TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.12 “Say Yes” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


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Early on, during tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, I saw Rick smiling and I thought to myself, “Oh, shit…”

See, it’s a general rule that, whenever Rick’s happy, something terrible is about to happen.  Rick is not allowed to be happy.  Remember what happened when he was happy about being reunited with his wife, son, and best friend Shane?  Remember what happened when he thought he could make a new life as a pig farmer?  Nothing good is allowed to happen to Rick.

So, when it briefly appeared that Rick might be dead towards the end of the episode, I thought he very well might be.  I have to admit that I was kind of excited about the idea.  Who would step up to take Rick’s place?  (Daryl.)  Who would Michonne love without Rick around? (Daryl.)  Who would Carl look up to if Rick was dead?  (Daryl’s the obvious answer but knowing Carl, he’d probably run off and ask Negan to adopt him.)  And I have to admit that, as a reviewer, I was looking forward to not only writing about the impact of Rick’s death but also seeing all the extra hits that my post would get.  I’ll admit it, I’m not that innocent.

Of course, then Rick suddenly emerged from hiding and started killing walkers.  He even got to do a badass slow motion weapon toss to Michonne.  Eventually, if The Walking Dead is to have any integrity, Rick and every other major character, no matter how popular or important, is going to have to die.  But tonight was not that night.

(Of course, next week’s season finale episode is called “Bury Me Here,” so it sounds like someone will be leaving us…)

Tonight’s episode was almost totally devoted to Rick and Michonne and, after all the darkness of the past few episodes, it was nice to see them actually enjoying themselves.  As much as I dread seeing Rick smile, I kind of enjoy it too.  Since Rick tends to carry the weight of the world on his soldiers, it was nice to see that he actually can get some sort of pleasure out of his violent existence.  The fighting, smiling, and lustful Rick that we saw tonight was a nice change from the neutered and whiny Rick who we had to deal with during the first half of the season.  This is the Rick that we want to see!

(On twitter, I suggested that another reason why Rick was so happy was because, for once, he didn’t have to deal with one-eyed Carl standing in the background and making him feel guilty.  Some people apparently did not appreciate my theory, which leads me to wonder when we all suddenly decided that we liked Carl again.)

Tonight, Rick and Michonne were not the only people looking for guns.  Rosita also went searching  but could only find one cap gun and a walker with a double chin.  Father Gabriel, of course, used this as an excuse to lecture her about hate and violence but you know what?  Shut up, Father Gabriel.  How and why are you even still alive at this point?  I don’t blame Rosita for being mad and I don’t blame her for wanting to take action.  And if Rosita’s plan to kill Negan is running the risk of ruining Rick’s plans — well, that’s probably a good thing.  Rick’s plans never work.  Ask Herschel how well Rick’s plans work.  Ask Glenn.  Ask Abraham.

(Checking on twitter, I see that I’m kind of alone as far as my sympathy for Rosita is concerned.  It’s interesting how the people who are continually upset when Daryl doesn’t automatically kill everyone that he meets are apparently the same people upset about Rosita having “an attitude.”  Whatever, people.)

Anyway, this was a pretty good episode.  As much as I may bitch about Rick as a leader, I was happy to see him actually get a chance to enjoy himself without the world automatically ending.  Michonne, who has been underused lately, finally got a chance to remind the viewers of what a badass she truly is.  The moment when she thought Rick was dead was a moment of great acting from Danai Gurira.

As for next week’s episode, it’s getting close to the season finale!  Who will live?  Who will die?  (Eugene, probably.  And, hopefully, sanctimonious Father Gabriel.)  We’ll find out next week!

(CORRECTION: Due to my notoriously short attention span, an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that next week was the season finale.  I apologize for the error. — LMB)

Here’s The Red Band Trailer For Free Fire!


Hi, everyone!

When Jeff and I went to see Logan on Thursday night, one of the many trailers that played before the film was this red band one for Free Fire.  Free Fire is an action comedy, one that I think is meant to satirize the ultra violent heist films of the 90s and early aughts.  Seriously, there are parts of this trailer that should make Guy Ritchie cringe.

That said, this trailer is also about a minute too long.  At first, everyone in the theater thought it was kind of funny but then, around the two minute mark, the yawns started to kick in.  “Are they just going to shoot at each other for the entire trailer?” someone asked.

The answer is yes.  And you know what?  The trailer probably doesn’t do Free Fire justice because this movie was directed by Ben Wheatley and I’m still having dreams inspired by his oddly hypnotic A Field in England.  I’ll follow him anywhere!

Free Fire has a March 31st release date in the UK and an April 21st release date in the States.

Anyway, here’s the red band trailer for Free Fire!

For the 10 Year Old in All of Us: THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (Warner Brothers 2017)


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Before I start this post, allow me to introduce you to today’s co-reviewer:

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This is my young friend James. I first met him when I was working with his mother. He was a shy three-year-old whose father had disavowed him. He was mistrustful of most adults, but for whatever reason, he took a liking to me, and “adopted” me as his best friend. I’ve become somewhat of a mentor to him, and we have lots of fun going places like Chuck E. Cheese, the park, the zoo, and the movies. He’s ten now, and a big Lego fan, so naturally we saw THE LEGO MOVIE together. When I asked him if he wanted to see THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, he got super-excited. I must admit I was too, being a huge Batmaniac myself.

So today we went to check it out. James told me his school friends said it was “cool”…

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A Movie A Day #64: Gunslinger (1956, directed by Roger Corman)


gunslinger_posterWelcome to Oracle, Texas.  It’s a dusty little town in the old west.  Marshal Scott Hood (William Schallert) may uphold the law but everyone knows that the town is actually run by Erica (Allison Hayes), the owner of the local saloon.  Erica knows that a railroad may be coming to town so she comes up with a plan to buy all the land around Oracle.  She sends her lackey, Jake (Jonathan Haze), to each landowner.  Jake buys the land then murders the landowner so that he can get the money back.

When Scott is gunned down by two outlaws, his widow, Rose (Beverly Garland), takes over as temporary marshal.  Rose has two weeks until the new marshal arrives but that is just enough time for nearly everyone in town to get killed.  It starts when Rose orders Erica to close her saloon at three in the morning.  Erica loses the epic catfight that follows so she hires her former lover, Cane Miro (John Ireland), to come to town and kill Rose.  Cane is more interested in killing the town’s mayor (Martin Kingsley), a former Confederate who abandoned Cane and his brothers to Union forces during the Civil War.  Even more complications arise when Cane and Rose fall in love.

Roger Corman has described Gunslinger as being his most miserable experience as a director.  He filmed it in six days and it rained for five of them, causing cameras and lights to sink into the mud.  Both Allison Hayes and Beverly Garland were injured during filming, with Hayes breaking her arm after falling off a horse and Garland spraining her ankle while running down the stairs of the saloon.  During the filming of an outdoor love scene, both Ireland and Garland were attacked by fire ants.

Gunslinger is usually savaged by reviewers and it was featured on an early episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  But how can any film be that bad if it features an epic cat fight between Beverly Garland and Allison Hayes?  Gunslinger is proof that Beverly Garland and Allison Hayes were actress who could make something entertaining out of even the least inspiring material. Garland gives a serious, heartfelt performance while Hayes goes all out as evil Erica.  Years before he played Seymour in Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors, Jonathan Haze is intensely weird as Jake. As with many Corman films, part of the fun is watching for members of the Corman stock company, like Dick Miller and Bruno VeSota, in small roles.   Gunslinger may not be a classic but I like it.

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Film Review: Custody (dir by James Lapine)


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Last night’s Lifetime movie premiere, Custody, didn’t really feel like a Lifetime film.

This was largely because it really wasn’t.  Custody was written and directed by the acclaimed theatrical director, James Lapine.  The cast features not only Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub and Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno but also two Oscar winners, Viola Davis and Ellen Burstyn.  Unlike most Lifetime films, Custody was not filmed in Canada.  There were no Toronto landmarks in the background.  (You never realize how much you miss Canada until it’s gone.)  Custody played at Tribeca last year.  Much like Stockholm, Pennsylvania, Custody was made for a theatrical release but it ended up premiering on television instead.  As a result, Custody did not follow the usual Lifetime 8 act pattern.  The commercial breaks felt awkward.  With a 150 minutes running time, this film tested my four-minute attention span.

The other thing that set Custody apart from most other Lifetime films was that it wasn’t much fun to watch.  The great thing about Lifetime movies is that they are almost always fun.  It doesn’t matter what serious subject is being examined.  It doesn’t matter how dramatic things may get.  Lifetime movies are always fun.  To use one of my favorite terms, Lifetime movies embrace the melodrama.  Lifetime films push the limits.  Lifetime films say, “You think we won’t introduce a crazy twin halfway through the movie?  JUST WATCH US!  You think we won’t toss in a sudden case of amnesia or a cheating husband or a psychotic au pair in lingerie?  YOU DON’T KNOW LIFETIME!”

Custody, on the other hand, was a very serious movie about a very serious topic and therefore, it wasn’t much fun to watch.  In fact, Custody was a bit of a well-intentioned mess.  It followed one case as it worked its way through the family court system.  Sara Diaz (Moreno) has been wrongly accused of being an unfit mother.  Her attorney is Ally Fisher (Hayden Panettiere), who has just graduated from law school and who comes from a rich family.  Ally’s grandmother is played by Ellen Burstyn, largely because everyone’s rich grandmother is played by Ellen Burstyn.  Representing the state is Keith (Dan Fogler), who has absolutely horrid taste in ties.  The judge is played by Viola Davis and she’s going through a messy divorce from Tony Shalhoub.

I could see what Lapine was going for.  Custody juggles several plotlines, showing how everyone involved in the case has their own individual biases and problems to deal with.  Will the judge’s dissolving marriage make her more or less sympathetic to Sara?  Will the white and privileged Ally ever be able to truly understand Sara’s situation?  Will Keith ever learn how to properly select a tie?  These issues may seem petty when taken on their own but, when crammed together, they form one big human drama.

Or, at least, that seems to have been the plan.  Lapine gets some good performances from his cast but Custody never quite comes together.  This is one of those heavy-handed films where characterization is more likely to be advanced by a lengthy monologue than by action.  Add to that, Custody is ultimately far too enamored of the family court system.  Everyone means only the best and the bureaucracy is your friend.

I will say this.  Based on my own experience working as an administrative assistant in a law office, Custody does get one thing very right.  Male lawyers are always the worst dressed people at any courthouse.  On this count, Dan Fogler played one of the most realistic attorneys ever seen on TV.

 

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions For March


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It’s that time of month!  Here are my Oscar predictions from March.  As you can tell by comparing this month’s predictions to my predictions for January and February, I’ve learned a bit more about the films that will be coming out over the next few months and I’ve changed my mind on quite a few of the early contenders.

That said, at this time last year, no one had even heard of Moonlight.  At this point, almost all of these predictions are the result of wishful thinking, random guesses, and gut instinct.

Best Picture

Battles of the Sexes

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Downsizing

Dunkirk

The Glass Castle

The Leisure Seeker

Logan

Mudbound

Wonderstruck

I went back and forth on whether or not to include Logan in my predictions.  On the one hand, I think it could be nominated.  On the other hand, regardless of how acclaimed it may be, it is also a comic book movie that came out in March.  In the end, since these predictions are mostly just for fun at this point, I decided to imagine a situation where — like Mad Max: Fury Road two years ago — the film’s box office carries it through the summer and it gets some needed support from the precursors in December.

(For the record, if I had decided not to include Logan, I would have replaced it with Blade Runner 2049.)

 

Best Director

James Mangold for Logan

Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Dee Rees for Mudbound

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

If Logan were to get a best picture nomination, I imagine that James Mangold would get a nomination along with it.

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Tom Cruise in American Made

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Miles Teller in Thank You For Your Service

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

The two additions here are Teller and Sutherland.  Teller seems destined to be nominated some day, assuming that he spends more time making films like Whiplash and less time on stuff like Fantastic Four.  Despite a long and distinguished career, Sutherland has never been nominated.  In The Leisure Seeker, he plays a man suffering from Alzheimer’s.  It sounds like a role for which he could not only be nominated but for which he could also win.

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Brie Larson in The Glass Castle

Helen Mirren in The Leisure Seeker

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

The two new contenders here are Mirren and Larson.  Mirren always has to be considered to be a contender and Larson’s upcoming film, The Glass Castle, sounds like pure Oscar bait.

 

Best Supporting Actor

James Franco in The Masterpiece

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in The Glass Castle

John Hurt in Darkest Hour

Patrick Stewart in Logan

Yes, I’m still predicting that James Franco will be nominated for playing Tommy Wiseau.  It may be wishful thinking on my part but so be it.  Every year, Armie Hammer seems to be on the verge of being nominated for something.  Harrelson is included as a part of The Glass Castle package.  Stewart is overdue for a nomination.  As for John Hurt, he was nominated but never won an Oscar during his lifetime.  Darkest Hour could provide the Academy with a chance to honor the man’s distinguished career, in much the same way that The Dark Knight allowed them to honor Heath Ledger.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Naomi Watts in The Glass Castle

I don’t know much about Moore’s role in Wonderstruck but the film is directed by Todd Haynes, a filmmaker who previously directed Moore in her finest performance in Safe.

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Take Me Down To The “Royal City”


Trash Film Guru

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Once upon a time, Jeff Lemire was one of the most interesting up-and-coming cartoonists around. Essex County landed with a bang — rather surprising considering its slow-burn, quiet pace — and seemed to announce the arrival of a major new talent with a highly personal, indiosyncratic vision. His career seemed poised to take off, and take off it did — although perhaps not in the direction many (most?) of us expected.

Enter “The Big Two.” Lemire’s wistful, free-flowing art style was never going to be seen in a Superman or Spider-Man comic, to be sure, but his writing was another matter, and while for a time he was able to balance his more personal, nominally “independent” projects such as Sweet Tooth and Trillium with “corporate comics” like Animal Man, once he signed on with Marvel, he started writing damn near everything in sight — with decidedly mixed results. His…

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“The Phoenix Tapes ’97” : Stop Me Now ‘Cuz You’ve Definitely Heard This One Before —


Trash Film Guru

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As far as modern UFO “flaps” go, none are more well-known than the so-called “Phoenix Lights” incident of 1997, and while I’m not sure we’ve ever gotten anything like an “official explanation” as to what went down, I’ll guarantee you this much — the reality of the situation, whatever it may be, is probably far more interesting than 2016’s “found footage” indie micro-budgeter The Phoenix Tapes ’97. Even if all it was all just swamp gas or reflections of the planet Venus.

The authorship behind this particular piece of garbage is difficult to ascertain — the film has no credits, but that’s par for the course with these things. What’s far less common is the fact that this flick has no IMDB page, and that its official website lists none of the names of the people involved in its production, either. It does, however, make the more-than-dubious claim…

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Music Video of the Day: Money, Money, Money by ABBA (1976, dir. Lasse Hallström)


If you read yesterday’s post on the Flapper Dress version of Money, Money, Money; then you might want to go back to that post. I messed up. I have since found the actual Flapper Dress version and added it to the end of the post.

According to Wikipedia, this was based on Cabaret (1972), which explains the Flapper Dress version. But I found that out at the last minute, so let’s talk about this version as if I didn’t know that fact.

The video starts off by reminding us that while international in appeal, they are a Swedish band.

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Then we cut to Frida working hard for the money in white with the sun out on location in order…

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to contrast with the next shot of her in black on the edge of a spotlight in a studio.

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The spotlight showing Frida standing on the edge of stardom if you will. Note that the music video never shows Frida like that again as if it is a state to which she can’t or never will let herself return to again.

By the way, this might look familiar for two reasons. The first one is that the shot above is what Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen was originally supposed to look like.

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That was the version that was going to be directed by Jeff Stein who came to fame directing The Who rockumentary The Kids Are Alright (1979).

The other reason is that Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler would use contrast between location shooting and a studio set. One where she is free, and the other where she is in the dark waiting for the hero of the title.

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That music video was directed by Doug Dowdle who started in music videos as an editor for Australian director Russell Mulcahy. While Mulcahy didn’t direct Holding Out For A Hero like he did Total Eclipse Of The Heart, it was written by Keith Williams who wrote the treatment for many of Russell Mulcahy’s music videos. I know I already said it in a previous post, but the Sailboat version of Knowing Me, Knowing You has parts that remind one of Rio by Duran Duran–which Mulcahy directed. ABBA was huge enough in Australia that ABBA: The Movie (1977) takes place there. No wonder music video director Kevin Kerslake once commented about how much music video directors borrowed from each other. Even if those connections are superficial, you probably could bring all music videos into some sort of Lasse Hallström universe, like the Tommy Westphall universe that apparently ties just about every TV Show after St. Elsewhere together. Moving on.

The camera now gives us a head-on shot of Frida where we can see her face has been divided into shadow and light.

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Now the chorus kicks in where we see Hallström timing shots of the band to the song. My favorite part here is how the coin and the spotlight are shown to be the same thing.

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Notice that this money is Swedish because that will soon change. You might also notice the poses of the band. It’s noteworthy that they shot this upwards with the guys behind Agnetha and Frida considering the chorus of the song.

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You’ll only see the guys and girls together in this shot, and when they are driving in the car.

The entire video seems to be drawing a parallel between the song’s story of a woman fascinated with being rich to escape the normal grind and ABBA’s career.

At about the halfway mark, we see the woman of the story appear to start coming into money as she puts on a ring. Marriage? I don’t know. Of course the fact that ABBA are Swedish, but sing in English in order to have international appeal, can be seen as a marriage to wealth by singing in someone else’s more well-known language. Most of the times that was English, but there are Spanish versions of some of their songs as well. Frida even did a version Fernando in Swedish. This ties in with the change of the kind of money later in the video. Today we have examples of this kind of thing in The Hives and PewDiePie.

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The lyrics now change to the woman going away somewhere to make money. Note that the ring is no longer on her finger.

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I don’t know if that means she isn’t married, or if it means she can buy the ring herself seeing as that is followed by riches and champagne, which includes more jewelry. You can see that she is the one who puts the ring on her finger. In addition, the money is now American dollars.

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They’ve gone international at this point. Pay attention to how she takes the money here because after some closeups, we’ll see her grab the cash.

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Why the closeups of their mouths? It was 1976. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hallström was going for a Deep Throat (1972) reference, which was still fresh in people’s minds having popped up in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and even Dirty Duck (1974). Seeing as Agnetha and Frida made money with their voices, whereas Benny and Björn did it by writing the songs, it’s not that much of a stretch. Everyone saw that movie back then. Even Jackie Kennedy saw it.

That, and Sweden’s ties to adult films during the 1970s. Their Linda Lovelace of the time probably being Christina Lindberg who returned to Sweden in the mid-1970s when she didn’t want to do hardcore sex scenes. It’s worth noting that Lindberg worked with director Joe Sarno on Swedish Wildcats (1972) because Sarno would go to direct the sequel to Deep Throat in 1974. Also, if Wikipedia is to be believed, then it was Gerard Damiano (director of Deep Throat) who urged Lindberg to return to Sweden because he knew she wouldn’t be comfortable with the direction the film they were making together was going.

Perhaps she is supposed to have been married seeing as the video shortly follows up the money grab with an intimidating shot of Björn…

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and cuts to Agnetha’s eye which appears to wink before cutting to her face. I say that because they were married in real life.

The video does eventually come back around to the Stockholm piano before taking us into the spotlight ourselves.

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I can see why Hallström once said this is the best ABBA music video he ever directed. I still prefer the Snow version of Knowing Me, Knowing You–but I get it. You can even read into the use of the colors of the spotlight. The women share both the blue and red spotlight solo, and with the guys. The guys only have the blue light when they are with the girls posing as the band. In the solo shots of them, it is the red light.

Yes, I did notice that Agnetha and Frida nearly kiss in the video before turning towards the camera. I wonder how many times it took before they could nail that without bumping into each other or stopping short.

Finally, I do know about the ties to royalty that most likely go along with showing the face of the Swedish coin and the American dollar. ABBA sang Dancing Queen at a special party in tribute to the new Swedish queen Silvia Sommerlath, whom married the King of Sweden in 1976. That king being the son of the man featured on the coin–Gustaf VI Adolf.

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I can see why they would compare Martha Washington–who married into wealth–and Silvia Sommerlath–who married into royalty–by also zooming in on George Washington.

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I’m sure there’s more in there having to do with Sommerlath, but the Wikipedia article runs up a lot of red flags, so something like her supposedly working as a flight attendant before marrying the king is not something I feel comfortable stating as fact. There’s probably also something to do with Louise Mountbatten who had married Gustaf VI Adolf, thus becoming Queen of Sweden before dying in 1965. Her husband died in 1973, at which point Carl XVI Gustaf became king and married Sommerlath three years later. They are still the King and Queen of Sweden to this day.

Enjoy!

ABBA retrospective:

  1. Bald Headed Woman by The Hep Stars (1966, dir. ???)
  2. En Stilla Flirt by Agnetha & ??? (1969, dir. ???) + 8 Hootenanny Singers Videos From 1966
  3. Tangokavaljeren by Björn (1969, dir. ???)
  4. Vårkänslor (ja, de’ ä våren) by Agnetha & Björn (1969, dir. ???)
  5. Titta in i men lilla kajuta by Björn (1969, dir. ???)
  6. Nu Ska Vi Vara Snälla by Björn & Agnetha (1969, dir. ???)
  7. Finns Det Flickor by Björn & Sten Nilsson (1969, dir. ???)
  8. Nu Ska Vi Opp, Opp, Opp by Agnetha (1969, dir. ???)
  9. Det Kommer En Vår by Agnetha (1969, dir. ???)
  10. Beate-Christine by Björn (1969, dir. ???)
  11. En Stilla Flirt by Agnetha & ??? (1969, dir. ???) + 8 Hootenanny Singers Videos From 1966
  12. Att Älska I Vårens Tid by Frida (1970, dir. ???)
  13. Min Soldat by Frida (1970, dir. ???)
  14. Söderhavets Sång by Frida (1970, dir. ???)
  15. Ring, Ring by ABBA (1973, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  16. Ring, Ring by ABBA (1973, dir. ???)
  17. Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough) by ABBA (1973, dir. ???)
  18. Waterloo by ABBA (1974, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  19. Hasta Mañana by ABBA (1974, dir. ???)
  20. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do by ABBA (1975, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  21. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do by ABBA (1975, dir. ???)
  22. Bang-A-Boomerang by ABBA (1975, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  23. SOS by ABBA (1975, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  24. Mamma Mia by ABBA (1975, dir. Lasse Hallström)
  25. Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (1976, dir. ???)
  26. Tropical Loveland by ABBA (1976, dir. ???)
  27. When I Kissed The Teacher by ABBA (1976, dir. ???)
  28. Tiger by ABBA (1976, dir. ???)
  29. Money, Money, Money by ABBA (1976, dir. ???)