Category Archives: Music & Musicals

Rocketman (2019) Movie Review By The Moviie Couple

Rocketman Review

Director: Dexter Fletcher
Writer: Lee Hall
Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden

Moviie Couple here!   We went to see Rocketman this weekend!  Remember we are just a married couple that loves movies!  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film experts we are not!  Just a quick reminder of our rating system. Mrs. Moviie Couple and I, rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

Rocketman tells the life story of Elton John.  His rise to fame from his childhood home in the Pinner area of London to the world wide success as a mega star is covered in this bio-pic.  We see the  various relationships that formed who he was and more importantly who he grew to become.  The film focuses on his life from childhood to his sobriety years well into his fantastical (He was Captain Fantastic after all) career.  The film is directed by Dexter Fletcher of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Eddie The Eagle fame and stars Taron Egerton as Elton himself with Jamie Bell co starring as lifelong musical partner Bernie Taupin, a nearly unrecognisable Bryce Dallas Howard as his Mum, and Richard Madden as John Reid the infamous paramour and Music Manager.  As one would expect many of Sir Elton’s hit songs are spread throughout the film in expected and many unexpected ways.  Huge musical performances, drama, excess of alcohol, drugs, shopping and food and many ,many sequinned costume changes are met along the way!  Well the curtain rises, wrap your boa around your neck, throw on your bedazzled glasses and lets all say goodbye to the yellow brick road and get to the reviews!

So here we go!

Mr. Moviie Couple:  I was not expecting to be enthralled by a bio pic, I love true stories, but you sort of know what your getting going in.  I have to say Rocketman grabbed me early with its unorthodox start!  Right from the opening scene, this film pulled me in and let me know this was not going to be a by the numbers biography movie!  Even in a movie like this we don’t spoil, so that will be all I say about that.  As a fan of Elton John’s music (isn’t everyone?) I admit I was ignorant about much of his personal life.  This movie gave me all I needed to actually feel for young Reginald Dwight, the boy that would grow up to become Elton Hercules John.  The dramatic pieces hit me in all the right spots.  All the actors shine in this movie, but let’s be honest it swims or sinks on the performance of Taron Egerton.  I am pleased to tell you his portrayal of the Rocketman soars!  The pain and doubt he displays as Elton struggles through life, pre and post success, is seen all over his face.  He relays what Elton is feeling and words are not even necessary!  Bell and Madden seem to embody both Taupin and Reid as well.  Just captivating performances throughout really.  Dallas Bryce Howard also shines as a Mom not even a son could love.  The way this movie places Elton’s songs throughout the film maybe not be in order of release (I’m not knowledgeable enough to say), but shows up in times of Elton’s life where they relate the most and are placed perfectly.  As were the numbers!  Yes, I said musical numbers, not just performances (which again headdresses off to Mr. Egerton as he actually sings the songs himself).  The numbers break out in fantasy/imagination scenes as Elton remembers key moments of his life!   This is like a hybrid bio pic/Broadway musical and it’s all a hit!  I learned a lot about Sir Elton and enjoyed this film the entire time!

For a film that didn’t involve hammer wielding superheroes, radioactive lizards or invincible hitmen this movie blew me away!  I gave Rocketman a solid 5 Bills!  Great performances, full blown musical numbers!  Just a great time.

Mrs. Moviie Couple:  She was surprised by the unexpected format the movie took in telling its story!  She did not expect it to become a full blown musical, she was expecting something similar to Bohemian Rhapsody.  As a huge fan of Broadway, she was delighted!  She could easily see this film adapted to the Broadway stage and being even more successful.  She loved Taron Egerton’s acting!  She felt he actually was Elton John, his resemblance and performance took her breath away!  She commented on what a great actor he is and how he doesn’t get enough credit for his versatility.  How he can play both tough action hero in the Kingsman films and then vulnerable and sweet as seen in Eddie the Eagle and now Rocketman.  The film nearly brought her to tears at times.  She found the film full of emotions and left her with a deep sense of how a negative childhood could be overcome to bring out the best in a person.  She found the costumes and music all matched the flair that Elton had become famous for back in his younger years!  She loved the end credits as well, during them we are told how Elton is doing today and shown real life photos of the scenes Egerton recaptured so accurately.  She would see it again in a heartbeat and can’t wait to see if it really does go to Broadway!  Mrs. Moviie Couple gives Rocketman 6 Bills!!! Yes, I believe that is the first 6 Bills given out by the Mrs.!!!

On the way home, We talked the entire way home!  We discussed Egerton’s performance, his singing, the musical numbers!  We both loved the unique way the story was told.  Before we arrived home we were playing Elton John in the car, which is quite the endorsement.  I give it 5 Bills, just a great film with a unique vision.  The Mrs. gives it 6 Bills!  She wanted to see it again!  She was touched by the drama and absolutely loved the musical numbers!  So we’ll go with an average of 5.5 Wow!  Great time out, worth the money and highly recommended!

Till then, Hold your tiny dancers close and we’ll see you at the movies!  Be sure to check our facebook page for a clue to our next movie up for review!  Mr. & Mrs. Moviie Couple out!

Advertisements

Rocketman (2019) Movie Review By Philip Henry

ROCKETMAN

Director: Dexter Fletcher
Screenwriter: Lee Hall
Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden

I’m not a big Elton John fan. I like a lot of his 70s output and a few other songs here and there, so I come to this not knowing very much about his personal life.

The film starts with Elton in a rehab meeting, dressed a little more flamboyantly than anyone else, he begins to tell the story of what led him here. As a young boy growing up in post-war London young Reggie Dwight, for that is his real name, shows an aptitude for piano. His father is aloof and distant towards the boy and his mother – a barely recognisable Bryce Dallas Howard – is more concerned with chasing her own desires than her son’s future. So the only encouragement comes from his grandmother, who takes him to study at the Royal Academy of Music.

Young Reggie soon gets his first gig in his local pub and that is the catalyst for the film’s first big musical number, and it is impressive! Where this film differs from Bohemian Rhapsody, to which it will no doubt be compared, is this film is a musical in the true MGM sense of the word. During the narrative, people break into Elton’s back catalogue and start singing their feelings, and in the scene where we transition from young Reggie to teenage Reggie, it’s an all singing, all dancing extravaganza. These moments of musical fantasy happen throughout the film and it’s impossible not to have a big wide grin on your face when they do. They’re full of joy and energy and that’s something I think a lot of modern musicals lack.

Teenage Reggie gets a job in a backing band and hones his craft, and discovers his sexual leanings, but no matter how good a piano player he is, he’s unable to get a record deal without original songs. So they pair him up with lyricist Bernie Taupin and history is made. I must say a word about Jamie Bell at this point. I’ve never really liked him as an actor. He always came across as arrogant in interviews and I think he was over-rated by British critics when he did Hollywood movies. I remember a certain reviewer saying Bell ran rings around Hayden Christensen in Jumper, but I couldn’t see it. I thought they were both fine, but neither noticeably better than the other. Anyway, I will eat my words with this performance. Anyone who has ever heard Bernie Taupin interviewed will know he has a very strange accent, and Bell nails it perfectly. His whole restrained performance is the yang to Egerton’s manic yin, as Elton descends into alcoholism and drug addiction.

If you wondered how much Dexter Fletcher really contributed to Bohemian Rhapsody, this film will make you wonder how much Bryan Singer actually did on it. Fletcher seems more at home in this genre than Singer would ever be, maybe because he started his career long ago on the classic children’s musical Bugsy Malone – yes, he was Baby Face, remember?

This is easily Fletcher’s most confident and creatively interesting movie to date. The song and dance sequences are carried off with aplomb, and the recreations of Elton’s performance in Tommy and some of his music videos will make a lot of fans smile. It’s not all fun and games though, Elton’s destructive relationship with his manager John Reid (Richard Madden) will really make you feel for the kid who gets too much too soon, but Fletcher is just as accomplished with these small, emotional scenes as he is at recreating huge concerts.

Taron Egerton throws himself into the role wholeheartedly and captures the energy and excitement of Elton’s early live performances with the swagger and poise of the man himself. His cocaine and alcohol addiction isn’t lingered on as much as it probably should be, but even this serves to keep the film upbeat and entertaining.

I’m a much bigger Queen fan than I am an Elton fan, but I have to admit, this is the better movie. Its scale, invention and sheer exuberance elevate it way above your average biopic.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Bohemian Rhapsody Review, The story of the legendary rock band Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, leading up to their famous performance at Live Aid.

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Anthony McCarten (story by), Peter Morgan (story by)
Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McClusker.

As a die-hard Queen fan during the height of their popularity, I can confirm many of Bohemian Rhapsody’s historical inaccuracies regarding their career trajectory. The timeline of certain events has been changed, while others depicted in the film didn’t actually happen.

I can also attest that Freddie Mercury’s sexuality was never an issue with fans back then. We always suspected he was gay. We just never cared because his over-the-top flamboyancy perfectly enhanced the band’s bombastic, genre-bending approach to music. Even after media wagons began to circle around Mercury’s private life, none of their so-called revelations seemed particularly scandalous because most of us suspected as much all along. When Mercury publicly disclosed he had AIDS (the day before he died), we were extremely saddened, though not all that surprised.

So no, Queen was not an overnight success, not everything they touched turned to gold and Freddie was not diagnosed with AIDS prior to Live Aid. And if the film omits most of the more sordid details of Mercury’s life, so what? It is obvious from the first frame that Bohemian Rhapsody was put together by people who love the band – and its music – as much as everyone else. Accusations of the film glossing-over the truth are moot points. This is not-so-much a biography as it is a big, sparkling thank you letter to Queen and their legions of fans, both old and new.

As such, Bohemian Rhapsody is fabulous fun, much like Queen’s music. Their humble beginnings are superficially outlined – and greatly condensed – in order to present the Queen we know & love as much as possible. The concert sequences are depicted in all their glamorous glory, as are the band’s numerous numerous musical milestones. With a soundtrack that’s wall-to-wall with Queen’s best-known songs, the film plays very much like a greatest hits album. Historically, some of them appear out of order. “Fat Bottomed Girls,” for example, was not one of their early hits. Within the context of the narrative, however, the song’s timing is perfect. As it appears in the story, “Who Wants to Live Forever” achieves a level poignancy never reached in the movie it was originally written for (Highlander).

Much has already been said about Rami Malek’s amazing performance as Freddie Mercury. It is indeed phenomenal, but the actors playing the rest of the band are just as convincing (and criminally overlooked). While they may not be spitting images of their real-life counterparts (though Joe Mazzello as John Deacon comes damn close), they completely embody Queen’s on-stage moves and mannerisms.

Everything culminates with the band’s now-legendary performance at Live Aid. It wasn’t really a “reunion” as the film suggests (Queen never actually broke up), but by rearranging and altering certain events for dramatic impact, this scene is easily Bohemian Rhapsody’s emotional high point. Watching the band return to glory before a 100,000 fans (and a billion TV viewers) is enough to cause goosebumps. 

Ultimately, we don’t learn much more about Mercury than we did going in (though he appeared to have a lot of cats). The film is narratively disjointed and its historical accuracy is questionable. But as an affectionate tribute to a band we’ll still be listening to 100 years from now, Bohemian Rhapsody captures Queen the way we’d like to remember them: a great band with one helluva charismatic frontman. 

Blaze (2018) Movie Review By Gianni Damaia

Blaze Review, A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement.

Director: Ethan Hawke
Writers: Ethan Hawke, Sybil Rosen
Stars: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Charlie Sexton

The tragedy of the Bard is a tale as old as time. The lonesome wanderer that walks the world finding purpose in the bottom of a bottle, the eyes of a lover, and the tune of a guitar. While it may be familiar, we continually revisit this narrative because it feels romantically human, and in my mind ‘romantically human’ is the perfect way to sum up Blaze. The same tropes you may expect to find in films like ‪Crazy Heart‬ and ‪Inside Llewyn Davis‬ are alive and well inside Blaze, but the difference is in how director, Ethan Hawke, carefully edges his story into a visual poem that often allows its songs to speak with more specificity than its characters. That’s not to say that Blaze features incoherent characters, it’s merely a comment about how they each resign themselves to a rhythm in language that is not immediately obvious. These are Shakespearean figures who just so happen to be in a movie about nomadic hoodlums struggling to find purpose. In this regard, Blaze is far better than it has any right to be.

Blaze tells the true story of a musician, Blaze Foley, in the prime years of his life as he meets his love and struggles to maintain his identity within the confines of a pervasive industry he is increasingly encouraged to pursue. We see Blaze unfold in three acts spliced within one another intermittently and occasionally without rhyme or reason. There is the story of Blaze and his love, Sybil, as they live their life of solitude in a shack-like treehouse in the woods, the story of Blaze’s final live show in the Outhouse bar in Austin, and the story told to us about Blaze posthumously by his two best friends and collaborators. The assembly allows each of these stories to contribute to one another, but the threads are rarely directly linked in a specified timeline, allowing the film to float through narrators and perspectives as effortlessly as a note in Foley’s music. The compilation of each of the narratives make the film feel less like a structured piece, and more like the experience of remembering a loved one by trying to piece together fragmented moments in time and stumbling upon golden stories and songs left behind. In this way, Blaze feels wholesomely intimate in a way that many musical films have a hard time grasping.

The titular character is as much a mystery to the ones he loved as he is to the audience, yet somehow he feels understandably idyllic and human. Blaze Foley is magnetic from the opening beats of the film. Whether he’s waxing on philosophically behind the microphone, playing songs with the woman he loves, or piss drunk and falling flat on his face, Blaze is shockingly relatable. Blaze could so easily play as a pretentious caricature, but it doesn’t. Instead, Hawke is able to focus on exactly what made him so special despite having such glaring faults. At one point in the film, a character mentions the “two sides to Blaze”. The erratic drunkard juxtaposed with the sensitive artist. Blaze’s greatest strength is how easily these polar opposite sensibilities have been so acutely fleshed out.

What strikes me the most about Blaze is how deeply romantic it is, not just in the sense that the movie is partly a love story, but in the way it’s story seeps through the pores of love. The warm textures of the coloration allow Blaze to feel like a careful embrace from the titular character. The way Hawke drenches every song in a profoundly felt honesty makes certain that Blaze doesn’t just feel like an ode to a forgotten legend, it feels like an ode to the love of art. And it’s that same love that tragically brought Foley to his breaking point. In every scene, he fights to regain the same beautiful inspiration he often found in the woods with the love of his life, and as the movie wears on, he slowly loses his ability to find it. Blaze isn’t the usual story of a singer succumbing to his vices. It’s a story of a bard who was never meant for the life of an artist.

Let’s speak more specifically about what you can appreciate about Blaze without digging too deep into the symbolic filters that permeate through the film. Ben Dickey in the role of the titular character gives one of the most transfixing performances I have had the pleasure of seeing this past year. The cadence of Foley’s speech, the explosive energy flexing beneath the surface of his relatively delicate demeanor, and his understanding of Blaze’s casual prophetic phrasing all adds up to make Dickey’s performance nothing short of exceptional. It’s the kind of performance that tears your mind into two layers of thinking: I want to now see him in every movie, and I want to never see him in a film ever again. The former because Dickey clearly has an exceptional talent in regards to acting. The latter because Dickey’s work here is so exceptional that it feels like lightning in a bottle that deserves to be contained and never again reopened for fear of losing the magic. Dickey is also blessed with a talented supporting cast with Alia Shawkat, Charlie Sexton, and Josh Hamilton. Even cameos from Richard Linklater, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Zahn are fun (albeit odd – more on that later) compliments. But this is Blaze’s story through and through. And whenever Dickey leaves the screen, you can’t help but to miss him.

Hawke also (unsurprisingly) proves himself to be a beautifully poetic storyteller. The visual language of Blaze feels so enriched with serene mysticism. As I noted before, Blaze makes great use of its warm textures and colors, often giving the feeling that it exists in a back alley bar with a performer onstage that feels too good to be there. But take note of the poignant moments that Hawke decides to strip those textures away to knife his audience with a tragic reversal. Credit should also go to cinematographer Steve Cosens who contributes to the film’s treehouse essence with just the right amount of lens flares to make you feel like you are truly in the room witnessing a moment or the magic of a song.

As I have also stated before, Blaze’s storytelling techniques are abstract enough to make the film exceptionally compelling, but in some regards, it’s also the film’s greatest weakness. The flippant viewpoints of narrators intertwining with less and less rhyme and reason keeps the audience at a distance at times and betrays the general sense of being in the room remembering an old friend. Sometimes, the first-time audience will spend too much time watching Blaze trying to fit together pieces of a puzzle encompassing his life. It’s a rare occurrence, but Blaze’s structure very occasionally grates against itself in this way. Moments like a shot of a man smashing a guitar with intense backlight spliced within a scene give weight to the poetic mysticism of the titular character, but certain aforementioned cameos feel abstractly satirical in a way that almost feels like an out of place joke. Blaze is also disinterested in introductions. Most characters will simply come to exist in the narrative with an established relationship to Blaze that feels unearned. They quickly gain personalities of their own, but it feels worth noting that context is occasionally left by the wayside.

As with any good musical movie, Blaze’s songs enrich the experience of the film in ways that cannot be understated. For a casual audience member, the music will appeal to anyone who enjoys folk country or the brilliance of an artist like ‪Bob Dylan‬. For someone more interested in Foley’s artistry, I cannot recommend listening to this soundtrack enough. Each song bares such significance to the underlying themes within Blaze. The more I hear Dickey’s renditions of ‘Picture Cards’ or ‘Cold, Cold World’, the more I am reminded of my time spent with Foley and his ambitious pursuit of happiness in spite of sanity.

Its unfortunate that I stumbled across this film after creating my ‘Best of 2018’ list. Blaze struck a cord with me in a way that not many films do. While that may not be true for everyone that comes across it, I certainly hope this review emboldens you to view it for yourself. It’s difficult for me to talk about Blaze without rambling or philosophizing on its deeper contextual meanings. To its core, Blaze bares the identity of the drunkard in the bar. His story is palpable, but it falls upon deaf ears. In some bizarre way, the same could be said of the movie itself. Blaze is a story of a musician that you likely don’t yet know. Christian Bale isn’t attached as the star with Oscar worthy prosthetics. The story follows a non linear pattern, and has little resemblance to other plot structures you may be familiar with. And as a result, you may not have yet seen or heard of Blaze. But in this regard, I can think of no better biopic to capture the essence of its titular character. ‪9/10 ‬

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Bohemian Rhapsody

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Anthony McCarten & Peter Morgan (story), Anthony McCarten (screenplay)
Stars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee

I’m a sucker for a music biopic. As a musician who played in bands for years, I just lap this stuff up. It was Oliver Stone’s amazing biopic that first introduced me to the music of The Doors and it’s a film I still hold in high regard in this genre. These films are easy to get wrong, though, especially when the band get a say in the script. Ray Manzarek openly hated Stone’s biopic of The Doors and how he was depicted, so it’s a fine line you have to tread between telling an accurate story and telling a story that works dramatically on film.

So what do we have in this case? Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? Well, it’s a little of both. This project has been in development since 2010. Since then it has gone through a lot of different directors and stars, including a very public break-up with Sacha Baron Cohen, whose vision for the film was more about showing the hedonistic life of Freddie Mercury. The remaining band members wanted it to be more about the music so they parted ways.

The director also left the project mid-shoot. Bryan Singer, who is more known for helming superhero movies walked on the project and Dexter Fletcher was called in to finish the film, even though according to union rules he doesn’t get a credit for it.

So it’s been a troubled production to get here, but was it worth it? Well, that very much depends on what you want from this film. If you’re a Queen fan content to see the bands high points re-enacted by a very talented and enthusiastic group of actors, then you’ll probably be happy enough to sit through this with a grin on your face.

However, if you know nothing about Queen or Freddie and are coming to this film to judge it on its cinematic merits, then you may find it lacking. I think this is where you see the remaining band members’ input over the finished article, because there’s none of the dirty laundry that a production without their involvement may have produced and this might’ve given the film more substance. Everything’s just a bit easy in this movie. Freddie meets the band – boom, he’s in! Then they get a record deal, then they do an album and tour which is hugely successful. There’s no struggle. If you were to take this film as the unvarnished truth, it would seem like the band got everything handed to them on a plate and never had a moment of doubt or worry in their lives. The biggest obstacle in this film is trying to convince the record company executive (Mike Myers – look out for the Wayne’s World reference) to release Bohemian Rhapsody as a single. It makes for a feelgood film, but it also makes the film seem a little superficial.

If you’re wondering if this is a Freddie biopic or a Queen biopic, I’d have to say it’s all about Freddie. The other band-members are there, and definitely look the part, but there are never any subplots about what’s going on in any of their lives during this time.

Even though the film does centre on Freddie, it still leaves out a lot of stuff. The racism he had to deal with in the early days is touched on, but he wins over racists in the space of one song and it barely gets another mention. There’s also very little about him concealing his homosexuality. For the most of the film he seems out-and-proud and no one seems bothered by it. I’d like to believe that’s how it was in 1970s Britain, but somehow I doubt it.

The film also fudges the timeline in several places. In the film Freddie tells the band about his diagnosis while they’re rehearsing for Live Aid in July1985, when he actually wasn’t diagnosed until 1987. He also says they haven’t played together for years when they regroup for Live Aid, when they’d actually been on tour from August 1984 to May 1985 promoting their latest album The Works. These things are just moved around to amp up the drama and only a serious Queen nerd would probably know (or care) that they’re wrong, and there are probably many more things that don’t fit the true timeline that others will spot on repeated viewings.

Malek’s performance is gaining almost universal praise, and rightly so. For the first ten minutes you may be thinking ‘that’s not Freddie’ but after a while the line between them disappears. His movements and mannerisms are spot-on, but the film-makers made the wise choice of using the real Freddie’s voice on all the singing scenes. Val Kilmer did a wonderful job of becoming Jim Morrison in The Doors, but Mercury’s vocals were unique and on a whole other level, and I think trying to emulate his voice with another actor or singer would’ve been futile.

The film ends with their show-stopping performance at Live Aid in 1985. The seemless shots moving over a packed Wembley Stadium right up to the stage are impressive and the one section of the film where I saw Bryan Singer’s epic-scale fingerprints, but it really works. The recreation of that performance, with the original audio, gave me chills.

So if you’re looking for some escapist fun with some great music that doesn’t delve too deeply into the seedier side of things, then this film will probably satisfy you, and it may even encourage you to seek out one of the many documentaries on the band if you want to fill in the blanks.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) Blu-ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Review

Director: Ol Parker
Writers: Ol Parker, Richard Curtis (story by) 
Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Andy Garcia, Dominic Cooper, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Omid Djalili, Cher, Meryl Streep.

Movies like Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again are sort of difficult to assess. On one hand, it’s a strong contender for one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time. On the other, it is hard to imagine big fans of the original – or ABBA’s music in general – not enjoying this one, as well. However, they might be surprised by the narrative’s somber underpinnings.

Speaking of narratives, while I enjoyed the first film, I couldn’t recall the actual plot shortly after seeing it. All that really stuck with me were the fun musical numbers, the fact Pierce Brosnan couldn’t sing and a reminder that Meryl Streep is invincible. This time, we’re getting a prequel, of sorts. Half the film takes place a few years after the first, with Donna’s daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), getting ready to re-open her mom’s hotel with the assistance of suave manager Fernando (Andy Garcia). Interspersed throughout are lengthy flashbacks of Donna (Lily James) in 1979, when she travels to Europe after graduation and meets Sam, Harry & Bill for the first time. She also falls in love with the island and ramshackle old house that she’d eventually turn into the hotel.

Along the way, there are plenty of musical numbers: a lot of tunes that only die-hard ABBA fans would be familiar with, as well as a few bonafide classics (including some featured in the first film). The numbers are sunny and fun, as is the choreography, which is a good thing since what little plot there is feels superfluous (and sort-of melancholy). Nearly all of the original cast returns, slipping comfortably back into their roles. But despite being prominently featured in the ad campaign, Meryl Streep is largely absent. She was the glue that held the original together and is sorely missed here. As for the ballyhooed addition of Cher…I guess if you’re a fan, her appearance won’t feel shoe-horned into the story, but her role is mostly a glorified cameo.

But we’re here for the music, right? As before, everyone does-right by the songs and those who can’t sing are mercifully regulated to being part of the chorus (sorry, Mr. Brosnan). Writer/director Ol Parker takes the reigns from Phyllida Lloyd and wisely stays the course, maintaining the first film’s aesthetic and pace (though one suspects he was forced to fashion a story that didn’t require heavy commitment from Streep). But bittersweet tone notwithstanding, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is an aptly-titled sequel if there ever was one and unlikely to disappoint anybody who regularly sings along with the original film.

Speaking of which, this disc is loaded with bonus material (listed below), including the prerequisite “sing-along” feature. Most of the featurettes are pretty short, but there’s a lot of them and they’re pretty entertaining.