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Thursday, July 14, 2011

F3PR: Idris Elba gets Emmy nomination for his role on BBC America's Luther

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New York – BBC AMERICA's Luther has earned an Emmy nomination for its leading star, Idris Elba, who plays the title role as the brilliant and emotionally impulsive detective John Luther. Elba was also an Associate Producer on the BBC/BBC AMERICA co-production. The six-part mini-series was lauded by fans and critics alike when it was first broadcast on BBC AMERICA in October 2010. Luther was created and written by the acclaimed suspense novelist Neil Cross (MI-5).

Perry Simon, General Manager, BBC AMERICA says: “These are fantastic results for the Brits, and a ringing endorsement that there is a real appetite for British programs and productions on this side of the Atlantic. Huge congratulations to everyone on their nominations for these most prestigious of television awards. Here at BBC AMERICA our warm wishes particularly go to the Luther team. I for one can’t wait for the sequel.”

Idris Elba says: “This has been such an amazing morning for me! I am extremely honored to be nominated in two categories. Luther has been such a passion project for me and working on The Big C was a great time. Also, my daughter told me I am going to be as famous as the guy from Twilight.”

The Primetime Emmy® Awards are now in their 63rd year and celebrate excellence in national primetime programming. The full winners will be announced in a ceremony in Hollywood on Sunday, September 18, 2011.

Buy the Luther series 1 DVD here.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Dance Tribute to Aishwarya

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With the recent news that Indian film goddess Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is expecting her first child with husband Abhishek Bachchan, the impending blessed event also unfortunately means that arguably the best female dancer currently active in Bollywood will not be gracing the screen with her spectacular moves anytime soon. So let's take a look back at and savor some of my favorite dance numbers of hers over the years.

It was on one fateful day in the summer of 2002 when I made my first visit to my local Bollywood theatre, the Naz 8 Cinemas in Lakewood, completely unprepared for awaited me in the early minutes of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, when the "Silsila Ye Chaahat Ka" number takes place. Rai has a classic star entrance to a flash of lightning, and any vague thoughts that such an introduction is overblown is immediately erased once she starts to effortlessly command the screen with her movement.

Rai's first collaboration with Bhansali was 1999's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and clearly he knew what a gift he had in her from the jump, giving her the terrific showcase that is the now-classic "Nimbooda."

1999 was a banner year for Rai, for that year she also starred in Subhash Ghai's Taal, which boasted one of A.R. Rahman's most memorable scores--which, of course, gave Rai ample opportunity to show what she could do, as in this oft-excerpted scene, "Ramta Jogi," featuring another West-familiar face, Anil Kapoor.

One of Rai's major strengths as a dancer is her amazing versatility. She is just as at ease doing classical dances such as "Nimbooda" as she is taking on more modern routines. Look at how easily and comfortably she slips into hip-hop swag (especially compared to her more obviously straining partner, Vivek Oberoi) in the great "No No" number from 2004's generally forgettable Kyun! Ho Gaya Na....

Just as easily as she can play a woman in charge as in that number, she can also be just as convincing playing fetchingly coquettish, never more in "Kannamoochi," from Rajiv Menon's enduringly popular 2000 Tamil language take on Sense and Sensibility, Kandukondain Kandukondain.

Rai has always been a sensual presence on film and a global sex symbol, but she never quite owned her screen sexuality in the way she did in the wildly popular "Crazy Kiya Re" from 2006's Dhoom:2. (I compare it to how Janet Jackson blossomed into full womanhood overnight with her iconic 1990 video for "Love Will Never Do (Without You).")

Not surprisingly, Rai is often called to do cameo appearances for item numbers in films--and often said songs not only become hits, but perhaps the best thing by which the films are remembered. Case in point: "Ishq Kamina," featuring Rai and Bollywood king Shahrukh Khan in their first (and, to date, only) screen appearance together after Devdas , from 2002's Shakthi: The Power.

Another Rai item song, "Kajra Re," has become an enduring hit, certainly helped by being from a box office success (2005's Bunty aur Babli), but perhaps most of all for having her dance alongside both future husband Abhishek and future father-in-law Amitabh.

One of her last huge pre-pregnancy dance showcases was in a truly historic, truly creative, truly insane film, the 2010 Tamil language science fiction actioner Enthiran: The Robot, where she got to shimmy alongside legendary South Indian "SuperStar" Rajnikanth in a multitude of contexts and (most of all) costumes, most memorably in the throwdown club number "Irumbile Oru."

But lest you think that the moves are all there is to Rai's dancing gift, it's also her ability to truly act and powerfully emote to the music. There is no more poignant, gut-wrenching example than this number from 2006's Umrao Jaan, "Pooch Rahe Hain," where the devastating tragedy of the title character's life cuts through even out of story context (and without subtitles--though they are provided here).

I can go on and on, but I will end this going full circle back to Devdas , and what is widely considered to be one of the greatest film dance numbers of recent years (if not ever): the spectacular "Dola Re Dola," where she and fellow Indian screen legend Madhuri Dixit create true cinema magic.

Revisiting these clips makes me all the more eagerly looking forward to her return to the screen. In the meantime, however--congratulations, Ash and Abhi!

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Friday, July 8, 2011

F3TV: Briefly... on the ABC soap online rescue

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As a viewer of the ABC Daytime drama lineup for a little over (gasp) two decades, the initial reaction to the unexpected news that the recently cancelled One Life to Live and All My Children will now actually continue on a yet-to-be-launched Internet site following their final network broadcasts (AMC on September 23; OLTL sometime in January) was that of relief--after all, while my interest in the shows wane with the natural ebbs and flows of serial storytelling with constant turnover of writers, producers, and cast, it would be rather unimaginable to no longer have such constant staples of my TV diet completely gone. But then a certain reality set in. The soap opera genre has long suffered budget cuts as ratings have steadily declined over the years; with the move from the tube to the computer, no doubt further cuts are in store, and that budget will only be further reduced by the cut ABC/Disney will take from Prospect Park, the production company to whom they have licensed the production and online broadcast rights. But, perhaps more damaging of all, is the inevitable exodus of acting talent from both shows with the shift from the small to even-smaller screen. As much as the officlal press release insists that production quality will remain the same, what good is that when the core of the show--the canvas of characters--could very well be unrecognizable, as undoubtedly a number of actors would opt to pursue traditionally greener pastures in network and cable television and film. (And indeed, Debbi Morgan, who has played longtime All My Children fan favorite Dr. Angie Hubbard, is reportedly heading to CBS's The Young and the Restless once her show's ABC run concludes.) Then there's the question of how much lag time there will be between the end of the shows' respective network runs and their reappearance online; with neither an official name, much less a preliminary site set up yet for Prospect Park's television site, there certainly will be a time gap, and one that will have to be as brief as possible to maintain any sort of viewership momentum from TV to web. That said, I remain cautiously optimistic despite those inevitable concessions for the shows' survival. Their no longer being produced by ABC means being finally free of the clutches of fan-reviled ABC Daytime president Brian Frons, whose meddling, micromanaging hands have driven AMC and OLTL to their broadcast demises and continues to bleed dry the network's sole surviving soap, General Hospital. Perhaps the new producers, freedom from broadcast restraints, and streamlined casts will open the doors to a creative renaissance with riskier, edgier stories that harken back to the genre's character-driven roots and not the plot-driven gimmicks that have plagued all soaps in recent years. As the soap cliché goes, to find out I guess we'll all just have to tune in tomorrow...

Buy ABC's Daytime's Greatest Weddings DVD here.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

F3TV: Luther - series 2, episode 4

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My immediate reaction to the series 2 finale of Luther is one of shock--and so completely not in the manner one is accustomed to in writer/creator Neil Cross's detective saga that's is almost impossible to assess/discuss the episode without the urge to rationalize it in the greater context of this most recent four-hour cycle and in contrast to series 1. But leave it to Cross to find new ways to pull the rug out from under the viewer--and also leave it to him for it to have a most mapped-out method to his apparent madness.

At the top of the hour, however, all initially appears to be business as bloody usual: DCI John Luther's (Idris Elba) team continues to investigate a killer whose dice-roll-driven game of terror is not over as it appeared to them at the end of episode 3; and Luther finds himself having to climb out of an even more precarious spot following the episode-closing actions of Jenny Jones (Aimee Ffion-Edwards), the troubled young woman he has vowed to protect. The latter situation cannot help but bring to mind the cliffhanger that led into the series 1 finale, and this is clearly no mere coincidence and even more clearly not at all willfully lazy rehashing on Cross's part. The devil, as they say, is indeed in the details, and the contrast between them from then and now makes for an appropriate culmination of this latest arc of episodes and the ongoing evolution of John Luther.

This isn't quite as obvious, though, as the episode is in progress, for this Case of the (Two) Week(s) is one of the more compelling ones that Cross has cooked up, and director Sam Miller ratchets up the tension slowly but ever so surely to a terrifically mounted climax that is easily the grandest of the entire program to date. But the larger scale does not diminish those details, and that is where the deeper intricacies and hence satisfactions lie. The closing standoff recalls a similar one way back in series 1, episode 2, but this is not exactly the same DCI John Luther we saw same time last year. While still very much a loose cannon who flouts traditional boundaries in pursuit of what he believes is right and just (and, indeed, it is a typically "crazy" Luther move that leads into the hour's home stretch), the "mask" adopted in episode 2 of this series has appeared to take, for ever since a more detached sense of reason reins in passions and emotions once too volatile to control. Always a clever mind, he now wears the perpetually cool, laser-focused exterior to match, with even the too-close-to-home Jenny situation and its inevitable fallout from her former employer Baba (Pam Tillis) never appearing not only to faze him in the slightest but also never eliciting the slightest emotional response; ditto in regards to the ever-encroaching threat presented by cohort DS Erin Gray's (Nikki Amuka-Bird) growing distrust, and, unlike in that analagous encounter in series 1, episode 2, in the immediate face of doom, it's cold reason, not raw, exposed emotion, that comes through.

And with that latter note comes an unexpected epiphany that brings Luther full circle to not only the first glimpse of him this series but also redefines his character as known over these ten episodes: through reason comes the recognition that are no reasons, as in any concrete explanation or rationale for how the world operates--a sharp contrast to the man once driven so baldly, obsessively, for better and too painfully worse, driven by his belief in the existence of love and, hence, some sense of greater, unifying order. The closing question of the first series echoes once again at the end of this one, but in a far tidier and even cheeky context that doesn't merely contrast with its previous one but is downright shocking in just how wildly different it is from just about any and every thing that has come prior in these ten hours--ironically leaving that two-word query a much greater weight. Something at least approaching a semblance of peace could finally be in the cards for Luther, but then one wonders how someone like him could possibly handle or even maintain that possibility, or, more appropriately, if. Now what, indeed.

Buy the Luther series 1 DVD here.
Sign up for notifications on Neil Cross's Luther: The Calling prequel novel here.

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