Downton Abbey ~ Malvern Cinemas

Star rating: *****

It’s been a long time coming and I admit when Downton Abbey closed its doors on Christmas Day 2015 I was dubious about a movie. Unsure if there was any need to continue and whether the season finale had finished the story adequately. I’ve been a fan of the television show since Downton Abbey first opened its doors so I was torn between one last hoorah and leaving it on a high.

As the years have rolled by with not so much as a sniff of a film on the horizon, have I considered what the Crawley family and their downstairs employees might have been getting up to in the meantime? Absolutely! Thanks to Julian Fellowes, the exceptionally talented writer of one of the nation’s favourite dramas, anyone who may have found themselves wondering about the much-loved characters need wonder no more!

The opening titles gave me goose bumps, there’s always been an element of grandeur when Highclere Castle makes its appearance, however on the big screen, it is magnified and then some. The theme tune lends itself to a movie soundtrack too. Indeed all the promise of a fine follow up were in place from the outset and I wasn’t left disappointed.

You’d have to live in a sack not to have an idea as to the main storyline, the trailers have been teasing us for a while. The King and Queen (Simon Jones and Geraldine James) are paying a visit to Downton Abbey for one night and the excitement and trepidation is palpable! Not least from Mr Molesley (Kevin Doyle) who is champing at the bit to get back into his livery and undoubtedly make a spectacle of himself in true Molesley fashion.

It’s all hands to the pumps as Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol) mithers loudly over the menu, raising the hopes of Mr Bakewell (Mark Addy) from whom she buys her supplies. Mr Barrow (Robert-James Collier) appears all too lackadaisical for Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) tastes, he clearly doesn’t measure up in comparison to her beloved Mr Carson (Jim Carter). Cue the reappearance of the retired butler and he couldn’t be more delighted to oblige Lady Mary’s request that he return to the helm. Life at the cottage seems to mostly revolve around trying to find things to occupy himself with while his wife, Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) continues in her role of Housekeeper. Their marriage is still going strong though and indeed the pairing up continues downstairs as Daisy (Sophie McShera) is engaged to Andy (Michael Fox) ~ and there’s a couple of scenes that show Andy’s jealous streak too! Mr Molesley and Miss Baxter persist in dancing around each other, there does appear to be progress although they are moving at an even more glacial place than Carson and Hughes did.

So, with Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) excited to play host to royalty, Lady Edith, now Lady Hexham (Laura Carmichael) and her husband Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) en route, all the action is centred around the visit and the impact it has on each individual character. Mr Branson (Allen Leach) is still very much a part of the Crawley family and proves himself to be the hero of the hour in more than one way too when the royals are ensconced at Downton.

One of the strongest storylines happens downstairs when the Downton staff are at war with the King’s staff. Carson certainly meets his match in Mr Wilson (David Haig) and it’s the battle of the chatelaine between Mrs Hughes and Mrs Webb (Richenda Carey). It all hots up when Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle) lead the revolution to claim back their rightful household roles and it’s quite a cunning plan.

Highlights of the movie include a whole host of one-liners delivered expertly by Penelope Wilton, Lesley Nicol, Phyllis Logan and of course Dame Maggie Smith. Plus, Imelda Staunton plays a new character, cousin of Lady Violet (Maggie Smith), Lady Bagshaw. Staunton fits in like a dream, it feels like she was always a part of the cast. The two-hander scene she shared with Penelope Wilton as Isobel was a performance de force from both actresses, a masterclass if ever there was one.

Most of my questions left open from the 2015 season finale are answered and my curiosity satisfied. However, where has Mr Mason got to? Did Mrs Patmore frighten him off? Why did Daisy accept Andy’s marriage proposal if she wasn’t sure at first? Where is Mr Carson’s hand tremor? Maybe these unanswered wonderings are enough to warrant a sequel to the movie?

The glorious locations used, extraordinary attention to detail from the costume department and the intricate yet simple script from Fellowes combined with faultless casting makes this movie one of the biggest hits of 2019, for me. You also can’t fail to be amazed at the uncanny resemblance Geraldine James pays to Queen Mary.

Go and see it, it will make you smile, laugh out loud, reminisce and cry: Downton Abbey Movie

W1A Series Three, Episode Three ~ Review

W1A, oh how I wish we could have a weekly dose of this, 52 weeks of the year! I’m already preparing myself to be missing it desperately when it finishes in a few episodes’ time!! This week’s instalment saw a disaster befall the team as the BBC Swing Band went on the attack. 

Will Humphries (HUGH SKINNER) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Jack Barnes

Ben & Jerry ~ It’s D day for Ben and Jerry, so they’re trying to out-do one another with additional dialogue and they’ve both looked at ways of streamlining the BBC services. With hilarious consequences ….and disastrous consequences, yes exactly yes!

BBC Orchestras ~ The BBC has six orchestras, Ben or Jerry, or Jerry or Ben have found that out during in-depth research(!) so the suggestion of amalgamation is raised. It’s also thrown out, however word gets around the BBC Swing Band is in line for the axe. How are they going to get around this one? I don’t wanna sound negative or anything but I have a bad feeling about this…

Sub-titles ~ The sub-title voice-recognition system is up the swanny (b*llocks!) and Neil is tearing his hair out. Baggy Smith (instead of Maggie Smith) being the final straw. It’s always going wrong in the news department and Neil is always apologising for something – and I admit to having a slightly warped liking of watching it all go wrong!

BBC Me ~ BBC Me is still in its pre-launch stage and Siobhan, together with her team at Fun are brainstorming ideas with fuzzy felt. Michael has a winning idea, get rid of the bikes and just film a selfie. Cue silent disco to S Club 7!

Ailing Anna ~ A bit of a cliff hanger to end on too, this week as Anna keels over in the taxi on the way back from a meeting with the charter renewal team. What will become of our favourite BBC ‘robot’? yes, exactly yes!

Credits

Role Contributor
Jack Patterson Jonathan Bailey
Barney Lumsden Alex Beckett
Ian Fletcher Hugh Bonneville
Faiza Rajah Priyanga Burford
Tracey Pritchard Monica Dolan
Jerry Guildencrantz Ivan Gonzalez
Siobhan Sharpe Jessica Hynes
David Wilkes Rufus Jones
Izzy Gould Ophelia Lovibond
Chloe Rose Matafeo
Ben Rosenstern Max Olesker
Anna Rampton Sarah Parish
Fiona Craig Pooky Quesnel
Zoe Emma Sidi
Will Humphries Hugh Skinner
Lucy Freeman Nina Sosanya
Simon Harwood Jason Watkins
Neil Reid David Westhead
Karl Marx Joel Fry
Adam Brady Laurence Howarth
Matt Taverner Daniel Ings
Ray Fredericks Jeffery Kissoon
Fiona Craig’s PA Emily Lloyd-Saini
Michael Chung Will Sharpe
Coco Lomax Sara Pascoe
Donna Fredericks Shauna Shim
Himself Lenny Henry
Himself Jeremy Paxman
Herself Louise Minchin
Himself Dan Walker
Narrator David Tennant
Producer Paul Schlesinger
Director John Morton
Writer John Morton
Executive Producer Jon Plowman

W1A ~ Series Three, Episode Two

Yes exactly yes! I’m not being negative or anything but… there is absolutely nothing to be negative about in this top class BBC comedy programme. There’s more bikes, more of David casually thieving ideas and more of Will looking blank – it’s W1A time…

Picture Shows: L-R Faiza Rajah (PRIYANGA BURFORD), Ryan Chelford (BEN BATT), Lucy Freeman (NINA SOSANYA) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Jack Barnes

Cycling Shorts ~ So Will (yeah, crap) had this idea – ok, cool, no worries, and Izzy has been driving it forward. Jack has interfered and made a pilot with unwitting Will’s help and as if that wasn’t hard enough for Izzy to get her head around, David Wilkes has had his paws on it yet again and shown Anna (yes exactly yes) the footage that Will has collated. It’s doomed!

Anna on a bike (yes exactly) ~ In what I see as a bid to get another step closer to Ian – Anna, the most unlikely cyclist has a folding bike! How long before every member of the BBC staff is traveling by bike? It’s definitely a strategic move from the has so little to say for herself, with hilarious consequences too.

How do you solve a problem like Ryan? ~ After his disastrous appearance on Match Of The Day, Ryan has been pulled back into the BBC to potentially join the line-up on Question Of Sport. It’s Lucy’s idea, Siobhan doesn’t even know it’s a programme, but Simon (and Tony I expect, after his mindfulness break) are buzzing with it. However, when the meeting happens and Ryan’s new agent appears (Siobhan!) there’s suddenly the suggestion of Top Gear 2 instead. Embraced by both Ryan and Siobhan as they take a selfie together!

Picture Shows: L-R at BBC NBH reception. Faiza Rajah, (PRIYANGA BURFORD), Lucy Freeman (NINA SOSANYA), Ryan Chelford (BEN BATT) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Jack Barnes

Zoe & Chloe ~ The Charter renewal is in progress and Fiona Craig is in the building in charge and flanked by Zoe and Chloe. Zoe and Chloe are like the female version of Ben and Jerry. Genius!

Lucy’s lament ~ Lucy is the token put upon member of the BBC team and it seems that leaving her role to take up a job in a Gardening Centre is still not entirely off her mind. Although Ian is wondering if she’ll apply for the new role – and we all know that Lucy’s likely to get lumbered with that job, even if she doesn’t want it. From Better to Empowerment? Or will she be pulled by the call of the compost?

Jack Patterson Jonathan Bailey
Ryan Chelford Ben Batt
Ian Fletcher Hugh Bonneville
Faiza Rajah Priyanga Burford
Tracey Pritchard Monica Dolan
Jerry Guildencrantz Ivan Gonzalez
Siobhan Sharpe Jessica Hynes
David Wilkes Rufus Jones
Izzy Gould Ophelia Lovibond
Chloe Rose Matafeo
Ben Rosenstern Max Olesker
Anna Rampton Sarah Parish
Fiona Craig Pooky Quesnel
Clive Cook Derek Riddell
Zoe Emma Sidi
Will Humphries Hugh Skinner
Lucy Freeman Nina Sosanya
Simon Harwood Jason Watkins
Neil Reid David Westhead
Narrator David Tennant
Producer Paul Schlesinger
Director John Morton
Writer John Morton
Executive Producer Jon Plowman

W1A ~ Series Three, Episode One

It’s back and I couldn’t be more excited! In the words of Anna Rampton (the amazing Sarah Parish) Yes, exactly yes. I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime for series three of what I perceive to be one of the most on point comedies that the BBC has to offer. Here are highlights of what will now be my favourite thirty minutes every Monday night… joyous! And might I add, very good, very strong….!

1. Bike envy ~ Opening on the usual folding bikers is the traditional start that I anticipate just for the sheer hilarity of the exchange between Simon (Jason Watkins) and Ian (Hugh Bonneville). Simon has usually got a better bike than Ian and communicates his superiority with a simple raise of the eyebrows or twinkle in his eye. This time, Will (Hugh Skinner) has joined his bosses and also has a bike, after visibly showing his adoration for Ian’s bike in previous episodes.

2. Guildencrantz & Rosenstern ~ This pair are always a highlight around the table in the meetings where nothing is really achieved! In fact, this time around they are both becoming increasingly like their leader and idol, Simon. The random “hurrahs” were too funny! Kudos to Ivan Gonzalez and Max Olesker who play the dopey pair, there are many many employees out there who are just like these two.

3. On Yer Bike ~ Will has had a brainwave that the object of affections, Izzy (Ophelia Lovibond) has driven forward. In the usual haphazard and sly fashion, the idea has been pinched – by David Wilkes (Rufus Jones), pitched to Matt (Daniel Ings) and changed beyond all recognition. Even Jack (Jonathan Bailey) has had a hand in it. Poor Will looks crestfallen when Jack rocks up to the meeting, he sees him as a love rival for Izzy so his presence completely bursts Will’s bubble. The scary thing about the meeting, here is that I have personally been in meetings like this in past jobs!

4. Love Triangle ~ Series two ended on a love triangle between Ian, Anna and Lucy (Nina Sosanya) and it’s continued into series three. When Lucy is selected to go to the studios in Manchester and Ian is bidden to go with her, Anna soon volunteers for the excursion, too! I’m so looking forward to watching this ‘rivalry’ play out. Ian, is of course as confused as ever.

5. Fun ~ Siobhan (Jessica Hynes) is back and she’s joint CEO of a company called Fun. She’s still chucking around the word “sure” when she’s not really listening and doesn’t really fit in to the equation, not even in a company who throw a silent disco every time there’s a good idea. She’s causing endless confusion when pitching to the BBC team, as usual – especially when trying to convince them about BBC Me, which is not an innovation from her own team members. I think she hits a new high… or low when she calls Bipolar a ‘thing’. What would W1A be without her, though?

Spotlight On… Helen McWilliams

Here’s your opportunity to get to know me 🙂

*** Spotlight On… Helen McWilliams ***

11009063_416514201859191_242444928_n

Why did you start ‘Break A Leg Review’?

I was contributing as a reviewer and interviewer to another online review site, I told one of my favourite actresses (during an interview) that I was considering setting up my own site, and she was very encouraging about it. I had been building up a network of contacts around the  West Midlands and wanted to continue to do that for ourselves, with Garry (my husband) in tow. Garry takes a backseat these days as his own career is taking a few exciting turns. I owe thanks to Tracey Childs who was the actress encouraging me to ‘go it alone’!

What piqued your interest in becoming a writer?

I was always interested in writing stories when I was a child. However entertainment journalism became a career goal due to the vast amount of theatre shows that my parents took me to see from a young age, coupled with the fact I was a little telly addict  (and still am), I was hugely inspired by many actors and actresses and the idea of being able to promote them via articles and interviews was appealing.

Who inspired you in your youth when you were first thinking about this career?

Judy Buxton, Tracey Childs, Felicity Dean, Sandra Huggett, Liz Robertson, Carol Royle and Cath Shipton were my real heroes when I was in my youth and all of them remain  my heroes. They’re my magnificent seven!

I was and still am hugely inspired by Robert Daws, Sylvester McCoy, Jeffrey Holland and Derek Thompson.

What is your ambition for the site?

My ambition for this year (2015) was to include interviews with authors as well as actors and other industry-related individuals. The new ‘Spotlight On…’ page has drawn in a few more excellent interviewees from many walks of the arts. Our links with London theatres have opened up this year and I hope to expand on that, which is a huge ambition for the site. I wanted to interview as many of my personal heroes as possible, as well. That is happening and overwhelming me, constantly!

What are you writing in your fictional ‘career’ at the moment?

I’m so busy with this site and working for ‘Union Times’, ‘Theatre and Performance Magazine’, I have let the fictional work take  a lower priority, for now…

What is your advice for budding writers?

Write about what you know, network with other writers and have your work read aloud to see if it works. It should always be an enjoyable experience, not a chore – and try your hand at a number of genres, you might surprise yourself!

Favourite Things (quick-fire questions):

Favourite Actor?

Oh, I love so many actors – I’m going to have to say Jeffrey Holland AND Robert Daws. Both appeared in hit television shows which were a big part of my youth. They’ve both gone on to great things, too!

Favourite Actress?

Nooooo, don’t ask me! Ok, Carol Royle AND Judy Buxton – I’ve loved them both since I was a little girl, seen them on television and in Judy’s case, I’ve seen her on stage many times. (I have a short list of ten favourite actresses, so this was hard!!!).

Favourite Television Programme?

Home Fires

Favourite Play?

This changes so often, this year (2015) my favourite play has been ‘Harvey’.

Favourite Musical?

Rocky Horror Show and Phantom of the Opera. I am hopeless at choosing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: