Resin Heroes

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



Direct Beam Comms #52



TV

Ash vs Evil Dead – Grade: B+

The second season of Ash vs Evil Dead debuted back in October, so I’m a little late in reviewing this one. But that’s because I don’t get Starz, the network that airs this series, so I had to wait for a free preview weekend to catchup on this show.

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 2016I loved the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead from last year but with one caveat — the last 10 minutes of the last episode didn’t fit with what had come before whatsoever. So, rather than going into the this season as excited as I’d normally be instead I went into the latest Ash vs Evil Dead with a bit of trepidation. The good news is that it seems like the writers did a quick course correction on the show and brought things back into line. The bad news is, well, I’ll get to that here in a bit…

The second season of Ash vs Evil Dead opens a few weeks/months after the end of the first. Ash (Bruce Campbell), Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) are living the a wild frat-boy 24/7 party live in Jacksonville, Florida when the truce they had with the evil things brought forth via the Book of the Dead from the first season is unexpectedly cancelled throwing the trio back into the fight and on the lookout for current possessor of the book Ruby (Lucy Lawless). They find themselves in Ash’s Michigan hometown where he’s known as “Ashie Slashie” from the what all happened in The Evil Dead (1981). Just when the trio are about the close in on Ruby and get the book back they find that things aren’t as clear as they seemed down in Jacksonville.

One thing I really appreciate about Ash vs Evil Dead is just how much abuse the actors of the show, and stunt people, take each and every episode. If the actors aren’t being covered in gallons upon gallons of blood, bile or pus, then the stunt people are being catapulted across rooms to crash through windows or onto walls. In an age where seemingly every stunt is done totally by CGI the ones in Ash vs Evil Dead are truly something to appreciate. And the story this season, of Ash returning home where he’s not welcome, even by his dad Brock (Lee Majors) is unexpected and clever as well.

The bad news, I don’t think Ash vs Evil Dead is going to appeal to anyone who’s not already in love with Ash or the whole Evil Dead franchise or doesn’t appreciate the seemingly never-ending gore/buckets of blood that permeate each episode of the show. Then again, if you don’t appreciate Ash vs Evil Dead then I don’t think we can be friends. 😉

Incorporated – Grade: C

incorporated-syfyThe first episode of the sci-fi series Incorporated aired last week on SyFy. The series takes place about 60 years in the future where a warming climate has changed weather patterns that caused chaos around the globe leading to the fall of most governments with mega-corporations stepping in to fill in the void. Now there are haves like Ben (Sean Teale) who lives in gated communities, get the best food and generally don’t have to interact with the lower classes who live in septic, crime ridding slums. But Ben is hiding a secret that might threaten his comfortable life.

Incorporated has an interesting premise but fails in a big way in that the creators of the series essentially built their show by taking elements from other sci-fi movies to construct their own. So, instead of writing a traditional review I’ve decided to record all of the elements Incorporated “borrowed” to construct their own series that I happened to catch.

  • RoboCop: Corporations are now more powerful than governments.
  • Starship Troopers: People need a license to have kids.
  • Dredd: There’s a drug that once taken causes people to experience life in slow-motion.
  • Gattaca: A person from the lower-class is trying to break into the upperclass by hiding his identity. Also, blood is drawn by an automated finger prick to determine one’s identity.
  • Running Man: Kids and teens are indoctrinated to join corporate armies/security forces.
  • Johnny Mnemonic: There are corporate assassins.
  • Elysium: Because of climate change, the slums of cities now resemble desert wastelands.
  • Aliens: The ties businessmen wear have changed and are futuristic/odd looking.
  • Minority Report: Computer displays are now so advanced that they’re everywhere and nothing looks like screens anymore. Also, cars and now driverless to the point that passengers no longer face looking forward, they now look at one and other in order to better converse.

So, rather than watch Incorporated I’d recommend checking out the movies that the series took from instead.

The Expanse season 2 TV spot

Movies

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer

Cool Sites

  • Lost Minis Wiki: Lost Minis Wiki is a non-profit site dedicated to identifying, photographing and documenting fantasy miniatures.

The Reading List

On the Horizon

Last week I completed and turned in my last article of 2016 — “The Best TV Series of 2016” which will be published on December 16 via this site and The Fort Wayne Reader. I always start off each year thinking, “How in the heck am I ever going to think of enough things to write about this year?” Yet somehow I always do. I’ve already started mapping out dates and things to write for next year and am coming up with things to write about throughout the year. Since we seem to be getting more and more horror, sci-fi and comic book TV series and movies each year it means that I’ve already got more than half of my 2017 articles already planned out throughout the year. Which does concern me a bit since if I’m already planning on writing about things like the upcoming Power Rangers, Mummy and IT movies, am I making it so that I’m less flexible on what I can and can’t write about if something interesting comes out of nowhere? I think probably not since just because I’m planning on writing about something, doesn’t mean that I’ve actually written it, so I suppose I do have a bit of flexibility that way. And I remember a time too when I had to come up with alternate article ideas like “Disaster Du Jour” to be able to write about things when I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Now the problem’s almost that I have too many options and not enough weeks!

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1952: Michael Dorn, Worf of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1979: Star Trek: The Motion Picture opens in theaters
  • 1984: 2010 is released in theaters
  • 1989: The last episode of the classic Doctor Who (the original series) airs
  • 2003: The TV mini-series Battlestar Galactica debuts
  • 2011: The first episode of Black Mirror airs
  • 2013: Oblivion debuts in theaters



Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 poster



ash_vs_evil_dead_ver3_xlg




Bruce Campbell as Ash in Army of Darkness



armyofdarkness




Direct beam comms #4



TV

Is it just me, or is the Netflix series Jessica Jones just a hard-drinking darker version of Veronica Mars (2004–2007)?

 

I was recently able to catch up on the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead and am happy to say that it’s GREAT. Horror comedies like Ash vs Evil Dead must be hard to pull off since there sure aren’t many of them. Let’s see, there’s the Evil Dead series, What We Do in the Shadows and Shaun of the Dead movies, parts of Tucker and Dale vs Evil and … well, that’s about it.

And Ash vs Evil Dead isn’t JUST horror/comedy either, it’s got a lot of heart too which surprised me.

The one thing is that I’m not quite sure how Ash vs Evil Dead fits with the Evil Dead cannon as a whole? It’s almost like in the Ash vs Evil Dead universe The Evil Dead (1981) didn’t happen but Evil Dead II (1987) did. And either they’re ignoring Army of Darkness (1992) or they just haven’t gotten to the part where Ash is, “Trapped in time, surrounded by evil and low on gas,” yet.

Movies

Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I was really excited about this one when I saw the first trailer. It seemed that Disney and J.J. Abrams were taking what made the original trilogy great and and molding this into a new film series. After seeing The Force Awakens, I thought the movie was really good but my two complaints are that a lot happens in the film that’s pure coincidence and The Force Awakens is essentially a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope with a dash of The Empire Strikes Back but with everything being BIGGER and more bombastic than before. Most of the beats from A New Hope are present in The Force Awakens which is fine, but I just wish Abrams had gone and done more of his own thing than making a “greatest hits” movie like he did here. B+

Ex Machina: It took me a while to see this one even though several friends highly recommended it to me the last few months. Writer/director Alex Garland is one of the best voices in realistic sci-fi/horror like with 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd and he continues his winning streak with Ex Machina, about the creation of the first artificially intelligent being that might be a little too intelligent for mankind to contain. B

Fantastic Four (2015): Do we really need any more superhero origin movies? Not that we don’t need origin stories for superheroes, just that is there really a need anymore to devote an entire movie to origin when there’s plenty of more interesting ways to do that? Like Iron Man is an origin story but is told in such a way that much of the origin is covered in the first half of the movie and the more recent Ant Man handles his origin by having it be something that’s slowly uncovered over the course of an adventure rather than devoting an entire film to it which Fantastic Four does.

In fact, the actual Four don’t get together until nearly the end of the movie. It’s the film that’s essentially an advertisement to the forthcoming sequel that looks kind’a interesting that’s never going to happen since the first movie didn’t do well enough at the box office.

Fantastic Four isn’t a bad movie, it’s just that in an era of great superhero movies it doesn’t stand out in any substantial way. C

Books

I got the books Sketching from the Imagination: An Insight into Creative Drawing and Art of He Man and the Masters of the Universe this year for Christmas. Sketching from the Imagination is a look at the sorts of techniques different artists use when sketching for fun or work while Art of He Man is a visual history of all the art generated behind the scenes when coming up with a toylike then maintaining it over the years with new toys and playsets.