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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: MAMMA MIA! (RECOMMENDED)



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#1 of 84 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted December 14 2008 - 06:33 AM

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Studio: Universal
Year: 2008
Rated: PG-13
Film Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.40:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS Digital Surround Sound 5.1, Spanish DTS Digital Surround Sound 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish


Release Date: December 16, 2008

The Movie
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Mamma Mia! is the film adaptation of the acclaimed stage musical featuring the songs of the 1970s Swedish rock group ABBA. The stage musical is the brainchild of playwright Catherine Johnson, producer Judy Craymer, and director Phyllida Lloyd. Since its premiere in London’s West End in 1999, the stage musical has moved on to Broadway and been seen by over 30 million people. This movie version of Mamma Mia! is the highest grossing movie musical of all time in worldwide box office receipts, and has been nominated in the category of Best Comedy or Musical in the Golden Globe Awards.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is living on a Greek island in the hotel owned by her mother (Meryl Streep) and she is engaged to be married to Sky (Dominic Cooper). Sophie has never known her father and she wants her father to give her away at her wedding. After obtaining her mother’s diary from 20 years earlier, Sophie realizes that one of three men is her father. Unbeknownst to her mother, Sophie sends invitations to all three men (Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Pierce Brosnan) in the belief that she will instinctively know her true father when she meets him.

Although Mamma Mia! has received many favorable reviews, a number of critics have shown great enthusiasm in ridiculing the singing ability of this or that cast member. Pierce Brosnan has seemingly been criticized the most of all the cast members. Although I will not say that Brosnan has a singing career in his future, he does a fine job in both his singing and acting performances, and does not spoil the movie as some critics would lead you to believe. Is there any creative endeavor that elicits criticism more than the art of singing? Singing is something that few people can do well, yet it seems that everyone is an expert when it comes to judging the singing abilities of others. It is not hard to imagine that many critics determined to ridicule the performances prior to ever seeing this movie. I believe that the popularity of television shows like American Idol is attributable in some small part to the morbidity in human nature of watching someone else sing and taking secret joy if they fall short in their ambitions. It is this reviewer’s opinion that the cast in this movie version are consistently fine in both acting and singing performances. The actors certainly do not surpass the vocal qualities in the original recordings, but it is not reasonably expected that they would match the originals.

Mamma Mia! is a joyful, ebullient movie musical, and the upbeat tempos and harmonies of ABBA are perfectly suited to the story as it unfolds. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are executive producers along with Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA. Eagle-eyed viewers will catch the cameo appearances by the two band members. The producers wisely kept the creators of the stage musical involved in this film adaptation. The stage director, Phyllida Lloyd, is on board directing her first feature film, and original producers Judy Craymer and Catherine Johnson are also involved as producers. These principals obviously understand the assets of the stage version and have admirably succeeded in translating this musical into the film version. Since the setting is in Greece, the story is structured like a Greek comedy with costumes changing to reflect characters’ moods and townspeople acting as a Greek chorus in reaction to statements made within the songs.

Since the ABBA songs as composed in the 1970s were never intended to frame a rock opera story, I was naturally skeptical that the screenplay would be coherent. I had never seen the stage musical, and I was pleasantly surprised at how skillfully the songs have been integrated into a sum greater than their individual parts. Although Mamma Mia! did not rank as highly in domestic box office sales in the United States, its worldwide ticket sales has ranked it sixth overall for 2008. In the United Kingdom, it is actually the highest grossing film of all time, surpassing even Titanic. The success of Mamma Mia! on film has even generated serious studio discussions regarding a possible sequel.

Video
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The movie is in 1080p high definition in a wide-screen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is excellent. Film grain is perceptible only in the earth tones of some of the interior shots but the picture does not appear to be oversaturated beyond the filmmakers’ intent. The azure skies, verdant foliage, and aquamarine seas of the Greek isles have never looked more appealing than they do in Mamma Mia! It would not surprise me if tourism in Greece increases perceptibly in the wake of this film.

The very first shots of the film include a panorama of stars in the night sky as Sophie drops her invitations to her three possible fathers into a mailbox. The stars sparkle like no night sky ever has in the real world, and the viewer can sense that this is a fairy tale come to life. Come the dawn, all of the colors in the film are warm and vibrant for the remainder of the film, reflecting the enhanced reality that has been created for this film. The visuals create a sense of wonder not unlike a Harry Potter or other type of fantasy movie, with the difference here being that most of the scenery actually exists in the real world.

The most striking and memorable scene of the movie, for me, is the one in which the wedding procession marches up the cliff to the church at the top. Donna (Meryl Streep) is performing “The Winner Takes It All” to Sam (Pierce Brosnan) in the foreground while the wedding procession marches up the trail in the background. The remarkable thing is that this panoramic vista apparently exists in the real world. The camera is always moving, even in this scene, which avoids the static look from which some stage adaptations suffer.

Audio
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Audio options include English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French and Spanish DTS Digital Surround Sound 5.1. The music has a “Wall of Sound” mixed into it that is consistent with the original ABBA recordings in which harmonies of chorus are achieved by over-dubbing the singers’ voices in multiple tracks. This gives the music a richness of sound that harmonizes with the actors’ voices. The soundtrack is driven by music and not by any unique sound effects, so this may not be the movie to show off the full range of your sound system, but anyone would be hard pressed to find any fault in it. There is a separate audio track with commentary by the director, Phyllida Lloyd.

Special Features
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The special features include all of the following:

Digital Copy: A second disc contains a digital copy of Mamma Mia! for transfer to your iPod, Mac, or personal computer.

My Chat: Allows you to chat by text with other friends watching the movie on Blu-Ray at the same time linked through the BD-Live internet connection.

My Movie Commentary: Allows you to record your own video commentary or text commentary and send it to friends who are linked through the BD-Live internet connection.

My Scenes: Allows you to save movie clips and share them with others through the BD-Live internet connection.

U-Control: Picture-in-picture commentary during the movie with interviews of cast and crew; and “Behind The Scenes” which has screen pop-ups with information and trivia regarding the songs.

Sing Along: This is the “Sing Along” edition of Mamma Mia! released to a limited number of theaters on August 29, 2008. It features the song lyrics on the bottom portion of the screen for viewers to sing along to the movie.

Deleted Scenes (8:06): Several scenes deleted from the theatrical cut.

Outtakes (1:33): A few dialogue mistakes and set malfunctions during filming.

Deleted Musical Number: “The Name of the Game” (3:02): Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) in a musical number cut from the theatrical release.

The Making of Mamma Mia! (24:05): This making-of featurette highlights the history of the stage musical and the efforts to translate Mamma Mia! into a film. It is divided into 3 parts which can be viewed together or separately: The Musical, The Film, The Cast.

Anatomy of a Musical Number: “Lay All Your Love On Me” (5:42): This featurette includes interviews with production and cast members and shows some of the technical challenges in filming one of the song sequences for the film. Especially interesting is the fact that the actors were feeling cold on the beach during filming, since the completed sequence has such warm color tones that it appears to have been a very hot day on the beach, not a cold one. Credit the actors with creating the illusion of warmth on a cold day at the beach.

Becoming a Singer (10:55): Cast members talk about the challenges of performing in song.

A Look Inside Mamma Mia! (2:40): Short featurette with archival footage of ABBA performing in the 1970s.

“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” Music Video (3:49): Amanda Seyfried performing “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” in a music video that was released originally in Europe.

Bjorn Ulvaeus cameo (1:35): Movie clip in which original ABBA composer plays a lute as one of a group of Greek gods.

Conclusion
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This reviewer is like many other critics who enjoy this movie a little more than they care to admit, making it a guilty pleasure that I will probably see again. The beautiful scenery of the Greek Isles made me feel like I had vicariously been on a fun vacation for the duration of the movie, and I look forward to revisiting that world the next time I watch Mamma Mia! I will not pretend that this is the greatest musical ever made, but I believe that its successful box office success is well deserved. The producers deserve credit for translating what must have been a fairly entertaining stage musical into a vibrant, colorful movie musical.

Mamma Mia! on Blu Ray is a fun, entertaining movie filled with eye candy and catchy music, making it a feast for the eyes and the ears. The upbeat tempo of the music is matched well by the romantic plots and subplots in which all of the major characters become involved. The characters in this film live through many of the joys and disappointments of love that we all can relate to, but the despair of love lost is always in smaller proportion to the pleasure of love found, or regained, by the respective characters by the end of the story. This movie comes highly recommended on Blu Ray, and there will be people who normally shun musicals who will derive great enjoyment from Mamma Mia!

#2 of 84 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted December 14 2008 - 08:28 AM

Thanks, Timothy, for the excellent review.

Unlike you, I did not think the songs did anything to advance the plot or character development. In fact, I kept wondering why the characters would stop what they're doing to break out into a random Abba song! Posted Image

But...wife really liked it and has made it clear: "don't tell me that you are not going to buy Mamma Mia!" Posted Image

Every year she tells me not to buy her any DVDs for the holidays...but I always seem to find one that she really wants! Posted Image

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#3 of 84 OFFLINE   Southpaw

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Posted December 14 2008 - 08:49 AM

This seems to be the typical love it or hate it movie. Reviews are all over the map for not only the movie itself but PQ and AQ too.
I guess it will be a rental for us to see if we like it. If we do, I'll pick it up down the road at a discount.

#4 of 84 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted December 14 2008 - 09:26 AM

I'm there. Even if the disc is released in a brown paper bag with no extras.

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#5 of 84 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted December 14 2008 - 09:50 AM

Fantastic film, looking very forward to this on Blu. It's a shame more studio's don't do their Blu-ray's like this one, fully loaded.
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#6 of 84 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted December 14 2008 - 01:52 PM

when i was a kid there were 2 types of movies that i could not watch.
westerns and musicals.
I've grown to appreciate a western now, but musicals
still don't work for me.

all the random singing and dancing just takes me right out of the movie and it becomes an implausible science fiction to me.

but forgetting all that, i liked listening to the music and the singing
but only because i like the music of ABBA.
oh well.
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#7 of 84 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted December 14 2008 - 05:02 PM

Quote:
It is this reviewer’s opinion that the cast in this movie version are consistently fine in both acting and singing performances. The actors certainly do not surpass the vocal qualities in the original recordings, but it is not reasonably expected that they would match the originals.

Well said. I watched this with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised, and enjoyed it.

#8 of 84 OFFLINE   Todd H

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Posted December 15 2008 - 03:07 AM

My wife's most eagerly anticipated blu-ray release of the year. I've just got to make sure I'm out playing golf when she decides to watch it. Posted Image

#9 of 84 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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Posted December 15 2008 - 03:41 AM

How good are the other actors' singing voices? I've heard a bit of Pierce Brosnan's voice, and it actually wasn't that bad. It was clear he had a lot of fun with it. But how do the others compare to him?
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#10 of 84 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 15 2008 - 03:49 AM

...and while you are answering Brian's question, please help push
those of us who read the initial subpar theatrical reviews to purchase
this Blu-ray nonetheless.

I would like to, but...uhm...I am concerned.

(Signed a closet Abba fan)

Ronald J Epstein
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#11 of 84 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted December 15 2008 - 04:23 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Borst
How good are the other actors' singing voices? I've heard a bit of Pierce Brosnan's voice, and it actually wasn't that bad. It was clear he had a lot of fun with it. But how do the others compare to him?
Streep can really sing. (She first did it on film in Postcards from the Edge, and she can also be heard in A Prairie Home Companion.) Amanda Seyfried also has a good voice. Christine Baranski is an authentic Broadway star.

I have zero recollection of Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgaard. I'm not even sure how much solo singing they do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
the initial subpar theatrical reviews
A lot of the reviews were just dumb. You have to take this story for what it is: a fluffy excuse to showcase ABBA songs. I've never seen the stage show, because I don't like jukebox musicals. But when I saw the cast they'd assembled for the movie and the setting, I thought it would be fun. It was.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyD
all the random singing and dancing just takes me right out of the movie and it becomes an implausible science fiction to me.
In Mamma Mia! it's the plot that takes you out of the movie (almost). The singing and dancing is what the movie's all about. If you don't believe me, just wait till the end credits. Posted Image
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#12 of 84 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted December 15 2008 - 06:38 AM

In spite of my problem with this type of movie I can't even say I didn't like it.

It's just a likable movie and it was fun.

there is a feature that let's you sing along
like karoake but it's intrusive and takes up a good portion of the screen.

the subtitles work much better as it is just normal
subs and also intorduces the title of each song
as it begins.

btw, Brosnan was the only one who did not have much
of a singing voice.
he was clearly struggling with the songs.
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#13 of 84 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted December 15 2008 - 07:20 AM

Oh...I don't know. I didn't think Firth and Skaarsgard acquitted themselves much better. Posted Image I actually thought Julie Walters was the worst of the lot.

But, Ron, it's not about how badly any of the actors sang. As others have reported, it's a fun piece of fluff. Don't take it seriously and as a closet Abba fan you will be greatly entertained.

And, I can only imagine the Greek islands look beautiful on BD. Posted Image


There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


#14 of 84 OFFLINE   Jace_A

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Posted December 15 2008 - 07:32 AM

Pierce Brosnan's singing was so awful in this film that every time he opened his mouth I wanted to call Greenpeace. As a long time ABBA fan and a fan of movie musicals, I thought this was easily the worst movie of 2008.

#15 of 84 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted December 15 2008 - 07:34 AM

There you have it, Ron!

You're just going to have to see for yourself! Posted Image

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


HTF Rules | HTF Mission Statement | Father of the Bride

Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


#16 of 84 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted December 15 2008 - 06:27 PM

Like Ron, I confess to being a closeted ABBA fan so I shared his concerns about the possible quality of (or lack of) in this film. I was wary when I saw this film but pleasantly surprised, especially since I will admit here that I will be watching this movie again. Given my own... uhm... concerns, if I liked this movie that much, I think Ron will like it too, whether he cares to admit it in this public forum or not. Posted Image

I agree with Michael that Meryl Streep was terrific in her singing AND acting performance. I thought her vocals on "The Winner Takes It All" really helped to make that scene since she conveyed great emotion through her singing voice. Brosnan is arguably the weakest singer of the bunch, and he did fine. Amanda Seyfried, who plays Sophie, has a great voice that may, dare I say, be on par with some of the original recordings.

There has obviously been a variety of different opinions regarding this film, and I look forward to see how many of you are going to agree with my favorable review and how many will not. In spite of the number of haters who decided to pan this movie before ever seeing it, my best prediction is that most of you who see it with an open mind are going to feel that you received more value out of this Blu Ray disc than most others you will buy this year.

#17 of 84 OFFLINE   Brian Sharp

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Posted December 15 2008 - 07:35 PM

I must admit I viewed Mama Mia with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Good fun entertainment if you fall in with the spirit of the movie.

#18 of 84 ONLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted December 16 2008 - 01:53 AM

Tim, thanks for the great review and for picking this one up for me! It seems that you were the perfect reviewer to pick this one up, I'm not sure I would have been familiar enough with the original recordings or able to stomach the u-Controled Abbaness! =) I may give this one a rental in the future tho based on your recommendation.

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#19 of 84 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted December 16 2008 - 04:02 AM

Sam, thank you for the opportunity to review this one. Let me know down the road what your thoughts are about Mamma Mia!

#20 of 84 OFFLINE   Elizabeth S

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Posted December 16 2008 - 06:52 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy E
I agree with Michael that Meryl Streep was terrific in her singing AND acting performance. I thought her vocals on "The Winner Takes It All" really helped to make that scene since she conveyed great emotion through her singing voice. Brosnan is arguably the weakest singer of the bunch, and he did fine.

"The Winner Takes it All" is such a heartbreaking song, and Meryl's version was the emotional heart of the film. Nicely done!

While I can't say Pierce is a great singer, his heartfelt earnestness while singing was charming. The whole movie is just enjoyable and fun -- the dancing and singing need not be perfect to accomplish that.

I'll pick up the BD shortly.





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