something of that, it wasn't very successful because I didn't notice.

The film uses flashbacks within flashbacks, moving back and forth between the  present - Lena's interrogation after supposedly returning from The Shimmer - and what transpired while she was there, which included an attack by a huge, murderous alligator and a very gory bear attack with Lena finally determining that The Shimmer is full of all kinds of mutations.  Gross creatures are also able to get inside people a la "Alien (remember when that thing spurted out of John Hurt's chest and scuttled across the floor?  Major ew).  We've got those kinds of things going on here too.

Like Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None," this is one of those movies where the cast members get picked off one by one.  But it's also one of those movies where you are not sure if what is happening is real or inside the characters' minds.

Written and directed by Alex Garland (who also wrote and directed the stunning "Ex Machina" back in 2014) and based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, the actors are credible, The Shimmer set design is actually quite beautiful and often looks like paintings by Rousseau, and the film is very creepy, but when Lena started to talk about refracting DNA and her robot double appeared and mirrored her in some kind of irritating copycat dance, they lost me. Too bad because I loved "Ex Machina" and had high hopes for this film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...relatively interesting and disturbing film until the last 30 minutes when the filmmakers lost me completely.

The Leisure Seeker (2017)

Ella and John Spencer embark on what will be their last big vacation.

When I first saw the trailers for this, I couldn't understand why the film wasn't called "The Leisure Seekers," with an "S" because it was clearly about two retirees on vacation in an RV.  But then it became clear that it was the RV that was named The Leisure Seeker, and Ella (Helen Mirren) and John Spencer (Donald Sutherland), two senior citizens, take off from their home in Wellesley, Massachusetts in it to have one last memorable trip to the Florida Keys to see Hemingway's house, something John, an ex-professor of literature, had always wanted to do.

I couldn't help but think, "Oh, god, is this me in a couple of years?  A member of the RV crowd? Driving a Winnebago and stopping at Stuckeys?"

Anyway, don't mind me. 

Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland give bravura performances: Helen as the no-nonsense, talkative Ella and Donald as a man struggling with the onset of dementia.  Ella has determined that the two need to go off in their beloved RV - The Leisure Seeker - to have a final trip before John loses it entirely.  Ella also is dealing with something. She has cancer. They didn't tell their adult children so when they discover that Ella and John are gone, they are frantic.  But Ella has a plan.  They will revisit some favorite places and then...

Enroute, Ella and John have a series of adventures, some of which are supposed to be funny, such as when after stopping at a gas station, John drives off without Ella and she gets a ride on a motorcycle to catch up with him. But sadly many fall flat.   

Loosely based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian with a screenplay by Stephen Amidon, Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo and Paolo Virzi and directed by Virzi, I saw the ending of this film from miles away, and despite the great performances, the film was too long for the content and became a bit tedious.  But the film had a wonderful 70's soundtrack, and it's always great seeing Mirren and Sutherland do their thing.  I have to say, though, that seeing those two on talk shows promoting the film, Donald seemed to be mirroring his role in real life. He seemed a bit out of it.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film will probably mean more to people of a certain age as in old folks, but if you enjoy watching veteran actors at the top of their game, then you might enjoy this.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

133 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Loulou (1980)

Nelly abandons her middle class life and husband to take up with Loulou (Gerard Depardieu), a sexy layabout bad boy.

Have you ever started watching a movie and half way through you slap your head and say, "I've seen this one!"  Well, you might not slap your head - I didn't - but I realized I had seen this, and unfortunately, it was after I paid Amazon the $3.99 to rent it. I should have realized that I would have seen this already because 1980 was "My French Film Phase," and I had a huge crush on Gerard Depardieu.  This was back before he looked like he had been hit by a truck.  But since I never reviewed it, now I will, keeping in mind I am no longer 32 and I am no longer in "My French Film Phase."

Nelly (Isabelle Huppert) has a bourgeois husband, Andre (Guy Marchand), who owns a small advertising company, and she lives a bourgeois life.  Andre is also her boss and is quite abusive to Nelly, so it's not surprising that when she meets Loulou, all bets are off, especially since Loulou is good in bed.  In fact, that's all Loulou seems to be good at.  He doesn't have a job and just hangs out or gets involved in some dodgy deals. He seems to be kind of a cad. But Andre is no prize either and is one of those husbands who just won't let go.  But then Nelly can't seem to either so the two go back and forth in a masochistic dance. When Nelly realizes she is pregnant, Loulou steps up and we realize that he isn't quite the cad he seemed to be.

Huppert is a fascinating actress who is not afraid to take risks. I remember seeing her in her first big American film - the disastrous "Heaven's Gate," sometimes referred to as one of the worst movies ever made - but despite that movie's lack of success, she has had a successful career spanning over 40 years.  But even more fascinating is to see Depardieu as a young, handsome stud since today he is, how do I put this?  Not such a handsome stud anymore.  These days he is more known for eccentric character roles, but back in the day he was the go-to handsome stud in French films.

Why it's a Must See: "This ground-breaking drama by Arlette Langmann and French realist Maurice Pialat [who directed] is a scathing criticism of French society, in the guise of a sexually frank (and possibly titillating) look at relationship dynamics."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I got the titillating part (there is lots of sex and nudity), but the "scathing criticism of French society?" If that's what the film was trying to say, not sure if it got the message across. I found the film to be a kind of free-wheeling, improvisational and sometimes confusing slice-of-life love story that didn't have much plot but was saved by the exciting performances of Huppert, Marchand and Depardieu.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the best things about this film were Huppert and Depardieu in some early roles.  They are compelling and this film shows why they became such big stars.  Maybe if I was still in "My French Film Phase," I would have gotten the deeper meaning.
(In French with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

How to Be Famous: A Novel by Caitlin Moran (2018)

Yet another novel. I'm on a roll! This time, it's all about what it was like to be young and living in 1990's London.

Johanna Morrigan is 19, has her own flat in London and writes under the name of Dolly Wilde for "The Face," one of the hippest music magazines in Britain.  She got the job at the magazine based on some sample articles she wrote, one of which was "Ten Things I Have Noticed in Two Years Interacting with Famous People."  

Here is a taste:

"Famous people don't have coats...Here's how the Hot Young Star from Eastenders explained it to me: 'You get into a car to go to a premier, so you don't need a coat.  Then you do the Red Carpet, where a coat would obscure your outfit.  And then you go into he venue, where you don't need a coat.  At the end of the evening, another car drives you home.  We don't wear coats. We wear cars.' 

"Famous people know all of the other famous people. They might not have met them -- but they all know each other.  On entering a party, or gathering, and spotting another Famous they have no previous encounters with, they do 'The Nod,' which means, 'I, A Famous, acknowledge you, another A Famous...' Don't, as a non-Famous, try to 'The Nod' A Famous.  They will un-Nod you...'Take your The Nod back.' Only a Nod-er can become a Nod-ee."

"Famouses don't use names.  They dispensed with them years ago. 'Babe,' 'Man,' 'Darling'...they address everyone they know by some universal descriptor. This is because they meet so many people, remembering names became impossible some years ago..."

Dolly starts a magazine column focused on the follies and peccadillos of "The Famouses.". The column takes off and she herself becomes famous but perhaps not for the reasons she would like.  She has a brief fling with a famous comedian who tapes their sexual encounter and then shares it all over town, leaving Dolly ashamed until she is able to take back her own sexuality and her life.

Dolly also hangs out with Suzanne, the lead singer of The Branks, an all woman band, who could be described as a feminist.  She lives her life as she wants and doesn't take any crap from anyone, especially men, something Dolly admires and benefits from.  Dolly also has a huge unrequited crush on John Kite, a friend who has suddenly become a very, very famous Britpop star. 

This is the sequel to Moran's debut with the novel "How to Build a Girl" where she began Johanna's story.  In that one, Johanna at 15 is so unhappy with her life that she reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, fast-talking, Lady Sex Adventurer and decides to be a writer. This book continues the story and I hope we can see where Johanna ends up at 25, 30 and beyond.

Moran, who also wrote "How to Be a Woman," is really quite hilarious and even made someone like me, a woman of a certain age, laugh.  Hey, I remember being 19, and being the Anglophile that I am, this book transported me to what my life might have been had I lived in London at that age.  And also being the Anglophile that I am, I think I got most of the very British references. I know that chips are fries, crisps are chips, biscuits are cookies, jumpers are sweaters, tips are dumpsters and bins are garbage cans and being called a wanker is not a good thing. I know my Britspeak!  

But you don't have to be up on your Britishisms to enjoy this book.  It's chick lit, but on a scale of 1-10, it's an 11 because there are some deeper messages at work here than you usually find in chick Lit.

Though the book is humorous, it's also a sexy love story and the story of a young woman finding her own voice and coming to terms with her body image.  It's also a reminder that the #metoo movement started unofficially well before 2006.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sexy love story set in London, lots of girl power and some 90's music scene name-dropping that all adds up to a lot of fun but with some depth, too. Even if you are no longer 19, you can remember when you were, right?

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"Three Identical Strangers"


The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

I Die Project." 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.