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Aliens (1986) LV-426 hive set photo



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Aliens (1986) Gateway Station matte painting



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Direct Beam Comms #72



TV

Fargo – Installment 3, episode 1 Grade: A-

Fargo doesn’t seem like it’s a TV series that originates from the US. Though the third season of Fargo stared last week on FX, it’s really not a third season in the traditional sense of a regular show that would be continuing with stories and characters from the first two seasons. In Fargo, each season has a completely different story from what’s come before with a brand new cast.

And since the characters change season to season it means that in Fargo there can be unexpected twists with major characters being unexpectedly knocked off in any episode. If anything, Fargo feels like a series out of the UK that isn’t beholden to the “rules” of US TV but which makes for some interesting TV.

But there in lies the rub in reviewing Fargo; interesting or not each season is like a brand new show without the continuation of the story from previous years. And since a season of Fargo plays out like one continuous story from first episode to last, early episodes can drag a bit as story is being setup and characters introduced.

That being said, the first two seasons of Fargo were wonderful, so I’ll take that into consideration with this new third installment.

The first season of Fargo was set in 2006 and was kind’a sort’a a TV version of the 1996 Fargo film. The TV series followed many of the same plot-points of the movie and had many of the same character types, but in the end played out differently. The second season took place in the late 1970s and had a few characters from the first season carryover as younger versions, but that was really the only link with the first season. And now this third installment takes place after both the previous seasons in 2010 and doesn’t seem to have any ties with what’s come before.

Each season of Fargo seems to focus on a character, or set of characters, who make the worst decision(s) of their lives and spend the rest of the season trying to cover their tracks and shift the blame to someone else. Or, worst of all, the characters around the doer of the deed end up paying the ramifications for someone else’s bad decision.

And the third installment of Fargo is no different. This time, parking-lot magnate Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) makes a deal with some shady figures for a short-term loan that has some seriously long-term strings attached and down on his luck twin brother Ray (also McGregor) thinks that a stamp Emmit has belongs to him and sends someone to Emmit’s house to steal it back. Except he goes to the wrong house where very bad things happen throwing police officer Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) into the mix.

Slow to start or not, one episode in and Fargo has me hooked and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

The Expanse – Season 2 Grade: A

We might live in a time of a lot of great sci-fi on TV, but ironically not much of this TV is traditional sci-fi in nature. What’s “traditional sci-fi?” Well, that would be people living and working in space in some far-off future. Think Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. Most TV sci-fi nowadays is super-hero in nature, or stories that take place in the near-future like Legion or Westworld. One series that I think fits in squarely in the realm of “traditional sci-fi” is the series The Expanse and just so happens to be one of the great series of 2017.

Frankie Adams as
Roberta ‘Bobbie’ W. Draper

I think the main theme of the second season of The Expanse is of mankind trying to control the uncontrollable — which we have a tendency to do. Much of the story this year dealt with the three main factions of people living in the several hundreds of years in the future in The Expanse; those from the Earth, those from Mars and those living in the “belt” on asteroids, who are all simultaneously trying to stop what’s known as the Protomolecule discovered in the first season from destroying all life in the solar system while at the same time trying to get a piece of it for themselves so they’ll be prepared if any of the other factions get it and try and use it on someone else.

It’s the classic, “we can control it even if we don’t think you can” scenario that’s played out time after time over the course of history.

And this Protomolecule is dangerous. In the first season a shadowy organization released it inside an asteroid station and this “thing” killed every living person there. Well, mostly killed in that it used all the living biomass to create a great glowing something that practically filled the station. A “something” that wanted to fly off and infect all of the Earth and create an even bigger biomass for unknown ends.

So it goes without saying that when even a piece of the Protomolecule is the most dangerous thing in the solar system everyone wants their piece of it.

Worst of all, with all these factions racing around the solar system trying to get their own sample the, until then, mostly stable political structure of the solar system is thrown into disarray. The Earth and Mars who have spent generations waging a cold war with one and other are now on the verge of a real one and the people living in the belt who’ve spend decades as third-class citizens have started to actively fight against Mars and Earth which causes more and more tension with every move they make.

The show that I think most closely matches The Expanse is the Battlestar Galactica reboot of a few years ago. Both shows are good at being mirrors to the real times that we live in. If Battlestar Galactica was about the fear of suicide bombings and of being attacked from the outside, then The Expanse is about what it’s like to live in a time when things we’d assumed were stable and unchanging suddenly shifting revealing a different, bleaker reality than the one we thought we were living in.

I feel like with The Expanse that with ever episode I think I’m seeing the big picture as to what’s all going on, until a few episodes later when something else happens I realize that I’ve only been seeing a tiny piece of a larger canvas.

Cloak & Dagger TV spot

Comics

Aliens: The Original Comics Series Volume 2 HC

Out this week is a hardcover collected edition of the second and third Dark Horse Aliens comic series from the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first of the collected series, which has become known as “Nightmare Asylum,” chronicles the loss of the Earth to the Alien baddies from the first series where Newt and Hicks must fight to escape a mad General and return to fight for the Earth. The third series known as “Female War” shows this battle on the Earth with Ripley having returned to the fold.

“Nightmare Asylum” was illustrated via airbrush by Den Beauvais and to me is the best looking comic series ever and “Female War” by a young Sam Keith who was just coming off his influential run on the then new Sandman and would later go on to create the The Maxx character is pretty spectacular too.

From Dark Horse:

Long before Alien3 was even a glint in director David Fincher’s eye, Dark Horse Comics was already crafting a terrifying post-Aliens continuity for Ripley, Hicks, and Newt. These are the original stories that took the comics market by storm in a prestige collection of the unabridged and unadulterated series. Collects Aliens: Nightmare Asylum #1–#4 and Aliens: Female War #1–#4.

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1947: Jeffrey DeMunn of The Mist, The X-Files and Dale of The Walking Dead is born
  • 1951: The Thing from Another World premiers in theaters
  • 1955: Kate Mulgrew, Captain Jainway of Star Trek:Voyager is born
  • 1956: Godzilla opens in the US
  • 1975: Death Race 2000 premiers
  • 1999: Existenz permiers



2017 Summer movie preview



Out first this summer is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 May 2. I wasn’t a fan of the first movie but am in the minority since the launch of these trash-talking, comedic space-faring heroes lead by Star Lord (Chris Pratt) quickly became a surprise mega-hit at the box office a few winters ago. This time, “Chris Pratt of the 1980s” Kurt Russell joins the cast as “Ego,” who in the comics anyway is quite literally a “living planet.” And what’s not to love about that?

May 19 sees the release of Alien: Covenant, the third Ridley Scott Alien film, and a direct sequel to Prometheus (2012). Prometheus got a bad rap by the critics but made more than $400 million at the box office hence Alien Covenant. What’s interesting here is that from the looks of things Scott has taken Alien: Covenant back to something a little more in the vein of Alien with the crew of a ship fighting the insect-like baddies and away from the more esoteric Prometheus, which I happened to like a great deal. Luckily, I also happen to like Alien a great deal too and couldn’t be more excited for this movie if I tried.

DC Entertainment tries to get their movie act together with the release of Wonder Woman on June 2, the fourth release of the modern DC movie universe. Originally appearing in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and stealing the show, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) launches the Amazonian to the big-screen in her own movie set during WWI. My only concern for Wonder Woman is that she fought the monster Doomsday in Batman vs Superman and almost single-handedly took him down in an ultimate bad !#$ way. So whatever she faces in Wonder Woman has got to be as big or that movie might be disappointing.

The creators of The Mummy on June 9 are attempting to create their own franchise and so-called “shared universe” of movies with the Universal Monsters. Starring Tom Cruise not as the mummy but someone trying to stop her from destroying the world, early looks at The Mummy seem to indicate something like Mission Impossible crossed with Suicide Squad. The Mummy is the first movie of this interconnected film universe that will also include the likes of The Invisible Man, Wolf Man, Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon in future films if this one’s a hit.

Spider-Man movies have had a really weird path to the big-screen the last few years. There were two Andrew Garfield The Amazing Spider-Man flicks a few years ago that failed to score billions at the office so that version was shelved. More recently Columbia Pictures, who owns the film rights to the character, had a new Spider-Man, this time played by Tom Holland, crossover in the Marvel movie Captain America: Civil War last year while still retaining the rights to make their own Spider-Man stand-alone films. Now comes that first film Spider-Man: Homecoming out July 7 this time with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) crossing over to this film.

A third Planet of the Apes film War for the Planet of the Apes is out July 14. The Apes film series is one of my favorites with the first chronicling why the apes got their smarts and the second what was happening with them just after the fall of man. This third film seems to be the story about the final apes vs man battle, with the winner taking claim to the planet. If you’ve seen the 1960s/1970s apes movies I’m sure you know how that works out.

Closing out the summer is the first movie based on the The Dark Tower Stephen King book series on July 28. Starring Idris Elba as the heroic gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey as the evil sorcerer, the The Dark Tower movie series is being billed as a sequel or continuation of the books rather than a big-screen version of them. It’s hard to describe The Dark Tower without giving too much away, but there are alternate dimensions, monsters and magical powers and, best for Hollywood, if this first is successful a series of seven other books that can all be turned into films.




Sam Keith Aliens: Earth War interior page



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