Mary Poppins Returns (2018) Review

Happy New Year, everyone! I have a couple of leftover movies that I saw in the cinema in December but didn’t review: Mary Poppins Returns & Aquaman. I’ll try to review Aquaman tomorrow (enjoyed that way more than I was expecting!). Then I’ll try to post my December Roundup next week followed by my 2018 Year-End Top Ten Lists. Woohoo! I love lists! 🙂

Here’s my review of Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Directed by Rob Marshall

Based on Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in 1930s London, twenty-five years after the events of the original film, it sees Mary Poppins, the former nanny of Jane and Michael Banks, returning after a family tragedy.

My Opinion:

This was fine. Somewhat enjoyable. A bit “So what?”. Completely pointless. I’ve been getting very bored with sequels, prequels, reboots, etc etc etc. I want to see something new. We have a fantastic Mary Poppins film already with a practically perfect Julie Andrews (she’s actually perfect – Andrews IS Mary Poppins). I know reboots, etc, work occasionally and I admit that it can be fun to once again see beloved characters. I think I come across as grumpy too often on this blog! I like the continuation of stories with characters that I like sometimes. But I don’t like when they feel like cash-grabs and/or they feel pointless or just don’t work and feel like inferior copies. Mary Poppins Returns felt like an inferior copy to me.

The thing I disliked the most about this movie is what I thought I would most enjoy: I really didn’t like Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins. I normally love Blunt and thought she was the perfect choice when cast. The way she speaks in this got on my nerves (too posh – it sounded phoney) and this film actually made the character somewhat unlikeable. She seemed too stern whereas Andrews was also stern but there was a kindness and playfulness that Blunt didn’t manage to convey. To be fair, I’ve not read the books and Blunt’s version may be more faithful. But a lot of us grew up watching Andrews so I can’t help but compare Blunt to Mary Poppins in the original film. Andrews will always be the only Mary Poppins to me.

The other thing they were never going to live up to in this was the songs in the original film, which are some of the catchiest Disney songs ever. I saw this about a week ago and I can’t say I can immediately remember how any of the songs went. There were a couple that were okay but nothing very memorable, unlike things like A Spoonful Of Sugar or Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Okay – one final thing & then I’ll try to say something nice: The story in this was pretty dull as well. Not that anyone is watching this for some complex plot so this isn’t a huge complaint for me. It was just such a predictable & uninteresting story.

Now onto the good things about this movie! I thought some of the sets looked pretty great (I enjoyed the dance number with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the lamplighters as well as the lovely balloon bit at the end). The film was colorful and I loved the costumes, especially what Mary Poppins wore (I like her funky shoes). Speaking of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I liked his character. He was probably my favorite of the new main characters (I found most the others a bit dull, though, and Meryl Streep’s bit was a bit stupid and felt thrown in there just to add Meryl Streep to yet another movie). Oh, and my favorite bits of all: Dick Van Dyke and especially Angela F*^king Lansbury!

Lansbury rules! Love her so much. Have loved her since Murder, She Wrote, which is a totally awesome show (don’t you dare tell me otherwise). And she’s Mrs. Potts, people! And she sounds exactly the same now at 93 as she did in Beauty And The Beast! Lansbury is a national treasure, just like Julie Andrews. By the way – why didn’t Andrews have a cameo?? Perhaps it’s better she’s not associated with this version but giving Lansbury & Van Dyke cameos was the best thing this movie did and really added to my enjoyment. I briefly felt like a kid again thanks to them. I’ll give this movie half a point more just for the addition of Lansbury & Van Dyke…

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Review

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Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Hauru no Ugoku Shiro
Japanese:
ハウルの動く城

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 189 as of 01/01/2013

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Based on Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Starring Voice Actors:
Chieko Baisho
Takuya Kimura
Akihiro Miwa

(English Dub Voice Cast: Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Josh Hutcherson, Blythe Danner, Jena Malone)

Running time: 119 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking home.

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My Opinion:

Version Watched: In Japanese with English subtitles then the English dubbed version

This is yet another of several Studio Ghibli films in the IMDB Top 250. It’s jumped a massive 40 places from 189 to 149 since I started my IMDB Challenge on 01/01/2013.

For anyone who has never watched a Studio Ghibli movie, there are certain ones I wouldn’t necessarily recommend as an “introduction” to the Ghibli universe. Some may seem very “odd” to the Western world and, although I’m a big fan of the films now, they do take some getting used to. I started on one of the strangest ones (and most loved, it seems): Spirited Away. I found Howl’s Moving Castle the most similar to Spirited Away of the movies I’ve seen so far and, if you’re a fan of one, I think you’ll like the other one as well. I believe I ranked Howl’s Moving Castle above Spirited Away when I did my Top Ten Studio Ghibli Movies (HERE) but that may change when I re-do the list after seeing the rest of the films.

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Subtitled vs Dubbed:

First of all, I’d like to say that I will ALWAYS recommend watching the subtitled version for every Studio Ghibli film. These movies are so different from the animated films of our culture & hearing the original language really preserves the magic feeling of the Ghiblis. There are a few where I’ve only seen the dubbed version as I saw them on TV and, of course, for the ones aimed at kids where you actually do watch them with a young kid, you obviously have to go for the dubbed version. Howl’s is one of the “not for young kids” ones so I highly recommend the subtitles on this one as I hated the English dub. It wasn’t quite as bad as with Kiki’s Delivery Service (I hated the Americanized cat!) but the annoyingly whispery Christian Bale “Batman” voice was SO wrong for the mysterious Howl (plus I hate Bale!) and Billy Crystal was extremely distracting as possibly my favorite character from the film, Calcifer the feisty fire demon. Now, I absolutely ADORE Billy Crystal & think he can do no wrong but, seeing as I’m a huge fan of Monsters Inc, it was very very odd seeing this strange little character in a Ghibli film sounding exactly like Mike Wazowski. That’s not the fault of Crystal, though – I know they hire big names in order to try to sell the film outside of Japan.

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Anyway! Howl’s Moving Castle is a weird one. The story reminded me in a way of The Wizard Of Oz where a young girl (Sophie, who in this case happens to have been turned into an old woman by a witch) goes on a strange journey with an odd assortment of characters (it probably helps that there’s a scarecrow called Turnip Head). No, wait – it’s far more messed up than The Wizard Of Oz… It’s more like Return To Oz.

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With a lot of the Ghibli stuff, it’s the characters that make them interesting as the storylines can be hard to wrap your head around and that was certainly the case for me with Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve already mentioned Calcifer & Turnip Head but there’s also a cute dog named Heen, a sweet young boy named Markl and the Witch of the Waste, a creepy old woman with a huge face who reminded me of the witch Yubaba in Spirited Away.

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Then we of course have Sophie, another strong young female character like we so often get in Ghibli films (although not the best one – I’d go probably go with Nausicaä), and the intriguing manchild wizard Howl. Howl was a bit David Bowie-like (which I’d certainly not complain about), especially as Jareth in Labyrinth. Howl is kind of a hard character to actually like, unfortunately, until you get to know a bit more about him. Overall, though, I think the true star of the film is probably the “moving castle” itself.

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Summary:

I struggled with this review. I watched this back in September and have already forgotten a lot of the plot. I do think the story in this one is a little too complicated. I know Laputa: Castle In The Sky had a pretty complex story as well but, for me, I liked that one much more & had a lot more fun watching it. Spirited Away is complicated as well but really has one main theme (growing up) that doesn’t get lost in a convoluted plot like I feel the themes in Howl’s Moving Castle do. This is why I like writing reviews – I’m able to think more about a movie as I write about it and sometimes my opinion changes by the end of a review. Although I certainly enjoyed all the colorful characters and once again being a part of that strange Studio Ghibli “world”, Howl’s Moving Castle hasn’t stayed with me the way other Ghibli movies have and I think I ranked it a little too highly in my Top Ten – I’d put it below Spirited Away now & possibly even Ponyo. Definitely worth a watch for Ghibli fans, especially those who like Spirited Away, but it’s not my personal favorite.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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