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    Saving Mr. Banks Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Disney

    Mar 14 2014 01:58 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The absolutely scintillating saga of how Walt Disney won over the recalcitrant author P. L. Travers for the rights to adapt the Mary Poppins stories into a screen musical is the core of John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks. A docudrama brimming with acidic wit and melody and counterbalanced by a genuinely touching revelation of the early, tragedy-infused life of its creator, Saving Mr. Banks is one of the year’s most sterling achievements, one you’d have to have a heart of stone not to respond to.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Disney
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: PG-13
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 5 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
    • Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 03/18/2014
    • MSRP: $36.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    Desperately in need of money in 1961 after not producing any books for years and with royalties from previous work now exhausted, author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) finally submits to mogul Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) twenty-year entreaty to discuss bringing her Mary Poppins stories to the screen. A starchy, no-nonsense lady, Travers initially loathes every idea put forth by writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and composer-lyricists Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak) and insists she doesn’t want the film to be a musical or to contain animation. Over the course of days, the Sherman’s delightfully spirited score begins to win her over while memories of her early life with her alcoholic, consumptive father (Colin Farrell) and unstable mother (Ruth Wilson) continually intrude on her work and make giving in to what she considers Walt’s idealized view of childhood difficult indeed.

    The screenplay by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith masterfully weaves the then-present and past of Pamela’s life allowing the viewer to gain insight into her quirky behaviors and some of her inspirations for her crisp, efficient nanny character (exemplified most surprisingly late in the film by Rachel Griffiths playing her Aunt Ellie). At first, director John Lee Hancock seems to make the past morsels too bitty for digestion and somewhat intrusive to the arduous story of the team’s trying to get Mary Poppins off the ground, but as the film runs, those flashbacks grow longer and more dramatic becoming quite intrinsic to the fabric of the film and become scenes just as interesting as the present-day ones. Those thoroughly familiar with Disney’s Mary Poppins will certainly be in the catbird seat in understanding the plethora of allusions to the film which have been sprinkled throughout the script in both timelines, but even those without a nodding acquaintance with the 1964 classic should find the dramatic ebbs and flows in both past and present stories intriguing. The screenplay emphasizes the humanity of the characters, not only peeling away layers from Travers’ prickly façade to the human beneath (shaped and molded by her experiences as a young girl in Australia) but giving us some insight into Walt’s character and providing us with Disney’s secret weapon, an affable driver for Pamela named Ralph (Paul Giamatti) whose sunny disposition despite his own family tragedies brings out a warmth in Pamela hitherto unseen.

    Emma Thompson gives a tremendous performance as Travers, appallingly brusque and thoughtless early on and gradually softening not only through the spell of Disneyfication (her hotel suite is a veritable zoo of Disney creations and there’s an amusing sequence where Disney drags her to Disneyland) but to the honest, hard-working men who are trying their best to do justice to her creation. Tom Hanks has the singsong cadence of Walt’s speech down pat though he seems a bit young to be playing the sixty-ish Disney (who due to his chain-smoking habit looked even older than he was). The revelation of the film, however, is Colin Farrell as Pamela’s spirited father Travers Goff. With the trace of a Celtic accent and a devil-may-care playfulness with his daughter which dissipates as disease racks him, Farrell has rarely been this appealing on-screen. Annie Rose Buckley as the young Pamela (known as Ginty) is luminously engaging as the loving daughter. Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, and Jason Schwartzman work wonderfully as a team trying their best to win over their surly adversary (with Novak’s Robert tiring eventually of the quest to win her favor).
    Pamela Go Round clip


    Call Me Walt clip

    Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film’s theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a reference quality transfer with incredible sharpness, wonderfully realistic color (the Australian flashbacks are just the slightest bit desaturated to convey a sense of a previous era) with realistic flesh tones, and superbly consistent contrast to maximize the quality of the images. Black levels are excellent with impressive shadow detail. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is an excellent one with Thomas Newman’s enveloping score grandly separated into the various channels. There are some ambient sounds in the fronts and rears (though one might have wanted a little more ambience to be spread through the complete soundstage). Dialogue has been masterfully recorded and has been placed in the center channel.

    Special Features: 2.5/5

    Deleted Scenes (7:24, HD): three deleted scenes may be watched individually or in a single montage.

    The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins To The Present (14:35, HD): director John Lee Hancock and production designer Michael Corenblith are the guides to past and present Disney studios with vintage footage from the time of Mary Poppins’ production leading all the way up until today. Also featured are memories from some of the children of the original Disney staff and composer Richard Sherman with some memories of his own to share.

    “Let’s Go Fly a Kite!” (1:47, HD): composer Richard Sherman plays as cast and crew sing the song on the last day of filming (November 20, 2012).

    Promo Trailers (HD): Mary Poppins, Maleficent.

    Digital Copy: code sheet enclosed in the case.
    deleted scene - "Pamela Leaves"

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    A wonderful achievement offering a touching, revealing biographical portrait of author Pamela Travers (AKA Helen Goff), Saving Mr. Banks will be of particular interest to fans of Mary Poppins either on film or in print. The Blu-ray release offers reference quality visuals and wonderful sound even if the bonus feature package is a bit skimpy. Highly recommended!

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:



    12 Comments

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    Adam Gregorich
    Mar 14 2014 04:28 PM

    Stay through the credits where they play some of the original tapes.  I had a friend who went to a special dinner where one of the Sherman brothers was there discussing what it was really like working with her on the project.  I'll try to get some of the stories.

    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    Mar 14 2014 05:43 PM

    Man...

     

    ...to be at a dinner with Richard Sherman.

     

    What I wouldn't give. 

     

    Thanks for the review, Matt.  This was one of my favorite films this year.  Emma Thompson was gypped not getting a Best Actress nomination.

      • Jason_V and Suzanne.S like this
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    Malcolm Bmoor
    Mar 15 2014 03:47 AM

    Richard Sherman is wonderful. Some years ago I arrived at the most used for musicals South London rehearsal complex to record a BBC Radio 3 programme about the soon to open CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. A most helpful man captured me and took me to the right room for our recordings and was then happy to play the piano and sing so that I could set up. 

     

    It was during the ensuing interview that I heard for the first time about the problems with MARY POPPINS, including how the Travers Estate ruling meant that he and his brother couldn't be involved in the stage version, for which new songs were composed by Styles & Drewe.

    I was very impressed with the recreation of the period. It made me very nostalgic. I am looking forward to screening this movie for my parents; my Dad proposed to my Mom at Disneyland in October 1955, they were married in December 1955, and are still married today and still go to Disneyland.

     

    One scene that I really enjoyed was the opening night of MP at Grauman's Chinese. I have watched MP many, many times over the years on home video, but that scene reminded me what it is like to see it in a big theater full of people enjoying it as much as I do. Not to be a sourpuss, but I find today's audiences rather rude in general, but there was a time when it was a really pleasurable communal event and that is something I miss. It is possible to a degree with home theater, but not on that scale.

    Thanks for a very nice review, Matt.  I very much enjoyed this movie, particularly for the performances of Colin Farrell and Tom Hanks.  Adam is right about the tape recordings played over the end credits.   By all accounts, the sessions with the author were not what I would consider pleasant by any means.

     

    We should also keep in mind that the movie does apply a spoonful of sugar to the way it all played out.   Not that this is a bad thing, but it shouldn't be a surprise that she was really unhappy with the movie.   My understanding is that she had an unhappy discussion with Disney at the premiere, and that following this production, she made it clear that no American filmmaker was to touch Mary Poppins again.  I think the movie accurately depicts why she allowed Disney to make the movie in the first place - she was paid quite well and the movie certainly helped boost the popularity of the books.

    Yes, I was aware that she was still arguing about the penguins/animation with Disney while walking out of the premiere ("That ship has sailed, Pam," he allegedly told her), none of which was mentioned in the film which rather ends with more sunshine and lollipops.

     

    But it's the kind of dramatic license that most stories based on the truth typically take, so I wasn't unduly bothered by this approach.

    I agree Matt.   I think they made her as approachable as they could.

     

    There is one scene that does approach something a bit tougher - when Disney tells her to get on the merry-go-round.  She initially refuses, and then he says with some authority:  "Pamela.  Get on the horse."  It's a moment where Hanks lets you see the steel in Disney, and it's one of my favorite moments in the movie.   In my opinion, Hanks' performance here was actually more interesting than his work in Captain Phillips.

      • Mark Mayes likes this
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    haineshisway
    Mar 17 2014 12:58 PM

    Mr. Sherman is a dear friend - for anyone in the LA area, he'll be appearing on April 6th at The Federal in North Hollywood - I do a series of monthly shows there (we're almost at three-and-a-half years now) and Richard has guest-starred in about eight of the forty-four we've done so far.   So, if you're around come on down and meet him - he's a joy and a treasure and we're premiering a brand new Sherman song, written with yours truly :)

     

    Here he is at my 2013 Christmas Eve party.

     

      • Mark Cappelletty, JohnMor, ahollis and 1 other like this
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    Mike Frezon
    Mar 17 2014 03:33 PM

    No wonder he turned down the invitation to my Christmas Eve party last year! 

     

    cheeky-smiley-016.gif

    Wonderful film. Great performance by Thompson!
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    lukejosephchung
    Mar 18 2014 03:17 PM

    Just got my copy of this today...will finally get to see at home this wonderful movie, which, IMO, was jobbed at Oscar time this year in terms of nominations for both Mr. Hanks & Ms. Thompson...

    Hello all---

     

    I bought this release, and though I was quite disappointed in the sparse bonus features, the ones that are present are outstanding.  "The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to the Present" is a fantastic tour of Walt's Burbank studios that includes a number of "before and after" shots of specific areas as they appeared in the late '50s compared to how they appear today. There are several interviews with former Disney employees or the children of Disney legends.  The best part includes Richard Sherman talking about his time at the studio as he stands in his former office.  The tour is a scant 15 minutes, but as far as I was concerned, it could have lasted another two hours.

     

    If you're a Disney history fan, those 15 minutes are worth the price tag for the whole blu-ray disc.

     

    I really feel like Disney missed a huge opportunity to provide some additional context with this release.  A commentary track---perhaps featuring director John Hancock, screenwriter Kelly Marcel, consultant and Disney Legend Richard Sherman, and a Disney historian like Jim Korkis---could have really given us some great information about the reasons for the dramatic license taken with parts of the story.

     

    But the movie really is the main reason to buy this disc.  It's not life-changing or Earth-shattering, but it features fantastic performances by Thompson, Giamatti, and others.  It is a joy to see.

     

    Hainshisway, thanks so much for sharing the video of Mr. Sherman.

     

    matt