In "Mary Poppins Returns," Michael Banks (Whishaw)––just a child when Mary Poppins first visited 17 Cherry Tree Lane––is now a grown man raising his children Annabel (Davies), John (Saleh) and George (Dawson) with help from his sister Jane (Mortimer). Times are tough in Depression-era London, but the winds begin to change, and the enigmatic governess, whose unique magical skills can turn any ordinary task into a fantastic adventure, enters the lives of the Banks children on a series of whimsical adventures, encountering colorful characters like Mary's eccentric Cousin Topsy (Streep), Jack's lovable band of leeries and bank executives William Weatherall Wilkins (Firth) and Mr. Davies Jr. (Van Dyke)––and bring life, love, and laughter back into the home. (Gary Reber)
Special features include the deleted song "The Anthropomorphic Zoo" (HD 05:04), five featurettes: "The Practically Perfect Making-of Mary Poppins Returns" (HD 23:38), "Seeing Things From A Different Point Of View: The Musical Numbers"—"Trip A Little Fantastic" (HD 03:56), "The Royal Doulton Music Hall" (HD 07:05), "Turning Turtle" (HD 03:01), "Can You Imagine That?" (HD 04:3), and "Back To Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns" (HD 05:22); "Practically Perfect Bloopers" (HD 01:57); two deleted scenes (HD 0:55); the option to play the movie in Sing-Along Mode; upfront previews and a Movie Anywhere digital code.
The 2.39:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD HDR10 picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was photographed digitally in anamorphic Panavision® using the Arri Alexa Mini and Arri Alexa SXT camera systems at 3.4K and sourced from a 2K (not 4K) master Digital Intermediate format. As the 2K Digital Intermediate has been upconverted to 2160p, there is no real gain in native resolution. Picture quality is wonderful with a soft glow to the imagery. A slight veil is exhibited throughout over what was photographed raw and captured by the Arri Alexa camera systems. Still, there is just enough resolution to make the viewing a pleasure, with extreme closeups nicely defined, such as Mary Poppins. In three scenes animation is interjected with the actors, and its imagery is superb with nicely saturated color. The musical numbers were brilliantly choreographed by Director Rob Marshall and John DeLuca. The imagery often has a silhouette look that creates a dramatic appearance. Color fidelity is superb with perfectly saturated hues, which often pop. The wide color gamut is evident throughout with incredible resolution in the hue shadings. The scenes with fog exhibit excellent HDR contrast, with natural luminary highlights, such as the orangish glow of the gas lights, and revealing shadow delineation is exhibited throughout. Black levels are deep and natural, such as bankers' black attire. Fleshtones are naturally rendered throughout. As for resolution, backgrounds tend to be softly focused, but there is enough detail to create pleasing imagery. WOW! segments are from 15:22 to 19:18, 27:16 to 30:13, 47:46 to 57:30, 01:07:56 to 01:15:33, 01:22:26 to 01:31:40, 01:41:38 to 01:42:23, and 01:53:58 to 02:01:24.
This is a stylish and enchanting visual experience with terrific color fidelity and contrast that will delight audiences of all ages.
The Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack features an orchestral/choral score that really lifts the feel-good level. The sound is full and spacious with natural bass extension. Still, the absence of sub-40 Hz extends for the most part, except for the cannon blasts, a house turning, and some brief extension during the music. The orchestral music is wonderful and occupies a wide and deep soundstage that extends to the four surrounds to deliver a strong enveloping soundfield. The sound is generally dynamic with excellent fidelity, though, Disney's level is unusually low and the volume must be turned to a proper level. The music really lights up the soundfield with songs clearly articulated by the actors singing. Dialogue is intelligible throughout with generally satisfying spatial integration.
The Immersive Sound element is generally subtle with regards to the music, with various brief spot sound effects that extend to the height layer, such as a blast in the Banks' fireplace, a swinging chandelier and creaks, as well as wind, children and Mary Poppins' voice echos underwater, a duck quacking, animal audience applause, a house turning upside down, Meryl Streep's voice, a gas light ignition, Big Ben's bell ringing, and other subtle atmospherics. There are long segments of silence but overall a nuanced height layer presence.
This is a very enjoyable and nicely crafted holosonic® soundtrack with a supporting nuanced spherical surround presence. (Gary Reber)