Category Archives: Drama

Review : The Assassination of Gianni Versace

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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.

 

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

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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.

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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.

Dynasty Reboot Casts Their Alexis Carrington

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Image Credit: The CW

Since word began floating about of the CW networks plans to bring 80’s cult favorite soap Dynasty back to our screens, one of the biggest questions being asked was who will be playing the role of iconic character Alexis Carrington (played by Joan Collins in the original 80’s outing)

While the character was visibly absent from the reboot as it began, it had been confirmed that Alexis will be appearing towards the end of the series first season (which ties in with the original) with names including Heather Locklear, Laura Leighton, Elizabeth Hurley and Melinda Clarke all being thrown around as possible candidates to play Alexis.

Now, the CW network have found their Alexis Carrington and have let us all in on who nabbed the role which has gone to former Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sherridan.

Alexis is the first wife of Blake Carrington and mother to Fallon and Steven. She will return unexpectedly to their world, challenging Blake’s marriage to Cristal, seeking to reunite with her children, and fighting to claim what is hers.

A modern re-imagining of the iconic prime-time soap, the series centers on the powerful Carrington family as they defend their throne against the Colbys, new rivals and threats, and even each other.

It stars Grant Show, Elizabeth Gillies, Nathalie Kelley, James Mackay, Sam Adegoke, Robert Christopher Riley, and Rafael de la Fuente, and Alan Dale.

Dynasty is available to Australian viewers on Netflix Australia.

 

How Wentworth Survived After Killing Its Queen Bea.

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It’s a risky move for a television show with such a staunch world wide fan base to kill off one of its main characters in an attempt to shake things up and introduce fresh blood and fresh stories yet oddly enough, despite the hark from fans claiming they’ll never watch again, the bold move usually works.  Homeland, House of Cards, Grey’s Anatomy, M*A*S*H and 24 are just some of success stories where killing off main cast have worked in their favor.

Wentworth, is the most recent entry into this world with the murder of main player Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) at the end of the shows fourth season and questions quickly began to flit about how this show could survive without the driving force that Wentworth sprouted itself from.

The tour de force that was Bea Smith and the story around her propelled the show from a generic Prisoner remake into a modern day drama-come-love-story with an incredibly dedicated fan base, devastated their “Queen Bea” had been mercilessly slaughtered at the hands of series villain Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (Pamela Rabe) leaving her girlfriend Allie Novak (Kate Jenkinson) to pick up the pieces and exact her revenge.

This death, so surprising and utterly shocking, risked putting Wentworth fans off-side with the belief the show was supposed to be a telling of Bea’s entrance into prison and her rise to ‘top dog’ status and while, in point, we did get that tale, the killing off of a main character is still none the less a gusty move for any show.

What we didn’t notice however was the growing importance and build-up of the other characters within the show, each getting story lines that played quietly along the Bea Smith/Joan Ferguson/Allie Novak main story arc, all ready to take effect when the time was needed.

These stories involving Vera’s (Kate Atkinson) battle to maintain control of her governor position, Franky Doyle (Nicole da Silva) struggling to develop a healthy life outside of the Wentworth with girlfriend Bridget Westfall (Libby Tanner), the buddy buddy snitch snitch relationship between Sonia Stevens (Sigrid Thornton) and Liz Birdsworth (Celia Ireland) and current top dog Kaz Proctor (Tammy MacIntosh) feeling her grip loosen on her top dog status were all slowly bubbling along and came to flourish and hit the ground with both guns blazing when the time was right.

This move not only forced us to move on after Bea’s death but implemented a newer relationship with these characters on the back of strong writing and even stronger acting from the cast, allowing the show to thrive in a time of viewer devastation.  The fact that this death wasn’t used as a way to end an ugly love triangle or to move on a story arc that just wan’t working is even more testament to the writing on the show.

Bea’s death was personal but it was also a propeller, not just for the show but for each an every character within the world of Wentworth.  Killing off a Queen Bea can be dangerous but when done right, breathes new life into an already fascinating and intense show.

Wentworth continues Tuesday nights on Showcase and will see production begin this month on season six.

Pilot Review: Code Black

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Marcia Gay Harden leads new medical drama Code Black (c) CBS 2015

Medical dramas are a staple on television and have been for years.  From M.A.S.H to Chicago Hope, ER to Greys Anatomy and some other ones in between.  They’re like your cop/crime procedurals that infiltrate our TV listings but sometimes there’s a bit more blood and a bit more drama but in the end, there’s nothing really new or exciting about them.  Code Black (starting August 25th, 9.10pm on Channel 7) attempts to throw out everything we know about medical dramas and smears it with added blood for good effect.

Code Black follows the hectic work lives of doctors and interns at Angels Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles where on numerous occasions the patients outnumber the staff and resources available – hence the title Code Black.  Even in the opening scene we’re informed “while the average ER goes into code black five times per year, Angels Memorial hits that level 300 times per year.

For those familiar with the array of medical dramas that have been televised, the opening scenes of Code Black may feel a little familiar with Senior ER nurse Jesse (Luis Guzman)  going through the motions of introducing four new interns (including Bonnie Somerville as Christa and Benjamin Hollingsworth as cocky Mario) to life at Angels Memorial – what to do, what not to do and how not to kill patients before Dr. Leanne Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) whips through the ER like a medical genius hurricane informing the crew that a “Code Black” is imminent.

While your usual shows like Greys are full of pristine hospital wards where everything is white and sterile and most staff can maintain their ‘inside voices’ while spewing out hospital speak, Code Black is full of shouting, yelling people moving very fast… and  blood stained floors saturated by unflattering hospital UV lighting.  It’s a major contrast to what we know but also feels very ‘slap-in-the-face-we’re-different-ok?’

As the story goes, Code Black is a hectic show with lots going on.  Leanne is dealing with a traumatic past, Christa’s personal demons involving a close to home death cloud her judgement and Mario’s over inflated ego mix right into the crazy world of week to week cases – and there’s plenty of those too.  To pull off the Code Black feel, the pilot alone features seven cases among a myriad of background patients and a waiting room literally overflowing with more medical professional seeking members of the public suffering from ailments ranging from common colds to broken limbs.

A major play that Code Black has going for it is that while there is sooooooooooo much going on, unlike our beloved Greys Anatomy residents, there is no time for Code Black staff to bang each other in medical supply rooms while wondering “does he really like me?  Like really like me?”   And while sex between docs is on the down low, there is still a few hints of flirting among each other, but thankfully it doesn’t register on the McDreamy scale that Greys forcibly pushed onto us.

Code Black begins 9.10pm, Thursday August 25th on Channel 7.

Did Looking: The Movie, Offer a Fitting Farewell?

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Melissa Moseley/HBO 2016

There’s always a trepidation when coming into a ‘farewell movie’ of a series that one has grown to love but was cut short on us.  We find ourselves asking “Will we get the answers we want?  Will it give us a feeling of a proper conclusion?  Will we be happy with how we have to say goodbye?”  Even in Looking’s two season short life span, those questions begged to be asked and required answers.  Thankfully not only did we get our some answers but most fans should be able to say a final goodbye to a pack of characters we quickly grew to love.

Looking back, It’s been well over 12 months since Looking’s untimely demise.  Patrick (Jonathan Groff) ended his tumultuous relationship with Kevin (Russell Tovey) and had all but destroyed any chance of any kind of relationship with his ex Ritchie (Raul Castillo). Dom (Murray Bartlett) rekindled his long standing friendship with Doris (Lauren Weedman)  and was about to start a new professional journey while Augustine (Frankie J Alvarez) and HIV positive Eddie (Daniel Franzese) were on the cusp of starting a brand new relationship together.

The 90 minute farewell movie attempts to answer those looming questions but still leave enough open to assume that while Looking may in fact be over, Patrick, Dom and Augustine are still living their lives and making life changing choices even if it’s not visible to us.

Oddly enough while the series was about three gay men living life in San Francisco, this finale movie sees most of the narrative hinging on Patrick’s love life – or in fact, where he left off and what’s in store when he returns to San Francisco after a 9 month hiatus living and working in Denver.  Granted the Ritchie/Patrick/Kevin triangle played one of the major arcs in Looking’s second season, but the force of pushing this right into the main story for the movie sadly left Dom and Augustine relegated to side characters that only either offered a reason for Patrick to even be back in SF or give him a reason to question his own motives.

It’s a odd move by writers Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh who seemed to assume viewers were only invested in Patrick and his life and not that of Dom and Augustine’s. It’s a shame really as of the three, Augustine was shown to be the one that had grown the most from the pilot episode to the second season closer.

Yes, we’re offered answers and you know what, while not everyone will be satisfied, we should be happy with them even if certain elements are not clear cut in stone.  There’s enough there for us to make up our own minds as to which way the story ends for Patrick. Perhaps that was the intention all along?  Give us the equation, hint at a resolution but allow us to find the answer that sits the best with us.

I for one am happy we got one last outing with Looking even if it was a bit too much focused on Patrick at the expense of the other players.

 Looking: The Movie is currently screening on Showcase via Foxtel.

Pilot Review: Shades of Blue

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Liotta and Lopez struggle with right and wrong on Shades of Blue. (c) NBC 2016

Premiering Tuesday, August 2 at 8.30pm on Universal Channel is a brand new police crime series that sees all-rounder Jennifer Lopez go toe-to-toe with screen veteran Ray Liotta.  Titled Shades of Blue, the series delves into the corruptness within a Brooklyn police department led by Liotta’s Lieutenant Matt Wozniak.

What starts out as a cover up involving a skittish rookie with a touchy trigger finger and a drug dealer playing video games quickly evolves into an all-out undercover operation involving Lopez’s cash strapped Harlee Santos against her tight-knit crew of officers.

Harlee must find the line between protecting those she works with, her own family and giving the FBI what they need.  It’s not an easy task for Harlee as Wozniak is quick on the mark to note a mole within his crew.

As a whole, Shades of Blue doesn’t really bring anything new to the police procedurals that have flooded our screens over the years involving crooked cops but there is enough twisty plot moments within the first handful of episodes that actually keep the show slightly riveting.  Especially with the question of how much information on her crew Harlee keeps to herself and how much she hands out to the FBI while Wozniak is on the hunt for the mole in his crew.  Sadly though, once you’re past episode three, the series begins to stray away from its main story and offer up filler weekly cases and a somewhat unnecessary look into Harlee’s home life and her unruly teenage daughter.

Liotta, playing crooked cop dedicated to his team, is in his element here.  He tears through every scene he appears in, ready to lay some smack down and dole out some tough talking. While it works for Liotta, he is easily outshone by star Lopez…but not in a good way.

The ‘real’ problem with Shades of Blue is in fact Lopez herself.  It’s not that she is a bad actress or over-acts or anything like that because actually Lopez does hold her own against Liotta and fast talking Drea de Matteo (as officer Tess Nazario).  It’s that..well…it’s Jennifer Lopez.  Curves in all the right places, her perfectly tousled bob flowing effortlessly in the breeze as she totes her gun and flashes her badge in gritty and grungy NYC.  If anything, Lopez is basically one big distraction through no real fault of her own.

You’ll like it if: You enjoy serialized cop dramas with a gritty feel and some interesting plot twists.

You’ll hate it if: You enjoy heavily fleshed out police/crime dramas that delve deeply into character development while maintaining a steady pace to the main story line.

Shades of Blue begins  Tuesday, August 2 at 8.30pm on Universal Channel .

HBO’s Looking: The Movie Reveals Drama is Never Far Away from Patrick

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It’s been well over a year since HBO’s gay themed drama Looking aired its final episode and while Looking’s second season was a much welcomed improvement on season one, we were never given a true and proper ending to Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and his drama seeking pals after the show was cancelled.

HBO listened to our cries and have delivered up a movie length goodbye to tie up the loose ends of Patrick and his love triangle involving Ritchie (Raul Castillo) and Kevin (Russell Tovey), Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) and his new relationship with HIV positive Eddie (Daniel Franzese) and Dom (Murray Bartlett) and his fractured relationship with life-long friend Doris (Lauren Weedman) and his newly opened Portuguese chicken kitchen.

Check out the trailer below:

The plot sees Patrick return to San Francisco after living in Denver for almost a year to celebrate the upcoming wedding of some ‘close friends’ and ultimately finds himself face to face with unresolved issues surrounding his love life.

Looking: The Movie is scheduled to air July 23rd on HBO in America.

Wentworth Season 4 Air Date Revealed?!

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One thing is for sure, Wentworth, the top-notch Aussie based prison drama from Foxtel’s SoHo channel, sure know how to keep fans waiting!  While seasons three 2015 premiere date was revealed on Christmas day 2014, the only information us eager fans have been treated to is the casting of Bernard Curry as corrections officer Jake Stewart, Kate Jenkinson as new inmate Allie Novak and Sigrid Thornton as inmate Sonia Stevens.

But, is it possible we’ve finally been given the news we’ve all been waiting for?

Wentworth’s official twitter page has been oddly dormant since Jan 12th, Foxtel’s have been very silent on anything Wentworth and SoHo’s is the same applies to all three’s other social media accounts including Facebook pages.  Wentworth star Danielle Cormack though posted to her Instagram account attempting to set the record straight on the date

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The 25. 04. 2016 date falls into line with Wentworth’s usual premiere dates for an April start, so until official word comes through, as per usual, it’s a waiting game for us all!

 

Meet the Bride of Hannibal in the New Season 3 Trailer

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Gillian Anderson as Bedelia Du Maurier

They say marriage is a sacred institution.  One that is not to be entered into lightly and as the traditional vows go “Till death do us part” and judging by the new Hannibal season three trailer, death may be more imminent in a surprise new union.

In the closing moments of the season two finale, Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) was seen leaving on a jet plane with his former therapist Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) and it seems by the trailer above, this new relationship will be the focus of season three.

Showrunner Bryan Fuller recently told Digital Spy that Anderson has “quite a big role in the first half of the season”, and has one “hilarious” episode in particular.  It’s such a treat because you don’t see a lot of comedy from Gillian Anderson in her roles, but she’s very funny as a human being and incredibly funny as an actress when she turns it on,” he said.

Hannibal returns

USA: Thursday, June 4 on NBC
Australia: TBA on FOX8