By G. Michael Dobbs
This week, I'll look at a much awaited cult television event and a movie I should have written about much earlier.
In my house if something related to "Dr. Who" comes on television there is a very good chance I'll at least try it, as my wife is quite an avid "Whovian."
When "Torchwood," a spin-off of the current Dr. Who incarnation, debuted here several years ago, it became required viewing. The premise of the show was pretty intriguing: Torchwood is the name for a secret and long-established British agency charged with investigating and protecting that nation from threats originating outside of the planet.
It seems that in the 19th Century the British royal family established Torchwood to address issues that were beyond the abilities of the military or intelligence officials.
The television series features one branch of Torchwood located in Wales and the team members who must collect both alien life forms and artifacts before they can do any harm.
The show was a cross between the "Men in Black" movies and "The X Files," in tone, but had much greater emphasis on the personal interactions between the team members and how their work affected them.
Into the mix came newcomer Gwen Cooper, a police officer who leaves the force to join Torchwood with both exhilaration and apprehension. Cooper, played by Eve Myles, is the voice of the audience and is the most appealing character.
Torchwood is led by the mysterious Capt. Jack Harkness, who turns out to be an immortal time traveler from the future. Played by John Barrowman, Harkness is a bit of a jerk. Having lived for centuries, he has lost a lot of his empathy for the average person.
The show ran three seasons and by its last on the BBC, all of the members of Torchwood had been killed with the exception of Harkness and Cooper.
The new mini-series, a co-production of the BBC and Starz Entertainment, picks up where the last season ended. Cooper and her family are in seclusion, determined to leave Torchwood behind. Harkness is not longer believed to be on the planet.
All of that changes when a singular event occurs: people stop dying. First seen as a miracle, people quickly understand it's a curse. When assassins pop up to murder Cooper and the word "Torchwood" is first flashed on the Internet and then erased, we know that this is a new Torchwood adventure.
Since most of Torchwood is dead, the new team includes two CIA agents, who are not very enthusiastic about the group, but since they have been marked for death as well they reluctantly team up.
This 10-hour mini-series tells of the story behind "Miracle Day," and the reaction of the world's governments on how to deal with terminally ill and injured people who simply cannot die. While there is some provocative social commentary in the mini-series, the show is ultimately unsatisfying.
Part of the problem is this is a story that could have been told in six episodes, rather than 10. The other issue is the revelation is so weak that I actually felt angry I had spent 10 hours to reach such a tepid pay-off.
Finally, while the performances are fine and the production values are high, the story is not within the established format of the show. The villains are from this planet and are not very interesting. There is no alien technology.
If you're interested in the show, try renting the first two seasons. Avoid this one unless you are a die-hard fan.
There are movies that unfortunately fall to the bottom of the pile of DVDs on my desk, films I honestly intend to view and then for a variety of reasons I don't. While on the Cape recently for a week of enforced and welcomed rest, I brought along "The Killer Inside Me" and watched it.
Holy [insert your favorite expletive here]!
To say this film starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson is one of the darkest film noirs I've ever seen would not be hyperbole. I had heard the film was "rough," but I really wasn't prepared for it.
"Film noir" describes a genre of movie that really came into its own following World War II. These movies usually feature morally ambiguous characters involved in stories revolving around crime. Literally dark, many of the films feature sequences taking place at night.
"The Killer Inside Me," based on the 1952 book of the same name, tells the story of a deputy sheriff in a small Texan town. Lou (played by Affleck) doesn't carry a gun and is much beloved by people, but has quite a secret: he is a sociopath.
The movie tells the story of how Lou's tendencies from childhood come to flower when he is asked to run a prostitute out of town. Alba steps out of her normal good girl roles to play a hardened woman who falls in love with Lou.
What transpires are a series of events that will shock even jaded movie fans with their unexpectedness and ferocity. Let me emphasize that this film is not for everybody.
What director Michael Winterbottom and Affleck have done is create the most intriguing and involving look into the mind of a killer since "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer."
The film, when first screened in 2010, was criticized for its violence toward women. It's not easy to watch.
This is not an exploitation film. It's a serious and compelling piece of work, but it's not an episode of "CSI" or "Criminal Minds." There is a truth about this movie that run of the mill crime shows could never achieve. I would say that anyone watching this film should be prepared for a very disturbing ride.
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