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.

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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!
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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.

After MIFF, comes TIFF…

TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) is here! But before that excitement begins, we are off to see a matinee of Coriolanus today at Stratford and then we will spend our week tromping back and forth around downtown Toronto as we see 6 films in five days. We are very excited!

Live at Stratford

Coriolanus (William Shakespeare, written between 1605-1608) Director Robert Lepage’s revisioning brilliantly brings Shakespeare into the present, thanks to skilfully layered scenic projection and sound design.  A longtime friend advised me that this is the play of the decade at Stratford.  Although I generally favour the musicals and comedies and generally avoid Shakespeare (usually a very expensive nap for me), we are seeing an actual Shakespeare play today.  Can’t wait!!

On the Big Screen at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival)

Full disclosure: (so many people ask me what I’m going to see that I can’t keep track, so here’s a list so that I don’t forget which films we scheduled.  I will do mini-reviews next week)
If Beale Street Could Talk ( 2018, 1 h 57 min) A woman in Harlem desperately scrambles to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime while carrying their first child. Starring Regina King, Stephen Beach.
Vox Lux (2018 1 h 50 min) An unusual set of circumstances brings unexpected success to a pop star.  Staring Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Jennifer Ehle.
First Man (2018, 2 h 18 min) A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.  Starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Pablo Schreiber, Ethan Embry, Ciaran Hinds.
Green Book (2018, 2 h 10 min) A working class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960’s American South. Starring Linda Cardellini, Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen.
The Kindergarten Teacher (2018, 1 h 36 min) A kindergarten teacher in NYC becomes obsessed with one of her students who she believes is a child prodigy.  Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael Garcia Bernal.
The Front Runner (2018, 1 h 53 min) American Senator Gary Hart’s presidential campaign in 1988 is derailed when he’s caught in a scandalous love affair.  Stars Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons.

Amazon

Jack Ryan (Season 1, 8 episodes) Highly entertaining action series set in the Middle East. John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce make a fine pair of CIA counterterrorism officers. If you are missing Homeland, Deep State, Berlin Station, etc., you might like this one.

Streaming

Agatha Christie’s  Ordeal by Innocence (2018, originally aired on BBC 1, 3 episodes)  Christmas 1954. Wealthy philanthropist Rachel Argyll is murdered at her family estate Sunny Point.  Her adopted son Jack Argyll is arrested for her murder. But who really did it?  Stars Bill Nighy, Matthew Goode, Luke Treadaway.
Harrow (2018, originally aired on Australia Broadcasting Corp and will air on Hulu in the US, 10 episodes) Harrow tells the story of Dr. Daniel Harrow, a forensic pathologist with a total disregard for authority.  Stars Ioan Gruffudd.  If you liked House, Chance, Quincy and numerous other medical  mystery series, you will like this. Also it’s filmed in beautiful Australia!!!

AMC

Better Call Saul (2018, Season 4, 10 episodes) The trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer, Jimmy McGill, in the time leading up to establishing his strip-mall law office in Albuquerque, NM.  Prequel to Breaking Bad.  Stars Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito.
Lodge 49 (2018, 10 episodes) Dud finds himself deposited by fate at the doorstep of Lodge 49, a dusty fraternal order that offers cheap beer and strange alchemical philosophies.  Whimsical to the max!! Stars Wyatt Russell.

Bravo

Queen of the South (Season 3, 13 episodes) Ultraviolent action series about a woman climbing the food chain of drug cartels as she flees Mexico for the US.  Stars Alice Braga.

CNN

RBG (1 h 38 min, Documentary Biography) The exceptional life and career of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. Inspiring film about a brilliant and hardworking lawyer who has fought for liberal causes throughout her entire life.

HBO

Outcast (2017, Season 2, 10 Episodes) Batshit crazy series about demonic possession.  Stars Patrick Fugit, Philip Glenister.

Netflix

Ozark (2018, Season 2, 10 episodes) A Chicago-based financial advisor relocates his family to the Missouri Ozarks when his dealings with a drug cartel go awry.  A thrill ride and you will learn helpful tips about money laundering!
Deadwind (2018, Season 1, 12 episodes) When Sofia Karppi, a detective in her 30’s who is trying to get over her husband’s death, discovers the body of a young woman on a construction site, she triggers a chain of events that threatens to destroy her life again.  Filmed in beautiful but grey Finland.
The Innocents (2018, 8 episodes) When teenagers Harry and June run away from their repressive families to be together, they’re derailed by an extraordinary discovery – June’s ability to shape-shift.  Way too juvenile for me, but if you are a sci fi fan, you may enjoy it.  Stars Guy Pearce.

Showcase

The Sinner (2018, Season 2, 8 episodes) Anthology series that examines how and why ordinary people commit brutal crimes.  Stars Bill Pullman, Carrie Coon.

Superchannel

Mr. Mercedes (2018, Season 2, 10 episodes)  Continues to tell the story of a psychopathic killer who drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd and a recently retired detective who tries to bring him down.  Stars Harry Treadaway (twin brother of Luke, who appears in Ordeal by Innocence above), Holland Taylor, Brendan Gleeson.  Incredibly intriguing suspense series.

Comic Relief

Colbert, Noah, Maher, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries.  They all make me laugh at the insanity of the day.

Closing Words

It’s going to be a wild week of theatre and film going.  We are looking forward to TIFF with great anticipation.  Even standing in line is fun as you get to talk to people who come from all over the world to see over 250 films on display. The weather has turned here in Thornbury and there is a definite chill in the air.  Bundle up when you go out and remember to watch for the colours as they turn.  Have a wonderful week wherever you are.  Special hugs to all my friends who are facing medical challenges.

Summer Ends when MIFF Arrives…..

A great week in the Thornbury/Meaford area as summer comes to a close. The Meaford International Film Festival (MIFF) has been running and we were able to see two films; we visited Fabbrica, the new Mark McEwan restaurant in Thornbury; my movie club convened to watch a great documentary together, Jane. Sadly, my post from last week never got published, so I will do a little recapping in this edition.

MIFF

Rumble:  The Indians who Rocked The World (2017, Feature Documentary, 1 h 43 min) This film is about the role of indigenous North Americans in popular music history.  A revelation that features many native performers such as Robbie Robertson, Buffy Sainte Marie and many others.  Great Q & A following the film where Canadian performer Tom Wilson talked about his indigenous roots and how they are reflected in his work.
In the Fade (2017, 1 h 46 min) Diane Kruger gives a mesmerizing performance as Katja, whose life collapses after the death of her husband and son in a bomb attack.  After a time of mourning and injustice, Katja seeks revenge.  Incredibly moving and powerful.

On the Big Screen

Won’t You be my Neighbour (2018 Feature Documentary, 1 h 34 min) A moving exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children’s television host, Fred Rogers.  You will weep with admiration for this very gentle man.

Netflix

In Darkness (2018 Netflix Original Feature film, 1 h 40 min) A blind musician hear a murder committed in the apartment upstairs from hers that sends her down a dark path into London’s gritty criminal underworld.  Natalie Dormer is mesmerizing in this deeply flawed mystery.
Deadwind (2018 Finnish TV Series, 12 episodes)  When Sofia Karppi, a detective in her 30’s who is trying to get over her husband’s death, discovers the body of a young woman on a construction site, she triggers a chain of events that threatens to destroy her life again.  Very Scandinavian noir for lovers of this genre.  Boy, does Finland ever look cold and grey!
Ozark (Netflix Original Series, Season 2, 10 episodes) A Chicago-based financial advisor secretly relocates his family to the Missouri Ozarks when his dealings with a drug cartel go awry.  Starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, this darkly comedic suspense series will appeal to fans of Breaking Bad, Animal Kingdom, etc.  Who knew money laundering would become such a popular theme in TV and movies? Here’s what John Doyle had to say about it in the Globe:
The Innocents (Netflix Original Series, 8 episodes) When teenagers Harry and June run away from their repressive families to be together, they’re derailed by an extraordinary discovery – June’s ability to shape-shift. A scientist tries to capture her and discover the key to her power.  Stars Guy Pearce as the scientist.  I’m not sure if I will stay with this Young Adult oriented series.  The research community is based in Norway, so it does have a bit of a Scandinavian feel to it, but it’s aimed at a pretty juvenile audience and has a Romeo and Juliet romance theme to it as well.

Streaming

Jane (2017 (Feature Documentary about Jane Goodall, 1 h 30 min)  The life and work of the renowned primatology scientist, especially on her research about chimpanzees.  You will admire her lifelong dedication to her work in Africa and her more recent attempts to alert the world to the dangers that nature now faces.
Get Shorty ( 2018 originally aired on Epix, Season 2 10 episodes) The adventures of mobster-turned-movie producer in Hollywood.  The TV series is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel and subsequent film.  Darkly hilarious.  Stars Irish actor Chris O’Dowd. I love this show with its hilarious observations on Hollywood.
Hereditary (2018, Feature film, 2 h 7 min) After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences and begins to unravel dark secrets.  I was wary of this one as I had read that it is extremely frightening, but I managed to only scream out loud twice during my viewing.  Toni Collette is terrific as the tortured mom and Gabriel Byrne is his usual fine self as the grounded husband.  Scary, but not unbearably so.  No nightmares yet.
Animal Kingdom (originally aired on TNT, Season 3, 13 episodes)  I will miss this one.  J has come into his own by the last episode and sets up the next season for more mayhem for this California crime family.  You can catch previous seasons of this on Netflix if you haven’t discovered it yet.
Younger (originally aired on TVLand, Season 5, 12 episodes) Oh how I have enjoyed this series about a 40-something pretending to be 20-something to get and keep a job in the publishing world in NYC.  By season 5, the secret is pretty much out there, but Liza and Charles are forced to keep their relationship discreet in the face of the Me Too movement. From Darren Starr, producer of Sex and the City).

Amazon

Jack Ryan (2018 Original Amazon Series, 8 episodes) Up and coming CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, is thrust into a dangerous field assignment as he uncovers a pattern in terrorist communication that launches him into the centre of a dangerous gambit.  Full disclosure:  I intended to binge on this one, but got sucked into Ozark instead.  The weather has been glorious forcing me to read a book (Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan) by the pool instead of spending time on my couch, but I intend to give this series a look the first chance I get!!  Stars John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce and looks incredibly entertaining in the absence of Homeland, Deep State, etc. For those of you watching Killing Eve (the incredibly entertaining show from BBC that stars Sandra Oh as an MI6 analyst who is thrown into the field to capture a dangerous assassin) this may provide an interesting contrast.

AMC

Preacher (2018, Season 3, 10 episodes) Well, this batshit crazy series has finished its 3rd season now.  Too crazy to really summarize, a preacher enlists the help of a vampire and his ex to find God.  Great cast features Dominic Cooper, Josh Gilgun and Ruth Negga.  Very dark comedy and relentlessly, cartoonishly violent.
Better Call Saul (2018, Season 4, 10 episodes) This touching prequel to Breaking Bad shows the development of criminal lawyer, Jimmy McGill, in the time leading up to establishing his strip-mall law office in Albuquerque, NM.  Great performances from Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito, etc.
Lodge 49 (2018, 10 episodes) Quirky and whimsical to the max, Dud finds himself deposited by fate at the doorstep of Lodge 49, a dusty fraternal order that offers cheap beer and strange alchemical philosophies.  As my husband and I owe an awful lot to fraternal orders (George was CEO of Foresters, a life insurance company with a fraternal component), I felt duty-bound to watch this one and am enjoying it tremendously.  Stars Wyatt Russell (son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, if you are wondering why he seems so familiar).

Bravo

Queen of the South (2018, Season 3, 13 episodes)  Relentlessly dark and violent. this series follows the story of Teresa who flees Mexico after her drug-runner boyfriend is murdered.  Settling in Dallas she looks to become the country’s reigning drug smuggler and to avenge her lover’s murder.  Alice Braga is wonderful in the role of Teresa.

FX

The Tunnel: Vengeance (2018, Season 3, 6 episodes) This is the third and final season for the British/French series featuring Karl Roebuck and Elise Wasserman.  In this season, they investigate a dark crime that takes place on the murky waters of the Channel as a burning fishing boat turns into a new case for them.  Stephen Dilane and Clemency Poesy give great performances as the two detectives.  Adapted from The Bridge, the great Swedish series featuring Danish and Swedish detectives.  If you like Scandinavian noir, you will love this series.

HBO

Sharp Objects (2018, 8 episodes) Directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallee and starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Henry Czerny, etc. I must honestly admit that I was grateful to see the end of this very slow-burning series.  A reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.  Watch the last episode very closely, watch all of the closing credits, before you turn this one off.  Many revelations are made.  I was very disappointed by the ponderous nature of this show and found it way too slow.  It looks like a new season will follow.
The Affair (2018, Season 4, 8 episodes) Great performances from Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney, Joshua Jackson.  This very sad season results in some big changes for the characters as we continue to follow the fallout that happens when a struggling novelist and a young waitress strike up an extramarital relationship that forever changes the course of their lives.
Outcast (2018, Originally aired on Cinemax, Season 2, 10 episodes) Batshit crazy and dark tale of a young man who searches for answers as to why he’s been suffering from supernatural possessions his entire life.  Demons abound in this murky story.

PBS

Betty White First Lady of Television (2018, TV Documentary, 57 min) A look at Betty White’s life and career features behind-the-scenes clips of her work on television and comments from her friends and co-stars.  You will marvel at the longevity  of this incredible performer whose credits go right back to the earliest days of TV.  She is still performing into her 90’s.
Frontline:  Documenting Hate: Charlottesville (2018, Season 37, Episode 2)  In this 1 hour documentary, Frontline and ProPublica investigate the white supremacists and neo-Nazis involved in the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.  Unnervingly disturbing as it reveals that one participant was an active-duty Marine and that another worked for a major defence contractor and held a US government security clearance.  This doc shows how some of those behind the racist violence went unpunished and continued to operate around the country.  This is the first in a series of two Documenting Hate films from Frontline and ProPublia, with the second coming later this fall.

Showcase

The Sinner (2018, Season 2, 8 episodes)  A troubled detective returns to his hometown to investigate why a young boy would kill his parents.  Stars Bill Pullman and Carrie Coon.  Intriguing and powerful.

Space

Castle Rock (2018, 11 episodes).Based on the stories of Stephen King, this series will intertwine characters and themes from the fictional town of Castle Rock.  Stars Andre Holland, Melanie Lynsey, Bill Skarsgard, Sissy Spacek, Scott Glenn, Terry O’Quinn.  Dark and disturbing.

Superchannel

Harlots (Originally aired on Hulu, 2017, Season 2, 8 episodes) Brothel owner Margaret Wells struggles to keep her business going despite unfair competition.  Samantha Morto, Lesley Manville, Jessica Brown Findlay, Liv Tyler star.  Very dark and raucous!
Mr. Mercedes (Originally aired on Audience, 2018, Season 2, 8 episodes)  Continues the story of a psychopathic killer who drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd and a recently retired detective who tries to bring him down. Stars Harry Treadaway, Holland Taylor, Brendan Gleeson, Jack Huston.  Very dark and murky.  Based on the work of Stephen King.

Comic Relief

OMG, so many comedians on holidays!  Only Jim Jeffries was working this week, but Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah should all be returning from hiatus this week to come.

 

Zen Moment

As I had so many technical difficulties publishing this blog last week, I kept my TV off this morning and just concentrated on this piece, so I haven’t watched CBS Sunday Morning yet and so look forward to it.

Closing Words

As the new Fall TV Season is just beginning, here is a little summary from The Daily Beast of 40 shows you might want to watch:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/40-new-fall-tv-shows-youve-got-to-see-jim-carrey-julia-roberts-murphy-brown-and-more

Have a wonderful week wherever you are.  We are looking forward to our usual activities (mahjong, golf, trip to Stratford next weekend to see Coriolanus).  Special hugs to those dealing with medical challenges.

The New Fall shows are coming…

It’s been another wonderful week in Thornbury.  I’ve had a few great dinners with friends, went to two newish restaurants in the area (St Louis Bar and Grill and dinner at The Orchid), went to see an actual movie in a real  movie theatre, played golf and mahjong, went to the local Antiques Fair, and caught up with programs I was curious about on Netflix. There are some new show alerts coming up very soon.  Watch for Jack Ryan which debuts on Amazon Prime on August 31; The Sinner Season 2 debuts this Monday Aug 20 at 10 pm on Showcase; Ozark Season 2 on HBO debuts on Netflix on Aug. 31; The Deuce Season 2 on HBO debuts on Sept. 9 and there will be many other new and returning shows debuting soon.  I’ve included a link to a handy article from Deadline Hollywood for your easy reference.  Here are my recommendations for the week to come.

Here is your Fall TV Preview from Deadline Hollywood:

On the Big Screen

Crazy Rich Asians (feature film 2 hrs) I loved this totally frothy romantic comedy.  I had read the first novel in the trilogy on audible.com and really enjoyed it.  The film follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s incredibly wealthy family. Just a delightful film that introduces us to a society of extremely wealthy and comically idiosyncratic Singaporeans.  Trip to Singapore to follow!  Also sit through the ending credits as there is a bonus scene to the film and make a dinner reservation for afterwards at the best Chinese restaurant in the area as you will have an immediate craving for Chinese food.

Netflix

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (feature film 2hrs 4 min)  What a delight to see a book I really enjoyed turned into a film rather than a tedious miniseries that expands the story into 5 or 6 hours.  This film takes place in the aftermath of World War II, as a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island.  She decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.  A beautiful story of love, friendship and the sadness of friends lost. Just in case you don’t use the IMDB application, you will see many familiar faces from Downton Abbey in this one:  Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil Crawley), Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot), Lily James (Lady Rose) and Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley).  For Game of Thrones fans watch for Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis).
House Doctor (43 min, 20 episodes)  I loved the original version of this show starring Ann Maurice which ran from 1998-2000.  The concept of an American designer travelling around the UK helping hapless homeowners stage their homes for sale was delightful as a fish out of water series where two cultures clash.  It has been revived with a new host (Tracy Metro) who again crisscrosses Britain to help homeowners sell their houses.  I now fast forward from the introduction to the reveal and thus was able to binge my way through 20 episodes of home staging UK style.  Just loved it and found the new brash host to be very entertaining.
Jack Taylor (Irish mystery series, 1 hr 30 min, 9 episodes) I only binged on this one because I am a huge fan of  Iain Glen and I ache for his return to Game of Thrones); the episodes are strangely slow-paced, there are meandering plot lines and inexplicable voiceover narration. However, It makes for great afternoon nap watching.  Just put on an episode, cover yourself with an afghan on your most comfortable couch and see how long you can manage to keep your eyes open.  Very soothing.

Streaming

Jane (documentary, 1 hr 30 min) The life and work of the renowned primatology scientist, Jane Goodall, especially on her research about chimpanzees.  I am looking forward to watching this one as I have been an admirer of Goodall since I saw the first articles about her work and life in National Geographic.
Younger (sitcom, 5 seasons, 30 min) Oh my, Liza has been passing as a millennial for 5 seasons now in order to work in the publishing field.  Her secret is getting out quickly and the last episode of this season is about to air this week. So enjoyable!
Animal Kingdom ( 1 hr drama, 3 seasons) The last episode of this season airs this week.  Oh my, J has turned into quite the ruthless killer in this breathtakingly ruthless family of criminals.  Ellen Barkin will literally take your breath away as the family matriarch who will not hesitate to kill one of her children if necessary.

HBO

Battle of the Sexes (feature film, 2 hrs) I have recorded this one for later viewing.  Starring Emma Stone, Steve Carell and Andrea Riseborough.  The film tells the true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.
Outcast (2 seasons, 1 hr) This series falls under the batshit crazy category adapted from a comic book.  Demons are possessing people in this doomed town.  A demon-hunter is a total outsider here.  I dare you to try and make sense of this show.
Sharp Objects (Season 1, 8 episodes) A reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.  A slow burn of a series that meanders between past and present.  Painfully slow to watch, but features a great cast including Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson.  Last episode airs tonight.

AMC

Better Call Saul (Season 4, 10 episodes) The trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer, Jimmy McGill, in the time leading up to establishing his strip-mall law office in Albuquerque, NM.  Great performances from Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito, etc.  If you liked Breaking Bad, you will love this series.
Lodge 49 (Season 1, 10 episodes) Surfer dude joins a Fraternal order.  Quirky and strangely appealing.  I am loving this one.  The star, Wyatt Russell is the son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell if you can’t figure out why he seems strangely familiar.
Preacher (Season 3, 10 episodes) Another entry in the batshit crazy category adapted from a comic book. After a supernatural event at his church, a preacher enlists the help of a vampire and his ex to find God.  I think that says it all!

Bravo

Queen of the South (Season 3, 13 episodes) This series tells the powerful story of Teresa Mendoza, a woman who is forced to run and seek refuge in America after her drug-dealing boyfriend is unexpectedly murdered in Mexico.  In the process, she teams up with an unlikely figure from her past to bring down the leader of the very drug trafficking ring that has her on the run. Powerful and unrelentingly violent.

Comic Relief

I still seek daily relief from the Trumpocalypse by watching Colbert, Noah, Maher, Bee, Jeffries, Oliver and most recently Sacha Baron Cohen in Who is America?  OK, I’ll admit that Cohen’s series is actually more painful to watch than the reality it’s supposed to be providing relief from.  Cringeworthy!!

Zen Moment

CBS Sunday Morning which has been airing every Sunday morning at 9 am since 1979 is my weekly 90 minutes of information and inspiration. Stay tuned for the final moment of nature if you want to get your week off to a peaceful start.

Closing Words

I am headed back to Toronto this evening to join a group of lady friends on an outing to beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake tomorrow.  Later in the week we have friends coming to stay with us in Thornbury and we will have dinner with them and other local friends as our summer comes rapidly to an end.  Another friend is hosting an art event in the area that I will attend and we will gather after at a newish restaurant in Meaford that I have yet to make it to (Gio and Fran’s).  Enjoy the beautiful late summer weather wherever you are.  Hugs to my friends dealing with medical challenges.

A New Week Begins…

Well, it’s been an interesting week.  We got to see a very funny and touching Norm Foster play in Collingwood. Our mahjong group had a delightful lunch in Collingwood before playing this week. I have been exploring Netflix shows I was curious about and I got to join my Toronto fitness group for a catch up coffee session. I played my usual brand of struggling golf 3 times this past week. Lots of variety.  Here are some recommendations for you:

Audible.com

We finally finished listening to Kompromat a comic novel by Stanley Johnson (father of Boris).  What started out as a giggle worthy idea (Russian interference in Brexit and the 2016 US Election) turned out to be interminably silly and drawn out.  Way too long!

 

Actual  book on paper!

The Other Woman (Daniel Silva)  I received a copy of this book when I went to hear Daniel Silva on his book tour in Toronto in July.  I found this 18th novel featuring Gabriel Allon a little slow getting started, but the last half of the book moved more quickly.  Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about it:

The actions of real-life British intelligence agent Kim Philby, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963, drive bestseller Silva’s excellent 18th novel featuring Israeli art restorer and spy Gabriel Allon (after 2017’s House of Spies). Israel’s intelligence division, known as the Office, is running an operation to save blown Russian agent Konstantin Kirov, one of Israeli’s most valuable sources, and bring him to sanctuary in the U.K. When the operation goes bad, Gabriel and his team are drawn into a meticulously planned mission, involving both MI6 and the CIA, to unearth one of the Kremlin’s highest-placed moles. Meanwhile, in Andalusia, a French journalist starts writing a memoir called The Other Woman, which contains the key to the mystery that Gabriel must solve. Philby, who died in Moscow three decades earlier in 1988, turns out to be at the bottom of it. In recent years, a number of thriller authors have focused on Philby, but Silva’s treatment of him may be the most complex and fascinating yet. Readers will be enthralled by both the history and the up-to-the-minute plot that Silva spins with such finesse.

 

And all the other shows I’m watching

Outcast (HBO)
Preacher (AMC)
Animal Kingdom (Streaming)
Younger (Streaming)
Queen of the South (Bravo)
Castle Rock (Space)
Harlots (Superchannel)

For those of you wondering how I try and keep track of new shows debuting and returning show dates

There are a number of websites and blogs I look at to keep track of what is new and returning.  I usually check Deadline: Hollywood on a daily basis as well as Entertainment Weekly, the Daily Beast, etc. You can do a simple Google search for new show and returning show dates and you’ll get a quick update on how to keep track of shows you are following.

Comic Relief

Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Bill Maher, John Oliver are all among my favourites.  OK, we have also been watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show Who is America, but frankly it is too uncomfortably cringe inducing for me to enjoy, and I hesitate to call it comedy as he cruelly entraps his victims into revealing their prejudice and ignorance as he interviews them using alter egos.

Zen Moment

CBS Sunday Morning (9 -10:30 am Sunday) is my reward to myself every Sunday morning.  It has been airing since 1979 and does personal interest pieces.  Jane Pauley is currently hosting and does a great job setting a relaxing tone.  Calming, soothing and inspiring.  Treat yourself!

Closing Words

The week ahead features golf, mahjong, dinners with friends, etc.  I’m going to stay up in Thornbury while my hubby heads back to the city for commitments.  It’s a glorious day here and I’m looking forward to another night of stargazing from our backyard as we try to watch the Perseid meteor showers. Enjoy this beautiful summer weather wherever you are.  Special hugs to my friends dealing with medical challenges.

On holidays in Thornbury…

It’s been a week of pure R&R in beautiful Thornbury.  We ran errands in Owen Sound and Barrie, and attended to household chores that are often neglected in pursuit of golf and social gatherings.  We actually lay by our pool reading, walked down to the pier in the evening and met up with friends for an after dinner ice cream at one of 3 ice cream emporiums that are within walking distance of our house.  Of course, I did manage to make time to catch up on some viewing and here are some recommendations;

 

Netflix

In Order of Disappearance (feature film, 1 hr 55min) This wonderful black comedy from Norway stars Stellan Skarsgard as a snow plough operator who seeks vengeance for the mob killing of his innocent son.  He has a remarkable natural ability for murder and in the process of eliminating all those involved in his son’s death, he manages to provoke a war between the Serbian mob and the local gang boss.  Hilarious!! I highly recommend this hidden gem of a film.  Beautiful photography of snowy Norway is an added bonus.
Ingrid Goes West (feature film, 1 hour 38 min) This is another hidden gem black comedy about an unhinged social media stalker Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza from Parks & Rec) who moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star (Elizabeth Olsen).  Quite the dark portrait of today’s social media obsessed generation who measure their success in numbers of “likes” and who pursue a curated life.

Streaming

First Reformed (feature film 1 hr 53 min) Starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried, this film centres on a priest of a small congregation in upstate New York who grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.  Written and directed by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver).  This is a very serious film about a crisis of faith and it has some surreal surprises which will make you wonder quite what the director intends. A great film for a discussion group.
The Halcyon (mini series from British ITV, 8 episodes) Starring Steven Mackintosh and Olivia Williams, this series was supposed to be the next Downton Abbey, but was sadly cancelled after one season.  However, I am quite enjoying this story of a bustling and glamorous five star hotel at the centre of London society and a world at war. It definitely has an upstairs/downstairs quality to it as we veer between the toffs and the staff of the hotel.
Avengers: Infinity War (feature film, 2 hrs 29 min) Oh my gosh! Our visiting son has actually gotten us to watch a superheroes film from the world of Marvel.  As this is one genre my husband usually refuses to watch, it was preceded by a short Youtube video bringing the uninitiated into the world of Marvel superheroes to catch up on the previous films. We have attempted to watch this film several times and basically were only able to screen the first 5 minutes or so before technical difficulties prevented us from continuing.  It will be an ongoing project this week and hopefully our server will behave.

New Series Alert

Lodge 49 (10 episode miniseries debuts Monday at 10 pm on AMC) Starring Wyatt Russell (son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, who also has a major role in Ingrid Goes West) This series is about a young guy from Long Beach who joins a local fraternal group, Lodge 49. This is supposed to be a surreal black comedy and has had fairly good advance press.

Series Return

Better Call Saul (Season 4, 10 episodes returns Monday at 9 pm on AMC)
We are still waiting for Jimmy to become Saul in this spin-off prequel to Breaking Bad.  Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about it:

Favourites all available on demand

Succession HBO
The Affair HBO
The 100 The CW
Outcast HBO
Preacher AMC
Animal Kingdom Streaming
Younger Streaming
Queen of the South Bravo

Comic Relief

Oh how I need my political satirists: Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Bill Maher and John Oliver.  We can only laugh as we reflect on the events of the day.

Zen Moment

I am about to reward myself for writing this blog by tuning in to my CBS Sunday Morning show which always informs and inspires and ends in a joyous moment of nature.

Closing Words

The past week has been relaxing and restful.  We got to attend a supper/concert at the Meaford Hall for a friend’s musical ensemble and tonight we will attend Thornbury’s weekly Jazz in the Park concert and enjoy a pot luck supper with friends. The week to come in Toronto will be full of doctor and dentist appointments as well as a fitness class with my longtime pals. We’ve also had our son up here for the long weekend and have enjoyed some wonderful meals with him. The hot weather continues, so enjoy the week ahead wherever you are.  Special hugs to friends facing medical challenges.

Culture Week in Toronto and Stratford

It was a very enjoyable week that included a terrific book talk with one of my favourite thriller writers and a 2-day escape to the Stratford Festival to see 3 plays. I had to squeeze in my TV and movie addictions in the remaining available time:

Live on Stage at the Stratford Festival

Rocky Horror Show This wonderful musical has never been presented with more life and spirit. Great performances abound from all the major characters. The dance sequences are spectacular and the stage settings are great fun as we experience a rainstorm, bumpy car rides, a Transylvanian castle, mad scientist’s lab, etc.
An Ideal Husband This Oscar Wilde play is a little more serious than many of his comedies as it deals with a politician’s ethics as he is being blackmailed for using insider information to enrich himself. Beautiful costumes and terrific sets and set changes that are so magically done that the audience applauds.
The Music Man This wonderful Meredith Wilson musical from 1957 is given new life by a black leading man who manages to bring real soul to the part. Incredible dance numbers accompany each big show stopping number. Virtually every song is melodic and memorable. A tremendous salute to a simpler time in a simpler place (small town Iowa at the turn of the century).
Here’s what the NYTimes had to say about both the musicals:

Big Screen

Ocean’s 8 (feature film, 1 hr 50 min); delightful caper flick starring Sandra Bulloch, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, etc. Richard Armitage (Berlin Station, Strike Back) is the villain. James Corden makes a very humorous appearance as an insurance investigator.
Missionary Impossible: Fallout (feature film, 2hrs 27min); non-stop action as Ethan Hunt fights to stop an anarchist from destroying the world with a nuke. Great music and effects. Tom Cruise looks awfully good for a 59-year-old. Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan, and Vanessa Kirby are the three femmes fatales. Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett are all involved. Henry Cavill is big and muscular as the CIA agent Ethan is forced to partner with.

Book Talk

Daniel Silva at the Beth Tzedec. This wonderful evening at one of Toronto’s biggest and most beautiful synagogues featured a terrific interview with Silva conducted by the Toronto Star’s books editor and attended by 1000 admiring fans. Silva has written 18 novels featuring art restorer/Mossad agent Gabriel Allon as the hero. The novels are fast paced but also great character studies. They deal with situations torn from the headlines of terrorism, Russian espionage, etc. As a bonus for attending the Silva session, we all received copies of The Other Woman, his latest novel.
The Other Woman novel by Dan Silva; we’re back in the world of intrigue with Gabriel Allon and the Mossad. I have dived into the latest novel and am devouring it as Gabriel fights to clear his name after being framed by the Russians for murdering a defector.

Audible.com

Kompromat by Stanley Johnson We couldn’t resist ordering this comic political espionage novel when we found out it had been written by Stanley Johnson, father of Boris. Johnson has published 25 various fiction and non-fiction works and was an EU diplomat for much of his career.  The novel is a hoot to listen to as the narrator, Richard Attlee, manages to do a myriad of accents representing all the countries in the European Union plus Russian, American, Australian, etc. The novel deals with Russian interference in both Brexit and the US election. It is extremely silly in its farcical elements. Who would believe a US presidential candidate cozying up to the Russian president and having a listening device implanted in his body as a result? A real roman a clef that has great fun with all the politicians involved. Johnson pokes fun at his own son Boris as he describes his extreme ambition to become Prime Minister. A rollicking satire of current events.

My usual addictions

The Affair HBO
Dietland AMC
Preacher AMC
Succession HBO
Pose FX
Younger Streaming
Animal Kingdom Streaming
Queen of the South Bravo
Colony Bravo
Outcast HBO
The 100 The CW
Nashville W
All of the above are available on demand for catching up with your viewing.

Streaming

I Feel Pretty (feature film, 1 hr 30 min) This very silly movie stars Amy Shumer as an overweight young woman who bonks her head and becomes delusional about how ravishingly attractive she is. Cringe inducing comedy ensues. Kind of an interesting companion piece to Dietland  which is a much darker comedic look at issues of body image and fat shaming.
Blockers (feature film, 1 hr 30 min)Extremely silly teen comedy with a great cast (Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena) that unfortunately is built around a painfully unfunny plot about parents trying to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. Ouch! I’m still cringing with embarrassment for all the actors involved.
Junun (feature film, 54 min) This documentary from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread, Inherent Vice, The Master, There Will be Blood, etc.) is mesmerizing as it shows a collaboration between an Israeli composer, an Indian band and Radiohead musician Jonny Greenwood filmed in a historic fort in Jodhpur, Rajahstan, India.No narration, interview questions, or captions. Very little dialogue. The focus is on beautiful photography of the area and the power of the music.

Netflix

Binged on Seasons 1 & 2 of Bonus Family, a wonderful Swedish series about the joys and sorrows of blended families. Touching and funny.

Comic Relief

I am still glued to my political satirists including Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Jim Jeffries, Samantha Bee, Sacha Baron Cohen (Who is America), and returning from hiatus tonight on HBO, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Moment of Zen

I’ll be recording my Sunday morning ritual, CBS Sunday Morning, today as we are headed out to meet longtime friends for breakfast.  I find this show both soothing and inspiring with its gentle profiles and human interest stories. Be sure to stay tuned for its final moment of nature to get your week ahead off to a great start.  It will make you feel happy to be alive.

Closing Words

It should be a great week to stay up at our place in Thornbury for our usual golf, mahjong, etc.  A dear friend’s band is playing at one of the local concert halls and we will attend a dinner there as well.  Stay cool and hydrated wherever you are.  Warm hugs to our friends who are dealing with medical issues.  Enjoy the week ahead.

 

Good weather for bingeing ahead…

Oops, I forgot my laptop…

Closing Words

It’s been another beautiful weekend in Thornbury where we saw good friends, entertained our younger son, and had some terrific meals.  The week ahead contains golf, mahjong, a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit with my fitness ladies and then a trip back north to Thornbury.  Shout out to my friends facing serious medical issues.  Enjoy another beautiful week, wherever you are.