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.

The King’s Man

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/22/22;
20th Century;
Action;
Box Office $37.11 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material.
Stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joel Basman, Valerie Pachner.

After two movies focused on the adventures of the spy agency known as Kingsman, writer-director Matthew Vaughn explores the origins of the organization in The King’s Man.

Set against the backdrop of World War I, the prequel weaves a clever tale centered on a conspiratorial cartel whose mastermind, The Shepherd, manipulates Europe into the devastating conflict. The cabal consists of several villainous figures from world history during the time period, including Rasputin, Mata Hari and Lenin. The war itself is explained as the extension of a childhood feud between three cousins who would grow to be King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

In an inspired bit of casting, all three rulers are played by Tom Hollander, who previously played George V in the British miniseries The Lost Prince, as well as his great-great-grandfather George III in the John Adams miniseries.

At the center of it all is Orlando, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), a pacifist and humanitarian who vows to use his resources to do what the governments of the world cannot — to expose the hidden villain behind the war and restore a measure of peace.

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Vaughn’s highly fictionalized retelling of World War I is a fun romp through history that incorporates actual events into its greater narrative. While the twists and turns sometimes make for a weirdly paced film, it does offer some thrilling action sequences and eventually gets where it needs to, layering some references to the previous films along the way.

The Blu-ray includes a comprehensive hour-and-a-half behind-the-scenes documentary called “The Great Game Begins.” There’s also a 16-minute breakdown of the silent knife fight sequence that takes place on a battlefield at night.

The 26-and-a-half-minute “Remembrance and Finding Purpose” is a heartfelt look at organizations that help wounded veterans re-adjust to society through art and sport.

Finally, the disc includes the film’s red-band trailer.

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Walmart is selling an expanded 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack with an exclusive DVD bonus disc containing two additional 15-minute featurettes. “Spymaster: Conspiring With Matthew Vaughn” offers the cast singing the praises of their director and his approach to filmmaking, while “Weaponized Cinema: Film Propaganda in World War I” offers a historical look at how film evolved into a political tool during the first World War.

Paramount Releasing ‘Official Secrets’ in November

Paramount Home Entertainment will release the thriller Official Secrets digitally Nov. 5, and on DVD (with digital copy) Nov. 26.

Keira Knightley stars in the true story of British intelligence specialist turned whistleblower Katharine Gun, who in 2003 received a memo with a directive to collect blackmail-worthy information on UN council members to force the vote for the invasion of Iraq, and decides to leak the memo to the press, igniting an international firestorm.

The cast also includes Matt Smith as Martin Bright, the journalist who broke the story; Matthew Goode as one of Bright’s colleagues; and Ralph Fiennes and Gun’s lawyer.

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Directed by Gavin Hood, the film earned $1.9 million at the U.S. box office.

The digital copy included with the DVD presents the film in high-definition.

Streaming Services Sundance Now and Shudder Acquire ‘A Discovery of Witches’ Based on Best Seller

Streaming services Sundance Now and Shudder July 19 announced at San Diego Comic-Con the joint acquisition of the Sky production, “A Discovery of Witches.”

The original drama series will premiere in the United States and Canada simultaneously on both services, marking the first partnership of this kind for the two SVOD services, according to a press release. The release date has yet to be announced.

Sundance Now is AMC Networks’ direct-to-consumer SVOD service featuring dramas, comedies and crime thrillers, and Shudder is a premium streaming service for thriller, suspense and horror.

SundanceTV has also acquired second window linear rights to the series.

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Deborah Harkness, “A Discovery of Witches” stars Matthew Goode (“The Crown,” “Downton Abbey”), Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge), Alex Kingston (“ER,” “Doctor Who”), Valarie Pettiford (“Being Mary Jane”) and Owen Teale (“Game of Thrones”). Filmed in the United Kingdom at Wolf Studios Wales and on location in Oxford, the contemporary love story begins against the backdrop of Oxford academic life, in a world where small numbers of witches, vampires and demons live and work, hiding in plain sight. Palmer plays the brilliant historian Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch denying her heritage. The discovery of a bewitched manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library throws her into the heart of a dangerous mystery — and into the path of the enigmatic vampire and geneticist, Matthew Clairmont (Goode), who hides a dark family secret.

“This captivating story is filled with intrigue, romance and magic and set in spectacular locations that underscore those very qualities,” said Jan Diedrichsen, GM, Sundance Now, in a statement.  “We are thrilled to see Deborah Harkness’ books brought to life in such an inspired way with such a charismatic cast and talented crew. The result is binge-worthy television at its best and we know that ‘A Discovery of Witches’ will appeal to both the premium drama fans at Sundance Now and the genre fans at Shudder.”

“‘A Discovery of Witches’ is a big, bold series with witches, vampires and daemons caught up in an all-too human drama that’s enthralling from the opening minute. It’s unlike anything else on TV and we’re excited to bring it to Shudder members as part of this unique partnership,” added Craig Engler, GM, Shudder, in a statement.

“We’re delighted that ‘A Discovery of Witches,’ a Sky Original production, will make its debut in the U.S. and Canada on Sundance Now and Shudder,” said Gillian Rose, SVP, U.S. sales and acquisitions, Sky Vision, in a statement. “It’s a moving, modern day love story, set in a world where a handful of witches, vampires and daemons secretly live and work alongside humans, and I’m sure it will be a huge success for them.”