Resin Heroes

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 #36



TV

Stranger Things – Grade: A

6f1c7f40664543.5787e03bf042cEvery so often a series comes along that’s so good and unexpected that’s like a bolt of lighting to the head — and this year that series is Stranger Things on Netflix.

Stranger Things takes place in the fictional small town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983 where one dark and stormy night a boy goes missing while at the same time a mysterious girl known as “11” or “El” for short (Millie Brown) appears. El isn’t quite normal — she can only speak in very short words/sentences, is wearing only hospital garb and, most of weirdly of all, has telekinetic powers. On her trail is Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) who was trying to use El’s powers for his own purposes and wants his property returned. But on El’s side are a group of misfit boys who’re looking for their missing friend while at the same time discovering just what El’s capable of.

Best of all Stranger Things stars the wonderful Winona Ryder playing the missing kids mother, David Harbour as the town sheriff and Natalia Dyer as Nancy, Shannon Purser as Barb, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan…

I think that’s the first thing that Stranger Things co-creators the Duffer Brothers got right — they had a great cast and great characters. And let that to be a lesson to other series creators out there: if you have a great cast and great characters you’re more than halfway to having a classic series.

And that’s exactly what Stranger Things is: a modern day classic.

Stranger Things has taken flack from some corners saying that it’s a nostalgia driven show. That it borrows too freely from what’s come before and isn’t that original. Which is totally true. But only if those same people who ding Stranger Things for taking elements from what’s come before are also willing to ding things like the band The Rolling Stones from feely borrowing from the blues or Nirvana from punk.

I’ve never understood why when bands “borrow” from the past and are successful they can be considered top acts, but when movies or TV series do the same thing — well, apparently those are only supposed to be completely original, new and unique.

Which is total hooey. Is there anything these days that’s totally new and unique?

Sure, Stranger Things borrows elements from the works of Stephen King and some of the visual stylings of Steven Spielberg — though much less than talk and internet marketing would lead you to believe. It also uses elements from slasher horror movies of the 1980s, especially how some of their scenes are constructed, and a bit from the manga/film Akira too.

Which, admittedly, could be the recipe for disaster. Except here what the Duffer Brothers did with Stranger Things was rather than to just copy those elements they created something new with them. Stranger Things shares no direct link with any Stephen King story but it feels like it could, and the same goes with the films of Steven Spielberg too. There are certainly visual cues from Spielberg’s movies like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Stand By Me here, but on the whole Stranger Things is its own thing that’s building upon previous works of others.

Just like The Rolling Stones and just like Nirvana and just like 1,000 other pop culture things have built new things on the previous works of others.

My only concern with Stranger Things is that recently Neflix has strongly hinted that a second season of the series will soon be in the works. My concern is that the first season ended so perfectly that it’s this brilliant encapsulated story with just the right amount of questions answered and, more importantly, unanswered. I’d hate to see the Duffer Brothers come back and do a season two of the series that was a let down to the first. I’m not sure I want or need all the questions raised in the first season to be answered. Some things are better left to the imagination.

Then again, what do I know? Here I am giving suggestions about a series I hadn’t even heard about a few months ago that knocked my socks off this summer. My guess is that whatever the Duffer Brothers do next is going to be interesting regardless of which angle they take to tell it.

Now I feel like I need to go re-watch/read the Akira series and the movie The Mist again to keep on this Stranger Things high!

Angie Tribeca season 2 – Grade: B

angie-tribeca-tbs_article_story_largeThe second season of the TBS series Angie Tribeca finished this week. I enjoy this goofy series that’s in the vein of an Airplane or Naked Gun but I think I enjoyed the first season a bit more. The second season of the Angie Tribeca told a season long throughout all the episodes which felt a little forced to me. The series is essentially a comedy where goofy fun takes precedence over plot but having a season long story means that plot becomes important.

I think where Angie Tribeca works well is when the episodes are just off the wall humor where literally anything can happen between scene to scene let alone episode to episode, so to have to follow the plot to a story was a bit constraining.

A third season of Angie Tribeca is set to debut sometime in 2017 and I’m genuinely interested to see where the series goes from here.

Animal Kingdom season 1 – Grade: B-

14ANIMALS-master768The last year has seen a slew of darker series that all takes place in California. Always before California series used to focus on the sun, beaches and fun of the state but lately a lot of series have been taking place in a much different version of California. These bleaker series focus on a dirty, and dangerous place that’s as likely to give you a staph infection from swimming in the polluted waves as send you home in a body bag when you’re caught in the middle of a drug/guns/whatever deal gone wrong.

These are series I call “California Dark” like True Detective, Flaked, Sons of Anarchy and Animal Kingdom, the first season of which wrapped up last week on TNT.

Animal Kingdom, based on the Australian movie of the same name, follows the Cody family who live in Oceanside, California and make their living by stealing and robbing from unsuspecting folks. Thrown into this den is “J” (Finn Cole), forced to live with his uncles and a matriarch nicknamed “Smurf” (Ellen Barkin) who controls her sons through manipulation, deceit and guile. If J is somewhat an innocent then his uncles are hardened criminals who’ll take whatever they can get their hands on and kill whomever when necessary. But after they accidentally kill an off-duty police officer moonlighting as a security guard, the crew is thrown in disarray since they no longer have enough loot to sustain themselves and now have the police actively looking to bust up the gang after one of their own was murdered.

Animal Kingdom started off strong enough for me to watch the entire series, but I have to admit I lost interest in the show somewhere about the halfway mark. To me the series existed in their weird netherworld between two styles of show. On the one hand there’s similar series like True Detective that goes into the deep end of dark and almost play out like a horror series. On the other hand there’s network series like CSI or Chicago P.D. that are so light and unrealistic they’re soap operas with cops. And I think that Animal Kingdom fits somewhere in between these two styles. There’s a hard edge to the show, but it’s also very light in other ways.

Animal Kingdom plays out like these lite shows when it comes to the crimes the Cody family pulls off. The two big ones of the season, the first where they rob a jewelry mart of expensive watches and the final where they steal bails of cash from the US military, play out like scenes from a James Bond movie. Where there are so many intricate steps to the plan that if just one thing would go wrong the entire crew would spend the rest of their lives in jail. And in a series like Animal Kingdom while things do go wrong, they go wrong in a very TV like way.

It doesn’t help matters that in Animal Kingdom the stakes are never made quite clear for the J character. In the movie he’s in mortal danger from his uncles when he’s the only witness to the murder of two police officers they committed. In the TBS series he seems to be in danger, but not much. Here, it’s like the uncles may kill J, or they may send him out for ice cream.

I think where the movie version succeeded so well was in that palpable sense of danger for J. He’s just a kid and doesn’t really know what he’s gotten himself into — or even when he does he really doesn’t have anywhere else to go. But the TV version replaces that danger with a lot of flashy toys for the Cody family and minor heists as the uncles try to keep themselves in the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to.

I think when the TV version of Animal Kingdom succeeded was when it went dark. I especially liked Shawn Hatosy who played the unhinged just out of jail and very dangerous uncle “Pope” very well. He’s the kind of character you wouldn’t want to be around but you’d be afraid to leave his side lest he get it into his head that you have something against him and come after you one night when you least expect it. And he does something so unexpected in the second to last episode of the first season it made me shutter.

Animal Kingdom has already been renewed for a second season on TNT set to debut sometime in 2017. Depending on what else is on at the time it premiers I may, or may not watch the second season of the show. It’s not bad but it’s not something people are going to be talking about for years to come either.

Luke Cage promo

Movies

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Trailer

“The world is coming undone — Imperial flags reign across the galaxy.”

Arrival trailer

Books

Out this Tuesday is the final book to list all of the Topps Star Wars trading cards from the 1970s and 1980s; Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three. You may have to be a die hard fan of Star Wars, the original trilogy and of trading cards to want this book, but luckily I am. 😉

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1954: James Cameron, writer/director of Terminator, Aliens and Avatar is born
  • 1986: The Fly opens in theaters
  • 1987: The Monster Squad premiers



Direct Beam Comms #26



TV

Daredevil

latestI finished the second season of Daredevil last week after having spent most of last spring pacing myself by watching one episode a week since the series launch — that is until Memorial Day weekend where I blew through the last three episodes in quick succession. The first season of Daredevil mostly dealt with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) slowly becoming the bad guy fighting, anti-yakuza and Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) battlin’ Daredevil we know and love. And the second season featured a more confident Daredevil taking on the mysterious Hand ninja clan who will stop at nothing to achieve their own ends with only Daredevil standing in their way.

Which is one point about the second season of Daredevil that I didn’t care too much for; the Hand might be too mysterious for the story going on here. I’m not totally sure exactly what the Hand was after all this time — other than what they get in the very last episode — or why they were willing to sacrifice so much in order to get it?

That being said I really enjoyed the second season of Daredevil. It was much better than the first season which was pretty good to begin with and had one of the best supporting cast on TV.

There’s Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll playing Foggy Nelson and Karen Page respectively. In lesser hands these characters would have been pushed to the background, in the series only to move the Murdock/Daredevil story along. But here they feel like real people with their own needs, wants and desires that sometimes are with, and sometimes go against the main Daredevil story.

There’s also Elodie Yung who plays Elektra Natchios, a spoiled rich girl from Murdock’s past who has much more depth as a character, and is much more dangerous, than anyone expected. I was surprised as to just how good Yung is playing the character of Elektra here — one minute soft and demur and the next scary and strong. I’d only ever seen her before as Jinx in G.I. Joe: Retaliation but she’s absolutely wonderful here.

A special nod goes out to Jon Bernthal who plays Frank Castle/The Punisher. There’s been at least three different actors to play the Punisher on-screen all the way back to Dolph Lundgren in the late 1980s. But it’s Bernthal who seems to have finally cracked and perfected him. He’s always on edge, always in the shadows who operates within his own moral code. It’s also an interesting version of the Punisher that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in any form — brain damaged from the attack that killed his family and never sure if what he remembers from his past is real or if it’s just a figment of the fragment of the bullet he took to the head?

Here, the Punisher is the anthesis of Daredevil — both want to stop crime yet it’s the Punisher who’s willing to kill to do so. And it’s where these to characters bump up against each other; both trying to do the same thing but are somewhat enemies because of their different ethos, that makes the Punisher/Daredevil relationship so interesting.

And apparently Bernthal’s portrayal of Frank Castle was so well received that a Netflix Punisher series is now in the works. Which does beg the question — can a third season of Daredevil without Punisher be as good as the second with? And too, can the character of the Punisher carry his own show when, as shown here, he works best operating in the shadows of some other super-heroes’ storyline?

I was also surprised as to just how gory the series is. Compared to other Marvel series like Agents of SHIELD and films like Captain America: Civil War where a lot of blood means a tiny tricky out of the side of a characters nose, Daredevil is positively The Evil Dead in blood in comparison. In the series people are cut and they bleed, and it sometimes takes stitches to close up the wounds.

Though this gore is more comic book in nature than realistic — people are cut and bleed but somehow things never get that bloody — it’s still adds to the realism of the show.

Regardless of what the future holds, right now I’d say that to me so far in 2016 Daredevil ranks as one of the very best shows of the season so far.

Grade: A

The Carmichael Show

lead_960The second season of The Carmichael Show wrapped up last week on NBC. It’s a different kind of sitcom in that it’s actually about something.

The Carmichael Show follows the Carmichael family with son and lead of the show Jerrod (Jerrod Carmichael), girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West) and Jerrod’s mom and dad played by David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine with Jerrod’s brother (LilRel Howery)and his brother’s ex-wife (Tiffany Haddish) too. So far, episodes of The Carmichael Show have dealt with things like racism, gentrification, pornography and the current political climate. Jerrod’s girlfriend is going to “Feel the Bern” next November while his father’s voting for Trump since he’s, “Going to bring the jobs back…”

It’s not the typical show and I think that might be part of the reason The Carmichael Show hasn’t been doing well in the ratings — though it was recently picked up for a third season. Most sitcoms find a formula, and if it works, pound it into the ground for years and years and years. But The Carmichael Show isn’t like that. Since each episode deals with different topics and themes, each one feels different that the one before.

While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shows being about “nothing” ala Seinfeld, it’s nice that there are still shows out there that are about something. Be it series like Community, Arrested Development or, though not yet in those two show’s league, The Carmichael Show.

BTW — it’s nice to see David Alan Grier in a TV series again. To my generation Grier was one of the cornerstones of the In Living Color TV series. And while Grier’s worked consistently the last two decades, it’s nice to see him back on a weekly TV series.

Grade: B+

Angie Tribeca

960The second season of the TBS series Angie Tribeca begins this Monday at 9(EDT). The first season that aired in a “bingeathon” last winter was pretty funny. The show takes its cue from the irreverent humor of series like Police Squad and movies like The Naked Gun and Airplane. It’s goofy, silly fun.

In the spirit of Police Squad, Angie Tribeca follows the title detective (Rashida Jones) and her partner Jay (Hayes MacArthur) as they investigate all sorts of weird crimes from a ventriloquist dummy lead crime ring, illegal pet ferrets being smuggled into California as well as every single cop show cliche from the last 20 years from forensic scientists who seemingly know everything to gruff, but lovable bosses and everything in between.

That being said, Angie Tribeca does feel more like an Adult Swim style show than a TBS one. In fact, it sure seems like Angie Tribeca took a lot of the core elements from its show from other series like NTSF:SD:SUV that seems to share a lot of the same character types and themes too.

Grade: B

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1982: E.T.:The Extra-Terrestrial premiers in theaters
  • 1984: Gremlins opens in theaters
  • 1989: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier opens in theaters
  • 1993: Jurassic Park opens in theaters



Direct beam comms #7



TV

Colony (USA)
The new sci-fi show on USA Colony by Carlton Cuse of Lost fame and writer Ryan Condal has an interesting concept. The country, if not the entire planet, has been invaded and all the governments overthrown and replaced by some black uniformed wearing human “collaborators” who seem to be working for a greater power. Los Angeles is walled off and travel between areas is strictly prohibited.

Suicide Squad poster

Suicide Squad poster

I think the first episode of Colony does a great job of setting up this post-invasion world very interestingly. Some things are the same; people still go to work and families still eat breakfast together. But a lot’s changed from the travel restrictions to the lack of cars, most everyone rides bikes, to a “resistance” against the invaders and these “collaborators” too.

I think where the series falters in a big way is that while all of the characters of the show know what’s been happening the last few years, who invaded and why there’s a giant wall around LA, the audience doesn’t. I suppose Cruise and Condal’s plan is to slowly dole out these facts as the show goes on. But as a viewer that’s really frustrating. It seems to me that the series creators should’ve either gone the way of Falling Skies where what happened in the past is presented at the beginning of the series to the audience or The Walking Dead where when the characters learn what happened to their world the audience does too.

By having the characters of Colony know things that the audience doesn’t puts us in a weird position. Are we watching the show because of the story, or because we want to learn about the mystery of what’s going on in the series? And if Colony doesn’t have a strong enough of a story, which seemed rather weak to me, is tuning in week after week for a few more tidbits about what’s actually going on a strong enough reason to keep watching the show?

Angie Tribeca (TBS)
TBS aired all ten episodes of the new Angie Tribeca TV series from late last Sunday night to all day on Monday during a “binge-a-thon” with regular airings of the series Monday nights. The comedy is a police procedural in the vein of an Naked Gun/Police Squad show. I wonder if this, airing everything at once, will become more popular now that more and more people get their entertainment in season-long “binge” chunks thanks to Hulu and Netflix?

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (The CW)
This series is Doctor Who meets Guardians of the Galaxy and isn’t bad after the first episode. As long as it doesn’t turn into the typical superhero vs super villain of the week — which gets really old really fast — I’ll stick with this one for a while. I think if I was 14 years old DC’s Legends of Tomorrow would be my new favorite show.

Captain Cold: “We go out for one lousy drink, and you guys somehow managed to pick a fight with Boba Fett?!”

Occupied (Okkupert) (Netflix)

Xenozoic

Xenozoic

This Norwegian series about that country being invaded by Russia after Norway stops producing fossil fuels in the near-future is quite interesting. The whole thing feels a bit like an updated 21st century version of the Tom Clancy novel Red Storm Rising (1986) except instead of tanks, artillery and jets battling it out on and over plains of Europe, Russia with the backing of the European Union, simply threatens Norway with annihilation and takes over the energy producing parts of the country unopposed.

My only complaint about the show is just how fast the Norwegians essentially give up much of their freedoms to the invaders. The Russians kidnap Norway’s Prime Minister, spend a few minutes threatening him and his country, let him go and the Prime Minister essentially capitulates to the Russians in order to try and save lives. And maybe this is how things would go down in Norway, I don’t know. But I do know if this same story were set here in the US there’s be a lot more shooting and bloodshed — see Red Dawn for an example of what I mean.

But that’s a minor quibble with, after watching the first episode, a series that looks to be quite interesting.

Comics

Xenozoic Tales
The 352 page Xenozoic features most, if not all, of artist/writer Mark Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales comic books in a collected format. Schultz has always been one of my favorite artists and Xenozoic Tales one of my favorite comics, even if there’s only 14 actual issues of that series.

I discovered Xenozoic Tales in a roundabout way. In the late ‘90s I picked up issue 14 and over the years would buy back issues of the comic too. However, at the time older Xenozoic Tales comics were quite pricy but I discovered that the series had been mostly reprinted under the Cadillacs and Dinosaurs title during the time the cartoon series of the same name airing on TV. And these Cadillacs and Dinosaurs issues could be bought much more cheaply than the original Xenozoic Tales ones.

In the collected Xenozoic Tales edition, you can see how Schulz’s style evolved from that of a pulpy EC comics inspired style to that of clean lines and gorgeous drawings that would become instant classics in later issues.

Movies

The trailer for the upcoming Suicide Squad was released last week and it’s a doozy. Before the trailer I debated whether or not I’d even see the movie, after I couldn’t wait to see it.

Toys

Mondo released a 1/6 scale Raphael figure from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this week for pre-order. The figure has 25+ points of articulation and comes with things like multiple heads and hands and weapons and retails for around $150.