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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!