Tag Archives: Allan Leech

REVIEW: “DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (2022) Focus Features

“Why would anyone want the actors to talk I would have thought silence would be a blessing.” Dowager Countess of Grantham

There is one thing you can always count on when visiting Downton Abbey – it’s a busy place. People hustling and bustling around, from the Crawley family themselves, to all the downstairs employees who are a family unto their own.

But as all things do – time goes on and things change. Hence we find ourselves with “DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA” and boy what an era this turns out to be for all at Downtown. So much is changing in the world and this new Downtown Era transfers beautifully to the film screen, mostly because it has a new vision and a new director in Michael Engler. The original cast whom we’ve all come to know and love is mostly back with Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), as always leading the way and as is tradition, she gets most of the best lines. The Granthams’ Robert (Hugh Bonneville), and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), as well as daughters Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), and sister Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), are back as well with their families, though notably missing is Henry Talbot whose is away racing cars. This doesn’t bode well with Mary as she feels this takes precedence in his life and this might lead to a ‘wandering eye’ here or there. Though front and center is Tom (Allan Leech), who opens the film with his marriage being celebrated by all to Lucy (Tuppence Middleton).

The family and titles might be a bit hard to keep up with, but fans of the series have no problems remembering them all, For new fans, this film really has done a superb job in opening up the plot and the setting in this film in a truly new era.

The are two revolving plot lines in a New Era, one brings us the future, but the other brings us to the past. More specifically, the Dowager Countess’ past. But as half the household vacates Downton leaving Lady Mary behind to manage things at home. The rest of the family including Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), vacate to a beautiful seaside villa in the South of France that Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham has mysteriously inherited from a Count that she met many many years ago. The Villa and the scenery surrounding the mystery is of course beautiful, but it also opens up the story to some very emotional family disclosures, and I will leave it there as the Countess herself notes: “I will say goodnight… and leave you to discuss my mysterious past.” And to tell you more would spoil it all.

On our other story set within the film, we watch as Downton Abbey moves to 1929 and with it, brings in not just the jazz age, but the movies itself within its doors. Movie lovers will remember that 1929, also heralded the end of the Silent movie era and talkies were taking over and the movie industry itself was being revolutionized with this. They manage to fit a lot in here with this theme as Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy), comes to town as a director wanting to make a movie using Downton as his location, also something that is changing – shooting from the backlots of studios to actual location shoots. Since Downton has fallen into some disrepair, the large location fee is most welcome – as is some of the movies cast, bringing in two famous silent films stars Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock), much to the enthrallment of Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Anna (Joanna Froggat).

The music score in this movie by John Lunn with the Downton theme that is so familiar to it’s audience, is effective in this movie and perfectly suits the family dynamics emotional side. As well, the wonderful soundtrack additions of the Jazz Age and songs of the era to round it all out. This film manages to have strong female characters and not only that but it’s also the perfect example on how to include gay characters without it feeling forced. Add in a certain amount of hi-jinx all around, and you’ve got yourself the follow-up movie we all needed.

The two stories are quite beautifully woven together and with so much of the original cast present, along with some wonderful new additions- this one works well in updating the story if this family we never seem to tire of.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Friday, May 13, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA” FROM FOCUS FEATURES IS NOW IN THEATERS

REVIEW: “BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY” (2018) 20th Century Fox

‘Is this the real life?’ ‘Is this just fantasy?’ This is a big question to answer but I do know there is ‘no escape from reality!!’ – And I also know it’s taken me almost two weeks to write about this – even though I feel like I’ve been non-stop talking about it to others online and everywhere of how much I loved it. Even though it’s been a bit, I wanted to wait to release date here in the US to put the review out there. It’s clear at this point many do not, and each person definitely gets their own opinion. Haters are gonna hate and nitpick to find something wrong with anything. And because of the much publicized problems in the making of this movie, I think many are walking into it with the mindset of wanting to dissect it and hate it. But as Freddy would say – on with the show and here, for better or worse, is my two cents view/review!

Freddie Mercury is undeniably a legendary rock god of song. With his 4-octave voice and operatic performances, the artist made Queen, one of the most prodigious rock bands in the history of music. Not to mention Brian May’s riffs. The cinema world has been slow to to recognize this fact, and for me, remiss to tell the remarkable story of the oft blend of music they produced. A story of the band..and the person.. as a more beautiful or tragic tale of Mercury’s life has really never been told except in documentary style. Finally, we get Bohemian Rhapsody– where Rami Malek has the heavy task of playing this legendary and somewhat controversial singer.

There are those who view this a simply frustratingly superficial biopic of the rock-band Queen, one that glosses over the more complex and decadent aspects of lead singer Freddie Mercury’s life. Then there are others who embrace what the makers clearly intended it to be – a warm-hearted crowd-pleaser that revels in the band as a creative force, with emphasis on its charismatic frontman. I’m in the latter portion of this group. I went to a media screening almost two weeks ago and – while acknowledging some of its detractors’ points – I had an undeniably great time along with a whole theatre of people who laughed, cried, got chills and were ROCKED to the soles of our feet.

Plot-wise the film is standard, charting Queen’s stellar ascent, while providing a degree of insight into the lead singer’s turbulent live, both personal and with his band. It kicks off around the time the young Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddie Mercury who is living with his immigrant Parsi family in Middlesex at the time, meets lead guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and in the most cheeky of ways, invites himself into their band ‘Smile’. The evolution of Smile into “Queen” and Farrokh into magnetic stage performer Freddie is charted ever so swiftly in the first part of the film, as is the vocalist’s relationship with girlfriend Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) – the woman who would end up being his closest lifelong friend. But there are tensions too. Mercury’s conflict regarding his sexuality throws his personal life into turmoil, while excess and ego put him at odds with his bandmates and record company.

But make no mistake as to what the film is. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a big, brash entertainment that hits all the highlights of Queen’s career – from the creation of the movie’s title song to the band’s triumphant Live Aid performance in 1985. With Dexter Fletcher having replaced Bryan Singer as director partway through the shoot, it still manages to be a slick and seamless piece of film making, at its most thrilling during the dynamic on-stage sequences. There’s an easy and often funny sense of camaraderie between the Queen members, although the others are really only sketched – May for all his iconic guitar sound is the calm voice of reason, Taylor gets the womanizer label and bassist John Deacon the quiet endearing one. Meanwhile the band’s lawyer Jim ‘Miami’ Beach (Tom Hollander) a sort of ‘5th member’ adds some scene-stealing deadpan humour that breaks up the some of the more tense moments giving you a chance to have a laugh also.

I’ve always believed the true essence of success of any band and/or great artist isn’t always the multi platinum albums or the record deals or the fame, but it’s quite possibly that moment when a crowd of a hundred thousand people sing back your song in unison which must be totally euphoric and empowering feeling to have. Watching that, as I did during the Live Aid concert gave me chills and fill with glowing warmth to the point that I will never see it the same view again.

But this show belongs without argument to Rami Malek as Mercury. Malek physically and vocally transforms himself into the singer. When he struts about the stage wielding his mike-stand and hyping up the crowd, it feels less an impersonation and more a channeling of the actual Freddie – intoxicating and joyous like the real deal. He convinces as the character elsewhere too. His wrangles with his band-mates nicely convey the clash between middle-class student rockers and this flamboyant working-class immigrant. And the scenes with Mary are heartfelt and at times painfully sad. If the script only hints at Mercury’s isolation and at his fear once HIV becomes a part of his life, Malek’s performance does much to convey the rest. All the supporting cast do so well. Gwilym Lee as Brian May, made me feel at times while watching that he was May – that is how astoundingly much he looked the part. Mazello and Hardy as Deacon & Taylor – were simply icing on the cake of how much they came across as this legendary band.

The production’s pursuit of a ‘friendly rating’ admittedly also means that much of Freddie’s crazy lifestyle is only alluded to, and that’s fine. And while the film does convey the tragedy of his illness and early passing, it does forego much of his most probable in-depth AIDS battle in favour of a victorious concert ending. But I get it, it’s not a film about that or that he broke my heart by not informing us till two days before his passing. Bohemian Rhapsody never pretends to be anything more than a celebration of the man and the band – a music-heavy reminder of what a potent and quite ingenious combination they were, whatever the personal conflicts of their lead singer. I have a few wonderful stories of my own of Freddie & Queen and this brought everyone of those fantastic memories back for me.

And while I am aware that this wasn’t the ‘digging deep’ movie that some might have wanted – and honestly if you want every moment in there, this film would be 5 hours long, but instead it swept right along pacing each moment with something you needed to know.. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it gave me chills and most of all – it made me miss Fred and it damn well rocked me.

Grade: A-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, October 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
BOEHMIAN RHAPSODY IS NOW PLAYING WORLDWIDE – SEE THIS MOVIE