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Posts Tagged ‘Emily Blunt’

Emily Blunt

“MARY POPPINS RETURNS” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Dec. 19)

130 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

First, the most obvious question: Is “Mary Poppins Returns” as good as the 1965 original?

Answer: No.  But  it comes close.

Disney’s original “Poppins” is one of — if not the — greatest family films of all time. Everything about it works, from the performances to the writing, the execution, and especially the Sherman Brothers’ astounding score of instantly hummable songs.

So when director Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Into the Woods,” “Nine”) took on this sequel, he had a lot to live up to.

Mostly he succeeds. There are a few flat sequences and the new Music Hall-steeped score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, while perfectly serviceable and occasionally inspired (the moving “The Place Where Lost Things Go, for example), is never as catchy as the original.

But Emily Blunt makes for a slyly entertaining Mary, “Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda makes a solid film debut, and several of the musical numbers  are showstoppers.  A delectable sense of childlike wonder prevails.

The plot cooked up by David Magee, John DeLuca and Marshall draws heavily from P.L. Travers’ nine “Poppins” books, and in many instances offers a sort of variation on high points from the ’65 film.

The setting has been advanced from pre World War I London to the Depression era.  Michael and Jane Banks, the kids from the original, are now adults (played by Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer).  Michael, the widowed father of three, still works at the bank where his father was employed; Jane, taking a cue from her suffragette mother, is a labor organizer.

Michael, who is hopeless with money, is about to lose the family home to foreclosure by his own employer (represented by two-faced exec  Colin Firth).  The family’s only hope is to find a small fortune in bank shares purchased decades earlier — but the papers have all gone missing.

Into this tense situation who should appear but Mary Poppins (Blunt), who in her own no-nonsense way organizes and entertains  the incredibly adorable kids (Pixie Davies,  Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson) with a series of fantastic adventures.

Our narrator through all this is a lamplighter, Jack (Miranda), who serves precisely the same function as did Dick Van Dyke’s chimneysweep Bert in the original. Introduced with the song “Lovely London Sky,” Jack is featured in “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”  featuring a host of dancing lamplighters that mirrors the “Step in Time ” extravaganza from 1965.

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Emily Blunt

“A QUIET PLACE” My rating: B

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

A big idea will take you farther than a big budget. That was the lesson of last year’s “Get Out” and, on a somewhat more modest scale, of the creepily claustrophobic “A Quiet Place.”

Co-written and directed by John Krasinski, who stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt, “Quiet…” is an intimate post-apocalyptic tale that examines the dynamic of a besieged family. It was made with limited resources; happily talent was not one of the rationed goods.

We first meet the clan — I don’t believe their names are ever mentioned — as they quietly pillage through the remains of an abandoned town.  Emphasize the “quietly” part.

Some sort of alien invasion or government experiment gone bad has unleashed nasty spider-like creatures (we don’t get a good look at them until late in the proceedings) who have an insatiable appetite for mammalian blood.  Only three months after these creatures made their appearance, the human race is teetering on the edge of extinction.

This particular family — Mom (Blunt), Dad (Krasinski), Big Sister (Millicent Simmonds) and Little Brother (Noah Jupe) —  have survived in large part because Big Sister is hearing impaired and the other family members are fluent in sign language. They are able to silently communicate with their hands (what conversation the film offers is rendered in subtitles) and this has allowed them to elude the marauding invaders, who are sightless but have  a finely developed sense of hearing.

After a jarring prologue we find the characters living on a farm, spending much of their time in a basement bunker. They don’t wear shoes (bare feet make less noise) and move with slow deliberation.  They have laid paths of sand around the farmstead…sand absorbs the sound of footsteps. (more…)

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Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt

“THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN”  My rating: C 

112 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“The Girl on the Train” is something of an anomaly — an otherwise mediocre film containing an Oscar-caliber performance.

That the award-worthy performance comes from Emily Blunt should surprise no one. This English actress has an uncanny ability to meld with diverse screen incarnations (she’s played Queen Victoria, a modern dancer, a futuristic kidkass Marine, an ethically compromised FBI agent). As Rachel — the alcoholic, anguished, out-of-control heroine of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel — Blunt is by turns painfully compelling and utterly alienating.

Too bad that the rest of Tate Taylor’s film is indifferent.

One could argue with some of the Hollywoodization at work here . The novel is set in Great Britain and its heroine is a slightly zaftig  sad sack who comes off like a tormented Bridget Jones. The film, on the other hand,  takes place in a bucolic suburb of New York City and Blunt can hardly be called overweight.

But that’s not the real problem. No, the film’s downfall is the screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, a hodgepodge of narrative feints that makes it almost impossible to relate to any of the characters and which leaves the cast members to emote to no good end while director Taylor (who had a vastly better film with “The Help”) must try to pave over the narrative hiccups and improbabilities with a slick visual style.

You can almost feel the desperation.

We first encounter Blunt’s Rachel on the commuter train that takes her to the city every day.  As the train passes the neighborhood where she used to live with her now-ex husband, Rachel is always on the lookout for the beautiful  young blonde woman who lives just a few doors down from her old home.

That would be Megan (Haley Bennett), who likes to lounge on her balcony (facing the train tracks) in her skimpy undies. Megan has a husband, Scott (Luke Evans, late of the “Hobbit” franchise), and frequently Rachel can see the couple passionately spooning through the windows or around a fire pit in the back yard.

In voiceover narration Rachel tells us that she has built a huge romantic fantasy around the couple. She doesn’t know them, but between slugs of vodka (she keeps the booze in one of those plastic sports-drink bottles), Rachel imagines herself part of their loving scenario.

Uh, have I mentioned that since her divorce Rachel has become a pathetic basket case?

Turns out that Megan is currently the nanny for Rachel’s ex, Tom (Justin Theroux), and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).  Poor needy Rachel is making life impossible for the couple, phoning at all hours of the day and night, and on one occasion sneaking into the house and walking out into the yard with their new baby. (Rachel and Tom couldn’t conceive, and this failure haunts her.)

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Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt

“SICARIO” My rating: B+

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The war on drugs is lost.

No character in “Sicario” says as much, but the overwhelming thrust of Dennis Villeneuve’s gripping film makes that conclusion unavoidable.

Taylor Sheridan‘s first produced screenplay couches its sobering observations within the familiar tropes of an anti-crime drama. “Sicario” (Mexican slang for “hit man”) begins with FBI agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) leading a raid on what appears to be an unremarkable home in the Arizona desert.

Except that the house is filled with heavily armed men and contains dozens of dead bodies entombed behind dry wall — it’s like some sort of bizarre tract home catacomb.

Kate and her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) are by-the-book types who make a point of observing all the legal niceties. So Kate is puzzled when she is reassigned to an interagency task force where the rules are bent or broken with disturbing regularity.

Benecio Del Toro

Benecio Del Toro

She’s suspicious of Graver (Josh Brolin), the garrulous but vaguely sinister task force leader. She thinks he may be CIA — but that can’t be, since the CIA cannot legally get involved in domestic operations.

And her red flags really begin twitching in the presence of Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who claims to be a former Mexican prosecutor  but radiates lethal possibilities, not to mention an encyclopedic knowledge of the Mexican drug cartels they’re trying to bring down.

“Sicario’s” knotted plot is hard to explain — it involves a massive plan to force one drug kingpin to reveal the identity of his heavily-protected boss. There are blatantly illegal incursions South of the Border, a kidnapping and torture — but the mood of desperation, corruption and betrayal that it establishes (abetted by a throbbing musical score that seems to embody doom) is carried with the viewers as we leave the theater.

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James Cordern, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep

James Corden, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep

 

“INTO THE WOODS”  My rating: B-

124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“Into the Woods” is a terrific big-screen musical right up to the point when it suddenly stops being great and turns disheartening and annoying.

In this it is exactly like the stage version of this Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine collaboration, which I saw in previews in New York just before its 1987 debut.  I’m talking 90 minutes of wonderful followed by 30 minutes of meh. So meh, in fact, that it damn near ruins all the good stuff.

Director Rob Marshall, who more or less singlehandedly resurrected the movie musical with 2002’s “Chicago,” comes charging out of the gate here, delivering a movie that works musically and  cinematically and which strikes just the right tongue-in-cheek tone in revisiting the fairy tale cliches of our childhoods.

In a village just outside the woods the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) yearn for a child.  Their cronish neighbor (a gleefully scenery-chawing Meryl Streep), widely believed to be a witch, reveals that in his childhood she put a curse of infertility on the Baker.  Now she offers to lift the hex if the couple will obtain for her several items needed for an incantation that will restore her youth and beauty.

Among the things sought in this scavenger hunt: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

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edge“THE EDGE OF TOMORROW” My rating: B- (Opening wide on June 6)

113 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

 

“The Edge of Tomorrow,” a big-budget sci-fi action epic that melds elements of “Starship Troopers” with “Groundhog Day,” has been earning the sort of reviews usually reserved for Shakespeare adaptations.

This says less about “The Edge of Tomorrow” than about the generally dismal state of the action movie.

Still, the film does have a few things going for it, starting out with Tom Cruise as we’ve never before seen him (playing a physical coward), and extending through the dry humor with which director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) approaches his offbeat tale.

But for all that, it’s still a big-budget action movie in which crashbangboom trumps all other considerations.

In the near future, Earth is under attack by an alien species we humans have nicknamed the Mimics. These are tentacled creatures (they look a bit like the Sentinels from the “Matrix” flicks) that roll around like tumbleweeds, shooting off sparks and tearing up those unfortunate enough to stand in their path.

The Mimics pretty much own Europe, having plowed across the continent. Now they are preparing to jump the English Channel to overrun Britain.

Major William Cage (Cruise) is a U.S. Army public relations specialist stunned to learn that he’s been ordered to shoot combat footage of the first wave of troops to storm the beaches at Normandy. Cage protests that he’s a word man, not a gun guy, that he’s never been trained for combat, that he’ll only get in the way, that he faints at the sight of blood.  In fact, like any sane individual, he’s terrified of the horrors that await him.

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