If you’ve ever wandered the aisles at the video store or surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.
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New Releases for Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Posted Apr 7, 2012 by John Allman
Updated Apr 7, 2012 at 10:44 AM
What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:
Torchwood: Miracle Day
Created by: Russell T. Davies
Run time: 450 minutes
The Lowdown: It’s high praise, but well-earned, to say that there really is nothing on TV quite like “Torchwood.”
A spin-off of the BBC’s successful “Doctor Who” reincarnation, “Torchwood” has maintained a consistency that very few, if any, serial shows can rival.
“Torchwood” is smart TV. Wildly inventive, brazen and bold. It’s the type of show that has no qualms whatsoever killing off most of its original cast, in one episode.
The show struck out on its own in 2006, introducing the world to Capt. Jack Harkness, the dashing, time-traveling, immortal, bi-sexual rogue (played by the equally dashing John Barrowman), who leads a crack team of scientists and operatives battling all manner of bizarre alien life forms who come to Earth through a space-time rift in Cardiff, England.
After two regular seasons, show creator Russell T. Davies, the UK’s equivalent to Joss Whedon, decided to take the series in an unexpected direction, ditching the standard serialized format to pen epic 12-episode miniseries that focused on a single storyline.
The first, “Children of Earth,” where an alien race returns to collect on a brokered deal for 12 children, offerings to the alien race, in exchange for life on Earth to continue as normal. Heady stuff for a silly sci-fi show about aliens, which is what makes “Torchwood” so special.
“Miracle Day” is the second miniseries, and the first to move the Torchwood team to the United States, allowing for a host of American writers, namely Jane Espenson, one of the brilliant minds behind some of the best episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” to put her unique voice and spin on the adventures of Capt. Jack and Gwen Cooper and her fiancé Rhys.
“Miracle Day” presents a fascinating quandary: What if, one day, no one died. And then the next day, no one died. What if death became obsolete, regardless of disease, violence, even dismemberment? How would the world respond to such a phenomenon, and who would stand to capitalize?
Davies & Co. have a field day imagining all the ramifications, from government response to medical futility to religious explanations to the enormous stress and strain that would be imposed on the world’s resources. The miniseries, wisely, begins with a convicted child molester and killer being put to death, only to survive, and even such things as life in prison begin to take on a whole new context.
By moving the Torchwood team, operating with no official sanction, to the U.S., and forcing Capt. Jack and Gwen to try to work to solve the mystery while narrowly avoiding the CIA and other government agencies, the series becomes a thrilling cat and mouse game, where every decision has far-reaching consequences.
Then the show introduces an even more fantastic element: What if a shadowy, sinister cabal had actually caused people to stop dying in order to create a new world order, and what if that cabal was using Jack’s blood, his immortal essence, to make it happen?
The cabal has a name, PhiCorp, and it exudes all the telltale signs of some of the world’s worst conglomerates. It controls everything from the media to public policy to health control. PhiCorp’s agents and allies are everywhere, and could be anyone.
In true Torchwood fashion, the miniseries concludes with a few unexpected twists. There are shocking, unexpected deaths. The deep bond between Jack and Gwen is tested in ways previously unheard of. And an even bigger conspiracy is hinted at, something that we, as fans, can only hope that the series will delve into in the next miniseries.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Moderate.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – PhiCorp. Think Rupert Murdoch’s empire, only scarier.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
On the Web – http://www.starz.com/originals/torchwood/Pages/title.aspx?src=starz_mktg&med=referral&cmp=torchwood&cid327
Alien Opponent – Remember those cheesy sci-fi movies from the 1980s that always featured a cadre of second-rung celebrities battling some extraterrestrial or paranormal menace? That’s basically “Alien Opponent,” only with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Jason London. It’s trashy and fun but not nearly as trashy or fun as it could have been.
Enter Nowhere – Remember that bad SyFy Channel movie about the girl who was really dead but didn’t know it and she spent 80 minutes running around in some dream-nightmare purgatory? This is that movie, except with three main characters.
We Bought a Zoo – Remember when Cameron Crowe made kickass movies that resonated with you, like “Say Anthing” or “Singles” or “Almost Famous”?
Bob: The Complete Series – Remember when the best Bob Newhart show ended with a dream? This is not that Bob Newhart show.
Madonna: Truth or Dare – Remember when Madonna wasn’t desperate to be adored? When she just was sexy and didn’t have to try? This is the time capsule you want to open then.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Remember when movies didn’t have to be about anything other than a televised dance competition and leg warmers? This is the 1980s cult classic for you.
Designing Women: The Complete Sixth Season – Remember when the TV producers got rid of Delta Burke because of her weight and “Designing Women” stopped being funny? This is the season for you.
Tyrannosaur – A deeply moving drama from actor/director Paddy Considine.
War Horse – Steven Spielberg takes the hit play to the screen and shows war through the eyes of a creature that cannot speak.
Chasing Madoff – A fictional take on the Bernie Madoff financial scandal.
Angels Crest – Fans of “The Vampire Diaries” take note: Joseph Morgan, Klaus himself, co-stars in this small-town thriller about a bad decision that wrecks an entire town.
4 Film Collections: Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Gwyneth Paltrow – Four films each from three of our most beloved actresses. If only such clunkers as “New in Town” and “Bounce” weren’t included.
Not To Be Overlooked:
Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except (Synapse Films, 83 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Pick up this cult classic for the creative team responsible, which includes Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, but stay for the Special Feature extra, “Stryker’s War,” the 40-minute Super 8mm short film starring Campbell that inspired the feature-length film.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Wild World of Batwoman and Girl in Gold Boots (Shout! Factory, 164 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Two stand-alone MST3K titles from the 1960s, both awful below-B-grade cult films, given the loving tribute by Mike, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.