14th Dec2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/14/18

by Will

I don’t know what WordPress is doing with this update, so Lord only knows how this is gonna look when I’m done writing it. Let’s hope it’s legible!

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Michael Weatherly – Ya know, before he was starring on Bull, or even NCIS, I remember Michael Weatherly as “The guy from Dark Angel“. In fact, he was even briefly engaged to star Jessica Alba. Never really knew why that fell apart. Maybe because he was hitting on other women?

According to Eliza Dushku, she was poised to become a series regular on Bull, but she said she dealt with repeated lewd comments from Weatherly on the set of the show. When she confronted him, she soon learned her character was being written out of the show. CBS ended up settling with Dushku, to the tune of $9.5 million – the amount she would’ve made for four and a half seasons as a series regular.

Weatherly issued a halfassed apology, and capped it off, saying “It’s my recollection that I didn’t tell anyone how they should do their job regarding the hiring or firing of anybody.” Oh, did I mention that all of this happened on a CBS show? Ya know, the network where errbody seems to be getting fired for harassment allegations?

Les Moonves Update – In a recent interview, actress Cybill Shepherd alleged that her sitcom, Cybill, was cancelled by Moonves after she rebuffed his advances after a dinner. While the show was never a ratings dynamo, it was cancelled pretty abruptly, so there could be something to this. Plus, it was a CBS show, and this is Moonves we’re talking about, so it’s probably true.

Trailer Park


Godzilla: King of the Monsters

What the Hell is this? What am I looking at? This is the second trailer, and I still don’t get what’s going on. I feel like this is the kind of movie where you’re really just going to see shit get fucked up, but they insist on shoving in plot and emotional beats. Just show me genetic abominations destroying landmarks! Roland Emmerich should’ve gotten this job!

Kim Possible

Ugh, you deserved SO much better than this, Kim Possible. First of all, this movie is about 15 years too late. And it’s on TV. And it looks just terrible.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2

Ya know, none of these trailers are ever good enough to make me say “Let me subscribe to CBS All Access”, but I will say that I’m constantly fascinated by their uniforms. This goes back to the early days of TNG, when I was really taken by those original jumpsuits designed by William Ware Theiss. Whomever is designing the costumes for Discovery deserves an Emmy. Still not paying to watch this show, though. 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a move that nobody asked for, Will Ferrell is reprising his Anchorman character for The Ron Burgundy Podcast, which will launch early next year exclusively on the iHeartMusic app.
  • It’s a sad day for day drinkers across America, as Kathie Lee Gifford announced she’ll be leaving The Today Show in April, after 11 years co-anchoring the 4th hour with Hoda Kotb. 
  • Katy Perry debuted her new song “Immortal Flame” from her partnership with the mobile game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. She’s no Faye Wong, but I’ll take it.
  • In an age when television shows just don’t know when to die, it should come as no surprise that the Modern Family cast is about to sign on for an 11th season.
  • Some networks have no problem killing a show, however, as Comedy Central has cancelled Detroiters after 2 seasons.
  • Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has finally inked a deal to return for a sequel, which is pretty much a surprise to no one.
  • Country radio personality Bobby Bones apparently broke Dancing with the Stars. Following his controversial win in the recent 27th season, the show has decided to sit out a Spring cycle and won’t return until Fall 2019. It’s unclear if it’s being retooled or if there are other reasons behind the change.
  • There are reports that Ellen Degeneres wants to walk away from her daytime talk show to pursue other interests. While her contract has goes through 2020, her wife, Portia de Rossi, is urging her to do other things, while her brother insists that her show is the sort of positivity that people need right now.
  • The Star Wars series The Mandalorian has announced that Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte, and Giancarlo Esposito have joined the cast. For some reason folks are excited by this news, but throw in the fact that Gina Carano was already announced, and it just sounds like a 1999 direct to DVD movie…
  • The ending of this season’s Arrowverse crossover teased the title of next season’s crossover: “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. Kinda interesting, considering none of the shows have officially been renewed yet. Anyway, if you know anything about the 80s comic series on which it’ll be based, it’s time to start worrying about Barry and Kara.
  • Speaking of DC TV series, there was a lot of casting news for the shows on the DC Universe streaming platform. First up, Joel McHale has been cast as a reinvented Starman on the upcoming Stargirl, while Lou Ferrigno Jr has been cast as Hourman. Meanwhile, Ian Ziering has been cast as fallen Hollywood actor Daniel Cassidy (who goes on to become the Blue Devil) in the Swamp Thing series.

I had no desire to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, despite being a HUGE fan of Miles Morales. I wasn’t crazy about the animation style, I didn’t like that they weren’t incorporating Miles into the MCU, and I also felt like they were robbing him of his spotlight by making it a Spider-Verse film with all these other versions of Spider-Man thrown into the mix. Still, my friend, Mike, and I have a tradition where we see all these things on opening night, so last night was no exception. I’ve never been more happy to be wrong, though, as it’s an amazing (pun intended) film.

For those not “in the know”, Miles Morales was introduced in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, taking up the Spider-Man mantel when that universe’s Peter Parker died fighting the Green Goblin. An Afro-Latino teen (created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli), Miles pretty much had to learn the ropes on his own, though he did have some help from S.H.I.E.L.D. from time to time, as Nick Fury blamed himself for Parker’s death. Instead of a dead Uncle Ben, Miles’s origin didn’t really come from a place of tragedy – that is until his mother ended up getting killed during on of his fights. During Marvel’s Secret Wars event, the Ultimate Universe ended, and Miles was shunted over to the “regular” Marvel Universe. Oh, and as a bonus for something he did during that event, his mom was still alive on the new Earth. There, he took on the role of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, while a successful Peter Parker was globetrotting, doing his best Tony Stark impression. That’s pretty much where I left him the last time I read a Spider-Man comic.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does a really good job of introducing Miles to the general public, as well as explaining the whole multiverse concept. Though I didn’t read the Spider-Verse crossover in the comics (I’m about 5 years behind on my Amazing Spider-Man run), I did recognize shades of other stories, such as Spider-Men, when Marvel Universe Peter Parker found himself in the Ultimate Universe, and met Miles for the first time. There’s also a more recent crossover where Miles and Spider-Gwen team up, as well. Though I really only had a passing familiarity with Peni Parker, Spider-Man Noir, and Spider-Ham, I felt their addition to the story worked.

I will say that the film made me realize more issues that I had with Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’m sorry guys, but I really didn’t like that movie. As I said on Twitter though, we’re not allowed to say that because it brought Spider-Man into the MCU. It’s like when your drug dealer uncle pays your tuition, and you’re not allowed to call him out about where the money came from. I’d much rather have an adult Spider-Man in the MCU. Hell, I’d love a Jake Johnson Spider-Man in the MCU. He did a great job as the voice of Parker in this film, and I’ve come to realize that he could probably have pulled it off live action. There are certain things that don’t line up as it stands. For example, while I realize the Netflix shows are merely “adjacent” to the MCU, those characters still exist. In the comics, Jessica Jones was a classmate of Peter Parker, and even nursed something of a crush on him, but he was too busy being nerdy to notice her. I’d much rather have their ages line up in the MCU and we get a teenage Miles than to go through High School Peter all over again.

Like with all adaptations, they made some changes, but nothing that really affected things in a bad way. In fact, they may have made things better (Miles’s dad being a cop, for instance). I like how they played with all of the toys, like Alchemax and Spider-Man 3. I don’t want to give away the plot or any story beats, so we’ll keep this spoiler free. I will say, however, that I’m curious to know how they could use that character, with the rights situation and all. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

Anyway, I was wrong about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. What I thought should’ve been a throwaway special on Disney XD or something actually turned out to be an engaging, masterpiece of a comic book movie. For that reason, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse had the West Week Ever.


02nd Nov2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/2/18

by Will

So, not much has really happened since last we met. Sure, Megyn Kelly Today got cancelled, and the WWE’s Crown Jewel is taking place in Saudi Arabia as I type this. So, “Ya win some, ya lose some”? I pretty much have nothing “newsy” to talk about today. So, I thought we could have a conversation instead. Have a seat. Not that one. That one’s my seat.

OK, so talking to some friends lately has made me aware of a sense of existential dread that I didn’t fully realize I had. I mean, what am I doing here? I’ve never really looked back to see when West Week Ever started, but I know it’s been almost 5 years at this point, if not longer. All those years, looking at pop culture, trying to be funny and snarky where possible. That’s all fun and good, I guess, but what does it ultimately get me? These days, I “critique”, and sometimes even “soapbox”. And not all that well. It’s just MY take on things, but not THE take on things. Nothing I do is definitive. I don’t have that clout or experience. So, I’m dealing with the question of whether I want to critique or create.

I used to be creative. “Artsy”, even. I played piano, did all the high school musicals. All that jazz. And let’s not even touch on the a cappella stint. I had expectations of doing something with that. Anything. Maybe it’s the fault of the millennial trap, where all of our parents assured us that we were special. I kinda thought I’d be a bigger deal by now. How? Doing what? Who the Hell knows.

Sure, I’ve got my family and a job and all that, but something is missing. I miss being creative. I miss having that outlet. Every year when NaNoWriMo comes out, I’m like “I could do that.” Folks have told me I’m a good writer, so even if they were blowing sunshine up my ass, why haven’t I listened to them? I have people who’ve come into my life who are award-winning writers and music producers. They found their thing and went after it. What’s my thing? I’m having what I would like to call my John Tesh Moment.

At some point over the past 20 years, John Tesh became this pop culture joke, brought up whenever anyone deigns to talk about New Age music. I don’t think folks really understand the whole picture there, though. That was, like, Phase 2 of his life. He started out in news, as both an anchor and sportscaster. That got him noticed for the job where you were probably introduced to him, as co-host of Entertainment Tonight. For 10 years he held down that desk with Mary Hart, and they were THE de facto ambassadors of Hollywood to the common man. There was no Extra, Access Hollywood, TMZ, etc back then. Just like Robin Leach let us know how the rich and famous lived their lives, Tesh and Hart could actually take us to the movie set, where the “magic” was happening. Still, while doing this, he had ambitions of his own: music.

With no real onstage experience, he asked his pal Yanni if he could join him on tour as a keyboardist. This opened a LOT of doors for him, as he’d go on to compose the theme song to Bobby’s World, as well as the NBA on NBC theme. Seven years after that tour with Yanni, Tesh was headlining his own shows at Red Rocks. That’s when he became JOHN TESH. Now, because folks like to make fun of his genre, it’s also when he might’ve become the joke, as well. Still, this was John Tesh 2.0, and boy has he been successful! He’s released over 30 studio albums and his concerts are a mainstay of PBS pledge drives. When he comes up in conversation these days, it’s never about Entertainment Tonight. Instead, it’s either about his music or this new self-help guru role in which he seems to have found himself. He and wife, 80s actress Connie Sellecca, manage a brand called Intelligence For Your Life, and he’s got a syndicated radio show. He’s 66 now, and he left ET when he was about 44. That’s a late in life career shift, but it is possible.

What am I getting at? I don’t know. I’m not trying to leave West Week Ever behind. I just feel like I could be doing more (and don’t you DARE say a podcast).  Critiquing only goes so far. I want to create. I want to leave some sort of impact. Anything to not feel like I didn’t put all the cards on the table.

The world’s a crazy place right now. I don’t need to get into all of that. Still, what can I bring to the world that it needs? What do I have that the world wants? What am I going to do with my John Tesh Moment?

Anyway, I think we’re good here. You can get out of that chair now. I’ve got to go pee, so just lock the door behind you.

05th Oct2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/5/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Brad Kern Update – the former NCIS: New Orleans showrunner was fired by CBS Studios after a THIRD misconduct investigation. He had already stepped down after the 2nd, but he remained on the payroll as a consulting producer. He reportedly had a history of belittling women, and making insensitive racial remarks.

Vincent Favale – What the Hell is going on over at CBS?! Man, they are draining the fucking swamp! Favale, the senior vice president of talent at the network has been placed on administrative leave after reports of sexual and homophobic remarks – many of which were reported by staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Favale reportedly once said that he “got four erections” while watching Jennifer Hudson rehearse for a Late Show appearance. Sounds like a real great guy…

*Takes long drag off cigarette* “Geoffrey? Now, that ain’t a name I’ve heard in about a month.” So, this week, Toys “R” Us called off the auction meant to sell off their IP and trademarks, as they reported they felt there was more value in relaunching the brand. Paperwork reveals that they registered the name “Geoffrey’s Toy Box”, but for what nobody is sure yet. Meanwhile, the Dallas Toy Fair is going on, and there have been sightings of Geoffrey walking the aisles, wearing a cape that says “Back from vacation”. All of a sudden, every news outlet lit up with “Toys ‘R’ Us is Coming Back!” Hold on there, cowboy.

Toys “R” Us rushed into bankruptcy, leaving long-time employees without severance, and owing toy manufacturers millions for unpaid product. That giraffe can’t just mosey back in like nothing happened. While the man on the street might be happy about TRU returning, there are a lot of folks who are going to feel some kind of way about that. And if it turned out that they only filed bankruptcy to divest themselves of debt, overhead, and responsibility, that’s going to cause even more problems. Had they been a public company, I’m pretty sure the SEC would be stepping in right about now, but they were private, so I don’t really know what happens next. All I do know is that they need to read the room and understand it’s too soon. The body ain’t even cold yet. I mean, I’m half expecting the next marketing image to be Geoffrey rolling back the stone from his tomb. That’s how this feels right now. They really need to give it a bit more time before rushing into this – if only so I don’t have to hear all the armchair quarterbacks talk about “They better lower their prices! That’s what drove them out of business in the first place!” Not exactly, Poindexter, but you keep on thinking that…


I was hesitant to post this ’cause y’all are never on the same page as me musically, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the stuff I think is good. Now, I know some of you see “country” and just think “NEXT!”, but I will die on the hill that modern country isn’t what you think it is. There are tons of artists who get airplay on country stations, yet if I played the song for you without telling you that, you’d never know it. Today, I can’t really do that ’cause I think everyone knows Tim McGraw is a country artist. Still, yesterday evening, he released his latest song, “Neon Church”, that I’ve been streaming for the past 24 hours.

While I love the wordplay, likening a bar to a church, I’m really here for the melody and what’s going on in the background. The first time I heard it, I was like “That’s ‘Purple Rain’!” In an interview this morning, McGraw said that while recording, he and his band were listening to a lot of Prince and Journey, and it shows here. I played it for Lindsay, and she didn’t like it – I somehow managed to marry the only White woman who hates Journey. Anyway, listen near the bridge and the at the end – that guitarist is doing his best “cruise ship ‘Purple Rain'”. It’s something of a vocal stretch for McGraw, as it’s at the top of his range, but I’m still really digging what’s going on here.

Trailer Park


Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

So, we got a new trailer for this one. Again, I am one of the BIGGEST Miles Morales fans, and this movie does nothing for me. I’m not digging the animation style, which I’m finding to be just as jarring as the MTV Spider-Man animated series based on the Raimi movies. Plus, I’m not sure Jake Johnson is how I imagined Peter Parker would sound. And Miles’ dad isn’t a cop. I get they had to take certain liberties or whatever, but I’m not feeling it. Maybe it’s not meant for me, which is sad, ’cause I pretty much glom onto any and all Miles merchandise and comic appearances.

Plus, I just don’t know if this is a theatrical project. I mean, I look at this, and think it would be a cool animated special that airs on ABC during primetime on a Wednesday in June or something, but to actually go pay to see it in a theater? I don’t think so. It feels like a nice special one-off event, like that Toy Story That Time Forgot special or something. Maybe even a special event on Disney XD. But this ain’t an “I’m headed to Fandango to order tickets” kind of thing.


Daredevil Season 3

So glad they quickly got this out there, ’cause the teaser I showed you last week left me scratching my head. Apparently this is adapting the “Born Again” storyline, but I read that thing over 10 years ago, and don’t remember it, so don’t take my word for it. It looks good – SO good, that I might just skip that other Netflix shows I haven’t seen and skip right to it.


Runaways Season 2

I’ve never watched an episode of this show, and that’s because A) I don’t have Hulu and B) it looks hokey as Hell. From the special effects to the way the kids all look like “teen outcasts” straight from central casting, it just doesn’t look good to me. I was a big fan of the comic series when it launched, but I watch these trailers, and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you’ve read the comic, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s like, if you think they’re on the run NOW, you just wait! There’s a twist coming, and I might jump onboard if/when I hear they’ve pulled that trigger. Until then, I’m content being in the dark on this one, Cloak & Dagger, and all the teen-centric Marvel stuff.


Harley Quinn

So, they announced that Kaley Cuoco would be voicing Harley, and I was like, “Huh?” I mean, were Tara Strong or Arleen Sorkin busy? But I guess they wanted a “name” behind this, since it’s one of DC Universe’s more high profile upcoming launches. After seeing this trailer, Cuoco does a decent job. And I really love Poison Ivy doing her best Daria. I like that DC seems able and willing to poke fun at them themselves here. I’m curious to see how this plays out since it’s marketed as an “adult animated series”. Let’s just hope the show is good, and not another Stripperella.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fox announced the release of Untitled Deadpool Movie slated for December 21st, which will reportedly be a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2. Keep in mind that this is also the weekend that Aquaman and Bumblebee hit theaters. I was kinda hoping it would be a new movie made up of deleted scenes and cut subplots, kinda like Wake Up, Ron Burgandy. Anyone ever seen that? It’s HORRIBLE but, as an Anchorman completist, I had to see it.
  • Speaking of Fox, they made a lot of schedule moves, as Untitled Deadpool Movie takes the release date of James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel, which, itself, is moving to Dark Phoenix‘s previously announced date of February 14th, 2019. Dark Phoenix, meanwhile, is moving to June 7th. Also, Channing Tatum’s X-Men spinoff, Gambit (ya know, that movie that’s never gonna happen?), has been pushed to March 13th, 2020.

  • So, those pitches are teasing a Pitch Perfect 4, and I’ve got to beg them to stop. The only thing they could even possibly do is have it based on NBC bringing back The Sing Off, and having the Bellas compete on it. Anything else would be absurd. No, the 3rd one was just not worth it, so I say we let it die as a trilogy.
  • Before the first episode has even aired, Titans has been renewed for season 2 on the DC Universe streaming service. Ya know, why not? It’s not like they’re sitting on anything else amazing to throw on that thing.

  • Speaking of bad DC live action ideas, Lobo is going to debut on Syfy’s Krypton next season. This looks like a Spirit Halloween ad! Ugh, fucking Lobo. He’s just the absolute WORST. Even though he debuted in the 80s, he’s the 90s at its 90iest, and I hate everything about him. I’ve always said that you can tell a lot about a person if they’re a Lobo fan. They’re usually Special Ed. Probably ate paste in school. They either grow up to own a landscaping business or become a Best Buy stereo installer. Fucking Lobo…
  • Realizing he’s getting too old for this shit, Damon Wayans has announced that he’s leaving Lethal Weapon at the end of season 3’s initial 13-episode commitment. Man, how mad do you think Fox is at the Lethal Weapon office right now? They already had to replace Clayne Crawford with Sean William Scott just to keep the show going, and now THIS?! Somebody’s GOT to be saying “We don’t need this shit! We could’ve renewed Lucifer!” As I said on Twitter, they should replace Wayans with Bill Bellamy, then kill off Scott, and replace him with Peter Facinelli. Then, I’ll get my backdoor Fastlane revival I’ve been wanting since 2003!
  • Kanye did some dumb shit on SNL, and water is wet.
  • Looks like Robert Kirkman is going to have to be content living off his The Walking Dead empire, as Cinemax has cancelled his series Outcast after 2 seasons.
  • Everyone wants in on the fantasy genre, as Netflix is adapting the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia for series and movies, while Amazon is developing a series based on Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novels.
  • Remember Mischa Barton? Ya know, the It Girl from The O.C. who went nowhere? Well, she’s going to be joining the cast of The Hills: New Beginnings on MTV.
  • Chelsea Peretti announced that she won’t be returning to Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a series regular when the show debuts on NBC this season.
  • Amy Schumer was detained yesterday in DC during the #KavaNope protests, but she blocked me on Twitter ages ago, so she’s dead to me. YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, AMY!

  • We got this poster for the upcoming Hellboy reboot, starring David “You Wouldn’t Even Know My Name Were It Not For Stranger Things” Harbour.
  • Elon Musk took one step closer to becoming The World’s First Supervillain, as he was forced to resign as Tesla chariman, and was fined $20 million by the SEC, due to a tweet where he implied he had secured funding to take Tesla private.
  • Last night marked the finale episode of the hour-long version of Conan on TBS, as he bid farewell to his house band, Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band (formerly the Max Weinberg 7). The future show will switch to a half hour format, with no musical guests, but with more special events, like shows from foreign countries.
  • Brian Robbins was announced as the new head of Nickelodeon, which is significant since he and his former Head of the Class costar, Dan Schneider, got their behind the scenes careers started by creating All That for the network back in 1994. It’ll be interesting to see if he throws any work to Schneider, whose Schneider’s Bakery production house was sent packing by Nickelodeon earlier this year after allegations surrounding Schneider arose.
  • Talk about an “unfortunate Situation”! Jersey Shore star, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, was sentenced to 8 months in prison for tax evasion.
  • Jon Favreau will write and produce Star Wars series The Mandalorian, which appears to follow another Fett, after the events of Empire, but before the rise of the First Order. The series will stream on Disney Play.

I know you’ve gotten this far, and you’re like “Wait, didn’t he have Venom in the header pic? He hasn’t even mention…wait. He WOULDN’T!”

OK, bear with me here. I know the critics gave this film a shellacking, and I can understand why. In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, to some extent, the DCEU, Venom isn’t what we’ve come to expect from a comic book movie in 2018. And I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. I swore that I wouldn’t spend money to see Venom, and I kept that promise, as Special Forces wanted to see it, and it was his turn to pay. That said, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I really enjoyed it. Now, I am known for liking shit, so don’t equate “Will liked it” with “It’s a good movie”. I don’t know if I’m “Film Twitter” enough to say it’s good or bad, but I definitely enjoyed it.

OK, so the movie starts out with investigative reporter Eddie Brock on top of the world. He’s got his own cable news show, where he roots out corruption, he’s engaged to corporate attorney Michelle Williams, and he’s about to get a chance to interview Elon Musk analog, Carlton Drake. Actually, that’s not how the movie starts. It actually starts with a space shuttle crashing upon reentry – a shuttle that happens to carry organic samples. All of the astronauts die except one, named “Jameson”, where I guess they’re alluding to J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son, John Jameson, who later becomes the Man-Wolf in the comics. Anyway, while transporting Jameson to the nearest hospital, it appears he’s got a symbiote in him that jumps from him to his EMT, wrecking the ambulance. Oh, and that shuttle? It was owned by Carlton Drake.

Brock’s boss wants him to interview Drake, but he doesn’t want to do it because he doesn’t trust Drake. His doubts are reinforced when he hacks into his fiancee’s computer (her firm happens to be representing Drake’s company, The LIFE Foundation), and discovers a wrongful death suit filed against the computer. When he gets his shot at interviewing Drake, instead of sticking to the script, he decides to ask about the wrongful death suit. Well, this doesn’t go well, as Drake kicks Brock out of his building, ends his career, and gets Williams fired from her firm, where she, then, gives Brock his ring back. In one fell swoop, Brock’s life is ruined.

Fast forward six months, and Brock is a drunk, “slumming it” in what has to be a $4500/month apartment (seriously, the thing is huge, and they’re in San Francisco!). He’s got no job prospects and no future, until a horribly miscast Jenny Slate shows up as Dora Skirth, a scientist at the LIFE Foundation who has doubts about the organization’s goals. See, Drake thinks humans have ruined Earth, and the only possible solution is to equip them with the means to survive – whether here or on another planet. He sees the symbiote samples as a means of doing that, and he has ordered trials to begin on humans. LIFE picks up vagrants and has them sign away their rights as they test the symbiotes to see if they’ll bond with humans. Well, this is too much for Dr. Skirth, who seeks out Brock to help her expose the company.

Dr. Skirth sneaks Brock in, who goes exploring while she tries to distract a security guard. While exploring, Brock finds his neighborhood homeless friend in one of the cells. When he breaks her out, she attacks him ’cause she’s got a symbiote in her, which she passes to Brock, unbeknownst to him. As he’s fleeing from security, he notices he can do things he shouldn’t be able to do, like shatter trees and quickly scale great heights. This is when he starts to realize something’s not right, as he starts to hear a voice in his head that wasn’t there before.

So, now he’s riding for two, as Venom’s in his head, but pops out when necessary – like when Drake’s hired security show up to take back the symbiote, and there’s a well-choreographed fight scene in the apartment, leading to a great car chase scene. The action is actually pretty impressive in the film. There’s one scene of Venom versus the SWAT team that plays out like a boss battle in a video game. They’re throwing flash grenades and shooting at shadows, while Venom bounces around the rafters.

I’ll stop spoiling stuff here, as you might actually want to see the movie one day. I’ll say there were a couple of things that bothered me. For one thing, Michelle Williams. I mean, the entire time, I’m watching the film, thinking, “You’re better than this, Michelle! You’ve been nominated for an Oscar FOUR TIMES, yet here you are, doing your worst Great Value Pepper Potts!” Also, there are continuity issues. There’s a scene where Drake is speaking to a field trip at his HQ, and a little girl tries to ask him a question. The rest of the class tries to stop her for interrupting, but Drake says something inspiring like, “No, speak. That’s what people do. They try to dissuade you from asking questions, but that’s how we learn.” He, then, gives her the pin off his lapel, but HE DOESN’T ACTUALLY LET HER ASK A QUESTION! he basically grandstanded, only to shoot her down. I mean, she was happy with the lapel pin, but nobody seems to notice she didn’t ask her question. Lost in editing maybe? Also, I didn’t really like Riz Ahmed as Drake. I thought it was another casting misfire. I would’ve gone for someone with more gravitas, like maybe Dev Patel, if they were going for a “type”. I also didn’t appreciate that it was clearly an R-rated film, edited down to PG-13, and Hardy has said that 40 minutes got cut, including his favorite scene.

Things I did like: Tom Hardy was great as Guy Who Ends Up As Venom’s Host. I can’t honestly say he was a great Eddie Brock, as I don’t have a ton of familiarity with that character. When he was ruling comics in the 90s, I still pretty much a strictly DC guy, so I haven’t read most of those iconic Venom stories. I know Brock was Peter Parker’s rival, so you’re not really supposed to be rooting for him, but you kinda have to here. That’s why I can understand why they wanted Spider-Man as far away from this film as possible. Still, I liked Hardy for what he was, and I loved his interplay with Venom in his head. I also LOVED Venom, as he was funnier than I expected him to be. The CGI wasn’t as troublesome as I was expecting, and I was even fine with no spider symbol on his chest.

As much as I enjoy the MCU movies, I’m getting a little tired of them. As a fanboy, they’re work. It’s not enough to just sit back and enjoy the movie, but Marvel really drives home the interconnectedness of it all. So, the first time you watch, you’re on guard for any Easter egg that might fly by. Like “Hey, he just mentioned Damage Control!”, etc. I get it, Marvel – you’re good at tying your shit together. But I don’t ALWAYS need that. Venom was a nice change of pace. It was still “In Association With Marvel”. I still got my Stan Lee cameo. It did everything it needed to do. And the mid credits scene has me hoping we get a sequel, ’cause there’s a lot of potential with what they teased.

Yes, this was a pretty slow week unless your name was Brett Kavanaugh, so there wasn’t a ton of competition here. So, I’m gonna shock y’all and say that Venom had the West Week Ever.

28th Sep2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/28/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch (TM)

Brett Kavanaugh – PASS. Next!

Drake – So, 14 year old Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown recently said that Drake texts her and gives her advice about boys. Now, this is already after he was coming off a week where he was reportedly seen out on a date with a teenager. Ol’ Aubrey better watch himself, because even the King of Pop himself couldn’t shake the pedophile allegations. It’s probably an innocent thing, but he might wanna tell her to stop bringing shit like that up in interviews.

Nelly – There are reports that Nelly settled with a woman who alleges he forced her to perform oral and vaginal sex on his tour bus, When he was done, he reportedly threw her off the bus and threw a $100 bill at her. Now, reports are saying they reached a settlement, which would normally imply guilt. The thing here, though, is that “settlement” doesn’t seem to be the correct word. Apparently, the victim refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and both sides dropped their suits against one another (Nelly had countersued). They agreed to cover their own legal costs, but Nelly’s lawyer reports no money changed hands, which the victim’s attorney is disputing. At the end of the day, I guess she didn’t wanna go and take a ride wit’ him.

Bill Cosby Update – Surprising EVERYONE, Bill Cosby received a sentence of 3-10 years in prison for puttin’ the pill in the bubbly when the girls wanna drink. There are reports that someone threw a hot dog at him in lockup on his first day, plus he almost fell down some stairs. On the one hand, it’s like “He was an evil man and this is what he has coming to him”. But on the other, it’s like “Who wins from an 83 year old man being put in jail?” I think he deserves to be there, but I’m not gonna laugh at his misfortune while in there. Hopefully, he’s not only a cautionary tale, but also the first of many more to follow.

Trailer Park

We’ve got a lot of trailery goodness this week, so let’s dive right in.

Creed II

Honestly, the first trailer did more for me. The whole rap in the background, the final tease of Drago Jr. That was great. I felt there was too much here, and not even the juicy bits. Just a bunch of Adonis being a deadbeat dad because he’s obsessed with his father’s legacy. Hands down, the best scene here is the staredown between Drago and Rocky. Man, the Russians clearly have the better Human Growth Hormone, ’cause Rocky looks like shit compared to Ivan. I’ll see it. Not sure if I’ll see it in the theater, but I’ll see it.

Bumblebee

So much 80s goodness in here. I was never a huge Transformers fan, so whatever Michael Bay did to them didn’t scar me as much as it did a lot of y’all. That said, I’ve always been a big fan of Bumblebee. Long story short, Bumblebee was the last birthday present I got from my dad before he passed away. So, even though a lot of y’all hate that he’s become the Urkel of the TF franchise, I will always stan for the ‘Bee. I will definitely be seeing this one.

Dark Phoenix

Ooh, we’re going all “Dark Knight“, and removing the name of the title characters’ franchise from the name of the movie. Whatever. A friend of mine texted me and asked “Did you see the Dark Phoenix trailer?” I replied, “No, but I saw a piece of shit with some X-Men characters in it.” This trailer is on Lexapro. There are no highs or lows. It just coasts right through the middle, offering nothing exciting. It’s a shame that everyone is all “Bring on the MCU X-Men!”, because it seems like that rubbed off on the filmmakers. Well, if nothing else, at least we know we’ll have a cool Quicksilver sequence to look forward to. If this is the 90s, I’m hoping it’s set to something by either C&C Music Factory of La Bouche.

ABC’s TGIF

Comedy has changed a lot and, while there’s a lot of nostalgia for the TGIF brand, I’m not sure Fresh Off the Boat and Speechless are gonna be the torchbearers for the 21st century incarnation of the comedy block. Anyway, here’s a cute video of some former TGIF stars imparting their wisdom to the newbies.


Star Trek: Short Treks – “Runaway”

Considering that there seems to be new Star Trek news every day, one of the projects that got lost in the news cycle was the Short Treks series, which are four anthology episodes that…well, I don’t know a whole lot more than that. Here’s the trailer for the first one, though, set in the Discovery era, starring Ensign Sylvia Tilly. Again, I’d check all this shit out if it didn’t require me to subscribe to CBS All Access. So, I’ll catch it once it ends up on YouTube or something.

Daredevil Season 3 (Netflix)

Well, that was certainly Kingpin and Matt Murdock. That’s all I’ve got. I’m seriously behind on those shows.

So, here’s an interesting, “shoe is on the other foot” moment. The curator for the hip hop collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, Timothy Anne Burnside, is a White woman (full disclosure: she’s a friend of a friend). I’ve known about this since before the museum even opened. Still, I guess the news was on CP Time, ’cause the Black community didn’t seem to notice until over the weekend, and it was a SHITSTORM. All over social media, they couldn’t understand how a White woman was the curator of something so dear to our culture. Why wasn’t the job offered to a Black person? There was a lot of back and forth, and the Smithsonian even issued a statement about the whole thing. This debate comes up a lot, like “Should minority characters only be written by a person who’s from the same minority group?” From what I’ve heard, Timothy knows her shit, and I don’t think the Smithsonian would choose just anybody to handle this project (fuller disclosure: my mother worked for the National Museum of Natural History for 28 years). Still, the museum is in an uncomfortable situation, where they have to decide whether they’re going to side with Timothy, or with the critics. For the culture. If they do try to replace her, this has got “discrimination suit” written ALL over it.

This week saw the debut of the ABC sitcom Single Parents, starring Taran Killam. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it wasn’t great. Basically, Killam is a divorced dad who dotes on his daughter, and this group of single parents in his daughter’s class try to show him that there’s a world out there that he’s missing. The odd thing to me is that their friendship wasn’t organic. The group was just like “Ooh, new single parent!” and decided to make him their project. I had someone tell me on Twitter that I don’t understand single parenting, and that you “find your tribe quickly”. I don’t know about all that, but I know that trust takes time, and this crammed it all into 22 minutes. I get that they’re basically an elementary school Dear John, but the whole support group angle doesn’t really work unless the audience believes the trust is there. Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll be back for this one.

Last night was the premiere of the Murphy Brown revival, and woo boy! First of all, it features a cameo that’s so obvious that I can’t believe they even tried to tease it like it was a surprise (HINT: There’s a joke about emails). One thing another reviewer said, that I have to agree with, is that it seems horribly dated. I mean, the premiere features the pussy hats from the Women’s March (they don’t call them “pussy hats”, even though you could totally get away with that on broadcast today, while you couldn’t when the original series aired). If this had premiered a year ago, it might have seemed on the cutting edge of comedy, but this just seems slow and lazy. It’s kinda like how other animated shows reference how South Park already beat them to making the joke they’re trying to make. Why? Because South Park is a well oiled machine, cranking out shit based on last night’s headlines. This show, however, was Liberal Smuggery at its worst.

“What’s Liberal Smuggery,” you ask? It’s what I call the state of liberal comedy, where they think they’re so much smarter than the conservatives – they’re so biting and witty, yet they’ve got NOTHING to show for it. Even when they’re in power, they’re somehow the weaklings. Late night talk show hosts are the leaders in Liberal Smuggery. Jon Stewart made his name on it. But at the end of the day, what does that get you?  The “moral high ground”? I feel like this premiere went for a lot of low-hanging fruit that even those talk show hosts would’ve avoided.

In the UK, they might do a one-off special to catch up with a beloved show’s characters. They recently did one for Are You Being Served? I would’ve liked this more had it been that format: a one-off special to see how Murphy Brown feels about the Trump Administration. After last night’s episode, I’m pretty sure I’ve got my answer, and I’m good. I’m not so sure this needed to be a full season.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Dr. Dre’s series Vital Signs was cancelled by Apple before it even aired, due to graphic sex and violence. I know what bootleg I’m looking for at the next pop culture convention!
  • Inside The Actor’s Studio is returning to Ovation TV, but it will be without James Lipton. After 25 years, he’s stepping down, and the show will be led by “a rotating array of guest hosts”.

  • Writing has begun on the Picard-centric Star Trek series, and we got this pic of the writers room from Patrick Stewart’s Instagram. I’m struck by the fact that there are 2 women – one of whom is Black. I see you, sista! Oh yeah, Michael Chabon is there, too.
  • Formerly of The View, Rosie O’Donnell is set to guest host on The Talk today, in a possible bid to replace the departed Julie Chen.
  • The CW Arrowverse crossover this season will be called Elseworlds, which comic fans will remember as the DC imprint that was home to out of continuity stories.

  • Speaking of DC shows, we got this poster for Titans, which will be streaming on the DC Universe service next month. Yeah, not only does this poster do nothing for me, but where are Hawk & Dove? Aren’t they supposed to be on the show, too? Was Minka Kelly too expensive for the whole season?
  • Terry Crews has been tapped to host the America’s Got Talent spinoff, America’s Got Talent: the Champions, which seems like it might be their all-star edition. Who hosts the regular show since Nick Cannon quit? *Googles* Tyra Banks? STILL?!
  • So, um, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has joined the writing team for the Veronica Mars revival. Yup, that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Huh.
  • For some reason, Disney is remaking High Fidelity, only Zoe Kravitz will be in the John Cusack role. I don’t get it. Will she be a womanizing lesbian? Will she work still work in a record store? Let’s pump the brakes on these reboots, huh?
  • Dunkin Donuts is reportedly planning to drop the “Donuts” from their name, as they refocus their brand as a “beverage-led company, not limited to just donuts”. Yeah, how ’bout y’all ask IHOB how well that shit went for them.
  • Apparently, there was backlash about how The Princess & The Frog‘s Princess Tiana appears in the upcoming Ralph Wrecks The Internet, as her skin has been lightened, and her hair processed. Disney is correcting the appearance to match what fans are used to. Of course, old White men are mad, and Black folks are like “We were just gonna buy that movie bootleg at the barbershop anyway, so it really don’t matter what color she is based on the shaky cam quality it’s gonna be.”
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Jurnee Smollett-Bell have been cast, respectively, as Huntress and Black Canary in DC’s unnecessary Birds of Prey film that will probably never see the light of day. I mean, my man Ray Fisher is still waiting for his call to report to the set of that Cyborg movie, so…

It was a bad week. Especially the past 2 days. But out of all the bullshit there rose a phoenix. That phoenix also goes by the name of Stefanie Germanotta, but you can call her “Lady Gaga”. She’s making her debut as a lead in Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star Is Born. Yesterday, the single “Shallow” was released, and I’ve probably listened to it 400 times by now. If there’s any problem with the song, it’s the fact that it’s too short. While everyone was screaming at the Kavanaugh hearing yesterday, I was keeping my cool by looping this. I’d suggest you try it. That’s why Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” had the West Week Ever.

14th Sep2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/14/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM) 

SO MUCH HARASSMENT THIS WEEK! Usually, these things are kinda like footnotes to the week, but the shit really hit the fan this week.

Jeff Fager: The longtime 60 Minutes executive producer was ousted, as he didn’t think before sending that angry text. You’ve always got to count to 10 – unless it says “You up?”, and it’s after midnight. Then you go handle your shit. No, here’s what happened: it was reported that Fager liked to touch and grope CBS employees at company parties. When this news broke, he was displeased with how his own network was reporting the investigation into his behavior. So, he fired off a text to CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan, which was capped off with “Be careful. There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem.” So, Fager wasn’t fired because of the claims against him. No, he was fired because of his reaction to the claims against him. I think it’s Stephen Covey who promotes the 10/90 Principle, in that life is really just 10% of things you can control, and 90% of how you react to the things you can’t. Guess Fager should’ve read that book.

Les Moonves Update: Man, it was an executive bloodbath over at CBS this week, as Moonves stepped down as Chairman of CBS when the original count of 6 women with claims against him doubled to 12. After resigning, he released a statement denying the allegations, as folks are wont to do in his predicament. If It’s A Wonderful Life taught us anything, it’s that rich people, even when evil, still tend to finish the game rich. That’s exactly what’s happening here, as Moonves is set to receive a severance package worth around $240 million, but it’s on hold pending the results of the investigation against him.

Meanwhile, Moonves’ wife, TV personality and Big Brother host, Julie Chen decided to be a real bitch about things. At the end of last night’s broadcast of Big Brother, she signed off as Julie Chen Moonves – a name she has NEVER used professionally, and it was symbolic in that she was showing her support for her husband. Well, good for you, Julie. You ain’t been nothing but a sell-out your whole career anyway. Seriously, that was her spitting in the faces of all of Les’s accusers, when she knows there could be some validity to all this. After all, she was allegedly his sidepiece while he was still married, and he petitioned the court for an early divorce just so he could be with her. Les Moonves ain’t shit, and neither is she. I really hope CBS boots “Chen Moonves” out on her ass, ’cause everybody knows the only reason she got that Big Brother gig – amongst others – is because of Moonves. Let’s see HER get kicked out of the Big Brother house.

But wait – there’s more! Last week, I told you about how Moonves made it his life’s mission to ruin Janet Jackson’s career after Nipplegate. That’s his thing. He loves to ruin people. Well, Designing Women/Evening Shade creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason wrote this detailed account of how Moonves kept her shows off CBS, as well as scuttled her $50 million development contract. While she was never sexually harassed by Moonves, she knows people who were, plus he fucked with her money. I usually don’t get this “involved” with a HarassmentWatch subject, but Moonves is really being revealed as quite the piece of shit.

Shane Black Update: So, there was some blowback about the sex offender originally being in the film, but that didn’t stop folks from seeing The Predator, and reporting that it’s not very good. The news that came out this week, however, is that actress Olivia Munn is the one who tipped off the studio to the sex offender’s involvement in the film. And now it seems like she may have been blackballed, because she reached out to the cast to inform them of what she planned to do, and received no support from her male costars. In fact, they all bailed on a group interview that was scheduled at the Toronto International Film Festival. Since that news broke, however, Sterling K. Brown has apologized to her, but it was probably at the urging of the This Is Us producers, as they don’t want that bad juju affecting their ratings.

Norm MacDonald: Sometimes I wish I gave out the WORST Week Ever, as that would most certainly have gone to Norm this week. I mean, how many ways can you fuck up an apology tour? Well, he was determined to find out. So, early in the week, Norm did an interview where he said that he was glad the #MeToo movement was slowing down. He made a statement that Louis CK and Roseanne should get together and talk, because only they understand the experience of losing everything in one day. He said that folks always talk about the victims in these things, but they don’t realize that folks like Louis and Roseanne are basically victims, too. Well, this did NOT go over well, as people felt that he was minimizing what had actually gone down in these two particular cases. He tweeted out an apology, explaining that the 2 comedians were his friends, yet he didn’t condone their actions, nor was his intent to minimize what had occurred. Despite this, his Tuesday appearance on The Tonight Show was cancelled after Jimmy Fallon made him aware that some producers were “in tears” about the thought of him being on the show. Then, he went on The Howard Stern Show, and he doubled down, saying that a person would have to have Down Syndrome to not feel sorry for the victims of sexual assault. So, then he had to apologize for that. He’s apologizing for prior apologies on his apology tour. As they say in the South, “That boy just can’t get to Hell fast enough.”


So Henry Cavill is out as Superman in the DCEU. Oh wait – he’s back in? I can’t even keep track anymore. Apparently they wanted him to film a cameo for SHAZAM!, and he was all “Show me the money!” And when they did show it to him, it was flaccid and disappointing. Then, Cavill proceeded to post some cryptic video of him on Instagram with a Superman figure. Was this him telling us he’s done? That’s the conclusion to which everyone jumped, though there was no real precedent for it. You see, there’s no Superman project in development. right now. While Affleck is probably done as Batman due to his rehab stint, it’s not like DC is working on anything Superman related at the moment. So, the statement released basically said that if/when there’s a project, Cavill would be considered. Man, this is one messy break-up!

Meanwhile, as the fires burned all around us, somehow a rumor got started that Michael B. Jordan was being considered to replace Cavill as Superman. Let that sink in a minute. I feel like the Elite are tired of waiting for the inevitable Race War, and they’ve just decided to nudge things in the right direction to get the shit started. Yes, I know about Earth-23 Superman, but I don’t need Black Superman. Yes, representation matters, but I don’t need Black Superman. The only way I want Michael B. Jordan is if Warner Bros uses the same wack CGI they used to hide Cavill’s mustache in Justice League, but instead uses it to make Jordan White throughout the entire film. It’d be the biggest waste of CGI in movie history. Folks would be like “Why couldn’t they just cast a White guy?” And then there’d be the whole argument of “The best man got the job!” and some folks would be like, “Well, did he?” This is how the world ends, folks. You heard it here first.

All I know is that Cyborg movie ain’t ever happening, so I hope Ray Fisher didn’t spend all that Justice League money. If it did happen, and they did cast Jordan as Superman, I’ve GOT to have a version of this scene somewhere in the film:

Tomorrow is International Batman Day, and I really couldn’t tell you what we’re celebrating. I mean, it started on an anniversary year, but now it’s just an annual day to get a free Batman comic. OK, I’ll take it. It’s also the official launch date for the DC Universe streaming service. We got some DCU news this week, as Derek Mears has reportedly been cast as the suit actor for the Swamp Thing character, while Maria Sten will be Liza Tremaine. As far as content, the series is expected to be a “Hard R”. Also, it was revealed that Titans will feature Robin II, Jason Todd. We got this new pic of the series, and it still does nothing to make me want to watch this show.

In other comics news, Top Cow is planning a relaunch of The Darkness, which was originally a spin-off of Witchblade. Let’s hope it’s better than their recent reboot of Witchblade! To give you some backstory, the Witchblade was one of the powerful artifacts of the Top Cow universe that bonded with strong women over time. Once it got to the 90s, however, all the women’s empowerment went out the window, as it was nothing but a T&A book. While it put artists like Michael Turner on the map, it would be years later that the book gained any real substance.

The Darkness was one of those concepts introduced way too soon. It was a demonic force that, like the Witchblade, was passed down to males, from generation to generation. The power manifests on the bearer’s 21st birthday, but the problem is that the power is passed on at the moment of conception, killing the current host. It’s like that heavy handed 2nd verse of TLC’s “Waterfalls”! So, imagine how much it sucked for Jackie Estacado, a 21 year old mobster, who finds himself as the latest host for the Darkness. I mean, he was a womanizer, but now he couldn’t have sex.

And this is my problem with 90s comics. They wanted to be so edgy, but still remain so chaste, due to the Comics Code Authority. It was bandied about that Jackie couldn’t have sex, or he’d die. Um, condoms? Was this some poorly written AIDS allegory? X-Men tried to do the same thing. Gambit and Rogue are star-crossed because they can’t touch. Gloves and condoms, fool. A horny 13 year old kid can come up with a LOT of ways to make that work, and he was the primary audience for that book.

Anyway, Witchblade was just reimagined with a new host, and ZERO T&A. It’s like they’re not smart enough to realize why people bought that book. Witchblade, as a character, goes in that category with Lady Death and Vampirella, where you know exactly what you’re throwing down your money to read. This new book is just about some boring blonde girl, and I dropped it after one issue. Some concepts can be reimagined. Some can’t. I feel like Witchblade is only gonna work as a T&A book, and Darkness only works as her brooding, on-again, off-again boyfriend.

In TV news, the new cast of Dancing with the Stars was announced this week, and there were some surprises. I don’t watch the show at all, but I still keep up with who’s been tapped for the show. While I don’t know 3/4 of these people (because they’re all either reality show or Disney Channel stars), I do recognize some interesting choices. First, there’s the Ryan Seacrest of Country Music, Mr. Bobby Bones. He’s been branching out into other media, but the guy has a daily morning radio show. I feel like he’s gonna take an early L just to get back to his 37 other jobs. Then there’s 1984 Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, on whom I’ve had a crush since I was 3 years old. What? She was EVERYWHERE back then. It was like when Bobby Hill had that crush on Kerri Strug. The big one that stood out to me, however, was former Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider, who was recently in the news because he was trying to get his jail time (for non payment of spousal support) reinstated, as he couldn’t afford to pay his ex-wife. Guess he said, “I can’t pay the bitch, so send me back to jail” – all while his car horn plays “Dixie” as he speeds through the center of town.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The will reportedly be a death on Modern Family next season, of a “significant character” according to Co-creator Christopher Lloyd. All signs are pointing to Fred Willard’s Frank Dunphy.
  • Game of Thrones star Kit Harington blasted Marvel for not casting gay actors as any of their onscreen heroes. Not really sure what he was going for there. Maybe his manager told him to do it?
  • “They’re robots, bitch.” Expect that line next season, as Jesse Pinkman himself, Aaron Paul, joins the cast of Westworld.
  • The Blue’s Clues reboot, Blue’s Clues & You, has found its new host in Joshua Dela Cruz. That’s for all you parents/perverts out there.
  • The sun continues to shine on former Cosby Show star/more recent Trader Joe’s employee, as he is set to appear on NCIS: New Orleans next season.
  • Shane West is joining Gotham next season as a mysterious new villain. Remember when folks had high hopes for Shane? Man, that was some week!
  • American Gods must be cursed, as the show is about to lose its third showrunner. There are reports that Jesse Alexander was let go by Starz because the show is 6 weeks behind schedule and has gone over budget.
  • I guess we’re really doing this: after the Academy got rid of the “Popular Oscar”, Disney released its For Your Consideration list for Black Panther to Academy voters. Yup, they’re trying to get King T’Challa an Oscar!
  • Since the Roseanne thing didn’t really go as planned, ABC is going back to the well and has picked up the Designing Women reboot. It turns out the series is actually planned as a sequel, which will focus on the next generation of Sugarbaker women – which will be interesting since they were all past menopause by the end of the last series…
  • Rappers Nicki Minaj and Cardi B came to fisticuffs after a party during New York Fashion Week
  • Adult film star Stormy Daniels announced her upcoming book, Full Disclosure, which is supposedly her tell all account of her affair with Donald Trump. If I didn’t read Omarosa’s book, or Woodward’s book, or even Comey’s book, then why the Hell would I read this? I don’t need to read “He produced his turgid Cheeto, which I proceeded to ride, filled with ennui.”
  • X-Men: Extermination #1 saw the death of Scott Summers’ son, Cable – killed by a younger Cable! Oh, and this is the second time Cable has “died” in the past 10 years. Space that shit out, Marvel!

  • Marvel’s trying to get some of the DC Super Hero Girls money, with Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, which has a toyline launching next month. I just hope these do better than those Star Wars: Forces of Destiny dolls, ’cause those did NOT find an audience.
  • Speaking of DC, there’s a new sheriff in town for the comics division, as it will now report directly to the President of New Warner Bros Global Brands & Experiences, Pam Lifford. Two interesting things here: 1) she’s a Black woman and 2) she used to work for the competition, as she was Disney exec until Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter used his influence to have her division closed. This should be interesting!

It was a great week for John Legend. First off, he won an Emmy Award for his work on Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. Now, this would be an amazing accomplishment for anyone, but it was even more so for Legend, as it got him EGOT status: someone who has won a Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. While I originally learned the term from 30 Rock, it was apparently coined by Miami Vice‘s Phillip Michael Thomas – like he ever had a chance. That’s like if I said I want to win 3 Olympic gold medals, as I sit on my couch, crunching on Doritos. Anyway, I believe that, at 39, Legend is the youngest person to get an EGOT. And the big news didn’t stop there, as it was also announced that he will be replacing Jennifer Hudson as a coach on The Voice next season. Not too shabby for a former a cappella kid who used to lament the fact that he was just one of the “Ordinary People”. That’s why John Legend had the West Week Ever.

07th Sep2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/7/18

by Will

 

I took last week off since it was a 3-day weekend, and y’all never read my shit when you’re watching the clock for your 72 hr orgy, or barbecue, or whatever the Hell it is y’all get into. Then, I took a “mental health day” today because my mental ain’t so healthy lately. So, this is coming out after 5 PM, which means you’ve already left work, and you’re probably pregaming for your 48 hr orgy. I hope ya read it, ’cause we’ve got 2 weeks of stuff to talk about, but I stopped tracking stats long ago. It’s better for the mental health….

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Shane Black: Apparently a scene was removed from The Predator, which contained a cameo by one of Black’s friends, who’s also a registered sex offender. Now, why he thought throwing his friend a job like this was a good idea, I’ll never know. I’m not sure if he’s “loyal” or just “stupid”, but hey, it’s 2018 and shit like that don’t go unnoticed.

Les Moonves Update: While Moonves was allowed to keep his job during the investigation into the sexual harassment claims against him, there are now rumors that he’s seeking a quiet exit from CBS. To add to that, there was an interesting article yesterday about how he made it his life’s mission to destroy Janet Jackson following her “wardrobe malfunction” after the 2004 Super Bowl.

As a “student of pop culture”, I never really had much of an opinion on the wardrobe malfunction. It was one of the few Super Bowls I missed, so I didn’t see it with the rest of you. And while I stanned for JT, I was still more mad at how he blew off his bandmates than for this. It didn’t go unnoticed that he pretty much got out of the whole thing unscathed but, according to the article, this was only because he tearfully approached Moonves about it, which Moonves loved. What a dickhole.

Louis CK Update: Louis returned to the stage in an unannounced set at the Comedy Cellar. From most accounts, his “comeback” wasn’t that great, and now he’s got a new enemy: the owner of the Cellar, Noam Dworman. Dworman claims he was never made aware of Louis’ plans, and he also didn’t appreciate that his club was chosen, as it’s put him in the middle of the controversy. On top of it, he is disappointed that Louis didn’t even address the allegations in his set. To Dworman, what should’ve been a mea culpa, hat-in-hand moment was more of a “Surprise! Here’s business as usual, like nothing happened.” So, it doesn’t seem like the world of comedy is ready to forgive Louis just yet.

Mahoney! Apparently, Steve Guttenberg is going around, saying there’s a new Police Academy movie coming, and I’m gonna need him to stop. The problem is this is a HORRIBLE time for that movie, I don’t care how lovable those guys are. Let’s Be Cops got in at the very last minute that folks were cool with cops. It’ll be quite some time before folks are ready to embrace a Police Academy movie again.

Plus, the franchise came out during a time when we didn’t care about everyone’s opinion. At this point, we’d have the fraternal orders of police weighing in about how they feel disrespected. Fox News would want a boycott for the film that “disparages our heroes!”, and Sheriff David A. Clarke would use it as an excuse to do more rounds on the talk show circuit. And it’s kind sad watching old ass Michael Winslow try to make sounds that I can just download an app to produce. Let that shit go. Give it a few years, and then introduce Mahoney’s kid, who’s joining the academy. I’ll only watch, though, if they “Weekend at Bernie’s” Commandant Lassard, by dragging George Gaynes’s corpse around the whole film.

In TV news, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia started its 13th (!) season this week, in an episode that was…serviceable. First of all, they dealt with the mystery of whether or not Glenn Howerton’s Dennis was coming back, seeing as how his new series, AP Bio, was renewed at NBC. So, to replace Dennis in their circle of friends, the gang recruited…Mindy Kaling? Yeah, it didn’t work for me. Her casting just didn’t feel right. Should’ve been a blonde White chick. A real Fox News type for what they were going for. Dennis looks old as shit. Waitress looks HORRIBLE with that hair. In all, I’m glad the show’s not cancelled, but they just seem out of ideas.

In other TV news, last week we celebrated Power Rangers Day, as the 25th anniversary episode of Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel aired in primetime on Nickelodeon. And it was…OK. It wasn’t as rushed as the Legendary Battle special from Power Rangers Super Megaforce, but it was SUCH a Tommy wankfest that I almost can’t believe it. Yes, I realize that Jason David Frank is basically the patron saint of Power Rangers, but little kids have GOT to be wondering “Who’s this old guy who keeps coming around?” In the episode, Rangers from different dimensions are pulled together to help the current team fight Lord Draven, who’s trying to tear down the barriers between realities. It’s a shame that the current team is so bland. They’re basically Power Rangers Sanka. The only interesting part of Ninja Steel/Super Ninja Steel is watching the creative ways that the production crew come up with to hide the Pink Ranger’s insane ass. No, seriously, it’s INSANE. The special posed SO many questions, but it also pretty much gave some sneak peaks at toys that I’m positive we’re getting from Hasbro next year.

In comic news, it was announced that fan favorite writer, Gail Simone, will become the chief architect of Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime superhero universe. I’m kinda torn on this one. No, I’m not really torn at all. You see, the Catalyst Prime books aren’t very good. Launched as a universe that featured diverse heroes, and science-based powers, there were some hits (Noble) and quite a few misses (everything else). I only supported them because the old chief architect of the line was a buddy of mine from my comic days, and I always support his stuff. Catalyst, however, just wasn’t hitting the right buttons for me, and I guess it wasn’t for others, as well, as they announced a creative shake-up. And at just the time of that shake-up, my buddy jumped ship to another publisher. So then I felt bamboozled that I had sunk several hundred dollars (Oh, I was ALL IN) into a line that wouldn’t see its original ideas to fruition, nor did it seem like it was guaranteed to stick around. I had no desire to see where Catalyst was going at that point.

Now, to Gail. I like Gail. I do. But she kinda has this undeserved reputation as a “fixer”. As one of the few prominent women in comics, whenever a female comic character needs “fixing”, the fans immediately go “Give her to Gail!” This worked with Birds of Prey. She also did some fan favorite work with Agent X/Deadpool, at a period of time before he was emblazoned on everything in Hot Topic. But I also remember the failures. She couldn’t “save” Wonder Woman, and turned in a run that is pretty much forgotten. She couldn’t “reimagine” Gen13 for the 21st century. And I remember she kinda got in some shit with my friend, Jenn, a few years back for her portrayal of Asian hero Ryan Choi, who was The Atom at the time. So, I wish her well, but I think I’m taking my leave of the Catalyst Prime universe.

Speaking of female comic characters, Entertainment Weekly gave us our first glimpse of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. I know some of y’all are big Carol Danvers fans (looking at you, Zac), but I just can’t board that train. I do not like Captain Marvel. She’s a character that once held promise, but has been woefully mischaracterized in recent years. This guy articulates exactly how I feel about her. Basically, if you’re desperate for a White feminist icon in comics, she gets the job done, but she is horribly flawed.

I know the movie will be good ’cause they’ll take some liberties. There are lots of MCU characters whose comic versions I loathe (Black Panther, anyone?). I feel she was more interesting as Binary. Hell, she was more interesting as ANY incarnation until her “promotion” to Captain. The House of M story was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to her. It was the best because she was shown a world where she met her true potential, and it inspired her to stop being such a self-pitying fuck-up. It was the worst, though, because she became a social climber, willing to use and/or step on anyone in order to become the best that she could be. She got Rhodey killed, she was WRONG in Civil War II, and she’s pretty much been wrong about every decision she’s made since House of M, but she’s got the Carol Corps fan base behind her, who feel she can do no wrong. I have no problem with flawed characters. Marvel’s FULL of them. In many ways, she’s just a female Tony Stark. My problem is that, for some reason when it comes to her, they refuse to call a spade a spade. She’s promoted as this aspirational hero when she’s really just a fuck-up who’s trying to fake it until she makes it. Whew! Breathe, Will. Anyway, the movie looks good. I just hope it makes me like her as a character, ’cause I sure as Hell don’t like her right now.

Lots of DC Universe streaming news came out, and none of it makes me want to give them my money. First up, we got that logo you see for the Stargirl series. Plus, Timothy Dalton has been cast in Doom Patrol. The service will launch next Saturday, which also happens to be Batman Day. The Titans live action series will launch next month, on October 12th. The show everyone’s waiting for, however – Young Justice: Outsiders – won’t premiere until 2019. So, yeah, good luck with that.

 

Let’s get political for a bit, ’cause it’s 2018, and that’s what we do now. So, an “anonymous” person within the Trump White House wrote this New York Times op/ed about how there are members of the administration who are hard at work for making sure he doesn’t get us all killed. As the article made the rounds, folks were like “Ooh, what a coup!” But that dog don’t hunt for me. I’ve posted this on various social media, but I think it bears repeating here:

Yeah, I couldn’t even finish that article. There’s too many “Sure, he’s insane, but good things have come from this administration” interjections. Plus, y’all only have to keep him in check ’cause you were dumb enough to put him there in the first place. Eat ALL the dicks!

Plus, they are striving REAL hard to make sure you realize whose side they’re on. It’s like “We’re part of the Resistance, but not the Left’s Resistance. Don’t get it twisted.” That distinction shouldn’t matter if the situation is as dire as you claim.

Your whole “Don’t worry. We got this” means absofuckinglutely NOTHING to me seeing as how you created this problem and are now Tony Starking your way out of it. You’re just as culpable, so don’t think this 11th hour play absolves you of that. Remember all the dicks? EAT THEM

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • This Fall, ABC is trying to bring back the TGIF branding (for the third time, mind you) for its Friday night shows. This iteration of the comedy block will include Fresh Off The Boat, Speechless, and the one-hour game show, Child Support. Also, the network is peppering in former TGIF stars as guest stars, as Jaleel White is scheduled to pop up on FOTB (sadly NOT as Urkel), while Ben Savage will appear on Speechless.
  • Mr. Robot is ending after its upcoming 4th season, which is exactly 2.5 seasons after I stopped giving a shit.
  • It was announced that Saturday Night Live‘s season premiere will air September 29th.
  • Emmy Rossum announced that she’s leaving the Showtime series Shameless. While I’ve never seen the show, I know she’s topless a lot in it and, thanks to the Internet, I’ve seen her breasts about 184 times.
  • The new Bachelor will be former San Diego Chargers tight end, Colton Underwood. I refuse to believe that’s his real name, but if it is, he’d better be a Hollywood stuntman who’s a bounty hunter on the side.
  • Fox executives probably let out a collective “FUCK!” this week, as it was announced that Netflix was saving the recently-cancelled ABC series Designated Survivor, which stars former 24 hero Kiefer Sutherland. I guess they’ll have to get back to work on all those non-Jack Bauer ideas they had…
  • Alicia Silverstone’s American Woman has been cancelled at Paramount Network after one season. Meanwhile, the TVLand series Younger will be moving to Paramount Network next season.
  • America’s favorite 80s lesbian, Jo Polniaczek, will soon be putting down the edibles, and dancing over our heads, as Nancy McKeon joins the next cycle of Dancing With The Stars.
  • Insecure and Ballers have been renewed at HBO. I remember liking Insecure, but Ballers feels like Dwayne Johnson is only doing it because one of the creators is a friend who owes money to the mob.
  • Formerly on Fuse and TruTV, Billy Eichner’s Billy on the Street will be returning with new episodes…on Funny or Die’s website. This is like a notch higher than just throwing the shit on Crackle.
  • Henry Cavill will be starring in Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher. Now, I don’t know much about vidya games, as I owned a Nie-tenda, but didn’t have one of them Sagas. I hear the games are good, but it seems like a demotion to go from Superman to Netflix adaptation series. Maybe the Superman Curse is wearing off, though, as it could be worse: he could have Dean Cain’s career…
  • Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith has been cast in a secret role for Star Wars Episode XI, and folks act like they care, but they don’t really care. They’re just waiting to learn more so they can talk shit about it. I know you Star Wars fans!
  • Dick Wolf’s wallet will soon be getting fatter, as NBC has ordered Law & Order: Hate Crimes, which will spin out of Special Victims Unit. Call me when they get to Law & Order: Jaywalker Elimination Force.
  • In a surprising move for the franchise, Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum are leaving Project Runway to create their own project over at Amazon. Auf wiedersehen!
  • So, according to Michael Moore, our current state of affairs can be blamed on that Hollaback Girl, Gwen Stefani. According to Moore, when Trump heard that Gwen was making more money as a coach on The Voice than he was making on The Apprentice, he planned to announce a run for president in order to coax more money out of the network. Thanks a lot, Gwen. I guess Tony Kanal’s isn’t the only life you’ve fucked up now…
  • Remember that new Academy Award that was basically gonna be “Best Popular Film”? Yeah, that’s dead already. Womp womp.

This is a tough one this week. When the week started, Fox News was trying to shame former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens because he had been caught working as a bagger at a New York area Trader Joe’s. It turned into a big conversation about how working actors don’t make that much, and how there’s nothing wrong with making an honest living. Over the course of the week, there was backlash against Fox News and against the woman who snuck the pic in the first place. As of yesterday, however, it was reported that Tyler Perry had cast Owens in his OWN series The Haves and Have Nots, and that he was on his way to Atlanta to start a recurring role. So, West Week Ever? Maybe, but Nike was like, “Hold my jock strap.”

You see, Nike chose currently unemployed football star Colin Kaepernick to be the face of their new ad campaign, and the Conservatives lost their shit. One of the roadies for country act Big & Rich went viral for cutting the Nike “Swoosh” off his socks in protest. Folks started burning their Nike products and demanding a boycott. “How could Nike align themselves with someone who disrespects our HEROES?!” If that’s your interpretation of what this whole thing is about, then there’s pretty much no reaching you and you’re just determined to be offended.

Doubling down on their decision, Nike released the following commercial during last night’s NFL season opener:

Sorry, Elvin, but it looks like you’ve been emasculated yet again. It was gonna be a tie, but this commercial “got me in the feels” as you kids like to say. Are YOUR dreams crazy enough? That gave me a lot to chew on. So, Nike had the West Week Ever.

03rd Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/3/18

by Will

These things just get later and later, huh? Well, blame my job! In any case, let’s jump right on into today’s topics, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Les Moonves – The current chairman, president, and CEO of CBS Corporation is under investigation after 6 women have come forward with sexual harassment allegations that go back decades. The situation is even dicier since his wife is Julie Chen, who also works for the network as host of Big Brother, as well as a co-host of The Talk. Chen issued a statement defending her husband, but his alma mater, Bucknell University, has removed all mention of him from their website, and USC has suspended his name from their media center. He continues to work while the investigation proceeds.

Kimberly Guilfoyle – I find it interesting that this story isn’t getting more attention than it is. Guilfoyle, who is also the current girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr, quietly left her job at Fox News last week amidst a misconduct investigation. Reportedly, she would show coworkers pictures of male genitalia, and tell stories about who the men were in the pictures. Also, she was allegedly abusive to makeup and wardrobe people, and also used them for personal events. This was the result of a yearlong investigation, and since Fox tends to prefer having folks resign or retire rather than fire them, they allowed it to appear that she left on her own terms.

Guilfoyle was a protege of Roger Ailes, even going as far as attacking Gretchen Carlson when she accused Ailes of sexual harassment. Since Ailes’s death, however, things have started to change for Guilfoyle. Once the rumored frontrunner to replace White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Guilfoyle found herself being passed over for the same opportunities given to her fellow co-hosts of The Five. She allegedly lobbied directly to Rupert Murdoch himself to save her job, but it was of no use. Now she’s expected to join the Trumps on the campaign trail.

Nick Carter Update – Melissa Schuman, formerly of the pop group Dream, previously accused the Backstreet Boy of raping her when she was 18. The matter has now been referred to the Los Angeles District Attorney for possible charges filed.

Chris Hardwick Update – Following AMC’s lead, NBC has announced that Hardwick will return to host the 3rd season of game show The Wall. On top of that, he will also serve as a guest judge on next week’s episode of America’s Got Talent. I think #MeToo might be over, y’all…

James Gunn Update – After Gunn’s abrupt firing last week, due to old incendiary tweets being brought to light, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast and crew have stood behind him, and released the following statement:

 

I used to watch a bunch of standup specials, since that’s about 40% of what Netflix’s catalog is comprised of. I haven’t seen too many lately, but the wife and I did watch Iliza Shlesinger’s Elder Millennial this week. I’ve liked Iliza since she was the smartass, tank-top wearing host of the dating show Excused, but I’ve never really loved entire specials by her. She’s funny, she’s got good timing, but I always feel like she should’ve graduated to being a comedic actress by now instead of staying on the stage. I reviewed her special War Paint back in the day, and a lot of the criticisms I had then I still have today. The overall set isn’t that strong, and what’s with the weird animal noises? I think she’s a cool chick, but only, maybe, three jokes actually made me laugh out loud. I think this is one you can skip.

So Nickelodeon surprised us all by uploading the premiere episode of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to YouTube. I watched it, and, it’s a TV show. That’s about all I can say. I mean, a lot of folks my age went into this show prepared to hate it, ’cause old dudes just can’t let shit go. That said, I think I went into it with a pretty open mind. The things that I thought would bother me weren’t so bad. Raph as the leader is different, but it helps that he’s not that good at it, so maybe this could be considered a prequel to the TMNT stuff we’re used to. Don is still the tech guy, so that gives me a nice sense of comfort. I haven’t really gotten used to Leo as the jokester yet, and I don’t know what to make of “artsy” Mikey. Lazy, couch potato Splinter is also different. The animation isn’t that crisp, and something about it made me think of a webseries. I mean, it’d be a decent webseries, but still “not quite ready for TV”. I almost expected it to stick to the modern cartoon runtime of 11-15 minutes, as I really don’t like looking at these designs for a 22-minute span of time. It’s not that they’re “ugly”, but they’re so “choppy”.

To give you an idea of what the episode is about, we’re introduced to the Turtles as they get their weapons destroyed by some mysterious henchmen who are after some kinda mystical dog creature. Their pal, April, ends up being abducted by the henchmen and taken to another realm. The Turtles find a way to follow her, gain new mystical weapons, and fight John Cena. Something like that. Again, it was OK, but I highly doubt it’ll be “destination television” for me.

I know folks don’t want to say it, so I’ll be the one who does: I hate April. She’s Black now, which is whatever. Representation matters. I don’t hate her because of that. I hate her because she’s just all over the place. Sometimes she’s trying to have some weird NYC accent, and others she’s not. She’s not a grounding force for them, but rather as reckless as (and possibly moreso than) the Turtles. She’s impetuous, and just kind of annoying. I’ve heard a few reviews from folks who I know were dancing around that issue, since they probably don’t wanna be labeled “racist” for not liking her. Let’s just say it: she sucks.

At the end of the day, kids will love it, and that’s what matters. I hope it sells a shit ton of toys, and I’ll check back in when it’s rebooted again in 6 years.

Normally this would’ve gone in the Things You Might Have Missed area, but this just deserved its own blurb. The Fox drama 9-1-1 had cast Buffy vet Charisma Carpenter in a guest role for an episode this season, but the episode has been scrapped by censors. Ya see, she’d play a woman whose Viagra-popping lover dies while he’s…inside her. At the time of his heart attack, there’s some vaginal clamping going on, so he’s stuck inside her, dead, hence why she’d need 911. Apparently it’s a real occurrence called penis captivus. Anyway, Fox’s Standards & Practices decided that the storyline was too “R-rated” to make it to air, so they plan to bring Carpenter back in another role later.

It’s the 25th anniversary of Power Rangers, so that means anniversary team-up episode! And it ain’t an anniversary throwback if original Green/White Ranger Tommy Oliver isn’t involved. This week, actor Jason David Frank revealed that he, along with Catherine Sutherland (Zeo Pink) and Jason Faunt (Time Force Red), would be participating in the episode. Nickelodeon announced that the special episode of Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel will air during prime time, at 8 PM, on August 28th – exactly 25 years since the airing of the premiere episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, “Day of the Dumpster”.

The Trailer Park

Forever

We got the first trailer for this Fred Armisen & Maya Rudolph show, which is coming to Amazon Prime next month. Um, I don’t know what to make of this one. It looks like something that would be on Adult Swim, and not in a good way. I never watch anything on Prime, though, so I’ll never see it.

Maniac

After sitting on the shelf for two years, we get a trailer for Netflix’s Maniac, starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as two people caught in a bad pharmaceutical experiment. Why does Skinny Jonah Hill look so miserable? Let the man eat! Let the man be fat!

Iron Fist

Speaking of Netflix, we also got a teaser for Iron Fist season 2, which premieres next month. I am SO behind on those MCU Netflix shows, so one of y’all will have to tell me if it’s any good or not.

Venom

This just looks so uninspired. People are quick to say “You just want everything to be like the MCU”, but that’s not true. There’s room for diverse projects in the marketplace, but this looks like a 1996 movie with 2018 special effects.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Even though NBC cancelled time traveling show Timeless a second time, it was announced that there will be a wrap-up, TV movie finale next season.
  • Stranger Things season 3 has reportedly been pushed back to Summer 2019, as the season will contain more special effects that previous seasons.
  • It seems like all the SNL folks are getting streaming shows, as Aidy Bryant’s Shrill has just been picked up by Hulu. Based on Lindy West’s memoir Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman, the logline is “a fat young woman who wants to change her life – but not her body”. Apparently the shooting schedule won’t require her to leave SNL.
  • Having already tried the series without Jack Bauer, now Fox is in the preliminary stages of developing a 24 prequel, focused on a young Jack Bauer. I hope they call it 12, and that’s how young he truly is in the show. He’d be taking down terrorists with a Super Soaker and Nerf guns.
  • Supergirl to the bridge! It’s reported that Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Mr. Data himself, Brent Spiner, will join Supergirl next season as the Vice President.
  • In another case of the MCU beating the DCEU, Anthony Mackie (Falcon) will be taking over the lead in Netflix’s Altered Carbon from Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad‘s Rick Flagg) next season.
  • As previously rumored, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is leaving his production deal with ABC Studios. This has reportedly been brewing ever since the network scrapped his episode about the NFL kneeling protests, but it’s also been rumored that Netflix has offered him a NINE-FIGURE deal. He’ll step down as showrunner of Black-ish, but remain an executive producer on all his ABC/Freeform shows.
  • An ALF reboot is reportedly in development at Warner Bros. One potential idea is that the show would follow ALF as he emerges from Area 51, where he’s been held captive since the finale of the 80s series. He would, then, have to deal with how much the world has changed.
  • The cast list for Star Wars: Episode IX was released, and everybody you expect to be on it is on it.
  • Fresh off the cancellation of The Mick, Kaitlin Olson has just been cast as Leah Remini’s lesbian wife in an untitled pilot for Fox, brought to you buy the guys behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  • MoviePass shat the bed when it ran out of money to actually pay for tickets. The service quickly regrouped, and now costs more money, with access to fewer popular movies. Um…

My good buddy ShowNuffDaKing has launched the M.A.G. Nerd Podcast for any of y’all interested in music, anime, and/or video games. Of course you should listen to every episode, but he and his cohost, Ghost, really hit their stride on episode 3. Check in weekly because you’re bound to learn something new. I certainly always do! It’s available on Stitcher, SoundCloud, and everywhere else you get that podcast goodness for your ears.

Speaking of podcasts, as a member of the Nerd Lunch Fourth Chair Army, I was drafted into this week’s Fourth Army Invasion to discuss season 1 of The Dukes of Hazzard. As I mention in the episode, I was a big fan of the Cars Jumping Over Shit genre of TV (Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, etc), and I grew up watching this show in syndication. Let’s just say that I had an entirely different impression of it upon this rewatch. I had a wonderful time discussing it with Spidey004, BizarroJimmyOlsen, and Michael May. If you’ve ever seen the show or the movie, you’re going to want to check out this Dukescussion because it’s quite the deep dive.

 

I’m not a sports guy. I think you can pretty much get that from this site. So, I don’t really weigh into things like “Who’s the greatest player of all time?” debates. That said, I know the major players in most sports, so I’m certainly familiar with LeBron James. People are constantly asking “LeBron or Jordan?” and to me the answer was always easy: LeBron, ’cause he never seemed like a colossal asshole like Jordan. This week, however, something else pushed LeBron just ahead of MJ.

This week, LeBron opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, OH, in an attempt to the city’s at-risk K-12 population. Based on something of a charter school model (some of the aspects actually inspired by the charter network I work for), the school will feature longer school days, a non-traditional school year, and a STEM-influenced curriculum. The school, however, is neither charter nor private, as LeBron was insistent that it work within the Akron school system instead apart from it. The school opened this week with 240 students, spread over third and fourth grades, adding second and fifth grades next year, and expand to 8th grade by 2022. The school will also provide GED services for parents, a food bank, and other resources to help the community. Also, because LeBron used to ride his bike to leave the dangers of his neighborhood and go exploring, every student at the school will receive a bicycle on the first day of school.

I don’t know about stats on the court, but I do know education. Having worked on the data side in the charter sector for nearly the past decade, I can completely respect what he’s doing. I know some folks take issue with these “maverick” approaches to education, but in a lot of cases the “old ways” just don’t work anymore. School systems are low on money, teachers are overworked. Sometimes you just need to inject change. And yes, some of these schools end up sucking just like the neighborhood public school would’ve sucked, but at least the folks tried. In any case, for opening the ambitious I Promise School, as the 29th elementary school in the Akron school district, LeBron James had the West Week Ever.

27th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/27/18

by Will

Well, this is a special week here at WilliamBruceWest.com, as it commemorates my FIFTEENTH year of blogging. Yeah, a lot of y’all just came aboard during the West Week Ever era, but the archives are there (personally, I wouldn’t check anything before 2007 or so, but that’s just me). I started blogging a month after I graduated from college, while I was temping in the Cornell registrar’s office. It’s funny because, about six months prior to that, I had no clue what a “blog” was. You’ve got to remember that these were the days before social media, and we got by with AIM. I’d heard folks met strangers through ICQ and chat rooms, but that made no sense to me. Then, while my a cappella group was updating their website, one member suggested we add a blog to the site. I remember I immediately said, “What’s a blog? Stop making up words, Ted!” He explained it was short for “weblog”, and said some more stuff, but we stopped listening at that point. Probably too busy shoving Gold Bond powder down our pants. What? Y’all never did that? Whatever. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, I was really bored at that temp job, and needed something to make the day more interesting. Prior to this point, I had never really spent much time on the internet. I had an AOL trial with dial-up for, like, a month in high school, and I think I had tried NetZero. We had Computers as a class in high school, and I remember I made a really shitty Power Rangers site on AngelFire or something. Still, in college, I had used the Internet to either do homework or illegally download music. I did a LOT of the latter. So, with a college degree in my hand, and boredom in my heart, I struck out and explored the Internet for what it was. I started finding sites that really engaged me – webcomics, like PvP, and nostalgia sites like X-Entertainment.com (the precursor to what’s now Dinosaur Dracula). The latter site really sort of lit a fire under me, as I could relate to so many of the posts. It was like the Robot Chicken of blogs: “Shark Bites, Fruit By The Foot, and Pogs – these are all things that existed!” Plus, and I think Matt (the site creator) would agree, it had a horrible archive/search function, so you kind had to fall down a rabbit hole, jumping from article to article, instead of being able to search the topics. I spent a LOT of time on X-Entertainment, and it started to show me the potential of blogging.

So, in a way to pass the time, I signed up for a Blogger account, and created The World According To A Russian Exchange Student. I’m not quite sure why I settled on that. While I was an exchange student to Russia when I was 13, that would’ve made me an American exchange student. I feel like I briefly wanted to do some kind of performance art thing where I’d imagine how my Russian host, Sergei, might look at the world. That lasted for maybe a day. At the end of the day, I think I just wanted something that sounded “haughty”. I’ve got a bit of a snob streak in me, and here I was, an Ivy League graduate who’d been spoon fed that the world would be mine, yet  didn’t have a clue what I’d be doing when this temp assignment ended. I was scared. So, I rambled. A LOT. I’d say that if you read the first 6-8 years (yes, years), I wrote like no one was reading. Because no one was. The site was basically a Livejournal without the stigma that Livejournal brought with it. Every now and then I’d post something that I thought would be timeless, but most of those posts are either relationship drama or self pity. Yay. Anyway, I rebranded to WilliamBruceWest.com rather quickly, but I don’t feel like the site really found its footing until the West Week Ever days. So, here we are. Anyway, from the bottom of my heart, thank you – all of you – who have taken the time to read my ramblings at some point over those 15 years.

The wife and I got the chance to see Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry To Bother You, and we left that theater like “What the fuuuuu…?” How to describe this movie? Is it a comedy? Is it satire? Science fiction? I guess you’ll have to be the judge if you see it. Stanfield stars as a down on his luck guy who lands a job as a telemarketer, and he doesn’t really have much success until he starts using his “White voice” at the suggestion of a coworker. Almost immediately his success increases, and he becomes a Power Caller, where instead of selling Time-Life books and encyclopedias, he’s now selling weapons and slaves to other countries. And that’s where shit gets CRAZY! I can’t say any more at this point without spoiling some twists. The movie reminded me a lot of Bamboozled, which was a 2000 Spike Lee Joint about a Black TV writer who sort of sells out in order to make his network successful, with a dash of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. If either of those movies is your cup of tea, then check this out. “Equesapiens, let’s be out!”

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update:  Late last week, it was announced that not only would Yvette Nicole Brown be taking over hosting Hardwick’s panels at SDCC, but she would also be hosting Talking Dead for a brief period. On Wednesday, however, AMC announced that Hardwick would be returning to the show, after an internal month-long investigation. Two things are odd about the investigation, however. First of all, his accuser, ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra, did not participate in the investigation, as she said she “didn’t believe in ‘an eye for an eye’.” In a statement she said that she never set out to ruin his career, though she still doesn’t name him.  The other odd thing is that the investigation seemingly wasn’t conducted by an impartial third party. Instead, Loeb & Loeb was hired, who reportedly have a history of working on business for the Hearst family (who happen to be Hardwick’s in-laws). He may have his job back, but is the stink off of him? Remember how folks shunned Seacrest at the Oscars? Will the geek crowd follow suit here?

James Gunn: This isn’t harassment, per se, but it’s still an inappropriate thing that got a celeb in hot water. You see, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn came up through the ranks of Troma – ya know, the folks behind The Toxic Crusader? He says he was a different guy at that time of his life, but to fit in with that world, you’ve got to be kinda shocking. Everything you do is done for shock value, and that’s exactly what he did when he was tweeting back in 2009. Stuff like rape and pedophilia jokes. He has since apologized for that time in his life, but that didn’t matter when Right Wing muckraker Mike Cernovich dub up the old tweets as something of a retaliation for Gunn’s staunch anti-Trump stance. Well, Disney reacted swiftly by firing Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. The public seems to be on Gunn’s side, saying Disney knew what they were getting, and that he had apologized long before the tweets resurfaced. There’s a petition circulating to get him rehired.

What Disney did was a business decision, as they can’t have something like this in the news just as the Fox deal is about to go through. Shareholders don’t tend to like rape jokes. That said, I’m sort of on the fence for this.

On the one hand, the stuff I’ve seen was kind of messed up, and I’m not sure I’d call them “funny”. Why not just delete the tweets? I mean, sure, everything is archived somewhere, but at least you tried to scrub things clean. I get it, though. I have an “I don’t delete tweets” policy, but I’ve never tweeted anything that bad. Cover your tracks, man!

On the other hand, he did apologize before they even became a thing. Had Disney done their due diligence, none of this would’ve come as a surprise. And I hate the fact that he won’t get to see his vision through to the finished GOTG trilogy. I really doubt he’ll be rehired, as he was fired and not suspended pending an investigation. Disney will likely stick by their decision, but this will have long-reaching effects. For example, Star Wars director Rian Johnson reportedly deleted 20,000 tweets over the weekend.

The Trailer Park

Last weekend was San Diego Comic-Con, which means we got a LOT of trailers for upcoming geek films. Since we’ve got a slew of them, I figured I’d give them their own section this week.

SHAZAM!

I really didn’t expect to like this. I thought the casting of Zachary Levi was wrong, and I just didn’t know how it would fit into the pre-established DCEU. That said, after seeing this trailer, this has the potential to be my favorite DCEU film. It seems to be more based on the New 52 origin of the character, which is just fine for me because that was one of the first times that I actually cared about the character (which reminds me I need to finish that story Geoff Johns started when they were backups in the Justice League comic). At the end of the day, it’s just “Big with powers”, which is a concept that has a lot of potential. Fans of the dark DCEU are gonna hate this, but I’m a fan of comic stuff that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m really looking forward to this one now.

Aquaman

Well, it looks pretty. I still don’t know if Momoa can carry a movie yet, and I’m not sure I’m on board with this Aquaman. I know there are Aquaman fans out there (looking at you, Classick), so how do y’all feel about his characterization? I mean, it doesn’t seem faithful to the comics, but Aquaman always seemed boring enough that any adjustment would be a welcome change. I’ll see it. Am I anticipating it? No, but I’ll see it.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I’m not a dumb guy. Not the smartest in the room, but not dumb. That said, I don’t know what’s going on here. So we want the Titans to rise? Wouldn’t they just come and fuck shit up? And whose side is Godzilla on? And I know folks got tired of the “slowed down pop song” trope in trailers, but I feel like the music here really doesn’t do much to convey the gist of things, and could’ve benefited from recognizable rock song or something.

Glass

I really liked Unbreakable all those years ago. Split was interesting, but I was more interested in it after its final scene. I think I was more excited about more Unbreakable than the idea of the movies being in a shared universe. It seems like a good ol’ villain team-up, but can old ass Bruce Willis really win here? I mean, comic movies are about folks doing the impossible, but I never really felt like Split committed to James McAvoy’s character being truly evil. Hell, even Mr. Glass was pseudo-sympathetic, as he couldn’t have a normal life due to his brittle bones. So who’s the real villain here? Is there a bigger bad? Is Willis somehow the villain? After all, this is Shyamalan, so there’s bound to be a swerve somewhere. I’m on board, but I kinda want more information right now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Reportedly Kelsey Grammer is in talks to reprise his role as Frasier Crane in a revival that would take him away from the Seattle setting of the last show. Sure, why not? I think he’s got crazy alimony payments, and has pretty much proven he’ll take any job (he did an FX sitcom with Martin Lawrence). Everyone else is doing it, so why not go back to that well again?
  • Speaking of revivals, there have been talks of a Buffy The Vampire Slayer reboot/revival(?). At first it seemed like a reboot, but the passionate fan base lost their shit, so showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen sort of backpedaled and insinuated it might be a continuation of the old show, this time following a new Slayer 20 years after the events of the old show. Reports are that they’re looking to cast a Black actress.
  • Demi Lovato was hospitalized for an apparent overdose after she was found unconscious in bed by an assistant.
  • Simpsons Comics is scheduled to end in October with issue #245 after 25 years of publication, leaving the future of its publisher, Bongo Comics, in question.
  • It turns out the third time was the charm, as the live action adaptation of the comic Locke & Key has received a 10-episode order from Netflix. Both Fox and Hulu had previously ordered, and then passed on, pilots for the series.
  • Robert DeNiro is supposedly in talks to join Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, with the rest of the world left asking “Dafuq?” Seriously, why would he hitch his star to that wagon?
  • R. Kelly released the song “I Admit”, where he denied he was a pedophile, but admitted his affinity for young girls. The song will probably appear on an upcoming album named Daddy’s Day Care or The Pamper Prince or some shit like that.

My most anticipated movie of the year wasn’t Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, or even Avengers: Infinity War (OK, maybe I was kinda looking forward to that last one). No, since the day I found out it was happening, I have been waiting for the release of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. I’ve made no secret of the fact that, aside from The Amazing World of Gumball (which may just be the smartest show on TV right now, I kid you not), Teen Titans Go! is my favorite show. It took me a while to get used to the modern day 11-minute cartoon format, but I feel it works perfectly for a show like this. So, I had a bit of trepidation that the show wouldn’t translate well to a full-length film. After all, Aqua Teen Hunger Force had tried it and failed. Well, after seeing it last night, I can say that not only did they pull it off, but they did an amazing job.

If you were wondering what it’s about, let me clue ya in: When Batman and Superman receive their umpteenth movie deal, Robin agonizes over the fact that he doesn’t have his own movie because nobody takes the Teen Titans seriously. It’s sort of meta in that way, as it addresses the fact that the shows haters feel the characters are just immature and not very heroic. So, determined to prove they deserve a DC film, too, the team heads to Hollywood, where they learn they’d be more appealing if they had their own archnemesis. Enter: Slade Wilson, otherwise known as Deathstroke: The Terminator. So, the team not only has to defeat Slade, but also convince the studio to make their movie.

It’s not a complicated plot, but they do so much with it. First of all, I didn’t expect it to be a musical. While songs have been pretty integral to the Teen Titans Go! experience, I didn’t stop to think they might pop up in the film. The music is GREAT, including a surprise appearance by Michael Bolton. Speaking of surprise appearances, there are cameos from a lot of DC characters who will NEVER appear on film ever again. I mean, The Challengers of the Unknown?! And did I mention the time travel? Like, I loved the time travel portion so much that I hope they dedicate a sequel solely to it.

Now, let me say that this movie isn’t going to convert you if you already hate the franchise. I know there are a lot of butthurt folks out there who go “They cancelled Young Justice for THAT?”, even though those decisions were made independently of each other. If you don’t go into it with too many preconceived notions, and you like comic-based properties that don’t take themselves too seriously, then Teen Titans Go! is perfect. And it’s not really even made for kids. I mean, sure, they’ll get enjoyment out of it, but there are jokes they’d never get. For example, a recent episode, “TV Knight 3”, featured a Knight Rider parody. That joke right there was for my generation. So it saddens me that so many folks refuse to give it a chance. Anyway, this film may not change many minds, but it’s a true love letter to fans of the show. It’s the show, but cranked up to 11, with crisper animation and longer runtime. It actually has a good story arc to it, it has some great Easter eggs, and the music!

Anyway, I enjoyed this film way more than I did Ant-Man and the Wasp last week, and it far surpassed my expectations. For that reason, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies had the West Week Ever.

20th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/20/18

by Will

I’m slowly catching up on the year’s big movies. I still haven’t gotten to Deadpool 2, but I finally caught Ant-Man and the Wasp last night. Unlike most MCU films, I don’t really have a lot to say about it. All in all, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t great. I’ve always said that Ant-Man felt like a really good Fox Marvel film, but just a par Marvel Studios film. It’s a masterpiece compared to the X-Men/Fantastic Four films, but it really almost doesn’t even earn its place alongside movies like The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy. You’re almost left wondering “How are these movies in the same universe?”, but I guess that’s a testament to how tonally different the corners of the Marvel Universe are. Anyway, I enjoyed the palette cleanser that was Ant-Man and the Wasp, as I’m almost “Marveled Out” after Infinity War.

The film explores the almost throwaway line from Infinity War about how Scott Lang took a house arrest deal after the events of Captain America: Civil War. So, two years have passed, and Scott’s “3 days from retirement”, basically, when it comes to his sentence. As anyone who’s seen any movie ever knows, no upcoming deadline that close ever goes smoothly. The Pyms drag him back into their world, as they need his knowledge of the subatomic quantum world to help them rescue Janet Van Dyne, who they believe is still alive after 30 years in there. Some stuff happens, Laurence Fishburne shows up wearing a swede jacket. Hannah John-Kamen shows off her Biracial Resting Bitch Face that served her so well as F’nale in Ready Player One, and everyone lives happily ever after. Or do they?

Watching this movie gave me the same sort of feelings I had watching Pitch Perfect 3 last week. In both cases, I kept waiting for the movie to “take off”, so to speak. Despite a scene with Giant-Man, I feel the movie doesn’t really aspire to new heights and, like its predecessor, came off like a mundane, slice of life MCU film. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave me longing for more interactions between Lang and, say, Tony Stark or Thor, just to remind me that these folks do occupy the same space. Paul Rudd is at his Paul Ruddest, so he’s not the problem here. Evangeline Lilly has become his badass asskicker, but where did that come from? She was busting out Black Widow moves, yet without the history of Red Room training.

No, I felt the biggest disappointment was Michael Peña’s Luis, who was undoubtedly the breakout star of the first movie. They found the right balance for using him in that first film, but they weren’t able to recapture that magic here. Maybe it’s because we expected the same shtick from him instead of accepting the character’s growth. I also hope the Blu Ray includes some deleted scenes of T.I. and the Russian dude, as I feel they were sorely wasted in their roles as partners in the X-Con Security business.

In all, it was an enjoyable way to spend 2 hrs, but I wasn’t blown away by it. Paul Rudd is just so likable, that I know I’ll watch it whenever I come across it on FX, but until some of its plot points are explored more in-depth in Avengers 4 (because you KNOW they will be), I don’t think this movie did much to move the MCU forward. After something like Infinity War, however, maybe it’s just what we need right now.

I’m gonna say this once, and then move on because there’s no need to dwell on it. That said, I’m pretty much done with professional wrestling for the foreseeable future. You see, over the weekend, WWE reinstated Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea to the WWE Hall of Fame, after his removal in 2015 when recordings of his racist remarks surfaced during the Gawker sex tape kerfuffle. I’ve heard folks defend him the past 3 years, using everything from “Everyone deserves a second chance” to “Well, it was a private conversation that we weren’t meant to hear.” Whatever.

I will say THIS: WWE never should’ve reinstated him BECAUSE they never should’ve removed him in the first place. I say that because it was always clearly an empty gesture – one we ALL knew would never stick permanently. So, it became more of an exercise in “waiting for the other shoe to drop” than actually serving as a cautionary tale to anyone else who might do the same thing. The heat was on the company, and they felt they had to jump and do something, but even they knew they bit off more than they could chew. You can’t just scrub the most famous professional wrestler of the past 40 years from existence, even if he did admit “I am racist”, which he did. You also can’t walk back that statement, which he’s been trying to do for the past 3 years.

If he had tried to go with “I was drunk, and I don’t really talk like that”, I wouldn’t have believed him, but it would’ve at least been an excuse that made sense. Hell, even Roseanne’s Ambien excuse was an attempt. No, here’s Hogan’s whole quote from the recordings:

“I don’t know if Brooke was fucking the black guy’s son. I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean, I am a racist, to a point, fucking niggers. But then when it comes to nice people and shit, and whatever.”

“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to fuck some nigger, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall nigger worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player!”

“I guess we’re all a little racist. Fucking nigger.”

Reportedly, when he spoke to the talent backstage after being reinstated, he reminded them to be careful of what they say because you never know when you’re being recorded. This is not a man who’s sorry for what he did. He’s already said he’s racist. No, this is a man who’s sorry he GOT CAUGHT. And I don’t have time for that.

WWE has a history of trying to polish turds, whether it’s this situation, or it’s their embrace of Ronda Rousey, who’s something of a transphobic Sandy Hook truther. Maybe you can separate the art from the artist, but I can’t – especially when the art is throwing someone through a particleboard table. In my mind, they’re not contributing enough to society, or to “art”, to turn a blind eye on their other shit. People love to go to stuff like “Well, Martin Luther King cheated on his wife.” OK. So did Ric Flair. Only one of them marched for my right to vote, however.

In a lot of ways, I feel sorry for Hogan. I feel sorry that, given the Gawker trial, he should be wealthy. Not just rich, but wealthy. However, he’ll never see a penny of that, as it was juts a symbolic victory. I felt bad for him when his dumbass son turned his friend into a vegetable. I felt bad for him when his wife left him as the money dried up. Like most children of the 80s, I saw him as more myth than man.  So, here we’ve got a 64 year old man with no other prospects than to tie on his bandana one last time, and hope his rickety knees can manage as he climbs between the ropes into that ring. But, maybe that’s what life comes down to when you’re a self-admitted racist. So, in closing, FUCK HULK HOGAN.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • That beacon of family values herself, Bristol Palin, will be replacing promiscuous-teen-turned-porn-star Farrah Abraham on the next season of MTV’s Teen Mom.
  • Alice Eve will be portraying Typhoid Mary in the second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist, debuting September 7th on Netflix. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s the blonde with the gratuitous underwear scene from Star Trek Into Darkness. Or the gratuitous underwear scene in She’s Out of My League.
  • We got a trailer for the upcoming Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and I think it just gave me a seizure. Seriously, this is like a next level ADHD that medical science hasn’t even named yet.
  • Everything old is new again, Nickelodeon announced the return of Rugrats, as both a 26-episode TV series and a CGI theatrical film. I can just imagine as future archaeologists dig up the artifacts of this era, trying to determine if that scorched animation cel is from the first Nickelodeon Era (which will be known as B.K., for Before Kel) or the second Nickelodeon Era (A.S., for After Schneider).

  • Speaking of new old shit, we got a better look at the She-Ra reboot series from Netflix, and the man-children took issue with her character redesign. Sure, she looks kinda mannish in some pics, but maybe that’s a plot point, I dunno. Maybe She-Ra was born Peter-Ra, and is now living her best life? Who am I to judge?

  • We also got this teaser poster for Aquaman, which does absolutely nothing for me. I’m still kinda hung up on Momoa in the role. We get mad about white-washed characters, but how come it’s not the other way? I want my blond-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan Aquaman, dammit! Plus, I just don’t feel Momoa is a *STAR*. Sorry, not sorry. Sure, the ladies love him, but he doesn’t have the juice to put butts in seats.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been “saved”, as the series will return on Disney’s streaming service, five years after it left the air on Cartoon Network.

San Diego Comic-Con kicked off this week, and so far it appears that DC Comics is leading the charge. First off, it was announced that the Berlanti Arrowverse would be adding a Batwoman series to The CW, after her introduction in this fall’s DC show crossover. They’re currently looking for a lesbian actress to play the role, which is interesting to me. Maybe it’s all the recent talk about representation and all, but does it have to be a lesbian actress? What if she’s just lesbian for the show? I dunno. I’m sure there’s a lesbian out there who can do it, but it just seems like they might be missing out on some good choices just because of someone’s sexual orientation. On the flipside, if the producers of How I Met Your Mother had specifically sought out a “heterosexual lothario”, then Neil Patrick Harris never would’ve become Barney Stinson – a role in which he was perfect.

Then we got…this. I’m just gonna come out and say I think Titans looks like shit. Some folks are excited about it, and that’s great, but it’s simply not for me. “Fuck Batman”? Does anyone over there even understand their audience? I may come off as a Marvel fanboy, especially if you’ve seen my Twitter avatar, but I grew up on DC, and it’s what I call “home” when it comes to my fandom. If I’m hard on them it’s because I care, and I just feel like they continue to screw the pooch when it comes to a lot of their live action stuff. I’ve got friends who love the grim and gritty “real worldness” of the DC stuff, as they think the MCU is juvenile. That’s all well and good, but let’s call a spade a spade here. We’re not debating the merits of Batman vs. Superman here. No, we’re talking about a show that apparently wasn’t even good enough for TNT. I mean, fucking Batwoman is getting a show on basic TV, but the Titans aren’t? Just how bad is this show? Based on this trailer, pretty damn bad.

On the movie side of things, it’s official that Joaquin Phoenix will star in Joker, and it’s rumored that Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz might costar. I find this whole project unnecessary, but I find it even more odd that it’ll be directed by Todd Phillips, of The Hangover/Old School fame. Is he REALLY the right pick for this? I don’t see him and Phoenix meshing very well. Anyway, the film is slated to be released October 4th, 2019.

Meanwhile, the Birds of Prey movie will reportedly have, basically, every female Gotham character involved – from Cassandra Cain to Harley Quinn. My problem with this movie is that it’ll have the same issue that the Birds of Prey TV show had if they dance around the Batman issue. If you don’t remember, there was a Birds of Prey series on The WB that launched around the same time as Smallville. I will die on that hill that BoP was no worse than Smallville, but one was given a chance to grow and the other wasn’t. My biggest problem with the show, however (and it would also be my biggest issue with The Dark Knight Rises), is that the series was predicated on the idea that Batman was so distraught over the murder of his true love that he quit being Batman and just left Gotham to fend for itself. In Birds of Prey, it was the death of Catwoman that did it, while in TDKR it was the death of Rachel Dawes. In both cases, I never felt like that’s how Batman would handle that situation, as he’d probably become more driven and insane, than just quitting the game entirely. So, in essence, the Birds of Prey series was a Batman show without Batman. He was integral to the whole thing. He was woven into the tapestry of the setting, but he was never seen (except in flashbacks). And he’s too big of a character to exploit but not fully use. So, the Birds of Prey movie will, at the least, need a Suicide Squad-level Batman cameo just to keep it credibly on the tracks.

Speaking of Batman and Catwoman, the outcome of Batman #50’s wedding has polarized so many fans that writer Tom King apparently had to hire a bodyguard for San Diego Comic-Con. Plus, DC Comics has made the issue returnable since retailers and fans didn’t feel they got what they were promised. Y’all really need to get your shit together if you’re threatening a man over something like this.

Finally, for a man who’s reportedly on the outs with the entertainment side of DC Comics, Geoff Johns will certainly be collecting checks from the comic side for the foreseeable future. So far, he’s announced a new SHAZAM! series – likely to capitalize on the upcoming movie starring Zachary Levi, as well as Three Jokers. The interesting thing to me is that Three Jokers is slated to be released as part of DC’s Black Label imprint, where I thought most of those stories weren’t in continuity. That was announced as DC’s Not Elseworlds, But Totally Elseworlds line, with stuff like Frank Miller’s take on Superman, or the collected edition of Batman: White Knight. It’s strange that they’d put Three Jokers over here, when the concept of there having been three Jokers came from the storylines of the core DC Universe. Johns isn’t done with live action just yet, however, as he also announced a Stargirl series for the DC Universe streaming service, starring a character he created based on his sister who died in the TWA Flight 800 explosion.

I may not agree with all of their decisions, but DC is making moves this week, while Marvel is noticeably silent, so that’s why DC Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

29th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/29/18 (TRU Edition)

by Will

I’m gonna take some liberties with the format this week, as it’s sort of a special occasion. I’ll cover this week’s news next week, and I hope you’ll forgive the departure.

As you probably already know, today is the final day of business for Toys “R” in the United States. Some stores closed earlier this week, but all will be closed by tonight. I’m still processing what this means to me. Sure, as a child of the ’80s, and a pop culture junkie, TRU has meant a lot to me over the years. I’ve touched on it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you my Toys “R” Us origin story. So, there’s no time like the present!

I’ve been talking with a lot of “cohorts” lately, and they’ve said things like “It didn’t mean that much to me.” Or “The toys were too expensive.” They also say they don’t have any real nostalgic connection to the brand. I can’t diminish someone else’s experience, but that simply wasn’t the case for me. I will admit that Toys “R” Us has suffered from something of an identity crisis over the past decade or so, but I think we all remember the golden age of cartoon Geoffrey the Giraffe, and his extended family (Gigi, etc).

For me, TRU was a magical place that I always hoped to sneak off to while my mom and grandmother were visiting the garden center down the plaza from it. I also didn’t get many toys from TRU back in the day, because toys used to be everywhere: People’s Drug, Kmart, Sears, Woolworth’s. But getting a toy from those places was merely pedestrian. To get a toy from TRU was like visiting Mecca. It’s like the song said, “From bikes and trains to video games” – it was the biggest toy store there was!

You know how when you’re a kid, folks are always asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My blanket answer was “I want to own a McDonald’s and a Toys ‘R’ Us.” Yes, young Will didn’t know about franchising and commercial real estate leases. He thought you could own one of those just like some rando can own the corner store. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or cops, and I just wanted to work with Geoffrey. Can’t say I didn’t aim high!

As I got older, I learned that folks actually look down on McDonald’s as a place of employment if you’re not a teenager (which is pretty messed up, if you ask me!). Still, that kinda marred the brand in my mind, so I gave up on that dream. That became a dream deferred. I didn’t give up on Toys “R” Us, though. I decided I was going to work for Toys “R” Us corporate. After all, everyone respects a businessman, and I’d still be working with toys!

Unlike most teenagers, I didn’t have an afterschool job. No, I didn’t get my first job until the week after my high school graduation. Where? Toys “R” Us. I had actually applied during the previous Christmas season, when I handed my application to the store director, Erin. Of course they never called (‘cause they never do. The onus of the job hunt is on the hunter), but I tried again the following summer.

Now, if you’re new here, you don’t know much about me. My dad died when I was 3, and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. To say I was a “Mama’s Boy” would be something of an understatement, but it gets the image across. So, while most teenagers would confidently saunter into a place and ask if they’re hiring, I had my mom with me, and I think she did most of the talking. So, they didn’t call me. However, when I went back the next summer, Erin recognized me because I was the one who had brought his mother with him to apply. She either thought it was cute or sad. I never did find out. Anyway, she hired me and put me to work the next day.

Yay, I was finally working with toys! My dream job! Oh, the smiles I would put on kids’ faces! The funny thing about TRU is that, once you work there, you realize just how big (and kinda unnecessary) that store truly is. I began to realize that I’d spent my childhood worshiping aisles 6D and 7D (action figures), not even acknowledging that there was a whole lot more store than that. More, for which I did not give a shit. They kept putting me in bikes or in diapers, but I’d find a way to sneak back to action figures.

Plus, because I was seasonal (I was leaving for college at the end of the summer), they never saw any need to train me on the register. I worked at that place for 3 seasons before they trained me on register. By the time I was in Year 8, they were like “Here’s Paco. It’s his first day, and we want you to train him on the register.” That was so weird to me. We don’t know that dude, so why are we so quick to let him near the money? Anyway, since I held no “floor value” for them, they had me unload trucks, organize the stockroom, and bring up any big ticket pickup requests, like bikes, swings, etc.

Here’s why TRU means a lot to me: as someone who grew up pretty sheltered, that job gave me a crash course on LIFE. The cute girls, the old ladies – those were the ones they put on the floor. The guys in the back, however, were a rougher bunch. Some of them were ex-cons, while some of them were clearly headed for incarceration. It’s funny looking back on it because I had two very distinct Toys “R” Us employment experiences: the Wheaton era, which was basically Training Day, and the Columbia era, which was Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

These guys were telling me stuff about the women they were seeing, as well as what they were doing to those women. They’d also tell me about their wives. Yup, same dudes. Seventeen year old Will would naively point out “But you’re married!” One thing I will never forget is when Ramone laughed at me, saying “Man, you don’t marry for love. You marry for security.” That was deep, especially at 17.

That place was filled with a cast of characters, and that television show, despite being set in a toy store, would have to air on Netflix or premium cable. There was chainsmoking mumbler, Garrett, who built the bikes. I was working there when JFK Jr. and his wife died, and Garrett was the one who offered up his theory that sky head was to blame. You’ve heard of road head? Well, same thing, but in a privately chartered helicopter. In the sky. Garrett loved his conspiracies.

There was David, the other bike assembly guy, who’d just gotten back from overseas, and was clearly going through some kind of PTSD. He either looked like a fatter Tony Hale or a skinnier Bubba Ray Dudley. The jury’s still out on that. His arms were covered in sleeves, so management made him wear a light blue Oxford to cover his arms so he wouldn’t offend the guests. I remember he was really blinky, and I was always expecting a Falling Down episode from him. He totally took advantage of me because I was young and dumb and had more money than I needed. He had brought some Pocket Monsters stuff back with him from Japan (remember, Pokémon had just hit the US, so this was the original, pure shit), and I remember him selling it to me for some price that really didn’t make a lot of sense. But I hate conflict, and don’t know how to back out of a deal, so “Here’s your money, David.” The sad post-script is that most of that stuff ended up going to my then-girlfriend’s little brother. Yup, I did it all for the nookie. Or was trying to, at least.

Barbara was the first Black lesbian I’d ever encountered, and she scared the shit out of me (not the first lesbian, though – I’d seen the Ellen Degeneres-starring Mr. Wrong almost a decade prior, and well, I just knew…). She was mean, and if she threatened to cut you, I truly believe a cutting was in your future. She had a nice side racket going, where the old White G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels collectors would pay her to put the new cases aside for them, so they could get the good stuff before it hit the floor. I’m sure they were terrified of her, too, but those Treasure Hunts weren’t gonna scalp themselves. Anyway, I clapped back at her one day about something trivial (I was young and stupid) , and stayed on her bad side after that.

Ron was one of the managers, and he made me question every naïve thing I’d ever thought about leadership. Later, in college, I’d learn the difference between management and leadership, but at the time I thought they were the same. He had come from Foot Locker, and I spent a lot of time wondering “What’s he doing here? Shoes have nothing to do with toys.” See, I hadn’t yet hit that realization that retail is just a job. As the youngest person working in the store, I never stopped to think that I was the only one who WANTED to be there due to a love of toys. It was hilarious, though, watching him pursue a phat ass through the store. It’s like he had a sixth sense for it, and then he’d get on the walkie, telling the other guys to meet him in whatever aisle she happened to be in. That shit was pure harassment, but I’d never seen anything like it before. And, to be honest, none of the women ever seemed that offended. If anything, they were just happy to receive some kind of customer service which, as you know, has been lacking in a lot of places in recent years.

Finally, as the ringmaster of this motley crew, Erin was a short woman who wore a tight French braid. In some other life, she was a detective or a parole officer, but here she made sure that Mr. Potato Head was “edged off” (the practice of pulling the boxes to the very edge of the shelf, to give the illusion that the shelves are more full that they actually are. Plus, it brings the item closer to the customer’s reach). You knew it was a rough day when she would pitch in with the clean-up, and release her hair from that braid. She was tough, but fair. She had a maternal, Captain Janeway quality to her, and we were all her Sevens of Nine. They’d eventually transfer her to the Frederick store. I saw her a few years later, and she barely had any recollection of me, my mom, any of it. Through squints, she seemed to sort of register who I was, but I’m sure so many folks had passed through her “finishing school” by that point that they all start to blend together. Still, thanks for not letting Barbara cut me, “Mom”.

In all, I worked for the Wheaton store over the course of 7 years, during summers and Christmas when I’d come home from college, as well as some stints afterward. In early 2006, the company announced plans to close 75 stores across the country, which we thought was unheard of at the time. Still, I didn’t think much about it until I came in one day soon after Christmas to see Store Closing signs hung everywhere. These days you’d probably at least get an email or something, but not then. Were we so primitive in 2006? So, I found out the same way our customers did – seeing the signage in the store.

I’ve already shared some stories about those final days in Wheaton, but that store just kept on teaching me things. In this case, I learned how fun retail could be if you simply didn’t give a shit anymore. Sure, it’s probably not best for the customer, but I had a lot of fun during that liquidation period. Still, it was a part-time job for me, so it didn’t hit me like it probably affected others there. By that point, all the folks I mentioned had already moved on. As I saw it, my education was complete, and I was fine with the store closing. Plus, there was still a TRU across town, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have a local store.

The Wheaton store closed, and I thought that was it for my Toys “R” Us time. In college, I majored in Human Development, with a concentration on early childhood. The whole “I want to work with toys” wasn’t just a pipe dream to me. I took courses on play interaction, and interned at a daycare to study how kids play with each other. The problem, though, is that there was no real career path for that at the time. Sure, now there are schools with toy curriculums, like F.I.T., but that wasn’t a thing in 2001. Once I graduated, nobody knew what to do with me. I sent a bunch of blind letters to Hasbro, TRU, Mattel, and more. See, it turns out toy companies care more about design than intent. It’s more likely they’ll make a cool-looking toy educational instead of making an educational toy cool-looking. If it teaches something, great, but the aesthetic came first. So, the folks who did gave me the time of day wanted to see my portfolio – a portfolio that I did not have. I remember I got a really nice letter from some VP at TRU corporate that was basically “We don’t know what to do with you, but don’t give up on your dreams.” Sorry, lady, but I gave up.

After a stint in commercial real estate, I got a chance to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. It wasn’t quite toys, but it was as close to the toy industry as I felt I was going to get. The sad thing, though, is that you have to sacrifice for your dreams. So, I took a huge pay cut and then found myself with a life I couldn’t afford anymore. My commute was 100 miles a day round trip (that’s not an exaggeration), and I could barely pay my rent. So, I was going to need a second job, and I realized the Columbia Toys “R” Us was halfway between work and home. It also helped that a few of the managers from the tail end of the Wheaton days had transferred to that store. I had an “in”.

Remember when Saved By The Bell: The College Years got cancelled, and Screech kinda crawled back to Bayside in Saved By The Bell: The New Class? That was pretty much my experience here. I had started my TRU career as the youngest person in the store, and now I was something of an elder statesman. Everyone I worked with now was somewhere between 19 and 22, and I thought it was going to be my turn to teach them life lessons. It would by my Training Day. Yeah…that didn’t happen. The Columbia staff had different interests and were in different places in their lives than the Wheaton staff. The Wheaton folks were just working there until a better retail job came along, while the Columbia kids were working their way through community college and didn’t see retail as the end for themselves. With my prior experience, I expected to walk into some kind of Degrassi environment, but it was a lot more madcap than that.

I’ll admit that I probably wasn’t the best person to manage at this point. I mean, I was a good worker – a hard worker – but I did what I wanted. I just kinda took action figures for myself, and made it clear “Don’t you even think about putting me somewhere else.” And I provided good customer service to folks in those aisles, but I did not give a shit about anything outside of Boy’s World. The location of the store made sense on weekdays, as it was on the way home, but it made no sense for me to drive 30 miles on a Saturday morning, to work 5 hours – I was just wasting gas at that point. So, I kinda did what I wanted to “justify” the inconvenience. Yeah, I know it’s a job, and it was my choice to make that commute, but they let me get away with “creating my own experience”, so I guess I “won”?

While my early time with the company was about life’s hard lessons, the latter time was really just about decompression. I looked forward to my Saturday shifts as “Wow, I really tricked this company into paying me to hang out with my friends.” We had a lot of fun, and I still think about a lot of those folks.

Patrick was an interesting kid. He was Chinese, but somehow had a redneck, Tea Party uncle whom he idolized, so he was basically a Chinese redneck. He never understood the contradictions in that, but he never let that stop him. Still he was a lot of fun, as we’d talk about cartoons and Power Rangers. We would team up in the boy’s department, and called ourselves Team Bumblebee.

Crystal was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, which is why it was perfect that they put her at customer service. Customers loved her, while she had an apple bottom that some folks would’ve paid to take a bite out of. She was our Kelly Kapowski, hands down.

If Crystal was our Kelly, then Amber was definitely our Jessie Spano. She and Crystal looked like they could’ve been sisters, but Amber was the spitfire of the two. She had little Lisa Loeb glasses, and took her supervisor role seriously – almost too seriously at times. That’s why it was even more interesting when she lightened up, and found herself in a love triangle with managers Paul and Jesse.

Bryan was the most responsible 19 year old I’ve ever met in my entire life. He had actually come from the Wheaton store, and was one of the reasons I was looking forward to working at Columbia. He had a mad-on for law enforcement, though. His dream was to go to the police academy, and he’d go on ride alongs during his free time. In the grand scheme of the Columbia store, Bryan was “The Adult”.

Marvin was basically Lord of the R-Zone, which was the electronics department of the store. I never really got a read on him, despite working in his orbit for years. Was he shy? Did he just not like me? I dunno, but I still run into him at comic conventions, as he has segued into the life of a cosplayer in recent years.

The best of the bunch, however, had to be Mike, whom we affectionately called “Special Forces”. Ya see, when he started, he was seasonal and those guys didn’t wear TRU uniforms because A) I don’t think TRU wanted to “waste” them on seasonals, and B) they didn’t want them to be instantly recognizable as employees to customers, as customer interaction would affect their ability to move in the background of everything. So, he wore a black shirt and black jeans, which made him look like some sort of special forces agent, so… Mike’s still around to this day, as many of you know of him from my Thrift Justice posts. He’s one of my best friends, and definitely one of the better things to come from that last TRU stint.

As much as I wanted to think I was the oldest, non-manager there, that wasn’t true. No, that “honor” belonged to “Stanley” (Yeah, that’s not his real name. You don’t need to know that). I’m gonna level with you here: there’s a good chance Stanley was some kind of molester. He was in his 70s, creepy, and wore a Dora the Explorer cap that he found in a shopping cart one day. I know for a fact that he offered $50 to a young employee to have sex with him. I also know she strongly considered it. He knew where all the hooker pickup spots were, and he had some stories. Just as earlier in my career, TRU was still teaching me things. I learned how you can like people who are possibly horrible. Like, I didn’t have *proof* that he had done anything illegal, but I also didn’t have proof that he had not done those things. Still, something about him still came off as “kindly”. I still think about him, and wonder if he’s still with us.

I made it 10 years with TRU, and not much longer. They even gave me a catalog of shit to choose from for my anniversary gift. I never did get that cordless screwdriver… Anyway, I had my performance review, and found out I wasn’t good enough to receive my $0.25 raise. I took a long hard look around, and wondered why I was fighting for a quarter. I’d been raised with the “Every little bit helps” mentality, but here was a company that didn’t think I was worth an additional quarter. Yes, I know that adds up when it’s a quarter for everyone, but TEN YEARS! Call it “Millennial Entitlement” if you want, but that was it for me. I was tired of the commute. I no longer had the job that made this one convenient in the evenings, and I had pretty much just met Lindsay, so I had other stuff I’d rather be doing. So, I basically quit that day of the review. I’d worked out my schedule, and I didn’t owe them any time. I’d show them!

In the years since, I’ve sort of regretted how it ended. I definitely missed the excitement of the holiday season, and even wondered if I was rehireable. I once applied to the closer Rockville store, but never heard back. Ya know, ‘cause the onus of the job hunt… So, my TRU career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s not how I would like to have gone out, but that’s how life is sometimes. My time at Toys “R” Us was filled with those life-affirming moments, so this just seemed like a natural, if not completely satisfying, end.

As a customer, I’ll definitely miss Toys “R” Us. Sure, Target and Walmart have a foothold in the industry, but their 7 toy aisles don’t hold a candle to the selection at TRU. I used to stop and think about how almost unnecessary a store like TRU was. I mean, think about it: it’s a big box store devoted solely to toys. Only in a capitalistic society could that idea fly and, as we have learned, that same capitalistic society would be what killed it.

Still, folks don’t realize that the concept of “childhood” is fairly young. Before, say, the end of the Industrial Revolution, kids were just seen as tiny adults. Sure, take them to that public execution, nobody cares! So, it’s always amazing to me that, not only did the concept of childhood develop, but that successful businesses arose to capitalize on that. Folks say that toy sales are down, with the internet and other time wasters available, so I often wonder what that means for the evolution of childhood. I guess time will tell.

Anyway, we’re not here to forecast the future of the toy industry. No, we’re here to say goodbye to an old teacher, an old friend. I got to take my oldest to say “goodbye” a few months back, but it saddens me that my youngest will know nothing of Toys “R” Us. She’ll know nothing of the place that helped to shape her father’s worldview. She’ll know nothing of Geoffrey the Giraffe. I only hope that she one day experiences something that affects her the same way that my Toys “R” Us experience affected me. That’s why Toys “R” Us had the West Life Ever.

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