Film Review: Mary Poppins Returns With New Friends and a Familiar Bag of Tricks 

The Pitch: The Banks children are all grown up, for better and for worse. Michael (Ben Whishaw), who has children of his own now, grieves for his wife behind closed doors on Cherry Tree Lane. Jane (Emily Mortimer) has followed in her mother’s political footsteps, but has given up on love and the dream of having it all. [Ed. note: Sigh.] The younger Bankses (there are three of them, the youngest basically a walking Hummel figurine) have had to grow up quite quickly, doing the shopping and keeping the household running, but they’ve mostly forgotten to be kids at all. Then the big bad bank (headed by Colin Firth, that louse) swoops in to take 10 Cherry Tree Lane. Enter Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), floating on an umbrella, here to set things right with the Banks family, aided by a charming lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda).

Oh, it’s a jolly holiday with Em’ly:

Em’ly makes Returns feel right
When this film feels kind of ordinary
Em’ly makes it all so bright
Her Mary’s tongue is sharp and oft deceptive
But warmth still percolates throughout the tale
When Emily’s on screen
It feels so keen
She captivates in every goddamned scene
Oh it’s a jolly holiday with Em’ly!
No wonder that it’s Em’ly with the buzz!

Practically similar in every way: As the above section might suggest, this writer has a deep affinity for the Julie Andrews-starring Mary Poppins, one of the best children’s films of all time. It’s obvious that director Rob Marshall and screenwriter David Magee (working from a story by himself, Marshall, and choreographer/producer John DeLuca) share that affinity. That’s both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, Returns exists in the same colorful but gray, wild but civilized, anything-can-happen-but-please-sit-up-straight world as its predecessor, sometimes capturing but oftener echoing nearly all of what made the original so special. (A major exception: Mary and the Bert the Chimney Sweep stand-in, Jack the Lamplighter, never once feel as though they may actually just be trickster gods disguised as humans, nor does it ever seem likely that they fuck. Bert and Mary totally fuck. Moving on.)

But on the other, as pleasant as it is, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that Returns was written in the same way that Can You Ever Forgive Me? protagonist Lee Israel forged celebrity signatures: by holding the original up to the light and tracing it. That’s not to say that this is a remake, rather than a sequel, but that anyone with even a passing familiarity with the original will recognize each beat as it approaches. That’s especially true of Marc Shaiman’s (undeniably infectious) songs. Here’s the tender bedtime ballad (“Stay Awake” vs. “The Place Where Lost Things Go”). Here’s the adventure in a part of London known only to Mary’s handsome, impish, working-class sidekick (“Step In Time” vs. “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”). Here’s where they go inside a piece of artwork (“Jolly Holiday”, “The Royal Doulton Music Hall”) and then take in a public event in which Mary is prompted to participate (“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “The Cover is Not the Book”). The list goes on. The same is true of the beats of the story, up to and including a father’s anger at a child running through a bank in a manner that jeopardizes his job, even though the child was definitely not at fault. You get the idea. It all works, more or less, although some of the more transparent moments can be temporarily off-putting.

It’s a shame, because when Returns puts down the carbon copies, things tend to spark. A voyage inside a bathtub thrills when it shakes off its “Spoonful of Sugar” roots. That trip inside Bert’s painting — er, sorry, a painted bowl — gets particularly interesting when it begins to reflect the terrifying turmoil of the children’s outside lives. Michael’s grief proves more compelling than Mr. Banks’ disconnection and reserve. It’s good stuff. So is most of what exists in the Mary Poppins Mad Libs approach to the story, but it’s hard not to regret what might have been had the creators of this film listened closer to their titular character and embraced the power of imagination.

Supercalifragilisticexproaliduction design, so-so direction: So there are quibbles, who cares, this thing is gorgeous.

Sorry, should there be more to that? Fine. Mary Poppins Returns is one of the year’s most thoughtfully designed films. In a time when no shortage of movies try their utmost to feel classic or old-fashioned, Returns comes close to achieving what others attempt by leaning hard into texture, warmth, sets that feel too perfect to be real, and colors so vivid that they look as though the preface “techni-” ought to be applied. Of these elements, the one most deserving of close inspection and fawning praise is Sandy Powell’s almost comically rich costume design, in which even the buttons are worth a second glance. That’s true of all her designs, but most specifically those created for Blunt, which use color, shape, and movement to echo the contradictions present in the straight-laced nanny who breaks every rule of physics she encounters.

If only that sense of passion, whimsy, and thoughtfulness were present in Marshall’s direction. It’s not bad, per se, but there’s little in the way of real urgency or stakes; where the screenplay’s debt to the first Poppins means that the tone of the first carries through to the second, Marshall’s straightforward approach renders it all a little flat. Compare this film to Paul King’s Paddington films, for example, and you’ll notice that King nimbly trots the audience in and out of the imaginations of his characters, using who they are to determine the visual style with which they’re approached. Marshall achieves this exactly twice: Once, in a scene in which Whishaw’s Michael uses a moment alone to grieve his wife in a way that feels specific to that man and that actor, and the other, in a tiny smile from Emily Blunt that transforms the camera from impartial observer to trusted co-conspirator. Other than that, he’s here to flatly capture the wonder and make sure it’s all within Disney code. Mary Poppins is a little bit sexy, sometimes even dangerous, with a throughline of melancholy that keeps it all from becoming too sweet. Returns rarely reaches such heights.

That said, Marshall is particularly well-served by Blunt and Miranda, who seem to be having such a good time together — both as characters, and as two movie starts making a sequel to a freaking classic in really cool getups — that even when floating through the sky on the tail of a balloon looks kind of dull, their charms are nearly impossible to resist.

The Verdict: Mary Poppins Returns goes straight for the knees with a bat made of pure, undiluted, unrepentant nostalgia. It wants your money, it wants your tears and your smiles, it wants to place your kids in thrall to the chirruping dolphins and funny penguins, the parkour and the pretty clothes. It doesn’t even attempt to do something new, and save for a few good (and one great) performances, its aims are equal parts reverent and mercenary.

I also loved it. Make of that what you will.

Where’s It Playing?: Mary Poppins Returns will trip a little light fantastic into wider-than-wide release just in time for the holidays, on December 19th.

Trailer:

In Photos: Taking Back Sunday Perform First Three Albums at New York’s Irving Plaza (12/17) 

Monday night was a special one for everyone who was at Taking Back Sunday’s gig at New York’s Irving Plaza. For the band, they continued their 20th anniversary celebration with a last-minute gig. For the venue, they achieved their 100th sell-out of the year. For fans, they watched TBS deliver a performance of their first three albums in their entirety.

It momentous show was set to start at 8 p.m. sharp, but the Long Island alternative rockers took the stage nearly 30 minutes late. As they explained after “Cute Without the E (Cut from the Team)”, however, they just wanted to make sure everyone was inside to witness the triumphant, nostalgic concert. And no doubt everyone was fine with the delay once things started going, TBS ripping through the tracks off 2002’s Tell All Your Friends, 2004’s Where You Want to Be, and 2006’s Louder Now, one by one.

Frontman Adam Lazzara’s tardiness apology was far from the last time he’d speak during the show, as he often took time between songs to reveal stories about the recording or how a band member ended up joining the group. He also remembered to pull up tour manager/friend Neil Rubenstein whenever they needed a solid background scream for a TAYF track. Not that you could really hear any sung word over the crowd belting along the entire time, but that’s just the kind of fandom an act like this has, even 20 years into their career.

If you couldn’t make it to the quickly sold-out show — or just want to relive it — check out our gallery of the gig below. You can also catch the band continuing to celebrate their 20th anniversary next year when they embark on a tour of Australia, Asia and North America beginning in January. See the full list of dates, plus details on a new compilation album, Twenty, here.

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Here’s how D’Angelo’s Red Dead Redemption 2 song came together 

Red Dead Redemption 2 floored gamers upon its release with its immersive open world and redolent level of detail. The video game came with a welcome surprise for music fans, too, as it featured the first new material from R&B auteur D’Angelo since his 2014 full-length Black Messiah. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Ivan Pavlovich, the Director of Music and Audio at Rockstar Games has revealed how “May I? Stand Unshaken” from the reclusive singer came to be.

As it turns out, D’Angelo is a huge fan of the Red Dead series, and he actually reached out to Rockstar initially. He contacted Pavlovich through an intermediary connection to get his hands on the new game while it was still in development. Apparently D’Angelo would show up at Rockstar’s New York offices at midnight and play entranced for hours through the early a.m..

“Each time he was just like, ‘It’s incredible.’ It just blows his mind,” Pavlovich said. “He’s such a fan. I have never seen someone that excited.”

That enthusiasm for the game encouraged Pavlovich to ask for a musicial contribution. When D’Angelo agreed, Pavlovich was able to get veteran artist/writer/producer Daniel Lanois on board as a music supervisor. “They said, ‘We might be able to hook you up with D’Angelo,’” Lanois recalled. “That’s all it took. I love D’Angelo, and always appreciated those great R&B records he made.”

According to Lanois, “May I? Stand Unshaken” came together in a week and a half. The song finds D’Angelo playing the electric piano against Lanois’ noodling guitar lines, with both offering their vocals on top of wandering, pattering percussion. The song was actually the second they tried after a “6/8 rock track” did not pan out. You can listen to their final contribution below.

Red Dead Redemption 2’s soundtrack also features contributions from Nas, Willie Nelson, and Joshua Homme, among others. Revisit Homme’s track from the soundtrack, “Cruel, Cruel World”.

Top 30 Metal + Hard Rock Songs of 2018 

An eclectic and intriguing year for heavy music has come to an end, and it’s time to look back at the songs that stood out in 2018.

We recently posted our picks for the Top 25 Hard Rock + Metal Albums of 2018, and now we’re singling out the individual songs that struck a chord with us over the past 12 months.

From mainstream rock and extreme metal to experimental noise and a new wave of hardcore, and beyond, 2018 marked a breakthrough year for many young acts while a few veteran bands released their finest works in years.

[See Also: Top 25 Metal + Hard Rock Albums of 2018]

It was tough narrowing down the list to 30 songs, as a number of solid tracks were painfully excluded, but with that said, here is the Heavy Consequence staff list of the Top 30 Metal + Hard Rock Songs of 2018.

–Spencer Kaufman
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence

__________________________________________________________

KISSWORLD – The Best of KISS to arrive as band launches final tour 

Vivid Seats Ticket promo

For fans needing a refresher on KISS’ biggest hits before the legendary band embarks on it final tour, a new collection titled KISSWORLD – The Best of KISS will arrive on January 25th, just six days before the trek launches January 31st in Vancouver, Canada.

The 20-song compilation features such KISS staples as “Rock and Roll All Nite”, “Detroit Rock City”, “Beth”, “Love Gun” and more. What’s interesting, though, is that the cover artwork depicts the current KISS lineup with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, as opposed the classic lineup with former members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.

The CD and digital versions of the collection come out January 25th, but fans who want the standard black and limited-edition color vinyl will have to wait until March 29th. All pre-orders are available here.

KISS’ already announced a second North American leg of their “End of the Road Tour” before the first leg has even started. Their current itinerary can be seen here.

KISSWORLD – The Best of KISS Tracklist
01. Crazy Crazy Nights
02. Rock and Roll All Nite
03. I Was Made For Lovin’ You
04. God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II
05. Detroit Rock City
06. Beth
07. Lick It Up
08. Heaven’s On Fire
09. Tears Are Falling
10. Unholy
11. Hard Luck Woman
12. Psycho Circus
13. Shout It Out Loud
14. Calling Dr. Love
15. Christine Sixteen
16. Love Gun
17. Shandi
18. I’m A Legend Tonight
19. Modern Day Delilah
20. Hell Or Hallelujah

R.I.P. Penny Marshall, Laverne & Shirley star and renowned film director has died at 75 

Penny Marshall, the star of TV comedy Laverne & Shirley who went on to become an acclaimed film director, has died at the age of 75.

According to TMZ, Marshall, born Carole Penny Marshall, passed away at her Hollywood Hills home on Monday night. The cause of death is believed to have been the result of complications from diabetes.

From humble beginnings as one of three children born to a tap dance teaching mother and a director/producer father in the Bronx, Marshall went on to become a trailblazing woman in entertainment. Struggling early in her career — including appearing as the “before” girl in a beauty ad that featured Farrah Fawcett as the “after” — her big break came with the help of her brother, Garry Marshall, himself an influential writer, producer, directer, and actor. He got her a role on The Odd Couple as Myrna Turner, her first major recurring part, in 1972.

Three years later, Marshall was cast in her iconic role as Laverne DeFazio on Happy Days, a program which Garry created. The part became a defining one for Marhsall, her dynamic with Cindy Williams’ Shirley Feeney leading to spin-off series in 1976. Over the course of Laverne & Shirley’s eight seasons, Marshall earned three Golden Globe nominations. However, Laverne and her memorable cursive “L” on her sweater became so definable for Marshall that acting roles became harder to come by when the show was canceled in 1983.

Marshall moved behind the lens (as she had for a handful of Laverne & Shirley episodes), becoming a groundbreaking film director. Her first feature was the 1986 Whoopi Golderbg-starrer Jumpin’ Jack Flash, but her landmark production came two years later with Big. The movie led to Marshall becoming the first female director with a film that grossed over $100 million at the box office. It also earned star Tom Hanks his first Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win.

She followed Big up with her adaptation of Awakenings, starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams, which received Best Picture and Best Actor Oscar nominations. Marshall then reunited with Hanks for the classic A League of Their Own, which saw her directing her own daughter with ex-husband Rob Reiner, Tracy Reiner, who played Betty. (Tracy also had a bit part in Jumpin’ Jack Flash, incidentally as a secretary, which is what Marhsall’s character did in The Odd Couple.) Marshall gave Mark Wahlberg his first major acting role in Renaissance Man, and would later helm acclaimed films The Preacher’s Wife and Riding in Cars with Boys.

Though she never returned to acting on a regular basis, she did have a number of notable appearances in film and TV throughout the ’90s and ’00s. She was the first-ever celebrity guest to voice a character on The Simpsons, playing the criminal babysitter Ms. Botz in what was meant to be the show’s pilot (animation issues led to a delay that made it the first season finale). In 1993, she cameoed in Hocus Pocus as the wife of The Master/The Devil, a part played by her brother, Garry. She also had roles as herself in Get Shorty, as well as episodes of Bones and Entourage. She returned to play Myrna in the 1993 TV movie The Odd Couple: Together Again, and cameoed in the 2016 reboot series as Patty.

Marshall was a close friend of Carrie Fischer. They shared a birthday and Marshall was the godmother to Fischer’s daughter, Billie Lourd.

In a statement, Marshall’s family said,

“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall. Penny was a tomboy who loved sports, doing puzzles of any kind, drinking milk and Pepsi together and being with her family. As an actress, her work on Laverne & Shirley broke ground featuring blue-collar women entertaining America in prime time. She was a comedic natural with a photographic memory and an instinct for slapstick. We hope her life continues to inspire other to spend time with family, work hard and make of their dreams come true.”

Drummer Jeremy Spencer exits Five Finger Death Punch 

Drummer Jeremy Spencer is parting ways with Five Finger Death Punch after 14 years in the band, it was announced today (December 18th). The stickman, who sat out the band’s most recent tour to recover from back surgery, is now leaving the FFDP permanently, saying he unable to physically continue as a member of the hit-making rock act.

“This decision has been weighing on me for months; and now the time has finally come,” explained Spencer in a statement. “I started to play when I was 6 years old, and I feel fortunate that my body has provided me with several decades of doing what I love most: drumming. However, the rigorous physical wear and tear has got me to the point where I feel I can no longer deliver a performance that brings me satisfaction and joy.”

He added, “I feel the band deserves to get someone with the fire and energy, capable of delivering the performance that the fans deserve. Like you, I will be cheering them on to continue making great music as they tour the world and bring exciting shows to all our cherished fans.”

It’s been another big year for Five Finger Death Punch, having just been named the most-played artist on mainstream-rock radio for 2018, thanks to their latest album, And Justice for None. They just released a video for their cover of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black”, which can be seen below.

Drummer Charlie “The Engine” Engen filled in for Spencer on the band’s recent fall tour with Breaking Benjamin, but as of now, no permanent replacement has been named.

Album Review: Vic Mensa Doesn’t Fool Around on Hooligans 

The Lowdown: Entering the 10th year of his musical career, Chicago native Vic Mensa has become one of the most genuine acts in contemporary rap. This recognition is due in part to his remarkable ability to weave creative wordplay into personal and socially conscious storytelling. Like A Tribe Called Quest or fellow Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco before him, Mensa consistently delivers a balance in his art that is both entertaining and rich with insight. His latest EP, Hooligans, offers further proof of the artist’s emotional depth and talent.

The Good: In “Dancing in the Streetz”, Mensa states, “If the law don’t kill me first, the doors commit suicide/ They gon’ shoot me if I don’t or if I do comply.” In the track’s short runtime, Mensa dives into police brutality and violent street life. The lyrics make for a bombardment of sensory detail, alluding to violent crime scenes and cries of heartache. In “Dark Things”, he shares his struggles with mental health and addiction. Brilliant lines such as, “Fuck the pain away, beat it like a 808,” along with, “I need you to love me like I never loved me,” tap into the loneliness and desperation brought on by such struggles. When Mensa speaks, it feels like he’s giving a part of himself (and a variety of emotions) to the listener.

In “Klonopin”, Mensa shares his difficulties dealing with anxiety while also referencing medication use. The song’s instrumental has a semi-playful nature, with the lyricism establishing a somber edge to the material. “Deserve It” is a superb finisher, summing up the artistic integrity of the EP. Stepping away from being a generic hype track, Mensa provides a more realistic and sincere depiction of fame and determination (“Even when I’m feelin’ worthless, underneath the surface/ I know that I deserve it.”) It’s a level of introspection listeners have come to appreciate from him.

The Bad: At times, Hooligans suffers from monotony. Tracks like “In Some Trouble”, “Reverse”, and “Rowdy” lack the intrigue of their neighbors; while one can feel the adrenaline and mood of each song, the lyrics don’t get across the same sincerity that comes with Mensa’s more revealing moments or his social commentary.

The Verdict: While Hooligans is not without its bland moments, it’s still a work that displays what makes Vic Mensa an important voice in today’s rap scene. Whether it’s through his lyrics about addiction, police brutality, or mental health, he’s an artist that writes authentic stories with intimate depth. Hooligans is an honest and emotional addition to Mensa’s catalog, the type that should keep listeners excited for the next installment in his story.

Essential Tracks: “Dark Things”, “Klonopin”, and “Deserve It”

Goblin announce Fearless (37513 Zombie Ave), featuring reimagined version of Dawn of the Dead score 

Earlier this year, Waxwork Records released a 40th anniversary vinyl reissue of the score to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. With the reissue, Italian prog legends Goblin saw all 17 of their tracks for the film released on vinyl for the first time. Now, the band itself has returned for the true Dead heads, releasing a 40th anniversary release that’s distinctly their own.

(Read: 10 Essential Horror Movie Scores)

The commemorative studio album, Fearless (37513 Zombie Ave), includes “reimagined versions” of the best tunes from the iconic soundtrack, as well as new arrangements of two tracks from their also-seminal Suspiria score. It will be a merry, bloody Christmas indeed, as the album is slated to arrive this December 24th on both vinyl and CD.

Pre-orders are ongoing here.

Goblin Reissue

 

Steve Perry serves up toasty cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Stream 

Steve Perry returned in October with Traces, his first studio album in almost 30 years. Proving he won’t be going into hiding again anytime soon, the former Journey frontman has now shared a cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

“This has been a big year of firsts for me. In keeping with that spirit, I thought I’d record a little Christmas card song and send it out to you to thank you for all of your kindness in welcoming me back,” Perry wrote on Twitter.

While the veteran rocker’s rendition comes in just under two minutes, it does see him sprinkling the holiday classic with a little bit of his own unique charisma. The velvety piano accompanying Perry’s signature vocals also makes for an extra toasty affair.

Take a listen below.

Prior to relaunching his solo career, Perry reunited with Journey in 2017 for the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but opted against joining his former bandmates on stage. He’s maintained that a full-fledged Journey reunion is still not in the cards, and that he’d rather focus on his own material.

“I think that we’ve gone on our separate ways and we’re doing great,” he told radio station 106.7 Lite FM in September. “Arnel [Pineda] is a great singer and he’s been in the band for ten years, but yeah, I don’t think that’s where I’m at right now. It took forever for me to find the passion for music again because I felt it was kind of damaged. I thought I would never feel that love again for music, so I had to walk. Now that I’ve found that again — I have so many other songs ready to be recorded.”