Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #69



TV

Legion season 1 Grade: A

We live in a golden age of TV where there are literally hours and hours and hours of good TV series to watch each week. So much so that even “good” TV shows nowadays seem to be average. Still, every once in a while there’s a really great TV show, something so good it stands out from the rest of the pack. The first great new TV series of 2017 is Legion that just wrapped up its first spectacular season on FX.

Legion might also be the best comic book TV series ever as well. It’s certainly the first comic book TV series that doesn’t seem to be constantly embarrassed that its source material is a comic book.

The first season story of Legion was of psychiatric patient David Haller (Dan Stevens) who slowly discovers that the voices in his head might be something more than mental illness, they’re something much worse than mental illness. So David and another patient Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) go on the run, find others like them who want to help while also running from a quasi-government agency who sees David as a threat to global security, at one point his powers are referred to as being a “world-breaker,” as they all get to the bottom of what’s going on inside David’s head. And what’s going on isn’t nice — in fact it’s a lot evil.

Too many comic book TV series (and movies too) seem to take great shame in the fact that they’re based on comic books. How many of them are too embarrassed to say, “Based on a comic book” but instead go with the term “graphic novel” instead, of which none of the modern TV series or movies are. Worst of all these tend to either focus only on the dour, depressing parts of the comic books or trying to put them in a world so realistic that the superhero elements don’t quite fit. The creators of the TV series seem embarrassed that the source material might contain bright colors or goofy storylines and instead focus on gritty realism and gigantic city-spanning fight scenes. All of which are a part of the comics, but are not exclusively what makes up all comic stories.

I think the creators of Legion have actually done a great job of capturing a true comic book spirit with their TV show, ironically in a show that looks nothing like a comic book source material. The main characters of the show don’t wear standard uniforms, except sometimes they kind’a do in that they wear the uniforms of the psychiatric institution they were in. There are bright colors, devious villains with creepy names like “The Eye” and even allusions to the comic book source material with lots of instances of the letter “X” turning up in things like windows since Legion takes place in the X-Men universe. There’s also talk of backstory that readers of the comics would pick up on but aren’t so inside that it spoils the overall story for everyone else watching the show.

Let’s not forget the crazy dance numbers of Legion, no joke, episode arcs that take place entirely within the mind and unique characters I don’t think I’ve seen in any other show before.

At times Legion does move at a leisurely pace. Which, at the time I was watching them, seemed like a drag but looking back I realize was building up to something more.

Just like how comic book story arcs work.

Imaginary Mary Series premiere episode 1 Grade: B+

Starring Jenna Elfman as Alice, the new ABC series Imaginary Mary is a sort of cross between the classic 1980s TV series ALF and the 1991 movie Drop Dead Fred. Alice is a super-successful business woman who as a young child in a time of stress created an imaginary friend she called “Imaginary Mary” (a computer animated character but voiced by Rachel Dratch) who vanished as Alice became older. But when Alice falls for single dad Ben (Stephen Schneider) and gets stressed out when she’s going to meet his three kids, Imaginary Mary unexpectedly returns to try and get Alice out of this relationship and back to the life of partying and having fun.

It doesn’t help matter’s that Ben’s kids are the standard sitcom “kids from hell” who seem to have it out for Alice. But by the end of the first episode Alice has come to terms with her and Ben’s family, even if it seems that Imaginary Mary is here to stay.

Imaginary Mary is and undeniably cute show, the problem with it is that I’m not sure where the series goes from here? I enjoyed the first episode a great deal and thought that the idea of an adult still having their childhood imaginary friend, though not totally unique, was handled interestingly here. Alice is scared to grow up and latches onto something from her past to help get through a stressful time in her life. And while Imaginary Mary just wants her and Alice to have fun it’s not like she’s evil. In fact she sometimes has good ideas on how Alice can better get along with Ben’s kids.

My concern about Imaginary Mary is that while the first episode was interesting, I can see the series devolving into a standard sitcom — SINGLE MOM DATES A DAD WITH THREE KIDS AND WACKINESS ENSUES! — with the addition of the Imaginary Mary character. I could be wrong but to me it seems like Imaginary Mary would work best as a limited-run series or something on a cable channel that could push some boundaries. I’m not sold that Imaginary Mary will work as an ABC show, but I’d be happy to be surprised otherwise.

Fargo installment 3 TV commercial

Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

IT trailer

War for the Planet of the Apes trailer

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets trailer

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1933: King Kong opens in theaters
  • 1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey premiers
  • 1970: Colossus: The Forbin Project is released
  • 1977: Michael Fassbender, David of Prometheus and Magneto of X-Men: First Class is born
  • 1978: The TV series The Amazing Spider-Man debuts
  • 1990: The TV series Twin Peaks debuts
  • 1998: The movie Lost in Space premiers in theaters



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 #53



TV

Westworld season 1 – Grade: B+

“Cease all motor functions!”

I am afraid of Westworld. So many times in the past I’ve fallen for shows like Westworld that have these deep, intricate character-driven storylines only to be disappointed in the end. In my heart of hearts I know that with TV series like Westworld the journey is more important than the destination, but I’m always hoping that the series ending will be as good as the road it took to get there. And so far at least, one season in, Westworld has taken one fine, interesting road and has quickly become my favorite thing on TV in the last few months.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Westworld but whatever I was thinking the show might be like isn’t anything as to what it actually was like. Much of the story is told via three groups of characters. The first group is of people like Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) who are trying to keep this massive park running while at the same time making improvements while acting in a sort of god-like way even if some of their changes have started causing glitches in the robots of the park known as the “hosts.” These robots don’t know that they’re robots and awaken each day anew not realizing that they’re all in a story loop and essentially play the same day over and over again. With this robot group are characters like Maeve (Thandie Newton) who’s starting to have memories she shouldn’t have and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who’s beginning to question the nature of her reality. And then there’s the human visitors of the park like William (Jimmi Simpson) and “The Man in Black” (Ed Harris) who are experiencing the park in very different ways. Harris’ character is convinced that there’s a core story beneath the veneer of Westworld that the rest of the guests experience and wants to uncover this truth, even if it means he has spend 30 years there and cause pain, death and destruction to the hosts to do so. And William, brand new to the park, wants to help Doloris in her quest for self realization but isn’t sure what all is required to do so or the ramifications of.

I think that what works best about Westworld are all the questions that the series creators ask. Like if Dr. Ford is creating these robots, and these robots are self-aware, feel pain and have emotions, has he created life? Even if that life can be changed, controlled and obliterated at the flick of a switch. And for the “hosts” of the show who, if they’re somewhat self-aware now, what happens in the future when they become fully self-aware and want to control their own destinies and futures and not be controlled and tied to the Westworld park as they are now? And what will they do when they realize the people who’ve created them have spent decades abusing them over and over again with no consequences?

I’m also fascinated with how Westworld ties into modern day video games. In those games players come up against characters in the game who they can do what they will with. Though there might be consequences in the game if the players harm these characters, there are no real world consequences if they decide to do so. And this is the same for Westworld where the visitors can do whatever they want to the hosts be it hurt them, rape them or kill them. There’s no consequences since technically you can’t hurt, rape or kill a robot. But what if someday the robots started remembering these terrible things done to them and what if they wanted to fight back?

It’s interesting to imagine just where Westworld will go in future seasons? In my head I’ve got it all mapped out down perfectly to the series sixth season. But if I’m lucky the creators of Westworld will continue to do their own thing and keep creating a surprising show that asks a lot of bit questions about what it’s like to live in the times that we do without providing a lot of easy answers.

Legion TV Spot

“The human race is beginning to evolve.”

The Expanse TV Spot

“In this world that we live in you have to pick a side.”

Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

“This is my chance to prove myself.”

War for the Planet of the Apes trailer

“All of human history has lead to this moment.”

The Mummy (2017) trailer

World War Z + Suicide Squad = The Mummy

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1917: Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood’s End to name a few is born
  • 1941: The Wolf Man opens in theaters
  • 1976: King Kong debuts
  • 1978: Superman opens in theaters
  • 1984: Dune premiers
  • 1984: Runaway debuts
  • 1984: Starman opens
  • 1996: Mars Attacks! premiers
  • 1998: Star Trek: Insurrection opens in theaters
  • 2002: Star Trek: Nemesis premiers
  • 2005: King Kong opens in theaters
  • 2010: Tron: Legacy debuts