Queen of the South: Alice Braga Is Fictional Queenpin (Review)

 Queen of the South - Pilot

Queen of the South is the USA network’s  newest series and it stars Alice Braga as the fictional cocaine queenpin Teresa Mendoza. This is a remake of the wildly popular telenovela La Reina del Sur (starring Kate del Castillo) which in turn was based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

In a nutshell, the pilot follows Mendoza’s introduction into a cartel, led by Epifanio Varga (Joaquim de Almeida) and his wife Camila (Veronica Falcón). Her lover El Guero (Jon-Michael Ecker) is murdered by Epifanio’s righthand man “Batman.”

Before he dies, Guero is ambushed by Federales  who destroy the Cessna.  He gives Teresa a bag with cocaine, money, a passport, a book he says will save her life, and a gun. 

If she needs anything else, Guero says, she just needs to ask. Mendoza picks up the gun and tells her lover, “Show me how to use this.”

Time passes and ironically Teresa is watching the 1983 film Scarface when she learns of Guero’s death. She  tries to warn her friend Brenda (Justina Machado) who fails to save her husband Chino. The two women, and Brenda’s son, flee the house in a hail of bullets. Teresa does knock the gunmen,  Gato and Pote,  down with the car. 

After getting caught in an ambush Teresa once again outsmarts the men who want to kill her, Brenda and Tony. She makes it to the safe house and grabs the bag Guero left her. Teresa starts looking at the book when Gato and Pote arrive.  Gato (James Martinez) slaps Mendoza and then rapes her. Pote (Hemky Madera) leaves the room in disgust. 

Teresa lays on the bed as Gato violates her. She sees herself in a vision. The future Mendoza tells her, “Go on honey. You know what to do.” She does, pulling the gun from the bag, she shoots Gato in the neck.

Pote renters the room and Teresa holds him off with the gun. Collecting her clothes and the bag, she flees the room naked from the waist down. She calls Epifanio, who is now governor,  and forces him to help her.

As they are driving away, something changes and Mendoza realizes that once again she must help herself. The future Mendoza returns and tells Teresa to think of something fast.

Pulling two guns and aiming  one at  Epifanio and the other at the driver, she and the Don struggle. She shoots the driver in the head and the SUV crashes. Refusing to help Epifanio, she limps off into the desert and stumbles across a gas station.

Queen of the South - Pilot

After the proprietor treats her wounds Teresa uses the restroom. She can hear a vehicle arrive so she hides the book. Two men come in and capture her. Later she finds herself in a warehouse. She is put into a caged area and before Epifanio’s wife Camila arrives to question her she cuts the ties on her wrists.

When Camila comes in, she spots the broken mirror and the blood. Retrieving the shard of glass and wrapping Teresa’s hand; Camila and Mendoza  talk. Don Epifanio did not die in the crash and Camila realizes she knows Teresa.

Mendoza is allowed to live and learns she is in Dallas, Texas, in America.

Queen of the South has Braga narrating the first episode and while this device is often overused or even distracting (or annoying) it works here. Not having seen the original telenovela with del Castillo it is not known if this was done perviously or not.

The episode starts with Braga providing narration as the future Teresa. As she snorts a little cocaine and turns to the window, a bullet comes through the glass. Mendoza flinches and the coke holder explodes.  As the queenpin lay on her back, blood flows from the corner of her mouth. Braga, as Mendoza, then narrates  us back to her humble beginnings.

Teresa Mendoza appears to be based, in-part, on real-life drug queenpin Sandra Ávila Beltrán. According to Braga Mendoza is 100 percent fiction. She also talks about how the new show is different from the Kate del Castillo telenovela;  QotS does not faithfully follow the source material from the book.

Regardless of storyline deviations, the pilot was brilliant. Fast paced, cleanly edited and it had a main character that was easy to get behind.  Braga is a personal favorite, despite I am Legend, which was not her fault.  The actress specializes in playing strong women and hopefully Queen of the South carries on as it began.

USA has a cracking series on its hands.  The show airs Thursdays and should be put on your calendar as new “not to miss”  TV.  5 stars.

 

 

Telenovela: The Hurricane – No Filter and Slap Fights (Recap/Review)

Telenovela - Season 1

In Telenovela: The Hurricane the crew are stranded in their Miami studios after Hurricane Chloe hits and turns out not to be cute, but :

“kind of  a b*tch, kind of like a Chrissie or a Jessica.”

Mimi brings in the costumes for the “desert island” segment the next day and Ana bans food from the set, with a two-minute window where the cast can eat before all edibles are removed.

The next day, the cast end their taping, while waiting for Xavi to cry on cue (he cannot) and  all the actors look forward to to eating like “normal people.” The crew abandon the studio and the cast are trapped by the hurricane with no food and, initially, no electricity.  Gael, who Ana makes the Safety Officer (by default)  begins to set up measures to keep everyone safe.

The lack of food removes Ana’s “filter” and she begins to become angry at everyone. Mimi urges her to eat as the last time she lost her filter was during a juice cleanse a year ago. Cue a funny scene were every other word out of Ana’s mouth is “bleeped.”

Sidenote: This reference to the old  “Joan Collins and Stephanie Beacham” Snickers advert is brilliant, although Ana does not pontificate like Joan, her bleeping delivery is hysterical.

After Ana (Eva Longoria) loses her filter once again and chews out the entire cast, she is banished to the deserted island set, hot lights, white sand and a beach chair, and Gael (Jose Moreno Brooks) takes charge. Ana lets rip with one “Lucy” type scream of anguish.

Telenovela - Season 1
The chocolate bar incident…

Gael’s turn as group leader is ended after he finds a candy bar and tires to talk the cast into sharing it.  When they rush him, he shoves the whole thing in his mouth:

Gael: “You know what? Now no one gets any.

[The rest of the cast gasp] “No!”

Gael [around a mouthful of chocolate candy bar] “There. Now what are you gonna do? “

What they do is banish the safety officer to the same set where Ana sits.

As the group theatrically react to being trapped with no food, Ana and Gael make up and decide to brave Hurricane Chloe to get food for the cast. Outside the studio they learn that the storm is over. The two agree to “save the cast” and then tell them that Chloe is finished.

Standout Moments:

The moment Isabela’s “in the dark” makeup is revealed.

The slap fight between Xavi (Jencarlos Canela) and Rodrigo (Amaury Nolasco) with Issac (Izzy Diaz) shouting monotone, and slightly guttural,  encouragement:

“Hit him. Hit him, Xavi. Hit him again.”

Isabela (Alex Meneses)trying and failing to make Xavi cry.

Ana going through the list of all the bad things she did to Gael while trying to apologize to him.

Issac going through the motions of asking Roxi (Jadyn Douglas) out on a date and his excited response to the actress “not saying no.”

Gael and Ana getting each other wet in order to sell the rest of the cast that Hurricane Chloe is still raging on.

Honorable Mentions:

Ana’s rant after the fake food find.

Isabela’s telling everyone that she has been on a diet for 40 years.

That weather woman (Roselyn Sanchez).

Issac gazing at Roxi and telling Rodrigo that “she is so-o-o-o beautiful” while the object of his desire wipes under her armpits with a bit of costume as her face twists into a grimace.

Telenovela - Season 1
Gael and Ana prepare to face Hurricane Chloe…

Overall Thoughts:

Another funny Telenovela episode where the cast prove once again that despite the focus being on Ana and Gael in this one, that this series is an ensemble effort.  The character of Issac even gets to  end The Hurricane episode:

Issac: [rushing away from Roxi in excitement] “She said not a no. She said not a no! She said not a no!”

Telenovela airs Mondays on NBC and is another win for the network in terms of comedy. Tune and and marvel at Eva Longoria and the rest of the cast as they display massive comedic chops.

 

Telenovela: The Rivals – Forbidden Love and Raising the Roof (Review)

It has been pointed out that shows, or films, about actors generally do not do well, Telenovela may be the exception, despite falling viewing figures.

Telenovela - Season 1

It has been pointed out that shows, or films, about actors generally do not do well, Telenovela may be the exception, despite falling viewing figures.  The Rivals, episode 104, manages to keep the laughs coming with forbidden love (Gael, played by Jose Moreno Brooks and his instant infatuation with a rival telenovela beefcake) and Ana (star Eva Longoria) with her “Raise the Roof” charity “face-off” with “hated rivals.” 

Longoria is good at comedy, if there is any doubt tune in and do a little binge watching. The performer has got chops.  Leaving aside Eva’s massive comedic chops for the moment, The Rivals is about Eva’s character Ana’s charity event “Raise the Roof.”

Things get started  when Ana announces that she needs cast volunteers to help a family to improve their home the next day. After a disappointing show of hands, the cast learn that the “coffee-boy” is off and they stage a “Belly Jenga” contest to see who will get the coffee.

Xavi (Jencarlos Canela) and Ana lose and after they bring back the coffee, the cast from their  telenovela rivals, titled”Cientificos Sexy,” arrive and Ana’s arch enemy Kate (Kate del Castillo) and her husband Diego (Carlos Ponce), show up to  volunteer for Ana’s charity.

On the day, each cast challenges the other in helping the Torres family and it turns into a very uneven competition. Clearly the “Cientificos Sexy” cast are much better at building than the cast of “Las Leyes de Pasión.”

During the event, Diego kisses Ana, who rushes to tell Kate and she learns her rival’s marriage is sham and  that Xavi and she may be exes but they are friends.

Standout Moments:

The slow-motion “paint fight” between Kate and Ana, where Xavi “takes a blob” for Ana and Diego protects himself.

Telenovela - Season 1
Xavi taking a blob for Ana…

The whole “star-crossed” lovers subplot that sours when the “forbidden love” aspect ceases to exist.

Telenovela - Season 1
Julio (Andrew Dits) and Gael as the star-crossed lovers.

Rodrigo (Amaury Nolasco) and Isabela (Alex Meneseswith the mustache gag and “they always fall in love with me.”

The kitchen vs the “wall” and the entire one-sided competition between the two telenovela casts.

Ana’s excitement at learning how to turn on the tools.

Telenovela - Season 1
Power tool excitement…

The final shot of Ana’s paint covered rear after she congratulates Xavi on helping her keep her white outfit white. (And they finally “high-five” correctly.)

Telenovela - Season 1
Paint covered derriere friendship.

Honorable Mentions:

Ava Longoria managing to look adorably cute (and about 15 years old) when smiling about  having to tell Kate that her unfaithful husband Diego tried  to kiss her.

Gael’s revelation that after checking onlineMD for hours about a mysterious new “lump” he discovered turned out to be a completely new muscle.

Conclusion:

Telenovela may be about the actors behind the scenes of a Spanish soap opera, where the actress playing the heroine cannot speak the language, but it is really about over the top comedy that matches the OTT nature of the telenovela.

The cast of this comedy have rapidly become an ensemble and each cast member brings something to the table. Longoria proves, each week, that comedy is definitely her forte and as the season progresses, Diana Maria Riva, as Mimi,  matches Eva in performance. 

Telenovela airs Mondays on NBC, tune in and catch the buoyant comedic effort by all.

 

Telenovela: The Kiss – Eva Longoria Still Comic Gold

There is no doubt that Eva Longoria is still delivering comic gold as telenovela star Ana Sofia Carlson, in The Kiss.

Telenovela - Season 1

There is no doubt that Eva Longoria is still delivering comic gold as telenovela star Ana Sofia Carlson, in The Kiss. In this episode, Ana Sofia channels her inner Pasión for her date with James McMahon (Zachary Levi), the new network president of VivaVision. Xavi (Jencarlos Canelais initiated onto the cast as the newest member, the writer reveals a secret and McMahon reveals it is not wise to eat the deviled eggs on set.

The Kiss begins with Ana driving into work and discovering the Xavi has parked partially over her parking space. She squeezes the vehicle in between her ex’s car and another and then climbs out of the window.  On set, Ana is disturbed to find that the new network president had a meal with Xavi the night before, so much so that she forgets her line.

After a wardrobe malfunction (marvelous in-joke) instigated by Mimi (Diana Maria Riva), Xavi tells other cast members that strange things have been happening to him on set. Roxi and Rodrigo explain to their new colleague that the set is haunted. Ana goes out with McMahon on a date, albeit reluctantly,  and she decides to go as Pasión.

This episode brings out the real Ana, the actress who does not speak Spanish, like spicy food, pads her bra and uses boob tape to create cleavage and  whose life is not “quite” a telenovela. Although by the end of the episode, her life certainly looks like a one, with McMahon as  the romantic leading man.

The comedy revolves around Ana’s reluctance to begin dating again, the other cast members hazing Xavi, and just how unlike her character Ana actually is.

Levi and Longoria work very well together.  A natural chemistry that plays perfectly whether they are awkwardly getting to know each other or making the final move to really dating. It is cute and endearing that Levi’s character wants to date, not Pasión, or an equivalent of the character. McMahon wants to date the cheese puff eating, car window climbing woman he sees on the security cameras.

(Granted, this whole security camera storyline sounds a bit “stalker-y” but it does not detract from the budding romance. This is, after all, a comedy.)

It should also be pointed out that while singing Longoria’s praises as comedic actress that Zachary Levi is a dab hand at performing comedy as well. The two are brilliant together.

Eva Longoria delivers her performance with timing and an ease that impresses (and a clear delight in her character). Her Ana Sofia Carlson is not just funny, she is lovable. How can one not fall in love with a woman who leaves a cheese-puff handprint on the back of a suit,  let alone clambers out of a car window just to prove a point?

Telenovela - Season 1
Eva Longoria comedy gold

It should also be pointed out that the feature photo with McMahon’s carrying Ana out of the club, is the result of Ana Sofia’s tossing off her wig and it catching fire…Splendid comedy turned into an uber romantic moment, telenovela style.

The finish, where the two are wearing sweatshirts over their drenched outfits, while eating cheese puffs,  and watching the cameras indicates a new level of awareness between the two.  Surprisingly subtle but only for a moment as the final punch line is delivered.

Telenovela is pure comedic gold and airs Mondays on NBC. Tune in for Eva Longoria and relish this entertainer’s panache, beauty and splendid comic timing.

 

Telenovela: Eva Longoria and Prat-Falls

As Sir Michael Caine once said, “people don’t want to watch shows, or films, about actors.” That may not be the exact quote, but it is close and more importantly Sir Michael is not wrong, Telenovela is proof of that. Eva Longoria and prat falls should be a winning combination for comedy.

Telenovela - Season 1

As Sir Michael Caine once said, “people don’t want to watch shows, or films, about actors.” That may not be the exact quote, but it is close and more importantly Sir Michael is not wrong, Telenovela is proof of that.  Eva Longoria and prat falls should be a winning combination for comedy.  So far, viewers have stayed away from the new series in droves.

This must be the only rational explanation as beautiful women who are not afraid to look funny, or more importantly act funny are adducing. Look at I Love Lucy, starring Desi Arnaz and the queen of television sitcom’s Lucille Ball.

One old friend once explained the  allure of Lucille Ball.  In his opinion, nothing was sexier than a “good looking bird not afraid to make herself look like an idiot.”  Longoria knows comedy and does it extremely well, something she shares with Ms. Ball.  In some instances Telenovela  may be a bit too slapstick in nature or broad to be really funny, but Eva, and her co-stars give it their all.

Only recently becoming aware of the “telenovela” and its phenomenal popularity  (these did not air in the United Kingdom) after moving  stateside, the shows have proven to be quite enjoyable, even if one does not speak the language.

(Warehouse 13 in its final season did a spoof episode where all the protagonists were pulled into the world of the telenovela in Savage Secret which was the first time this reviewer learned of the Spanish speaking television format)

Telenovela - Season Pilot
Eva Longoria as Ana Sofia Calderon, Jadyn Douglas as Roxie Rios, Diana Maria Riva as Mimi Moncada

The premise of Telenovela has drop dead gorgeous Longoria as the star of the show and she can speak little Spanish. When her costars are talking about her, she cannot understand because they speak too fast. Her character obviously learns just enough to “get by” on set. This in itself is funny.

Even the new “white bread” network head (played with great panache and extremely straight by Zachary Levi) can speak the lingo fluently while Ana Sofia Calderon (Longoria) falteringly responds.  It needs to be noted that Eva, despite being one of the most beautiful actresses in the world, can and does laugh at herself.

The star has had several wardrobe malfunctions in real life on the red carpet and all handled with a sense of laugh and depreciating humor.  In Telenovela one scene has Calderon rush to confront the network boss. Her costume is held together with pins and as the two talk her outfit begins to disintegrate, popping pin after pin. As she struggles to leave the office, with both hands holding up her top, the gown’s belt dangles down and wraps around her leg.

The timing by Longoria was practically perfect.

Add to the proceeds that the Desperate Housewives actress is not afraid to do a prat-fall or two, or more,  and Eva easily shows that her comedic chops are  massive.

Hot & Bothered - Season 1
Rosie – Jadyn Douglas

Sadly, the show suffers from the sum of too many comic parts.  It is trying too hard to be funny, but to be fair, with so much on offer it does hit far more than it misses.   The telenovela has merged into mainstream television almost effortlessly. The format has a legion of fans (when a well known telenovela star passed away in 2014, millions of fans north of the border went into mourning) and has spawned a few imitations up north.

Jane the Virgin is a straight remake of the hit show of the same name from Mexico,  CW are the proud owners of this very funny sitcom and The Mysteries of Laura, starring Debra Messing, is a another remake of a popular Mexican television show. both “Laura” and Telenovela are on NBC.

After watching the pilot on Hulu, it was impossible not to watch the next two episodes.  The sitcom is not all about broad comedy, nor is it too broad, no one, for instance, gets a pie in the face, but it is also made up of some clever lines of funny dialogue.

Certainly, there are stereotypes. (It does not take long to pick up these “types” after watching only  a small amount of the “real thing.”) The cast all play there parts with an energy that is admirable even if it does feel like a bit too much.

Eva Longoria, Zachary Levi, Jencarlos CanelaDiana Maria RivaAlex Meneses,  Amaury Nolasco and newcomers Jadyn Douglas and Jose Moreno Brooks make up the main cast and while the acting feels a little frantic, that is, apparently the way of the telenovela.

While watching the first three episodes of this new show, there was a much to laugh at.  A number of reviewers and critics are not overly impressed.  Certainly there was at least one “Lucille Ball” moment but that is comedy. Gags are shared, rewritten and adapted and have been since before vaudeville.

Hot & Bothered - Season 1
Jose Moreno Brooks and Eva Longoria

Telenovela may not be the Three Stooges but it is more amusing than not and worth the short time it takes to watch an episode just to see Eva Longoria be funny as hell.  Show creators Jessica Goldstein,Robert Harling andChrissy Pietrosh may be trying to run before they can walk, but the show does entertain, albeit a bit haphazardly.

The sitcom airs Mondays on NBC, tune in for a giggle or two, or just to crush on Eva, you won’t be sorry.