Mamma Mia! (2008)

On paper this musical movie should not work.  It should be completely silly, cheesy and full of strained musical numbers.   However, this Abba inspired musical telling the story of young girl who is about to get married, trying to figure out which of the 3 men in her mothers brief sexual awakening in one infamous summer is her father.

The strumpet in question is 

Meryl Streep, who now runs a bed’n’breakfast on a remote Greek island.  The 3 sluts that slept with her,

Stellan Skarsgård,

Colin Firth

Pierce Brosnan all come to the wedding invitation unknown to them that they even may have a daughter.   They are all strangers to one another until they are thrown together.

Supporting Streep we have

Julie Walters and

Christine Baranski who once were back singers to Streep’s lead in a band in their younger days.

When this movie first hit the cinema it was an instant hit.  Mamma Mia was already a successful West End show, so it came to the silver screen with an in-built audience.  However, it grew even bigger than anyone expected, thanks largely to the high number of repeat visits.   They even did karoke showings, where the words of the songs where titled on the screen to allow everyone to singalong.

I never caught this wave at the time of the release and will confess to coming to this one rather late on.  But when I did, it has become a monthly viewing favourite.  I fell in love with it. 

A real feel good, toe tapping, comedic outing that doesn’t fail to raise a smile or lift a mood.  Some of the singing from some of our stars isn’t the best, but who cares, everyone is having a good time.

Love it. Watch it. Feel good. 

PS small tip .. if you own the blu-ray (and why wouldn’t you) then you can enable the karoke language pack and singalong with the whole movie.

#107 in the series


Viewing Date
Thursday, 3rd December 2015 (Richmond)


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Sunshine on Leith (2013)

I resisted this movie for a long time. A musical based on the songs of the Scottish twins, The Proclaimers.   It just sounded like it could be naff and I really didn’t their music spoiled.  However, I resisted, and with a due sense of caution and trepidation I pressed PLAY.

Within the first 5 minutes, I knew I was wrong in my reservations.  That feeling never ended until the credits rolled at the end.  This was a fantastic homage to the Proclaimers huge back catalog.   What Mamma Mia (another great movie) did for Abba this does for our Scottish boys.

The story centers around two lads coming back from the war zone and them settling back into normal civilian life, juggling family and romantic lives.  Of course it is Edinburgh, Scotland the story is set (Leith is an area of Edinburgh by the way). 

There isn’t a huge story line going here, just a series of small events that are tied together with some real toe-tapping, belting songs.   Some of the words have been slightly changed to fit the scenario, but by’n’large they are untouched and fit absolutely perfectly.

The cast is by’n’large unknown outside of Scotland, but we have

Dexter Fletcher taking the directors chair to make this stage version come to life on the silver screen.  He has done a fantastic job, including weaving in a cameo from the boys themselves without it feeling contrived.

This is one that will compete for my Mamma Mia time for sure.  That movie you reach for when you have maybe had a little too much to drink and you want a good sing’a’long for 90 minutes.

#90 in the series


Viewing Date
Monday, 16th November 2015 (Richmond)


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Dirty Dancing (1987)

My 40th review in this series and we land here.  Aaah, You’ve had the time of your life, happy memories.  This dancing genre has so many casualties with way more misses than hits.  Dirty Dancing, however, can proudly be ranked up there at the top with the likes of Flashdance and Footloose.   This Oscar award winning (for the original song) movie is chock full of toe-tapping numbers that keeps what is a rather simple and predictable story line humming along without you noticing it has zero depth.

Jennifer Grey freshly off of  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off jumps into the role of Baby, the youngest daughter of a Doctor family that find themselves in a Virginian resort up in the mountains.  This is where we meet Johnny, played by ever flexible Patrick Swayze who is the local entertainment dancer who finds himself being quite the gigolo for lonely housewives on their retreat.

The age difference between these characters make for an interesting extra dynamic on screen, with Swayze 35 at the time, and Grey only 27.  She looks far younger on screen (which is good because she is meant to be a teenager) and conversely he looks far older.

So while the father is morally against this hookup due to a misunderstanding about the ethics of Johnny, he doesn’t seem to be at all concerned at what seems to be a huge age gap for his virginal daughter!

As an aside, rumor has it that Billy Zane and Sharon Stone auditioned for these parts.  I cannot begin to imagine what the movie would have looked like with those two. A reminder just how important a role the casting director has.

The soundtrack is what makes this movie, set in the early 1960s, there is many a hit of the decade thrown at this story that doesn’t at any point feel contrived, but a natural fit to the flow of the story.   Because of that, Dirty Dancing, lends itself perfectly to a movie you can throw on in the background and not pay it too much lip service, but instead enjoy the music and lookup every so often to catch some of the ironic classic lines No one puts Baby in the corner.

I first seen this movie as a young teenager and of course I was in as much love with Grey as the females at the time with Swayze.  She never repeated the success of Dirty Dancing which was the highlight of her acting career.   Swayze however went on to do many more ironic movies, including what probably is his shining glory, Sam in Ghost.

A classic movie that doesn’t suffer from aging, and while the story is horrendously weak and some of the supporting characters wooden, it still delivers a solid performance. 


Viewing Date
Sunday, 27th September 2015


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Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Okay so let us get this out of the way quickly, you don’t watch an Elvis Presley movie for its in-depth, multi-dimensional story line.  If you even attempt to rate or review an Elvis movie on its story, then you have already missed the point of the King’s musical escapade.

Long before Michael Jackson raised the bar with his highly produced mini-movies with his music videos (Thriller, Smooth Criminal etc), Elvis was doing it 30 years earlier.

An Elvis movie is essentially just a string of music videos weaved together with a very thin narrative that simply gets us from one musical number to the next.

Viva Las Vegas is no different, except this time, set in the world of race car driving in the Nevada desert.  

Ann-Margret is his leading lady who simply steals the show from our Elvis without him putting up any resistance.  He knows he is out ranked and defers screen time to her.


Not only can she sing, but she can dance with a sexiness that I am sure skirted the censors of the mid sixties.  The lady oozes sexual sensuality without showing too much or resorting to cheap tricks.  Pure class.

This was an unusual setup for Elvis movies – the leading lady was always the very feminine, disarmed and vulnerable that he would win over and they would fall in love with him.  Ann-Margret broke that mold. 

For the number, If you think i don’t need you, keep an eye on Ann-Margret’s eyes when Elvis comes into the room with a guitar trying to woo her.  Natural response with a knowing that Elvis was really trying to woo his leading lady and she wasn’t going to make it easy for him.

You can see why Elvis fell for Ann-Margret so hard, as this was the movie their affair started that continued for a year or so, then they became life long friends.  It is rumored Elvis would often phone Ann-Margret seeking her advice on all manners of things right up to his death.  She referred to Elvis as her soul mate.

Viva Las Vegas delivers on some wonderful classic set pieces, including Yellow Rose of Texas, Lady Loves Him, C’mon Everybody and of course Viva Las Vegas.  All in all there is 12 musical numbers dotted throughout.

A highly enjoyable Elvis movie and one that can be thrown on in the background for the series of musical tracks.


Viewing Date
Thursday, 3rd September 2015

8 out of 10

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