Film: Downton Abbey

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Off to our fave cinema – Cineworld at Rushden Lakes – for the just-released TV-series-turned-movie: Downton Abbey.

If you fancy a ‘bit of posh’ you couldn’t do better than this! 😁 Most of the recurring characters from the TV series make it to the big-screen outing, with just a few omissions (due to actors’ unavailability).

“Above Stairs”…
Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham
Allen Leech as Tom Branson
Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot
Harry Hadden-Paton as Bertie Pelham
Douglas Reith as Lord Merton
Penelope Wilton as Lady Isobel Merton
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham
Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley (eventually ‘Pelham’)

“Below Stairs”…
Jim Carter as Carson, the butler
Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper
Rob James-Collier, as Mr Barrow, the butler
Brendan Coyle as Mr Bates, the valet to the Earl of Grantham
Joanne Froggatt as Anna, the personal maid to Lady Mary
Kevin Doyle as Mr Molesley, footman
Lesley Nicol as Mrs Patmore, the cook
Sophie McShera as Daisy, the under-cook
Michael Fox as Andy Parker, footman and Daisy’s Fiancé
Rachel Cassidy as Phyllis Baxter, Lady Crawley’s Maid

Expect to see some other well-known TV faces too. In particular, Mark Ady (as an ‘alt-Arkwright’) and David Hague, in a part that was surely written for him as The King’s Page of the Back Stairs.

Set in 1920s, it depicts the world of the Crawleys as they prepare for a visit from royalty – King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).

It’s all class-hokum of course – for a start, the benevolence of ‘upstairs’ with those ‘downstairs’ doesn’t match anything I’d ever read about life in servitude back in the day! 😯

Still, it was wonderful hokum! Call me an old romantic, but Julian Fellowes has done a fantastic job in transferring it all from small to the big screen. The TV series was pretty lavish, but this takes it up a notch (or ten). It was superbly filmed, with the actors effortlessly re-creating their roles like they’d never been away. There are are quite a few plot-lines, some big, some small, but it all comes together very nicely by the final act. Maggie Smith did not disappoint, and has now achieved an AS Level (Advanced Sarcasm) in her specialist subject – so many wonderful cutting lines! 😂

So, spend the next 120 minutes immersed in the rosy world of the idle rich (but do take a tissue as there’s a major ‘blub’ moment towards the end). 😥😥

There’s plenty of chatter online about whether they’ll be a sequel or not – I’d say the chances are very high.

Film: The Lion King

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We headed over to Cineworld at Rushden Lakes this evening to catch the latest cinematic incarnation of ‘The Lion King‘.

Featuring the voice-talents of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (as well as James Earl Jones reprising his role from the original film) the movie is directed by Jon Favreau.

But more about the movie itself a little later!

And what could be better than seeing a movie in a spanking new(ish) cinema? Well, seeing it in 3D… And what could be better than seeing a movie in 3D..?
…seeing it in 4DX of course (whatever that is!).
Everyone knows that 3D is a well-worn tactic for getting people to go to the Cinema, but what about this new fangled ‘4DX’?

What is ‘4DX’ anyway?
According to Cineworld: “With stimulating effects like water, wind, scent and strobe lighting, that thrill you in your moving seat. It’s fun on your own, but better with friends – 4DX is Cineworld’s most exhilarating way to watch a film”.

This was our first experience of this technology to augment a film, and we roped-in good friends Jo and Janet to share the experience! Ahh! that’s what friends are for! 😁

And after our now familiar routine of plugging-in ‘Robert‘ for some free ‘leccy’, courtesy of Pod-Point, we headed for the special ‘4DX Screen’. Given the promised reality of this ground-breaking multi-sensory experience, I noted they don’t provide sick-bags! 🤮

But what about the Film?

Much has already been written about this new release – and it’s only been out for a few days! After all, it was as recent as 1994 that Disney released ‘the all new The Lion King Animated Movie’. So, is the world ready for another remake so soon? Well, if they can do it with SpiderMan, and pull in new audiences, surely something as cuddly as a lion-cub is going to be easy! With visuals touted as ‘hyper-real‘ and ‘photorealistic‘, we’re going into this with high expectations! 🤩

And we weren’t to be disappointed! With those two particular adjectives ringing in our ears, and just when you think animation can’t get any more real, along comes this movie, that blurs the lines between ‘real’ and CGI.

OK, I think everyone knows the story, so I won’t re-tell it here. Instead, let me concentrate how it all felt...
Breathtaking is an under-statement – and that would have been our view without the addition of 4DX. With every hair of the lions clearly possessing a life of their own, you have to wonder what the next big jump in screen animation will be like. At times it really was impossible to tell that none of these animals were actually real (apart from the fact they talked!) With the addition of the 4DX effects (strobe lighting, vibrating and pivoting chairs, scents and smoke), it made a brilliant movie totally unforgettable!

Go see! 😁👍

PS…

Even if the movie doesn’t break records, the weather is heading that way! Up here in Northamptonshire we’ve got it cooler (relatively) than those in the south-east, and across Europe, where temperatures are promising to hit the high 30s! 🥵

Coolio! (relatively)

Film: Spiderman: Far from Home

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We travelled not far from home today, returning to Cineworld at Rushden Lakes.
This time, to catch the latest Marvel Super-hero Movie: Spiderman: Far from Home.

4.5 stars

And not just any old film presentation! We chose the iMax version (and in 3D too!). What a feast for the senses! 😵

What is ‘iMax’ anyway?

An iMax presentation is a superior film presentation technology showing on a much larger screen (both width and height). A standard iMax screen is a whopping great 72ft by 53ft, but even larger ones exist around the world (see below). iMax movies also feature a sharper picture with superior sound quality, normally across (at least) six separate audio channels.

Special cameras are used during the original filming to capture the much higher-quality picture and soundtrack. To leave more room on the film track for maximum picture quality, the audio is recorded separately. Cameras are costly, at around $12000-16000 per week to rent – and there are fewer than 100 of them in total around the world.

The iMax screen ratio is different from a typical widescreen TV (normally 16:9 ratio) and most other cinema film formats – as iMax favours a unique 1.90:1 ratio. Two separate projectors are used, and in the case of 3D presentations, it’s one projector for each eye! In a typical iMax Cinema, the seating is more highly-raked to give the audience a more immersive feel – but the seats do not recline in order to optimise the iMax 3D effect.

As I write this, Germany is about to open the biggest iMax screen in the world (a massive 122ft by 72ft) but Darling Harbour in Sydney is re-building their iMax cinema to regain the title (due for re-opening in 2020).

For those who appreciate iMax nerdiness, there’s a longer article HERE

We picked Jo and Janet up at 3.45 and headed for our destination and the 4.20pm performance. A typical Saturday at Rushden Lakes meant that parking was err, ‘challenging’ – and that included the majority of the electric charging points too! 😮.

Luckily (and pretty close to the cinema itself) we spotted an empty charging-bay and we parked-up quicker than you can say ‘kilowatt’.

After grabbing some drinks, we headed for the iMax screen armed with our free 3D glasses. We were soon seated in row ‘M’ (almost at the back and perfectly central to enjoy the best view). Surprisingly, I’d say that the Screen was only about a third full (but maybe other fans had seen it earlier in the week when it was first released).

Unlike other screens here, the iMax seats DON’T recline, but even so, they were very comfortable! Word to the wise! – avoid Row L for a while, as a Marvel fan in front of us managed to completely spill her two-gallon bucket of Coke on the nearly new seats! 🙄 – and that was before the Movie had started!! Even Spiderman’s hands are that ‘sticky’! 😂

On the dot of 4.20, we slipped on our 3D glasses and we were off!

Wow! The 3D effects were amazing, and the picture itself was pin-sharp! Apart from our first visit here earlier in the week, I can’t recall ever seeing such a clear picture (maybe apart of the film: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ that we’d seen at the local Odeon back in November, 2017).

As the story unfolded, it became clear this wasn’t a typical super-hero yarn, and it therefore required a fair bit of concentration. There’s a massive plot-twist around an hour in, but it’s OK, I won’t reveal the details here; suffice to say, it’s not a good time to pop to the loo!

The SFX were simply outstanding – but that’s becoming the norm these days! Even so, we were still mightily impressed! As an example, if you have a familiarity with London’s Tower Bridge and the surrounding area, then prepare to be amazed… and some! 😛

Like all Marvel films, it’s wise to sit through the end of the credits, not just to see the sheer amount of talent it took to get this latest blockbuster to screen, but to gain a clue-or-two as to what’s next for the Marvel-verse.

Even without any 3D effects this is a must-see movie for Marvel fans – and even if you’re not, it’s a very engaging and watchable adventure. Go see!

On the way out, we slipped into Heavenly Dessert nearby for some err, heavenly desserts! By the time we’d finished eating, Robert (our e-Niro) had been on charge for a little over 3½ hours – it turned out to be have been enough time to completely ‘top the car up’ – and best of all, for zero cost! Happy days!! 😁

Film: Rocketman

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We took the short drive over to Rushden Lakes today – this time, not for shopping! (some mistake surely) – but in consolation, we did sneak in a cheeky dessert courtesy of Heavenly Desserts!

Instead of shopping, it was our first visit to their shiny new, two-week-old, Cineworld cinema (their 100th opening in fact!). We saw Rocketman, the biographical film based on the life of musical legend Elton John.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Lee Hall, it stars Taron Egerton as the titular singer, with Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard in strong supporting roles.

Having also seen Bohemian Rhapsody back in November, comparisons were going to inevitable, but we went with open minds (and ears!)

Mostly chronological, it charted Elton’s life from a young boy, and didn’t hold back on those three rock-star essentials – sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. With that in mind, it’s probably not a film for Grandma, and best to leave the sprogs on the cinema’s climbing wall in Reception!

Taron Egerton more than held his own singing the Elton John staples, and if he ever gets bored of acting, a singing career awaits! Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, the songs had, in most cases, been re-orchestrated to complement and follow the storyline – it worked really well with an uncanny match of the lyrics to the scene’s mood. Overall, the movie followed a deeper and darker theme throughout compared with Queen’s equivalent – and in places, was even sadder (Who’d be a pop-megastar ehh???) 😕

Having said all that, I was hooked throughout! What a movie! For me, easily the best I’ve seen in a long, long while – and I’m not a particular fan of Elton’s music, nor actors trying their hand at singing!

And therefore, I suppose, the inevitable question has to be answered: “Was it better than Bohemian Rhapsody?” With its more graphic storyline, for me, most definitely, “yes”.

A must-see movie! 😁

And the Cinema itself..?

I can’t recall the last time we went to a Cineworld cinema – we tend to plump for Odeon, only because there seems to be more of them around. Actually, a quick search of my Blog revealed we’d been to MK’s Cineworld back in January 2018 to see Darkest Hour (free tickets courtesy of Sky) – my memory is definitely getting worse! 😲

First impressions of were very positive ones! First of all, it’s massive inside! So large in fact, it has its own climbing wall for the kiddies (and why not!?). The whole place was scrupulously clean and with major areas bathed in red neon, it looked very inviting. The cleanliness extended to the loos too! Inside Screen 1, the seats were super-comfortable and the sort that recline. The picture quality on-screen was eye-popping – the best I’ve ever seen in any cinema anywhere – pin-sharp and with audio to match. Our expectations were well-and-truly exceeded (and that doesn’t happen too often these days! 👍).

In fact, it made our local Odeon look very shabby by comparison! We were so impressed, we’re going back again on Saturday – this time to see Marvel Studios’ latest: Spiderman: Far from Home (and I have a feeling, we’ll be making quite a few more visits in the future).