Category Archives: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: A New Era Movie Review

When Downton Abbey premiered more than a decade ago, it looked to be nothing more than your run-of-the-mill BPD (British Period Drama). Who knew that it would become a worldwide cultural phenomenon that still enthralls audiences?

Downton Abbey: A New Era hit theaters a few weeks ago. The film starts with the wedding of Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton). After the ceremony, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) announces that she has inherited a previously unknown villa in the south of France. While Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), and most of the family travel to see this newest acquisition, Mary (Michelle Dockery) stays behind.

With the roof leaking, she has accepted an offer from a Director to use the Abbey as a film set. Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) brings the glamour of Hollywood along with his lead actors: Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock).

The best word to describe the experience of watching this film is meta. This movie was made with so much love that it pours out of the screen. Julian Fellows brilliantly balances both the instinctive narrative and the wants of the audience. It’s not an easy task, given the expectations of the fanbase.

I’ve been a fan of the show since the first episode. I was not disappointed. It was everything I wanted and more.

My only qualm is that a little over 2 hours, it is just a tad long. However, Fellows gets a pass, given the number of storylines he has to balance.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Downton Abbey: A New Era is presently in theaters.

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Regency Review Roundup: Sanditon and Bridgerton Season 2 Reviews

*There will be spoilers for Sanditon.

The Regency era is an interesting time in human history. Looking back, it is easy to see that, as a species. we are on the road to the modernity that is life today. But we are also still clinging to the rules and social structure of previous generations.

Bridgerton

After a year and a half wait, season two of Bridgerton premiered last weekend on Netflix. It’s been nine months since the narrative of season one ended. Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett (Phoebe Dyvenor and Rege-Jean Page, who decided to move onto other projects) are happily married and have a baby boy. The oldest Bridgerton son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) has decided it is his time to settle down. Among the eligible women of the ton, he chooses Edwina Sharma (Charitha Chandran). But before they can walk down the aisle, he has to get through her overprotective older sister, Kate (Simone Ashley). She is tough, smart, and unwilling to compromise on whom she sees as her future brother-in-law. The problem is that there is something between Anthony and Kate that cannot be ignored.

If last season one was hot, this season has the fire of several volcanoes exploding at the same time. The chemistry between Ashley and Bailey is intense. The enemies to lovers/slow-burn narrative is so perfect that I would recommend that anyone who wants to write a good romance novel watch this series. It’s that good.

Sanditon

Its been nine months since the audience has spent time with the denizens of Sanditon. After the death of her first love, Sydney Parker (Theo James), Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) has returned to the seaside town and the Parkers. Bringing her younger sister, Alison (Rosie Graham) with her, Charlotte reunites with old friends while making new male acquaintances. Among them are Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos) and Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones).

With her usual tenacity and intelligence, Charlotte is trying to move on with her life. But she is still grieving (as I suspect the viewers are as well) for what might have been, had things gone in another direction. As much as we all miss Sydney, I feel like this is opening the door for new opportunities for her in both the romantic and career arenas (as much as a woman could have back then). Akin to Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) dying in a car crash at the end of the third season of Downton Abbey, it was a heartbreaking loss. But I feel like if we look at it from a modern perspective, this unexpected change is normal. Not everyone spends their life with the first person they fell in love with. It sometimes takes a few years and a few relationships to find your other half.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Bridgerton is available for streaming on Netflix. Sanditon airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9PM.

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Throwback Thursday: Aristocrats (1999)

When we think of members of the British aristocracy. The pageantry, the press, the fancy clothes, the titles, etc. But, the question is, do we really know them or do we think we know them?

The 1999 six-part miniseries, Aristocrats, followed the lives of four sisters who have been born into the highest levels of 18th-century British life. Caroline (Serena Gordon), Emily (Geraldine Sommerville), Louisa (Anne-Marie Duff), and Sarah (Jodhi May), are the daughters of 3rd Duke and Duchess of Richmond (a pre-Downton Abbey Julian Fellows and Katherine Wogan). The series follows these sisters as they grow from girls to women and deal with what life has thrown at them.

I enjoyed this series. What I think made it interesting was that even though the main characters come from a certain stratum of society and live in a way that is specific to both their era and class, they are human. Each woman in her own right is full of life, love, contradictions, missteps, etc.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The New Downton Abbey Trailer is Out!

The trailer for the new Downton Abbey movie is out. Entitled Downton Abbey: A New Era, it will be in theaters next March. I am just going to end this post with the trailer because hearing the theme song sends lovely chills down my back. March cannot come soon enough.

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Liar Review

In some cases, the accusation of rape is clear and simple. But in other cases, it is a complicated case of he said vs. she said.

In the television series Liar, both Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt) and Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd) are at crossroads in their lives. Laura is newly single after a long term relationship has just ended. Andrew is a widower with a teenage son. They meet at the school where Laura teaches and Andrew’s son is a student.

After they go on a date, they go back to her place to hang out and share a bottle of wine. One thing leads to another and they end up in bed. The next morning, Laura cries rape while Andrew claims it was just a one night stand. The consequences of that evening and the questions of what really happened will have far reaching consequences.

I only watched the first couple of episodes and was riveted. Both Froggatt and Gruffudd are superb in their roles. Unlike the open and shut cases is seen on Law & Order and other police dramas, this one is not black and white.

I was also drawn to the show because there was an instant comparison to the rape of Froggatt’s Downton Abbey character, Anna Bates. While Laura is both believed and her reputation is initially intact, Anna is not sot lucky. If she is to retain both her job and her good name, she must pretend that it never happened.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Liar is available for streaming on the Sundance Channel.

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The English Game Review

One of the major conflicts over the course of human history is between the working class and the ruling and/or wealthy class.

The English Game premiered on Netflix earlier this year. Written by Julian Fellows (Downton Abbey), this six part series tells the story of how football (soccer for us Americans) became the sport it is today. In 1879 England, football is a game played by amateurs. The teams are made up of members of the upper class who are well, overprotective, of the game.

When they are confronted with other teams who come from the working class, the conflict becomes more than football. It represents the idea that the traditional social hierarchy is changing. Those who were born on the lower end of the hierarchy are no longer content to remain where they are. They want a piece of the action, so to speak, and are more than willing to fight for their rights.

Representing the upper classes is Arthur Kinnaird (Edward Holcroft). Standing up for the working men and women is Fergus Suter (Kevin Guthrie).

I enjoyed watching the series. Though it is a BPD (British Period Drama), the narrative is not the standard BPD narrative. It tells the story of a time in which the world was changing and the forces it took to create that change.

I recommend it.

The English Game is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Flashback Friday: Upstairs Downstairs (2010)

When it comes to BPD’s (British Period Dramas), the audience only sees the world from the perspective from the upper classes. The world is not seen from the point of the view of the servants or the average working folk.

In 2010, the reboot of the 1970’s series Upstairs Downstairs premiered. Both programs told the stories of an upper class aristocratic couple and their servants living in 1930’s England.

At the outset, the premise of the program sounded interesting. But it had two strikes against it. The first strike was that I tried watching Upstairs Downstairs, but it didn’t hook me as I hoped it would have. The second strike was that Downton Abbey premiered at the same time in the States and the rest is history.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Beecham House Review

No one is without a past, for better or for worse. Ideally, we should be able to learn from the past and watch it disappear in the rearview mirror. But that is not always the case.

Beecham House premiered last night on PBS. This six-part miniseries takes place in India at the end of the 18th century. The viewer is introduced to John Beecham (Tom Bateman). A former employee of the British East India Company, John is eager to move on from his troubled past. But that is easier said than done.

Co-written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, (Bend It Like Beckham, Blinded by the Light), the supporting cast is full of Masterpiece actors. Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey), Leo Suter (Sanditon, Victoria), and Grégory Fitoussi (Mr. Selfridge) are three actors included in a large and diverse cast that brings the story to life.

I really enjoyed the first episode. As the lead character, John is compelling, complicated, and human. Filmed on location in India, the setting adds a level of reality that is often not seen in dramas set in this period. It could have been conceived as a technicolor, fairytale-ish land that can only come out of a dream. Authentically re-creating India as it was in the late 18th century helps to draw the viewer in further to the narrative and the characters.

I recommend it.

Beecham House airs on PBS on Sunday at 10:00.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Review

As much as we wish we could control where life takes us, we know that we can’t.

In the 2018 Netflix movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (based on the book of the same name), Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is an author in post World War II England. Intrigued by a letter she receives from Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) a farmer on the island of Guernsey, Juliet visits the island with the intention of writing a book.

She discovers that Dawsey is part of a book club entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Included in this club is Amelia Maugery (Penelope Wilton) and Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay). Intrigued as to why and how Elizabeth disappeared, Juliet starts to investigate what happened during the German occupation of the island during the war. Along the way, Juliet discovers a new family and a new love that forces her to re-consider where she wants to go in life.

Award worthy, this film is not. That being said, it’s the type of movie one watches after a long week to relax. Though it helps that several of the main cast are Downton Abbey alum, it is does not do enough to overcome the film’s flaws.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Howards End/Sanditon Review

Classic and beloved novels are easy targets for stage and screen reboots. The question that fans have to ask is if these reboots hold up to the text.

Last night, the new adaptations of Howards End and Sanditon premiered on Masterpiece.

Based on the E.M. Foster novel, Howards End is the story of the intermingling of three families in the early 20th century in England. The Wilcoxes are upper class, the Schlegels are middle class and the Basts are lower class. With a cast led by Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen, this story of cross-class differences and secrets is bound to delight audiences.

I have a confession to make: I have heard of the book, but I have never read it. That will soon be remedied. In the meantime, I was completely taken in by the first episode and as of now, I plan on completing the series.

Sanditon was started by Jane Austen just months before she died. An eleven chapter fragment of a novel, respected television writer Andrew Davies continued where Austen left off. Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) is part Elizabeth Bennet and part Catherine Morland. The daughter of a large landed gentry family from the country, Charlotte is young and eager to spread her wings.

When an offer comes her way to visit Sanditon, an up and coming seaside resort, she immediately says yes. But Sanditon is a different world than the world she grew up in. One of the people she meets is Sydney Parker (Theo James, who played the infamous Mr. Pamuk on Downton Abbey), the brooding and sometimes rude younger brother of the couple who she is staying with.

For many Austen fans, Sanditon is a what-if experience. With only eleven chapters completed, we can only guess what the completed novel would have looked like. As an adaptation, so far, I have to say that I am impressed.

Like his previous Jane Austen adaptation, Davies knows when to stick to the script and when to add a little something extra.

What I liked about the series so far is that unlike most Austen heroines, Charlotte’s main reason for going to Sanditon is not to find a husband. Most of her heroines (with the exception of Emma Woodhouse) are motivated to marry because of family pressure and/or financial needs. Charlotte goes to Sanditon to see the world and experience life outside of the family that she grew up in. She is also curious about the world and shows interest in certain subjects that would not be deemed “appropriate” for a woman of this era.

I really enjoyed the first two episodes. It is a love letter to Austen fans and contains plenty of Easter eggs if one knows where to look.

I recommend both.

Howards End and Sanditon air on PBS on Sundays nights at 8:00 and 9:00 respectively.

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