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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The Post

Year: 2018
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk

Written by Chris Gelderd

For every ‘Ready Player One’, you have ‘The Post’. Director Steven Spielberg next two directorial efforts into 2018 following 2016’s ‘BFG’ include a political thriller and science-fiction fantasy. Both rely on source material, but one will include generous CGI, dazzling action and a pulse-pounding soundtrack to really blow the mind. The other relies on history, tension, engrossing acting and a grounded look at politics that transcends decades. ‘The Post’ is the latter and, in my opinion, shows when Spielberg currently is at his best delivering these kind of movies.

Much like ‘Bridge Of Spies’, ‘Munich’ and even ‘Lincoln’, this is a story with politics at the heart of it. Regardless of who or what is at the frontline of the story, it’s the looming and often unseen presence of the White House or the government in question that keeps the plot moving. With the Vietnam war as the catalyst (cue the tick box iconography of a 60s rock soundtrack, low-flying helicopters and jungle ambushes), this isn’t war film on foreign soil however – it’s a war film between the free press and the government fought in American offices and homes with printing presses, telephones and secret papers used as weapons.

At just under 2hrs, don’t expect this to jump back and forth between the Vietnam war, even if this is the root of everything. We have a few minutes at the opening, and then we are jetted back to Washington D.C for the real fight. The atmosphere is brilliant, and the sights and sounds of the early 70s look near perfect to someone young enough not to around in that decade. Everything from the press offices, the cars, the clothing and décor seems spot on and creates a perfect setting for the story. Shirt sleeves rolled up, cigarette smoke hangs in every room and a real sense of hustle and bustle that was the backbone to how the press operated under pressure.

But this is Meryl Steep and Tom Hanks’ film. While Academy Award nominated Streep delivers her role as Katherine Graham as a steadily simmering woman who fights so hard to keep her demeanour professional at all times, never letting her shell crack in front of others, I feel Hanks was over-looked also for his role as Ben Bradlee.

There is something so engrossing about Hanks in any role, and you just automatically invest in him and from the chain smoking, over-confident editor-in-chief we meet at first, he retains this but shows so much passion, drive and fight in wanting to do what is just and right that you really admire him and his team, and you cheer for him; you want him to push harder, to succeed at all costs. Streep and Hanks are the stellar actors of their generation and play off each other perfectly, and make a truly winning partnership.

With a supporting cast including Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie and Tracy Lets, it’s a wide pool of talent who are character actors and need nothing more than a strong script to create a great deal of underlying tension and drama from something that is so simple when you read it on paper – no pun intended.

There are moments when the talking gets a little TOO talky, but it’s never boring or complicated to follow, and there is a strong narrative that cranks the tension up gradually every 10 minutes or so. Something happens. Someone appears. It’s little moments that build on everything else to make the bigger picture even bigger, and the outcome even more important. It has hidden messages that can be linked to the current Donald Trump administration without being a glaring “Trump Bashing” exercise, and yet never dwells on too much politics to turn you off. This is about working men and women, faced with choices that could either liberate the American people or put them all in prison – what do you do when faced with a choice like that?

You can smell the ink during a wonderfully simple moment where we witness what goes on in the printing room from creating the font stamps manually and the paper as it rolls off. Talk about a history lesson – this is how it was before the digital age, and my respect for everyone in that era increased 100% after Spielberg shows us how it was done. Plus, a nice cheeky foreshadowing of the scandal yet to come – Watergate.

‘The Post’ is a slow burning but well-paced political thriller, using every tool in the Spielberg arsenal from diegetic noise, contrasting shading, tight camera shots, stellar actors and a veteran crew without all the political conversations and jargon to deliver a relevant look at the hidden war fought on American soil that changed the free world.

As Alison Brie’s character beautifully reminds us: the press was to serve the governed, not the governors.

CHRIS’ RATING: 9 / 10

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

 

NBR Award Winners Announced

The annual National Board of Reviews awards were announced earlier this evening. Steven Spielberg’s  ‘The Post’ claimed the top prizes, including ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Actor’, and ‘Best Actress’. Greta Gerwig was awarded the ‘Best Director’ award for her directorial debut, ‘Lady Bird’.

Other NBR winners include Willem Dafoe for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ in Sean Baker’s ‘The Florida Project’, Jordan Peele won ‘Best Directorial Debut’ for ‘Get Out’, which also won ‘Best Ensemble’. ‘Coco’ took home the prize for ‘Best Animated Feature’ and Timothée Chalamet wins yet another ‘Breakthrough Performance’ award for his role in ‘Call Me By Your Name’

Full list of winners:

Best Film: The Post
Best Director: Greta Gerwig – (Lady Bird)
Best Actor: Tom Hanks (The Post)
Best Actress: Meryl Streep (The Post)
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Best Foreign Language Film: Foxtrot
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best Documentary: Jane
Best Original Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (The Disaster Artist)
Best Directorial Debut: Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Best Ensemble: Get Out
Breakthrough Performance: Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Spotlight Award: Patty Jenkins & Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman)
NBR Freedom of Expression: First They Killed My Father

Top Films: Baby Driver, Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist,  Downsizing,  Dunkirk,  The Florida Project,  Get Out,  Lady Bird,  Logan,  Phantom Thread

Top 10 Independent Films: Beatriz at Dinner,  Brigsby Bear,  A Ghost Story,  Lady Macbeth,  Logan Lucky,  Loving Vincent,  Menashe  Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,  Patti Cake$,  Wind River

Top 5 Foreign Language Films: A Fantastic Woman,  Frantz,  Loveless,  Summer 1993,  The Square

Top 5 Documentaries: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail , Brimstone & Glory,  Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars,  Faces Places,  Hell On Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS

Streep And Hanks Expose A Government Cover Up In The First Trailer For Spielberg’s ‘The Post’

“A thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee , as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light.”

Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk
Release Date: 19th January 2018

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

Oscars 2016: Best Picture Predictions

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

The approach of the winter months doesn’t just mean it’s time to go shopping for a new coat, because with the cold weather and shorter days comes a growing desire for people to discuss The Oscars. It may be more than four months until the 88th Academy Awards, but that doesn’t stop anyone speculating as to who the winners and losers will be on the big night. To be honest, I’ve been guessing since this year’s ceremony ended, and whilst guesses are all we have for now, The Academy certainly have a distinct pattern to their choices, hence the term “Oscar bait”. Here are the films that are likely to make the cut and be nominated in the Best Picture category.

And the nominees are…

Sicario
Arguably, this intense thriller from Denis Villeneuve (who directed the fantastic Prisoners) is the film which started the ball rolling with all this Oscars buzz. As one of the few films in this list that has actually been released in cinemas, I can offer my personal opinion of ‘Sicario’, and if it was up to me, this would be the winner. Whilst myself, and many others, love this gritty crime flick though, it’s unlikely that ‘Sicario’ will go further than a nomination.

Steve Jobs
Nothing gets The Academy’s attention like a biopic, and with the late founder of Apple taking centre stage in this Danny Boyle production, ‘Steve Jobs’ is about as relevant as they come. A fantastic cast, led by the very talented Michael Fassbender, and Academy favourite Kate Winslet in support, ‘Steve Jobs’ has been garnering praise from early viewings and could be the frontrunner for the Best Picture award.

Suffragette
If there’s anything The Academy loves more than a biopic, it’s controversy. A cast boasting some of the best actresses around – including Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter – should boost ‘Suffragette’ and allow the feminist movement to be represented next February. It also helps that various stars, including Meryl Streep herself, voiced their concerns over the lack of opportunities and equality for women at this year’s ceremony.

Bridge Of Spies
The man responsible for classics such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Steven Spielberg, is back, and has teamed up with legendary actor, Tom Hanks, for this cold war drama. Both of these men are probably sick of the sight of these trophies, but it is very likely that this winning recipe will earn them a few more nominations to add to their resumé.

The Revenant
One man who certainly wouldn’t mind getting hold of a golden statuette is Leonardo DiCaprio, and whilst we’re sure Tom Hanks could just lend him one for the weekend, we don’t think that would quite be the same. By hooking up with Tom Hardy, and last year’s big winner Alejandro González Iñárritu (director of Birdman), Leo may well have given  himself his best chance yet at grabbing a personal award and leading his film to glory. Could Iñárritu win back-to-back Best Picture awards?

Joy
Another winning team come together once again, to bring us ‘Joy’ this Christmas. Director David O Russell, who has received nominations for his last three films (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), joins forces with Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, and familiar faces Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, in what could be a perfectly crafted, Oscar-bait picture. Whilst unlikely to win the top gong, it would be a surprise to see this one snubbed.

The Lobster
The film festival circuit isn’t just a fun way to spend your summer, it’s actually a breeding ground for hot productions hoping to catch the eye of The Academy. Pretty much every year there will be one or two films that thrive in the quirky world of film festivals and make it to the big stage for The Oscars. With an interesting plot, big name stars in Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell, and plenty of hype from critics, ‘The Lobster’ could well crawl its way into the Best Picture category.

Carol
The big success story from the film festival circuit however, is undoubtedly ‘Carol’. This film, which sees Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara embark on a complicated lesbian relationship, has been lauded by critics all summer and will continue to be praised all the way through winter as it arrives in mainstream cinema theatres. It’s an outside shot, but this low-key, artistic offering could well beat the big names and steal the top prize next February.

So, with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ unlikely to get the nod from The Academy, in favour of something more stylistically brilliant (they don’t know what they’re missing), my money is on ‘Carol’ and ‘Steve Jobs’ to fight this one out.