Downton Abbey

‘Downton Abbey’, a very popular historical TV drama, ran for six series. A modern day version of ‘The Forsyth Saga’ and ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, the show entranced viewers with its stylish dramatics and gorgeous locations. It helped having a stellar cast who made the most of creator Julian Fellowes’ scripts. Popularity breeds spin-offs with this movie version gracing the big screen with the same panache it showed on smaller ones.

It is 1927 and Downton Abbey is awash with excitement. The Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) are hosting a royal visit. King George V and Queen Mary grace their halls much to the astonishment of the servants. With the ever arch Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) looking on, proceedings take a myriad of unexpected turns amongst the Abbey’s esteemed walls.

Michael Engler directs ‘Downton Abbey’ with the same flair afforded its’ television counterpart. Fans should enjoy this return journey amongst the Abbey’s hallowed halls with an abundance of unexpected twists. Casual viewers may be a little lost as it relies on its devoted fanbase for appeal. ‘Downton Abbey’ provides a very entertaining few hours with a solidly written and a well paced script captivating until the end.

The high quality cast slip into their roles with ease. It’s great seeing veterans such as Maggie Smith spout the rich dialogue with aplomb. The locations are superbly photographed, effortlessly matching the standards previously set. All these elements highlight the production’s quest in crafting a top-tier movie succeeding on several levels.

‘Downton Abbey’ is worth checking out if only for the scenery. A good example of how to successfully transfer a TV series to cinema, it is easy viewing. It will be interesting if more films eventuate with ‘Downton Abbey’s’ allure sure to be heightened with this confident big screen outing.

Rating out of 10: 8

Palm Beach

‘Palm Beach’ is an Australian film taking its cue from other works such as ‘The Big Chill’. A gathering of friends who meet for good times but end up with personal dramas being aired isn’t anything new. The way this is told is how you judge a movie’s success. Directed by Rachel Ward, ‘Palm Beach’ generally rises above the clichés to deliver a story as enticing as the title’s locale.

Frank (Bryan Brown) and his wife Charlotte (Gretta Scacchi) invite a group of friends, including Billy (Richard E Grant), Leo (Sam Neill) and Doug (Aaron Jeffrey) over to their idyllic Palm Beach home. Looking forward to several days of good times, what transpires is anything but. Old secrets and rivalries surface as the group grapples with the hand that fate has dealt them.

Despite having much light drama, ‘Palm Beach’ is an amiable film for a certain audience. There’s not much to worry viewers with the soft melodramatics deftly intertwining with gentle humour. The ensemble cast are pros at this type of film with their thespian muscles barely stretched. They give as much as the script allows with genuine chemistry shining through the screen.

The real star of the show is the gorgeous Palm Beach location. Ward successfully ensues she wrings much from the scenery as possible. This add to the lightness she wants to convey. The soundtrack adds immeasurably to the fun atmosphere, conjuring a party mood amongst the dramatics.

Those wanting escapist viewing without having to think too much will enjoy ‘Palm Beach’. The veteran cast do a fine job delivering the soufflé of a screenplay. It’s enjoyable seeing the Australian landscape used so well with more films like these sure to bring even more tourists to our sunny shores.

Rating out of 10: 7