Happy New Years!!!

Well, the weather has continued to be frightful, so we took advantage of enforced indoors time and caught up on some viewing. Here are some of my recommendations:

On the Big Screen

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars the indomitable Frances McDormand. Here, she is channeling her magnificent misanthropic Olive Kitteridge performance as the mother of a murdered teenager on the warpath against local law enforcement who have been unable to find the killer of her daughter. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell also turn in touching and powerful performances.

The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins. There really aren’t adequate words to describe the magical world this movie creates. The Amphibian gill-man from the Amazonian lagoon is mesmerizing and you will be holding your breath at the sequences between Hawkins and her beast. I loved this sweet fable of a movie that manages to meld  the genres of films like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Beauty and the Beast, ET and Splash while creating a world that is very distinct and original.  I was transported by its very nonjudgemental look at a love affair between this alien creature and the sweet woman who is enchanted by him.


Lava Field and Trapped are two Iceland set crime series. We spent 5 days in Iceland in October of this year and so I was very curious to see these two mysteries. The desolately beautiful landscapes are perfectly captured and provide a wintry backdrop for both series. Lava Field is told in 4 episodes and Trapped takes a whopping 10 episodes to depict its very complicated tale of small town corruption.

La Mante (The Mantis) is a not so good French series about a serial killer. The acting is kind of awful and wooden and the storyline is ludicrous at times. The French could take a few lessons from the Scandinavians. I loved Spiral, another French TV crime series on Netflix), and this one isn’t nearly as good.

Here’s an article from the NYTimes on French TV series:

Manhunt: Unabomber I finally sat down and watched this engrossing series about the hunt for mad bomber Ted Kaczynski and found it to be a perfect follow-up to Mindhunter  (a terrific series about the origins of behavioural profiling in the FBI).  Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany turn in strong performances as FBI profiler and prey.

Bright Sadly, this fantasy/sci fi original Netflix film falls under the “hate watch” category as I found it absolutely unwatchable. It features a great cast with Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace, but it is so ludicrous and awful that I challenge you to watch the whole thing. I love the concept of a buddy story of two mismatched police partners (one being human, the other being an alien creature), but this concept was done so much more enjoyably in both the 1988 film Alien Nation (starring James Caan, Mandy Patinkin and Terence Stamp) and the subsequent 1989 Alien Nation TV series (starring Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint).  If this isn’t warning enough for you, take note of its 28% Rotten Tomatoes rating.  My favourite review is very succinct:  “Worth watching for the sight of Will Smith beating a fairy to death with a broom, but it takes a far more sophisticated grasp of the fantasy concept to really get away with Mordor.”

Countdown to Awards Season

The Daily Beast has it’s top 20 films you should see before The Golden Globes and Oscars are handed out:


My Regular TV Fare

There’s been very little original TV programming over the last week, but I did see the most recent Shameless (seen in Canada on HBO, but in the US on Showtime). Canadians will be very amused by William H. Macy’s rendition of “Oh Canada” as he begins a new career as a coyote helping immigrants gain illegal entry to Canada. Fiona attempts a new romance and may finally be leaving the Gallagher household for an apartment of her own.

Moments of Zen

As usual, I write this while watching CBS Sunday Morning.  Their “Hail and Farewell” segment honouring those in the public eye who died in 2017 is a real trip down Memory Lane.  It may bring both smiles and tears.

Tonight I am recording our local PBS affiliate’s Great Performances show.  Last Sunday night, PBS featured the Broadway production of She Loves Me (revival of 1983’s Harnick and Bock musical – they are best remembered for Fiddler on the Roof).  Tonight’s show is a tribute to composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, so well remembered for his musicals West Side Story and Candide.  Enjoy if you love musicals as much as I do!!

Closing Words

We are looking forward to celebrating New Years this evening with longtime friends. It’s been a frigid holiday season this past couple of weeks in Ontario, but we did reconnect with friends and family, especially our mothers who are both in their nineties. I am so looking forward to writing this blog next Sunday from the comfort of our home in Naples, Fl. Our very best wishes to all of you for a wonderful celebration tonight and a healthy and joyous 2018 to come!


A cold winter’s nap…


Despite the lead up to Christmas and all the festivities that that entails,
I have been in the second week of a rip roaring head cold and spent a couple of snowbound days in Thornbury. Both factors combined resulted in several days spent shivering under afghans on the couch in front of the TV. I have no other excuse for the following recommendations:

On the Big Screen

Call Me By Your Name Lush, romantic and filmed in Italy, this coming of age film deals with a teenager’s first love with another male. Finally, a break out role for the Adonis-like Armie Hammer and a second big role for Timothy Chalamet as Elio (also featured in the wondrous Lady Bird, my personal favourite film of the year). Chalamet (who is fluent in 3 languages and plays piano beautifully) is an actor to watch.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi I will never get the 2 1/2 hours of my life back that this movie consumed. Despite my sons’ obsession with all things Star Wars related, I was a little bored by this film’s endless battle sequences. CGI technology gets an amazing showplace here (Carrie Fisher still acting despite her death), but I was unmoved by Mark Hamill’s acting his head off as the central character in this one.

With My Sincere Apologies

Fox Live Musical: A Christmas Story Once seen, this cannot be unseen. They have taken the essential goodness and simplicity of the classic 1983 film and turned it into an endless behemoth of a filmed stage musical replete with tuneless stream of consciousness musical numbers. Will Maya Rudolph’s career ever recover from this travesty? You have been warned.


Hotel Beau Sejour I can’t believe I watched the whole thing – all 10 hours! Belgian Scandinavia-noire style supernatural thriller. Teenage girl wakes up dead and begins to solve her own murder. There’s something rotten in the Flemish town of Dilsen. I did love this intriguing mystery series.  Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:


The Wilde Wedding Be afraid, very afraid. This Glenn Close/Patrick Stewart/John Malkovich ensemble comedy manages to waste the talents of all the actors involved. Worth watching only for the sight of the fright wig that Patrick Stewart wears. There’s a reason this awful film never made it to a theatre near you.

Patriot’s Day Surprisingly good rendition of all the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing. Stars Mark Walberg, Michele Monaghan, Rachel Brosnahan (pre Marvellous Mrs. Maisel).


Why Him? Despite the presence of Bryan Cranston and James Franco, this very silly film is mostly an atrocious mess of a holiday comedy.
Shut Eye Season 2 This amazing suspense series takes place in a world of fortune tellers and con men.  Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) is terrific.
Peaky Blinders Season 4 Bonkers British crime series.  Watch for Tom Hardy as an Orthodox Jewish gangster whose accent is hilariously unintelligible.


Man in an Orange Shirt Lovely 2-episode British mini-series starring Vanessa Redgrave as a woman whose experience with closeted homosexuality ranges from a husband living a double life to a grandson still coming to terms with his sexuality.


Versailles Possibly the most sumptuous series ever made for TV (until The Crown), this amazing series can be found on demand.  Prepare for the court of Louis XIV as you have never seen it before.  Season 2 has aired here and Season 3 is still being filmed.
Ill Behaviour This mini-series from the BBC is dark humour exemplified:  friends force someone to undergo chemotherapy to treat Hodgkins lymphoma against his will.  I mean, they actually kidnap him and treat him forcibly.  Not for everyone. Lizzie Caplan, Chris Geere and Tom Riley star. Available on demand.


Kim’s Convenience I can’t explain why I love this comedy series so much.  It’s full of racial stereotypes, yet it is so good natured that it makes me smile. Filmed in Toronto, watch for all the local spots. Available on demand.

Also caught up on demand with a few documentaries I had missed:  Skinhead, Klansville USA.


Hinterland This time a British crime series takes us to beautiful Wales. Britain’s charming small villages will be entirely depopulated if the murder rate doesn’t drop.


Good Behaviour Oh Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey and Godless) what have you done now in this dark suspense series about a grifter who hooks up with a charming Argentinian hitman. I love this series!


CBS Sunday Morning Oh my goodness. This morning’s program conveyed the essential magic of Christmas, human kindness and good will.  Please do yourself a favour and watch this one on demand if you didn’t get to see it this morning.


Little Fires Everywhere. Oh the suspense is killing me! Listen to this best selling mystery novel by Celeste Ng.

And the ultimate couch potato viewing lists for those of you who may be settling in for your own long winter’s naps:

A friend visiting children in Arizona asked me for some Netflix recommendations, so here goes my feeble attempt to recap some enjoyable series and films with a little Amazon and Hulu thrown in for good measure:

The Netflix Gold Standard

The Crown, House of Cards, Bloodline If you are new to Netflix and wish to find out what your friends have been raving about, you might want to check out these three classics.

For upcoming viewing you might also want to try:

Godless, Ozark, The Fall, Hotel Beau Sejour, Line of Duty, Queen of the South, Animal Kingdom, Outlander, Stranger Things, Dark, Luther, Peaky Blinders, Glitch, Wanted, The Code, Fargo, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Elle, A Man Called Ove, Frantz, A United Kingdom, Haute Cuisine, All About My Mother.

The NYTimes has also put together a list of 100 Great Films to watch on Netflix:


Amazon Prime

Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, American Gods, Sneaky Pete, Flesh and Blood, Goliath, The Man in the High Castle, The Marvellous Mrs. Maizel.


Shut Eye, The Path, Get Shorty

Parting words

It is almost time to set the table and begin the final wrapping process. Our children are joining us for Christmas Eve dinner tonight and our Prime Rib (to be cooked in Chef John’s high heat, then turn oven off style) is sitting coming to room temperature before cooking. Have a wonderful time with family and friends. Peace on earth and good will to all. Love always. Strength. Courage. Hope.












Bingewatching by the warm glow of the TV…

Well, as luck would have it, I managed to come down with a terrible head cold at the same time as I was prepping for one of those medical procedures which involves spending copious amounts of time racing to the washroom.  As a result, I was able to hunker down and do some serious watching.  Here are some recommendations:


The Crown Season 2 I absolutely loved this season.  Princess Margaret is heartbreaking,;Anthony Armstrong-Jones is played by Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey); Edward VIII is both touching and repugnant; Harold MacMillan is brought down by scandal; Philip and Elizabeth struggle within their marriage. Fabulous production values! Wonderful performances from all.


Smilf I love this series about a struggling single mother in Boston.


Good Behaviour I caught up with this wonderful series that I had started watching in the US.  Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary from Downton Abbey) is terrific as a thief and a con artist whose life is always one wrong turn, one bad decision, from implosion.


Shut Eye Season 2 I do like this noirish  10 episode series about a fortune teller/con man. Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) stars.


Apple Tree Yard This 4 episode miniseries starring Emily Watson comes from the BBC.  A provocative thriller which sees an eminent scientist caught up in a damaging and compromising lie.  Based on the novel by Louise Doughty. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:


Acceptable Risk This 6 episode miniseries is an Irish Canadian coproduction made for Acorn TV.  While not quite as engaging as some British crime shows, this one features Canadian actors!  Watch for Geordie Johnson among others.  When her pharmaceutical executive husband Lee is murdered in Montreal, Sarah Manning (of Dublin) comes to realize that she knows nothing about his past. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:


Peaky Blinders Season 4 continues its dark madness as Tommy Shelby goes to war against a Mafia hitman. Crazy union activity going on in the background.  This show is totally bonkers.


The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel This series is about a NYC housewife in the late 50’s who decides to try stand up comedy.  Very atmospheric, with great music, costumes and set design.  It’s a warm nostalgic trip through a very stylized NYC.  Great performances from a wonderful cast (look for Canadian Luke Kirby) as Lenny Bruce.  Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about it:


Happy This totally bonkers show stars Christopher Meloni as an injured hitman who befriends a perky blue flying horse that only he can see.  I’m not sure I will stay with this one.


Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas is a wonderful CBC documentary.  It’s a fun look at the great Christmas songs of the 20th Century that were actually written by Jewish composers.  Here’s a link:


Live TV Alert

A Christmas Story Live!  Sunday Dec. 17 on Fox.  If you loved the original 1983 version with Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, you may warm to this live  revival as a musical. Ralph wishes for nothing more than a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas.  This adaptation of the Broadway hit stars Maya Rudolph, Matthew Broderick and Jane Krakowski.  Enjoy!!

Moment of Zen

I will be recording my soothing CBS Sunday Morning Show as I head out to brunch tomorrow morning to celebrate my mum’s 99th birthday with the whole family at her nursing home.  We are then headed to see the new Star Wars film with our boys, and then attending a neighbourhood party. We are now in a serious countdown toward Christmas!  I must head for the mall!!  Pray for me.


Let it snow!


At last, the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful. Now I can warm myself by the glow of the TV without feeling that I must justify staying indoors when the weather outside is balmy.  There are plentiful reasons to binge over the next week. Here are some recommendations:

Upcoming Alert

A Christmas Story Live! Dec 17 on Fox.  Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about the show:


The Crown Season 2  At last the waiting is over.  Season 2 is even better than Season 1 and I thought Season 1 was the best thing I have ever watched on TV.  Treat yourself and curl up on the couch to watch this gorgeously produced series with a cozy throw and a lovely cup of tea.

Dark We finished watching this German time travel series before we left Naples and it looks like there will be a Season 2. It’s very intriguing!  The direct opposite of the above as it is so dark and foreboding.


CBC – I’ve Missed You!

The Loch (Available On Demand) In scrolling through all the shows I’ve been missing, I came across this Scottish mystery series.  It starts out promisingly enough with a floating body weighted down by a curling stone (floating bodies seem to be a common theme in recent mystery series this year, Top of the Lake Season 2 being another one). Sadly this series gets weighted down with innumerable red herrings before finally drawing to its painful close.

Top of the Lake Season 2 (Available On Demand) This series starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Nicole Kidman is mesmerizing.  Just as good as Season 1, but now she’s in Sydney investigating a body washed up on a beach.


CTV – Catching up with you too!

The Indian Detective Starring Russell Peters, this fish out of water series follows a Toronto cop to India where he smirks his way through solving mysteries.  I used to really like Russell Peters, but I don’t find him as compelling as an actor.  I may not persevere with this one.


Get Shorty This wonderful 11 episode series is a delightfully wry comedy about mobsters making movies in LA.  Chris O’Dowd, Ray Romano and Sean Bridgers star.  Very dry humour based on Elmore Leonard’s novel and subsequent film.


Shut Eye 10 episodes of Season 2 are now available. This a wonderful suspense series about a scammer with a small chain of fortune-telling storefronts and runner of various cons.  Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) is wonderful as the con artist.

STARZ/W in Canada/ past seasons on Netflix 

Outlander This is still one of the most romantic shows on TV.

Superchannel/past seasons on Netflix

Peaky Blinders This bonkers British crime series isn’t for everyone.  Adrian Brody is a hoot as a Mafia hitman. Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby a gypsy crime lord.

The CW and Netflix

Riverdale This is not your grandparents’ version of Archie comics.  There’s sex, violence and darkness here, but it is a lot of fun.

Arrow OMG, will the happiness between Oliver and Felicity last?  Campy and fun.

Showtime/HBO Canada

Shameless Now in its 8th season, I can’t look away from this comedy series about the reprehensible Gallagher clan of Chicago.



The Walking Dead The Zombies are still after the survivors.  Tonight’s mid-season finale promises a big showdown between Rick and Negan (the arch villain of the past 3 seasons). I am wrung out by this darkest of dramas.


Designated Survivor Ludicrous beyond words, I think I am giving up on this one.


Gotham is a campy thrill ride about the young Bat Man.  Great Fun!

Comic Relief

Saturday Night Live This venerable series still manages to wring laughter from today’s headlines.  The sketches may be a bit lame, but the Weekend Update segment is usually worth a look.

Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee all manage to make today’s news funnier.

Moments of Zen

CBS Sunday Morning, Face the Nation (both CBS), Fareed Zakaria, Reliable Sources (both CNN) all try to explain the inexplicable.

Parting Words

Busy week coming up with a Thornbury Christmas party today, my book group, gourmet group and playgroup (longtime neighbourhood friends, not necessarily theatre lovers) parties all happening and ending next weekend with my mother’s 99th birthday party. So many celebrations! Please remember to pace yourselves over the next couple of holiday week: take Uber instead of driving after festive beverages, and try to avoid the frustration/exhaustion/rage cycle when searching for parking spots at malls. Enjoy this magical season wherever you are!

News Alert: OMG, I forgot about The Crown!!

I was remiss in my rush to publish on Sunday in not saying anything about the Second Season debut of The Crown on Netflix on December 8.  As Season 1 was quite possibly the best thing I have ever watched on TV, if you haven’t caught up with it yet, there is still time before Season 2 starts.

Oh yes, and in case you are still wondering about Dark the first ever German series originally produced for Netflix,  here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:


Full disclosure on Dark, I have only 2 episodes left to view and can’t wait! Messing with the time/space continuum is never a good thing.

I’ve also had a couple of friends mention recently how much they enjoyed Broadchurch on Netflix. It is a wonderful British crime series (starring David Tennant – Dr. Who, and Olivia Colman – the next Queen Elizabeth in The Crown Season 3).  I must admit, Broadchurch was a little dark, even for my tastes.  I suggest counter programming this Christmas season, so if you love British crime and want something more life affirming, try Grantchester (originally made for PBS Masterpiece Mystery/ITV) starring James Norton as the dishy vicar with a knack for solving crimes in a small British village near Cambridge after WWII.  Norton is so popular, his movie schedule may prevent his return for a 4th season of the show.  You may recall him from Happy Valley, another British crime series where he plays a radically different role as a deranged killer.

Speaking of deranged killers, many friends are now enjoying The Fall with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. You can see much more of Dornan in the 50 Shades of Grey films, if you’re wondering why he seems so familiar.  Not that I’m recommending them as they are truly awful.

One of the best crime series I’ve seen recently on Netflix is Mindhunter. Starring Jonathan Groff (Glee), this excellent series is about the origins of the FBI behavioural science unit which developed criminal profiling.  Since Charles Manson is mentioned frequently as someone they would have loved to interview, and since his recent death, this series couldn’t be more timely.

Anyhow, I am now going back to my packing as our flight leaves this evening and I will be racing from the golf course to the limo.  Enjoy your day, and don’t forget about The Crown this weekend if you are a fan.



Dark or what?

Well, again, the TV schedule is in a bit of a doldrum as new programming is not yet available and many shows are on hiatus.  However, I have rediscovered Amazon and Netflix continues to provide new programs.  My husband pointed out that I have used the adjective “dark” a record number of times.  See if you detect a theme in my TV viewing.  Here are some recommendations:

New Shows Coming to TV

Here’s an article from The Hollywood Reporter about some upcoming new programming:


Streaming/Netflix (past seasons)/Superchannel in Canada

Peaky Blinders This bonkers BBC crime show is now in its 4th season.  Starring the charismatic Cillian Murphy, this saga of a British crime family takes endless twists and turns and is always surprising.  Watch for Adrian Brophy as a Mafia hit man this season.


Tin Star I had started watching this modern day Western on a trip to Scotland and was unaware until recently that it was available in the US on Amazon. It is a Sky TV production from Britain, but is actually set and filmed in Alberta, Canada and is chock full of Canadian actors.  Although I initially found the premise (a Brit comes to a small Canadian oil patch town as their new Sherriff) a bit unbelievable, I decided to give the show a second chance.  Watch for Genevieve O’Reilly (Glitch), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Christopher Heyerdahl (reliable villain from Hell on Wheels, Damnation, etc.).  The plot is full of cliches and unbelievable coincidences.  Tim Roth as the sheriff seems to be channelling many other roles he has played but he is always watchable.


Dark This new original TV series is from Germany (dubbed into English).  A family saga with a supernatural twist set in a German town, where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among 4 families.  Requires close viewing as there are so many characters introduced in the first episode.  Addictive, so give yourself time to watch all 10 episodes. It has been compared to the wonderful Stranger Things. There’s a cave that is reminiscent of the Upside Down.
The Punisher This very dark series from Marvel is definitely not for the faint of heart as it is relentlessly violent and is about a vigilante who is out to avenge the murder of his family.  13 very dark episodes.
Glitch Season 2 I absolutely loved this very dark series from Australia. The second season is now available on Netflix and I found it just as addictive as the first season. Six people have risen from the dead in perfect health. 6 episodes in each season.

Epix/Streaming/Superchannel in Canada

Berlin Station There are two episodes left in the second season of this espionage series.  Starring a great cast that includes the wonderful Richard Jenkins, this season deals with the emergence of a far right party in Germany that seems to be influenced and funded by the US State Department.  Art mirrors life?


The Walking Dead Perhaps the darkest post Apocalyptic series of all, the survivors are still fighting for their lives.  Now in Season 8!!


Good Behaviour The second season of this series still has 2 episodes to go.  Michelle Dockery (the haughty  Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) stars as a thief and con artist in South Carolina.  She is wonderful in this terrific suspense series.


Damnation An epic saga about the secret history of the 1930’s American heartland, centres on the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden.  This 12 episode series still has 8 episodes to go in its first season.  It is a battle between two brothers on both sides of the labour struggles of the Depression era.  It’s a modern day Western set in Iowa that highlights issues of racism, poverty and sexual inequality. Maybe not for everyone, but I am intrigued by the layers that are lifted off the major characters with each new episode.

Showtime/HBO in Canada

Shameless Now in its 8th season, the series follows the adventures of the hapless Gallagher clan in Chicago. I can’t look away!!
SMILF I can’t help rooting for this struggling single mom in Boston.


Outlander There are still two episodes left in Season 3 of this wonderfully romantic adventure series. Jamie and Claire are lovers for the ages.


This is Us Endlessly maudlin and sentimental, I’m only watching it because my friends are addicted.  I have completely given in to societal pressure.


The Good Doctor I started watching this one about an autistic young doctor because my friends love it.  Now I’m totally hooked.

Designated Survivor With only 2 episodes left as the season hurtles towards its second season mid-season finale, it has gone beyond ludicrous. Originally, an intriguing premise of a nebbishy guy who becomes President because of a terrorist attack, it has now gone into a strange parallel universe (a la The West Wing), where the fictional president is incredibly articulate and good hearted.  He has a simple answer to each crisis he faces and he is both intelligent and has integrity.  Oh, if only….

Comic Relief

Despite the disappointment of last week’s incredibly lame The President Show Christmas Special (on Comedy Central in the US and Comedy Channel in Canada), I continue to hang in with Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and now increasingly, Seth Meyers, and Samantha Bee.  All four do a great job of skewering the politicians and events of the day. (Other regular pundits, John Oliver and Bill Maher are currently on hiatus).

Zen Moments

CBS has the two most relaxing and informative shows on the air:  both CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes never fail to inform and reassure in these troublesome times.  Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN similarly manages to explain the events of the day and somehow reassure that great minds can deal with these inexplicable events and trends. In these times of almost daily revelations of sexual harassment, it is very comforting to be able to find public affairs programming that reminds us that there are other issues and events we can be thinking about.

Parting Words

We head back to Ontario on Tuesday to celebrate the holidays with our families and friends.  Before then, there is golf to be played, dinners with friends here, and bocce and exercise classes to attend.  Good luck to everyone who is out there madly ordering gifts online and dealing with the pre-Christmas madness in the bricks and mortar stores.  I have been in complete denial thus far re the necessary seasonal preparations.  I think a reckoning is in store for me when I return to the Great White North. Safe travels for everyone who will be on the move in December.