Herbie J Pilato sees ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

Ladies and gentlemen, TVWriter™ is proud to present a classic TV critic in top form. Here’s how it’s done:

“Mary” Pops in “Returns”
by Herbie J Pilato

A remarkable plethora of talent is resplendent throughout, behind the camera and on screen for Mary Poppins Returns, the new Disney sequel to the studio’s 1964 motion picture classic.

The ghost of Walt Disney and Julie Andrew’s original interpretation of the mystical nanny is prevalent in all the right places and frames of this thoroughly modern magical mystical tour de force. Sharing the screenwriting credit with David Macgee and John DeLuca, Marshall is clearly a fan of the original Poppins, as he makes certain Returns adheres to the visual and storied mythology of the revered first take (helmed by Robert Stevenson).

Right smack in the middle of it all, new Poppins lead Emily Blunt had big knickers to fill in stepping into Andrews’ puss and boots, but the award-winning actress adds a fresh face to the character; Blunt (a name that works for the character!) brings her own special brand of demure to what could easily have turned into a theatrical mess in the hands of a less fêted performer.

Andrews rejected the idea of making even a cameo into the mix of this dear Poppins fresh dough, ray of sunshine and glee, because, allegedly, she did not want to steal the spotlight from Blunt. But it’s also been said that her agent demanded more “moola” for her to apply any new rouge for Returns.

Fortunately, other veteran performers like always-perfect Angela Lansbury (as the Balloon Lady, the character allegedly written for Andrews), Dick Van Dyke (who starred in the original Mary, and makes a remarkable screen return of his own at 93!), Colin Firth, David Warner, and Meryl Streep (to a lesser extent), each deliver the goods.

And while Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as the adult Banks siblings are nothing less than Shakespearean supreme, Returns’ fresh batch of child actors, Joel Dawson, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, light up the screen with vibrancy and an enormous bag of Bojangles skill that boggles for their age. And while, too, shades of the superior quality of stupendous original Poppinssongs by the Sherman brothers Richard and Robert can be heard in Returns, the still-very-much-alive musical maestro Richard Sherman served as a consultant on the new film’s catchy tunes and score composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (who wrote the lyrics with Shaiman)….

Read it all at Medium

John Ostrander: The Elseworlds

by John Ostrander

The CW has been doing annual crossovers of some or all of its DC shows each season to the point where the characters themselves are commenting on it. They like each other well enough but they know each situation is going to involve a BIG Bad and they’re not always keen on it. Kind of a funny, hip, self-aware thing.

In fact, there was a lot of humor in this year’s Crossover Event which was titled Elseworlds. It involved only the Big Three of the CW/DC shows – Supergirl, Arrow, and the Flash. Legends of Tomorrow (which has been a LOT of fun this year) and Black Lightning didn’t get to play which I can understand – by the time you get not only the main characters but significant amounts of the supporting casts it can get a little crowded and unwieldy, especially since they try to advance some of the subplots running in each series. 

One of the conceits of all the series is that the DC universe is actually a multiverse with different versions of Earth (numbered to tell them apart) with sometimes different versions of the same characters. Just like in the comics. For instance, on one Earth the Flash is played by John Wesley Shipp instead of Grant Gustin as he is on the regular series. Shipp starred as the Flash in a previous TV version and this acknowledges that which is seriously cool. Usually, Shipp plays Jay Garrick who was the Flash on Earth 2 and in the Golden Age BUT this time he said HIS name was Barry Allen. I really liked that because you could, if you wanted to, tie it to that older show. He wasn’t around long – just enough to get out some necessary info — but it was a tip of the hat not only to Shipp but the older Flash series.

The title Elseworlds was also a staple of DC comics – sort of a series that wasn’t a series in which alternate takes on the DC characters were created. One was Batman set in Victorian times and another had Batman as a vampire. DC stopped doing them a while ago and I’m sorry they did; I’d like to see more of them. Maybe do one or two myself.

This year’s crossover also brought in some new incarnations including Lois Lane and Batwoman. They already had their own Superman on Supergirl’s world, played by Tyler Hoechlin who I first saw when he was a boy in Road to Perdition. (An aside: I think Hoechlin makes a fine Superman and I prefer him to Henry Cavill. I do have one problem with his Superman which I’ll get back to in a minute.) There is talk of a Batwoman series on the CW and I’m all in favor of it.

The storyline kept faith with the concept of Elseworlds – different takes on established tropes. In this story, the Flash and Green Arrow get switched – the Flash becomes Green Arrow and Arrow becomes Flash. Hilarity ensues. Seriously. They have some real fun with it. So did I.

They also included a lot of elements from the classic DC crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths. There’s a character called the Monitor, there’s omnipresent red skies, and in the comic series both the Flash and Supergirl die in dramatic moments (they eventually get better) and the Elseworlds Crossover touches on that. There’s a moment at the climax where, if you know Crisis, you realize they’re setting it up to happen there.

Hoechlin is not only a really good Superman, he’s also called upon to play a nasty version of Supes and he’s convincing in that as well. My problem with the CW’s depiction of the Man of Steel is that they keep insisting that he isn’t quite as good as Supergirl. Okay, I get it – she has a series and he doesn’t but they’ve been setting up that she’s stronger and probably better in every way. They’ve done a great job with Supergirl but I don’t think the way you sell her is by downgrading her cousin. He doesn’t have to be lesser than her nor her to him; they’re different characters. And c’mon – he’s Superman.

Overall, I give high marks to this year’s CW/DC crossover event. There was a lot of humor and fun bantering in it but there’s also a possibility of lasting effects in all three series when they return (the event was the midseason finale). They’re getting very good at this and I credit that to producer Greg Berlanti who, IMO, is to the DC/CW what Kevin Feige is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

One last thing – at the end of this event, CW/DC revealed the name of NEXT year’s event: Crisis on Infinite Earths. That’s going to be interesting considering how much they took from that storyline for THIS year’s events. The last lines of Elseworlds were the advertising slogan for Crisis when it came out: Worlds will live, worlds will die; nothing will ever be the same.

Cue the ominous music.

Still, if the powers that be with the CW/DC shows do want to shake things up, this would be the place. I wouldn’t bet against it. We’ll find out in about a year.

Same Batwoman time, same Batwoman channel.

John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (before Christmas even, but we’ve been on a break so you get to relive the holiday now). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE

New Year’s with Bri Castellini Part 2 – @brisownworld

My 2019 New Years Resolutions
by Bri Castellini

  1. Write 5 new projects. Be them short films, web series pilots, TV pilots, audio dramas, or a play, I want 5 brand new things written in 2019. 5 scripts doesn’t count unless they’re from 5 different projects.
  2. Host 3 table reads. Since I’m stepping back a bit from producing this year, I’m going to miss my actor friends. So in order to focus on my writing but also keep my creative, talented friends involved, I want to host at least 3 table reads for 3 unique projects in 2019.
  3. Post one blog and one YouTube video a month. I really did try last year, but it got away from me. This isn’t an insane ask, though, so let’s try again.
  4. Cook dinner at least twice a week. Quinn has taken a lot of the burden of cooking for us- when he doesn’t, we order out, and that’s not fair or healthy. Plus, I used to love cooking! I want to recapture that this year.
  5. Start or end my day active at least three times a week. No excuses 2019.
  6. Release and submit for festivals both projects I have in post. I filmed two major projects in 2019, and they both deserve a shot at glory and laurels. This is my pledge to actually put them into the world.
  7. Leave New York at least 4 times. Everyone knows I’m bad at boundaries and balance, so in 2019, I’m making an effort to live a less workaholic life. I have 2 guaranteed trips (DC in January and Christmas) that I’ll be out of the city for, so it’s unfair to just say “2” like the last few years.
  8. Save $2k. Last year I saved $1500, which was great, but I’m an adult who goes more into debt every time I make a student loan payment because of accrued interest, so I’m not in great financial shape. Savings will at least keep me, well, safe, in case something terrible happens.
  9. Pick my battles. As I age, I get better at when my input or opinion is needed, but I’m also a naturally argumentative person. In 2019, I want to really analyse when a topic deserves a debate or when I should just let it go.
  10. Be a better adult. When I get overwhelmed or over-tired, I neglect important things like dishes and emptying the trash and cleaning my room and the bathroom. I am almost 27 years old- that’s gotta stop. Regardless of my exhaustion level, the dishes need to be done, and not just when company is coming over.

What are YOUR resolutions this year?  How did yours last year shape up? Let me know, and here’s to at least a pretty ok 2019!

Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Director at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. Watch the remarkable Ms. Castellini’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE. See Sam And Pat Are Depressed HERE. This post first appeared on Bri’s wonderfully refreshing blog.

New Year’s with Bri Castellini Part 1 – @brisownworld

How My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions Faired
by Bri Castellini

High level: this was an incredibly busy year, just not in the ways I’d planned back in January 2018.

Produce 2 new projects I write to completion- COMPLETE!

Back in January I filmed my latest short film, co-written and co-produced by my buddy Colin Hinckley.

We also shot season 2 of Sam and Pat Are Depressed! It’s mid-edit and we hope to release it early 2019.

Write a feature-length screenplay- lol nah

My workload for producing and for my day job just didn’t allow for this. There were multiple months in a row where I had maybe two days off, total, which is including weekends.

Post a blog twice a month and a personal YouTube video once a month.- PARTIAL FAILURE

Didn’t do either, though I stuck with blogging for most of the year! See above for my other excuses. I was in a play for two months, also! Literally every weekend and several weeknights that whole period were taken up by hours-long rehearsals or performances!

Write 2 new TV scripts- one original pilot, one spec script.- lol nah

Mid-year I wrote: “I’ll definitely have a new original pilot written unless I do nothing from now until January 2019” which is ADORABLE. At the time of writing that, I was a week away from filming Sam and Pat season 2, then less than two months later (mid-editing for that project and the short film I did) I was in that play, and then I continued to need to edit and also take a dang break once in a while, and no writing got done. I basically haven’t written anything new since last winter, which is a bummer and which will be heavily emphasized in 2019.

Close caption all previous (and new 2018) projects – COMPLETE

Done! Pain in the ass, but done!

Save $1500  COMPLETE

Done! I really needed the padding, because last year I burnt through everything I’d been saving diligently for like two years prior.

Leave New York City at least twice.– COMPLETE

Trip #1: New Jersey to speak on a panel/ participate web series screening!

Eat out less than three times a week and do something active every day.- lol nah

Yeah. Nah.

Take a photo every day- lol nah

Mid-January my phone shattered and the new one I purchased made the camera sound every time I took a photo and I couldn’t turn it off. So I largely just stopped taking photos. Then I shattered THAT phone and got one without that issue, but by then it was September and too late to really get back into the swing of things.

Talk less, listen more – COMPLETE (I guess?)

I like to think I completed this one. If you disagree, I don’t want to hear it. I need this.

Final tally…



Given all the other things not on this list that got completed, plus stepping up significantly at my day job, I’m not upset by this outcome. But I do have a lot of new ideas for 2019…

EDITOR’S NOTE: For Bri’s original version, which includes a lot more pix and cute captions, you’ll want to click your way HERE

Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Director at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. Watch the remarkable Ms. Castellini’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE. See Sam And Pat Are Depressed HERE. This post first appeared on Bri’s wonderfully refreshing blog.

John Ostrander: The (Im)Possibilities of Christmas

NOTE FROM LB: Exhausted human beings that we at TVWriter™ are, we were vacationing (in my case lying in bed trying to catch up on some of the sleep I lost for a variety of reasons last year) Christmas week and missed the chance to publish John’s Christmas column at the appropriate time. Here it is now, in all its nostalgic glory. Thanks, John, for making me smile:

by John Ostrander

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

                                        -Nephew Fred, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Christmas has also always been my favorite time of year. More precisely, it’s Advent – the time leading up to Christmas – that I’ve enjoyed the most since I was a kid. Advent was full of possibility; there was the anticipation of what Christmas was going to be. What was I going to get, what could I give within my limited funds that the recipient might actually like, what would it all feel like?

Part of Advent was the Advent Wreath. It was made of evergreen boughs and laid flat on the table. Four candles stuck up out of it; each representing one of the weeks in December leading up to Christmas. Three were white and one was purple; the purple one was for Gaudette Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent. You’d light the candles at the start of dinner, say a prayer, and dig in to the food, hoping the candles wouldn’t fall over and set fire to the wreath and perhaps the table as well. Ah, Holiday cheer!

In 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on TV. The following year, How the Grinch Stole Christmas debuted which was even better. (I am, of course, referring to the TV special created by Chuck Jones and narrated by Boris Karloff and not the bloated movies since made.) I have both on Blu-ray and they continue to be a part of my lead-up to Christmas every year. Both are very much a part of my own personal Christmas.

We also had an Advent calendar. For those who don’t know, these are large cards usually with the picture of the Nativity scene on it and windows set in it that can be opened, revealing a picture of a toy or a piece of candy or a portion of a story. Ours had the Nativity story from Luke. The windows were numbered from 1 to 24, going from December 1st to Christmas Eve. That’s when the whole Advent schtick climaxed. We didn’t use the one that had chocolates behind each window because I think my Mom instinctively knew they’d never make to December 24th. They probably wouldn’t have made it to the 3rd and I most likely would have been the reason. I was only as patient during Advent as I was forced to be.

Part of our family Advent ritual was to go downtown to State Street, that Great Street, and see the Christmas windows at the big stores, especially Marshall Fields. They always did up Christmas in a grand style and, if you want, you can take a peek here

Back then, the Christmas shopping season started the day AFTER Thanksgiving. No running out on Thanksgiving dinner to be the first in line. No Black Friday sales in the middle of August. (Okay, I exaggerate but only for effect.) 

Church did play a large part in the holiday for us; how could it not? It was literally right across the street. I grew up in the shadow of St. Jerome’s. My brother and I were part of the boys’ choir and that meant every Christmas, we stayed up and sang at Midnight Mass. If I recall correctly, we had to be back for the 10 AM performance. . .err . . .service on Christmas day itself. In between the two we had to have sleep, breakfast and, before we went to bed, our own family Christmas ceremony.

This was largely a production of my mother as such things were wont to be. It started with us kids gathered on the stairs going up, youngest at the bottom, oldest at the top. The youngest carried the Baby Jesus for the nativity scene in the creche and we were all supposed to walk down behind her, singing a hymn reverently, until Baby Jesus joined the Holy Family. We were decidedly NOT the Holy Family and, the older we got, the more we resisted the Procession until we outright refused.

We then would sit together and share reading The Night Before Christmas followed by Dad, taking his assigned part, reading the Cratchit dinner scene from A Christmas Carol. It wasn’t his idea but he was pretty good at it and it was my favorite part of the goings-on. I think that’s where my love for the Dickens’ classic began. Milk and cookies were left out for Santa (with the hope that neither I nor the dog would nibble them) and those of us going to bed went to bed and those of us going to Midnight Mass prepared for that.

Morning came and we hit the presents. There was the thrill of acquisition always followed the little sadness that we never got everything we asked for and wanted. Like most things, the anticipation was greater than the realization.

We had one more shot at the brass ring – dinner at Grandma’s house and then gifts afterward. We didn’t have to go over the river and through the woods; we simply walked next door. The food was great and the loot was pretty good but, after that, Christmas was done except for the leftovers and taking out the trash and breaking in the new toys and reading the new books and wearing the inevitable new clothes.

There was always next year. Hey, I was raised a Cubs fan. You live on possibility and that engenders hope.

Merry Christmas to you all. Happy holidays. Io Saturnalia.

John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (before Christmas even, but we’ve been on a break so you get to relive the holiday now). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE