Resin Heroes

1990s sci-fi movie bonanza



There was an explosion of sci-fi movies all released in the late 1990s because Jurassic Park and Independence Day had come out earlier in the decade and were colossal hits. The movie studios, wanting a piece of the sci-fi money pie like how now they all want a slice of the superhero one, started putting money behind sci-fi films. And because of this money and since computer 3D special effects could now make sci-fi things like aliens and spaceships look real meant that not only could sci-fi movies have interesting stories, they could look really cool too.

Starship Troopers

Unfortunately, none of these late–1990 sci-fi movies were successful — until one huge film in 1999 that would change the sci-fi landscape even to this day.

Let’s start with my favorite sci-fi film of this period that turns 20 this fall, Starship Troopers. This movie about a team of teen military troopers doing battle with giant bugs on far off planets never got the attention it deserved. Or really, it got attention but the bad kind. I think the reason this movie was so derided was that audiences didn’t know what to make of it at back then. Here’s my secret for watching Starship Troopers — don’t think of it as a movie from 1997, think of it as a movie from 2197 that accidentally got transported to present day. To me, Starship Troopers is this propaganda film from the future trying to get the population behind this costly, unending war with the bugs and I think watching the movie in that light makes for a more enjoyable experience.

Event Horizon

Even Horizon, also from 1997, is another movie that was derided by the critics back then but is seen in a better light today. This R-Rated horror movie about the crew of a ship sent to Neptune to rescue the survivors of the “Event Horizon” that disappeared years ago and but finds the ship possessed by some evil force is a lot of fun to watch. Event Horizon isn’t the greatest movie, but it’s not a bad one either.

Another film from 1997 that didn’t do well at the time though now is seen in a better light is The Fifth Element. This one doesn’t fit with any other US based sci-fi movies and feels totally different, but in a good way. Much of that’s because it was co-written and directed by Frenchman Luc Besson. Here, forces are trying to unleash a great evil upon the universe and it’s up to Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) and Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) to stop them. At times The Fifth Element is a bit goofy and weird but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Over the years The Fifth Element has aged very well and is a visually stunning and quite good movie.

The Fifth Element

Lost in Space from 1998 on the other hand, hasn’t aged very well and isn’t a good movie. This big-screen remake of the 1960s TV classic starts off interestingly enough with a family of explorers blasting off into an unknown part of space and after an accident and must find their way home. But the second half of the movie never quite fully gels and feels underdone. Worst of all some of the special effects of Lost in Space today look clunky and stand out in a bad way.

Like with Lost in Space the movie Soldier from 1998 hasn’t stood the test of time. Or, I thought it was a bad movie back in 1998 and I think it’s still a bad movie in 2017. Soldier is about an old solider from the future played by Kurt Russell who’s replaced by a newer model and is dumped on a world of trash where he finds a new calling of protecting families marooned there. Soldier is a movie that looks cheap and flimsy with a story to match. Let’s put it this way, the best part of the trailer for Solider features scenes of a giant battle and a skeleton floating in space — none of which appears in the finished film.

Lost in Space

Why anyone would leave the best looking part out of a movie like that is beyond me, but it goes a long way in explaining why Solider is the way it is.

In fact, it wasn’t until the stealth sci-fi film The Matrix would come along in 1999 to both critical acclaim and find a box office bonanza that would change the sci-fi game for the next decade. Gone would be the spaceships and far-off planets of previous decades instead replaced with a more dark and run-down aesthetic with films like Pitch Black, Minority Report and many of the early superhero films of the early 2000s borrowing the style of The Matrix.




Starship Troopers (1997) poster






Direct Beam Comms #85



TV

Game of Thrones

I think I’m done with Game of Thrones. I’ve spent the last six seasons watching the show but the last few years I’ve welcomed its return less and less. It’s not that I don’t like Game of Thrones anymore, it’s just that it watching it has become a chore.

The stories of the first few season of Game of Thrones were much more contained than the ones in the series are now. At first there were stories of Winterfell, Westeros and the Targaryen’s across the sea and that was about it. And even then those stories were interconnected with the likes of the people of Westeros and Winterfell meeting and coming together to the point where there were really only two story locations for a while. But with each season the stories have fragmented more and more and more, to the point where no single episode of Game of Thrones can contain everything going on at once with stories having to be spread out between multiple shows. And even then some stories only get five or ten minutes an episode and one character even went missing an entire season only to pick back up with his story a year later since there wasn’t enough room for him.

With all this story weight meant that each season Game of Thrones started moving slower and slower to the point where in its fifth season, to me at least, there wasn’t enough story progression in it to hold my interest.

While things did pick up in the sixth season of the show, I started finding myself less and less interested in certain stories. So much of what Game of Thrones was last season was of characters who used to be together being off on their own adventures and since I wasn’t into each and ever character’s adventures I found myself more and more skipping through parts of episodes to get to stories that I was interested in. I’d generally stop at Tyrion stories but skip through Arya ones. And honestly by the end of the season I was pretty much only interested in Tyrion.

When I start using my DVR to skip through episodes of any series I know that my days of watching it are numbered.

I do think that if this were the last season of Game of Thrones I wouldn’t be writing this I would instead be watching the show just to see how it all ends. But this season isn’t the last, there’s one more left, and even then HBO is examining the possibility of spinning off the show into a variety of different series. All of which is fine, but at what point is the story of Game of Thrones only about continuing the story of Game of Thrones rather than coming to some sort of ending?

Everyone likes to make fun of soap operas, but at what point do self-perpetuating TV series like Game of Thrones become more soap opera-like than what they initially set out to be like smart, fantasy dramas?

Inhumans promo

Defenders promo

Krypton promo

Westworld promo

Stranger Things promo

Star Trek Discovery promo

The Gifted promo

Movies

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

One of the few movies I did see in the theater in 1987 rather than on VHS or cable was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. That summer I was watching my younger brother at home while my parents both worked and one week they gave us a little cash to get out of the house and go to a movie. I looked through the paper to see what was playing at the theater in riding distance to our house and the choices were Superman IV and Madonna lead Who’s that Girl. Being the mega-comic book fan that I was with a closed full of Superman back issues I, of course, chose to see, you guessed it, Who’s that Girl. I have no idea why I’d want to see that movie at all — in fact I’m relatively sure I’ve never seen it. I can only guess that it was because it would be easier to explain to my friends that I went to see a movie that starred then it-girl Madonna than a Superman movie, since at the time once you were a certain age you weren’t supposed to like superheroes or comics anymore. My mom used her parent veto and nixed the idea of my eight year old brother seeing Madonna prancing around on-screen in a fancy leotard and told us we were seeing Superman IV with Christopher Reeve prancing around on screen in his fancy leotard.

So, one weekday my brother and myself rode our bikes to the theater and saw Superman IV. When you’re a pre-teen kid Superman IV isn’t a terrible movie. It’s got the humous Lenny (Jon Cryer), Lex Luthor’s nephew, and even has ol’ Lex himself (Gene Hackman) back in the role he originated after missing out on Superman III. And let’s not forget Mariel Hemingway co-stars who was one of the most beautiful women on the planet in 1987 which didn’t hurt the movie either.

Looking back on Superman IV 30 years later, it’s a mess of a movie. Produced by Cannon Films known for such gems as Invasion USA and Over the Top, Superman IV was made on the cheap and looks that way. The movie is barely an hour and a half long and that includes both beginning and end credits with the opening credits being the looooooooong credits the Superman movies were known for back then. Christopher Reeve is back as the Man of Steel and a lot of the other cast members like Margot Kidder have returned as well. But other than Reeve the rest of the recognizable faces other than Hackman are in cameo roles at best.

A lot of the movies I’ve gone back and rewatched from 1987 might not be as good as I remember but they all have some sort of weird nostalgic appeal, and Superman IV is no different. Though I would argue that it’s the one movie I’ve watched that’s actually a lot worse than I remember.

The story of Superman IV is of Superman trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but in a devious plans Luthor uses Superman’s tossing all of the nukes into the Sun as a way to make Nuclear Man, a character created for the movie and so-far is his only appearance, in order to destroy Superman. Essentially, Superman IV is a smaller version of everything that had come before in the previous films. It’s almost a small-budget remake of Superman II in many regards with Superman battling one superpower villain instead of three. And since IV was made on the cheap all of the seams show.

Low-budget or not, Christopher Reeve gave it his all in Superman IV in what would be his last role as the title character. After the disappointment of Superman IV it would be nearly 20 years with the release of Superman Returns in 2006 until the character returned to the big screen. However, it’s not like there weren’t attempts at a new Superman movie after IV as most of the 1990s were spent with Tim Burton trying to get his version of the character off the ground in a movie that would have been called Superman Lives and then in the early 2000s there was another attempt this time with J.J. Abrams in another dead movie that would have been called Superman: Flyby.

If you are interested in finding out what happened behind the scenes with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace it’s chronicled in the 2014 documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) as well as in Jon Cryer’s memoir So that Happened. You can also find out what happened with Tim Burton’s aborted Superman movie in the 2015 doc The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?

Blade Runner 2049 trailer

Starship Troopers: Traitor Of Mars trailer

Justice League trailer

Thor: Ragnarok trailer

Books

Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art of Geof Darrow

I first became aware of the work of Geof Darrow in his incredibly detailed drawings in the comic mini-series Hard Boiled when I was a bit too young. That comic, an acid trip through a hellish, corporatized future where robots kill scores of people turned me on to Darrow’s work. Years later I found an amazing book on his artistic contribution to the movie The Matrix that is still one of my prized possessions and now comes another Darrow art book, Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art of Geoff Darrow.

From Dark Horse:

Geof Darrow’s slick, precise inks and stunning detail have amazed comics fans for decades, from his early work with Moebius to Hard Boiled, his first collaboration with Frank Miller, to the overwhelming success of his current series, The Shaolin Cowboy.

Now Darrow provides incredible insight into his process by sharing the pencil drawings behind his meticulous inks in a huge hardcover collection. Featuring well-known covers and never-before-seen drawings alike, Lead Poisoning is a behind-the-scenes look that reveals perfectionism at its best, showing how clean and perfect the initial drawings can be as well as the bizarre alterations that appear to happen on the fly.

Featuring commentary by Darrow and his notable peers, Lead Poisoning: The Pencil Art of Geof Darrow is a hardcover that brings you right to Darrow’s drawing board.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1928: Stanley Kubrick, writer/director of 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange is born
  • 1956: Kevin Spacey, Lex Luthor of Superman Returns and Moon is born
  • 1957: Nana Visitor, Kira Nerys of of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is born
  • 1972: Wil Wheaton, Wesley Crusher of Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • 1983: Krull opens in theaters
  • 1986: Maximum Overdrive debuts
  • 1987: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace opens in theaters
  • 1990: The TV series Swamp Thing premiers
  • 1995: Waterworld premiers
  • 1999: Deep Blue Sea premiers
  • 2001: Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
  • 2013: The Wolverine opens in theaters



Starship Troopers (1997) bug concept art



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Direct Beam Comms #79



TV

Homicide: Life on the Street: The Complete Series

Shout Factory is set to release a DVD set of the entire 122 episode series of the classic show Homicide: Life on the Street for a retail of $120 July 4. Homicide: Life on the Street is one of the finest TV series ever and was a show that would go onto inspire other series like The Wire and The Sopranos years later. What I find funny is that 15 years ago I bought the first few seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street on DVD when those sets were retailing for around $100. Even today those original sets will still retail for around $90. That would’ve meant buying a complete set of Homicide: Life on the Street back then would’ve cost between $600 and $700, making $120 now seem like a bargain.

From Shout Factory:

Executive produced by Barry Levinson (director of Rain Man, Wag The Dog and Bugsy) and Tom Fontana (the creator behind HBO’s Oz), and based on the book Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets by David Simon (creator and executive producer of The Wire), Homicide: Life On The Street presented viewers with a gritty and realistic examination of detectives working the homicide division in Baltimore.

The Mist TV spot

Comics

DC Comics/Dark Horse: Batman vs. Predator Paperback

A newly reprinted edition of the Batman vs. Predator comics is out this week. I remember buying the first issue of Batman vs. Predator at a drug store on a spinner rack and the story of a Predator invading Gotham City with Batman being the only hope of stopping them has always been one of my favorites. Especially since Bats gets to wear one boss piece of anti-Predator armor in the comic.

From DC:

After investigating a series of gruesome murders, Batman realizes that these crimes aren’t perpetrated by anyone from Gotham City…or even this planet. Soon, the Dark Knight finds his real enemy—the intergalactic hunter called the Predator! This collection features BATMAN VS. PREDATOR #1–3, BATMAN VS. PREDATOR II: BLOODMATCH #1–4 and BATMAN VS. PREDATOR III: BLOOD TIES #1–4 and is co-published with Dark Horse Comics.

Movies

Predator

The first time I saw Predator I was 13 years old and it was the night before a family trip to Washington DC. My brother, a cousin and myself were camped out that night in the living room and were watching the movie of the week on HBO, which just so happened to be Predator. Even though I hadn’t seen that movie in the theater, nor would I have really had the opportunity to do so back then, I was aware of Predator from it being covered in magazines like Starlog and Fangoria. But still, when I actually saw the movie I was completely blown away. It was like the creators of the film had gotten into my teenaged head, found out all the things I was interested in and put them up on the big screen.

And, nearly 30 years later Predator is still one of my favorite films. Let’s put it this way — at various times I’ve owned Predator on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and I’m sure that whatever the next thing is that comes along to improve on what’s come before be it 3D or holograms I’ll buy that too.

Predator is the rare movie that actually expanded the sci-fi genera, I think by not exactly adhering to just the sci-fi genera. It’s kind’a a war movie with a group of special forces soldiers lead by “Dutch” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) on a rescue mission in the jungles of Central America. It’s also kind’a a horror movie with the alien Predator gruesomely killing just about anyone who gets in its way. And it’s also kind’a a sci-fi movie with the Predator coming from space on a hunting mission here on Earth.

And it’s probably because Predator isn’t just a war movie, or isn’t just a horror movie or isn’t just a sci-fi movie that it’s stood the test of time and is still a beloved movie by fans of those generas to this day.

I think one thing that sticks in my mind about Predator all these years later are the interesting details. Like the way the Predator’s heat vision is shown on screen in big bright primary colors along with a weird “Bwrarrrrrrrrr” sound every time the Predator is looking about. And the details of each soldier in Dutch’s crew, how they’re all different yet all have the same strange professionalism as warriors in the jungle. They feel like guys who are probably screw-ups when they’re back at home in, say, Idaho but are at their best when they’re in the jungle and people are trying to kill them and vice versa.

I’ve seen Predator many times since that first time and everytime since I catch some new detail that I had missed before, which to me is the mark of a great movie.

That being said, looking back at this movie 30 years later there are a few things that make Predator almost a stereotypical 1980s action movie in that I think some elements in Predator would go and be used in future 1980s and 1990s action movies. From how just about all of Dutch’s soldiers have muscles upon muscles, a weightlifters physique not typically seen in soldiers, to carrying around more firepower than a small army would have, let alone six guys. The most famous weapon in the movie is the mini-gun, it’s the kind of firepower usually seen on jet fighters that fires hundreds of rounds a minute, that a) would be practically useless since the amount of ammunition it needs would make it impractical to haul through the jungle along with b) the weight of the gun that would mean someone would need to carry around hundreds of pounds of hot, unforgiving steel in order to fire the thing once for a few seconds of, “Brrrrrap!”

But in the confines of an action movie made in 1987 — it’s a wonderful “Brrrrrap!”

Akira

Back in the early 1990s I bought a copy of the animated movie Akira on VHS for $30, which with inflation is about $60 today. I was getting $5 a week in allowance and saved up any money I got from Christmas to buy Akira on tape I so badly wanted to see. And this version of the movie was cropped from widescreen and in “pan and scan” with the original audio dubbed from Japanese to English without subtitles. Still, for many years until I picked up a copy of the movie on DVD this was the only film version of Akira I’d be able to see. So today when I was wandering around Walmart and saw they had a 25th anniversary edition DVD of the movie for just $5 I was a bit flabbergasted. For a movie that originally took me many months to get — my original VHS order was lost in the mail and I had to convince the company I bought it from that I wasn’t lying and I really didn’t get it — to see a good quality version of the movie for that low price, just $2.65 in early 1990s dollars, was quite a surprise.

Black Panther teaser trailer

American Made trailer

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars trailer

Toys

Aliens vs Predator figures

NECA is set to release some figures based on the original Aliens vs. Predator comic later this year. First up is a Predator known as “Broken Tusk” that’s the first Predator to have any personality other than “I kill things.” Also being released is a figure based on the character of Machiko Noguchi, a human who ends up joining a clan of Predators at the end of the series.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1973: Battle for the Planet of the Apes premiers in theaters
  • 1982: E.T.:The Extra-Terrestrial premiers in theaters
  • 1983: Superman III opens in theaters
  • 1985: D.A.R.Y.L. premiers
  • 1987: Predator opens in theaters
  • 1989: Ghostbusters II premiers
  • 1990: Gremlins 2: The New Batch opens in theaters
  • 1993: Jurassic Park opens in theaters
  • 2008: The Incredible Hulk premiers in theaters
  • 2013: Man of Steel premiers in theaters