Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #54



TV

The Man in the High Castle – Season 2 premier – Grade: B+

All episodes of the second season of The Man in the High Castle are currently available on Amazon Prime, but so far I’ve only watched the first episode of the second season so take that into consideration.

In the second season – it’s bleak times for Americans living in 1962 in The Man in the High Castle. From the east coast to the Rockies the Nazis rule with an iron fist, eliminating any resistance along with anyone not measuring up to the aryan ideal. On the west coast the Japanese Imperial Army occupies everything that side of the Rockies. And while living under Japanese rule is slightly better than the Nazis, it still means that the Americans live as third-class citizens with the Japanese killing and executing whomever they want with impunity. But in all this bleakness is a tiny ray of hope — a film found that seems to depict an alternate reality, presumably ours, where the Nazis and Japanese lost and the Allies won WW2.

The second season starts essentially where the first left off. With characters Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) and Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) separated while trying to get one of these films to the titular Man in the High Castle with Japanese diplomate Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) suddenly realizing that these films might be right and their reality might be one of many and American Nazi John Smith (Rufus Sewell) returning to his position of power in New York.

Movies, and now series, based on Phillp K. Dick stories can be challenging to adapt and none more challenging than the novel The Man in the High Castle. Reportedly, Dick used the I Ching to assist with randomizing plot points in his book. Which makes for an odd, yet strangely compelling read, where characters aren’t so much doing things or driving a story forward but instead living lives in Dick’s novel and making interesting choices. So, translating this book to screen must’ve been difficult for the series creators who needed to take something that for the most part doesn’t have a central plot or much structure and create a TV series that does and is still based on Dick’s underlying story.

And their solution in the first season was to take most of the elements form the book — from the idea of the alternate 1960s America, the characters, these weird alternate-history artifacts — and to place them into a standard narrative where the characters are going from point “A” to “Z.” And for the most part in the first season all this worked.

If there’s one thing that concerns me the most about The Man in the High Castle is its bleakness. Right now I don’t see this as an issue, but I can see it becoming one down the road, especially looking at another show that seems to bask in bleakness; The Walking Dead. For a time in that show all the bleakness of civilization crumbled and mankind reduced to living off their wits against a plague of zombies and one and other was interesting enough. But as the seasons progressed and the show seemed to double down on all the bad, for me at least The Walking Dead became more and more hard to watch until I finally gave up on it.

I only bring this up since I could see The Man in the High Castle going down this same road, especially if Amazon sees this show as going on forever without a definite end in sight. The good thing is that so far, one episode into the second season, most everything from characters to story in The Man in the High Castle is working and the series is enjoyable. If the feeling I have watching the show now is different than I did before the election. 😉

Movies

More alternate Christmas movies

Gremlins (1984): Honestly, Gremlins is the closest thing to a Christmas movie I can think of that isn’t a Christmas movie. It’s got Christmas songs, is about a Christmas present and has lots of snow. Yet this film about tiny reptilian monsters that cause havoc on a small, unsuspecting town with only Billy (Zach Galligan) and his nice, cuddly mogwai to stop them is anything but a Christmas movie. Gremlins is more horror than Christmas with the titular creatures being so scary they scarred a generation of kids who didn’t know what they were in for when they went to go see this rated PG movie.

The Mothman Prophecies (2002): Much of The Mothman Prophecies takes place during wintertime in Point Pleasant, West Virginia where John Klein (Richard Gere) faces weird, unknowable paranormal forces surrounding the town. Which all leads up to a confrontation on a bridge in Point Pleasant that takes place on Christmas Eve.

I Am Legend (2007): From the looks of it, I Am Legend takes place at the height of summer, or late enough in the year that character Robert Neville (Will Smith) is able to harvest corn that he’s grown in a ruined New York, City. However, I think of this as a kind’a Christmas movie in that when the plague hit that caused most people in I Am Legend to die and some to turn into bloodthirsty mutant monsters — all that happened during Christmastime. So Neville is living in this weird, wrecked New York where all the Christmas decorations are still up and whenever he breaks into a building or apartment looking for supplies sees things like Christmas trees and stockings all up and waiting for a Christmas that will never come.

Dunkirk movie trailer

“There’s no hiding from this…”

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1957: Denise Crosby, Tasha Yar of Star Trek: The Next Generation is born
  • 1971: A Clockwork Orange debuts
  • 1978: Invasion of the Body Snatchers premiers
  • 1979: The Black Hole premiers
  • 1981: Mad Max 2 opens
  • 1985: Enemy Mine premiers in theaters
  • 2009: Avatar opens in theaters
  • 2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens



The best TV series of 2016



Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

I’m not sure I’ve ever been connected to a show as I am to Better Call Saul. I’m so interested in each new episode that I’ll actually get up a bit early for work so I can watch 10 or 15 minutes of the latest episode via DVR, even though I know it’ll be the first thing I watch the minute I get home in the evening.

If the first season of Better Call Saul was all about Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a low-level attorney starting to flirt with a life of crime, then the second was about McGill if not embracing whole heartedly becoming a “bad guy,” not entirely turning his back on doing bad things if that means him getting an advantage on the competition either.

McGill has it all — an amazing job, an expensive car and a wonderful girlfriend. But for whatever reason it’s just not enough and rather than accepting his spectacular fortune he instead chooses to intentionally tank his career at every turn. Be it producing and airing a questionable TV commercial for the firm he works for or even setting up his brother to take an embarrassing career fall even if he kind’a deserves it.

The stories of Better Call Saul are deceptively simple. There aren’t any life or death stakes and much of the series rides on McGill navigating the slopes of questionable business practices with him slowly becoming the bad guy. But the things he does aren’t too bad and usually affect only a few people. Where Better Call Saul excels again and again and again is with the characters. They’re so nuanced and complex and unique that the underlying story almost doesn’t matter here — it’s what the characters are doing and how they interact with each other that makes Better Call Saul one of the best shows of the decade.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

What can I say about Stranger Things that hasn’t been discussed ad nauseam since the series debuted last summer? This early 1980s period show about a little girl with strange powers who escapes from an institution and is taken in by three boys was the highlight of my, and I suspect many other people’s, summer. Stranger Things was this weird, wonderful unexpected bolt of goodness that quite honestly I didn’t think was going to work when I first heard about it. The marketing from the show screamed “THIS IS GOING TO BE LIKE STEVEN SPIELBERG!!!” and I’d been burned by that with the movie Super 8 that also featured a group of boys and a girl that period who come across some weirdness going on around their small-town. Heck, Super 8, much like Stranger Things, is shot in such a way to be a love-letter to Spielberg.

Except that where Super 8 was a disappointment is that while the film looked and had some of the themes of Spielberg it was totally missing the emotions of Spielberg. Which is what Stranger Things got totally right, it doesn’t look quite as much like a Spielberg movie as the marketing materials would have you believe but it’s overflowing with the heart of something Spielberg would have been involved with.

That and a sense of underlying creepy horror that feels like it’s some long-forgotten Stephen King book put to TV. But in a good way.

Westworld

Westworld

As I began writing this article in October Westworld was much lower on this list. But as time went on and I saw more and more episodes the series it kept rising higher and higher here. And that’s saying a lot for a show that seemed to be damaged goods before it even aired with it arriving more than a year late after having suffered through “script problems.” Yet almost from the beginning Westworld was a brilliant show that asked a lot of very interesting questions about the nature of reality and what it means to be human.

The Expanse

The Expanse

For years now, perhaps since the end of Battlestar Galactica, I’d been yearning for a new “very large ships in outer space” series. There’s just something about people out in the depths of the cosmos flying around in little tin cans that appeals to me. And while there’s been loads of “very large ships…” series that have sucked since BSG, the first good one to emerge since then is The Expanse on SyFy.

This series takes place in a future that’s near enough to right now that we can still recognize the architecture and people, but far enough away that some of this architecture is on asteroids zooming around the solar system and we can’t quite understand some of the characters who have new and different accents. And these characters live normal, ordinary and dull lives except the places they live in space are incredibly dangerous where one mistake can result in an agonizing death. Into all this are the survivors of a ship destroyed in an attack who hold the key to exposing a mystery that might just be the beginning of the end of mankind.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from The Expanse because it’s on SyFy, a network known mostly for cruddy original movies mostly starring sharks and crummy original series post BSG. But The Expanse is quite different. Much like BSG it’s based on a previous work, here a series of books by James Corey, and much like BSG the storytelling in The Expanse is excellent.

American Crime Story

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story

What new info can be gleaned from a crime and trial that took place more than 20 years ago and was covered and dissected by the media for years? That’s what I thought going into The People v. O. J. Simpson anyway since I’d lived through the whole Simpson media fiasco and aftermath. But I think that the clarity of years after the trial, being that it’s not yet another “torn from the headlines” series, made for some darn interesting TV here. Instead of focusing on the obvious, what everyone’s already seen from the constant media coverage when the trail took place, series creators Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski instead put the focus of the series on what happened when the cameras weren’t recording, behind the scenes at the courthouse and behind closed doors.

If you’ve yet to checkout The People v. O. J. Simpson because “you know how it ends,” take it from me that you really should watch The People v. O. J. Simpson because it’s one of the best things about this TV season.

Daredevil

Daredevil

I was lukewarm with the first season of Daredevil on Netflix. It was good enough, but was essentially a 12.5 episode long character origin story with the Daredevil (Charlie Cox) character really only being introduced in the last episode. That being said, the second season really hit its stride with the character of Daredevil being joined by the likes of ex-girlfriend and now dangerous assassin Elektra (Elodie Yung), the vigilante Punisher (Jon Bernthal) and a group of zombiefied ninjas. And what’s not to love about “zombified ninjas?”

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

They say that computers need a “killer app,” or some program that’s so good people will buy the whole system just to get the application. And to me the “killer app” for the streaming service Amazon Prime is the series The Man in the High Castle since I subscribed to the service just to be able to watch this show. Set in an alternate America in the early 1960, in The Man in the High Castle it was the Axis powers who won WWII and Japan and Germany have split the US in half with the Germans taking everything east of the Rockies and Japanese west. At times the series is extremely disturbing with all freedoms that we know and love being dissolved under the occupations and people disappearing and being executed on the streets for minor offenses. But in The Man in the High Castle these weird cans of films start appearing that indicate their reality might be one of many, one where the Allies won WW2 and one where the Russians won it all themselves.

So, if this is true it means that for characters in The Man in the High Castle there might be a better world waiting for them and for the occupiers a threat to their total victory and their way of life.




Sci-Fi Heaven



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

_captain_america__civil_war_trailer_-_h_2015

Captain America

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

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

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

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

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

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

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

Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: Episode VII

Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: Episode VII

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

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

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

The Expanse

The Expanse

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

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




2016/17 TV Preview



New series

It’s been a long while since I can remember the last time I was as disinterested in the crop of new TV series that are set to start debuting on network TV this fall. Usually, there’s at least something I can look forward to, some series I can get excited about. But honestly this year looks like it’s going to be mostly a bust on the networks.

The Good Place

The Good Place

All that I’m looking forward to on network TV this fall is the comedy The Good Place on NBC starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell about a woman that died and accidentally went to “the good place” rather than the hot one and Star Trek: Discovery on CBS. Though this sixth Trek TV series is set to only air once on CBS before it moves to their streaming service.

And there’s a few new shows I’m looking forward to on cable and streaming too, one of which is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is on BBC America and is based on the Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) book of the same name. This new TV version of the Adams novel is being written and produced by Max Landis (Chronicle). On Netflix is Marvel’s Luke Cage that’s a sort’a spin-off of the Jessica Jones show about a man, Cage (Mike Colter) who’s super-strong with super-tough skin that brushes aside bullets who decides to clean up the streets of New York.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to scoff at on network TV next fall than to look forward to.

If the last few years the networks have been trying to turn as many come books into TV series as they could, then this year it’s all about turning once popular movies into TV series, or rebooting once popular past TV series into modern ones. Which I have no problem with, except that nothing I’ve seen from any of these new shows makes me thing that the networks have anything other than a bunch of creative duds on their hands.

Time After Time

Time After Time

Based on the movie of the same name, Time after Time on ABC features author H.G. Wells (Freddie Stroma) building a time machine in 1893 and traveling to present day 2016 New York City to find Jack the Ripper who’s also travelled to New York City in the same time machine. Convenient, ain’t it? If the movie version was a love story between Wells and a modern day woman, then the TV version seems to be setting the two up as a male/female investigative duo ala Castle, Blindspot, The Blacklist, etc., etc., etc.

Emerald City on NBC is the latest attempt at a network to create a TV version of the Wizard of Oz story that various channels have been trying to do since at least 2002. This version of the Oz story has Dorothy being swept off to a totally reimagined and harder version of Oz that seems to be a mashup of Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time.

Fox has two shows based on movies set to premier this fall; The Exorcist and Lethal Weapon.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist

The Exorcist looks to be essentially the story of the novel/movie about a girl possessed by a demon — with a little bit of things like The Conjuring thrown in for good measure. My one question about The Exorcist is if the entire season will be about the girl’s possession, or if each episode will be about some other evil forces possessing some other poor souls? It doesn’t help matters that The Exorcist is the second “possession” series on TV with Outcast also about demonic forces already on Starz.

The TV version of Lethal Weapon seems to take the zanier elements of the movie from Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) having a death wish which makes him practically fearless and his older, world-weary partner Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.) who has to deal with Riggs and is “too old for this @#$%.” But somehow I’d imagine that if it does take the zanier elements of the Riggs character that it’s not going to use the movie version of him being suicidal and his substance abuse problems. You know, all the stuff that made him seem human and not some cartoon character.

Frequency on The CW, takes the elements of the 2000 movie where someone from the present, here Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List), is able to talk with their father from 20 years in the past via a ham radio. And because she’s able to send information to her father in the past she’s able to change events in her present. But if other time travel movies/TV series have taught us anything, it’s that meddling in the past will being about unintended consequences in the present/future. Time After Time should take note!

MacGyver

MacGyver

On CBS there’s a series based on the movie Training Day and one on the 1980s TV series MacGyver. Much like with the movie, the TV version of Training Day follows a young, idealistic police officer (Drew Van Acker) sent to spy on a seasoned, up to no good, “King Kong ain’t got !@#$ on me” detective (Bill Paxton).

MacGyver (Lucas Till) is a younger take on the character but with the overall concept of the original series — solving crimes/rescuing people/stopping terrorists by making whatever’s needed with what’s on hand to get the job done — intact. I was a huge fan of the original MacGyver as a kid, but somehow I doubt that this middle-aged man is going to be a fan of this new version of the show.

returning_tv

Returning series

black-ish

black-ish

If new series this year look crummy at least there’s a slew of great and interesting shows to look forward to.

Out of the gate early this fall are ABC comedies The Goldbergs, black-ish and Fresh off the Boat. While black-ish and Fresh off the Boat get a lot of good press for their diversity and somewhat controversial storylines, I’m more concerned with whether or not the shows are funny or not and these are.

The Goldbergs and black-ish return September 21 and Fresh off the Boat October 11.

Ash vs. Evil Dead

Ash vs. Evil Dead

I was a huge fan of the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead right up until the very end of the final episode of the first season when things kind’a fell off the rails. That series deals with sad-sack Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) who accidentally released evil spirits from the bound in human skin Book of the Dead. And in Ash vs Evil Dead it’s up to Ash and his two friends Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) to figure out a way to undo what he’s done.

The show was everything I’d ever wanted in an Evil Dead TV series with over-the-top action, comedy and lots of gore. But that ending, it was so out of tone with what had come the previous nine episodes that it really frustrated me. That being said, I’m ready for loads more wise-cracking Ash in a second season of Ash vs Evil Dead which starts back up September 23. As long as they do some ‘splaining about that ending I’ll be back for more gore!

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

Existing alongside the current film franchises, the animated Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD tells the story of what was going on in the galaxy when the evil Empire was consolidating power and trying to wipe a nascent rebellion out. The stories of Rebels can be surprisingly deep and emotional for a series we already know the end to. Hint — none of the characters of Rebels show up in Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope so… Star Wars Rebels returns September 24.

The British series Black Mirror is available on Netflix October 11. This anthology series that originally debuted back in 2001 that’s a bit like The Twilight Zone but updated for modern day originally didn’t have a series run here in the US until Netflix picked it up a few years ago. And boy am I glad they did — this show about what happens when technology and all its uses goes wrong is consistently one of the best things on TV. Black Mirror can be so intense that I’ve yet to be able to go back and watch old episodes again even though I loved them the first time around.

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

The alterna-history The Man in the High Castle returns to Amazon Prime December 16. I was surprised as to just how interesting a show High Castle was since I’d never really been interested in any of the other original Prime series. Here, it’s an early 1960s where Germany and Japan won the second world war and now occupy most of the planet, the US included. These two superpowers are engaging in a Cold War of sorts with what’s left of the US set to be the battleground for World War III. Except that events in the first season of High Castle reveal that this may just be one reality of many, one where the allies won the war (ours) and others where Germany or the Soviets won it all.

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

Another sci-fi series The Expanse returns to SyFy this January. Based on the book series Leviathan Wakes, The Expanse takes place in a future where mankind has colonized most of the solar system and has brought along all of the problems we have here on the Earth like racism, war, disease, hunger… But all this pales in comparison to what starts happening when something’s released on an asteroid outpost that threatens to consume all of humanity.

Also sometime in January a fourth season of the PBS series Sherlock is set to return with, I’m assuming, four new episodes. The series has been on since 2011 and has so far aired a paltry 13 episodes of TV. They may be “paltry” but they’re also darn good!

And the show I’m looking forward to most returning next season is Better Call Saul on AMC, the third series about how lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) goes from a guy trying to go good to someone who’d have people killed if it would earn him any money which is set to debut sometime early next year.




Direct Beam Comms #33



TV

Vice Principals Grade: C

Vice-Principals-HBOVice Principals, the latest HBO series from Jody Hill and Danny McBride of Eastbound and Down fame, looks, feels and has the same tone as that earlier series. And I supposed if you really dug Eastbound and Down you’re going to really love Vice Principals too. But if you thought Eastbound and Down was just okay you’re probably not going to be that into Vice Principles.

Here, McBride plays Neal Gamby, a vice principal from hell, running his South Carolina high school like some Soviet provincial governor where he deals out rewards and punishments to the students with little regard to the consequences. Walton Goggins (Hateful Eight) plays another vice principal Lee Russell who doesn’t get along with the Gamby and when school principal Welles (Bill Murray) steps down to care for an ailing wife both Gamby and Russell each think they’ll be the next principal. If Gamby is a bully Russell is a weasel willing to do anything if it means advancing his career.

But when the school board decides to go with an outsider as principal, Gamby and Russell team up to take her out and claim the position for themselves.

I think where Eastbound and Down worked where Vice Principals doesn’t is that the McBride character in Eastbound and Down was a self-centered foul-mouthed idiot that was believable in a show about an ex-ball player who’s been coddled all his life and was spat out of the MLB after he lost his pitch. It doesn’t work here for a character who has daily contact with the public, and their children, and could easily lose his job or be demoted for any one of things he does or says xin the first episode.

Vice Principals does have some funny moments and I can see myself watching the series — it is summer after all and there’s not a ton of new stuff to choose from — but it’s something I’ll probably watch off my DVR when there’s no other options rather than being excited about it and watching it live.

Halt and Catch Fire season 3 preview

Iron Fist preview

Defenders preview

Luke Cage preview

The Man in the High Castle season 2 preview

American Gods preview

Movies

Wonder Woman teaser trailer

Justice League Comicon footage

Kong: Skull Island teaser trailer

Doctor Strange trailer

The Reading List

Return of the Living Dead: The Chaotic Production Of A Zombie Classic

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1928: Stanley Kubrick is born
  • 1966: Batman the movie premiers
  • 1983: The TV mini-series V premiers
  • 1983: Krull opens in theaters
  • 1986: Flight of the Navigator opens in theaters
  • 1987: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace opens in theaters
  • 1990: The TV series Swamp Thing premiers
  • 2001: Planet of the Apes opens in theaters