Tuesday, August 4, 2009

lonely witches, superdouche and the alien menace

Bell Book and Candle

Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Jimmy Stewart himself says he was miscast in this film and I think he was right; Cary Grant wanted the part and should have gotten it. Sexy Kim Novak plays Gillian, a lonely witch cavorting in Greenwich Village with her brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon) and Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester), toying with mortals when she's not running her primitive art gallery. She's got her eye on neighbor Shep Henderson (Stewart), a publisher. She's been unlucky in love and she's not getting any younger, so she casts a love spell on him one night after she catches him with an old college enemy of hers at a jazz club.
But as these stories go, she begins falling in love with him herself, which of course makes her lose her powers. The love story doesn't have much energy; this was Jimmy's last role as romantic lead and he chose wisely. He's only 50 but didn't age well, and turned to Westerns instead, giving us many memorable roles as in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Kim Novak was half his age and is done up to look older, but the chemistry just isn't there. Who's fun to watch? Jack Lemmon as her mischevious warlock brother, whether he's turning off streetlamps, taunting Shep's date with a trumpet, or lingering in the background with devilish eyes. Pyewacket, Gil's Siamese cat, ended up being a bit of a scene stealer. This beautifully filmed story doesn't hold a bell, book or a candle to René Clair's I Married a Witch (1942) with Fredric March and Veronica Lake- who hated each other! It's very pretty to look at, a colorful costumes against the backdrop of New York in the snow, but it wasn't very memorable for me.

Rating: Enh.


Admittedly I didn't watch this from the very beginning, and only got into it once Justin Bateman showed up to give super-hobo Will Smith some good PR for saving his kid. Some spectacularly lazy writing and a story that felt slapped together by committee, the movie was saved for me by Cherlize Theron- who showed the boys how to act in this one, despite her tacked-on storyline- and Eddie Marsan, the psychotic driving instructor from Happy-Go-Lucky (full review) who's excellent again here as a vengeful and unlucky leader of a bank heist. Oh, it's not horrible, and makes for decent lazy cable viewing because it's fun watching Hancock be an asshole (sssh!!). But Smith doesn't try too hard here; he's sort of the black Ahnold, really. He seems too interested in keeping his cash register screen persona intact than creating an interesting character. Grow a pair, you millionaire, and show us what we know you can do.

Rating: Stinky

Torchwood: Children of Earth

One day, children all over the world go into a brief trance. They stop in the middle of the street. They stare into space. And eventually, they recite "We. Are. Coming." Luckily the supernatural defense squad of Torchwood is there to figure out just what the hell is going on. This is 5 episodes of season three of the BBC "X-Files"-alike Dr. Who spinoff, "Torchwood." I heard good things, and I was not disappointed. I'd only watched a few standalone episodes and wasn't impressed, but this was quite well done and you can waltz right in without knowing the backstory, and if you give it your attention you'll be well rewarded.
The children are being used as a broadcast of sorts by an alien race called the 456, monstrous arachnid creatures who breathe a poisonous atmosphere and possess technology that like Arthur C. Clarke said, is indistinguishable from magic to our less developed civilization. They send instructions for us to build a sealed chamber filled with acidic, poison gas for their ambassador, who arrives with a demand: ten percent of the world's children, or the human race will be exterminated. Intermingled with this is a government plot to interfere with Torchwood and its plucky leader, Captain Jack Harkness. He's full of surprises, and I won't explain his backstory to you. It was well revealed in this 5 hour mini-series.
This is some of the best science fiction TV I've watched since the X-Files left the air, and I didn't regret spending 5 hours on it. We'll see how the government deals with such a request from a realistic point of view; we want to die fighting such a menace, especially once it's revealed why they want the children- these ain't the aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind- but we get the dark, cynical reality of what would actually happen. I think this would be a great entry for newcomers to the series, and it is currently available on DVD. You'll get a good amount of action and a "24" meets "X-Files" feel to things, with strong characters such as Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper and the rest of the Torchwood crew. I liked how the show was handled, adult and realistic, but leaving plenty of room for escapist fantasy and good ol' action and explosions.

Rating: Tasty


Rob L. said...

I watched Hancock streaming on NetFlix. What a waste of my time.

I'm curious about Torchwood, also. The sci-fi nerds seem to like the series.

Have you watched Fringe? I recommend that one, also.

Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I knew very little about this show before since I never got into Dr Who. A fellow blogger encouraged me to take a chance on this mini series and I loved it. I agree with you that it is some of the best sci fi I have seen in a long time. We get a story routed in reality with great characters that you love and feel for. I immediately downloaded seasons one and two and I have not been let down yet. Captain Jack is one of TVs great heroes in the same view as a Captain Kirk. And the motivation the aliens have for taking the children? Possitively bone chilling!

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