Claire Danes to Star in Netflix Mystery Thriller Series ‘The Beast in Me’

Netflix has announced a new limited series “The Beast in Me,” a mystery thriller starring Claire Danes.

In the series, since the tragic death of her young son, acclaimed author Aggie Wiggs has receded from public life, unable to write, a ghost of her former self. But she finds an unlikely subject for a new book when the house next door is bought by Nile Sheldon, a famed and formidable real estate mogul who was once the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. At once horrified and fascinated by this man, Aggie finds herself compulsively hunting for the truth — chasing his demons while fleeing her own — in a game of cat and mouse that might turn deadly.

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The series is from showrunner/executive producer Howard Gordon (“Homeland,” “24,” “The X-Files”), creator/executive producer/writer Gabe Rotter (“The X-Files”) and 20th Television. Star Danes (“Fleishman Is in Trouble,” “Homeland”) also executive produces. Other executive producers include Daniel Pearle (“American Crime Story”), Conan O’Brien, Jeff Ross and David Kissinger for Conaco, and Jodie Foster.

Netflix Announces Female-Driven Limited Series ‘Sirens’

Netflix has announced the new female-driven limited series “Sirens” from Emmy-nominated writer/showunner Molly Smith Metzler (“Maid,” “Shameless,” “Orange Is the New Black”).

In the series, Devon thinks her sister Simone has a really creepy relationship with her new boss, the enigmatic socialite Michaela Kell. Michaela’s cult-ish life of luxury is like a drug to Simone, and Devon has decided it’s time for an intervention. When Devon tracks her sister down to say WTF, she has no idea what a formidable opponent Michaela will be. Told over the course of one explosive weekend at The Kells’ lavish beach estate, “Sirens” is a darkly funny exploration of women, power and class.

Executive Producers include Metzler, Dani Gorin, Tom Ackerley and Margot Robbie for LuckyChap Entertainment. 

“Sirens” is the first series out of Metzler’s creative partnership with Netflix and is based on her play Elemeno Pea, which she wrote at The Juilliard School.  

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Metzler’s and LuckyChap’s previous series at Netflix, “Maid,” starring Margaret Qualley, spent 14 weeks in Netflix’s Global Top 10 TV charts and reached the Top 10 TV charts in 93 countries. The Emmy, Golden Globe and Critics Choice-nominated series won the Writers Guild Award for Limited Series Writing/Adapted Long Form and an AFI Award.

HBO’s ‘The Sympathizer’ Limited Series Debuting on Max April 14

The seven-episode HBO original limited series “The Sympathizer” debuts April 14 (9-10 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.

Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar co-showrun and executive produce. The series stars Hoa Xuande, Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Phanxine, Vy Le, Ky Duyen, Kieu Chinh, Duy Nguyen, Alan Trong, Emmy winner Sandra Oh and Academy Award nominee Robert Downey Jr., who plays multiple roles.

Based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, the series is an espionage thriller and cross-culture satire about the struggles of a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy during the final days of the Vietnam War and his new life as a refugee in Los Angeles, where he learns that his spying days aren’t over.

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Netflix Annouces Limited Series ‘Zero Day’ Starring Robert De Niro

Netflix has announced the new limited series “Zero Day,” a conspiracy thriller from creator/executive producer Eric Newman (“The Watcher,” “Narcos,” “Narcos: Mexico”) under his Grand Electric Productions deal with Netflix and creator/executive producer Noah Oppenheim (Jackie, “The Thing About Pam,” The Maze Runner).

It’s the first TV series starring and executive produced by Robert De Niro.

The six-episode drama “Zero Day” asks the question on everyone’s mind — how do we find truth in a world in crisis, one seemingly being torn apart by forces outside our control? And in an era rife with conspiracy theory and subterfuge, how much of those forces are products of our own doing, perhaps even of our own imagining? 

Director/executive producer Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland,” “Mad Men” and “Love & Death”) will direct all episodes.

“I am a lifelong fan of Robert De Niro,” Newman said in a statement. “To have him as a producing partner and star in this show is beyond my wildest dreams. And Lesli Linka Glatter has directed so many of my favorite episodes of television; she was our clear first choice to direct this show.  I am grateful to Netflix for their continued faith and support and thrilled to be in business with the amazing creative team of Noah, Lesli, and Jonathan on this timely (and terrifying) series.” 

Noah Oppenheim credited Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael S. Schmidt and “the stories that kept him up at night” for early inspiration, adding, “To see this ripped-from-reality thriller come to life, starring the legendary Robert De Niro, is more than we could have hoped.”

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“‘Zero Day’ is a shrewd, heart-pounding conspiracy thriller that will keep audiences at the edge of their seat,” Peter Friedlander, VP of scripted series at Netflix for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. “What an honor to have this ‘A’-list caliber of talent assembled, led by the iconic Robert De Niro and brought to life by the unrivaled talents of Eric Newman, Noah Oppenheim, Lesli Linka Glatter and Michael S. Schmidt.”

The Offer

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Drama;
$25.99 DVD, $33.49 Blu-ray;
Not rated;
Stars Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Dan Fogler, Burn Gorman, Colin Hanks, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, Patrick Gallo.

There are a few ways to interpret “The Offer.” On the surface, it’s the story of the quest to achieve a creative vision no matter what it takes. From another perspective, it’s a studio, Paramount, celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of its greatest achievements, The Godfather, by sensationalizing a unique period of Hollywood history.

The details as presented in the 10-part limited series series made for Paramount+ likely lean more on the side of embellishment than fact, punching up the outlandishness beyond the point of believability in some cases. But that hardly matters when the end result is as entertaining a guilty pleasure as it turned out to be.

The particulars of the making of the “Godfather” films are easy enough to come by, given the plethora of bonus materials on DVD and Blu-ray releases of the trilogy over the years, not to mention countless books on the subject. The primary inspiration for “The Offer” is credited to the experiences of producer Albert S. Ruddy, thus making him the central figure for the series.

Ruddy (Miles Teller) is introduced as a bored programmer at the Rand Corporation who, thanks to a chance encounter, ends up creating “Hogan’s Heroes” for CBS (in truth, Ruddy’s Hollywood experience stretches back before his time at Rand).

Wanting to break into film, Ruddy convinces Paramount boss Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) to give him a shot with a low-budget film starring Robert Redford.

Meanwhile, Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) writes The Godfather, which turns out to be one of the best-selling novels of all time. Paramount owns the rights to make a movie version, but parent company Gulf + Western doesn’t want to risk too much money on yet another “gangster picture,” so they stick Ruddy on it.

Ruddy immediately breaks convention by hiring Puzo to write the screenplay (Hollywood for the longest time had taboos about creatives crossing mediums — TV to movies, novels to screenplays, etc.). When Puzo’s efforts stall, Ruddy brings in Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) to direct — another controversial move given Coppola’s disastrous track record as a director despite an Oscar win for writing Patton. Coppola is reluctant at first, but agrees to the project on the basis of bringing authenticity to an epic story about an Italian family.

Sticking Puzo and Coppola in a house together to hash out the screenplay (even though in real life they supposedly worked on it separately), Ruddy must then deal with a bigger obstacle to the film — opposition from the mafia itself, who see the book as a slur. Frank Sinatra is particularly offended by a crooner character in the novel, and vows to shut down the production.

Now supposedly thrust into the middle of a mob war against Hollywood, Ruddy makes pals with mob boss Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), which gets some heat off the film but doesn’t please the corporate brass at Gulf + Western or Paramount. Meanwhile, Colombo’s support of the film draws out some of his enemies within the mob who seek to replace him.

And so the series continues as a tug-of-war between artistic integrity, mafia greed and the corporate bottom line. The mob influence on the production was probably played up to draw parallels to the movie’s storyline, while the show contains no shortage of references to nostalgia touchpoints from the era audiences will recognize, from other movies to some of the actors up for roles in the film.

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As with most docudramas, certain events and characters are condensed and conflated for the sake of the narrative. For instance, Colombo rival Joe Gallo is shown being taken out because his attempts to extort the production threaten the budget to film in Sicily, when in reality he wasn’t killed until after the movie was released.

The cast is mostly solid, and Teller does a great job carrying the load as Ruddy, though his portrayal as a miracle worker and solver of all problems seems to be a bit overblown. Ribisi, on the other hand, is so over-the-top as Colombo he seems like he’s on a different show. But the standout is Goode as Robert Evans, so completely transforming into the iconic Hollywood executive that it might as well be Evans playing himself. If Paramount+ doesn’t greenlight a docudrama of Evans’ autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture starring Goode, it will be missing out.

Through Evans, “The Offer” gets to indulge a bit in telling the story of Paramount in general in the early 1970s, when he was brought in by Gulf + Western boss Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman) to turn the studio’s fortunes around. As such, the show delves a bit into the success of Love Story, starring Evans’ wife Ali MacGraw, and how their marriage disintegrated when he started to focus on The Godfather, and she ended up in the arms of Steven McQueen on the set of The Getaway. Evans also keeps an eye on his next project, Chinatown, despite his corporate overlords wanting to dump it as something they “don’t understand.” (Corporate stooges being idiots when it comes to art is a big theme of the show.)

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Those familiar with The Kid Stays in the Picture (the book or the 2002 documentary adaptation of it narrated by Evans) might note a number of discrepancies between Evans’ own accounts of these events and how “The Offer” portrays them. For instance, in the show, Coppola and Ruddy are fighting with Gulf + Western over how long The Godfather is, preferring the nearly three-hour version we all know and love today, while the bean-counters want to maximize screenings with a two-hour version (a classic debate in Hollywood — the best-known recent example involving the 2017 Justice League movie). Evans has to swoop in from a drunken stupor over his failed marriage to save the longer cut, thus sending the film on a path toward Oscar glory.

In Evans’ own account, Coppola turned in a two-hour version, and Evans ordered him to recut it to make it longer, thus delaying the film from a Christmas 1971 release to March 1972 (a delay mentioned in the show that doesn’t make much sense if the longer cut already existed). Conjecture over the editing of The Godfather has occupied much discussion over the years, and Coppola’s own accounts would likely fill further volumes.

For however inaccurate it may be, “The Offer” is still first and foremost a love letter to The Godfather, and should only serve to build on fans’ appreciation of that classic film, and a love of cinema in general.

The Blu-ray includes more than two hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes, most of which are on the fourth and final disc. Five are offered under the “Crafting ‘The Offer'” banner, and are short promotional videos, about four-and-a-half minutes each, about a different aspect of the production — wardrobe and costumes, music composition, production design, props, and hair and makeup.

There is an hour-long making-of documentary called “No One Can Refuse: Making ‘The Offer’ that is presented in four parts.

Rounding out this list are four standalone featurettes: the four-minute “Meet Al Ruddy,” which focuses on the main man himself; the five-minute “Directing ‘The Offer'”; The nine-minute “Parallels: Art Imitates Art,” about some of the references to the original “Godfather” movie layered into the production; and the seven-minute “The Offer: Sending a Message,” in which the cast members discuss the legacy of The Godfather.

Since there’s some overlap on the topics being covered, there’s a fair bit of reuse of a few of the interviews, but there are a lot of good insights into the making of the miniseries.

Sprinkled throughout the discs and available with each episode is a short “Backstories” featurette that originally accompanied the episode when it debuted on Paramount+. Several of the episodes also include deleted scenes.

Originally published as a streaming review June 18, 2022.

‘Flowers in the Attic: The Origin’ Due on DVD Sept. 13 From Lionsgate

The limited series Flowers in the Attic: The Origin will arrive Sept. 13 on DVD from Lionsgate.

Inspired by the books from author V.C. Andrews and based on the prequel novel by Andrew Neiderman, the four-part limited series tells the story of Olivia Winfield (Jemima Rooper) as she is swept off her feet by the charming Malcolm Foxworth (Max Irons), to whom she is eventually wed, making her the mistress of the imposing Foxworth Hall — and ultimately, the victim of the abherrant evils that lurk in Malcolm’s heart and behind the manor’s pristine façade. The fairytale life she expected becomes a nightmare — one that leads to her notorious decision to lock her grandchildren in the attic. 

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The cast also includes Kelsey Grammer, Harry Hamlin, Kate Mulgrew, Paul Wesley, Alana Boden, Hannah Dodd, T’Shan Williams and Callum Kerr.

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.

Tom Hiddleston to Star in ‘The White Darkness’ Limited Series for Apple TV+

Apple TV+ has ordered “The White Darkness,” a new limited series starring Tom Hiddleston (“Loki”), who will also serve as executive producer.

The series is based on New York Times bestselling author David Grann’s nonfiction book of the same name.

“The White Darkness” is inspired by the true life account of Henry Worsley (Hiddleston), a devoted husband and father, a former soldier, a man of deep honor and sacrifice, but also a man deeply obsessed with adventure, manifesting in an epic journey crossing Antarctica on foot.

“The White Darkness” will be produced for Apple TV+ by Apple Studios and UCP.

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This marks the second partnership for Apple TV+ and Hiddleston, who will next star in the upcoming Apple Original series “The Essex Serpent.”

Apple TV+ Orders Limited Series Starring Michael Douglas as Ben Franklin

Apple TV+ has ordered a new limited event series with Academy, Emmy and AFI Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Douglas set to star in the lead role as Benjamin Franklin.

Michael Douglas will star as Ben Franklin.

From Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer Kirk Ellis (“John Adams”) and Emmy and DGA Award-winning director Tim Van Patten, the series is based on the book A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America by Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff. It is a co-production between ITV Studios America and Apple Studios.

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The drama will explore the story of one of the greatest gambles of Benjamin Franklin’s career. At age 70, without any diplomatic training, Franklin convinced France — an absolute monarchy — to underwrite America’s experiment in democracy. By virtue of his fame, charisma and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers and hostile colleagues, all while engineering the Franco-American alliance of 1778 and the final peace treaty with England of 1783. 

‘The Stand’ to Premiere on CBS All Access Dec. 17

The limited series The Stand will premiere Dec. 17 on ViacomCBS’s SVOD and live streaming service CBS All Access.

The nine-episode series will drop weekly on Thursdays exclusively for CBS All Access subscribers.

The Stand is Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. The fate of mankind rests on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), the Dark Man.

Based on King’s best-selling novel of the same name, the series will close with a new coda written by the author himself.

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“During the two years we spent making The Stand, we all felt the responsibility of adapting what may be the most beloved work of one of the world’s most beloved storytellers, but none of us could have imagined that Stephen King’s 40-year-old masterpiece about a global pandemic would come to be so eerily relevant,” said Benjamin Cavell, showrunner and executive producer, in a statement. “We’re honored to tell this sprawling, epic story, including a new coda that Stephen King has wanted to add for decades. We’re so proud of this show and its attempt to find meaning and hope in the most uncertain of times. We can’t wait to share it with the world.”

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In addition to Goldberg and Skarsgård, the series stars James Marsden as Stu Redman, Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith, Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood, Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, Owen Teague as Harold Lauder, Henry Zaga as Nick Andros, Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen, Irene Bedard as Ray Bretner, Nat Wolff as Lloyd Henreid, Eion Bailey as Weizak, Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor, Katherine McNamara as Julie Lawry, Fiona Dourif as Ratwoman, Natalie Martinez as Dayna Jurgens, Hamish Linklater as Dr. Jim Ellis, Daniel Sunjata as Cobb and Greg Kinnear as Glen Bateman.