Dear ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’: I Feel the Joy!

3 Comments

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: The Story of Fire Saga (CREDIT: John Wilson/Netflix)

Starring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Demi Lovato, Graham Norton

Director: David Dobkin

Running Time: 203 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for “Full Nude Sculptures”

Release Date: June 26, 2020 (Netflix)

I have decided to judge the success (or lack thereof) of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga by whether or not it made me want to watch the actual Eurovision competition.

So, did Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga make me want to watch the actual Eurovision competition?

Yes! Very much so!

And that’s significant because previously my interest was in the “Hmm, maybe” vicinity. So that’s got to be an increase of about 50 percent.

I get the sense that a lot of the real-life Eurovision entrants are like Will Ferrell characters, particularly the sincere variety that includes the Icelandic dreamer Lars Erickssong. Or at least I hope that’s the case! Every time I’ve ever heard people talk about Eurovision, they make it sound like the singers are genuine heart-fueled dreamers. So while watching The Story of Fire Saga, I realized, “Oh right, of course, the appeal is obvious.”

Contests like Eurovision can also be counted upon to reveal up-and-coming talented individuals who make you go, “Why am I only now just hearing about you?” That happened for me in Eurovision the movie in the form of Melissanthi Mahut, who plays Greek hopeful Mita. I predict and pray for big things for her in the coming years.

I give Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga 3 Knives out of 4 Elves.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,’ I Can (Mostly) Resist You

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Jonathan Prime/Universal Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2018.

Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Dominic Cooper, Andy García, Cher, Meryl Streep

Director: Ol Parker

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Spicy Dialogue

Release Date: July 20, 2018

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again wants us to care about how a young Donna Sheridan (Lily James) met the three possible fathers of her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Or really, it just wants us to accept that as the framework around which some beautiful people frolic around a sunny Greek isle while singing the songs of ABBA … again! Audiences who already dig this sort of thing appear generally willing to accept whatever thin framework there is. (The setup in the present day, in which Sophie re-opening her late mom’s hotel is threatened by rain, is even thinner.) So it feels petty of me to call out Here We Go Again for its vaguely drawn backstories. But I wouldn’t call attention to them if the script didn’t also keep doing the same thing. Donna and her suitors keep on talking about the lives they are running away from, and if that motivation is so important, I just want to know the specifics. Or really, I think these characters want to tell us the specifics.

For certain audiences, those shortcomings won’t matter one lick, but for me, Here We Go Again never overcomes the inherent weirdness of a musical. But there is some fun to be had along the way that threatens to sweep up everyone in its path. Certainly, Christine Baranski’s tasty bons mot (“be still my beating vagina”) cannot be beat. Cinematographer Robert Yeoman really lets the colors pop, especially the oranges. And the final number, featuring the entire main cast, including Meryl Streep as a beyond-the-grave Donna and Cher as basically herself, really does manage to be irresistible. I don’t want to be a fuddy-duddy, so I will admit I enjoyed myself, but I must say it all feels rather fluffy and empty.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is Recommended If You Like: Singing and Dancing Along Without Asking Any Questions

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Waterloos

This Is a Movie Review: It’s Chan vs. Brosnan in Revenge Thriller ‘The Foreigner’

Leave a comment

CREDIT: STX Films

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2017.

The Foreigner – It’s Chan vs. Brosnan in Revenge Thriller ‘The Foreigner’

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Director: Martin Campbell

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: R for Frequent Explosions, Booby-Trap Puncture Wounds, and a Bit of Scheme-Based Shagging

Release Date: October 13, 2017

At age 63, Jackie Chan is still allowed to shimmy down roofs, walls, and pipes. And good for him, because while what he pulls off stunt-wise in The Foreigner is nowhere near as relentless as his early films, his twists, spins, and rolls still look like the most natural things in the world for him to be doing. But this revenge thriller places a new skill at the top of Chan’s repertoire: survivalism. As a meek London business businessman, Ngoc Minh Quan’s (Chan) knack for springing camouflaged traps with tree branches and leaves is in the key of a doomsday prepper, but actually they represent the horrors of a native land he would rather forget but will summon if he has to.

Quan’s journey for vengeance is set off by a bomb that detonates in a busy street, killing his daughter Fan (Katie Leung, aka Cho Chang from Harry Potter). But he has had the capacity for a long time to go off on a one-man spree to make terrorists pay. He was a trained killer in his home country (it is a little confusing whether Quan is supposed to be Vietnamese, or ethnically Chinese but born in Vietnam, or something else) who sought a more peaceful life by moving to England, but lost two of his children along the way. To further ramp up the tragic backstory, his wife died while giving birth to Fan. So when Fan dies, it is the classic revenge setup of the man who has nothing left to lose. The Foreigner does not add much to this genre, save for Chan’s heavily haunted performance, his eyelids and hair permanently weighed down by the debris of the blast.

Those responsible for the bombing are certain members of the IRA attempting to stir up trouble, which Quan does not much care about, but the film certainly does. There is a sense of a bigger conflict swallowing up a few small people, similar to Edge of Darkness, director Martin Campbell’s last entry in the revenge field. But where that earlier film had an easily identifiable conspiracy hook, The Foreigner’s political conflicts are much more convoluted. For the uninitiated, it is hard to make heads or tails of what the IRA’s issues with the UK are, and why they should be flaring up now. That confusion is papered over a bit by the compelling presence of Pierce Brosnan as government official Liam Hennessy, whose association with the IRA may not be as reformed as he would like to pretend. The cat-and-mouse struggle between Chan and Brosnan is a high-quality white-knuckle battle between two vets who know exactly what they’re doing. But they are surrounded by a hodgepodge of other goings-on that do not come together for a clear message or purpose.

The Foreigner is Recommended If You Like: Apocalypse Prepping, Rambo, Edge of Darkness

Grade: 3 out of 5 Tree Branch Traps