The Morning After: Jan. 15, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Proud Mary

Somewhere within the shoddy framework that is Proud Mary, there’s an interesting concept trying to struggle out. As a member of the Boston Mafia, Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is becoming disillusioned and wants to get out. When she saves a young boy from the clutches of a rival mob family, instigating a war between her house and theirs, Mary finds the time to get free is imminent.

Proud Mary‘s first trailer made the film seem more like a type of espionage thriller than a mob film. While there are elements alike, I would have preferred seeing Henson as a secret agent. In this role, she’s good, as she always is, but the material is bargain-basement filmmaking. The first twenty minutes are incredibly choppy, cobbled together from too little collected footage. The scenes skip between themselves like poorly-edited form cuts, jarring the audience at regular intervals. While the clumsy filmmaking continues as the film does, the raw edges smooth out a bit and we’re left experiencing a plot that’s thin and frustratingly predictable.

The only section of the film that works is one in which Mary annihilates the goons inside a warehouse, all to Tina Turner’s signature title tune. The cast is serviceable, but unimpressive and director Babak Najafi doesn’t seem to know where he should keep or abandon scenes, making the one-hour-twenty-nine-minute film feel like it’s stretched beyond the breaking point.

Mamma Mia!

ABBA is the quintessential disco group that delivered some of the most familiar and memorable dance tracks of the 1970s and early 1980s. As part of the Jukebox Musical trend that has taken Broadway by storm and continues to entrance it, it should surprise no one that the film has made a transfer to the big screen and that’s not a decision for the better.

Starring Meryl Streep as a middle-aged mother raising her daughter (Amanda Seyfried) alone, the films urrounds Seyfried’s pending nuptials and her attempt to figure out who her father is by inviting the three men she slept with twenty years prior to the wedding. When the three show up (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard), she tries to figure out which is her father while her mother tries to figure out how to get rid of them.

Co-starring Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, and Dominic Cooper, the stage-to-screen adaptation may be set on a Greek island, but it often feels like it’s cobbled together on a poorly lit sound stage with cheap backdrops and the occasional remote filming session. Streep is frantic and disorienting in her passable vocal renderings, feeling more out of place than she ever has. Baranski and Walter try to enjoy themselves, but their clunky dialogue and staging is completely unflattering. The less said about the awful musical talents of Brosnan, Firth, and Skarsgard the better.

What feels like a film made on a dare, or for the actors, for a paycheck, Mamma Mia! tried desperately to cash in on the stage musical’s success, but the end result is a haphazard, dull, frustrating affair with plenty of the ABBA music we love without any of the emotional resonance of the pieces themselves. While this kind of material might be sensational on a live stage, on the big screen, it’s cluttered and clumsy without a suitable sense of style, presence, grandeur, or excitement.

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