Now and Then, We All Watch Aliens; movies and TV

(Apologies to Atlanta Rhythm Section for twisting a line from this song).

DEBRIS was a new NBC series set in a world where fragments of an alien space craft have been raining down on Earth for three years, all of them capable of fantastic powers and transformations. Jones and Beneventi (Riann Steele, Jonathan Tucker) are the agents attempting to gather Debris and avert whatever weirdness they unleash, such as turning people younger, or making the atmosphere toxic (in many ways, the magical effects remind me of the cursed antiques in the Friday the 13th TV series). Opposing them: the mysterious organization called Influx, the government’s hidden agenda and the Debris’s own mysterious intentions. If not for Alien Visitors I doubt I’d have watched this season all the way through. “I’m going to tell you something, but you’re going to wish I hadn’t.”

I liked ARRIVAL (2016) more on rewatching than I did first time (although I have some of the same reservations, like how fast they move from very basic concepts to reasonably sophisticated discussions in ET-speak). From the perspective of working on the book, I’m not sure I gained anything other to notice that like Independence Day the spaceships are humongous compared to say, Klaatu’s ship in Day the Earth Stood Still. “It’s not true, but it proved my point.”

Based on Walter Tevis’ novel, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) is every bit the arty mess that I heard critics describe it as when it hit the big screen. David Bowie plays an ET seeking Earth’s water for his drought-stricken world (it’s unclear whether he’s planning to just take it or has something else in mind) but gets distracted by gin, TV and lover Candy Clark. Director Nicolas Roeg seems equally distracted, bouncing from Bowie’s business to his love life to CIA schemes, or with years passing between scenes kind of randomly. Interesting to see, but not terribly fun to see. With Buck Henry as Bowie’s legal aide, Rip Torn as a disillusioned scientist and Bernie Casey as a CIA agent. This reminds me at some point in the book I should cover the idea of aliens succumbing to hedonism on Earth, though that’s usually sex (e.g., Brain from Planet Arous). “If I owned the copyright on the Bible, I wouldn’t sell it to Random House.”

Getting away from ETs, we have WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (2018), an excellent documentary on how Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers wound up becoming a TV icon despite not liking most TV, and how he managed to tackle divorce, death and the RFK assassination on a show for small children. A curious look at a man who was exactly what he appeared to be but also more than he seemed; the closest they can find to a scandal is pundits claiming Mr. Rogers is what messed up the younger generations (“He told them they didn’t have to achieve anything to be special!”). “I’m sure you’ve heard a bunch of rumors about him being a Navy seal.”

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