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

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

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

Decade Definers: 1960s

Written by Chris Winterbottom and Jakob Lewis Barnes

Throughout history, cinema has reflected, echoed and even preempted societal shifts that occur through the ages, and that’s where our Decade Definers series comes in. We’ll take a look at the world, decade by decade, and discuss how the films of that era represented the attitudes, fears, desires and innovations of our society.

In this, the first of the series, we take a look at the 1960s – a period which produced some of the most awe-inspiring, revolutionary and shocking moments in modern history. The swinging sixties; what a time to be alive! A time of political upheaval, technological revolution, sexual and ideological liberation and of course, rock and roll. Presidents were killed, people fought and died for freedom and equality, music transcended entertainment, and man even walked on the moon. In our lifetime, there have been many events that have shook the world – both positively, and overwhelmingly negatively – but perhaps not as frequently as the events seen throughout the 1960s. So, which really encapsulate what this fascinating decade was all about?

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Production Underway On Mary Poppins Returns

Lin-Manuel Miranda has confirmed that production began yesterday (9th February) on ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, a sequel to the 1964 childhood favourite ‘Mary Poppins’.

The synopsis for the sequel is:

‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is set in 1930s depression-era London and is drawn from the wealth of material in PL Travers’ additional seven books. In the story, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown up, with Michael, his three children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson) and their housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters), living on Cherry Tree Land. After Michael suffers a personal loss, the enigmatic nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) re-enters the lives of the Banks family, and, along with the optimistic street lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), uses her unique magical skills to help the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing on their lives. Mary Poppins also introduces the children to a new assortment of colourful and whimsical characters, including her eccentric cousin, Topsy (Meryl Streep).

Dick Van Dyke will be returning to the cobbles of London to play the character of Mr Dawes Jr., who is the chairman of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, which is being run by William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth). Helming this sequel is Academy Award nominatee Rob Marhsall, who is also signed on as a producer.

It’s fair to say that this sequel has a lot to live up to, with the original being a classic childhood favourite for many many people, but with such a strong cast line-up and creative team working on it, I think this sequel has great potential to be successful. 

‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is scheduled for a Christmas Day release in 2018

What are your thoughts on this ambitious sequel?

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

Watch This Space: September 21 – 27

Welcome to your weekly go-to film guide – WatchThisSpace – where we recommend what to watch in the cinema and on the television, and remind you of those brilliant films hiding in your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

It’s not a great week for cinematic releases, with the highlight likely to be Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson starring in the latest biopic to hit our screens, ‘Life’. James Dean is the subject of this movie, as we experience a couple of weeks of the famous actor’s life through the eyes of a photographer. Is DeHaan up to the job of playing one of history’s most iconic actors? We think there is enough potential here to warrant a trip to the cinema to find out.

Alternatively, Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon clash in ’99 Homes’, which quite frankly, looks and sounds pretty dull. We could be wrong, but it’s unlikely that Garfield being evicted from his home, then working for the realtor who forced him out (Shannon), will provide much more than mediocre drama. You’d be better off catching one of last week’s releases, ‘Everest’, which we can guarantee will blow you away.

ON THE TV

Monday 21:00 GMT: Michael Fassbender has certainly made a name for himself as one of the best actors working today. So, before he takes to the throne in ‘MacBeth’, or the phone in ‘Steve Jobs’, why not catch ‘300’ on ITV2, which was actually Fassbender’s first role in a feature-length cinema release. At the same time tonight, you could go for the 90s sci-fi thriller ‘Twelve Monkeys’, starring Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis, on Syfy.

Wednesday 23:05 GMT: We all know that Denzel Washington is a talented actor, and now he’s a talented producer, with his latest project ‘Shame’ having been added to the 2015 UrbanWorld Film Festival. However if you are more interested in simply watching him kick some ass, ‘Man On Fire’ is the film for you. See Washington at his best on Film4, satisfying the needs of all the action junkies out there.

Thursday 21:00 GMT: Winning just one Academy Award is no mean feat, but Clint Eastwood and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ managed to scoop all FOUR major awards in 2005. If that doesn’t stir you to switch to Sky Atlantic and enjoy this boxing drama, I don’t know what will.

Friday 21:00 GMT: Sticking with the ferocious female lead, see Saoirse Ronan make her big screen break in the action-packed ‘Hanna’ on E4. Like a young, female version of Jason Bourne, the titular anti-hero is one with a mysterious and intriguing backstory, and a long line of assassins waiting to hunt her down. If this doesn’t take your fancy, you can always head to ITV2 for the ultimate classic, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, also at 21:00 GMT.

Sunday 17:05 GMT: What kind of people would we be if we didn’t offer something for the kids too? You know what, we don’t even need an answer, because we’ve got the little ones covered too. Hop on board ‘The Polar Express’ with ITV2, a beautifully animated film featuring the vocal talents of Tom Hanks.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

The Jungle Book: Disney really are going all out with their upcoming movie slate, and last week we were enthralled by the first trailer for Jon Favreau’s live-action reimagining of ‘The Jungle Book’. This was my favourite film as a child, so I am beyond excited for next year’s star-studded attempt. But, I cannot imagine anything improving the 1967 classic, so I say “forget about your worries and your strife” and settle down for some nostalgic, animated fun.

Saving Mr. Banks: In the same vein, Disney also announced plans to start work on a ‘Mary Poppins’ reboot/sequel, so what better time than now to dig out this 2013 effort. Emma Thompson wonderfully portrays P.L. Travers, the author and creator of the iconic nanny, whilst Tom Hanks features as Walt Disney himself. ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is a delightful film that we think you will enjoy, and watching this film might even enlighten you as to what Travers herself would think about this recent news. 

Fruitvale Station: What a week it was for trailers huh? Rocky Balboa returns to our screens for ‘Creed’ in February of next year (Novemeber 2015 if you’re in the USA), where he becomes trainer to the son of his old friend and rival, Apollo Creed. Michael B Jordan will take to the ring for what is sure to be a hard-hitting performance, but did you know, Michael B Jordan and director, Ryan Coogler, have worked together before? Well, check out ‘Fruitvale Station’ for a hint of what the pair can do when they combine – a true story based on the tragic events leading to Oscar Grant III’s death on New Year’s Day, 2009.

Chronicle: So it’s no secret that Josh Trank’s ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot didn’t quite live up to expectations, with critics dedicating much of their summer to trashing the film.  However, I urge you not to discount Trank’s directing skills, as only a few years ago he directed this fantastic, sci-fi sleeper hit. This film takes a look at the results of three friends obtaining super powers after a strange discovery, showcasing just what Trank can do. If you needed more reason to dig it out, ‘Chronicle’ features star of this week’s ‘Life’, Dane DeHaan, in one of his best roles to date, and that man Michael B Jordan too.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and special guest Hamish Calvert, of HCMovieReviews. Get more from HC by checking out his movie blog or his Twitter account.