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Flash Movie Review: Downton Abbey: A New Era

EVERYDAY ON MY ROUTE TO AND from the office, I pass a house that is up for sale. It has been nearly seven months now that the FOR-SALE sign has been out by the street curb. I do not know how big an acre of land is, but there is enough land around the structure where two more houses could easily be built on it. The land slopes up from the curb to the white painted house, giving off the look of a southern plantation home. With green painted shutters and a thick white pillar on either side of the front door with its brass door knocker, I do not understand why the house has not found a buyer; from my view, it looks like something used on a movie set. When I found the listing for it online, I went through all the photos of the interior, and I was stunned. The rooms were extremely small with just as small doorways. I could not imagine how furniture would fit through any of the doors. The kitchen was nasty looking, with ancient appliances, broken cabinet doors and old fixtures. Upstairs there were four bedrooms and each one was oddly shaped due to the pitch of the roof and the support beams. To look out the window of one of the rooms, one would have to stoop over to avoid hitting their head on the ceiling. This house was in desperate need of a big remodeling.      THIS ONE HOUSE HAS CHANGED MY perception of large, fancy homes; or as what I refer to them as, McMansions. The most beautiful homes with perfectly manicured lawns and the best curbside appeal may only be a façade. I am always looking at the homes listed in the real estate section of the newspapers and now wonder what might lie behind their walls. Firstly, I do not understand why someone needs a huge house unless they have a lot of family members living with them. Homes that are over 10,000 square feet with a multitude of bathrooms make no sense to me. Why would the occupants need so many rooms? Then there are the “super” mansions that are massive beyond anything that I would consider being practical. I sit and imagine what rooms get used in a day, week, or month; trying to list in my head every conceivable function that would require its own separate room. Even coming up with obscure hobbies or uses, I can see a maximum of needing maybe twelve rooms and that is including four bedrooms and a den. Keeping up maintenance would be a nightmare; I saw proof of it in this romantic drama.      ALLOWING A MOVIE STUDIO TO SET up in their home was more of a necessity for the Grantham family because they needed the funds for repairs. Also, the timing was perfect since they discovered the inheritance of a French villa. With Hugh Bonneville (Paddington franchise, Notting Hill) as Robert Grantham, Jim Carter (The Good Liar, Shakespeare in Love) as Mr. Carson, Michelle Dockery (Non-Stop, The Gentleman) as Lady Mary, Elizabeth McGovern (The Chaperone, The Wife) as Cora Grantham and Allen Leech (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Imitation Game) as Tom Branson; one need not see the first film to enjoy this sequel. I am not familiar with the television series, so the first thirty minutes were a struggle for me; however, I soon settled in to experience a time gone by with the members of this household. The idea for the story was a stretch; I would have been more curious if the writers had gone down the other path, they introduced into the story line regarding Hugh’s character. Either way, fans of the series will not be disappointed with this film. As for me, I wound up enjoying spending the time with the Grantham family, though I wondered what else in the house needed repair.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Downton Abbey

SOME FAMILIES LIVED IN APARTMENT BUILDINGS like mine did, while others lived in houses; but it did not mean anything to any of us. Everyone was treated the same. I never thought a family had to be rich to live in a house; though, I remember some of my friends thought this one kid was snobby because his family owned a local food company. I remember seeing one of their products at the grocery store and thinking how weird it must have been for that kid to see his last name on all the containers stacked across one of the grocery store’s shelves. Outside of that, I do not recall anyone using their family wealth to make people think they were better than anyone else. It was in school where I learned about socio-economic classes; that people were categorized as being upper, middle or lower class. The concept was odd to me because I could not understand why the amount of money a person had was important. I never considered someone being better because they were wealthier. They could have a lot of money but still be a horrible person; there would be no way I would ever think they were better than someone who barely could cover their rent, as an example.      IT WAS NOT UNTIL AFTER MY school years where I saw how people treat other people, they deem poorer. I was at a wedding where I saw the bride’s mother treating the staff poorly. She was talking down to them as she grilled them on what they “needed” to do for her. Up until that point I had not seen this side of the mother who had always appeared pleasant and giving. Now, I was seeing this aggressive woman telling the staff if they wanted to get paid, they needed to make such and such happened immediately; it was an ugly scene. Another time I was teaching at a health club where the cliental came from all types of backgrounds. There were working class folks, retirees, business owners; you get the picture. I am not one to stereotype a person; but out of these different backgrounds, I could tell which person considered themselves to be above other people. They always dressed up for exercise class, wearing the latest fashion trends in clothing, tons of jewelry along with wearing make-up and perfume. You would think they were going out for the night to a social event. I found the whole concept perplexing. However, in this comedic drama I understood it better because the times were different back then… or were they really?      EXCITEMENT FLOODED THROUGH DOWNTON ABBEY WHEN a letter was received, announcing the King and Queen would be coming for a visit. The family and staff would discover things they never knew before. With Michelle Dockery (Anna Karenina, Non-Stop) as Lady Mary Talbot, Matthew Goode (Stoker, Official Secrets) as Henry Talbot, Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game, Sense8-TV) as Lucy Smith, Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van, Quartet) as Violet Crawley and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, The Chaperone) as Cora Crawley; I first have to tell you I have not seen the television show that this film was based on. The movie was beautifully filmed and scored, with wonderful set designs and costumes. This made for a perfect period piece film. Now the fact I am not familiar with the characters, I felt I was at a disadvantage; I did not know the history of each character, so did not feel as connected as most of the audience did in the theater. Story wise the plot was easy and fun to follow. For me, it seemed as if there were such a variety of story lines that nothing felt fully developed to the point where I could make a connection. There definitely was a soap opera quality to this picture, where I could see why it made for a popular television series. I am glad I saw this movie but did feel I was more of a bystander than a guest at the party.

 

2 ¾ stars                                                        3 ½ stars – fans of the TV series

Flash Movie Review: The Wife

I DO NOT KNOW HOW IT happens, but I almost consider it a strange phenomenon that takes place between two people in a love relationship. Prior to forming their union, each of them was an independent adult with their own livelihood and own place to live. What takes place does not happen quickly but over time, where one of them takes on the identity of the other. In my experiences I have noticed more women doing it instead of men. I have been told that people in a long-term relationship start to look like each other, but I am not referring to this. What I have discovered is the wife or husband starts to lose the ability to have thoughts independent from their spouse. There is a woman I know who did this very exact thing. Prior to getting married she was not a prejudicial person or at least I thought not. She married a man who I knew had prejudices and in time she took on the same prejudices. Her speech changed where she started to quote her husband most of the time as a response to any conversation she was part of; it was the weirdest thing to me. It was as if her brain stopped functioning and she became a parrot, I am sad to say.      THERE IS THAT SAYING ABOUT “OPPOSITES attract” and there is some truth to it. Personally, I believe a thriving relationship needs both similarities and diversity. I simply do not understand how a person relinquishes the things that are part of their make-up and live in the shadow of their partner. Think about the cliché “Behind every man is a strong woman.” This is true, but I wish to add it can also be reversed where the strong one is the man. I know a couple where the wife is in the forefront while the husband takes care of things in the background. Since I have a strong personality I have always been most comfortable with someone who is similar. I will never forget this one relationship I had to end because they started to take on my likes/dislikes and preferences; let me tell you it was freaky. All I am saying is I find it odd when this phenomenon or maybe I should say personality trait takes place with one person in a relationship. If you want to see a fascinating example, then feel free to watch this film festival nominated drama.      HAVING SUPPORTED HER HUSBAND’S CAREER her whole life Joan Cattleman, played by Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Albert Nobbs), was on the verge of seeing his ultimate success, becoming a recipient of the Nobel Prize. The event would offer more than prize money to them. With Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Glengarry Glen Ross) as Joe Castleman, Christian Slater (True Romance, Mr. Robot-TV) as Nathaniel Bone, Max Irons (The Host, Woman in Gold) as David Castleman and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, Downton Abbey-TV) as Elaine Mozell; this movie’s strength was all due to the acting between Glenn and Jonathan. They were so good together that it made up for the porous script. I enjoyed the story but found some events taking place without much backstory. They were great for drama but almost seemed out of the blue. If it wasn’t for the acting I may have had a different experience watching this picture. Glenn had such penetrating screen presence there were times I felt I was feeling her smolder. Oh, and I will say I found the ending a bit too convenient. But despite my complaints I still stayed engaged all the way to the end of the story, even though I never had such an experience in my relationships.

 

3 stars     

Flash Movie Review: Unexpected

That story about the stork delivering new born babies was something I never believed to be true. Even before I was taught the facts of life, I thought the idea of birds flying over houses and dropping babies down was weird. There were other stories I heard that seemed more plausible; for example, when the baby is ready it will come out of the belly button or the one about the soon to be parents choosing the day they want to go to the doctor’s office to have their child extracted from the woman’s body just like one would get their tooth pulled. Once I understood the real way babies were born there still was nothing mentioned about possible pain or discomfort being experienced during the pregnancy. Everything told to me was kept on a sweet and rosy level. As I got older I started to become better aware about the reality of the birthing process. The biggest shock for me was discovering not every woman had a storybook pregnancy. I remember hearing about a woman who was confined to her bed for over half of her pregnancy due to her body wanting to reject the fetus. In fact the first time I became aware of the term stillborn was when a friend’s aunt had one. It was an awful time where she was depressed for several months. When you think about all the scary things that could go wrong with having a baby, the process of bringing a healthy child into the world is an amazing feat.    FINDING out they were both pregnant close to the same time; inner city high school teacher Samantha Abbott and her student Jasmine, played by Cobie Smulders (The Avengers franchise, How I Met Your Mother-TV) and Gail Bean (At Mamu’s Feet), formed a special bond as they started their journey through unfamiliar territory. This film festival nominated comedic drama had in my opinion a real and honest dialog about the fears and joys of having a baby. Though the script did not delve down very deep, the acting by Cobie and Gail was totally believable to me. Along with Anders Holm (The Interview, Neighbors) as John and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, Ordinary People) as Carolyn, I thoroughly enjoyed the cast and felt they really pushed this script to full advantage. Even though I thought there was a part of the story that could have used more exposure, I found myself experiencing a similar reaction to the one the characters were sharing in the scene. This was only another sign of how good the performance was from the actors. In a way one could say creating a movie shares some similarities to having a baby; the people behind this film should feel proud of what they created here.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

 

 

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