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Equalizing ABBA

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Here's the thing about ABBA: they hit the world stage over 40 years ago and have sold more than 380 million records (only The Beatles have sold more).

Everyone knows the ABBA songs, there are documentaries, Broadway musicals, and numerous films featuring their music. They get overplayed at every wedding, and they even have new music set to drop this December ... but does anyone actually like ABBA?

Maybe not? Aside from teenyboppers and pop tarts, is anyone coming home from a long day and chucking on some ABBA? And while disco is enjoying a bit of a revival (and almost overcoming its rep as low-grade funk for people with no real rhythm and expensive drugs: i.e. white people), ABBA are not considered "cool" to the nu-disco crowd either.

But their shit still plays OK on the big screen, at least for some, and the proof is in the Pablum this week with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a prequel/sequel opening Friday at the illustrious Village 8.

The original Mamma Mia! (2008) made over $600 million so I guess this one was inevitable. And by most official accounts, it's not even that bad. Here's the thing though, Mamma Mia 2 is a musical set to ABBA songs (but not even all the best ones because they used those up the first time around). So yeah, musicals ... not for everyone, not for me.

If you are that type of cinematic masochist though, the prequel story takes place back in the day and stars Lily James (Baby Driver, Darkest Hour) as a young Donna (the Meryl Streep role in the first one) out sleeping and partying her way through the sunny parts of Europe. She polyamourously falls into a "who's your daddy" pregnancy that I kinda figure must have been the point of the first movie, maybe?

Then the sequel part of the flick involves Amanda Seyfried's Sophie re-visiting Donna's past (spoiler, she's dead!!) by nosing around/honouring her ma's past while re-opening the old family restaurant.

Except now she's the pregnant one, and then Cher shows up as Donna/Streep's mother (despite being only three years older than Streep in real life) and sings a song. For fans of the first Mamma Mia, this one looks bright and breezy and you can bet there will be a few placenta bowls full of tears and sentiment thrown on at the end. It's a musical though, and an ABBA musical at that ... just saying.

On the other end of the spectrum, Denzel Washington is back kicking ass and serving up hot revenge (and a few Lyft rides) in The Equalizer 2, another decent-looking, well-acted symphony of close-combat violence from returning director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day).

There were no pre-screeners for this one but it looks like a cross between the John Wick flicks and the old Marvel Punisher comic books. Denzel is always looking out for the downtrodden and the picked-on, but apparently this time he's getting revenge for someone he loves (a close friend I guess, since his wife died before the first one).

Action is definitely the name of the game here but Fuqua and Denzel have been known to bring subtext and nuance to their bone-crunching chaos so let's see how it goes. A 129-minute run time makes me a bit wary.

Speaking of lengthy battles, the United States spent almost two decades in Vietnam and the entire tragic, bloody and at times very frustrating story is laid out in a most fascinating and watchable 10-part PBS documentary series called The Vietnam War.

Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, this one blew everyone's mind last winter but it's recently available for free on Netflix and is definitely worth checking out. Plus, at 1,035 minutes (that's over 17 hours) it's the kind of binge TV you can actually feel good about, because you're learning and stuff.

Also streaming on Netflix, Hip-Hop Evolution is a nifty four-parter that traces the rise of the most important and pervasive culture of the past 40 years. Hosted by Shad and featuring a mix of interviews and archival footage of key players throughout the defining years of hip hop (mid-1970s to 1995), this one is for all the hip hop fans out there with Drake in your playlist.

Time for school, kids—Drake is the ABBA of hip hop.

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