Entertaining my family Part Two…

It’s been a great 10 days of visiting with my two sons and daughter-in-law. Between excursions it’s been all Olympics, all the time on our living room TV. My boys have wicked senses of humour and they have delighted in finding non-traditional Olympics coverage (worst crashes and wipeouts in all sports) as counterprogramming to NBC’s worshipful coverage of the Olympics from the perspective of an exclusive concentration on American athletes.

We did make it out to see the opening weekend of the latest Marvel superhero series, Black Panther, and I finally caught up with the Disney Pixar Best Animated Feature nominee, Coco. More on both and some regular viewing recommendations follow.

Remember, that the Oscars will air on Sunday Mar. 4 on ABC with Jimmy Kimmel hosting.  If you are scurrying to catch the 9 nominated films for Best Picture, the following article may be of some interest:

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/g18193837/where-to-stream-2018-oscar-nominated-movies/

On the Big Screen

Black Panther What an interesting experience it was to go on opening weekend to see this comic book adaptation. My husband broke his vow of never watching super hero movies to see this film in the company of my son. We have a family tradition of seeing tent pole movies together (Star Wars, Deadpool, John Wick,etc), so we continued our tradition. It was lovely to see so many families attending this one. We saw it at Naples’ premiere luxury cinema, the Mercato. I have never seen so many African Americans in Naples. The film celebrates African roots and presents a mythical African kingdom that is a success story because it was never colonized and exploited by any imperial nation. There’s a parallel universe in Wakanda, a country that guards its natural resource, the mineral Vibranium, from the rest of the world. This is an origin story of Black Panther and I enjoyed it immensely. Pure energy on the screen and wonderful performances from an almost entirely black ensemble cast featuring Chadwick Boseman (42, Avengers), Forrest Whittaker (The Last King of Scotland), Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do Wth It), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Creed), Lupita Nyongo ( 12 Years A Slave), etc. Sterling K. Brown (This is Us, American Crime Story: OJ Simpson) deserves a special shout out for his role as N’Jobu.  The guy is so talented he can play a street thug wannabe as well as he plays a hopeless nerd, or prosecutor Christopher Darden. Andy Serkis and Martin Freedman are the two white supporting actors whom you will recognize from their previous work in the Lord of the Rings movies among many others.

Streaming

Coco While Black Panther celebrates African roots, Coco from Disney Pixar nominated for Best Animated Feature Oscar, is a loving look at Mexican culture. Overwhelmingly family centred, this lovely and charming film tells the story of a little boy in love with music who longs to connect with the great great grandfather who is a Mexican singing legend. On the Day of the Dead, he is magically transported to the land of the dead where he finds out the true story of his ancestry. Prepare to be charmed. Great tunes from the team that also provided the songs for Frozen, Ratatouille, etc.

Geostorm My younger son has a sentimental fascination with disaster films. I will think of this as the Sharknado of space. For some reason Gerard Butler has become the go-to star of many disaster films (Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen, etc). Set to a large degree on a space station that is throwing the world’s climate into chaos, there are scenes in this one that are laugh-out-loud hilarious as multiple tornadoes, tsunamis, ice storms, etc. consume the great cities of the world. I’m not sure it’s entirely healthy for audiences to laugh at such great destruction but it sure has become a thing. My son’s evil cackle will haunt me forever!

The Path The harrowing and haunting look at life inside a cult that is aiming for respectability continues.

Mary Kills People A very intriguing look at a doctor who takes on the job of assisting terminally ill people with suicide.

Netflix

Babylon Berlin I can’t believe I watched the whole thing! All 16 episodes! This is the most expensive series ever made for German TV. You will be transported back to Weimar Germany in 1929. It’s the Germany of the decadent and debauched Cabaret era, Trotskyites versus Leninists, plots to revive the monarchy under Kaiser Wilhelm, etc. All of this is being investigated by a mysterious police inspector with a nasty drug addiction and PTSD from his WW1 experiences. Get ready for a wild ride!

The Cloverfield Paradox Again, we have an odd family tradition of watching the Cloverfield movies together, so our sons forced us to watch this Netflix original. Oh my, we’re on a space station (again) that is trying to test an alternate energy source to save a dying world, when they accidentally enter a parallel universe. Great ensemble cast featuring Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo, Chris O’Dowd, etc. There is much controversy about how this film was suddenly released on Netflix and not in theatres as originally planned. Conspiracy theories abound, including tacked on scenes and endings, when the producers feared the film was unreleasable. Judge for yourself! It does seem to be a pastiche of the Alien films, the Cloverfield films, any movie that is based on a space station, etc.

For more info on new shows that are debuting and old ones that are returning to Peak TV via Netflix and Amazon (that I haven’t had time to catch up with), here’s a helpful article from the NYTimes:

Broadcast Networks and Premium Cable

Showtime

Homeland The intrigue has begun. The president is nuts and Carrie’s bipolar disorder is showing!
The Chi Still haven’t caught up with last week’s episode. If you liked  The Wire, you might want to catch up with this one.

STARZ

Counterpart This series  is a great espionage/parallel universe show starting the great character actor JK Simmons in a dual role.

HBO

Divorce I am finding this series about the recess and after effects of divorce much more delightful now that Thomas Hayden Church has a new squeeze and Sarah Jessica Parker is jealous.
Here and Now OK, I did snooze most of the way through last week’s premiere, but I will give it another go because of the cast (Tim Robbins) and creator (Alan Ball). So far, it’s no Six Feet Under or True Blood.

CMT

Nashville Ahhh. Juliette’s gone completely bonkers and is finding herself in a cult in Bolivia!

CBS All Access

Star Trek: Discovery (My children slyly refer to this series as STD and of course, we had to watch the final episode of Season 1 together).  Ooh, the parallel universe and Klingon stories came to an end and there will be a new captain next year. Can’t wait!

FX

The Assassination of Gianni Versace So grim, I haven’t caught up with last week’s episode yet.

PBS

Victoria Victoria and Albert, longing for an escape from their devoted servants, watch dogs, etc., deliberately get themselves lost in the wilds of the Scottish highlands near Blair Atholl, and they discover the delights of a simple life they have never experienced.  The young lovers steal a few moments away from their privileged lives and learn to cook for themselves and even darn socks.  A very touching episode where even some of their servants and coterie have an escape from the restricted lives they normally lead.  The undeniable chemistry between the two courtiers, Drummond and Paget is finally given life, and they have some private romantic time, unaware that Wilhelmina Coke observes their passion.

TNT

The Alienist This show has turned into a bit of a snooze fest, but I am hanging in to see how the story ends.

Closing Words

There really are no words to describe the sadness and anger that people are experiencing in the wake of the latest school shooting in Ft Lauderdale. When 17 children are murdered there, two years after the Orlando nightclub shootings where 56 people died, there are still, unbelievably, gun lobbyists in Florida advocating for continued generous access to guns. Here in the “gunshine state”, stand your ground laws still stand. It is easier for an 18-year-old to obtain an automatic military grade weapon than it is to obtain a handgun. The prevailing wisdom here says that if the murder of 20 children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut didn’t change the gun control debate then adding this week’s toll is unlikely to signal a change. This time, the classmates of the fallen have begun to make their voices heard to demand stricter controls. Time will tell whether the many legislators whose campaigns are determined and financed by the NRA gun lobby will be brave enough to take on the challenge of defying their funders. What a sad state this country is in. People have come to accept the collateral damage from murdered children to be the price that must be paid for the right to bear arms. I can’t believe that anyone really thinks that the founding fathers would have supported the rights of mentally ill teenagers to murder their classmates with lethal automatic weapons.

Despite the grim reality of recent events, the sun still continues to shine here. We deliver our son to the airport this morning and then will get our house ready for visitors from Scotland and Canada who arrive on Tuesday to drink in a little Florida sunshine, play a little golf and enjoy the delights of Naples.

To everyone, make every moment count, wherever you are. Cherish your loved ones. Hugs to my friends who are dealing with health challenges.

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Entertaining my family…

My two sons and daughter-in-law have been visiting us this past week.  It has been a lovely week of dinners out, excursions around town, and shopping.  We just returned from an outing to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park where we saw more alligators than you can shake a stick at.  I have had to catch up with TV and movies pretty furtively as my kids think I watch an insane amount of TV.  I am currently typing away as they have gone to play pickle ball.  Of course, while I write, I am watching a recorded version of my CBS Sunday Morning, a show that they think is hopelessly square.  They are bemused by our reliance on cable, which they view as prehistoric. In any event, here are some recommendations for you:

Streaming

American Made is a Tom Cruise film from director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity, Fair Game).  It is the story of Barry Seal, an American pilot who became a drug-runner for the CIA in the 1980’s in a clandestine operation that would be exposed as the Iran-Contra Affair. I found it a little long and totally amoral.  If this were’t basically a true story, you’d wonder how anyone could come up with such an insane program.

Coco is a charming film from Disney Pixar.  Heavily rooted in Mexican Day of the Dead traditions it is a wonderful look into another culture. Absolutely delightful! Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year.

New on Netflix

Berlin Babylon is a Netflix Original TV series that comes from Germany and is set in 1929.  It is Cabaret with a very dark background as Fascists and Communists clash and a policeman with the Vice squad has been sent from Cologne to Berlin on a very special assignment.  Very intriguing.

 

Other Shows Premiering/Returning this week:

Here and Now is a family dramedy that premieres on HBO tonight. Stars Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins. A multi-racial family made up of husband, wife, three adopted children from Somalia, Vietnam and Colombia and one biological child, find their bonds tested when one of the children begins seeing things which the rest cannot.  From Alan Ball creator of 6 Feet Under and True Blood.

Homeland returns tonight!!  Quinn is dead, Carrie is nuts and the President is totally insane and paranoid.  What could be more intriguing?  Apparently they’re really having trouble writing storylines that are as crazy as real life politics.  On Showtime in the US and I’m guessing Superchannel in Canada.

Our Cartoon President Oh my, this animated series about life in the White House comes from Stephen Colbert’s production team and it is absolutely unfunny. Such a disappointment. Airs on Showtime in the US.

Altered Carbon is a new miniseries that began airing on Netflix last week.  So confusing.  Set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored, a prisoner returns to life in a new body and must solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom.  Mind bending is right!!  Stars Joel Kinsman, James Purefoy.

My Regular Viewing

HBO

Divorce is a bittersweet romantic comedy about the joys and pitfalls of divorce starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Hayden Church.

NBC

This is Us OK, I know I was only going to watch to find out how the Dad died and now he’s dead.  Can I quit this show now? So maudlin and manipulative.

ABC

The Good Doctor I love this show about an autistic young doctor.  Freddie Highmore is wonderful in the lead role and Richard Schiff is reliably fabulous as his sad sack mentor.

Fox

The Resident Uh Oh. Too many medical shows.  This one had potential at first as iconoclasts battled the establishment, but it’s gotten a little cliched.

The X-Files I enjoyed this past week’s delicate combo of monster and conspiracy called Kitten.  Haunting!
9-1-1 Another case of a show that started out quite disarmingly original and seems to have deteriorated into cliches.  Connie Britton still magnificent!

The CW

Supergirl OK, I know I’m a little old for this one and all the other CW shows I enjoy (Riverdale, Arrow, Black Lightning), but I need a little true escapism sometimes.

STARZ

Counterpart Stars JK Simmons.  I truly love this mind bending suspense series.  Set in Berlin, a UN employee discovers the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension.  So original!!

TNT

The Alienist What started out as an intriguing mystery set around the turn of the century in NYC, has now slowed down to a real trudging pace as a team of three investigators try to solve a series of killings of young boys working in the sex trade.

PBS

The Gilded Age on American Experience This is a wonderful documentary about the robber barons of the 19th Century and their impact on the US.

CBS All Access and Netflix Canada

Star Trek: Discovery I have totally enjoyed this new addition to the many Star Trek generations.  Jason Isaacs is now gone (or is he?), but Michelle Yeoh is back and there is a big season ender airing tonight.  Enjoy!

Hulu and Streaming

The Path This miniseries is back for its third season and is still a haunting look at life inside a cult.

FX

The Assassination of Gianni Versace My goodness this series is dark and depressing.  Darren Criss (Glee) as Andrew Cunanan is incredibly convincing as a homicidal maniac.

Streaming Canadian Imports

Mary Kills People I really do like this series about assisted suicide. Caroline Dhavernas is wonderful as Dr. Mary and in season 2, Rachelle Lefevre makes a great villain.
Cardinal This miniseries concluded its second season last week as the North Bay cop finally figured out the crime of why a woman was shot in the head in a wooded area of Northern Ontario.

Comic Relief

Real Time with Bill Maher airs on HBO on Fridays.  Although he has a tendency to smirk, Maher assembles interesting panels as he has great fun discussing the issues of the day.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah airs on Comedy Central Mon-Thurs. Noah’s South African background allows his to have a very different perspective on news stories.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee  on TBS.  I love this feisty Canadian satirist.  She pulls no punches.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Colbert’s nightly monologues on CBS have become must see viewing.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Oliver will return to Sunday nights on HBO next weekend.

Closing Words

We are off to the beach for sunset cocktails and appetizers this evening with our neighbours.  The weather really has been gorgeous and we are looking forward to the rest of this week with our children.  Make the most of each day and enjoy your week!  Warm thoughts to all my friends dealing with serious health challenges.

Alternatives to Super Bowl Sunday…

It has been very hard to ignore the big game today.  When dining out at a local restaurant the other night, a gentleman confronted me demanding to know if I was an Eagles fan.  I had to stammer that I didn’t really follow football, and as his smile turned to a frown, I thought I’d better respond that if I did actually watch football,  I would absolutely be an Eagles fan.  Enjoy the game folks!  I will be looking at alternative programming and will list my recommendations for tonight.  True confessions, my pot of chili is simmering on the stove and I will be tuning in to the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, the award winning commercials that show up on YouTube and the half-time show with Justin Timberlake.  It’s hard to ignore this cultural goliath entirely!

Peak TV and keeping up with debuts of new shows and returns from hiatus of old shows

I wrote last week about the sheer enormity of available programming.  If you want to keep abreast of what’s coming to TV this season, here’s an article that may help:

https://editorial.rottentomatoes.com/article/2018-tv-premiere-dates-calendar/

Oscars Countdown

The telecast will air on Sunday Mar. 4. I have seen the nine films nominated for Best Picture and will list them here for you:

Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Phantom Thread
Ladybird
Call Me By Your Name
Get Out

Films you might want to catch for their Acting Nominations:

All the Money in the World (Christopher Plummer)
I, Tonya (Margot Robbie, Alison Janney)
The Florida Project (Willem Dafoe)

Netflix Finds

Retribution I hadn’t watched a new British crime series in a while, so I settled in to watch this British Netflix original 4-episode miniseries, where two families conspire to conceal a murder in a Scottish town.  Dark and forbidding. Juliet Stevenson is a standout and she looks exactly the same as she did in 1990 when she had her breakout role in Truly Madly Deeply (if you’re wondering where you’ve seen her before).  Layer upon layer of noirish intrigue unfolds as everyone sinks into a downward spiral of deceit.

For the other British shows you could be watching, you might enjoy this article:

The 15 Best British Shows On Netflix Right Now

Babylon Berlin This is another Netflix original that I haven’t started yet.  Set in 1929, a freight train traveling from the Soviet Union is hijacked. Meanwhile Chief Inspector Gereon Rath from Cologne pursues a mission in Berlin.  16 episodes in Season 1.  Can’t wait to get my teeth into this one!  Maybe this evening!

Altered Carbon Brand new Netflix original with 10 episodes in Season 1.  After 250 years on ice, a prisoner returns to life in a new body with one chance to win his freedom: by solving a mind-bending murder.  Stars Joel Kinnaman (The Killing), James Purefoy (The Following).  This is the show that is supposed to be Bladerunneresque in tone and style.  Another alternative Super Bowl possibility!

Amazon

Absentia This 10-episode suspense miniseries stars Stana Katic (Castle) as an FBI agent who has been presumed dead and is now out to reclaim her life. Haven’t had a chance to catch it yet, but maybe tonight!

Paramount

Formerly known as Spike TV, this is a new network in the US, making its debut pitch for new viewers with Waco, a 6-episode miniseries that follows the tragedy of David Koresh, leader of the cultish Branch Davidians, who had a fatal showdown in 1993 with the FBI and ATF.  Starring Taylor Kitsch (almost unrecognizable from his Tim Riggins character on Friday Night Lights) and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water). Gripping and sad as we watch the inevitable fatal confrontation approach.

My Regular Addictions

The CW

This network caters to a young demographic with a preponderance of fantasy, action and science fiction programming.  Black Lightning, The Arrow, Riverdale, Supergirl, etc.  I have no excuse for watching these escapist shows but they do entertain me.

Fox

The X-Files This past week’s episode was thankfully a Monster-of the-week show called Ghouli which only touched on the central myth of the lost son of Mulder and Scully, William.

9-1-1 From Ryan Murphy’s production team, this series is more and more turning into a routine procedural.  Peter Krause’s very sad persona has been explained and the young firefighter and the older emergency services operator (Connie Britton) seem to be headed toward a real romance.

The Resident is a medical series with a great cast (Bruce Greenwood, Matt Czuchry, Emily Van Camp).  It attempts to differentiate itself by showing the dark underbelly of hospital procedures.  Last week’s series featured a cost cutting medical consultant who attempted to dictate what treatments and procedures patients could receive.  Don’t know how fact-based this series is, but it shines a slightly different light on the medical show.

FX

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace This 9-episode miniseries from the production team of Ryan Murphy is very dark and sad.  Great cast features Edgar Ramirez, Darren Criss, Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz.  There is a grim inevitability to the storytelling as we begin episode 1 with the crime and then watch as Andrew Cunanan develops into the deranged killer who targets a man he worships and envies,

CBS 

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert still entertains me nightly with his monologues.

CBS Sunday Morning This venerable public affairs show soothes and inspires me every Sunday Morning.  I am watching it as I write.

The Good Doctor The show about the adorable autistic doctor.  Not sure how grounded in reality this one is, but you can catch up On Demand while it’s on hiatus.

NBC

The Brave and Chicago Fire are both mindlessly entertaining action shows with lovable casts.

This is Us There’s a hilarious promo from Crock Pot advertising tonight’s post Super Bowl episode.  Now we know how the Dad died.

ABC

Jimmy Kimmel has emerged as a comedian with strong views about public policy.  He’s taken a strong view on healthcare because he has an infant son that required life-saving heart surgery and he has been outspoken in his criticism of Washington.

CMT

Nashville No matter how corny and silly you get, I just can’t quit you!  Juliette’s in a cult; Gunnar, Avery and Will let a girl join their new supergroup; Deacon’s stumbling through his next romance; etc.  Last season for this one!

Comedy Central

Corporate This new series has a great time parodying the operations of a huge conglomerate.  Here’s an article you may enjoy:

https://www.vox.com/cards/best-tv-shows-hbo-netflix-now/corporate-comedy-central

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah This young comic helps me keep my spirits up with his nightly monologues about the times we live in.

HBO

Real Time with Bill Maher This past Friday’s episode featured a great panel (David Frum and Donna Brazil) facing off with Anthony Scaramucci.  Fireworks ensued!  Watch it On Demand and overtime on YouTube.

Divorce From the pen of Sharon Horgan (creator of the much funnier Catastrophe). Starring a great ensemble that includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon, Tracy Letts (Ladybird), etc.  If you think the process of consciously uncoupling is inherently funny, this is your show.  Mildly amusing in its second season as the newly divorced couple tries to cope with being single again.

PBS

Victoria Simply divine.  British accents and period costumes.  If you loved Downton Abbey and The Crown, this is your show.

Showtime

The Chi If you loved The Wire, you will likely love this show about the south side of Chicago.

STARZ

Counterpart is a 10-episode suspense series about a UN employee who discovers that the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension.  It stars J.K. Simmons in a lead double role.  Sheer pleasure ensues! For lovers of espionage and suspense who are missing Homeland right now.

TBS

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee I love Sam’s gutsy approach to skewering the powers that be.  She’s originally Canadian you know!! Eh??!!!

TNT

The Alienist This 10 episode miniseries is set in turn of the century NYC.  Very similar in tone to Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders and other series that have shown old-time crime solving in the early days of detecting.  It’s very dark, but it does have a wonderful cast (Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning).  So far, I’ve stayed with the first few episodes but it is taking its time unfolding.

Streaming from various sources

The Path From Hulu and stars Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan.  It’s a chilling examination of life inside a cult.  Season 3 now available.

Mary Kills People From Global TV Canada and Lifetime in the US.  Great suspense series about a pair of medical professionals who provide terminally ill patients with assisted suicides. Season 2 now available.

Cardinal from CTV Canada.  Stars Billy Campbell as a detective in Northern Ontario trying to solve a series of related crimes.

Star Trek: Discovery from CBS All Access. It stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs and Michelle Yeoh.  Set 10 years before Enterprise, the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms as one Starlet officer learns to understand all things alien.

Closing Words

It’s a beautiful day in Naples.  My chili pot is simmering on the stove and we are headed out to play some golf.  Enjoy your day wherever you are.  Special thoughts to my friends dealing with medical issues.  Hugs always.

 

The new shows of 2018 keep coming…

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Peak TV”, it refers to the high volume of quality programming that is currently available to viewers (for example in 2017, 487 scripted shows made it to air).  Specialty channels, streaming services, etc. have all increased the volume of shows that are on view.  I make it a habit to try and keep up, but it is almost impossible to make the time to watch everything that interests me.  I cut down on the amount of time required by recording everything I watch and then fast forwarding through commercials.  All programs that are available through streaming are shown commercial free.  If a show doesn’t capture my attention after about 20 minutes, I usually give up and move on to something else.

For those of you who are following the Oscars (to be telecast on Mar. 4), I am going to provide a nominations list for you to follow in choosing your films to watch.  This year the short subjects are going to be available in theatres in February for people to catch before the show.  In the meantime, here are some recommendations:

Live Theatre

An American in Paris recently played the Naples area.  This beautiful Gershwin show is a real showcase for dance, with some gorgeous ballads thrown in.  Great talent on display, including a standout National Ballet of Canada star as the male lead who can also sing very well (McGee Maddox).

On the Big Screen

Phantom Thread  Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover. It stars Oscar nominated Daniel Day Lewis and the egregiously overlooked Vicky Crieps as a most unusual couple.  Best Supporting Actress nominee, Lesley Manville steals every scene she’s in as Woodcock’s older sister. Although the movie is superficially very conventionally told in linear fashion, it is actually quite oblique and paints a portrait of a relationship that is ultimately based on a very peculiar power dynamic.  You’ve been warned!  This movie is definitely not for everyone, but I did enjoy it.

Here’s a nominations list for the Oscars:

Oscar Nominations 2018: The Complete List

New Shows

The Alienist This intriguing 10-episode mystery miniseries debuted last Sunday on TNT.  Set at the turn of the century in NYC, it stars Daniel Bruhl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans as a team of specialists trying to capture a serial killer of young rent boys.

Counterpart This fabulous 10-episode futuristic espionage miniseries debuted last Sunday on STARZ. It stars J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, OZ) in a double role as a UN office worker who discovers a parallel universe.
Altered Carbon This 10-episode futuristic miniseries premieres on Netflix on February 2.  Rumoured to be Bladerunneresque!
Absentia This 10-episode suspense miniseries stars Stana Katic (Castle) as an FBI agent who had been presumed dead out to reclaim her life.  It debuts on Amazon on February 2.

The Resident This medical series debuted last week on FOX.  It stars Matt Czuchry, Emily Van Camp, and Bruce Greenwood as medical professionals trying to save lives, advance their careers, etc. Really interesting medical ethics on display here as compromises are often made based on threats of blackmail and career sabotage.

Black Lightning This superhero series starring a predominantly black cast began on Jan 23 on the CW. Really interesting vigilante justice being delivered by a black high school principal who goes up against gangs and various criminals in order to protect his family and community.

Netflix

Rita I binged on Season 4 of this wonderful Danish series about an outspoken and rebellious woman who also happens to be a wonderful teacher in a community school that is fighting to stay open.  Delightful!!

A Futile and Stupid Gesture debuted this past weekend on Netflix. This film about the founders of National Lampoon magazine stars Will Forte and Downhill Gleason.  Loved it.

Here’s an article about more new shows coming to Netflix:

Streaming

The Path was made for Hulu and stars Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan in a chilling examination of life inside a cult. Season 3 now available.

Mary Kills People was made for Global TV Canada and is also available on Lifetime in the US.  This great suspense series is about a pair of medical professionals who provide terminally ill patients with assisted suicides.  Season 2 now available.

Cardinal was made for CTV Canada.  It stars Billy Campbell as a detective in Northern Ontario trying to solve the mysterious case of a woman shot in the head and left with amnesia. Season 2 now available.

Star Trek: Discovery was made for CBS All Access.  It stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, and Michelle Yeoh.  Set 10 years before Enterprise,  the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien.

ABC

The Good Doctor I love this medical procedural about an autistic young doctor and his cohorts.

CBS

The Grammy Awards are hosted by James Corden (Carpool Karaoke segments on The Late Late Show) tonight at 8 pm.  Elton John and Miley Cyrus perform a duet.

NBC

Special Programming Alert:  This is Us will air at a special time next weekend following the Super Bowl next Sun Feb 4 with a 1-hr very special episode after Jack’s death. I vowed only to watch this sappy series until I found out how the Dad died.  We have crossed that bridge!!

Chicago Fire and The Brave are typical network fare as both feature teams trying to extricate people from terrible situations.

CMT

Nashville So soapy, yet so tasty!  Juliette seems to have joined a cult; Avery, Will and Gunnar are now the oldest boy band in history; Scarlett is in love with horses, etc.  Apparently all will end this year as the series is not being renewed.

PBS

Victoria is a gorgeous evocation of her era.  Beautiful costumes, settings, and accents.  Ah….

FX

American Crime Story: Assassination of Gianni Versace Ooh this is dark as it is told in flashback format so we are filled with suspense waiting for Andrew Cunanan (played perfectly by Darren Criss from Glee) to strike.

CW

Riverdale, Arrow, and Supergirl are all guilty pleasure shows aimed at a young adult demographic.  I love them anyway.

Comedy Central

Corporate This dark satire has great fun with corporate life.

TBS

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is back from hiatus and is more savage than ever!
Conan goes to Haiti Conan may be the most lovable of all the late night hosts.  He is wonderful here as a fish out of water trying to understand Haitian society.  If you missed it this past weekend, catch it ON Demand.

HBO

Real Time with Bill Maher Bill seemed to almost go off the deep end this past Friday, nearly losing it during an innocuous interview with Zooey Deschanel.  Has he been smoking too much pot?  Michelle Goldberg (op ed columnist for the NYTimes) easily schooled him in his simplistic views about Israel and the two-state solution.

Divorce Sarah Jessica Parker stars in this sitcom from the writer of Catastrophe, Sharon Horgan. Pretty dark comedy.

FOX

9-1-1 I am loving this new procedural from Ryan Murphy.  Watch for Connie Britton as a very soulful Emergency Services telephone operator.
The XFiles I did love this show once, but am finding it awfully tedious in its latest incarnation.

Showtime

The Chi If you loved The Wire, you will likely love this show about the south side of Chicago.

Moments of Zen

CBS Sunday Morning This is the background music to which I write this blog.  It calms, inspires and soothes me.  Great profiles, human interest stories, etc.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Noah has emerged as a great commentator on our daily foibles.  He’s also become a pretty good interviewer.  If you missed his interview with Michael Wolff (Fire and Fury), watch it on demand and see him challenge Wolff on the veracity of his claims.
Special Programming Alert:  The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will air a live show to follow the State of the Union address on Tues. Jan. 31.

 

Closing Words

It’s been beautiful in Naples this past week and I understand that it’s nice enough in Ontario now that my son is enjoying a ski weekend with friends at our place in Thornbury.  Wherever you are, enjoy every moment!  Special thoughts to my friends dealing with medical issues.  Hugs always.

New shows for 2018 begin…

OK, fair warning, many of you need to get out there and start (or continue) watching the films that will likely be nominated for the Oscars.  The telecast will be on ABC on Sunday Mar 4, so you have 5 weeks to prepare yourselves.  Tonight, the Screen Actors Guild Awards will be telecast on TBS at 8 pm.  Concentrating only on the acting awards, this show is often a bellwether for the Oscars, and it’s usually very entertaining.  For those of you who are not so keen on the big screen, there are many new shows debuting in 2018.  Here are some recommendations:

 

On the Big Screen

Paddington 2 is the second in the Paddington Bear series.  As endearing as the first, now the little bear in the duffle coat faces a hilariously evil villain played by Hugh Grant.  All the usual players are back including Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as the bear’s adoptive parents, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent, etc.  God knows, we need an escape from reality, and I heartily recommend this wonderful film which has a very simple message about being kind to others.  Be sure and watch all the way through the closing credits and you will receive a wonderful surprise.  No spoilers!

To help you with your pre-Oscars viewing, here’s a great article about what should be nominated:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/and-the-2018-oscar-nominees-should-be/article37645905/

New shows debut

The Alienist begins tomorrow night on TNT. Crime reporter, John Moore, meets with psychologist, Dr. Laszlo Kreisler, to investigate a serial killer in NYC during the late 19th century.  Starring Daniel Bruhl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans, this series has had great advance press.
Black Lightning debuted last Tuesday on the CW.  A retired superhero becomes a vigilante for justice.  Featuring many black performers, this is a very engaging superhero story as a high school principal fights for the safety of his family and community.
The Resident premiers tonight at 10 on Fox. It centers on an idealistic young doctor who begins his first day under the supervision of a tough, brilliant senior resident who pulls the curtain back on all of the good and evil in modern day medicine.  Lives may be saved or lost, but expectations will always be shattered. Starring Matt Czuchry (The Good Wife),  Emily Van Camp, Bruce Greenwood, etc.

American Crime Story 2:  The Assassination of Gianni Versace debuted last Wed. on FX.  An all-star cast (Edgar Ramirez, Ricky Martin, Penelope Cruz, Darren Criss) recreates the real life personalities. I enjoyed the first episode and will stay tuned!

Netflix

Rita is a Danish TV series that has returned to Netflix for its 4th season.  Following the life of a very outspoken and rebellious woman, Rita is a school teacher who is competent in the classroom, but seems to need a teacher of her own, when it comes to her personal life.  The Scandinavians do great comedy as well as Nordic noir.  I love this series and find the central character refreshing and endearing.

There are many hidden gems available on Netflix.  Here’s an article you may enjoy:

Streaming

The Promise This 2016 film about the Armenian genocide of 1915 came and went without creating much of a buzz.  Starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon, it is set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.  The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris. It’s a beautifully filmed movie, with gorgeous settings, but the subject matter will be very disturbing for those uncomfortable with holocaust stories.
Molly’s Game is the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.  Jessica Chastain gives her usual intense performance.  Aaron Sorkin directed this and it features his customary fast paced dialog delivered in monotones and monologs.  I have to admit that I am neither a fan of Sorkin or of gambling stories, so I was predisposed to not like this film very much. I give it a kind of guarded recommendation.  A lot of people admire Sorkin’s writing (The West Wing, The Newsroom), so if you like him and you like gambling films, you may love this!

The Bureau (Le Bureau des Legendes) has returned to IFC for its third season. In this one, Malotru is still held captive by ISIS and the French Secret Service tries to rescue him.  Non stop intrigue and excitement.  I love this dark and exciting series.  Starring Mathieu Kassovitz and a host of French performers. If you love espionage and are missing Homeland, this may be the show for you.

The Path has returned to Hulu for its 3rd season.  This series about a cult called the Meyerist Movement is a thoughtful and provocative look at why people join cults and why they leave.  Suspenseful in its depiction of power struggles and crises of faith.  Stars Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, and Hugh Dancy.
Mary Kills People (on Global in Canada and Lifetime in the US) stars Caroline Dhavernas as Dr. Mary Harris.  She is an ER doctor by day, but by night she and her partner, a former plastic surgeon, moonlight as underground angels of death who help terminally ill patients slip away on their own terms.  The series has returned for its 2nd season and now Dr. Harris is being blackmailed into committing murders!
Cardinal (CTV in Canada) has returned for its 2nd season.  Based on the crime novels of Giles Blunt.  The series features spectacular scenes of Northern Ontario and is set mainly in Algonquin Bay (North Bay) and stars Billy Campbell and a mostly Canadian cast.  I’m not familiar with the source material, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this very Canadian mystery series. Very Nordic noir!
Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access) I am loving this series despite the prevalence of Klingons and their crazy boring language.  I am a huge fan of Jason Isaacs (Captain Gabriel Lorca) so I am hanging in to find out how this all concludes.

ABC

The Good Doctor I have found myself really engaged by Freddie Highmore as an autistic young doctor in a dog-eat-dog world of competitive medical residents.  OK, so it’s probably highly unrealistic that an autistic doctor could survive in such a tough environment, but his blue eyes make me swoon.

BBC America

Blue Planet 2 This series features the best photography I have ever seen.  It’s bewitching and addictive.  You will not be able to look away from this story of our oceans.

USA

Damnation Epic story of the labour struggles of the 1930’s as personified by two brothers on opposite sides of the conflict.

NBC

Chicago Fire is a guilty pleasure procedural about the adventures of hunky firemen.
This is Us is a maudlin exploration of a family’s triumphs and tragedies.  I’m only watching until I find out how the dad died.
The Brave is another guilty pleasure procedural about the adventures of a mostly male team of special ops officers.

There is a great article on why so much broadcast network TV is so lame:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/the-pointless-struggle-of-mainstream-tv-to-reflect-the-realamerica/article37641836/

 

CMT

Nashville is an unbelievably soapy story of the Nashville music scene.  This is officially the last season for Nashville, and I am watching to see how all the loose ends are tied up.

PBS

Victoria is an amazing, beautiful and inspiring look at the life of Queen Victoria.  If you loved The Crown, this may be your show.

 

CW

Riverdale, Arrow, and Supergirl are all delightful series that are aimed at the youthful CW market, but I like them anyway.  So there!

Comedy Central

Corporate is a wickedly funny satire aimed at the world of corporations.  The first two episodes premiered last week.  Catch it if you can.

TBS

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee has returned with new episodes.  The girl is really angry now!  Don’t ask her if she thinks Trump is racist.

HBO

Real Time with Bil Maher has returned with new episodes.  Friday night’s show featured Michael Wolff and Maher went pretty easy on him as he totally enjoyed the new salacious rumours Wolff is now spreading regarding Trump’s marital infidelity.  Great panel as well.

FOX

9-1-1 is a surprisingly engaging procedural about emergency services workers.  OK, the rebar through the head situation of one of the major characters was a little over-the-top, but still very entertaining.
The XFiles featured a monster of the week plot line this past week, which I find far more entertaining than the conspiracy shows.  Bring on the monsters!

Showtime

The Chi If you liked The Wire, you may like this very gritty series about Chicago.  So far, I’m hooked.

Moments of Zen

CBS Sunday Morning I just watched the Nature Moment which came from Sarasota and featured water birds, and a beautiful Gator.  Ah…….
Trevor Noah continues to amuse nightly on Comedy Central/The Comedy Channel in Canada.
Stephen Colbert continues to amuse nightly on CBS.

Closing Words

Enjoy your week wherever you are!  Don’t forget to watch the SAG Awards tonight, The Alienist tomorrow night on TNT, and The Resident tonight on Fox.  It’s a beautiful day today in Naples and golf beckons this afternoon.  We are hosting a charity Fashion Show this week at our golf club, and the usual fitness activities, Mahjong, Bocce, etc are all on the schedule.  Sending hugs to my friends who are dealing with serious medical issues.

Now I’m a Francophile!!

After spending much of the previous two weeks catching up on my Nordic Noir mysteries, I have finally gotten around to watching a wonderful French TV series about show business that is a pure delight and a wonderful preparation for awards season.  I’ve also made it out to some movies on the big screen and some of my regular TV series are returning for the rest of their season.  I totally enjoyed the Critics Choice awards on the CW, and was delighted to see The Shape of Water honoured as best film and Guillermo Del Toro honoured as best director. Here are some recommendations:

On the Big Screen

Darkest Hour During the early days of WWII, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.  Gary Oldman turns in the performance of a lifetime as Churchill (already handily winning several major awards).  If you’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s wonderful Dunkirk, this will give you the other side of that story.  Another wonderful 2016 film about this same era is the British film Their Finest (available on Netflix) starring Bill Nighy, Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Richard E. Grant.  This film documents the British war effort through the production of propaganda films and has powerful scenes of London during the Blitz.

The Post depicts the struggle to reveal a cover-up that spanned four US Presidents by publishing the Pentagon Papers that were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg.  This struggle pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher (Meryl Streep as Kay Graham) and a hard-driving editor (Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee) to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.  This is heartwarming and inspiring filmmaking about being on the right side of history.  Pure Spielberg as he depicts this battle.  If you haven’t yet seen the wonderful HBO biography Spielberg, you can find it on demand. Those who really enjoyed the old fashioned principled storytelling of Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies will love this film.

 

Streaming

The Brand New Testament is a 2015 very black comedy from Belgium that posits that God is alive and living in Brussels with his daughter.  Surreal and very weird!  The daughter goes on a search to recruit 6 new apostles, one of whom is Catherine Deneuve who finds true love with a gorilla. I honestly didn’t know what to make of this very odd film, but a good friend recommended it, so I persevered.  Probably not everyone’s cup of tea.

Detroit is a 2017 film from director Kathryn Bigelow.  It is a searing look at the Detroit riots of 1967.  Very timely story of police violence within the black community.  Very hard to watch.

Netflix

American Vandal is a supremely silly true crime parody from the Funny or Die team that explores the aftermath of a costly high school prank that left 27 faculty cars vandalized with enormous penis paintings.  There are actually 9 episodes in this series, but I got the idea after 1 episode.  Very clever satire of the true crime genre.

Call My Agent Seasons 1 & 2 This 12-episode miniseries is a wonderful look at movie star agents in Paris who go about their lives and work.  They have to figure out how to carry on with the agency after the passing of their fearless leader.  Each episode features real French stars playing tongue-in-cheek versions of themselves. I came to love this series which has beautiful photography of Paris.  It is also very timely in view of the Time’s Up movement and the French reaction to it that was recently in the news as many French actresses (notably including Catherine Deneuve) voiced their concern that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of puritanism.  The French have always had a live and let live attitude to sex and in this series, many relationships seem to be based on seduction.  The final episode with Juliette Binoche as the head of the Cannes film festival jury who figures out how to deal with a sexually aggressive sponsor is a total delight.  Binoche uses her sexuality to intimidate this very powerful man.  So French!!!

PBS

Victoria returns tonight!!  British accents and period costumes.  How divine!!

HBO

Divorce with Sarah Jessica Parker returns for its second season.  I am a huge fan of Thomas Hayden Church, so I will be watching.

Crashing returns for its second season tonight.  I actually really enjoyed this look into the lives of struggling stand up comics.

CTV

Cardinal Season 2 Yay – it’s Canadian! Although it is reminiscent of Nordic Noir (chilly scenes of winter are actually filmed in North Ontario).  I loved Season 1 which dealt with the mystery of a dead teenager, and a series of subsequent murders.  Season 2 starts with a strange case of a young woman with a gunshot wound to the head.  American viewers will recognize Billy Campbell as Detective John Cardinal.

Global/ Lifetime

Mary Kills People Season 2 Yay- it’s also Canadian!  I loved Season 1.  Single mother Mary Harris is an ER doctor by day, but by night she and her partner, a former plastic surgeon, moonlight as underground angels of death who help terminally ill patients slip away on their own terms.  In Season 2, the storyline takes a very different direction when Mary is blackmailed into committing a murder by a wife who is very determined to have her husband killed.  Caroline Dhavernas is wonderful as Mary Harris and Rachelle Lefevre plays a terrific villain in this one.

USA

Damnation I had totally lost track of this epic story of labour struggles in the Depression era, but was delighted to find that I could catch up on all 10 episodes On Demand here in Florida.  A terrific tale of two brothers on opposite sides of the labour struggle.

NBC

This is Us So maudlin.  Still waiting to find out how the Dad dies.
Chicago Fire Such a guilty pleasure procedural.  Extreme melodrama in every episode.

ABC

The Good Doctor I love this show about a young doctor who is trying to overcome his autism in order to practise medicine.  Freddie Highmore is wonderful as Dr. Shaun Murphy.

Fox

9-1-1  Surprisingly good show about Emergency Services personnel and the wide range of cases they deal with.  Incredible cast includes Peter Krause, Connie Britton and Angela Bassett.

The X-Files Not loving this one any more.  I took 3 days to finish watching the last episode.  Slow and boring.  Way too much conspiracy for me.

FX – New Series Alert!!!

American Crime Story:  The Assassination of Gianni Versace This will be the second series of the Ryan Murphy production, following The People v. O.J. Simpson. The wonderful cast includes Edgar Ramirez, Darren Criss, Ricky Martin, and Penelope Cruz.  I will be watching this week when it debuts on FX.  Episode 1 is already available On Demand.

Moments of Zen

I am currently watching CBS Sunday Morning.  The panel with Oprah Winfrey addresses the question of Time’s Up and where this movement is going.  Colbert, Noah, Seth Meyers, et al are all having a field day with the endless tweets coming from the Trumpocracy.  I am a little Michael Wolfed (Fire and Fury) out and have just started to read excerpts from David Frum’s book (Trumpocracy).  Real Time with Bill Maher will return to HBO this Friday January 19.  Full Frontal with Samantha Bee will return to TBS/Comedy Channel in Canada on January 17.

Closing Words

George and I had the great pleasure of brunching out this morning (best blintzes I have ever had) followed by a morning on 3rd Street in Naples’ historic downtown district watching adorable pups participate in a trade show/parade for dogs.  Never before, have I seen so many dogs parading by in costume and in nicer strollers than I ever had for my children.  So much fun!!  This week we are celebrating our friends’ wedding anniversary at a new neighbourhood restaurant and also taking in a performance of Gershwin’s An American in Paris at the Artis Naples centre.  The week will include all the regular activities (Mahjong, Golf, Bocce, etc.)  Enjoy every moment of your week, wherever you are!  Love, strength and hope to my very dear friends who are coping with health challenges.  Hugs always.

Polar Vortex/ Bomb Cyclone /Bombogenesis Chill hits Florida!

It takes very little inducement for me to opt to spend a cozy afternoon and/or evening under a throw on a couch across from the warmth of a flickering TV screen. As a result, I have been sampling a few of the Nordic, French, and Belgian noir series on Netflix while staying warm in the unusually chilly Naples weather.

News Alert: Countdown to the Oscars

Awards season gets under way as the Golden Globes air tonight (Jan 7) at 8 pm on NBC with Seth Meyers hosting. The Me Too movement is expected to be an underlying theme this year with female nominees and presenters having agreed to wear black. The Red Carpet banter about designers may be a little different. Seth Meyers will be closely watched as the Harvey Weinstein/Kevin Spacey et al sexual impropriety scandals are addressed. To read a Dateline Hollywood article on the sexual misconduct scandal and its possible effect on the Golden Globes, here’s an article you may be interested in:

On Eve Of Golden Globes, Hollywood Women Fear Backlash For Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault Accusers

On the Big Screen/Streaming

Victoria and Abdul This charming film with Judi Dench is perfect viewing when you are in need of an afternoon nap!  The British accents and period costumes will lull you to sleep before you know it.  Dame Judi can now do this sort of period role (her first outing as Queen Victoria was in Mrs. Brown) in her sleep and she is very likely to get an Oscar nomination for her performance.  A little known episode in the history of the British Empire.

The Disaster Artist  This wacky film about the making of the worst film in history features magnificent performances from both James and David Franco.  Based on the making of The Room,  you will swoon over the very strange accent of James Franco as the director and star Tommy Wiseau (Polish, maybe?). For passionate film lovers only, as this is such an odd film to watch as they replicate one of the biggest bombs in movie history. Cringe inducingly funny.

Netflix

Netflix is a treasure trove for crime series. I have thoroughly enjoyed several Nordic noir series from Scandinavia (The Bridge, The Killing, Lava Field and Trapped among them). The British have the crime series genre down to an art with Netflix currently listing everything from Sherlock, Luther, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Paranoid, The Fall and many others. Scrolling through the British TV series, you can access at least 30 relatively new crime series here. I’ve watched a few French crime series (Spiral, The Revenants, Witnesses, etc) that I really enjoyed, but I don’t think they are in the same league with the British and Scandinavians.

The Frozen Dead, for example, is a rather disappointing French noir miniseries. I did think the acting was kind of awful and by the end, I didn’t much care who did what to whom. Great photography of the French Pyrrhenees in winter!

Lovesick Season 3 is a British comedy series and it is back with six new episodes.  I can’t believe I binged on the whole thing. I love these young attractive British people! Especially Johnny Flynn (aka Young Einstein on the National Geographic series Genius). If you’re wondering why Evie is so familiar, Antonia Thomas is a regular (Dr. Claire Browne) on The Good Doctor on ABC.

Black Mirror has returned for its fourth season with 5 new episodes. I can only watch this scary Twilight Zonesque series in small doses because I find it too dark and haunting. I did enjoy the first episode which is a darkly clever Star Trek parody starring Jesse Plemons (Fargo, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, etc).

Bordertown is another Nordic noir miniseries from Finland. I can’t believe I binged on the whole thing! I absolutely love this series with its very eccentric lead detective who has moved from the bright lights of Helsinki to a small town on the border of Russia for a quieter life. What could go wrong? Why do so many dead bodies pop up in small towns? Three separate cases in the first 11 episodes. Highly addictive, these slow burning Finns.

The End of the Fxxxking World New series alert. Darkly funny and nihilistic British miniseries about two teen misfits on the run. It grows on you!

The Break is a noir crime series from Belgium (like Hotel Beau Sejour which I loved). Too dark, dour and uninteresting to me, so I gave up during the third episode. I found all the characters uncompelling, especially the lead character Peeters, the detective.

Case is a Nordic noir 9-hour miniseries from Iceland about the investigation into the death of a 14-year-old ballerina by hanging. Something is indeed rotten in Reykjavik, where child pornography rings abound and young teenage girls are subject to every kind of abuse. Stay tuned for the multiple twist endings. You’ve got to love the actors in this one who all actually look like real people, especially the lead actress (Steinunn Olina Porsteinsdottir) who is pleasingly plump and who is usually snacking/stress eating on something.

CMT/W in Canada

Nashville returns for its last season. Let the country music melodrama continue and conclude for one last season! Who knew there could be so many car crashes, plane crashes, unrequited love stories, etc. No wonder there are so many hurting songs in the country genre! Rayna James may have died in a tragic car crash last year (don’t be sad as Connie Britton has resurfaced with continuing roles on SMILF and 9-1-1), but the rest of the cast gamely struggles on without her. What will happen to Deacon, the two real-life sisters from Ontario who play Maddie and Daphne, Scarlett and Gunnar, Juliette and Avery, and all the others? Stay tuned as I sense that CMT will resolve all the storylines in a soothing fashion.

CBS All Access/Netflix outside US/other streaming platforms

Star Trek:Discovery returns to continue its first season tonight. As I am one of Jason Isaacs’ biggest fans, I can’t recommend this show highly enough. Enjoy.

Fox

Full disclosure re my reminder above for Star Trek: Discovery –  I am enjoying The Orville, Seth McFarlane’s Star Trek parody on Fox almost as much! I find it extraordinarily clever and irreverent in its treatment of Star Trek‘s many subjects and themes as it gives them a uniquely McFarlane twist. Season 2 will return for another 14 episodes in 2018.

X Files returns for a new season (11)! So lame. So much dull voiceover exposition. David Duchovny is getting so old! Apparently, the rest of season 11 is much better than episode 1.

9-1-1 is a new series from Ryan Murphy that intends to inspire rather than just shock and appall (Nip and Tuck, American Horror Story, Feud, etc). Amazing cast with Peter Krause, Connie Britton, Angela Basset. More than just another police procedural. It brought a tear to my eye. Connie Britton is a revelation as the emergency services operator.

A New Season of TV shows begins in January

There are many summaries of the new TV series that are starting in 2018. Entertainment Weekly has an extensive listing with all the debuts. Here is an article from the NYTimes about how difficult it is to keep up with TV content these days:

Guillermo Del Toro Watch

While back in Toronto over the holidays, I had a chance to see The Shape of Water by this amazing Mexican director, followed almost immediately after by a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the exhibition of Del Toro’s collections. Here are two links to articles about his celebrations of fantasy and the macabre:

https://ago.ca/exhibitions/guillermo-del-toro

The NY Times article replicates a visit to the AGO exhibition, which is very handy considering that today is the last day of that show, so it can come to you, rather than you trekking down to the Gallery in subzero conditions:

I loved The Shape of Water which is a creature feature with great heart and soul as a mute woman falls in love with a gill creature from the Amazon. Like much of Del Toro’s work of fantasy, the film is hard to describe, but impossible to forget. I’m rooting for it to take home some awards from tonight’s Golden Globes and the upcoming Oscars.

If you want to fill in some gaps with your Del Toro watching, much of his work can be found on Netflix and other streaming services, including the Victorian Gothic Crimson Peak (starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, Pacific Rim (starring Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam), his Spanish language masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, The Strain, The Devil’s Backbone, Mimic, and several others. His work contains unforgettable images, so be warned if you are not a fan of fantasy and horror.

Zen Moments

CBS Sunday Morning had a great show last week, including its In Memoriam salute to the departed. I assume today’s first show of 2018 will be a fresh step forward into the new year. Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert have returned to late night with timely humour, and I assume Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Bill Maher will not be far behind.

Closing Words

In Treviso Bay, a new year also begins. I am hosting coffee tomorrow for our newcomers; organized mahjong and golf begin again; my husband is forcing me to remember how to play Euchre again; our Bocce League begins for another season. I still haven’t found time to pick up my Pickleball racket, but I have been making it to our gym for our fantastic selection of classes. Wherever you are, enjoy every moment of this wonderful new year! Hope, strength and courage to my many friends facing health challenges at this time.

Happy New Years!!!

Well, the weather has continued to be frightful, so we took advantage of enforced indoors time and caught up on some viewing. Here are some of my recommendations:

On the Big Screen

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars the indomitable Frances McDormand. Here, she is channeling her magnificent misanthropic Olive Kitteridge performance as the mother of a murdered teenager on the warpath against local law enforcement who have been unable to find the killer of her daughter. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell also turn in touching and powerful performances.

The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins. There really aren’t adequate words to describe the magical world this movie creates. The Amphibian gill-man from the Amazonian lagoon is mesmerizing and you will be holding your breath at the sequences between Hawkins and her beast. I loved this sweet fable of a movie that manages to meld  the genres of films like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Beauty and the Beast, ET and Splash while creating a world that is very distinct and original.  I was transported by its very nonjudgemental look at a love affair between this alien creature and the sweet woman who is enchanted by him.

Netflix

Lava Field and Trapped are two Iceland set crime series. We spent 5 days in Iceland in October of this year and so I was very curious to see these two mysteries. The desolately beautiful landscapes are perfectly captured and provide a wintry backdrop for both series. Lava Field is told in 4 episodes and Trapped takes a whopping 10 episodes to depict its very complicated tale of small town corruption.

La Mante (The Mantis) is a not so good French series about a serial killer. The acting is kind of awful and wooden and the storyline is ludicrous at times. The French could take a few lessons from the Scandinavians. I loved Spiral, another French TV crime series on Netflix), and this one isn’t nearly as good.

Here’s an article from the NYTimes on French TV series:

Manhunt: Unabomber I finally sat down and watched this engrossing series about the hunt for mad bomber Ted Kaczynski and found it to be a perfect follow-up to Mindhunter  (a terrific series about the origins of behavioural profiling in the FBI).  Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany turn in strong performances as FBI profiler and prey.

Bright Sadly, this fantasy/sci fi original Netflix film falls under the “hate watch” category as I found it absolutely unwatchable. It features a great cast with Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace, but it is so ludicrous and awful that I challenge you to watch the whole thing. I love the concept of a buddy story of two mismatched police partners (one being human, the other being an alien creature), but this concept was done so much more enjoyably in both the 1988 film Alien Nation (starring James Caan, Mandy Patinkin and Terence Stamp) and the subsequent 1989 Alien Nation TV series (starring Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint).  If this isn’t warning enough for you, take note of its 28% Rotten Tomatoes rating.  My favourite review is very succinct:  “Worth watching for the sight of Will Smith beating a fairy to death with a broom, but it takes a far more sophisticated grasp of the fantasy concept to really get away with Mordor.”

Countdown to Awards Season

The Daily Beast has it’s top 20 films you should see before The Golden Globes and Oscars are handed out:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-20-best-movies-of-2017-wonder-women-racial-disharmony-and-daniel-day-lewis-final-bow

My Regular TV Fare

There’s been very little original TV programming over the last week, but I did see the most recent Shameless (seen in Canada on HBO, but in the US on Showtime). Canadians will be very amused by William H. Macy’s rendition of “Oh Canada” as he begins a new career as a coyote helping immigrants gain illegal entry to Canada. Fiona attempts a new romance and may finally be leaving the Gallagher household for an apartment of her own.

Moments of Zen

As usual, I write this while watching CBS Sunday Morning.  Their “Hail and Farewell” segment honouring those in the public eye who died in 2017 is a real trip down Memory Lane.  It may bring both smiles and tears.

Tonight I am recording our local PBS affiliate’s Great Performances show.  Last Sunday night, PBS featured the Broadway production of She Loves Me (revival of 1983’s Harnick and Bock musical – they are best remembered for Fiddler on the Roof).  Tonight’s show is a tribute to composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, so well remembered for his musicals West Side Story and Candide.  Enjoy if you love musicals as much as I do!!

Closing Words

We are looking forward to celebrating New Years this evening with longtime friends. It’s been a frigid holiday season this past couple of weeks in Ontario, but we did reconnect with friends and family, especially our mothers who are both in their nineties. I am so looking forward to writing this blog next Sunday from the comfort of our home in Naples, Fl. Our very best wishes to all of you for a wonderful celebration tonight and a healthy and joyous 2018 to come!

A cold winter’s nap…

 

Despite the lead up to Christmas and all the festivities that that entails,
I have been in the second week of a rip roaring head cold and spent a couple of snowbound days in Thornbury. Both factors combined resulted in several days spent shivering under afghans on the couch in front of the TV. I have no other excuse for the following recommendations:

On the Big Screen

Call Me By Your Name Lush, romantic and filmed in Italy, this coming of age film deals with a teenager’s first love with another male. Finally, a break out role for the Adonis-like Armie Hammer and a second big role for Timothy Chalamet as Elio (also featured in the wondrous Lady Bird, my personal favourite film of the year). Chalamet (who is fluent in 3 languages and plays piano beautifully) is an actor to watch.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi I will never get the 2 1/2 hours of my life back that this movie consumed. Despite my sons’ obsession with all things Star Wars related, I was a little bored by this film’s endless battle sequences. CGI technology gets an amazing showplace here (Carrie Fisher still acting despite her death), but I was unmoved by Mark Hamill’s acting his head off as the central character in this one.

With My Sincere Apologies

Fox Live Musical: A Christmas Story Once seen, this cannot be unseen. They have taken the essential goodness and simplicity of the classic 1983 film and turned it into an endless behemoth of a filmed stage musical replete with tuneless stream of consciousness musical numbers. Will Maya Rudolph’s career ever recover from this travesty? You have been warned.

Netflix

Hotel Beau Sejour I can’t believe I watched the whole thing – all 10 hours! Belgian Scandinavia-noire style supernatural thriller. Teenage girl wakes up dead and begins to solve her own murder. There’s something rotten in the Flemish town of Dilsen. I did love this intriguing mystery series.  Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-euro-noir-is-alive-and-well-in-the-excellent-hotel-beau-sejour/article34329832/

The Wilde Wedding Be afraid, very afraid. This Glenn Close/Patrick Stewart/John Malkovich ensemble comedy manages to waste the talents of all the actors involved. Worth watching only for the sight of the fright wig that Patrick Stewart wears. There’s a reason this awful film never made it to a theatre near you.

Patriot’s Day Surprisingly good rendition of all the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing. Stars Mark Walberg, Michele Monaghan, Rachel Brosnahan (pre Marvellous Mrs. Maisel).

Streaming

Why Him? Despite the presence of Bryan Cranston and James Franco, this very silly film is mostly an atrocious mess of a holiday comedy.
Shut Eye Season 2 This amazing suspense series takes place in a world of fortune tellers and con men.  Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) is terrific.
Peaky Blinders Season 4 Bonkers British crime series.  Watch for Tom Hardy as an Orthodox Jewish gangster whose accent is hilariously unintelligible.

Superchannel

Man in an Orange Shirt Lovely 2-episode British mini-series starring Vanessa Redgrave as a woman whose experience with closeted homosexuality ranges from a husband living a double life to a grandson still coming to terms with his sexuality.

TMN

Versailles Possibly the most sumptuous series ever made for TV (until The Crown), this amazing series can be found on demand.  Prepare for the court of Louis XIV as you have never seen it before.  Season 2 has aired here and Season 3 is still being filmed.
Ill Behaviour This mini-series from the BBC is dark humour exemplified:  friends force someone to undergo chemotherapy to treat Hodgkins lymphoma against his will.  I mean, they actually kidnap him and treat him forcibly.  Not for everyone. Lizzie Caplan, Chris Geere and Tom Riley star. Available on demand.

CBC

Kim’s Convenience I can’t explain why I love this comedy series so much.  It’s full of racial stereotypes, yet it is so good natured that it makes me smile. Filmed in Toronto, watch for all the local spots. Available on demand.

Also caught up on demand with a few documentaries I had missed:  Skinhead, Klansville USA.

PBS

Hinterland This time a British crime series takes us to beautiful Wales. Britain’s charming small villages will be entirely depopulated if the murder rate doesn’t drop.

Bravo/TNT

Good Behaviour Oh Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey and Godless) what have you done now in this dark suspense series about a grifter who hooks up with a charming Argentinian hitman. I love this series!

CBS

CBS Sunday Morning Oh my goodness. This morning’s program conveyed the essential magic of Christmas, human kindness and good will.  Please do yourself a favour and watch this one on demand if you didn’t get to see it this morning.

Audible.com

Little Fires Everywhere. Oh the suspense is killing me! Listen to this best selling mystery novel by Celeste Ng.

And the ultimate couch potato viewing lists for those of you who may be settling in for your own long winter’s naps:

A friend visiting children in Arizona asked me for some Netflix recommendations, so here goes my feeble attempt to recap some enjoyable series and films with a little Amazon and Hulu thrown in for good measure:

The Netflix Gold Standard

The Crown, House of Cards, Bloodline If you are new to Netflix and wish to find out what your friends have been raving about, you might want to check out these three classics.

For upcoming viewing you might also want to try:

Godless, Ozark, The Fall, Hotel Beau Sejour, Line of Duty, Queen of the South, Animal Kingdom, Outlander, Stranger Things, Dark, Luther, Peaky Blinders, Glitch, Wanted, The Code, Fargo, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Elle, A Man Called Ove, Frantz, A United Kingdom, Haute Cuisine, All About My Mother.

The NYTimes has also put together a list of 100 Great Films to watch on Netflix:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=nytimes+50+movies+to+watch+on+Netflix&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-ca&client=safari

Amazon Prime

Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, American Gods, Sneaky Pete, Flesh and Blood, Goliath, The Man in the High Castle, The Marvellous Mrs. Maizel.

Hulu

Shut Eye, The Path, Get Shorty

Parting words

It is almost time to set the table and begin the final wrapping process. Our children are joining us for Christmas Eve dinner tonight and our Prime Rib (to be cooked in Chef John’s high heat, then turn oven off style) is sitting coming to room temperature before cooking. Have a wonderful time with family and friends. Peace on earth and good will to all. Love always. Strength. Courage. Hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bingewatching by the warm glow of the TV…

Well, as luck would have it, I managed to come down with a terrible head cold at the same time as I was prepping for one of those medical procedures which involves spending copious amounts of time racing to the washroom.  As a result, I was able to hunker down and do some serious watching.  Here are some recommendations:

Netflix

The Crown Season 2 I absolutely loved this season.  Princess Margaret is heartbreaking,;Anthony Armstrong-Jones is played by Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey); Edward VIII is both touching and repugnant; Harold MacMillan is brought down by scandal; Philip and Elizabeth struggle within their marriage. Fabulous production values! Wonderful performances from all.

HBO

Smilf I love this series about a struggling single mother in Boston.

Bravo/TNT

Good Behaviour I caught up with this wonderful series that I had started watching in the US.  Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary from Downton Abbey) is terrific as a thief and a con artist whose life is always one wrong turn, one bad decision, from implosion.

Streaming/Hulu

Shut Eye Season 2 I do like this noirish  10 episode series about a fortune teller/con man. Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) stars.

Streaming/Superchannel

Apple Tree Yard This 4 episode miniseries starring Emily Watson comes from the BBC.  A provocative thriller which sees an eminent scientist caught up in a damaging and compromising lie.  Based on the novel by Louise Doughty. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/uk-drama-apple-tree-yard-is-as-steamy-as-it-is-woebegone/article37016227/

Acceptable Risk This 6 episode miniseries is an Irish Canadian coproduction made for Acorn TV.  While not quite as engaging as some British crime shows, this one features Canadian actors!  Watch for Geordie Johnson among others.  When her pharmaceutical executive husband Lee is murdered in Montreal, Sarah Manning (of Dublin) comes to realize that she knows nothing about his past. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/acceptable-risk-is-a-first-rate-fine-scandinavian-style-thriller/article36862360/

Peaky Blinders Season 4 continues its dark madness as Tommy Shelby goes to war against a Mafia hitman. Crazy union activity going on in the background.  This show is totally bonkers.

Amazon

The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel This series is about a NYC housewife in the late 50’s who decides to try stand up comedy.  Very atmospheric, with great music, costumes and set design.  It’s a warm nostalgic trip through a very stylized NYC.  Great performances from a wonderful cast (look for Canadian Luke Kirby) as Lenny Bruce.  Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about it:

Showcase/SYFY

Happy This totally bonkers show stars Christopher Meloni as an injured hitman who befriends a perky blue flying horse that only he can see.  I’m not sure I will stay with this one.

CBC

Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas is a wonderful CBC documentary.  It’s a fun look at the great Christmas songs of the 20th Century that were actually written by Jewish composers.  Here’s a link:

https://watch.cbc.ca/favourite-holiday-flicks/-/dreaming-of-a-jewish-christmas/38e815a-00d6259d69e

Live TV Alert

A Christmas Story Live!  Sunday Dec. 17 on Fox.  If you loved the original 1983 version with Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, you may warm to this live  revival as a musical. Ralph wishes for nothing more than a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas.  This adaptation of the Broadway hit stars Maya Rudolph, Matthew Broderick and Jane Krakowski.  Enjoy!!

Moment of Zen

I will be recording my soothing CBS Sunday Morning Show as I head out to brunch tomorrow morning to celebrate my mum’s 99th birthday with the whole family at her nursing home.  We are then headed to see the new Star Wars film with our boys, and then attending a neighbourhood party. We are now in a serious countdown toward Christmas!  I must head for the mall!!  Pray for me.