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

Gemini Man


Viewed – 10 March 2020 online rental

When a movie revolves around a technology gimmick I usually approach with caution and even in this age of amazing CGI I can still tell, especially with the currently in-vogue de-ageing tech as seen in Captain Marvel and The Irishman. Will Smith plays an assassin who yearns for retirement. However on the day he gets his wish a team of contract killers start hunting him down, and one of them bares an uncanny resemblance to his younger self.

When you’re your own worst enemy

Director Ang Lee throws together an action thriller that uses the technology well and mostly makes for a fun time. The story is fairly cliched but helped by charismatic turns from Smith and also the always likeable Mary Elizabeth Winstead. A motorbike chase early on is particularly exhilarating but mostly this focuses on character, with an interesting exploration of identity and morality. Clive Owen is also decent as Smith’s former mentor. Gimmicks like the hyped 60fps passed me by as I wasn’t sure if this rental was supporting it, and the de-aged Smith effect is about 50/50 when it comes to convincing and weird looking.

You may have come to this for Smith or the tech, but I was most impressed by the cinematography with several breath-taking locations that gave this a globe trotting Bond movie feel. However, with a lack of big set pieces, the movie couldn’t fall back on its story which lacks depth and feels a bit familiar. I’ve also seen such actor-in-a-scene-with-himself done better in movies like Dead Ringers over 30 years ago. Overall entertaining, occasionally thrilling and still another enjoyable turn from Smith in what appears to be his come back period.

Verdict: Good

Zombieland: Double Tap


Viewed – 25 February 2020. Online rental

I really liked the first Zombieland. It felt like America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead,, and although it wasn’t quite as clever as that Simon Pegg vehicle, it had tons of personality and a great cast. This sequel, which I’d never expected but was hyped for none the less reunites us with our American-state-named survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) etc. during the zombie apocalypse following the discovery of a mutated, even deadlier version of the creatures they’ve become a little too relaxed with despatching.

The gang’s back together…

Clearly the story is a fairly basic excuse to do another Zombieland and although this fails to further build on what came before or flesh out the setting, with barely any exploration of the zombie threat … just being in the company of these chatacters again was good enough. Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg still have great chemistry and their frequently comical banter is pure joy. Honestly, I dont think i could ever get bored of these characters. Harrelson is especially on brilliant form and steals many of the best scenes. Although, less said about a tiresomely pouty Abigail Breslin as Little Rock and that incrdibly annoying millenial bimbo that turns up, the better.

A shortage of new ideas makes this sequel a bit lazy, but the comedy, some decent zombie killing action and just plain fun characters all sparking off each other, made for solid entertainment regardless – and yeah, I’d welcome a part three with open arms.

Verdict: Good

Birds of Prey


Viewed – 18 February 2019

… and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Some of my favourite movies are pleasant surprises. I went into this with not very high expectations and you know what? I really enjoyed it. It’s a simple movie at heart; a diamond falls into the wrong hands, a pick pocket kid steals it causing bad guys to go hunting for her, whilst at the same time anti-hero Harley Quinn fresh off a break up with former boyfriend The Joker finds herself the target of cops and crooks.

The alternative Avengers?

Yeah I wasn’t here for the story either, but when you consider Margot Robbie’s Quinn was the only redeeming aspect of the mostly forgettable Suicide Squad, another crack of the whip with this off-kilter character I was certainly up for. She doesn’t disappoint, narrating and carrying the movie in a whirlwind showcase of the actress’s screen magnetism and comic timing. Add to this decent support from Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an avenging assassin and especially Ewan McGregor having a ball as villain Black Mask, and with several stand out fights and action scenes … I was thoroughly entertained. For a mostly female lead vehicle it didn’t shove some feminist agenda down one’s throat either.

It’s plot and structure are a little messy, but the movie wisely plays with this as a representation of how Harley Quinn thinks. Rosie Perez seems a bit out of place though, and characterisation other than the lead is fairly basic. Yet with enjoyable dialogue, a goofy sense of humour and a memorable villain, this was far from the disaster some critics (and that disappointing box office) would have you believe.

Verdict: Recommended

Ready Or Not


Viewed – 15 February 2020. Online rental

Marriage is meant to be a happy time when two people tie the not in hope of spending the rest of their lives together. However, new bride Grace doesn’t quite realise what she’s getting into when introduced to her new hubby Alex’s eccentric, wealthy family on their wedding day. As it turns out each new member to the ‘family’ must undergo an initiation before they can be truly accepted. So sets forth a wedding night quite unlike any other.

Here comes the bride…

Margot Robbie look-alike (and fellow Ozzy it transpires) Samara Weaving proves a plucky lead surrounded by colourful characters in this energetic ‘romp’, that plays out kind of like an even more macabre version of Cluedo. The idea however just doesn’t make much sense and when you find out exactly what’s going on it fires up more questions than the movie has any chance of answering. Yet a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone helps carry the movie, aided immeasurably by its cast who all look like they’re having a riot, and there’s some shocks and surprises along the way, as well as a solid punch-line ending.

The directors have delivered a brash, often cartoonishly violent ride, and that’s almost good enough. However it’s all let down by a poorly thought-out concept that feels like a stretched out segment of an anthology piece than its own movie. Fun, in a purely popcorn entertainment kind of way.

Verdict: Good