Resin Heroes

Stephen King’s World of Horror



The author Stephen King has had an amazing career. Over the last 40+ years he’s published more than 50 novels and has just as many films adapted from his works. Which, to me at least, would make King the most influential living writer of our time. And, recently too, a few of King’s work has been turned into TV series with the likes of Mr. Mercedes and The Mist this year and shows like Castle Rock due out in the future.

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower

So, if King’s writing output has remained essentially steady the last few decades — he produces around a book a year, sometimes more — and movies based on his works come out every few years why does 2017 feel different? Why does 2017 feel like it’s the year of Stephen King?

I think it’s because while King’s had a lot of his works turned into movies since the late 1970s, 2017 seems like it’s the first time those movies are top of the line, big-budget films meant for everyday filmgoers rather than those who’d go see a Stephen King horror movie no matter what. It kind’a feels like when comic book movies made the jump from movies only fans of comic books would see to movies anyone would see that appealed to a wide range of people.

The kids of It

The kids of It

Out in theaters this summer is the first film of The Dark Tower saga August 4. This movie that’s based on a series of eight books takes place in a weird realm where old-west style gunslingers do battle with wizards more at home in something like The Lord of the Rings than The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba, if this first film is successful The Dark Tower will be to Sony what Harry Potter was to Warner Brothers — a long-running film series that will be the basis for all sorts of ancillary moneymaking things from Halloween costumes to theme park rides.

Then, a little more than a month after the release of The Dark Tower on September 8 comes It that’s the first movie of two based on the 1986 novel of the same name. Already made as a movie-of-the-week back in 1990, this new It is based on the first part of the book where a group of kids, the film takes place in the mid–1980s, must do battle with an evil presence living under their town that kills children. The It sequel due at some point in the future would deal with the kids as adults present day who must go back to their town and finish the job when the killings start again.

That clown

That clown

If The Dark Tower and It are successful I can only imagine that there’ll be a rush to turn all sorts of King works into movies since he’s got such a back-catalog of classics. And I’d also assume that much like with Marvel and DC other authors in the same vein as King will start getting their works turned into big-budget films as well. But there’s always a chance these two King movies could flop meaning that his movies would one again be relegated to low-budget flicks at best, direct to streaming at worst.

What I find most interesting here is that the The Dark Tower and It movies couldn’t be more different to one and other. One’s a fantasy flick with six-shooters and the other a horror movie with a monster so scary I think there’s an argument to be made that the titular “It” which in its human form looks like a clown scared a generation of kids so badly that they now have a phobia of them. The idea that these two separate works are both being released into theaters around the same time and both movies have a great chance at starting multi-billion dollar film franchises, means that the works of Stephen King might just about to be elevated from simple genera movies that a generation ago were more at home on VHS than movie theaters, to something more. Something more along the lines of serious films — scary clowns and all.




Direct Beam Comms #84



TV

Salvation

I am a sucker for Earth vs asteroid movies. When I first started covering movies here back in the late 1990s two films that I was most interested in were Deep Impact and Armageddon. And even just a few years ago I found myself drawn to and again writing about Deep Impact and another similar movie Meteor too. I’ve essentially been writing about Earth vs asteroid movies the last 20 years so when it was announced that CBS would begin airing the series Salvation this summer that’s a Earth vs asteroid show I was very interested in checking it out.

But still, while I might be interested in Salvation it is on CBS which doesn’t have a good track record of interesting sci-fi series with the likes of Under the Dome, Extant and Zoo all being dull and lowest-common denominator sci-fi the last few years. But regardless of what had come before I was going to check out Salvation no matter what. Unfortunately, not unexpectedly, Salvation is more Under the Dome than Deep Impact.

Much like with both Deep Impact and Armageddon, in Salvation an amateur scientist (Charlie Rowe) discovers that an asteroid in the far-off reaches of space has a 97% chance of hitting the Earth in six months. And when he reveals this fact to the government they tell him that they too have known about this fact for some time and have a contingency plan for stopping the asteroid with a space probe designed to bump the rock off course to miss the planet. But when an engine test for the rocket meant to blast this ship on its journey ends in an explosion, billionaire Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera) realizes that his plan to one day send a ship to Mars full of people might have to happen a lot sooner than he planned.

Salvation is interesting but it’s CBS-ness keeps getting in the way of it being a good show. All of the characters have model good looks, they all work in these super-high tech labs with holographic projectors and computers waaaaay too advanced for present day, no one has any real personality flaws and is more TV character than real person.

Basically, Salvation is CSI + Deep Impact / Tony Stark and his technology from Iron Man.

Mr. Mercedes TV spot

Movies

RoboCop

I remember reading an article in the long far off past of the late 1990s about movies that had what has come to be called a “director’s cut.” This version of the movie was different then the one that was released in theaters, it was the director’s preferred version of this movie. And just the idea that there might be different versions of the same movies I could see excited me. While different cuts of certain movies had been available for years at that point via LaserDisc, I didn’t know anyone who had a LaserDisc, let alone had ever seen a different cut of a movie like RoboCop that I had watched on VHS.

One of the articles I read talked about Aliens that was longer and had additional scenes, The Abyss with a totally different ending than what got released in theaters and a gorier version of RoboCop.

Nowadays it’s common for R-rated movies on home media to be released with a director’s cut of the film since the ratings system that applies to movies released in theaters doesn’t apply to home media. But back in the late 1980s when RoboCop was released on VHS the best we could hope for was the version of the movie that ran in theaters cropped to fit square TVs.

In the mid–1990s there was a push from movie fans for films to be released in their original aspect ratio, not with the sides cropped away*. And with the advent of DVD and the promise that format would feature the movie in its original aspect ratio, include things like commentaries and making of documentaries… more and more movies started being released with director’s cuts as bonus features. With DVDs becoming popular and everyone buying them looking to replace their VHS tape collections, for a brief moment movie studios began looking at their back catalogs thinking what could they do to get fans to buy the same movie yet again? And one of the things they did was to release more “director’s cuts” of movies.

By the time of DVD I had bought a few director’s cuts of movies on VHS that were dubbed from LaserDisc at comic book conventions with the likes of Aliens and Independence Day. But one of the movies I didn’t have much success finding the director’s cut of was RoboCop. In fact it wasn’t until years later when the movie was out on Blu-ray that I finally saw that version of the film.

To be honest, Paul Verhoeven director’s cut of RoboCop is less about having additional scenes that add story but is instead about turning a movie that’s known for having a decent amount of gore for a sci-fi film to one that has an incredible amount of gore and violence period.

If in the theatrical cut of RoboCop someone is shot once, then in the director’s cut they’re shot twice, once more up close and always squirting blood. And if someone shoots a gun in the theatrical cut, in the director’s cut they shoot again and again and again. So much so that the director’s cut is almost verging on comedy because of the over-the-top gore.

The iconic RoboCop image

I end up watching RoboCop about once a year but honestly I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the director’s cut. I own that on Blu-ray but for whatever reason I end up catching the theatrical version unedited on TV somewhere and end up watching that instead. So I’m honestly not sure what I think about the director’s cut since it’s been a very long time since I’ve last seen it.

What I find interesting is that for the longest time the only way to see a director’s cut of any movie was on home media. The version of the film that played on TV at best was always the theatrical cut, at worst the dreaded “edited for television” or super-dreaded “edited for television and formatted to fit your screen.” But recently I’ve noticed that starting to change with several films airing as the “director’s cut” on cable outlets and not the standard theatrical version.

It must be jolting for the casual movie fan to sit down one day to watch a favorite movie they know by heart and have watched year after year to instead see something ever so slightly different then before. Then again, maybe “the casual movie fan” doesn’t pay as much attention to their movies as I do, and maybe most people simply watch movies to be entertained rather than to examine and write about the material.

*Though slowly at first since even in the early 2000s I still remember people coming into a big-box store I was shopping at to yell at the clerk in the electronics department about those “damned black bars at the top and bottom of the movie.”

The Dark Tower trailer

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1967: Vin Diesel, Riddick of Pitch Black is born
  • 1984: The NeverEnding Story premiers in theaters
  • 1985: Day of the Dead premiers in theaters
  • 1986: Aliens debuts
  • 1987: RoboCop premiers
  • 1988: Akira premiers
  • 1996: The Frighteners opens in theaters
  • 2011: The TV series Falling Skies premiers



Direct Beam Comms #74



TV

American Gods Episode 1: C+

There’s been a tendency of late for series creators to embrace the model of season-long stories. The old model of TV was that each episode of a show would have a story that has a beginning, middle and end so that each episode wasn’t connected to other episodes stories in any meaningful way. Recently, more modern series began embracing season-long stories where episodes did have a beginning, middle and end but also were a piece of a season-long story that was also playing out throughout the year. But now some shows have abandoned each episode have a beginning middle and end and have started treating each episode as a “chapter” in a season-long story. So episodes are only a part of a larger story are used in service of that.

Which, if done right like in The Wire or True Detective can make some wonderful TV. But, if done not so right can make for some confusing TV, like I experienced with the first episode of the Starz series American Gods.

Adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, the American Gods TV series was created by writer Bryan Fuller and Michael Green. Which I thought boded well for the show since Fuller adapted the heck out of the Hannibal story for NBC a few years ago and created a magnificent series in the process. That show about the early days of Hannibal Lector had episode stories as well a season-long story too. While this worked for Hannibal, with American Gods Fuller instead embraces the season-long story model which made for one weird episode of TV.

In the first episode, a guy named Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released from prison where he meets up with a guy named Wednesday (Ian McShane) who quickly puts Moon on his payroll of being his eyes and ears out in the world. It seems as if the gods of lore like Odin and new gods like Technology are real, and the new gods and old are on the brink of war with each other.

Except I didn’t get much of the gods plot from the first episode, that came from TV commercials for the show and reading up on the original novel. Most of the first episode of American Gods is about Moon trying to get to his wife’s funeral, Wednesday turning up in some unexpected places, the introduction of a few other gods and the weirdest human sacrifice put to film I’ve ever seen.

In fact, I don’t think that if I didn’t already know kind’a what was going in on American Gods that I would have had any clue as to what was happening whatsoever since the first episode, while beautiful to look at, had very little plot/story going on. While watching it I kept getting the feeling that people who’d read the American Gods book were also watching the show going, “Ohhhh, that’s the part where X happens and this is setting you Y down the road!” But to me I never really got a handle on what was all going on.

I get that the eight episodes of American Gods show will play out as a single story, it’s just how long do we have to wait until we get past the weird sex stuff and people being cut in half before we get to a little plot?

The Defenders TV commercial

Inhumans TV commercial

Comics

Creepshow

A new edition of the classic Creepshow graphic novel is back in print some 35 years after original was released. Creepshow collects all of the stories that went into the movie of the same name with illustrations from Bernie Wrightson, which that name alone is reason enough to pick this one up. I was a little too young to buy the graphic novel when it first came out and for whatever reason never bothered picking it up since so I’m really excited about picking a copy of this up as soon as its released.

From Simon & Schuster:

Now back in print: the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s Creepshow, based on the 1982 horror anthology and cult classic film directed by George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead)—and featuring stunning illustrations by the legendary Bernie Wrightson and cover art by the acclaimed Jack Kamen! A harrowing and darkly humorous tribute to the controversial and influential horror comics of the 1950s, Creepshow presents five sinister stories from the #1 New York Times bestselling author—“Father’s Day,” “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” “Something to Tide You Over,” “The Crate,” and “They’re Creeping Up on You”…unforgettable tales of terror to haunt your days and nights!

Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics Vol. 1 Hardcover

From IDW this week comes a collected edition of the Star Wars newspaper strips that ran from 1979–1984. This first edition runs from 1979 to the end of 1980 and has something like 575 panels from that period. I don’t know why but I’m a nut for these collected adventure strips and can’t wait for this one to come out, even if I think I’ve already got a lot of these stories somewhere when Dark Horse ran them collected in comic book form.

From IDW:

The first of three volumes that present, for the first time ever, the classic Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979–1984 in its complete format — including each Sunday title header and “bonus” panels in their meticulously restored original color. Initially the color Sundays and black and white dailies told separate stories, but within six months the incomparable Russ Manning merged the adventures to tell brand new epic seven-days-a-week sagas that rivaled the best science fiction comics of all time.

Movies

The Dark Tower movie trailer

Games

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 Board Game

I’m not much into board games, but I have to say that I’m very tempted to pick up the The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 board game by Mondo from subject-matter alone.

From Mondo:

An alien lifeform has infiltrated a bleak and desolate Antarctic research station assimilating other organisms and then imitating them. In the hidden identity game THE THING ™ INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31, you will relive John Carpenter’s sci-fi cult classic in a race to discover who among the team has been infected by this heinous lifeform. The game has been designed to be as authentically cinematic as possible, ensuring that the players will experience the paranoia and tension that makes the film so great.

Toys

Prometheus Action Figure Series – The Lost Wave

Nearly five years after they were originally due to be released, the final three toys from NECA’s line of action figures based on the film Prometheus are finally set to be released this June. The first three figures in the set that did make it to shelves included David, the alien creature known as the “Deacon” and an “Engineer.” The lead character of the film Shaw and characters Vickers and Fiefeld were set to be released later, but later turned into never when the line was cancelled after poor sales. But never let it be said that NECA didn’t sense a golden opportunity when the new movie Alien: Covenant was announced and suddenly these three “lost” figures suddenly became found and are now set to be available again this summer and will retail for around $70.

From Big Bad Toy Store:

The 7″ scale figures are entirely movie accurate and feature over 25 points of articulation. Vickers (Charlize Theron) comes with flamethrower and removable helmet. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) comes with axe, removable helmet and the android David’s severed head. Fifield (Sean Harris) comes with flashlight and removable helmet.

LEGO® Ideas 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V

This new Lego Apollo Saturn V rocket stands a whopping three feet tall, contains all three rocket stages as well as the command module, LEM and three micro figures. The kit will retail for about $120 and will be on sale the first of June.

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1971: Morgan Weisser, Nathan West of Space: Above and Beyond, is born
  • 1973: Soylent Green opens in theaters
  • 1984: Firestarter debuts
  • 1986: Short Circuit opens
  • 1989: The Return of Swamp Thing premiers in theaters
  • 1994: The Crow opens in theaters
  • 1994: The TV mini-series The Stand premiers
  • 1995: The Fifth Element debuts in theaters
  • 1998: Deep Impact opens in theaters