August 4, 2008

Stuck in the 60's with Mamma Mia (and more reviews)

Mamma Mia
Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried
Universal Pictures

Whoever doesn't know at least one ABBA song is a caveman. Surely at least you know the tune of the chorus to Dancing Queen, maybe Mamma Mia, because it's like you're born with it because it exudes this sense of nostalgia even if you haven't heard it before, yes it's that popular.

So if ABBA was this influential to our everyday lives for some reason, why not make a musical right? And that's when the original Broadway show was conceived, and has become one of the most successful, long-running plays on Broadway, which is why it's not much of a surprise to even think that a movie adaptation wouldn't be far off. And come on, Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan? What a draw.

Although we were planning to see it the day Dark Knight came out, those plans were halted since Mamma Mia became one of those movies that share a theater with another movie, thus having a divided timeslot that we weren't able to reach so... even though the same holds true in today's (August 3) case, we were able to reach the showing time.

So on we go to the story. Well, there's not much to it but a story about a girl who's betrothed to this guy with a British accent and is on a mission to find her father because she found her mother's diary revealing 3 possible candidates, all whom her mother "loved" at around the same month, so she can be "given away". Of course, this is without her mother's knowledge, so all hell breaks loose when she does find out, and you know people don't mess with Meryl Streep, but this girl just had to, and now look what you've gotten her into!

OK, OK, maybe it's not really a bad movie, just a smidge above mediocre. Why? Well, I'll cover it in the proceeding paragraphs...

Now, ABBA songs are always pleasant to listen to, so thank heavens that the lyrics weren't changed at all, and they're put right in the middle of a good situation. But the movie executes plenty of these sequences in a mixed-up, sloppy fashion because it feels as if they crumpled up together many almost irrelevant situations so that they can sing an ABBA song. For example, what does "romance for an older woman" have to do with "trying to find my real father"? Well, unless it's Ashton Kutcher we're talking about, nothing.

And yeah, choreography is nice, the set is just beautiful (it's in Greece!), but is the cinematography? Well, I guess you can say it's better than average. At times, it's good, at other times it's just, you know, not so creative. Of course, it's a pretty minor gripe, but I would've enjoyed it better if they took even more advantage of the wonderful locale.

But still, the film's cinematography sometimes suggests that the entirety of the movie is merely in the confines of the theater, and the choreography makes this theory rock solid. Why? Well, the extras who also serve as back-up singers can apparently jump to the top of the roof of a building of several stories, swim to shore from thin air, and suddenly multiply near a tropical bar. It's just crazy.

And now, I've saved the worst gripe for last, and that's Pierce Brosnan. Admittedly, most of the actors here need some fine-tuning in their voice (except Meryl Streep- she's a goddess no question) but Pierce Brosnan by far is the worst singer in the bunch. Yeah, casting for his character would've been pretty good (but made one thing really obvious, but I won't divulge it so as not to spoil the movie) except that his voice is too... I don't know. You know what? I'll just say that the expression on Meryl Streep's face when Pierce Brosnan sang the first line of the song "SOS", was similar to the expression I made. I thought during that moment, "Yeah, Meryl thought he was terrible too.". Oh, and the crackling speakers so did not help.

The real star of the show here is, of course, Meryl Streep. Yeah, she's merely relegated to a mother role, but she always seems to stand out and take over. I mean, in Streep standards, she could do this role in her sleep. And the fact that she sings flawlessly, and cracks her voice during the most appropriate of times, like when she's crying.

Of course, it was supposed to be Amanda Seyfried's movie. Ironically, she's not even listed in most of the posters I've seen even if she plays the protagonist. Her acting is so-so, and her face, especially the part around her eyes, makes her look like she cries buckets every time she isn't on-camera.

The movie may be full of flaws, but it's undeniably fun, and come on, ABBA songs are catchy! And if you're pretty down, maybe this movie could cheer you up to some extent. And come on, the ending could make you laugh because of its utter, but intentional, corniness.

It's pretty advisable viewing if you're with your family, but it still depends on the kind of stuff you like. If you like musicals, or just plain ABBA, this one's for you. If you haven't even heard of ABBA but are fascinated, this could also be an accessible introduction (although you can also travel to New York and watch the play version). And if you simply don't like musicals, or don't like camp, maybe you oughta watch The Dark Knight again... or try The Bank Job, I heard it's good.

Rating: 6/10 (It could've been a 7 were it not for Pierce Brosnan.)

You Don't Mess With The Zohan
Starring: Adam Sandler, possibly Rob Schneider

Oh great, another Sandler flick. And it's about an Israeli this time with mad fighting skills but aspires to be a hairdresser. This is what's great about Sandler flicks, it always presents a fresh story that makes a person curious. But at just the first few minutes of the flick, you'll realize it's still the same concoctions: sexual jokes, corny jokes, some funny moments, more bad jokes, Disney ending.

So it wasn't a surprise to see myself sleeping halfway around the movie. So even though I won't be able to give a proper review (I won't be giving it a rating either), I'll just give you my thoughts on what I saw.

It starts out like this: the Zohan is partying with other people, shows off his butt, then gets called by the military to fight terrorists. So, he fights terrorists in an awfully corny manner just to emulate he's strong and all, and by this point I've lost interest.

Anyway, he fakes his death, goes to America and pursues his hairdressing dreams initially in a big beauty parlor, but winds up in an Arabian salon in an obscure part of town. He first acts as hair sweeper bla bla bla and oh, a Filipino actor, and then bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, and then he finally gets a chance to cut someone's hair and does it in a rather special (and stupid, disgusting, yawn-inducingly repetitive manner) manner that makes the salon popular.

However, his past comes back to haunt him as someone gets to recognize his real identity, because Zohan came to the US and changed his name to... something Coco.

He also develops a relationship with his 20-something female employer (and after screwing with old ladies, why wouldn't he?) and they ponder about the Arabian-Israeli war or something. And after this part, I just couldn't resist sleeping.

I mean, come on! It's predictable!

You know what? I have a challenge. Go watch Zohan on opening week, and tell me if the following will be true:
1) There will be a huge fight near the end between the Phantom and Zohan because Phantom will go to the States.
2) Zohan will still be running that Arabian salon despite Paul Mitchell's pleas.
3) The stuff in between will be filler.
4) Zohan will engage in a homosexual relationship. (OK, a bit too farfetched.)

Basically, Sandler's other vehicle from last year, I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry managed to make me laugh more in the same period of time than this piece of bollox.

Starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie
Universal Pictures

Wesley Gibson is an ordinary man who has an excruciating accounting job and a "girlfriend". Not bad for such a recluse. And every time his lady boss makes a sermon because her billing statements haven't been done yet, the guy always suffers some psychological anxiety problem, and drugs are the only thing that can suppress it.

But later, after meeting a mysterious (hot) girl named Fox, played by Angelina Jolie, he discovers that his father, a secret assassin, was killed by a rogue of their fraternity called, well, The Fraternity which is composed of skilled assassins whose base is guised in a facade of a textile factory.

Wesley also learns that his "anxiety attacks" are actually him producing adrenaline, thus being able to bend bullets and do stuff in bullet time. Of course, the other members of the Fraternity have this skill as well, but after a rather surprising twist here and there, Wesley finds out about the real truth, and all hell breaks loose.

It's actually mindless action fare, but something just takes it far above from mediocre. Is it the jaw-dropping special effects? The subtle comedy of the keyboard? The actors? Well, it's all of them, and to be honest, this movie I liked, and it's a really fun experience. Angelina Jolie's back-side was a plus.

Unfortunately, I watched this only on DVD. If I had fun on that alone, what more if I watched this in a theater? Too bad it's not showing anymore around here though.

And yes, Morgan Freeman is also awesome, and he shows that Binary numbers can indeed be a life-and-death situation.

Sorry for the rather short review, but simply put, it's all I can say. If you want some fun, Wanted is your destination. With effects that are on par with The Matrix, and comedy that's funny as hell, as well as a surprising performance by the usually dramatic James McAvoy, it's simply the summer movie that you've been waiting for (post-Iron Man).

Rating: 8/10

The Mummy 1
Starring Brendan Frasier, Rachel Weisz
Universal Pictures

Let's go back to 1999 and look at this movie called The Mummy. Now, it was probably intended for the summer audience back in the day, because it's full of mindless fun and hammy acting (courtesy of Brendan Frasier).

Some regard it as simply a fun time, and yes, I pretty much agree. It had great effects for the time, yes, but it's used a bit too extensively, and I guess even a person who's made Transformers the standard for CGI, will still probably be able to appreciate this flick.

So how does this start out? Well, it starts out with a brief history lesson about the priest Imhotep and his forbidden relationship with the queen. The pharaoh catches them, and the queen is killed, while Imhotep is mummified alive (along with his subordinates). Plenty years later, we shift to Brendan Frasier (I forgot the names) who is a treasure hunter. He sees the "lost city" or something but he is arrested. Yet another flash-forward later, we go to Cairo and meet a librarian played by Rachel Weisz. She also has a brother who's a treasure hunter as well, and what he finds changes their lives forever. The two hunt down the jailed man who claims he knows the way to the "lost city" and the warden consents but only for a share of the treasure. So why "The Mummy" and not "Duck Tales"? Apparently, the curious librarian reads a passage from a certain dark book, and Imhotep awakes, skeleton and all.

The journey starts here, and you'll more or less know what happens from this point.

The happenings are kinda predictable, and most of the characters here are rather disposable, literally, since there's quite a huge body count throughout the course of the movie. And frankly, there's not much human emotion going on in the movie, and because the characters of Rachel Weisz and Brendan Frasier seem to hate each other so much, you just know that they're gonna end up together -eyeroll-.

I have not much to say to be honest, and frankly, this movie is just conventional and disposable and not to mention, forgettable. Of course, you'll still remember the stars, since this movie is what made most of them big in the first place, but whatever, it's just mindless and mediocre, and really a rip-off to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Would I pick a melting Nazi head in stop-motion rather than the sandy head of the vengeful Imhotep? Yes.

Rating: 5/10

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