Film Review – DOWNTON ABBEY (2019)

Image result for downton abbey 2019DOWNTON ABBEY (UK, 2019) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK), Focus Features (USA); Production Company: Carnival Film & Television / Focus Features / Perfect World Pictures; Release Date: 13 September 2019 (UK), 20 September 2019 (USA); Filming Dates: began 10 September 2018; Running Time: 122m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild threat, language.
      Director: Michael Engler; Writer: Julian Fellowes (based on characters created by Julian Fellowes); Executive Producer: Nigel Marchant, Brian Percival; Producer: Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge; Director of Photography: Ben Smithard; Music Composer: John Lunn; Film Editor: Mark Day; Casting Director: Jill Trevellick; Production Designer: Donal Woods; Art Director: Mark Kebby; Set Decorator: Gina Cromwell; Costumes: Anna Robbins; Make-up: Elaine Browne; Sound: David Lascelles.
      Cast: Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Talbot), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley), Tuppence Middleton (Lucy Smith), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley), Imelda Staunton (Maud Bagshaw), Stephen Campbell Moore (Captain Chetwode), Geraldine James (Queen Mary), Allen Leech (Tom Branson), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason), Mark Addy (Mr. Bakewell), Kate Phillips (Princess Mary), Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes), Raquel Cassidy (Miss Baxter), Susan Lynch (Miss Lawton), Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow), Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), Penelope Wilton (Isobel Merton), Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates), Max Brown (Richard Ellis), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore), David Haig (Mr Wilson), Kevin Doyle (Mr. Molesley), Perry Fitzpatrick (Chris Webster), Harry Hadden-Paton (Bertie Hexham), Simon Jones (King George V), Michael Fox (Andy Parker), Philippe Spall (Monsieur Courbet), James Cartwright (Tony Sellick), Douglas Reith (Lord Merton).
      Synopsis: An aristocratic family and their staff have to prepare for an unexpected visit from the King and Queen.
      Comment: Fans of the TV series, which ran for six seasons, will no doubt love this big-screen adaptation. Casual viewers may get lost in the abundance of characters, well played by the ensemble cast, and their carry over backstories. The story itself is slight, based around the tensions caused by the Royal visit to the household. There are nods at the Irish hatred toward the crown and the underground gay movement, but these are not fully explored. Instead, the writer and director focus on the inter-relationships between the main characters. Sumptuously designed, it’s all very civilised and often witty, but the lack of substance means this will only really have any lasting legacy with its sizeable fan base.

Film Review – THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973)

Related imageTHE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE QUEEN’S DIAMONDS) (Spain/USA/Panama/UK, 1973) ****½
     Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Alexander, Michael and Ilya Salkind Productions  / Film Trust S.A. / Este Films; Release Date: 25 March 1974 (UK), 28 March 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: May-September 1973; Running Time: 105m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm (Eastman 100T 5254); Film Process: Panavision, Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U – Contains mild violence and innuendo.
     Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Ilya Salkind, Alexander Salkind (uncredited), Michael Salkind (uncredited), Pierre Spengler; Producer: Ilya Salkind; Associate Producer: Wolfdieter von Stein; Director of Photography: David Watkin; Music Composer: Michel Legrand; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Casting Director: Miriam Brickman (uncredited); Production Designer: Brian Eatwell; Art Director: Leslie Dilley, Fernando González; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cristóbal Criado, Charlene Roberson; Sound: Don Challis, Don Sharpe; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: .
     Cast: Oliver Reed (Athos), Raquel Welch (Constance de Bonacieux), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Michael York (D’Artagnan), Frank Finlay (Porthos / O’Reilly), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anna), Jean-Pierre Cassel (King Louis XIII), Spike Milligan (M. Bonacieux), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Georges Wilson (Treville), Simon Ward (Duke of Buckingham), Faye Dunaway (Milady), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Joss Ackland (D’Artagnan’s Father), Nicole Calfan (Kitty), Michael Gothard (Felton), Sybil Danning (Eugenie), Gitty Djamal (Beatrice), Ángel del Pozo (Jussac), Rodney Bewes (Spy), Ben Aris (1st Musketeer), William Hobbs (Assassin), Gretchen Franklin (D’Artagnan’s Mother), Francis De Wolff (Sea Captain).
     Synopsis: The young D’Artagnan (York) arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming a King’s Musketeer. He meets and quarrels with three men, Athos (Reed), Porthos (Finlay), and Aramis (Chamberlain), each of whom challenges him to a duel. D’Artagnan finds out they are Musketeers and is invited to join them in their efforts to oppose Cardinal Richelieu (Heston), who wishes to increase his already considerable power over King Louis XIII (Cassel). D’Artagnan must also juggle affairs with the charming Constance Bonacieux (Welch) and the passionate Lady De Winter (Dunaway), a secret agent for the Cardinal.
     Comment: A joie-de-vivre permeates every frame of Lester’s definitive adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure novel. This represents the first half of the story with the second following a year later. The result is a supremely entertaining swashbuckler filled with great sword fights, delicious humour, authentic production design and costumes. The whole cast enter into the spirit of the production with note-perfect performances, whilst Lester’s spirited direction and Watkin’s sumptuous cinematography make for a visual delight. York, Reed, Chamberlain and Finally are well cast as the Musketeers whilst Welch demonstrates a gift for comedy as York’s love interest. Heston is obviously enjoying himself as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and Dunaway shows promise of what she would go on to deliver in the follow-up.
     Notes: Lester shot the film in conjunction with its sequel, THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974). Originally intended as a single film, the split prompted a lawsuit from the cast demanding payment for both films.

Book Review – THE MUSKETEER’S SEAMSTRESS (2007) by Sarah D’Almeida

THE MUSKETEER’S SEAMSTRESS (2007) ***
by Sarah D’Almeida (Sarah Hoyt)
Published by Berkley, 2007, 332pp (315pp)
Cover Art: Rick Farrell
Cover Design: Steven Ferlauto
Interior Text Design: Tiffany Estreicher
ISBN: 978-0-425-21489-3
includes 10-page preview of THE MUSKETEER’S APPRENTICE.
      Blurb: Aramis emerges from the water closet to find his lover, a duchess, murdered on her bed. The room is locked, and Aramis is the only one who could have entered it. He’s sure he didn’t do it, but no one else believes him. Even Monsieur de Treville, Captain of Musketeers, doubts Aramis’s word. Aramis must leave Paris and go on the run, entrusting the solving of the murder, and the defence of his honour, his freedom and his very life to Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan. Can “one for all” carry the day when every powerful person in France believes Aramis a murderer and when powerful interests would gladly frame Aramis for it?
     Comment: Being a huge fan of Alexandre Dumas’ THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1844), I was delighted to find a series of books featuri8ng the characters written by Sarah Hoyt under the pseudonym of Sarah D’Almeira. THE MUSKETEER’S SEAMSTRESS is the second book in a series of five, in which Dumas’ Musketeers effectively act as detectives looking to solve mysteries in 1620s France. The books are set within the timeframe of Dumas’ novel and so include real-life historical figures as well as original Dumas characters. This particular story is basically a locked room mystery, with Aramis seemingly the only possible suspect in the murder of his mistress, necessitating the Musketeers having to work to clear his name. The writing style emulates that of Dumas without being slavish to it. Whilst written in the third person, the story is told from the point of view of each of the Musketeers as they look for clues to unravel the mystery and fight duels with the Cardinal’s guards who are looking to hunt down Aramis. Whilst this approach retains the key mystery novel device of putting the reader in the head of the detective, it also constrains the story by not opening it up to the wider cast of characters. Cardinal Richelieu, who is at the centre of the investigation, only appears in the closing chapter. This robs the story of the scale and tension between the characters that Dumas managed to create in his original novel. That said, this is still an enjoyable read and is recommended to fans of Dumas and historical mysteries.

The Musketeer Mysteries series:
1. Death of a Musketeer (Berkley, November 2006, ISBN 0-425-21292-0)
2. The Musketeer’s Seamstress (Berkley, April 2007, ISBN 978-0-425-21489-3) ***
3. The Musketeer’s Apprentice (Berkley, September 2007, ISBN 978-0-425-21769-6)
4. A Death in Gascony (Berkley, April 2008, ISBN 978-0-425-22101-3)
5. Dying by the Sword (Berkley, December 2008, ISBN 978-0-425-22461-8)