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Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black, video, Netflix, gay news, Washington Blade

Laverne Cox in ‘Orange is the New Black.’ (Photo by Paul Shiraldi; courtesy Netflix)

Season two of “Orange Is the New Black” will become available on Netflix on June 6. The show, set in a women’s prison, is rife with lesbian relationships and includes trans actress Laverne Cox in a significant supporting role.

The CW airs a new series, “Star-Crossed,” on Mondays at 8 p.m. The show stars Matt Lanter as an alien and Aimee Teegarden as a human whose love is forbidden. The show carries heavy themes of racial integration, the Civil Rights movement and the gay rights movement.

Once Upon a Time” returns to ABC on March 9 at 8 p.m. The second half of the season will focus heavily on the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Revenge” returns to ABC on March 9 at 10 p.m. Madeline Stowe, Emily VanCamp and Gabriel Mann star in this drama, a contemporary re-imagining of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” told from a female perspective.

OWN will premiere a new Lindsay Lohan documentary series called “Lindsay” on March 9 at 10 p.m. Over eight episodes, the show will focus on the actress’s attempts to rebuild her life and career following legal and public relations troubles.

As part of the lineup of Robert Rodriguez’s new network El Rey, “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” premieres on March 10 at 9 p.m. The show will expand on the mythology of the cult-favorite “From Dusk till Dawn” series.

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, video, Netflix, gay news, Washington Blade

Kevin Spacey in ‘House of Cards.’ (Photo by Nathaniel Bell; courtesy Netflix)

Both seasons of the Netflix original series “House of Cards” are available for streaming online. Season two builds on some of the implied gay themes of season one, both explicitly and implicitly.

Season 18 of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres on March 17 at 9 p.m. on ABC. Contestants had not been announced by the time of publishing, but they will likely include NeNe Leakes and Candace Cameron Bure of “Full House” fame.

LGBT ally and activist Aisha Tyler returns to host another season of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” on March 21 at 8 p.m. on The CW.

The final season of “Drop Dead Diva” premieres on March 23 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. Bi comedian and LGBT activist Margaret Cho stars in the show.

James Van Der Beek stars in “Friends With Better Lives,” a comedy premiering on March 31 at 9 p.m. on CBS.

Mindy Kaling’s sitcom “The Mindy Project” returns to Fox on April 1 at 9 p.m. Adam Pally, who recently starred in “Happy Endings” as the openly gay Max Blum, has been promoted to a series regular on “The Mindy Project.”

Comedian Amy Schumer returns with season two of “Inside Amy Schumer” on April 1 at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. The sketch comedy series tackles a number of topics, including sexuality.

The American Country Music Awards will air on April 6 at 8 p.m. on CBS. Some nominees for top awards this year include Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, Sheryl Crow and Carrie Underwood.

Season four of “Game of Thrones” premieres on April 6 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Season three of “Veep” returns to HBO on April 6 at 10 p.m. The show’s star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, won Emmys for her performances in the first two seasons of the show as Vice President Selina Meyer.

Mad Men” premieres the first part of its final season on April 13 at 10 p.m. on AMC. Throughout its run, the show has addressed sex and sexuality as they were perceived in the ‘60s, when the show takes place.

Orphan Black,” a Canadian science fiction series, premieres its second season on April 19 at 9 p.m. on BBC America. The show stars Tatiana Maslany playing multiple characters and Jordan Gavaris as her gay foster brother.

MTV premieres “Faking It” on April 22 at 10:30 p.m. The show revolves around two high school girls who are mistakenly outed as lesbians and keep up the charade as their popularity rises. Another character is the openly gay Shane, described as the most popular boy in the school.

HBO’s film “The Normal Heart” airs May 25 at 9 p.m. The adaptation of the play by Larry Kramer focuses on the rise of HIV/AIDS in New York City in the early ‘80s. The film stars Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Jonathan Groff, Julia Roberts and others.

The 68th annual Tony Awards airs June 8 on CBS at 8 p.m. The ceremony recognizing achievement in Broadway productions will be hosted by Hugh Jackman for the fourth time.

Jason Bateman, Liza Minelli, Arrested Development, video, Netflix, gay news, Washington Blade

Jason Bateman and Liza Minnelli in ‘Arrested Development.’ (Photo by Mike Yarish; courtesy Netflix)

Season four of “Arrested Development” is also available on Netflix. The series stars Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi and Jessica Walter. Series creator Mitchell Hurwitz is planning an “Arrested Development” movie as well as a fifth season.

RuPaul’s Drag Race” season six just premiered last week and continues on Monday nights at 9 p.m. on Logo. The show has also been renewed for a seventh season as well.


Reimagining ‘Les Miz’

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables, Universal Studios, film, gay news, Washington Blade

Anne Hathaway in a scene from ‘Les Miserables.’ (Photo courtesy of Universal Studios)

By the time the credits roll on Tom Hooper’s cinematic adaptation of the stage musical “Les Misérables,” the audience is well acquainted with every inch of Hugh Jackman’s face.

Sometimes, that’s a good thing. You hear every word plainly and you share every emotion that passes across that expressive face. But the obsessive close-ups highlight the melodramatic aspects of the story and downplay the complex web of relationships and themes that structure the source material.

The movie adaptation is based on the sprawling 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, via the incredibly popular 1987 musical version by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alan Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer. The screenplay, which trims the material to two-and-a-half hours, is by William Nicholson. It’s essentially the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who spent 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children.

Newcomer Samantha Banks as Éponine is the standout performer of the all-star ensemble cast. Her rendition of the new Broadway standard “On My Own” is deeply moving and beautifully delivered. Sung as the lovelorn Éponine wanders the rainy streets of Paris serving as a go-between for Marius and Cosette, the song is an example of Hooper’s work at its finest. The intimacy of the camera work matches the intimacy of the musical moment and the nuances of Banks’ fine acting.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter bring some badly needed comic relief to the movie as the cynical Thénardiers. “Master of the House,” a comic inventory of the many ways they fleece their unwary guests, is a delightful counterpoint to the otherwise earnest proceedings. Their highly effective performances flesh out both the couple’s considerable charm and their significant menace.

The three leads (Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert and Anne Hathaway as Fantine) also offer strong performances, but their impact is lessened to various degrees by their limitations as performers and by Hooper’s work as director. Hooper made movie musical history by having the actors sing live on the set instead of lip-synching to a pre-recorded soundtrack. This often brings an emotional intensity to the material, but sometimes undermines the musical demands of Schönberg’s intricate and complicated score.

For example, Crowe subtly humanizes Javert, capturing his stern ruthlessness as well as his profound belief in how human and divine justice interact in an orderly society. Hooper highlights these moments with some stunning cinematography: Javert’s duel with Valjean in the thrilling “Confrontation” at Fantine’s deathbed, his unfeeling horseback rides among the poor of Paris and especially his delivery of “Stars” while pacing on the ramparts high above the city.

But there’s a critical problem with his vocal performance as Javert. While Crowe has a pleasant singing voice (he’s been the lead singer for several bands), he’s not the Broadway belter the role requires. He has pitch and rhythm problems in the opening scenes and in his big solo numbers, his vocal performances fall flat. This robs his excellent work of much of its power. These problems could probably have been worked out in the studio, possibly even with the discreet use of some dubbing.

Hathaway’s performance of the iconic “I Dreamed A Dream” brings out the considerable pathos of the number, but misses the larger dramatic point. Hathaway has an unexpectedly powerful singing voice that matches her rich talents as an actor, but Hooper lets her get lost in the melodrama of the moment, missing the crucial spirit of defiance that underscores the number and propels Fantine into her final act of rebellion against her cruel fate.

Jackman offers a stirring performance as Jean Valjean. He rises to the vocal challenges of the role with apparent ease and resists the temptation to turn Valjean into a one-dimensional saint. Yet his fine performance is frequently undermined by Hooper’s relentless close-ups, which tear the character out of his cinematic context, and Hooper’s continually swirling cameras, which pull focus from Jackman’s extraordinary acting and singing.