Sunday 30 January 2022

Lately I've Been Watching

 The latest in my series of mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available in your country, this is a good site: Justwatch.  Just put the name of the show into the search, and choose your country further down, from the drop-down menu.  It shows where you can stream, buy or rent.  Or you can put 'where can I watch ***' into whichever search engine you use, or go to the programme's own site, if it has one.

If you would like to see more posts, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  If you get as far as the bottom, 'Older Posts' will take you to more.

Miniseries: Dopesick 

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Disney+.  US: Hulu)

Everyone in the world should watch this. It's the true story, inspired by the non-fiction book by Beth Macy about how Big Pharma corporation Purdue created the opioid addiction crisis by the introduction of its 'non-addictive' pain killer, OxyContin.  The Sackler family make much of their philanthropic activities to detract from the truth: that they care nothing for the health and lives of the little people as long as the big bucks keep rolling in.

'It must be okay because it's FDA approved', they say - but what doctors, salespeople and the public don't know is that FDA officers have much to gain financially by giving it the thumbs up.  As the drama unfolds, we see how syndromes are invented in order to sell more drugs, blatant lies are told about efficacy and long-term side effects, and buzz-phrases are taught to salespeople, who then teach them to medical professionals.  

The story is sold in several strands: 1.  Small town Appalachian doctor Sam Finnix (an outstanding performance by Michael Keaton) who is taken in by salesman Billy Cutler (Will Poulter), and prescribes the drug to many of his patients, often with lethal effect.  2.  The suffering of many people who lost family members to the drug, with particular emphasis on a young woman called Betsy Mallum (Kaitlyn Deaver).  3.  The law enforcement agents who investigate the company (Peter Saarsgard, John Hoogenakker and Rosario Dawson).  4.  The salespeople who lap up the bullshit to spread to the world.  5.  The obscenely rich Sackler family who come up with spin after spin in order to carry on bringing in the billions.  Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire) is, as usual, first class - he plays Richard Sackler, the man who introduced prescription narcotics to the world.

Aside from being a massive eye-opener about how drug giants operate, it's a gripping drama that will keep your attention throughout.

Special mention for TWD's R Keith Harris (Dr Harlan Carson) who plays the smarmy sales training guy, but later sees the error of his ways!

Series: Succession - Season 3

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: HBO Max, HBO, DIRECTV.  UK: Sky, Now, Virgin TV Go)

Best season so far, about the vastly wealthy Roy family and the constant wrangles over their company.  Like an updated Dallas except they all use the F word constantly, they're all really, really horrible and, most of the time, pretty unhappy.  This is never better illustrated than in the final two episodes, when they're all at a wedding in Tuscany.  The setting is an idyllic summer day in glorious surroundings; everyone is healthy, happy, there to witness two people in love getting married.  However, the Roys are blind to the beauty and happiness.  They argue and obsess, interested only in the game of thrones being played out on their phones, to which they are permanently glued.

It reminded me of a scene in C S Lewis's The Last Battle in which a group of dwarfs can't see the heaven around them and believe themselves to be in a dark and filthy hovel because they are in a prison of their own suspicious, diseased minds.   

The most compelling character by far is Matthew McFayden's marvellous Tom Wambsgans, the eccentric social climber who has married into the Roy family. A masterpiece of dramatic creativity.  Can't wait for Season 4!

Series: Leonardo 

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Amazon Prime in UK, not yet available for streaming in US)

The story of Leonard Da Vinci, starring Poldark heartthrob Aidan Turner as the man himself.  I wasn't too sure at first, but then I started to love it, particularly the scenery of 15th Century Florence which was entirely convincing.  Something else I found most fascinating was the processes by which the sketches were transferred to the surfaces for painting, and how much of the work was actually undertaken by his apprentices.  I've read up about his life since, and it seems to be fairly close to the truth.  Good stuff.

Series: Dexter: New Blood - Season 1

4.5 *⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Sky, Now.  US: Amazon Prime, Showtime, Fubo)

I hadn't seen the main series of Dexter when I watched this, but knew that he was a serial killer who killed only those who deserved to die, to stop them killing anyone else - this new spinoff is designed so that you don't have to watch the original.  For anyone who doesn't know, Dexter Morgan is now leading a new life in Iron Lake, as Jim Lindsay, with a cop girlfriend.  But people keep dying... and sometimes he finds that his old ways are the only answer.  It's good, with the small town America atmosphere that I love, lots of snow and log cabins, murders, intrigue and the appearance of his son Harrison, now a teenager... 

I hated the end.  But I get it.  

.... and I watched the main series afterwards.  Yes, all eight seasons.  Dexter Morgan, the 'blood guy' in the Forensics department of Miami Metro cop shop, who lives a secret life.  Loved loved and loved it.  Highly, highly, highly recommended.  Then of course I wanted to watch New Blood again, because I understood it all so much more.

Dexter - Seasons 1-8

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: Amazon Prime, Showtime, Fubo.  UK: Apple, Google Play, Amazon)

Series: 1883 - Season 1

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Paramount, Paramount +)

This is brilliant, I love it.  Only seen three episodes so far, highly impressed.  It's the prequel to the series Yellowstone (present day, wealthy ranchers in Montana), about the Dutton family's ancestors and how they got to where they are now, on a wagon train facing all the dangers of those 19th century journeys into the unknown. Not necessary to have watched or be watching Yellowstone - it totally stands up alone.  Great story, suspenseful, terrific actors, amazing scenery, it's got it all.

Series: Station Eleven

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Starz, Virgin.  US: HBO Max)

Have to read the book now ... before during and after the outbreak of a deadly virus, follows the story of Kirsten who was left alone as a child, as everyone around her died.  In the post-apocalyptic world she is a member of a travelling theatre troupe.  I wished there was more before and during and less afterwards, but I still enjoyed it a lot.  If you wish to know more than the trailer provides, here is a link to the Wikipedia page, that links back to the page about the book: Station Eleven

Series: Yellowjackets - Season 1


(US: Showtime, DIRECTV, Fubo, Roku, Pluto.  UK: Sky, Now)

The members of a New Jersey all-girl hockey team are on their way to an important tournament in Seattle when their plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness.  At first they expect to be rescued, but gradually it dawns on them that they're on their own.  From then on it's kind of a cross between Lost and Lord of the Flies.  Alternating with these scenes are those of 25 years later, when they're still coping with what happened on the island. 

The 1996 scenario involves the expected arguments between those who accept their situation - i.e., that they have to find ways to survive and get help - and those in denial who believe that they will be rescued.  Later, it will get much, much darker.  I liked it and will watch the next season because I want to know what happens, but I wouldn't rave about it.

Stars Juliette Lewis (who I always like) and Christina Ricci as two of the girls (Natalie and Misty), grown up.

Friday 28 January 2022

January Afternoon Sunshine (and an empty shopping centre)


Spot the dog :)


The collapse of the High Street retail trade? 

I was walking over to the main shopping centre in the next town - this is on a dry, bright, not very cold Thursday afternoon, at around 4 pm.  Underneath that church spire, above, you can see that the bus station and the bus are empty (my walk took me past it, on a bridge).

Around half the shops have gone - Argos, Pound Shop, bakers', a nail studio, a furniture shop, a shoe shop and many more.  

Before 2020, you'd see more people than this first thing in the morning, or on a Sunday.

Of course, South Park got it exactly right a few years back, in the episode about Amazon.  When there's a strike at the local depot, the boys try to remember where they used to obtain stuff they wanted before.  It's just a couple of minutes long, and very funny!

'Because they previously worked in a mall, 
they've had no human contact for some time'

Me outside Morrisons!  Still no people.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Durham: January 18th


~ 🏰📚🍵🌳🏰 ~

Spent the day in Durham as it's near where I live, 

also where my sister Julia went to university in the 1970s :)

The obligatory photo with the Sanctuary knocker outside the Cathedral!
 In the past, those who had committed an offence such as murder in self-defence or breaking out of prison could rap the knocker and would be given 37 days of Sanctuary within which they could try to reconcile with their enemies or plan their escape.

When Julia was here in the 1970s, women were only allowed 
in the snug of this pub!  Only 47 years later the very thought is ludicrous.

😄  Uni Students Are Puffs, apparently!!!! 😄

Julia outside her old college, St Cuthbert's

Me going up to Castle.  Alas, only guided tours/pre-booking allowed.  😕

In a very overgrown churchyard.  Don't know who the sad lady is.

Above the place where the Venerable Bede's bones are laid.

St Cuthbert's shrine.  Monks carried his body to Durham from Lindisfarne, in 995.  Over the years many pilgrims laid gold, silver and other treasures there.  In 1537, when Henry VIII was on a mission to acquire all wealth of the country for himself and his nobles, he nicked it.   What a git.

In years to come, I shall say, 'Ah yes, January 19th 2022.  
The day I appeared on Twitter with no eye make-up.'  

Monday 17 January 2022

An Amazing Coincidence!

Recently, book blogger Sue Bavey brought out a biography of her late grandfather, Jack Rogers.  My full review of the book can be found HERE.

I was most interested to read about a shop Jack opened after the First World War; please see below the paragraph I wrote about it in the review:

'An interesting surprise for me was that Jack opened his boot-making business in 1920, at a premises in Goldhawk Road, Stamford Brook, which is in Hammersmith, North London.  My mother was born in 1926 and, until the late 1940s, lived in her family home in Vaughan Avenue, Stamford Brook - which happens to be just off Goldhawk Road - I looked up a street map of the area.  So Mum must have known of Jack's shop; she may have even met him!  Small world indeed.'

My mother is on the right - this was taken in the garden of the house in Vaughan  Avenue when she was 13, in 1939.  You can see that her brother Ken, back left, was ready to go and fight in the war.

This afternoon my sister Julia came to stay with me, and I was telling her about the book.  She immediately said, 'Oh - was that the shoe repair shop that Mum wrote about?'  

I'd forgotten - in the late 1980s or early 1990s, Mum wrote several essays about her childhood years, of which we have copies.  In one of them she talks about Jack Rogers' shoe repair shop that she used to visit with her parents!  And even more mind-blowing is that Jack used to sometimes go for a drink with her father.

So I meet Sue from Massachusetts on Twitter, and it turns out that our grandfathers used to go for a drink together - how much of a small world is that?

Below is the short piece that Mum wrote about life in Stamford Brook, in which Jack features quite prominently!  Mum died in 2019 - I so wish I could tell her about this.