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Movie Review: “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a Musical Delight

Image result for mamma mia 2 poster

The whole Mamma Mia gang is back! But this time we’re looking back to see how it all started.

Ten years ago the first “Mamma Mia!” introduced us to Donna (Meryl Streep) and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). At the time, Sophie was engaged to her then fiancée Sky (Dominic Cooper), and wanted to know her father was so that he could attend the wedding. Given that there were three possible candidates, she invited all three of her mother’s past lovers, Sam, Harry, and Bill (Pierce Brosnon, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard) to her wedding. After meeting the three men, they fall in love with Sophie and they all commit to being her father.

Now in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” Sophie is pregnant and this sparks a stroll down memory lane. Flashbacks allow us to see when her mother met her fathers, and how it eventually led to her birth. Right after college, young Donna (Lily James) decides to take a European trip. Along the way she runs into a much younger Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). All three newcomers do a fantastic job and leave lasting impressions.

But it’s Lily James who steals the show with her striking beauty and incredible voice. Who knew this girl could sing!? James’ energy and charisma leaps off the screen. However, she’s not the only one with popping vocals. Amanda Seyfried continues to sing with voice of a Disney Princess, and her on screen Grandma played by the one and only, Cher, brings down the whole house with her powerful vocals.

The only thing more stunning than the music was the setting in Greece. The crystal blue waters and landscape is eye candy to even someone who doesn’t care about what else is going on.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a film that moves quickly. Since we are given brief moments in about a song length capacity with each man Donna meets, the film never lags. Although, I would not have minded seeing a longer storyline between young Donna and Sam. James’ and Irvine’s romantic chemistry makes us realize why the two characters immediately fall for each other again in the first film.

Though the plot is corny and the random bursts into song can be cheesy at times, it just doesn’t matter. Take “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” for what it is; and that’s a fun, toe-tapping musical that everyone can enjoy.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opens in theaters July 20.

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Interview: Greg Berlanti, Nick Robinson and Alexandra Shipp talk “Love, Simon”

There’s a reason why “Love, Simon” is getting so much love.  The film is a charming coming-of-age story that everyone can relate to.  It’s one of my favorite movies of the year and I was thrilled to get a chance to sit down with director Greg Berlanti, and stars, Nick Robinson and Alexandra Shipp.  We discussed the pros/cons of social media, best romantic spots, what kind of characters they’d like to see represented in big studio movies and more!

“Love, Simon” is playing in theaters everywhere.

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Interview: Kumail Nanjiani talks “The Big Sick”

Boy meets girl, they fall in love, and then girl is put into a medically-induced coma? This isn’t your typical love story, but trust us, it’s a good one! “The Big Sick” is being hailed as the best romantic comedy of the decade. I sat down with co-writer and star, Kumail Nanjiani, to talk about the film.  The film is based on the true story of how Kumail and his wife ended up together.

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“The Big Sick” opens nationwide July 14!

Movie Review: “Aloha” is an Unsatisfying Trip to Hawaii

It’s hard to believe that the man who brought us Say Anything and Jerry McGuire could have made such a disappointing flop. Director Cameron Crowe may not be on any winning streak with his previous films, but they still always managed to convey some kind of genuine emotion that left the audience somewhat satisfied. However, in his recent passion project, Crowe misses the mark completely. Aloha never quite finds its direction and is layered with a mess of undeveloped subplots.

In Aloha, Bradley Cooper stars as Brian Gilcrest, a jaded military contractor who was wounded and shamed by an incident in Afghanistan. When he is given a second chance to redeem himself, he must return to Hawaii and face a past love (Rachel McAdams) and a potential new one (Emma Stone).

Gilcrest is assigned to be looked after by air force pilot, Allison Ng (Stone). The two butt heads for about 10 seconds before they realize their immediate attraction towards each other. Their bickering soon turns into a fest of them giving each other googley eyes. All the while, Gilcrest has reconnected with his ex-lover, Tracy Woodside (McAdams), who is now married with two children.  One of whom strikes an uncanny resemblance to him. Hmmm, interesting? Tracy is married to the non-speaking, John “Woody” Woodside (John Krasinski). His lack of communication is used as a running joke throughout the film, but eventually wears thin as it gradually goes from funny to absurd.

With the quick set up of this love triangle, you would think we’d been introduced to the film’s central focus. But you’d be wrong. Sadly, there is no central focus. This story takes you in so many different directions, that by the second half of the movie you just don’t care what it’s about anymore.

Aloha’s crutch might have to do with its crowded all-star cast. Alongside Cooper, Stone, McAdams, and Krasinski; the film does its best to try and make Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, and Danny McBride relevant to the story. The movie would have probably worked better if we got to see four people discovering themselves through an appropriate amount of development, but instead it is ruined by unnecessary characters involved in a ridiculous and forced subplot: Gilcrest’s expertise is required for a controversial rocket-launching headed by an eccentric billionaire, Carson Welch (Murray) and General Dixon (Baldwin) of the U.S. government.  Who cares?  Exactly!

Honestly, I would have much rather delved into what seemed like a gut-wrenched relationship between Tracy and Woody. Why doesn’t Woody talk? How are they going to fix their problems? It might have led to similar topics we’ve seen before, but there were a lot of layers within the Woodside family that I would have liked to peel.

There is a silver lining to this wreck of a movie.  What starts out sloppy and confusing does eventually conclude well and ties all loose ends. It’s just unfortunate that any resolution to the plot feels underwhelming, as the audience is never allowed to truly anticipate a climax.

Though Aloha features a strong cast and entertaining soundtrack that blends well with the beautifully captured scenery of Hawaii, the film can’t recover from the disorienting first act and the struggle to find its identity.

Rating: 2.5/5

Aloha opens in theaters May 29.

“Aloha” Official Trailer HD

Finding “The One”-Top 5 Films that put your Love Life in Perspective

Are you looking for “The One” this Valentine’s Day?  Or maybe, you’ve already found that person.  In honor of this heart-filled holiday, I’ve made a list of the top 5 films that can put your love life in perspective.  These films are geared toward everyone, whether you’re in a relationship or not.  For couples, these movies could shed light on issues you may be having, or just make you appreciate that special someone in your life.  For singles, this list can maybe help you better understand what you’re realistically looking for in a relationship.  Either way, all 5 romantic movies are great choices to watch this V-Day.

Here’s what I take away from these films…

5. Don Jon (2013)

Listen and Connect

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon, discusses how the media can often lead us to objectify people and treat them more like things instead of humans.  A lot of times movies and television can give us a false expectation of what we’re looking for in a partner.  Though it can be fascinating to watch a Hollywood romance or adult films, we must separate fantasy from reality.  Maybe the person you’re dating or crushing on fits the mold of what you expect in a partner, but is it really what you want?  Truly listen to that person and make sure you connect with them on both, a psychical and emotional level. (Don Jon is currently available to stream on Netflix)

4. Ruby Sparks (2012)

Nobody’s Perfect

We’ve almost all had that check list which bullet points the requirements for our partners.  Whether it’s based on their looks, or their jobs, or even their sense of humor, it DOES NOT matter.  That list needs to be deleted from your brain.  We have no idea what we want until we meet “that someone.”  Ruby Sparks is about a novelist (Paul Dano) who writes an ideal female character (Zoe Kazan) that comes to life overnight.  The film focuses on how there is no perfect person.  Part of really loving someone is seeing their imperfections and dealing with them in a way that isn’t bothersome to you.  When you wish your partner was a different way, it can actually speak more about something in you.

3. 500 Days of Summer (2009)

Different Points of View

I’m aware I’ve referenced this film a few times for my top 5 lists, but that’s only because you can take away so many lessons from the story and characters.   In 500 Days of Summer, Tom (Gordon-Levitt) believes his entire relationship with Summer (Deschanel), up until they break up, was perfect.  He’s in love and she’s almost so clearly not.   I truly believe the cruelest feeling we can experience is strongly caring for someone who doesn’t reciprocate that same feeling.  It makes you wonder how it was even possible to have those feelings in the first place.  Unfortunately, people are stuck in this situation all the time.  In the film, Tom copes with his heartache by reflecting back and noticing the signs.  For the most part, entering a relationship shouldn’t be that complicated, both people need be on the same page.  If one person is stalling to commit, then he or she may not be right for you.

2. TiMER (2009)

Do you Believe in Soul Mates?

If you could install a device that counts down the exact moment you’re going to meet your soul mate, would you want to?  Oona (Emma Caulfield) got one.  Only problem is her TiMER is blank, meaning her soul mate hasn’t yet signed up for the service.  This film raises the question of whether or not you believe that there is ONE perfect person out there for each of us.  And for those who have doubts in their own relationships, do you think there is someone else out there better suited for you?  Though very few have heard of this movie, TiMER is a charming, thought-provoking story that everyone should make time for.  (TiMER is currently available to stream on Netflix)

1. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Life is Too Short

I’m sure many people don’t want to ball their eyes out this Valentine’s Day, but I assure you The Fault in Our Stars is much more than a movie about teens with cancer.   Gus (Ansel Elgort) and Hazel’s (Shailene Woodley) inspiring, genuine love story reminds us to make the most of each day.  In a romantic aspect, life is too short to not be with someone you care about.  If you’re lucky enough to truly fall in love, then don’t take that love for granted.  Because even if it’s short-lived, you won’t regret the time spent with each other.

Quick Review: “Laggies” Charms But Only Scratches the Surface of Its Alluring Premise

Director: Lynn Shelton

Writer: Andrea Seigel

Stars: Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell

In the throes of a quarter-life crisis, Megan (Keira Knightley) panics when her boyfriend proposes.  Taking an opportunity to escape for a week, she hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), who lives with her world-weary single dad (Sam Rockwell).

“Laggies” tells a familiar tale of kids trying to grow up too fast, and adults trying to avoid growing up at all.

Moretz continues to appeal with her charismatic performances, while Knightley manages to transition from annoyingly naive to endearingly confused.  And Sam Rockwell, who is best known for playing the slacker (i.e. The Way, Way Back), takes on the role of a mature adult that’s pushing everyone else to grow up.

Overall “Laggies” is a cute film, especially during a time where the most intense Oscar baits are being released.  It is just frustrating when a story fails to reach its potential of being more than the typical “chick flick.”  Had the film dug a little deeper with Megan and explored the concept of why a woman is still acting like a child in a slightly more serious light, this movie could have been a real stand out.  Instead, “Laggies” chooses to be content with being a fun, yet average Rom-Com.

“Laggies” opens in theaters November 7.

 

Movie Review: “What If…”- A Conventional Rom-Com with Irresistibly Charming Characters

In Daniel Radcliffe’s latest film, he swaps sorcery for romance and faces his toughest challenge yet- burying his true feelings for the girl that could be “the one.”

What’s being deemed as this year’s 500 Days of Summer is the story of Wallace (Radcliffe), a med school dropout who’s given up on love after a string of failed relationships and Chantry (Zoe Kazan), the potential girl of his dreams.  The two meet at a party and have an immediate connection.  Their spark is quickly extinguished, however, when Chantry mentions her boyfriend.  Regardless of the circumstances, Wallace would rather have Chantry in his life as friend than not all.  It’s an awkward challenge for both of them as they are faced with the age-old question: Can a guy and girl just be friends?

I have to say, right off the bat, that What If… is incomparable to 500 Days of Summer.  I can see how the characters may correlate from the two films.  But as a love story, writer Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now) continues to be in a league of his own.  What If… does not provide any sort of originality in its narrative; in fact it’s about as formulaic as they come.  But thanks to the film’s charismatic cast, the movie is surprisingly pleasurable the whole way through.

Zoe Kazan is rapidly becoming the queen of the indie flick world, with films like her offbeat romance, Ruby Sparks and her dark comedy, The Pretty One.  She brings a refreshing flair to every character she plays.  And who knew Harry Potter could slide into the quick-witted male lead with such ease.  What comes as no surprise is the scene-stealing Adam Driver, who plays Allen, Wallace’s best friend who also happens to be Chantry’s cousin.  Allen is the uproarious link that caused their initial interaction. Frankly, I would have rather watched Allen’s romance with Nicole (MacKenzie Davis), an outspoken, sexually driven wild-child that actually meets Allen at the same party where Chantry and Wallace first met.  Nicole and Allen handle their immediate connection through a more spontaneous route, skipping all the usual steps of a regular relationship.

What If…easily outweighs in comparison to the other cliché Katherine Heigl disasters we’ve endured.  But given its subject matter and the potential this story had, I can’t help but be slightly disappointed with the entirety of the film.  So many movies try to tackle the “just friends” premise, but only rarely do they pull off the complexity and authentic emotion behind a friendship that has more than platonic feelings.  If you’re looking for that kind of story, I suggest you watch Drinking Buddies; it’s one of the few that flawlessly explored a true test of whether or not men and women can just be friends.

The great message here, and what is really the central focus of this film, is how when you’re lucky enough to find that instant connection with someone, is it best to wait it out and see where it goes, or do you jump on your feelings and take a risk before you miss an opportunity?

What If…is an undoubtedly cute, quirky, romantic comedy that most audiences will enjoy.

Rating: 3/5

“What If…” Official Trailer HD

Movie Review: “Obvious Child” is One of the Best Films of the Year!

Jenny Slate gives a breakthrough performance in an authentic romantic comedy that touches on the daring topic of abortion.

Brilliantly written/directed by Gillian Robespierre and based on her feature short from 2009, Obvious Child tells the story of, Donna (Slate), a twenty-something stand-up comic who seems to be perfectly content with her life.  But after her boyfriend dumps her to be with one of her “good” friends, she learns that when it rains, it pours.  Within a week she has not only lost the man in her life, but also her job. So like any woman who is going through an emotional crisis, she decides to indulge in a careless night of drinking.  That night she meets Max (Jake Lacy), a straight-laced honest to God good guy.  They engage in a one-night stand that was never meant to be anything more.  However, three weeks later Donna discovers she is pregnant and plans to get an abortion.  But she is conflicted when Max reappears in her life and wants nothing more than to take her out on a “proper date.”

Though Obvious Child deals with a sensitive subject that most people have strong opinions on, it is important to understand that there is so much more to this story.  It’s about finally facing the reality of being independent for the first time. Donna must make tough decisions that she would otherwise avoid.  Like the film quote says “creative energy can sometimes come at the lowest point your life.”  Regardless of the circumstances, audiences can relate to this film when remembering a dark time that forced you to start over.

Slate is best known for  SNL, Parks and Rec, and many more comedic roles.  Once audiences watch this film, Jenny Slate will be remembered for this incredible, uplifting performance that will make you laugh and ache.  She shares a refreshing on-screen chemistry with Jake Lacy, as the two portray a awkwardly genuine relationship.

Donna doesn’t go through her troubles alone.  She is supported by loving friends and family that chime in with advice and counsel.  She has her English professor mother (Polly Draper), her puppeteer father (Richard Kind), and her best friend/roommate (Gaby Hoffman).

This story is not meant to offend anyone and it doesn’t try to change your beliefs on the topic at hand.  The film just shows the point of view of a woman who solely handles the decisions of a serious situation in a light manner.  I highly recommend this movie, as it is my favorite of the year so far.  Obvious Child is smart, witty, hilarious, and unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Obvious Child hits select theaters June 20.

Rating: 5/5

Interview with Jenny Slate and Gillian Robespierre

obvious child

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com

Movie Review: “Blended” is Nothing more than a Desirable Trip to Africa

Let’s begin with the real star of this film, Africa!  It is one of the most beautiful locations to visit for either a romantic getaway or a fun-filled family vacation.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about this generic romantic comedy that sadly does no favors for Happy Madison productions.

We’ve grown accustomed to Adam Sandler’s raunchy and outlandish sense of humor, which for a good period of time produced authentic comedies.   Recently, Sandler’s projects have been quite the disappointment.  Obviously it’s hard to top Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore, but among his past flubs there are some truly wonderful classics.  The Wedding Singer is easily one of his greater films.  It’s the first time we got see an enchanting blend of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.  The chemistry was there, and I don’t blame Sandler for wanting to continue making movies with the adorable comedic actress.  Seven years after their first collaboration, they reunited for the off-beat comedy, 50 First Dates.  Given this was such a unique story and their chemistry was slightly apparent, I would categorize 50 First Dates in the “wonderful classics” pile.  Not my favorite, but definitely a memorable romantic comedy.  Now, after nine years since their second film, the two have joined forces once again for their new family rom-com, Blended.

After Jim (Adam Sandler) and Lauren (Drew Barrymore) endure a horrible blind date they hope to never cross paths again.  Jim a widowed father with 3 girls is still grieving his deceased wife.   Lauren a divorced mother with 2 boys just wants to bring romance back into her life.  While dealing with their own personal issues, they make sure to put their kids’ happiness first.  So when they get the chance to vacation in a luxurious African resort, the single parents jump at the opportunity hoping their kids will be thrilled.  Unfortunately they have been suckered into a family “blending” vacation, purposely meant to bring families closer together.  Oh no!  But they hate each other… I think you can already see where this is going.

Blended is not as bad as the trailers make it look, especially if you compare it to movies like Jack and Jill or That’s My Boy.  It’s a cute film. The problem is there isn’t anything special about this story to make it stand out.  In fact, his flubs may stand out more just because they were that bad.  This is a forced love story with the most cliché subplots, and the expected slap-stick moments.  The climax had to be the weakest turning point I’ve seen in any romantic comedy.

I did enjoy seeing Adam Sandler play a loving father for once.  And though he and Barrymore still play off each other well, they seemed to have lost their romantic spark in this film.  All the kids did a nice job.   Bella Thorne (Shake It Up) had some laugh out loud moments as the tomboy daughter desperate to show her feminine side.  Terry Crews (White Chicks) makes for some chuckles as the ultra-exuberant, wide-eyed, muscled lead singer of the resort’s Thathoo Harmony Group.  Also, keep an eye out for some familiar faces you’ll recognize from the stars’ past two films.

Blended is a sweet and at times heartfelt film that is exceptionally fun while watching, but when it’s over you’ll remember the scenery and not necessarily the scenes.

Rating: 2.5/5

Blended hits theaters May 23.

 “Blended” Official Trailer HD

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com

Movie Review: “The Other Woman” is an Irritating Farfetched Story with a Few Laughs

Going into this comedy, I expected to see an adult version of John Tucker Must Die.  However, the idea that teenage girls in high school would team up to get back at the same boyfriend is a much more believable plot than the friendship that is developed in The Other Woman.

Carly (Cameron Diaz) has finally found the perfect man to settle down with.  Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is handsome, charming, and successful.  Only one problem…he’s married!  A shocking surprise for Carly when she makes an unexpected visit to Mark’s home and comes to find his wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), answering the door.  Eventually Kate realizes her husband is a two-timing, no wait, THREE-TIMING cheater.  That’s right.  Mark has a busty, blonde-bombshell on the side as well.  Queue super model and now “actress” Kate Upton for her Baywatch-style slow motion run.   In almost no time at all, the three women become besties and plot to take down the lying scum bag.

For the most part, we have seen this similar story-line before.  I do appreciate the attempt at originality in The Other Woman, but it’s difficult to stay fully engaged when you don’t care about the characters.  It’s clear that first time screen-writer, Melissa Stack, favored her character, Carly.  Cameron Diaz is the only reason I wanted to see this film through.  She is the only normal and smart woman in the movie.  There still could have been more development in her character, but seeing as how the other two women drove me completely nuts; Diaz is a breath of fresh air.  In fact, I would have rather just followed her small romantic story-line with Kate’s brother (Taylor Kinney).

It should come as no surprise that Kate Upton has not grown into her full acting potential, if she has any that is.  Each time she delivered a line, it was as if she had to think twice afterwards to make sure it came out correctly.  Although, I will admit, she is gorgeous. All you guys who get dragged along to see the movie will have some nice eye candy to help endure this disaster.

What I didn’t expect was how unbelievably bothered I would be by Leslie Mann’s character.  She was the reason I wanted to see The Other Woman in the first place.  Honestly, there were moments where I almost didn’t blame Mark for cheating on her…almost.  Why did they have to make her such an annoying and half-witted wife?  As if smart and successful women don’t get cheated on ever.  Kate’s only redeeming quality is that she is sweet.  Other than that factor, it is hard to root for her.  Her character is weak, a crybaby, and fails at producing any genuine jokes.  Her attempt at a “funny” repetitive ramble comes off pointless and dragged out.   And to think that she would have no friends of her own, that she would need to resort to her husband’s “other women” is just sad.

If most of the film was more about seeking revenge on a womanizer, The Other Woman could have been a decent fun comedy.  However, wasting the first half of the film on these three women trying to bond and confirm what they already know: Mark is a cheating bastard, does no favors for this inevitable flop.

The potential was there.  Had the film provided different characters and maybe a better central focus, it could have followed in its clever and humorous predecessors, The First Wives Club or John Tucker Must Die.   In a movie about girls uniting together to get back at the man that’s wronged them, these two films managed to give audiences laughs, a yearning for revenge, and maybe what was truly missing from The Other Woman, a heart-felt friendship.

Rating: 1.5/5

The Other Woman hits theaters April 25.

 The Other Woman Trailer HD

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com