Downton Abbey

Sons of Anarchy

Spin-offs have been a part of television since the very beginning. These include not just those series that branched off from popular shows focusing on a favorite supporting character but also those that continued following the leads. The latter could be thought of as TV show sequels, like Archie Bunker’s Place. Prequels, however, have not been as big a part of television tradition. There were Saturday morning cartoons offering origins of live-action TV characters like Alf and the Muppets, as well as some jumping onto the “__ Babies” concept for classic animated series like Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones. Around the same time, ’80s drama Dallas got a legitimate prequel, but it was in the form of a TV movie. Outside of shows that were prequels to movies — a current trend in and of itself that has its roots in series like Freddy’s Nightmares (some of its episodes, anyway) and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles — the earliest American live-action spin-off of a live-action series to go backward in focus was probably Young Hercules, in which none other than Ryan Gosling portrayed the teenage version of Kevin Sorbo’s legendary hero for 50 episodes between 1998 and 1999. Unsurprisingly,  the Star Trek franchise eventually got into prequel territory with Enterprise. Later, another sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica, tried it with the unsuccessful Caprica. 

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Downton Abbey Season 4 - Edith

If you’re living inside a soap opera, and your young daughter says she’s going away for 6 to 9 months on a holiday that seems both spur of the moment and devoid of details, rest assured that she’s getting rid of an unwanted baby. Maybe she’s having an abortion, maybe she’s putting it up for private adoption, but she’s definitely (not maybe) pregnant. Which leads us to Edith.

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Downton Abbey - Charles Blake

The hate-romance between Lady Mary and Charles Blake this season has been as tiresome as it’s been obvious. Like an unlikable version of Matthew, Blake (Julian Oveden) has burst onto the scene as an aggressor building schoolyard chemistry even as both he and Mary proclaim their distaste for each other. It’s a repetition of the formula that makes sense for the character (apparently Mary has a type), but it’s been poor service for anyone hoping that the estate would prove to be a genuine focus. Here we are a brief time after Matthew’s death, and Mary has a gaggle of suitors. Because — what other story could there be for a well-bred woman of the 20th century? Fortunately, with the help of some ailing pigs, we’ve seen a new side from Blake. Or, at the very least, we’ve seen that he has a take-command brand of expertise. He’s slightly less unlikable, which is convenient since the story seems determined to focus on him as a Matthew-replacement. But it’s Mary who we’ve truly seen a new side from, and hers is covered in mud.

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Downton Abbey - Jack Ross Episode 5

As late as 2011, 23% of Mississippi voters thought that interracial relationships should be illegal. That’s an important (and disturbing) number to remember on the heels of last night’s Downton Abbey, where the attraction between Lady Rose (Lily James) and bandleader Jack Ross (Gary Carr) found a spotlight during a party before finding a dark corner downstairs. Essentially, a quarter of viewers in Mississippi might have had the same venomous response to Ross’ presence as a few characters who are meant to portray attitudes from ninety years ago. Probably not too surprising considering the invective that’s hurled online toward our President on a daily basis. If the leader of the free world can’t catch a break regarding his skin color, why should a croony jazz man trying to woo a ward of Downton get one? Knowing that Britain and the United States have different timelines regarding slavery and suffrage, it’s also interesting that this fourth season has featured so many side jokes that could be called “Mrs. Patmore versus The Machine.” Here’s a woman most likely born in the 1860s having to deal with electric sewing machines and the end of ice block delivery while the tuxedo-bound upstairs have to learn to react to a dark-skinned man. It’s also an episode that — through the lens of a century past –briefly explored animal rights and nodding yet again toward income inequality, proving dramatically how long the curve of history can be. To that end, it was thematically appropriate for all of […]

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Shakespeare in Love

Ah, the circle of stardom and the wonder of That Guy. Is there any greater thrill in pop culture than noticing someone you’d never noticed before? Probably not. Which says a lot about pop culture. Downton Abbey – peradventure because it’s an ensemble from a different country — has a host of familiar faces you can’t quite place. The woman carry a kind of instant fame with them (Elizabeth McGovern is an Oscar nominee and Maggie Smith is Maggie Smith), but the main men have a head-scratchier past. So here’s a brief primer on where you’ve seen these guys before. Prepare by aiming your hand at your forehead.

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DowntonLogo2

Throughout the history of Downton Abbey, Robert Crawley has consistently been the least interesting character. It makes sense. With a show rooted in traditions, he’s an anchor of sorts, but stuff that weighs your ship down can be pretty dull. Maybe they toss out a neutered love affair to tempt him, maybe another thing happens with the estate, maybe something at dinner causes him to harumph, but ultimately he’s a one-trick dressage pony no matter how alive Hugh Bonneville makes him feel. This isn’t a normal season, though, and episode four proved that the Earl of Grantham is next on the list for a true evolution.

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Downton Abbey - Jack Ross

Downton Abbey was nice enough to give us time to exhale from last week’s shocking sexual assault, but it also made quick work of several romances and a fiendish plot to use an empty uterus as a means of social advancement. In other words, it was a lighter patchwork of dramatic gymnastics following the plunge. Joanne Froggatt continues to prove herself a standout as Anna — dealing with the aftermath of rape with a frustratingly realistic, calm desperation. They’ve given her a logical response to not being vocal (that Mr. Bates would murder her attacker and end up with his neck stretched after all) alongside the pang of profoundly personal, deeply emotional reasons not to bring a despicable asshole to justice. She feels tainted, and it’s easy to imagine that she’d want to keep that shameful sentiment to herself to avoid risking an exposing stare from the court of public opinion. For a show that’s pushed hard against the progress of the time, it’s still easy to imagine a Downton where Anna is looked down upon through no fault of her own. So we get a grueling tennis match between her and Mrs. Hughes, airing every good point from every angled mindset on what to do after such an intimate violation. When Anna attempts to create a silent shield for Bates, saying “better a broken heart than a broken neck,” she might as well be speaking about herself.

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Downton Abbey - Anna

How badly did you want Mr. Bates to go check on Anna in the servant’s quarters? To descend the stairs, discover the worst and find his fists. Or for Carson to need another bottle of wine. Or for Barrow to get tired of the music. Or for an earthquake to strike — anything to stop what was happening from happening. Late into the second episode of Downton Abbey, Cora calls Robert’s change-of-mind regarding Edith’s editorial boyfriend a “Damascene Conversion” — a swift alteration evoking St. Paul’s religious swap along the road to Damascus — but the show itself underwent its own conversion last night. A fundamental change that erases the last vestiges of its storybook nature. This is the same show that made light of a man’s death in season one by laboring his body from room to room, the same show that introduced a silly long-lost heir like a writers’ room Hail Mary, and the same show that lives for people using the wrong fork at dinner. This isn’t that same show anymore.

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Michelle Dockery

There’s a presence haunting Downton Abbey. Ink dark and vaporous, it drifts along the baseboards pushing back against the sunlight and screaming toward anything with a pulse. Considering the Crawley House history, it’s probably not alone. After all, this is the same space that has seen plenty of life extinguished within its walls: from characters we know intimately to spirits from WWI who never made it beyond its ad hoc hospital threshold. It’s a mournful place heading into 1922, and its newest ghost is Lady Mary. With somber detachment, season four of Downton Abbey lunges forward from the shock of her husband’s death, a tragic end that has hollowed out the household and left its older daughter devoid of life.

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Downton Abbey Season 4

Downton Abbey will continue to explore modern morals with an antique feel in season 4 as Gary Carr joins the cast as the first black character to grace Crawley House. From the look of the trailer, he’s got some love and music in store. What will be most interesting is the transitioning phase the story has to go through. After three years, they’ve plowed through WWI, focused on the roaring 20s and chronicled a huge pile of intense (soap operatic) drama. The family seems to face a crushing tragedy or soaring triumph on a weekly basis, and now the original impetus for the show’s existence has faded completely from the rearview mirror. It’s all especially true after last season’s finale. The show finds itself evolving in more ways than one. Here’s a tease of the ch-ch-ch-ch-changes:

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ritter

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that always keeps its promises. Yesterday we promised we’d be back soon with Cinderella’s second evil stepsister, and today we deliver. Given her spindly, spider-like limbs, her silky black hair, and her porcelain skin, it was probably only a matter of time before Krysten Ritter ended up acting in a Tim Burton movie. The girl is basically goth catnip. So, appropriately enough, a report out of Deadline is saying that she just joined Burton’s next project, Big Eyes. This one will see Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams portraying 50s and 60s art sensations Walter and Margaret Keane, and Ritter playing Margaret’s outgoing friend, DeeAnn, who urges her to come out of her shell and stop letting her fast-talking husband take credit for her weird paintings of kids with big eyes.

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HOUSE OF CARDS

Television-after-television had to happen at some point. Of course, television-like content that is exclusively available on the Internet isn’t anything new – webisodes have been a thing for quite some time now. What is new about Netflix’s House of Cards is the fact a program under the rubric of “quality television” – a category of prestige televisual entertainment established by HBO, Showtime, AMC, and some broadcast programs – has now been made available exclusively on the Internet. Not only is House of Cards exclusively on the Internet, but it’s only available via a single subscription outlet. Now that it’s premiered, what could its existence (and potential success) imply for the future of both television programming and what’s now expected of audiences? Furthermore, if a program exists independently of televisions altogether, what exactly do we consider to be “television” now? House of Cards has all the trappings of a heavily promoted HBO program. It’s got high production value, a name cast, and a well-known director at the helm. In other words, like anything from Luck to Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards has cinematic credentials: sleek, medium-shot-heavy cinematography, and marquee names like Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and David Fincher. It’s television tailor-made for the age of letterbox HD broadcasts and DVR. It just isn’t on television.

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Red 2

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s back in the saddle again, bringing you plenty of movie news and notes from around the web. Can’t get enough of the world of the moving picture? Let this nightly diversion be your guide. Red 2: Plaid Boogaloo – This has been hanging around a while, but there is now a plaid-filled official first look at Red 2, the follow-up to the Bruce Willis, John Malkovich-led “old guy spies” movie based on a comic by Warren Ellis. The first was a fun pic, full of Helen Mirren in an evening gown shooting a 50-caliber machine gun. If the second has any of that, we’ll be in good shape.

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The Dowager Countess

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly quarrel with the boundaries of good taste. It’s a nightly column that took some holiday time off, but it now back for its third (we think) season of rocking your world with links about entertainment, non-entertainment and other wordy pursuits in-between. Downton? Damn Near Killed Her – As you should already know if you reside on the Internet, Downton Abbey is back for its third season here in the United States of America. And as has been the case in the past, we just can’t get enough of that elegant British melodrama. If we had to place bets on what really connects Downton with its hip young American audience, we’d say that it has something to do with Dame Maggie Smith. See the following video as exhibit A.

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mnad_gollum

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s the thing that makes you feel better about the world after a long, tough day. And lets just all agree that it’s been a long, tough day for so many people. So a little escapism is in order. Hobbit Wizardry – We begin tonight with a shout out to our friend Eric Vespe, best known as “Quint” from Ain’t It Cool News. That’s pertinent information, because this excellent article he wrote about Peter Jackson and The Hobbit for Popular Mechanics includes his real name in the byline. It looks like everyone’s using their real name lately. The article is excellent, even if it is dealing in-trade with one of the more disappointing films of the year, according to some.

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Deals for Movie Lovers

Well it appears we all managed to survive Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And if you happen to still have any money in your wallet, have we got some deals for you!

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Sound of My Voice A filmmaking couple infiltrate a cult in search of the truth regarding its enigmatic leader Maggie (Brit Marling), but the longer they stay the more one of them comes to believe her claims. The situation grows more dangerous when Maggie makes a spectacular claim and asks one of them to kidnap a specific young girl. Marling co-wrote the film with director Zal Batmanglij, and they’ve created a thought provoking, suspenseful and often surprising indie that feels bigger than it is by virtue of the ideas at play. Marling also delivers a spectacularly charismatic performance that just may have viewers lining up for a sip of her Kool-Aid.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s your nightly dose of what’s hip and happening in the world of entertainment. It’s also the friend who brings top shelf beer to the party, rather than a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s not that hip. In anticipation of a new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man to be released this Thursday, iTunes has put up a few new images that show the hoodlum known as Peter Parker in action. He’s in a lab. He’s getting arrested. The kid is always in some sort of trouble. He probably could go more subtle with the outfit.

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Gosling: Only God Forgives

What is Movie News After Dark? Usually it’s a recap of what’s happening in the world of film. But on a slow news day such as today with FSR news teamers like Nathan Adams having already done that, News After Dark becomes something far more interesting: a gathering of links that will take you down the rabbit hole of the intelligent thought, analysis and otherwise fun reading that the movie blogosphere has to offer. Also, there was plenty of Mondo news today, so that’s good. We begin tonight with a first look at Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn’s next film that is currently shooting in Thailand. Radius-TWC, an off-shoot of The Weinstein Co., has closed a deal to distribute the film in the United States. Which means you’ll get to see it. And that’s really all that matters, right?

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Mad Max Cars

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s difficult to explain, really. We do know what it isn’t: boring. We begin this evening with one of two images from the scene of the crime where George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road could very well be shooting. We know this because some wicked Mad Max-esque vehicles have been spotted near where the production is said to begin shooting in April. It’s got Tom Hardy, it’s George Miller back in the saddle, and it’s okay by me.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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