High speed, unlimited internet, has brought great enrichment to my otherwise dark and insulated December. I thought I’d spend this quiet lazy time between Christmas and New Years reading my big growing pile of books, but instead I’ve knitted and watched Netflix. Here are some reviews for you!

Downton Abbey – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I just want to wrap this show in my arms and squeeze it in a big hug. I had never seen an episode before, and binged all 6 seasons and the movie in December. I laughed, I sobbed, I greatly increased my tea intake.

I loved the characters, every one, their flaws, their strengths, their stories. There was great beauty in this show, in the characters, in the magnificent building, the costumes, the vehicles.

If you have never seen it, it is set in England in the 1910’s and 1920’s. The story is centred on a great house, called ‘Downton Abbey’, and the family that lives in it, and all of the people of service who feed them, clothe them, dress them, and clean around them. All of them are main characters, and it is fascinating to learn about the dynamics between the classes. I had no idea all the servants would take their orders from the butler, and would all rise from their servant’s dinner table when the butler entered or rose from his seat. Oh yes, this was back in the day when most or all of the people who worked in a great house like this would live on the premises.

While fictional, the show experiences real historic events, like the sinking of the Titanic, and the Spanish flu, and World War I and the changes that evolved from each.

I find myself in a mourning period now that I’m done watching, and really excited to know another movie is being released shortly! I give this series 5 stars!

After Downton Abbey, I wouldn’t let myself move on to another series. I didn’t want to let them go! So I jumped into other documentaries and movies that Netflix surfaced to me. Here are some other reviews:

Don’t Look Up – ⭐️

This wasn’t one that Netflix recommended, but rather one that so many people on Facebook and Twitter were gushing about.

Don’t listen to them. This was a garbage movie that could have been summed up in a political cartoon in a newspaper that you could look at for 20 seconds, nod, and move on with your life. It is truly horrible, and the more interesting phenomenon is what people were seeing in this movie. Some saw the whole point was about climate change, others saw covid, and others just American politics.

It’s just too long, and predictable, and terrible in every way. I almost shut it off twice, but because everyone was raving about it, I unpaused and pushed on hoping for a redemption that never came.

For me, the biggest surprise is the number of people who liked this movie. Did they really like it? Or did they find comfort in something on the screen that was supporting whatever point or argument they found in it? Bleh, who cares, moving on….

One star. Assuming there is nothing lower on my star scale.

Found – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was an interesting little documentary about 3 teenage girls in America who had been adopted from China. Though DNA testing, they found each other as cousins and started a relationship like sisters.

This documentary follows their new friendship, and each of their adoption stories. They found a genealogist researcher in China who helps find birth families, and she helped round out the story. Although not all the girls wanted to find their birth parents, they did all take a trip together with their families to China, to see the places they were found (roadside, and on a bridge) and to visit the orphanages where they lived. They each were able to meet the nannies who cared for them. It amazing that these nannies cared for hundreds of babies, but remembered each one of them like they were their own.

This documentary showed every angle of a sensitive topic without judgement . They visited some families in China who had given up their daughters, and why. Most of them didn’t want to, but they were poor, and the government was threatening. One mother they interviewed gave up three daughters. Another woman showed this passport-like government issued booklet and explained the Chinese government “inspected” women monthly, checking the mandatory IUD was still in place. If you had a second baby, you were subject to expensive fines that many couldn’t afford. Many abandoned their babies in busy places where they knew they’d be quickly found. In one story, the father did it without the mother knowing his intentions.

The girls in this movie all have nice lives in America with wonderful families, but found great support with their new cousin “sisters”. Seeing them talk and hug and support each other was touching.

I enjoyed this one. 4 stars! Keep a tissue handy!

The Starling – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m a sucker for a Melissa McCarthy movie. Even when they are ridiculous I enjoy her so much I watch them all. Netflix had been recommending this one to me for weeks so I finally watched it.

This one takes place after a heartbreaking loss for a husband and wife. One that lands the husband in a mental facility, and the wife home to continue working and tending to their great big farmhouse and yard.

An annoying, and rather vicious starling bird plays a big role. I kept trying to make the starling some sort of metaphor and just couldn’t ever get it to fit right though.

Nevertheless, Melissa McCarthy is great, as is her husband played by Chris O’Dawd, and a therapist turned vet played by Kevin Kline.

This one may also make you cry, but it’s a nice little movie. I gave it 3 stars because I enjoyed it, but not 5 because it is unlikely I’d watch it again on purpose. Although if I did, I’d still enjoy it. I think.

The Shack – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Shack is based on a novel that started out as a self-published story by a Canadian author, but sky-rocketed in the charts and landed with a publisher.

I knew nothing about this movie, except that Netflix kept recommending it to me. I had a moment of feeling a bit tricked when I sensed its religious content a bit of the way in, but no need. This movie is beautiful and thought provoking, whether you are a spiritual or religious person, and even if you are not. Don’t let the mention of any sort of religious content put you off from watching this one.

The Shack has some similarity with the underlying loss in The Starling, but I won’t spoil it. I have learned things from this movie, and continue to think of it a day later.

I’m giving this one 5 stars, and I would like to watch it again. It’s a long one, over two hours, which I like. The only downside to this movie is the main character’s voice and speech. He talks low and gravelly. At first I thought he was trying trying to put on some sort of sexy speech, but then I wondered if he was instead speaking low and without any emphasis to hide an accent? Jeff confirmed later this may have been the case because he is played by Sam Worthington, an Australian actor. I needed to turn the volume way up to try to catch what he was saying all the time because of his lack of emphasis.

MixTape – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is an enjoyable coming of age movie about a kid who’s parents died when she was two. She is being raised by her grandmother, and sets out to learn more about her parents after discovering a mix tape they made.

It’s a quirky fun story involving a guy who runs the neighbourhood record store, a new neighbourhood friend, bullies at school, and her grandma (played by Julie Bowen). It is set just before Y2K – back in the final days of record stores, Walkmans, and mixed tapes!. Napster even plays a role in this movie!

I guess I’m a sucker for movies about teenagers, (and also dead people and loss judging by Netflix’s recommendations?). This one is enjoyable, although likely not memorable. It’s a two or three star toss up, but I’m feeling generous, so three stars it is.

What watching Downton Abbey has made me realize – I no longer want to watch any shows that haven’t completed their run. I don’t enjoy waiting a year, or three, for the next season of a show to hit Netflix. I’m sure all production has been delayed by covid, but every time a season is released, I spend half of it trying to remember the back story and re-engage with the characters. I’m looking at you Virgin River, and Firefly Lane, and Sweet Magnolias. I know this is terrible for the production of a show – to refuse to watch it until it’s run its course – because then all shows would only be a season long. But it is just so much more enjoyable to bite into the whole thing!

Also, I had already drastically reduced my TV watching in recent years, but after watching shows on Netflix or Disney+ without commercials – it just really ruins regular TV all together. I don’t want to sit through ads anymore. I’d rather pay a nominal monthly fee to have ad free shows and movies. Or the ability to record and play back a show with a fast forward button. Or I’ll probably just not watch the show at all.

I have a few more days of this Christmas vacation…. what should I watch next!?