Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #108



TV

Black Mirror — “USS Callister” ***/****

When Black Mirror first premiered in 2011 I didn’t think I’d ever get to see it. Created by Charlie Brooker for Channel 4 in the UK, Black Mirror was a series everyone was talking about but no one could watch legally here in the US. It took some time but I was finally able to see that first season and was blown away — Black Mirror was as good as everyone said it was and it quickly became one of my favorite series.

A few years back Netflix picked up the show and suddenly what was very difficult to see became very easy with the outlet streaming old episodes along with brand new ones. And now comes a fourth season of Black Mirror beginning with a first episode titled “USS Callister.”

Here, a software architect by day Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) moonlights at night as the captain of the USS Callister in a virtual reality simulation game. The USS Callister is a ship of the Space Fleet (think 1960s Star Trek) crewed by people who look a lot like Daly’s real-life co-workers. But since this is Black Mirror they don’t just look like Daly’s co-workers, they’re digital duplicates of them right down to their memories and personalities. The real people on the outside have no idea what’s going on, Daly created the duplicates in secret, meaning that for the clones on the USS Callister life is a hellish existence alternating between the boredom with having nothing to do while Daly’s at work and the nightmare of having him act as captain where he wants to play Space Fleet. And if they don’t play along he can do things to them like remove their eyes and mouth causing them to feel like they’re suffocating forever or turn them into grotesque alien creatures to populate the various planets around the digital galaxy.

And since these crew members aren’t real, it means they can never die either and will be stuck in this existence forever.

Enter new co-worker/USS Callister crewmen Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) who has a plan to get out. But if her plan fails it means an existence of eternal suffering for those crazy enough to cross Daly in the digital world.

Black Mirror is a great show at examining what life might be like in just a few years time if just a few things go wrong. Like what are the odds that someday technology will make it easy to make a perfect, digital clone of someone? And what are the odds that someone will use that technology for ill, like cloning people for their own private video game? Some of these ideas were also covered in the “Cookie” segment of the Black Mirror Christmas episode a few years back.

Regardless… Black Mirror is one of the best series on TV. I’m just glad that I don’t have to fight to watch it anymore!

Doctor Who ***/****

Each year the series Doctor Who airs a special Christmas episode. In years past those episodes have had a strong holiday theme — one year even featured the good Doctor teaming up with Santa Claus to fight evil. But this year was different. This year’s episode mostly skipped the Christmas theme and would mark the first official appearance of the latest incarnation of the Doctor, this time not to be played by a man as the character’s been the last 50+ years but by a woman.

“Twice Upon a Time” takes place at the South Pole in the 1960s, in the trenches during the first world war and in the future where people who are just about to die are whisked away to have their memories duplicated for historical purposes before being sent back to their own time to face their fate. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is on the verge of regeneration — or changing bodies. A way that producers of the series have used since the beginning to keep the show going by replacing the lead actor with a new face. But this Doctor doesn’t want to regenerate. He wants to die and finally rest after centuries of adventure.

Enter the very first Doctor from 1963, here played by David Bradley but originally William Hartnell who passed away in 1975. This first Doctor doesn’t want to regenerate either and he and the modern Doctor along with an army captain (Mark Gatiss) pulled from the trenches of the first world war and flung into the future and the Doctor’s assistant Bill (Pearl Mackie) who may or may not be a duplicate of the original have to uncover what they’ve done to cause time to freeze in place all across the universe.

I thought that “Twice Upon a Time” was the best episode of Doctor Who in recent memory.

I’m a big fan of the classic Doctor Who series and love it whenever the modern show mentions the old, which they do from time to time. And to see the original Doctor here returning to form, and even with his slightly smaller TARDIS than the current Doctor’s, made for one satisfying episode.

Especially interesting was the introduction of the new Doctor played by Jodie Whittaker. It’s traditional for the new Doctor to be introduced at the very end of the episode where the character’s thrown into some sort of extreme peril, to be concluded in a few months time at the start of the next season of Doctor Who. And this introduction was no different with the new Doctor being literally ejected from the TARDIS in the closing moments of the show.

It will be interesting to see just where that next series goes from here. I have no doubt that Whittaker will make a good Doctor but Doctor Who producer since its reboot in 2005 Steven Moffat won’t be returning next season, Chris Chibnall will be taking over the reigns. This will mark the first time in 13 years that someone new will be setting the direction of the show.

So, love Doctor Who or hate it, it’ll be interesting to see just where Doctor Who ends up in 2018.

Movies

A few months back I posted all of the new movies I saw to date in 2017 and here’s the rest of what I saw this year:

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming: I thought this was a really fun movie that did a good job of reintroducing a new Spider-Man without going through all the rigmarole of doing another origin story.
  • Logan Lucky

    Logan Lucky: This “Ocean’s 7/11” was one of the hidden, overlooked gems of 2017.

  • Split: I was really surprised by this one. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has been on a cold-streak for literally 15 years at this point and for him to come out with a movie as interesting and powerful as Split was is amazing.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: I can’t remember the last time I had as much fun as I did at a superhero movie as I did with this one.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes: A fitting end for a superb trilogy of movies. I only wish all movie reboots could be as different as/paying as much homage to the original as War for the Planet of the Apes was.
  • Dunkirk: Easily the best movie of the year and probably the best Christopher Nolan movie since Memento, and that’s saying a lot.
  • A Trip to Spain: I really like the whole A Trip to… movies and A Trip to Spain was no exception.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: I’m not sure what all the negativity was about surrounding this movie, but I liked Star Wars: The Last Jedi a lot. I thought it was better than Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Bright: This Netflix original has been getting a lot of flack for being one of the worst movies of the year. While I don’t think Bright was a great movie, it wasn’t a bad one either. It’s one of those films with a lot of great ideas, probably too many for a single film to hold.
  • Blade runner: 2049: Slow and ponderous at times, I’m glad I checked this one out. Though I’d be surprised if I ever watch it again.
  • IT: Essentially the TV series Stranger Things has been aping IT quite successfully for two seasons now. So for a movie version of this classic, beloved book to come along now and still be as stunning as it was is saying something.

For the record, I only saw 18 movies this year that were released in 2017, but for what I saw these were my favorite.

  1. Dunkirk

    Dunkirk

  2. Logan
  3. IT
  4. Thor: Ragnarok
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rumor Control

Things I’ve misheard over the years:

For many years I thought the movie about zombies in the Caribbean The Serpent and the Rainbow was instead titled Surfing in the Rainbow.

I also thought the title to the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was really Do Androids Dream an Electric Sleep?. And to this day I think my title’s better that the original.

When the song “Glycerine” by Bush was popular and got lots of radio play I used to think the lyric “Bad Moon White Again” was “Madmartigan Warrior” since surly everyone, including songwriter Gavin Rossdale was a big a fan of the movie Willow as I was.

Cool Movie Posters of the Week




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