Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #108



TV

Black Mirror — “USS Callister” ***/****

When Black Mirror first premiered in 2011 I didn’t think I’d ever get to see it. Created by Charlie Brooker for Channel 4 in the UK, Black Mirror was a series everyone was talking about but no one could watch legally here in the US. It took some time but I was finally able to see that first season and was blown away — Black Mirror was as good as everyone said it was and it quickly became one of my favorite series.

A few years back Netflix picked up the show and suddenly what was very difficult to see became very easy with the outlet streaming old episodes along with brand new ones. And now comes a fourth season of Black Mirror beginning with a first episode titled “USS Callister.”

Here, a software architect by day Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) moonlights at night as the captain of the USS Callister in a virtual reality simulation game. The USS Callister is a ship of the Space Fleet (think 1960s Star Trek) crewed by people who look a lot like Daly’s real-life co-workers. But since this is Black Mirror they don’t just look like Daly’s co-workers, they’re digital duplicates of them right down to their memories and personalities. The real people on the outside have no idea what’s going on, Daly created the duplicates in secret, meaning that for the clones on the USS Callister life is a hellish existence alternating between the boredom with having nothing to do while Daly’s at work and the nightmare of having him act as captain where he wants to play Space Fleet. And if they don’t play along he can do things to them like remove their eyes and mouth causing them to feel like they’re suffocating forever or turn them into grotesque alien creatures to populate the various planets around the digital galaxy.

And since these crew members aren’t real, it means they can never die either and will be stuck in this existence forever.

Enter new co-worker/USS Callister crewmen Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) who has a plan to get out. But if her plan fails it means an existence of eternal suffering for those crazy enough to cross Daly in the digital world.

Black Mirror is a great show at examining what life might be like in just a few years time if just a few things go wrong. Like what are the odds that someday technology will make it easy to make a perfect, digital clone of someone? And what are the odds that someone will use that technology for ill, like cloning people for their own private video game? Some of these ideas were also covered in the “Cookie” segment of the Black Mirror Christmas episode a few years back.

Regardless… Black Mirror is one of the best series on TV. I’m just glad that I don’t have to fight to watch it anymore!

Doctor Who ***/****

Each year the series Doctor Who airs a special Christmas episode. In years past those episodes have had a strong holiday theme — one year even featured the good Doctor teaming up with Santa Claus to fight evil. But this year was different. This year’s episode mostly skipped the Christmas theme and would mark the first official appearance of the latest incarnation of the Doctor, this time not to be played by a man as the character’s been the last 50+ years but by a woman.

“Twice Upon a Time” takes place at the South Pole in the 1960s, in the trenches during the first world war and in the future where people who are just about to die are whisked away to have their memories duplicated for historical purposes before being sent back to their own time to face their fate. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is on the verge of regeneration — or changing bodies. A way that producers of the series have used since the beginning to keep the show going by replacing the lead actor with a new face. But this Doctor doesn’t want to regenerate. He wants to die and finally rest after centuries of adventure.

Enter the very first Doctor from 1963, here played by David Bradley but originally William Hartnell who passed away in 1975. This first Doctor doesn’t want to regenerate either and he and the modern Doctor along with an army captain (Mark Gatiss) pulled from the trenches of the first world war and flung into the future and the Doctor’s assistant Bill (Pearl Mackie) who may or may not be a duplicate of the original have to uncover what they’ve done to cause time to freeze in place all across the universe.

I thought that “Twice Upon a Time” was the best episode of Doctor Who in recent memory.

I’m a big fan of the classic Doctor Who series and love it whenever the modern show mentions the old, which they do from time to time. And to see the original Doctor here returning to form, and even with his slightly smaller TARDIS than the current Doctor’s, made for one satisfying episode.

Especially interesting was the introduction of the new Doctor played by Jodie Whittaker. It’s traditional for the new Doctor to be introduced at the very end of the episode where the character’s thrown into some sort of extreme peril, to be concluded in a few months time at the start of the next season of Doctor Who. And this introduction was no different with the new Doctor being literally ejected from the TARDIS in the closing moments of the show.

It will be interesting to see just where that next series goes from here. I have no doubt that Whittaker will make a good Doctor but Doctor Who producer since its reboot in 2005 Steven Moffat won’t be returning next season, Chris Chibnall will be taking over the reigns. This will mark the first time in 13 years that someone new will be setting the direction of the show.

So, love Doctor Who or hate it, it’ll be interesting to see just where Doctor Who ends up in 2018.

Movies

A few months back I posted all of the new movies I saw to date in 2017 and here’s the rest of what I saw this year:

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming: I thought this was a really fun movie that did a good job of reintroducing a new Spider-Man without going through all the rigmarole of doing another origin story.
  • Logan Lucky

    Logan Lucky: This “Ocean’s 7/11” was one of the hidden, overlooked gems of 2017.

  • Split: I was really surprised by this one. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has been on a cold-streak for literally 15 years at this point and for him to come out with a movie as interesting and powerful as Split was is amazing.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: I can’t remember the last time I had as much fun as I did at a superhero movie as I did with this one.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes: A fitting end for a superb trilogy of movies. I only wish all movie reboots could be as different as/paying as much homage to the original as War for the Planet of the Apes was.
  • Dunkirk: Easily the best movie of the year and probably the best Christopher Nolan movie since Memento, and that’s saying a lot.
  • A Trip to Spain: I really like the whole A Trip to… movies and A Trip to Spain was no exception.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: I’m not sure what all the negativity was about surrounding this movie, but I liked Star Wars: The Last Jedi a lot. I thought it was better than Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Bright: This Netflix original has been getting a lot of flack for being one of the worst movies of the year. While I don’t think Bright was a great movie, it wasn’t a bad one either. It’s one of those films with a lot of great ideas, probably too many for a single film to hold.
  • Blade runner: 2049: Slow and ponderous at times, I’m glad I checked this one out. Though I’d be surprised if I ever watch it again.
  • IT: Essentially the TV series Stranger Things has been aping IT quite successfully for two seasons now. So for a movie version of this classic, beloved book to come along now and still be as stunning as it was is saying something.

For the record, I only saw 18 movies this year that were released in 2017, but for what I saw these were my favorite.

  1. Dunkirk

    Dunkirk

  2. Logan
  3. IT
  4. Thor: Ragnarok
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rumor Control

Things I’ve misheard over the years:

For many years I thought the movie about zombies in the Caribbean The Serpent and the Rainbow was instead titled Surfing in the Rainbow.

I also thought the title to the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was really Do Androids Dream an Electric Sleep?. And to this day I think my title’s better that the original.

When the song “Glycerine” by Bush was popular and got lots of radio play I used to think the lyric “Bad Moon White Again” was “Madmartigan Warrior” since surly everyone, including songwriter Gavin Rossdale was a big a fan of the movie Willow as I was.

Cool Movie Posters of the Week




Direct Beam Comms #107



Rumor Control

2017: Sci-Fi Report

Looking back at 2017 I realized this year was actually a wonderful time for sci-fi movies and TV series. In years past there’s been one or two sci-fi things of quality to celebrate, but this year there are many. It feels weird writing this, but in 2017 sci-fi was the king of generas and every TV network is looking for the next Stranger Things and movie studio Star Wars. Now, not every movie or TV series below was successful, but “success” doesn’t always equate to “good” so I’ve listed everything I liked or found interesting in 2017.

Movies:

  • Alien: Covenant: This one didn’t get great reviews or do that well at the box-office, but I mean c’mon — it’s a frickin’ Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott. What’s not to love!?
  • Blade Runner: 2047: A remake 35 years later of a beloved movie using the latest computer technologies for special effects that has the original star return? Sounds interesting to me.
  • Ghost in the Machine: I know a lot of people didn’t dig this one but I liked it.
  • Kong: Skull Island: This is a silly, fun movie about a group of army soldiers vs a giant ape. It’s not the greatest, but is still a lot of fun.
  • Life: I didn’t dig this one overall, but still dug its setting and characters.
  • Passengers: Another one I found “ok.” Still, “ok” in 2017 would have probably been on my yearly “best of” list ten years ago.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: I loved this movie. It had problems, but what Star Wars movie in the last 20 years hasn’t? The Last Jedi is better than The Force Awakens, and I liked The Force Awakens.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes: The final(?) modern, Planet of the Apes movie which was the perfect ending to a six year trilogy of films.

TV:

  • Black Mirror: Creepy as [email protected]#$ and one of the best things on TV at the moment.
  • Doctor Who: Who would have guessed that a series which originated in 1963 would still be going strong in 2017, and beyond?
  • The Expanse: I love, love, love this show.
  • The Orville: See above.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: The latest Star Trek series isn’t getting a lot of love by the fans, but it marks the return of Star Trek to TV after an absence of 12 years which I think is a good thing.
  • Stranger Things: This series is the biggest reason to have Netflix.
  • Star Wars: Rebels: This series about what happened between movies Episode III and IV is as smartly written and acted as any of the great TV series out there. Even if it’s an animated show that aires on Disney.
  • Westworld: An HBO series about a theme park filled with murderous cowboys set in the future? Sure sounds like the perfect show to me!

TV

A Christmas Story Live! **/****

I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas movies. I don’t have anything against them, but personally I’ve never found any I liked. Except for one movie, that is; A Christmas Story (1983).

I think it was partly because when it was released A Christmas Story didn’t do well at the box office and therefor showed up a lot in the mid–1980s during movie Christmas marathons when, I’m assuming, the movie was cheap to air so it played all the time. My parents and grandparents might have been into It’s a Wonderful Life or White Christmas, but for me and my brother the only reason to sit through those yawn factories was that eventually A Christmas Story would air.

I remember watching A Christmas Story and thinking that I felt the same way that the kids of the movie felt in terms of school, parents and friends. And now when I watch the movie I identify more with Ralphie’s “Old Man” than Ralphie and yet the movie still works. I think it helps a great deal that the movie’s set in my home state of Indiana and, even though it was filmed in Ohio, A Christmas Story looks and feels right.

Several sequels to A Christmas Story would follow but none of them would tackle Christmas time like A Christmas Story so perfectly captured.

So to say that I was a little concerned that FOX would be airing a three hour long live “event” of A Christmas Story just before Christmas would not be an understatement. For a movie as beloved as A Christmas Story that’s traditionally aired back-to-back for 24 hours every Christmas Eve to Christmas to be remade as a something that looks like from all outwards appearances as a cheap ratings stunt turned my stomach a bit.

Still, I decided to give this A Christmas Story Live! a chance and watched it last Sunday.

And to be honest, it wasn’t bad. I didn’t end up watching the whole thing but about an hour’s worth at the start and then flipped back to it every once in a while. A Christmas Story Live! has a sort of polished feel to it that’s not present in the more realistic, run down and slightly threadbare original. I feel like if you’re a fan of musicals, then you might be interested in the three-hour long A Christmas Story Live!. If not, you should probably just skip it and stick with the original.

Movies

Sicario 2: Soldado trailer

Ocean’s 8 trailer

The Reading & Watch List

Cool Movie Posters of the Week




2017/2018 TV preview



New Series

The year superheroes broke TV

There are so many superhero series debuting this TV season there’s almost too many to cover here. In fact, there are at least eight new live-action superhero shows debuting this season which will bring the number currently airing to more than 25 based on comic books.

Inhumans

Inhumans

What was originally set to be a series of Marvel films has now become a TV series with Inhumans on ABC. I never really collected any Inhumans comics so I don’t really know the core Inhumans story. I do know that the show will be the third Marvel series to debut on ABC with Agents of SHIELD entering its fifth season and Agent Carter being cancelled after two. I wasn’t a fan of Agents of SHIELD nor of Agent Carter but will still checkout Inhumans, if with a bit of trepidation.

What I do know about The Inhumans, and what I could glean from ABC’s marketing materials, has them as a race of super-powered people living in a hidden city on the Moon with the likes of Black Bolt who’s voice is so powerful it can destroy entire cities and Medusa with living hair. In the series, a coup on the Moon forces this ruling family down to the Earth to face life among us mere mortals and the rest of the Marvel universe characters.

The Gifted

The Gifted

The Gifted on FOX looks to take the X-Men franchise TV screens with a series about a family on the run after they learn that two of their kids are mutants with super-powers. Some X-Men characters are set to appear in the series but don’t expect Wolverine, Cyclops or Jean Grey to show up in The Gifted. Instead the likes of Polaris, Thunderbird and Blink will be the muties helping the family on the run.

Krypton

Syfy enters the superhero TV game with their series Krypton about life on Superman’s alien home-world decades before his birth. But like with The Gifted don’t expect the Man of Steel to swoop in during sweeps week to boost ratings on the show as Krypton follows Superman’s granddad Seg-El as a spry 20-something living and working on Krypton before the planet went and got all explody.

The Punisher

The Punisher

The Punisher, on Netflix, follows the character of the same name who originally began as an ally/antagonist on the series Daredevil before being spun-off onto his own show. Not much is known about The Punisher other than to expect to see him eliminating as many bad-guys as he can in 13 episodes.

Runaways

The Hulu series Runaways sounds interesting, but reports from the creators of the show make me wonder if it’ll be as interesting as I first thought? The comic series Runaways is about a group of teens who discover that a) they all have superpowers because b) their parents are all major super-villains who run a west coast crime empire. But the creators of the Hulu version have said that the series will be “the O.C. of the Marvel Universe” and that just because the parents are super-villains who quite literally sacrifice people, “that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all that bad.” Ugh, ugh, and double ugh.

Black Lightning

Black Lightning will join the CW stable of established DC characters like Arrow, Supergirl and The Flash this season with the title character who can harness electricity and must return to the superhero fold years after retiring.

Freeform, the old ABC Family, is set to debut two new superhero series next season with New Warriors and Cloak and Dagger.

New Warriors

Cloak and Dagger

When I was a teen New Warriors, a comic about a team a sort of teenaged X-Men, was one of my favorites. But this TV New Warriors isn’t an action series, it’s reportedly a half-hour comedy starring a character named Squirrel Girl, who’s, admittedly, really popular with the younger set these days.

Cloak and Dagger

In the comic Cloak and Dagger Cloak was a character of darkness and Dagger of light who were a team called, you guessed it, Cloak and Dagger. From the looks of it, the TV version retains the characters and their powers, but looks to be more Twilight, “they’re from two different worlds but are in love,” than X-Men “let’s kick Magneto’s butt” in tone.

Non-comic book series

I can’t tell you how weird it feels to write that. Literally a few years ago there weren’t any series based on comic books, now there’s so many I can’t even keep track. But even though there’s quite a few new superhero TV series to look forward to this season, there are a few non-superpowered shows debuting 2017–18 as well.

The Crossing

The Crossing

The Crossing on ABC has a small town becoming inundated when hundreds of bodies begin washing ashore from some disaster. But this disaster is something that’s going to happen in the future and these people are really refugees escaping to their past, our present, to find safety. The Crossing is a show I’m interested in as long as it doesn’t turn out to be another Lost where the goal is to spread the mystery of it out over as many seasons and episodes as possible rather than telling a coherent story.

Even The Crossing seems to have somewhat of a superhero element to it with some of the characters from the future possessing strange abilities far beyond that of mere mortal men.

There are a few interesting looking non-superhero series on FOX this season, the first of which is The Orville.

The Orville

The Orville

The Orville created by and starring Seth McFarlane of Family Guy fame is a live action comedic take on Star Trek. From the looks of things, The Orville is a sort of TV version of Galaxy Quest if the characters on Galaxy Quest were really the bumbling crew of a starship and not Hollywood actors playing them. I think The Orville is a great idea for a series, if I don’t think I laughed once at the promo that was released for the show a few months back.

Ghosted

If The Orville is a take on the movie Galaxy Quest then Ghosted also on FOX seems to be a take on the movie Ghostbusters. This time, instead of four scientists working together to bust ghosts, it’s, according to FOX, a skeptic (Craig Robinson) and true believer (Adam Scott) who’re the ones having to go around and do the busting as it were.

LA > Vegas

LA > Vegas

LA > Vegas has the most unique sitcom setting I can think of over the last few years. The show takes place aboard an airliner that makes a weekly round-trip between LA and Las Vegas with there being some regular characters of LA > Vegas including jet’s crew and people who travel to Vegas every week as well as new passengers each episode on a trip to lose money in the desert.

S.W.A.T.

The S.W.A.T. franchise has had a surprisingly long history. The original TV series of the same name debuted in 1975 with a feature film version in 2003 and a low-budget sequel released in 2011. And now comes a new S.W.A.T. TV series on CBS that’s set to premiere later this fall. CBS dramas aren’t known for their subtly and the promo for S.W.A.T. isn’t subtle with S.W.A.T police officers having gun battles in the streets one minute, smooching with their wives in the shower the next to dodging bazooka blasts a later that evening.

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery also on CBS has the most interesting path to series of any show in memory. This series has been around so long that I originally wrote about it in my 2016 TV preview. Star Trek: Discovery was supposed to premiere January 2017 but was then pushed back to May after execs realized that there was no way the series would be ready to air last winter. Then, a few months into 2017, they also realized that a May debut wasn’t going to happen either so the series was once again pushed back to September 24. Which looks like it’s going to happen since there’s been quite a bit of marketing released on the series including things like posters and online promos for the show.

But wait, there’s more.

Only one episode of Star Trek: Discovery will be shown on CBS with the remainder of the episodes then debuting over the next few weeks on the CBS All Access streaming service for residents in the US and Netflix for most of the rest of the world. Which seems like a bit of a misstep to me. I think CBS is eying fans of Star Trek and are just assuming they’re going to shell out $6 a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery because it’s Star Trek and fans of Star Trek will pay any amount of money to see anything labelled Star Trek. Now, I’m a fan of the Star Trek but I think most of what CBS offers is pure mung and can’t imagine shelling out $6 a month just to watch Star Trek: Discovery when there’s so many other things to watch on TV, especially around the time Star Trek: Discovery is premiering.

Here’s what I could see doing, though.

Star Trek: Discovery

If that first episode of Star Trek: Discovery that airs on CBS is good, if it’s intriguing enough for me to want to checkout the rest of the episodes — all of which is debatable since though I consider myself a fan of Star Trek none-the-less I really haven’t liked anything Star Trek since the late 1990s. If Star Trek: Discovery is interesting enough what I may do is wait until all the episodes are available on CBS All Access since they’re not all being released at once but instead over the course of a few months. And when they’re all available get CBS All Access for a month, binge them and then cancel my subscription.

But like I said that’s debatable. Star Trek: Discovery will have to be really good for me to want to do that and everything I’ve read about the show, from original series helmer Bryan Fuller exiting the series to CBS changing the look of Star Trek: Discovery from retro-Trek to something more futuristic makes me doubt that I’ll be in a big rush to checkout the rest of the series after it debuts in September.

Returning series

Because of the weird nature of TV I’m not quite sure what all current series are returning and when? Like both the series Legion and Westworld aired episodes in early 2017, but are only scheduled to return “sometime” in 2018, which might mean they’ll return in a few months or in more than a year. While there might not be a load of returning shows I’m interested in this season, those that are returning are really good and I don’t think I could be more excited about new episodes if I tried.

The Good Place

The Good Place

One show that is scheduled to return fairly soon is The Good Place on September 20. This NBC comedy about a woman (Kristen Bell) who dies and wakes in “the good place” but really was supposed to go to the bad one was the one new network show from last season that I liked that’s still around for a season two. I was surprised as to just how much a slow-burn The Good Place was, with each episode acting as a single chapter in a season-long story. My initial thoughts on the show was that it might be the most disturbing thing on TV since in the universe of the The Good Place 99.999% of everyone who dies goes to “the bad place,” and it’s only the supremely good among us that end up in “the good place.” So even the best of us are doomed. And in the show if Bell’s character is ever found out what happens to her? Does she get a one-way ticked to hell? I liked The Good Place enough to stick with it until the end, when a twist I saw coming from the very first episode hit that I was still surprised by made me change The Good Place from a show I liked to one I adored.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

The 2016 breakout TV series that I think surprised everyone, including myself, as to how good it was Stranger Things returns to Netflix for a second season October 27. Stranger Things is a show about the 1980s but isn’t about the 1980s, it just so happens to take place there and is this weird, cool mesh of horror and sci-fi I really wasn’t expecting when I first started watching it last summer. Stranger Things stars a mostly pre-teen/teen cast of actors who, after one of the group goes missing and a girl mysteriously appears out of nowhere, must go on a quest to rescue their friend. But be it starring kids and teens or not, the danger and violence of the first season of Stranger Things was palpable with characters being shot, consumed by monsters and cocooned alive to wait out a fate worse than death. I don’t want to say that the first season of Stranger Things was a perfect show, but it might be about the most perfect show fans of horror/sci-fi these days can hope for.

Black Mirror

This surprisingly long-lasting British anthology horror/sci-fi series returns for a fourth season on Netflix this year. It’s easiest to describe this series as a modern day The Twilight Zone, but it’s really its own thing. Generally, episodes of Black Mirror take place in a few years time and deal with our everyday technology gone amok. Be it a society that runs on social media “likes” or soldiers with computers in their heads doing battle with mutant people who turn out to be a little less “mutant” and a lot more “people.” Where Black Mirror excels is at this everyday horror aspect to our lives, it’s the answer to the question, “Do we control our technology, or does it control us?”

And now for the ones that return sometime in 2018.

The Expanse

The Expanse

The Expanse on SyFy channel remains the lone holdout on a network that’s supposed to be for fans of sci-fi that actually is a quality sci-fi show. Two seasons in and I’m surprised as to just how well The Expanse has progressed. What started as a sort’a conspiracy thriller set in deep space with the search for a missing woman has grown exponentially into a war spanning the entire solar system with a group of characters spread out between the Earth, Mars, the asteroid belt, Jupiter and now Venus. I think what I like most about The Expanse is that while the show has grown in scope, the focus has remained on most of the same characters from the first season with a few additions here and there. So while a similar series like Game of Thrones has grown to the point of being unable to contain its story in a single episode, The Expanse has remained grounded and feels much like the same show when it started while the bounds of the story had been let to expand.

Legion

Legion

Legion might be the most trippy series on TV — and one of the best. It’s a superhero show but is nothing like a traditional superhero show since the focus of Legion is on character’s mental states rather than who can punch the villain hardest. I’m not sure the construction of the first season of Legion is like any other series out there. Legion starts out with David Haller (Dan Stevens) living his life inside a mental institution who has these weird memories of his childhood. It seems like David can do these strange things, or maybe he just imagines that he can. As the series progresses we go in and out of David’s, as well as other character’s minds, to the point where we’re really not sure what’s real and what’s not. But in the universe that is Legion what’s real and what is not is not as important as what the characters believe is real or not.

Westworld

Westworld

To me at least, this year wasn’t a great one for original series on HBO. I’m not sure if I’m just aging out of the core HBO demographic, but in 2017 the only show I really cared about there was Westworld, and much like with The Good Place I didn’t think it was going to be very good when I first heard about it. I mean, how could it be? Westworld was delayed ages because of “script problems” and was based on a decades old movie about rich people who visit a theme park where they can do whatever they want to the robotic inhabitants there. And I mean whatever they want. But instead of simply following the model of the movie, the creators of the Westworld TV show also made its focus on the robotic characters of the park in addition to the wealthy visitors. These robots are doomed to unknowingly live the same day over and over again, on a loop with the park’s patrons treating them like toys to be shot or raped or murdered. The question of the Westworld series is, what happens if these robots start realizing their lives aren’t their own and want to claim them back?

The X-Files

The X-FIles

An eleventh season of The X-Files is slated to debut in 2018 on Fox even with the 2016 tenth season having the fans divided. Some thought that because episodes of the new The X-Files were essentially a continuation of the old, and were told in the same anachronistic 1990s fashion, the new episodes were no good when put up against other modern series. While others, myself included, thought that when people were screaming that they wanted more The X-Files, and when more episodes of The X-Files arrived on their TV screens, what did they think they were exactly going to get?

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

The AMC series that started off as just a prequel to the hit series Breaking Bad but over the years has evolved into something so much more Better Call Saul usually returns in the first quarter of the year. The last two years I’ve called Better Call Saul the best series on TV and so far in 2017 it’s still the best. This series has some of the best characters out there, be it sack-sack Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) who in the third season is well on his way to becoming Saul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Jimmy’s not yet right hand man who turned to the dark side last season and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), a woman who’d seemingly have it all together and a great life as a lawyer except she’s fallen into Jimmy’s orbit and ends up literally crashing and burning this season.




Direct Beam Comms #90



TV

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future

When it premiered this week back in 1987, the TV series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was on really early where I lived. If I remember correctly, this action-adventure series about a group of soldiers with power armor that gives them almost super abilities was on Sunday mornings at nine. And being that as a pre-teen there was no way in the world I was ever going to get up that early on a Sunday unless I had to, I ended up missing most of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was one of the rare late–1980s kids series that was live-action and had a line of toys the series was trying to sell. And the show had a gimmick to go along with the toys as well. If you were one of the lucky kids who had Captain Powers “Powerjet” or the evil “Phantom Striker,” during special parts of the show your toy could interact with the episode. Well, “interact” might be too strong of a word as you could use the toy to “shoot” at the screen and at certain points would be shot back and if hit your ship would “explode.”

At least that’s what was supposed to happen. I never got up early enough to watch the show, never had one of the vehicles nor knew of anyone who had the vehicles and watched the show either so whether or not that really worked is questionable.

Which is probably what doomed the series. Shows like Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future don’t really live or die by who’s watching them, they live or die by how many toys get sold when the series are on the air. And since the toys didn’t sell well — I remember seeing Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future toys on the clearance racks at toy stores well into the 1990s — the series got cancelled after a single season.

Standing in for nuclear apocalypse, in Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future it’s the future where robots have revolted, destroyed and taken over the planet leaving Captain Power (Tim Dunigan) and a handful of remaining armored soldiers to try and take it back. Each week they’d go on missions to try and destroy some thing or rescue some person from the robots.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I ended up watching Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future at all. It may have been a case of me catching a few episodes on TV when they aired as a special in prime-time and maybe ended up renting a few episodes on VHS too. I know me and my brother did have a few Captain Power action figures, but that was mostly because they fit well with our G.I. Joe collection.

A few years back I purchased the entire Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future series on DVD and to be honest, the show’s all right. It’s not bad but it’s definitely something that’s made for kids in mind and with Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future using then state of the art 3D effects for some of the robots and also adding these weird visual elements to make the toys work with the TV series has dated the show badly.

I do look back on episodes of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future with a bit of fondness, but it’s much like with a lot of other children’s TV series from the 1980s that I think fondly of now but don’t have much of a desire to revisit anytime soon.

The Punisher TV series spot

Black Mirror TV spot

Comics

Punisher: Suicide Run

In conjunction with the The Punisher Netflix series set to debut sometime this year Marvel comics is releasing a bunch of collected classic Punisher stories this year too. The first edition set to be released is Punisher: Suicide Run.

From Marvel:

Frank Castle stars in an explosive epic so big it took three titles to contain it! When the Punisher undertakes his most extravagant hit of all – collapsing an entire skyscraper on a group of crime bosses – he ends up presumed dead himself! A vigilante vacuum is created on the streets, and a number of psychopathic killers lay claim to the Punisher’s crown – and iconic chest symbol! Take your pick from the skull-masked Hitman, jaded cop Lynn Michaels, postal worker Desmond Kline, media-savvy author Dean Swaybrick or British Frank-ophile Outlaw! Bullets fly as the pretenders take on criminals and each other, learning the hard way that to step into Castle’s shoes is virtual suicide… But in all the chaos, will the one true Punisher make his return? Collects Punisher (1987) #85–88, Punisher War Journal (1987) #61–64, Punisher War Zone (1992) #23–25.

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1968: Kristen Cloke, Shane Vansen of Space: Above and Beyond is born
  • 1985: The TV series The Twilight Zone premiers
  • 1987: The TV series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future premiers
  • 1993: The TV series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. premiers
  • 1995: The TV series Nowhere Man debuts



Direct Beam Comms #46



TV

Black Mirror – Season 3, Episode 1: Grade B+

Until recently, the TV series Black Mirror wasn’t easy to see. Originating from the UK, other than a Christmas special that aired a few years ago on DirecTV, the six episode first and second seasons never officially aired anywhere here in the US. In fact, until Netflix picked up the series the only way for anyone on this side of the Atlantic to have seen any Black Mirror was via less than legal means.

new_star_studded_black_mirror_trailer_shows_social_media_gone_madBut luckily Netflix began streaming all existing episodes a few years back and even better last Friday debuted six new episodes for a third season of Black Mirror, the first of which is titled “Nosedive.”

“Nosedive” focuses on Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) who lives near-future in a place where how many “likes” each person gets determines their worth and status in life. Think how someone like one of the Kardashians lives their lives online and that’s essentially how everyone in “Nosedive” lives.

If you’re one of the popular people with lots of likes you get all sorts of free perks, if you’re less than popular doors literally remain closed for you and you’re barred from even going certain places. And because everyone’s trying to get the most likes Lacie’s world is a place where everyone dresses their best, looks like they’re ready for a photoshoot which they have to be since they’re all constant shooting selfies and is super-nice to everyone else lest they upset them and get down-voted.

Of course just under their veneer people still can’t stand other people, the food, though gorgeous looking is practically inedible and there’s constant discrimination based this underlying algorithm.

What struck me was at one point Lacie says something about how their society is structured, “That’s just the way it is.” Which people say today with a lot of things too like with FICO scores.

In “Nosedive,” Lacie has enough likes that she’s just on the cusp of becoming a tastemaker and sees her friend Naomi (Alice Eve) who’s got it all and more importantly loads of likes as the way to get there. But as Lacie tries to get to Naomi’s wedding her world begins to crumble as a cancelled flight sends her online rating to a nosedive.

Black Mirror is the first 21st century sci-fi series that actually gets what it’s like be swept up in all the technology of the 21st century and not know where it’s taking us. Sure, things like cell phones and computers and laptops and AI are great, but what’s the downside? And that’s where Black Mirror excels. Series creator Charlie Brooker has created a show that takes things we all have today and asks what happens if that technology doesn’t go wrong, but goes to a slightly bad place? What happens if things like “likes” become the new currency of discrimination or like in another episode criminal justice becomes so twisted and bent that by the end of one episode we’re actively rooting for the criminals?

That’s when sci-fi and specifically Black Mirror works so well whereas other modern sci-fi series does not. A lot of regular sci-fi series are all about exploring tropes of the past that were once relevant but are now not. Or are still relevant but don’t resemble anything like they used to in the past. Black Mirror on the other hand is so relevant and so now that I wonder if the series will be as connected with viewers in 10 years as it has to the jugular of viewers today?

And yes, it does strike me as ironic that I’m rating the episode much in the same way people in Lacie’s life “like” her. Then again it’s the times that we live in.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Grade: C+

If anyone were ever to try and pin me down I’d have to say that my favorite book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (HHGG) by the late, great Douglas Adams. I first read that book in a gigantic collection of all of Adams’ HHGG stories and tore through them as fast as I could. I think it’s Adams absurdist humor that appealed to me so much.

frodoEven with all of my love for all things HHGG and Adams non-fiction work as well I’ve so far never read Adams other book series based on detective Dirk Gently. However, when a new TV series was announced based on this character with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on BBC America my interest was piqued.

So I’m not sure what was taken from the Gently novels in this new series which means that I’m going into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency without a lot of preconceptions as to how it should be.

Here, Todd (Elijah Wood) is a sad-sack, down on his luck bellboy when he stumbles upon a murder at the hotel he works at. And investigating the murder is “holistic” detective Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) who quickly puts himself upon Todd and tries to recruit him to be his assistant. And the Todd/Gently stuff/story is actually pretty interesting. Todd is mostly normal while Gently is this weird eye of calm in this crazy storm of weirdness that constantly swirls around him.

Unfortunately there’s so many other things going on in the first episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency that all this extra stuff overwhelms the Todd/Gently story. There’s a “holistic” assassin driving around killing people, a missing woman, a group of skinheads who may be involved in the murder, a group of crazed guys who go around smashing things up, a CIA team surveying Gently, a police team surveying Todd and Todd’s sister suffering from a disease all introduced very quickly without a lot of time for story development. All this seems like elements that will be important over the eight episode season but right now feels really weird and very confusing. Especially since after having watched the first episode I really don’t know what the overall story of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is or what it will be?

From the commercials it seems like the first season will be the examination of the murder Gently was investigating and Todd becoming his assistant. But I feel like if Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency would have taken a page from the Doctor Who manual and gone with more self-contained episodes even if there’s a season-long story/mystery running throughout the stories it may have been better for the show.

OR — was Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency designed to be a series people can watch over the course of a weekend in one long eight hour bing? Maybe that would work better for the series? Except here in the US it’s being shown as a weekly show where there’s a 167 hour wait between episodes.

Still, I’ll be sticking with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency for the short term at least. I think Douglas Adams would have wanted it that way. 😉

Movies

Logan aka Wolverine part 3 movie trailer

“…the world is not the same as it once was.”

It’ll be interesting to see just how this movie fits in with the overall X-Men universe as a whole, especially since the events of Days of Future Past seemed to have made this bleak future impossible.

The Arrival final movie trailer

“What does it say?”

Books

The Art of Atari

Out this week is the loooooooooong awaited The Art of Atari book that collects many of the gorgeous illustrations that graced the packaging of Atari game cartridges of the 1970s and 1980s. In many ways those illustrations were better than the actual games since they were selling what those games could be, or what those games might be in the player’s imaginations rather than what the game would actually be like when played.

From Dynamite:

To usher in the new era of electronic entertainment, (Atari) hired an array of talented illustrators to emblazon game cartridges, boxes, magazine advertisements, and more with mind-blowing visions of fantasy and sports thrills, science fiction and adventure, that elevated pixelated gaming to the realm of high art. Art of Atari is the first official retrospective of the company’s illustrative accomplishments, spanning over four decades and cultivated from museums and private collections worldwide.

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1943: Michael Crichton, creator of Jurassic Park, Twister and the TV series ER is born
  • 1959: Sam Raimi, director of The Evil Dead and Spider-Man franchises is born
  • 1984: The TV series V premiers
  • 1984: Terminator opens in theaters
  • 1994: Stargate opens in theaters
  • 1996: The TV series Millennium premiers
  • 1997: Gattaca opens in theaters