Another link for you to overlooked movies

I intended to insert this into today’s post and completely forgot, so here is a last minute gift from me to you!

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/holiday-guide/holiday-survival-guide/the-10-most-overlooked-movies-of-2015/article27800824/

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2015 inches towards its end….

With so many shows going on mid-season hiatus or having their actual finales, there are just a few items to bring to your attention this week.  John Doyle supplies one of his very useful lists of shows you might be overlooking:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/holiday-guide/holiday-survival-guide/john-doyle-top-ten-tv-shows-from-2015/article27853414/

 

At the Movies

I had the great pleasure of seeing Star Wars with my boys this weekend.  We saw it in a VIP theatre with all the amenities.  Valet parking, in seat food and beverage service, etc.  There was a mood of great anticipation and camaraderie in the theatre with just a few people bringing light sabres and other paraphernalia.  I loved the movie.  It is a soft re-boot of the original, in that it brings back all the central characters and introduces us to the next generation of Star Wars players.  I thought the performances were great and the special effects were seamless.  It is a very affectionate retelling of the Star Wars mythology with the rebels still fighting against the empire (now renamed the New Order).  If you haven’t seen the original or it has been almost 40 years since you did, this movie will serve as a good primer for all the sequels that will follow.

Special Event TV

I caught the mini-series Childhood’s End on Showcase last week.  Told in 3 parts, this is a cautionary tale about visitors from another planet taking over the earth.  Based on a novel by Arthur C. Clarke, this series is kind of nihilistic, but fascinating in its hypothesis of a world where there is no war, no disease, no disharmony of any kind, but where scientific research is eliminated and people no longer have to face any kind of struggle. Interesting and thought provoking.

I caught the first 4 episodes on Space.ca of The Expanse, a new sci-fi series.  This series is reminiscent of the newer version of Battlestar Galactica and is a great addition to the genre of space series.  I really enjoyed it and thought it had great acting and production values and a very appealing cast.  It stars Thomas Jane as a hardboiled detective of the future (he’d fit right into Bladerunner) and some of you may remember him as the well-endowed star of Hung.  The rest of the cast is predominantly Canadian and you may enjoy seeing familiar faces pop up in character roles.  Another standout is Shoreh Aghdashloo, the husky voiced Iranian actress who plays a senior official in the earth government. I loved this series, which I think will start on a regular basis in January, but you can sneak preview the first 4 episodes on line right now.

My regular recommendations:

Last night was the season finale of Homeland (season 5).  I loved this season as it got the series off to a fresh start in Berlin.  It was astonishingly true to life as it is built around a possible terror attack on Berlin (it was filmed long before the Paris attacks) and best of all – no Brody!  Carrie is back in heroic form, Quinn goes through immeasurable suffering and there is a great subplot involving Saul and his paramour.  You don’t have to have seen the previous seasons to enjoy this one. Previous seasons are available on Netflix and the current season is available on demand through Rogers on Superchannel.

 

I have recorded The Affair Season 2 finale, but haven’t watched it yet. The Affair is available on demand on HBO Canada.

The Knick Season 2 came to a finale last week and was brutal and fascinating as always.  Thackeray (Clive Owen) is still manic (especially when the cocaine kicks in), and his self-destructive tendencies come to the fore this season. I caught up with this HBO Canada series On Demand through Rogers.

I saw the last episodes of the two CBC series I was following.  This Life with Tori Higginson as a divorced mother of three diagnosed with terminal cancer ends on a cliffhanger.  The Romeo Section about the heroin trade in Vancouver goes out with lots of bangs as major characters face harrowing plot twists. Both of these series are available On Demand through Rogers.

Deutschland 83, the time capsule drama featuring cold war intrigue in 1983 set to a pop music background, faces a nuclear apocalypse in its final episode as the East Germans get the wrong end of the stick regarding West German/Nato war games exercises.  Very suspenseful! This series has been airing on IFC (Independent Film Channel) in Canada and the US.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who never reads my blog, but always asks me what to watch on Netflix and how to find out when specific series are airing.  There will be lots of best of 2015 lists coming out in the next 10 days or so as the year comes to an end.  Decider.com is a great site for that sort of thing, but you can always google something like “Best shows to watch on Netflix”.  If you are unsure of when a specific show is on in your area, try googling the name of the show with an enquiry like “When will the new season of Doc Martin air in the Toronto area”. An enquiry like that should get you to the correct channel and time for the program you are seeking.  By the way, new Doc Martin episodes are airing on Vision TV at 9 pm on Wednesdays in Ontario.  I haven’t caught up with the season 7 episodes yet, but I have a fondness for this curmudgeonly character.

As I rush off to another Christmas gathering, having just arrived home from one in time to take one more look at this post before sending, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!  God (or whoever) bless us everyone.  Peace, happiness and health to all of my family and friends for 2016.  The next post I write will be from sunny Naples, FL.

 

 

Madly catching up with my shows…

I was intrigued by some new shows that were starting on CBC right when we left for Florida in October, so I have been catching up with them on demand. I’m also including some 10 best lists from the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/arts/television/best-tv-shows-2015.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad

On Demand

CBC has been running two original series that I have become addicted to.  I   have now caught up with the first 9 episodes of This Life and The Romeo Connection.  This Life is a wonderful English adaptation of a series originally made for the French network.  It’s about a woman who is a single mom and a journalist who is diagnosed with a terminal cancer.  Although it sounds depressing, the mom is played by Tori Higginson and she is beautiful in the role.  Her family (3 kids, mom and dad, brothers and a sister) are front and centre as is her love interest, a school principal played very sensitively by Shawn Doyle. The Romeo Connection couldn’t be more different.  It’s about CSIS fighting drug wars in Vancouver. It is kind of a sequel to Intelligence of a few years back, which I thought was the best Canadian series I had ever seen and which starred Eugene Lipinski an instantly recognizable Canadian character actor whom you may recognize as a CSIS officer in this series.  Romeo Connection is gritty and complicated and very noir in its sensibilities.  It takes some serious attention to keep up with its twists and turns.  Many Canadian actors appear in recurring roles.

At the Movies

I saw Suffragette last week.  Carey Mulligan plays a young mother who works in a laundry who is introduced to the suffrage movement by a co-worker.  She is absolutely marvellous in the role of a neophyte who becomes totally involved.  Mulligan’s performance is absolutely wondrous.  She has an incredibly expressive face and is very likeable. The movie really inspires admiration for the pioneers of the women’s movement who made tremendous sacrifices for their cause.  It was fascinating to see that the women of Saudi Arabia voted in their first election only last week and actually elected four female candidates to office.  We take so much for granted in Canada.

Live Theatre

My whole family took in a performance of Cinderella last week at the Mirvish Theatre.  Great costumes, a couple of beautiful Rogers and Hammerstein tunes, and a love story for the ages.  I believe one of my sons snoozed through much of the first act, but it was kind of a nice night out.  I only saw one little girl in full princess regalia attending the show but nights at the theatre provide almost as much interesting people watching as the actual production.  Recommended for Mirvish subscribers only as individual tickets to this show are ridiculously expensive!

Netflix

Watched A Very Murray Christmas, the decidedly odd Bill Murray Christmas special.  Indescribably weird, but with a few good renditions of Christmas songs.  Watch at your own risk!!

My usual favourites

The Affair continues to reveal layers of its story. Noah now has strong suspicions about Alison and her involvement with Cole.

The Leftovers ended on a mystifying note last week as its lead character seemed to survive about his third terminal injury.  Miracles abound.

The Middle and Modern Family still manage to make me laugh. They both aired their Christmas episodes last week.  Modern Family featured Andrea Martin in a very unlikely role.  She looks exactly the same as she ever has!

On a lighter note, Fargo ends its 10 episode second season tonight.   Nashville has gone on hiatus. Gotham, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Izombie still entertain me. I have had to make room on my PVR for Chicago Med which is a spin off from Chicago Fire (my hunky firefighter show). It stars Colin Donnell who is the hunky bad guy on The Affair, which I believe is nearing the end of Season 2. Homeland is still keeping me in suspense as I worry about how Carrie will save Berlin. Into the Badlands is a completely cray-cray show that is a mad mashup of Western and Martial Arts genres. I can’t look away!

Many of my usual political satire shows have gone on hiatus (Bill Maher, John Oliver ) leaving me with Stephen Colbert and  Trevor Noah, both of whom I quite like. CBS Sunday Morning continues to relax and inspire me and this week I remembered to record Fareed Zakaria who attempted to explain the anti-Muslim Xenophobia that is spreading throughout the West.

I am feeling a little under the gun, as usual at Christmas time.  I usually feel like I should be getting ready for Christmas and my stolen hours of TV watching cause me much guilt.  Thank goodness the series are all either winding up or going on hiatus.  I still haven’t watched the Michael Buble Christmas special I recorded on CBC as the shows are usually a little cheesy.  I did enjoy last week’s Sinatra special which I have been watching in small segments.  Enjoy the delights of the festive season!!  My next blog will probably be written from Florida as we head back on Dec. 26.

 

Back in Canada for the holidays

It’s been back to reality this week in Toronto and Thornbury. Although the weather has been unseasonably mild, it hasn’t been overly sunny here although there is a beautiful blue sky and sun at the moment.

At the movies

Saw the movie Spotlight before leaving Naples last week.  It’s a wonderful ensemble piece starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McNabb about the Boston Globe team of reporters who uncovered the scandal of pedophiles within the Catholic Church in Boston and beyond.  This is a suspenseful piece of old fashioned storytelling that manages to inspire as it shows the determination of the team to tell the story regardless of the obstacles they face.

I had a delightful evening out with lady friends last week.  A great dinner  was unfortunately preceded by a viewing of this year’s Christmas dreck film Love the Coopers.  Despite an allstar cast, this piece of lame drivel was both unromantic and uncomedic.  Marisa Tomei and Diane Keaton are sisters (despite an approximate 20 year age difference –  in a flashback they appear to be just a few years apart) in a somewhat dysfunctional family gathering for the holidays.  Many unbelievable subplots in this ensemble piece.  Absolutely painful.  Inexplicably, the great Steve Martin lends his voice as narrator to this horrible film. Be afraid, very afraid.  Don’t even watch this film for free on an airplane!

On Air Canada

Tried to watch the film Mr. Holmes (about Sherlock in his senior years) but found it very hard to hear and stay awake through.  Switched to Francois Ozon’s film The New Girlfriend.  This French film was adapted from a Ruth Rendell crime novel about a man who discovers his feminine side after his wife dies leaving him with a baby to look after.  Very intriguing.  My next door neighbour on the flight kept asking me which porno I was watching.

Streaming

I caught up with Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, which I found both romantic and comedic.  This film by Judd Apatow is a little raunchy, but hilariously so. Schumer plays a 30 something singleton magazine writer in NYC. Hard drinking and addicted to meaningless sex, she is assigned to do a story on a sports medicine doctor played by Bill Hader.  They both give great performances as complete opposites who fall madly in love.  As an extra treat, the Schumer character’s younger sister is played by Brie Larson who is so wonderful in Room.  All the secondary characters are beautifully cast, especially the usually extremely annoying Colin Quinn who plays Schumer’s dad. Look for the amazing Tilda Swinton in a role where she is virtually unrecognizable as Dianna, Schumer’s evil boss. I absolutely loved this movie!

I have been lucky to catch up with season 2 of Catastrophe. A British comedy about two total opposites, an American man and an Irish woman, who hook up in London, get pregnant and get married in rapid succession with hilarious results.

Available On Demand

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star in the 2014 film Only Lovers Left Alive (directed by Jim Jarmusch). This is a sorrowful, languorous and wistful look at life in the waning days of two vampires. Set in a corroding and eroding Detroit, it is a film I have tried to watch more than once and had never succeeded in finishing.  It’s very atmospheric and totally different from any other film about vampires.It is now my second favourite vampire film next to the hilarious What we do in the Shadows.  Couldn’t be more different in every way, but it is completely original.

Finding Ms. Right (aka Jewtopia)

This low budget comedy is actually kind of amusing in parts.  Ivan Sergei plays a gentile plumber who just wants to marry a Jewish girl. This  ensemble comedy has lots of funny bits as Sergei is coached in the ways of Jewish behaviour.  The restaurant scene is particularly amusing as he practices ordering things that are not on the menu, complaining about his drafty seat, requesting that the music be turned down, etc. Silly for the most part, yet not entirely objectionable.

Sundance Film Channel

I have been trying to catch up with the German series Deutschland 83.  This political satire is set in 1983 when the cold war was in full bloom.  An East German is forced to become a Stasi spy assigned to a position at NATO in Brussels.  It’s complex but well worth the effort.  The music features 80’s iconic songs like 99 Balloons.

Superchannel

Billy & Billie is a 10 episode series about an unlikely pair (stepbrother and stepsister) who are in a relationship with each other.  The societal taboos around incest (even though they are not related) cause them to have incredible guilt and discomfort in pursuing their relationship.  Family, friends, coworkers, etc. strongly disapprove.  This series is written by Neil Labute who specializes in testy and provocative dialogue.  Very daring.

CBC

The series This Life chronicles the life of a single mom (Tori Higginson) who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis.  It’s beautifully written as it details her relationship with her children, parents, siblings and friends. It sounds like a downer, but it manages to be remarkably touching and free of cliches.  I highly recommend it.

Netflix

After finishing Jessica Jones (which I quite enjoyed despite its anticlimactic ending), I watched 6 episodes of River starring Stellan Skarsgard as a melancholy detective investigating his partner’s murder.  Not for the faint of heart, this series is extremely sad as it depicts the mind of a man who is dealing with schizophrenia and increasingly has difficulty differentiating between hallucinations and reality.

My usual favourites

The Walking Dead has gone on a mid-season hiatus after a sad season which saw the destruction of their haven in Alexandria.  As harrowing as ever, Glen has survived his ordeal (for the moment) and returned to find his partner Maggie cornered by a gang of marauding zombies.  As usual, a major character exits in the final episode and the group seems primed to move on and search for another refuge.

The Affair continues to reveal layers of its story. Having ended on a cliffhanger last week, I am keen to see if Cole (aka Pacey from Dawson’s Creek) survived.

The Leftovers is still the saddest show on TV as it chronicles the stories of those who are left behind after the inexplicable departures of their loved ones.  So puzzling and dreary.

Indian Summers on Masterpiece finally ground to a halt last Sunday.  So dismal.

I believe Scandal has gone on another hiatus after a season that was mind bending in its ludicrous twists and turns. The Middle and Modern Family still manage to make me laugh.

On a lighter note, Fargo continues to intrigue. Empire ended with a crashing cliffhanger. Nashville twangs away.  Gotham, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Izombie still entertain me. I love Crazy Ex-girlfriend with its musical flights of fancy.  I have had to make room on my PVR for Chicago Med which is a spin off from Chicago Fire (my hunky firefighter show).  It stars Colin Donnell who is the hunky bad guy on The Affair, which I believe is nearing the end of Season 2. Homeland is still keeping me in suspense as I worry about how poor Quinn will survive his latest ordeal.  Into the Badlands is a completely cray-cray show that is a mad mashup of Western and Martial Arts genres.  I can’t look away!

Many of my usual political satire shows have gone on hiatus (Bill Maher, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert) leaving me with Trevor Noah whom I quite like.  CBS Sunday Morning continues to relax and inspire me and this week I remembered to record Fareed Zakaria who attempted to explain the latest madness in San Bernadino.

Looking forward to a Christmas season of catching up with friends and family.  Not looking forward to the retail shopping experience.  Oh yes, and the Christmas specials are starting.  On deck on Netflix, A Very Murray Christmas with Bill Murray.  Enjoy the week!!