By Marc S. Sanders

In the year 2010, a sect of women must hold congress in the upper level of a barn to debate whether to leave their colony or stand and fight against the oppressive men who rape, beat, and brainwash them into believing they will be denied entry into the kingdom of heaven should they never offer forgiveness and tolerance for the abuse they suffer.  That is the story of Women Talking, written and directed by Sarah Polley, from the novel by Miriam Towes.

From IMDB, Towes based her novel on a true story of vicious serial rapes in an insular, ultraconservative Mennonite community in Bolivia. From 2005 to 2009, nine men in the Manitoba Colony, using livestock tranquilizers, drugged female victims ranging in age from three to sixty and violently raped them at night. When the girls and women awoke bruised and covered in blood, the men of the colony dismissed their reports as “wild female imagination”–even when they became pregnant from the assaults–or punishments from God or by demons for their supposed sins.

Sarah Polley’s film works like a stage play.  She shoots with deliberately dim cinematography as if to have you feel the cold, helpless isolation the women of this fictional community endure.  These women are smart but uneducated in reading or writing.  When they vote for what do, pictures are drawn to display their options.  Two figures with dueling swords are drawn for stay and fight.  A horse is sketched for the choice to leave.  The women cast their ballots by drawing an X under the picture they opt to follow. 

To know that this piece of fiction is inspired by true events is very chilling, and when the film finishes there’s much to ponder and talk about.  It stays with you.  A young educated man named August (Ben Whishaw, in a beautifully reserved performance) from a university is recruited to keep the minutes of the meetings.  Topics of debate include if they should leave with a mass exodus of all the women, do they also take the young boys; most of them products of the numerous rapes they suffered through.  At what age are these boys incapable of trusting they will not be as monstrous as their bastard and abusive fathers?  What about August?  He is harmless and sympathetic to the ladies’ victimizations.  Shouldn’t he be allowed to go too, or because he is a man, is he excluded?  Frances McDormand’s character, whose appearance lives up to the name Scarface Janz, insists upon doing nothing.  She’s convinced they will be denied entrance into heaven by their almighty God.  To not forgive their attackers is a sin.  Is doing nothing an option?    If they stay and fight, how exactly will that be done?  Violence is an unforgivable sin, as described in doctrine.  How else do you fight against the constant attacks of violence, though?

Women Talking deserves an audience.  It’s a very good film because it draws attention to a modern day hardship.  When there are communities like this in the world that most of us are unaware of, how are the members accounted for?  Are they being nourished and educated and living comfortably?  Is everyone safe and protected?  If they are not, then how are they getting the justice they are entitled to, and do they have a chance of survival?  I appreciate when movies can open my eyes to a reality for which I have yet to carry any regard or awareness.  I feel taught having watched a movie like Women Talking

When the movie began, before knowing anything of what the story was about, my first presumption was that maybe this is an Amish or Quaker community based on the farm country setting and the simple wardrobes of the characters.  The time frame was uncertain to me as well.  Horse and buggies are shown, but no automobiles.  So, is this the early twentieth century, perhaps?  Only after the first ten minutes of exposition, did I realize this was something else taking place within a more recent time period.  It is astounding how far we’ve come globally with the rights of women, minorities and the overall oppressed.  Yet, there are those who regrettably remain overlooked.

Polley’s script is rhythmic with strong dialogue, and the cast of actresses (Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley) are quick with their retorts when one makes one statement after the other.  There are lots of fascinating arguments at play here, reminiscent of Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men.  Again, this is gripping material ready for live stage work. 

I did have a problem with the picture, however. The trajectory of the film works on its dialogue of debates.  The actors deliver lines from Polley’s script perfectly.  This is a smart collection of actors.  Still, it is challenging to keep track of what platform each woman stands upon.  When one gets swayed from one argument over to other side, it is also a little tricky to realize when that has occurred.  Who is staunch in their beliefs is also difficult to keep track of.  The dark photography that Polley layers the film with is meant to be morose.  It works.  It places you in the helpless mood of these afflicted women.  When you consider the practicality of the piece though, it makes it hard to identify who is who and what perspective they have.  Often, the characters don’t stand apart from one another.  It might sound trivial.  I may risk putting a stain on the filmmaker’s art.  Nonetheless, but it got in the way of the movie I was watching.

It is a blessing that Women Talking has received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and for Sarah Polley’s screenplay.  Had it not, the film would likely go unnoticed, and it cannot afford to be.  Sarah Polley’s film deserves attention.  Any one of us may never come upon these very private, hidden, and isolated communities that function under an unfair governance.  However, the film demonstrates the vicious dominance that one sex can have over another which still remains all to common.  No matter how much wiser we have become as a people, there are some who still have never gotten the message.


By Marc S. Sanders

It’s fortunate that the success of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers franchise did not wash out the best features of the James Bond series. Had it done so, we wouldn’t have been treated to the outstanding production of Daniel Craig’s film, Spectre, with an opportunity to face off against a reinvented Ernst Stavro Blofeld played perfectly by Christoph Waltz. One of my few complaints however, is that we didn’t get enough material for the two-time Oscar winner.

Director Sam Mendes returns following Skyfall to reinvigorate the original traditions and blueprints that attracted audiences to 007 in 1962 with Dr. No. Blofeld lays in wait in his secret fortress of a lair housed within a desert crater (an upgrade from the volcano in You Only Live Twice), ready to offer exquisite hospitality to Bond and his love interest before providing an unrequested guided tour of his technology and hideous plots. No, he never had to show Bond anything. Yet Blofeld was never bashful, with or without his cat. Waltz is the right choice for this 21st century iteration of the staple villain. Gone is most of the camp presented in the character during the later Connery films. Most of the camp actually. He does still have the white cat after all.

Craig remains a great 007. The role is not a mimic of past Bonds. Craig is everything of the “blunt instrument” that author Ian Fleming described. Thanks to his physique and some great fight choreography, a marvelous fisticuffs scene occurs between him and brutish Dave Bautista aboard a moving train. Craig always looking great in the white dinner jacket tux, even while he’s getting pushed around.

Lea Seydoux is serviceable as the Bond girl, Madeline Swann, daughter of an old enemy of Bond with information necessary in the pursuit. Seydoux is not the best Bond girl. Others have offered more intellect beyond the beauty. Still, that might only be due to the limits of the script. She’s a good actor nonetheless.

Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris are great as Q and Moneypenny. The roles have stepped up in frankness and skills that stretch out more than a traditional one scene cameo. Whishaw as Q is more of a know it all and Harris as Moneypenny reminds the audience that she has a life outside the office.

Ralph Fiennes is good too as M. Though I do wish his storyline was better here where he is dealing with an over abundant policy in complete government surveillance. The antagonist against Fiennes is nothing special and as quick as this storyline started, you knew how it was going to end. Still, I like watching Fiennes in the role.

Spectre has great scenes, most especially the signature opening taking place on the Day of the Dead in Mexico City that culminates in the destruction of a city block before Bond disables two bad guys aboard a spiraling helicopter. Steady cam and very clear edits make this a knockout.

I also appreciate the gag that not all things work accordingly for Bond. He orders his signature Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred, and is denied as he is at a bar located in an isolated strict health retreat. As well, his Aston Martin is not as reliable thanks to empty hidden machine guns hidden behind the logo in the trunk. Not everything comes as easy for Craig’s Bond, and that allows for some tongue in cheek humor.

I liked Spectre more on a repeat viewing. Mendes shot a gorgeous looking globetrotting picture of Mexico City, Rome, Austria, Tangiers and clear evening London.

Considering the next installment is likely to be Craig’s last film is disheartening. With Spectre, a summation of all the prior Craig films is assembled leading to what has been a great miniseries within the storied franchise. I’ve liked following this James Bond. There are revelations about the character including his orphan history, his faults and his coldness that only serves to protect the Queen’s country. The Daniel Craig Bond is the best following the very different albeit wry interpretation of Sean Connery.

Still, I’ll take what I can get, and once again happily look down the target scope aimed right for 007 before the blood comes pouring down.


By Marc S. Sanders

Skyfall is a great James Bond film. One of the best. However, …it has one major shortcoming that always gnaws at me. Regrettably, it has a contrived middle section that steals some of the magic away from the film. Yes, for a moment, my suspension of disbelief is robbed from me.

Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007 has become a favorite among fans and movie goers. Craig is magnificent in a primarily dramatic turn in the part. Following a fantastic action packed opening where Bond pursues an assassin through the streets of Istanbul, Turkey (widely known as a favorite locale of Ian Fleming), the chase involves cars, motorcycles, rooftops, fruit stands and trains for well edited shootouts and fist fights. Alas, the assassin gets away and Bond is left for dead.

Following an attempt on the life of M (Judi Dench in her absolute best portrayal in the role), Bond returns for active duty. However, he’s not what he used to be. His aim is off and his body is worn. The question remains if Bond is ready to be back in the field.

The plot centers on a bitter former MI6 agent named Silva (Javier Bardem in a potentially Oscar worthy performance) out to seek revenge on M for the sins he believes she’s committed.

It’s funny. The Austin Powers films, and even film critic Roger Ebert, would always draw attention to the fact the villain would just longingly speechify when they have all the time in the world to just shoot Bond dead and move on with their devious plot. Silva is a response to that issue. He has a mutual respect for Bond, and you can see he’d rather keep him alive for the time being to allow the game to keep running. It’s not said outright, mind you. Yet that’s what I took away from the character. A superbly written monologue to introduce Silva at the midway point of the film compares him and Bond to the last of two rats surviving a trap. Which rat will win out?

It’s also quite special that Bardem shapes his villainous role with a homosexual tendency. Silva is fashionable and proudly dons a bleach blonde hairstyle. He gleefully rubs Bond’s legs and opens his shirt to examine his scarred chest, pronouncing that Bond must ponder his “training” at the moment. Silva is beyond the typical femme fatale. It’s different and it’s time the Bond franchise acknowledges the differences in people. A welcome trait for a major character.

The plot set up of Skyfall‘s devices are ingenious in simplicity with a basic revenge tale but also with broadening the legacy and responsibilities of the M character. What Casino Royale did for a story arc for James Bond, Skyfall does for M, and with Dench in the role it works beautifully. She must answer to superiors, like a very welcome Ralph Fiennes, for the death of several agents and a bombing of MI6 headquarters. She must resist the pressure of early retirement. This is the most that M has ever had to contend with personally, and it’s here at last.

My one reservation with the film occurs just after the midway point. Silva somehow arranged to get apprehended and then managed to escape, don a police uniform, travel through London’s tube, and time an explosion on a runaway train ready to crash into James Bond who is on his trail. Thereafter, he’s able to locate the interrogation session where M is making a public statement in her defense and try to kill her. There are way too many factors at play that work too conveniently to Silva’s advantage. It’s a tension filled sequence. It looks great. It has great action and effects, but it’s overly contrived. I wish the script from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan made this middle section a little more believable.

Sam Mendes (American Beauty) directs a terrific, action-packed film filled with more drama and minimal tongue in cheek that the series is primarily known for. I was grateful for the more serious Bond. Like the other Craig installments as well as the Dalton films, Skyfall offers a different and fresher approach.

Granted the ending plays more like an Arnold Schwarzenegger action piece from the 1980/90s, but it’s highly entertaining, well edited and well shot, nonetheless.

I highly recommend Skyfall for its outstanding cast that also includes Ben Whishaw as a nerdy variation of Q, the gadget man, and Naomie Harris in a secret role that has a satisfying payoff. As well, the standard revenge story works quite well here when you have Bardem, Fiennes, Craig and most especially Dench doing some really top notch acting with terrific dialogue. Mendes is a stage director first, and it shows quite admirably here.

Again, Skyfall is not the best Bond film but it’s at least one of the best.


by Miguel E. Rodriguez

Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant
My Rating: 10/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 66%

PLOT: An exploration of how individual lives impact one another in the past, present, and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

Okay, faithful readers, I hope you’re comfortable.

Cloud Atlas is one of those movies like Baraka that leaves me with the urgent need to tell people how amazing it is.  It’s visually spectacular, thought-provoking, and hopelessly optimistic about love and the good side of human nature, even in the face of the worst humanity has to offer.

Based on a critically acclaimed novel by David Mitchell, the movie tells six separate stories, linked by the fact that a core group of actors plays all the principal roles in each story, and by the fact that at least one actor in each story carries a curious birthmark shaped a bit like a comet or a shooting star.  Each story is separated from the others by decades or centuries, taking place in the years 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144, and an apparently post-apocalyptic 2321.

I cannot imagine the lengths to which the filmmakers, and the film editor in particular, went to make this movie work.  The film jumps freely from one story to another, forward, back, forward, and back again, somehow maintaining a clean flow and keeping each storyline absolutely clear.  Although the stories are unique, the editing keeps the idea of connection alive for nearly three hours.  Just based on the editing alone, that makes Cloud Atlas kind of exhilarating to watch, especially when things heat up in the 2144 segment.

Let me see if I can quickly summarize each story, without giving too much away:

  • 1849 – An American lawyer visits property holdings overseas and witnesses the brutal whipping of a slave, who stows away on the lawyer’s ship returning to San Francisco; meanwhile, an unscrupulous doctor has plans to steal the lawyer’s gold en route.
  • 1936 – A struggling composer, Robert Frobisher, is hired as an amanuensis (a fancy word for a music stenographer) to another aging composer, which allows Frobisher to compose his own masterpiece, The Cloud Atlas Sextet. The aging composer demands credit for the piece and threatens to expose Frobisher’s bisexuality, including his deep, unconditional love for a gentleman named Rufus Sixsmith.
  • 1973 – An investigative reporter stumbles onto a conspiracy at a nuclear power plant, thanks to a whistle-blowing report written by none other than Rufus Sixsmith, now in his sixties.
  • 2012 – An author on the run from hooligan creditors takes refuge in what he thinks is a hotel, but is in fact a nursing home, to which he has inadvertently committed himself.  He and three other residents plan a daring jailbreak.
  • 2144 – Set in a vastly futuristic New Seoul, a renegade “fabricant” is brought in for questioning by the ruling government known as Unanimity.  The fabricant, known only as Sonmi-451, spins a tale of oppression, liberation, and horrific realization as she becomes the voice of a revolution that will ripple across centuries.
  • 2321 – In a post-apocalyptic Hawaii, peaceful Valleysmen live in constant fear of attacks from vicious cannibals, the Kona tribe.  They also receive periodic visits from Prescients, a highly advanced society that apparently lives offshore.  One day, a Prescient, Meronym, asks a Valleysmen leader to guide her to a remote mountain peak where she hopes to send an SOS signal to off-world colonies.

Confused yet?  Don’t be.  The editing keeps everything crystal clear.

But that’s just the clinical description of the movie.  What catapults Cloud Atlas into the stratosphere is how the fancy editing and visual effects occasionally take a back seat to a really deep philosophical question that leaves me with a sense of awe.  It’s really a what-if question, one of the greatest what-if questions of human existence.

What if…death isn’t the end?

I know that countless other movies have asked this question. We all have our own answers and beliefs.  I am not suggesting that Cloud Atlas has somehow figured out THE answer to this question, or that the answer it provides somehow trumps your own beliefs. But of all the movies I’ve seen on this topic, Cloud Atlas is the only one that really, genuinely, truly left me in awe of the possibilities it proposes.

I mentioned earlier that key roles are played by the same actors over and over again in each of the stories.  While that was initially distracting, I realized that the filmmakers were actually making a genius move.  It was nothing more than a simple way of illustrating the concept that a life in one era is echoed in another, decades or centuries later.  Heavy makeup is used to indicate how one person’s life as an Asian woman could, in theory, be echoed in the life of a Mexican woman in another era.  Or perhaps the life of a British man might be echoed later as a British woman.

And then there’s the question of that recurring birthmark.  One key character from each storyline bears a birthmark that resembles a shooting star.  So many people (including me the first time around) wanted to attach some kind of conventional story-based meaning to that birthmark.  Did it mean these characters were all somehow blood-related?  Was it a prophecy of some kind?  Something mentioned in the book, perhaps, that had to be left out of the film for pacing reasons, or some such thing?  No.  It’s just another visual reinforcement of the idea of recurrence, or reincarnation.

And that’s where I get awestruck by the movie.  Reincarnation is not a new concept in films, but Cloud Atlas really got under my skin.  Imagine.  What if…the person you love, your soulmate, the one you’ll love until the day of your death…what if, centuries hence, you’ll meet each other again?  Maybe you’ve walked down the street, or been eating in a restaurant, and for a fleeting second you lock eyes with a total stranger across the room, and you think, “I KNOW that person,” but the moment passes and life goes on.  What if that happened because you have met in some past life?

Or maybe you go on a date, and it goes phenomenally well, as if you’ve known each other for ages?  Well…maybe you have.  It’s your destiny to meet and love this person because you’ve already done it before.

I know I’m getting a little woo-woo/touchy-feely here.  It’s not a new idea.  It’s just that Cloud Atlas presents the idea so well that my breath gets taken away when I think about its implications.

I just have to bring up the stunning visuals again.  There’s a scene where the composer, Frobisher, is writing to his lover, Rufus Sixsmith, and there’s a passage where, in his mind, he meets Sixsmith in a china shop.  In a wonderfully poetic moment, they start smashing the china in slow motion as Frobisher’s composition plays in the background.  Then, just as the music reaches a crescendo, the two of them stop in place, and hundreds of china vases and plates rain down from the ceiling in slow motion, hanging in space, descending slowly to the ground like gigantic snowflakes.

I’m at a loss.  I’ve come to the end of whatever I can discuss about this movie without repeating myself endlessly.  I want to reiterate that I don’t believe this movie has THE answer to what lies beyond death.  But it has a truly lovely hypothesis, one that leaves me awestruck with its implications.

So let me just end with a line from the movie that makes my heart swell every time I hear it.

“I believe there is another world waiting for us, Sixsmith. A better world…and I’ll be waiting for you there. I believe we do not stay dead long. Find me beneath the Corsican stars, where we first kissed.”


By Marc S. Sanders

Any die-hard James Bond fan should absolutely love Daniel Craig’s final outing in No Time To Die.  Not only does the film work as a salute to the more serious aspects of past Bond films (not just Craig’s installments), but it is working with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek.  That is not to say that I still did take issue with a few narrative choices the film steers into.

Years have gone by for Craig’s interpretation of the famed secret agent.  He’s comfortably in love with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) from the prior film Spectre, and known daughter of Mr. White, one of Bond’s prior adversaries.  Suddenly though, Spectre seems to be back with a vengeance.  The imprisoned Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) somehow seems to be involved and 007 puts his guard back on opting not to trust Madeleine or anyone ever again.  The story jumps to five years later and Bond’s CIA friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) has convinced him to come out of seclusion and assist with recovering a kidnapped scientist who holds the formula to a deadly nanobot virus manufactured through plant life.  Bond travels to Jamaica to complete the mission.  From there, the story gets more complicated and more interesting.  Though I dare not spoil what comes next.  This film has a lot to tell in the near three hour running time.

Daniel Craig always had some sort of challenge with the general public while playing James Bond.  First, how dare he be blond?  James Bond is not blond.  He survived that ordeal to continue to make more films.  His second film suffered in storytelling due to a writer’s strike.  During press junkets for his fourth film, Craig was quoted out of context noting that he’d rather “slit his wrists” than play the character again.  As well, his films broke convention in the long running EON Production series, as each film served as a continuing story with much more serious, dramatic and sorrowful undertones than was ever presented before.  None of these challenges seemed fair to me.  After 25 films, you gotta stir the pot a little bit on a character that has been on screen for nearly 60 years.  It’s not enough that his gadgets change with the times of technology. 

I divert into this observation because No Time To Die offers some shocking developments for the Bond character, but when you return back to Craig’s first film, Casino Royale, you really start to understand why this latest picture goes in this wildly off direction.  In other words, the four films Craig performed in prior to this 2021 installment seemingly spell out the inevitable conclusion of his tenure as James Bond.  So, reader, when you go to see this last film from arguably the most controversial actor to play 007 to date, give some thought to what has already been covered before and maybe you’ll agree it beautifully makes a lot of sense.

As an action film, No Time To Die works solidly.  There’s amazing stunts and vehicles with car chases galore and nail biting shootouts.  I think this film has the longest pre-credit sequence of all the films and it’s amazing where one of the feature attractions is the famed Aston Martin DB5 against a slew of Range Rovers and motorcycles.

Rami Malek fills in as the lead villain eerily known as Safin, complete with the signature facial deformity, a shattered kabuki mask and a hell bent determination to destroy the world by means of turning people’s DNA against themselves.  Just go with it.  There’s not much weight to this dastardly mission.  It’s Malek’s performance that works. 

A new agent is also in the works and what’s this?  She is identified as 007????  Again, the newer films bravely go against convention to keep it interesting. Lashana Lynch plays Nomi.  This character was angled extensively in trailers and press junkets but honestly doesn’t live up to the hype enough.  The actor is fine.  She’s just not given much to make any kind of impact.  Ana de Armas is the actor who really makes a splash in a brief moment dressed in a gorgeous evening gown while giving high kicks to bad guys and armed with an adorable naivety about her and a killer machine gun.  Her character is reminiscent of the Bond girls who elevated the tongue and cheek elements of the series.  In a three hour film, more room should have been left for de Armas to play.

Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw), Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and M (Ralph Fiennes) all return making for a solid support team for Bond.  It needs to be noted how well cast the Craig films always remained. During the five film series, each one of the characters had their memorable moments for sure.

The regrettable ingredients in No Time To Die lie in the lacking treatments of Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas for sure.  Forgivable for the most part however.  Still, the story steers into one angle that I wish it didn’t when a young child is brought into the fold.  Children in serious peril was never part of the Bond formula.  So, while this is another new convention for the long running series, I think it was a poor choice.  I see the necessity of the young character to the story, but was it ever really necessary to put a child amid massive gun play, car wrecks and explosions.  There was something a little unsettling about that aspect of the film and the imminent danger to the girl really isn’t needed to heighten any kind of suspense.  Rather than play dramatically, it moves a little too disturbing.  Early on in the film, another child is placed in disturbing peril as well.  The story options here just don’t seem altogether appropriate.

No Time To Die is an appreciated conclusion to Daniel Craig’s version of the character.  There are great puns for Bond to deliver.  His interactions with Q and M are biting and fun.  His love story portrayal with Madeleine works more solidly here than in the last film they shared together, and his tete a tete with the villains, Blofeld and Safin, are equally strong.  These different relationships broaden the dimensions of Bond.  He’s no longer a cookie cutter character.  There’s a motivation to the guy. 

Having seen the film twice, I have an even further appreciation for this new film.  Hans Zimmer comes in to do the original score and particularly salutes the unexpected favorite among fans, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with select notes and rhythms from that film.  Granted the script for No Time To Die makes obvious references as well.  I also appreciated the wink and nods to Bond’s very first adventure, Dr. No.  There was just a lot of smart, subtle honors presented here. 

Still, the best reference is left for one of the best lines in the film.  When Bond meets Felix’ partner ahead of a mission, Daniel Craig as 007 has to ask “Who’s the popular blond?”  After five hugely successful films, over a fifteen-year span, any one of us better know that the only blond that matters is “Bond.  James Bond.”


By Marc S. Sanders

PL Travers’ character Mary Poppins is synonymous with the flavor of Disney. You may visit a Disney Theme Park or Cruise Ship or watch a classic film, and you might think to yourself this sidewalk, this room, this cast member’s uniform appears like something out of Mary Poppins. Walt Disney Studios and all its products would be something entirely different without the exactness of the most popular nanny in film. Ironically, until now, since 1964, has there been only one Mary Poppins film…and, well one PL Travers biography.

Director Rob Marshall (Oscar winning director of Chicago) has been recruited to bring the magical character back complete with her bottomless bag and her umbrella in Mary Poppins Returns. Perfectly cast is Emily Blunt in the role. Because this new installment that jumps to the next generation of Banks children is not a franchise reinvention, Blunt beautifully carries on the rigid mannerisms and casual magic that Julie Andrews effortlessly brought to the part. Blunt is not mimicking Andrews however. I think she takes the purpose of Mary more seriously actually. Andrews would smile at the fantasy. Blunt responds as if animated dog carriage drivers are seemingly normal. I also detected another dimension of maybe sadness or melancholy from Blunt as she observes the anguish of the children’s father Michael (Ben Whishaw, a great performer) now all grown up and reluctant to accept fantasy as a means to save the Banks’ home from foreclosure. When this Mary Poppins has to depart this family at the end, for a moment, I felt like she didn’t want to, like she needed this family as much as they needed her; not something I got from the first installment. Alas, this is 2018 and people are more attuned to the harshness of the world. Maybe Mary Poppins is as well.

Lin-Manuel Miranda adopts a cockney accent and fills the role of Jack, a street lamp vendor, all too familiar with Mary. What Dick Van Dyke brought to the original, as Bert, the chimney sweep, Jack offers to this film. Miranda is great. The best musical performer of the last five years (Hamilton, In The Heights). He opens the film with the whimsical new song “Under The Lovely London Sky” and Marshall and company make sure the audience catches on quick. It’s not “Chim Chim Cheree” but it’s a fun tune that provides a little mystery to the legendary nanny and the goings on at Cherry Tree Lane. Miranda is the only one I can think of to play this role today. Ten or fifteen years ago, it might have been a younger Hugh Jackman.

Cameo appearances abound from Meryl Streep showing another side of her not seen before as a gypsy like cousin of Mary’s, Angela Lansbury, so fortunate she is still performing, and best of all Dick Van Dyke who can still provide a little tap and two step in his spring.

Amidst an entirely new and well versed soundtrack that feels comfortably familiar, the film includes imaginative scenes like diving into an ocean through the bathtub, spinning into the animated (CLASSIC ANIMATION) world of a priceless porcelain bowl and soaring into the sky with a balloon that is just right for you. These are great scenes because they are so silly but Emily Blunt as Mary encourages you to take all this fantasy seriously. “Everything is possible,” she says. “Even the impossible.”

Walt Disney felt that way too. So without Mickey Mouse or Mary Poppins, there really is no institution called Disney. With these brands however, they are all practically perfect in every way.