REVIEW: EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

Starring

Will Ferrell (Elf)
Rachel McAdams (Game Night)
Pierce Brosnan (The Ghost)
Dan Stevens (Legion)
Demi Lovato (Smurfs: The Lost Village)
Graham Norton (Fatehr Ted)
Natasia Demetriou (What We Do In The Shadows)
Bobby Lockwood (Dunkirk)

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)There are a fair few things that we Brits are particularly protective of; the correct way to brew a cup of tea, obviously, ranks highly as does our staunch belief that UK comedy series will always be superior to the American equivalents. Then there’s the Eurovision Song Contest which has served as a shining beacon of collective fun and self-deprecating pride in the UK ever since the annual music event began in 1956. So one could hardly embark on a viewing of Will Ferrell’s latest comedic offering, centered on an Icelandic musical duo’s journey through the competition, without some underlying feeling of skepticism.Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)For not only has Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga been written, directed and produced by a team of Americans, whose country has had no vested interest in the singing event in its 64-year-history, but the last time Ferrell dived into British popular culture it resulted in the critically-panned Holmes & Watson. The 2018 film wasn’t screened to critics before its release but after, its Rotten Tomatoes score sank to 10% courtesy of damning reviews.Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)Fortunately, the Eurovision Song Contest has less in common with that insult to the memory of Arthur Conan Doyle and more with the likes of Blades of Glory and Talledega Nights. The Netflix film centers on Icelandic singers Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams ) who grew up together in their remote fishing village and have been dreaming of competing in the annual event ever since they saw ABBA singing their way to victory with “Waterloo” in 1974. Several strokes of luck, or maybe elves (Icelanders are big believers in them), means their act Fire Saga is selected to represent Iceland, and so this Ferrel film once again follows the exploits of an oddball couple navigating a niche competitive arena.
Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)The pair’s Nordic impressions are pretty impressive and Ferrell still has that singular ability to catch you off guard with seemingly ad-libbed one-liners and silly instances of physical humor. Even Lars’ rotating wardrobe – sourced, one assumes, from Instagram #OOTD hashtags – raises a smile but these moments are far too rare and padded out with lackluster cliches and obvious jokes. McAdams offers earnest support as Sigrit, who is hoping to make sweet love as well as music with her singing partner, but whose affections have thus far gone unrequited. It’s a shame she’s never really given the chance to be as comical as Ferrell so her best moments are limited to when she’s singing but even the actress can’t take full credit for that – Swedish singer and former Junior Eurovision contestant Molly Sandén provided Sigrit’s belter of a singing voice.Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)It’s heartening that Ferrell, who co-wrote the script, has a clear affection for the competition. He might be an American but thanks to his Swedish wife he’s been watching the show for over 20 years. The film refuses to mock the Song Contest, instead, it affectionately teases the idiosyncrasies that make Eurovision such a campy, poptastic affair while celebrating the vibrant musicality that is delivered annually by the 50+ countries who compete. There are more than a few parody bops that deserve repeat listening after the credits roll, “Double Trouble” and “Volcano Man,” in particular. There’s also a lovely sing-off scene featuring several past Eurovision winners belting out a medley of pop classics as they dance around a Scottish stately home that Outlander fans might recognize underneath the garish decorations and well-endowed statues. The film even got the UK’s Eurovision host Graham Norton to play himself and deliver commentary during several scenes, though he’s far less cutting than usual.More ardent fans might find themselves pulling an Alan Partridge by screaming at the TV, “stop getting Eurovision wrong!” every so often. In one scene, Russian contestant Alexander (Dan Stevens) jokes that everyone hates the UK because they get “nil points” each year, which is fair, but as the event is being hosted in Scotland that would mean the UK are the reigning champs. This nonsensical error is furthered when the ceremony is hosted by a pair of non-Brits, which seems like an odd thing to get wrong given how much effort went into making this movie authentic in other places. It’s admirable that the film doesn’t shy away from the recent Eurovision controversy involving Russia’s homophobia and clearly the film champions the competition’s campaign for inclusivity by delivering several LGBTQ cameos. But that message is somewhat dampened by the fact that nearly every speaking character is white while people of color serve primarily as window dressing.te6y9kxg-1592964216567Adding these things up, Eurovision Song Contest becomes a film of inconsistencies. It doesn’t quite capture the magic of Will Ferrell’s early buddy comedies but still delivers enough heart and merriment to earn a viewing from the public.

REVIEW: SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE

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CAST

Demi Lovato (Camp Rock)
Mandy Patinkin (Dead Like Me)
Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike)
Rainn Wilson (Super)
Jack McBrayer (Wreck-It-Ralph)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and The Furious)
Ellie Kemper (21 Jump Street)
Julia Roberts (Closer)
Ariel Winter (Modern Family)
Jake Johnson (New Girl)
Josh Keaton (Green Lantern: TAS)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Kari Wahlgren (Rick and Morty)
Jeff Fischer (American Dad)
Courtney Peldon (Frozen)
Lisa Wilhoit (Family Guy)

In Smurf Village, the Smurfs live peacefully among themselves. Their leader is the wise, eldery, and a bit overprotective, Papa Smurf. Some of the Smurfs include the klutsy and slow-witted Clumsy Smurf, the intelligent and eccentric Brainy Smurf, the strong and gutsy Hefty Smurf and the beautiful Smurfette, who feels out of place in Smurf Village as the only girl. Smurfette was created by the villainous wizard Gargamel from a lump of clay, but was redeemed by Papa Smurf and became part of the village. Gargamel makes it his mission to capture the Smurfs, steal all of their essence, and become the most powerful wizard in the world.After Smurfette accidentally breaks an invention by Brainy, made up by a fun day snowboarding with Clumsy, Brainy and Hefty, Smurfette sees a blue creature hidden by a leaf and follows it straight into the forbidden forest, which Papa Smurf forbids the Smurfs from entering, believing the creature to be a Smurf. She loses sight of the creature but she discovers a hat that was dropped by the possible Smurf. Smurfette ends up being captured by Gargamel and at his castle, she ends up inadvertently revealing the hat, enabling Gargamel to mix up a brew that causes him to locate the village on a map. Soon enough Clumsy, Brainy, and Hefty, who followed Smurfette, help her escape and return to Smurf Village, where they are reprimanded by Papa Smurf for disobeying his orders and confines them to their houses while dismissing their claims of a lost village filled with Smurfs.However, Smurfette, still wanting to find her place, sneaks out into the night, with Brainy, Clumsy, and Hefty volunteering to come with her. Gargamel soon discovers them trying to find the lost village and heads out with his cat Azrael and giant bird Monty to stop them. The four best friends follow the map and end up in various predicaments and misadventures, like being attacked by monster flowers and getting caught in a stampede of luminescent rabbits, one of whom they befriended and named Bucky, who helps them on their quest. After setting sail on their handmade raft along the river, they encounter Gargamel, Azrael, and Monty. Following a brief chase, Gargamel was thrown out of his own raft. Hefty and Smurfette convince the others to help save him. They do so but instead of thanking them, he pushed them out of their raft, leaving them to plunge down a waterfall.Meanwhile, back at Smurf Village, Papa Smurf tries to reconcile with Smurfette over his actions on the previous night, but soon discovers that she, Brainy, Hefty, and Clumsy are gone, so he sets out to find them and set things right. Back with the Smurf group, after surviving the waterfall and washed ashore, they are soon captured by the leaf-covered creature from earlier along with a few others and they soon reveal themselves to be female Smurfs. They are taken to their village, which is called Smurfy Grove, in the trees and get to know all the girl Smurfs, including the leader Smurf Willow, the tomboyish Smurf Storm, the hyperactive Smurf Blossom, the gentle Smurf Lily and the music-loving Smurf Melody. They all welcome the Smurfs, especially Smurfette, to their humble home. After a while of showing them what they do, Smurf Storm and Clumsy come back with her telling that Smurfette was created by Gargamel. Before they can attack her for being considered a traitor, Papa Smurf appears, and the female smurfs accept him into their home. Then, Gargamel comes and destroys Smurfy Grove, capturing all the Smurfs, all except Smurfette, who is now alone, feeling guilty for her actions. However, Brainy’s pet Snappy bug shows her a picture of her and the others, and she soon realizes that she is not a real Smurf, and heads back to Gargamel’s lair with Snappy and Bucky to save the Smurfs.At Gargamel’s lair, where all the Smurfs are, Brainy makes a plan to escape. Papa Smurf hears their plan and he and Smurf Willow decide to help them. Hefty, Brainy, Clumsy, and some of the female Smurfs succeed at the plan until Gargamel and Azrael spot them and put some of the female Smurfs and Clumsy into his Smurfilator, extracting their essence. Smurfette appears, tricking Gargamel that she wants to be an evil smurf again. When Gargamel tries to turn Smurfette into an evil smurf, he realizes that Smurfette is absorbing his magic powers instead, a skill she found earlier after destroying Brainy’s invention. The lair explodes, sending Gargamel, Azrael, and Monty into a lake full of piranhas. Unfortunately, Smurfette has reverted to her original lifeless clay form. Back at Smurf Village, all the Smurfs mourn the loss of Smurfette. Using their energy, Smurfette comes back to life and becomes a Smurf again and everybody celebrates. After which, Smurf Village and Smurfy Grove become united with each other and Smurfette finds her purpose, being anything she wants to be and most of all, a true-blue Smurf.Smurfs: The Lost Village is a story that fits nicely between the classic Peyo comics and the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon. The animation is beautifully done. There is no way you can take every little detail in with just one viewing. The plot is fairly straightforward with adventure at the forefront. This film avoids the misplaced pop culture references and overused Smurf puns that many disliked about the previous movies. “Smurfs: The Lost Village” aims for a younger audience, but adults shouldn’t have a problem remembering why they liked these characters themselves.

REVIEW: ZOOLANDER 2

CAST

Ben Stiller (Along Came Polly)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Penelope Cruz (Open Your Eyes)
Will Ferrell (Everything Must Go)
Christine Taylor (Tropic Thunder)
Justin Theroux (American Psycho)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil)
Kristen Wiig (The Martian)
Jerry Stiller (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Zane (The Scorpion King 3)
Antonio Te Maioha (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)
Kiefer Sutherland (Pompeii)
Fred Armisen (Easy A)
Andy Dick (Dude, Wheres My Car ?)
Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Christina Hendricks (Drive)
Willie Nelson (The Dukes of Hazzard)
Katy Perry (The Smurfs)
Sting (Dune)
John Malkovich (Red)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)
Nazanin Boniadi (How I Met Your Mother)
Ariana Grande (Sam & Cat)
Alexander Skarsgård (Legend of Tarzan)
Lenny Kravitz (The Hunger Games)
Demi Lovato (Camp Rock)

At Fashion Interpol, Valentina Valencia examines the expressions of recently assassinated pop singers’ last images and discovers they match Derek Zoolander’s trademark look, “Blue Steel”. A flashback reveals that the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good collapsed, killing Matilda Jeffries and injuring Hansel McDonald. Derek later lost custody of his son, Derek Zoolander Jr., and announced his retirement from modeling and subsequent reclusion. Derek now lives alone in “extreme northern” New Jersey. Billy Zane visits and gives him an invitation to the House of Atoz fashion show by Alexanya Atoz, and persuades him to return to a regular lifestyle in order to regain custody of his son. In the “uncharted Malibu territories”, Hansel returns to his home after dinner and is informed by his orgy that they are all pregnant and that he is the father. He is later given the same invitation by Zane. After reuniting, Derek and Hansel are tracked down by Valentina, who asks them to help Interpol uncover who is behind the systematic assassinations.

At the fashion show, Derek and Hansel are surprised to find that the ever-changing fashion world is now dominated by the likes of Don Atari and the androgynous All. They are put on the runway in “Old” and “Lame” outfits and are doused by a large bucket of prunes. Afterwards, Alexanya congratulates them on their performance. With Valentina’s help, Derek discovers his son is residing at a local orphanage. They find him, but Derek is distraught by his son’s obesity. After Matilda’s ghost asks him to protect their son, Hansel convinces Derek to accept Derek Jr. After meeting the Headmaster, Derek takes his son around Rome. However, Derek Jr. becomes disgruntled with his father and returns to the orphanage. Hansel receives an anonymous call, requesting that he travel to St. Peter’s Basilica at midnight. He, Derek, and Valentina go to the church and meet with Sting, who tells them the tale of Adam and Eve and the little-known Steve, who many rockstars have died to protect. It is said that Steve is the common ancestor of all models and that he and his closest descendant (Derek Jr.) hold the bloodline of the Fountain of Youth.MV5BMTIyOTcxOTM3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODg4ODk2._V1_Derek returns to the orphanage, only to find it in disrepair and his son and the Headmaster gone. He travels to Jacobim Mugatu’s isolated prison, but is captured, while Mugatu escapes. Mugatu leaves on a helicopter while Hansel stows away by hiding on top of the propeller. Derek and Valentina swim back to Rome while Hansel infiltrates the House of Atoz. He witnesses Mugatu reuniting with Alexanya and killing Don Atari. Hansel finds Derek Jr. imprisoned and reunites with Derek and Valentina at the IncrediBALL. They enter a bathhouse through a rear entrance and witness Derek Jr. strapped to a table.

Mugatu and many of the world’s fashion designers prepare to cut out Derek Jr.’s heart and consume his blood, believing it to grant them eternal youth as it contains the blood of Steve. Derek, Hansel, and Valentina stop Mugatu from proceeding and he reveals that he brought together the world’s fashion designers to kill them as revenge for leaving him imprisoned. Alexanya, who is actually Katinka Ingabogovinanana, attacks Valentina, while Mugatu tells Derek that he was behind the destruction of his Center by hiring the construction crew to build a faulty base. He then throws an explosive towards the lava. Derek manages to stop it with “Magnum”, but he struggles to keep it suspended in mid-air. Sting arrives and reveals that he is Hansel’s father, and they, along with Derek Jr., successfully hurl the explosive back at Mugatu, killing him. Derek Jr. forgives his father for his mother’s death and Derek and Valentina confess their love for each other. Matilda’s ghost gives them her blessing and says that Mugatu live-streamed the event.

Six months later, Derek and Hansel have returned to modeling. Derek and Valentina have a daughter named Darlene, while Derek Jr. is now in a relationship with Malala Yousafzai. Hansel returns to living with his orgy and is now the father of 10 children.


Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell reprise their sillinesses from last time, and it is a pleasure to see Penelope Cruz being every bit as silly, and fully prepared to make herself look daft. A great sequel.