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Opening Credits Sunday: St. Eleswhere (1982)



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Direct Beam Comms #89



TV

The Defenders

The Defenders marks the fifth Netflix Marvel series following Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Much as with the Marvel film characters to name a few like Captain America and Iron Man who teamed up with others in The Avengers movies, in The Defenders those already established Netflix characters come together in the super-powered team The Defenders.

I’d like to say that I’m a big fan of the Netflix Marvel series but I find them to be hit and miss. Sometimes, like with Daredevil, I feel that each season works out well with enough highs and lows to justify 13 episodes. Other times, like with Iron Fist, things seem to drag out in order to justify those 13 episodes and I end up bailing on the show somewhere before the end. But with The Defenders, Netflix seems to have learned their lesson with this series having a slimmed down eight episodes.

Let’s be honest here — in the comics The Defenders were always a “C” list comic title compared with teams like the X-Men or above mentioned The Avengers. Characters in The Defenders always seemed to be cast-offs that weren’t already a part of another team comic but that Marvel could put together to have one more team book in their roster. And, to a certain extent, that’s what most of the Marvel shows on Netflix are — cast-off characters that Marvel either didn’t immediately have plans for in the movies or didn’t think were popular enough to make it there or, in the case of Daredevil, were tried at the movies but failed.

So, it makes sense that with a streaming series like Netflix that has a bunch of series starring cast-off characters they should also have a team show based on a comics series about those cast-off characters coming together with The Defenders.

The first episode of The Defenders almost starts from scratch with the characters in that it assumes the audience might not know who everyone is and what they’ve all been up to these last few years and uses that episode to reintroduce them somewhat. Which I liked, especially with some characters like Daredevil since it’s been more than a year since he was featured in any new episodes. I watched Daredevil and didn’t remember where Foggy or Karen ended up at the end of that series and appreciated that we got to see where everyone was before The Defenders moved forward

If there’s anything wrong with the first episode, it’s that it’s called The Defenders, but there’s really no Defenders team in it yet. All of the characters are there yet they’re not even circling around each other yet, they’re all off in their own orbits. That being said, a big something happens at the end of the first episode that I’m sure will bring them all together in the near future.

Comics

Planet of the Apes Archive Volume 1

Out this week from BOOM! Studios is a collected edition of the Marvel magazine series Terror on the Planet of the Apes that were releasing in the 1970s. I’m relatively unfamiliar with the Marvel Apes magazines but am interested in checking out this collected edition if for kitsch value alone.

From BOOM! Studios:

Experience the legendary 1970s Marvel Comics’ Terror on the Planet of the Apes, collected for the first time ever and remastered in this prestigious hardcover. This classic series follows two friends-man and ape-on the run from the law. From Doug Moench (Batman), Mike Ploog (Ghost Rider), Tom Sutton (Doctor Strange), Herb Trimpe (Incredible Hulk), and more!

Movies

The Death of Stalin trailer

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1965: Dr. Who and the Daleks premiers
  • 1966: Fantastic Voyage debuts
  • 1970: River Phoenix of Explorers and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is born
  • 1986: Night of the Creeps premiers in theaters



Punisher Saturday: Marvel Punisher Magazine ad






My favorite movie: L.A. Confidential



Every once in a while I get asked, “What’s your favorite movie?” My answer has changed over the years. In high school my default answer was always The Road Warrior and then in college Aliens. And while I still love those two films whenever anyone’s asked me about my favorite movie in the last few decades my answer’s always been L.A. Confidential which was released 20 years ago this fall.

The detectives of L.A. Confidential

The ironic thing was the first time I saw L.A. Confidential I didn’t get it. The story of the movie is so complex and layered that after that first viewing I went away scratching my head not quite sure what had happened. L.A. Confidential takes place in early 1950s Los Angeles where a group of detectives lead by Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), Bud White (Russell Crowe) and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) are investigating “The Night Owl Murders” where a group of people, including an ex-detective, were killed in an all-night diner robbery gone wrong. But the story isn’t nearly that simple as the plot of L.A. Confidential twists and turns back in on itself that begins to reveal corruption upon corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department.

It was only after I watched the movie a second time that I finally began to get it that over the years L.A. Confidential became my favorite and I’ve watched it once a year since. I think just the fact that I watched the movie the first time and didn’t get it, but was intrigued enough to come back to it a second time to figure out what I’d missed shows just what power L.A. Confidential had over me.

Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and Bud White (Russell Crowe)

What’s kept me coming back to L.A. Confidential over the years again and again is the central theme that there are these dark, moldy shadows luring just behind the bright and shiny glitz and glam of Hollywood. If all we know of that city is what we see in movies, which are by definition not reality, then we really have no idea what’s really going there. And what’s really going on there, in the movie L.A. Confidential at least, are all sorts of bad things from murder, to prostitution, drugs and much worse. But because it’s in the city’s best interest to keep these things from the public, what’s described in a voiceover in the movie as, “Life is good in Los Angeles… it’s paradise on Earth… That’s what they tell you, anyway.” Which means that a certain element of the police department is allowed to break the law themselves to keep L.A. looking gold. Which means over time they become the defacto organized criminal element in the city hiding behind their badges.

The core of L.A. Confidential is the idea that what we believe to be true and what is really true might be two different things is, and if that’s not a perfect summation for life I don’t know what is.

Kim Basinger as Lynn Bracken

Enter Ed, Bud and Jack, three of the most unlikely of corruption busting cops ever. Ed’s got his sights set on political power and is willing to step on anyone and ruin anyone’s lives if it means getting him a rung higher on his career ladder. Bud’s more of a bruiser than a detective and is actually used by the bad cops to beat people into submission. And Jack’s on the take, accepting money from journalists to be given the big scoops whenever a celebrity is arrested.

But for various reasons, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out why, the three of them come together to bust up this corruption ring that everyone else in power’s too afraid to go after.

And I haven’t even mentioned Kim Basinger who played prostitute Lynn Bracken’s who’s character’s one claim to fame is that she looks like actress Veronica Lake. Basinger plays an important role in the movie, one that has a bent moral compass herself but somehow serves as the moral compass for more than a few characters in the film. In addition to the film winning for best adapted screenplay, Basinger would win an Academy Award for her portrayal of Bracken.

L.A. Confidential is so good you can practically feel the southern California heat coming off the screen, smell the cigarette smoke and squint because the dust from the street’s getting into your eyes.




Mark Bagley The Amazing Spider-Man #379 cover