Sunday 20 Apr

Holy Ghost People

Holy Ghost People examines two sisters whose bond is torn — but by what? After her sibling has been missing for more than a year, Charlotte (Emma Greenwell, TV's Shameless) intends to find out.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

No Holds Barred

RLJ Entertainment's new Blu-ray for No Holds Barred begins with what seems like dozens of trailers for movies starring pro wrestlers from the WWE talent pool. Each flick went direct to home video, but once upon a time — aka 1989 — one had to go to the multiplex to catch such a spectacle.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Knights of Badassdom

In 2008, the third act of the guy comedy Role Models used LARPing — live-action role-playing, that is — as a backdrop for our protagonists' lessons learned. Today, Knights of Badassdom extends that half-hour into a full feature, to the point where viewers are left not smiling, but exhausted. 
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Switched on

Not everything on television has to appeal to mass audiences. In fact, with the further fractioning of viewership thanks to alternatives like Netflix and VOD, more series can afford to become more niche. Here are five examples of shows both past and present — and new to DVD and/or Blu-ray — that encompass some of the more outrageous ideas ever to go beyond boardroom discussion.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Confession of Murder

Seventeen years after slaying 10 women and getting away with it, the charismatic serial killer Du-sok (Park Si-hoo) comes clean with a Confession of Murder, in this 2012 South Korean crime thriller. He does so by publishing a book that dishes all the grisly details.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Drama · Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks

Making Disney's Mary Poppins was anything but merry, as this winner shows.

Rod Lott December 20th, 2013

If there's one thing Hollywood loves more than itself, it's stories about itself. From The Artist to Argo, these films have translated into Tinseltown's ultimate display of self-affection: Oscar gold.


This holiday season, Hollywood's gift to itself — oh, you shouldn't have! — is also Walt Disney Pictures' Christmas offering to moviegoers: Saving Mr. Banks, a depiction of the trying times that went into the making of Disney's 1964 classic Mary Poppins. Unwrapping it, you may be surprised to learn that so much material is there, the name “Julie Andrews” is practically MIA across both of Banks' hours.

In playing P.L. Travers, the British author of the beloved Mary Poppins novels, Emma Thompson (Beautiful Creatures) redefines a crude phrase that includes the words “stick,” “up” and “hindquarters.” Single, elderly and curmudgeonly, Travers faces dire financial straits yet is reluctant to reach for the golden chunk of cheese dangling in front of her upturned nose: a contract granting film rights to Mr. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). While the deal certainly would prove lucrative to her, she fears the damage his stupid songs and infantile animation would do to her precious creation.

A deeper reason exists, which slowly but surely bubbles to the surface in golden-hued flashbacks featuring Travers as a child (played by newcomer Annie Rose Buckley), and it has everything to do with her troubled father (Colin Farrell, Seven Psychopaths).

Although prognosticators suggest Hanks will score a pair of Academy Award nominations this year — Best Actor for Captain Phillips and Best Supporting Actor for Saving Mr. Banks — the true contender from this film is Farrell, who's wonderful in what could be the finest work he has ever done. That's not to slight Hanks, who portrays Disney as a Missouri-bred huckster not used to having the word “no” reach his ears, but Farrell's performance is the one that gives Banks some weight that anchors the project to prevent a drift into pure saccharine puffery.

There is that — it's directed by The Blind Side's John Lee Hancock, after all — but not just that. Banks is best when illustrating the creative battles, even if they're oversimplified with a spoonful of sugar. Today, as was four decades prior, it's a marvel any movie can be good, given how torturous the studio’s by-committee process is. Here, Travers sits in one corner of the ring; Team Disney on the other.

In these scenes, Travers' worthy opponents are Mary Poppins' screenwriter (Bradley Whitford, Cabin in the Woods) and songwriting brother act (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, respectively of Moonrise Kingdom and TV's The Office). Her lone ally, it seems, is the driver assigned to her during her two-week stint in America, played by Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave) in the most delightful way.

The Mouse House suits are so gobsmacked by the little old lady's insolence and insistence that she knows best, they're unsure how to react. Audiences, however, should have no such problem; Saving Mr. Banks is a well-crafted, nonchallenging crowd-pleaser.

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