So little time, so much to watch…

Well it’s been a glorious week here in Naples.  Beautiful weather, lots of activities, enough time to catch up with some of the shows and movies I’ve been meaning to watch and we actually made it out to a real movie theatre (Silverspot at the Mercato in N. Naples, one of my favourites) to see a film that will likely get some Oscar nods.  I’m now in the first stage of my Oscar countdown as I try and see all the films that will likely be nominated.  Here are some viewing suggestions for you:

On the Big Screen

The Favourite (1 hr 59 min) Starring Olivia Colman (soon to be the next Queen Elizabeth in The Crown, also known for Broadchurch, The Night Manager, etc.), Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz.  In early 18th C. England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah Marlborough, governs the country in her stead.  When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.  Full of great performances and witty dialogue, this film will intrigue lovers of period drama.  Watch for the unforgettably hilarious dance scene which could have been directed by Baz Luhrmann. A film that’s very hard to categorize as comedy or drama but incredibly entertaining.

Netflix

Breath (1 hr 55 min) Based on Tim Winton’s award-winning and international bestselling novel set in mid-70’s coastal Australia.  Two teenage boys, hungry for discovery, form an unlikely friendship with a mysterious older adventurer who pushes them to take risks that will have a lasting and profound impact on their lives.  Stars Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Richard Roxburgh.  Full disclosure, I would watch anything with Simon Baker (The Guardian) so I adored this coming-of-age film with great performances from the two boys.  If you love surf films, this one’s for you.
And Breathe Normally (1 hr 35 min) Two women’s lives will interest while trapped in circumstances unforeseen.  Between a struggling Icelandic mother and an asylum seeker from Guinea-Bissau, a delicate bond will form as both strategize to get their lives back on track. I loved the scenes that showed the rugged and desolate Icelandic landscapes.  A very touching character study.
Roma (2 hr 15 min)  A year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970’s.  Directed by Alphonso Cuaron, this is a love letter from Cuaron to the woman who raised him, the family maid.  Full disclosure, the first time I watched this film, the elegiac pace lulled me into a deep sleep that lasted most of the 2 hrs plus running time.  This week I tried again in the company of 15 women in my movie club and managed to stay awake for the whole thing! Here are my thoughts on this film which I wrote about to a friend as she wondered why so many people love this film. It’s an art film. Subtle and nuanced. Very understated if you don’t count the earthquake, riot, near drowning, forest fire, etc. It’s a memoir of Cuaron’s childhood where he was raised by his maid. Just a portrait of a way of life. Lots of very subtle shadings – the character of the father, the role of the grandmother, the way the mother totally depended on her maid. Lots of references to a corrupt and failing country – the training of paramilitary forces, the expropriation of the land belonging to the maid’s indigenous mother, a student demonstration that turns into a riot.
It’s a movie that needs to be closely watched. I slept through the entire thing the first time I tried to watch it. This time with a group of women watching it with me, I watched it with my whole attention. We had a great discussion afterwards.
For a completely alternative view of this film (and for those of you who may watch it mystified about all the fuss), here’s a review from L.A. Review of Books:
Sex Education (8 episodes)  A teenage virgin who lives with his sex therapist mother teams up with a smart and edgy high school classmate to start their own health clinic.  Full disclosure: I gave up during the first episode, which I felt was very much aimed at a teen audience.  I felt a number of the teen characters were played by much older actors and quickly decided this series was not for me.  However, it has had terrific reviews and here is one of them:
7 Days Out (6 episodes) A series that documents behind the scenes of some of the largest events in the world. So far, I have only watched Westminster Dog Show episode and found it to be a lovely overview of some of the owners and trainers who compete.  Wonderful scenes of glorious dogs!

Streaming

I have been enviously looking at the pop-up ads for Acorn and Brit Box subscription streaming services of British TV content.  I finally got a look at some of the series they advertise. Most, but not all, of these are in the crime genre:
Butterfly (3 episodes) Stars Anna Friel.  11-year-old Max identifies as a girl and wants to live her life as Maxine.  Her estranged parents Vicky and Stephen attempt to work out how best to cope with and support this huge life decision.  Very sweet series which presents a very sensitive view of the dilemmas that face families coping with transgender issues.
Suspects (23 episodes) Fiction made to feel like documentary, this crime series is entered on a team of three detectives – each with their own distinctive style of working.  A bit grim (the first episode I watched dealt with a missing 2-year-old girl).  Very realistic! I really did think I was watching a documentary at first.
The Loch  (6 episodes) The search for a serial killer becomes a matter of life and death for detective Annie Redford, who is trying to cope with her first murder case. I realized a few minutes into this one, that I had seen it before, probably on TVO or PBS and had thoroughly enjoyed it.  The setting is Loch Ness, so the scenery is beautiful.  A terrific tangled tale of crime.
Blood (6 episodes) Stars great Irish actor Adrian Dunbar (Line of Duty) Cat Hogan returns to West Meath, Ireland, upon her mother’s sudden death – she has an accident at home and died (or was it an accident?).  Blood is about old secrets, older betrayals, mind games and the lies family tell each other. Terrific tale of a dysfunctional family and the secrets and lies that damage and distort.

Regular Fare I’m following

Dirty John (8 episodes, Bravo) Terrific true life tale that started as a true crime podcast.  Debra’s seemingly perfect life is disrupted as she falls for a handsome doctor who sweeps her into a whirlwind romance.  But her handsome new beau pulls Debra into a sinister game of psychological manipulation.  Connie Britton, Eric Bana, Juno Temple, Jean Smart and Julia Garner all deliver terrific performances in this mesmerizing nourish tale of a woman who descends into a downward spiral once she engages with a devilish con man.
Outlander (Season 4, Starz, streaming) Oh my, the romance continues in the New World.
Counterpart (Season 2, Starz) Mind bending mystery series about a parallel world involved in a Cold War with our own. The war slowly heats up thanks to spies from both sides.
FBI (12 episodes, CBS) Procedural drama about the inner workings of the NY office of the FBI bringing to bear all the Bureau’s skills, intellect and mind-blowing technology to keep NYC and the country safe.  Great cast in this completely routine crime series includes Jeremy Sisto and Sela Ward.
The Rookie (20 episodes, ABC)  The series follows John Nolan, a 40-year-old man who moves from his comfortable small-town life to LA to pursue his dream of being a police officer for the LAPD.  He must navigate the dangerous, humorous, and unpredictable world of a “young” cop determined to make his second shot at life count.  Nathan Fillion is his usual charming self in the lead role.
New Amsterdam (12 episodes, NBC) A new medical director breaks the rules to heal the system at America’s oldest public hospital.  Ryan Eggold is a charmer in the lead role.
Chicago Fire (Season 7, NBC)  I only watch this idiotic and predictable show from the procedural factory of Dick Wolff, for the two lead actors, Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney.  Sigh….
Chicago Med (Season 4, NBC) I only watch this entirely lame medical procedural for the performances of Oliver Platt and Colin Donnell. Also from the procedural factory of Dick Wolff.
Berlin Station (Season 3, Epix and streaming) Follows Daniel Miller (Richard Ermitage), who works in the CIA station in Berlin.  Great cast includes Leland Orser, Michelle Forbers, Rhys Ifans Richard Jenkins, Tamlyn Tomita and Ashley Judd.  If you love espionage series, this is the one for you.
Catastrophe (Season 4, Amazon)  American boy Rob gets Irish girl Sharon pregnant while they hook up for a week while on a business trip to London.  Catastrophe and chaos ensue in this cheeky and bawdy series from the UK.
The Orville (Season 2, Fox) Delightful parody of Star Trek from Seth MacFarlane who also stars.
Gotham (Season 5 – final season) Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne face the chaos Gotham City has become, as villains who survived the attack on the city begin to resurface and claim various territories.  If you want to see the origin story of Batman, this series is for you.  Stars Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue.

Zen Moment

CBS Sunday Morning (on air since 1979, CBS) I love this peaceful anthology show for its insightful and inspiring segments.  This morning’s show featured Key Lime Pie, M. Night Shymalan, etc.

The Comedians

The Christmas holidays are over and Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah are back.  I love watching the highlights of James Corden and Seth Meyers on Youtube.

Closing Words

It was a great week for dining out and catching up with friends.  Looking forward to our regular activities here this week (golf, mahjhong, bocce, etc.)  We are off to the theatre this week to catch Canadian singer Kyle Riabko at Artis Naples doing a Rogers and Hammerstein tribute.  How I love show tunes!!  Have a wonderful week wherever you are.  To my Canadian friends, stay warm up there and be careful on the roads.  Hugs to everyone.

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Back in the sunny south…

Well, it was a very eventful 7 weeks or so spent back home in Ontario.  From George’s surgery, to Christmas celebrations, to the death of a dear friend, to New Year’s celebrations, and finally to the death of my dear mother Amelia at age 100.  She passed away in her sleep of complications of old age.  She lived a long and challenging life that included the break up of a marriage, raising her family as a single mother, the premature deaths from cancer of my brother and sister, and then finally a long decline as the result of a fall that began when she was 89 and ended 11 years later.  Dementia blurred the grief she felt over the loss of two children as her memories faded. She was a woman of very strong character which sustained her throughout her long life.  Amelia will be missed by her family for her often hilarious and usually unsolicited opinions and her terrifying glare when she was displeased. She was truly the strongest woman I have ever known and she will be terribly missed.

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Anyhow, I did manage to keep up with a few series and shows over the holidays, so here are some suggestions for you.

On the Big Screen

Mary Poppins Returns (2 hr 10 min)  Well, I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t completely enamoured of this film.  I love musicals, but the music in this one doesn’t really compare to the original with its unforgettable songs.  You do not come out humming.  Emily Blunt is wonderful as a much slyer more mysterious Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda copes with his cockney accent much more gracefully than Dick Van Dyke.  Way too long for me, so I wonder what children will think about this one.  I really needed something positive over the holidays and this one didn’t give me the lift I needed.

Netflix

Call My Agent (In French with English Subtitles. Season 3, 6 episodes) I just binge watched the entire third season of this series.  What a delight!  This office of talent agents in Paris tries to cope with their celebrity clients (Monica Belucci, Jean Dujardin are two of the stars this season) and their office politics.  A truly funny escape from reality.
The 12th Man (In Norwegian with English Subtitles. 2 hr 15 min) Based on a true story, this action film tells the story of 12 Norwegian saboteurs who are immediately killed on landing in Northern Norway by the Nazis with the exception of 1 who gets away. The survivor Jan goes on the run towards the neutral territory of Sweden.  However, the brutal weather conditions turn out to possibly be an even greater foe than the Nazi patrols.  Wonderfully engrossing film.  Available on Netflix in Canada and Amazon Prime in the US.
You (11 episodes) Originally aired on Lifetime, now on Netflix. This very noir series stars Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) as a clever bookstore manager who relies on his savvy Internet know-how to make the woman of his dreams fall in love with him.  Completely addictive!
Derry Girls (Northern Irish accents abound, you may have to activate captions, 7 episodes) A totally delightful series that recounts the personal exploits of a 16-year-old girl and her family and friends during the Troubles in the early 1990’s.  Laugh out loud funny!
Shtisel (From Israel, in Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles, Seasons 1& 2, 24 episodes) The story of an ultra-othodox family in Jerusalem.  Shalom Shtisel, the father of a large family, is dealing with his younger son who he wants to see married soon.  His daughter, Giti, is dealing in secret with marital problems while his other son Zvi Arie tries to patch things up.  I really fell in love with these characters and binge watched the two seasons.  I miss the Shtisel family terribly.
Bad Seeds (In French with English subtitles, 1 hr 40 min) Stars Catherine Deneuve.  Wael (Kheiron) a former street child, makes a living from small scams with his adoptive mother and partner-in-crime Monique (Catherine Deneuve).  When this unconventional duo swindles the wrong guy, Victor, an old acquaintance of Monique now in charge of a support organization for troubled teens, they have no choice but to become his interim secretary and educator in order to redeem themselves.  This little film is lighter than air and has a very positive message of redemption.
Wanted (From Australia, Season 3, 6 episodes) Two women are falsely accused of murder, and go on the run across Australia in a car filled with stolen money.  The saga of these two women who were in the wrong place at the wrong time continues with numerous twists and turns.  Completely addictive!

Series still being watched

Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes) Ray finds a chance at a new life on Staten Island.  Darker than ever!
Counterpart (Starz, Season 2, 10 episodes) Stars J.K. Simmons as a hapless UN employee who discovers the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension that’s in a Cold War with our own, and where his other self is a top spy.  The war slowly heats up thanks to spies from both sides.  Mind bending but intriguing and J.K. Simmons is splendid in his dual role.
Outlander (Starz, Season 4, 13 episodes) This romantic series follows the adventures of an English combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.  Possibly the most romantic series ever made for TV!!
Berlin Station (Streaming from Epix, Season 3, 10 episodes) Now the CIA agents are on assignment in Estonia to thwart a Russian takeover.  Got to love that Richard Armitage as the main swashbuckler! This series is my go-to replacement for Homeland which is presently on hiatus.
Gotham (Fox, Season 5, 12 episodes) Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne face the chaos Gotham City has become, as villains who survived the attack on the city begin to resurface and claim various territories.  I love this series about Batman’s origin story.

Closing Words

It’s been a challenging past few weeks.  Being back in Florida is a much needed escape and refuge from a difficult holiday season.  After a shopping trip to Costco today, we are off to practice Bocce as our league begins this week. The week includes my first golf game in many weeks, fitness classes and lots of catching up with friends.  We pick up our new MiniCooper tomorrow and I can’t wait to drive it.  I have loved driving my Countryman SUV in Canada and look forward to driving my new 4-door hardtop version in Florida.  TV Alert for tonight:  The Golden Globes air on NBC at 8 pm.  These very entertaining awards provide much head scratching amusement as they feature much more diverse categories than the Oscars.  The celebrity audience eats and drinks while the awards are in progress and generally relaxes.  There is often no rhyme or reason for some of the awards voted upon by a mysterious Hollywood Foreign Press Association that does not divulge its criteria for awards selection or even its membership.  Total escapism!  Enjoy your week wherever you are. Keep watching your TV Guides.  Many shows are returning from hiatus this week and will continue to do so throughout January. Hugs to my family and friends dealing with bereavement and medical issues’

Christmas has come and gone…

Christmas has come and gone and it’s Boxing Day as I write this! We’ve had get togethers with 2 bookclubs, our fitness group, a Birthday/Christmas get together over lunch at Lambton, a high school girlfriends get together, several dinners and parties with neighbours and numerous family get togethers. This year we celebrated Hungarian Christmas in Port Perry, Etobicoke Family Christmas with our children’s in-laws in Toronto, and finally Thornbury Winter Wonderland Christmas with our children up north. 

It’s been a wonderful holiday season and we’ve been very happy to be around for dear family and friends dealing with illness and bereavement. For quiet moments during your holidays, here are some viewing suggestions.

On demand

Captain Fantastic (1 hr 48 Min) In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent. Viggo Mortensen leads a wonderful cast in this exploration of parenting and living off the grid.

Crave TV  

Escape at Dannemora (7 episodes) Full confession – I have given upon this bleak based on true story miniseries despite its outstanding cast (Benicia DeL Toro, Paul Dano, Patricia Arquette). Too dark and sad for me.

Counterpart (Season 2, 8 episodes) Counterpart is about a mysterious world hidden beneath the surface of our everyday existence. Howard Silk is a lowly cog in the bureaucratic machinery of a Berlin-based United Nations spy agency. When Howard discovers that his organization safeguards the secret of a crossing into a parallel dimension, he is thrust into a shadow world of intrigue, danger, and double cross – where the only man he can trust is his near-identical counterpart from this parallel world. The show explores themes of identity, fate and lost love, posing the eternal question, “what if our lives could have been different?”

Streaming

A Simple Favour (1 hr 34min)  Ooh, dark and twisted in a fun and entertaining way, Stars Christina Hendricks, Henry Golding, Blake Lively. This dark noir suspense thriller is extremely entertaining,

Berlin Station (Season 3, 8 episodes) we’re in Estonia a lot this year as Russia tries to pull another Crimea and take Estonia back.

Outlander (Season 4, 10 episodes) This romance for the ages continues in The New World,

Johnny English Strikes Again (1 hr, 29 min) About 1 hr too long.  For Rowan Atkinson addicts only, this James Bond spoof is awfully silly, but his hilarious face does make you smile.

Venom (2 hr 14 min) Only Tom Hardy could star in this mad mess of a superhero movie from Marvel. Bat shit craziness ensues when an extraterrestrial parasite infests Hardy’s body. Many innocent vehicles were destroyed by CGI effects in this endless insanity.

Netflix

Bird Box (2 hr 4 min) Five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety.  Stars Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich.  Incredibly suspenseful, but very similar to A Quiet Place. Somewhat naughtily, some critics have already referred to this as A Blind Place.

Happy as Lazzaro (2 hrs 5 min) This is the tale of a meeting between Lazzaro, a young peasant so good that he is often mistaken for simple-minded, and Tancredi, a young nobleman cursed by his imagination. Life in their isolated pastoral village Inviolata is dominated by the terrible Marchesa Alfonsina de Luna, the queen of cigarettes. A loyal bond is sealed when Tancredi asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping. This strange and improbable alliance is a revelation for Lazzaro. A friendship so precious that it will travel in time and transport Lazzaro in search of Tancredi. His first time in the big city, Lazzaro is like a fragment of the past lost in the modern world. Mesmerizing and very hard to describe this fable of an innocent man.

Tidelands (8 episodes) Australian! Tidelands follows the story of a former criminal who returns home to the small fishing village of Orphelin Bay. When the body of a local fisherman washes ashore, she must uncover the town’s secrets while investigating its strange inhabitants, who are a group of dangerous half-sirens, half-humans called “Tidelanders”.

Dogs of Berlin (8 episodes) From Germany! Dogs of Berlin tells the story of two contrasting Berlin police detectives who become a team against their will – and are forced into a territorial battle with the Berlin underworld that confronts them with their own human weaknesses and criminal activities – and into a final decision on which side of the law they’re actually on. I knew bed th S very dark and twisted tale of the new Germany where new Nazis fight Turkish immigrants for control of their new country.

Roma (2 hrs 15 min) The film’s events take place in 1970 and 1971, predominantly in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. Cleo (named after the Cléo character in Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7) is a maid in the household of Sofia, whose household consists of her husband Antonio, their four young children, Sofia’s mother, Teresa, and another maid, Adela. Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference in Quebec. Among scenes of Cleo’s life with the family – her cleaning, cooking, taking the kids to and from school, serving them meals, putting the kids to bed and waking them up – it becomes clear that Sofia and Antonio’s marriage is strained. After a brief return, Antonio leaves again, saying he is going to Quebec for a few weeks. In their time off, Cleo and Adela go out with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón, to the theater. At the entrance, Cleo and Fermín decide to rent a room instead of seeing the movie. Fermín, while naked, shows off his martial arts skill using the shower curtain rod as a pole. At another date, both couples meet in a movie theater, where Cleo tells Fermín that she thinks she is pregnant. As the movie is about to end, Fermín says he is going to the rest room and will be back, but then does not return and is nowhere to be found when Cleo goes outside. Cleoy reveals the same concern to Sofia, who takes her to get checked at the hospital where Antonio works. The doctor there confirms her pregnancy..Full disclosure- I did watch this in the evening and managed to snooze through much of it while my husband stayed Alert and described it as a masterpiece. I will likely be viewing it again with my Florida Movie Club in January.

HBO

Ray Donovan (Season 5, 10 episodes) Oh my. Dark as ever, Ray is in NYC this year and his work as a fixer for a duplicitous power broker (Susan Sarandon) continues with terrible repercussions for everyone.

Regular Broadcast Fare

The Rookie (ABC) Love this show about the world’s oldest police rookie starring charming Canadian Nathan Fillion.

FBI (CBS) Comfort food police procedural from the Dick Wolf assembly line.

The CW

Riverdale This show started out as a bitingly sharp satire on teen dramas and has increasingly gone goofy with its emphasis on supernatural and occult themes.

Superchannel

National Treasure: Kiri (4 episodes) A drama dealing with the abduction and murder of a young black girl, soon to be adopted by her white foster family, and the trail of lies, blame, guilt and notoriety which follow. Sarah Lancashire and Steven Mackintosh star in this noir series.

You may find some of the end-of-year lists interesting:

Features and series to binge watch over the holidays from the Globe:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-28-shows-to-binge-on-netflix-and-amazon-over-the-holidays/

Worst of 2018 TV list from the Globe:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/article-the-worst-of-the-worst-2018s-biggest-film-failures/

Acknowledged best of TV list from NYTimes:

Best of 2018 TV list from the Globe:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-the-year-in-tv-great-content-amid-the-toxic-trumpian-politics-of/

Great End of year hidden gem list:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-six-unheralded-tv-gems-you-wont-see-on-the-best-of-lists/|

Closing Words

OMG, this has been a tough blog to write. My 10 year old laptop has died, forcing me to type this on my IPad. Aargh…editing is so much harder as fonts and style are much harder for me to control.  Anyhow, I am wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and New Years holiday. Much health and happiness to everyone for 2019. Hugs to you all.

 

 

A week of tears and laughter…

It’s been a whirlwind week of get togethers with friends, medical appointments, retirement parties, fitness and line dance classes and most meaningfully, the funeral of a very longtime friend who passed away after a one year struggle with cancer.
Judy was my neighbour of 37 years. She and her husband Bob had three girls to our two boys. Judy was part of my neighbourhood group of play girls. We formed a close knit network of friends when the kids were babies and over the years we became a real sisterhood. Judy had a great sense of humour and she was the ultimate realist who always told it like it really was. She did not suffer fools. We adored her for her frankness and kindness. She was very accomplished in her field as a tax partner in an accounting firm. She was supported in her career by her husband of 43 years, Bob, who ran the household while Judy excelled in her career and was able to take on volunteer roles with charities close to her heart. Her girls always came first and she never missed a dance competition or a horseback riding lesson. Her girls adored her as did her friends. Truly one of the strongest women I know, Judy fought her disease with all her courage and strength in order to have as much time as possible with her family, including a new granddaughter born in September. She died at home surrounded by family. We will miss her dearly.
God knows we all need distractions, so here are some suggestions:

Netflix

Narcos: Mexico (11 episodes) The rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico.  Engrossing, suspenseful, powerful.  I couldn’t look away.
Dumplin’ (1 hr 50 min) Willowdean (Dumplin’) the plus-sere teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.  This film answers the question of what has happened to Jennifer Aniston’s career.  She plays the mom in this feel good film that manages to touch on all the cliches of every teen movie that features an underdog rising above the mean girls.  Very trite and not at all true.  If you want to watch a movie that is lighter than air, this is the one for you.
Mowgli (1 hr 44 min) A human child raised by wolves must face off against a menacing tiger named Shere Khan, as well as his own origins. I must admit that I did enjoy this all star live action version (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Peter Mullan, etc) of The Jungle Book story, but I did laugh at the review by John Doyle in the Globe:

Amazon Prime

The Marvellous Mrs. Maizel (Season 2, 10 episodes) A housewife in the 1950’s decides to become a stand-up comic.  I must admit, I snoozed through the first few episodes in Season 2, but it gradually grew on me.  One of my favourite British actors joins the cast in Episode 7 as an artist who is interested in Miriam. You will root for Mrs. Maizel to succeed.

Streaming

Blackkklansman (2 hr 15 min) Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorade Springs, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.  This is another way too long, unevenly paced film from Spike Lee whose films are often deeply flawed. Great cast features John David Washington (son of Denzil) and Adam Driver.

Audible.com

Becoming by Michelle Obama (19 hours 5 minutes).  Obama writes with a refreshing candor, as though her keen awareness of her celebrity is matched only by her eagerness to shed the exhausting veneer that helped enable her husband’s political rise.  If you are in need of inspiration to live your best life, read this.  You will be overcome with admiration for this wonderful woman who rose from very humble beginnings to become the first black First Lady.  Incredibly accomplished in her own right (Princeton, Harvard Law), Obama is unsparingly honest in depicting her family, her difficulties in her marriage and her incredibly strong work ethic.  I am in awe of her.  She is a wonderful narrator of her own story, so I heartily recommend listening to this on audible.com.

Regular Fare

This is the time of year when the ten best lists start to come out.  Here’s one from Vanity Fair:

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/12/best-tv-shows-2018-top-10-list

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes, available on demand) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes, available on demand) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows despite the intense competition for viewers in the age of Peak TV:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes, available on demand) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I am now following:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV)
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah (and the best moments of Seth Meyers, SNL and James Corden on YouTube) all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

I missed by very favourite show today, CBS Sunday Morning, as we were running off from Thornbury this morning to my friend’s funeral.  If you do get a chance to see it, watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

Closing Words

While happy to be home and spending lots of time with our family and friends, it has been a rather melancholy time.  Sending warm hugs to all my friends dealing with medical issues (including poor George who is still a little tender and sore after his surgery). Best wishes to all of you during this festive season!!

 

Let the bingewatching continue…

George and I have been enjoying a few days of quiet in our Thornbury home north of Toronto.  It was a beautiful winter wonderland when we drove up but the weather has gotten milder and milder and today it’s supposed to be drizzly all day.  Perfect for bingewatching! Here are some suggestions for you:

On the Big Screen

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (1 h 46 min) A terrific film about the literary world. When biography writer Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception as she discovers how lucrative literary forgery can be.  An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.  Melissa McCarthy plays it straight here as the acerbic, down on her luck writer.  She is abetted in her forgery by the marvellously funny Richard E. Grant (a British character actor most famous for his 1969 film Withnail & I and many others).  Both actors are rumoured to be Oscar nominees this year. Watch for Jane Curtin who is marvellously wry as Marjorie, Israel’s exhausted and exasperated literary agent.

NetFlix

Narcos: Mexico (10 episodes) This miniseries explores the origins of the modern drug war by going back to its roots, beginning at a time when the Mexican trafficking world was a loose and disorganized confederation of independent growers and dealers.  Witness the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980’s as Felix Gallardo takes the helm, unifying traffickers in order to build an empire.  When DEA agent Kiki Camarena moves his wife and young son from California to Guadalajara to take on a new post, he quickly learns that his assignment will be more challenging than he ever could have imagined.  As Kiki garners intelligence on Felix and becomes more entangled in his mission, a tragic chain of events unfolds, affecting the drug trade and the war against it for years to come.  Stars Michael Pena and Diego Luna.  This series is full of wonderful performances by actors who are perfectly cast in this rogues’ gallery of criminals and law enforcement officers.

The Last Kingdom (Season 3, 10 episodes) The setting is England roughly around 800-900 A.D. The conflict involves the Vikings who are eager to take more ground and the native English peoples, the Saxons, who desire to hold the ground they have and repel the Vikings from England.  The main protagonist, Uhtred Ragnarsson, is a fictional character although his birth place and enemies who contest him are real figures.  Stars Euro actor Alexander Dreymon as the delicious Uhtred, Ian Hart, Eva Birthistle.  A terrific action packed series that depicts this shrouded in mystery era as the birth of a nation.

Amazon Prime

Patriot (Season 2, 8 episodes) Follows the complicated life of intelligence officer John Tavner, whose latest assignment – to prevent Iran from going nuclear – requires him to forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous non-official cover.  The series features many wonderful character actors in supporting roles (Kurtwood Smith, Terry O’Quinn, Gil Bellows, among them).Michael Dorman is wonderful as the lead character.  I get a special kick from his folk songs which are a kind of therapy for him as he tries to process the two sides of his life – cover and actual intelligence officer.

Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-patriot-an-unheralded-gem-of-a-mad-melancholy-spy-drama/

And all the other shows I try to keep up with:

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes, available on demand) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes, available on demand) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows despite the intense competition for viewers in the age of Peak TV:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes, available on demand) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I am now following:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV)
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah (and the best moments of Seth Meyers, SNL and James Corden on YouTube) all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

 

Closing Words

The next few weeks are going to be a blur of medical and dental appointments combined with non-stop house party action and dinners with friends.  Please send all your friends and family members who are dealing with medical issues your most supportive thoughts and prayers, and even more so, your best baking and casseroles.  For many who are struggling, this festive time of year is very challenging.  Hugs to you all.

Winter Wonderland goes briefly on break…

After a couple of days of brutal cold, we are now having some very mild early winter weather.  It’s a perfect day to get my Christmas urns in order for our Thornbury house and a good friend/floral designer is coming over this morning to “help” me.  I will have coffee ready for her.  In the meantime, I have to admit I have been bingeing on lots of new TV offerings.  Here are some recommendations for your week:

On the Big Screen

The Toronto International Film Festival has come out with personal recommendations for audience members (based on a brief survey and their algorithms) and I received this personalized list this week.  I loved Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Kindergarten Teacher (now available on Netflix) and First Man.

Top 5 Recommendations:

  1. Green Book (39.8%)
  2. ROMA (36.3%)
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk (34.9%)
  4. The Kindergarten Teacher (29.1%)
  5. First Man (28.1%)

More than 75% of people asked for their recommendations to focus on “Overlooked Gems” so they could discover films that may not get the attention of Hollywood blockbusters. Here’s what they’ve discovered:

Top 5 Overlooked Gems:

  1. Float Like a Butterfly (43.9%)
  2. Let Me Fall (15.2%)
  3. The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia(15.2%)
  4. Rosie (11.8%)
  5. Before the Frost (10.4%)

Get your own Personal Top 5 and see if it compares: join.TIFF.net/2018/

We hope you’ll love this tool as much as we do. Please let us know what you think of your results by emailing us at loyalty@tiff.net.

TIFF

P.S. – We can’t leave out one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year, and one of the most talked-about films coming out of TIFF:

Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born (17.9%) was #6 in the overall recommendations, just shy of the Top 5. See if it’s on your list of recommendations.

Netflix

The Last Kingdom  (Season 3, 10 episodes)  Oh how I have missed this action packed Dark Ages story.  The year is 872, and many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alred.  Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred.  Born the son of a Saxon nobleman and a Danish mother, he treads a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and ultimately, recapture his ancestral lands.  Untred is played by the glorious Alexander Dreymon.  Sigh… I love this gorgeous French/Swiss Englishman.  If you like Vikings, you will love this series.
The Kominsky Method (8 episodes)  Starring Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin and Nancy Travis.  An aging actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach. Douglas and Arkin are wonderful together as longtime friends who have a love/hate relationship.  Great writing that ties together themes of loss, addiction, aging and relationships.  This is a truly adult series that manages to make you laugh and cry.  I loved it and binged on all 8 half/hour episodes in one evening.
Dogs (6 episodes) This wonderful documentary series focuses on our relationships with dogs.  From a therapy dog, to a dog left behind in Syria when his master leaves the country. to a Labrador retriever that faithfully accompanies his master on daily fishing trips, to an examination of the dog grooming industry and its superstars, to a dog rescue shelter in Costa Rica and a dog-adoption service that rescues dogs from Texas shelters and matches them with new owners in NYC. Get our your hankies.  Heartwarming and life affirming.  Here’s what the Globe had to say about it:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2 h 13 min) An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West from the Coen brothers.  Dark and quirky, this blackly comedic series could also have been called 100 Ways to Die in the West if that title weren’t already taken.  The great cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Clancy Brown, James Franco, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, and Zoe Kazan.  Fascinating in its oddness.
Trevor Noah:  Son of Patricia (1 h 3 min)  Noah’s South African roots and upbringing merge into his recent American experience making for funny and human juxtapositions and observations.  Here’s what the Globe had to say:
The Kindergarten Teacher (1 h 36 min) Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gael Garcia Bernal.  A kindergarten teacher in NYC becomes obsessed with one of her students whom she believes is a child prodigy.  I saw this very dark film at TIFF and found it very intriguing.  Gyllenhaal is luminous in this and you fear for her as she spirals downward.  What starts out as a lovely film about a dedicated teacher becomes a real film noir.

My Usual Obsessions

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
Patriot (Amazon, 2 seasons) A blackly humourous tale of espionage
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I haven’t managed to watch yet:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV), Narcos (Netflix), Warriors (Netflix), etc.
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

Closing Words

Thanks so much to all of you who have kindly enquired about George’s recovery from his recent (thoroughly routine) surgery.  He gets better every day! As you may guess, I have had a bingewatching buddy!  The poor man was hostage to my fiendish preference for new series on Netflix when he would have been divinely happy to watch any number of sporting events on TV.  Special hugs to my distressingly large number of friends and family who are dealing with medical issues.  Enjoy this week of mild winter weather, wherever you are!!

Back in the Great White North…

We have returned to winter in Toronto. George’s completely routine surgery went well and we now have a chance to gently slide into the festive season. It’s a return to book groups, fitness classes and tons of medical and dental appointments. In between connecting with family and friends, here are some TV recommendations:

Streaming

Three Identical Strangers (feature documentary, 1 h 36 min) I had the great pleasure of hosting 20 neighbours for our new Treviso Bay Movie Club.  As always, truth is stranger than fiction in this riveting tale of Long Island triplets separated at birth. Very thought provoking tale with themes of nature vs nurture, and the ethics of separating twins at birth and using them for research purposes. The group really enjoyed the film and it was very conducive to a discussion afterward.

New Series Alert

Dogs (Netflix, 8 episodes) Get out your hankies to watch this incredibly moving series about dogs and their bond with the humans who love them. So heartwarming. It will make you admire our best friends more than ever.
Narcos Mexico (Netflix, 10 episodes, Season 3) The rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico. Stars Michael Pena and Diego Luna.
The Kominsky Method (Netflix, 8 episodes) An aging actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach. Stars Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, Nancy Travis. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix, 2 h 12 minutes) An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.
Warrior (Netflix, 6 episodes, Danish) A war veteran plagued by guilt over his final mission teams up with his best friend’s widow to infiltrate a dangerous Copenhagen biker gang.  Ooh…  Sons of Anarchy Scandinavian style!! I miss Jax.
My Brilliant Friend Ferrante novel # 1 (HBO, 8 episodes) Based on the Elena Ferrante novel, enjoyed by book clubs far and wide.  A woman recounts the lifelong friendship and conflicts with a girl she met at primary school in Naples during the early 1950s. Here’s what the NYTimes had to say:
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime, Crave TV, 7 episodes) An employee at a prison in upstate NY becomes romantically involved with a pair of inmates and helps them escape.  Stars Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano.  I love soulful Paul Dano.  He has the saddest, sweetest face in showbiz. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in W. Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard (swoon) and Michael Shannon (shiver).
The Price of Everything (HBO, Feature documentary, 90 min) With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, this film dives deep into the contemporary art world, holding a fun-house mirror up to our values and our times — where everything can be bought and sold.  I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary and feel much more knowledgeable about the art world as a result.  By sheer coincidence, I happen to be reading the British comic novel The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschilde.  Lots of familiar references from the documentary turn up in this novel set in the London art world.

Regular Fare

The Romanoffs (Amazon, 8 episodes)
Homecoming (Amazon, 10 episodes)
Poldark (PBS, Season 4, 8 episodes
The Durrells in Corfu (PBS, Season 3, 8 episodes)
The Woman in White (PBS, 5 episodes)  Warning:  I specifically PVR this show to induce afternoon napping. So slow and stilted as it comes from one of the first mystery novels ever.  Gothic boredom!!
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
Patriot (Amazon, 2 seasons) A blackly humourous tale of espionage
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
For those who are looking for a tidy summary of what to watch on TV this week, here’s an article from AARP:

Literary Side Note

I just slogged my way through Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland as it is my Toronto book group’s next book; this was tough going for me as Freeland is a brilliant business writer and this 2012 book dissects income inequality and everything else that was going on in the economy in 2012.  It begs for an update in the Trump era.  I came away from reading this with huge admiration for Freeland, Canada’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs.  She previously worked in a variety of editorial positions at the Financial Times, The Globe and Mail and Thomson Reuters.  Her first cabinet appointment was as Minister of Intenational Trade in 2015.  Among her many academic honours, she is a Harvard Grad in Russian history and literature and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.  Brilliant beyond belief.  I hope she becomes our Prime Minister at some point.  Oh, did I mention that she has three children and is fluent in Ukrainian, Italian and Russian and conversant in French.  I worship her. Incredibly accomplished!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment.

Closing Words

Enjoy the seasonal weather wherever you are!  (I’m trying very hard to love winter at the moment, after all, it’s a chance to wear my winter clothes!) Have a great week!  Hugs to all my friends and family experiencing medical struggles.

Just a few days left in Paradise…

We are savouring our last few days in Naples as we return to TO on Thursday for George’s completely routine surgery. It has been a glorious couple of weeks here reconnecting with friends and neighbours, golf, fitness classes, mahjong games and lots of great dining. Great white north, here we come.  In the meantime, here are some recommendations:

New Show Alert

Sally4Ever (HBO, 7 episodes)  This sitcom debuts tonight.  British from the BBC.  I love British comedies.  For 10 years, Sally has lived a dull suburban life with David.  But on the night he asks her to marry him, Sally has a crisis and embarks on a wild affair with Emma, a seductive, charismatic, boho access, singer, musician, poet and author.
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime, 7 episodes) An employee at a prison in upstate NY becomes romantically involved with a pair of inmates and helps them escape.  Stars Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette, and Paul Dano.  True story!  Looks intriguing.

Netflix

Outlaw King (2 h 1 min) A true David v Goliath story of how the great 14th C. Scottish Outlaw King Robert The Bruce used cunning and bravery to defeat and repel the much larger and better equipped occupying English army.  This film opened the Toronto International Film Festival, signifying Netflix’s status as a major producer of feature films.  I found it slow and overly long and I also found the final battle scene horrifically violent with many scenes of horses apparently being stabbed to death.  Not for the faint of heart.  It does star Chris Pine who has very dreamy blue eyes and a not bad Scottish accent.  A real departure for him.
Here’s what the Globe and Mail had to say about the film:
House of Cards (6th and final season, 8 episodes) The producers decided to tie up the loose ends of this long running series after Kevin Spacey was fired for disgraceful conduct.  As the first woman to hold the title of President of the US, Claire Underwood faces increased scrutiny and threats.  Sibling power couple Annette and Bill Shepherd attempt to influence policy.  Ludicrous beyond belief! I think I would have preferred to savour my memories of this show when it was intriguing and ground breaking.  It really outstayed its welcome.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (32 episodes, new every Sunday) In this weekly show, Hasan Minaj brings his unique comedic voice and storytelling skill to explore the larger trends shaping our fragmented world.  A very funny take on a Ted Talk.

Amazon

Homecoming (11 episodes)  Now I know how frustrating my blog is for all my friends who don’t subscribe to any specialty channels.  Although we are paid up Amazon Prime members, and can watch any other show offered on Amazon Video except this one!  So sad, I am looking forward to actually being able to watch this some day.
The Romanoffs (8 episodes) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Very quirky and offbeat.  Definitely not for everybody.
Patriot (2 seasons)  I am still catching up with Season 1 of this very offbeat series. It follows the complicated life of intelligence officer John Tavner, whose late assignment – to prevent Iran from going nuclear – requires him to forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous non-official cover.  I am loving this very unusual and original take on an espionage show.

STARZ

Outlander (Season 4, 13 episodes)  We are now in North Carolina in 1767.  Claire and Jamie cross paths with Stephen Bonnet, a pirate and smuggler who enlists their help.  Claire illuminates Jamie on some of America’s history, leading him to wonder if it’s possible for them to lay down roots.  I have watched the first two episodes and can recommend the show to people who haven’t been watching all along.  It’s a whole new ballgame now that we are in the New World.  It’s fascinating to watch Claire and Jamie deal with all the issues of the day as Claire is always aware of being on the right side of history.  Dealing with slavery is a major issue for them this season.  I adored the first two episodes of this season and still feel that this is the most romantic series on TV.

Regular Fare

Poldark (PBS)
The Durrell’s in Corfu (PBS)
The Woman in White (PBS)
Ray Donovan (Showtime)
The Resident (Fox)
The Good Doctor (ABC)
9-1-1 (Fox)
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX)
Chicago Fire (NBC)
New Amsterdam (NBC)
The Rookie (ABC)
Kidding (Showtime)
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Comic Relief

Colbert, Noah, Jim Jeffries, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, James Corden and Seth Meyers highlights on YouTube.  Shout out to SNL which had a very touching apology to Congressman Elect Dan Crenshaw  after Pete Davidson’s very thoughtless and offhand comments about army veteran Crenshaw last week. Crenshaw very amusingly pokes fun at Davidson for his appearance and failed romance with Ariana Grande.

Zen Moment

CBS Sunday Morning Oh how I love this long running newsmagazine show.  Soothing and illuminating.

Closing Words

We are looking forward to sharing a few more lunches and dinners with friends before we head home. A Facebook picture of our in-laws’ place in Uxbridge, Ontario shows that there is a winter wonderland already just east of Toronto. Brrrh! Hugs to all our friends and family dealing with medical issues. See you soon! Enjoy the week wherever you are.

Back in Paradise…

House of Cards (Netflix, Season 6, 8 episodes) As the first woman to hold the title of President of the US, Claire Underwood faces increased scrutiny and threats.  Sibling power couple Annette and Bill Shepherd attempt to influence policy.  Very disappointing plot lines (especially poor old Doug Stamper’s nonsensical story arc) but it’s a great cast with Diane Lane and Greg Kenner as the terrifying power siblings.

Comic Relief

Apparently James Corden has a carpool karaoke segment with Barbra Streisand that I must catch up with on YouTube.  Streisand was Bill Maher’s guest this past Friday on Real Time; catching up with Colbert, Noah, Jeffries, Bee, Tracey Ullman, and John Oliver.

Closing Words

I’m not sure that I can bear to stay glued to the election results this Tuesday.  Too suspenseful for me!  I will be bingeing on one of my new catch up shows instead.  Have a wonderful week wherever you are and special thoughts go to my friends with medical challenges.  Hugs to all.

D-Day has arrived…

Well D-Day has arrived. Our family is gathering at my mother’s nursing home to celebrate her 100th birthday and then they are coming back to our place for pizza afterwards. We leave dark and early tomorrow morning for our trip to Florida from which we will return on November 15th for George’s surgery. I’m not sure how much TV I’ll be watching over the next few weeks but here are some of the shows I’ve seen this past week. I’m also going to indicate some new Fall programming that is arriving.

Netflix

Wanderlust (2018 from the BBC, 6 episodes) Stars Toni Colette and Steven Mackintosh. A therapist tries to save her marriage after a cycling accident causes them to reassess their relationship.  A cautionary tale about open marriages. Worth a look.
Bodyguard (2018, from the BBC, 6 episodes) Stars Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes. A contemporary thriller featuring the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.  The most watched BBC series in 10 years!  Hello possible future James Bond in Richard Madden.
Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018, 20 episodes) I watched the pilot and part of the first episode because I was curious to see how Kieran Shipka (Mad Men) would fare and I adore British actor Richard Coyle who is the Dumbledore of this series about a teenage witch.  Really for the preteen set, although I had high hopes that it might be a little more like sexy Riverdale from the same creative team.
Haunting of Hill House (2018, 10 episodes) Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.  I had high hopes for this great cast featuring Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, but I found it glum and unengaging and gave up after two episodes.  I think I have a lot on my mind and may give this another chance on Halloween.

Streaming

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018, 2 h, 2 min) The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border.  Stars Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.  If you’re wondering where Trump gets his info re Muslim terrorists hiding amongst Central American migrants, you can blame this ridiculous action flick with a plot that makes absolutely no sense.
Christopher Robin (2018, 1 h 44 min) A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the -Pooh, who helps hm to rediscover the joys of life.  Very sweet, but even though Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell star, there’s way too much lame stop motion animation of the original Pooh characters for me.  Maybe if I were 5?

Regular viewing

Riverdale (The CW)
9-1-1 (Fox)
The Resident (Fox)
FBI (CBS)
The Rookie (ABC)
The Mayans MC (FX)
Mr. Mercedes (Superchannel)
PBS Frontline (PBS)
Chicago Fire (NBC)
Vanity Fair (CBC)
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX)
Doctor Blake Mysteries (PBS)
Broken (PBS)
Poldark (PBS)
Durrells in Corfu (PBS)
The Woman in White (PBS)
Kidding (HBO)
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Comic Relief

I’m adding James Corden for his carpool Karaoke with Michael Buble last week, along with Colbert, Noah, Bee, Jeffries, Maher, Tracey Ullman and Oliver. Special shout out to Seth Meyers for his closer look segments on YouTube. Also watch the Jim Carrey thank you speech on YouTube at the LA Britannia Awards for his Charlie Chaplin Comedy award.

Programming and Movie Alerts

Debuts are headed to the small and big screens:

TV

Tell me a Story (CBS All Access and Streaming) Oct. 31 from Kevin Williamson. Modern fairy tale

Patriot Act (Netflix) Oct 28 comedy series with Hasan Minhaj

House of Cards (Netflix, 8 episodes) Nov. 2

Homecoming (Amazon Prime, 11 episodes) Nov. 2 starring Julia Roberts

Outlander (STARZ, 13 episodes) Nov. 1

The Other Side of the Wind/They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead ( Netflix, documentary 1 h 38 min) Orson Welles’ final film is released accompanied by a documentary about the project on Nov 2

IN THEATRES

Boy Erased (feature 1 h 54 min) Nov. 2 stars Lucas Hedges

Monrovia, Indiana (Documentary 2 h 23 min)

Mid 90’s (feature, 1 h 24 min) directed by Johah Hill, starring Lucas Hedges

Burning (feature, 2 h 28 min) starring Steven Yeun

Zen Moment

I am watching CBS Sunday Morning as it covers the stories of this week:  pipe bombs in the mail and a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  Trump blames the media for inflaming crazies across the land. History will tell the tale.

Closing Words

It snowed overnight in Toronto, but all evidence has thankfully melted away as most of my family takes to the roads today.  We are headed to the sunny south tomorrow and are looking forward to baking the very end of terrible head colds out of our systems while we are there.  We have also booked our tickets for the Freddy Mercury/Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody! Golf and mahjong await!!