Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #71



TV

Better Call Saul Season 3 episode 1 Grade: A

Some people think that Better Call Saul is a pale imitation of Breaking Bad, of which the latter is a prequel. When these people watch Better Call Saul they don’t want Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), they want the guy Jimmy becomes in Breaking Bad; Saul Goodman. Except what I think these people are really getting at is that they’re not as much interested in a Better Call Saul TV series and aren’t willing to take that show on face value, what they really want more Breaking Bad.

Which I get, Breaking Bad is one of the most critically acclaimed and loved series of all-time except I’d like to point out one difference between Breaking Bad and Better Call SaulBetter Call Saul is the better series of the two.

Much like from the first to second and now second to third, this latest season of Better Call Saul kicks off right where the last season ended. With Jimmy having betrayed his brother Chuck (Michael McKeen) which ended up with Chuck in the ER and then Chuck turning the tables on Jimmy. And Mike Ehrmantraut* (Jonathan Banks) finding out that while he might be following and keeping tabs on the criminal element of Albuquerque, the criminal element is also keeping tabs on him.

I think this is all why Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad. I’ll admit that while Breaking Bad was a great series in its last few seasons, I honestly don’t think it was very good in its first few. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’ve tried watching that series from the start but could never get into it. That was until I started watching it from later on when the character of Saul Goodman was an integral part of the show. Then I liked Breaking Bad, a lot. But there’s the pesky fact that its first few seasons are just not that good, while Better Call Saul has been great right from the start.

I think a lot of that has to do that the creators of Breaking Bad having learned a lot of lessons from that series, especially what not to do, and applied them to Better Call Saul.

I find it ironic that Better Call Saul is a show with a lot of heart, from Jimmy trying and constantly failing to do right to his partner/girlfriend Kim (Rhea Seehorn) always trying to see the good in Jimmy and make him a better person. Even if in the end with the character of Saul and what he does/has done in Breaking Bad we know that’s a doomed task.

  • What’s not to love about his last name!?

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 12 episode 1 Grade: A-

It’s crazy to think about, but until last week the last new episode of MST3K aired nearly 18 years ago. What first started on a local TV station in Minneapolis in 1988, then moved over to the cable on The Comedy Channel which became Comedy Central before switching to The Sci-Fi Channel originally ended its initial run in 1999. I think most fans of the series, myself included, assumed that would mark the end of MST3K but a nearly $6 million dollar Kickstarter campaign in 2015 meant that there was now money to produce 14 brand new episodes of the classic series, which are now streaming on Netflix.

Jonah Ray and the bots

The classic MST3K is one of my seminal cultural touchstones, even if I only ever saw a handful of episodes when they originally aired. To me, MST3K is one of those shows that I keep coming back to year after year. And even though the sets and special effects of the show are cheesy, the spirit behind MST3K has been unmatched the last few decades. I think in the current era we live in when it’s very easy for filmmakers to make things look very slick, to have something like MST3K that at its core is about having things very raw and not slick at all is a bit of an anachronism. But it’s a good anachronism and is something that I adore.

This new MST3K is slightly updated with new faces like Jonah Ray in the lead as Jonah Heston as well as Felecia Day and Patton Oswalt now as the bad guys. But the bots are back and there are lots of familiar names working on the series behind the scenes so this new MST3K looks, feels and has the same tone as the classic series. There are the same cheesy hand-built sets, funny models and goofy inventions. But there are some updates too from Tom Servo sometimes flying around when they’re watching the movie and modern pop-culture references too. There’s a Walter White joke at one point.

The first Netflix MST3K episode takes on the dreadful Danish movie Reptilicus that I’d say was unwatchable in its original non-MST3K form. In fact the only thing that made the movie bearable was having it spoofed on MST3K.

Since all episodes are available and we can see what movies will be featured in upcoming episodes, my only wonder is that most of the movies that will be joked on are all at least 30 years old at this point? It’s not a complaint, just a wonder. Classic episodes of MST3K spoofed movies that were only a few years old at that point, it wasn’t all jokes being made about movies several decades old. I just wonder if getting the rights to even newer bad movies is more difficult that getting the rights to older, bad movies?

I’m Dying Up Here TV spot

Comics

Vigilante by Marv Wolfman Vol. 1

This edition collects the first 11 issues of the classic 1980s Vigilante series written by Mary Wolfman and illustrated by Keith Pollard. The 1980s Vigilante is DC’s kind’a sort’a answer to Marvel’s the Punisher, except whereas the Punisher doesn’t wear a disguise and goes after any criminals, Vigilante is masked and is a district attorney by day Adrian Chase who goes after the criminals he sees escape justice at the courthouse at night. From Amazon:

As a district attorney for New York City, Adrian Chase used the legal system to keep the streets safe. But when it came to protecting his own family, that system failed him. After losing his wife and children in a failed assassination attempt, Chase makes the fateful decision to take justice into his own hands!

Concealed beneath a featureless mask and supported by an arsenal of custom weaponry, Adrian Chase becomes the Vigilante—and declares all-out war on criminals, using their own brutal methods against them. But Chase’s new vocation comes with a price. Can inflicting violence on others truly heal the pain of his family’s death? Or is the Vigilante doomed to become the final casualty of his all-consuming need for revenge?

Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer

Thor: Ragnarok trailer

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1946: Tim Curry of the mini-series IT and movie Legend is born
  • 1954: James Morrison, TC McQueen of Space: Above and Beyond is born
  • 1964: Andy Serkis of The Lord of the Rings and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is born
  • 1966: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the Comedian of Watchmen is born
  • 1969: Joel de la Fuente, Paul Wang of Space: Above and Beyond is born
  • 1973: Soylent Green is released
  • 1979: James McAvoy, Charles Xavier of X-Men: First Class is born
  • 1979: The TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century premiers
  • 1996: The movie Mystery Science Theater 3000 opens
  • 2011: The first episode of Game of Thrones airs
  • 2013: Oblivion debuts in theaters



Better Call Saul season 3 character portraits



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Better Call Saul season 3 poster






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



Vince Gilligan & Bob Odenkirk on the set of Better Call Saul