Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #95



TV

Star Trek: Discovery

The ironic thing about Star Trek was that after the series Star Trek: Enterprise ended in 2005 I really got the feeling that Paramount had no confidence in the property whatsoever. At that time, before the launch of the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie, things were so bleak that there were reports that Paramount was getting ready to shut down the official Star Trek website.

Luckily that never transpired and while I didn’t care for them, the Abrams films resuscitated the property for a little while longer. Now, 12 years after the last new TV episode of Star Trek comes a new series, this time not shown in syndication, or on cable outposts like UPN or The CW but instead for the first episode at least on CBS; Star Trek: Discovery.

This seventh Star Trek TV series takes place after the events of Star Trek: Enterprise but before those in the original Star Trek. Starring Sonequa Martin Rainford as Commander Michael Burnham and Michelle Yeoh as Captain Han Bo, the promise of Star Trek: Discovery was to take turn an aging franchise into a modern TV series.

I hate to report that while Star Trek: Discovery might be a modern series, not much happened in the first episode that debuted on CBS. We’re introduced to the crew of the ship the USS Shenzhou that, on a mission to repair a Federation relay thingy uncovers Klingons hiding nearby. And as things go from bad to worse and one Klingon ship is joined by many and when Burnham tries to fire on the Klingons without orders to do so … the series goes to commercial with the message, “If you want more Star Trek subscribe to CBS All Access.”

So we’re left on quite a cliffhanger. And while I’d argue that this first episode of Star Trek: Discovery is probably better in terms of story than something like the first episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Voyager were, since the Star Trek: Discovery episode ends on a cliffhanger there isn’t much story present to hold things together and it ends feeling half done.

Star Trek: Discovery

And because this is the first half of what’s obviously supposed to be a single, two-hour long episode/movie. It means that in this first episode we never get to meet the crew of the USS Discovery nor most of the cast of the show who’s been pitching the series the last few weeks other than Martin-Green. There’s no Jason Isaacs, Anthony Rapp or Mary Wiseman who’ve been everywhere in marketing materials and in fact inexplicably the USS Discovery ship is totally absent as well. 100% of the episode here focuses in on the Shenzhou and its crew who, as far as I can tell, aren’t in the show after the second episode.

Which leaves me scratching my head a bit? If this first episode is supposed to sell the viewers on Star Trek: Discovery in order to get them to signup and get CBS All Access accounts, then why show only the first episode with a mostly different cast on a totally different ship where nothing much happens other than a tense standoff?

I liked Star Trek: Discovery and would be watching it every week if it were on CBS. But I don’t think the first episode of the show sold me enough on it to shell out $84 a year on the service just for Star Trek.

Inhumans

So far, Marvel hasn’t been able to match the quality of the movies in their TV series yet. Some of that has to do with the nature of films having much bigger budgets than a comparable episode of TV. For example, while a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy 2 might have a budget of something like $200 million, if reports are to be believed a comparable first feature-length episode of Inhumans might have a budget of $20 million. Now $20 million isn’t a minuscule amount, but it’s not nearly enough to deliver the spectacle that audiences have come to expect from the Marvel movies that are generally built around a few big action scenes with bits of story holding things together. The TV series with their smaller budgets simply can’t do that. Instead they have to rely on things like characters and story over big action scenes.

I think what hurts Inhumans the most is that it doesn’t have much action or story. There’s a lot of palace intrigue and when there are fight scenes they’re standard TV fare. But to the story of Inhumans was so over the top and heavy handed it was unintentionally silly at times.

In the Inhumans, inhumans who have all sorts of varying superpowers live and work in a secret city on the Moon hidden from the regular humans on the Earth. Inhumans started off as regular people, but after being exposed to the “Terrigen Mist” at some point fled to the Moon to escape persecution. There, during a ritual all teens are exposed to the mist to develop their powers.

On the Moon there are the haves like Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Medussa, (Serinda Swan) and Karnak (Ken Leung) who have powers like a super-voice, super-hair and the ability to win any fight and those who were exposed to the mist like Maximus (Iwan Rheon) but didn’t develop any powers. The have-nots are forced to work in the mines for some reason that’s never really explained. The haves live a life of luxury in a city that’s slowly running out of resources so Maximus hatches a plot to leave the Moon and take over the Earth but his planning is so shoddy he allows most of the main characters to escape his clutches and flee to the very planet he wishes to conquer.

Inhumans isn’t bad, it’s just boring. For a show that’s about a population of super beings living on the Moon and doing battle the first movie-length episode seemed to crawl at times where it seemed like nothing much happened. The special effects of the show aren’t movie-quality, but neither are they of lesser quality for other similar shows.

Honestly, Inhumans is pretty much what I expected from a modern-day ABC Marvel series where there are good guys and bad, and there’s never any doubt as to who is who.

Movies

Annihilation movie trailer

1922 movie trailer

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1923: Charlton Heston of Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and The Omega Man is born
  • 1948: Avery Brooks, Captain Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1959: The TV series The Twilight Zone premiers
  • 1968: Night of the Living Dead opens in theaters
  • 1987: Near Dark opens in theaters
  • 1988: The movie Alien Nation premiers in theaters
  • 1999: The TV series Roswell premiers
  • 2000: The TV series Dark Angel premiers



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 #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 #82



Movies

Near Dark

In 1987 there were two teen vampire movies, the first of which was The Lost Boys released at the end of July and the other was Near Dark in September. Both films are dealing with essentially the same subject of a young man being lured by a woman to become a new member of a vampire family but each movie approaches that plot in wildly different ways. While in many regards The Lost Boys is almost a perfect 1980s horror movie time capsule from actors used, fashion, soundtrack, etc. Near Dark instead was a horror film that took its inspiration from the southwest and cowboys with all the references those entail, and rather than being teen-friendly flick was instead a gory horror movie.

And while I’m a sucker for 1980s gory horror movies, I’m don’t think that Near Dark has stood the test of time the last 30 years. But I will say that two scenes in Near Dark* alone make it worth checking out that movie today.

Co-written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow who today is known for films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Near Dark is about Caleb (Adrian Pasdar). Caleb’s a cocky 20-something kid living with his dad and sister in Texas who one night is seduced by a woman named Mae (Jenny Wright), is bitten and is inducted into a family of vampires who roam the backroads of the south and pick off the stragglers of society in order to feed their need for blood. Headed by Jesse (Lance Henriksen) the family consists of members Dimondback (Jenette Goldstein), Severen (Bill Paxton), Homer (Joshua John Miller) and Mae. Giving off a Manson family vibe but in an RV, these modern vampires are on a road trip from hell stopping at every small town they cross to have a little fun and drain some people of all their blood. These aren’t the flashy vampires of The Lost Boys wearing cool, modern clothes. The vampires of Near Dark are dirty, smelly and have no use for modern society.

The crux of the movie is even though Caleb’s been turned to a vampire, he’s not yet a member of Jesse’s family until he’s killed someone on his own. And because the vampires need to feed is like a junkie’s need to get a fix, it’s all Caleb can do to not act on his impulses and end someone’s life for a little blood and cross over to the dark side.

To be honest, Near Dark is a decent movie, if a little too earnest in tone. The movie does have a surprising amount of blood and gore considering that it’s a film that’s directed at teens. But otherwise, Near Dark isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t a very good one either.

However, there are those two scenes that elevate Near Dark to something else.

The first scene is of the vampire family in a bar there to help Caleb make his first kill. Inside are a few patrons, and since you really can’t kill a vampire by conventional means the family are totally unafraid of anything the patrons can throw at them be it billiard balls or shotgun blasts. Don’t think this scene takes place in a melee of action. It’s a surprisingly slow burn as the people inside the bar think they have the upper hand on these crazy out-of-towers but slowly realize they don’t and finally are slowly, shall we say, consumed one at a time some frozen in place with fear.

The other scene is of a gunfight in a motel after the bar scene. Here, one of the patrons escaped the bar and has brought the police to the vampire’s room. The family aren’t scared of the cops and their guns, but what they are scared of is that the police have arrived during the day and daylight hurts them. So there’s this big shoot-out and the cops are shooting into the room and the family out. Bullets hurt the vampires but can’t kill them. What really hurts the vampires are the shafts of sunlight that’s let into the room from all the bullet-holes in the walls. These shafts hit harder than any bullet and hurt worse than any rifle shot. And at one point Caleb has to run out of the room to get the group’s car and catches fire before he’s able to get back into the shade and put himself out. Since he’s a vampire the burns hurt, but they go away.

Near Dark isn’t the perfect movie but it’s got a lot going for it, if you can look past a slow start and a head scratching “would that really work?” ending. In recent years marketing materials have shied away from those used 30 years ago, which featured a blackened, bloodied and shot full of holes Severen to instead feature the faces of Caleb and Mae doing their best imitation of the characters from Twilight. Now there are some elements of Romeo and Juliet in Near Dark like Twilight, but on the whole Near Dark is more The Evil Dead 2 than something sappy like Twilight.

I don’t think The Lost Boys* has either.

Logan Lucky trailer

TV

Halt and Catch Fire season 4 TV spot

Inhumans TV spot

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1945: Burt Ward, Robin, of Batman is born
  • 1978: The TV series Battlestar Galactica (the original series) debuts
  • 1985: Back to the Future premiers in theaters
  • 1995: Species opens in theaters
  • 1996: Independence Day opens in theaters
  • 1997: Men in Black opens
  • 2003: Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines premiers in theaters



Direct Beam Comms #74



TV

American Gods Episode 1: C+

There’s been a tendency of late for series creators to embrace the model of season-long stories. The old model of TV was that each episode of a show would have a story that has a beginning, middle and end so that each episode wasn’t connected to other episodes stories in any meaningful way. Recently, more modern series began embracing season-long stories where episodes did have a beginning, middle and end but also were a piece of a season-long story that was also playing out throughout the year. But now some shows have abandoned each episode have a beginning middle and end and have started treating each episode as a “chapter” in a season-long story. So episodes are only a part of a larger story are used in service of that.

Which, if done right like in The Wire or True Detective can make some wonderful TV. But, if done not so right can make for some confusing TV, like I experienced with the first episode of the Starz series American Gods.

Adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, the American Gods TV series was created by writer Bryan Fuller and Michael Green. Which I thought boded well for the show since Fuller adapted the heck out of the Hannibal story for NBC a few years ago and created a magnificent series in the process. That show about the early days of Hannibal Lector had episode stories as well a season-long story too. While this worked for Hannibal, with American Gods Fuller instead embraces the season-long story model which made for one weird episode of TV.

In the first episode, a guy named Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released from prison where he meets up with a guy named Wednesday (Ian McShane) who quickly puts Moon on his payroll of being his eyes and ears out in the world. It seems as if the gods of lore like Odin and new gods like Technology are real, and the new gods and old are on the brink of war with each other.

Except I didn’t get much of the gods plot from the first episode, that came from TV commercials for the show and reading up on the original novel. Most of the first episode of American Gods is about Moon trying to get to his wife’s funeral, Wednesday turning up in some unexpected places, the introduction of a few other gods and the weirdest human sacrifice put to film I’ve ever seen.

In fact, I don’t think that if I didn’t already know kind’a what was going in on American Gods that I would have had any clue as to what was happening whatsoever since the first episode, while beautiful to look at, had very little plot/story going on. While watching it I kept getting the feeling that people who’d read the American Gods book were also watching the show going, “Ohhhh, that’s the part where X happens and this is setting you Y down the road!” But to me I never really got a handle on what was all going on.

I get that the eight episodes of American Gods show will play out as a single story, it’s just how long do we have to wait until we get past the weird sex stuff and people being cut in half before we get to a little plot?

The Defenders TV commercial

Inhumans TV commercial

Comics

Creepshow

A new edition of the classic Creepshow graphic novel is back in print some 35 years after original was released. Creepshow collects all of the stories that went into the movie of the same name with illustrations from Bernie Wrightson, which that name alone is reason enough to pick this one up. I was a little too young to buy the graphic novel when it first came out and for whatever reason never bothered picking it up since so I’m really excited about picking a copy of this up as soon as its released.

From Simon & Schuster:

Now back in print: the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s Creepshow, based on the 1982 horror anthology and cult classic film directed by George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead)—and featuring stunning illustrations by the legendary Bernie Wrightson and cover art by the acclaimed Jack Kamen! A harrowing and darkly humorous tribute to the controversial and influential horror comics of the 1950s, Creepshow presents five sinister stories from the #1 New York Times bestselling author—“Father’s Day,” “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” “Something to Tide You Over,” “The Crate,” and “They’re Creeping Up on You”…unforgettable tales of terror to haunt your days and nights!

Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics Vol. 1 Hardcover

From IDW this week comes a collected edition of the Star Wars newspaper strips that ran from 1979–1984. This first edition runs from 1979 to the end of 1980 and has something like 575 panels from that period. I don’t know why but I’m a nut for these collected adventure strips and can’t wait for this one to come out, even if I think I’ve already got a lot of these stories somewhere when Dark Horse ran them collected in comic book form.

From IDW:

The first of three volumes that present, for the first time ever, the classic Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979–1984 in its complete format — including each Sunday title header and “bonus” panels in their meticulously restored original color. Initially the color Sundays and black and white dailies told separate stories, but within six months the incomparable Russ Manning merged the adventures to tell brand new epic seven-days-a-week sagas that rivaled the best science fiction comics of all time.

Movies

The Dark Tower movie trailer

Games

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 Board Game

I’m not much into board games, but I have to say that I’m very tempted to pick up the The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 board game by Mondo from subject-matter alone.

From Mondo:

An alien lifeform has infiltrated a bleak and desolate Antarctic research station assimilating other organisms and then imitating them. In the hidden identity game THE THING ™ INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31, you will relive John Carpenter’s sci-fi cult classic in a race to discover who among the team has been infected by this heinous lifeform. The game has been designed to be as authentically cinematic as possible, ensuring that the players will experience the paranoia and tension that makes the film so great.

Toys

Prometheus Action Figure Series – The Lost Wave

Nearly five years after they were originally due to be released, the final three toys from NECA’s line of action figures based on the film Prometheus are finally set to be released this June. The first three figures in the set that did make it to shelves included David, the alien creature known as the “Deacon” and an “Engineer.” The lead character of the film Shaw and characters Vickers and Fiefeld were set to be released later, but later turned into never when the line was cancelled after poor sales. But never let it be said that NECA didn’t sense a golden opportunity when the new movie Alien: Covenant was announced and suddenly these three “lost” figures suddenly became found and are now set to be available again this summer and will retail for around $70.

From Big Bad Toy Store:

The 7″ scale figures are entirely movie accurate and feature over 25 points of articulation. Vickers (Charlize Theron) comes with flamethrower and removable helmet. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) comes with axe, removable helmet and the android David’s severed head. Fifield (Sean Harris) comes with flashlight and removable helmet.

LEGO® Ideas 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V

This new Lego Apollo Saturn V rocket stands a whopping three feet tall, contains all three rocket stages as well as the command module, LEM and three micro figures. The kit will retail for about $120 and will be on sale the first of June.

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1971: Morgan Weisser, Nathan West of Space: Above and Beyond, is born
  • 1973: Soylent Green opens in theaters
  • 1984: Firestarter debuts
  • 1986: Short Circuit opens
  • 1989: The Return of Swamp Thing premiers in theaters
  • 1994: The Crow opens in theaters
  • 1994: The TV mini-series The Stand premiers
  • 1995: The Fifth Element debuts in theaters
  • 1998: Deep Impact opens in theaters