Lily James and Jeremy Irvine star in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."
Lily James and Jeremy Irvine star in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 114 min.). I found the film to be an irresistible delight, filled with wonderful Abba music, all-around winning performances, some well-choreographed duets and a wonderful, sunny Greek locale. Just about all the cast is back from the first film, which was based on the "Mamma Mia!" stage musical. While it has been 10 years since the last film, in the film's sequel narrative, five years have passed. Central figure Donna (Meryl Streep) has died the year previously and her daughter (Amanda Seyfried as Sophie) is re-opening the hotel, now called Hotel Bella Donna, on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, after a remodel.

The film also is a prequel, though, and in its many flashbacks shows young Donna (a wonderful Lily James) graduating from Oxford in 1979, traveling Europe and meeting the three men who would become Sophie's fathers, and settling on Kalokairi. We also see the beginnings of Donna and the Dynamos, the singing group she formed with her friends  Rosie and Tanya, played, respectively, by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn as the young versions and returning Julie Walters and Christine Baranski as the older versions.

The flashbacks explain how young Donna accidentally met each of the three men she would fall for and have very brief affairs with, thus not know which of the three was Sophie's biological father. However, all three men would play a large part in Donna and Sophie's lives. Donna is mistaken by young Harry (Hugh Skinner) as a worker in a Parisian hotel; she has young Bill (Josh Dylan) take her to the island on his boat after she misses the ferry; and she encounters a vacationing young Sam (Jeremy Irvine) on the island. She falls the hardest for Sam, but he breaks her heart. Grown up, the three are played by Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan, respectively. Musically, the three young beaus each get a duet with Donna, the highlights being "Waterloo" with Harry and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" with Sam.

Another nice duet is between Sophie and her boyfriend, Sky (Dominic Cooper), who is away in New York City studying hostelling. The camera effortlessly moves from each actor, as if they were in the same room instead of a continent apart. The film opens with the buoyant "When I Kissed the Teacher," set at Donna's Oxford graduation and later revisits "Dancing Queen," with even more of a production than in the first film. Now, a small fleet of ships is involved, as well as 154 dance extras, 100 of whom are from Croatia. "Dancing Queen" is one of Abba's most "up" songs, yet the scene brings a few tears -- mostly of joy. Also joyful is the staging of "Super Trouper" during the closing credits, using both the 1979 and present day casts, including the two versions of each character singing briefly with their other selves. "Super Trouper" is a more uptempo version with a new introduction written by Abba's Benny Andersson. That introduction, by the way, is sung by Cher, who plays Sophie's Grandmother Ruby. Cher also sings "Fernando" with Andy Garcia, who plays hotel manager Fernando Cienfuegos.

There also is an emotional return by Streep -- not really a spoiler, as she is prominently displayed on the home video cover. Her Donna "ghost" sings a moving "My Love, My Life." In addition to being executive producers, Abba's Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus , who wrote Abba's marvelous songs, have cameos in the film. Andersson plays piano in the cafe and Ulvaeus plays an Oxford professor.

As this is a "sing-along edition," extras include being able to watch the film with lyrics included or one can just watch the 18 songs (46:37) with enhanced, more playful lyric script. There are two audio commentaries: one by producer Judy Craymer, who also brought us the first film and the stage musical; and a second by director-screenwriter Ol Parker. Parker also does optional commentary on the deleted song ("I Wonder," 3:04), deleted scene (1:38) and extended versions of "Name of the Game" (3:13) and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" (2:41, it adds Brosnan). Other extras look at Anthony Van Laast's choreography (7:25), the "Super Trouper" closing number (3:39), making the "Dancing Queen" scene (3:26) and the costumes, some of which were based on real Abba costumes (3:30).

The lengthy amount of extras also include Wynn and Branaski talking about playing Tanya (3:10), Davies and Walters talking about playing Rosie (3:15), the three young Dynamos discussing their favorite moments (2:42) and on recording at Air Studios in front of Abba members (2:46), and the three young dads sharing their favorite memories (2:19). Cher and Craymer are interviewed on NBC's "Today" show (4:35). Craymer and the composers discuss the story (5:33), the actors talk about meeting Cher (3:43), a bit on the reunited cast (3:33; Skarsgård says kissing Walters was hard on his back as she is "half" his size), the actors fooling on set (1:09), Streep and James discuss playing Donna (3:30) and a look at the 1979 scenes, when hairstyles were wackier and fashions were bolder (3:48). Grade: film and extras 3.5 stars

By the way, last summer, Universal issued a 10th anniversary edition of "Mamma Mia!: The Movie," with an all-new bonus disc of 90-plus minutes. The new extras look at director Phyllida Lloyd, writer Catherine Johnson  and producer Craymer (9:30); a behind-the-scenes look at filming "Voulez-Vous" (5:14); the making of "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!," including rehearsals (5:15); Baranski performing "Does Your Mother Know" (6:17); Streep performing the title song (3:49), a VH1 look at the film (21:17); on location in Greece (4:04); Seyfried on the various sets (4:12); and a seven-part look at various aspects of the film (19 min.).

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Scorpion King: Book of Souls (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 101 min.). The fifth film in the franchise is very routine, basically one fight after another, with little to grab the viewer emotionally. Fresh off "Death Race: Beyond Anarchy," Zach McGowan now plays the Scorpion King, the last of the Akkadians in pre-pharaoh Egypt.

The film opens with evil warlord Nebserek (Peter Mensah of TV's "Midnight, Texas") discovering the Fang of Anubis, a legendary sword, forged in the Underworld, that captures the souls of those it kills and makes its wielder stronger with each death. Nebserek is supported by female warrior Mennofer (Inge Beckmann) and sorceress Khensa (Mayling Ng). Nebserek sends Mennofer to bring Scorpion King, aka the blacksmith Mathayus, back so he can kill Mathayus. While she does capture Mathayus after a fight, she needlessly kills the young boy who was learning to be a blacksmith.

On the way back to Nebserek, Mathayus is freed by Nubian Princess Tala (Pearl Thusi), who wants him to help her obtain the Book of Souls, with its knowledge of how to destroy the sword. Their journey takes them to a stone gateway in the middle of the desert, which proves to be a portal, where they find Amina (Katy Louise Saunders) and her golem guardian (Nathan Jones in heavy makeup as Enkidu). Soon, all are headed to battle with Nebserek.

The best scene is a rooftop battle that throws in some Parkour moves. There are no bonus features. Grade: film 2 stars

Patient Zero (Sony DVD, R, 86 min.). This is an above-average zombie film. Most of the film is set in an underground nuclear war shelter, where Morgan (Matt Smith of "Dr. Who") and scientist Dr. Gina Rose (Natalie Dormer) are trying to find patient zero so they can create a cure to the super strain of rabies that has spread to humans. The disease alters the brain and nervous system, making victims so aggressive that they attack and bite other humans. They are not dead, but they are uncontrollable killers. Morgan was bitten, but not turned. It gave him the ability to understand and speak the infected's language  and thus he is the base's interrogator. Morgan plays music because melody affects the infected and he names the captured after the musicians whose records he plays; thus, Joe Cocker, Pete Townshend and so on.

Things start to change when an infected played by Stanley Tucci (The Professor) is captured. It turns out he has heard stories about Morgan and wants a dialogue. Flashbacks show when The Professor was turned. Of course, the facility ends up being invaded by the infected, leading to lots of violence. Grade: film 3 stars

Trauma (Artsploitation, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 107 min.). The movie opens with some torture of apparently political prisoners in Chile decades ago. Frankly, the opening scene is one of the most brutal I have ever seen. This definitely is not a film for the faint of heart. Writer-director Lucio A. Rojas tries to carry the political message forward in what follows -- not too successfully to my eye -- as it appears a child victim in the opening sequence becomes, along with his psychopathic son, perpetrators of the extreme and disgusting violence that follows.

The main story follows four women -- two are sisters, one of whom brings along her lover -- who venture into the countryside for a weekend retreat from Santiago. After a disturbing stop at Gloria's Tavern for directions, they reach the isolated house that is their destination. There they are attacked, raped and one is killed by the man and his son. When two policemen show up, they are gunned down. Instead of going back to Santiago, though, the three remaining woman decide to track down their two attackers, as they have taken a young local girl prisoner. Grade: 2.5 stars

The Cyclops (1956, Warner Archive Blu-ray, NR, 65 min.). The film was written, directed and produced by Bert I. Gordon, who was a master of making low-budget films in the 1950s, including "The Amazing Colossal Man," and the 1960s, including "Village of the Giants." In the 1970s, he brought us "Food of the Gods" and "Empire of the Ants," having directed 24 films in all.

Here, the Cyclops (played by Duncan "Dean" Parkin with only facial makeup) is not really a cyclops. He does only have one eye, but that is because damaged skin covers his right eye. Nonetheless, he is 25 feet tall and living in an isolated valley in Eastern Mexico.

Susan Winters (Gloria Talbott of "All That Heaven Allows") has organized a search party to find her fiancé, whose plane crashed three years earlier, but the Mexican governor prohibits her flying into Sierra Tarahumare, a place no one ever returns from. Nonetheless, Winters directs the plane into the forbidden territory. Her party consists of pilot Lee Brand (Tom Drake of "Meet Me in St. Louis," "The Green Hornet"), bacteriologist Russ Bradford (James Craig of "The Devil and Daniel Webster") and Marty "Martin" Melville (Lon Chaney Jr. of "The Wolf Man" films), who has brought along a scintillator, as he is seeking uranium.

Among the absurdities is Melville knocking out the pilot while they are in flight. The special effects are not great, as giant lizards, hawks and the like populate the uranium-filled valley. It is too obvious that the animals, small in reality, were filmed separately, as they are whitened compared with the regular action, as is the cyclops. Plus, you get the usual giant lizard on giant lizard battle. The cyclops only shows up when there is 20 minutes left in the short film. Grade: film 2 stars

The Swarm (1978, Warner Archive Blu-ray, NR, 155 min.). This is an Irwin Allen disaster movie, one based on the fact that Africanized bees were approaching the United States from South America. This was the big "killer bees" scare of the mid-1970s. Made four years after "The Towering Inferno," which is referenced on the theater marquee in the film, Allen not only produced, but also directed the film. Killer bees are a hard villain to depict -- however, 22 million bees were used in making the film -- but what really sinks the film is its plodding pace.

The all-star cast is led by Michael Caine, who plays scientist Bradford Crane, who just happens to be on site when bees attack a missile site in Texas. The film opens six minutes without any dialogue, as hazmat suited figures enter the base and only find Crane alive. Crane spends much of his time squabbling with Gen. Slater (Richard Widmark) and Major Baker (Bradford Dillman) -- until the president gives him total control over the situation, including the military -- and hanging out with Dr. Capt. Helena Anderson (Katharine Ross), who is trying to find a cure for the virulent bee venom  (4 stings can kill a person). Brought in to help find a cure are Dr. Walter Krim (a wheelchair-bound Henry Fonda) and Dr. Hubbard (Richard Chamberlain).

The pending disaster is personalized when a family of three's picnic is attacked by the bees and only their young son survives. The family is from Marysville, which soon is attacked by the bees. In Marysville, there is a love triangle between Mayor Clarence (Fred MacMurray) and relative newcomer Felix (Ben Johnson), who both vie for the attentions of School Superintendent Maureen Schuester (Olivia de Havilland). Also in town is a pregnant widow (Patty Duke Astin). Lee Grant plays TV news reporter Anne MacGregor who shows up to cover the attack..

The highlight of the film is a train derailment, partially filmed from inside. Late in the film, it turns silly with soldiers with flamethrowers burning buildings and cars as they try to destroy the bees in Houston. The only bonus feature is a pretty good behind-the-scenes vintage featurette (22:12) that shows some rehearsal footage and how the train wreck was accomplished. Grade: film 1.25 stars; extra 2 stars

Factual addendum

Whatever happened to those killer bees?

A well-intentioned Brazilian scientist, Warwick Kerr, wanted to develop a more productive strain of honey bee in his country. Honey bees pollinate crops, making them essential for food production. Kerr imported some African bees, which were known for their more productive work ethic, and began to breed what he hoped would be a superior worker bee. Under the right climate, his hybridized bees outperformed the non-hybridized bees. However, then a hired beekeeper, who knew nothing about Kerr’s special traps to keep the Brazilian queen bees apart from the Africans, removed the safety guards, allowing the bees to intermingle. The harm was irreparable and irreversible.

From that mistake in 1957, African bees, hybridized with far milder Italian and other European bees, began their trek northward, arriving in Texas in 1985. The hybrids maintained their ferocious defensive temperament that surfaced whenever their hive came under threat or assault. All South and Central America, as well as the United States, began to fear the worst, with movies like "The Swarm" spreading the fear.

African bees and hybrids are extremely defensive and combative about safeguarding their hive, due to an abundance of natural predators in Africa. Their venom is no stronger, but much more of it is injected into a victim because so many bees attack and sting at once. However, the total deaths from killer bees in history is estimated at only 1,000.