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

Playmobil: The Movie ~ Malvern Cinemas

Star rating: ****

First Lego, now Playmobil, the toy-based movies are a popular go-to for little kids and big kids alike. Playmobil rather innovatively differs from Lego in that the central characters become Playmobil figures. Plus, interestingly there’s a musical side to this movie with characters singing their way through scenes. It sounds like a bizarre combination but it works!

The story follows a bitter sweet path with the introduction of sister and brother; Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) who love to make up stories with their Playmobil and long for adventures. News of their parents’ untimely deaths in a car accident soon puts pay to fun and games. Four years later, Marla has a job and Charlie longs for their fun-loving old days before tragedy struck. He’s planning to run away, however he’s easily tracked by his worried sister, she traces him at a Playmobil exhibition in a toy museum and it’s here that their lives are spiced up!

Marla and Charlie find themselves transported via a lighthouse in the exhibition and they become Playmobil figures. Charlie takes on the body of the Viking figure he carries around and the pair find themselves in the middle of a battle. When Charlie goes missing, Marla is on a mission to save her young brother and meets all sorts of crazy characters along the way.

I like the interaction between numerous characters of all kinds, from romans to vikings to robots as this follows the whimsical imagination and creativity of child’s play. The comedy for adults and digs at a variety of movie franchises don’t go amiss either.

Rex Dasher is easily mine and my son’s favourite character, voiced by Daniel Radcliffe he’s a suave ‘un’sophisticated James Bond figure. He thinks Marla loves him, although nobody could love him more than he loves himself. Del is also a superb character, voiced by Jim Gaffigan, he’s a food truck driving wheeler dealer and unlikely hero. Meghan Trainor voices the Fairy Godmother and adds her cool vocal ability to the mix which is a highlight for definite.

It’s a treat for kids and adults alike, I was just slightly confused by the long build up to the introduction of actual Playmobil and my son asked me if we were watching the Playmobil movie yet! I can confirm that we were and we loved it.

Visit Malvern Cinemas to see this movie and many others: Malvern Cinemas

Toy Story 4 ~ Malvern Cinemas

Star rating: *****

In my humble opinion this is one of the best Toy Story movies in the franchise – and I love the first three so I’m sticking my neck out here! There are so many new characters that entertained me combined with the originals and of course a number of them who joined the cast in the third film. My little boy loves Forky, and his antics are the making of this story.

We catch up with the gang when Bonnie is getting ready to go to kindergarten and Woody is no longer in favour, he’s been relegated to the closet. However, regardless of Bonnie’s disinterest, he’s hell-bent on making her kindergarten orientation day go without a hitch. It’s here we meet Forky – he thinks he’s trash and Woody is making it his mission to keep Forky out of the bin and in Bonnie’s clutches as her toy.

The other main storyline follows a previously unknown backstory which clears up the mysterious disappearance of Bo Peep from the third film. When Woody happens upon the antiques store which has been her home, there’s danger, adventure, chaos and a lot of laughs along the way. We meet Bunny and Ducky, carnival game prizes waiting for a kid to take them home, Gabby Gabby – a rather tapped doll who’s really just trying to find a kid to form a bond with and Duke Caboom, he was rejected by a kid and now he’s stuck in the antiques store, posing!

It’s a race against time for Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep and co. to rescue Forky from the clutches of Gabby Gabby and her creepy ventriloquist dummy accomplices. Considering it’s an animation I find myself getting emotionally invested in the characters and the story, I definitely shed a tear or two along the way.

Tom Hanks is back as Woody with Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, Joan Cusack as Jessie and Annie Potts as Bo Peep. Tony Hale plays Forky, he gets funnier as the movie progresses, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are a hilarious double act as Ducky and Bunny, while Keanu Reeves is superb as Duke Caboom. Buttercup the Unicorn (Jeff Garlin) deserves a mention too for constantly suggesting that they try and get Bonnie’s dad arrested.

I want a fifth film please – I haven’t finished with the toys yet!

Malvern Cinemas is one of our favourite cinemas, if you want to experience it too: www.malvern-theatres.co.uk

Dumbo ~ Malvern Cinemas

Star rating: *****

Dumbo is a classic Disney movie and as a self-confessed Disney-a-holic I’d put the original animated version somewhere in my top ten films of all time. A live action incarnation with a Tim Burton spin sounded appealing and alarming all at once, however it was a joy from beginning to end. Probably not entirely suited to our five year old as he found some of the darker edged scenes to be somewhat disconcerting, however this did not spoil his overall enjoyment and when Dumbo flew, our boy was beside himself.

Dumbo himself and indeed all of the animals were fascinating to watch, such attention to detail added to the exceptional realism and Dumbo’s mother in particular was quite something to behold.

The story stays fairly faithful to the original, there isn’t much of a place for Timothy Mouse in this version although he’s definitely featured, just not as Dumbo’s friend. His friends come in the form of the Farrier family, bereaved following the death of their mother and newly reunited with their father, Holt (Colin Farrell) who has returned from war with an arm missing – Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) are the pals the young elephant with over-sized ears comes to rely upon. The poor young chap has gone from being a laughing stock when he was new born to the sad departure of his mother following her rampage to protect her son. Max Medici (Danny DeVito), owner of the Circus Dumbo belongs to is capitalising on the discovery that Dumbo’s ears can be used as wings. However, with the fame of his top billing act comes a villain set to take the act for himself under false pretences. Enter V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) with his arm-candy, trapeze star Colette Marchant (Eva Green).

With the Farrier children intent upon using money earned from Dumbo’s act in the Coney Island circus to buy back his mother, the truth about Candevere’s intentions catalyses a chain of events which may or may not lead to a happy ending for the much loved elephant and his keepers.

The story from the animation has been expanded upon and has a sinister air on occasion, however that is to be expected with a Tim Burton production – it’s not going to be happy ever after without a number of twists, turns and evil plots along the way. DeVito, Keaton, Farrell and Green shine in the lead roles and the children are superb.

Go and see the elephant fly for yourselves, it’s a heart-warming tale of love, ultimately and I bet you’ll not be able to help yourselves falling in love with delightful little Dumbo! Book your tickets to see the film at Malvern Cinemas, here: www.malvern-theatres.co.uk

Lady Bird ~ Malvern Cinemas

Star rating: *****

The notably Academy Award and BAFTA nominated movie offered such a fantastic and intriguing trailer that I could barely contain my excitement at finally sitting down to watch it. It didn’t disappoint, in fact the only bafflement is why it failed to collect the awards is was up for, perhaps in a different place and time it would sweep the board.

Seventeen year old Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) has given herself the name Lady Bird and she’s keen to ensure that her chosen given name appears on all relevant lists and documentation. The plot examines the typical relationship between teenage daughter and over-protective, over-worked and opinionated mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). There are a myriad of exceptionally moving and highly observational moments between the pair, from the opening scenes where Lady Bird throws herself out of their moving car whilst attempting to make a stand, to a shopping trip to search for a dress.

An extraordinary Mother/Daughter Relationship (credit: Vue Cinema)

Ronan and Metcalf’s on-screen relationship is extraordinary and one of the most believable fictional mother/daughter pairings I’ve seen. Lady Bird’s father, Larry (Tracy Letts) appears easier going than her mother, on the surface at least – she’s coercing him into helping her to apply for colleges in New York and they’re keeping the secret from Marion. The fact that it is later revealed that Larry has been battling with depression for many years comes as an interesting plot twist, not least because Marion works in a Psychiatric Unit. It’s also refreshing to see depression in men explored. Larry’s lost his job, meanwhile the son (Miguel – played by Jordan Rodrigues) that he and Marion adopted before they miraculously ‘made’ Lady Bird, is also in need of a better job than at the supermarket checkout. This makes for an awkward yet heart-warming moment later in the film when father and son go for the same job.

Outside of the family circle we meet Lady Bird’s best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein) – she’s a bit half-soaked and mooning after the Maths teacher, whilst simultaneously more fragile than her friend would believe. The girl who everyone wants to be friends with (including Lady Bird when the occasion concerns a ‘boy’) is Jenna (Odeya Rush). Julie and Jenna are polar opposites which makes for a fascinating insight into Lady Bird’s life choices when it comes to the friends in her world. First boyfriend, Danny (Lucas Hedges) isn’t as straight forward as he seems and the next one in line, Kyle (Timothee Chalamet) likes to be ironic, although he is actually quite a slippery character full of his own self importance.

Kyle is a complex character (Photo Credit: Vue Cinema)

The subtleties of the story are definitely a few of the films many strengths, the audience are left to make their own assumption about Miguel’s place in the family – his racial orientation making it fairly obvious that he might not be biologically related. So many issues are dealt with in quick succession, too – from homosexuality, to school girl crushes to virginity and there’s a marathon of untruths running alongside. It’s a study of life at it’s most chaotic, most ugly and most beautiful. Lady Bird’s college plans are the tip of the iceberg in a rough sea of torment, revelation and realisation.

With a cast who guide the audience seamlessly through the mire, each of whom embrace their characters as if they were offering a window into real lives – this is a movie not to be missed and one that I’ll be watching again and again. It certainly gets my award for Best Picture.

 

Despicable Me 3 ~ Malvern Theatres

You can book to see Despicable Me 3 at Malvern Theatres Cinema, here: Malvern Theatres Cinema

The Despicable Me franchise has plenty of mileage left in it yet and the third follow-up film goes to prove that and more. Of course there was also the prequel, Minions, which our three year old loves – so we decided to make Despicable Me 3 his first trip to the cinema. It was a hit!

The old faithful minions are back of course, what would Despicable Me be without them? They’re getting rather tired of their boss, Gru, as he has turned to the light side since meeting and marrying Lucy. In fact he’s the devoted father and husband now and his little yellow friends are not on board with it. Their journey to find a new life of villainy leads them to one of the highlights of the film (in my humble opinion, anyway!) where they land in an X Factor-style situation and sing a rousing rendition of Modern Major General. Hilarious!

Gru and Lucy having been sacked from their ‘respectable’ jobs, the main storyline revolves around Gru’s discovery that he has a twin brother, Dru and that his father did not pass away years ago, but more recently. The boys are reunited with laugh a minute consequences, while Lucy is trying to get to grips with motherhood and Agnes is still obsessed with unicorns. The new villain for this story is Balthazar Bratt, a deluded eighties throwback who bears a grudge because he television show from way back when got cancelled. He’s a bonkers mixture of mullet and bubble gum!

I’ve always thought that the Despicable Me films worked on more than just a kids level, this sequel has proved that point and I feel that more of these films wouldn’t go amiss. At just short of 1 hour 30 minutes long, it’s the perfect length of time to hold a toddler’s attention if you want to attempt a cinema excursion with your young breed! The ending certainly left it open for more sequels too and who else wouldn’t mind seeing Gru venture back towards villainy? Hands up!

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