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A magical nanny takes the two young children of a wealthy London banker on a journey into playful worlds and eccentric characters, eventually showing them and their cold-hearted father the power of love over money.
For more about Mary Poppins and the Mary Poppins Blu-ray release, see Mary Poppins Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on December 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Karen Dotrice
Director: Robert Stevenson (I)
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Mary Poppins Blu-ray Review
A super Blu-ray release. What? No, just "super." Why? Does some other word spring to mind?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, December 9, 2013
"Disney through and through; spectacular, colorful, gorgeous but all wrapped around mediocrity." After doggedly, endlessly fighting filmmaker Walt Disney every inch of the way for more than two decades, that was the reaction of "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers to a film that rightfully remains one of Disney's most beloved classics. Even so, director Robert Stevenson, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, and songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman's Mary Poppins stands as a rare beacon of family cinema that outshines the book series that inspired it and continues to delight children of all ages, even some fifty years after its original release. The warmth, the heart, the joy, the magic... it exemplifies everything Disney hoped to achieve with its adaptation and more. In 1964, the film was hailed by audiences and critics, becoming an overnight success that earned a staggering thirteen Academy Award nominations, among them Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and, most ironically, Best Writing in the Adapted Screenplay category. It also handed Julie Andrews her first and only Best Actress Oscar, while taking home statues for Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Song ("Chim Chim Cher-ee") and Best Visual Effects. The lesson? Hollywood, often vilified as the greedy, artist-draining beast of creative burden it can be, sometimes knows best. It only requires the vision, hard work and persistence of a shrewd, never-say-die dreamer. Of course, a spoonful of sugar helps too.
Having exhausted their latest exasperated nanny, young Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber), the rebellious children of uptightm no-nonsense banker George Banks (David Tomlinson) and his wife, suffragette Winifred Banks (Glynis Johns), pen a help wanted ad for a kind and caring nanny -- "a perfect nanny" -- their father promptly tosses in the fire. To the children's amazement, a woman named Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) nevertheless answers the ad. But Mary isn't just any woman; she arrives on the wind by way of umbrella, freely uses magic, leaps into animated worlds through chalk-drawing portals, and has the uncanny power to produce anything and everything -- no matter the size or shape -- from her handbag a growing girl and boy could ever need. As she opens Jane and Michael's eyes to the unseen and extraordinary, she introduces them to an old friend, artist and chimney sweet Bert (Dick Van Dyke), and tasks herself with righting what truly ails Mr. and Mrs. Banks: repressed love and compassion.
There's no villain in Mary Poppins. No elaborate plot, no lives on the line, and really very little at stake, other than the health and happiness of one troubled family. The film's visual effects and animation compositing haven't exactly withstood the test of time, and the already meandering story unfolds neatly, not to mention shortly after the turn of the 20th century. And yet Mary Poppins is brisk and effortless, unmistakably whole and surprisingly timely, to the point that watching it again after all these years came as something of a much-needed refreshment. Nostalgia certainly played the role it always plays, but each time I feared childhood memories were tinting my glasses the soft, rosy hue most of us know and love, I looked at my nine-year-old son -- whose current favorites include The Avengers, the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek (2009) and Home Alone -- and saw the same delight and wonder washing over his face. He complained when he learned we were watching a movie about a flying nanny naturally, and later commented on of the age and softness of the animated sequence. Within minutes, though, all complaining ceased, his smile began to broaden and laughter bubbled to the surface. Within hours of the credits rolling, I even caught him humming some of the same silly but infectious songs that've lodged in my brain for as long as I can remember.
And while praise could be heaped in so many directions -- Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, Stevenson's direction, Disney's perseverance and guiding hand, the Sherman Brothers' playful songwriting, or the whimsy and fanciful delights of the Banks family's rejuvenation -- there's something to be said for the simplicity, ease, cheer, charm and sheer confidence with which a Mouse House classic like Mary Poppins endears itself to the heart and embeds itself in the imagination. It's a skillfully constructed bit of magical theater that defies every one of its fifty years, and with a wry but measured impishness no less. (One that cleverly re-imagines Mr. Banks as a sly, subtle stand-in for P.L. Travers.) It also brings to light some of the shortcomings of modern family films, which in their desperation to cram in the requisite life lessons tend to sacrifice innate truth and emotional honesty for manufactured morals and entertaining thrills. The word "timeless" is often thrown about at a reviewer's leisure, almost to the point that it no longer means much of anything. But Mary Poppins is just that: timeless. And I suspect my son might just share it with his own children one day... perhaps when the film is celebrating its 75th Anniversary, earning an entirely new generation of young fans who find themselves enjoying the wit and wisdom of Disney's kind-hearted flying nanny as much as their dear old moms and dads.
Mary Poppins Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mary Poppins arrives on Blu-ray with a lovely 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation that offers a glimpse into what Disney could do if it finally, at long last, began releasing the bulk of its live-action classics canon. Colors are striking but never overbearing, primaries follow suit, skintones are warm and carefully saturated, and black levels are deep and satisfying. Detail is excellent too, with refined, (mostly) clean edges, a nicely preserved grain field, and exacting, altogether filmic textures. There is some softness to be had (particularly in regards to the film's animated sequence), but it's part and parcel of the original source, photography and compositing, nothing more. Eagle-eyed videophiles will also spot a slight bit of ringing here and there; thankfully little more than the product of judiciously implemented restoration and remastering techniques. (Just to be clear, I'm not lumping in the lines that appear around Andrews, Van Dyke, Dotrice or Garber in composite shots, which are a part of the original film elements.) All else is precisely as it should be, without any notable macroblocking, banding, aliasing, errant noise or other uninvited guests. So bring on the live-action classics, Disney. Just be sure to afford them the same treatment and tender, loving care.
Mary Poppins Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is arguably an exercise in overkill, especially when so much of Mary Poppins' sound design is front and center. But the only real problem I see is that the presence of a 7.1 lossless mix will lead some to expect a more enveloping experience instead of the restrained but sincere track we have here. Otherwise, there's little to criticize. Dialogue is crystal clear and neatly prioritized at all times; effects, though inherently stagy, are crisp and mischievous; and Richard and Robert Sherman's unforgettable songs have quite simply never sounded better, fuller or more engaging. LFE output is entirely commendable, albeit rather reserved -- there aren't many sequences that require low-end muscle anyway -- which could just as well be said of rear speaker activity, although there's enough directional magic and cross-channel pan-play to several scenes to justify the implementation of all eight speakers. Dynamics are a tad thin, sure, but chalk that one up to age too. No, Mary Poppins doesn't sound as if it were shot yesterday, and no, Disney's track isn't what anyone will label groundbreaking or revelatory. What it is, though, is very, very good, and I seriously doubt any other mix could do more with what the studio had to work with. Ideally, I would have liked to have the option to listen to a lossless presentation of the Original Theatrical Mix as well (which is limited to a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 track), but so it goes.
Mary Poppins Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mary Poppins Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mary Poppins marks another must-have release this holiday season, not to mention one of Disney's best of the year. The film holds its own some fifty years past its prime, Andrews and Van Dyke are fantastic and fantastically fun, the songs are treasures in and of themselves, and the age of the production has little bearing on the end result. Fortunately, Disney's Blu-ray release is deserving of the title "definitive." With an excellent AV presentation and a generous selection of supplemental materials, there aren't any downsides or drawbacks to be found. Add Mary Poppins to your collection post haste and reacquaint yourself with the magic of one of Disney's most treasured classics, live-action or otherwise.
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Mary Poppins Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: December 10-17 - December 8, 2013
For the week of December 10th, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is bringing Fast & Furious 6 to Blu-ray. Other titles include the Disney classic Mary Poppins, Volume Eight of Futurama, Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt, Keanu Reeves' Man of Tai Chi, the sprawling ...
• Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Detailed - August 15, 2013
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has detailed the highly anticipated 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of Mary Poppins, which features an all new digital restoration, 7.1 lossless audio, and several new extras. The 50th Anniversary Edition combo pack arrives ...
• Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Trailer - August 11, 2013
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has released a trailer for the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack release of Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition. The live-action Walt Disney classic stars Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Glynis Johns, David Tomlinson, Matthew Garber, ...
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