The holiday movie season is in full swing, but when the weather outside is frightful, you just might want to stay cozy and warm at home watching something on TV. And, let’s face it, these days there is so much to watch on TV, not only on the networks and cable, but also on the streaming services, that there’s something for everyone. And being able to binge watch means you don’t have to wait to find out how the story ends. So grab your remote and tune in to one of these.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Rachel Brosnahan shines in this Amazon Studios series as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a Jewish housewife who tries to help her businessman husband, Joel, who dreams of becoming a comedian. Midge bribes the owner of the Gaslight, a seedy comedy club in lower Manhattan, with her brisket, landing Joel (Michael Zegen), better spots in the club’s nightly lineup. But when Joel bombs one night, he tells Midge that he’s having an affair with his secretary. Midge gets drunk, returns to the Gaslight and knocks the audience dead with her hysterically funny (and racy) perfiormance. Seems she’s the real comic in the family. The cast, which includes Tony Shaloub as her brilliant but controlling father, and Marin Hinkle as her neurotic mother, is terrific. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been nominated for two Golden Globes, for Best Television Musical or Comedy and for Brosnahan as Best Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy.
This BBC Scottish crime drama is so atompsheric that you will want to book a trip to the island immediately. Largely based on the novels by Ann Cleeves, the series, which can be streamed on Netflix, stars Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez. A standout is Alison O’Donnell who plays Detective Sergeant Alison “Tosh” MacIntosh. Also on the force is Detective Constable Sandy Wilson played by Steven Robertson. For a small area, Shetland has more than its share of crimes and the suspects usually include longtime (and certainly memorable) residents, most well known by the police. Both Henshall and the series have won BAFTA Awards. Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife) appears in season three as someone who could help Perez solve a crime. And there’s a relationship triangle: Perez shares custody of his stepdaughter, Cassie, with her biological father, Duncan Hunter (Mark Bonnar). Cassie’s mother died while married to Perez. While the Scottish accents are delightful, you will want to turn on the caption function so you don’t miss any clues.
Martin Ellingham, a brilliant and famous vascular surgeon, develops haemophobia (fear of blood), forcing him to leave London and open a general practice in Portwenn, a fictional village in Cornwall. (The series, available for streaming on Netflix, is so popular that the area where the show is filmed has become a tourist destination.) Despite his blood phobia, Martin is a gifted doctor, able to diagnose even the most arcance illnesses he comes across. What he possesses in smarts, however, he lacks in social skills, regularly insulting his patients and locals with his outspoken and rude comments. Yet schoolteacher Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz), falls in love with him and their on-again, off-again romance makes for many humorous episodes. Portwenn has more than its share of unusual characters who come up with their share of illnesses needing the doctor’s help. Performances are top notch. A U.S. verison of the show is reportedly in development.
This Is Us
Although this show currently airs on NBC, you can watch the first season on Netflix. It’s no secret that the networks have had a hard time coming up with solid hits, but This Is Us is certainly one that has been a critical success. The show centers on the Pearson family – father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and mother Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and their three children. The series jumps back and forth between the past and present time. In present time, the three Pearson children are: Kevin (Justin Hartley), an actor who rose to fame as the lead in a TV sitcom called The Manny, which he now regrets; Kate (Chrissy Metz), battling weight issues and trying to mend her relationship with her mother; and Randall (Sterling K. Brown), a Harvard graduate and successful businessman. Rebecca was pregnant with triplets, but lost one of the babies. Randall had been left by his birthfather at a fire station and ended up in the nursery alongside the two surviving Pearson babies. Jack came up with the idea to adopt the African American baby, and after some initial doubt, Rebecca agreed. The show deals with a variety of social issues without ever becoming clichéd. And jumping between the past and the present fills in the blanks about how the family relationships evolved. A great show to watch with older children.
The Good Doctor
ABC finally has a hit. The Good Doctor stars Freddie Highmore as Shaun Murphy, a young surgical resident who is autistic wtih savant syndrome. While his autism means his bedside manner isn’t always the best, his abilities soon make him a valued member of the staff at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. Richard Schiff plays Aaron Glassman, the hospital president, who rescued Shaun from an abusive childhood and saw to his education. While he’s confident of Shaun’s skills, he worries that his protege is unhappy and needs help navigating the other aspects of his life. Shaun, however, resists his intervention, creating tension between the two. The show is based on an award-winning series from South Korea that was discovered by the actor Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-O), and first shopped to CBS before landing at ABC. Highmore has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
Top photo: Bigstock
What should have been a day of celebration turned into a day of tragedy when two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, planted bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Now, nearly four years after that attack, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg produce a film that recreates, often in grisly detail, the aftermath of the explosion and how law enforcement, with the help of local citizens, come together to identify the killers.
Patriots Day follows a pattern that Berg/Wahlberg created for their previous film, Deepwater Horizon, also based on real events, in that case the explosion of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana that remains the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. (Read the review.) With each film, we are pulled in as we learn about the people involved – good guys and bad guys – who will play a role as the catastrophe unfolds. Each time, we brace ourselves, knowing all too well what’s to follow.
With Deepwater Horizon, Wahlberg played a real life character, Mike Williams, an electronics technician who worked on the rig. In Patriots Day, he plays the fictional Tommy Saunders, a Boston police sergeant who because of transgressions that are not explained (although the way he barrels into any situation portrays him as a management nightmare), he is assigned marathon duty as punishment. He complains to his wife, Carol (Michelle Monaghan), about wearing the day-glo vest that makes him look like a clown. Saunders prefers to be at the center of the action and this inconvenient assignment will do just that – placing him near the finish line when the bombs go off.
While Saunders is perhaps a composite of the many police officers who served Boston at that time, the film’s other characters are based on real life figures. Christopher O’Shea and Rachel Brosnahan play a married couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who come to watch the marathon. During a bedroom scene in their apartment, the camera zeroes in on their legs, a foreshadowing of the devastating injuries they will suffer because of the blast.
Jake Picking plays the enthusiastic and fresh-faced MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, thrilled when an MIT grad student agrees to go to a concert with him. Collier, refusing to give up his weapon, will be shot in his patrol car by Tamerlan.
During rescue operations, Steve Woolfenden (Dustin Tucker) is separated from his three year-old son, Leo (an adorable Lucas Thor Kelley). Father and son are later reunited at the hospital.
Our first glimpse into the Tsarnaev home shows Tamerlan and Dzhokhar relaxing in the living room watching TV, while Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist, in a chilling departure from her Supergirl persona), takes care of their little girl. Any semblance of normalcy, however, is dashed when the camera zooms in on Tamerlan packing a pressure cooker with metal parts.
Tamerlan is portrayed as the brains behind the operation, frequently bullying his brother into following his lead. The pair, Tamerlan wearing a black hat, Dzhokhar a white one, wind their way through the marathon crowds, finally depositing their lethal packages at two points and then leaving. Later, they watch coverage of the explosions from home, pleased with the carnage they have caused.
Video of the actual explosions played again and again on TV. In the film, however, Berg/Wahlberg go further, showing the aftermath, the injured runners and spectators, the blood-soaked clothing and pavement, even a sneaker-shod foot off to the side. The body of the youngest victim, eight year-old Martin Richard, is covered in a tarp, left for hours after the area has been cleared until crime scene specialists can gather forensic evidence from his body. Guarding the body is a lone cop, tears streaming down his face when the ambulance finally departs.
What the public didn’t see after the bombings was the incredible response by law enforcement. Shortly after the event, the marathon area was flooded with FBI agents, police officers, and local and state government officials, including Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) who declares the bombing a terrorist event after examining bomb fragments. Taking over the investigation, he asks for a control center which is set up in the Black Falcon terminal on the South Boston waterfront. In that space, the marathon finish line area is meticulously recreated, with evidence collected after the bombing placed where it was found. Meanwhile, tech experts scroll through video of the marathon crowds and soon are able to isolate the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects. Wahlberg’s Saunders, who knows Boston’s streets, is called in to figure out which cameras should be checked for images of the bombers. Although DesLauriers is reluctant to release the brothers’ photos before they are confirmed as the bombers, he’s forced to do so when someone leaks the information to FOX-TV. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are watching in their living room when they see themselves on TV. They know they have to flee if they are going to get to their next target, New York.
Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, and John Goodman
They carjack a Mercedes SUV belonging to Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang from HBO’s Silicon Valley), who manages to escape and alert the authorities. Cornered in Waterford, the duo exchange gunfire with a growing throng of police officers, including Waterford’s Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons). This shoot out is dramatic, showing how the brothers, armed with pipe bombs, continued to keep the cops on the defensive.
Tamerlan is shot and then run over by his brother who escapes in the Mercedes SUV. With Dzhokhar on the run, the Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), closes down the city, asking people to shelter in their homes. The younger brother is discovered hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard and finally apprehended.
Berg splices in real footage from the marathon and several times we see the actual photos of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar flash across the screen. Alex Wolff (Dzhokhar) and Themo Melikidze (Tamerlan) are appropriately evil and creepy as the brothers bent on killing Americans. Particularly chilling, however, is Benoist as Tamerlan’s wife who converted to Islam and supported her husband’s efforts. She was never charged with a crime. Four people who were charged and sent to prison included Dzhokhar’s college friends who knew what he had done and never reported him.
Similar to what Berg/Wahlberg did with Deepwater Horizon, the real people involved with the event are interviewed at the end. The film ends with David Ortiz, along with police officers who were at the marathon, marching onto the field at Fenway Park, celebrating “Boston Strong.” The Boston Red Sox would go on to win the World Series, a well-deserved gift to a city that had seen too much tragedy.
Photos courtesy of CBS Films