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Did you see Mamma Mia and hate it? Don’t see this. Did you see Mamma Mia and sort of like it? For sure see this, it’s better. If you loved Mamma Mia in its original flavor, you will go bananas for this.

Donna (Meryl Streep) has died, unexplainedly, but probably because Meryl didn’t have a lot of time to spend on this movie. And also so people can look sad. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has restored the hotel, and it’s lovely, but Sky (Dominic Cooper) is in New York and might want to stay there because career or bagels or something. It storms like crazy the night before the grand opening OH NO.

Running along with this is flashbacks of Donna’s (Lily James) earlier life, where–in utter defiance of probability–she manages not to know which of Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Bill (Josh Dylan), or Harry (Hugh Skinner) is Sophie’s father and does not seem like an irresponsible tramp. This is partly because Lily James’s smile is slightly infectious and also because all of them are crazy hot and catch her at reasonable emotional states for jumping into bed with people. Richard Curtis has managed this well. They’re pretty good young Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth, respectively, although I could ask for slightly more differentiation between the non-blondes.

BUT. The best part is her young Christine Baranski (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Julie Walters (Alexa Davies). They’re hilarious and adorable and good matches, but still have their own personalities. They dress horribly and give slightly bad advice (as they will again when they are older) but are so cheekily supportive it’s hard to be angry. Also the constant gags with the youth of the flashbacks and the age of the original cast are wonderful.MV5BMjEwMTM3OTI1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk5NTY0NTM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpg

ALSO CHER.

This movie knew exactly who would see it, and catered to that mercilessly, but it was also so gleeful. I could not stop smiling. I look forward to drinking a bottle and a half of rosé and singing along to it in the future.

Stray observations:

  • Andy Garcia jumped on this bandwagon and if you think about it for a split second it’s extremely obvious why but the payoff is so good.
  • Wait for the credits sequence. It’s way better than the first one.
  • We get “Waterloo” AND “Fernando” and I could not be happier.

Director: Ol Parker
Rating: PG-13
Length: 114 minutes
Score: 5/5 and also unrateable

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You know what I love about the Mission: Impossible movies? I love the lack of lady-nonsense. Possibly I should resent that they don’t even attempt to pass the Bechdel Test, but I only tolerate the string of disposable beauties in Bond movies out of habit, and I’m glad I don’t have to do that here. It’s great that he’s married and can’t see her, that Julia (Michelle Monaghan) is essentially the dog from John Wick, except living. Could there be ladies without lady-nonsense? Rogue Nation suggested that the answer might be yes–Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) was tough and not especially interested in Ethan–but here we get mired in sentiment and silliness.

MV5BMTk3NDY5MTU0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDI3MDE1NTM@._V1_UY268_CR0,0,182,268_AL_The rest is pretty great, though. The Syndicate from previouslies has metastasized into The Apostles, and they’re looking for nukes. Ethan (Tom Cruise, as you know) accidentally sort of loses track of the nukes. So he and a CIA agent called Walker (Henry Cavill, whose accent is admirable) have to halo-jump into Paris and blah de bloo de blah it’s a M:I movie and there are shenanigans and hijinks galore.

There’s a pointlessly goofy super-villain(-spy?), the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), who only wears white and seductively sips martinis and is probably the worst part of this movie. There are Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, who are great, because they’re always great and they see no reason not to be great here. Alec Baldwin isn’t even phoning it in. There are chases and gadgets and it may not make much sense but it is mostly loads of fun.

Except when it isn’t, and, bear with me here, but I don’t like my M:I movies with gravity except of the literal kind that makes Tom Cruise fall out of and off things. Sure, Ethan has the occasional feeling, that’s good. Ving Rhames makes the occasional speech, which is fine because it’s Ving Rhames. And, yes, the stakes are usually very, very high. But they are usually cartoonishly high, and here it’s a little too grounded and serious.

Also the lady-nonsense.

Stray observations:

  • Motorcycle chase? Amazing.
  • Jump? Incredible.
  • Rooftop chase? Tom Cruise, he cray.

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Rating: PG-13
Length: 147 minutes
Score: 3/5

Okay, Pixar, okay. We get it. You have figured out how optimally to tug at our heartstrings.

MV5BYjQ5NjM0Y2YtNjZkNC00ZDhkLWJjMWItN2QyNzFkMDE3ZjAxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODIxMzk5NjA@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_Coco is a solid installment in the series of Pixar-unexpected-weeping features. Fortunately it is also clever and adorable.

A boy, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), grows up in a family in which music has been banned, because his great-great-grandfather left to go be a great musician and never came back. They make shoes instead. His great-grandmother, the eponymous Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), is extremely old and her memory is going. Jaime Camil (Rogelio from “Jane the Virgin”) is his mild-mannered dad!

Now, Miguel, inevitably, loves music. He idolizes the late singer and guitarist Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and, on the Day of the Dead, attempts to steal his guitar to compete in a talent show. Because his family has destroyed his own guitar. And because he’s oddly okay with grave-robbing.

Well, it’s the Day of the Dead, so the division between the worlds of the dead and the living is permeable, and Miguel accidentally ends up in the world of the dead. His street dog also comes. He runs into most of his dead relatives, as well as a good-for-nothing skeleton called Héctor (Gael García Bernal). Héctor is in danger of being forgotten–his photo is not displayed by his family and his soul is not given ofrendas, and he is desperately trying to cross over and provide somebody, at least, with a photograph. He and Miguel make a deal to help each other. Shenanigans, as they say, ensue.

The world of the dead is brilliantly and hilariously drawn, particularly the bureaucracy that dictates whether or not the souls can visit their families and the customs officers who comment on the quality of the ofrendas. It is also desperately–desperately–sad. We see the fate of a soul who has been entirely forgotten, and it is heartbreaking.

The animation is gorgeous, the songs are good, and somehow a world full of skeletons is only moderately disconcerting. Oh, and the Frida Kahlo gags are great.

Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Rating: PG
Length: 105 minutes
Score: 4/5

MV5BNTYzN2MxODMtMDBhOC00Y2M0LTgzMTItMzQ4NDIyYWIwMDEzL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc1NTQxODI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Is this movie well made? Yes, if you correct for its being the early nineties and an adaptation of a stage play. The first means the close-ups are irritating and the clothes are disastrous; the second that it is talky and uneventful.

Did I like it? I hated it. Look, it’s about terrible people who do lousy things and you keep trying to figure out which one is the least awful but it’s a moving target and the film ends with a sordid little shrug. And Al Pacino is there being Al Pacino, which sucks.

They–Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, and Al Pacino–sell real estate, but in an aggressively scammy way. Kevin Spacey manages their office and they hate him. Alec Baldwin comes from the head office to shout at them. Further scams are cooked up, alliances are made, burglaries occur, and Jonathan Pryce’s life is probably ruined. Definitely his marriage.

I hate movies like this, even if they are quotable. Because…yeah, yeah:

“As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

Ugh. Ugh.

Director: James Foley
Rating: R, extremely
Length: 100 minutes
Score: unrateable, because I get why people like it, but also 1/5

Do you need a good cry? Try this movie.

MV5BZjM5ZDNlOGUtMjhlOS00NjNiLTg4M2MtNzVhMDY3MDlkYzg4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc1NTYyMjg@._V1_UY268_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Western Australia, some time after the battle of Gallipoli has started but long before it has ended. A farmer’s son, Archy (Mark Lee), is learning from his uncle (Bill Kerr) how to be a great sprinter. He is blond and handsome and 18. We also immediately learn that, in addition to being fast and a good big brother, he is not racist. Also, of course, and against the wishes of his family and the Australian government, he wishes to join the light cavalry.

A drifter, Frank (Mel Gibson), loses his last twenty pounds betting on himself to beat Archy in a footrace. They are both extremely fast. Fate throws them together, and by various schemes and long desert treks, Archy fails to get Frank into the light cavalry as Frank cannot ride a horse. Archy, because he is desperately too nice, feels bad about this. But Frank is skint so he and his laughably Australian friends join the infantry.

Naturally, Frank and Archy both end up at Gallipoli, as many men from Western Australia did, and also naturally, as speedsters, they end up as runners when the telephones give out, which is always. They are there under the command of Major Barton (Bill Hunter, in the first sympathetic rôle in which I’ve ever seen him), whose wife has sent him off with a kiss and a bottle of champagne to drink on their anniversary.

I need hardly tell you that this does not go well. Watches are not synchronized. Artillery bombardments are inadequate. Major Barton does not wait until his anniversary to drink his bubbles. Communications go down. Self-sacrifice breaks out like a rash. Everybody dies.

Do you need an odd-couple story to make Gallipoli sad? No. Is this one pretty well done? Yes.

Director: Peter Weir
Rating: PG
Length: 110 minutes
Score: 4/5

They did, in fact, make a movie based on the game Battleship, and I have, in fact, seen it more than once. And it is awful but compelling. There are aliens. There is Hot Tim Riggins. There is Rihanna for some reason. And there is the USS Missouri.

The premise? Aliens come to Earth, and they isolate the Hawai’ian islands and knock out communications. So they must be destroyed within the little impregnable dome they have made in the Pacific, by people who are already there, with the help of tsunami buoys, which make a helpful grid. Also Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch, who is probably named something, but in a movie this silly I can’t even care at all) is possibly pissing away his Navy career but also dating the Admiral’s (Liam Neeson, for no reason whatsoever) daughter (Brooklyn Decker).

MV5BMjI5NTM5MDA2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjkwMzQxNw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_So, like, it’s a game of Battleship, and also there is ludicrous romantic drama.

Now! For a change! The girl has stuff to do! She finds nerds and veterans to help her fight the aliens on the island while Hot Tim Riggins is fighting the aliens at sea. Hot Tim Riggins has with him both Landry (Jesse Plemons, and, yes, again, I’m sure he has a name in this movie but it doesn’t matter) and Rihanna. He also has the assistance of the Japanese Navy in the person of Tadanobu Asano.

You may be wondering how you could possibly have a movie called Battleship in a time when the Navy no longer uses them. And then you may recall that this movie takes place around Hawai’i. And you may recall that the USS Missouri is berthed, still, in Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor. And you may manage to ignore that her engines are gone and her guns are full of cement. And if you do all these things, you will love this movie, because the payoff is incredible.

Is this a good movie? No, it is not a good movie. It is asinine and ridiculous and a feature-length advertisement for the United States Navy. But it is also relentlessly gleeful and it knows exactly what it is doing, and it is so, so watchable.

Director: Peter Berg
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes
Score: unrateable. amazing.

MV5BOTM2NTI3NTc3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzM1OTQyNTM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Solo: A Star Wars Story is basically Space Oliver Twist followed by Space Any Double-Cross Movie. Maybe particularly that later Pirates of the Caribbean movie that didn’t make any sense. That is: Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) grows up in a gang of thieves led by a disgusting worm, and then he escapes to the glamor of smuggling, via the army. Since it is directed by Ron Howard, it at least resembles, in many useful ways, a film.

Also there is a girl, Kira (Emilia Clarke). Oh, sorry. Qi’ra.

Oh man. I was lukewarm on her until I realized her name was stupid for no reason, and now I hate her. She starts out also as one Fagin’s Lady Proxima’s gang, but she does. not. escape. She is forced to enter a life of misery and crime and large jewelry as organized crime honcho Dryden Vos’s (Paul Bettany) right hand lady. She and Han of course meet again, and this is most of the movie.

But first Han has to enter his own life of crime, via a small gang of smugglers: Beckett (Woody Harrelson), Val (Thandie Newton), and Rio (Jon Favreau). They are disposable, but they teach him valuable lessons about trust and introduce him to Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Lando still owns the Millennium Falcon (with all her upholstery and other, you know, useful parts), and dresses like it’s the sexy space-70s. Billy Dee Williams should be extremely flattered. Lando is the best part of this movie, because Donald Glover appears to be having the time of his life, and his character makes sense.

The women in this movie are okay. At least they dress more or less appropriately to context, so that’s a step forward on The Last Jedi. There may be a fleeting moment when the film passes the Bechdel test, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as an angry rebellious droid provides almost the right amount of moderately intelligent humor and social commentary (she is worse than K-2SO, but that’s a hard act to follow).

It was fine. I don’t think it was necessary. Sure, it’s neat to meet Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), but I already knew about as much about Han’s past as I wanted. Ugh. Why was there a girl? Just give me Han, Chewbacca, and Lando. I would watch hours of that.

Stray observations (Spoilers):

  • Darth Maul? Why.
  • Han’s surname is made up on the fly by a bored Imperial pencil-pusher. Possibly I love this.
  • I want Edna Mode to talk to Lando about his wardrobe.

Director: Ron Howard
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes
Score: 3/5

“Disney made a movie about Polynesia” is not a sentence calculated to get me to buy a ticket. “Jemaine Clement plays a giant evil crab” might have done better, but no one told me.

MV5BMjI4MzU5NTExNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY1MTEwMDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Moana is really good. It’s simple, compelling, and well-executed. Also gorgeous. A young Polynesian woman (Auli’i Cravalho) is raised to be the chief of her island. She has a kooky and mystical grandmother (the inimitable Rachel House), a cute pig, and a very stupid chicken. Then things on the island start to die, and Moana must go on a quest to restore the heart (a small jade token) to the goddess Te Fiti. To do this, she enlists the help of the demigod Maui. Who is played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Obviously.

He is arrogant and hilarious; she is naïve but plucky.  They encounter monsters, gods, and the ocean, which is usually on their side but also can get tetchy. The best of these is a giant crab called Tamatoa, who is the god of something or other and is voiced side-splittingly by Jemaine Clement.

Romance at no point enters the story, even in negation. This is markedly better than the treatment in Brave or Frozen. In fact, across the board Moana is much more the girl-power film those were trying to be. And as far as I can tell it’s not racist.

Stray observations:

  • Like, Moana, I’m excited for your freedom and self-actualization and stuff but you literally don’t know how to handle an out-rigger and it was stupid to steal one and head off by yourself.
  • The coconut pirates are baffling and unnecessary.
  • “Oh, I see. She’s taken a barnacle, and she’s covered it in bioluminescent algae. As a diversion.”

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
Rating: PG
Length: 107 minutes
Score: 4/5

MV5BYWY5ZjhjNGYtZmI2Ny00ODM0LWFkNzgtZmI1YzA2N2MxMzA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_.jpgThis movie is perfect.

In it, you watch a man go mad as European empires destroy the Middle East on purpose.

It is not happy.

T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole, terrifyingly young and beautiful) is seconded from his minor post in an office in Cairo to the Arab revolt against the Turks, under Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness). His companions in this are Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), whom we meet when he shoots, sight unseen, a man drinking from one of his wells, and Harry Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who puts in a masterful performance as a stolid and unimaginative British soldier. There are some higher-ups about, as well: General Allenby (Jack Hawkins) and the éminence grise Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains, who incidentally lets you get from Humphrey Bogart to Orlando Bloom in three moves).

There to help you with the difficult bits is an American reporter (Arthur Kennedy), who asks Lawrence pertinent questions to which he can give dotty answers, and documents the whole spectacular swashbuckling thing.

And it is spectacular. Lawrence swans about in white robes, his followers achieve the impossible, and even the Army in Cairo gives grudging and then unstinting respect. Then of course it goes badly and the War barrels towards its close and we, Lawrence, and Harry watch Dryden mention a Mr. Sykes and a Mr. Picot and Feisal make one or two extremely cutting remarks and it is emotionally draining.

No expense was spared in the production and it is splendid. The soundtrack you have heard and it it is great. The film is slow, but this is not old-fashioned pacing; it is meant to convey the distances and the desperation. Nowadays Alec Guinness would not be cast as Prince Feisal nor Anthony Quinn as Auda; this is certainly some sort of victory but not necessarily a cinematic one. Sir Alec in particular is just really good in the role. He gets most of the best lines.

The story-telling is superb. It is surprisingly lacking in both moralizing and melodrama, but your sympathies are constantly shifting. Lawrence, from naïve but attractive, becomes horrible yet still compelling. Ali, who kills a man before you meet him, becomes in some ways the moral center of the piece. And Harry–watch Harry.

Stray observations:

  • What, in your opinion, do these people hope to gain from this war?” “They hope to gain their freedom. …Freedom.”
  • It is technically rated PG, but it is worse than that for anyone with a rudimentary imagination and sense of humanity.
  • Possibly I recommend breaking it over two days, both for convenience and palatability.
  • This is my favorite movie, and I think it is the best movie ever made.

Director: Sir David Lean
Rating: PG
Length: 216 minutes
Score: 5/5, but also unrateable

Remember when this movie came out? It was kind of a while ago and it’s difficult to recall my feelings on it. Wait, no it’s not. I loved it. I loved new Q. I loved Ralph Fiennes. I loved the Barbour jacket. I loved the theme song. I loved the old Aston.

Most of all, I loved that it wasn’t Quantum of Solace.

MV5BNDVhZmJiYWMtNmIzMC00ZWNiLTkzZDYtNGNlZmViMGM4OGExXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTIzOTk5ODM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_But it turns out that this isn’t actually good, just by virtue of not being a steaming pile of garbage. Yes, it has everything you want out of a Bond movie: hot car, casino, some crack shooting, a fight on top of a train, rivers of booze. Many of these things it has more than once, as an apology for its precursor.

And therein lies the problem: this movie has far too many acts, even for a Bond movie. By my count, we have:

  • Istanbul
  • drunken obscurity
  • London
  • Shanghai
  • Macau
  • dumb island
  • London redux
  • the A-9
  • the Highlands

That is too much. Combine Shanghai and Macau. Leave out the dumb island. Maybe spend less time not eating scorpions in drunken obscurity. Or give the girl there at least one line.

Then you have time to spend on new Q (Ben Whishaw), who is a delight. Of course Q is now a tiny nerd! And time for the rest of MI-6, Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who inject a pleasingly average Britishness and a velvety steel respectively. I suppose you can also spend time on Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), but please let it be different time, and please let it be less sad, somehow. Old Moneypenny was less sad, possibly because she had less of a chance? I don’t know, but fix it.

Other than that, fine. Silva (Javier Bardem) is menacing; his face is weird and off-putting even when all of it is there. Severine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe) is very tall and very beautiful, so that’s nice. Kincade (Albert Finney) is old and great and dresses exclusively in Barbour. Judi Dench denches it up, and is magnificent because of course she is.

Oh: and Adele. Adele is perfect. Yelly, ballady, incomprehensible. Perfect Bond song.

Stray observations:

  • The elevator is cool and all but that’s a borderline Mission: Impossible stunt and these new Bonds are supposed to be vaguely within the realms of possibility.
  • Cut the shaving scene. Burn it with fire. It is nauseating and unsexy and unnecessary.
  • During M’s scene with Mallory, early in the film, the continuity people blow it badly with her briefcase. I noticed in the cinema.
  • What is the health and/or life insurance like as a henchman? Because I’m going to go with “not good enough.”

Director: Sam Mendes
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes, which is solidly half an hour too long
Score: 3/5