Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman

“Permission to come aboard?”

For the most part, the casting choices in the DCU films have been good (even Ben Affleck as Batman was not a total loss). That is still the case for Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, which is really the only true positive thing to say about the movie. He does make a splash, but the script is down right soggy.

The film does open with an origin story (which is fair, since it is not as well-known as those of Batman or Superman). We see how Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse worker, finds a wounded woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shores. He heals her, they fall in love, and have Arthur. Eventually, Atlanna must return to Atlantis to stop the onslaught on Tom and Arthur after having run away from her marriage to King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren).

Fast forward to present day, and we see a grown up Arthur being visited by Mera (Amber Heard). Turns out that the new heir is Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who wants to rage war on humans above (you know, for all the stuff we have done to the ocean in the past). One of the kingdom’s long time subjects (and Arthur’s former teacher) Vulko (a nicely cast Willem Dafoe) works behind Orm’s back to prevent such a war from occurring. For Arthur to succeed, he must find the long-lost trident that would prove his worth. There is also the subplot of Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), out for revenge on Aquaman after an event at the start of the film.

There are some rather wonderful underground imagery here, but it would be even better if the script had not been so ridiculously predictable. The movie is basically if Thor (or even Black Panther) had lived underwater (claiming a birthright, evil family member villain, etc) . All the fights were nice to look at, but no points in knowing the outcome: you can see it the moment they announce it. By the end, we do get another CGI battle that seems almost off the shelf.

It should also come as no surprise that superhero flicks need a good villain, and the DCU has not been the best at that (though Michael Shannon was good as General Zod and Margot Robbie was really effective as Harley Quinn). Sadly, Patrick Wilson does not measure up, and his villain is nothing short of forgettable.

Parents, the movie should be fine for kids (some swearing and action/violence, but nothing they have not seen in superhero flick before). Middle School and up.

In a year that gave us Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the best was clearly not saved for last (despite some moments I liked, especially where Arthur got his idea of how to use a whale for escape). Still, rather than giving us a breath of fresh air, Aquaman leaves us gasping for it.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Mary Poppins Returns

“Off we go!” with the new Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt)

 

“So long, Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.”

So was one of the last lines of the 1964 classic that, 54 years later, is still arguably the best Disney live action film. Well, it has been over half a century since she graced our screens, and now we have Mary Poppins Returns, which does not live up completely to the original, but still is a delight to behold.

 

The sequel takes place about two decades after the first, during the great depression. It has been a year since the sudden death of the wife of Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw). He still is a loving kind father to his three children Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson). His sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) is still trying to help him out, even when it is discovered that Michael has to repay a loan or they will lose their house on Cherry Tree Lane. Things obviously do take a nice turn when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt, more on her in a bit) swoops back into their lives.

As in the original, there is a plethora of characters. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a light keeper named Jack, who takes on the counter-part to Blunt. Colin Firth is effective as the villainous banker Wilkins, and David Warner has fun as Admiral Boom, who still keeps the time on the hour.

There are some points where the movie does have faults. The action scene toward the end does seem a little far-fetched, and there is one scene involving Meryl Streep that, although a blast, does seemed a little tacked on. It does not completely add to the story.

The key to the movie is Emily Blunt. The original film made a star out of Julie Andrews (and won her an Oscar): It is an immortal performance. That being said, if there was any pressure for Blunt stepping into the role, she does not show an ounce of it. She is so effortless in her performance it is hard to remember we had worries about her being cast in the first place. Simply put, Blunt is practically perfect in every way.

Parents, there are some thematic elements, but as long as your kids have seen the first one, they are fine.

I have yet to mention the cameos at the end. It may be known to you who they are, but I won’t say in case you don’t. What I will say is that these two (undoubtably) legends still have gas in the tank at their ages.

Apparently, there are much more people out there than I thought that don’t like this movie. After you see it, you response will be along the lines of “Can you imagine that?”

 

Overall: Four Stars ****