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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: Tea With the Dames

The Dames in question are Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins, four of England best actresses and life-long friends who meet up regularly at Plowright’s country home. This time director Roger Mitchell (Notting Hill) has brought a film crew and prods the ladies to tell their tales of the theater and the cinema. Chock a block with archival footage that takes us through their illustrious careers and lives, the documentary takes each Dame from childhood to old age with gossip and silly tales from beginning to end.

Quartet

“Ah, Bach!” If you’re a fan of M*A*S*H, you’ll get the reference. Hawkeye advises classical-music neophyte Radar to use the phrase as a catch-all to impress a nurse. Still cracks me up. That said, here we go:

“Ah, Verdi!” If that means anything to you at all, then it’s quite possible you’ll like Quartet. For what it’s worth, my mother was lukewarm about it; Arty Chick’s mother loved it. Both know their stuff when it comes to classical music. The film is about a home for retired musicians who put on an annual concert/fundraiser to celebrate the birthday of Italian composer Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi. Think The Golden Girls meets The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, only never quite as fun or funny, despite excellent performances by a bevy of British royalty of stage and screen.