A week of tears and laughter…

It’s been a whirlwind week of get togethers with friends, medical appointments, retirement parties, fitness and line dance classes and most meaningfully, the funeral of a very longtime friend who passed away after a one year struggle with cancer.
Judy was my neighbour of 37 years. She and her husband Bob had three girls to our two boys. Judy was part of my neighbourhood group of play girls. We formed a close knit network of friends when the kids were babies and over the years we became a real sisterhood. Judy had a great sense of humour and she was the ultimate realist who always told it like it really was. She did not suffer fools. We adored her for her frankness and kindness. She was very accomplished in her field as a tax partner in an accounting firm. She was supported in her career by her husband of 43 years, Bob, who ran the household while Judy excelled in her career and was able to take on volunteer roles with charities close to her heart. Her girls always came first and she never missed a dance competition or a horseback riding lesson. Her girls adored her as did her friends. Truly one of the strongest women I know, Judy fought her disease with all her courage and strength in order to have as much time as possible with her family, including a new granddaughter born in September. She died at home surrounded by family. We will miss her dearly.
God knows we all need distractions, so here are some suggestions:

Netflix

Narcos: Mexico (11 episodes) The rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico.  Engrossing, suspenseful, powerful.  I couldn’t look away.
Dumplin’ (1 hr 50 min) Willowdean (Dumplin’) the plus-sere teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.  This film answers the question of what has happened to Jennifer Aniston’s career.  She plays the mom in this feel good film that manages to touch on all the cliches of every teen movie that features an underdog rising above the mean girls.  Very trite and not at all true.  If you want to watch a movie that is lighter than air, this is the one for you.
Mowgli (1 hr 44 min) A human child raised by wolves must face off against a menacing tiger named Shere Khan, as well as his own origins. I must admit that I did enjoy this all star live action version (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Peter Mullan, etc) of The Jungle Book story, but I did laugh at the review by John Doyle in the Globe:

Amazon Prime

The Marvellous Mrs. Maizel (Season 2, 10 episodes) A housewife in the 1950’s decides to become a stand-up comic.  I must admit, I snoozed through the first few episodes in Season 2, but it gradually grew on me.  One of my favourite British actors joins the cast in Episode 7 as an artist who is interested in Miriam. You will root for Mrs. Maizel to succeed.

Streaming

Blackkklansman (2 hr 15 min) Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorade Springs, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.  This is another way too long, unevenly paced film from Spike Lee whose films are often deeply flawed. Great cast features John David Washington (son of Denzil) and Adam Driver.

Audible.com

Becoming by Michelle Obama (19 hours 5 minutes).  Obama writes with a refreshing candor, as though her keen awareness of her celebrity is matched only by her eagerness to shed the exhausting veneer that helped enable her husband’s political rise.  If you are in need of inspiration to live your best life, read this.  You will be overcome with admiration for this wonderful woman who rose from very humble beginnings to become the first black First Lady.  Incredibly accomplished in her own right (Princeton, Harvard Law), Obama is unsparingly honest in depicting her family, her difficulties in her marriage and her incredibly strong work ethic.  I am in awe of her.  She is a wonderful narrator of her own story, so I heartily recommend listening to this on audible.com.

Regular Fare

This is the time of year when the ten best lists start to come out.  Here’s one from Vanity Fair:

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/12/best-tv-shows-2018-top-10-list

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes, available on demand) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes, available on demand) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows despite the intense competition for viewers in the age of Peak TV:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes, available on demand) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I am now following:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV)
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah (and the best moments of Seth Meyers, SNL and James Corden on YouTube) all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

I missed by very favourite show today, CBS Sunday Morning, as we were running off from Thornbury this morning to my friend’s funeral.  If you do get a chance to see it, watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

Closing Words

While happy to be home and spending lots of time with our family and friends, it has been a rather melancholy time.  Sending warm hugs to all my friends dealing with medical issues (including poor George who is still a little tender and sore after his surgery). Best wishes to all of you during this festive season!!

 

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Let the bingewatching continue…

George and I have been enjoying a few days of quiet in our Thornbury home north of Toronto.  It was a beautiful winter wonderland when we drove up but the weather has gotten milder and milder and today it’s supposed to be drizzly all day.  Perfect for bingewatching! Here are some suggestions for you:

On the Big Screen

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (1 h 46 min) A terrific film about the literary world. When biography writer Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception as she discovers how lucrative literary forgery can be.  An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.  Melissa McCarthy plays it straight here as the acerbic, down on her luck writer.  She is abetted in her forgery by the marvellously funny Richard E. Grant (a British character actor most famous for his 1969 film Withnail & I and many others).  Both actors are rumoured to be Oscar nominees this year. Watch for Jane Curtin who is marvellously wry as Marjorie, Israel’s exhausted and exasperated literary agent.

NetFlix

Narcos: Mexico (10 episodes) This miniseries explores the origins of the modern drug war by going back to its roots, beginning at a time when the Mexican trafficking world was a loose and disorganized confederation of independent growers and dealers.  Witness the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980’s as Felix Gallardo takes the helm, unifying traffickers in order to build an empire.  When DEA agent Kiki Camarena moves his wife and young son from California to Guadalajara to take on a new post, he quickly learns that his assignment will be more challenging than he ever could have imagined.  As Kiki garners intelligence on Felix and becomes more entangled in his mission, a tragic chain of events unfolds, affecting the drug trade and the war against it for years to come.  Stars Michael Pena and Diego Luna.  This series is full of wonderful performances by actors who are perfectly cast in this rogues’ gallery of criminals and law enforcement officers.

The Last Kingdom (Season 3, 10 episodes) The setting is England roughly around 800-900 A.D. The conflict involves the Vikings who are eager to take more ground and the native English peoples, the Saxons, who desire to hold the ground they have and repel the Vikings from England.  The main protagonist, Uhtred Ragnarsson, is a fictional character although his birth place and enemies who contest him are real figures.  Stars Euro actor Alexander Dreymon as the delicious Uhtred, Ian Hart, Eva Birthistle.  A terrific action packed series that depicts this shrouded in mystery era as the birth of a nation.

Amazon Prime

Patriot (Season 2, 8 episodes) Follows the complicated life of intelligence officer John Tavner, whose latest assignment – to prevent Iran from going nuclear – requires him to forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous non-official cover.  The series features many wonderful character actors in supporting roles (Kurtwood Smith, Terry O’Quinn, Gil Bellows, among them).Michael Dorman is wonderful as the lead character.  I get a special kick from his folk songs which are a kind of therapy for him as he tries to process the two sides of his life – cover and actual intelligence officer.

Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-patriot-an-unheralded-gem-of-a-mad-melancholy-spy-drama/

And all the other shows I try to keep up with:

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes, available on demand) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes, available on demand) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows despite the intense competition for viewers in the age of Peak TV:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes, available on demand) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I am now following:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV)
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah (and the best moments of Seth Meyers, SNL and James Corden on YouTube) all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

 

Closing Words

The next few weeks are going to be a blur of medical and dental appointments combined with non-stop house party action and dinners with friends.  Please send all your friends and family members who are dealing with medical issues your most supportive thoughts and prayers, and even more so, your best baking and casseroles.  For many who are struggling, this festive time of year is very challenging.  Hugs to you all.

Winter Wonderland goes briefly on break…

After a couple of days of brutal cold, we are now having some very mild early winter weather.  It’s a perfect day to get my Christmas urns in order for our Thornbury house and a good friend/floral designer is coming over this morning to “help” me.  I will have coffee ready for her.  In the meantime, I have to admit I have been bingeing on lots of new TV offerings.  Here are some recommendations for your week:

On the Big Screen

The Toronto International Film Festival has come out with personal recommendations for audience members (based on a brief survey and their algorithms) and I received this personalized list this week.  I loved Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Kindergarten Teacher (now available on Netflix) and First Man.

Top 5 Recommendations:

  1. Green Book (39.8%)
  2. ROMA (36.3%)
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk (34.9%)
  4. The Kindergarten Teacher (29.1%)
  5. First Man (28.1%)

More than 75% of people asked for their recommendations to focus on “Overlooked Gems” so they could discover films that may not get the attention of Hollywood blockbusters. Here’s what they’ve discovered:

Top 5 Overlooked Gems:

  1. Float Like a Butterfly (43.9%)
  2. Let Me Fall (15.2%)
  3. The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia(15.2%)
  4. Rosie (11.8%)
  5. Before the Frost (10.4%)

Get your own Personal Top 5 and see if it compares: join.TIFF.net/2018/

We hope you’ll love this tool as much as we do. Please let us know what you think of your results by emailing us at loyalty@tiff.net.

TIFF

P.S. – We can’t leave out one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year, and one of the most talked-about films coming out of TIFF:

Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born (17.9%) was #6 in the overall recommendations, just shy of the Top 5. See if it’s on your list of recommendations.

Netflix

The Last Kingdom  (Season 3, 10 episodes)  Oh how I have missed this action packed Dark Ages story.  The year is 872, and many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alred.  Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred.  Born the son of a Saxon nobleman and a Danish mother, he treads a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and ultimately, recapture his ancestral lands.  Untred is played by the glorious Alexander Dreymon.  Sigh… I love this gorgeous French/Swiss Englishman.  If you like Vikings, you will love this series.
The Kominsky Method (8 episodes)  Starring Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin and Nancy Travis.  An aging actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach. Douglas and Arkin are wonderful together as longtime friends who have a love/hate relationship.  Great writing that ties together themes of loss, addiction, aging and relationships.  This is a truly adult series that manages to make you laugh and cry.  I loved it and binged on all 8 half/hour episodes in one evening.
Dogs (6 episodes) This wonderful documentary series focuses on our relationships with dogs.  From a therapy dog, to a dog left behind in Syria when his master leaves the country. to a Labrador retriever that faithfully accompanies his master on daily fishing trips, to an examination of the dog grooming industry and its superstars, to a dog rescue shelter in Costa Rica and a dog-adoption service that rescues dogs from Texas shelters and matches them with new owners in NYC. Get our your hankies.  Heartwarming and life affirming.  Here’s what the Globe had to say about it:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2 h 13 min) An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West from the Coen brothers.  Dark and quirky, this blackly comedic series could also have been called 100 Ways to Die in the West if that title weren’t already taken.  The great cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Clancy Brown, James Franco, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, and Zoe Kazan.  Fascinating in its oddness.
Trevor Noah:  Son of Patricia (1 h 3 min)  Noah’s South African roots and upbringing merge into his recent American experience making for funny and human juxtapositions and observations.  Here’s what the Globe had to say:
The Kindergarten Teacher (1 h 36 min) Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gael Garcia Bernal.  A kindergarten teacher in NYC becomes obsessed with one of her students whom she believes is a child prodigy.  I saw this very dark film at TIFF and found it very intriguing.  Gyllenhaal is luminous in this and you fear for her as she spirals downward.  What starts out as a lovely film about a dedicated teacher becomes a real film noir.

My Usual Obsessions

Outlander (Crave TV, Season 4, 13 episodes)  Starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.  Oh how I love this story of a romance for the ages.  If you haven’t watched it yet or read any of the novels it’s based on, you can jump in to Season 4.  It’s 1767 and new immigrants Claire and Jamie are now in N. Carolina.  Claire knows her American history and keeps giving Jamie spoilers on the American Revolution, slavery, women’s lib, etc.  It’s a terrific new start for the story of the star-crossed lovers.  Enjoy!
Ray Donovan (HBO, Season 6, 12 episodes)  Starring Live Schreiber, Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon.  It’s a new start for this series as we have moved from corruption in LA to corruption in NYC.  Fixer Ray Donovan is starting all over again in a new urban landscape.  Great noir series.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Dark and quirky this series may cause people to scratch their heads over these very different stories of Romanoff descendants.  Great cast includes Diane Lane, JJ Field, John Slattery, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Peet, Corey Stoll, Jack Huston, Marthe Keller, Andrew Rannels, Jon Tenney, etc.  I enjoyed these stories, but I sense they may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in West Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh.  Full disclosure:  I would watch Alexander Skarsgard read the phone book.  This series is typical John LeCarre fare:  spy craft, double agents, elegiacally paced, cryptic characters who are subtly revealed in layers…  Perhaps way too slow for those of us weaned on James Bond.  Bond, this is not, unlike The Night Manager (also based on a LeCarre novel and from the same production team).  This is a period peace set in the 1980’s when people used public telephones and weird transistor radios to eavesdrop on their enemies.
Broken (PBS, 6 episodes) Starring Sean Bean, Adrian Dunbar, Paula Malcomson, Anna Friel, etc.  Father Michael, a Catholic priest presiding over a Northern urban parish who is modern, maverick and reassuringly flawed and finds that he must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a congregation struggling to reconcile its beliefs with the challenges of daily life.  Heartbreaking in its depiction of Father Michael’s lonely journey to bring peace and compassion to his community.  Sean Bean is wonderfully touching in this.
I am going to try and keep up with my usual shows:
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
Patriot (Amazon, 2 seasons) A blackly humourous tale of espionage
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
and these new shows that I haven’t managed to watch yet:
My Brilliant Friend (HBO), Sally4Ever (HBO), Escape at Dannemora (Crave TV), Narcos (Netflix), Warriors (Netflix), etc.
So much to watch, so little time!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment that is truly inspiring!

Closing Words

Thanks so much to all of you who have kindly enquired about George’s recovery from his recent (thoroughly routine) surgery.  He gets better every day! As you may guess, I have had a bingewatching buddy!  The poor man was hostage to my fiendish preference for new series on Netflix when he would have been divinely happy to watch any number of sporting events on TV.  Special hugs to my distressingly large number of friends and family who are dealing with medical issues.  Enjoy this week of mild winter weather, wherever you are!!

Back in the Great White North…

We have returned to winter in Toronto. George’s completely routine surgery went well and we now have a chance to gently slide into the festive season. It’s a return to book groups, fitness classes and tons of medical and dental appointments. In between connecting with family and friends, here are some TV recommendations:

Streaming

Three Identical Strangers (feature documentary, 1 h 36 min) I had the great pleasure of hosting 20 neighbours for our new Treviso Bay Movie Club.  As always, truth is stranger than fiction in this riveting tale of Long Island triplets separated at birth. Very thought provoking tale with themes of nature vs nurture, and the ethics of separating twins at birth and using them for research purposes. The group really enjoyed the film and it was very conducive to a discussion afterward.

New Series Alert

Dogs (Netflix, 8 episodes) Get out your hankies to watch this incredibly moving series about dogs and their bond with the humans who love them. So heartwarming. It will make you admire our best friends more than ever.
Narcos Mexico (Netflix, 10 episodes, Season 3) The rise of the Guadalajara Cartel as an American DEA agent learns the danger of targeting narcos in Mexico. Stars Michael Pena and Diego Luna.
The Kominsky Method (Netflix, 8 episodes) An aging actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach. Stars Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, Nancy Travis. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix, 2 h 12 minutes) An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.
Warrior (Netflix, 6 episodes, Danish) A war veteran plagued by guilt over his final mission teams up with his best friend’s widow to infiltrate a dangerous Copenhagen biker gang.  Ooh…  Sons of Anarchy Scandinavian style!! I miss Jax.
My Brilliant Friend Ferrante novel # 1 (HBO, 8 episodes) Based on the Elena Ferrante novel, enjoyed by book clubs far and wide.  A woman recounts the lifelong friendship and conflicts with a girl she met at primary school in Naples during the early 1950s. Here’s what the NYTimes had to say:
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime, Crave TV, 7 episodes) An employee at a prison in upstate NY becomes romantically involved with a pair of inmates and helps them escape.  Stars Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano.  I love soulful Paul Dano.  He has the saddest, sweetest face in showbiz. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it:
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, 6 episodes) A bomb, delivered in a suitcase, goes off inside the house of an Israeli attache in W. Germany.  A team of Israelis seek to put an end to the increasing number of bombings, all of which are masterfully thought out by an elusive Palestinian.  The Israelis identify an eccentric English actress and manage to turn her into one of their agents, with whose help she brilliantly wins the confidence of the Palestinian network until she is accepted as one of their own.  Stars Alexander Skarsgard (swoon) and Michael Shannon (shiver).
The Price of Everything (HBO, Feature documentary, 90 min) With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, this film dives deep into the contemporary art world, holding a fun-house mirror up to our values and our times — where everything can be bought and sold.  I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary and feel much more knowledgeable about the art world as a result.  By sheer coincidence, I happen to be reading the British comic novel The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschilde.  Lots of familiar references from the documentary turn up in this novel set in the London art world.

Regular Fare

The Romanoffs (Amazon, 8 episodes)
Homecoming (Amazon, 10 episodes)
Poldark (PBS, Season 4, 8 episodes
The Durrells in Corfu (PBS, Season 3, 8 episodes)
The Woman in White (PBS, 5 episodes)  Warning:  I specifically PVR this show to induce afternoon napping. So slow and stilted as it comes from one of the first mystery novels ever.  Gothic boredom!!
The Good Doctor (ABC, Season 2, 10 episodes)
The Resident (Fox, 36 episodes)
New Amsterdam (NBC, 9 episodes)  I only watch this for Ryan Eggold’s charming performance.  The story lines are so ludicrous!!!
9-1-1 (Fox, 28 episodes) Despite being produced by Ryan Murphy, this is pretty routine fare.
Chicago Fire (NBC, 148 episodes)  Aah… Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney both star as the hunky heroes of the piece.
Mayans MC (FX, 11 episodes) Great spin off from Sons of Anarchy
The Gifted (Fox, 28 episodes)  Stephen Moyer (True Blood) alert.
Arrow (The CW, Space, 161 episodes) Obviously Canadian star Stephen Amell has his fans as this series has lasted through 7 seasons
Patriot (Amazon, 2 seasons) A blackly humourous tale of espionage
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX, Season 8, 10 episodes) Over the top batshit crazy, from Ryan Murphy.
FBI (CBS, 10 episodes) By the numbers police procedural for those who like their cop shows neat and predictable
Riverdale (The CW, 57 episodes) Just like the Archie Comix but with tons of sex, nudity and violence!
For those who are looking for a tidy summary of what to watch on TV this week, here’s an article from AARP:

Literary Side Note

I just slogged my way through Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland as it is my Toronto book group’s next book; this was tough going for me as Freeland is a brilliant business writer and this 2012 book dissects income inequality and everything else that was going on in the economy in 2012.  It begs for an update in the Trump era.  I came away from reading this with huge admiration for Freeland, Canada’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs.  She previously worked in a variety of editorial positions at the Financial Times, The Globe and Mail and Thomson Reuters.  Her first cabinet appointment was as Minister of Intenational Trade in 2015.  Among her many academic honours, she is a Harvard Grad in Russian history and literature and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.  Brilliant beyond belief.  I hope she becomes our Prime Minister at some point.  Oh, did I mention that she has three children and is fluent in Ukrainian, Italian and Russian and conversant in French.  I worship her. Incredibly accomplished!

Comic Relief

Hasan Minhaj (new on Netflix), Bill Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah all try to bring a little levity to our current events.

Moment of Zen

Don’t forget to tune in to CBS Sunday Morning and watch it all the way to the end where you will be rewarded by a nature moment.

Closing Words

Enjoy the seasonal weather wherever you are!  (I’m trying very hard to love winter at the moment, after all, it’s a chance to wear my winter clothes!) Have a great week!  Hugs to all my friends and family experiencing medical struggles.

Just a few days left in Paradise…

We are savouring our last few days in Naples as we return to TO on Thursday for George’s completely routine surgery. It has been a glorious couple of weeks here reconnecting with friends and neighbours, golf, fitness classes, mahjong games and lots of great dining. Great white north, here we come.  In the meantime, here are some recommendations:

New Show Alert

Sally4Ever (HBO, 7 episodes)  This sitcom debuts tonight.  British from the BBC.  I love British comedies.  For 10 years, Sally has lived a dull suburban life with David.  But on the night he asks her to marry him, Sally has a crisis and embarks on a wild affair with Emma, a seductive, charismatic, boho access, singer, musician, poet and author.
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime, 7 episodes) An employee at a prison in upstate NY becomes romantically involved with a pair of inmates and helps them escape.  Stars Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette, and Paul Dano.  True story!  Looks intriguing.

Netflix

Outlaw King (2 h 1 min) A true David v Goliath story of how the great 14th C. Scottish Outlaw King Robert The Bruce used cunning and bravery to defeat and repel the much larger and better equipped occupying English army.  This film opened the Toronto International Film Festival, signifying Netflix’s status as a major producer of feature films.  I found it slow and overly long and I also found the final battle scene horrifically violent with many scenes of horses apparently being stabbed to death.  Not for the faint of heart.  It does star Chris Pine who has very dreamy blue eyes and a not bad Scottish accent.  A real departure for him.
Here’s what the Globe and Mail had to say about the film:
House of Cards (6th and final season, 8 episodes) The producers decided to tie up the loose ends of this long running series after Kevin Spacey was fired for disgraceful conduct.  As the first woman to hold the title of President of the US, Claire Underwood faces increased scrutiny and threats.  Sibling power couple Annette and Bill Shepherd attempt to influence policy.  Ludicrous beyond belief! I think I would have preferred to savour my memories of this show when it was intriguing and ground breaking.  It really outstayed its welcome.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (32 episodes, new every Sunday) In this weekly show, Hasan Minaj brings his unique comedic voice and storytelling skill to explore the larger trends shaping our fragmented world.  A very funny take on a Ted Talk.

Amazon

Homecoming (11 episodes)  Now I know how frustrating my blog is for all my friends who don’t subscribe to any specialty channels.  Although we are paid up Amazon Prime members, and can watch any other show offered on Amazon Video except this one!  So sad, I am looking forward to actually being able to watch this some day.
The Romanoffs (8 episodes) A contemporary anthology series set around the globe featuring eight separate stories about people who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.  Very quirky and offbeat.  Definitely not for everybody.
Patriot (2 seasons)  I am still catching up with Season 1 of this very offbeat series. It follows the complicated life of intelligence officer John Tavner, whose late assignment – to prevent Iran from going nuclear – requires him to forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous non-official cover.  I am loving this very unusual and original take on an espionage show.

STARZ

Outlander (Season 4, 13 episodes)  We are now in North Carolina in 1767.  Claire and Jamie cross paths with Stephen Bonnet, a pirate and smuggler who enlists their help.  Claire illuminates Jamie on some of America’s history, leading him to wonder if it’s possible for them to lay down roots.  I have watched the first two episodes and can recommend the show to people who haven’t been watching all along.  It’s a whole new ballgame now that we are in the New World.  It’s fascinating to watch Claire and Jamie deal with all the issues of the day as Claire is always aware of being on the right side of history.  Dealing with slavery is a major issue for them this season.  I adored the first two episodes of this season and still feel that this is the most romantic series on TV.

Regular Fare

Poldark (PBS)
The Durrell’s in Corfu (PBS)
The Woman in White (PBS)
Ray Donovan (Showtime)
The Resident (Fox)
The Good Doctor (ABC)
9-1-1 (Fox)
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX)
Chicago Fire (NBC)
New Amsterdam (NBC)
The Rookie (ABC)
Kidding (Showtime)
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Comic Relief

Colbert, Noah, Jim Jeffries, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, James Corden and Seth Meyers highlights on YouTube.  Shout out to SNL which had a very touching apology to Congressman Elect Dan Crenshaw  after Pete Davidson’s very thoughtless and offhand comments about army veteran Crenshaw last week. Crenshaw very amusingly pokes fun at Davidson for his appearance and failed romance with Ariana Grande.

Zen Moment

CBS Sunday Morning Oh how I love this long running newsmagazine show.  Soothing and illuminating.

Closing Words

We are looking forward to sharing a few more lunches and dinners with friends before we head home. A Facebook picture of our in-laws’ place in Uxbridge, Ontario shows that there is a winter wonderland already just east of Toronto. Brrrh! Hugs to all our friends and family dealing with medical issues. See you soon! Enjoy the week wherever you are.

Back in Paradise…

House of Cards (Netflix, Season 6, 8 episodes) As the first woman to hold the title of President of the US, Claire Underwood faces increased scrutiny and threats.  Sibling power couple Annette and Bill Shepherd attempt to influence policy.  Very disappointing plot lines (especially poor old Doug Stamper’s nonsensical story arc) but it’s a great cast with Diane Lane and Greg Kenner as the terrifying power siblings.

Comic Relief

Apparently James Corden has a carpool karaoke segment with Barbra Streisand that I must catch up with on YouTube.  Streisand was Bill Maher’s guest this past Friday on Real Time; catching up with Colbert, Noah, Jeffries, Bee, Tracey Ullman, and John Oliver.

Closing Words

I’m not sure that I can bear to stay glued to the election results this Tuesday.  Too suspenseful for me!  I will be bingeing on one of my new catch up shows instead.  Have a wonderful week wherever you are and special thoughts go to my friends with medical challenges.  Hugs to all.

D-Day has arrived…

Well D-Day has arrived. Our family is gathering at my mother’s nursing home to celebrate her 100th birthday and then they are coming back to our place for pizza afterwards. We leave dark and early tomorrow morning for our trip to Florida from which we will return on November 15th for George’s surgery. I’m not sure how much TV I’ll be watching over the next few weeks but here are some of the shows I’ve seen this past week. I’m also going to indicate some new Fall programming that is arriving.

Netflix

Wanderlust (2018 from the BBC, 6 episodes) Stars Toni Colette and Steven Mackintosh. A therapist tries to save her marriage after a cycling accident causes them to reassess their relationship.  A cautionary tale about open marriages. Worth a look.
Bodyguard (2018, from the BBC, 6 episodes) Stars Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes. A contemporary thriller featuring the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.  The most watched BBC series in 10 years!  Hello possible future James Bond in Richard Madden.
Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe and Mail:
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018, 20 episodes) I watched the pilot and part of the first episode because I was curious to see how Kieran Shipka (Mad Men) would fare and I adore British actor Richard Coyle who is the Dumbledore of this series about a teenage witch.  Really for the preteen set, although I had high hopes that it might be a little more like sexy Riverdale from the same creative team.
Haunting of Hill House (2018, 10 episodes) Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.  I had high hopes for this great cast featuring Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, but I found it glum and unengaging and gave up after two episodes.  I think I have a lot on my mind and may give this another chance on Halloween.

Streaming

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018, 2 h, 2 min) The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border.  Stars Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.  If you’re wondering where Trump gets his info re Muslim terrorists hiding amongst Central American migrants, you can blame this ridiculous action flick with a plot that makes absolutely no sense.
Christopher Robin (2018, 1 h 44 min) A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the -Pooh, who helps hm to rediscover the joys of life.  Very sweet, but even though Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell star, there’s way too much lame stop motion animation of the original Pooh characters for me.  Maybe if I were 5?

Regular viewing

Riverdale (The CW)
9-1-1 (Fox)
The Resident (Fox)
FBI (CBS)
The Rookie (ABC)
The Mayans MC (FX)
Mr. Mercedes (Superchannel)
PBS Frontline (PBS)
Chicago Fire (NBC)
Vanity Fair (CBC)
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (FX)
Doctor Blake Mysteries (PBS)
Broken (PBS)
Poldark (PBS)
Durrells in Corfu (PBS)
The Woman in White (PBS)
Kidding (HBO)
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Comic Relief

I’m adding James Corden for his carpool Karaoke with Michael Buble last week, along with Colbert, Noah, Bee, Jeffries, Maher, Tracey Ullman and Oliver. Special shout out to Seth Meyers for his closer look segments on YouTube. Also watch the Jim Carrey thank you speech on YouTube at the LA Britannia Awards for his Charlie Chaplin Comedy award.

Programming and Movie Alerts

Debuts are headed to the small and big screens:

TV

Tell me a Story (CBS All Access and Streaming) Oct. 31 from Kevin Williamson. Modern fairy tale

Patriot Act (Netflix) Oct 28 comedy series with Hasan Minhaj

House of Cards (Netflix, 8 episodes) Nov. 2

Homecoming (Amazon Prime, 11 episodes) Nov. 2 starring Julia Roberts

Outlander (STARZ, 13 episodes) Nov. 1

The Other Side of the Wind/They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead ( Netflix, documentary 1 h 38 min) Orson Welles’ final film is released accompanied by a documentary about the project on Nov 2

IN THEATRES

Boy Erased (feature 1 h 54 min) Nov. 2 stars Lucas Hedges

Monrovia, Indiana (Documentary 2 h 23 min)

Mid 90’s (feature, 1 h 24 min) directed by Johah Hill, starring Lucas Hedges

Burning (feature, 2 h 28 min) starring Steven Yeun

Zen Moment

I am watching CBS Sunday Morning as it covers the stories of this week:  pipe bombs in the mail and a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  Trump blames the media for inflaming crazies across the land. History will tell the tale.

Closing Words

It snowed overnight in Toronto, but all evidence has thankfully melted away as most of my family takes to the roads today.  We are headed to the sunny south tomorrow and are looking forward to baking the very end of terrible head colds out of our systems while we are there.  We have also booked our tickets for the Freddy Mercury/Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody! Golf and mahjong await!!

Countdown to Florida begins…

I have been at the tail end of a terrible cold and cough that has been incredibly persistent. As a result I have thrown myself under an afghan with plenty of hot beverages and have been wildly catching up with all kinds of programs that I have been intending to watch. I’ve been trying to get rid of my cold before getting back on a plane to Florida with head congestion next weekend. Here’s what I’ve been watching:

Back home again with lots of catching up to do…

Our two wonderful weeks in Europe came to an end on Saturday. We did a Uniworld River cruise up the Rhone And Saone Rivers in France, followed by two days in Paris and 4 days in London. We flew to Marseilles and boarded the ship in Avignon with stops in Arles, Vivier, Macon, Lyon, etc.  Beautiful beyond compare.
Along the way I read a couple of books, watched a few downloaded series and then we managed to see four plays in London.
Here are some of our highlights from my reading, iPad downloads, and theatre in London:

Live on Stage in London

Everybody’s talking about Jamie This delightful musical is fabulous, funny and has great songs and dances.  It’s about a 16-yr-old who dreams of being a drag queen.
Strictly Ballroom The Musical Adapted from Baz Luhrmann’s award winning film, the show has been transformed into a very entertaining musical with 30 hits that are sung and danced to.
Hamilton The Tony award winning musical is brought to life at the newly renovated Victoria Palace theatre.  Featuring a hip-hop musical score and great dancing, the story of the self-destructive egomaniac who was America’s first secretary of the treasury, it’s a wonderfully engrossing story.
Company This wonderful revival of the 1970 Sondheim musical features Patti Lupone and has been updated with a female lead.  Great songs!

Watched on the Inflight Entertainment system on the flight over to Marseille

Meditation Park This wonderful little film is set in Vancouver’s Chinese community and tells the story of an aging woman who questions her life after suspecting her husband of having an affair. Stars Sandra Oh and Don McKeller.

La Bolduc This is the life story of Mary Travers also known by her stage name of La Bolduc. She was a musician and singer of French Canadian music who sang rapid patter songs that were adored in the 1930’s.

On the Big Screen

A Star is Born (2 h 15 min) Both Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are great in this film, but I do confess that I found it a little long and slow.  Probably as this is the latest of several remakes of the basic story, so there is very little suspense as we wait for Gaga’ star to rise and Cooper’s to fall.

Books in Print

I tucked in two paperbacks which I actually enjoyed and finished during our cruise.  Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police (small town police chief solves an apparent hate crime). Daniel Silva’s The English Assassin (Mossad’s Gabriel Allon pursues a killer across Europe).

On my Ipad downloaded from Netflix

The Party (1 h 11 min) This very black and bleak comedy is an ensemble piece about a dinner party to celebrate a political victory.  Great performances from Cillian Murphy, Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer.  Probably too dark for most.
Anne (Season 2, 10 episodes) I loved the first season of Anne with an E, but admit to finding season 2 a little tedious.  She’s annoying me now.  Maybe I was exhausted from bingewatching on the plane.
Babylon (7 episodes) This hilarious look at the people in charge and on the front lines of a contemporary police force in the UK.  James Nesbitt and Nicola Walker are among the ensemble of British actors.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (1 h 45 min) This wonderful film is a true story about the last days of Academy Award winning actress Gloria Grahame whose life was as tragic as many of her roles.  Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Kenneth Cranham and Julie Walters star.
The Angel (1 h 54 min) Overly long true story of espionage between Egypt and Israel.
Maniac (10 episodes) Two strangers are drawn to a mysterious pharmaceutical clinical trial that will solve all of their problems… Bat shit crazy!! Starring Joah Hill and Ema Stone.
Burn Burn Burn (1 h 45 min) Following the death of their friend, two girls embark on a road trip to spread his ashes.  Very sweet.

New on Netflix

Private Life (2 h 3 min) This highly recommended Netflix original stars Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn.  Here’s what a review from Variety said about it:
The Walking Dead (AMC,  9 seasons and I’m still watching this show!)  I can’t look away, no matter how sad or harrowing this series is.
Get Shorty (Epix, 2 seasons) Fabulous satire of filmmaking in Hollywood stars Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano.
Mr Mercedes (Audience/Superchannel 2 seasons) A very dark tale of the hunt for a mass murderer.
Better Call Saul (AMC, Season 4, 10 episodes) Prequel to Breaking Bad. Wonderful in its own right.
Shameless (Showtime/HBO – OK, it’s season 9 and I’m still watching this show!)  I can’t look away no matter how insufferable some of these characters have become.
The Sinner (Showcase Season 2, 8 episodes) Powerful story of a young boy with a mysterious past who murders two adults.

OK, now the task of catching up with new and returning programs begins!

Catching up with the new shows

Vanity Fair (CBC 7 episodes) This latest adaptation from ITV is sumptuous in its recreation of regency England and the venal ambitions of Becky Sharpe to climb to the top of society.
Manifest (NBC 13 episodes) Absolutely awful and clunky as an opposite to Lost plotting (this time the plane gets lost for 5 years but reappears mysteriously). I have only suffered through 1 episode, but doubt I will return.
New Amsterdam (NBC  7 episodes) Full confession: I really liked Ryan Eggold (Tom from The Blacklist) so I have caught up with a couple of episodes of this one despite the insufferable characters and ludicrous plotlines.
Mayans MC (FX 11 episodes) Sequel to Sons of Anarchy with a largely hispanic cast as we delve into the world of motorcycle gangs and cartels.

Catching up with the returning shows

911 (Fox Season 2, 16 episodes) The high-pressure experiences of first responders continue…
Tracey Ullman’s Show (HBO Season 3, 6 episodes) Her sketch show continues to skewer British society and world leaders.  I find her hilariously funny!
American Horror Story (FX Season 8, 10 episodes) Bat shit crazy show now focusing on a post-apocalyptic world where demons reign.
The Resident (Fox Season 2, 13 episodes) Oh the melodramatic medical mysteries go on and on…
CBS Sunday Morning (CBS, 40 seasons) My Sunday morning ritual continues.
Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Bill Maher, Jim Jeffries, Samantha Bee,
Saturday Night Live alL continue to make me laugh at the news of the day.
Poldark (PBS Season 4, 8 episodes) Aidan Turner continues to ride the Cornwall Bluffs in full romantic hero mode.  Very dashing indeed!
The Durrells in Corfu (PBS Season 3, 8 episodes)  Keeley Hawes continues to enchant as a rather Bohemian mother of 4 trying to live cheaply in Corfu in the years leading up to WWII.

Closing thoughts

It’s good to be home and I have to confess that a head cold has confined me to the couch in case you are wondering how I managed to watch so much TV over the last few days.  It’s hard work, but someone has to do it. Our son and daughter-in-law are on the road to Naples and are driving our car down for us, but unfortunately, a hurricane is threatening along the way.  Best wishes to all who are travelling in these stormy days and  hugs to my friends who are dealing with medical challenges.

We’re off to France…

We will be setting off for our first river cruise up the Rhone from Marseille to Lyon this Friday, but before that I will bring you up to date on my theatre, film and TV recommendations:

Live at Stratford

Coriolanus (Shakespeare, 5 Acts, 3 h., includes 20 min intermission) A gorgeously cinematic production with incredible stage and sound effects. Using projected imagery, live video, sliding diorama-like boxes and panels that converge and dilate in front of the action, he creates stage equivalents of pans and tracking shots, irises, close-ups and letterbox effects.The story of a hero who is brought down by his own arrogance and refusal to pander to the needs of the populace.The always controversial director Robert Lepage breathes new life into this tragic history that was written over 400 years ago. Full disclasure: I managed to stay awake through the whole thing despite my usual reluctance to see anything actually written by Shakespeare at the Stratford Festival!

TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Mini reviews

If Beale Street could Talk ( 1 h 57 min) This powerful film from Barry Jenkins (director of Moonlight) is about injustice towards African Americans told within the context of a love story. Truthfully, I found the film a bit long and slow. There are ongoing shifts in time. Regina King is a standout for her performance as a mother who will not shirk from fighting for her family. A touching story told at a very elegiac pace.
Vox Lux (1 h 50 min) This batshit crazy film is about a pop star who experienced a school shooting as a teenager who becomes a Lady Gaga type performer, sacrificing her innocence and humanity in the process. The audience clapped at the end out of sheer relief that the agony of watching it was over. Full disclosure: this was my afternoon film and I had a very hard time keeping my eyes open so I may have missed the good cohesive bits. All I woke up for were the insane musical numbers.
First Man (2h13min) Hollywood epic about the space race that culminated in Neil Armstrong’s moon walk. Amazing performances by a large ensemble cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Clare Foy, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Patrick Fugit and many others. Breathtaking and mesmerizing. To top it off, the director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, LaLaLand) and the lead actors all appeared at the end of the film for a Q&A. Truly our lucky day!
IMG_0077
Green Book (2 h 10 min) Stars Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini. What a pleasure to watch this delightful film directed by Pete Farelly. A period piece from the early ‘ 60’s, it tells the story of a Bronx based Italian American who is hired to drive a distinguished black pianist on a tour of the southern states. Very touching as these two disparate characters come to understand and appreciate each other. Great comic performances from the leads. Wonderful music score.
The Kindergarten Teacher (2 h 24 min) Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Maggie Gylenhaal. A strange suspenseful tale of obsession as a kindergarten teacher becomes convinced that one of her students is a gifted poet. A little too long and actually painful to watch the last third of the film.
The Front Runner (2 h 6 min) Stars Hugh Jackman and Vera Farmiga. The story of Democratic Presidential candidate Gary Hart’s fall from grace after an extramarital affair is exposed. Full disclosure: this was my afternoon film and I had a very hard time staying awake. I found the film very lacklustre and was disappointed by the less than compelling portrait painted of Gary Hart. Even Hugh Jackman’s natural charisma couldn’t shine through in this very dull film.

Streaming

Active Measures (2018, documentary, 1 h 49 min)  Directed by Jack Bryan, this doc gives you incredible footage of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his attacks on the 2016 American Presidential Election in collaboration with the Trump Campaign.  If you found Ozark educational on the subject of money laundering, you will continue your education as the Russian oligarchs use Trump’s real estate empire as a way of cleaning their money.  All your favourites from the Trump Swamp are featured including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Steve Bannon, Jvanka, etc.

Harrow (Australian Miniseries, 10 episodes) Stars Ioan Gruffudd as a forensic pathologist.  Great fun to watch a weekly mystery entwined with on ongoing murder investigation into Harrow’s ex-wife’s husband’s disappearance and murder.

Amazon

Forever (2018, 8 episodes) Hilarious show stars Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph as a suburban couple whose life goes disastrously off course when they alter their vacation plans.

Netflix

The Land of Steady Habits (2018, 1 h 38 min) Ben Mendelson stars as a man whose midlife crisis triggers a series of unfortunate events in his Connecticut neighbourhood.
Atypical (Season 2, 8 episodes) Sweet ongoing story of a family coping with the struggles of their Asperger’s syndrome son to find a girlfriend.

FX

Mayans M.C. (2018, 10 episodes) Sequel to Sons of Anarchy concentrating on a Hispanic motorcycle club in Southern California with strong ties to Mexican cartels.

HBO

You Are Here: A Come from Away Story (2018, 1 h)What a wonderful behind the scenes documentary this is as it shows the real people behind the story of the moving Broadway musical when 7000 travellers were stranded in Gander, NfLd on 9/11. Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe:
Kidding (2018, 10 episodes) Stars Jim Carrey, Catherine Keener, Frank Langella. Jim Carrey plays a Mr. Rogers type children’s TV entertainer trying to cope with the loss of a child and the dissolution of his marriage.
Outcast (2018, 10 episodes)  This batshit crazy show isn’t done yet with its strange tale of demonic possession.

Bookgroup Choice

Hemingway’s Legend lives on!
I have been on a bit of a Hemingway tear this week as one of my book groups is reading Love and Ruin by Paula McLain, the story of Martha Gellhorn and her relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Frankly I found the book a long and tedious read as it focuses on two obsessive personalities who have a disastrous marriage that almost destroys both of them. I wanted to learn a little more about both writers, so naturally I turned to a couple of recent bio. flicks:
Hemingway and Gellhorn (HBO Original 2012, available on demand, 2h 35 min) Ouch! Was this film starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen ever long and painful to watch. No chemistry between the two leads and ludicrous dialogue. Both characters come off as ridiculous stereotypes madly loving and hating each other as they pursue careers as war correspondents between scenes of passionate lovemaking. Just indescribably awful.
Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (Netflix 2015, 1h 59 min)Also a little painful to watch. Very low budget starring Giovanni Ribisi as a young writer whom Hemingway mentors at the end of his life and career.

Audible.com

Defending Jacob novel by William Landay.  There are two types of suspense that run through Defending Jacob, a courtroom drama that hinges on the murder of a high school boy.  The first comes from trying to guess who killed him.  The second comes from wondering whether this book’s author, William Landay, a former district attorney with two well-received novels behind him, will become the next Scott Turow.  Great listen for us, as we tried to predict where this very surprising novel would turn next.

AMC

Better Call Saul (Season 4, 10 episodes) Great prequel to Breaking Bad.
Lodge 49 (10 episodes) Whimsical series about a surfer dude who finds himself and a purpose in life when he joins a strange fraternal lodge full of quirky characters.

FX

American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2018, 8 episodes) After a nuclear attack, a select few must survive in a bunker dubbed Outpost Three ruled by a tyrannical matriarch.  Great cast includes Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, etc.  Totally batshit crazy!! From Ryan Murphy.

Showcase

The Sinner (2018, Season 2, 8 episodes) Great mystery series about why ordinary people commit brutal crimes.  Stars Bill Pullman, Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts.

Superchannel

Mr. Mercedes (2018, Season 2, 10 episodes) Great suspense series that continues the story of a psychopath who drove his car into a crowd of people.  Great cast includes Harry Treadaway, Holland Taylor, Brendan Gleeson, Jack Huston, Nancy Travis.

Comic Relief

Most of my faves are back from hiatus:  Colbert, Noah, Maher, Bee, Jeffries, Oliver.  I find their comic take on daily events to be very therapeutic.

Closing Words

Don’t forget to watch the Emmy Awards when they air Monday night at 8 pm on NBC.  I probably won’t be watching much TV or seeing many movies in the next while, but I do hope to take in a few plays in London where we will spend the last 4 days of our trip.  The leaves are turning here and I anticipate that our trip back to Toronto tomorrow will feature some beautiful colour.  Enjoy your week wherever you are!  Special hugs to our friends in the US who are experiencing Tropical Storm Florence and to our friends dealing with medical challenges.