Tuesday, August 20, 2013

ELYSIUM falls to two new British series

In 2009 South African-Canadian director Neill Blomkamp surprised the film world with the genre-busting DISTRICT 9, a sci-fi parable about the wrongs of apartheid. With its mixture of politics, crustacean aliens, and suspenseful aliens, the film won four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Now with a huge budget, he's back with ELYSIUM, another futuristic action film that attempts to mix politics with sci-fi and action. The premise is promising. In 2154 the earth is a ravaged wasteland where the proles work to support the lifestyles of the one-percenters who live in a space colony above. In Elysium there is no pain but total pleasure, automatic healing of any disease, and NO immigration. Matt Damon, our favorite everyman, is exposed to radiation on his factory job and has 5 days to get to Elysium or he dies. Against impossible and bloody odds, Matt meets his fate in the form of Jodie Foster who plays the Minister of Defense. She seems frost-bitten with her tight power suits and strange, constantly changing accent. Perhaps in the future we will all be talking like this. But this stab at globalism falls flat. In the long run, ELYSIUM has great visuals, good acting, and a weak plot that does not deliver on its promise.

On the other hand, there are two new series on cable that are considerably better.

THE WHITE QUEEN, STARZ, once again takes us into the Middle Ages and this time it's not Tudor territory. It's the War of the Roses and three powerful women vie for throne of England. The House of York, headed by King Edward IV, is precariously holding out for a male heir. Edward has fallen for a commoner!! Elizabeth Woodville is the White Queen, who immediately incurs the wrath of Warwick, the King's advisor.
Much skull-duggery ensues, along with lots of skin. Yet this is not as slick and empty as HBO's THE TUDORS, because it hews to history fairly closely. Its violence and sex are not entirely gratuitous either. The production values--costuming, sets, et al, are sumptious without being too sumptious, and the action clips along at an exciting pace.

BROADCHURCH, BBC AMERICA, is yet another police procedural, yet it's not drenched in darkness and rain like AMC's THE KILLING or TWIN PEAKS. Instead, it examines an English seaside community's reaction to the murder of a young boy. A former Dr. Who, David Tennant plays chief inspector Alec Hardy, a fine detective who has a past. Olivia Colman plays his partner who is still smarting from not being named chief investigator. Their tensions create added drama to the story, as do the secrets held by almost every character. This is mystery with a touch of Agatha Christie at her best but also with a modern sensibility.

Both these series are available by streaming and will be on DVD soon. DEFINITELY WORTH THE WATCHING.

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