Mamma Mia reviews

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Eric
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Postby Eric » Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:06 pm

I could say that Josh probably meant to use AIDS in a different, not-political context (the symptoms of Acquired Immunodeficiency Disorder, nothing more) and that it was just an unfortunate coincidence that he used it in reference to a movie that will likely appeal more proportionally to gays ... but I've already got plenty here who see me as a self-loathing queer.



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Postby ITALIANO » Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:53 am

And even for me - which says alot...

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Postby Penelope » Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:41 am

Yeah, Sabin, that was too far, even for me.
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:00 am

Sabin wrote:This thing should be called 'Mamma MiAIDS!'. It looks like it will just wear down your immune system until you fade away.

My god, anything and everything is just up for grabs for the display of your "humor", isn't it? I don't think crass even begins to describe the above. Offensive and completely tasteless.




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Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:13 am

This thing should be called 'Mamma MiAIDS!'. It looks like it will just wear down your immune system until you fade away. Watching the stage-play was one of the most overpoweringly unpleasant experiences of my life.

SLANT
*/****

Dan Callahan

unning for years now, the ABBA jukebox Broadway hit Mamma Mia! supposedly has audiences dancing in the aisles to the incessantly catchy tunes of the somewhat creepy Swedish pop group. I assume that the show has the tacky pleasures of a night out at a karaoke bar, but this film version of Mamma Mia! is such a full-scale disaster in every way that it's hard to know what has held theatergoers' attention for so long. Director Phyllida Lloyd sets new lows in cinematic ineptitude by mixing and matching different takes at will and using frantic cutting and a lot of zooms to try to create some kind of arbitrary energy; there are lots of "big" production numbers where the lead actors and many extras seem to be going through some sort of hellishly disorganized calisthenics routine on boardwalks and beachfronts. Aside from the amateurish young lead, Amanda Seyfried, everybody in the cast looks game, but no one has the vaguest notion of what they're doing or why they're doing it, mainly because the ABBA songs have been so carelessly shoehorned into the flimsy narrative. A golden-tressed Meryl Streep is self-consciously loosey-goosey as Seyfried's mother, and so aimlessly grand and unfocussed that in her big power ballad, "The Winner Takes It All," she suggests a weird mixture of a hyperactive toddler crossed with Irene Papas playing Clytemnestra. There are still pleasures to be had from musical films, and even films of Broadway shows like Mamma Mia!, but none of them can ever be anything but painful to sit through if they continue to be helmed by theater directors who have no idea how to stage a musical number for the camera.
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Postby Hustler » Wed Jul 09, 2008 11:42 pm

The 70´S! wow ! what a decade!. I would like to add another hit: Love Unlimited Orchestra´s Bayou.



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Postby Penelope » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:35 am

Perhaps it is as much a generational thing as it is a gender thing. But for me, it was also an emotional issue: as a young lad, I was so withdrawn and unhappy that I found an outlet in pure pop music--ABBA, Expose, the Stock/Aitken/Waterman factory (Rick Astley, Bananarama, Hazell Dean, etc.)--this music lifted me away from the world and took me to a happy place where everybody was having fun.
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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:20 am

Resuming actual reviews...Variety weighs in (though with a critic new to me).

Mamma Mia! The Movie
By JORDAN MINTZER

A Universal (in U.S.)/United Intl. Pictures (in U.K.) release of a Universal Studios, Littlestar, Playtone production. Produced by Judy Craymer, Gary Goetzman. Executive producers, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, Mark Huffam. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Screenplay, Catherine Johnson, based the original musical book by Johnson, originally conceived by Judy Craymer, based on the songs of Abba.

Donna - Meryl Streep
Sam - Pierce Brosnan
Harry - Colin Firth
Bill - Stellan Skarsgard
Rosie - Julie Walters
Sky - Dominic Cooper
Sophie - Amanda Seyfried
Tanya - Christine Baranski

"Take a Chance on Me" may be one of its most celebrated songs, but little risk is actually involved in "Mamma Mia! The Movie," a predictably glossy screen adaptation of the Abba-scored musical. The pic uses virtually the same creative team behind the stage original -- topped by helmer Phyllida Lloyd, making her film bow -- but subs in bigscreen names like Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan for the leads and adds lush Greek exteriors. But the island-set tale of a young bride-to-be looking for dad offers little else that differs from the stage version and, since its grosses have exceeded $2 billion, why should it? To borrow another song title, Universal should reap reasonable "Money, Money, Money" in all territories.

The tuner shares a basic plot with the lesser-known 1968 Gina Lollobrigida starrer "Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell," so offers a variation of the recent screen-to-stage-to-screen-again works as "The Producers" and "Hairspray." Another difference is the highly lucrative addition of a soundtrack featuring several No. 1 hits by one of the most profitable music acts in history. With each song inserted to capture a certain moment or emotion in the script, and with the script itself stretched to encompass enough songs to fit the perfect best-of compilation, the storyline plays out more like an oversized Abba promotional vehicle than a fully dramatic piece.

The opening scenes offer a preview of the over-polished, glitzy texture used throughout, as a series of moonlit postcard images introduce us to the Greek island where Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is set to marry heartthrob Sky (Dominic Cooper).

Having never known the identity of her father, Sophie decides to invite three suspects -- suave architect divorcee Sam (Pierce Brosnan), lonely but loaded investment banker Harry (Colin Firth), and roughshod world traveler Bill (Stellan Skarsgard). But Sophie doesn't give warning to her ex-swinger mother Donna (Meryl Streep), who now runs a bed and breakfast atop the island.

Quid pro quo plays on for much of the pic's first half, as the slightly bitter Donna -- accompanied by zany friends Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski) -- attends to wedding preparations while reminiscing about the good old days when her trio, Donna and the Dynamos, rocked the scene. Meanwhile, Sophie plays an unending game of "My Three Dads" as she hops from one protective fatherly embrace to the other, unable to determine who's the real one, and unwilling to confess her hidden agenda to Mom.

A prolonged, dance-heavy centerpiece features simultaneous bachelor and bachelorette parties where the entire cast, and all the subplots (including Donna's re-emerging interest in Sam), converge in the type of chorus-line bonanza usually timed to wrap the first act with a bang. Yet on film, the scenes play more like "MTV Grind" than Busby Berkeley, with a roving camera breaking up the action into fast-cut singles.

The final reels are devoted to the wedding, set atop a dreamy seaside cliff (covered in one too many helicopter shots). After the truth is revealed, in what amounts to the film's lengthiest dialogue sequence, the music kicks in for an extended showstopping finale that runs tirelessly through the stretched-out closing credits.

The singing-and-dancing work for the basic excitement and energy of a live performance, butan additional boost of cinematic prowess is needed to sustain a similar rhythm on film. Scribe-creator Catherine Johnson (also in her first screen outing) and theater-opera vet Lloyd can't seem to find the right tone or style for their globally celebrated material.

Most of the chorus dance numbers -- especially "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" and "Voulez-vous" -- feel over-shot and over-cut, never allowing for the pleasure of a sustained, well-choreographed performance. Other, more intimate songs -- including the beach-set "Lay All Your Love On Me" and the cliff-set "The Winner Takes It All" -- feature a twirling Steadicam that does a better job of depicting the gorgeous coastline than the lip-synching cast.

Thesping is all-around pro, although some stars, especially the bouncy and rejuvenated Streep, seem better suited for musical comedy than others, including Brosnan and Skarsgard.

Despite the obvious time and energy devoted to smooth transitioning between studio and location scenes (both are shot realistically yet theatrically by d.p. Haris Zambarloukos), tech work often feels more rushed than mastered. Poor dubbing in some of the outdoor sequences tends to take away from the filmmakers' insistence that we're actually there.

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Postby paperboy » Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:21 am

Mister Tee wrote:My friends and I voted Paper Lace the most horrific artists of 1974, because they not only had the dreadful "The Night Chicago Died", they were also the writers behind Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' "Billy, Don't Be a Hero". (I hope nobody's going to chime in supporting either of those songs; then, we truly have nothing to talk about)

I miss the days of the story song.

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Postby Eric » Tue Jul 08, 2008 4:26 pm

flipp525 wrote:"Woman" by Barrabas

Fantastic song.

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Postby Eric » Tue Jul 08, 2008 4:23 pm

For those in the know, I'm definitely in the Paradise Garage school of disco appreciation, not Studio 54, which puts me pretty square in line with the post-hippies, not the proto-yuppies. ;)

In any case, I understand that you can't really fully reverse your musical experience, and some styles will never be endearing. (I, for instance, get a bad case of the yawns from most singer-songwriters, though there are exceptions ... especially if you open up the distinction to jazz standards, et al.) So I of course can't imagine changing your mind about disco, MT. But if you ever feel like sampling one of the most convincing cases on its behalf, from both a social and musical perspective, pick up this book. In addition to focusing on the absolute, unimpeachable highlights of the genre (i.e. Philadelphia International Records, Chic, August Darnell, Lamont Dozier), he also at least helps "explain" some of the other acts whose appeal escapes me (i.e. K.C. and the Sunshine Band) in their pop-cultural context. Oh, and it's also just about the best book I've ever read about New York City in the late '70s.

It's interesting that Mason would've hinted at latent racism on your part, Damien (especially as I can picture you likely listening to a fair amount of Mississippi blues). But I'll admit I too wonder if my aversion to so many things white (at least the stuff in the last 75 years ... Maurice Ravel = supergenius) reveals the same thing about me.




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Postby Damien » Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:48 pm

You changed the station when Mr. Big Stuff came on, Tee? Wow, I've got that on my iPod.

Sensitive teenager and young man that I was :p I was primarily a singer-songwriter type of guy (I could lie on my bed and listen to Jackson Browne, Eric Andersen, James (and Livingston) Taylor, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot for hours. And for a while I sneered at disco music.

But one night in 1977, after too many Scotches and pitchers of beer, Mason (my future collaborator) convinced me I was being uptight and possibly racist in my antipathy towards dance music. Like that asshole St. Paul on the road to Damascus, I saw the light and embraced disco like a fanatic (much to the chagrin of my law school roommate who most of the time listened to Gram Parsons). And then spent many a happy night at Studio 54, New York, New York, the Copacabana and others I can't even remember. But those days live on on my iPod and I love walking around New York listening to "Native New Yorker," "Born To Be Alive" "There But For The Grace Of God," "Mama Used To Say," and the best disco song ever, Karen Young's "Hot Shot."

One difference between the musical genres: You smoked pot to rock/pop music, but did poppers to disco.

Eric, I have a bunch of songs from the "Have A Nice Day" box set on my iPod, including "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)," "Venus," "Give Me Just a Little More Time," "O-o-h Child," "Have You Seen Her" "I'll Take You There," "Dancing In The Moonlight," "Freddie's Dead," "Love's Theme," "Brother Louise," "Get Down Tonight," "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Turn The Beat Around," "I Love The Nightlife," "Werewolves of London," and the greatest one-hit wonder song of them all, Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky."

Getting back to the topic at hand, the thing about ABBA is that they were so soul-less and the music sounded so manufactured. They were the pop equivalent of "corporate rock."




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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jul 08, 2008 2:31 pm

Thanks, Eric, for reminding me how many songs I hated in 1970-71. Actually, that list does a remarkable job of isolating the lousiest stuff from the era (Band of Gold, Mr. Big Stuff and Chick-a-Boom were three charter members of my "Change the station -- quick!" club). Meantime, possibly for royalty reasons, it omits (except for one apiece from James Taylor and Cat Stevens) the dominant singer-songwriters: Carole King, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, sundry former Beatles...even Janis Joplin, whose Pearl came out in '71. None of these may fit your particular definition of pop, given their undoubted art aspirations, but the distinction was irrelevant back then: they were played on the radio right alongside One Bad Apple and ABC. (Much as, however out there they seem by today's standards, Carnal Knowledge or Taxi Driver were pop movies, since they were widely seen and thus...popular)

As flipp implies, some of this is going to be just unbridgeable generation gap stuff. Inviting scorn, I'll say, for me, the whole disco era was pretty much a blight on the land. Alot of that feeling was cultural: I associated much of the music I loved from the 60s and 70s with the whole protest-the-war/challenge-the-establishment/talk-all-night/love-your-fellow-man vibe (however romanticized it all may have been). Disco seemed to me intrinsically shallow by comparison, geared toward dancing wordlessly till your brains fell out. Even the stimulants associated with the two genres seemed dramatically different: the mellow brotherhood of marijuana and cheap wine, replaced by the frenzied oblivion of cocaine and scotch. And as for Studio 54, the small-d democrat in me recoiled at its "Know the right people and get past the bouncer" ethic.

I know disco was, by virtue of circumstance, a significant factor in the lives of many gay men in the 70s (as I've heard the story, lots of bands didn't want to play gay establishments, so the mix-tape was born as substitute), and I certainly respect and appreciate that, even if doesn't change my attitude toward the music. It's also entirely possible that, by my mid-20s, I was already too old and somewhat locked into my cultural preferences. (Even the stuff I liked of late 70s pop -- Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac -- seemed more in line with early 70s) But, you know...you can't change what you like.

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Postby flipp525 » Tue Jul 08, 2008 2:27 pm

kaytodd wrote:I can remember at the end of the 1970's there were a lot of retrospectives on television and radio about events and trends during that decade. If memory serves, the top selling single of the entire decade, and the one that got the most radio airplay, was Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life."

I am sure we all remember that one with affection :p

There's a great fantasy sequence in the fifth season of Six Feet Under in which Claire laments her work's "pantyhose-only" dress-code by launching into her own personal version of "You Ride Up My Thighs".
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Postby kaytodd » Tue Jul 08, 2008 2:10 pm

I can remember at the end of the 1970's there were a lot of retrospectives on television and radio about events and trends during that decade. If memory serves, the top selling single of the entire decade, and the one that got the most radio airplay, was Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life."

I am sure we all remember that one with affection :p
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. Oliver Wendell Holmes


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