Pretty Little Distractions

The world is too much with me these days, my friends, and thus I find myself searching for solace in story. When my aging eyes are strained from work, I’m less enthused about escaping into a book; luckily, there have been plenty of satisfying/distracting stories to be found on the small screen lately.

Once upon a time I received eye rolls and sneers when I mentioned Hallmark movies (and perhaps there was a time when I sneered), but these days more and more of my friends are watching right along with me. I’ve found this year’s “Winterfest” offerings to be pretty strong. Of course there’s a formula, and we all know who is getting together by the end of the movie, but there’s some comfort to be derived from that, right? The above two films were particular favorites of mine — the dialogue was snappy and the chemistry between the leads fun to watch. (Note: Hallmark finally is introducing more diversity into their productions, which is great, but I think we’re all MORE than ready for diverse romantic leads, okay? Can we get on that soon?)

DVR ALERT: All four of the Winterfest movies will run this Saturday (1/27) starting at 1 EST. And coming very soon from Hallmark — the Valentine’s Day movies!

Too sappy for you? Well, let’s do a 180 with these options:

Lately I’ve become obsessed with the horror films of Mike Flanagan. (And yes, HE is the writer/director for the forthcoming Netflix adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House!) My obsession began when one of my favorite YouTube film reviewers, Chris Stuckmann, included Gerald’s Game in his list of favorite films of 2017. His recommendation, along with the fact that it’s a Stephen King story, prompted me to track it down immediately. You guys, the TENSION! It’s excruciating at times. But that tension, along with the performances from Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood, make this such a remarkable viewing experience. For me the film’s coda somewhat undercuts the overall effect, but your mileage may vary. Here’s what I love about Flanagan’s films — they are character-driven (always featuring strong women), thoughtfully cast, and do not rely overmuch on special effects or jump scares. Oculus, in my opinion, drags out a little long, but Karen Gillan gives an inspired performance as a young woman trying to prove, through a carefully conceived paranormal investigation (Eee, one of my favorite things in a horror movie!), that a cursed mirror killed her parents. Ouija: Origin of Evil started out so brilliantly with a widowed mother and her daughters adding a Ouija board to their seance scams. I was in horror HEAVEN. Things fell apart at the end, sadly, but perhaps this was due to the constraints of it being a prequel? I have quibbles with all three of the films, but I still enthusiastically recommend them to horror buffs. (Something to consider–Ouija: Origin of Evil is PG-13, but the other two are definitely more adult.)

ETA: Gerald’s Game and Oculus are available on Netflix, but I could only watch Ouija-Origin of Evil through a trial subscription to Cinemax (available through Amazon Prime).

Okay, so maybe you’re not quite up to a horror film at this moment. Don’t worry, I’ll mention the above films again in early October when I offer my annual horror recommendations. For now you might prefer something “in between” — not too sappy, not too dark and creepy.

How about this?

After mainlining the series Shetland, with angsty cutie-pie DI Jimmy Perez (played by perennial favorite Douglas Henshall), I thoroughly expected Vera, also based on novels by Ann Cleeves, to be “meh” by comparison. Well, I’m in the sixth season now and I think I love it MORE than Shetland. It all comes down to the performance by Brenda Blethyn. Honestly, I feel nearly the same about her as I do about Helen Mirren–I simply long to meet her and bask in her glory. Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is very real to me, and I adore her, and I love to watch the team come together under her somewhat cranky and impatient direction. There is darkness in the show, to be sure, and occasional moments of heartbreak, but Vera fights on and always solves the case. Bonus: we are treated to lovely shots of the Northumbrian moors and coastline.

ETA: Vera is available to watch through Acorn TV.

How about you? What have been your favorite TV distractions of late?

4 thoughts on “Pretty Little Distractions

  1. kevin luck

    My name is Kevin. Yes, I am a Hallmark addict.
    Hello Kevin
    Unleashing Mr Darcy #1
    Marry me at Christmas #2
    #3 (cannot remember title but about a magazine writer who gets her big chance by going to the mountains for extreme snow sports)
    Honorable mention: a Christmas Kiss 1; Autumn in the Vineyard.
    Oh well, the list goes on!

    Reply
    1. SoniaG Post author

      Kevin, I will NEVER forget how much you loved Unleashing Mr. Darcy! And I think the extreme snow sports one was Love on the Slopes? Which airs again this weekend. 😀

      Believe it or not, I haven’t seen Marry Me at Christmas!

      Reply
  2. Michelle Lunsford

    Well, I dropped my Sling TV for the time being (knew my schedule at present wouldn’t really allow for much TV indulgence), but hopefully I can catch some of these HM romances on a repeat. One of the other aspects I love about Hallmark Channel and their affiliates – they like to replay their movies a lot. 🙂

    I’ll put Vera on my to watch radar. Acorn is another one of those I subscribe to from time to time – it’s how I get my Detective Murdoch fix – and I think I remember seeing this one but had never gotten around to checking it out. Hey, maybe this is one for our to watch list later in the spring?

    Reply
    1. SoniaG Post author

      Well, I dropped my Sling TV for the time being (knew my schedule at present wouldn’t really allow for much TV indulgence)

      You are strong, dear friend!

      And yes, it might be fun to watch a little VERA while you’re here. I personally think it gets better in later seasons, but it’ll be fun to go back to those early eps.

      Reply

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