Movie review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a film that I was looking forward to for a decade! This is Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!

IMDb summary: Five years after the events of Mamma Mia! (2008), Sophie learns about her mother’s past while pregnant herself.

Writing

Mamma Mia 2 was written by Catherine Johnson (the playwright who wrote the first film as well as the original theatre production), Richard Curtis (the writer of some classic romantic movies, like the Bridget Jones series), Ol Parker (the director of the film). I highly enjoyed the story of the second film. I loved the fact that it was a prequel and a sequel hybrid that took the narrative both forward and backward. I thought that the blend of the two timelines was really neat and the connections that were drawn between the characters in the past and the present allowed the movie to explore some great themes. The multigenerational family dynamics (mother-daughter bonds), family, friendship, love, adventure were all touched upon to some extent. The movie also had some weird accidental meetings that were only there to allow the film to include more musical numbers. I would have been mad about that if they weren’t ABBA songs, which I love unconditionally.

Additionally, it was also interesting to see the tonne difference between this film and the original. While Here We Go Again! was still a fun comedy, it did have a more somber tone than the first film. There was an overwhelming feeling of mourning even if the healthy kind (by ‘healthy’ I mean mourning that is hopeful and has a foreseeable ending). Plus, the majority if not all of the romantic plotlines included a lot of heartbreak and wasted opportunities type of ideas.

Directing

Ol Parker of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies directed Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! directed the second film and did a great job. Still, I wonder why Phyllida Lloyd, the director of the first film, didn’t helm the sequel. Was she asked and declined? Wasn’t she asked at all? Up until just last year, her original film was the highest grossing movie directed by a woman. It was also the highest grossing musical. (Wonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast dethroned it from the two top spots).

Anyways, I thought that the second film was crafted beautifully. The transitions between the two timelines and between the different locations in the musical numbers were seamless and beautiful. It was nice to hear some ‘new’ ABBA songs as well as some new takes on the songs used in the first film. The 70s setting of the past timeline was also very fun because it was true to ABBA’s roots. I also loved how self-aware the movie was and how it had a carefree attitude too. My one gripe was the fact that it had some fake looking backgrounds in a few musical numbers.

Acting

Mamma Mia 2 had a great cast. The favorites from the original returned, including Amanda Seyfried (who was recently in Gringo), Meryl Streep (in a cameo appearance / The Post, Florence Foster Jenkins), Dominic Cooper (not gonna lie, was a bit weird to see him as Sky after seeing him on Preacher; he was also in Warcraft not that long ago), Christine Baranski and Julie Walters (the best (and most relatable) duo of friends that I wish to have when I’m older), and Pierce BrosnanColin Firth (Kingsman), and Stellan Skarsgård (all of who have barely aged in 10 years).

Joining them was Lily James (whose film career has been blossoming with Cinderella, Baby Driver, Darkest Hour, Guernsey), Jessica Keenan WynnAlexa DaviesJeremy IrvineHugh Skinner, and Josh Dylan. The younger counterparts were very respectful of the beloved characters that they got to play but also made them their own and were charming in their own right. Lastly, Cher (who should really cover all ABBA songs) and Andy García rounded out the already perfect cast!

In short, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! is a fun but slightly sad summer musical, certainly worthy of the original!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Borg vs. McEnroe

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sometimes, I go to the cinema without any prior knowledge of a film. This was exactly the case this weekend, when, after watching the other UK wide release – Kingsman 2 – on Thursday, I chose to see Borg vs. McEnroe on Saturday, just because I saw it advertised at the box office.

IMDb summary: The story of the 1980s tennis rivalry between the placid Björn Borg and the volatile John McEnroe.

  1. Borg vs. McEnroe is a Scandinavian movie (more specifically a Swedish one), written by Ronnie Sandahl and directed by a Janus Metz Pedersen (who is Danish rather than Swedish). This is where my level of knowledge ends: I haven’t seen a lot of films from Scandinavia (have seen a couple so that’s something) nor any of the previous pictures by these filmmakers. Pedersen has directed some episodes of the second season of True Detective, though, but I’ve also yet to watch it.
  2. No matter how unfamiliar I was/am with these filmmakers, I have always/universally enjoyed the genre of sports dramas, especially its entries who make me appreciate a sport that I had no prior interest in or make me root for athletes whose names I didn’t know before. I rarely watch tennis on TV and I have maybe played it for fun once or twice in my life. Not surprisingly, I didn’t know anything about Bjorg or McEnroe (I barely know the tennis stars of today). And yet, this film made me care about and also educated me about both the sport and the people involved.
  3. The narrative had an effective structure: at the center of it was the 1980’s Wimbledon tournament, while the scenes from the athletes’ personal lives and flashbacks from their childhoods were interspersed throughout the runtime of the movie.  Thematically, Borg vs. McEnroe touched upon the pressure of the high-level professional sport (the pressure from family, friends, coaches, the public or the pressure that one puts on oneself), the fame that comes with it,  the emotions that runt through it, and, lastly, its pillars of sportsmanship and friendship. The film also mentioned a very interesting idea about tennis being a sport exclusive only for a certain cast/elite group. Later in the fall, Battle of the Sexes will explore how tennis is a gendered sport. My only critique of the script is the fact that I wish they would have situated tennis in a context of all sports, rather than put it on a pedestal as the ‘it/best’ sport.
  4. The directing of the picture was really good. The emotions as well as the intensity were palpable throughout the whole movie, but especially in the 3rd act recreation of the final match. The fact that the movie used a lot of dialogue in the Swedish language (rather than just English, like so many films do in order to reach a wider audience) added a level of authenticity too. The 80s setting was also well-realized and highly appreciated somebody who does wear a headband to gym and has a few color-blocked sweatshirts in her wardrobe.
  5. The two leads: Sverrir Gudnason and Shia Lebouf did a very good job both with the dramatic scenes as well as with the sports scenes (or they had amazing body doubles). Lebouf’s real-life eccentric personality fit his character perfectly. Stellan Skarsgård (one of the few Swedish actors that I know, mostly because he works in Hollywood more than in his native Sweden) was as good as he always is. Tuva Novotny also had a small role in the film, for the first half of it, I mistook her for Noomi RapaceRobert Emms also cameoed as Lithuanian-American tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis, who I’m only mentioning because of the shared heritage between him and me.

In short, Borg vs. McEnroe was an entertaining, informative, and emotional sports drama, with a neat message about rivalry and friendship in a sport: ‘Former Rivals, Best Enemies’.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Borg vs. McEnroe trailer

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Eurovision 2016!

Music

Hello, my dear readers!

Once a year, the whole of Europe and Australia (and even the US for the first time) turns on their TVs and witnesses one of the most bizarre international events – the Eurovision Song Contest! Eurovision is supposedly a musical contest and yet it has always been extremely political and biased. This year was no exception! Actually, 2016’s show might be the most political Eurovision ever.

To begin with, let’s focus on the bright side and talk about the positive aspects of the event. The 61st edition of the contest was held in Stockholm, Sweden thanks to Måns Zelmerlöw, who won in 2015 with the song Heroes. This wasn’t the first time that Sweden won the contest (it was actually the 6th – previous wins in  1974 (ABBA), 1984, 1991, 1999 and 2012 (Loreen)), so the Scandinavian country was/is an experienced host nation and I think that they did a fabulous job. The event was hosted by Zelmerlöw and the fan-favorite Petra Mede and they actually were pretty funny and worked well together. Of course, there were plenty of awkward and uncomfortable moments, but that’s just part of the Eurovision’s charm.

A few stand-out moments from the hosts and the guests of the show were: the dance/acting performance The Grey People in support of the refugees during the 1st Semi-Final, the dance performance Man v Machine during the 2nd Semi-Final, the satirical, tongue-in-cheek performance by Petra and Mans and the appearance of/interval act by Justin Timberlake during the grand final.

The actual songs were pretty good as well. This was probably the most even playing field I have ever seen in all my 12 years of watching the Eurovision. There was no clear winner before the show or even during the voting.

My favorite songs came from the following countries: Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Latvia, Austria, and Russia (I feel ashamed to mention that last one). Ukraine was not one of my favorites – the song was not of my style or taste – but I appreciated it and was happy that they won.

I also did not hate my native country’s – Lithuania’s – song. We did pretty well this year, finishing in 9th place. That’s the 2nd best result for my country. This was the first year that I actually was able to vote for my native land as I no longer live there.

Now,  about the politics and the voting. This year, the jury’s and public’s votes were announced separately and this decision made for an even more intense watching experience. Stand out moments from the announcement of the votes:

  1. Australia took and early lead and won the jury’s votes. Everyone was expecting it to win and then Ukraine shockingly dethroned it.
  2. The juries were more biased than their respective nations. The professionals voted for their neighboring countries much more than the public did. I would have expected the public to be more biased, while the juries should have been way more objective.
  3. Ukraine and Russia were the last two countries to receive the public’s votes. Russia was the fan-favorite and could have won but it did not receive enough points. So, Ukraine had the best payback ever for the current political situation in Crimea. It gave Russia some hope and then crushed it completely. When you find out that a)Ukraine’s singer is of Crimean Tatar descent; b)her song was about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars during the 1940s by the Soviet Union and c) the song features Crimean Tatar’s language and cultural vocal styles, this revenge win is even more iconic. Layers upon layers of politics. 
  4. Germany’s jury gave 12 points to Israel. I guess the blame for WW2 is still on Germany’s jury’s minds.
  5. Poland received 7 points from the jury and 200+ points from the viewers. This was probably the biggest divide that the professionals and the public had ever had. I have a theory on why the viewers liked Poland’s performer – he looks like Weird Al Yankovic – internet-famous American parodist and singer.

All in all, I had a lovely time watching this year’s Eurovision. The show had enough pleasant surprises and a few listenable songs. Have you watched the show? Who were your favorites?

My posts on/about 2015‘s Eurovision here and 2014‘s Eurovision here.

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Eurovision 2015

Music

Hello!

Some of you may know that I live in Europe, so this post shouldn’t come as a shocker, although, now you can live in Australia and be a part of Europe. Anyway, I am a huge Eurovision fan, I have always watched it as a kid, but I remember 2005 being the year that peaked my interest the most and that interest never diminished. You want proof – read last year’s coverage of Eurovision 2014.

To begin with, I believe that Eurovision allowed me to get to know so many artists that I wouldn’t have know otherwise,. I listen to pretty much only US and UK musicians, so Eurovision broadens my musical taste and cultural perspective.

This years contest, to my mind, was the best of the decade song wise. I have never had so many favorites. So, my top 7 songs were from:

  1. Sweden 
  2. Belgium
  3. Estonia
  4. Latvia
  5. Russia
  6. Denmark (they weren’t in the final)
  7. Australia

Other countries which had good songs were Romania, Georgia, The Netherlands, Greece, Belarus, Hungary, Austria, Norway, Israel, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Poland. – I warned you, I had a lot of favorites:) This year also had a variety of different types of songs: some were really fun and happy while others spoke about serious issues.

The inclusion of Australia, in honor of this being the 60th Eurovision and because of the fact that Eurovision is very popular in Australia, was a very nice touch.

The winner was Sweden and that’s one of a few times when my favorite song wins. The last time this happened was in 2012 when Loreen won -also from Sweden.

My own country finished in the 18th place, despite quite an extensive media coverage on my country’s representatives. The 3 kisses didn’t help and they just sparked a lot of fights in the comment section of a variety of articles. However, our song This Time was definitely the best entry we ever had. I was really happy that other Baltic States did so well – Latvia and Estonia finished in 6th and 7th place respectively.

Austria  did a great job as a host country.The stage looked unbelievably great. I am just sad that they didn’t got any points and finished in the last place together with Germany. The motto Building Bridges was also a cool one.

Eurovision being a political contest as much as it is a musical contest, the voting didn’t surprise but infuriated me. When are we going to stop voting for our neighbors and when are we actually going to vote for the songs and not for the countries? With all the developments with Russia and Ukraine, I am shocked that Russia did so well. The song definitely deserved the 2nd place, but I have no idea how it got it.

To sum up, Eurovision Song Contest 2015 was a fairly good one. Nothing really surprised me, except the quality of the songs. I got a chance to add some new songs to my playlist, refreshing it before summer starts. Rate 4/5

Have a great week!

Loreen concert

Music

Hello!

Welcome to another blog post covering the topic of live music! I will link all the similar post down bellow but now, let’s get on with my latest musical experience!

On Friday night (24th of April), I went to Swedish singer’s Loreen concert in my native city of Kaunas. Loreen isn’t a huge global start, I believe that European audiences are more well antiquated with her than the rest of the world. The reason for this is the fact that Loreen won the Eurovision Song Contest 3 years ago – in 2012 and since Eurovision isn’t really popular anywhere outside of Europe (well, maybe except Australia), consequently, Loreen isn’t poplar internationally too.

I’ve never really listened to her music much. I knew only her Eurovison winning song Euphoria by heart because I and my girlfriends used to sing it on road trips but that was pretty much it. She had a hit in my country called We Got the Power but I, personally, didn’t listen to it much. However, since the tickets to her concert were quite cheap (definitely the cheapest ones out of every concert I’ve ever attended), I decided to give her music another chance.

Before going to the live show, I’ve listened to her album Heal from 2013 a couple of times and really enjoyed a few songs. These would be Crying Out Your Name, Every time and Breaking Robot. She also released a single Paper-light in 2014 and the revisited version of it in 2015 – I enjoyed that one quite a lot too!

Anyway, enough of me rambling about stuff that nobody cares about. How was the concert? IT WAS AMAZING. Her voice is magical! I have never heard any singer sound so good while singing live. Her voice is so strong and the things she could do with it: go high, drop low and then go back to high again. Her stage presence is also unbelievable: she dances, jumps, goes crazy and completely frees herself and still manages to communicate with the crowd and find connection with the every single member of the audience. Her energy is contagious!!

I was standing in a front row, so I had a perfect view of the stage! Only around 3000 people were attending the concert, though, when she came out on stage for the 3rd time to sing Euphoria one more time, the first few rows, consisting mainly of young adults, were screaming  and singing so loudly that it sounded like at least 5000 people were in attendance.

I am really happy that I chose to attend her concert ! I had a wonderful time and would definitely be present at her concert again. Videos from the show: my favorite song – Crying Out Your Name and Eurovision winner – Euphoria (2nd performance of it).

Oh, one last note: the opening act of the show was Lithuanian singer Vaidas Baumila. I am not a fan of his because I don’t listen to practically any Lithuanian singers but his warm-up act was quote nice. Moreover, Baumila will represent Lithuania in this year’s Eurovision so it was only appropriate that he would open for Loreen.

Bellow you will find a few photos from the event taken by me!

Bye!

My concert coverage: Kylie Minogue | OneRepublic | Enrique Iglesias | Ed Sheeran | Eurovision 2014