Media Monday: BritBox and AcornTV

We disconnected the satellite TV a few months ago and are now streaming only. We still get live channels via YouTubeTV. Which we pay about the same amount for as what the satellite company offered to keep us. But we’d made up our minds so we declined their offer. With the streaming subscriptions, we’re saving about $100/month over what we were paying for a bunch of satellite channels we never watched.

Photo from DepositPhotos

We’re watching a lot of British and Canadian shows via BritBox and AcornTV, thanks to Amazon Prime. Which we had watched many of these already, but we’re back at it, and finding some new ones.

I’ve previously written about Murdoch Mysteries, a product of Canada. There were two new seasons we had to catch up on. And talk about a cliffhanger at the end of Season 14! I immediately had to check and be sure they were filming Season 15. Whew! They are.

Murdoch Mysteries

It took us a year to watch all of Midsomer Murders, and last week we watched Season 22.

PBS recently aired a new version of All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books by British vet James Herriot. We watched Season 1, then went back and watched the older series from the late 1970s and early ’80s. We’d read all the books, of course. Both the older and newer series followed the same book fairly closely.

After we finished the older series, we went back to Midsomer Mysteries, Season 21, Episode 1, The Point of Balance, when Christopher Timothy, the actor who played James Heriot, guest starred in Midsomer as Ned Barnaby, DCI John Barnaby’s father.

That was very fun to watch! Seeing an older “Herriot” and how he’d aged.

We tried Doc Martin. I had tried it a few years ago, at several friends’ recommendation, but just couldn’t get into it. Stud Muffin and I tackled it together and after a few episodes, decided we enjoyed it enough to continue. But as often happens, (and I’ve told him this), he gets me to watching something that I’m not really wanting to watch (American Idol, Survivor, Longmire, to name a few) and then I get hooked and he decides he doesn’t want to watch anymore. Well sure enough, around Season 6, SM got tired of Doc’s perennial jerkness and said he was done. I do see glimmers of him trying to be better, so I’ll continue with Doc on my own. One of these days.

We’re currently trying Father Brown. After the first 2 episodes, SM said he didn’t care for how the “writers” (he blames all story deficiencies on the writers, never the producers, directors, or editors) portrayed the police officers/detectives/investigators as “bumbling idiots.” I disagreed with him. We did take a break and caught up on Midsomer, and we’re back to Father Brown. He hasn’t complained again. I don’t think he’s changed his mind, but at least he’s not arguing with the television set.


I obviously did not know what this movie was about when I added it to our Netflix queue.


All I knew:

The name

It was about the British Secret Service

It had Colin Firth

Turns out, two of those three things are true.

The movie is not about the British Secret Service.

It’s part satire, part action adventure thriller, part gross out comedy, part live-action comic book, and if it wasn’t for Colin Firth, it would be a complete waste of time.

Actually, even with Mr. Firth, it’s a waste of time.

Basically, it’s about a group of elite spies in the UK. There’s a vacancy and several recruits are given the chance to make it onto the squad. Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson plays a media baron whose generous gift of free phones/data/new tech is really part of his plot to take over the world. Add implants that cause the person’s head to explode and that sums up his diabolical plan.

The movie starts out with some action and tension and sympathetic characters. But it quickly devolves into crass slapstick that tosses around the f-word when it doesn’t know what else to say or do. Then heads explode and it goes downhill from there.

Don’t bother with this one.

Media Monday

I know I’ve been remiss in posting recently. More about that on Wednesday, I hope.

For now, it’s Media Monday and I’m here to talk about Mockingjay.

MJI saw the final movie in the Hunger Games series a couple of weeks ago.

I read the books and have talked about them before. They do not deserve the summary dismissal I’ve heard from some people. They are not about children killing children (although, yes, that is a part of the story). They are not violent and dark (although, yes, there is violence and the scenes in District 12 are depressing).

They are about what happens when someone takes complete control of a country and/or society and culture.

There’s a love triangle at the heart of the books and I really didn’t see how the author was going to resolve it in a satisfying manner. The problem with love triangles is that one of the two vying for the third, must be a stinker. The reader/viewer needs a clear good guy and bad guy so they know who to root for.

IMHO, Sweet Home Alabama, while a fun movie, was fundamentally flawed because both the guys were great (although one of them had a witchy mother). I didn’t know who was worthy of the heroine because neither really had a flaw.

Another Reese Witherspoon movie that I felt had the same problem was This Means War. Two buddies are competing for her. They’re also skilled in espionage and spying. And of course they’re both good looking and charming. In this case, though, I knew who to root for. One of them had an ex-wife and son, so the only way that movie could end happily was for the family to be reunited and for Reese’s character to end up with the other spy.

Back to Mockingjay: I don’t want to give away the ending just in case someone out there hasn’t yet read the books and/or seen the movies.

Suzanne Collins solved the problem brilliantly, I think. One character became even more of himself and in doing alienated himself from Katniss. She sawhim more clearly and realized who was her real love.

The bad guys are defeated, although not without a terrible cost, and life in District 12 is once again worth living.

I loved the books. The movies did them justice. Mockingjay is a satisfying conclusion to the series. Two thumbs up from me. 😉




Media Monday: Django Unchained

We’re not huge Quentin Taratino fans. We haven’t seen either volume of KILL BILL. I saw PULP FICTION and GET SHORTY years after their releases. But last week, DJANGO UNCHAINED was on and we had nothing better to do, so we watched it.

djangoIt is violent.

It is compelling.

It was much better than I expected.

The violence is quick and often and over the top, with heads exploding and blood geysering, and … well, let’s just say there’s a grisly sequence with dogs and a runaway slave.

Yet there is a code for the violence. The final half hour of the movie is a blood bath, but the good guys prevail. Unlike real life, in the movies, we can fashion the ending we want.

Django is a captured slave at the beginning of the movie. Dr. King Schulz “buys” Django to help him identify some outlaws. Before you can say “Slaves on horses,” the pair are a team of bounty hunters, making money and killing bad guys across the west and south.

Until they meet up with Calvin Candie, an evil plantation owner in Mississippi. The ending is a foregone conclusion, but no less fun for the ride. Just feel free to cover your eyes when the hounds bay.

Media Monday: Moms’ Night Out

I finally got around to seeing MOMS’ NIGHT OUT last week. I know it was out a while ago but it got past me.

I often come with vats of skepticism to movies labeled “faith-based,” or “family friendly.” But MOMS’ NIGHT OUT was a refreshing change. I enjoyed it a lot.


Allyson is a stay-at-home mom who knows she should love her life and feels guilty because she’s unhappy. She feels like a failure at motherhood and marriage and life in general.

She plans an evening out with two girlfriends. The dads are going to keep the kids for the evening. Should be simple.

Of course, nothing is that simple.

The dinner reservation is messed up. The guys have a slight accident. A child goes missing. The evening out turns into a quest to find the baby.

The acting in this one is excellent, the best in any “faith-based” movie I’ve seen in quite a while. The story wasn’t preachy. The characters were real, even the pastor and his wife and daughter. For that alone, I give it a recommendation.

Anyone else have a favorite faith-based movie?

Media Monday: Lars and the Real Girl

I first watched this movie several years ago when a writing instructor recommended it for its story structure.

L&RGThen I bought it.

Then a few days ago, we had cinephile friends from out of town visiting and were searching Netflix for something we could all watch. I asked if they’d seen Lars and the Real Girl yet. They hadn’t.

Search over. I put it in the player and it was enjoyed by all. Except for Stud Muffin, who prefers that his movies include firearms and explosions, but even he appreciated its whimsy.

It’s the story of a young man (Lars), who slips into a delusion and believes that a blow-up sex doll is his new girlfriend Bianca.

Lars’s brother Gus and sister-in-law Karen are understandably taken aback.

They suggest that Bianca sees the local doctor because she’s “not well,” according to Lars. The doctor “examines” Bianca but also questions Lars. The doctor tells Lars’s family that they should go along with the delusion, that Bianca is filling a need in Lars. Gus and Karen ask their church friends to join them in pretending Bianca is real.

During Bianca’s weekly treatments, the doctor also visits with Lars, casually asking him questions about himself as well as Bianca.

Lars’s backstory unfolds slowly (death of a parent, depression of the other, brother who left home).

The townsfolk and Lars’s co-workers take Bianca to their hearts, treating her not only as if she’s real but as if she’s a beloved member of the community. She’s even voted onto the school board.

The resolution of the story is heartwarming and absolutely true to Lars’s character and nature.

It’s a charming movie that deserves more fans. Check it out.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated movie?

Media Monday: Unknown

I’ve long been a Liam Neeson fan, but it was his 2008 movie TAKEN that moved him into Stud Muffin’s viewfinder. We both thought TAKEN was outstanding and although TAKEN 2 didn’t quite measure up, it was still pretty good. Except for the whole narrowing down the location with explosions thing. I didn’t buy that at all. 

Anyway, I read good reviews for UNKNOWN, Neeson’s 2011 release, and it finally popped to the top of our Netflix queue earlier this week.



It had all the elements we love in a Liam Neeson action adventure:

  • Intrigue

  • A layered plot

  • A clear objective

  • Liam scowling

It’s hard to really critique this one without spoiling the twists along the way.

But I’ll try.

The major twist involved a character  a circumstance  an assassination a killer who

Nope, can’t do it.

So, I’ll just say that the twist didn’t quite work for me because of the careful groundwork laid by the writers, director, and actors. There wasn’t enough foreshadowing or hints.

I get that they wanted the twist to remain a deep secret, but in this case, it was too deep. Even an askance glance would have done it.

Other than my own private quibble, UNKNOWN is a great way to spend an evening with a howling storm outside and a glass of wine and popcorn inside.

Media Monday: The Way Way Back

Utterly charming. I loved this one!

The Way Way Back

Duncan and his single mom are spending the summer at his mom’s new boyfriend’s beach house with him and his daughter.

The boyfriend, played by Steve Carell, is Trent and he’s a bully and a womanizer and a master manipulator. He’s the worst kind of abuser because he cloaks his verbal and emotional manipulation as “help.”

Duncan drifts to the local water park and strikes up a friendship with the manager. He soon leads a secret life as an employee at Water Wiz and begins to make friends.

Perfectly cast and acted, The Way Way Back is a special slice-of-life movie.

I loved how Duncan and Owen, the water park manager, developed a friendship. Owen may have been afraid to live his own life or make a change, but he saw truth clearly and wasn’t afraid to defend his friends.

Highly recommended!

Media Monday: Seabiscuit & Secretariat

When Secretariat was released in 2010, comparisons to 2003’s Seabiscuit were inevitable.

Media Monday: Secretariat

Both are:

  • “Based on a true story”
  • About a championship horse
  • Winning against vast odds (literal odds as well as figurative)
  • An owner full of conviction facing multiple obstacles



It’s been several years since I read Seabiscuit and watched the movie, but I remember it quite fondly. We just saw Secretariat recently and I was interested to judge for myself how successfully it showed life in high-stakes horse racing.

Media Monday: Seabiscuit

Both stories capture that world, in my humble opinion. Although, since I don’t hang around racing stables (or even non-racing stables), race courses, or betting parlors, I’m probably not the best judge of that criteria.

Secretariat seemed a bit more contrived to me, perhaps heightening the conflicts between Penny Chenery Tweedy and her trainer, or Penny and her husband, or Penny and her brother.

In a head-to-head contest, I have to give it to Seabiscuit by a nose.

Media Monday: The Genius of Roald Dahl

While channel surfing last week with the grand-daughters, we caught the beginning of the 1971 movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which was based on Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I don’t know why the producers felt the name change was necessary.

wwcfCharlie is clearly the protagonist. He’s the character with the most to lose, he’s the one who changes throughout the story. charlie

But I digress.

The movie holds up well, even after forty years.

I was impressed with how presciently Dahl created the other Golden Ticket winners.

There’s a couch potato who watches hours of television every day. mike





augustusThere’s an overeater, an obese child on his way to an unhealthy life as a adult.



There’s a selfish and spoiled brat whose parents indulged her every whim.

violet                                             veruca_salt

Actually, there’s two of those, both girls.

The movie was released in 1971 but the book it’s based on was published in 1964. That’s fifty years ago. Five. Oh. 50.


Fast forward to today.

                                                What are the concerns about kids in 2014?

  • Childhood obesity.
  • Too much time playing/watching electronics, and not enough playing.
  • Child-centric parenting that produces perpetual children instead of self-reliant adults.

I stand by my original premise: Roald Dahl was a genius.

Actually though, a deeper analysis reveals a bigger truth:

The cultural and societal mores Dahl observed in the early 1960s would logically lead to children just like Violet, Mike, Augustus, and Veruca.

We’re reaping the practices we began to sow in the middle of the last century.

The way back is still possible.

  • Raise children to recognize personal responsibility.
  • Read to them.
  • Encourage imaginative play.

Especially introduce them to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.