As this past Thanksgiving week has not included much original TV programming, it was a great opportunity to catch up with some Netflix and Streaming programs. I also actually made it out to a real movie theatre twice!! Here are some recommendations for you:
On the Big Screen
Ladybird This is the ultimate coming of age movie. Irish actress Saiorse Ronin (Brooklyn) plays a teenage girl in Sacramento, CA who is coming to terms with her relationships with her family, her friends, and ultimately who she really is. Delightful in every way. The performance by Laurie Metcalfe (Rosanne) as her conflicted mother will break your heart. Tracy Letts (Divorce) is also very touching as her long suffering father. I also loved the very sensitive and unjudgemental way that the film treats the emerging homosexuality of one of its central characters (trying really hard not to spoil things here). There isn’t anything I didn’t love about this film and I recommend it unreservedly.
The Man Who Invented Christmas This movie is not for most children. As our screening was preceded by trailers for at least 6 kids’ movies, it would appear the distributors are marketing it as a kiddie pic, but parents should be aware
that it requires a rudimentary knowledge of Dickens’ work. A neighbouring 12 year old’s overheard comment at the end, was that the movie was very confusing. It’s a biopic of Dickens’ process of writing A Christmas Carol and consists largely of his imaginary conversations with the characters in the book. Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey) is wonderful, but the movie is rather frenetic and chaotic for most tastes. It is a beautiful film that plunges you into the Victorian era of debtors’ prison, workhouses, lame children who die tragically, etc. It’s a very broad take on a past era. If you are desperate to get yourself into the Christmas spirit (as I am, because all this Florida sunshine is very distracting when you should be thinking about gift giving), this film may get you into the holiday mood. The film does emphasize the essential message of the Christmas season of reconciliation, generosity and hope.
Godless This epic stars Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Jack O’Connell (Unbreakable)and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) in an epic saga of the American west. Beautiful cinematography, terrific casting in all the supporting roles including Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) and Scoot McNairy (Halt and Catch Fire) as an unforgettable brother and sister. This intricately told tale of sin and redemption is beautifully written. It requires a little patience as the first episode is a little slow paced, but the action picks up and the story is intriguing. It’s a great use of Netflix long form storytelling as it takes 7 episodes lasting between 40 and 80 minutes to tell. The many themes that are part of the narrative include sexual equality, racism, homosexuality, power, family, loss and the power of love. It’s complex and languidly paced, but I thought it was a tremendously moving series. A masterpiece in my opinion.
Wanted Season 2 I did get carried away by this terrific Australian suspense series. It’s a female buddy/road story of two women on the run from corrupt cops, honest cops and villainous bad guys. The second season takes place largely in New Zealand and is wonderful to look at. Great casting in all the main and supporting roles. If you’re wondering who the actor playing Will is, you may recognize Dean O’Gorman (Anders from The Almighty Johnsons, a wonderfully funny NZ TV series worth looking for).
A Christmas Prince is a trifle made for family viewing. Every cliche about reluctant royalty is written into this script. No offensive language or scenes make any appearances in this strange little film. I was looking for a film that a houseguest might find palatable, but this film is really almost a parody of its genre about a runaway prince and the journalist who is furtively writing a story about him. Very silly indeed.
The Punisher I am still persevering with this very dark Marvel offering. A revenge drama, I am now up to Episode 5 of its 13 episode season. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) stars as Frank Castle, the ruthless avenger who is still seeking retribution for the many wrongs done to him and his family. Not for the faint of heart.
Peaky Blinders has returned for a 4th season (it will be available on US Netflix on Dec. 21). This bonkers British crime series takes place in 1920’s Birmingham, England. Cillian Murphy is a mesmerizing crime lord, Tom Shelby. Adrian Brophy guest stars as a Mafia hitman from NYC who has come to exact revenge for Shelby’s killing of a family member.
Berlin Station This espionage series is my substitute for Homeland. Murky and always operating in the grey area between friends and enemies, this series takes place in the new cold war where Neo Nazis are on the rise in Germany, and they may be funded by the US State department. Richard Armitage, Richard Jenkins, Rhys Iffans, Ashley Judd star.
Apple Tree Yard Oh my, in Britain an affair goes terribly wrong when a married scientist begins an affair with a government spook. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:
HULU and Streaming
Chance Starring Hugh Laurie (House), this self destructive neuropsychiatrist is on the trail of a serial killer.
Showtime and Streaming
Shameless Now in its 8th season, this family dramedy follows the adventures of the Gallagher family led by reprobate Frank (William H. Macy). For its fans, you simply can’t look away.
SMILF I love this series about a single mother struggling to raise her child in Boston. Great performances and great writing. Look for Connie Britton (Nashville) as a spoiled rich bitch who employs Bridgette to tutor her children.
The Girlfriend Experience Now in its second season, this series has become very complicated. Airing in two half-hour episodes weekly, we have two different protagonists in two different storylines. One deals with politics and the other with the witness protection program. Still about escorts, this season requires very close attention.
Outlander If you haven’t caught up with this romantic series (now in its 4th season) yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It does require suspension of disbelief as a British nurse is transported back in time from the 1940’s to the 1740’s. Breathtaking!!
This is Us Maudlin and hopelessly sentimental, I am just watching this to see what all the fuss is about.
The Brave This by the numbers Special Ops show miraculously wraps up most of their complicated extraction dramas within 60 minutes.
The Good Doctor I started watching this breakout hit just to see what the fuss was all about, and now darn it, I am hooked by this medical procedural. I adore the lead character for his struggle with autism and Savant syndrome. Addictive!
The Walking Dead Now in its 8th season, I hearbye swear, that this is my last season of watching. I’m so darned tired of having my hopes dashed that this band of survivors will somehow escape the cycle of having their hopes dashed that there will somehow be a way out of this post apocalyptic nightmare.
Coming up this week on Comedy Central, The President Show returns for “I Came Up With Christmas”, a Christmas special. I love this series where Anthony Atamaniuk goes far beyond Alec Baldwin’s very superficial parody of Trump’s hair and facial expressions. Atamaniuk really explores Trump’s behaviour and manages to show his pettiness, childishness, desire to be loved, and thirst for power. Look for it Thursday night at 10 in the US (it will air in Canada on Wed at 10 on Comedy Network). I will be continuing to watch my favourites, Colbert, Noah, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries for their efforts to make us laugh at the events of the day.
The weather in south Florida has been remarkable this past fall. We have one and a half weeks to go before we depart for the wintry north and the Christmas season. We will glory in golf outings, Mahjong games, Bocce practice, exercise classes and even an upcoming basket ball game in Miami before we leave. Enjoy the season wherever you are.