Film Review – DOWNTON ABBEY (2019)

Image result for downton abbey 2019DOWNTON ABBEY (UK, 2019) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK), Focus Features (USA); Production Company: Carnival Film & Television / Focus Features / Perfect World Pictures; Release Date: 13 September 2019 (UK), 20 September 2019 (USA); Filming Dates: began 10 September 2018; Running Time: 122m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild threat, language.
      Director: Michael Engler; Writer: Julian Fellowes (based on characters created by Julian Fellowes); Executive Producer: Nigel Marchant, Brian Percival; Producer: Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge; Director of Photography: Ben Smithard; Music Composer: John Lunn; Film Editor: Mark Day; Casting Director: Jill Trevellick; Production Designer: Donal Woods; Art Director: Mark Kebby; Set Decorator: Gina Cromwell; Costumes: Anna Robbins; Make-up: Elaine Browne; Sound: David Lascelles.
      Cast: Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Talbot), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley), Tuppence Middleton (Lucy Smith), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley), Imelda Staunton (Maud Bagshaw), Stephen Campbell Moore (Captain Chetwode), Geraldine James (Queen Mary), Allen Leech (Tom Branson), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason), Mark Addy (Mr. Bakewell), Kate Phillips (Princess Mary), Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes), Raquel Cassidy (Miss Baxter), Susan Lynch (Miss Lawton), Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow), Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), Penelope Wilton (Isobel Merton), Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates), Max Brown (Richard Ellis), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore), David Haig (Mr Wilson), Kevin Doyle (Mr. Molesley), Perry Fitzpatrick (Chris Webster), Harry Hadden-Paton (Bertie Hexham), Simon Jones (King George V), Michael Fox (Andy Parker), Philippe Spall (Monsieur Courbet), James Cartwright (Tony Sellick), Douglas Reith (Lord Merton).
      Synopsis: An aristocratic family and their staff have to prepare for an unexpected visit from the King and Queen.
      Comment: Fans of the TV series, which ran for six seasons, will no doubt love this big-screen adaptation. Casual viewers may get lost in the abundance of characters, well played by the ensemble cast, and their carry over backstories. The story itself is slight, based around the tensions caused by the Royal visit to the household. There are nods at the Irish hatred toward the crown and the underground gay movement, but these are not fully explored. Instead, the writer and director focus on the inter-relationships between the main characters. Sumptuously designed, it’s all very civilised and often witty, but the lack of substance means this will only really have any lasting legacy with its sizeable fan base.

TV Review – CRACKER: TO SAY I LOVE YOU (1993)

Image result for cracker to say i love youCRACKER: TO SAY I LOVE YOU (TV) (UK, 1993) ****
      Distributor: ITV – Independent Television; Production Company: A&E Television Networks / Granada Television; Release Date: 11, 18 & 25 October 1993; Running Time: 153m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Andy Wilson; Writer: Jimmy McGovern; Executive Producer: Sally Head; Producer: Gub Neal; Director of Photography: Ivan Strasburg; Music Composer: Roger Jackson; Film Editor: Oral Norrie Ottey; Casting Director: Gail Stevens; Production Designer: Chris Wilkinson; Art Director: Deborah Morley; Costumes: Janty Yates; Make-up: Helen King; Sound: Phil Smith.
      Cast: Robbie Coltrane (Fitz), Barbara Flynn (Judith Fitzgerald), Christopher Eccleston (D.C.I. Bilborough), Geraldine Somerville (D.S. Penhaligon), Lorcan Cranitch (D.S. Beck), Susan Lynch (Tina Brien), Andrew Tiernan (Sean Kerrigan), Beryl Reid (Fitz’s mother), David Haig (Graham), Susan Vidler (Sammy), Tim Barlow (Judith’s father).Kieran O’Brien (Mark Fitzgerald), Ian Mercer (D.C. Giggs), Patti Love (Mrs Brien), Keith Ladd (Mr Brien), Tess Thomson (Katie Fitzgerald).
      Synopsis: Sean Kerrigan and Tina Brien, two of society’s rejects, are drawn together and will do anything to stay together forever, even murder. Fitz is drawn into the conflict when he begins to uncover the murder of Tina’s loan shark.
      Comment: Second story in the first season of Cracker is a dark and violent take on film noir and Bonnie & Clyde. It is another absorbing story with a superb Jimmy McGovern script and fantastic performances from the cast. Of specific note are Lynch and Tiernan as the unlikely criminal pairing. The set pieces are directed with a strong sense of authenticity by Wilson and Coltrane brings his flawed and intelligent character to life with a central performance that dominates whenever he is on screen and is laced with caustic humour. The production only slows in its final protracted act before it picks up again for its explosive finale.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE GHOST MONUMENT (2018)

Doctor Who: The Ghost Monument (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 48m) ***½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Mark Tonderai; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Susan Lynch, Shaun Dooley, Art Malik.  Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo? A perfunctory story is enhanced by excellent production values, visual effects and effective use of South African locations to create an alien environment. Whittaker continues to grow into the role of the Doctor, but her excessive crew of three companions leaves little room for individual character development and a vying for screen time. Malik is wasted in a mysterious role, whilst Lynch and Dooley do their best to bring life and motivation to their competitive characters. Whilst the storyline is refreshingly simple, it is also lacking in any real sense of peril – as the night threat is all too easily dispatched. There is promise here that the series can develop, but it will need to find space to allow its ensemble cast to breathe and develop in a format seemingly restricted to standalone episodes and a lack of two-parters, which would allow the stories and characters the requisite room. [PG]