Resin Heroes

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