GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

2017-01-12 - Las Vegas Weekly

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Big popin' he movies of Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (Youth, the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty) are full of gorgeous, striking images, but they're often more impressionistic than narratively coherent. That's a bigger liability for a long-form TV series than for a feature film, and Sorrentino's HBO series The Young Pope (co-produced with French and British TV networks) surrounds occasionally impressive sequences with a muddled narrative, starring an inscrutable main character whose inconsistent behavior is as frustrating for the audience as it is for his peers. Jude Law plays the title character, an American named Lenny Belardo who is somewhat unexpectedly elected Pope at the relatively young age of 47. Although his election was meant as a compromise, Lenny turns out to be the opposite of a peacemaker. He's arrogant, mercurial and often cruel, taking the church in an austere, uncompromising direction that has the potential to undo decades of outreach. But he's also haunted and insecure, tormented by the memory of the parents who abandoned him as a young child and eager for the approval of the nun who raised him (played by Diane Keaton). He's more or less Don Draper as the head of the Catholic church, but the show doesn't have the character depth of Mad Men, at least in the first half of its 10-episode first season (it has already been renewed for a second in Europe). It's often too straight-faced to be satirical, and the hodge-podge of accents sometimes undercuts the dramatic intensity. Every so often, Sorrentino (who directed and wrote or co-wrote every episode) breaks out an entertaining moment, like a swaggering montage of Lenny getting dressed in Pope finery set to LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It," but then it's right back to uninspired scheming and half-hearted musings on the existence of God. Law's smug smirk can only carry the show so far. Jude Law pLays a power-mad pontiff in the young pope Sundays & Mondays, 9 p.m., HBO. Premieres January 15. aabcc the young pope T aaaac a series of unfortunate events Season 1 available January 13 on Netflix. Netflix's original programming juggernaut is proving nigh unstoppable. In only a few short years, the streaming network has assumed ownership of television drama (Orange Is the New Black) situation comedy (Lady Dynamite) and cult-favorite genre fiction (Stranger Things). Now, with a delightful adaptation of Daniel Handler's kid- gothic book series A Series of Unfortunate Events, Netflix has taken to righting the wrongs of Hollywood's recent past. Unfortunate Events was first produced 13 years ago as a Jim Carrey comedy. Unlike the new series, which is written for television by Handler and produced by Handler and Addams Family director Barry Sonnenfeld, the Carrey film was entirely forgettable—little more than a vehicle for the actor's tiresome, rubber-faced mugging. The Netflix show is smartly scripted, boasts some feature film-worthy production design and has a terrific ensemble cast that includes Patrick Warburton as kindly narrator Lemony Snicket and Neil Patrick Harris in prime scenery- chewing form as the villainous Count Olaf. I stop here for fear of spoilers. To reveal even a tiny bit of the tragedy of the Baudelaire orphans would ruin the surprises Handler and Sonnenfeld have carefully laid out. Watch for yourself, and expect only what Netflix delivers regularly: one fortunate discovery after another. –Geoff Carter + true oLaf Netflix's A series of UNfortUNAte eveNts is A lUcky fiNd B y J o s h B e l l Law's Pope Pius XIII communes with God. (HBO/Courtesy) 60 WEEKLY | 01.12.17 S C R E E N

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