Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #65



TV

Taken – Episode 1 Grade: C-

The parade of movies to TV series this season continues with the latest show Taken on NBC. The TV Taken is a prequel series to the film trilogy of the same name that starred Liam Neeson. This time Clive Standen, who’s a British actor and is I’m assuming mostly unfamiliar to US audiences, takes over the role of ex-special forces operative with a “very particular set of skills” Bryan Mills who was put on this planet to chew bubblegum and kick butt, and has long been out of gum.

The first episode opens with Mills being hunted by a narco kingpin who’s son Mills killed some years before when he was a Green Beret. The kingpin wants to take Mills alive to make him suffer for what he did but what he wasn’t counting on is Mills and his skills at dodging assassins, punching people in the face and not getting shot in any vital organs. Also following Mills since they’re using him to lure the kingpin out of hiding is Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals) the head of some super-secret spy agency who, along with her five or six employees, seems to be in control of all the US intelligence agencies. These six people alternate from interrogating cartel members to attacking compounds SEAL Team Six style.

To me, Taken felt a lot like a 1980s cops and robbers series like Miami Vice or Knight Rider where the good guys are very good and the bad guys are very bad in a world of black and white without any grey. There is absolutely no confusion as to if what Mills and company are doing is right or wrong, in Taken they’re doing God’s work in cleaning up the streets, and because of all this and because of how heavy handed everything’s handled Taken is one dull show.

Actually, if Mills had a talking car ala Knight Rider that might make for an interesting series, otherwise I’m done with Taken.

Movies

Bill Paxton 1955–2017

Bill Paxton in Haywire

Last week actor Bill Paxton died unexpectedly after complications from surgery. Now I’d guess most readers of this blog would know of Paxton, or at least would know him by sight as a guy who turned up in loads of genera movies over the years and made those roles better. Paxton played doomed punk in Terminator, the evil brother Chet in Weird Science, vampire Severen in the oh-so extremely underrated Near Dark, “…is my specialty!” Detective Jerry Lambert in Predator 2, Morgan Earp in Tombstone, Fred Haise in Apollo 13, Mallroy’s dad in Haywire, Master Sergeant Farell in Edge of Tomorrow and most recently as Det. Frank Rourke aka the best thing about the TV series Training Day to name a scant few. Jesus, to look at just some of Paxton’s roles there and how many hours I’ve spent watching movies he was a part of is mind-boggling.

But Paxton is probably most well known as playing Private Hudson in the movie Aliens who turns from a cocky gung-ho Marine one minute to a quivering ball of nerves meek-man the next after the alien monsters wipe out his squad before becoming a heroic figure by the end of the film. His most famous line “Game over man!” has been loved by some, mocked by a few, made fun of by the clueless and has been in our pop-culture psyche for decades now. I think the reason we remember the line is because of how Paxton delivered it, in his over-the-top totally freaked-out I wanna be anywhere but here way. I think delivered any other way by any other actor that line would have been all but forgotten in a movie that exists in this sea of other great lines and visuals.

“Game over man” kind’a encapsulates Paxton’s career as a whole. He’s the guy who’d turn up in these movies in small to medium-sized parts and would steal the show. There’s been quite a few people over the years who’ve made fun of his dry acting style, but dry or not at the end of the day his style was memorable even when the movies he was in were not. He’s the kind of actor that I’d give a chance to whatever movie he was a part of since no matter if the movie was good or bad, Paxton was going to be great in it.

Over the last few years it seemed as if Paxton’s career was starting to have a second act of sorts. Recently, he co-starred in the critically acclaimed Hatfields & McCoys TV mini-series and began having parts in movies like Nightcrawler and the above mentioned Edge of Tomorrow. And with him starring in the CBS series Training Day it seemed like Paxton might be about to break through to another level of acting stardom.

But I guess that just wasn’t destined to happen but regardless of whether or not Paxton was or wasn’t well-known to most of the movie-going public, to those of us who knew him through his work Paxton will always be a giant of the genera cinema and will be greatly missed.

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon, one of the finest buddy-cop movies ever was released 30 years ago this week. Its writer Shane Black would have a hand in creating some truly memorable movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and last year’s The Nice Guys. Currently, Black is filming the upcoming The Predator movie due out next year.

Alien: Covenant movie trailer

“Where is it?”

Kong: Skull Island movie trailer

“Let me list all the ways you’re gonna die.”

Books

So, Anyway…

So, Anyway… is writer/actor/director John Cleese’s autobiography from earliest memory to right up until the point of the creation of Monty Python. I’m guessing the book stops there since there’s been so much written about Cleese and especially Monty Python from that period that it would be redundant, but still, So, Anyway… is a wonderful book with lots of interesting facts and anecdotes of Cleese’s life. Like, I knew how close he was to Graham Chapman but I didn’t realize things like the second future-Python he met was Terry Gilliam or that Cheese did hundreds of hours of comedy radio while also appearing on TV in various comedy/sketch shows while climbing up the comedy ranks early in his career.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1964: The Last Man on Earth opens
  • 1971: THX 1138 premiers in theaters
  • 1972: Silent Running premiers
  • 1978: The TV series The Incredible Hulk premiers
  • 1984: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
  • 1994: Weird Science the TV series debuts
  • 2009: Watchmen opens in theaters
  • 2011: Battle Los Angeles opens in theaters
  • 2012: John Carter premiers in theaters



Direct Beam Comms #42



TV

The Exorcist – Grade: A-

To be honest, I’ve never seen the original 1973 film of The Exorcist. It was never one of those movies that turned up all that often “edited for TV” on the networks and for whatever reason I don’t ever remember seeing it on any of our pay cable channels we got either. Now I’m certain that I’ve seen parts and pieces of the movie over the years when I happened to catch it here and there. But I’m also very certain that I’ve never seen the movie from start to finish.

mv5bmtuznjg2odk5m15bml5banbnxkftztgwntiwotm3ote-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_And that may be why the new FOX The Exorcist TV series caught with me — I really don’t have anything else to compare it to.

This version of The Exorcist story takes place modern day in the same universe as the film — one of the priests of the show (Alfonso Herrera) sees a newspaper article mentioning the events of the film. In the TV version it’s Chicago and one of Angela Rance’s (Geena Davis) daughters has been behaving differently ever since the death of a friend. And ever since her daughter began behaving this way weird things have started happening around the house like voices inside the walls and weird shadows moving behind doors. Enter young Father Tomas Ortega (Herrera) who goes in and realizes he’s in over his head and isn’t even quite sure what’s happening and gets Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) who has experience in exorcisms to help.

And that’s pretty much where the first episode ends, well after a pretty big/interesting twist to the TV version. So it seems like the story of the TV The Exorcist will be of these two fathers fighting for the soul of Rance’s daughter while at the same time finding out that there’s more than one demon involved.

I really got a kick out of The Exorcist — even if it does fall into the trap of having the demons only affecting people who are already religious which doesn’t quite make sense. Isn’t evil equal opportunity?

I went into it not expecting much — it doesn’t pay to expect much out of new TV series. But I left The Exorcist liking it a lot with the show giving off a strong The Sixth Sense and The Mothman Prophecies vibe in a good way. The show is creepy enough with a few genuine scenes of horror — even if there’s a few scenes where things happen that don’t quite make sense logically other than they happened that way in order to make the scene scarier.

I’m genuinely excited to see where this one goes — with one caveat. I think what worked so well here is that it seems like the story of The Exorcist is going to play out over the course of a season which is great. But only if that season is something like 10 or 13 episode. I think if FOX tries to turn the story of The Exorcist into something more/longer it’s not going to work.

But for right now The Exorcist looks to be the best new show of the season so far.

Also, I realized watching The Exorcist that this is Davis second foray in starring in a remake of a horror classic. She also starred in the 1986 movie remake of The Fly.

Star Wars Rebels – Grade: B+

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

This third, and reportedly final season of Star Wars Rebels on DisneyXD jumps ahead a few years in time from the first two seasons. Here, Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) has matured from a young boy to a young man, and where he once had burgeoning Jedi powers now wields these same powers as an almost master.

The only problem is that without the guiding hand of Jedi Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) Ezra is being lured by evil forces to serve the dark side.

The story complexity of Star Wars Rebels is surprisingly deep. This is much more than a simple action series where the good guys go and fight the bad guys. Instead, this is a show about what can happen to people fighting the good fight if they even take one step in the wrong direction. Like is Kanan’s decision to train Ezra as a Jedi which could possibly help bring down the Empire a good one, if it also means there’s a chance Ezra might instead be turned to bring down the Rebellion?

Now the rumor is that this is the final season of Star Wars Rebels since there’s a desire to rather than having a bridge show between the two film trilogies to instead have a new series focused on events around the new movies. Which is fine — it’s just a shame that Disney can’t find a few extra dollars in the billions that Star Wars is bringing in to support, I dunno, two Star Wars cartoons instead of just the one?

Just an idea. 😉

The Good Place – Grade: B

913084_770The premiere of the new show The Good Place debuted last week on NBC. It was billed as a comedy but after having watched the first three episodes that all ran last week I don’t think that The Good Place had many laughs — I think I chuckled a few times during the episodes. But what the show really is, is one of the darkest and most disturbing things on TV in the guise of a comedy which is actually kind’a interesting.

In The Good Place, Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is a newly deceased person who ends up in “the good place” where the good people go and not the “bad place” where everyone else ends up. Except it turns out that there was a mixup where Eleanor should’ve ended up in the bad place but instead wound up in the good place. And after Eleanor hears what it’s like in the bad place, which involves lots of screaming and loud noises, she wants to stay in the good place and enlists the help of her soul-mate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) to stay. Which means he’s got to try and make her a better person.

Except that every time Eleanor has a bad thought or does something not good it makes bad things happen in the good place — like trash being strewn everywhere or giant ladybugs attacking the city. So it’s a question of can Chidi reform Eleanor before the good place is destroyed by her, or should he turn her into the good place overseer Michael (Ted Danson) and save everyone else?

Much of the comedy of The Good Place is supposed to come from Eleanor doing bad things like getting drunk, being selfish and envying others. And there are flashbacks to Eleanor when she was alive doing those same sort of things. However, what she did when she was alive wasn’t all that bad — she litters in front of an environmentalist and sneaks off to have sex with a bartender when she’s supposed to be her group’s designated driver. She’s not bad, she’s just a self-centered jerk.

And I think that’s where the darkness of The Good Place comes from. In the mythology of The Good Place only the best of the best get in. New arrivals watch an orientation film of why they made it to the good place and it’s obvious that the vast majority of people on the Earth aren’t good enough to make it to the good place and go to the bad place instead.

I think what interested me the most about The Good Place was thinking about just how people get picked to go into the good or bad place? It seems like there’s some algorithmic based decision going on there — doing good things adds up in your favor and bad takes away, but doing really good things adds up more than just slightly good and vice versa — but who made the algorithm and who made the good place? Is it god who’s pulling the strings?

In certain ways The Good Place reminds me of the 1980s The Twilight Zone episode “Dead Run”. In so much as in that episode it turns out that god isn’t the one deciding who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, that’s the devil’s job. And he’ll take anyone who’s even sinned in the slightest taking nice old grandmas who had impure thoughts and murders alike.

And The Good Place feels very much like the mirror of “Dead Run,” except here it’s the story of the lucky very few who avoid going to the bad place.

Honestly, if The Good Place were more of a drama I’d think it’s the next Lost wondering just what’s going on with the behind the scenes mechanics of the good place and the mystery of how and why everyone got there and what the bad place is like. Is the good place some lie? Are the people living in the good place not actually in the good place?

But since The Good Place is a comedy and not a drama I highly doubt this is the case. I’d be pleasantly surprised if there were something more hiding in the depths of the story of The Good Place, but I won’t be surprised whatsoever if there isn’t.

Lethal Weapon – Grade: C+

This new FOX series based on the 1987 Lethal Weapon film is basically Lethal Weapon-lite by way of the movie Last Action Hero where every police chase is a HIGH-OCTANE chase and every police shootout is a HIGH-OCTANE shootout. And, if a good character is going to be shot it’s going to be in their shoulder so they’ll be able to be up and around that same day. The bright shining spot of the mostly “we’ve seen this all before” Lethal Weapon is Damon Wayans as Roger Murtaugh who plays the role with just enough cheese to make the first episode at least watchable. Clayne Crawford as Martin Riggs, on the other hand, starts off the episode with a thick southern accent which he somehow looses after the first ten minutes. His version of the Riggs character seems to prowl the depths of depression one minute, pining over a dead wife and child while drinking shots and almost playing Russian Roulette, and almost joyous the next.

I get that the Riggs character is supposed to be a loose cannon and suicidal, but in tone I’m not sure that the TV version of Riggs is there yet.

MacGyver – Grade: F

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Movies

Passengers movie trailer

The rom-com-space-con?

Cool Sites

Pilot Callsigns: The web’s largest collection of callsign stories

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1951: Linda Hamilton of Terminator, Terminator 2 and the TV series Beauty and the Beast is born
  • 1952: Christopher Reeve, Superman, is born
  • 1968: Night of the Living Dead opens in theaters
  • 1985: The TV series Amazing Stories debuts
  • 1987: Star Trek: The Next Generation premiers
  • 2001: Star Trek: Enterprise premiers
  • 2005: Serenity opens in theaters



2016/17 TV Preview



New series

It’s been a long while since I can remember the last time I was as disinterested in the crop of new TV series that are set to start debuting on network TV this fall. Usually, there’s at least something I can look forward to, some series I can get excited about. But honestly this year looks like it’s going to be mostly a bust on the networks.

The Good Place

The Good Place

All that I’m looking forward to on network TV this fall is the comedy The Good Place on NBC starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell about a woman that died and accidentally went to “the good place” rather than the hot one and Star Trek: Discovery on CBS. Though this sixth Trek TV series is set to only air once on CBS before it moves to their streaming service.

And there’s a few new shows I’m looking forward to on cable and streaming too, one of which is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is on BBC America and is based on the Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) book of the same name. This new TV version of the Adams novel is being written and produced by Max Landis (Chronicle). On Netflix is Marvel’s Luke Cage that’s a sort’a spin-off of the Jessica Jones show about a man, Cage (Mike Colter) who’s super-strong with super-tough skin that brushes aside bullets who decides to clean up the streets of New York.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to scoff at on network TV next fall than to look forward to.

If the last few years the networks have been trying to turn as many come books into TV series as they could, then this year it’s all about turning once popular movies into TV series, or rebooting once popular past TV series into modern ones. Which I have no problem with, except that nothing I’ve seen from any of these new shows makes me thing that the networks have anything other than a bunch of creative duds on their hands.

Time After Time

Time After Time

Based on the movie of the same name, Time after Time on ABC features author H.G. Wells (Freddie Stroma) building a time machine in 1893 and traveling to present day 2016 New York City to find Jack the Ripper who’s also travelled to New York City in the same time machine. Convenient, ain’t it? If the movie version was a love story between Wells and a modern day woman, then the TV version seems to be setting the two up as a male/female investigative duo ala Castle, Blindspot, The Blacklist, etc., etc., etc.

Emerald City on NBC is the latest attempt at a network to create a TV version of the Wizard of Oz story that various channels have been trying to do since at least 2002. This version of the Oz story has Dorothy being swept off to a totally reimagined and harder version of Oz that seems to be a mashup of Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time.

Fox has two shows based on movies set to premier this fall; The Exorcist and Lethal Weapon.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist

The Exorcist looks to be essentially the story of the novel/movie about a girl possessed by a demon — with a little bit of things like The Conjuring thrown in for good measure. My one question about The Exorcist is if the entire season will be about the girl’s possession, or if each episode will be about some other evil forces possessing some other poor souls? It doesn’t help matters that The Exorcist is the second “possession” series on TV with Outcast also about demonic forces already on Starz.

The TV version of Lethal Weapon seems to take the zanier elements of the movie from Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) having a death wish which makes him practically fearless and his older, world-weary partner Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.) who has to deal with Riggs and is “too old for this @#$%.” But somehow I’d imagine that if it does take the zanier elements of the Riggs character that it’s not going to use the movie version of him being suicidal and his substance abuse problems. You know, all the stuff that made him seem human and not some cartoon character.

Frequency on The CW, takes the elements of the 2000 movie where someone from the present, here Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List), is able to talk with their father from 20 years in the past via a ham radio. And because she’s able to send information to her father in the past she’s able to change events in her present. But if other time travel movies/TV series have taught us anything, it’s that meddling in the past will being about unintended consequences in the present/future. Time After Time should take note!

MacGyver

MacGyver

On CBS there’s a series based on the movie Training Day and one on the 1980s TV series MacGyver. Much like with the movie, the TV version of Training Day follows a young, idealistic police officer (Drew Van Acker) sent to spy on a seasoned, up to no good, “King Kong ain’t got !@#$ on me” detective (Bill Paxton).

MacGyver (Lucas Till) is a younger take on the character but with the overall concept of the original series — solving crimes/rescuing people/stopping terrorists by making whatever’s needed with what’s on hand to get the job done — intact. I was a huge fan of the original MacGyver as a kid, but somehow I doubt that this middle-aged man is going to be a fan of this new version of the show.

returning_tv

Returning series

black-ish

black-ish

If new series this year look crummy at least there’s a slew of great and interesting shows to look forward to.

Out of the gate early this fall are ABC comedies The Goldbergs, black-ish and Fresh off the Boat. While black-ish and Fresh off the Boat get a lot of good press for their diversity and somewhat controversial storylines, I’m more concerned with whether or not the shows are funny or not and these are.

The Goldbergs and black-ish return September 21 and Fresh off the Boat October 11.

Ash vs. Evil Dead

Ash vs. Evil Dead

I was a huge fan of the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead right up until the very end of the final episode of the first season when things kind’a fell off the rails. That series deals with sad-sack Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) who accidentally released evil spirits from the bound in human skin Book of the Dead. And in Ash vs Evil Dead it’s up to Ash and his two friends Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) to figure out a way to undo what he’s done.

The show was everything I’d ever wanted in an Evil Dead TV series with over-the-top action, comedy and lots of gore. But that ending, it was so out of tone with what had come the previous nine episodes that it really frustrated me. That being said, I’m ready for loads more wise-cracking Ash in a second season of Ash vs Evil Dead which starts back up September 23. As long as they do some ‘splaining about that ending I’ll be back for more gore!

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

Existing alongside the current film franchises, the animated Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD tells the story of what was going on in the galaxy when the evil Empire was consolidating power and trying to wipe a nascent rebellion out. The stories of Rebels can be surprisingly deep and emotional for a series we already know the end to. Hint — none of the characters of Rebels show up in Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope so… Star Wars Rebels returns September 24.

The British series Black Mirror is available on Netflix October 11. This anthology series that originally debuted back in 2001 that’s a bit like The Twilight Zone but updated for modern day originally didn’t have a series run here in the US until Netflix picked it up a few years ago. And boy am I glad they did — this show about what happens when technology and all its uses goes wrong is consistently one of the best things on TV. Black Mirror can be so intense that I’ve yet to be able to go back and watch old episodes again even though I loved them the first time around.

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

The alterna-history The Man in the High Castle returns to Amazon Prime December 16. I was surprised as to just how interesting a show High Castle was since I’d never really been interested in any of the other original Prime series. Here, it’s an early 1960s where Germany and Japan won the second world war and now occupy most of the planet, the US included. These two superpowers are engaging in a Cold War of sorts with what’s left of the US set to be the battleground for World War III. Except that events in the first season of High Castle reveal that this may just be one reality of many, one where the allies won the war (ours) and others where Germany or the Soviets won it all.

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

Another sci-fi series The Expanse returns to SyFy this January. Based on the book series Leviathan Wakes, The Expanse takes place in a future where mankind has colonized most of the solar system and has brought along all of the problems we have here on the Earth like racism, war, disease, hunger… But all this pales in comparison to what starts happening when something’s released on an asteroid outpost that threatens to consume all of humanity.

Also sometime in January a fourth season of the PBS series Sherlock is set to return with, I’m assuming, four new episodes. The series has been on since 2011 and has so far aired a paltry 13 episodes of TV. They may be “paltry” but they’re also darn good!

And the show I’m looking forward to most returning next season is Better Call Saul on AMC, the third series about how lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) goes from a guy trying to go good to someone who’d have people killed if it would earn him any money which is set to debut sometime early next year.