‘Evil Genius’ – Netflix’s Newest Must-Watch Crime Series

tumblr_n4um26C6ym1ty720to1_500
Brian Wells moments before his untimely death – Netflix

The True Crime genre love that has been drawing in viewers for some time now from Making a Murderer to The Keepers and The Staircase among others, has a new must-watch show featuring one of the most bizarre cases ever documented.  Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist recently dropped on Netflix and the four part documentary has enough of all the right genre ingredients for it to be binged in a single sit and leave us wanting more.

At the very base of this case is the town of Eerie, Pennsylvania and a pizza delivery driver named Brian Wells who robs a bank with a working walking cane gun (it’s literally something out of James Bond), a note demanding $250,000 – and a collar bomb around his neck.

After obtaining less than $9000, Wells leaves the bank, is apprehended and while waiting for the bomb squad to arrive, dies when said collar bomb explodes in one very graphic and horrific scene that has traumatized me since viewing. Moments after Well’s shocking death, it’s discovered he was on a scavenger hunt, following a map and instructions in order to defuse the Saw like collar bomb.

The web of this case begins to expand when one of Well’s co-workers mysteriously dies only days later and two people – Bill Rothstein and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong – enter the fray with a third dead body sitting frozen in Rothstien’s chest freezer.

This fascinating case features master mind criminals, red herrings, crazy theories and law enforcement bungles – just as others in the genre have – but unlike those, the focus on the judicial system is just a haze as the unusual circumstances within this case are just too outlandish to not be put front and centre.

Of the two criminals in this case, Diehl-Armstrong is the only one still alive and the only one to actively communicate with director Trey Borzillieri about Well’s case and the ever expanding landscape that surrounds it.

Check out the trailer below:

Evil Genius is streaming now on Netflix Australia/New Zealand.

p.s – for fans of the genre’, the compelling The Staircase is coming to Netflix along with three all-new episodes starting on June 8th!

Advertisements

Review : The Assassination of Gianni Versace

GV1
Ray Mickshaw/FX

Taking the what-if around this murder as gospel, the follow up to The People Vs OJ Simpson is more flash than facts but is still a good watch.

I’m putting it out there front and center – the actual murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace is only a fraction of what is featured within the world of Ryan Murphy’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace so much so, the show would have been better titled The Delusional Life of Andrew Cunanan as Assassination delves into the world of Versace’s killer (played by Glee’s Darren Criss) more than Versace’s terrible fate as the title would suggest.

Opening with soaring operatic music and a flowing visual tour of Versace’s gaudy Miami mansion, Versace is dead even before the title credits.  However, the aim for Murphy wasn’t for us to follow those trying to solve this murder (hence the title) but in fact send us back in time and follow Cunanan and how he ended up with a gun in his hands aimed at the famed fashion designer.  Yes, Versace’s untimely death at the hands of Cunanan plays as the pilot episode’s main premise but that’s more to do with Versace’s celebrity status over Cunanan’s four other victims, who also get a look in during the shows eight other episodes in the form of time jumps.

Based off the book Vulgar Favors: The Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, the Man Who Killed Gianni Versace by author Maureen Orth, Assassination is spread among three different lines – Cunanan and his victims, Versace’s loved ones (including Ricky Martin as Versace’s long-time partner Antonio D’Amico) dealing with the fashion empire pre and post murder and the bumbling FBI who can’t seem to get to grips with the ‘gay’ aspect surrounding the murders (it was the 90’s).

The source material also happens to blur the lines between truth and made-up and Assassination quickly becomes a show that will have you asking “did that really happen?” while trying to decide what is fact and what is fiction considering to this day, there is still no actual proof that Versace and Cunanan had even met prior to the murder.

Gianni’s sister Donatella (played with startling verbal similarity by Penelope Cruz) has claimed the series as “a work of fiction” while the programme itself carries the disclaimer: “Some events are combined or imagined for dramatic and interpretative purposes. Dialogue is imagined to be consistent with these events” and that’s because the main players within this world are….well, dead.

Cunanan’s prior interactions (or lack thereof) with his victims – Versace (Édgar Ramírez), Jeffrey Trail (Finn Wittrock), David Madson (Cody Fern), Lee Miglin (Mike Farrell) and William Reece (Gregg Lawrence) – is somewhat pure speculation so while the work is based off fact, it is done so with much “let’s assume this is what happened“.

That aside, the character study of Andrew Cunanan is a rather intriguing one and is explored heavily within the series.  Cunanan’s ability to seamlessly morph into any given situation or social standing and flee when his lies have all been revealed is quite remarkable though giving so much focus on his life, his lies and his troubled youth feels like we’re being forced into empathizing with Cunanan in light of the fact he is/was a notorious serial killer.

Part of this comes down to how star Darren Criss brings the killer to life, playing Cunanan as mysterious yet suave with an air of charm, a believer in his own lies and the false world around him that he has created while trying to decide just how much of his true self he needs to reveal.  One could only presume by the middle of this series, much more freedom for Criss was enabled with Cunanan as this is where most of the fact/fiction lines become very blurred.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Assassination is the glaring fact that unlike season one’s OJ Simpson story, there is no real hero to root for.  While we all knew the end result, Sarah Paulson’s Marcia Clark still had us backing her to go and get hers in a male dominated environment yet in Assassination, that task is less male dominated environment and more gay acceptance.

That job is pretty much left vacant even though it may feel like we’re being forced into believing it should be Cunanan who, while never ashamed of his sexuality, understands how being gay can be perceived by those less educated on the topic.

The missing hero however is through no fault of anyone’s as there just was never one in this story to begin with.  It could never have been Cunanan (regardless of his childhood), the FBI, as it’s shown, were a bunch of bumbling bigots who couldn’t have cared any less about Cunanan’s victims and others such as Versace or even Lee Miglin’s wife Marilyn (played wonderfully by Judith Light) were so far removed from the central story line it would have meant stretching the truth even further to find that hero.

On the whole, this tale of Andrew Cunanan is a worthy watch and while lacking in the suspense and law and order that drove American Crime Story’s first season of The People Vs OJ Simpson there is still enough substance to dig in and make your own mind up about how much truth is actually found within this series.

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace begins Thursday May 24th at 8:30pm AEST, on Foxtel’s showcase.

 

Review: Olivia Newton John: Hopelessly Devoted to You – Part One

ONJ1
Image credit: Channel Seven

At some point during the two hours of this part one Olivia Newton John bio, A young Olivia Newton John (played by Morgan Griffin) finds a review about her album with the now infamous quote “If white bread could sing, it would sound like this.”….

Needless to say, that white bread is what we’re being delivered up in the first part of this ONJ biopic that literally speed-balls through two decades of her career within the blink of an eye, bypassing the darker, meatier topics that could have added a bit of wholegrain to the loaf.

Hopeless Devoted to You opens with one of ONJ’s most iconic film moments, the transformation of Sandy in Grease with her ink black leggings, figure hugging corset and hair tizzed within an inch of it’s life singing ‘You’re the one that I want’.  She’s riding a wave of praise with the world at her feet at the movie’s premiere wondering “how did I get here?” before we’re thrown all the way back to Melbourne 1965 with 16 year old ONJ  (Morgan Griffin) about to get her first break with boyfriend TV presenter Ian Turpie (Will Ewing) by her side.

A move to London, a failed attempt with her first single and movie plus a new boyfriend in Bruce Welch (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) from the band ‘The Shadows’ and suddenly ONJ is 22 years old and she’s beginning to make a name for herself with thanks to her boyfriend and manager Welch.  There’s a slight hint within this first part that attempts to look at Welch’s jealousy of ONJ has her career begins to soar (he left his band to manager her) but because that might delve a bit to deep into the dark side it’s quickly brushed aside and ONJ moves on.

White bread.

ONJ3
Image: Channel Seven

It’s a full 45-odd minutes before the Delta Goodrem version of ONJ re-appears just as she’s about to sing her first mega hit “I Honestly Love You” with new boyfriend by her side, Englishman Lee Kramer (Todd Lasance) who, also happens to be her new manager.  And very much like before with lover/manager Welch, ONJ finds herself struggling with the jealousy of Kramer as her lover/manager as her career continues to keep going higher and once again, she lets him go before we get into the meatier parts of their relationship.

White bread.

The nitty gritty of this part one is that there is none.  It’s simply white bread and in all honesty there is really nothing wrong with it as it makes for a nice and pleasant viewing filled with some hit songs and a couple of broken hearts.

As a young ONJ, Morgan Griffin shines, giving us the doe eyed soft spoken Aussie girl about to take on the world with her music though as this is the Delta Goodrem show, she’s brought in to play ONJ in her early 20’s and that may not have been the best move as Goodrem is too present, too self aware, too…well…Delta Goodrem.

Sure Delta and ONJ both embody the ‘good girl next door’ image but the similarities between the two end there and I had to remind myself constantly that this wasn’t a Delta singing singing ONJ’s greatest hits special and that’s through no fault of her own.  Delta is just too big a name, face and brand to easily morph into someone else – someone just as well known in the form of Olivia Newton John.

When you compare this to 2014’s Michael Hutchence/INXS biopic, Luke Arnold, while known, did not have the same status as Goodrem which allowed the actor to become Hutchence to a point the two were eerily alike but then again, there was more substance and darker, personal material being explored in that movie.

Part two, which airs the following week, delves into the more recent(ish) and more tabloid ONJ era with crazed stalkers, the Xanadu years, battle with cancer and a lover missing at sea.

Don’t expect too much depth from this part one, if we’re talking white bread it’s a cucumber sandwich made to look like a cheese sandwich but we still can clearly see it’s a cucumber sandwich.  Enjoyable but sadly not satisfying that hunger.

Olivia Newton John: Hopelessly Devoted to You – Part one airs Sunday, May 13th at 8:30pm on the Seven Network.

The MKR Grand Finalists Have Been Revealed!

MKR
Image – Channel 7

After 5 long months (including a 4 week hiatus for the Commonwealth Games), we finally know which of the 16 teams have made it through to the My Kitchen Rules grand finale airing this Sunday night on Channel 7.

Victorian mums Kim and Suong who have powered through with their cyclone-in-a-kitchen traditional Vietnamese cooking, will battle it out against Gold Coast couple Alex and Emily who have proven strong with their Mexicali fusion cuisine, for the $250,000 winning prize.

The road to the finale has been a tough one for viewers with the ousting of fiery friends Hadil and Sonya after their abusive outburst while fan favorites Henry and Anna, along with Olga and Valeria failed to impress the judges enough to make it through to the semi-finals.

Leaving just four teams to cook off, brothers Nic and Josh and friends Stella and Jezzey both missed the final hurdle leaving the last two teams of Alex and Emily and Kim and Suong to cook off on Sunday night.

Who will win?  Find out this Sunday on Channel 7 and leave your thoughts in the comments section below!