REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Directed by: Rob Marshall
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke.

Written by Cameron Frew

Mary Poppins is a curious thing. Depending on how you explain her, one would be forgiven for being slightly disturbed – a nanny who arrives out of nowhere flying out of the clouds on an umbrella, with seemingly magical powers and the ability to transport whomever she pleases into weird and wacky animated worlds. Disney turned P.L. Travers’ creation into a cinematic legend, however, beaming with warmth, peppy energy and a rigid stance on manners that taught the virtues of decorum and imagination as a pair. It was the perfect treat for the children and adults of 1964 – now more than 50 years later, cinema has given way to a sequel. Will you require a spoonful of sugar to put it over? No, this medicine is an immensely pleasant time all on its own.

Michael and Jane Banks (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) are now fully-fledged grown-ups. The latter organises rallies for the working class, the former isn’t so content. After losing his wife, he’s saddled with the task of trying to earn a living at a bank under the scrupulous but seemingly generous eye of William “Weatherall” Wilkins (Colin Firth) and raising his three children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson). Life is getting particularly hard as untenable bills mount. Then, as luck would have it, from the breaking clouds flies down Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) to look after the Banks children – and their children.

From the murky, familiar opening shots of an industrial London, there’s a keen sense of welcome in the picture. Not just welcoming new and old audiences, but welcoming its roots, the look, the feel, the style, the mood. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Broadway superstar from In the Heights and Hamilton, plays a huge role in fuelling the charisma machine, leading us into “the days of the Great Slump” with a pep and a jive. He has a breathless allure, the sort of birth-given gift that can’t be truly explained; he’s simply a diamond of the industry.

Whishaw and Mortimer are uncannily believable siblings, both sharing similar ticks and resonant chemistry that’s neither overpowering nor weak. The Newsroom star brings a little of that anxious energy in a likeable turn, but Whishaw has far more to do. That soft-spoken voice which propelled Paddington into our hearts is still around, but the nuance in his performance is quite impressive; at times he’s overcome with giddy joy, at others he’s harrowed with anguish and rage as events out with control cause continuous hardship. There’s a constantly sad undercurrent, the writers (David Magee, Rob Marshall and John Deluca) reminding you of the children’s endless devotion to their mother’s ethos – “That’s what mother would do” you hear them say. But in respecting this grief, in a very accessible way, the filmmakers untangle that knot of emotion.

Of course, they’re gifted the most supreme of helping hands in the form of Blunt, who in one of the most supercalifragilisticexpialadocious efforts this year, totally embodies the spirit of Poppins, and then some. Julie Andrews won the Oscar for the role, and it won’t be a surprise if there’s a Best Actress nomination on the cards this time. Punctilious and genteel, kind and firm, a queen of decorum and advocate of the imagination, Blunt is a revelation.

Soon we’re into ebullient animated-land, a mixture of modernistic visual effects-driven sequences and old-time, classic hand-drawn works that blend live-action and art in the finest display since Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The way writer-and-director Marshall and cinematographer Dion Beebe (who worked on the very different but insanely brilliant Collateral) orchestrate such dazzling set-pieces, packed with stunning choreography and warmly impressive animation is nothing short of remarkable. There are visual gags aplenty that’ll only improve on repeat viewings too, any excuse to dive back into the bathtub.

The song list is only impaired by the odd slightly overlong show tune, but the wild enthusiasm of them all is infectious, anchored on Marc Shaiman’s extravagantly grand composition that never feels anything less than an occasion. ’Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ is the finest number, an ensemble-belter that transports you into the cinema of old.

That’s the thing, Mary Poppins Returns feels like an ode to a cherished time at the movies. It packs both the power to move the kids and the adults, tap everyone’s feet and widen all the grins. There are only a few little bits that nag; the more ornate animation exceeds far better than the CGI stuff, and there’s one joke that sticks around a long time not all that effectively until the admittedly funny pay off. But you can see why big names wanted to get involved; Firth is delicious as a pantomime villain, Meryl Streep makes an appearance, and watch out for Dick Van Dyke. Few sequels these days are quite as joyous.

Blunt is sensational. On top of that, it’s pure Disney. Suppose when you consider the talent involved, there’s nowhere to go but up.

CAMERON’S VERDICT:

4

Advertisements

JUMPCUT All The Way: Love Actually (2003)

Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth

Written by Cameron Frew

Films are a mixture of wine and perishable meats; some grow better with time, others do not age well at all. Love Actually is one such picture that has somehow fallen into both categories for the public: some praise its knowing cheese and saccharine, uplifting qualities; others (often quite furiously) criticize its mishaps and moral ambiguity, particularly among one or two of the umpteen sub-plots in this festive jamboree of laughs, sadness and joy.

Perhaps the most quintessentially British outing in the Christmas watchlist each year, the first sequence is a capture of reunions, hugs and happiness at London Heathrow airport. Then eases in Hugh Grant’s monologue, rekindling even the slightest ashes of lovesick hopelessness. He speaks, rather gently, of how love is “actually, all around”, the fact that any phone call that came from the Twin Towers on that fateful day wasn’t filled with messages with hate, but with, well, love.

Richard Curtis had long-established himself as a writer of spirited, kind-hearted comedy long before here. Four Weddings & A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary – he wrote them all. But this was his first foray into directing, and that debutant nature flairs up occasionally with the odd overlong placeholder shot of a decorated cityscape or the River Thames. But this is generally impressive for someone on such hefty screenplay duties as well as captaining the ship.

A brisk run through of the plot then, shall we? It’s essentially similar to Crash, but a romantic comedy. We follow eight couples that are loosely connected in their own ways in the lead up to Christmas Day. New loves are found and old loves are fractured along the way, but the most important thing to remember is that all you need is — okay I’ll stop now.

There’s Bill Nighy, a faded rock star releasing a trashy Christmas single with his manager (Gregor Fisher). The former is amusingly brash and uncouth and wonderfully played by Nighy, who clearly had the time of his life with the role.

Then we have Colin Firth as a man forced out of his relationship by his adulterous girlfriend and brother (try not to cringe when you hear “hurry up big boy”), taking peaceful refuge abroad when he meets the woman who will change everything (Lúcia Moniz). For all the grander tales of affection, Firth’s is much slighter – not as easy to invest in, but by its sweeping zenith, you’ll fall head over heels.

There’s a handful of smaller, fleeting sub-plots which lack depth but pack in some great jollity. Martin Freeman and Joanna Page star as A-list stand-ins for movies; in this case, they’re in a sex scene. But nattering sparks fly and every moment they share has a cheeky, modest glee. Kris Marshall, after failing to woo the female population of the UK, decides to go to America, where he believes he will be a hit with the ladies. This is one particular instance where Curtis really invites you to be in on the joke, allowing the sort of fantasy many would probably dream of to unfold without any boundaries – and it’s hilarious.

Still in cutesy territory, there’s Liam Neeson as a recent widower, left to raise his stepson (Thomas Sangster), who so happens to have fallen for a classmate at school. She’s the cool girl, who “has no idea who he is”. In terms of bravura exuberance, this is the most effective relationship of the movie, again reaching a stunning finale that’ll have you cheering at the screen and wiping away the tears.

If you’re a Love Actually novice, get used to the idea of crying. This is not a saga free from heartbreak. We’ll start with Laura Linney’s story; she’s in love with a colleague, with whom she shares the odd flirty glance but remains to shy to do anything about it. After a push from her boss, Alan Rickman, wheels start turning. But there’s one problem; she has to always be available on the phone for her brother with special needs. Thankfully, this isn’t played for comedy at all; in fact, it’s potently bittersweet, hitting home a really selfless message where others opt for grand, romantic gestures.

The gestures are sometimes pointed in the wrong direction. The queen of queens, Emma Thompson, is Rickman’s wife. While she is self-effacing and affectionate, he is rather distant. Could be because he’s more interested in the office secretary (Heike Makatsch), who flouts decorum with her demands of “something she wants” and spreading of her legs. Rarely does infidelity evoke such rage; when Thompson realizes her husband’s dirty deeds, she shares a poignant moment with herself to the sound of Joni Mitchell (also, beautifully framed by Michael Coulter). As those tears stream, your fists tighten; it’s one of the most beautifully performed bits of acting you’ll see in an otherwise fluffy piece.

Whereas that’s a story of outright immoral actions, Andrew Lincoln’s is a bit more dubious. His best friend, Chiwetel Ejiofor marries Keira Knightley. But Lincoln is repeatedly cold to her, almost aggressively rude, like she sours his taste buds just from the mere soundbite of her voice. But the old maxim is wee boys pull girls’ hair because they like them. When this internal conflict comes to a close in arguably the film’s most iconic scene, your enjoyment is based on how well you can strip away your ethical thoughts on the matter.

But of all the aspirational fairytales, it’s Hugh Grant’s. He stars as the newly instated Prime Minister, who has an immediate fondness for one of Downing Street’s household staff, Martine McCutcheon (who has an expertly exclaimed dose of swearing: “Where the fuck’s my fucking coat?”). There’s a real charm in their growing liaison, with all their interruptions you constantly route for them. This includes the disruptive, devious President of the United States (Billy Bob Thornton), who functions as an overblown but very effective caricature of the sort of smugness in politics that seems to come with birth across the pond.

But the way they all flow together is nothing short of inspired. You can’t argue that it was a phenomenon, and is readily established as a modern classic in the December genre. For what could have been a self-congratulatory exercise in bringing together a who’s who of rising and veteran stars, Love Actually is remarkably uncorrupted (despite the problematic nature of a few plot points). It’s a thoroughly British affair; endearing, involving, witty. But it’s also an ode to outlandish acts and tolerating hardship, to the necessary evil of tough love and the reparatory nature of a softer touch. Let Craig Armstrong’s uplifting, poppy, crescendo-filled score move and enthral you, and accept that no matter how many times you watch Love Actually, your blood will always boil because of Alan Rickman.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, Ryan Ochoa

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2009 American motion-capture festive film is written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, is based on the classic story by Charles Dickens and featuring motion-capture and vocal performances by Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes.

1843. Christmas Eve. London, England. Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey), a bitter, miserable and rude moneylender manages to suck the spirit out of everyone he works and meets, including put-down colleague Bob Cratchit (Oldman) and nephew Fred (Firth). Reluctantly shutting his shop for Christmas Day, he returns to his home, alone, to spend another festive season away from others.

But as night draws in, the ghost of former business partner Jacob Marley (Oldman), visits him and warns him that if he doesn’t change his ways he will suffer the same fate as Jacob in the afterlife; heavy chains weighing down his soul forged by his greedy ways. Warning him of 3 spirits that will visit him before the night is out, Jacob vanishes.

As the clock strikes midnight, so begins a night like no other for Scrooge as he is sure enough visited by the spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past (Carrey), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carrey) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Carrey), all who will show Scrooge the mistakes he has made, the legacy he has lived and the pain he has caused in an attempt to salvage him and become a changed man before it is too late…

One of the greatest Christmas stories ever written, and told in many adaptations over TV, radio and film, always manages to convey the real spirit of what Christmas is all about in a heart-warming and entertaining, simple way. This adaptation, via the imagination of Robert Zemeckis, following his 2009 motion-capture animation The Polar Express, combines that same dizzying 3D spectacle with nightmarish action, well-presented characters and a well-meaning narrative.

Jim Carrey is on fine form in motion-capture and vocal mode as Ebenezer Scrooge; wiry, mean and cantankerous to the best, almost looking like a man corrupted by the bitterness he embodies with claw-like hands, a bent frame and leather face. The animation is superb, with lots of detail to every hair, inch of skin and location we see. Mixed with a great vocal performance, this Scrooge I feel is one of the best and probably one of the closest interpretations to the Dickens original; coming over at times like an old beast rather than an old man.

With good support from a fairly British cast including Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth, the simple story isn’t lost amidst the made-for-3D action that we are treated to; flying through a beautiful wintery Victorian London, or around a snow-capped countryside or even down the dark and dangerous streets at night-time. This manages to capture the time in history perfectly and looks just the part, with the animation helping our characters bend the laws of physics for a fantastical tale that never puts the actors in danger as they fly, fall and fight.

For a story that nearly everybody knows so well, the way it is presented is key to staying fresh and current, and this is clearly the first 3D motion-capture adaptation giving us lots of nice touches that brings the story to life (literally) with great detail to all the settings we see; flickering candle lights, creaky wooden houses, furious snow falls.

While the film may not be generally suitable for younger viewers thanks to, once again, the love of nightmarish visions Zemeckis injects into these tales that seem innocent enough (we have laughing skeletons, terrifying ghosts who scream at the camera, feral children and demonic horses thundering towards the screen), maybe younger viewers should stick with the fluffy fun of The Muppets Christmas Carol.

But, on the whole, this is a nice 90 mins runtime and doesn’t change the foundations of the story at all. With a wonderfully rousing and traditional soundtrack that channels that festive spirit and a beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ by Andrea Bocelli, this offers a very authentic adaptation of a classic with fresh fantasy injected to take not just Scrooge on an amusing and dizzying journey, but audiences too.

A Magical New Trailer For ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Has Arrived

“In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” an all new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.”

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, ssBen Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walkters, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke

Release Date: December 21st, 2018

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Year: 2018
Directed by: Oli Parker
Starring: Lily James, Amada Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Colin
Firth, Julie Walters, Andy Garcia, Cher

WRITTEN BY MEGAN WILLIAMS

This is going to be a weird way to start off this review, but I have a confession to make: I’m not really an ABBA fan. I enjoy a couple of their songs but they wouldn’t be my first or even third choice of music to listen to, but despite this, still really enjoyed the film adaptation of ‘Mamma Mia!’ in 2008. Now, ten years later, Hollywood has decided we clearly needed a sequel/prequel. I call it that because of the way the plot is constructed: ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’ is set in the present day as well as the 1970’s as we are reunited with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she reopens her mother’s hotel in Greece. The other plot revolves around a young Donna (Sophie’s mother, this time played by Lily James) as she graduates from University in 1979 and travels to Greece where she meets three men (one of which is Sophie’s father) and gives birth to Sophie.

For something that is a blatant cash-grab, I had fun with this charming film. The plot and songs worked well together (for the most part), and the blending of songs (most of which I didn’t know) within each scene fitted in seamlessly. Most of the cast were fantastic too although the standouts, once again, were Donna’s two best friends (played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski in the present plot, and Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn in the 1970’s plot). Amanda Seyfried and Lily James were fantastic and their singing voices are beautiful; they should both be featured in more musicals, and I look forward to seeing them in more films. However, this is where the positives end, unfortunately.

Nearly all of the cast were given singing parts, which is to be expected in a musical, but some of these actors should not have been granted this opportunity: Pierce Brosnan is back once again with his tone-deaf and flat voice (although it’s not for long thank goodness) but he does a passable job, acting-wise, returning as one of Sophie’s potential fathers. Dominic Cooper, who plays Sophie’s boyfriend Sky, is also not that great singing and even acting-wise. While he’s not flat, his singing and acting is very monotone and emotionless; it made me wonder whether he had signed a contract ten years ago saying he had to be in the sequel and he had had second thoughts before the filming of this one. On a final note, Hugh Skinner (who plays the young version of Colin Firth’s character) also can’t sing to save his life, and the sequence where him and Lily James perform ‘Waterloo’ is the probably the cringiest movie scene I’ve ever watched; I had my head in my hands throughout its entirety.

Overall, ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!’ was a fun, charming but blatant cash-grab that, for the most part, works really well and although a couple of the cast members shouldn’t have been given singing parts, this gets overshadowed by the rest of the cast. If you’ve seen every other film that’s out at the moment but still want another trip to the cinema, I’d say check this one out.

MEGAN’S RATING:

3

A New Story Begins In The First Teaser Trailer For ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

“Mary Poppins Returns” stars: Emily Blunt as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure; Lin-Manuel Miranda as her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London; Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks; Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks; and Julie Walters as the Banks’ housekeeper Ellen; with Colin Firth as Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’s William Weatherall Wilkins; and Meryl Streep as Mary’s eccentric cousin, Topsy. The film also introduces three new Banks’ children played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and newcomer Joel Dawson. Angela Lansbury appears as the Balloon Lady, a treasured character from the PL Travers books and Dick Van Dyke is Mr. Dawes Jr., the retired chairman of the bank now run by Firth’s character.”

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, ssBen Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walkters, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke

Release Date: December 21st, 2018

Here We Go Again! First Trailer For ‘Mamma Mia’ Sequel Arrives

“Ten years after ‘Mamma Mia! The Movie’ grossed more than $600 million around the world, you are invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA.”

Directed By: Ol Parker

Cast: Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Colin Firth, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner

Release Date: July 20th, 2018

 

Eggsy Is Suited And Booted In The First Teaser Trailer For Kingsman: The Golden Circle

After a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ teaser was released last week by Taron Egerton over on Twitter, Kingsman fans have been waiting for the trailer for the highly anticipated sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s brilliant and hilarious ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, which was released in 2014. 

Then yesterday another teaser hit the web, this time it was to announce the trailer! (Yes, an announcement trailer for a trailer) We got a quick look at Eggsy (Taron Egerton), Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum), and Ginger (Halle Berry), and a shot of what looks like Kingsman HQ being blown to smithereens!

The trailer debuted on the Conan show overnight and now it’s here! 

The trailer doesn’t show much that we didn’t already know from the synopsis. Kingsman HQ is destroyed and Eggsy meets the US equivalent of the Kingsman, named the Statesman. It looks like thinks don’t get off to a good start as Agent Tequila wrangles with Eggsy and Merlin. We also get our first look at Harry, who we thought had died in the first ‘Kingsman’, but now he’s donning an eye patch and looks ready to kick some more ass. This sequel looks like it’s taken everyone thing I loved about the first one and dialled it all the way up to 100! I’m excited to see how Vaughn has tried to top himself with this one.

“When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called Statesman, dating back to the day they were both founded. In a new adventure that tests their agents’ strength and wits to the limit, these two elite secret organizations band together to defeat a ruthless common enemy, in order to save the world, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy…”

Written by Tom Sheffield

Dick Van Dyke Will Be In The 2018 Mary Poppins Sequel

Dick Van Dyke has confirmed that he will have some sort of role in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, a sequel to the original ‘Mary Poppins’ which was released in 1964, in which he played lovable cockney chimney-sweep, Bert. It’s not yet clear whether this ‘role’ will be a small cameo or an integral part of the story, but either way it will be nice to have a familiar face in the sequel! 

Emily Blunt will be playing the main lady herself, Mary Poppins, and confirmed to join her are Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Angela Lansbury. The story is set to focus on Michael Banks and his 3 children 20 years after Poppins left Michael and his sister Jane at the end of the first film. Michael and his children suffer a personal tragedy, which is where Poppins comes in to do what she does best. 

‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is set to release in December 2018

Written by Tom Sheffield