Downton Abbey A New Era: Everyone Likes A Trip To The South Of France


Written by Luke Barnes


Two interconnected stories of a trip to the south of France and a film shoot.

I never watched the Downton Abbey series and only went to see this film and the one before it because my girlfriend likes the show, but I have to say I did find a lot to like about this film. Most notably it has just the right amount of heart, making you laugh and making you cry in equal measures even I who have no attachment to these characters found it hard to not well up in the end.

Moreover, the film moves along at a nice pace and never starts to feel slow or boring you are constantly being entertained from start to finish. By that same token the performances across the board are fantastic with everyone involved giving it their all, if I had to pick a favourite I would probably say Hugh Dancy’s Jack Barber as he was a very welcome addition to the usual line-up.

I also enjoyed that this film gave Barrow, played by Robert James-Collier, a love interest and was not afraid to pursue an LGBTQ+ romance, I thought not only was it very progressive for the film but it also became the main source of heart in the film, by the end I was really hoping they could be happy together.

Overall, a good time and a lot of fun, even if like me you aren’t a huge Downton fan.


The jokes

The emotion

The performances

The LGBTQ+ representation

The ending


The brother sub-plot really goes nowhere

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Nightmare Alley: Not Even Willem Dafoe Can Save This


Written by Luke Barnes


A man with a dark past, played by Bradley Cooper, joins a traveling circus and tries to make it big as a mentalist.

What happened here? Coming off Crimson Peak and The Shape Of Water two very strong del Toro films he makes this. That is not to say this film is bad just very average. I have seen this film being talked about under the notion of awards contention and frankly it couldn’t be further away from deserving that.

The film is self-indulgent to a tee and goes on for far, far too long. There are moments of promise throughout the film, but they are quickly undone by all the mediocrity that fills out the rest of the runtime. An example of which can be found with the final twist when Bradley Cooper’s character falls prey to a new circus master, played by Tim Blake Nelson, and becomes the new geek. Now some might say this ending for the character is profound but frankly I saw it coming from midway into the film.

The performances are equally a mixed bag. On the one hand you have strong turns from Willem Dafoe and Rooney Mara, but on the other you have an incredibly one note Cate Blanchett as a femme fatale and Bradley Cooper as a character that seems devoid of any kind of personality.

However, though this review has mainly focused on the negative, as I was disappointed with the film, that is not to say it is all bad. The film’s ending does manage to build a nice amount of tension and feel engaging, and some of the early carnival stuff features nice character work and moments that help the audience to power through just how long the first act goes on for.

Overall, not terrible but certainly a step back for del Toro.



The third act tension




The pacing

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Licorice Pizza: Grooming And Further Consent Issues


Written by Luke Barnes


A young man, played by Cooper Hoffman, pursues an older woman, played by Alana Haim, whilst both try and do something with their lives and become successful.

I will come right out and say it, the age difference in this film really bothered me. The boy is underage and the woman is much older, ten years his senior, I thought the film teasing us with the will they wont they aspect was disturbing as regardless of the outcome he is still a minor. They do in fact end up together just in case you’re wondering. I can’t help but note that if the romance was flipped so it was an older man and a below age girl, there would be an uproar and the film would never have been made yet that seems to be ignored here, suspect.

I also thought this film suffered from some of the worst pacing I have seen in the last year, it felt double its run time and far outstayed its welcome bringing in more and more subplots and side stories that you just don’t care about.

On a positive note, I thought there were things to enjoy here. I liked the charming strangeness of the whole thing and thought that there were a number of very funny scenes, whenever Bradley Cooper came on screen and wrecked something or threaten someone that always got a laugh out of me. I also thought the film had a really strong soundtrack that helped it out in various different ways.

Overall, the film has enjoyable elements, Cooper, the soundtrack, some laughs, but the icky romance and terrible pacing really bring it down for me.



The soundtrack

A good few laughs


The icky romance

The pacing is awful

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Chocolat: Chocolate’s To Boost Your Sex Drive

Chocolat is a romantic comedy drama film directed by Lasse Hallstrom, based on the book of the same name by Joanne Harris. The plot sees chocolatier Vianne (Juliette Binoche), move to a small religious French town in the middle of Lent, as she begins to sell her devilish wares whilst most of the residents of the small town are fasting she quickly makes herself a number of enemies. Can a good heart and a lot of chocolates change the locals minds about her?

Finally! After all this time, after countless numbers of films that demonise them, finally I have found a film that has positive Traveller representation: honestly it is nice to finally find a film that treats this group of people as humans, as not as some sort of easy scape goat for whatever ills are going on at the time, however, it is also sad as it makes me think of few other films share this film’s progressive outlook.    

I enjoyed this film for the wholesome good time that it is. There are some sad things that happen in it, but in the end everything works out and everyone has a nice party- and in the times we are currently living in sometimes that is all you need to stop the nihilism for finally settling in.

There are a number of strong actors giving great performances here. Firstly, you have Binoche who creates a character that is perhaps one of the most likeable characters in all of cinema, and who you immediately want to see succeed, but also one that clearly has a dark past and is somewhat empty. Secondly you have Doctor Octopus himself Alfred Molina, as the films villain who is equally as sublime as the lead. Molina plays the leader of the town who takes an immediate dislike to Vianne and who goes to war with her, the two have an interesting relationship and Molina adds a lot of layers and depth to the character. Finally, you have the always marvellous but often overlooked Peter Stormare, as the real villain of the film an angry drunk/ wife beater shopkeeper who also forms a dislike of Vianne after she has a negative impact on his life. Stormare brings us a character that is easy to hate, but who also has more to him than simple villainy: moreover, he also brings some of his trademark weirdness to the role and gives us a few scenes that are unintentionally hilarious.

Johnny Depp is also in this film, at the height of his heart stealing good looks and he is a perfectly fine romantic lead. Shame they didn’t cast an actual traveller in the role but ah well it is Hollywood after all.

Overall, a lovely heart-warming film.


The wholesomeness

A nice happy ending

The romance

Positive Traveller representation


A few slow moments


Reviewed by Luke  

Six Minutes To Midnight: Peak Britishness

Six Minutes To Midnight is a British spy thriller film directed by Andy Goddard. The plot sees Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard), a British spy sent to infiltrate a boarding school for the daughter of the Nazi high command operating on British soil mere weeks before the onset of WW2.

There is something so British about a period piece, set around the war, and featuring Judy Dench; it is almost like a Britishness trifactor.

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought it was going to be a very tense spy film. However, when I watched it my expectations were met, though they were also a little underwhelmed at the same time. Yes, there is some spy thriller elements, but the film could do with losing a few of the slower sequences in favour of more sustained prolonged tension. Like honestly, I don’t care that one of the girls clearly feels left out from the rest, this is not a coming of age film, I want spy thrills.

Izzard handles most of the dramatic heavy lifting and manages to have quite a few strong character moments. I would dare say she is the strongest performer in this film, yes even out performing Dench and veteran actor Jim Broadbent. However, that might not be that hard as neither is given much to do, and Dench is just playing the same character she always plays, a sassy old woman.

The villainous reveal in this film also receives a portion of my ire, it is so painfully obvious. I won’t spoil it for you, but from the opening few minutes you will be able to guess it.

Overall, Izzard is trying to keep this film together and just about manages thanks to some strong tension and character moments. However, the film could do with being trimmed down and with having Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent being given far more to work with.



Some strong tense sequences

The ending


Wastes a large amount of the cast

The identity of the villain is painfully obvious


Reviewed by Luke

The Dig: Get Out The Shovels And Dig Up Your Back-Garden Now!

The Dig is a drama film directed by Simon Stone. The plot serves as a reimagining of the Sutton Hoo dig of 1939 from the point of view of pushed to the side excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes).

I remember the other day seeing a tweet from Netflix (possibly Netflix UK), saying something to the extent of this is one for the tweed lovers, and that is true, but there is also so much more to like about this film besides from its nice country esque wardrobe.

I was surprised to find how much I ended up caring about this dig and those involved in it. Fiennes and particularly Carey Mulligan really manage to develop these characters out into real flesh and blood people who you care about and become emotionally invested in; Lilly James struggles to the same with her character, she is a little out of her depth here.

This film is unrelentingly bleak, you can tell right from the off that it will not end happily, this is real life after all or a ‘true story’ version of it. Yes, the ending is bleak but in a way that serves to strengthen the emotional significants of the film and the discovery itself. The ending serves to enrage you for reasons that will become clear if you watch it.

Overall, I think this is another win for Carey Mulligan, after Promising Young Women see really is one a marvellous streak.


The emotional beats



The ending is infuriating but also perfect for the film


Lilly James sticks out for all the wrong reasons


Reviewed by Luke    

Crimson Peak: Mystery, Murder And Misunderstanding

Crimson Peak is a gothic romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro. The plot follows Edith (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman who moves with her new husband Thomas (Tom Hiddleston), into his ancestral home know to some as Crimson Peak, due to the red ore turning the snow red in the winter. However, since she was a girl Edith has been told to beware Crimson Peak, mainly from the ghost of her dead mother, unsurprisingly once she moves into the house things to start to take a turn towards the ghostly and the demonic.

Whoever was in charge of the marketing campaign for this film should have been fired; if not, fire them now, clearly, they can’t do their job. This film was marketed in its trailers and supporting material as a horror film, it is not. Despite having ghosts appear and a few other horror elements, this film has nothing else in common with the horror genre and to say otherwise in an insult to both and to del Toro himself.

This film is beautiful to look at, every scene is chocked full of vibrant colour and gothic charm, this much like the rest of del Toro’s filmography is very pleasing on the eye. The people in charge of set design and costumes deserve a huge round of applause.

This film is very much unlike any other as it defies genre. It is a romance, but not in a traditional sense; hell this film makes the romance in del Toro’s The Shape Of Water look almost conventional. It truly is a gothic film however; you will see what I mean if you watch it.

The story is top notch, full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up until the end. The creatures/ ghost design is also on top form; if there is one thing you can expect to see in a del Toro film it is Doug Jones as any number of monsters, each one looking better than the last and all looking marvellous. The performances are strong especially from the women. Wasikowska is great in the lead role, it would be nice to see her in more films, and Jessica Chastain is superb as Lucile Thomas’s sister. I won’t go into specifics about their performances as it might spoil some of the reveals.

Overall, I think this is one of del Toro’s strongest films that was woefully mis-marketed and sold as something it was not. Hopefully after you have read this review and understand what it really is you will check it out and really love it, as I did.


The look of the film.

The gothic beauty of the story.

The performances.

The creature design and Doug Jones.


It is slightly too long, and the beginning feels a little indulgent.


Reviewed by Luke

Emma: Jane Austen In 2020

Emma. Is a comedy drama film directed by Autumn De Wilde, based on the book of the same name by Jane Austen. The plot follows Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young woman who by her own admission is “handsome, clever and rich”, as she messes with the lives and romances of those around her; whilst also going on a journey of self-discovery, learning things about herself and love.

Austen period dramas aren’t really something that appeal to me greatly, but this one I thought looked promising. From the trailers I was hoping it might turn out to be something like The Favourite a period drama that had an edgy twist and something new to say about the genre; I was badly wrong. This film is by all means just a modern retelling of the same old story, just with a fresh coat of paint and a quirkier sense of humour.

Said quirky sense of humour was for me incredibly hit or miss, some of the jokes in the film had me smiling and chuckling whereas other fell flat; truth be told I found myself laughing quite a few times at things that upon later reflection I’m pretty sure weren’t meant to be funny.

Without that more modern sense of humour, you are just left we a Jane Austen adaptation, which is fine if that is your thing, you will probably love this, but for me I thought it was boring and dull; this is only made worse by the fact that the film goes on for what feels like an eternity, dragging further and further out.

On a more positive note I think Anya Taylor Joy was delightful and did really well in the role, her performance brought something new to the standard leading woman in these kinds of films. Likewise, Bill Nighy as Mr Woodhouse had some great comedic moments and was the standout of any scene, he was in.

Overall, I think I greatly misjudged the tone of this film from the trailers, had I known that it was just yet another modern adaptation of Jane Austen then I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it. Taylor-Joy and Nighy do their best and there are a few laughs to be had throughout, but unless you’re really into Austen I would probably stay well clear of this one.


The jokes that do land.

Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic.


It is boring.

It is too long.

The humour doesn’t always land.


Reviewed by Luke

The Favourite: Gaining The Queen’s Favor


‘The Favourite’ is a period black comedy film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. It revolves around two cousins Sarah (Rachel Weisz), and Abigail (Emma Stone), who are both vying to be the court favourite of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), there is no extreme these cousins/ rivals will not go to in their quest to oust the other.

This is a pitch-black comedy film and it knows it, if you have that sort of comedy sensibilities then you will think that this film is hilarious. Both Weisz and Stone are hilarious proving that they both have great comedy chops. The film takes how bleak and depressing life was in this period and makes a joke out of it at every turn. Everything in this film is played up to an almost manic degree, an example of this would be the two rival factions that run the government that both want the Queen’s attention. One of these factions is lead by Harley (Nicholas Hoult), who is a delightfully over the top hammy sub-antagonist.

There are some moments in this film where the comedy ends and there are some moments that really tug on the heartstrings, an example of this would be when Queen Anne tells Abigail about all the children she has lost. This shows how ‘The Favourite’ can shoot on both fronts and do well, both in comedy as well as in drama. A lot of this drama is done to perfection by Colman, but more on here later.

My one issue with this film is that the ending isn’t very strong. The ending is quite introspective and almost trippy in a way which doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the film, but this didn’t really affect my overall enjoyment of the film.

Finally, I just want to say about the phenomenal job that Olivia Colman does, this is after all the film that won her an Oscar. Colman plays Anne as a broken soul, a person that has lost a lot and just wants to be loved, she has almost has a childlike innocence to her performance that makes it so tragic.

Overall, this film is a masterclass in dark comedy and if you like things like ‘The Death Of Stalin’ or ‘The Thick Of It’ you will find something to like here, the film is let down by it’s ending, but is fantastic in every other respect.


Genuinely Funny.

Also Has Great Emotional Stakes.

Weisz And Stone Are Both Fantastic.

So Is Colman.


The Ending Is Disappointing.


Reviewed By Luke

The Nightingale: The Heart Of Darkness

‘The Nightingale’ is a period drama film directed by Jennifer Kent, her second film after the critically acclaimed ‘The Babadook’. The plot of the film revolves around Irish convict Clare (Aisling Franciosi), who suffers a horrific tragedy that result in her losing everything, the events that follow show her as she treks across the Tasmania bush in search of the men that wronged her; So she can enact a brutal act of retribution upon them.

Before I get into this review, I just want to say this is a grueling film to watch, deeply uncomfortable and unpleasant at times, but that seems to be by design. There are disturbing acts of violence and sexual violence depicted in this film that set up Claire’s character motivation and show the horrific place that the Tasmanian Bush was at this point in time.

If that doesn’t put you off there is a lot to appreciate about this film. Firstly, is the attention to detail payed in the setting and how the events of the story play out, the 1825 Van Diemen’s Land that Kent brings to life is unlike anything I had previously seen. The world this film presents is harsh and incredibly unforgiving and it makes you aware of horrors of history that you might not have been aware of.

The performances are excellent as well.  Franciosi is a marvel to behold the emotions that her character conveys are both striking and affecting. She is entirely believable as a woman who has lost everything and is now a ghost of the person she was before, driven only by revenge. Furthermore, the gradual friendship she forms with Aboriginal tracker Billy (Baykail Ganambarr), she sweet and brings a bit of levity to an otherwise deeply oppressive, depressing film.

Ganambarr is excellent especially when you consider that this is this first feature film performance. His character of Billy not only brings some humour to the film, but also provides a door into the Aboriginal world which we don’t often see represented in cinema. Billy does at times outshine Claire, but both are fantastic.

Sam Claflin is also in this film he plays the sadistic antagonist Hawkins. Claflin is quickly making a name for himself as a skilled actor especially for playing villains, he plays a loathsome bastard better than anyone else. He completely loses himself in the role and delivers yet another magnificent performance.

Overall, this film can be hard to watch at times, you will feel the urge to turn it off, but if you can stick with it there is something special here. ‘The Nightingale’ is far more of a nuanced take on the Rape-Revenge subgenre and has a lot to say and has some great performances to back it up.



Excellent Performances.

A Great Follow Up.

Bringing Attention To Issues.


Very Very Very Hard To Watch At Times.


Reviewed by Luke