I skipped two movies in my July wrap-ups. It's not so much that they deserve extra attention, they just needed to be kept together.

132. (1361.) Mamma Mia! (2008)
137. (1366.) Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Mom wanted to see the sequel in theaters, so I watched the original in preparation. I like musicals, and I like ABBA. (It's got a beat and you can dance to it.) Unfortunately, both of these films had flaws that I can't easily forgive.

Mamma Mia! is clearly a corny, nostalgic stage musical adapted for the screen. Its characters exist just to bridge the gaps between songs. Therefore, I can't get too mad at Pierce Brosnan for his ill-advised decision to take a singing role or Amanda Seyfried's bridezilla for the way she selfishly tramples on everyone else's life then runs away. I was more dissatisfied that "Waterloo" is included in the end credits as a mere afterthought.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, however, is first and foremost a movie musical. It bends over backwards to put on a show with fancy dance staging and camera tricks. It almost works, too. The "Dancing Queen" number is a showstopper. I mean that literally. I should have walked out of the theater right then, before Meryl Streep's (bittersweet) and Cher's (unearned) cameos crashed the party and killed the mood as the movie limped to the finish line.

Also, how is it that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again takes place in 1979 yet fails to include any footage of ABBA in their heyday? Does ABBA not exist in the Mamma Mia! universe? Opportunity missed!

I hope all these problems are addressed when the inevitable third entry in the trilogy (Mamma Mia! Does It Show Again?) hits theaters in 2028.

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Movies watched in July, part three:

133. (1362.) Executive Suite (1954)
Thanks largely to a fantastic cast, I found this to be a very entertaining board room drama. Also: Coke!

Drink Coke! (Executive Suite)
I can see what's going through your mind, Bill Holden, and it looks like Coca-Cola.

134. (1363.) The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)
The Colossus of Rhodes is my favorite ancient wonder. This movie, however, is more boring than counting sand.

135. (1364.) The Little Hours (2017)
It takes time for this "comedy" based on The Decameron to get to the funny, but I eventually chuckled in spite of myself. Or maybe I was just desperate for entertainment following The Colossus of Rhodes.

136. (1365.) Fast and Loose (1939)
This husband/wife mystery/comedy wants so badly to be The Thin Man. It's not. All it did was remind me that I could have been watching The Thin Man instead.

138. (1367.) Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Mom was eager to see this documentary of Fred Rogers, and I was glad I went with her. It's so, so good. I recommend it to anyone interested in Mr. Rogers or the history of television or, for that matter, historical American pop culture.

By the way, remember the letter I wrote to the editor of The Red and Black in 2003 that I posted last week? Here's the Mack Williams cartoon that ran above the editorials in that day's paper:

Last Trolly out of town

More to come.

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Bad dog

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has added a new category to the Oscars to reward movies that the general public likes. I think this is a bad idea. There's already an award for movies the general public likes. It's called money.

The new category is to be for "Outstanding Achievement in Popular Movies," which in addition to being an award dedicated to pandering, is also an insult to other, "unpopular" movies. How bad is Hollywood's current output that they can't combine "popular" and "quality"? Best Picture winners Rocky, The Godfather, Titanic, and Gladiator didn't need special treatment. Why should Ready Player One?

I get where they're coming from. The Academy views the Oscar telecast as an advertisement for movies, and last year the telecast had the lowest ratings in history. (Note to the Academy: everything on television was down year-to-year in 2017 as millennials cut every cord they could find.) They hope adding a new category specifically to feature movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom will cause more people to watch the telecast, and therefore, encourage more people to go out and watch movies. Specifically, movies they've already seen.

I don't have access to the information the Academy sees, but from where I sit, this seems an entirely unnecessary move. Why water down the value of an Oscar to promote the movies that are already making more than a billion dollars? Disney has released three billion-dollar-plus movies this year. Why not just give them a dedicated statuette? I'm sure they'll be glad to send that ice queen from Frozen to pick it up. That'll bring in the millennial audience in droves.

Essentially, what this new award comes down to is Hollywood telling you that if you like a movie, it probably isn't very good. The worst of it is, they're probably right.

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"One of Superman's powers," read the crossword puzzle clue.

"That's too vague," I said. "Superman has, like, every power. That's why they call him Superman." Looking up from the paper, I asked my mother, "What power do you think of when I say 'Superman'?"

She thought about this for a minute then answered, "X-ray vision."

I was surprised. "That's the first power that comes to mind? He's stronger than a locomotive, faster than a bullet, and he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He can fly. In addition to telescopic and microscopic vision, he also has super senses of hearing, touch, and smell. He has heat vision and cold breath. His brain processes information faster than a computer. He can throw his voice with super-ventriloquism. He has such incredible control of his muscles, he can change his physical appearance at will. He can vibrate through solid objects and travel through time. He can kiss you so hard, you forget stuff. And he is never, ever wrong. Despite all that, the first power that comes to your mind when you think of Superman is his ability to see through stuff?"

Mom nodded. "Yep."

I'll be damned if that wasn't the right answer for the crossword puzzle.

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It could be worse. It could be a commercial for ass cream.

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To be continued...

 

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