Clutching her bird headed brolly and eternal carpet bag, Mary Poppins swoops back into Cherry Tree Lane after a staggering fifty four years. This might just be the longest awaited sequel in cinema history, nevertheless Disney effortlessly recapture the magic of the 1964 original. Whilst shes gained a new face along the way, this no nonsense nanny returns with the same glossy dance numbers and pish-posh principles.
Rob Marshall, director of the hugely underrated Into the Woods, picks up the seemingly insurmountable challenge of bringing back this pop culture icon - a character who has influenced multiple generations across this half century. Twenty years or so after she first helped the Banks children the astonishing au-pair revisits a grown up Jane and Michael Banks and Michael's three children, helping them through times of hardship, reminding them of the magic that has been long absent from their lives.
Serving up several spoonfuls of sugar, Mary Poppins returns in this practically perfect sequel. Reverting to the classic Disney blueprint interwoven with 2D animation, the magical nanny makes a tremendous comeback in vain, mirror glancing glory - with Rob Marshall and his creative forces showing clear homage to the original Chim-Chimney adventure. although Mary Poppins Returns rides the coat tails of its predecessor, this babysitter’s second coming demands a roaring round of applause. In typical Disney fashion, Marshall has crafted a decidedly bitter sweet experience - but for all the melancholy aspects of its narrative, Mary Poppins Returns boasts a selection of lovely jubbly tunes laced with bona fide life lessons for the whole family to enjoy. Very much in the spirit of the original, this colourful caper obtains an extremely positive but not entirely fantastic outlook on life, examining what it means to be the very best version of yourself as well as having fun whilst do it.
Emily Blunt is simply electric as the latest version of the magical nanny. To clarify, she is not a Julie Andrews lite, but easily the most compelling element in this concoction of sequins and glitter. The moment she floats down on Georgie Banks' kite the entire screen lights up like a Christmas tree. Blunt is, well, blunt - her spin on Mary Poppins is sharp and curt, unlike the smiley Andrews - helping people at a distant rather than solving all their problems at the click of her magic fingers. Blunt gives it her all, especially when it comes to the musical sequences - who knew she had such a good set of lungs. She is gloriously cutting and her enthusiasm is infectious.
In fact Mary Poppins Returns sees no wasted cast members - the veteran actors are particularly well used. Lin Manuel Miranda is Dick Van Dyke lite however, even down to the wonky cockney accent - but with that he also captures the charm of Jack. Emily Mortimer and Ben Whitshaw are great as the grown up Michael and Jane Banks, as well as the new generation of Banks kids who are equally talented. Meryl Streep makes a surprise appearance as the bonkers and fabulously over the top Cousin Topsy - who will leave fans longing for another juggernaut performance.
This sequel really is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Just like a party popper, Mary Poppins Returns ends 2018 with an almighty bang, colours and music wizzing across Cherry Tree Lane. This top notch adventure is like taking a trip in time, transporting you back to the magic of old-school Disney, the innovative costume design and exciting choreography is accompanied by Marc Shaiman’s sugary sweet score. As far as modern live action Disney live action flicks go, Mary Poppins Returns reaches Jungle Book territory. This melodic spectacle is worth every sixpence, confirming that ionic characters can be brought to life once again.
Mary Poppins Returns:
If you're looking to scrub up on your Transformers knowledge you'll find the recent franchise located in your nearest junkyard. Bumblebee marks a new beginning to the Transformers saga - a series that has disgraced our screens for the past eleven years, epitomising everything wrong with the modern blockbuster. With racial stereotypes, objectified female characters, over the top explosions and clunky camera work Michael Bay threw everything at the screen with his marmite style of filmmaking.
Travis Knight, the creator of Kubo and the Two Strings and Coraline, transitions from stop motion to live action, giving the yellow bot a desperately needed fresh coat of paint. Rewinding the cassette thirty years back Bumblebee flees his home planet Cybertron to takes refuge in a small Californian beach town, only to be discovered by Charlie, a young teen struggling to find her place in the world.
Bumblebee is a remarkable gear shift for the Transformers franchise. Knight ably pays homage to the formula of exec producer Spielberg's iconic 80's adventures - re-fuelling the series with heart, subtlety and self-awareness. Taking influence from E.T. and The Iron Giant, this robots in disguise reboot is, more than anything, a coming of age story. The 1987 setting really gets the creative juices following - Bumblebee perfectly captures the aesthetic of the 80's cartoon, effortlessly blending Transformers nostalgia with an old-school teen tale. There are Breakfast Club references and action sequences in spades, but at the centre of this adventure isn't Bee - it's Charlie Watson.
Hailee Steinfeld is the best thing that's ever happened to this series - perfect as Charlie Watson, a washed out teen on the cusp of her eighteenth birthday. She discovers a battle scarred and broken down Bee, and as with all great coming of age stories the film is really about her finding herself. Her relationship with Bumblebee is the engine at the core of this cinematic vehicle - there's a spark between them which is just so pure and endearing. It has its fair share of rib tickling moments, particularly when Charlie introduces Bee to her music and he violently spits a Rick Astley tape out of his stereo. Charlie's character arc is well realised and authentic, she is worlds away from Shia LaBeouf's insufferable Sam Witwicky and Megan Fox's glossy supermodel Mikaela Banes.
All that being said - Bumblebee isn't a completely smooth ride. Since the film borrows heavily from the magic of Amblin Entertainment there are certain elements of the narrative that were innovative at the time but are now relatively standard. The tired idea of the army pursuing an other worldy being out of pure misunderstanding is well worn, as is John Cena's unfunny and purposeless Agent Burns. Additionally, Bumblebee is far more child-friendly flick than any of Bay's previous instalments but it sometimes slips into a twee, Nickelodeon style teen drama.
Though it's shy of being perfect, Bumblebee is everything a Transformers movie should be. Steinfeld is excellent as an alternative teen who rediscovers herself after the tragic loss of her father. Kicking it old-school, Bumblebee is a truck load of 80's nostalgia, referencing the original cartoon with a jaw dropping opening sequence on Cybertron. Set to the backdrop of a truly funky 80s soundtrack - Bumblebee is a joyous adventure that revitalises the Transformers series with a sprinkle of Spielberg magic.
The DCEU (DC extended universe) is an utter shambles. Warner Bros desperately want to replicate Marvel's success, but in the last two years they've given us the atrocious trilogy of Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League. What's more, the studio is notorious for losing directors, writers and announcing films that are rarely ever released. From James Wan, director of Saw and The Conjuring series, DC take a zany leap of faith with Aquaman - but does it sink or swim? Arthur Curry learns that he is heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. However when his half brother King Orm threatens to bring war to the surface Arthur must lead his people and protect the opposing worlds.
Against all odds, Aquaman is an over-the-top swashbuckling epic. Finally DC pluck up the kahoonas to step outside their limited comfort zone, doing justice to a notoriously awkward and silly superhero. Aquaman obtains a sense of direction which has been lacking from most, if not all of the recent DC outings - with Wan's camp and overly exaggerated style plastered all over this movie. Although it sometimes risks becoming too corny, this fish boy chronicle remains in the spirit of the character, warts and all. Although there are a few significant drawbacks in terms of narrative and script - Aquaman confidently sets sail and for once rises above the general criticism that lays siege to DC's walls.
The cooky aspects of the comics translate splendidly onto screen - Atlantian guards riding hammerhead sharks are an essential feature of Wan's top-notch world building. Aquaman is a tidal wave of creativity - with neon coral set pieces and mesmerising costume design - Atlantis pieces together as a compelling and visually immersive setting. Complementing this we have Rupert Gregson Williams composing, his Vangelis like 80's synth score is like diving for pearls and finding Atlantis, then uncovering all of its ancient treasures.
Aquaman borrows vast, landscape visuals from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. The final act sees the tremendous, large scale battle for the seven seas take place on the ocean floor, with obvious influence from George Lucas and Peter Jackson. In all honesty the action is breathtaking and surprisingly refreshing - rising above the climatic fight in Infinity War, Aquaman is outrageously flamboyant for all the right reasons. But there is also room for new ideas too - such as a dazzling gladiator battle and the Sicilian rooftop sequence that both utilise some remarkable camera work.
I'm not entirely won over by Jason Momoa as Aquaman though. Towards the end he sort of comes into his own but he suffers from poor character development and sometimes comes across like a knockoff Thor. Amber Heard is a treat as Princess Mera - effectively the Little Mermaid with glorious X Men-esque powers - they definitely bring the best out of each other. Moreover future arch nemesis Black Manta is shoe horned into the film, only existing in this story as a device for a minor fight but really to establish himself for the next instalment.
If you don't think you're going to enjoy a film where an octopus plays the bongos, then you might want to steer clear of these waters. The script isn't far from a shipwreck, plus things take a sickening, Fast and Furious turn when cheesy pop songs crop up and completely jolt the film's tone - absolutely nobody on this earth should be trapped into listening to Pitbull covering Africa by Toto. Aquaman is so bizarre and dizzying but it works - the plot washes in and out like the tide but it has a fun, over-the-top and campy style that remains faithful to a superhero who rides dolphins. What more did you expect?
In August 1963 Stan Lee and Steve Dikto released Amazing Fantasy #15, which debuted an obscure new character called Spider-Man. Five and a half decades, six movies and millions of fans later Spider-Man is a household name and part of the very fabric of modern pop culture. There have been three live-action Peter Parkers in the last ten years alone, but the well worn "With great power comes great responsibility" character arc has become somewhat exhausted by now. In its opening scene, Into the Spider-Verse respectfully acknowledges the web head's recent escapades then boils them down to a hilarious recurring gag.
Phil Lord - half of the genius behind The Lego Movie - pens the spectacular Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. High school student Miles Morales becomes the Spider-Man of his reality, but after arch villain Kingpin messes with the space time continuum and opens up the doorway to numerous different dimensions, Miles comes into contact with his Spidey counterparts and is forced to fix the fabric of time before New York is swallowed up whole.
Prepared to be razzle dazzled by the greatest Spider-Man movie yet. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 has held its title as the quintessential Spidey adventure up to now, but after fourteen years Into the Spider-Verse changes everything. This canvas splashed caper abandons the web head’s exhausted origin story and thwips the focus onto newbie Miles Morales. Swinging beyond the bounds of animation with a vibrant comic book aesthetic - Into the Spider-Verse is a crowning achievement for superhero movies and cartoons alike. The film recognises the true value of Spider-Man, as well as highlighting what he symbolises for so many people.
Lord and Co. spray paint an electrifying new hero using a completely redesigned Spidey stencil. The film is somewhat of an epiphany, one of the biggest wins for Into the Spider-Verse is the new protagonist Miles Morales. Marvel have struggled to broaden the horizon for mainstream audiences, routinely churning out the same old Peter Parker storyline. There is no pussy footing here though, with youthful swagger and attitude, Into the Spider-Verse stamps its feet on the ground and proclaims "This is Spider-Man!". Miles is an endearing and refreshing take on your friendly neighbourhood hero; he is also naive, artistic and extremely charismatic. He expresses himself through graffiti and music, and the film establishes him very much as his own individual rather than just the next recreation of the Peter Parker role.
Correspondingly this is the most mature incarnation of Peter we've seen on the silver screen. No longer the remarkable young scientist he once was, the years have not been kind. As the various dimensions collapse into one he is forced to grow up a little bit more. Although he may be twenty six in this film we still see the same innocent naivety in him. With that, Into the Spider-Verse also offers a plethora of other spider people; from Spider Gwen to the anime inspired Peni Parker and Looney Toons style Spider-Ham. Biazzarely and rather miraculously - Lord fleshes out these characters so that they slot perfectly into the story, Into the Spider-Verse advocates how Spider-Man can literally be anyone, but accepting the responsibility is what makes a real hero.
The animation is unlike anything we've ever seen before - bold yellow boxes reflect the character’s thoughts and sharp, squiggly lines mimic the impact of actions and movements. What's more, when Peter meets Miles for the first time the eye-popping merging of their spider-senses is simply astonishing. When it all adds up, Into the Spider-Verse is the epitome of everything that's perfect about Spider-Man. This momentous adventure is beyond Stan Lee's wildest dreams, offering new direction for the iconic web head in what is hands down a Marvel masterpiece - Excelsior!
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:
This review is dedicated to Stan Lee, a man who taught generations of people the brilliance of the unusual, as well as what it truly means to be a hero.
Boots Riley, American rapper and lead singer of The Coup, is not Sorry to Bother You with his debut motion picture. It's difficult to decide what's more inconceivable, the storyline or the fact that this is genuinely his first film. From Annapurna Pictures - who rarely put out a bad film - Sorry to Bother You finally arrives in the UK following its successful run in the States and the festival circuit. Taking place in an alternative reality version of Oakland, this bizarre social satire follows Cassius Green as he works his way up the ladder of telemarketing, being propelled into a universe of greed along the way.
Brilliantly bonkers and ridiculously inventive, there's weird and then theres Sorry to Bother You. This electrifying flick zigs zags between a bucket load of different genres - it's a black-comedy, satire, sci-fi, fantasy and drama that filters its ambitious themes into a thought-provoking and highly original product. Riley's quirky arthouse feature is loud and proud, but it's not just another preacher to the choir. For its sheer weirdness, Sorry to Bother You is a very unique piece of filmmaking, and Riley intertwines weighty ideas in a film that's style is beyond easy description.
Sorry to Bother You gives the finger to, or more like tosses a cola can at the head of capitalism. We join Cassius on his rise to telemarketing fame - it seems like a bizarre profession to focus on but Riley uses the scenario to comment on how capitalism affects so many people on such a broad scale. Sorry to Bother You uniquely analyses slave labour and takes a very cynical look at big, corporate industries. There's a twist towards the third act that hands down defies anything you've ever seen before - Riley's bold, anti-capitalist metaphor drives the rest of the film as it steps into borderline horror territory, adding yet another genre to the list this fantastic fable covers.
Lakeith Stanfield leads as our materialistic protagonist Cassius Green. Cassius, better known as Cash, has dollar signs in his eyes from the beginning - his character spotlights how greed can leave such a devastating impact on all around us. Stanfield brings a certain sense of disillusionment and naivety to his performance as Cash, who is sent through the ringer, exposed to the crushing realities of life. For the second week running Tessa Thompson turns in another fabulous performance, playing Cash's orange haired girlfriend Detroit. As an artistic activist a lot of her actions are particularly off the wall yet a lot of what she says rings very true - Thompson throws herself into a very odd role, tackling it with verve and vigour.
The wackier the better. Sorry to Bother You inventively highlights the failings of modern democracy through the language of film jabbing at capitalism and white privilege along the way. Marvellously edited with cartoonish scene transitions and compelling social commentary, Riley throws everything he's got into this mad-cap satire. So random it will keep you guessing till the very last scene, Sorry to Bother You is a remarkable debut that introduces a new filmmaker with an original quirky style.
Sorry to Bother You:
Said to be Robert Redford's adieu to the acting world - The Old Man and Gun is a must for fans of The Sundance Kid. From David Lowery, the man behind the cotton sheet of 2017's A Ghost Story, this western feature is adapted from a fascinating article by The New Yorker. Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker, The Old Man and the Gun chronicles how this dapper old-timer escaped confinement on sixteen separate occasions, and the string of his heists he pulled which baffled the authorities and beguiled the public.
This classic cowboy tale is overwhelmingly charming. Taking place in the early 80's The Old Man and the Gun is a time-honoured fable, unfolding like a love-letter to the tremendous Robert Redford. Lowery's filmmaking is extremely reminiscent of John Wayne's most iconic western features, he plays on the nostalgia of stetsons, guns, bank robberies and horses and in turn creates an authentic style of picture you rarely see made in this day and age. The Old Man and the Gun is dated in all the best ways, with the humble simplicity of its story and Redford's relationship with Cissy Spacek's character Jewel. Even aesthetically the film is gorgeously old-fashioned. Sprinkled with a fuzzy, grainy detail, The Old Man and the Gun is stylistically rooted in the past.
If this really is the curtain call for Redford's career then so be it. The Old Man and the Gun is tailored made, stitched and measured with precision to fit perfectly around him. Never ceasing to smile from ear to ear, Redford enchants us as the delightfully charming Forest Tucker. It verges on ludicrous how kind and charismatic his character is but that's all part of the film's grace and appeal - embellished by the wonderful Cissy Spacek who isn't out shined by Redford, turning in an equally remarkable performance. The two veterans are provided with strong support by Casey Affleck, the younger police officer who begins to notice the breadcrumbs laid out in front of him, and baffled when he comes to realise the so called "criminal" he's dealing with.
The Old Man and the Gun delves into the archives of ancient Hollywood, bringing back a classic formula that blissfully rejects a more modern approach. This is, through and through, a classic cowboy and sheriff movie. This is also a compassionate outlaw, in fact we are rooting for him from the very second he flashes those pearly whites and politely tips his hat. On the other hand we also care for Affleck as the authority figure, whilst we don't want him to catch Forrest we wish him success as the down on his luck cop.
The Old Man and the Gun is an old-school charmer that bizarrely encourages you to be a better person more than it does to rob a bank. We peer through the keyhole of history in this classic tale and there are some fantastic views along the way. This is pure and sublime filmmaking, and although it's sad we must part ways with this cowboy, The Old Man and the Gun certainly goes out with a bang.
The Old Man and the Gun:
Following six instalments the days of the Italian Stallion ended in 2015 when director Ryan Coogler made Adonis Creed the new face of the Rocky franchise. Michael B Jordan returns for a second bout as the new boxer on the block with co-stars Tessa Thompson and old boys Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lungdren in the corners. Coogler doesn't return however, throwing in the towel and jetting off to Wakanda, probably staying there for a while. Filling his shoes we have Steven Caple Jr. but will he be fit for the ring? It's seconds out as current heavyweight champion Adonis Creed faces off against Victor Drago, son of the legendary Ivan.
Twomping you with a mighty uppercut is this knockout addition to the famous boxing saga. In a year full of lacklustre sequels Creed II really delivers. Following the Oscar nominated success of the first film, Caple Jr. has the very difficult challenge of keeping the series in title contention. Nonetheless Creed II is a brilliant follow-up movie - a nuanced, character driven story that figures out the formula behind making a great Rocky movie. The film zones in on Adonis Creed as he continues to gain life experiences both in and out of the ring. Creed II forces Adonis to realise the risks of his profession, not only him but also to his loved ones every time the bell rings.
The cinematography is a real, unexpected gem. Creed II immerses you in the gruelling training sequences paying homage to the original but with a modern twist, showering you with blood, sweat and tears. The film builds tension by finding inventive shots within the ring but it also allows those essential, quieter moments. There are a lot of natural visuals that demonstrate Adonis Creed's conflicts within himself as a lonely athlete - one particular scene sees the boxer dive underwater - cold and isolated, he sinks from the pressure of his aspirations. The sound design is equally marvellous, as Creed's head dunks down into the water the background voiceover becomes muffled - suggesting he is literally drowning out the noise of others.
Whilst Rocky Balboa has hung up his gloves for good, he is very much in his element as the wily, experienced trainer. There is generally a risk when veteran Hollywood actors return to the silver screen that their performances are so wooden you're picking out splinters from of your eyes by the credits (i.e Harrison Ford in The Force Awakens). The same can't be said for Sly's return as the fabulous Italian Stallion, nor indeed for the steely, brooding Dolph. Stallone delivers once again as Rocky, the knowledgable voice of reason who ages like a fine wine. Jordan is incredible and continues to show his strength as an actor, carefully picking the right roles.
Creed II already has the upper hand, rising from the downward spiral of the later Rocky episodes, staying strong in the later rounds. Sequels more often than not can't replicate the personality of the original, giving audiences bigger moments rather than maintaining focus on one's character arc. Creed II emphatically bypasses these tropes, delivering an exquisite boxing feature that takes us further into Adonis' world as life becomes ever more serious for him and his loved ones.
Ralph's wrecking ground just got a whole lot bigger. Six years after the events of the first film Ralph and Vanellope venture into the exciting and expansive World Wide Web in search for a Sugar Rush game steering wheel after the original breaks and arcade owner Mr Litwak threatens to unplug the game for good. The set up is very similar to Sony Animation's The Emoji Movie, but after that crashed and burned Disney have scrambled their pixels in hope of a better crack at the inner workings of the internet.
Wreck it Ralph 2, or product placement the movie - perhaps - is gloriously visual if emotionally flat. Ralph and Vanellope return in a witty sequel that is wonderfully relevant in some moments yet completely behind the curve in others. As entertaining as a slapstick Ralph can be, Disney don't take full advantage of the endless possibilities that are laid out in front of them. For a studio that has been hitting home family friendly messages since before coloured TV came into existence, it's disappointing that Ralph hardly begins to surf let alone break the internet.
It's a given to say that the animation is wonderfully spectacular. The film brilliantly combines the modern world with Disney visuals; seeing human interaction with the Web from the "other" side is hilariously creative. Even popular YouTube star Miranda Sings makes a surprise appearance in a blink and you'll miss it moment. It appears that Ralph Breaks the Internet is aiming for quick gags and meta references over a heartfelt story in the same vein as its predecessor. It works to some degree; the film is relentlessly fun but it plays more like a quick sugar rush of excitement rather than a long lasting dose of Disney magic. Ralph and Vanellope delve into various social media platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and Pintrest yet the message is almost always missing. The important themes about the dangers of the internet could have been conveyed in a stronger manner considering the films demographic is those who are most vulnerable to these issues.
Sarah Silverman steals the show as hyperactive glitch Vanellope. The young racer is in constant awe over the internet and that's when the emotions really kicks into gear - through her character Disney comment on how children are so completely engrossed with modern technology. She spends the majority of her time at the ruthless, action packed Slaughter Race - Disney's answer to GTA. Unfortunately Ralph is unbearable in this second outing - for some reason they decided his character arc should be needy best friend who has nothing else better to do. Though he's supposed to be pathetic, Ralph really is like nails on a chalkboard and gives one the most grating performances we've ever seen from a Disney character.
Almost all of the original voices behind the Disney princesses return in the extraordinarily off the wall Oh My Disney sequence. Let's just say if the princesses aren't given their own spin off than the world will truly have gone mad.
Ralph probably should've stayed behind in the arcade for this uncomplicated sequel. Vanellope really gets a chance to shine here but for all the billions of online apps Ralph just doesn't fit into any of them, floundering in self pity the whole film. There's a lot to love - the exciting car chases in Slaughter Race, Vanellope's fantastic anti-princess song and Taraji P. Henson's character Yesss with her electric blue fibre optic coat. Ralph Breaks the Internet is entertaining and intelligent but it takes a safer approach than it really could have.
Ralph Breaks the Internet:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.