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The best movie & TV posters of 2017



The best posters of 2017 were for the TV series Stranger Things.

Stranger Things

Not too many posters these days are illustrated. There was a time when all posters were, but that time ended with the advent of Photoshop where photos of the actors could be used in lieu of having an artist draw/paint them. But recently that’s changed a bit, especially with the company Mondo creating old-school illustrated posters. And to a certain extent Hollywood’s followed their lead and has produced a number of illustrated posters for big-budget movies. So it’s no surprise an outlet like Netflix would have one of their shows feature an illustrated poster too. What is surprising is how well the illustrated poster for Stranger Things turned out. Illustrator Kyle Lambert created this poster and the attention to detail on it is astounding. This poster manages to be both modern and have a classic 1980s movie poster touch at the same time.

I also like the non-illustrated posters for Stranger Things too. They all work together well as a set and evoke the theme of the series in just a few images.

Thor: Ragnarok

The posters for Thor: Ragnarok shouldn’t work, but they really do. The colors of them are hyper acidic and I get a sugar high just looking at them. I think what makes these posters work is that they still look like the standard Marvel movie posters, but because of the choice to use these colors make them unlike any Marvel movie poster that’s come before. I know I’ve always said I judge the best posters of the year based on whether or not I’d like to have them hanging on the walls of my office. But the posters for Thor: Ragnarok might be the exception to the rule. I adore these posters, but having to stare at them every day on the wall my be too much for my weak psyche to take.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Much like with the posters for Thor: Ragnarok, the posters for Star Wars: The Last Jedi don’t look like any other Star Wars poster I can think of yet still feel like posters for a Star Wars movie. To me the standard Star Wars poster has a bunch of characters on either black or white, and if the movie came out pre–2015 was probably illustrated by Drew Struzan. Except the posters for Star Wars: The Last Jedi look nothing like this. From the teaser poster to character to final, they have characters colored red on a while background. Which makes these posters totally different in the pantheon of Star Wars yet none-the-less still amazing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I’ve been in love with the playful designs of the Spider-Man: Homecoming posters since they started dropping earlier this year. These posters look like they’re capturing discrete moments in Peter Parker’s life balancing things as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man like hiding clothes in a backpack or getting ready to leap off a tall building along with being a regular New York teenager. I especially like one of the posters where Spider-Man is framed perfectly in the center of the image but the background is askew. The first time I saw it and noticed that, and realized the angle that Spider-Man’s really at and it literally made me a bit dizzy.

Star Trek: Discovery

I don’t know if it’s the colors, the blocky typography or the design of the USS Discovery on the poster, but I’ve been a big fan of the teaser poster for Star Trek: Discovery every since it debuted last summer.

Wonder Woman

I really wanted to include the teaser poster for Wonder Woman last year, but I like to include posters for movies in my best of review that premier in the same year as the review. So I sat on this poster for a long time. It’s so simple, with just a near-silhouette of Wonder Woman over an orange and blue sky with the words “Power Grace Wisdom Wonder” below. It’s practically the perfect poster for this movie.

Ghost in the Shell

The Ghost in the Shell movie might have been a disappointment at the box office, but this poster is anything but. It features star Scarlett Johansson becoming invisible via a suit utilizing futuristic technology over the garish neon-infested city the movie takes place in.

Legion

The poster for the FX series Legion, which features the mind of the main character of the series exploding into a nebulous pink/blue mass is the perfect summation for the awesome-weirdness that is this show.

Blade Runner: 2049

It’s interesting to see how the designers for the posters to Blade Runner: 2049 handled things since Ghost in the Shell deals with many of the same themes this film does. Here, they chose to focus on the main characters of the movie like Ghost in the Shell, but to present them in such a way that their photos are totally colored either an intense orange or blue with just the actor’s name and movie title below.

The Dark Tower

The minute I realized I was looking at a city upside down with the negative space of the sky actually forming another city outline from below with the characters of the movie standing in the sky as it were made this poster go from “oh well” to “oh WOW!” for me.




Why do I fall asleep when I watch Blade Runner?



Blade Runner (1982) is one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all-time. Under-appreciated when it was released, today it’s considered to be one of the most important films of the 20th century, sci-fi or otherwise. Currently, Blade Runner is listed as one of the “Top 250” movies of all time on IMDB and since its released he been available on all sorts of home media formats from Beta all the way to Blu-ray with it having a theatrical version, a director’s cut and a version known as “The Final Cut” too. It was directed by one of my favorite directors Ridley Scott and was based on a novel by one of my favorite authors Philip K. Dick.

But here’s the thing; I’ve never liked Blade Runner all that much.

Harrison Ford

In the 1990s there seemed to be endless magazine articles and TV news pieces about the genius of Blade Runner, how it set the trends for all sorts of movies from Se7en to The Matrix and how true fans of film totally appreciate it. And since I wanted to be a true fan I really tried getting into Blade Runner.

I remember watching it on broadcast TV in the 1980s and renting the VHS of the movie in the 1990s as well. One of the first movies I ever bought on DVD was Blade Runner and just a few weeks back I bought the movie again via digital download to give it one more try. But no matter what, I come away from Blade Runner extremely bored. Let’s put it this way, if I really want to take a nap I’ll put on Blade Runner and will be zonked out in a few minutes.

Some of the characters in Blade Runner

Even the time I bought Blade Runner a few weeks back I went in hoping that this was going to be the time I liked the movie. I’ve found with a few films that I didn’t like as a younger person I actually enjoy as an adult. But still, even this last time I was only able to make it to the very first scene in Blade Runner, where one of the androids is being tested by an examiner to find out if he’s real or synthetic. And about half way though that scene I thought that to watch Blade Runner was going to be more like work than enjoyment and bailed on the movie yet again.

I don’t mind movies that are slow, but Blade Runner is painfully so. There are long shots of cities, people’s eyes, people staring off into space and flames blasting from the tops of buildings to name a few of the slower scenes that stick in my head. And for a movie that’s officially a little less than two hours long to crawl as it does is a bit of a shock. Honestly, I thought Blade Runner would have clocked in at two and a half or three hours long, but just two hours is amazing.

Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford

And the plot of Blade Runner, in a hellish/futuristic Los Angeles in 2019 a detective played by Harrison Ford is assigned to “retire” androids who go on the run and try to extend their artificially shortened lives a bit sounds like a winner to me. And the visuals of that hellish/futuristic Los Angeles along with the costumes, flying cars and robots are amazing as well. But every time I come back to the movie it’s the pace of the film that makes me bail on it again and again.

And now comes an official sequel to Blade Runner 35 years after the original titled Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling with Harrison Ford reprising his role from the first movie. This version has a few things going for it. First of all it’s being directed by Denis Villeneuve who also directed The Arrival which I enjoyed a great deal and co-written by Michael Green who had a hand in the also-good movie Logan.

Still, I worry that the 21st century version of Blade Runner will be as plotting and slow as the 20th century one. Let’s put it this way — if the Blade Runner 2049 starts out with a slow scene of two characters talking to each other in a testing room, I might just get up and leave the theater.

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Direct Beam Comms #85



TV

Game of Thrones

I think I’m done with Game of Thrones. I’ve spent the last six seasons watching the show but the last few years I’ve welcomed its return less and less. It’s not that I don’t like Game of Thrones anymore, it’s just that it watching it has become a chore.

The stories of the first few season of Game of Thrones were much more contained than the ones in the series are now. At first there were stories of Winterfell, Westeros and the Targaryen’s across the sea and that was about it. And even then those stories were interconnected with the likes of the people of Westeros and Winterfell meeting and coming together to the point where there were really only two story locations for a while. But with each season the stories have fragmented more and more and more, to the point where no single episode of Game of Thrones can contain everything going on at once with stories having to be spread out between multiple shows. And even then some stories only get five or ten minutes an episode and one character even went missing an entire season only to pick back up with his story a year later since there wasn’t enough room for him.

With all this story weight meant that each season Game of Thrones started moving slower and slower to the point where in its fifth season, to me at least, there wasn’t enough story progression in it to hold my interest.

While things did pick up in the sixth season of the show, I started finding myself less and less interested in certain stories. So much of what Game of Thrones was last season was of characters who used to be together being off on their own adventures and since I wasn’t into each and ever character’s adventures I found myself more and more skipping through parts of episodes to get to stories that I was interested in. I’d generally stop at Tyrion stories but skip through Arya ones. And honestly by the end of the season I was pretty much only interested in Tyrion.

When I start using my DVR to skip through episodes of any series I know that my days of watching it are numbered.

I do think that if this were the last season of Game of Thrones I wouldn’t be writing this I would instead be watching the show just to see how it all ends. But this season isn’t the last, there’s one more left, and even then HBO is examining the possibility of spinning off the show into a variety of different series. All of which is fine, but at what point is the story of Game of Thrones only about continuing the story of Game of Thrones rather than coming to some sort of ending?

Everyone likes to make fun of soap operas, but at what point do self-perpetuating TV series like Game of Thrones become more soap opera-like than what they initially set out to be like smart, fantasy dramas?

Inhumans promo

Defenders promo

Krypton promo

Westworld promo

Stranger Things promo

Star Trek Discovery promo

The Gifted promo

Movies

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

One of the few movies I did see in the theater in 1987 rather than on VHS or cable was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. That summer I was watching my younger brother at home while my parents both worked and one week they gave us a little cash to get out of the house and go to a movie. I looked through the paper to see what was playing at the theater in riding distance to our house and the choices were Superman IV and Madonna lead Who’s that Girl. Being the mega-comic book fan that I was with a closed full of Superman back issues I, of course, chose to see, you guessed it, Who’s that Girl. I have no idea why I’d want to see that movie at all — in fact I’m relatively sure I’ve never seen it. I can only guess that it was because it would be easier to explain to my friends that I went to see a movie that starred then it-girl Madonna than a Superman movie, since at the time once you were a certain age you weren’t supposed to like superheroes or comics anymore. My mom used her parent veto and nixed the idea of my eight year old brother seeing Madonna prancing around on-screen in a fancy leotard and told us we were seeing Superman IV with Christopher Reeve prancing around on screen in his fancy leotard.

So, one weekday my brother and myself rode our bikes to the theater and saw Superman IV. When you’re a pre-teen kid Superman IV isn’t a terrible movie. It’s got the humous Lenny (Jon Cryer), Lex Luthor’s nephew, and even has ol’ Lex himself (Gene Hackman) back in the role he originated after missing out on Superman III. And let’s not forget Mariel Hemingway co-stars who was one of the most beautiful women on the planet in 1987 which didn’t hurt the movie either.

Looking back on Superman IV 30 years later, it’s a mess of a movie. Produced by Cannon Films known for such gems as Invasion USA and Over the Top, Superman IV was made on the cheap and looks that way. The movie is barely an hour and a half long and that includes both beginning and end credits with the opening credits being the looooooooong credits the Superman movies were known for back then. Christopher Reeve is back as the Man of Steel and a lot of the other cast members like Margot Kidder have returned as well. But other than Reeve the rest of the recognizable faces other than Hackman are in cameo roles at best.

A lot of the movies I’ve gone back and rewatched from 1987 might not be as good as I remember but they all have some sort of weird nostalgic appeal, and Superman IV is no different. Though I would argue that it’s the one movie I’ve watched that’s actually a lot worse than I remember.

The story of Superman IV is of Superman trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but in a devious plans Luthor uses Superman’s tossing all of the nukes into the Sun as a way to make Nuclear Man, a character created for the movie and so-far is his only appearance, in order to destroy Superman. Essentially, Superman IV is a smaller version of everything that had come before in the previous films. It’s almost a small-budget remake of Superman II in many regards with Superman battling one superpower villain instead of three. And since IV was made on the cheap all of the seams show.

Low-budget or not, Christopher Reeve gave it his all in Superman IV in what would be his last role as the title character. After the disappointment of Superman IV it would be nearly 20 years with the release of Superman Returns in 2006 until the character returned to the big screen. However, it’s not like there weren’t attempts at a new Superman movie after IV as most of the 1990s were spent with Tim Burton trying to get his version of the character off the ground in a movie that would have been called Superman Lives and then in the early 2000s there was another attempt this time with J.J. Abrams in another dead movie that would have been called Superman: Flyby.

If you are interested in finding out what happened behind the scenes with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace it’s chronicled in the 2014 documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) as well as in Jon Cryer’s memoir So that Happened. You can also find out what happened with Tim Burton’s aborted Superman movie in the 2015 doc The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?

Blade Runner 2049 trailer

Starship Troopers: Traitor Of Mars trailer

Justice League trailer

Thor: Ragnarok trailer

Books

Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art of Geof Darrow

I first became aware of the work of Geof Darrow in his incredibly detailed drawings in the comic mini-series Hard Boiled when I was a bit too young. That comic, an acid trip through a hellish, corporatized future where robots kill scores of people turned me on to Darrow’s work. Years later I found an amazing book on his artistic contribution to the movie The Matrix that is still one of my prized possessions and now comes another Darrow art book, Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art of Geoff Darrow.

From Dark Horse:

Geof Darrow’s slick, precise inks and stunning detail have amazed comics fans for decades, from his early work with Moebius to Hard Boiled, his first collaboration with Frank Miller, to the overwhelming success of his current series, The Shaolin Cowboy.

Now Darrow provides incredible insight into his process by sharing the pencil drawings behind his meticulous inks in a huge hardcover collection. Featuring well-known covers and never-before-seen drawings alike, Lead Poisoning is a behind-the-scenes look that reveals perfectionism at its best, showing how clean and perfect the initial drawings can be as well as the bizarre alterations that appear to happen on the fly.

Featuring commentary by Darrow and his notable peers, Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art of Geof Darrow is a hardcover that brings you right to Darrow’s drawing board.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1928: Stanley Kubrick, writer/director of 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange is born
  • 1956: Kevin Spacey, Lex Luthor of Superman Returns and Moon is born
  • 1957: Nana Visitor, Kira Nerys of of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1972: Wil Wheaton, Wesley Crusher of Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • 1983: Krull opens in theaters
  • 1986: Maximum Overdrive debuts
  • 1987: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace opens in theaters
  • 1990: The TV series Swamp Thing premiers
  • 1995: Waterworld premiers
  • 1999: Deep Blue Sea premiers
  • 2001: Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
  • 2013: The Wolverine opens in theaters



Direct Beam Comms #75



Rumor Control

TV

New series and finales

Since these “Direct Beam Comms” updates have started I’ve been reviewing new and returning TV series as well as finales here. When I began I figured I’d probably review one or two shows a month and that would be it. Boy, was I wrong. Since the end of November each week I’ve reviewed at least one new show or a finale, if not more. I don’t know if that was a fluke or a sign of the times that we live in but week in and week out there was always something to write about and it just so happens that last week was the first week in nearly six months that there were now shows I wanted to review. I mean, I could review the series Master of None that debuted on Netflix, but I decided that since it’s a show I really wouldn’t watch since I didn’t enjoy or finish the first season, it really wouldn’t be fair for me to review this new season when that review would probably have been negative so why waste the time and energy?

And looking forward there are a few other new shows like Master of None that I could review but probably won’t. 12 Monkeyson Syfy that’s entering its third season but I could never get into that time traveling show based on the movie of the same name nor will I review the Netflix series Kimmy Schmidt that I thought was all right but a bit bland.

And I wonder if I should review the documentary… err… I mean Netflix drama House of Cards too? That show is entering its fifth season in a few weeks but I’ve really only watched two seasons of that series. The amount of shows I’ve watched one or two seasons of before I got bored and stopped watching is absurd.

I have a feeling that after the fall finales of this TV season taper off later this month/early next it might get even lighter in the TV review department here. There are quite a few upcoming shows that I’m interested in seeing like the third season of The Carmichael Show, the second The Tunnel and new shows like The Mist and GLOW, but those are spread out over months instead of weeks like what happened the last half-year.

The Mist TV series commercial

Movies

1987 The Running Man

The Running Man

One movie from 1987 that I always liked, but never loved, is The Running Man. That film has almost everything going for it — The Running Man stars Arnold Schwarzenegger at the start of his height of action-hero fame, it’s based on a novel by Stephen King and the film was adapted by Steven E. de Souza who’s film just before this was the insta-classic Die Hard. Unfortunately, even at the time The Running Man looked a bit cheap and flimsy, even more so today with how glossy entertainment looks, so the movie hasn’t held up well the last 30 years.

Still, when I recently rewatched it earlier this year I was stuck as to just how the dystopian future depicted in The Running Man has come true today — heck, the movie’s even partially set in 2017.

In that future the most popular show on TV is the game show The Running Man. Now we’d call it a reality show, but that term hadn’t been invented in 1987 so the tried and true “game show” term was used back then. In this game show contestants run through the earthquake leveled streets of Los Angeles trying to avoid the “stalkers” who are out to kill them with everything being broadcast on live TV with a host and studio audience. These stalkers are vaguely superhero-esque, one’s even called “Captain Freedom,” but instead of helping the runners they’re out to kill them. If the runners make it to the end of the course then they are given their freedom and spend the rest of their lives living in luxury. But no one ever really makes it till the end.

It’s interesting as to just how much our current society kind’a sort’a mirrors that of The Running Man. From reality TV being the most popular programming out there to some of the biggest celebrities in the world being stars of these programs. Here it’s Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) the host of The Running Man and a man so powerful he has a direct line to the Justice Department. Even the idea of people being more obsessed with pop-culture than what’s really going on in society is a major focus on The Running Man.

In some ways, The Running Man is a sort of anti-The Hunger Games. In that one the contestants are seen as sort of lambs being lead to the slaughter with most of the population not caring for the games. In The Running Man the population hates the runners, and it’s only when the Schwarzenegger character starts winning against the stalkers, something that’s never been done before, that the public starts siding with him.

Still, even if the story of The Running Man had nearly divined the future, there’s no getting around how cheap the whole movie comes off. The film is visually more made-for-TV 1987 than big screen looking and I think that hurts its legacy a bit. I mean, if everything were the same about The Running Man EXCEPT it looked as good as other similar films from 1987 like Predator or RoboCop do I think people would talk about The Running Man in terms of being a classic film and would be studied in universities. Instead it’s seen as a b-grade sci-fi flick that just so happened to get a few things right about our present from 30 years ago.

Blade Runner 2049 trailer

Toys

Alien: Covenant alien monster figure

NECA is set to release a figure based on the creature from the upcoming Alien: Covenant movie at the end of June for a retail price of around $30.

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1955: Bill Paxton of Aliens, Predator 2 and Apollo 13 is born
  • 1980: The Empire Strikes Back opens
  • 1989: Miracle Mile opens
  • 1996: The TV movie Doctor Who airs
  • 1998: Godzilla permiers
  • 1999: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace premiers
  • 2002: The last episode of the TV series The X-Files airs
  • 2002: Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones opens
  • 2005: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith premiers



Direct Beam Comms #55



TV

People of Earth – Season 1: Grade: B+

I wasn’t totally sold on the TBS comedy series People of Earth when it premiered a few months back. The series about a support group for people who’ve been abducted, err…, experienced aliens where it turns out the members of the group really were abducted started off a bit too broad but within an episode or two found its footing.

Wyatt Cenac stars as writer Ozzie Graham who starts off the series as a journalist doing a story about the abductees but quickly finds himself at the center of things when he’s abducted. The group, lead by Gina (Ana Gasteyer) quickly welcomes Wyatt with open arms if everyone there has their own issues. But People of Earth isn’t just about the abductee group, in a hilarious twist it’s also about the aliens doing the abductions too. There’s bug eyed monster Jeff (Ken Hall), lizard Kurt (Drew Nelson) and dreamy nordic hunk Don (Björn Gustafsson) who go about their day snatching people and erasing their memories in order to prepare for an invasion.

In many ways, People of Earth reminds me of the series Community, not so much in tone but the idea of a group of disparate people thrown together who only have one thing in common and are forced to deal with each other. The characters are interesting and the interactions within the group on People of Earth are pretty funny too. I especially liked the character of Father Doug (Oscar Nuñez) who runs the church the group holds their meetings at. He’s not too interested in the group until one night he experiences something which sends him down the path of abandoning the cloth and getting his old fusion-jazz band back together.

But what’s funniest and best about the show are those aliens. They’re so workaday just doing a job who are a little in over their heads which makes People of Earth work so well. Plus, I’ve got to hand it for whomever did the makeup for the aliens, especially the one for Jeff. It’s a wonderful appliance with the piece covering his entire head that includes blinking eyes and everything.

Even though TBS has renewed People of Earth for a second season I’d be down for a Jeff spin-off series!

Movies

Blade Runner 2049 teaser trailer/announcement

“Replicants are like any other machine, their either a benefit or a hazard.”

Toys

Aliens – Foam Replica – 36″ Alien Skull

This replica skull of the monster from the movie Aliens is awesome. At first I wondered if I were to get it what I’d even do with it, but then I thought that it might make a cool Halloween decoration to scare the kiddies with. Then I saw the cost, $270, which is just a few hundred bucks out of my traditional Halloween decorating budget!

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1932: Nichelle Nichols, Uhura of Star Trek is born
  • 1980: Altered States is released
  • 1982: The Thing premiers in theaters
  • 1997: The Postman premiers
  • 1999: Galaxy Quest opens in theaters