Review: Empire ‘Pilot’

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Mixing the age old tale of King Lear, the mid 80’s soapie Dynasty and the modern world of r&b/hip hop music and drug money, Empire (Channel 10, Sunday 9pm) offers up a pilot episode that enters the ‘too good to be true’ category of first run shows because you know what…..it’s good!

I will admit, I was somewhat hesitant going into Empire as my scorecard of being entertained by shows with a musical back-tone (Smash/Glee) currently sits at a big Z E R O, but, Empire has notched up my first tick on my card.

This first episode, our first foray into the world of Lucious Lyon (Oscar nominee Terrance Howard) and his world engulfed in Empire Records, is glitzy, shiny, tough, fast-paced and it’s packed full with a lot of dialogue and back story that, if in the hands of anyone else besides Lee Daniels (The Butler) could have gone horribly wrong.

The setup has Lucious Lyon is at the top of his game.  His Empire Records…empire…has provided him with power (he’s on first name basis with Obama), money, and a lavish lifestyle we imagine someone like P.Diddy to be living in.  He’s looking to take Empire Records to the next level but he’s also holding onto a secret – he’s just been diagnosed with ALS – for which there is no cure, and sets out to find the rightful heir to his kingdom.

The problem here is that in Lucious’s eyes, none of his three children are the perfect fit to take the job.  Andre (Trai Byers), the eldest, is the well educated, business minded one but has zero musical talent – Lyon believes the next in line should be a musician – which brings us to Jamal (Jussie Smollett) who is filled to the brim with musical talent – but he’s gay, a topic that Lucious has never been able to accept (there’s a powerful flashback scene in which Lucious, so enraged by Jamal’s effeminate nature, literally throws him into the garbage can) so that leaves youngest Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) but he’s brash, uncontrollable and completely obliterated by the dollar bills readily available to him (remember Chris Lilley’s S’Mouse creation? – #NailedIt).

This struggle for Lucious to find an heir is put into turmoil by the untimely release of his ex wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) who has spent the last 17 years in prison for a crime that provided the initial seed money to create Empire Records, and she’s looking for her share of the dosh.

As I said, there’s a lot stuffed into the first episode, but what helps keep things on track is it’s leads in Howard and Henson.  Howard’s approach to Lyon – you want to feel for him…his life’s work building this musical kingdom is about to come crashing down, but his approach to his children (he treats, respects and raises each one completely differently) and ex Cookie just doesn’t sit right, but he’s sick and dying…it’s a constant struggle between the love/hate and love to hate you’ll have for him.  Henson on the other hand, complete standout.

With Cookie Lyon, there’s no bars held here.  She works the weave, the furs, the fake nails, the leopard print and her biting words “I want to show you a faggot can really run this company“.  Seriously, said by anyone else, this would have been an ultimate disaster for any show, but Henson, as Cookie Lyon, manages to walk away from this remark with viewers clapping their hands.  There is truly no one like Cookie on television and hands down, Hanson is probably the best thing on Empire.

I’ve managed to glimpse at the first 5 episodes of Empire and the show holds it’s own after it’s impressive first hit and i’m excited to see more.  Lee Daniels set out to create his “black Dynasty” and that he sure has.  Murder, lies, back-stabbing, secrets, illness, sex….it’s all there and it’s highly seducing.  Even the music (which obviously plays a big part in Empire) could have felt a little bit too Glee, but with uber producer Timberland taking the helm, it all seems to fit in nice and snug and brings the entire production together.

Empire should be on your watch list this coming Sunday night.  Mark it down!  Sunday, March 1st, 9pm on Channel 10.

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Foxtel Confirms a Fourth Season of Wentworth

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How exciting and great news not only for this incredible drama but original Australian scripted drama – Wentworth continues!  The Aussie drama about life inside a women’s prison has been confirmed for a fourth season Foxtel and FremantleMedia announced today.

Foxtel and FremantleMedia Australia today announced production on the fourth season of the internationally acclaimed drama Wentworth will be underway in Melbourne in the second half of this year.

Season 3 wrapped production in August and will premiere on Foxtel’s SoHo channel on Tuesday April 7, at 8.30pm EST.

From the press release:  Foxtel Head of Drama Penny Win said “All of us at Foxtel and FremantleMedia Australia are extremely proud of Wentworth and the passionate bond the series has forged with drama lovers, starting with our discerning Foxtel subscribers and expanding to captivate audiences around the world.”

FremantleMedia Australia Director of Drama and Wentworth executive producer Jo Porter said “Without wanting to give away any specific spoilers from season three, suffice to say it builds to a fabulous crescendo that in turn has given our season four writers a fantastic launch pad to explore what is next for the complex and compelling characters of Wentworth. Our loyal Wentworth fans are not going to be disappointed and I know our amazing cast and crew are going to relish bringing to life these potent stories.”

Season three begins in Australia on Tuesday, April 7th at 8:30pm on SoHo.

Lady Gaga Confirmed for AHS: Hotel

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Mother Monster will see you now!

Yep, Lady Gaga has been confirmed to star in the fifth season of the freaky franchise, currently titled American Horror Story: Hotel. Taking to twitter, Gaga posted the following tweet..

Aside from the new title, theme, Gaga’s casting and the premiere month of October, no other news has been announced regarding the show.  Sarah Paulson and Emma Roberts are currently working on other Ryan Murphy projects (American Crime Story and Scream Queens respectively) and series leader Jessica Lange’s possible involvement with season 5 is still unknown.

While noting Freak Show would be her last outing, Lange did reveal to E! back in November that she could be willing to return.

The Power Rangers Short Film We (Never) Knew We Wanted!

James Vander Beek and Katee Sakhoff star in the short film.
James Van Der Beek and Katee Sackhoff star in the short film.

It was staple TV viewing for every kid and teenager in the 1990’s…a bunch of teenagers donning colorful lycra, yelling “It’s Morphin’ Time!” and basically kicking ass.  In general, looking back, it was light and fluffy and pretty bad but we never knew it and now, in a bootleg-ish short, some of our favorite rangers are back, but in a very different way.

A very dark and very gritty and very (almost) R-rated version has hit the internet starring James Van Der Beek (Dawsons Creek/CSI Cyber) and Katee Sackhoff (BSG) and is directed by Joseph Kahn. (Detention, Toque)

Being nothing short of awesome, it’s being hailed as “a twist on the Power Rangers mythos”, the short film is a a well crafted brilliant cgi-heavy send-up of dark and gritty fan films while also somehow being a fun addition to the genre.  Check out the SFW version below (the NSFW version is vimeo only)

Speaking to Hitflix, Kaan said the prospect of making such a heavy twist on a fun show drew him to the project.  “I think the trick that I really wanted to do with this was to make that dark and gritty version that everybody keeps talking about, but really do it. Really see if I could totally accomplish it with essentially a really incredible incredibly silly property.”

Accomplish it he did.

The irony here is that I wouldn’t even want to make “Power Rangers: The Movie’ for real. Like if I had to make a ‘Power Rangers’ movie, this is it. It’s 14 minutes long and it’s violent and this is what I have in me. If they offered me the 200 million version, the PG-13 version, I literally wouldn’t do it. It’s just not interesting to me.”

Shame Kaan feels so strongly about standing firm on never touching the project again in any form but at least, our inner 90’s teen/wannabe power ranger still lives….well sort of.

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Sonia Kruger Joins The Voice Australia for 2015

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As an avid The Voice Australia watcher, I was nothing short of surprised to hear that Big Brother Australia host Sonia Kruger is coming onto The Voice Australia for a co-hosting gig.

Now, can someone please explain to me why The Voice Australia needs a second host?  Nothing against Kruges’…the woman does a brilliant job hosting BBAU (though I will put my hand up and say I do miss the Gretel Killeen days) but as for The Voice host Darren McMullen needing a helping hand….he seems to be doing fine with the workload involved with the job.

The news have offered up some mixed reviews from viewers, some even suggesting this hammers in the final nail in BBAU’s coffin for any chance of a return to our screens this year..

Kruges’ joining The Voice AU is just another step in shake-ups for the show with Kylie Minogue and Will.I.Am stepping down from the big red chairs, replaced with Jessie J, the return of Delta Goodrem and the addition of Joel Madden’s twin brother Benji.

 The Voice AU returns later this year on Channel 9.

Pretty Little Liars’ Big ReveAl Is Coming

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Could it be true?  After 5 seasons, over 100 episodes, assorted deaths, mysterious text messages and many a red coat, it seems we are finally edging closer to discovering the real identity of Pretty Little Liars’ ‘Big A’.

We’ve been led down many a winding road with our liars only to be let down with mini A’s (Mona) and fake members of the A Team (Toby and Ezra) but now, it seems, we are heading towards the light.

That’s from PLL creator Marlene King who followed up with the following tweet:

PLL’s Keegan Allen (Toby Cavanaugh) has let it be known that when it comes to the identity of Big A….we’ve already seen them. It won’t be some random character that pops out of nowhere saying ‘surprise bitches’.

So who is Big A?  Or who could be Big A?

Everyone from lead characters Aria (Lucy Hale) and Hannah (Ashley Benson) to Ashley (Laura Leighton) and even the deceased Maya (Bianca Lawson) have all been tossed around the theory bin but it looks like we’re going to have to wait until the season 5 finale on March 24th for a very long awaited answer.

Who do you think is Big A?  Sound off in the comments below!

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesday nights on ABC Family (USA) and on Fox8 on Fridays (Australia)

Pilot Review: State of Affairs

Katherine Heigl as CIA analyst Charleston Tucker.  Source: Privided

Katherine Heigl as CIA analyst Charleston Tucker. Source: Provided

Are we ready for another chance to hate-watch a show for it’s star?

There’s a moment in this first episode of State of Affairs where you begin to question your current feelings for star Katherine Heigl. Heigl herself, once beloved by fans as Izzy Stephens on medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, had a very public exit from the show followed by a string of mediocre rom-com movies and earned herself a ‘difficult to work with‘ moniker.

So the question begs….do we like her or not?

Now it’s been some time since Heigl has graced our screens (large and small) but she’s back as a top CIA analyst Charleston ‘Charlie’ Tucker (Isn’t that the most ridiculous name btw?) working directly with the Constance Payton (Aflre Woodard) who happens to be the President of the United States.

Both are dealing with the pending anniversary of an attack they suffered while in Kabul in which the president’s son – and Charlie’s fiancee was killed.  Charlie’s way of dealing is with the use of lots of alcohol, random sex and the wearing of mainly black clothing…but only when there’s time for it as Charlie has plenty to do.

From being a complete bitch to her therapist to briefing the POTUS on potential threats and shouting demands down the phone, it’s a wonder she finds time to even do her hair but even in the dead of night, walking down the halls in her impossibly high heels, Charlie still manages to look like she’s just stepped off a vogue cover shoot.

While there’s daily threats for Charlie and her rag-tag team of analysts to deal with, it’s those events in Kabul which propel the season along.  Just who killed the POTUS’s son?  Why can’t Charlie remember what actually happened that night?  Who is sending those mysterious and threatening text messages?  Why is she wearing big thick black rimmed hipster glasses?

To put it nicely, State of Affairs is a watered down , fluffy version of that other woman-who-protects-the-country-but-has-issues show – Homeland but where Homeland and it’s star Claire Danes aren’t afraid to get dirty (and give us that now famous ugly cry) State of Affairs keeps it’s hands rather clean.

Don’t get me wrong, it is watchable and if you stick with it, over-time, story-lines and characters develop a lot more (especially with Tuckers team members), but don’t come in expecting the quality that Homeland gives us.

State of Affairs begins Thursday night, 9pm on Channel 7.

FIRST LOOK: Wentworth Season 3 Trailer!

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It’s finally here!  We’ve all been waiting since late December (when SoHo gave us a minuscule but killer 30 second preview) for any more information on our ladies in prison blues and now, SoHo are giving us much much more!

25 minutes ago, Soho dropped a first look trailer at the drama’s third season and while the trailer itself doesn’t reveal much of possible story lines, it looks all kind of amazing!

check it out below:

And , not only did we get this preview, we’ve also been given a start date!  Tuesday April 7th – 8.30pm on SoHo!

Excited much?!  I know I am!

Jimmy Fallon’s Saved By The Bell Reunion on The Tonight Show

Jimmy Fallon finally get's his Saved by the Bell reunion.  Source: NBC
Jimmy Fallon finally get’s his Saved by the Bell reunion. Source: NBC

There’s moments in life where you just finding yourself having a total ‘squee‘ moment over certain things and Jimmy Fallon’s Saved by the Bell reunion is one of them.

Finally staging the reunion he’s always wanted, Fallon, and the Tonight Show, rebuilt the original set of Bayside High from the 90’s teen sitcom and invited some familiar to join in.

This very cool and very exciting 8 minute video begins with Fallon as a high school student in the halls of Bayside High before Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) appears atop of the steps in full Zack Morris attire.

The reunion had almost everything to make it perfect including AC Slater (Mario Lopez) breaking out some dance moves, Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) feeling ‘excited’, Kelly Kapowski (Tiffany Thiessen) in her trademark cheerleader uniform and Mr. Belding (Dannis Haskins) trying to be cool with his students.

There were some awesome jokes scattered throughout too including Fallon’s dreams of one day dating Nicole Kidman, Mario Lopez’s stint on Dancing with the Stars, Tiffany Thiessen’s move to Beverly Hills 90210 and Elizabeth Berkley’s role in the cult Showgirls.

Even though Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) and Screech (Dustin Diamond) were missing, this Tonight Show clip makes for awesome 90’s memories.  Check it out below!