Stellan Skarsgård

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

As Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepares to open the hotel on a Greek island like her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) always dreamed of doing, she learns about how her mother as a young woman (Lily James) discovered the island and found love and heartache along the way.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the sequel to the hit 2008 film Mamma Mia! and it manages to be a sequel and a prequel at the same time. Nearly the entire cast of the original film are back, and their chemistry is just as good all these years later. There’s some fun editions too with Andy Garcia as the hotel manager and Cher as Sophie’s grandmother. The young cast all do a fantastic job of bringing their own take to the characters we already know. Lily James has big boots to fill with Donna, but she is great as a young Donna who is fun, adventurous and loving. The moment when she starts singing “Mamma Mia!” when she’s broken hearted but then turns it into a moment of strength and joy is infectious.

The songs here are a mixture of the well-known ABBA songs, a lot of which were naturally featured in the first film, and some lesser-known B-sides but they were no less enjoyable. There’s a combination of sad songs and the toe tapping feel-good songs that will have you dancing in your seat. The songs, the drama and the characters all come together to make Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just as entertaining as the first film.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a love letter to the relationship between Sophie and Donna. They have such a wonderful mother/daughter relationship and this film manages to make you cry over them. It’s beautiful to have this relationship being the heart of the film, and the story works so well because both characters don’t have to be on screen for you to see how much they mean to one another.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is also very funny. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters are scene-stealers as Donna’s best friends Tanya and Rosie, and their younger counterparts Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies are also brilliantly funny.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a film that plays with all your emotions. It’s surprisingly sad and touching at times but overall it is a funny and joyful film that makes you forget that the real world isn’t all blue skies and dance numbers for the moment. 5/5.

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REVIEW: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

When Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) becomes possessed by an ancient and powerful entity known as the Aether, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must team up with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to protect her from the genocidal Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who wants the Aether to throw the Nine Realms into darkness.

Thor: The Dark World finds Loki in prison for his crimes against Earth and his relationship with Thor is put to the test when he is the only one who can get them off Asgard undetected. Loki continues to be one of the most interesting and complex characters in the MCU. The one thing you can guarantee Loki to be is untrustworthy but the way that presents itself is still surprising.

While the Dark Elves do look aesthetically cool and somewhat intimidating, that doesn’t make them good or compelling villains. Malekith has no motivation besides turning the universe into darkness because that’s what he and his people thrive on, not matter the effects on different people. A lack of a decent villain makes this a typical end of the world type story. Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Malekith’s second in command, is reduced to a henchman and offers little opportunity for Akinnuoye-Agbaje to show how good an actor he is.

A nice call-back to the events in The Avengers is, like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, the fact that Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is suffering from having a God in his head. This reminds us that while the main heroes and villains of this story are Gods and monsters, there are humans here that have very human reactions to the fantastical things they face.

Thor is almost second fiddle to most of the characters in Thor: The Dark World despite being the titular character. Loki proves to be the more interesting and funny brother while Jane Foster saves the day with science. Still, Thor is suitably heroic and the final battle between him and Malekith is both funny and thrilling, thanks to the laws of physics being turned onto their head.

Thor: The Dark World is a more serious film, it even has a darker palette and it definitely likes that mouldy green colour that’s almost ever-present. It still has sprinkles of humour throughout and some good action sequences but it’s an average outing for Thor. 3/5.

REVIEW: Thor (2011)

After Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) reckless behaviour, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him from their home in Asgard, to live amongst humans on Earth. There he must learn to be a better man and face his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Thor combines the action and adventure of superhero films with royal family feuds. Thor is a Prince and so is his brother Loki, but Loki has forever been in Thor’s shadow and wants to be seen as his brothers equal in their father’s eyes. Loki is a fascinating character and is one of the best villains in the MCU. His jealousy over his brother is justified from what you see and when its revealed how his father has been lying to him all his life, his actions are somewhat understandable, although very misguided.

On Earth, Thor meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends and colleagues Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). They attempt to show him how things are on Earth which allows for many fish out of water scenarios for Thor which are played brilliantly by Hemsworth. Thor is a more serious film, but its humour comes from its characters in a really honest and unforced way.

Thor’s fantastical elements come from the idea that science and magic are one and the same. The scene where Thor explains how he see’s the universe to Jane helps to fully ground Thor and his people in the everyday world Jane, and us as the viewers, inhabits.

Asgard is a beautiful place. The camera work along with the tech wizards who brought Asgard to life, show off this world in all its glory. The score helps with that too. Composed by Patrick Doyle the score is as magical and epic as it should be, and is worthy for the story of a God. Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh and he handles the grandeur of this royal family in conflict brilliantly. By focussing on the family dynamics between Thor, his brother, and their father, it makes them all seem more human and relatable while still being incredibly powerful Gods.

Thor is a sweeping drama with battles, humour and romance. It’s a solid first outing for the character, setting up his world and people near-perfectly, and gives us a star performance in Hemsworth and one of the most interesting characters in the MCU in Loki. 4/5.

REVIEW: Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

The story of the rivalry between the enigmatic Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and the brash John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) with a focus on the 1980 Wimbledon Championship.

Borg vs McEnroe is a great insight into two legends of tennis. It’s a bit uneven in the time spent with each man, with more of a focus on Borg which is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s a good thing because out of the two he is generally the one who is more private and less is known about him so seeing him as a child and teenager shows how he became the champion in was in the 1980’s. but on the other hand, every time the focus shifts to McEnroe, the screen crackles with energy and that’s down to LaBeouf’s near perfect performance.

LaBeouf as McEnroe really was the highlight of the film for me but it was interesting to learn more about Borg and his relationship with his coach Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgård) and his fiancé Mariana Simionescu (Tuva Novoyny). All give good performances but Shia LaBeouf is the one who really shines.

All the tennis matches featured in Borg vs McEnroe are well-shot and exciting but it’s the 1980 Wimbledon Final between the two men that is truly thrilling. With the music building as each set progresses, the editing and the performances of the two leads it makes the final showdown between these two legends incredibly tense and exhilarating. Everything in Borg vs McEnroe has been building to this moment and it doesn’t disappoint.

The costuming, the music, the sets, everything is so incredibly 80’s and it all looks great. Borg vs McEnroe is a great, though slightly uneven, sports film. If you’re a tennis fan you may get more out of it but it’s themes of rivalries and underdogs are for everyone. 4/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and the crew of the Black Pearl join forces with Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to find Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and make their final stand against their enemies.

I enjoy At World’s End and feel it’s a pretty solid end to a trilogy. It’s got a lot of great character moments and very quickly the main trio end up together and when they do they stick together. Or rather, if they do split up in any variation they end up back together a lot quicker than in Dead Man’s Chest. The plot is still kind of unnecessarily complicated with characters having different agendas, or at least seeming to when they really all want the same end result, but the film is more entertaining with it.

Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) steps up and becomes the main villain as the figure head for law and order on the seven seas. His verbal sparring with Jack is brilliant and those scenes help show a different side to both men.

The mythos that’s presented in At World’s End is one of the highlights. With the nine Pirate Lords and the brethren court it’s a great chance to widen the world of Pirates of the Caribbean. The scenes at the brethren court are a chance to show off more great costumes in seeing pirates from across the globe. It would’ve been nice to see more of the other Pirate Lords but really they’re there to serve a purpose – “We must fight, to run away!” is pretty much the motto of all the pirates.

At World’s End, much like Dead Man’s Chest, is a long film. It’s ten minutes’ shy of three hours long and sometimes you do feel that run time. That being said, watching At World’s End so close to Dead Man’s Chest means you pick up on the smaller plot threads or the significance of certain items, Bootstap Bill’s (Stellan Skarsgård) knife for instance, a lot better and it helps make both films more enjoyable.

At World’s End is a great conclusion to a trilogy, all loose ends are tied up and there’s a lot of well-developed character arcs that come to a satisfying end. It’s another great looking film with the sword fights and battles on the sea all well-shot and put together. 4/5.