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Movie reviews: Downton Abbey: A New Era

A spot of tea and some tears.
Credit: Focus Features
Courtesy: Focus Features

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Fans of "Downton Abbey" ... you don't have to rely on just series re-runs. 

The story lives on now with its second movie. It begins with a wedding. I won't say whose. 

Then, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by the amazing Maggie Smith, confirms a secret. She's been willed a villa in the South of France. What? Let's just say a love affair must have been pretty memorable for a rich Frenchman. Let's also say his widow is none too pleased by the arrangement. Seems like the perfect time for the Grantham family to head to the Riviera to check it out ... and sort it out!

The timing is also perfect because, back at the ranch, someone wants to shoot a movie at Downton Abbey. That's tough to turn down when the bills are mounting! So, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and a few others stay behind to make sure all goes smoothly. That introduces some new blood, including Hugh Dancy as the film director and Dominic West as his lead actor whose eyes wander toward a member of the Abbey staff. The lead actress finds herself in real trouble when they decide to turn the production into a "talkie," and her voice is hardly suited. That's quite funny, and the solution is inspired.

I enjoyed "A New Era." It's been three years since the first "Downton Abbey" movie, and just enough time has passed. Simon Curtis ("Goodbye Christopher Robin," "My Week with Marilyn") steps in to direct and doesn't miss a beat. The story by Julian Fellowes (he's not about to hand over his baby) brings new radiance to his well-established characters while infusing some new energy with its updates. Now to the tears. Don't think for a minute that I'll tell you why you'll grab a tissue, but know this: there won't be a dry eye in the house. Here's hoping that venerable house known as "Downton Abbey" continues to bring us new reasons to cry and smile and yes, harbor a little lifestyle envy.

(Focus Features. Rated PG. Running Time 2 hrs 5 mins. In Theaters Only)

Montana Story

There's a reason they call the setting of this movie Paradise Valley, Montana. It is beautiful! 

"Montana Story" is about an estranged brother and sister (Owen Teague, Haley Lu Richardson). They were inseparable as kids. Now young adults, they reunite at the family ranch as their father is dying, and they have to deal with his estate. One of the major sticking points: what to do with an aging horse. As the story unfolds, we learn the pain behind the daughter's running away and how wounds don't always heal with time.

This is a well-acted little story placed against a broad backdrop. Like the lives these people lead, it's in no hurry, at times, to a fault.

(Bleeker Street Media. Rated R. Running Time 1 hr. 53 mins. In Limited Theaters Only)


Two graduating college roommates (R.J. Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins) plan a big party night. But their plans are foiled when they come upon a girl drunk and unconscious in their living room. Their third roommate (Sebastian Chacon) is oblivious. Sure, they should call the cops, but she's white, they're minorities, and they're afraid they'll be misunderstood. So, they take her away, all the while trying to figure out their next move so as not lose her.

This is a strange but effective mix of both comedy and drama. There are vague shades of "Weekend at Bernie's" but it's much more realistic and, at times, heartbreaking.

(Amazon Prime. Rated R. Running Time 1 hr. 45 mins. In Limited Theaters Only. Streaming May 27)

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