Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #34


Stranger Things

29fd7ba0-2b41-0134-0ca5-0a0b9a139ea7It’s hard to see Private Joker from Full Metal Jacket aka Matthew Modine as the lead bad guy on Stranger Things! 😉

First World Problems

I always think of this time of year as the sort of doldrums of movies and TV and this summer’s no different. This year there’s a lot of interesting TV series on like The Night Of, Stranger Things and The Tunnel, and there are a few summer movies left that look worthwhile like Suicide Squad, but for the most part the summer TV/movie season has now reached its apex. Soon, summer TV finales will head into fall TV premiers that are set to begin in a few months and the same for films where movies switch from action to films geared towards the awards season start premiering. In fact, I believe the only TV series left to premiere this summer that I’m interested in, and I’d categorize it as barely being a summer premiere, is Halt and Catch Fire that starts at the end of August.

What I want to do in these Direct Beam Comms updates is, among other things, just review the first episode of a given TV series each season and then the season as a whole after the last episode airs. But since most of what I’m watching right now is in the middle of their runs, and since I really want to avoid talking about each and every episode of TV I watch since a) this isn’t my paying job and b), that stuff’s boring, I don’t have much to write about TV now either.

What sucks too is that movie releases on home media are no better. Right now the movies that are being released are ones that debuted just before the summer movie season which is another doldrum. Or, they’re movies that were released at the start of the summer season but didn’t do as well as expected, which area also movies I’m happy waiting to see when they pop up on cable in a year or so.

Some movies I would like to checkout once they’re out are things like The Nice Guys and X-Men: Apocalypse but those aren’t available for a few weeks. I suppose what I should do in situations where I don’t have anything to talk about is to just rent a recent release on iTunes and then talk about that, even if it’s not something I’d generally see. The only problem with that is that I really don’t enjoy posting negative things about movies and TV series I review, though I sometimes do, so I try and avoid that. And if it’s something that I wouldn’t generally see it makes it more likely than not that I wouldn’t enjoy the movie and would have to write a negative review.

I do find it amazing that almost every week this summer I’ve been able to review new TV series all debuting throughout the summer. When, even just a few years ago, summer was a dumping ground for reality TV or, even farther back, strictly a place for TV reruns. And most of what debuted this summer was good with a few outstanding shows like Stranger Things and The Night Of too.

The Reading/Watching List

On the Horizon

I have longer articles planned out all the way until next February. In the near-term, I’ve got columns written, or at least first drafts of, Suicide Squad, Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, new and returning TV series this fall, one about sci-fi and one about my experiences going to the drive-in as a teenager. I also have articles planned out for the movie What We Do in the Shadows for Halloween, Doctor Strange and The Man in the High Castle too.

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1987: The Lost Boys premiers in theaters
  • 1988: The Blob opens
  • 1991: Terminator 2: Judgement Day premiers in theaters
  • 2002: Signs debuts in theaters

Direct Beam Comms #32


Stranger Things Grade: A

strangerthings_promotionalstill.0.0The new series Stranger Things debuted on Netflix last Friday (July 15) and currently all episode are available to stream.

It’s 1983 and something’s not right in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. Outside of town sits a government installation out of which something has escaped. This thing found young Will (Noah Schnapp) riding home from a game of Dungeons & Dragons one night and stole him away leaving Will’s mother (Winona Ryder), the town police and Will’s friends searching for him.

Also escaped from the installation is a seemingly normal girl only known as “Eleven” (Millie Bobby Brown) from the tattoo on her arm who can do weird things like affect electrical appliances around her and has agents after her led by Dr. Benner (Matthew Modine) who’s willing to kill anyone who gets in his way if it means getting the girl back.

So far Netflix has promoted Stranger Things as a sort of TV version of Steven Spielberg’s movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Spielberg produced Poltergeist. And while Stranger Things does borrow elements from this period in Spielberg’s career I’d say that Stranger Things takes more from the work of the other pop-culture titan of the 1980s: Stephen King. Well, King by way of straight to VHS horror films mixed with a pulsating synth keyboard driven soundtrack.

Part of Stranger Things were scary. Really scary.

stranger-thingsIn the beginning of the first episode when young Will’s being chased by the something I can only described as a human-looking shape, I found the hairs on the back of my neck standing at attention. And at another part of the show when Winona Ryder’s character gets a weird phone call I took a breath so that I could hear every creepy thing emanating from the receiver.

That’s not to say that Stranger Things is strictly a horror series, though if I had to peg it in one genera I’d peg it squarely there. It also has elements of sci-fi and a definite sense of nostalgia for the early 1980s and young geek life before video games and the internet changed everything. But it’s not simply some nostalgia throw-back series.

Stranger Things is a show that’s set in the early 1980s but it’s not something that’s defined by that. The series could easily be set present day or the 1960s and would work just as well.

I wasn’t quite the age of the 1983 middle schoolers in Stranger Things but having grown up in Indiana the series gets a lot of what it was like in small town life back then pre-cable. Adults are really into basketball and you may get to watch your favorite show that night or the TV might be on the “fritz” and you might not. If you wanted to talk to your friends and you didn’t want to call their home phone letting the parents know what’s up you had to be creative. And if you were a geek the details in pop-culture matter. In the first episode two characters get into a fight over whether the Mirkwood was in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings which really struck home for me. The details matter to a pre-teen pop-culture junkie, even the seemingly inconsequential ones.

After having watched the first episode the only negative I can see with Stranger Things is that it’s going to be hard — REALLY HARD — to only watch one episode of this series a week and not blow through all eight in a packed Saturday.

The Bureau aka Le Bureau des Légendes Grade: B+

THE-BUREAU-5-1200x520This French series that’s available on iTunes, the first episode of which is free, is an interesting show about spies that feels a bit like the classic British drama The Sandbaggers.

In The Bureau, French operative Guillaume (Mathieu Kassovitz) has returned home to France after eight years abroad on assignment for the DGSE (the French CIA) in Syria. He tells his teenage daughter, with whom he’s trying to rebuild his relationship with, that his job was to “make friends” of certain people and glean any information that might be useful to France from what they might say. He was less James Bond than someone looking to score a little intel for his side. But in Syria he made one mistake; it wasn’t falling in love with a Syrian national, it was lying about ending the relationship to his superiors.

Back home in France things are in a bit of a disarray at the DGSE where one of their operatives has gone missing also in Syria which might act as a domino and bring own several other operations he knew about. At the same time Guillaume, who’s now working as a case officer inside the DGSE, finds out that his love from Syria is also in France attending school. Which begs the question — is Guillaume being played by the other side?

It took a bit for The Bureau to get going in the first episode, and even when it did “get going” it was a slow, but satisfying burn. Here, the agents are less using secret gadgets, gambling at casinos and drinking martinis and more just getting close to important people to glean even the tiniest detail that might somehow be beneficial to France as a whole. But even if their job isn’t like James Bond’s, it’s just as dangerous as since capture of a DGSE agent outside of France might mean death.

And like I said it’s the slow burn, the bureaucracy of governmental work and the life and death stakes of the characters that reminded me somewhat of The Sandbaggers. Though admittedly by the looks of it the budget of an entire season of The Sandbaggers probably wouldn’t cover one episode of The Bureau. 😉

My only quibble with the series is that it’s not easily available here in the US. Overseas in the UK it’s apparently available on Amazon Prime but here it’s only out on iTunes. Which means if I want to watch the rest of the first season it’s going to cost me $20.

So, it looks like I’m going to be out of $20 in the near future.

Star Wars Rebels season 3 preview


Star Wars: Rogue One “Sizzle Reel”

Cool Sites

Saturday Morning Cartoons: “A collection of Saturday Morning (or Saturday-Morning-Like) cartoons and animated episodes.”

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1984: The NeverEnding Story premiers in theaters
  • 1985: Day of the Dead premiers in theaters
  • 1986: Aliens opens in theaters
  • 1996: The Frighteners opens in theaters