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.

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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.

 

Let it snow!

 

At last, the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful. Now I can warm myself by the glow of the TV without feeling that I must justify staying indoors when the weather outside is balmy.  There are plentiful reasons to binge over the next week. Here are some recommendations:

Upcoming Alert

A Christmas Story Live! Dec 17 on Fox.  Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about the show:

Netflix

The Crown Season 2  At last the waiting is over.  Season 2 is even better than Season 1 and I thought Season 1 was the best thing I have ever watched on TV.  Treat yourself and curl up on the couch to watch this gorgeously produced series with a cozy throw and a lovely cup of tea.

Dark We finished watching this German time travel series before we left Naples and it looks like there will be a Season 2. It’s very intriguing!  The direct opposite of the above as it is so dark and foreboding.

 

CBC – I’ve Missed You!

The Loch (Available On Demand) In scrolling through all the shows I’ve been missing, I came across this Scottish mystery series.  It starts out promisingly enough with a floating body weighted down by a curling stone (floating bodies seem to be a common theme in recent mystery series this year, Top of the Lake Season 2 being another one). Sadly this series gets weighted down with innumerable red herrings before finally drawing to its painful close.

Top of the Lake Season 2 (Available On Demand) This series starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Nicole Kidman is mesmerizing.  Just as good as Season 1, but now she’s in Sydney investigating a body washed up on a beach.

 

CTV – Catching up with you too!

The Indian Detective Starring Russell Peters, this fish out of water series follows a Toronto cop to India where he smirks his way through solving mysteries.  I used to really like Russell Peters, but I don’t find him as compelling as an actor.  I may not persevere with this one.

Superchannel/Streaming/Epix

Get Shorty This wonderful 11 episode series is a delightfully wry comedy about mobsters making movies in LA.  Chris O’Dowd, Ray Romano and Sean Bridgers star.  Very dry humour based on Elmore Leonard’s novel and subsequent film.

Hulu/Streaming

Shut Eye 10 episodes of Season 2 are now available. This a wonderful suspense series about a scammer with a small chain of fortune-telling storefronts and runner of various cons.  Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) is wonderful as the con artist.

STARZ/W in Canada/ past seasons on Netflix 

Outlander This is still one of the most romantic shows on TV.

Superchannel/past seasons on Netflix

Peaky Blinders This bonkers British crime series isn’t for everyone.  Adrian Brody is a hoot as a Mafia hitman. Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby a gypsy crime lord.

The CW and Netflix

Riverdale This is not your grandparents’ version of Archie comics.  There’s sex, violence and darkness here, but it is a lot of fun.

Arrow OMG, will the happiness between Oliver and Felicity last?  Campy and fun.

Showtime/HBO Canada

Shameless Now in its 8th season, I can’t look away from this comedy series about the reprehensible Gallagher clan of Chicago.

 

AMC

The Walking Dead The Zombies are still after the survivors.  Tonight’s mid-season finale promises a big showdown between Rick and Negan (the arch villain of the past 3 seasons). I am wrung out by this darkest of dramas.

ABC

Designated Survivor Ludicrous beyond words, I think I am giving up on this one.

FOX

Gotham is a campy thrill ride about the young Bat Man.  Great Fun!

Comic Relief

Saturday Night Live This venerable series still manages to wring laughter from today’s headlines.  The sketches may be a bit lame, but the Weekend Update segment is usually worth a look.

Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee all manage to make today’s news funnier.

Moments of Zen

CBS Sunday Morning, Face the Nation (both CBS), Fareed Zakaria, Reliable Sources (both CNN) all try to explain the inexplicable.

Parting Words

Busy week coming up with a Thornbury Christmas party today, my book group, gourmet group and playgroup (longtime neighbourhood friends, not necessarily theatre lovers) parties all happening and ending next weekend with my mother’s 99th birthday party. So many celebrations! Please remember to pace yourselves over the next couple of holiday week: take Uber instead of driving after festive beverages, and try to avoid the frustration/exhaustion/rage cycle when searching for parking spots at malls. Enjoy this magical season wherever you are!

News Alert: OMG, I forgot about The Crown!!

I was remiss in my rush to publish on Sunday in not saying anything about the Second Season debut of The Crown on Netflix on December 8.  As Season 1 was quite possibly the best thing I have ever watched on TV, if you haven’t caught up with it yet, there is still time before Season 2 starts.

Oh yes, and in case you are still wondering about Dark the first ever German series originally produced for Netflix,  here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/new-netflix-drama-dark-is-a-beautiful-bleak-thriller/article37172474/

Full disclosure on Dark, I have only 2 episodes left to view and can’t wait! Messing with the time/space continuum is never a good thing.

I’ve also had a couple of friends mention recently how much they enjoyed Broadchurch on Netflix. It is a wonderful British crime series (starring David Tennant – Dr. Who, and Olivia Colman – the next Queen Elizabeth in The Crown Season 3).  I must admit, Broadchurch was a little dark, even for my tastes.  I suggest counter programming this Christmas season, so if you love British crime and want something more life affirming, try Grantchester (originally made for PBS Masterpiece Mystery/ITV) starring James Norton as the dishy vicar with a knack for solving crimes in a small British village near Cambridge after WWII.  Norton is so popular, his movie schedule may prevent his return for a 4th season of the show.  You may recall him from Happy Valley, another British crime series where he plays a radically different role as a deranged killer.

Speaking of deranged killers, many friends are now enjoying The Fall with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. You can see much more of Dornan in the 50 Shades of Grey films, if you’re wondering why he seems so familiar.  Not that I’m recommending them as they are truly awful.

One of the best crime series I’ve seen recently on Netflix is Mindhunter. Starring Jonathan Groff (Glee), this excellent series is about the origins of the FBI behavioural science unit which developed criminal profiling.  Since Charles Manson is mentioned frequently as someone they would have loved to interview, and since his recent death, this series couldn’t be more timely.

Anyhow, I am now going back to my packing as our flight leaves this evening and I will be racing from the golf course to the limo.  Enjoy your day, and don’t forget about The Crown this weekend if you are a fan.

 

 

Dark or what?

Well, again, the TV schedule is in a bit of a doldrum as new programming is not yet available and many shows are on hiatus.  However, I have rediscovered Amazon and Netflix continues to provide new programs.  My husband pointed out that I have used the adjective “dark” a record number of times.  See if you detect a theme in my TV viewing.  Here are some recommendations:

New Shows Coming to TV

Here’s an article from The Hollywood Reporter about some upcoming new programming:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/18-anticipated-new-tv-shows-2018-1063308

Streaming/Netflix (past seasons)/Superchannel in Canada

Peaky Blinders This bonkers BBC crime show is now in its 4th season.  Starring the charismatic Cillian Murphy, this saga of a British crime family takes endless twists and turns and is always surprising.  Watch for Adrian Brophy as a Mafia hit man this season.

Amazon

Tin Star I had started watching this modern day Western on a trip to Scotland and was unaware until recently that it was available in the US on Amazon. It is a Sky TV production from Britain, but is actually set and filmed in Alberta, Canada and is chock full of Canadian actors.  Although I initially found the premise (a Brit comes to a small Canadian oil patch town as their new Sherriff) a bit unbelievable, I decided to give the show a second chance.  Watch for Genevieve O’Reilly (Glitch), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Christopher Heyerdahl (reliable villain from Hell on Wheels, Damnation, etc.).  The plot is full of cliches and unbelievable coincidences.  Tim Roth as the sheriff seems to be channelling many other roles he has played but he is always watchable.

Netflix

Dark This new original TV series is from Germany (dubbed into English).  A family saga with a supernatural twist set in a German town, where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among 4 families.  Requires close viewing as there are so many characters introduced in the first episode.  Addictive, so give yourself time to watch all 10 episodes. It has been compared to the wonderful Stranger Things. There’s a cave that is reminiscent of the Upside Down.
The Punisher This very dark series from Marvel is definitely not for the faint of heart as it is relentlessly violent and is about a vigilante who is out to avenge the murder of his family.  13 very dark episodes.
Glitch Season 2 I absolutely loved this very dark series from Australia. The second season is now available on Netflix and I found it just as addictive as the first season. Six people have risen from the dead in perfect health. 6 episodes in each season.

Epix/Streaming/Superchannel in Canada

Berlin Station There are two episodes left in the second season of this espionage series.  Starring a great cast that includes the wonderful Richard Jenkins, this season deals with the emergence of a far right party in Germany that seems to be influenced and funded by the US State Department.  Art mirrors life?

AMC

The Walking Dead Perhaps the darkest post Apocalyptic series of all, the survivors are still fighting for their lives.  Now in Season 8!!

TNT

Good Behaviour The second season of this series still has 2 episodes to go.  Michelle Dockery (the haughty  Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) stars as a thief and con artist in South Carolina.  She is wonderful in this terrific suspense series.

USA

Damnation An epic saga about the secret history of the 1930’s American heartland, centres on the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden.  This 12 episode series still has 8 episodes to go in its first season.  It is a battle between two brothers on both sides of the labour struggles of the Depression era.  It’s a modern day Western set in Iowa that highlights issues of racism, poverty and sexual inequality. Maybe not for everyone, but I am intrigued by the layers that are lifted off the major characters with each new episode.

Showtime/HBO in Canada

Shameless Now in its 8th season, the series follows the adventures of the hapless Gallagher clan in Chicago. I can’t look away!!
SMILF I can’t help rooting for this struggling single mom in Boston.

Starz

Outlander There are still two episodes left in Season 3 of this wonderfully romantic adventure series. Jamie and Claire are lovers for the ages.

NBC

This is Us Endlessly maudlin and sentimental, I’m only watching it because my friends are addicted.  I have completely given in to societal pressure.

ABC

The Good Doctor I started watching this one about an autistic young doctor because my friends love it.  Now I’m totally hooked.

Designated Survivor With only 2 episodes left as the season hurtles towards its second season mid-season finale, it has gone beyond ludicrous. Originally, an intriguing premise of a nebbishy guy who becomes President because of a terrorist attack, it has now gone into a strange parallel universe (a la The West Wing), where the fictional president is incredibly articulate and good hearted.  He has a simple answer to each crisis he faces and he is both intelligent and has integrity.  Oh, if only….

Comic Relief

Despite the disappointment of last week’s incredibly lame The President Show Christmas Special (on Comedy Central in the US and Comedy Channel in Canada), I continue to hang in with Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and now increasingly, Seth Meyers, and Samantha Bee.  All four do a great job of skewering the politicians and events of the day. (Other regular pundits, John Oliver and Bill Maher are currently on hiatus).

Zen Moments

CBS has the two most relaxing and informative shows on the air:  both CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes never fail to inform and reassure in these troublesome times.  Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN similarly manages to explain the events of the day and somehow reassure that great minds can deal with these inexplicable events and trends. In these times of almost daily revelations of sexual harassment, it is very comforting to be able to find public affairs programming that reminds us that there are other issues and events we can be thinking about.

Parting Words

We head back to Ontario on Tuesday to celebrate the holidays with our families and friends.  Before then, there is golf to be played, dinners with friends here, and bocce and exercise classes to attend.  Good luck to everyone who is out there madly ordering gifts online and dealing with the pre-Christmas madness in the bricks and mortar stores.  I have been in complete denial thus far re the necessary seasonal preparations.  I think a reckoning is in store for me when I return to the Great White North. Safe travels for everyone who will be on the move in December.

 

Netflix, I just can’t quit you…

As this past Thanksgiving week has not included much original TV programming, it was a great opportunity to catch up with some Netflix and Streaming programs.  I also actually made it out to a real movie theatre twice!!  Here are some recommendations for you:

On the Big Screen

Ladybird This is the ultimate coming of age movie. Irish actress Saiorse Ronin (Brooklyn) plays a teenage girl in Sacramento, CA who is coming to terms with her relationships with her family, her friends, and ultimately who she really is. Delightful in every way.  The performance by Laurie Metcalfe (Rosanne) as her conflicted mother will break your heart.  Tracy Letts (Divorce) is also very touching as her long suffering father. I also loved the very sensitive and unjudgemental way that the film treats the emerging homosexuality of one of its central characters (trying really hard not to spoil things here). There isn’t anything I didn’t love about this film and I recommend it unreservedly.
The Man Who Invented Christmas This movie is not for most children. As our screening was preceded by trailers for at least 6 kids’ movies, it would appear the distributors are marketing it as a kiddie pic, but parents should be aware
that it requires a rudimentary knowledge of Dickens’ work. A neighbouring 12 year old’s overheard comment at the end, was that the movie was very confusing. It’s a biopic of Dickens’ process of writing A Christmas Carol and consists largely of his imaginary conversations with the characters in the book. Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey) is wonderful, but the movie is rather frenetic and chaotic for most tastes. It is a beautiful film that plunges you into the Victorian era of debtors’ prison, workhouses, lame children who die tragically, etc.  It’s a very broad take on a past era.  If you are desperate to get yourself into the Christmas spirit (as I am, because all this Florida sunshine is very distracting when you should be thinking about gift giving), this film may get you into the holiday mood.  The film does emphasize the essential message of the Christmas season of reconciliation, generosity and hope.

Netflix

Godless This epic stars Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Jack O’Connell (Unbreakable)and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) in an epic saga of the American west. Beautiful cinematography, terrific casting in all the supporting roles including Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) and Scoot McNairy (Halt and Catch Fire) as an unforgettable brother and sister. This intricately told tale of sin and redemption is beautifully written. It requires a little patience as the first episode is a little slow paced, but the action picks up and the story is intriguing. It’s a great use of Netflix long form storytelling as it takes 7 episodes lasting between 40 and 80 minutes to tell. The many themes that are part of the narrative include sexual equality, racism, homosexuality, power, family, loss and the power of love. It’s complex and languidly paced, but I thought it was a tremendously moving series. A masterpiece in my opinion.

Wanted Season 2  I did get carried away by this terrific Australian suspense series. It’s a female buddy/road story of two women on the run from corrupt cops, honest cops and villainous bad guys. The second season takes place largely in New Zealand and is wonderful to look at. Great casting in all the main and supporting roles. If you’re wondering who the actor playing Will is, you may recognize Dean O’Gorman (Anders from The Almighty Johnsons, a wonderfully funny NZ TV series worth looking for).

A Christmas Prince is a trifle made for family viewing. Every cliche about reluctant royalty is written into this script. No offensive language or scenes make any appearances in this strange little film. I was looking for a film that a houseguest might find palatable, but this film is really almost a parody of its genre about a runaway prince and the journalist who is furtively writing a story about him. Very silly indeed.

The Punisher I am still persevering with this very dark Marvel offering.  A revenge drama, I am now up to Episode 5 of its 13 episode season. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) stars as Frank Castle, the ruthless avenger who is still seeking retribution for the many wrongs done to him and his family.  Not for the faint of heart.

Streaming

Peaky Blinders has returned for a 4th season (it will be available on US Netflix on Dec. 21).  This bonkers British crime series takes place in 1920’s Birmingham, England. Cillian Murphy is a mesmerizing crime lord, Tom Shelby.  Adrian Brophy guest stars as a Mafia hitman from NYC who has come to exact revenge for Shelby’s killing of a family member.

Berlin Station This espionage series is my substitute for Homeland.  Murky and always operating in the grey area between friends and enemies, this series takes place in the new cold war where Neo Nazis are on the rise in Germany, and they may be funded by the US State department.  Richard Armitage, Richard Jenkins, Rhys Iffans, Ashley Judd star.

Apple Tree Yard Oh my, in Britain an affair goes terribly wrong when a married scientist begins an affair with a government spook.  Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:

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

HULU and Streaming

Chance Starring Hugh Laurie (House), this self destructive neuropsychiatrist is on the trail of a serial killer.

Showtime and Streaming

Shameless Now in its 8th season, this family dramedy follows the adventures of the Gallagher family led by reprobate Frank (William H. Macy).  For its fans, you simply can’t look away.

SMILF I love this series about a single mother struggling to raise her child in Boston. Great performances and great writing.  Look for Connie Britton (Nashville) as a spoiled rich bitch who employs Bridgette to tutor her children.

The Girlfriend Experience Now in its second season, this series has become very complicated.  Airing in two half-hour episodes weekly, we have two different protagonists in two different storylines.  One deals with politics and the other with the witness protection program.  Still about escorts, this season requires very close attention.

STARZ

Outlander If you haven’t caught up with this romantic series (now in its 4th season) yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It does require suspension of disbelief as a British nurse is transported back in time from the 1940’s to the 1740’s.  Breathtaking!!

NBC

This is Us Maudlin and hopelessly sentimental, I am just watching this to see what all the fuss is about.

The Brave This by the numbers Special Ops show miraculously wraps up most of their complicated extraction dramas within 60 minutes.

ABC

The Good Doctor I started watching this breakout hit just to see what the fuss was all about, and now darn it, I am hooked by this medical procedural.  I adore the lead character for his struggle with autism and Savant syndrome.  Addictive!

AMC

The Walking Dead Now in its 8th season, I hearbye swear, that this is my last season of watching.  I’m so darned tired of having my hopes dashed that this band of survivors will somehow escape the cycle of having their hopes dashed that there will somehow be a way out of this post apocalyptic nightmare.

Comic Relief

Coming up this week on Comedy Central, The President Show returns for “I Came Up With Christmas”, a Christmas special.  I love this series where Anthony Atamaniuk goes far beyond Alec Baldwin’s very superficial parody of Trump’s hair and facial expressions.  Atamaniuk really explores Trump’s behaviour and manages to show his pettiness, childishness, desire to be loved, and thirst for power.  Look for it Thursday night at 10 in the US (it will air in Canada on Wed at 10 on Comedy Network).  I will be continuing to watch my favourites, Colbert, Noah, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries for their efforts to make us laugh at the events of the day.

Parting Words

The weather in south Florida has been remarkable this past fall.  We have one and a half weeks to go before we depart for the wintry north and the Christmas season.  We will glory in golf outings, Mahjong games, Bocce practice, exercise classes and even an upcoming basket ball game in Miami before we leave.  Enjoy the season wherever you are.

 

Heartbreak! I lost a post

I knew my general lack of technical expertise would catch up to me and it just happened as I lost a morning’s worth of blog writing.  I will try to recap, but I sadly assumed my work had been saved as I navigated through the site.  Fingers crossed this time.  Here’s a brief recap of my first attempt to give you some recommendations for the week:

 

On the Big Screen

Thor: Ragnarok I did enjoy this film even though it suffered from CGI bloat.  Despite interminable battle scenes, there is still much humour in this film.  Directed by Taika Waititi, a New Zealand director previously responsible for the delightful What we Do in the Shadows (vampire film parody) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (coming of age/buddy film), Waititi has a cameo role in this film as the voice of Korg.  He steals every scene he’s in. Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth also deliver very fine comic performances.

HBO

War Dog This touching documentary recounts the stories of the K9s specifically trained for Special Ops.  The unbreakable bond between their handlers and the dogs is very poignantly retold.

A United Kingdom This touching film tells the story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams put his kingdom into political and diplomatic upheaval.  Very timely, as Mugabe’s stranglehold over neighbouring Zimbabwe finally comes to an end after 40 years of dictatorship.

Netflix

Mudbound  This is a very gritty portrayal of the return of two servicemen to rural Mississippi after WWII.  The film doesn’t shrink from a very stark portrait of racism and takes a very violent turn at the end.  Coincidentally, my favourite film of all time, The Best Years of our Lives (1946) deals with very similar subject matter in a much more sentimental way, complete with Hollywood happy ending.

The Punisher This is the latest in the Marvel franchise that includes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.  This revenge fantasy is unrelentingly violent in the first three episodes that I watched.  As the season is 13 episodes long, I fear it is a real example of Netflix bloat where long form storytelling unnecessarily draws out a story so that it becomes tedious.

Showtime

SMILF I totally enjoyed this new series about a single mom trying to survive.  It reminded me of The Florida Project, another look at a single mom on the margins.  Frankie, the lead character, is incredibly complex.  She’s bright enough to tutor a Harvard University entrant, yet has a difficult relationship with her mentally unstable mom (played fearlessly by Rosie O’Donnell) and a somewhat loving relationship with her ex.

Here’s what John Doyle had to say in the Globe and Mail:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/smilf-a-small-intimate-show-and-typical-of-top-tv-right-now/article36947806/

 

HULU and Superchannel in Canada

Chance This is the latest series from Hugh Laurie (House).  Here he plays a forensic neuro-psychiatrist on the trail of a serial killer.  Great suspense!

Parting Words

I have departed from my usual format this week so if you want to see some of my usual recommendations, have a look through my archives.  It is US Thanksgiving this week, so I’m going on a bit of a holiday and shortening this post.  So sad that I lost my first attempt.  It’s time to kick back and watch my weekly moment of Zen:  CBS Sunday Morning.  It’s my moment of calm in an otherwise turbulent world.  Enjoy your week wherever you are!!