Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #99



TV

Stranger Things

These days, with how fragmented pop-culture has become, pop-cultural phenomenas are pretty rare. It used to be that once or twice a year some song, TV series or film would become a touchstone that would become a national focus for a time before we all moved onto something else. But with how pop-culture has become so expansive over the last decade with 400 new scripted TV series premiering every year, music for every taste existing in very specific channels, dozens of mega-budget movies being released each year and now competition from the likes of smart phone apps and social media — it makes for a landscape where it’s practically impossible for some pop-culture thing to break out of its specific marketing silo to phenomena status.

To me a “cultural phenomena” is some movie, TV series or song that practically everyone is aware of, even if they may have not ever seen or heard it. In the 1990s I was aware of the series Seinfeld, knew what channel it was on and what actors were involved even if I didn’t start watching it until the show was in syndication years after it became popular. And that goes for a lot of TV series that are cultural phenomena these days too. I’d say series like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead are phenomena in that I’d assume just about anyone who watches TV on a regular basis is aware of these two shows, even if many people have never actually watched an episode of them.

So, in a TV landscape where there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of scripted and non-scripted TV series airing each week I’d say those two are only two shows that I’d think would be considered “pop-culture phenomena.” Well, actually, I think there’s now three with Stranger Things joining the cultural phenomena ranks last year with its breakout TV season everyone’s still talking about.

Before the first season of Stranger Things debuted on Netflix the summer of 2016 most of the talk online about the show was how much it looked like the works of Steven Spielberg. And not all in a good way. I got the sense that most people thought Stranger Things was going to be derivative and dull and were counting it out before a single episode streamed. But once the episodes debuted and the reviews started coming in things changed for the show. What was about to be written off as a lame attempt by Netflix creating a show about the 1980s for the nostalgia set became something that appealed to both those who were fans of the sci-fi and horror genera, those interested in nostalgia and those interested in great TV too.

What I think works best about the first season of Stranger Things, where kids from a small Indiana town uncover a conspiracy when one of their own goes missing and another kid appears out of nowhere, was the story. It’s cool that Stranger Things is set in this nostalgia friendly early 1980s, but the story of Stranger Things works no matter where/what time it’s set. Set Stranger Things present day in Florida and the story would still work.

And that’s why I was so excited to see the return of this show — to get back into the story of Stranger Things that has a palpable sense of mystery and danger and to find out what everyone’s been up to the last year after the devastating events at the end of the first season of the series.

In the second season, it’s about a year after the first and everything’s returned to normal in Hawkins. Well, mostly everything. Will’s (Noah Schnapp) returned to the fold except he’s still experiencing visions from the “upside down” where he was most of the first season, Mike’s (Finn Wolfhard) grades are falling since he’s still trying to find Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Nancy’s (Natalia Dyer) dealing with her friend Barb’s parents who’re selling their house to pay for a detective to search for her.

What I found most interest gin in the show is that the characters are paying the consequences from the first. Be it Will being rescued, but now being called “zombie boy” by kids who are scared of him, Mike’s life being turned around from everything he went through or even Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) finding that while things around Hawkins have been pretty normal, it’s about to get a lot less so.

In Stranger Things, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction and just because the kids of Hawkins drove the evil out doesn’t mean that a greater one isn’t going to try and get back in and is stronger than ever.

Comics

Night Force by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan: The Complete Series

One comic series that I’m totally unfamiliar with that sounds amazing is Night Force. This comic series began in the early 1980s and lasted a measly 14 issues before being cancelled. I’m assuming that since the series was out just before I started collecting comics, and since it was so limited, that’s why I never saw it in the 25¢ comic bins at the flea markets or antique shops I used to frequent. Of course, it could also be that at the time of the 25¢ back issue comics I was too busy hunting for an Incredible Hulk #181, The Amazing Spider-Man #129 or Iron Fist #14 to notice something as interesting sounding as Night Force.

One thing — the collected editions of this series go for between $30 and $40 for paperback and hardback cover respectively, but you can find complete runs of the original comics on eBay for less than $20 shipped.

From DC:

The creative team behind Tomb of Dracula reunited in 1982 for DC’s NIGHT FORCE! The series begins as the mysterious sorcerer Baron Winter assembles a team to take on an occult evil. But can the granddaughter of Dracula’s greatest foe, a powerful parapsychologist, and a timelost warrior from the court of King David tackle these threats?

Toys

Alien 3 Dog Alien Maquette

The Prime 1 Studio and CoolProps Alien 3 monster looks amazing. From the sickly brown color to its translucent dome and swappable heads with mouth closed and open, this statue stands more than two feet tall and certainly one to own. Unfortunately, “amazing” comes with a steep price as this item is set to retail for nearly $1,700.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1954: Godzilla opens in Japan
  • 1961: Peter Jackson, director of King Kong, The Frighteners and The Lord of the Rings films is born
  • 1988: They Live premiers
  • 2002: *28 Days Later…” Premiers
  • 2009: The TV series V premiers
  • 2010: The first episode of The Walking Dead airs



Stranger Things of the Third Kind



There haven’t been a lot of movies made that take place in my home state of Indiana. Off the top of my head I can only think of a few like Breaking Away, Hoosiers and A History of Violence. Maybe movies don’t take place in Indiana since right up the road is the mega-city of Chicago where lots of them do that draws interest away from the Hoosier state? So when the Netflix series Stranger Things debuted last year that takes place in the fictionalized town of Hawkins, Indiana I got excited since I couldn’t immediately think of another cool sci-fi thing like Stranger Things that was set here. Then I remembered one of the greatest sci-fi movies in history was also set partially in Indiana that Stranger Things bears a striking resemblance to — Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was writer/director Steven Spielberg’s big follow-up to his smash movie Jaws. In this movie, several people including an Indiana artist (Melinda Dillon) and electric worker (Richard Dreyfus) experience alien encounters over the course of a night. In the electric worker’s case it’s spotting a UFO so bright it leaves him with a half-sunburn while with the artist her son abducted by aliens and is taken away. Afterwards, the two become obsessed with trying to come to terms with what’s happened to them while at the same time trying to put on paper an image that’s in both of their heads. When they finally realize this image is a calling from the aliens to meet at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming and the duo have to track across most of the US to get there while government officials, who also realize what’s about to happen, also gather there and try to stop anyone else from witnessing this event.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was born in an age where aliens could still be looked upon with wonder and amazement, something that essentially died in the 1990s with series like The X-Files, of which the TV series Stranger Things has taken its cue from.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

Much like with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stranger Things also deals with a missing boy abducted not by aliens, but by a creature living in an alternate dimension known in the show as “the upside down” that’s much like our own only black and full of filth. And instead of the characters being able to witness these creatures with amazement like they do in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in Stranger Things they’re met with horror since these things literally want to consume us. And while you get the feeling that the government officials of Close Encounters of the Third Kind are lying to the people to keep them away from Devil’s Tower, it’s because they’re trying to protect us and keep the population from panicking. But the government officials in Stranger Things have no regard for the regular people. They’re ready to sacrifice us at a moment’s notice if it means forwarding their agenda, learning more about the upside down or keeping what’s happening hidden.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

While different then each other, I think that Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the best sci-fi movies of all time while Stranger Things was one of the best series on TV last season. Even if they’re essentially two sides of the same coin. On the one side is Close Encounters of the Third Kind that comes from a 1960s “flower power” idealism where of positivity and wonderment would win the day. On the other is Stranger Things that has its roots in a 1990s flavored mix of government conspiracy and general fear of the things that go bump in the night where you must fear the unknown and fight for your life.

And now comes a second season of Stranger Things just in time for Halloween with all episodes set to debut on Netflix October 27. Mums been the word on the actual plot of the second season, other than it looks to be a continuation of the first with the same characters but with larger monsters from the upside down. Much larger monsters — ones the size of cities.




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



2017/2018 TV preview



New Series

The year superheroes broke TV

There are so many superhero series debuting this TV season there’s almost too many to cover here. In fact, there are at least eight new live-action superhero shows debuting this season which will bring the number currently airing to more than 25 based on comic books.

Inhumans

Inhumans

What was originally set to be a series of Marvel films has now become a TV series with Inhumans on ABC. I never really collected any Inhumans comics so I don’t really know the core Inhumans story. I do know that the show will be the third Marvel series to debut on ABC with Agents of SHIELD entering its fifth season and Agent Carter being cancelled after two. I wasn’t a fan of Agents of SHIELD nor of Agent Carter but will still checkout Inhumans, if with a bit of trepidation.

What I do know about The Inhumans, and what I could glean from ABC’s marketing materials, has them as a race of super-powered people living in a hidden city on the Moon with the likes of Black Bolt who’s voice is so powerful it can destroy entire cities and Medusa with living hair. In the series, a coup on the Moon forces this ruling family down to the Earth to face life among us mere mortals and the rest of the Marvel universe characters.

The Gifted

The Gifted

The Gifted on FOX looks to take the X-Men franchise TV screens with a series about a family on the run after they learn that two of their kids are mutants with super-powers. Some X-Men characters are set to appear in the series but don’t expect Wolverine, Cyclops or Jean Grey to show up in The Gifted. Instead the likes of Polaris, Thunderbird and Blink will be the muties helping the family on the run.

Krypton

Syfy enters the superhero TV game with their series Krypton about life on Superman’s alien home-world decades before his birth. But like with The Gifted don’t expect the Man of Steel to swoop in during sweeps week to boost ratings on the show as Krypton follows Superman’s granddad Seg-El as a spry 20-something living and working on Krypton before the planet went and got all explody.

The Punisher

The Punisher

The Punisher, on Netflix, follows the character of the same name who originally began as an ally/antagonist on the series Daredevil before being spun-off onto his own show. Not much is known about The Punisher other than to expect to see him eliminating as many bad-guys as he can in 13 episodes.

Runaways

The Hulu series Runaways sounds interesting, but reports from the creators of the show make me wonder if it’ll be as interesting as I first thought? The comic series Runaways is about a group of teens who discover that a) they all have superpowers because b) their parents are all major super-villains who run a west coast crime empire. But the creators of the Hulu version have said that the series will be “the O.C. of the Marvel Universe” and that just because the parents are super-villains who quite literally sacrifice people, “that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all that bad.” Ugh, ugh, and double ugh.

Black Lightning

Black Lightning will join the CW stable of established DC characters like Arrow, Supergirl and The Flash this season with the title character who can harness electricity and must return to the superhero fold years after retiring.

Freeform, the old ABC Family, is set to debut two new superhero series next season with New Warriors and Cloak and Dagger.

New Warriors

Cloak and Dagger

When I was a teen New Warriors, a comic about a team a sort of teenaged X-Men, was one of my favorites. But this TV New Warriors isn’t an action series, it’s reportedly a half-hour comedy starring a character named Squirrel Girl, who’s, admittedly, really popular with the younger set these days.

Cloak and Dagger

In the comic Cloak and Dagger Cloak was a character of darkness and Dagger of light who were a team called, you guessed it, Cloak and Dagger. From the looks of it, the TV version retains the characters and their powers, but looks to be more Twilight, “they’re from two different worlds but are in love,” than X-Men “let’s kick Magneto’s butt” in tone.

Non-comic book series

I can’t tell you how weird it feels to write that. Literally a few years ago there weren’t any series based on comic books, now there’s so many I can’t even keep track. But even though there’s quite a few new superhero TV series to look forward to this season, there are a few non-superpowered shows debuting 2017–18 as well.

The Crossing

The Crossing

The Crossing on ABC has a small town becoming inundated when hundreds of bodies begin washing ashore from some disaster. But this disaster is something that’s going to happen in the future and these people are really refugees escaping to their past, our present, to find safety. The Crossing is a show I’m interested in as long as it doesn’t turn out to be another Lost where the goal is to spread the mystery of it out over as many seasons and episodes as possible rather than telling a coherent story.

Even The Crossing seems to have somewhat of a superhero element to it with some of the characters from the future possessing strange abilities far beyond that of mere mortal men.

There are a few interesting looking non-superhero series on FOX this season, the first of which is The Orville.

The Orville

The Orville

The Orville created by and starring Seth McFarlane of Family Guy fame is a live action comedic take on Star Trek. From the looks of things, The Orville is a sort of TV version of Galaxy Quest if the characters on Galaxy Quest were really the bumbling crew of a starship and not Hollywood actors playing them. I think The Orville is a great idea for a series, if I don’t think I laughed once at the promo that was released for the show a few months back.

Ghosted

If The Orville is a take on the movie Galaxy Quest then Ghosted also on FOX seems to be a take on the movie Ghostbusters. This time, instead of four scientists working together to bust ghosts, it’s, according to FOX, a skeptic (Craig Robinson) and true believer (Adam Scott) who’re the ones having to go around and do the busting as it were.

LA > Vegas

LA > Vegas

LA > Vegas has the most unique sitcom setting I can think of over the last few years. The show takes place aboard an airliner that makes a weekly round-trip between LA and Las Vegas with there being some regular characters of LA > Vegas including jet’s crew and people who travel to Vegas every week as well as new passengers each episode on a trip to lose money in the desert.

S.W.A.T.

The S.W.A.T. franchise has had a surprisingly long history. The original TV series of the same name debuted in 1975 with a feature film version in 2003 and a low-budget sequel released in 2011. And now comes a new S.W.A.T. TV series on CBS that’s set to premiere later this fall. CBS dramas aren’t known for their subtly and the promo for S.W.A.T. isn’t subtle with S.W.A.T police officers having gun battles in the streets one minute, smooching with their wives in the shower the next to dodging bazooka blasts a later that evening.

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery also on CBS has the most interesting path to series of any show in memory. This series has been around so long that I originally wrote about it in my 2016 TV preview. Star Trek: Discovery was supposed to premiere January 2017 but was then pushed back to May after execs realized that there was no way the series would be ready to air last winter. Then, a few months into 2017, they also realized that a May debut wasn’t going to happen either so the series was once again pushed back to September 24. Which looks like it’s going to happen since there’s been quite a bit of marketing released on the series including things like posters and online promos for the show.

But wait, there’s more.

Only one episode of Star Trek: Discovery will be shown on CBS with the remainder of the episodes then debuting over the next few weeks on the CBS All Access streaming service for residents in the US and Netflix for most of the rest of the world. Which seems like a bit of a misstep to me. I think CBS is eying fans of Star Trek and are just assuming they’re going to shell out $6 a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery because it’s Star Trek and fans of Star Trek will pay any amount of money to see anything labelled Star Trek. Now, I’m a fan of the Star Trek but I think most of what CBS offers is pure mung and can’t imagine shelling out $6 a month just to watch Star Trek: Discovery when there’s so many other things to watch on TV, especially around the time Star Trek: Discovery is premiering.

Here’s what I could see doing, though.

Star Trek: Discovery

If that first episode of Star Trek: Discovery that airs on CBS is good, if it’s intriguing enough for me to want to checkout the rest of the episodes — all of which is debatable since though I consider myself a fan of Star Trek none-the-less I really haven’t liked anything Star Trek since the late 1990s. If Star Trek: Discovery is interesting enough what I may do is wait until all the episodes are available on CBS All Access since they’re not all being released at once but instead over the course of a few months. And when they’re all available get CBS All Access for a month, binge them and then cancel my subscription.

But like I said that’s debatable. Star Trek: Discovery will have to be really good for me to want to do that and everything I’ve read about the show, from original series helmer Bryan Fuller exiting the series to CBS changing the look of Star Trek: Discovery from retro-Trek to something more futuristic makes me doubt that I’ll be in a big rush to checkout the rest of the series after it debuts in September.

Returning series

Because of the weird nature of TV I’m not quite sure what all current series are returning and when? Like both the series Legion and Westworld aired episodes in early 2017, but are only scheduled to return “sometime” in 2018, which might mean they’ll return in a few months or in more than a year. While there might not be a load of returning shows I’m interested in this season, those that are returning are really good and I don’t think I could be more excited about new episodes if I tried.

The Good Place

The Good Place

One show that is scheduled to return fairly soon is The Good Place on September 20. This NBC comedy about a woman (Kristen Bell) who dies and wakes in “the good place” but really was supposed to go to the bad one was the one new network show from last season that I liked that’s still around for a season two. I was surprised as to just how much a slow-burn The Good Place was, with each episode acting as a single chapter in a season-long story. My initial thoughts on the show was that it might be the most disturbing thing on TV since in the universe of the The Good Place 99.999% of everyone who dies goes to “the bad place,” and it’s only the supremely good among us that end up in “the good place.” So even the best of us are doomed. And in the show if Bell’s character is ever found out what happens to her? Does she get a one-way ticked to hell? I liked The Good Place enough to stick with it until the end, when a twist I saw coming from the very first episode hit that I was still surprised by made me change The Good Place from a show I liked to one I adored.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

The 2016 breakout TV series that I think surprised everyone, including myself, as to how good it was Stranger Things returns to Netflix for a second season October 27. Stranger Things is a show about the 1980s but isn’t about the 1980s, it just so happens to take place there and is this weird, cool mesh of horror and sci-fi I really wasn’t expecting when I first started watching it last summer. Stranger Things stars a mostly pre-teen/teen cast of actors who, after one of the group goes missing and a girl mysteriously appears out of nowhere, must go on a quest to rescue their friend. But be it starring kids and teens or not, the danger and violence of the first season of Stranger Things was palpable with characters being shot, consumed by monsters and cocooned alive to wait out a fate worse than death. I don’t want to say that the first season of Stranger Things was a perfect show, but it might be about the most perfect show fans of horror/sci-fi these days can hope for.

Black Mirror

This surprisingly long-lasting British anthology horror/sci-fi series returns for a fourth season on Netflix this year. It’s easiest to describe this series as a modern day The Twilight Zone, but it’s really its own thing. Generally, episodes of Black Mirror take place in a few years time and deal with our everyday technology gone amok. Be it a society that runs on social media “likes” or soldiers with computers in their heads doing battle with mutant people who turn out to be a little less “mutant” and a lot more “people.” Where Black Mirror excels is at this everyday horror aspect to our lives, it’s the answer to the question, “Do we control our technology, or does it control us?”

And now for the ones that return sometime in 2018.

The Expanse

The Expanse

The Expanse on SyFy channel remains the lone holdout on a network that’s supposed to be for fans of sci-fi that actually is a quality sci-fi show. Two seasons in and I’m surprised as to just how well The Expanse has progressed. What started as a sort’a conspiracy thriller set in deep space with the search for a missing woman has grown exponentially into a war spanning the entire solar system with a group of characters spread out between the Earth, Mars, the asteroid belt, Jupiter and now Venus. I think what I like most about The Expanse is that while the show has grown in scope, the focus has remained on most of the same characters from the first season with a few additions here and there. So while a similar series like Game of Thrones has grown to the point of being unable to contain its story in a single episode, The Expanse has remained grounded and feels much like the same show when it started while the bounds of the story had been let to expand.

Legion

Legion

Legion might be the most trippy series on TV — and one of the best. It’s a superhero show but is nothing like a traditional superhero show since the focus of Legion is on character’s mental states rather than who can punch the villain hardest. I’m not sure the construction of the first season of Legion is like any other series out there. Legion starts out with David Haller (Dan Stevens) living his life inside a mental institution who has these weird memories of his childhood. It seems like David can do these strange things, or maybe he just imagines that he can. As the series progresses we go in and out of David’s, as well as other character’s minds, to the point where we’re really not sure what’s real and what’s not. But in the universe that is Legion what’s real and what is not is not as important as what the characters believe is real or not.

Westworld

Westworld

To me at least, this year wasn’t a great one for original series on HBO. I’m not sure if I’m just aging out of the core HBO demographic, but in 2017 the only show I really cared about there was Westworld, and much like with The Good Place I didn’t think it was going to be very good when I first heard about it. I mean, how could it be? Westworld was delayed ages because of “script problems” and was based on a decades old movie about rich people who visit a theme park where they can do whatever they want to the robotic inhabitants there. And I mean whatever they want. But instead of simply following the model of the movie, the creators of the Westworld TV show also made its focus on the robotic characters of the park in addition to the wealthy visitors. These robots are doomed to unknowingly live the same day over and over again, on a loop with the park’s patrons treating them like toys to be shot or raped or murdered. The question of the Westworld series is, what happens if these robots start realizing their lives aren’t their own and want to claim them back?

The X-Files

The X-FIles

An eleventh season of The X-Files is slated to debut in 2018 on Fox even with the 2016 tenth season having the fans divided. Some thought that because episodes of the new The X-Files were essentially a continuation of the old, and were told in the same anachronistic 1990s fashion, the new episodes were no good when put up against other modern series. While others, myself included, thought that when people were screaming that they wanted more The X-Files, and when more episodes of The X-Files arrived on their TV screens, what did they think they were exactly going to get?

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

The AMC series that started off as just a prequel to the hit series Breaking Bad but over the years has evolved into something so much more Better Call Saul usually returns in the first quarter of the year. The last two years I’ve called Better Call Saul the best series on TV and so far in 2017 it’s still the best. This series has some of the best characters out there, be it sack-sack Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) who in the third season is well on his way to becoming Saul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Jimmy’s not yet right hand man who turned to the dark side last season and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), a woman who’d seemingly have it all together and a great life as a lawyer except she’s fallen into Jimmy’s orbit and ends up literally crashing and burning this season.




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