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).
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.
On arrival, the weather was disappointing to say the least (Summer’s not quite over surely???) Oliver was sporting shorts and I was in a short-sleeved shirt. Consequently, both of us were woefully ill-dressed for the conditions – a plummeting temperature followed by rain! ☔ ☔
1.00pm: However, It didn’t stop us enjoying our picnic though, as we sandwiched ourselves between ‘Robert‘ and the car next door to act as a wind-break! Brrrrr! 😁
1.55pm: I think the c*** weather made us eat more quickly, and we soon made a significant dent in Ann’s extensive picnic.
As soon as we’d cleared up our bits, we headed straight for the House. Word to the wise: Since our previous visit, there’s been one major change here! ALL VISITS ARE NOW TIMED, so it’s not just a case of turning-up and hoping to get in straight away. But, as it happened, it was perfect timing on our part, as there were five slots on the very next admission – the 2.15!
2.10pm: We’re in! 😁
Given our previous visits, from a photo point-of-view, I decided to concentrate on the less well-known/seen pieces on show inside, together with less obvious views of the property and surroundings.
3.05pm: Time for a cuppa, especially as the damp weather from earlier had returned, but this time it was torrential!
A quick, but determined sprint to the nearby tea-shop got us more-or-less to the front of the queue (followed by the rest of mankind) and we were soon seated in the Stables enjoying our cuppa and cake!
3.35pm: Next stop was the Gardens where the weather, perfectly on cue turned from rain to warm sunshine! 😁 At last!
9.45pm: And what could be better than a good film to finish the evening? The answer? two films! Choice-wise, the consensus was Thor: Ragnarok (in 4k DVD). Although it’s not my favourite from the Marvel stable, it’s still a very good yarn with everyone acting their heart out, helped along by outstanding SFX and a comedic theme (that in spite of all the death and destruction, seemed to work). The day however, eventually got the better of us, and we only got about two-thirds of the way through it – still there was always tomorrow to finish it off!
11.05pm: That’s it! 😴😴😴😴😴 Nighty-night!
A lie-in for me until the unearthly late hour of 7.15 whilst the others slept-on.
9.10am: A little bit of Queen, courtesy of Spotify to get the day started!
9.45am: Breakfast is served – Porridge with Strawberries followed by a Bacon Butty! 😁
10.30am: Jane, Oliver and I watched the rest of Thor: Raganarok, Roger caught up with the Daily Telegraph, whilst Ann put the finishing touches to lunch – this was a real family-foodie weekend, and just how we like it! 😍
12.15pm: Pre-lunch drinkies!
1.00pm: Lunch is served. Roast Chicken with all the bits!
2.30pm: Lunch over! A bit of clearing up followed by a long natter.
whilst listening to something a little more relaxing!
3.45pm: Well, where did that weekend go? It passed really quickly – a great sign of a great time! 😍😍
When the first Fast and Furious movie unleashed itself in cinemas back in 2001, even I (as a self-confessed petrol-head) didn’t expect it to capture the hearts, and minds wallets and purses of the general public in the way it did. Almost twenty-years later, and after eight instalments, it’s pulled-in around $10 billion at the Box-office and there’s a ninth movie in the works, a spin-off TV series planned, a Theme Park in America, and even a Live Show to satisfy demand!
Phew! Just shows you how much I know! 😁
So, what of this ‘love-child’? Well, ‘War and Peace’ it isn’t; and I was pretty sure, as with its ‘parents’, I could leave my brain at home, and simply wallow in a wafer-thin plot.
The tongue-twisty title is derived from the names of two of the main characters who’d appeared in previous F&F outings: Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw (Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham). Unlike the movie’s bloodline though, this movie’s been written as an ‘action/spy/comedy’, and so it’ll be interesting to see how the characters interact and whether they can pull-off the change of genre. Comedy is a serious business! 😁
Start your Engines…
4.50pm: We were soon settling-down in the very comfortable i-Max seats (the rows are also slightly raked to take in the added height of the screen). Judging by the number of people in the audience, either we’d missed the rush, or word had got around and we were going to be disappointed! Ooo-err Missus! 🙄
My plan to ‘travel light’ and leave my brain at home, worked perfectly – it wasn’t needed at all apart from choosing the chocolate and my soft-drink beforehand! The movie was mostly set in and around London with some impressive ‘set-pieces’ involving (you guessed it) multiple vehicle chases.
The promised comedic element was more ‘giggle’ than ‘laugh-out-loud’ and I can’t help but think they could have easily played the movie completely straight without losing any of the narrative structure. Overall, with the film’s script ‘by-the-numbers’, stereotypical characters, over-indulgent violence (with male testosterone on overtime), under-pinned by the ‘down-with-the-yoof’ soundtrack, it all contributed to a wholly predictable 135 minutes of constant mind-numbing action!
7.05pm: Consequently, by the end, we were all exhausted!! 🥱
In other words then, a perfect Sunday afternoon at the flicks and totally in keeping with previous Fast & Furious movies – and it definitely packed more of a punch on the super-clear, large iMax screen.
I’m not sure it’s worthy of a sequel, but as I may have said before: ‘What do I know?‘ 🤔
…Oh, and just like another well-known film franchise, stick around for the mid and end credit scenes that set up the next movie in the franchise – Oh joy, another opportunity to enjoy a brain-free afternoon!
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! 😁👍
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! 🥵
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!! 😁
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.
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).
A weekend of fun, friends, fine food, F1 and err, a fone!
Ralph and Karen are joining us for the weekend. We haven’t seen each other for a while and there was plenty to catch-up with! Probably the most important task was to begin finalising details for joint trip to China including understanding the Visa process.
Arriving just after 10am, they’d had a remarkably good journey from theirs – and they’d also managed to not get stuck in all the local mega-roadworks! After a quick natter, whilst Ann and Karen then went into town to sort out some bits-and-bobs, us boys took a closer look at Ralph’s new phone – the rather impressive Huawei P20 Pro. (Pity it wasn’t called the F20 though! 😊
It’s an impressive beast of a phone with a spec to die for… and more! 😊👍
In other phone-related news, we also fashioned a plan to beat the internet restrictions in China by using a VPNand we’re going to firm-up the specifics nearer the time, after narrowing down the various providers. Given that the Chinese State is pretty active in blocking/restricting use of the internet – especially with social media and blogs – it’s a challenge and a half!
…but we do like a challenge! 😉
11.55am: Just before Noon, the girls arrived back from town and we sat down to a sandwich lunch. A lazy afternoon followed (for some of us!) leaving Ann busy in the kitchen, weaving her magic for tonight’s meal!
6.30pm: David and Valerie arrived bang on time to join us for the Meal – and Ann’s hard work didn’t disappoint… 👍
10.25pm: As expected, it was all delicious – and only David managed to resist NOT having TWO Desserts! 😁. It was good to catch-up with everyone’s news and the first time we looked at the clock, it was almost 10.30! Time to say good-bye to David and Valerie, quickly followed by us all calling it a night.
It was good to re-visit the Hall after all these years, I’d quite forgotten how interesting a place it is – and it’s especially quirky given that the roof was err, ‘liberated’ to pay off gambling debts! As expected, nothing much had changed, but we were surprised by the welcoming committee on arrival! We quickly moooooved on!😊
2.45pm: After a quick Lunch, Ralph took us through their photographs from their trip to India – all the more impressive as they we beamed wirelessly from his phone to our TV.
6.35pm: We were last here for Ann’s Birthday back in March, and it was good to looking over their excellent Menu again! We arrived earlier than our 7pm slot and it was already heaving! (Surely a good sign!) – but they were still able to seat us. Service with a smile was clearly in evidence and we were soon making our foody-choices.
…and then when it came to the Mains, we naturally did our own thing: Karen chose the Salmon with a Lemon Citrus Dressing; Ann munched into the Macaroni Cheese; Ralph, the Pub’s signature Tolly Burger, whilst I managed the truly melt-in-the-mouth Beef Bourguignon.
Each dish proved to be delicious, and combined with their excellent service, this, our latest pub-find is becoming our regular haunt! 😊👍. Room for a Dessert? Well, it would have been rude not to – but I forgot to take any photos, so here’s the Dessert menu instead! 😕
Ann chose to skip the sweet stuff, whilst Karen wrestled the Raspberry Sorbet (I say ‘wrestled’ – it was so cold it caused her some short-term brain-freeze); Ralph, the Sticky Toffee Pudding and me, the Affogato.
9.30pm: By the time we left, the place was (still) pretty much full in the Restaurant – well deserved! All in all then, a great experience (again!) – a habit we could get used to!! We headed for home and spent the rest of the evening listening to Amazon Music via the TV.
10.45pm: Here we go aga…. 😴😴😴😴 – we left Ralph watching the recorded F1 Qualifier highlights (I’ll catch it tomorrow!)
8.30am: I caught up with the F1 Practice from Barcelona – another good result for Mercedes! 👍
10.30am: We discussed our China holiday itinerary in detail and double-checked the visa requirements. Time well spent, as the visa paperwork is a nightmare with the added complexity of the Chinese State now insists on personal visits to one of their four UK centres where they will also require fingerprints! 😵
12.10pm: Lunch at our other favourite local Pub/Restaurant – The Olde Victoria in Burton Latimer. We haven’t been here for a while but it was good to see that the service and the food was as good as we remember it. By 1 o’clock is was heaving, with only a single empty table for two left in the restaurant.
1.55pm: We said our good-byes to Ralph and Karen and whilst they headed north, we briefly dropped-in to John and Trish’s on the way home
2.30pm:Just time to drop off Karen R’s birthday present before catching up with a few house chores. It’s been a full-on weekend – but a very enjoyable one! 👍😊👍😊