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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Since the 1970’s, Swedish music group ABBA have cast a long shadow. Still a mainstay on easy-listening radio with their songs used in countless movies, their appeal has spanned generations. Continuing to be popular, it was a natural that a film based on their tracks would surface. When ‘Mamma Mia!’ exploded onto stage and screen, the spectacular success of both came as no surprise. ‘Mamma Mia! Here we go again’ is more of the same. Featuring a cast swanning around the Greek islands singing ABBA tunes, it’s another amiable ride through the Swiss supergroup’s back catalogue.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is expecting a child with her boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper). Managing her deceased mother’s villa in Greece, she worries about impending motherhood. Her mother’s friends, including Rosie (Julie Walters) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan) are on hand to aid Sophie in exploring her mother’s past. When Sophie’s grandmother Ruby (Cher) unexpectedly appears, her problems increase amidst the sun-kissed allure of the Greek climes.

‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is exactly as you’d expect. A plethora of ABBA tracks, good-looking cast, gorgeous scenery and light comedic drama. Taxing the brain-cells isn’t what this film is about although it’s unfortunate so little effort went into the script. Whilst lovely to look at, the plot drags considerably in its first half with the original cast making way for new characters. Only when the former cast return towards the end do things perk up considerably with the boredom threshold lessened.

Making this sequel the lesser of the two ‘Mammia Mia!’ films is how it contrives events to fit into the songs. Although the first movie also did this, here it’s glaringly obvious what song will appear due to the awkward set-up towards it. The new characters are uninteresting with flashbacks to the past increasing the tedium in between spectacularly staged music numbers. The Greek locations are always wonderful to view and hearing Cher tackle ABBA tunes makes up for the lack of vitality the film desperately needs.

Like re-heating a left over meal, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ may look enticing but on further inspection is less tasty than hoped. Given the enormous ABBA fan-base, the film will likely make a mint. But in terms of a movie experience, it’s fairly pedestrian with a third ‘Mamma Mia!’ outing as welcome as a mediocre ABBA tribute act.

Rating out of 10: 5

La La Land

Los Angeles usually gets a bad rap. Often depicted as a seedy place where dreams die and careers vanish, it’s a wonder why it’s still popular. The lure of fame and fortune is its driving force with the chance of making it big as addictive as gambling. ‘La La Land’ explores the city where Hollywood resides with glee. A musical about love and desire, it may not change anyone’s thinking about the area but the film makes it look as glossy as any big movie coming from it.

Living in Los Angeles in the hope of making it big, Mia (Emma Stone) aspires to be a famous actress. Waiting tables to earn a crust, she hopes to be discovered by the many power players she serves. Her routine is brightened by the appearance of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). A jazz musician playing dingy bars while waiting for his big break, he falls for Mia’s charms. As their romance blossoms so do their growing careers. While enjoying the trappings of success, their love is tested in ways that only a strange city like Los Angeles can create.

‘La La Land’ is a throwback to the glossy musicals of the 1940’s/50’s. Whilst set in modern day, it has a classic feel echoing past melodic spectacles. The staging and vibrancy of the dance/music numbers are superb, perfectly capturing the wondrous energy of the leads. The romance between Mia and Sebastian isn’t anything new, going through the clichéd motions of many romantic dramas. What it succeeds in is the performer’s genuine chemistry and the effective blending of mundane reality and sparkling set pieces.

Damien Chazelle’s direction isn’t always perfect with the pacing dragging the narrative. Like so many recent films, he doesn’t know when to stop. But he does, however, show much flair in the stylised look and structure in the lover’s romantic entanglements. Los Angeles has never looked so enticing as it captures Mia and Sebastian’s imaginations but potentially destroying them too. The mix of music, drama, humour and some fantasy make for an engaging package.

Although slow in places, ‘La La Land’ maintains a consistency in tone and colour. The music is great with the actors diving into their roles with gusto. The movie musical genre always re-invents itself with ‘La La Land’ another fine addition sure to further enhance its reputation.

Rating out of 10: 7