Jan. 15th, 2019

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A perfect children's film. Emily Blunt makes an excellent Mary Poppins. She admits no one can out-Julie Julie Andrews, but she makes a very creditable showing and you're certainly not left making comparisons. She owns the role in this Poppins iteration. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack the lamplighter in the Dick van Dyke type role as the honest, cheerful salt-of-the-earth Londoner, and manages it without the excruciating Dick van Dyke cockney accent. Let's face it, the standard of Hollywood dialect coaching is way higher than it used to be in the 1960s.

The plot is fairly simple. Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw), one of the children from the first film, now grown, married, father of three children and recently widowed, is understandably depressed, not keeping up with the family goings-on and about to lose the house to the bank. His sister, Jane, is unable to snap him out of it. He has the soul of an artist but slogs away in the same bank his late father worked at.

Enter magical nanny, Mary Poppins aided and abetted by lamplighter, Jack. Cue a string of entertaining songs and set-piece dance scenes which map onto the original movie. You get the magical song and dance with cartoon characters. The lamplighters have a set piece to replace the chimney sweep scene in the original. But it's all good fun and it all ends happily, of course.

If you have kids in the 6 - 12 age group take them. You (and they) won't be disappointed. A bonus for all grownups who saw the original as children is Dick van Dyke (now well in his 90s) making an appearance, both singing and dancing (without the risible accent). And who doesn't love Dick van Dyke? There's a bonus Julie Walters as the Banks family housekeeper, David Warner as Admiral Bloom, and Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady.
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This is the beginning of another sub-series of books about Marine Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr. (Now ex-marine, though still tied in to the methodology and the code of the service.). She's pulled together a team of elite ex-marines plus her lover, Craig, and one somewhat needy diTaykan crack programmer, barely this side of legal. Together they work for the Justice Department, taking on missions that officialdom balks at. This time they are sent after a gang robbing a H'san gravesite which potentially holds planet-killer weapons. Torin's company needs to find the grave-robbers before the robbers find the weapons, otherwise a war looks likely.

An engaging premise, and I've loved all the previous Torin Kerr books, but somehow this one was a slow starter. I admit it's a few years since I read the last Torin book, but I'd forgotten a lot of the detail about the different races and lost site of some of their language, (often used without explanation). To be honest I found the first half of this book slow going as the team thrashed about, trying to find a lead (unsuccessfully). It picked up the pace when they got to the cemetery planet of the H'san and entered the catacombs following the grave robbers, but all in all not my favourite Torin Kerr book. I was intending to read the other two straight away, but I might give it a bit of a rest before trying the next one. I would recommend if you haven't read any Torin Kerr books that you start from the beginning with Valor's Choice, which is #1 in the Confederation series.

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