Candy

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Hulu;
Drama;
Not rated.
Stars Jessica Biel, Pablo Schreiber, Melanie Lynskey, Raúl Esparza, Timothy Simons.

This true crime drama follows the story of Candy Montgomery, a 1980 Texas housewife and mother with a good husband, two kids and a nice house who also seems to be a cold-hearted ax murderer.

Portraying incidents before, after and during the death of her “friend” Betty Gore — not in any chronological order — the series unveils Candy’s secrets slice by slice, like a potluck pie, but ultimately leaves her somewhat of a fascinating enigma, prompting viewers to ponder the question: Does anyone really know the housewife next door?

While many true crime dramas play it straight, Jessica Biel’s portrayal of Candy leans toward the satirical, reminiscent of Nicole Kidman’s turn as the naughty, husband-murdering teacher in To Die For. This is a woman who can wield an ax to kill before lunch and help out with a smile at the church Bible school after. The facade of suburban homemaking chatter and activity contrasted with the gory murder and the ugly secrets behind it make for some very dark humor. Biel’s husband Justin Timberlake makes a supporting appearance as a cop investigating the crime as does Jason Ritter, the husband of Melanie Lynskey, who portrays Betty, further adding to the sardonic tone.

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Lynskey’s aggrieved and doomed Betty comes off as such a milquetoast whiner that her murder seems almost deserved — though the actress gives her a despondent gravitas. Her ghostlike appearances toward the end leave us wanting a bit more verve, but then maybe Betty doesn’t have it in her.

Candy, on the other hand, is engaging, funny, sexy and exciting, the kind of gal you’d like to have over for gossip. Amongst the supporting players in the churchgoing, backyard-barbequing, casserole-baking neighborhood, Candy’s a star.

Depicted in all her sickly sweet and horrifyingly sour glory, Biel’s Candy makes suburban murder very entertaining — though we learn little about what really drives her. At the end of the story, she is still a mystery. And perhaps that’s the point. Candy is somewhat of a facade. What goes on behind the face she shows the world is unknowable. What’s clear is that we don’t know the whole truth. 

In Hollywood, nothing succeeds like imitation, so viewers will get another chance to delve into this character. Elizabeth Olsen is set to take her turn playing Candy in yet another adaptation for HBO Max. She’ll have a hard act to follow.

Social Media Ups Original Video Content Orders

Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are increasing forays into original video content to better compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+.

Since the middle of 2018, YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat have commissioned more than 200 digital originals, according to new data from Ampere Analysis. Short-form video platform Quibi is launching in 2020 with 80 scripted and unscripted titles in development.

With 58 shows in production, Ampere says Facebook Watch is the second largest commissioner of unscripted content globally after the BBC. Snapchat rivals HBO and National Geographic with 22 commissioned unscripted shows currently in production.

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Despite the number of commissions, there still aren’t enough to offset the challenging economics of digital-first production, according to Ampere. Timing and the unpredictability of commissioning activity is a major concern for smaller digital studios, impacting cash flow and investment opportunity.

As a result, the London-based research firm says social media platforms have adopted hybrid business strategies, which include branded video, secondary rights sales influencer marketing, and direct control of ad sales against content distributed by via their own social media channels.

“Fast-paced technological developments and shifting consumer trends mean that diversification of business models and revenue streams is key to ensuring stability in a volatile marketplace,” analyst Henry Beckwith said in a statement.

Ampere’s analysis indicates that of current shows commissioned in the first half of 2019 for Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Quibi, less than 10% were being made in Europe. But the tide may be turning. Facebook has more recently begun to diversify. Its latest commissions are Western European-focused, with the U.K. and Germany emerging hubs for the social media group.

“Digital studios that have greater control over their IP can maximize income and margins, which can then be used to drive growth in other areas of the business,” Beckwith said.

‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Winter Passing’ and ‘Resurrecting the Champ’ Among Star-Studded Films Joining MVD Marquee Collection

The MVD Marquee Collection is adding five films from Yari Film Group to its lineup on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Due June 25 are Resurrecting the Champ, Winter Passing and The Illusionist.

Resurrecting the Champ, directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), stars Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett with Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer and Peter Coyote. In the film, sportswriter Erik Kernan (Hartnett) wants nothing more than to discover a story great enough to make headlines. When he meets Champ (Jackson), a former boxing champion living on the streets, he knows he has a shot to save them both. Recording his newfound friend’s tale of triumph and defeat, Kernan gets his story and his fame. But as Champ’s tale falls under more scrutinizing eyes, Kernan learns what truly makes a story great is the quality of the man behind it. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from Lurie, a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, and the original theatrical trailer.

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Winter Passing is an offbeat film about homecoming and reconciliation that features Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Dallas Roberts, Michael Chernus, Anthony Rapp, Sam Bottoms and Rachel Dratch. When a book editor (Madigan) offers to buy the love letters of Reese Holden’s (Deschanel) parents, she returns home to recover them, only to find her widowed dad (Harris) golfing upstairs, sleeping outside and living with roommates — a pretty grad student (Amelia Warner) and a quirky wannabe musician (Ferrell). Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

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The Illusionist stars Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton along with Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In the film, acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell). But when Leopold’s new fiancée (Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince’s interest evolves into obsession and the city’s chief inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. As the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger, “The Making of the Illusionist” featurette, the “Jessica Biel on the Illusionist” featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Taking 18 years from the start of production to theatrical release, Shortcut to Happiness finally makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD July 16. Originally titled The Devil and Daniel Webster, the film was to be the directorial debut of Alec Baldwin. With the film plagued by investor problems and rumored creative differences, Baldwin had his director credit removed from the film and replaced with the pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick. Producer Bob Yari rescued the film from bankruptcy court and finished it without Baldwin’s participation. It received limited theatrical screenings in 2007. Years later, it aired on Showtime and Starz channels. Set in New York’s literary world, Shortcut to Happiness is a contemporary re-telling of the classic short story ”The Devil and Daniel Webster,” starring Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kim Cattrall, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond. It follows Jabez Stone (Baldwin), a down on his luck writer who sells his soul to the devil (Love-Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune. When things don’t turn out as planned, Stone ultimately decides that he wants his old life again and enlists the help of Daniel Webster (Hopkins) in order to win his soul.

Finally, Sept. 17 comes Find Me Guilty from director Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon). Vin Diesel stars with Peter Dinklage, Annabella Sciorra, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Linus Roache in this true story. When police arrest 20 members of the Lucchese crime family, the authorities offer Jackie Dee DiNorscio (Diesel) a bargain: a shortened prison term if he’ll testify against his own. But the wisecracking DiNorscio has other ideas. Refusing to cooperate, he decides to defend himself at his own trial and proceeds to turn the courtroom upside-down, culminating in one of the most shocking verdicts in judicial history. Bonus material includes the “A Conversation with Director Sidney Lumet” featurette, the original theatrical trailer and three TV spots.