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

A Quiet Place


Viewed – 04 November 2018. Online rental

Few. I’m just trying to catch my breath. Well, if this wasn’t one of the most tense and gripping movie viewing experiences I’ve had in a long time, I don’t know what is. The always dependable Emily Blunt leads this sci-fi horror drama about a small family trying to survive in a wilderness where ravenous creatures (aliens?) hunt and kill anyone and anything that makes a sound. So this young couple and their children live a life of silence, sign language and dread. You see, to add to their plight the teenage daughter is deaf,which makes her highly vulnerable and Blunt is pregnant.

This is a film dripping with tension, impending doom and director John Kransinski squeezes every ounce of emotion and fear from the characters, making me care so very much for them. This movie does an incredible amount with hardly any spoken dialogue, relying instead on the rawest of human expression and the threat of death to pummel home its situation that only gets more desperate as the movie progresses. That labour scene alone is one of the scenes of the year for me. The sound here is also pretty much a character in of itself and a decent sound system is recommended to get the full experience.

Occasionally the characters do make some stupid decisions considering the situation and the creatures are nothing that imaginative. However for a concept where I went in expecting just another gory survival horror … what I got was a whole lot more. A must see.

Verdict: 5 /5

The Girl on the Train


Viewed – 05 August 2017  DVD

This is the latest movie adaptation of a best selling novel that seems to be a bit of a trend lately, what with similar suburban-set books like Gone Girl previously getting the movie treatment.  With such things we get the usual, tired reports of ‘its not as good as the book’ yadda yadda.  I am not a big reader so approached this from generally favourable word of mouth and the fact it has Emily Blunt in it.

Girl on the Train

Blunt plays Rachel, an alcoholic who never got over the failure of her marriage and spends most of her life obsessing over her ex-husband’s new relationship and trying to deal with a growing jealousy.  Blunt is one of those dependable actresses, and is incredibly convincing here and after she suffers a black-out following an attack in a tunnel, starts to piece together a mystery involving her ex-husband’s missing nanny.  Offering up plenty of red herrings and clues as to what actually happened … with an alcoholic as the lead anything that is recalled is of course open to question.  So this made for a rather different take on the who-dunnit than I anticipated..  Add to this decent turns from The Hobbit’s Luke Evans and Justin Theroux and I found myself thoroughly entertainment.   Helps that I really felt for Rachel’s plight.

It goes out of it’s way to cleverly fool the viewer and mislead, which was initially confusing, but came together effectively even if I felt rather stupid for not guessing the outcome.  An easy  recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Huntsman: Winter’s War


Viewed – 21 April 2016  Cinema

Following some controversy over Kristen Stewart and the director of Snow White and the Huntsman, this sequel has languished in development with us not really knowing what we were getting.  Turns out a sort of origin tale and a sort of follow up, with mixed results.  Chris Hemsworth returns as the charismatic Huntsman whose growing love for fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain) quickly catches the eye of bitter Freya, the sister of Charlize Theron’s Ravenna who has now turned Ice Queen following the death of her child and forbids the land from experiencing love.

The Huntsman

Despite lacking the scope of the actually very good Snow White and the Hunstman, and possibly on a smaller budget – this is still an entertaining ride.  Hemsworth is again charismatic even if his (Scottish?) accent is pretty bad.  The same can also be said for Chastain who makes for a bad-ass warrior woman but strays awkwardly between Irish Emily Bluntand Scottish.  Thankfully then their love affair and the rivalry between Emily Blunt’s Ice Queen and Theron’s Ravenna are all handled well and make up for what is otherwise quite simple fantasy fair.  The action, especially some awesome fight choreography is exciting, and we also get a couple of Dwarfs in the form of Nick Frost and Rob Brydon who makes for perfect comedy support as does a scene-stealing Sheridan Smith.

Considering how much the character is mentioned, the lack of an appearance by Snow White seemed odd (even if recast).  Also I’d have liked some larger-scale battles and a few more creatures and effects going on … but what we have instead is a focused tale of love and manipulation and rivalry that I thought worked a treat.  Perhaps dial one’s expectations back a tad, considering how spoilt we have been with Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings etc. and you should still get a kick out of this.

Verdict:  3 /5

Sicario


Viewed – 02 February 2016 Online-rental

I had heard some good buzz surrounding this gritty thriller set in the drug underworld of the Mexican Cartels, so was quite hyped up to sit down to it finally.  Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Looper) plays an F.B.I. agent who attracts the attention of a team of government agents when she stumbles upon a crime scene associated with the Mexican drug barons.  Given the opportunity to join a top secret mission into Mexico, she at first thinks this is a chance to further her career, until eventually she starts to realize maybe what she’s involved in may not be strictly by the book.

SICARIO Day 01

Skilfully shot and with a very authentic feel, this thriller was packed full of tension and drew me in easily with echoes of Stephen Soderberg hit ‘Traffic’ as well as aspects of cult TV series Breaking Bad.  However with an emphasis on secret operations and misleading information, especially from the point of view of Blunt’s character I’ll admit I found this confusing for a good portion of the run time.  The subject is nothing particularly new and doesn’t really go anywhere all that surprising, but with added support of a cool and mysterious Benicio Del Toro and the always enjoyable Josh Brolin … this at least had some solid performances to help me through a convoluted narrative.  Blunt is especially good in an emotional role that cements her reputation as one of the more interesting British actresses around.  I’d have really likbenicioed more action to offset the tension as it’s a movie where I was expecting something to kick off any second.  Tense moments such as a claustrophobic tunnel scene and a drawn out freeway journey certainly added to such expectations.  Yet much is left until the closing moments, which by then I was feeling more frustrated than entertained.

The movie however pulls no punches as far as showing the shocking lengths these drug dealers will go to, but with several confusing characters (not helped by similar Mexican names) and a pace that rushed through important plot details … this, although intriguing could have been so much better.

Verdict: 3 /5