Resin Heroes

The best TV series of 2017



Mindhunter

Serial killers have been stalking lots of TV series in one way or another for decades now. They play a sort of “boogeyman” to all sorts of various procedural shows and even turn up in regular old dramas from time to time. It wouldn’t surprise me if one day to lift sagging ratings that one might show up in a series like Modern Family. I jest, but it’s true that they’re all over modern TV yet there’s never really been a TV series to address where serial killers come from — that was until Mindhunter on Netflix.

Here, FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), Bill Trench (Holt McCallany) and professor Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) stumble upon the science of profiling active serial killers by interviewing jailed ones in prison. Back in the late 1970s when Mindhunter takes place everyone knew serial killers existed, but no one had taken the time to figure out how to find them. Then, the FBI was setup to take down bank robbers, not men who murder others for seemingly no reason. Enter Ford, Trench and Carr who spend the series trying to come up with ways of figuring out why serial killers are the way they are and if there’s any way to stop them in the future.

That’s why I think Mindhunter works so well as a series. The show isn’t about the FBI tracking down serial killers — that’s been done many times before on many other shows. Mindhunter is the thinking person’s CSI where the characters aren’t gunning down suspects, they interviewing and probing convicts to find out how they tick to try and develop a science as it were in order to be able to put together an intelligent profile of the killers to be able to catch them before they’re able to murder again.

Better Call Saul

Three seasons in and Better Call Saul is still one of the best things on TV — as of right now it’s the only reason to watch AMC. I’m constantly astounded at the quality of the writing, acting, directing, set design … well, everything about this show.

The third season of Better Call Saul finds lead character Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) life slowly imploding around him as important people in his world turn their backs on him while his law practice goes up in flames leaving him with very few options for a future where he’s got next to no money coming in with the bills still piling up.

GLOW

Another Netflix series, GLOW takes place in the 1980s at the heart of a real burgeoning women’s wrestling TV series called the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling — or GLOW. What, you don’t remember women’s wrestling in the 1980s!? The good thing is with Netflix’s GLOW you don’t have to as this show isn’t so much about the wrestling as it is about all of the women and men who went in to make GLOW a reality. Like Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), an actress who can’t land a part to save her life where GLOW represents a last chance for her to be in the entertainment industry.

I think what works best about GLOW are the characters like Ruth — they’re all different and they all want different things out of their experiences with GLOW. Sometimes what they want goes together and sometimes what they want doesn’t.

Stranger Things

The second season of the bonafide pop-cultural phenomena Stranger Things debuted on Netflix a few months back and was easily the series the most people I knew were excited about returning. Stranger Things is a show that cuts across different demographics — I know 50 year olds who watch the show along with 10 year olds. It’s not necessarily a family show but is a show I think families can watch together. As long as those families don’t have kids who are too little and might be frightened of terrifying things that go bump in the night.

The Orville

I can’t say I was much looking forward to The Orville when I first heard about it last summer. A live-action sci-fi show from animated series impresario Seth McFarlane who seems to reveal in being controversial? And the first TV spots for The Orville sold the show as a sort of TV version of Galaxy Quest where the crew of the ship are buffoons.

But even watching a single episode of The Orville it’s plainly obvious that the series has got nothing to do with Galaxy Quest. In fact, The Orville might be the show that’s closest to the true spirit of the original Star Trek since, well, the original Star Trek.

The Punisher

Netflix really “hit one out of the park” with their latest Marvel series The Punisher. Like I’ve said before the character of The Punisher is one of my favs, so I suppose I’m predisposed to like this show. But I didn’t just like The Punisher, I loved The Punisher. It’s certainly one of my favorite series based on comic books ever, and is certainly my favorite Netflix superhero show.

Legion

I’ve never really been a fan of comic book TV shows. They tend to put the story ahead of the characters when to me it should be just the other way around. That’s why I loved the FX series Legion so much. There were parts of that show that literally take place inside of characters heads in this weird mental space where I had no idea of what was going on. Yet the characters of Legion are so strong I would, and did, follow them almost anywhere.

The Expanse

I know SyFy has been trying to turn their image around for years now. And while the quality of most of SyFy’s shows are questionable at best — as I write this SyFy.com which is a website that’s ostensively there to promote SyFy’s TV shows instead has articles about Stranger Things and Thor Ragnarok on its homepage, neither of which appear on SyFy — there’s one bright spot on the bleak thing that SyFy has become which is the TV series The Expanse. One of the best, if not only, hard-sci-fi series on TV these days, in its second season The Expanse continued to improve and tell quality stories about life in the future where humanity, on the brink of extinction, is still squabbling over trivial matters.




Direct Beam Comms #102



TV

The Punisher

I am such a big fan of the character the Punisher I think my review here might be a little skewed. I’ve been collecting Punisher comics since the heyday of the character starting in the late 1980s and have spent the intervening 30 some odd years filling out my collection with various comics, collected editions, statues, toys, posters, magazines, etc., etc., etc. So to say that my review of the first episode of the new Netflix series The Punisher might not be as balanced as I’m used to would not be an understatement. Still, I endeavor to try to at least be somewhat fair here.

A little backstory on this version of the character — played marvelously by Jon Bernthal, Frank Castle aka the Punisher first appeared in 2016 during the second season of Daredevil where he served as a sort of agent of chaos in Matt Murdock/Daredevil’s world. Here, Punisher was a sort of “yin” to Daredevil’s “yang” where he had no qualms about killing bad guys even if it made Murdock’s life, who won’t kill and wants to bring the bad guys to justice, a lot harder. But in the end the two did team together to take the bad guys down, even if Castle used a lot more firepower than Murdock wanted.

What I found most interesting about the first episode of this new The Punisher series is that it starts where I would have assumed the first season would have ended. Literally in the first ten minutes of the episode Castle hunts down and kills all the men responsible for the murder of his family — what originally sent him to becoming the Punisher in the first place. I figured that the first season of The Punisher would deal with this. Or if not the first season then a good chunk of it.

What we get instead is a Frank Castle hiding under an alias living life as a construction worker in New York, City. His job as the Punisher is done yet the nightmares of his murdered family remain. So what’s Castle to do? Stay hidden in plain sight and let things like a young worker at the work site be pulled into a life of crime and do nothing? Or put back on the bullet-proof vest and declare an all-out war on crime?

I’ll let you guess as to what he does.

I was expecting a lot of things from the first episode of The Punisher and I didn’t really get any of them in this first episode. Which is a good, no, GREAT thing. I love being surprised in situations like this where the creators of the show could’ve played it safe and given the audience a version of Frank Castle/The Punisher we were all expecting from the start. It’s great that they chose to give Castle the option of being removed from his days of blowing the bad guys away or returning to his life of a vigilante. A life that would seemingly be a one-way trip to an early grave when Castle slips up or slows down one night and loses his edge for long enough for the criminals to get the upper hand on him on day.

Just that the character’s given the chance to make this decision — even if we know what decision he’s going to make since the series is called The Punisher and not Frank Castle — is a breath of fresh air.

One critique I’ve heard about the show from others is that there are more episodes than there is story to support it. Which might be true. It might also be true that The Punisher is one of those shows that needs to be watched slowly, and not binged over a weekend. We’ll see since I don’t plan on watching more than a few episodes of The Punisher a week at most.

Mindhunter – Season one

I’m not going to go into a lot of details here on the first season of Mindhunter since I’m currently working on my list of the best TV series of the year of which Mindhunter plays a part. And I’d just end up repeating myself here and there. But rest assured that Mindhunter is one of the best TV series of the year airing wherever. This show about the birth profiling serial killers by the FBI is so unlike any of the similar shows out there these days, and there are loads and loads of serial killer shows or shows that feature them, that it’s worth to note how different Mindhunter is from the rest. Those shows are all about vengeance and tracking people down whereas Mindhunter is all about talking, and trying to figure the killers out so that the next one can be stopped before he starts hurting people.

Mindhunter might just be the best show on Netflix right now and that’s saying a lot for a platform that has loads and loads and loads of great shows.

Comics

Batman: Year Two 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Hardcover

Every comic fan knows of the Batman: Year One but it wouldn’t surprise me if most aren’t aware of the Batman: Year Two story. I’m aware that Batman: Year Two is a thing, but even having read comics for decades I’ve never read that story myself. That is, I’d thought I’d read that story, but it turns out that what I’d really read was a graphic novel called Batman: Full Circle. I know that Batman: Full Circle ties into Batman: Year Two, but Year Two Full Circle ain’t.

One thing, this collected edition retails for around $30 but if you do some hunting you can find previous collected editions of the same material for less than $10 in softcover.

From DC:

Collecting a Batman classic in hardcover for the first time! A close friend of Bruce Wayne introduces him to Rachel Caspian, and the two quickly develop a romantic relationship. But in the midst of love, Rachel’s father decides to come out of retirement as the Reaper, Gotham City’s first vigilante!

Movies

Rampage movie trailer

Deadpool 2 movie trailer

The Reading & Watch List

Rumor Control

I’ve started making a list of things to write about over 2018 for my bi-weekly columns and much like in 2017 I was easily able to fill out much of 2018 with things to write about very quickly. Looking at my list, there’s really only eight non-movie things I’ll write about next year in 24 columns. And much like last year a lot of what I have listed to write about are upcoming superhero and sci-fi films. Which even just a few years ago I’d have had problems finding even a handful of movies I was interested in to write about, now there’s so many I literally can’t get to them all.

Here’s a list of films I’ll probably write longer articles on in 2018:

  • Annihilation
  • Black Panther
  • The New Mutants
  • Rampage
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Deadpool 2
  • The Incredibles 2
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Mission: Impossible 6
  • The Predator
  • Venom
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Cool Movie & TV Posters of the Week




Direct Beam Comms #97



TV

Mindhunter

If David Fincher wasn’t such an all-around great director, one of the best working in the business, I’d be a bit worried that the guy would be type… err – …cast as only a director of movies featuring serial killers. His first film of note Seven featured a serial killer who murdered people based on the “seven deadly sins,” Zodiac was all about the Zodiac killer who terrorized California in the 1960s and 1970s and even the underrated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was about a Swedish serial killer alternating between the 1960s and present day.

But Fincher has done more than just serial killer fare, he’s also directed things like Alien 3, Panic Room, Fight Club and The Social Network too all featuring characters who might be somewhat mildly psychotic, but not a single serial killer in the bunch!

Still, I had to wonder a bit about Fincher when his latest Netflix project was announced last year — a series about FBI agents who in the 1970s began interviewing serial killers in jail to try and see what made them do what they did in the series Mindhunter.

In Mindhunter, Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford. An FBI hostage negotiator who’s trying to work within the confines of an agency built and setup to run in the 1930s but operating in a very different America of 1977. Ford wants to understand why criminals are the way they are, like why do people like Charles Manson do the things they’ve done? Whereas the average agent knows why criminals are the way they are — they were born that way. Period. End of argument. Ford and veteran agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) set out on a training tour of small towns across the country where they can bring a little light of more modern police work to them and these cops can teach these FBI agents about some of the realities of life on the street as it were.

In many ways, Mindhunter acts as a sort of prequel Thomas Harris novels like Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs of which were built around the work of people like John E. Douglas of whom the book Mindhunter was based on. In the works of Harris, the FBI agents are actively using the techniques that would have been developed in the time of Ford and Trench. But for those two living in 1977 anything that’s not related to kicking down doors and shooting the bad guys are looked down on. Even if the world was changing and murders like those committed by the Son of Sam were happening that didn’t have any logical reason behind them that could only be solved by psychological means.

Mindhunter is slow moving, but deliberately so. It’s not like the pace is slow just that the first episode isn’t so much an “episode” as the first part of a much longer story. I suppose that’s the ideal model for binge viewers where one episode leads directly to the next with only a smattering of credits before the start of the next show. But it does make it a bit harder for someone like me to watch and keep track of the story who might not watch all ten episode of the series in one sitting.

Stranger Things season 2 TV spot

Comics

Werewolf By Night: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Another of the Marvel horror comics out in a collected edition this month is Werewolf By Night: The Complete Collection Vol. 1.

From Marvel:

Jack Russell stars in tales to make you howl, as Marvel’s very own Werewolf! Learn how Jack became one of the grooviest ghoulies of the seventies in this classic collection of his earliest adventures! Afflicted with his family’s curse, Jack’s sets out in search for answers. Could they lie in the terrible tome known as the Darkhold? But Jack’s quest is fraught with danger – from mad monks to big-game hunters to a traveling freak show! Then there’s the terror of Tatterdemalion, the horror of Hangman and the torment of Taboo! But few encounters can compare with Krogg, the lurker from beyond – except, maybe, a Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man – and a supernatural showdown with Dracula himself!

Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer

The New Mutants trailer

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1948: Margot Kidder, Lois Lane of Superman is born
  • 1977: Damnation Alley premiers
  • 1986: The Quiet Earth opens
  • 2004: The TV series Battlestar Galactica premiers



Direct Beam Comms #91



Rumor Control

Late early September is always a sort of doldrums for TV and movies with the 2016/2017 TV season essentially over and the next not quite having started yet. And the summer movie season has also ended which means there’s a lull in new interesting movies out before the fall season starts with more interesting fare.

On TV I’ve been watching series like People of Earth, The Guest Book, Halt and Catch Fire and The Defenders. But I’ve also been checking out things like episodes of the original Star Trek on Netflix as well.

So far this year movie-wise I’ve seen:

Passengers: I liked it but I don’t think I would have cared as much for it if I would have paid full price to see it. See Passengers if you ever wondered what I Am Legend would have been like in space.

Logan: So far I think Logan is the best movie of the year and is one of the best comic book movies of all-time. Just see Logan if you haven’t.

Life: I was disappointed in this one. This sci-fi movie about astronauts in space doing battle with an alien lifeform didn’t connect with me for whatever reason. See Life if you always wanted to see an unofficial sequel to The Thing set on board a space station.

Kong: Skull Island: Not a great movie by any standards, but not a terrible way to spend a few hours either. See Kong: Skull Island if you love movies about giant monsters stepping on/eating people.

Ghost in the Shell: See above. See this movie if you understood what was going on in the Ghost in the Shell anime.

Alien: Covenant: This sequel to Prometheus/ prequel to Alien is a good movie if it takes a bit of time to get going and has a few too many plot-holes. Still, I dug this one. See Alien: Covenant if you love the Alien movie franchise even if you have conflicted feelings about Alien Resurrection.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2: For whatever reason I wasn’t a fan of the first Guardians of the Galaxy but liked the sequel a lot. It’s a fun, poppy movie that moves at a nice pace and features characters the audience likes to be with. See Guardians of the Galaxy 2 if you like watching superheros hanging out and having fun.

TV

Mindhunter series promo

Comics

Batman: Year One — The Deluxe Edition

The Batman: Year One storyline of a Bruce Wayne on the cusp of becoming Batman might be my favorite Batman story of all-time. Written by Frank Miller, Year One has a strange positivity whereas his much more acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns is almost its opposite.

From DC:

One of the most important and critically acclaimed Batman adventures ever—written by Frank Miller (BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS) with art by David Mazzucchelli (Daredevil)—returns in a new deluxe edition hardcover. In addition to telling the entire dramatic story of Batman’s first year fighting crime from BATMAN #404–407, this collection includes introductions by Miller and editor Dennis O’Neil, reproductions of original layouts, promotional art, unseen Mazzucchelli Batman art, Richmond Lewis’s color samples, script pages and more!

Books

Bernie Wrightson: Art and Designs for the Gang of Seven Animation Studio

Artist Bernie Wrightson was one of the best all-around comic book artists/illustrators/painters/storytellers ever. One body of Wrightson’s work that so far much of hasn’t seen the light of day is his conceptual work for film and TV. Of which Bernie Wrightson: Art and Designs for the Gang of Seven Animation Studio is set to rectify publishing conceptual work from his time working at this studio.

From Hermes Press:

Wrightson’s extensive design work for the Gang of Seven Animation Studio, while known, has never been documented until now with the creation of this new in-depth monograph that utilizes the archives of the studio. Marvel at concept drawings, model sheets, and hundreds of designs for projects including Biker Mice From Mars, The Juice, and Freak Show. All of the artwork in this book has been scanned directly from the original artwork so fans can savior Wrightson’s genius up close and personal.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1907: Fay Wray of King Kong and The Most Dangerous Game is born
  • 1966: Star Trek (The Original Series) premiers
  • 1966: The Time Tunnel debuts
  • 1973: The TV series Star Trek (The Animated Series) premiers
  • 1975: The animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes debuts
  • 1980: Battle Beyond the Stars premiers
  • 2008: The TV series Fringe premiers



Direct Beam Comms #87



TV

Manhunt: Unabomber

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guest Book

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

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

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

Mindhunter promo

Narcos season three promo

Movies

Masters of the Universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

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