A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Will Make You Feel Loved Again

mr fred rogers neighborhood trolley
Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) and Trolley.

I just came out from viewing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. And this is funny: last night I watched the award-winning 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I like being a sort of completist.

Bear this in mind: I don’t like documentaries.

I can’t think of another documentary I’d watch on purpose if’s not about science fiction (for example, later tonight I’m watching the Galaxy Quest retrospective <— see, that’s sci-fi).

But the Fred Rogers documentary is really something special. Partly riding on nostalgia, and partly posited as a wish fulfillment for adults who don’t like who they’ve become, knowing Mr. Rogers loved everybody makes all the difference. And “everybody” includes me. And YOU.

I cried like a baby during the documentary to be reminded that someone likes me. Just exactly the way I am.

So I was excited to catch Tom Hanks’ dramatized version of Fred Rogers. What did I walk away with? A complicated set of feelings.

First off, Hanks was just lovely in the part. At times he sounded a little more like southerner Forrest Gump than Fred Rogers, but the actor freely admitted he never intended to mimic Rogers. He wanted to capture the essence. And in that, I believed him.

When he talked to the camera and told me he liked me, I felt liked. I felt accepted and appreciated. And ultimately, though the film was ostensibly about a jaded reporter and his dysfunctional family — which would normally bore me silly — the message of loving acceptance came shining bright, shining through. The message was sincere and sorely needed in this era of intolerance and hate-mongering.

This is timely. This is needful.

What I didn’t like

I wanted more Fred Rogers. More Tom Hanks. He felt sidelined in his own movie. 75% of the film focuses on Lloyd Vogel (a sort of real, sort of fictional character). Way too much time was spent with Lloyd, his wife, his father, and various family members (the baby was super cute, though). I wasn’t caught up in the ‘reporter angle’. And I’ve been a reporter myself, although in my case that didn’t cause rifts in my family. This is a story ostensibly about Mr. Fred Rogers. I was expecting Lloyd’s tale to be a side-plot.

I realize the movie had to ramp up the drama to be a box office success, but what I didn’t expect was that meant taking the spotlight off Mr. Rogers and his fantasy neighborhood. I am deeply grateful I watched the documentary first, to reacquaint me with Trolley, Picture Picture, King Friday the XIII, and of course Daniel Tiger, since the Tom Hanks film didn’t go there enough.  Those too few segments taking place on Fred Rogers’ show were weirdly positioned as a dreamscape. And now it seems I must find those old PBS episodes to feel loved and cherished again.

31 seasons of loving acceptance, crossing several generations

The best moment on Neighborhood was — of all things — on a New York subway. Fred Rogers, recognizable TV star and all,  loved taking the Subway. In one scene, people in the subway car gave him the side eye at first, wondering if this was actually Rogers himself. Quickly deciding he was, everyone  (including two hardened NYC beat cops) sang his famous Won’t You Be My Neighbor song out loud to honor him.  I’ve read this actually happened.

You could see Hanks channeling the joy and gratitude of this beautiful experience. Rogers touched so many, in several generations.

Do you realize the show ran for a mind boggling 31 seasons? How many mothers, fathers, and children grew up hearing his message of tolerance and self-forgiveness? Grew up realizing we are not broken, and are all deserving of unconditional love? That we are liked for who we are.

Did anyone tell you this lately?  Do you tell this to the people YOU love?

As I said above, I didn’t care for the focus on the reporter and his family. I realize part of this was based on a real-life experience, but it was just your basic family drama, seen a gazillion times before. Yawn. I’m glad Lloyd learned what heroism really is, but it was all so telegraphed. Yes, he forgives his father. His family comes to realize familial love and ends up happier.

But could we get back to the Kingdom of Make Believe now?

Full Disclosure:

It hurt to see Lloyd’s relationship with his dying father. It hit a little too close to home. My father has a disease that steals him from me day by day. He was always my hero, and now he’s a shell of a person who needs more care than my mother and I can handle. I wish I had Mr. Rogers around to tell me how to handle the difficult emotions this brings up.

Sorry. Maybe that’s too much to share. But, as Mr. Rogers makes a point of telling us in this film, being open, honest, and accepting of things like death is one of our greatest challenges. What he says, actually (and this is deeply hopeful), is that “anything mentionable is handle-able.”

I hope so. As Mulder would say, ” I want to believe.”

And yes, I did cry at the end. I was moved by this singular, loving, kind man. I’m a sucker. I just wished there was more Fred Rogers in it.

Noteworthy observation:

I wouldn’t have noticed this if I didn’t just watch the documentary, but Joanne Rogers (Mr. Roger’s real life wife) makes a brief cameo in the food diner scene. I almost expected her to say, “I’ll have what she’s having,” but that’s another background story for a different type of movie.

Movie Grade: B+

 

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

mr rogers neighborhood
Even the trailer for this has me crying.

Everyone’s saying the Tom Hanks Mr. Rogers movie is great and I definitely plan to see it this Thanksgiving week. I remember loving “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” as a child, with the trolley and the cute puppet kingdom…but haven’t given the show another thought as the decades passed. Then 2018’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor hit the indie circuits, and people recalled Fred Rogers as a sort of folk hero.

I figured I’d watch the documentary before seeing the dramatic, wide release version.

I’m happy to report Won’t You Be My Neighbor is an absolutely lovely 90 minutes of time, well-spent. If you watch it before seeing Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you’ll go in with a greater understanding of this incredibly kind, compassionate man. I look forward to seeing Tom Hank’s take on it: I’m told Hanks channels Rogers’ essence, instead of performing an exact mimicry.

The documentary shows clips of the television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (which ran 31 seasons, beginning in 1968), interview segments with Fred Roger’s wife and sons, and a bit of background on what the show was about — mainly (and I didn’t realize this as a child) to provide children a role model for dealing with difficult emotions. The show promoted tolerance for others and self-love.

In a world where hate is accepted as the New Normal, being reminded of human kindness/acceptance of differences is hugely important.

Did I cry while watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor? You bet I did. The documentary felt like a long, warm hug. Fred Rogers somehow radiated love and patience to everyone he met, even through the TV screen, to thousands of children everywhere. I’d forgotten this.

How often do you hear “I like you just the way you are?”

My guess is, not enough. Perhaps never. And that’s a damn shame. It’s so easy to accept and love one another, and yet we don’t. Life hurts us and we get jaded. We harden our hearts. And sometimes we hurt each other because we don’t remember what’s it’s like to receive unconditional love.

Watching a grown man reach out to others through old puppets, especially the sensitive tiger Daniel (who, like The Velveteen Rabbit, has most of his fur loved off) was surprisingly heartwarming. You absolutely buy into the notion that Mr. Rogers loves everyone. And everyone includes me and you.

Watching this made me want to be better — to be like him. And it made me feel more optimistic about humanity in general. I don’t think it’s possible to watch Mr. Rogers do his thing and not be comforted.

And I for one am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Movie Grade: A-

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Movie Review - A Beautiful Day in the NeighbourhoodFirst of all, big kudos to the writers, Micah Fitzerman-Blue, and Noah Harpster. They put together an amazing story which showcased the brilliance of the beloved Fred Rogers. Although the story was only partially true (the character of Lloyd Vogal was based on writer Tom Junod) the embellishments were there to emphasize the true nature of our….hero.

Tom Hanks, of course, did a spectacular job of capturing the essence of Fred Rogers. The tone of Tom’s voice was a little off, but every inflection and nuance was shown respect by this talented actor. For me, it was in the eyes of Tom Hanks that revealed the absolute perfection in which he portrayed Mr. Rogers. It has been said that Tom has the kindest eyes in Hollywood, and this characteristic translated beautifully into the eyes of Rogers. So beautifully that it should garner, at the very least, an Oscar nod for Supporting Actor.

This is not a children’s movie; they’d be bored senseless. Instead, I believe the target audience are those who grew up watching Mr. Rogers. Or, as it is in my case, had children who watched the show.

I give A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood a solid ‘A’.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: I was able to get two good Peetimes in this movie. Both Peetimes have protracted scenes of very little dialog or complete silence as the characters have moments of deep reflection.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language
Genres: Biography, Drama, True life story

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Ancestry.com has discovered that Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers are sixth cousins. That’s made all the more relevant due to Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers in the critically-acclaimed movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. (Bringing a whole new meaning to getting into character.)

“It all just comes together, you see,” Hanks told Access Hollywood when the show informed him of the relation.

According to Ancestry.com, Fred and Tom share a 5x great-grandfather (Johannes Meffert), who immigrated from Germany to America in the 18th century.

At first glance, that seems pretty astounding, but when you consider probabilities of family trees overlapping, it becomes less and less impressive the further back in time you go. For instance, there’s nearly a 100% probability that any two people of European decent share an ancestor from 1,000 years ago.

And of course, if you want to get pedantic about it, that banana you had for breakfast was your 108-cousin. 🙂

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

A Buffy Revival – Vampires Spike and Angel Could Absolutely Do a Movie

buffy-vampire-slayer-title
You can’t keep a good slayer down.

Note the following: David Boreanaz says he’s done playing Angel. Joss Whedon (creator, writer, editor, director, minor deity) has also said he’d make a Buffy movie if the heavens willed it so.

We think David would return with the right offer. With Bones finished, isn’t he free now? And I don’t think James Marsters (Spike) or Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy) would require too much arm twisting, even though Marsters said he’d aged out of the role of a young-looking immortal. To which I, a fanatic disciple of Whedon, say ” pish-posh.”

A Buffy Movie? Why the Hell (Mouth) Not?

It’s a known quantity: once you’re killed off in a Whedon production, it only means your character will return with a vengeance (or at least a reprise).

So, if Angel and Spike look 14 years older, a creative team of writers could not only make it work, but turn a bug into a benefit.

While Buffy loved both vampires, the best chemistry onscreen was arguably between Spike and Angel. Season Five of Angel just beat the pants off its parent show. I hate to admit that, since I adore Buffy, in every season. (Except that one year, with Riley…)

We Don’t Even Need to De-Age Those Pesky Vampires with a Soul

On the surface, it seems too bad that any kind of revival would have to explain the vampire aging thing or do a (please NO!) recast. But we know Whedon could spin the aging any which way,  and even turn it into a plot point. Kinda like plotting around Terminator flesh aging in the Salvation film. Or was that in Genisys? (Not to mention Dark Fate.) #OldButNotObsolete

Maybe vampires will have some kind of undead plague spreading around and Buffy will have to save her Champions, even though the rest of humanity would be happy to see all vampires eliminated forever.

Perfect moral ambiguity! The Scoobies/Team Angel (what’s left of them) could be sharply divided on this matter; they could get Giles out of his tweedy retirement…and oh, don’t forget that we have a metric ton of Slayers now, ready to stake the undead. I bet there aren’t many demons and vampires left to fight anymore.

Who knows what Willow and her fellow witches are even up to these days? They could try to be neutral, like Switzerland, with torn loyalties. The newly risen First Order Watcher’s Council could be bogged down, once again, in bureaucracy…with Master Watcher Andrew leaving with a few followers, in collaboration with a new breed of re-souled vampires committed to fighting the forces of darkness.

And the Main Plot of a New Buffy Show?

It could be set up that only Buffy and Faith (with Andrew, Dawn, and Illyria) want to save Angel, Spike, and the other re-souled undead, while every other Slayer on the planet is against helping vampires, even ones who saved the world. (Several times. What is the plural of Apocalypse?)

So Buffy and gang would have to both find a cure, and hide from/fight hundreds of cheesed off Slayers…all while asking themselves what the right thing to do is. There could be betrayals, unexpected allies (like Wolfram and Hart — such uneasy bedfellows), clever patented Buffy misdirection…adding a siege mentality at the end, and…of course…. sacrifice.

Because there is no Joss Whedon production without tear-jerking sacrifice to balance his trademark humor and sparkling dialog.

That could be a hell of a movie.

 

 

Terminator TV Series: The Carlenator

Ahoy there. Spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate ahead!

Terminator: Dark Fate isn’t blowing the doors off the box office. It opened with a slightly disappointing weekend of $29 million: $1 million below expectations. In fact, the past three Terminator movies (Salvation, Genisys, and Dark Fate) all failed to meet box office expectations, throwing the future of the franchise in doubt.

Personally, I can’t get enough Terminator. I say keep them coming.

Terminator Dark Fate - Carl

But you know what I would love, Love, LOVE to see? A Terminator TV series that chronicles the adventures of the T-800 (Carl/Arnold Schwarzenegger) meeting Alicia and her son Mateo. It wouldn’t need to be a badass action drama. It would work fine as an comedy, with a sprinkle of action here and there. I would imagine the plot would focus around Carl coming to grips with his existence and searching for purpose, with a little bit of a one man A-Team theme where he occasionally helps out people who are in trouble.

If you’re thinking that Arnold is too old for this, then remember that they de-aged him for Dark Fate. The de-aging technology is getting better and better. It’s getting to the point that they wouldn’t even need Arnold to participate. They could use a double on-set and replace him in post production, along with a synthesized Arnold voice.

What do you think? Would you watch a show like this?

Ranking the Terminator Movies

sarah-connor-young-linda-hamilton
No fate but what we make. (Man, does Linda Hamilton look young!)

Well, cool, I just rewatched the entire run of Terminator movies and realized it will be easier to rank them in order of greatness than I thought. For each movie (I’ll get to the TV show later), the best to worst go in order of first to last created. That made it easy!  How often does that happen? Here we go, and YES THERE ARE TERMINATOR SPOILERS through Genisys, but not through Dark Fate:

The Terminator Movies, ranked from best movie to worst:

    1. The Original movie (1984) — I realize that T2: Judgment Day is most people’s favorite Terminator outing, but for me it lacks the excitement and character building — and pure 80s fun — of the classic first time. Here’s my enthusiastic rewatch review of the classic film where Arnold first promised he’d “be back.”
    2. T2: Judgment Day (1991) — Although I wasn’t fond of the young John Connor portrayal, this was the movie that made me ugly cry when Sarah was about to shoot Miles Dyson, before backing off when realizing he was a good man. I was glad she couldn’t do it. When Dyson sacrificed himself, I kept on crying. There’s a lot of humor in T2 (some of it a bit silly), and it’s a very exciting sequel. There’s still just nothing like the first thrill ride in 1984. Linda Hamilton and Arnold really sold Judgment Day, but the whole Hasta La Vista attitude and focus on a young John trying to teach an AI to be ‘cute’ was…well… a bit too cute. This wasn’t as thoughtful as the original, and the move of focus from Sarah/Kyle to a juvenile delinquent John was less gripping. I’m not sure why T2 is most people’s favorite, but feel free to tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below.
    3. T3: Rise of the Machines (2003) — I remember thinking this wasn’t as cool as the first two, but I think it was the lack of Linda Hamilton here, back in the early millennium. In my recent watch (all of them in one week, right after another), I now realize a few things: this is the best John Connor portrayal ever (TV show aside), Claire Danes was just lovely in the part, Arnold did a fine job in his three-quel, and the story ended up with an actual Judgment Day. All good stuff, as Golden Man wrote in his Defense of T3. If Hamilton had to bow out, I’m not going to complain about going after John’s best soldiers. My main problem is with the female Terminator. She was…fine. Not awesome, like Robert Patrick in T2. I’d have loved to see some of the sneaky wry moments Patrick imbued his T-1000 with. And he was a LOT scarier. Kristanna Loken as the third Terminator was frankly a bit dull. Sure, it was cool to have a female Terminator, but Summer Glau, in the Terminator TV series, showed that we could have had a lot more. Still, T3 felt like a Terminator film.
    4. T4: Salvation (2009) — I liked Salvation but it didn’t FEEL like the previous movies. There were nods to the previous films, but the tone was off. I think they should have added a half hour of character development & ensemble moments (like in Aliens, as a perfect example), added some more humor. It would have been just lovely. Another issue: it almost looked like T4 was filmed in black and white, which didn’t work for me. Everything was washed out or too dim. And a lot of great actors amassed for T4 were kind of wasted. For example: why get someone like Michael Ironside if you don’t write him some good lines? No wonder he didn’t even try to make anything of his part. I liked the film, I liked it….it just should have been a lot better. It did pick up with the character Kate from T3, which I appreciated, but most of the character writing felt lazy. One thing that does stand out now was how sad it to see a super young Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese. I didn’t realize he was in Salvation. Awwww. 🙁  Yelchin did do a nice job coming across as a young scared-but-resolute soldier who John needed to train up. I could see the producers were going for a Terminator/Aliens/Matrix look, but it really didn’t go beyond moments of homage to better material.
    5. T5: Genisys (2015)  Well, this one hits the bottom of the Terminator barrel. I didn’t hate it, or even dislike it, but I can’t say it was good. I’m not sure it fit within the timeline cannon the others all followed so nicely, Dyson dad and son revisititations aside. And where was Kate, John’s wife? Going back to another timeline to follow Han Solo’s girlfriend was fine (ha! I only understand this reference from my re-watch), and ‘Pops’ was cool and all, but what the writers did with John Connor was inexcusable. Hello, WTF? The John actor didn’t look right, didn’t act the part, and his existence as a Terminator was a kick in the gut to anyone who cared about the franchise. I didn’t enjoy this one at all, although it wasn’t a ‘bad’ movie. It just didn’t sit well and made me a little angry. What were the writers thinking, crapping on the John Connor character? This was a misfire on so many levels, even though Arnold and Co gave it a good shot. Like I said, this wasn’t a bad sci fi film, and it was an okay “alternate timeline” for Sarah Connor, but it was too moody and…well, weird. I really hope the soft reboot of Terminator: Dark Fate returns to the adventurous tone and epic storytelling we saw in T1 and T2. 

Bonus extra: The TV Show: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-09) —

The TV show used an alternate timeline, with yet other Sarah and John actors, but was so damn great that it was a joy to watch as a serialized story on TV. Summer Glau made a wonderful Terminator. I wasn’t thrilled with Lena Headley’s Sarah, but everyone else knocked my socks off, and I was very excited to see how the narrative would progress.

Unfortunately, we never got to see that. When it was cancelled, I was sad. Not as sad, mind you, as when Firefly (another Summer Glau show) was cast aside before its time, but still a bit adrift. I wish I’d known where the John Henry/Cromartie story was headed…and what the final trip to the future was about, and where the loyalties of Shirley Manson’s Terminator were leading us…but we’ll never know.

So how to rank the TV show?

Honestly, it had so much potential. I’d rank it after T2, personally, although it really only got exciting in the second season and left us hanging for the third. I’d watch it again, absolutely. At least this time I’d be prepared for the looming permanent hiatus status, and could appreciate what we did get.

Terminator: Dark Fate Well, howdy ho; I’m excited. I’ll be seeing this one shortly, and understand the story picks up right after T2, creating cannon waste to everything that came after 1991. I’m okay with this, since Sarah, in the timeline from T3 and on, is dead.

And now what?

I won’t hide that I dislike reboots in general (Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica aside), but if Linda Hamilton and Arnold himself are co-signing this new edition, I’m totally on-board. Where it will fit in the overall rankings remains to be seen. Soon, soon…

A bit older, a lot wiser.

What is your ranking of the Terminator franchise?

What You Need to Know to Watch the Downton Abbey Movie

downton abbey lords and ladies
Must be nice.

Have you seen or recently rewatched the UK six-season show Downton Abbey? Do you remember enough of it to make sense of the new film — one that doesn’t bother with any backstory exposition at all?

Here’s a cheat sheet to remind you of what you need to know to enjoy the Downton Abbey Movie (consider this a spoiler warning if you haven’t seen the series)…and here is how to watch the series online.

servants in downton abbey
Team Downstairs.

The Servants’ Halls:

  • Daisy began a relationship with Andrew, one of the footmen. It’s a relationship on equal appreciation, for once.
  • Mrs. Patmore is still the cook, and continues to mentor Daisy in life lessons.
  • Barrow is still the Butler, as Carson is retired. (His palsy is never referenced.)
  • Barrow is still gay and suffering from loneliness. He’s also mellowed out a lot.
  • Mrs. Carson (Previously Mrs. Hughes) is still in charge of the household.
  • Anna is still Lady Mary’s maid, and Baxter still is Lady Grantham’s maid.
  • MY GOD, the Bates’ Problems are over and done. Thankfully. They’ve been through enough.
downton abbey characters
Team Upstairs.

The Nobles of Team Upstairs:

  • Awww, Lord Grantham still has his dog, which he loves more than his daughters. 😉
  • The Dowager Countess Lady Violet has NOT mellowed over the years, but she seems to accept Isobel Crawley now as a real friend. She’s has moved on to new frenemies (like her Dolores Umbridge counterpart from Harry Potter, Imelda Staunton.
  • Lady Edith and Lady Mary are still happily married, although their husbands and children are barely in the film. Mary = Henry Talbot. Edith = Bertie Pelham, FYI. There’s been a lot of men in their lives over the seasons, but this is how it ended up.
  • Also, Isobel Crawley is still the Baroness Merton with her marriage to Richard Grey, who is still no longer dying.
  • Robert and Cora are still as cute a couple as ever (Lord and Lady Grantham).
  • Lady Rosamund and Rose are nowhere to be seen.
  • Sisters Mary and Edith appear to have maintained the hard won truce they found at the end of the series.
  • Tom Branson remains is a loyal son-in-law and is comfortable being a nobleman now, but his Irish socialist past still haunts him.

If you really want to know the very detailed ins and outs of how Downton Abbey ended, check out this wiki.

Finally: A very detailed video refresher narrator by the beloved stars — by the beloved Carson and Mrs:Hughes/Carson: (HUGH TV show spoilers, not mild like me mine.)

Finally, here some of the most acidic Dowager Countesses Lady Violet Crawly lines (the delightful Maggie Smith) shade throughout the years — this is a hoot:

Movie Review – Downton Abbey

What Downton Abbey is About, and How to Binge Watch It

Quiz – Queen Elizabeth l and Mary Queen of Scots

Movie Review – Downton Abbey

Movie Review - Downton AbbeyAt the premier, everyone in the audience clearly enjoyed themselves. A lot. People laughed so much I could barely get Peetimes. And the entire room was so sold out that I had to sit in the very front row, on the edge.

All this is to say I need to see the film again. The sound was poor in my room, my seat was awful, and I missed a lot of what was going on — and I’m a HUGE Downton Abbey fan — one who did an entire series rewatch last month to prepare (six seasons’ worth).

So, yeah, I really didn’t get to enjoy this the way the rest of the die hard fans did. For some reason, I also didn’t get my free Downtown Abbey premier snowglobe. I was just lucky to get a seat, even though I bought my ticket hours early. Don’t underestimate Abbey fans!

From audience reaction, this was a very satisfying return to the original 2011 TV show. People laughed throughout, loudly, and applauded twice.

In between the bad seat and poor sound, and trying to find Peetimes for two hours, I didn’t enjoy this the way I’d hoped.

But in spite of this, there were many good things in the Downton Abbey movie:

  •  The costumes were fabulous. We didn’t get to see as much of the Abbey as I’d have liked, though. Too many characters to wedge in there to bother with much scenery! 😉
  • The cast looked great. No one really aged, and the actors slipped right back into their characters. Even Lord Grantham’s dog made an appearance.
  • Thomas Barrow got some romantic attention! This was hinted at in the trailers and was nice to see played out.
  • Daisy’s story was sewn up.
  • Mr. Mosley stole the show, as usual.
  • Mr. Carson and Mrs. Carson/Hughes were as lovely as always.
  • No more Bates/Anna issues. YAY!
  • The Crawley family showed up, although they were kind of shunted to the side. Tom Branson had the most play time, with Lady Mary and Lady Edith getting some attention here and there.
  • Maggie Smith, as the Dowager Countess, was THE BEST, as always. I could just watch her do the sarcastic, acidic Grandmama for hours.
  • The movie felt mostly like a long episode of the TV show, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Call it a two-hour Christmas Special episode.
  • There’s lot’s of room for sequels.

I’ll be seeing this again when it’s officially released. Although I really want my snowglobe. 😉

Grade: A-

About The Peetimes: I was at the premiere…but let me say this was one of the most difficult movies ever to get Peetimes for. The cast is HUGE and each scene cuts quickly from different subplots through the entire thing. I’m going to assume most fans want to see the fun interactions between our main characters, and less of the ‘plot’ the film is hung on. Try to use the 1st or 2nd Peetimes.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Downton Abbey. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language
Genres: Drama

What Downton Abbey is About, and How to Binge Watch It

Movie Review – The Peanut Butter Falcon

Where did this genius idea come from?

What Downton Abbey is About, and How to Binge Watch It

Downtown abbey estate
A complete melodrama buffet, plus tea.

I’m doing a 6-season rewatch of UK period drama Downtown Abbey — and Mary Mother of God — I’ve forgotten how melodramatic this show was. There are entire storylines I fast-forward past as I trudge along. (I refuse to pay any more attention the overwrought Anna/Mr. Bates storyline than I absolutely have to.)

All The Downton You Can Eat

What’s nice is you can stream all the episodes free online if you have Amazon Prime. It’s up on PBS.com too, or you can pay for viewing it on several subscription platforms. Very convenient: if you start soon you can binge the 52 episodes of Downton Abbey before the official movie/revival lands in theaters this September.

Note: it’s not called Down”town” Abbey — you must mind your Ps and Qs while watching this upstairs/downstairs show about Lord Grantham, his (entirely female) family, and the scheming servants who run the great estate. Granted, not all of them are scheming, but those are the fun ones to watch. The nicer maids and footmen fade into the ornate backgrounds, as a good servant must. 😉

downton abbey lord grantham and family
Voyeuristic, neurotic fussiness in grand surroundings.

What’s Worth Watching, What to Ignore

Actually, I enjoy the genteel honor esteemed butler Mr. Carson and Head of Household Mrs. Hughes wield — with some insightful, laser-like observations over their younger, fractious downstairs staff. These wiser, older holdovers from a simpler era, who love being “in the service”, are the best part of the show. As are the intrigues of the deliciously barbed tongue of the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), on whose bad side you do NOT want to get.

Scratch that. You don’t want to get into it with squabbling sisters Mary and Edith either. [Cat fighting screeches ensue.]

In spite of a tremendous amount of paternalist and condescending Nobless Obligue on the part of the gentry, you kind of fall into the rhythm of the lives and loves (and sometimes deaths) happening under the roof of the grand abbey. Whether you are Team Upstairs or Team Downstairs, binging Downton Abbey is like eating bon bons. You know it’s not nutritious, but you can’t stop.

servants of Downton abbey
Team Downstairs

You learn to ignore the character cliches in this show too, or you’ll never make it through. At least everything else associated with the Julian Fellowes opus is top shelf: settings, costuming, music, props, and film style. Weighty events like the sinking of the Titanic, World War 1 , and the Spanish Flu Epidemic are as present and real to these characters as 911 was in America. Will the women get the vote? When will inheritance laws change?

We know how things turned out, but the fun is in being there, watching these people live through such tumultuous times. Even the small touches, like Butler Carson learning to use the brand new telephone, is delightful.

The Importance of Titles in Downton Abbey

You also learn a few things about servants. Did you know the Butler is so far above every other employee in “service” that they all must stand at attention when he walks into the servants’ mess? He’s as far above them as the Lord of the Estate is above him.

It looks like this: Butler > Head of Household > Underbutler > Lord’s Valet > the Ladies’ Maids > First Footman > Second Footman > Housemaids > Skullery Maids. The Cook and Assistant Cook have their own category, as does the Chauffeur and the children’s Nanny. We don’t meet the Grooms or the “Hall Boys” (I think that’s what they’re called).

Honestly, this is all fascinating and hard to figure out. Also, some get called by their first names, some by their surnames, and it’s a badge of rank to get a last name designation.

Don’t ask me why any of this makes sense. There’s a whole weedy garden’s worth of laws for referring to the upstairs Lords and Ladies as well, depending on who you are in relationship to them. Apparently it’s a grievous offense to get it wrong. Thank goodness we have Butler Carson to let everyone know what’s appropriate.

lady mary and lady edith in downton abbey
Team Upstairs

Here’s the trailer to the upcoming Downton Abbey movie (Which looks like it slips right in where things left off)

A surprising amount of original characters are back in the sidesaddle again. And yes: from the looks of the trailer there’s a smack down between UMBRIDGE VS MCGONAGALL. (Be still my geeky harry Potter-loving heart!)

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