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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Top 10 Tuesday: Bingeworthy TV Shows/Amazing Movies

I really need to watch more TV shows! In the past, I didn’t watch TV that much, but when I went to uni and lived alone, being able to watch whatever I want meant I started watching more TV. This list is a mixture of shows I loved and shows that were strangely addictive even though they were fairly average.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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TV Review: Victoria

TV Review: Victoria

Aired: 28th August 2016 – 9th October 2016

Written by: Daisy Goodwin, Guy Andrews

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, Olly Blackburn

Network: ITV

Genre: Period Drama

Episodes aired: 8/8

Rating: 4/5

 

This review is a follow-up to my mid-series review. The series definitely grew on me as the episodes went on and I looked forward to settling down to watch each new episode.

Mercifully, Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of Victoria became less whiny. However it just took her too long to settle into the character, whose personality seemed quite erratic. This was perhaps an attempt to show the difficulties of being a very young queen, but it just left me annoyed some of the time. Hopefully in the next series a more mature Victoria will be presented. In terms of other characters, I liked the development of Victoria’s relationship with her mother as the series went on.

The music, especially the titular music, I liked very much and found suitable for the time period. It was visually appealing and there were some beautifully designed costumes. There was a touch of humour throughout the series, just enough to provide lighter moments.

One thing that irritated me was that Lord Melbourne disappeared. Once Victoria married Albert I guess his role did run its course but I didn’t feel he got a proper exit to the series. One episode he was there and the next he wasn’t. There was no resolution to his characters role in the series. A small scene would have sufficed.

While unsurprisingly the show focuses on the interpersonal relationships of Victoria and how she deals with being a monarch, I found the neglect of societal Victorian issues a shame. In episode 7 there was a glimpse of the potential, as Albert is interested in the development of the railways. This was an important development of the era and I’m glad it had a place in the series, but other big issues of the time were lacking representation. Of course, this isn’t about the Victorian people, it’s about their monarch, but the major events and issues of the Victorian period would have influenced Queen Victoria, and vice versa. In one of the early episodes there was some issue of protests which was good, but it was hardly dwelled upon.

The series has proved to be popular, often garnering more viewers than BBC’s Poldark, which I found quite surprising. It’s no surprise then that there will be another series. I’ll be interested to find out in what direction they take series 2. I hope they do not overly focus on Victoria’s family and forget about the social and political issues, of which there were many, during her long reign.

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: Far From the Madding Crowd

Release date: 6th March 2015

Director: Thomas Vinterburg

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

Runtime: 119 minutes

Genre: Period Drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I haven’t yet read Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, so I’ll be reviewing this from the point of view of someone who hasn’t read it. However, I have read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which is probably my favourite classic. There is something about Hardy’s work that I just love, and having seen this film it’s made me want to read more of his books, including Far From the Madding Crowd.

Anyway, back to the film. Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdeen (yes, every time someone said ‘Everdeen’ in the film Katniss popped into my head), an independent woman who gains an increase in her social status after inheriting her uncle’s farm. Being very independent, she comes across an inner conflict when three men begin courting her (don’t worry, it isn’t a pathetic love triangle or anything).

I don’t really have anything to criticise about this film because I absolutely loved it! It held my attention from start to finish and there were some surprises along the way. Typically of Hardy’s stories it is very realistic and less flouncy than other period dramas like Jane Austen, so don’t go in expecting Pride and Prejudice, this is a very different style. The filming was excellent and I felt immersed in the atmosphere of the film.

In terms of the acting I thought it was excellent. All of the actors did amazing jobs and none of them were weak. Carey Mulligan did a great job in the strong female lead, presenting the character’s few vulnerable moments as well as the headstrong moments. Each of the ‘love interests’ were well acted and every one of them is fleshed out and have their own character arcs, rather than just serving as the ‘love interest’ as in many romantic films.

It goes without saying that I love the plot. There’s lots going on and unlike many period dramas which are often quite slow there always seemed to be something happening in this film.

There isn’t much else for me to say because I absolutely adored it and will definitely be buying the DVD when it comes out and reading the book too!