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The best movie & TV posters of 2017



The best posters of 2017 were for the TV series Stranger Things.

Stranger Things

Not too many posters these days are illustrated. There was a time when all posters were, but that time ended with the advent of Photoshop where photos of the actors could be used in lieu of having an artist draw/paint them. But recently that’s changed a bit, especially with the company Mondo creating old-school illustrated posters. And to a certain extent Hollywood’s followed their lead and has produced a number of illustrated posters for big-budget movies. So it’s no surprise an outlet like Netflix would have one of their shows feature an illustrated poster too. What is surprising is how well the illustrated poster for Stranger Things turned out. Illustrator Kyle Lambert created this poster and the attention to detail on it is astounding. This poster manages to be both modern and have a classic 1980s movie poster touch at the same time.

I also like the non-illustrated posters for Stranger Things too. They all work together well as a set and evoke the theme of the series in just a few images.

Thor: Ragnarok

The posters for Thor: Ragnarok shouldn’t work, but they really do. The colors of them are hyper acidic and I get a sugar high just looking at them. I think what makes these posters work is that they still look like the standard Marvel movie posters, but because of the choice to use these colors make them unlike any Marvel movie poster that’s come before. I know I’ve always said I judge the best posters of the year based on whether or not I’d like to have them hanging on the walls of my office. But the posters for Thor: Ragnarok might be the exception to the rule. I adore these posters, but having to stare at them every day on the wall my be too much for my weak psyche to take.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Much like with the posters for Thor: Ragnarok, the posters for Star Wars: The Last Jedi don’t look like any other Star Wars poster I can think of yet still feel like posters for a Star Wars movie. To me the standard Star Wars poster has a bunch of characters on either black or white, and if the movie came out pre–2015 was probably illustrated by Drew Struzan. Except the posters for Star Wars: The Last Jedi look nothing like this. From the teaser poster to character to final, they have characters colored red on a while background. Which makes these posters totally different in the pantheon of Star Wars yet none-the-less still amazing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I’ve been in love with the playful designs of the Spider-Man: Homecoming posters since they started dropping earlier this year. These posters look like they’re capturing discrete moments in Peter Parker’s life balancing things as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man like hiding clothes in a backpack or getting ready to leap off a tall building along with being a regular New York teenager. I especially like one of the posters where Spider-Man is framed perfectly in the center of the image but the background is askew. The first time I saw it and noticed that, and realized the angle that Spider-Man’s really at and it literally made me a bit dizzy.

Star Trek: Discovery

I don’t know if it’s the colors, the blocky typography or the design of the USS Discovery on the poster, but I’ve been a big fan of the teaser poster for Star Trek: Discovery every since it debuted last summer.

Wonder Woman

I really wanted to include the teaser poster for Wonder Woman last year, but I like to include posters for movies in my best of review that premier in the same year as the review. So I sat on this poster for a long time. It’s so simple, with just a near-silhouette of Wonder Woman over an orange and blue sky with the words “Power Grace Wisdom Wonder” below. It’s practically the perfect poster for this movie.

Ghost in the Shell

The Ghost in the Shell movie might have been a disappointment at the box office, but this poster is anything but. It features star Scarlett Johansson becoming invisible via a suit utilizing futuristic technology over the garish neon-infested city the movie takes place in.

Legion

The poster for the FX series Legion, which features the mind of the main character of the series exploding into a nebulous pink/blue mass is the perfect summation for the awesome-weirdness that is this show.

Blade Runner: 2049

It’s interesting to see how the designers for the posters to Blade Runner: 2049 handled things since Ghost in the Shell deals with many of the same themes this film does. Here, they chose to focus on the main characters of the movie like Ghost in the Shell, but to present them in such a way that their photos are totally colored either an intense orange or blue with just the actor’s name and movie title below.

The Dark Tower

The minute I realized I was looking at a city upside down with the negative space of the sky actually forming another city outline from below with the characters of the movie standing in the sky as it were made this poster go from “oh well” to “oh WOW!” for me.




Web of Spider-Man



Let this sink in for a minute — it’s been 15 years since the first Spider-Man movie was released. That first film was something the fans of the comics had been waiting years to see. Originally announced in the 1980s as a low-budget film, then a film James Cameron was set to write and direct after Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the 1990s, rights issues kept Spider-Man from the big screen for years until those details were finally ironed cumulating with a film directed by Sam Raimi and writer by David Koepp finally making it to the big screen in 2002.

Raimi on the set of Spider-Man

Now he seems like the obvious choice, but Sam Raimi as the director of a Spider-Man movie back then didn’t make a lot of sense. Personally, I was excited to see what he could do with the character. I knew Raimi from previous movies and figured that if given the opportunity to bring his kinetic style of action to the character Spider-Man might be really interesting. But to most Raimi seemed like a wildcard.

Back in 2002 Raimi was mostly known for the blood splattered Evil Dead movies and had received a bit of critical acclaim for the 1998 movie A Simple Plan. But otherwise nothing in Raimi’s resume, other than perhaps the Darkman movie, seemed to indicate that he was the right person for the Spider-Man job. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the reason that Raimi got the job was because no one else wanted it.

I’m not saying that there was no director in Hollywood in the early 2000s who was pining for the Spider-Man directing job, but I am saying that back then when superheroes were an unknown quantity I don’t think major talent would have been lining up for the job of directing a comic book movie. Looking at the top grossing movies of the year 2000 the year the first X-Men was released, they were, wait for it, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then Cast Away and then Mission: Impossible II. X-Men didn’t even crack the top five highest grossing movies of 2000, it was eighth at around $160 million.

Now $160 million might seem like a lot of money, but these days that’s what a successful movie might do in a weekend, not its entire run. So back then a Spider-Man movie seemed less like a slam-dunk no-brainer for a director to take than something that had a lot of negatives with not a lot of positives attached to it in a time when comic book movies were openly derided.

But, surprise-surprise, Spider-Man made over $100 million dollars in its opening weekend, more than $400 million overall, and went onto become the highest grossing movie that year.

Which, of course, meant sequels. Spider-Man 2 would follow in 2004 and while it made less than the first was still an improvement on the original in terms of character and story. Even the third movie that came out in 2007 while the weakest of the bunch was the highest grossing movie that year.

Ironically, Marvel created the Spider-Man character but sold the movie rights to the character years ago so that character technically exists outside the Marvel movie universe. So Spider-Man was the biggest superhero of the early 2000s, Marvel technically didn’t have anything to do with the big-screen version of that character.

After the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, two The Amazing Spider-Man movies would reboot the character to a more darker version of the Peter Parker universe beginning in 2012. Funnily enough, while those movies would make a combined $1.4 billion at the world-wide box office they were considered failures by the fans, hence the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie out July 5.

Starring Tom Holland in the title role who originally appeared in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War as the character, this Spider-Man, while still not officially a part of the Marvel universe kind’a is with the inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. in the Tony Stark/Iron Man role on loan from the Marvel movies. This time, Spider-Man along with Iron Man, whom I think will be in less of the movie than trailers indicate, must do battle with the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) who wants to do really bad things to NYC.




Direct Beam Comms #77



Movies

On sci-fi and loneliness: Passengers

Passengers is part of a larger sci-fi trend of film and TV focusing on just one person. Before in similar movies and series, that “one person” was the only one because of some plague or natural disaster like in I Am Legend or The Quiet Earth. But the modern take on this is that this “one person” isn’t the last person alive, but they’re alone and are marooned by themselves none-the-less. Movies like Moon had the only person Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) being the sole-occupant of a lunar mining station, Gravity had Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) as the only survivor of a Space Shuttle mission who’s trapped in orbit and The Martian had Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as an astronaut left behind on Mars who must survive with only duct tape, plastic wrap and his wits.

In all of these movies humanity is still alive and well back on the Earth but the main characters are so separated from us they might as well be the only person alive.

In Passengers, the last man is Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is a passenger on a shiny space-liner taking thousands of hibernating passengers from the Earth to a new colony world. But because of a glitch Jim awakens from this 120 year journey a bit early — 80 years too early in fact. And since he’s the only one awake and since there’s no way for him to go back into hibernation Jim has to face the reality of spending the rest of his life living alone on this ship.

While Jim is utterly alone on this ship he’s surrounded by thousands of pleasantly slumbering passengers all around him and a robotic bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) to talk with. But Arthur has a robotic personality to match and isn’t much company and Jim slowly begins to lose his mind from loneliness as he reads the computerized biographies of the other sleeping passengers. After falling in love with the backstory on another passenger Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), Jim decides to awaken her too, blame it on the same glitch that woke him so they can live happily ever after together on this luxury-liner of the stars.

Or so he hopes.

Passengers is a good movie, if full of plot-holes. From the idea that a company would spend untold sums of cash to build a spaceship that’s like a 5-star hotel that’s but is only designed to be used a few months every 240 years or so is ludicrous. Also ludicrous is the idea Aurora has (get it with her name “Aurora” or Sleeping Beauty) of becoming the first writer to journey to this new colony world and back to write about what that experience is like. Except doesn’t the crew of these ships do that all the time? Plus, once Aurora arrives back on the Earth she’d be a 240 year old anachronism who’d be totally out of date and out of step with the realities of that civilization. Let’s put it this way — if someone from 1777 turned up in 2017 they would be the story. People would be interested in what it was like to live and work 240 years in the past rather than what the trip was like. Or even that Jim wouldn’t look to awaken a technician who might be able to put them back to sleep…

I’d be lying if I said the style of Passengers wasn’t anything that had been put to screen before. The ship of Passengers the Avalon, in and around which all the action takes place, from the inside looks like a 5-star hotel staffed by robots. There are some interesting futuristic bits and pieces here and there, but for the most part style-wise Passengers looks much like every other sci-fi movie of the last five years — very slick and very computer generated. The one thing that is different is the actual design of the outside of the Avalon that looks more like a twisting piece of modern art than a traditional-looking spaceship. But that only goes so far from separating this movie from the pack.

Passengers is good, but it’s not a movie that’s going to expand the genera. There’s really nothing new about the plot of Jim being the last man and facing the future alone but somehow finding companionship — which is what happens in every last man story. But it’s not bad either. I thought on the whole Passengers was a very interesting movie from the last man standpoint if not that unique.

Aurora: He woke me up. He took away my life…It’s murder!

Gus Mancuso: You’re right, Aurora. But, the drowning man will always try to drag somebody down with him. It ain’t right, but the man is drowning.

Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

TV

Castlevania teaser

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1940: Rene Auberjonois, Odo of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1953: Colm Meaney, Chief O’Brien of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1985: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock opens in theaters
  • 1990: Total Recall premiers
  • 1996: The last episode of Space: Above and Beyond airs
  • 1991: The TV series Liquid Television premiers



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



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