movie review: mary poppins returns

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Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives.


Going into ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, I was hopeful but leery (pun not intended, I promise – I only caught that when I was proofreading this post).  The critics weren’t kind to this movie.  They labeled it dull, joyless, boring, and an unworthy successor to the original film.  Even the more positive reviews did little more than bestow faint, somewhat withering praise on the film.

But I had to see for myself.

And, well, I LOVED IT.

Everyone was perfectly cast.  I was pretty excited to see Lin as Jack (it blows my mind that little kids will grow up with Lin the way I grew up with Dick Van Dyke) but it was Emily Blunt that really blew me away.  She’s not imitating Julie Andrews.  She is playing a character – the character.  Mary Poppins herself.  I was on the fence about her performance for about two sec-  Forget that.  I was never on the fence.  From the moment she sailed out of the sky holding onto the kite she was my Mary Poppins.

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Ben Whishaw was another delightful surprise.  He’s rather adorable but he also brought such emotional depth to Michael.  Left me in tears several times.  Jane was AWESOME (following in her mom’s footsteps by fighting for people’s rights).  I ship her and Jack so hard.  And the three children – Annabel, John, and Georgie – were delightful and worthy successors to (of? for?) Jane and Michael.

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Seeing Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, and Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks’s actress from the original movie) was a delight – especially Dick Van Dyke.  I never even really liked him as Bert (the accent!  the horror!) but, man, the nostalgia was real.  Plus, it’s super impressive that he’s in his nineties and still singing and dancing and acting.

And let’s talk about the nostalgia.  It was real.  Very real.  From Karen Dotrice’s character saying “Many thanks, sincerely” to THAT STORY ABOUT MICHAEL’S TUPPENCE I CAN’T EVEN (many tears, you guys) to the kite and “We are still not a codfish”…ahhhhh.  Loved it.  And all the instrumental versions of the original songs on the soundtrack.  I think they hit every song from ‘Mary Poppins’ and it was definitely ‘Feed the Birds’ that I loved the best.

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And speaking of songs…I thought they were perfect.  ‘A Cover is Not the Book’, ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’, and ‘The Place Where the Lost Things Go’ were my favorites but I loved almost all of them.  Except ‘Turning Turtle’.  That whole scene weirded me out.  I didn’t LOVE the songs the first time I watched the movie but they’ve been running through my head since the second viewing.  Which has to mean they’re pretty great.

If I were writing the screenplay I would have cut out the bath sequence entirely.  I would also have cut out ‘Turning Turtle’ and have had Cousin Topsy come along into the Royal Doulton bowl when they took it to her (and that’s when the bowl would have opened up for the children and Jack and Mary Poppins).  I just didn’t like the bathtub scene or ‘Turning Turtle’ – they didn’t add much to the story, in my opinion – and I would have liked the movie better if they’d been cut.

But besides all that, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is a fantastic movie.  There were so many delightful, quotable lines.  So many memorable scenes.  So much joy.

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Though it was also very emotional.  I came into the movie with all the emotional baggage of losing a parent and watching ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ (NOT the same level of emotional wounds, but ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ does do things to my heart) so there were several parts that made me cry.  But everything ends in a wonderfully, blissfully happy way so it was all good.

Have you seen ‘Mary Poppins Returns’?  What do you think of it?



mini movie reviews {#10}

Incredibles 2 (2018) – Entertaining.  The animation was gorgeous to look at (even though this movie is more about the action than the aesthetics) and it was fun seeing all the characters again.  And the villain was pretty cool.  But it definitely wasn’t as perfect as the first movie. (What is?)

Ella Enchanted (2004) – Horrid, horrid, horrid.  The book is a gift, the movie is a curse.

Casino Royale (2006) – Okay, so it was very confusing and somewhat boring.  But Daniel Craig is very good-looking and the femme fatale was intriguing.  So the movie wasn’t a total loss.

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Hidalgo (2004) – An incredible western-that-is-not-a-western.  I can’t recommend it highly enough to fans of westerns, horses, exciting races, and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.  Based on a true story of a guy who entered his mustang in a famous Arabian race, ‘Hidalgo’ has everything: romance, a great soundtrack, action, and an epic character arc.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) – Literally Hidalgo 2.0 – but worse?  It was an okay movie and there were definitely parts I liked, but it was pretty meh overall.

The Theory of Everything (2014) – Started out strong, but got a little boring and pedantic.  Still, a powerful, moving story.  As a Christian, I obviously have problems with Stephen Hawking’s worldview, but I can still respect the tremendous struggles and triumphs of his life.  Eddie Redmayne was fantastic in the role. (And Felicity Jones is one of my top five favorite actresses, so yeah.)

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The Terminator (1984) – LOVED IT.  I had my reservations at first, but it was so, so good.  Action-packed, emotional, thoughtful, chilling, romantic…gahhh. (Apparently James Cameron has a thing for tragic romances.)

No Country for Old Men (2007) – When I showed this to some of my siblings, we were pretty evenly split in our opinions of this movie.  My oldest brother and I think it’s a fascinating cinematic tour de force.  And then another brother and sister thought it was a total waste of their time.  What do you think?

The Nun’s Story (1959) – Utterly fascinating.  I watched it for Audrey Hepburn but the story, characters, and sneak peek into the inner workings of a convent captured my interest fully.  ‘The Nun’s Story’ is almost three hours long, but that time flew past.

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Jaws (1975) – Yep.  I finally watched it.  I still much prefer ‘Jurassic Park’ though.

Good Will Hunting (1997) – *deep breath*  YOU GUYS.  I get it now.  I totally get why Robin Williams was – and is – a national treasure.  I CAN’T EVEN.  He…he did such a good job.  Totally grabbed my emotions and held them. (Also, young Matt Damon is super cute and I think it’s really cool that he and Ben Affleck wrote the screenplay.)

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So, what movies have you watched lately?  Anything good?


mini book reviews {#5}

Edit: After publishing this post, WordPress informed me that this is my 500th post.  Which I think is awesome. 🙂

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Inside Narnia by Devin Brown – I’m a bit obsessed with Narnia right now (in case you couldn’t tell) and this is the best nonfiction book I’ve read about the Chronicles so far.  Yes, the author focuses on TLWW but he talks about all the other books too.  It’s a super interesting book and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading about Narnia.

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Everything is Mama by Jimmy Fallon – I don’t care for Jimmy Fallon but I saw this book in a bookstore and read it in, like, two seconds (it’s a board book).  I was surprised by how cute and sweet and heartfelt it was.  Would definitely buy for a baby’s first birthday (or their actual birth).

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Live Without You by Sarah Grace Grzy – I had high expectations for this book and they weren’t really fulfilled.  The author is an excellent writer and LWY was beautiful formatted (the chapter headings are so gorgeous – as well as the cover) but the characters didn’t grab me the way I’d hoped.  Still, die-hard fans of contemporary romance will probably enjoy it.

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The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis – I need to read more of Lewis’s nonfiction.  He was such a clear, thoughtful way of putting things which is a joy to read.  I don’t agree with all his views but he truly is one of the greatest Christian apologists of all time.  I really need to read Mere Christianity now.

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Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk – This book is almost exactly what I love.  Ancient Rome, gladiators, great characters…the only thing I didn’t like (actually hated) was the romance.  It was insta-love and it cheapened the story.  But I did truly enjoy everything else.

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I hate the girl on the cover though.  She looks soooo modern.

What have you read recently?  Any great books?


book review: character carved in stone

(I requested this book before I decided to stop featuring ARCs on my blog – it just got here recently because the mail was slow.  So don’t worry.  I’m not going back on my resolution.)


When I started reading this book I was afraid that it would be a dry, slow, boring read. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Even though I’m not an American, I’ve always been fascinated by American history and felt a certain kinship to Americans (my mother is one, so yes). Character Carved in Stone contains story after story of brave, true Americans who risked everything to give others freedom – and it made me want to cheer.

From famous generals like Omar Bradley to little known heroes like Michael Collins (the third man on the Apollo 11 mission), Pat Williams unpacks the virtues that make West Point what it is through engaging, informative true-life stories. My only complaint was that the chapters tended to end on a “you can do all the things” guru-style note that was tiring (and not half as inspiring as the stories).

Character Carved in Stone is a great book nonetheless and one that I’d recommend for fans of history and heroes.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


series review: the chronicles of narnia

In chronological order (as opposed to publication order) because that’s how I read the series and I personally think it’s The Best Way.

The Magician’s Nephew

“Awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.”

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I didn’t know what to expect, going into this book.  I’ve heard TMN spoken of quite disparagingly online and all I knew about it was that it’s Narnia’s origin story.  Anyway, I read it because I made a goal this year to read all the Chronicles.  And you know what?  I loved it.  Absolutely loved it.  Prequels are my thing (Monsters University, Heartless…) so I enjoyed that aspect of it.  And I think I connect with Digory the most of all the children in the series (Susan too, but in a different way).  His relationship with his mom, with Aslan, with the truth…it speaks to me.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

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You couldn’t have the Chronicles of Narnia without the first book ever written – and it’s so good.  Not my favorite in the series, but it definitely deserves all the love.  I think it’s awesome that C.S. Lewis had this image of a faun and a lamppost in his mind and finally decided to find out what that was All About.  And it gave us Narnia!  Edmund’s redemption arc is brilliant and moving.  And Lucy’s instant friendship with Mr. Tumnus is the sweetest thing.

The Horse and His Boy

“Do not dare not to dare.”

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Someday I want to read the Chronicles of Narnia in true chronological order – stopping just shy of the end of LWW, reading this book, and then finishing LWW.  It’s so cool, seeing a different culture (well, more than one) besides only Narnian culture.  “The bolt of Tash falls from above!” is probably the funniest bit in the whole series.  I love Susan and Edmund’s relationship in this book (plus the ‘even a traitor may mend’ line) and the whole book is one thrilling adventure. (I think Aslan is at his best here, though it’s so hard to tell.)

Prince Caspian

“Things never happen the same way twice.”

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While Caspian is a bit immature in this book (because he’s so young) he’s one of my absolute favorite characters in the series.  He makes mistakes (don’t we all) but he’s courageous and gentlemanly…not unlike another favorite character: Reepicheep. (REEPICHEEP IS THE ACTUAL BEST.)  I’ve heard people criticize this book for being a repeat of LWW (putting a good royal on the throne of Narnia) but I don’t see it that way.  Peter’s battle with Miraz is heart-pounding and Lucy seeing Aslan and not doing anything about it…it’s all so good.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“Courage, dear heart.”

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Okay, so this book did get a wee bit repetitive (basically: go to an island, discover something interesting/frightening, leave, repeat) but I still loved it.  Caspian really shines in this book (oh my WORD, when he to go back and not go to the end of the world… *dies*).  Eustace gets the second best redemption arc in the series (I love me a good redemption arc) and Edmund, Lucy, and Reepicheep are splendid.  The Dawn Treader is gorgeous, btw.  I love how it has one sail, a deep purple one, because deep purple is my favorite color. ❤

The Silver Chair

“I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.”

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TSC is regarded by many fans as the best Narnia book and while I don’t personally think so, there’s plenty to enjoy in it.  First of all, I love how matter of fact Jill and Eustace are.  They aren’t siblings, so they don’t have the bond that the Pevensies do (though I think they get it by the end of this book), so they fight quite a bit.  But they still stick up for each other.  PUDDLEGLUM IS AS AWESOME AS REEPICHEEP. (Well…almost.)  Prince Rilian is a dear (goodness, the whole thing with him being under an enchantment – it got my heart pounding almost as much as the first time I read the book) and everything with King Caspian made me cry.

The Last Battle

“But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”

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This book…disturbs me.  It’s very, very good.  But between Susan’s desertion of Narnia (though I firmly believe she gets back in), the end of Narnia itself, the parallels between TLB and the book of Revelation, and all the other depressingness, I can’t quite bring myself to love it.  It’s a little weird, too.  But I do love King Tirian (if he had to be the last king, he was one of the best) and Emeth and seeing all the dear characters from previous books at the very end.  It’s a great conclusion to a great series – just, disturbing to me on a personal level. (I can’t quite get over that everyone DIED and Susan is left over, especially since I relate to Susan quite a bit.)

What Narnia book is your favorite (I can’t decide, but it might be Dawn Treader)?  Do you disagree with my opinion of The Last Battle (or any of the books)?  Let’s debate and fangirl in the comments!


musical theatre review: ‘the hunchback of notre dame’ at la jolla playhouse

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No, I didn’t go see it live. 😦

BUT.  There’s an excellent bootleg available on Youtube right now and ever since Katie and I did that dream cast for the live-action version of ‘Hunchback’ I’ve been low-key obsessed with the musical.  So yes.  I watched it last night and, guys, I’M IN LOVE.


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rehearsals, not the actual musical.

I knew something of how gorgeous and rich the music is because a) I’ve seen the Disney animated movie, duh, and b) I’ve listened to the studio recording on Spotify.  But seeing it actually performed (even a kind of grainy performance) was a million times better.  I’m actually not sure how to review this properly, but I guess I’ll start with the characters because there’s sooooo much to unpack when it comes to them.

The success of any version of ‘Hunchback’ rests mainly on Quasimodo’s shoulders and Michael Arden was brilliant.  At first I was kind of weirded out by Quasi’s voice but when I learned he was deaf (character, not actor), it all made sense. (And his singing voice is still crystal clear.)  Loved the little bits of ASL here and there, loved the emotions he went through (fear, sadness, the new beginnings of love, guilt, etc).  It was all so good. (Arden is actually adorable IRL, by the way.)

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Okay, you know what I just said about productions of ‘Hunchback’ depending mostly on Quasimodo’s character?  Well, I almost felt that this production was more Esmeralda’s story than Quasi’s (almost).  I’ve seen Ciara Renée in The Flash and I had no idea she was such a beautiful, powerful singer.  She nailed ‘God Help the Outcasts’, ‘In a Court of Miracles’, ‘Someday’…allllll the songs. (At the end of ‘Outcasts’, you can hear a guy wolf whistling at her [from the audience] and I was like, “Srsly?  You do know you’re putting yourself on the level of Jerk Phoebus and Frollo, right?”)

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Patrick Page was really good as Frollo.  Which…I guess is a compliment, but at the same time, well, y’know.  I think ‘Hellfire’ was a lot more impressive in the movie (Page did a good job showing all of Frollo’s emotions and everything, but you can’t really beat creepy faceless monks and actual fire).  There was one moment where he explodes at Esmeralda (because she was like “I’ve seen the way you look at me!”) that was fantastic acting.  Loved it.  Also, the backstory with his brother was interesting (though I’m not sure which backstory I prefer – animated or stage musical).

Phoebus was a lot more annoying than in the animated film.  Quite a jerk for most the musical, which I HATED because it made it so much harder to ship him and Esmeralda in their (super romantic) scenes.

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The musical sticks more faithfully to the book with Frollo’s backstory (at least was a Jehan in the book, though Quasi wasn’t his child) and Esmeralda dying at the end.  Of course, that makes it sadder but I was obsessed with Les Mis for years, so yeah.  I don’t mind.  Loved the songs that were in the original animated film (except for them changing “Who is the monster and who is the man?” to “What makes a monster and what makes a man?”) and I adored most of the new songs too.  ‘Someday’ is achingly beautiful.  I also appreciated that they kept ‘Heaven’s Light’ and ‘Hellfire’ back to back because it shows such a startling, powerful dichotomy between Quasi’s pure love and Frollo’s corrupt lust.

In the end, I love how this stage musical reinforces the message of the animated film: every human being has value, no matter what.  And we need to be kind to everyone, no matter what.  It’s a lesson all of us – and I’m definitely including myself in that – could stand to be reminded of.

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I’m so grateful that the person who recorded the show included the curtain call at the end.  Because I was bawling my eyes out over the finale and having everyone happy (and ALIVE) on stage and all that joyous clapping and cheering…it was the cathartic release I needed.  ‘Cause I’ve found that if I watch something sad and there’s no happiness at the end, it’ll depress me for the rest of the day.  So, yes.  Thank you, bootlegger. *grins*

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I highly recommend watching the musical sooner rather than later (if you have the inclination) because Youtube will probably take it down at some point. (It’s definitely PG-13, just so you know.)

Have you seen the stage musical version of ‘Hunchback’?  What’s your favorite of the new songs?


movie review: mulan

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Fearful that her ailing father will be drafted into the Chinese military, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) takes his spot — though, as a girl living under a patriarchal regime, she is technically unqualified to serve. She cleverly impersonates a man and goes off to train with fellow recruits. Accompanied by her dragon, Mushu (Eddie Murphy), she uses her smarts to help ward off a Hun invasion, falling in love with a dashing captain along the way.


‘Mulan’ has always been one of those movies I enjoyed watching but didn’t really love.  I lumped it in with other [personal] Disney disappointments like ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Pocahontas’.  But last night I watched it and, well, I kind of adored it.  And now I don’t get why it isn’t more popular!

For starters, the characters are something special.  The only complaint I have about Mulan is that sometimes her voice actress doesn’t seem to be a very good actress. 😛  But other than that, Mulan is a young woman with a fierce love for her family – something even stronger than her fierce warrior skills.  I love her compassion and bravery.  I love her.  And her dad is probably the best Disney dad ever. (All their scenes together make me tear up.  Except maybe the very first one, ’cause it’s pretty funny.)

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I can’t get over how much I liked Sheng on this rewatch!  He’s such a well-developed character.  He wants his father’s approval, he wants to protect his troops, he wants to understand this weird guy, Ping.  You can almost see the conflict in his mind when he’s supposed to execute Mulan – loyalty to his country’s laws or loyalty to what he knows is right?

(By the way, I take issue with what that plot summary says about Mulan falling in love with Sheng ‘along the way’.  I personally don’t see that she fell in love with him, except maybe at the verrrry end.  And even then it was more of a, “I could like this guy if I had the chance”.  Not actual love.)

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Mushu still irks me at times, but he can be legitimately funny.  And he’s not half as annoying as Olaf, so that’s a definite plus.

The artistry that went into ‘Mulan’ is astounding.  Every time there’s smoke or steam or what have you, it’s rendered so artistically.  And who can forget the iconic shot of the Huns spilling over the snowy clifftop? *literal chills*

And then there are the songs.  They’re a little different than the typical Disney songs because there are no villain songs, no love duet…just two funny songs, the “I want” song, and THE SINGLE MOST EPIC SONG DISNEY EVER PRODUCED. (Jerry Goldsmith’s score is also worth a listen.)

I got "I'll Make A Man Out Of You"! Which Disney Song Should Be Your Theme Song? | Quiz | Disney Playlist

The themes in ‘Mulan’ – loyalty, family, doing one’s duty – all strike a chord in me.  Now, more so than ever.  Which is probably why I like it so much.  There are moments of humor throughout ‘Mulan’ but I think it’s Disney’s most grown-up princess movie.  It’s also one of the most underrated.  If you don’t enjoy ‘Mulan’ and haven’t seen it in a while, I highly suggest you give it another try.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have you watched ‘Mulan’?  What do you think of it?