Film Review: Downton Abbey

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Film Review: Downton Abbey

Release date: 13th September 2019

Director: Michael Engler

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith and many more

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Period drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Downton Abbey is the much awaited return of a very popular series. This time, the characters take to the big screen with a film version of the television programme. Downton Abbey aired between 2010 and 2015 and was very popular, so in many ways it’s no surprise it made it to the big screen. The film sees the family, and servants, at Downton Abbey preparing for a royal visit from the King and Queen.

While I was delighted to once again hear Downton’s wonderful main theme and return to the halls of the grand house, I wonder if the film was a step too far. It was charming and entertaining, but the plot was a little thin. It would have perhaps worked better as a special episode for TV, as that’s basically what I felt like I was watching, rather than a film. It will certainly appeal for fans of the show, but is not the best entrance to the world of Downton Abbey for anyone not familiar with the TV show.

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TV Review: The OA Part II

mv5bmty5otkwndkzof5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdeynzi1nzm40._v1_Aired: Netflix

Created by: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij

Starring: Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Jason Isaacs, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Patrick Gibson

Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Supernatural, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

When I watched the first series of The OA, I remember thinking it seemed rather bizarre, but somehow it still pulled me in. By the end of Part I I was invested, and eagerly awaited its return for Part II. I will be avoiding spoilers in this review where possible (to be honest, there are some pretty big and crazy concepts involved that I’m not sure I could explain properly anyway) as it’s best to go into this show without knowing anything.

The first episode left me feeling rather perplexed. The first series was complex and I struggled to remember what had happened. I’d recommend taking a look at a recap of Part I! Episode 1 starts off with new detective character called Karim searching for a missing girl. How this connected to the rest I had no idea. However the ending of the episode suggested things would be coming together. And they did in the second episode. While I wasn’t exactly sure how things were going to connect, I could see the beginnings of hints and foreshadowing that everything was going to come together.

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TV Review: Bodyguard

Aired: 26 August – 23 September 2018 on BBC

Created by: Jed Mercurio

Written by: Jed Mercurio

Starring: Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes, Sophie Rundle

Genre: Drama, thriller

Rating: 4.5/5

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Image: BBC

It’s the show everyone seems to be talking about, and the most-watched, as it had the biggest BBC drama overnight viewing figures since the Doctor Who Christmas episode of 2008. The big question is – is it worth the hype? The answer to that question is simply yes. This review will be relatively spoiler free, so don’t worry about seeing any in this post. If, however, you decide not to read on for fear of spoilers, take one thing away: go and watch this show.

Bodyguard follows the story of David Budd, who is assigned to protect the Home Secretary, played by Keeley Hawes. The story is set in London in a time when the terrorist threat to the UK is very high. The plot unfurls across six episodes, and maintains high tension and mystery throughout. Tension and suspense drives the thrill of this series, and boy does it have bucketfuls of suspense. There are lots of twists and turns with conspiracies, and I found it totally unpredictable in the most exciting way.

I liked that it wasn’t too violent. So many TV shows these days have unnecessary violence. There was one scene where rather a lot of blood got splattered about, and David Budd does seem to regularly walk about with injuries and blood on his face. But the suspense is built from tense scenes, rather than violence, which I really liked. Nothing felt rushed. The slow build of scenes meant that suspense took the forefront in this series.

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Film Review: Passengers

passengers_ver2Film Review: Passengers

Release Date: 21st December 2016

Director: Morten Tyldum

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen

Runtime: 116 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance, Drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

On a long journey to another planet, everyone on board is in stasis. Jim and Aurora wake up 90 years early, without the ability to contact anyone for help or return to sleep. They’re stuck with nowhere to go and only each other for company – besides the android barman played by Michael Sheen.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. Not in the good way as in it surprised me. As in, it was advertised in a way that made it seem like a different kind of film to what it actually was. The trailer and description makes it sound like a sci-fi action thriller flick with romance. When in fact it’s a romantic drama in a science-fiction setting, with a dash of action at the end. I liked the concept – two passengers wake up 90 years too early on a spaceship destined for a new planet. This is the base of the film and has a lot of potential as an idea. However, I wasn’t sure about the direction in which they took the film.

The digital effects are great with a creative design for the ship. Although the story is limited to this one space, and there were very few characters. The acting was good and Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence gel really well together. I liked that the film dealt with the psychological effects of being isolated on the ship, especially in the beginning of the film.

I went in expecting an action science-fiction thriller, which isn’t what I got. So it was disappointing from that point of view because I spent a lot of the film confused about how it could have been advertised as being so different to what it was. As a romantic drama set in space, it was good. There were some twists and turns. It was good and I enjoyed it but it had a lot of potential to be better. It’s a film that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be – it’s stuck between being a thought-provoking drama about serious moral issues, a romance, and a science-fiction action film.

TV Review: Victoria (mid-series)

TV Review: Victoria (mid-series)

Aired: 28th August 2016 – Present

Written by: Daisy Goodwin

Starring: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell, Catherine Flemming, Daniela Holtz

Executive Producers: Daisy Goodwin, Dan McCulloch, Damien Timmer

Producers: Rebecca Eaton, Paul Frift

Directors: Tom Vaughan, Sandra Goldbacher

Network: ITV

Genre: Period Drama

Episodes aired: 4/8

 

Victoria is ITV’s latest foray into period drama. I had been looking forward to it since hearing about the prospective series earlier this year. It follows Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne and courtship of Prince Albert. I knew a bit about the monarch from seeing the film The Young Victoria and was interested to see how the story would translate to television. As there is considerably more time available in a television series, more happens in Victoria, although it seems to follow a similar pattern to The Young Victoria.

Jenna Coleman, having left her role in Doctor Who to play Queen Victoria, has improved as the series has gone on. At times I found her portrayal of Victoria too whiny, but at other times her acting was much better. The accompanying cast do well to balance out her occasional whininess and Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne brings some maturity and interesting characterisation to the table, creating a complex character in Melbourne. Finally in Episode 4 came the introduction of Tom Hughes as Prince Albert (his entrance at the end of Episode 3 hardly counts). So far, he’s done a good job of playing the awkward prince. I liked that it wasn’t love at first sight between Victoria and Albert (these programmes have a habit of over-romanticising) and their courtship was a slow progression.

Similarly to ITV’s vastly popular Downton Abbey, the show also features some of the servants and kitchen staff at the palace. I found their scenes a nice break from all the well-to-do-ness going on upstairs. The character of Miss Skerrett is intriguing as there is obviously something going on with her past that she wants to hide.

As it is based on the real life of Queen Victoria many of the events are predictable (not much of a spoiler that Victoria and Albert get together is it?), although it’s hard to know how much is fact and how much is embellished.

So far I have liked the series; although it does have some flaws it has been entirely enjoyable with great sets and costumes.

Full review to come once the series has finished.

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Release date: 27th May 2016

Director: Whit Stillman

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevingy, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Emma Greenwell

Runtime: 94 minutes

Genre: Period Drama, Romance

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Love and Friendship is based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel Lady Susan which wasn’t published until after her death. There is also an epistolary book called Love and Friendship, but the film takes the plot of Lady Susan with the title of Love and Friendship. I know, confusing. Why not just call it Lady Susan? Why take the title of another Jane Austen work and confuse everyone?

Lady Susan is a tactical widow who sets her eyes on finding a suitable husband for her daughter, with the help of an American friend, also aiming to bag herself a man in the process. I enjoyed the plot and it was certainly humorous at times, most of the laughs coming from Lady Susan’s scandalous and outrageous lines. Kate Beckinsale definitely stood above the rest as Lady Susan, delivering her lines so well. The obliviously stupid Sir James is also a great character who provides a lot of humour. In many ways it is different to other stories by Jane Austen with a somewhat unlikeable, scheming protagonist who is somehow at the same time captivating.

If is somewhat odd that it is a U-rated film, but which is most definitely about scandal and affairs. It’s odd but somehow works.

The acting was good at times but in places it was stilted and like they were reading off a script. There was nothing striking about the scenery and imagery, and the music wasn’t anything special and felt oddly out of place for some reason. Actually, what was most odd was the costumes. I’m no expert on period fashions but the dresses didn’t look at all right for the time period.

It was thoroughly entertaining, charming, and passed some time, but there were some elements that were just…off. The production let down a story with potential to make a great film. I don’t have much to say about this one. An average but enjoyable film.

Film Review: Me Before You

Film Review: Me Before You

Release date: 3rd June 2016

Director: Thea Sharrock

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Matthew Lewis, Jenna Coleman

Runtime: 110 minutes

Genre: Drama, Romance

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Me Before You, adapted from Jojo Moyes bestselling novel, follows Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark as, desperate for a job, she takes on the role of carer for the paraplegic Will. It’s a romantic drama, with some comedic moments and some teary-eyed-tissue-grabbing moments. I haven’t read the book, but the script was adapted from the book by Jojo herself and would suggest the film is similar to the book (but not necessarily). There has been some controversy over the representation of disability and assisted suicide in the film. I’m not going to dwell on this too much and focus on what I thought of the film and don’t want to spoil what happens through talking about it, but it is a very important discussion. I do feel it could have dealt with the issue with disability better, having a more balanced view about disabled life and assisted suicide, which may have given the film more depth and substance. I can understand why many people are angry with how it is portrayed in the film.

It was an okay film. That really is the perfect word to describe it, and why I gave it a three star rating. It wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t great either. To start it was quite slow and afterwards looking back at it, not much happened really.

The acting was great. There wasn’t a weak performance from any of the main cast. Emilia was excellent as the bubbly and eccentric Lou and I found the character incredibly likeable. They did a very good job with what they had to work with. This could have been a really great film if what they’d had to work with had been better.

There were plenty of people laughing and crying during the film. I found myself genuinely laughing at some very amusing moments, and also crying a little at the end (but I cry at lots of films so that’s not much of an indicator of its tear-inducing capabilities). There is some issue with bringing a serious and sensitive topic like this and putting it into the setting of a rom-com.

I will return to the word I used earlier: okay. I’m glad I went to see it, but I won’t be rushing out to buy the DVD. It has been surrounded by controversy about its representations of disability, but perhaps this will mean people will be more aware about the sensitivities of the topic and the importance of how these topics are portrayed.