I can’t believe it’s September already! I’ve only seen four movies since Oceans 8. Three of them are good if you’re into the subject/style of film, but the last one is so disgustingly misogynistic, I can’t believe I sat through it.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
This was the second movie that my group of women from work had decided to see. When Mamma Mia! first toured North American cities in 2000, I was lucky enough to see it in Toronto. But not being a big Meryl fan, I hadn’t seen the first movie and was now tasked with watching it as homework. Good thing I left it until the tickets were already bought, because I’m not sure I would have gone through with it based on that first movie! It had its moments and a great upbeat happy ending, but overall, MM1 did not make it to my favourites list.
In any case, I did go to see MM2 with the gang and enjoyed it well enough for what it is — a feel-good movie with lots of little-known ABBA songs and a few well-known ones thrown in for good measure. The movie shows the parallel stories of Donna’s daughter Sophie, now pregnant with her own child and wanting the three grandfathers there, and young Donna going through her adventures leading up to Sophie’s birth.
The two standouts are Amanda Seyfried as Sophie and Lily James (she was Rose on Downton Abbey) as young Donna. Pierce Brosnan as Sam is still a heart-throb even at 65 and, while his singing is not fabulous, he sure can emote during his musical scenes. I also was pleasantly surprised to see Hugh Skinner as young Harry (or young Colin Firth), doing a good comedic turn. (I’ve had a good laugh watching him play Prince William in the over-the-top parody of the British Royal Family, The Windsors.) And I have to say that Cher as Sophie’s grandmother is awesome and has a perfect song to sing — and she looks astonishingly young, given that a lot of her is 72 years old! So, all in all, a fun film if you liked the first one or if you just want to experience some feel-good musical comedy.
My younger son has fond memories of watching The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (as do I), and I also loved the books when I was a child. So, while we were in Toronto, we went with my sister and one of her adult daughters to see Christopher Robin.
Ewan McGregor (who I’ve liked since seeing him in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) does a good job as the adult Christopher Robin who has forgotten how to enjoy life, being preoccupied with trying to make a success of it at work. Meanwhile, Winnie the Pooh (“silly old bear”) can’t find his friends and goes through the last place he saw Christopher Robin, out into the world to find him so his human friend can make everything right again.
The story is of course predictable, in that it is the stuffed animals who really end up saving Christopher Robin, helping him to find joy again. Along the way in this quiet movie, the characters are true to their canon personalities and we hear familiar phrases like “stoutness exercises” to remind us of the original. I especially liked how when Christopher Robin says that he doesn’t know the answer, one of the animals always says, “Of course you do! You’re Christopher Robin!” We left the movie smiling and I would recommend it if you are a fan of Winnie the Pooh.
If you saw and liked the first Deadpool, this movie does not disappoint. Ryan Reynolds (who co-wrote the movie) is hilarious as the fowl-mouthed mercenary who reluctantly turns super-hero. (He also voices a CGI role as Juggernaut.) These irreverent movies don’t take the superhero genre seriously, and often break the fourth wall, an example being when Deadpool signs a picture for a kid, writing “Ryan Reynolds”. As a bonus for me, the movie was filmed in Reynolds’ native Vancouver, so it is fun to see familiar locations popping up behind the action. A new villain from the future is introduced in Cable, ably played by Josh Brolin. The movie is fast-paced and really funny, but you have to be prepared for lots of fowl language and related humour, as well as action-oriented violence.
Caution: Trailer is R-rated for language, humour, and violence
As an aside, the theme song is beautifully sung by Canadian Celine Dion, and the music video has Yanis Marshall dancing as Deadpool in high heels, a funny idea from the mind of Ryan Reynolds. The dancing starts at about 1:45.
I’ve enjoyed watching Jennifer Lawrence’s career, since seeing her years ago in The Hunger Games trilogy with my younger son. In addition to her acting ability, I like her confidence and the seemingly unedited personality that she shows in interviews. And I appreciated her essay in Lenny entitled Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?
So, when I heard she was doing a movie about a strong female Russian spy, I was excited. Somehow I never expected this movie to be as it actually is (even though my older son said I should have expected it from the trailer). As far as I’m concerned this is a horribly violent, misogynistic, disgusting movie, and I can’t understand why Jennifer Lawrence would have agreed to be in it, and in fact to make this the first time she had agreed to do full nudity.
Apparently, Lawrence trained daily for three months to master the bearing and the arm and head movements of a ballerina, for one of the opening scenes. She performs the dance (upper body) well. The movie is also very stylish and has some additional big-name players in Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, and Matthias Schoenaerts.
However, it uses a lot of stereotypes in depicting the Russian spy world, hearkening back perhaps to the Cold War era but not belonging in a story taking place in the modern world. Lawrence plays a Sparrow, one of a group of spies specially trained to use their bodies to manipulate men (or women). According to author and former CIA agent Jason Matthews who wrote the novel on which the movie is based, Sparrow schools existed at least during the cold war, but may or may not exist now. I’m not sure how much of this I believe, especially since I couldn’t find any corroboration of this except by him when I looked, albeit briefly. I’m sure, though, that I don’t believe that they could have been run in the way they are depicted in the movie.
**SPOILERS FROM HERE** There are two violent rape scenes and a violent gory murder in the first 15 minutes or so alone. At the Sparrow school, the students are forced to strip in front of the class and to watch pornography together, and one young women is humiliated in an attempt to force her to perform oral sex on a man for the edification of the other students. I kept watching, waiting for Lawrence’s character Dominika Egorova to start interacting with the American spy (Joel Edgerton) she is supposed to work with and fall in love with. But it doesn’t get better. There are brutal scenes of torture of both men and women, and if there is actually a love story, I couldn’t see it — unless you call a couple of minutes of having sex while sitting on top of someone a love story. I still kept watching, hoping for at least something redemptive and to see Dominika triumph over the brutal way she has been used over the course of the movie. Again, though they seem to think they made a movie that shows this, I really couldn’t see it.
Just disgusting and offputting — and guess what? Apparently this book is the first of a trilogy! My respect for Lawrence has taken a deep nosedive, and I certainly won’t be seeing the sequels.