Mary Poppins Returns

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/19/19;
Disney;
Musical;
Box Office $171.69 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘
PG’ for some mild thematic elements and brief action.
Stars Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, David Warner, Jim Norton, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke.

There’s a lyric at the beginning of the original 1964 Mary Poppins in which Dick Van Dyke sings “what’s to happen all happened before.” It’s a line that hints at the mysterious nature of the magical nanny but seems a bit curious in the context at the beginning of a story in which we as an audience have yet to witness any of Mary Poppins’ adventures.

Rather, that prophetically tinged turn of phrase would seem to have more meaning when applied to this new installment, which bears fruit for the notion that Mary Poppins’ adventures are somehow cyclical.

The sequel that has been 54 years in the making has been carefully crafted for each story beat to resonate with an equivalent scene from the first film. Indeed, such echoes of the original are even reflected in the musical score, which always seems to play a few nostalgic notes when appropriate.

In the new story based on author P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins novels, the nanny returns some two decades later when the now grown Banks children, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) find themselves in a bit of a financial crisis. Michael’s life is in disarray a year after the tragic death of his wife, and the financial toll exacted by her loss have put their famous house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane in danger of being seized by the bank. As Michael seems ready to given in to cynicism and despair, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) reappears to ostensibly take care of Michael’s three children while infusing a new sense of joy and imagination into everyone’s day.

Mary Poppins Returns is an effective follow-up to the original classic, capturing its spirit of whimsy with a slate of catchy tunes, even if its story could use some fine-tuning at points. While every sequence more or less serves a central premise of approaching life with a variety of perspectives, some moments seem less relevant to the primary narrative than others. Colin Firth’s bank executive, for example, seems to want the house just for the sake of typical movie villain greed, where the plot could have given him a more personal stake in the Banks family story by, say, establishing he had a grudge against their father, George, who was a senior partner at the bank.

Likewise, the film’s most eccentric musical number, “Turning Turtle,” seems to exist only to provide an outlet for interesting ideas from the books the filmmakers wanted to use couldn’t infuse elsewhere in the story, resulting in a superfluous guest appearance by Meryl Streep. ‘

Much more effective is a practically perfect appearance by the iconic Angela Lansbury as the magical balloon lady, whose perfectly “Nowhere to Go but Up” number is the most memorable of film while most effectively reminding young and old alike to never lose sight of their childlike sense of wonder.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray are mostly focused on the creation of the various musical numbers, from the 23-minute “The Practically Perfect Making of Mary Poppins Returns” to the 18-minute “Seeing Things From a Different Point of View: The Musical Numbers of Mary Poppins Returns.” And the five-and-a-half-minute “Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns” delves into the now 93-year-old actor’s cameo in the new film.

The disc also includes a deleted song sequence that was replaced by another piece early enough so that the version presented here is a scratch track set to animated storyboards. The total sequence, called “The Anthropomorphic Zoo,” runs about five minutes.

There are also two true deleted scenes that run about a minute each that are extensions of musical sequences that are in the final film, as well as a two-minute blooper reel.

The disc also offers the movie in a sing-along mode that shows the lyrics during the various song sequences (as opposed to closed captioning showing all the dialogue).

The digital edition, which can be accessed using the Movies Anywhere redemption code included with the Blu-ray combo pack, offers an informative commentary with director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca.

Movies Anywhere also has two more vignettes, each running more than a minute. “Different Worlds: Creating Mary Poppins Returns is a shorter clip from the longer making-of featurette about the making of an animated sequence. And “What Is Your Favorite Disney Musical?” is a promotional video in which the title question is asked to various cast members.

Finally, the digital version on Vudu offers a three-minute featurette about the cameo of actress Karen Dotrice, who played young Jane in the original film.

‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ Dancing to Digital Oct. 9, Disc Oct. 23 From Universal

The Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Sing-Along Edition will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Oct. 9 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Oct. 23 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film earned more than $118 million in theaters.

Ten years after Mamma Mia! The Movie, the prequel/sequel set to the music of ABBA features returning stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried and Christine Baranski alongside new additions Lily James, Cher and Andy Garcia. The film follows two stories: present day as Sophie Sheridan (Seyfried) prepares for the grand reopening of her mother Donna’s (Streep) hotel and 1979 when young Donna (James) first arrives on the island. Sophie learns about her mother’s adventures with the young Dynamos, Tanya (Jessica Keenan-Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies), and how young Donna first met her three possible dads Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine).

Bonus features, some exclusive to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and digital, include deleted/extended songs and scenes with commentary by director/screenplay writer Ol Parker; enhanced sing-alongs; cast meets cast, in which those playing young and older versions of certain cast members discuss their parts; cast chats between those playing the three young Dynamos and the young dads; a featurette on the choreography; featurettes on the development of the story, the character of Sophie, on Cher’s joining the cast, the costumes and more; and feature commentaries with Parker and producer Judy Craymer.

The film will be available on 4K Ultra HD in a combo pack which includes 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and Digital. The 4K Ultra HD disc will include the same bonus features as the Blu-ray version, all in 4K.

The Post

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Drama;
Box Office $81.88 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language and brief war violence.
Stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, David Cross, Zach Woods.

Even before seeing the movie, the obvious question surrounding The Post is why the filmmakers would decide to focus a story about the publication of the Pentagon Papers on the efforts of The Washington Post newspaper when the bulk of the material was broken by The New York Times.

After watching it, though, it’s a lot easier to understand some of the reasons director Steven Spielberg guided the film along the approach it took.

For one, there just seems to be much more storytelling to mine from the Washington Post perspective, whereas a Times POV would likely have been a more straightforward legal drama about the relationship between the press and government.

At the time, the Post was still seen as primarily a local D.C. publication without the broad national following it has now. Financially strapped, the paper issued an IPO that could have been threatened by any legal troubles encountered as a result of publishing the leaked documents copied from a classified report that exposed government deception in the conduct of the Vietnam War.

And that’s on top of the expected discussions of the role of journalism in a democracy and defending the First Amendment against government pushback, with the Times included in all those story points anyway.

There’s also an argument to be made that the primary interest of the film isn’t even about the Pentagon Papers to begin with.

Certainly, looking at the film from the prism of the Pentagon Papers as the subject matter makes it seem like it’s the story of a minor newspaper jumping on the bandwagon of a bigger newspaper to gain stature.

But keeping a bigger picture in mind, the film is much more about how the Post rose in prominence under the leadership of publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and that the Pentagon Papers just happened to be the catalyst.

From Spielberg’s perspective, it probably didn’t hurt that this approach also allowed him to devote significant screen time to Graham in depicting the ascension of a female publisher in a man’s world.

Spielberg also seems interested in positioning the film as a prequel of sorts to All the President’s Men, showing how the Post became the paper that drove coverage of the Watergate break-in.

As such, The Post is more fascinating for its procedural aspects and character dynamics for any actual history it’s trying to explore. The film also sees itself as an allegorical commentary on criticism of President Trump’s relationship to the media, and his tendency to label detractors as “fake news,” but these aspects of the film are really only going to appeal to choirs expecting to be preached to. One could be completely oblivious to such perceived messaging and still find the film immensely entertaining. The performances are terrific and the nitty-gritty details of classic print journalism are just fun to see, particularly contrasted with the digital simplicity of today.

The Blu-ray includes a number of good behind-the-scenes featurettes that detail the making of the film and explore the real-life circumstances being explored. This being a Spielberg movie, there’s also a featurette about the music composed by longtime collaborator John Williams, this being their 28th film together.

Oscar-Nominated ‘The Post’ to Hit Digital April 3, Disc April 17

The Post, which earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Actress (Meryl Streep), will come out on digital April 3, followed by DVD and 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc April 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film will be available on digital locker service Movies Anywhere.

Based on a true story and directed by Steven Spielberg, the film stars Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee as they wrestle with publishing the Pentagon Papers, government documents revealing secrets about the Vietnam War.

Special features include:

  • “Layout: Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee & The Washington Post” (Blu-ray only), which explores the real-life characters at the heart of the story, Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee;
  • “Editorial: The Cast and Characters of The Post” (Blu-ray only), which covers the casting;
  • “The Style Section: Re-Creating an Era,” about the 1970s style of the film;
  • “Stop the Presses: Filming The Post,” with footage from filming; and
  • “Arts and Entertainment: Music for The Post,” in which Spielberg and composer John Williams talk about their 44-year partnership.