Life gets in the way…

OK, for those of you who worry about me watching way too much TV, I have to confess,  I haven’t had much screen time the last week or so.  It’s been idyllic weather for golfing, lying around the pool, searching for home furnishings for our new condo, heading off to medical appointments, and non-stop entertaining in Thornbury.  We were delighted to host our first cousins’ reunion for my children and their cousins on my side of the family.  We had 10 people sleep over with us and entertained 15 for lunch yesterday.  We forced our guests to float down the Beaver River in life preservers and we had a campfire that featured s’mores, singing to excellent guitar accompaniment and a lively game of movie trivia.  There was much frolicking in the pool and hot tub.  As for TV, I managed to keep up with a few favourites, recorded a few shows and caught a new BBC series that debuted on CBC last week.

Here are my recommendations:

Streaming

Weiner is a documentary that examines the disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaign amid today’s political landscape.  It was made with the full cooperation of Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin.  It is astonishing in its portrait of this very flawed man who seems powerless to overcome his addiction to sexting.  Huma Abedin is a woman of mystery who seems extremely unhappy standing by his side.  Why these two would cooperate with the filmmakers of this documentary is unfathomable.  As of today’s news, Weiner has disgraced himself again by sexting with a female admirer while his 5-year-old son slept in the bed beside him.  His self-destructive streak knows no bounds.  He has lost his wife (who has announced that their marriage is over), his son, his home, and his job (full-time house husband) in one fell swoop.

On the Broadcast Networks

CBC

Follow the Money is the Danish series about an energy company that is being investigated for corrupt practices by the police.  Intrigue abounds!

Undercover debuted on CBC last Monday and can be streamed on CBC.ca. A lawyer returns to Britain to become the first black Director of Public Prosecutions.  She begins to suspect that everything she knew about the man she has been married to for the past 20 years is a lie. Intrigue abounds!

Four in the Morning debuted this past Friday at 9 pm.  and is available for streaming on CBC.ca. It’s an unconventional comedy spiked with a touch of magical realism.  The show follows four friends in their twenties as they navigate life at the unpredictable, emotional, but illuminative hour of 4 a.m. Dealing with themes of lie and death, love and heartbreak, friendship and betrayal, it’s a series about self-discovery, disappointment, and clawing after dreams that always feel out of reach.

Showcase

Mr. Robot  I haven’t given up on this puzzling show yet.  Last week’s episode was strange and didn’t feature either Rami Malek or Christian Slater.  It was Carly Chaikin’s episode and it showed just how tough she is.

Bravo

Still hanging in with Suits, which is now too ridiculous to believe.  Enjoyed the first episode of Queen of the South about an emerging female cartel leader.

FX

Tyrant is limping along as Barry becomes as terrible a tyrant as his brother Jamal was before him.  Ludicrous doesn’t begin to describe this silly series set in the mythical middle eastern country of Abbudin.

FXX

You’re the Worst, a comedy about mismatched LA hipsters, is one of the funniest shows on TV and I have eagerly awaited its return. This Wednesday night, in the third season premiere, Jimmy and Gretchen adjust to life after saying “I love you;”  Edgar and Dorothy have sexual problems; and Lindsay and Paul start a new hobby.

CBS

Both Brain Dead and American Gothic were watchable summer replacement shows.

HBO

Both Ray Donovan and The Night of reached their conclusions.  Ray Donovan‘s with a big question mark for next season and The Night of with a sad, but not unexpected conclusion.

On the political comedy front

Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah have all been on holiday.  I haven’t managed to catch any Stephen Colbert this past week, and the astonishing reality of the Trump/Hillary contest continues, with Trump reversing his stand on immigration somewhat.

In conclusion

The phrase “we’d better get packing” has taken on a new reality for me.  Movers have to be hired, possessions have to be sifted through and packed, elevators have to be reserved, etc. It’s all systems go for our September closing date on the new condo.  Pray for me!!  We have a couple of weddings in the next two weeks and I must fight my natural tendency to channel surf and peruse Netflix and streaming options.  I also have to finish my somewhat stultifying book group selection (Stranger than we can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century by John Higgs) for a Sept. deadline.

Summer Doldrums…

I have to confess that this week’s blog is a little uninspired.  The Summer Olympics have taken a toll on what is currently  available on TV.  Many of my regular shows have wound down to their season finales and there really isn’t much to comment on but I will do my best.  We were a little preoccupied this past week by a real estate search which resulted in our successful bid for a condo in the west end of Toronto.  Condo living, here we come!!

On the Big Screen

A very rainy day in Thornbury had us travelling in to the Collingwood Cineplex to watch the latest Bourne film titled Jason Bourne.  I am a devout Bond fan and in years when there are no Bond films I long for replacements and have enjoyed some of them tremendously (The Man from UNCLE, Mission Impossible, The Night Manager, etc.).  However, I was a bit disappointed by the latest Bourne entry.  Even though Matt Damon is back (ably supported by Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, etc.), this film felt a bit tedious and flat to me.  It features two lengthy car chases and interminable footage of major characters walking (almost an ad for Fit Bit).  In the end, this film is almost indistinguishable from its 4 predecessors.  Thankfully, Jeremy Renner (where is his charisma?) has moved on to other projects (including his role as Hawkeye in the lacklustre Avengers franchise where he continues to practice his lame archery skills when all the other characters have much better superpowers).  I can’t recommend this movie as it felt very flat to me.

Netflix

The Get Down is the latest big original miniseries produced for Netflix and is directed by Baz Luhrmann (Australia, Moulin Rouge, etc.)  Although the advance press for this series has been terrific, I found the pilot to be a little stultifying.  It follows the birth of Hip Hop music in the Bronx in the seventies.  There is a big cast (Jimmy Smits, Kevin Corrigan and Giancarlo Esposito are familiar faces), but the emphasis is on the young actors of whom there are many.  I had to watch the pilot in two instalments as I found myself drifting off into dreamland.  I don’t know if I will stay with this series.  In the musical genre, I must confess that I didn’t finish watching Straight Out of Compton either which followed the rise of Rap music in LA.  Neither musical genre is a real favourite for me.  I also had a hard time staying with the recent HBO series Vinyl (from Martin Scorcese and Mick Jagger on the seventies rock scene in NYC), which simply never really touched a chord with me.  I’ve given up on HBO’s Roadies (about the unsung roadies who back up rock bands when they are on the road) as I simply don’t care what happens to any of those characters even though I adore Carla Gugino and Luke Wilson. I’ve been able to stay with Empire and Nashville because of the hilarious melodrama of their plot lines and characters, but so far The Get Down hasn’t grabbed me.

My Recent Favourites

Showcase

Still hanging in with Mr Robot.  I’m bound and determined to find out what is really happening in this boggling enigma of a show.

Bravo

Animal Kingdom had its season finale (love that series with Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman, Shaun Hatosy, etc).  The young star is played by Brit actor Finn Cole whom you may recognize from Peaky Blinders and Inspector Lewis.  Those of you who are still uninitiated should seek out the Australian film of the same name which inspired it.  Ben Mendelson (of Bloodlines and the next Star Wars film) plays the most dangerous family member.

I can’t believe I’m still watching Suits, but I have to see how the damned thing ends.  We’re with Mike in prison and Harvey is still plotting to get him released. Mike and Rachel still pine for each other.

Queen of the South debuted this past week. Originating on USA network, it tells the powerful story of Teresa Mendoza, a woman who is forced to run and seek refuge in America after her drug-dealing boyfriend is unexpectedly murdered in Mexico. In the process, she teams up with an unlikely figure from her past to bring down the leader of the very drug trafficking ring that has her on the run.  Action packed pilot, so we’ll see how this one goes.

FX

Tyrant is just plain silly now.  Barry Al-Fayeed seems to be heading down the mad dictator route (he sees dead people), like his brother before him.  Sadly, I can’t look away.

CBS

Still enjoying Brain Dead (from the creators of The Good Wife) and American Gothic. Both shows are blackly humorous.

HBO

Still hooked on Ray Donovan and The Night of.  Outcast had its bat-shit crazy finale last week, but is still available on demand.

PBS

Inspector Lewis has its last show of the series tonight and The Tunnel also concludes.  Those of you in the US are lucky to be able to watch these great series on demand on PBS.org.  Not so lucky in Canada.

TVO

I believe tonight episode of The Choir may be the last episode of the season where Gareth Malone has his workplace choirs competing against each other.  Malone is a charmer and his show paints a fascinating portrait of contemporary British society.

CBC

It’s been a thrilling and sometimes heartbreaking experience to watch these Olympics. The Canadian athletes have done extremely well.  There have been incredible wacky stories (those US swimmers and their hijinks) but the story that has really intrigued has been that of the female runners.  I was interested in the controversy about the intersex gendered African runners.  Caster Semenya has been under scrutiny over the last seven years because of her high testosterone levels.  Last night’s 800 metre race was won by South African Semenya and the bronze and silver medals went to two other African runners who are also considered to be hyperandrogenous (elevated testosterone levels). These runners have a natural advantage and the IAAF is preparing to challenge the current ruling that these runners should not have to take testosterone suppressing drugs in order to level the playing field.

In conclusion

I had literally better start packing.  Our new condo closes in less than one month.  Decisions must be made, boxes must be acquired, elevators must be booked, etc.  TV may actually have to be on the back burner as there are also golf games to be played, bridal showers and two weddings to attend before our big moving day and we are off to NYC for a long planned visit right after we take possession of the new condo. It’s time to get busy!!

 

 

 

 

A week of my favourite things….

I have to admit that this last week has been a wonderful week of indulging in my favourite things. Films, theatre and, of course, tv. I almost caught up with a couple of weeks of recorded shows and also got to see three films I was very interested in as well as a couple of musicals at the Stratford Theatre Festival. In addition, we had company up to Thornbury for the weekend, and got to celebrate a very important anniversary with some longtime friends.  Here’s how my week went:

On the Big Screen

Cafe Society – the most enjoyable Woody Allen film I have seen in a long time. Despite the fact that the director has become infamous for his unprincipled personal life, he manages to create a wistful ode to Hollywood’s golden days in this affectionate prequel to Manhattan. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect as the lead character and Kristen Stewart is luminous as the girl he falls in love with. Great performances from all the supporting players including Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Steve Carell, Corey Stoll, Ken Stott, and Jeanie Berlin.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – A wonderful coming of age/road movie about the bond that develops between an orphan and the curmudgeon who accompanies him on a quest that takes them into the New Zealand bush country. Sam Neill is wonderful as Hector and the young lead actor playing Ricky is Julian Dennison who is tremendously sympathetic as a very disadvantaged child with hilarious fantasies of thug life. This film is in turns very funny and tremendously touching.

Florence Foster Jenkins – A heart warming story of a 1940’s NYC philanthropist whose adoring friends encourage her delusional singing ambitions. Meryl Streep plays the lead character and Hugh Grant is her enabling husband/manager. Both are wonderful, but it’s Simon Helberg who steals the film as Florence’s shy accompanist. Apparently he’s a regular on Big Bang Theory, a show which I have never watched. My only discomfort with this film is that it subjects Florence to ridicule and I always avoid the opening episodes of reality talent competitions when delusional contestants with no apparent talent audition and face savage criticism and ridicule. The character of Florence is portrayed with real affection by Meryl Streep who paints a picture of a woman who really can’t hear herself the way the rest of the world hears her.

At Stratford

Loved the revival of Marvin Hamlisch’s A Chorus Line. It’s been about 40 years since I last saw this show and it’s a great production with wonderful voices and dancers. Still very moving as it tells the stories of Broadway hopefuls and what drives them to keep struggling to succeed in a business full of heartbreak and rejection. The theme song “What I did for Love” still pulls at the heartstrings as it expresses why these dancers keep striving.

A Little Night Music is a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 award winning musical adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer’s Night. I so wanted to be charmed by this show, but I have to confess that I found it mechanical and contrived. Maybe two plays in one day is too much? I did enjoy “Send in the Clowns” which is the one song that emerged as a real hit from this musical. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Sondheim, and sometimes his songs sound an awful lot like the actors are making them up as they go along. I did also enjoy “The Miller’s Son”, sung by a supporting player hitherto known for her dramatic ability, Sara Farb. I was a bit disappointed to see the fabulous Cynthia Dale wasted in a secondary role as the pathetic Charlotte who tries to win her straying husband back from the leading character Desiree. It took me a long time to warm to Yanna Mackintosh as Desiree, but I did enjoy Rosemary Dunsmore as the wry matriarch, Mme Armfeldt.

On the home screen

Netflix

For those of you who have caught up with Stranger Things, you might enjoy this video which shows side by side views of moments from Stranger Things and the various films which influenced the director.  If you haven’t watched this series yet, I encourage you to have a look.  It’s a wonderful look at childhood and the monsters that children have to face. When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back. You’ve never seen anything quite like this series. It is unique and engrossing.  Be prepared to stay up late if you start watching it as you will want to watch episode after episode.

http://www.slashfilm.com/stranger-things-film-references-side-by-side-comparison/

My regular shows

Showcase

I am still hanging in with Mr. Robot, but I do find its vaguely hallucinogenic quality a little confusing.  This is definitely not a show for everyone and it is a one screen experience.  Do not check your email or start IMDBing actors or you will miss something critical.

Bravo

I love Animal Kingdom, and still hang in with Suits (although I am finding it a little tedious so far this season as I am not fond of prison sagas).

FX

Tyrant has taken a turn for the ludicrous this season (Arab Spring light) and I am longing for most of the major characters to be taken out by a suicide bomber which will put them out of their misery.  Somehow, I can’t look away, but I very much doubt that this series will have another season as this one has been painful to watch.

CBS

I do love the two summer series American Gothic and Brain Dead.  I enjoy their black humour.

HBO

Almost too many shows to count:  Ray Donovan; The Night of; You, me, her; Vice Principals; Outcast; Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

PBS

Inspector Lewis continues to intrigue me; The Tunnel moves towards its season finale. I’ve enjoyed the French/English culture wars on this show and have really liked the interplay between Stephen Dillane and Clemence Poesy, the two leads.

TVO

The Choir hosted by Gareth Malone is an inspiring and touching look at various organizations around England.  Malone coaches employees to enter a choral competition and in the process, teams are built and individuals gain incredible self confidence.

CBC

Girls rule on the Canadian Olympic team!!!  Patiently waiting for my Danish show Follow the Money  and Baroness von Sketch to resume.

That’s all for now.  It’s Sunday night and I am waiting for my shows to begin!! Have a wonderful week and enjoy this beautiful summer weather.

A quick update on the last two weeks…

We just returned from 2 weeks of touring Newfoundland and Labrador.  I have been a little overwhelmed by trying to catch up on some of my shows, so while I continue to do that, I’m hoping that you can enjoy our pics with a background of traditional Newfoundland music.  We had a wonderful time, although I don’t think I’ll be ready to take another bus tour for a while.  Lovely people from all over Ontario made up the 37 intrepid passengers.  We ate 3 very square meals every day, were entertained every night, and were lucky to have  incredibly pleasant weather with only a few minutes of rain one day.  George was knocked out by the scenery and got a chance to use all 3 of his cameras.  We went to a Mug Up, a Screech In and a Shed Party amongst the many celebratory gatherings that were provided. We were very impressed by the Newfoundlanders’ legendary hospitality and warmth, their very natural ability to sing and tell funny stories, and of course, the incredible beauty of the coast line and the inland lakes.  We saw whales, puffins and a beautiful fox, but may have to return one day as we missed seeing a moose.  Another bucket list item has been crossed off the list, as we have now visited every Canadian province.

I posted George’s video to my Facebook (just search for me under Lorraine Brunswick) page, as I still can’t figure out how to include it in this blog, so check out my Facebook page if you want to catch up with my pictures!

In the meantime, enjoy the Olympics and I will catch up with my shows this week.  We are headed to Stratford later in the week to see two musicals, A Little Night Music and A Chorus Line.  We are staying at a B&B and looking forward to a little tour of southwestern Ontario.