2017 Summer movie preview
Out first this summer is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 May 2. I wasn’t a fan of the first movie but am in the minority since the launch of these trash-talking, comedic space-faring heroes lead by Star Lord (Chris Pratt) quickly became a surprise mega-hit at the box office a few winters ago. This time, “Chris Pratt of the 1980s” Kurt Russell joins the cast as “Ego,” who in the comics anyway is quite literally a “living planet.” And what’s not to love about that?
May 19 sees the release of Alien: Covenant, the third Ridley Scott Alien film, and a direct sequel to Prometheus (2012). Prometheus got a bad rap by the critics but made more than $400 million at the box office hence Alien Covenant. What’s interesting here is that from the looks of things Scott has taken Alien: Covenant back to something a little more in the vein of Alien with the crew of a ship fighting the insect-like baddies and away from the more esoteric Prometheus, which I happened to like a great deal. Luckily, I also happen to like Alien a great deal too and couldn’t be more excited for this movie if I tried.
DC Entertainment tries to get their movie act together with the release of Wonder Woman on June 2, the fourth release of the modern DC movie universe. Originally appearing in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and stealing the show, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) launches the Amazonian to the big-screen in her own movie set during WWI. My only concern for Wonder Woman is that she fought the monster Doomsday in Batman vs Superman and almost single-handedly took him down in an ultimate bad !#$ way. So whatever she faces in Wonder Woman has got to be as big or that movie might be disappointing.
The creators of The Mummy on June 9 are attempting to create their own franchise and so-called “shared universe” of movies with the Universal Monsters. Starring Tom Cruise not as the mummy but someone trying to stop her from destroying the world, early looks at The Mummy seem to indicate something like Mission Impossible crossed with Suicide Squad. The Mummy is the first movie of this interconnected film universe that will also include the likes of The Invisible Man, Wolf Man, Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon in future films if this one’s a hit.
Spider-Man movies have had a really weird path to the big-screen the last few years. There were two Andrew Garfield The Amazing Spider-Man flicks a few years ago that failed to score billions at the office so that version was shelved. More recently Columbia Pictures, who owns the film rights to the character, had a new Spider-Man, this time played by Tom Holland, crossover in the Marvel movie Captain America: Civil War last year while still retaining the rights to make their own Spider-Man stand-alone films. Now comes that first film Spider-Man: Homecoming out July 7 this time with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) crossing over to this film.
A third Planet of the Apes film War for the Planet of the Apes is out July 14. The Apes film series is one of my favorites with the first chronicling why the apes got their smarts and the second what was happening with them just after the fall of man. This third film seems to be the story about the final apes vs man battle, with the winner taking claim to the planet. If you’ve seen the 1960s/1970s apes movies I’m sure you know how that works out.
Closing out the summer is the first movie based on the The Dark Tower Stephen King book series on July 28. Starring Idris Elba as the heroic gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey as the evil sorcerer, the The Dark Tower movie series is being billed as a sequel or continuation of the books rather than a big-screen version of them. It’s hard to describe The Dark Tower without giving too much away, but there are alternate dimensions, monsters and magical powers and, best for Hollywood, if this first is successful a series of seven other books that can all be turned into films.
Direct Beam Comms #69
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
Spider-Man: Homecoming 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 #53
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.”
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