October 22, 2020

Acorn TV’s “Keeping Faith” on Amazon Prime

Your Amazon Prime membership allows you free access to Season 1 of “Keeping Faith,” a thriller carried by Acorn TV.

Filmed concurrently in Welsh and English, we meet Faith Howells, a lawyer whose husband leaves for work one morning and disappears. Not quite into thin air, however, as she finds out he was deeply enmeshed in legally representing the wrong sort of people.

Faith is played by British actress, Eve Myles who viewers may recognize from “Dr. Who” and “Torchwood.” She juggles caring for her three children, resuming to work at her husband’s family law firm and trying to figure out what happened to her husband and all of their money. Faith is under suspicion for his murder and surrounded by family members with their own deadly secrets.

You have until 9/30/2020 on Amazon Prime to view Season One of the absorbing series, “Keeping Faith.”

MHZ Choice TV: “Pièges,” “Capitaine Marleau” and “Grey Zone”

I have regularly mentioned MHZ Choice, a streaming service that features European television programming, but there are some new shows worth noting.

“Pièges,” a French, two-part thriller tips the hat to Alfred Hitchcock with an intricate murder plot and a dramatic music soundtrack.

On the lighter side is “Capitaine Marleau” starring Corinne Masiero as a French detective who can out-quirk Colombo and Monk combined. The clever plots, gorgeous scenery and Marleau’s oddball attire make this series the antidote for a stressful day.

A new show from Denmark, “Grey Zone,” shows great promise after having watched two episodes. Starring Birgitte Hjort Sorenson (whom you may have seen as a reporter in “Borgen,” or as a wildling leader in “Game of Thrones”) plays drone expert Victoria Rahbek who gets mixed up with kidnappers and terrorists. New episodes will be added weekly.

The MHZ service has programs in French, Italian, German, Dutch, Serbian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Flemish and Spanish. Some of my past favorite series on MHZ are “Beck” from Sweden, “Montalbano” from Italy, “Borgen” from Denmark, “Commissario Brunetti” from Germany, “Aber Bergen” from Norway and “Spiral” from France. And this is the short list!

As a side note, if you really want to support a streaming site, please try to avoid signing up for the service through Apple or Amazon. MHZ makes less money if you don’t buy it directly from them. Automatic monthly debits and easy cancellations can be instigated on the MHZ Choice web site.

Happy viewing. There is a free trial offer.

https://watch.mhzchoice.com/

“Money Heist” on Netflix

As a general rule, heist plots bore me to tears, but after two different friends recommended “Money Heist” on Netflix, I decided to give the Spanish tv series a look-see.

Wow! Every episode contains action and just enough complexity to make the show interesting yet not confusing. A band of miscreants dressed in red jumpsuits and Salvador Dali masks, led by a man called “The Professor,” hold hostages in the Royal Mint of Spain while they print themselves millions in paper currency. In their minds, they are not really stealing from anyone.

The plot thickens with the introduction of the female official who is investigating the incident. She meets and falls for a handsome stranger who is none other than “The Professor” who has masterminded the heist.

Originally a hit tv show in Spain, Netflix obtained global streaming rights and reconfigured the length of episodes. There are currently four seasons on Netflix with a fifth and final season planned.

The program has also warranted a documentary called “Money Heist: The Phenomenon.” It seems the series has been a hit in several countries. You may want to jump on the “Money Heist” bandwagon and work on your Spanish, too! The original Spanish title is “La Casa de Papel,” which is “The House of Paper.” Expensive paper, indeed!

Fauda tv series on Netflix

My first binge-watching experience was with the tv series, “24.” The local library had all eight seasons on DVD which worked out to 192 episodes. I just discovered another tv series that checks some of the same boxes; international intrigue, high action scenes and cliff-hanger episodes that have you saying “just one more.”

“Fauda,” an action series from Israel currently streaming on Netflix, was created by Lior Rax and Avi Issacharoff who based the show on their experiences while working for the Israel Defense Forces.

First season is set in Kafr Qasim, a predominantly Arab-populated city just 12 miles from Tel Aviv and managed by Israeli security forces. In this depiction, you can’t always tell the good guys from the bad. Doron, an Israeli soldier, comes out of retirement when he discovers that Taufiq Hammed, a Hamas terrorist he thought he killed, is still very much alive. Doron scopes out a Hammed family wedding in hopes of catching “the Panther.”

The viewer sees how every killing, including mass bombings, ratchets up enmity on both sides. Wives, girlfriends and children not only suffer collateral damage, they sometimes become radicalized themselves. This is no mere “shoot ‘em up,” but a look at the personal and professional lives of opposing sides locked in a deadly battle of geography, culture, religion and power.

Fauda means “chaos” in Hebrew, and thought-provoking entertainment chaos it is. I have appropriated the word for aspects of life today.

Please note that Netflix has made the decent English-dubbed version the default. You can, however, change the settings so you can get the original Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles which is my preference. Your choice.

The Bureau French tv series on Sundance Now

If you are up for a French tv show that has some similarity with Showtime’s Homeland, The Bureau or Le Bureau des Légendes on Sundance Now may be your cup of cafe au lait.

Guillaume Debailly (Mathieu Kassovitz) is an undercover agent with France’s DGSE (General Directorate of External Security), the French equivalent of our CIA. He has been posing as a French teacher in Damascus, Syria and falls in love with an Arab woman who is college professor. Their relationship and its complications is the main through line of Season 1. We are also introduced to Marina Loiseau (Sara Giraudeau), a newbie spy who is embedded as a seismologist in Iran to shed light on that country’s nuclear program.

Ancillary characters are other French agents along with their bosses and handlers, CIA operatives, Kurds, terrorists, politicians and business people from different countries, kidnappers, imams and family members of the main players. There are brutal scenes with French captives so this is not a show for the faint of heart.

What you will get with The Bureau is whip smart plotting, memorable characters and a greater sense of the stakes in the Middle East. This is not light entertainment, but you will be immersed in a world that is, hopefully, unlike your own.

All four seasons of Le Bureau are available on Sundance Now.

McMafia on Sundance Now

I am still on a crime drama tv-watching spree and McMafia on Sundance Now has fed that yen with international style. A co-production with the BBC, AMC and Cuba Pictures, the tv series is based on the 2008 non-fiction book by reporter Misha Glenny, McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld.

James Norton plays Alex Godman, son of a Russian mafia don who is trying to go straight in England. Alex and his British fiancee get drawn into the international skullduggery. Vadim Kalyagin (actor Merab Ninidze) shows up as the arch nemesis crime boss still in Russia who threatens the entire Godman family.

Almost all of the major male characters have attachments to family members or friends who become their points of weakness. A grey-bearded David Strathairn as shady Israeli businessman Semiyon Kleiman and Antonio Mendez (actor Caio Biat) as a handsome liaison for a vicious Mexican drug cartel are some of the bad guys who make use of these relationships. Wives, daughters, mothers and girlfriends are, for the most part, collateral damage in this serious-as-death global game.

The show intro shows a red map line extending from Mumbai, to Prague, to London to Moscow with exotic stop-overs that include Tel Aviv, Cairo and the Cayman Islands. The cinematography can be stunning and the cultural glimpses intriguing.

McMafia, co-created by Hossein Amini and James Watkins, is a smart international crime show that is all the more frightening when you consider its inspiration was a non-fiction book. Season 2 has been ordered. Release date pending.