Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #73



TV

Powerless – First, and apparently only, season Grade B-

The NBC comedy series Powerless unexpectedly ended its run a few weeks back. “Unexpectedly” since the series was pulled from the schedule before the last two episodes could air which effectively marks the end of Powerless.

Taking place in the DC universe, Powerless was about workers at Wayne Enterprises headed by Bruce’s Cousin Van (Alan Tudyk). Wayne Enterprises invents things to keep people safe from the superhero battles that are constantly going on all around them. In a clever twist, it turns out that some of their inventions turn up as gadgets used by Batman to fight the bad-guys, but most of Powerless was centered on the employees including Emily (Vanessa Hudgens) as a new girl in town enamored with all the goings-on of superheroes, Teddy (Danny Pudi) and Ron (Ron Funches) two engineers and Jackie (Christina Kirk) Van’s assistant.

Powerless was an enjoyable show and an interesting, comedic look at life of people living alongside superheroes and villains who see them mostly as an annoyance like traffic or bad weather than something to aspire to. I’m not sure why Powerless didn’t click with the general public? My guess would be that since it was half-comedy and half-superhero show, it didn’t really appeal to the people who might have tuned in for just a comedy OR a superhero show.

Regardless, I enjoyed Powerless and felt that the show was finding it’s legs as it were and was interested to see how the first season was going to wrap up.

Movies

The Lost Boys

When I first caught The Lost Boys on cable probably sometime in 1988 I was immediately hooked. This story about a family that moves to Santa Carla, California and finds that it’s infested with vampires was always one of my favorite movies as a teen. But I have to say watching the movie today 30 years after its release was a bit of a letdown.

I remember when The Lost Boys came out the big draw to it at my middle school was that it starred “The Corey’s” of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. If either of those two actors are remembered at all today it’s because of their substance abuse problems in the 1990s which would lead to the untimely death of Haim in 2010. But in 1987 those two were the biggest teen heart-throbs on the planet with Feldman having just come off of movies like The Goonies and Stand By Me and Haim Lucas.

I remember Haim being the guy most girls at my school wanted to be their boyfriend and Feldman being the guy most dudes at my school wished was their best friend. In The Lost Boys, Haim plays Sam, younger brother to Michael and I so wanted to be Sam with his cool quips, driving cars without licenses and killer of vampires. A year later and both Haim and Feldman would star in the movie License to Drive which was a big hit in its day but now is mostly an unknown movie to anyone under the age of 35.

The Lost Boys also starred a few actors who would go onto have big careers including Jason Patric as Michael in an early role who would go onto films like Rush and Narc and Kiefer Sutherland who then was just entering the big movie-stardom phase of his career which would lead to roles like Young Guns and Flatliners and is a TV star these days. The Lost Boys also co-stars Jami Gertz as the one lost girl of the bunch who’s had a long career on film and TV and Alex Winter too who would go onto co-star in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989.

If anything, The Lost Boys has loads of style. It’s a movie that college professors today could use as an example of how films from the late 1980s looked with costumes, set designs and colors. And that’s one of the reasons I think that the The Lost Boys hasn’t aged that well the last 30 years. It’s a fantastic movie to look at and is very fun to watch but is lacking in the story department. It’s one of those movies that works the first time through when the viewer doesn’t know the trick/twist of the film coming, but after that future viewings are mostly style over substance.

So much style that the design of the vampires from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series owe a great deal to the heavy forehead and freaky eyes vampires of The Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys is a pretty spectacular film in the gore and gross-out department, though. When the vampires kill, they bite into the heads of the unlucky ones which causes a gush of blood almost like they’re popping the top of a frosty beer. And when the vampires start meeting their ends, it’s pretty gruesome as well with them bursting into flames, receiving horrific burn wounds via holy water and even dissolving into green blobs of skeletal puss when immersed in the stuff.

In fact, The Lost Boys is rated “R” which I couldn’t ever see happening today. If it were released in 2017 instead of 1987 The Lost Boys would be rated “PG–13,” would feature a lot less gore and would be more focused on the action. I guess even if The Lost Boys isn’t a great movie it’s still great that it was released in 1987 instead of 2017 since I can only imagine it would be more Twilight than Evil Dead.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1937: George Takei, Sulu of Star Trek is born
  • 1940: Lance Henriksen of Terminator, Aliens and Near Dark
  • 1984: The TV mini-series V: The Final Battle premiers
  • 2008: Iron Man opens in theaters
  • 2013: Iron Man 3 premieres in theaters



Direct Beam Comms #70



TV

Brockmire Series premiere episode 1 Grade: B-

The new series Brockmire debuted on IFC last week. The series stars Hank Azaria as the title character, a baseball announcer for the Kansas City Royals who had a drunken on-air meltdown a decade ago that effectively ended his broadcasting career. Fast forward to today and Bockmire has returned to the US after having been around the world finding work where he can like announcing cockfights as well as having some serious addiction issues of which booze is the least of his worries.

But what Brockmire doesn’t know, but Jules (Amanda Peet), owner of the minor league baseball team the Pennsylvania, Morristown Frackers, does, is that he is an internet celebrity because of his on-air meltdown and subsequent post-meltdown press conference that became one of the first internet viral videos. Jules wants Brockmire to announce the Frackers games that feature stunts like having obese players who get hit at bat because their gut sticks out of the plate and always get a walk to hiring a “celebrity” like Brockmire to announce their games and drive attendance.

The first episode of Brockmire was interesting, if we’ve seen the character type a few times before. He’s a person addicted to some substances who tells it like it is but who’s personal life is a mess/in shambles which seems to be a theme of many dramas over the last few years. And honestly the first half of Brockmire as the broken man who returns home to find that while others see him as a celebrity but he sees himself as a joke, is all right. Things do pickup in the second half of the episode where Brockmire goes from an unwilling participant in the Frackers organization to someone who’s excited about baseball again.

That and Jules promises him free booze at her bar if he agrees to stay.

Angie Tribeca Season 3 episode 1 Grade: B

The third season of the TBS series Angie Tribeca is set to debut April 10 but the premiere episode debuted a bit early a few weeks back. I’ve enjoyed Angie Tribeca the last few years and this third season seems to be shaking things up a bit. In previous seasons, the show was structured around self-contained episodes with a sort’a season-long story arch taking up some of the second season. But this new third season looks like it’s going to instead focus on a single story about a serial killer who’s kidnapping trophy hunters and is taking the hunter’s skins in order to cloth the animals.

Think The Silence of the Lambs with Chris Pine as a hilarious stand-in for Doctor Lector meets Naked Gun and that’s the basic vibe for this season of Angie Tribeca.

Movies

Spaceballs

When Spaceballs was released on June 24, 1987 I can happily say that I was sitting in the theater that day with a great view of the screen with my brother and cousin. Unfortunately, that day we chose to see the movie Dragnet instead of Spaceballs. The reason we probably saw Dragnet was that the little two screen theater within bike riding distance of home usually showed one film that was for the kids, Dragnet, with the other film being for adults. My guess is that other screen was showing something like Roxanne or The Witches of Eastwick which we would have had no interest in seeing and chose the sensible Dragnet instead.

Which is a shame since the 1987 Dragnet has been all but forgotten to time but Spaceballs remains a cult classic film to this day.

A Mel Brooks spoof of sci-fi movies, more specifically Star Wars, even today Spaceballs is still pretty funny. And I think the reason I say, “pretty funny” and not “hilarious” is because I’ve seen Spaceballs so many times on VHS and HBO and TV that I know most of the jokes by heart. And it’s hard to laugh at joke you know is coming. Still, when there were jokes I didn’t remember, especially the whole sendup of the Spaceballs movie within a movie, that did get me laughing.

Looking at the movie now I’m surprised that it was rated PG. There’s quite a bit of cursing in Spaceballs, so much so that I’d assume today it would be rated R for language alone. It’s interesting to see what people 30 years ago thought was acceptable for a movie the whole family could see, some cursing, whereas today we’re so averse to that we think cursing happens in movies only adults should see. Then again, I feel that the levels of violence in our PG–13 movies would surly make them rated R 30 years ago.

After watching Spaceballs, or really anything he was in, I come away really missing John Candy. I’m not sure there’s been a comedian like him to come along since he died who has his level of physical comedy and sweetness mixed with his unique timing. At this point Candy’s been gone longer than he was around in pop-culture, but he’s a guy I still really miss.

The Mummy trailer

Alien: Covenant TV commercial

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1976: Jonathan Brandis of the mini-series IT and TV series SeaQuest DSV is born
  • 1979: Mad Max debuts
  • 1983: The Evil Dead premiers in theaters
  • 1986: Critters opens



Direct Beam Comms #66



TV

The Americans Season 5 episode 1 Grade: B+

The fifth and penultimate season of the series The Americans debuted last week on FX. I like this show a lot but as the series has progressed I think some cracks have started to appear in the structure of the show.

The last five season of The Americans have dealt with parents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), a seemingly typical American as apple pie family living in early 1980s Virginia. Except they’re anything but, the Jennings are actually Soviet agents hidden in suburbia who spend their days as the owners of a travel agency and nights doing bad things for mother Russia. Be it stealing secrets, helping fellow agents or even murdering the opposition. And as the series progressed and the missions the Jennings were sent on became more and more dangerous, a good chunk of last season of The Americans was about the Jennings trying to steal a sample of the virulent and deadly bioweapon, Philip and Elizabeth were also forced to bring their teenage daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into the family night business since she’d be the perfect commie spy for the 1990s.

Except that whereas Philip and Elizabeth both chose the cloak and dagger life and were borne in Russia, one day Paige went from a typical American teen girl who wanted her MTV to the next finding out that her entire life was literally a lie that lead to a breakdown.

What I find most fascinating about The Americans is that it’s a series that features the bad guys as stars of the show. Philip and Elizabeth are doing everything in their power to bring down our way of life, to try and make it so that in the 1990s it’s not Communism that’s left on the scrap-heap of history, it’s Democracy. And every time they steal some special microchip or murder an American scientist or foil the FBI they’re one step closer to their goal. What’s amazing is that we, as the audience, collectively hold our breath as Elizabeth is almost discovered by a guard or quivers in fear when Philip might have been infected with that virulent bioweapon. When, in fact, since they’re the bad guys we should be cheering anything that might bring their demise.

All of which makes for some brilliant TV.

The one bit about The Americans that’s bothered me the last few years, those above mentioned “cracks,” is that the Jennings take waaaay too many risks which is starting to push the bounds of believability a bit for me personally. They’re called on to steal state secrets, murder people, shepherd assets out of the country, break into classified areas, and on, and on, and on… All of which I’m sure the Soviets did in the 1980s, but I’m guessing they had more than a two agents do. It’s like each week the Jennings stick their figurative necks out to do something that if they were caught would at best mean uprooting the family and running back to Russia and at worse death in a blaze of glory and each week they’re able to squeak out a win. But realistically, by taking on so many challenges and risks I’d think that one time they’d screw up, they’d do something wrong and one of them would be killed or caught which would bring their entire lives crashing down around them.

Still, this is a minor quibble since The Americans has been, and still is, one of the best things on TV and puts most other drama series to shame.

Time After Time Series premiere episode 1 Grade: B-

I’m sure it was unintentional, but the creators of the new ABC series Time After Time have totally won the “2016–2017 TV Bingo” game with their series that hits two of the most popular types of new shows this season; it’s a series that’s based on a film that’s about time travel.

Freddie Stroma and Genesis Rodriguez

Freddie Stroma and Genesis Rodriguez

BINGO!

Following the structure of the 1979 movie, TV’s Time After Time stars Freddie Stroma as H.G. Wells who just didn’t write about time machines in the 1800s, he invented one and Josh Bowman as Dr. John Stevenson who’s alter-ego just so happens to be Jack the Ripper. Just before he was captured by the police and just before Wells was able to test it, Stevenson rode the time machine to present day and arrived in New York City with Wells chasing close behind. They end up in New York since that’s where Wells’ machine was on display. And it’s up to Wells and assistant museum curator Jane Walker (Geneis Rodriguez) to hunt and stop Stevenson as he picks up in 21st century New York where he left off in 19th century London with stabbing lots of people.

The first episode of Time After Time isn’t bad, if it does seem to move a breakneck speed as we go from 19th century London to 21st century New York to Walker and Wells hunting Stevenson in the blink of an eye. The series isn’t bad even if it’s not something I would probably watch on a weekly basis. What concerns me most about the show, though, is that it seems like the first season will deal with the hunt for the Ripper. Which to me seems like there’ll be a lot of episode with Wells and Walker almost capturing the Ripper before he slips away until the end of the season where something big will happen. To which I ask if this is what’s going to happen, why watch the season and instead just tune in for the season finale?

Making History Series premiere episode 1 Grade: B

Leighton Meester, Adam Pally and Yasir Lester

The new FOX comedy series Making History is another time travel series this season with university facilities manager Dan (Adam Pally) and professor Chris (Yassir Lester) traveling back to 1775 via Dan’s time machine that’s just so happens to be hidden a large gym bag. In 1775 Dan’s a cool guy with limitless access to ham, which the locals adore, and has a girlfriend (Leighton Meester) who loves his songs like “My Heart Will Go On.” But on his latest trip when Dan returned to present day something wasn’t right with Starbucks serving tea instead of coffee and students eating fish and chips so he contacts history prof Chris to help fix things in the past to return our present to normal.

In some ways, Making History is the comedy version of the NBC drama Timeless, except whereas Timeless has a villain intentionally wrecking the past to try and change the present, Making History has inept Dan unintentionally “Homer J. Simson-ing” the past which alters the present.

One episode in and I feel like Making History does have some promise. It does fall into the “boy, aren’t people from the past dumb” cliche that crops up in time travel series — lampooned to great effect in the Austin Powers movies — but that doesn’t quite work here. But on the whole I enjoyed Making History and am interested in seeing how the series plays out over the season since the first episode ends without any resolution with Dan and 1775 girlfriend arriving in our present and finding that they’ve got to go back and rescue Chris.

Better Call Saul season 3 promo

“You will pay.”

Movies

Evil Dead II

It took me many years to finally see Evil Dead II which came out 30 years ago this week. I was well aware of the movie from horror magazines like Fangoria but for whatever reason never saw it until about 10 years ago. I’d seen Army of Darkness when that originally came out on VHS but got on a The Evil Dead kick after that film was finally released on DVD and decided that I couldn’t call myself a fan of The Evil Dead if I didn’t also see Evil Dead II. And, to be honest, I was underwhelmed. In many ways Evil Dead II is a bit of a remake of Evil Dead with most of the same crew but with bigger and better splatter effects. At the time my favorite The Evil Dead movie was Army of Darkness with the crude, yet extremely effective original The Evil Dead as second with Evil Dead II pulling up the rear. But over the years as I’ve been more and more exposed to Evil Dead II I’ve found myself more and more a fan of that film.

It’s true that Evil Dead II is kind’a a remake of The Evil Dead but only really in the first 20 minutes. After that it ventures into its own territory. And it’s a great territory — with extremely effective special effects that covers everything from headless corpses flying around rooms to detached hands crawling across floors and even great monster makeup too.

Nowadays, I’m not quite sure which The Evil Dead movie is my favorite since they all have their strengths. The original The Evil Dead is a great horror movie that’s practically a blueprint for burgeoning horror filmmakers on how to create their own scary films without studio backing. Evil Dead II is an out of control gorefest with chainsaws buzzing, axes flying and shotguns blasting. And The Army of Darkness exists on a whole other realm from those two movies, being this rare comedy-horror gem that at times is really fun while also being really scary too.

But whenever I think of The Evil Dead franchise in general I keep coming back to Evil Dead II as the movie that best represents it as a whole. It’s got the perfect balance of comedy and horror and gore and action that really hasn’t been seen in the movies in the last 30 years.

Toys

Aliens

There were a few announcements for some seriously cool Aliens toys last week. First up, Super7 is releasing a massive 18-inch Aliens toy that’s inspired by the 1979 Kenner Alien toy that disgusted parents, was pulled from shelves and now commands high prices on the vintage toy market. The Super7 toy is about as close as one could get to the design of the 1979 toy without copying it, yet it still feels fresh and unique. Unfortunately, this new Aliens toy costs nearly $200 which puts it just out of my price range.

A little more affordable, and a lot more smaller, are Alien/s/3/4, Predator and Prometheus statues from Eaglemoss. The figurines stand about 5-inches tall and retail for around $30 each.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1943: David Cronenberg, director of The Fly, The Dead Zone and Scanners is born
  • 1951: Kurt Russell, Escape from New York, The Thing and Stargate is born
  • 1956: Forbidden Planet premiers in theaters
  • 1971: The Andromeda Strain is released
  • 1973: The Crazies opens
  • 1984: The Ice Pirates opens in theaters
  • 1987: Evil Dead II premiers in theaters
  • 1989: Leviathan premiers



Direct Beam Comms #65



TV

Taken – Episode 1 Grade: C-

The parade of movies to TV series this season continues with the latest show Taken on NBC. The TV Taken is a prequel series to the film trilogy of the same name that starred Liam Neeson. This time Clive Standen, who’s a British actor and is I’m assuming mostly unfamiliar to US audiences, takes over the role of ex-special forces operative with a “very particular set of skills” Bryan Mills who was put on this planet to chew bubblegum and kick butt, and has long been out of gum.

The first episode opens with Mills being hunted by a narco kingpin who’s son Mills killed some years before when he was a Green Beret. The kingpin wants to take Mills alive to make him suffer for what he did but what he wasn’t counting on is Mills and his skills at dodging assassins, punching people in the face and not getting shot in any vital organs. Also following Mills since they’re using him to lure the kingpin out of hiding is Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals) the head of some super-secret spy agency who, along with her five or six employees, seems to be in control of all the US intelligence agencies. These six people alternate from interrogating cartel members to attacking compounds SEAL Team Six style.

To me, Taken felt a lot like a 1980s cops and robbers series like Miami Vice or Knight Rider where the good guys are very good and the bad guys are very bad in a world of black and white without any grey. There is absolutely no confusion as to if what Mills and company are doing is right or wrong, in Taken they’re doing God’s work in cleaning up the streets, and because of all this and because of how heavy handed everything’s handled Taken is one dull show.

Actually, if Mills had a talking car ala Knight Rider that might make for an interesting series, otherwise I’m done with Taken.

Movies

Bill Paxton 1955–2017

Bill Paxton in Haywire

Last week actor Bill Paxton died unexpectedly after complications from surgery. Now I’d guess most readers of this blog would know of Paxton, or at least would know him by sight as a guy who turned up in loads of genera movies over the years and made those roles better. Paxton played doomed punk in Terminator, the evil brother Chet in Weird Science, vampire Severen in the oh-so extremely underrated Near Dark, “…is my specialty!” Detective Jerry Lambert in Predator 2, Morgan Earp in Tombstone, Fred Haise in Apollo 13, Mallroy’s dad in Haywire, Master Sergeant Farell in Edge of Tomorrow and most recently as Det. Frank Rourke aka the best thing about the TV series Training Day to name a scant few. Jesus, to look at just some of Paxton’s roles there and how many hours I’ve spent watching movies he was a part of is mind-boggling.

But Paxton is probably most well known as playing Private Hudson in the movie Aliens who turns from a cocky gung-ho Marine one minute to a quivering ball of nerves meek-man the next after the alien monsters wipe out his squad before becoming a heroic figure by the end of the film. His most famous line “Game over man!” has been loved by some, mocked by a few, made fun of by the clueless and has been in our pop-culture psyche for decades now. I think the reason we remember the line is because of how Paxton delivered it, in his over-the-top totally freaked-out I wanna be anywhere but here way. I think delivered any other way by any other actor that line would have been all but forgotten in a movie that exists in this sea of other great lines and visuals.

“Game over man” kind’a encapsulates Paxton’s career as a whole. He’s the guy who’d turn up in these movies in small to medium-sized parts and would steal the show. There’s been quite a few people over the years who’ve made fun of his dry acting style, but dry or not at the end of the day his style was memorable even when the movies he was in were not. He’s the kind of actor that I’d give a chance to whatever movie he was a part of since no matter if the movie was good or bad, Paxton was going to be great in it.

Over the last few years it seemed as if Paxton’s career was starting to have a second act of sorts. Recently, he co-starred in the critically acclaimed Hatfields & McCoys TV mini-series and began having parts in movies like Nightcrawler and the above mentioned Edge of Tomorrow. And with him starring in the CBS series Training Day it seemed like Paxton might be about to break through to another level of acting stardom.

But I guess that just wasn’t destined to happen but regardless of whether or not Paxton was or wasn’t well-known to most of the movie-going public, to those of us who knew him through his work Paxton will always be a giant of the genera cinema and will be greatly missed.

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon, one of the finest buddy-cop movies ever was released 30 years ago this week. Its writer Shane Black would have a hand in creating some truly memorable movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and last year’s The Nice Guys. Currently, Black is filming the upcoming The Predator movie due out next year.

Alien: Covenant movie trailer

“Where is it?”

Kong: Skull Island movie trailer

“Let me list all the ways you’re gonna die.”

Books

So, Anyway…

So, Anyway… is writer/actor/director John Cleese’s autobiography from earliest memory to right up until the point of the creation of Monty Python. I’m guessing the book stops there since there’s been so much written about Cleese and especially Monty Python from that period that it would be redundant, but still, So, Anyway… is a wonderful book with lots of interesting facts and anecdotes of Cleese’s life. Like, I knew how close he was to Graham Chapman but I didn’t realize things like the second future-Python he met was Terry Gilliam or that Cheese did hundreds of hours of comedy radio while also appearing on TV in various comedy/sketch shows while climbing up the comedy ranks early in his career.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1964: The Last Man on Earth opens
  • 1971: THX 1138 premiers in theaters
  • 1972: Silent Running premiers
  • 1978: The TV series The Incredible Hulk premiers
  • 1984: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
  • 1994: Weird Science the TV series debuts
  • 2009: Watchmen opens in theaters
  • 2011: Battle Los Angeles opens in theaters
  • 2012: John Carter premiers in theaters