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Mac Eachaidh (Australia)

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Saving Mr Banks & Mary Poppins [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Saving Mr Banks & Mary Poppins [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Price: £10.79

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Disney spin on P.L. Travers, 20 May 2016
Full disclosure up-front: I have a fondness for both these films in their own right, but also a huge dilemma with what they represent.

I was a fan of Disney's Mary Poppins from my first viewing in childhood, and I still think it's a brilliant film. It will always have a special place for me, even after I encountered P.L. Travers at university (both her Poppins books and her academic writing on mythopoetics) and realised I much preferred Travers' version of the character.

Then I read about the stand-off between Disney and Travers, and how it became Disney Corp lore that Travers was difficult and dogmatic and too uninformed about the film biz to understand how unreasonably demanding she was being, and that the incident served mostly to show how forbearing "Uncle Walt" was and how dedicated to his art that he would put up with this strident, ungainly woman. Travers aficionados, on the other hand, point out how she was lied to, patronised, marginalised and impugned for years. Rightly or wrongly, she felt strongly about the nature and tone of her stories; she was given firm undertakings about how they would be adapted, *none* of which were kept; and when she tried to use the voice in the production meetings that her contract granted her, she was condescended to and shunted aside. While it's true to say Travers didn't understand the Disney formula for making a film, and so within their production context many of her suggestions were misguided, it's also fair to say that the Disney people didn't understand her anxiety over her story being Americanised in sentiment, saw no need to keep their word to her as things changed in production or even explain why they had changed, and bluntly had no patience for anyone trying to say no to them or not embracing their ideas.

And now "Saving Mr Banks" has upped the ante by giving a very one-sided Disney Corp account of the proceedings as if it is the full story. In fact, almost none of the film is true, including the flashbacks to Travers' childhood and this version of her father who (according to the film) needed to be "saved" for her.

Dammit, it's a beautifully-made film, well-balanced and with some lovely performances. People are arguably entitled to enjoy it for what it is -- hence my dilemma. But is dismaying to see comments all over the internet that clearly assume it's a true account, griping about what a <insert negative label here> Travers "obviously" was and how wonderful Disney was to put up with her.

There's no reason most people would care about this, and while I personally wish they would, I won't condemn them if they don't. But I wanted to voice a few things from the Travers side, hence this comment. I'll finish by saying that if, as they say, the victor gets to write the history, it's a little galling that the one "Saving Mr Banks" represents has been so lacking in generosity to the real-life P.L. Travers. For me, as a fan of the woman behind the myth, it has to colour my appreciation for both these films.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2016 10:59 PM GMT

2012 [DVD] [2010]
2012 [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ John Cusack
Price: £2.69

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK for the rich folks, 8 April 2010
This review is from: 2012 [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
OK, let's get the Bad out of the way: the movie's stupendously inane, disappointingly predictable, and too long, and the dialogue is so bad it almost makes you want to stick sharp objects in your own eyes. "2012" is flimsy and almost plot-free, so it buckles under its own weight and carries no oomph in its punch. It desperately struggles to be iconic, but never manages to generate any resonance.

The Good: Roland Emmerich would have to be one of the most accomplished directors out there at integrating live-action and CGI in long, detailed set-pieces, so the spectacle of this flick is quite engrossing. (It's easy to be guilty and want more; it was a pity that some shots are simply cut away from too quickly, and some panoramas of destruction don't linger quite long enough, but I guess there had to be a limit on his budget somewhere.) And it was a very smart move to cast almost-Indie star John Cusack, which gave the flick a kind of cachet it wouldn't otherwise have been able to generate.

Ultimately, it's a nose-pressed-against-the-glass sight-seeing tour of mind-blowing scenes of devastation, and if anyone thought it was ever going to be more than that, they're kinda nuts. Sure, it would have been really pleasing to have some entertainment in the plot -- it seems far too hopeful to ask for some surprises or, heaven forbid, intelligence from a Roland Emmerich movie -- and/or some wit in the dialogue and performances. But it never meant to be more than something we would gawk at.

One disturbing aspect, which takes away points from its score, is the way people outside the main group of characters were treated as mere disposable collateral damage. There's a moment in the spectacular destruction of Los Angeles when it might suddenly dawn on you that we're watching *millions* of people going to their deaths; somehow makes you think twice about all the "gosh wow!" moments. There are even several cases of characters we've some to know, who have names and relevance in the plot, being killed, without even much of a blink from the survivors: they're never mentioned (or even thought about, apparently) again. I know this is a popcorn movie, but that's disturbing.

And lastly, we're supposed to care about a whole bunch of people who could save themselves *in secret from the rest of the people of the world* simply because they're mega-rich. The world will be repopulated by a bunch of people who, statistically, are over-represented among those with psychopathic tendencies. Wow, what does *that* say about human values?

In the end, watching this is akin to slowing down to gawk at a road accident on the highway. You stare for a while, try not to get involved, and then speed up and drive on.

The Traveller (The Fourth Realm Trilogy)
The Traveller (The Fourth Realm Trilogy)
by John Twelve Hawks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.28

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There aren't many books I abandon, but ..., 5 Sept. 2007
... this has been one of them.

I'm floored by Amazon's description of the author as an "audacious craftsman". Perhaps the reviewer was referring only to the plot, because the writing in this book is stilted and difficult, and could hardly be called "crafted".

Twelve Hawks appears to have great difficulty introducing scenes, settings or characters in an organic manner, and so the reader is left to forge his own trail through forced segues and clumsy setups, and has to somehow piece things together retrospectively. The effect of any calculated withholding of clear narrative information to build suspense or perhaps a forward impetus is lost amidst the unintentional withholding of narrative and connection that results from Twelve Hawks' stuttering prose.

Off the grid, indeed. It's certainly off my reading table well before I finished it.

Evita [DVD] [1997]
Evita [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ Madonna
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £13.99

6 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars But on the other hand..., 28 April 2003
This review is from: Evita [DVD] [1997] (DVD)
The idea of a movie of "Evita" did the rounds unsuccessfully for many years, from the moment the stage production was such a smash hit in London. And when it was a similar hit in New York, the battle for the rights became a feeding frenzy. It was at first a hot potato, then somewhat cooling; then sporadically it would get reheated, over and over, as the PR wires ran hot, with almost as many false starts in the casting then as the revamped "Superman" is having at the time of writing now. At various times, rumours flew of the casting of a whole range of talents for the role of Evita, from Barbra Streisand to Glenn Close and even Faye Dunaway.
The success of the movie was always going to hinge on the casting of the role of Evita herself. And while this production got everything else spot on -- Antonio Banderas is a revelation as Ché, Jonathan Pryce is perfect as Perón, successful as a dictator but a failure as a man; the direction is witty, inventive and expansive, and the art direction is marvellous -- in casting Madonna as Evita, they blew it.
Look, the woman can't act, OK ? Not even a bit. More surprising, perhaps, is that she can't even sing, not really. She can find her way through a tune, just, though her tone is a bit of a worry, and I'd hate to have heard the raw musical cuts before the guys with the mixing boards and reverbs got at her voice. For this soundtrack they've had to pull all sorts of musical tricks as well, like mid-song key changes and octave flips to keep the pitch within her limited reach. But even that is small stuff compared to the fact that she cannot perform a song and generate any dramatic tension or emotional resonance. Her death scene, for instance, is embarrassing.
And the grievous fault of her lack of capability is compounded by the fact that one of the more moving songs in the whole score, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall", is reworked so that it too is sung by Eva, and brought to nought by Madonna. (For my money, this is one of Alan Parker's few directorial mis-steps in this piece; while it's an unfortunate flaw in the original score that one of the more crowd-pleasing songs is given to an uninvolved character -- who just sings it, steals the show, and then walks offstage, never to be seen again -- his decision to give the song instead to Eva removes a much-needed extra layer in the storytelling.)
In any case, if you've got the impression by now that I didn't like Madonna in this film, you're dead right. It's not really Madonna's fault; it's not that she didn't try (in fact, there were a number of scenes where she's visibly trying far too hard !); it's just that she's very limited as a performer.
Fans of Madonna won't notice, and will probably like this film. Fans of decent acting or theatre singing or intelligent drama -- even allowing for the fact that this is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical -- will be very disappointed.

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