Showing posts with label Servant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Servant. Show all posts

Monday, March 28, 2022

What Rosy the Reviewer Thinks is Worth Watching

[I review the TV series "Pam & Tommy," "The Tourist," "Inventing Anna," "Servant" and "The Gilded Age"]

Pam & Tommy (2022)

Who knew a mini-series about the theft of Pamela Anderson's and Tommy Lee's honeymoon sex tape would turn out to be one of the best series of the year?

Well, it is.

Lily James has come a long way from playing Cinderella in 2015 to playing Pamela Anderson in this new eight-part series on Hulu that highlights Pam’s Tommy Lee period (he was the drummer for Motley Crue, in case you are too young to remember) and the release of their infamous sex tape by a disgruntled carpenter who had worked for them. How did he come by the tape? Well, that’s half the story as the series is as much about Rand, the carpenter (played by Seth Rogan sporting an epic mullet and putting in a great performance), as it is about Pam and Tommy and how the release of the sex tape affected them all.
Lily embodies Pam from her eyebrows to her hair to her breathy voice to… Well, let’s just say she is Cinderella no more and there is a breast plate in evidence. And speaking of bodies, lots of flesh on display and one can’t help but think there is some CGI at work here, especially when Tommy has a conversation with his penis. And the penis talks! Yes, you heard me. It even gets a credit in the cast list (Jason Mantzoukas)!

Created by Robert Siegel, the series is part love story (Pam and Tommy got married after knowing each other only four days) and part revenge story. It’s a case of the rich and entitled brought down by the poor and overlooked. Let’s just say, Karma is a bitch because Tommy, wonderfully played by Sebastian Stan, is a thong-wearing d**k and jacks Rand around so much that Rand decides it’s payback time.

But this is also a story that is uniquely about the 90’s and the burgeoning power of the Internet, how it had, and still has, the power to invade the private lives of celebrities and feed our obsessions with them. Ironically, one could say that this series also does that by bringing all of this up again for Anderson, though it’s sympathetic to her. Whereas sex tapes helped the careers of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, this early sex tape hurt Pam, her marriage and especially her career, since she wanted to move beyond her sexy image and be taken more seriously. But ironically it actually helped Tommy whose career was already waning as punk rock was replacing heavy metal. In situations like these, women get slut-shamed and men get high-fived!

Rosy the Reviewer says…all in all, this is a really good, engrossing story, stylish, and a lot of fun, and, even if you aren’t interested in Tommy Lee and Pamela and their sex tape, this is just a really well-done series, one of the best of the year! And no, I never saw the tape. (Hulu)

Jamie Dornan is hot and steamy again, but he's not in another installment of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” No, this time Jamie is in trouble in the hot and steamy Australian Outback.

Our hero (Dornan), known only as “The Man” is The Tourist, driving through the desolate Outback, where out of nowhere, he is chased and run-down by a trucker driving a semi. The trucker is unseen except for his eerie whistling and his fancy cowboy boots. When our hero awakens, he is in the hospital and, not only doesn’t remember what happened, but can’t even remember his name or anything about his past. He has no ID, nothing. His only clue is a piece of paper in his pocket with an address and a time. So he checks himself out of the hospital to embark on a journey to regain his memory. Good thing because here comes those boots and the whistling trucker to pay him a visit in the hospital (I knew I would see those boots again)! When our hero arrives at the address on that piece of paper – a restaurant in a small town called Burnt Ridge - a bomb goes off right where he had been sitting. Yikes.
Someone wants him dead. But why? And is our hero really a hero? Or is he a bad guy? An assortment of strange characters try to help him sort this all out – Helen (Danielle Macdonald), a rookie lady cop with her own issues, the landlady at his B & B, a mysterious woman named Luci (Shalom Brune-Franklin) who seems to know something. And then there’s that guy buried underground who calls him! What? And that’s just the first episode.

What’s going on here? Well, written by Jack and Harry Williams and directed by Chris Sweeney and Daniel Nettheim, there are six episodes that take us on a harrowing journey full of surprises to find out.

Macdonald makes an unlikely leading lady but a wonderful one. What I particularly like about UK and Australian movies and TV shows is the fact that they hire actors who actually look like real people, and when you do that, those of us real people out in the real world can identify. Macdonald is a lovely woman, a bit Rubenesque by film standards, but that's what makes her easy to identify with and easy to root for.

I have had an interest in Australian shows, especially those that take place in the Outback, ever since "A Town like Alice" played on PBS. I find Australia a fascinating country and the Outback a forbidding landscape which makes it a wonderful backdrop for a series like this.

Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like thrillers with a Coen Brothers vibe, this is a must see. Another great series that you won’t be able to stop watching. (HBO Max)


The true crime story of con-woman Anna Delvey who bilked New York elite and her own friends of money to live a life as a socialite.
If you have been following my blog and/or reviews, you probably noticed that I am fascinated by true crime, and how people are led to do bad things (I’m obsessed with “Dateline” even though I already know the husband did it), but my particular fascination lately has been with cons and catfishing. I just can’t believe how people can be so easily manipulated, ignore red flags and suspend disbelief, especially when it comes to love and money. But I guess it’s because most people have good hearts and want to believe that is also the case with others. Unfortunately, no.
So that’s the long intro into why I was drawn to this new Netflix miniseries right out of Shondaland. You know, Shonda Rhimes, who most recently gave us the hot bodice-ripper Regency drama “Bridgerton,” but who also gave us – “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” This series harks back to those more modern stories.
I had already seen the story of Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin) – was it, oh, maybe, “Daaateline? (that's my Keith Morrison impression)” – so I knew what this was all about. I had actually read a book and some articles about her as well. Anna was a young woman who appeared to show up in New York City out of nowhere, lived in a $1500 per night hotel room and convinced everyone in the New York social set that she was a German socialite (she was really Russian) with lots of money. Her story was that she was in New York to start a foundation and arts center but was in fact trying to bilk banks and society folks out of millions.
When the series begins, Anna (Julia Garner) is at Rikers Island waiting to go on trial for her misdeeds, and Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), a feature writer for “Manhattan” magazine wants to kick-start her career and write a story about Anna (this series is based on an actual article in "New York" magazine by Jessica Pressler).

So who was Anna Delvey nee Sorokin? What was her true story? Why did she do what she did? Vivian sets out to solve the mystery.

Fans of the TV show “Ozark” will recognize Julia Garner as Anna, though trying to recognize her bizarre accent is a different story, but that’s on purpose because Julia is playing a con-woman with a fake accent (she is really Russian pretending to be German). She is quite wonderful as Anna.

Anna Chlumsky hit it big as a child actress in “My Girl” back in 1991 but her career went on hiatus from 1999 to 2005 and, though she has had TV roles, most notably in “Veep,” she has largely avoided the same kind of fame she had as a child star. This series is as much about Vivian as it is about Anna, and I have to say, I could have done without that aspect. It was too much about her when I really cared about Anna and what she was up to, though my problem with Vivian's story could have been more about Chlumsky's acting than the actual storyline. Her acting style was too wide-eyed and intense, and I found her character annoying, which I don't think was the intent. I think this might have been a more powerful series if it had focused more on Anna and less on Vivian, but I understand the writers probably wanted to give props to Pressler who broke this story. But then, dare I say, perhaps, a different actress might have helped?

With that said, the series starts out a little slow, focusing on Vivian in her quest to get an interview with Anna but hang in there. In episode two, Vivian begins to interview Anna’s “friends,” and you start to get how Anna was able to do what she did - how she managed to con so many people and institutions, how she could be all things to all people, how despite the fact she posed as an heiress she was able to get her friends to pay for everything. She was very good at it. She embodied the adage, "The best defense is a good offense." If anyone questioned her, she just told them off. It appears that we regular folks are willing to ignore obvious red flags and be influenced by good acting, a load of arrogance and expensive shoes if it gets us close to the money.

Interesting fun fact. In real life, Anna was paid to have her story told and she is now famous around the world. So does the con continue and she got what she really wanted? Ironically everyone else connected with this case, victims included, benefited in one way or another as well.

This story might appeal more to women than men because, well, it's about a woman and Anna's crimes might not seem very big. I saw a comment from a guy responding to this series by saying, "What's the big deal? She just stole from her friends." Typical guy thing. He needs to see some real criminal activity. Okay, how about wire fraud and grand larceny? And whether friends or not, her stealing from them probably was a big deal to them considering it was in the tens of thousands and more. However, I found this to be a fascinating story and also a mystery. I watched to see why Anna did what she did and to answer this question: was she an evil sociopath?

A case could be made that this didn't need to be a nine-part series - I mean, isn't everything just too long these days? - but I will give it a break because I loved watching Julia Garner deliver this character and it is a fascinating story.

Rosy the Reviewer says…there seems to be some sympathy for Anna in this series and for what her final lofty goal was. You will have to decide for yourself if she was evil or not, because the series doesn't take a stand, but at the same time, you might ask yourself…do I really know the people I hang out with? (Netflix)

Servant (2019-)

***Possible spoilers***

Dorothy and Sean have lost their baby, Jericho. Dorothy hasn't handled the problem very well. In fact, she has a doll standing in as Jericho and everyone appears to be playing along, so much so, that a nanny is now on the scene to help with the charade. A very creepy nanny.

And that's what we have here. Creepy psychological horror. Sometimes I am in the mood for some psychological horror, aren't you? Maybe watching someone else deal with creepy makes our real lives less creepy.
Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) is a TV anchor woman and Sean (Toby Kebbell) is a chef. Both are well-off financially if their beautiful Philadelphia brownstone is any indication but they are grieving the loss of their baby, Jericho, both in very different ways. Dorothy has not been able to accept that Jericho is gone, so her therapist has recommended that she have a therapy doll, which Dorothy treats as her living, breathing Jericho. Sean and Dorothy's brother, Julian (Rupert Grint), continue the charade when Dorothy is around but don't seem to have problems flinging the doll about when she is not.
Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) is the young nanny who shows up out of nowhere bringing with her three seasons of baggage. She doesn't think twice about taking care of the doll and acts as if everything is normal, that the doll is a real baby. Leanne is an odd duck and not someone I would want living in my house. I'm just saying. But then, the doll comes to life and becomes a living breathing baby! What? Is that really Jericho? Has Leanne somehow brought Jericho back to life? Or is it another baby?

Well, that's how it all starts, but if that isn't enough, turns out there is a cult after Leanne, the circumstances of Jericho's death come to light, the mysterious Aunt Josephine and Uncle George show up, and Leanne runs away with Jericho and is eventually tracked down and ends up as a prisoner in Dorothy and Sean's attic. What? I'm out of breath just relating all of that. And there is more, much more.

Is there supernatural stuff at work here or is there some kind of shared psychotic disorder going on? Or something else? And is Leanne good or evil?

Fans of Harry Potter will recognize an all grown-up Rupert Grint as Dorothy's ne'er do well, but very interesting brother, Julian, who has a best friend relationship with wine but who eventually gets sober. Both issues present their own problems. Ambrose, Kebbell and Free are all compelling and draw us into their complex stories that take place mostly in the very dark and claustrophobic Philadelphia brownstone. Ambrose is particularly good because she is not afraid to make her character unlikable and clueless, which she often is.

The series, created by Tony Basgallop, is all about psychological creepiness, with some dark humor thrown in, and there are many twists and turns, some of which make sense, some of which don't. But it's all very addictive despite the fact that Season 3 drags a bit. But hey, a Season 4 is already on the way and rumor has it that M. Night Shyamalan, who is one of the executive producers, expects this to go to six seasons.

Speaking of Shyamalan, his stamp is all over this when it comes to creepy and twisty. Remember his "The Sixth Sense?" That was creepy and twisty, right? It was so twisty in fact that I remember watching in the theatre with my daughter, and at the end, I looked at her quizzically, as in "What the hell just happened?" and she mouthed "Mom, he was dead (and sorry, if I just spoiled that for you but you deserve it if you haven't seen "The Sixth Sense.") Sometimes I am slow to get it. And there is a little of that here but maybe it's just me.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like supernatural creepiness, you will like this because it's creeeepy, addictive and hella good even if sometimes it doesn't make sense, but like I said, maybe that's just me. But, hey, there are at least three seasons to figure it all out. And did I say it was creepy?
(on Apple+)

It's all about old money vs. those vulgar nouveau riche social climbers.
If you have been missing "Downton Abbey," its creator Julian Fellowes has now given us fans this new HBO version about old money (think the Astors and the Vanderbilts) vs. new money, this time in 1880's New York, an era of social problems "gilded" by economic growth, hence the nickname The Gilded Age.

Bertha (Carrie Coon) and George Russell (Morgan Spector) and their daughter, Gladys (Taissa Farmiga, Vera's younger sister), and son, Larry (Harry Richardson), are the "new kids" on the block. New as in new money. George is a railroad tycoon and Bertha wants to use all that new money George is making to join high society. They have just built a huge house across the street from Agnes Van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and her unmarried sister Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon). Agnes is all about old money and does not approve of the Russells, and would never lower herself with an introduction, though she is dying to see inside their house. They are joined by Marion Brook (Louisa Jacobson, Mery's Streep's daughter, and she looks just like her), their young, pretty niece from Pennsylvania who has been left penniless after the death of her father and has nowhere to live. Marion befriends Peggy Scott (Denee Benton), a young ambitious African-American writer who also moves into the house to work for Agnes.

It's all about who is in and who is out when it comes to high society and Bertha is dying to get in. There is some romance for Marion and side stories involving drama among the servants, a middle class African American family, and a gay couple, very much a no-no in those days.

The actors are fine, though it took me awhile to warm up to Carrie Coon, who underplayed so much she almost put me to sleep. And the writing seemed stilted at times. But Nathan Lane is always fun (he plays one of the arbiters of high society) and Christine Baranski makes a good attempt at an American version of Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith's character in "Downton Abbey"), complete with caustic, haughty bon mots.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Okay, this isn't "Downton Abbey," despite the upstairs downstairs formula and the rich folks, but the costumes and set design alone are worth your time. And remember, Fellowes is a Brit. This is his take on U.S. history and social manners, and I give him props for taking us on. Give it a chance. You will warm up to it. (HBO)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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