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Alien: Covenant movie poster

Direct Beam Comms #65


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.


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.”


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

Direct Beam Comms #64


Crashing – Episode 1 Grade: B

HBO seems to be the network that thrives on series focusing on the uncomfortable lately. Divorce last fall was about how uncomfortable it is to watch a marriage falling apart while Girls is about how uncomfortable it is to be a 20-something girl in New York. And while there seems to be two different audiences for those two series the one thing they have in common is that I’m not a fan of either of them. While “uncomfortable” works in sorter form things like films or limited-run TV series, I’m not sure it works in longer shows. Which is why I was suspect right from the start of the new HBO series Crashing which debuted last week.

In Crashing, Pete (Pete Holmes) desperately wants to be a comedian and has dedicated his life hitting open mics and trying to break through. Pete sees his life as having promise, but his wife Jess (Lauren Lapkus) who’s supporting jobless Pete wants more excitement and begins having an affair, and when Pete catches Jess and her new beau in the act his seemingly comfortable life comes crashing down around him. Pete’s comic career hasn’t taken off yet and when his car gets towed and he’s mugged Pete finds himself sleeping on the couch of Artie Lange since he’s got nowhere else to go.

Much like with Divorce and Girls a lot of Crashing is rooted in uncomfortable comedy. Be it Pete’s attempt at stand-up or him walking in on his wife and her lover—twice. A lot of which I found difficult to watch, especially since Pete seems like he’s a nice guy undeserving of what apparently really happened to Pete Holmes in real life. However, I found much of the episode, and the idea of Crashing overall, to be quite intriguing. I’m not sure there’s ever been a show to deal with things like trying to make it in comedy while finding out that the love of your life is cheating on you while also coming at things from a deeply religious background before.

I could see Crashing covering some very interesting ground story-wise over the course of a season but would hope that the series isn’t all about how uncomfortable it is to bomb on stage night after night.


Alien: Covenant “Prologue: Last Supper”

“It’s a big old sea of nuthin’.”


I think the last time I was invested in the outcome of the Academy Awards was back in 1998 when director James Cameron was up for several Oscars with his movie Titanic. And that wasn’t because of Titanic which I hadn’t even seen at that point. It was because of his previous movies like Terminator and Aliens which were/are some of my favorites so I wanted to see him recognized for being an outstanding filmmaker. But other than that, I can’t really remember a time when I’ve looked forward to the awards or even watched them?

To me, awards like the Academy Awards are meaningless. All awards like those are the same. They’re based on a bunch of people getting together and voting on what thing liked the most. And a lot of times what they like the most just so happens to be whatever movie is generating the most buzz at the time of voting.

But the way people vote means a lot of great films that people still watch and love today lose out to movies that are all but forgotten a year or two later. Don’t believe me? What film won the Oscar for Best Picture during last year’s ceremony? Don’t Google it, try and remember it. I’ll be waiting for you below with the answer.

That movie was Spotlight. Does anyone still talk about Spotlight? No. Will anyone be talking about that movie in 20 years? Who knows, but if I were a betting man I’d put my money on “no.”

And the same goes for most, if not all of the movies up for awards this year. There’s so much hoopla surrounding them, and there’s so much reporting on who’s a lock to win and who’s got an outside chance of taking home a statue. But in a year or two no one will remember or care.

Ultimately, it only matters what you think about a movie. Do you think that Deadpool was the best movie of 2016? Great, then Deadpool was the best movie of 2016 to you. Or you over there, do you think that The Nice Guys was the best of the year? Super, then that one was the best to you.

That’s why I don’t care about the Oscars. They’re such a big deal at the time that will all be meaningless in a year or two. So why waste the time?

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1920: James Doohan, Scotty of Star Trek is born
  • 1949: Gates McFadden, Beverly Crusher of Star Trek: The Next Generation is born
  • 1985: The TV series Robotech debuts
  • 1998: Dark City premiers in theaters
  • 2001: The TV series The Lone Gunmen premiers

Alien: Covenant (2017) teaser trailer

Alien: Covenant (2017) movie poster