Tag Archives: Television Show

Film Review: Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022)

THE AGING CRAWLEYS

In 1928, the Crawleys meet with two unexpected events knocking at their door. One is an opportunity to boost their finance when a film production company requests to use their estate for a silent film. Two, Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, astounds the family when she reveals that she inherits a villa in France that was given to her by the recently deceased Marquis de Montmirail. To unveil the mystery, Robert and Cora travel to France and hand over the headship to Lady Mary to look after the estate and host the film crew.

Twelve years of legacy of this British cult Downton Abbey that all started as a television drama on ITV back in 2010 and followed by the first feature film in 2019 has kept its loyal fans like me occupied on our chairs and enjoying the beautiful artistry of their aristocracy. One aspect that was maintained throughout their presentation is that the show remained persistent in facing not only emotional but economic and political challenges. Just like the television drama and the first film, Downton Abbey: The New Era emphasized the changing times testing the old and traditional family.


LADY VIOLET’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

There is a chance that the Downton Abbey-loving audience may get less motivated towards the plot of this film because both the events challenged in this film to the Crawleys may be assumed quite dramatic because these things neither occurred nor hinted at the future. The fan-favorite character of Lady Violet was assumed to die due to old age but the news she broke to the family after watching this drama for twelve years looked like a pretty forced attempt of writing in order to conclude this character. So revealing the news of her French inheritance is eyebrow-raising for me.

Why? If I assess this matter, perhaps will stretch at length but in short, the Crawleys, in the middle of the story met a severe financial crisis to the extent that they decided to cut the working staff. If the dowager knew about her inheritance for a long time, why didn’t she help out Robert when needed. If she came to know in this film in 1928, that’s the other thing.

But the death of Lady Violet’s character is a wise idea because I am not sure if Downton Abbey will continue to the third film although the story has the potential to continue to represent the Crawleys until the second World War if not the whole century. But it is the richness of Julian Fellowes‘ writing that I am concerned about, who is 72 already. How long can he continue storytelling us? What if he breathes his last during the continuity of Downton Abbey? I cannot imagine someone replacing his writing in the middle. After all, this Downton Abbey is his creation and needs to conclude one day. The same applies to Maggie Smith who is 87 at the time of writing this review. Therefore, killing the old character of the dowager was the right decision.


WAS FILM SHOOTING IN THE PLOT THE RIGHT IDEA?

This Downton Abbey film was particular to highlight this silent film industry business that reached the estate of the Crawleys. Shan’t film shooting be avoided and continued with a different plot? Here, there are two methods of judging this film. One is that the film didn’t need to show filmmaking and proceed with the familiar character developments. The audience may think that Julian Fellowes could have escaped the idea of shooting a film inside the estate for the sake of decent humor. Or the film definitely needed to show the change which was either acceptable or not to the old-age aristocratic family who has been facing economic, political, and social challenges. I support the latter.

Why? Because just like the Crawleys faced different events between 1912 and 1926, the art of filmmaking in the very same period was also meeting a change in the direction of the British winds. Many viewers may have not observed the sequence of shooting a silent film turning into sound after Lady Mary pinches the idea to the director that much of this is largely inspired by the making of Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1929 film ‘Blackmail‘ which is the first sound film in British filmmaking history. Blackmail was supposed to be a silent film but the producer let Hitchcock make some portions of the film in sound. But Hitchcock decided to make the entire film talkie. Just like depicted in Downton Abbey, Blackmail had a leading actress with a weak English accent and was dubbed by someone else. Moreover, Downton Abbey’s executive producer Gareth Neame is the grandson of Ronald Neame and was the assistant cameraman for ‘Blackmail’ before he established a prominent name in the film industry.


CLOSING REMARKS

Should Downton Abbey continue from here? I would love to see Julian Fellowes writing more about the Crawleys until the end of the Second World War if he guarantees that the aesthetics and quality will not compromise at all. Overall, Julian Fellowes offers another masterpiece presentation of the Crawleys with the visible ‘New Era’ elements. The loyalists of this drama will understand the film and praise it highly.

RATINGS: 8.2/10

Comics Review: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (2007)

A space alien Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a.k.k.a The Monocle, is a world-renowned scientist and a wealthy entrepreneur on earth. He adopts seven superpowered children who raise them as superheroes. They are called The Umbrella Academy. Years later, after failing a mission in Paris, they split. Twenty years later, they return after they receive the news of the death of their adopted father, The Monocle.

 

The Umbrella Academy was abstracted by the leading vocalist and co-founder of My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way. In 2007, Way completed the writing and visual artwork of the first comic book limited series ‘Apocalypse Suite‘ with the cartoonist Gabriel Bá. Dark Horse Comics published the graphic novel and was first presented in the annual promotional event Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) the same year. The first issue was immediately sold out and indicated staunch interest amongst the readers. By next year, this graphic novel won Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.

There are six issues in the graphic novel and each consists of 23 or 24 pages. Gabriel’s artistic work and characterization will somewhere remind the reader of Frank Miller‘s work on The Dark Knight Returns. The drawings are not really that captivating but I liked the sub-cover art pages of the issue titles. Yes, there are some pages that need attention to the detailing like Pogo testing number 5 and news reporting in the third issue. Or Kraken shutting down Vanya when she returns. I liked Vanya’s character development where it reflected that she wasn’t taken seriously and no one cared about her. Those two dark pages of music notes were quivering. Pogo’s soft corner for Vanya was also highlighted.

Twelve years later, Netflix adapted and created the streaming television series. In the first month of release, the show was watched by 45 million viewers and became one of the biggest hits of the year. The show achieved cult status and critical acclaim thanks to well-executed screenwriting.

This is not strange that the adaptation gets a license to make changes for visual dynamics to captivate the audience but I felt the sources taken from Apocalypse Suite were modified and to some extent, looked acceptable. Just, for example, Vanya’s characterization; in comics, Vanya is powerful when she unleashes her powers by playing violin but in the show, she uses any sound wave. Ben (number 6) is almost invisible in the novel but has a fine supporting role like any of the other six. Ben and Klaus (number 4) are good friends in the show and are comic relief and fan favorites. So observing these two changes, I think no one will have an objection.

Yes, there were elements that raised the eyebrows like Klaus and Vanya were LGBTQ+ characters and were not in comics. Maybe that’s a Netflix thing and this Netflix show is no different in making those choices for the established characters.

But I think Apocalypse Suite is a very interesting beginning of the series that continues its story in the next three novels, Dallas (2008), Hotel Oblivion (2018), and Sparrow Academy.


REFERENCE

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite Issues 1-6 (2007-2008)

DOWNLOAD

https://getcomics.info/other-comics/the-umbrella-academy-collection/


SUPPORTING VIDEO

If you are interested to watch the commentary about the history of The Umbrella Academy, I recommend you watch this video.

TV Review: Our Flag Means Death

In 1717, a wealthy landowner Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) withdraws from his rich life and family to become a pirate and find adventure. Stede hires an extremely unfit crew and sails his ship, Revenge. But things do not go as planned as the pirates get attacked by the British naval warships and other pirates. During this bizarre voyage, he meets Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) and soon they become more than good friends.

The first thing I want to break here about this HBO Max show is that Our Flag Means Death is neither a legend nor a fictional tale in the pages of literature. Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard, and a few other characters that showed up like Blackbeard’s second in command Izzy Hands (Con O’Neill) and Calico Jack (Will Arnett) were real people. The period this show is based on is called the Golden Age of Piracy. Whether Stede and Blackbeard developed a relationship or not, I have no knowledge of that.

But more than that, I must acknowledge that someone in 2022 attempted to develop a new idea about comedy. I don’t remember if there was any comedy program based on the centuries-old pirates in ages. Due to an innovative approach, the comical methods looked fresh. I felt as if I was watching something new in the name of comedy.

The continuity after the first couple of episodes goes a little flat and then the audience will surely assume in the middle of the show that due to the limited content that is the survival of the pirates, the show has stretched the story a bit too much. In my opinion, this show could have easily ended its run in six episodes.

Despite Rhys Darby fully centering around the continuity to run its parallels in a good-looking comedy, it is Taika Waititi’s Blackbeard that captivates the audience and holds us to enjoy the presentation. The show’s excellence lies in the technical aspects like make-up and hairstyling, costume, and production designs. A diverse crew of pirates looked pretty unnatural.

I find the conclusion of the first season pretty interesting. In one theory, I can say that there is no need for the second season as the final scenes can be put to a conclusion considering it as a technical and mature end. In another theory, that is also the show’s defense, the script progression has the growth and if the script for the second season is executed well, the audience may find the next chapter intriguing.

I am not sure if Our Flag Means Death has developed a cult or attracted a large audience. For me, it was quite a fresh idea for the comedy and I enjoyed it a lot, especially Taika Waititi as Blackbeard. If the viewers are seeking a comedy show based on a very different situation, try this.

TV Review: Bel-Air

When the news about the reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air broke out, I was not okay with it. Then the first trailer was released; and I felt that the show looks like reimagining the whole plot of the sitcom in a new direction, giving a dramatic approach with a better address. Switching a massive hit sitcom into a comedy-drama needs a lot of courage, commitment with the scriptwriting, and a solemn promise that the show will not disappoint the viewers. After watching the 10-episode first season, I can convincingly inform the readers that Bel-Air, the reboot, absolutely did not disappoint at all.

The reboot became possible after Morgan Cooper released a short fan film on Youtube and Will Smith happened to watch it. It was so compelling that Will personally met Morgan to discuss expanding the film’s vision into a reboot. Both of them became executive producers along with the original line of producers including Benny Medina (the real Will Smith), Quincy Jones (the man who gave birth to Will Smith’s acting career in this sitcom), and Borowitz couple (Andy and Susan, the show creators). Peacock won the bid in competition with Netflix and HBO Max and gave a two-season order.

The new show focuses on the serious elements of all the sub-plots, the characterization of the main characters, and the continuity of the original sitcom. The writers left no space to give a better understanding. One of the best aspects of the show is that the show brilliantly gives a broader detail about all the characters, a decent capacity of screen time to give the characters and story some breathing. The heavy issues get pressing and more push.

Bel-Air visually dramatized most of the lyrics of the sitcom’s popular theme song ‘Yo Home to Bel-Air‘ in the first episode. Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) has a stronger personality and is visibly an important figure as a husband, a father, and a lawyer. Will (Jabari Banks)’s daddy issue has been well-taken care of throughout the season. Carlton (Olly Sholotan)’s character without a doubt has the best characterizing, and the behavioral attitudes and personal traits an annoying Carlton should have is all smartly portrayed here. More than half of the season has Will on Carlton’s nerve with an excellent screenplay raising valid questions about the family being more concerned for Will than Carlton all of a sudden. British butler Geoffrey (Jimmy Akingbola) is a definite upgrade from the sitcom who not only manages the domestic affairs of the Bankses but also consults Philips for his DA campaign and holds strong connections with powerful people.

I am thoroughly impressed how Bel-Air does not falter in its continuity. There are so many scenes that address and make the audience spare a thought. There is a scene where Will is shocked and furious watching Carlton enjoying himself with his White friends despite saying the N-word. Then there are a few of Will’s sittings with any of the Banks that are touching. In the middle of the show, there is an entire episode about Will’s best friend Tray (SteVonté Hart) coming to meet with him in the mansion and overexcited with the belief that Will will return and resume his old life. Then sisters Ashley (Akira Akbar) and Hillary (Coco Jones) exchanging a conversation about the former’s love interest was supportive. Although Ashley at 12 having feelings for the same gender looked very forced and even if Bel-Air wanted to address their position about same-sex interests amongst the teenagers, the writers failed to develop the growth of Ashley’s character.

Then there is a surprise for all the sitcom fans when Vivian (Cassandra Freeman) goes for the interview in the Art Council where the interviewers are none other than Daphne Maxwell Reid and Vernee Watson-Johnson, the ladies who played the character of Vivian Banks in the original television show. This scene not only brought three Vivians together but also gives the audience a better vision of understanding the character. Vivian opened her heart while discussing with other Vivians about her life, her importance, and her career choices that looked visually more clever as Vivians of previous existence were all ears listening to the existing Vivian.

Bel-Air holds a strong commitment to the audience especially The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s loyalists as the first season progresses with extraordinary writing that develops a lot of faith that the continuity will have a lot of potential to run in the next season. The viewers who are expecting Bel-Air to be as funny as the predecessor will be upset because the vision of Bel-Air is different. The approach is smart and the execution is bold. I liked the sitcom and I appreciate how the makers of this show came up with the idea to reimagine the story with the very same characters with more realism. Try yourself.