Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #81



TV

The Mist

I was a big fan of the 2007 movie The Mist written and directed by Frank Darabont from the story by Stephen King. But not too many others liked it as much as I did and The Mist didn’t do well at the box office. Even friends I showed the movie to on DVD didn’t much care for it. I think the ending to The Mist is to blame. That ending, which I won’t spoil here, is so extreme that I think it turned a lot of people off to the film.

Let’s put it this way, we live in a world where most horror movies follow the same formula. There’s a bad guy, and this bad guy is killing off characters in the movie one by one. They start with the least important character and work their way to the main character. Where, in the end, the main character gets the better of the villain and good wins the day. Only this doesn’t happen in The Mist. There’s no one main villain, there’s a few actually. There are these weird creatures that come out of the titular mist and there’s the character of Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) who’s religious fervor over what’s going on means that she’s as dangerous as the monsters out in the mist.

And because The Mist was unpredictable, didn’t follow convention and has a nasty ending where good doesn’t necessarily win the day meant that what could have been a big hit instead turned into a cult-classic.

The basic plot of the film is that after a storm hits a small Maine town, a weird mist descends that hides all sorts of dangerous creatures that are hungry and out for blood. A few survivors lead by David Drayton (Thomas Jane) hole up in a grocery store and try to wait out the events transpiring outside. But as the minutes turn to hours and the hours to days and the people inside start turning on one and other, Drayton must decide whether it’s safer in the store or outside in the mist.

What I find most ironic is that while the public didn’t turn out to see The Mist, they sure turned out a few years later for Darabont’s next project; The Walking Dead. There are so many similarities between The Mist and The Walking Dead that it’s ironic that The Mist failed so badly but The Walking Dead was, and continues to be, one of the most popular series on TV. There’s the whole apocalyptic angle with people cut off and having to fight for their lives from a weird force. There’s the brutality of the situation, with characters being killed off in some disturbing ways. There’s even some of the same cast shared between The Mist and The Walking Dead too.

What’s funniest, though, is now comes a new The Mist TV series that owes its existence more to the very successful The Walking Dead rather than the film version of The Mist.

Let me start by saying that everything I’ve seen from The Mist TV series promoting the season as a whole looks very good — like it’s going to be a lot of giant “things” in the mist horror fun. That being said — the first episode of The Mist was a big let down. For most of the episode it was more bad CW teen high school drama than Stephen King horror series. Almost all of the first episode is a drama around this Maine town where there’s a whole lot of characters, I suppose TV needs more characters than movies, but they’re all so broadly drawn caricatures of real people that none of them felt real. My guess is that the idea was to introduce these characters under normal circumstances before the mist comes to town and then when they start getting bumped off one by one it’ll have more of an emotional impact in future episodes.

But since no one felt too real I can’t imagine this will happen.

As much as I like to rag on The Walking Dead I have to say that the first season of the show did a great job of introducing characters. Right now there may be dozens of people on the show, but at the start there was only a handful really which meant we got a lot of time meeting each person. And in the first episode we’re only with the character of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) for a good part of the hour as he explores a post-zombie apocalypse wasteland. I think by having the loads of characters in The Mist and having the episode play out in normal life like a cruddy drama lessons the impact of the show. I mean, the show’s called The Mist but in the first episode we get maybe 15 minutes of the mist. The rest of the time it’s this fake family stuff.

If The Mist is comparable to any other show I’d have to say that show would be Under the Dome, another Stephen King series, and I mean that in a bad way. Like The Mist the characters of Under the Dome felt broadly drawn, suffering from the highs and lows of mania and just generally unreal that I bailed on that show after a few episodes.

Still, I have high hopes The Mist will be more The Walking Dead than Under the Dome, especially if the promos for the upcoming season are more representative of what the other episodes are really going to be like rather than just showing us the good bits like movie trailers tend to do.

Better Call Saul

This third season of Better Call Saul which wrapped up last week was better than ever. I think part of the reason the show is so good/I like it so much is that it’s headed towards some kind of conclusion, even if that conclusion is of the character of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) becoming Saul Goodman who later appears on the series Breaking Bad. As much as I might like the idea of having an open-ended story that a medium like TV provides, I have to admit that in practice its almost never a good idea. Too often series start out promising but go on a bit too long and instead of coming to a natural story conclusion drag out the story and grow stale/boring in their declining years. Series like Man Men, Game of Thrones or The Americans started off interestingly enough but went/have gone on a season or two too long and went from interesting series to watch to a slog to suffer through.

I think at least with Better Call Saul we know what the ending is with the character of Saul Goodman. So no matter what happens in the next (hopefully) few seasons, Better Call Saul is a series that’s headed to some sort of story conclusion that will lead to the events that transpired in Breaking Bad.

GLOW

I remember when GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, was a thing in the late 1980s. Then, professional wrestling, specifically the WWF, was quite the phenomena and it seemed as if everyone in my school watched wrestling and had their favorite characters from that show. I was never a big fan of wrestling but I had my favorite character. My favorite character was … well, I can’t quite remember who he was since I picked my fav by going to the toy store and buying the first WWF toy I could find and telling everyone that guy was my favorite.*

GLOW, on the other hand, was a bit different. First, it was on during the day after cartoons Saturday afternoon where I lived and rather than being almost all guy wrestlers as the WWF used to be was all female. What GLOW lacked in production values, each episode looked like it was shot on an $10 budget, they more than made up for in wild characters, over-the-top stories and a bit of titillation. For a time it seemed as if GLOW was somewhat popular but only for a little while. And just as quickly as the series emerged from the jurassic ooze of 1980s TV it was swallowed back up to disappear forever.

Well, kind’a forever. Now comes a new Neflix series called simply GLOW about the fictional formation of the league in the 1980s. Starring Alison Brie as Ruth, an actress in Hollywood who hasn’t acted in anything but is told of an audition where they’re looking for all sorts of different girls that turns into an audition for GLOW. The fictional GLOW shows the inner-workings and what was going on behind the scenes with the people playing the characters on TV each week.

One episode in and GLOW is a pretty interesting show. The first episode has some very strong characters who along with Brie include’s Ruth’s friend Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and GLOW producer Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron). It’s almost this weird, workplace show where the only people who tryout for this unproven GLOW series are, shall we say, “unique” individuals. Some, like Ruth, are looking for a way into acting, while others want to do something physical that’s a bit like a sports team since there was really nothing like that available to women in the 1980s. And some just had nothing else going on in their lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about GLOW I highly recommend the documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling that’s very insightful.

  • After some eBaying, I’m relatively sure the figure I bought was of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

Comics

Predator: The Original Comics Series–Concrete Jungle and Other Stories HC

Out this week is a hardcover edition of the original Predator comics series that’s become known a “Concrete Jungle” over the years. This series written by Mark Verheiden who would have a hand in the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Daredevil TV series with pencils by the amazing Chris Warner whom I tried to emulate art-wise for years is probably the best Predator comic series out there. In fact, it was so good that many elements of it, from its location to many scenes, ended up in the film Predator 2.

Celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of one of the great action movies of all time with this collection of original comics sequels to the film. For the thirtieth anniversary of Predator, Dark Horse is releasing three now-classic tales in one oversized, deluxe hardcover volume designed to sit on your bookshelf beside the Aliens 30th Anniversary edition! Collects Predator: Concrete Jungle TPB (#1#4). Predator: Cold War TP (#1#4), and Predator: Dark River TPB

House of Secrets vol. 1

If the classic long-running DC comics horror series House of Secrets is remembered at all it’s because in its pages the character of Swamp Thing originally debuted back in 1971. And while a mint copy of the comic House of Secrets #92 might fetch thousands of dollars today, the story featured in this new hardcover collected edition, and many others, can be had for a measly $50.

Experience DC’s classic horror series in the retro collection as it was originally printed. Collecting HOUSE OF SECRETS #92–97, including the first appearance of Swamp Thing, this book includes contributions from writers and artists Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, Jim Aparo and many others and sets the groundwork for classic DC Universe horror stories for years to come.

Toys

Predator 2 Lieutenant Mike Harrigan figure

Crozz Design has created a neat Lieutenant Mike Harrigan figure from the movie Predator 2, but they’re calling him “Savage Hunter Mike” since I’m assuming they don’t have a license to produce anything related to Predator. This incredibly detailed figure retails for around $160.

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1961: Mothra premiers
  • 1972: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
  • 1975: Rollerball premiers
  • 1979: Moonraker opens
  • 1982: Blade Runner opens
  • 1982: Megaforce opens
  • 1987: Innerspace opens in theaters
  • 1998: Armageddon premiers
  • 1999: The last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine airs
  • 2005: War of the Worlds (2005) opens in theaters



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