Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #112


The Alienist **/****

TNT has been pushing their new The Alienist TV series for months now. Since last summer with nearly every commercial break TNT would run an The Alienist promo which would lead to the odd pairing of A Christmas Story last month, about a boy’s dream of getting a bb gun for Christmas, with The Alienist commercials that had the line (sic) “We’re hunting a killer of boys…” But I digress, lately TNT’s been trying to get into the (semi) serious drama game with shows like Animal Kingdom and Claws with The Alienist being the latest entry.

Here, it’s New York in the 19th century and someone is murdering kids. Enter Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl) the “alienst” or proto-psychologist, John Moore (Luke Evans) a newspaper illustrator and Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) the first female employee of the police department. Kreizler thinks he’s dealt with this murderer in the past with another unsolved case, but will he Moore and Howard be able to stop the killer before he strikes again? Or will the wheels of the 19th century bureaucracy stop them before they’re even able to begin since those in power are already convinced only an insane person could have committed the crimes?

I think a series like The Alienist is going to stand or fall based on the strength of its characters since the subject matter, a serial killer, has been done to death (haha) over the years on TV. Unfortunately, the characters of The Alienist just aren’t that strong. Or, whatever character traits they do possess seem more like those of TV characters rather than real, relatable people. Like Kreizler is mostly a guy who cares too much about solving the crime and is overtly concerned with his patients. Moore visits prostitutes on a nightly basis nut otherwise doesn’t seem to possess much of a personality at all. Howard is probably the most well-drawn of the characters, but even here her main trait is of a woman living in a man’s world.

A series like The Knick that took place around the same time as The Alienist had characters who felt like they were flawed people with real personalities. The characters of The Alienist mostly feel like stock, blank slates meant to keep the plot moving forward.

Counterpart ***/****

What Counterpart on Starz reminded me of the most, and I don’t mean this in a bad way, was one of the many sci-fi related TV series that seemed to thrive in syndication/cable in the late 1990s early 2000s. The log-line from Counterpart reads just like one of these shows, “A UN employee discovers the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension.” I could easily see this show airing at midnight every Thursday night before Seven Days and after Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with one killer, trippy opening credits sequence.

Even the theme of Counterpart, that a seemingly ordinary person is thrown into a world of intrigue and espionage with a more experienced partner is a well-worn TV trope too — the “buddy cop” show.

Of course while Counterpart might share some of the same themes/DNA of these earlier shows it’s of a pedigree well above them. The series was written and created by Justin Marks who wrote the Academy Award wining The Jungle Book and stars prolific actor J.K. Simmons who’s an Oscar winner himself.

And while those 1990s/2000s series might have also starred Academy Award winners too, it was usually actors who’s time in the spotlight had past and were only forced to do TV as a way to pay the bills. Today it’s a completely different world where popular actors are lining up to do series like Big Little Lies, Fargo and, yes, Counterpart.

The first episode of the series mostly deals with lowly cog Howard Silk (Simmons) who has a weird job for a UN agency in Germany where he goes into a room and recites certain preselected phrases to another person in a similar room separated by glass. What Silk learns when he meets a copy of himself at the agency is that during the Cold War an experiment accidentally created a duplicate Earth 30 years ago and ever since then the two Earths have been diverging and have entered a dimensional Cold War of sorts. Enter alternate Howard Silk (also Simmons) from this other dimension. If our Howard Silk is meek-mannered then this Silk is a man of action who’s a secret agent who shoots first and ask questions later. He’s on our Earth chasing an assassin who’s slipped over and is out to murder meek Howard Silk’s wife.

But can we trust this alternate Howard Silk when there’s really no way to check his story other than his history with our Silk? Does he have other motives from crossing back and forth between the two Earths?

I enjoyed Counterpart a lot but unfortunately don’t get Starz — I got to watch the first episode over a free preview weekend. So while I might get to see the rest of the series later I didn’t think the show was strong enough to turn me into a subscriber.


X-Men: Legion – Shadow King Rising

With Legion being a much talked about show on FX, Marvel has started releasing collected edition of comic books that featured David Haller the main character of that series. One is an edition entitled X-Men: Legion – Shadow King Rising.

From Marvel:

David Haller is no ordinary mutant. Son of Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men, David’s incredible mental powers fractured his mind — and now, each of his personalities controls a different ability! And they’re not all friendly, as Xavier and the New Mutants find out the hard way! But as Legion struggles to control the chaos in his head, he attracts the attention of one of Xavier’s oldest and most malevolent foes: Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King, who’s secretly been stalking and manipulating the X-Men and their allies. When the Shadow King sinks his hooks deep into David’s mind, will two teams of X-Men be enough to defeat him — or will David be the key to the villain’s ultimate victory?



One of the scariest movies ever made, and is now more relevant than ever, is set to get a Blu-ray release.

From Severin Films:

In September 1984, it was aired on the BBC and shocked tens of millions of UK viewers. Four months later, it was broadcast in America and became the most watched basic cable program in history. After more than three decades, it remains one of the most acclaimed and shattering made-for-television movies of all time. Reece Dinsdale (Coronation Street), David Brierly (Doctor Who) and Karen Meagher (in a stunning debut performance) star in this “graphic and haunting” (People Magazine) docudrama about the effects of a nuclear attack on the working-class city of Sheffield, England as the fabric of society unravels. Directed by Mick Jackson (THE BODYGUARD, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE) from a screenplay by novelist/playwright Barry Hines (Ken Loach’s KES) and nominated for seven BAFTA Awards, “the most terrifying and honest portrayal of nuclear war ever filmed” (The Guardian) has now been fully restored from a 2K scan for the first time ever.

The Cured trailer

The Death of Stalin trailer

The Movie Chain: #4: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Last week: Strange Days

The Movie Chain is a weekly, micro-movie review where each week’s film is related to the previous week’s movie in some way.

One of the more controversial movies of the last decade is Zero Dark Thirty. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow of last week’s Strange Days with script from Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty presented a cinematic version of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the eventual raid on his compound that would lead to him being killed by elite Navy SEALs.

The controversial part of Zero Dark Thirty was that it depicted torture as being used as one of the ways that would eventually lead to the location of Bin Laden. On the one hand I can see the controversy here since the movie links torture to the eventual outcome, which may or may not be factual depending on who you trust. But on the other hand if it is historically correct why not put it in the movie and then audience members have the debate if it was necessary/right or not? Which is kind’a what happened.

Regardless, if Zero Dark Thirty was controversial it’s got to be the most controversial yet influential movie in modern history. By my count there are at least four TV series on now that all, shall we say, borrow heavily from the raid on Bin Laden’s compound by the SEALs featured in Zero Dark Thirty. There’s SEAL Team on CBS, Six on History, The Brave on NBC and Valor on CW. Now these series pretty much ignore most of the theme of Zero Dark Thirty — that it was years of hard work by people working on the ground in dangerous places to that lead to the raid — and instead just concentrate on the action aspects of soldiers kicking down doors and shooting guns while wearing night vision goggles.

Next week: Motion capture never looked so good.

The Reading List

Cool Movie & TV Posters of the Week

The myth of the forbidden film

I don’t think there are anymore forbidden films like there used to be when I was growing up.

I remember when VHS was king and my family would make weekly vigils to one of the local rental shops and when the new movies were already checked out, as they almost always were, we’d peruse the stacks looking for anything interesting to watch. Sometimes we’d come across weird horror flicks like Troma classics The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke ‘em High (1986) and sometimes strange documentaries about odd subjects.

In the 1980s some friends and myself were into heavy metal. I didn’t look like the stereotypical “metal head” but none-the-less when the other kids were listening to Richard Marx and Kenny Loggins, my group of friends were buying, duping and trading Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Anthrax and Iron Maiden tapes amongst ourselves.

Back then it wasn’t easy to follow your favorite bands. There were a few heavy metal magazines you could buy at drug stores and supermarkets and Headbangers Ball on MTV. But otherwise you were pretty much on your own. What was the meaning of the cover painting to Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction?” Did listening to any Judas Priest song automatically place satanic suggestions in one’s brain? Who exactly was this “Walking Dude” that Anthrax was singing about? How many dead in the apocalypse constitutes a Megadeth?

And outside of these magazines and Headbangers Ball and sensationalized TV news programs about the horrors of heavy metal there weren’t many real answers. That was until a fateful day in the video store when we rented the tape The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988).

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Disaster Du Jour: By Dawn’s Early Light

bdel2Fear of a global thermonuclear war was very real in the 1980s. At the height of the cold war the Soviet Union had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at the US and NATO countries and we had just as many aimed at Russia and Warsaw Pact countries too. What people feared was that some minor conflict between the US and the USSR would spiral out of control and we’d fire our missiles at them and they at us which would essentially send what was left of mankind back to the stone age. Movies like The Day After (1983), Threads (1984) and Testament (1983) explored life post nuke war and the picture they painted weren’t nice ones.

But after the Soviet Union began to collapse and the cold war started to wind down in the late 1980s and early 90s fear of a nuclear war between “us and them” began to diminish. Surly with the United States and the Soviet Union on good terms a nuclear war would be out of the question. Right?

The main crux of the movie By Dawn’s Early Light (1990) was that no, in fact the possibility of a nuclear war was actually GREATER now that controls over these weapons were slowly being relaxed in the Soviet Union.

Martin Landau as the President

Martin Landau as the President

In By Dawn’s Early Light, separatists steal a missile from Russia and fire it back into the country from Turkey making it seem like that NATO was at fault. And an automatic Russian defense program fired off a few nukes of their own towards the US in retaliation for this strike.

What follows are the President of the US and the Russian Premier trying to deescalate the crisis, even as Washington DC it nuked, the President presumed killed and the Secretary of the Interior, the highest surviving member of the government left alive, takes the reigns of the country. And if the real President who is still alive wants to stop the war, the first question the new Secretary of the Interior President asks the military commanders is if we’re winning the war or losing it?

Rebecca De Mornay as Moreau and Powers Booth as Cassidy

Rebecca De Mornay as Moreau and Powers Booth as Cassidy

The other side of By Dawn’s Early Light is of the crew of a B-52 bomber on the way to deliver their payload of nukes to Russia, and them debating the merits of killing millions upon millions of people for a war that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. Eventually (spoiler alert) they turn their bomber around and head back home which causes the Russians to turn some of their bombers around too. And while the real President and the Premier see this as their chance to stop the war, the Secretary of the Interior President sees it as a sign of weakness and orders the B-52 shot down.

Darren McGavin as the Secretary of the Interior President and Rip Torn as Colonel Fargo

Darren McGavin as the Secretary of the Interior President and Rip Torn as Colonel Fargo

I originally saw By Dawn’s Early Light when it premiered on HBO and bought the VHS of the film when that came out a few years later. But honestly I hadn’t checked out the film in many years since a DVD version of it had only recently become available. While the special effects of the movie do look a bit dated, I did find that even 20+ years on the tension of By Dawn’s Early Light slowly builds and is maintained throughout the film right up until the very end.

James Earl Jones as Alice, yes really, Alice cause his plane is called "The Looking Glass"

James Earl Jones as Alice, yes really, Alice cause his plane is called “The Looking Glass”

Even though the movie is simply staged – there are really only a few sets in By Dawn’s Early Light and I think the whole story could easily be told as a stage play – I still found myself tensing up as the crew of the B-52 slowly comes to the realization that tonight’s flight isn’t a drill or the real President debating the Secretary of the Interior President on why it’s not a good idea to continue a war where everytime one side fires a shot tens of thousands of civilians die.

“Sir, do better next time sir.” Grade: A-.

While we’re probably not facing a situation like By Dawn’s Early Light in our immediate future, we still live in a world where there are thousands of nukes here in the US and thousands more overseas. And all it takes is one of those falling into the wrong hands to ruin everyone’s day. By Dawn’s Early Light is available on DVD.