The Offer

STREAMING REVIEW:

Paramount+;
Drama;
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 now streaming in its entirety on 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.

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.

Netflix to Bow Limited Series With Amy Adams and Adam McKay

Netflix has announced the limited-series drama “Kings of America” with Amy Adams and Adam McKay.

The series centers on the stories of three powerful women whose lives were inextricably intertwined with the world’s largest company: a Walmart heiress, a maverick executive, and a longtime Walmart saleswoman and preacher who dared to fight against the retail giant in the biggest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

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Adams (“Sharp Objects”) will star as one of the leads and executive produce via her production company Bond Group Entertainment along with Stacy O’Neil.

McKay (“Succession”) is attached to direct the first episode and executive produce along with Betsy Koch via Hyperobject Industries.

Adams and McKay most recently worked together on Vice, which went on to receive eight Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress nom for Adams. They first collaborated on McKay’s 2006 comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Netflix to Bow Limited Scripted Series ‘Painkiller’ About Opioid Crisis

Netflix is producing Painkiller, a scripted drama and limited series about the origins of the opioid crisis.

Sports Emmy Award winner Peter Berg (The Leftovers, Friday Night Lights) will direct all eight episodes of the limited series. Eric Newman (Children of Men) will serve as executive producer as part of his overall deal with Netflix where he is showrunner on “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico.”  Emmy Award-nominated writing duo Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, “Transparent”) will write and serve as showrunners and executive producers. Academy Award and Emmy Award winner Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) will serve as executive producer.

Patrick Radden Keefe (Dirty Money) who wrote New Yorker’s “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain” and Barry Meier, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author of the book Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic, will both consult on the series. Their respective works will serve as underlying material for the series.

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“A tragedy decades in the making, the opioid crisis has become one of the most devastating public health crises of our time,” said Newman in a statement. “Unlike other drug epidemics, born from underground manufacturing and covert smuggling, this epidemic began by prescription — dispensed by doctors, approved by government regulators, and promoted by a family-owned pharmaceutical giant that made billions while betraying the trust of patients and the public. I’m grateful to Micah & Noah, and Alex for bringing this story to me.  Noah and Micah’s narrative of how it happened, based on the spectacular reporting of Patrick Radden Keefe and Barry Meier, is heartbreaking and terrifying.  I’m honored to be working with the great Alex Gibney and I’m thrilled that Peter Berg is coming on to direct it.”

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“I am really charged to be a part of such an in depth exploration of the genesis of the opioid travesty,” said Berg in a statement. “Companies that profit off of death and addiction are fair game to me when it comes to illuminating the realities of how they go about their business.”

“Eric Newman has masterfully chronicled the drug trade for years and now I’m excited to see him join forces with the incredible Alex Gibney, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster to take a more expansive view of the opioid epidemic,” said Cindy Holland, VP, content, Netflix. “Combined with the directing of Peter Berg, Painkiller promises to be a powerful look behind the headlines of a tragedy happening in real time.”