Tag: Dr. Seuss

A Christmas cinematic double feature: Mary Poppins and The Grinch

A Christmas cinematic double feature: Mary Poppins and The Grinch

Yesterday I mentioned something about saving my “grumpy about Christmas” post for today. But I’ve decided not to bah humbug it up.

It helps that I slept most of the day drugged up on advil and dayquil, so I’m a bit more chill.

Instead, I figured why not talk about movies?

After all, there’s nothing open over Christmas, so my family has had a lot of time to watch movies while I’ve laid about in a sickened stupor. Tonight I wanted to feature what I’d consider the double feature of “movies that are reboots of older things that nobody asked for and shouldn’t exist.”

Starting with the sort-of sequel to the 1964 Disney classic, “Mary Poppins,” and followed up with the Illumination take on Dr. Seuss’s classic, “The Grinch.”


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Image courtesy of IMDb

So right off the bat, I think it’s fair to let you all know that I don’t have a hugely nostalgic connection to the original Mary Poppins. I’ve watched it and had the songs engrained in my head, but I didn’t walk into this pseudo-sequel with any inflated expectations.

That being said, I still fully appreciate the original for what was so groundbreaking about it. “Mary Poppins Returns” seems to appreciate it too, but to a fault.

The reason I keep calling the movie a “sequel” conditionally is because this movie essentially isn’t.

Yes, it takes place a few dozen years later and follows the exploits of the children from the first movie, now with families of their own. But the actual content of the movie is essentially just the original with a new coat of paint.

I’m not kidding. All of the musical numbers, from one set in a fantastical 2D world to one featuring the lamp lighters (a proxy for the original chimney sweepers) happened in just about the same sequence.

It even features all the same overarching messages about family and the importance of childhood wonder.

So really, think about “Mary Poppins Returns” as a reboot more than it is a sequel and certain elements about it become much better. But there are also elements that become far worse.

In the prior category: The visuals. All of the magical sequences and music numbers are gorgeous and well-composed. Most of them take on a similar style to their original counterparts and feel classic with updates to not be 50 years outdated.

Special props go to the portion of the film where Mary takes the Banks children into a porcelain bowl. There are little touches like everyone’s feet clinking while they walk that makes the whole sequence outstanding.

On top of that, I’d say that Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda do pretty good jobs fitting the large shoes left behind by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t give them a whole lot to work with.

My problems: Nothing outside of the visuals are memorable. There isn’t a single song I remembered, which is a shame considering how timeless and integral pieces like “Spoonful of Sugar” were to the original’s longevity.

It also falters from being a “sequel” that basically isn’t. There’s no exposition when Mary Poppins arrives, as it seems assumed that the audience has seen the original. She shows up, the parents remark that they remember her but don’t believe she was actually magic and then simply let her come in and bath their children.

It’s honestly that quick, which makes it clear the movie wanted to get to the whimsey without any of the groundwork.

A more nitpick-y personal gripe is that the movie is very inconstant with its rules. For instance, the parents remark on their disbelief of her magic but do not broach into the issue of her looking exactly the same outside of a quick joke.

Also, when Mary remarks that adults always forget the youthful joy of her magic, that’s quickly contradicted by the appearance of Miranda’s character — apparently one of the child chimney sweeps from the original — who happens to remember her.

I don’t want to harp on it too long at risk of sounding like someone leveling deeply analytical complaints at a children’s movie, but because of the lack of memorable songs and rehashed plot I was so bored by the middle of the film that I couldn’t help but nitpick it.

If you’re looking for a very pretty movie to park your kids in front of (or you adore the original), you’ll get a lot out of Mary Poppins Returns as a visual spectacle.

Outside of that, however, there isn’t a ton there that isn’t done better in the original. I’d say it’s average at best, and I likely won’t remember much of it next month.


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Image courtesy of IMDb

Unlike Mary Poppins, I would count myself as an invested Grinch fan thanks to the wonderful 1966 Chuck Jones and Boris Karloff “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” It’s a true family classic that’s near perfect.

In contemporary cinematography, the Grinch has had a rougher time.

So with Illumination taking the helm of a second reboot in what I guess can be called the Dr. Seuss’s Grinch franchise, I was cautiously optimistic. I do like other movies of theirs like “Sing,” but bemoaned the possibility of it being very out-of-touch.

Having seen the movie now, I can pretty easily say it’s somewhere in the middle.

Outside of an unnerving character design for the titular character (those human-like pearly whites never sat well with me), “The Grinch” is a gorgeous movie. The environments especially, with a mix of Seussian winter wonderlands and more modern, opulent town settings.

However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cringe almost immediately hearing the rap version of the 1966 Grinch song. The soundtrack was probably the worst part of the movie if you ask me.

Either there was unfitting rap, too many modern day Christmas tunes that made me question just how human the Whos were in this universe, or a few strangely Jesus-heavy songs that made me question whether the Whos had a religious part of their Christmas traditions.

Are there Jewish Whos, in that case?

Outside of musical choices, the rest of the movie was handled was better than I had expected. The hour-and-a-half runtime mostly went quick. Pharrell Williams as the Narrator was… Okay. As was Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch.

I actually quite liked the way they handled his interactions with Max. Most of the best scenes in the movie were between the two of them, as it gave a lot of background to why they’re such good friends. More than the 1966 version, in a good way. Ties into the whole family narrative.

I’ll give Illumination props for it.

They also give Cindy-Lou Who a much larger role in the story, which is an idea I appreciate considering she is the crux that changes Grinch’s mind.

However in execution she’s pretty much every ‘I want to catch Santa’ cliché you’ve ever seen, has a design that was uncomfortably close to Edith from “Despicable Me” and has a ‘quirky’ character trait of carrying around a hockey stick for whatever reason.

The way her storyline intersects with The Grinch is predictable, but for a kids movie she serves her purpose well enough.

All-and-all, I’d say “The Grinch” 2018 was fun and well animated. Pretty good for what it was, even if parts of the set dressing were strange and uncomfortable for my tastes.

Though maybe I’m just too old and yelling at the kids on my lawn for their rap musics while lauding the original through rose-colored glasses.

That being said, I think the 1966 version and even (I shutter to admit) the Jim Carrey version did get something right which was almost detrimentally wrong with Illumination’s version.

You know how earlier I mentioned appreciating how cute the stuff between The Grinch and Max were? I do think it’s a nice touch, but it’s emblematic of the fact that the main character is made a little TOO cute, sympathetic and ‘relatable.’ The movie leans hard into his tragic backstory as justification for him acting like a jerk when in all honesty he’s probably the funniest, cutest Grinch we’ve ever seen.

But maybe that’s just a personal problem for me. After all, who am I to argue with a fun-loving misunderstood cool guy of a Grinch who uses lots of sweet gadgets in an (admittedly pretty great) Christmas-stealing montage.

It’s definitely not the worst version of the story you could show off.

Jim Carrey took that prize years ago.


Featured image courtesy of Thomas’s Pics via Wikimedia Commons

Movie Magic, ladies and germs

Movie Magic, ladies and germs

Ever since my dad shifted careers to start working for the movie ticket broker Fandango, we’ve had the chance to enjoy a number of benefits.

Up to this point those benefits have been rather specifically movie ticket related (for obvious reasons). However, today we got to take advantage of benefits related to the company’s attachment with NBC Universal:

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That’s right, we went to Universal Studios, y’all.

I had a blast spending the day with my family — pictured above in the featured image if it wasn’t clear to everyone — and just wanted to take a little bit of time to debrief myself from the trip and publish a couple of the pictures. Who knows, maybe that can serve an auxiliary purpose of showing some people the theme park/studio lot who can’t get there.

He says as if there aren’t plenty of outlets for that already.

But I digress. The day began, funnily enough, with work. I still work with the Gladeo League, and every two weeks (more or less) we have meetings over Google Hangouts. Naturally I forgot that today was the day I had a meeting at the same time as we needed to drive up.

Luckily it took plenty of time to get up to Universal.

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Check out that fancy map

I would like to take this chance to apologize to Michelle and everyone else again for having to deal with my jostling around in the car during our meeting. If any of you happen to be reading this.

That said, even if you guys are reading this, I’m sure neither you nor the rest of the audience is interested in the logistics of driving to a theme park.

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It’s all about the parking, after all.

Yeah we parked in the Frankenstein Lot. Also yeah, I got my sister to pose like everyone’s favorite amalgamate Universal monster. Also also yeah, my dad photobombed the picture.

But do I care?

Nah. It’s a great shot.

But hey, let’s jump into the park shall we?

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Just kidding, got you! First I wanted to talk about this.

Look at these trees with me. These are trees outfitted with mist sprinklers. Sprinkler trees. I don’t know who came up with this idea or where they are now, but wherever they may be they should be happy I’m not there. Because I’m not sure whether to smack them for being so silly or hug them for being a genius.

It’s just so perfectly weird in all the best ways. I’m still trying to sort through my thoughts and we caught these walking into the park at 10 a.m. or so.

Okay. Now let’s get into the park. Seriously this time.

The first thing we did was wander the length of the main level to check out the different facets made available to us. Eventually we settled on the Studio Tour as our first stop.

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Not included in my photo slideshow above is the interactive portions of the Tour, most notably.

The ‘ride,’ if you’re interested in calling it such, features two 3D virtual experiences. They both took place inside dark rooms with imposingly large screens surrounding the trams, which sat on rocking bases to simulate motion. One was based on King Kong and the other was based on Fast and the Furious.

There were also a number of examples of soundstage tricks throughout the time strolling around the studio lot, all capped off with a fun, snarky tour guide. Who started off the journey making fake airhorn noises.

Fun stuff.

Also in case you were curious, the Fast and the Furious portion of the Tour was just as ridiculous as the movies. Somehow they managed to pack two-and-a-half hours worth of insanity into about five minutes. Great stuff, honestly.

After finishing the Studio Tour, we moved over to check out the Simpsons region of the park.

The wait for the Simpson’s Ride was a little rich for our blood, so we decided to go straight from there to the Lower Lot.

I didn’t get a picture of the escalators down, but there were seriously at least seven. The lot is built into a crazy steep mountain.

At the bottom there are a few rides, but Aly and I did not tackle the Jurassic Park ride specifically. A few years ago I took the literal plunge with my dad when we weren’t expecting what it entailed, and the picture that was taken of us that day still graces out living room.

But that’s a story for another day.

Today our time in the Lower Lot consisted of two rides: Transformers and the Mummy.

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The Transformers ride was okay, though I frankly don’t have much to say about it. It was a 3D experience similar to the two portions of the Studio Tour I described, except moving around rather than being stuck on a single panel.

It did manage to be just as ridiculous as the Fast and the Furious portion of that Tour, however. Though that is a given considering it was based on a Michael Bay experience.

I think my tweet from that time sums up my thoughts pretty succinctly.

Somehow the ride incorporated that mentality while also containing an arc where Optimus Prime died, then came back to help save the day. All within the span of about five minutes. Good stuff.

From there we moved into the Mummy, where a lot of the fun came from the lead-in. Mostly watching Aly freak out as we got closer to the front.

The ride itself actually wound up being way more intense than either of us expected. It accelerated ridiculously quickly — but of course the park planned things specifically to take photos right when those G-forces hit.

As a result, we got this gem.

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I thought very hard about using this for the featured image.

But if I did, I wouldn’t be able to zoom in like this:

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Talk about 100 percent pure magic.

After finishing in the Lower Lot, we moved up into the place my family was looking forward to most:

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Hewlett Packard land. Everyone’s favorite technology-driven world.

I jest of course, but we really were excited for the Harry Potter stuff.

There were a couple of awesome things about this part of the park specifically. First and foremost, Butterbeer:

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That stuff is real good. Enough said.

Then of course, the wands:

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So many wands, so little time.

My dad’s job includes a discount at all the stores in the park, so we were all able to get wands of our own. Personally, I snagged a Luna Lovegood wand because of how beautiful a shape it takes:

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It looks like a broom or an arrow, and it’s great. I also managed to get the last Snitch keychain on the rack and it’s just as beautiful. I’ll have to figure out what to do with it, since I’m not sure I want to actually stick it on my keys. Looks fragile, man.

My dad also got one of the special wands that interacted with parts of the park and he looked real cute walking around waving it at things.

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But anyway, the other great thing about Harry Potter was the fact that my friend Tiana just so happened to be coming to the park today as well, so we met up there and jumped on the big attraction.

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This statue was a little too suggestive for us to handle like reasonable adults…
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But otherwise the decor was amazing.

Honestly the line going into the ride was the best part. It had so many amazing facets to explore that were all recognizable rooms from the movie.

The ride itself was just okay, though. Fun but a little overwhelming when it rolls you totally upside down as your feet hang free.

I tapered off on photos around this part of the day. My phone had trickled down into single-digit percentages so I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities to keep it alive. Basically we ate at Mel’s Diner, I had an obscenely complicated trip around the park attempting to find a bathroom and we wound up over at the Minion’s Ride. Based, of course, on Illumination’s Despicable Me.

I’ll be honest, that ride was probably the worst part of the day. It was cute, but very impersonal compared to the way a lot of the other rides were presented.

Also it reminded me a little too much of the mobile game my sister messed around with a few years back, honestly.

On the way out we hit a couple of stores.

Also here’s something we found in one of the stores that will stare into your soul for the next few nights.

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Terrifying.

From there we left the park, took that neat-o picture I used for my post’s featured image out by the big globe and went over to City Walk so Aly could drag us to Voodoo Donuts.

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That, in a not-so-concise nutshell, was my day at Universal Studios. From there we drove home, where I got in some more Don’t Starve on the oh-so-convenient Nintendo Switch:

Then I started working on this blog post.

Don’t think I have too much more to say without things getting weirdly meta and self-contemplative, so I’m going to leave off where I started. I had a great day with my family and I can’t wait to see where we wind up next.