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

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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

Reel Women: June UK Releases

Written by Elena Morgan

Welcome back to Reel Women, a monthly feature where we highlight the films that are being released in the UK this month that are written and/or directed by women. As ever this is a mixture of wide and smaller releases, so depending where in the country you are, some might be easier to see than others, and there’s a couple of Netflix Original films here too. All the release date information comes from Launching Films and all dates are correct at the time this post was written – we all know film releases can change at the last minute, especially for smaller films.

This month there’s romantic comedies, documentaries, dramas, and one I’m personally very excited for – the Ocean’s spin-off.

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1 June

Book Club
Directed by Bill Holderman
Written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms

When four long-time friends (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen) decide to read 50 Shades of Grey for the book club, they all get a whole new lease for life.

Erin Simms is an actress and producer who worked as a part of the crew for such films as ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘Pete’s Dragon’. ‘Book Club’ is her first produced screenplay.

Ismael’s Ghosts

Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Written by Arnaud Desplechin, Julie Peyr and Léa Mysius

Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) is a filmmaker whose life is turned on its head when his wife (Marion Cotillard), who he hasn’t seen for over twenty years comes back into his life, disrupting his relationship.

This is Julie Peyr’s second collaboration with Arnaud Desplechin and her tenth screenwriting credit. Léa Mysius is a writer and director of a number of short films. Her debut feature film, ‘Ava’, screened at the London Film Festival last year.

Lost in Vagueness
Directed by Sofia Olins

A music documentary about Roy Gurvitz who created Lost Vagueness at Glastonbury and reinvigorated the festival.

‘Lost in Vagueness’ is Sofia Olins’ first feature-length documentary. She’s previously worked as a second unit director or assistant director on a variety of British television series including ‘Primeval’, ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘Peep Show’.

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8 June

The Boy Downstairs
Written and Directed by Sophie Brooks

Diana (Zosia Mamet) is forced to reflect on her past relationship with Ben (Matthew Shear) when she unintentionally moves into the apartment above his.

‘The Boy Downstairs’ is Sophie Brooks first feature film.

15 June

Set It Up
Directed by Claire Scanlon
Written by Katie Silberman

Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) are two stressed out assistants who each have a high maintenance boss, Kristen (Lucy Liu) and Rick (Taye Diggs). When they decide to play matchmaker, maybe they can spread some romance and get their freedom.

Think of any big American comedy show of the past ten years and Claire Scanlon has probably directed at least one episode of it. Her directing credits include ‘The Office’, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Fresh Off the Boat’. ‘Set It Up’ is her first feature film. Katie Silberman has previously produced comedy films ‘Hot Pursuit’ and ‘How to Be Single’. ‘Set It Up’ is her first feature-length screenplay to make it to the screen.

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22 June

Ocean’s 8
Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Gary Ross and Olivia Milch

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) gathers a crew to attempt to rob the Met Gala.

Olivia Milch is a writer-director whose debut film, ‘Dude’, is a Netflix Original Film. As well as co-writing Ocean’s 8 she is also a co-producer on the film.

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat
Directed by Sara Driver

A documentary exploring the pre-fame years of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and how New York City its people and the shifting arts culture of the 1970s and ‘80s shaped his work.

‘Boom for Real’ is Sara Driver’s first documentary feature film and her first film in 15 years.

Freak Show
Directed by Trudie Styler
Written by Patrick J. Clifton and Beth Rigazio

Despite attending an ultra-conservative high school, teenager Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) decides to run for Homecoming Queen.

Trudie Styler is an actress and producer and ‘Freak Show’ is her directorial feature debut. Beth Rigazio has previously written TV movies including the Disney Channel original movie, ‘Go Figure’.

24 June

To Each, Her Own (aka Les Gouts et Les Couleurs)
Directed by Myriam Aziza
Written by Myriam Aziza, Denyse Rodriguez-Tomé

Simone’s (Sarah Stern) been in a relationship with Claire (Julia Piaton) for years but has never come out to her family. Her brothers keep trying to set her up with men, her father’s a traditionalist and her mother is just a little bit eccentric – soon everything comes to ahead and Simone is forced to make some hard choices.

‘To Each, Her Own’ is a Netflix Original and is Myriam Aziza’s sixth film. She wrote, directed, edited and was cinematographer on her documentary film ‘L’an prochain à Jérusalem’. Denyse Rodriguez-Tomé previous screenwriting credits include ‘I Hate Love‘ which won the Award of the Youth in the French Film category at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

27 June

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
Written and Directed by Mari Okada

Maquia (Manaka Iwami) is an immortal girl and when she ventures out into the world she meets Erial (Miyu Irino) a mortal boy, their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond that lasts throughout the years.

‘Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms’ is Mari Okada’s directorial debut but she’s written episodes for dozens of different anime. In 2011 Okada won the Animation Kobe Award, an award and event that aims to promote anime and other visual media.

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29 June

Leave No Trace
Directed by Debra Granik
Written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

A father (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) have an idyllic life living in a vast urban park in Oregon, until they are forced to re-join society.

Debra Granik is the director of ‘Winter’s Bone’, a film she co-wrote with Anne Rosellini and which earned them both an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. ‘Leave No Trace’ is their first feature film since ‘Winter’s Bone’ was released in 2010.

Patrick
Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Written by Vanessa Davies, Mandie Fletcher and Paul de Vos

Sarah’s (Beattie Edmondson) life is a bit of a mess and she really could do without the pug named Patrick her grandmother bequeathed her. As Sarah struggles to look after Patrick, find romance with his vet (Ed Skrein) and cope with a new job, Sarah realises that Patrick might just be helping her turn her life around.

Mandie Fletcher has directed episodes of popular British comedies like ‘Black Adder the Third’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’, and ‘Miranda’ and her previous film was ‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’. ‘Patrick’ is both Mandie Fletcher’s and Vanessa Davies’s first produced screenplay.

The Bookshop
Written and Directed by Isabel Coixet

Set in a small English town in 1959, Florence (Emily Mortimer) decides to open a bookshop but is met with polite yet ruthless opposition.

Isabel Coixet is a Spanish filmmaker with over 30 directing credits and 20 writing credits to her name.

 


 

That’s thirteen films made by women being released in the UK in June. There’s something for everyone with animation, dramas, documentaries and a fair few romantic comedies. Personally, I’m looking forward to ‘Ocean’s 8′ and ‘Set It Up’, two films that have been on my radar for a while, but one I hadn’t heard of before researching this feature but definitely want to see is ‘Freak Show’ – the trailer makes it look like so much fun!

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