Reel Reviews: ‘Aquaman’ and ‘Mary Poppins Returns

By on January 2, 2019


You know how the holidays go: always a ton of plans and not all of them are met. Well, I only got to see two of the many movies I wanted to watch over the holiday break.

It was with much trepidation I packed into the theatre with soccer moms, comic nerds, and excited kiddos to see “Aquaman.” For me, I wondered how badly DC and Warner Bros. could screw up the good thing they had going with this less-than-mainstream superhero (but still a vital part of the DC Comics assemblage). My fears were immediately met as viewers are introduced to the character who would become Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his father, Jesse (Michael Beach), two guns-for-hire working for forces of the deep, mainly King Orm (Patrick Wilson, “Watchmen”).

Orm is intent on ruling both the sea and land worlds and has devised a plan to unite the realms of Atlantis in war against the land-dwelling people — us. Aided by Atlantian Vulko (Willem Dafoe, The Green Goblin in “Spider-Man”), Orm’s bride-to-be Mera (Amber Heard) enlists our hero (whose backstory we get early on in the film) Arthur, a.k.a. Aquaman (Jason Momoa), to rise up against Orm. Many battles ensue until Arthur is proclaimed the true heir to the Atlantian throne.

The early scenes with Abdul-Mateen II and Beach are some of the worst examples of acting I have ever seen in my life. I’m not overexaggerating. It is hard to watch. And after his father dies and Manta’s role in the film further develops, the acting only gets worse. It’s almost as if there are several sets of directors in this film, coaching players to make horrible decisions. “Aquaman” director James Wan brought us some great horror flicks like “Saw” and “The Conjuring,” but here he is out of his depth.

What saves this movie from being a total catastrophe is the stunning visual effects throughout the worlds and how they are brought to the viewers by screenwriters David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall. The realms of the sea world allow our imaginations run wild.

“Aquaman” isn’t entirely horrible, because at some points it is almost epic. It doesn’t fail. It doesn’t even disappoint. But then again, my expectations going in were really low.

‘Mary Poppins Returns’

Hot on the heels of “Aquaman” at the box office over the loooong Christmas “weekend” was “Mary Poppins Returns” (and “Bumblebee,” which I did not get a chance to see). It has been a long time since I saw the original 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. I remember it being magical, whimsical, and silly — yet serious at times.

The same descriptors fit “Mary Poppins Returns” starring Emily Blunt as the loveable, yet stern, nanny with a myriad of tricks up her sleeve. She has come again to the house she visited when Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) were young. Now those children are all grown up and the widower, Michael, has three little ones of his own. But, he is on the verge of losing the house to the bank at the hands of rotten Wilkins (Colin Firth). It’s up to Mary Poppins — with the help of leerie Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) — to steer Michael, Jane and the children towards a happy ending.

Disney has done it again! “Mary Poppins Returns” is not without a few faults, but it is a magical journey of wonder and family. Miranda pops a bit of his signature styling into the show; Blunt is fierce while being adorable and kind; and the movie is chock-full of throwbacks and cameos including Van Dyke himself, Meryl Streep, and Angela Lansbury. Admission is worth more than a spoonful of sugar.

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