24th Jul2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/24/20

by Will

I couldn’t let Taylor Swift be the only one with a stealth drop today! These sure are some crazy times, ain’t they? I guess you’re wondering where I’ve been. Well, ya see, it all just got to be too much. I haven’t blogged since May, I haven’t tweeted in 2 months, and I’ve just been kinda sequestered over on Facebook and Instagram. Who’da thought there’d come a time when Facebook was the most civilized form of social media?! I guess it’s because I’ve curated my timeline to the point where I’m not in a position to be surprised by anything I see over there. Still, with the state of the world, it was too much. And the stuff I was seeing was maddening. Like, there were folks with Black Lives Matter posts, when I’d had some racially dicey episodes with them in the past where my life clearly didn’t matter much to them. Anyway, I figured I should probably make use of this “brand” until Kanye comes along to claim it, so I felt it was time to dust it off and see if there’s anything left in the tank.

So, what have I been doing while I’ve been gone? Well, I’ve been watching a lot of 90 Day Fiancé and Say Yes to the Dress. Oh, and I, too, cheated on Will Smith and revealed it on my podcast. We jokingly call him “The Fresh Simp of Bel Air” behind his back.

I watched some movies. Wreck-It Ralph was cute, but not very memorable. Maybe it’s because Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix kept taking me out of the film. I kept wanting Jack Donaghy to yell “Get back to work, Kenneth!” I also watched a 70s action movie called The Kill Squad. It’s on YouTube if you’re interested. I’m not gonna talk about it this week, though. I think I’ve got something better in mind for it.

Speaking of McBrayer as Kenneth, I watched that 30 Rock special on NBC last Thursday, and boy was it terrible! Unlike the Parks & Rec special, which came together for a good cause, and was a sweet, albeit “long in the tooth”, return to old friends (It ran out of steam quickly, and why was Adam Scott so wet?!), the 30 Rock special was just a one-hour infomercial for NBCUniversal networks. This is why it didn’t even air in more than half the country, as the network affiliates saw it as advertising for the competition, namely the Peacock streaming service which is designed to take viewers away from network television. For one thing, I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember where those characters ended up in the finale. Liz has a Black child? Where was Dot Com? Did I really need to see Jonathan, when that time could’ve been devoted to a Queen of Jordan update so I could see D’Fwan?

Also, it was the kind of project not meant for consumption by the general public. It’s an inside baseball kind of thing for the network television industry. If you’re not new here, then you know I do a network upfronts post most years, which is where the networks reveal their fall schedules. The 30 Rock special would’ve been right at home as NBC’s presentation to ad buyers, because these kinds of things are commonplace in that setting. I mean, it would’ve made even more sense if 30 Rock was still airing on NBC, but I digress. As its own special, designed to reunite you with old friends, however, it fell short. It was corporate synergy at its worst, and was almost as jarring as that weird Microsoft Windows 95 video starring members of the Friends cast. No me gusta, Liz Lemon!

Speaking of Peacock, it launched, but I don’t have much to say about it. I’ve had it since April, as Xfinity customers got a “sneak peek”, but it’s an odd duck. First of all, it’s “free”, but it’s probably best described as “Freemium”, as there is a paid tier that you’re gonna need if you want ALL of the upcoming content. Right now, however, you can keep yourself entertained with the Saturday Night Live library, as well as some other random stuff. For example, I used it to watch the pilot of The Greatest American Hero one night (Fun fact: The Greatest American Hero doesn’t have a superhero name throughout the entire series). Another weird thing about Peacock is, like HBO Max, it hasn’t yet struck deals with Amazon or Roku, so you can’t really cast it. If I didn’t have it integrated into my cable box/package, I wouldn’t even use it.

Anyway, if you want a GOOD COVID-19 reunion, then look no further than this Happy Endings special. It starts off kinda rough, but they’re fully back in character by the 5 minute mark. I didn’t know how much I needed this in my life!

Another thing I did while I was away was participate in a film directed by CT from the Nerd Lunch Podcast. He and his family filmed a “making of” documentary surrounding a fictional comic strip called Macaroni & Please. Since all scholarly retrospectives need an expert, I was honored that he invited me to play the role of a pop culture expert and Macaroni & Please superfan. Somewhere along the way, I got some sort of “bad boy of Twitter” kind of reputation, but at the end of the day, I’m a joiner, and I like to be invited to things. It really meant a lot to me that they asked me to a part of it, and I think it came out great. If you could watch 7 hours of Tiger King, you can watch this!

I also participated in the Nerd Lunch spinoff, AfterLUNCH, Magnum P.I. season 2 breakdown episode. I was actually invited to be part of the Magnum Panel back when they discussed season 1, but scheduling conflicts kept me off the episode (Look at me, sounding all busy and important!). Anyway, it was fun revisiting Magnum, TC, Higgins and Rick, and I had a lot of fun on the episode, which you can listen to here.

During my hiatus, I believe it was revealed that the next season of the long-running Power Rangers franchise would be Power Rangers Dino Fury, taking its footage from the 2019 Japanese series Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger. Considering we basically JUST had a dinosaur-themed season, with Power Rangers Dino Charge (wow, I guess that WAS 4 years ago), it feels sort of soon to be returning to that well. Anyway, I’m still probably gonna watch it, mainly because it’s rumored this might be the final live action season of the franchise. Apparently, Hasbro, which purchased the Power Rangers brand from Saban Brands in 2018, has ended their relationship with Toei, Inc, which has supplied the Japanese fight/zord footage for that past 27 years. It’s unlikely that Hasbro would go it alone, as producing that in-house would be more expensive than what they’re paying Toei. So, if this is true, it’s unclear how the franchise could survive without Toei’s involvement.

Trailer Park


Woke (Hulu) 

This looks like a series that FX passed on, by way of Bamboozled. It seems like it would make an interesting movie, kinda like Sorry To Bother You, but a whole series? I dunno, man. Plus I tend to forget that I even have Hulu, so I’m not sure this is going on the list.


Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)

I know there are folks who’d kill me for saying this, but there is such a thing as TOO MUCH Star Trek, and I think we’re entering that era. Not once have I ever wondered “What would Star Trek look like through the lens of Rick & Morty?” And is it supposed to be funny? Because I didn’t laugh once during this trailer. Here’s my problem: CBS All Access is too dependent upon Trek offerings. They’re counting on this to join Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, and the Section 31 show in propping up the service. Seriously, the only other thing on All Access that folks watch besides Trek is The Good Fight. This is not a recipe for success. I understand CBS/Viacom knows they’ve got a valuable goldmine they’re sitting on, but less is more. Star Trek used to *mean* something, and I feel like that’s not really the case anymore. However, your mileage may vary.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Brett Eldredge’s “Gabrielle” is the best song Bruce Hornsby never wrote.
  • Ego Nwodim might be about to be the only Black cast member left on Saturday Night Live, as Chris Redd has just joined Kenan’s sitcom, while Michael Che just inked a deal for his own sketch show on HBO Max. In both situations, it’s unknown if these deals will affect their involvement with SNL, but I think it’s highly likely, especially in Che’s case.
  • Speaking of HBO Max, the Harry Potter films are slated to leave the service next month – less than three months after they were added for the service’s launch.
  • I’d give you some Quibi news, but who are we kidding? Nobody watches Quibi.
  • Black actress Javicia Leslie will be taking over the lead role in Batwoman, and I immediately got off the internet when I saw the news, ’cause my poor heart couldn’t take what was surely soon to accompany that news.
  • Let’s be honest – Dancing with the Stars has never recovered from country radio personality Bobby Bones mobilizing his fanbase resulting in his stunning upset win, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise when ABC announced that Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews were out, as the show was going in a “new creative direction”. What was surprising, however, was when Tyra Banks was announced as the new host.
  • Great news for Anglophiles, as Netflix has actually added an additional season to The Crown‘s farewell run.
  • Kidding has been cancelled at Showtime, just in time for Jim Carrey to rail against COVID-19 vaccines!
  • I was gonna mention how Tenet has been delayed indefinitely but, Hell, all movies are delayed indefinitely. It’s not like I was dying to see Black Widow, and now I’m certainly not DYING to see Black Widow.
  • Speaking of delays, Marvel’s Falcon & Winter Soldier won’t premiere on Disney+ this August as originally planned. I guess we’ll get it when we get it.
  • Lots of name changes in the news, based on the recent political upheaval. Lady Antebellum are now Lady A – or, they will be if they win their lawsuit against the Black woman who already performs as Lady A. The Dixie Chicks are now just The Chicks. And Psych‘s James Roday is now James Roday Rodriguez. No, I’m not joking.

 

My favorite game show of all time is Jeopardy!. I’ve been watching it as long as I can remember, and I used to play it over the phone with my friend Brock every night in middle and high school. I’ve taken the test a good 5-6 times already, but still haven’t cracked the code to acing it (the Jeopardy! Test is MUCH harder than the actual show). While this whole virus has been a handful in many ways, everything tends to have a silver lining. The show usually takes a break around this time of year, but they had even fewer original episodes in the can, as production was forced to shut down. So, they decided to go into the vault and show us some classic episodes from the show’s history. On Monday, they kicked things off by airing Alex Trebek’s very first episode from 1984. I had watched a LOT of Jeopardy!, but I don’t think I’d ever seen this episode.

It was amazing to see how much had remained relatively the same over the past 36 years. Sure, the dollar amounts hadn’t doubled yet, but the gameplay was the same. Well, there was ONE important difference: you see, at this point, they still allowed players to answer before Alex had finished reading the clue. This might not seem important, but in the pilot, it led to an energetic round of Double Jeopardy! that proceeded at a breakneck pace. Third place Lois, who didn’t have a very good first round, rocketed to second place through a series of rapid response answers. I swear, when that round was done, I needed a cigarette!

Alex Trebek has been in the news a lot lately, due to his new book and his regular cancer updates, but I think it’s easy to forget that he’s been at the helm of this ship for THIRTY-SIX YEARS. That’s almost my whole life! The man is an icon, and I only hope that one day, when all of this bad stuff is behind us, I can finally take the stage and shake his hand. Ya know, if we’re back to shaking hands in the New World. Anyway, for being my most enjoyed entertainment this week, Jeopardy! had the West Week Ever.

 

Before we go, two weeks ago marked the 17th anniversary of this site. Though it’s gone through several incarnations over the years (after all, it didn’t start out as WilliamBruceWest.com!), it’s pretty much been the same vibe since the beginning. Sure, there were those years of “Write like no one is reading” because, well, no one WAS reading. However, that all changed with social media. I got into a groove with things like Thrift Justice and West Week Ever, and readers started to come around. So, I just want to say I appreciate y’all for reading this all these years, as every click and share does not go unnoticed. Especially the shares. I love when that happens. Anyway, here’s to 17 more? Yeah, even I don’t know about that, but I’ve got nothing better to do, so…

22nd May2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/22/20

by Will

 

I considered renaming this thing “Joy Sparkers”, but I was scared Marie Kondo’s people would come after me. You see, there’s just so much negativity in the world right now, and I thought I’d just focus on the things I’d been enjoying lately. The problem is that “positive” doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. So I kinda abandoned that idea, but I’m still gonna give it a try.

If you’re a regular to the site, then you know that this is usually the week of my annual TV upfronts post, where I take a look at the shows slated for the networks’ fall schedules, and give my opinion on whether or not they had a fighting chance. Unfortunately, due to the events in the world, the networks cancelled their upfronts. They were going to do them online, but nothing major really materialized outside of a few press releases and announcements. I’m kinda glad, as I really didn’t have it in me right now. As you know, there’s usually Bloody Friday the week before the upfronts, when the networks cancel a slew of shows to make room on the schedules they’re about to announce. Well, since all productions have ceased, they didn’t really swing the ax too much this year. As I write this, here’s where we stand with cancellations:

Fox:

Outmatched

Almost Family

Deputy

ABC:

Single Parents

Bless This Mess

Emergence

Schooled

Kids Say The Darndest Things

CBS:

Broke

Man with a Plan

God Friended Me

Carol’s Second Act

Tommy

As for upcoming shows, there’s pretty much nothing I’m excited about, mainly because a lot of networks, like The CW, aren’t starting their seasons until 2021. So, I guess I’ve got time to catch up on all the great Netflix shows I’ve been missing!

One of my favorite movies of all time is Steve Martin’s The Jerk. I remember my mom and I had watched it on TV when I was little, and both thought it was hilarious. So, she decided to rent it so that her 80 year old mother could watch it – not knowing about all of the jokes in the original, unedited film. Jokes like “I think next week I’ll be able to send some more money as I may have extra work. My friend Patty promised me a blow job.” Ah, good times! Anyway, if you’ve never seen it, The Jerk stars Steve Martin as naive idiot Navin Johnson – a White man raised by a poor Black family who has to eventually leave the nest and go out into the world. With all the things that end up happening to him, you could almost say it’s a wackier Forrest Gump. Well, I was yesterday years old when I learned that there was actually a “sequel”, called The Jerk, Too, which was released in 1984 as a made for TV movie. I put sequel in quotes because it’s more of a reimagining of the original film instead of a story that takes place afterward. So, I fired up the YouTube and got to watching.

In this movie, Navin was played by Mark Blankfield, a cast member on Fridays, which was ABC’s short-lived take on Saturday Night Live. Whereas the original film had Carl Reiner and Steve Martin involved, this one clearly did not. While serving as producer, Martin was nowhere near this thing and, after watching it, I can understand why. There’s no real heart to it. Martin’s Navin really came off as a sweet guy who did dumb things, while Blankfield’s Navin comes off as a dumb guy who does sweet things. In the original movie, Navin had occasional flashes of brilliance, as shown by many of his inventions. This version, however, just dumbs it down to “He’s really good at cards”. In the original film, Navin leaves home because it’s time for him to become his own man, while in this movie, he’s just going to Los Angeles to attend his pen pal’s wedding. Oh, and can I mention that Pearl from 227 was in this thing, and looked just as old as she always did? The same way Tom Cruise is a vampire who was bitten at 35, Helen Martin was a vampire who was bitten in 1972, at the age of 76. She would be 76 until her death in 2000.

Anyway, Navin’s good at cards, he links up with some hobos who take advantage of him, and then there’s a love story. It’s almost like a pilot, in that it sets things up for the next chapter in Navin’s life, and I kinda would like to see where it goes. I just think it’s sacrilege for them to tie the legacy of The Jerk to whatever it was they were doing here. On its own, though, it’s a predictable, yet serviceable, 80s TV romantic comedy.

 

On the TV front, I discovered a new show that I immediately fell in love with, and have been bingeing all week. First off, though, did y’all know that SYFY has their own Adult Swim clone on the weekends, called TZGZ (it’s just SYFY adjusted by one letter)? At the moment, this programming block includes the Harley Quinn animated series from the DC Universe streaming service. It also includes a little one-season animated Canadian show, called Gary and His Demons. Now, I don’t know how this thing only got one season, but it is excellent.

Gary and His Demons focuses on a demon hunter who is the Chosen One, and he dropped out of high school to do a 15-year stint with the Demon Ministry. Since they haven’t been about to find his replacement, he’s now a 45 year old man, in his 2nd stint, and he’s been talked into doing one more. He hates his life, as his one true love was killed 20 years ago by a demon, and he’s just tired of the life. On paper, it wouldn’t be my type of show, but I ended up watching an episode after Harley, and I was hooked. Since the show is over, Comcast has them all On Demand, and I’ll finish it up after I put the finishing touches on this post. It’s got QUITE the Rick and Morty meets South Park vibe, without being up its own ass as much as R&M has been lately. Seriously, that show has gotten TOO meta for me the past few weeks. Anyway, I’m hoping it sticks the landing, as I’ve loved everything I’ve seen so far. Plus, like a true Adult Swim clone, the episodes are only about 11 minutes long, so it’s a quick watch.

Trailer Park

The Old Guard

This is apparently “based on the acclaimed graphic novel”, but I’ve never read it. Heard of it, but never read  it. Looks pretty good, although it feels like Charlize is carrying this thing on her shoulders. Still, it’s on Netflix, which means I already pay for it and won’t have to go anywhere. Sold!


The Last Days of American Crime

If you can believe it, I’ve been waiting over ten years for this movie. You see, when I was working at Diamond, a new publisher came on the scene, called Radical Studios. Radical was basically an IP farm that used comics as testing ground for movie ideas. Their comics were pretty much illustrated screenplays. That was done quite a bit at the time (Remember Cowboys vs. Aliens?). Anyway, one of the miniseries they published was The Last Days of American Crime, which I really enjoyed.

If you couldn’t tell from the trailer, it’s about the near future, when the government emits a signal that prevents anyone from committing crime. So, this guy decides to go on one last heist before the signal goes out. Funny thing is I don’t really remember many of the details right now, other than the fact I thought it was good. So, watching this trailer, I can’t tell you if it’s faithful to the book or not. Apparently Sharlto Copley is in this thing somewhere, but I didn’t see him. Other than that, I don’t know anyone else in this film. Also, considering Radical was also behind the Dwayne Johnson Hercules, well, I’m not exactly holding my breath for quality. But, like with The Old Guard, I can watch it at home in my underwear, so that’s good enough for me.


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

This is less of a trailer, and more of a truncated music video. Still, it combines my love of the Eurovision Song Contest and Will Ferrell, so it’s a no-brainer. In case you’ve not familiar, the Eurovision Song Contest is like the Olympics of music on the European stage. Started in 1951, it’s an annual event (except for this year, of course), but the US can’t compete in it ’cause we just had to break away from England.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • This week saw the 20th anniversary of the release of the second album from Britney Spears, Oops!…I Did It Again
  • CBS All Access announced they were developing Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a spinoff of Discovery, focusing on the original crew of the Enterprise.
  • It was revealed that the next season of Power Rangers would adapt Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger, and would be known as Power Rangers Dino Fury. Personally, I feel like it’s too soon for a return to dinosaurs, but whatever. I’ll still watch it.
  • Many viewers thought they were witnessing Ryan Seacrest having a stroke on Sunday night’s American Idol. Apparently, he started slurring his words and his left eye was trying to close. His people claim it was just “exhaustion”, but he didn’t show up to work at Live with Kelly and Ryan the next morning.
  • FX has renewed two of my favorite new shows for a second season: Dave and Breeders
  • In a surprising move, The CW’s Batwoman and star Ruby Rose have parted ways after just one season. While it was initially posed as Rose’s decision, word on the street was that it was a “mutual parting of ways”, as she was unhappy on the show, which resulted in a difficult set.

So I made a vow to myself that I wasn’t going to discuss this on social media and, for the most part, I’ve kept that vow. Remember, I’m trying to be more positive, and I didn’t really have good thoughts about it. Still, it’s a pretty big deal this week, so I guess we’ve got to dive into it.

Justice League was released three years ago, in the fall of 2017, to great expectations. As it was inevitably going to be compared to what the MCU had done up to that point, it had a lot going against it. Directed by Zack Snyder, who’d already helmed Man of Steel, as well as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the movie was actually completed by Joss Whedon after the sudden death of Snyder’s daughter. The result was a passable, yet mediocre, movie that should have been so much more.

After its release, Snyder fans swore that there existed a “Snyder Cut” of the film that was a masterpiece, and that Warner Bros was conspiring to ensure that it never saw the light of day. Snyder, himself, fueled the fire by saying that he filmed 4 hours worth of movie, so there’s bound to be a lot missing that could have strengthened the film – as well as some stuff that could have definitely been cut, like that Russian family. Seriously, what was that all about? Anyway, a #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement started to grow. And this wasn’t exactly peaceful demonstration. The Snyder Cut fans were some of the most obnoxious, overbearing fanatics on social media. You mention a comic movie, and they’d jump into your mentions to tell you Guardians of the Galaxy was garbage, but somehow Batman v Superman was this jewel of a film. And before you say “Not ALL of us”, let it be known that *enough* of you fit that description. I mean, the DCEU fan is already in a special, yet unfortunate, situation because they feel like they’re constantly the underdog to what Marvel accomplished with the MCU. “Why can’t people see what Snyder was trying to say instead of fawning over these films made for children?!” I feel bad that they feel that way. Why can’t the two just coexist? No, this Marvel vs DC rivalry has been going on before there were even movies of the characters, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I just sort of hoped the discourse would be a bit more civil.

Anyway, one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood was that Snyder was hosting a watch party for Man of Steel, where he was going to reveal that his version of Justice League would finally be released. And, sure enough, it was announced – but there’s a twist. You see, there IS no Snyder Cut. At least, not yet. Doesn’t exist. But it will. Warner Bros, needing new content for HBO Max (seriously, they shelled out all that money for Friends, but didn’t invest in new shows?!), is going to pump $20 million into developing Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which doesn’t even have a true format yet. Will it be a 4-hour movie? Will they break it into “chapters”, as they’ve been batting around? Who knows? Won’t know til 2021, and I don’t know about you, but I kinda don’t look forward to anything more than a week out these days.

Here’s where I’m conflicted. You see, on the one hand, this feels like another case of toxic fandom getting its way. I was never really on board with the changes demanded on the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, because I felt it set a dangerous precedent. Like it or not, all of this stuff is “Art”. Now, while art can be interpreted by the public, it really shouldn’t be influenced or directed by the public. That’s when art becomes fanfic. We live in this culture where everyone has to have it their way, when life isn’t Burger King. I feel like we don’t teach that enough, but it’s probably because we also live in a time when you pretty much can get what you want, when you want it. Hell, Amazon will get it to you in 48 hours. Fo’ free! So there’s this unrealistic notion of ownership and privilege that just shouldn’t exist. If you like something, become a patron of it. If not, keep it moving, but don’t try to change it to fit your whims. Justice League came out, it was what it was, and WB spent the next couple of years cutting ties with it. A better version of the film doesn’t exist. It’s not like it was in the water tower, being guarded by Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. Plus, I know some people who LIKED the film for what it was. You don’t get do-overs in Hollywood, until they decide to remake your movie in 20 years. What other studio is gonna say, “Hold up, if you let us pump another $15 million into it, we can get you a better version of ________”? Instead of rebooting the Fantastic Four, what if Disney just did that on the Josh Trank movie? It was 2/3 of a decent film, so it’d work. But no, it doesn’t work like that.

In the middle, I kinda don’t care because I don’t know if it’ll be drastically different enough to matter. It would be nice if they explained a few things, and maybe actually showed Darkseid instead of leaving Steppenwolf as the Big Bad. It was a movie made by committee, so it might benefit from a singular voice, especially if WB is hands off in the process.

On the other side of it, this is something of a redemption story, and everybody loves those. They say you can’t change anyone’s mind on social media, but I’m here to say someone changed mine. Someone pointed this out to me: Snyder had to step down at probably the worst time in his life. He had a vision for this entire DCEU, and it all ended at that moment. So, from an artistic vision standpoint, this is something of a triumph. Like I was saying above, THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN. Studios don’t care about “art”, and they take their losses and move on to the next thing. So while I am afraid of the precedent this sets, I’m glad to see that Snyder will actually get to see his vision come to fruition. And who knows? Maybe they can actually salvage the DCEU through all this. I mean, Wonder Woman ’84 and SHAZAM 2 still take place in that universe. Who am I kidding, though? We’ll probably all be dead by then. See? I told you I don’t do “positive”.

In any case, for making dreams come true, Zack Snyder’s Justice League had the West Week Ever.

06th Mar2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/6/20

by Will

Welcome to the first West Week Ever of 2020! Yeah, you read that correctly. I’m gonna level with ya: I had one foot out the door. I was pretty much done, even though I didn’t necessarily want to be. It’s just that the world is a dumpster fire, and there wasn’t much happening in pop culture other than folks arguing about Star Wars headcanon or fighting over which old man director was gonna trash talk the MCU next. I didn’t feel like writing about any of that, and the whole enterprise was starting to feel like a chore.

Plus, I kinda fell off the pop culture wagon for a bit, and I’m not caught up on all the Mandalorians and Picards you kids are raving about. So, I sat on the bench. You still got West Year Ever, and I’ve cranked out a post here or there, but for all intents and purposes, West Week Ever was done. The problem with that, however, is that I don’t know how to quit anything. So, here I am. I’m not gonna make any promises. I could disappear quicker than your dad did that time when he went to get cigarettes (too soon?). I’m gonna try to give you something weekly, but only if I feel like it. Only if it’s fun. So, let’s try to capture some fun again.

The Dixie Chicks are back, with “Gaslighter” – their first new song in over a decade. I like seeing that they’ve still got that “Not Ready To Make Nice” fire in them. I’d call this a strong Feminist anthem, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that as a man. That said, the visuals of this video are really strong, driving home the message they’re trying to convey. I love this song, and I love them. I just hope they get some kind of airplay because I don’t think country radio is quite ready to make nice with them yet, even though it’s been almost 20 years.

Trailer Park

SCOOB!

This looks cute, even though I’ve never really been a Scooby fan. I won’t see it in the theater, but it’ll totally end up on Cartoon Network within 16 months of its release and I’ll just watch it then.

Connected

OK, I was already on board when it was just the story of a dad trying to reconnect with his daughter. Then there’s the twist around 1:45 where I was SO in. This looks great, and I plan to actually go see this in the theater. I didn’t know this was in development or anything until the trailer dropped this week, and it just seems so refreshing to have an original idea that looks great. This is when someone tells me it’s based on some YA novel or something :-p
Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We got our first look at the Batmobile from the upcoming Matt Reeves film. It’s different. I like it. I know folks get all passionate about these things, but if it’s a Batman movie, I’m gonna see it, so just bring it on already.
  • The first Hollywood casualty of the Coronavirus that’s sweeping the world is the upcoming James Bond film, No Time to Die. Due to concerns about the virus (and the desire for that Chinese box office), the film’s release has been moved to November.
  • Speaking of Coronavirus, a lot of musical acts have postponed the Asian leg of their tours. One of these artists is Avril Lavigne. There are reports that Asian children are writing letters to the virus, thanking it for sparing them from Lavigne’s music.
  • She may have kissed a girl, but she clearly banged a man, as Katy Perry announced that she’s pregnant with her first child.
  • America Ferrera is leaving Superstore, which doesn’t come as a surprise if you watched their SDCC panel last year. Felt like there was some tension there.
  • I know some of y’all enjoy my Thrift Justice feature, which made its return this week, with me showcasing some board games I’ve picked up.

I don’t know if y’all realize this, but FX is cranking out some pretty good stuff over on basic cable. I mean, I’ve been a fan of their original programming since Nip/Tuck, but it was You’re The Worst that really showed me what you could get away with over there. And, of course, there’s It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The same way film snobs love anything by A24, I’ve pretty much decided to give most FX shows a shot when they debut. I was scared that the quality might change after the Fox studios were sold to Disney, but boy was I wrong! This week saw the debut of 2 great, new shows on sister network FXX.

First up there’s Martin Freeman’s Breeders, which spoke to me in a way I didn’t really expect. It’s about an early 40s couple, struggling with the challenges of raising their two young kids, as well as being in a position where they now have to care for their elderly parents. Freeman’s character is 45, but I could relate to all of that at 38. The whole notion of “Remember when we had lives and dreams?” Yeah, I felt that. But this isn’t supposed to be a downer, and I’m supposed to be selling this to you! Since it’s a joint UK production, Freeman is the only actor I recognize, but it’s got a strong cast, and there’s great chemistry between him and Daisy Haggard, who plays his wife.

The show debuted Monday night with two episodes. If you’re going to give it a shot, I’ll say that the second episode is stronger than the pilot. It’s got an excellent cringe moment, where you think “These might not be great people”, conveyed in a way that only an FX show could do. I don’t follow many shows these days, as my TV is pretty much always on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, but Breeders is now destination television for me.

Next up, there’s Dave, starring rapper Lil Dicky. I’ve got to admit that I’d never heard of Dave Burd/Lil Dicky prior to the show, but I guess he’s an internet rapper? Anyway, this show feels like FX stumbled upon a particular formula and tried to replicate it here. It’s a show about an awkwardly named rapper trying to make it big. They should’ve just called it Whitelanta and called it a day. Burd is an interesting character, as he’s basically a neurotic Jewish guy who just happens to have an amazing freestyle. For a show about a rapper, though, there’s not a lot of rap. It definitely follows the “Less is more” philosophy, so that when he finally does rap, it really hits you hard. You’re like, “Shit! This dude is talented!” Imagine a young Jewish rapper who finds himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm style situations, and you’ve got Dave.

In the pilot, Dave wires $10,000 to a stranger because a random guy he met at a recording studio put a random number in his phone for a producer who’ll get rapper YG to guest on his track, “Girth” (there’s a LOT of penile stuff in the show). Anyone with street smarts would question this, but nebbish Dave goes right along with it, and withdraws his Bar Mitzvah money to do it. In the second episode, Dave’s first public performance is slated for the memorial service of a kid who loved both him and Macklemore. Yup, Macklemore, which will come into play in a big way.

It’s an usual show, and it has its cringe moments. Still, those are what FX shows do so well, and Dave is actually an endearing character. You wonder if he might even be on the spectrum, but you get where he’s coming from, and you feel sorry for his naivete. The rap game is gonna eat him alive, but it’s gonna be a riot watching it all go down.

So, between Breeders and Dave, FXX is my new favorite channel. That’s why FX Networks had the West Week Ever.

17th Jan2020

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2019

by Will

I won’t say 2019 was a complete dumpster fire, but it certainly wasn’t very noteworthy. It was a year that many are glad to have behind them, and we’re looking forward to a better 2020. As you probably know, I took about 1/3 of the year off from posting because, well, there wasn’t a whole lot worth talking about. It was just such a Meh year. However, this is the time when we look back, so let’s see how the year shaped up, shall we?

I remember back in an early West Year Ever, I watched about 70 movies that year. This year I landed on unlucky number 13. Comic Book movies and Rambo films were the name of the game in 2019. The Rambo thing, however, was a fluke, as I did a Rambothon to prepare me for a podcast appearance.

Movies I Watched
1. Captain Marvel
2. SHAZAM!
3. Avengers: Endgame
4. Spider-Man: Far From Home
5. Barbershop: The Next Cut
6. First Blood
7. Rambo: First Blood Part II
8. Rambo III
9. Rambo
10. Rambo: Last Blood
11. White Chicks
12. The Grinch
13. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: I never wrote about this, because I feel like people should be more willing to say “I don’t know enough about this topic to have a strong opinion”. I mean, I enjoyed it in the theater, but it’s got fan service out the ass, and feels like it panders. Still, the lifelong fans seem to love it, so I guess “mission accomplished”? I will say that I’m disappointed in Finn’s character arc. Sure, I was one of the fools who initially fell for “Whoo hoo! Black Jedi!” Even when that didn’t come to pass, however, they never did anything with him. He’s such a blank slate that he’s come to be known by his relationships. That’s why everyone’s constantly trying to ship him with Poe Dameron. EVERYONE Finn encounters becomes a potential love interest. Rey, Poe, Rose, Jannah. He can’t meet someone without catching feelings. I don’t know if that’s because he was snatched as a child so he never had any real nurturing, or if it’s simply bad writing. But they didn’t do my man right.

Top Posts of 2019

While my West Week Ever posts are somewhat disposable, as they don’t mean much once the week has passed, every now and then I write something that I feel is sort of “evergreen” and can be read at any time. 2019 saw the return of my fan favorite segment Thrift Justice, with a heavy focus on physical media I acquired over the year. Then there was also a healthy dose of nostalgia. Check out these posts:

Thrift Justice: Operation Kondo
Thrift Justice: Let’s Get Physical! Physical! Media!
Thrift Justice: Physical Education
The Great Sitcom Fires of the 80s & 90s
Kickin’ It Old School at Retro Con 2019
West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – I Love The 80s REMIX!

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

  • We bid adieu to HarassmentWatch(TM), as #MeToo seemed to have calmed down.
  • All Elite Wresting debuted, finally giving WWE some competition
  • My pals at the Nerd Lunch Podcast announced that their show would be winding down
  • The latest incarnation of Power Rangers, Beast Morphers, debuted
  • The X-Men film franchised limped to the finish line with Dark Phoenix
  • Aunt Becky got caught cheating to get her daughter into USC
  • The Bat Penis made an appearance in Batman: Damned #1
  • The public outcry following the debut of the Sonic: The Hedgehog trailer caused Paramount to go back and change the character’s design.
  • Taco Bell Quarterly took the literary world by storm
  • Adam Levine left The Voice – ya know, that show that has never made a household name
  • We celebrated the 30th anniversary of 1989’s Batman
  • DC Comics shuttered the critically acclaimed Vertigo imprint
  • One of my favorite shows, The Amazing World of Gumball, came to a sudden end.
  • A bunch of y’all crowdfunded a $600 Transformer, so there’s that.
  • The X-Men comics got a major overhaul by writer Jonathan Hickman
  • Verizon, which paid an estimated $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr, offloaded the site to WordPress’s parent company, Auttomatic, for a mere $20 million. At least the porn’s back.
  • Avengers: Endgame unseated Avatar to become the highest grossing movie in the world.
  • Sony opted not to renew their agreement to allow Spider-Man to be used in Marvel Studios films. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. And then they changed their mind.
  • Get ready for the purple pill, as a fourth Matrix film was announced
  • SNL made history by hiring an Asian guy, but they also hired a guy who liked to make fun of Asians. And hilarity ensued! Not really. They fired that second guy.
  • NBCUniversal announced their own streaming service, peacock, which will carry the NBC library, as well as revivals of older shows, like Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell
  • Taylor Swift released my favorite album of the year, Lover
  • McDonald’s celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal, with a strange 5-day promotion that featured shoddy reproductions of old toys.
  • John Legend was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive, and even his wife, Chrissy Teigen, is like “Huh?”
  • Disney+ showed up on the scene and changed the streaming game. It’s a wonder Disney makes any money on it, though, as it seems like there are about 6 different cheat codes to get your first year for free.
  • I counted down the top 40 songs of 2019, as decided by moi.

West Week Ever Recipients of 2019
1/11/19 – Marie Kondo
2/15/19 – HardRockNick
3/1/19 – Star Wars: Always trailer
3/8/19 – Power Rangers Beast Morphers
3/15/19 – Captain Marvel
4/5/19 – SHAZAM!
5/3/19 – Avengers: Endgame
5/17/19 – Fox Network
5/24/19 – Live In Front of a Studio Audience
6/21/19 – Blanco Brown
7/19/19 – FaceApp
7/26/19 – Marvel Entertainment
8/16/19 – Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich
8/23/19 – Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich
9/20/19 – Taylor Swift: Lover
11/15/19 – Disney+
11/22/19 – Baby Yoda
12/6/19 – Xfinity’s E.T. commercial
12/13/19 – Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer

 

So, normally we get to this point, and I add up how many things got the West Week Ever more than once, and the West YEAR Ever recipient becomes sort of obvious. That’s not the case this year. While the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich did get the WWE twice, I refuse to consider 2019 The Year of the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich. No, some special math is needed here.

If you notice, Disney made the list 5 different times (I’m not counting the Star Wars: Always entry, as that was a fan project). Disney was behind the 2 most anticipated films of the year, they tied up the Thanos Saga of the MCU deftly, and they introduced the character of the year: “Baby Yoda”. On top of those successes, they closed to deal to acquire 21st Century Fox, bringing several other franchises, such as X-Men and Alien into the Disney fold. Ya hear that? Ellen Ripley is a Disney Princess now!

So, even though those sandwiches had folks lined up around the block, they eventually lost momentum and now you can just get one whenever you want. Disney, however, is still making moves to increase their vast empire. Some think they’re evil. Some say it’s “just business”. Whatever it is, it’s hard to deny Disney’s success, which is why they had the West Year Ever in 2019.

There you have it. We can finally close the book on 2019 and start focusing on what 2020 has to offer. There’ll also be some changes on the site, but we won’t get into that too much right now. As always, thanks for reading, as Lord knows there are 1,000 other things vying for your time these days. I truly appreciate it!

03rd Jan2020

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2019

by Will

With another year behind us, that means it’s time to look back on some of the music that made an impression over those 365 days. If you remember the past WBW40 posts, then you pretty much know what you’re in for. If you’re new, I should preface this by saying I have the musical taste of a 15 year old White girl from Norfolk, Virginia. I hate genre, so a lot of these would blur the lines of certain classifications. Still, it tends to skew to what’s typically played on country stations, with some pop sprinkled in. In fact, there’s more pop this year than in recent years, so that should make a few of you happy. I’m also proud to say that we had such a full deck that nobody made the countdown twice this year. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in, shall we?

 


40. AJ McLean – Boy and A Man

Yes, it’s THAT AJ McLean, of Backstreet Boys fame. He’s taken a few stabs at solo work in the past, but nothing has really stuck. Then, in a weird roundabout way, he decided to record some country music, as he felt that the genre was more aligned with the stories he wanted to tell at this stage of his life. Still, while he debuted this song on country radio, it’d be right at home on your adult contemporary station that airs Delilah.


39. George Strait – Every Little Honky Tonk Bar

I just like this little ditty. I’m not even really a George Strait fan. I know he’s the “Elder Statesman of Country Music”, but he’s never really done it for me. In fact, I think I drunkenly walked out of his concert a few years ago. Don’t ask me how I got there… Anyway, it’s just a fun song about dive bars. Garth also released a song about the same thing this year, but this one is far superior to his!


38. Blanco Brown – The Git Up

You’re already familiar with this one, as I introduced it to my readership earlier this year, swearing it was gonna be THE family reunion line dance of the summer. Now, I can’t confirm if that was true, as I didn’t have a family reunion this year, but I’d like to think my prediction came true, somewhere out there.


37. Jon Pardi – Heartache Medication

I buried a lot of the REAL country at the bottom of the list, but since you’re reading it as a countdown, I’m probably alienating you at this point. Oh well. I like Jon Pardi because he knows what works for him. He’s either singing about hearts or boots. His big single was “Dirt on My Boots”, then he followed that up with “Heartache on the Dance Floor”, followed by “Head Over Boots”, and then he gives us “Heartache Medication”. Somebody needs to let him know there are other words in the dictionary. Anyway, it’s got a catchy chorus.


36. Justin Moore – The Ones Who Didn’t Make It Back Home

So, I actually kinda hate this song, but I thought it would be disingenuous to leave it off the list. You see, this is an example of shrewd business by Moore’s management. To use a wrestling analogy, Justin Moore is what you’d consider a midcarder in the country industry. He’s not really groomed for a championship shot, but maybe he wins the Intercontinental title on a fluke, right? So, what does he do? He releases this patriot-bait song that would make it a crime for him NOT to get the #1 song on the country charts, because that simply wouldn’t be American! All of a sudden, he’s now moved from the midcard, and is a serious contender – all because of this one, heavyhanded song for soldiers/first responders. I’m not even the most patriotic, but it can bring a tear to my eye if it catches me on the right day.


35. Jimmie Allen – Make Me Want To

I love Jimmie Allen, as I know it can’t be easy for him as a Black man trying to make it in country music. It’s not like Darius Rucker has taken him under his wing or anything. Shit, I bet when they’re at the same event, it’s like the party scene from Not Another Teen Movie. Anyway, I LOVED Jimmie’s debut single, “Best Shot”, so it pains me that this song isn’t anywhere near that song’s level of beauty. This is a fun enough song, but nothing too special. It’s the kind of thing that would’ve been buried in the middle of a late 90s boyband album. I’m not even talking *NSYNC or even 5ive. I’m talking BBMak or LFO.


34. Thomas Rhett – Remember You Young

Rhett started the year with “Look What God Gave Her”, where he pretty much just bragged about his wife and her haters. I’m so tired of him singing about his wife. We get it. You’re in love! So, he ended up making the countdown with another love song that’s not so obviously about the mother of his children. Nothing groundbreaking her, but it’s a pretty song.


33. Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend

Couldn’t have a 2019 music countdown and NOT mention Billie. I’m sure most folks would have expected “Bad Guy”, but I simply liked this one more. I’m still not entirely in love with her sound, which is sorta like if they let Harley Quinn make beats while she’s locked up in Arkham. That’s why she’s so far down the list. But I’m gonna keep an eye on her, ’cause she’s clearly going places.


32. Zac Brown Band – Someone I Used to Know

I like Zac Brown, and there’s something about this that just hits right for me. That’s pretty much it.


31. Marshmello & Bastille – Happier

I’m ashamed to say that I know this more from Kidz Bop than the actual recording, as my oldest tends to walk around singing the chorus. That’s as juvenile as this countdown will get, though, since I took “Baby Shark” off the list (What? It hit the Billboard chart this year!)


30. SHAED – Trampoline

They’re actually a local band, but I didn’t know that when I discovered the song. I like its vibe, but it’s also the kind of thing where we’ll probably never hear from them again. It’s got One-Hit Wonder quality to it. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, though.


29. George Michael – This is How (We Want You To Get High)

I already blogged about this earlier in the year, as George’s sister and father released the song. Then she died on Christmas – 3 years to the day that HE died. Ain’t that crazy?! Anyway, it seems like it would’ve been right at home on his Ladies & Gentlemen album from ’98.


28. Russell Dickerson – Every Little Thing

This was a great summer song, with its whistles and happy beat. And it was so much nicer to hear Russell sing about something other than his blue truck.


27. Mitchell Tenpenny – Drunk Me

Weird name for an artist, but a great song. Seriously, “Mitchell Tenpenny”? Is he an accountant? Or an actuary? I’ll be he’s an actuary. Anyway, I feel like this song could’ve worked just as well sung by an R&B artist.


26. Dan + Shay w/Justin Bieber – 10,000 Hours

What a surprising collaboration! I already love Dan + Shay because they’re not really country. If anything, they’re the second coming of Savage Garden, and the only reason they’re on country radio is because of the low barrier to entry. Their roots are NOT in country, and they work so well, vocally, with Bieber on this track.


25. Lauren Alaina – Ladies in the 90s

I also blogged about this one earlier in the year. Just a fun song about Lauren’s female singer role models while growing up.


24. Matt Stell – Prayed For You

You’d think that he was a Christian artist, but you’d be wrong. Sure, the song is kinda straddles that contemporary Christian line, that’s not what pays his bills. We do have one of those artists coming up, though.


23. Ingrid Andress – More Hearts Than Mine

I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it, as Ingrid is warning her boyfriend that he shouldn’t get too attached, as their potential breakup would end up hurting more people than just her. My wife hates that sentiment, as she said it’s not the guy’s fault if her family’s all clingy and gets attached to him. Still, as someone who’s been in that situation, I completely understand where the song’s coming from.


22. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Every time I listen to The Weeknd, I ask myself “Why don’t I listen to more stuff from The Weeknd?” So much of what he puts out sounds like it was unearthed from an 80s time capsule, and that’s right up my alley. This one doesn’t disappoint in that department.


21. Ryan Hurd – To A T

Oh, such great wordplay in this song! I was afraid that Hurd was just gonna end up being known as Mr. Maren Morris, but I’m glad to see he’s carving out a niche of his own. There’s a clear Jason Mraz influence here, and I like it.


20. Miranda Lambert – It All Comes Out In the Wash

Somebody needs to bring that Dixie Chicks fire that’s been missing from the boys’ club of country music, and this single from Miranda does just that.


19. Blake Shelton – God’s Country

Blake’s in an interesting place in his career, where he just kinda tosses out singles every few months just to remind folks that he’s more than just a coach on The Voice. Some of them never really even chart, but he does it to keep his country dues paid up. Every now and then, one of them actually has something to it, and this is one of the best. I love the chorus, where he pretty much takes us right up to the church door without leading us in. Still, it’s like you can hear the choir from the other side of the doors.


18. Luke Bryan – Knockin’ Boots

Speaking of reality show judges, America has gotten to know Luke Bryan as a judge on ABC’s American Idol reboot, and I don’t know if that’s been the greatest thing for his career. I say that because it’s almost like he’s changed songwriters now that he’s in the spotlight, and his song choices just ain’t that great lately. That said, I like the swing of this track. It’s hokey, and kinda like the joke of how all American fads reach Europe late, here you wonder why country music is just picking up on “knockin’ boots”.


17. Luke Combs – Beer Never Broke My Heart

Remember the midcarder conversation about Justin Moore? Well, sometimes someone comes out of the developmental territories, and you just know that’s gonna be The Guy. That’s Luke Combs. It’s clear that the industry expects big things from him, and everything he touches is a hit. Now, he did release “Even Though I’m Leaving” this year, which I thought was something of sappy low point for him, I LOVE this song. The chorus is just built for drunken singalongs.


16. Lee Brice – Rumor

Ooh, the blues influence here is incredible, and I’m glad to see that Brice has this kind of range in him. More like this!


15. Harry Styles – Adore You

This was something of a late entry, as Harry’s album just came out a few weeks ago, but this song really left an impression on me. It reminds me of the kind of stuff we’d get from Timberlake before he had a kid and lost all of the sexy he’d painstakingly brought back.


14. Michael Ray – One That Got Away

This is just a fun singalong song. I don’t know what else Michael has in the chamber, but I hope it’s more like this.


13. Maren Morris – The Bones

Maren’s really got the crossover appeal, thanks to Target featuring her in a lot of their ad campaigns. Her biggest song of the year was probably “GIRL”, but this is my favorite song from the album of the same name.


12. Chris Young – Raised On Country

Yeah, I know I know. Y’all hate country, but this song speaks to me. You see, I, too, was raised on country. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, as my mom listened to the blues, but from the age of 4 to 11, I listened to nothing but country. I think Ace of Base was what ushered me into the world of pop. So I can relate to this song.


11. Lizzo – Juice

I was late to the Lizzo train, and I’m still not fully aboard, but I’m thinking of buying a ticket. I heard this in Target and it stuck with me. Immediately came home to hear it again.


10. Backstreet Boys – Chances

If you weren’t looking for it, you’d probably never know that the Backstreet Boys released an album last year. In fact, it was released during such a new release drought that it debuted at #1 – their first #1 album in 19 years! Still, the whole thing was kinda terrible as, for whatever reason, they didn’t work with Max Martin, who was responsible for basically every one of their hits. So, this is probably the best song from that album, which shows they’ve still got vocal chops.


09. Lauren Daigle – You Say

Remember when Debbe Boone would sing about God but you thought it was about a lover? Well, get a load of this, as Lauren here is actually a Christian artist, but the song gets play on adult contemporary stations as a love song. It works both ways, but it just drives home the fact that contemporary Christian music has some of the best melodies out there.


08. Old Dominion – One Man Band

On the production side, this is a simple song, but it hits in all the right ways.


07. Jonas Brothers – Sucker

I was never a JoBro fan, but this song got a ton of airplay earlier this year, and it was impossible to escape it. While I never got into their old stuff, I dig their new sound. Marriage has done them some good!


06. Chris Lane – I Don’t Know About You

I love the picture this song paints. “What’s your wrist tattoo Bible verse say?” That is SUCH a type!


05. Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes

I kinda stumbled into this song because I think Panic!’s Brandon Urie sounds a lot like Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy. So, I thought Stump had a new song when it was actually Urie. Still, I love that sound, so the song stuck with me.


04. Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved

I had heard this song, and I had heard the name Lewis Capaldi, but I didn’t realize this song was BY Lewis Capaldi. Great ballad here, and I need to check out more of his work.


03. Morgan Wallen – Whiskey Glasses

I am SUCH a Morgan Wallen stan, ever since “The Way I Talk”, followed by “Up Down”. The play on words here is great, and this ended up being one of my favorite songs of the year.


02. Lady Antebellum – What If I Never Get Over You

If we’re doing the genre thing, this was my favorite song by a country artist. It was ALMOST my favorite of the year, overall, but we’ll get to that. It’s just got such beautiful harmonies, as Lady A brought their A game to this one.


01. Taylor Swift feat Brandon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – ME!

It was hard to narrow down to just ONE Taylor Swift song to put on this countdown. Her album, Lover, was my favorite album of 2019, but it’s also not really fair to boast about that, as I didn’t listen to a ton of albums. What really made it stand out, however, was the fact that I loved pretty much every track on that thing. It’s got everything from peppy pop like this one to vaporwave tracks. Ms. Swift really outdoes herself on that album, but the standout to me was this song because it’s just so FUN. Not to mention the fact that Brandon Urie, from Panic!, shows up with his Patrick Stump soundalike vocals. That just sealed the deal for me.

So, there you have it. My favorite songs of 2019. Which were your faves? Did you discover anything new here? Leave a comment below!

13th Dec2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/13/19

by Will

In a rare family moment, we all sat down to watch The Grinch last weekend. My wife had actually taken our oldest to see it in the theater last year, but the kid fell asleep during the second half. In all, it’s a cute little movie, if not a bit short. I don’t really make a tradition of watching holiday stuff every year, so I haven’t seen How The Grinch Stole Christmas in forever. I do know that most of this Cindy Lou Who stuff was new, ’cause you’ve gotta do something to fill 85 minutes. I didn’t realize Cumberbatch was The Grinch until my wife looked it up, and then it was obvious. He was using that same “normalized” American accent that Hugh Laurie used as Dr. House. And I loved Kenan Thompson as Brinklebaum. I do have questions, though. If The Grinch isn’t a Who, then WHAT is he? And why is he green? Is this explained in some other part of the Dr Seuss Shared Universe? I didn’t grow up on those books, so someone enlighten me. Anyway, other than It’s A Wonderful Life, we don’t really have Christmas viewing traditions, but I could easily watch this again in the future.

So, this week saw the start of the highly anticipated 5-part Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover on The CW. The first 3 parts aired over Sunday through Tuesday night, with the final 2 parts slated to air in about 4 weeks. Clearly a love letter to fans of DC Comics, the event pulled characters and actors from all over, including Burt Ward (Batman ’66), Robert Wuhl (Batman ’89), Tom Welling (Smallville) and more. Those cameos were woven into the ongoing stories of the individual Arrowverse series, much to the crossover’s detriment in my opinion. I really wanted to like it. I mean, I truly did. That said, it really felt like a cheap fan film –  probably because the costumes of ancillary characters look like bad cosplay (looking at you, Vibe). Here are my random, SPOILERY thoughts, in no particular order:

  • I can’t imagine this was accessible to newcomers. I’m the most casual of Arrowverse fans these days, and I probably only understood about 30% of the non-Crisis stuff going on.
  • Speaking of not being able to follow things, Tom Kavanaugh is on, like, his 4th character in this franchise, right? Is he some producer’s uncle or something?
  • There was WAY too much Supergirl drama going on in Part One to really be able to focus on the fact that the world was ending.
  • I haven’t seen Supergirl since season 1, but that Braniac dude is obnoxious as Hell. I know they represent “the audience”, but why do these shows always have that grating fanboyish character who has to explain everything to the “noobs”?
  • I’m sorry, but I didn’t watch 12 seasons of Two and a Half Men to accept Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor. He’s just hammy in the role, and not in that “good” way. I just can’t take him seriously.
  • I’ve never watched Batwoman, and after Ruby Rose’s performance, I don’t see myself starting any time soon.
  • Ya know, for all the fanfare about Batman: The Animated Series voice actor Kevin Conroy starring as Batman, he didn’t really SOUND like Batman.
  • All the deaths were corny, from Oliver to Bruce to Flash ’90. They were without emotion, and made soap opera deaths look Oscar worthy.
  • Man, I thought I disliked Erica Durance as Lois Lane in Smallville, but I REALLY don’t like the Arrowverse Lois.
  • I always liked Brandon Routh as Superman, and felt he just got shafted with a bad movie. It was great to see him back in the suit here, but, as Clark, it looked like he was wearing his father’s ill-fitting suit.
  • Seeing Hoechlin next to Routh really drove home just how much of a Great Value Superman the Arrowverse has.
  • I love they pretty much had to come up with a “He gave up his powers” excuse to justify Welling’s midlife, lumberjack body.
  • More happened in the Batwoman ep than the Supergirl ep, and that’s still not saying much. Meanwhile, did you know that when this aired in the UK, they had to skip the Batwoman episode because no broadcaster in the UK has the rights to the show? Womp womp.
  • Who did the Gotham producers piss off that Lucifer got a cameo but no one from their show did?
  • So that it doesn’t seem like I’m completely shitting on the whole enterprise, it is cool how they pretty much wove a tapestry of everything that came before and after Arrow into the Multiverse. I know we’re not supposed to talk about it anymore, but it’s basically HyperTime. “Everything counts”.
  • The best acting, and actual genuine emotion, came courtesy of Jefferson “Black Lightning” Pierce. Never thought I’d type that sentence!
  • Speaking of Black Lightning, we got the Black Guy Head Nod between him and Diggle. Let that sink in for a minute, though. We do it because we’ve been through the same shit, and are acknowledging that with each other when we meet. But, in this case, it means in MULTIPLE universes, we STILL go through the SAME shit to make the nod even necessary. Slavery, Inequality, The Struggle. Except the Earth with Black Superman. That’s heavy.
  • Did these episodes really need a Kevin Smith-hosted aftershow to break down what we just saw? I get that DC/WB wanted us to think this was EPIC but the product they delivered fell short of that.
  • That was NOT an ending that’s gonna keep me on my toes for the next 4 weeks. Everyone swore this would have some amazing cliffhanger, but they were wrong.

At the end of the day, it’s a cool experiment, but I was mostly bored. It couldn’t hold my attention most of the time, and had I watched it nightly, instead of in one fell swoop in one night, I probably would’ve dropped it after Part One. It’s got 2 more episodes to stick the landing, but I’m not holding my breath.

Trailer Park



Wonder Woman 1984

Remember last week, when I said that the Black Widow trailer really didn’t move the needle for me? Well, along came this trailer, which basically said “Hold my tranquilizer”. I love “Blue Monday” and the 80s aesthetic. Gadot is great in the role, and I love Kristen Wiig, but I didn’t walk away from this, just needing to see this movie. And Steve is just…back? Was he frozen in ice for 40 years? I was kinda hoping they would be brave, and take a page from the Wonder Woman TV series, saying that this is actually Steve Jr, played by the same guy (like Lyle Waggoner in the series). Instead this seems to be Steve Sr? I dunno. I know we’ll get at least 2 more trailers, so I hope they’re better than what we got here.


Like A Boss

This seems like it should be funnier than it is. I’d like to think they saved the best stuff for the movie, but that’s not how these trailers work. I know she’s polarizing, but I watched this and couldn’t help but think “Melissa McCarthy could’ve saved this movie.” Keep Haddish, because I know she’s the new hotness in Holywood, but replace either Rose Byrne or Salma Hayek with McCarthy, and this would probably be a good movie. As it stands, it doesn’t look like much.


Free Guy

Fun trailer, and who doesn’t love Ryan Reynolds? That said, I’m not enough of a modern gamer to truly appreciate what’s going on here. Back in my day, a Non Playable Character was a damn turtle, or a dog that laughed at you. I never immersed myself into the GTAs and CoDs enough to really “get” what’s going on here. Plus, Reynolds has joined the ranks of actors, such as Bruce Willis and Vince Vaughn, where he’s cultivated a character that he now plays in every comedic role. You could say he’s been doing it since Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, but it’s been refined over the past 20 years to where he doesn’t really have to try anymore. He struck gold by cranking it up to 11 for Deadpool, and now he can easily coast on a 7 if he has to. Yeah, I’ll catch this one when it hits FX.



Nora from Queens
(Comedy Central)

Speaking of polarizing, apparently some folks don’t like Awkwafina. I’m not one of those people, however, so this looks good to me. I know we’re losing an Asian-American sitcom when Fresh Off the Boat ends this season, and while this won’t “take its place”, it’s still another option in the marketplace.


Stargirl (DC Universe/The CW)

Yay, another Arrowverse show. I think I’m beginning to feel about the Arrowverse the way those Snyder Cut fanatics feel about the MCU. Enough already! Still, this actually looks kinda cool, but I look at Luke Wilson and think “How’d you end up on The CW?” Then I remember it’s not exactly true. You see, this show was developed for the DC Universe streaming service, but since that service seems to be on its last legs, an interesting deal was struck: episodes will debut on DC Universe, and then air on The CW the following night. This trailer, however, doesn’t seem to want the stink of DC Universe on this show, so they just cleverly forgot the whole “The CW is actually airing reruns” aspect. Anyway, as far as demographics go, this should fall right into The CW’s sweet spot, as it will appeal to Arrowverse fans AND teen girls.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Apparently the sequel to SHAZAM! is slated to be released on 4/1/22. Ya know, if this isn’t some long-range April Fool’s joke.
  • Speaking of release dates, it was announced that the 4th Matrix movie and John Wick 4 will be released on the same day: May 21st, 2021.
  • Batista and the nWo have been announced as members of the 2020 class of the WWE Hall of Fame. I had a great conversation on Twitter about whether or not Batista is really a Hall of Famer.
  • William Shatner, 88, filed for divorce from his fourth wife after 18 years of marriage. How bad is your marriage when you file for divorce at 88?! It’s a wash by that point. You going back out on the prowl? You really don’t want her eulogizing you? What is it?
  • In the Year of our Lord 2019, Nick Cannon is still poking the bear with Eminem. It’s funny that Nick’s still trying to defend the honor of a woman who doesn’t even want his ass anymore.
  • At last night’s Game Awards, the XBox Series X was teased for a Fall 2020 release. With a name like that, I can only assume it has more boobs, and maybe a little bush.
  • Though the writing was on the wall with the announcement of Jeph Loeb’s departure, it was announced this week that Marvel Television will be folded into Marvel Studios, with Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige taking over.
  • ABC is doing another Live In Front of a Studio Audience special next Wednesday, this time tackling episodes of All in the Family and Good Times. The All in the Family cast is the same as last time (Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, etc), while the Good Times cast is new, including Viola Davis and Andre Braugher.


I’ll bet you were looking for it in Trailer Park, but it’s actually got the coveted spot this week. You see, growing up, I was hardcore into Ghostbusters. You wouldn’t know it now, because that part of my brain has been occupied by Power Rangers trivia the past 26 years and, in the age of the Internet, TRUE GB fanatics arose, making my fandom look like nothing.

The thing is, however, I wasn’t ever really into the things that modern day fans feel were “Peak Ghostbusters“. For example, I don’t really revere that first movie, and I kinda prefer the sequel, if only because local Fox affiliate, Channel 5 (shout out WTTG!) used to air Ghostbusters II about every 8 weeks when I was growing up. I’ve just seen it more than the original recipe, so it came to mean more.

No, my fandom was based primarily in the toys and the cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters. In fact, it was that very cartoon that sort of stoked my love of continuity when it actually acknowledged that Janine’s look had changed over the seasons, and provided an in-story reason for that besides chalking it up to “The animators were getting bored”. My love was reignited in ’97, when Extreme Ghostbusters hit syndication. I watched every episode while getting ready for *high school* every morning, and I squeeed during the series finale 2-parter, when the original team came back to meet the new team.

As for the toys, I had the proton pack, the trap, the firehouse, Ecto-1 – all of which I still have to this day. I never really lost my love of the franchise, but I kinda didn’t really feel “worthy” around folks who can quote the movies word for word (and keep in mind, the movies aren’t *my* Ghostbusters). When it comes to live action, I’m still waiting for something to come along that piques my interest. There was Ghostbusters 2016, with the female team, which should’ve been right up my alley, as I love the cast AND the director. Still, I’ve owned it for years, but have never taken the time to watch it, since public sentiment towards it is so negative. We saw a lot of the worst sides of the fandom then, and I think it’s what made me shut down the containment unit for good.

Then this trailer popped up, and brought it all rushing back. What, exactly, was I watching? This wasn’t the theatrical Ghostbusters I’d grown up on, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I HATE movie speculation, but I immediately found myself on a Facebook thread with some friends trying to decipher what we’d seen. How was Egon old enough to have grandkids? Does this movie retcon Ghosbusters II? Is Paul Rudd no longer playing Dana Barrett’s grown kid, Oscar, which is a role that had been rumored for years? Are we sure it’s even Egon we’re talking about here? I mean, sure, his actor is no longer with us, but moving to a farmhouse with the Ecto-1 sounds really “Ray” to me.  And is the world in Ghostbusters basically like the Marvel Universe, in that everything happens in NYC, and doesn’t really affect the rest of the world? I mean, 30 years ago, there was PROOF OF GHOSTS, and now it’s just forgotten about in Middle America?

Anyway, it’s safe to say that I’m interested and on board. I’ll acknowledge that it didn’t do it for everyone, as a lot of folks complained “They got Stranger Things in my Ghostbusters!” Sure, I get that there’s a kid element to this film, with Finn Wolfhard, but we don’t yet know that they save the day. For now, we just know they go for a joyride, and play with a thrower that they totally don’t understand. I’d find it kinda hard to believe if they end up taking out the ghosts with no real guidance or training (even the Extreme Ghostbusters had training), but I feel like there’s a lot they can’t show us yet, so I’ll trust in the process.

Move over, “Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?”, ’cause there’s a new question on the block: Was Ghostbusters a Comedy? Bigger fans than myself have pointed out that it was apparently never intended to be a comedy, but rather a horror movie with comedic elements. Meanwhile, there’s the camp that swears it’s one of the greatest comedies of the decade. I haven’t really taken a side on that one because, as I said, I prefer the sequel, and it was clearly a comedy. I think its clear comedic approach is why folks don’t think it’s a worthwhile successor to the original. I guess it needed to be a bit more nebulous in its intentions.

In any case, I’ve got a fever, and the only cure for it is new Ghostbusters. I’m cautiously optimistic, and longtime readers know it’s a lot easier for me to shit on something that be optimistic, so I’m trying here. That’s why the Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer had the West Week Ever.

15th Nov2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/15/19

by Will

HELLO?! IS ANYBODY HERE?! *echo*

 

I feel like I go on hiatus way too much because I find myself apologizing for having done so way too much. This year, West Year Ever is gonna be pretty easy to compile since I took off, like, 1/3 of the year. Seriously, I even considered switching the format to West Month Ever for a while.

So, where have I been? That’s a great question. Long story short: I had nothing to say. Or, better yet, I had nothing positive to say. And you know the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice…” Sure, there was plenty of stuff to rant about, but I couldn’t balance it out with anything I *LIKED*, and that was a problem. The internet is toxic enough, so I really didn’t feel like feeding into that. So, I spent my time catching up on Power Rangers: Beast Morphers episodes, and trying to clean up my basement. There were times when I was on the verge of posting something, and then life would throw a monkey wrench into my plans. One week, I was working at the work site that has my site blocked, so no posting then. Another week, I was in a car accident and had my car battery die (resulting in a 2.5 hour wait for AAA), all in the same Friday. So, I guess I was just supposed to skip the month of October.

This week, though, couldn’t be skipped because just TOO much happened, and it felt like the perfect time to make my grand return.

In the movie realm, I got around to watching White Chicks the other day. No, I’d never seen it, even though I know it’s a guilty pleasure for a lot of folks. At the end of the day, I didn’t love it. I mean, it’s problematic in a way that only a movie from 2004 could get away with, but I also didn’t find it to be that funny. It could be because we’ve sort of left the era of the socialite behind. Sure, the Kardashians are always considered “famous for being famous”, but they’ve built a business empire upon that. Outside the Hadid girls, we don’t really have the Paris & Nicole Simple Life era socialites anymore, even if we still have spoiled, rich White girls. To be honest, though, I probably would’ve preferred a movie about the Dominican bodega owners that Shawn and Marlon are disguised as in the beginning. I’ll also note that I watched this thing on TV One, so it was probably edited for television with all the good stuff taken out. For you fans out there, is it worth revisiting in, say, an unrated DVD sort of way?

One thing that took the past week by storm was the McDonalds Happy Meal 40th anniversary promotion, and BOY do I have thoughts on that! Designed as a limited run from November 7th through 11th, the promotion first leaked from some YouTuber posting about it. Then, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula tweeted about it, at which point he said McDonalds “kindly” asked him to take down the tweet. Then McDonalds formally announced it: for 5 days only, they would be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal by releasing reproductions of some of their most iconic toys. Oh, and in blind bags.

Let me tell you a little bit of my own history with McDonalds Happy Meal toys, as I was once something of a superfan. This is where my collecting lifestyle began. When there was a new promotion, it was my weekend mission to get my mom to drive us all over town so I could complete those sets. This went on from about Kindergarten to maybe 8th grade. I got to a point where I was modding Happy Meal orders to come with Big Macs and Quarter Pounders with Cheese (I was a “husky”, hungry child) until some employee eventually told me “You know, you can just BUY the toys.” That’s when I moved the to the Extra Value Menu, occasionally shelling out an additional $1.89 for Happy Meal toys. So I had the originals of everything in this anniversary promotion. I would have liked a proper tribute to those old toys, but this wasn’t it.

OK, so here’s the first problem: why reproductions? I know you’re all not like me, spending all your free time in thrift stores, but lemme tell ya something: McDonalds toys are NOT hard to find. Plus I feel like there’s got to be some sort of McDonalds Area 51 with a stockpile of old toys they could’ve drawn from. Even if this doesn’t exist (prove me wrong, cowards!), they could’ve really made this special in other ways. Maybe team up with the American Pickers guys, and have them go out and find some dead stock for them to use. It’d make a great special episode of the show, and it would look like some kind of effort went into it. It could’ve been a yearlong buildup, with webisodes and whatnot. Instead, we get this lame promotion that was shoehorned into a week that McDonalds needed to fill between the Hello Kitty/Pokémon promotion and the Frozen II promotion.

Next problem: blind bagged, though numbered. Why act like it’s such a surprise about what you’ll get when everyone knows there are 17 in the US (#9, believed to be a Barbie, was pulled from the promotion before it began), and the numbers are right there on the polybags? It’s not “blind” if you can read numbers. And I’m not talking some sort of secret Braille code, like the LEGO minifigures use. I’m talking a clear as day number, right on the front, that corresponds to a checklist that most social media influencers posted online after they received a promo shipment from McDonalds. When I didn’t get a special box from McDonalds, that’s when I knew I wasn’t shit.

When the toys actually hit, the third problem became apparent: cheap, inaccurate reproductions. The new toys weren’t as well made as the originals, and they all had 2019 date stamps so as to not confuse folks into thinking they were the vintage toys. A lot of strange decisions had been made. The Changeables burger was no longer a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, as both the cheese and sesame seeds had been removed from the mold. And the one that really grinds my gears: the Red Power Ranger. It’s bad enough McDonalds included this thing when the Power Rangers figures were NOT Happy Meal toys (they were add-on items that you could buy for $1.99 each when the original movie was in theaters), but this Red Ranger they’d included only had one arm and one leg that moved, while the opposite limbs were fixed. Why?! Then they included Bugs Bunny from Space Jam, which was odd because A) I wouldn’t call that promotion “iconic” and B) the gimmick of that toy line was that the different characters were on pieces of basketball court that you assembled into something akin to a train. One toy from the line was kind of boring, but to have them all was sort of special. Here, you got one toy. It’d be like if they had just given you one piece of the Inspector Gadget build a figure promotion. What the Hell are you gonna do with ONE piece?!

Anyway, I found myself on the wrong side of history on this one because the nostalgia bloggers were eating it up. I, however, didn’t get it. Surprisingly, even my wife was like “We’re gonna get Happy Meals every day!” I understand the nostalgia factor, but it just felt so poorly executed. Since the promotion was only 5 days long, restaurants got limited stock and a lot of them seemed to have depleted that stock before the 11th even hit. Plus, I can’t believe that McDonalds contracted factories all the way in China to make such subpar repros for this promotion, especially when the marketing department seemingly screwed the pooch. If you enjoyed it, great, but something just felt rushed and disorganized about the whole thing. Here’s hoping they do a better job for the 50th anniversary, but we’ll be so “woke” by then that Happy Meals will be a salad and a toothbrush.

In the world of comics, there was a lot of hubbub about Jonathan Hickman becoming the new architect of the X-Men line. Everything kicked off in the companion series House of X and Powers of X, which were released weekly over the summer. These led to the release of a new X-Men #1, which I grabbed at a midnight release party (Thanks, Third Eye Comics!).

Now, I had read House of X #1 and thought “Interesting start, but I’m not paying $6 a week for this story.” So, I skipped those minis and dove right into the first issue of the ongoing. And my verdict? These aren’t my X-Men. I like the X-Men who are hated and feared, but always recharge after a huge battle by playing baseball at their school in Westchester county. Hickman’s X-Men, however, has too many moving parts, and I’m not on board with a lot of it.

In a lot of ways, Hickman’s vision is basically just a remix of what Grant Morrison brought to the line when he took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and it became New X-Men. Both share the premise that mutants now have the upper hand, causing frightened humanity to go to desperate measures to prevent their own extinction. It’s an interesting viewpoint, but it’s one where I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. With X-Men, sometimes that takes years (see: Emma Frost), but to paraphrase Karl Mordo, “The bill comes due. Always.”

I have always felt that the life cycle of superhero comic fandom is about 15 years, because audiences cycle in and out, but that’s about how long it takes for Been There, Done That to set in. I feel like I’ve seen this before, and that just might be a sign that my time with Charles Xavier’s mutants is up. Maybe folks are into that sort of journey, but I don’t wanna stay on this ride.

While I was away from blogging, I was still keeping busy, running my mouth on a few podcasts. First up, I recorded a look back on Batman ’89 with my pal Chad at the Horror Movie BBQ back over the summer, and he never told me that the episode was posted. I’d been over here, stewing for the last 5 months, that he had yet another unreleased episode with me (We recorded an Adam West tribute a while back that devolved into chaos and has never seen the light of day), meanwhile it had been on his site the whole time. So, sorry about that, Chad. It was a good discussion, though, as I talk about my Bat Amnesia and more, so check it out!

Next, I joined the guys over at Nerd Lunch for the final “Ned Lurch” episode. As they prepare to “sunset” their show, they’re taking one last stab at some of their themes, and Ned Lurch is a guy whose friends and advisors are constantly giving him bad business advice, in an attempt to see him fail. In our episode, Ned is talked into launching the worst action figure line ever. Check it out, as I give the worst improv performance you’d ever expect from me, but it was a fun show. Speaking of improv, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how I actually auditioned for the improv group in college. Yeah, there was a period of time when I was bored with a cappella and wanted to try something different. The problem with that plan, though, was that group was led by my girlfriend’s ex boyfriend. At least I made it to the final round, though…

Finally, get ready for the Christmas season by listening to me talk about everyone’s favorite “That’s Not a Christmas Movie!” No, not Die Hard. Instead, podcast extraordinaire, Michael May, had me on his Sleigh Bell Cinema show to discuss Iron Man 3. The same way you’ve got to look at Superman III as “Hey, it’s a Richard Pryor movie, featuring Superman”, you’ve got to do some mental gymnastics with this one, as well. What do I think about Tony Stark’s final solo outing? Take a listen to find out!

Trailer Park


Sonic the Hedgehog

I can’t deny that he looks better now, but I loathe the precedent this movie set. In case you don’t remember, the original design for Sonic had fans so outraged that the backlash to the initial trailer led the studio to delay the film and retool Sonic’s look. On the one hand, folks are like “Great job for listening to the fans!” Meanwhile, I’m over here, like, “Ugh, you listened to FANS!” Half the time fans don’t know what they want, and they tend to stick to the familiar because they hate change. That’s fine. I also dislike change. That said, this movie was never going to be a blockbuster, but now folks feel guilty that they have to support it since they raised such a stink. But you see, the internet is full of folks who love a good fight with no vested interest. A lot of the people the most upset about Sonic’s design were never going to see the movie in the first place. So, was the redesign worth it or in vain? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


SCOOB!

Is this basically a reboot of A Pup Named Scooby Doo? ‘Cause I was ALL about that era in the 90s when everyone got a “Lil” version of their franchise. The Flintstone Kids, Life with Louie, Hell, even Little Rosey (who’da thunk they would’ve given a cartoon to Roseanne?! But they did). I won’t be seeing this in theaters, but I’ll totally grab it on Black Friday for my girls.


Holiday Rush

This looks kinda cute. You don’t get a ton of Black Christmas movies, and I’m a fan of Romany Falco. The beauty of this is that I’d never go see this in a theater, not even if the tickets were free, but I can watch dude hit on First Officer Michael Burnham, while sitting at home in my underwear? Sure, I’ll buy that for a dollar!


Harley Quinn

Looks fun. Still not signing up for the DC Universe service. There’s got to be a plan to rehome these shows on HBO Max going forward, as the existence of DCU is making less sense by the day. They could repurpose that site to be a purely comic hub, like Marvel has Marvel Unlimited, but it doesn’t make sense to keep the shows on there, especially when Warner Media is trying to brand HBO Max as THE streaming portal for their catalog. So, I’ll watch this when I eventually cave and get HBO Max, since Rick & Morty will probably be exclusive to that service by 2025 or something.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Legend was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive, and even his wife, Chrissy Teigen, is like “Huh?” I mean, he seems nice enough, but kinda soft. Then again, he’s a former collegiate a cappella kid, so I guess I’ve gotta support him in this endeavor.
  • Not content to stand on the sidelines of the upcoming Streaming Wars, Nickelodeon has signed a deal with Netflix to develop movies and shows based on their properties. Personally, I can’t wait for Are You Afraid of the Black Mirror?
  • The sand might be running out of the hourglass for one of your grandma’s “stories”, as the entire cast of Days of Our Lives has been released from their contracts. Many feel this is a negotiation tactic by the show’s producer, Corday Productions, as they head into contract negotiations. Worst case scenario is everyone is fired and they all get recast. Best case scenario is everyone is rehired, but now at a lower, take it or leave it, rate negotiated in new contracts. Despite the fact that soap operas are a relic of the past, NBC seems committed to providing a home for Days for the foreseeable future.
  • For a brief moment this week, folks thought that Ecto Cooler’s return had been confirmed, coinciding with the release of next year’s Ghostbusters film. That shit turned out to be fake, though. Ya know, until it’s not.
  • As if Constance Wu’s Twitter rant last Spring was going to be forgiven so easily, ABC confirmed that this season of Fresh Off the Boat would be its last. Cute show, but everyone seemed ready to move on, and they’ll all be fine. I know the show was symbolic as the longest running Asian American sitcom, but there will be others. One day. Hopefully.
  • Rick & Morty came back to Adult Swim this week, and I…didn’t love it. Probably because I hadn’t seen this episode 37 times like I have the others. No, seriously, it airs daily and there are only about 30 episodes. It only takes a month to run through the existing 3 seasons. I’ve seen this show more than anything else on TV and I’m not even a superfan. Maybe I’ll grow to love this season.
  • Three year after his death, George Michael’s estate released “This Is How (We Want You To Get High)” for the Last Christmas soundtrack. I’m a sucker for both George Michael AND songs with parentheses in their names, so this song is a hit to me!

  • After it was first announced, like, 10 years ago, The Rock’s Black Adam movie finally got a release date: December 22, 2021. Too bad it’s never gonna happen.
  • I know y’all claim you don’t like country, but I know some like Halsey, and here she guested with Lady Antebellum on one of my favorite songs of the year at this week’s CMA Awards.

  • Screw it. Here’s another amazing performance from the CMAs, from Dan + Shay:

  • Music industry supervillain Scooter Braun recently purchased Taylor Swift’s back catalog, and won’t allow her to perform a medley of her past hits as she receives an achievement award at the American Music Awards. Dick move, but a powerful move.

Well, you couldn’t swing a dead cat online this week without hitting something having to do with Disney+. The anticipated streaming service launched Tuesday, and it’s all anyone can talk about. The launch, however, wasn’t without its hiccups. For one thing, they didn’t allow you to download the app until launch day, so there was no testing to make sure all your ducks were in a row before the big day. Also, a lot of people got error screens when trying to watch their desired selection. That said, it’s a repository of a HUGE amount of Disney programming – from Star Wars to Disney Channel Original Movies – and all for a mere $6.99 per month.

I am not a Disney evangelist, so this wasn’t exactly the Second Coming to me that it was for some folks. Regular readers know I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Fox buyout, but I’ve got kids, and kids like Disney, so I got Disney+. In fact, I have TWO accounts! You see, I signed up on Monday to make sure we were good to go, but then I remembered that, as an unlimited data Verizon customer, I actually get a year of the service for free. So, we had my wife sign up that way, and then I just need to remember to cancel my trial before they charge me on Tuesday. Hell, I probably should be doing that instead of writing this. I need that $70! Oh well, I said I wanted to live dangerously…

Despite the minor gripes that folks have had, including series episodes being out of order and the constant error screens, I feel the roll out could’ve been MUCH worse. I think the demand for the service exceeded even Disney’s expectations (with a reported 10 million sign ups), I think things settled down rather quickly. Folks online began to post the “true” viewing order for episodes, and the error screens decreased.

Another pseudo controversial aspect is that they’ve added disclaimers to properties, like Dumbo, stating that they contain outdated views and representations. Some folks feel like those programs shouldn’t be on the service at all, but I disagree. At least Disney is owning up to its past, and making it something of a teachable moment. With the disclaimers, they can have their cake and eat it, too. That said, it’s just gonna rile up the “Where’s Song of the South?!” crowd even more. Personally, I think Disney handled this the right way, but you can’t please everyone, and you can barely please anyone in 2019.

The biggest show at launch was undoubtedly the Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian. I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, and it clocks in at only 38 minutes. Score! Hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend. Meanwhile, everyone else on social media was posting about the first thing they watched after setting up the service. I’ve got a big audit at work today, so didn’t have time to play around with things myself. My oldest, however, watched Frozen, like we don’t already have 3 copies of that thing around this house somewhere. I’ve got to remind myself that it’s just $6.99, and not a total waste of money. Wait. It’s free. Whatever. She can watch Frozen all day long, ’cause that ain’t costing me a dime!

Anyway, after my long hiatus, I think I can dust off the title, and present it to Disney+, which clearly had the West Week Ever.

27th Sep2019

Kickin’ It Old School at Retro Con 2019

by Will

That’s right, folks – we’re putting West Week Ever back on the shelf this week for me to, instead, regale you with my trip up to Oakes, PA two weeks ago for Retro Con 2019. Now, this was far from my first trip to Retro Con, as it’s been something of an almost annual excursion for me since around 2012. Oh, wait. You haven’t heard of Retro Con? Well, the official website describes it as a pop culture and memorabilia show catering to anything considered “retro”, especially the 80’s! Transformers, Star Wars, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, He-man, classic video games, etc.. We’ve got 215+ tables of collectibles and art for sale, special guests, video games, a costume contest, raffles, a trivia contest, panels, replica props, and much more! Basically if you answer “yes” to the questions “Do you like old toys” AND “Do you wonder what happened to that character actor who was on The Fall Guy that one time?”, then Retro Con is the place for you!

I’m not trying to knock their guests, but they certainly are not the draw for this show. The guest list tends to be comprised of voice actors from classic 80s cartoons, and they had a couple of guys from The A-Team last year (ya know, the ones who either aren’t Mr. T or dead). Throw in an old school WWF wrestler who never really held a belt (in the past, Sgt Slaughter; this year, Hacksaw Jim Duggan), and you’ve got the Retro Con guest list!

No, if you’re making the trek to Oakes, PA, then you’re headed there for the TRUE stars of the show: the collectibles! The show never disappoints, and it is THE destination for anyone looking to fill some holes in their vintage collection. While you’ll still find convention mainstays, like Funko Pops and seriously overpriced vintage comics, you’ll also find guys with bins who’ll practically say “Make me an offer ’cause I don’t want this shit in my garage anymore.” I will say, though, that the sliding timeline of what it means for something to be “vintage” sort of changed the makeup of what was available for sale. For one thing, there were fewer G.I. Joes and Transformers, and a LOT more Power Rangers. While there were recent Rangers, the sweet spot of what was there were the toys from Mighty Morphin‘s peak, around ’94-’95. Also, the bootleg video guys have upgraded to Blu Ray, which is somewhat puzzling, since that just means their substandard rips are just gonna look like shit in High Definition. Still, there was cool stuff to be found on the showroom floor, so sit back and take a gander at my award winning* cell phone photography!

As the original 8′ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers figures were almost impossible to find for most early collectors, the 5.5″ Auto Morphin line (disgustingly referred to as “Head Flippers” by some Troglodytes) became the line that most people flocked to. Flick the morpher on their belt, and the human head would flip into the figure’s chest to reveal a helmeted head. I always thought that was a concept that had originated with Bandai of America for the US line, and had no idea that Bandai of Japan had used the same feature on the figures for Chouriki Sentai Ohranger (which would be later adapted here as Power Rangers Zeo).

They don’t make playsets like this anymore! Despite the fact that you can get Playmates Star Trek figures for essentially pennies on the dollar now, that’s less true for the playsets and vehicles. Galoob had designed an Enterprise bridge playset for their own Star Trek: The Next Generation line, but it never made it to retail. This Playmates one, then, became one of my grail pieces while I was still into that line. If I had the room for it, I probably would’ve tried to swing a deal. I mean, I’ve still got the figures, and I currently have the Transporter playset sitting in the middle of my basement floor, waiting to be tested.

There was once a time when kids WANTED to dress up like a disgruntled Vietnam vet with a penchant for urban terrorism. Yet they say THESE are the end times we’re currently living in! Pfft!

I’m not sure what’s more interesting to me in this pic: the fact that the Burger King predates my recollection OR the Rambo villain who looks like Vladimir Putin cosplaying as Die Hard‘s John McClane. “Yippee Ki-Yay, Comrade!”

I love those M.A.S.K. boxes so much! And there were toys in them, too!

Whatever’s happening with Slimer here, he’s clearly having an amazing time!

Sometimes you see things and wonder “Where has this been stashed for the past 30 years?!” This is one of those things.

Things of which I am a huge fan:

  • Batman
  • Super Powers
  • The condition of this packaging

Things of which I am NOT a huge fan

  • These prices

I know @DorketteTweets will get a kick out of this Spectra stuff they had.

It ain’t a convention without old lunchboxes, and I would love to meet whomever owned that Fame lunchbox, merely to commend him/her/them for their bravery.

Just look at the condition of this box! This is an almost 30 year old toy! Looking back, I probably should’ve just thrown the $10 at it.

This figure brought back fond memories as to how I’m bad with money. You see, this was the first time I ever overdrew my checking account, buying this figure at a Spencer Gifts when I was in college. I didn’t really know how “balancing checkbooks” worked yet, and this $5 figure ended up costing me about $35. That was a quicker financial lesson than Suze Orman could’ve taught me!

I actually really like the simple packaging design of vintage Barbie, and I’d never heard of Dazzle until that day. I guess it’s an equestrian line?

Ya know, John Rambo deserves to treat himself every now and then!

In hindsight, this was an amazing concept and design. I think we took it for granted at the time, but they managed to shove entire games into a shell the size of a “regulation” cassette tape! It deserves to be in the Toy Hall of Fame!

They were selling their vintage $400 Fireball Island around the corner from the Kickstarter $70 repro Fireball Island. So, um, yeah. Good luck with that…

G.I.Joe charitable group had a nice U.S.S. Defiant on display.

Another HTF vintage piece in BEAUTIFUL shape!

I don’t care if it’s 90% complete. I’m more fascinated by the fact that the box survived this long and doesn’t look any worse than it does!

I was late to Ghostbusters toy fandom, so I missed out on the original suit Real Ghostbusters. These guys here were more my speed, with their track suits and their wacky action features.

While not a “vintage toy”, this was a cool 3-D collage that someone created using parts of the recent Fisher Price Imaginext line, as well as panels from the Boom! Power Rangers comic series.

As a huge Baywatch fan, I’ll admit that it was a little hard leaving this guy behind.

Plus, it’s not a modern-day pop culture convention without cosplay, and the following folks did not disappoint!

So, there ya have it: Retro Con 2019. While it’s always cool to see all these random toys, the best part of the weekend is that it has become something of an annual meetup between my online friends. This year was no exception, and it was great seeing Dean, Jordan, [REDACTED], Jason, and Wyatt!

Oh, we also can’t close out without showing what I got. I’m proud to say that I played it cheap this year, and didn’t pay more than $5 for a single thing you see here. That’s how you con!

Anyway, thanks for taking this look back with me, and be here next week, when West Week Ever returns!

*No actual prizes have been awarded to Will for his photography, but it’s 2019 and people don’t fact check shit anymore, so…
26th Jul2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/26/19

by Will

Look at that – I’m back a week after my last post! Speaking of that post, I had a lot of good engagement. I reconnected with old friends, and another good friend even wrote a response piece. That’s what I like to see!

I’ve been really slacking in the movie-watching department ever since my second daughter was born. I think I watched something, like, 13 movies last year. The year my first was born, I watched around 71! So, I’m trying to work on that, which is why I sat down and watched Barbershop: The Next Cut when I caught it on TV last week. Luckily it was only rated PG-13 in theaters, and you can get away with murder on basic cable these days, so it was hardly edited.

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for years, as I was a big fan of the first one (I barely remember the second one), but just never got around to it. At the end of the day, the plot isn’t what these movies are about. No, the star of the franchise is the barbershop itself, as a safe haven where Black men (and now women) come to learn the news and gossip of the day. It’s akin to a community center and church, but you can also get shape-ups. The thing about these movies is that I always felt on the outside looking in, as I haven’t traditionally had the Black barbershop experience. When I was much younger, my mom would take me to Mr. Bill’s, which was a traditional Black barbershop just over the DC line. Shit was dangerous and inconvenient, though, so I ended up at the Hair Cuttery near our house for the next few years. Then, there was the stint where she’d just cut it herself, as it’s pretty easy to just do the same length all over with clippers. So, it wasn’t until college that I got the TRUE barbershop experience. And, in true Will fashion, I fucked it up. Gather ’round, children, as I’m gonna tell you a lost adventure of which I’m not very proud.

So, at Cornell (did I tell you I went to Cornell?), there were really only 2 ways to get a haircut if you were Black: 1) you got it cut by someone at Ujamaa (the Black dorm – no, dorms weren’t segregated, but it was an option if you wanted to live amongst your people. I did not live in Ujamaa. I lived across the street, and looked at them from my window like a Jewish kid looking at the Christian family on Christmas morning) or 2) you went to JC Knight downtown. Every time I went over to “The Uj”, the reception was basically “Who the fuck are you and why are you here?” So, JC Knight it was. Knight’s shop was downtown, just off the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall, and was highly popular. Every Black person in town knew him and his shop. So, one day I went down there and sat down waiting for my turn. Bad move. At the Cuttery, you just took whoever was available, so I didn’t understand the politics that I needed to request someone. So I think I sat a good hour before they even acknowledged me and were like “Um, you waitin’ for somebody?” I meekly said “Anyone who will take me.” Thus began my immersion into the Black barbershop experience.

I would go down to the shop about once a month (or whenever I hadn’t blown all my money on comics), and learn what had been going on in the Black world while I’d been studying up on The Hill. Sophomore year I started going less and less because that was the year of my S-Curl Experiment. Oh, you don’t know what an S-Curl is? Ugh, I need more Black readers.

So, an S-Curl is kinda like a Jheri Curl, in that your hair is processed, and you keep it wet looking by spraying “activator” on it every now and then. Think 80s Michael Jackson. It’s a lye process that basically straightens Black hair, but then you can do shit to it, like style it with gel and stuff. So, in my “Man, I sure would like to look like I’m in a boyband” year 2000 desperation, I did this to my hair. As such, I didn’t need as many haircuts because you wanted it to get long so you could do more with it. Every now and then you’d just need the sides touched up. And this was the beginning of the end.

You see, Knight and his boys knew I was sheltered and really didn’t have much “street cred”. I was just some innocent kid from Wheaton, Maryland, but I’m sure they probably said stuff like “He thinks he’s White.” People always said shit like that when I was in predominantly Black situations. It has taken me years to come to this realization that I’m about to share with you, but it just goes to show that I’m somewhere on the spectrum that it never occurred to me sooner. So, one time he cleaned up my sides, and when he was done it was time to pay him. God…I hate just thinking about this now. You know how you MEAN to say one thing, but something else comes out? OK, so the haircut was $20, and I wanted to tip, but I only had two $20 bills. I gave him both, and he was like “Are you sure?” *Sigh*

OK, like I had said above, I was spending every last cent on comics, because I could Cornell Card anything else I needed, and just charge it to the bursar. So, I knew that money in my hands would be a bad situation. What I MEANT to say was “Hey, it’s better in your hands than in mine.” However, I’m awkward and nervous at times. What I DID say was “Hey, you probably need it more than I do.” FUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKK. I basically pulled a Rich Frat Boy on him, and the saddest part was I didn’t even realize it at the time. It was years later when I was like “Oh, wait, that said in that way is pretty fucking bad.” I just walked out of the shop, thinking everything was hunky dory. So, the next time I went, nobody could fit me in. I had been blackballed by the barbershop. Knight DID do me a sold, though, by giving me a referral. He wasn’t gonna mess with me anymore, but his friend Carol, this White lady who worked at the salon in the mall, could cut Black hair. I think he played it off as not knowing what to do with the S-Curl, but we know what the real reason was. So, cast out of Black Eden, I proceeded to get my hair cut by Carol until I graduated.

About 10 years ago, I tried to reenter the barbershop world. I found a place in Silver Spring, but there are so many unspoken politics of the shop – not only the different ways to get into someone’s chair, but also learning what you can and can’t talk about. Does this shop think Obama does enough for Black people? Does this shop think Obama is a sellout? What about the Hotep guy in the corner? He’s probably got some off-the-wall thoughts on things. That stuff was just tiring, so I retreated back to the Cuttery, where some woman asks me how I’m doing, in broken English, and leaves it at that.

Anyway, Barbershop: The Next Cut was like revisiting an old acquaintance. We were never close enough to be friends, but our association was enough that I could wonder what might have been. If you’ve never seen this one, the gang violence around the shop in the south side of Chicago has increased, and Ice Cube’s Calvin struggles with the decision of whether or not to move the shop to the north side. Meanwhile, a bunch of stuff is going on in the shop, like Common is married to Eve, but Nicki Minaj is trying to break up their marriage (why did it take this movie for me to finally see Nicki and say “DAMN!”?). There are new barbers, played by New Girl‘s LaMorne Morris and The Mindy Project‘s Utkarsh Ambudkar added to the mix. When the violence reaches its peak, the shop decides to sponsor a weekend ceasefire to bring to community together. Meanwhile, you got all that good barbershop banter: What did Obama do for US? Can you blame THOTS for unfaithful men? And to quote a deplorable man, “There were good people on both sides.” Anyway, it was an enjoyable little movie, even if Hella predictable at times (that straight-laced, good boy didn’t stand a chance).

This week in comics, the X-Men franchise got something of a housecleaning when Jonathan Hickman took over, with House of X #1 as the start of his run. Now, I’m always apprehensive when Marvel starts touting a grand plan for the X-Men because of two reasons 1) I tend not to like those grand plans and 2) I feel it shits on the journeymen who were struggling to keep the books afloat between grand plans. Imagine you finally get your dream job of writing X-Men, only for your run to be forgotten as some palette cleanser between 2 big name writers. You either die Grant Morrison, or you live long enough to become Chuck Austen.

Now, one of the biggest X-Men relaunches was when Morrison took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and renamed it New X-Men (meanwhile, Chuck Austen was cranking out massive turds over in Uncanny X-Men). Morrison had a grand plan where humans discovered that they would be extinct in a few generations and mutants would become the dominant species. Characters were experiencing “secondary mutations”, resulting in newer appearances and powers. In true Morrison fashion, his ideas were “out there” and, while they brought a lot of attention to the line, Marvel proceeded to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he had done. As then-Editor in Chief Joe Quesada said, they “had to put the genie back in the bottle”. So, enter Scarlet Witch, whose utterance of “No More Mutants” reduced the Earth’s mutant population down to a mere 198 characters. There goes any designs of taking over humanity when your entire species could fill a 737. Secondary mutations? Fake. Sure, a few characters from his run remained, like the Stepford Cuckoos and Xorn, but Marvel did their damnedest to erase the broad strokes of his story.

So, imagine my surprise when they started touting Hickman’s upcoming run as the most drastic, sweeping thing they’ve done since Morrison’s run. Well, first of all, RIP to all the writers who’ve manned the books since Morrison’s run ended in 2004. And next, I already know how this is going to play out. My fears were confirmed when I went to a midnight release for House of X and read the book. Verdict? NOT FOR ME. It really does feel just like a remix of the Morrison run, even though I’m sure there will be Hickmanian twists and turns. I can’t do Mutants Have The Upper Hand because I always wait for other shoe to drop.

In the book, it appears that Xavier and Magneto’s dreams have finally learned to co-mingle, and Xavier has a bunch of wonder drugs he’s willing to offer to humanity in exchange for them recognizing his sovereign nation of Krakoa (yeah, the island from 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1).  We learn a lot about what the drugs do, and how the world’s governments feel about them. In true Hickman fashion, there are charts in infographics, so reading it makes you feel like you’re studying for a final, trying to glean every important detail from the page. Once again, we discover that not only is humanity on the verge of extinction, but that it’s approaching more rapidly than previously thought. The book ends with Magneto introducing mutants as the new gods of Homo Sapiens.

As we saw in Avengers/Secret Wars, Hickman is ALL about playing the long game. He will mine history and go for some deep cuts. It’s probably a rich experience for those who really commit to it, but I found myself bored early on with his Avengers run, and only came back for the pseudo-satisfying Secret Wars. I’m sure y’all are in for an interesting 4-5 year ride, but I don’t think I want a ticket for it. It’s a pretty sizable dose of Been There Done That, with more than a dash of I Simply Don’t Care. Not trying to be cynical because I WANTED to like it. It’s just not BOLD enough.

Meanwhile, characterizations didn’t feel right. Other than the Magneto/Cuckoos scenes, everyone else felt strangely out of character. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I’m not sure I care to invest 3 months in finding out WHY. Because we ALL know that the only way to get this genie back in the bottle is gonna be to have some kind of devastating No More Mutants event around 2024. If comics are still around by then…

The problem with comics is that they’re cyclical. They have to give the appearance of change without offering actual change. And I’ve often said that the average life cycle of a comics fan is about 15 years. Marvel’s counting on folks to have not read the Morrison run because, well, it was 15 years ago. So it’s not really a “crime” that Hickman seems to borrow heavily from it, as the fan base that read that story should have already cycled out of comics by now. Sure, some have stuck around, and they might be as vocal as I am about it, but I just feel it’s kinda cheap to go back to that well, no matter how much time has passed. It’d be like trying to mount the full-on Age of Apocalypse again (which would be nigh impossible in the Internet Age).

At SDCC, it was announced that the House of X/Power of X miniseries wrap up in October, at which point the actual ongoing series will launch. Maybe the dust will settle by then, and I’ll check out the franchise at that point. House of X, however, didn’t grab me enough to come back to this party on a weekly basis. If anything, I’ll read it once it’s collected.

Over the weekend, I took on the Herculean task of cleaning out my Gmail. I’m terrible with email, and I often say if you want to get in touch with me you’d better just tweet at me. On Saturday night, my inbox was over 7,000, but I got it to 198 by Monday morning. The biggest problem is that I don’t delete the junk immediately when it comes in. It also doesn’t help that I have Twitter set up to email me whenever I get a DM or a Like/RT.

The DM thing is funny because I have a record of conversations long after some folks have unfollowed me. If you’ve ever DMed me, I still have it in Gmail. And it was quite the trip down Memory Lane. People I’d forgotten about, who just, one day, stopped tweeting. Did they die? Were they deported? In most cases, I’ll never know. In a lot of ways it was sad. “Oh, here’s that trans gal who I supported during her difficult transition, but unfollowed me out of the blue.” Or “Oh, here’s the girl who might’ve catfished me, but I’ll never know because her sister now says she’s dead”. Yeah, I’ve lived a crazy life online. It’s just interesting how people can come into your life, and you make what you consider to be meaningful connections with them, and then they can leave just as easily as they entered.

Trailer Park

Ready or Not

Man, White people won’t let us have anything! This is just White Get Out.

Zombieland: Double Tap

I honestly didn’t care about this thing until Rosario Dawson showed up. I mean, I enjoyed the original, but it really doesn’t hold a special place in my heart, nor did I just love the characters. I guess it’d be interesting to see what they’ve been up to all these years, but this is not a theater movie for me. I’ll be streaming it somewhere.

Playmobil: The Movie

First and foremost, I’m just bracing myself for folks to mispronounce the brand’s name. It’s Play-mo-BEEL. It’s European, you uncultured swine! Second, this is just sad. We all know WHY they’re doing it, but they never seemed to stop to discuss whether they SHOULD. They’ve kinda sold out, and this is a prime example of that.

When I was growing up, Playmobil was a high-end brand, bought by upper middle-class White parents who wanted their kids to have the “action figure experience”, without it being tied to some sort of cartoon or movie. It promoted creativity and, while not a brick system, its pieces were modular. You know the kids who had Playmobil: unless their parents were European, it was usually that kid who was allergic to something weird, like foods that were red. And he always wore corduroy. In recent years, however, they’ve tried to “diversify their bonds” by taking on licenses, like Ghostbusters and How to Train Your Dragon. I get it. Gotta do what you can to survive. But a movie? One that doesn’t even look remotely GOOD? PASS. I just hope this thing doesn’t drag the toys down with it.

The Rocketeer (Disney Junior)

Surprisingly no one is talking about this trailer that debuted last weekend at SDCC. OK, honesty time: I’ve never seen The Rocketeer. Based on the ratio of Likes to Dislikes on YouTube, those who have seen it aren’t too keen on this show. I think it looks cute, and I know my girls would enjoy it. This might be as close to superhero stuff as I’m gonna get with Evie, so I’ll take it.

Power Rangers: Beast Morphers (Nick)

Though the show is currently on hiatus, this trailer that also debuted at SDCC confirmed a longstanding rumor: original Red Ranger, Jason (played by Austin St. John), would be returning to the franchise next season. Now, I always felt that Austin AND his character had the charisma of a wet paper bag, but I think everyone is tired of Green/White Ranger Jason David Frank, so I’ll take it.

Harley Quinn (DC Universe)

I enjoyed this sizzle reel of the upcoming series, but not enough to actually subscribe to the DC Universe streaming service. The animation looks choppy at times (see the scene where she’s flossing out of the room), and I think I’d prefer Rauch to Cuoco if we HAD to cast a Big Bang alum. I don’t think the service is long for this world, so hopefully this show doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, and at least comes out on Warner’s streaming service, HBO Max.

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE? TAKE IT!

I have been adamantly against the CBS All Access “experiment”, and my love for Trek wasn’t strong enough for me to subscribe for Discovery. But THIS?! Seven of Nine?! And Sirtis and Frakes have confirmed that Riker and Troy are coming back?! Oh, sign me the fuck up! You got me, CBS.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a surprising move, Seth MacFarlane announced that his sci fi drama The Orville would be moving to Hulu for its 3rd season. Apparently he needed more time to deliver the episodes, while Fox needed to fill its schedule. So, with the Hulu arrangement, the show won’t return until late 2020.
  • Thank you, Yahweh! Avengers: Endgame has finally unseated Avatar as the highest grossing movie in the world. Now, I’ve actually never seen Avatar, but it always bothered me that something with absolutely no pop culture footprint sat atop that chart. Yes, I know the film was responsible for advances in film making, but that’s not enough for me. I want lunchboxes! So, bye, Avatar!
  • It was announced yesterday that the Will & Grace revival would end after this fall’s 11th season. I guess that’s sad news to someone, but I never acknowledged the revival since it would have to retcon the show’s original finale.
  • Damon Lindelof has clarified that the upcoming HBO Watchmen show is NOT a reboot of the classic comic miniseries, but rather a sequel set 30 years after the original.
  • It was a big week for comic adaptations, as AMC is developing a series based on Image Comics’s Farmhand, meanwhile Amazon is developing a series based on Image’s Paper Girls.
  • Brandon Routh will be suiting up again as Superman for the first time since Superman Returns, in The CW’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths” event this fall. Since they can’t use the Returns suit, he will actually don the “S” of Kingdom Come Superman.
  • After “saving” it following its cancellation at ABC, Netflix has cancelled Kiefer Sutherland’s Designated Survivor. It’s almost like it was based on a shaky premise with no real longevity, huh? Look for talk of that 24 movie to heat up in the next few months…
  • Lifetime is prepping a movie based on the Lori Loughlin college bribary scandal, and I’m left wondering if she can play herself. I mean, who else is a “Lori Loughlin type” whose quote is in line with what Lifetime is willing to pay? Some good recommendations from Twitter were Dina Meyer, Paige Turco, and Jennie Garth.

It was a huge week for Marvel Entertainment, as they revealed a ton of things during San Diego Comic Con last weekend. First, we got new Marvel Legends toy reveals, including some figures a lot of folks had been clamoring for, such as Squirrel Girl, a redesigned Jean Grey and a beautiful Doctor Doom.

And for their MCU figures, they revealed that “Dude” Thor would be the Build A Figure for an upcoming all MCU wave of figures:

For a full list of what’s coming out from the line, check out my pal over at AwesomeToyBlog!

But the excitement didn’t end with the toys. Marvel also unveiled their Phase 4 slate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We already knew about the Disney+ shows, including WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If? and Hawkeye. No, the real surprises were the film reveals, including Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Widow, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings. And just when everyone thought they were done, they announced Mahershala Ali would be starring in a new Blade film.

While these announcements took folks by surprise, there were some glaring omissions: Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, etc. Kevin Feige promised, however that these are still in development, as well as plans for the Fantastic Four and the mutant contingent.

Quick thoughts on each film:

Eternals – I know nothing of the source material, but it’s got Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Brian Tyree Henry in the cast, so that’s good enough for me. Maybe it’ll take us by surprise, like Guardians did.

Thor: Love and Thunder – I don’t really know if we needed Thor 4, but I guess they’d be leaving money on the table by not doing it. The biggest surprise is that Natalie Portman is returning as Jane Foster, who will also become the Mighty Thor, just as in the comics a few years back. It’s just funny that, for years, I heard Portman was difficult to work with, but apparently not that difficult if they’ve brought her back.

Black Widow – I still say this thing is a day late and a dollar short. Plus, if Scarlett keeps opening her damn mouth, she’s gonna kill any goodwill folks have towards this movie.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Finally, a movie that will do what Far From Home did not: explore the Multiverse. Still, I felt Doctor Strange’s first movie was “meh” (It was basically a remixed Iron Man, with half the charisma), and it’s being billed as the MCU’s first horror film, which ain’t exactly my genre. I’ll still see it, though.

Shang Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings – This one was somewhat surprising in that it actually seemed to confirm a fan theory that I’d seen online before it was announced. Someone had said “What if Shang Chi’s father is the REAL Mandarin?”, instead of the fraud we got in Iron Man 3. And while that’s not necessarily the plot (that we know of), it does seem to be headed in that direction, with the mention of the Ten Rings.

Blade – I don’t love those Wesley Snipes movies like the rest of y’all. I think I only saw the first one anyway. So, I welcome a change. Snipes is too old anyway, but I’m sure they’ll work him in there as something. Maybe a mentor character or something.

So, while they walloped us with surprises, I still feel like the slate is missing a bit of Wow Factor. With Thor as the elder statesman of the MCU, I’d like a few more familiar properties to anchor this phase, with the newer stuff sprinkled in. Like, it’s time for Doctor Strange 2, but Blade could’ve waited, as could Eternals. I guess they’re trying to get a new trilogy off the ground, but there are a lot of untried concepts here. It’s not like they can easily make a Black Widow 2 by just shoving the movies between preexisting films, as there are no stakes if we already know how her story ends. I mean, Chadwick Boseman is already 41. We need to crank out 2 more Panthers while he still can! Anyway, they’re taking a lot of chances here. It’s not that it’s unearned, but it does feel a bit like hubris.

At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say that Marvel won Comic Con. Back in the day, that was a thing. “Who won SDCC?” This year, I couldn’t even tell you any comic news that was announced, other than some auxiliary X-books that don’t sound too interesting. Did DC even show up? So, some might say it wasn’t even a competition this year, but whatever. Marvel came away from the show on everyone’s lips, and that’s why Marvel Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

21st Jun2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/21/19

by Will

Hi! Are you there, readers? It’s me, Will. Yeah, I took a month off. I just wasn’t that excited about anything in popular culture, and you know the saying “If you can’t say anything nice…” I mean, it felt like folks were losing their shit over upside down Whoppers and a re-release of a soda that was universally hated, and I just didn’t understand why. Still, if you say anything, you’re a “hater”, so I decided to “just let people enjoy things”.

So, what have I been up to since I’ve been gone. Well, I’ve been rewatching NBC’s Superstore from the beginning. I usually don’t understand how folks have time to *rewatch* things in this day and age when there are always about 6 shows on everyone’s To Watch List. This came down to logistics. I’ve been trying to clean my basement, and I don’t have cable down there. I do, however, have a Fire Stick and the NBC app, so that led me to Superstore – a show I’ve always loved, but seemed to have missed some episodes here and there. Anyway, if you’ve ever worked retail, it speaks directly to your soul. Plus, I hung out once with Ben Feldman – the actor who plays Jonah – because he’s a friend of a friend from college. Yeah, I’m namedropping. I figure when I’m done with Superstore, I’ll double back to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s something to do until this season of The Good Place hits Netflix.

Another thing I’ve been doing is watching a lot of teen sitcoms. If you’re new here, then I should probably let you know I was obsessed with TNBC growing up. I’m that rare person who loved California Dreams more than Saved by the Bell, and I prefer The New Class to SBTB original recipe. I watched all those Saturday morning shows, and I miss them the way other folks miss Saturday morning cartoons. That said, Nick and Disney Channel stepped in to fill that void, but it’s a little weirder because those shows skew younger. TNBC was all high school stuff, but Disney and Nick are middle school aged, yet applying the same “weight” to storylines as the high school shows. It’s kind of funny because everyone knows that nothing in middle school matters. It’s MIDDLE SCHOOL! Still, they drop a smoothie on their fanny pack, and somehow get a 22-minute plot out of it.

Now, before you think I’m some kind of R. Kelly, I’m watching these shows because I’m a terrible parent, and I let my 4-year old choose her own entertainment. She has no idea what’s going on. She just likes watching tweens do shit because she’s dying to grow up. Last night, she came into my bedroom and said “This place is SICK!” I was like “Do you even know what that means?” And she was sheepishly like “I dunno.” Anyway, since I want to know what she’s watching, I end up watching too.

When did live action kids shows become so convoluted?! When we were younger, it was enough to say “These kids are in high school”. That was it. That’s all you needed to know. California Dreams came along, and it was “These kids are in high school, and they’re in a band.” Fine. But then Disney Channel came along and just kinda lost their minds. It really all goes back to That’s So Raven, back in 2003. If you never saw it, Raven-Symoné played Raven Baxter, a regular high schooler – WHO HAD GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE! HUH?! Yeah, Raven would have these half-assed psychic visions, but not really know the context of them. And hilarity would ensue! I guess kids loved that shit, ’cause it lasted 5 seasons, and it’s even back as the sequel series Raven’s Home.

One show my oldest is really into right now is Some Assembly Required, which was a Canadian show that is now considered a “Netflix Original”. A 14 year old kid sues a toy company when a defective chemistry set blows up his house, and he wins the toy company. So, it’s a teen sitcom about him and his friends running this toy company, while the former owner schemes to get it back from him. I really like the show because it combines my love of dumb TV with my love of toys. Still, though, I’m like “When do these kids go to school?” and “What are the legal ramifications of something like this?” Meanwhile, my daughter is all “Look, they’re dressed like cupcakes!” It’s the little things.

Another one we’ve watched is Sydney to the Max, on Disney Channel. Sydney is a tween who lives with her widower father, Max, and grandma, played by Caroline Rhea. Its so sad to see Sabrina’s thicc aunt now playing grandma roles, but time marches on. Sydney and her friend Ava get into wacky adventures, and they’re contrasted by flashbacks to 1992 where her dad and his best friend Leo get into wacky adventures. On paper, it’s meant to show how certain things are timeless, regardless of the generation. However, in the episodes I’ve watched, the Sydney/Ava stories have very little to do with the Max/Leo stories. It’s kinda interesting to see a show lose its way during its first season. I get what they wanted to do, but the execution doesn’t really work. Still, it’s an enjoyable show, and a few episodes have been directed by Topanga herself, Danielle Fishel.

There’s one Disney Channel series, though, where I was like “OK, you’ve finally gone too far.” Officially premiering this week, Just Roll With It is a show about an interracial blended family. Black Dad with son marries White Mom with daughter, and the kids have to learn to embrace their new existence as siblings. This could’ve been an interesting premise, and considering the strides Disney made with gay representation in Andi Mack, I was curious to see how/if they’d tackle the interracial thing here. Sure, Andi Mack is a drama, and this is a sitcom, but laughter is a good “foot in the door” for an agenda. Well, they threw out any sort of seriousness with the show by adding a certain conceit: there are certain scenes where the audience gets to decide what happens to the family. The story is just moving along, and then this air horn goes off. The audience is, then, given 3 choices of what they want to happen in the scene, regardless of what the scene is about. In the premiere, it was a heartfelt scene where the kids tell each other they’ve got their back, as they’re now siblings. Meanwhile, the audience decides that this should happen during an earthquake, so the set rocks back and forth, throwing the cast from side to side as they try to deliver their lines. I get that it’s this “Anything Can Happen!” improv vibe, but it’s so dumb that I actually HOPE they avoid anything with meaning. I don’t want a very special episode where dad gets pulled over by the cops, and then the audience decides that everyone should speak in Pig Latin.

Anyway, I also joined my buddies @chapmanrunner and @HorrorMovieBBQ to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Batman (1989). It was a fun podcast, where you might learn a dark secret about me! Give it a listen here.

So, that’s where I’ve been. Guess we ought to look at some pop culture news, huh?

Trailer Park

Bad Trip

I actually love everyone in this, but there’s no way I’d pay money to see it. This is one of those things where you end up watching it on MTV at 1 AM and hope they haven’t edited out the best stuff.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In its quest to unseat the undeserving Avatar, the majestic Avengers: Endgame will be re-released in theaters with additional footage.
  • The Today Show celebrated 25 years in Studio 1A, but in their video package Matt Lauer was retconned from existence.
  • A Daily Beast article reminded the world that piece of shit Max Landis is still a piece of shit.
  • Fresh off the cancellation of Fox’s The Passage, Mark-Paul Gosselaar has been cast as the dad in ABC’s Mixed-ish, after Anders Holm was let go after the pilot was picked up.
  • DC Comics confirmed the rumor that the Vertigo imprint would be going away, with all imprints moving under the DC Comics brand, with age recommendations
  • After speculation ran wild that Marvel would be adapting Sam Raimi’s script for the unmade Spider-Man 4, in comic form, the announcement was actually something less interesting: J.J. Abrams, and son Henry, will be writing a 5-issue Spider-Man miniseries debuting in September. I know we’re supposed to be excited about this, but it really just feels like Successful Director Uses Connections to Secure Job for Son.

By now, everyone has heard of Lil Nas X and his song “Old Town Road”. Hell, I even wrote about it. Well, the Black invasion of country music didn’t end there. As I said on Twitter, we’ve cracked the code. We took the White House, and we’re coming for the Waffle House! The next artist you should familiarize yourself with is Blanco Brown, whose song/dance The Git Up is about to invade your family reunion.

I heard an interview with Blanco this week, and he seemed like a real cool dude. Plus, he can SANG! Seriously, if you hear him sing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”, you’ll wonder why he’s doing novelty songs like this. Anyway, you’ve got to find your joy in life, and this brought me joy, so I’m giving Blanco Brown the West Week Ever.

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