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Posts Tagged ‘Emily Mortimer’

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 Mortimer

“THE BOOKSHOP” My rating: B

113 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“The Bookshop” is an insidious bit of bait and switch.

As it starts out a viewer is confident that he or she is entering familiar territory.  In 1959 a war widow opens a bookshop in  picturesque British coastal town.

So this is going to be a feel-good movie about the power of literature to illuminate gray lives, right? And the lady storeowner will undoubtedly find romance with one of the locals…maybe a handsome fisherman?

Also, our  heroine sells controversial books like Nabokov’s Lolita. So the film will depict the conflict between the local blue noses and everybody else’s right to read, eh?

Uh, no.

Isabel Coixet’s film, adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel, is much darker than that.  Here the common man is something less than noble and the good guys shouldn’t expect to win.

All might have gone swimmingly had Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) not chosen as the site of her new book shop the long-abandoned  Old House, a historic structure fallen on hard times. She buys the place at bargain prices, installs shelves and orders crates of books.

She hires Christine (Honor Kneafsey), the child of local laborers, as her after-school assistant.

And she cultivates the attentions of the  eccentric  town hermit, Edmund (Bill Nighy), a voracious reader living in a slowly decaying mansion. He’s this movie’s version of Miss Havisham.

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Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz

“THE PARTY” My rating: B

71 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With a running of time just over an hour, Sally Potter’s “The Party” plays like a classic one-act play, filled with slamming door exits, fiercely funny wordplay and wonderfully brittle, self-delusional characters.

Potter,  the British creator of films like “Orlando” and “The Tango Lesson,” specializes in gender issues and anti-establishment politics.  “The Party” embraces all that while remaining bitterly hilarious.

In the film’s first shot a frantic looking woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) yanks open her front door, stares momentarily at the visitor on her stoop (the camera takes the vantage point of the guest) and points a pistol at us.

We then flash back 70 minutes.  That same woman, Janet, is busily futzing around the kitchen, preparing to entertain some old friends. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) sits in the living room, wine glass in hand, deejaying old blues and experimental jazz LPs. He has the look of a  shell-shocked combat vet.

One by one the visitors arrive and we gradually learn what the celebration is about.  After years of struggle as a party faithful, Janet has been named head of the country’s Ministry of Health. She is constantly interrupted by congratulatory phone calls, including several heavy-breathing text messages from an unidentified lover.

The deliciously catty April (Patricia Clarkson) is allegedly Janet’s best bud. As an American she takes a withering outsider’s view of Brit politics…but then she’s withering on just about every subject. Asked to evaluate if Janet’s new job has transformed her in any way, April observes that her friend now is “slightly ministerial in a post-modernist, post-feminist sort of way.”

She’s even harder on her boyfriend, a blissed-out, New Age-y German life coach named Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) who so adores her that he puts up with a constant stream of abuse. April announces that she intends to dump Gottfried that very night: “Tickle an aroma therapist and you find a fascist.”

 

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Charlotte Rampling, Jim Broadbent

“THE SENSE OF AN ENDING” My rating: B

108 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Most of us struggle with some aspect of our pasts.

A relationship that ended badly.  Behavior we regret. Guilt. Loss.

“The Sense of an Ending” is about one man’s attempts to reconcile his present with what came before, and the rationalizations and self-delusions that allow him to finally come to terms.

Ritesh Batra’s film, adapted from Julian Barnes’ award-winning novel by Nick Payne (author of the trippy stage drama “Constellations”), unfolds simultaneously both in the present and nearly a half century earlier.

In the here and now Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) operates a hole-in-the-wall camera shop specializing in antique Leicas. He’s a semi-curmudgeonly divorced man, but he has a civil if mildly confrontational relationship with his ex, Margaret (Harriet Walter), and with their daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery), a single mother-to-be (Tony accompanies her to birthing classes).

His rather dull life is enlivened by a mystery from his past. Tony receives legal notice that he’s been named a beneficiary in the will of a woman he hasn’t seen in 50 years.

In flashbacks we see how young Tony (Billy Howle) fell for rich girl Veronica (Freya Mavor) and was treated to a long weekend at the home of her family. There he met Veronica’s rather flamboyant (and possibly predatory) mother, Sarah (Emily Mortimer).

Anyway, Tony broke up with Veronica, who rebounded by starting up with Tony’s friend and classmate Adrian (Joe Alwyn).  Not long into that relationship the sensitive Adrian mysteriously killed himself.

It is Adrian’s diary which the late Sarah has bequeathed to Tony.  Why did she cling for decades to the journal of her daughter’s dead boyfriend?

And why is her daughter Veronica (played as an adult by the sublime Charlotte Rampling) unwilling to turn over Adrian’s diary despite the threat of legal action?

Goodness. What bombshells might reside on its pages? (more…)

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“OUR IDIOT BROTHER” My rating: C- (Opening wide Aug. 26)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The only person likely to win any awards for “Our Idiot Brother” is the anonymous editor who cut the trailer. This unsung hero took an aggressively unfunny comedy and so effectively manipulated bits and pieces as to evoke potential ticket buyers’ memories of other, much funnier Paul Rudd films like “I Love You Man.”

But make no mistake, this is bottom-drawer stuff that, by all rights, should have shuffled straight off to home video.

And what makes it even more discombobulating is that “Brother” wastes a slew of good comic actors.

Ned (Rudd) may not be precisely an idiot, but he’s slow enough on the uptake to be in perennial trouble. Also he cannot lie. When a cop in uniform asks him for some weed, Ned takes pity on the poor flatfoot and sells him some. Result: Prison.

Newly out, Ned is passed back and forth among his three sisters. His childlike pechant for honesty gets him in one scrape after another.

Sister Liz (Emily Mortimer) doesn’t appreciate it when Ned reveals that her filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan in typical supercilious mode) is having an affair with the ballerina who is the subject of his latest documentary.

Sister Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a magazine journalist, tries to use a source’s off-the-record comments in her latest piece. Ned calls her on it.

And Sister Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), in a relationship with another woman (Rashida Jones), doesn’t appreciate Ned letting it slip that she’s pregnant by an artist friend.

The best that can be said for this film from director Jesse Peretz and writers David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz is that the hirsute Rudd (he looks like a very happy Jesus) exudes a sweetness that helps make up (though not nearly enough) for the script’s lack of cleverness and wit.

I mean, didn’t anybody read the screenplay?

| Robert W. Butler


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