Music Break: ABBA’s songs in Mamma Mia!

Happy midweek everyone! It’s kind of a sleepy Wednesday even though just exactly a week ago I was extremely busy casting for my upcoming short film project, Master Servant. It was my first time holding auditions (as I didn’t have to do that Hearts Want) and let’s just say it was quite an experience. I have even more appreciation for actors (especially working actors) and what they have to go through to land a part.

In any case, well I saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last week… it had been such a whirlwind few weeks that I needed a crowd-pleaser type of movie and it definitely did the trick. It’s funny but when the original first came out, I didn’t even bother to see it and wasn’t really interested. But my friend in San Diego has the DVD so I ended up watching it when I visited her. I actually grew up listening to ABBA (who’s my brother’s fave) and it was fun nostalgia hearing the catchy tunes once again. As for the movie, well I don’t think it would’ve worked at all without ABBA’s music to be honest. It’s the kind of contagiously rousing songs you can’t help but being drawn to it, heck the songs have been stuck in my head for days since I saw the sequel! Plus having Meryl Streep and a pretty phenomenal cast doesn’t hurt. Amanda Seyfried is pretty good as Sophie (Streep’s daughter) but it’s Julie Walters and Christine Baranski who’s truly light up the screen. I wish we all had them as our besties!

Oh and the scenery!! Honestly, I was gawking at the amazing Greek islands (filmed on location on Skopelos, Skiathos and Damouhari Pelion) which surely have become a major tourist attraction now thanks to the movie. Who hasn’t fantasized living in such a incredible place, running a hotel with your handsome boyfriend and your three dads consist of Mr. Darcy, James Bond and Thor’s Dr. Selvig?? I mean, come on!!

Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan as Sophie’s three dads

It’s the kind of movie to just put off your thinking caps and be ready to groove! So here are some of my fave songs and/or scenes from the original and the sequel:

Ok yes it’s a silly movie, but I couldn’t help but tearing up a bit hearing this rendition of The Winner Takes It All (darn you Meryl!)

Donna looked so believably devastated in this scene… I wish the sequel had more oomph in showing her romance with Sam in the flashback scene. I feel like this scene in the original was far more emotional than the entire scene of young Donna & Sam in the sequel.

Oh man, what an end credits!! Such a hoot to see all the three dads in full disco gear. Looks like the entire cast had such a great time making this that they totally went all out in the bohemian spirit of the movie!!

I’ve been a fan of Lily James since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Cinderella, she’s instantly likable and apparently this girl can sing! I actually like her rendition of this melancholy song… yeah she’s my current girl crush.

I really, really enjoyed this scene and the song Why Did It Have To Be Me. I adore Lily James as young Donna (not an easy task playing the young version of a character originally played by Meryl Streep, but she did a fine job!) and Josh Dylan (young Bill) is my fave of the three young actors.

Well one of the highlights of the sequel is Cher (natch!)… and her fans would likely NOT be disappointed. She only appears at the end but her rendition of Fernando (a duet with Andy Garcia), as teased in all the promos, is pretty darn amusing.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Well, which ABBA song(s) is your favorite?

FlixChatter Review: The Railway Man (2013)

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This may sound harsh, but I’m growing tired of WWII films that have a singular focus on the Nazis and Jews. There have been so many wonderful films successfully depicting the horror and tragedy that befell the Jews, but at the same time, there are so many untold stories from different perspectives that are worth being shared. This is one of those stories. The Railway Man is a film about Eric Lomax, a British Army Signals Engineer, who was captured as a prisoner of war and tortured at a Japanese labor camp during World War II. In Lomax’s later life, he discovers his torturer is still alive and sets out to confront him. The film switches between Lomax’s present day (1980s) and his past at the camp (1942).

I went in to this screening not really knowing much about the film. As the opening credits started to roll, we were informed The Railway Man was based on true events and an autobiography of the same name. The film opens on a train crossing a bridge and a young soldier, who looks out of time, as we hear Colin Firth’s voiceover reciting a nursery rhyme. As it turns out, it was a limerick of Lomax’s own creation:

“At the beginning of time the clock struck one. Then dropped the dew and the clock struck two. From the dew grew a tree and the clock struck three. The tree made a door and the clock struck four. Man came alive and the clock struck five. Count not; waste not, the years on the clock. Behold I stand at the door and knock.”

The director, Jonathan Teplitzky (Burning Man), cuts from the railroad tracks to a dark and confusing scene of Colin Firth lying on the floor, twitching and shaking in what appears to be paralyzing terror. This rhyme reappears several times throughout the film, and is used as a way for Lomax to ground himself during his episodes, in addition to Lomax’s ironic affinity for trains.

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I must say, I think this is the darkest role I’ve seen Colin Firth (Lomax) portray. While he’s experiencing an episode, he looks calm and collected on the outside but unexpectedly lashes out.  And his eyes are filled with such intense and varied emotions: love, malice and fear. However, we do see his tender side, as Patti (Kidman) pulls him back to reality. She truly is his anchor throughout the entire film. Honestly, I was both surprised and impressed by Firth’s performance. This was the most animated I’ve seen him in a role, especially during the flashback episodes.

Jeremy Irvine (Young Lomax) is no stranger to delivering moving performances as a soldier. My first encounter with Irvine was in War Horse and I am embarrassed to admit, I completely forgot who he was. However, his performance in The Railway Man is something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. At first introduction, it seems Lomax was relatively untouched by the war. However, after the British surrender to the Japanese, his life changes forever. 

Fair warning, the torture scenes are very intense and involve water boarding, cramped bamboo cages, starvation, and regular beatings with bamboo logs. After viewing the film, I learned Irvine actually became ill after taking too much water. As his time as a POW lengthened, you could see Lomax’s (Irvine) body start to deteriorate. He grows overly thin, and his body is constantly broken down and beaten. Somehow, through it all, he still manages to keep some semblance of his old life intact. He’s bright, imaginative and a true hero. And to the far right is a shot of the actual young Eric Lomax. They could be twins!

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I was underwhelmed by Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Patti Lomax. For some reason I found the way she tried to comfort Eric as patronizing and more selfish to her own end: “I want my husband back!” It also didn’t help that Teplitzky didn’t really show any scenes of them trying to work through his PTSD. There’s just a few glimpses of Lomax (Firth) shutting down or rearranging rooms Patti (Kidman) had decorated, but nothing where they really address his symptoms head on. Patti instead goes to Finlay, (Stellan Skarsgård) for answers about Lomax’s past.

Generally speaking, the film felt a bit confused. At times, it was gearing up to be a really great historical drama, and then it abruptly switched and felt more like a horror film (and I’m not referring just to the torture scenes). Maybe this was Teplitzky’s interpretation of what living with PTSD feels like. Although, as a viewer, whenever Lomax (Firth) appeared on screen I felt my flight or fight reflex take over. I never knew if I should cringe or go about my regularly scheduled viewing. Additionally, I wish we could’ve seen more of Lomax’s (Irvine) life after he was liberated from the POW camp. There seemed to be such a discrepancy between Irvine’s outlook as opposed to Firth’s. It leads the viewer to believe Lomax’s symptoms developed over time, along with his bitterness, which I’m not entirely sure was the case.

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The Railway Man is a very intense film and touches on dark material.  Even though the torture took place nearly 70 years ago, eerily enough, it hits close to home (think Zero Dark Thirty). However, the overall message is really quite beautiful. After everything Lomax endured, he rose above the atrocities he faced and forgave Takashi Nagase. What’s even more uplifting is Lomax and Nagase ended up becoming great friends. Here’s a picture of the real Eric Lomax and Takashi Nagase. Eric Lomax passed away in 2012 as the film was in post-production. This truly was an incredible story, and it’s definitely worth a watch.

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Thoughts on The Railway Man? Would love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review – THOR : The Dark World

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Marvel Studios continues its box office winning streak with an $86 mil US domestic earnings, up about $20 mil from the previous film. It’s made nearly a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide already as it’s opened internationally a week ago. The filmmakers are well aware that most moviegoers are already familiar w/ the character, especially given the behemoth box office success of The Avengers last year. So there’s no character development needed here, and the story picks up where it left off with Loki now going to the dungeon as punishment for being a naughty boy.

So Asgaard and the rest of the planetary universe are now safe right, since the Bifröst‎s (Loki’s kind) have been defeated? Well not quite. Once again we’ve got another megalomaniac creature called Malekith from the Dark Elves race who’s hellbent on taking over the universe. The ‘dark world’ in the title refers to the state of a universe when a weapon known as the Aether is released upon them. But Odin’s father was able to stop Malekith and hid the weapon for thousands of years. That is, until somehow, it got discovered when Jane Foster and her buddies were looking for, who else, his Norse god boyfriend of course.

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Despite the title, there’s nothing dark about this film, in fact, there are never any sense of real danger with any of the characters. Even when Thor is fighting a giant beast three times his size, his loyal Mjölnir always saves the day for him. Chris Hemsworth is much more confident in the title role this time around, and a whole lot more likable as well. There’s still friction between him and his dad Odin (Anthony Hopkins), but obviously it’s a natural father/son relationship. When Heimdal (Idris Elba), Asgaard’s loyal guard who can see into all of the realms, tells him he couldn’t locate Jane (Natalie Portman), Thor visits earth once again. It’s nice to see that Jane is not merely an accessory of Thor, but her character is actually pretty crucial to the plot. But it’s not the reunion between Thor and Jane that I was looking forward to, but it’s Thor and his brother, Loki.

I felt like the time leading up to that is a bit too slow for my liking, but it was well worth the wait! Seems that every time he’s on screen, my interest level just goes up a notch because he’s just so much fun to watch. Though he’s not the main villain here, Loki still gets the best lines, delivered with aplomb by the fantabulous Tom Hiddleston. I think there’s more screen time of Loki, but really, the film could still use more of his presence. The lord of mischief makes the most of his power of illusion, and it makes for some truly hysterical moments both in Asgard and beyond. There’s even a Marvel cameo, I wouldn’t say who it is, that practically brought the house down as the whole theater erupted in laughter.

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The women in Thor’s world are given more to do in this film as well, which is a plus in my book. I’ve mentioned about Jane, but Thor’s mom Frigga (Rene Russo) is also given more screen time here. Clearly Thor gets his bad-ass warrior trait from both parents! Kat Dennings is still a delight as Jane’s research assistant, adding even more comic relief with her irreverent commentaries. But believe it or not, Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Erik Selvig is actually the goofiest of the ‘Thor comedic troupe’ with his shenanigans and a penchant for stripping in public! Nice to see Idris Elba got a chance to get in on the action a bit more as Heimdal as well, and Zachary Levi apparently replaced Josh Dallas as one of Thor’s buddies, it took me a while to recognize him with blonde hair!

I knew going in that the sense of fun that we’ve come to know and love from The Avengers is going to be carried over in this film, but I didn’t expect it to be a full-on comedy. There are even more laugh out loud moments throughout, and the final battle is just hilarious. The self-referential humor is palpable as a guy witnessing the battle from a library in London quips, ‘Look, it’s Thor fighting down there, with his hammer and everything!’ Some of the subtler comedic moments are a lot of fun as well, my personal favorite is when Thor hangs his mighty hammer on a coat hook when he enters Jane’s apartment!

Whilst the film is robustly entertaining, save for the first twenty minutes or so, there are some flaws that makes this the lesser of the two Thor films. For one, Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith is a pretty lame and wholly uninteresting villain. It’s not the actor’s fault though, it’s just the character isn’t really given anything worthy to be remembered. He barely even speaks and when he does, he uses some ho-hum Elven language. I also miss Patrick Doyle’s awesome score. No offense to Brian Tyler, who’s a good composer, but Doyle’s gorgeous and rousing theme is so memorable and adds so much to the enjoyment of the movie for me. Overall I also prefer Branagh’s direction to Alan Taylor’s, as the pacing is a bit off and tonally uneven. The visuals and production design are just as superb however, Asgard feels a bit more organic here whilst the first film it looks so majestic and pristine. At times it reminds me of Star Wars though, especially the flying sequence on the Harrow as they’re escaping Asgard. The universe reminds me so much of Naboo, and the moment of Thor and Jane being lovey dovey together also makes me think of Princess Amidala with his Jedi lover, ahah.

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Kudos to Marvel for creating a universe that spans multiple films, somehow it relates to one another whilst still maintaining a unique identity, tone and look & feel. Iron Man has a hi-tech, futuristic actioner,  Captain America is more of a political thriller, whilst Thor has that medieval fantasy feel to it akin to Games of Thrones. Yet everything ties together as one Marvel macrocosm. Just like in Iron Man 3, the Avengers’ battle in New Yorkis never far from the writers’ mind, not that we’d be inclined to forget it anyway. As Loki won’t be on the sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron, I’m very curious if there might be a Loki film down the line. Certainly there are enough fans of Hiddleston and his nothing-short-of-iconic performance as Loki that’d warrant his own film. [Spoiler alert: Seems that the ending of this film suggests that this isn’t the last time we’d see Loki ;)]

I saw this film in 2D which is perfectly adequate. When it’s all said and done, Thor: The Dark World is lacking the depth to be a great film. I mean, it’s decent entry into Marvel’s cannon that’s fun and entertaining, but the hilarious bits are probably going to be more memorable than the film itself as a whole.


Three and a half stars out of Five
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So what did you think of THOR 2? Did you like it more or less than I did?