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Abba and Denzel in Very Different Movies This Weekend

Hope Madden Hope Madden Abba and Denzel in Very Different Movies This WeekendPhoto via IMDb.
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It’s the week of sequels, people. Denzel’s back and bustin’ heads, but if that’s not your bag, maybe you’d appreciate the dulcet Swedish tones of Abba? Not their big hits, mind you. Mostly b-sides.

No? Well, there is also an awfully good Iranian coming-of-age film screening this weekend only at the Wex.

Plus you’ve got a couple horrors worth note at Gateway, and another sequel—this one darker and webbier than its original Unfriended—but none of those screened in time for this feature, so you’re on your own.

The Equalizer 2

by George Wolf

The Equalizer 2 gets its director Antoine Fuqua, star Denzel Washington and screenwriter (Robert Wenk) back together for a slightly less satisfying dose of the same medicine.

Robert McCall (Denzel) has moved on from that big box hardware store he decimated in part one and settled in as a Lyft driver, making friends around his Boston neighborhood, and enemies when someone wrongs his friends.

Denzel is effortlessly good, which comes as a shock to no one. He digs deeper into the character this time out, maintaining the ticks that outwardly define McCall while sharpening the edges of a mysterious past that is never too far out of reach.

Secrets from that past begin to leave a bloody trail, and after a hit is ordered on his old boss Susan (Melissa Leo), McCall promises to make the guilty pay, his only regret being that he “can’t kill them twice.”

The absence of a memorable villain is felt. Marton Csokas was a great one, and E2 comes nowhere close to matching his simmering intensity. Substantive moral ambiguities are raised in fairly generic fashion, metaphors get a touch too weighty and the running time a bit too excessive.

The Equalizer 2 does offer plenty to like — Denzel, some scenes with unexpected turns,  a surprisingly touching epilogue, Denzel — but little of it can match the style or the vibe of the original.

Grade: B-

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

by Hope Madden

You may be asking yourself, is Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just 90 minutes of second-rate, b-side Abba songs? All those weird songs that no sensible story about unplanned pregnancy could call for? Songs like Waterloo?

Nope. It is nearly two full hours of it.

The majority of the sequel to Phillida Lloyd’s 2008 smash looks back on the romantic voyage that created the three dad business of the first film.

Lily James is a fresh and interesting young version of the character Meryl Streep brought to life in the original. Likewise, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies make wonderful younger selves for Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters).

The three dads have young counterparts as well, though only Harry (Colin Firth/Hugh Skinner) lands a memorable characterization. Firth is reliably adorable while Skinner’s socially awkward young man is as embarrassing and earnest as we might have imagined.

Also, Cher.

The story is weaker, although there is a reason for that. While the original gift-wrapped an origin story to plumb, the plumbing is slow going when you still have to abide by the Abba songtacular gimmick.

Your best bet is to abandon yourself to the sheer ridiculousness of it. There is literally no other way to enjoy it.

Grade: C



by Rachel Willis

A single act of teenage rebellion is the catalyst for a family’s destruction in director Sadaf Foroughi’s feature debut, Ava.

It’s a harmless action that tears apart the family’s fragile peace – Ava (Mahour Jabbari) tells her parents she’ll be studying at her friend Melody’s house, only to sneak out to meet a boy and win a bet with a few of her classmates. Trying to prove she’s won, she’s late to meet her mother. Because of this, Ava’s mother, Bahar (Bahar Noohian), begins a campaign to weed out any element she deems unsavory from her daughter’s life.

It’s a hard world for a teenage girl. Gossip runs rampant, and it’s not just fellow teenagers spreading rumors, but teachers and parents, too. One mistake can ruin a young woman’s reputation and determine the course of her life.

Unfortunately, some of Foroughi’s stylistic choices are more distracting than beneficial. Blurry images dominate the frame, while the focal point is relegated to a small image in the corner. Arguing characters will be shown from the neck down, their heads cut off at the top of the screen. The commentary Foroughi hopes to achieve, unfortunately, doesn’t really come across.

Ultimately, though, the filmmaker has crafted a compelling, thoughtful portrait of a family in crisis.

Grade: B+


Also opening in Columbus:
The Cakemaker (NR)
Dhadak (NR)
The King (NR)
The Night Eats the World (NR)
Pin Cushion (NR)
Unfriended: Dark Web (R)

Read more from Hope and team at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly film podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.


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