Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #95



TV

Star Trek: Discovery

The ironic thing about Star Trek was that after the series Star Trek: Enterprise ended in 2005 I really got the feeling that Paramount had no confidence in the property whatsoever. At that time, before the launch of the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie, things were so bleak that there were reports that Paramount was getting ready to shut down the official Star Trek website.

Luckily that never transpired and while I didn’t care for them, the Abrams films resuscitated the property for a little while longer. Now, 12 years after the last new TV episode of Star Trek comes a new series, this time not shown in syndication, or on cable outposts like UPN or The CW but instead for the first episode at least on CBS; Star Trek: Discovery.

This seventh Star Trek TV series takes place after the events of Star Trek: Enterprise but before those in the original Star Trek. Starring Sonequa Martin Rainford as Commander Michael Burnham and Michelle Yeoh as Captain Han Bo, the promise of Star Trek: Discovery was to take turn an aging franchise into a modern TV series.

I hate to report that while Star Trek: Discovery might be a modern series, not much happened in the first episode that debuted on CBS. We’re introduced to the crew of the ship the USS Shenzhou that, on a mission to repair a Federation relay thingy uncovers Klingons hiding nearby. And as things go from bad to worse and one Klingon ship is joined by many and when Burnham tries to fire on the Klingons without orders to do so … the series goes to commercial with the message, “If you want more Star Trek subscribe to CBS All Access.”

So we’re left on quite a cliffhanger. And while I’d argue that this first episode of Star Trek: Discovery is probably better in terms of story than something like the first episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Voyager were, since the Star Trek: Discovery episode ends on a cliffhanger there isn’t much story present to hold things together and it ends feeling half done.

Star Trek: Discovery

And because this is the first half of what’s obviously supposed to be a single, two-hour long episode/movie. It means that in this first episode we never get to meet the crew of the USS Discovery nor most of the cast of the show who’s been pitching the series the last few weeks other than Martin-Green. There’s no Jason Isaacs, Anthony Rapp or Mary Wiseman who’ve been everywhere in marketing materials and in fact inexplicably the USS Discovery ship is totally absent as well. 100% of the episode here focuses in on the Shenzhou and its crew who, as far as I can tell, aren’t in the show after the second episode.

Which leaves me scratching my head a bit? If this first episode is supposed to sell the viewers on Star Trek: Discovery in order to get them to signup and get CBS All Access accounts, then why show only the first episode with a mostly different cast on a totally different ship where nothing much happens other than a tense standoff?

I liked Star Trek: Discovery and would be watching it every week if it were on CBS. But I don’t think the first episode of the show sold me enough on it to shell out $84 a year on the service just for Star Trek.

Inhumans

So far, Marvel hasn’t been able to match the quality of the movies in their TV series yet. Some of that has to do with the nature of films having much bigger budgets than a comparable episode of TV. For example, while a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy 2 might have a budget of something like $200 million, if reports are to be believed a comparable first feature-length episode of Inhumans might have a budget of $20 million. Now $20 million isn’t a minuscule amount, but it’s not nearly enough to deliver the spectacle that audiences have come to expect from the Marvel movies that are generally built around a few big action scenes with bits of story holding things together. The TV series with their smaller budgets simply can’t do that. Instead they have to rely on things like characters and story over big action scenes.

I think what hurts Inhumans the most is that it doesn’t have much action or story. There’s a lot of palace intrigue and when there are fight scenes they’re standard TV fare. But to the story of Inhumans was so over the top and heavy handed it was unintentionally silly at times.

In the Inhumans, inhumans who have all sorts of varying superpowers live and work in a secret city on the Moon hidden from the regular humans on the Earth. Inhumans started off as regular people, but after being exposed to the “Terrigen Mist” at some point fled to the Moon to escape persecution. There, during a ritual all teens are exposed to the mist to develop their powers.

On the Moon there are the haves like Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Medussa, (Serinda Swan) and Karnak (Ken Leung) who have powers like a super-voice, super-hair and the ability to win any fight and those who were exposed to the mist like Maximus (Iwan Rheon) but didn’t develop any powers. The have-nots are forced to work in the mines for some reason that’s never really explained. The haves live a life of luxury in a city that’s slowly running out of resources so Maximus hatches a plot to leave the Moon and take over the Earth but his planning is so shoddy he allows most of the main characters to escape his clutches and flee to the very planet he wishes to conquer.

Inhumans isn’t bad, it’s just boring. For a show that’s about a population of super beings living on the Moon and doing battle the first movie-length episode seemed to crawl at times where it seemed like nothing much happened. The special effects of the show aren’t movie-quality, but neither are they of lesser quality for other similar shows.

Honestly, Inhumans is pretty much what I expected from a modern-day ABC Marvel series where there are good guys and bad, and there’s never any doubt as to who is who.

Movies

Annihilation movie trailer

1922 movie trailer

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1923: Charlton Heston of Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and The Omega Man is born
  • 1948: Avery Brooks, Captain Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1959: The TV series The Twilight Zone premiers
  • 1968: Night of the Living Dead opens in theaters
  • 1987: Near Dark opens in theaters
  • 1988: The movie Alien Nation premiers in theaters
  • 1999: The TV series Roswell premiers
  • 2000: The TV series Dark Angel premiers



Star Trek: Discovery TV series posters






Direct Beam Comms #76



Movies

Alien 3 25th anniversary

I’ve written a lot about the movies Alien and Aliens over the years, but I don’t believe that I’ve ever really delved into the movie Alien 3. When I saw that movie was turning 25 this week I thought it would be the perfect time to muse about that film.

Today, Alien 3 is considered by the fans to be a noble failure. That movie was directed by David Fincher before he was David Fincher, so it’s got all the visual stylings we would come to expect from the director, but something about the movie is off. Alien 3 kind’a tries to return the Alien franchise to its roots — an alien vs a bunch of people sans any real weapons — yet the story is so uneven in places that it never ever is able to “get going” and never takes the audience for the ride we were expecting to go on after Aliens.

I’d agree that Alien 3 is the weakest of the first three alien movies and I remember the first time I saw it, on VHS the winter of 1992, I was disappointed by it. I remember thinking that Alien 3 wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t nearly as good as the other two.

Here’s the thing, though. I think that if Alien 3 had somehow not been a sequel, that instead it was the first film of an Alien franchise instead of third, it would be widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made warts and all.

Alien 3 has its own unique look and feel. If the esthetic of Alien was of “truck drivers in space” and Aliens a sort of 1980s yuppie mixed with military fatigues, I think the look of Alien 3 can best be described as depressed industrial. Everything from the colors of the environment to the uniforms the characters wear is a sickly, rust-colored industrialization gone amok brown. There’s absolutely no bright colors in Alien 3 and everything looks worn and used and ready to fall apart.

And this esthetic would carry over to Fincher’s later films like Se7en and Fight Club which are both considered great films partially because of this esthetic.

It’s true that the story of Alien 3 isn’t great, the movie’s famously trouble production explains a lot, but it’s still enjoyable. The story centers Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crash landing on a far-off planet that’s a sort of prison complex for some very bad guys. And because she’s arrived with the alien spore Ripley and the prisoners must do battle to the death with the creature since help isn’t coming and it’s a winner takes all situation.

Now that I think about it, the craziest choice in Alien 3 is that you’ve got at the time one of the most beautiful and famous actresses on the planet with Weaver who in this film has a shaved head and looks more like one of the ragged male prisoners than one of the most recognizable actors on the planet which is a bold chose to say the least.

All of which makes for one interesting movie to watch even if the story’s uneven at best. But since Alien 3 is a the third film, and since two of the most beloved characters in Aliens are killed off in the opening minutes on-screen and since the story’s not perfect means that to most Alien 3 is seen as the first failure in the franchise rather than an interesting film. I do wonder if anyone now would go into Alien 3 without any expectations, which admittedly is impossible, what they would think of the film? Would they agree with Siskel & Ebert who gave the film two thumbs down or would they see something more in this now mostly forgotten film?

Star Wars 40th anniversary

I’m old enough to remember when the 10th anniversary of Star Wars was a big deal and now that the movie turns 40 this week I thought it would be interesting to post a few articles I’ve written over the years on the franchise.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, for years known simply as The Road Warrior in this part of the world, turns 35 this week. I saw Star Wars in the theater as many of my friends did, but I don’t know anyone who ever saw Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior there. I saw that movie many times edited for content on broadcast TV and I’m relatively sure I didn’t see the complete unedited version of the film until many years later on DVD.

Much like with Star Wars and Alien 3, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a part of a movie franchise that’s still going strong today.

War for the Planet of the Apes movie trailer

The Mummy trailer

Books

The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant

Out this week is the obligatory “making of” book for the movie Alien: Covenant. From Amazon:

This official companion book explores all the major environments, creatures and technology that feature in this exciting new movie. It explores the intricate technology of the eponymous colony ship and its auxiliary vehicles, designs of the crew’s uniforms and weaponry, artwork of key locations and breathtaking alien art imagery in amazing detail. Packed with fascinating sketches, blueprints, diagrams, full-color artwork, final film frames and behind-the-scenes shots from the set, Alien: Covenant – The Art of the Film is the ultimate literary companion to this highly anticipated movie event.

Toys

Alien: Covenant

NECA has released photos of all its action-figures set to be released from the movie Alien: Covenant including the already shown Xenomorph, but new Neomorph as well as other monsters from the film.

The Reading & Watch List

TV

Star Trek: Discovery series promo

The Crossing series promo

GLOW series promo

The Gifted series promo

The Orville series promo

Ghosted series promo

Black Lightning series promo

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1970: Beneath the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
  • 1971: Escape from the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
  • 1977: Star Wars premieres 40 years ago
  • 1979: Alien opens
  • 1979: Dawn of the Dead opens in theaters
  • 1981: Outland opens
  • 1982: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior opens in theaters 35 years ago
  • 1983: Return of the Jedi premiers
  • 1985: Trancers premiers
  • 1988: Killer Klowns from Outer Space debuts
  • 1990: Back to the Future Part III opens in theaters
  • 1992: Alien 3 opens 25 years ago
  • 1995: Johnny Mnemonic premiers
  • 1997: The Lost World: Jurassic Park opens in theaters 20 years ago
  • 1999: The last episode of the TV series Millennium airs
  • 2010: The last episode of Lost airs



Sci-Fi Heaven



I’m amazed at the amount of great sci-fi movies and TV series that are being released each year. It wasn’t too long ago that sci-fi was relegated to late night TV syndication or movies of the week, but these days the most popular films are all sci-fi in nature and there are a plethora of quality sci-fi TV series too.

_captain_america__civil_war_trailer_-_h_2015

Captain America

What sci-fi movies am I talking about that are so popular? To me, just about each and every superhero movie is sci-fi in disguise. Don’t believe me? Superman is an alien, both Spider-Man and Captain America were created by experiments gone awry and The Guardians of the Galaxy takes place on far off planets in the depths of space.

Even ones that don’t directly contain sci-fi tropes none-the-less have sci-fi elements from Iron Man’s robot-like armor to Batman’s crazy gadgets.

And those are just superhero movies. There’s also loads of great obvious sci-fi movies too.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

One of my favorites of the last few years was the underrated Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt movie Edge of Tomorrow about a soldier who’s trapped in a time loop and is forced to live the worst day of his life over and over again during an alien invasion. There’s also the new Planet of the Apes franchise that’s taken a story that’s been around nearly 50 years and put a fresh spin on it and even the latest Mad Max: Fury Road that’s based on a nearly 40 year old film series and recently won the most Oscars at the 2016 ceremony.

And it’s ostensibly a movie that’s a big car chase that takes place in a post-apocalyptic future!

And let’s not forget the two grand sci-fi franchises of the 20th and 21st century; Star Wars and Star Trek. The current Star Trek film franchise has been around since 2009 and has produced three movies, the latest of which was the number one movie in the country for a few weeks running. And Star Wars returned last year with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and earned more than $2 billion at the box office. Now there are new Star Wars movie due out every year forever — or until the movies stop making money.

Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: Episode VII

Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: Episode VII

Because TV series costs less to make than a movie things are even better for the sci-fi genera on the small screen. There, series like The Expanse on SyFy is a classic “people in very large ships in outer space” series updated for the modern day while The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime brings movie adaptation stalwart Philip K Dick to a TV series and even the oh-so-good Stephen King/Steven Spielberg/1980s mashup Stranger Things on Netflix.

In fact there’s so much good TV on these days I could go on and on and on. I didn’t mention the awesome Black Mirror on Netflix or even Doctor Who on BBC America with seemingly more sci-fi series announced each month.

Next year brings the return of Star Trek to TV screens for the first time in 12 years with Star Trek: Discovery. Discovery is co-produced with Bryan Fuller who created the amazing Hannibal series and was also a Star Trek writer in the 1990s. Which means there’ll be two totally separate Trek properties, one in movie theaters and the other streaming to TVs.

The Expanse

The Expanse

And because sci-fi is so popular and makes so much money these days the immediate future looks nothing but bright. The superhero genera is so popular there are SEVEN big-budget movies due out in 2017 and the next Star Wars movie Rogue One premiers this winter. What has me most excited are upcoming movies like Annihilation based on a book series of the same name, another Alien prequel and a new King Kong movie all due out next year.

Surly all this gold can’t last — one day sci-fi will return to the geeky depths that it emerged from earlier this century. Nothing this good can last forever, but until the bubble collapses I’ll be spending my time with my favorite stories and characters at the movies and on TV every week.




The Second (Third?) Coming of Star Trek



I’ve found that it’s hard to come to terms with how popular some things are these days. When I was growing up the series Star Trek, which originally aired 50 years ago next month, wasn’t exactly popular. Where I lived, episodes of the original series aired weekdays before Little House on the Prairie and while there were Star Trek movies in theaters that did well enough at the box office to warrant a slew of sequels, I wouldn’t exactly have called Star Trek “cool” then.

tngcrewIn the 1980s, people who were into the series were derided as “Trekkies” and were considered to be nerds and losers because of their devotion to a series that had, at that time, been off the air for decades. And when new episodes of Star Trek returned to TV in 1987 with Star Trek: The Next Generation the series wasn’t considered good enough to air on a network and instead was shown in syndication. Which meant that the series was airing at different times and on different channels depending on where you lived. I remember TNG aired on a local non-affiliate station at the inviting hour of 9AM Sunday mornings which meant the series was basically filler since I can’t imagine Sunday morning makes for “appointment TV.”

For a moment in the mid–1990s just before TNG left the TV for feature films it felt like Star Trek was slightly cool — especially with two Star Trek series airing together then with TNG and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and then later a second TNG movie Star Trek: First Contact (1996) that was actually quite good.

leave_behind_476But it wasn’t too long before Star Trek would once again be relegated to the back of mind for most people as the quality of the feature films began to slip with the film series ending in 2002 and two more Star Trek series Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise that never caught on with the general public or a majority of sci-fi fans.

All seemed lost for Star Trek until it was announced that a new movie was in the works by JJ Abrams who, at the time, was known as the guy who created the series Felicity and Alias, had a hand in the TV series Lost and had co-written and directed Mission: Impossible III (2006).

Abrams new movies would feature the original characters like Kirk and Spock from the first series but in all-new adventures and in an all-new and different universe that had a harder edge than before.

Being a Trekkie, I was super-excited about these new films and saw Star Trek (2009) the minute it was released and couldn’t have been more disappointed when I left the theater. Simply put, the story of the 2009 Star Trek had too many plot holes to count meaning there were large parts of that movie that simply did not make sense. I left the theater feeling dejected, thinking that this version of Star Trek would put the franchise on the back-burner again and we’d have to wait 10 years for new Star Trek.

latestBut that movie actually did quite well and another Star Trek movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness was released in 2013. Was that movie any good? I don’t know, you’ll have to tell me — I didn’t bother seeing it after the my disappointment of the first.

And the latest Abramsverse Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond, opened to a decent box office a few weeks back and was the number one movie in the US on its release. Still, if I ever end up seeing Beyond it’ll be because Simon Pegg, whom I greatly admire, had a hand in crafting the script and not because I’m a fan of the latest movie series.

But there has been a ray of hope in the Star Trek franchise of late — another TV series is in the works. This new Star Trek is being co-created by Bryan Fuller who most recently was responsible for the wonderful Hannibal TV series. Star Trek: Discovery is set to start airing January, 2017 but other than the first episode won’t actually be shown on TV, it’ll be the cornerstone of CBS’ $6 a month online streaming service.