September 24, 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!

“Les Miserables” drama series on PBS

I groaned when I saw yet another version of “Les Miserables” being promoted on Amazon Prime. (Season One of the 2018 PBS television series has been available for free in August for Prime members.)

Curiosity got the better of me and I found myself watching episode one of this mini-series adapted by Andrew Davies. I was instantly sucked into this fresh take on the Victor Hugo novel, in no small part due to actor Dominic West’s tour de force performance as criminal turned do-gooder, Jean Valjean. In color-blind casting, David Oyelowo is outstanding as Javert, the policeman who dogs Valjean for the duration of the story. Derek Jacobi, BBC thespian heavyweight, shines as Bishop Myriel, the cleric whose forgiveness and generosity changes Valjean’s path.

Without singing a blessed word, Lily Collins (daughter of English musician Phil Collins) is stunning and heartbreaking as the beleaguered Fantine. Olivia Colman and Adeel Akhtar are odiously entertaining as the greedy Thenardiers. David John Bradley, replete with wig, powdered face and fake beauty mark, villanously turns his grandson against his father who was an officer with Napoleon’s army.

Fine acting and superlative production standards make this worth viewing on the PBS Passport streaming service. Unless you can marathon watch it on Amazon Prime in the remaining hours before August closes. Ready, set, binge…

“Greyhound” on Apple+

Tom Hanks seems to play a lot of heroes, but “Greyhound” on Apple+ is special since he not only stars in this war movie, he wrote the screenplay, too. Based on the novel, “The Good Shepherd” by C. S. Forester, Hanks plays naval commander Ernest Krause on his first war-time command of a merchant ship convoy crossing the Atlantic.

A little backstory on my interest in this facet of WWII history. My father would reminisce about being an 18-year-old sailor who played the clarinet and saxophone for the Navy while on shore, but manned a gun when his ship was at sea. He told dramatic stories of being scared of Germans by air and water along with violent Atlantic storms. The movie does a good job of showing the menace of German submarines, in particular, referred to as U-boats. These underwater predators could be compared to the sharks in “Jaws.”

The movie does perhaps suffer from too much maritime dialogue, but Hanks and director Aaron Schneider do capture the fear and triumph felt by Commander Krause and his crew.

Due to the pandemic, “Greyhound” was never released theatrically, but was picked up by the Apple+ streaming service. One critic referred to this 91-minute feature as a “dad movie.” Why not see if you can get your history-minded pop or granddad to watch this with you?

More Reality Shows of Note on Netflix

How is Netflix getting me to consider programs I would not normally watch? When I open the app, a show trailer starts playing above the list of selections. The clips are engaging, upbeat and often pique my curiosity. How else to explain my current viewing selections: “Love On the Spectrum,” “Restaurants on the Edge” and “Sugar High.”

I have been a fan of “Sugar Rush,” a cooking competition using sweet ingredients. When I exhausted those episodes, Netflix automatically cued up a related show from the same producers, “Sugar High.” Stone-cold professionals compete to make sugar creations that delight the tastebuds and the eyes. Much like sculptors and glassblowers, the chefs skillfully fashion shapes using ingredients like sugar, isomalt and paper wafers. I would not have the heart to destroy these artistic creations by eating them, however.

“Restaurants on the Edge” is a bit sleepy in its pacing, but features scenic restaurants in different countries that need help with their menus, decor and promotion.

Three restaurant gurus arrive in the area and find local beverages, food stuffs and decorating ideas to refresh the dining establishment in question. The show tries to defy the adage that the better the view, the worse the food.

“Love on the Spectrum,” an Australian documentary series, introduced me to young people who are autistic and in search of what we all want: love and romance. Cian O’Clery, the series’ creator and director, films men and women as they openly discuss being “on the spectrum.” We watch them go on first dates and interact with their families. The show accomplishes something rare as we feel genuine empathy for young couples who have found love and for those still searching for romance. “Love On the Spectrum” finds the balance between documentary and reality show which impels you to keep watching. At just five episodes, the series leaves you wanting progress reports on all of these endearing people.

During these stressful times, Netflix has carried many serious scripted shows, but I am keeping my streaming subscription because they are offering fun, reasonably intelligent programs that emphasize food, fashion, art, travel and love.