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Review: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is a movie for the legions of loyal fans of the “Downton Abbey” television series, and I am quite confident they will be most pleased with this highly-anticipated opportunity to revisit the estate and all its inhabitants, from the aristocratic Crawley family upstairs, to the devoted servants down below.

What? You’ve never seen the show and don’t know a Crawley from a crawfish? Oh dahling, I’m afraid you must move on. Or binge watch the six seasons that ran on PBS from 2010 to 2015. Or, at the very least, watch this 10-minute recap on YouTube, followed by the extended series finale, available on Amazon Prime. That’s what I did. Sure, it’s a bit like sneaking into a marathon a mile or two from the finish line. But without that baseline of knowledge about the characters and their backstories, I would have felt completely lost. I’m sure I still missed plenty of subtext, but at least I was able to appreciate the fine acting, witty dialogue, gorgeous costumes, early 20th Century set design, and the bucolic scenery.

Review: Mary Queen of Scots

2018 is the year filmmakers decided to school their audiences on the Queens of England. In the archly funny The Favourite, a couple of women battle to become Queen Anne’s confidante and proxy. On the flip side, Mary Queen of Scots, is an unfunny battle royale to be the sovereign of the whole of England and Scotland, with armies deployed and lots of palace intrigue. It stars two actresses at the top of their game. Saoirse Ronan plays Mary, and Margot Robbie is Elizabeth I. But sadly, while both of their performances are strong, it’s not enough to lift an otherwise poorly framed history lesson of a script.