Resin Heroes

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



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.




Direct Beam Comms #53



TV

Westworld season 1 – Grade: B+

“Cease all motor functions!”

I am afraid of Westworld. So many times in the past I’ve fallen for shows like Westworld that have these deep, intricate character-driven storylines only to be disappointed in the end. In my heart of hearts I know that with TV series like Westworld the journey is more important than the destination, but I’m always hoping that the series ending will be as good as the road it took to get there. And so far at least, one season in, Westworld has taken one fine, interesting road and has quickly become my favorite thing on TV in the last few months.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Westworld but whatever I was thinking the show might be like isn’t anything as to what it actually was like. Much of the story is told via three groups of characters. The first group is of people like Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) who are trying to keep this massive park running while at the same time making improvements while acting in a sort of god-like way even if some of their changes have started causing glitches in the robots of the park known as the “hosts.” These robots don’t know that they’re robots and awaken each day anew not realizing that they’re all in a story loop and essentially play the same day over and over again. With this robot group are characters like Maeve (Thandie Newton) who’s starting to have memories she shouldn’t have and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who’s beginning to question the nature of her reality. And then there’s the human visitors of the park like William (Jimmi Simpson) and “The Man in Black” (Ed Harris) who are experiencing the park in very different ways. Harris’ character is convinced that there’s a core story beneath the veneer of Westworld that the rest of the guests experience and wants to uncover this truth, even if it means he has spend 30 years there and cause pain, death and destruction to the hosts to do so. And William, brand new to the park, wants to help Doloris in her quest for self realization but isn’t sure what all is required to do so or the ramifications of.

I think that what works best about Westworld are all the questions that the series creators ask. Like if Dr. Ford is creating these robots, and these robots are self-aware, feel pain and have emotions, has he created life? Even if that life can be changed, controlled and obliterated at the flick of a switch. And for the “hosts” of the show who, if they’re somewhat self-aware now, what happens in the future when they become fully self-aware and want to control their own destinies and futures and not be controlled and tied to the Westworld park as they are now? And what will they do when they realize the people who’ve created them have spent decades abusing them over and over again with no consequences?

I’m also fascinated with how Westworld ties into modern day video games. In those games players come up against characters in the game who they can do what they will with. Though there might be consequences in the game if the players harm these characters, there are no real world consequences if they decide to do so. And this is the same for Westworld where the visitors can do whatever they want to the hosts be it hurt them, rape them or kill them. There’s no consequences since technically you can’t hurt, rape or kill a robot. But what if someday the robots started remembering these terrible things done to them and what if they wanted to fight back?

It’s interesting to imagine just where Westworld will go in future seasons? In my head I’ve got it all mapped out down perfectly to the series sixth season. But if I’m lucky the creators of Westworld will continue to do their own thing and keep creating a surprising show that asks a lot of bit questions about what it’s like to live in the times that we do without providing a lot of easy answers.

Legion TV Spot

“The human race is beginning to evolve.”

The Expanse TV Spot

“In this world that we live in you have to pick a side.”

Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

“This is my chance to prove myself.”

War for the Planet of the Apes trailer

“All of human history has lead to this moment.”

The Mummy (2017) trailer

World War Z + Suicide Squad = The Mummy

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1917: Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood’s End to name a few is born
  • 1941: The Wolf Man opens in theaters
  • 1976: King Kong debuts
  • 1978: Superman opens in theaters
  • 1984: Dune premiers
  • 1984: Runaway debuts
  • 1984: Starman opens
  • 1996: Mars Attacks! premiers
  • 1998: Star Trek: Insurrection opens in theaters
  • 2002: Star Trek: Nemesis premiers
  • 2005: King Kong opens in theaters
  • 2010: Tron: Legacy debuts



Direct Beam Comms #44



TV

Westworld – Grade: B+

Until now, Westworld on HBO was known as the series that was supposed to have premiered over a year ago but was pushed back when the production had to be shut down for “script problems” which is never a good sign. I was really looking forward to the show when it was first announced but after that maybe not as much. So, it’s with a bit of relief I’m happy to report that the first episode of Westworld is pretty good, with a few caveats at least.

160819-westworld-s1-blast-06-1920Based on the film of the same name written and directed by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), Westworld is a kind of western Disneyland stocked with era appropriate robots who guests can interact with, have sex with and kill with impunity. Created by Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the park has been running for decades without a hitch. The robots can’t harm any living thing, they literally can’t even swat flies from their face lest they kill them, and are reborn anew each morning with the memories of the previous day having been erased.

And some of these memories are pretty disturbing — rape and murder are a daily occurrence in Westworld but since all memories are erased it’s not much of a problem. Except now there’s a glitch in the system. The older the robot is and the longer they’ve been around somehow allows them start remembering things from their past. And when things start happening and robots begin to go “buggy” with them almost having what looks like strokes, no one’s sure if these changes are a mistake in the code or if what’s happening is about to be the next step in robot evolution.

Think The Truman Show (the overseers of Westworld watch what’s going on via a control center that overlooks things) meets Groundhog Day (the robots experience the same day over and over again) with a bit of Crichton’s own Jurassic Park too (the park designed where nothing can go wrong goes wrong) all mixed together. But these sources just makes up a small part of Westworld, much of the story of the show is about the robots who may be finding some sort of consciousness with the overseers of Westworld, mainly Ford, trying to figure out if this is good or bad.

What does hurt the show though, which has been pointed out by other reviewers as well, is that while the robots of Westworld come off as mildly fully formed individuals, the living people there do not. The park guests, especially so, are mostly one dimensional. They’re there to mostly live out their most debaucherous fantasies — be it via having wild sex or killing whomever they want whenever the whim strikes them. And the robots can’t fight back. Their guns though they work on other robots are useless against a park guest.

Enter the guest known as “The Man in Black” (Ed Harris) who has been coming to the park for 30 years. He’s the bad guy of the park and thinks that by causing destruction and mayhem that he’ll be able to uncover the hidden inner workings of Westworld. Some of which involves brutally attacking Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) the oldest robot at the park over and over again trying to get her memories to carry over from today’s trauma to tomorrow’s memory.

Which is another bit about Westworld that bothered me — the level of violence in the show is pretty extreme, even for HBO. And since the robots live the same day over and over again with small differences depending on how they interact with the park’s guests and each other, there’s always the opportunity for the same bad thing to happen over and over again.

Still, there’s a lot more good than bad in Westworld and I’m very intrigued to see where the series goes next.

Timeless – Grade: C+

Timeless - Season PilotThe new Timeless series on NBC really wants to be an American version of Doctor Who, unfortunately I think it goes about it in the wrong way.

Here, a stand-in for Elon Musk (Paterson Joseph) has created a time machine which unfortunately has been stolen by evil Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic). Flynn and his terrorist crew wants to go back in time and change things for his own devious ends. Enter extremely good looking history professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), extremely good looking ex-special forces Delta Force guy who punches people in the face Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) and average-scientist guy Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) who have to use the old, backup time machine to go back in time to try and stop Flynn who’s first target is the Hindenburg. Flynn doesn’t want the Hindenburg to explode, he wants to save it.

But will Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus have the skills to stop Flynn before he rewrites history and changes our present? Will Lucy and Wyatt ever get together? And can Wyatt control his urges to want to save people in the past and therefor change his/our present?

Timeless is interesting if it’s been done a few times before with the likes of Time Tunnel and Voyagers. In fact, what reminded me most about Timeless was the unaired pilot remake of Time Tunnel back in 2006.

Honestly, for a network show Timeless is above average. I think the problem lies in that it’s not that original. It feels like the show really wants to be the US version of Doctor Who with people traveling around in a time machine solving mysteries and fixing things. But I think where Timeless is going wrong is that it seems like they’re only going to be making stops in famous periods of the past from the Hindenburg, to the assassination of Lincoln and even a visit with the Rat Pack which really screams “network event TV” to me. Going to just parts of the past we all know about feels like a cheat to me.

It would seem that rather than concentrating on things that everyone’s heard of, and are therefor easy to try and predict and stop, if instead Flynn went after something a little more hard to guess what he was up to that he’d be able to do a lot more damage.

But maybe that’s thinking too much in-depth, Timeless is a network show after all.

Black Mirror season 4 TV spot

Iron Fist TV spot

The Reading List

On the Horizon

It seems strange but I only have three major articles left in 2016 — one on the movie What We Do in the Shadows, Doctor Strange and Star Wars and after that I start my “best of” lists that will carry over into the first weeks of 2017. And I’ve actually got a lot planned out in 2017 too, from new movies coming out next year to how bloody good the movies from 1987 were.

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1956: Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunman is born
  • 1995: Strange Days opens in theaters