Wednesday, January 31, 2018

TV Tuesday: Favorite TV Shows Reviewed in 2017

A couple of weeks ago, I summed up my Favorite Movies Watched in 2017, so today it's time for TV to get its due. It was another GREAT year for TV shows! There is just SO much available now, between streaming services, cable channels, and networks, that it's impossible to keep up with all the amazing shows - but we gave it our best! In fact, our movie viewing has fallen off in recent years because we are watching so much more TV.

The full list of TV reviews I wrote this year (30 in all) is included below, and these have all been added to my TV Reviews tab (along with the ones previously reviewed). They are sorted by genre. Just to be clear, I only write reviews of shows that I enjoy, so everything on this list is worth trying!

As usual, we watched a mix of genres. This list of 2017 reviews makes it look as if we mostly watch shows on streaming services, but that is misleading. We still watch most of our shows On Demand through our cable service, but many of them are continued from previous seasons, so check out more TV reviews in my Favorite TV Shows Watched in 2016 post and the TV Reviews tab).

Here are a few superlatives from my 2017 reviews to whet your appetite (click the links to see the reviews) - yes, I cheated a bit where it was a close tie!:

Best Comedy
Chewing Gum (N) - UK Channel 4 

Best Drama
Good Girls Revolt (A) - Amazon Prime (my pick)
The Last Tycoon (A) - Amazon Prime (my husband and my pick together)

Best Dramedy
  One Mississippi (A) - Amazon Prime (my pick)
Sneaky Pete (A) - Amazon Prime (my husband and my pick together)

Best Crime/Mystery/Thriller 
 Ozark (N) - Netflix

 Best Sci Fi
Travelers (N) - Netflix
Sense8 (N) - Netflix (more supernatural than sci fi)
A Tie! My husband, son, and I LOVE both!

Best New Network Show 
(since most of my Bests are on streaming services)
Wisdom of the Crowd (A, C, I) - CBS

In addition to the reviews listed below, also check out my post, When Good Shows Get Cancelled, a round-up of One-Season Wonders still worth watching!

KEY: Available on:
A = Amazon
C = Cable and/or Cable On Demand
H = Hulu
I = On network’s own website
N = Netflix
Note that Amazon Prime original shows are available only to Amazon Prime members (just like Netflix or Hulu), but some shows are available on Amazon (A) to anyone for a fee.

Chewing Gum (N) - UK Channel 4
Norsemen (N) - Norwegian show
Will & Grace 2017 (A, C, I) - NBC

American Crime - season 3 (A, C, I) - ABC 
Anne with an E (N) - Netflix
The Bold Type (A, C, I) - Freeform (formerly ABC Family)
Good Girls Revolt (A) - Amazon Prime
Gypsy (N) - Netflix
The Last Tycoon (A) - Amazon Prime
The Man in the High Castle (A) - Amazon Prime
Mercy Street (A, C, I) - PBS

Dramedy (both Comedy & Drama)
Fleabag (A) - British show 
Friends From College (N) - Netflix
Lilyhammer (A, N) - Norwegian show
Master of None (N) - Netflix
No Tomorrow (romcom) (A, C, I, N) - The CW
One Mississippi (A) - Amazon Prime
Sneaky Pete (A) - Amazon Prime

The Fall (A, N) - Irish show 
The Killing (N) - Netflix
Occupied (A, N) - Norwegian show 
Ozark (N) - Netflix
The Sinner (A, C, I) - USA Network
Ten Days in the Valley (A, C, I) - ABC
Time After Time (A, C, I) - ABC (also sci fi)
Wisdom of the Crowd (A, C, I) - CBS

Sci Fi
Salvation (A, C, I) - ABC
Sense8 (N) - Netflix (more supernatural than sci fi)
Travelers (N) - Netflix

Reality Shows
Food Network Star (A, C, I) - The Food Network

Monday, January 29, 2018

Movie Monday: Blade Runner

The week after Christmas, while my oldest son was home sick, he and my husband and I watched the original Blade Runner movie, which only my husband had seen before when it first came out, so that we can watch last year's sequel, Blade Runner 2049. We all enjoyed this sci fi movie from 1982, which is set in the far future world of 2019!

As with many futuristic sci fi movies, Earth - and particularly Los Angeles - has become a dark, bleak place. Human-like androids known as replicants live among humans. A young Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, an ex-cop who used to work as a "Blade Runner," someone assigned to assassinate replicants found among humans. When a bloody mutiny occurs off-world by a team of replicants, Rick is brought out of retirement to track down the androids responsible. During his investigation, though, he meets a female replicant, whom he gets to know and is attracted to. This makes Rick reconsider his role and think about what it means to be human.

We all enjoyed this gritty sci fi thriller, based on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. It's a dark movie, both literally and in tone, and Harrison Ford is, as always, fun to watch. There is plenty here to make you think, about being human, relationships, and the future. We were all amused by the film's depiction of the future, since it is set in 2019, and we are almost there! I always find it fascinating how sci fi writers in the past foresaw the distant future, where we are now. They generally get some things right, predict some things that are still far too advanced for us, and completely miss the boat on other technological advances. So, in this movie, there are androids that are almost impossible to tell apart from humans, yet Rick still has to find a pay phone (granted, it's a video pay phone) to make a call! All in all, we enjoyed this suspenseful and captivating film. Now we need to find time to see its recent sequel!

Blade Runner  is available for streaming on Amazon, starting at $2.99 or on DVD. It doesn't look like it is available on Netflix. And no spoilers here - ever - but from what I read, there are big differences between the theatrical version and the director's cut (we watched the theatrical version) and between director Ridley Scott's interpretation of the movie and Harrison Ford's! AFTER you have watched Blade Runner, you can check out this YouTube video, The Ending of Blade Runner Explained, to get in on the controversies (be ready to have your mind blown).


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: We Have Some Control Over Our Emotions

First, I apologize for so few blog posts lately. January was a month filled with family obligations, illnesses, and family crises, so I haven't had much time for much else. I'm behind on everything - not just my blogs! - and one of my goals for today is to finally clear out the unread e-mails in my Inbox, which have been ranging from 200-500 all month! In addition, I am devoting some of my limited writing time to working on a book, Effective Treatments for ME/CFS: Our Experiences. I am pulling together all of my blog posts on ME/CFS treatments, plus adding in some new material, into one place. So, I haven't had much time for new blog posts here this month (though while working on the book, I have been updating some of the older, most popular posts on treatment). For a preview of  some of what I will be covering in the book, you can check out my blog post on Effective Treatments for ME/CFS, which includes many links to more information.

So, onto today's Weekly (monthly?) Inspiration!

The title of a TED Talk caught my eye this week - You Aren't at the Mercy of Your Emotions - Your Brain Creates Them - in part because this is something I have been working on. Another thing crammed into this month has been searching for and starting with a new therapist. I sought help from a wonderful psychologist who specialized in chronic illness (her own grown son had ME/CFS) in the early years of my illness, and she helped me immensely. She has since retired, so I went in search of a new counselor. I think I am pretty well-adjusted after 16 years of living with chronic illness - I even try to help other people through this blog & several support groups I run! - but I wanted to finally address an issue that's been eating away at me. I want to learn how to get rid of and move past some resentment and bitterness I still feel over how some members of my extended family have reacted to my illness. I understand they will never change, and I am working hard to accept that, so I want to learn how to control my own emotions and dump some of this old, negative stuff that still lingers. So, this particular TED Talk seemed very relevant.

Here is the 18-minute talk from Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology and acting psychiatrist, all about how we have more control over our emotions than we may think. The first part of her talk focuses on the biology and physiology behind emotions, but at about minute 11, she zeroes in on applying that information to our own emotions:

I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Are there emotions related to your chronic illness that you struggle with? What has worked for you to help change your emotional reaction to certain things or people? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Movie Monday: Taking Lives

While our 23-year old son was home sick the week after Christmas, he and my husband and I watched a few movies together. The first was a creepy thriller from 2004 called Taking Lives, starring Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke.

The movie opens in the 80's, with a runaway teen named Martin Asher on a bus to Canada. He meets another guy about his age and along the way, he kills him and takes his guitar and wallet before heading off. Flash-forward to the present, where Angelina Jolie plays Illeana, an FBI profiler who has been called to Quebec to help police there with a serial killer case. The killer appears to be Martin Asher, who takes on the identity of each victim; Martin's mother thinks she saw Martin recently in the city. In the most recent case, there is no physical evidence but they have a break-through: an eye witness who was at the site of the murder and saw the killer. Ethan Hawke plays the witness, an artist named James Costa. There is some chemistry between him and Illeana, but he's a key part of the case. The rest of the movie deals with Illeana and the local police tracking down the killer and wondering how reliable the eye witness account is.

This is a super suspenseful and creepy thriller - the kind that keeps surprising you and makes you want to leave the lights on! Both Jolie and Hawke inhabit their roles beautifully, pulling the viewer into the story. The rest of the cast is just as good, with Keifer Sutherland, Olivier Martinez, and Jean-Hughues Anglade playing other law enforcement officials.  This taut and twisty thriller kept us all rapt, right up to the very last moments.

Taking Lives is available on Netflix streaming or available for rent through Amazon, starting at $2.99.  A Director's Cut is also available on DVD.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Movie Monday: Favorite Movies Watched in 2017

Time for a recap of the movies I saw this past year, highlighting my favorites. You can find a full list of ALL of my movie reviews (these recent ones plus past years) under the Movie Reviews tab.

We watched a total of 25 movies in 2017, a few more than we saw in 2016, in a nice mix of different genres, though no family movies (kids are grown now) or documentaries last year. You can see the full 2017 list below, with links to my reviews - no spoilers here!

First, some superlatives:

Best Suspense/Thriller
Though I'm not as big a fan of action/suspense movies as my sons and husband, we all enjoyed this one, and I especially liked how clever its plot was. Ben Affleck was excellent in this film as an autistic accountant to crime families.

Best Drama

An easy choice, though we watched a lot of good dramas in 2017. This one has everything - warmth, humor, and thought-provoking ideas plus a magnificent cast. Even better, it is totally unique.

Best Comedy
We only watched two comedies this year, and both were lots of fun, but this one that I watched on my own stood out, mostly because Marcia Gay Harden was just fabulous in it.

Best Sci Fi/Fantasy
We love sci fi movies, but this one really stood out, with excellent acting, a unique plot, amazing visuals, and mind-bending twists that leave you thinking long after it's over. I want to watch it again!

Best Musical

Granted, it was the only musical I saw in 2017, but it would be deserving of the "best" title anyway - lots of fun, warmth, and great music & dancing.

Here are all the movies we watched in 2017, listed by genre, with our favorites marked with an * - though, note that we enjoyed every one of these movies - there were no bad films for us last year!

* The Accountant - clever, action-packed thriller
* The Circle - taut suspenseful story of social media gone mad
Extortion - taut thriller of family vacation gone wrong
Spectre - the latest James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig

* Before I Fall - based on a YA novel, like Groundhog Day for teens
* Captain Fantastic - warm, funny story of quirky family facing challenges 
Carol - beautiful novel adaptation about forbidden love in 1952
* Cloud Atlas - clever, complex, visually stunning film based on the novel
The Dressmaker - quirky drama filled with dark humor, based on a novel
Everything, Everything - teen romance based on popular YA novel
* The Fundamentals of Caring - warm, funny story of friendship and hope
Gold - suspenseful drama about real-life 80's gold prospector
* Hidden Figures - inspirational true story of black women behind the scenes at NASA 
Me Before You - warm, sweet romance based on the novel by Jojo Moyes
Mr. Holmes - moving portrayal of an aging Holmes with dementia recalling his last case

Going in Style - fun, heartwarming comedy about old guys robbing a bank - all-star cast
If I Were You - fun, warm farce about infidelity

 Sci Fi/Fantasy
* Arrival - mind-bending, powerful movie about aliens, communication & being human
Mockingjay, Part 2 - action-packed conclusion to The Hunger Games series
* Passengers - long-term space journey goes awry - suspense, humor & romance
* Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - prequel to the original Star Wars movie
* Star Wars: The Last Jedi - excellent addition to the series
War for the Planet of the Apes - action-packed suspense with poignancy & humor
* Wonder Woman - suspenseful & entertaining superhero movie

* La La Land - a joyful musical romance set in Hollywood


 none (I know, I still need to see Unrest!)

What were your favorite movies watched in 2017? 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Treating Virally-Induced Crashes in ME/CFS

Virus in the house!
Just a quick post today because I am very, very sick - the sickest I have been in years, in fact. My son with ME/CFS was home sick last week with a cold, but he was back on his feet and moving back to his apartment after just one week, which is pretty amazing for someone with ME/CFS! Unfortunately, I've got it worse (if it is even the same virus). My doctor said there is a really nasty coughing infection going around, which seems to be what I have. Given my susceptibility to bacterial infections and especially bronchitis, I have that, too. I started antibiotics immediately (knowing my history and tendencies), but it's been 6 days now, and I am actually worse today. The chest congestion and cough are still horrible but now it's in my sinuses, too. For the first time this week, I spent the day in bed.

So, this blog post, Treating Virally-Induced Crashes in ME/CFS explains:
  • Why viruses make us (people with ME/CFS) crash
  • Why we are more prone to bacterial infections and how to prevent them
  • The kind of immune dysfunction that is central to ME/CFS
  • How to prevent virally-triggered crashes by improving/normalizing your immune system
  • How to treat viruses and virally-triggered crashes when they do occur so they won't last long or be as severe.
That post was just written in April, so it is fairly up-to-date and complete, but I would add a few things to it:
  • In addition to the immune system treatments mentioned in that post, I would add Increasing Glutathione to the list. I used to get bronchitis 3-5 times a year, causing a severe crash each time (the why is explained in that above post). Since starting glutathione injections in Fall 2016, this is the first time I've had bronchitis! That is a truly stunning improvement - in all, I went more than 18 months without getting bronchitis once.
  • That Virally-Induced Crashes post explains how to self-treat viruses when you have been exposed to one or catch one; however, there is one type of virus that should get you to your doctor immediately: the flu. The flu can knock a normal, healthy person down for 10 days to two weeks, so it can affect people with ME/CFS severely. My husband and son both caught it two Thanksgivings husband was sick for two weeks, but my son (with ME/CFS) was badly crashed and non-functional for more than two months, until early February. The best approach when someone with ME/CFS gets the flu is to start Tamiflu (an antiviral specific to the flu) immediately - the trick is to start it in the first couple of days for it to be effective. How do you know if it's the flu? It helps to know your own body, but the flu usually comes on very hard and suddenly - with high fever, sore throat, aches, and congestion right from Day 1 and cough soon after. For my son and I, as I explained in that virus post, we rarely get fevers, so now if one of us suddenly spikes a fever in the 100's (F) with the accompanying symptoms, we go see the doctor and ask for Tamiflu immediately.
Ok, that's more than I meant to write, but I hope this will help others who are struggling this time of year with all sorts of infections. 'Tis the season!

Monday, January 01, 2018

Movie Monday: Star Wars - The Last Jedi

We saw quite a few movies during the holidays because our son was home sick this past week. But before that, we kicked off our holiday season and celebrated our sons finishing final exams and their semester with a visit to our recliner theater to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. To prepare, my husband, older son, and I rented Star Wars: The Force Awakens (my review at the link - no spoilers) on Amazon the night before, since our son had missed it two years ago - that refresher was perfect, and I think I enjoyed the new movie more with its prequel fresh in my mind.

So, The Last Jedi picks up right where The Force Awakens ended (don't worry - no spoilers here). On the Dark side, the Empire - now regaining its strength as the First Order - is under the direction of Kylo Ren, played with great complexity by Adam Driver. And on the side of the Light, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is now a part of the Resistance, under General Leia, the last role for Carrie Fisher. Finn, played by John Boyega, and Poe, played by Oscar Isaac, are both working for the Resistance as well. Rey is on a mission to find Luke Skywalker, who has isolated himself in a remote corner of the universe. She wants him to train her as a Jedi. As with all the Star Wars movies, this one is about good versus evil on a grand scale, but on a more personal level, this film zeroes in on the youngest, most powerful members of each side: Rey and Kylo Ren. The two of them, though on opposite sides, seem to have a potent connection to each other which is at the center of this story.

All four of us thoroughly enjoyed this latest Star Wars installment, and I was especially glad we re-watched the previous movie the night before. The Last Jedi has everything you expect from a Star Wars movie - big battles and light sabres, yes, but also humor, romance, and intimate moments. The acting here is excellent, both in the Star Wars old-timers and the newer additions. This movie adds Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, as a fearless mechanic who plays a key role. The droids are always an amusing element to these movies, and here we get our new fave, BB8, plus our old friends, C-3PO and R2-D2. Chewbacca is back, along with several other strange creatures, including fox-like animals made of crystal and the adorable Porgs that populate Luke's island. Action, adventure, an intricate plot, drama, romance, and humor - what more could you want from a movie?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was just released in theaters on December 15 - this is definitely one to see on the big screen, if you can manage it! It is scheduled for release on streaming in March 2018 and on DVD in April.

Pre-Order the DVD:      Buy or Rent the Prequel: