Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #87



TV

Manhunt: Unabomber

True-crime series are very “in” these days and now comes a Discovery Channel true-crime drama Manhunt: Unabomber which began last week. If you’re not aware, between 1978 and 1995 the “Unabomber,” a man named Ted Kaczynski, send bombs through the mail to people at universities, airlines and other organizations killing three and wounding 23. Since Kaczynski was very good at covering his tracks he was able to get away with bombings for nearly two decades before he was captured by the FBI.

The first episode of Manhunt: Unabomber deals with recently graduated FBI profiler Jim ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) who’s brought onto the Unabomber task force to create a profile of the killer in the late 1990s. But what the FBI really want is for Fitz to tow the company line and expand their already moldering profile to something longer and more media friendly. But Fitz full of “piss and vinegar” instead wants to start from scratch and redo a profile from the ground up. Which is met with a lot of hostility since at that point the FBI had been developing profiles on the bomber for nearly 20 years and were still no closer to catching him than they were in the late 1970s. But Fitz is firm on it either being his way or no way and when the Unabomber’s manifesto is released, giving the FBI much more material than they ever had before to create a profile, Fitz gets his way in creating a new profile to help the FBI catch the killer.

Which they do — it’s in the history books so I’m not spoiling anything but the FBI does end up catching the Unabomber and putting him in jail for life. That being said, I was interested in how the creators of Manhunt: Unabomber was handling the story of the Unabomber and they pace at which they were telling it.

For example, in the first episode we really don’t get to see the Unabomber at all. We do see him typing things and a few shadowy glimpses of a figure, but we never get to see his face which I thought was brave. With a show like Manhunt: Unabomber you just know one of the major acting roles in the series is going to be that of the bad-guy, so to not show him in the first episode, played by Paul Bettany in later episodes, took some guts. It has the effect of putting us, the audience, in the “heads” of the FBI who at that point didn’t know who the Unabomber was or even what he looked like other than from a witness sketch that was drawn years earlier.

I think Manhunt: Unabomber is closest in tone to the film Manhunter (1986). In each there are FBI agents trying to develop a profile of a serial killer, an FBI agent who walks the scene of a crime at night talking to himself to help develop a profile and the idea that the villain isn’t around for a good chunk of the start of the piece. But I mean this in a good way. If a TV series creator is going to find inspiration in something, they could do much worse than to find inspiration in something like Manhunter.

The big difference between Manhunt: Unabomber and the other true-crime series like Serial, Making a Murderer and The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story is that part of the story of those true-crime documentaries and drama is that there’s a question on whether the person arrested for the crime is guilty or not. In fact, that’s pretty much the whole theme of Making a Murderer. But that’s not going to be present in Manhunt: Unabomber since when they caught Kaczynski there was never any doubt on who did that crime. So, I’m assuming that most of the eight episodes of Manhunt: Unabomber will be to find a reason why he built bombs and killed people, rather than there being any question as to “who done it.”

The Guest Book

2017 has been a very interesting year for sitcoms. There’s been a variety of series like People of Earth about a support group for people abducted by aliens, The Santa Clarita Diet about a zombified wife/realtor and even the now cancelled The Carmichael Show that’s a sometimes twisted look at life in the 21st century from the perspective of an African American family. And now comes the new series TBS The Guest Book by Greg Garcia who also created the series My Name is Earl and Raising Hope.

This comedy series about a rental cabin at the top of a mountain has the hook that each episode features different visitors to the cabin with a different story played by different actors each week while the locals, played by the likes of Garret Dillahunt, Kellie Martin and Charles Robinson remain the same. The first episode featured Tim and Sandy (Danny Pudi and Lauren Lapkus) a young couple with a troubled marriage who rent the cabin to spend a weekend away from their baby who’s marriage gets even more troubled after Tim’s visit to a strip club is recorded with the owner threatening to show the tape to Sandy if Tim doesn’t pay $700.

I enjoyed the first episode of The Guest Book a great deal and am very interested in seeing how this series unfolds with half of a different cast each week. I think it’s a great idea for a sitcom that hasn’t been tried in a while — even if HBO recently debuted a drama series about a motel room with a rotating cast called Room 104 the other week. Mostly, I’m just happy to see Garcia having another series on TV since I’m a big fan of his style of TV show.

Mindhunter promo

Narcos season three promo

Movies

Masters of the Universe

I kind’a feel like I shouldn’t be including Masters of the Universe in my reviews of movies that came out in 1987. Whereas with every other movie on this list I either liked at the time, like now or can see some glimmer of something interesting in the film looking back on it. With Masters of the Universe I thought it was a bad movie in 1987 and I think it’s a bad movie today.

I was exactly at the right age to love the Masters of the Universe toys when they debuted in 1982 and was a huge fan of the cartoon series when it debuted a year later. I used to run off the bus each day after school to watch our local kid’s show Happy’s Place that featured that animated series. And over the years I had many He-Man toys and remember friends of mine having many more. But while I might have been exactly the right age for the Masters of the Universe toys, I was exactly the wrong age for a He-Man movie. In 1987 I was at the age of transitioning out of playing with toys and wasn’t too interested in seeing a feature film about toys.

Still, it must’ve been in either late 1987 or 1988 that we rented Masters of the Universe on VHS and I finally saw the movie. Which to say was a letdown from even my low standards at the time wouldn’t be an understatement.

With the classic Masters of the Universe toys and cartoon, much of the action takes place on an alien planet known as Eternia with He-Man and allies like Man-at-Arms and Teela doing battle with evil Skeleton and his minions like Beast Man and Mer-Man. It was simple stuff, good vs evil but it worked for the pre-teen set. But because I’m assuming budget reasons, most of the Masters of the Universe movie takes place not on far-off Eternia but on a 1987 Earth. Here, He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) and his allies accidentally arrive on the Earth after Skeletor (Frank Langella) conquers Eternia. And on the Earth He-Man teems up with two teens, one of which is played by Courtney Cox, in order to keep Skeletor from conquering the Earth next.

Masters of the Universe was another Cannon Films movie that also produced Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and much like with that one Masters of the Universe looks very cheap. Though it is ironic that the movie Aliens made a year earlier had a reported similar budget to Masters of the Universe and looks many times better than Masters of the Universe does. So when people complain that Masters of the Universe didn’t have a good enough budget I wonder if it’s more it didn’t have a good enough production team for the movie?

Masters of the Universe would mark the end of movie studios trying to turn 1980s cartoon properties into feature films — for a time anyway. With animated Transformers: The Movie having flopped in 1986 and G.I. Joe: The Movie not even getting a theatrical release in 1987 and the live-action Masters of the Universe having also flopped in late 1987.

While both Transformers and G.I. Joe saw live-action movies in the last few years with two Joe movies and five Transformers films, so far the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie is the only one from that line.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1960: David Duchovny, Fox Mulder of The X-Files is born
  • 1968: Gillian Anderson, Dana Scully of The X-Files is born
  • 1981: Heavy Metal permiers
  • 1985: Real Genius premiers
  • 1985: My Science Project debuts
  • 1986: The Transformers: The Movie (1986) opens in theaters
  • 1987: Masters of the Universe opens
  • 1989: The Abyss opens in theaters
  • 1995: Escape from L.A. opens
  • 1999: The Iron Giant premiers



Direct Beam Comms #62



TV

Legion – Episode 1 Grade: A

We may have entered a second phase of superhero movies/TV series with the debut of the FX series Legion last week. Most superhero movies/TV series have always focused on the good guys vs the bad guys. Captain America against Hydra, Flash against Gorilla Grodd, Batman vs Joker. But Legion, along with the likes of last year’s Deadpool, does something different with the genre. It takes what has come before, turns it around, mixes things up and presents the story as something new and unique.

In Legion, David Haller (Dan Stevens) is in a mental institution as he has begun to lose his grip on sanity, hearing voices which drove him to attempt suicide. In the asylum, he meets Sydney Barrett (Rachel Keller), another patient who shows David that he might not be as crazy as he thinks he is. That these voices and his apparent ability to make things move with his mind might be something more. The word “mutant” is never uttered in Legion, but if you’ve read the X-Men comics or seen the movies you’ll know where this one is coming from.

David escapes the asylum but is kidnapped and taken by a shady government organization headed by some seriously creepy dudes who question him about his abilities, and give off the definite vibe that if they don’t like David’s answers they’ll kill him. But can David trust this reality? Is he really on the outside doing battle with these evil forces, or is everything that’s happening to him all happening in his head back at the asylum?

Created by Noah Hawley (Fargo), Legion feels like it’s a series where the creators have taken in decades worth of comics and movies and have distilled all this with other elements from pop-culture like a Wes Anderson/Stanley Kubrick aesthetic mixed with the tone and nonlinear storytelling techniques used in things like the TV series Hannibal. The first episode of Legion starts during the present and flashes to different points in David’s past. From when he was an infant, to an out of control teen and to his time in the asylum. And all these timelines play out during the episode which works brilliantly. I don’t think anyone would mistake Legion for another superhero series like Arrow or Agents of SHIELD since Legion doesn’t look or feel like any superhero thing that’s come before.

Which makes me really excited for Legion and the future of superhero movies/TV series in general. I’m a fan of anything superhero and have been most of my life. I’m going to love just about any superhero movie or TV series, or at worst give them a pass. But it makes me wonder how many movies like Batman vs Superman that people who don’t give anything superhero a pass are going to take before they stop going to them? What gives me hope is if superhero movies/TV series can evolve and change like Deadpool and Legion did/are, and hopefully the upcoming Logan movie might be, maybe I don’t have to worry about a coming superhero movie collapse and me with nothing to watch?

24 Legacy – Episode 1 Grade: B-

TV show revivals are popular these days. Last year FOX brought back The X-Files and later this year will premiere new episodes of Prison Break. But their latest revival series 24: Legacy is kind’a a spin-off, kind’a a remake and kind’a a continuation if the original 24.

24 Legacy follows the structure of the original series with each episode taking place in “real time” with the hero, this time ex-Army Ranger Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) in the lead, racing around trying to stop terrorists before they can launch some attack. I swear I tried watching each new season of the original 24 with an open mind, but the longest I ever lasted was about six episodes in the first season. I could never get past the idea that events in the show are taking place in “real time” which meant people would be able to drive through city traffic that should take hours instead of minutes while at the same time having running machine gun battles all around town with seemingly no one noticing. I even remember one season where a terrorists set off a nuke in LA. Now if that happened today I’d suspect everyone in town would be hitting the roads heading for the hills, yet that kind of stuff never seemed to happen in 24.

And unfortunately 24: Legacy seems to essentially be the same 24 with subtle variations.

This time, terrorists are tracking down six members of an Army Ranger squad who killed one of their leaders in a Osama bin Laden Zero Dark Thirty style raid. The bad guys aren’t looking for revenge, but are looking for a lock box that contains a something that I’m sure this will be revealed in later episodes. Regardless, while four of the Rangers and their families are murdered by the terrorists, they didn’t count on Carter and Carter’s wife who together take out a terrorist team who breaks into their house looking for the box. And since the only people who knew Carter’s and the other Ranger’s identities were the leaders of the CIA, FBI and CTU, the only person Carter can really trust is ex-CTU head Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto) who thought she was out, but was pulled back.

24: Legacy is entertaining if a bit vapid. The stories for over 200 episodes of 24 never seemed to vary too much; terrorists want to blow something up and it’s up to one dude to stop them, which all becomes very repetitive. And by the looks of it 24: Legacy seems to be following the same mold.

24: Legacy isn’t bad TV, it’s just average ordinary TV.

Stranger Things season 2 TV spot

The Americans season 5 TV spot

Iron Fist first season TV spot

Comics

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips

Out this week is He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips that collects all four years of something I never knew existed.

For over four years, Masters of the Universe had its own newspaper comic strip! This story continued the tales from the Filmation cartoon and bridged the saga to the space-themed New Adventures of He-Man cartoon relaunch. The comic strip only ran in selected newspapers and was never reprinted, so most fans have never read it … until now!

The Forever War

Titan Comics begins reprinting the long out of print and now very expensive The Forever War comic series written by Joe Haldeman and illustrated by Marvano. Forever War is my all-time favorite book so I bought the first comic collection when it was out decades ago the last time the series was published but am seriously excited about this new comics series.

An epic SF war story spanning space and time, The Forever War explores one soldier’s experience caught up in the brutal machinery of a war that reaches across the stars.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1957: LeVar Burton, Geordi of Star Trek: The Next Generation is born
  • 1975: The Stepford Wives debuts
  • 1975: Zardoz opens
  • 1988: Smeg! The TV series Red Dwarf premiers
  • 1989: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure opens in theaters
  • 2000: Pitch Black premiers
  • 2009: The TV series Dollhouse premiers



Direct Beam Comms #10



Art

Meghan Hetrick

I’d never heard of artist Meghan Hetrick until last week, but I really dig her style of pen and ink and markers for color.

Super Bowl movie trailers

X-Men: Apocalypse: The X-Men is probably my favorite superhero group and I grew up reading X-Men comics in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And the latest retro X-Men: Apocalypse movie is going to be set in that time period and feature characters from those two decades so I’m really excited about this movie. What makes me the most concerned is once again this is a super hero movie about a group of heroes facing off against a villain who’s bend on world domination/destruction as per seemingly every super hero movie these days.

Captain America: Civil War: I find it interesting how the Marvel movies are almost a “greatest hits” version of the comics that were almost a “greatest hits” version of previous comic stories. What I’m most excited about here is that Marvel seems to be shaking things up a bit. There’s no main bad guy in Civil War threatening to destroy the world (see above.) Instead, Captain America: Civil War is about when the people who used to be teammates are forced to confront one and other when ideologies diverge. I did get goosebumps here from the image of Cap and Bucky teaming up again for the first time since WW2.

Jason Bourne: I’ve been a big fan of the Jason Bourne movie franchise since The Bourne Identity in ’02. That being said, the first movie was great, the second was better but the third was just alright and the fourth, where lead Matt Damon was replaced with a new character played by Jeremy Renner, was bad. So I have high hopes for the next Jason Bourne which reunites Damon and co-writer/director Paul Greengrass who departed the series after the third movie.

Toys

With the annual Toy Fair happening this weekend in NYC there’s going to be a lot of upcoming toy news and there’s already been a bit of toy news out there.

First up USA Today posted some images and information on new Batman: The Animated Series toys due out this year and next. Figured include Batman Beyond, The Dark Knight Batman, Robin and the Mutant Gang leader and more. Unfortunately, these sets run $50 for three figures, $80 for the “girl’s night out” set of four figures and a whopping $45 for a single Joker Christmas figure.

The new line of Matty Collector Filmation-style He-Man figures are awesome. They’re the perfect mix of looking like how I remember He-Man and his friends looked in the show with a few nice points of articulation. And it doesn’t seem like the price is astronomical with them being about $25 per figure retail.




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.