Lea Michele ‘Strangled’ by the Red Devil at ‘Scream Queens’ L.A. Premiere

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Fox’s ‘Scream Queens’ sorority-slasher is a howler in more ways than one.

When asking her to appear in his horror-comedy “Scream Queens,” co-creator Ryan Murphy reportedly told Jamie Lee Curtis that he wouldn’t make it if she wasn’t in it. Curtis, the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, shot to fame in 1978 when she starred as Laurie Strode in Halloween and has been scaring audiences ever since.The former ‘Glee’ star is transforming herself for a new gut-busting comedic role on ‘Scream Queens.’ And with her new self-help book, she wants to transform your life, too.If any of the fall’s new shows works harder to win us over than “Scream Queens,” I don’t want to hear about it — I’m exhausted just from watching Tuesday night’s two-hour premiere.

Murphy knows what he’s doing; not only is Curtis as good a get as there is to be got, she is absolutely the best thing about the new Fox series, which attempts a post-modern riff on the genre her screams begat. You get this new series from him, a gruesome spoof that mixes teenage angst with serial killing. “Scream Queens” takes place at a sorority run by the impossibly snooty Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts). Now Curtis stars as university dean Cathy Munsch in Scream Queens opposite Emma Roberts, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, and Skyler Samuels — but you get the feeling she won’t be watching it. “I scare very easily — and there is nothing about being scared that I like,” Curtis says. “It is not something I will pay money for. When Glee mastermind Ryan Murphy called Lea Michele, his belting savant of a muse, to offer her a new acting role last spring, she said yes before she knew the name of the project—or what it was even about. “He didn’t give me any information,” she says. “I wasn’t sure if it was a new show or another chapter of American Horror Story. The industriousness of this Fox horror spoof is reflected in the game performance of its lead, Emma Roberts, who marches through her role as a sorority-house storm trooper with a slightly grim determination, hunting down laughs that aren’t always there.

Chanel is forced by her nemesis, Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), to take in a pledge class full of nerds, including one played by Lea Michele of “Glee.” “Scream Queens” is unapologetically over the top; it’s pure spoof, and it is often funny in a black-comic way. When she and Guest, famed for such films as This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman, arrived at the Tesla dealer, a representative from the high-end, electric-car manufacturer was there to show them all the functions of the vehicle Curtis was buying. “The guy was taking us through the controls of the car.

The 15-episode “Scream Queens” was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, and it shares its plastered-on-smile quality with the first Falchuk-Murphy-Brennan collaboration, “Glee.” Also like “Glee,” and the Falchuk-Murphy show, “American Horror Story,” it’s a riff on and mash-up of genre conventions. But after just two hours, it also was already getting redundant and leaving us wondering where it could possibly go. “Limitless” 10 p.m., CBS The strongest of the many action-adventure shows coming to network television this fall. And I said absolutely.” It wasn’t until the press release announcing that Murphy was making a new horror comedy for Fox called Scream Queens—and that Michele would be a part of the cast—that the actress found out what she’d be starring in. What sets “Limitless” apart are believable action sequences and a kinetic script that doesn’t waste too much time on exposition. “Limitless” continues the story begun in the 2010 movie of the same name.

Make it go louder.’ So, I went up and – it goes to 11,” she said, echoing Nigel Tufnel, the Spinal Tap guitarist played by Guest in the 1984 film. Murphy has described it as “Halloween” meets “Heathers,” which looks about right, though you could come up with your own formulation — “Scream” meets “Animal House” or “Friday the 13th” meets “Legally Blonde.” Ms. In the movie, Nigel shows off amplifier knobs that go to 11 to rockumentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner), who notes that most amps go to 10. “Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it?” an utterly logical Nigel says. “I said to the guy, ‘The volume control goes to 11?’ He said, ‘Yes. (CEO Elon) Musk is a fan of a certain movie,’ ” she remembers. “So, Chris is sitting in the car and the guy doesn’t know it’s Chris.

Leveraging the wearisome but troubling delight we take in watching pretty rich girls get ripped apart (at times literally), “Scream Queens” flirts with camp but settles for tweet-worthy. Unlike the “Scream” killers, who were fond of crank phone calls, this killer is happier to text a victim — even when standing in front of a victim.

With obvious references to “Mean Girls” and “Heathers,” there are long jokes about young women ordering lattes and murders too brutal to be funny but too cold-hearted to be chilling. Finch joins up with an FBI agent (Jennifer Carpenter) to solve crimes and, of course, unravel the deadly conspiracy that put him where he is. “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris” 10 p.m., NBC The worst show ever? So well, even, that in addition to premiering the first episode of Scream Queens on Tuesday, she’ll be releasing a self-help book titled You First, which she hopes will help her young friends also keep their dreams going on (and on and on and onnnnn). Like a lot of Murphy’s shows, there’s only enough good writing around for one performer, and that goes to Curtis, the original scream queen (“Halloween”). Now dead bodies are turning up — several in the first hour alone — and they seem connected to a mysterious figure in a full-length red devil suit.

The first season centres on the Wallace University campus where a series of murders involving the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority occur which are seemingly linked to events 20 years ago. A Broadway veteran best known for starring in the coming-of-age rock musical Spring Awakening, Michele’s career skyrocketed when she was cast as Rachel Berry—a small-town girl with a Barbra Streisand vision board—on Glee, a cover-happy musical series that, in its seven-season run, couldn’t have been a better showcase for Michele’s talents if she had dreamed it up herself. “I would jump out of a plane for that guy,” Michele says of Murphy. “In this business, I completely put my career in his hands. She has her best role in decades as a frustrated feminist who once attended this school and now works off her stress by blackmailing Chad (Glen Powell), the Big Man on Campus, into having sex with her. The referential humor of “Scream Queens” tends to be better on the “Halloween” side of the equation than on the “Heathers” side, and some of its sendups of horror movies — or of horror-movie sendups — are pretty funny. A confrontation between the killer and a not-too-bright sorority sister in which they stand a few feet apart and text each other is a witty take on “Scream” conventions, as is a scene in which a rent-a-cop played by Niecy Nash enumerates the obviously ineffective ways in which she’ll provide security for the sorority.

It is sort of a mashup of Kevin Williamson’s hit Scream movies with Jennifer Love Hewitt slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer. “For me, the horror genre has given me the greatest life,” Curtis says. “I have respect for them (horror movies and TV shows) even though I don’t personally love them. “Horror movies are not known for (the quality of) their language (scripts) so the idea that I am in a horror comedy where I get mouthfuls of thought is fantastic. Curtis’s winking, merry performance is its own self-contained slasher-film trope. “Scream Queens” bogs down, though, when it enters another familiar Brennan-Falchuk-Murphy territory, which could be called identity entertainment — their penchant for making any story, regardless of its subject matter or genre, deal largely in representations of (and gags about) gender, sexuality, race, class and whatever other categories they deem worthy of breaking down.

To distance itself from the “Scream” franchise (including the new MTV series), “Scream Queens” focuses on the sorority subgenre, in which young college women, usually hiding a dark secret, are brutally murdered one by one, often while wearing short skirts or nighties. Her most recent TV role was as Dr Samantha Ryan opposite Mark Harmon on NCIS. “I have no discernible skills — I’m telling you the truth,” Curtis laughs. “I barely got out of high school. If you read the script for Scream Queens, you’d imagine that queen bee sorority president Chanel, whose name says everything you need to know about her character, would be perfectly suited for Michele. The stabs at humor mostly center on one person humiliating another, as when Chanel targets the house maid as “white mammy.” The racist, homophobic jibes just get tiring piled on one after another, and the premiere uses up this season’s and every season’s allotment of poo jokes, thank you very much.

The creators’ promise to kill off at least one character each episode means “Scream Queens” has a large cast — all those victims plus a sufficient number of suspects — and many of the performers are appealing, including Skyler Samuels as the requisite levelheaded nice girl; Keke Palmer as the skeptical black pledge; Diego Boneta as the barista who edits the school newspaper; and Nasim Pedrad as the sorority’s national president, who’s dizzyingly pragmatic and, like Dean Munsch, a bit of a sexual predator. Twenty years later, KKT is a sorority on steroids run by Chanel (Emma Roberts), a pretty blond so privileged and mean she has a trio of equally stylish minions whom she addresses by derivations of her own name: Chanel No. Hester is the scene-stealing supporting role, one that you’d imagine Molly Shannon playing in a bizarre sketch on Saturday Night Live. (“Mary Katherine Gallagher was a huge reference for me,” Michele says. “So was Gilly, Kristen Wiig’s character.”) “Ryan was like, ‘This is your Monster moment,’” Michele says, referring to the film that won Charlize Theron an Academy Award. “Not wearing makeup.

These young women are played by Grande, Billie Lourd (whose mother, Carrie Fisher, starred in the 2009 remake of “Sorority Row’) and Abigail Breslin, not that it matters much. “Scream Queens” is obviously a vehicle for “American Horror”-star Roberts, which means Chanel never stops talking. Working in the rat-a-tat-tat cadence of 1940s female film stars and the drag queens who love them, she delivers all manner of occasionally funny but mostly hateful and strangely middle-aged monologues. The Scream Queens pilot is “unbelievable.” She’s heard that it’s one “of the greatest pilots in a long time.” (For the record, she heard correctly.

They include a variety of “Glee-like” losers, including a young women described, via Chanel, as a predatory lesbian, a “neckbrace girl” (Michelle) and a “deaf Taylor Swift.” Soon enough people begin to die with as much blood and gore as broadcast television will allow. The last pilot that was this creatively exciting and felt this special was Glee’s.) Working again with Ryan Murphy and his creative partner Brad Falchuk is “the greatest opportunity,” because they are the “best in the game.” Being offered the role of Hester on Scream Queens? “The best thing that ever happened.” And to be but a 29-year-old pilates enthusiast in the midst of so much erstwhile excellence, Michele is nothing if not humbled. As the second hour nears its end, Chanel talks less and things pick up a bit when Grace and a male reporter-love interest begin unearthing the sins of the past. There’s an endearing quality to the methodical platitudes with which Michele describes it all: her career, her life, her destiny to be a successful Broadway and television star.

For all its new “diversity” (which this team certainly helped create), television continues to love-hate pretty young women and never more than when terrible things happen to them. “Scream Queens” might be making a statement about this, but in the pilot it seems content to just wallow in agreement. Aimed squarely at a generation raised on the “Scary Movies,” “Pretty Little Liars” and previous works by its creators, “Scream Queens” has a built-in audience that will no doubt assure it will open as big as any new show this fall.

She started writing down the things she wanted for herself—to be on a TV show, to make an album—as well as things she’d hear that were particularly inspiring to her, and found that the more she wrote things down the more these things were actually happening. Each chapter in You First begins with Michele explaining why the journal prompt she’s encouraging the readers to answer personally helped her. “I personally have been overwhelmed over the years by blank pages so I wanted to create a thing where you have these prompted questions to help you explore parts of yourself and ask yourself things that you wouldn’t maybe ask yourself on your own,” she says.

It featured charming stories about how she had a stipulation in her Spring Awakening contract that she would not have to show her breasts on stage any time her father was in the audience, and how she helped guide her then co-star and now-BFF Jonathan Groff to becoming the well-coifed, adorable out gay celebrity that so many fawn over. “I can take very little credit,” she says, before taking a little bit of credit. “But I did get rid of that hair gel, that’s for sure!” Then after a good laugh, “I buy Jonathan clothes on his birthday and every single thing I’ve ever given him he wears all the time. But he uses them!” You First isn’t as “in-depth” as Brunette Ambition when it comes to “the personal stuff,” she says. “But everything I write, whether it’s my music or my book, it’s my opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with my fans.” Take, for example, what so many of her fans have for so long considered an inevitability: starring as Fanny Brice in a production of Funny Girl. “We were definitely working on it for a while,” but concedes that she got to perform so much of the material already on Glee that she “feels as if she’s already gotten to do that.” Though there is perhaps just one other thing that would cause the star’s fans enough excitement to spontaneously combust into clouds of glitter: Michele starring as Elphaba in a movie version of the musical Wicked. “Well, I mean that has to happen,” she says. “I’m going to start painting myself green and walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard holding a sign.” Up and down the boulevaaaard, indeed.

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