Mary Poppins Returns


Viewed – 28 March 2020. Disney+

The original Mary Poppins was one of my favourite movies of my childhood, and even though I haven’t watched it in years, those songs and routines have stayed embedded in me. Chim-Chimney’s enchanting melody has always been a fave. So we come to this unexpected but welcome follow-up set a number of years after that last movie and has the Banks children grown up and facing the re-possession of the family house, due to mounting debts. So it’s time for the magical Nanny to return and put things right.

Nanny Mc…who?

Emily Blunt is perfectly cast. A decent, British actress and it turns out a very capable song and dance performer … but most importantly she delivers a perfect rendition of Poppins that would make Dame Julie Andrews proud. Although the many musical numbers can’t quite compare to the original, songs like ‘can you imagine that?’ and ‘trip a little light fantastic’ are solid numbers with fantastic set pieces sequences. The China bowl sequence especially was dripping with artistic flair. The story is pretty much a remake though but that’s not a bad thing when the mood, the charm and the atmosphere of the original are so brilliantly recreated. Support casting is also spot on with Bond’s Q, Ben Wishaw great as the grown up Michael as is Emily Mortimer as Jane, and the child actors playing Michael’s kids are decent also. A stand out, like Dick Van Dyke in the original is Lin-Manuel Miranda who occasionally steals the show as lantern-lighter Jack.

Production values, animation, effects and most importantly fun factor are all quality and if the original didn’t exist this could be placed in classic status … but sadly remains in that movie’s shadow, not helped by less memorable songs. On it’s own merits though, this was great entertainment from start to finish.

Verdict: Recommended

Ralph Breaks the Internet


Viewed – 31 August 2019. DVD

I remember enjoying the first movie. Wreck It Ralph was a great idea, borrowing it must be said, from Pixar’s Monsters Inc yet not quite reaching the potential of its rather brilliant concept. However it delivered first-rate turns from John C Reilly as Donkey Kong inspired video game villain ‘Ralph’ and Sarah Silverman as cute kart racer girl ‘Venelope’. So yeah, I was keen to see what (mis)adventured this likeable duo would get up to next. This brings forth the arrival of wi-fi connectivity to the little arcade that’s home to Ralph, Venelope amongst others (including Pacman, various Street Fighter characters and several more recognisable faces), and after an over-zealous gamer breaks Venelope’s arcade machine steering wheel, a quest to get a new one (from eBay no doubt) is undertaken, with the world wide web ripe for exploration.

I found this built perfectly on the foundations set up in the first movie and delivered exactly what a sequel should … bigger and better. The animation is top-notch and I’ll go as far as to say its sone of the most lush, imaginative and personality-filled CGI I’ve ever witnessed. With the looming shadow of Pixar’s Toy Story 4, any hype for this seemed to get brushed under that carpet at time of release, which is a travesty as in many ways this is the superior movie. Ralph & Venelope are a great double-act and although the story is mostly focused on the plucky racer-girl’s journey of self discovery, Ralph still gets many of the best gags and a brilliant final act (hint…one Ralph is never enough!). The clever mickey-takes and references of the internet and especially of Disney themselves are also well-observed and often laugh out loud funny. The Disney Princesses scene is pure gold.

However the story isn’t exactly all that on paper, but its exploration of a developing friendship is poignantly observed none the less. Yet Disney’s obsession with forcing feminist propaganda into every movie these days raises its head again in the closing moments, but it’s at least more subtle than Avengers: Endgame. Tiny gripes aside though, this was great fun and one of the best animated movies of the year.

Verdict: 4 /5

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse


Viewed – 19 July 2019. Online rental

I wasn’t that fussed about watching this. This is mainly down to the fact, I’ve found the recent Spider-Man movies underwhelming.  However I kept hearing good things about this, especially the animation so I thought I’d give it a go.  Miles, a young black kid with a talent for graffiti, gets bitten by a radioactive spider after trespassing into an underground facility.  There he witnesses a battle between Spider-Man and various super villains just as an experimental device creates an inter-dimensional rip in reality.  Soon after Miles discovers he has wall crawling abilities just as various other ‘Spider-Men’ appear from alternative realities.

Immediately I was taken back by the excellent animation and particularly wowed by how it combines the look of 2D comic book art with CGI – it’s certainly a style I want to see more of.  The story whilst initially a bit cliched anchors itself with convincing relationships and a solid learning-to-be-a-hero ark.  The various multi-verse versions of Spider-Man are also a great idea ranging from a brooding noir style to Japanese animation and even a Porky Pig-style incarnation.  We also get the semi-usual Spider-Man and even Spider-Gwen.  Action throughout is also inventive, exciting and a visual showcase.

Villain Kingpin’s look is too exaggerated for my liking, but characters like The Prowler (something about that guy sends shivers) and Doctor Octopus are a welcome addition.  For a movie called ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ the fact multiverses aren’t especially explored is disappointing, and the final battle has a bit of a weak conclusion.  However for a Spider-Man movie this is a step-up from The Amazing Spider-Man movies and even Homecoming.  Recommended.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Toy Story 4


Viewed – 25 June 2019 Cinema

When toy cowboy ‘Woody’ (voiced by Tom Hanks) finds himself sidelined by new owner ‘Bonnie’ in favour of other toys, he finds new found purpose after Bonnie’s hand-made new toy ‘Forky’ goes missing at a carnival during a family road trip. At the same time Woody is reunited with his old flame, Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

I was looking forward to this. I’m a big fan of the other movies and couldn’t wait for the further adventures of Woody, Byzz and the gang. This time around we are introduced to a new villain, antique shop dwelling Doll ‘Gabby Gabby’ (Christina Hendricks). Yet despite initial promise with her brilliantly creepy Ventriloquist doll henchmen, she just failed to live up to her potential. The same could also be said for wasting the presence of such established characters as Jessie, T-Rex or even Buzz Lightyear (who is mostly demoted to a supporting role). Instead the movie focuses on Woody and Bo Peep which is at least different, even if Bo’s topical feminist symbolism was a bit too on the nose.

With that said, Forky is a welcome addition and gets all the best gags, and the movie looks as expected, stunning – the CGI animation often wowing this viewer. The caper at play here, if a little typical is still great fun too. The heart-strings get pulled firmly towards the end and the key characters are well written with at times real emotional depth. Overall though, this fails to be quite as sharp, clever or funny as what’s come before and the plot was not as engaging, Toy Story 3 had everything coming full circle. This however, whilst still worthwhile … didn’t have much more to say.

Verdict: 3 /5

Least Favourite movies of 2018


Count down of the movies I enjoyed the least in 2018.  List is based personal anticipation or hype and eventual disappointment. 

Some good movies here, but I wasn’t personally that taken with them.  Some movies may be older than 2018.

10

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde

9

The-Disaster-Artist

The Disaster Artist

8

Mary and the Witches Flower

Mary and the Witches Flower

7

The Open House

The Open House

6

Black Panther

Black Panther

5

Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day

4

Veronica

Veronica

3

My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer

2

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

1

Venom

Venom